Tag Archives: grass

MAYPOLE

 

The dark hole in the barn

that once was leafy, fine-stemmed alfalfa

for six-months feeding, rides on a rain

 

as wildflowers get ahead of the green

making color, making seed—a spectacle

that will eclipse the hopes and dreams

 

that drew us to this tipping point in time.

Seems we’re always on the cusp of perfect

storms, praying for enough that we might

 

meld into the wealth of these steep slopes

we belong to, marvel at the cattle

and forget about the money and the market

 

for a moment as we and our old neighbors

hold invisible hands and hobble around

the maypole to appease our pagan genes.

 

 

THE GOOD SIGNS

There were no wild turkeys here

when we were boys—no Great Egrets either

mimicking Blue Herons

statuesque in the pasture

waiting for the earth to move

a varmint cleaning house after rain.

 

Scattered atop the ridges,

we haven’t seen the cows and calves

in weeks, the young bulls longer

through December rains.

They don’t need us now,

they don’t need hay.

 

Lifeline of the canyon, the creek

arrived on Christmas Eve

running muddy, coloring the river

with streaks of chocolate

under the new bridge

it took years to finish.

 

And when the Tule fog

leaps and claws up canyon

like a lion to wrap us in a gray

cocoon that shuts the world away,

there’s nothing to do but wait

until the sun burns it off.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Long dark shadows in the canyons,

cattle hard to see.  They don’t need us now,

heads down somewhere on the mountain,

 

ground too wet to help them anyway—

all the excuses I need to write poetry.

We fed hay all last year, filled the barn

 

three times waiting for a rain. These Christmas

storms: miracles to rejuvenate the earth

for man and beast, birds and insects,

 

steep hillsides begging to explode in leafy

salad greens—iridescent gifts in the sunlight,

like the old days, for years in a row that

 

have since gone dry and farther in between.

Nothing stays the same, just ask the skeletons

of old oaks where the natives ground acorns.

Rain and Snow

Sulphur Peak

2.16” of rain the past two days and snow down to about 2,000 feet yesterday have been a game changer for Robbin and me.  So long dry, it’s not been easy to think in any other terms than drought, but we’re getting there as the south and west slopes fill in with green.  Forecast for more rain on the way through Christmas. 

JUST IN TIME

Gray silver rain,

burnished coins

upon the green—

first leaves of filaree

like faces waiting,

hands open expectantly.

 

The ground sighs

just in time and we,

with wood stacked,

breathe freely now

 

as cows down from ridgetops

collect babies waiting

for breakfast

and old enough to listen

for their mother’s voice.

 

She slipped easily away

under clouds like these.

I hear phrases now—

her knowing

and all her demons

haunt me delightfully,

words that fit

and suddenly

become my own.

 

She would be pleased for us,

gray silver rain

upon the green.

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.