| Farmland Partners unveils $197m land purchase – and plans for more

The group takes its portfolio of US land nearly to 100,000 acres – in a deal which will provide collateral for funding for more acquisitions

Source: | Farmland Partners unveils $197m land purchase – and plans for more

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to start to become worried about this trend. Farmland Partners is just one of dozens of investment companies buying up enormous amounts of farmland. Not to farm it themselves, but to turn around and rent it at the highest prices they can possibly get.

Given the volatility of the stock, bond and commodities markets, and the ridiculously low interest rates being paid by banks for standard savings accounts, the desire to invest in a fairly stable and relatively profitable venture like farmland is understandable. Farmland values do fluctuate, true, but not nearly as wildly as stocks and commodities. Compared to those ventures, farmland seems a fairly safe investment.

And a potentially profitable one because the land doesn’t just sit there, it gets rented for as much as $200 – $500 an acre, depending on local demand.

But I get very nervous when I see more and more farmland being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer owners, especially investment companies who have no vested interest in preserving the long term quality of the land, and only in making a return on investment. This practice makes it increasingly difficult for real farmers who want to get into the business to get started. Land has become so expensive in many parts of the country that it’s difficult or even impossible for a small start up farm to get off the ground without having the backing of outside investors.

Even worse, because the holding companies are going to charge the maximum rent they possibly can, those who can afford to rent the land are going to be forced to engage in the most intensive, potentially damaging, high chemical input farming techniques they can in order to maximize their own profits. This results not just in increased pollution from fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide run off, but also results in the degradation of the quality of the land and it’s fertility, causing even further reliance on intensive chemical intervention to continue to get the best yields.

Is this legal? Yeah. It is. At least in most states. Some states have restrictions on the amount of farmland that can be owned by out of state investors, but over the years those laws have been changed or even eliminated to permit companies like Farmland Partners to move in and take over. And I can understand the attraction. I own a fairly big stock portfolio, and the volatility of the market often makes me more than a little nervous. Farmland seems a far more stable, if a bit less profitable, investment for a lot of people.

While it may be legal and understandable, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Personally I feel the adverse effects of these companies; the artificial inflation of land prices, potential degradation of farmland, etc. outweighs the benefits.

So this, apparently, is what all the hype has been about at Tumblr

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This thing, the fourth from the left, the weird blobby thing that looks like some kind of mutated Pac-Man ghost. That’s it. That’s why Tumblr has pissed off about half of it’s users, pushed thousands of people to start looking for alternative blogging systems and social networks…

What is it? A messenger service. That’s all. You can send a message to someone.

Ooo, be still my pounding heart! Oh, the excitement! Oh, my blood pressure! Oh brother…

Yes, the staff at Tumblr is wetting their collective knickers over — over what, exactly? A brain dead, featureless and totally useless rethread of Instant Messenger or ICQ straight out of the 1990s… For this they alienated tens of thousands of users. For this the removed the “reply/comment” function…

Oh, come on… Seriously, are they deliberately trying to kill the service? If that’s their goal, just do it. Don’t just whittle away changing features, removing features, becoming increasingly annoying until you end up as another MySpace (remember them?) 

Tumblr Driving Me Nuts

Tumblr is well known for pulling crap on it’s users. Crap like drastically altering the way it works without bothering to tell anyone what the hell it’s doing.

We’re going through that now over there. They recently pulled the comment/reply function, making it difficult if not impossible to comment on or reply to postings by other people without re-blogging the entire post.

Since a lot of people over there, including me, enjoy the interaction of the comments system, like getting feedback and comments form people, we’re more than a little irritated.

Tumblr says ‘big changes’ are coming. Well, so far the ‘big changes’ have been the introduction of a brain dead, barely functional instant messaging system that no one wanted and no one cares about, along with the removal of the ‘comments’ functions.

Tumblr says comments are coming back ‘real soon now’, but it’s been a week or more now, and with no announcements, and not even the support staff able to tell us what the hell is going on, well, we’re jumping ship.

A lot of us are moving off Tumblr to alternative services.

Me? I’ve had in place for ages now. I started the site because of the last time Tumblr ticked me off with something they did. But things changed over there, and I missed the old crowd over there, and I’ve been spending most of my time there.

But now… This may be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m so tired of Tumblr ignoring what the users want, failing to respond to questions, and taking a ‘the hell with you, we’re going to do whatever we want’ attitude.

So watch this space. I’ll be posting more and varied material here in the near future, and possibly abandon Tumblr entirely.

New Addition to the Shack

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I’m retiring the Kenwood TX-2000 from VHF/UHF duty, and got a new Yaesu FTM-400R/DE to take it’s place.

While the Kenwood is a great piece of equipment and extremely versatile, it does have it’s limitations. It works well on VHF/UHF but scanning is painfully slow, when it’s on an active frequency, it doesn’t stay there, it just briefly stops and then continues to scan, and if I haven’t been watching the display, I have no idea what the active frequency was.

The 400 is just far more convenient to use than the 2000 for VHF/UHF. More functions specific to those bands, better scanning capabilities, APRS support and all kinds of other goodies, and it’s a transceiver I’m familiar with since I’ve had one in the Jeep since last summer.

It’s been interesting, though. According to the manual, I should be able to just drop a micro SD card into the radio, back it up to the card, then take the card, plug it into a different radio, and download the setup and memory into the new rig. Basically creating a clone of the original radio. The idea was I could do a backup of the radio in the Jeep, pull the card, drop it into the new 400, and transfer all of the programming into the new one and save myself the effort of having to program it.

Doesn’t work. Oh, it’ll back itself up to an SD card, but you can’t transfer that card to a different radio and load the data into it. It will only read the backup data that it wrote itself.

The radios can ‘clone’ each other, but that would involve pulling the 400 out of the Jeep, bringing it in the house, getting a cloning cable, hooking it up to a power supply, connecting them together, doing the clone, then disconnecting everything and reinstalling it back in the Jeep…

No way… That would have taken probably half a day of messing around outside, with a wind chill down around -25.

So I did it the old fashioned way. I got out my list of repeaters and just programmed the thing. It took a while, but it also gave me the opportunity to weed out the weird stuff that got programmed into the systems originally, like the duplicate entries, the repeaters that I’ll probably never get close enough to fiddle with, things like that.

The 2000 will go back to being an HF rig, I suspect, and held in backup for VHF/UHF work if the 400 goes down for some reason.

Catching up. Changes. Ham Radio Deluxe Yet Again

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I put anything up here at Grouchy Farmer. Things have been busy and I fear this blog has been a low priority item.

I probably shouldn’t have called this blog Grouchy Farmer because I fear there isn’t going to be much farm related stuff going up here. Mostly this is going to be about amateur radio from now on. People change, priorities change… The farm’s been sold. It was a purely economic decision. We got the proverbial ‘offer we couldn’t refuse’, and decided to get out while the price was high, and we’ve had no regrets.

Amateur radio, on the other hand, has been going hot and heavy over here. I got a new antenna up, and another is going to be set up as soon as the weather gets warmer. A 35 foot free standing tower is going to be going up this spring. For better or worse, I’m getting more and more involved in ARES and SkyWarn, and I’ve become the primary net control operator for both ARES and SkyWarn operations. More or less by default because no one else wants to do the job. Everyone else would rather be out in the field. Can’t really blame them, of course. Who wants to be stuck in a stuffy emergency communications center in the courthouse basement or in our communications trailer when you could be out in the field actually doing stuff?

I’ve also become the primary HF operator, also by default. Turns out there are only two people in the entire county organization who have a general class license or higher, me and Tom, and Tom got out of HF years ago, sold all of his HF gear and concentrates entirely on VHF and UHF. I’m the only one in the group who has HF gear any more.

But onwards! First, Ham Radio Deluxe…

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Well, here we go again. I’m giving HRD another chance. I was so frustrated with the last version I had that I deleted it from the computer, didn’t bother to renew my license and just forgot about it entirely, switching to the always reliable Fldigi.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because I’m trying again. I’m currently testing the latest release, 6.2.72. I also have a brand new laptop with way more horsepower, more memory, more everything, and Win 8.1, and I’m hoping that the new version, along with all new hardware, will finally make what should have been an amazing program, actually work.

Early results have been mixed, to say the least. It does seem more stable than the last version I was using. It hasn’t done anything to my 990, at least. The last version did — well, things. At least three times HRD screwed up my TS-990 so badly I ended up having to do a factory reset of the transceiver to get it working right. At least that hasn’t happened.

The program does a lot of really fun stuff. But it still has a major problem; it crashes. Usually at least once a session Rig Control just shuts down. Windows pops up with a ‘this program has stopped working’ message. That’s all. No errors, no warning, nothing. It just stops. Digital Master does the same, but not as frequently. It was especially irritating when I was trying to work a South Africa station this morning with PSK31 and DM just went away. No warning, no error message, nothing.

I really don’t know what to think any more. I love the access to the spotting networks, love the rig control system, like Digital Master… But it doesn’t do me a heck of a lot of good if it just — stops. I’ll do some more investigation. Maybe I’ll try hooking everything up to the TS-2000 and see if the same problems crop up with that transceiver.

Amplifier Issues  — I’ve got a new off center fed dipole up in the backyard that can handle the output of my amps, so I’m finally able to play with those down on HF. I’ve got two, both Ameritrons. One is the big, massive tube type monster that puts out enough heat to keep the shack warm even in a blizzard, and the other is a sleek, svelte, 1,200 watt solid state unit. As soon as I got the solid state amp the boat anchor, with much grunting (the bloody thing weighs around 100 lbs), it got shoved under the desk and the 1200 took it’s place. All was working well, until I noticed my signal strength on receive was going down and down and down… threw the amp into bypass mode, turned the transceiver power down to 5 watts and briefly keyed the mic and to make a long story short all my meters were telling me I didn’t have an antenna connected to the rig. Oops…

A half hour later I’d narrowed it down. I’m about 95% sure it’s the antenna connector on the amp, and I think I know what happened. I’m using 3 or 4 foot long LMR-400 jumpers to connect the amp and tuner and transceiver together. Certainly major overkill. But I got a 500 foot spool of the stuff sitting in the corner and I was darned if I was going to spend perfectly good money on buying cable when I already got that and all I have to do is whack a hunk off, put some connectors on it, and go.

The problem is LMR-400 is really, really stiff. It’s about as flexible as soft copper water pipe. Not a big deal if you’re really careful and pre-bend it before you connect it. Well I wanted to move the amp. What I should have done was disconnect the LMR, move the amp, bend the LMR into the right position and then reconnect it. I didn’t. I just moved the amp, putting a great deal of strain on the connector, and something popped, probably a solder joint inside the connector. So first chance I get I’m going to have to take out the five zillion (approx) screws holding the cover on the thing and see what’s going on.

I haven’t been in any great hurry to fix it because I rarely use the amplifiers. On HF I mostly run PSK31 and other digital modes, and almost never operate at more than 75 watts. About the only thing I want the amps for is getting on the ARES state wide nets down on 75 meters. And I’m hoping that with the new dipole replacing the old Comet vertical, I should be able to cover those even when running just 200 watts.

Enough… First I don’t write anything for months, then I try to cram too much into a single post… Pacing… Need to learn pacing…