Sunday, January 22, 2017

January Ruts

I remember my Uncles and Aunts telling stories about how they used to get stuck driving their cars on their roads back then and would have to get a team of horses to come pull them out.
Think about the old cars we see in parades that they used to drive. They were two wheel drive. They had skinny tires. And they were low to the ground. The gravel roads this week have been falling apart. Warm and wet in January in Iowa is not the way it's meant to be.
We have a scheduled a fair amount of corn to go to market this month and have been trying to haul in the mornings. This week it hasn't been freezing overnight and the trucks are carrying around 2500 pounds of extra empty weight due to the mud.
So we have been hanging around the shop more. The forklifts are getting their yearly servicing.
It's too warm to race on the ice and the kids have been working on their bikes.
We decided to give the TW 20 a makeover. Mike has been cleaning and sanding. Jim worked on welding some cracks and dents in the sheet metal. BJ ordered decals, interior upholstery, and a seat. Stay tuned.
I was driving to Albia and was listening to the inauguration activities on Friday. I was encouraged by all the prayers given and all the times God was acknowledged. It's been awhile. Ken, our state senator, also stopped by on Friday for coffee and we talked about state government. There is legislation in sub committees protecting our babies before birth. I think our governor would sign a life bill if it came across his desk before he goes to China to be an ambassador. There will also be ESA (educational savings account) legislation where the power of education goes back to the parent and some educational money will follow students to the accredited school of their choice.
Our countries government has continually put in extra thousands of dollars in our schools each year trying to improve education for our kids while taking out prayer, Christian songs, Christmas, and activities and conversations that involve God's name. They have even made laws allowing girls and boys to use each other's restrooms for Pete sake. I think it's about time to try something different.
The Bible talks about faithful patriarchs that were blessed to live long enough to see their families to the third and fourth generations. My parents have been faithful in many ways. Mom can only walk anymore with a walker and a lot of pain. However she still has her smile and pleasant, giving, attitude when you go see her. Below she is holding my granddaughter, Hazel.
My Dad was the youngest of ten children and last week his last living sibling, Aunt Kay, died. Talking to Dad are Jan, my cousin Don, and cousin Dick and his wife Linda. My sympathies to Dick and Linda who lost a great-granddaughter just after birth. Nora Faith's parents were Joel and Sarah.
Aunt Kay's funeral was that icy Monday last week. These are my brothers, Doug and Bill.
Aunt Kay had asked if I and the boys would sing at her funeral. She lived in Newton. Uncle Herm has been gone for years. When we would visit her she would love to talk about the old days including muddy roads.
Speaking of the third and fourth generations of families, many times that's close to a hundred years difference in age. Hazel was at the funeral.
Our son BJ had his 37th birthday yesterday. He and Cassia have five children. Their oldest is our oldest grandchild, a 9th grader. Natalie is helping her Dad in this picture.
I was surprised and pleased to see Rusty at our churches Christmas Eve service about a month ago. He was married to my cousin's daughter, Shelley. Rusty has had a lifetime of poor choices. Rusty passed away Thursday evening from complications of cancer that few people knew he had.
Rusty had gotten his life back on track around Christmas time and due to a series of events I feel privileged to have been part of he and Shelley's lives for the past three weeks. You never know when a conversation with someone will be your last one. Make this next week a good one. Ruts and all.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Places and Faces

Jan and I were given an opportunity to visit Grand Cayman Island this past week. It's just south of Cuba and west of Jamaica. The island covers about 75 square miles. We stayed in a two bedroom apartment with another couple.
On the day we arrived we were given a rental car to drive. The steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and you drive on the wrong side of the road. Parking lots and roundabouts are the hardest things to remember to do backwards. While taking pictures the first day I accidentally dropped my phone in the ocean. Oops. A local fellow helped me find it. It's been misbehaving since.
We spent most afternoons on the beach. There were dozens of different places to try all kinds of food. I read 5 books. We met lots of new friends. About a half a dozen of us were early birds and had coffee together every morning. My phone didn't work and never rang once.
Last Sunday nine of us decided we were going to experience a local church service. Most times there is a reward for taking a risk and this was no exception. The congregation had to postpone a scheduled baptism in the ocean due to windy conditions.
As we were leaving the service I noticed a three foot long lizard sunning himself above the church door.
Some years ago Hurricane Ivan turned loose dozens of chickens. Today the towns are full of free range roosters, hens, and chicks.
Jan loves plants and is good at growing and taking care of them so we went to see this 65 acre Botanical garden at the far end of the island planted in honor of the Queen of England. She enjoyed all the different varieties of trees, plants, and flowers however she was not impressed with the multiple snakes that came out to check on visitors.
Guess who we ran into? I swore he was our outgoing president. There was little we agreed on, even in Cayman. Jan was more outspoken than I was and we finally agreed to disagree with him. For those of you who have been to our shop office, don't worry, I don't think this picture is going up anytime soon. Well, maybe it would be fun for conversation sake.
Whoops. Wrong turn. We found a community called Hell with a post office and everything. The community has a black iron shore jagged beach. I would not want to live there.
Jan has always loved gardening so we went to the Farmers market at Camana Bay. This gentleman is a local farmer and has 16 acres which is large for a small island. He grows just about everything including coconuts. His hired help are folks from the Philippines. 
Yep. If there is a fabric store  we will find it. Jan brought home some colorful material.
These are the couples we went with. They are all either farmers or farm related. We didn't know any of them the first day and were friends with most of them by our last day.
Between my parents, siblings, spouse, kids, and grandkids, there are over 40 birthdays to remember and I could use some improvement on remembering. Mark and Stacy's Allison had her 5th birthday on the 5th.
Wow. What a surprise. While we were gone Becky, Brian, and his parents installed the stained glass window we had ordered. Brian's parents, Lauren and Barb from Maurice, Iowa are stained glass window artist.
The kids are enjoying racing on the pond ice again. Their motorcycle tire lugs have hundreds of screws in them for traction on the ice.
 A little over 6 years ago Brent and Judy were married at our cabin. Yesterday they were back for a baby shower for Josh and Carrie who are expecting. Last summer we asked you to pray for Judy's son, Justin and Denise, from Kansas City. Justin has been fighting cancer. Well it was awesome and an answer to prayer to see Justin (in the white coat) doing well. 
About twice a year I collect all the leftover jackets and sweatshirts left in the office. I wash them, fold them, and then lay them out for the girls to claim when they come.
While all the places we go and all the faces we meet we are leaving a lifetime of footprints. Our directions not only affect this life but also the next. Be intentional and ask God for directions. I'd like to close with last week Sunday's special music at the local Cayman church service. "Face to face I shall behold Him. Far beyond the starry sky. Face to face in all His glory. I shall see Him by and by.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Old And New

I grew up liking red tractors. As a kid I remember the excitement when my Dad told me he had traded for a newer or bigger model. My first tractor was an IH 856. There were few cabs back then and mine was no exception. When Jan and I got married I knew a rented 180 acres wasn't going to be enough to provide for my new bride. So I purchased $150 set of duals and went to town to the local Farm Service to ask for custom work. 43 years later I still own my first tractor and custom work is still a very important part of our families business.
Today things are much different. Tractors have increased 4-5 times in size. What used to take weeks now takes hours. There is no comparison on comfort and the cabs are now safer for the kids and grandkids to help. Is it all for the better? That could be answered both ways. One thing however is for sure. You either take change by the hand or it will take you by the throat.
We helped Kurt this week tear down, burn, and clean up an old machine shed. Larger equipment has made some smaller buildings obsolete. About all that fits in these small sheds is junk that we are not quite ready to throw away. Kurt's brothers are helping him get ready to pour concrete in a larger building that he will be able to use for a shop.
When my father-in-law was farming he used to do a lot of tiling for himself and others. A farm was considered well tiled if the mud holes were taken care of. He and my mother-in-law would use an old Vermeer tiling machine. I remember my father-in-law putting the 300 foot rolls up on the tile carrier of the machine. My mother-in- law would cut off the twine holding the rolls together. The large mains were clay and were laid by hand. Yes, I'm sure a few of you remember digging in tile by hand. I can't imagine.
Earlier last week before it got cold again the grandkids were helping tile. Today tile is dug in as a pattern every 30 or 40 feet with a tile plow. A tile plow is a knife that puts in the tile and horsepower. Grade is determined by GPS satellite. Tile rolls are now 3000 feet rather than 300. Hooking up smaller, older tile is not necessary because the new tile is close enough together.
The guys have been working on some of the older stuff this past week. Sometimes machinery that's a few years old is simpler and easier to work on.
Boards and councils including churches often have term limits on folks serving.  I think there is wisdom in doing that. It shares the work load. It also brings a different set of ideas to the table. Below the new set of elders and deacons are being prayed for by the ones retiring.
Jan and I were asked to be last minute fill ins on a trip to warmer weather. We accepted the invitation on short notice and have been making many new friends as well as meeting some old ones. God created us to have relationships, with our spouse, with friends, old and new, and with Him. Have a good week.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Series Of Beginnings

Do you enjoy getting an early start? You step outside and see the sky covered in stars. The moon is heading down in the west. It's so quiet you feel like it's just you and God. Later you see the eastern horizon start to grey. Then the orange, pinks, reds, and purples paint the sky as dawn comes. It's the beginning of a brand spanking new day.
We are standing at the doorway of a brand new year. A clean calendar. A new start. Another chance. A year older. There will be obstacles and opportunities. There will be tender times and tough times.

2016 will soon be forgotten except when life jogs our memory and reminds us of the past. Our lives are a story. We were created by God to live out our story. We have been given a mind and abilities to make choices which will determine our story. Looking back on our stories collectively is history(His-story). This weekly visit is a snap chat of a small part of our story.
This story started back in the 1950s in Wright when my wife Jan and her brother and sister leaned to drive on their father's Hybrid. Gene put together a 1948 truck and a Graham-Bradley tractor.
Then in the 1970s we needed a second tractor so I put together a Hybrid using a 1957 ton truck. Our kids drove it to chore around the farm. They also occasionally took it to town with interesting results. 
Now the grandkids are asking that we get the Hybrid going again. So last Monday we drug it in the shop.
The next chapter of this story is to decide whether to do CPR on the old Hybrid or start over. Stay tuned.
With school out over Christmas break the older grandkids were good help. I start to feel old when I have to work to keep up with them in a grain bin.
BJ sent a crew to take out fence so he could tile. Apparently they still have a little way to go in rolling up netting. I remember taking out fence working for Walter when I was their age.
These four brothers helped unload firewood at the cabin Friday. We were going to burn brush piles as well however it was kind of windy and I didn't have the energy to chase a fire through someone else's timber.
Another story. This one's scary. Jan mentioned to me that we were having guest at the cabin and I needed to move the just washed honey wagon. Since a little tractor with a little hitch pin was easily available I decided I wasn't going far. As I coming on the yard I noticed me and the 1456 had turned but the honey wagon hadn't. I thought, Oh no, it's going to hit one of Jan's trees. Then I thought, Oh crap, it's not going to hit a tree and it's heading straight for the pond. I'm going to have to pull it out of the edge. Then I thought, wait a minute. The pond has 6 inches of ice on it. How far will it go out on the ice before it sinks?
Well fortunately there was no frost in the grass surrounding the pond and the hitch dug in and the honey wagon stopped. Good ending to a not so good story.
Once in a while we get invited to cabin guest's gatherings to help out with a family photo. This good looking bunch got together Friday evening for a family Christmas. Congratulations Brant and Martha and families. Your quivers are full. I hope all of you have blessed new year.
Our Christmas rain took most of the frost out and we are moving dirt. A gift for this time of year.
BJ moved the tile plow yesterday and weather permitting we hope to pattern tile a farm on Monday.
Jan and I got invited out on Old Year's Eve to have supper with BJ and Cassia's family since Adili tuned 7 on the last day of the year. 
Remember being introduced to Hazel a couple of weeks ago? Well she already has a cousin younger than her.
Jayden arrived Tuesday. He joins his big brother Jackson and his parents Kurt and Emily. The beginning of another story.
Well, as we turn and look back, the 2016 story has been written. Some of it was planned. Much of it wasn't. 
Once again we are beginning a new chapter looking forward. There are plans. However much of this chapter will happen unplanned. Making choices and choosing directions for the new year can be difficult because we don't know the future. Remember the One that wrote our story does know the future and wants to use us in His plan. You can make a difference this year. The outcome hasn't been determined yet but I saw individuals being used in our last election cycle results and believe me it wasn't the Russians. God bless you all my friends in 2017.