Healing an abused aquifer

Every Drop Counts on this day of 5/18/18 on the V6.
Little did I know that something as little used and more likely not used at all on most farms and ranches, would be a Sounder. It’s a device that measures the depth to water by dropping a special cable that is marked in one foot increments and when lowered down a water well and touches water  a high pitched annoying sound is emitted.  Then you simply read the number on the cable and that tells you the distance from ground level to water. The importance of knowing the depth to water in the ground helps tell the story of the care being given to the land above the aquifer.
Imagine if you will, a bowl of any size or shape that can be thousands of feet deep or very shallow perhaps no more than a few feet to bedrock and embodies all different sorts of layers, some of which are filled with porous rock and sand and others are filled with water. All together they make up an aquifer, that we can now drill into in hopes of  finding that elusive substance we call water. Before I drill into an aquifer on my ranch the water below my feet is fairly stable in its dimensions and amount. But once I start to extract the water for my use above ground that’s when all matter of problems show themselves. The biggest one is “Over drafting of an Aquifer”. It’s the one that make lawyers rich, makes neighbor hate neighbor, can change the quality of water to the detriment of possibly thousands of downstream users and has kept legislators writing laws and regulations since our state of California got it’s start in 1849. My contribution to the overdraft of the Salinas River water shed might seem minuscule but multiple my use several thousand times over and “Houston we have a problem”.
So my situation even if I can only fix it partially says “multiplied many times over by other ranchers and farmers we can extrapolate that the whole watershed will not be perfect  but has the chance to be better than it was.
I believe I have a unique situation because of the location of my V6 ranch, being at the headwaters of the Little Cholame Creek a tributary to the Salinas River and about 120 miles from where the Salinas dumps into the Pacific Ocean. This then says “that if I make things worse, I did it, and if I make things better, I did it” There are no other users in this watershed that I can point to that could effect my chance at success or failure. By realizing my unique situation I have come up with my first “V6 ranch Water Law” that I must abide by. It’s that my actions will not cause rainwater or irrigation water to move any faster than Mother Nature’s speed and if I do I must try to mitigate the problem.
Below is a list of ways that I would like to use but building retention ponds and having control burns in California is virtually impossible so I will have to put those 2 in “the way down the road category, if ever.”
1. minimize evaporation by lowering soil temperature

2. build retention ponds to change the direction of water from vertical to horizontal to encourages percolation and have drinking water available for anything that needs a drink. (At onetime our U.S.A. was home to millions of Beaver and their ponds all directing water to aquifers that lay below.)

3. fire can help to keep the land healthy and vigorous, the opposite of old Chaparral land choked with debris.

4. your ranch management practices should consider how each decision will affect the speed of water moving across your land. Slow is good. Fast is bad almost every time.

5. A good well developed water distribution system and good fences, gives many more management options.
I think, that things that you can’t touch or see or smell hangout in the category called subjective. So it’s hard for many of us to imagine something we cannot see like evaporation which takes huge amounts of water turns it into water vapor and then lets it escape into our Atmosphere unnoticed. On my ranch a stock pond will lose about 3 to 4 feet of water in our hot dry summer months to evaporation. So I think it’s safe to now acknowledged that evaporation is also happening on every acre of my ranch. The higher the soil temperature goes in the summer months the faster the soil coughs up it’s stored water. It does so by Capillary Action, a process that moves water from places that are wetter like 2 to 3 feet down in the ground to the dryer soil surface above where we all live.  My part of California which is the central portion where we don’t want any rain from the first of May to the first of November that’s 6 months of dry weather, then hopefully we get 6 months of wet weather.
So what happens on our range if we let the cattle graze off most of the residual dry matter (dry grass)? I know that on a summer day, if the temperature is 100 degrees and I find a Gopher mound of clean black soil and I put a thermometer just under the surface and wait a couple of minutes, then look at what it has to say. WOW 120 degrees but the land with grass covering the surface the temperature is 100 degrees. Well I don’t know about you but 20 degrees is a difference that has to be recognized as a water loosing pit. I don’t know how much more water is being lost on the closely grazed land as opposed to that which has only half of the dry grass eaten. This then is an example of a subjective loss. As to how much would only be a wild a_ _ guess on my part. But I do know that bad things are happening on over grazed  rangeland. Erosion will be a problem. The soil surface will be colder in winter so seed germination will not be as high as covered soil. Old grass also acts as an insulating blanket that allows for our new grass season to get a better start. And old grass will surely slow down the rain that falls leading to better percolation so now with our soil surface wetter and the subsurface dryer Capillary Action now turns and works in reverse pulling water down, plus it gets an additional boost from Gravity,  also pulling it down.
If you haven’t got a good water distribution system it will be real difficult to harvest your grass in a uniform way. For me I don’t want my livestock to have to travel more than half a mile to water, add to that good boundary and cross fences gives me the necessary tools to keep my spirits up and walking on the sunny side of the street with all my bills paid.
Holistic Resource Management as taught by Allen Savory has given me permission to break with tradition and feel comfortable learning how Mother Nature would like us to use her planet in a sustainable way that benefits all living things.
To close, my sounder shows me that even though our ranch received only half normal rainfall this season all my 6 wells have static water levels that are as high as they would be in a wet year and the Little Cholame Creek that is normally dry by the first of June is running in a portion where an old homestead once stood about 120 years ago. I’m sure that they got their drinking water from the creek as it would have been their only source. If this portion of the Little Cholame is still running this autumn I’m going to take credit, for when you “Slow Down Water” good things will happen. I know it’s true because it’s based on “common sense”.
See Ya
Jack Varian

The Slope Field Spring 2018 on the V6 Ranch

It’s cattle branding time 


Here you can see a calf on the ground being tended to by the ground crew and held in position by the two horses either side

For me it’s one of my favorite times of the year. A time to help a neighbor or he or she will help you. A time to get together with old friends and maybe meet some new ones. A time to climb onto my saddle and rope a calf or two and over the course of the day the branding crew will usually rope and brand 100 to 300 head of calves and administer several vaccines to prevent some of the more common cattle diseases.
This practice has been a necessary staple of our industry for centuries. I’m sure that it must seem barbaric to some. So let me explain the necessity of placing brands on young calves. First, in order to show ownership of a calf it must be branded while it is living with its mother. It must have a brand on any one of 6 locations on his hide made with a state registered Branding Iron. So if a calf is over 6 months old and no longer with its mother and (has no brand) it belongs to whoever has it in their possession. For this reason banks that have loaned money to a rancher are quite demanding that their asset is properly marked (must be branded).
The day has arrived that my neighbor has chosen to brand his calves. First and uppermost on his mind is to get the calves branded quickly to minimize stress, for stress can be a precursor that can cause a calf to get sick. Ranchers on the Central Coast of California usually choose to rope their calves for there are many good corral ropers in our part of California that make things go quickly and smoothly.
The cows and their calves are gathered into a sorting alley where the calves are parted into a pen and their mothers are put into a pasture next to the branding corral. In today’s world most ranchers use an electric branding iron that is heated by using a generator. I believe an electric iron for the most part will make a better brand that is more legible and will heal faster.
It’s time now to have the first 5 horseback ropers enter the corral and a ground crew that will brand and vaccinate the calves contains the next crew of ropers. Let it be said that working the ground is not near as much fun as roping so the ground crew is always “Johnny on the spot “ because quicker gets you off the ground and onto your horse.
One of the ropers has caught a calf by the neck. Now another roper positions his horse behind the calf and ropes the 2 hind feet. The ground crew moves in and puts the calf on the ground and takes the rope off the head and places it on his 2 front legs. Then the person on the head horse backs his horse to tighten the rope so the calf can’t kick free. This process is repeated on the back legs and then the calf is ready to be vaccinated, branded, ear tagged and if a male, castrated. So you ask how long is the calf on the ground? About 2 to 3 minutes. Because stress is always on everybody’s mind, usually 10 calves are all that are put in the branding corral at one time. These 10 calves are then processed in 15 to 20 minuets as most of the time 2 calves are on the ground at the same time.
Now with a shout of “all done” the corral gate is swung open to where all the mommies are waiting. The calves have been away from their mothers  for 2 to 3 hours so many of the now freshly branded will immediately pull mom off to one side and start to nurse. I hope I have explained with some clarity what happens to a calf before and after he is branded.
I think the population of people that are upset by this supposedly barbaric procedure need to realize that their idea of pain is vastly different than the calves idea of pain. The first glaring difference is we humans are able to anticipate the future . An example, you go to the dentist and he tells you that you will need all your Wisdom Teeth pulled and he or she can do it in 2 weeks. So for 2 weeks you get to agonize over the perceived pain in the chair and the discomfort while healing.
So to all of you, out there, that are looking for places where pain happens. I suggest that you look no farther than your local boarding horse stable. The barn is immaculate, the horses are feed only the best hay and grain so that their hair coat is bright and shiny. Their 12 by12 stall has fresh bedding. Who could want for more? Let’s ask the horse. His body language will tell you of his malaise. Some spend there whole lives Weaving back and forth locked in their 12×12 home others are Cribbing so the caretaker puts a cradle around the horses neck so he won’t spend his days “sucking wind” Mr. or Mrs. horse is irritable most of the time. Just entering his or her “ box stall” you want to be careful for you are the cause of all their irritability. The sure cure for this life of misery? How about some regular exercise and less Box Stall time. “Sorry, I’m to busy,  I haven’t got the time”
See Ya


What’s love got to do with it anyway

Now here’s a good topic to think about. I’m sure that everything that has ever been said about love has already been said. So what can I add to the topic?

I want to talk of love in cosmic dimensions. Physics has Gravity and friction to mold a universe after the “Big Bang” My explanations might seem a little simplistic but for me it explains why love will be around as long as the Laws of Physics are around. Gravity gathers “stuff” together and after a few billion years of gathering and rubbing together “friction” to create some heat we now have a whole sky full of stars, planets, astroids and a whole lot of space junk floating around that can be hazardous to a Planet like ours.

Well I want to explain at least to myself how the Laws of Physics and Love are so interdependent for each to survive. There’s no question of who came first because without the Big Bang I wouldn’t have a planet to stand on. It also looks like more and more of the time, that Organic life will be found all over the Cosmos. Now we’re talking life and how do we keep growing and changing and not getting Wiped out. Love is the absolute necessary ingredient to make life in all its infinite sizes and shapes possible.

Like Gravity, Love gathers like minded species together for companionship, safety and if you didn’t have a group of 2 or more you couldn’t have gossip. Most living things need some external heat to keep the life fires alive. So what we the people need is some friction. For that I think of Lust. Rubbing two people together can first bring forth some laughter then some snuggles and a kiss or two then  we could stop and build a fire probably not, more likely we will make love which also guaranties  another generation to carry on and hopefully they might be a little more kindly, carrying and peace like and less war like.

See Ya