Tag Archives: cow

Smoky the Bear has got it all wrong.      

At the end of June of this year a wildfire started on my neighbors ranch. After a day or so, this fire had grown to several thousand acres in size, to warrant its own name. It was called The Garza Fire. When all was said and done and the last embers were out 60,000 acres had burned. 6,000 of these acres were on our V6 ranch and what a blessing it was. For many of you that live in our cities and towns are thinking how awful. But was it? I think not. For this part of The Diablo range had no people living in harms way and there were just a handful of structures that Cal Fire carefully protected from burning. As for the wild life and livestock I believe all escaped unscathed as just an occasional Turkey Vulture was seen flying over the burned area indicating that there wasn’t much to eat.

Now let’s examine what damage the land, the grass, and trees sustained. Thanks to my iPhone this blog is coming to you with pictures “worth a thousand words” to validate my assertion that Fire is a natural and normal part of how Mother Nature manages our forests and grasslands.

This photo was taken shortly after the fire. It gives a perspective as to the type of terrain that the Garza Fire consumed.
This scene was taken on 9/28/17 notice that all the trunks of these Scrub Oak are mostly all dead but their roots are not as you can see all the new regrowth that has appeared in just a little over 2 months. This will now be excellent browsing food for our Black Tail Deer along with the many Chamise Brush bulbs that are sending out new shoots.
This picture was also taken on 9/28/17. This picture was taken in a more open grassland. Notice that the leaves got toasted but already new leaves are appearing even though these leaves will be shed come Winter
I very much like this picture as this hardy Blue Oak is saying “don’t count me out I’ve got a few hundred years of life still left in me.”

Smoky the Bear with his cry “only you can prevent forest fires” is a most destructive fraud because Lightning starts a good share of the wild fires that get started on our western ranges that “We The People” have no control over. So, let’s relegate Smoky the Bear to his proper place which is on the junk heap of fake news.

First, I recognize that my state of California is no longer a sparsely settled land but a land where 40,000,000 people dwell along with all their paraphernalia like cars, houses, and all those who can’t do without T.V.’s, which all needs protecting. However that still leaves many millions of acres of wild lands that are in real need of some thoughtful science based management to leave behind the emotionally charged decision making practices that Smokey the Bear has championed and put us into the mess we’re in today. Catastrophic fires are our reward for not dealing with the build up of an understory of very flammable dry matter which should be burned under controlled conditions or physically removed, which is very expensive. Logging with today’s new methods makes a much smaller footprint on the landscape which is both beneficial and profitable to our government and to the logging industry. So let’s all move forward together, starting with a historical notation that Smokey the Bear was laid to rest this day in his proper place alongside junk science, fake news and a few dogmatic wacko environmentalists who to this day are still leading the gullible astray.

To close, my hope is that over time Common Sense and knowledge will save our forests and wild lands.

                             See Ya

                             Jack

There Are Raccoons in My House

Those lovable little rascals have a way of knowing when you’re gone, leaving your house free for them to go exploring.  Well, I think our government is much like a pack of raccoons that are always into mischief.  While our friend the raccoon is busy looking in the refrigerator, opening all the cupboards, finding and snacking on whatever he can.  The end result is similar to a bull in a China closet.

Now, enter our government.  They have a different way of opening my front door and inviting themselves in.  They do it with our U.S. census that the constitution says that all the government need do is to get a head count.  The I.R.S. not only  wants your dollars, but there’s much to be learned in the way our tax forms are constructed. Then come all your regulatory agencies each with their own kind of information to collect.

We’re down to: “How is Uncle Sam going to save me from all the poor choices I’ve made?”  First of all, you have to have a problem. That means we need an agency full of bureaucrats to define the problem then do what they were hired to do, which is write regulations that may help and may not.

My favorite problem that Uncle Sam says he will fix for me is all that pesky rain that falls from the sky.  They quite correctly determined after many studies and conferences that it was unlikely that they could control the flow of rainfall from a storm cloud.  But, after it hit the ground, a rain drop is fair game to be regulated, to be charged a fee for crossing a state line and taxed if Mr. Drop finds himself stopped in a government  reservoir.

The government agency that was lucky enough to win this very sought after boondoggle was the Environmental Protection Agency. I’m sure that all the top bureaucrats in government wished they could have been the chosen one as the potential for legions of workers at all levels to put Mr. Drop where he belongs for the greater good.  So, as long as rain still falls from clouds and regulators maintain their zeal to regulate, this agency can have eternal life. Wouldn’t you know that the EPA has picked a name that nobody can be against: The Clean Water Act.  This act dictates that the waters of our country be restored and maintained and their chemical, physical and biological properties be upheld.  Again, who could be against cool clear water?  So how far do you carry a mandate like this?  After attending one of EPA’s hearings and reading extensively about the act, I’ve come to the conclusion that the EPA feels that everybody of water from the smallest puddle to every blue line stream on a topographical map is included in the Act.

What troubles me the most about government at all levels today is the total lack of trust that land owners could possibly also want to do what’s right.  I can’t stand this idea that regulations, to be just, must paint all stewards of the land with the same brush that we paint the bad apple with.  What we should be doing is rewarding those that are “slowing down water” as Mother Nature does.

A reward system would have a budget to operate with for pennies on the dollar compared to bureaucrats in Washington D.C.
“TRUST ME,” I say and we will all win.  Do I think that this is a realistic solution?  Yes.  Do I think this approach could be adopted?  I think it would be marked dead on arrival at the EPA.
See Ya
Jack

Melding Reality and Perception

Is this much ado about nothing?  Well, I happen to think that the citizens of this wacko land spend way to much time in the province of perception and way to little in the land of fact.

I once wrote a blog about a school  administrator who must have perceived  that our children of tag-playing-age are so delicate that the slightest sight of a bloody nose is worthy of a trip to the local emergency room.  What about the reality that children need exercise?  They need to laugh and giggle, and they especially don’t need some administrator who is more afraid of possible criticism that he or she might sustain than the proven benefits of  playing TAG! Reality takes a hit; score one for perception.

I love horses and dogs but, like me, they are going to die one day.   Maybe those of us who have had a chance at life need to step aside and allow a new generation their chance to shine.  When is that time?  Well, for me it’s when there’s no quality left– only pain and infringing on others.  The horse or dog  will suffer the ravages of time and when their lives have been well lived, reality tells those that are truly compassionate it’s time to let them go.  This is where reality takes another hit.  In the case of the horse, by law we have closed all the abattoirs in the United States by just not funding U.S.D.A. inspectors ensuring that the harvesting of the horse is both humane and sanitary.  Instead, most old horses are sent to Mexico or Canada to meet a very uncertain end.  The people and the legislators that think they’re doing something wonderful should hang their heads in shame.  The same goes for those of us that keep others among us from passing because of our advancements in technology that allow the narcissistic people that legislate this technology to prolong our lives even when the quality of this life is reduced to a beating heart and lungs that go in and out.

Reality has to win at least one time, giving me hope that 2+2 still = 4.
See Ya
Jack

Living on the Bright Side, Just for Fun

There are so many people walking around almost stepping on their lower lip and wearing a look that says l’m not very happy.  When I get to talking to one of these sad sacks their outlook on life is pretty bleak.  For a moment, I want to give into my merciful side and give these folks an excuse.  It wasn’t their fault to be in a bad gene pool that gave them directions to the “it’s not my fault” trap.  This is where people go that have given their pursuit of happiness away to a friend, or enemy, a situation, bad luck, the weather, you-name-it. Their happiness is never in their control.  Happiness for these people is like trying to catch a falling star: not totally impossible, there is a chance.  Because of this ray of hope  I don’t believe people should be relegated to the junk heap of “it’s not my fault” with no chance to escape.  What I do believe is that no matter how difficult change may be, change is possible for each of us.  We have the right to make choices.  If you embrace the good ones and try to side step most of the bad ones, you will find yourself where hope, love and laughter,   self-esteem, and all the other words that define happiness  resides.
See Ya
Jack

Free, Free at Last

I think Dr. Martin Luther King uttered those words.   My use of these stirring words are trivial to say the least when you hear what I have been freed from.

It all fell into place this 5th day of May 2013.   Zee and I traveled to Paso Robles today to meet a new intern from France.  Theo arrived by bus from San Francisco and will be riding some of our young horses for the next several months.  As we entered town on Spring Street I thought we should be passing  a vacant grocery store, but much to my surprise there was a dream being brought to reality.  Some fellow was going to put his sweat and his riches on the line to prove that he had a better way to sell groceries than the last guy who closed up shop. That’s what I like about capitalism, when for whatever reason somebody throws in the towel there’s always someone willing to pick up the towel and reinvent it.  We just have to be careful that government which is usually a day late and a dollar short doesn’t enact some law or regulation that kills a new idea before it’s able to walk.  A new sign by the edge of Spring Street announces a grand opening will take place on June 12 for Smart and Final grocery stores who I hope has invented a better mouse trap to sell groceries.

But, I’m on my way to Walmart.  Upon entering this wall to wall stuff with some rubies among the rubble, I zigged and zagged through this  obstacle course to the pet food section.  I found myself standing there disappointed that the shelf space for Old Roy’s High Performance  Dog Food was empty.  How am I going to once again tell my dogs Bob, Tilly, Spider and Bear that Walmart’s inability to keep their shelves stocked, will force them to dine on brand X?  YUCK.  In fact, I was told by a person who stocked the dog food section that they would no longer carry their very own brand of  high performance in a bag.

Smart and Final here I come! Here’s to hoping that you have carts with round wheels that will travel aisles unfettered with stuff and signs to direct me to a dog food that Bob and company will love.  For  tee shirts and shorts that I need on occasion I think I will give Target a try.  Free, Free at Last.
See Ya
Jack
P.S. Update: it’s August 24, 2016.  Smart and Final did indeed invent a better mouse trap as this now 3 year-old store has been a success since it opened for business where you can fill the back seat of your car with a handful goodies or a truck load of canned spinach
to last a life time.  But, I still have to go to Big Wally to buy their high performance dog food as Bob and company said they would strike if I tried to pawn off some other brand on them.  So every couple of weeks you will find me with a shopping cart that is sure to have at least 1 square wheel trudging through Wally’s obstacle course knowing full well that they only thing keeping this mega store alive is their high performance dog food.

What a Wonderful Life, Maybe

The eighth performance of the National High School Rodeo Association has just finished and Zee and I have chosen to linger a while in the grandstand to let the crowd move out.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch a gate swing open that leads into the arena were the bull riding has just finished.  Suddenly, into the arena runs all the bucking horses that had just done their best to dislodge future bronc riders– and the not-so dedicated ones that are thinking “I might want to take up another sport.”  The picture that I’ve attached to this story shows the wonderful condition that the stock contractor who owns these horses keeps them in.  I watched as this band of about 100 got  some exercise.  They trotted and galloped for a little while, then broke into a walk.  You could plainly see that this was a happy lot.

These horses are born to buck, much like Thoroughbreds are bred to run, and cow horses make their living working around cattle, and work horses find a place when pulling a plow or wagon.   All horses wear man’s fingerprint in the selection of the genetic traits that will make up our various breeds.  With their D.N.A. code directing them, they can go do what they do best .

Hoses are a gregarious lot that find comfort in numbers.  If left to roam, they will travel several miles a day grazing, playing and satisfying their curiosity as to what’s over the next hill.  Bucking horses are usually kept in big pastures free to eat and roam.  Now, let’s take a look at the bucking horses’ cousins that live in our towns and cities, housed in box stalls by the  thousand.  Many will spend their entire lives in these stalls never free to roam.  If these stalls were used for humans, we would call it a prison cell.  It is just as much a prison for my friend the horse where she must waste away the years being treated as a toy.  She is ether overfed or underfed, but boredom and loneliness soon cause aberrant behavior that shows itself with maladies like cribbing, weaving, and pawing.  When people enter their prison stall you may be greeted with pinned  ears and a hostile eye showing their contempt for the way they have to live their lives.

You mean to tell me that Mr Bucking Horse gets only 8 seconds to show his or her stuff before being sent back with their friends to maybe discuss how they threw that young whippersnapper to the ground?  What about the flank strap that they wear?  Well first, it’s lined with sheepskin.  It’s designed to tickle the same as when someone would tickle the bottom of your foot and you squirmed and laughed.  So what’s left?  The question becomes, if you were a horse where would you like to call “home?”
See Ya
Jack

The Art of Lingering

I suppose if I had lingered more when I was new to the ranching world then I wouldn’t be in business today.  However, that was then, when agriculture was bound by tradition and moved at warp speed in order to, as we were told, feed the world.

The words “organic,” “sustainable,” “natural,” “diversity,” and “holistic,” were words to be found only in Webster Dictionary.

Allen Savory was an unknown studying the grazing habits of the wild herds of Africa and their healthy relationship with the land.  He also came to believe that those in charge with the care of domesticated livestock were responsible for the deterioration of the grazing lands on all corners of our planet.  Not only that, but he found that people that lived their lives removed from the land  have also had a negative effect on the environment.  Their donations to the decline of our environment has come in the form of ill advised regulations, badly written legislation that many times is emotionally or politically driven, causing more problems than the law was intended to mediate.

So what might be a good sustainable alternative?  How about a hunt club for me?  It’s the most profitable venture I have.  It’s a real incentive to constantly improve the habitat for the wildlife that live on the ranch.  My son John and his wife Barbara put on Cowboy Academies and Dude Ranch weekends; Zee and I do the  City Slicker cattle drives with the help from our neighbors and border collies.  We move cattle around the ranch in ways that replicate the grazing herds of old.  The results: cattle fat and slick and the land this year dazzles my senses with its beauty.  Stay true to Mother Nature’s plans.

In the past, I breezed along oblivious to the fact that I was also part of the problem.  The fall of 1958, with a brand new wife, a freshly minted Cal Poly diploma, we were able to buy a starter ranch.  There I learned that there are ranches that could send a person into bankruptcy trying to become a Cattleman.  And we had one.  In 1961, we were lucky enough to trade in our starve-to-death model for our present day ranch that we call the V6.  All through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, I did like most others in my industry: I would hit home runs once in a while only to give most of it back when the cattle market would take one of its famous free falls.  We cattlemen don’t seem to be able to stand prosperity for long.  In fact, I believe we’re uncomfortable being rich.  We will always over produce in order to get to that comfortable place with hat in hand, visiting our supposedly friendly banker.  This is the guy that in good times wanted to take you to lunch and loan you more money than a guy really needed.  Now as you stand before him he has the do I know you look on his face.  Somehow or another you leave with Mr tougher-than-hell waving good-bye with a nice big fat mortgage in his hand and you with a line of credit to get back in the game again.

I keep forgetting, this writing is about lingering.  So, how do you become one who lingers?  I’m pretty sure it’s not for the young with their youthful impatience and those who need to be here, there, and everywhere all at once.  For me, lingering has become a necessary part of my management plan, especially since I’m in the middle of planting 100 acres of pistachio trees.  I have chosen to raise my pistachios organically, which means you throw out 90% of our traditional commercial practices.

The picture that is posted with this blog shows an annual Mustard plant growing right next to a New Pistachio tree.  Most growers would get a hoe and whack this nuisance into the next county.  But as I linger, observing the relationship between tree and plant, I must first ask myself, “did I consider that there might be a little symbiosis going on here?”  Part of my quest to improve soil health is to introduce more oxygen, water, and increase soil porosity below ground.  Because this plant has a large tap root, it will grow deep, leaving a shaft for all of the above to follow.  Above ground, the plant is in full bloom.  As I look closer, there are about ten busy bees gathering nectar for their hive.  Waiting until the bloom is over will help them to fill their honey combs. So, why not wait for the plant to die probably within a week or two?  When it’s dry we will run it over with a flail mower, making the above ground part into a mulch that will turn into organic matter more quickly.  Below ground, its tap root and smaller roots will start to decay, creating food for all the soil biota.  Just think, if I hadn’t lingered I might have missed Mother Nature’s song that was playing.
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

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

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