Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Satisfaction of Harvest

   Those are what we call cotton modules at the end of the field. The cotton picker dumps the seed cotton into the module builder and the cotton is packed into what look like giant loaves eight feet wide, eight feet high and thirty two feet long. These are covered and later hauled to the gin. They sure look pretty lined up there at sunrise. If you put out modules end to end we would have a wall of seed cotton almost half a mile long.
   We have finished first picking, but we are far from done. The next few weeks we are still very busy. We will second pick the cotton, then work the ground and plant our wheat. It's go, go, go and then we slow down to full speed. 

The Satisfaction of Harvest
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright September, 2012

                  You have heard me whimper and whine about a lot of farming and how tough it is. Sorry about that. This morning I want to talk about the satisfaction of farming. There is nothing like bringing in a good harvest: seeing the picker fill up p with cotton, seeing the wheat pouring into the trucks, seeing the almonds being swept up and shipped off. The satisfaction of a productive year’s work. That’s good stuff.
            Unlike many people farmers don’t see the daily result of their work. Right now we are waiting to see how this year’s cotton crop will turn out. We started working the ground last Fall. We planted in April. We have been tending the fields all summer, but we won’t know how it will turn out until next month.
            But, all that waiting has a payoff. I love Fall weather. It’s cool and crisp after the oven heat of the summer. And then we fire up the pickers and head into the field.

We still have work to do and bills to pay. But, there is a real sense of satisfaction seeing how the year’s work turned out.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pickin' Cotton

            I don’t take my blood pressure during cotton harvest. I might break the cuff. It can be a little nerve wracking.

-There is the anticipation of bringing a season’s worth of work. How did we do? Will we pay the bills?

-There is the worry about the weather. The first few seasons I was up here it rained all Fall. Picking in the rain is a mess. That introduction to cotton picking makes me jump this time of year even when the weather man says everything is OK.

-Will the equipment hold together? G. Gordon Liddy was a former Marine. He described a helicopter as “ten thousand nuts and bolts trying to go in different directions at the same time.” That is a good description of  a cotton picker too. All it takes is one broken bolt and everything comes to a crashing halt.

With all that, we are off to a good start. Warm dry weather is perfect for cotton harvest. The first day was a little slow as we got the wrinkles out. There have been a couple of little heart attacks. But, we will finish the first field on Monday. But, when we finished planting in April Ruben said, “We’re done planting. Now you can relax.” I told him I can’t relax until the last bale is picked and ginned. There are just too many things that go wrong.

Just a reminder- my new book, “this Week on the Farm is now at the Clovis Book Barn.

I hope you all have a great week. I’m going to take a nap tomorrow afternoon and back in the field on Monday.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

My Two Cents on the 2014 Water Bond

   Well, I blew a great opportunity for a picture. We went to a wine grape stomp this evening. Sheryl and I got into the vat and stomped. Don't worry, we washed our feet. What I forgot was to take a picture of my meet in the grapes. Doggone it. You'll have to use your imagination.

On the farm- we are waiting for the cotton to defoliate. It is waaaay ahead of schedule. I set the schedule for October 15th. It is turning so fast I told Ruben that we need to get the equipment ready for the 8th. We will take a good look at the fields Monday and see if we are ready to go.

I'll tell you how that goes next week. Meanwhile I will share my two cents on the Water Bond on next month's ballot. Spoiler alert- I am not impressed with the choices our friends in Sacramento have left us with. OK, that is not a real big surprise is it?

2014 Water Bond: Hold Your Nose and Vote
by Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright October 2014

“The big idea is that the future of California needs a lot of water”

                                                                               Gov. Jerry Brown
                                                                                    August 8, 2014

            Because of the failure of our friends in Sacramento ‘We the People’ get to vote on a water bond in November. Instead of doing their job they have left us with a tough decision: Do we borrow even more money to expand the state water system?  Or, do we continue to strangle our farms and cities?

Conservation Will Never Be Enough-
            There are those who say we can conserve our way out of our problems. There is no doubt we must always be careful with our natural resources, such as water. The fact that or cities lose 10% of their water supply due to leaky pipes and infrastructure is, at the very least, an embarrassment. You would consider me a poor farmer if I wasted ten percent of my water. That being said, we can never conserve our way out of this problem. As the governor says, “the big idea is that the future of California needs a lot of water.” There are more people in California every year. While we can use more climate appropriate landscaping there are still basic food and sanitation needs for our population.

Storage, Finally-
            In the new water bond there is $2.5 Billion for water new reservoirs-finally. Please see my previous comments on population growth. There are those who fight new reservoir construction. They have their heads in the sand. As Governor Brown says, “The big idea is that the future of California needs a lot of water.” There are people in California every year. Our farms and our cities need a stable water supply.

Water Pork? Probably.

       Assemblyman, and former gubernatorial candidate, Tim Donnelly of Southern California calls the water bond, “Gov. Brown’s Payoff to the Enviro-extremists.” Perhaps. He adds, Proposition #1 isn’t a water infrastructure bond, it’s nothing more than a $7.12 Billion payoff to the enviro-extremists who control natural resources in California. What else do you call it when over 50% of the money is being used to fund the daily operations of those agencies whose goal is deny every drop of water to agriculture and industry in our state so that the fish can flourish while the farmers die?” That’s a fair question. But, this is the choice we have to make.


            Is this bond that bad? Well, there is a lot of money that does not go to storage and does go to pet projects. Not all of these projects are pork. We can improve conservation,  and that is a good thing, even if it will not solve all of our problems.

But, the reality is that this is the best deal we are going to get. There is $3.5 Billion less pork than the water bond Schwarzenegger was able to negotiate. There is $2.5 Billion for new water storage. In the midst of an epic drought folks in our cities and in Southern California are finally paying attention. If we do not pass this bond we will have lost the opportunity of a generation.

We Are Left with an Imperfect Choice
            This is another example of why we are warned not to watch legislation or sausage being made. It is an ugly process. I am not 100% happy with the water bond. But, I figured out a long time ago it is not a perfect world. I have gotten to the point where I don’t vote for many bonds because I am concerned about debt. To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke, “Giving more money and power to politicians is like giving alcohol and car keys to teenagers.” But, now is the time and this is our choice. If we do not pass this bond what we have seen this year will become the new normal: farm land fallow and dried up yards. We deserve better. California deserves better.

Brown, Jerry

Donnely, Tim

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Playing With My Food

Playing with My Food
By Paul H. Betancourt
Copyright February 2013
                  My personal cook book is a white binder with a label on the side that reads, “Playing with My Food.” It is full of recipes from friends and family, or torn from newspapers and magazines.
            The label is an expression of how I approach cooking---it’s fun! I know cooking can be drudgery. Occasionally I get stumped too. At the end of long day I want to flop on the sofa and eat something hot and quick out of the microwave. But, food can be soooo much more than that. Wow, in our day and age we have more ingredients, recipes and tools than ever before.
            Of course, not everything I try works. Some of my culinary disaster are legendary. I still don’t have a recipe for Buffalo chicken wings I like. But, the experiments have been really tasty. That’s why I call it ‘Playing with My Food.’

            My goal in cooking is to make things simple to prepare. No twenty seven step sauces for this boy. I also try to make food that is tasty and good for you. It takes a lot of playing with my food to meet goals like that.

Here my recipe for the pasta salad in the photo above-

Paul’s Pasta Salad

4 cups whole wheat fusilli pasta
½ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds
½ pint grape tomatoes 9sliced in half)
1 stalk of celery
¼ cup Greek pepperoncini
¼ cup Kalamata olives
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes
¼ red pepper
¼ yellow pepper
½ red onion
salt and pepper to taste
1TBS balsamic vinegar
2TBS garlic infused olive oil

The above is one of the pieces from my book, "This Week on the Farm." Available on and soon to be in a bookstore near you.