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July 26, 2008

At The Coast



A distant mower finds a bone.
Pelicans glide in and out of gray
while a battalion of white wedding chairs
stares emptily into the fog, a carpet
of rose petals browning on the lawn.

With Chuck home from fighting fires near Chico on Friday, and Clarence back from fishing the Wood River in Idaho Sunday, Robbin and I slipped off to the coast for a few days to get out of the heat and relax. We read, napped and ate seafood for two days in Cambria, then on up the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur to visit my daughter Amanda in Capitola who is 8.5 months pregnant with her first child. It was foggy and delightful weather!

Out among the tourists, I couldn’t help but take a couple of snapshots of a father packing-up. I’ve always wondered how those rooftop cargo containers might be organized. Like taking pictures of wildlife, I had to sneak around for these two shots.




South of Big Sur, lightning struck the ridge above to start the 65,000 acre Basin Complex Fire.



Bixby Bridge, Big Sur



Robbin and I had a fun lunch at Nepenthe’s in Big Sur.


Had to include this guy with his dog. Just what the doctor ordered, we had a ball!!

July 18, 2008


                        I learned the other tongue
                        by which men spoke to beasts
                        – all its terms and tones.

                                      - Wendell Berry ("Horses”)

A murmur of words at the saddle rack –
an easy mind’s awakening in the dark
before the first light of fearful news
spreads into summer heat by afternoon.

A good horse listens well, drops an ear,
scoops the sound of breath and heartbeat
from the mantra of familiar words
for their meaning at the moment.

Finding inconsistencies easy to spot,
even cows can tell you what you don’t
truly want to know about yourself
crossing the wild range of their eyes.

Once I grinned at old men in dented pickups
rising early to feed a dozen, fat cows –
watched them cling to the tailgate, anything
to keep their balance and to stay upright.

                                                  - for E.J.

July 13, 2008


More than hands can grasp or minds
undress completely, there is no religion –
no one-god-for-sale for everyone, yet

a tree frog lives in the dark overflow
of the new bathroom basin, perches
on its ceramic edge when the faucet runs,

then leaps to the higher ground
of towels draped loosely in the corner
to watch me brush my teeth. Sometimes

he explores beyond the door looking
for someone, but quick to retreat
to the sink, his home. Even the smallest

have dominion woven with man’s – and we
each bear the weight of the sky like ants
in a world without coincidence. The Red Tail

greets the 4-wheel drive with a low glide,
recognizes hay truck from the rare hunter’s
loud gunshots and the flutter of crippled quail.

July 12, 2008

Crimson Sunrise




This past week the smoke from the ongoing Northern California fires returned with temperatures flirting with record highs as we finished weaning. The diffused early morning light lent a softness and increased depth of field to Robbin’s photos as we headed to Greasy Creek to take the cows back to their home pasture.






We enlisted the help of Jody Fuller and her grandson Sam to gather and keep the cows together as they followed the pickup up the hill. A reward for Sam, both had risen early several times in the past 10 days to help us process our weaned calves.






Clarence Holdbrooks at the gate.

Bob on Red


John & Clarence


Thanks Sam!






2 loads for mid-August delivery: 68 head, 715 lbs., all-natural Angus and black-whiteface steers; 70 head, 700 lbs., Angus and black-whiteface steers. EID, VAC 45-90. Born 8/15 to 12/15/2007. Beef Quality Assurance Certified.

July 6, 2008

First & Last

Busy everyday, we began weaning on May 21st and finished gathering the last field on the 4th of July. We’ve been able to implement ‘fenceline weaning’ for every bunch, fully utilizing our recent water development that allows us to corral the calves on water next to their mothers during the week-long process. It does entail burning a little more fuel to haul hay to remote locations, but the stress on both cows and calves seems substantially diminished. Certainly the calves look better this year, weighing 50 pounds heavier than last. Keeping the calves full and next to their mothers for an extra week before the haul down the hill has helped, but also I think the calves were in a little better shape when we began weaning this year.



After only two days in the corral, the calves (above) have obviously adapted to the new menu. Looking through the boards (below), the cows are really more interested in the alfalfa than their calves.


Well-broke to the hay truck, the first two bunches weaned pose at the gate (below) for Robbin on our way down from Greasy. Ready for sale, they’ve completed our vaccination program and wear their premise and individual IDs. More than likely, most will sell on Superior/Stampede’s Internet auction later this month for an August delivery. Because I’m also working on a private treaty sale, I can now direct the buyer here.



Gratified and tired, it’s been an intense five weeks. Clarence took off for the pines this weekend, Chuck’s still on a fire somewhere north, I got the lawn mowed and Robbin has time in the garden. All good!

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