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”)
green on black:
truth taking root
the smoke clears
and dust disappears
with seasons changing—
we begin again
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Rare harmony, the grays and greens
spill off the hills like stringed music
in the gloaming, naked oaks in granite,
cows and calves bent to new grass
step slowly mowing earth and rain
at work in the bright of day and night.
Like sea tides rising, each blade eager
twists towards the moon in cool darkness,
drawn to listen to heaven’s basic chords.
A wild sound is playing now outside
while waiting for a cloud, for the strum
of winter storms to prolong the song.
Within a week of late October rains, a forest
of green blades twisting, chasing warm
golden light between canyon horizons,
reaching while we sleep to a waxing moon
sailing south across black starlit seas—
a germination thick as hair on a dog’s back.
Hard clay turned soft underfoot, under cloven
hooves, out of the bleached and brittle rubble
of last year’s feed, a spreading miracle of green
as the earth stirs with another birth of grass.
And we are tied to it, mentally shackled
and physically restrained to work within her
moody generosity, daring not with word
or thought to piss her off—we have our gods
and goddesses we adore, stealing glimpses
every chance we get outside to pause
and praise them. All our totems, the bird
and animal people of the Yokuts know
our names, know our habits, show us the way
this canyon was designed to support life,
here and beyond us, with a crop of grass.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “Chaos”
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2016, Ranch Journal
Tagged birds, cattle, grass, photography, poetry, rain, water, weather, weekly-photo-challenge, wildlife, Yokuts
A dark day after over an inch of rain, Terri and Lee feed the replacement heifers before the Wagyu bulls arrive next month. Already dated, this photograph doesn’t show the green that has spread across the damp ground in the past three days. Temperatures forecast for the next ten days are in the mid-to-high-70s—perfect growing weather for our native grasses. Already, our first-calf heifers are leaving our flatter feeding grounds for the hillsides in search of green grass tall enough to bite, steep ground softer now to climb and graze a little dry feed with the new.
Shorter days stuck in the low-50s, chilly mornings linger as both man and beast seem slower to get started, much of the pressure off after four days of rain and a thick germination of seed. Robbin and I are already talking firewood after we check the cows and calves on the Paregien Ranch, a Kubota load to augment the leftovers of last year’s stack, kept short to discourage rattlesnakes around the house. We’re ready, I think, to face whatever weather we get this winter, hoping always for well-timed rains.
The seed beneath the dry, dead grasses
waits, as we have waited to begin again
with rain, to plant themselves, screw and twist
into damp dirt, to swell and burst—first
hands open to feed the living, applaud life,
millions of ovations standing on their own.
Each a miracle rising from hollow, blond
and brittle stems, from the dust of bare
red clay and sandy ground—alive and green.
Our private holiday, hope and relief let go
to breathe freely, to work fully within
this new beginning for one more poem.