Why You Should Build Fences

I love words that draw pictures in my mind. As I lie here on my comfy mattress with memory foam that never forgets how a mattress should treat a fella, two words come bubbling to the surface of my consciousness: chaos and tranquility. Part of Mother Nature’s grand plan for governing our little speck in the cosmos is chaos and tranquility. I figured she must have copied the idea from whoever invented the Big Bang theory. That original bang certainly is the best definition of chaos I know of. Sailing along in outer space where time is measured in light years means you sure have to be a tranquil sort to put up with a trip like that, especially when there’re no billboards to read along the way. What’s this got to do with fence building, you say? Well I’m about to tell you. I’m not sure any of this blog applies if you’re living in New York City, but if you decided while having a severe case of mid-life chaos that a new occupation sounds intriguing, read on.

How does owning or working on a ranch sound? If that grabs you and you think green growing things are more beautiful than anything man can create, then let’s start at the very beginning. Grass is the only life form that can eat sunlight and turn this light into food and fiber. Mother Nature has a grand design that demands chaos and tranquility to grow grass in abundance for our grazing animals so that I might have a steak to eat and a belt to hold up my pants. To illustrate this concept the example that follows will be my last. Then fence building 101 commences.

If we have one cow and put her on one acre to graze for 100 days on good growing grass I’m sure that at the end of the 100 days this cow will be starved dang near to death and the land would be laid bare to erode. Many of the soil born critters would die from the heat when soil temperatures soar. So instead, let’s take 100 cows and put them on a similar one acre for one day. The number of grazing days will be the same but the result of this change will be dramatically different. The cows will get their bellies full and the next day they will be moved to greener pastures. The one-acre plot left by the cows will be in a state of chaos. Cow poop will be everywhere. Urine and small amounts of saliva and shed hair will be absorbed into soil that all help fabricate soil health. The left over grass thoroughly tromped to the soil surface is now available food for all those critters that didn’t die from the heat of bare ground by the one cow 100-day grazing period disaster. In this example, the ground was shaded so all the critters survived to do their job of building healthy soil.

What we need to have happen next if we are going to create a place for chaos and tranquility to exist is create a pasture. Here we can regulate time, place, and numbers of livestock. Basically, we need to build fences. The more fences, the better. In my case, because of rough terrain, I have ruled out electric fencing and use only barbed wire, the stuff that cattle barons and homesteaders use to fight over on the silver screen.

Pictures speak louder than words, and this certainly holds true when trying to describe with words how to build a barbed wire fence.

The things that I consider before I build a fence are as follows:

  1. Want to build my fence with at Least 4 strands of wire (5 is even better).
  2. Consider the topography of the land. The rougher it is the more expensive it is.
  3. The different soil types on your land can also be a good reason to fence into a pasture. Our ranch has several hundreds of acres that consist of a very heavy clay soil that hooves will do great harm to during a wet winter. We have this soil type fenced. When early April rolls around we will have a field that will feed a prodigious number of livestock.
  4. Fences well placed means you can make your grazing animals utilize the whole ranch.
  5. A field that has minimal obstacles is a great place to put your bulls and cows together. That way your bulls don’t have to hike over the whole ranch just to ask some pretty thing for a date.
  6. Property line fences, if reasonably well-maintained (don’t be afraid to do 51% of the fixing) means you and your neighbor will surely get along a whole lot better.
  7. Finally, and I’m sure that there’s a whole lot more reasons to build those lovable barbed wire enclosures, the greatest of all is the chance to put Mother Nature’s way of running a ranch into action. She will love you and all the people who you do business with will love you when the check is really in the mail.

See Ya,

Jack

 There’s Magnificence in Misery

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines magnificence as a state of richness and splendor.  Now I don’t know what I would find if I did a Goggle search for the definition, which I don’t know how to do anyway, so I’ll just stick with what Mr. Webster has to say on the subject.

Jack, you’re not inferring that we ought to get out of the shade and into the heat and feel a little pain?  YUP, just think of all the people who toil to the top of Mount Whitney and are rewarded with a rush of endorphins and a moment of absolute elation at what they have accomplished.  Now in my case, I get the same feeling but my exuberance factor might not be quite as high as theirs.  But my daily 2 mile toil up Middle Ridge on our ranch always leaves me with my second wind to enjoy and a sense of serene contentment.

Now the guy who owns a helicopter and lands his steed atop Mount Whitney gets out looks around and says, “yep quite a view” and hurries back to his chopper and heads for home with not one extra beat of his heart, nor any sign of sweat on his brow.  The question becomes: who do you want to trade places with?

I believe we need contrasting experiences in order to know when oh my God we’re in the toilet or when we’re skipping down the sunny side of the street.  I think we all ought to climb every mountain both physical and mental.  And we can take a helicopter joy ride now and then to add a little flavor to our lives.
See Ya
Jack.

Would You Like to Eat? Just Add Water

Of late there certainly has been a lot of print delegated to how much water farmers and ranchers use to provide town folks with three meals a day.  I think my urban friends who are suffering along with those of us in agriculture in this interminable drought are beginning to be inconvenienced enough to start lashing out at the hand that feeds them.  Just the other day I was reading an article that caught my eye in one of my farming magazines.  The author must practice voodoo mathematics for I know of no other way that he could arrive at the  preposterous figures that he used to make a case of why almond farmers use too much water to make this very healthy food available to the public.  This charlatan that works on the theory that most people who see something in print think it’s the Gospel knows he doesn’t have to defend his figures to the gullible public.  He can say that it takes a gallon of water to raise one nut and that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to put one pound of beef on your dinner table and no one questions him.

I want to do a little number crunching and then let you folks out there be the judge.  Cattle will drink about one gallon of water per day per hundred weight, so a 1,000 pound steer will drink 10 gallons of water per day.  Then again, when they’re out on the range and the grass is green they may drink half that amount.  Let’s say our steer is harvested in 720 days (2 years).  He will have consumed about 7,200 gallons of the wet stuff.  If we use voodoo math we will multiply 1,000 pounds X 1,800 gallons per pound of weight = 1,800,000 gallons this this steer will have to drink in 720 days.  The poor steer will have to drink 2,500 gallons of water per day, or 2.5 times his body weight.  I believe most would consider this animal cruelty of the first order.

On that account, if we all want to eat, then part of the process is to just add water.  The question then becomes: how much?  I suggest that because water is an expensive part of raising our food, our farmers and ranchers will use it in a very miserly fashion.  I hope most of you will come to the conclusion that in order to eat you will cast your vote for the person that raises it, knowing we have more credibility than voodoo mathematicians.

Before closing, I do have a wonderment: why is it that I never hear a word about the water used to make wine, which is not necessary for your health?
See Ya
Jack

Fire Will Always Impact Our Lives

Now, what are we going to do about it?!  The first thing we have to do, I believe, is to relieve Smokey The Bear of his duty as manager of our forest and grasslands.  We need to seriously question his forest management credentials because Smokey has done more damage to our forest and wild lands than all of the arsonists that ever lit a match.

Here it comes, mothers everywhere will cry out in unison, “You’re sick Jack Varian when you question the most revered bear in the woods who pontificates about the proper management of our forest and woodlands!” How could you possibly bring dishonor to this symbol that has taught generations of us to believe that his methods of forest and wild land management are above reproach and then you sully all of his friends like Bambi, Thumper Rabbit and all the Blue Birds that Walt Disney dreamed up to live in an enchanting forest that just doesn’t exist and never will.  Walt created a setting designed to give us all a case of the Warm Fuzzies that could only be cured by a trip to the movies to see Bambi.

As the throngs depart the theaters across our land there’s a ground swell of anxiety about how to save our forests.  The perfect storm has been created.  Enter the public relation industry that knows nothing about forest health but a whole lot about human emotions.  “Let’s see, we need a hero to save our forests and here he comes freshly painted by some commercial artist… Say hello to Smokey the Bear with proper hat on head and what will become his famous rallying cry, ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES.” That statement is a fraud, an affront to reality.  So let’s stop believing that somehow we are going to make fire disappear from our forests and grasslands by using Smokey the Bear teaching.

Instead, let’s use some science and common sense; then we can make some management decisions that recognize that fire has always been a part of the environment and always will be!

I think what needs to happen now is a new strategy that takes part of the budget from the U.S. FOREST SERVICE and from CAL FIRE.  We should spend some of these bucks on a very lack luster, tedious, totally devoid of any chance to be a hero job.  This not glorious, but quite important job will be a person correcting 100 years of governmental mismanagement by removing the decades of understory build up that has happened when Smokey was running the show.  (By the way Mother Nature and Indian tribes in times past did it for free with cold fires that kept the dead wood under control.)

Then, and this will really upset all the died in the Wool Tree Huggers, we need to do some tree thinning.  Some of it could be done by a lumber company, joined by Cal Fire and the U.S.F.S.  I’m sure this lumber company wouldn’t mind if some official monitored their methods of harvest.

Reading from Bloomberg Businessweek: Last year, the federal government spent $3 billion putting out fires.  This is five times as much as 20 years ago.  California expenditures have doubled since 1998 to $1.6 billion.

The Valley Fire took the lives of four humans, 2,000 structures, and the lives of countless domestic and wild animals.  If that is not a wake up call to challenge the status quo, then there is no hope for us to solve all the other problems that take common sense to carry the day.
See Ya
Jack