Tag Archives: conserve

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

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

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.

The V6 Ranch Conservation Easement: Defined

I believe that the spirit of this agreement should address the goals to be accomplished and the methods used to accomplish these objectives.

Upon the signing of the Conservation Easement, a vacuum was created by the fact that the Varian Family L.L.C. could no longer use the sale of a portion of the ranch in order to cure economic or family difficulties. The question then becomes: how do we fill the vacuum in a way that satisfies all the parties that have an interest in the sustainability of the V6 Ranch?

First, all the noble goals that this land can provide the ranch must be managed in ways that will keep it solvent so invoices are paid. Second, a policy of flexibility that allows a diverse number of practices to be employed, thus insuring that a sustainable landscape for the good of all will be preserved.

The following practices at this time we believe give management the elbow-room to operate the V6 Ranch, but it should not preclude that the future will undoubtably present new ideas that must be given fair consideration. If they have merit and meet the ranch goals, then they can be implemented.

  1. The right to amend this easement shall be maintained.
  2. The use of grazing animals that will allow the symbiotic relationship between grazer and grass to flourish is so granted.
  3. In order to provide a sustainable neighborhood for wildlife to thrive the management will emphasize the need to provide feed, water and cover.
  4. Hunting and fishing is a sustainable and necessary part of good game management.
  5. The enjoyment of the land by the public is an admirable use and will help keep The V6 Ranch economically sound. The types of recreation that are allowed must not diminish the sustainability and quality of life on The V6 Ranch.
  6. Decision making is an endless process which effects the quality of life for every living thing on The V6 Ranch. Therefore, good decisions will be grounded by considering the whole: how a decision affects the speed of water (slowing is good, speeding is bad); is the The V6 Ranch stewardship reliable and beneficial?
  7. With the ever increasing human population and our ability to literally move mountains, climate change is most likely. The V6 Ranch will do its best to help reverse climate change on our land by harvesting sunlight. We will use grazing animals to harvest growing things so the soil is left covered with litter. This encourages the percolation  of water into the soil and reduces soil temperature, thus reducing evaporation. The V6 ranch will encourage photosynthesis, the natural process that converts sunlight into organic substances (chiefly sugars) and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (one cause of global warming), helps green things grow, sequesters carbon to the soil and puts oxygen back into the atmosphere. The V6 Ranch has the best of intentions to help arrest climate change, but we all must recognize that part of the natural course of events is chaos from drought, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and more that can lay man’s best plans to rest. So once again, flexibility is a necessary component of good management.
  8. Mutual trust and respect, if they are present then all of the above can happen, if they are absent then we will all collectively suffer the cost of mistrust

The Varian Family L.L.C.