The ‘Good’ Old Days, or Were They?

plow1930sWe often talk here about ‘The Good Old Days’ but you know, for those of us who have been around a few years, we often look back through our rose tinted rear view mirrors. In many ways, things are much better than they ever have been.

I’m an electrician, mostly. I can hold my own in a few other trades, mostly those that serve farmers, what we usually call millwrights. These are the guys that put together the grain (and occasionally livestock) handling equipment used in agriculture today. It’s come a long way in my lifetime, from storing ear corn in a crib to dumping wet corn in a pit and automatically storing (and maintaining) corn at about 14% moisture until the market is right.

It’s always good to talk about farming because for almost all of us, our ancestor’s were farmers, some here and some like mine in other countries (Norway, in my case). But my family came here in the late nineteenth century and got in on a small scale bit of the Bonanza farms up in northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. That land, the old bed of lake Agassiz) was so flat that you could see a water tower about forty miles away.

This came up because I ran across a post (actually a series) from Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom, where she talks about the changes in farming. The link above takes you to the series from her label #TBT for Throwback Thursday, I think. The articles are all excellent, and will explain a lot about how our farmers feed the world, and how it has changed.

The article I want to highlight today is called The Changing Face of Farming, and like reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, it will give you good insight on why and how specialization occurs.

So learn and enjoy, I think you should subscribe yourself but don’t be surprised if I feature her here every once in a while as well!

200 years ago my family was farming, but the farm looked much different from our family farm today.

Chickens scoured the yards and fields for something to eat and when a chicken was needed for dinner one was butchered.

A milk cow grazed the pasture during the day and was milked both morning and night to provide milk and butter for the family.

Pigs wallowed in mud outside the barn and provided pork, bacon and lard to cook with.

My great-great grandfather worked in the fields of Illinois raising crops to feed and sell to make a living for his family.

My ancestors did their own banking…in a mason jar in the back yard.

They did their own milling of their wheat and oats for flour on the table.

They did their own taxes, made their own clothes, probably built their own house,

Over the years our family farm has evolved.  In the early 1900’s my family moved to Kansas.  Somewhere along the line someone decided they were tired of milking a cow two times every day and that one of my farm mom’s before me could buy the milk and probably it was delivered to their doorstep. 

Chickens are not found on our farm today.  The coyotes and raccoons really like the taste of them.  I am guessing my ancestors also found it hard to keep a small flock of chickens.  Neighbors could raise bigger groups in open barns even back in the 1950’s.  The butchering process is often messy (I have heard and not witnessed).  It was easier to have the neighbor with all the right equipment take care of that job, so time could be freed up to go to the lake.

My family from my great grandfather to my father all raised pigs outside on dirt and in the weather.  Pigs were never my favorite.  I remember watching my dad’s fingernail grow back oh so slowly after a pig bit it off.  It is much easier to go to the store to buy the cuts of pork I do wish to eat when I want pork.

My farmer ancestors before me probably did their own taxes.  Today, things are so complicated that I am thankful for an accountant to take care of those matters for me.

My grandmothers made most of the clothes my mom and aunts wore growing up.  I have a quilt that used the scraps of those dresses and I used to love it when they would sit around and point at the patches telling me whose dress that was and how old they remember they were when they wore it.  I am guessing that your family history is much the same.  You may have to go back a few more generations than I did, but at one point in your family’s history it is highly likely that your family had a farmer.

Farms today did not become bigger overnight.  It has been an evolution since the beginning of farming.  Michael is better at growing pigs than Raymond.  Raymond doesn’t like growing pigs so sells the family farm and moves to town.  Michael raises a few more pigs to make up for the ones that Raymond no longer grows.  Raymond follows his dream of being an accountant.

Keep reading The Changing Face of Farming, and do follow the other link and subscribe. It’s good stuff.

Starting Another Year

The arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlbo...

The arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, are encircled by both the Garter and the collar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it very important to thank Jess for her wonderful article yesterday. She said many nice things about me, some of which are true. :-) Where she is really right, is the strain of writing a blog. I decided quite early that it was reasonable to post at least once a day, and while I have never really reconsidered, doing my 4-15 hundred words 7 times a week and 52 weeks a years has often been a strain. Part of that is the unrelieved gloom of the political situation. and part of that is my memory of a better America, where a man worried about his honor. The good thing is that I have found it still exists, you just don’t see it on TV. And not just us old Americans either. One of the lessons that Jessica brings us is that the generations coming after us, and indeed in England as well as America, are very much like we are. We definitely need to increase the tribe, but that can be done. We are not starting completely over.

And, never doubt that she is an integral part of this blog, her by-line hasn’t appeared much in the last few months, and there are reasons for that, I understand and agree with them, but without her, this blog would have gone under several times, when she has rescued me from the ‘Slough of Despond’. It will likely happen again. So, if you like what I write, remember what I told a distinguished contributor from her wonderful blog, All Along the Watchtower yesterday, ” A lot of it, which won’t surprise you, is Jess, more behind the scenes than I would prefer. Muse, partner, supporter, and more, I wouldn’t have made it this far without her.”

One of my hobbies (time-wasters, if you prefer) has become the real estate listings in the £ Daily Mail. No, I’m not seriously shopping but when you live in a world that was settled slightly over a hundred years ago, it is fun to look at houses that are a bit older. Like this one.

CLI140692_01_gal (1)

Click to embiggen

It’s in the village of Painswick in Gloucestershire, and it’s called Castle Halle. The description says it is the third castle on the site which records say was occupied by Saxon Thane Ernsige before the Conquest. It passed into the control of the Lords Talbot, and the final Talbot, John of Shrewsbury  demolished the castle in about 1442 and there are some traces remaining. Sir Henry Winston lived here until his death in 1618 and presumably raised his daughter, Sara, here. Sara made a pretty good marriage, marrying Sir Winston Churchill whose son, John Churchill, later the First Duke of Marlborough, who became Queen Anne’s great general, and whose family eventually brought us another Sir Winston, and intermarried into the Spencer’s as well, thus being ancestors of Princess Diana as well.

I don’t care what you say, you just can’t buy a house with a history like that like that in Nebraska :-) I would bet ours are a bit more energy-efficient though.

But, hey, it’s Sunday and we try most weekends to have a movie. So let’s start the fourth year right, with a John Wayne flick. How about War of the Wildcats, and while we watch it, maybe we should think about having an oil boom somewhere besides North Dakota and Texas.

Enjoy

Capitalism and the Making of the Market

Texas Barnett Shale gas drilling rig near Alva...

Texas Barnett Shale gas drilling rig near Alvarado, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Isn’t it amazing that the US is now the largest producer (again) of oil and gas in the world. Particularly in the face of a drilling ban on federal lands (a large percentage of the west) the unalterable ill wishes of the government and its EPA, and vocal opposition from the so-called progressives. Who should be really called regressives because they want to live in the pre-industrial world, where a percentage of the lower classes starved even in the good years.

Yay! For the free-market (or what’s left of it) It may save us yet.

U.S. is now world’s biggest oil producer – Herald and News: Nation/World News

LONDON — The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said.

U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report Friday. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the U.S. was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.

“The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil,” Francisco Blanch, the bank’s head of commodities research, said by phone from New York. “The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery. If the U.S. didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.

”Oil extraction is soaring at shale formations in Texas and North Dakota as companies split rocks using high-pressure liquid, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. […]

via U.S. is now world’s biggest oil producer – Herald and News: Nation/World News.

An open letter to bearded hipsters (Oh My)

English: A syttende mai dinner in the Three Cr...

English: A syttende mai dinner in the Three Crowns Dining Room at Holiday Inn South, Rochester, Minnesota. Plate holds lutefisk, rutabaga, meatballs, cranberries, and lefse. ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Lutefisk, fra en 17. mai-feiring i Minnesota: lutefisk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, Guys, if you’re in Norway, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, or other places where it gets completely ridiculously cold, and it snows so much that one really can justify a snow machine, it’s a day to kick back and have some lutefisk and drink some aquavit. Yep, it 17 May again, or Norwegian Constitution day. I don’t know many of us Scandis that think we need more excuse to party than that it’s a day that ends in -day, but we got one today. I wrote about it last year so if you want to know more, go here. In any case, ‘

GOD SYTTENDE MAI!!


Then there is this broad. She may be the funniest (and one of the most truthful) writers I have ever read. Not many people can write a post that I can hardly read because of the tears rolling down my face while I’m rolling on the floor. My God, she’s good. Read it follow the link, read the post that follows as well, it connects. Hell , spend the day, it goes good with Aquavit. And yes, I need to get a laptop, My desktop doesn’t like rolling around on the floor, and it doesn’t laugh worth a crap, either. Language warning: She writes like real Americans talk. If you’re easily offended, you’re in the wrong place here, and on Nicki’s site as well. You can whine in comments if you wish.

Dear Bearded Hipsters,

YOU GUYS ARE RUINING MY BEARD FETISH.  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved a man with a beard. To me, they meant strength, power, MANLINESS. Someone who could protect me. Unfortunately, you guys have turned it into a fashion statement. The beard has turned into the padded bra of masculinity. Sure it looks sexy, but whatcha got under there? There’s a whole generation running around looking like lumberjacks, and most of you can’t change a fucking tire.

Look, I get it. I really do. I understand the motivation behind your beardedness. In fact, I even pity you. Thousands of years of evolution priming you guys to kill stuff, and chase stuff, and fuck stuff….and now what? You’re stuck at a desk all day. No battles to fight. No wars to wage. So you assert your masculinity the only way you know how. You brew beer. You grow some hair on your face. I’ve seen you, hipsters, sitting in downtown eateries, with your rock chick girlfriends, dipping your truffle fries, trying not to get the aioli in your mustache. I’ve seen the quiet desperation in your eyes. I know you’re screaming into the void.

But I still hate you for it. You’re confusing me. It’s now on me to suss out who is the real man and who is the poseur. Sadly, I fear most of you are the latter. Before this explosion of whiskers on trendy men everywhere, if I saw a bearded man it was safe to assume certain things about him. Like, he probably owned a hammer. Or washed his hair with a bar of Irish Spring. His beard was probably scented with motor oil and probably had remnants of last night’s chili in it.

via An open letter to bearded hipsters « The Nicki Daniels Interview.

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Whittle, Rowe, Common Sense, and Common Core

Mike Rowe had some advice on his Facebook for a guy, a while back. It applies to all of us, and here it is in its entirety.

Saturday Mail Call

Hey Mike!

I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do. I have always been a hands on kind of guy and a go-getter. I could never be an office worker. I need change, excitement, and adventure in my life, but where the pay is steady. I grew up in construction and my first job was a restoration project. I love everything outdoors. I play music for extra money. I like trying pretty much everything, but get bored very easily. I want a career that will always keep me happy, but can allow me to have a family and get some time to travel. I figure if anyone knows jobs its you so I was wondering your thoughts on this if you ever get the time! Thank you!

Parker Hall

Hi Parker

My first thought is that you should learn to weld and move to North Dakota. The opportunities are enormous, and as a “hands-on go-getter,” you’re qualified for the work. But after reading your post a second time, it occurs to me that your qualifications are not the reason you can’t find the career you want.

I had drinks last night with a woman I know. Let’s call her Claire. Claire just turned 42. She’s cute, smart, and successful. She’s frustrated though, because she can’t find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the “good ones” were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn’t fair that she had not.

“Look at me,” she said. “I take care of myself. I’ve put myself out there. Why is this so hard?”

“How about that guy at the end of the bar,” I said. “He keeps looking at you.”
“Not my type.”

“Really? How do you know?”
“I just know.”

“Have you tried a dating site?” I asked.”
“Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!”

“Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over – maybe try living in another city?”
“What? Leave San Francisco? Never!”

“How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters…?”

She looked at me like I had two heads. “Why the hell would I do that?”

Here’s the thing, Parker. Claire doesn’t really want a man. She wants the “right” man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she’s tired of waiting!!

I didn’t tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it’s true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she’ll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations. Is it possible that you’ve built a similar wall?

Consider your own words. You don’t want a career – you want the “right” career. You need “excitement” and “adventure,” but not at the expense of stability. You want lots of “change” and the “freedom to travel,” but you need the certainty of “steady pay.” You talk about being “easily bored” as though boredom is out of your control. It isn’t. Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting. It’s one thing to “love the outdoors,” but you take it a step further. You vow to “never” take an office job. You talk about the needs of your family, even though that family doesn’t exist. And finally, you say the career you describe must “always” make you “happy.”

These are my thoughts. You may choose to ignore them and I wouldn’t blame you – especially after being compared to a 42 year old woman who can’t find love. But since you asked…

Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.

Many people today resent the suggestion that they’re in charge of the way the feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you’re with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.

Good luck –

Mike

PS. I’m serious about welding and North Dakota. Those guys are writing their own ticket.

PPS Think I should forward this to Claire?

Hat tip to Chicks on the Right

I’ve nothing to add to either one of these, other than “Rock on Bill and Mike”


 

And just to round out the problems, a couple of short excerpts about Common Core

Common Core Illustrates that We Just Don’t Get It

The following came to us courtesy of Townhall.com.   We’ve seen some of this ‘math’ brought home and the process challenges us and confuses us because for the most part we simply learned arithmetic  and when it came time to figure what 15-7 was we learned to do it in our mind—we didn’t even have to take our mittens and socks off.  Apparently, this is how Common Core teaches ‘critical thinking’.

In any event, we hope you can figure out the correct answer after you’ve already done so in your head without the contortions involved in Common Core.

Common Core Math is Ridiculous

Christine Rousselle

10/4/2013 12:00:00 PM – Christine Rousselle

“Quick! What’s 15-7?

From Objective Conservative
And

Title: Common Core Meets Education Reform: What It All Means for Politics, Policy, and the Future of Schooling
Translator / Editor: Frederick M. Hess & Michael Q. McShane
Publish Date: 2014
Publisher / Edition: Teachers College Press

In 2006, resident education policy expert at the D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Rick Hess wrote in his book Common Sense School Reform about a conversation he had with a school leader:

I told him that the first steps in real improvement had little to do with instruction and a lot to do with sensible management… and that no amount of new spending, professional development, or instructional refinement would change that…. These truths went overlooked year after year because reformers kept approaching school improvement as a matter of educational expertise rather than common sense.

Common Sense School Reform draws broadly on the experience of successful education organizations. Hess promotes reforms that drive educators toward constant improvement through management structures that include incentives for good performance and disincentives for poor ones. This is inarguably a “common sense” approach.

From Online Library of Law and Liberty

There you have it: two home Runs and to strike outs. Could be worse I suppose, follow the links and think for yourself, and for your kids as well. You are supposed to be parents, not your child’s best friend.

 

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California Business, an Oxymoron.

The California State Capitol building in Sacra...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve written before on how the economy is (not) working. For most of us it’s about uncertainty. If you don’t know how much an employee is going to cost you next year, you try not to hire. On the macro scale that’s true too. If I can’t predict my costs, unless I’m desperate, I’m not going to commit to capital projects, no matter what my needs and desires are.

For most of us in this country, we have state and local governments that are more or less neutral, some like Texas and North Dakota are downright friendly, some like Nebraska and Indiana are semi-reasonable. Then there is California, which is absolutely anti-business. I had heard how bad it was but like, everyone statistics are dry and uninteresting unless they concern me directly, so I never paid all that much attention.

The interesting part (other than the horror at these policies) is that when I was young, I nearly moved to California, the business climate was booming, there were ads all over the place. Besides the beaches are pretty and then there were the California Girls although even then they had a reputation for flakiness.  I’m surely glad I didn’t though after reading this.

This is an article I ran across from City Journal which goes into some depth on California’s anti-business climate and why so many companies are flat leaving, even in California’s vaunted high-tech sector.

Last year, a medical-technology firm called Numira Biosciences, founded in 2005 in Irvine, California, packed its bags and moved to Salt Lake City. The relocation, CEO Michael Beeuwsaert told the Orange County Register, was partly about the Utah destination’s pleasant quality of life and talented workforce. But there was a big “push factor,” too: California’s steepening taxes and ever-thickening snarl of government regulations. “The tipping point was when someone from the Orange County tax [assessor] wanted to see our facility to tax every piece of equipment I had,” Beeuwsaert said. “In Salt Lake City at my first networking event I met the mayor and the president of the Utah Senate, and they asked what they could do to help me. No [elected official] ever asked me that in California.”

California has long been among America’s most extensive taxers and regulators of business. But at the same time, the state had assets that seemed to offset its economic disincentives: a famously sunny climate, a world-class public university system that produced a talented local workforce, sturdy infrastructure that often made doing business easier, and a history of innovative companies.

No more. As California has transformed into a relentlessly antibusiness state, those redeeming characteristics haven’t been enough to keep firms from leaving. Relocation experts say that the number of companies exiting the state for greener pastures has exploded. In surveys, executives regularly call California one of the country’s most toxic business environments and one of the least likely places to open or expand a new company. Many firms still headquartered in California have forsaken expansion there. Reeling from the burst housing bubble and currently suffering an unemployment rate of 12 percent—nearly 3 points above the national level—California can’t afford to remain on this path.

Continue Reading.

I don’t have much of anything to add. I will say though to those of you that live in California that you might want to rethink these policies, the rest of us have had just about enough of “The Land of Fruits and Nuts” and we are not going to rescue you again. We’ve got enough problems of our own.

In truth the principals of my company are all thinking about sending our resumes up into the Bakken field in North Dakota.

 

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