Sunday, April 17, 2011

"U.S. Economy hits a Rough Patch"?

"The U.S. Economy hit a Rough Patch"?

Holy Christmas! I'll alert the media! Oops.... that was the media....

Q1 2011's rough patch has very little to do with weather, and everything to do with Oil... and to a much  lesser extent, Japan.

Economists predict? Who gives a good fart? I am far more interested in what the Saudi's have to say.

Anybody here believe a single word the Saudi's have to say (other than the actual number, which will be easily verifiable in the near term)? They decided to cut production because of a glut in Oil at the same time Libya ceased exporting and prices spiked 17%?  In what f&@%ing universe doe that make sense?

More on this soon.

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So, I am an experienced homesteader now, right?  I read these silly articles around the Peak Oil sites about "gardening as if your life depended on it".

Down through history, how often have you heard the line "The Land of Milk and Honey"? Bizzillions, right? Ever heard of "the land of bell peppers and swiss chard"? How about "the land of broccoli and cabbage"?

Me neither.

Look, I love my garden. But I'd rather have a milk cow and some chickens. Let me tell you about the economics of a family milk cow... work with me... I can't help myself.

My family goes through about a gallon of milk per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. A gallon of organic milk costs $8.20 here in Tennessee, and that's before 9.25% sales tax on food. Let's call it $9 per gallon. When fresh, our cows give 3 to 4 gallons per day, and at the end of the cycle they still give 1 gallon+. On a tax adjusted basis (remember, I have to pay taxes on income and the $9 per day is after tax), my cow's economic equivalent value is about $5000 per year for that 1 gallon per day.  But she gives me 3 gallons per day for more than half her cycle.  The balance goes to the 2 hogs I raise for the family freezer per year. This milk, together with garden/farm and kitchen waste is pretty much all these 2 hogs will get... and they will yield us about 400 lbs of pork. In order to give milk, the cow has to calve... and she will calve every year for 10 years.

With me so far? One cow puts over 600 pounds of beef and 400 pounds of pork in the freezer, every year for FREE (well, for the price of 2 acres of pasture in the middle of nowhere, or less than a $5000 investment that will retain its value in almost every scenario, and $600 for the cow and perhaps $200 per year in medications, vaccines, and supplements), PLUS $5,000 of economically equivalent income milk. Did I mention butter?

Try that with gardening.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Saudis were not happy with our policy on Egypt, and currently aren’t happy with our decisions on Libya. I strongly suspect the cut back is willful and hand in hand with a demarche to signal their displeasure.

Best,
Dan

Anonymous said...

I hear ya on the cow; I got to get one of those. However you still need the garden, People have starved to death with full stomachs on a strict diet of lean meat. There is a reason the Atkins diet works.

Best,
Dan

Donal Lang said...

We've all been waiting for the long-expected reality of overstated Saudi oil reserves; maybe this is it. If it is, then we really are into the end game of Peak Oil; no 'swing producer' means rapid spikes and scares.

The other stuff going on; M.E. upheaval is i think related to food prices (which is related to oil price). Whatever happens next, it means less oil on the market.

Japanese earthquakes have shown the lack of resilience of 'just-in-time' world production, but the increased danger of a big Tokyo earthquake has to scare people worldwide.It would be a good time to think about diversified production, don't you think?

Certainly the nuclear-powered electric car age has hit the buffers; which politician is going to promote nuclear now?

As China takes over Africa and Australia, Europe suffers Greece, Ireland, Portugal (and Spain next?), Britain just gets poorer and poorer, and the US rots from the inside, I'm starting to think the only safe-but-livable place left in the world is probably Brazil; oil, food, lots of land, and the Rio carnival too!

Now, where's that 'Learn Portuguese' CD?

PioneerPreppy said...

The possibility of the oil not being there in the amounts and flow they been hyping has been my guess since the Iranian Nuclear problem went viral. No way to verify it and we will more than likely never know for sure as things will explode long before any of the main powers that be would admit it.

As for the garden thing (which I recommend on my blog as well) it is a matter of scale. You are correct cattle and other livestock are very important but at this late date the best you can hope for is to get people to get a garden laid in their backyards.

I am a bigger fan of perma-cultural plantings myself but it maybe too late for that as well in many peoples case.

kathy said...

For us, what works best is a semi-co-operative system. Our relocalization group is now 5 years old. We buy our milk from one member with a very small, certified organic, raw milk dairy. I provide the honey and house the cider press which pumps out hundreds of gallons of cider each fall. I think we need to add another press this year to keep up with the demand. We have all helped another member reclaim an old apple orchard and, in return, get all of the apples we need. I give the food preocessing lessons and lend out my kitchen and equipment so we group process a lot. We raise chickens with one neighbor as he has the space and we had the experience and the start up money and we reaise pigs with another neighbor. One member has a store and we all do our bulk orders like wheat and oats through them. In return we volunteer for all big projects like painting and inventory. We all live within spitting distance and none of us is tied to a traditional job which makes this doable. We all have huge gardens and freely exchange seeds and tools and even space when needed. I had reservations about this working but we're in our fith year and find it's working really well. We have jsut begun a ride share as we're 20 miles from a small college town. We have a web page and every day we post who's going where or needs something. This has cut way down on driving as we are tending to make one group pharmacy stop or bank run. I see all the local signs of this being the big slide. Our small school is on the chopping block, sales are way down in our one small store, traffic is up at the food pantry and a lot of our little, one man operations are going under. You can't sell a high-end house although the $100,000 range never even makes the market before somebody snaps it up. Reaching peak is the only explaination for the Saudi's decline in production. I'm as ready as I'll ever be. PP: Hey! We agree on something. I'm loving the permaculture. I just got more elderberries, blackberries, strawberries, pears, cranberries and blueberries delvered from Fedco. The land is just sitting there. It might as well be producing food. We're getting a second greenhouse so we'll have more winter greens.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Dan:

I wasn't saying one shouldn't have a garden... I was merely pointing out that the people that write this stuff must not be homesteaders.

Kathy:

To my mind, yours is the way to go. I have not found people that were consistent in holding up their end of the deal. It sounds like you have.

RE: Saudi cutting production

I don't know what to make of it. KSA cannot withstand another 2008 price collapse UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. They must be looking at that with great interest.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Pioneer:

I think Preppers should have a milk cow if possible. Or a couple of dairy goats (though I can't say I like to drink goat milk it is just fine for cooking and excellent in coffee). Laying hens just go without saying. They are the best return on investment on the homestead. I just bought 2 breeding pairs of rabbits, but have no idea how that will work out.

By perma culture I take it you mean perennials? I planted fruit trees with limited success. Peaches and plums where no problem but the worms were. Apples and pears not so hot. This is why I am putting in large berry patches.

I'll let you know.

Anonymous said...

So are you saying that your 2 acres only cost you $5k? Because the only land that would be capable of providing enough grass for cattle on the west coast would run more like $40k...per acre. I suppose you could pick up some land much cheaper on the back sides of one of the mountain ranges, and they are usually not too dry, but they will occasionally have prolonged drought. I dunno...it just seems that for those of us west of say the rocky mountains, there's either the premium-gets a lot of rain-probably someplace a rich californian wants to move to kind of land (the $40k/ac parcels) or there's the dust ridden-good luck ever drilling a well down a thousand feet-crap land (8k/acre land). Doesn't seem to be much in between unfortunately.

PioneerPreppy said...

Ya Greg I did mean perennials even down to acorn flour :)

I think the anon poster above spelled out better what I was trying to say. At this point in time I try to urge everyone to prep not just those with land. I was extremely lucky when I got my acreage if it hadn't been for that I would not have enough land to even be toying with the idea of adding livestock but would more than likely have enough for a garden.

Face it Greg, most people do not have your skill with money or my luck with land so they will more than likely have to make do with an acre or less of garden.

As it stands now if I went to work and the doors were locked and dollars meant nothing I would have stock. Not just the sheep and horses that are currently glorified pets around here. There are enough true farmers in my extended family that I could get some starter stock from them but right now I simply cannot take care of livestock and the raccoons would kill 100 chickens a night I bet unless I was here with the time to guard them and adjust the fencing daily until it was raccoon proof.

I honestly do not know how you do it. There is simply no way I could dress all the birds you do and keep the stock you do and still work, even without a job the number of chickens you go through is quite a feat in my opinion. Of course that type of labor has given me nightmares since I was a kid, it was always my least favorite thing to do and it seemed to take hours and hours.

I dreaded butchering day more than being woke up at 5AM after a night out drinking to cut wood in the snow. I will do it when I need to until then I am content to just know I have the seeds to start when the time comes.

But as I said your preps do impress the hell outta me.

kathy said...

I'm totally impressed by what Greg manages. I have to do all of this cooperatively. I couldn't do as much even with more land. My son and his wife graduate from college next week and they are returning to live here. We have had our eye on a house for them and just found out it goes on the auction block next week. We're showing up with cash in hand. 9 acres with a good well and only minutes from us. It just enough land for a young couple with small homesteading aspirations.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Anon:

Pasture land can be had in Tennessee at $2200 to $3500 per acre. Pasture can be RENTED for $35 per year - you can that in Beef Magazine and The Cattleman.

I have traveled extensively in the third world. Those folks rarely have barns of any sort and the livestock are all over the place... one way or another you can figure it out.

Regarding slaughtering... I slaughter as I need them, and I never (usually?) do just 1; I process a second and that one goes in the freezer. I can process 2 birds in 20 minutes, not including heating the water. And like you, I don't enjoy slaughtering whatsoever. I do like putting fresh meat on the family table that is not full of bad stuff and that has been well treated though... so I do what I gotta do.

We processed a hog the other day. My neighbors helped me and it was done in less than 1.5 hours. It was a small hog, about 190 pounds.

To All:

I wasn't disparaging gardening. I LOVE my garden. Its just that for home food production NOTHING comes close to a hen house with a large run and a milk cow.

On perennials... I think they are to be worked on like crazy. Fruit trees and berries, asparagus, rhubarb, etc... should have a big place in your heart.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Pioneer:

But I am thrilled to hear that you are impressed with my preps. I told you I was "Going Galt" a couple years back. I meant it.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Pioneer:

"Milk and Honey" would imply bees along with that cow!

I am picking up 2 hives some time in early May. I have been reading and speaking with experienced bee keepers, so I hope I can pull this off. I did order the extra supers and frames, just in case it works!

Stephen B. said...

I hear you on cow economics, but 9.25% tax on food??? (Insert horror face icon *here*)

Not even Taxachusetts gets away with that kind of sales tax.