Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Farmer's Clothing

When people think about what a North American farmer ought to look like the immediate picture that comes to mind is a Midwestern sort of fellow in workboots, bib overalls, a flannel plaid shirt or plain work shirt and a hat of some sort. This clothing caricature isn't completely unreasonable either, especially not in my case. If you're here for a visit and decide to snoop in my closet enroute to or from the bathroom you'll find multiples of everything I mentioned earlier. I like flannel plaid shirts or heavy blue Dickies work shirts on winter days. I own several pairs of bib overalls and bib coveralls and when the weather is cold and wet I wear them a lot. I wear work boots at every season of the year.

Easily the most iconic item in a typical North American farmer's wardrobe is his collection of seed corn/fertilizer/farm equipment hats. Every farmer I know has closets full of these freebie hats, although lately companies seem to be getting stingier about who gets them and how many they are allowed to hand out.

The day I left for college I had three hats with me in the truck. The one on my head sported multi-national Pioneer's seed corn logo, another was from regional Hyland Seeds and the third one was from our local grain elevator, W.G. Thompson and Sons. I'll admit none of these hats provided much of a fashion statement but that was never really the point. One of the girls I was kind of seeing at the time suggested I update my image by going to the local department store and purchasing (and wearing) a hat without an agricultural logo across the front. I went along with her until I realized she wanted me to pay sixteen bucks for a hat with a check mark on it. I told her that if I ever traded in my work boots for running shoes and Nike wanted to throw in a "free" hat to seal the deal I'd probably wear it but damn if I was gonna pay money directly out of my pocket to walk around advertising their product for them. Well, honestly. We broke up about a week later.

In the summer there is nothing lighter or more comfortable for keeping the worst of the sun off your head than a wide brimmed open weave straw hat and I wear one most days when it's hot out. I put it on in the morning and except to wipe my brow it stays on my head until I'm done that night.

As far as fashion goes I've been so out of touch for so long that I fear there is little hope for me at this point. That's okay. I feel about fashionistas just about exactly how they feel about me. The only one who possibly suffers from this is Melissa. At least she doesn't make me wear a sign that says "I'm not with her" when we go to town.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Flavour Enhanced Orange Juice ???

I absolutely love the taste of orange juice.

What I didn't know until earlier this morning is that unbeknownst to consumers, companies are adding flavour packs to their orange juice to beef up the taste of their product before bottling it and placing it on store shelves. Because the flavour packs come from oranges....whatever that means.....companies aren't required to inform anyone that they are adding things to their orange juice. Whatever the health and nutritional consequences (or lack thereof) are from adding or subtracting things from my food is almost irrelevant here. The real point is that my trust in this 'pure" product got violated because it was "enhanced" behind my back. At least the outfits that "enhance" their meat by adding flavoured sodium solution to it put it on the label so I can see it before I buy it.

Melissa and I have pretty well taken to buying items where we can pronounce all of the ingredients on the label. There are a few exceptions to this rule in our house, but not many. When we really started getting into this it was shocking to me just how many of the products we consume every day are somehow "enhanced".

Here's a hint. If you're going to do anything to the food I'm paying good money to buy, make sure I am clear about whatever you did by putting it on the label. This includes ANY adulteration, irradiation, pasturization, or ingredient addition/subtraction. If you or your company is worried about the repercussions of putting whatever it is you are doing on the label, well, maybe you ought not to be doing it in the first place.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

His Hers Mine Ours

Every now and again I confess to lurking on the Chronicle Forums and rarely, I'm motivated to reply to something that gets me to thinking. Such was the case tonight when I read a thread about money, marriage and horses, except that I'm going to share my "reply" here on this blog rather than on the thread.

It's no secret that Melissa and I have both been married before and this, plus the fact that both our marriages ended in divorce, tends to colour our decisions on a lot of topics that neither of us gave much thought to before. We can argue with the best of them, but we never have argued very much about what ought to be his and hers because in this marriage there is a lot more ours than there is his and hers. This is true of our money, our blogs, our Facebook accounts, our pets, our privacy and our property, and we set it up this way on purpose. It's our belief that marriage is a lifelong partnership, and as such there is no aspect of our lives that ought to be off limits to the other partner. We very much believe that if you wouldn't say or do it in front of your partner you probably ought not to be saying or doing it behind their backs, either. And by giving each other access to every aspect of our lives, we put our money where our mouth is on this topic. So far, so good !

Maintaining a good marriage is a lot of work and it's been our experience that most activities are/can be either marriage enhancers or marriage destroyers to a greater or lesser degree. There is a lot of give and take in this house when it comes to spending money and hobbies. It's probably true that Melissa doesn't spend as much of our income on horses as she would if she weren't married to me. My comeback is that I don't spend nearly as much on liquor and wild women as I might if I weren't married to her. Compromise, eh ? Such is life.

We both recognize that our answers aren't going to be right for anyone else. Again, such is life. The main thing is that they are right for us, and reading a thread like the one on COTH makes me feel better and more strongly that I chose exactly the right marriage partner for Round 2 !

Sunday, December 4, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

I'm really hoping that Santa was listening when Melissa and I visited the La-z-Boy store up in Cool Springs last night. Every farmer needs a good leather recliner chair to nap in on Sunday afternoon. The model I liked best, the "Dreamweaver" has been forever discontinued and I was sitting in the very last one in the store.

No hints in this post at all.

Nope, nary a one.


Friday, December 2, 2011

A Well Rounded Education Part 2 - Work

I want to talk in a little more detail about some of the ideas I presented in my last post.

I'll start with the idea of work. I'm not sure when society started to assume that it was normal that kids never had to work but even back in the day I had a lot of friends that never had jobs and had no real idea what responsibility was. Kids absolutely need time to play and I don't know that kids today ought to work as hard as I did as early as I did but I see absolutely nothing wrong (and plenty right) with starting and mentoring young people at simple, safe, wholesome and necessary age appropriate farmstead tasks.

All the way through high school we were warned repeatedly that we'd have to buckle down and learn how to go to work when we went to college. Buckle down ? Going to a really, really good college (and passing all my courses with flying colours) was a four year vacation compared to the life I led and the responsibilities I had before I left home. And virtually all the farm kids I went to school with felt the same way. When I graduated from college and got my first full time job I couldn't believe how much free time I had. It was ridiculous. They only wanted me to work forty or forty five hours a week. This also felt suspiciously like a vacation from "real" life, and one of the reasons I started farming part time almost immediately after graduation was to fill up some of the free time I had before and after work by doing something productive instead of spending money. I'm not kidding when I say it must be hard as hell to transition from child to productive adult if all you've ever had to do in life before going to college and getting a job was play and get admonished to do your homework. I'm glad I didn't find out what that was like because I'm pretty sure I'd have made a mess of it. I came pretty close to doing so even with the head start I got !

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Well Rounded Education

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend who was helping me on the farm early this morning. We were talking and laughing about some of the art and language courses we took when we were in ag college to achieve at least the idea of a well rounded education. Twenty years on, I'm kinda glad I took the time to take classes that introduced me to the arts and literature. I AM definitely a more well rounded person because I took the courses.

And then he posed a question that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. How well rounded can an education be when it doesn't address ANY of the practical necessities required to actually look after yourself when you're done being educated ? Where are the mandatory introductory courses for the masses in agriculture, mechanics, and structural engineering and repair ? How about personal finance and money management ? Home economics ?

Exactly. They're nowhere.

How about teaching the value of work ? Is that important ? We get offers from friends all the time that they've got kids who want to work and we've got PLENTY of kid safe and kid friendly work to be done around here. However if they're less than 17 years old it's all but illegal for us to employ them, even doing something as simple and safe as stacking firewood or hoeing corn, even for half a day. That they can legally work in a convenience store or at a fast food restaurant years before they can work at some place as unwholesome as a family run farm speaks volumes about what we value as a society.

Three hundred million Americans pony up to the table to eat every day. Agriculture in the classroom ? You betcha. Every year from 1st grade on up.