Tag Archives: water

TO WATER CATTLE

 

 

Before we traded ranches,
your mother witched a well
that artesianed into a trough
to water cattle, that overflowed
to fill a pond twenty-four seven
without turning a wheel.

Before we traded ranches
you had tenants
that wanted more
to irrigate cannabis
with a pump and gas generator—

pulled granite sand and pebbles
to dam the crack
where water ran underground
from Sierra peaks
to the wellhead freely.

Married now to a generator,
storage tank and pump,
I pack gas and oil,
carry electrical testers,
tools and spare capacitors,
for a second well we drilled
too deep for solar
to water cattle in a trough
that never overflows.

 

COFFELT PLACE

 

Pinterest

 

The Emperor vines were a hundred years old
when I was a teen learning to irrigate
granddad’s thirsty vineyard, whole pump
down five furrows—hope and wait.

You had to fill the deep sand up
before it carried water down the vine row.
In the old days, Coffelts spread the pump out,
then went fishing in the pines for two weeks.

Much has changed the way we think
about water—wells deeper, trees on drip.
The earth sinks with the weight of farming
until nothing’s left to keep it up.

 

THE DREAMT LAND

 

 

for Mark Arax

The ground is sinking
to where the water used to be
all across the San Joaquin,

agriculture’s deficit spending
leveraged into fortunes
for California’s kings.

This side of the Sierra divide,
it’s always been ‘boom or bust’,
flood or drought,

nothing normal
in between
to bank on

but drill more wells for nuts:
almonds and pistachios,
another million humans

to farm like cattle,
corral in cubicles
they can’t afford.

With the nature of California,
paradox or conundrum,
a constant battle.

 

Snowmelt

 

 

We’ve enjoyed an unusually cool May with over 2 inches of rain on Dry Creek, enough to bring summer weeds and some green annual grasses back to our grazing ground. Between rains, it’s been overcast, keeping temperatures down, but adding to our humidity—extended weather conditions that have bled into the first week of June to begin our snowmelt in earnest.

On June 6th, temperatures rose to 106° for a short time, then yesterday temperatures rose to 102° as the Kaweah River peaked at 6,662 cfs at 2:00 a.m. to retreat to 2,124 cfs by 11:00 p.m.

Still overcast this morning when the this photo was taken of the Kaweah River Watershed, from Alta Peak to Sawtooth, there is still quite a bit of snow on the Great Western Divide. Outflow at Terminus Dam has been held steady at 2,596 cfs as the high water at Lake Kaweah creeps up, gaining about 2,000 acre feet in the past 24 hours.

The capacity of Lake Kaweah is 185,000 acre feet. Water behind the dam as calculated by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is 155,535 acre feet, with room enough for almost another 30,000 acre feet.

Estimating the water content of the snow remaining and the increasing rate of snowmelt becomes a numbers game for the USACE. Lake Kaweah is beautiful lake and my guess is that it will be full by the 4th of July holidays for water skiers, houseboats and other recreationists. Unfortunately, we worry about fire as the high water mark reaches the dry native feed.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL!!

 

BLOND ON BLOND

 

 

Taking the cows home
a week after weaning
snakes easily over the saddle
and down to the water
of collected dreams.

I remember yellow
Euclid trucks dumping
layers of native pasture
armored with rock
across the river in ’59,

flooding shoreline picnics
and ground squirrels targets
where the Wukchumne camped—
where Loren Fredricks
never learned to swim

afraid of the three-foot carp,
sun-dried, he had to ride upon
in a horse-drawn cart
up Dry Creek to Eshom
before he became a cowboy.

Snow stacked high
on the Kaweahs, we held
the water back when Visalia
was a town, spread the city out
with no water in the ground.

               Blond cowgirl
               on a palomino
               in the wild oats
               above black cows
               and Lake Kaweah—

taking them home
a week after weaning
snakes easily over the saddle
and down to the water
of our collected dreams.

 

Watercolor

 

 

RED SKY DAWN

 

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Tonight in California
I will read this in the rain
when I am full and fed-
up with the news—

and listen instead
to it storm upon the roof,
to the impromptu chorus
of croaking tree frogs,
to the ever-tumbling roar
of water gushing down
a muddy creek

if I’m smart.
It’s all runoff
saturated ground, yet
the uncontrollable sound
pleases the primeval place
I need for reassurance
beyond the posturing politics
of way-too many men.

Besides, when living
off grass, it’s sacrilege
to ever complain about a rain.

 

Green

 

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With nearly 20″ of rain here on Dry Creek, and more at the higher elevations of the ranch, we have green grass and even a few early wildflowers. Click to enlarge to see the cattle we have yet to gather and brand at the end of the ridge, slick slopes in every direction.

The ground is so saturated that the septic system for our guest house is working in reverse.

BADLY BIGLY

We believe that the cream
rises to the top,
but when it really rains
so does the shit.

(one of our deck poems)

All eyes will be on the Oroville Dam as seven days of Pineapple Expresses are forecast for the Feather River watershed, 70 miles north of Sacramento.

 

Video

Dry Creek Brush Catchers #2

 

Too wet for us to get off the road or cross the creek, but Kaweah Delta was back on Dry Creek cleaning the lower brush catchers this morning before the next storm starts about 4 p.m., forecast to bring 1.5 – 2” of rain through Thursday. Dry Creek: 236 cfs. Operator: Erik Avila.

 

 

Lifeblood

 

10:00 a.m., January 8, 2017: 629 cfs

10:00 a.m., January 8, 2017: 629 cfs

 

Not quite the storm of the decade, Dry Creek peaked at 1,390 cfs early yesterday morning. As of this morning, accumulated rainfall since the first of the year on lower Dry Creek has been a little over 4 inches, with yet another storm forecast to bring about 1.5″ due midday tomorrow—all welcome.

The continual gray clouds and rain of late seems miraculous when contrasted with the bare hills and dust of the past four years that have been permanently imprinted in our minds as more normal than not. The drought changed our thought processes and how we operate the ranch. And despite the ample availability of water streaming in nearly every canyon, I have often caught myself still worrying about stockwater. It’s how we lived, day to day, for a long time.

It’s good to see the creek running, the literal lifeblood of the canyon, a psychological lift as we inhale the moist air and relax a little before addressing the work that waits ahead of us. We have calves to brand and watergaps to fix as soon as we can physically get to them, when the roads dry out and creek goes down, which probably won’t be until next week if tomorrow’s storm materializes.