Tag Archives: water

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.

Bulls to Water

Our country is dry and short.  We’ve pulled the bulls off the irrigated pasture to make room for our bred heifers due to begin calving by the middle of September.  We will have to feed the bulls in this pasture where Allie and Terri were driving a few to water last week.  Even though we’ve sold 25% of our cows, we continue to step up the amount of hay we’re feeding with no idea of when it will end or whether it will pay for itself in the long run.  But if we have to sell more cows, we just don’t want them to be thin.    

HOT AND DRY

Cooper’s Hawk

under a rainbird’s shower,

yellow eyes

 

mermaid and frog

before taking a drink

at the ‘sip and dip’.

 

Too hot to hurry

in the heat

we all grow tame.

Happy 4th of July Weekend

Pulling the first of 12 joints of 20’ pipe plus the pump this morning after losing water last evening. We weaned our last bunch of calves Thursday when we hauled them out of Greasy, and were celebrating our good fortune until the pump quit.  Fortunately, Willits Equipment had time and personnel to replace the pump and control box by 1:00 this afternoon. This well also serves our house.

Just one of the joys of rural living, but we wouldn’t trade it for the alternative.

110 DEGREES @ NOON

Midday siesta, I dream of water running

down the Tule, ouzels dipping, or 

beer cooling in an eddy on the Kern—

of you and I, our faces streaked with rain

as if we were crying—love in our eyes.

All the mud-stuck trucks, leap-frogging,

winches whining as the clouds cracked,

bursting with more of the same.

>

What else can we look forward to

this afternoon, inches from the Solstice,

what else can we do but dream? The air

is thin and burns the lungs. Leaves curl

in the garden while cows commiserate 

in the shade of sycamores and oaks,

all their stories stored within rings, 

chatter from the good old days.

>

And what of native wisdom banked

in their massive trunks, or smooth gossip rocks 

in the living Live Oak shade?  All the secrets

we have lost to progress, all the important

unimportant things that have not saved time,

but accelerated it and our poor hearts

just trying to keep up. 110 degrees at noon,

what else can we do but dream?

Drought of 2020-21

Even though I haven’t been in the mood to post anything, I would be remiss not to journal one of the worst drought years in my lifetime, less rainfall (6.19”) than we received in 2013-14 (7.78”) during our 4-year drought of 2012-2016.  After feeding hay all summer long into the fall in 2013, we finally had to sell half of our cowherd in 2015.

Currently, all that our steep hillsides have to offer is a short blond fuzz of dry grass that will soon be dust.  I remember the drought of ’77 when the cows licked the grass seed to augment what hay we fed them.  Knowing what’s ahead, we’ve begun gathering to wean early and have already sent a bunch of good cows to the kill plant, many of which had calves in their bellies. Due to the lack of snow in the Sierras, there’s little irrigation water to grow hay and the price is high, while cows aren’t bringing much money. Furthermore, stockwater from our natural springs in the upper country will be in short supply by fall——a perfect storm.

As we cull our cowherd, we’re focusing on a young nucleus as we realize that we’ll not get the money we’ll spend on hay this year with next year’s calf crop. Nevertheless, we’re plodding ahead: leaning forward as we take another step and praying for early rains this fall.

SOMEHOW, STILL LIVING





                        Swirl of savage sunsets,

                        Swirl of the dead

                        Somehow, still living.

                                    – Adrian Louis (“Degrees of Drought”)

Bribed with little water,

we have enticed Redbuds

to brighten our gardens

with cardinal colors

regardless of rainfall

before they leave

green hearts in spring.

Even the bare hills

sigh and grin relieved

for the living, love us

for our generous nature

that keeps the wild alive

and close to our swirling 

yearnings satisfied.

GENTLE MIRACLES

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.