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 BLOG >> April 2019

Book Investing [Books
Posted on April 25, 2019 @ 09:12:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Normally, I simply buy books because I want to read the books. I've never really thought about buying a book as a financial investment. I recently purchased a book for my wife's birthday that I knew she would like but it was no longer in print and copies were hard to come by. I did manage to secure a copy for $120 on Amazon but after the expected delivery date arrived and there was no book I contacted the seller who quickly accepted the fact that it was lost and offered to source another one or refund me. I was refunded the next day with an explanation that they couldn't source another one. I suspect the book seller realized s/he could get more for the book and played a little charade with me that it somehow got lost in transit. No tracking numbers were ever issued. When I initially purchased the book on Amazon, the price for the book immediately jumped to around $200 because that was the price the other sellers were offering for their copies. Some sellers listed as high as around $500. I did eventually source another copy of the book for around my original price. Now I cannot find any copies on Amazon which makes me wonder what price I might be able to put on it as an Amazon seller if I wanted to sell.

The co-author of the book, Timothy Asch, was trained in photography by Ansel Adams and includes beautiful black and white photos of what local life was like in 1952.

Timothy Asch later became a leading visual anthropologist and preferred to use film more in his later documentation of other cultures. I learned over the weekend from one of the people he took photos of that there were only made 500 copies made of the book I purchased. So the value of the book is attributable to its rarity, the reputation of the author, and unique content it contains that university departments and local residents would be eager to have.

Another book that I wanted to purchase at one time was an autobiography by Permaculture founder Bill Mollison.

The lowest price of this paperback book on Amazon is currently around $800 !

Again I suspect there is only a limited number of copies of this book. Bill Mollison founded the publishing company Tagari which does not sell this book anymore. The rarity of the book coupled with the number of admirers of his work means you can ask a high price for this book.

If I decided to get into book investing in a more serious way one strategy I might use would be to corner the market on a book. If there was a book that I thought was rare and desirable with only a limited number of copies available for sale I might buy all the available copies within a price range so that I can exert more control over the price and availability. I have no experience in deploying this strategy so can't tell you whether it would be successful or not.

Like any investing you have to be good at valuation and not let your biases get in the way. It would require more research into the fine points of book investing on my part before I went from reading books to investing in them. There are lots of people who make money selling used books and this is probably only one of many strategies they might use.

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Driverless Cars vs eBikes [Trends
Posted on April 18, 2019 @ 07:23:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I watched a recent fascinating discussion between Elon Musk and a leading MIT reasearcher in AI and Autononmous Vehicles Lex Fridman. They discussed recent developments in Tesla's autonomous vehicle technology and where the future is headed in regards to driverless cars. Elon views driverless cars as inevitable and that Tesla is way ahead of its competitors with recent updates to its Autopilot hardware and software capabilities.

A driverless electic car is only one means of personal transport and is not as green a transport solution as an eBike. There was a very thought provoking article on Resilience.org with the title Why Don’t You Have an Electric Bike Already?. An eBike is greener than a car simply because it weights alot less so requires a much smaller battery (meaning less mining is required for battery materials) and consumes alot less electrical energy to transport the driver. For those living in a winter climate the arguments for an eBike are less compelling, but it would still be worth using an eBike for the months that you can use it. eBike technology is also rapidly advancing although I haven't heard of any talk of a driverless eBike yet :-)

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Partnership Businesses [Entrepreneurship
Posted on April 12, 2019 @ 07:37:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I am hoping to host a musical event on my farm property this summer, August 17th to be exact. I have never dealt with hiring musicians before. The time has come, however, to start making solid commitments if the event is to take place in August. Given that our farm is a partnership structure between me and my wife, it make sense to me to think about offering a partnership with the musicians.

Here is the email I sent to one of the musicians who I feel is a leader among the musicians who might perform.

Hi XXXXXX:

One idea would be a partnership business structure among musicians and the owners of Big Belle Farm, me and XXXXX.

All proceeds would be shared according to a percentage structure after agreed upon costs. A third band of equal caliber could be another partner in the venture.

Big Belle Farm can front alot of the sound equipment costs and other costs and pay artists a guaranteed income to perform.

All revenues would come from Ticket Sales, Food Sales, Merchandise Sales, Vendor Fees, etc...

Alternatively, I can pay musicians their requested fees to perform and manage this event exclusively under the Big Belle Farm partnership.

Regards,

Paul Meagher

The musicians have alot to offer, but my farm as a venue also has alot to offer so a partnership makes sense to me.

The Partnership Business Structure is one of the three main classes of Business Structure with Sole Proprietorship and Incorporation being the two others. The Partnership Business Structure can be used to get things done in a way that spreads risk and fosters a joint effort to succeed.

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Going Bigtime [Growth
Posted on April 4, 2019 @ 12:44:00 PM by Paul Meagher

There are many businesses that can produce a nice side income. There will always be those, however, who take a modest side business and have the drive to turn it into something truly colossal.

Every year me and my joint-venture partner make around 2500 square bales of hay from the hay fields on the farm. It can generate around $10,000 dollars a year before costs (2500 x $4 per bale). We split the revenues and some costs. The shared costs usually include worker pay, fuel, baler twine and lots of beer to quench the hay makers and keep them happy. My partner is now using his half of the hay to feed his 5 beef heifers and getting more benefit that way.

There are some farmers around here who make 10,000 bales a year and make between $40,000 and $50,000 a year before expenses just on the hay sales. They might make quite a bit more if they offer delivery and not just pickup. Making hay and delivering it can be their main source of income.

In Ohio, JD Russell Hay and Straw Inc. takes the hay business to a whole other level of large scale choreographed production. When you have nice flat productive land like they do, a passion for high quality hay, and an extended family all willing to be involved in the business, then going bigtime in the hay business is a viable option. Here is a video of how they make hay at JD Russell's farm.

According to their website:

Neither John Russell nor his wife Denise came from a farm family. But in 1985 they sowed the seeds of their dream, working together part-time with less than $1500 in equipment.

Expanding every year, and paying cash for equipment, the Russells worked hard until they were able to devote themselves full-time to the business in 1992.

The Russells did not get this big overnight and appear to have self-financed their growth in the early days. Not sure if they still self-finance with the amount of machinery and buildings they have, but it does go to show that what is a nice side income for some (e.g., 2500 bales a year) can be a large business for others (e.g., 500,000+ bales a year?).

JD Russell was voted the 2018 Haymaker of the Year by the National Hay Association.

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Making Blueberry Wine [Farming
Posted on April 2, 2019 @ 07:17:00 PM by Paul Meagher

I spent last weekend at the farm. One reason I went was to prune some grape vines before the ground thaws and the vine sap starts flowing. One sign that the ground is starting to thaw is that I got my water back in the barn. I've been stalled in my wine making because I didn't have running water in the barn to clean the wine making equipment. Temps were still a little too cold to do any wine making, but I did manage to sample a few blueberry wines and blueberry/grape blends with my brother-in-law. The 4 carboys we tested all seemed quite drinkable. It is difficult, however, to fully determine the flavor of the blue and blue/red wines when the wine is on the chilled side and most of the volatile aromas are muted.

In the video below I reveal the various recipes I am testing. I'm trying to figure out what wines I should make more of next year. I am experimenting with different starting brix levels and blends to figure that out.

Each label that appears on a carboy has a transfer number in the first position that indicates what 20 gallon fermenter they came from. Usually I get 2 carboys of wine from each 20 gallon fermenter after I press the wine and collect it into the glass carboys. If I am making a pure blueberry wine then my label (e.g., "T1 BB 22") will only display a transfer number (T1), the abbreviation for blueberry fruit (BB) and the starting Brix (22). If I am making a blended wine, then I will have a label that indicates the types of fruit used and the number of 5 gallon buckets of fruit used (50 lbs per bucket). The label "T10 25 BB 125 MF 125" means it came from the 10th primary fermenter, was started at 25 brix, I used 1.25 buckets of crushed blueberries (62.5 lbs) and 1.25 buckets of crushed Marechal Foch grapes (62.5 lbs) in my blend.

Saturday evening I went for an ATV ride to the blueberry fields to see what they looked like in early spring. While spring has started to arrive near the coast where the farmstead is, if you move inland to higher elevations, the snow is still very much around. Up here there is still snow around the margins of the fields but the darker patches where the blueberries will grow looks like they are doing fine. This is the main field where I will be harvesting most of my blueberries from this year.

Other things I thought about this weekend was that I feel comfortable remaining a smaller-scale artisanal wine maker when I make wine from this years harvest. I will likely double my wine production but I don't plan to invest in alot of expensive blueberry harvesting and wine making equipment to do so, in part because me and my wife want to bootstrap this wine venture with our own funds rather than get loans. Within the next few weeks, I plan to section off another part of the barn as a longer term storage area for my carboys. I'm hoping that later in the summer I will be able to start selling some artisanal wine from the farm for the first time. We'll see what the alcohol gatekeepers have to say about that. There will be alot of regulatory paperwork to file this year.

A section of the barn was upgraded by the previous owners to mill the fiber from llamas, alpacas, sheep, and goats into something that the people providing the fiber could use to make products with. It was a good idea. They had lots of equipment from Ireland for milling the fiber and called the upgraded section of the barn where it was housed the Mill House. The venture appeared to fail because the operators and/or the equipment couldn't yield a product the client was satisfied with. Ever since we purchased the farm 8.5 years ago, we've called the upgraded section of the barn the Mill House. I think we will keep that piece of history alive and continue calling it the Mill House rather than the Winery which is really what it is now. Hopefully the Mill House will be more successful as a Winery.

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