Snow accumulation is just short of ‘normal’ for this time of year as we head into four days of forecast rain. Going up the hill to help the neighbors get one more bunch branded while we can still get to Mankins Flat, just on the other side of the near ridge.
California Weather Blog: “Wet and stormy week ahead for all of California”
A long wire gate
in a steep spot
has heard replacement
swinging from pipe braces,
moving the fence,
for twenty-five years—
hears us laughing at the hole
it sometimes takes both to close—
about a list longer than our lifetimes.
On the slick hillside,
reminders realized, open
to pastoral light as I rejoice:
relieved from my word
to myself, to one another,
and to these staples, posts and wire.
Prolonged moment before the all-day rain
quit, evening light pressed into the gray
reflects the mist within like a lantern glowing
separate from the sinking sun, blinding colors
rage around me, superfluous extremes burning
wildly with possibilities that beg me to yield,
to gratefully acquiesce and unfence my mind.
Rooted in a woodstove ash dump, heavy
with seed pods after twenty years—Redbud
in flames, tongues of fire hanging brightly
to taste the damp air fresh with a thousand
new beginnings we’ve yet to speak of.
Believe it or not, there are thirteen, or parts of thirteen, people in this photograph taken at Jody Fuller’s branding on December 15th—two calves are down. One of the things that has changed dramatically since I was a boy about the size of the two, (can you find them?) in the photo, is the processing at branding when the only vaccination we gave back then was a two-way clostridial. Everyone in this photo has a job.
The youngest boy with the purple glove has the pine tar to apply to the area of castration, the other has a syringe of Enforce 3 to apply in each nostril. Their mother, outside the pen, is keeping track of tag numbers (yes, there’s a tagger) and the sexes of the calves. Additionally, modified live vaccines to ward of respiratory illnesses and a broad spectrum of clostridial illnesses are given to each calf, plus a separate dewormer. Jody also gives her calves an injection of vitamins.
Because of the concern for antibiotics in beef, vaccines have been developed to limit the necessity for antibiotics in feedlots, essentially placing that responsibility, and cost, on the producer. The media is currently focused on the residue of antibiotics in most all the major hamburger outlets—old cows and bulls. A very small percentage of BEEF cows and bulls ever get an injection of antibiotics.
As neighbors, most of us are used to working together as we brand one another’s calves, but I think it’s remarkable that the job goes so smoothly, especially with two, unpredictable live calves on the ground.