Tag Archives: water regulation

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

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

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

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

You Can’t Regulate the Wind

Why is it that government agencies always want to create a regulation to solve any and all problems? A friend answered it quite succinctly when he said, ” Laws have to be passed by an elected body and may not happen, but this is not the case with a regulation.”

So leave it to our California State Water Resource Control Board to choose a less messy way to advance their agenda by proposing a regulation. The Grazing Regulatory Action Project (G.R.A.P.) that in their infinite wisdom will tell me how many cattle I can graze on my ranch, in order to address water impacts potentially related to livestock grazing.
 

This G.R.A.P. aka C.R.A.P. is an acronym that will consider a wide range of alternatives to ensure that grazing has a minimal negative impact on water quality. The GRAP says it will give thoughtful consideration to the cost of compliance to the regulated grazing community. Historical evidence shows quite the opposite.

I’m sure there will be a fee involved for the G.R.A.P. to save we grazers from ourselves and all the nice rhetoric about hearing each other will disappear as the regulation becomes more stringent and the compliance bar is constantly raised to make sure that most ranchers don’t comply. It’s called “job security”.

I don’t think it’s possible to successfully regulate an art form, for that’s what good ranch management is. Ranching is never the same for any two years, let alone any two days. Ranching, done well, is constantly changing, and a regulation that might work for one situation won’t work for another. But I do have a rule that has never let me down, that doesn’t need a regulation that works, every time.

I make my decision on how I affect the speed of water. First, any rain that falls on our ranch, I will use every effort to make those rain drops stay on the ranch as long as possible. There’s a handy little phrase that I carry in my mind at all times:

SLOW DOWN WATER always works. Speed water up, that’s a bad decision, slow water down that’s a good decision. Simple as that.

This type of decision-making doesn’t lend itself well to a regulation, because so much of good ranch management is subjective. I think a better way for the water quality folks to approach their goal of quality water is not with a regulatory whip, but with an olive branch of education and patience. For if you make all the stakeholders furious, then the agency will end up PUSHING A STRING.

What follows are my thoughts after this first gathering on 9/15, the first of three public focus listening sessions has taken place in San Luis Obispo. I’m sitting in my recliner watching some silly movie that I think has some parallels with today’s happenings. I was under the naive impression that the Water Board was exploring a range of options to enhance environmental benefits from grazing.

But in the same sentence, “Protect beneficial uses of surface and groundwater and address water quality impacts potentially related to livestock grazing.” I think this double talk to lull we members of the livestock profession into thinking that the Water Board really wants to hear from us is B.S.

 
After today’s session I think this ‘dog and pony show’ is just a perfunctory step so it can be said by the water board that we heard from the stakeholders and have duly noted that the grazing community has had their day in court.

The water board probably now thinks that it has a self made mandate to start making a hard copy of the regulations that they have already been discussing IN HOUSE the last couple of years. Water Board, your regulations will fail just like an entity that would try to regulate the wind.

Because livestock grazing is an art form that needs the flexibility to adapt to each new day. Regulations are much too cumbersome to allow for this kind of flexibility. Without the ability to react to each day’s events, your hoped for goal of water fit to drink, will most assuredly founder on the rocks of rigidity.

Looking back over what has transpired it looks like my thoughts pre- stakeholder meeting and post stakeholder meeting haven’t change much. I believe this agency will not attain the results that they want. That said, I believe the board will not deviate from their regulatory ways. It’s in their DNA. The sad part of this regulation fiasco, is the quest for quality water that we all want will not happen. What will happen is my tax dollars will fund an attempt to corral the wind.

See ya,

Jack