Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FDA = No More Rotten Eggs

Remember the huge egg recall that I talked about earlier this summer on this blog ?

Remember I said at the time that this would likely lead to significantly more oversight by some governmental organization ?

Looks like that chicken has come home to roost, no pun intended. The FDA will be the new food regulatory agency of choice, so it seems. Violators will be subjected to a whole host of new and unpleasant punishments, so they say. Reckon we'll see. It seems to me that we have more laws on the books than we can currently enforce as it is. Adding more laws that we aren't going to enforce isn't likely to solve the problem. At least nobody is talking about food irradiation (as I predicted they would), but it's early days yet.

Will the FDA be able to prevent new outbreaks of food borne illness ? Who knows ? I will say that it seems to me that the government is stuck in a very reactive mindset on an issue that requires a proactive approach to actually address the issues at hand. It ought to be interesting to watch it all evolve, that is for sure.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Honey ? Can you get the phone ?

About once every three or four months some member of my family or one of my friends will decide to phone us and they always call our home phone. Invariably we are out when they phone; they never get us directly so they leave us peevish (but usually funny) messages enquiring as to the state of our mental and physical health . If they are very lucky, we'll remember to listen to our home phone messages that week (not kidding) and at some time in the next six months we might respond with a call of our own. The problem with our home phone is that we're never inside the house to answer it and when we *are* in the house we never think to pick up the receiver to check for messages. I have wondered out loud several times why we continue with the bother and expense of having a home phone.

We do a little better than this with our cell phones, but only a little. It's hard to answer the phone or have a conversation when one is engaged in farm work or feeding horses, so we usually set our phones down somewhere and then spend the remainder of the day trying to remember where we set the damn things. I've thought about getting a blue tooth to wear around the farm so I could just keep my cell phone in my pocket (set to vibrate rather than ring), but in addition to being a hazard I think they just look dorky, and I KNOW I'd forget to take it off when I went to the store, etc. Melissa won't entertain the bluetooth at all !

One of the greatest things about living in 2010 as opposed to say 1987 (which was also pretty great for a whole variety of reasons) is the technological revolution that has resulted in internet/email and text messaging communications and devices. While I absolutely abhor the poor spelling and grammatical short forms that text messaging has brought about, I LOVE the medium itself !

In 1987 we had just moved from a party line (our ring was one long and one short) to a private telephone line, which cut down on our phone ringing by half (which my parents..who weren't phone people either...thought was great) ! We had one black, bakelite rotary dial phone in our house and it was located on the wall in the middle of the kitchen....not exactly designed for privacy so conversations were kept to a minimum.

Fast forward twenty-three years and who hears the phone ring any more even if there's twelve of them in the house ?

Need to communicate with the Webbs ? If you want an short and to the point answer immediately, text us. If it can wait a few hours and/or you need more detail, email us. If you aren't in a hurry for a return call and/or want to chat, call our cell phones and pray a lot. If you never want to hear from us again, call our home phone and leave a message.

Hope you are all having a good day !

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom to choose

I've been doing considerable thinking these past few days about the ways that various forms of democratically elected governments manage to (often rudely) interject themselves in to our respective lives. While I understand that some laws are necessary to maintain a modicum of societal control, and while I also understand and respect the need for police and court systems to enforce necessary laws, I think it's fair to say that as a society we've gone way, way beyond what was originally intended on nearly every front.

I'd like to cite an example from my past to illustrate my point. As all my longtime readers know, I and my first wife bought our family farm which is located in a rural part of Ontario. As part of our purchase and sales agreement with my mother, we agreed to sever her house and about an acre off of the farm so that she would still own our family home place outright in the (we thought then) unlikely event that something happened which would force me to liquidate the farm. Since this transaction was between consenting family members on land that our family had owned since well before Canada became a country, we naively assumed this would be easy to achieve. How wrong we were.

Thanks to overzealous township and county level municipal by-laws and provincial regulations governing land transfer and severely restricting (with the intent of eliminating) rural severances of all types, our simple land transaction nearly never happened. As it was, I hired a farm land lawyer and paid him thousands of dollars to attend multiple on-going meetings with county and provincial officials of all types which went on for over eighteen months before we were granted our severance. Thank God I got it done when I did because a few years later our farm was added to the Ministry of the Environments protection plan for the Oak Ridges Moraine which made what I wanted to accomplish virtually impossible to do.

Shortly after the sale was completed, I foolishly decided I wanted to build a home on my land. I say foolishly because by then I had come to realize that our local township/municipality and county municipality planning commission had absolutely draconian regulations on building *anything*, even relative to the counties immediately adjacent to it. By the time we got done with engineered drawings, site plans, square footage regulations, electrical inspections, well inspections, septic tank inspections, etc., etc., etc., plus the nearly $ 15,000 in fees, another eighteen months had gone by. It would have literally been smarter, easier and cheaper to buy a piece of land a mile down the road in the neighbouring county and build my house there. I swore up, down and sideways that I would never, ever repeat that experience again.

I won't even mention what it would have taken to build out or enlarge a livestock facility, except to say that I have grave doubts that it could be done at all in that particular place today.

Fast forward ten years.

Our new farm is located in an unincorporated portion of Giles County, TN, and as such, there is no planning commission to fool with and no zoning restrictions on us at all. For the time being, we could literally build our home and buildings out of papier mache if we chose to do so, provided we could pass the wiring inspection and a perk test. Given the level of regulation where I came from, this entire experience has been heaven to me. Of course as we speak Giles County is considering adopting a building code and they are looking for public input. Sisters and brothers, they are fixin' to get some ! That is one county commission meeting that I will definitely be attending. And this leads me to my last thought.

On the eve of Thanksgiving what I am most thankful for is the freedom to choose my own way.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the gist of my post, I hope you'll agree that the time to speak up when someone threatens to take any of our freedoms away is *right now*, and the time to become complacent about this is *never*.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Short Night's Sleep

I don't know how they do it, but most of our recommended transporters manage more often than not to arrive at both our client's farm AND our farm at a reasonably convenient time, at least if any hour between 5 am and 10 pm can be considered convenient. In my talks with commercial stables of various types, it seems that we are kind of blessed in this regard. At some places arrivals between 1 am and 4 am are de rigeur. It would be the understatement of the century to say that I am not at my best during the wee hours of the morning, and I'm even more of a mess the following day. A normal night's sleep for me is *at least* eight hours between the sheets, more if I can wangle it. Melissa jokes that I sleep more in a night than she does in a week. At least I think she's joking.

I'd say that either of us fulfilling our sleep quota is unlikely to happen tonight. We've got a 2 am arrival on the schedule, so I'm thinking it's going to be a big coffee day for me tomorrow. On a positive note (and there aren't many positives with 2 am arrivals, so please humour me), so far nobody from the transport company has asked us to meet them at a truck stop thirty miles away to stage the transfer ! :)

Hope everybody enjoys a good night's rest tonight.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Post of Thanksgiving....

Although Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on Columbus Day, and although Pilgrims, tea parties and vigourous independence didn't really figure in Canadian history, Canadian children of my generation were required to compose essays of Thanksgiving every year in public school. Thematically, this often got old pretty quickly because, with some exceptions, Canadian history is often kind of bleak. During settlement times, in much of the country for much of the year it often seemed to me that there was precious little to be thankful for.

For those who are interested, pioneer author Susanna Moodie's book "Roughing it in the Bush" makes an excellent case for just how tough life was in my part of Ontario in the early 1800's. Given that my family emigrated shortly before this book was written, and given that they stayed, and, evidently, prospered, gives me a lot of respect for their mental and physical health and stamina. Compared to most people today I work pretty hard at an unending and very physical occupation. In spite of that, I very quickly came to the conclusion that our pioneers were an awful lot tougher than me ! That these folks could find things to be thankful for in spite of their often intolerable living conditions leaves me in slack jawed amazement.

Fast forward two centuries and relative to our pioneers, my list of things to be thankful for is literally endless. However, like most Americans, more often than not I'm guilty of finding things to bitch about rather than spending any of my time looking for things to be thankful for. Rather than further testing your patience, dear reader, by making you read through my endlessly mundane list, I'd encourage you to take a few moments to discard the mistrustful detritus that clogs the arteries of your brain and think thankful thoughts about the many good things that have come your way, often, I daresay, in spite of yourself.

If, despite of my good thoughts, you still find yourself struggling with this concept, take heart....you are not alone.

In spite of my meditative mood and generally happy demeanor while thinking positive and thankful thoughts, earlier today I found myself fervently wishing for a pair of machine guns mounted on the hood of my truck so that I could take out the slow SOB in a big black sedan who was happily tooling along at 45 in the fast lane on the interstate while slowly accumulating a mile long train of traffic behind him.

Given the looks on some of my fellow motorist's faces, I'd say I wasn't alone in my thoughts. I take heart in that. If you can't be thankful, aim for frustrated and see where it takes you. It's been pretty good to me !

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Three Musketeers...

Sixteen years after graduating from college is a long time. I know this because I spent most of my weekend trying (and, perhaps sadly, mostly succeeding) at reliving various types of college experiences and creating a whole set of new memories in the process with two of my oldest and best college friends. I don't think it's overstating things to say that we got up to a lot of fun during our tenure at Guelph. More often than not, I was the ringleader of "operations", Dave acted as the grunt man, while Mike was the conscientious bookkeeper.

It's hard (but not impossible) to pass a class based on lectures when one doesn't attend, and I always considered lecture attendance optional rather than a necessity. Thankfully, Mike and I were working toward the same major, which meant that we mostly had the same set of classes, for which I will be forever grateful, thank-you-Jesus. Mike's fastidious note taking and overall record keeping ensured our eventual success, but it really got under his skin when I would use his notes and then beat him on tests ! :)

None of us had ever had any experience with town living before we moved into our townhouse in Guelph. As you might suspect, this created some interesting problems with some of our neighbours, especially those who didn't like listening to classic country like Buck Owens, George Jones, Tom T. Hall or the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at full volume at four in the morning. As you might suspect, the local police ALL knew their way to our house; they were relatively frequent visitors during our residency, and I think it was particularly instructive for Melissa to hear that the most common refrain from them was in addition to turning the volume down, could we please get most of the people to pee inside rather than outside our house, and especially could we keep them out of the front yard. I'm not sure of very much, but I am 100 % sure that Guelph's finest threw one hell of a party the day we left town for good.

Today Dave runs his family dairy a few miles down the road from where I grew up while Mike works as an AI rep for a large dairy and beef genetics company in Eastern Ontario. I was proud to see them this weekend and if they had half as much fun as I did, I don't think we'll be waiting five years for the sequel ! :)

The three musketeers in our front yard this afternoon ! From left, Mike, me, Dave

At the rocket-ship ! Huntsville, Alabama

Travis Tritt sings a song with the title T-R-O-U-B-L-E ! I thought that was an instructive title for the evening ! :)

Some of the Animal Science Majors, Class of OAC 1994. Photo taken March 1991. Mike is at the bottom left while I am on the steps one row above him and to his left. Shawn was a fourth musketeer, and he is the fellow in the kilt (in keeping with good Scottish tradition, still prevalent in Glengarry County, Ontario to this day) !
OAC Aggies Square Dance Team ! Back row: Mike, me, Shawn and Kevin . The girls from left were Michelle, Karen, Anik, Barb and Jen. Our coach in the overalls and straw hat was the inimitable and much missed Doug Lawson.
Dave and I at the Opryland Hotel, Crops and Soils Club Pilgrimage to Nashville, Feb 1993
Me, Mike and Dave in residence, U of Guelph, Fall 1990. Goodness but we had a lot of hair between us ! :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wrench Fetish, Totally Whupped and Tractor Fixes

Betcha I got your attention now ! :)

It's a little known fact, but I have something I need to admit to you all.

I have a wrench fetish, and I'm very sorry about it.

After asking my friends about it, turns out that most farmers have something of a wrench fetish, so I was pretty proud to realize I'm not alone. Farmers need to know how to use a lot of tools, and particularly wrenches.

Speaking of wrenches, my sets got a pretty good working over the weekend. In preparation for cool weather, I changed out all the filters on the big tractor on Saturday morning. Surprisingly, after I changed the fuel filter, I couldn't get the ruddy thing to start again for love nor money. It wasn't clogged and in fact it looked clean; I was only at 67 hours since the last change when I pulled it and I'm usually pretty liberal about changing filters and fluids.

My first thought was fuel pump/injector malfunction, but I find that hard to believe in this case, especially since the tractor had been running perfectly earlier that morning. The next step involved bleeding the fuel system which I did for *6* hours to no avail. Finally, in frustration I took apart the entire system of lines and filters and thoroughly cleaned each individual piece. When I rebuilt it, I bled the system again, used a little Ether to prime the system, and lo and behold the tractor finally started. But only until the fuel in the filter drained out.

After several more fixes, I finally got the thing to run enough to feed hay on Sunday afternoon, but it's still not drawing enough fuel through the system and it is prone to stalling at the drop of a hat. After two weekend days of fiddling with it I think I've earned the right to say I've had about enough of it !

Because we are running two farms and are in the middle of an expansion, I didn't feel guilty about calling my friend Tim the tractor mechanic to come over here and have a look at it. Reckon we'll see what the verdict is tomorrow.

One of these days when I am rich and famous, and/or when I'm smart enough to quit buying farms for awhile, I am GOING to own a bunch of farm equipment I don't have to constantly work on, whether or not it makes complete financial sense to do so.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good News, Frosty Morning, and Blessed Routine !

I HAVE to start this off with some EXCELLENT news ! After a tense few days, Melissa's mom is home from the hospital and is moving well along the road to recovery ! We are all pretty proud to see her back home again, and we hope this is the last trip to the hospital for anyone via the ER for a very long while !

Of course, the farm routine continued throughout the ordeal, and with the exception of our respective blogs which have been a little reduced in volume of late, nothing missed a beat. That said, it's sure nice to be able to get back to the day to day worries of running a business.

We woke up this morning to our first real freeze of the season. Some of the low spots had a little white frost on the grass on the morning of Oct 30, but we never officially recorded a 32 degree temperature until earlier today. The trees that didn't drop their leaves due to the drought are beginning to show some good colour and after a cool day today we are looking forward to a week in the upper 60's and low 70's which is pretty easy weather to take in the middle of November !

Hope all of you are enjoying an excellent weekend !

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We sure could use a little good news....

It seems like most people I know, both male and female, seem to be able to tell story after eyebrow raising story about their in-laws. In some cases, their stories are so entertaining that I egg them on whenever possible and I eagerly await the next episode.

Call me lucky, but in my marriage to Melissa I have been blessed with great in-laws, and I include my sister-in-law and her family in my commendations as well as my mother and father-in-law. Of course, a parent's role changes as they and their children age, but one of the things that I admire most about Melissa's parents is that they have never stopped being parents and role models for their children and grandchildren. In their own quiet way, they continue to make a big difference in a variety of ways in the little community where we all live.

Astute "Paradigm Farms" blog readers will notice that over time there have been a fair number of photos of my father-in-law and I working together. Men bond best while working and it's been a treat to get to know him as we've worked through various projects over time. I hold him in high enough regard that I don't feel entirely comfortable calling him by his first name despite the fact that I'm no longer in early adulthood myself. Fortunately, southern grammar provides a remedy for this; one which I employ faithfully. Instead of Tom or Mr. N., I call him Mr. Tom and that suits us both. I do the same thing with my mother-in-law.

After becoming quickly and extremely ill overnight, this morning, Melissa and Mr. Tom carried my mother-in-law to the emergency room where she was quickly admitted to hospital, condition unknown. Melissa and her dad spent most of the day with her while I held the fort here and in Lynnville. Since her condition, whatever it may be, has not yet stabilized or been fully diagnosed, Melissa and her dad are going back to spend the night with her tonight. After a week of dealing with me on semi-bedrest, I think Melissa is about due for a break. It is my sincere hope that things improve for everyone tomorrow, not least for my mother-in-law. As Anne Murray sang a long time ago, we sure could use a little good news, today.

Please keep Melissa and her family in your thoughts and prayers today.

Hope everyone is having an excellent week ! Hopefully I'll be back to dosing everyone with boring, useless factoids, anecdotes and stories again shortly ! :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Weekend and Voting !

For as sucky as last week finished, we sure had a nice weekend to make up for it. This includes both perfect weather (sunny 75) and great company as we had several clients in town to visit their respective charges (and us), as well as a new horse on Saturday evening/Sunday morning. I think the best part is that there was exactly no drama while unloading this horse; he came off the trailer about 10 feet away from the barn which is perfect, IMO !

In other news, I've dusted off my voter registration card and DL in preparation for my inaugural first vote as a new American tomorrow !

The rule in my house growing up was that you couldn't complain about politics if you didn't exercise your right to vote, so I'm pretty excited about tomorrow because for the first time in six years, I'll be able to attack actual people and their policies again ! :)