It’s been interesting weather, now half-way through our rainy season, over 18 inches of rain after a decade of drought. Already whispers from the loudest drought complainers for relief as these hills leak crystal rivulets again.
We lost a month in time in January to the Atmospheric River during branding season, and now with nearly 3 inches in the past 3 days and 3 inches more forecast for the next three, it will be at least a week before we can get to our upper country to brand the last bunch, putting us close to the middle of March. These calves will be big, a handful.
The Paregien Ranch ranges from 2,000 to 2,600 with its own light blanket of snow now, time-released moisture soaking into the clay and granite ground that leaks down the smooth rock waterfalls of Ridenhour Canyon, adding to Dry Creek that peaked at 684 cfs last night, that probably washed out some of our watergaps replaced after January’s peak flow over 3,500 cfs.
Job security, but patience until we can get there—you can’t fight Mother Nature, just try to adapt and face the consequences—fully enjoy her luxuriant and persistent presence after so much needed moisture.
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.
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.
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.