Tag Archives: family

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

The First Step is Always the Hardest

Hank Williams was a famous singer/song-writer back in the 1940s and ’50s.  If the lyrics of one particular song fit your lifestyle then this blog is probably not for you.   One of the the stanzas goes like this: “live hard, die young and have a beautiful memory.”

I translate this to mean in today’s world: “get a beer, dive (the dangerous part) for the couch, turn on the TV with the remote, and watch a football game.”  For you ladies, the drill is much the same, only you might want to watch The Ellen Show.  Now, at the end of the day whatever hour that is, if you can sit upright on your couch and smugly say “what a great day, who could want for more,” then this very lopsided view of mine on how to have a beautiful day is most assuredly not for you.

I subscribe weekly to Time Magazine.  Quite often, their pages are full of words that make me grind my teeth and salivate at the absurdity of what some left wing journalists has written to solve each our individual or our country’s or the world’s problems.  I think he or she dreamed their gibberish up while diving for the couch!

But this article that made the front page of Time was about a miracle cure for what ever ails us.  First, it’s necessary to pay homage to the legal profession by stating: don’t do this at home.  Don’t pour all your drugs down the drain.  Don’t quit drinking that evening bottle of wine.  Don’t leave the couch.  So what is this miraculous cure?  It’s called EXERCISE.

What gives me the right to crow about this?  Well, I’m into the early years of my 8th decade on earth, and still standing upright on the ground.  I take comfort in likening my body to and old car.  You have to put gas in the tank.  My engine runs best on Regular.  Premium grade gives me a sugar high.  I’m not much on having my body all bright and shiny as it takes too much of my time doing something that’s only going to get dirty again.  Although, I do like a clean windshield so I can see where I’m going, in life, that is.

Now, finally, I’m going straight to the point of all these metaphors.

Take on a little nourishment, then, get off your ass, off the couch, out of the shade, into the light of day and shake your booty.  It’s called exercise.  Let it lead you to the sunny side of the street.
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

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.

6 o’clock News

I was watching the 6 o’clock evening news a couple of nights ago. The news anchors were saying that the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant has a desalinization facility that runs at only 40% capacity.  They also pointed out that the people of San Luis Obispo county need more water.  The excess 60% could go to a very thirsty county.  Let’s suppose that this amount of water could take care of our needs for five years, or new technology could produce an inexhaustible supply of the wet stuff.
Damn, I’ve already dated myself; it’s not San Luis Obispo anymore.  It’s SLO.  Like SLOW, but that’s not what’s happening.  The kind of slow that is happening is the kind that out strips our resources, our native beauty, our quality of life, and you can add in a little bumper to bumper traffic to remind the many where they just came from.
More  water makes for more growth… but is it sustainable?  With a finite amount of dry ground on the surface of our planet, and if global change is for real, then we can expect rising oceans.  Subtract a few beach front acres from our tax rolls and maybe a city like New Orleans will submerge below an ocean wave.  I know what I’m espousing is only given credence in the land of Polly-Anna, but I firmly believe that we must start debating a sustainable lifestyle where our population does not constantly expand, but remains static.  Static populations are the rule for every other living thing.  When they overwhelm their resource base, Motheer Nature reduces their numbers back to a sustainable level.  And when she does that, it’s usually not very pretty.  So this time around we need to include ourselves in the discussion for a sustainable planet. Because if we leave ourselves out of the equation, there can be no solutions that are workable.
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

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