A Day on the V6 Ranch

Horses 061I feel a little uncomfortable telling you all that I’m some sort of Guru. What feels more comfortable to describe is who I am as a guy; that’s been at different times in my life a cowboy, a cattleman, and I have now evolved into a grass man holding a bag full of keepers and mistakes that we can talk about. One of the things that, I believe, has bedeviled the cattle industry is its ties to tradition. Dad did it that way and that’s good enough for me. Or that’s the way my neighbors have always done it.

The year was 1991 and a 5 year span of sub normal rainfall was behind me and I was really in need of a better way to keep “the wolf away from the door”. The answer came when I attended a 3 day seminar taught by Allen Savory the founder of Holistic Management who put forth the idea that when you make a decision assume that its wrong and test it to see if its right. It was a water shed moment for me as it gave me permission to examine the way I manage our family ranch and the best part was I got to throw out old ways that took more than they gave. I guess that’s what this DAY ON THE V6 IS ALL ABOUT. I think that 20 folks is a good number to spend Saturday, February the 28th with breakfast at 8 o’clock at the Parkfield Cafe, a hearty V6 Beef Stew at lunch, and a day of give and take knowledge in a most beautiful setting all for $150. A seat at Super Bowl 49 cost $5000.
If you would like to spend Friday and/or Saturday night we have room at the Horse Camp Bunkhouse or you can throw your bedroll on the ground. Saturday night dinner at the Parkfield Cafe if you choose is on you but Sunday morning is a pancake and bacon breakfast, morning hike, and a Good Bye on me.
See Ya,

Jack’s Walkabout February 28, 2015

Jack's Weekend

$150. Saturday, February 28, 2015

This is a unique opportunity to spend a day with Jack Varian as he shares his wit and wisdom regarding innovations in cattle ranching, grasses, water and whatever else may be on his mind that day.

Join him on a personal tour of the newly established “fodder” operation. See how an experiment the size of an ice cube tray turned into 7 semi-truck trailers. Hear about its benefits to grazing animals and how it can be an economic lifesaver in drought conditions when grass is scarce and hay prices are high.

See first-hand the organic permanent pastures where our grass-fed beef are raised. You’ll see and hear why cattle raised through natural grazing methods are so much better for you than cattle fattened on corn. In addition to Jack’s successful cattle operation, he’ll walk you through the new organic pistachio plan. It’s a long term project for the next generations of Varian’s and good use of the range land.

Hear about the benefits of “Rotational Grazing”. This is the natural way herd animals graze.

Tour the Riparian areas, witness how the landscape has changed, and learn what is being done on the V6 Ranch during these drought years.

Later in the evening you’ll have an opportunity to hear about the very innovative Varian Family. You’ll have a greater appreciation for where the “innovative thinking” amongst the Varian’s comes from. In addition, Jack will share how and why he and Zee acquired the V6 Ranch and the evolution of the “Ag Tourism” business to supplement the cattle operation.

Be sure to bring comfortable walk/hiking shoes and dress for the current weather conditions. Typically Parkfield has cool mornings and becomes much warmer as the day progresses. We’ll be serving a light pastry breakfast and lunch on the ranch featuring V6 Ranch Grass-fed Beef.

If you plan to stay over Saturday night, the restaurant is open for dinner and you can stay at the V6 Bunkhouse for $75., double occupancy. There are six rooms; two twin beds in each are available. RV campers and motor homes are welcome.

Sunday, March 1st:
For those that choose to stay over, you’re welcome to join Jack and Zee in their traditional early morning hike on one of their favorite trails. They’ll share their unique philosophies on the V6 Ranch or any other topic that may be on their mind that day.

For More Information Contact:

Barb Varian at v6ranch@gmail.com or 805-463-2493

Thanks…look so forward to having you to the V6.



I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (12/30/2014, better late than never)

Zee and I just returned from Paso Robles after doing some last minute shopping before we rid are selves of Old 2014. That was a dry, dry, son of a gun. Some guy, according to an article I read, said the last three years were the driest three years in the last 1200 years.

Takes us all back to the 8th century. Makes me wonder if those ranchers had drought relief subsidies like we have today. Their government check wouldn’t have to be very big what with no property tax, no electric bill, no telephone bills, no John Deere tractor to buy diesel for, and on and on. I bet they might have been better off than we are today!

The article said he could tell by how close together the growth rings are, which told the good times from the bad. I wonder if there’s any similarities between tree rings and being married a long time?
Anyway that’s not what I want to write about.

It’s Zee’s birthday today and she still does most all of the cattle work on the ranch, just so long as it can be done from the back of her horse. 2015 is just around the corner and most of us will be making our New Years Resolutions, which hopefully will lead each to find their Yellow Brick Path. I hope I’m wrong but the lifespan of most of these resolutions, I’ll bet, won’t see the sunrise on 1/2/15.

In spite of my cynicism, some will endure the times of our lives when the good, the bad and the ugly, each will have their day in our being. But best of all, those game changing resolutions that were made years before and still live on. HOORAY!!
What could be a nicer birthday present for my wife than to get to spend the day with ME! We start our day with our daily ritual of me hiking part way, and then switching to Zee to hike part way, then drive our Kubota side by side till the two  of us have rode and hiked our way 2 miles to the top of the Middle Ridge.
We have to be in Paso Robles by 1 P.M. to meet a lady that has a building permit for me so I can build a 300 Panel Solar Farm, hopefully to reduce the cost of irrigating our Permanent Pasture. The meeting is at my daughter Lillian’s  office. Lil asked me if I had wished Zee a happy birthday?

Well, ah ah Zee I wanted to surprise you by waiting till Lil verified that today was indeed your birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Being as we hadn’t had lunch I invited my date to the local deli where we split  a turkey sandwich and then downed two glasses of tap water. Next it was off to the local tractor store to pickup a box of tractor parts that cost a thousand dollars.

Being as how we own everything 50/50, I gave my half interest in the tractor parts for her birthday present. What a guy! I’m overwhelmed with my generosity!
You can’t have a birthday without doing a little shopping, so to Wal Mart we went and came away with 100 pounds of dog food. Then on to the matinee movie. The controversial Movie THE INTERVIEWER was playing. We got to hear lots of four letter words, and for me some laughs. I gave the flick a sort of thumbs up, Zee gave it a thumbs down.
We’re still full from splitting that deli sandwich and we need to spend a little time at Rite Aid Pharmacy getting some old age drugs for when we start getting old. Drug Stores, they give me the Willie’s. They are always so full of old people that look like they didn’t climb their mountain.

So for us in the New Year, Zee and I are committed to keeping on, keeping on with lots of tap water to drink and climbing our ever loving Middle Ridge.

Well it’s time for the grand finally. I know you’re all going to be jealous as Zee and I make our way to our last stop. Denny’s. They have the best Hot Fudge Sundays. What a day. It doesn’t get any better than this!!
I’m just and old chunk of coal, but I’m going to be a diamond someday.

See Ya,


Toilet Paper Needs Love too

Each year in the winter months my son John re-models one or two rooms at the Parkfield Inn. This year he chose the room we call, ‘The Tool Room’, because it’s theme is that of a blacksmith’s shop.

While redoing the bathroom, it struck me that far and away the most important object in the bathroom is not soap, nor is it a nice soft absorbent bath towel, or hot water, if push came to shove they would all have to take a back seat to a roll of toilet paper. For what other thing in a bathroom gives so much satisfaction when cleaning out different orifices of the body; can double as a Band-Aid for a man that cuts himself shaving, or can be made into ear plugs to drown out music that sounds like finger nails on a chalkboard.


T.P. really shows its absolute supremacy over all other objects in a bathroom when a person is perched upon the Porcelain Thrown and when done looks for the T.P. and low and behold the dispenser is empty.

In the blink of an eye terror strikes this helpless person with, “What do I do now?!”


So in the case of no soap, or no towels present, their just inconveniences. But no toilet paper, now that has to rate right up there with a heart attack.


How do we treat this indispensable part of our lives? We simply send spent paper down the toilet with not so much as a thank you for a job well done, or a Bon Voyage. No… We just walk away indifferent to the plight of said paper as it journeys off to some sewer farm never to be heard from again.

I’m not done yet; because toilet paper came from a tree in a forest just like paper that makes its way to the easel of an artist where brush strokes upon that paper can make it very valuable, or to a Note Pad where a few notes are scribbled that leads to a world changing event; no our poor T.P. with just plain bad luck on its side will get shunted into a pulp barrel labeled for toilet paper, only where he will give his all with no reward.

Well I plan to change this injustice by building a proper monument to display this indispensable part of our lives in the newly remodeled bathroom of the Tool Room. It will be made of recycled parts, each having escaped the plight of my T.P. friend to be reborn again as a proud holder of Body Wipes.

A contraption built by yours truly, to give T.P. the respect it deserves.
A contraption built by yours truly, to give T.P. the respect it deserves.


So if you would like to pay homage to our universal friend, come visit us in Parkfield California, Earthquake Capital Of The World pop. 18. Now equipped and as the place where a cutting edge, ground swell of gratitude is gathering steam to make toilet paper, Top of The Heap, King of the Hill.
See Ya,


Things that don’t belong on the V6

It’s easy for me to think of all the things I need for the V6, but it dawned on the other day that it might be more effective to first determine what things I don’t need.

Asking myself the question of what don’t I need, gives me permission to not only see what Dead Wood is slowly disintegrating before my eyes. This backward look at the things we do at the ranch has allowed me to call into question some practices that I might have kept going, but when exposed to the light of reality made no sense.
Why would I continue to dry farm (means to plant a hay or grain crop depending solely on the amount of rain that might fall during the rainy season), when most years I can buy the hay the ranch needs cheaper than I can raise it? Gone now are all the clanking, groaning, humming Hay Bailers, Swathers, Harrow Beds, tractors and disks, ECT. ECT. ECT. AND ALL THOSE HATEFUL TRIPS TO TOWN TO BUY PARTS TO KEEP ALL THIS MACHINERY CLANKING ALL TOOK STAGE LEFT IN THE YEAR 2000.

All because I asked myself,

With my Holistic Management training does Dry Land Farming work anymore?

The testing and monitoring said emphatically, NO.
I discovered that this is a grass ranch first and livestock ranch second. If I don’t raise grass first, then I’m shortchanging the grazers something to eat. And this effects the well being of all the predators, and in turn the scavengers to complete the health of the grazing whole.  I can’t forget that paying the bills is the most important part of another whole that allows me to work at stopping erosion, providing feed and cover for all the domestic and wild critters. Keeping the welcome mat out to all our hunt club members and cattle driving guest that always enjoy a very unique experience.

Nothing can live very long without water so I’ve developed 3 sources. We have spring water, pond water and well water, and a very elaborate distribution system.

What I don’t need for the ranch. The list to follow has no rhyme or reason it is presented just as thoughts pop into my mind. Minimize the need for straight lines. Roads are the biggest culprits, Mother Nature abhors them. Zee and I spent last Saturday afternoon watching the Cutting Horse finals in Paso Robles. I spent part of the day looking at what the vendors had for sale. Two items caught my eye. Both sparkled in the sun and both won’t find a home on the V6.

All ranches in my view need a pickup truck or two, but not the one with a $65,000 sticker in the window. Start its engine and at least $20,000 will disappear in a flash from your bank account.  For traveling the countryside I guess I’ll do without a $606,000 Motor Home and settle for a nights stay at Motel 6. The ranch needs the tiniest amount of paint as Mother Nature’s colors are much prettier and she will maintain them for you at no cost. That makes Rust my favorite color.

Every bit of new tech knowledge that is touted to solve whatever problem might be staring you in the face at this moment most likely is not the answer. The land dances to Mother Nature’s music. Not to a super computer you just need to observe, look and then listen to the songs that her orchestra is playing.

We don’t need people that live, work, or play here that see this land only as a thing to be exploited for their own gratification. And we certainly don’t have to follow the Pied Piper anymore that taught us how to send unfathomable amounts of topsoil down our streams and rivers to graveyards in our oceans. I think I’d better quit before I rant on about all the pesticides, herbicides, germicides that are only Band-Aids for our man made problems not solutions.

See ya,


Finding the sick one

My position in the cattle industry is called a Stocker Operator. Which means that in the autumn of each year I buy all the cattle the V6 will carry for the upcoming grass season. The stockers that I usually buy come from the high desert of Northern Nevada and Southern Oregon, and normally they arrive in good health. But that doesn’t mean that none of them wont get sick.

Pneumonia is the disease that usually strikes when a Stocker is stressed from being shipped; thus its slang name: SHIPPING FEVER. If not cared for, it will almost always end in death. Putting a big dent in a cattleman’s pocket book. So what is the proper course of action?

First you have to locate the sick ones. Because they are not like us, who can be physically sick, but most calls to the doctors office your doctor will politely tell you that you’re only sick in the head. My cattle are either sick or they are not makes things much easier.

I start the hunt for a possible sick one when they first arrive. My horse is saddled ready to move through the cattle, as the cattle are more relaxed around a person on a horse than one that is looking from his perch upon his 2 feet.

For me, the best time to look is when the cattle have just been fed. Many times a sick one will not come up to eat but will be found lying by its self. Two people are better than one when driving a sick one to the Hospital Pen.

I’ve picked out the obvious ones, now it’s time to start looking for the next one who is exhibiting the typical SHIPPING FEVER symptoms:

  • Soft Cough
  • Standing with Head hanging low,
  • Mucus running from the nose,
  • Hair on the back of the tail is flat,
  • Hollow in the flank
  • Slow walk

And if you find one gasping for breath, your probably too late, you should have found him the previous day!!

Last, the really good PEN RIDERS have a sixth sense that allows them to pick out a sick one almost before the Bullock (wiener calf) knows that he’s ill. THE QUICKER YOU FIND THE SICK ONES THE FEWER DEAD ONES WILL BE A FEAST FOR ALL THE  SCAVENGERS THAT NEED MEAT TO SURVIVE.

I practice Socialized Medicine; this means all the cattle that go through my doctoring chute first get their temperature taken. Then depending on how high above normal (normal is 101.5) the temperature is, and how much they weigh, determines the treatment that will be administered in a therapeutic dose. I don’t practice low level feeding of antibiotics to keep my cattle in good health as you just develop drug resistant bacteria.

So with diligence and using the latest protocol for the correct antibiotic to use, and careful monitoring for 2-3 weeks of all the cattle, they should be feeling Hail and Hardy and ready to feast on some V6 grass.

See Ya,


What Lights Your Fire?

Well my fire is just now beginning to die down as my son Greg, grandson Zack, and my right hand man Juan have just spent the last five days loading and hauling with ranch pickups and trailers 18 loads of every kind of imaginable stuff. Of late I’ve had an uneasy feeling as to the health of my Salvage Yard and I think those that live there were probably having worried thoughts that maybe the salvage yard had lost ‘it’s one of my favorite places to hang out’ status.


To some a salvage yard, to me a treasure chest.
To some a salvage yard, to me a treasure chest.

It was that coming up empty handed more and more often  trying to find that special thing that you can’t explain to someone what it is, but you know it when you see it.

This was becoming a common occurrence . You could see the signs of neglect. There were swaths of bare ground showing. Even a Rattle Snake was having a hard time finding a place to hide while waiting for Mr. Mouse to happen by.

The Cottontail Rabbit that likes to eat dinner after dark, because during the daylight hours he’s  a very desirable target for the Red tail Hawk. But with many of his favorite dinning spots now just bare ground he too had to venture out when the sun was shining instead of when the moon was shining, just to eke out a meal.

I had to take action by moving the ‘museum’ ,as some people like to call it, up the priority scale so I could regain the respect of the many critters that live in this wonderful little village. I had to do something… But replacement stuff has been difficult to find.

I should have been looking during our recent ‘recession’ that caused pre-owned stuff to flood into the market. Now with better times at hand, lots of folks don’t have to part with their treasures.
Just when I thought I would have to look ‘farther a field’,  the phone rang.

An old friend was on the other end with news that a local contractor had passed away and his estate was selling a very large accumulation of my kind of goods. I could hardly wait to give the party that was in charge of dispersing the ‘goods’ a call.

A man’s voice answered. I asked if I had the right person that would be in charge of selling the used portion of the estate and he said, “Yes”. I was to meet him at 9 am the next morning to look at what this now deceased gentleman had accumulated in his lifetime, or part there of.

Well, the beginning paragraph aptly describes how to spend five days of bliss. I believe I could hear an “Atta boy!” cheer go up from all the residents of Treasure Town when the first load was dumped and feelings of social security were felt by all when the 18th load of treasure found its proper place on the bare ground of a sparser time.

See Ya,

Some Observations While Wandering Around Missouri

I’ve been cramming stuff into my brain for a lifetime  just like I’ve crammed stuff into our ranch salvage yard. Some of it worth saving, some of it just clutter, and then there are some real gems that never lose their Luster.

My problem is that if I don’t write this blog quickly all my observations might get lost in the recall part of my old brain that doesn’t work as well as it once did.  Zee and I started  our wandering in our mini van 6/29/2014.  As we criss crossed this state I never found one Pot Hole that made me want to question their road fixing ability. You cross all bridges and never know they were there, divided roads are everywhere and all secondary roads were smooth as silk. Cal Trans, the people that fix  our California roads could learn a lot if they would  send the head dog out to Missouri and observe how they build and repair their roads.

Missouri in the summertime is a beautiful green from top to bottom and I have taken notice that all the farmsteads have front yards and because it rains at least once a week,  they have grass and lots of it. The question becomes how do you control all this green growing mass? Why It’s the riding lawn mower to the rescue!

I truly believe that there are more riding lawn mowers per capita in Missouri and that goes for the rest of the Mid-West, than any other place on Earth. Each front yard owns It’s own Riding Lawn Mower and they look to be always at the ready to give their grass a Crew Cut. They come in all sizes shapes and colors. I saw one yesterday a big yellow beauty that I believe could go 20 M.P.H. on the highway.

That’s fast enough to take a break and a back road to the local Mini Mart, get a 6 pack of beer a cheeseburger, and then head for home to finish mowing the Green Jewel. However there is a price to pay for all this lawn mowing exuberance.

Its called FAT, because the lawn mower was the only one that got any exercise. The jockey got all the calories that are now on display around his Belly. Seems as though the more our jockey mows the lawn  (Burgers and Beer) the larger pant size becomes necessary. I Guess that’s the price to pay so our lovable jockey can continue to mount his steed  and keep the shaggy mass at bay and his standing in the community untarnished.

One more observation; in my travels I haven’t noticed one thin person riding a mower. I know that the more weight you put on the back of a pick up truck the better the traction. Makes me wonder if there is some law that precludes skinny guys from cutting the grass!  Can this be the reason Skinny guys in the Shoe Me State are scarce as Hen’s Teeth?
It about 5:30 this afternoon and my low tire pressure light has just come on and the town of Cassville is now in view. “How lucky would it be”,  I said to Zee,” if we found a tire shop open!” And in another moment there it was! Doors open and a friendly face working to finish the last tire change.

I pulled up to the tire changing area. “Could you fix a tire?” I asked. “Sure park it right over there”.  As the tire guy was working to get me back on the road I just had to ask him, How in the world does every lawn in this whole state get mowed every week or so?  And then he explained that most cut their grass because they like the look, but most all counties also have an ordinance that if you don’t cut your grass the county will cut it for you and send you a bill that will make you want to “cut the cheese”for not cutting the grass.
We’re staying in West Branson tonight and so far all we’ve seen is one giant strip mall that looks pretty ugly. The night has passed without incidence and we’re ready to visit downtown Branson. It’s touted to be the Mid-West’s answer to Las Vegas. Route 76 is the main entry and West Branson is 5 or 10 miles distance depending on which street sign you read. Well we had not traveled but a mile in easy traffic when the traffic leaving Branson was either stopped or doing the snail walk. I thought that at 10 A.M. in the morning all the action would be going to town.

This bumper to bumper pace we learned was a fact of life.  I think it rivals a real good Los Angelus traffic jam, made even worse because It’s vacation time and a person was supposed to have left this  kind of snarl at home. Zee and I both had the same idea. How do we get out of this poorly planned  place?

I could tell that the Peter Principal was alive and well, which says that any person or thing will rise to It’s level of  incompetence, was working. I think, that has happened to Branson  and with a fair number of For Sale signs along the way, tells me that others agree. For us  It’s time to say, “Adios!”  We headed out of town on a road that the sign read Arkansas.
We’re in Oklahoma City now and will spend the night. Going to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in the morning. But first I want to say good bye to Missouri, a very beautiful state to visit. The people are friendly and if you like to fish this is the place for you. Everywhere you go you’re  either crossing a creek or a river, or driving by a gigantic lake just waiting for you to bait your hook and do some fishing. For me the Agricultural wealth I.E. Corn, Grass, Cattle and Hardwood Forests were amazing to see. Zee and I looked at each other and agreed that our time was well spent in Missouri.
See Ya,


How to live in a cage

“I like living in a cage as long as the door is open.”

This quote came from Goldie Hawn. it fits perfectly with the way I lead my life. Close the door and my peaceful easy feelings disappear and thoughts of confinement take over. Living 37 miles from our shopping town Paso Robles, is just the right distance to separate me from turmoil. Any closer and a person could get a cluttered uneasy feeling.
Being somewhat claustrophobic causes me to ride in elevators with toes fully curled, sweaty palms and an ear bent toward any unusual sound. Finally, I reach my floor and it’s an eternity waiting for the doors to open. Then the doors begin to slide open to reveal elbow room and I breath a comfortable sigh of relief; something that people that ride with no fear never get to feel.

Another advantage of having elevator phobia, I get to use the stairs when I’m by myself. For riding the box solo is real scary. One option is to climb the stairs. But when my hotel room is above the 10th floor that’s when fear meets tired. So I will usually wait a few minutes in hopes that someone might happen along that wants to join me in a minute or two of high anxiety.

Now to all of you out there, who riding the box is no big deal to: Don’t be annoyed if I try to say a few words to you, as it helps ease my need to flee. But once the cage door is open life is good again.

See Ya,

What do politicians and earthworm have in common?

 Our mid term elections are now history. At the winner’s party all the champaign has been consumed, the balloons have been dropped and the newly elected official with microphone in hand is promising his or her constituency that a new day is ahead and the world will be a better place because the new Senator Snort has the reins.

Little does he or she know that the bureaucrats back at the capital are just waiting to re-mold him or her to fit their image. Now, to the losers gathering. After the customary concession speech words are hard to come by. Drinking Champaign and dropping balloons is going to have to wait for another day. Last one to leave turn out the lights.

But real politicians are like athletes. They just lost one game but the next one will be different. It will have winner written all over it. I think to be successful in politics a person needs to be like an earthworm. Now before you jump to any conclusions, here’s what Charles Darwin champion of the theory of evolution had to say about Earthworms:

“It can’t be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world as have these lowly creatures.”

 Did you know these lowly critters can eat their weight in organic matter everyday and turn it into a ready to use top soil for a grass plant to eat. The evening news is the territory where our Senator Snort will eat his weight in our national treasures on a daily basis, and poop out soil to fertilize the national debt. What I’m not sure of is whether the national debt will feed our populace as well as the earthworm feeds its hungry hordes.

And did you know that some fellow wanted to know how long an earthworm lives. So this chap observed a worm for 15 years before boredom over came him and the worm was alive and well still making top soil. Now to Senator Snort who lives by the use of Gerrymandering and Pork barreling to keep his political body alive . And much like the worm “Snort” is hail and hardy after 15 years and still spending with vigor for the publics welfare and his own.

One last ‘did you know’.  Our friend the worm multiples it’s kind by laying eggs and then they are spread about in the soil guaranteeing the earthworm’s survival. Our politician does it by following the money that leads to my wallet and has also been known to lay an egg every once in a while.

Now I don’t want you to think that I’m disparaging my brethren who chose politics for their life’s work. But who in their right mind would choose work with a form of government (democracy), that is such a messy way to govern but its still way ahead of whatever is second?

So to you, my civil minded citizens who’ve been elected to meet the needs of ‘we the people’, who by the way, want it all. And when ‘we the people’ feel threatened by some Wing Nut in another part of the world, you promised to keep us safe. This way we can continue to complain about what a lousy job you ‘Senator Snort’ are doing. You can’t win Senator Snort therefore, go ahead keep sprinkling my dollars around but please try to use a modicum of restraint. And you go earthworm, we can’t live without either of you.

See Ya,


The Cowboy Side of California