Monthly Archives: August 2014

Fall Color


Though not officially fall, the angle of the sun as it slips southward intensifies our fiery colors, especially early in the morning. Perpendicular to the rising sun, I wanted to capture the surreal yellow of our old feed beneath the Blue Oaks, yet the color of the same grass from other angles wasn’t nearly as intense to the eye. I’m sure there is a word for this phenomenon as we approach the autumnal equinox.




                                     Few men feel these hillsides breathe
                                     or hear the heartbeat underneath
                                     ‘cept those that live here day to day
                                     and nature’s beasts can hardly say
                                     a thing.


Fresh Calves



Two fresh calves came yesterday afternoon sired by our young Vintage Angus bulls from second-calf heifers 2075 & 2030.




Off and running, our new year has begun!





Stepping back from our routines of irrigating, checking stockwater and increased feeding, August has been a delightful month, cooler overall than average. It feels like an early fall. Our cows are bred to start calving next month, and more than ever we’re excited to get on with the next phase of this business, another beginning of a new cycle as we approach our rainy season, described by an early California historian as that time when it might rain.

Two years of drought has forced us to reduce our cowherd by 40%, leaving less cows to supplement with hay, less four-wheel drive excursions into our upper country with expensive alfalfa. As a result, we have reduced the average age of our cows, focusing on the maternal traits of our most recent genetics as the core of our herd. We’re excited to get started and see the calves.

As always, we head into calving blind, not knowing what circumstances the weather will create, and not even knowing whether our reduced calf crop will generate enough to cover our future expenses—a true gamble, daily investing ourselves and all we have for an unknown payday—not exactly what I was taught in business school!

But it’s what we do, it seems, year in and year out, trying to make ranch improvements as we go just to make life easier as we get older. We’re ready for the calves and ready for some October rain to put this drought behind us.



At the gate the dust is deep.
A feral hog at dawn returning
to his lair along the creek

atop a raccoon aiming
for the water trough, powder
soft between their toes

atop several head of cows
upon my own boot track
fading with yesterday’s breeze.

The time is now
to think about
the sign we leave.




The day unfolds in the black:

another circle of hay and water,
cows and bulls, a dusty track
on worn terrain now dreaming

on a cool, downcanyon draft
of bluster and damp—of drinking
dark clouds until the dust is mud.

Out of the shadows, the wild steps
lightly, all sharing the same dream
rising from the dry, dry earth.



Eagle at the Windmill Spring


All tracks lead to water on a dry year like this one when good springs and stockwater may be miles apart. Checking the Windmill Spring yesterday, after feeding the cows on the Paregien Ranch, a young adult Golden Eagle I had seen a few weeks ago at the bottom water trough, was back for a bath.


The first time, it had been getting a drink while I spent fifteen minutes or so unplugging a pipe before I noticed it sitting on the edge of the old redwood trough in the oak trees about 150 feet below me. Yesterday, I could see its dark shape from the pickup when I arrived. Like the cattle, the wildlife becomes accustomed to the few humans they see, so I meandered closer snapping photos as I went.


I stopped at about 100 feet and it decided to continue its bath despite my presence.


After splashing and literally rolling in the water for several minutes, it was too wet to fly…



…and ran up the hill beating wings to dry its feathers.






Within petals frayed,
the seeds—small devices
enduring despite us.



WPC— “Frayed”


Purple Fairy Lantern, Purple Globelily, Calochortus amoenus

Purple Fairy Lantern, Purple Globelily, Calochortus amoenus


The pace in California has been urgent
since the Gold Rush dream of short-cuts
to the unending, ubiquitous rolls of buzzing

snare drums announcing another parade
down Easy Street that everyone in and out
of state still believes is far better than

pastoral quietude, the calm river spread
with its ripple-less glass reflection of
mountain peaks that hang upside-down

in timeless skies, we rush instead to wait
in lines going nowhere fast—our contagious
fever we cannot cure with more of the same.


Great Egret


Not satisfied with the poem that I was working on, I went to work this morning sans post. But while changing my irrigation water on the Kubota, I came upon this fellow more intent on breakfast than nervous about me, about thirty feet away.