Saturday, January 28, 2012

Voting for the Farm

In the past month, we have planted 1,600 row-feet of sweet peas. Then we pounded in 8-foot stakes every 15 feet and we are stringing up a 6-foot trellis to support the sweet pea vines when (if) they grow. Now we're waiting for those little darlings to start blossoming with fragrant flowers. I started to get obsessive and worried about the seeds in the second bed because they were not emerging. We reasoned it's January and the soil is cold and that would make it slow, but still I was pacing back and forth.

So I said -- better just walk away and let nature take its course, and I went to another part of the farm and started transplanting all the herbs because Ann wants them by her kitchen door. That makes sense.

Last week in my essay on "sustainable agriculture," I was lying and I need to tell the truth. I made a mockery of the guys with clipboards who come around the farms and tell people what to do and how to conform to regulations. The truth is that I wish I had one of those jobs myself.I can see myself swinging a clipboard and riding around in my car from farm to farm. Of course, then I would have to drive back to the office and write reports and go to meetings. Oh God, I hate going to meetings. But if I had a clipboard job where I didn't have to go to TOO many meetings, then I would like it quite a bit -- steady pay and no sweat.

Farming is not an occupation of choice for me as it may be for others. I do not have a great deal of experience. I write these enthusiastic essays about the joys of working with the soil -- but I am really only trying to convince myself. The truth is that I work on a farm because it's the only job I can get. If I had better pay in town I would be gone tomorrow. Having said that, the farm has been good to me since I know there will always be work for me in this field and, as well, farmers are kind to old guys like me -- they have little prejudice toward youth.

Now, on to what really interests me -- the upcoming election. I enjoy politics very much, although I can't say that I am any good at it. I change my mind frequently, I am not on anyone's side and I don't care who wins...... but I find the process to be fascinating. Here's the Owens Doctrine on how people vote:

You vote where you live, and if you live on a farm, that's how you vote. I'm voting for the farm I live on.

You vote where you live and where you live means where you sleep -- where you come home at night and lay your burdens down. That's where you live and that's where you vote.

And that means nothing matters more than the peace and safety of the night, so that you and your loved ones can rest in peace.

Because you can work during the day, and you can take care of yourself and build a home, but at night you close your eyes and let go of your cares, and when you're sleeping someone needs to keep a watch because the world can be dangerous.

With that simple picture in mind, we can see that the essential purpose of government is to keep the peace, and to keep us safe from dangerous people, whether domestic or foreign. If that's all the government did, and if the government did it well and if we could sleep at peace during the night, then we could take care of the rest ourselves.

Meaning the police, the military, and the administration of justice are essential in government. The rest is optional. We don't need public school or libraries, because, in a safer world, we can make our own arrangements. We might agree to public schools and libraries, and parks, and fire departments, and postal services -- but they are optional and non-essential -- just to keep that in mind.

In the coming election year, the decision to be made is whether to give President Obama another term. It is a luxury for us to be considering the economy as the principle issue. It is the luxury of peacetime to argue about jobs.
But what really matters is that we are alive and we are free and we can sleep well at night, and if can sleep well, we can work during the day and take care of ourselves.

So, are you better off than you were four years ago? That's a good question. But a much more important question is are you free and can you rest in peace at night? That's how you should vote -- you should vote where you live.

I live on a farm, and that's how I will vote.

Now, having established the Owens Doctrine I will document my visits this past week.

I have been an Obama supporter, but I am about to cast him adrift.....I have mixed feelings about this. Arguably, the President's most important duty is to keep the peace and defend our shores. I feel Obama's handling of foreign and military affairs is quite good. He got the bad guy, whereas the previous President couldn't even find the right country to invade. Also cities like Los Angeles and New York are reporting record low levels of violent crime, and that is what you call domestic tranquility. I think you should choose your President on this basis.
The President's second most important duty is debatable -- is it his job to restore and maintain the economy? I take the pragmatic approach -- some gov't programs have worked well and some have not. Right now I think Obama is handling things quite poorly, and I had this moment of clarity the other day watching Our Pres at the Apollo Theater doing a riff on an Al Green song -- Obama sure is cool and he has a wonderful wife and family -- and I compare him to Newt Gingrich who is most decidedly not cool, fat and funny-looking and a marital disaster -- but the fact is that stuff just doesn't matter too much.

So, I have cast Obama adrift, and where does that leave me?

That leaves me interested in Newt Gingrich. Keep this in mind, that doesn't mean I will vote for him, it only means he has caught my attention.

Newt said the most wonderful thing -- we could establish a colony on the moon by 2020. None of this Small Ball that Obama is preaching, but a moon shoot! My fellow Americans, we may succeed and we may fail, but let us do so in the most spectacular manner.
Newt Gingrich irritates me. He irritates everyone. That's why I like him. Gingrich flip flops on the issues. He changes his mind every day -- just like me. And he won't go away. After everyone gets sick to death of him, he's still there and he's still talking -- this is an admirable quality.

I'm not judging Newt's entire presentation, but I did hear him make three memorable comments:

1. He told Juan Williams that it might be good for 12-year-olds to work as school janitors. This is an excellent idea. I earned my first dollar at age 12, caddying and shoveling snow. My two children began work at age 12, working in the fields for farmers. It gives you a great beginning in life.

2. John King asked him about the trash talk from his second ex-wife, and Newt told John King it was none of his business. I was very glad to hear Newt say this because I really don't want to know about the private affairs of our political candidates.

3. Rick Santorum said that Newt had grandiose ideas. Newt responded, yes I have grandiose ideas because America is a grandiose country. Right on. Swing for the fences. Go for broke.

This weekend is probably Newt's highwater mark, but the inevitable Mitt Romney will forge ahead to get the nomination. That will be so dreary -- Romney the button-down white guy versus Obama the button-down black guy, both very corporate and composed and competent, given to a measured response and not easily provoked. My Democratic friends will carefully explain to me why it matters so much that Obama is better than Romney, but I will not be interested because the distinctions seem trivial.

I will vote for the farm this November. It is my shelter -- I will look around these acres and then make a decision.

-- Fred Owenscell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sustainable Agriculture Defined & Discussed

By Fred Owens

Sustainable Agriculture. "Sustainable" is a buzz word in farming. You can get a masters degree in "sustainable agronomics" and then find a position in high five figures at your state ag department or crop association. You can get one of those clipboard jobs where you travel from farm to farm and ask interesting questions like why is that cow standing in the middle of the stream? "The cow is standing in the middle of the stream because it's hot and she's thirsty," said the farmer.

That's an interesting question, but first I will explain sustainability to the average person. Sustainability means staying in business. It means that you made enough money this year and you've been taking good enough care of your land that you can do it all over again next year. You didn't burn out. You didn't go broke. Your farm didn't turn into a toxic desert. It means you were careful and you saved a little bit. It means you left a little of your corn crop at the corner of the field -- left for the poor people who come gleaning, left for the birds to nibble on a cold winter's day, left for the roughage that will return to the soil.

It means you didn't break your back working. You take good care of your body when you're working by easing off a little bit. You don't work yourself into a lather -- but you ease up and keep going. You work slower because you last longer and you get more done that way. You drink plenty of water on a hot day. That's called working on a sustainable basis and you will still be out in the field years from now.

Sustainable farming might mean reading the history of the Nile River in Egypt. They have been farming on the banks of the Nile for how many thousands of years? -- 6,000 years or more. Despite dire warnings of coming disaster -- climate change! acid rain! frogs falling from the sky! -- they are still farming along the Nile River.

Egyptians farmers are supposed to follow simple guidelines of seven fat years followed by seven lean years. I don't know how that got started but it was a good plan. Of course, over that entire period of 6,000 years, there have been dust storms and plagues of locusts, and human depravity and violence of the worst kind, but they are still farming in Egypt, and I would call that sustainable agriculture.

Currently, Egypt has a much larger urban population than can be fed from Egyptian farms. But you must understand, one of the tenets of sustainability is that disaster is always looming. There is no guarantee or promise of tomorrow. Only hope. So work as hard as you can, but take a break now and then, and you will be sustainable.

I'm going to bill the US Dept of Agriculture $43,768 for this essay. If they have enough sense to implement these guidelines they will save millions.

But I'm not done.

The question I asked was far form innocent. The guy with the clipboard was coming directly from environmental protection and wanted to know -- Sir, why is your cow standing in the middle of the stream? The implication was that the cow should not be there, dropping her abundant nitrogen-rich manure into a public waterway, thereby encouraging algae bloom downstream and clouding the water for the sweet little fishes upstream,

Well, if it was only one cow, it cannot be too much trouble, but a herd of cows watering in a stream can be a problem, and the guy with the clipboard might want the farmer to fence off the stream and find the cows a land-based source of drinking water so that the manure falls on the ground where it can do some good, and the branches and bushes and little trees can once more grow by the side of the stream and cool the water, and provide shelter for the sweet little fishes that hide in the nooks and crannies, safe from herons and hawks and bigger fishes.

Yes, that would be good, and it would be sustainable -- to fence off the stream. Except for one little problem -- who is going to pay for the fence? The farmer says, "I cannot sustain that cost. My cows have been wandering in that stream ever since I was a small boy and this place belonged to my grandfather. We're still here, and we want to stay here and keep on farming."

This is a problem, and I propose no solution. Agriculture is full of problems and costs and expenses and bad weather and bankers that cheat you and lazy workers and it never ends. But if you're sustainable you just keep going. You worry, but you don't worry too much. Because you need a good night's sleep so you can do it all over again tomorrow.

Sustainable agriculture is not really a new idea, it's conservation with a cell phone.

Position Wanted: I'm looking for a new farm position. I excel at working with people, customers, and marketing. I want to work for a well-run operation or farm with motivated and optimistic staff and management. I don't mind a simple customer-facing job but I want to be a part of the business and have the opportunity to grow into new positions over time. Possible jobs include marketing, farm manager/caretaker, customer/sales. Do you know such a place for me?

Be it a well-run large-scale commercial farm or a small hobby farm, in either case a sound strategy can lead to good results. The product is less important than the people I hope to work for. I like to make an extra effort. Agriculture teaches me that we proceed without guarantees and we never give up.

My resume is available by link at the bottom of this newsletter. Excellent references as well.
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bathsheba's Farm

I keep changing the title, but the story itself is taking on a shape. As I said before, you can create characters but you can't make them do whatever you want. It's just like God who created us and gave us free will. If you write a story, you become as a god but not all-powerful. People do what they will.

For me, I was going to give up this project, but I could not rest, wanting to know what happens next, and the only way to find out is to keep the writing of it.

In our case Tom and Bessie went upstairs together, to bed, at the end of Part One. Part Two is titled "Sex Ruins Everything." In this case it does and it doesn't ruin everything. They made a night of it and they were immensely glad for that, but trouble lies ahead.

I will send it to you in a week or so.

A HORSE. I have been offered to ride a horse with friends in Santa Barbara. I've not been mounted in many years so it will be good riding for me. I told them I need a horse that is smart enough to do it right without me telling it, so they will get me a mule named Annie. A mule is like a horse with a union card. A horse will act with complete loyalty and sacrifice, but not a mule, not if it doesn't make sense. A mule will carry you up the mountain but then he will take a lunch break whether you say so or not.

POLITICS. Politics are fun because America is a good country -- unless you read Howard Zinn's book, a People's History of the United States. Zinn wrote a catalog of American crimes. The book is all true and it is a useful corrective to the unalloyed admiration of our own past. We did screw up here and there, but that is a side show to the overall performance. We built a hell of a country. Evidence of that is how much we complain about it -- that's the sound of freedom.

The problem with Howard Zinn is not his book, but idiots like actor Matt Damon who swear on it like it was gospel, and the young people who claim it as the basic text -- it might be the only history book they will read and they will get bad ideas from it.

EXCEPTIONAL. The disciples of Howard Zinn are neatly balanced by the Exceptionalists, who claim -- never claim! -- that we are the world's greatest country and the last best hope of mankind. This is very poor psychology. You cease to be exceptional the second you proclaim it. Real Americans strive for excellence and let others make "claims."

DAMS AND RIVERS. I used to be pro-fishing, but now I work on a farm, and now I like dams. Dams provide water for irrigation. Farms feed the multitudes. And we need the water to grow the food.

Fishing, on the other hand, has that romantic appeal of by-gone days, like that show "Deadliest Catch" which is so popular -- those wild and woolly fishermen risking their lives on the stormy waves. I like watching the show, but that's not where our food comes from. Fish are a small part of our diet.

Instead we have the farm, which is too real to make a reality TV show. Think of "Farm Cam" -- watch the farmer, now he's going down the field on his tractor. Wait, wait, he's turning around at the end of the row. Incredible! Now he's coming back!

Our ancestors used to fish and hunt many thousands of years ago and we all lived that way. Fishing is an ancient occupation, by a hundred thousand years more ancient than agriculture which was invented and developed only in the recent past. That is why the lure of the ocean and the river tugs so deeply in our souls, because if you go back far enough, your people were fishermen and hunters and gatherers.

I honor that all-human past, but our ancestors switched over to farming because it was a better way to live. Isn't it?
I am grateful for this abundance of food that we have.

THE OBAMAS. I started thinking about them again. I have heard Obama speak twice in person. He didn't use a teleprompter and he fielded questions from the audience and gave good answers. He was impressive. I also met Michelle Obama at a small gathering -- she was working a rope line and shook my hand and we exchanged a few words. My first impression was that she was tall and beautiful, I also caught a glimpse of her steely determination.

This reassured me, because I had lived through the marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton, he with the roving eye and the fast hands. If the Clintons had just managed to keep it private I would not have cared, but I really did not want to know about all that. It was like seeing Uncle Bob naked coming out of the shower. Avert your eyes!

So I met Michelle Obama, and I knew instantly that Barack was never going to be chasing interns around the Oval Office. One is that she is so hot-looking. Two is that she would kill him if he did. The Obamas have a good marriage and manage to keep their squabbles to themselves.

Barack Obama has a well-known vice. He smokes. I'm an ex-smoker, so I can spot the habit. He manages to sneak two or three cigarettes a day. He's the President -- no one can make him stop.

It's good to know what a man's vices are, because he surely has vices and you want to know what they are.

RON PAUL. I met some of his supporters in 2008. Their views are even more extreme than his. There is a distant country where the far right blends into the far left. It's way, way out there. I catch a whiff of anti-Semitism in that strange region -- nothing I can put my finger on, but I'm wary. Go ahead, make your own inquiries -- visit with his hard-core followers as I have done.

My litmus test for anti-Semitism is Pat Buchanan on the right. He is okay, but anyone further right than him is suspect in my book. I don't have a litmus test for anti-Semites on the left, but it would be when the shriekers of outrage against Israel become hoarse with rage -- that is a bad business.

POSITION WANTED. I am looking for a new position in agriculture in the Ventura area. I would like to be part of making the plan and carrying it out. I'm looking for a growth opportunity. I would like to able to expand what I am good at. Marketing is my best skill. Teaching others what I know is a close second. My resume is available to anyone who is interested.

Be it a well-run large-scale commercial farm or a small hobby farm, in either case a sound strategy can lead to good results. The product is less important than the people I hope to work for. I like to make an extra effort. Agriculture teaches me that we proceed without guarantees and we never give up.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

Friday, January 06, 2012


H.L. Mencken. I dedicate this piece to H.L. Mencken, who never disguised his ill humor.

Bathsheba's Novel.
I started writing a novel in December about Tom and Bathsheba who worked on a farm together and fell in love. The characters came alive for me. It was like having imaginary friends, and I could spend hours thinking or dreaming about what they might do.

But I don't have the time for so much day-dreaming. Perhaps someday when I retire I might take it up again..

Except I have no plans to retire. Some of the most boring people I know are retired. It doesn't appeal to me. Besides, it would be impossible, because I have never saved a nickel. I will work as long as I am able, and then I will become a burden on society. That's my plan.

I am enjoying politics this season. I find the Republican mob to be kind of interesting. I will miss Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, but we have Rick Perry to kick around, so we can still have some laughs.

Mitt Romney is the safe and moderate choice. He used to be governor of Massachusetts. I guess this is a silly comparison, but Massachusetts keeps producing losing candidates. There was Michael Dukakis in 1988, safe and moderate, and completely forgotten. There was John Kerry in 2004 -- not a firebrand like Howard Dean -- so he got the nomination and lost a winnable race to George Bush.

Anyway, Romney is so dull that I cannot even force myself to read anything about him.

I like Rick Santorum instead. He has seven children -- imagine that! He doesn't agree with abortion or same sex marriage. That's not how I see it, so does that that mean I should abhor him? You're supposed to despise people like Santorum, but I don't despise him -- he's an interesting character.

Then there's Paul Krugman at the New York Times. I agree with him. The national debt is not a real problem. Government spending should increase in a recession. The real problem is that we ought to pay down the debt during good times, but we lack the discipline to do so.

Being a Krugmanite would make me a respectable Democrat, but I am more of what you might call a Social Democrat -- meaning that all my friends and relatives are Democrats so I'm not switching. Why should I leave? The other people don't look too hot either.

Being a Democrat, I'm supposed to believe in climate change and global warming. I do not believe in it or deny it. Actually, I never give it a thought.

Democrats are supposed to be in favor of affirmative action, diversity and multiculturalism. I'm not in favor of these dreary trends. Especially diversity which is such a bad word. It sounds like divorce and division, and it means you go your way and I'll go my way. I am opposed to diversity. Instead I support integration and harmony -- these are much better words. But the people who run the Democratic Party don't listen to me -- they are idiots.

And feminism? I used to work in journalism, and watched all the women flood into that occupation. I even encouraged them in the beginning, until I realized they weren't really women, but "persons willing to work long hours for little pay." They have done a good job of driving down wages in a profession that never paid well in the first place.

Then the Internet came along and killed what was left of journalism -- it's part of the "creative destruction" directed by our sainted "job creators." There's supposed to be new jobs created after the old jobs are destroyed -- I wish I knew how to find them.

The Republicans believe that most of their fellow citizens are lazy people who readily sponge off the rest of us. That has not been my experience. I have seen that most adult Americans expect to work for a living -- you don't need to beat us with a stick. I wouldn't make a good Republican because of this.

I once tried to attract attention by describing the political landscape as a tortuous narrow path between the twin evils of feminism and fundamentalism. This is what I actually believe, but I fear that most people do not understand what I am getting at.

It's very frustrating to be misunderstood. I open my mouth and people laugh and there's nothing I can do about that.

But I'm still a Democrat. I don't want to be an Independent. I want to be on a side and to belong to a party. These are my folks, and I'm going to vote for Obama.

Novel Writing, Politics & Farm Work. Novel writing is a day dream, politics is an exercise in perpetual frustration, and that leaves the farm work. It's 8 a.m., so I better get to it. By 9 a.m. I will be whistling a happy tune.

thank you and happy new year,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001