16 May 2013

Whoa Nellie...

So, horses are back.  As farm animals.  Once again the oracle of all matters, the NYTimes, lured me in with a long long at the return of draft horses to the farm..

Now, except for a brief ride on a horse in 1991 and before that in 1963, and perhaps a carriage ride on Mackinac Island in 1972, I have had no direct experience.  My interest here is no emotional but economic. 

Way back when my father was giving me financial advice, he advised me to do two things - invest for value and diversify.  I have done both with the little I have.  Those two principles I have applied beyond money.  Draft horses strike me as an excellent example.

Value - they can serve for 20 years, comparable to mechanical equipment.  My brief survey of IRS and other documents indicates that mechanical tractors are depreciated for about the same amount of time, sometimes less.  Horses need feed and care, but tractors need fuel and service.  Horses cannot work as long or as hard or as fast, but they do provide fertilizer and do less damage to the land. 

Diversify - Horses alone cannot sustain a modern farm, but added to machines and hand labor, they diversify the 'tools' a farmer can put to use.  The farmers described in the article used tractors for heavy hauling.  The Amish sometimes use mechanical equipment for other farm chores. 

The same principle applies to my little life.  My little vegetable patch is very small, it only supplements what I buy from a grocer.  But it is high in value because my asparagus patch cost me $2.50 in seeds and has yielded 3-6 servings this season. At $2.50 a pound, that is more than double my investment.  I had to wait three years but it will be better next year.  I could get more if I tried harder, but even now the cost benefit analysis is positive.  Likewise the parsley, oregano, basil and tomatoes.  While I am not self sufficient, my sources of food are more diverse as well.  Value - Diversify.

We live close to the city center, less than a mile from my office.  I walk most days.  We still have a car, but a lot of my travel does not need it.  Because I have diversified my travel options, I get improved value by using the car less and thus not spending as much on gas or service.  I do have to resole my shoes more, but I buy tires less.

My dad passed away in May of 1999.  He is on my mind a lot this month, as you can tell.  What pleases me this evening is to be able to live his wisdom.  I hope my sons get something worthwhile to keep as well.  One thing's for sure - gardening isn't it. 

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