Tag Archives: dust

RECHARGING THE BATTERY AS IT RAINS

 

The fine dust upon old tools I have forgotten

as I clean the shop: my brace and bits, some

long-enough to chew through creosoted

 

railroad ties while scraping granite gravel. Mighty

hugs to my shoulder in long, youthful spurts

that warmed the birdshot bearings out-of-round

 

where there was no electricity to hang a gate

miles from the asphalt. It was my third.

I wore them out. I knew no other way.  

 

I recognize the dead scent of time as mine

on the shelves, in wooden boxes no one makes

anymore, protecting stiff-leather headstalls

 

and rusty bits we’ll never use again. I must make

room for the cordless handyman, especially

since this old battery has begun to run down.

 

BFORE THE RAIN

 

The cows know the way

following the idling sounds

of the diesel hay truck

 

to the feed grounds just beyond

the glacial slab of granite

honeycombed with grinding holes

 

of another era

when 300 Natives

made a living in this canyon.

 

After the flood

they moved the road

away from the creek in ’69—

 

exposing human bones.

The cast iron well head

for the red brick slaughterhouse

 

stands like a gravestone

among dead oak limbs—for

a time between then and now.

 

A cow turns back to attend to her calf

swallowing dust, another murmurs

trust that there will be hay.

 

*          *           *          *

 

0.28″

 

TWENTY DAYS (part 2)

2.

Drought and dust,

pandemic and the masks

we need to breathe and feed—

 

day’s end cloaked in smoke

and gin—how tough are we

and every living thing

 

looking to escape

to a Li Po poem

and Chinese tapestry?

IDES OF AUGUST 2021

Dust trails behind

plodding black cows off the hills

to water, bellies stretched with calf,

while we drink coffee—

 

and we are proud of these cows

who grazed uphill to bed

while we drank Tangueray and tonic,

slice of grapefruit instead of lime.

 

An acquired taste, raising cattle

through years of drought—

a bittersweet love affair

with the ground that sustains us.

 

We know her every crease

and wrinkle, and which leak water—

all of her magic spots

forever branded in our brains.

Wagyu X Branding 2

We are extremely fortunate to have an excellent crew of neighbors to help us mark our calves. Yesterday was a beautiful day to brand our second bunch of Wagyu X calves, though pretty dusty near the end of the work.  Even though the hills are green, the grass is terribly short with only 4.31” of rain on Dry Creek thus far this year with only two months left of our rainy season. Furthermore, the spring forecast https://weatherwest.com/archives/8382 is quite disturbing.  

Feeding hay since August, some neighbors have already begun to sell their cows into this down market. Ideally, the cull cows will attain their heaviest weights by mid-April, however most everyone’s cows are now stressed as short feed and growing calves have kept them thin.  With little rain and a minimal snowpack, summer irrigation water will be in short supply, which translates to higher water prices in the San Joaquin Valley.  Likewise, one can be assured that with fewer cuttings, the price of hay will also be high.

The south slopes have already dried up, offering only a month of green this year.  Without any moisture in the next week, the west slopes will follow suit.  Not necessarily the amount of rain, but the timing is always the crucial variable for native feed. We carry on as if by some miracle we can keep our cows together, but time is running out for the Southern Sierra foothills.

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.

NOVEMBER DUST

 

 

For days, nothing to say,
as we wait for rain, like always
in the dust we stir,
both wild and tame.

Cow trails deep and soft,
Chinese scrolls of pad and hoof
pressed into silent verse
moving freely in the dark.

Coyote, bobcat, rattlesnake,
bear, deer and mountain lion
leave their poetry at night
to be erased each day.

 

DUST

 
Billowing from behind the barn before dawn
rising, clouds hang and drift, coat everything
as saddle horses wake to play over fences

in August, when there is no dew nor brittle stems
to cling to. Expectant mothers waddle to the water
trough, dragging their feet in soft, deep powder

pounded fine enough to float, to trail behind them.
Within the Palo Verde’s safe thatch of thorny limbs,
the reveille of quail brushing dreams from their eyes

before their morning march to the rock pile
in the middle of the bare horse pasture—even
the tiny feet of laggards catching-up stir the dust.

The first dry leaves lift in a swirl of weather changing,
distant premonitions that stir the flesh to ask
if the stage is set to settle this ever-present dust

with rain.

 

DUST AT DAWN

IMG_0683

 

In a cloud, horseplay rising
from a two-year drought—
time to feed to breathe.

 

 

WPC(4) — “Refraction”

OCTOBER 2014, GREASY COVE

IMG_0551

 

You ask me now,
in this moment, waited
for my full attention

                         which I have refused,
                         too preoccupied with each rich
                         moment-at-hand.

My patient other voice,
ever-reasonable and calm,
ready for a pause

to pose the obvious, weigh
the load and look
at the short end of my string.

But I am busy listening
to my call carry across Greasy,
to cows bailing off the far ridge

leaving dust trails in trees,
to the diesel’s purr
beside me, promising hay.

To their slow plod up—
they trust that we
will do as we say.