Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Do-Over on Hope (!)

Please read the post immediately previous to this entitled Sodium Solutions and Hope. This is a much clearer picture of "hope" that should have accompanied my post. These are my wild daffodils and yes, this picture was taken today out in our north pasture.

Sodium Solutions and Hope

I think the family hog may yet make a comeback here at Paradigm Farms. It seemed like every time I picked up a piece of meat while shopping the other day I ran across this line on the package. "This product has been enhanced with up to a 10% sodium solution."

Enhanced, eh? How exactly ? More flavour maybe? More weight for sure. More profit seems likely, but I'm not sure how this enhances the product for the consumer exactly.

Given that I just read an article in a very pro agribusiness publication calling for those selling grass fed meats to stop denigrating meat that was conventionally produced in order to enhance their sales, I find it ironic that I came out of the store minus any conventionally produced pork and poultry because I couldn't find any on that day that wasn't somehow "enhanced". Given this sort of reality, it's my opinion that grass fed and natural producers have no need to further denigrate their conventional competition in order to sell their product. All we need to do to differentiate ourselves from that nonsense is tell the truth by answering, "No." when consumers ask us if our products have been enhanced.


In other news, I found some hope today that this interminable condition called winter might actually end. Partly this was due to the very welcome change in the weather....partly sunny and 66 degrees was remarkably easy to take today. But mostly it was due to the daffodils in the (very poor quality) picture below which I noticed for the first time today as I drove across our north pasture.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

B is for Budgeting

One of the things that Melissa and I have begun to do again after lapsing for a little while is to sit down and set out an expected monthly income and expenses budget for our business as well as our household. We just got done doing February's a few minutes ago. I'm not going to lie and call the whole experience fun because we aren't that anal retentive...I'd compare it to a routine trip to the dentist on the fun scale, but it is very eye opening and it can be very productive and proactive. At the very least, it keeps us from fighting cats and dogs while playing the blame game with one another's supposedly quirky (and expensive) hobbies ! :)

Although we don't always choose to act on the information presented in our monthly budget, knowing where we could choose to trim the fat is very empowering. One category of expenses that is going to get a pretty severe pruning is our household food budget. Of late we've become very guilty of buying things because they are convenient. More often than not, convenience, especially the pre-packaged kind, is at the opposite end of the spectrum from healthy and inexpensive. One of the time consuming things we did tonight was re-work our weekly menu to eliminate expenses while eating healthier meals and not sacrificing much in the way of convenience. Going to the store with a plan of attack actually makes me happy. If we can make a game out of beating the food budget while eating healthy, we'll be well on the road to success in this area of our lives. In fact, making a game out of ALL of it is one of the keys to making our budget successful !

On the business side, we seem to have accrued a lot of new horses this fall and for some reason transitioning them to our way of doing things in the winter takes a lot more grain and a lot more hay than we would normally go through. As we expected it would, this showed up last month in markedly higher than normal grain and hay expenses. Unfortunately there isn't much we can do about our big feed bill this year except to wait longingly for spring grass. Our groups all contain mixtures of easy and hard keepers, there is a limit as to how good a quality forage I can feed in the winter...which is the easiest and cheapest fix....without turning the easy keepers into obese monsters as soon as they transition from hay to lush grass.

While it's very necessary to do so, reviewing the previous month's proposed budget against actual expenses is a pretty good way to start a fight with one's spouse unless some ground rules get laid down first ! Thankfully, this is one of a few areas in which we've never had a serious argument. Melissa and I are on the same page with regards to budgeting which is good since there is only one pool of money in our house.

Hope everyone is having a good week and that everyone is prepared for tax time. We'll be buring the midnight oil around here the next few days on that front for sure. In fact, I'd about bet money that my next post is going to be a rant about taxes. I have a sneakin' notion that Uncle Sam's gonna be pretty deep in my pockets some time between now and April 15.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I'm in the middle of a really good book right now and some of the ideas contained therein have been quietly working their way through my head these past few days. The book itself is a little's basically a layman's study of the science of fear, and it's really not the sort of book that lends itself to light reading when one wants one's brain to cease thinking. It also doesn't have much to do with agriculture, at least directly, although it's easy for me to impose an agricultural viewpoint on the information contained therein.

Without going into long, boring and verbose detail, basically the author believes that a lot of our fear responses come from our primitive brain, which is located just above the top of our spinal cord. The author argues that in terms of fear responses, the human brain is wired to take in visual and other sensory stimuli first. Because of this, the author argues that there is little room for logic in any fear response and because numeracy requires logic, humans are mostly innumerate when operating under a fear response. Whether or not that is true is up for grabs although I got some interesting results when I applied his logic to some of our high dollar governmental solutions to recent societal fear responses.

Although the author didn't go there, I've been thinking and wondering whether true (and unconscious) innumeracy isn't a lot more common than we'd like to believe in American and Canadian society at the beginning of 2011. If innumeracy really is quite common, it'd sure help explain a lot of the dumb decisions we all seem to make when our finances get in the way of our emotions. And if innumeracy isn't common, it'd still be a better excuse than, "Gee I had no idea it'd all turn out that way!"

Hope ya'll are having a great day !

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Phone Upgrade and Pictures

Since the fateful day in 1987 when my parents got rid of our party line in favour of a private telephone line, I've only really upgraded my telephone service and plans twice, and one of those times...when I started working for someone else and they handed me a mobile phone the size of a small suitcase.....wasn't of my choosing.

In the intervening years, ever since I had mobile phone technology unexpectedly thrust upon me, the only thing that has really changed in terms of my personal cell phone is the size of the package surrounding the handset. What was once the size of a small suitcase now comfortably fits in my shirt pocket. And if all I needed to do with a cell phone was make phone calls, I assure you I would be the last Luddite in Middle Tennessee with a basic plan and a phone that did absolutely nothing more than make phone calls.

Unfortunately, running a growing small business that has a client base which is international in scope in 2011 requires considerably more effort than making or receiving an occasional phone call. Both Melissa and I were spending hours answering emails and other enquires as well as sending photo updates to clients each night after we came in the house. We were also getting sick of packing multiple gadgets around the farm with us every day in order to capture the videos and photos that have become such an integral and necessary part of our business life. Amazingly, with our recent phone upgrade, we got all the tools we needed to run our business packed into one small gadget that (amazingly) fits in my front pocket ! All this and a high speed internet connection that works virtually everywhere ! Unfortunately, the learning curve on our new gadgets is very steep; more so for me than for Melissa, and I am still very much trying to figure everything out. The neatest thing I've found so far is that we can now compose and send texts and short email messages strictly by voice, which saves a ton of time typing messages out ! When I finally figure out how to add pictures to my voiced over emails, I will be in heaven !


Believe it or not, all the pictures below were taken in the last ten days. In my experience, the first one and the last one are a lot more typical of January in this area than the middle two.

My muddy boots drying out on the barn floor after an unexpected three inch gullywasher on the morning of January 3rd.

Photo entitled, "Waiting for Spring", taken this afternoon.

Looking in from our front gate. Given that this was the second largest snowfall ever recorded here, I might (hopefully) wait a very long time for another shot like this.

Looks kinda like spring, doesn't it ? Photo taken January 1st in the woods beside the barn. The outside temperature was 73 degrees.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Old Picture...

It's funny how you remember some things as clearly as if they happened yesterday, while other stuff, equally as important, fades into nothing over time. I don't remember who took the photo below and I have no earthly idea who the girl on the left side of the photo is, but I remember the setting and the circumstances very well.

I had driven my truck home from high school on a lovely, warm late May day in 1987. It was right in haying time, and on my way to the house I saw my grandad working away at one of the barns, loading and spreading manure on a field he'd recently cut and baled. I well knew that job went better and faster with someone else to operate a loader and fill the spreader, so I threw my book bag down, changed my pants (but evidently not my shirt as my mother later reminded me....) and went out to lend a hand. That was no hardship; truth to tell it was such a pretty day it was a treat to be outside working as opposed to holed up in my room, studying my books. Shortly after I went outside, a distant cousin Myra (pictured in the yellow shirt) and some other folks who I don't know arrived from Toronto to work with my mom on doing a detailed and extended family tree and some how they decided that nothing would do until they had a picture of my grandad.

Grandpa came of age at a time when pictures were something you got dressed up and posed for and he wasn't very happy about getting his picture made in his work clothes. As I remember it, he also wasn't super happy about having his work interrupted that afternoon either. To help appease him, I was elected to stand in the photo with him. I didn't think much about it at the time, but it turns out that this is the only picture we have of he and I together as we mostly appeared each day. It's an ordinary photo, but it's one that I wouldn't take a million dollars for today.

Hope today is a good one, wherever it may find you !

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year has Come !

Although I think they are very entertaining when other people make them, I'm really not much into making New Year's resolutions. Seems to me that they're mostly about denying oneself pleasures anyhow, and every year I get older I find myself thinking less about what I'm going to deny myself and more (MUCH more!) about what I am going to allow myself.

It was a glorious, cool sun-shiny winter morning here in Middle Tennessee today. Since it's Sunday, the one day of the week I don't have a lot of work waiting for me between morning and afternoon chores, instead of rushing around like a fool I took the time to fully enjoy the morning and being outside with the animals. For me, having warm sunshine on my face while working on a quiet, cool, still morning is more refreshing and rejeuvenating than any church service ever could be. This is especially true when I don't have to drive anywhere to experience it ! Melissa went to Lynnville in my place this morning, leaving me to tend the farm here by myself. My New Year's resolution is to allow myself the time to appreciate a lot more mornings like the one I just had.

My phone died on me on Friday so I am in the process of learning how to run the mini-computer that I replaced it with. I believe if I knew how to program it properly the consarned thing could likely replace the laptop on which I am typing this diatribe. But I don't know how ! Thankfully, today's interfaces are pretty easy to learn, even for dummies like me.

Back in the day I used to call computers.....*all* computers....a geeks revenge. While the rest of us were outside playing sports and farming and generally getting into trouble, all the sun-starved and sallow children of my generation sat inside with a lot of time on their hands. Eventually, all that free time must have warped their heads together somehow because at about the same time they all of 'em started inventing incomprehensible computer programming languages and difficult interfaces that confused all but the most intrepid of THEM ! Fortunately, twenty years later, we seem to have found some middle ground.

Happy New Year to each of you !