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