Tag Archives: grass

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. 

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.

MARCH 1, 2021—SHORT-CROPPED GREEN

When I was young I wished
for longer springs and hillsides 
painted with wildflowers,
 
grass belly-high and every canyon
running water—livestock grazing
pastoral notions, heavenly eternal.
 
I may have to stand in line 
on the trail to mountain pastures
when I shed this human coil,
 
but hope to hell that the majority 
of souls will be waiting 
at the Pearly Gates instead.

DULL ROAR

Dark rain in waves, 
an oscillation of applause upon the roof
that soothes and insulates the senses
 
from the distant discord of mankind,
the lucid transparency of public figures
that saddens the soul—
 
this narrow canyon lit across in gold,
blind flashes of humility,
the roll of thunder close.
 
The short-cropped green hangs on 
to naked clay hoping for heaven’s basket 
of spilt miracles to soften hillsides 
 
for roots—and cloven hooves
reaching for the ridgetops ripe 
for more level grazing.
 
Dark rain in waves
punctuated by the light—
relief for what we know.

‘TIS THE SEASON

 

 

                       There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town
                       Takes a whole pail of water just to cool him down.

                                 – Grateful Dead (“Fire on the Mountain”)

After rain,
willows aflame,
green on black:

photographs
of germinating
truth taking root

after fire—after
the smoke clears
and dust disappears

with seasons changing—
we begin again
with grass.

 

BARE GROUND GREEN

 

 

After a good rain, the cows have left
the feed grounds greening, grabbed their calves
and headed for the ridgetops where raindrops

slowly settled to weave fast growing
blades between the matted hollow stems
to make a mouthful, a musty bit of old

with the fresher taste of a new beginning.
We feel the same searching hillsides
for black dots of grazing pairs, oblivious

to the feed truck’s throaty idle,
way down in the flats, close to the hay barn,
now wearing a dark empty hole.

 

First of December 2017

 

 

Thanksgiving seems a long ways away, doubling-up the feeding before and after, as the new grass greens, trying to keep the cows in shape to breed back, most with calves at their sides. We’ve also been busy getting the bulls out in our upper country.

We have a good start on our grass with nearly ¾” on November 17th, followed by a week of 70 degree weather and then another 0.60”—an ideal beginning as high-temperatures now steady in the mid-60s. The older cows are headed to the tops of the ridges where the soaked-in rain gets the most exposure from the sun, some changing pastures where drought-stricken oaks continue to fall on fences. Our emphasis now is getting them all together and exposed to the bulls as we think about branding.

Amid the political chaos, we’re thankful we have a job to do in a separate place where we must concentrate our minds and energy on what we hope to be productive. This business, as I’ve said many times, is dependent on three variables: the weather, the market and the politics—none of which have we any control of. In many respects, we’ve gotten used to it. Despite what appears to be global uncertainty, we carry on with all we know to do.

On a personal note, I haven’t had any inclination to write poetry or take photographs with anything more than iPhone. What poetry I’ve posted seems more of an exercise than fresh inspiration, while feeling that my art, for lack of a better word, may be on the cusp of something new and different. At any rate, I’m not holding my breath, too busy leaning toward the work before us, essentially distancing myself from any old habits or poetic styles, but rather immersing myself in the activities from where my poetry has come.

 

SEASON OF GRASS

 

 

Oak smoke from the woodstove
curls beneath the eave, gray snake
sliding from post to beam

to filter dawn’s first blinding light
after rain. Bare ground green
with cotyledons, damp with dew

overnight, sequins glistening
on blond dry stems—on the cusp
of something beginning with

the miracle of seed swelling
into new shoots, leaves of grass
over and over and over again

despite our ignorance and greed, our
ownership of more than the moment
as we prepare for another adventure:

oak and Manzanita stacked
against the dry and cold stretches
between the welcome rains.

 

FOR GOOD

 

20161211-a40a2594

 

Warm green December, grass ahead
of fewer cattle, young bulls work
at making friends in a perfect world
of tight fences and swinging gates
everyone respects for a little while.

On the uneasy edge of drought,
we will imitate fat calves lazing,
content to watch the show unfold
into the ordinary—nothing remarkable,
but with any luck a change for good.

 

DECEMBER CEREMONY

 

20161203-a40a2517

 

Green blades and stems reach
beneath the dry turned gray
with recent rains—mildewed
protection from the cold holds
moisture before decomposing,
relinquishing steep and rocky
promises to tender chance, to
the next generation of grasses
to become heir to this ground
as we come off the mountain
with Manzanita loaded,
chain saw lashed, descending
slowly, talking about nothing
but what rumbles in our heads
and hearts—our December
ceremony saving, spending,
banking energy the old way.
                    
                    for Bodhi on his birthday