Sunday, March 30, 2014

Going Back - Education and Influence is More Important Than I Thought

The feedyard is in full swing, and our new record system is becoming my friend. Well kind of. The major portion of the DEQ project is complete.  I was thinking life is about to get a little easier.  Every time I think that, I believe God grins.  My phone started ringing from our community members, people just letting me know the Ag. Teacher at SEM where the girls go to school was taking another job. They were the most subtle phone calls I have ever received.  I told Jake I am unsure if they want me to take the job or just want me to know.

Jake and I have spoke from time to time about me heading back to the classroom. We decided in less a position opened in the girls' school, with no family here it would be impossible.  Jake encourages me to go back to the classroom. I think he thinks this because I relate everything at the feedyard to teaching.  I have been out of the classroom for three years and those three years have been eye opening and not in a good way.  I spent the first 17 years of my life in the Northern Local School District, among some great students.  I then left and spent 4 years at The Ohio State University mostly with other wonderful Agriculture Education students. I then went straight to work as a teacher.  It was not until this year as we continue to search for a crew that is capable of helping us take the feedyard to the next level, that I realized our work force is horrific. As a teacher I was completely unaware of the incredible problem we have with skilled labor in this country. Not only do we have a problem with skill, we apparently have problems with sobriety and attendance also. It is an epidemic. We are in big trouble and if something doesn't change soon our children may be in bigger trouble.

It was clear to me that the only way I could influence these problems is to go back to the classroom. I was unsure about taking the position, I knew if I took the job I would be jumping in with both feet to a situation that is way more than full time. I know my philosophies in education have never aligned with the political officials passing our curriculum mandates and many times have not always lined up with my administrators. But then, there I was at a 4-H livestock judging event with Jacie talking with a school board member.  We started discussing education and what is important and my thoughts and ideas were spot on with what he was saying.  First time ever!  I decided to turn in my resume and then I decided to interview.  Then a few hours after my interview I took a new job as the SEM Ag. Teacher and FFA Advisor.

I am going back to the classroom with a new plan. In fact I am wondering while in my education career why they don't just have teachers manage a fast food restaurant (not in a college town).  I believe a town's fast food restaurant tells a lot about a towns education. I believe we would really better understand society and what is the least we would allow students to leave our classrooms knowing.

We have really just over complicated education.  I have decided that really I would like to be measured not by how many students pass a certain test, but how many are tax paying citizens 5 years out of high school.  I believe students really only need to leave high school with a healthy self esteem and a work ethic.  However I plan on adding a lot of life skills.  By life skills, I mean skills that students can go to someone and say I can do this and a person can afford and will want to pay them to do it.  These life skills also include a financial lesson in savings, spending and planning. Specifically they include, payroll and the worth of an employee, coming to work on time and ready to work, animal movement, care, multiplication, dosages, BQA certification, animal behavior, quality assurance, how electric fence works, the flow of electrons, affordable health care, welding, following directions, being respectful, working independently, recognizing when to remain silent, understanding your paycheck, cash flow, net worth . . .etc.  

Please send your ideas - I am overhauling my lesson plans starting now.  Please send in all the things you were glad someone taught you in high school and the things that you wish someone would have. I am meeting with the community soon to get their ideas.

I am excited to get back to the classroom with a new philosophy and the same intensity.  It's sure to be a wild ride.

To all my former students, please feel free to leave advice for my new students.

A look at my past career:
Reaping One Last Seed
State Officers
My Move to the Real World - Where Attendance is Still a Problem
Career Development Events
FFA Camp 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

4-H - Our First Steer Show

My Dad showed cattle,

Jake's Dad showed cattle, both Jake

and I showed cattle.

It was only a matter of time that our kids would start showing cattle. Nine years ago when Jacie was born I was teaching a group of students that are now getting married and having their own families.  They all knew I hated video games and loved cattle.  They asked "what if your kids don't want to show cattle and they want to play video games?"  I'd laugh and say "oh, they will love it and I'll never let them play video games.".   Late breaking news for all of you "Jacie loves showing cattle and still hasn't played a video game."

This was our first weekend out for the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic. Jacie has had a wonderful time.  We were able to stall with some of Jacie's friends from school and it has made all the difference. Thanks for a wonderful weekend to all of the Sumner showman and families. I now must share a few photos, for our friends and family in Ohio.

Jacie enters showmanship.  To this point Jacie had never lead her steer more than 3 or 4 feet from her Dad or I. I was a bit nervous. Best advice I received this weekend came from another Dad "just let them go and they'll be fine".  And he was right.

The Judge was asking her a few questions.  She tells me later, he asked "what is his name?" She said, "New Moon".  He said "oh, Newman".  Clearly he watches too much Seinfield. Her face says it all.
 The next three are her friends from school . . . they were also in the same showmanship class.

This is Bart's first year also and he gets the Moxie Award for the weekend.  His steer bumped him around a lot the first day and he was offered help to lead his steer while he showed and he said "nope, I got it".  The next day, he went right back out there and did it again.  He says he wants to go again next weekend.  Do you remember your first years of knowing what you needed to do and your animal not cooperating and the frustration you felt? Ugh 

Jaelin was a great support all weekend.

Jake dusted off his clipper box and realized how rusty he was at clipping.
 I am confident he will get his confidence and skills back soon.

Jaelin - don't touch the hair. But I can't help it. I bet you are dying to know what is in that backpack.
Sorry - it's confidential. (hee, hee)

You still want to know, don't you?

Jake giving last minute instructions.

This is Mekenzie, she has been bittin' by the cattle showing bug. She showed all weekend, two steers and a heifer and also showed a heifer for someone else. She placed 6th in showmanship! She is a wonderful encouragement for Jacie.  Thanks - Mekenzie!

Mattison has a very correct and beautifully marked steer.  She is an excellent showman.
It has been a wonderful family fun weekend.  We are all exhausted. I will continue to update you on New Moon or Newman through the rest of the show season.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My move to the real world . . . where attendance problems are still a problem.

I am in a state of disappointment and shock now that I have left the walls of education and have entered the world of running your own small business. I am only able to share a little bit of what I am grasping to understand.  There will likely be other blogs similar to this.

A little background on me, I was in public school for 13 years in the same school district in rural Ohio, followed by 4 years at The Ohio State University, followed by 11 years of teaching in public schools. For the first time I am out of the walls of academia. I am now helping my husband manage a feed yard in central Nebraska.

While I was teaching I was critical, graded harshly (until administration made you defend your grades), and pushed and dragged "some" student to their highest potential. One successful student said this about me  "The woman who has presented me with some of my greatest challenges, while showing no mercy, and the first person who ever truly intimidated me."  I now know I did not do enough to insist that every student attain certain standards to become a tax paying citizens.  I am not sure all of that was in my control. I try not to beat myself up about that too much.  However, now that I am trying to find employees to hire, I realize I didn't do enough.

I remember having a conversation with a group of students.  I don't remember who now (you can identify yourself if you want) about being tardy and attendance.  The school of course had a policy about excused absences and unexcused absences.  How many days they had to make up work and the rules went on and on. Like most teenagers, their goal was then to bend the rules to their advantage.  So, bluntly I told a group of students (seniors I think), I don't really care why you are late or tardy.  It doesn't really matter if your grandma died or you were throwing up or kissing your girl friend in the hall, you missed whatever we are doing.  They looked at me like I was an alien and one of them said, "well that is just mean".  I said "I don't mean to be insensitive, but when you miss something you miss it."  They recanted with, "but the rules say we have ? days to make it up".

The problem with being an Agriculture Education Teacher and FFA Advisor is you usually have at least 5 different classes to prep for, labs, and at anytime you coach at least four different judging events, plan a banquet and fill out individual record books and awards for a number of students.  Therefore the kid that just decided not to show up for class for two weeks and wants to make up individual labs, building projects, safety tests, record books and class work is a bit of annoyance. But the rules say  . . . And that's what really beats a teacher down.

I never minded helping students make up work, however if we just spent two weeks welding and now we are in the greenhouse, how is this student supposed to weld while we are in the greenhouse. Especially since said student missed the safety test. I will say I really did not do enough to influence the public school system in the area of attendance.

Now, I am on the hiring/management side of things and realize I really didn't do enough.  If you look at our time cards there is not one of them that clocks in on time everyday.  I helped cause a problem for our entire world.  We had an employee that clocked in 20 minutes late continuously, when asked about it, he acted as if it was no big deal.  I was so disappointed I felt like I was back in high school.  He wasn't ashamed at all.

When students are late for school it matters, because it becomes a habit for life.  It is killing our labor force.  What can we tie tardiness and absence to that kids will buy into to fix this problem.

Do not reply with it's the parents problems.  Because public school systems taught them this way too. This isn't a new problem we are at least two generations into this problem.

To my fellow teachers, still in the trenches, you guys are awesome.  Keep working hard, you make a difference and someday we will turn the American work force around. I know you are drowning in reports and school standards.  What will count for you and our country in the end, is if these students get out of bed and get to work on time. Don't underestimate your power.

To all my students that post early morning posts about leaving for work and tweet about working 60 hours while your buddies are at the bar. I am proud of all of you and appreciate you helping make a difference for America.  Be proud of being a hard working citizen!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who Rejoice

Earlier last week I was rejected from something I had signed up for.  Rejection is only the second worst feeling in the world followed closely to the feeling of being taken advantage of.

However than just like that Romans 12:15 rejoice with those who rejoice showed up.  Really I didn't know that was the verse (I had to look it up).  However I had enough faith to see what was happening.

First a phone call from Kayla telling me she had just had received a phone call that she would be interning in Omaha at Monsanto for the summer.  She had thought enough of me as her former teacher to call and tell me.  So I rejoiced with her, we could always use another Buckeye in Nebraska.

Then a few days later an email from Tiffanie (Spring Break at a Nebraska Feed Yard VS a Beach) another former student to share that she was one of the two finalist for an internship with Cargill - pork division in Texas.  Still rejoicing!

Not one day after that another call, Kristy another former student calls to tell me that she had just been informed she got into Vet. School.  Rejoice!

The week was completed last night when we witnessed history unfold for our friends the Martins as they hosted their first bull sale, that was a huge success. Broken-MRanch

Rejoice with those who rejoice - Romans 12:15  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What? - I got an award!

Thank you to Katie at Rural Route 2 for awarding me with this wonderful award and encouraging (making) me feel guilty enough to search for my password to my blog. This will hopefully jump start fortheloveofbeef back to the blogging charts for all of my readers 1000's of miles away wondering what Jake and I do all day in rural Nebraska.

It is a huge honor to receive this award from another farm wife/mom in rural America blogging about agriculture.

The award comes with a list of questions Katy has given me and then I get to award 10 more bloggers that will be shared with you and I get to ask them 10 questions.  Ohhh this is going to be fun! And here are her 10 questions, which are actually more like word associations.  I say ‘x’ and you say ‘?’.
  1. I say “farm”; you say . . . Feed Yard - most people don't know that agriculture is divided and sectors take great pride in names.  Agriculture type people also have different interests in different areas.  For example I grew up on a farm in Ohio we had cattle and crops.  My husband and I own a feed yard in Nebraska where we live now.  We care for beef cattle that will be fed until they are harvested for juicy steaks and burgers for you to share with your closest family and friends.  The last time I saw Katie this fall as corn prices were falling rather quickly I made a joke with her about how happy I was corn prices were finally coming down.  She raises corn and does not purchase it to feed to cattle, so she obviously doesn't think that is funny. We aren't all just a bunch of farmers!  My condolences to you on the corn markets Katie.
  2. Food: I've been cooking a lot since the move.  There really is only one place I care to eat here in Nebraska and that is Tub's Pub in Sumner.  Jake and I have date night there on Wednesday's while the girls are at AWANA, if he gets finished in time.  Yesterday a truck driver called to say he was going to deliver cattle at 6PM.  But, then he called to change it to 6AM. So Jake and I went for Rocky Mt. Oyster night. All you can eat for $14.00.  I passed and had a burger.
  3. Family: Almost my entire family is in Ohio.  :(  We have been adopted by a lot of great people here.  They love us like family and that is almost the same. 
  4. Winter: I don't like to be cold and mostly hibernate in the winter.  I look pathetic shivering and after our first year of marriage Jake rarely asks me to help him outside when it's winter.  I know if he asks - it is an emergency.
  5. Advocacy (for ag): I am an advocate for the Beef Industry and my message is "we provide a lot of choices organic, grain fed, grass fed, choice, prime, ground, steaks, gravy, no gravy - EAT BEEF!" 
  6. Soil: Oh the wind!  This Buckeye is not bred for the Nebraska wind.  We had 60 mph wind the other day, it was crazy.  I have never experienced anything like that.  The soil blew and blew - there was a lot of real estate moved that day.  However on days like that I am thankful I don't live in a teepee and this isn't the dust bowl.  
  7. Sun: Sunshine makes me happy and I am dependent on it like a drug.  If the sun doesn't shine, I become grouchy.
  8. Seed: This is such a question from a grain farmer :)  I feed seeds to my cattle Katie.
  9. Game: Do you mean board or wild? Because we have been playing sequence and listening to coyotes.
  10. Garden: I don't have a garden. I would have to irrigate it and "ain't nobody have time for that". Just kidding people do irrigate gardens here - just not the Wolfingers.
These are the 10 bloggers I am awarding in no particular order:

My 10 questions . . .

1. Describe your Agriculture Operation.
2. What Agriculture Operation would you never do and why?
3. When was the last time you vacationed (agriculture events do not count)?
4. What is your least favorite food?
5. If you could make a t-shirt today - what would it say?
6. What is the last thing you pinned on pinterest?
7. What are you cooking for supper?
8. Who are you following in Basketball right now?
9. When was the last time you ate beef?
10. What is your most motivational Bible verse?

Thanks Katie for the blog CPR - we needed it.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Trick or Treat

We had a great Halloween trick or treating with some new family friends.

I decided not to dress up, after Jake declined to participate in the family Care Bear outfits.  That is complete sarcasm and I would never dress our family as Care Bears.  

Family Halloween Costume Ideas - iVillage

We had quite the adventure, we trick or treated on the outer belt around Sumner, we were on the famous swinging bridge and the adventure ended in the back of a pick up truck.

I know our little Minions had a fabulous time.  They really enjoyed the hot cocoa at the end of the night at their new friends' home. Thanks to the community of Sumner for a great Trick or Treat and to all the families we spent the evening with, it was a wonderful evening.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Barely treading water, but still breathing air.

I have not forgotten my closest friends or fortheloveofbeef readers.  However with the move and my new responsibilities at the feedyard I have taken a break from my nightly blog writing.

However I am checking in with an update from the yard.  Jake and I have been in Nebraska for just over 60 days.  Jake averages 14 hour days and hasn't taken a day off since we've got here.

He has been busy finishing our home that we were supposed to move into in June, but just got into a couple weeks ago.  It has been less than a pleasant experience building with "this" company.

Jake has been on the front lines of the EQIP project that will make 4+ Feeders DEQ permitted and meet all environmental standards by the end of the year. This will make our permit without condition for the first time since we purchased it and probably sometime before that.  There has been a lot of dirt moved and although Jake new what was involved with the project, I will say I was a bit naive about the entire thing.  Lately with all the rain we have been getting (that I have been quietly complaining about, away from the crop farmers, who are in the midst of a drought), we have found pumping water a hobby. Then it rains again and we pump more water.

Once it's dry again, they move more dirt.  Then it rains and the process continues.

The dirt should all be moved in two to three weeks, depending on the weather.

More recently we have started storing feed for the winter.  Last week we started taking high moisture corn, grinding, piling and packing what will hopefully be about 45,000 bushels into a pile.

The pile starts like this.  This is our Corgi Jag. He just waits by the corn pile for the next truck driver to pull up, because they pet him.

Then the pile grows and . . .

and grows.

We also are storing away some extra roughage in the form of cobs.

We spend most days moving cattle, corn, cobs, fence, water or dirt and sometimes all of the above.

Jake says he can't wait for spring.