If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always had.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Great Experiment

Last year I still had tomato blossoms when the frost came. We may have a frost here this weekend, and sure enough, I still tomato blossoms. Last year I was relieved to sacrifice fetal tomatoes. This year I'm trying something different. We had a roll of plastic in the closet we'd originally bought to use as a drop cloth for painting. Not a great use, by the way; it's too easy to slide on when painting in stocking feet. It is good for covering a small raised bed to extend the growing season, though.

We draped the plastic over the trellises I'd trained the tomatoes up. We put a few staples in the bottom, but I also had a few nails in the boards to tie hemp twine to when I had to shore up the trellises against the wind and the weight of the plants. I pushed the nails through the plastic and ran more hemp twine over the top, tying onto the same nails. So far it looks good. It's retaining moisture and, presumably, heat. We have yet to see how it holds up in wind.

You can see at the bottom of this picture that it's not just the tomatoes still going strong. My volunteer zucchini isn't producing much, but it's very happy. The pots in the back are mint and echinacea, and the front left is sweet potatoes. The wire frame on the left is the old compost pile (from which originated the volunteer zucchini) and the trellis to the right is the new, bigger, moved away from the house compost pile.

I was surprised to find sweet potato flowers on my way back inside. They didn't flower at all this summer and I didn't think much about it, but now that I have some I almost don't want to harvest them! They have to come out to be cured soon, but I might wait a little longer and see what the weather does. I'll push it as close to the frost as I can.

It's been an interesting gardening year, I'll give it that much.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

-Take Next Step--check

My very first query letter is in the mailbox.

I can't believe how scary that was. It was just a letter; you'd think it's not a big deal, especially since I fully expect to get a 'thanks but no thanks' answer back. I was fully prepared to send it yesterday, or I thought I was until I printed the letter on my cheap printer paper and saw the streak of toner down the right side. It's not procrastination if it's not right.

I had appointments and errands yesterday, so during my travels I bought resume paper and envelopes. This morning I disemboweled the printer and vacuumed the inside. When the test page came out clean I knew there was no turning back. My signature on the letter looks like crap, but it's on fancy paper, and I could not bring myself to re-print just for that. I also sealed the SASE in the envelope without a stamp and had to take it back apart. When I finally had it together I took it out to the mailbox in my jammies before I could change my mind. My hands are still shaking, and I'm not sure why this scared me. It's just a query letter, right?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Real tax reform

I haven't been paying attention to the political rhetoric on the news. If a headline names one of the candidates, I skip it. The only thing I have heard recently that caught my attention was a plan to raise taxes on individuals or companies earning $250,000 or more a year. My gut reaction was that if I was in that category, I'd be quietly looking for ways to lower my taxable income by bartering for everything possible. Yes, I'm obstinate; I'd take a pay cut to lower my taxes, not that it's an issue for me at this point.

I got to thinking about it this morning, so I did some number crunching. $250,000 income is currently in the 33% tax bracket. The top end of the 28% tax bracket is $164,550. That's a difference of $85,450, or 34% of a $250,000 income. Those in corporate America have fewer options than self-employed folks here, but they could lower their taxable income by maxing out pre-tax benefits like 401k, traditional IRA's, and flexible spending. Self-employed people have more options, depending on their line of work. If, for instance, you are a veterinarian who has a website, you could trade annual pet food for web design. If your clients include restaurant owners or clothing store managers, you could work for gift certificates. Shaving income by $85,000 would be a stretch, but in theory, it could be done.

Here's the problem. If 1% of the U.S. population did that (rounded down to 3,000,000 people) it would result in a net loss of over $256 billion in Federal tax revenue. It would also shave over six billion from Social Security. It really adds up. On the other hand, we'd all still be spending and probably contributing to some kind of retirement fund, so the economy wouldn't be any worse off than it already is.

In today's society, I doubt there are three million people with enough guts to voluntarily shift a third of their income from cash to barter. Pulling that off would require a great deal of discipline and effort. Many of us are living paycheck to paycheck and need first to convert from credit to cash before barter could even come over the horizon. Real tax reform would hurt, and it would require all of us to become more fiscally responsible. Programs would have to be cut, people would be falling off welfare and social security rolls, subsidies would dry up. The states would have to foot the whole bill for infrastructure and perhaps education. Heaven forbid, churches might have to start more soup kitchens, and we might have to learn to make due with what we have, or without certain things altogether. We might have to go back to the standard of living our granparents had growing up. We'd all have to become responsible and *gasp* a little more practical.

You want real tax reform? We can't handle real tax reform! That's why the best we're going to get is a bandaid on a sucking chest wound.