"This is to inform you that I have already obtained all the investment funds that I need to launch my project. I thank you for doing all you have done for me. I am thrilled beyond measure. Apparently I have a better idea than even I knew."
The subtitle of the book is called "Essential Calculations for Horticulture and Landscape Professionals" and that is what you will find in this book. The calculations are grouped into major areas of concern such as estimating and computing landscape areas, fertilizer calculations, pesticide calculations, turfgrass calculations, irrigation calculations, greenhouse area and volume calculations, and so on. If, for example, you need to figure out how much fertilizer or soil amendment you might need for a particular landscape job, you can find some discussion to frame the problem and then solve it through a step-wise set of calculations. Or, say you want to build a green house and have to figure out how much material to buy to cover it or how much heat it might require to maintain a temperature. To figure out how much cladding material you will need you can lookup techniques for calculating the surface area of triangular or domed greenhouses.
To compute the surface area of your greenhouse you can proceed by breaking down the problem into computing 4 separate surface areas:
Compute the surface area of the roof (triangular or domed roof shapes).
Compute the surface area for the front and back wall sections that are part of the roof (e.g., the gable area).
Compute the surface area for the front and back walls minus the gable area (usually a simple rectangular area calculation - length x width).
Compute the surface area for the long walls (usually a simple rectangular area).
To get the overall surface area you simply add up all the component areas. So the book gives you ways of breaking down problems into component calculations and then bringing them all together to get the answer you are looking for.
The book does not assume too much mathematical sophistication of its readers. There is introductory material on computing the area and volume of various common shapes (e.g., squares, boxes, circles, spheres, triangles, prisms, etc...), basic geometry, and working with fractions. Working with fractions is essential because you are often converting from a quantity measured in one format (gallons/acre) where you might need it in another format (ml/cm) for the purposes of, say, adjusting a spray nozzle. The book comes with lots of appendices with useful conversion factors and equivalents.
The book is definitely useful as a reference to have around in case you have to do any green math. I think it might also be a good book to use in high school classrooms. There are many practical geometry techniques that are used creatively to solve complex practical problems that arise in green industry jobs. Some students might appreciate mathematics more when embedded in these practical problem solving contexts - especially students in rural economies who would practically benefit from such knowledge. I think it could form the core textbook for a "Green Math" cirriculum that might be supplemented with other calculations like wind turbine power and size calculations, solar efficiency calculations, hydroelectric calculations, EROI calculations and many other interesting calculations that might form part of a green math cirriculum.
We might ask ourselves how we would go about breaking down the concept of leisure into different types of leisure? It would seem that the exercise would be fairly arbitrary and mostly useful as a pleasant topic to think about rather than "serious science".
Perhaps. This is sociology not physics. That being said, leisure is an evolving concept in western society that potentially has significant explanatory force in understanding consumer behavior, addictions, mental health, societal trends, and how successful startups originate (i.e., from serious leisure pursuits).
There is a breakdown of the leisure concept by Emeritus Professor Robert Stebbins that he has been working on for a long time now (over 30 years) and which has been very fruitful in his research (note, however, that there does not appear to be consensus in the leisure studies community on the usefulness of this framework). He is in his upper 70's and the pace of his research appears to be accelerating. The concept he is pushing the hardest is
the concept of "Serious Leisure" and you can visit his seriousleisure.net website to try to keep up with him.
The most important distinction I want to expose you to today is between serious and casual leisure. When most of us think of leisure we probably think of "casual leisure" activities, free-time that is directed towards pleasurable pursuits. There is another type of leisure, however, that can be called "serious leisure" where we explore our potentials over a longer period of time which involves mastery of more complexity than we tend to encounter in casual leisure. The serious leisure pursuits are not always pleasurable (e.g., practicing guitar to get to the next level) but they do lead to rewards and fulfillment that our work lives may fail to provide. These pursuits are worth pursuing for the rewards and fulfillment they bring and are not pursued primarily for economic gain or from a sense of obligation. The mastery achieved in these pursuits, however, has the potential to result in a career or startup if the actor desires to gain economically from their serious leisure pursuits - which they may not. Time spent in the pursuit of serious leisure can be a cauldron from which new ideas and startups can and have emerged.
It is hard to do justice to the Serious Leisure Perspective (SLP) framework in this blog. All I can do is expose you to the framework vocabulary and see if it resonates with your experience. Fortunately there is a nice graph that I can show you that that gives you specific examples of what the major vocabulary terms encompass or refer to.
Robert Stebbins has also written many books on various aspects of leisure. I have borrowed one of his recent books, the Idea of Leisure: First Principles (2011) from a local library. It is a short book and quite fascinating to read his exploration of the concept.
I'll have more to say on leisure as I continue my semi-serious pursuit of the ideas around leisure. The recursiveness of leisure studies (studying leisure is leisurable) is interesting and one more reason we might all want to occupy ourselves with leisure studies at some point in our life.
The value of Robert Stebbins work, however, is that he is putting forward a proposal for a theoretical framework for thinking about leisure whereas Chris, like many authors in leisure studies, are content to explore the area and provide critical commentary on various ideas and studies associated with leisure. This is useful and needed but ultimately if the study of leisure is have any impact on the design of leisure products and services it will probably need a theoretical framework such as Robert Stebbins has been cultivating and applying for many years now.
Investors will invest an amount of money to get you to the next significant milestone. Accomplishing milestones derisks your business, time does not. Never ask for funding solely for a specific period of time; always to pass a specific milestone. Of course, the milestone will be time-bound, but it is the passing the milestone that is important to the investor, not the passage of time (p. 156).
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you raise investment, the release of money associated with that "raise" will often be contingent upon reaching certain milestones in a certain amount of time. Funding may not simply be doled out according to the passage of time but the meeting of milestones in a timely manner.
While you may require a full capital amount to get a project where it needs to be, getting there may require achieving several milestones with the funding for the full amount being contingent upon meeting those milestones along the way. This is similar to the release of funds for building a house where the release is contingent upon certain building milestones being reached. Identifying good milestones with credible time and cost estimates is a good basis for working with investors.
Posted on August 26, 2015 @ 11:10:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I visited with a friend and discussed the concept of leisure (see my recent blogs on the concept of leisure) and asked him for his thoughts on the matter. He was fairly adamant that "leisure is earned". In his own case, he does handyman work for 10 clients for a couple of months and then comes back to his cabin
in the woods for a couple of weeks or a month throughout the summer and fall. It is obvious that his living pattern follows the
precept that leisure is earned.
I would have to agree that North American society often views leisure as time that people earn through their work. We often engage,
or hope to engage in leisure activities after a day of work, or during our vacation time from work, or when we retire from work.
We have "earned" this leisure time. Work creates a situation of "free time" with the economic resources to potentially enjoy that
free time more than if we had not worked. We can go golfing, for example, if we earn this form of leisure through our
work. We apparently need to build up economic capital to afford our leisure time - or so the story goes.
The idea that leisure is earned as a result of hard work is problematic in some ways. It makes leisure an after-work
activity rather than something that might be a part of work we do (a style of work). It implicitly equates leisure with spending money but we can experience leisure without spending much money (i.e., going for a walk). It suggests that if we earn more we might have more leisure time when it might be the opposite; if we earned less we might have more leisure
I don't want to deny the obvious that leisure is earned because certain forms of costly leisure definitely require that we work to experience them. It is probably also true that working hard to get to a point of leisure might help to make that leisure more enjoyable than if that work had not been done. I don't think the idea that leisure is earned should be overstated, however, because your leisure is not simply earned by virtue of doing work. There are more elements that go into determining whether something should be called leisure than whether you earned it or not and these elements may be more important than whether you earned it or not.
It is interesting that if you google the phrase "leisure is earned" to see what others have said on the matter, the main result you get back are instructions on how to redeem your leisure-travel points. In a similar vein, work apparently gives you leisure points that you can redeem at a future date when you are not working.
I'll end this blog with this video on the relationship between income and leisure by a professor of economics. Leisure time can increase as wages increase. So you can theoretically earn more leisure time per day the more you make per hour according to this model.
Posted on August 24, 2015 @ 11:09:00 AM by Paul Meagher
Yesterday I harvested some potatoes I planted. Here are some nice red potatoes I harvested.
This was my first time harvesting the potatoes this year so I was interested to see what type of yield I would be getting. The red potatoes above are a red-skinned varietal called "Red Chieftain" that I've had success with in the past and they appear to be yielding good again this year.
The concept of return on investment applies to assessing your potato harvest. When I plant a potato seed, I eventually want to know how many potatoes will I get back, how big will they be, and how many of the bunch will be good or worth eating. The blue-flesh potatoes I planted for the first time this year have not done well so far. I'm only getting back a couple of small potatoes, almost equivalent in volume to the potato seed I planted. They might still grow a bit more but if they don't do better, then I'm looking at a 0% or negative return on investment for planting blue potatoes. Red potatoes, however, are a different story and I'll probably continue planting Red Chieftains next year again because they are reliable producers. I'm getting a 500% to 600% return on my potato investment for Red Chieftains.
I planted more potatoes than I'll need this year. Here are the two potato strip tills I planted. I planted around 200 lbs of potatoes in these strip tills.
I'm still not sure what I'll do with all the potatoes.
My wife's grandmother grew alot of potatoes and people often came to her house to get fed because they knew she was rich in potatoes. You were considered well off if you had a good store of potatoes. I'll feel pretty rich as well if I go into the fall with a bin full of potatoes.
Posted on August 20, 2015 @ 06:08:00 AM by Paul Meagher
In this blog, I want to continue exploring the concept of leisure. In my last blog, Leisure Studies, I introduced the domain a bit and posed a bunch of questions. In this blog, I want to explore what a definition of Leisure might look like. There are no answers here, just an exploration of the language games that take place around the concept of leisure and whether they add up to anything coherent.
Here are a few ideas, observations and opinions on the topic of leisure:
Leisure time is when we have the most freedom to fullfull our wants and desires and to develop our potentials.
Leisure in this version is related to the concept of freedom and, for some, may be the purest expression of it. We can use the freedom associated with leisure to fulfill our wants and desires and/or develop our potentials.
We can use our leisure time to watch tv or we might use it to take an online course. We can travel or we can work out (developing our physical potentials).
Many use their freedom to watch tv or surf social media rather than develop their potentials. Others use their leisure time and explore and further their potentials.
Leisure time is used to "recover" from work.
Leisure and work are often considered opposites or antonyms of each other but is appears there can be considerable overlap at times.
Futurists from 30 years ago predicted we would have alot of leisure time on our hands now. Many argue that we do not have more leisure time today than we did 30 years ago. This is very difficult to measure because we appear to have incorporated leisure into the way we work so the distinction between work and leisure is difficult to discriminate. For example, if I am mowing a field of hay in an $80k tractor with air conditioning, stereo, and tinted windows, that is not a bad way to occupy my time on a nice sunny day (just so you know I drive a $4k tractor without the luxuries). In most jobs there is the opportunity to use the internet to do our jobs in a way that improves the feeling of leisure at work.
30 years ago we were a more physical lot of people than we are today. We were less obese. Is leisure all good? Leisure can have a dark side and many critical theorists would argue that leasure is defined in the interests of the ruling class, we have no real freedom to chose only mimic images of leisure that benefit or perpetuate the ruling class. I don't think leisure is that bad, but I agree that our freedom to choose our leisure is influenced by media and advertising. If you are sweating out in a field putting in hay (as we did yesterday) that does not correspond to the approved iconography of leisure. The heat sucked, is feels like work, but in retrospect it appears to have had elements of leisure (physical workout, comaraderie, outdoors activity). It is what I call leisure work. I add work because it was for economic gain that I was engaged in the activity.
Leisure studies is a branch of the social sciences that focuses on understanding and analyzing leisure.
Recreation and tourism are common topics of leisure research.
The work settings of people with a degree in leisure studies are:
State and municipal parks
Sporting organizations and businesses
Questions that interest me about leisure include:
What is leisure?
Is leisure time increasing or decreasing?
How important is leisure time?
What are people doing with their leisure time?
Are the Kardashian's followed because they examplify leisure class lifestyles?
What are the opportunities in leisure?
What are some theories of leisure?
The question of what leisure is arises in my own case because this is a busy time of year on the farm. One way to keep on farming day after day is to make a mental shift where the physical work is not perceived as economic work but as leisure activity. Recreation in the form of physical workouts in the gym are a prime example of what some people do with their leisure time. A large amount of farming is pursued as a leisure activity because it can't be justified on economic grounds (so called "hobby farms"). Many farmers have a second job and persue farming as a side income/leisure activity. I mention these things because it appears we can reframe our activity as economic work or leisure activity. Perhaps all that is needed is a mental switch. It can be a source of motivation for many if the work they are doing is viewed as incorporating elements of leisure rather than pure economic work.
Are leisure and work fundamentally different ways to occupy our time? They are probably fundamentally different at the extremes, but they might start to blend at certain times and when doing certain activities.
Do entrepreneurs have less leisure time or are they mixing leisure and work so they can work longer hours? Leisure time in the form of hobbies can turn into businesses. When your leisure activity becomes a business that might put you in a good position for success.
Enrst makes the point that, in business, gigantism is generally considered a goal or a good thing. We all want to grow and become big. As a corrective to this idolatry of bigness, Ernst argues that we should spend some time thinking about why big might be bad, and small might be good.
The question of "how big" a business is or should be is a relative judgement. There is no absolute business scale of smallness, only a comparative scale where we judge how big one business is relative to another along some dimension or set of dimensions.
On the issue of why smallness might be beautiful (i.e., good) he points out that many of the biggest companies of his day created subsidiary companies, smaller autonomous units, so that the company
could be managed better. When I read this I was reminded of the
recent announcement by Google that they would be restructuring under the umbrella of a company called Alphabet. According to Larry Page, "the whole point is that Alphabet companies
should have independence and develop their own brands".
I think it is useful to question whether gigantism is the goal of business. Google is of course huge under any size metric, but for it to function effectively they feel the need to split the company up into smaller units that have independence and can develop their own brands. The same
principle might apply for "smaller" companies that can decide if proceeding as one entity that becomes bigger is the proper way to go, or whether splitting things up into smaller companies with their own mandate, branding and independence is the way to go. You enjoy better portfolio effects when you split up companies like this and it is a good way to mitigate overall risk for the whole enterprise.
Schumacher makes many arguments in favor of smallness. This is only one of them.
Another suggestion is to keep a machine log to record maintenance and repairs on a machine.
I did some preliminary searching for data on the frequency of machine breakdown over time. I would like to know whether there are general rules that would enable us to predict how much maintenance might have to increase per machine as it ages. For most people, an autombile is the piece of large machinery whose breakdown schedule they might be most familiar with and from which they might draw their own conclusions about the reliability and expense of maintaining machinery.
All of my farm machinery for making hay was purchased through online classifieds and all are over 30 years old so they are probably subject to more breakdowns per unit time than new machinery because so many parts of it are in a condition of being worn. The hay baler has performed without any major issues which I attribute to the care taken by the previous owner who fixed all the issues he inherited when he purchased it. He was very mechanically adept (owned a mechanical company). So even old machines can perform well if good maintenance was done on them in the past. Entropy, however, always has the last laugh.
The need to consider the failure rate of machinery can be quite important to include in production models because the assumption that all production machinery will operate without issues is unrealistic. Operations research has lots of techniques you can use to think about and incorporate machine failure into production scenarios.
Even when machines breakdown the job can still get done if there is enough redundancy in the system. My two hay mowers broke down but we still were able to mow some grass because we used my father-in-laws mower. His mower had a broken drive belt but still worked because it used three belts on the same pully system. We could operate it until we got another belt to replace the broken belt. The internet itself is subject to lots of noise but has so much redundancy and checks built into messages that messages generally make it ok to the receiver. So production scheduling to be accurate will often need to include some machine redundany planning in the models and in reality.
It is also important to keep machine failure in mind when purchasing machines. What types of breakdowns tend to occur in this machine? How easy will it be to fix when the machine breaks down? A mower conditioner is a step up from a disk mower but there are lots more things that can go wrong, and when they go wrong, you might need someone's help to fix it. Considerations like this might make you prefer one machine design over another. So thinking about the modes of machine failure can help you make better machinery purchase decisions.
A good piece of machinery that is well maintained and works without too many breakdowns can be very profitable to its owner. Many livelihoods have been based upon the purchase of the right machine operated and maintained properly. Conversely, the wrong machine with lots of costly breakdowns has been the bane of many entrepreneurs.
Posted on August 7, 2015 @ 07:48:00 AM by Paul Meagher
One reason I like to get out in nature is to experience the abundant and regenerative power
of nature. Yesterday I had to stop and take some pictures of the hayfield I was mowing so
I could soak in how abundant and regenerative nature can be sometimes. All I do to grow
this hay is cut it once a year and put the bales from it in my barn to sell to horse owners.
I don't reseed it or attend to it all year except when I have to bale it. The hay is
apparently quite capable of taking care of itself. It regenerates each year and comes
in abundance with minimal intervention by me.
Last night I was listening to a lecture by Permaculture co-founder Bill Mollison. He talked about two ways to figure out how to manage a farm property. One way is to plan what you want to grow and grow it. Another way is to look at what is already abundant and then figure out what to do with that resource. The previous owners of the farm must have figured out that hay grew abundantly and set aside most of the land to grow it. Whether the vines and apple trees I planted will yield as abundantly is still an open question.
In conclusion, the purpose of this blog is to underline a couple of nice experiences that can accompany working with or going out in nature, namely, a feeling that nature is abundant and regenerative. The hayfield can be viewed as symbolic of what most businesses strive to attain, namely, a state of abundance that can be sustained indefinately through regenerative processes. That is not easy to achieve but nature makes it look easy.
A final note. Abundance is not the same as yield (see the Obtain A Yield permaculture principle). Yield is what you get when you are able to catch and store energy and then make use of that abundance.
Posted on August 6, 2015 @ 07:52:00 AM by Paul Meagher
There is an interesting body of work being done on an Oil-Climate Index through the auspices of the Carnagie's Endowment Energy & Climate Program, Standford University, and the University of Calgary.
One interesting idea mentioned in the associated Know Your Oil report is that when the price of oil was high it generated alot of innovation and development of new sources of oil (e.g., tars, shales, fracks, deep water, ultra-deep, depleted gas-water, kerragen, permafrost, etc...). So increasingly, when
we talk about the climate impact of "Oil", we have to be more specific about it because they are not all the same from the point of view of their climate changing potential. So the index investigates as best it
can different dimensions of each oil (upstream/extraction, midstream/refining, downstream/distribution/end products)
and combines them to come up with a score that allows you to figure out which one has a higher or lower oil-climate index score.
I encourage you to play with the incomplete but evolving Oil-Climate Index graph which appears to be the centerpiece of the phase 1 work completed so far.
My personal opinion is that I think this Oil-Climate Index idea has significant intellectual merit; it is an important set of relationships that should be analyzed and understood better so that consumers of oil and gas might better know what they are buying when they buy oil derived from a particular source or process.
Perhaps there will come a day when we see eco-labelling on our oil & gas persuading us to buy this gas or pay more for this gas if it has a better oil-climate index score?
Finally, there was a press release event where the main authors of the report discussed the part of the project (upstream, midstream, downstream) they worked on. You can watch the
YouTube video of the press release event below. You can fast forward to approximately 15 minutes 30 seconds in to get Professor Gordon's interesting introductory remarks followed by each author's discussion of their section of the report.
Posted on August 4, 2015 @ 08:39:00 AM by Paul Meagher
For the last few days I was trying to make some hay at the farm. Unfortunately, my mower-conditioner broke down and then my
backup sickle mower broke down. When I emailed my wife about my woes with my mowers, her comment was that "Everything breaks
everywhere during haymaking".
The phrase "everything breaks everywhere" is a nice way to summarize the second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy. The
fate of all matter is towards a greater state of disorder and all that stops it are our energetic interventions in the form
of maintenance and repair.
The amount of entropy you must deal with goes up considerably when you own a farm (or any business with a significant number of
physical assets). All the buildings and all the machinery are wearing down each year and choices must be made as to which
degrading asset is the most important to maintain, fix or replace. The law of entropy is recognized in our income tax forms
when we claim depreciation on our buildings and machines.
I try to keep a cool perspective on breakdowns and look for opportunities to learn from them. The old mower-conditioner I purchased
a couple of years ago worked mostly without issue last year. This year, a bearing on the steel roller used to "condition" the hay (rinse moisture out of the hay like an old-time washing machine) could not take any more abuse and popped the drive belt probably because it was too hard to roll it with a faulty bearing.
I learned how to remove jammed hay from the front of the mower that probably occurred because the faulty bearing caused the drive
belt to slip and the rotating drum with teeth that removes it (see below) not to rotate. You have to move systematically from the one side to the other removing hay as you go. If you attack the problem of removing jammed hay willy-nilly from different areas that look the easiest you could be there all day trying to remove the hay jam. Here I started removing jammed hay on the right side and am progressing towards the left pulling out the hay jammed between the cutters and the drum as I go.
After removing the hay, the drum still did not rotate so I measured the drive belt tensioning spring which was supposed to be 5.75 inches long and it was 8 inches long (2.25 inches too long). When the spring failed last year we put in another one in that was not the official sized spring but it worked. To tension the belt more I made a spacer and used it to increase the spring tension. The drum above the cutters rotated after this fix. I will remove it after I eventually fix the bearing to see what happens.
All of this seams like a waste of time when I could be mowing but the truth is I probably would continue to be fairly ignorant of how my machinery works without these breakdowns. In farming as in other businesses we learn from our breakdowns. Entropy sucks
but it is a great teacher. Each breakdown teaches us a little bit more about our machinery and the types of things we need
to do to better protect it from breakdowns and what parts we should have on-hand because they are prone to breakdowns or their breakdown will cause the machinery to become completely useless (e.g., drive belt). Some breakdowns such as hay pickup teeth only have a minor effect on efficiency when they breakdown so can be ignored until you have time to address them.
By early next week (when the steel roller bearing arrives) my mower conditioner should be back in action cutting hay again.
In the meantime my hay-making partner is using his mower to take down the hay in this field and we'll start putting square bales of hay in the barn today.
Posted on August 1, 2015 @ 09:39:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I was mowing the lawn around sunset and noticed the full moon coming up. I stopped mowing and ran for my camera to take some photos. The moon emerges quickly from the horizon so you have to be faster than I was to get it just as it emerges. The first photo is one of my first photos, then I took a close up (hard to maintain image stability even on a tripod when you have mosquitos wanting to have you for dinner), and the final photo is when clouds started to occlude the moon - I got a spooky cloud formation over the top of the orangy full moon.
Here is a tip - if you are looking for inspiration for a logo/brand design, observe the shape of clouds against various backgrounds. The final photo is one I took during the day because I liked the flowing motions of it. It could be the inspiration for a unique logo/brand design. Nature is always ready to mentor us if we are prepared to receive it.