Sunday, November 25, 2012

My slice of paradise

Sunday morning, November 25, 2012

I neither believe nor disbelieve the Mayan prophecy of the arrival of a new epoch come December of this year. I do however, try not to take for granted that I personally have more time on this planet, or will somehow avoid strife and difficulties when such events come along. Each of us will have our own Waterloos, usually at times not of our own making.

This notion was furthered by the passing Friday night of Mathew Walker, a former smoking buddy and friend of mine from a past life in the tiny West Texas town of Balmorhea. Mathew was a big burly man with a booming laugh and a big smile, spiritual, a philosopher, a magnificent story teller of exceptional recall. My life is better for having known him.

I am sure he will be missed by many.

Back at the farm, our budded pecan crop has moved from being poor to a near-total failure. We quit the harvest about halfway through when it became apparent that yields weren’t going to cover the cost of gathering.

However, we continue gathering native pecans from river bottoms with some success and I am thankful to have them. I postulate that insects are at fault. With all the spraying and care we could offer, the thin skins of paper shell pecans proved no match, while natives with their smaller nuts and tough rinds made a crop with no help whatsoever.

We haven’t yet had a killing frost and our garden continues to produce a decent crop of fall tomatoes and peppers. We’ve eaten our first broccoli, spinach and Swiss chard is ready to pick; cabbages are forming heads. Carrots, turnips, beets continue to grow. Onions, shallots and garlic look good so far. We recently harvested a modest crop of sweet potatoes. Leah canned a huge batch of salsa, and hogs continue to get a share of the produce we can’t keep up with, not an insignificant amount.

As if we didn’t have enough already, I bought four more young Jersey cows. They were cheap and headed to slaughter for no good reason. I continue to milk two cows and Leah continues making cheese from the excess milk. Hogs also score on the milk whey produced as a byproduct of cheese making. The possibility/probability of a flood of calves and wet cows looms in our near future. We’ll cross that bridge if and when the time comes, good Lord willing.

I also agreed to purchase two more Percheron draft mares, one with foal, another expecting. The deal includes a set of driving harness.

I haven’t done particularly well at the horse races of late. Two well intentioned trainers told me the key to being successful as a trainer: keep yourself in the best company possible and your horses in the worst company possible. This thinking is contrary to my nature, evidenced by the silks any jockey riding one of my horses has to wear: horizontal black and white stripes. I detest the company of most rich people; my goal is to steal big money races with horses discarded from their game.

If you go down, go down in flames.

The sun is coming up, another day of hard labor waits.

My slice of paradise.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hard times ahead

Sabbath eve, November 23, 2012

We’re saved! Or so says the TV anchor. Americans flocked to Wal-Mart and other similar stores on black Friday to buy and haul away semi-disposable plastic items by the cartful. If only it were so easy.

Meanwhile, a front passed through, dry again, the third in succession to defy prognoses of rain. We’re not terribly dry. Yet. But a look at the national drought monitor map reveals something disconcerting. Over 60% of the country is in some stage of drought, and among the driest regions are the Midwest states of Kansas and Nebraska, where significant amounts of grains for human consumption happen to be grown. Don’t ask me how I know, because I can’t tell you. I feel it in the air. We’re headed back into severe drought.

The Eagle Ford shale play just south of my home continues full-bore, pumping money into the local economy, but a surprisingly large number of people seem not to enjoy the benefits of this activity. It’s as though those that have lease and royalty money are fearful and socking away what they have rather than investing into businesses close to home. The money to drill and produce these wells comes from somewhere else; the money produced by these wells goes back where it came from.

Furthermore, the cost of producing shale oil is high, and activity will likely come to a halt should oil fall below $80/barrel, while anything above $80 oil seems to kill the rest of the country’s economy. We succeed at the failure of others, or visa-versa.

I’ve heard the depression of the 30’s described a want in a time of plenty. Version 2.0 will be more like want in a time of scarcity. (The words are not original, but I don’t know who coined the phrase.) Either you’ll have worthless money and expensive goods, or cheap goods and no money to buy them.

Tensions continue to brew worldwide. Supposed fixes to the economy address symptoms while ignoring the underlying disease. It took thirty years of theft and fraud to get where we are; those that committed these heinous acts remain in power. There will be no solution until these grievances are addressed, and even then the damage done is irreparable.

It’s easy to call for a debt jubilee until you consider that each unpaid debt has at least one counterparty, and many holding the notes are not those responsible for the fraud, but instead are pensioners and innocent investors that socked away life savings into what they thought were safe investments for retirement years. When it comes down to it, even deposits in banks will be in jeopardy once the daisy chain begins to fail.

I don’t know exactly how this mess ends, but I can tell you we have fixed nothing and that we remain in critically dangerous territory on so many fronts it’s hard to keep up.

I’d say plant a garden, but it may be too late for that. Perhaps you’d be better off stocking a panty with canned and dried goods. While you’re at it, get to know your neighbor.

Hard times lie ahead.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Eating humble pie

Friday and Saturday night, Leah and I drove to San Antonio to watch our horses run. We’d only recently acquired Badness, a five year old mare, through a claiming race. She had previously run at higher levels, even winning a stakes race in January of this year, but had dropped in class of late. Figuring to take at least one shot at a valuable allowance race, we entered her to see if she could return to past glory and earn a dollar or ten in the process.

Badness drew outside post position, not good, considering her running style. Badness runs best on the lead, with an uncontested pace. Away from the gate she got into a speed duel with another horse and was carried wide through the first turn. Badness hit the home stretch after the second turn, battling for the lead, and got caught by closers. The outcome, though not to be unexpected, left me a bit pensive, but still hopeful. I had another shot the following day.

Lazy Boot Lady was entered into an allowance race Saturday night. According to form, she should have been considered one of the race favorites. Our filly broke a touch slow but made up ground and was in perfect stalking position just off the lead coming into home stretch. A hole opened on the rail, the jockey pointed her to it and….

She backed out of contention.

After the race, we discovered she had injured a knee and retired her from racing.

The pecan crop I had such high hopes for a few weeks back is failing to deliver. The nuts are large but yields are low, just barely enough to justify harvesting in places. Insects, disease and climate issues figure into the equation. We’ve had one mechanical set-back after another. Harvesting by modern methods requires an array of equipment; any one piece that fails sidelines the entire operation and damn near everything we own has broken, some multiple times.

I’ve had personal issues of late, some of my own making, some the work of others. Living with myself has never been easy, getting older doesn’t seem to help much.

As I young man I thought I’d maintain strength through exercise. A few months back, I tore a tendon or a ligament in my left knee and it’s not going to repair short of surgery. You can’t exercise muscles attached to worn out joints. There was a time, not so long ago, when I did squats with hundreds of pounds on my back; nowadays getting down to and back up from the toilet has become a painful chore.

As I smile at my predicament, realizing full well the issues I face are minor, you may notice I’m missing two front teeth.

I suppose I should be thankful. I can still smile.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Notes on the election

I must confess: I no longer believe in Democracy.

I didn’t arrive at this conclusion in one fell swoop but instead under a prolonged barrage of compelling evidence.

I won’t bother you with a laundry list, but a few recent encounters may serve to defend the logic:

The current meme among the Limbaugh crowd is that Barak Obama, being a Muslim, won’t kill other Muslims. Evidence espoused says Obama issued orders to stand down so that Muslims could kill our ambassador to Libya in Benghazi.

Ignored is the fact that Obama has trebled the number of drone attacks since Bush’s day, nearly all of which are directed at Muslims, killing not only suspects, but also innocents. To add insult to injury, under Obama’s administration, our military has instituted the practice of double tap—that is shooting missiles at the original target site shortly after the first attack to kill any first responders that may be, (or conversely, may not be), sympathetic to the intended target. Considering the surroundings, the one sure bet is that these first responders are Muslims.

Night before last I watched a show on National Geographic TV called Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden, which describes in detail the plan that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. I suspect it’s an accurate portrayal; it’d be hard to tell such a tale in false light without a number of participants jumping up to deny the story. Obama and his administration are depicted as judicious Muslim terrorist killers, albeit, killers intent on not harming innocents in the process of killing the bad guys.

Yesterday I wandered into the Luling City Market, my favorite barbecue establishment. While at the bean counter (not to be confused with those that count money), I asked a woman behind the counter who she liked in the election. She said she would vote for Obama.

An older black man waiting alongside chimed in as well. Me too, he said. We don’t need those Bushes back in charge.

The woman then proceeded to explain that Romney was going to take our tax money away. Or something like that, she added.

I haven’t a clue what that means, but the evidence was strong enough to convince her.

Nevertheless, I am told I have no right to bitch unless I cast a ballot. So I plan to go to the nearby polling booth in Belmont, Texas, where I will cast a ballot on a real piece of paper (as opposed to a voting machine that may be fraudulent) where I will vote for Gary Johnson.

I hope like hell he loses so I can maintain my right to bitch about the outcome.