Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coffee Jitters

I like a steaming cup of Joe
To start my every day;
It helps to clear the morning fog
And send me on the way.

Two cups before I head to work
Seems just the thing I need;
One won't do and more than two
Sends my motor in high speed.

But, days like this, so wet and cold
Cause me to want to sip
About a gallon of the stuff
At a slow and stately clip.

Then sometime 'long about mid-day
It catches up to me
And I find myself begin to shake
In my extremities.

Wondering what is wrong with me
With head that's all a-buzz
I set my shaking cup right down
And get up to shake the fuzz.

I eat some food and take a break
Trying to clear my head
And find I just can't keep my mind
From wandering instead.

Then 'long about late afternoon
When I am feeling weak,
I crave to fall asleep in bed;
It's all I wish to seek.

Such a toll this humble brew
Wreaks on this body mine,
I swear I'll quit this awful stuff....
But, then I smell that smell divine.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thankful to be Inside Today

Rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow and a little thunder -- that's the weather report folks!  Just day before yesterday I was taking photos of a tree that is almost in full leaf. 

So far the freezing rain has been on surfaces above ground -- like my windshield, the pickup door that I was barely able to open, the gate that was frozen shut -- but, not the streets.  Maybe it will stay warm enough the streets won't freeze over.  They called off school in the event that it might.

I shouldn't complain.  There have been no power outages that I am aware of.  With all the trees around here, accumulating ice can be a real problem due to broken branches taking out power lines. 

This is the kind of weather where you want to build a fire in the fireplace, warm up some hot chocolate and get a good book.  Instead, some of us have little choice but to report to work.

We complain about the weather a lot.  It's either too hot or, too cold or, too wet.  Rarely do we get those days that are just right and yet, most of us in this country work indoors where the weather really doesn't affect us too much.  Instead of complaining we should be thankful.  There are folks who are out working in it no matter what the weather is like. 

Once upon a time I wanted to be a cowboy.  I know a bunch of folks who make their living in the saddle.  They're out there in this mess.  It's the time of year when the baby calves start coming.  There are countless individuals out riding the pastures, looking for that young cow off by herself with a newborn.  The cowboy is bundled up, probably wearing a slicker and gloves, but he's cold.  The wet cold just seeps in and chills to the bone.  That's why they are out there.  It affects those newborn calves the same way. 

They will be doing everything they can to warm that calf up so he will survive -- even to the point of carrying them across their lap as they ride to the barn with the momma cow, head up and snorting, following at a safe distance -- or, maybe not so safe distance for the cowboy.  Hopefully, she will follow all the way into the barn where they will be sheltered from the storm.

It is a noble life and a hard one. 

Yeah, I'm thankful for a job in an office on days like today.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rainy Weekend Forecast and My Real Focus

Working a full time job makes it hard to do the things I want to at the ranch.  It is worse when the weekend weather doesn't cooperate.  We have had beautiful weather this week, but starting today it is supposed to rain and continue through the weekend. 

I can get some things done if it isn't too heavy, but if it is a "soaker" I am stuck indoors for the most part. 

Part of my current job is in new customer development.  I have been spending a lot of my time building prospect lists and starting the process of turning them into customers.  This business, just like most that I have been involved in, is one in which it takes awhile to develop a new customer -- they don't normally jump on board immediately.

I haven't yet figured out what the "sales cycle" is for loan customers.  It is a matter of developing a relationship.  If you think about it, most people don't change banks unless they move.  My target customers are long-established agricultural businesses.  They have banking relationships. 

The thing that sets us apart from others though, is our personal involvement in agriculture -- particularly cattle production -- and plenty of years of experience.  Not many banks are interested in doing cattle loans, but it is something we love.  And more importantly, we have the experience to understand the business like very few banks do.

Now, how did I go from thinking about what the weather is doing to my weekend plans to how my job is about sales?  Probably because that's where my mind is focused at the moment.....

I guess I'd better get with it!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Getting Serious

There are a lot of weighty things going on in this old world.  If I began a list of them here, it would stretch for page after page (or, is that screen after screen?).  When I allow myself to dive into thoughts of all that is going on I become angry, or depressed, or I choose to "wall myself off" and focus on less weighty things. 

But, the relevant question is, "If not me, then who?"

Nothing gets "fixed" until good people step up and work to improve the situation.  But, can I really do anything about ISIS, or children starving in India, or ocean degradation, or drug and human trafficking, or any of the myriad other issues haunting this world?  Well, yeah, I can.  What I mean is, although I can't "fix" them by myself, I can effect positive change in some or all of those issues.

"How?" you might ask. 

By doing all that I can each day to make a positive difference in the life of someone.

The above statement sounds a bit like a mantra from secular humanism.  We hear it in slogans such as "Pay it forward."  They are great slogans and, if humanity was primarily benevolent, they might ultimately make a positive difference.  Hmmm.....back to ISIS.  I don't think there is anything benevolent about them.

The reality is that unless the nature of the person is changed, nothing changes.  The only power that can truly change us is the power of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will seek Him with all of your heart. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Brush and Thorns

I know that I have posted recently about clearing brush from fence rows on our place.  I am also clearing brush and junk trees from all over the place.  In fact, there is at least 40 acres of junk trees growing where it should be clear pasture with the occasional, scattered oak tree for shade.  It's a messy tangle of thorns where there should be grass.

I could hire someone with a bulldozer to come in and clear the land.  It would be much quicker and also very much more expensive.  Dozer work for clearing brush runs from $85 to $135 per hour depending on the size of dozer that I hire.  It would take at least a couple of weeks to get the job done, but it would be done. 

I could do it that way, but I guess I have a stubborn streak in me that wants to do the job myself.  So, at least for the time being, I am working away at it with a chainsaw and tractor.  It's a good way to wear out leather gloves and a good way to sweat off a few pounds.  Progress is slow though and it is occasionally hard on me when I am punctured by the thorns.

The only way to really imagine what I mean by thorns is to show you a picture.

The thorn in the picture is sticking out of the main trunk of one of the trees I cut on Saturday.  It is about 4 inches long.  The tree is covered in them -- not just on the branches, but the trunk and major limbs as well. 

I have to cut my way through the thorny branches in order to get to the trunk so that I can take the tree down. 

You can't tell from this photo, but this tree is about 12 inches in diameter at the base.  There were limbs sticking out of it all the way to ground level. 

The downed tree farthest from me is the one in the above pictures.  You can see a few smaller ones in the foreground.  Looking in the distance you can see scattered trees that are similar.  In the far distance is a line of trees -- all the same stuff.  It may take awhile.

I am cutting the trees up for firewood and piling the limbs for burning.  The stumps have to be treated to prevent re-growth.  I'm told they will rot in a couple of years if treated.  I sure hope so!

If you need some firewood, let me know.  It is cut your own and there is plenty of it.  But, it is also free if you will pile the limbs neatly and cut only the trees that I want cut!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Little Travel

I spent a lot of years traveling for work.  I know that I've posted about it before, but it is what is on my mind. 

For the past year, I haven't had to travel much.  It might be because I was semi-unemployed/self-employed/underemployed/whatever you want to call it.  But, with my new job, there will be a small amount of travel.

I got in late last night from Milwaukee.  I attended a school for learning about a new software we are installing here at work. 

Being new to my job, I had a hard time following some of it.  It wasn't so much the software that was difficult, but the acronyms and jargon used that was related to the products we would be using the software to manage.  I have yet to get fully up to speed on some of those things.

It has been my practice when traveling to see a few of the local sights if time allowed.  Milwaukee being on the shores of Lake Michigan meant that a brief trip to the shore was desirable -- if we could just get there in the daylight!  Fortunately, the last day, we had some time to do so.  Photos are posted below.


I also had to sample the local foods.  The deep-fried cheese curds and a variety of sausages were delicious!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sleep Where Ar't Thou.....

Don't you just hate those nights when you can't sleep well?  It may be that it is difficult to fall asleep for some reason, or worse yet, you go to bed exhausted and fall immediately to sleep, only to wake up an hour later and toss and turn the rest of the night.  Yeah, that was my night last night.

I was tired and went to bed at a reasonable hour.  I read some before turning out the light which is normal for me.  I must have fallen asleep almost immediately.  Then about 11:30 I woke up and felt as though I never truly went back to sleep again.

My head was filled with thoughts of loans and cattle and projects that needed done and on and on.  Nothing that I was really worried about, just thinking about them.  I couldn't turn it off.  I tried every technique I could think of.  Nothing seemed to work.  So, I tossed and turned.

One thing I've noticed on nights like that is the side I am lying on affects what I think about.  I can usually change my train of though by turning over and laying on my other side.  It probably has something to do with the fluid flows in my brain.  There does seem to be some correlation between the side on which I am lying and the type of thinking.  One side is more analytical and the other is more creative.  I suppose that ties with left-brain, right-brain thinking.

Anyway, today I get to deal with the consequences of less than the optimum amount of sleep.  I can usually convince myself that it doesn't matter -- at least for awhile.  But, by mid-afternoon it will likely catch up to me unless I can stay really busy. 

Don't you hate it when that happens -- especially on a Friday!  It may make for a really long day.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Cold and Dreary Day

The sound of gentle rain
Seeps into my consciousness
As I awaken
Moments before the alarm.

A sense of dreariness,
Much like the promised day,
My still-tired body.

The routine of shower,
Breakfast, shave and dress
Does little
To break the spell of weariness.

The mist is too light for continuous
Yet, too much for intermittent
On my windshield wipers.

The sound of tires
On wet pavement
Is monotonous
As I make my way to work.

The office is quiet.
The conversations muted.
It is wet
And cold outside.

My desire is elsewhere,
And it calls to me
In silence,
Adding to the moodiness

That marks my path today......

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cattle Working Facility

Yesterday I posted about Progress.  One of the things that I mentioned was the progress on our new corrals/vet barn.  I thought today a few photos might be in order.

The support posts have been set for the roof of the structure that will cover the working area.

The pile of sand is for mixing the concrete foundation for the Vet Shack and chute/scales.

Here are the forms for the foundation/floor of the Vet Shack.

I ordered all of the corral panels and chute from Priefert.  The chute/scales, etc. will be under the roof so we can work cattle even in the rain.

When we unloaded all of these in the late evening about 1 1/2 weeks ago, we just stacked them as best we could near the area where we planned to build the facility.
It's good to see some progress at the place.  It won't be long now before we will be ready to start turning out cattle.
I will try to occasionally post a few pictures of what is happening out there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Random Thoughts on Progress

Yesterday the contractor started work on our barn/vet shed at the ranch.  It will take them a couple of weeks to complete the structure -- not because of size, but because concrete will have to dry.  It is just a simple structure, but important to our cattle working.

It's good to see progress. 

One of my co-workers rode out with me after work yesterday to check the progress.  As I drove him around the place and we looked, I was struck by the piles of brush and cut wood and obvious progress that has been made on the cleanup of old fence and brush.  It made me feel pretty good that the aches in my muscles were generated from a good deal of obvious progress. 

There's always a cost to progress. 

Things are starting to happen here at work as well.  I am now into my second month and it seems that the "learning curve" has been steep.  Now it is time to apply what I have been learning.  Yesterday, we put together a "hit list" of prospective customers for me to go visit.  I even had the opportunity to visit with one of them yesterday.  It was a very positive conversation that will hopefully result in new business.  It is important to feel productive.

Productivity is a form of progress.

Perhaps it is arrogant of me to think so, but in spite of my slow start at developing new business, I believe I have made a positive impact on things here at work.  My contributions have been small in some ways -- such as a spreadsheet to make a somewhat complex calculation easier.  Much of what I feel that I have contributed is simply a product of my gray hair -- or, at least, the experience that helped to turn it gray.  I can be a sounding board for some of the younger ones here.  It is amazing what a calm demeanor can do for the "atmosphere" in a workplace.

A peaceful environment allows progress.

The "slowness" here at work has had another benefit.  It has given me time to think.  Time to plan, time to learn, time to knit relationships -- all of these things are important to becoming effective. 

Planning is progress.

Now, it is time to take action on the plans.  Even as I was able to visit with one of the prospects on my list yesterday, I felt "traction" for executing my plan.  I know there will be refinements along the way, but planning without action is an exercise in vanity.  Imperfect plans -- and all plans are imperfect -- are merely a guide for action.  Until action occurs, nothing results.

Action is progress.

What is the goal toward which I am working?  That is something that I have clearly defined in my head, but which I won't share in this public venue.  The key, though, is that it is clearly defined and my plan, if executed well, will lead to accomplishing the goals which act as milestones along the path to the destination that is a clearly formed vision in my head.

Progress leads us along the path to our Vision.

Just my thoughts this morning.....


Monday, February 2, 2015


Working a full-time job during the week means that I have only the occasional hour or so after work to devote to the ranch.  Of course, those snatched hours are dependent on being able to get away shortly after 5:00 which rarely happens.  I keep a change of clothes in the pickup just in case though.  I will be glad when the days get longer and there is more daylight in the evenings so that I can get in a little time doing all the things that need done!

Since there is so little time during the week, I squeeze in as much as possible on the weekend.  It is up early and get to work.  So, I really aren't getting the kind of break that most people crave -- my weekend away from work turns into a weekend of work.  It's my choice though. 

The physical labor is good for me in numerous ways.  One benefit is that there is no need for a gym membership.  Another is that it gives me time outdoors.  Sunshine and fresh air are important to good health.  The best benefit to me though, is the "think" time.  Physical labor is a break from the mental grind of the week.

Our property has many acres of invasive trees.  Most of which are, I think, black locust.  They have thorns like nails.  I am working on clearing the ones growing in some of the old fence rows which I am taking out and also will eventually try to clear them from the property entirely. 

Saturday was a nice day -- other than a little wind ahead of a cool front that was expected that evening.  We had a chance of showers moving into the area so I wanted to start early enough to get as much as possible done before the rain. 

To make a long story short, I stayed after it until almost 4:00 by which time I was exhausted.  Rather than head into town for a shower and easy chair, I decided to spend some time in the woods.  Walking in the woods is peaceful relaxation for me -- even if I am tired.  This time of year is the best.  The summers here are unbearably hot and the woods are stifling because of the humidity.

It was about 6:30 when I pulled out the front gate to head home.  It was dark.  I was hungry.  I had sore muscles I didn't know I had. 

I forget that I have aged.  Hopefully by mid-week I will recover......