Tag Archives: cows

HALLOWEEN

Dark morning chill stirs the flesh
to welcome winter waiting
for flaming tongues 
to lick between
dry Manzanita branches
igniting Blue oak 
in the woodstove’s glow.
 
I recall storms, the floods
and endless downpours,
creek too high to cross
for thirty days and pray
for anything wet enough
to start the grass
for cows and calves—
 
for my sanity, something
akin to normal
in these crazy days
of politics and pandemic—
something to trust 
as right as rain—
something to believe in.

THE COUNT

It’s an art
countin’ cattle,
‘specially calves—
it takes concentration
to keep a mind closed
to everything else
and get the same answer
twice.
 
Dad maintained
that the simpler the mind
the more dependable
the count—
the only excuse
I’ve got.


							

Good News Update

Trying to keep track of the twin calves since my “Good News” post took a little extra time and effort because their mother didn’t come into hay with all the rest of the first-calf heifers.  Several times I glassed the area where I found them on the 9th, but with little luck.  On Monday the 12that the place where they were born, I found her with two other heifers with newborn calves.  I spent some time with them while searching the down oak limbs for the missing twin only to report to Robbin and the crew that she’d probably lost one of the calves.

Two days later at my desk in the middle of the afternoon, I caught some movement on the hillside outside my window and went to the door to see a coyote chased by Buster, our German Shepherd/Great Pyrenees drop-off, disappear over the rise.  After a couple of minutes of prolonged barking, I was worried for the dog and reached for my rifle by the door as three coyotes came running down the fence at me.  So fat and big, I thought they were mottled wild pigs at first, then entertained a fleeting notion that they might be wolves, running by me so close I couldn’t find them in my scope before disappearing.  

But the old, old Border Collie Jack and Boo, a Blue Healer drop-off, had headed them off and brought two back.  In retrospect, the twenty-plus first-calf heifers may have helped turn them around. Long-haired and well-fed, these were not native coyotes, but refugees from the pines, either the SQF Complex or Creek Fires. They were lost, and more than likely, the cows north of the house had propelled all three in our direction. With no way of knowing, I wanted to blame them for the missing calf.

With cooler temperatures and older calves, the cows are edging higher up the hill for our remaining old feed between our twice-a-week feed days.  Yesterday, after Bob and Allie laid some hay down for the first-calf heifers, Robbin and I took the Kubota up the hill to locate the rest of the heifers.  As we came back down, we spotted three cows and four calves in an inaccessible spot as they were deciding which way to come off the ridge where I had photographed the twins on the 9th.  

We gathered up some flakes of hay and met them at the bottom, two new pairs, the twins and their mother.

OCTOBER

Nap-time nurseries
beneath the sycamores,
babysitting cows
relieve one another
to eat and drink.

Those without calves
recline with bellies bulging,
thrust painfully skyward
like over-inflated
black beach balls—

            all await the green
            soft-stemmed alfalfa—
            await new life,
            await a rain

to settle dust underfoot
as they graze short-cropped
dry feed into the dirt

            awaiting new life—
            seed awaiting rain.

The long range forecast
confirms our superstitions,
but like a no-hitter
we dare not mention yet—

until the dark hole
in the barn grows larger,
until the canyon fills
with echoing complaints,
the agonizing song
of cows begging,
calf solos in the distance.

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.

 

HEIFERS AND HORSES

 

 

No social distancing, evening conversation
centers on introductions as sorrel horses
welcome first-calf heifers coming to water:

no politics, no economic woes, just
domesticated souls touching nose-to-nose
before shadows crawl across the canyon.

We are enveloped for prolonged minutes
within their quiet reverie, forgetting
all the bad news they’ll never know.

 

IDES OF JULY 2020

 

 

                              There is an easy beauty in the bronze statues
                              dredged up from the ocean, but there is a worth
                              to the unshapely our sweet mind founders on.

                                             – Jack Gilbert (“The Secret”)

Even the old fence posts, split redwood
from the coast eighty years ago,
serve a purpose more than by design,

unexpected dividends through a lifetime
that can’t be spent or bartered—saved only
in our minds. I had stopped to photograph

the White Tailed Kite’s extended hovering,
treading air against gravity while searching
dry, blond grasses for the movement of a mouse—

expending more energy, it seemed, than a rodent
could provide. My feet grow heavy now
as I circumambulate this uneven ground

following seasons of grass with cows and calves,
praying for relief of flood or drought, hoping
to generate enough to do it all over again.

 

April Fool’s Day 2020

 

 

Yesterday, Robbin and I began our 26th year together by making a loop through Greasy to look at the cows and calves, assess our feed conditions and put out salt and mineral. The cattle look great! We got an early start to the grass with November and December rains, but with a dry January and February, we lost our feed at our lower elevations on the south and west slopes. To date, we’ve only received three inches since the first of the year, but the grass at the higher elevations has just begun to grow.

A Border Collie at five months, it was Tessa’s first extended ride in the Kubota away from the house. Channeling her energy has been a challenge, but she’s smart and willing to please. It was good for her to be completely lost away from home and dependent on us for over four hours. Tired before she went to bed last night, she was sitting in the Kubota waiting for another ride.

Not much has changed for us, despite the Coronavirus pandemic. Normally, we do our best to stay out of town anyway. Before we have to get our Wagyu calves in for a second round of vaccinations, we’ve been preparing and planting our garden for the past couple of weeks—it’s what we do this time of year—that in turn will help us stay out of town later this spring.

However, we are not immune to the news as we try to imagine millions of people shut in their living quarters in a big city environment. Our hearts go out to them as we realize how fortunate we are to be free to move around the ranch to get our work done. Having something to do during this crisis is indeed a luxury.

 

FEBRUARY 2020

 

 

Another cold dry front
rests upon the tops of hills,
shapeless clouds, a haze
upon steep south slopes,
red clay like brick—
green pales to gray

               as we brand calves
               one by one
               we may sell early
               with their mothers.

I brace against the familiar
drama, growing numb

               as my stiff new rope
               slides through the palm
               of time’s softened hand,
               warming as it searches
               for my frayed
               wrapped-cotton horn.

               I quote my elders
               dead and gone
               as they visit
               the branding pen.

Don’t worry, Dofflemyer,
               E. J.’d say.
It’s gonna rain.

It takes years to get here
with cows we like—
unwritten contracts
they understand

               as we discuss
               our options
               of who goes first
               and who gets what’s left
               of hay.

Of the two of us,
I am the dreamer
and believer—

a luxury
you have allowed me
               facing facts
as I grow gray.

                              for Robbin