Friday, November 30, 2007

Dwindling value of home owner's insurance continues

Insurance Companies Dropping Dry Rot Coverage

It is common knowledge that most private home insurers do not offer homeowners flood insurance, relegating them to expensive Federal insurance programs. However, my wife and I were notified today by State Farm that starting this month they and many other insurance companies are no longer insuring homes for dry rot. This will cause an increased demand for building inspectors, as they are in limited supply already.

Homeowners will no longer be able to rest on their laurels and would be well advised to pay for a home dry rot inspection every 3 years to prevent very expensive home repairs. I can see the mortgage industry already wrapping that cost of regular inspections into the annualized cost of the of the mortgage, much like they due property taxes to assure continued value.

Home inspection services will be a very busy industry in coming years, not so much because of impending home sales but of that of personal assurances that structural status of any home will not cause financial nightmare.

The Tasmanian dancer

Prior to the era of corporate farms and recreational ranches, rural communities would get together for many different functions. There were fund-raising dinners, local theatrical performances, potluck socials, sporting events, and who knows what else. Our community would have an annual dance at the fire hall.

As a youngster, I was always excited to go to the dance. I was not a dancer, but I loved to visit with my friends, plus laugh at some of the dances those old farmers and ranchers would do. My favorite passage was: “Better to sit, watch, and be presumed an idiot then go out, dance, and remove all doubt.”

I can remember my mother and two sisters being very nervous on the day of the dance. Their greatest fear was that Bullet would ask them to dance. Bullet was a man who believed in doing things as quickly as possible. His style of western swing dancing most closely resembled the cartoon character The Tasmanian Devil.

Community involvement was very high at these functions, so the women in my family found peace with safety in numbers. If Bullet asked each girl to dance once, the burden would not be hard to bear.

As a musician, I am forced to use tempo as the basis for each dance step. I assume that is the rule for dancing. With Bullet, the song tempo doesn't matter. He has one speed; Lightning.

It became apparent that one day I would have to learn to dance. My sideline spectating was not resulting in dates with the girls. Finding a dance that came naturally would be the key for not looking like the idiot on the dance floor. As in poker, if you can't spot the moron on the dance floor in the first five minutes, you are the moron.

While shoveling a grain bin, I noticed many repetitive motions that could be incorporated into a dance move. During the bin cleaning process, you have to put your left foot on the sweep auger while shoveling from your left to your right.

With your left foot out, move your arms from left to right with the rhythm of the music. This dance is called the “Bin Cleaner”. To spice up the dance, you can add the “Combine Cleaner” at various intervals.

To do the Combine Cleaner, just pretend a pile of chaff just went down the back of your neck. This forces your head to come up with a sudden forward thrust from your shoulders, while gritting your teeth for effect. Make sure your arms are down at your sides, or you will bear a slight resemblance to a chicken.

The “Hay Baler” is the next move every farmer can use in his dance arsenal. With the understanding that all balers will expectedly break down with two hours to go and rain clouds imminent, simply practice the motion of kicking the side of the baler with your outside foot. This dance can be used with the Combine Cleaner also.

I would go through the Rock Picker, the Electrical Glitch, the Tractor Stretcher, and the Panicking Wheat Marketer, but those dances have to remain as my own trademark dance moves. Bullet is still alive and well and I don't want him learning my secrets.

Having a large assortment of dances to choose from is a great way to make every community gathering a memorable and enjoyable one. I'm sure there are a few teenagers who would love to learn to dance like me. I can almost guarantee them success with the opposite sex if they will just watch my moves carefully.

If I can manage to get this community together, which is made up of three farmers, two ranchers, four retired couples, a few self-employed entrepreneurs, and fifteen recreational home owners, perhaps I can show them I am really not the moron on the dance floor, despite what the all the rumors say.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, November 2007, Kevin Duling.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flying Christmas trees

Steve Brown of the Capital Press has posted a video story about Christmas tree harvest using helicopters on a tree farm in Turner, Ore. The video will also be available soon on the Capital Press website, but for now the Blogriculture site and YouTube are the only ways to find it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

High-tech school report on farm chemicals

I came across a video today that was done as part of a high school project at High Tech High School charter school in San Diego. Given it's title, "Earth Watch — Agriculture Chemicals," I expected it to contain a pro-environment (i.e. anti-agriculture) message. But I was impressed that the student(s) who produced the video report put together a video that recognizes there are benefits to using agriculture chemical, like fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, as well as dangers if they are misused.

The information contained in the report may not contain information unknown to people working day-to-day in the ag industry, but I thought it was worth sharing anyway. If nothing else, is shows how the process of doing a school report has changed. Apparently writing a report isn't enough anymore and school reports have gone multimedia, at least at this Souther California charter school. Note the long list of credits at the end of the report (although I challenge anyone to actually read them and decipher what they say in this YouTube format).

When I watch such things, I always wonder what my dad's reaction to it would be. My father owns an agriculture aviation operation that applies agriculture fertilizers and chemicals by air. I'm sure he would have field day with the part of the report where the narrator is talking about pesticides over video images of an airplane using a spreader to apply some sort of granular material, which I'm assuming is fertilizer. Maybe it's a good thing Dad isn't part of the YouTube generation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hunters and gatherers

By Kevin Duling

Back in college, my crop science teacher spent many days of class telling us how we need to approach society and relationships using the “hunter and gatherer” mentality we were born with. He added that women were usually the gatherer type while men preferred to go out and kill something, drag it home, and show their women how great they were at the hunt.

I have witnessed both the hunting and gathering instinct at work in society, like a woman urging her husband to stop at the clothing or fabric store so she can browse through the aisles, hoping to find a great deal. Most men, unhappy because there is nothing to hunt and drag home, fall asleep in the car, dreaming of the day when their newly trained bird dog will make its first successful point.

There is one very important exception to the rule that men are hunters and women are gatherers. That would be the day after Thanksgiving. A typical Thanksgiving for my extended family is to rent a large house on the Oregon coast and spend the week playing cards and arguing over whose turn it is to do the dishes. The day after Thanksgiving usually involves the men going for a long hike while the women run to the outlet mall at 5 a.m. to begin to gather.

I remember one Thanksgiving when I caved in to the urging of the women and agreed to accompany them on this annual Friday shopping ritual. I figured it would be good to get a head start on the Christmas shopping and I would surely find some good deals. The older men in our house warned me about what was in store for me, with a couple of them using an evil giggle I hadn’t heard before.

At 4:30 a.m., the day after Thanksgiving, I was rudely awakened by a pack of giddy ladies all discussing which stores they would go to first. Not wanting to make them late, I skipped taking a shower and just jumped into the vehicle. Typically, these women always wanted me to drive, but not today. I sat back and watched as eight ladies who were all known for their kindness transformed into aggressively mean, scowling monsters letting nothing get in their way.

I hunched down in the back of the suburban when the driver crashed through a large mud puddle, completely soaking a couple unfortunate pedestrians on the sidewalk. The driver, whom I no longer recognized, laughed out loud as the lady in the passenger seat yelled “Go! Go! Go!” with her fist pointing onward.

At 4:50 a.m. we arrived on scene of the outlet mall. I was shocked to see the parking lot was nearly full with lines beginning to form at the entrances to some of the stores. There was no turning back now, so I grabbed my Christmas list and tried to find a store that was not so popular.

At 6 a.m. I had managed to pick a few things off the list and I felt it was time for a doughnut and a nap. I struggled through the crowd, being pushed and shoved like a pinball as these monsters, oh, I mean ladies, glared at me with their red, glowing eyes. Finally, I found the driver of our vehicle, who used to be my sister, and asked for the keys so I could take a nap.

At roughly 8 a.m. I was getting restless, so I managed to get back out into the chaos to see if I could pick some more things off my list. Entering a large department store, I grabbed a cart, hoping it would give me support and balance just in case the monsters should attack again.

I found a few really good deals. I made it to the sock section and there were three pairs of socks left for an incredible price. I grabbed all three! Meandering through the aisles I witnessed a man at the end of the aisle being scolded by a couple of monsters. Apparently he was trying to get into the express lane with 10 items when the limit was 9. People say a picture is worth a thousand words and when his eyes caught mine, well, let’s just say that there was an understanding between us.

As I was bent over looking at some items I noticed a lady with a cart moving very fast away from me. She glanced over her shoulder and her glowing eyes looked right at me. Fear then turned to rage inside me. “Did she just swipe something out of my cart?” I asked myself. “She did; she stole my three pair of socks!” It wasn’t worth the chase as I watched that five foot tall, 100 pound creature roar around the corner.

At 8:50 a.m., with the sale ending in 10 minutes, there was pushing and shoving. One lady was in tears behind me knowing that she wouldn’t make the checkout counter by 9 sharp. Through all the chaos, the manager yelled through the intercom: “Please ladies and the one gentleman, everyone in line at 9 a.m. will get the sale prices!”

While attending Thanksgiving this year at a friend’s house for a change of pace, a woman I have known for years to be one of the most kind, soft-hearted ladies around was planning her shopping trip for Friday. I remember her saying, “It’s time for me to put my nasty hat on, Kevin; we are pulling out the nasty hat!”

There is one day per year where gatherers turn into hunters and the typical hunter needs to disappear, or he will indeed be hunted.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at
Copyright, November 2007, Kevin Duling

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bay spill shuts down oyster farm

Capital Press reporter Elizabeth Larson visited an oyster farm that's been shut down temporarily by an oil spill in California's Bay Area. This video accompanies a story she will have in the Nov. 23 California edition of Capital Press.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Hangbelly Ranch

By Kevin Duling

Country life is usually slow to change. For example, the small service station downtown which fixes our flat tires and welds our machinery is still in operation. It has been in operation for nearly 75 years. Every once in a while, something will happen in a small town to give people something to chatter about.

About five years ago, a widely traveled doctor purchased some acreage nearby, which we had been farming. He wanted to keep us as his tenants and continue farming as we had been. Occasionally, he would ask for help with something simple, such as moving a little dirt for his patio. Every time we would help, he would always be grilling us steak dinners and offering drinks. These little chores became wonderful excuses for family social functions.

One day, he decided to purchase livestock. I received a phone call from him letting me know of his new purchase and he was excited. He let me know it was his dream to have a small ranch with livestock roaming through it. Roaming through it they did, as the fences were nonexistent at best.

A couple years ago, I received another phone call alerting me to not shoot the strange creatures grazing his place. The service station was alive with talk of these small, black critters that look like a cross between a buffalo and a gazelle. Some small town folk don’t get out much, so something like this can create quite a stir.

A friend of mine, who takes care of the Hangbelly Ranch when the doctor is absent, wanted me to help her feed the animals one wintry day. She told me to throw the hay off the back of the pickup while she drove through the field. As I sat atop the hay waiting to start throwing bales, a little blonde head poked out of the sliding windows with the following disclaimer: “When we get to the yaks, be aware. They are athletic and sometimes quite friendly. Whatever happens, don’t panic and just keep throwing hay.”

With a slightly devilish grin and a twinkle in her eye, she drove us into the field. The cattle were eager to have breakfast on that snowy day, as they all followed while the hay was being dumped. About a quarter mile from the cattle was a group of yaks.

As we approached, all heads and horns were attentive to us. I started throwing as fast as I could hoping nothing strange would happen. While focusing on the hay bales I didn’t even notice that two yaks were now in the pickup with me. “I have to throw faster!” I screeched.

The pit of my stomach grew sickly as all the hay was out of the pickup, leaving the two yaks and myself. From the corner of my eye I saw my friend giggling, as the sight must have been entertaining. The yaks were coming with me, whether I liked it or not.

Today, the Hangbelly Ranch has yaks, cattle, zebu, llamas, chickens, pigs, goats, horses, guinea hens, geese, homing pigeons, peacocks, and a duck. This spring will be time to take the offspring to the auction. There is one small problem with that. The zebu bull bred a few of the cattle, the yak bull bred the zebu cows, and the beef bull bred the neighbor’s cows.

The auctioneer will have his work cut out for him that day. “Hey, look here folks, we have a great set of (pause)…….. zeebaks with a pen of 10 cowzus next up. Anyone have any idea what these are worth and where the bidding should start?”

Every small town has a story or two to tell. The story of the Hangbelly Ranch has been off the radar for some time. While waiting at the service station for a tire to be fixed, I still find myself answering the question, “Hey, what’s that place up there have out in the field? It looks like a cross between a buffalo, a cow, and a gazelle.”

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, November 2007, Kevin Duling

Farm bill falters

Congress will adjourn for its Thanksgiving holiday recess without passing a farm bill. A vote this morning to end debate on the bill failed. Now the political rhetoric coming out of the Senate hints that maybe the 2007 Farm Bill will have to wait until after the 2008 elections. Click here for more on the story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No pictures, please

When various Capital Press employees headed to the Willamette Valley Ag Expo in Albany, Ore. this week, they were asked to share their impressions of the expo or a few anecdotes of their experiences there.

Photographer Mark Rozin said when he went on Tuesday to get pictures for this week’s newspaper, he found one of the expo visitors was a bit camera-shy, to say the least.

The guy declined any photos, as he pointed out that if his wife saw a picture of him in our newspaper this week, we probably would see his obituary in the newspaper not long after.

It seems the guy didn’t tell his wife he was headed to the expo that day … and he wasn’t keen on her finding out.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chile earthquake triggers memories

The news that a major earthquake of magnitude 7.7 has hit Chile triggered memories of a visit I had there in 1996, as part of a Rotary Group Study Exchange.

My group of four other people and I had visited several of the places mentioned by the media, including Calama, Antofagasta, Santiago, and even the Chuquicamata copper mine, the largest open pit copper mine in the world.

We visited several other places, and I recall people talking about past earthquakes. At one farmyard near Vina del Mar, the owner of the house showed me several places where the house had huge patched cracks down the exterior of the house. He shrugged as he explained that whenever the house shook from an earthquake, they patched the walls, and continued on. It was considered a part of life.

In the area close to today’s earthquake, it’s a barren landscape. The world’s driest desert, the Atacama desert, is near the area. Rain falls in some areas there once every 400 years or so; grass and trees are almost nonexistent in yards, and many people there have never enjoyed the fresh scent of rain. High up in the mountains and among the sleeping volcanoes, glistens sand dunes that shift and grow, instead of snow and glaciers.

So why do people live there? In places like Calama, the majority of the people have ties to the large copper mine, which produces more than five percent of the total world copper production. Antofagasta is an important port city that also has a lot of connections to the mines in the northern part of Chile.

Statistics are still being gathered about how many people died in today’s earthquake, but I’ve always been wary about numbers in these cases.

In one of the Chilean cities we visited, one of the Rotarians took a few of our group higher up the hills looking over his city. He explained the poorer you are, usually the higher you lived up in the hills.

Cautiously he drove us to one place in particular. He stopped the car along the shoulder of the road, and turned towards us, gesturing to his left and right. He wanted us to see here was clearly a dividing line between the middle class residents and the very poorest of the city’s inhabitants.

On the left, there were dusty, dirt roads; homes were made of whatever people could find — sheets of tin, plywood, cardboard. Some didn’t have roofs since it rained so seldom there. Most of the homes had no utilities.

Meanwhile, on the right side of the road was the beginning of the middle class and even upper class neighborhoods. Paved roads, better structured homes, vehicles, better-dressed people: it was like night and day on the two sides of the street.

On the right side there was another thing that stood out: A high wall ran for quite a distance. A dividing line.

As our host explained, the wall had a purpose even more sinister than to divide the classes. The wall was also supposed to separate the two classes when disasters hit.

Rain came very seldom in that area, but when it came there usually were flash floods of tumbling mud that swept from the mountains and quickly hit the first people in its path: the poor people.

During one particularly bad flood, the mess of the slums and its trapped inhabitants were pushed into the nicer neighborhoods and caused an even greater toll of life and property damage.

The people in the city decided the wall would serve as a barricade, to protect the richer people from floods hitting them. Rather than try to protect the slums from the mud and rushing water, the wall was built to stop future muddy floods of poor people and their meager possessions from slamming into the nicer homes.

If that wasn’t enough to make a person question priorities in society, there was another fact that was even more sobering.

We were told that when the disaster had hit and swept the slums into the other neighborhoods, the government statistics that were given to the outside world did not count the poor people. Only the richer people, those to the right of where the wall now stood, were considered worth counting. So, untold numbers of poor people died but no one was certain how many — and the world never heard about them.

Surely within the last decade things have changed. Surely life is more treasured there now and even the poor are counted in those official, horrible statistics about tragedies.

But deep down inside, I realize that even if the propaganda wall has been dismantled, the physical wall probably still stands there — and unfortunately, it probably isn’t the only city building such walls to separate the unwanted in society.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Our first official video story

Freelancer Jacqui Krizo was kind enough to shoot some video for a story she is working on for Capital Press and send it along. She did such a good job with it that we rushed to get it posted. We'll add more details, but check it out.

CP will be at Willamette Valley Ag Expo

The Willamette Valley Ag Expo starts today in Albany, Ore. and during the next few days several of our staff will be visiting the show.

We have people from our editorial, advertising and circulation departments, as well as our publisher Mike O’Brien, spending some time there. People are invited to visit our booth and chat with any of our friendly staff there or if you see us wandering through the buildings.

Anyone who wishes to learn more about the show can check out stories in our special section (go to and click on the Willamette Valley Ag Expo link on the left side menu or click here).

The organizers of the show are optimistic that there will be a good turnout of farmers, they’ll find the machinery they want, and a lot of business will be done with dealers. Fortunately, the weather has decided to cooperate today for the opening day of the show — yesterday’s storm has blown through, leaving some people in Washington and Oregon cleaning up fallen tree branches and still waiting for power to be restored.

If any of our blog readers attend the WVAE show within the next three days, let us know what you thought of it. We welcome your feedback.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Winds whip West

It was a dark and stormy night. And next day.

Wind advisories and warnings, and now some storm warnings, have been issued here in the West, especially along the coast, where meteorologists have warned estimated winds could reach gusts of 60-85 mph.

Our freelance cartoonist Rik Dalvit, up in Bellingham, Wash., phoned early this morning to let us know the power was already out in his area before the worst of the storm was supposed to hit.

Dalvit estimated the winds were already gusting up to 85 mph there, and described the wild ocean view he saw outside his window, with the huge ocean waves and high spray. He said he felt it was like being in a hurricane, and no wonder: Category One hurricanes have sustained winds of 74-95 mph, so his area could possibly be experiencing wind gusts in that range.

The National Weather Office has also warned that waves up to 31 feet high could be experienced along some areas of the coast between Cape Lookout and Point St. George.

Dalvit apologized that his cartoons would be later than usual because of the storm. With the power outage, his office is too dark to work in.

There are probably others who are facing similar challenges of not being able to do their jobs because of electricity failures or other wind-related problems.

If you or someone you know has been affected by the adverse weather, please let us know so we can share your story.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Do you read the numbers?

Some members for the Capital Press staff, mostly some of us who work in the newsroom, are going to be calling on our readers to help us figure out how to tailor what we do to fit them best.

So we will literally be picking up the phones talk to subscribers in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California to talk turkey — and hay, cattle, milk, grains, etc. Specifically we are going to be asking them questions about our Markets pages, where we print information about various commodity prices each week. (Read more about what's behind this effort in this week's column by Managing Editor Carl Sampson.) If you are a Capital Press reader, you can help us out too if you like. Here are the questions we will be asking. If you want to participate, you can do so by answering the questions below and sending them to me via e-mail.

Capital Press Market Reports Survey

Are you a subscriber to the Capital Press? (If not, how often do you read Capital Press?)

Do you read the Market reports in the Capital Press?

Which ones?

Do you get Market reports from our website,, or other Internet sources?

Which ones?

Do you use them in addition to the market reports printed in the Capital Press or instead of them?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most important and 1 being not important at all, how important to you are the Market reports printed in the Capital Press?

Do you have any suggestions for improving the Capital Press?

Steer clear of Fed inflation forecast

According to the Fed, inflation was minimal in the first quarter of the year. One financial analyst was a bit worried about the price of commodities. He stated how food prices could rise in relation to the demand pull for ethanol, relating to the cost of finishing an animal.

Many rural families have the luxury of growing their own beef for their own consumption. The price to raise your own animal, plus the quality of food which is achievable, are two of the advantages these families can enjoy. Nothing spells happiness to a man like having a freezer full of beef.

Out of curiosity, I decided to figure out the price of beef per pound in raising our own. We do not have our own mother cows, so the purchase price of a steer is our first cost, at roughly $500. We will typically have to feed at least half a ton of hay during the winter, so let’s add $75 to that.

Fly spray, salt, minerals, and various small vet items will maybe add another $25, bringing your total to $600 for a finished beef. There are some hidden expenses, I’ve noticed, that can add up really fast.

First, to purchase a steer, one has to visit an auction. This can get expensive. To get the accurate cost of beef per pound, I believe I would have to add the cost of the goat, the pig, and the donkey I felt sorry for and also purchased. Had I not been shopping for a steer, these three critters would still be at the auction and not in my yard.

Secondly, I do not own a trailer, so I had to hire someone to bring these to my house. For some reason, the steers I pick out always seem to be really good deals until I get them home. I believe elk would struggle keeping up with these bovines, so we can add the cost of fixing the corral to that list too.

Having your ranch next to a bird farm is not necessarily a good thing. The lure of irrigated corn patches in a desert is more than an average steer can bear, so we’ll add the price of a corn patch or two.

Lastly, corn can make a steer feel really energetic, so let’s add the cost of a satellite dish, a water faucet, my yard fence, and a septic tank, all found in my yard. Whatever the price, it will be nice having this steer in the freezer.

After cutting and wrapping, the total price per pound on a home-raised beef steer is only $10.50 per pound. Who in their right mind would ever buy beef at a supermarket?

I did a similar exercise on the cost of elk meat per pound. Hunting and fishing is a sure bet at keeping your food costs down. Why, a hunting license only runs $43.50. Add some ammo, a tag, and maybe a few camping supplies and the cost couldn’t be too bad could it?

We do tend to eat a little more than normal while elk camping. The price of fuel is higher now and you can’t just use cheap bullets. New water proof boots and clothing must be purchased at least every other year, toilet paper is a large necessity, and the new tax deductible chainsaw is a must for any elk hunter.

Let us not forget the trailer we have to buy to camp in, plus the full size gas grill every elk camp should have. Sometimes it rains or snows while elk hunting, so a wall tent must be purchased to allow more room for drying clothes. Lastly, a winch to haul the elk out of the canyon is needed.

The running total on a pound of elk meat is now at $150.75 per pound in the event that we actually get one. The Fed seems to be off a bit. I think inflation is becoming a bit of a problem. Who can afford to eat with these kinds of prices?

I think I will take up fishing. All I need is a pole and some bait, right?

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted every Friday on the Capital Press blog. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, November 2007, Kevin Duling

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Country Music Association performances were refreshing

So … what did people think of the Country Music Association winners last night?

Anyone from a farm background has to appreciate the lyrics of some of the country music songs being recorded each year. There are songs that make us laugh, cry, reminisce or be proud of who we are and what we do.

One of the things that stood out during the evening is the incredible amount of talent there is in the country music industry:

There are the familiar faces who have performed for several decades, like Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait, 55, still winning awards … and new stars such as Taylor Swift — born in 1989, and playing since she was 12 —who won the Horizon award.

Perhaps some of the most stunning performances were the simplest ones last night, where the performers stood on stage with perhaps only a microphone and one guitar player, allowing the voice and passion of the singer to hold the audience spellbound.

In an age where many performers like loud noise, gimmicks and wild lighting to capture attention of their fans, it’s refreshing and very effective to return to the roots of good music.

* * * *

Does it bug anyone else that anytime there’s some national entertainment show that is supposed to have suspense, people from the rest of the country forget us in the West and our time zone?

A couple of examples: the Country Music Association awards last night, and the Next Great American Band competition.

If you don’t want to know who the winners are in the CMAs and which bands lost in the band competition, then you better not go on their websites until after you finished watching your television shows on the West coast.

Because … whoever does the websites for those shows decided to post the results an hour or more before we find out the final results here.

Mind you, this works great if you wish to annoy friends and family.

“Hey, want to know who wins that category…?”

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Capital Press website trouble

We're still experiencing technical difficulties with our website, thanks to problems originating with our Website provider. The problem is being worked on, but we're not sure exactly when our website will be trouble-free.

However, we're crossing our fingers and hoping that the problem can still be resolved later today.

On the bright side, tomorrow people should have our latest newspaper in their mailboxes so they can get their latest dose of ag news and ads from the West.

Thanks, everyone, for your patience.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Don’t have a (falling) cow, man

It behooves me to milk this story for bad puns ... stop me if you herd this cliffhanger (well, jumper…)

I guess you could say this couple in an AP story was hit by a mooooooooving target.
It's too bad the couple weren't able to steer away from trouble.

It’s grate they weren’t injured, but they were a bit cheesed off that this happened on their anniversary.

Guess the lesson is a cow may have jumped over the moon ... but it sure can't clear a minivan.

* * * * *

(The above has been my humble contributions to the comedy world since I realize many people are going through withdrawal symptoms because their favorite sitcoms and late night talk shows are on reruns because of the Hollywood writers’ strike.)

Which leads me to … the top 10 reasons why people are concerned about how long the strike might go on …

10) They might find out the judges and hosts of shows like Dancing with the Stars are reduced to Stumbling with Words.

9) Television commercials about personal hygiene products start to appear wittier than sitcom dialogues.

8) What is introduced as the precious lost episodes of various late night talk shows look suspiciously like C-Span recordings from 2002.

7) Stephen Colbert might decide he needs a day job and announces a run for presidency in states other than South Carolina. This time, the political parties decide to accept his offer and earnestly begin fundraising.

6) After shock and denial during the first few days of the strike, avid television fans decide they must be brave — they seek life beyond their sofas and remotes. They stumble into the streets and discover they have neighbors that are three-dimensional. Who knew?

5) Radio talk shows enjoy a sudden spike in “first time callers, first time listeners” who wish to discuss their passionate dislike of the new plots of daytime soap operas and how they think the new plot writers should mysteriously disappear (stay tuned for details.)

4) Without the distraction of their favorite television shows, Americans begin to pay more serious attention to Iraq and learn that Osama hasn’t been caught yet. Neighborhood vigilante groups are formed to tackle the problem, as well as clean up their local parks.

3) Without late night talk show comedians giving them their political commentaries of the day’s events, people actually begin to watch the news to hear firsthand what the politicians say in Washington, D.C. Long-term therapy will be later needed.

2) The food industry reports a catastrophic drop in junk food consumption by consumers; fortunately, beer sales remain healthy thanks to people attempting to numb themselves to the sports show anchors … who continue their endless banter on players giving 110 percent, the team scoring the most will win the game, and how everyone is in a win-win situation except those who lose.

1) And finally … People desperate for humor turn to our humble blog, and Blogriculture develops a cult following … Or, on days we write about falling cows, a cowlt following.

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Please stand by ... for Capital Press website

In the old days of television, if there was a problem there would be flashed on the screen something about "technical difficulties, please stand by."

Diligently we'd stand by, unless, of course, we were sitting on our cozy sofas waiting for the television station to resume service. In the days of not many channels, we didn't really have a choice at times.

Unfortunately, in the fast, exciting world of the Internet when we as an information provider have problems, it can be aggravating to us as well as our customers when something affects our Website.

The challenge is how to let people know there's a problem, and how to encourage them to be patient with us — and hopefully return to surfing our site later.

We want to post breaking news and news updates, especially the day after elections have been held in several states and as the 2007 Farm Bill continues to be debated in Washington, D.C.

However, anyone trying to access our website today (and perhaps yesterday) may have had delays or been unable to open our site pages.

We weren't the only newspaper to experience this. It ends up being a problem with our website provider, who handles our newspaper and other clients. Seems we've been hit by those awful "bots" again ... automatic search engine programs that crawl through the Internet and pop in and out of sites so they can create an index of what they found on sites.

They can sometimes overwhelm the sites and not allow other traffic through. Occasionally companies get hit with these, despite best efforts to block the sometimes malicious attacks.

Anyway, out internet provider is working on the problem and hopes to have it resolved perhaps later today.

Until then, please stand (sit) by...

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Congress' vision impaired by corn-fed intoxication

Update, 1:29 p.m., Nov. 6, 2007: A story has just been posted on reporting that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has dropped the idea of adding AgJOBS as an amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill.
The 2007 Farm Bill is expected to be debated this week on the floor of the U.S. Senate. A lot of commodity groups have high hopes that their interests will be reflected in the bill that comes out of the Senate, and their fingers crossed that their agenda will be carried through the conference committee to resolve difference between the House and Senate version of the bill.

From a West Coast perspective, I am not overly optimistic that this region's interest will be adequately reflected in the final bill. Let's face it, the farm bill and agriculture policy are dominated by the Midwest, where corn, soybean and wheat predominate. That' doesn't bode well for growers who crow other stuff to get heard over the clamor of Midwest grain interests.

All agriculture is not the same. I learned that lesson dramatically when I accepted a job some years back to be editor of a newspaper in a farming community in California's San Joaquin Valley. One of the attractions of the job in Porterville, Calif., was that is was in an agrarian community. On the surface, it reminded me of the places I grew up, the farming communities of the Nebraska panhandle and Eastern Oregon. But it didn't take me long re realize the farming done there -- like dairy, citrus, olives, tablegrapes, walnuts and almonds -- was quite different than the row crops and cattle ranches I was familiar with from my youth.

The big jolt came one December, when temperatures in the generally mild region dipped below freezing and it essentially wiped out the navel orange crop, for which harvest had just begun.


In December.

Where I came from, farmers were spending December in a virtual agricultural hibernation (unless they had cattle to feed). December was a time for conferences, vacations, working on equipment in a heated shop perhaps, but not harvest.

I found out I had a lot to learn about my new hometown during that climatically and economically chilly winter, and I had a lot to learn about California agriculture too. That was almost a decade ago now, and I'm still learning a lot abut California agriculture and agriculture elsewhere in the West.

In this year, before a presidential election, with a Midwest dominated ag policy machine, I doubt we will see a lot of inspired innovation to come out of the 2007 Farm Bill debate. If if were a political betting man, I would wager that, AgJOBS, which is seen as vital to many agriculture regions and which gets to the heart of the immigration debate the nation has been begging Congress to address, won't be a part of the 2007 Farm Bill. Congress doesn't seem to have the strength or the stomach to act on it now. Immigration and border security concerns are the type of stuff that makes for good stump speeches for politicians, but isn't the sort of stuff politicians want to risk their political life on so close to an election because no matter what action is taken on that issue, it will tick someone off. And besides, AgJOBS just isn't as important to the corn and soybeans crowd.

Corn is king, even more so now in the age of ethanol intoxication. Expect Congress to overindulge on corn squeezin' and huggin' as it has for decades and leave most of West Coast ag, including the No. 1 agriculture state -- California -- to continue to fend for itself.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Capital Press Manager in Second Heaven over Skycraper Sales

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After presiding over record internet sales at Capital Press, Sales Manager Greg Hains seems ready to put his feet up; or so it seemed this Halloween 2007. "Life is good on Capital Press Island Mon ", says Hains who is looking forward to ever increasing successes from, and domains.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Early reviews less than glowing for Bush's ag secretary nominee

Is President Bush's nominee for secretary of agriculture, former North Dakota governor Ed Schafer, a good choice for western farmers and ranchers?

Most West Coast growers wold probably prefer to see someone from west of the Rockies in there, as U.S. agriculture policy already has a decidedly Midwestern slant.

Schafer, as an unconfirmed nominee, probably won't have much influence on action on the 2007 Farm Bill, which is currently warming up in the bullpen in the Senate.

But here's some of the reaction to Schafer's nomination circulating online:

Philip Brashear, a Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Des Moines Register shares some insight into what the relationship between Schafer and Senate ag committee chairman Tom Harkin may be like. In Brashear's blog post, it is apparent that Harkin isn't overwhelmed with Bush's choice.

"Nuke Gingrich" over at Nuke's News and Views credentials, but does point out the nominee's , didn't have anything to say about Schafer's resemblance to a Montana rancher who made a name for himself down Atlanta way.

Rob over at Say Anything Blog, comments that Schafer should be ag secretary, at least in part because of a comment he attributes to radio talk show host Ed Schultz, who took issue Schafer apparently.

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