This is a big week. Lots going on as we perform our due diligence on the orange grove before purchase on Friday, the 30th of December.

Nearly all the basic survey and title work is done. We have tested the wells for adequate, sweet water production which we will need for irrigation and cold protection in the coming winter months. Drainage appears good, there are however some ditches which need cleaning. We will do that early next year. The hamlins have been harvested and there is a good crop of valencias on the trees. Which, with any luck we will harvest in April.

The soil samples we took revealed good, heavy dirt; typical for this part of southwest Florida. While there are some light, sandy spots, which  we will fix with good doses of chicken manure, most of the soil will hold well, the nutrients needed by the trees.

I am still fine tuning the calculations to determine what we need to achieve to make this a worthwhile, successful effort. Meanwhile John and Francisco are preparing to take over caretaking operations which will be critical to our success.

Then, there is the issue of the pasture. It is 185 acres north of the orange grove and may be suitable for additional trees or for a more immediate return, it would be adequate for 50 head of cattle.  With the prices for both beef and orange juice going up, I need to review this with a sharp pencil.

With all the analysis and talk of how America is losing out in many manufacturing sectors of the global economy to the BRIC* countries, no country comes close to being able to match the U.S. in agricultural production.

It is a good feeling to be part of this ancient, earthbound, basic industry. And, did you know, farmers were the first environmentalists.

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BRIC– Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Christmas Eve

December 24, 2011

As is my tradition, on Christmas Eve, I like to reflect on the  Christmas manger scene which was first used nearly 800 years ago, in a little italian village, to depict the birth of Christ. I was privileged to visited that village some years ago and enjoy the memories I have of my visit.

Merry Christmas!

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For the last few weeks if you were a Christian or not, you could not help but be caught up in the media and mercantile madness that has become “the holiday season”  in modern America.

Whether you are shopping at Macy’s for that perfect sweater for Uncle Phil or regaling your coworkers at the office “Holiday Party” with your wild tales of Christmases past,  you are somehow swept up in this omnipresent public movement of Christmas celebration.

Which  has very little to do with the orignal notion of Christmas.

What is  ironic is that the only present day public display of the origins of Christmas as a Christian belief started out itself as a marketing plan. A plan that would have made Sam Walton envious.

I am speaking of the simple manger scene. Though now, its opportunities for public display have been significantly reduced by the court’s  interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

You might say that all this modern-day celebration of Christmas started nearly 800 years ago in the little hillside town of Greccio in Italy. Greccio overlooks the Rieti valley and is located in the province of Lazio.

It was the year 1223, when a simple, poor man, a deacon was visiting Greccio  during Christmastime . This man named Francis had noble roots and a mercantile background .  He knew the power of sales excitement from working in his father’s clothing store in Assisi.

Francis saw that the people needed something real and tangible to get them excited about the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. He got permission from the pope to establish a Christmas crèche display for the town’s  poor, uneducated people. He wanted to teach the story of Jesus Christ in an exciting new way for the people  to celebrate each year.

Francis got together some sheep and other farm animals, a couple of volunteers and constructed a small  manger with the help his follower, Brother Leo.  The crèche was an immediate success in teaching the Italian farmers in terms they could understand.

It became an overnight sensation as crowds gathered to see it that first night,  December, 24th 1223. At the time, it was the equivalent of  the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller center.

Today, Greccio is still a small hillside town overlooking the Rieti valley. If you have the good fortune as I did and get to visit Greccio, you will see the small church and monastery where this event occurred. There is also  an impressive museum displaying hundreds of Christmas crèches  from around the world.

But you don’t have to go to Italy to feel the magic of  reflecting on the Christmas crèche. Just take the time and look at the scene. You may not get an excited feeling of the new celebration that those Italians felt, but you just might experience a little bit of wonder yourself.  I believe that is what St. Francis of Assisi was trying to do for you.

May you know the peace and joy of  Christmas.

Holiday mail

December 22, 2011

Around this time of year, like most folks, we get more mail than normal. What with Christmas cards, junk mail ads from places you never heard of and bills from credit card companies urging you to max out your credit lines, opening the mail is too big a job for just one person.

You know it is a wonder that the Post Office is going broke with all this extra business. They must be doing something wrong. In fact I think they are doing a lot wrong. But that is a subject for another time . Perhaps in late January after a snow storm and no mail is delivered.

But, one change might help them get through this busy season and make a profit. They need to raise the price of a letter to 50 cents. Charging 44 cents just makes no sense. They would pick up an additional 14 percent income for each letter delivered, and as a bonus, we would not need all those worthless pennies that put holes in our pockets. (more savings!)

But I digress.

At our house we have so much mail this time of year, everyone needs to pitch in and process the mail. We go into overdrive and everyone works to get the job done. Donna usually takes the Christmas cards while I deal with the store ads and assorted junk mail.

We reserve management of the bills and collection notices for Mikey.  He does a good job too in spite of his youth and inexperience. So good  in fact, I have noticed far fewer bills are hitting my desk to be paid lately. Good boy Mikey.

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Mikey hard at work.

The “Upgrade”

December 19, 2011

One of the dumb things I did during my two month hiatus from this space was to trade in my old reliable Blackberry phone for this new hyper sensitive robotic android. I have done some idiotic things in my life but giving up my trusted fruity friend which I paid all of $6 for was a moment of millennium madness.

The Blackberry was acting up, so I took it to the local Verizon store where Tyler said it could be fixed, but why would I want to fix it, when he could put into my palm this fancy, smancy do-it-all number for just pennies a day.

Well, being old enough to be Tyler’s grandfather, I knew he was just giving me the old sales pitch, but I was intrigued to find out where he would go with it.  Well the bottom line is after about 40 minutes, I agreed to buy the evil phone.

Now there are certain things in this world some people should never attempt. Like I would never try to drive 200 mph in a NASCAR race or perform open heart surgery on myself. Why then did I think I was strong enough and smart enough to understand and use this robot phone. Heck making a phone call is one of the last things this monster will do. But when it does call, it is often doing it on its own. Just picking it up last week, I caused it to call my lawyer,  which resulted in me being billed $157. 20 in legal time and “expenses.”

It does have a nice feature to it though.

Because I can’t type  emails or messages, as my fingers are too fat to fit the sub atomic sized keyboard that comes with it, I can talk to the phone, giving it my messages and then send them on their way.

I like that. I talk better and lots faster than I type.

Another thing is, and maybe you have experienced this too.  I seem to be getting an extraordinary amount of junk email since I got this new phone. I mean a good ninety percent of what comes to my inbox are ads for me to “experience” some fantastic deals.

For example, I did not know I could become bilingual in just 10 days. For 63 years  I have been barely unilingual, but now I can acquire the language skills of a Swiss foreign exchange trader in less than two weeks. Remarkable.

One can also become a plumber, electrician or Christian Counselor (?) in a similar timeframe. But the real come on was the great deal I was being offered on a new Dyson vacuum cleaner, delivered free just in time for the holidays…

I swear, if I do order that vacuum cleaner, the first thing I do will be to suck up that demonic phone!

I am back

December 17, 2011

For the last few weeks, I have taken a break from this space. I felt I had nothing more to say at the time and wanted to think about things. I spent the downtime in southwest Florida and in the mountains of western North Carolina visiting friends, fishing and sampling some fine wines and cuisine.

I stayed away from the distressing news media and focused almost entirely on the real everyday world around me.

During that time, I also lost my orange grove lease and was summarily jettisoned from the citrus business. A prospect that made me sad and gave me cause to pause and reflect on what to do. Oh, what to do, what to do!

Today, however I am happy and well-adjusted (ha) as just last week, I secured a new orange grove.

Effective December 30, we will be back producing some of Florida’s finest “golden apples”. In addition, we have enough space for a small herd of cows, so I may become, for the first time,  a cattleman. Yahoo!