Tag Archives: soil

Hope Springs Eternal

The time is November, 1961.  A new, wanna-be cattleman and his wife who would like to raise cattle and a family on a piece of land located on  the Little Cholame Creek in southern Monterey County, California are in the local title company office dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that will make them the new owners of what will become The V6 Ranch in 1965.

What happens next takes place after 30 years of using the traditions that were in vogue in the cattle industry then and are mostly still in practice today.  They about had me “tapped out.”

Holistic Resource Management comes to my rescue as taught by its creator Allen Savory.  This  new way to care for land and all that live there has been a most wondrous and satisfying journey for me.  It has caused me to no longer consider myself a cattleman first but a “soils man.” Care for the soil, which will care for the grass that will care for my livestock.

I want to fast forward again to today. It’s Sunday and I’m reclining in our living room watching a cozy fire warm my soul.  It’s raining.  I think every living thing is asking the same question: ” Is this the first rain of a drought ending era?”

My imagination is also excited at the prospect that this could be a weather game changer to wetter times.  For some time my imagination has been itching to transform me into a conductor of the V6 soil symphony orchestra.  Well, imagination, you’re going to get your wish.  “Give me that baton and show me to the podium.”

Good afternoon all you folks who love dirt under your fingernails.  I’ve been practicing for this day since 1991.  First, I want to introduce you to the different sections of the orchestra.  To my left is the soil section, next to them is the water section, contiguous to them is the green growing and insect group.  Next comes all the animals, and finally the sun and the air we breathe for life.

The music that we will play today won’t be nearly as melodic as when Mother Nature lead the band.  The earliest settlers didn’t have the luxury of considering the health of the land and all that lived upon it.  They had to feed their families so the land and all the animals of value were mined.  If erosion was sever because of the way they tilled the soil or they killed off a specie of animal for food, so be it.  The family came first, so the soil, grass and wildlife took it in the shorts.  For me, that type of land stewardship in today’s world is no longer acceptable.  The verses that make the most beautiful music for me today begins with slowing down the rain that falls on the V6 and inviting it to stay as long as possible.  Striving to keep our soils covered with grass, leaves, trees and brush is an important part of the music.  Organic matter is very important and should not be allowed to disappear.  Livestock grazing done right will help improve all of the above.  Agri-tourism and hunting help stabilize the V6 financially and gives much joy and feelings of connection to the natural world for many of my city brethren.  The grand finale with all the sections of the orchestra playing in harmony is a conservation easement that guarantees that the V6 Orchestra will make beautiful music in perpetuity and will never be divided by the hand of man.
See Ya
Jack

Why You Should Build Fences

I love words that draw pictures in my mind. As I lie here on my comfy mattress with memory foam that never forgets how a mattress should treat a fella, two words come bubbling to the surface of my consciousness: chaos and tranquility. Part of Mother Nature’s grand plan for governing our little speck in the cosmos is chaos and tranquility. I figured she must have copied the idea from whoever invented the Big Bang theory. That original bang certainly is the best definition of chaos I know of. Sailing along in outer space where time is measured in light years means you sure have to be a tranquil sort to put up with a trip like that, especially when there’re no billboards to read along the way. What’s this got to do with fence building, you say? Well I’m about to tell you. I’m not sure any of this blog applies if you’re living in New York City, but if you decided while having a severe case of mid-life chaos that a new occupation sounds intriguing, read on.

How does owning or working on a ranch sound? If that grabs you and you think green growing things are more beautiful than anything man can create, then let’s start at the very beginning. Grass is the only life form that can eat sunlight and turn this light into food and fiber. Mother Nature has a grand design that demands chaos and tranquility to grow grass in abundance for our grazing animals so that I might have a steak to eat and a belt to hold up my pants. To illustrate this concept the example that follows will be my last. Then fence building 101 commences.

If we have one cow and put her on one acre to graze for 100 days on good growing grass I’m sure that at the end of the 100 days this cow will be starved dang near to death and the land would be laid bare to erode. Many of the soil born critters would die from the heat when soil temperatures soar. So instead, let’s take 100 cows and put them on a similar one acre for one day. The number of grazing days will be the same but the result of this change will be dramatically different. The cows will get their bellies full and the next day they will be moved to greener pastures. The one-acre plot left by the cows will be in a state of chaos. Cow poop will be everywhere. Urine and small amounts of saliva and shed hair will be absorbed into soil that all help fabricate soil health. The left over grass thoroughly tromped to the soil surface is now available food for all those critters that didn’t die from the heat of bare ground by the one cow 100-day grazing period disaster. In this example, the ground was shaded so all the critters survived to do their job of building healthy soil.

What we need to have happen next if we are going to create a place for chaos and tranquility to exist is create a pasture. Here we can regulate time, place, and numbers of livestock. Basically, we need to build fences. The more fences, the better. In my case, because of rough terrain, I have ruled out electric fencing and use only barbed wire, the stuff that cattle barons and homesteaders use to fight over on the silver screen.

Pictures speak louder than words, and this certainly holds true when trying to describe with words how to build a barbed wire fence.

The things that I consider before I build a fence are as follows:

  1. Want to build my fence with at Least 4 strands of wire (5 is even better).
  2. Consider the topography of the land. The rougher it is the more expensive it is.
  3. The different soil types on your land can also be a good reason to fence into a pasture. Our ranch has several hundreds of acres that consist of a very heavy clay soil that hooves will do great harm to during a wet winter. We have this soil type fenced. When early April rolls around we will have a field that will feed a prodigious number of livestock.
  4. Fences well placed means you can make your grazing animals utilize the whole ranch.
  5. A field that has minimal obstacles is a great place to put your bulls and cows together. That way your bulls don’t have to hike over the whole ranch just to ask some pretty thing for a date.
  6. Property line fences, if reasonably well-maintained (don’t be afraid to do 51% of the fixing) means you and your neighbor will surely get along a whole lot better.
  7. Finally, and I’m sure that there’s a whole lot more reasons to build those lovable barbed wire enclosures, the greatest of all is the chance to put Mother Nature’s way of running a ranch into action. She will love you and all the people who you do business with will love you when the check is really in the mail.

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