I stumble out of an old dream panicked
about cattle I haven’t checked in months
on a hidden ranch I can’t place, connect
except they were not grazing vineyard rows
with no fences, not loose in town this time,
but on some hard-to-gather rolling ground
you can’t see from the pocked asphalt road
snaking through blond summer foothills.
Last time, they were OK, bull calves
too big to brand breeding sisters, but alive
on good feed and water. It may have been
the turkey dressing drenched in juices,
or the cranberries fermenting fear familiar
that I recognize more than this imagined place
to wait before saddling a horse, loading-up
asleep to tilt at impossible windmills.
I’ve been here before, rusty wire on redwood
posts askew, exploring canyons, finding old
rough-haired families too weak to be wild—
all the guilt and disappointment I need
to torture my subconscious. Too old for that,
I roll over to let my weak knees hang before
testing with a first step towards reality:
cigarette, coffee and a poem for Black Friday.
In the dry and dusty years,
we did not ask much
from our night dreams
of brittle details to get by
day by day—no pastoral
pipe dreams, no comedy.
But we indulge the gods
because we must endure
their sense of humor.
Our springtime activities can seem confusing. Around the house, barns, corrals, and gates we use frequently, we spray weeds. Though the grass species are essentially the same on either side of the barbed wire, the fence arbitrarily determines what are weeds and what is feed for cattle. It seems a bit sacrilegious, even to me, to be spraying weeds in a business dependent on grass.
Routine for so many years, I have become obsessed with the distasteful job of clearing the grasses that can hide rattlesnakes where we work and live, or make the difference of losing a barn full of hay to a fire. I am relieved when the job is done—and confess to enjoying watching the weeds die along clear lines of green and blond.
The grass was high in the small pasture in front of our house, so we let our second-calf heifers in to mow it down. Robbin and I enjoy having the cattle close, watching the calves grow and play. At first, they’re nervous, but after a couple of days they come into the pasture, morning and night, as part of their grazing routine. Checking-in, they seem to enjoy our company.
Readers may remember the planter we built last year to start our bare root raspberries. It looked a lot like a feeder for cattle. With so much grass, I didn’t think that our thorny raspberries would interest cattle, but the calves have become addicted, bucking straight through the gate for the raspberries’ new growth. But we seem to have hurt their feelings, bunched at the gates last night, confused with why the gates were closed.
With rain upon the loose debris
of last year’s feed,
come first leaves of grass.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2014
Tagged Dry Creek, feed, grass, haiku, photographs, poetry, rain, red-stem filaree, Walt Whitman, water, weather
One hundred degree cows
come close, feed on one side,
lawn on the other.
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2014
Tagged Drought, Dry Creek, feed, garden, haiku, photographs, poetry, Wagyu X mothers, water, weather, weeds
Ever-hopeful and in anticipation of tomorrow’s rain, I took a few photos of today’s feed conditions, intending to concentrate on the filaree, having turned red a week or so ago in places, then purple and brown. A miraculous and extremely strong non-native cattle feed, it is the predominant species in dry years. With good moisture, it can come back to life and turn green again. With less than 4” of rain and only about 30 days left in our rainy season that averages about 16” annually, the grasses never really germinated completely, resulting in a mosaic pattern almost everywhere today.
Just through the fence that separates our driveway from the pasture, I wanted a good shot of where the filaree had turned a purplish brown, only to draw one of the Roadrunners nesting in some nearby Prickly Pear cactus, closer.