Thirty days into summer, the heat
owns us now and we yield, change
our ways to work into the shade
of anything between us and the sun.
Out of habit, a neighbor’s cow stands
beneath the skeleton of an old oak,
a ridge-bound casualty of the drought—
a silhouette mid-morning as I head home
branded in my brain like a wrought iron
logo for outdoor living hanging
from an arched concrete entrance—
beyond which I am blinded
by the white light of my delirium.
I close my eyes to see clearly again,
turn away and pray I may be wrong.
Time flies, it seems, as we get older. We vaccinated these heifers yesterday for Brucellosis, though it seems that not long ago we branded them as calves. Averaging 725 lbs., most of these girls will join the cow herd when we introduce them to the Wagyu bulls in December.
As we chase the seasons, the circle seems to get tighter. With most of our cattle work done, we are seasonally at the end, while approaching the beginning, of our cattle year. It feels good to be done as we look forward to fall calving and a chance of rain again. In the meantime, we have plenty of repair and maintenance jobs to address, salt and mineral to keep in front of our cows.
It’s been a warm summer, thus far, well-over a hundred degrees since the Solstice. Despite the shorter days, we expect more of the same through September. With gathering, weaning and shipping our steers to town, we’ve been pushing to this point since April. It seems appropriate to thank our crew, Terri Drewry, Allie Fry and son Bob, here every morning at daylight with smiles on their faces, ready to get the work done.
(iPhone photo: Terri Drewry)
A plodding grace with each footfall
of cloven hooves upon soft centers
of winding trails engineered to grade,
cows claim this ground, claim us as well,
tracking seasons of the sun ever-circling.
Behind fences grazing shade to shade,
they worry not about the days ahead.
How we envy and emulate their easiness—
hang totems to draw the cow gods closer.
I made a couple of videos of us working cattle in the new corrals in Greasy to send to my sister who owns the ground and financed their completion. Our cattle handling has evolved since the use of the Kubotas, finding it much easier to lead cattle than to drive them while gathering this steep and brushy ground. Over the years, the cows have become gentler and more cooperative, and having good facilities insures they remain that way. I thought some followers of the blog might be interested.
The first video shows the improvements to our loading facilities and the second demonstrates how we worm our cows for potential parasites—not the kind of action one might find in wild cow poetry, but the way we like it.
Since the four-year drought when we had to leave the gates of each mountain pasture in Greasy open to secure water, we haven’t had a decent count on our cows. Drought-killed trees and limbs on fences haven’t helped us manage our numbers either. But we do know how many calves we branded in Greasy.
As we’ve gathered to wean and harvest our crop of calves, all but one calf was accounted for as of last Thursday, a calf that may have died sometime after branding. Nevertheless, Robbin and Terri left early Friday in the Kubota with a bale of hay, salt and mineral to look for tracks, to insure we got all the calves.
Evening wine, and
I still want to celebrate
the last marked calf
on the books, in
the weaning pen, out
of the brush and rock
with cows behind
the Kubota and a bale
of hay, Robbin and Terri
on the cellphone calling
for a gooseneck, for Bob
and I to haul him home.
Two frozen bottles of water,
four beers with lemons, cool
reward in an insulated pouch.
(iPhone selfie: Terri Drewry)
Though offerings from the blog have been meager while we’ve been weaning calves, we seem to have had lots of visitors in the last six weeks. Our latest, my niece Katy and four month-old daughter Lennon were photographed by her husband Neal Lett @ the Sip ‘n’ Dip with his iPhone Thursday afternoon. I couldn’t resist posting it.
Moonrise at her throat, a glowing pendant,
hair spilling into the creek as she sleeps, and
when the light leaves, her dark silhouette
begins to breathe as the hills come alive at night.
Native women dance where they have worn
the ground to a powdery, fine dust, easy to inhale—
their chanting rises with the moon as coyotes answer
from the canyons these past ten thousand years.
Temporary, we become lost in the landscape—
our souls, the depth of our flesh absorbed,
secreted in her creases for safekeeping as we wait
just beyond the reach of certain change.
I wonder through pipe fencing
to blond feed and green sycamores
to the pinkish hillsides dotted
with blue oak drought survivors,
why—or does it make a difference
in the long haul to God
knows whom or what! This is
our moment to spend on what
is important to whoever
we think we are—our
chance to stand for something,
for someone, somewhere.
We hauled the last of this year’s calves out of Greasy this morning to ‘soak’ in the weaning pens before taking the steers to town next week. The heifers will join the rest on the irrigated pasture to be Bangs vaccinated and then sorted for replacements. Despite one of the driest beginnings to our rainy season, they’ve all done well due to our March and April rains. Including some late slicks that missed our brandings in Greasy, these calves averaged over 700 pounds.
We’ve done well, too, weaning our English calves in 30 days, 20 of which were over 100 degrees. It’s been saddle at 5:30 a.m. to beat the heat. Our thanks to Bob, Terri and Allie for their cheerful willingness to help get the job done. (iPhone photo by Terri Drewry)