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.
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.
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.
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.