Last Saturday we had a high temperature of 68 degrees, a welcome respite from the 90-degree high the day before. There is even a small chance of rain in the forecast. That would be another nice respite from the warm, dry days of the past few weeks.
After the two-plus inches of rain we received in January, the hills turned green with new grass and we crossed our fingers that more rain would follow. Instead, what followed was unseasonably warm weather, and now that grass is looking grayer than green in many places. Hopefully those forecast rains will arrive in the nick of time to save that grass and begin to replenish our groundwater.
Vineyards with overhead sprinklers can be seen applying water up and down the coast, helping to fill the soil profile with moisture, as bud break is close at hand thanks to the unseasonably warm days of the last few weeks.
I was encouraged to see some fog slipping over the hills last weekend, as I watched cattle across the street from us graze in the early evening. A few high clouds made for a beautiful sunset, a sign that maybe the high pressure is beginning to break down and allow some moisture our way. I know the cattlemen would welcome the rain, because many are feeding hay to supplement the lack of grass, adding an extra expense to an already-tight profit margin.
Cattlemen are busy gathering their stock and branding calves this time of year. My father-in-law, Jerry, had a branding last weekend at their ranch in the Yokohl Valley east of Visalia. I have seen several gatherings going on locally along Highway 101, near Los Alamos. If they are close enough to the highway it’s easy to spot all the trucks hooked to horse and stock trailers near the corrals where the brandings take place.
Branding is a tradition that goes back to the days of the early California rancheros. A tradition where ranchers and farmers help each other when needed, going from ranch to ranch, branding to branding this time of year.
Many of the folks who help with gathering, doctoring and branding of calves at these events are part-time or weekend cowboys, who still share the love of working the cattle along with the camaraderie of the ranching way of life.
I remember my grandfather telling me about the brandings they had when he was growing up on Rancho La Vega, much remains the same today.
I was sorry to miss my father-in-law’s branding last week. My small part was always to make sure the propane tanks and burner was ready to keep the branding irons hot, and help with the all-important barbecue hosted by the rancher whose cattle are being worked that day. I was smart enough to know to stay out of the corral and let the real cowboys do their jobs.
Keep your fingers crossed that much-needed rain comes our way soon. Support our cattlemen, go out and buy a nice rib-eye steak for Valentine’s Day, pair it with a bottle of your favorite Central Coast Wine and you won’t go wrong.