Monday, October 31, 2016

Fall chore: Putting the berries to bed

wood chip mulch at base of each plant
I put in a vinyard in 2015  and while I was at it I put in a row for berries,  I like raspberries and marionberries, so I planted 50 row-feet of raspberries and 100 row-feet of marion berries (I >really< like marionberries!).

The county utility was out trimming trees, and I flagged them down and asked for the chips, and they delivered about 10 yards of chips that day.   I love wood chips for mulching under the berry vines; provides organic material in the rows, supresses weeds (which means less work next year) and provides moisture retention in the summer.  Our summers have been pretty dry the last few years, and I'd like to build in some help with the drought if I can.

what I do with the raspberries is just make a loop with baling twine that is big enough to hold all of this years new growth.  The trellis I built for the berries has two wires, one about 6' up, and one at 3'.  For the raspberries I'll tie them to the top line.

If you look closely you can see a loop of orange baling twine to top wire
Raspberries fruit off of one year old wood, so the string gives me a good idea of what I need to prune next year.   So the yearly task is to go and prune off all of the older wood and then tie up the newer wood, and next year repeat.

I wasn't sure what kind of raspberries would do best here, so what I did was buy a couple of plants of each variety from a number of sources, and I ended up with 6 varieties.  Not surprisingly the winner seems to be meeker raspberries judging by vine vigor and shoot growth.   A close second was cascade bounty.  If you'd like a list of common cultivars in this area, you'll find it here.  

I'm mostly interested in the best-tasting raspberry - this is personal consumption gardening, and i don't need a particular yield here.  If you're going to grow your own food you have the luxury of growing what you like best :)

  I'll wait until I get some fruit and take a second look at the plants, and either leave it the way it is, or I'll split the plants I like best and make the whole row that.  The trellis really makes this sort of berry management easy; probably 2 hours of work, most of that with a wheelbarrow to move the chips for 15 plants.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

big storm coming. No, 3 big storms coming

My favorite weather guy, Cliff Mass, has an entry on his blog about the big storms (there are 3 of them) that will hit my area in the next 5 days.

So the chore schedule for tomorrow changed a little.  Everything that isn't secured gets tied down, nailed, latched and weighted.  Animals get extra bedding, sows with piglets get moved to the most sheltered positions, and all of the equipment gets moved from flood-prone areas up to high ground.

It's pretty much the standard seasonal chore;  I hate feeling like my tail is on fire, so I'll do this sort of thing before the bad weather gets here.  I've already checked the standby generator, and most of the equipment is already put away, but I'll take an extra look around tommorow and make sure that I didn't miss anything.

And I might as well take the dumptruck over and get a couple of loads of gravel.  The driveway could use an extra layer for this year, and everything I can do to control mud is a good thing.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Change of season

One of my boars, Pigget, out on the alfalfa  The heard is off in the distance on the horizon
I turned on the heater in the tractor for the first time this year, and I'll miss the warm and sunny fall weather.  There's a price for living in a lush, green marine environment, and rain is it :)

For me the farm year is from the growing season to the non-growing season; the winter is more a time of inside work.  Having animals in barns means more inside work, and higher feed costs and labor costs, but it saves the pastures for next year, and having a good green cover on my fields protects them from floods

The utilities on my farm are erratic at this time of year; I'll have 3-5 minute power outages four times a week, and in the last 4 years I've had 1 to 8 day outages.   I've installed a backup generator mostly to keep the freezers and pumps working, and the power has been annoyingly reliable for the first part of this winter, which is a good thing.  :)  I still get the several-minute-outs, but I haven't had a 1 day or more outage this calendar year, which is a first.

I'm keeping the animals out on pasture as long as I can, but I'm approaching the date when everyone goes into housing and the hay consumption starts.

Hay prices have been very low this year, reflecting low exports and low milk prices.  Which would matter more to me if I were buying hay, and I may buy a little, but most of what the cow herd consumes is hay that I put up.  I've been seriously considering a round baler for silage purposes.

The pig business itself is pretty mature.  I don't talk about it much because it's become routine.  Some are sold live, some are dead, some to raise, some to breed.   I did have to cull a number of pigs this year because they'd just aged out of successful breeding, but I will admit that there are a couple of pigs on my farm that will just die of old age.   They are the characters in my barnyard, and they know me, and I know them, and I'll be sorry to see them go, so I'll keep them for a while.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Craigslist tractor scam (also other vehicles)

There's a scam on craigslist that has this basic outline:

A new, or very lightly used vehicle or tractor is advertised for a price that is 1/3rd to 1/4 of the price that it would normally sell at.  The seller lists a telephone number or  you can contact them via the craigslist email system.

The telephone number is almost always one of the fake internet telephone services (think google voice) and the email address is almost always a semi-anonymous one, (think gmail or hotmail or yahoo).

The seller will sell  you the vehicle, and wants you to complete the transaction via the ebay escrow service, claiming that your money 'is safe and you can send the vehicle/tractor back in 5 days' if you aren't satisfied.  Here's a longer explanation of how they get your money courtesy of reddit user raevnos.

I'm in the market for a particular model of john deere tractor.  they sell, used, for between $60 and $80k - so it's not cheap.  When i found one that looked brand new being offered for sale for $21,500 it rang warning bells.  Here's the whole transaction:

Original craigslist ad:
original ad from craigslist
 Note that the tractor tires show no wear at all.   This is either a brand-new machine, or machine that has just had brand new tires put on it.  Fair market value for this model and year of tractor in the $60-80k range, depending on hours.  New ones sell for more.  that's the used price.

The sellers contact information lists what looks like a local (area code 253) number.  It's an internet phone number not tied to any local phone.  No idea where the person who posted this ad is.  You can get these numbers anywhere.

Here's the email exchange:


Is this tractor still available for sale?  

I'd like to come and take a look at the tractor you've got on craigslist.  I'm at xxx-yyy-zzz


Hello, yes the JD tractor 6430M is still for sale. Can you please text an email where I can send you some pictures and more info. you are interested? I'd really appreciate if you will.


You can reach me at

Vanessa (in reply to that email address):

Hello, my name is Vanessa McFadden happy to see you are interested in my JD tractor.
This is a 2008 JD 6430 Premium, Premium cab, heat, ac. 748 hours 115 engine hp 4 cylinder JD diesel w/turbo 95 pto hp 16 speed power quad transmission Left hand power reverser 540 and 1000 rpm pto-e. Hitch with controls on both rear fenders to raise and lower 3pt-telescopic links Corner exhaust 2 entry doors Rear wiper Command center Deluxe suspension seat AM/FM radio w/cd player 2 mirrors Toolbox Like New!!
Hard to find a nicer model machine like this. The machine is loaded with options it has Premium cab, the heater works, the air conditioner blows cold air, Joystick w/ powershift. Tractor is 1 owner and is like new inside and out. Tractor does not have a leak anywhere and no issues.  Like new.  No emissions on these , hard to find anymore like this.  Tractor has been used to feed cattle.  Clean as a pin.  Needs nothing. The machine was never used in manure. Cab is clean seat is still like new, the engine compartment is like new and not oily or greasy it is absolutely like new, we did put a new battery in it 2 weeks ago.
I have placed recent pictures below so you can see it really looks great. This is a great choice for performance and versatility. Make your work and chores more enjoyable, time and cost effective. Great machine...strong, dependable, and almost no wear.
The tractor is registered on my name, with no liens or loan. The price was reduced at $21,000. Because of my divorce settlement, I own this tractor and I don't need it so I'm trying to get rid of it as soon as possible (that's why I'm selling it so cheap). This machine is as close to new as you will find without buying a new machine and is selling to much more. I can help load and help arrange delivery I will store the machine for 6 months if paid

Thank you
If you have any other questions, or need more info and photos, please feel free to ask.

Can I come and look at that tractor in the next few days?  

Hello again Bruce,
There's an old saying: “Every tractor has a story” .... as I told you I got divorced recently so this was a gift for the 4th year anniversary. Right now I'm in Indianapolis, IN (the tractor is here with me ) because i got a new job here. I supposed to ship the tractor few days back to another buyer, in your area, he told me that his funding should be available by the weekend then he told me this "I don't want you to think I am dragging this out, but it doesn't look as though my funding will be here on Friday. " I have some financial problems right now, so I want to sell it ASAP and I already paid the shipping charges.  Now I want to use eBay's escrow protection, so we can both be protected and insured. With eBay, you get free delivery and it will arrive at your address in 6 to 10 days depending on were you want it shipped. In addition, you will have 5 days to try out prior to making any purchase and if by any reason you find something you don't like about it you can send it back at my expense! I doubt you will let it go once you see and run it. I want to make it very clear, that eBay will hold your money, and I won't be receiving a single dollar unless you call and tell them to release the money to me. If you are ready to buy it, please reply with your whole name, address and phone # so I can notify eBay that you are selected as my buyer, and they will contact you with the electronic paperwork.

Thank you,
Vanessa Mcfadden

My brother drives a flatbed semi and he'll be in chicago, pretty close to you, day after tomorrow.   If you'll give me a location to meet you, I'll have him meet you, and he can look at the tractor for me.  If it's good, we can fedex a cashiers check out to you the next day, or tranfer funds into a bank account, whichever you prefer, and load the tractor directly.  

Let me know if that works for you.

Vanessa:  [sound of Crickets]

Attached to the email were more pictures of this brand-new tractor

No wear inside of top link.  Factory plugs in hydraulic lines
I'm not sure how the money leaves ebay, but I'm very sure that if you did proceed with this scam it would, and this tractor would never appear.  

Buyer beware