Thursday, July 31, 2014
Alfalfa is Blooming Again and Economic Thoughts on Small Farming
I noticed this evening that the Alfalfa field is beginning to bloom once again despite the fact that we haven't had a drop of rain to speak of in almost a month now and the ground is beginning to crack badly. I also did not notice any of the bees working the blooms yet. My guess is the girls are still finding clover blooms to work or maybe the Alfalfa needs to bloom a bit more to attract them but I know Alfalfa does produce a good honey crop and is a valuable forage in some areas. Of course all bee keeping is local so around here there maybe something more attractive for the girls to work and they may not touch Alfalfa much.
I will watch closely over the next week or so before we get our next cutting and see if the bees begin showing more interest as the blooms increase.
The Small-Hold has now lost another useless mouth to feed as the owner of one of the horses finally found a permanent home for it. You may or may not remember but my mother kindly offered to keep the horse for her friend because her husband had said they were finished with horses and too old to ride. So always the one willing to stick her nose into other people's business and relationship (Not to mention volunteer my pasture) whenever a horse is concerned my mother tried to thwart the husbands wishes by offering free room and board. I am sure she was also hoping to keep yet another riding partner in the game as she has steadily lost all of them over the last few years.
As a matter of fact the old crazy horse lady crew hasn't ridden once in almost a year now. As I predicted.
So one more down. Four more to go and one ancient donkey and I can continue on with phase two of my small farming plan which includes selling hay. As it stands now all we get goes to feed those useless nags with enough extra to take care of the sheep but once the bottomless pits of horseflesh are gone I can begin preying on other unfortunate husbands or family of crazy horse women and sell them my hay. This Alfalfa experiment is simply the first step in that phase. Once the horses are out of the picture I have another 15 acres to groom into a hay field.
There is some serious money to be made in hay around here especially if you don't mind putting the work into square bales and storing it. Almost every Winter I have strangers literally pulling into the driveway asking me if I have hay to sell em. Especially starting around January each year. Very few large scale farmers mess with the small square bales but there are enough crazy horse people around without their own tractors that really need em because they cannot handle the round bales. Prices will skyrocket around January and people with large barns willing to keep square bales stored out of the weather are few and far between too. The cattle people prefer round bales.
However I am getting ahead of myself. It's going to be a few more years before that phase can be completed although I am well on my way to finally getting all the small tractor implements for it now. All I need at this point is an actual mower that fits my 8N and I am finished with that step as well.
Something I am becoming more familiar with as this experiment in small farming continues are the margins are so close because it's done on such a small scale. You have to have many of the small scale things going on to make it all come together financially as a whole in the end. There is no magical cash crop you can produce to get you into the Black with enough profit to keep the rest of it going and of course no government subsidies available if you make a mistake.
Well OK there maybe some available I don't know, I am not going to open the door for the government nose though.
However I will say this in closing. It seems to be becoming easier. Energy prices have now reached a point where transport costs are leveling the playing field just as I predicted. With low energy prices producers could transport things like say hay bales from higher production areas, under cut the locals and make a profit. Energy calorie to calorie it was even more efficient for them to do so because of the larger transports they had but as energy prices rise this edge begins to dull. Even local Farmers Market prices are beginning to undercut mass super market produce now so sellers no longer have to rely simply on the "local food movement" for niche demand. The trouble is inflation and low margins are still making it almost impossible to turn enough of a profit to become economically viable for most people.
I will admit as it stand now I am still in a very unique position to be able to afford to even attempt what I am doing. The real gamble is if the margins continue to increase to where it eventually pays out enough to be worth while? Honestly there is a long way to go to get there as long as we are dealing with this artificial economy.
Only time will tell.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!