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June 27, 2009

HORSE POETRY

Summer white skies, clean sheets
of paper dreams listening for words
to rise over the Sierras, to slip

between the peaks and tumble down
canyons to settle in the sycamores –
like cattle, like the deer and elk

before us, to find a soft, sandy bed
in the shade. Reaching deeply into
dawn’s cool silence, I wait for a sign

of migration off blond hillsides,
for the sound of the first word
that gathers others, hearing only

the occasional and irregular tempo
of steel-shod hooves upon mangers –
saddle horses hoping for alfalfa hay

and a day off to write poetry. Long
heads listening in the labial folds
of granite rock, where they say

women were drawn by the moon -
where fine dirt and forgotten words
mix and stir beneath their feet.



It seems I may be editing this as we go.

June 24, 2009

PETROGLYPH

                                                                       Snow
                    takes her print, curved half moons
                    cut by the heat of childhood in skin.

                                        - Deborah Miranda (“Petroglyph”)

A man must be careful
telling stories with the
same tone and ending.

Young men tire
with expected heroics
stretched into legends,

with the old and dead
stars too far gone
to muster much twinkling.

On the other side
of the sun, the earth
waits to be reborn

under rain and snow.
Always the other side
to begin again, again –

yet a man must be
careful telling stories
that never change.

June 20, 2009

Summer Solstice 2009

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June 17, 2009

With nearly an inch of rain two weeks ago, green has germinated in the sand and silt beneath the sycamores along Dry Creek. The grass won’t last long as the temperature hit 100 degrees yesterday. The unusual continues after the strange weather of May and June, demonstrating that anything can happen in California, and that ‘only fools and newcomers dare predict the weather’ here.

Though the everyday pace of the past six weeks seems to be our mantra, we’ve finished weaning with only our heifers left to process. Thirty days ahead of last year, we’ve listed our steers on the Internet in a softer market, hoping to save our irrigated pasture for our heifers to keep as replacements and/or sell this fall. Not looking forward to the high temperatures to come, at least the days will be getting shorter.

June 18, 2009

GOOD MORNING

Lost in Sulphur, small bunch
of young, third-calf cows
driven up-canyon to water –

sleek black hides snaking
a long tunnel of sycamores,
gray trunks and limbs reaching

out of a steep ravine, arched
and collapsing towards the light.
Through new eyes we explore

half-hearted notions up narrow
draws, deadfall detours that go
nowhere – learned on the way.

They begin to trust our low
grunts and groans of disapproval
to guide them, that punctuate

our conversation trailing behind.
The pause and wait as horses
watch, we become one calm

movement up and out of this
deep crevasse beneath a peak
above Ragle Springs leaking

into a moss-covered pond.
Hawks glide ahead and circle
back as if we were nothing.

June 15, 2009

THE GARDEN

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                                                           I look for her colored shirt
                                                           through vegetables and spices,
                                                           hose in hand beneath bright faces

                                                           of towering sunflowers, an easy
                                                           walk on gravel by raised beds
                                                           of silt and manure tilled by hand,

                                                           weeded and seeded into a green
                                                           meander between stacked cedar
                                                           logs leftover from the house.

                                                           Skid-steer buckets up the slope
                                                           from where floods meet clay
                                                           above the creek – tiny flecks

                                                           of old mountains mixed and left.
                                                           It all took time. Each in our zone
                                                           when Joe died, we kept his ashes

                                                           close before finding a ridge
                                                           where we could feel him
                                                           working in the garden.




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June 14, 2009

Common Gourd

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Common Gourd ( Wild Gourd, Buffalo Gourd, Calabazilla)
Dry Creek
June 13, 2009

Early Spanish Californians called it 'chili coyote'.

Native uses: The roots were crushed and mixed with the pith of the fruit for soap to wash clothes. The seeds were crushed and eaten. Portions of the gourd were made into a strong purge, an overdose of which could prove fatal. A tea was made to address bloat and worms in horses. Dried gourds were used as rattles in native dances.


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Common Gourd ( Wild Gourd, Buffalo Gourd, Calabazilla)
Dry Creek
June 19, 2009

June 13, 2009

Harvest of Grass

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June 6, 2009


A marathon month with wonderful weather, lap after lap from pasture to mountain pasture, gathering, weaning, feeding, hauling and processing calves to sell in thirty days, we near the end of our annual harvest off the grass as we sort and precondition calves on the irrigated pasture. With the last bunch left to haul out of Greasy Monday, they’re weighing-up nicely – thirty to forty pounds heavier than last year, it’s been a helluva a feed year despite our meager rainfall totals.

And it’s gone smoothly, unlike last year’s toll on people and vehicles: Robbin’s broken collarbone, Clarence’s rolled pickup and gooseneck, and the right side doors of my pickup peeled against an oak tree. But even bone weary and tired come evening, we enjoy sharing our sense of accomplishment and our passion for the cattle, critiquing our season and looking to experiment and tweak the process slightly next year.

The market, however, is much less certain as beef (cull) cows took a 20% hit last week when the economically squeezed Dairy Industry began offloading 200,000 milk cows. Also, new out-of-state health and shipping regulations, as a result of tuberculosis found in three Fresno dairy herds last year, vary from state to state, making internet and video auction sales less effective and appealing to producers. Most states won’t take any California heifers at all, but some will take steers destined for certified feedlots if they have an electronic identification (EID) tag, ostensibly lending traceability in case of any kind of an outbreak.

The drug companies also have their hooks in the cow-calf business, with half-a-dozen vaccination programs to try to make fit individual operations, all of which ultimately require additional processing and stress on the calves as well as increased costs that producers hope to recoup. There is yet much to weigh on the marketing end of our business, much left to sort out.

But we’re thankful nevertheless, concentrating on increasing our efficiency, focusing on what’s best for the cattle and the ranch over the long run, willing to bet our future on our cows and what we’ve learned from experience. As much of the rest is beyond our control, we continue to do what (we think) we do best, and after forty-some years, no two of which have been the same, I can’t imagine a more interesting place to work.

June 12, 2009

Chaparral Honeysuckle

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Chaparral Honeysuckle
Greasy Creek
June 11, 2009

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Chaparral Honeysuckle
Greasy Creek
June 11, 2009

Native uses: Pleasant tasting berries may be eaten raw or dried for future use.

Black Nightshade

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Black Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade, Poison Berry
Dry Creek
June 8, 2009

The berries are poisonous. Typically livestock avoid Nightshade unless grazing is short, but once ingested Nightshade can become addictive and result in death.

Native uses: Although the old leaves are poisonous, the young leaves are said to be used as a cooking herb. Boiling the ripe black berries destroys their toxic properties and they were often made into pies. The Natives used a decoction as an eyewash. Parkinson wrote, "The root boiled in wine and a little thereof held in the mouth eases the pain of toothache." Pliny wrote, "It is good to fasten loose teeth, and the juice of the root, mingled with honey, is good for weak eyes. Juice of the leaves and a little vinegar mixed together procures rest and sleep."

June 11, 2009

Narrow-leaf Milkweed

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Narrow-leaf Milkweed
Greasy Creek
June 11, 2009

June 6, 2009

PRIMORDIAL DAWNS

One can awake in the same place
for the first time, each breath full
of an errant rain on old dirt drying

rushes senses through the silence,
stirring every canyon of the mind.
There is no one – nothing else

for moments – and you are alone
tasting, inhaling fresh-filtered light.
The hills could be brass castings

cracked with dark oak seams
beneath gray skies, soft at the surface
to a separate urgency, insulating

another world above gone mad,
gone wild. Old and young at once,
you see – watch the ship lift-off

and leave you to begin again
embracing possibilities you try
to cultivate throughout the day.


Pretty fresh, subject to online editing.

June 5, 2009

Weaning and Hauling

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Top - Paregien Ranch
May 30, 2009

Day after being separated from their calves, the cows find shade near the corrals.


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West Side - Paregien Ranch
June 4, 2009

We hauled 2nd & 3rd calf-cows up the hill and weaned calves and cull cows down yesterday. Up and down the mountain, we hauled over a hundred head with three rigs over a total of 52 miles each on our 4-wheel drive roads. With light loads in tractor mode, my 2005 Ford diesel only averaged 4.5 mpg, while the 2007 Dodge averaged 11.2 mpg.


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June 4, 2009

Robbin caught this shot of the Valley, Colvin Mountain, Elderwood and Woodlake from Paregien's West Side as we headed to the corrals to haul the cull cows to Dry Creek.


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June 4, 2009
Paregien Corrals

Nerve wracking, tough driving, we load the last of the cows for our last trip down the mountain. With another week of weaning left, Robbin and I are headed to Greasy this morning to put out mineral and salt, and with a little hay, to make friends with the last two bunches to gather... it'll be like a day off!

6:45 a.m. update: It started raining at 4:00 a.m., and now with about .80 in the gauge, we can't go anywhere!! But we're tickled and thankful that we got our hauling done yesterday and no calves up the hill to feed in the corrals.

10:00 a.m. update: An hour or so ago, this morning's rainfall total was .95 of an inch. Broken clouds now, it's warming-up as the chance of afternoon thunder, lightening and more rain increases. The dry ground has absorbed it all, our dry feed already waving in a warm wind. You can feel it - anything is about to happen.

June 4, 2009

Weaning

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Gathering Field
Greasy Creek

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Greasy Cove
Lake Kaweah

Robbin got a couple of pictures last weekend when we went up the hill to feed the calves in Greasy.

June 3, 2009

Strange Weather

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Great Western Divide
May 30, 2009

With a little snow still in the Sierras, the Dry Creek and Kaweah River drainages seem just a stone's throw away from the Paregien Ranch. A low pressure system that has been spinning off the California coast for nine days is expected to come on shore with some thunderstorms Thursday and Friday. Though the cooler weather has been welcome for us and our freshly weaned calves, it's strange weather for June.

June 2, 2009

HUMMINGBIRDS

One day we awake in the machinery
watching gear heads turn wheels,
to the hum that we believe is silence –

constant and steady as an old ranch
generator between oil changes, between
repairs, and we leave it behind us

for the light, for the power, for the
juice we can make on our own.
We awake and wander off, far from

that dependable sound, for the flutter
of unseen wings – and when we sleep,
let dreams breathe in the arms of trees.

                                        for Liacita

June 1, 2009

Pups in Paregien

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May 31, 2009

After feeding calves in the corral at Paregien's Sunday morning, and while waiting for the pump to fill the water tank, Bob and I drove to a den of coyote pups we ran across while gathering early Thursday. Though we don't agree on the number of pups, there's at least six, as large a litter as we've seen around here. And though we put a helluva sneak on them, I couldn't catch more than two in the same frame.

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More later, perhaps.

The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

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