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Teaching Money Handling to Kids

July 28, 2014

From a very early age teaching money should be part of the education your child learns at home. While we often focus on other important things many children’s extent of money education is balancing a checkbook if that much! Of course age appropriate lessons are important.

Teaching money can be as simple initially as the concept of saving coins for a treat from the store. As the child gets older saving can take on a bigger importance. Sometimes a savings account, with half of the child’s allowance going into the account, is a way for an older child to learn about interest that is paid on their savings. This also is a means for teaching money handling as the child has half of his allowance to budget, with the other half they don’t miss as much initially because they “don’t see” it. In time taking the child in to make the deposits allows the child to see the money isn’t taken away.

One way that some parents impress the value of money is although they cover the basic costs if a child wants extra he or she must cover the excess cost. For example, basic clothing costs are part of raising a child. A shirt, jeans and shoes can have basic, no frills costs which the parent pays. However, if the child wants a name brand item, he must pay for the difference between that basic item and the brand name item with his own money. This simple technique can make a child more aware of need rather than want. We need clothing to appear in society but brand names don’t cover any better than no-name. The difference of a few pennies or a few dollars may give a different view on the value of items they may not otherwise think about. Extra things such as video or computer games are items that children can get for special gifts (birthdays, Christmas for example) or buy with their own money. Occasional small items may be special gifts as rewards for watching their spending and saving.

Some parents may confuse children in not defining what is a need over what is a want. Needs are life sustaining – food, shelter, clothing and other basics. Wants are extras that are usually for enjoyment. Although this lesson may not be directly about money it is important in connecting to the value of money. Another important lesson is that of cost and value. This also can be done in small ways initially. Although some see these lessons as unnecessary restriction it is actually empowering children to make wise decisions. They need not make the mistakes that many adults make! It’s also far less painful if done almost naturally in a matter of fact way. Teaching money need not be a difficult task but consistency is important. With a good grasp of the value of money the child grows into a young adult that is much more prepared for a lifetime of good money habits. Financial responsibility is a lifetime gift.

Just Christian – Ag in the Bible

July 27, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Religious conversion” sounds like something akin to joining a cult. Some perceive it as such I guess but it’s more a relationship than a group. I grew up with a basis in the Catholic church from a very young age. As I got older church was something done at Christmas and Easter. Then in time it took on a bigger meaning.

When the topic of religion comes up it seems Christian isn’t enough for some. I’m just Christian. I believe in Him. Sacrifices…not really. No more than sacrifices of not doing something because of a friend’s relationship.

I don’t see Christians as perfect. There’s nothing we can *do* to replace the gift of salvation. We can’t outgive. And we often don’t deserve it. There are many times little things would happen that challenged me. I recall a time in Washington state I was in a wooded area on my Appaloosa mare. She was nervous about crossing over a log and as I pressed her forward I said “come on Sierra where’s your faith?” and as if a response it came “where’s yours?” Not that the horse spoke of course but there was definitely an impression.

Jesus isn’t a dictator. Some look at the Bible and say it’s full of rules of what you can and can’t do. I suppose that’s one way to look at it. Others say that life should come with a guide book – well we have one when we choose to refer to it!

There are relevant passages in the Bible about everything we face. Times have changed but people not so much. There’s always been good and bad. There’s many who sit in a pew every Sunday but never opened their heart to His word. There’s others who have but perhaps don’t get to church as often as they should.

A time attending the Vineyard in Cincinnati Ohio brought much of the Word to life. It’s not about the music or the number of times per week one attends church. I’ve heard story after story of people who came to the Monday night groups because someone months earlier gave them a can of soda or a newspaper or wrapped their gifts or washed their windshield.

It’s here where I met and heard the remarkable story of Steve Sjogren and his worship team. How I ended up there can only be described as His guidance. It’s at the Vineyard I was introduced to Servefest and a new means of reaching people. Walk into a small business and introduce yourself and ask to clean the bathrooms. Say what? Are you nuts?! I’ll never forget the gal at the video store that as we left said “what kind of church ARE you?!”

It was more than “things” – it was making connections. He came to deliver us from what we deserve…it seems the least we can do is recognize that he paid for what he didn’t do. Whether we believe or not doesn’t change reality and we don’t see everything.

Much as adults see more than children do so He sees more than I. I don’t have to be perfect. But I sure don’t have to go out of my way to do harm either. I believe He knows my intentions and understands way more than I. It’s a relief. It’s an acceptance. Just Christian works for me.

Imperfections, Life & Long Weeks

July 25, 2014

It’s been a week full of all of this! The imperfections are glaring as trying to load posts in a use-it-or-lose-it marathon. For those who missed it, I’ve been a writer for longer than I want to admit to. Several articles appear in magazines, but increasingly many are online. Many are not in my name – as I was hired to write and these include such a range from entertainer profile sites to how to.

Many – almost 700 of them – appeared on the YahooNews Network – also known as the “Voices” and other sections. Yahoo Contributor Network purchased Associated Content, who purchased something else many moons ago – and over the course of several years there’s been nearly 700 articles from how to tell if you need a roof fixed to ag topics to entertainers in country music to profiles. As of August 1 the Yahoo Contributor Network will cease to be, and all the articles not saved by then will be taken down and never existed. So…that’s almost 700 articles that will be absorbed into blogs, some in this one, many in the food sister blog, many in the LiveTheCountryDream blog and some in CustomRaisedBeds. Rabbit articles will go to LearnAboutRabbits.

And it leaves a huge amount of content…60 pages and growing on dogs. Over 150 on horses, plus over 40 on stable management and employment, plus some on writing and social media. These don’t really fit in the blogs so creation of ebooks is in the works and the first one, Basic Horse Sense, is ready to go at just $5. The funds help pay for projects here at the farm like others have, and there’s an impossible task ahead, it seems, so I’m hoping this is a Heavenly drop on the head answer. It’s meant a lot of cut and paste and organizing, and sometimes slip ups in accidentally posting today instead of just before Christmas!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt has meant some long days and challenges with an inflexible deadline, but the end is in sight! Of course there’s day to day things and tire blowouts, drama with others and daily tasks to do. Today we set fire to grass at the other place to burn off much dry debris – this makes it easier to mow on a very tired push mower, and lets us better see what we’re dealing with from a soil and water and seedling standpoint – all are important! Some changes in both funds and help has forced some changes in management decisions also, but only slightly.

There are times it’s easy to get jaded when someone makes promises because so often promises don’t happen. Sometimes it’s with good intentions, sometimes it’s unaware that other folks are involved, sometimes it’s self absorbed folks and sometimes it’s just life. It happens, but it’s easier to deal with (only just!) for just me than when it’s involving Connor. He’s already figured too often people don’t mean what they say, and I can’t help but wonder if he figures he doesn’t have to either. Following through, meaning what we say is important and I think crucial to pass along to the next generation. More than money, more than *things* it’s counting on word and reputation. Many think it’s old fashioned and maybe it is.

Still, much of life is like this field. All you see is grass. You don’t see the dry under layer that is so think to choke out competition. With that burned away, there’s some tall grass to trim and tender bare earth. What we plant in it and how we tend it is the path forward, not the fire or untended weeds. Those things destroy itself.

Get Out of Debt Tips

July 24, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoney is the thing few want to talk about and yet everyone is obsessed with. It is topic of discussion in politics, in holidays and in life. Who has it. Who doesn’t. How do we get more of it. Few things about how to use it better. Make money work for you rather than the other way around.

Here’s ten considerations in changing your money dealings forever.

1. Transform your relationship to money. Instead of allowing money to control you, see it as a force you can control. Respect it, learn about debt and interest, savings, investments (and don’t see that as just conventional investments!).

Make better decisions about how and where your money goes. Dave Ramsey covers financial basics and shows people how to make that transformation, and many say it doesn’t work. In the Total Money Makeover he says “The thing that qualifies me most to teach about money is that I have done stupid with zeros on the end. I have been there, done that. I have a PhD in D-U-M-B…I know what it is like to have my marriage hanging by a thread because of financial stress. I know what it is like to have my hopes and dreams crushed by my own stupid decisions.”

2. Reduce your spending. Is there unnecessary expenses you can cut back on? This might be a coffee every morning on the way to work, cable or satellite television or movie theater excursions on the weekend. Have a budget and stick to it.Clearly define needs from wants.

3. Invest in education. If you can’t afford classes to improve yourself, “homeschool” yourself on the topic of choice with books. Don’t overlook things put on by local clubs. Search sites online to learn things. Perhaps you want to improve your marketing skills, or learn to identify trees. There’s even videos online to help with many topics at YouTube or Instructables.

4. Create a barter network, or participate in an existing one! Informally with friends it’s easy to exchange services and goods. Perhaps you need babysitting services, and someone else needs what you do. Work out the details and it saves your cash for other things. There are many online barter networks as well.

ArringtonVineyard5. Exercise to lift your spirits and get the body moving. This doesn’t have to be a gym membership. Dance, jump rope, bike ride or take a walk all can be a means to get moving without a great deal of money. Look at cans in the pantry for 1 and 2 pound weights. Be inventive! Taking a walk in the evening costs nothing.

6. Pay off debts sounds like a no-brainer. Everyone looks for the best deal then charges it, where you end up paying many times more for it! Get credit cards paid off, and work towards eliminating debt. The higher interest ones, if eliminated, puts money in your pocket! Pay off smaller ones and work at the others. Call overdue bills and see if you can negotiate a cashout settlement to get debts paid. What can you sell to put money towards the debt pay down?

7. Acquire experiences rather than things. Things wear out, break, get stolen and destroyed. Create memories. Take day trips rather than going to tourist traps where you buy things you don’t need. Look at how many momento shirts are in thrift store shelves – somewhere, someone paid good money for those.

8. Live under your means, and put some money away. Start small – a can with change for savings. Most of us don’t miss the change – and yet in time it can add up to $10-15 for an emergency item that can’t wait. A $3 latte every morning is $15 per week. This can be ‘extra money’ to go towards bills or savings.

9. Pay bills promptly to avoid late fees, shutoff notices and other fees. This can add up over time, and the quicker you get a handle on things, the less stress you’ll have to deal with. Think about a time when someone owed you money, or promised you something and it didn’t happen. It sets everything behind, and if people who promised to pay you don’t follow through then you can’t pay those you promised to pay. Strive to not be the one not following through.

10. Invest in you. Value yourself. This doesn’t mean being a bully or developing a superior attitude, but know that you have value. You have gifts and talents others don’t and are unique. Find a way to use that as an asset. Money matters can be serious, but step by step it can be handled. It takes time, yes. But most of us don’t need a new car every year, or every 3-5 years. Hang onto that reliable and paid off vehicle, and use the payment to attack other bills!

Work towards getting debt free this year. It’s an effort that’s worth it!

Celebrities, Fans & Social Media – From the Archives

July 23, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever really thought about celebrities? We talk about them all the time. Their names sell merchandise and tickets and air time. The perceptions on a narrow part of the entertainment world – country music – over the last five or so years have brought some interesting observations. Several times I’ve thought of writing this but until now put it off. Why now?

In many ways it seems celebrities are a “love-to-hate.” There’s always been the fanatical edge, which has led to the too-soon loss of Selena, John Lennon and others. There is the entitlement issue sometimes on both sides of the aisle. What most forget in the zeal to shred or worship is that there are real human beings behind those names. What most can’t imagine is if you were put under the same glare of the spotlight you would fail miserably.

No human being can be everything, say everything, and do everything to satisfy millions of people, even thousands or hundreds of people. Yet we the public demand they must. We hang on their tweets and even though they may say the same thing as 3,000 other people that hour THEIR comment is the one that will be picked up by the media in a further frenzy.

Pick the latest celebrity – there’s been several of late. Michael Vick has created more heat and venomous posts that even those who even hint at anything remotely in the solar system of moving on are flamed. Yes the accusations were horrible; yes he was convicted of and did terrible things. He served his time and satisfied the courts so…move on. Not! One forum I observed openly that he’s held in more disregard than someone unknown who killed a state trooper. Or even another celebrity who killed a person. That met with outright nasty comments of people killing people go to prison and killing cops gets the death penalty. Really…so why are the people behind BOTH of those incidents free in society now? Why is the hate for this celebrity so strong that there are kids, of another race I might add, doing the same thing on a regular basis but no one does anything about it? Indeed the public is so focused on shredding him they don’t even see the thousands of dogs killed daily because no one’s watching.

Further removed is a person targeted by the tabloids, one of many selected to run false sensationalized stories and often based on questionable “sources”. Twice the solution has been retaliation in the form of putting phone numbers, email and other contact info on the “writer” and inviting fans to turn the tables for a dose of unpleasant medicine. There have been times she’s questioned whether anyone would buy a magazine about celebrities with good stories and at least this person’s response was unanswered. From a writer standpoint many venders aren’t interested in good stories about celebrities it seems but there are some independent writers who are.

Of course there’s the double sword – the writers interested in doing positive articles and content are often shut out – it is impossible to get through the managers, handlers, companies, assistants and other people to DO one on the bigger ‘names’ in the news! On the other hand there are also people who will bend over backwards to accommodate writers to do a positive story.

However in the bigger picture there seems very much a difference between the “Hollywood” celebrities and celebrities in other areas such as music. There are many musicians, singers and entertainers who share their personal lives via Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, events after shows as well as chats and many other ways of reaching out to interact with the fans who bought the cds and concert tickets. Even that has some risks and has some people unhappy with the result.

They don’t post enough or they’re not “nice” (are you nice all the time?!) or other criticisms. There is also the possibility that they do the same thing many of the rest of us do – post and walk off to do something, get interrupted and 15 minutes later remember and get back to the keyboard! Many share photos from the stage, some stream a show or two on the web for fans who couldn’t be there. More than any time technology has allowed fans to feel like we’re a part of celebrity’s lives but in that it’s hard to remember that as we type something back they may be getting 10 or 100 or 1,000 or 4,000 or 10,000 or more people typing something back also!!

Ever type something and not word it exactly right, then someone gets upset and hammers away for an hour over a minor infraction that means nothing in the big scheme of the world? Magnify that. Add in a heft dose of comments about how rude you are for not answering, how your opinion (which they wanted to hear!) is wrong, how they like the music but don’t like you. Add into that the long night traveling the night before, the soreness from a misstep and a wave of normal “stuff” we all hit. Now think about that for just a few minutes. Know when you type something someone is going to be unhappy – what do you do? If you answer random people there are others not happy because you don’t answer THEM. If you don’t answer anyone then you’re ‘unfriendly’ – which if it was true you wouldn’t be there! Step in their shoes for just a few minutes and watch.

The internet can be an awesome thing but too often it’s a source of hatefulness. There was a group of fans after one entertainer got married that actually verbalized he should have checked with the fans first. Another was raked over the coals for shaving and getting a haircut! Aren’t those personal decisions people?! Do you want to take a public opinion poll every time you change your hair color or cut your hair?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are those who argue that celebrities wouldn’t be where they’re at without people buying the cds and movie tickets and that is true. Most that I’ve talked to I promise you keep the fans in mind in most of what they do.Thoe who have built a presence online go out of their way to maximize their contact and dollars.

There are other people that say buying that cd or ticket gives them the right to have a say. Now hold that horse right there. When you buy a cd or concert ticket or movie ticket you’re entitled to the CD or the show – that’s it! No more. Many celebrities give freely of their time the very best that they can do but you really cannot please everyone.

Then there are the fans that outright cross the line to stalking or entering private space without an expressed invitation. If you have ever had that happen it’s the most unnerving thing you can imagine. To have someone you don’t know at your home because they “just wanted to say hi” or “just wanted to see the place” is beyond creepy. You don’t know their intentions or what they’re going to do and obviously boundaries are not something that they recognize.

Earlier this year country singer Gary Allen had to appear in court to end five years of stalking from someone who not only entered but damaged his home. Contact with a celebrity leads to accusations of being “led on” on the computer even from entertainers who are not online. Just because someone is online with a presence doesn’t mean it’s them. Web marketing is a factor for many but not all do it themselves. There are also many “fans” that have used people’s name other than their own.

Being questioned by the woman Gary Allen did get a restraining order against there seemed a passive aggressive line of questioning on several fronts. When questioned he said “it freaks me out” and “the whole thing scares me” and in the end he did get a permanent restraining order against the woman. It should never need to get that far for anyone.

Some fans in less public displays start battles with other fans vying for their object’s attention. It becomes a game rather than a human being on the other side of it and that’s where things go very wrong for all involved.

There is no reason anyone no matter what they do for a living need be subjected to this kind of attention. ‘Do unto others’ has not gone out of style! And on the other hand when it works well it’s awesome for what it is – a chance to cross paths with someone else. Whatever they give is a gift – and increasingly many hold contests, have special offers and other things for those who follow online.

It cannot be all things to all people. For the celebrities – thank you for the effort in view of the too-short days. For the fans – enjoy what you are given and don’t make it more than it is. It takes one person to spoil it for all when instead of supporting and fun it becomes dangerous. When you seek them out and don’t like what you see zip it – you don’t have to keep engaging!

If you look for the good in people you will find the good – and celebrities may have more people knowing their name, reading their books, singing their songs or watching them on the screen but they’re still people. Technology can work for both but remember common courtesy!

(Many intersections with agriculture here but that’s for another post!)

Technology in Food Production Has Reasons for Existing

July 22, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo often when the discussion of food production and farming comes up it seems a bad thing to discuss technology. We wouldn’t think of doing without electronic banking, cellular phones or ATMs. Going into the bank? How inefficient!

We have cars and appliances that notify us when maintenance is needed. We have technology surrounding us but when it comes to agriculture many don’t want farmers to use those same advances that allow efficiency.

In the late 1960s and into the 1970s it was a time of growth. From 70 acres of rolling hills were carved corn fields and hay fields. Alfalfa was planted on hills to hold the soil and prevent erosion, as well as giving a valuable crop for purebred cattle. The field too steep to cultivate was fenced for pasture, as well as a field in front that was divided naturally by a creek, making cultivation difficult.

The cattle herd evolved to registered Charolais cattle, where we learned hands on cow management and combining old ways that worked with new technology where it was appropriate. A state of the art Harvestore was constructed. This is a big blue silo that allowed feed storage out of the weather, and allowed feeding the herd at the touch of control buttons through augers and conveyors. The hay and corn was chopped and with machines handling the harvesting it meant we didn’t have to hire people to move as much hay in the summer, although some baled hay was always kept for emergencies or animals separated from the herd.

470_1524312There was a dry lot built to house and contain the cattle. This allowed more efficient feeding. The cow trails through the fields grew over, and allowed a bigger harvest of feed. There were fewer times cattle would get loose, and it eliminated them getting into the corn field. It eliminated worrying about bloat, a dangerous medical condition for cattle.

If left to their own devices many cattle will stay fairly near the feeders, which can wear down the grass in the feeder area. By using a ‘dry lot’ situation that penned the cattle near feeders it allowed that natural behavior of minimum steps for feed and water, but did so in a way that the rest of the farm was more productive.

Today the cattle are gone from the farm, but the lessons in using technology wisely remain. When it makes sense to do so, technology and new ways can be a good thing. Today hogs and chickens are often kept in climate controlled barns. When the recent driving snow would kill animals or leave them shivering in the drifts, they’re inside barns at a steady, much warmer temperature!

Automatic temperature control, feed at regular times and balanced rations have taken raising livestock to new heights. It’s often criticized as being “factory farms” but confinement raising can be 30 head of cattle or thousands of hogs but the welfare of the animals is important.

When it comes to 20 below zero with driving snow or inside a barn I know where my chickens would be if faced with a choice. In the far south they can be outside without dealing with snow very often. In other parts of the country this isn’t the case, and it is important to put the animal’s comfort in front of political arguments.

Technology, instituted with a balanced view works for farmers, animals and consumers.

Feeding America Past and Present

July 21, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo often we hear how farmers should go to the way it used to be. I wonder how many remember what that was? It’s an ideal, and not far from what we are, but it’s far from what people want to buy. So we work harder.


Do people remember the truth or the picture?

By 1950, only 12 percent of the population was still on the farm. Each farmer was now producing enough food to sustain himself and 15 others, but there was still opportunity for improved efficiency through mechanization since horses still outnumbered tractors on the farm until 1954. Most farms had a variety of livestock including dairy, beef, hogs, chickens and sheep as a part of their operation.

The 1950s and 60s marked the beginning of change as many farmers began to specialize in order to increase efficiency and make maximum use of equipment and facilities. Dairy herds grew to 60 and, in some cases, to 100 or more cows. Swine numbers increased from five to 10 sows to as many as 100 or more. Artificial insemination became common place, and with improved genetics came an increase in milk production per cow in dairy herds. The introduction of the Hundred Bushel Corn Club inspired farmers to use not only more fertilizer but also better weed control practices to compete with neighbors. Corn production rapidly increased as a result.

The 1950s was a bit before my time but the late 1960s I remember. I remember grandparents pasture raising in the old stanchion barns 60-80 registered Brown Swiss. Outside the lot were pigs that took care of what the cows didn’t eat, and bad milk, when there was some. Calves were taken away but allowed to nurse out one quarter after the cow was milked. I don’t remember what happened to the bull calves. No chickens that I remember, but there was some beef raised and Boston terrier dogs provided farm income as well as a little horse training and trading.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI remember hogs used to glean fields after harvest, with distinctive fencing that showed where those fields were. I remember tractors getting bigger, machinery getting more powerful, horses getting fewer. I remember the cost of a Harvestore, although I didn’t know what that cost was, meant our beef cattle got more focus than more diversified places. And I remember hog breeders begging for support as consolidation increased. Those barns stand empty now, silent. Many were torn down.

I remember get bigger or get out slogans. I remember the farm crisis and the suicides of those who couldn’t bear losing the family farm. I remember the cautions about credit, and the peace of a paid for place, a full mow of hay and plenty of food and feed stocked up. I remember getting rabbits from someone in town with a small bank barn, with wire and wood hutches. Beautiful Dutch marked rabbits and white ‘meat rabbits’. I remember cautions not not completely specialize – keep some other sources available.

Those memories are mixed in with today’s reports and media headlines. It drives what we do, although some think we’re so easily swayed that an organization or dinner buying dinner or sending a trinket will alter what we do. Of course, those folks don’t know me well. Comparisons to mules have come up. Or pig headed. No book, dinner, check or goodie changes who we are and what we do. I’ve previewed several books, not always favorably! It still doesn’t change us.

You see, when it’s real, solid and you know who you are, the only change is deliberate, not everchanging. It’s a good thing.


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