Sunday, March 26, 2017

Unity vs Uniformity

I read some discussion questions written by my son-in-law that got me thinking this week. Our families, our friends, our co-workers, even the non profit charities we support, have such different looks, different personalities, different abilities.
Our crew here on the farm are different ages. We cover three generations. We drive different brands of trucks. We have multi colored machinery. Our jobs are more diverse than most farms. We recognize, accept, and even celebrate our differences. However together, we all pull in the same direction. We are unified in our purpose, mission, and goals.
Mike rented farm ground for a little while after he got out of the Marines. However his love was pushing dirt. I encouraged him to buy his own dozer. His first job with it was volunteering his time and equipment working on the new Pella Chr. High campus a dozen years ago. He was a key part in the construction of the football field. Today he coaches on that field and next year his son will play on it. That's God blessing diversity.
I was the job rover this week and worked beside Mike one day building terraces.
Karl and I took turns running the drill seeding down 4 or 5 different projects this past week.
When Kurt had obligations to attend I covered for him, and would help Alex with NH3. We have just a couple of jobs left and we can unhook the toolbars and get ready to plant when the weather dries and warms up.
When Andy had his tax appointment I hauled anhydrous from different locations to the field. This is hauling out of Hedrick with Jim and his crew loading us. Jim's location is not uniform with other locations. His office is a warm box with two recliner chairs, some paraphernalia on the walls, and a scale. However his unity in getting our work accomplished is unmatched. He doesn't keep score and he cares about the folks he works with, doing everything in his power to keep folks running.
Karl, Matt, Pablo, and I set up the seed treater and we started to treat seed this week. We have gotten a good start on staging and delivering seed.
Since yesterday was a rainy day we worked inside. Ryan is getting Jan's lawnmower ready for hopefully another busy summer. If the mower stays busy that means we will be getting rain which we depend on for growing crops.
Jackson was over yesterday so I put him to work. I told him he was to spread oil dry over the wet spots in the shop.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you that join this visit every week. I wish I could post a pic of you all. You are a diverse group. You are different ages. You have different jobs. You live so many different places. There is very little uniformity in this group. However we get together once a week to catch up. You make my day every time you mention a story we share. I thank God for the wide variety of friends I have.
At our Sunday service last Sunday Chris and Cheryl visited. They shared with us how Joshua Christian Academy, an inner city Christian School in east Des Moines is instructing and affecting a diverse group of mostly minority kids. Does JCA look like the Christian schools were used to? No. Even though they require families to help cover education costs based on ability 90% of their budget needs to be raised through donations by others. However we are unified and have the same goals when it comes to getting kids an education that includes God and the Bible.  
Jan and I have the privilege of supporting a class and last spring those kids came to our place for a farm visit. Notice the little guy on the right has my hat on. The young man in the back is Jae Marc and was featured on Little Big Shots on NBC about a year ago.  If JCA is intriguing to you and you would like to know more about them Jan and I would love to have you join us at their annual banquet on Friday, April 7. 
Last evening a group of over 500 folks got together for supper and a benefit auction for the Total Outdoorsman group. Their mission is to use the outdoors through hunting, fishing, etc. to create relationships so they can share with others about God's redemption and love. Not your cookie cutter way of reaching out to folks however very unified in a common purpose.
The speaker, Kyle, did a great job of sharing a turnaround in his life. The auction items ranged from coolers, guns, fishing trips, hunting expeditions, hogs and processing, and a Labrador puppy. Glad you got your puppy bought Mellissa.
Our interim Pastor Paul has been talking to us how unity looks in church. Last Sunday he talked about the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. The older brother wasn't very happy about his father taking back his younger brother and giving him a lavish party. He thought he should have been the one getting the party because he stayed home and kept all the rules. Believe it or not, keeping all the rules has nothing to do with getting close to God. Pastor and Ellen are leaving us for a while. Enjoy your trip to Greece guys.
"I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I'd rather you walk with me than merely point the way. The messages I hear are very wise and true. But I'd rather get my lesson by observing what you do. I may not understand all the advice that you give. But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live." Friends, we are a diverse bunch. However we have a common thread. Live purposely. Live sacrificially. Live joyfully.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring Break

Spring break needed a double jump getting started this past week. It felt and looked like winter with cold temps and snow on the ground. 
 Up until yesterday the NH3 tanks were parked waiting for warmer and dryer days.
With the grandkids out of school for the week Jan had extras Monday. Malaki is checking out a CaseIH tractor quilt Jan is working on. Jan has also found material with  John Deere and Cat construction equipment on them.
I have had an interest in the Ag program at Dordt College for 15 years and have stayed in touch with the ag staff there since. Jan and I have had the privilege of being part of a class where the kids actually buy a partial pen of feeder cattle, purchase and keep track of cost, and decide when to hedge or cash sale their steers. This past week I was invited to visit and participate in the class. A local banker, Eric, from Sioux Center is visiting with the class about lending. Eric and I have a mutual friend, Jim, in the banking business. Ag professors Richard and Gary, as well as Steve, who is in advancement are also part of the class.
 We also had the privilege to spend time with friends Eric and Barb during our visit. We were blessed with their visit to our farm a couple of years back. Many years ago I enjoyed working with Barb's father, Dr. B, at Pella Christian High where he was an interim principal for a couple of years.
 We mentioned to our host, Steve, we would like to again see Loren and Barb's contribution to the college some years ago. This stained glass chandelier, created by our son-in-law Brian's parents, weighs 1200 pounds and contains 3200 pieces of stained glass.
 We had breakfast with an old friend. (maybe old isn't exactly the right word) A friendship that started years ago. Diane is in charge of events at Dordt college. She, her sister Connie, and their siblings grew up in the Oskaloosa area and were farm kids.
 Dordt is starting a new venture this coming year. It's called Pro-Tech and it's a 2 year program with more of a hands on approach to education in Ag and industry. Joel, the pro-tech director, Steve, and I went to visit with a Coop manager in Sioux Center about how using kids in this program next year will benefit both the student and the business. Low and behold it was Jared, Jan's cousin. He is the son of Jan's Aunt Debbie. What a small world.
We wrapped up our visit Wednesday by attending chapel. What an inspiring blessing. Keep up the good work Dordt.
My sisters came this week from Colorado to spend time with our parents over their spring break.
 My Mom will be needing surgery next month to fix a hip socket. Since the girls were here we got together for KFC Friday evening.
Do any of you who grew up in the Osky area remember the old Junior High School? Jan went to school there. Centuries ago a bunch of us guys used to rent the gym for Saturday night basketball. All I remember was it used to get a little rough. Thanks for lending me the picture Jon.
Grandson Cody spent his spring break helping his dad, Mike, push dirt and build terraces. Cody is in eighth grade. 
John also helped his dad, BJ, over spring break. John is in the 4th grade. He came to coffee at the office one morning driving his dad's pickup. Russ, our sheriff, was over for a visit and jokingly asked him how he got there. John told him he used Grandpa's pathway. :) 
 Spring break at our house is usually the week we deliver seed corn. We had a slow start however thanks to Karl, Ryan, Pablo, and Matt we did get organized and got started.
 Those fellows also helped get the seed treater set up. We hope to start treating soybeans next week.
BJ and Cassia's oldest son, Gideon, who is in 9th grade went on a work trip over spring break with Joe and Diana from Lake View Camp to help in Florida.
 Spring break is the time of year when we look forward to things starting to grow and take off. Do you ever wonder what God has in store for you this year? Are you using the full potential He has given you? Are you seeing opportunities He has put in your life? Are there folks in your life you can be an influence on? Don't judge people's success by what they have become, but what others have become because of them. Look forward to next week.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Joint Venture

This is the time of year when we never quite know what to expect. We got up early. We have our work boots on. We're dressed and ready to go. However sometimes we just have to wait. 
There are so many things that go into a successful crop season. Lots of planning and practicing including soil samples, tillage, drainage, nutrients, hybrid selection, counting the cost, and arranging the financing. However we all know we also need the right amount of sunshine and moisture and the gift of getting life out of a dead seed. So it's a joint venture. We set aside a service at our church to ask God for His intervention on our year. 
Kurt, Alex, and Andy spent most of the week applying fertilizer around the Ottumwa area where the soil conditions were dryer. It's a gift to be able to be in the field the second week of March.
Parents sometimes aren't quite sure how to handle a young one when they get outside their boundaries. Just like this momma cow, they are worried enough. Just not sure about the solution. It's another joint venture. Sometimes we just need to ask for help from God and others.
Precision and Ag Leader are two companies in the technology business usually competing with each other for business. Precision takes the lead in the equipment that does the work on the planter. However Ag Leader has always had the upper hand in developing a display that monitors that equipment and records data.
These companies are trying something. They are doing a joint venture on two of our planters seeing if they can work together for the better of each of them as well as us, the end user. One of the 11 planters they are trying this on around the country is already planting corn in Mississippi. There were 14 of us at lunch time one day this week as developers and installers from both companies worked together.
At our prayer service we not only prayed for crops but industry and other occupations as well.
One chilly day Cassia, Gideon, and Natalie worked together and all helped BJ put in tile 
Karl spent a day and I another day working with the scraper moving black topsoil back where it belongs. The grass waterways get high as they work to stop soil loss and drain water. Once in a while they need to be cleaned and reshaped. 
Mike worked all week building terraces that stop water and get it to drain under ground.
We prayed for God's blessing on our country. I don't watch the news anymore because so many folks are complaining and pointing fingers at folks they think are the problem. Most of those folks are well fed, have a comfortable place to live, and still enjoy most freedoms this country was founded on.
I missed a school function that I wished I had gone to. The Junior High kids at Osky Christian recreated a wax museum where each one of them was a different character. Their assignment was to research the person they were acting as and answer questions as if they were that person.
Finally we prayed for God's blessing on our churches and their mission. I believe going to church is a good thing. I do think those of us who go regularly should ask ourselves why we go. Is it because we were taught we should? Do we take our kids so they won't get outside the boundaries? Is it because we hope God helps us with a crop? Is it because we might be missed if we're not there? Or should it be a joint venture where we receive God's word, learn about His will for us, honor and praise Him with everything we've got, and then say thank you by including others in this  blessing?

Saturday, March 4, 2017


I learned a new word this week. It's different than renewed, restored, or retrofitted. Repurposed means taking something and using it in a different way or for a different job. Forty years ago an IH 1456 was the big horse on the farm. At 175 hp it did all the heavy field work. Today it's used for much smaller and menial jobs. Now tractors two to three times it's size are depended on for the tough pulling. 
In 1975 this building was built as the main storage for machinery on the place Kurt and Emily bought last year west of Leighton. Kurt is repurposing this building from a machine shed to a farm shop and on Monday everyone helped pour concrete.
 Kurt is explaining to his son Jackson that it's still too wet to walk on, and both of them are excited about the new opportunity.
A farm shop serves lots of purposes. It keeps a farmer organized. It helps him get equipment ready when it's too nasty to work outside. It can be a clean and pleasant environment to work in. It's a good place to visit with friends, neighbors, and suppliers when the home can seem a little too personal. But most of all for me it's a place where kids can help their Dads. The more children are valued and given responsibility in their early years, the better their values will be  and their ability to handle life no matter what their purpose is as adults.
BJ has a field with small tile and small terraces. He is clearing a way for a new 8 inch main tile and is going to rebuild the terraces in this field making them bigger, more effective, and more farming friendly.
 Alex is digging set-ins for tile intakes on a rented farm that Mike will soon be building terraces on. When you can get the excessive water after a big rain to run under ground you have much less soil loss due to erosion.
 This story made me think. I walked into McDonald's last Monday morning in Pella to grab a breakfast biscuit and coffee. The waitress rang up the bill and said, "that will be $4.39 and I gave you the senior citizens discount on your coffee". Ouch. I wonder how soon it will be before I'm repurposed, just like that IH 1456 in our first picture.
Early Tuesday morning Jan and I headed for San Antonio, Texas. We drove so we could spend time together and so we could stop at a moments notice and check out the sights, like quilt stores. As many of you probably already know San Antonio has a river running through town. The restaurants and stores all along the river is called the river walk.
 The first day we drove 850 miles to Waco, Texas. Jan found us a motel room on Hotwire shortly before we arrived. I'm sure many of you have heard of Chip and Joanna. They have a TV show where they remodel homes for folks in the Waco area. Chip's favorite thing is demo day and Joanna takes the prize for repurposing. They purchased this old grain elevator that they call silos in Texas and totally made it into a destination that's fun to visit.
They have this huge flat storage grain facility that they call a grain barn and it is full of repurposed items that are for sale. The whole block is called the Magnolia Market at the silos. Thousands of folks come to visit. The visit is free unless you buy something which most folks do including us. Saturdays are usually a two hour wait just to get in. They are closed on Sundays which I think is cool because they are choosing to honor God.
We came to San Antonio for the Commodity Classic. That's a big agricultural trade show that features a floor full of new products, seminars on the latest issues facing farming, entertainment, and speakers that are experts in their field.
 The bigger end of the equipment ranged from 620 hp tractors to 48 row corn planters. There was more technology than I have ever seen. All the crop input suppliers were there. Folks selling drones were everywhere. (A drone is a small model helicopter with a camera that flies 400 feet in the air, controlled from the ground, and sends pictures of crop progress to a smart phone) And my favorite was hundreds of ideas to make a farm shop more organized and efficient.
 The many seminars started early morning and could be found most any time of the day. They ranged from, is profitability in farming possible today, to the many details of growing crops, to marketing, to the perfect farm shop, to passing on the farm to the next generation, to cooking.
 There were a number of concerts sponsored by a number of companies. My favorite was Josh Turner. He grew up in North Carolina where he was in a church quartet. He has been married for 14 years. He and his wife live in Nashville and have four sons. He was not scared to tell folks through his music that he honored God. He wrote a song in 2003 that he and Randy Travis sang called Long Black Train.
My favorite speaker was Randy. Randy lives in Georgia with his wife and kids and raised 531 bushel of corn per acre this year! He also raised 171 bushel of beans per acre. His father is a pastor and so he is a first generation farmer. He takes soil test every year. His soil is very sandy. Since he irrigates he uses fertilizer through the water all season long. He takes tissue test of his crop every Monday checking for sufficient nutrient intake. He insist all corn plants emerge within 24 hours of each other and be evenly spaced without skips or doubles which makes a having a planter in top condition a must. He honored God by giving Him all the credit. He told about how his late mother dedicated him to God and prayed for him every day. He gave others credit for answering all his questions, and is telling his story for the purpose of paying it forward to others.
I heard folks talking bad about Randy while in Texas and found myself thinking what they were saying might be possible. I found out how wrong they were. Have you ever had it get back to you what folks have said about you that isn't true? It hurts doesn't it. I heard so much information and so many good ideas this past week. I have heard it said and I believe it that folks with large minds talk about ideas. Folks with average minds talk about events. Folks with small minds talk about people. Below my friend and neighbor Edgar is showing me his orchids. They were beautiful. 
Last Sunday morning Pastor Paul talked and showed the Cadets how natural it is to get tied up with wrong in our lives. He wrapped Ethan and Cody with grey tape as a demonstration of how wrong and sin hinder us. When we ask God for help with that wrong and ask Him to be in charge He repurposes us for what He created us to do. He reminds us not to use destructive words about others. He helps us become a gatekeeper about keeping out negative thoughts and labels. Honoring God as those folks in my earlier stories did leads to significant lives.
Since we hope to head north early tomorrow morning I am sharing this on a Saturday night. Jan and I participated in a church service this evening with around 90 other folks. The service was planned by the Fellowship of Christian Farmers at the trade show sight. Have you ever been to church with folks you didn't know and felt a bond? It's a blessing. Have a good week.