Category Archives: Ranch Journal

HELPLESS

 

 

On the other side,
all the current dangers rage
unseen that words cannot

assuage. Isolated here,
hands busy with simple
tasks, we cannot breathe.

On the other side,
an unknown future waits
to reshape us to survive.

Fifty years ago,
I was afraid
I would become proficient—

integrate guilt and hate
into my young soul
to become the best

at squeezing death
before a soldier’s
impromptu grave.

On the other side,
we pray for clarity—
for humble purpose.

 

First Wagyu X Calf 2020

 

Age & Source Verification: Cow 6151, September 14, 2020

The Source & Age Verification program is a USDA approved, non-biased, third-party audit that verifies the source and age of your calves. The source verification will enable you to meet COOL requirements, the age verification will make your cattle eligible for export to countries with age requirements on imported beef products.

 

First English Calf 2020

 

Age & Source Verification: Cow 3005, September 8, 2020

The Source & Age Verification program is a USDA approved, non-biased, third-party audit that verifies the source and age of your calves. The source verification will enable you to meet COOL requirements, the age verification will make your cattle eligible for export to countries with age requirements on imported beef products.

 

Snake on the Sabbath

 

 

If it isn’t enough to worry about Covid-19, smoke in the canyon from over 500 fires in California, last week’s 110+° heat, or pre-election politics, we seem to have been visited by more rattlesnakes than normal, undoubtedly following the ground squirrels focused on the orchard and garden, even though I’ve trimmed the squirrel population around the house by 500 or so this year. Don’t despair squirrel lovers, 300 yards from the house, the ground continues to be alive with them, yet another hatch ready to move in.

Tessa, our 10 month-old Border Collie was tethered on the front deck to keep her out of trouble when she spotted this one near the orchard, herded by a single small bird to the back of the house, probably a house finch at the snake’s head. Hair up on her back, Tessa raised a serious ruckus. After spotting it, Robbin called me from the garden, retrieved the bird shot, and I dispatched the snake.

Typically in the summer, the older dogs retreat under the deck where we’ve killed two rattlesnakes this year, and another at the dog pens, all big. We wonder, of course, at how many we don’t see.

With the help of Ken McKee, we’ve been fine tuning our bird shot loads now that the factory loads, that used to be #9 shot, have become more of a home defense load with #4 shot. With such a poor pattern, the first snake under the deck required 5 shots of factory loads. We’ve been experimenting with #12 shot, but the .38 plastic shot shells are brittle and require a significant crimp to keep them in the case after recoil in revolvers. The significant crimp keeps the pattern small at six feet, the plastic shot shell acting more like a slug. After having one snake get away, and another that required four shots, I moved back to ten feet this morning. With still enough poop to penetrate the snake, I paralyzed him on the first shot.

Supervised by Jack, our 15 year-old Border Collie, I am removing this four-footer to the end of the driveway, my designated feed ground for the buzzards, to emulate roadkill.

 

For the Birds

 

 

A pair of precocious little gray birds I’ve never noticed before have spent the summer with Robbin and me, drinking several times a day at the dog’s water on the deck. Smaller than our Western Flycatcher and with a slight crown like a Kingbird, we assumed they were juveniles. At 111 degrees they water more frequently now, arriving open beaked, the female seems shier and more bedraggled than the male. The best ID I can come up with is that they are Wood Pewees, but I defer to others more qualified.

Besides the livestock water troughs that are difficult for many birds to drink from, our inadvertent plumbing leaks draw a wide variety of birds from all around. Now that the spring Bird Wars are over, a territorial drama where the eggs and babies of one nest feed the babies of a larger species, they seem to have found peace in the shade of our yard. Woodpeckers cling to sprinkler heads to get a drop at a time, coveys of quail include a pipeline leak on their daily rounds and Towhees cool beneath the mist of our garden irrigation. It’s quite a show if you can stand to be outside.

 

Happy Birthday Ramblin’ Jack

 

 

The message from Aiyanna Elliott was sketchy other than Jack was having a birthday. By August 1st I learned the date on Facebook. The folk music legend and two-time Grammy winner just turned 89.

In the fall of my freshman year at USC (1966) some friends and I went to see Jack at the Ashgrove, $2 cover and 2-drink minimum. It was a fantastic show, as close as I ever was to being home while going to school in L.A.

I ran into Jack again in 1989, my first invitation to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. We’ve been fast friends ever since. Beginning with traveling and playing with Woodie Guthrie to the present, he has been an inspirational influence on folk music. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Jack the National Medal of the Arts, proclaiming, “In giving new life to our most valuable musical traditions, Ramblin’ Jack has himself become an American treasure.”

Though Jack has been to the ranch several times, the photo above was taken here in September 2008. Jack had a few gigs at some colleges inland from the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season. He called to see if he could layover here at the ranch until either Gustav or Ike (I can’t remember which) made landfall, thus having four hours of driving time behind him. He stayed with Robbin and I for a few days while waiting to see which gigs would be canceled.

To one of the kindest souls we know, Robbin and I wish Ramblin’ Jack a belated Happy Birthday!

 

Bangs Vaccinations

 

 

With recent temperatures peaking around 105°, we left the house with headlights early yesterday to Bangs vaccinate 99 head of this year’s heifer calves after making the sort last week. While we waited for yesterday’s 7:00 a.m. appointment with our veterinarian, we decided to keep them on the irrigated pasture close to the corrals, knowing we risked a mix-up with their older sisters, separated only by a barbed wire fence. Something spooked the 99 in a corner under the shade of the Valley Oak on Saturday and they laid the fence down. So we had two bunches to gather and sort before the vet showed.

The vaccination named for Danish veterinarian Bernhard Bangs is to protect against Brucellosis that also infects Bison and Elk, where the greatest concentration of the disease is in the Yellowstone area. Furthermore, female cattle cannot be shipped out of California without proof of a Bangs vaccination that includes a tattoo and metal ear tag that needs to be administered by a vet before the calf is a year old.

But it went smoothly. Bob had most of the 99 baited into the corrals before we arrived and was working on the second bunch of 50 bred heifers as the girls unloaded their horses. Our heifers are gentle. The sort and processing were trouble free—a booster round of calf vaccinations plus the Bangs, injectable wormer and mineral supplement. All done by 8:30 a.m. without hurrying—a great day!

Aiming to keep 50 replacement heifers from the 99, we will make another sort in 4-6 weeks.

 

SURROUNDED BY SQUIRRELS

 

 

Having slain hundreds, another battalion digs in
to undermine the well and water trough, to scout
the garden for an attack on the last tomatoes.

The quail have made a comeback in coveys,
strings of babies trailing on training wheels
making circles, mornings and evenings.

Before our eyes, another lifelong mate
in the making, Roadrunners packing lizards
and snails to their nest in prickly pear cactus.

The heavy-limbed sycamores shade a ribbon
of green along the dry creek bed, sub-irrigated
Bermuda grass a few bulls graze between bellowing.

Black cows shine on a side-hill grade, either side
of the canyon, or silhouettes in shade gossiping
and grinding cud, having shed their babies.

SUVs, RVs, camp trailers and fifth-wheels
escape the confinement of cities to dodge Covid-19
and logging trucks on a narrow mountain road

to the pines, and I don’t blame them—with
a thousand ways to go, why not migrate
where no one seems to worry about dying.

 

AMARYLLIS

 

 

The bulb Carolyn gave you years ago
rose between three boulders
where we lay the headless rattler

               to get young Katy
               to pay attention—
               running, dancing,
               always on her toes.
               Her shriek and cry
               cut to our souls.

Huge, bright-orange petals,
like tongues aflame
among adolescent coals—

               Summer Solstice,
               105 degrees—

saved to the shade
on the cold woodstove
to bloom for days,

to hold my eye
and expose
a slice of memory.

 

KILLDEER NEST

 

 

Brand new day
in some places waiting
for the last egg to crack

from the inside out.
Metaphor for everything
that matters, exploding

to the four winds,
blindly finding legs
hard to corral

with shrill words
they’ve never heard
‘til now.

We waited ages,
marked it with a rock
in the gravel drive.