Tag Archives: food

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

Never a Dull Moment

Spring time at the V6 is really busy with our 3 cattle drives in April and May, gathering and pregnancy testing 250  first calf heifers, and receiving 280 head of Mexican cattle to brand and vaccinate.  Add in the fact that we are in the middle of getting 75 acres ready to plant 11,000 Pistachios trees on, and that’s a full schedule.  However, everything had to take a backseat to the events that unfolded this evening.

Zee and I helped our son John and his wife Barb put on a spur of the moment cattle drive.  This worked for me because I was still about 80 head short of cattle.  Zee and I went along to help out and gather some of our missing cattle.  This drive had 14 guests and family wranglers.

We started on a Tuesday and rode about six hours gathering and riding to our Mustang Camp where we would all stay Tuesday and Wednesday night.  Wednesday was another pretty long day riding for seven hours.  By Thursday, five of our guest had worn their fannies to the bone, so we gave them a ride back to our headquarters in a pickup.  That left five extra horses to lead home.  What we normally do is put them through a certain gate that lets them travel about 6 miles to home.  Well, their leader’s sense of direction must have been off as he led his four friends into a dead end brush alley that engulfed them so tightly that they could not go forward or turn around.  Friday morning arrived and no horses standing at the gate so Zee and I decided to go looking.  No luck but we were sure that by afternoon they would be waiting at our gate. Late afternoon came and went.  Son John volunteered to go back to where they were last seen and track them on foot.  I would wait 15 minutes and then drive to Mine Mountain trail and meet John.

No John in sight, but his wife Barb arrives to meet me with a cell phone message from John to meet at Catfish Camp.  I have my 6 horse trailer in tow,  so off we go to get John and the horses at Catfish Camp.  We arrive to a camp with no John and no horses so we wait and wait some more.  Finally, we decide to go look around and see if he came down a different part of the mountain.  No luck.   Barb and I start to really worry is John is hurt.  Where could he be? This being a no cellphone service area, we decide that we need to go back to where Barb parked her side by side utility vehicle and put the search into full gear.

As we round the last bend in the road and the side by side comes into view, there stands John with one horse in tow.  Barb’s face goes from the look of dread to joy.  John’s cell phone had been dead the whole time.  He told us that the other four horses got away because he only had one halter.  He said that they looked like they were headed back to Mustang Camp.  We load the one horse in our trailer and head to Mustang Camp where we had just spent the last three days.  It’s just about dark now and as the corrals come into view, there stand four horses waiting to get into their pen.  I can’t be mad anymore because all’s well that ends well. 
See Ya
Jack

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

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.

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

A Trip to the Status Quo

My son Greg and grandson Kade and I traveled to Tulare in the San Joaquin Valley to for the biggest farm equipment show in California.

We took a back road across the valley floor over a flat expanse that was once the Tulare Lake. One hundred years-ago, give or take a few years, it was home to a teaming megalopolis of ducks and geese. Some say there were 10,000,000 deer and Tule Elk, fish of every kind and an untold sum of other critters that would stagger the imagination. This 130 mile stretch of water sub-irrigated 1,000 acres of Salt Grass that fed a multitude of grazing animals and ground nesting birds. All together this was a chaotic and complex place to make a life but this is the way Mother Nature designed life on this earth to work. I see parallels in the domain of we humans with wars going on in some corner of the planet at all times. Now add in floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and pestilence and I believe this is a normal course of events for us humans.
What’s different this time around is our ability to change our environment in a direction that disregards all of Mother Natures rules.

As we drove across this land of mono-cultures it felt like I was walking on the Moon. From the edge of the pavement to the edge of a tilled field the ground had been scraped and sprayed clean of every living thing. There were no birds in the sky, not a rabbit to be seen, this land that was once home to uncountable millions was now a barren wasteland in my eyes. With today’s modern farming practices, that include: G.P.S. Laser straight cropping rows, soils that have been fumigated, fertilized, given liberal amounts of herbicides, pesticides. The only living thing left was a green growing crop. I’m sure if it had to fend for itself it most assuredly would wither and die.
Now I fully realize that to pull the rug out from under our modern ways to farm would surly leave many of us without much to eat. All I ask for, is to at least ask the question: are we at the top of the food chain caring for the land the best way possible? Is it sustainable for the foreseeable future? If not, why not? I think it’s because I’m going to an extravaganza that spends billions to maintain the Status Quo. I will spend the day getting my annual indoctrination put on by John Deere, Monsanto, the banks that finance this belief system and all the tool makers that build plows, discs ECT to ripe and pulverize the soil. Add in what the proper way to act in this environment is. Don’t ask the question. IS THIS TRIP NECESSARY?
I don’t think this entertaining way to have a day away from the ranch is totally bankrupt as there is much in the way of new irrigation equipment that is very miserly in the use of water and new ways to monitor this precious stuff so it’s not wasted. I also think that some of the new people manning the Organic Booths have already asked themselves, “Is there a different and possibly better way to feed the populous?” But the real money was spent by those that till the soil with tractors and plows much as we have done for the past several thousand years. Follow that with those that practice the Art of Chemistry to kill off chaos and replace it with monotony.
It’s time to head back to the ranch having washed myself in the  blood of the status quo, tasted candy at almost every booth to satisfy my sweet tooth and lubricated my conscious so that I won’t squeal to the world that there may be trouble in paradise.
see Ya
Jack