Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: Revolving Doors

"Harvest - 1915" by Zinaida Serebriakova ---- because the subject of political lobbying and body scanners is an ugly one, but this painting is most beautiful.

In a post a few days ago, the focus was on political entrepreneurship. Specifically, how some companies and organizations have inveigled themselves into the political process and are profiting handsomely by it. The head of H&R Block wound up at the IRS, Monsanto's executives are making tracks at the USDA, Justice dept, and the FDA, and Goldman Sachs at Treasury.  The revolving door is spinning like a top. For just one little example, look at Rapiscan and L-3,  the makers of the those odious scanning machines that allow TSA agents to ogle naked passengers.  Airline passengers are virtually disrobed by these scanners courtesy of Michael Chertoff, former head of Homeland Security, and later gainfully employed by RapiScan, … [Read more...]

Gardening Corner: Winter Prep and Proper Mulching

Straw mulch on on the hugelkultured tomato bed

November is good time to start thinking about next spring's gardening season, and prepping the raised beds for winter. The tomato bed below is the same one that was heavily modified this spring, into a hugelkultur bed of sorts.  Now it's done producing its hundreds of pounds of tomatoes, and it's time for a rest.  With the hacienda being further out east towards the Ozarks, temps are a little cooler than Tulsa, and the tomatoes were hit with an early frost.     The winter prep task list for this bed: Disposing of the tomato plants.  Most important to not just pull them up, root ball and all. Soil structure and integrity are an important part of soil fertility, and just simply eradicating plants releases soil … [Read more...]

Retirement Worries, Retirement Strategies

Peaches, plums, blackberries, and zucchini

While many look forward to retirement, even early retirement, others fret, fuss and worry. Top retirement fears, according to my not very thorough web research, drawing from no less than a dozen newspaper articles, blog posts and national poll results. Poor health High healthcare costs Being physically incapacitated Not enough money Having to move in with relatives or own children Social Security crapping out Not *ever* being able to retire Having to work as a Wal-Mart greeter Greedy, grasping, needy boomerang kids Discovering the true value of Depends coupons OK, I made up the last three. I can add one more fear, my own: not being able to eat well. Not terribly rational, but that old saw about seniors trying … [Read more...]

Pestiferous Pests in the Remote Garden

All is well on Cucumber Lane

On every stem, on every leaf,... and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes It's hard enough dealing with the distance of a remote garden, even with low expectations.  Add in drought conditions and an abundance of pests, and I'm just glad enough that we got anything out of what I planted this year. It started first with the blister beetles, attacking first the potatoes and then the tomato plants, and later moving on the to pole beans.  The tomato hornworms came next,  lopping off the tops of the dozen tomato plants.  After that, it was the turn of the … [Read more...]

Alternative Investments: Dirt

Soil Erosion in Linxia County, Xihe Township, China - source: Wikimedia Commons

I’ve blogged extensively about the second house we bought last year, now named somewhat grandiosely as Terra Farms.  One of the reasons was to diversify our assets into land. From that perspective, productive land is and always has been a reasonably good investment.   If lucky enough to blessed with extraordinary foresight and be thinking in terms of location, location, location, one could buy some raw land near an expanding city, and in due course hit the proverbial jackpot, much like SingleMomRichMom’s Father did. Besides being a weekend getaway and a renovation, I’ve also been also looking at this little nine-acre patch with a little different eye. I've recently finished reading "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations", by … [Read more...]

401K Loans: good idea or bad idea?

Is taking out a loan against your 401(k) retirement plan a good idea, or a daft looney-tunes crackpot personal finance move? A short web search will disgorge dozens of articles that argue for the latter.  There are some advantages, but the general conclusions is that the cons outweigh the pros. Advantages include no credit checks (you're borrowing from yourself), the interest rate is usually low, about one or two points above prime, and perhaps the nicest thing, the interest you're paying is to yourself, it goes right back into the 401K and is tax-deferred until withdrawal time.    Read More .... … [Read more...]