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Basta Ranch Newsletter

July 24, 2005


In this issue…


** Lance, Weeds, and Horsemanship

** Equestrian Paths in Valencia County

** Save the Valle Vidal

** Beyond Category

** One more comment about slaughter issues



Lance, Weeds, and Horsemanship



I have been wasting countless hours watching the Tour de France the last three weeks. I even added channels to my Dish Network subscription so that I can get OLN, the channel that the Tour is on. If I am going to be working at home, I'll turn it on to watch the live show in morning. If I go to the office in town, I make sure that my friend, Bob who is a real cyclist and also follows the Tour, doesn't let me know what happened, and I watch the show in the evening. Each day's stage is shown about four times during the day, and I'll even sometimes watch parts of it twice. As someone who tires out after a 15 minute bike ride over flat roads, I am amazed at those guys who can ride 100 miles in a day, then turn around and do it again the next day for 21 days out of 23.


Lance Armstrong, who has won the last seven Tours, just tries to survive on the early flat stages. For the first week of the three weeks of the Tour, Lance and his team just tried to stay safe, out of trouble, and near the top of the rankings. It's in the mountains that Lance started to pull away from most of the field. It's where he puts his mark on the race. His toughness at the top of the mountains is where he puts the competition away. He's also a dang good time-trialer, too.


Seeds of Goathead

I think the goathead stickers in my front pasture have been just trying to survive, and they figure that the hot July weather is their Pyrenees. I have been keeping up with them through the spring and into the summer. But now, they have kicked it into a higher gear, and are leaving me behind. They pop up and blossom so fast these days that for a few days, I was not sure I could keep up. The goatheads took the yellow jersey from me for a few days.


But I am fighting back. I have survived their attacks, and like a peloton pulling back a break-away, I am slowly gaining the upper hand. I expect to be wearing yellow by the end of the summer.


About half of our 2 acre front pasture has lost its grass because we have had too many horses for too long on it. I sort of let it get this way because I have been concentrating my efforts on rehabilitating our back pasture. It's doing well, and soon I will have the front pasture leveled and re-planted. In the mean time, we've had a lot of bare ground out there, and last year the goatheads took over. I was so busy last summer that all I could do was watch them grow. When I tried to attack them in August, it was too late. They are nasty little stickers. They left lots of seeds to reproduce this summer, in addition to getting stuck in the dogs' feet. I vowed that this summer I would stay on top of them.


goathead thorns embedded in bicycle tire

In April, I started going out with my hoe almost every day and hacking away any little goathead plant I could see. I didn't think I could kill each plant, but maybe I could prevent them from getting mature enough to reproduce. It was easy at first. I could stay on top of the goatheads. In June, we took a ten day vacation, and they got a little ahead of me, but I was able to catch up in about a week. Then came July. I swear that plants that didn't exist one day were blooming the next. This last week, I have attacked the invaders with both a morning hoeing session, and an evening one. So, far I am staying more or less ahead of them. I can get into a Zen like state and just become engrossed with the simple, repetitive task. It's pretty good exercise, too.


It's interesting the lessons you can learn while hacking weeds. My hoeing technique has improved, and I am surprised at how almost every day I find myself getting more efficient and acquiring more finesse. It's not a skill that will make me a lot of money, but it does allow me to observe the process of learning new skills.


I first noticed this phenomenon this spring when I was cleaning out my irrigation ditch. Those of you who are not privileged to live in the great Southwest, may not have seen the irrigation system that we have here in Rio Grande valley. If you fly over this part of the desert, you will see a green ribbon bisecting this state. Beyond four or five miles on either side of the river, the desert is brown. It's only really green where we can take water out of the river, or in some places out of the ground. The irrigation ditches help us get water out of the river. About ten miles north of our place, a good chunk of the river is diverted down the ditches. When the ditch rider says it's our turn to water, we open up gates north of here and allow the water to flow down into our ditches.


Along the southern edge of my property, there is a concrete ditch that supplies the water for our pasture. In the picture to the left you see part of the ditch that has been cleaned out. You can see one of the gates that I open when the ditch is full of water to let it flow into the pasture. In the picture to the right, you can see part of the ditch before we cleaned it out in April.


This eastern part of the ditch had the most weeds in it. When I started cleaning the ditch this spring, I started at the easy part on the west end. At first I thought I was being kind of chicken for starting at the easy part. But I soon learned that there are advantages to starting with the easy tasks first. In the parts of the ditch where the weeds were few, I was able to build some cleaning skills. I tried different tools, including hoes and spades. I finally figured that a square-bottomed shovel worked well. I learned how to slice the plants down the side of the V, chop them on the bottom, then flip them out of the ditch. As I made my way toward the tougher stuff, I learned the angles that needed to hold the shovel for maximum chopping with minimum effort. By the time I got to the tough stuff, I had the skills to chop and hack that I would not have had if I had started with the hard stuff.


I seem to relate everything to my horsemanship these days. About two thirds of the way down the ditch, when I was in the weed-hacking zone, and I really didn't need to think about it any more, my mind wandered to how I started learning horsemanship skills. I had to start with the easy tasks on the easy horses. If I had tried the hard stuff or a hard horse first I would have not only been in danger, but would have gotten discouraged. As my skills improved, I have been able to take on the harder tasks, but I had to put in the time with the easy stuff first. I could have tried to clean the ditch in a single day (like in years past, and it was a nasty job), but I spread it out with short sessions over two weeks. Each session was relatively easy and short. I've made my best progress with horses when I work in short sessions every day.


I make my living by programming computers. I sometimes have to work through problems by balancing and juggling complex parts of the task in my head. But, I seem to learn the biggest lessons and learn the most about myself when I take on the simple tasks. I don't have to climb the Pyrenees and ride 2000 miles to learn the big lessons.


All I have to do is pick up a hoe.



Equestrian Paths in Valencia County



When we lived in Albuquerque, we rode paths along the bosque beside the Rio. We often trailered up to Corrales to ride the wonderful trails up there. Since we moved to Los Lunas, we have not found similar trails down here. We can ride along the ditches, but there don't seem to be any trails down in the bosque on our side of the river.


There may be some hope, though. The Mid-Region Council of Governments (www.mrcog-nm.gov) is studying bicycle, pedestrian, and equestrian paths throughout Valencia County. The Rio Abajo Bicycle alliance has been working closely with the MR-COG do develop the plan. The MR-COG is looking for input from the equestrian community on how we would want to implement equestrian trails around here.


There will be a meeting on Wednesday, August 10 at 7:00 PM at the Bosque Farms Rodeo Association. "The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the proposal and receive additional input. The goal is to develop an equestrian element for the draft Plan that reflects the overall needs fo the equestrian community in Valencia County." This quote is from an announcement for the meeting. Click here for the entire announcement in PDF format, including a map of proposed trails.


If you are a Valenski, (Valencian? Valentine?) and want to work for equestrian trails down here, contact Loretta Tollefson at 724-3611 or ltollefson@mrcog-nm.gov.



Save the Valle Vidal



Nancy and I have been invited to go on a ride in the Valle Vidal in early September, and we are really looking forward to it. I have heard that it is a wonderful place. It's between Taos and Raton near the Colorado/New Mexico border. In 1982, Pennzoil donated over 100,000 acres of its Vermejo Ranch to the U.S. government. It is currently managed by the Carson National Forest as a Multiple Use Area. At the time it was donated, the Forest Service was working on a management plan for all of its lands. Because of the timing of the donation, the Valle Vidal was not included in the plan, and its status has been in a sort of limbo since then.


The government is considering allowing drilling for natural gas and coal in the Valle Vidal. Go to www.ValleVidal.org for more information. (This web site is maintained by the Coalition for the Valle Vidal. The name is interesting because they are against the mining and drilling. I wonder if there is also a "Gasition for the Valle Vidal"?) The Forest Service is looking for input from the public on this matter. Please read the information on the Valle Vidal web site, then send a letter with your opinions.


Send Your Comments To:

Carson National Forest
Attn:  Valle Vidal Forest Plan Amendment
208 Cruz Alta Road
Taos, NM 87571

Or email: comments-southwestern-carson@fs.fed.us
(“Valle Vidal Forest Plan Amendment” must be in the subject line.)



Beyond Category



konica minolta

As much as I enjoyed the Tour de France, there are some things about it that strike me as kind of silly. First of all, it seems just plain old mean for the peloton (main group of riders) to let one or two guys go out on a breakaway for 120 km for several hours, then catch them in the last 2 minutes. That's heartbreaking. Also, it's weird to me to have a 231 km race that takes six hours decided by a 20 meter sprint at the end. One stage was decided by a photo finish and it was reported that the riders' front wheels were 2 millimeters apart. Can't you just give them a tie?


I am also amused at the way they categorize the climbs. Easier climbs are Category 4 (300 - 1000 feet) , and the hardest are Category 1 (2,700 - 5,000 feet). But, then there are "Hors Categorie", or "Beyond Category". Most of the HC climbs are 5,000 feet or more. What I find amusing is having a category that is "beyond" categorizing. Did the race organizers say, "The Cat 1 climbs are the hardest", and then they smacked their collective foreheads and said, "Gosh we forgot about Alpe d'Huez! That one is REALLY hard!" Why didn't they say that the hardest climbs are Cat 1 and the easier are Cat 5?


It reminds me of the Nigel of Spinal Tap whose amps go "Beyond Category" by going up to 11. Here is a quote from http://spinaltapfan.com/atozed/TAP00160.HTM (it's amazing how fast one can find goofy stuff like this on the internet) :

Nigel’s key to keeping Tap among England’s loudest bands. In "This is Spinal Tap," he pointed out to director Marty DiBergi that the settings on Tap’s Marshall amps could extend beyond the standard 10 mark. Nigel: "You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You’re on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder." DiBergi: "Why don’t you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?" Nigel (after taking a moment to let this sink in): "These go to 11."


One more comment about slaughter issues



I got lots of feedback from my last newsletter more than three months ago (!!!) about horse slaughter. I am afraid that some people misunderstood my intentions. A couple of people wrote me incensed that I would recommend putting slaughter houses at every auction house. I have learned in writing this newsletter that for every person I hear from there are probably 10 or 20 who are thinking the same thing, but don't take the time to let me know about it.


So, to set the record straight, I really don't want any horses slaughtered at all. The modest proposal of putting abattoirs everywhere was a device to get your attention. Boy, did it!


Happy trails…




Photo Credits:


I got the image of Lance from Google Images. But when I tried to go to the site it came from, I got a "page not found" error. I am not sure who to credit.


The goathead picture on the left is from http://museum.utep.edu/archive/ plants/DDgoathead.htm


The one on the right is from www.klickitat-trail.org/ bulletins.htm


The photo finish is from www.LeTour.fr.


And, of course, the ditch pictures are mine.




Copyright 2005 by Jay Koch. All rights reserved. If you want to share any part of this newsletter in any published form, please just ask.