Purple Chinese Houses

With so little rain, it’s not been much of a wildflower year—even the most common Fiddleneck and Brodiaea are scarce and on short stems.  But we began yesterday with these Purple Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla), a wild gather as we collected the last of the Wagyu X calves for their EID tags and second round of vaccinations before shipping to Snake River Farms.

My Happy Birthday Song

Many thanks to our good friends Denise Withnell and Dave Wilke, aka Cowboy Celtic, for their birthday wishes.

RAGS

Mountain raised,

Colonel bred,

the old man gets the call,

show her how it feels

to really watch a cow—

to hold on

when he cracks back,

hear him nicker

under his breath

when he’s done well.

No better feeling 

with your clothes on.

            for Allie and Fairlea Smart Pic

HOUSE FINCHES





He waits upon the beam

that holds the rafters up,

dry weed in his beak.

He chirps incessantly

as she constructs a nest

with what he brings her.

He seems to have forgotten

the ear-piercing love songs

from her red-breasted suitors

prancing on the railing

now that he has a partner

to get the real work done.

SPRING 2021






Short-stemmed wildflowers
attempt to act normal, draw
eyes from bare hillsides.
 

SOMEHOW, STILL LIVING





                        Swirl of savage sunsets,

                        Swirl of the dead

                        Somehow, still living.

                                    – Adrian Louis (“Degrees of Drought”)

Bribed with little water,

we have enticed Redbuds

to brighten our gardens

with cardinal colors

regardless of rainfall

before they leave

green hearts in spring.

Even the bare hills

sigh and grin relieved

for the living, love us

for our generous nature

that keeps the wild alive

and close to our swirling 

yearnings satisfied.

MARCH GRAZING UPDATE

Despite the welcome 1.5” of rain this month, bringing our total rainfall for the season on Dry Creek to a meager 6”, our grass is short and thin, especially on the south and west slopes of our lower foothill country.  Unless we get some well-spaced rains in April, we will wean our calves early, probably weighing 50 lbs. lighter than usual.  With limited stockwater and no dry feed to carry our cows through summer, fall and to an unknown beginning of our rainy season, we will have cull our cow herd deeply.  A strong high pressure ridge, typical of La Niña, is blocking storm activity to California and the rest of the West. Furthermore, market returns for cattle producers are stuck in an unsustainable range, in part due to Covid-19.  

After a wonderfully fun day helping Kenny and Virginia McKee brand their calves in Woolley Canyon yesterday, Robbin and I are moving slowly as we recuperate by enjoying the colors of spring in the gathering fields around us. The lush appearance of the Fiddleneck and Popcorn Flowers in the photo below is deceptive as they have little nutritional value for cattle, but they do shade the ground and help hold what moisture we have. 

BEFORE DAWN

White sky,

purple frigates crash

into foothill silhouettes—

some slip behind,

compass heading east

trailing a damp cold front.

Headlights crawl

up the road, spotlight

searches sycamores

to a heavy bass beat

for something to kill,

something to eat.

LAST CHANCE


Another round of Blue Oak

from the limb droughts have cured

to fall with a crash in the yard—

after the calves were marked

and friends were fed and gone,

you and I and a bottle of wine

before the fire we cooked upon

waiting for the pillowed clouds

to collect and turn dark gray—

our forecast rain.  Tough filaree

looks like the dirt it’s hanging on,

leaves red and brown and in between—

last chance for feed this spring.

One wonders why we do this

to become the grass we need.

THE DEER

                               The deer in that beautiful place lay down their bones:

                               I must wear mine.

                                           – Robinson Jeffers (“The Deer Lay Down Their Bones”)

Secreted within steep brush and granite

to browse the fresh and tender Buckeye leaves,

the fragile innocence of deer seems tame—

safety but a bounding leap away.

Were we so unengaged to see ourselves

as novelties, we might pause more often

to look out upon the urgencies of men

and women inventing new shenanigans

to keep us shackled to our egos

as redundant and unnecessary weight—

were we so rational. How we envy deer

their shrouded bowers where they can feed

themselves. Nearly as free as deer

in the rocky cliffs above, the doe can see

the calves we have been looking for.