Friday, November 16, 2018

To Cross or Not to Cross

We have a couple of creeks that cross our place.  When it rains they are impassable, but during most of the year, there are a couple of low-water crossings where it is easy to walk across -- often on dry ground.

The rains have been unseasonably heavy this fall and the opportunities to walk around in the woods have been few because the first hurdle is to cross a creek.  Earlier this week it was impassable, but yesterday the water was down and I was able to walk across on the muddy, but firm bottom.

It is deer season and although I don't normally hunt them, I will sometimes carry a rifle with me when I walk the woods.  It is more for the possible opportunity to shoot a feral hog than anything.  We also keep a couple of game cameras up during this time of year to get an idea of the wildlife coming to the game feeders or just passing through on one of the many trails through the forest.

The easiest way for me to get the photos off of the cameras is to carry a laptop with me.  I usually carry it in an old backpack.  When I get to one of the cameras I remove the SD card and plug it into the reader which then allows me to transfer the pictures.  Yesterday, with the water down, I decided to download the photos from the cameras.

I was wearing the backpack with my old "clunker" laptop which weighs more than the newer models, along with a full water bottle and a couple of boxes of shells for the 30-30 which I also carried.  After checking the camera, which I have to cross the creek to get to, I decided to head off through the woods and see what kind of tracks there were on the trails and then to see if the crossing on the second creek was passable -- it's a pretty good hike to the 2nd creek crossing.  Sure enough it was below the old concrete slab and I walked across.  

That put me on the southwest part of our place which is about as wild as it was the day it was created.  It has never been farmed like much of the area around here, and is one of the few hills in the area.  Although right on the creek, it is close to the highest point on our place.  There is good grass there and huge oak trees which line the creek.  It is a very steep drop to the creek in many places and it is a very picturesque area.  I enjoy going back there because it is like stepping back in time.

Sure enough, as I quietly walked up the hill from the creek, I spied a young whitetail buck grazing.  He looked at me and I stopped.  We watched each other for a couple of minutes before he decided to bound off into the woods that line the creek to the south.  He acted as though it wasn't even deer season and I suspect he had not been hunted.

As I walked further across the hill and headed north toward some of the more beautiful areas along the creek, I jumped another whitetail buck.  This one had a fairly large antler spread and appeared to have at least 8 points.  I watched him bound off into the woods along the creek and decided to follow him for a ways.

As I headed out onto a point where a game crossing fords the creek, I found the log "bridge" in the photo above.  I seriously thought about attempting to walk across it because it would have saved me over a 1/2 mile walk from going back around by the slab crossing.  The log was plenty wide and if it had been hewn flat on the top I wouldn't have hesitated.  If I had been even 10 years younger I likely would have chanced it.

I have found that my balance just isn't what it once was.  I could just see myself landing in that muddy water with a backpack full of laptop and a 30-30 in my hand and decided against attempting the crossing.  It did make for a great photo though.  The leaves you see floating in the creek are 6 to 10 inches in diameter.  I don't know what kind of tree they come from but, they are huge.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Being Social

Being "social" has never been my strong suit.  It is something that I do because it is necessary, but not because I enjoy it.  Yesterday required social engagement.

I have been on the Board of Directors of our Northeast Texas Beef Improvement Organization (NETBIO) almost since we moved to this part of the world.  It is an organization which was started in 1998 as both a means of educating local cattle raisers on "best" production practices and as a vehicle for having special pre-conditioned stocker and feeder calf sales.

The first sale was in November of 1998, so, yesterday's sale marked the 20th anniversary.  As part of the commemoration of the event, we had a barbeque lunch and trade show at the auction barn prior to the sale.  As a member of the Board it was part of my responsibility to "be social" with those in attendance, including the various vendors who help support our group through their sponsorship donations.

Just a few short years back I would have been one of those vendors.  It is important that organizations let those vendors know how much their support is appreciated.  It can be as simple as a "thank you for your support" or, even better, an expression of genuine interest in their products and how they might be utilized in your operation.  It is a symbiotic relationship.

It is easy to become irritated with salespeople who are always trying to "sell you something" -- especially when you are busy and pressed for time.  Just remember that they are trying to make a living and their approach to you about their products is part of their job.  Take the time to develop a relationship with them and I think you will find many who truly bring value through their knowledge as well as their products.  They can become your ally when things aren't going as planned.  The good ones help to solve problems.

Unlike unsolicited robo-calls....(see yesterday's post)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Robo Greed and Government

I'm sick and tired of robo-calls;
They happen every day.
Sometimes I get two or, more
With the same thing to say.

We have our government to blame
For what these people do.
I'll bet that our Congressmen
Don't deal with these calls too.

If it's about a warranty
Upon an automobile
You can thank your state government
Who sold the list, for real!

And if it is for health insurance
Just thank ObamaCare
That made open enrollment
At the same time of each year.

Political calls are predictable
As election time comes near
When candidates across the land
Seek to bend your ear

So they can hold the offices
That should serve constituent need
But, instead are all about
Fulfilling their own greed

Just like the calls that never end
Of which I now complain
As they seek to take my money
While driving me insane.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Electric Fence

Electric fences are fairly common in farming country.  Permanent fences are in the way when it comes time to plow, but an electric fence can be put up or, removed depending upon the season and the need.

Where we live now, electric fences are much less common than in the Texas Panhandle/South Plains area where I grew up.  Mostly the fences are of barbed wire.  It makes sense because there is very little farming other than for hay which often doubles as late season grazing after a couple of cuttings.

Growing up, I had plenty of opportunity to put up, take down and check electric fence.  I have been shocked by it many times and learned quickly that the wetter the ground, the harder the shock.  My tolerance for the electricity is fairly low and I prefer to avoid the jolt if possible.

I recall many years ago, when my Dad and I were checking fence on my Grandpa's place, discovering a break in the fence that needed repaired.  My Dad, who apparently had a high tolerance for the electricity, or enough mental discipline that he overcame the effects, grabbed the two ends of the broken wire, stretched them and tied them together while the electricity was pulsing through his arms as he completed the connection.  I could see his muscles tense with each surge of electricity.

The reason he did that rather than going back to the barn and turning off the current is that it was about 3/4 mile to the charger.  Rather than make that trek, he simply tied the wire.

We use electric fence around our hay meadow to extend our grazing season by utilizing that grass after the last hay cutting.  This year, due to drought, we only got one early cutting and are very short on hay, so that grazing is especially important.

There are some issues with electric fence in this part of the world that I didn't have to deal with in the drier portions of the state.  1)  There are trees around the outside of the hay meadow which frequently lose small branches and limbs which fall on the fence and knock it off of the insulators, or simply ground it.  2)  There are lots of feral hogs who attempt to go under the fence and often jump at the shock.  When they do they can tear up the fence.  3)  It often rains extreme amounts here and the entire hay meadow will flood.  The water washes tree branches and other debris out of the woods and into the fence.

Yesterday, after our first significant cold front and 3/4" of rain on top of already saturated ground, I walked the 3/4 mile down to the hay meadow to get the fence back in shape to hold cattle.  I walked because the ground was so wet I didn't want to drive on it because it would leave ruts and make the pasture rough.  I carried a little electric wire with me in the event it was needed and a few spare insulators.

As I headed toward the meadow, the cattle were grazing a different pasture, but upon completion of my fence repairs I wanted to move them to the meadow.  They were at least 1/2 mile from the gate into the meadow when I opened it.  I left it open thinking there was no way the cattle would find that open gate without some encouragement.  I was wrong.  It's a good thing I was able to get the fence repaired and "hot" again because before I could walk back up to the gate, the cattle had begun to drift into the meadow, grazing as they went.

I knew before I got to where I could see them that would be the case.  Apparently one of the cows discovered the open gate and I could hear her calling the others to her.  As I came up the hill to where I could see them, I observed them jogging in a steady line toward that open gate before entering, dropping their head and beginning to graze.  If you don't think cattle talk to each other, you aren't watching closely enough.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Fish in the Woods

Yesterday, as I walked through the woods, I came upon a fish lying upon the ground.  It was at least 30 yards from the creek which contained only a small trickle of water -- maybe 6 or 8 inches deep between 10 foot banks.

The fish seemed to be completely undamaged -- there were no bite marks or wounds that were obvious, but it was not where it should be.  It was, of course, dead. (I sometimes find it necessary to state the obvious because it prevents the question:  "Was it dead?" from being asked.)

It may seem like a waste of mental energy to most people, but to me, I find it intriguing to speculate about this fish.  I immediately began to think of the "why's" of the fish being in that specific spot.  After all, I had never seen a fish lying upon the ground in the woods before.  In fact, I had previously questioned whether any fish ever occupied the nearby creek due to its seasonal nature since it is prone to being completely dry through much of the year, at other times will hold green stagnant pools that appear to be devoid of the silvery swimming creatures, but at still other times roars in flood far beyond the channel which it has carved across our place and those adjoining.

Since the summer drought finally broke back in September, we have had frequently recurring rains which have left our entire area saturated.  I am thankful for the moisture, but now, even the smallest rain merely runs off of the land and creates a flood through the bottomlands, scouring some areas of soil and piling it, along with the leaves and limbs which compose the normal detritus of the forest into deep and treacherous piles in other areas.  It also, apparently, leaves fish in places they don't belong.

The fish was quite simply left behind as the flood receded.

Sometimes I feel like that fish.  This world and this country are changing rapidly.  No matter how hard I try to keep up, the pace of change races ahead until I look around, shake my head and wonder what is happening.  I would prefer not to be that fish.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Wheels and Wheels

I hear a train this morning,
It's lonesome whistle blowing,
The sound of diesel motors
As it rides the shiny rails.

It wakes the lazy sleepers
On this early Saturday
As it drags the cars of commerce
Across this hungry land

That cries for more and more --
The newest and the best --
Discarding what was barely used
Into the earth again.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Connecting Country and City

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with a group of scientists who were viewing some technology that I have an interest in.  All of them had Doctorate degrees in some field or another and at least one had a couple of Doctorates.  They were an interesting group.

They were part of a research and development team that sought to utilize this particular technology in some of their research.  One of them was dressed in suit and tie, another in boots and jeans and wore a hat (I happen to know he is legit and comes from a ranching background), another was in sweat pants and looked as though he forgot to shave for the last couple of days.  The others were simply and casually dressed as is common within the halls of many technology companies.

The questions they asked were generally over my head on the science issues, but when it came to the practical application of the anticipated results of their research, I was able to enjoy a more active participation in the conversation.  Ultimately, their research is in the field of animal health and practical implications for developing new technologies for food production.

Often there is a disconnect between the science community and those who are in the livestock or farming business.  I was pleased that these scientists sought diligently to bridge that gap and be certain their endeavors would fit practically into a production scheme.  I attribute that attitude to the man wearing the hat.

We need more hats and seed caps in science and technology fields.  We need them in the halls of corporate America helping to educate their co-workers on the importance of agriculture and the impact of their efforts on the future of humanity being able to feed itself.  They are the individuals that can help bridge the gap between the city and the country.

I've heard for years that it is hard to keep young people interested in agriculture.  They all want to go to the cities where they can experience higher wages and an easier lifestyle.  I wonder if it might be a good idea to make sure they take a piece of that country lifestyle along with them.  A large factor contributing to the divided nature of our country today is the disconnect between the city and the country.  We have different values, different outlooks and a different understanding of what the future holds.  Maybe the answer is to groom more young men and women to carry the "country" values into the cities.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Driving in the Rain

Driving in the rain
Is not my favorite thing to do;
I prefer to do my driving
When the sky is bright and blue.

It makes the cars behave
In unexpected ways
And trucks ahead subject you
To constant water sprays.

It makes the pavement slick
So sometimes you hydroplane
And the slapping of the wiper blades
Can drive you near insane.

So when it is a rainy day
I like to stay at home
And try to handle business
From my high-tech cellphone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Where Was Jesus Yesterday?

Yesterday, on the day in which we exercised our privilege and right to vote, I saw a meme on Facebook that said, "If Jesus was alive on this earth, where would he be; at a Trump rally or with the immigrant caravan?"  I didn't respond, although I really wanted to do so.

The meme was posted by someone of my acquaintance who has strong Liberal leanings and it was a jab at Christians.  This person appears (based on their posts) to believe Christians are right-wing extremists who tote Bibles and guns and think everyone should believe as they do.  It was intended to be provocative.  It is great that we live in a nation where free speech is still, for the most part, acceptable -- except of course on many college campuses.

 The reality is that Jesus IS alive and on this earth and He was/is in both of those places.  He is in the hearts and minds -- and hopefully the actions -- of Christians everywhere.  The problem is that many Christians don't act the way non-believers think they should.  In fact, many don't act the way believers think they should.  I am first to admit that I don't always act the way I should!

I have seen outcry from Christians at the Red Cross providing food and water to those in the immigrant caravans.  Hmmm....isn't that what the Red Cross is supposed to do? -- help those in a crisis situation?  It should be Christians doing those things, not some NGO.

Should Christians be at a MAGA rally?  Absolutely!  Christians need to be engaged and involved in every aspect of the political process, humanitarian aid, caring for our own homeless, meeting the needs of the poor and downtrodden, in the halls of businesses both large and small, in the classroom as teachers and professors, in elected office and every other aspect of life on this planet.

We sometimes confuse Christianity and patriotism.  I get a lump in my throat every time I see the flag of our country flying and the Star Spangled Banner being played -- and nothing does it faster than the colors flying from horseback at a rodeo.  I have the deepest respect for our Veterans and both their service and sacrifice for our freedoms.  I believe that we do not have a sovereign country unless we control our borders.  Illegal immigration is still illegal.  There are those who call for open borders.  Such a policy would be the end of our country.  The long term result would be the loss of freedom for all -- both those already living here and the newly arrived.  Evil flows to and attacks weakness.  (Don't be confused by the strength that comes from Jesus in our own personal weakness -- that is strength.)

Our country has changed and the pace of change is accelerating.  We are seeing many young voters who hold radically different values from their parents and grandparents.  They will accelerate change.

One thing that stands out to me as I view the election results is the difference between rural and urban voters.  Rural America leaned strongly Republican while Urban and Suburban America leaned strongly Democrat (with the exception of Iowa corn and soybean farmers who have been affected by the trade war with China).  Why is that?  There are poor in the country as well as in the city.  There is racial diversity in the country as well as in the city.  One pundit last night kept referring to women voters in the suburbs.  I wonder if he realizes there are women voters in the country and the city too?

Many in the cities believe that rural voters are ignorant, backward, uneducated Christians (in this sense they use it as a derogatory word.)  Many in rural areas see people in the cities as ignorant, arrogant and rude.  We need to figure out the root of our differences and find ways to overcome them.  Until we do, we face the danger of further division.

The answer though, is to make certain that Jesus is in all of those places - both in the cities, in the suburbs and in rural America -- and not in name only, it must be in the actions of those who claim to follow Him.  He is the answer -- and He is marching with the immigrants and He is at the Trump MAGA rallies and He is even in the deserts of the Middle East reaching out to the hearts of terrorists.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

An Election -- Go Vote!

Today is an important day in the exercise of our rights within the political system of this country.  Today we have the opportunity to cast our ballot for the candidates we each feel will best represent our interests.  In some ways it is a referendum on past behavior of certain candidates and their affiliates but, more importantly, it is an act of faith that the system will enable those who are most capable of representing us the opportunity to do so for a time.

It is extremely difficult for the average person to see through the smokescreen of political rhetoric and malignment of character that is common to elections.  We have been bombarded by political advertisements and biased commentary by so-called neutral media for many months in an attempt to sway our votes to the candidates who seek offices.  How can one know what is true and what is untrue in such an environment?

Many voters are "single issue" voters.  Their voting preference is based on one or two key issues such as abortion, same-sex rights, immigration, or some other "hot button" topic.  I have heard and seen many Christians take the stance that no candidate who opposes the "right to life of the unborn" should receive the vote of a Christian.  I understand that position, but I also know that no candidate is perfect and in God's eyes, one sin is no different than another.  His Word is quite clear that "none is righteous, no, not one."  It is incumbent on each of us to form an opinion on things that are important and to look at the record as well as the rhetoric of each candidate and essentially, tally the check marks in each column (weighted possibly based on importance to you) and make choices based on the sum of those marks, rather than using a single litmus test as the point of decision.

At times I wonder if it is in the best interest of all to encourage those who are not well informed to stay home and not vote but, the reality is that no one is truly informed.  If that were the case, I would not vote because no one knows the heart of the candidates, or how they will behave in the future except God.

When it comes down to it, we must trust God for the results.  I would encourage each of you to pray for enlightenment as you cast your ballot and pray that God will allow those individuals whom He would choose to attain the offices they seek.