Farming for the State

 

TL;DW

Yeah, so the audio is kind of rough. I’m working on patching that up, but if you couldn’t bear to watch and you’re curious as to what I was rambling on about, here it is in text:

I grew up in Upstate NY – four or five hours north of the city – and my wife and I lived in Vermont for a couple of years. We wanted to raise our growing family in the vicinity of our extended families, but we also wanted a little bit of land where we could raise animals and grow some vegetables. And of course we wanted one of us to stay home with the kids. Unfortunately, the high taxes and cost of land in New England made this goal all but impossible. And to be fair, we’re not the only ones feeling this pinch as many young adults are leaving the Northeast for cheaper areas around the country.

One of the issues with this high cost of living that often goes overlooked is the effect it has on farmers. Farmers may have tractors worth $100k, or expanses of rolling fields dotted with $600 milk cows, but most of what you see is leased. When the cost of living goes up, farmers, who’s products are heavily subsidized and price controlled by the State, start to feel a bit of that pinch, especially when it comes to land taxes. Yes, farmers often get a subsidy on taxes, but it still goes up. Also, consider if you’re a new farmer trying to find land to set up your operation: you don’t get a break on the price of the land, and often old tracts of land are excellent areas for development which drive the cost up. Rhode Island has been hit hard by development and has come up with a plan to combat skyrocketing land costs for future farmers, but as it turns out, it’s one of the scariest plans out there and is akin more to feudalism or communism than anything else.

In the past few years, Rhode Island’s land prices have skyrocketed. Where as farm land across the US is valued at an average of $3080 per acre, Rhode Islands are $13,800/acre: over $10k per acre. Why? Mostly just supply and demand: since 1940, Rhode Island has developed 80% of it’s farmland, so it stands to reason that as less and less developable land exists the cost will go up, no matter what it’s used for. But, what makes Rhode Island so special? Well, it’s only 37×48 miles but has 400 miles of coast line. Anywhere you live, you’re pretty close to Naragansett Bay, and anytime you’re near a desireable feature, prices go up.

Rhode Island though, ranked #7 in the country for it’s tax burden, is not cool with this influx of development and they are attempting to make an effort to encourage farmers to build new farms in the state as opposed to having them move somewhere cheaper. In fact, Rhode Island has the highest population of new farmers than any other state, but farmers can’t find affordable land. Where are all these farmers coming from? If you examine the local surroundings i.e. New England, you might get an idea: millenials throwing off the chains of the oppressive capitalist system that afforded their parents such wealth as to allow their children to purchase $150k, degrees on how to be a farmer. But I digress.

Already, the State of RI owns two farm areas – one is a 150 acre tract, the other is a 50 acre parcel. Each of these farms is divided into smaller areas and leased to local farmers who grow food for CSAs, farmers’ markets, and even community gardens. It’s not a lot of land, (Rhode Island is only about 777,000 acres) but the fact that the State is the one who owns the land and then leases it to the farmers is rather curious.

But this is where RI’s new plan comes in, and it is something we’d be better for if they just put it down. As I said, the main reason RI has become so expensive, is because it’s a great place to build a mcmansion, it’s close to the ocean and there are many old mansions from yesteryear that give the place a charming New England feel. So more often than not, when an old farm or large tract of land goes up for sale, the price tag it carries also includes the assumption that it will be developed. Well Rhode Island is going to cover the difference between the development potential value and the agricultural value for the farmers. That’s right, they’re going to buy the land for “fair market value” and then resell it to farmers for the agricultural value which is about an 80% discount. Yes, they are going to buy vacant land and then resell it at an 80% loss. A spectacular business practice only one with never ending pockets would engage in.

There is so much wrong with this. As I said, RI is already ranked #7 for tax burden, how do we all think that 80% loss is going to be covered? By taxes, and you know the State isn’t going to take it out of their existing budget, it’s going to be a new item, it’s going to cost the tax-payers even more. Congratulations Rhode Island, you’ve just made it even harder for the folks you’re trying to help.

Secondly, by removing developable land, the already high housing costs – RI’s median home cost is about $50k above average – are going to go up even more. Supply and demand, less houses means higher house prices. Again, who does this end up hurting? Not the guy who is purchasing his second home.

So all that sounds pretty stupid, but this is where it get’s really scary, the State is going to take ownership of land. They say they’re going to buy it at FMV, and sell it back to farmers as quickly as they can, but there’s no definitve timeline here, and before you know it the State will be sitting on a stockpile of vacant land that will again raise the price of land Rhode Island isn’t keen on buying.

They claim they will only buy land for sale, and never force someone to sell, but we all know how hard the state can lean on someone when they want something. And of course, we all know how well emminent domain works when it comes to compensating land owners.

They also say they’ll only hold the land as long as it takes to transfer it to another party. Again, there is no time frame! What happens when the agricultural valuation becomes too steep for farmers and the State is just sitting on land that it owns? No dobut it will create more of these land trusts in which farmers lease the land from the state. And I think we’ve all seen how that model has worked in the past.

So if you end up buying land at this discounted price, your new deed will come with a restriction that states the land must remain a farm. What does that mean? Broadly, it must continue to produce livestock or agricultural crops. So what happens if after buying land and trying this farming thing for five years, you give up and want to sell? You have to find someone who is willing to continue to produce livestock or agricultural crops, but what if you can’t? Are you stuck? Will the state step in and re-purchase the land? How easy would it be for the state to now keep this land in a continuous cycle of private individual to state ownership?

What about crony capitalism? What happens when the state starts playing favorites and decides to buy land that is garbage for development but is owned by a friend of someone in the State? Or the state decides to forgo purchasing a particular plot because a key deveoper friendly with the State wants to buy it?

Rhode Island’s plan is an absolutely, horrible idea that leaves too many questions unanswered and too much leeway for the state to accumulate land and power and favors.

If we consider this from a liberty-oriented perspective, we can see how this would work quickly and easily.

As quantity of houses declines, land prices go up and new houses are built. As prices go up, lower income households are forced out. While this may sound horrible, the fact is that as these lower income households move, job vacancies are left and eventually those low-paying jobs will demand a higher wage. Likewise, private organizations like Habitat for Humanity can step in and build houses for individuals for much lower prices (they’ve done this at least once, building a small home for a divorced single mother of two who makes ~$40k/year and selling it to her for $110k). Likewise, there may be an increase of rental units with affordable rents. The problem is when the State get’s involved and subsidizes this housing and land prices, or puts regulations on development, they create an artifical environment. The prices are controlled and as soon as you start controlling one aspect of the market, everything else follows suit.

One of the concerns cited by the state of Rhode Island is the lack of locally grown, healthy, organic produce available to it’s citizens. Once again, if this was something that was that important to the local populace, the freemarket would take care of this. Many larger farms are subsidized by the government, some farmers are paid not to produce certain crops so the crops that are produced command a particular price. There are regulations put on the way farm products can be sold. These regulations hinder the free market. A conventional dairy farmer can get about 2-3 dollars for a gallon of milk, but when they sell raw milk to locals, that price at least doubles. The same can be said of meat products, but alas, the state says no and forces farmers to demand lower prices.

And believe it or not, there are ways for individual citizens to keep undeveloped land undeveloped. My wife and I looked at purchasing some land near our family in the Great Peoples Republic of New York, and we actually found some fairly cheap land. I think it was right around 100 acres, and the list price was $110. Usually there’s something wrong with land that cheap, but I knew the area from my childhood, and there were no environmental hazards in the area that would drive the price down, and while it was a little swampy on one end, most of it was pretty nice.

So we explored further and got in touch with the real estate agent, and as it would turn out, the seller, deeming the importance of undeveloped land, put a few clauses into the deed. As it turned out there was a small public trail that cut the corner of the property and that had to be left alone, there would also be no commercial log harvesting or sale of wood products – i.e. firewood, cabinets, etc. Further, the homestead site was a designated one acre spot and this was the only area building, gardening, or animal husbandry could take place. You could still hunt and fish the land, and create small hiking trails, but there was to be no motorized traffic – atvs, tractors, snow mobiles, etc. The inability to use the trees on the lot to make cabinets for sale, or other products was a big turn off, but the real deal breaker was the one acre homestead site. In fact, I was pretty pissed. 100 acres of land, and you decide to limit the homestead area to one acre? How about five or ten acres, something a small farmer could actually utilize? I can see the desire to stop development, but these restrictions were rediculous! But guess what, it was the sellers choice. It is there property and they decided to make these covenants and the price reflected that. The seller decided that vacant, undeveloped land was of such importance they were willing to take a pay cut of epic proportions (land usually goes for $7-10k/acre in the surrounding area.) But that’s the free market. That’s a voluntarly entered contractual agreement. That’s private property rights. I may disagree with the contract, but no one is forcing me to enter into it.

Rhode Island is forcing tax payers to enter into a contract by buying land and selling it at an 80% loss to farmers with the caveat that the land will remain a farm in perpetuity. It is corrupting the free market and looking to gain the means of production. This is unacceptable.

Thanks for sticking with me. Find me on twitter @bpangie, steemit.com/@bpangie, facebook search for Liberty Minded Agrarian, or my blog www.libertymindedagrarian.com.

Now get out there and sow those seeds of liberty so we can all reap sheafs of freedom together.

Defund Gangs and Lower Gun Violence: Decriminalize Victimless Crimes

Disclaimer: It is incredibly hard to find actual statistics about gang related gun violence. This is due to the way data is collected on gang crime. From the National Gang Center: “An additional concern is the varying methods by which homicides are classified as “gang-related.” The most commonly used is the “member-based” approach, in which a homicide is classified as gang-related if the victim was and/or the perpetrator is a gang member. Some agencies also utilize a more restrictive classification method called the “motive-based” approach, which involves substantiating that the crime furthers the interests of the entire gang.” Also, consider that no politician or sheriff wants to admit they have a gang-problem, especially when it comes time for re-election.

There is no doubt gun violence in the United States is an issue. Each year tens of thousands of people are killed, wounded, or assaulted by a gun. And this number could be even higher as the number of assaults is most likely under reported. We can look at this rash of violence and say the tool is the problem or we can look at reasons why this violence happens, and try to come up with more long term solutions.

Depending on what source you use, anywhere from 13-80% of gun crime is gang related, and this number is most likely higher as gang violence is often under reported due to gang related crimes receiving “enhanced” sentences. So what does that mean? If we target gang violence, our violent gun crime stats will go down and those innocents who die in gang warfare as collateral damage will no doubt be spared. But how do we target gangs? We can continue to do as we have: create gang task forces, arrest gang members and put them in jail. The recidivism rate of gang members is around 80%, so obviously incarceration isn’t much of a deterrent, and in actuality, probably cements gang affiliation. Maybe if the task force is lucky, they will net the big fish and cut the head off of the snake. Of course, if there is anything we have learned from the drug cartels and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, it is that eliminating the leader only creates a power vacuum in which more violence occurs between members as they vie for power during restructuring and opposing groups look to capitalize on potential weaknesses. While this may be the current treatment, it probably is not the best long term option.

With “homicide associated with criminal enterprise” making up 13-80% of gun homicides, it is clear that something must be done to eradicate gangs. But what? For a minute, let us use our minds and think how else we can manage gangs. We have already seen that dismantling a gang by arresting members for the purpose of rehabilitation does not work. We have tried educating students and creating mentoring programs, and while they may have helped some teens escape gang violence, it obviously has not solved the problem.

Let’s address the risk factors. A quick google search as to the reasoning behind why children join gangs gives us a list of mostly social reasons: camaraderie, peer pressure, boredom, and poverty. The last, is where the secret ingredient to the attack on gangs lies: poverty. “But we’ve created programs to lift people out of poverty, and we still have poverty!” Yes, and they haven’t worked, at least not as well as gang revenue streams. People join gangs because they create a source of income, and often, they can be rather lucrative. Consider that as a young teen, you might get you might get paid for just putting a package behind a rock, or collecting some cash from a stranger, or maybe just hanging out on the corner, ready to sound the alarm when the authorities come rolling through.

So how do we remove the lucrativeness of gang life? Figure out how they get paid, and stop paying them. According to the FBI’s National Gang Report, “street gang activity continues to be oriented toward violent crimes, such as assault, drug trafficking, home invasions, homicide, intimidation, threats, weapons trafficking and sex trafficking.” That’s a pretty ugly list, though if we examine the categories given by the FBI, we realize that almost half of those are not actually violent in and of themselves: drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and sex trafficking. (Yes sex trafficking of those unwilling participants is violent, but the definition of sex trafficking also includes prostitution by willing participants.) And according to the FBI’s graphic of Street Gang Involvement in Criminal Activity, street level drugs sales is the runaway leader with assault a distant second. So the number one source of gang funding comes from street level drug sales, which, in reality, is a victimless crime, as is prostitution and even weapons trafficking.

Another reason law enforcement have such a hard time keeping gangs under control is due to the fact that the community often is uncooperative and this can be for a couple of factors. Certainly there is a fair bit of fear that may come from reporting on a gang that operates in your apartment building. Should it come back that you reported someone to the police, you will have just made a large number of enemies, and in some cases, maybe even signed your death warrant. There is also the fact that relationships between law enforcement officers and local minority communities is not always the best. It is no secret that the War on Drugs has been used to target minority communities; couple this with the fact that police are seen brutalizing and sometimes murdering suspects for non-violent crimes, and it is easy to see why communities become uncooperative: no one wants to be the person that makes a phone call that has an acquaintance murdered by the police, or locked in a cage for 10 years.

When we look at drugs, prostitution and illegal weapon sales, we automatically envision violence: a poorly lit, seedy hotel, with hourly rates and neon lights, a pimp forcing a woman to sell her body for money, briefcases of cash and paraphernalia. And admittedly, none of that is good. But if I were to go to the pharmacy to fill my prescription for Oxycontin, or I went down to the local sporting goods store to pick up a firearm, I am not confronted with this questionable environment, rather, this questionable environment is created out of fear and secrecy. When things are legalized there is no need for secrecy – at least not in the sense of legality – instead legalization opens these markets up to the general populace and in turn, free market regulation, driving the price down. We also must consider that when something becomes legal the risk factor that is associated with sales goes away, bringing the price of the product down even more. And with competition from providers, when John D. and the Bluebells start selling bad crank, users have the ability to go elsewhere, in turn keeping John D. honest, or driving him out of business.

If non-violent crimes are decriminalized and allowed to operate on the free market, this would have a huge impact on gang finances. It would drive the price of the service provided by a gang much lower as legal competition would arise and this would certainly make gang life less desirable. It will also cause gang related violence to drop. Gang violence almost exclusively effects members of the gangs involved, and one of the key reasons for gang violence is territory disputes – i.e. where drugs and guns can be sold, where prostitution happens, etc. When these non-violent crimes are legalized, there is essentially no need for territory: pharmacies and brothels could exist legitimately essentially anywhere. Certainly there may be some backlash from the gangs as they see their finances eroding, but this violence would not be tolerated by the communities and would eventually dissipate. Whereas before, gangs were involved in both violent and non-violent crime, now they are engaged solely in violent crime – extortion, burglary, human trafficking of the forced variety, etc. – suddenly, local communities have a reason not to tolerate gangs as they move from everyday supplier and common-man to aggressive bully.

With these non-violent crimes legalized, less individuals are separated from their families and are allowed to stay and continue to be role models for their children. 70% of gang members come from single parent households in which the father is not present. Surely, some of those father’s are absent of their own volition, but a good percentage of those fathers were likely removed by the State for a non-violent crime.

By ending the War on Drugs and other non-violent crimes, we take away a significant portion of gang income, we turn gangs from community protector and common-man to aggressive bully, and we mitigate one of the biggest gang risk factors by keeping families together. In turn, with smaller, less powerful gangs, we will see a lower level of gang violence and death.

Other References
CDC – National Vital Stastics Report
National Institute of Justice

Summer Pack ‘n Play Review

When we started getting back into gardening – there was a lull when the kids were really little – we had time to pick out seeds, to weed the garden, to water it and cultivate all the little seedlings. Our children were also a little older and a little more self-sufficient than they had been. They were old enough and mature enough to have their own crop(s) to tend to. This worked out well as gardening time also doubled as family time and no one was left out. Instead of going for a family walk together, we’d all go out in the garden and work together.

Last August, we had two foster children – aged 3 and 1.5 years old – arrive. Part of it was the chaos of a life that suddenly found itself with two more kids and probably some of it was their age, but sadly the garden was allowed to slip. We missed a number of later summer harvest crops; we picked some, but had nearly no time to process and preserve some. The weeds proliferated and some where even allowed to reseed. Our fall/winter garden was put in late and has scarcely produced anything. The three year old foster child can handle sitting in the garden and can play with the older two when she get’s bored, but still requires a fair bit of redirection. All in all, we can handle her behavior fairly easily, unfortunately, the one year old is a little harder to handle in the garden, after all, the only thing a one year old can really do in a garden is destroy! This meant one of us had to babysit the baby while the other tried to multitask in the garden – directing the youngers while still preparing the garden for vegetables.

We have a Baby Ergo from our kids and it works wonders, but it isn’t total freedom. Your range of motion is almost 100%, but you still can’t do everything, and this is all assuming that the child wants to be in the pack, or has fallen asleep. If a child doesn’t want to sit in the Ergo and proceeds to flail around and scream, you can forget about it. We really needed a pack-and-play. I’m not sure if we actually had a pack-and-play when my kids were little. We may have, but if we did, it was seldom used. Thankfully, when the foster kids arrived, we were gifted a nice used one from someone who’s last child had just moved beyond pack-and-play age. It was nice, but as pack-and-plays are, it was heavy and burdensome to move it from anywhere but room-to-room within the house, let alone outside. We needed something that could go outside; a kiddie-corral if you will.

pop n play
Happy as a 1970’s Smiley Face

We looked around online at a few different options and finally settled on the Summer Pop ‘n Play Portable Playard. Essentially, it’s just a juiced up pack-and-play. (And it was pretty darn cheap all things considered!) There are two main differences, the first is that it is larger, quite a bit larger and is octagonal. The second difference is that it rests directly on the ground. A typical pack-and-play utilizes a platform that sits up some framing, the Pop ‘n Play rests directly on the ground. I’m not entirely sure why it rests directly on the ground, but I have my suspicions: the floor is a flexible fabric and is much lighter than a hard foldable floor that many pack-and-plays utilize, but being flexible, it needs something to keep it sturdy, and that’s the ground. They have also used some lightweight tubular metal to keep this thing extra light and easy to carry around.

pop 1
Move the strap over the apex.

In terms of set-up and take-down, this is one of the easiest I’ve ever experienced. (I’ve set up a number of pack-and-plays and they always seem to be a hassle.) The Pop ‘n Play is octagonal and folds almost like an accordion or one of those portable canvas camp chairs. It then goes into a bag that has a shoulder strap that makes it exceptionally easy for carrying.

The first few times we set it up, we did have a little hiccup – we didn’t read the directions. Honestly, it didn’t seem like anything that needed directions to read, but it did and we skipped over them. On the bottom of each point where the Pop ‘n Play touches the ground, there is a strap. We left those alone in the beginning, but what you’re supposed to do is pull the straps over the bottom points into a groove. This tightens the Pop ‘n Play and locks the sides from moving in or out. Not a necessity, but definitely helpful.

Overall, we’re super pleased with this product, we use it in the garden, we use it when we have camp fires, we use it for pic-nics. There are plenty of times we can let the one year old off his leash and he roams about doing as he will, but that requires a parent to escort him, and that isn’t always possible. The Summer Pop ‘n Play has allowed us to do things we couldn’t do before because of a “young child.” In fact, we’ve already been in the garden prepping for spring planting a number of times while the baby naps in the Pop ‘n Play. It has truly been a game changer, and in all honesty, could probably double as a pack-and-play for inside use. Win!

Addendum: I just saw on Amazon that you can also purchase a canopy to keep sun and water off the wild ones inside!</e

Flagging Red Flags

For a moment, pretend you’re back in high school: a few years of your life riddled with teenage angst, whirling hormones and more concern about who is or isn’t talking to you than anything else. Undoubtedly, no matter what crowd you ran in, there was some amount of jostling for rank, and ostricization from other groups. It is the nature of the age. There was also a fair bit of bullying, maybe some name calling, and probably some empty threats along the lines of “I’m going to kill you.” Even after Columbine, these threats weren’t taken as actual threats of death, just maybe some violence or, as more likely than not, as an expression of extreme anger. Cue today’s high school climate and a phrase like “I’m going to kill you,” will see you suspended and receiving psychiatric care. And in California, you might even lose any firearm permits you have and be forced to turn in any firearms you own.

A while back, I mentioned how unsafe the NY SAFE Act was; how it discourages people from seeking mental counseling as it allows doctors (or any number of professional health professionals) the ability to inform the police department that the patient is a potential danger to themselves or others around them. In turn, the police then add the patient to a state database and revoke any firearm permits or licenses they may have – as well as any weapons they may have. Well, a few days ago, the California State Assembly advanced a bill that would expand the list of individuals able to “red flag” a “dangerous” gun owner to include employers, co-workers, and college and high school staff at a school the individual in question attended in the last six months. Previously in California, an individual could be red flagged by roommates, family members and law enforcement officers.

redflagThis might not seem like a big deal, but think about how big and how quickly the list of red flaggers grew. It went from roommates, family, and law enforcement officers (LEOs) to include an entire high school staff. And let’s face it, when you start to include school faculty like guidance counselors and teachers, you are essentially including the students. In today’s public school climate of “microaggressions” and constant appeals to authority to rectify any slightly questionable situations, this is a very dangerous movement. Consider that I feel threatened by you for looking at me angrily in PE class, and maybe I think you pitched the kickball too hard, well now I can go to any employee of the school and report you. That may not seem like much – there is a big gap between reporting a student and confiscating firearms, but let’s look at history and see how quickly these gaps are bridged when the public psyche becomes wrapped into irrational fervor.

salem
Let those witches hang!

Let’s look to the Salem Witch Trials, or The Red Scare. Both of those instances where ignited by false accusations which then led to fear in the public psyche which then led to unfair trials and death or imprisonment for those accused. I’m not sure anyone would look back at the Salem Witch Trials and proclaim they were justified. And while the Red Scare might have a few who still think McCarthy was a swell guy, the vast majority of us can look at it and recognize that many people’s careers were ruined. We recognize now that these accusations were based on fear and society allowed their fear to dictate their legislation. If those examples are too long ago, look back to the 1980s, and early 1990s.

During the 80s there was something of a scare when a day care was accused of abusing children and participating in Satanic Rituals. Just like our other examples, this fear got caught up in the public mind and soon day cares across the US where being accused of abusing children, some adults went to jail (later some convictions were overturned), but a good number had their lives ruined, all because a mother with schizophrenia made a false allegation, investigators latched on, the children were manipulated, and the public cried out. We can look at this and believe that maybe one day care in America could allow something like this to happen, but it became wide spread, and we failed to use our logical minds to stop the non-sense. Instead we allowed fear to rule.

This is exactly what is going to happen in California. As soon as students recognize that Redneck Bobby, who smells like cow manure and is repeating tenth grade for the second time and lives a lifestyle that is scary or unagreeable to them will have to change his lifestyle if he loses his firearms because the counselors or teachers see Redneck Bobby as “dangerous,” students will jump, consciously or not. This is extremely problematic and it is exactly the way you can legislate a lifestyle out of existence. Of course, California says they will only keep firearms for six to twelve months, but consider that the individual in question will have to pass some mental battery that probably isn’t necessary. Also consider how easy it is to get your assets back after faulty civil asset forfeiture. (It’s not going to happen!)

Don’t forget that it doesn’t just have to be students that can report another student to a teacher, it can be a teacher initiating the report. I wish we could say that no teacher would stoop to using something like these red flag laws to target a student for any given reason, but we all know we cannot, again, consciously or not. Rumors are just as easily spread through the faculty room as the cafeteria, and once rumors start flying, the truth can become very difficult to ascertain, especially when it’s an adults belief against that of a students.

In very few situations will these red flag laws help anyone. If there is any student that is set on committing an act of violence, they will not be hindered by something like this. Rather, this will probably make them even angrier and more apt to commit violence. And the final blow? Imagine how the atmosphere of a school will change once one student get’s flagged. An already angst ridden building will be filled with students with even more disdain for teachers and fellow classmates, there will be a complete lack of trust for anyone, a constant looking over the shoulder, a forced secrecy lest something you say be taken the wrong way. These red flag laws are absolutely abhorrent, and it is only a matter of time before the state starts using these red flag laws to inhibit a citizen’s other natural rights.

Fermented Friday #2: SCOBY Doby Doo

When I mentioned making a ginger bug for soda last week, I also mentioned making a slightly carbonated fermented tea called kombucha. If you’re not sure what kombucha is, it is a sweet tea that has been inoculated and allowed to ferment for a period of time. It is easy to make and a whole lot cheaper than buying it from the store. Kombucha is to the fermenting world what chickens are to homesteading. It’s that gateway that introduces you to the endless world of ferments.

Kombuch Set Up
All you need to start.

Making kombucha is really quite easy, but before you can start brewing batches right and left, you must come up with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) otherwise known as a mother culture. There are a good number of places you can find them online – a quick google search, Amazon, or heck, even us – or you can take the time to make one yourself. Making a SCOBY is not difficult, but if its your first foray into fermenting, it might seem a bit daunting; for all intents and purposes, it is not, and you probably have most of the stuff you’ll need sitting in your kitchen.

Growing Scoby
Baby SCOBY starting to grow.

Kombucha is tea that is fermented, so you’ll need some sort of black tea, sugar, water a fermenting vessel and some plain kombucha. Later in life, when you have multiple SCOBYs you can experiment with different types of teas, but the different oils and compounds can effect your SCOBY adversely so it is recommended to start with a basic black tea. (After using a SCOBY in non-black tea, I give it to the chickens and use another mother next time.) Sugar is another important factor for making kombucha, like any ferment, the bacteria and yeast need sugar to feed on. White refined sugar is what the internet and all the books claim works the best. I have tried different types of sugars and have noticed no difference in taste. Again, to start, use white sugar, and once you get going go ahead and experiment. Remember that honey is an anti-microbial and while it may work for kombucha, it slows the process and hurts the SCOBY. Some people put a lot of focus on the water, saying you have to use filtered water or bottled water. I haven’t found this to be an issue, so long as you don’t have chlorinated water, you should be fine. If your water is chlorinated you can buy bottled water, or let your water sit in a container with an open top (use a coffee filter) and let the chlorine dissipate into the air for a day or two. As far as fermenting vessels go, I’ve used an empty glass gallon jar; it started out full of pickles. Or if a gallon of kombucha is too much, you can get a half-gallon mason jar.

IMG_20180426_215555354_LL.jpg
Once your SCOBY starts growing, they need a home when they’re not being used.

The last key ingredient is the kombucha culture which can actually be obtained from the store. Technically you should use plain kombucha for making a SCOBY as it does not have the additive flavors and oils, however I have been able to use flavored kombucha when the store did not have any plain.

Now it’s time to make your SCOBY. It is simple. When you make your first SCOBY you don’t want a huge batch of kombucha, so you could start with a quart size jar while you eat all your pickles.

  1. Start with a cup of water and ¼ cup of sugar. Heat the water up with one black tea bag or one tablespoon of loose black tea and dissolve the sugar.
  2. Allow the tea to cool to about 70-80°F and remove the tea.
  3. Add your bottle of kombucha. You can add the whole bottle, or you can add less, just make sure to get the visible strains and yeast from the bottom into your batch.
  4. Put a breathable top on your container (rubber bands and coffee filters work well).
  5. Put the container in a warm (70-80°F) place and let it rest.
  6. In a few days – seven at the latest – you’ll start to see a baby SCOBY forming on the top.
  7. In two or three weeks, you’ll have a decent sized mother and will be able to start fermenting your own batches of kombucha.

Making your first batch of kombucha is essentially the same as making a SCOBY, extrapolate your sugar to water ratios and add your mother with a half-cup of starter tea and you’re off!

Fermented Friday #1: Ginger Bug!

Cynthia Nixon: Ignorance and the City

Hailing from Upstate New York, and having some want to return to my childhood home, I follow New York politics to some degree. Lately, King Cuomo has been taking liberty after liberty and freedom after freedom away from the citizens of New York; it has even been rated as the least free state in 2012 and 2016 by the Cato Institute. While, much of the state votes red, New York is almost always blue thanks to New York City and a few other counties: typically, republican gubernatorial or presidential candidates stand little chance. This year, the Libertarian party has put forth an excellent candidate in Larry Sharpe (that many democrats and republicans could get behind if they looked at his policies) but of course, the media attention sticks with the left, documenting King Cuomo’s further power grabs, Anthony Weiner-esque crazy rants and of course his crony capitalist corruption – of course, all with a positive spin. This year, one of Cuomo’s leftist primary opponents has been garnering more media coverage than that of the Republicans or Larry Sharpe. It may in part be due to her already risen star, or maybe it’s just New York politics, but the former Sex in the City star Cynthia Nixon has already been on the Late show with Colbert, and picked up tons of media coverage. She was also endorsed by the Working Families Party, a progressive-left leaning party that are also proponents of raising the minimum wage and making higher education a universal right. (Which when inspected closer, actually cause more problems for the individuals they are trying to help.)

To be fair, I do not have the time to dig into all of Nixon’s stances on issues, but one in particular crossed my news feed and caught my eye. Over the last decade or so, cannabis has become more of an accepted plant, with some states going so far as to decriminalize it’s recreational use. Nixon feels the same way and said so in an article on the Huffington Post. It would seem that this is great news. Another gubernatorial candidate – after Larry Sharpe – for New York State wants to legalize cannabis: “a win for choice and personal liberties,” I thought. And then I read the byline: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” and this is where my excitement died. Unfortunately, Nixon’s stance is akin to many of those on the left, they see that minorities make up a larger number of drug crimes than that of the white majority, but then they suggest the resolution to the problem is simply to make that crime no longer a crime. This is hugely problematic and makes very little sense when considered as part of a larger picture.

Nixon claims that cannabis use is “effectively legal” for white people but not for minorities. To some degree she is correct. According to the ACLU: “despite roughly equal usage rates, blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested.” This may sound startling, and it may in fact be problematic, but consider that the law is not inherently racist. It is simply words on a paper deeming interactions with a specific plant to be criminal behavior. You could decriminalize cannabis, but incarceration rates for minorities across the board will continue to out pace those of whites due to policing policy. In heavily populated urban areas which have a majority population of minorities, there is a higher police presence than in low populated rural areas which are predominantly white. And of course when there is a higher police presence, there is a higher likelihood a police officer will see a crime. Undoubtedly, there is some bias in the minds of some police officers who might release a white teen with a warning for smoking a joint, but would instead take a black teen doing the same thing down to the station, but not at a rate of 3.73 times more. And if you disagree with this, know that that as of 2012, 52% of the NYC police force was white.

Nixon’s went on to say:

There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me, it comes down to this: We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that
white people do with impunity.

Let us think about this logically. Essentially, she is saying that because one race specific group is arrested for a crime more than another race, we should nullify the law that makes that specific action illegal; we do not need to consider how the law is enforced, that police departments encourage revenue generating tickets or arrests, that there are quotas within departments, or that unconstitutional policies like stop-and-frisk are an actual policy. Instead, we are going to focus on race. Let us humor Ms Nixon, in 2015 73% of all arsons were committed by white people, so according to Ms Nixon’s belief in absolving laws based on uneven racial conviction rates we should make arson legal.

This is racial ideology at it’s finest. And of course, the progressive left cannot see it and have missed the actual problem altogether. Arson, defined in common law as the malicious burning of the dwelling of another, should no doubt remain illegal as one individual is damaging, destroying, or otherwise negatively impacting the property of another individual: i.e. property rights. But consider cannabis use: cannabis use is one individual consuming a plant in a variety of methods to achieve an altered state of personal consciousness. The simple act of consuming the cannabis plant does not damage anyone’s property. This is where Nixon – and many other politicians – fail to recognize that the government has absolutely no jurisdiction over the legality of personal consumption of a plant. The individual is born with certain inalienable rights, and there is little doubt that the individual should have the right to do as they see fit with their own body, especially when it does not adversely effect any other individuals personal or property rights.

We do not allow the State to mandate birth control, vitamins, or supplements, so why is the State allowed to tell us what not to consume? Giving the State the power to approve what an individual puts into their bodies is essentially confirming a master. This is not an issue of race, it is an issue of personal property rights and self-ownership. The individual owns their body, not the State. When we advocate to end the War on Drugs, it should not be racially motivated, it should be reasoned that all individuals regardless of race have the right to choose what they do with their private property so long as they do not impinge upon another individual’s personal property. It should be reasoned that the individual owns their body, not the State.