Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Karma, good karma

Well good news!, I survived another Washington Cattlemen's Association summer range tour. This is not something as easy as one may surmise by reading today's blog post or reading a post about last years range tour

it has quite often became a matter of near death in a school bus. Now growing up I was a pretty good kid on the school bus because the bus driver and my Grandma Sally were friends and I knew any trouble would be reported directly to Grandma who was someone I never wanted to disappoint. Maybe that is why I tend to keep quiet and not let my white knuckles show on these tours because I am , well I am just an afraid man. I actually got a break today as I chose the front or "non dusty bus". This was good because the second bus was driven by a man that was so fearful he would be left in the forest that he had a following distance of .0000000478 seconds behind the bus I was on. On the downside my bus had a woman driver which as we all know can be dangerous, this reminds me of a joke; You know why Helen Keller was a bad driver? Well because she was a woman of course!

Anyway, great tour today and I want to thank the US Forest Service ( which when I thank a government agency is an odd thing) specifically the Pomeroy Ranger District of the Umatilla National forest and all the agency people and cattlemen that attended. This is a truly beautiful area of Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. Despite many challenges related to endangered species, environmental group lawsuits and some large fires in recent years it was nice to see a collaborative approach to ecosystem management. This is good for the "permittee" rancher, the local communities, the local forest service agency and their management, the United states taxpayer and most of all it is good for the health of the forest. Multiple use and dollars spun through local communities to create a strong and prosperous country, with a reasonable management plan that eliminates the idea of no use as well as the idea of overuse. I also would be remiss if I did not mention the ladies of the Asotin and Garfield County Cattlewomen's associations. Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray may have television shows but these ladies would give them a good beat down on how to prepare and serve lunch in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington. Really ladies, it was incredible from the marinated BBQ beef to the oatmeal cookies and everything in between.

It was great meeting some new people today and seeing so many old friends. Although my lady bus driver who seemed to have no problem bouncing a school bus over a cattle guard at 73 miles per hour (store this number) on a forest service road tried to send me to the afterlife today I am still here and breathing. We actually made it back to the ranger station late this afternoon, and despite the occupants of the second bus needing to be screened for miners lung for the dust they ate all day it was a awesome day. Thank you so much to all who attended and made the tour a success.

So all we had to do was make the trip home over the winding highways back to Connell, USA and life would be perfect. A pretty simple task for most people on most days but somehow difficult for me. We were a good distance out of Pomeroy and about 13 inches from the Garfield/Columbia county line when a diligent Garfield county sheriffs deputy clocked me for doing 73 miles per hour in a 60 miles per hour zone. When the conversation starts as , "Sir, please shut off the engine to your vehicle." you just know it is likely not going to be a friendly conversation about how law enforcement and the beef industry can collaborate. So I got a $113 ticket and a curt, "Do you have any questions?" from officer illegible. I thought about asking him if his wife was named "Moana" but I haven't had a ticket in a few years and was terribly out of practice. Things like this used to really piss me off but not anymore. Tomorrow I will be outside working with cows, grass, and mother nature and have lots of good friends and a great family and officer illegible will answering to a boss, being an asshole to citizens and will likely be the one of the few males in Garfield county not having sex with Moana. Oops, did I say what I was thinking again.

The day turned back around quickly as we continued on our trek through the desert on the way home. We blasted through Starbuck, Washington with a speed limit of 35 at 37 mph in an awesome show of defiance and I am sure we crossed the double yellow line on the bridge at Lyons Ferry just for good measure. Somewhere between Palouse Falls and the highway 260/261 Junction I spotted a rattlesnake in the road. We made a u turn without signaling; where are you now officer illegible? and Jack and Neil dispatched the head off said snake. Chelsey our summer intern now has a set of much coveted rattles and tomorrow we will gut and stretch a snakeskin for a future hatband. Now you try and tell me that there is no such thing as good karma for people like myself ;).

Today's picture is not from the tour because someone; Chelsey did not have her camera charged, but instead is calf 1302w on February 15th of 2010, I will try and get a picture of her in the next few days to show how much she has grown.This picture, like all pictures on this blog can be seen full sized by clicking on it.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is Meadow Foxtail aka Alopecurus pratensis.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Cowboys and Cattlemen

Just a short blog post tonight as I should be in bed for an early and long day tomorrow. We are having a WCA range tour tomorrow near Pomeroy Washington on some forest service grazing permits to look at some water systems, grazing management, post fire damage areas etc. A few of my fellow cattlemen are going to be in my yard at 6 a.m. to make the trip.

We have had a couple of really great things as well as a very heartbreaking thing happen here on the ranch the last few days. I will get into those in a future blog post. Tonight in the interest of time I wanted to share something I found very inspirational and helpful in dealing with life the last few days. There is a young woman in our industry that is a great agvocate and supporter. She is a magazine editor, a 5th generation South Dakota rancher and writes a great blog @ ht
her name is Amanda Radke and she does an incredible job. One of the things she does on her blog from time to time is have photo contests related to things in the beef industry. The latest was Cowboys and Cattlemen in honor of Fathers day. As someone who misses my dad so much I was very impressed with all the photos people contributed. Senior Beef Magazine associate editor Jamie May made a video compilation of the entries. Enjoy and thank you to Beef Magazine, Amanda and Jamie and all that contributed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summers here!

The #NWP2P <span style=Summer, sweet sweet summer, finally here and manifesting itself in the glorious way that it should. For a cow calf operator here in the Pacific Northwest summer does not mean that there is not enough things to do but it does mean you have some flexibility in your day and the real plus is that the cows are feeding them self on natures bounty of growing grass. It is also a great time because it is often the time of year that the cows look their best. Slick, fat with growing calves standing beside them. Memories of past calf crops and the calves that specific cows have raised in the past flood your mind as you work among these amazing animals. The weather can at times get a bit too hot to be comfortable and everyday irrigation water must be attended to but compared to snow, ice, cold and feeding supplemental feed daily to cattle it is a great time. We pushed right up into the mid to upper 80's today but there was a nice breeze and it was a great day.

I was dragging a bit as yesterday was a long but informative day. I was up at 3:30 a.m. and Chelsey and I left at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Ellensburg. There we met 4 other cattlemen and traveled to Lynden which is in the very north part of western Washington near the Canadian border. We had our monthly WCA executive meeting and then did an afternoon tour of a river basin on the west (wet) side of the state. We learned about river biology, regulations, shellfish growing in Samish bay and how some of those regulations are affecting members of our industry. The weather was great and some fellow cattlemen had put together a great and informative tour. Thank you to all that participated to make it a very great day. We did not pull back into the driveway until midnight and once again Chris and Dakota covered chores so I could be away to serve industry. I am a very luck man indeed and appreciate all the help my family has given me over the time of my term.

This evening Chris and I traveled south to Pasco for a dinner sponsored by the Washington State Beef Commission (WSBC). For those who do not know our industry deducts $1.50 per head from every transaction of cattle sold to fund our promotional efforts and advertising. The WSBC does a tremendous job for us and tonight was the mid point dinner of a great program they sponsor each year. The Northwest Pasture plate tour takes chefs and food service beef providers on a 2 day tour to educate them about modern beef production practices. They see a cow calf operation, a feedlot, a packing facility and have speakers to answer questions about what we do daily. I had a few very great conversations with people outside our industry tonight about what I do for a living and my role in producing nutritious, wholesome, high quality, and great tasting beef for a hungry planet. It is such a paradigm shift from years ago of how we conduct our business.

Some people are reluctant to embrace this new era but personally I just love it. I have always been fascinated with what people do for a living. I once spent most of an afternoon with a Peruvian sheepherder in southern Idaho talking about what he did for a living because although it is animal agriculture it is very different from what I do. To live in this country with so many opportunities and options and learning how different people have approached and ultimately succeeded in how they make a living is something that has always amazed me. To talk with these people who are the last link between my product of beef and the final consumer is so informative and educational. The hope is these conversations and information sharing helps to promote a vibrant, profitable and sustainable beef industry. I for one am a believer that the path is correct and events like this one helps everyone in the production and service chain to have years of success. Thanks to everyone who is attending and participating in this event.

Well this is one of those blog post that I feel is boring and humorless but the kind I am going to have to post now and again to have any consistency here. I am trying something new here by posting a "twitpic" from today's tour. This may have some editing time over the next bit of time. OK, it looks like it is posting but you will have to click on the picture to see it full size.

Today's real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Red Backed jumping spider aka phidippus johnsoni, one of which seemed to want to make sure I did not open an irrigation valve today.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You'll be there

I am posting direct to the blog page again because, well I guess just because I don't want to mess with posting it to a Word document and then post it here. I do not know when I will get this posted but it is Fathers Day or it will be Fathers Day tomorrow. Fathers day is always so bittersweet for me. I reflect on my Dad, and my kids always do something very special but at the same time missing my dad during this time is acute.

Today Chris, Chelsey (our WSU student intern) and myself attended a memorial service for a great man who is the father of a close and lifelong friend. All my thoughts and prayers are with the Wieseler family tonight. A great family, a great contributing family to the Columbia basin and especially to our local agriculture community. Today was a great tribute and sendoff for their family patriarch and may their loss be tempered by good memories of a great man.

I have never been someone that has handled the passing of others very well. I guess I am lucky in some ways because I feel those who embrace life and living the most are the ones who accept death the least. There is another dynamic that hit me last week when I learned of Leonards passing. I have been blessed with several great friends in my lifetime. Many of them were friends from a very early age and many of them continue to be close. I certainly do not want to discount the level of friendship of anyone but Leonard was the last dad to pass away of my closest 4 friends. Age has never really been an issue for me but knowing that myself and my 4 closest lifetime friends are now the "old guys" is a bit of a punch in the gut.

As Fathers day is upon us I thought I would share a story about my Dad that I experienced just a few weeks before his passing that I found very amusing. One of the things I really enjoyed and I feel Dad enjoyed as well were the days we were able to spend together going to a cattle auction. When I was very young it was a one ton Chevrolet truck with 4 cows in the bed, Dad driving and me dreaming that I could someday be him. In later life it became me driving Dodge a pickup pulling a 24 foot stock trailer with 12 cows in it and me still dreaming someday I could be him. When Dad and I traveled there was no limit to what issue of the day would be discussed. Even though on most issues we agreed, for him it was about teaching a life lesson and for me it was challenging his entrenched thought processes. We could have a pretty great banter over the argument of Hereford vs. Angus and an even better discussion about spring vs. fall calving.

The last trip we took to the livestock auction in Toppenish together we were discussing how to sort out media reports for truth or fiction. We both agreed that sometimes in today's "soundbite" world things often got distorted in a rush to be the first to report. We then discussed how to avoid being taken by a soundbite and how to decipher truth from hype. We arrived in Toppenish about the time we had agreed that you should be careful not to rush to judgment, have three reliable and credible sources and if something did not pass your own "smell test" to be very wary.

Dad and I both purchased a few bred cows and pairs at the auction that day and had a pretty great time. On the way home we stopped in Granger and while I pumped diesel Dad purchased a few items that we mutually enjoyed for the way home; black licorice, saltine crackers and Coors beer. I not only had plenty of time to fill my mostly empty tank, I also checked the cows we bought, checked the trailer tires and still seemed to wait forever for Dad to emerge from the store. Dad never met a stranger and if he struck up a conversation it might go for quite some time. Those that know me also know that never happens in my life.....anyway.

We headed down the road and I wish I could remember what issue we discussed but I do remember we were not exactly in agreement. I teased Dad that he was in a weak argument position and I jokingly asked him for his "three reliable and credible sources". Dad did not hesitate at my challenge. First he quoted a passage from the Bible, then he quoted a speech from former President Ronald Reagan, at this point I was a bit taken aback by his knowledge and wisdom. I somewhat mockingly said, "ok that is two, who is your third source?". Just as calmly and with just as much fervor as he made his first two points he flung out a very insightful idea. I did not disagree with his idea but I did ask him where he got that knowledge? With as perfectly poker face he said to me, "That guy I was talking to in the store named"Ted" is where I got that from!

Well my mind was changed that day, I do not know "Ted" but I do know that on this Fathers day I really miss the man that made me so much of who I am. He taught me so much, gave me so many opportunities and did all he could to teach me how to face life without his guidance. Tomorrow I am going to travel to Dayton Washington and pick up Dakota from 4H camp and take some time to enjoy the trip home just as Dad did with me years ago. Once we are home I may not make her change an irrigation handline just so she can remember who she is like Dad did with me years ago but I will tell her how much her Dad loves her just as he did many years ago.

I miss ya partner, and Happy Fathers day to you! You'll always be there for me. Today's picture, real environmentalist species and everything else is represented in this song played at Dad's celebration of life. Listen to the lyrics, it really captures how my Dad lived, and how those he left behind miss him. I'll see you on the other side Dad, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anybody got an ax?

I am going to post this direct to the blog page tonight in the interest of time. Today was a day of travel as I headed to Olympia Washington. I had 3 travel companions today, Jack our Executive Vice President of the Washington Cattlemen's (WCA) Association, Vic our WCA 1st Vice President who is aka "sidewinder" and Chelsey a WSU Animal Science student/Vet school student and who is currently spending part of her summer on the ranch with my family as an intern. The objective of our trip was to watch and hear arguments before the Washington State Supreme court related to our ability to provide water for our cattle. I will not go into specifics of this protracted legal battle but rather comment on a few observations I made today.

Now, first and foremost these views, opinions and comments are my own and in no way should be hung upon Jack, Vic or Chelsey aka "Havarti cheese girl". The first thing I noticed today is people on that side of the state don't understand the rules of MY road very well. One rule they really ignore is that when I turn on a left or right turn signal on Griselda it means they have 3 seconds to get the hell out of my way. Sorry son, but your Volvo "grocery getter" might as well back off when Griselda wants to change directions and you don't need to honk at me in appreciation for not driving over the top of you.These people do not even know how to give a proper "thumbs up", they use their damn middle finger. If people would focus a bit more they would have noticed the cowboy hat worn by the driver and I would not even have to use my turn signals! You just can't find people with good manners anymore.

We made it to our state capital and the first thing I noticed was the lack of people now that the legislative session is over. I also noticed how quiet it was and the amazing lack of lies, empty promises and bullshit. Refreshing actually. The Supreme court of our state is located right next to the capitol building. Here was where I really noticed something shocking. If I want to pay my property taxes or pay a traffic ticket in Franklin County, like for illegal lane changes, I have to almost get neekid to do so. Full security, metal detectors, belt buckle has to be removed, apple, potato and testicle cutting knives have to be left behind to even get into the courthouse for the issue of "safety". Well apparently at the Supreme court level it is not an issue. They did not even have any law enforcement present that I could see. As Ronald Reagan so eloquently said, "government IS the problem."

The next thing I noticed today is not nearly as easy or politically correct to talk about as the things I have mentioned so far. I know they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and knowing this I really struggled to be objective and kind as I made assessment of people in the courtroom today. For the most part I would say that the people represented a very average cross section of the everyday citizenry except for one segment of society that was represented today. Is it some kind of requirement to be freakin butt ass ugly to be an envirowhacko? Do you have to look like you have been subject to a terrible fire to your face that was subsequently extinguished with an ax? Let me tell you, I have seen felines on the pavement that had weighed a Peterbilt with their head that looked better.Anyway, a pretty good day in court, time will tell but I feel better tonight about the issue than I did before today's judicial exercise.

I finally have my new center pivot putting down water after some real struggles. Somewhat overbudget and damn sure over completion date but it is up and running over a new crop of corn. In the long run this will be a very good thing. I still have not purchased a new camera so today's picture is an older one of Festus that shows how much more attractive he is than an envirotard.

Today's real environmentalist species is....oh hell, whatever check this video out and tell me if my views from today are not correct.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Brad Pitt may play me in the movie!

You ever been in a car crash? For that matter a good crash with a horse, motorcycle, bicycle, camel, water truck, street sweeper or shopping cart will suffice for what I am trying to explain. I have had the joy and pain of experiencing all of the aforementioned items. Well, not the camel crash but back in the first gulf war I had a nightmare that I crashed an explosive laden camel with a spoiler on it into a 7-11 but the Slurpee juice splattered up and killed the fuse and I ended up in jail and that was plenty frightening in its own right.

This latest crash of mine was basically fairly mild in that it just affected my online presence. True, part of it was the few times I did have an internet connection the last thing I wanted to do was post a blog but mainly it was just plain lack of connection. I have been busy as well, some days it seems in my mind I get very little done but without much of an internet connection I have still found plenty to do. April somehow came and went in a total blur. The weather has been very cool and wet and we are an easy 3 weeks behind normal in growing days. On the plus side the grass looks good and I have had plenty of chances to skip moving a handline without fear of grass burning up the next day. We had a reporter and a cameraman from a media agency here on the ranch in April. These two fellas must have missed a few prayers at some point in life to get stuck with the assignment of following me for a day. Brad and Colin were so professional and made me and the rest of my family feel totally at ease. Thank you both for working around us and thank you for doing such a great job. These guys took tons of video and had to condense it into a short presentation for NCBA (National Cattlemens Beef Association) Cattlemen to cattlemen program. I was nervous about the whole thing which is not something that often happens to me but it went well and I was pretty happy with the final outcome. They say a camera adds 10 pounds but I swear there must have been 5 cameras on me and not just one as they filmed this. Oh well, I am not fat, I am just hard to kidnap! Here is the final story Brad and Colin produced.

The start of May brought spring branding, vaccination and castrating day. Once again my family and extended family and friends helped immensely making a tough job easy and enjoyable. We also were helped that day by two young ladies attending Washington State University and Tori and Chelsey were great help. Thank you to these young women who are each going to spend part of their summer with us as interns learning about the beef cattle industry. I and a local irrigation company have been working to get a new center pivot up on part of the ranch and hopefully early next week we will be putting down water with the new system.

With the time away from this blog I have had ample opportunity to reflect on how maybe I could change things here to make it easier but more consistent. One thing I need to do is not be so desperate to keep things the same. Some days maybe all I will get time to do is post a picture or a short quote or story and I need to be satisfied with that. I have yet to buy a new camera because to be honest money is really tight right now with the situation of putting up the new circle. Dakota completed her 8th grade softball season and I want to congratulate both the 8th grade girls on their undefeated season and also the Connell Eagle ladies high school softball team that won the state championship last week. I also want to thank all of you that have waited patiently here wondering where the heck I have been. Between the ranch, WCA business and spring I got to feeling a bit overwhelmed but I think with this new reliable and faster internet connection I will be more consistent here.

Today’s picture is old 5288w and her last calf she had last fall. This little cow was 16 years old and I really hated to see her go but she leaves behind a 3 year old daughter to carry on her legacy. Well it is almost 1 a.m. and just to do something different I am not posting a species from the ranch today but more to come in the near future!