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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The new farm

An interesting article about new agriculture. Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Farmers.
Everybody is looking for an angle to make money. Everybody is looking for the next best thing. There is always a seminar on clever new ways to farm. Organic farming and sustainability are really nice sounding terms.
There is no glory in writing about failure, but most of these new style farms are losing money.
This is the point where I offend all my farmer friends.
I suspect that real farming, the way God intended us to farm, is practiced only by the Amish and a few oddball hippies, and OhioFarmGirl.
I'm not sure mainstream production agriculture is not really farming, (my opinion as one who is involved in it). Sure we pride ourselves on feeding the world and we have the bumper stickers and we like to think we are some sort of protected class of folks, with our new combines that cost more than your house and our determination to farm 500 acres more than our neighbor.
But it ain't really farming in the centuries old traditions. We don't eat what we grow, we farm more ground than we can walk in a day, we don't raise animals, we don't have a balanced ecosystem on our farm, where what we grow feeds our "tractor," which fertilizes the ground which grows stuff we eat, and feed for our chickens, who give us eggs, and so on. And we are not really feeding the world. Providing cover crop for the Midwest perhaps, or grass for the golf courses of the world, noodles for Japan, but no one would starve if all the farmers in the Western half of this state went on strike.

I'm not sure there is anything really wrong with this. Current trends towards bigger farms are leaving a few of us behind and some of us are more bitter than the rest.
But according to the census of agriculture, farms under 100 acres are increasing at a rapid rate.
I've found the new farmers quite interesting. Most of them annoy the heck out of me and so I kind of avoid them, but I like a few of them I've met. Well, perhaps two of them...or one...
With that in mind, I was just talking with Jose today and he told me about his friend who sold a goat for $20,000 and another friend who has 100 acres of fruit trees and is making big money.
Both of those people are not main stream agriculture.
There are two ways to be a farmer. The first is to rent what ever ground you can find and try to make it in traditional 20th century farming. Growing grass seed or commodity crops and doing trucking or custom work or what ever to bring in cash flow. You work with all the government farm programs and you fill out the paperwork and you get a young farmer loan and you go to endless farm meetings.
And then there are the other folks.
There is a lot of energy in farming which you see in small farms with young people working outside the  traditional farm service agency route. Most of these people just decide they want to farm and they go do it. Most also fail, but there are those who succeed.
If I were starting out in farming I would never set foot in the Farm Service Agency. Never go to one of those stupid seminars where the speaker gets paid a nice fee to tell you how to start a farm business and you know good and well that the speaker is up there because it is easier to get paid to tell people how to farm than it is too actually do the farming.
I can't use myself as an example because I am terrible at customer service and my feed business is failing because I refuse to answer the phone. And I'm not starting from scratch.
But...
Take feed as an example, this is what I should be doing. Feed prices in the farm stores are kind of outrageous. If I had ten acres of barley, ten acres of oats, five acres of flax, a truck load of alfalfa, and twenty tons or so of pea screenings I could sell a really good multipurpose feed, 16 percent protein and under $400 a ton. I would start small with my old equipment and a few customers and sell through word of mouth. I'm not going to Farmer's markets because sitting in a booth all day Saturday and Sunday and talking to the same five hippies does not really appeal to me. I don't have the time.
You want people to come to you.
I think in five years I could be as busy as I wanted to be. In fact, I think the only reason I'm not making feed every day right now is that I don't really want to.
Which brings us to the genetically modified labeling issue. My customers can't afford the certification. They are not certified nonprofits, they are not retired rich people, generally they can't even do Organic Certification. They sell by providing good tasting food raised locally and can show their customers where their ingredients come from. The new initiatives are written to make money for the certification agencies and to weed out people like my customers. The interesting things in farming are always done by passionate individual farmers.
And now my battery is dead and I have to go to work. Feeding the world! If you don't like farmers, don't talk with your mouthful! Going to go chop some genetically modified corn...and possibly do some field trails for Monsanto. Hoping to score another flying corn hat. I like flying corn hats...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dad goes for a ride, I put my new spanner to work, and we startchopping silage

Sunday my brother took my farther (thanks iPhone auto spell) FATHER and I for a ride.

We went to see our chicken farmer friend. I should have taken a picture. He has such a wonderful bucolic little farm.
We meandered our way through the backroads and ended up in Willamina.
We had lunch at Coyote joe's which is reliably good food.
Then we decided to spy on my friend's field of Teff.
But we got distracted.

This map doesn't really do justice to the drive. If it were in Gorges neck of the woods it would be "up a couple holler's."
(However you are supposed to spell it)
But then dad went to sleep, we did stop by the Dairy Queen for ice cream. We thought about going to see muddy valley but we were thinking he was away at the drone races.

Later, I made use of my Whitworth spanners to remove the rear tyre on my motorcycle.
I had to remove the special nonstandard exhaust pipes in order to block up the triumph to remove the rear wheel. 

I found out why the rear brake doesn't work.
Today we are going to chop silage.
Which is what I should be doing right now and not blogging using speech to text on my iPhone.
Have a nice day.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I love my iPhone

Apple has become is a wonderful company. I remember back in the old days when you could just buy an Apple product and bring it home turn it on and start using it. Or plug some random device into the Apple and have it show up as an external hard drive and then use disk tools to figure out how to get it to work.
The New Apple is so much better. I love many layers of password protection, I really love typing with a touch screen and trying to get the "m" key to work without hitting backspace. The experience of accepting a phone upgrade and getting the opportunity to retype all my passwords, not have to worry about posting videos to YouTube or photos to dropbox is wonderful. I also love having random identities from my family assigned to me when someone else updates their phone. This is even better than wearing my wife's underwear, (hypothetically speaking-not that I have ever done that) Although, once, some years ago I may have accidently put her pants on one morning and then when my daughter freaked out I may have sort of flounced around the house refusing to take them off because they, "made me feel pretty." I would never do that because I have lots of self respect and would never want to do anything that would cause my daughter to need counseling in the future.
But, I digress...
Let me just get to the point.
1. I was going to post video of my exciting life, planting and having a nerf machine gun battle (two videos not one) and random photos but I can't.
2. I've been busy planting and getting ready to chop silage and have been posting with my iphone. At this point I can't email anyone.
3. Anger management....

In a completely unrelated point...
People are debating the Oregon voter initiative to label genetically modified ingredients in food. I won't debate. It is stupid. It is funded and promoted by people who love regulation when it is on other folks. We don't need more regulation. That is the bottom line.
If people don't want genetically modified food there will be a market for it and it will happen. Let it happen, don't force me to prove my hay or my grain is nonGMO.
I have spoken...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happiness! Day Two, I go to open house at school, comment on a teacher fired daughter's old school for leaving the door open

Now that I am a positive and happy person I have a much different perspective.
I took my daughter to open house at her school last night. I met her teachers. They seemed nice. We looked for places I had carved my name into tables. Didn't find them.
I pointed out to her the spot where the girl in first grade pooped on the floor.
I noted that the school executive secretary was the only person left at the school that I knew. We stopped and talked to her. She had just started when I was in 8th grade.
I did not tell her about that Halloween when she came to school dressed as Mae Yokum and all the 8th grade boys, including the Principal,  turned to jello.
It was a nice father-daugher bonding experience.
She is doing well and her teachers say she stands up for the oppressed.
Everything is common core. Language arts/reading seems to focus on current literature which is pretty much crap. But, on the other hand, Jonathan Swift and the Irish Potato famine, or Gulliver putting out fires, would get the tight-arses in up in arms, if anyone could figure out what they were saying.
The teachers are enthusiastic and sincere and I have no complaints.
I'm really glad she is not attending the private Christian School this year. Meltdowns in Administration produce cynical kids. Especially when it is at a school where you look to the leadership to really provide an example and they are really trying to do the right thing but have gone about it in such a silly, incompetent and ill-thought-out way that it has completely made a mockery out of the process.

I so much want to write a Daily Strumpet article about the school.
I have the headline:
Born in a Barn? Western Mennonite School teacher opens fire door and gets fired!
Or Furious Fake Farts by Foolish Fellows Find Funky Teacher Fired! Students say it stinks!

On the Job too long? Was leaving the door open the last straw?
Administrators at WMS did not announce the firing of nearly 20 year veteran teacher Dave Engle last week.
Engle may have been fired after a string of misadventures which include but are not contained to, propping a class room door open to supposedly provide ventilation during 90 degree weather, the rude and unforgivable misjudgement of  instructing students to make flatulent noises while saying their names during classroom introductions on the first day of school, and having a US Army poster on the wall in old Testament Bible class.
Little information was given on the termination as Students and Staff were encouraged to accept that the leadership of the school had everyone's best interests at heart and that of course it was a confidential matter and Mr. E's privacy was of utmost concern and that much prayer and counsel had been sought and God and Moses had been consulted personally.
Later, it may or may not have stated that Mr. E. was fired due to a pattern of insubordination as evidenced by open doors, fart noises, and military posters on the wall of an institution which pay homage to it's Anabaptist past by banning anything military, applying conflict resolution to paying students and issues which in no way challenge the God inspired leadership and direction of the school.
An anonymous source cited examples of unsound doctrine and something so offensive on the first day of school that this writer would wish his daughter was in public school. However, no examples were given as that would be violating Mr. E's privacy.

But, the Daily Strumpet (America's favorite irregular newsletter for regular people) has not been published in years and now the former editor must go to work.

Have a happy day! And remember, if you don't have the balls to standup and disagree with someone just fire them for insubordination or write snarky semi anonymous comments about them in a your kind of whiny blog!
Words and hands are not for hurting!
If you let yourself down you let your country down!
Get off my lawn!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A change of attitude and I attempt to salvage flax

I have decided to become an optimist. I read that optimists are well paid. In fact you can get paid for being an optimist, it is actually one of the 12 best jobs in America!  Then I realized that I now need reading glasses.
I have been somewhat embarrassed. In reviewing my blog I realize I may complain just a little bit. This is supposed to be funny. More of a light-hearted look at the misadventures of a reluctant farmer.
That whole combine fire thing, did as they most likely say in the burgeoning recreational chronic business in Oregon and Washing say, "harsh my mellow."
One must need to be familiar with the current colloquialisms if one wants to be "hip," something which I most certainly strive to be.
But, I digress...
Yes it is true that the combine did burn up and that my attempts at a restful vacation did not get off to a good start, but I must remember, no one died, I didn't have to walk, and I got pie...
It could just be bad luck, well not really BAD luck as, no one died, I didn't have to walk, and I got pie, but and three neighbor's offered to help combine.
The first neighbor to show up also had a few things go wrong. First he ran out of diesel, second, he got violently ill, then his father got violently ill...
The other neighbor who was getting ready to come over had his starter blow up on his combine. I mean it failed so badly it started a small fire.
My other neighbor has offered to help three times but I'm sort of afraid he will be struck by lightning and I've declined his offer of help. (but said thanks) Three friends are better than two friends and I really hate funerals.
But there is hope. After days of discussions with insurance companies and much prayer by the followers of Gorges Grouse, there may be an insurance settlement. AND the local farm equipment salvage yard has offered $3,500 for the charred combine and we can keep the header.
I'm afraid to discuss details due to the whole "sideways luck," issue that I have discussed in past posts. (Something always goes wrong followed by something going right but never so right that it negates the going wrong.)
Also, my father seem content that he is 95 years of age, although it still bothers him that he has been 95 for the past five years. I suggested that he be happy that he hasn't gotten any older. I'm not sure that really helped but he did give a chuckle.
In other news which I will deem positive, we are getting a warm rain which is sprouting all the worked ground so when it stops raining (which I'm sure it will at precisely the right time) we can spray out the sprout and plant. (And chop silage all at the same time.)
Yesterday I attempted to salvage toasted flax. It turns to mush with moisture. It is funny stuff. My brother took the hydraulic motor off the belt pickup and hooked it up to the unloading auger drive on the BBQ combine. This way he was able to unload the full tank of seed into a truck without using five gallon buckets. There was quite a bit of charred and wet flax around the edges of the tank.

I made a screen to go into the throat of the auger and screened out much of the big chunks. I got something like 6,500lbs out of 7,500lbs in the tank. It is not good enough to go for seed but I can use it for chicken feed.
Of course it was raining while I was doing that but with my newfound sense of optimism I was happy, happy, happy!
Have a nice day!

Monday, September 22, 2014

I heart pie

My wife's sister made me a pie for my birthday. It was a work of art. 
I suppose it was no coincidence they were camped in the space next to ours. My brother in law makes the best breakfasts ever. 
The work was here patiently waiting for me. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I go on vacation and things break...


My wife and daughter convinced me to go camping for my birthday this past weekend.

I just turned 50...
Of course things did not go as planned.
A blowout on the trailer on 99W, unexpected fuel usage combined with our arrival at the gas station in Mapleton ten minutes after closing time, failure of the trailer lights, and today it rained at the coast.

So what went wrong:
1. The timing of the whole event- I thought I could spare a few days in September. I even planned in advance. Then there was a combine fire and then my employee got sick and it is supposed to rain in two days and now it is time to chop silage. But the campsite was reserved and wheels were set in motion and we went.

2. Thursday things went wrong. We were to leave at 3:30 p.m. I was to fill the truck with gas and hook up the trailer. But things went wrong... Insurance fellow showed up, Major parts supplier representative brought lunch, Uncles old hunting partner showed up, Dad decided he needed to subtract 1919 from 2014 to find his age. No little helper. He didn't show up because it rained, I was incredulous and somewhat short tempered.
 I didn't get the truck full of gas.

The events as the transpired: On the road at 4:30 p.m.
A blowout on the trailer on 99W, it was on the passenger side so it was not too bad.
We passed the last gas station and realized that the gas gauge was dropping really fast.
The low gas light comes on, we stop and drain gas out of the generator and use a safety cone as a funnel.
7:10 p.m. We get to Mapleton to discover that the gas station is closed. Wife checks the bar to see if the other gas station owner is in the bar drinking but he is not. We call AAA.

8:50 p.m. I am really tired of waiting for the AAA guy to hitch hike from Eugene with two gallons of gas and start checking things on the trailer. Discover we have no lights.
9:10 AAA guy arrives in a van label RV service. I ask him if he has any test equipment for checking lights. He says "no." I mean that is actually all he said. "no" Then he got in his van and left. I thought about making another call to AAA.
Instead I crawled under the trailer with a pocket knife and my iPhone as a flashlight.
9:20 I twisted some wire together and got lights. We were on the road...

Had a nice time in Florence. I slept in. My wife's sister and her husband were in the adjacent camping spot. My brother in law is an excellent breakfast cook. We had a nice time.

Plus I got this cool old Calrad volt meter at a yard sale, and a soldering iron, and an axe.