Tag Archives: cattle

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  But bailing wire has been replaced by bailing twine which has filled the void with almost as many uses as bailing wire but not quite.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

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

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

Hope Springs Eternal

The time is November, 1961.  A new, wanna-be cattleman and his wife who would like to raise cattle and a family on a piece of land located on  the Little Cholame Creek in southern Monterey County, California are in the local title company office dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that will make them the new owners of what will become The V6 Ranch in 1965.

What happens next takes place after 30 years of using the traditions that were in vogue in the cattle industry then and are mostly still in practice today.  They about had me “tapped out.”

Holistic Resource Management comes to my rescue as taught by its creator Allen Savory.  This  new way to care for land and all that live there has been a most wondrous and satisfying journey for me.  It has caused me to no longer consider myself a cattleman first but a “soils man.” Care for the soil, which will care for the grass that will care for my livestock.

I want to fast forward again to today. It’s Sunday and I’m reclining in our living room watching a cozy fire warm my soul.  It’s raining.  I think every living thing is asking the same question: ” Is this the first rain of a drought ending era?”

My imagination is also excited at the prospect that this could be a weather game changer to wetter times.  For some time my imagination has been itching to transform me into a conductor of the V6 soil symphony orchestra.  Well, imagination, you’re going to get your wish.  “Give me that baton and show me to the podium.”

Good afternoon all you folks who love dirt under your fingernails.  I’ve been practicing for this day since 1991.  First, I want to introduce you to the different sections of the orchestra.  To my left is the soil section, next to them is the water section, contiguous to them is the green growing and insect group.  Next comes all the animals, and finally the sun and the air we breathe for life.

The music that we will play today won’t be nearly as melodic as when Mother Nature lead the band.  The earliest settlers didn’t have the luxury of considering the health of the land and all that lived upon it.  They had to feed their families so the land and all the animals of value were mined.  If erosion was sever because of the way they tilled the soil or they killed off a specie of animal for food, so be it.  The family came first, so the soil, grass and wildlife took it in the shorts.  For me, that type of land stewardship in today’s world is no longer acceptable.  The verses that make the most beautiful music for me today begins with slowing down the rain that falls on the V6 and inviting it to stay as long as possible.  Striving to keep our soils covered with grass, leaves, trees and brush is an important part of the music.  Organic matter is very important and should not be allowed to disappear.  Livestock grazing done right will help improve all of the above.  Agri-tourism and hunting help stabilize the V6 financially and gives much joy and feelings of connection to the natural world for many of my city brethren.  The grand finale with all the sections of the orchestra playing in harmony is a conservation easement that guarantees that the V6 Orchestra will make beautiful music in perpetuity and will never be divided by the hand of man.
See Ya
Jack

My Bladder is No Longer My Friend

I guess this is just one more part of my old body that these days thumbs it’s nose at me and makes me have to “go” at some of the most inopportune times.  I guess this is payback for all the times that I made you wait, dear bladder.

My memory, that before could remember dozens of phone numbers and was able to recall a school text book for an upcoming test, is gone with the wind.

I want to say how much I appreciate the old friends whose names I can’t bring to mind.  These friends don’t leave me to play 20 questions in my mind but instead gives me his or her name straight away, no big deal.  My brain reminds me that my memory loss probably happened because I overloaded it for so long with worry thoughts that got me nowhere and only squandered a lot of brain cells.  You jerk, says my brain over and over.

Wait, I’m not done yet.  I want to whine a little more about a most delicate subject that for today’s millennias is probably hardly worth a snicker.  What is it Jack?  Well, it’s about farting.  I just can’t slip one out anymore with no one being the wiser.  Instead, my flabby old sphicter muscle is no match for a determined fart that’s headed for the exit door.  This is where one of my most trusted mottos comes to my rescue: What you think about me is none of my business.  So proper ladies can titter, youngsters can giggle, and some can say “oh how gross,” but at my age I feel nothing but joyful relief.  And, with any luck at all, tomorrow I will again be releasing more methane gas into the atmosphere.  I will be doing my share to help with global warming.

I also need two hearing aids to hear, sort of, and glasses to see, somewhat.  But for me there will always be a silver lining.  I’ve still got most of the teeth in my mouth that help me when I smile.  I still get a thrill when I get out of bed in the morning to greet the day.  I can close my eyes and touch my left index finger to my nose and then my right index finger to the same nose.  Now who could want more?
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

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