Icon of Agriculture Past

When I grew up there was a prosperous agriculture society out there in rural America.   There were lots of small and medium-sized towns full of businesses that supported farm families.  You could find  schools scattered across the countryside to educate the farmer’s  children.  Each community would have an elevator for the local farmer’s co-op.   The farmers used this to store and transport their corn, grain and other commodities.

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Abandoned grain elevator in Winnett, Montana

In the years since I was a child we have continued to become more efficient in agriculture as a results there are fewer  farms and ranches, and the ones that are out there are larger.

Today producers, ranchers and farmers, are growing more food than their grandfather’s could have imagined.  In spite of the changes of time one thing has not changed, the  life of a producer is at the mercy of the winds of nature.    A farmer works from sun up to sun down and livestock never takes a vacation.   Today the economics of being in agriculture are hard and many people not only run their farm operation, they also hold a second job to make ends meet and even up the ups and downs of crop and animal prices, hail, drought, lost livestock and so much more we can’t imagine.   Given a choice more and more folks are choosing to move to the city rather take on the challenges of being a producer.

Today with  fewer folks choosing the rural life small towns are dying.   When a small town dies not only are businesses loss, but many of the local elevators are being abandoned in favor of larger more centralized elevators.   Small elevators  are  an icon of the past; an icon of agriculture.  Just like barns, you see fewer of them across the countryside.   They are being abandoned and falling into disrepair.  Someday like old farm houses and old barns they will fall down and will no longer be there to remind of the all the people who came before and work out there today to feed the world.

 

 

 

Acts of Kindness

This last week RangerSir had surgery and has since been laid up.   We have been confined to home while he is healing.    It has been difficult for him to be limited  in activity while he is in recovery.   As anyone who has had a loved one in the household sick or in recovery mode  it not only impacts the patient, but everyone in the household.

We were bless by many acts of kindness.  Our friends and families called and check on us.   It was topped off this week when a friend and her family stopped by with cookies.   RangerSir has a sweet tooth and he was thrilled with the gift of food.   He was a little tired of the healthy fare I was feeding him.    It was wonderful to have someone other than one another to talk to.   It came at just the right time as we were both getting a little stir crazy.

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Thanks for the peanut butter and oatmeal scotchie cookies. 

It was a reminder to us that simple acts can mean so much to others.   Sometimes it is a kind word.   It can be taking time out of your day or weekend to visit with a friend who you have not seen in awhile or a shut-in.   It can be a call to check on and listen to a friend who needs your ear.   If you made a batch of cookies for your family, put a dozen on a plate and share it.   They are all simple acts of kindness that will likely mean more to another person than you can know.    Let’s all pass on a little kindness.

 

What’s Your Number?

I just finished an entry for a creative challenge.   The challenge required me to complete a project that included one number.   I pulled together a little mixed media effort for this. While I was working on this, I was thinking about what numbers to include and what they meant to me.   This became more than a challenge of paper, paint and ink, it represented questions and things going on in my life.

IMAG3441_1RangerSir and I are approaching retirement.  We constantly find ourselves thinking about what age is the right age for us to move from the current phase of our lives to the next and close the door on this one.    We constantly find ourselves playing with the numbers.  Age.  Health. Life Expectancy. Family History.  Money.  In each of these there are so many numbers to extrapolate and hypothesize with.  We are constantly playing with our numbers and yet we don’t have a single one that is the answer.

Numbers play factors in so many people’s lives young or old when you think about it.   Here are some of the easy ones I came up in just a few minutes.   Each of them is based on  a number.

  • I want to graduate from college by #
  • I want to live somewhere where it never gets colder than #
  • I want to only borrow # to pay for school.
  • My prescription costs this month were #
  • If I could save # I could buy a car, house, vacation…..
  • I’d like to earn #.
  • I’d like to pay off  on my credit card in # months.
  • I change the oil in my car every # miles.
  • I’d like # kids.
  • I would like to marry by #.
  • I am trying to save #.
  • I have # dogs and # cats
  • I would like to get # when I sell my…
  • I live # miles from work.
  • Daycare costs #.
  • My wife, mother, child, spouse/partner, father, brother, sister is # old this year.
  • My health insurance costs #,
  • I run # miles a week.
  • I have lived in my home # years.
  • I want to loose # pounds.
  • My coffee splurge costs #
  • I have worked for my employer # years.

What’s your number?

 

A Spring Day in the Middle of Winter

It is still winter in Montana and will be at our house for months to come.   We have had some serious early thaws  recently as we will here every year about this time.   Today it had melted enough of the snow away that it was a perfect day to open the chicken run and let the ladies out today for some free-range time.

2017-02-19-2017-02-19-001-022-1280x853Though it doesn’t look like much the chickens were out there eating the shoots of new grass that the melted snow provided.  My chickens  can be an industriousness bunch when it comes to good fresh food after the snow hiding “good eats” and being on commercial chow for a few months.

Let’s hold onto the memory of this day with sunshine and blue skies as  we enter a week that is suppose to be full of show again.  The snow is happening less frequently and days like this are happening more often.   There is hope for spring, no matter how far away.

Where Do Books Fit In Today?

I can never remember a time I did not read nor a time I did not have a book.   Before I could read, I was read to.   Books were part of my life then and they continue to be. I wonder today in the age of electronics, are we growing a new generation of readers or is the next generation self-entertaining only with games?

I remember my grandparents reading to me from the same books they had read to my uncle and my father. When I started school  the book fair came to our town once a year.   It was then that my mom would take me to the school gym set up with books galore and I got to pick out and purchase one new book.  Many of those books I had for years.   They were a prized possession when I was young and a collection of memories when I grew up.   I had those books  until I finally gave them to my nieces and nephews many years later.

I have embraced the e-reader.   It isn’t the same a print book.   Just like a quality hard cover is not like a poorly mass-produced  hard cover, nor are either like a paperback book.   I have read several books that after reading on the reader, that I have purchased a second tie in print to add to my permanent collection of print books, but for the most part electronic works for me.  I have a small collection of print books in my permanent collection. If you are some one who has moved numerous times, you know that the cost of moving is determined by two things cube (how much space you take) and weight.   Having moved back and forth across the country three times in seven years my permanent collection was pared down to those books that had a special place in my heart.

If you read in the bathtub, you know the value of a paperback that if dropped is not a catastrophe. Many a book has a bit of a warped page and the smell of bubble bath in my past.

I support authors and the literary arts by reading the same way I have always done it.  I check books out of the library .  I buy books.   I continue to  borrow and lend books.  The difference is today I do most of it electronically.

To me the e-reader has opened up the possibilities for new writers to get published without being policed by the major publishing houses.   It is not to say that they don’t have a place, because I believe they do.   I also would say that the large publishing houses  have in some cases have prevented things being published as well,  so they have been a double edged sword.  Today  the author who is turned down by one of the big publishing houses   had limited to no options in the past, can now self-publish and see what happens.   Kind of an wild west, throw your hat into the wind and see what happens kind of environment out there right now.

The thing I wonder most about is do the e-readers help to cultivate and grow a new generation of book readers?  Is a new generation of readers being developed or being hindered with the electronic format?   I can’t imagine a picture book being the same electronically.  Maybe it is and I just don’t get it.  I love the places that books take me…the past…the future…places I will never get to travel to…people I will never get to talk to.  It was the written word and my imagination making it all happen for me.   Books have been a constant companion of mine.  Books have taught me much, expanded my horizons and shaped my view of the world.   I am thankful to everyone who encouraged my love of books.

Are you a reader?   Have your reading habits been impacted by the electronic format? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

Free Time – Life Balance

One of the biggest changes for me, now that I am no longer working out of the home is to allow for time to make myself work-ready and to commute to the office. For me the loss is a couple of hours each day.  I am not special in this loss of personal time.   It is the personal price that millions of people pay as part of being gainfully employed.  It is time the working person can never get back.

I use my commuting time to plan my day or decompress and shut down at the end of a day.   When I push the button on the garage door, that is the line of demarcation of work time and personal time.   I don’t take home paperwork, my computer or say to anyone at work to call me at home.     I have traveled that road before of letting work take over my life and have no desire to do it again.    When I am on the clock I am 110% in, but when I am off-the-clock  I am guard my private time preciously.   It isn’t easy and I like so many others have struggled with this situation.

When I accepted this job, RangerSir and I talked about this.   We discussed what the realistic expectations were.   We discussed what was most likely to suffer and what each of us might do to limit the impact of my new job on personal time.

I have done several things to ensure that I don’t let work creep occur.    I am trying to cultivate new habits to ensure I don’t just go to work and come home and veg, because I  found I was falling in that pattern.    In January  I enrolled in a creative class with weekly assignments because I love to learn and I thrive on creativity.   With regular assignments I am forced to carve out time for myself.   It seems that once I have found the rhythm of making self-time, it seems I have found  time for other things as well.   I  have queued up several books at the public library, because I am back to reading daily.   I had wanted to make a baby quilt when my newest Great Nephew was born, but I had never started the project.  I felt I had no time.    Now the top is pieced and I am busy machine quilting it so I can go to baby Harrison.

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I had never imagined I would find the time to make a baby quilt, though I really wanted this special baby boy to have one.   Now suddenly it is well on its way. 

Are you caught in the never ending rat race of letting your work encroach on your personal time?    Are you not being yourself, but instead using the exhaustion of work  preventing you from finding enjoyment in life?   If so, I hope you take a little time and think about how you can find some time for you.  You are worth it.   Maybe you can’t be as lucky as I am, but even if all you get is a few minutes to yourself, it will be worth it.   Once you claim those first few minutes hopefully you can claim a few more and a few more.

It is something we all need not just with work and personal time, but holistically more life balance.

Unexpected Goodbye

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A page from my art journal that I created when looking for answers this last week.

Most people spend more waking hours with their co-workers than their family.   Your co-workers become an extended family.   If you are really lucky some of your co-workers become your friends. I had a co-worker who was one-of-kind guy.   Our careers ran parallel paths in so many ways that made us click and become more than co-workers.   We were friends. Unfortunately last week I lost my friend to suicide.

Montana has a rampant problem with suicide. We are often number one or two in the nation per capita when looking at our suicide rates. It is a sad reality to know so many families personally affected by suicide. For RangerSir and I it is not people we know second or third hand that have been impacted by this crisis.     It is people who we know as a member of our inner circle.   In January we attended two funerals for victims of suicide.     It has left us stunned and reeling seeking to understand.      Something we may never do.

Suicide affects young and old alike.   If reaches across gender and economics. It is a problem in rural and our cities.   Suicide leaves behind family and friends who wonder what more they could have or should have done.   There are no answers. Only holes in lives about what was possible that will not be.

I beg of you if it is a moment of great despair or if it is a long battle with mental health, please seek help.   It may not feel like there is anyone out there who cares, but there is.   It may not feel like there is anyone you can share your burden with, but there is.   It may feel like there is no way out, but there is.   Call out for help.   Ask for help.   Accept the offer of help.   The world is a better place because you are in it.