Sunday, September 26, 2010

Paying attention to animals

Animals don't think and process information just exactly like we do, nor do they react like we do to various sorts of stimuli. This may seem self evident to many of my readers but it gets us into trouble with farm animals in two different ways.

The first happens when we attribute human reactions to animals. We ALL do this at least to some degree and enough of us do it often enough that there is a term for it...anthropomorphism. Maybe we urge our dog in because it's cold or wet or both outside, and we get frustrated because Fido doesn't want to listen to us. He's comfortable under the conditions at hand and maybe he's enjoying playing in the mud. The same thing befalls us when we deal with farm animals and horses. Melissa and I joke that we've spent a hundred thousand dollars on run in sheds to appease horse owners. This must be correct because the only time we ever see the (damn!) horses in them is on perfect days like today....75 degrees and partly sunny. With a very few exceptions, when it's raining and 35 it seems to us that they are ALL outside grazing, whether or not they have blankets or rainsheets on.

The second happens when we fail to adequately take into account an animals reaction to certain situations. I'll pick on myself and my family and use the example of loading cattle onto an enclosed truck or trailer for reasons of transport. For years the accustomed way to do this was to pen cattle up tight (often difficult to achieve on short notice) in a corral or catch pen they had rarely if ever been before, back the truck up, open the truck/trailer door and force the whole bunch on with raised voices and sticks. We never did use prods, but they are liberally used on some farms. At best this method led to terrified and irrational animals which led to frayed human nerves and short human tempers. It also leads to severely damaged catch pens, cattle and loading facilites because stressed cows sometimes go bonkers and when a creature weighing 1500 lbs goes bonkers, mister you've got trouble on your hands.

At some point, somebody in the family got angry and frustrated enough with this methodology to come up with a better way to get this job done. With a little foresight and planning, it's very possible to eliminate 95 percent of the trouble from moving cows. Today, I feed every cow destined to leave this place some sort of treat in the nearest corral every day for months before the anticpated departure. We make very clear to our human help that anyone who raises their voice or tries to move cows with force gets a one way trip home and will never work on this place again. We park the trailer (with the door wired open) in the loading chute weeks before we move cattle to get them used to it AND we feed the cattle IN the loading chute as well as in the trailer to get them comfortable with it. Guess what ? By paying attention to, acknowledging and overcoming their fears, today I can pen up and load a trailer full of calves by myself in a few minutes. Nobody gets hurt and the animals aren't stressed. My goal is to have half the cattle on the trailer chewing their cud, and while I don't always achieve this result, I've managed to achieve this level of comfort before.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Barn Interior, Tool Revelation

I've spent this week working away at finishing out the interior of the new barn down in Lynnville. I took the picture below about an hour ago, There is a fifth stall to the right of the picture that isn't visible but it's at the same stage as the rest of them.

Early next week I hope to get concrete poured in the storage area, the wash rack and the (large) feed room so I can frame in the walls and get them insulated well before cool weather arrives. I hope the electric co-op will be ready to string poles etc. so we can have some lights, plugs, and maybe an internet connection so that Melissa isn't solely responsible for communicating with clients each and every day.

I've built, fixed and renovated a lot of stuff in my life including multiple large buildings and multiple thousands of feet of board fence. Until last week, I drove each and every nail in every building project I've ever done with a hammer and an awful lot of muscle power. About a week ago, my father-in-law (bless him) went to Home Depot and when he came home he presented me with a Paslode nail gun and a couple of thousand nails. My infatuation was instant, deep and prolonged. I'd sleep with the thing if I could figure out how. Yes, seriously. I will never be without one again.

Off the top of my head, other shop tools I very much like include:

BIG air compressors that have the capacity to handle any air tool
Every air tool ever made, but especially air sockets and wrenches. Seriously.
Plasma welders
Stihl chain saws. I have a collection. Love 'em, every one.
Chop saws and grinders - They beat hacksaws and files all day long
Really good miter saw, table saw and Skil-saw.
Pipe wrenches - in a pinch, I can undo nearly anything with a pipe wrench
A really good, sharp little hand saw
Floor jacks with high tonnage capacity. I own three right now and I use them constantly

I'm missing a lot of stuff, but this is a pretty good start.

What tools do you consider absolutely essential in your life ?

If I can select some Melissa approved hinges tomorrow morning, we'll have five fully functional stalls at the new farm (one is out of the picture). Considering the barn interior was a bare dirt floor on Monday morning, and considering that I am the carpenter, I'd say this is progress.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Organic Animal Agriculture

A few years ago Melissa and I looked very seriously at going down the organic road with our beef operation. Ultimately, we didn't do it, and in the remainder of this post, I'll attempt to explain why we didn't.

However, before I get to that, maybe first I need to back up a step and explain *why* we were looking at it in the first place. Obviously, the most important step in thinking organic is having a core of fundamental beliefs that is congruent with what the organic agriculture movement is trying to achieve. On the surface at least, so far, so good. I am fully with them on long term, proactive controls, soil building, happy animals, and cyclical production models and methodologies. In many respects, organic agriculture is not incongruent with what we're doing with our beef animals right now. The thought was that if we could get certified it might give us another story to tell and the additional oversight might be be a selling point for some of our customers.

Unfortunately, when I started digging deeper there began to accrue some negatives to offset the positives. Here is a short list, along with some of my thoughts.

Farming is my business and my living rather than my hobby, so going organic is, for me, primarily a business decision. It's been my experience that it's seldom a good idea to knowingly make a business decision that takes you backwards financially, because if you're like me you will unknowingly make enough bad business decisions to sink a battleship all by yourself ! We ran a lot of math on going organic and we found that it was a wash with what we were currently doing from a financial standpoint. In this case, what I saw was a whole bunch of work and time to go through the certification process to win the use of a sales tool that would accrue this farm (at best) limited financial gain.

About this time, I began to look closely at some of the practices that were encouraged and discouraged by the certifying agencies with regards to stockmanship. It didn't take very long to find things that were massively incongruent with my beliefs; enough so that even if the money had been really right I couldn't have gone forward with with the certification process.

I guess I'm kind of wierd but I actually *like* the animals that live with me here on this farm. I want to give them every chance to live their lives as healthy and happy as possible, and if they get sick I want to treat them with the best and most efficacious treatment to get them back to a state of wellness as quickly as possible. Sometimes, the best treatment for sick animals involves using antibiotics. When it does it's my opinion that dosing them correctly and treating disease early is a lot more effective for the individual (and for the herd) than waiting and using them as a treatment of last resort.

Treating sick animals is no fun, either for the animals in question or for us. We take a lot of preventative steps to avoid the need to treat sick animals in the first place, either with or without antibiotics. One of the most important steps we take involves administering regular vaccinations against endemic diseases.

Both vaccinations and using antibiotics as first line controls in certain disease situations fly in the face of organic agriculture standards today. That's okay. It takes all kinds to make the world go around and if everybody were like me it'd be a pretty boring place. That said, I believe my protocols do as right as possible by the animals on this farm, and at the end of the day the most important thing has to be liking the face that looks at you in the mirror every morning.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I Deserve it

It's this writers opinion that the three words that make up the title of this post have got more people in more trouble over time than any other three word combination except maybe, "Hey, watch this !"

Of course there are different kinds of trouble; what I'm going to talk about for the remainder of this post is the financial kind. Readily available credit, rent to own, interest only mortgages and "easy" payment plans have seemingly subsumed the idea that except in rare instances, one may better put off until tomorrow that which could be financed today. Most of the things one can buy and finance today are depreciating assets. As many people have learned during this recession, even home values can depreciate. For this reason, home equity lines of credit aren't usually a good idea, because where are you going to live when real estate prices drop (!) and you suddenly owe more than your home is worth.

Even famous financial analysts talk today about "good" debt vs. "bad" debt; the idea being that good debt will either appreciate in value and/or earn more money than it costs to finance it whereas bad debt just accrues costs with no hope of salvation. The truth is that *any* kind of debt is a gamble; even the safest forms of debt can backfire on occasion.

I'm guilty of thinking, "I deserve it" myself. As most of you know, Melissa and I are building out our new farm right now. With the exception of a little bit of mortgage debt, we owe no money on any of the improvements we've made, and we have no plans to accrue more debt by making improvements before we can do it with cash. Of course, having animals on two farms with one of them under near continual construction, combined with running old, fully depreciated equipment and vehicles adds a whole other level of inconvenience to our daily lives, and I've thought many times about how "convenient" it would be to just go ahead and borrow enough to finish it out, with maybe enough for a cab tractor, some new equipment, and a nice new car to spare. It'd work too. I'd look like a genius so long as our growth curve remained in it's current allometric state and nothing went seriously wrong in the interim. Unfortunately, I know very well that growth curves seldom remain allometric for very long. I also know that having things go wrong is very much a part of life.

This post was spurred on by a friends' untimely and very surprising farm auction notice, which was waiting for me in the mailbox today. It hit me pretty hard when I got it, and when I saw who'se equipment and real estate was for sale, I knew I needed to drive over pretty quick and have a visit with him. I did just that shortly before supper time tonight. It's not my business to know the circumstances behind his sale, and I didn't ask, but I do know that whatever happened, I'm sad about it. I hope I'll see him on a tractor again soon; next time in better circumstances than he currently finds himself in right now. Years ago, my grandad said that he'd rather have good neighbours than more land. Amen to that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Apparantly, Vegetables have rights too.

For as much rhetoric as corporate ag spews about producing the cleanest, safest and most abundant food supply in the world, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that they don't take any sort of criticism challenging this position very well at all. In fact, corporate lobbyists have successfully introduced food libel laws in 13 states in this country. (Thankfully, at this writing, Tennessee isn't one of them.)

As I understand it, what this means is that if you make a show out of talking and writing bad things about commodities that agribusiness produces in the states that have these laws on the books, and you don't have sound science to back up your musings, it's a whole lot easier for them to sue you for libel, and, I surmise, win their suit. At least in theory, if I said that eating chicken raised by corporation X made me sick due to the hormones in it, I could get sued. So much for that dratted constitution and all those soldiers that died protecting our rights; darned freedom of speech and expression and all. Big brother has spoken and he says eat it and don't complain. If you dare raise your voice, at least in any of 13 states with laws like this on the books, you shall be silenced, one way or another. At the end of the day, it's all about the money, it's all about control, and it's all about being scared to death that someone will come along and take the money and control away.

Most farmers that sell directly to the public have no fear of their consumer's criticism, mostly because we have good reputations and good products and we protect both very diligently. If someone doesn't like my food, or the farming practices under which it was grown, or the service I provide while selling it, I think they ought to be able to say so. Knowing that they CAN say so, I am going to be extra careful not to give them any reason to do so, and I believe this is as it should be. From what I read, I surmise that some sectors of corporate ag don't see it this way AT ALL.

A couple of my blog readers commented that most consumers don't want to know how their food is produced. I fully agree with that thought. More than that, I believe a large fraction of consumers don't *care* how their food is produced, so long as it's there. That's their right and that's fine with me. Some folks won't be told that you get what you pay for and it's as true of food products as it is anything else. Let 'em go buy "cheap", crappy, industrially raised, irradiated, hormone laced junk food and never ask any questions about how it might have got in that plastic container on the shelf in their local supermarket.

Me ? I'm going to the garden to pick me a tomato. ;)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The CAFO Reader

I'm reading a book right now called The CAFO Reader. It's a compendium of essays about CAFO agriculture and the alternatives that exist to it. For those not in the know, CAFO stands for concentrated animal feeding unit, and, at least in the US, this usually means some sort of large scale industrial agribusiness.

For the most part, reading the essays in the book is literally like listening to myself talk or reading what I write here on this blog. It's scary how often I and the essayist in question use the same phraseology to describe certain key situations. About the only part of the book I have read so far that I disagree with is that some of the authors get very hung up on size. As I have mentioned before, I don't believe that large is always a bad thing; the biggest dairy in the state of Tennessee is also among the best managed; indeed it's run by a personal friend of mine. More often than not, it is the mindset of the farmer, rather than the size of his farm that creates the problem. When the farmer is of an agrarian mindset, size doesn't necessarily preclude a high degree of expertise in farming. Things tend to be well run and everything stays in relative balance. When the farmer is of an industrial mindset, woe be to the animals, the workers, and the neighbourhood, because all of them are going to pay a price over time. It's like every part of their brains not concerned with growing some commodity bigger, faster and cheaper has atrophied itself into nothing.

I'm just getting started on reading the solutions part of the book right now. It comes as no surprise to me that some of the essayists in this part of the book are featured heavily on my bookcase. Like me, many of the authors seem to believe there will exist two or more parellel systems of production for a long while yet, barring some unseen pivotal change. Industrial ag will continue to produce "cheap" food for the masses, while well run regional and local producers will continue to direct market a series of differentiated products targeted toward higher end consumers.

One of the most glaring differences between industrial farms and what I and other direct marketers do is the level of transparency we provide our customers. Perhaps more than anything else we do, this is what consumers are happy to pay for, and for some reason, this seems to be the hardest thing for industrial ag organizations to offer up. Several essayists touch on this, but I think there is perhaps room for more exploration of this topic.

However the book winds up, at the end of the day there are only two decisions I can really control. The first is what goes on right here at home. After having experienced and participated in both commodity ag and enhanced value, direct market ag, I have made my bed firmly in the "value added" camp. The second involves where my purchased food dollars go. Alone, neither one makes a hill of beans worth of difference to the system. But when we start making real choices together on a larger scale, I believe we CAN have food production systems that feature healthy farms and prosperous rural communities instead of what we have now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting There !

When they aren't grazing quietly, you'll find the horses literally arrayed in a semi-circle around the building watching the crazy humans run like mad while moving all over the exterior of the building like ants! Looks like the horses are going to have to find something else to do after tomorrow ! All we lack on the exterior is doors and shutters; both easily remedied. Now to tackle the INTERIOR ! :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

An Uneventful Move

Just a quick update for all who asked. The move was the biggest non-event I've ever seen for a large group of horses. It took us a half hour to load everybody on the semi this morning and they spent another half hour enroute. They got off and ran around the new place for about five minutes, then they put their heads down and started to graze. When I left eight hours later, they were STILL grazing ! I'll be surprised if I hear differently before I go down there in the morning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Day Before the First Big Move

Tomorrow, we move our first group of horses to the new farm. To say that we have been busy this week is an understatement. Melissa has been coordinating things at the College Grove farm while I have been in charge of things at the Lynnville farm. At the end of the workday today everything was workably complete at the new place which is going to have to be good enough for now. Although it is reasonably proximate to our current location, our new farm is a few miles farther from the bright city lights than where we are currently. Everybody working with me at the new farm also farms themselves; we're fortunate that they understand what we're trying to do without us having to explain it forty seven times. Special thanks go to Locke Brothers Fencing Co. for putting a hurry up on the fence around the barn and the barn itself and to Foster Garrett and his crew for pulling ALL their trucks away from whatever they were doing to haul crusher run for me today. If there are better or more honest folks than these to work with in northern Giles County, I don't know who they would be. As we have been everywhere we've lived, we are again blessed with good neighbours.

To any of our Lynnville neighbours reading this....I hope the Richland FFA Benefit Truck and Tractor Pull didn't get rained out tonight, and I hope the crowds were big and that everyone enjoyed it ! Given that it was being held in the park downtown, the whole town participated whether they attended or not ! LOL ! Although I find tractor pulls a little noisy for my poor old head, I believe in and support 4-H and FFA where I can. I'm sorry I couldn't be in attendance this year.

View looking toward the barn from the driveway. We're still lacking the porch across the front of the barn, the barn doors, shutters, and, of course, the cupola. :)

View toward the run in shed from the front of the barn. Each pasture has a 16 foot drive through gate and a 4 foot walk-gate with water troughs and a hydrant located between the gate openings. This should make it easy to monitor everything while feeding. We may eventually add a place right at each walk-gate to store blankets and sheets.

We had a FULL crew of guys working today with vehicles, trucks and trailers parked everywhere !

View of the barn area from the rear. That's our neighbour Terry Locke leaning on the railing of the scissor lift. :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rural Reality

Just to prove that one never knows how animals will react to certain stimuli, this evening we had a covey of hot air balloons land on a farm (with the farmer's permission, as I took the time to find out) a few miles away. Melissa and I were in the back finishing up chores in the Big Boy's Field and we watched the whole show. The balloons weren't close and as far as our horses go, they never even noticed; one or two lifted their heads momentarily while the rest just kept grazing, completely unperturbed. But the whole non-incident got me to thinking about just how out of touch with rural reality some people have become.

Mostly, our immediate neighbours do a pretty good job of not treading on our property rights and in that respect we are pretty lucky. What many in our community don't get any more is that the pretty cows and horses out in our fields actually do more than enhance the landscape...they are how I earn my living. This is a working landscape filled with working farms. It is NOT a public park. Our fenced fields full of livestock are most certainly NOT somewhere we want you walking, riding your bicycle, drinking, landing balloons, hunting without our permission, etc. When something, someone or some nearby activity has the potential to seriously disturb my animals, I take it as a direct threat to my ability to continue to provide a living for my family and I promise that when I confront someone involved in doing any of these things, I react very strongly to it.

There is truth to the Robert Frost poem, "Good Fences Make Good Neighbours". Many of the folks in this neck of the woods that farm for a living (me included) keep excellent, sturdy boundary fences, if for no other reason than we can't afford to have our livestock running amok over the neighbourhood and/or up and down the road. I take boundary fencing so seriously that checking fence is the first job I impress upon ALL of our help, and all of our boundary fence at both farms is checked, and repaired if necessary, each and every day. Just as I don't want the neighbours using my farm as their unauthorized personal park, I don't want my horses and livestock dallying in their geraniums if I can help it.

Hope everyone is having a good week. I am sure enjoying spending my days at the new farm. With as much work as we have to do down there to continue building and finishing it out, I ought not to complain very much about being bored in the next little while ! :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eating Humble Pie

Given the seriousness of my recent posts, I think it's time to lighten things up a notch and tell a few tales on myself. Here are a couple farming stories gone awry to wet your appetite. There are PLENTY more where this came from.

1. Frost Seeding Clover into winter wheat- Every year on a cold morning at some point late in the winter, after the snow pack had pretty well gone but before the ground had done much thawing, all my neighbours and I would begin broadcasting clover seed into our winter wheat. Seemingly without fail, and apparantly without even really trying, my neighbours would unfailingly gain an excellent stand of clover which reduced their fertilizer bills and helped build their soils. Goody for them. Every year, no matter what I did....and I tried EVERYTHING to make it otherwise....I got exactly nothing except red ears and a wet behind for my efforts ! After awhile, it became a running joke in the farming community and something I ate A LOT of crow over...there's Jason out broadcasting clover seed....again....d'ya think it'll grow for him this year....nope....never has done before....he sure works hard at it though.....ayup....let's drive by and give him the thumbs up again (evil grin).

2. Prior to my first "hot" date with Melissa, she asked me if I could drag her ring for her as her dad, who would normally handle the job, was out of town. I'd gone all out for the occasion....starched the shirt and pressed my jeans, but ever the man to impress, I said sure thing ! Melissa, similarly primped, jumped up and sat on the fence, fully prepared to be impressed with her new man's mechanical aptitude and farming ability. After starting one of her father's new tractors, I backed it up to where the whippletree and chain harrows were parked. I dismounted the tractor, parking brake set, noting that I had parked it on the cusp of a long, steep hill. As is often the case with this sort of equipment, the chain, clevis and pin were buried deep in tall grass just behind the tractor, so I had to monkey around for a few seconds hunting the connection with my back turned to the machine. Finally, I found the damn thing and when I straightened up, I gave Melissa my best winning smile. About this time, I heard a distinct click, and I finished turned around, smile still plastered on my face, just in time to witness the tractor's brakes fail completely. I remember the smile fading as I screamed "Holy [word that rhymes with truck]!" I briefly stood watching the scene unfold in slack jawed, horrified amazement, whippletree connection still in hand. My hot date's father's new tractor was literally rocketing away from me....picking up an incredible amount of speed as it pointed itself at the row of hickory trees in the fencerow at the bottom of the hill. At some point, I must have felt action was called for, because next thing I knew I was running full tilt after the tractor, cussing a blue streak the entire trip. It was going way faster than I could....WAY faster... and in spite of my adrenaline laced best efforts I never had any hope of catching it. Somehow....I don't know HOW...except to say there is a God and He was sure enough looking after me that night.... the tractor managed to hit the only gap in the fencerow and it came to a stop in the next field all on it's own, none the worse for wear, thank you Jesus. After I caught my breath and shoved my pounding heart back down my throat, I turned around again, just in time to watch my heavily primped date rolling around in the dirt and pounding her fist into the ground, belly laughing so hard she was crying.

Weekly Progress Report

Although it may not look like it, we've made a lot of progress this week and it's a good thing as we are very close to *needing* to move horses down here. This week saw the completion of fencing around the barn, the barn roof as well as window installation and framing. The exterior sheeting on the barn ought to go very quickly this week, as should the addition of a "porch" across the front of the barn. Next comes yet more gravel, followed by finishing the barn interior...once the basics are done I will be working at this by myself after we have horses on premises.

As you can see, I'm still pretty proud of my water line ! :)

Hope everyone enjoys their Labour Day holiday !

View from the southeast...this is what you'll see coming up the laneway.
Water Line = Self Satisfied Grin

View from the rear

View of run in shed with fence.

Another view from the front

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Health Care Comparison

Well, if my previous posts haven't managed to fully alienate my slim readership, this one is sure to get people fired up on both sides of the border ! I probably field more questions about this topic from both Canadian and American friends and acquaintances than I do any other topic, so here is my attempt at a *balanced* comparison of my verisons of Canadian and American health care !

First of all I will address the rumours !

While it is POSSIBLE to die in the streets waiting for treatment in the US because you don't have any money to pay the bill, this outcome is highly unlikely for visiting Canadians no matter whether they carry a US health insurance policy or not. For a variety of reasons, this outcome is also highly unlikely for most Americans, although it can get expensive fast if one has unprotected assets, is under-insured (or not insured at all) and/or one doesn't know how to work the system.

Similarly, it's POSSIBLE to die while waiting in a queue for a doctor to show up and treat you while on holiday in Canada, but this would be an equally unlikely outcome for most Americans (and for most Canadians) in the majority of cases. Most of the time, people who need care get it in a relatively timely fashion, although in many cases the wait is considerably longer than it would be south of the border for the same treatment. When I lived there, the wait for a "routine" MRI was as long as several months, depending on the severity of one's condition and the availability and proximity of the nearest MRI machine.

Outcome for outcome, the quality of care in both countries is very good. Depending on the severity of the issue at hand, timeliness (and sometimes the degree of thoroughness) of care and reasonable access to doctors, specialists, and second opinions is (or was) probably the biggest gripe in Canada.

Conversely, so long as one has good insurance OR one knows how to work the system, timeliness of care and access to specialists in the US is generally very good. The biggest gripe down here is the cost (and sometimes the availability) of non-cancellable comprehensive health insurance.

Canadian health insurance is not "free" and it's not particularly comprehensive, either. It covers a percentage of most doctor and specialist visits, some instances of follow up care and physiotherapy as well as most care provided while a patient is actually in hospital. It does NOT cover dentistry, most ocular bills, chiropractic visits or alternative medicine, nor does it routinely cover perscription drugs for those under 65. Many Canadians carry extra insurance, often sponsored through their employers, just like here in the US, to bring their health care coverage up to a standard they feel comfortable with.

One of the few real differences that I have found between Canada and the US is the system of health care between the two countries, even if the overall outcomes are similar. Canadians, both liberal and conservative, voluntarily pay very high taxes to support their provincially run universal coverage health insurance systems; despite the griping, most of them are very happy with much so that the easiest way to never get elected again in Ontario is to suggest a return to free market health care. It is no exaggeration to say that nearly everyone in the country supports the idea that every Canadian should have equal and affordable access to health care, regardless of who they are or their ability to pay.

Interestingly, for all the rhetoric levied against various parts of the US health care system from (gasp) Socialist Canada, the US government already exercises considerable involvement in many health care situations. Medicare (and to a lesser extent Medicaid) is quite similar to the system in place in Canada right now. The biggest difference between government run health care in the US vs government run health care in Canada is that one has to be retired and 65 or below a certain income threshold to qualify for it down here as near as I can tell.

My only personal gripe is the ever escalating cost (and potentially the availability) of affordable, reasonably comprehensive health insurance in the US, especially for sole proprietorships and other small businesses that don't qualify for group health insurance. I've said for years that I would like to own (and pay out of pocket for) a family policy that mimics the coverage I had when I lived in Canada, but extensive research has shown me that such a policy really doesn't exist down here. I don't care too much about routine doctor visits or perscription drug coverage. At the end of the day, what I really want is to know that our medical bills will be fully covered and our insurance won't be cancelled in the event of a catastrophic and progressive disease or accident.

And so wraps up my post ! Any readers left out there ? :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Don't Want Your Tax Dollars !

I recently learned that the lady who owned the farm Melissa and I bought some months ago was basically getting a cheque from the USDA NOT to grow corn and soybeans. It wasn't the kind of cheque that you run and buy a new Porche on, but it wasn't chicken feed, either. I know this because I got a letter in the mail recently asking me, as the new property owner, where I would like this year's cheque sent, which is just unbelieveable to me. I wrote back and asking not to be signed up as a part of this program and to please cancel my current cheque because I wasn't going to accept it.

At the root of it, seemingly easy money makes me feel pretty uneasy. Call it an old fashioned notion if you want, but I don't much enjoy feeling beholden to anyone, although like everyone alive, I know that I AM beholden to some folks for various reasons. I also don't really trust that which I don't fully understand, and I don't understand why the government would want to pay folks for not farming land in a way they see fit to do. At the end of the day, I'm not sure whether it's the first step in a power grab, a vote getter, or something else entirely, but I do know that said cheque probably wasn't issued from the good of the government's heart.

As a new American, I honestly don't care all that much about party affiliations. As far as I'm concerned, the man most likely to get my vote next election day will be the one explaining how he's going to ELIMINATE some of the hugely wasteful and unneccesary programs that already exist. In my books, this would include the one that was going to send Melissa and I an unwanted and poorly disguised government welfare cheque to not do something that I was never going to do anyway. As far as I'm concerned, if they can't save it, they ought to give the money they didn't spend on me to the old people, or veterans, or some other group that actually deserves it.

If they REALLY want to help me out, maybe they could take the money and form a task force that could help answer why as small business owners our health insurance premium is the largest single line expense we pay every month and also why it went up by 15 % last year despite no significant claims from either of us.

Stepping down off my soapbox now. :)