Saturday, July 17, 2010

The squawking environmentalist

I told myself when I started this blog that I would really try and not make it a soapbox for political issues or to lecture and preach. For the most part I am pretty satisfied even though I know I have lectured a time or two and been on a soapbox. This post may start out as one of those posts but I really am not trying to preach or give an opinion as I am trying to discount some widely held beliefs about ranchers and how they treat and look at the environment around them. I recently had someone in a political chat room that said, “Farmers, miners and oil companies basically exploit and plunder the land.” She on the other hand was an “environmentalist” that lived in a major city in a third story condominium. Hmmmmmmmmm. I will let the mining industry and oil industry deal with her but I did have a few points as related to farmers and ranchers.

Certainly as a primary goal and focus I want to make a living and take care of my family. Sure, I basically do that by somewhat bending Mother Nature to my whims in the best way to make that happen. I feel I have been given the honor of being the caretaker of a small portion of our planet. What I am not doing is exploiting or plundering the natural resources that happen to be in my care so that I can reach the previously mentioned goals well as what she termed “to become filthy rich”. The things that were manifested in my day on July 17th 2010 are a real testament to why I not only feel lucky to be who I am and do what I do for a living, but also why I am proud of what myself and so many other farmers and ranchers do in life.

For whatever reason I slept for 6 hours straight last night which is very rare for me but damn did I feel great when I awoke this morning. We had some tentative family plans today if all went well and I felt an early start would make that time off much more possible. The corn circle was stuck and had shutdown and was the first thing I noticed as I left the yard to plunder and exploit to become filthy rich. I was not too happy about that but as I worked to unstick the machine I had some appreciation of nature. To know that millions of small seeds (one kernel each) of corn were placed into the ground the first week of May has now grown into plants that are approaching 8 feet tall is pretty awe inspiring to me. Granted, that seed has had some nurturing, water and fertilizer in some dirt that would be lucky to produce a 6 inch tall cheatgrass plant if left to its own devices in this desert climate.

I then changed the “number one unit” irrigation water. This land has had a 3 week break from grazing and the grass and clover have really grown well. I both smiled and cursed when I saw about 50 Canada geese take flight from an area where they spent last night consuming succulent green clover. I guess the trade was fair, I provided them some food and as they left they provided the land with some fertilizer. As I drove home I watched a mother coyote cross the road with two pups, for now the population is fairly in check so I just admired them for awhile despite Festus and his noisy protesting. I saw a momma skunk and her 3 kids in about the same area last night.

I then went to the house and picked up Dakota so she could work with her show steers for a bit. That interaction between human and bovine is something that is really amazing to watch. The animal and the kid both come to know and trust each other given time and I will talk more about this on some later blog post. She and I then traveled to Eltopia to fish with her cousins for part of the day (Chris is a bit under the weather today). Each cousin as well as Grandma caught some nice trout and had a fun time. We then came home so Dakota could shower because she had a babysitting job this evening. After taking her to Connell I spent some time changing more irrigation water. I almost skipped out on the fishing so I could change more water this morning but then had a thought. If I had been one of my two friends that passed away the last few weeks would I be happier that we went fishing or changed irrigation water? I wish I always could think this way and make the right choice.

Birds are very prolific around here. Hardly a week goes by that I am not trying to find some new species online based on their colors and habits that I happen to witness while out working. We had a barn swallow family raise five healthy kids right on our inside back porch this spring and despite the whitewashed guano covered concrete it was fun to watch them grow, hatch and leave the nest. There has also been a family of Western Kingbirds hatch out in a locust tree close to the house. Kingbirds are very territorial and I have watched them drive magpies and other much larger birds off in quick order. The locust tree behind the bunkhouse provided a nesting area for some hawks (not yet identified) that successfully raised 3 children. I have been watching the young hawks learn to dive on rodents in the pasture close to sunset time each night. I guess when my Grandfather planted those trees and built this house it was part of his exploit and plunder program. For those that knew him you can attest to how filthy rich he became by doing this.

Would land that had been mismanaged, exploited, and plundered provide these magnificent species and many others the opportunity to reproduce in such a prolific way year after year? I think not and today’s picture will show you just how “managed” nature and “natural nature” co exist and sometimes compliment each other. Those are killdeer eggs in the middle of a cowpie I found in the pasture this evening. You want to talk about natural habitat and camouflage. I even plugged two sprinkler heads so momma Killdeer would not have to spend a very wet night incubating her future offspring. To think some people consider themselves “environmentalists” because they send a check to some group each year makes me laugh. Next time I run across this lady I think I will ask her “how many bird species reproduce in your checkbook?”

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Western Kingbird aka Tyrannus verticalis.