Tag Archives: california rancher

Visualizing What Can’t Be Seen

“Seeing is believing” is a time honored quote that has a lot of wisdom attached to it. However, in agriculture this saying can hold back change.

I have become more and more aware of the importance of feeding the soil before anything else, which can no longer be just a nice thought but a mandatory practice.  Feeding the soil is an ongoing process that is 75% visualizing what’s going on as you can’t see beneath the soil surface.  “Seeing is believing” is the other 25%.  The 25% proof is healthily growing things all around that you can see and touch.  The soil that we all stand on everyday has more life in the top one foot than all the life from the surface of our planet to the stratosphere.  Most of that life is microscopic, so to feed these critters you need a real small spoon.  That real small spoon is called a Compost Tea Brewer.  It takes compost and washes all the microscopic life leaving it suspended in water, which can then be distributed over the soil.

For most of us, me included, we have much more faith in “seeing is believing ” than in what can’t be seen.  But that is exactly what we must do.  We must put the same amount of faith into the the unseen:  the microscopic world of bacteria, fungi, nematodes and many more critters that make up soil microbiology.  This then becomes the Achilles heel of feeding the soil first.  This method that requires a certain amount of faith matched against “seeing is believing” has a tough row to hoe.

We have weeds, so we buy a herbicide;  in short order that weed is dead. We have bugs eating our crops, so we buy a pesticide; those bugs that came to put me out of business soon lay dead upon the ground.  Our crop has a somewhat sickly look, we bring a sack of Nitrogen fertilizer to the rescue and in a matter of days a healthy green look returns.  Why would anyone in their right mind want to change a system that gives off so much instant gratification?

For many years I drank the Kool-Aid with the rest, but I can no longer turn a deaf ear to all of the disturbing events that present themselves almost on a daily basis.  The chemical industry has produced some 80,000 new chemicals, which do not exist in nature.  What disturbs me is the fact that not all these chemicals are user friendly to us or the environment.  I know that the whole world is one big chemical factory, but Mother Nature has her chemical factory in perfect balance.  I’m not so sure our man made factory is as well balanced.  In fact I’m sure it’s not.  So I’m going to cast my lot first with the microscopic world knowing that Mother Nature doesn’t deceive.  Then I’ll add some patience and I’m sure that happy green growing stuff will sure enough surround me.
See Ya
Jack

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

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

I’m Running For President

My country encompasses that lower part of Monterey County, California.  The northern boundary is King City and the southern boundary is the San Luis Obispo county line.  It runs from the Pacific Ocean east to the Fresno County line in the west.

If you’re going to have a country, you have to have a capital.  Parkfield is the name of ours; population 18.  It has all the trappings of a fully functional city.  Why, we have the finest one room school in the land, an Inn and Cafe,  a state of the art town hall, rodeo arena, church with service on Wednesdays, and a Cal Fire forestry station.  We are the earthquake capital of the cosmos.  I think other folks on other planets in the cosmos must have earthquakes, but I’m sure ours are the best.

I’ve heard tell that if you’re going to run for president you have to have a platform.  It’s supposed to show what I plan to do for my country!

I believe that our future rests with our youth.  So what am I going to do about it?

First, I will fire the principle of any school that wants to ban tag from our grammar school  playgrounds.

Secondly, I will have a duel minimum wage that will allow our youth under the age of 18 to let the employers of our land and our youth decide what each kid has to offer in the way of energy, skills, cooperation and attitude to measure their worth.  In our present day society most youngsters are priced out of the labor market because of the minimum wage.  The employer must pay more than they’re worth so these inquisitive, energetic  kids are relegated to spending their learning years consumed with television, cell phones, drugs or some other destructive habit.  Let’s quit wasting these precious years in the name of child welfare.  What we’re doing now to our youth is true child abuse.  Let’s let them work and play at jobs and games that leave them with an optimistic view of themselves.

Third, everybody in this day and age needs to know how to drive an automobile.  In our country of mostly country roads, I propose that our youth learn to drive at 12 years of age.  Anything learned at a young age is always better than at an older age.  Dancing is much the same; learn to dance when you’re young and less inhibited and it will come easy.  In my country, dancing will be offered in grammar schools.  Plus it’s good exercise.

Fourth, exercise will be mandatory.  Those that exercise will be less likely to become couch potatoes in later life.

Now we have a good academic environment for kids to learn in.  If book learning is not your cup of tea, vocational programs will be as important as studying to be a lawyer (which we have far too many of).

The government that governs best governs less.  This means you’re going to have to make it mostly on your own.

Next, we need to practice the Golden Rule ( do unto others as you would like them to do to you).  It’s the best way I know of to get along with your neighbor.  If you really want to put frosting on the cake of neighborliness, don’t keep score, and do 51% of whatever.  You know, that probably will work in a marriage, too.

The right to keep and bare arms will not be denied.  Private property rights, though not perfect, is light years ahead of any system a government might dream up.  I see many more stewards of the land doing a wonderful job now than I did 30 or 40 years ago.  We need a little patients as the old miners of the soil die off to be replaced with new younger stewards. Once armed with new sustainable ways to care for the lands of our nation, they will move into the decision making arena.

By the way, the name of our nation that I would like to preside over is Cholame (a Yokuts Indian word meaning “The Beautiful  One”). Add in a motto to live by– never yell whoa in a bad place– then throw in a song to brighten your day (Oh What a Beautiful Morning from the stage play Oklahoma) and you have my platform.
See Ya,
Jack

Trying Not to be Dead

I want to be either dead or alive.  The middle ground of life would be pretty boring.  That’s why I planted pistachio trees 10 years to full production and started a cow herd this past Tuesday.  If I breed 300 heifers by artificial insemination, they will have their calves next September and will help pay the bills sometime in 2017.  I am also learning better ways to invigorate the health of our V6 ranch soils to help keep me alive.
My wife made a comment that it was nice to live for the future but what about paying the bills for today? “That’s a good thought,” I said, because the first tenet of a good steward of the land is to pay your bills so you get to hang around to see the future become the present. So I find it necessary to not look so far into the future.
I’ve got it! I think I’ve got it!  CHICKENS!  Yes that’s it, from the cradle to the grave in 10 weeks.  So with the demise of hand picked cotton in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley many 10′ by 30′ cotton trailers were left to become sign boards along our California highways and for me a perfect chicken coop.  We have an army of hungry predators that call the V6 ranch home– from foxes to raccoons, coyote to bobcats, red tail hawks to golden eagles and possibly a down and out traveler passing through.
The day old chicks will arrive next spring.  After a 2 week stay in a brooder they will move to our pistachio orchard where their job will be to eat grass and bugs in the sunshine hours and roost in their cotton trailer at night. Then they will move the length of the trailer each night (30′) to poop on the land, fertilizing the soil in a much more friendly way than a sack of ammonium sulfate.
I’m writing this blog and it’s Thanksgiving what a wonderful day not to be dead.
See Ya
Jack