Sunday, August 21, 2016

Working dogs and pet dogs: Where do you draw the line?

I read an entry on another blog today that reminded me about the different ways that people approach their farms.  Michelle Canfield writes a blog in which she talks about her sheep and sometimes her dogs, and generally speaking, she's on the high-end of what I'd like to call the "non-profit" farmers.
RIP Monster

I don't personally know if she makes a profit or not, but having done the math a few times on her sheep operation, I can't figure out how you could make a profit given the stuff that she does; the description of hiring a vet to do surgery on an old ewe was one that made me shake my head, but that's what she chooses to do with her livestock, and more power to her.

The entry that I read today talked about her livestock guardian dog bronte getting diagnosed with bone cancer, and in that post she talks about all sorts of heroic measures that she could use to save the dog.  Radiation, medication, amputation, and this for a dog that she says in the entry she's not going to miss very much, at least compared with the house dogs.

On some level I guess it's laudable to spend any amount of money and time trying to save every single animal you own, but it's not very common among livestock farmers that operate their business with the goal of making money.

I too have stock dogs, and they do indeed get the standard range of injuries and illnesses that stock dogs do, and we do patch them up and send them back out pretty regularly, but with a terminal illness diagnosed, I'd be hard-pressed to spend much money at all.

I'd watch the dog carefully to make sure that it's still having a good time, able to get around, enjoying its time on this planet, but at the point at which it was clear that it wasn't, well, I'd shed some tears and put it down.

This is true of all of the livestock that I keep; if a cow has difficulty calving I'll look carefully at culling it; if a pig isn't a good mother, well, there's a reason you're here.  It's a hard line to keep sometimes; particularly with animals that I've had to bottle feed because of some issue and knows and likes me.  It's nothing personal, and it's tough.

I have to say that it has gotten easier over the years, but there are times when I read something like this and I wonder if there's ever the realization that there is another way to handle this.

Folks who don't do livestock tend to cheer people who do heroic measures.  But I really question sometimes whether the heroics are for the animal, or the owner.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why should rural people be poor?

I live in an area that has decided, mostly via citizen initiatives, that the minimum wage is too low.  So they've raised the minimum wage in various places, to somewhere between $11 and $15 per hour.  Since the raises are being done on a city-by-city basis it varies, but the old minimum wage, which was one of the highest in the country already at $9.xx/hour is being raised.

When the issue first came up there were a lot of people who basically said the sky would fall if the minimum wage went up.  Businesses would shut down, disaster!  But the effect over time has been to increase the pay of the lowest paid people, and you know what?  That's not a bad thing.

Well, after a couple of years of this, including one city that just went straight to $15/hour, life is pretty much unchanged.  Pizzas are still being made, cars are still being rented and sold, houses are being cleaned and, in the case of seatac washington, even  your baggage is still being handled at the airport.

As the debate about minimum wage goes national, I hear a lot of people saying something like this:

"...The negative impacts could be especially big in lower-cost rural areas. Raising the minimum wage to $15 is one thing for bigger cities where the cost of living is more expensive; these are the places where the movement has flourished in recent years. But in rural areas, Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell has written, "would likely throw many, many more people out of work... source

Rural areas are areas where it can cost you less to live, but our wage structure is basically seemingly designed to offer workers the absolute minimum wage that can possibly be offered.  that is, it is apparently a sin in the business sense to contemplate offering a wage to people that gives them the basic ability to pay their bills, pull even, or even get a little bit ahead.

It comes up over and over again, this concern about the difference in cost of living.  Folks, we have a situation where our farms and rural areas need more people, and honestly, if I had a situation where I could be poor and live in a city (where things cost more) or maybe not so poor and live in the country, well, I know where I'd go.

The basic debate we are having here is what 40 hours of hard work entitles someone to.  In my belief if you work 40 hours or more a week you should be able to afford a place to live, food on the table, a decent, reliable vehicle and have 10 to 20% extra every month so that you can do what smart people do:  Save and invest.

Poor people have all sorts of ways that they lose money.  Credit costs them more.  Credit cards charge higher rates, payday loan companies charge them horrendous fees.  They're more liable to incur bank fees for things like bounced checks, and this sort of situation means that 50% of the households in the USA can't handle a $500.00 surprise bill.

Let me restate that:  Most american households don't have $500 to their name.  Our business culture has been so successful in taking every penny from these folks that they're broke.

I want people who can afford to buy my pigs, my hay, my beef.  I want people who can afford to buy my farm when I retire.  I want people to have enough money that $500 isn't an emergency.

Rural areas, more than most, need the full $15/hour wage.  And if people who live there do better, well, that'll probably mean that more people will move there.  And that's a good thing.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Breaking things, repairing things

Irrigation facet installation
 had a cow knock over and break off one of my faucets.  This is how I typically install them now; I usually use a 4x6 post that ends about 8" below where the faucet head is, and then put a block down about where the ground level is, and tie the two together with plumbers tape (metal strip with holes in it; wrap around and nail).  If I do it right, even if an animal gets right up to the faucet and pushes there's no harm done.

This particular fitting is a frost-proof model, which I don't really need too much in my mild climate, but for the 2 weeks of below-freezing weather we get it's nice to have running water and not have to worry about it.

broken pin
 I was towing the grading implement around, and broke the pin that I was using; the retaining clip on it was at the bottom, the grader was at the top, and it snapped.  What I needed to do was get a pin with a hole closer to stop the implement from riding up, but I couldn't find one the right length, so I used a longer pin but wanted a hole at a particular place.

So out came the cutting torch, and I practiced cutting a hole through the old pin before I did it on the new pin.  You can get a fairly small hole in steel with a cutting torch if you're careful, and a little bit of grinding to remove the slag and I was all set, and back to grading.