Tag Archives: water

COTYLEDONS DAY THREE

 

Three-day one-inch-rain,

warm wet dirt germinating

green hair on steep slopes.

 

 

(Click to enlarge)

 

 

DEJA VU HAIKU

 

1.

Gray dust clouds rising

behind cows down powdered trails

off these bare mountains.

 

2.

The diesel feed truck

awakes a bawling chorus

to claim the canyon.

 

3.

All imperative

and hungry, it twists our guts—

La Niña pending.

 

 

READY FOR PROCESSING

iPhone Photo by Terri Blanke

 

We’ve begun processing our Wagyu calves with a second round of vaccinations for Snake River Farms that we plan to ship in the first week of May. Each calf gets an Electronic Identification (EID) button and a tag to match at the same time. These calves are from our first-calf heifers that we poured the hay to from last July into December because of the short feed and to keep our first-calf heifers in shape to cycle and breed back. We don’t have to run the numbers to know that these calves won’t bring enough to pay for the hay we fed.

 

Every feed season is different, even in a drought.  The Christmas rains saved our bacon, over 3 inches or nearly a third of our rainfall to date. And again, in the nick of time, two storm at the end of February and beginning of March that offered nearly 1 ½ inches.  The three events made pretty decent feed in the corrals above and elsewhere as we approach the end our rainy season—nothing forecast for the next two weeks—proving once again that it’s not the quantity of rain, but the timing that’s most important in the cattle business. 

 

With a shortage of water to irrigate alfalfa in California, hay will be expensive.  Having cut our herd by a third last year (6 inches total), we hope there will be enough old feed to carry us through until November without feeding much hay in our upper country. However, we’ll have to help our younger cows in our lower country where the south and west slopes have already turned brown.  How many will be the question. 

 

We couldn’t keep any replacement heifers last year, and may not this year as the market gets stronger.  We’ll be making lots of decisions in the coming thirty days as we begin to harvest this year’s crop and plan for the next.

 

March 5, 2022

 

Misting, light snow on Sulphur Peak (3,400’) this morning, we ‘ve enjoyed 1.02” received thus far from the last two days of this season-saving rain—a little more scheduled for today.

 

But it was the 0.48” we received on the 23rd of February that truly saved our grass after 3 months of nothing but a few heavy dews.  The ground was so dry that it sucked all the moisture up by the next day to the extent the mud grips on the feed truck left no tracks.  The grass, that has been so thin in the Flat where we’ve been feeding our first-calf heifers since last July, finally filled in, and now is beginning to grow. Add this inch and we’ll be good to go for three weeks or so, depending on temperatures.

 

Robbin and I, with the help of Allie, Terri and our neighbors, got our last bunch of calves branded on Wednesday before this rain. Due to last year’s heavy culling because of the drought, our bunches were small this year, but the cows and calves looked great.  Whether or not we can make ends meet on so few numbers remains to be seen in the marketplace, now that the weather seems to want to cooperate—we have hope.

 

The third variable to survival in the cattle business has always been politics.  With the world in turmoil because of the invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent impacts, anything can happen to disrupt the marketplace, inflation and the pandemic yet still in the wings. Unresolved issues regarding the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed by the urban majority in 2014, adds to an uncertain future for all agriculture in California, one that will undoubtedly include foreclosures and lots of litigation for years to come.  Meanwhile, imposed fines and the cost of water may be too great to farm in California if the State has its way, once the richest agricultural region in the world.

 

Nothing stays the same.

Only nothing is normal.

 

 

AT SUNSET AFTER CHRISTMAS RAINS

Last flash of limbs

in a pagan dance

as shadows crawl

across the creek

to pull night’s curtain up

into the stars.

 

The canyon has come to life

with promises of spring—

birds and trees are talking

above the bulls’ primal bellowing—

tension spills with energy.

 

Shrill yips and howls

in every draw ignites

another all-night

canine celebration

to exasperate the dogs.

 

Even the old flesh perks up

with fresh strategies,

just in case the market’s up

and we get more rain—

just enough to do it over again.

RAINBOW

A promise from forgotten days of rain,

bold whites and blues and greens

flush the flesh clean as a hawk’s cry

 

in spring.  When we were children

here, we walked within our dreams

of endless rivers crashing and cascading

 

from the Sierra snowpack into the Valley

ditches and furrows, row upon row

to fill the cornucopia of the world.

 

But we have pumped the ground dry.

Is this a harbinger of better times, or

have the gods returned to say goodbye?

WATER

                                    Around here all the gods live in trees.

                                                – Jim Harrison (“The Whisper”)

 

It’s been tough on the woodpeckers: dry year,

no acorns in the oaks, yet

they still flap and squabble over bugs in the bark.

 

I can’t see the owls in the dark of dawn

as I wait for the black to disappear, yet

their mournful presence is good company.

 

Robbin likes the flock of little bushtits

flitting tree to tree, or washing-up at six o’clock

when the timer sprays the Mexican Sage.

 

Above it all, they’re smarter than the rest of us

to fly where they want—or most needed.

But around here we irrigate the trees.

OAK TITMOUSE

During hot and dry times

the little birds gather

around the house—

 

around water

leaks and irrigation—

more dependable

 

than humans:

woodpeckers clinging

to rainbirds,

 

bushtits flocking

to timed misters

at six o’clock,

 

quail rolling to a stop

at the water trough,

and swallows plunging

 

into the ‘sip and dip’.

But the thirstiest of all,

the nervous Oak Titmouse

 

at the dog’s dish,

one drop at a time

all day long.

IDES OF AUGUST 2021

Dust trails behind

plodding black cows off the hills

to water, bellies stretched with calf,

while we drink coffee—

 

and we are proud of these cows

who grazed uphill to bed

while we drank Tangueray and tonic,

slice of grapefruit instead of lime.

 

An acquired taste, raising cattle

through years of drought—

a bittersweet love affair

with the ground that sustains us.

 

We know her every crease

and wrinkle, and which leak water—

all of her magic spots

forever branded in our brains.

DAMN DAMS

I still call it “the Swamp”

where thirsty Valley Oaks

centuries-old shed their limbs

among barkless skeletons,

bleached bones like flesh

waiting to fall into the next life.

 

Half-mile across on Christmas Eve,

1955, the Kaweah flowed to the doors

of our ’53 Buick—headlights

diving into oncoming wakes

like Captain Nemo’s submarine.

 

Not free to run when it wants,

we have held the river up

in the hills for sixty winters,

only to let it run all at once

across the Valley to irrigate

orchards and summer crops—

no kids fishing from shady banks

a lazy river recharging wells.

 

We can’t fill the dams we have,

yet cotton trailer billboards suggest

that dams can make more water

without looking to the sky.