Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Calf and horse prices, auction videos

Was at an auction on Saturday; horse prices are abysmal. $10 horse, and a $600 mule, that the owner either decided not to sell or had already sold. Wasn't clear. The steer and heifer calves are the same size and age as the ones I was buying for $5 each in 2008.  Same time of year, too.

The market for calves is very, very strong.  Hate buying at these prices.

heifer prices
026 from bruce king on Vimeo.
Steer prices
025 from bruce king on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The river

You'll find the live site by clicking here
I live next to a river and have about 1300' of frontage on it.  It forms the northern boundary of my land, and is quite pretty.   At this time of year it rises and lowers pretty fast, and pretty dramatically.  I can get 9 to 10 vertical feet of water rise on this river over a 6 hour period.  It's the closest thing I've come across to a flash flood sort of situation in washington state.

It's caused by very, very heavy rainfall that hits the mountains to the east of me.  This river is the drainage for an area that in the fall, winter and spring will get 5 to 10 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, over and over again.

The worst combination is when we get colder weather, and a few feet of snow.  Follow that with warmer weather and heavy rain on top of that snow.  At first the snow just sheds the water, but if there's enough rain, all of the snow and all of the rain all come down the valley at once.

One of the local indian tribes is looking to relocate their reservation because of this sort of pattern; they expect it to worsen over the next few decades, and I cannot blame them for not wanting to be washed out to sea.

Mostly I can watch the river do its thing without it bothering me.  Sure, my fields may get some water on them, but nothing there is hurt by the seasonal flooding, and maybe it helps the soil.  it's been happening for thousands of years.

The only issue i've got is in the corner of my property with the red circle.  The river is coming down a straight section there and hitting the bank pretty hard, eroding it.  What's there is hard blue clay -- pretty water resistant stuff, but every year it looks like it loses a few feet.

here's a closeup of the  river bank, and the red line is where the shortline used to be at some point in the past.  The tree that is at the top is actually about 25' out from the bank, on its own little island.  It'll be floating downstream pretty soon.

Traditionally the cure for this sort of erosion would be to reinforce the bank; dump rocks or rip-rap or  other stuff into the river at that point to make it resistant to the water, or at least slow the process down, but that practice is now outmoded.  I can do something like put coconut husks there (really.  that's what they will approve) or I can plant stuff according to the department of ecology.  But I got a more interesting suggestion from the corps of engineers.

"Well, you know what an ecology block is, right?"  yes, the large concrete blocks that they make at concrete plants when they have extra concrete.  But I thought I couldn't put those (or any other impervious stuff like rocks) into the river.  "You don't put them in the river, you stack them at the edge, and if they happen to fall into the river because of flooding erosion, well, that's too bad.

I guess it's all in how you look at it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"How would you feel if someone came to your farm and told you how to raise pigs?!?"

I did run for office this year, and I did lose that election, although as my rival put it "... I won with a much smaller margin than my two previous victories."

But the reasons that I ran are still there, and in all fairness Mr. Aldrich has been gracious in allowing public comment about various issues related to the PUD.  

But I had a funny exchange today that is farm related, and that's what I'm going to relate here.  

So I'm asking the board to consider various directions, and an objection came up from a non-board member, "How would you feel if someone came to your pig farm and told you how to raise pigs, or kill them, or operate your farm?   ", basically saying in the context that of course this utility knows what it's doing and that it's a little insulting that I might dare to offer an opinion about the operation.  

To answer that question, I get non-farmers who opine about my farm all the time.  In fact, of all the industries that I've been involved with over the years, farming is the one that people seem to feel comfortable weighing in on no matter what sort of experience they come from. 

I think that there's an assumption that if you farm you, well, you're just a little slower than the average person, and you could benefit probably from someone elses opinion.

When I started farming I actually sought out other opinions, and I learned all sorts of stuff, and I found that the hardest people to get to pin down on an opinion were other farmers.  I think that old adage "fools rush in where angels fear to tread" applies here.  People with experience in farming know enough that they don't offer their opinions much, if at all.  At most  you'll get an eye squint and a slow nod...

But contrast that to the people who just got their copy of the latest Micheal Pollan  book, and are very passionate about their views -- theres no stopping them.  Whatever practices you have they know better!  They're going to tell you how it should be done, to guide you, poor wretch, to the path of goodness.

So Yes, I get this all the time.  And do what I consider to be an excellent farming practice:  I listen to what they have to say, and if it makes sense I'll use it.  Sometimes, after giving me their opinion on my farming practices (and how I should change them) there's a pause.  They look at me, and I say what I always say "I heard what you said; thanks for the input", and they stop and...


Is the time I can say something that they can hear.

You see, when they come to you with that sort of enthusiastic energy, it's all about the broadcast.  What I wait for is that part when the wave crashes on the beach, and then withdraws, building up to the next wave of advice...

I then have a little tiny window where I can explain my farming practices.  Sometimes I use this window -- for the folks who are interested in farming, for instance, and might actually use what I tell them, or, honestly, sometimes for the folks I think I might have a problem with -- a neighbor, or someone in a regulatory position (Looking at you, Mr. Kaufman of the WA department of Ecology)
but most of the time I just smile a little, and let that moment pass.

So yes, I get people who tell me all about my farm.  And I hope I have the grace and ability to seperate the wheat from the chaff and the patience and tolerance to maintain my composure while I do so.