The Birds And The Bees

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Went outside  to check on the apple trees this morning  to see if the hard frost we got earlier this week had done any damage…..

apple trees starting to bloom 2015 (9)

 

apple trees starting to bloom 2015 (8)

Apple tree in bloom 2015

What do you think?

All we need now is for the wild bees to show up and do their thing….

Honey-Bee-Flowers-

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#1 son and his wife stopped by to visit yesterday.   He was telling us about a time before they were married when he and a bunch of his buddies were driving around.  At some point, he really needed to find a bathroom, they were driving by a construction site and he spotted one of those port-o-potties.

He told the driver to pull over.... now!

He stepped inside of this gross little outhouse… said the walls were covered with those box elder bugs…hundreds of them, all quiet, and sleeping.

He said, he didn’t have a choice, he had to go.

(side note-  he hates spiders and bugs)  Keep that in mind.

All he could think about was getting out of there as quick as he could, hoping the bugs would not wake up.

At this point, one of his buddies throws a rock at the outhouse and all of the bugs come alive 🙂

I’m still chuckling as I think about it….

The reason #1 son and wife stopped was to tell us their latest news…

They had an ultrasound earlier this week so they just found the sex of the baby.  They stopped yesterday afternoon to let us know:

birth announcement

That means I’m  going to be a grandpa, again.

I prefer to think of myself as a 28 yr old with 29 years of experience.

That’s some of what’s happening in our little corner of the globe this morning…how about you? DM

Getting Paid

Saturday morning on the farmstead.

Nothing pressing until 8:30 AM so I decided to whip up a fresh breakfast of new winter onions,  freshly harvested chives and newly dug winter potatoes and eggs.

I was standing by the sink scrubbing the potatoes and onions when I spotted someone  coming up the driveway with our garbage can in hand.

I knew why he was stopping.

We installed a new metal roof on one of his sheds earlier this week, and my hunch was, he wanted to settle up.

I was right.

It was a tiny job, as jobs go.  I had the crew there for just one morning.   The wind was brutal that day.   25 to 35 miles per hour sustained winds, with even higher gusts.  We were handing  24 ft long sheets of roof metal, and  at the end of the day I came home exhausted.

It was one of those jobs I would just as soon of not done…(lots of hand holding,  this person tends to fret, and when the dust all settled,  I probably cleared less than a couple of hundred dollars total.

I did it more as a favor.

So, when my customer stepped into our kitchen, he asked if I had gotten his bill figured out.

“Yep, I dropped it in the mail yesterday. 

I told him I would be glad to look it up, because I had a copy of the invoice in my brief case.

$525.00.

I could instantly see a spark of fire in his eyes…

“What?  I thought you only had 12 hours total that day?”

(I always assume when we are working by the hour, someone may be keeping track of our hours….Just to be safe, I tend to round down, so there is not the slightest chance of over charging)

(12 times $35 (which is my current hourly rate)   = $420.00, so  I’m guessing he thought his bill would be more in the $400 range.

” How much are you paying your guys?

That’s when things started to go south…

I got out my time log…There were 3 additional hours from a couple of days previous he’d forgotten about, plus I’d not even billed him for 20 minutes the day before when I’d stopped to install some additional screws.

The implication hanging in the air was I had over charged him.

That did not sit well with me and I let him know it.

I have people who trust me with literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of work, with whom I never have a problem getting paid, and once in a while I encounter someone like this.

I realize most of you reading this have never met me, and don’t know the real me on a day-to-day basis.

It takes a lot to get me agitated.

A lot.

“Be angry but do not sin…and don’t let the day end without dealing with the situation…”

I didn’t say anything I need to apologize for, but the encounter did  leave me agitated.

Growing up, I was not an assertive person.

I do not like conflict, but neither will I avoid it if I feel it is in order.

Parenting 4 teens into adulthood and running my own small business has enabled some personal growth in the assertive department.

For that I am thankful.

Suppressed anger can lead to all sorts of negative things….

Depression, migraine headaches, certain types of cancer…

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.  DM

storm-thunder-clouds

So You Think You Have A Problem…

In the Summer of 1959.  At the feather River Inn near the town of Blairsden in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Northern California.  A resort environment.  And I, just out of college, have a job that combines the night desk clerk in the lodge and helping out with the horse-wrangling at the stables.  The owner/manager is Italian-Swiss, with European notions about conditions of employment.  He and I do not get along.  I think he’s a fascist who wants peasant employees who know their place, and he thinks I’m a good example of how democracy can be carried too far.  I’m twenty-two and pretty free with my opinions, and he’s fifty-two and has a few opinions of his own.

One week the employees have been served the same thing for lunch every single day.  Two wieners, a mound of sauerkraut, and stale rolls.  To compound insult with injury, the cost of meals was deducted from our check.

I was outraged.

On Friday night of that awful week, I was at my desk job around 11:00 PM and the night auditor had just come on duty.  I went into the kitchen to gt a bite to eat and saw notes to the chef to the effect that wieners and sauerkraut are on the employee menu for two more days.

That tears it.

I quit!

For lack of any better audience, I unloaded on the night auditor, Sigmund Wollman.

.  I declare that I have had it up to here;  that I am going to get a plate of wieners and sauerkraut and go and wake up the owner and throw it on him.   I am sick and tired of this crap and insulted and nobody is going to make me eat wieners and sauerkraut for a whole week and make me pay for it and who does he think he is anyhow and how can life be sustained on wieners and sauerkraut and this is un-American and I don’t like wieners and sauerkraut enough to eat it one day for crying out loud and the who hotel stinks anyhow and the horses are all nags and the guests are all idiots and I’m packing my bags and heading for Montana where they never ever heard of wieners and sauerkraut and wouldn’t feed that stuff to pigs.  Something like that.  I’m still mad about it.

I raved on in this way for twenty minutes, and needn’t repeat it all here.

You get the drift.

My monologue was delivered at the top of my lungs, punctuated by blows on the front desk with a fly-swatter, the kicking of chairs and much profanity.  A call to arms, freedom, unions, uprisings, and the breaking of chains for the working masses.

As I pitched my fit, Sigmund Wollman, the night auditor, sat quietly on his stool, smoking a cigarette, watching me with sorrowful eyes.  Put a bloodhound in a suit and tie and you have Sigmund Wollman.  He’s got good reason to look sorrowful.  Survivor of Auschwitz.  Three years.  German Jew.  Thin.  Coughed a lot.  He liked being alone at the night job- gave him intellectual space, gave him peace and quiet, and even more, he could go into the kitchen and have a snack whenever he wanted to- all the wieners and sauerkraut he wanted.  To him, a feast.  More than that, there’s nobody around at night to tell him what to do.  In Auschwitz he dreamed of such a time.  The only person he sees at work is me, the nightly disturber of his dream.  our shifts overlap for an hour.  And here I am again.  A one-man war party at full cry.

   “Fulchum, are you finished?”

No.  Why?
       “Lissen, FUlchum, Lissen me, lissen me.  You know what’s wrong with you?  It’s not wieners and kraut and it’s not the boss and it’s not the chef and it’s not this job.”

  “So what’s wrong with me?”

    “Fulchum, you think you know everything.  But you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem.”

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire- then you have a problem.  Everything else is inconvenience, Life IS inconvenient.  Life IS lumpy.”

   “Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems .  You will live longer.  And will not annoy people like me so much.   Good night.”

In a gesture combining dismissal and blessing, he waved me off to bed.

Seldom in my life have I been hit between the eyes with truth so hard.  Years later I heard a Japanese Zen Buddhist priest describe what the moment of enlightenment was like and I knew exactly what he meant.  There in that late-night darkness of the Feather River Inn, Sigmund Wollman simultaneously kicked my butt and opened a window in my mind.

For thirty years now, in times of stress and strain, when something has me backed against the wall and I’m ready to do something really stupid with my anger, a sorrowful face appears in my mind and asks: “Fulchum.  Problem or inconvenience?”

I think of this as the Wollman Test of Reality.  Life is lumpy.  And a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same lump.  One should learn the difference.  Good night, Sig.

Taken liberally   from  Robert Fulghum’s  book ”Uh-Oh”  :-)

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I DM posted this in 2010 so you may have seen it before.

All of us have touch stones in our lives.  Touch stones being defined as snippets of conversations,  quotes from a book, maybe a movie, etc. that we carry with us the rest of our lives after having encountered them.  These touch stones somehow weave themselves into the fabric of who we are, and shape how we view life and the things that come along.   This is one of the short stories by Robert Fulghum that have become one of my touch stones.

How about you?

Tell me about a touch stone that shapes who you are to this day.

G-nite.  DM

Where Is The Eagle – Gone

Until  recently,  the following  letter by Chief Seattle to President Pierce hung on a wall in our bathroom.

It is titled:

      Where Is The Eagle – Gone:

THE GREAT CHIEF in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will…

How can you buy or sell the sky – the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. Yet we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water. How can you buy them from us? We will decide in our time. Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s graves and his children’s birthright is forgotten. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the Redman. But perhaps it is because the Redman is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to listen to the leaves of spring or the rustle of insect wings. But perhaps because I am a savage and do not understand…

The whites, too, shall pass – perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. When the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by the talking wires, where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival….

 Chief Seattle to President Pierce in 1855

Beautiful wise sentiments from a “savage” don’t you think?

I love local history.

(It is one of my favorite ways to stay grounded, mentally and spiritually, to counter the shifting sands of our culture’s  definition of  right, truth, and “normal”.

I wanted to know more about this Chief Seattle  a few weeks ago, because he struck me as a very wise man,  so I started doing a little digging.

What I found out took my breath away…..

The letter was a complete fabrication.

Let me say it again….

The damn letter was completely made up.

Completely.

( I normally don’t swear, but it is a damn letter), was not written by Chief Seattle in 1855 at all, but more likely  by either Dr Smith, a white physician 20 years after the fact or according to Snopes:

…”  written by a screenwriter in 1971.”

I felt mentally and emotionally violated.

Contrary to the nonsense taught in some many of the halls of higher learning,  I believe there is such a thing as absolute Truth.

_______________________________

Honestly and truthfulness are foundational qualities  most of us value in our dealings with other people, whether it’s your local car mechanic, your family Doctor  or someone you choose as a life partner.

Things go south pretty quickly when trust is broken.

It can take years (never?) to re-establish trust in a relationship.

I’ve personally only dealt with two chronic liars, and known a few more from a distance.

Talk to me about trust, integrity and or lying.

Have you ever been wounded by the deception of another person?

How do you  discern if a person is trustworthy?

I know one of my fellow blogging friends recently wrote about being completely suckered by someone both he and and his wife thought was a trustworthy person, only to find out they were being played…

I recently came out of a relationship that was riddled with deception, and it has left me guarded and reluctant to open myself up again in the same way as well.

How do you keep from being jaded?

 

 

 

Feedbunk Time

bulls

Two Bulls tussling and  sizing each other up.

It wasn’t until years after the fact that I realized I’d spent the first dozen years of my adult life working in a verbally and mentally abusive  work environment.

Time and distance had given me  perspective.

There is a fine line between good-natured teasing vs using manipulation, hollering, and shame to control people.

As I was at the counter of the lumberyard this morning  four guys from a former crew I worked with stepped into the showroom.  I kept my eyes on  Dana, the secretary  as the boss and one of the other guys slid up on each side of me and started to heckle.  I could tell Dana was getting irritated because the nonsense.

Have you ever been around a herd of cattle at feeding time?  They push and butt,  crowding the smaller and weaker  cattle back from the bunk.  That is what it felt like this morning at the store counter.  Only I no longer automatically back out-of-the-way.  Depending on the circumstances, I will as often as not, stay right where I’m at.

Turn the other cheek is not the only option in my relational tool bag.

Sometimes bullies will take that as a green light to continue.  My favorite and #1 approach to a bad attitude from someone is my sense of humor.  It has  served me well numerous occasions.  But throw a little alcohol into the mix (guys I’m dealing with/ not me) and it takes a little discernment to know whether to joke and banter or push back, occasionally, pretty hard.

I’d love to have a conversation here about dealing with mean-spirited teasing, at work, in your extended family, etc.

How do you decide when  it has crossed the line from teasing to??

(I’m hesitant to call it abuse, but there’s definitely more going on that good natured banter)

How do you handle that sort of thing?

The Little Boy Who Lives Inside Of Me

 

Lester was  65 (70?) years old when we had the following conversation….

We were working together setting up scaffolding at my grandparent’s house.  I was 16 years old, and somehow  we were talking about what it felt like on the inside to be a 70-year-old man?

“Doug, he said, believe it or not, but I still feel like there’s a little kid who lives inside of me.”

Wow.

Never had another adult ever  been so vulnerable and let me in on that detail of their life.

Never.

All the adults in my life up until that point, wanted me to think they were grown up.  In Charge.  Important.  They talked down to  me, like I was a little kid…and yea, @ 16, I still felt like there was a little kid still living in me as well.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that by the time you hit 70 years of age, anything remotely resembling a little kid  could still exist inside of a man.

What an amazing, magical, vulnerable thing for him to tell me.

At this point in his life, Lester had raised a family, had his share of heartache,  farmed for 50 years, was collecting social security, and now worked part-time on a construction crew.

He always put me in mind as a Benjamin Franklin sort of guy…..

Wise,  dignified, frugal, respected, a little on the stocky side. Never cussed (unlike me) and good-natured.

 

I was thinking about that conversation this morning.

Lester’s confession is still bearing fruit in my life 40 years later.

I have actively, intentionally, and without shame, continued to protect and nurture the little boy who lives inside of me.

(I’m not talking about multiple personality disorder here btw) 😉

 

So when I meet someone who thinks they are maybe just a cut above the rest of us, inside I’m secretly  smiling…because it’ all a big game.

Little kids trying to one up each other.

I don’t care if you are the president or CEO of some multinational company, or nation for that matter.

The little kid does not have to go.

 

 

inner-child

One last thought.  My mom just turned 81 this year, and to talk to her, you’d think she has the spunk of a 16-year-old, and she has had her share of heartaches as well.

Just because you suffer doesn’t automatically mean the little kid inside has to die.

So psss…

 Are you in touch with the little kid that lives inside of you, or did you lose track of them @ some point along the way?

(I won’t tell anyone)

Why You Don’t Want To Move To Iowa

Hinterlands:  a region lying beyond major metropolitan or cultural centers

German, from hinter hinder + Land

First Known Use: 1890

Synonyms : back country, back lands, backwoods, frontier, outback, up-country

_____________________________
Dear Dave,

I know you are thinking strongly about moving to Iowa.  Thought I would jot you a quick note to give you my perspective.  When I hear the word “hinterland” I think of Iowa. Especially that part about being  “beyond the cultural centers.”  Culture is the last thing you’ll ever experience here in Iowa.

My great grand father came to Iowa from Germany before the turn of the century.  Not sure what he was thinking.   There is absolutely nothing here to see or do.  As your friend, I would strongly encourage you to think long and hard before you relocate to such a barren place.  I’m trying to be objective as I write this but I’d rather error on the side of caution, so you won’t be overwhelmed, in the event you would decide to come.

  This past Winter, we had a several week stretch where the temperatures did not get above 10 degrees.    Ice and snow storms are common from the first of November through March.

Once we get into May, it’s tornado season.  If you look on the map, we are in the upper area of what is called “tornado alley.”

Electricity only came to our area recently and we still can’t get a good signal for an internet connection.

And the quietness of this place will drive you batty.

The air is dirty and the soil poor.

The water that comes out of the ground is also tainted with all sorts of nasty stuff.

Prices for groceries are probably double the national average.

There are no jobs to be had and the smartest thing I would recommend is you stay right where you are at.

It’s best to live in an area with a higher population density. There is a reason McDonald s doesn’t put a restaurant in towns of less than 10,000, although I hear they have started to make some exceptions with that.

I know there are a few alarmist that write about behavioral sink.

I don’t believe  a word of it.

They claim that cramming too many people in to small an area results in behaviors such as (quoting now) “aggression, submissiveness, sexual deviance, and reproductive abnormalities….

explosive violence, hypersexual activity followed by asexuality, and self-destruction…

More than six hundred mice now lived in Universe 25, constantly rubbing shoulders on their way up and down the stairwells to eat, drink, and sleep. Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles. With more and more peers to defend against, males found it difficult and stressful to defend their territory, so they abandoned the activity. Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds. The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence. The victims of these random attacks became attackers. Left on their own in nests subject to invasion, nursing females attacked their own young. Procreation slumped, infant abandonment and mortality soared. Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic.

Mouse society had collapsed….”

You can read more about those experiments here.

We’re not rats or mice, so I don’t think their theories apply.

Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to give it to you straight.

Here are a few recent pictures I’ve taken.

Don’t let them fool you.  This is not a good place to raise a family.

sunrise in Iowa

Sunrise

IMG_3779

October morn

Saturday morning sunrise

Morning in the orchard

novembermorning3

November morning sky

evening light

After the harvest

misty march morning

 Misty morning in March

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Update 4-11-2015

Do you have any questions for me about Iowa?  What is the closest you’ve been to being here?

I’m slowing moving some blog posts from my other sites over here, since this is now my main/ active blog. A few of you may have seen this one before. 😉  DM

Real Masculinity According To Me

“The hands of a brick layer, the mind of a scientist,  the heart of a poet.” 

Epitaph of  Saumel J Kirkwood  former Governor of Iowa, and what I’m thinking of carving on my tombstone 😉 DM

kirkwood-hammer certificae

I’m probably going to step on a few toes with this one, but you know what,  I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

When I was a young man, there were very few healthy masculine role models as I recall.  The majority of men were either stoic males who suppressed their  emotion, or jocks whose sole purpose in life was to “get some”, great qualities to have in a future husband don’t you think?

I believe a real man can be tough and know how to stand his ground, but who also know how to admit when he’s wrong. (humble)  Real men  are in touch with their feelings, regardless of what anybody else may be telling you.

Since my years in High School,  I’ve been married for 35 years  to the  same woman, (and we still like each other). We’ve raised 4 children now in their mid 20’s to early 30’s, and  have  a healthy  relationship with each of them.

In addition to  teaching, I’m a general contractor.

I am a people person, and have known and worked alongside  dozens of men (and women) in the construction industry with every personality type you could imagine. In all these years, the one I had the most friction with was a  former bible college graduate twerp with a mouth.

I love pouring cement, stick framing a roof, riding motorcycles, writing poetry, baking my grandma’s rye bread from scratch, shooting a semi automatic rifle,  working in our  apple orchard, stacking bales in the haymow, butchering chickens, and bringing my wife coffee in bed.

I love working with the biker/just got out of jail types.

I love to look them in the eye and mess with their minds.

Six years ago, I spent the day with Johnny.  He was helping a friend of mine remodel a building.  Johnny was on work release, muscular, in his mid 30’s.  I came with my sawzall,  chop saw and diamond blade.  My job was to cut a doorway into the side of the masonry building 2 stories in the air.

I looked Johnny in the eye and said,   ‘”I’m afraid of heights.”  (because I am) 🙂

He looked @ me and sarcastically said, “Man, what kind of carpenter are you,  afraid of height?”

About 1/3 of the way into the process, there was an accident. Johnny, accidentally stabbed me with my sawzall.

New blade, with pigeon dung on it. Blade slid  into my forearm like a steak knife.   Two hours later, after a trip to the emergency room, we were back.  My forearm, with 7 stitches  was all wrap up.  I couldn’t leave because I had brought  the tools and know how.  I watched Johnny struggle for 5 minutes  with my chop saw. It was driving me nuts.

Finally, I said, “Let me have it.”

I grabbed the saw with both hands and went back to work.  Two hours later, we were done.

Johnny, looked @ me when I finished with the saw  and said, “Man, you are one bad @#s .”

Music to my ears.

A Musing…..What Work Is Doing To My Soul

This movie review caught my eye last night:

     “….  He’s a hard-drinking, hard-talking man…. we get a distinct sense from his wife that he puts on a warrior’s face to avoid thinking about what his line of work is doing to his soul.  Indulging any doubts  could get him or those under his protection killed, but not indulging them has made him, in Taya’s assessment, less human….”  From a review of the movie American Sniper

__________________________

I am a carpenter by choice.

I love what I do.

Love it.

Love the variety.

Love that it keeps me relatively fit.

Love the fact that I’m rarely at one place more than a couple of months….most of the time it’s under two weeks.

Love the intellectual challenges.

I could go on and on.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to stay small as a business owner.

One job at a time.

I will physically be on the job 99.9% of the time.

I’ve come to that decision after watching four different men go from small time to large-scale (and hearing about a fifth this past winter)

My dad’s crew went from  half a dozen to over 20. Multiple jobs.  Lots of stress.  Dad told me later,  he didn’t earn that much more money with that large payroll than he did with a crew of six.  Just  a lot more stress.

I used to frame houses for Brian.  He went from  running solo to  building 15 to 25 custom homes a year.   Instead of being on the job site framing walls, he  spent all of his time meeting with people, and putting out fires. I watched his personal life degenerate right before my eyes.

I graduated with Jerry.  He went from a 5 man framing crew to a payroll of over 40 men.  His payroll was over $75,000 a week.  At some point his meth addiction kicked back in, and last time I saw him, he’d lost his business and was picking up odd work around town.

Last Winter I worked with Jim.  Jim, was telling me about his old boss, who went from a crew of 3 laying brick to doing multimillion dollar projects.  He wound up loosing it all.  He has told Jim numerous times since, he wished he’d  stayed a 3 man crew.

I started out by asking what is work doing to my soul?

It is well with my soul.    But it will take more effort than ever to keep it that way this coming year.

My brother told me yesterday that the frost is out of the ground.

That means, we can start pouring concrete again.

My work calendar was already  booked coming into 2015 and a long-term farmer/client of mine lost multiple buildings in a fire this week.  I met with him yesterday,  told him I would help put one of the structures back together.  I have no idea how I’m going to pull that off and stay on track with my previous commitments.  If I come to mind and you believe in that sort of thing…whisper a prayer in my behalf that God would send one or two young teachable men my way..(soon) 😉

This is really random, but it fits with the flow of what I’m talking about..at least in my mind it does…

Before I go to work in the morning, I bring my wife a cup of coffee while she is still in bed. It is one of the ways I have attempted to stay connected to her emotionally over the years. We’ll usually talk for at least 20 minutes. (She’s not a morning person (I am) but she values this time as well..so we make it happen)

My grandpa used to bring my grandma coffee in bed.

Anyway,  in our pressure filled, fast-moving culture, it is so easy let the cares, riches and pleasures of life choke out that which is most important….

_____________

We watched a documentary Wednesday night on migrant farm workers and the inhumane working conditions they have to endure.  It grieved my heart. I don’t have the ability to change that system, but I do have the ability to control the working conditions where I work.  Here is what I want for myself and the people who work with me….

Balance.

Talk to me about your life and work related pressures.. I love details.  DM

Here’s a picture of the sunrise this morning:

4-4-2015 sunrise (3)