July 27, 2005

I haven’t written in awhile! But excuses abound. The 10th through 17th were spent improving the Neilsen ratings for Star Trek: TNG reruns on Spike TV. In other words, I had the cold from hell and was down and very out for an entire week. The "optimal sick" is when a person ails too much to be at work, but not enough that reading, writing, crafts and light housekeeping are still reachable goals. Unfortunately, this was "abysmal sick", oh well.

In other news, time has been spent researching beekeeping, as we progress to making a decision about when to start our first hive. Hours of internet reading have brought me up to having "the general idea". Next we meet with a local novice beekeeper to ask some more questions. I have found what I believe to be the best deal for a starter kit, and more reading has led to finding information for making certain tools and supplies at home. So, we’ll see where this ends up.

We have been playing catch-up outside. In addition to being sick, the weather has been at, near, or above 100 degrees F for days on end. It has been difficult to get work done outside; the heat restricts activity to the half hour before sunset and twilight. Watering takes priority, followed by harvesting and weeding. Our kitchen floor is heavily encroached upon by 5 gallon buckets of potatoes. All the potatoes are dug up and it seems to me we did well. To tell the truth I haven’t gotten round to eating one just baked to see how they taste, but they look good. Squashes are coming along, and some of the vines have grown alarmingly when I wasn’t paying attention. Beans and okra are beginning to bear. Peppers are flowering, while peaches, plums and nectarines make a modest but steady parade across the kitchen counter. The Swiss chard have grown admirably, with their colorful spines of pink, red, yellow and white against the green leaves. So far we have kept up with eating the food, but I think we are on the verge of being overwhelmed.

In turkey-land, we are done with chicks for the year. We had the disappointing result of only ONE chick hatching out of our second dozen eggs. The heat wave likely didn’t help one bit and may have caused some of the chicks to die in the eggs. But mostly, I think any embryos died at an early stage, as many of the eggs showed minimal development. If we are lucky, our three surviving poults will turn out to be boys and girls. If not, next year I’m going to avoid this fun and order live chicks. We have already observed that the Narragansetts are calmer and a good deal smarter than the Royal Palms. I can see why they are well thought of by breeders.

Lastly, we are exploring the idea of farm or equity loans for improvments on the property, thanks to the exponential increase in values that northern California in general and Arbuckle in particular has experienced. After a few years of wrangling with the landscape, some things become apparent. Two upgrades that we feel are fairly important are a more powerful tractor, and an investment in a solar energy system. It seems pretty clear that any national energy source which relies on petroleum fuel will only increase in years to come. An alternative energy source, although imperfect, frees a property to a certain extent from reliance on traditional energy supplies. And regarding the tractor, we know that we are killing the poor thing. Our little Kubota, however well made, lacks the horsepower for many of the chores needing to be done. We are in the process of gaining estimates on the value of our existing tractor, and also pricing out the various options for a larger machine. We prefer to purchase another Kubota, which has got to be the Volvo of tractors.

Investigating the twists and turns of agricultural economics is providing quite an education. Farm loans are many and varied. Loans exist for property purchase, new farmers, young farmers, part-time farmers, disadvantaged farmers, operation expenses, disaster expenses, equipment expenses, structural expenses. They are provided by government and farm organizations. Interest rates vary all over the map, from variable to fixed, loan amounts vary from whatever to 300K minimums. Some loans are to be had quickly, while others guarantee endless miles of red tape and forms. Some loans are specifically geared to help the "little guy" while others clearly are meant only for Big Ag Business. Either way, it’s best to make sure the homework is done, since in any venture there are ups and downs.

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