This old ground is on the move
and we have changed it
with our dreams of improvement
that humanity demands
to level mountains, harness rivers,
pump valleys to collapse
with efficiency and startling success—
then we foul our surgeries.
Beyond the road and fences,
these bare hillsides have begun to breathe
since she spent the night, whispering
upon dry leaves clinging to the last of life.
I am awakened, as if she never left,
wrapped in the soft applause of her arrival
bringing the gentle miracle of moisture
as this old ground comes back to life.
A pair of precocious little gray birds I’ve never noticed before have spent the summer with Robbin and me, drinking several times a day at the dog’s water on the deck. Smaller than our Western Flycatcher and with a slight crown like a Kingbird, we assumed they were juveniles. At 111 degrees they water more frequently now, arriving open beaked, the female seems shier and more bedraggled than the male. The best ID I can come up with is that they are Wood Pewees, but I defer to others more qualified.
Besides the livestock water troughs that are difficult for many birds to drink from, our inadvertent plumbing leaks draw a wide variety of birds from all around. Now that the spring Bird Wars are over, a territorial drama where the eggs and babies of one nest feed the babies of a larger species, they seem to have found peace in the shade of our yard. Woodpeckers cling to sprinkler heads to get a drop at a time, coveys of quail include a pipeline leak on their daily rounds and Towhees cool beneath the mist of our garden irrigation. It’s quite a show if you can stand to be outside.
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.
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.