Thursday, April 21, 2011

"A Little Bit Pregnant" - cont...

In every case there is a best possible outcome and a worse possible outcome. Assuming that it is all pointless is the expression of despair, and despair is hardly the mindset most often associated with figuring out the actions that will lead to the best possible outcome.

Life is to be enjoyed. Running around trumpeting doom has little upside going for it. Going about your life in such a manner as to avoid debt, own a home free and clear, raise children, build a business, and grow food (whether by hobby gardening or homesteading) will hardly be detrimental to your future. Ignoring the future by spending money one doesn't have and going into debt and complaining about the political zeitgeist has not shown to be a winning strategy for personal advancement (however you define that).

Life is about enjoying it - and taking responsibility for yourself, me thinks.

Life as we know it is going to change. Perhaps that rate of change will be slow enough that we won't notice. I reject that out of hand, but you never know.

I am interested in hearing from people that are running a homestead with their families. I am particularly interested in empirical data on the economics of each and every project or product you are involved in. "That which is not measured is not managed."

So let me hear from you.


For those of you watching the US$ and the commodity markets:

It seems that either the US$ collapses, or the commodity market does. This is NOT A TIMING CALL.

My bet is on the US$ NOT COLLAPSING (yet). But I could be wrong. We shall know soon enough.
Perhaps it is just me hoping that that is the case, but I think the end of QE2 will change the tone of things somewhat.  As always, I reserve the right to change my mind on a dime.


I don't hold out much hope that our political leaders will be able to fix that which they cannot understand. So I am going to go out and get my everbearing strawberries in. Hey, its all about priorities.


Dr. Michel said...

Please share this great link for gardeners:
From University of Vermont but for eveyone.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Thanks, Dr. michel!

kathy said...

I have been trying to work on the economics here but I keep running into a problem with the numbers as we do so much "off-the-books" barter. I didn't have to pay the arborist who taught me to prune my trees as I gave her about 100 extra strawberry plants. I helped my local dairy farmer get her herb garden set up and she gave me soil blocks for my starts. DH fixed my neighbor's truck and neighbor did some machine work for us. Then I have to figure value. My land is owned free and clear. I don't consider the market value as I had to live somewhere anyway. I can do a cost analysis of expenses but why spend the time as, even if I could eat cheaper from the supermarket, I wouldn't eat better. I would do what I do because I love it. See Sharon Astyk's post on the Theory of Anyway.

PioneerPreppy said...

Homesteading? No I as yet do not fall under that title. I have been a prepper for years. I even had gear still stored from the late 70's nuclear scare then fell away from it until about 2007 when I picked it up again which lead in short order to the road I am on now for sustainability and homesteading research if you will.

I have taken accurate measurements of food requirements we go through. Measured average yields from some crops on my land and extrapolated from there. I do a number of micro experiments and still hold down my day job. Of course there maybe unforeseen problems which show up when/if the need to go into full scale comes but I think I am minimizing the risk.

Can I make the jump from my daytime job to full time subsistence farmer and livestock owner? I think I can but until it is put to the test there will always be a question about it.

Until then I prep, add more of this or that and make ready as best I can.

On the upside I captured a swarm today and it looks like it is going to take to it's new home!!!

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I am very interested in the economics of you bees. I am buying 2 hives, and the should be here shortly.


Some things are still economic even if their is no comparable cost savings. There is NO WAY to produce eggs cheaper than the the "loss leader" egg sales of 59 cents per dozen at Walmart... but that's not the point. My eggs are from birds on pasture getting their sunshine... ergo, they are worth more to me than an equal number from Walmart.

Also... not having to drive to the store has economic benefit. Every mile one drives costs money and each mile has a risk of injury or...

I am hoping to hear ideas on being more efficient in my food production.

PioneerPreppy said...

Economically the bees can cost very little. Kathy should chime in here as well if she does things differently but to date my hive expansions have only cost me about fifty bucks each. That cost is only because I don't make my top cover or screened bottoms myself and I order the frame material.

Outside of the original hive I bought and queens occasionally I am bent on only growing my hives after they have been mated with local drones. I purchased a small extractor and take some honey for myself but otherwise all bee resources are currently geared to hive number growth. Once I get upto 15 hives I plan on using 10 of them for harvest and continue the other 5 as growth. I might then have better numbers but that won't be until next year earliest.

A local larger producer I know just told me he pretty much kills his bees off yearly. He says he can harvest all the honey, keep the equipment, and replace the bees with new packages every year and still make money. That seems so wrong I won't even run the numbers to see if it correct or not.

I did ask him if I could buy some bees slated to be starved off from him and he changed the subject. SO not sure he wasn't yanking my chain.

Anonymous said...

59¢ eggs? You need to get out more. Even if that were so, it still takes over a dollar in income to be able to spend 59¢, provided one can even find a job in the official economy. Heck, even the local recruiting depot is having tryouts. I went to the store and there were a few dozen guys doing PTs in the field across the parking lot with the recruiters walking amongst them rejecting people.


Stephen B. said...

Ideas for being efficient in food production you say? A few things come to mind...

I've simply been amazed at the perennial stuff that we got going over the past 10 years. Growing up, my grandfather did veggies almost exclusively, but that's all a lot of work, tilling (regardless of tilling type), composting, planting, weeding, etc. then doing it all over again next year, or even this year.

Small fruits keep my freezer and preserve jars full. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries are my mainstays. I freeze a bunch and jam up a bunch too.

Raspberries are ridiculously easy. I just mow around and between the rows a few times a year to keep both the grass and excess raspberry canes in check, then I mow the canes to the ground after Thanksgiving, and top dress with some compost before growth resumes the follwoing spring. I have the more modern "everbearing" type of raspberry, the kind that bears on 1st year canes. This lets me mow the whole row to the ground after the season is done and avoid the chore of selectively pruning the 2nd year canes completely and the 1st year canes by 1/3.

Blueberries also just get some top dress composting and a quick pruning once a year to get rid of weak looking branches.

Strawberries are a bit more work as I use traditional varieties. In the spring I steal some plants to start next year's bed with after I pull the mulch back from this year's beds. Weeding the new bed is a bit of a chore in the first year, but I do it because I *love* fresh strawberries. After the harvest on the 2nd year beds, I till, add compost, and then use the bed for fall veggies - usually a last batch of sweet corn - planted before the 4th of July around MA. Then that bed gets an over-wintering cover crop for the following year - wheat with red clover under-sown. That means that cover crop is actually a food/grain producing crop and a nitrogen/legume rebuilder (the clover) all at the same time to make up for what N the corn and strawberries pulled out. I plant strawberries on a well fortified bed that's had at least a year of some cover/smother crop as strawberries are pretty poor weed competitors.

I'm not sure how an everbearing strawberry bed looks after 4 or more years or how one keeps the soil fortified with everbearers. I guess you just top dress occasionally as one does to other perennials such as asparagus and raspberries?

Fruit trees, asparagus, rhubarb, and so on are also pretty easy I think, compared to veggies in that they return a lot of bang for the time and effort put into them once they are established.

As for veggies, I've weaned myself from all the excess soil turning and raking. It's okay to toss seeds, especially larger seeds such as peas, into a less than perfectly smooth bed. Today I planted a spring cover/manure crop that's field peas, vetch, and oats into a rough-tilled bed that had a bunch of compost added on top. I spread the seed mix then dragged my chain link harrow over it to incorporate. No real fuss was involved unlike the way I would have done it years ago. I won't have to do a thing to that bed for the rest of the year.

I used to till multiple times, or spade, rake, rake again, etc. Veggies like most plants, like the soil surface somewhat jagged to trap water along with some mulch/trash on top for protection from excess sun and wind.

Maybe this is all old news to you all and maybe things have to be managed a bit different in TN, but the above works for me.

Stephen B. said...

Also, in addition to Dr. Michel's link, let me offer a link to a free pdf version of Managing Cover Crops Profitably.

This book really got me thinking as to how to invent various rotations incorporating grains and cover crops into food plots, such as the strawberry>corn>wheat-red clover>veggie one I mentioned earlier:

It has all kinds of charts comparing the various cover crops, what they do to the soil, what they need in return, along with various strengths as well as drawbacks.

Animal manure is great too, but takes work to spread and, not all of us have enough animals - yet anyway or a manure spreader. Just the same, I get all the composted horse manure and bedding I want from a neighbor, and that's the majority of the compost I put on beds as soil opens up on transitions from one crop to the next.

kathy said...

We can't use all of our honey from 8 hives and the market is so flooded with cheap, chinese honey that it's very hard to compete. I have been turning all of my excess honey into creamed honey. It takes some time but the valuea added product flies of the stand at a premium price. I enjoy the work and the profit pays for all my expenses plus some. I plan to teach my daughter to do the creamed honey this year. It will be a nice sideline for her. I get my tomato crop in very early and use a lot of row covers. I never want to lose a whole crop to late blight again. Berries are so easy and so profitable that I can count on farm stand sales to cover the cost of garden seed soil amendments. Rabbits are probably best for meat production on a budget but better when one does not have an 8 year-old daughter with a sensitive streak. The work co-op is our biggest money saver. There is no way it pays to hire help on a place as small as ours. Across the board, our best investment has been in like-minded friends with good work ethics.