Category Archives: Photographs

GRAZING UPDATE

This morning’s circle with salt and mineral for the first-calf heifers in the hills behind the house was not encouraging for the first of March.  The south slopes are short and turning fast and the heifers want, and need, hay, though the calves look OK.

The forecasters have taken Saturday’s rain away, but next week still appears to be wet.  We know that this ground is resilient, but with only March and April left as our only chance for real grass, this season’s future looks bleak and will probably require early weaning and a heavy culling of our cow herd, as there will be little old feed leftover to sustain these cows through summer and fall.

From an economic perspective, it costs around $500+ to keep our first and second calf heifers for a year, then add $400 for hay plus labor since August, an $850 calf won’t pencil out. Furthermore, with minimal snowpack and only four inches of rain this season, irrigation water will be expensive and the price for summer alfalfa high. Whether one believes in Climate Change or not, the trend for the last decade has been drought, (all across the West), the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime here, where losing money takes all the romance out of raising cattle.  Nevertheless, we’re in it for the long haul and hope for the better days. 

MARCH 1, 2021—SHORT-CROPPED GREEN

When I was young I wished
for longer springs and hillsides 
painted with wildflowers,
 
grass belly-high and every canyon
running water—livestock grazing
pastoral notions, heavenly eternal.
 
I may have to stand in line 
on the trail to mountain pastures
when I shed this human coil,
 
but hope to hell that the majority 
of souls will be waiting 
at the Pearly Gates instead.

SHE SLEEPS IN SILENCE

                                    The mountains 'round here look like a woman
                                    lying naked on a bed
                                                - Dave Alvin (“Out in California”)
                                                            
Little wonder, the earth is female—
the moon, a golden amulet
rising from her breast, her feet at rest
with the slope of Sulphur peak
as her long dark hair 
forever streams into the creek.
 
Apart from men, 
native women gathered here
beneath her supine silhouette
made sacred by the moon
to be a healing place 
each time she took a breath.
 
She shares her dreams:
comfort and lasting peace
beyond the ever-escalating
chaos and confusion
that rattles impatient minds
like a gourd full of seeds.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-dcola-009&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-009&hspart=dcola&param1=1&param2=cat%3Dweb%26sesid%3Dc0a144b9197534bca38d88e99fdadb2b%26ip%3D174.222.3.117%26b%3DChrome%26bv%3D88.0.4324.182%26os%3DOS-X-10.11-El-Capitan%26os_ver%3D10.11%26pa%3Dgencoll09%26sid%3Dd49c3e6373dbf6716978c523512bcd6d%26abid%3D%26abg%3D%26a%3Dgsp_imdownloaderb_20_02_ssg10%26sdk_ver%3D%26cd%3D%26cr%3D%26uid%3D%26uref%3D&p=Out+in+California+Dave+Alvin&type=gsp_imdownloaderb_20_02_ssg10#id=1&vid=29c273bede5b45160a875054fb5122a0&action=click



Wagyu X Branding 2

We are extremely fortunate to have an excellent crew of neighbors to help us mark our calves. Yesterday was a beautiful day to brand our second bunch of Wagyu X calves, though pretty dusty near the end of the work.  Even though the hills are green, the grass is terribly short with only 4.31” of rain on Dry Creek thus far this year with only two months left of our rainy season. Furthermore, the spring forecast https://weatherwest.com/archives/8382 is quite disturbing.  

Feeding hay since August, some neighbors have already begun to sell their cows into this down market. Ideally, the cull cows will attain their heaviest weights by mid-April, however most everyone’s cows are now stressed as short feed and growing calves have kept them thin.  With little rain and a minimal snowpack, summer irrigation water will be in short supply, which translates to higher water prices in the San Joaquin Valley.  Likewise, one can be assured that with fewer cuttings, the price of hay will also be high.

The south slopes have already dried up, offering only a month of green this year.  Without any moisture in the next week, the west slopes will follow suit.  Not necessarily the amount of rain, but the timing is always the crucial variable for native feed. We carry on as if by some miracle we can keep our cows together, but time is running out for the Southern Sierra foothills.

FROM HERE

I know where the grass grows first,
fresh and tender where raindrops linger
above the road and creek below.
 
I can feel wild spirits talk,
dewless tracks where they walk, 
stepping lightly to lay beside me
 
and my calf.  From here we shed
the claustrophobe of fence and gate,
far away from the human race.
 

DULL ROAR

Dark rain in waves, 
an oscillation of applause upon the roof
that soothes and insulates the senses
 
from the distant discord of mankind,
the lucid transparency of public figures
that saddens the soul—
 
this narrow canyon lit across in gold,
blind flashes of humility,
the roll of thunder close.
 
The short-cropped green hangs on 
to naked clay hoping for heaven’s basket 
of spilt miracles to soften hillsides 
 
for roots—and cloven hooves
reaching for the ridgetops ripe 
for more level grazing.
 
Dark rain in waves
punctuated by the light—
relief for what we know.

IF TREES COULD TALK

Some believe that even skeletons
communicate with one another 
through entangled fiber optic roots,
 
the drought’s dead-standing oaks
shedding dry limbs and bark
in random piles at their feet.
 
Sometimes I hear them screaming
in the evening of day and night
as gravity pulls at sagging arms
 
of decomposing silhouettes 
frozen with fright—a slow agony
I am too old to ignore.
 

DOLLARS AND SENSE

1.
We feed on numbers,
irrigate and harvest plans
with shaved efficiencies,
 
measure our well-being
by more or less
with what’s on paper
 
so easily burned
or suddenly erased—
we forget who we are.
 
 
2.
We share amounts of rain,
compare numbers
with the neighbors,
 
too often disappointed
with what we need most:
just enough moisture
 
to revive this ground—
this flesh and our more
common senses.


 

GENTLE MIRACLES

This old ground is on the move
and we have changed it
with our dreams of improvement
that humanity demands
 
to level mountains, harness rivers, 
pump valleys to collapse
with efficiency and startling success—
then we foul our surgeries. 
 
Beyond the road and fences,
these bare hillsides have begun to breathe 
since she spent the night, whispering 
upon dry leaves clinging to the last of life.
 
I am awakened, as if she never left,
wrapped in the soft applause of her arrival
bringing the gentle miracle of moisture
as this old ground comes back to life.

 

RED SKIES AT DAWN

Thin starts lay limp 
as green fades to gray
amid the brittle stalks 
of short-cropped dry
the cows have missed
 
as I open the gate
ahead of several storms
to search for Live Oak—
stove wood heat 
with little ash
 
prostrate since 
the 4-year drought
branded in my mind—
decomposing now
before my eyes.
 
Limbs ache with years
bent to this ground
chasing seasons of grass,
but red skies at dawn
reawakens the flesh.