The Flock in Winter

In addition to our usual flock of laying hens, which is doing very well this winter, we have a small flock of ducks and even some turkeys.

Here in Western Oregon, where it rains like crazy and often freezes at night, but the daytime highs are almost always above freezing, poultry don’t much care about winter weather. Getting clean eggs in spite of the additional mud is more burdensome than the cold.

In snowier climes, it’s a little different. Free-range poultrykeeping is a challenge when snow lingers for long periods on the ground, while my birds can just tough out the few days per year with snow. And watering systems that freeze and stay frozen are not useful! read more...

Every Farmer Needs a … Used iPad?

My old first-generation iPad has mysteriously become the property of my son Karl, so I took a look at the price of a new one. Yikes!

On the other hand, used, first-generation iPads have fallen to around $300, or about one-third the price of a new one that’s similarly decked out with 3G and lots of memory. iPads are built like tanks and have bright screens, and are up to the challenge of being used at a Farmers’ Market.

One practical use for the iPad is accepting credit cards, using teeny-tiny card readers like the one from Square, which plugs into the headphone jack. Square has made their product very easy to use (they’re saying, “Use it at your next garage sale,” and they’re giving it away for free. I like it — the money shows up in my bank account within a couple of days. read more...

Big Turkey Payday

Karen sold so many turkeys this year that she left the van behind because only the pickup was big enough to take all those coolers full of fresh turkey to the farmer’s market! This has never happened before. Everyone who had pre-ordered a turkey showed up, and that took care of every single turkey, so that went off splendidly.

We (and when I say “we,” I mean Karen) raise old-fashioned Bourbon Red turkeys on pasture. The turkeys are in floorless pens that get moved to a fresh patch of grass twice a day. This gives the effect of free range without having the turkeys fly away into the woods, where they provide an early Thanksgiving for coyotes. I’m all for wildlife, but I think they should pay $6.00 a pound like everyone else. read more...

Google: Are the Smart People Leaving?

There’s a stage in every company’s development when the smart people leave and the company runs on autopilot from then on, in a zombie-like half-life. It happened to Hewlett-Packard when Dr. Hewlett and Dr. Packard passed on; it happened to Apple when Steve Jobs left the first time, and it happened to eBay and PayPal ages ago (as anyone who has ever tried to find an actual human being to help them with a problem knows to their sorrow).

Now I’m wondering if it’s happening to Google. Their “new look” for Gmail is a train wreck. Where did all the emphasis on tiny, faint gray text come from? Is everyone over thirty supposed to find a new mail provider right now? read more...