I can never find a hammer. Or a shovel, for that matter. I've got one around here someplace, but that doesn't get the ditch nailed.
One day I couldn't stand it anymore -- I was spending way more time looking for hammers than I was using them. So I went down to the hardware store and bought five hammers: four unpretentious Chinese hammers that they were practically giving away, and one nice American one. (This was in the days when the Chinese could build hammers but not crescent wrenches. Things are a lot better now.)
This plan worked great. It's hard to lose five hammers. It took years!
The same is true for shovels. Actually, it's worse with shovels. Hammers last forever: you just can't find them. Shovels break eventually, especially if you run them over with the tractor. "Oh, there it is!"
So is it moral, frugal, or prudent to buy many more tools than you really need? Define "really need," bucko. Before I bought the five hammers, it wasn't working. Afterwards, it was. I rest my case.
I had a similar experience with cell phones. My son Dan has trouble keeping track of his cell phone, and every few months he runs one through the wash. Lecturing has proven ineffective -- and you couldn't pay me to become his laundry maid and go through his pockets. What to do?
Often the first step is to say, "Suppose the problem never gets better. What's the cost?" It turns out that you can buy used cell phones (just like his old ones) on eBay for almost nothing. I just bought two for a total of $16.00, including shipping. So I gave him one, and he owes me $8. And when he runs it through the wash, I'll give him the spare for another $8. After that, he can buy his own replacements directly.
He can afford this tiny expense, so who cares? Not me. It takes a couple of minutes for me to log onto Verizon Wireless and activate a new phone, but that's it. It's not enough to worry about. We've all got bigger fish to fry.
So my advice is: let's not worship our tools. Sometimes they get lost or broken prematurely, but if this isn't not expensive, forget about it. Manage your time. Stop obsessing about your stuff.
Also, it's worth recognizing that expensive possessions are a burden. You feel compelled to protect and nurture them. There are better places to invest these feelings.
Now, I'm not saying that someone who uses a hammer all day long should use a cheap one. The best hammer you can buy is none too good under these circumstances. But it's still just a hammer -- mass-produced, identical to a zillion others, easily replaceable, and affordable. I'll bet the best hammer you can find is cheaper than taking the family out to the movies. So buy two hammers while you're at it, and don't freak out when someone wants to borrow one.
Sure, some tools are fragile or customized, and we need to keep other people's mitts off them. But this is a bug, not a feature: a burden, not an advantage. We should keep this sort of thing down to a minimum.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy some more hammers.
Now I have a cheap copy of each tool I use frequently in all those places where I usually work. I don't get any more work done, but now I spend my breaks sittin and thinkin rather than hiking all over the mountain side. I may have to join a gym!
The best thing about farming is that it allows you to become an eccentric -- everybody around you expects this -- which is enough all by itself to gradually make you rich.
- Farmers typically stay on the same farm forever, thus relieving themselves of the expense of buying a bigger McMansion every few years. For most people, buying houses they don't need is the stupidest waste of money in their lives.
- Buy a fancy new car? When your gravel road is going to ding it up and it's always going to have half a ton of feed or livestock in the back? Are you crazy? Besides, no one expects you to. Everyone smiles and waves when you drive by in your elderly pickup. That takes care of the second-stupidest waste of money.
- Nor are you tempted to buy a flavor-of-the-month politically-correct car, like a hybrid. Where does the half-ton of feed go? Even the most repellent snob won't begrudge a small farmer his 10-mpg pickup truck. Face it, you're surrounded by a cloud of political correctness (and possibly smoke from your worn rings) wherever you go.
- And the same goes for clothes, too. A farmer doesn't gain any points for wearing the latest fashions.
So even if your part-time farm never makes a dime, it provides you with a tremendous level of social approval for living like a cheapskate. If you take the slightest advantage of this, you're likely to retire rich.
(Assuming that farmers ever retire. I think they live forever.)
As for being an eccentric, it sure feels right :)
Looks like the 2009 H1N1 is likely to turn into a fizzle. This shouldn't surprise anyone, since being sensible always involves a high click-to-bang ratio. That is, you can have a great batting average simply by waiting until all the evidence is in, but by then it's too late to do anything. Sort of defeats the point of the exercise. So you decide on purpose to jump the gun and put up with the low batting average.
What irritates me is the way the news media, particularly TV, pander to the fact that they get higher viewership during a crisis, and so they need to create a crisis from whatever material comes to hand. In that spirit, they've removed the word "epidemic" from their vocabulary. In the real world, diseases go from "outbreak," to "epidemic," to "pandemic." But the media has gotten to the point where any news-worthy outbreak is a "pandemic" -- or at least a "potential pandemic" -- while the word "epidemic" isn't used at all.
Does crying wolf actually work? Less and less over time, I'd say. The crowd at Saturday's farmers' market was about as large and about as happy as usual, though a nearby college had closed due to a suspected flu case. Probably a lot of people were like me, and looked at the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control, then went about their business.
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Today is the first Buy Local Breakfast of the season. These happen every year in Corvallis and highlight local farmers. We always donate the eggs. It's probably too late for you to rush out and scarf down some yummy local food, but it'll come round again on June 6 and July 4.
The forecast is for rain at the farmers' market, but I'll be there, and so should you! Today's special is two dozen Extra Large eggs for $8.50.
Don't forget to print out a copy of the Norton Creek Farm Web page, since it doubles as a dollar-off coupon.
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Here's another good old-time rule that most people have forgotten:
"The floor of the brooder must be warm and dry to the touch before you add chicks."
If the baby chicks get chilled as soon as you take them out of the shipping box, bad things happen. They lose the desire to eat and drink, and sometimes the ability to move, if they're chilled. Cold or damp litter is enough to chill them.
Usually you should turn on the brooder the day before the chicks arrive. This is no time to try to reduce energy consumption.
I read this rule in old poultry books but have never seen it in newer ones:
"A chicken chicken coop needs to be big enough to walk around in, or small enough that you can reach into any part of it from outside."
Coops that are somewhere in the middle -- too small to walk in, too big to reach across -- are nothing but trouble. Chickens need good care, and (let's face it) we give better care when it's convenient to do so.
In addition, coops that are hard to service usually provide limited visibility. Is that waterer in the back really working? Hard to tell. Is that an egg in the shadows? Everything works better if you can get up close and personal.
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Keeping predators out of daily-move pasture pens can be difficult, since predators are motivated and can dig their way into the pen. Some things that help:
- Having a dog close to the pens. I'm told this always works. We haven't tried it.
- Electric fence surrounding the area with the chickens. This mostly works. See my Electric Fencing FAQ. Most people think that electric fencing has to be way more elaborate that is really the case.
- Electric fence wire on the pen itself. Does anyone do this but me? Hammer in a few nail-on fence insulators around the perimeter of the chicken pen, about four inches off the ground, add wire, and attach to the fence charger of your choice -- possibly a battery-powered one attached to the pen itself.
These precautions are fairly effective, but sometimes you get a predator who isn't afraid of an electric fence and wreaks havoc in spite of it. I'll talk about that in another post.
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I've been shamefully neglecting my Norton Creek Farm Web page. This is the Web page aimed at folks who are interested in buying our farm products, as opposed to raising their own.
So it's actually up to date for once, and has some good info on it, including where to buy our free-range eggs and pastured broilers. (Hint: The Corvallis Wednesday Farmers' Market has moved.)
And the page doubles as a dollar-off coupon if you print it out and bring it to the Farmers' Market.
In other news, Corvallis has rung down the curtain on its free downtown Wi-Fi network, much to my disgust. How am I supposed to keep the kids from each other's throats without Wi-Fi? I bought all those laptops for a reason! I am looking into alternatives...
One thing that amazes me is how fast hens go through oystershell, even if you're feeding them a complete ration that theoretically has enough calcium in it. This is probably a good sign, meaning that they are getting some low-calcium nutrition off my pasture and eating less chicken feed.
They had run out of oystershell, and when I took a bucketful out to them today, they fought over it.
That's the thing about nutrition -- it's hard to tell what the chickens lack. You short them on something, and they'll be less productive, but you can't tell by looking.
I recommend providing hens oystershell 24/7, regardless of what else you're feeding them.