Friday, June 28, 2019
Seven Skinny Cows: Long-term vision
“So what is the long-term goal?” Mortimer Patch asked. Talking about long-term goals did not strike him as strange, given the fact that they were in the middle of an Ebola pandemic that would reduce the population by 80%. That, and the loss of modern healthcare and social order and other, ancilliary epidemics would knock half of the Ebola survivors into the grave. To his way of thinking you were not lost if you knew where you were going.
“I want to have a fiber and fabric industry in ten years with sufficient capacity to make clothing and bedding for a million people.” John said.
“Beg pardon?” Mo said.
“There are enough clothes in storage facilities for the next five years even if you figure the ones that burned or leaked. After ten years the clothing will be too tattered to mend.” John said. “In case you didn’t notice, it gets cold in Michigan. People will freeze to death wholesale unless there is a source of durable, warm clothing and quilts.”
“But a million people?” Mo observed, skeptically.
“A million people. That is probably a half million sheep’s worth of wool...so there is not time to waste.” Bob said.
“How much land do you have?” Mo asked.
“We own six sections of land...maybe enough for ten or fifteen thousand sheep.” John said. “But there will be all kinds of under utilized land vacant for the asking.”
"In fact, that is a big reason for wanting to keep our property utilized. People will claim it if it is not under the plow or hoof." John said.
“The plan is to develop products and processes.”
“Eaton Rapids has water power and a little bit of solar. They will be the manufacturing base.” John said.
“To get the pipeline started, we need raw materials. It is a basic pump-priming exercise. Good products create demand. Demand pulls resources.”
“I will need to travel.” Mo said, still a bit stunned by Bob’s long-term vision.
“For that you will need to talk to Mr Ed or to Salazar. Remember, you get a percentage, so you really are working for yourself.” John said.
Nyssa agreed that Mo could travel to the surrounding area as long as he stayed out of urban areas and the two parties talked outside. It had become a major faux pax to go inside somebody’s house.
John had a scooter and a supply of canned gas.
Mrs Treadle was surprised to have a visitor with a down-under accent inquiring about the purchase of ewes and ewe lambs.
“I am not sure I am doing you a favor by selling you sheep.” she said.
“ ‘n why is that?” Mo asked.
“Cause you will have to feed them in the winter. Without fuel to run tractors it is impossible to put up hay or farm corn.” Pat Treadle said.
“Mmmm.” Mo said in agreement as he looked out over the sheep. They were well cared for but clearly not pets. The first thing he looked at were the hooves of the oldest animals. Trimming hooves is hot, dirty, back-breaking work. That was the first thing that slackers let slide.
“Assuming we could find a way to pay you, how many ewes and ewe lambs are you willing to part with?” Mo asked.
“I usually keep a quarter of my ewe lambs for replacements.” Pat said. “I am willing to sell you all of the ewes I cull and ¾ of my ewe lambs...but again, I am not sure I am doing you any favors.”
“Do they come with breeding records?” Mo asked.
“Some do. Some don’t.” Pat said.
“My first offer for the lot is to provide tractor power to put up your hay for the year.” Mo said. “What will you need on top of that to make it worth your while?”
“That scooter would be nice.” Pat said. “Put up my hay and my neighbors. There is a big market for hay. Throw in your scooter and five ounces of silver for every animal.”
“My counter offer is to put up your hay and an equal amount of your neighbor’s hay. I will find you a scooter that is as like mine, payable upon delivery. I throw in an ounce of silver for every ewe lamb but no silver for the ewes you were going to cull anyway….” Mo said.
Fifteen minutes later they had a deal. It would have taken a lot longer but Mrs Treadle did not have any other buyers in sight, at least none who were in a position to pay anything for her animals.
“You are now the proud owner of 120 cross-bred, white faced, ewe lambs, 30 cull ewes and four ram lambs.” Mo told Bob.
“Two of the ram lambs will be 7/8 Columbia and have fine wool. The other two will be about ¾ Romney and have long, coarse, strong wool. The only reason you are getting the rams is that she had some first year ewes that bred late, otherwise they are castrated within a day of lambing.” Mo said.
“We have some time. She will have them driven over in the middle of August after they are weened.” Mike said. “All we have to do is convince Kelly Carney to harvest her hay and find a scooter and 150 ounces of silver and….” Mo mentioned a few other items including the fact that he had committed Bob to buying Pat Treadle’s wool clip for 10% over market price for the next five years. More than anything that would flush out whether John was a bull-shit artist or had convictions behind his dreams.
“Great job!” John said. “I would have been OK with ten ewes and happy with twenty. The only thing I want you to change is I want to take possession of the sheep the same week we cut the hay. You are something of an over-achiever, aren’t you?”
John had always found legitimate praise to be a highly cost-effective motivator.
“Are we going to need a tractor for our operation?” John asked.
“Probably. We wouldn’t in New Zealand but it is snowier here. There will be days where the sheep cannot dig for their grazing.” Mo admitted.
“Why don’t you see what you can do about having Kelly convert a tractor over with a gassifier?” John said. “Don’t try to chisel down the price. We are going to need him to build equipment for the yarn and weaving operation.”
Kelly was highly resistant to building a gassifier for John Wilder. First of all, he did not know Wilder. Second, he thought Mo’s NZ accent was an affected, second-rate imitation of a British accent.
Mo did not push too hard, heedful of John wanting to stay on the good side of Kelly.
“So I take it that your primary concern is that somebody will steal the design?” Mo said.
“Nailed it.” Kelly said.
“What if we pay you a commission to build another gassifier tractor? You own it. You supply the drivers. You park and maintain it. We get first dibs on renting it and you give us a deep discount on the rental?” Mo said.
Kelly squinted at Mo. “Don’t sound like you are getting much out of the deal.” Kelly observed.
“We will get enough. Got to make hay while the sun shines.” Mo said.
“Is that what you are going to use it for? Making hay.” Kelly asked.
“Mostly.” Mo agreed.
Suddenly that sounded like a fabulous idea. Hay season does not compete with plowing, planting, harvesting or wood-cutting season. Kelly would have another tractor to rent out in those season and he would not have to put any money out-of-pocket to have a tractor to back-up Milo’s.
“Deal.” Kelly said, sticking out his hand.