Tag Archives: weather

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.

Winter Solstice – Wagyu X Branding

Though no one dares complain about the rain, we’ve been working towards a branding between storms as the corrals dry out.  Yesterday began cold and foggy as the sun broke through occasionally.

With an exceptional crew of neighbors, it was fun and relaxed for our first branding of the year, a good opportunity for Allie (Fry) Fox to sharpen her skills.  She’s been part of this ranch since she was a baby.

 

It’s always a pleasure having Douglas Thomason in the pen bringing his quiet and calm expertise to the party.  Bodie, his young son below, looks ready to follow in his footsteps.

What a great day!  Robbin and I are thrilled. Thank you all!  With wild and varied predictions of rain (Atmospheric River) through New Years beginning this evening, we’re ready to enjoy the holidays. 

RESILIENT MOON

We make rules

to keep ourselves in line,

orderly before

whatever captain

steers our ship between

calm and storm.

 

Out here

unpredictable weather

calls the tune

we must dance to—

navigate this landscape

come hell or highwater.

 

The rules change

before our eyes—

nothing stays the same

no matter what—

but we were never taught

to quit the game.

THE BOTTLE

Before my time

an empty bottle cast

where there was no road,

 

pink with a lifetime

of blistering sunlight

and I wonder who

 

a horseback threw it

now in the short grass—

legends in these hills,

 

weathered men,

drinkers all

coping with the times—

 

with bankers and buyers

betting on the market

and little chance of rain.

 

Or what couple when

lay naked then

in wildflower sunshine.

 

Not much has changed

except for the price

of a cheap bottle of wine.

AUGUST MONSOONS

Out of the Gulf to rest upon the spine

of the Sierras, run aground on the Kaweahs,

animal shapes spill overboard

 

after marking months of blazing days

since April showers, we watch clouds

and wonder if it rained on Arizona friends,

 

or if it’s pouring now on the Kings

or in the Roaring River Canyon, Rowell

Meadow darkened beneath them.

 

Despite hot monsoon gusts that lift

and twist the dust across the pasture,

pregnant cows sequestered to the shade,

 

we dare to breathe relief as the sun slides

south—split redwood and Manzanita

waiting ready near the woodstove.

Weaning Pen, Day 3

With daylight comes the fretful calls of calves, two miles down canyon from our early morning coffee. By day four they will have stopped bawling for their mothers, another two miles and 2,000 feet in elevation up the canyon. Averaging 650 lbs., these nine month-old calves are not babies, yet miss the only security they’ve ever known.  It is not easy.  We’ve tried fenceline weaning, only to conclude that it prolonged the bawling and the anxiety on both sides of the fence.

We’ve been blessed with cooler weather this week as we gathered the Paregien Ranch to haul the calves off the hill, six gooseneck loads down a steep, 4-wheel drive track to Dry Creek—two hours round trip. Limited to loose part-loads, we have to panel half of the calves forward over the pickup’s back axel to maintain traction, each trip leaving the dirt road a little looser.  The following day, we culled the cows deeply, limited to five or six cows per trip as we prepare for continued drought conditions.

All things considered, we’re pleased with the condition of the calves and cows.  With one more pasture yet to wean, we will wait until the coming hot spell passes with a forecast high of 113°.  We’ve experienced a more volatile pattern (than what once was normal), between highs and lows this June https://drycrikjournal.com/weather/journal-2020-21/ and hope for another cooling trend a week from now.

Meanwhile, we fill the barns with hay today.

MARCH GRAZING UPDATE

Despite the welcome 1.5” of rain this month, bringing our total rainfall for the season on Dry Creek to a meager 6”, our grass is short and thin, especially on the south and west slopes of our lower foothill country.  Unless we get some well-spaced rains in April, we will wean our calves early, probably weighing 50 lbs. lighter than usual.  With limited stockwater and no dry feed to carry our cows through summer, fall and to an unknown beginning of our rainy season, we will have cull our cow herd deeply.  A strong high pressure ridge, typical of La Niña, is blocking storm activity to California and the rest of the West. Furthermore, market returns for cattle producers are stuck in an unsustainable range, in part due to Covid-19.  

After a wonderfully fun day helping Kenny and Virginia McKee brand their calves in Woolley Canyon yesterday, Robbin and I are moving slowly as we recuperate by enjoying the colors of spring in the gathering fields around us. The lush appearance of the Fiddleneck and Popcorn Flowers in the photo below is deceptive as they have little nutritional value for cattle, but they do shade the ground and help hold what moisture we have. 

BEFORE DAWN

White sky,

purple frigates crash

into foothill silhouettes—

some slip behind,

compass heading east

trailing a damp cold front.

Headlights crawl

up the road, spotlight

searches sycamores

to a heavy bass beat

for something to kill,

something to eat.

DOLLARS AND SENSE

1.
We feed on numbers,
irrigate and harvest plans
with shaved efficiencies,
 
measure our well-being
by more or less
with what’s on paper
 
so easily burned
or suddenly erased—
we forget who we are.
 
 
2.
We share amounts of rain,
compare numbers
with the neighbors,
 
too often disappointed
with what we need most:
just enough moisture
 
to revive this ground—
this flesh and our more
common senses.


 

RED SKIES AT DAWN

Thin starts lay limp 
as green fades to gray
amid the brittle stalks 
of short-cropped dry
the cows have missed
 
as I open the gate
ahead of several storms
to search for Live Oak—
stove wood heat 
with little ash
 
prostrate since 
the 4-year drought
branded in my mind—
decomposing now
before my eyes.
 
Limbs ache with years
bent to this ground
chasing seasons of grass,
but red skies at dawn
reawakens the flesh.