Saturday, June 24, 2017

Things You Can't Buy

 Greetings from southern Colorado. No, I didn't get this picture off of my latest Zane Grey western novel. As I mentioned last week our son Kurt came out here to help friends work and move cattle.
 Kirk and Rebecca  live and ranch in Westcliffe. Mark, their ranch manager and friends with our family, lives there as well. However they winter cattle further south in Thatcher.  
Kirk and Rebecca's ranch in Thatcher has 5 miles of the original Santa Fe Trail going through it.
The crew worked and lived down on the southern ranch about a week. This is the old 1800s cabin that was their home during that week. When they arrived they chased out some varmints. They also killed a rattlesnake the first day.
After rounding up the pairs and working the calves, they moved them north to Westcliffe. Jan and I brought Emily, Jackson, and Jayden to Colorado to see Kurt and finish the week with him.
Kirk and Rebecca along with their ranch manager Mark and his wife Stacy were really fun to hang out with. Rebecca hosted us all for supper on their ranch on a mesa in the mountains. This kind of trip you have to experience to appreciate.
 They also had a birthday cake made to celebrate Emily's birthday.
Meanwhile back home in Iowa the crew spent a lot of time spraying beans.
We have this famous mud hole on BJ and Cassia's farm that seldom dries up even though it is well tiled. All of us have been stuck in it more than once. It always looks dry on top. However it must have old coalmine shafts underground that bring up water constantly. Once again this sprayer operator called home for a pull.
Our helper Jim poured some concrete at his place Friday morning. Part of our crew helped out. I would like to finish up this visit by listing some things that can't be bought. Money can't buy a work ethic. 
Dollars can't buy grandchildren and their desire to help their dads.
Money can't buy experiences. Some of those experiences we had as a child we remember the rest of our lives.
 Money can't buy kindness. Kindness cares about the well being and happiness of others. Kindness values relationships over rules. Kindness takes folks in just as they are. Kindness forgives and gives folks second chances.
Money can't buy talent and ability. Those are God given and must be used and shared to keep them at their top potential.
Money can't buy integrity and character. Those come from a lifetime of honesty, clear purpose, and helping others.
Money doesn't buy legacy. How folks are remembered doesn't come from what they've accomplished. It comes from what they've helped others accomplish.
 Money doesn't buy a clear conscious. Telling the truth and doing things right the first time is the easiest road to follow.
Finally, money doesn't buy health. For those of us that have good health, we need to thank God every day that we can enjoy life. We also need to pray for and help those that are struggling. 
 I am visiting with you this evening from Colorado Springs. We stopped and visited my sister Beth and her family. Since Kurt's wife Emily and I both share birthdays today, Jan and I, Kurt and Emily, and their boys went out for supper. I've had a lot of birthdays. I doubt if I can remember what presents folks have bought for me over the years. However I will never forget that they took the time to make me feel special. I'm also thankful for all the gifts I have been given by God and others that money can't buy.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Strength, Courage, And Mission

Last Sunday evening Jan and I attended the Lower Grove Bible School program where Becky and Brian's kids attended. Bonnie and crew always do a good job. Any time you're working with a large group of kids it takes strength and energy to be firm and organized. It also takes courage and caring to be gentle to accomplish the mission.
Back in the old days livestock feed came in cloth bags with colorful printed material. Mom's would then take those used feed bags and sew clothes for their kids. Rosie, a friend and widow, had taken her childhood dresses made of these colorful feed bags and embroidered them into a pattern. Jan quilted twelve of these patterns into a pretty quilt. I think it would have taken strength and courage to farm and raise a family back then. 
 Actually it takes strength and courage to farm and raise a family today as well. Today is Father's Day. I'm blessed to still have my father. I'm blessed to be a father. And I'm blessed to watch my son's and son-in-law all be fathers.
 The guys spend a good part of June mowing, raking, and baling field waterways for grass hay. Haying waterways provides cattle feed and keeps the field looking nice and free from weeds.
 BJ built an attachment for a skid loader that carries two bales. It takes a little courage because you can't see the bumps coming. It also takes a strong skid loader.
 Early planted corn on good dirt grew 24 inches last week. Most of the crop looks good and has great potential. Rains were scattered this past week with some fields getting a drink and others still waiting.
 The farms that are still waiting on water with lighter soils look like this in the afternoons. This farm has had 4 tenths in 4 weeks. I read in a poem recently that it takes strength to conquer. It takes courage to surrender. Since we are not in charge of the weather our mission is to rely on the One who is.
 Early Thursday morning Kurt left for southwest Colorado to help a friend work cattle for a couple of weeks. They will be rounding up the herd with horses. Then vaccinating, castrating, and branding the calves.
 Our church went on a mission trip to Des Moines this week. My job was to help Jan feed the crew while we were there. One of my jobs was to keep ice and water stocked.
 We helped Joshua Christian Academy remodel and clean. It's an inner city Christian school in east Des Moines.
 Our crew tore out and rebuilt walls, poured cement, repaired drains, trimmed trees, cleaned and painted rooms, sprayed roundup, cleaned the outside yard and garden, worked on the parking lot, and many other things.
 The first day dust caused the fire alarms to go off and we had a visit from the fire department.
 Our mission wasn't just to work. We also wanted to make friends and build relationships and we did. My hat's off to Chris and staff who had the strength and courage to make this school happen. Also a huge thank you to those who helped with our mission this week. Your servant heart was evident. A week like this doesn't just happen on it's own. Kudos to Sharon, Jill, and Anne and families for all the planning.
 I've told you this before. Many times on Mother's Day we thank Mom's for everything they do and they deserve those thank yous. Sometimes on Father's Day we hear about everything Father's ought to do and sometimes that's relevant. However I'd like to let you know that I work with and know many Fathers who have made it their mission to have the strength and courage to be the Dad God has called them to be. Late yesterday afternoon Jan and I went to watch the PC shooting team shoot with their Dads by Knoxville.
 Jan has spent many hours watering this month and it shows. Once in a while we grieve when we hear of a marriage not surviving. Being married takes strength and courage as well. On this Father's Day I would encourage Fathers to be a good example to their kids by loving their mother. That same poem I quoted earlier said it takes strength to love. It takes courage to be loved.
 Two good things about warm, dry summer days are the beautiful early mornings and late evenings. I look and experience them as a promise that we are loved and taken care of by a Heavenly Father. A paraphrase of James 7 says that a farmer waits patiently for his crops to grow; he can't hurry the process. But he does not take the summer off and hopes that all goes well in the fields. There is much work to do to ensure a good harvest. Corn and soybeans are temporary. Souls are eternal. Make it your mission to work hard before harvest.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Developing And Diminishing

Summer is a time of growing. We watch plants bloom. We continually cut our grass. It's when crops  rapidly develop. It's the time of year kids outgrow their clothes.
A farmers job in the summer is to monitor that crop development. To weed and feed if necessary. To keep bugs and disease out. And to pray and trust God for the proper amount of sunshine and water.
Crop development happens fast in an Iowa growing season. It has to. After planting and emergence a corn plant has about four months to mature. We also want it to. Our goal as farmers is not to end up with continually growing green plants. Our job is to feed the world. We plan to end up with grain soon after Labor Day.
In order for that to happen that corn plant has to start to diminish after it has served it's purpose. After emergence, growth, roots, development, and reproduction, the starches and energy switch from focusing on the plant to focusing on the ears of grain. 
 Cover crop has developed into a regular practice. It's effective for soil loss, tilth, water holding capacity, and drainage. It's usually planted in fall after harvest. The following spring the intended plants are no-tilled into the cover crop. If you look close you can just barely see bean plants emerging through the cover crop.
However for this practice to work the cover crop needs to diminish as soon as the intended crop starts to develop. I have seen the intended planted crops struggle this spring on many farms because the cover crop continues to do it's thing. I have watched too much emphasis and too little management on cover crops, and seen loss of focus, potential, and production.
Well, remember the pond project that Mark and Mike and their boys were building on Mark's farm?
It's just about finished. This past Monday and Tuesday they closed up the middle, undammed the creek, and started letting the water in.
Thursday Bryce and his daughter helped Brian and Becky's family bale small square bales of grass hay.
Brian and Becky now have about 700 bales in the haymow to sell this winter when there is snow on the ground and cows are hungry.
Congratulations to Olivia, Matt, and Johanna who greeted friends at their graduation celebration at the cabin this past Sunday afternoon and are heading off to college this fall. Olivia is a niece and Matt and Johanna are friends. It's hard to believe they are grown up already.
These little men wanted to go swimming last Monday so Grandpa had them fill their own pool. One has a hot water hose and one has cold on the west patio of our house.
Little men develop into young men. Ezra and I unloaded the last two racks of hay while Brian and Kyle stacked in the barn.
About as fast as an Iowa corn crop young men and women are soon adults. Productive, assets in society as well as God's kingdom, and developing families and businesses of their own. Thursday, Farm Bureau hosted a teachers ag education day here on the farm. Mark and Karl are explaining the process of growing crops and how the development of technology fits in.
Just like the corn plant needing to diminish as the ear develops while still supporting it, parents need to start to be behind the scenes as little men and women are given jobs and young men and women are making choices. Still there supporting. Always willing to help and affirm, especially when the winds and storms come. 
As those young men and women become adults and have their own lives and ideas the older generation often tries to keep a thumb on them, hoping they stay with the old way, not wanting to diminish and allow their children to become the main event. This happens in families. This happens in business. This happens in churches. God has a plan for our children. Just like He did for us.  
 Does diminish mean go away and be ineffective? Of course not. Can you imagine trying to harvest corn this fall if the stalk said, "I quit. Ear, you are on your own". It would be a huge loss trying to combine ears off the ground. I intend to finish strong, just not at the expense of my family. Likewise when we support our kids and grandkids, allowing them to develop, we help them become a record crop.
2 Corinthians 4:16 says we should never give up. Though our bodies are diminishing (sore shoulders), our spirit is being developed every day. It says our present troubles are small and short lived. It finishes by saying we don't focus on our troubles. We gaze on things that can't be seen. Things we see now will soon be gone, just like that corn stalk after harvest. However things we cannot see, like our future generations contributions to society and God's kingdom, will last forever.