Touch of Irish green,
rainbow rising from the creek,
canyon rich with luck.
Somewhere along the way,
I lost my anger for mankind,
that loud and profane passion
felt on dear faces, remembering
how the deep incisions
bled for days. They said
it was the war, the retreat
as unknowing bait
in the Battle of the Bulge,
keeping the men and machinery
together in the frozen snow.
Perhaps I am too old to care,
too far way to threaten
weathermen and politicians
preening before the camera crews.
I’ve lost my outrageous luster—
but as long as I’m alive,
I’ll hear stories I don’t recognize.
Between rains, he takes the high post
to watch for hawks slicing the low sky
as she inspects the garden below
tittering from the frost-bitten lantana
to the volunteer artichokes exploding
with long green fronds and leafy fruit.
Little cover for a nest, the bare ground
waits for seed. They have paired, it is spring.
Our end of February-beginning of March rains, two and a half inches overall interspersed with some 70 degree days, have been a game changer. Nearly doubling our seasonal precipitation totals, the ground and rejuvenated green absorbed the moisture and then offered dust in a matter of days only to be settled by another quarter inch on Sunday. Remarkable.
We scrambled in-between getting our Wagyu bulls together for their trip back to Caldwell, Idaho, on Friday, having addressed their work here since December 15th. As part of our contract with Snake River Farms, we rent their bulls for about a tenth of what a 2-year old Angus bull would cost, plus we don’t have feed them while they’re drawing unemployment nor are we fixing fence behind them. But last minute coordination of a health certificate from our vet, a brand inspector and a truck before we had them gathered was chancy as the cattle had already moved up the slopes to the taller grass on the ridges.
With more rain forecast for most of the next 10 days, Terri and I and burned several years of downed Valley Oak limbs and trees yesterday around our shipping corrals. Casualties of the 2012-2016 drought, it was a challenge to get them to the burn pile, but not without a touch of melancholy as a 400-year old tree, once a regular roost for Bald Eagles, went up in smoke.
The birds begin to think in pairs
as these old hills begin to breathe
soft green from crusty brown.
Two young blackbirds inspect
last year’s redwood limbs
to house the colony, safe-haven
from crows and ravens, easy
to defend. Two by two, the quail
titter down garden trails
too cold to plant. The crimson
chests of finches gleam before
drab ladies on the railing
when not picking at
old nests in the roof beams,
half-heartedly. Too early yet
for songs of love and making
babies when these old hills
have just begun to breathe.
Low snow on the steep ground,
a slow melt soaking slopes
for Golden Poppies and wild lavender.
Still on the rise, the old man
hasn’t left his post looking down
upon us, the floods and droughts.
Born forty million years ago,
he’s seen the worst of weather
changes—few things as sure today.
Daylight dressed Sulphur Peak (3,477’) with another dusting of snow after five days of measurable precipitation that totaled 2.56”, almost half of this season’s rainfall (5.73”) since September. Though well-short of the average for this time of year, the transformation of our hillsides has begun.
As noticeable is the transformation in our outlook and attitudes, the exhilaration we are experiencing with the present prospect of a grass season, albeit short. It is magical as green becomes the predominate color: instant grass, just add water.
“Will the hills turn green again?” She asks.
Flat on my back, my tongue dodges
dental utensils: mirror, suction
and cavitron finding a nerve
as I turn my wince into a grin
and gargle, “Yes, they just need rain.”
This old dry flesh and all its crumbling
skeletons shedding bark and limbs
await our ballyhooed first
winter storm on the first of March.
Ricocheting between extremes,
nothing is normal, our only certainty:
rebirth, rejuvenation, the miracle
of earth and water. To her I wink,
“We may even have flowers.”
It was an all-night, slow rain and low snow with no runoff, 0.60” that was absorbed, no puddles at first light as winter finally arrived at the end of February—a game changer as our options were narrowing.
Though we considered buying some heifers last fall to augment our cow herd culled heavily after four years of drought, after last year’s record rainfall and ample feed, we are grateful that we’ve been understocked through one of the driest beginnings to our rainy season, ‘that time of year when it might rain’. Because we are understocked in our upper country, this season’s grass has been protected by last year’s old feed and our cows and calves are doing well. However, we’ve been feeding hay to our younger cows since August in our lower country as the grass has all but disappeared. With temperatures near-freezing for the past two weeks and only 0.20” of precipitation in the preceding 30 days, it’s been too cold and dry for the grass to grow.
But we know how resilient this ground can be, another storm set to arrive late this evening and last through Saturday, we have hope for a decent grass season yet and enough moisture to get us to the first of April as temperatures warm. Believers are made of such miracles.