Sunday, March 31, 2013

Got Training?

One thing I nearly overdosed on while in the military was training.  It doesn't matter if the training is good, necessary, or usable -- you still get it.

Firing a weapon?  Great training.  First aid, surviving chemical agents, removing an aircraft engine, leadership, all more great training.  Separating from the service, flag detail, casualty notification, classified data, there's training for that too.  Using a ladder?  Sponsoring a new Airman?  Moving?  Yes, training for that.  Oh, it's been a year since the last training?  Well then it's probably time for some refresher training.  Can't show up for work on time?  Some might call the consequences "being disciplined" but it's really another form of training.

That's just one of the things that makes our military services so great.  They invest in people.  All people.  Thousands and millions are spent on training.

As I began my transition to farming, I sought out as much training as I could find.  This week has been a great week for me and my training.

First, my local Small Business Development Center reviewed my business plan.  I have to admit that when I first read all the red ink on my draft plan, I was a bit upset.  How could someone in an office 60 miles away question my plan?  But as I read the comments again and again, I began to understand
what a great service they provided to me.  Their review and comments made my business plan much better.  Thank you Lorene, you are awesome!  And guess what?  It's free.  Free service.

Then I found out about the Farmer Veteran Coalition which helps service members establish themselves in the agriculture industry.  This group provides an abundance of help in funding, education, mentorship, planning, and many other areas.  This week they began working to find a mentor for me who will help me learn to market my wheat and lentils that I will produce.  How awesome is that?  Thank you Julie, you are awesome!  And guess what?  Yes, another free service.

Late this week, I received a phone call from the National Farmers Union Beginning Farmers Institute which provides leadership and farm management training.  They select a class of students each year to attend three educational sessions throughout the country.  They provide agriculture professionals as speakers, on-farm training workshops, and cooperative tours.  Thank you Maria, I am very excited to be in the class!  Oh, and guess what?  Well, it's not completely free, it cost me $100.  Meanwhile, NFU is paying the majority of the travel, hotel, and meal expenses.  That's as good as free, considering the mentoring, training, and education that I will receive.

And finally, this morning I attended Easter sunrise service at a local church.  That is the ultimate free service.  Free forgiveness, free grace, free love.  Happy Easter my friends, He is Risen!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Approach With Caution

I love being around a group of farmers and getting into a conversation with them.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been at a few local events.  There was a farm expo, customer appreciation days by two auto parts dealers, a church fish fry, and a coop chemical meeting.  Each drew in good crowds of farmers and gave me an opportunity to pick their brain and get some advice.  Now that I am back on the farm, I like introducing myself to both new and old acquaintances and ask if they have any advice for a beginning farmer.

The best response came from a farmer who used to live just up the road and who retired in the 1990s.  His response?  "Approach with caution."  It was a great answer and immediately caused me to laugh.  But of all the responses I have received, I keep thinking about that one.  It actually is a great, great answer.  Approach with caution.

Caution, think long and hard in my planning.  Crop rotations, seed varieties, fertilizer application, herbicides and fungicides, a marketing plan...they take a lot of thought and analysis.

Caution, manage the risk on the farm.  Market volatility, multi peril & hail insurance, operating loan, machinery & land prices, farm program...they are significant factors in my planning effort.

Caution, the farmers have been doing great on the Hi-Line the past few years.  The law of averages has to kick in at some point.

Caution, there are fewer local equipment dealerships and grain elevators every year.  I have to take that into consideration with my equipment management and marketing plan.

Caution, the days are long and hard.  I need to make sure I keep myself in shape, physically and spiritually and mentally.

Approach with caution...great advice.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hello, Spring?

Finally at the farm!  Now if I could just find it under all of this white stuff...

After traveling through two snowstorms, I arrived at the farm to find that one of my great neighbors had driven his tractor up here and plowed the yard open.  There was about a foot of snow, with some very large drifts along the tree line.  The driveway always plugs with snow, it's just one of those things I will learn to deal with every winter.  But like I said, a great neighbor had opened it up for us.

It didn't last long.

Snow drifts along the shelter belt
Winds on Monday were 20-25 mph and visibility was less than a quarter mile.  Luckily no new snow fell, it was only the snow we already had blowing around.  I do think I saw a cow or two blow by the yard (note to self, get your eyeballs checked).  So of course the driveway was packed with snow again.  I spent Tuesday morning opening it back up.

And now another blizzard today.  The Weatherman says widespread blowing snow, 18-23 mph this afternoon, with gusts up to 30, and new snow of 3-5 inches.  Apparently (and this is just an assumption on my part) the Weatherman hasn't looked at his calendar to see that spring is supposed to start on Wednesday.  As in, three days from now.

Getting ready to wrassle a badger
And speaking of spring, I was very surprised to get a visit from a very distant cousin of Punxsutawney Phil when a young badger stopped in at the cat house on Wednesday.  Judging by his reaction, he wasn't too happy that I interrupted his lunch.  If Phil's cousin ever visits you, be forewarned that the claws are long and the growl is deep.

The badger's gone now, I buried him under the snow out in a field.  But looking back, maybe I should have asked his opinion on when spring starts.  Obviously Phil and the Weatherman do not know it's in just three days.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Love and Hate of Moving

Moving?  I hate it.  I don't use that word "hate" very often, but I do at moving time.  In 20 years of Air Force life, this was my eleventh and final move.

Really I shouldn't complain.  Uncle Sam does all the heavy lifting for me.  He contracts a moving company, sets the date, loads and stores the junk I own, then delivers it to the front door of my next home.  Not a bad deal.  But yet, I just can't get over this dread of moving.  I don't know why.  Maybe I'm just a pansy.

I do have to say that the movers were great this time.  They showed up at 0815, earliest that a crew has ever arrived for me.  The crew of three took a tour of the house and garage and said "We will have you packed and gone today."  Today?  A one-day pack and load?  Unheard of!  Yes sir, I accept!  True to their word, they were loaded and driving the semi away at 1530.  Great crew, those boys can pick rock at the farm any time.

The travel to the Hi-Line was fun.  We drove through OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, SD, ND, and finally into MT.  A couple of snow storms, lots of cars in the ditch, some time with friends & family in NE, a boat show in ND...yep, we saw a lot on the trip.  The best sight though was the farm.  Driving down the hill to the farm on my last & final move is something I will never forget.  I'm home.

Moving?  Maybe it's not so bad...especially when it moves you one step closer to your dream.  I love it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Finis.  das Ende.  نهاية عصر
Yesterday I received my very last Air Force promotion, this time to the rank of "Civilian."  What a great journey it has been.
Service Before Self
I spent 20 years in the Air Force.  20 years.  I never really planned to stay more than four.  I thought maybe I could follow in The Old Man's footsteps, do a tour in Europe, travel around, and then get out.  The problem with my plan?  Apparently nobody told the US Air Force about it.

Celebrating with two retired Airmen

I never got those orders to Europe.  Never had a chance to ride the train to Austria, ski in the Alps, visit some Scandanavians, or experience life in Germany.  I sure tried though.  I volunteered at every opportunity.  I called everyone that might be able to get me over there.  Heck, I even volunteered to spend a year in Iraq just so the Air Force assignment system might take pity on me.
"Service Before Self" is what they say in the Air Force.  You see, it isn't about you.  It's about what the Air Force needs, what the Nation needs.  It's about the mission, the priorities, the requirements, the team.  It took me a few years and maybe a few tears to understand, but it finally sunk in.

Some of the great Airmen I served with
I'm glad it did.  I'm glad I learned that lesson and all the other lessons the Air Force taught me.  They made me a much better man than I ever thought I would become.  Certainly not rich...and not famous or powerful or important.  But if I had become any of those, I wouldn't be half as good as I am as a veteran of the United States Air Force.
To my Air Force brothers and sisters, I salute you.  Thank you for allowing me to serve beside you every day.