Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Employees. Our Greatest Asset - Really

This morning I had an opportunity to meet with a former co-worker who lives way up in Maine.  He was traveling through the area and called me and we met and had a cup of good coffee and about 45 minutes of good conversation.  He invited us up to Maine to visit he and his wife.  I've never been to Maine and think it would be a fun trip.  I'd like to try a lobster roll.  He said it is something similar to a "northern po boy!"

I was telling him that back before we began making our own toothpaste, - Read how by clicking here - our brand was Tom's of Maine.  I still use their deodorant.  I like their products.

Image Credit
But another thing I like about Tom's of Maine is the way they treat their employees. Now, let me preface what I'm about to say by stating that I believe in capitalism. Although imperfect, it is the best economic philosophy that I know of and has lifted many out of poverty and given people better lives. With that being said, sometimes corporations are not good to their employees.  I fully understand that the President and CEO and Board of Directors have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value.  What happens too often is that this maximization of profits sometimes takes place on the backs of the workers and this is unfortunate.  Jobs are moved overseas to take advantage of cheaper wages, people are laid off, benefits are cut, etc., putting peoples' livelihoods and families in peril.

Many companies may say "Our employees are our greatest asset," but CLICK HERE to see how Tom's of Maine puts their money where their mouth is (pardon the play on words).  Here's a brief summary of a few of the perks of working for Tom's:

  • They have a work out facility for employees with personal trainers,
  • They are encouraged to use 5% of their paid work time to volunteer in the community,
  • They offer mothers or fathers 4 weeks of additional time off beyond short-term disability following the birth or adoption of a baby,
  • Because Maine summers are short, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, employees' have special summer hours, giving them longer weekends,
  • Employees are given a $4,000 benefit to purchase a new hybrid vehicle,
  • Free coffee, fruit, tea, and spring water,

That's pretty cool!

As I was thinking about that, I was reminded that in our small town of Kinder, I'd like to think that my maternal grandparents, whom we lovingly called Bumby and Poppy, pioneered employee appreciation and community service initiatives similar to Tom's of Maine.  Poppy opened the Kinder Supermarket in 1947 and hired many people - not just people, but friends.  Many of those former employees have gone on to be doctors, teachers, engineers, and successful businessmen and women and fondly remember bagging groceries or ringing up canned goods at the Kinder Supermarket.

Bumby and Poppy were very active in the community and their church, volunteering, sponsoring ball teams, dance recitals, having benefits for those sick in the community.  Around Christmastime, I can remember my grandfather loading up his Ford Bronco with goodies and delivering bags of free groceries to needy folks around our town.  He and Bumby loved their employees and loved the community they served.

As a small boy, I can remember the excitement Bumby had in hosting a Christmas a Christmas Party in their home and inviting everyone over.  Entertaining was Bumby's forte.  She had multitudes of silly games for everyone to play.  One I can remember is she'd separate the employees into 2 groups and give everyone a toothpick to put in their mouths.  They would line up and the first person would be given a livesaver.  They had to pass the lifesaver down the line using no hands - just transferring the livesaver from toothpick to toothpick.  (Some Tom's toothpaste might have come in handy!)  The same general idea but this time with an orange, passed from person to person - using no hands, just holding it between your chin and neck/shoulder.  She'd often read a goofy poem or a silly joke or song.  It sounds so corny, but people really had fun and it built camaraderie, friendship, loyalty and respect.  It built goodwill and trust and was just enjoyable.

Come to think of it, the world needs more 'Supermarket Parties.'  Or more "Bumby and Poppy's!"


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Etched in Stone

Yesterday I noticed something that I walk past everyday without paying much attention to.  Like many people do, when we poured the slab for our driveway on August 15, 2002, we had our kids put their handprints, their footprints, and their names into the wet concrete.  Fourteen years later I look at those inscriptions and think about the multitudes of changes that have taken place since then.  Laura has now graduated from college and is teaching third grade at a school.  Russ is a senior at LSU.  Benjamin is now driving!

Etched in Stone
Similar to marking heights with a yardstick and putting dates on the wall as kids grow, marking things in concrete is a way of preserving an event in time and saving it for later.  Times change, we grow up, we have experiences - both good and bad that shape us and mold us, but a reminder of that little 9 year old girl who excitedly put her hands in the concrete is there when I walk out the garage door.

Laura Lee
So is that little 7 year old boy with a big smile and full of happiness, always clowning around.


And so is that little 1 1/2 year old Benjamin who was squirming around so much you can't really tell that the marks are handprints and footprints at all!


We've been doing this for thousands of years.  Yahweh inscribed the 10 commandments in stone and gave them to Moses atop Mount Sinai.  Egyptians carved intricate hieroglyphics in stone.  When we want to honor great figures in history, we carve memorials in stone either etching their names or their likenesses so that we can remember them.

But regardless of the permanence of stone etchings, nothing beats looking at or spending time with the real thing!

Great faces.  Great places.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Aiming for Fresh Green Beans for Thanksgiving

This weekend it finally dried up enough to do a little planting.  It has been a long time in coming.  I'm a month late for the fall garden, but there's not much I could do because of the rain.  So the first thing I'm putting in is the green beans.  I always try to plan it so that we have fresh green beans for Thanksgiving.

Here is the bed where we will plant our beans.  This was where the pumpkins were before all succumbing to the torrential rains.  Sadly they all died and weeds happy took their place.  Early Saturday I got out the weed eater and clipped the weeds down to the dirt.  The area was still covered by the shadows of the live oaks.


Later that afternoon I used a shovel to turn over the soil.  I really didn't want to work it too much - just enough to open the soil up.  In the past this dirt was hard and compacted.  Over the past two years, I've incorporated a lot of leaves into the soil. The rotten leaves have added organic material and definitely loosened the soil.  It is amazing the number of earthworms that reside in the soil now.

A SHOVEL-READY JOB
I opted to plant three varieties of green beans, from both seeds I've saved as well as purchased.  I used the traditional Contender Green bean, Italian Roma Green beans, and Dragon Tongue beans.


Dragon tongue beans on the left in the photo below and Italian Roma and Contender Green beans on the right.

I dug some shallow holes and mixed a tablespoon full of organic fertilizer mixed with some organic potting soil, planted a couple seeds in each hole, covered and watered.


With 55 days to maturity, if things go according to plan, we'll enjoy some fresh picked green beans for Thanksgiving - maybe wrapped in bacon.  That sounds great to me!  As I was planting, I noticed that I had some company in the garden. Some have garden gnomes, but I have a garden toad.  These guys are great for the garden.  They eat over 100 insects each night.  This was a fat little dude and must have been eating his fill of bugs for many nights.


Well, since we're late with the fall garden, I have a lot of work to do in a very short time to try to get everything in.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

They're Baa-aack!

Saturday morning started off beautifully.  There was a faint north breeze blowing, just teasing us that fall was on its way.  We got up early and got our chores done and then cleaned up the buckets and started a pot of coffee brewing.  We read a morning devotional and I looked out of the kitchen window admiring the gorgeous day in front of us.

Something caught my eye flying past the window.  I looked toward the column that supports our side entrance and my initial thoughts were immediately confirmed. BEES!  In THIS POST we talked about how our honeybees had left their home and our job of removing the column and cleaning the rotten honeycomb out of the column with bleach and a pressure washer.


I told Tricia, "You won't believe what's outside."  She looked and saw bees flying around the column. She wasn't too happy about their return.  How could this bee? (pardon the play on words).  They left. We cleaned out all of the pheromones that could have attracted them back, I thought.  Tricia said, "I thought you caulked the gap at the top to block their return?"  I then remembered that I had only put one 'bead' of caulk and was going to let it dry before putting another layer on top to completely block the entrance.  I never seemed to get around to putting that second layer.  That teaches me to finish a job!  

The flight of the honeybee (back home).
So the bees have moved back into the column.  I would love to know the story behind this.  Is this the same colony that left?  If so, why did they come back? Where did they go?

Home Sweet Home
Back home after a summer vacation, I presume...  Welcome home, old friends.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Completing a Job

For the last month it has been too wet to garden, so what is there to do?  Well, there's always things on the list that don't require dry weather.  I decided to knock a few things off the to-do list.  Some were indoor jobs and some were outdoors, but not out in the inclement weather.  When we built our home, we opted to go with fiberglass columns on the front porch.  The fiberglass columns were cheaper than the wooden ones or concrete ones and they don't rot.  But there are some negative aspects to them, first and foremost painting them!  Or more precisely, getting paint to stick to them.

I guess the fiberglass columns are so smooth and slick, it is hard for the paint to bind to the surface. Over the course of about four years, the paint begins to peel and flake off and looks ratty and then I know it is past time to get to work.  I think we've repainted them 4 times.  First we took an electric sander and sanded the columns where the paint was flaking, roughing it up so the paint would stick. Even though we were under the porch, the rain still stopped us several times.


We taped newspaper around the base of the columns so as not to get paint on the bricks or cement. Then we primed the columns to give the paint something to stick to.  Finally, we put two coats of paint on each column.  We went through lots of sandpaper, three paintbrushes, two cans of primer and a can of paint.  With the rain-outs we experienced, it took us two weeks to finish up the job, and I was happy to have that done!

Finis
"Give us the tools and we will finish the job." - Winston Churchill

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Best Protection Ever

 He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.  - Psalm 91:4


The other night I headed out to the barn to do my nightly chores.  Up until now the momma hen always sat in the corner of the stall with her two little chicks tucked up underneath her.  Tonight however, the momma hen had flown up to the top of the gate to the large stall.  Her wings were pitched at a strange angle.  But where were the little ones?  I hope that another snake hadn't eaten them.  

As I looked a little closer, I realized that one of the little chicks was right beneath her!  She was sitting on her baby to protect her.  She looked at me menacingly.  Is she giving me the evil eye, or what?  But where is the other chick?


I lifted her wing to find out.  Yep, sure enough, just as the verse above says, the chick is seeking protection under the sheltering wings.

Peek-a-boo!
The imagery in that verse is so strong and descriptive.  Just as the chicks seek refuge from danger (like snakes and rats in the barn), we seek the same from Our Creator.  He is indeed our Shield and Bulwark.

That is not the only verse that uses the imagery of protective wings.  In Luke 13:34 Jesus says:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!"

It is kind of neat to think about the fact that Jesus, as a boy in Nazareth, may have walked into his father's wood shop and found a momma hen protecting her baby chicks and that example of concern, care, and protection made an indelible mark on Him.  On the other hand, He is God.  He is the Almighty.  He made it all.  He knows how momma hens protect their little ones.  

The imagery of a hen protecting their young was, I'm sure, a familiar sight to those He was teaching in Luke 13 and I'm sure it struck a chord with them.  The tragic part of verse 34 comes at the very end - "and ye would not!"  Like the momma hen, Jesus wanted to gather them and protect them, but they were stiff-necked and would not allow Him to.  It would be a mistake to attribute that folly to the Jews of Jesus' day and not realize that we are guilty of that today.

When we go outside the protection of the Sheltering Arms, we put ourselves in harm's way from him who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  There is evil in the world today.  There is civil unrest and violence and men kill one another.  As I type this, riots are breaking out in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lord keep us under your protective wings and may we not stray from you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Power of Attraction

Ol' Rosie girl's milk production has been coming steadily down lately.  She's making less and less milk and that's really odd.  Daisy only has three teats and she's giving more milk that Rosie.  Rose Ethel has always been our biggest milk producer, while Daisy's milk is richer, with more cream in her milk.  Something's going on with Rosie and we can't quite figure out what it is.  She's eating well and there is still plenty of grass in the pasture for her to graze.  She's not sick or acting strangely.  Heat does seem to affect her more than the other cows and she spends a good part of the day laying in the mud in the shade, but she's always done that. What could it be?


I call Tricia, "Theory Woman" sometimes, because she always has a theory about everything.  Of course she has a theory about Rosie's reduction in milk.  And here it is: Some things are attracted to one another like a magnet to steel.  Some things put together just make a good pair like peanut butter and jelly, rice and gravy, and red beans and rice.  Some attractions are deleterious like that of Samson and Delilah and David and Bathsheba.  While yet other attractions are good and natural, but the timing is not quite right.

Tricia thinks that prior to building our "bull pen" that you see below that cordons off the bull from all the cows, Chuck escaped and bred Rosie.  At that time we were trying (unsuccessfully) to keep them separated by just using an electric fence and that is about as effective as a screen door in a submarine. Chuck got out one night and Tricia saw he and Rosie together while she was in heat.


We are not positive that Rosie is bred, but Chuck did break through the fence at the time when she was in heat and she may have been exposed.  We also haven't seen her go in heat since then.  Finally, a reduction in milk production is a natural occurrence for cows that are bred.  We're going to take a blood test from Rosie and send it off to confirm just to be sure.  Tricia counted back and if she was bred, she'll calf in April.  There's no other bull, so if she's bred, you're looking at the guilty party:

Incarceration
If she is indeed bred, is it the end of the world?  No, it's not, but our goal was to have all of the cows exposed to Chuck in December or January.  In so doing, they would all calve at once.  This, we've learned from experience, is just a lot easier to manage.  It also means that we would dry them off at the same time, giving us a break from milking.  Oh well, we will just have to give Rosie a pregnancy test and if we have an April baby, we'll have an April baby...  And we'll chalk it up to a lesson learned - the power of attraction between a bull and a cow is too much for an electric fence to hold back!
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