For our own Age & Source Verification records, this season’s first Wagyu calf born September 6, 2017 from first-calf heifer 6141, not due until the 15th of the month. Initially a bit of curiosity for the rest of the first-calf heifers, this heifer calf is doing well, though a bit lonely with no one to play with.
First Angus calves – September 1, 2017
With the worst of summer heat behind us, our new year begins on September 1st, when our cows start calving. Since May 21st, we’ve had 83 days over a hundred degrees on Dry Creek, fiery streaks in memory. The ash and smoke from the Pier Fire in the Tule River drainage above Springville has wrapped us in filtered sunlight this past week, changing the color of nearly everything, but it’s a welcome relief to see the silhouettes of cows and fresh calves in the shade of oak trees, the new beginning we’ve been waiting for.
The romantic notion of country living often needs some seasoning of reality.
Tell Blanke, an incoming freshman at Cal Poly SLO majoring in engineering, noticed this rattlesnake crawling out of the rocks beneath the house where he and his mother Terri live along the Kaweah River in Three Rivers. By the time he got to the river’s edge the snake had crawled through his Aunt Tammy’s yard and was headed towards his grandparents’ house where he dispatched him. The Britten ‘compound’, as Robbin refers to this generational cluster of houses on the river, enjoys a sandy beach and excellent swimming hole most all summer.
For perspective’s sake, Tell is about 6’ 3” and still a bit shaky when Terri snapped this photograph yesterday with her iPhone. Our neighbor up the road has killed seven rattlesnakes from beneath their deck. Fortunately, Robbin and I haven’t killed any, but we’ve been keeping our eyes peeled.
The arrival of the Cooper’s Hawk several weeks ago has thinned the coveys of quail around the house, required scouts and sentinels as they’ve quickened their step. Likewise, he’s had to change his roost as they’ve learned where to look. Startled at my desk to a flutter beyond the door, he was perched on the railing, waiting for the quail to come off the hill to water. Six feet away, this photograph is softened dramatically by both window and window screen.
I missed the shot, however, when he tried to fly through the windowed door, wings outstretched and talons hung in the screen door. It surprised and scared me enough to be spellbound, another moment where I have to be satisfied to brand it in my mind.
I drove the Kubota with Allie early this morning to change the irrigation water, the first time I’ve been beyond the house since total knee replacement surgery three weeks ago. Good to get out and see our replacement heifers coming to greet us. Knee doing well, walking with and without a cane, a little progress every day.
Currently the quail have the evening stage as Mother Nature usurps the garden and moves closer to the house as if we put the props in place for their entertainment. The quail have had an extraordinary hatch this year, hundreds of birds in dozens of coveys of various ages explore the yard in waves of gray.
Still housebound but rehabbing well, my photography is limited to what’s before me with the point-and-shoot, isolated snapshots that don’t fully portray the larger theme of the show. Accompanied and herded by attentive adults acting as sentinels, the young birds feed across the lawn to eventually let curiosity lead them a stray. One, then another follows, until half the young covey considers the latest discovery. Not one bird tried to drink from our ‘sip and dip’, knowing the water level too far to reach without falling, without flailing wet feathers and drowning.
Our yard: a classroom
for rural children come
out of granite rockpiles
and deadfall limbs woven
with blond, brittle grasses—
like a field trip to town,
a damp green and water
oasis they should know
when its 110 degrees.
Our yard: a classroom
for survival as Mother Nature
picks apples, apricots, peaches
and pears before they’re ripe,
before they’re sweet.
The ground squirrels know
our habits, when it’s best
to harvest, the sound of
footsteps on the gravel,
and the gunshot taken
for the team
we’ve not dissuaded.
Last Friday, I underwent knee replacement surgery. I was able to walk with a walker by Saturday. Rehabilitation will undoubtedly be slow and posts to the blog may be less frequent.
It was 63 degrees when we started in the dark yesterday to gather our replacement heifer candidates for processing, to meet the vet (Ken Fiser) for their Bangs vaccinations at 6:30 a.m. Cattle work goes smoother when it’s cool, but I can’t ignore the feminine influence of our cowgirls on our cattle.
I was raised in this business with a pretty good dose of testosterone, loud and wild, the camaraderie of men at a high lope in the brush and granite, tension and challenge, it seems, with every tick of a useless clock. It’s not surprising that our cattle were on the shy side. We didn’t know any better.
This photo says it all to me. Done with processing by 8:30 a.m., Robbin, Terri Drewry and Allie Fry are taking the cattle back to their pasture, just following really, as the girls spin their own brand of yarns. Most of these heifers have been away from their mothers for a month or less, yet they are relaxed because we treat every gather, every time we’re around them, as a positive training day. A pace that has slowed to one of cooperation, and I like it.
Always moments, nonetheless, when convincing with a little loud testosterone may be called for.
The days of busting brush
but polished stories, faded glories
washed by time upon this ground—
one-time mothers, the girls
remember, find their place
at feeders in the corral
where they were weaned,
to catch a ride uphill
to make homes for fall calves.
We have spoiled them, trained
for yet another moment
to work together. Too hot
to touch, the days blaze
soon after the shade of night
retreats in streaks of heat.
Robbin’s iPhone photo after following the girls into the corral. It’s been a warm week with temperatures over 110 degrees as we’ve weaned, processed and shipped our last load of bull calves to town. Polite and cooperative, these second-calf heifers hauled easily to Greasy while it was still cool. A smooth day—done before ten.