The grass has turned while we’ve been busy repairing our fences in order to sort and ship our calves to town. Because the brush catchers upstream failed to hold all the debris, our pipe fence across the high water channels when the creek was flowing 8,000 cfs (cubic feet/second) collected what leaked by until it was overwhelmed.
It’s been a slow process, but neighbors and friends brought their hydraulic muscle to stand it upright Sunday morning in a couple of hours. We had to cut it in sections and finished welding them together yesterday.
With a break in the weather, we, with the help of our neighbors and their equipment, began addressing the plugged culverts that were spilling flood water across Dry Creek Rd. Though we had cleaned the debris from this culvert after the first Atmospheric River, it became impacted with sand with subsequent rains. Essentially, the culvert is too small for these kinds of events and with so many flooding issues in Tulare County, we are low on their priority list.
All in all, we cleaned out three culverts yesterday, two of which have needed attention for years. The weathermen have downgraded the amount of rain to expect in coming days, but on top of the 1,000 cfs already flowing down Dry Creek canyon, its impact rides with the intensity of those rains.
We’re ready as we can be and doing what we can without getting off the asphalt and getting stuck.
As great (for us) as the three-week Atmospheric River was, it put everyone’s branding schedules behind, most roads too wet to get to our cattle. Normally, we’d be at Elko this time of year, but with travel and time away from business, we needed to stay at home before our calves got too big to handle easily.
When I look around our community’s branding pens I realize now that most of the old timers are gone, that we have taken their places going ‘old-people slow’, and we prefer it. Fortunately we have some young muscle to work the ground.
Robbin and I have scaled our operation down, in part due to our heavy culling to adapt to consecutive years of drought and also by selling half of our cows to my son Bob. Branding pasture by pasture, our bunches are now small enough to get by with three ropers, one calf stretched at a time. Our relaxed pace has become even more conducive for old friends to visit while we get the work done. These photos from our second branding of the season, it’s been great!
We head to Tony Rabb’s next week to brand after he assesses the rain forecast for this weekend.
Spectacular weather yesterday on the Paregien ranch. Above 2,000 feet in elevation and twenty 4 x 4 minutes from the asphalt, it is a magic place rich with native and anecdotal history. Currently, the feed is short but still greening since the 1.45” we got on the 6th, 7th and 8th of this month. The cattle have left the flats for the slopes and ridges where the new grass is growing faster, protected from frost by the remnants of old feed. Early last week the prognosticators canceled today’s rain, but have now forecast a significant amount for Thursday into the weekend. (We’ll see.)
While pumping water, looking for the neighbor’s errant bull and measuring the corrals for a much-needed makeover, Robbin and I spent the morning with the Fry/Fox family cutting Manzanita and Live Oak deadfall for our woodstove because of my tendonitis. With our many hands, what fun we had!
It’s been several months since I carelessly cut a tree in the road that knocked me down, damaging the rotator cuff of my right shoulder. And about a month since compensating for it to pop a tendon, sounding like a gun shot, in my left forearm. Enlisted now in medical protocol and procedures, it’s taken a couple of weeks to confirm the damage with an MRI. Apparently surgery and long recovery is my best option. I see the Dr. again in 4 weeks, meanwhile I’m supposed to do nothing.
I am amused that only children and seniors measure their age in half-years, kids because they want to be older, and seniors, I suppose, eager to numerically reassure themselves of their existence. I’m 74 ½ and need to act my age. My life, our life, on this ranch has always been physical and it’s been too easy for me to forget I’m no longer fifty or sixty building fence or bucking hay. But to have our good friends and neighbors volunteer to help us get some firewood in was truly a wonderful gift on a beautiful day. Thank you Chuck and Lesley Fry, Katy and Cody Hanson, and Allie and Shawn Fox. You guys are the best!
Though no one dares complain about the rain, we’ve been working towards a branding between storms as the corrals dry out. Yesterday began cold and foggy as the sun broke through occasionally.
With an exceptional crew of neighbors, it was fun and relaxed for our first branding of the year, a good opportunity for Allie (Fry) Fox to sharpen her skills. She’s been part of this ranch since she was a baby.
It’s always a pleasure having Douglas Thomason in the pen bringing his quiet and calm expertise to the party. Bodie, his young son below, looks ready to follow in his footsteps.
What a great day! Robbin and I are thrilled. Thank you all! With wild and varied predictions of rain (Atmospheric River) through New Years beginning this evening, we’re ready to enjoy the holidays.
Before the surplus oilfield pipe
replaced the split redwood posts
and creosoted oak railroad ties,
we remember the old board pens,
acorns tucked twixt crack and plank,
fiery lichen on the backside
of weather-worn 2 x 8s:
old saws saved
that we exchange,
each triggering the next
underhanded head loop loosed
to hang for an instant,
we snare memories
like calves to brand—lifetimes
stretched from hand to hand.
Despite local forecasts for rain, we made the trek up the hill with our neighbors to brand our first bunch of calves for the season. Over the years here, we’ve dealt with fog, rain and snow, but yesterday the sun broke through the gray to complete a beautiful day.
Additional hazards are these two Blue Oaks that Effie Hilliard incorporated when she built these corrals many decades ago, one of which is now a casualty of our 4-year drought. Though we’ve threatened to remove them, consensus has been that they remain.
Though we see one another individually throughout the year, the first branding of the year is always a special get-together for all of us.
One of the benefits of trading labor is that everyone knows how we want the job done, whether a horseback or on the ground. You just can’t hire any better help than our neighbors.
And one of the drawbacks, as we age, is that some of us have now outlived our horses. Finding a replacement gentle and trustworthy enough for old men is not easy, but Tony Rabb brought a young buckskin mare to the branding pen for the first time with impressive success. Robbin and I thank everyone for helping us get the job done.