Cota Farms' Blog

June 18, 2019

The Shepherd’s Manual

Filed under: Book — Cota Farms @ 5:12 pm
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I was recently inspired to share †††some books in my collection. It never occurred to me to do such a thing until I was reading a post from Tim Miller, – Classic Jam Hits – in which he shared some books from his collection that caught my attention. Being a shepherd is (for a few days more), one of the most interesting an enlightening things I have done. I can’t exaggerate how the experience has changed my whole perspective of the world, society, people, religion, and more. I grew up in the city and didn’t start farming until I was more than forty years old.

I won’t try and explain all of that but I will say that these books (and others I will share in forthcoming posts) helped me to understand that animal husbandry has had a profound effect on all peoples and nations and how devastating the corporate takeover of this part of our society has been. Some would argue that corporate practices and technology has served to increase food production many times over. I would rebut that you may not really understand just what is being produced, its quality, and the actual cost of production. There is plenty of information on the net supporting this so I won’t go into it here.

These books are old and that is the best thing about them. They were written before the time of corporate agriculture. †††††††††††††††††††††You don’t have to read more than one book to discover that animal husbandry practices today are in sheer conflict with what was done for many hundreds of years. The apparent contradictions make no sense until you factor in the profit motivations of the current way of raising animals. Unfortunately, enough generations have adopted these conventions that to return to a better, more humane and more sustainable way would require temporary sacrifices that the general population would rebel against. No worry though as the present power structure would never let that happen.

Shearing our flock was one of the most frustrating aspects of raising sheep. No books on that here. Shearing is fast becoming a lost art in this country. Over the years we have dealt with a few men who do this and they were quite old and had no apprentices. Some years we could find no one and I bought some electric shears and tried my hand at it. I found them online for a lot less than the well known name brand and they were essentially the same thing without the brand label and perhaps even manufactured in the same place. When I was finished the flocked looked just like one would expect if an amateur with no experience had sheared them. The people I hired for this chore when I could had sheared tens of thousands of sheep and could do in a few hours what took me the whole summer.

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April 26, 2019

The Souls of Sheep

Filed under: Book — Cota Farms @ 1:09 am
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This is the title of a book I have written. It is available on Amazon Kindle, written by Cota Adams. It is very much related to the sale of the farm in as much as the sale of the farm is an integral part of my life transition. The book itself is a novel, a story, not about farms but about what it could mean to change your life. The book is fantasy no doubt because I can’t show anything in it to be more than pleasant musings. But that makes it no different than many venerated books that can do no more but yet are the inspiration for war and hate and fear. We all know these books.

My Book

Changing your life is not about discovering yourself or about trying to become something that you are not like a hedonistic hermaphrodite that thinks sexual experimentation is the pinnacle of enlightenment. I guess many people don’t understand what that means and perhaps that is why there are so many confused and unhappy people out there willing to believe that the world is a better place because morality has been replaced by rationalization, legislation and the rejection of responsibility.

I’m not a crusader nor do I have a passion to educate or warn the masses of people about an impending doom. I just don’t believe that is the case. It seems more probable to me that everything here is proceeding on scheduled as planned. When your train arrives at the station you get on or you don’t. If you miss it you may be lucky to find another stop alone your way but you can’t count on it and the fare could be more than you’re willing to pay the second time.

Having actually been a shepherd, I have more understanding of what that really means now and how it is often used in error when referring to people, even in parables. If I were to give a single simple phrase that illustrates what I am saying it would be, sheep are content with being sheep while people are not.

Sheep suffer no unnaturally ill effects by being blissfully ignorant of their place here. You must admit that while being killed and eaten by a coyote could be thought of as an ill effect, it is not an unnatural one. But for a person, any ill effect at all is objectionable. Getting past this idea is what it could mean to change your life.

The Souls of Sheep

March 19, 2019

Selling the Farm

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 7:48 pm
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Now that I am past the hard part, admitting failure and deciding to act, it’s time to move on to cleaning up the mess.  That really was the hard part because whatever comes next is as a direct result of the failure and is only to be expected.  It won’t be smooth sailing (how I would so love to just go sailing) but it will be sailing to whatever destination even if that is sailing off the end of the flat earth. I read somewhere we can do that now. 

In an attempt to make that final save, the goal here is to sell the farm before losing the farm. It is a race against time on many race tracks; the mortgage, property taxes, collapsing housing market, my ability to function, and so forth.

Selling a farm is a little more involved than selling a house.  It is potentially such a problem that I have decided to not sell the farm but instead sell a house that sits on acres of land. And if that doesn’t go well, a very real possibility, I will have to resort to plan x, something I would just rather not do. There is also another option that fits between house on land sale and plan x, the auction. I mention it because in certain situations when the constellations align just right, it is possible to make more money in an auction than a normal real estate transaction. Maybe it’s a rural thing, not many actions in the city, but they pop up all the time in the countryside. 

If you’ve never been to an auction, a good one meaning there are a lot of people there that want what you need, then you’ve missed an enlightening experience. Very often the property or livestock or painting receives much more than it would have if just listed. If you’ve got the time and a few thousand dollars to pay the fee should you not get your needed price, you may do well. This doesn’t really apply to eBay because it also lists the same item right next the auctioned item essentially creating a ceiling.

Plan x would require more time and investment in my own failure, don’t want to drag this out. But interestingly enough, it could bring more money by dividing the land into smaller pieces and raising the per acre price. All I can do is prepare the property as well I can for presentation and there you go.

Unfortunately there are others who must sell out or bug out and, and do something else so maybe my experiences may be useful in some way. This journey will expand from the original postings full of optimism, innovation, and energy to homelessness. Hopefully my writing will have improved at least. If all goes well then it won’t necessarily have a sad ending.

March 11, 2019

The Farm Has Failed

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 8:34 pm
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I guess it would be more accurate to say that I have failed. Now that I have a clear plan of how I will move forward, I thought it important to outline why I think the farm and I failed, primarily for myself. It is nice to think that someone would see this and even benefit from the log, but I will dismiss that idea as vanity.

  1. The small business landscape today changes so fast that there can be no academic understanding of it. There are few rules that you can apply that will guide you to success.
  2. Limited success can kill you. If you are lucky, say doing some coding that attracts the attention of a mega company, you can sell out quickly and make money. Otherwise, any small success will be copied by so many and so fast that you may never innovate again. Predators are ruthless.
  3. Business diversity is not the friend of the small business owner/operator. The idea of diversification just made sense to me. When one thing doesn’t sell, the other will. More people will be looking at you because you have more to offer. It is a sound principle for Walmart but for my small farm it meant spreading limited resources so thin that everything suffered, mostly me. Did everyone else already know that?
  4. The small business is not the future of America, it is a lie. If it is touted as a partial solution for the dwindling job market it is only done so to protect those powers that are now harvesting the wealth of the middle class. I also employ tricks to distract my sheep when I need to catch them for….
  5. Self-deception is the drug that keeps us going. While I was standing next to other small farmers, competing with them in the friendly atmosphere of the farmers market, I believed I did things better, my produce was superior, my meats more unique. When they stopped showing up at market it was because they were not as good as me. What other reason could there be?
  6. My hard work and sacrifice would ultimately be rewarded. This is a tough one. This idea is at the center of everything American and to even attempt to disagree with it would only invite ridicule and scorn. I don’t need any more of that.
  7. The ability of the large produces to control not just prices but the infrastructure, like insurance or certification, required to bring a product to market, is a tool they us to squash even the very smallest competitor. I use to think that such a tiny vendor as myself would not be noticed much less worthy of attack. Again my own vanity led me astray. It wasn’t about me, but all those like me added together. As the economy winds down and the last remaining profits are snorted up, even the 2% market share is gone after.
  8. Likewise, the niche markets are no longer a good bet. It’s a niche market for a reason. If there is any money to be made there a corporation has already financed a spinoff to go after it. The small number of sales I could generate by selling, say wool blankets or tanned hides, did not support my costs and I could not simply keep increasing the price.
  9. Cheap imports, including food, cannot be competed with.  Yes, the Chinese imported talpia or shrimp my not be as wholesome as a locally grown variety, but as people are forced to take jobs paying less they will compromise. 
  10. What you sold to people last year you can’t count on selling to them the next. All of us are victims of the dying economy and we fall away from sight to become poorer and sometimes homeless. We survive by spending less money on good food and other items so that we can keep what we have come to believe is more important.

We will survive by having less so that we can keep what we believe is more important. Cota Farms was as much an idea as it was a farm and the two never did quite come together. It would be easy to say sour grapes, but it is not true. I look back and recognize my failures and mistakes but I also acknowledge that I did not possess what was needed to bring that idea into this world.

Of course there are many examples one could point to and say, “see, that person was able to do this or that with just a handful of beans.” I salute them. This is not a blog about how to become successful with just a handful of beans. That alone is refreshing, it is my diary.

September 12, 2017

Small Farm Profits (sheep & goats)

mom&lambsMaking money on a small farm is difficult.  You can do this or that and sell a few dozen eggs or tomatoes but when you count the dollars very often you will find that you have spent more than you made.  And that is if you are already on a farm.  It is not practical in 2017 to purchase farm land, live there, and try to earn enough to pay for it.  But if you are already on a farm and don’t have it over mortgaged, then maybe you can keep it going long enough to make it to the coming time of all things local.  When that happens a small farm will have to invest more in security.

I have looked at livestock for several years now and am still convinced that a farmer with a couple dozen acres will not make money raising cattle.  And sometimes the price of milk at the store is so low I can’t believe they will still have milk the next week.  With what goes in to bringing a gallon of milk to the store, and it sells for less than fancy bottled water… better cut this rant off now!  Pork, well I really don’t understand that.  Around here though, I have seen a few Amish farms where they actually pasture pigs, will look into that some more.  There are more obstacles to poultry than a small bird deserves but if you can develop a market there is still some little opportunity there.

Some thought the influx of immigrants that eat more sheep and goat would bolster that retail market, I haven’t seen much of that.  The Muslims that visit our farm, for example, won’t or can’t pay a reasonable price and then want you to allow them to slaughter there at the farm. From what I can tell, they are buying less expensive imported lamb in many cases.

But still, pound for pound, sheep (and goats) have done best for us.  We finally turned to the stockyards as a fairly consistent and predictable outlet for our lambs.  The profit is not like that of retailing, but we have seen a big decline in that market here in Central Ohio.  Stockyard sales must be understood like anything else though, and not all sheep or goats are valued equally.  Primarily, they want meat animals, commercial breeds bringing the highest prices. I have found though, that while our Jacob crosses bring the lower bids, we have to put far less money and labor into them.  I don’t even know what foot rot looks like.  I have treated a handful of sheep for parasites over the years and never worry about lambing.  I just go out to our humble shelters in the morning and count the lambs.  I rely on our dogs to make sure nothing else is counting them as well.  And best of all, we get two crops a year for the most part, something not generally seen for the commercial sheep producers.

 

 

September 3, 2017

Changing of the Guard

Filed under: Uncategorized — Cota Farms @ 8:33 pm
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dogs

Our dogs are older now, they still work most nights but no more day shifts.  The coyotes and foxes became aware of this before me and helped themselves to a number of birds in the morning hours when the dogs were asleep.  This was a sure sign that it was time to bring in some younger dogs to carry the load.  We found these girls nearby…think I will call this sweet pooch Isis.

Ideally, they will be trained by our older girls Lursa and B’Etor.  We don’t live on an ideal farm though.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes with dogs in the past and I pray I have learned enough not to make many more.  Dogs are a lot like children, they both have this window of time when they are very young, when what they experience will shape how they behave from then on.  They are not like memory sticks that can be erased and rewritten. During this period of time, only a few weeks for dogs, they can be influenced to bond with other animals they live with and remain loyal, defending them with their lives. This is not true of all dogs, just those that have been bread for this purpose for many hundreds of years.  I love working dogs, they are amazing.

A child is even more malleable than a dog since they have no real instincts to draw on. For example, at a very early age a dog can, without any outside influence, feed itself and make a life, maybe even find a mate and reproduce.  A child will die of starvation unless there is food in front of him to eat, he can look but not hunt.  So the child is at the complete mercy of his mother for several years of his life; he has nothing else to draw on but what is placed in front of him.  However, once I’ve trained my dog in error, it is not likely that I can undo it and reset him to that very early time when he could be retrained. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!  This is true but I don’t think it has to apply to people.  We are much more vulnerable to influence by forces around us than a dog, and it is true that we can’t erase our memory for reprogramming, and it is also true that we are not born with instincts to help guide us but we do have one thing, we are born knowing the difference between right and wrong and if we desire can choose to act with honor.

March 3, 2014

Common Sense and Feeding Your Dogs Raw Meat – Part 3

While transitioning our dogs from having raw ground chicken in their diet and replacing that with leg quarters, we noticed a distinct rejection of the new alternative.  From some of what I have read they should have welcomed this new food.  Half of the dogs just could not seem to get the hang of it, one not even trying.   Our dogs are too important to us to just let this go; had we been thinking wrong?

I have to admit that when I offered this same chicken to the lot of them except this time I roasted it and striped the meat from the bones, they all gobbled it down.  I had even mixed in some old egg noodles.  The only difference from something I might prepare for myself was the lack of seasoning and mixing in the chicken fat.

I don’t know what this means but I am willing to employ a little dispassionate common sense to the problem.  You see the real problem is we tend to invest ourselves in a position we have chosen to take in the past and filter all new data thru the prism of not wanting to admit to being wrong, misinformed, not wanting to change.

In that spirit, I have observed from a number of different dogs, in different sizes and breeds, over several years’ time, that dogs do in fact prefer meat.  Furthermore, they do not as often as one might expect prefer it uncooked.  Also, I have noticed certain beneficial effects of feeding small amounts of cooked rice or pumpkin.  Additionally, there seems to be no ill effects from sometimes feeding macaroni and cheese mixed with a favorite meat.  I use these specific examples because of the enthusiasm in which the dogs eat those meals.

Of course roast chicken is not a balanced diet and we will continue to offer raw meat if for no other reason than to see if they eat it.  We will still feed organ meat as well but no longer ground, sliced instead.  We will offer it raw but if they don’t eat it we will cook it for them.  Our goal is to feed our dogs as best we can, see that they consume at least a minimal amount every day and if that means cooking for them, well, I would do no less for any farm workers we might employ.

December 8, 2013

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

That is my favorite Christmas song!  When the population left the land for city living they also left behind their connection to the earth.  Most people now have no idea where their food comes from or what it takes to get it to them.  I have to admit grocery stores seem to be in some sort of magical realm providing all the foods you can imagine, as long as you possess the coin of the realm.  I know what I’m talking about because I too grew up in the city and was oblivious to what went on in the countryside.

When the more modern belief systems replaced what is often referred to as paganism, all reverence for the earth and nature was replaced with the worship of a deity.  Sometimes this deity was just the head of state and then finally a mystical figure that much of the world calls God.  That left a world that became viewed as merely a vessel to hold humans until some prophecy or other took us away or transformed the planet.

The idea that our planet is not just a rock in space but a living organism that sustains us was lost and so there is no need to care for it as if it could be hurt or injured, poisoned or depleted.  Some people began to preach the idea that we are not even part of this world: “we are in the world, not of the world”.  It is no more than a cosmic bus station that we are forced to pass through on our way to something better.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to break away from the thought control that dictated my way of thinking before we came to the land.  Having been there, in the frame of mind that did not allow for other possibilities, I understand that it’s not enough to bring facts and artifacts to others and say you’ve been deceived.  As Morphius said in The Matrix, “you have to see it for yourself”.

There is no better time than in the bleak mid-winter to reconnect with those life forces that sustained us long before emperors became gods and church dogma told us how to think about one another and the world we all live in.  Even the high holy days follow the seasons.Dec2013 030

November 6, 2013

Micro Trout Farm (2)

Once we secured the water source we had to determine how much water we had, the flow rate.  For large scale commercial trout facilities the flow rate is very large, even thousands of gallons per minute.  There are few places in America where that much clean, cold water is available for private use.

Many of us however can have access to smaller volumes of water, perhaps enough to produce fish in sufficient quantities for it to be self-supporting.  A simplified analysis may look like this:  $150 per month for electric to pump water and air; $100 per month for feed; $400 per month replacement stock.  This simplified analysis assumes a up and running project and does not account for any capital investment like the cost of the well and raceway.

So $650 is the monthly cost to produce 400 fish for market.  Another assumption is that the project has been running long enough to produce a marketable item, a 1.5 pound fish.  If we sell 400 fish each month for $7.50 per pound then we net $3850 per month.  More than enough to service any capital investment with some pocket change left over.  OK let’s say my figures are suspect even though they are not that bad and we double our input costs to $1300 per month, still not too bad.  At any rate, it seems to be self-supporting.

This project has brought together all my favorite sciences and opens up a lot of potential new avenues for any other agricultural engineering fans out there.  A few came out to see my prototype; its already had an important modification and is growing trout.  You will notice I am using a variation of the common raceway and tank culture systems.  Both methods have advantages so why not bring them together.  I am also experimenting with different off the shelf tank designs that are readily available for far less than those tanks sold specifically for aquaculture.  Oct27 011

August 2, 2013

Young Swans At Cota Farms

A rare opportunity came our way this summer and we jumped on it!  We had swans before but lost them largely through inexperience with keeping these majestic birds.  The availability and cost of these birds vary so much it is difficult to price them but from what limited experience we have it was a deal that could not be passed up.  We are not likely to come across so many swans for sale at a price we could afford and distance we could easily travel.

For me having these magnificent birds on our small pond, watching them explore the wetland is a dream comes true, again.  We are very protective of them as we understand we may not get another chance and certainly not without paying much more than we did this time.

They are still young in spite of their size and take several years to mature.  We try to keep them close to the house because it is easier to care for them and protect them but they are drawn to the water and high grasses and get by us when we are not looking.  Fortunately we already have security in place.  We were sure to make introductions to the guard dogs when they got here and the entire farm perimeter is fenced.

Here they are scheming to get past an inner fence.  It did not take them long to discover they could slip through an area that the dogs had made in a fence not yet completed to a pasture in the opposite direction, then go around to get over the hill; they had to travel a long way but they made it.  So now they are where they want to be.  We will have to herd them back up the hill before winter though as it is too difficult to get food to them out there once the snow flies.  swans 017

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