Tag Archives: water

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

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

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.

The V6 Ranch Conservation Easement: Defined

I believe that the spirit of this agreement should address the goals to be accomplished and the methods used to accomplish these objectives.

Upon the signing of the Conservation Easement, a vacuum was created by the fact that the Varian Family L.L.C. could no longer use the sale of a portion of the ranch in order to cure economic or family difficulties. The question then becomes: how do we fill the vacuum in a way that satisfies all the parties that have an interest in the sustainability of the V6 Ranch?

First, all the noble goals that this land can provide the ranch must be managed in ways that will keep it solvent so invoices are paid. Second, a policy of flexibility that allows a diverse number of practices to be employed, thus insuring that a sustainable landscape for the good of all will be preserved.

The following practices at this time we believe give management the elbow-room to operate the V6 Ranch, but it should not preclude that the future will undoubtably present new ideas that must be given fair consideration. If they have merit and meet the ranch goals, then they can be implemented.

  1. The right to amend this easement shall be maintained.
  2. The use of grazing animals that will allow the symbiotic relationship between grazer and grass to flourish is so granted.
  3. In order to provide a sustainable neighborhood for wildlife to thrive the management will emphasize the need to provide feed, water and cover.
  4. Hunting and fishing is a sustainable and necessary part of good game management.
  5. The enjoyment of the land by the public is an admirable use and will help keep The V6 Ranch economically sound. The types of recreation that are allowed must not diminish the sustainability and quality of life on The V6 Ranch.
  6. Decision making is an endless process which effects the quality of life for every living thing on The V6 Ranch. Therefore, good decisions will be grounded by considering the whole: how a decision affects the speed of water (slowing is good, speeding is bad); is the The V6 Ranch stewardship reliable and beneficial?
  7. With the ever increasing human population and our ability to literally move mountains, climate change is most likely. The V6 Ranch will do its best to help reverse climate change on our land by harvesting sunlight. We will use grazing animals to harvest growing things so the soil is left covered with litter. This encourages the percolation  of water into the soil and reduces soil temperature, thus reducing evaporation. The V6 ranch will encourage photosynthesis, the natural process that converts sunlight into organic substances (chiefly sugars) and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (one cause of global warming), helps green things grow, sequesters carbon to the soil and puts oxygen back into the atmosphere. The V6 Ranch has the best of intentions to help arrest climate change, but we all must recognize that part of the natural course of events is chaos from drought, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and more that can lay man’s best plans to rest. So once again, flexibility is a necessary component of good management.
  8. Mutual trust and respect, if they are present then all of the above can happen, if they are absent then we will all collectively suffer the cost of mistrust

The Varian Family L.L.C.

About the Cow 101

Elise, the Borden’s cow, was the love able cartoon mascot representing Borden’s Milk Company of a bygone era. Elise has been around longer than we humans have, but her form was very much different. I believe her counter part was Dino the Dinosaur that four-legged, affable, slow-thinking, grass-eating machine. Dino’s job back then was much the same as Elise’s job is today: to eat the grass that grows on every continent of the world to sustain herself. By  sustaining herself she sustains the soil that feeds the grass by pooping, peeing, dropping saliva and worn out hairs on the soil. Those things become the food for  all the critters that live under the soil surface. They can then feed the grass above the surface to feed Elise. This then is the symbiotic relationship between grass and Elise.

In Dino’s time there were mostly two-legged predators (meat-eaters like tyrannosaurous rex that fed on the sick, the lame and those with birth defects). The predator animal couldn’t afford to get hurt so he was an opportunist that has no qualms when he  picked the weakest and  left the most formidable and viral to breed with a healthy and beautiful bevy of ladies.

Two million years later Elsie is part of a herd of grazing cattle that, until we humans came along, found their safety in numbers grazing fairly close together. When threatened by a pack of wolves or a mountain lion the cows put the young in the middle of the pack and the weakest of the herd were pushed to the outside edge of the herd. The predators of today acted exactly as the predator of 2,000,000 years ago and herd health was maintained.

There is now another very important part of this symbiotic relationship between the grass, Elise and the predator and that is the time spent grazing a particular area is critical. When a group of grazing animals are frightened by predators, grazing stops and flight starts. The predator gets his prey and the herd has moved on to a fresh area of tasty new grass. What is left behind looks like chaos but actually this partly grazed, trampled, fertilized with poop and pee will now be left to rest and recuperate for as short as a month but more likely several months before the herd reappears to repeat the cycle of life. This process is called Herd Effect, a very necessary part of our ever expanding symbiotic whole.

Well we don’t have wolf packs or other predators in sufficient numbers to maintain herd effect so we humans will now inherit the roll of predator. So it’s up to me, as steward of our ranch, to be like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. First I must know the score I’m going to play. The music that I will ask every living thing to play has been written by Mother Nature. When played well, her music makes the most beautiful sounds. The trouble is it takes years of study and practice to create the symbiotic whole. The conductor must be agile and willing to change to meet the ever changing conditions that can be man caused by greed, stupidity, bad governmental regulations, laziness and I’m sure you readers can think of many more. Conditions can also be nature made, i.e: droughts, floods, sickness and more. But the really good conductor can solve most all situations that he encounters if he keeps Mother Nature’s words and music always in front of him.

To close I want to say to all you single issue people that are unable to consider the interrelationship of all living things you will always be part of the problem, never part of the solution.
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