Hot, muggy weather returned to my realm this past weekend, and with it came an abundance of wildlife.
Yesterday, while spending the day with Daughter No. 4, we caught four turtles, one rat snake, one glass lizard, wildflowers galore, and, the highlight of the day, a baby turkey, or poult.
(Of course, we rang up a big fat zero on the day’s stated goal: catching fish.)
Now, no offense to aficionados of turtles, snakes or glass lizards, but catching the baby turkey was definitely the highlight.
While driving in a rural part of a rural county toward mid-afternoon we spied a hen on the side of the road. My daughter also caught sight of several youngsters, so I stopped the car and set off into the underbrush while she grabbed the camera.
The hen immediately began clucking and trotting in large circles around me, trying to draw me away from her babies. My daughter began taking pictures every time the hen ventured near her while I crouched in the brush stock still, trying to catch sight or sound of the youngsters.
Water in several South Carolina rivers remains high after flooding reached levels unseen in a quarter-century.
A combination of a wet spring and heavy rains earlier this month pushed several rivers over their banks, including the Broad River, which had risen at least 15 feet when I visited it last week.
Normally, in the scene shown above, rocks are visible, turtles, river otter and fish are readily evident, and the foundations of a train bridge destroyed during the War Between the States can be seen.
However, flooding, exacerbated by heavy rains in the northern part of the state, had pushed the river over its banks to a degree that metal picnic tables normally far out of reach of the river were barely above water.
Even more fascinating was an area approximately a mile to the west, the location of an abandoned rail bridge converted into a walking path over the past half decade.
For 98 percent of the year, a small stream approximately four feet across and a foot deep flows under the bridge, which is about 750 feet across.
On this day, the entire area under the bridge was flooded, up to 20 feet deep in places, and water was moving toward the Broad River, rather than simply being backed up by river overflow.
There’s something awe-inspiring about flooding, particularly when the water is on the move. Massive amounts of water cruising past at enhanced speeds can’t help but impress, especially when it’s laden with flotsam such as fallen trees.
Global cotton production for the coming year is expected to drop 4 percent, according to estimates by the US Department of Agriculture.
The projected decline is attributed to a significant reduction in Brazil, where the crop for the 2012-13 year is expected to fall by fully one-third.
Record soybean and corn prices, disease outbreak and erratic precipitation are expected to lower the crop in the central Brazilian states of Bahia and Mato Grosso, which together account for more than 80 percent of Brazil’s total annual cotton production, according to Southeast Farm Press.
In the US, production is expected to be slightly more than 17 million bales, which represents a 2 percent increase from the previous month’s USDA estimate and is 11 percent higher than the previous year’s crop, the publication added.
Worldwide, 2012-13 cotton production is estimated at nearly 120 million bales.
Global cotton stocks are expected to be significantly higher this year than last, the USDA also reported.
The Los Angeles Times’ take on the recent report that William Shakespeare didn’t like to pay taxes and sought to profit from an archaic form of commodities trading says as much about the Times’ view of the world as it does about life in Elizabethan-era England.
The Times picked up on a report from researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales that claims the Bard of Avon was a grain hoarder and was pursued by authorities for tax evasion.
Profits from his actions were channeled into real estate deals, enabling Shakespeare to become a large landowner.
The Times calls Shakespeare a conniving character, a tax dodger and a profiteer. What it fails to do is add some economic context to its story.
While focusing on claims that Shakespeare “a tax dodger who profiteered during times of famine,” the Times makes just a brief mention of the fact that there was no copyright laws in Shakespeare’s time, meaning he could expect no future royalties from his works.
Instead, the publication manages to whip up a little class envy while portraying the playwright as little more than a thug:
“By combining both illegal and legal activities, Shakespeare was able to retire in 1613 as the largest property owner in his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon,” according to the Times. “His profits – minus a few fines for illegal hoarding and tax evasion – meant he had a working life of just 24 years.”
The depth and breadth of the New York Times’ Disunion series never ceases to amaze. The articles focus on the War Between the States, but go far beyond examinations of battles and leaders, delving into an amazing array of topics, including the medical, legal and financial aspects of the 1861-65 period.
Recently, Disunion, which is written by a variety of historians, academics and other individuals knowledgeable on specific aspects of the war, focused on the ingenious concept of cotton bonds, financial instruments issued by the Confederacy in 1863.
In January of that year, the Confederate Congress secretly authorized bankers at the noted Paris-based financial house of Erlanger et Cie. to underwrite $15 million of Confederate bonds, to be denominated in British pounds or French francs.
“But unlike ordinary bonds backed only by the faith and credit of the issuing country, at the option of the holder an Erlanger certificate could be converted into a receipt for a pre-specified quantity of cotton,” Phil Leigh writes for Disunion.
This was important because Confederate currency was all but worthless in Europe at that point of the war.
The conversion rate for the cotton bonds was fixed at 12 cents a pound, regardless of the commodity’s market price, at the time about 48 cents. In addition, the bonds paid a 7 percent annual interest rate.
The perfume of longleaf pine pitch is one of the Southeast’s inherent charms.
The wonderful fragrance is particularly evident on hot summer days, evoking an aromatic reminder of an era when forests of Pinus palustris were found throughout the region, before clear-cutting reduced longleaf populations by more than 95 percent, to be replaced by faster growing pine species.
Today, about 3 million acres of longleaf pines remain in the region. The good news is the trees and their environment are making a slow but steady comeback.
“Many Southeastern landowners have converted parts of their farmland to use for contract hunting, fishing, camping and even bird-watching. The ecosystem supported by native longleaf pines fits perfectly into the business plan for such rural enterprises,” according to Southeast Farm Press.
In addition, timber from longleaf pines is very desirable because it tends to be long, straight and has tight growth rings, the publication added.
Not only does longleaf pine timber tend to bring a premium price compared to pines species such as the loblolly, but longleafs also produce a huge amount of pine straw, which can also be sold to help offset the costs associated with the latter’s longer growing period.
Longleaf ecosystems have other benefits, as well. These include being home to 26 federally listed endangered or threatened species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and flatwoods salamander.
Last year proved a solid one for nearly all cotton farmers except those in Texas and Oklahoma.
While states in the South and West registered overall harvest rates of 97 percent or better, Texas farmers lost 40 percent of their crop, more than 2.5 million acres, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Oklahoma growers planted a smaller amount of cotton than their counterparts in Texas, but lost nearly half their crop, hurt by drought conditions that hit the region.
Overall last year, 12.3 million acres of cotton were planted in the US, and 9.4 million acres were harvested, according to the USDA.
Texas farmers planted more than 6.5 million acres of cotton but were only able to harvest 3.9 million acres. And the yield was just 600 pounds per acre in the Lone Star State, off from the five-year average of 700 pounds.
In Oklahoma growers planted 305,000 acres but only harvested 140,000 acres. Yield per harvested acre was just 480 pounds, down from a five-year state average of 770 pounds.
The sing-song cry of the tobacco auctioneer – which wafted across Tobacco Road for decades but has been largely silent since 2004 – is beginning to be heard once again.
Auctioneers have become involved in the sale of the leafy crop for the first time in any size since the quota buyout of 2004, Southeast Farm Press reports.
“The average price was just under $2.02 per pound, very competitive with contract delivery stations,” the publication reported. “Many of the lots brought $2.20 a pound, also very high, and there were substantially no rejections of bids by farmers.”
This was the third year that Old Belt Tobacco Sales has conducted auctions in Rural Hall, 10 miles north of Winston-Salem, Southeast Farm Press added.
In 2010, the warehouse sold five million pounds, then 2.5 million pounds in 2011, when Hurricane Irene reduced the tobacco available.
Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it a handful of articles asserting that what ultimately saved the Plymouth Colony from failure was its willingness to embrace private-property rights.
The Café Hayek blog, however, is one of the few that actually makes an effort to identify the source behind that idea.
George Mason University professor Don Boudreaux uses as his source information taken from the Massachusetts Historical Society’s 1912 edition of William Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation:
To finance their voyage, the Pilgrims formed a joint stock company with London investors. At the investors’ insistence, the settlers agreed to pool output, land, capital, and profits during their first seven years abroad. From this “common stock,” residents of the colony were to receive food and other necessities, and at the end of the seven-year period, the land and other assets were to be “equally divided betwixt” the investors and the settlers. The colonists initially complied with the spirit of this contract. Although they planted household gardens almost from the start, they collectivized initial field and livestock operations. The setters had some agricultural successes, but they were unable to grow corn in their common field. Within six months of reaching Plymouth, almost one-half of the population had perished from disease.
The colony was founded in late 1620, but by 1624 the Plymouth colonists had deviated from investors’ plans and assigned each family from one to 10 acres, depending on the number of family members, according to Boudreaux.
The 2012 cotton season overall hasn’t been anything to brag about, but it’s also been nothing to weep over.
While the jury is still out on cotton for this year, from all reports the crop will be good but not spectacular, according to Southeast Farm Press.
The Southeast enjoyed good growing conditions for much of the year, and Texas rebounded nicely from last year’s disaster. However, heat and drought impacted other cotton-growing areas such as Oklahoma.
Production costs have continued to rise, however, and uncertainty in world stocks has kept prices down.
In Texas, the nation’s largest cotton-growing state, the US Department of Agriculture is predicting that the 2012 cotton crop will total 6.1 million bales, a 74 percent increase over 2011, according to the San Angelo Standard-Times.
More than 350,000 acres of Texas farmland was planted in cotton in 2011, but only 18,000 acres were harvested as the state experienced its worst one-year drought since 1895.