Monthly Archives: December 2015

Back to Work




Though the impacts of our four-year drought are fresh in everyone’s mind, and far from mitigated by recent rains, our approach to work has changed. With most stockwater ponds less than half-full and Dry Creek just beginning to run, no one dares suggest that the drought is over.

But instead of gathering and branding calves in the dust this year, we are watching weather forecasts trying to get our calves marked between storms. But so are our neighbors with whom we trade labor. It’s tricky business, though a welcome change.

Trying to get anything done between Christmas and New Year’s Day is usually futile, but with a promise of over an inch of rain early next week, we’re branding another bunch this morning. We gathered Tuesday and Wednesday, cut wood for the branding and cook fires, planned a meal, and even had to weed-eat the grass in the corrals so we could rope today. The pace has been tough, but with an eye towards the coming El Niño, no one is complaining (too much).

Eight inches to date on Dry Creek, more than the 2013-14 season.




Photo: Neal Lett

Photo: Neal Lett


We live too low, too far down
the mountain to hear
the Canyon Wren sing

for the joy of it, cascade
of octaves, grin in the cedars,
thunder of the river dim.

Our love affair with music
is our own, separate
secrets searching for a song

somewhere on the mountain—
that half-ascension
finding harmony among the pines.




In the road with last night’s
road-kill raccoon, he videos
an eagle light from pole

to fence post, the coyote
hesitate in the pasture
before ambling off

and he asks who would win
if he wasn’t parked
with his parents watching.

When do we lose our eye,
not recognize the shy retreat
from our presence, our history?

Two thousand moons ago
the natives left
rabbits upon our doorstep

to keep us and our guns
inside. What gods
would blind us so?


Too Much Fun



Four straight nights of family making music. Grandpa’s done!


(Photos: Neal Lett, brother Todd’s daughter Katy’s husband, OMG!)



A light caress reminder
after a long time gone,
slow wet promises of more—

of fidelity we believe
as if she never left,
our flesh blooms green.

Christmas fell in 2015
to fill four nights rejoicing,
strings and voices rising

to greet the gentle rain—
four dry years forgotten.
We’ll never be the same.


WPC: “Now”





Weekly Photo Challenge: “Now”


Christmas Jam




Sulphur Peak




Overnight rain, wind, hail and a light dusting of snow down to 2,000 feet for our Christmas present on Dry Creek. Fairly rare, especially during the last four years.

Whole family here jamming into the late night hours (10:00 p.m., 3 hours past my bedtime), Robbin and Bob with guitars, Jaro and I with harmonicas, all singing what lyrics we knew.

All good, beautiful morning, Christmas 2015!



Bagels and lochs on the deck.


Merry Christmas! from our crew to yours








On the weather map
watching the storm slide
slowly down the Sierras,

a green right arm wraps
around San Jose,

headed toward this warm
midsection, and I wonder:
with an upper cut of cold?

—wet inch down already,
as if the gods are on a mission
to treat us squarely—

as if there is a plan
to anything,
or just random rolls

we learn to adjust to
moment after moment
never seen before!


Going Home




Cold and foggy yesterday morning, we drove the cows and calves we branded on Thursday back to Belle Point. A fairly easy climb to Greasy Cove as steam rises from the cattle in front of Terri, Robbin and Lee.