Thursday, December 28, 2006

Operation Mindcrime...huh?

I've been having a rolling blog fight with the Corn Beltway Boys about whether or not Queensryche's Operation:Mindcrime should be ranked with such great rock albums as the Metallica Trinity of Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All.

OK, to be honest, I've never heard Mindcrime. I wouldn't know a song from Mindcrime if it came out of my XM Radio and slapped me silly. I know maybe two songs from Queensryche, and that's about three too many. Silly Seattle hair band...No wonder Kurt Cobain killed himself listening to their music...not.

Now Metallica, there was a band. Yes, they are still around, but you might as well write off anything after the Black Album as crap. Kill 'Em All is good, but between Ride and Black, you have pure rock genius. Some might say the Black album is the start of the end, because of Bob Rock's production (too glossy and refined), but it still has excellent riffs, lyrics, and you can bang your head to it. Harvester of Sorrow, One, the title track of ...And, Fade to Black...timeless music for any adolescent male.

So, what's the point? None, really. I just like tweakin' the Maize Highway Youths every so often. I'll cautiously await a return salvo.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I suck

No, not how you are thinking...well, maybe, but that's a different story.

Today I worked on loading soybeans out into semis to take to Des Moines. We used a grain vac to do this.

Now, for the uninitiated, a grain vac does not look like this:

Rather, it looks like this:

The grain vac is powered by the PTO (power take off) of the tractor and creates a vacuum. The vacuum goes through the tube (extendable in sections) and sucks the grain out, into an auger, and into the truck/wagon/whatever.

When it runs, it can move a lot of grain in a hurry. It also creates a lot of dust (dust is separated out of the grain through the discharge of the vacuum), and it is noisy. You can hear it for a 1/2 mile away easily.

Today, while my truckers were in Des Moines with loads of soybeans, Dad and I cleaned out the rest of a bin of soybeans with the vac. We unloaded the beans into a grain cart. Then, when one of the truckers go back, he parked on one side of the road, and I came out with the tractor/grain cart full of beans and unloaded into his trailer. This usually takes about 5 minutes, and we have our warning lights on. Unfortunately, some unpatient driver wouldn't wait for us and cut through my parents' ditch.

We then moved over to another farm and did the same process. The bins at this farm are not accessable by semi trucks (they'd get stuck), so we use the grain cart to move beans out to the road where the semis are at.

Before grain vacs were invented and available, the common way to clean out a bin was to put augers in/near the bin and scoop the grain to them. This was hard and dirty work. The grain vac has made life a lot easier for farmers, by far.

There's your farm lesson for the week.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How to be a disaster farmer...

Step 1: Farm as much ground, preferably poor, as you can. This means renting land a long distance away, mostly from absentee landlords who want more for their piss-poor ground than the locals will pay.

Step 2: Insure the land for as much as you (or your lender) can stand. 85% RA coverage is preferable.

Step 3: Put on the minimum amount of fertilizer, use cheap seed, and spray cheap chemicals.

Step 4: Claim a disaster when a record amount of corn and soybeans are grown. Get payments from both the insurance company and the USDA.

Step 5: Get your name listed on the Environmental Working Groups website. Click here, here, and here for examples.

This operation, from Missouri, used to custom farm the land I currently rent. They are the MASTERS of disaster farming.

This one blows me away - how can I person get $80K in disaster payments when they only have
only about 40 acres of crops (Direct payments / $20/acre, the average direct payment).

Normally I am supportive of other farmers, but these guys give the rest of us bad names. They are in it not to grow crops, but to scam the insurance companies and the USDA.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Our hometown holiday festival

Thursday night Humeston had its 3rd annual "Hometown Holiday Festival" in the evening. Businesses on Main St stayed open until 7 PM, allowing visitors/shoppers to come in and sign up for prizes to be drawn at a bonfire later. A meal was served at the Community Center, and Santa Claus was there to hear the list of demands of the children.

The bonfire, a new addition this year, was held in an open lot. While the wind did whip smoldering embers into the crowd, siting on straw bales, no one spontaneously combusted, and for goood measure, the fire chief was present (he started the fire). Names were drawn for various prizes from the businesses, hot cocoa and popcorn were served, and everyone enjoyed a warm sense of community spirit.

I had my business, Humeston Seed & Service, open to the public. Located next to the bank, my business was somewhat hidden by the glare of light eminating from my neighbor(the bank building has ceiling to floor windows). However, I had several visitors, many of whom had not been to my business location, at least since it was the former city hall, and before that, the lumberyard. They entered to win a leather pliers holder, leather work gloves, or a 1/16th scale John Deere 830 toy tractor.

This is one of the great things about small town Iowa - open houses on Main Street, carolers making merry on the sidewalks, families enjoying their time together, and everyone having a great time. It continues to build a sense of community that could hardly be replicated in wannabees like Jordan Creek Town Center. Problems are set aside for a few hours to enjoy time together.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Slightly lower brands of alcohol...

Today, while waiting at the Hy-Vee in Chariton to get a prescription filled, I saundered over to the hard liquor section next to the pharmacy. I perused the various tonics and their rather unique names.

One thing that strikes you in the alcohol world is that oftentimes a manufacturer will put out a brand of rum/whiskey/vodka that looks similar to the "premium" brand, at least at first glance, but is not the same as the desired brand. This knock-off is not usually of the same caliber as the high level item, but I suspect that if a person was drunk and in a hurry for more booze, the lower price, as well as the "just as good" looking label, would be sufficient for purchase.

Here are a few examples of the Premium, Knock-Off, and "Economy" versions (or at least envisioned by The South of Iowa).

Premium: Captain Morgan
Knock-Off: Admiral Nelson
Economy: Deckmate Dickey

Premium: Jack Daniels
Knock-Off: Evan Williams
Economy: John Doe

Premium: Absolut
Knock-Off: Relative
Economy: Variable

Premium: Southern Comfort
Knock-Off: Midwestern Displeasure
Economy: Northern Constipation

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Tis the season for made-up traditions

Did I not get the memo, or do activities performed years ago seem to turn into monstrous, money-sucking guilt trips during this time of the year?

I was listening a bit to Steve Deace on WHO the other day, and he had a guest on who talked about the common traditions of Christmas. The guest explained the background of "The 12 Days of Christmas", North Pole, Santa Claus, etc. Basically they are a conglomeration of various Western Europe practices and traditions, both pagan and Christian, with a good smattering of commercialism and political undertones.

In other words, most of what we think of as Christmas Spirit is pure BS.

And, if you don't practice the tradition perfectly, you are considered to be diluting a NATIONAL tradition, and you are not in the Christmas spirit.

Come on, folks; do we really need to believe that Santa Claus comes from the North Pole to deliver toys on Christmas Eve? I guess its fun to entertain children with the thought, but they have active enough imaginations of their own. Maybe they should come up with their own; its just as good as any other idea.

Now, it appears I am applying a bit of post-modernism philosophy to the Christmas season; no one way is right, they are all interpretations of what we see and feel. Normally I don't subscribe to this belief system, being a Theist and all, but for made up-stories and traditions about a Christian holiday, I'm game. Maybe those turtleneck wearing, thin black cigarette smoking French philosophers were on to something.

Christmas trees don't excite me. Carollers are annoying. Shopping for basic things during this month is horrendous due to the crowds.

Call me a Scrooge, but you are simply using an example of a made up story to illustrate my point.

As a Christian, Jesus' birth is important, but His death and resurection from the Cross is much greater in my book. Easter represents the reason He came to Earth, and the reason I am saved. Jesus being born in a virgin birth is important, as it does tie in with Scriptures in the Old Testament. But, Jesus did other things that were fortold in the OT, and we don't have special holidays for them, either.

Oh well, this too shall pass, and we'll return to cold, icy and muddy Iowa, waiting for spring to return.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Everybody's got a racket

I don't know how I got thinking about this, but the more I considered it, the more it made sense: Just about everyone has a racket, a business, a livelyhood that they adhere to that, more or less, is used to support themselves. There are far fewer altruistic people out there than one would be led to believe.

The old adage "follow the money" is pure wisdom when trying to decipher the true motivations of various people. It helps you figure out just why someone is working this side of the street, and why someone else is on the other side. While being compensated for work performed is ethical, and trying to pursuade a person to buy your product or service is fine, we oftentimes find people who are "fighting" for a cause, a noble purpose. This person is thought be be selfless, not caring about themselves, but only for their "cause". Could there not be a better example of the human species than this?

Let's take the president of, say, PETA. What is Ingrid Newkirk's motivation? Is she selflessly giving of her time to save the poor animals? Of course not! When she found out how much power and control she could maintain through pursuading millions to donate to stop animal cruelty (something that 99.9% of normal humans would be for), she couldn't help but continue the racket. Why not? Someone else may get a piece of the pie if see didn't!

How about Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, or ICCI? What is their motivation for opposing large scale livestock operations? Could it be grants from various foundations around the country that encourage them (i.e. pay the staff and directors) to continue opposing livestock? Follow the money, folks.

Very few people are selfless - Jesus and Mother Teresa come to mind. The rest of us are subject to question. Follow the money, folks, and figure out the motivation as to why statements are made by certain people. It could be as basic as simply wanting to make an honest living. It could be as devious, however, as controlling the lives and actions of others in the name of some "grand and noble" scheme.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

DNR idiocracy

I go deer hunting every year during 1st season shotgun. I also get tags for the special antlerless high power season in January. Though I don't always get a deer each year (last one was about4 years ago), I still enjoy the time to get out and hunt with friends and family.

Because I'm both a landowner and a tennant, I am qualified for a special permit that pertains to these groups. I can get a tag for 1st & 2nd season shotgun for $2, and another $2 for the January high power antlerless season. That's $4. A resident non-landowner pays $27 for the 1st season shotgun deer tag, another $27 for 2nd season shotgun, $27 for January antlerless high power, $8.50 for a habitat fee, and $17.50 for the regular hunting fee, for a total of $107. So, its a pretty good deal.

However, because of either real or perceived abuses of the system, this year the DNR required those who in the past received landowner/tennant permits to fill out paperwork certifying that, under penalty of purgery, they were indeed landowners or tennants. To make sure you really knew your land, they required that you write down the tax parcel number of a piece of land you either owned or rented. This could be obtained from the Iowa County Treasurers Association's website. That means just about anyone could look up a parcel of land and claim they rent or own it and thus save $103 in license fees.

When I filled out the paperwork and sent it back to Des Moines in September, I expected that I could go into any place that sold licenses and be able to get my deer tags with no problem. However, upon attempting to do so earlier this week, I found that I was not in the system for which I spent time filing the paperwork. So, I came home from the courthouse, went online to the DNR's website, and registered, including my tax parcel ID number (Dad's farm). I then went back to the courthouse, reported my finding, and gave them a copy of my registration just in case. The worker at the recorder's office said this kind of incident had been happening for the last several days as landowners/tennants streamed in to get their tags, thinking the paperwork they had filled out would be processed, only to find they had to deal with registering on-line (something not all Wayne Co landowners/tennants are savvy with).

My guess is there is a stack of papers somewhere in Des Moines collecting dust until some minimum wage temp gets done entering them in the system at 40 words per minute. Meanwhile, dear season is upon us.

Another new stipulation of the DNR is that when a deer is killed, it must now be registered with the DNR within 24 hours of the kill. On each tag there is a code that one must call in via a toll free number. The system will then provide a confirmation number that must be written on the tag (now on the leg of a dead deer, by the way) so the DNR, if they desire, can check to make sure the deer's death was properly reported. Like it will go in some mass obituary or something...

My cousin Chris, a member of our hunting party, scored a kill on a 2 pt buck today, and thus attempted to navigate the DNR's phone system to register his deer. While he was able to get into the system, it replied to him that his entries were not valid, and then hung up on him, even though he was doing everything the friendly voice on the other end told him to. Brilliant.

So, there you have it - government bureaucracy invades the timbers and fields of The South of Iowa and brings with it a unique form of control and inefficiency. Now all we need is a DNR officer driving 1/2 mile back into our property to see if we have our tags in order...something a private citizen would call trespassing but they call "doing their job".

The scariest thing you can say to a DNR officer is "Does anyone know you're out here?"