Tag Archives: global warming

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

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

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

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

My Bladder is No Longer My Friend

I guess this is just one more part of my old body that these days thumbs it’s nose at me and makes me have to “go” at some of the most inopportune times.  I guess this is payback for all the times that I made you wait, dear bladder.

My memory, that before could remember dozens of phone numbers and was able to recall a school text book for an upcoming test, is gone with the wind.

I want to say how much I appreciate the old friends whose names I can’t bring to mind.  These friends don’t leave me to play 20 questions in my mind but instead gives me his or her name straight away, no big deal.  My brain reminds me that my memory loss probably happened because I overloaded it for so long with worry thoughts that got me nowhere and only squandered a lot of brain cells.  You jerk, says my brain over and over.

Wait, I’m not done yet.  I want to whine a little more about a most delicate subject that for today’s millennias is probably hardly worth a snicker.  What is it Jack?  Well, it’s about farting.  I just can’t slip one out anymore with no one being the wiser.  Instead, my flabby old sphicter muscle is no match for a determined fart that’s headed for the exit door.  This is where one of my most trusted mottos comes to my rescue: What you think about me is none of my business.  So proper ladies can titter, youngsters can giggle, and some can say “oh how gross,” but at my age I feel nothing but joyful relief.  And, with any luck at all, tomorrow I will again be releasing more methane gas into the atmosphere.  I will be doing my share to help with global warming.

I also need two hearing aids to hear, sort of, and glasses to see, somewhat.  But for me there will always be a silver lining.  I’ve still got most of the teeth in my mouth that help me when I smile.  I still get a thrill when I get out of bed in the morning to greet the day.  I can close my eyes and touch my left index finger to my nose and then my right index finger to the same nose.  Now who could want more?
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