Category Archives: Ranch Journal

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.

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.

Branding Greasy 2021

(Click to enlarge two feet)

The high clouds had given way to sunshine by the time we finished branding a little bunch of calves in Greasy yesterday.  Well off the road, it’s a luxury to be among good friends and neighbors who are exceptional help, folks who know how to make the work fun.

Though dusty, there’s a little more green showing at this elevation (2,200’) where we have received 1.72” of rain thus far this season, much like the beginning of the 2013-14 drought year where we had less than 1.5” of rain in Greasy through the month of January.  Our 10-day forecast is dry. 

SMART SURVIVORS

Leaving the feed grounds
for the ridge tops
with their first calves,
 
native cows know
where the green comes first
after a little rain
 
softens the clay
for cloven hooves
and the climb up.
 
These are not dumb
welfare cows
that we have raised
 
and fed for months—
but smart survivors
to make us proud.

STIMULUS CHECK

Some come quickly now,
a phrase to trigger more
coiled upon the ground
 
while others hibernate for days,
for weeks and months,
as if they might be dead
 
without the touch of rain—
that hard and brittle
mindset to survive
 
like deep-rooted filaree
with all its colors,
with all its seed
 
waiting for a kiss.
I know no other way
to pen prosody.
 

ABOVE IT ALL

There is comfort here among dear friends,
despite the drought, despite the news,
despite a virus that grips the world
 
somewhere below these old corrals
where we brand calves—our common
religion around Christmastime
 
that we wrap ourselves within—
a joyous insulation from despair
where we can lend a hand.