The stage is set with
few days between rains
in years between droughts—
green hills hang fire,
begin to breathe
before they flower.
Knee-deep white egrets
comb blades of grass,
step lightly slowly
as tree frogs gather
an all-night chorus.
Dry cordwood stacked, I crave
unpredictable clouds of change,
the cold and ice, the hail and rain
and the look of snow-capped green,
black cattle grazing an angry gray—
fancy whiskey in a glass with you
inside, woodstove sucking air to flame.
No matter what the pundits say,
it doesn’t change a thing.
Light dusting this afternoon down to 2,500′ on Dry Creek. Exceeding the forecast, just shy of an inch of rain overnight and this morning. It’s wet out there.
Snow accumulation is just short of ‘normal’ for this time of year as we head into four days of forecast rain. Going up the hill to help the neighbors get one more bunch branded while we can still get to Mankins Flat, just on the other side of the near ridge.
California Weather Blog: “Wet and stormy week ahead for all of California”
After a rain, everything is clean,
summer dust washed from leaves,
from the hides of cows and calves
gathered for church in shady shelters
to pray for the sweet scent of green.
We begin again to watch the sky,
look to heaven for perfect storms
and wait—dream of thunder
and draws of muddy water—
leaning forward into the future.
Our small part of the world is almost perfect with last week’s rain as cotyledons break the duff and dirt, a magic time that California natives, men and beasts, eagerly anticipate. Albeit a bit early, our beginning of grass will need another rain soon, but with plenty of old feed to protect the new, that window is open longer.
My niece and family have been visiting once a month to help us deal with the Kaweah River watershed’s implementation of the Groundwater Stabilization Act, 2014 legislation designed to improve water quality and sustainability in California. As a more interesting outing, Robbin and I took them up to the Paregien ranch yesterday as we checked on our cattle.
Her husband Neal is a videographer who is always looking for room to fly his drone. Though I’ve often thought of applications for a drone on the ranch, such as checking fences and looking for missing cattle, I wasn’t quite ready for the visual reality.
Robbin’s ready to record barking dogs and other assorted cowboy sounds to help us in the gather.
Not much to do for the past three days but watch it rain, over four inches in the past ten days.
It’s a warm, 67 degrees with another half-inch in the gauge since this morning, bringing our total rainfall to over six inches for the month of March. Prior to February 26th, rainfall was 25% of normal. More due tonight.
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.
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.