Monthly Archives: June 2016

Tarantula Hawk


Photo: Terri Drewry Blanke

Photo: Terri Drewry Blanke


Terri, Robbin and I weren’t the only ones busy early, yesterday morning.


Fire Season



About 4:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, an arsonist started a grass fire about a quarter-mile north of the house, 110°. After calling CalFire, I got to the head of the fire with the skid steer as the first engine arrived.


Fortunately, the fire break we built in April kept the blaze along the road and off the hills, leaking only north and south. After unlocking the gate for the crew from Modoc County familiarizing themselves with the local terrain and responding to smoke, I returned south as Air Tac dumped Phoschex on both ends of the 3 acre blaze.

A wake-up call and good practice for us all as we enter fire season.


Portraits of Girls




Our solar pump is unable to keep up with the demand from our weaned heifers, so we’ve been having to pump water with a gas generator everyday as temperatures rise. While waiting for the tank to fill, I kept busy with my camera.












The last artichokes,
unpicked for the bloom and seed,
beckon bumblebees.






After most wildflowers have disappeared and the green grass fades to a brittle bronze, Milkweed becomes the sole attractant for bugs and pollinators, especially the ubiquitous Tarantula Hawks, flying low and slow on erratic, yet undeterred courses. We, and most other animals, move around them.

Unlikely partners yesterday while checking the stockwater and cows on the Paregien ranch, I caught this Tarantula Hawk and a butterfly I’ve never seen before. I Googled lots of black and red moths and butterflies without a match. Now, I wish I’d spent more time and taken some macro shots.


Weekly Photo Challenge: “Partners”


State of the Oaks




Twenty-plus inches of rain last winter and spring was not enough to save the oaks stressed by four years of drought, 30-50% of the trees, some 100 years old or more. Many Blue Oaks showed signs of recovering last spring, but now hang in limbo with a single limb of green as they face a hot summer and dry fall. Whole slopes of dead trees, such as the photo above on Dry Creek, are evident everywhere in our lower foothills, adding dry fuel to the potential of fire. Usually located on better moisture, the Live Oaks have fared worse.

The word ‘devastation’ comes to mind, new trees and limbs fallen on fences and roads, as a chain saw becomes necessary equipment to navigate the ranch. Devastation much more serious than that proclaimed by a young botanist where horses gathered and watered around a stockwater pond, years ago, when we were exploring a conservation easement. It may be centuries before the Blue Oaks recover.

We, and the ground around us, haven’t escaped the drought. Already, one hard rock well that supplied stockwater with a solar pump throughout the drought has failed despite our above average rainfall. The trend is dry as the hangover from the drought continues to tax the landscape.




Campaigning for V.P.
of the Student Council
in the fifth grade:

I claimed to be half-horse,
half-alligator and a little attached
with snapping turtle

and have the fastest horse,
prettiest sister, the surest rifle
around Exeter.

I promised to pay attention
and do the best I could. Enough,
in those days, to get elected.


Ditch Tender






We have been warned
by hot Valley gusts
surging up canyon
for a week of evenings—

by weathermen:
ten-day broil,
triple-digit teens—

to pump water, irrigate,
keep tanks and troughs full,
augment the garden,
out at daylight
and in by ten

as days dehydrate
and clay and granite rock
cook all night long.






Seventy-five days old
the last time a full moon moved
through the shortest night:

1948—I wake at two to see
wild oats blond on sloping walls
as the dogs bark in the distance

on coyote business, like always.
Dry years in the San Joaquin,
Dad shipped thin steers in the rain

when I was born, bought some more
to feed on green into July
I can’t imagine possible, but

we stayed the droughts, like always,
in a canyon I’ve never left
for long—nowhere calling,

no other place to claim my tears
of sweat and blood, sentiments scattered
on dry ground like leaves of poetry.