Sunday, February 7, 2016

Life With No Regrets

Good morning. Thanks for visiting. I have been reminded how living life moving forward, positive, and no regrets is healthy and productive. Looking over one's shoulder, being negative, and second guessing is time consuming, confusing, and depressing. In our shop we're getting ready to work on construction equipment.   
Since we moved across the yard to our new home last summer, and since we took the old house down about a month ago, we have all these boxes in our new basement of stuff. You know, stuff we'll never use. Well Jan is having me go through all these boxes on my free evenings. She can't figure out why I only get through one box a night. The reason, these boxes are full of memories. This house was about two miles west of Cedar way before my time and belonged to Jan's grandmother's family on her father's side. There was a fire and the family lost their home.
This is a poor picture but I found it interesting. I have told you before how Jan's father and others started the first tractor pull in our county. Well in this picture is a Farmall 806 is pulling a wooden sled that men jumped on as it went by to increase the weight in front of a packed house. And your parents and grandparents told you all they did was worked in the old days, right?
One winter day 50 years ago Jan's dad went to chore on the hill and made this discovery. Apparently a gentleman had walked away from the county farm and died in the hog shed.
When I was 14 years old we had to take a tractor safety class in order to work for hire. Sitting on the first tractor is Bryce. John is on the second with John, the instructor standing. The 4th tractor has the only girl that attended with Charlie, the instructor standing. And Gene is looking out the last tractor. As an 8th grader I thought it was crazy that a girl would attend. Well little would I know that 5 years after this picture I married that girl. 
You don't have a clue how many memories this picture brings. My father-in-law and his hired hand, Gene, are unloading straw into an elevator. Not only did they have a lot of baling, Jan and I and our kids had 100 acres of hay. We small squared, wire tied every bale and sold it to hay buyers who would truck it to Missouri dairies.
This is a fun picture of our local Christian School board 35 years ago. I wish I could name them all. On the left is Don, Jerome, Ken, and others. On the right is Darrel, Calvin, Don, Neil, and others. Good job guys.
 40 years ago we were just starting out. We had one tractor and one pickup. This was my father-in-laws idea. We took a 1957 Chevy ton truck and cut off the rear end. Then we added a Graham-Bradley tractor rear end and had ourselves a Truck-tor. We always called it the Hybrid. It's still around and the grandkids can't wait to get old enough to redo it again. Stay tuned.
One day we were combining along Hwy 92 in a field now called Otter Hills. The local newspaper came by. In this picture helping me is Mark and Becky. Mike and BJ were in the grain truck with Jan.
Our kids were always active, energetic, and helping and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. However once in a while they would get in a bind and need stitches. I'll let you guess who this was.
One winter day about 27 years ago I had a dozer in the shop just like today and was working on it. Jan came home from the doctor's office, came in the shop, and told me we were having twins. Wow. If we would have looked back then, second guessed, and told ourselves we couldn't afford a large family, we would have missed out on more blessings than you can imagine.
This past Tuesday we went to the Machinery Power Show. Since the weather was bad and since there is no discretionary income in farming there was a small crowd which was good when 12 grandkids go along. We ran into Paul who was working with Fellowship of Christian Farmers. Thanks Paul for your passion for showing folks Christ.
Laura is a fourth grade teacher at our local Christian School. Her and her husband Jason had a pizza and Bingo night for fourth graders and their grandparents. Thanks Laura and Jason for a good time.
John and Amelia are both fourth graders. I think we may have grandkids in every grade except one. Jan and I are blessed.
Saturday morning was breakfast pizza and getting ready for early weaners at Karl and Kristin's hog shed. Many hands make things happen fast. There were 13 of us working together.
There you have it. Some snapshots of the early days, of days when looking over one's shoulder and second guessing would have led one down a different path. However God had a plan we couldn't even have imagined or dreamed about. Don't just sit in your comfort zone. Don't be afraid of failing. If you do, get up and try again. Take chances. Get involved. Reach out to others. Don't burn bridges. You may have to cross it again someday. Be generous. And live life without regrets.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Picking A Winner Or Following Your Heart

Every four years or so, about this time of year, folks come to our turf to participate, report on, or just watch a race.
 Currently there are some newcomers leading in this race on our turf.
 Folks watching are confused. People they trust are cheering for the loud, the angry, and the arrogant even though they haven't seen them in a race like this before. And are trashing and talking bad about the very folks they cheered for in the race four years ago.
 In the opposing party we have a socialist and the dishonest leading the polls.
When there is something that needs to be done these folks say vote for us and we will get someone to do it for you and even pay for it with someone else's money.
In the party I am part of we have about a dozen or so in the race. These two are leading and folks are saying one of these two is your winner. They are both campaigning with a focus on self. They both have large sums of money at their disposal. They are loud and the media listens. 
 They both say they have all the tools to get the job done. The evangelicals are endorsing them. The establishment does not like them. I have met both of them on multiple occasions. At first I couldn't read their hearts. It seems they are both lacking the same things I feel are necessary to be president; humility, mercy, compassion, grace, and a serving attitude.   
 Then there are folks that have shown over the years that they work together and have gotten projects raised.
No one has done more in the last two decades in the public arena to advance the values of faith, family, and freedom for our country than these two men. Thank you men for your accomplishments. Thank you for sticking to and standing up for the values I believe in.  
As many of you know Rick is a true friend. We are about the same age. We both have and love big families. We both love and serve a big God and know He is in charge. And nobody outworks Rick when it comes to meeting and building relationships with voters.
Rick is also a true friend of our country. For 25 years he has fought to keep what made us a great country. Being from Pennsylvania he associates with working families and has never changed his mind on tackling illegal immigration. He is such a standard bearer for life, marriage, and family that we sometimes take it for granted. 
 Unlike other candidates Rick has strongly advocated for the continuation of the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate. Something Iowa and the rest of the country benefits from. However he doesn't promote it for picking winners and losers. He wants it continued for our national security so we are less dependent on the middle east for oil. Rick is the only candidate ISIS has targeted by name as their enemy. 
Tomorrow we as Iowans have the privilege and obligation to go to our caucuses and start this process of electing our nations next leader. Remember in Iowa we don't follow polls, we determine them.
Be careful in listening to and reading those who say you must pick my winner. If you don't you will be an obstacle and throwing your vote away. I don't want you to try and pick the winner rather than following your heart and regret it the rest of your life.
Our local state newspaper said this morning they expect a 300% increase in participation tomorrow evening. There will be surprises in the results.
Around midnight last Monday night Foster, Rick, Richard, Jeff, and myself prayed together in our home. Nobody asked God about picking a winner. Everyone prayed for family, our country, and our fellow countrymen to have undivided hearts for God and His purposes. Remember what God said to Samuel, "Man looks at outward appearance, But God looks at the heart".

Sunday, January 24, 2016

This Is Why We Farm

Sometimes my thought process doesn't always follow the seasons. We had a number of meetings and visits this past week about looking forward to the future and why we do what we do. 
This is the last week of January already and for the most part the last crop season is wrapped up. 2015's crop is same as gone and the obligations from last year are taken care of. 
The guys are working on machinery, selling hogs, still doing dirt work, working on projects at home, and a little ice fishing.
We are only 9 visits away from Easter and the first of April. So we are also getting in seed for next year, tuning up the technology on planters for spring, having tax appointments, deciding acres, buying chemicals, doing cash flows, and meeting with bankers to show them our plan for the new year.
Yes, it's a much different scenario in farming today than it has been. There are no home runs and it takes a sharp pencil to get a base hit.
There are two simple factors that determine viability in farming. The first is the income side. When markets were higher, selling when you either needed the money, needed the bin, or it smells, worked. Today it doesn't.
The second factor is obviously the expense side. Some inputs haven't changed much like seed, chemicals, and farm payments. Others have like fertilizer and fuel. Cash rent is coming down. However some folks have multi year contracts that need to be fulfilled.
So, what does it take to be a cheerleader and keep a positive outlook on farming? A plan. Know exactly what your cost are and lock those cost in. Know in advance what month you want to sell and deliver the crop you haven't even planted yet, and set the basis (permission to deliver) for those months. Now that you know your cost and when you want to deliver,  start setting market goals for those months. Most market opportunities for the 2016 crop were over a year ago. We are already watching opportunities for 2017. 
There is bad and good to this way of marketing. The bad is you rarely hit the high market which is what a landlord told me is a homerun. The good is you usually get a base hit. Base hits keep you in the ball game. Because of family interested in this business we need to stay in the ballgame.  
I just shared with you in a nutshell how things look from an earthly perspective. I would not be telling you the whole story if I didn't tell you on our own we are pretty inadequate and daily ask for God's direction and help. Yes, even in business. On our own we follow the up markets with greed, and wait for the top. And then follow the down markets with hope, and finally despair, and sell on the bottom.  
Next week Monday, February 1, we as Iowans get to show our nation what kind of president we think would be good for our country. Because of my involvement in conservative politics I get to meet and interact with these candidates.
Tomorrow, January 25, at 7pm my friend Rick is coming to our family farm shop to share his dreams and views. You are invited to take an hour and come meet, greet, and listen. I know what you're thinking. Rick doesn't have a chance. I am aware of that however I want you to know I don't use electability as a measuring tool for character and ability. I also want you to know the media controls so many folks thoughts, and things are so much different when you get to know folks personally.
As farmers we not only feed our families, we feed our country. We feed the world and as I debated to myself whether or not to have a presidential candidate venue, I decided it would be a good thing for folks that don't get to the farm often, get to meet good, salt of the earth, working people.
Just a note. Stay tuned next week. This contraption showed up yesterday evening. It's called "the beast", and it's used to scrape and brush snow off the ice to make a track for motorcycle racing on pond. Winter has finally arrived. Have a great week and love what you do.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What's In Your Legacy?

In February of 1996 Jan and I attended a Rural Water Conference in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. On that particular weekend we went to church with and visited Uncle John and Miss Vivian who were living in the area.
This past week we made the trip back down to Georgia with my parents. We had the privilege of getting a look into the lives of Uncle John who passed away in 2010 and Miss Vivian who passed away in 2015.  
My Mom was to go to the courthouse to be sworn in as Trustee of Miss Vivian's estate. Her job is to carry out the wishes of the will. We were also to meet with folks who were hired to disperse of Miss Vivian's earthly possessions.
Aunt Marge was my Mom's sister. She married Uncle John and they lived in Michigan. She passed away about 20 years ago.
We found this sewing machine in Uncle John's stuff in the basement. We are quite sure it was Aunt Marge's and according to pictures we are pretty sure it first belonged to my Grandma Rus. It works perfectly.
 Uncle John was born and grew up in the Detroit area. He and Aunt Marge never had any children.
Uncle John's father worked for Henry Ford way back when. While going through Uncle John's stuff we found his parent's 50th wedding anniversary invitation and the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Ford had attended. 
Uncle John was in the military during World War 2 and served in the South Pacific. We found his honorary flag and his knife. 
I always thought of Uncle John as kind of a combination between a scientist and a mechanic. He wore a long white coat at work. He still holds 4 patents in the mechanical area of  car starters and automatic transmissions. He worked in the Detroit area all his working life. Below is an award we found he was given. 
I have told you the story before of my Ponderosa Christmas when there weren't going to be any presents. When I woke up Christmas morning at 9 years old there were presents under the tree. Uncle John and Aunt Marge had come to visit and brought along used toys for the kids and a rifle for my Dad.
 I always remember before their visits we would have to dig out the seatbelts from under the car seats because Uncle John insisted we wear seat belts. We barely knew what seat belts were. Being from Detroit he also insisted we always pull the car keys after every stop. Our families car keys had never even been out of the ignition before. He also insisted us kids wear helmets when riding our bikes. We had no helmets.
After Aunt Marge died Uncle John met Miss Vivian while visiting the nursing home where she was visiting her dying husband. She and her first husband had no children either. Uncle John and Miss Vivian were married some time later and moved to Georgia.
Miss Vivian was quite the lady of English descendant. She loved collecting things. She had over 200 dolls, many porcelain from England. She had a collection of close to 40 hat pins from the turn of the century.
This is a goat wagon from the late 1800s. Her home looked like it was straight out of an antique road show. 
Her dishes including shelves full of delft were from all over the world and covered tables in 3 rooms after the cupboards were emptied.
In Georgia household disbursements are done by tag sales. Someone is hired for a percentage, usually a third or more, to identify and tag every item in the house. Then over a period of 4 or 5 days folks are welcome to come and go through the house and buy what they choose. The price drops every day on what isn't sold, and by the last day the prices are very reasonable and the goal is to have an empty house.
Since Mom was the trustee we were welcome to buy early anything we wanted. Below Dad is dickering with Gordon. Sonny is watching. They were the men hired to have the tag sale.
Mom and Dad as well as Jan and I enjoyed buying things that had sentimental value or interested us. Our trailer was full on the way home.
What an interesting experience and what a privilege to get to better know Uncle John and Miss Vivian by records, books, pictures, and things they valued throughout their life times.  
Miss Vivian was an outgoing, generous, and on-the-go lady who always had a plan and knew how to carry it out.
She not only loved to collect things she loved music and played the organ for church for 70 years. There were two organs and an electronic keyboard in her home.
What about you? What will folks find going through your stuff after you're gone? Will they be able to read your heart and know what's important to you by what you do or don't leave behind?
  Will there be any unfinished business in your home? What will your bank statement show you valued? Do the folks you leave behind know you love them?
You know in all the funerals I've attended I have yet to see a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse. We can't take it with us.
As we headed on our homeward stretch I was reminded of what a blessing children and grandchildren are. People to love. People to leave our legacy to. Make it your goal this week to let those folks know you love them and appreciate them.
 Finally it's not in our control how long we are here on earth or how we leave. However it is in our control that while we're here we finish strong. In most cases finishing strong includes others and an interest in their lives. Blessings.