Tennessee Ernie Ford was a very popular singer back in the 50’s and 60’s and turned the song ‘16 tons’ into a number one hit. The song tells a story about a coal miner who loads 16 tons of number 9 coal, and what dose he gets for his labor? “Another day older and deeper in debt, Saint Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t come, I owe my soul to the company store.”
That’s what I feel like when it’s time to start irrigating our pastures for the summer months. I can always tell when my 100 horse power electric motor reeves into action at 9 PM. Every evening our house lights will flicker and my P.G.&E meter will start spinning at super sonic speed, much to the delight of the PG&E bean counters.
Well not this time PG.&E. For the solar generation is coming to my rescue. This is a new option for all of us that somebody has invented. It’s a way to take light (photons) from the sun and trap them with a solar panel made of silicone that converts these Photons into Electrons (electricity), for at least 25 years and probably 50 years after that.
Our state and federal government, wanting more electricity to be generated using solar power, sweetened the pot with some attractive incentive like a 30% reduction in the tax that I owe to the U.S. Treasury. Then add in some depreciation credits, and my bank savings accounts earning a Big Whoop-de-doo 1%, solar makes a lot of sense as a better place to invest.
My return on my investment will be between eight and 12%. So for all of the above reasons, I’m at this very moment building a 90 Kilowatt generating facility to stanch the bleeding from my PG&E meter that is spiraling out of control from a severe case of oppressive meter gluttony.
If this is something that any of you readers out in Blog Land might want to pursue, then get prepared for a process where in my county it will take longer to address all the rules, regulations and some Green Backs, than to build it. Makes a person sure want to look at his whole card before starting to construct a solar farm. But for me, I still think it’s worth the effort.
First, I want to clarify that my solar farm is really not a farm in the real sense of the word. For there is no real farmstead, only 109 posts in the ground that will be the frame work to mount the Solar Panels to. They are cemented down to a 35″ depth because to be at a 36″ depth would require another Archeological study for possible artifacts below 36 inches.
Next, I find that I’m in a flood zone. But a Topographic map shows that in a 100 year storm the floodwaters would breach the opposite bank. That’s not good enough. Okay, okay I’ll hire a surveyor to tell the Planning Department that what the U.S. Geological map clearly showed was true. In case of a flood, waters would indeed go in the opposite direction from my solar farm. You need a Civil Engineer to draw plans showing a rectangle that evenly spaces out the 109 holes that will receive the posts, which will then marry to the solar panels.
Earthquakes were a consideration but the planning department decided to wave that requirement. They felt it was unlikely that anybody would want to live under a Solar Panel. Well, the day finally arrived when the lady I had hired to do all the leg work, like going to the planning department and hiring the different experts, to give their blessing to my 109 post hole extravaganza.
I now find my bank account is a light $10,000, but the good news is I now have a building permit that allows me to put 3″ pipe posts in all 109 holes and fill them with concrete. It’s a good thing the county doesn’t require a permit to build cattle corrals with all their gates and pens, because there would be nothing left to buy the cattle to put in said corrals.
I’m going to sign off for now, but will write again when a PG&E representative says we have joined up, and I’ll be all smiles.
I knew it, I knew it, I knew that she could do it! Mother Nature couldn’t hold her water any longer and she had to cut lose last night with 1.5 inches of mana from the heavens and the weather prognosticators say there’s more on the way. I’m a happy camper right now, but don’t worry, I will be back to my whining ways if 8 or 10 days goes by without a follow up deluge.
Because I live and die by how much rain falls each year, it follows that a person becomes a real cynic when the weathermen start forecasting how much water Mother Nature will dole out for the upcoming season.
I have before me a copy of the National Cattleman’s monthly publication and a copy of the Farm Bureau’s weekly poop sheet called AG Alert both have Weather Guesser’s on the payroll. In the Cattleman’s corner sits Don Day Jr. Meteorologist and in the AG Alert corner sits AccuWeather, Inc.
Barometer in hand, my dilemma as shown by the two weather maps is that I live in the central part of my state of California. According to AG Alert I live just a little to far south to get any rain out of the storm that just blessed me with 1.5 inches of the wet stuff. This means that Don Day, the hired gun for The Cattlemen wins this round, as he forecasted that the north half of the state would be wetter than normal.
I believe that Don intended for Parkfield to be considered in the north half of the state. Nobody says forecasting the weather is an easy task but I think just once, at least one weatherman in the whole country would say,
“I’m sorry, so sorry for my recent blunder.”
Witness the recent shutting down of New York City for a day. Because three feet of snow was on the move, the ready, the right now, to start falling on New York’s citizenry, only to find on awaking the next morning a little skiff snow that would barely make a Snowball.
But there is a comforting side of, WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE LIKE TOMORROW OR NEXT WEEK OR NEXT MONTH? Just think, if the weather people new that much, I’m sure our politicians would be right in there to appropriate some bucks so that they could then start legislating when it was going to rain or snow so that in a 100 years our deserts would be Jungles and our northern forests would be populated with cactus.
And yea know what I think? They’re not going to apologize either.
I go now, knowing at least for the foreseeable future, that weather people (least I get labeled a sexist), and politicians won’t be apologizing for their mistakes, and I can go on sniveling about how these people don’t know as much as the Farmer’s Almanac.
I want to take you back to several hundred-thousand years ago when the land was totally devoid of any golden arches and no sign of a Starbucks was anywhere to be seen. That meant the only food to fill your belly was the food that you hunted and gathered yourself.
With stealth you got within arrow’s range of your target, but the arrow sails wide of the mark and in the blink of an eye your prey runs away. Your family has also had little to no luck this day gathering berries, acorns and anything else that will make a meal. It’s dark now. Time to build a fire, for it’s quite possible that you are now the prey. On this night, dinner will be a drink of water.
There’s an old saying that says a person can live for three minutes without oxygen, three hours in a snow storm when you forget your coat, three days without water and 3 weeks without food (hope you’ve got a good covering of fat). What this tells me is that eating was a very irregular event, so feast or famine was the norm.
Today for many fasting is defined as the time between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner. Not fasting is when you fill the in between hours with eating snacks. I think that fasting is more clearly imprinted on our genes than three squares a day that consist of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The other day I was reading an article in one of my favorite magazines called, Acres. The article, ‘Health in Your own Hands’ by, Dr. Joseph Mercola had one paragraph that validated what I think. He wrote,
‘The whole strategy behind intermittent fasting is to replicate our ancestral eating patterns by going through regular periods of not eating. The problem with eating all day is that it causes your body to forget how to burn fat because you never have to. Your body has about 12 hours of sugar stored as Glycogen in your muscles and Liver but when you eat constantly you never run out of Glycogen so you have no need to burn the fat you are storing for a famine so it just builds up in large quantities. The solution is to restrict your eating window to about 6-8 hours. You stop eating at least 3 hours you go to bed, sleep for 8 hours, skip breakfast and wait until lunchtime for your first meal of the day’.
I’m tired of being hood winked by the breakfast food consortium. This band of charlatans that in their quest to raise the bottom line for the likes of Kellogg’s, General Mills, Post and all the rest that have taken every last ounce of nutritional value out of breakfast in search of profit by using what most youngsters can’t resist: SUGAR AND CARBOHYDRATES to addict them.
That’s what I think. And if you follow their instructions carefully mom and dad, you will have given your kids a good start down the obesity trail. This trail has all sorts of wonderful life altering consequences to encounter along the way. A good place to start is with diabetes, then you’ll get lots of trips to the dentist and playing outside loses out to video games and watching a TV set, and somehow a little self-confidence disappears along the way. But what’s a mother to do? Well, we might start by asking ourselves how important is breakfast anyway?
We know what the answer will be if we pose the question to the ‘Cereal Mafia’. They will trot out a legion of nutritionists, all with Dr. preceding their name. Then the public relations people will gallop out to make sure the white wash is applied correctly so that the sanctity of Fruit Loops is secure. Then we can all go home reassured that the best thing that a person can do for his body is to have a bowl full of ‘Snap, Crackle and Pop’.
I was raised in an era when if you wanted to be a cowboy, you had to smoke Marlboro cigarettes. And if you liked to listen to music on the radio (before TV), you could tune in and listen to the Lucky Strike Hit Parade, and any baseball player, to be worth his salt, had too in hail a pack or two of Camel’s a day.
We all know what an insidious disaster that was on the health of ‘We The People’. What’s amazing is how many hundreds of years the Tobacco Cartel was able to keep us all puffing on those coffin nails til’ the cost of participating in that deadly game could no longer be squelched by the Tobacco Kingdom. So today I can travel this land of ours without getting smoke in my eyes.
I’m hoping that lightening might strike twice, and why not? First it happened to cigarettes, they went the way of Humpty Dumpty, who had a great fall; so why not Cheerios, Fruit Loops and Sugar Frosted Flakes? Come on mom and dad, back each other up and buy some apples and a few bananas. Then, take all the junk food, put it in the garbage and when the little munchkin reaches in the cupboard for that box full of obesity fixings they find an apple instead. Then lightening might strike twice.
Why is it that government agencies always want to create a regulation to solve any and all problems? A friend answered it quite succinctly when he said, ” Laws have to be passed by an elected body and may not happen, but this is not the case with a regulation.”
So leave it to our California State Water Resource Control Board to choose a less messy way to advance their agenda by proposing a regulation. The Grazing Regulatory Action Project (G.R.A.P.) that in their infinite wisdom will tell me how many cattle I can graze on my ranch, in order to address water impacts potentially related to livestock grazing.
This G.R.A.P. aka C.R.A.P. is an acronym that will consider a wide range of alternatives to ensure that grazing has a minimal negative impact on water quality. The GRAP says it will give thoughtful consideration to the cost of compliance to the regulated grazing community. Historical evidence shows quite the opposite.
I’m sure there will be a fee involved for the G.R.A.P. to save we grazers from ourselves and all the nice rhetoric about hearing each other will disappear as the regulation becomes more stringent and the compliance bar is constantly raised to make sure that most ranchers don’t comply. It’s called “job security”.
I don’t think it’s possible to successfully regulate an art form, for that’s what good ranch management is. Ranching is never the same for any two years, let alone any two days. Ranching, done well, is constantly changing, and a regulation that might work for one situation won’t work for another. But I do have a rule that has never let me down, that doesn’t need a regulation that works, every time.
I make my decision on how I affect the speed of water. First, any rain that falls on our ranch, I will use every effort to make those rain drops stay on the ranch as long as possible. There’s a handy little phrase that I carry in my mind at all times:
SLOW DOWN WATER always works. Speed water up, that’s a bad decision, slow water down that’s a good decision. Simple as that.
This type of decision-making doesn’t lend itself well to a regulation, because so much of good ranch management is subjective. I think a better way for the water quality folks to approach their goal of quality water is not with a regulatory whip, but with an olive branch of education and patience. For if you make all the stakeholders furious, then the agency will end up PUSHING A STRING.
What follows are my thoughts after this first gathering on 9/15, the first of three public focus listening sessions has taken place in San Luis Obispo. I’m sitting in my recliner watching some silly movie that I think has some parallels with today’s happenings. I was under the naive impression that the Water Board was exploring a range of options to enhance environmental benefits from grazing.
But in the same sentence, “Protect beneficial uses of surface and groundwater and address water quality impacts potentially related to livestock grazing.” I think this double talk to lull we members of the livestock profession into thinking that the Water Board really wants to hear from us is B.S.
After today’s session I think this ‘dog and pony show’ is just a perfunctory step so it can be said by the water board that we heard from the stakeholders and have duly noted that the grazing community has had their day in court.
The water board probably now thinks that it has a self made mandate to start making a hard copy of the regulations that they have already been discussing IN HOUSE the last couple of years. Water Board, your regulations will fail just like an entity that would try to regulate the wind.
Because livestock grazing is an art form that needs the flexibility to adapt to each new day. Regulations are much too cumbersome to allow for this kind of flexibility. Without the ability to react to each day’s events, your hoped for goal of water fit to drink, will most assuredly founder on the rocks of rigidity.
Looking back over what has transpired it looks like my thoughts pre- stakeholder meeting and post stakeholder meeting haven’t change much. I believe this agency will not attain the results that they want. That said, I believe the board will not deviate from their regulatory ways. It’s in their DNA. The sad part of this regulation fiasco, is the quest for quality water that we all want will not happen. What will happen is my tax dollars will fund an attempt to corral the wind.
I feel a little uncomfortable telling you all that I’m some sort of Guru. What feels more comfortable to describe is who I am as a guy; that’s been at different times in my life a cowboy, a cattleman, and I have now evolved into a grass man holding a bag full of keepers and mistakes that we can talk about. One of the things that, I believe, has bedeviled the cattle industry is its ties to tradition. Dad did it that way and that’s good enough for me. Or that’s the way my neighbors have always done it.
The year was 1991 and a 5 year span of sub normal rainfall was behind me and I was really in need of a better way to keep “the wolf away from the door”. The answer came when I attended a 3 day seminar taught by Allen Savory the founder of Holistic Management who put forth the idea that when you make a decision assume that its wrong and test it to see if its right. It was a water shed moment for me as it gave me permission to examine the way I manage our family ranch and the best part was I got to throw out old ways that took more than they gave. I guess that’s what this DAY ON THE V6 IS ALL ABOUT. I think that 20 folks is a good number to spend Saturday, February the 28th with breakfast at 8 o’clock at the Parkfield Cafe, a hearty V6 Beef Stew at lunch, and a day of give and take knowledge in a most beautiful setting all for $150. A seat at Super Bowl 49 cost $5000.
If you would like to spend Friday and/or Saturday night we have room at the Horse Camp Bunkhouse or you can throw your bedroll on the ground. Saturday night dinner at the Parkfield Cafe if you choose is on you but Sunday morning is a pancake and bacon breakfast, morning hike, and a Good Bye on me.
$150. Saturday, February 28, 2015
This is a unique opportunity to spend a day with Jack Varian as he shares his wit and wisdom regarding innovations in cattle ranching, grasses, water and whatever else may be on his mind that day.
Join him on a personal tour of the newly established “fodder” operation. See how an experiment the size of an ice cube tray turned into 7 semi-truck trailers. Hear about its benefits to grazing animals and how it can be an economic lifesaver in drought conditions when grass is scarce and hay prices are high.
See first-hand the organic permanent pastures where our grass-fed beef are raised. You’ll see and hear why cattle raised through natural grazing methods are so much better for you than cattle fattened on corn. In addition to Jack’s successful cattle operation, he’ll walk you through the new organic pistachio plan. It’s a long term project for the next generations of Varian’s and good use of the range land.
Hear about the benefits of “Rotational Grazing”. This is the natural way herd animals graze.
Tour the Riparian areas, witness how the landscape has changed, and learn what is being done on the V6 Ranch during these drought years.
Later in the evening you’ll have an opportunity to hear about the very innovative Varian Family. You’ll have a greater appreciation for where the “innovative thinking” amongst the Varian’s comes from. In addition, Jack will share how and why he and Zee acquired the V6 Ranch and the evolution of the “Ag Tourism” business to supplement the cattle operation.
Be sure to bring comfortable walk/hiking shoes and dress for the current weather conditions. Typically Parkfield has cool mornings and becomes much warmer as the day progresses. We’ll be serving a light pastry breakfast and lunch on the ranch featuring V6 Ranch Grass-fed Beef.
If you plan to stay over Saturday night, the restaurant is open for dinner and you can stay at the V6 Bunkhouse for $75., double occupancy. There are six rooms; two twin beds in each are available. RV campers and motor homes are welcome.
Sunday, March 1st:
For those that choose to stay over, you’re welcome to join Jack and Zee in their traditional early morning hike on one of their favorite trails. They’ll share their unique philosophies on the V6 Ranch or any other topic that may be on their mind that day.
For More Information Contact:
Barb Varian at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-463-2493
Thanks…look so forward to having you to the V6.
Zee and I just returned from Paso Robles after doing some last minute shopping before we rid are selves of Old 2014. That was a dry, dry, son of a gun. Some guy, according to an article I read, said the last three years were the driest three years in the last 1200 years.
Takes us all back to the 8th century. Makes me wonder if those ranchers had drought relief subsidies like we have today. Their government check wouldn’t have to be very big what with no property tax, no electric bill, no telephone bills, no John Deere tractor to buy diesel for, and on and on. I bet they might have been better off than we are today!
The article said he could tell by how close together the growth rings are, which told the good times from the bad. I wonder if there’s any similarities between tree rings and being married a long time?
Anyway that’s not what I want to write about.
It’s Zee’s birthday today and she still does most all of the cattle work on the ranch, just so long as it can be done from the back of her horse. 2015 is just around the corner and most of us will be making our New Years Resolutions, which hopefully will lead each to find their Yellow Brick Path. I hope I’m wrong but the lifespan of most of these resolutions, I’ll bet, won’t see the sunrise on 1/2/15.
In spite of my cynicism, some will endure the times of our lives when the good, the bad and the ugly, each will have their day in our being. But best of all, those game changing resolutions that were made years before and still live on. HOORAY!!
What could be a nicer birthday present for my wife than to get to spend the day with ME! We start our day with our daily ritual of me hiking part way, and then switching to Zee to hike part way, then drive our Kubota side by side till the two of us have rode and hiked our way 2 miles to the top of the Middle Ridge.
We have to be in Paso Robles by 1 P.M. to meet a lady that has a building permit for me so I can build a 300 Panel Solar Farm, hopefully to reduce the cost of irrigating our Permanent Pasture. The meeting is at my daughter Lillian’s office. Lil asked me if I had wished Zee a happy birthday?
Well, ah ah Zee I wanted to surprise you by waiting till Lil verified that today was indeed your birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Being as we hadn’t had lunch I invited my date to the local deli where we split a turkey sandwich and then downed two glasses of tap water. Next it was off to the local tractor store to pickup a box of tractor parts that cost a thousand dollars.
Being as how we own everything 50/50, I gave my half interest in the tractor parts for her birthday present. What a guy! I’m overwhelmed with my generosity!
You can’t have a birthday without doing a little shopping, so to Wal Mart we went and came away with 100 pounds of dog food. Then on to the matinee movie. The controversial Movie THE INTERVIEWER was playing. We got to hear lots of four letter words, and for me some laughs. I gave the flick a sort of thumbs up, Zee gave it a thumbs down.
We’re still full from splitting that deli sandwich and we need to spend a little time at Rite Aid Pharmacy getting some old age drugs for when we start getting old. Drug Stores, they give me the Willie’s. They are always so full of old people that look like they didn’t climb their mountain.
So for us in the New Year, Zee and I are committed to keeping on, keeping on with lots of tap water to drink and climbing our ever loving Middle Ridge.
Well it’s time for the grand finally. I know you’re all going to be jealous as Zee and I make our way to our last stop. Denny’s. They have the best Hot Fudge Sundays. What a day. It doesn’t get any better than this!!
I’m just and old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond someday.
Each year in the winter months my son John re-models one or two rooms at the Parkfield Inn. This year he chose the room we call, ‘The Tool Room’, because it’s theme is that of a blacksmith’s shop.
While redoing the bathroom, it struck me that far and away the most important object in the bathroom is not soap, nor is it a nice soft absorbent bath towel, or hot water, if push came to shove they would all have to take a back seat to a roll of toilet paper. For what other thing in a bathroom gives so much satisfaction when cleaning out different orifices of the body; can double as a Band-Aid for a man that cuts himself shaving, or can be made into ear plugs to drown out music that sounds like finger nails on a chalkboard.
T.P. really shows its absolute supremacy over all other objects in a bathroom when a person is perched upon the Porcelain Thrown and when done looks for the T.P. and low and behold the dispenser is empty.
In the blink of an eye terror strikes this helpless person with, “What do I do now?!”
So in the case of no soap, or no towels present, their just inconveniences. But no toilet paper, now that has to rate right up there with a heart attack.
How do we treat this indispensable part of our lives? We simply send spent paper down the toilet with not so much as a thank you for a job well done, or a Bon Voyage. No… We just walk away indifferent to the plight of said paper as it journeys off to some sewer farm never to be heard from again.
I’m not done yet; because toilet paper came from a tree in a forest just like paper that makes its way to the easel of an artist where brush strokes upon that paper can make it very valuable, or to a Note Pad where a few notes are scribbled that leads to a world changing event; no our poor T.P. with just plain bad luck on its side will get shunted into a pulp barrel labeled for toilet paper, only where he will give his all with no reward.
Well I plan to change this injustice by building a proper monument to display this indispensable part of our lives in the newly remodeled bathroom of the Tool Room. It will be made of recycled parts, each having escaped the plight of my T.P. friend to be reborn again as a proud holder of Body Wipes.
So if you would like to pay homage to our universal friend, come visit us in Parkfield California, Earthquake Capital Of The World pop. 18. Now equipped and as the place where a cutting edge, ground swell of gratitude is gathering steam to make toilet paper, Top of The Heap, King of the Hill.
It’s easy for me to think of all the things I need for the V6, but it dawned on the other day that it might be more effective to first determine what things I don’t need.
Asking myself the question of what don’t I need, gives me permission to not only see what Dead Wood is slowly disintegrating before my eyes. This backward look at the things we do at the ranch has allowed me to call into question some practices that I might have kept going, but when exposed to the light of reality made no sense.
Why would I continue to dry farm (means to plant a hay or grain crop depending solely on the amount of rain that might fall during the rainy season), when most years I can buy the hay the ranch needs cheaper than I can raise it? Gone now are all the clanking, groaning, humming Hay Bailers, Swathers, Harrow Beds, tractors and disks, ECT. ECT. ECT. AND ALL THOSE HATEFUL TRIPS TO TOWN TO BUY PARTS TO KEEP ALL THIS MACHINERY CLANKING ALL TOOK STAGE LEFT IN THE YEAR 2000.
All because I asked myself,
With my Holistic Management training does Dry Land Farming work anymore?
The testing and monitoring said emphatically, NO.
I discovered that this is a grass ranch first and livestock ranch second. If I don’t raise grass first, then I’m shortchanging the grazers something to eat. And this effects the well being of all the predators, and in turn the scavengers to complete the health of the grazing whole. I can’t forget that paying the bills is the most important part of another whole that allows me to work at stopping erosion, providing feed and cover for all the domestic and wild critters. Keeping the welcome mat out to all our hunt club members and cattle driving guest that always enjoy a very unique experience.
Nothing can live very long without water so I’ve developed 3 sources. We have spring water, pond water and well water, and a very elaborate distribution system.
What I don’t need for the ranch. The list to follow has no rhyme or reason it is presented just as thoughts pop into my mind. Minimize the need for straight lines. Roads are the biggest culprits, Mother Nature abhors them. Zee and I spent last Saturday afternoon watching the Cutting Horse finals in Paso Robles. I spent part of the day looking at what the vendors had for sale. Two items caught my eye. Both sparkled in the sun and both won’t find a home on the V6.
All ranches in my view need a pickup truck or two, but not the one with a $65,000 sticker in the window. Start its engine and at least $20,000 will disappear in a flash from your bank account. For traveling the countryside I guess I’ll do without a $606,000 Motor Home and settle for a nights stay at Motel 6. The ranch needs the tiniest amount of paint as Mother Nature’s colors are much prettier and she will maintain them for you at no cost. That makes Rust my favorite color.
Every bit of new tech knowledge that is touted to solve whatever problem might be staring you in the face at this moment most likely is not the answer. The land dances to Mother Nature’s music. Not to a super computer you just need to observe, look and then listen to the songs that her orchestra is playing.
We don’t need people that live, work, or play here that see this land only as a thing to be exploited for their own gratification. And we certainly don’t have to follow the Pied Piper anymore that taught us how to send unfathomable amounts of topsoil down our streams and rivers to graveyards in our oceans. I think I’d better quit before I rant on about all the pesticides, herbicides, germicides that are only Band-Aids for our man made problems not solutions.