It’s been interesting weather, now half-way through our rainy season, over 18 inches of rain after a decade of drought. Already whispers from the loudest drought complainers for relief as these hills leak crystal rivulets again.
We lost a month in time in January to the Atmospheric River during branding season, and now with nearly 3 inches in the past 3 days and 3 inches more forecast for the next three, it will be at least a week before we can get to our upper country to brand the last bunch, putting us close to the middle of March. These calves will be big, a handful.
The Paregien Ranch ranges from 2,000 to 2,600 with its own light blanket of snow now, time-released moisture soaking into the clay and granite ground that leaks down the smooth rock waterfalls of Ridenhour Canyon, adding to Dry Creek that peaked at 684 cfs last night, that probably washed out some of our watergaps replaced after January’s peak flow over 3,500 cfs.
Job security, but patience until we can get there—you can’t fight Mother Nature, just try to adapt and face the consequences—fully enjoy her luxuriant and persistent presence after so much needed moisture.
The foothill poppies are beginning to show on our south slopes as temperatures hover near 70 degrees. The white popcorn flowers and orange fiddlenecks have begun to claim the gentler ground in what appears to be the beginning of a colorful wildflower year with the ample moisture (Atmospheric River) we received last month.
Beginning this evening, forecasts vary as temperatures drop into the low thirties with a cold front that will engulf California. Weathermen are predicting snow down to 1,000 feet, nearly 1,000 feet below this photograph. There is even some talk of fourteen inches of snow in Three Rivers. Furthermore, Weather Underground predicts rain on all but one day for the next two weeks.
The road to the Paregien ranch has just dried out and cleared of fallen trees, but we still haven’t been able to get to the calves to brand up there. We lost a month in time to the Atmospheric River in January, but two weeks of predicted rain with a week to dry out puts that branding into the middle of March at the soonest and our calves are almost too BIG to handle.
Nothing is certain in this business, but as a weather dependent livelihood we’ll have to be ready to adapt. (Cut another load of dead-standing Manzanita and Blue Oak yesterday, at least we should be warm).
2.16” of rain the past two days and snow down to about 2,000 feet yesterday have been a game changer for Robbin and me. So long dry, it’s not been easy to think in any other terms than drought, but we’re getting there as the south and west slopes fill in with green. Forecast for more rain on the way through Christmas.
We feed on numbers,
irrigate and harvest plans
with shaved efficiencies,
measure our well-being
by more or less
with what’s on paper
so easily burned
or suddenly erased—
we forget who we are.
We share amounts of rain,
with the neighbors,
too often disappointed
with what we need most:
just enough moisture
to revive this ground—
this flesh and our more
Robbin and I have been crossing the Great Basin from Tonopah to Carlin in January for twenty years, choosing the longer route to Elko instead of I-99 towards Sacramento congestion and Donner Pass. Once known as the World’s Loneliest Highway, going home we met only a couple of vehicles on Highway 278 towards Eureka, Monday morning February 1st, after Sunday’s storm.
Twenty years ago, everyone waved a passing hello when meeting a vehicle on these back roads, but the habit seems to have waned in the past few years. I never fail to wonder about the first wagon crossings, the weeks it took to overcome this high desert expanse, the people, their courage and endurance, as they made the trek. How many of us today would have done as well, invested the patience and dedication to get to a place, presumably California, that they’d never seen?
Temperatures in the single digits, we left blowing snow outside Tonopah a week ago in Nevada’s Great Basin. Since we have gathered our last bunch of cows and calves to brand this morning to a forecast high of 76°. Here the hillsides are green, spattered with early patches of golden poppies and fiddleneck, as white popcorn flowers begin to creep up the lower slopes. The visual and mental contrasts from Elko to Dry Creek are startling, two different worlds either side of the Great Western Divide within a week’s time.