Friday, May 28, 2010


We had a kid a few months ago. Goatie did everything, we just took pictures and some video. The little buck is gonna be sold since we already have a buck.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Lull and Money

We are now in the trough of activity here at the ranch. The firewood business won't begin until the middle of spring and we just finished the Christmas tree season. Wet weather, cold temperatures and lack of work, can make for a long winter. While the winter lull can weigh heavily on finances and spirits, this time of the year has great potential for innovation and creativity. Hunkering down indoors with a pen and paper and the internet, thoughts of new and exciting ventures spring forth. But what can we do now to ease those financial woes and lack of employ? Sure it is important to think ahead to next years Christmas tree season but that does not create fruit bearing work today.

During a session of inovative thinking money came to mind and not just making money but money itself. I was thinking about how it was broken down into small units. The concept is very basic and I wondered why I hadn't really thought of it before. The thought I had went like this: There are one hundred pennies in a dollar. One hundred dollars later and I have Ben Franklin in my hand. From there, the money grows. Like I said it is basic and just about everyone knows about it. After some thought about this matter I realized the reason why I hadn't thought of money in this way. Before returning home to the Hopkins Ranch I had been in the Air Force and money was never an issue. Every two weeks a nice fat check would go into my account automatically. Now that money is scarce and is earned the hard way, a penny has meaning. One hundred of them will make a dollar and from there the amount grows.

So what can we do when there is little work to be done to make money? One idea that we dabbled with was a co-op style snack shack called Hop's General Store. We were able to save several hundred dollars over a few months. Every week we would make a trip to Sams Club and buy junk food in bulk. The cost was roughly $90 each trip. We would then resell the items back to ourselves (those apart of the co-0p) for retail price. The pot at the end of the week would be about $120 or so. The cycle would then continue. The $30+/- of profit each week was stashed away (most of the time, it was coinage). This system seems a little redundant but it saved us money. For instance, we were going to spend that money on junk food anyhow. Either we spent that $120 at the local gorcery store or we spent $120 at Hop's General Store. The difference being that the actual cost for us was only $90 since we bought in bulk from Sams Club. The only reason we stopped was because the honor system never works even with the most honorable (at least when the honorable are poor and they have a bunch of junk food at their disposal).

As for me I will return to school and receive GI Bill benefits and federal grant money. Odd jobs and some firewood will keep me busy the rest of the time. Going back to school can be somewhat profitable. This is especially true for anyone that had been in the military after 9/11. I'm going to get back to "work."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Tree Season 2009

For over ten years now, we have been managing a large piece of property known as the Hart Property (named after former mayor of Fresno T.G. Hart) in the rugged Sierra Nevada's. The property is located above 8000' elevation near the border of Yosemite National Park. This property has been in our family for over one hundred years but it wasn't until recent times that we came to have a majority stake. The Silvertip Tree Farm was created once we began harvesting and selling Silvertip Christmas trees from our lot. Now that this season is drawing to a close, there is a time for reflection.

We started cutting the trees after the first of November. Our crew consisted of only family this year. Sometimes we hire a few extra men to do some packing and lifting. The weather was surprisingly stable with a few possible storms that never formed. With the weather cooperating, we were able to get all the trees down to our lot with ease. The trees were very fresh this year, having gotten plenty of rain and a little snow before we started cutting. I can't remember a year when they held there needles so well. We stocked our lot full and placed the trees in water to keep them fresh.

Thanksgiving day came and that meant one day before opening our lot to customers. This was the first year we made our trees available online. So not only were we scrambling to get our lot ready but we were also getting our online store up and running. The first online order we received was from Oregon. It was awesome to see one of our trees sell and be shipped to another state. Sales in the lot were modest throughout the season. We didn't get the anticipated rush that we were hoping for but nonetheless we did sell some trees. We are already looking forward to next years season and hope that it will be a good one.

This year was a good year for us. We took a few chances and made a little money. However, the numbers just don't add up when dealing with such a large piece of land. Property taxes will consume most of what we made this year. I am confident though looking ahead. The economy will improve and so will our sales. The Hart Property has been in the family for over a hundred years, there is no plan to see that change anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Working Tractor

After many long months of waiting, tinkering and throwing money at it, the tractor is now fully functional. What ranch is complete without a tractor? While our ranch is nowhere near complete, its all that much more closer and is nice to have a piece of machinery to lend a hand. Can't say that I've done a whole lot with it since its been working though. Then again, its been a trial period to get all those bugs worked out. We haven't put the backhoe on it yet so that should be fun. Let's just hope it work and then the hole diggin will commence. Too bad the lights are all broken on the tractor or I'd go out there right now and play around. Let's see, if I've learned anything since operating the tractor in this short period of time it would have to be to never go head first towards a bunch of brush down a hill. Nothing terrible happened but with the four wheel drive busted it wasn't easy to back out of a situation like that. Well at least with soft ground like I was dealing with. We've been trying to keep busy around here in anticipation of the upcoming Christmas tree harvest. Hopefully we can put the tractor to work with that endeavor.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The zucchinis, squash, and tomato plants are out of control. The rows are no longer rows but rather free range growth areas for the unruly plants. I can't blame them though. They are quite healthy and free to do as they please (so long as they are producing). Perhaps next year, we will not plant as many squash. The amount of zucchini plants (five) is about right but the space between plants should be increased. About thirty-six inches from other plants would be more than enough. The tomatoes could use a bit more space between each plant. We planted them about eighteen inches apart which is fine but now it is difficult to find tomatoes underneath the dense vines. The main issue with the tomatoes is that they are overtaking the surrounding plants and moving into the paths. I found a bell pepper plant buried under the tomato plant. I suppose we could cut the plants back but they are doing so well and producing so much.

(Zucchini plant that overtook the path)

The solution that we have come up with is quite simple. We need to expand the garden. We are at capacity if you take into account the overcrowding. There is actually an area that is not planted at the moment but we have discussed planting garlic there this autumn. The area of the garden is about 2500 square feet right now. Once we are done with the expansion, the garden should be about 5000 square feet. Also, the addition of a green house (mentioned at an earlier time) will be attached to the garden expansion project.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Making One End Meet the Other End

With the recession in full swing and no apparent end in sight, I am thankful to be apart of a family business. Bundled firewood has kept the Ranch alive and kicking. To give a little background our family has been in the firewood business since the early eighties. It started with selling wood by the truck load. The business evolved into boxing the wood up and selling it to several local stores. This lasted for a few years until a cost effective way to package the wood presented itself. Shrink wrap is the current method we use to package wood into bundles.

We sell the bundles to several stores in a highly trafficked camping paradise. I can't say that I make much money doing it, actually I don't get any at all. The money goes right back into the Ranch (mortgate, electric, phone, ect) but that is fine with me. To be honest, the amount of work that goes into making a bundle doesn't seem to add up when talking dollars and cents. Then again, if we weren't in the wood business, the bills might not get paid and the Ranch would cease to exist. In the end though, one end meets the other.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Painted My Cottage

The pictures speak for themselves. It was hot outside but I took my time and got most of the job done today. I can say I am quite pleased with the contrast in looks. The paint (donated from my good friend Bob) made a world of difference. I will now refer to my shack as a cottage now (or cabin). Also, the paint will act as a barrier against water, giving the wood a fighting chance.



I built the cottage in the spring of 2008 for less than $1200. Of course I have put more money into it since then but the initial cost was around that $1200 dollar mark. The largest expense was the ply wood. I used 1/2 inch OSB for the entire structure. The cost of the ply wood alone ran about $300 at least. Then next greatest expense was the roofing materials. Tar paper and rolled roofing as you can see in the pictures. I must have paid less than $200 for the roof. After that was probably the nails. The structural materials were all milled here at the Ranch. One wall is made up of 2X4's, one is 1X6's, another is 1X6's and 2X6's and one is made up of 2X6's. Oh and the rafters are 1X6's. Yes, its a real piece of work but I love it. The cost is what I love most about it. I call this little cottage a five year plan. I say that because in five years it just might be falling over. I think its amazing what a little paint did for it.