Tag Archives: Greasy Creek

Easter 2018

 

 

Six bunnies in the driveway as the grandkids and I fed the horses yesterday morning, drab Cottontails, but appropriate symbolism that drew excited squeals, yet underscored with knowing looks about the validity of the Easter Bunny. It was a messy feeding, half the flakes never made the manger, each child covered with alfalfa leaf, but the horses didn’t seem to mind the little strangers. In the Kubota, we prolonged the chore by naming the birds we saw, a covey of quail, a dove pair, a lone killdeer and blackbirds grazing the short-cropped green in the horse pasture.

Hoping to expose them to more wildlife, we took the crew to the corrals in Greasy that we just finished constructing, a project that Earl McKee began a decade or more ago. Even though we kept two of the three board pens intact, the interface with pipe required removing some posts and boards and losing an occasional thirty-penny nail. Each kid got a coffee can and the hunt was on for nails worth two-bits a piece, a practice run for plastic eggs filled with sweet surprises that my daughter was hiding in the dark as I went to bed. HAPPY EASTER!

 

First Branding

 

 

Branding calves in Earl McKee’s corrals has always been removed from the rest of the world, separate from the conflicts and politics that we are bombarded with daily. Never more true than yesterday among a few neighbors and friends at our first branding of the year, most of us going ‘old people slow’ as we got the job done.

 

TRADING LABOR

 

February 12, 2015

February 12, 2015

 

A black and white macro of weathered wood,
corrals and hills beyond, old guitar song
and chiseled men follow smoke to the ridgeline

and back to the fire and branding iron. A ringing
cell phone colors riders, a black calf stretched
between two sorrels—blue denim action

of men and women, old neighbors dancing,
each genuflecting to a moment on the ground.
“We’re branding calves,” a limp loop

answers from the corner, looking down
canyon past hazy orchards, somewhere town
as if he could see the caller, the papered desk,

stretch the thirty miles. A guy with a drone
reports, “We got ’em all.” Empty white tables
and chair legs licked by green tongues wait

with meat, bread and beans on an oak fire, ice chest
beer below a towel, soap and water, plastic glasses
and fresh jug of whiskey ready on a tailgate.

Close again, the chatter of visiting face to face,
gossip, stories and mysteries unveiled, fading
with cows with calves strung up the canyon home.

 

Greasy Water Update – First Calf

Less than two weeks ago, we began efforts to find more water in the Greasy watershed utilizing David Langton’s backhoe, the first time a backhoe has ever been to this part of the ranch. Terri and I made the loop with hay yesterday to monitor our water and feed the girls getting ready to calve.

 

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The second trough at Ragle Springs is now full and overflowing. When time allows, we’ll have to plumb an overflow at the low end away from the dirt fill placed around the trough that will probably entail chipping a saddle in the concrete in order to cement a pipe that will have to be anchored to a post beside the trough to keep the cows from breaking the concrete when they rub on the pipe. Any kind of construction for cattle is a challenge. But for the moment, we have plenty of water storage available for the cows, giving us two good springs in our Sulphur pasture. Ragle Springs

 

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The troughs are full and the new spring box is running steady @ about 1/3 gpm. Railroad

 

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Water continues to accumulate at Grapevine at two locations. Grapevine
 

The cows were scattered and harder to locate yesterday, grazing farther from water now, secure and satisfied that water will be available tomorrow.

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For Source and Age Verification, we document our first calf born for the season, so buyers and consumers will know the age of our oldest calf. (First only if we don’t include the four calves born a month early after a bull jumped the gun at the end of last October.) Surprise

 

CIRCLES IN AUGUST

 

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We track circles on the same ground
through brush and granite rock,
over mountains and down canyons

patched with spooky skeletons
of trees, broken limbs at their feet.
Last year’s blond and brittle feed

folds into dust under foot, under wheel
into decent firebreaks swirling around us
as we check springs and clean water troughs

measured with our eye. We carry hay,
fat cows come running six to the bale
once a week, fresh calves knocking

at the door of a new and wobbly world—
waiting to inhale one hundred degree heat.
Too soon to rain, we plod like cows

in dusty circles, all soft trails
lead to water and shade, or to the hum
of solar pumps in abandoned wells.

 

Flower Friday: Clarkia unguiculata

 

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WPC: THE DANCE

 

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In the branding pen,
the steady dance of old hands
celebrating spring.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion

 

Replacement Heifers

 
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With an eye towards weaning our calves, last week’s tour of the Greasy watershed to check cattle and feed conditions was a pleasant surprise. Typically we begin weaning in mid-May when the grass turns. With less than 0.75” of rain in the last forty-five days, my expectations were minimal. But our upper country above 1,500 feet has fared substantially better than our lower foothills where only patches of green remain high on the north slopes.

Having reduced our cow numbers by 40% due to the ongoing drought, we have found a temporary equilibrium between grass and cattle without having to feed much hay last winter. But due to feed limitations, we were unable to keep any calves last season for replacement heifers. Assuming a return to more normal weather conditions, we will need to replace our older cows while also trying to add numbers to our cowherd. However many heifer calves we’re able to keep, won’t produce a calf to wean for two more years. Rebuilding a cowherd is a slow process. Certainly the three girls above will be candidates, but how many we’re able to keep remains to be seen.

 

DAY’S WORK SONG

 

Pretty Face, Triteleia ixioides - April 11, 2014

Pretty Face, Triteleia ixioides – April 11, 2014

 

Steep east slope damp,
tall green grass slick,
pale Pretty Faces hold their grins
beneath Buckeyes and Live Oaks—

                    heavy thatch of fallen limbs
                    holds the old fence down,
                    shelters a rat’s nest.

Nature has been winning
since I was here last
with the chain saw,
packing posts afoot
and splicing rusty wire
to keep cattle straight—
pretending to be in charge.

I see my mark: old cuts
with decomposing rings.
                    Not near as near
                    as in my mind—
four years since the low snows,
ten more for this six-inch growth.

Steep east slope damp,
tall green grass slick,
pale Pretty Faces hold their grins
beneath Buckeyes and Live Oaks.

 

THAT’S HOME

 

Sulphur Peak - March 3, 2015

Sulphur Peak – March 3, 2015

 

For most who don’t know, my family purchased the Greasy Creek Ranch from Earl McKee, mentor, surrogate father and good friend for nearly fifty years, where Robbin and I run our cows and calves. Upon seeing the photo of the two bull calves that escaped a simple gather to the corrals for branding, he was moved to write the following poem:

 

                               My mind recalls this precious glade
                      Where these two youngsters lived and played,
                          And like years ago their ears would hear,
                         The trumpeting wails of their fathers near.

                                That trail close by, I long have trod,
                        On a favorite horse, these hands have shod,
                       We both know the song that the Robins sing,
                 And the sounds of the cattle, where the cowbells ring.

                       Where the blooming Chaparral smells so fair
                            And the scent of wild flowers fills the air.
                      Who wouldn’t come back to this peaceful place,
                             To see Sulphur Mountain’s Majestic face?

                                I too, wish I could return once more,
                           To what these two calves, were longing for,
                           God planned for this place to be left alone,
                      And like them, I will always say, “That’s Home”.

                                                E. A. M. — 3/13/2015