Tag Archives: CA ranchers

A New Cowboy in Town

Today I came in touch with the latest that our tech  world has to offer to make my live easier or more complicated; I’m not yet sure which. I’ve heard of “drones,” but this is the first time I got to watch one in action.  John and Barbara Varian were hosting a week-long Photographic Work Shop at the V6.  One lady that wanted a different angle to shoot pictures of a group of our horses, simply went to her S.U.V. and whipped out her handy four rotor drone.  In less than a minute this contraption was in the air above the horses.  It hovered at about 15 feet in the air.  It was absolutely motionless because of a gyroscope that allows a miniature camera to take pictures from different angles producing blur-free pictures.

This is a robber of privacy or an observer of what’s going on in real time, pick your poison.  Now I’m not one for watching nude sun bathers ( what a shame) so I think I will tilt in the direction of ” wouldn’t it be nice to know ahead of time where my cattle are, the  day before I want to move the heard to greener pastures.”

The downside of this tech explosion could possibly be the death of one more Cowboy skill.  The V6 has a lot of trees and brush for cattle to hide in or just shade up for the day.  This means its time to start tracking our quarry.  By reading how old the foot prints are and which direction they were going and guessing how long ago some cow poop was left you can track where the cattle are.  Now if we are really serious as to how long this round looking plate of poop is, it’s time get of your horse take your index finger and insert it into the middle of said Cow Pie if it’s still warm.  You get the idea.  On the other hand, if it’s scattered down the trail she might be on the run and a fellow might want to pull his hat down and get ready for the chase.

Now back to that drone.  This gadget they tell me with its computer chips chirping and a G.P.S. system attached will let me scour the country and will send a video view as to where all my cattle  are.  This leads me to a logical thought, why not just arm this destroyer of one more cowboy skill and mount it with a Bull Horn that blares out Yippee tie yi yay get along little doggie, get along.

Could it be that my cowboy days will soon be gone?  Another piece of AMERICANA gone. I HOPE NOT.
See Ya
Jack

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

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

Safety At All Costs

In my view right now and all my days to follow, the safety freaks are at work right now snuffing the very life out of common sense. Whoever said that common sense was becoming uncommon more all the time has my vote.

I sometimes get the feeling that common sense doesn’t stand a chance against a full array of advisories from the politician who will vote for any piece of legislation that might put a few more ballots on his side of the electoral ledger. “To hell with what we’re doing to quality of life by looking for disaster under every bed and fear around every corner.”

This to all the so-called educators who have done away with games like tag and dodge ball.  I’m sure there must be a contingent out there that pines for the day when all their students wear helmets at all times while in their charge.

Now add in a good share of Corporate America who owe a share of their bottom line to some safety gimmick. To all the insurance companies that write their policies on how safely they can chum you into leading your life so claims will be small and profits will be glorious. I think quite the opposite will happen as people drop their defenses so they’re unable to see danger when it’s staring them in the face.

Does anyone ask the disinfectant gang what’s the down side of all this washing and disinfecting? The gang is at the top of its game when it comes to teaching the public to believe that microbes of the most horrific kind lurk on every door handle, toilet seat, shopping cart… and that the only way to counter this unseen army of killers is with the constant washing of your hands. No more licking your fingers; God knows what they might have touched! And I suppose that it must follow that shaking hands will also be a huge no-no. Never mind that most bacteria and all their cousins are necessary for our well-being. The drug companies I’m sure don’t want to confuse the public with an admission that some microbes are necessary for our very existence and our absolutely necessary immune system.

Maybe there is still hope that common sense might yet carry the day. I was reading an article in the July edition of Bloomberg Businessweek titled “The Bacteria Solution.” A cosmetics startup knows that live microbes are the secret to healthier skin. Will anyone believe that?
AOBiome is a biotech company whose signature product is a spray that when applied to your body helps the user’s dependence on soap diminish. If I peaked your interest then look for a spray bottle of Mother Dirt, a reference to the soil from which the key ingredient is derived. “Go Ahead, get a Little Dirty.”

Well  the question becomes: is anybody interested? Early adopters have been mostly urban professionals. The inventor of Mother Dirt is one David Whitlock, an M.I.T. trained chemical engineer who watched a horse rolling in the dirt one day to clean itself. He reasoned that this behavior must be important to the health of the horse and maybe to humans as well. He started gathering soil samples, and growing bacteria in his basement. AOBiomes, he learned, convert the urea and ammonia in sweat, which is abrasive to the skin causing acne and irritations, into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria and nitric oxide and has anti-inflammatory properties. Whitlock concluded that useful bacteria once lived on humans, too, at least until we began killing these useful bacteria with countless soaps, lotions and potions.

Just think- if this logical idea caught on in my drought-stricken state of California it might help fix our water problems. For me, that’s an “atta boy” to common sense.
See Ya
Jack
P.S. Mr Whitlock has not taken a shower in 12 years and his friends say he looks great, and he smells perfectly fine.

About the Cow 101

Elise, the Borden’s cow, was the love able cartoon mascot representing Borden’s Milk Company of a bygone era. Elise has been around longer than we humans have, but her form was very much different. I believe her counter part was Dino the Dinosaur that four-legged, affable, slow-thinking, grass-eating machine. Dino’s job back then was much the same as Elise’s job is today: to eat the grass that grows on every continent of the world to sustain herself. By  sustaining herself she sustains the soil that feeds the grass by pooping, peeing, dropping saliva and worn out hairs on the soil. Those things become the food for  all the critters that live under the soil surface. They can then feed the grass above the surface to feed Elise. This then is the symbiotic relationship between grass and Elise.

In Dino’s time there were mostly two-legged predators (meat-eaters like tyrannosaurous rex that fed on the sick, the lame and those with birth defects). The predator animal couldn’t afford to get hurt so he was an opportunist that has no qualms when he  picked the weakest and  left the most formidable and viral to breed with a healthy and beautiful bevy of ladies.

Two million years later Elsie is part of a herd of grazing cattle that, until we humans came along, found their safety in numbers grazing fairly close together. When threatened by a pack of wolves or a mountain lion the cows put the young in the middle of the pack and the weakest of the herd were pushed to the outside edge of the herd. The predators of today acted exactly as the predator of 2,000,000 years ago and herd health was maintained.

There is now another very important part of this symbiotic relationship between the grass, Elise and the predator and that is the time spent grazing a particular area is critical. When a group of grazing animals are frightened by predators, grazing stops and flight starts. The predator gets his prey and the herd has moved on to a fresh area of tasty new grass. What is left behind looks like chaos but actually this partly grazed, trampled, fertilized with poop and pee will now be left to rest and recuperate for as short as a month but more likely several months before the herd reappears to repeat the cycle of life. This process is called Herd Effect, a very necessary part of our ever expanding symbiotic whole.

Well we don’t have wolf packs or other predators in sufficient numbers to maintain herd effect so we humans will now inherit the roll of predator. So it’s up to me, as steward of our ranch, to be like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. First I must know the score I’m going to play. The music that I will ask every living thing to play has been written by Mother Nature. When played well, her music makes the most beautiful sounds. The trouble is it takes years of study and practice to create the symbiotic whole. The conductor must be agile and willing to change to meet the ever changing conditions that can be man caused by greed, stupidity, bad governmental regulations, laziness and I’m sure you readers can think of many more. Conditions can also be nature made, i.e: droughts, floods, sickness and more. But the really good conductor can solve most all situations that he encounters if he keeps Mother Nature’s words and music always in front of him.

To close I want to say to all you single issue people that are unable to consider the interrelationship of all living things you will always be part of the problem, never part of the solution.
See Ya
Jack

A Trip to the Status Quo

My son Greg and grandson Kade and I traveled to Tulare in the San Joaquin Valley to for the biggest farm equipment show in California.

We took a back road across the valley floor over a flat expanse that was once the Tulare Lake. One hundred years-ago, give or take a few years, it was home to a teaming megalopolis of ducks and geese. Some say there were 10,000,000 deer and Tule Elk, fish of every kind and an untold sum of other critters that would stagger the imagination. This 130 mile stretch of water sub-irrigated 1,000 acres of Salt Grass that fed a multitude of grazing animals and ground nesting birds. All together this was a chaotic and complex place to make a life but this is the way Mother Nature designed life on this earth to work. I see parallels in the domain of we humans with wars going on in some corner of the planet at all times. Now add in floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and pestilence and I believe this is a normal course of events for us humans.
What’s different this time around is our ability to change our environment in a direction that disregards all of Mother Natures rules.

As we drove across this land of mono-cultures it felt like I was walking on the Moon. From the edge of the pavement to the edge of a tilled field the ground had been scraped and sprayed clean of every living thing. There were no birds in the sky, not a rabbit to be seen, this land that was once home to uncountable millions was now a barren wasteland in my eyes. With today’s modern farming practices, that include: G.P.S. Laser straight cropping rows, soils that have been fumigated, fertilized, given liberal amounts of herbicides, pesticides. The only living thing left was a green growing crop. I’m sure if it had to fend for itself it most assuredly would wither and die.
Now I fully realize that to pull the rug out from under our modern ways to farm would surly leave many of us without much to eat. All I ask for, is to at least ask the question: are we at the top of the food chain caring for the land the best way possible? Is it sustainable for the foreseeable future? If not, why not? I think it’s because I’m going to an extravaganza that spends billions to maintain the Status Quo. I will spend the day getting my annual indoctrination put on by John Deere, Monsanto, the banks that finance this belief system and all the tool makers that build plows, discs ECT to ripe and pulverize the soil. Add in what the proper way to act in this environment is. Don’t ask the question. IS THIS TRIP NECESSARY?
I don’t think this entertaining way to have a day away from the ranch is totally bankrupt as there is much in the way of new irrigation equipment that is very miserly in the use of water and new ways to monitor this precious stuff so it’s not wasted. I also think that some of the new people manning the Organic Booths have already asked themselves, “Is there a different and possibly better way to feed the populous?” But the real money was spent by those that till the soil with tractors and plows much as we have done for the past several thousand years. Follow that with those that practice the Art of Chemistry to kill off chaos and replace it with monotony.
It’s time to head back to the ranch having washed myself in the  blood of the status quo, tasted candy at almost every booth to satisfy my sweet tooth and lubricated my conscious so that I won’t squeal to the world that there may be trouble in paradise.
see Ya
Jack

Going West, The Year is 1948

My mother, Winifred Varian, was a prolific letter writer. She also spent the better part of a year taking a life time of family photos, letters, and memorabilia regarding my fathers early life, his years of being a pilot for Pan American Airlines and time with his brother founding Varian Associates, in its formative years and cataloging it all into 7 albums. She believed that if she had not made this gigantic effort all the history and knowledge of my family would now be “just hear say.”

Seems that each new year, for me, must surely have less than 365 days as they go by so quickly. Why it was just yesterday that I was making a New Years resolution that I know I’ve broken because I can’t even remember what it was. But there is one thing I do know, that looking back and recalling past times brings me a great deal of contentment.

A couple of days ago I was browsing through volume 3 of my mother’s collected family knowledge and came across a letter that she had written to a friend upon our arrival to my birth place, California. It was an 8 year leave of absence but my father made it quite clear that when the Great War was over we would be moving back to California. But first, every last citizen in the then 48 states did what ever it took to defeat Japan, Germany, and Italy in a most noble struggle against a tyrannical enemy. It would be 3 more years after the end of World War 2 before we would return to my birth place. For me sooner was better than later.

My mothers letter tells of our cross country journey without my father as he had gone ahead several months earlier to find a place to live and give dawn to Varian Associates. Our trek started July 10th, 1948, and ended July 19th, 1948.

Here then is my mother’s account of 10 days in a 1941 Plymouth Sedan.

Dear Gang,

Left Garden City N.Y. 7:30 A.M. July 10th and arrived in Albany 11:30A.M. Went on to Howe Caverns where we had lunch. None of us had seen caves such as these before, and found them very interesting, although not as colorful as we had expected. We then went on to Skaneateles where we were fortunate in finding a cabin opposite a lake. Lorna and Jack went in swimming and said the water was wonderful and warm as it was at Lake George, our favorite vacation spot in up state New York. I thought this part of the country was beautiful.
July 11th. We went on up to Niagara Falls. The falls themselves and the boat I thought were worth going out of our way for, but with so many large factories in the area it sort of spoiled it for me. Traveling was slow all day Sunday as the traffic along Lake Erie was often bumper to bumper. It seemed as though every man and his family were heading for their favorite resorts. We stayed that night just this side of Cleveland, where we spent 2 hours looking for a Western Union. It seems that they are not open on Sundays or even take telephone calls around those parts.
July 12th. Went through Cleveland during the wee hours of the morning , and saved ourselves a lot of time. Here we saw our first accident. It seems a car stopped short at an intersection and a truck ran into it from behind. The car looked pretty sad, but no one was hurt. From here on we made pretty good time as the roads through Indiana  were excellent. Jacky developed a little kidney trouble on these long hops, but were able to solve this problem with the old standby. The coffee can, or better known at camp, as the “canopy”. Iowa, I thought was the worst state of the lot. Who said it was flat? We went up one hill and down the other for miles, on very narrow roads with soft shoulders on either side. Truck after truck passed us going 80 miles an hour. This makes a nervous wreck out of me, so finally agreed to let Lorna age 16 take over. She had only had the wheel about 10 minutes when a big trailer truck ahead of us hit a soft shoulder going around a curve and rolled over into a corn patch. The driver came out in good shape. Half way across this state we ran into thunder and lightening storms, comparable to those we have in Mexico, and the rain was so blinding you couldn’t see anything through the windshield. We had to crawl along for a couple of miles, however, before we could find a spot large enough and hard enough to park on, so as not to get bogged down in the mud the rain let up. We hit several more of these squalls, but most of them were not to bad. That night we spent in Amboy Iowa and what a racket. Thousands of pigs went by our door in trucks going to market. It seemed as though each one was trying to out do the other by squealing.
July 13th. Was sure glad to leave that part of the country even though it did look extremely prosperous, and went on to Grand Island Nebraska, covering close to 600 miles. This part of the country was flat and barren, but for some reason appealed to me. I guess I like the desert.
July 14th. Were on the road at the crack of dawn and was bowling along at 70 miles an hour when I blew the right front tire. I managed to keep on the road but sure had the jitters for a couple of hours afterwards. Jack did a swell job of changing the tire, although we had one hell of a time trying to get the nuts loose. Never again will I start out on a long trip without new inner tubes. We stopped at Sidney Nebraska for lunch. It was out of this world. A real frontier town. Cowboys sitting outside saloons, or galloping up the road on horseback. Their speech intrigued Lorna. She asked one of them if they liked living in Sidney. His answer. ” You dead bern right.” We arrived in Cheyenne Wyoming during the afternoon and had time to take in a few of the sights before dinner. The days here were warm, the nights cold, the cowboys tall, lean, and handsome. This place fascinated me. I couldn’t say much for the women, in fact I didn’t see many of them. They must hide. Sig met us at the airport the next morning. Was I ever glad to see him. Spent the rest of the day sight seeing and loafing.

( My mother was exhausted as she wasn’t the greatest driver in the world and had called my dad and said ” You’ve got to drive us on to California”)

July 15th. Headed for Salt Lake City, while on the road we witness a horrible auto accident. A car towing a huge house trailer, apparently lost control on a down hill curve, swung into the left lane, the car coming toward them crashed head on. Wreckage was scattered in every direction. One man was killed instantly, the other 6 not expected to live. Lorna and Jack of course, had to get out and take pictures of all the gory details. This held traffic up for nearly an hour, but still made Salt Lake City by supper time. The sunset here was the most beautiful I had seen in years. We drove all that evening, stopping at Wendover on the Nevada side. All the gambling joints were wide open, Jack was thrilled to put a nickel in the slot and win seventy five cents. The money was spent in no time on souvenirs and slot machine.
July 16th. After an hour on the road we had to stop for another accident. The driver must have gone to sleep at the wheel, as he hit the only culvert in miles. The car rolled over several times. All three occupants were badly hurt, and it seemed ages before the ambulance arrived.

( My dad and mom helped all they could to stop those that were bleeding )

This was the hottest day of the entire trip. Fortunately we had our little ice box along so we were able to indulge in real cold beer. I managed, however, to spill a whole glass down my front. I had to hang my slacks out the window to dry, so rode the worst part of the day in my underwear. I was indeed grateful to a rider that was going travel cross country with us backed out at the last minute it would have made the trip difficult. From Carson City Nevada to Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe where we met up with my sister Lillian and her husband. The country was the most beautiful of the entire trip.
July 17th. We spent a good deal of the day down at the lake, hiking through the woods. That evening all the college youngsters that were staying at the lake illuminated their row boats with candles in tin cans and went out on the lake for a sing-song. It was heavenly to listen to 100 or more voices coming across the water.
July 18th. Started for Palo Alto, stopping at various points of interest. At Sutter’s Creek some of the old gold mines were still operating, and Jack was all for getting out of the car to see if he couldn’t find some gold nuggets for himself. That night we arrived at the old home town, Palo Alto and stayed in an auto court.
July 19th. That morning we left for Halcyon were Sig was raised. Arriving there about noon. A great deal of this country had grown tremendously, and there were new houses everywhere. Jack of course made a bee line for the horses and disappeared for the rest of the day with his cousin Sheila. A great deal of arguing went on, but I think by now that Sheila has convinced Jack that a western saddle is quite worth while. At any rate Sig and I had to return to Palo Alto the next morning leaving Jack and Lorna with the Eric Varian’s. Jack is apparently having the time of his life as he has only written once, and from all I can gather they have the poor horses almost worn to a numbing. Lorna on the other hand was still terribly homesick for Wildwood New York, and since we are staying with friends and won’t have a house till September 15th. Sig and I agreed to let her return to New York by Airline but will return in time for school this fall.
We will be renting the Kirkpatrick house on the Stanford campus, for next year. The house has a beautiful garden. It is also completely furnished. The women’s swimming pool at Stanford is right next door, so the kids should be happy.
This part of California, as far as beauty and climate is concerned, has New York backed off the map, but I still miss all my friends in the east terribly, and only wish I was rich enough to call you all frequently, or better still fly out for a good weekend party. I don’t imagine Stanford will tolerate any such parties as we used to have, but do plan to have a real blowout at the new Varian Associates lab. To close our new address will be at 273 Santa Teresa St. Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. ( Tel. Davenport 2-1757)
Loads of Love to All
Winnie

I would not turn into a teenager until September 7th, 1948, but I was ready to be a teenage punk and now I’m quite ready to become an 80 year-old punk.
See Ya
Jack

You Can’t Regulate the Wind

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.

See ya,

Jack