Tag Archives: food chain

Comfortable Shoes

When I was young and in my prime I used to wear those traditional cowboy boots with the pointed toe and high heel.  At the top of each boot was a loop big enough to put your index finger into.  Then with some grunting, heavy breathing and pulling, your foot slipped into place just like a tongue giving a French kiss.  Back then, any cowboy worth his salt knew that this style of footwear allowed your foot to come out of the stirrup if your horse was really serious about bucking you off.  I was in the camp who knew that getting bucked of was more likely than staying on and the ground was going to greet me shortly.  With that in mind, I’d better be looking for the best place to land, and I didn’t want my foot hung up in the stirrup when I took my high-dive.

But no more!  Today I ride my friend Fuzz, who assures me that he doesn’t want to use all his energy to put me on the ground.  Besides, we have a mutual admiration for each other.  With hitting the ground no longer an issue, and no longer wanting to make a fashion statement, comfortable shoes with no point-to-the-toe here I come!  Today my toes can wander, no longer trapped inside like a bunch of folks squeezed into one of those high rise elevators in New York City.

I’m also finding pleasure riding a new horse who my daughter has loaned me for the spring cattle drives.  Bugs is closer to the ground, so gravity is not such a big issue.  I can throw my saddle on without having to grunt and groan.  Getting on a tall horse used to be a big event that required hunting for a log or a rock to stand on.  With Bugs, why, I can just get to his high side and hop on like I could in my younger years.  Yes, comfort is more important these days than the pain of breaking in new shoes.  My current shoes have take care of my feet for the past four years. They are so comfortable that they are going to get the call for almost any occasion.  Happy toes are more important to me than people’s opinions.  I mean the people who see me coming and whisper to each other that if that guy had just saved for his older years he wouldn’t have to wear those scruffy, comfortable shoes.
See Ya
Jack

Is Sustainability Possible?

It better be, because as I see that the status quo of our present agricultural model is not working.

The over-use of nitrogen fertilizers is causing them to leach into our underground aquifers as nitrates.  The nitrates pollute the aquifer before we pump water to the surface in a tainted form to grow our crops.  Then we wonder why so many people drink bottled water. Over-use of the herbicide RoundUp has caused weeds to mutate and become RoundUp resistant.  The list of law suites grows daily claiming the herbicide causes cancer.  The oldest agricultural practice of all, plowing the soil, is now being called into question because of the loss of top soil to erosion. This is caused by the exposed bare soil to wind and water.  I could go on and on sighting instances of farming practices that are mining our planet on a world wide scale that are not sustainable.  But before I numb you all to the pillaging that is going on 24/7 to our home called Earth, I want to pose the question: “Is their a better way?”  I believe there are better ways; some of them known and some yet to be discovered.  Those of us that raise the food and fiber for the masses must also ask the question: “Is there a better way or is there a different way?”  My frustration is that so few are willing to even ask the question.

I believe change will come as our old sclerotic farmers and ranchers pass from the scene.  What is ironic as I wait for kinder and more effective ways to raise our veggies and livestock?  The answer is showing itself with a new breed of kids on the block coming from our cities and families that don’t make their living from agriculture.  This new generation is passionate about their new found profession and are not weighted down with the millstones of tradition.  Some will argue that you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  I’ll agree to saving the baby but you must promise to at least teach him to ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
See Ya
Jack

The Good Earth Needs a Vacation, Too

Have you ever wanted to tell somebody something that you thought was important but your choice of words might fall short? Well that’s where I find myself right now. Trying to create a picture in the mind of others on how Mother Nature would like us humans to care for her planet Earth.

First, I believe we can no longer think of our planet Earth as if it were a slave  that can be bought and sold with absolutely no regard for its health and well-being. To think there will be no consequence for constantly adding billions of new people to our population,and growing the world’s economy at 2 or3% forever is wrong. But the people of the world demand this. So we elect the kind of representative who will promise that we  will do the impossible by keeping the status quo. I can just see Mother Nature roll her eyes and give out with a sigh of disbelief.

I don’t know if we are in a natural or man-made period of global change but whatever the case I think any caring person has to at least say “I’m part of the problem and I’m willing to be part of the solution.”

This brings me to my contribution which says, “I will no longer believe that this good Earth is my slave and I have every right to rape and pillage as I see fit, after all, I do pay the taxes on it.”

Now I know that I’m getting into that zone  where human emotions dwell, where the rednecks, religious zealots that use their religion to justify their hates, the animal rights wackos, the environmental do-gooders who many times don’t know how to do good, the “don’t bother me I’ve got to go play golf on a beautiful green turf in the middle of the desert” men, politicians headed by our Governor Brown  that want to build a bullet train to go  from San Francisco to Los Angeles all get worked up.

The problem with these single minded people is their single mindedness binds them to their agendas so tightly that there way is the only way. Well these people obviously have no consideration about how their actions might affect the whole. I believe that for our planet to survive we must give more consideration to the whole when making decisions.
I know that change is usually uncomfortable, but without it new solutions to old problems are impossible. My problem that held me back for many years was my belief that I was a cattleman that raised cattle for a living and took the grass that they ate for granted. But with my new found religion ( a belief system called Holistic Management) I was able to see that cattle were just a part of the whole that I had to grow grass for my cattle to eat first. This process is just a small part of the whole. My question to myself was: how on a family ranch such as ours does one start to construct a whole that will be around for a long time so all the critters that call our ranch home won’t find themselves homeless?

Our ranch is one giant 20,000 acre solar panel that gathers sunlight through the leaves colored green by chlorophyl. Add some water and carbon dioxide and you will change this sunlight into sugar for green growing things that become food for all grazing animals. For humans this process is most necessary because it produces what we breathe every day: oxygen.

What are the management practices that over time will heal my past mistakes? The first decision that affects the productivity of the ranch is to make the rain that falls on the land stay as long as possible. Mother Nature does it by putting up obsticles to slow the movement of water in a number of different ways. Having the soil surface covered with grass, trees and brush slows water significantly. Now enter our grazing animals cattle, horses, goats, sheep and all the wild grazers… they are all an absolutely necessary part of our ranch environment as they can convert grasses and other plants into salable meat while fertilizing and rejuvenating the soil.

I believe that into each life a little rain must fall. But joy, love, giving, and caring must also fall so why not create a place where this can happen?  To the people that live in our cities but have always had a yearning to be outside with horses and cattle, trees and grass, we welcome you.
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