Tag Archives: ranch life

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

Would You Like to Eat? Just Add Water

Of late there certainly has been a lot of print delegated to how much water farmers and ranchers use to provide town folks with three meals a day.  I think my urban friends who are suffering along with those of us in agriculture in this interminable drought are beginning to be inconvenienced enough to start lashing out at the hand that feeds them.  Just the other day I was reading an article that caught my eye in one of my farming magazines.  The author must practice voodoo mathematics for I know of no other way that he could arrive at the  preposterous figures that he used to make a case of why almond farmers use too much water to make this very healthy food available to the public.  This charlatan that works on the theory that most people who see something in print think it’s the Gospel knows he doesn’t have to defend his figures to the gullible public.  He can say that it takes a gallon of water to raise one nut and that it takes 1,800 gallons of water to put one pound of beef on your dinner table and no one questions him.

I want to do a little number crunching and then let you folks out there be the judge.  Cattle will drink about one gallon of water per day per hundred weight, so a 1,000 pound steer will drink 10 gallons of water per day.  Then again, when they’re out on the range and the grass is green they may drink half that amount.  Let’s say our steer is harvested in 720 days (2 years).  He will have consumed about 7,200 gallons of the wet stuff.  If we use voodoo math we will multiply 1,000 pounds X 1,800 gallons per pound of weight = 1,800,000 gallons this this steer will have to drink in 720 days.  The poor steer will have to drink 2,500 gallons of water per day, or 2.5 times his body weight.  I believe most would consider this animal cruelty of the first order.

On that account, if we all want to eat, then part of the process is to just add water.  The question then becomes: how much?  I suggest that because water is an expensive part of raising our food, our farmers and ranchers will use it in a very miserly fashion.  I hope most of you will come to the conclusion that in order to eat you will cast your vote for the person that raises it, knowing we have more credibility than voodoo mathematicians.

Before closing, I do have a wonderment: why is it that I never hear a word about the water used to make wine, which is not necessary for your health?
See Ya
Jack

Fire Will Always Impact Our Lives

Now, what are we going to do about it?!  The first thing we have to do, I believe, is to relieve Smokey The Bear of his duty as manager of our forest and grasslands.  We need to seriously question his forest management credentials because Smokey has done more damage to our forest and wild lands than all of the arsonists that ever lit a match.

Here it comes, mothers everywhere will cry out in unison, “You’re sick Jack Varian when you question the most revered bear in the woods who pontificates about the proper management of our forest and woodlands!” How could you possibly bring dishonor to this symbol that has taught generations of us to believe that his methods of forest and wild land management are above reproach and then you sully all of his friends like Bambi, Thumper Rabbit and all the Blue Birds that Walt Disney dreamed up to live in an enchanting forest that just doesn’t exist and never will.  Walt created a setting designed to give us all a case of the Warm Fuzzies that could only be cured by a trip to the movies to see Bambi.

As the throngs depart the theaters across our land there’s a ground swell of anxiety about how to save our forests.  The perfect storm has been created.  Enter the public relation industry that knows nothing about forest health but a whole lot about human emotions.  “Let’s see, we need a hero to save our forests and here he comes freshly painted by some commercial artist… Say hello to Smokey the Bear with proper hat on head and what will become his famous rallying cry, ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES.” That statement is a fraud, an affront to reality.  So let’s stop believing that somehow we are going to make fire disappear from our forests and grasslands by using Smokey the Bear teaching.

Instead, let’s use some science and common sense; then we can make some management decisions that recognize that fire has always been a part of the environment and always will be!

I think what needs to happen now is a new strategy that takes part of the budget from the U.S. FOREST SERVICE and from CAL FIRE.  We should spend some of these bucks on a very lack luster, tedious, totally devoid of any chance to be a hero job.  This not glorious, but quite important job will be a person correcting 100 years of governmental mismanagement by removing the decades of understory build up that has happened when Smokey was running the show.  (By the way Mother Nature and Indian tribes in times past did it for free with cold fires that kept the dead wood under control.)

Then, and this will really upset all the died in the Wool Tree Huggers, we need to do some tree thinning.  Some of it could be done by a lumber company, joined by Cal Fire and the U.S.F.S.  I’m sure this lumber company wouldn’t mind if some official monitored their methods of harvest.

Reading from Bloomberg Businessweek: Last year, the federal government spent $3 billion putting out fires.  This is five times as much as 20 years ago.  California expenditures have doubled since 1998 to $1.6 billion.

The Valley Fire took the lives of four humans, 2,000 structures, and the lives of countless domestic and wild animals.  If that is not a wake up call to challenge the status quo, then there is no hope for us to solve all the other problems that take common sense to carry the day.
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