Comfortable Shoes

When I was young and in my prime I used to wear those traditional cowboy boots with the pointed toe and high heel.  At the top of each boot was a loop big enough to put your index finger into.  Then with some grunting, heavy breathing and pulling, your foot slipped into place just like a tongue giving a French kiss.  Back then, any cowboy worth his salt knew that this style of footwear allowed your foot to come out of the stirrup if your horse was really serious about bucking you off.  I was in the camp who knew that getting bucked of was more likely than staying on and the ground was going to greet me shortly.  With that in mind, I’d better be looking for the best place to land, and I didn’t want my foot hung up in the stirrup when I took my high-dive.

But no more!  Today I ride my friend Fuzz, who assures me that he doesn’t want to use all his energy to put me on the ground.  Besides, we have a mutual admiration for each other.  With hitting the ground no longer an issue, and no longer wanting to make a fashion statement, comfortable shoes with no point-to-the-toe here I come!  Today my toes can wander, no longer trapped inside like a bunch of folks squeezed into one of those high rise elevators in New York City.

I’m also finding pleasure riding a new horse who my daughter has loaned me for the spring cattle drives.  Bugs is closer to the ground, so gravity is not such a big issue.  I can throw my saddle on without having to grunt and groan.  Getting on a tall horse used to be a big event that required hunting for a log or a rock to stand on.  With Bugs, why, I can just get to his high side and hop on like I could in my younger years.  Yes, comfort is more important these days than the pain of breaking in new shoes.  My current shoes have take care of my feet for the past four years. They are so comfortable that they are going to get the call for almost any occasion.  Happy toes are more important to me than people’s opinions.  I mean the people who see me coming and whisper to each other that if that guy had just saved for his older years he wouldn’t have to wear those scruffy, comfortable shoes.
See Ya
Jack

Bailing Wire

Living 5 miles north of Parkfield makes me just about a one hour drive to our closest town, Paso Robles.  The return trip takes another hour plus shopping time so what usually happens is that most of the day is gone by the time you return home.  So, how do you fix things without going to town?  Almost on a daily basis something breaks!
A few years ago on the V6 Ranch there would have been an abundance of bailing wire.  But bailing wire has been replaced by bailing twine which has filled the void with almost as many uses as bailing wire but not quite.  For instance, you can check to see if a battery is charged by touching the positive pole to the negative with bailing wire and watch the sparks fly.
Another instance happened the other day as I was driving my pickup down a rough dirt road; my steering tie rod fell off.  So with no steering I was forced to stop and make repairs.  Looking into my big tool box under my pickup bed there they all were waiting to save me from a long walk:
1. A nice big hammer to pound the tie rod end to the steering control box.
2. My handy tool box produced some old bailing wire to keep the tie rod from falling off with a twist from my Leatherman.
3. Then to really secure this repair job there was in its entire silvery grey splendor, duck tape.
Now with all the confidence in the world I head for home.  Several days later I drive to town for a proper repair job and wheel alignment.  The mechanic grinned and said, “What do you need me for?”
My bridal reins break, my horse is kind enough to stop, bailing wire again answers the call by sewing my reins together.  And away I go. The uses for bailing wire in my era were endless so it is kind of sad to see an old friend put out to pasture.
Good bye bailing wire. I’ll miss you!
See Ya
Jack

Is Sustainability Possible?

It better be, because as I see that the status quo of our present agricultural model is not working.

The over-use of nitrogen fertilizers is causing them to leach into our underground aquifers as nitrates.  The nitrates pollute the aquifer before we pump water to the surface in a tainted form to grow our crops.  Then we wonder why so many people drink bottled water. Over-use of the herbicide RoundUp has caused weeds to mutate and become RoundUp resistant.  The list of law suites grows daily claiming the herbicide causes cancer.  The oldest agricultural practice of all, plowing the soil, is now being called into question because of the loss of top soil to erosion. This is caused by the exposed bare soil to wind and water.  I could go on and on sighting instances of farming practices that are mining our planet on a world wide scale that are not sustainable.  But before I numb you all to the pillaging that is going on 24/7 to our home called Earth, I want to pose the question: “Is their a better way?”  I believe there are better ways; some of them known and some yet to be discovered.  Those of us that raise the food and fiber for the masses must also ask the question: “Is there a better way or is there a different way?”  My frustration is that so few are willing to even ask the question.

I believe change will come as our old sclerotic farmers and ranchers pass from the scene.  What is ironic as I wait for kinder and more effective ways to raise our veggies and livestock?  The answer is showing itself with a new breed of kids on the block coming from our cities and families that don’t make their living from agriculture.  This new generation is passionate about their new found profession and are not weighted down with the millstones of tradition.  Some will argue that you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  I’ll agree to saving the baby but you must promise to at least teach him to ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
See Ya
Jack

It’s Snowing

The last time it snowed down to our house at 1800 ft elevation was 5 years ago before the big California drought.

Zee and I were about ready to take our daily hike. This was before the snow storm and the sun was shinning through the clouds. We both had good heavy coats on and we were full of resolve to hike for our health and to renew our vow: “when the going gets tough the tough get going.”  There’s a few drops of rain starting to fall and our dogs that had boredom written all over their faces became instantly excited at the prospect of a hike.

“So let’s go, gang!” We had ventured about 20 paces from the garage when we looked at each other as a couple of rain drops pelted us and the talk I gave to myself about when the going gets tough the tough get going was forgotten in a heart beat as we headed back to the house faster than a ground squirrel running for its hole from a diving Red Tail Hawk.  For me, I didn’t feel one ounce of remorse for cutting and running as I settled back in my recliner.

Last September, turning 80 was a little hard to take at first, but it does have a silver lining.  Guilt about taking a day off from the ranch no longer irritates my work ethic and the prospect of somebody someday replacing me at the helm… well that even seems acceptable.  But just not now, as next week I have a Compost Tea Brewer being delivered that I can use to make a caldron full of soil microbes suspended in water to fertilize the soil organically. This will make the use of commercial fertilizer irrelevant and keep me relevant.
See Ya,
Jack

10:51 P.M.

That’s what time it is according to my iPad.  I’m cozied down in my Lazy Boy recliner.  Having just downed a glass of Gatorade and a T.V. dinner, I’m ready to tell you all about our last four and one half hours.  Tomorrow I’ll be harvesting eight of our grass-fed bevies using a mobile harvest trailer that allow cattle to be harvested at the ranch with a USDA inspector approving of the process.  We saddled up about six this evening, loaded our horses in our gooseneck trailer, and headed to our permanent pasture ranch where we raise our grass-fed bevies.  Here, there are 150 little Brahma cross-breed calves that will stay at the V6 Ranch until next summer when they will be sold.

It’s cooled off now in the day, and as we approach the cattle, I can tell that they feel like running (or stampeding).  Well all it took to ignite this swarm of bevies was an ill timed bark from one of our dogs… and the race was on.  I’m sure this mess would have been nipped in the bud if lion-hearted Bob was along, but I left Bob at home to let some of our other dogs try out their skills at controlling this mob.

The first thing to go was the electric fence, and next was a gate that was left open.  Half of the mob headed right for the gate, and on to the county road they went.  Boy I hope there are no cars coming. Still running, the leaders of the crowd spy my neighbor’s driveway… and in they go!  I’m sure glad there are no flowers to contend with.  I get around the leaders and back on to the county road they go, still running.  Luckily there are no cars in sight.  How many cars are using passing through Parkfield, population 18, anyway?  Zee was positioned to turn the runner back into the field where we started.  We watch now as the run becomes a trot and the trot becomes a walk.  It’s almost dark as we enter the corrals with our eight grass-fat steers and 10 little ones who sort themselves off easily so we can put them back into their pasture.

It’s dark now as I back my son-in-law’s trailer into the alley so we can load the cattle.  Upon opening the trailer gate, I see the front quarter is taken up with Mike’s ATV, but I felt there was enough room for cattle behind the panel that separates his iron horse from my cattle.  Loading in the dark can be hazardous to your health because it’s hard to tell who your friends are.  As I’m bringing the cattle toward the trailer, Zee is behind the trailer gate ready to close it.  In they go, except one sweet thing that makes a pass at me and doesn’t go in. You bitch, don’t you know I’m tired and it’s time to go in the trailer?  Zee closes the gate because we decide to load her in the other stock trailer with our horses.  After switching rigs, we’re ready to load Sweet Thing.  She’s as black as the night and she’s lost her sense of humor.  Plus the back of this trailer has french doors, which are hard to close on cattle that don’t want to stay in.  We have her in a crowding pen where she is trotting around and having a teenage melt down.  My hope is that she might like the trailer more than the crowding pen.  She goes in, and back out.  I’m climbing the fence like bull riders do after being bucked off.  Just in time as she gives out a blood curtailing bawl and blows snot on me then laps the pen and jumps in the trailer again. “Close the gate,” I yell.  Zee says I’m afraid she will knock me down coming out of the trailer. Well this bitch has been in and out of this trailer 8 or 10 times by now.  I’m also afraid to get flattened by old what’s-her-name.  But macho men never let on that they’re afraid.  Good form is to urge your wife not to be afraid and try again.  Besides, dear, you know I’ll take you to the hospital if you get flattened.  I think sweetie pie’s adrenalin must be wearing off by now as she’s been in the trailer several minutes, so I jump off the fence and blindly try to close the trailer.  I close the divider panel from the outside and I’m ready to load my horses.  Sweet thing blows snot at me one more time as I tie mine and Zee’ horses in the trailer. Driving home I’m thinking, I haven’t had an adrenalin rush like that in awhile.  Life is good.
See ya,

Jack

A Horse’s Point of View

I have been around horses for most of my life on a daily basis.  My wife Zee spends most of every day working with our herd of horses. She trains the young ones, exercises others, and plays nurse to any that might need some TLC.  With two lifetimes of experience observing these very social animals we’re going to now act as interpreters for a conversation we overheard between two of our senior citizens by the names of Hot Shot, age 25, and Pozie, age 20.
Hot Shot, this day, was in a philosophical mood and was pondering whether the horse was better off after casting its lot with we humans some 5,000 years ago.  Pozie thought for awhile and then with her horse sense she came to the logical conclusion that her ancestors had plenty of chances to cut and run because the planet was not very crowded back then.  In fact, it’s only been in the last 1,000 years or so that we really started losing elbow room.
Well, Pozie came to the conclusion that as badly as we’ve been treated by our human master over the millennia there must have been more pluses than minuses.

Hot Shot appreciated her view on the subject and responded with his own bit of logic. “Pozie,” he said, “You know we can’t change the past but what about you and I coming up with the pluses and minuses that we like and dislike about today’s world. Pozie you go first.”

“Well luck has certainly been with all of us that have been able to live out our lives here on the V6 Ranch.  I don’t know of a nicer part of California than right here in Parkfield.”

“But some of my flat land relatives might argue that point saying that you guys spend most of your time either going up or down a mountain. And frankly, that looks like a lot of hard work.”
Pozie’s reply to the issue of hard work was that if you’re in good physical shape the mountains are a piece of cake.  Hot Shot chimed in saying that too many of our city brethren are  looking a little large around the girth and maybe some mountain climbing might be in order.

“Hot Shot it’s your turn now.  What good and bad things can you think of?”

“Well I’ll start with the new training methods that are being practiced today.  It’s a much kinder and gentler way that most trainers use today.  The modern horseman acknowledges that we in the horse world have a brain and that most of us want to please our owners.  We will tell you with graphic signs of our content or discontent.”

Pozie says, “I like that! Why don’t you tell our readers some of the body language that we use to let you know how we’re feeling at the moment?”

“Okay I’m going to start with my eyes, they reveal a lot about my personality from fearful to fearless, somber to hysterics.  My eyes are a window to my inner feelings.  Next are my ears.  If my ears are pinned back I’m saying, you there, yea you on my back. That horse behind me keeps pestering and threatening me and I know he is back there because of my eyes being placed on each side of my skull that allow me to see clear back to my tail. So please see if you can’t fix the problem.  Now if my ears are more or less straight up I feel relaxed and am enjoying life and looking forward to tomorrow.  My ears pricked forward means there’s something going on that I need to know more about.  Like: do I run like hell or is it much ado about nothing?  And when you approach me in the corral and my ears are forward looking and I start licking my lips I’m saying I’d like to be your friend. Pozie why don’t you tackle ‘tell tale signs’ a cliché from the horse and buggy days?”

“Ok, if my tail is hanging straight down everything is cool.  Now if I start swinging it back and forth slowly at first I’m slightly peeved.  As my tail moves faster I’m getting more and more upset and when I start to ring it in a circle I’m pissed and I may even pee a little.  I want you to stop what you’re doing like constantly poking me with your spurs.  I don’t mean you have to take your spurs off because they are a valuable tool if used correctly. Your turn Hot Shot.”

“There’s one that really bugs me: horses that become weavers or cribbers from being confined with no exercise.  But Pozie, I think it’s time to look at the positive side with our owners.  I think that we are much better fed than my brethren of the past century when we were simply beasts of burden that had no feelings.  I like the way our strengths have been cultivated so that we who like working cattle can work cattle.  Others who like to run can run around a race track or around a barrel.  Pacers and single footers can rack on and you work horses think that pulling a freight wagon is fun.

Well Poz I hope that most of our kind don’t want to go back 5,000 years, but choose to live this day and look forward to tomorrow.”

See Ya,
Pozie and Hot Shot

We Need to UBER-ize Agriculture

I was reading an article in Time Magazine this morning about a fellow named Travis Kalanick ( The Disrupter) who has recently ascended to Silicon Valley’s billionaire nobility for recognizing a need and filling it.  The basic idea as I see it, was that a lot of people would be willing to make the family car double as a taxi for hire to supplement their income.  And what was really new, the frosting on the cake, these new entrepreneurs could schedule as much or as little time to being a taxi driver as each saw fit.
Well, I think that agriculture is in bad need of some UBERIZING.  I subscribe to several magazines that mostly report stories about farmers and ranchers east of the Colorado Rockies that are starting to question the validity of solving all of our livestock and farming problems with a new drug for all the vectors transmitting diseases in our livestock and new herbicides, pesticides, vast arrays of fertilizer and genetic engineering that always treat the symptoms but never the underling problem.  “Forget the problem,” says Farmer John.  “I’ve got a ‘fix-it solution’ and it guarantees to repair said problem or my money back!  So there, you disturber of the accepted industry practices.”
“Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die.”  I don’t know who penned those words– probably some Private going into battle who knew more than the General.  This is what is happening in agriculture today from our inbred educational system to the billions spent advertising.  Go out and buy all the tractors and harvesters to gather in all your booty.  Each night worry not as the ring of the cash register tolls for Monsanto, Caterpillar, John Deere, Dupont and all the other manufacturers of the Cure-Alls allowing us in agriculture to slip into a quiet slumber.
I’m not advocating that we melt down all the iron and incinerate all the advancements made for agriculture these past 200 years.  But what we are obligated to do is ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
Acres magazine of Dec. 2015 has an article titled Still Grazing by Cody Holmes, who surely must have asked himself that question.  After you digest the figures that I shall put before you, I hope all will come to the conclusion that there are better ways “to skin a cat.” (Sorry to all you cat lovers for the cliché.)  Mr. Holmes started marching to a different drummer about 20 years ago when he first started reading what Allen Savory had to say about how to care for our environment in his book Holistic Management. This book has become my Bible.  I’m going to recite verbatim Cody Holmes’ last 15 years working his Rockin’ H Ranch:

To bring you up to date, I want to give you an example of what multi-species grazing can do.  In about 15 years we took a rocky pile of thin soil and oak sprouts in southern Missouri known as the Rockin’ H Ranch- about 1,000 acres that was once feeding only about 125 cows and through a dedicated holistically planned model we are currently grazing year-round about 350 cows, 1,000 meat goats, 450 hair sheep, 150 pastured hogs, 25 head Jersey dairy cows, 80 head dairy goats, 1,000 laying hens and other pastured poultry. There is also a growing produce enterprise with a green house.  This production is done without any outside purchase of seed or fertilizer with the exception of a little liquid calcium for the produce. This list deserves no bragging rights, but is only an example of what they say cannot be done, and we are doing it. One really good thing for me about this list of animals is that I know better than anyone that we are almost constantly under stocked.  Quite a turn around.  If I could do half as well I would be a happy camper.

“As I see it” started during World War 2, with the invention of the pesticide D.D.T.  This supposed innocuous powder that would get rid of all your insect pests and would not only kill the bugs that were presently chewing on all your exposed body parts but would keep on killing for many more months.  DuPont Chemical Company knew they had a winner and hired an advertising company to come up with the jingle “better living through chemistry.”  The only trouble was this bug killer was also killing off most of our Eagles– our national bird– and God only knows what else.  But fear not, as we continue on our oblivious ways, with “don’t ask don’t tell” as our motto when using the thousands of items at our disposal all designed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise.  The problem is nobody was on the payroll to see if there was a fox in the hen house. Now, 70 years later, I see most of our farming land unable to raise a crop without the aid of big doses of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and some genetic tweaking.  We have plenty of food to feed the world… but is it sustainable?  Probably not.  Are there any hidden bobby traps ready to show their evil ways?  Probably.
So what’s the answer?  I think for every new sack full of “problem solved” maybe we could have an alternative NATURAL solution on the same label.

HA HA HA this guy has lost his cotton picking mind!  Why, this flies in the face of everything I was taught in college and by all the people that manufacture the cures for my problems. This guy must think I’m stupid.
See Ya
Jack

What’s in a Smile?

I was never much of a school yard scrapper.  On the other hand, I have always had a fair amount of confidence.  Some would call it “cocky” that I wore on my sleeve.  That made me a target for some of my classmates who found much joy in school yard scrapping.
Until my senior year in High School, I was smaller than most other students. This, for some, made me a sure victory.  So when confronted I developed the art of smiling; it became and effective shield that kept me from wearing black eyes to school.
I was not a great believer in the old saying “it’s not the size of the man in the fight but the size of the fight in the man.”  I had a different old saying: “he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.”  I believed it to have some truth.  When I was young, my mother called me Sunny but by around 8 or 10 years of age she seemed to know that it was time to start calling me Jack.  This was okay by me but I didn’t give up wearing a friendly face that was now my comfortable companion.  I started to understand how smiles open many doors and put people at ease.  A smile makes it hard to fight with a guy.
I’ve come to some conclusion over my lifetime. What I discovered was the top of my list is to “SMILE.”
1. Smiles are like welcome mats.

2. Smiles never go out of style.

3. Smiles are always in demand and they don’t cost anything to give.  You just simply turn the corners of your mouth to the up position from the down position and amazingly your attitude will follow.
4.  I usually find the greatest benefactor of a smile is myself.  When I smile I’m spreading around some joy and that makes me feel good.

5.  Smiles are contagious. So go laugh more, live more and the world will be a better place because you smiled.
See Ya
Jack

Pistachios Should be Grown by the Elderly

What else takes about 7 years for the grower to harvest his first nut (this guy is nuts) and 10 years to be able to start paying some bills?  Just think, if a person wants something to look forward to, why not a pistachio? Yes, there are other options out there, like wine grapes, which take as few as 3 years to come into production.  And if you drink enough of your own raising your liver will probably succumb from having too much fun, taking you with him.  Or you could raise oranges; now what could be better than that?  Why, you would never be deficient in vitamin C.  But are you ready to get out of bed at midnight on the coldest nights of the year to start your wind machine or sprinklers to keep your beautiful oranges from freezing?  I’m not.  So for me it’s pistachios.  I get more years to look forward to my first nut to go with the two I’ve already got.  Just think: when I’m 90 I’ll be able to start paying the bank back.  Now many of you at this moment are thinking, this guy is missing a few bricks out of the load. Well, it’s too late to try to reason with me as the trees are coming and I have to get ready.
See Ya
Jack

Me and The Seattle Seahawks

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m watching the boob tube.  The Seattle Seahawks are  being disemboweled by the Carolina Panthers.  Thank God it’s half time because the score is 31 to 0.

Last week Zee and I were out gathering some first calf heifers that needed to be moved to a new pasture.  We had split up as we had found 17 head of heifers.  Zee headed to the corrals with the 17 that we had found.  Because my old trustworthy horse Fuzz was standing at the feed manger in the mud, I decided to ride whoever was standing on dry ground.  I don’t know some of our young horses very well; according to my wife I have saddled one that may not be as trustworthy as I would like.

What happens next as I ride out of sight is my horse named Zip, who does not like the idea of being all alone, proceeded to disembowel me and leave the scene without one ounce of curiosity for my well being.  Little did he know that my sudden stop when I hit the ground left me with 6 broken ribs.  My dogs Bob and Trigger new something was wrong and did what they could do–  lick me in the face.

Up to this point I believe that my trouncing and the Seattle Seahawks’ trouncing have some parallels.  The Seahawks have just lost their game by only one touchdown: 24 to 31.  It was quite a comeback.  Whereas for me, I’ve got a 2.5 mile hike back to the corrals.  Bob and Trigger said they refuse to play Lassie and run for help.  “No,” they said “we need to stay close in case a mountain lion sees this old guy hobbling down the trail.”

Not being raised in a time where an  iPhone is an extension of your body, it didn’t come to my mind that I had one.  I hiked about a mile when I happened to reach into my shirt pocket in hopes that I might find a Jolly Rancher candy to sooth my pain.  Nuts! None to be found, but low and behold what was in my pocket was my cell phone. Usually the battery is dead, but this time it had a charge and one dot to show me I had reception.  My grandson Brinan was gathering cattle in another field about 3 or 4 airline miles away.  Let’s see, what’s his number? Jack remember, you press phone and then contacts and Brinan’s number appears.  I press his number and in only a moment Brinan’s voice says “Hi, grandpa.”  I tell him my story of woe and in about a half hour Brinan and son in law Mike have come to my rescue.

Well, what were the parallels to the Seahawks, if any?  The Seahawks got to go home with heads held high ready to take on another foe of equal ability next year.  As for me, I get to lick my wounds and stack the odds in my favor by setting my sights on the quiet side of life by getting back on my “bullet proof” horse Fuzz… even if he happens to be standing in the mud.
See Ya
Jack

The Cowboy Side of California