Dry Creek is running over 500 cfs this morning @ 6:00 a.m., after over an inch of rain in the past two days, over 6” for the first half of January—10 consecutive days of measurable precipitation—it’s wet! Any plans to cross the creek to fix fences and sort cattle won’t happen today. Furthermore, the moisture is deep, a good thing, but the only vehicle we have to get to the fence work will be the Kubota and I’d prefer to wait until Dry Creek is running less than 100 cfs.
Oh, I know the stories when Earl McKee and his sorrel horse swam the channel to ride five miles to free cattle locked in his Greasy corrals; or Clarence Holdbrooks swimming his red horse to move cattle stranded on the other side of the creek fifty years ago. They are my heroes still. All we have at risk with our current cattle mix-up is that our replacement heifers are running with the neighbor’s steers, at a time of the month, unfortunately, when the majority will be cycling, yet not exposed to the Wagyu bulls. But no livestock is at risk.
According to the 10-day forecast, we have a 5-day window to dry out before the next series of storms begin on the 18th, then 5 more days projected to leave 2.5” of rain. But no one’s complaining, yet, no one’s hollered ‘uncle’.
Not unlike the drought, Robbin and I have been making contingency plans. It dawned on me last night that making a ranch work within all the variables of the weather requires some hands-on creativity—that the art of cattle ranching starts with thinking well-outside the box. C’est la vie!
Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Ambience’
Within a week of late October rains, a forest
of green blades twisting, chasing warm
golden light between canyon horizons,
reaching while we sleep to a waxing moon
sailing south across black starlit seas—
a germination thick as hair on a dog’s back.
Hard clay turned soft underfoot, under cloven
hooves, out of the bleached and brittle rubble
of last year’s feed, a spreading miracle of green
as the earth stirs with another birth of grass.
And we are tied to it, mentally shackled
and physically restrained to work within her
moody generosity, daring not with word
or thought to piss her off—we have our gods
and goddesses we adore, stealing glimpses
every chance we get outside to pause
and praise them. All our totems, the bird
and animal people of the Yokuts know
our names, know our habits, show us the way
this canyon was designed to support life,
here and beyond us, with a crop of grass.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “Chaos”
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2016, Ranch Journal
Tagged birds, cattle, grass, photography, poetry, rain, water, weather, weekly-photo-challenge, wildlife, Yokuts
There is no urgency,
no destination worthy
ignorance along the way—
even on the familiar
road, nothing stays
as it was—and probing
eyes never quite the same.
All the assumptions,
short-cuts to conclusions
we claimed as instinct
that never were:
laziness and wishful
we blaze away,
unload both barrels
trying to eliminate
our smoky confusion.
We will get there
soon enough. Make
each moment rich
as a Chinese poet.
I venture no more than a low whisper,
afraid I’ll startle the people of heaven.
– Li Po (“Inscribed on a Wall at Summit-Top Temple”)
Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Shine’
Into thirsty flesh,
we inhale the smell of rain
upon dry grasses.
Weekly Photo Challenge 2: ‘local’
Out of the southwest, wind
down the dry draw damp—
dust devils dance across
ground grown bare by cows
meeting near the water trough
with the run and buck of calves
finding all four legs to stir
hope for nothing certain:
this first chance of rain.
Time may seem to fly
now that we are older,
or plodding slower shade
to shade with less idleness
to fill with complaint—summer
long and hot, but shorter than
our partnership with drought.
Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘local’
Half a mountain slipped away
to move the river south, left
alluvium of clay and granite rock—
a good spring in a steep draw
collecting stories at a pause
with brittle bones and rattlesnakes
for spice—half a century saved
to hunt and wander from the flats,
to ride to gather heifers with my father,
all the alliterative murmurs
that damned me and God
when the wind is almost right.
Half a mountain slipped away
to gather by myself, holding
highlights of the boy I used to be.
Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Nostalgia’
Heads down, our future grazes green
on the edge of time, on ground
the river met with Dry Creek—
all the round cobbles mined
to build the county seat gone wild
with willows and cottonwoods,
natives claiming space we named
between the Kaweah and Wutchumna
Hill. Nothing is the same for us
or them as they mature to become cows.
Heads down, it is easy to forget
to look up at where we’ve come from.
Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Edge’
After most wildflowers have disappeared and the green grass fades to a brittle bronze, Milkweed becomes the sole attractant for bugs and pollinators, especially the ubiquitous Tarantula Hawks, flying low and slow on erratic, yet undeterred courses. We, and most other animals, move around them.
Unlikely partners yesterday while checking the stockwater and cows on the Paregien ranch, I caught this Tarantula Hawk and a butterfly I’ve never seen before. I Googled lots of black and red moths and butterflies without a match. Now, I wish I’d spent more time and taken some macro shots.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “Partners”
Weekly Photo Challenge (2): “Vibrance”
Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Vibrance”