Saturday, October 22, 2016

Harvest Time on the Farm

I went up to College Station Friday to visit with my son, and figure out how we were going to handle housing while he was in college.  On the way from Brenham to College Station we passed a lot of fields on highway 50.  Lot's of harvested, and about-to-be-harvested cotton farms out there.  It made me realize that we are really in Harvest time now, and it made me want to take a look back at how the Cromwell Farm's harvest is going.

The problem with too much land, it takes too much focus to maintain it.

Back in the winter of 2016 I decided to focus the farm on fewer fields.  The idea was that there were several fields that were under-performing, and costing too much to keep them running.  The studio space in Houston was one of the lots on the block in fact.  I started setting up a studio space on the farm proper, and moved items from the Houston space to the farm.

Also, in the winter it was realized that the upkeep for the tenant farms were making them too costly to keep.  I needed to adjust the budget in order to keep them going.  These farms used to produce more than enough to cover their expenses, but the cost of taxes and maintenance keeps going up.

In the end, the budget adjustment has been enough to forestall the land loss.  This makes me kinda happy, but I know it's only a matter of time until the whole thing turns back around again.  If it's not being maintained, then it's just going to end up costing money with nothing to show for it.  Next time cutting expenses might not be enough to avoid the problems.

Back to the Harvest

It's the busiest time of the year of course.  If you leave things in the ground too long, they are lost.  If you don't get them to market in time, they are lost.  If you don't collect enough seeds for next year, then you'll have nothing to plant (and no harvest next year).

All the worrying about land, meant that not much got planted.  I'm trying to harvest an art show right now, and the work is slimmer than I would have liked.  Furthermore, I am having to generate framing right now for the work, and this is cutting into production time.  So, I'm sure some pieces are going to be lost in the ground for this season.

Due to increased taxes and a major investment in the tenant farms, there is nothing to harvest from that land.  I'll be paying into it for some time before I break even again.

Not all Gloom and Doom

I do not want to give the impression that this has been a terrible year.  There are certainly some things that were harvested, and were good.  I was able to get my first book printed.  This is a new way to harvest from my work in the art fields, and I'm hoping to do more of these.

Upkeep work is being done on the tenant farms, hopefully making life better for those tenants and helping them be more productive.

Also, I've been adding to my reserve of seeds for next year's planting.  After a thorough cleaning, I discovered lots of art material for new projects.   I have a few months before I have to worry about this, so I won't go into details here.

Basically, we are going to be able to pull it off for one more season, and that's better than not.  This way of looking at things in seasonal time (like a farm) definitely has advantages.  I like being able to say that 2016 was minimally successful without having to wait until January 1, 2017.

This Tiny Plot of Land

I like the fact that even though some debts will still be with us, we can put the problems of planting and managing and harvesting into a book called 2016, close the cover and walk into the future.  Therefore, the tiny plot of land that is this blog and what it represents, has had a positive harvest.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Growing a Money Tree

So I've planted a money tree on the farm.  I'm hoping to get a good crop this year.  According to the tag it was suppose to be a hundred-dollar tree, but I have a suspicion that it's actually a one-dollar tree.  Of course we won't know until next spring.  The trick with the money tree is the watering -- it's very thirsty.  The other issue that this tree has is it doesn't produce seeds.  How great would it be to have a money tree grove.

So I know that some of you are asking at this point how I got a money tree, especially if it doesn't have seeds.  Simple, I made it up.  There is no tree, and no harvest coming in the spring.  It's a great idea though right?  Just think if you could see the buds of future money growing and changing color as the season progresses.  What wouldn't you do to protect that tree?  How much time would you spend watering and feeding this tree.  It's so easy to work on things when the result is so obvious.  Water a money tree, and money grows, and then you pluck the leaves and have money.

Lets pretend for a moment that there was a money tree.  Now lets pretend that it is kept on an island way out in the middle of the ocean.  You know where it is, and occasionally a shipment of leaves gets delivered to your house along with a bucket that you must fill with water and send back to the tree (there's no fresh water on the little island).  How confident do you feel about this tree?  You don't know how big it is, or what the conditions of the island is.  You don't know how many leaves are growing or how fast.  You don't even know if the water you are sending back even makes it to the island.  How do you feel now?

I can tell you that I would be planning an expedition to the island, or looking for another tree.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

You know that the refrigerator is just a box full of cold air right?

Boxes have a magical quality. They can make different things the same. They can make many things one. They can make things disappear.  This power, like all power, can be used for good or evil. I find that the more boxes I have around me the more likely I am to use them improperly. The refrigerator is a good example of one of these bad boxes.

... their power can be used for good or evil ...

I don't cook for many people -- usually just one.  I want to cook good healthy food and therefore I often pick up a few vegetables at the store.  When I would get the groceries home I would load up the refrigerator.  At the end of the week, I would go through the fridge and pull out all the food that had gone bad waiting to be used.  I finally decided that I need to stop this wasteful process.  I was wasting money on food that wasn't eaten.  I was not eating healthier.  It was just not working out.

... I was wasting food ... not eating ...

The problem that I determined was that I would not see the food.  It was hidden in the refrigerator box.  When I see kitchens on film there is always food laying around ready to be cooked.  When you walked into my kitchen there were just unappetizing boxes.  No one has ever said, "hey man, that's a delicious looking fridge."  When you are hungry you want food.  If there was food in the kitchen rather than boxes I would be more likely to eat it.

... That's a delicious looking fridge, said no one ever ...

I started by taking out the eggs.  I have them for breakfast, so they are used up fast enough to not need refrigeration.  Then my mother surprised me by suddenly leaving her butter out on the counter in a sealed glass container.  It was super handy and it was warm and easy to spread.  Then I was shopping for vegetables and thought about green onions.  Now, green onions are one of those things that really bug me.  I cannot eat a whole bunch of green onions before they go bad.  So I was looking up storage options.  Someone suggested putting them on the counter in a glass of water.  I tried this, and was completely amazed by the result.  Not only did they stay fresh, but they actually grew.  I increased the amount of food that I bought by simply not refrigerating it -- mind blown.

I'm still at the beginning of this kitchen change.  I've more things to learn, but I have a good feeling about it.  My goal is to get rid of my large refrigerator in time, and just have a small one for those things that must stay cold (uncooked meats, drinks, etc.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Roof

This next week the I'm having the roof on my house re-shingled.  Hopefully the weather is cooperative.

I wonder about what is the next thing that will need fixing around here.

When I bought my house I thought that I would create a manual for the maintenance of the property.  I imagined that it would be nice to have a scheduled maintenance book like you might get with a new car.  Something that would list how often the door should be painted, and the sink gaskets replaced.  Every 25 years there would be a roof.  Every six years the kitchen appliances would be maintained or replaced -- and on and on and on.

I've owned the house for 20 years, and I've had to do work on different things.  No manual was ever done, and I wonder if that would have made any of it easier.  Of course, the wise person would turn to me and ask, "Kevin, do you do all the scheduled maintenance for you car?" I would then say something about time and money and blah blah blah.  No a manual would not make it easier to get things done.  Planning would make things easier.  Saving would make things affordable.  Being proactive would make the time available.

If I ever get my home-owner's manual done I'm sure that it will make it here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

How it all goes down the drain

I've been called an "enabler" before.

I submit that the difference between "enabling" and "helping" is that help must be asked for.  Many times enabling is caused by the enabler being stressed out about a situation, and not willing to wait for the person actually involved to figure it out.

I admit that I've done this just yesterday at work, rather than letting a co-worker figure out their coding mistakes, I just re-wrote the code myself.  It was the stress I'm feeling over the time to complete tasks more than my feeling bad for the co-worker that led to this action.

So now I've been dealing with a pair of enablers my whole life, and recently they swooped in with some more enabling, and I'm having to deal with the effects of it.  Specifically, my kitchen sink was not working - and this also affected the dish washer.

Other sinks were working, the bathrooms were fine, and also the clothes washer.  Basically this was just shutting down the kitchen, which as a bachelor farmer, I don't use that much anyway.  In the post-Christmas bill avalanche that comes every year I have to spread out bills as much as possible.  Since this issue was not stopping me from living it was put at the end of my list.

So, at some point in the near future I would be able to take care of the sink, and feel the accomplishment of my plan working.  Also, I would be happy to have the sink back.  If you read my previous post about things I was planning to do to make the kitchen work better, I was planning to buy a dish tub to hold dry dishes until I could get around to washing.  I did this, and it was actually helping with this situation.

Not super pretty, but handled until I could get the sink fixed.  Then the enablers swoop in and fix the sink while I'm at work unable to do or say anything about it.  Thus, the motivation of successfully completing all the tasks on my plan is denied me.  This kind of thing could really derail me.

So this is the real damage that enabling has done to me.  I'm not suddenly going to just depend on others to take care of stuff, but I lost the opportunity for that motivational boost to help me through other projects.  I'm re-wiring my brain to be able to accept this as part of the plan right now.  I'll pay the enablers back when I was planning to take care of the original project, whether they want it or not.  

I think we enablers need to learn that help needs to be asked for, and also that our own personal stress is not an excuse to interfere with other people's lives.  Before I force my help on someone again I'm going to do some inner reflection, and ask them if they want help.  If they don't, I won't.