10 March 2015

Turkey Fight!

Living in a rural area has its challenges, but it comes with plenty of rewards. One of the things I've always enjoyed about my adopted home is that while it's not exactly living in the country, it is far enough off the beaten path that there's still plenty of country life to experience. 

One of those things is the flock of wild turkeys that visits my property on a daily basis. They come through and peck at weeds and bugs for me (and occasionally till leaf piles that I put out for them), and they provide a little entertainment with their antics (waking up in the morning to the sound of a turkey running across your roof is funny... after the first time when you've realized what you're hearing).

This morning, that came in the form of a dominance battle between two, sometimes three of the newest jakes in the flock. And this time, I caught it on film:

As I said in the video description on YouTube, I put the fight to "Toreador" from the opera, Carmen, which seemed fitting because like the toreador the song describes, the fight was entertaining and all done for getting the attention of the hens. And all along, the old, experienced, dominant tom in the flock just puts on his full display and struts in the background (off-camera until the 3:50 minute mark).


04 March 2015

I Bought The Farm

No, I'm not dead yet (but my posting frequency might lead one to conclude that...).

Recently while listening to the Financial Survival Network podcast, I heard of a real estate investment trust (REIT for short) that got my attention.

There are several kinds of REIT's, but the ones that I really like hold property and rent it out (as opposed to the kinds that hold mortgage debt), and then in accordance with IRS rules that govern these entities, they pay out 90% of their revenues to shareholders as dividends. 

My long-time favorite REIT, Realty Income Corp. (stock symbol: O), is a "triple net lease" REIT, meaning in their rental agreements with their tenants it's part of the contract that the tenant is responsible for insurance, maintenance, and taxes on the property, giving O "nothing but net." 

O rents out commercial properties to businesses with good things going for them, typically on leases lasting one or two decades. It's a very solid, stable way to do business, so I don't consider them to be a holding that I have to think about very much. Chances are that no matter what happens economically/politically in this country, there will be business and there will be a need for commercial space in which to do business.

This is the view looking north from my computer desk where I'm
writing this, land that is used to grow wheat - I wonder if I own
a piece of that now?
However, this kind of investment is a degree or two removed from the most solid foundations for investments: food, clothing, and shelter, the things that people always need. That's where the REIT that I learned of through the FSN podcast comes in: Farmland Partners Inc. (symbol: FPI).

This REIT has in its portfolio approximately 48.7 thousand acres of farmland, which it operates as farmland! These guys are not buying farmland and turning it into shitty condos, strip malls, etc. They're producing food, the primary item of the human "big three," something for which demand never goes away. What's more, the farms FPI owns and operates produce "primary crops," things like corn and wheat, which are often rendered into ingredients but which can be easily stored long-term and later consumed as-is. 

Businesses fail, buildings crumble, money supply inflation puts luxuries out of reach, but food is never an option. If people's discretionary consumption choices become fewer and fewer, it will most likely be the case that a big part of the reason for those dwindling lists of wants is the conscious decision to allocate more of their cash flow to satisfying the need for food. Thus, I look at an investment of this sort as almost being a kind of purchasing power insurance policy, much like ownership of precious metals is: as other asset types may begin to crater during a financial crisis, a company that both owns land and produces food should continue to deliver on cash flows relatively well, which can help to keep one's own cash flow up to snuff for meeting the needs of daily life. So, with these things in mind and after looking over the company's performance, I bought in. 

As always, this is not investment advice, this is just my opinion, do your own research, blah blah blah SEC hocus pocus firstamendmentwhat'sthat? 

18 February 2015

Missing The Point On Bitcoin

I came across this article a few days ago, basically a hit piece on Bitcoin. There's quite a number of these types of articles out there with more being penned almost every day. This one is a fine example of people who just plain miss the point of Bitcoin, which is similar to how some miss the point of owning precious metals. 

The author, Isabella Kaminska, runs down a list of common slams on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies: the value of Bitcoins in United States Dollars (USD) terms has collapsed, drug dealers and money launderers have used it, speculators took a ride on it, some Bitcoin-based operations have failed, etc. 

And you know what? That's all true. But it doesn't matter. To understand why, just replace "Bitcoin" with "USD" in that list of woes, or any other currency for that matter, and it's all still true: the value of the USD has collapsed before, drug dealers and money launderers use USD, speculators trade on wild swings in the value of USD relative to other currencies and to commodities, and plenty of USD-based operations have failed (banks).

The most damning thing on that list is the collapse of the price of Bitcoin, but like any other such event it must be understood in context. Yes, Bitcoin is down massively from its historic high. But as I type this, with Bitcoin sitting somewhere in the ballpark of $241, it's also still up astronomically from where it started: zero. The only people who got stung by the fall from its peak are people who tried to speculate on it and rolled snake eyes. People who mined their coins, or who purchased Bitcoin as insurance against a declining currency (much like the proper use of precious metals) probably are not feeling the sting so much.

That said, as an alternative store of value, Bitcoin's price movements do have to be understood in relation to the relative value of USD. As of now, USD is on a tear globally for several reasons, and therefore things priced in USD will tend to fall in price. Thus, when you compare gold and Bitcoin to the USD, similarities emerge. Have a look at these two charts, and mentally draw a line from peak-to-peak; notice the angle from left to right that they both follow?

One year gold chart sampled from the Money Metals Exchange website,
18 February 2015

One year Bitcoin chart sampled from Coinbase.com, 18 February 2015
The only thing that is really holding Bitcoin back is adoption and use. Kaminska tried to dismiss the level of use at present by making an apples-to-oranges comparison of current daily totals with a long-established credit card processor, failing to take into account (or deliberately ignoring) the massive growth Bitcoin use has undergone since its inception.

Meanwhile, unlike Bitcoin's built-in ultimate limit of twenty-one million Bitcoins that will ever exist, the USD continues to be conjured up out of thin air (the cause of inflation and the loss of purchasing power of each dollar). The USD is teetering on the brink of losing its status as the world's reserve currency, too, which will cause its value relative to other currencies and commodities to plunge. In that environment, alternative stores of value, such as Bitcoin, will rise in relative terms. And that's the point, not all of this other nonsense that Kaminska is throwing at it. When that happens, people like Kaminska who put their energy and time into bashing something they clearly don't understand will be caught out in the financial downpour with no umbrella.

04 February 2015

Oil Change and Podcasts Day

It's time to change my car's oil (probably a bit past due, really), so maybe a half of an hour or so of my day will involve that. A 1.5 liter engine with an oil capacity of just 3.5 quarts doesn't take very long to do (and it's nice to get the job done for less than half of what a lube shop would charge).

I've been taking advantage of the wonder that is podcasting lately to tune into news and other information, utilizing my phone as the receiver and replay device. This has been a money saver, too, as I have my podcast client configured to only download new episodes of the podcasts I've subscribed to when my phone is connected to wi-fi. It looks for new stuff at 3am and grabs whatever is out there.

Currently my roster includes:

The Clarey Podcast

I'm keeping an eye and an ear out for more, as one thing I discovered about listening in on this medium is that one can get hooked and burn through new content very quickly. I'm learning about a lot of stuff and being entertained at the same time, so it's easy to go on a listening binge and use it all up quickly. 

01 February 2015

College Humor: "I Don't Care About Sports" Friend

Here's a little something for game day. I'll admit, I'm not a huge football fan, but I do at least enjoy watching the big game. I guess it becomes interesting to me when the stakes are as high as they can get.

But then there's these people, and we all know one...


27 January 2015


I normally eat two chicken eggs each day for breakfast, so I mainly buy the sixty-count packs of eggs since bulk buying stuff like this gets the best price.

Or at least it did.

Recently I walked into one of the grocery stores near where I live to get one of these packs and discovered that the price had gone from $8 to nearly $12 since the last time I had purchased one.

As far as food prices go, .20 cents per egg still isn't bad, but a sudden fifty percent jump in price did give me a jolt. Then when I discovered with the help of the calculator on my cell phone that the price savings per egg of those sixty-count packs versus a one-dozen carton was only .0076 cents per egg, I foamed at the mouth a little.

I went home and put the question to my friends and acquaintances on Facebook: what happened to egg prices? Chicken Armageddon? Egg trucks crashing on icy roads? A poultry general strike?

Then I got the answer I was looking for: blame California.

"The state that consumes the most [eggs] is California, where new animal-welfare laws concerning egg production kicked in on January 1. From now on, all eggs sold in California must come from hens that live with enough space to stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn their bodies around. That translates to at least 116 square inches of floor space per chicken, according to NPR.
The vast majority of egg-laying chickens in the U.S. do not live in conditions like that." -- Svati Kirsten Narula
The California egg market is so big that changing the law in that state drove eggs prices higher across the U.S. due to the response it necessitated on the part of commercial egg producers: make capital expenditures to give their hens more room, reduce their flock sizes to create room, or both.

I sensed opportunity!

For some time now I've been wanting to get my own hens and produce my own egg supply. I had it in mind to keep just a couple, enough to keep up with my typical egg consumption. My thinking was to keep three hens around for this. That would likely cost me more per egg than just buying them at the grocery store, but if you've ever eaten farm eggs, you know that in terms of flavor the store bought eggs just cannot compete. Add in the increased food security of having a renewable protein source right in your back yard and it's easy to justify the added cost.

It has been my intention to "pasture" my chickens, to let them have open ground to forage on in order to reap the benefits of giving the birds a varied diet, improve soil quality on my land, keep insect and weed pests somewhat in check, etc. Various sources I've read on keeping chickens in this manner inform me that weekly access to at least ten square feet of open ground per bird in paddocks that you rotate them through is plenty to keep the chickens, the soil, and the available vegetation all healthy and happy. For three birds, I could accomplish this with just four 5x6' enclosures, totaling one hundred-twenty square feet.

But here's the thing: I have over twenty-six thousand square feet of land at my disposal, almost two-thirds of which is pasture, and right now I'm not doing anything with it (except for mowing in the summer - ugh). Three hens set up as described above would require just .0075% of that land area. What a waste of space!

I began to think that perhaps in addition to feeding myself, chickens could become a small side business. Curious about this possibility, I surfed over to Craigslist to see what farm eggs go for in my area. At present, the most common asking price is $3/dozen.

From there, I looked up the regulations in Washington state on selling eggs, and I found that small producers (with flocks under three thousand birds) selling direct to consumers are basically exempt from regulation (and the business fees that go with that). A quick check of county codes revealed that Walla Walla county is pretty much only concerned with licensing of dogs and not allowing livestock to run wild.

This began to look more like a gainful possibility!

I started looking up going rates for the breed I'm interested in, Rhode Island Reds, feed costs, and packaging (egg cartons), with the aim of establishing an approximate weekly cost to operate this little business. I had it in mind to acquire fourteen hens, enough to supply me with my two daily eggs and a further dozen per day to sell (roughly, because chickens won't lay eggs every single day of the year). I looked at an online seller, eFowl.com, and discovered that I could save a significant amount on my order by buying just one more hen for a total of fifteen. Thus, I arrived at the following numbers:

Cost of hens: $4.76 per bird for fifteen sexed chicks, including shipping. Since laying hens typically are most productive during their first two years and are frequently replaced at that point, that works out to .05 cents per bird per week during their peak productive years, for a total of .75 cents per week for the flock.

Cost of feed: On average laying breed chickens will take six months to mature. Their food needs change during their different life stages, both in composition and quantity, and the needed amount of provided food is variable depending on the time of the year (due to availability of forage). Price of feed changes, too, of course, so I've gone with a high-end assumption of 1.5 pounds of feed per bird per week, at rounded up local feed prices of $12 for a fifty-pound bag. Rounded up, that is twenty-three pounds of feed per week for the flock at a cost of approximately $5.52. I decided not to bother averaging in the cost of feed per week during their maturation phase since I'm also not attempting to discount their reduced feed requirements during the summer when forage is available.

Packaging: Reusing egg cartons when selling eggs to consumers is frowned on, but fortunately they're not very expensive. I also found these at eFowl.com for fifty cents each in packs of ten. If my hens were to produce an egg per day each, after consuming my two eggs daily I would have ninety-one eggs per week, requiring seven egg cartons. Since that would leave some eggs left over, it's easier to extrapolate this cost over two weeks of production, which would get closer to an even fifteen one-dozen cartons required, for a total of $7.50, or $3.25 per week averaged.

Thus, I have a total estimated weekly operating cost of $9.52. I haven't included the capital cost of building the chicken coop and the paddocks because a) I don't have the information handy and b) these will last many years and can theoretically be amortized down to almost nothing if the operation carries on long enough. Typically, the breed of chicken I am considering will produce two-hundred fifty eggs per bird per year,  so roughly sixteen weeks out of each year they will not produce. This lowers packing costs by $52 per year, or one dollar per week, bringing their approximate weekly operating cost down to $8.52.

During the roughly thirty-six productive weeks each year the birds will have, at current local farm egg prices the flock could bring in revenues of $21 each week, for an annual total of $756.

Therefore, $8.52 x 52 = $443.04 annual operating cost; $756 in revenues - $443.04 = $312.96 profit; $312.96 / $443.04 = 70.64% net profit margin!

But, it's actually better than this, because the part I left out is the two eggs per day that I would eat. At twenty-five cents each, I would get fifty cents of eggs per day, or $3.50 worth per week, for approximately thirty-six weeks, for a total of $126 per year. With current grocery store prices costing me roughly $144 per year for eggs, and since I don't have to buy eggs from myself, my actual cost of feeding myself two eggs per day all year long could drop to around $48 (since I might have to buy eggs for four months out of each year, at the current cost of $12 for a sixty-pack purchased each month). I would thus recapture the difference, adding $96 per year to my overall cash flow, putting the annual total profit at $409.

There are lots of variables here, things that can't be predicted, costs that I've deliberately estimated on the high-end, etc. However, given the margins here I can be reasonably sure that I would have to work very hard at making this venture unprofitable to flip these numbers into the red. Looking at it in terms of my original plan to just keep enough hens to feed myself, the operating costs of keeping the birds plus buying eggs to make up for their unproductive weeks ends up costing about eleven percent more per year than just buying eggs from the store. Since I want to keep chickens anyway, I might as well put a little more effort into them and make a profit while I'm at it.


20 January 2015

"Mining" For Silver On My Couch

Yesterday while I was having a slight cabin fever attack (I'm home a lot since this time of the year slows pest control to a crawl at my latitude), I decided to take care of a gaping hole in my home defenses: I needed a safe. Going forth and hunting around the area for one got me out of the house in a constructive way.

What I mostly found was either way beyond my needs (huge safes priced in the thousands), or metal cabinets so pathetically flimsy that an intruder could pry open the door of one and escape with its contents long before myself or another could arrive to respond with lethal force. 

But at one location, almost the last one I visited, I found a real, fire resistant safe with a dial combination lock that was marked down hundreds of dollars from its MSRP because of a few scratches. I saved big because of something I can fix with a few pennies worth of paint (if I could be bothered to do so). Somewhere, there is a shipping insurance company that is hating life. 

With my new safe loaded up, I started on my way home, which included a stop at one of my banks to empty my safe deposit box of the silver I've had stored in it for a few years. This was a big part of the reason I sought out a safe: events can transpire that lead to depositors not being able to access what's theirs, be that because of massive banker and .gov incompetence, natural or man-made disasters, or even outright theft of safety deposit box contents and other accounts by chronically indebted, criminal governments

While I was at it, I decided to take out some rolls of U.S. half dollar coins to see if I could locate any that contain silver. The branch had $90 worth available, so I took them all. This is something that I've done before with success, and similar to my relatively new hobby of collecting big gains simply by hanging onto pre-1983 U.S. pennies. I need to have some cash on-hand at home in case disaster strikes and my bank accounts are not accessible, so if I failed to find any silver coins, I could simply hang on to the rolls for that purpose.

I haven't done this much since the first time I tried it and blogged about doing so back in 2012, today being only the third time that I can remember. Perhaps I should try it more often though, because just like my first attempt at it, this time there was another silver coin hiding among the fiat junk: this 1969 piece, which at the time of this writing has a melt value of $2.65. That's a 430% gain with zero risk simply for finding the coin. 

It has now joined my other silver holdings, including the 1967 half dollar coin I found a bit over two years ago. This is fun to do, and always worth it when you manage to find one of these coins, but it is only going to get harder and harder to do so: lots of other people have been sorting through these coins for years and taking them out of circulation just like I have. For building security with precious metals, this is not the way to do it, simply because you won't find enough of them to acquire a meaningful amount of silver. Instead, you should buy it from dealers like I also do and treat this kind of acquisition as supplemental only.

10 January 2015

Unwind Social Security Or Face The Wrath Of Ida May Fuller

In a Facebook group I recently learned of and began following, Natural Rights Libertarian, I saw a post the other day the admin created that briefly told the story of Ida May Fuller, the first person to receive payouts under Social Security. Ms. Fuller worked for three years after payroll taxes had been instituted to fund SS before she retired at age 65.

Ms. Fuller's total contributions into the system, over three years, amounted to $24.75.

Her first monthly check was for $22.54. 

Uh oh.

Ms. Fuller went on to live another thirty-five years to the ripe old age of one hundred.

Oh crap.

Ultimately, Ms. Fuller ended up collecting $22, 888.92.


Now, there's absolutely no way that returns from any sort of investment could have turned such a pittance into such abundance, especially when the funds are in the hands of .gov morons. The only way this was possible is due to the true nature of SS, that it is a "pay as you go" system in which funds stolen from today's workers are paid out to workers who were stolen from yesterday. 

Sometimes this can result in a surplus of funds, say if there are more workers today than there were yesterday, retirees die before they receive back from the system an amount at least equal to what was stolen from them, etc. 

But if it's all going the other way, more retirees than workers, people living long enough to collect far more than was ever stolen from them, etc., any surplus that might exist is going to be exhausted, and in the absence of one the inherent problems with the scheme will become apparent that much faster. When there's no surplus and also not enough funds coming in to pay the full amount of what has been promised, the real fun begins.

It's funny how the first recipient of SS turned out to be an extreme "canary in a coal mine" example of the flaws built into the system from the get-go. And it's too bad that the warning wasn't heeded.

On top of that, start adding in recipients who never even contributed anything to the fund and you've thrown gasoline on the fire.

So that's why when .gov gave us working stiffs a 2% SS tax holiday during 2011 and 2012, I put all of that money aside into a retirement account. It's growing, steadily increasing the income being generated from the equities I have those funds invested in. The SS tax holiday has been over for several years now and is unlikely to ever return, so for now the account is growing only under its own steam; I am not contributing any more to it at this time.

On that note, within the thread on the Natural Rights Libertarian group that inspired this post, and what is ultimately the topic here, is this:

This is one of many proposals that are out there to officially and permanently do with SS what I did personally and temporarily. You can click the link to read the full details, but in short, it proposes that the system be split between its present state and an arrangement similar to what I've done, with individual worker choice being the deciding factor in which of the two options comes to dominate. Based on the experience of others, it's highly likely that most would join the private system, and attrition would wind down the old, dysfunctional system over time.

Something of this sort needs to happen, otherwise the millions of Ida May Fullers appearing on the horizon are going to ruin us.

08 January 2015

The Attack on Charlie Hebdo

Gun ownership in France: http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/france

From the above, under the section entitled, "Right to Possess Firearms":
"In France, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law."
Translation: In France, private gun ownership is hindered by state authorities.

Problem: People who don't follow laws are not hindered by laws.

Result: "It's A Butchery" - 12 Killed In Terrorist Attack On French Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo: Live Webcast 

How yesterday could have turned out if the French state had not been putting good people at a disadvantage against bad people:

Search Paul E. Zimmerman.com

Disclosure Policy - Privacy Policy
jenna jameson chasey lain tera patrick briana banks sunny leone lanny barby stefani morgan savanna samson monique alexander cassidey