Tag Archives: save water

Living on the Bright Side, Just for Fun

There are so many people walking around almost stepping on their lower lip and wearing a look that says l’m not very happy.  When I get to talking to one of these sad sacks their outlook on life is pretty bleak.  For a moment, I want to give into my merciful side and give these folks an excuse.  It wasn’t their fault to be in a bad gene pool that gave them directions to the “it’s not my fault” trap.  This is where people go that have given their pursuit of happiness away to a friend, or enemy, a situation, bad luck, the weather, you-name-it. Their happiness is never in their control.  Happiness for these people is like trying to catch a falling star: not totally impossible, there is a chance.  Because of this ray of hope  I don’t believe people should be relegated to the junk heap of “it’s not my fault” with no chance to escape.  What I do believe is that no matter how difficult change may be, change is possible for each of us.  We have the right to make choices.  If you embrace the good ones and try to side step most of the bad ones, you will find yourself where hope, love and laughter,   self-esteem, and all the other words that define happiness  resides.
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

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

Save Water With Common Sense, Not Nonsense

I was reading an article the other day written by the generic name of Mr. Ecology.  His opening paragraph about how important it is to save water to help  California get through our present drought is very noble.  Every right-minded person would surely want to be part of the solution.  But here is where Mr. Ecology and I disagree.  His solution and mine are light years apart.  Albert Einstein, though genius with his famous game changing Theory of Relativity nor William Shakespeare, poet and writer of verse that will always be inspiring have never raised a tomato, or carrot. Perhaps Black Angus is thought to be a sexually transmitted disease among these geniuses, so they wouldn’t be my choice to solve our water woes.  You ask who might be able to shed some light on the problem?  I believe that I can help.  My profession these past 57 years is a Grass Man that provides grass for my cattle to graze upon.  Grazing is a natural and necessary part of Mother Nature’s plan that our environment needs to succeed.

I would like to take you all back in time about 200,000,000 years ago when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The herbivores were the grazers who moved about mostly on 4 legs.  The carnivores like Tyrannosaurus Rex who traveled about on 2 legs.  The omnivores  ate everything in sight like us humans.  If eating almost anything is part of my D.N.A. sign me up as a meat, vegetable, fruit, ice cream and cake eating vigorous 80 year-old.  Mr. Ecology never mentioned exercise so I assume that he doesn’t consider it important.  But for me a two mile hike five out of seven days a week is as necessary as the food that’s going to give me the energy for my hike.

But I want to get back to water conservation and show you how Mr. Ecology has “cooked the books.”  Cattle will drink pretty close to 1 gallon of water for every 100 pounds of live weight.  Let’s say that a Grass Fat Steer ( an altered male) lives for 24 months and now weights 1200 pounds. His average weight is 600 pounds so he drinks 6 gallons of water a day (more on a hot day but in the winter some days he will get all his needs just from the grass). Doing the math ( 2 times 365 days = 730 times 6 gallons / day = 4380 gallons. Only 1/2 of the steer is meat so we really have 600 pounds of meat so I’m going to divided 4380 by 600 pounds of meat = 7.3 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat not 1,800 gallons.  If you want to consider the total weight, it has value for making leather, the heart and liver are enjoyed by many, and the rest is put to many uses so that nothing goes to waste.  I think I’ve made my point that the other half of the steer has value. Then using the total weight: a steer weighing 1200 pounds and living for 730 days consumes 4380 gallons of water, it then takes 3.65 gallons of water to help produce 1 pound of live weight steer. To use Mr. Ecology figure of 1800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef is pure fantasy.  Again doing the math  1800 gallons of water times 1200 pounds of beef animal = 2,160,000 gallons of water. Now let’s divide 2,160,000 gallons of water by 730 days = 2959 gallons of water per day! This poor steer would have to drink over twice his body weight every day of his entire life. Talk about animal cruelty…

The next example that is irrefutable would be a toilet that is leaking 1 ounce of water / minute times 1440 minutes in a day = 1440 ounces divided by 128 ounces / gallon = 11.25 gallons per day. That is enough to water almost 2 of my steers each day.  Hopefully I have demonstrated that Mr. Ecology was merely picking numbers out of thin air, that if you didn’t know the truth any person would sit up and take notice.

To Mr. Ecology,  diatribe of irrelevance and missinformation.  There is only one word to describe his article: STUPID.  So how does a responsible steward of the land help to conserve water and care for the land?  Allen Savory is a gentleman from Zimbabwe Africa, who created a way to save the land and those that live upon it using a thought process called Holistic Resource Management.  When I was dealing with our last drought (1985 to 1991) I was using the long held traditions of the cattle industry and watching my neighbor, but I knew down in my soul that that these methods weren’t working.  I had to make changes but I didn’t know how.  Thank you Allen Savory for in 1991, I spent 3 days opening my eyes to mind changing ways to become Mother Nature’s ally instead of her adversary.  I learned to assume that the decision I was making was wrong for if I thought it was right I would never have changed it.  Then I tested and monitored the decision.  If it didn’t pass the holistic test then I needed to change what I was doing to a way that considered the whole.  Mother Nature in many ways has showed me that she is quite giddy with my new found way to care for the land and all the critters that call the V6 Ranch home. I have a 3 word motto that always keeps me in good stead working around the ranch “SLOW DOWN WATER.” If a decision increases the speed of water (rainfall, evaporation, well water) something is probably wrong with what I want to do. Jack, you had better rethink what you’re doing!

I once heard that Monterey County was about 2,000,000 acres in size.  It really doesn’t matter… what matters is what is happing to the water on 2,000,000 acres.  Is it mostly running to the ocean because we either paved it all over or we bare the soil which speeds up water?  Bare soil is also hotter in the summer than soil that has a coat of growing things, or summer dry grass and organic matter.  The hotter the soil the more water is evaporated into the atmosphere.  It won’t be around to migrate into the underground aquifers where Mother Nature banks her water not needed at the moment for growing things.

I like crunching numbers because they show a person how I arrive at answers.  Doing the math tells me, if I save 1″ of water and sequester it in the soil I will have saved 2,000,000 acres X 7.5 gallons / cu. ft. X 43560 cu. ft. = 653,400,000,000 gallons
divided by 12″= 54,450,000,000 gallons on 2,000,000 acres 1″ deep. Divided by 7.5 gallons /cu. ft. = 7,260,000,000 divided by 43560 cu. ft. / acre = 166,667 acre feet.

If you save one inch of water that is 47% of the volume of Lake Nacimento which is 350,000 acre feet. I recognize that Bean Counters don’t like numbers that are subjective because we can’t measure exactly how much is sequestered.  But I do know this process has been going on since the beginning of time and the aquifers of the world were once full.  So let’s recognize that we humans are the problem and the solution.  Let’s start by using valid numbers not the ones that fit somebody’s misguided agenda.

To all you deceivers out there, here’s a piece of common sense I think from the Bible that might help to give you a satisfied mind: Seek the truth and the truth will set you free.
See Ya,
Jack

Safety At All Costs

In my view right now and all my days to follow, the safety freaks are at work right now snuffing the very life out of common sense. Whoever said that common sense was becoming uncommon more all the time has my vote.

I sometimes get the feeling that common sense doesn’t stand a chance against a full array of advisories from the politician who will vote for any piece of legislation that might put a few more ballots on his side of the electoral ledger. “To hell with what we’re doing to quality of life by looking for disaster under every bed and fear around every corner.”

This to all the so-called educators who have done away with games like tag and dodge ball.  I’m sure there must be a contingent out there that pines for the day when all their students wear helmets at all times while in their charge.

Now add in a good share of Corporate America who owe a share of their bottom line to some safety gimmick. To all the insurance companies that write their policies on how safely they can chum you into leading your life so claims will be small and profits will be glorious. I think quite the opposite will happen as people drop their defenses so they’re unable to see danger when it’s staring them in the face.

Does anyone ask the disinfectant gang what’s the down side of all this washing and disinfecting? The gang is at the top of its game when it comes to teaching the public to believe that microbes of the most horrific kind lurk on every door handle, toilet seat, shopping cart… and that the only way to counter this unseen army of killers is with the constant washing of your hands. No more licking your fingers; God knows what they might have touched! And I suppose that it must follow that shaking hands will also be a huge no-no. Never mind that most bacteria and all their cousins are necessary for our well-being. The drug companies I’m sure don’t want to confuse the public with an admission that some microbes are necessary for our very existence and our absolutely necessary immune system.

Maybe there is still hope that common sense might yet carry the day. I was reading an article in the July edition of Bloomberg Businessweek titled “The Bacteria Solution.” A cosmetics startup knows that live microbes are the secret to healthier skin. Will anyone believe that?
AOBiome is a biotech company whose signature product is a spray that when applied to your body helps the user’s dependence on soap diminish. If I peaked your interest then look for a spray bottle of Mother Dirt, a reference to the soil from which the key ingredient is derived. “Go Ahead, get a Little Dirty.”

Well  the question becomes: is anybody interested? Early adopters have been mostly urban professionals. The inventor of Mother Dirt is one David Whitlock, an M.I.T. trained chemical engineer who watched a horse rolling in the dirt one day to clean itself. He reasoned that this behavior must be important to the health of the horse and maybe to humans as well. He started gathering soil samples, and growing bacteria in his basement. AOBiomes, he learned, convert the urea and ammonia in sweat, which is abrasive to the skin causing acne and irritations, into nitrite, which fights most bad bacteria and nitric oxide and has anti-inflammatory properties. Whitlock concluded that useful bacteria once lived on humans, too, at least until we began killing these useful bacteria with countless soaps, lotions and potions.

Just think- if this logical idea caught on in my drought-stricken state of California it might help fix our water problems. For me, that’s an “atta boy” to common sense.
See Ya
Jack
P.S. Mr Whitlock has not taken a shower in 12 years and his friends say he looks great, and he smells perfectly fine.