Saturday, December 15, 2012


I said goodbye to a long time employee, friend and adviser today.

After 20 years of employment with me the day finally arrived when his job was eliminated. But that is not today's blog.

He never did say "hello" or "goodbye". I would just look up and he was at work or gone. Like a faithful ghost he moved about doing what had to be done. Many times seemingly avoiding contact with anyone. So today, despite having buried my mother this morning, I made it my point to be present when he left for the last time.

Would he stop and converse? Did he want a thank you? Apparently not. I returned to the office area to find him gone. It must have been bothering him alot though. He left his lunch box behind.

How strangely sad it is to stand and look at a forgotten lunch pail. Will the owner be back to get it? When? Why was it forgotten today?

This has been a week of deep "goodbyes" for me. Some how this lonely lunch pail touchs my heart in a way I can't express right now.

Life. It just moves on with no concern for any man.

Margaret Wildman Eulogy

The following is a copy of the eulogy I presented for my mothers memorial service 12/14/12 at the First Presbyterian Church in S. Charleston, Ohio. I repost it for those who are interested in a copy or who were unable to attend. I have added photos for visual interest and explaination but resisted the urge to tinker with the text. I always think of changes I would make after a presentation is concluded.
Big point: each of us nailed Christ to the cross

Sub-point: each of us nailed mrw to the cross…she bore that suffering graciously

Audience: Family and Friends:

Strategy: use Nanna’s (Nora's) life as a mirror to reflect Peg’s life in
Goal: to allow people to examine the meaning of my mother's life and come away seeing the Cross of Christ



Every generation has it’s unique ways. The current generation is very social. We hold memorials on facebook, we tweet the latest news of the day, we call, we post, we picture. Privacy and secrets are not cherished possessions, they are deemed suspect by their very existence. My mother was not a member of this generation. She did not think this way. Though she had come to assume that what she saw on the news, I already knew from my social connections, she never adopted the very public attitude of this current generation. To her, secrets and privacy, were things that could be for everyone’s good. They were to be protected and cherished.  As we reflect on her life, its meaning, and how it affected us, we need to keep this truth grasp tightly in one hand as we fiddle with the pages of her life with the other.


Allow me to explain a little more.

There are words I have heard often to describe my mother during the past few days.

Unique, special, cherished, leaves a large empty spot, one of a kind, inquisitive, a quiet presence

During her life, one of her personal favorites was , “You may not always agree with Margaret, but it won’t be because you don’t know what she thinks”.

We each knew her and have some word or phrase to describe her in our memory.


If our lives paint a canvass, mom’s was a full blaze of color. Reds and yellows, bright blues and yes a touch of black for definition…. She always favored that blasted burnt orange brown. I bet I will never see that color without thinking of her….. Please listen as I fill in some of the background colors that form the canvass of my mother’s personality and life. (All of this is repeated as accurately as possible though as with any oral history there are likely other versions of the details.)

the burnt orange I refer to is between here collar (top) and vest (bottom)


(Life history)

Margaret was born the second of two children to George and Nora Richards. George was a northerner, Nora was a southerner. You see, the Mason Dixon line ran down the center of the river that divided their town. When her marriage of 50+ years ended with the death of her husband, Nora was told that her husband could not be buried in a southern grave because he was not a member of the family.


(Child’s name)

My mother, Margaret, (Peg) named herself. Apparently, at the time of her birth, relatives had strong opinions of what mom’s name should be (Willie Bear, Ida Belle) so Nora never named the child. She is known within the family as, “sister”. The child chose “Margaret” for her name. Peg really wasn’t her favorite.

(priviledge lost)

 Nora grew up in the roaring 20’s in a priviledged family, enjoying many things unheard of in her day, a private women’s college education being one of them. All this priviledge disappeared during the depression and the rationing of WWII. I never heard a word of remorse or concern leave Nora’s lips or be repeated to me in any of the family story telling. A love of money and status, a spirit of whining and complaining, were not in Margaret’s upbringing.

(Move anyway)

Remember, Nora married a northern. She knew the feelings of her family and when she did that. She moved anyway. Quietly, assertively, she moved forward by the strength of her own will. Margaret grew up in and as a descendent of this crucible of steadfastness.


You can well imagine that Nora’s personality attracted sharp disputes and the accompanying heartache and pain. Nora took many of these heartaches and pains, dating back generations, secretly and privately to her grave. She never told what she knew of some things, she wanted those things buried with her. It was her cross to bear. It was her way of bearing the burdens of others, of considering them more important than herself. Like her Savior, Jesus Christ, she took the hurt and pain inflicted on her by those that loved her and bore it quietly from this earth. This action was not overlooked by Margaret.


It is my belief that you will find George’s head stone on a northern grave. It is a gambler’s guess where his ashes are.


Study the family photos at your leasure. You will see that Nora never cut her hair while George was living. He would not have his wife dressed as a harlot!  Study further and you will see that Margaret got to college and got a stylish trim and lipstick. Nora turned white as a ghost for fear of George’s reaction and George didn’t speak to her for,….. was it weeks? The haircut was never spoken of.

(trip west)

Upon her college graduation Margaret took a fine and well paid position with the USDA in Beltsville Maryland. Imagine George’s reaction when, a year later, she quit her job and along with a female friend boarded a train for the west. She/they ended up in Colorado Springs designing kitchens where she would meet my father who was finishing his military service to the nation. Keep in mind, she is doing all this in the ‘50’s. This is not the well established path that nice ladies followed in that day.


Do you hear the echo in the room.. Nora married a northerner?

Do you start to see the colors of the background canvass that was my mother’s life?

Like her mother before her, her thoughts, words, and deeds sometimes placed her in a position of sharp conflict and pointy debate with people. It is part of the color of the canvass of her life.

(Why I say this)

I say these things, not to excite the demons of past conflicts, or to rebirth the actions of days gone by, but to help us begin to see the truth of the cross, the actions of the man that hung on it, and how that played out in my mother’s life.

I know of no one that mom bore a grudge against. I know no one that she wanted to return evil to in any way. If those feelings existed, she took them secretly and privately with her to the grave as a cross she could bare for the future generations. Those things are gone and shall be forgotten. You will not find them on Wikipedia or  As far as the East is from the West, they are gone. As Christ gave willingly to us when we did not deserve it, mother attempted, within her human shortcomings, to give good to everyone.

(hard pointy things)

Some of the actions and gifts she gave were quite hard, sharp, and pointy, others were wrapped in generousity and concern, but every action and word was intended for other’s good and not harm. She cared not for wealth and priviledge, returning in her widowhood to the simplest life she could craft. Her words and deeds she saw as a natural part of living out the cross of her Savior, Jesus Christ, who took on himself pain and suffering He did not deserve, so that we might have a Holy Spirit. A Holy Spirit who works in us for our good, with lessons and gifts that are sometimes sharp and pointy and other times wrapped in generousity and concern.


So as you ponder the canvass of my mother’s life in the coming days, enjoy the bright colors, grasp tightly in one hand the knowledge of which generation she was from and fear not the dark lines and shadows as you turn the pages with the other.  I hope you will be able to conclude with me that her's was,… “a life well lived”….. May God bless you.
post script:
Since making this presentation I have been reminded that I personally accompanied Margaret to the Southern grave yard in Sanford, Fla.. Sanford is a town that was platted (surveyed) by Nora's father or grandfather Gibson. My mother was delivering Nora's ashes for burial. It is unclear whether George's ashes went along or not. It is reported that other family members have personally seen George's head stone in W. Va. (Beckley or Luke).
I had this poem ready for the projection equipment but didn't use it. I thought it represented the attitude of Margaret's generation toward the hurt and pain that comes with life.
The memorial service concluded with the serving of communion to all in attendence. If you look at mom's life, I hope you will come away seeing the Cross.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Tillage and a Plow?

It has been a long time since I plowed a field. Plowing gave way to conservation tillage then no-til in my life time. Watching the Ken Burns/PBS documentary entitled "The Dust Bowl" has gottten me thinking alot about soil, tillage, and government. This blog post looks at the tillage part mostly.

Plows are massive and expensive

The teethe lift and shatter the soil

I recently plowed a field with what I call a chisel plow. the tool is designed to lift and shatter the soil more than turn it over in a effort to cover weeds and stalks. Vertical tillage is helpful because it minimizes the amout of "smearing" that occurs when steel is drug through a clay based soil. This smear stops the movement of air and water through the soil and in turn hurts the bioligic life that is important to the health of the soil. Think of what clay looks like on a potters wheel. The smear seals off the poors of the soil. That is not what I want to do.

Steel smears clay

the porous soil is what I like to see

What I want is a soil profile that is porous enough to allow air and moisture to move. Air and moisture promote the life of a soil, earth worms, bacteria, and all sorts of other things, not the least of which is root development. Roots are amazing things. You may have seen a tree growing on what looks like solid rock, just imaging what it can do in a porous soil.

stuck a straw completel through this worm hole in a clod

marked holes with straw sticks

Another disadvantage of the plow is the lose of "trash", old dead plant material on the surface of the field that protects the soil from erosion caused by wind, rain, and snow. This trash is a bank account full of nutrients for the coming years' crops. Plowing disturbs that flow of material back to the soil. A rain drop falls from the sky with alot more force than you might think. Something like 26,000 gallons equals a 1" rain on an acre. Think what that much wieght falling from way up in the sky does to the soil when it hits. Trash protects the soil from that impact just like an umbrella protects your head and turns the rain into a gentle water drip.

corn leaves alot of trash

beans leave some trash (notice the corn stalk from a year ago)

So why did I plow this field? Plowing destroys weeds, loosens the soil, and levels the surface. In my case I wanted to loosen and level. Weeds just aren't a reason to plow any more since modern herbicides can stop weed growth without the disadvantages of the plow. The photos don't show it well but this field had numerous channels left from where subsurface drainage tile had been installed two crops before. These channels were changing how water flowed across the surface during heavy rains, preventing it from reaching the grass waterway designed to handle those rain events, and restricted the ability of machinery to move easily across the field. Tillage became the option of last resort.

trench seen in taller stalks center running lower left to upper right

grass waterway upper center to center right and in previous picture

I hope this blog helps you understand just a little more about why I do what I do out on the farm.

Also reference my previous blog Modern Day Dust Bowl

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Modern day Dust Bowl

I recently took some pictures of the neighbor putting lime on his field. The spreader truck that applies the lime is likely equiped with a GPS system that ties back to the soil test I described in my blog post "The Soil is Alive". Both these activities trace back to the teachings of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts that were birthed as a reaction to the Dust Bowl. A view of this history is documented in the PBS series "The Dust Bowl", produced by Ken Burns that aired recently. So much of modern agriculture reaches back to the Dust Bowl/depression generation which in affect said, "we want food to be abundant and cheap and sustainable so our kids don't have to go through this."

The process is kind of dusty, since the material (lime) arrives as a very fine powder. It is fine so that it will dissolve or interact with the soil in a timely fashion.

the lime arrives in semi-trucks, is dumped in piles in the field, then scooped up and loaded into the spreader truck by an industrial payloader. This loading takes only a couple minutes. My picture is taken as the very last scoop or two of a large pile is gathered and loaded. Lime is applied in tons per acre and a semi load will be about 24 tons. So a large field can require an impressive pile of lime.

Lime is used to control the molecular acidity of the soil. The acidity of a soil determines what plants will grow well. Soil acidity is a natural response to many environmental things. Rainfall, organic matter, drainage, macro-climate, etc. all impact the soil over time. Here are some helpful links written by experts that better explain the process. Cause and Effect of Soil Acidity and When and How to Apply Lime

This is just the tip of the iceberge of knowledge that I use daily in my stewardship of the land entrusted to me by God to protect, preserve, and sustain for the future.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Soil is Alive

One of the great responsibilities of a pig farmer is to protect the living organism which is his field. Did you realise that fields, dirt, is alive?

It really is.

Bacteria, worms, all manner of bugs, and other biologic things live in the soil. This is why, when you get a cut and it gets "dirty" you are given an antibiotic (biologic). A healthy field is teaming with healthy soil. So how do you keep a field healthy?

One basic step is the "soil test".

 We (and most other farmers I know) test soils about every three years on my farm. As crops are removed a part of the soils fertility goes with it. As manure is spread on the field, in this case from the hog barn in the background, fertility is added back to the soil. The soil test is to see if those two things a in balance or not.

It can be back breaking work

The process starts after harvest with a man or women, a strong back, a big foot, and a soil core sampler.

The core sampler is driven into the ground

The left overs from the crop just harvested contain nutrients that will decompose and become part of the soils nutrient profile as well. These left overs protect the soil from erosion during the winter and coming summer.

core samples are collected in GPS identified bags

These samples will be tested in a laboratory and a report produced that shows the soil conditions for each collection point. This information then is used to develop a plan for nutrient management for the next three year cycle.

Each bag has   5 cores from a GPS point to form an average at that point

You can start to see why a strong back is important. Each bag represents about 5 acres.

even this machine still gets tiresome getting in and out

The ATV is a gift from God to the people doing this work.

 It is a combination of hard work and really smart soil scientist that help me manage all the nutrients of a field to keep it in excellent health. Here is an article that explains alot more about the really smart people that are working on this management issue This is an important part of how I fulfill my responsibility as a steward of the land for myself, my family, my neighbors, and the generations to come.

Thanks for thinking about my field with me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GMO at the Farm

With the election behind us I can now turn my attention to the ins and outs of my responsibility as a farmer to use GMO seeds in a proper and approved way. Here is what came in the mail today.

From Monsanto comes this helpful educational literature.

TUG stands for Technology Use Guide and is 24 pages of topics on Insect Resistance Management, Integrated Pest Management, Weed management, Best practices, etc.

IRM is Insect Resistance Management. This is 18 pages of instruction on how to use GMO's in a way to perserve there usefulness by not creating an environment where the insects will adapt and become resistant.

The other two sheets are a cover letter and license to use technology and a quick reference card for in season use.

As a farmer, I try very hard to know and follow these management instructions because the technology is very helpful to me and I don't want to lose it through poor behavior.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How the Rural Vote


When it comes to voting, and attitudes connected to voting, I can only speak for myself. I really don't know if others see these topics like I do or not. With that said I would like to share with you how voting happens where I live and vote (Clark County, Madison township (rural), Ohio). I suspect it could be quite different where you live. It would be fun to compare.

the first Presbyterian Church (behind a house used for church offices)
Our poling station is in The First Presbyterian Church on main street. Why a church? I really don't know. The "powers that be" have decided this in years past. It used to be at the elementary school library, then the Catholic meeting hall for years, now its at the First Presbyterian Church.
The door with no sill
Rumor has it that the church is used because it is one of the few buildings in town that is fully handicapped accessible. Meaning that our doorway doesn't have that little aluminum sill that so many doors have. Apparently, that sill restricted people's access to voting. Never mind that you can vote by mail from the comfort of your own home. But that is another topic.
The Funeral Home
It could be as simple as the Church parking lot is the largest paved and lighted lot in town. Or it could be the central location on Main Street between the funeral home and the AmVets hall, both of which "borrow" the lot for their big events. No one cares. Some church members are probably involved in any of those events anyway.
the Amvets hall
We vote down stairs in a basement classroom, this is new this year. We have always voted upstairs in a side section of  the church sanctuary. I like the basement better. Santuaries are not really made for the contentious issues of voting.
stairs/chair lift to voting

Madison Twp rural to the left

We  show our picture ID's, or a utility bill, etc. at our poling station. I don't know what happens this year since there has been such a commotion about this topic nationally. Doesn't mean much here. The election workers at the desk likely know who you are anyway. It might be a retired teacher you had in school, a coach, a local businessman, or whoever. The precinct is not so big. I voted at 9:30 A.M and was number 102. My daughter voted at noon and was number 207. Seems like turn out was very heavy. She had to wait in line for 15 minutes.

To get to the voting area you have to go past the "Election Day Salad Bar" that the church sponsors as a fundraiser for the "Womens Association". The Womens Association uses the funds for various projects around the church or community as seems reasonable to the ladies. The salad bar is one of the big reasons I don't see any reason to vote early. Why would I want to miss such a fine meal and social event? (A note to the novice: the food goes fast so get there before noon.)

big sign points to Salad bar little sign to polling station

not much store bought here
There was some excitement today, They ran out of pie! A first in the history of the salad bar. Some people shared, others went without since they had made two. One for the salad bar and one for the family. No one starved.

So that is how it is done where I live. There won't be any disturbances or heated discussions or polling place campaigning. That stuff would be rejected by everyone as pretty uncivil. You come. You vote. You eat with your neighbor. And you go home.

some get there first "I voted today" sticker

How is it done where you live? 


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trunk or Treat

 Trunk or Treat is one of the fun things we do in conjunction with our church each year. We take our farm's pig trailer, washed and sanitized, and decorate it for a Halloween themed fun house. This year's theme was Angry Birds.

some friends from Cedarville College helped out

there are typically several hundred trick or treaters that come to the event in two hours.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Republicans Democrats Pigs and People

You can learn a lot about life at the farm. In my world that means I can learn alot about life from pigs. I spend hours watching and caring for pigs. Which means I have hours to think about life and how it all fits together.

Pioneers and Settlers
can you spot the difference?
Pigs naturally cluster in groups when they are resting and calm. They seem to take turns moving about as individuals. It doesn't take the group long to learn from the discoveries of the individual. The individual sounds an alarm, finds feed and water, checks the fences, attacks the weak, and fights the intruder. This has led me to an observation about people.

One observation is that there are two basic kinds of social activities. There are pioneers and there are settlers.

 The pioneer is the individual that, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek, "Dares to go where no man has gone before". He is the curious one that is on the outer edge of the societal group. He is trying new things, getting into trouble, exploring, building, and in general is a restless soul that is internally motivated to seek out new things. Neil Armstrong with his "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" statement as he first stepped on the moon, exemplifies the pioneer spirit.

Neil Armstrong

Star Trek

Settlers are more numerous and follow behind the pioneers. Settlers move as groups. They organize groups into social structures that provide safety, focus, and purpose to the group. The Pilgrims seem to be a good example. They came to the Americas and set up a society that provided safety, focus, and purpose. They came as a group, lived and died as a group, and are forever known as a group ( The Pilgrims).

Mayflower Compact

A second observation is that both the pioneers and settlers have a very important role to play. Looking at pigs I learn that the lone pigs (the pioneers) will be the first to investigate and warn of danger. The pigs in groups (the settlers) are the safest and most comfortable.

 some naturally investigate and others group together
What does this have to do with Republicans and Democrats?

I see Republicans as viewing the world first and foremost as pioneers. They celebrate the individual. They exalt in the freedom to explore, to investigate, to do new things. And they tend to live and die by their success or failings as individuals.

I see Democrats as viewing the world first and foremost as settlers. They celebrate the group. They see the value and strength of a group. They know that a group that stays together, best protects the individuals in the group.

I see both as necessary and equal. Not as one is right and one is wrong. Without Columbus (the pioneer) the Pilgrims (the settlers) would never have sailed. Both are needed and essential to a strong society.

To me this has been the great success of the constitutional republic known as the United States of America. We have a society that has exalted the individual (pioneers) enough to encourage and free them to go and explore, investigate, and do new things while at the same time recognizing that these activities are part of a larger group (settlers). The pioneers are constantly stretching and pulling against the organizational rules of the settlers and the settlers are constantly trying to come along behind and organize the new discoveries of the pioneers into safe communities and structures.

The great political debate of our time is, "Where is the proper balance of these two forces?" I spoke of the strength and usefulness of balanced forces in my earlier blog about bridges.

I realise this whole discussion is based off stereotypes  and becomes very difficult immediately upon closer examination of individual people. The pioneers act like settlers and settlers act like pioneers. Republicans recognize the value of groups and Democrats the value of free exploration. For me at least, I am pulled internally first one direction then the other. I resort to the stereotypes to help view the issue from a general perspective.

When the president said, "If you have a business, you didn't build that, somebody else did..." or whatever the exact quote was. What happened? The pioneer in each of us jumped up and objected very stridently, pointing out that we had gone where no one else would go, had taken the risk, and overcome the troubles and challenges. The settler in each of us  jumped up and cheered that someone would stand and represent the group's contribution to that effort in creating a stable and safe society.

President Obama: You didn't build that somebody else did

Neil Armstrong went to the moon individually, but he stood on the shoulders of a society to get there.

Both views seem valid to me. There is an issue of balance that must be found. Pioneers have a responsibility to live within and support the society established by the settlers. The settlers have a responsibility to create a society where the pioneers are encouraged and rewarded and can flourish.

All of this brings me to the question I have wrestled with in my understanding of the Christian view of the Church, "Does God deal with man as individuals or as groups?" or "Is God primarily righteous and just or primarily loving and gracious?" These forces are pulling against each other also. But that will have to wait for another day.

Maybe I have been spending too much time with my pigs? What do you think?

 (picture from pinterest by Kicks and Giggles)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Who/what is a farmer?

It was a simple question, "Can you describe for me, not necessarily in formal definition terms, who this "farmer" is that each of you has refered to in your presentation?" The answer was very revealing.
A farmer and his wife?

I had just listened to a panel of three food consumers talk about food and their thoughts and feelings related to food for the better part of an hour.

 I had heard the nutritionist talk about her frustrations in not being able to get unbiased research since research is only funded by people that care about the result.

 I had listened to the food blogger talk about how she only trusted her peers and a farmer she knew, for information. Apparently, making no demands on them for academic or practical expertise.

 I had listened to the chef speak passionately about her love of all things food and how she trusted the food she could source herself even helping in the fields. That food that was touched, as it grew, was more comfortable to her.

And from each one I understood a similar sentiment expressed, there is healthy food and there is unhealthy food. Healthy food seemed to come from this "farmer" that they loved to relate to and therefore trust.

The panelist had looked to this "farmer" as an expert on human nutrition, food preservatives, GMOs, crop protection, land resource management, genetics, and on and on. To some degree, it seemed like any question related to food that caused the panel discomfort was refered back to the "farmer" for an expert solution. The farmer would be trusted as long as the panelist knew him personally.

It seemed like an awful lot of weight of responsibility to be placing on the shoulders of one person.
It only seemed natural to ask who this person was and what he looked like. What a wonderful fellow.

The answer was striking. A farmer was described by the panelist, as best I could understand,  as the person that put a seed into the ground and worked really really hard. And an added bonus was if the farmer had a "story" to tell.

These two actions made a person a farmer and therefore a trusted expert on all questions about food.
(no offense to the panelist, who spoke honestly and sincerely as far as I could tell)

I was uncertain that I would be seen as a "farmer" since I hire employees and machines to put seeds in the ground and have a degree in Ag Economics. Further, I employ an army of contract speciallist, that the consumer will never know personally, to answer the myriad of questions that need expert answers in growing a crop.

What are your thoughts? How much responsibility do you place on the "farmer"?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Changing times/Changing Definitions

Sometimes talking about how people think leaves me with a headache. Trying to make the connection between how we think and the actions those thoughts energize can seem rather pointless. It is how it is, so why think about how it is?

Here is an article that seems to cut through a lot of trees in an attempt to see the forrest.

The article addresses post modernist thought and its affect on "tolerance".

Not Your Mother's Kind of Tolerance


I am just starting to wonder, "If I don't like postmodernist thought, do I like modernist thought? What came before modernism?"

Oh, dear! Here comes my headache again.

Thanks for pondering these things with me.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life, Liberty and Happiness

We hold these truths to be self evident.......that all men are endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property)......

Do you get nervous when the personal means to life (health care choices) gets taken over by the govenment? Do you feel uneasy with the lose of liberty you experience when you are forced to buy insurance that pays for things that you think are immoral. Does the President scare you when he brags about taking over the property of the auto industry and wanting to do the same with everything else?

Here are some thoughts from a book you might like to ponder.

Communal Instincts

 "The Western World puts a far greater emphasis on freedom than the Eastern World. Our Western concept of liberty has its roots in two master ideas: one, the fact that man has a soul; and the other, that man has the right to own private property. Both these ideas are related one to the other. Man is free on the inside because he can call his soul his own; he is free on the outside because he can call property his own. Property is the economic guarantee of human freedom as the soul is its spiritual guarantee of liberty."
+Fulton J. Sheen, +JMJ+ -Daily Sheen-

World view matters!

Just some more thoughts for you.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Bridge: thoughts on society's debates

Downtown Des Moines Iowa

The bridge was unique. The bridge was beautiful. Lots of bridges are. Engineers seem to have a silent competition for who can design the most unique and beautiful bridge. This one ranks quite high on my list.

 All bridges serve the same purpose. Bridges help you overcome an obstacle that is blocking your progress. Sometimes the obstacle is only slowing you down. Sometimes the obstacle has you completely stopped.

I am not an engineer. I have no training in the technical art of engineering a bridge. My observation is that bridges are always about balancing opposing forces. There is always an element of stress/pulling and an element of compaction/compression in a successful bridge. The beautiful bridges use a minimum of material in this balance.

This bridge has a deck that is pulling down on the steel cables. The cables are pulling down on the arch, compressing it. The arch is pressing down on the riverbanks with the full wieght of the bridge. In the mean time the bowed deck is trying to swing into a straight line under the arch but is stopped because the concrete deck cannot be compressed enough to make it fit. The whole thing becomes a beautiful bridge that has balanced opposing forces.

All of this seems to be a metaphor for our current society. There seem to be several opposing forces making themselves known. These forces are all asking, "How do we get over this obstacle that is before us?" Currently, the only available answer seems to be for one force to overcome the other. I wonder if we, as a society, might be better advised to see if we can find a way to use these opposing forces to build a bridge across our obstacle. A bridge that combines our abilities to pull with our abilities to resist, and in so doing make a way forward that has great strength and beauty. A bridge that can speed the passage of those who come to this obstacle in the future.

I don't have that design yet. Do you?


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teachable Moments

Yesterday, I spent some time with other bloggers just looking at and suggesting changes to our blogs. Not a "gotcha" kind of thing. More just people with a common interest sharing knowledge and ideas. What a pleasant way to spend a day.

It is nice to have the chance to be a friendly social person, just the way God made me. Being that in a room (instead of on-line) with like minded people is especially pleasant.

Can you spot the changes to the blog format? I hope they help.

Thanks for looking.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fair Oaks, Pigs, and the Food connection

Why I support Fair Oaks Pig Adventure:

Part of the Fair Oaks Dairy Visitor Center (Pictured above)

Note: This blog attempts to represent some of my personal thoughts and motivations and should in no way be considered as a statement from Fair Oaks Pig Adventure, or any of its other supporters including Belstra Milling or the National Pork Board.

In a recent conversation Melanie Wilt, Wilt PR, , and creator of the ""Authentic Voices in Agriculture Training" asked "Why do you put yourself out there as an advocate for agriculture?"

My answer was, well, authentic, "I have always been concerned with sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ where ever I am. In thinking about how to do that in a meaningful way in my farming community I have come to recognize the central role that religious belief plays in those that farm. There is a fundamental religious perspective that forms in the mind of the person that is dependent on the whims of weather and animals for their existance. Life forces you to acknowledge and recognize that things are out of your control and must be entrusted to a creator. I see this as an opportunity to point out to people the Creator and strengthen their beliefs and help them understand why we do what we do. And why that is ethically fine."

 Consider the letter written to the Roman Christians in the first century, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:20) (click for an online bible)or the explanation presented in 1646 by the westminster confession chapter 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1. God's creation points man to God.

The recent death and consequent memorials to Chuck Colson (click here for an example) have reinforced my belief that the Christian church (all denominations and associated factions) needs to be engaged in the world doing things for "Good". The church must be about showing that we understand the challenges and concerns faced by everyone, and offering an explanation and a way forward in facing those concerns. I believe this message is delivered by what we do and who we are more than by what we say. Our actions are our most "Authentic Voices".

I am coming to recognize the difference between "hard" assets and "soft" assets.

Our words, blogs, you tubes, advertising, and so on are all good and important but they are "soft" assets. At the end of the day there is nothing there but an idea remembered or forgotten. There is something to be said for "hard" assets. something you can touch, feel, see, lean on, go visit, and relate to that is unmatched by words.

 Think of the churches or any other big building in your town. Even if they are empty, they make a statement to the passerby about the people of the town. Someone took the time, expense, and effort to build it and maintain it. That building stands for something. It is a "hard" asset that communicates all day, every day, simply by being there. In this sense the earth (creation) is a "hard asset" from God's perspective. It speaks constantly of His glory and character.

When I look beyond my local community I am confronted with a world that is screaming out for something solid to believe anchor its thinking to. To touch and feel and lean on. And know that it is real. Think of the consumer saying, "Just label this food. I just want to know what is in it!" or "How can I trust the research? It is all paid for by the promoter."

The New York Times recently sponsored an essay contest entitled: "Why eating meat is ethical".
I struggle with that title since ethics come from our world view and the contest never defined what worldview the judges would use.

How we answer fundamental questions like, "Where did man come from?" shapes our world view and therefore our ethics. If you think man is here as the result of the "Big Bang" and the workings of evolution then it would seem reasonable that you would conclude that man is not ethically superior to plants or animals. "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy" (I will let you google it yourself since I can't pick a link that seems reasonable) is the famous animal rights quote that comes to mind.

If you think man is here because he was created in the image of God then it seems reasonable that you would conclude that people are unique and stand at the top of the ethical ladder. From that vantage point you would start to realise that you are a steward of the earth and all that is in it. You have enormous responsibilities.

So, how does all this translate into support for the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure ?

The public is 3 generations away from the farm. They are not exposed daily to the fundamental connection to the earth and the source of their existence that comes from seeing and depending on the miracle of life as expressed through animals and plants.

(These pictures are from a tour of my facility. The Fair Oaks Tour will not be "hands on" but "through a window" visual.)

I see Fair Oaks Pig Adventure as a "hard" asset that is inviting the public to come and experience in a small way the miracle of birth. See first hand the different nature of animals and their care givers, Learn how man can act with good stewardship toward animals, the environment, and people. In short, I want people to have a chance to come as close as possible to the miraculous way that their food is created and to begin to shape/reshape their worldview and thereby their ethics.

For me personally, the really cool part is all this will be communicated without a single piece of religious literature being distibuted. Without any oral preaching being done. It will all be communicated by people drawing near to the source of their life giving food and asking, "Where does food come from?"

For all these personal reasons and, many more business reasons, I think it is a great value to invest in the Fair Oaks Pig Adventure.