Why I’m optimistic about 2019

Every time I look at that little cartoon,

I think there is a lot of wisdom there.

I’m that front guy in the picture…

I just ordered  2000 Red Burgundy  Organic Onion seeds this morning.

When they arrive, I’m going to fill a flat with them and watch them grow.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

CS Lewis wrote a little fictional book called The Screwtape Letters.  It is my personal favorite of all his writings.  He was a master story-teller.   He talks in there about worry, fear of the future, fears of the unknown.   If you struggle with fear, and love a good allegory, I can’t recommend it enough.

I think it has shaped my thoughts on this topic as much as anything I have ever read.

Well, I feel a nap coming on.

Later! DM

 

 

 

 

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Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron  comes to the front door and starts scratching.  He wants two things.  First, a snuggle.  He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.    I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.   He was a half-grown kitten at the time.  If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.  🙂

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.  Dad is 86.  Until a week ago, he was still driving.  Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.  Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.  Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.   Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)  Quite a bad break.  Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a  nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.  Surgery went better than expected.  He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.  My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.  Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.  They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

    Work. I am in the middle of a large remodel.  It has been a mixed bag.  House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.  Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.  It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished  enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.  Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.  I saw some yellow fungus  starting to grow on the side of house Monday.   One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)  That ticked me off.  His phone has been surgically  attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.   He didn’t answer.  That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?  Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)  Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,  4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.  We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in  front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.  Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.  Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,  I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.  I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.  He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”   

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

+++++++++++++++++++++

Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

Katie and the Amish Farmer

I have been on the receiving end of two attitudes the past couple of weeks with our apple give away.    Both have left  lasting impressions.

Do you mind if I tell you two short stories? 😉

___________________

Her name is Katie.

She called our place a week ago, looking for apples.

Wondered if she could stop by after work.  She wanted to make apple butter.

I told her on the phone about the hail storm in June, how it had severely damaged the crop.  She was more than welcome to get as many as she wanted, I didn’t want them to go to waste…and they were free. She insisted on paying something,  but it would have to be after she got paid on Wednesday.  (She works at a local nursing home.)  I was struck by the concerned tone of her voice on the phone.

She stopped  one of the days I was home working in the shop.

I was struck even more by her appreciative, caring attitude when I met her in person. If I could bottle it up and sell it, I would be a rich.  What her attitude did (and does) to my heart  is almost palatable….like a perfume that makes my heart glad.

Katie came back this week and got a few more apples…and a pumpkin. She insisted on giving my wife $20.

 

_________________

This second attitude came my way via an Amish farmer.  He was here twice picking apples.  I lost track of how many bushel he ended up getting.

The second attitude  (if I were to put it into words) goes something like this…… You must be stupid (or uninformed).  Sure I will take free apples.   Before giving my friend your phone number I want to make sure I get all I want).

I don’t have a prejudiced, biased, judgemental bone in my body toward the Amish.  It has nothing to do with that. In the past  few years the Amish have been moving into our area in droves.  I interact with them every chance I get.

The Amish farmer asked if I had any apple wood he might be able to get for smoking.  Just so happened I did have a pile stacked by the barn I was hoping to sell to local restaurants…. When he asked me what I would charge for the wood, (this was after getting all of those free apples) I still sensed he was trying to get as much as he could for the least amount of money….

I just think it is hard-wired into some people to do business this way.

__________________________

People  are watching.  They may not say anything, but don’t think our good (or less than stellar) attitudes don’t go unnoticed.

 

Protecting the brand.

Hail damaged Cortland

______________________

Do you have any recent (encouraging) encounters with a stranger that left a lasting impression?

You know me….I love details. 🙂 DM

Picking green beans in the rain

It had been thundering for the past half an hour, and then it started to rain.

I was out in the garden picking green beans Tuesday night.

I could feel the anger slowly melting  away.

In the Christian tradition, there is a thought that goes like this….Be angry but do not sin…do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The word sin has all but disappeared in the work a day English language.

Too bad.   It  literally means  “to miss the mark”… a word picture of a faulty bow (bow and arrow) that doesn’t  shoot straight…shoot an arrow with this bow and it will inevitably veer to the left or right.

So there I was grousing a bad attitude about something I could not shake.  I did not want to have a bad attitude but i did…. If I told you what it was that had me vexed, you wouldn’t believe it.  Doesn’t matter. problem was, I could not shake it. Tried everything I knew…

And then it started to rain….and the bad attitude just sort of dissolved…. Not sure how that works, but I like it.

Pause.

Stopped by my mom and dad’s yesterday morning for coffee. They are both in their 80’s….still live on the family farm.  Dad was outside pushing a riding lawnmower onto a trailer.  I got there just in time to help him finish.

I cherish moments like that,  all the more of late… There has been a slew of obituaries in the local paper of people I know….most of them my parents age or younger.

My favorite moment yesterday  happened just before I left.  I asked dad about the young farmer who had recently purchased an adjacent farm dad used to farm.

(I’m scratching my head wondering how that math works…farm ground around here is still in the $5000, to $6000 per acre range, and with current corn and bean prices, dad lost money last season farming that same ground).

Dad said...”The younger generation has never experienced what can happen when the bottom drops out.  I have.  You never forget those things.. I would be very careful just how much debt you take on right now.  One of the salesman in the local John Deere  store told me this week, they are looking at a long term gradual decline in sales, just like back in the 1980’s…”

Listening to my dad validate my concerns did something for me.

It helped me to feel grounded.

Picking green beans in the rain and having coffee with my parents gave me a sense of being grounded.

____________________________________

When you hear that term “grounded,”   what does that mean to you?  What are some ways that happens in your life?  I want details.

DM

One ton of fresh compost

So I did

Stairway to heaven

(My view yesterday  while I worked)

Woke up yesterday morning to  drizzle.   I’d hoped to finish a metal roof on  our two-story garage.   The garage is an old house dating back to the 1870’s.  If we had the funds, it would make an awesome guest house.   Sloped ceilings in the second floor rooms. Old old wallpaper still on the walls. Blueish green antique doors.  A chimney that still works…..

and a family of raccoons that have moved into the attic.

I realized a few weeks ago, they’d put a couple of holes right through the roof into the attic, which explained why we were starting to get water stains in the ceiling of our storage room.

_______________________

Pause.

We were re-watching an episode of Downton Abbey last night.  There was going to be a cricket match between the house staff and the locals… Molesley (one of the footman) kept going on and on at how good he was at cricket….his dad had been a coach….it made me cringe listen to him toot his own horn.  I looked over at my wife and told her,If I ever start sounding like that...tell me! “

Sometimes in my desire to keep it real here, I want to write about  the good stuff that is going on in my life, (like the retaining wall job from last week.) But, then I start to second guess myself, lest I sound like a Molesley 🙂

Life is a mix.

I’m not interested in the sanitized version of your life.  If something good is happening, I want to hear about it.

And, if something has really got you vexed, I want to hear about that too.  Because my life is a mixture, hearing about how other people deal with things helps keep me sane.

I have some older friends that I consider pretty well grounded.  My favorite stories from them are about things that trip them up…and I want details...so on that note, I am going to close with a recent event from my life.

 

I was approached a few years ago by XYZ. (a local store) They wanted to sell our apples through their venue.

Sure. Win-win  I thought.

Because it was a new business, in my desire to help them out, I suggested,  rather than getting paid,  I would spend what they owed me as in store credit.

Sure she said. Sounded great she said.

Well, we did it for two years,  but every time I stepped into the store, I sensed  an under-current of hurry/ hurry/ stress, stress.   This last season, I kept asking where we were at on the ledger sheet?   I would hear,

“I’ve written everything down..don’t have the exact total now….but I will.”

This happened multiple times. Got more awkward ever time I brought it up.  Finally I said, “Just cut me a gift certificate and  that will simplify things for both of us.”

Even that felt like I was pulling teeth.

Did I mention, the owner, sucked at returning phone calls, texts, etc.  Yea, well I finally called, left a message and said the following Thursday I would stop in and wanted to pick up the gift certificate.   I texted a reminder the day before, since no one ever picks up the phone when I called.   When I stopped in, the wife wasn’t there, but the husband mentioned she was up like at 5:30 that morning working on my total.

I sensed tension.

I’m thinking to myself, this is ridiculous.

Life is too short.

Selling apples is a hobby for me.

I am not even generating  that much income.

I refuse to put myself in a situation where there is tension every time I step through the door,  so I  decided earlier this summer, I had had enough.  I contacted the husband. Told him I was simplifying my life this Summer and would not be selling apples through their venue in the Fall.

That would give him plenty of time to line up another source for apples.

Well, there has been a $35.00 gift certificate attached to a magnet on the frig ever since.  I have not wanted to go back to the store.  Toyed around with giving it to someone else as a gift.

Then, the other day,  I thought, what the heck...that is my money.  Plus, they have delicious cheese in the store…and locally produced wine.  I am going to stop, and buy a block of delicious blue berry cheddar , and pick up a bottle of semi sweet Riesling Castle wine.   Then I am going to celebrate the completion of two very stressful projects.

So I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The keeping of bees….continued

Honeybee nuc.

I noticed a lot of bee activity the past couple of days on the outside of the new nuc, so I texted my bee mentor Mike last night.  (This nuc is a small box with 5 bee frames in it.  It was split off the main hive a month ago.)  Mike suspected they had probably outgrown their new home and it was time to move the bees into a regular bee hive box.

He wished me luck. 🙂

Up until now, the only thing I have personally done with the bees is open the hives and peek in….

Bees go to bed relatively early, so once most of the bees were back in the hive, I taped their front entrance shut then carried it down to the new hive.  The thing was a lot heavier than I anticipated.  It had to weigh at least 50 pounds.

Inside of this little box was  20 pounds of honey and thousands and thousands of honeybees…

Opening the lid on the nuc box felt just like opening a Christmas present.

Mike had been correct.

The bees had outgrown their space. The frames were thick with crawling bees, and once I started prying the  frames out of the box, the pitch of the hum changed. It doubled, then tripled in volume.

They were TICKED OFF.

(My first thought was, I sure hope this bee outfit is all it is cracked up to be.)

To give you an idea of how many bees there were, you can buy them by the pound (live)…a 3 pound container holds about 10,000 bees.  I’m guessing there were between 20,00 to 30,000 in that box.  The new queen has been busy the last month.  We learned in class last winter she can lay between 1000 and 2000 eggs per day…

Just wow

Here is a picture some of you may not have seen that I took back in June of a frame full of bees in the main hive:

Frame of honeybees and honey

Doing all of the switching around of the bee frames last night without anyone else present was a rush.  I feel like I hardly know anything, and yet, just like anything else, I have to start somewhere.

Few years ago, I had a woman stumble across my farm blog who makes her living raising vegetables.    You could sense the contempt she had for my lack of knowledge in her one and only comment.  The only experience I had gardening growing up was one year, dad decided to cover the potatoes with a pile of old hay, rather than bury them in the dirt.  I remember pulling back the hay, later in the summer, and seeing all of the new potatoes on the top of the ground. That is it.  The rest of my gardening knowledge has been acquired through reading, and a few conversations with more experienced gardeners…and I still feel like a newbie.

 

I am a teacher.  I love to mentor, especially in the construction field.  SO, when I am on the receiving end of someone teaching me, something new (like bee keeping, or gardening)  I can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher in 2 minutes.

It’s 95% attitude.

 

 

Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.