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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May 23, 2019

Disassembling Your Life – Selling The Farm – Part 4

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 5:31 pm
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It is difficult to prepare your home, farm, business for sale when you are not moving upward but rather moving on. After speaking with my realtor I understood what selling this property, my home, means. It is about erasing my presence here as much as possible. Sure it make sense, perspective buyers must be able to see themselves living there, not the remains of the former owner.

We have seen the closed store fronts where the ghosts of the logos still linger. It is generally an impersonal thing because despite the laws of the land, these are companies and not human beings. The persons that worked for those companies hopefully moved on to other opportunities. If they didn’t then perhaps they were forced to sell their homes and likewise erase their presence from where they once lived.

It’s a life changing experience particularly when future expectations run toward the bleak end of the spectrum. I recently re-watched “The Grapes of Wrath” just to verify that my frame of mind was more than just self pity. Yep, my feelings are totally justified and I am in the good company of many a fellow human being past and present.

The Grapes of Wrath Poster

Like those characters in Steinbeck’s novel, I too am looking at homelessness but I hope to do it with more grace and comfort. It’s a race and there are so many of us joining it all the time. The number of homes for sale in my county is disturbing but I can only see competition for the too few buyers that are able to secure mortgages. It’s a shameful thing when we are set against one another over scarce resources, exactly the point of Steinbeck’s masterwork.

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

April 5, 2019

How To Sell Your Farm -part 1

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 2:36 pm
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Before we begin let’s address the obvious: if you’re a farmer or someone who wanted to be a farmer but you failed at it and now have to sell your farm, then you know little to nothing about selling a farm. You need help! I have a neighbor, a good friend or so I thought, who has a realtors license (he told me so) and offered his services. We made plans to make more detailed plans with dates and times confirmed and then he just stopped communicating with me. I was confused and disappointed. (I hope he is alright and maybe he decided he just didn’t want to be bothered.) It did bother me for awhile though and eventually I ask around and found a realtor that was highly recommended.

She is probably the only person who has a chance of selling my farm for what I want in the way I want to do it. I know this because she told me so. I told her “wow! I really needed to hear that kind of confidence”. So get a realtor and pay them the most you can to motivate them to do a good job. This is one of those times when you really can get what you pay for and capitalism can live up to the hype.

There are different reasons people sell their farms and or homes but I am focusing on the one where you are too poor to hang on to it and therefore you don’t have any money to remodel the place first in hopes of getting a better offer. That’s the reason that requires a list. The list comes in three parts.

The first list comprises those things that must be done so that people don’t just pass over your property. It also includes those things that must be done in order to qualify for FHA approval and bank financing. Most buyers will be seeking a mortgage. I had to put new gravel down so people could get to the house without breaking an axial. I will also have to complete my deck repairs and put up more railing to meet building codes and insurance requirements.

The second list comprises those things that, under better circumstances, should be done because it obviously devalues the house or property. There are missing roof shingles and patches from previously missing shingles. Each winter some shingles are blown off and as the roof ages the number of missing shingles increases. It is time for a new roof. I had envisioned a metal roof in a striking color like hunter green. That ain’t gonna happen so there will be more patches. There is probably a number somewhere that tells you the difference in market value with and without a new roof but it is moot. I think I got some basic painting covered though.

The third list comprises those things that won’t make any list for me but probably would for other people in other worlds. We haven’t had television for many years but sometimes when I am sitting in a doctors office or even waiting to have a car serviced I catch a little bit of television. There is a show I have seen more than once that is about people who want to buy a house and sell their house at the same time. The idea of the show is to fix up your old house before you sell it and sometimes they like their old house after they fix it up enough to just keep it. I think what those people do would fill up the third list.

yellow hallway

I met with my realtor today and she helped me to better arrange my lists, that’s one of the things that a good realtor does. She helped me understand that I can’t just throw a coat of paint inside the house I have to remove the colors as well. It was my intention to just match what was there. I was wrong about that. I love the yellow hallway but it has to go. She also helped me to understand that after we cleaned the house she would send over someone to clean the house. Fortunately pride is something I lost when the farm failed. Selling your house is a lot about undoing all that made your house your home. It makes sense, the house must be blank before it can become someone else’s home.

I already knew I needed a realtor but now I understand better why I needed a realtor. What I really needed was a good realtor! Unfortunately realtors are no different from any other professional like lawyers or doctors or dog groomers, half of them are just not very good at what they do. (Man could I tell you stories about dog groomers.) I was lucky, the second time, and found what seems to be a good realtor. Stay with me to find out just how good she turns out to be.

April 3, 2019

Maintenance – Selling The Farm – Part 2

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 7:47 pm
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New Gravel

Before you can list your property you have to do all those things that you never got around to while you were going about the business of living and farming. It’s a sad irony that I have to clean up the farm and the house, perform maintenance and a hundred other small jobs to make the place one that I would want to live in before I can sell it. It’s kind of like punishment for failing to be successful. You would think that failing would be punishment enough but there are still many more painful moments yet to come; why don’t you follow along with me so you can witness the whole sordid affair.

The driveway has been in need of new gravel for at least two maybe three years. It will be one of the first things that a potential buyer will see and can not be put on the -sell as is list-. I’ll talk about the lists in another post. We have a long driveway which is always desirable except when it comes time to purchase gravel or when it is covered in ice and snow. I’ve noticed neighbors (that can be anyone within several mines in the country) that have put asphalt on their driveways and it looked good. I did a little calculating in my mind concerning what this would cost and it added up to me hating my neighbors, give or take a thousand dollars. We are fortunate to have a quarry just a stones throw (a stones throw, am I funny or what) from the farm so we naturally went with quarry gravel. Limestone is the preferred material to use but it is at least twice as much and in my experience and inspecting nearby driveways, it doesn’t really last any longer although this is the common wisdom.

On two occasions I used slag which is comparable in price to quarry gravel and outlasts gravel or limestone. I like slag because it melts the ice and snow away faster, it looks nice and it packs at least as well as limestone but there are two problems with it; it is not always available and it often comes with sharp objects that can cause a series of unexpected flat tires.

The gravel in the pic is about 23 tons and costs about $500. I will need about twice that much more to complete the area near the house and fill in the areas missed by the tailgate spread. This is the most money I plan to spend getting the property/house ready for show. I have already arranged to trade a Wheel Horse mower for some interior painting. Other items I will give away to good friends and maybe sell a few things. A lot of things will just be hauled away to the dump. I think that could be a poem.

April 1, 2019

Cleaning Up The Mess – Selling The Farm – Part 3

Filed under: The Plan — Cota Farms @ 3:21 am
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The farm has greatly suffered along with my deteriorating health. It’s a mess! So many half finished projects and failed experiments all there having to be cleared away before the property can be shown. I’ve made arrangements with some local Amish boys to help with what I can’t do. The high tunnel alone will take a long day to clear out and make presentable.

A mess on the farm

I’ve been working with one family for many years now and as the boys grow and move on to their own families I employ the younger ones. It is a joy to work with them and be around their family. They are a testament and proof to anyone who cares to see it that life can flourish outside the culture that we are programmed to serve. (I am using all my limited writing skills to be as subdued as I can. The ‘in your face’ approach never works out well.) This is/was a rural community with small and large farms but there is no available labor to be had among the young people here save the Amish. To be blunt, our youth will just not work that hard. Any wonder we have so much work for Mexican immigrants – ops, did I go too far?

Ours in not the only farm that is up for sale. In our small county there are many farms stopping operation and the land is being sold off. I can right now point to two dairy farms that I have visited that are finished. But not to worry as milk, cheese and ice cream actually comes from the grocery store, right? Yes that was a rant, sorry, as I was saying we are lucky to have help dismantling out small farm. Just last night a very young Amish man and his little brother were here loading lambs for us to go to the Easter auction. Without their help our options would have been frightening. You can’t find sheep wranglers on Craigslist.

There’s a lot to clean up outside the house which is a whole other issue. Some of the money from the sale of the lambs will pay for more gravel which will be spread and raked by, yep, the same sheep wranglers. They have many other talents as well like roof repair. Sure you could, if you have lots of money, hire a contractor to come give you an estimate that usually borders on the ridiculous and hope they actually show up to do the work. (It has been my experience that at least half the time they do not.) But we have learned from past mistakes and found other ways to get things done.

I arranged to have them come back for a couple days work of cleanup before the next load of sheep are hauled off. They will also be doing the bulk of the cargo trailer conversion, we discussed some details during the trip back to their place. They don’t drive so I happily pick them up and drop them off. You can follow the trailer conversion right here so check back occasionally. I’ve decided to go with the Murphy bed that allows for a tiny sitting area that looks out on a double glass door framed into the back end that opens onto the ramp door deck. Got all those ideas from YouTube videos.

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.

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