Tag Archives: Drought

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.

THE DEITIES

Maxfield Parish (“Garden of Allah” – 1918)
How could we know
the plans of goddesses and gods
with so much going on, busy
 
saving and taking lives,
sorting souls
amid this Covid,
 
while tilting the West 
out of range
of the good storms—
 
bare acres everywhere you go.
If even a shower
could bring some green,
 
cattle market’s gone to hell.
With everybody begging
for change, the pipeline may be
 
plugged with prayer overload, 
or perhaps our deities
are just teaching a lesson.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Small promise in the dawn’s empty clouds,
more spiritual than stormy or wet,
forecast moisture shrinks the closer we get
to one more year of praying through a drought—
 
another season of small marvels and miracles
where epiphanies and wonders rise
from this thirsty earth before our eyes
to ease each day’s concerns for survival.
 
We are so blessed with these wild diversions
from ample grass and fat cattle
that we begin to think that dry is normal
and greet the New Year with resolution.
 

Back When We Had Grass

(c) Neal Lett Photo

More than 2 months into our rainy season, less than 1/2″ thus far on Dry Creek. To give Neal Lett’s photograph justice, click image to enlarge.

High Hopes

After a lifetime in the cattle business, 52 full-time years by my reckoning, I’ve maintained that there are three variables that determine our economic equilibrium: the market, the weather and politics.  When only one of these variables is unfavorable, we can usually get by for another season. But when all three are unfavorable, we’re in dire straights.

To make matters worse, 2020 has introduced another variable I never considered: an international pandemic that has bludgeoned the global economy, and here at home closed restaurants for all grades of beef.  We are not the only business impacted, further impacting us all.

At the moment, any realistic hopes of corralling Covid-19 to some sort of normalcy are six to nine months away.  But those hopes may encourage better beef markets at the end of spring 2021.  How the political impacts, stimulus packages and reduction of tariffs, etc., will ultimately shake out is anyone’s guess. 

Now two months into our rainy season with less than a half-inch of rain to date and no green grass, we are keenly focused on the weather while feeding lots of hay.  The Wagyu bulls have arrived and we must have our cows in shape to breed.  

Here on Dry Creek on Saturday, we only measured 0.16”, but our hopes hang on the latest forecast of 0.3” today and tonight and another 0.45” Wednesday and Thursday.  Always optimistic, the combination may be enough to get our grass seed germinated.  But like always, much can change in the next four days.  

DINNER





No rare, sixteen-ounce
Chile Verde Rib Eye
leftovers to box for home,
 
no Iceberg Old School
wedge with Blue Cheese 
crumbles, no red wine
 
bottle at twice the price
to finish before leaving
town—no spoiling us
these Covid days,
 
though we tire
of our own cooking,
of feeding hay without rain.
 
Bare acres, not a spear 
of feed half-way 
up the mountain,
 
these good cows wait 
with their calves
at the gate for dinner.

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

 

Forecast Rain

 

 

To date, we have 3.17″ of precipitation since September 21, 2017.

We’ve been watching the 10-day weather developments for today’s forecast rain that seems to have intensified slightly in both probability and amount, temporarily opening the storm door for a larger event by late week. For those interested, a more comprehensive assessment of North America’s weather is available at Daniel Swain’s weather blog. We’ll be dancing tonight.