Tag Archives: goals

Living the Dream

This was written by a friend from north Missouri in honor of her hard working husband (farmer and welder, Lone Oak Fabrication, LLC, Clarence, Missouri), though it is a testament to her hard work and sacrifice as well (i would consider Erin a modern day Proverbs 31 woman).  Sometimes we grumble about our employers and some may go on strike, but oftentimes, especially in small towns, with small start up businesses, the owners are paddling like crazy to keep the operation afloat.  If he or she has the opportunity to hire someone to come along, that is a bonus for everyone.  If you, as the employee, think you are mistreated or underpaid, then move on to your dream job with dream pay, don’t undermine the efforts of the small businessman by not giving your best each day.       (tauna’s comments)

 

  • This is what being self-employed looks like.It’s working 80 hours a week so you don’t have to work 40 hours for someone else.It’s getting up extra early to work before the rest of the day hits.

    It’s putting in a few more hours after you kiss your kids good night.

    It’s leaving the house before your spouse is awake and coming home after they are asleep. Sometimes only talking to each other via text for days at a time.

    It’s making sacrifices and pinching pennies.

    It’s throwing your whole heart into a dream, a vision, a goal for a better future.

    It’s the thrill of knowing you can manage your own time and the sickening feeling when you don’t manage it well.

    It’s making out invoices while your spouse addresses the envelopes because you’re working this dream together.

    It’s having the guts to take a risk and knowing if it doesn’t work out, you learn the lesson and try again.

    It’s all this and so much more. I’m so proud of you David.

Erin Spurgeon, wife, mother, educator, small business owner, Stitches & Staples

Thoughts on Lease Cropping vs Grazing Your Own Stock

There is something wrong with me that leasing and renting properties never seems to work out.  Even when there is a contract with goals and procedures laid out life, weather, resources change and stuff just doesn’t happen as plan.  But, by and large, my disappointments seem rooted in being too accommodating.  Or maybe it’s a lack of communication though for sure i don’t hold back giving my opinions and expectations – to a fault, i’m afraid.  Nevertheless, things never turn out quite the way i want.

Currently, i’ve leased 120 acres for organic farming for 4 years.  My goals are to eliminate or drastically reduce endophyte infected toxic fescue and build organic matter through the use of cover crops.  I knew going in that my renter has no intention of ever letting cattle graze the cover crops, so i can’t be unhappy about that, yet, the more i see happening and the more i read, it is clear that my soil is lacking due to the removal of animal impact.

Our contract was spelled out and ends after next year’s crop (it was a 4 year deal).  I had hoped that it would be successful and that then we could move forward with working another piece and removing more fescue, but it doesn’t work.

Here are some bullet points i have:

  1. animal impact is essential to making cover crop and soil improvements financially viable as well as building organic matter and tilth.
  2. in a lease situation, the owner doesn’t have the power to make certain that soil is covered.  This past year, the soil did not have anything in it from November until June (except volunteer ragweed growing in the spring) and now that it’s been worked and readied for more soybeans, it still lays open to the sun, wind, and rain with prevented planting.  (it’s now October 2019 and covered with weeds again). Cover crops simply don’t get planted even though that was the written goal.
  3. I knew going in that i was incurring some opportunity costs by leasing vs grazing my own cattle on the property.  I weighed that against the possibility of getting better control of the toxic fescue and giving my friend an opportunity to expand his organic cropping endeavor.  Bottom line, from a purely income/expense perspective, I make more money with grazing vs leasing the property for row cropping.
  4. Lessees do not care for your property as you would.  Trees and brush are growing rapidly in fence rows and untilled portions of the land.  I still do the labor of keeping them under control and since the crop is organic, i must follow the rules of how to manage.  In other words, i can’t chemically treat the plants or stumps if they are within 20 feet of the crop – So they grow and grow.  It will be 7 years from the time i cut brush and treated and the time i regain control of my property.  A lot gets big and away.  More work at the end of the organic regime.
  5. This experiment was worth the pain since i now know that it simply is not the way i would ever do this project again.  I’m especially glad I went with the organic approach despite the stumbling blocks since a conventional farmer would have slathered the soil with toxic chemicals year after year and farmed fence row to fence row and through the waterways.  My friend is careful to leave ample grass strips in waterways and leaves 20 foot buffer from the fences (organic rules).  At the same time this leaves at least 20 acres that is not be utilized for any purpose since he won’t allow grazing at any time.
  6. The weather immediately turned into drought mode for these 3 years and I’m having to downsize my cow herd drastically to accommodate since my acres for grazing is reduced.  Incredibly, this has turned to be a blessing since i’ve culled deeply (after this fall, it will have been about 40%!), no cow gets a second chance and i’ve sold a lot of older cows that i would typically try to ‘get one more calf out of.’  This year’s calf crop is the best I’ve ever had.  Now if only market prices weren’t in the tank.
  7. If i had my own farming equipment and the desire to run it, i think there is opportunity to improve the soil, increase tilth and organic matter, create better wildlife habitat, create another employment opportunity, and increase profit with combined cropping/grazing especially if a value added food crop market is developed.  We actually do have all the equipment, but not the time or energy to develop the plan, work the plan, and market.  The equipment mostly sits in the barn and serves as depreciating assets against income.
  8. At the end of the day,  we do the best we can and then we die.  The hope is to leave a legacy of some sort – be it a physical asset, money, or wisdom.  A friend recently sold his rather large farm he had promoted, taught, enjoyed, and improved with holistic, organic practices for all his life yet it sold to conventional farmers who are likely to plough it all under and row crop until it is degraded. That is sad, but life goes on.

At the end of the day, I’m looking forward to bringing the 120 acres back under my management even though i will only graze it once i get it seeded back down.  With managed grazing and some brush/tree removal, the pasture will be back hopefully making money for me soon.

IMG-6088
You can see the worked field which has now been bare soil since harvest of soybeans last November.  That means 10 months and counting of open, unprotected soil.

Setting Goals – Making Plans

Many of us have been caught up in discussions on social media which sometimes turn into nasty mud flinging and other nonsense.  Religious issues with many gurus often offers answers which are confusing and double-minded at best.  Livestock grazing, soil regeneration (regenerative is the goal; sustainable is out, and rightly so, since many of us have denigrated soil resources; sustaining that is ridiculous), wildlife enhancement, water quality, breed of cattle (or other livestock) are promoted with such fervor and worship to qualify as religions.

Yet, the reality of our fallen world and its natural processes, is so complex, that one size fits all does not work.  In the words of my friend Jim Gerrish, “it depends.”  And indeed it does.  Sure, there are some principles, ideas, and theories which are basic and we can learn from these.  However, the key must be to identify our own goals, resources, restrictions, and, as Allan Nation coined, ‘unfair advantages.’

You can search and find a myriad of experts ready to guide you on goal setting.  Read through them, many will help fertilize your own thoughts.   Here are a few thoughts to get you started.

  • Goals will involve family and friends- you don’t live in a bubble – be mindful and consider if your goals will push loved ones away.
  • Goals should consider the future – remember, you won’t always be 25 years old.  Work hard now,  but move into more investments.
  • Goals should include those things you want to do.  You may become successful not doing this, but there may be limited satisfaction.
  • Goals should be written down and in a place you can reference them.
  • Goals should be flexible – we cannot control the world – sometimes shifting a goal is necessary to be relevant.

Grazing livestock management schemes are confusing and challenging – like a lot of fields (excuse the pun).  When you throw in that one guru says do this and another says do the opposite, how is a newcomer to make decisions?  It is tough, for sure, but read a lot, go to a few conferences by tried and true teachers, for example  guys and gals who are or have been graziers themselves.  Networking with other producers will really help, but avoid meaningless quarrels.

Just like knowing the difference between economic (is the endeavor worth doing?) and financial (can i afford to do it?) decisions, knowing the difference between goal setting and planning is essential.  You may have great goals, but can actual plans be made to reach the goals?  And beyond that, you must ask yourself, am i motivated enough to see it through?  Don’t start a task if you don’t count the cost in advance.  These costs are beyond money – they include relationships which may be lost, declining health, spiritual or mental stress.

Change is inevitable, goals change, plans change, plans change because the goals change, goals change because of many, many factors, including age, time, priorities.  Don’t get bogged down with thinking you cannot change goals or plans, but keeping meaningful, timely, and accurate records is a must!

Happy Planning!

tauna

 

 

Learning from Autistic Persons

Articles about autism and Asperger’s always catch my eye since my middle child (son, Dallas) was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was 19.  It is important, in my opinion, to help others understand as best we all can about this challenging character trait.

This one is from the February 20, 2018 issue of Wall Street Journal.

What My Son With Autism Taught Me About Managing People

Recognizing and working with colleagues’ different cognitive styles helps get the most out of everyone

Individuals in the workplace have their own distinctive cognitive wiring that shapes how they approach the world.
Individuals in the workplace have their own distinctive cognitive wiring that shapes how they approach the world. ILLUSTRATION: JOHN HERSEY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

I like to think I was a considerate colleague when I worked in an office. I paid attention to cultural and gender differences. I made an effort to run inclusive meetings and write inclusive articles.

But for all my attention to diversity, I didn’t pay attention to one crucial form of difference: the way people think.

It took my autistic son to wake me up to the truth. For many years, I struggled with my son, who had been variously labeled “oppositional,” “difficult” or…well, there are words that we can’t put in a newspaper. We had hourly conflicts, and he had near-daily meltdowns.

It wasn’t until he received his first formal diagnosis—initially for ADHD, rather than autism—that I realized his brain was just wired differently from mine. I was able to recognize how often I was asking him to do something he couldn’t do, rather than something he wouldn’tdo. Even more important, I started to see the connection between his wiring and his talents, like his mathematical ability and his extraordinary vocabulary.

Once I recognized those distinctions as a mom, I started seeing them in my professional relationships, too. Just as my son had a learning and communications style of his own—and strengths that came along with it—my colleagues and I each had our own distinctive wiring that shaped how we approached the world. Recognizing that, and learning to deal with each other’s ways of thinking, makes for stronger understanding and smoother communication. And better business.

These different styles of thinking showed themselves most clearly in meetings. After my son’s diagnosis, I started to pay attention to how different members of the team did or didn’t participate in our regular sit-downs.

For instance, my own wiring pushes me to jump in, get as many of my ideas on the table as possible, and then push toward a decision. But one smart young man, who was absolutely brimming with ideas, wasn’t apt to speak during meetings. He once explained to me, “I need time to reflect before I’m ready to share my ideas.”

After that, I started breaking our meetings into two parts: part one to lay out our goals and any relevant background, plus invite ideas from people whose wiring was set up to present ideas the way I did. In part two, I’d invite input from those who needed time. Our meetings became much tighter and more effective, and we started to tap into the wisdom of our whole team.

Then there were those people—kinetic learners—who I realized aren’t built to sit still. To think or learn to their full ability, they need to move around, such as pacing or jiggling their knee or leaving the office at lunch to do a thousand-calorie workout.

I used to treat those colleagues like caged border collies who could wait until the weekend to run off all their energy. You could say I wasn’t the most understanding colleague, and sometimes manager.

 Looked at Differently

About one-quarter of adults surveyed said they had at least one neurodiverse condition. Among those, the percentage saying that at their most recent employer they experienced:

*Multiple responses allowed.

Source: Wilder Research online survey of 437 adults, 2016

But with my new mind-set, I started to schedule walking meetings whenever I was huddling one-on-one and didn’t need to take a lot of notes; I used voice dictation on my phone to capture key takeaways as we walked.

Getting outside and moving around not only helped my kinetic colleagues think more clearly and creatively, but also helped me discover that moving around gets me thinking differently, too.

Another area helped by my new way of thinking involves nonverbal cues. It never dawned on me that many people’s wiring isn’t set up to read throat clearing or glances at a phone as signs that it’s time to wrap up a chat, so they need more direct signals. But now if I find someone isn’t picking up on my cues, I say explicitly, for instance, “I need to end our conversation now so that I can get back to work.”

Such a simple thing—but I was totally blind to it before my son opened my eyes.

Making things concrete

Turning this new lens on others inevitably led to turning it back on myself. In what ways was my wiring getting in the way? How was my way of thinking and relating to people keeping me from being as creative and productive as I could be?

I have always been someone who remembers ideas and theories more than facts and anecdotes, but I had never thought about how that affects my professional relationships. I just noticed that I often had to repeat an idea three or four times before my colleagues finally understood or retained it. “Why can’t they understand the idea of aggregating and tagging social-media content?” I might fret.

Once I started peppering my conversations with specific, concrete examples for each of my abstract ideas, I found my colleagues were much faster to embrace my ideas on everything from software projects to marketing campaigns.

Soon, it took fewer repetitions for me to get my ideas across—but I also became more patient with the repetition, because I realized that I wasn’t speaking their language.

What My Son With Autism Taught Me About Managing People
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

As I became more conscientious about working with my colleagues’ diverse thinking styles, I also learned to acknowledge and ask for help with my own style—even when that help involved admitting a weakness. I have long realized that I have challenges with what psychologists call “executive function”—namely, the ability to break a project apart into component tasks and organize those tasks so that they can be completed on time. I’m the kind of person who has a messy desk and can easily miss deadlines, so I’ve gradually built up a set of digital tools and habits that mostly compensate for my state of mental disorganization.

Remind me

Once I embraced my new perspective, however, I stopped feeling like my executive-function issues were something to apologize for—just as I no longer expect my colleagues to apologize because they don’t speak quickly at meetings or prefer to walk and meet. I’m just wired differently. I still make an effort to keep myself organized by paying careful attention to my digital tool kit, but I supplement that with an additional strategy: openly acknowledging my limitations. When I start working with someone new, I let them know that I am not great at keeping track of tasks and details, so I invite them to remind me if anything slips.

Recognizing all these variations hasn’t crowded out my concern for other kinds of diversity in the workplace. I don’t have a whole lot of patience for using differences in thinking as an excuse for gender bias or cultural insensitivity.

If anything, noticing different thinking styles has helped me become more effective in working across a wide range of differences within the workplace. The more I acknowledge and embrace my colleagues’ quirks—not to mention my own—the more I’m able to tap into their unique strengths.

Ms. Samuel is a technology researcher and the author of “Work Smarter With Social Media.” Email her at reports@wsj.com.

Appeared in the February 20, 2018, print edition.

Making Investments vs Creating a Job

Economic definitions:

Investment – an investment is the purchase of goods that are not consumed today but are used in the future to create wealth.  to put (money) to use, by purchase or expenditure, in something offering potential profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value.

Job – a paid position of regular employment.  a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price. Everyone has goals in life – some will involve being financially secure.  If you are interested in building financial wealth, there are a few basic premises which need to be incorporated into your plans.

1) Your saved dollars must be put to work!

2) Break free from the bondage of financial slavery by changing your spending habits

3) Invest in yourself – education or your own business

4) Learn to manage the money you do have – more money will not necessarily fix your financial problems

5) Debt is a hard task master – avoid it!

6) Use your income from a paid job to make investments that will gain in value while you continue your paid job.  Later you can retire from your job and enjoy your investments.

Many, many economic experts have different ideas about how to invest, so it’s up to you to decide who or what you want to invest in.

Dave Ramsey Investing Philosophy

How to Become Wealthy  – Nine Truths that can Set You on the Path to Financial Freedom

Rich Dad/Poor Dad – Dave Pratt, Ranching for Profit newsletter

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Holistic Management Decision Making

Super intro to Holistic Management!

Creating the Farm and Life You Want With Holistic Management

Holistic management testing questions

HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT A WHOLE-FARM DECISION MAKING FRAMEWORK

Even though I’ve known about and used the testing questions for many years, too many times, i go ahead a purchase a band-aid which does nothing but make my work harder and negatively affect my quality of life and that of those i love the most.  While holistic management terms have been used mostly in farm and home circles, the precepts can be applied to most any business.

Good starter questions are:  Why am i doing this job?  If I can let nature do the job, then why am I not letting that happen?  Is there a better way?

Do you have daily repetitive chores?  You can probably get rid of them and not only save a tremendous amount of time, but also considerable out-of-pocket money.  Especially if they are non-income producing time-suckers.  Pets are notorious for this, but also having too many unrelated income streams.

For example, unless you have work horses (even then you’d better know your costs!), the time spent caring for and feeding them is astronomical with absolutely no return!  (unless you are using them for pleasure and have time to do so).  Horses consume 2% to 2.5% dry matter to the body weight or about 21 lbs for a 1000 lb horse.  About the same as a cow.  However, the cow is producing a calf on that same ration.  So, while feeding three horses you could be feeding three cows with the resultant calf sale each year which at current levels is about $1000 per calf.  If you spend 10 minutes a day feeding and watering the horses, in the course of one year, you’ve spent the equivalent of 60.8 hours!  How much productive work could you get done in 60 hours!  So, 60 hours times $15/hour is $900 plus feed, pasture rent, hay costs, water, vaccinations, hoof trimming, emergency vet costs.  You can figure your own costs, but a full-service boarding facility for a 12×12 stall is $250/month per horse (includes turnout and water/feed/hay) or $9000 per year for three horses.  This does not include farrier or vet services.  Pasture only boarding is $160/month, but you would need to care for the horse yourself.  What about tack, training, grooming?  Add up the costs and time.

In a continuous grazing situation, horses will do more damage to the stand of forage than cattle and even sheep in some respects because not only can they nip the new growth to the ground like sheep, but they are heavier and each step carries more weight per square inch than a sheep.  This often leads to pugging in soft pastures.  In other words, horses can destroy a pasture in no time at all.  As Penn State Extension puts it: “turning horses out on pasture should not start until the grass has reached a height of 6 inches, and should be stopped when grass has been grazed down to 2 to 3 inches.”  and “this grazing strategy (continuous) often results in overgrazing,…. The bad thing about this system, it allows horses to be very selective. Horses repeatedly graze the best-tasting plants. This stresses plants beyond their ability to survive. Pasture is never allowed to recover from grazing. In time pastures are soon turned into dry lots where only weeds will grow.”  Penn State’s recommendations are very basic, but a helpful start into learning about managed grazing.

Here’s a good starter article for pasture maintenance:  Care & Feeding of Overgrazed Pastures

This is just one example,  use the test questions against everything you do, gather information, and make the right decision!

Set goals, use the test questions, then really, really wait before buying work or any inputs.  If you need training to help you identify problems and what is a symptom, then get help!  Don’t spin your wheels getting nothing done or worse, digging a deeper hole and remaining confused by why you aren’t getting ahead.  Ask!  But if you are not ready to implement what you learn or make changes, then don’t waste your money or other people’s time.

HMI Testing Questions

Resources from Holistic Management International!

Creating Healthy Soil

Free Downloads

You and I won’t agree with all of HMI’s ideas, but there is a ton of good information and help for getting you started in a new business, established business, or life in general.

Shalom!

tauna