Sunday, November 29, 2015

Everybody's heard...

About the bird...

No, not that one, this one...

Now here's something I didn't plan on...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Random thankful thoughts (NOW WITH UPDATE!)

Wonder weather

The season of easy living officially checked out yesterday. The high temperature peaked at 21 degrees, just moments after the clock declared a new day, then fell steadily throughout the remainder of Thanksgiving. It didn't fall far, though, the low was 14.

As the sun began to illuminate the heavens, dawn's early light revealed a gray-toned world and lightly falling snow. Low-hanging overnight clouds had wept a constant light mist of super cooled water droplets, and now trees and grasses and signs and lines and everything else was crusted with a light rime.

This was the first real cold and snow of the season, and the first one is always a pain. Everything is harder in the cold and snow. In the season of easy living the thought is the action. It takes, comparatively, nothing to get up, get dressed and get to work. In winter, though, it takes, thought, attention and energy just to get dressed.

First come the heavy socks, then the long-handled winter drawers in their modern Under Armour iteration. Next come wick-lined winter cargo pants and a tee shirt. Danner Pronghorn insulated boots go on. The Shield gets inspected and cycled, then snaps into the N8-squared IWB holster. Next comes the heavy overshirt, followed by a hooded sweatshirt, followed by my working vest. After checking the pockets for spare mags, flashlight, camera, spare batteries, syringes, needles and antibiotic, cell phone, nippers and spare gloves, I can finally waddle out the door and get to work.

It's a far cry from lightly skipping out of bed and immediately charging into the day.

The cold and snow also means a more detailed vehicle pre-flight. In the summer I scarcely check the oil, but in the cold and snow I check everything. In summer a broken down pickup can mean a multi-mile lark of a pleasant hike, in winter it can mean misery and mortality.

So on the first day of the season of not so easy living, I feel like I'm already tired when I get to work.

It's more of a mind thing than anything else. Getting dressed and checking the pickup isn't really taxing, but it does add steps, and it's a change in routine, so I bitch and moan and whine a bit. Within a few days I've adjusted, the whining wanes, and I give it no more thought.

Once I got out there, the weather was amazingly beautiful. Cold and snow and chopping ice is something other than fun, but there's just something magnificent and delightful about close horizons, softly falling snow, and well conditioned cattle doing what cattle do.

Holiday dinner

Thursday was, of course, Thanksgiving, so before I could even venture out to do food-on-the-table work, I had to do some food-on-the-table work. If you get my drift.

The plan was for a quiet and subdued Thanksgiving meal. Brothers and Sister and their families would not be present for the festivities, having other plans in other parts of the state. One brother and family would make an overnight stop at the ranch on Wednesday, then head for the wilds of Colorado's Redneck Riviera to dine with inlaws.

The official EJE Thanksgiving Dinner would have, then, only three at the table, Mom, Dad, and I.

Somehow I'd managed to convince Mom to let me take care of the meal, so at the crack of 4 a.m. I was up and preparing sage dressing for the crock pot.

Aromatics bubbling in butter
I'd decided to go whole hog and prepare a large meal. With food so cheap it's actually more expensive to cook small, and it's more finicky, too. None of the leftovers would go to waste, either. The other thought I'd had regarding a large vs. small meal was the possibility that Traveling Bro and his entourage might get weathered in at the ranch, which is in fact what happened.

Which was nice, because 10 at the Thanksgiving table is much more better than three at the table. It just is.
Bird on the platter
Spinach artichoke casserole
Corn Pudding

There were more dishes, of course, which I failed to photograph. Mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, bread and rolls, relish tray, candied yams, beverages, pies, etc. It was quite a spread, and turned out to be almost not quite enough!

I don't care who ya are, that's funny right there. I'm glad no one was videotaping me!

Another day

And now it's Friday morning. Another dawn, another day to be thankful for.

It's Black Friday, as the media call it, screeching in indignation and forgetting completely to be thankful for anything, looking down on people who they believe in their tiny little media hearts to be less than human, the real Americans who live real lives and suit up and show up each and every day.

Not that I feel strongly about the self-serving, small-minded, lemming media, you understand.

They do provide another reason to be thankful, though. In addition to weather and food and family and football and fun, I'm thankful to be an American, thankful that I'll never be one of those cold and timid souls.

And off to tilt at frozen stock tanks with my trusty war ax.

It was about a draw...

Between me and the frozen water that is. Ran over something and had a blowout, which required swapping the spare on of course.

At any rate, a few more pics. Beautiful morning, cold and still. Beautiful test of skills and competence with the blowout. We expect to do well on these tests.

Recently harvested corn, stalks trapping snow for next year
Golden late November morning sunshine

Monk soaking up all the morning sun he can find
Sun behind snow-filled clouds
Wabbit twacks!
Rime ice
And more rime ice
Cows never graze on slopes. Never! Just ask the NRCS experten.
All better. Kinda.
More wabbit twacks across the glittering new snow
There he is

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Merry Thanksgiving

Here's wishing you and yours a delightful Thanksgiving. And from a long time ago, from a galaxy far, far away, a glimpse of Thanksgiving Football the way it used to be...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Can you really afford that turkey?

If you've read the same (or similar) headlines I've read over the last week, you know that (horrors!) the price of a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal for 10 has skyrocketed to over $50!


But a funny thing happened in reality, which is that place where reporters, news readers, bureaucrats, SJW's and other assorted bottom dwellers never visit.

The comparative cost of the meal actually went down. Not by much, mind you, but down. As opposed to the increase (9.8 percent according to the major math challenged propaganda networks). 

Now that we've settled that, let's take a moment to think about thanks.
Rockwell, of course. S

And now, perhaps, a few moments to think about reality.

Last week the American Farm Bureau Federation released the results of their 30th annual nation-wide Thanksgiving meal cost survey.

The cost of the 2015 Thanksgiving meal for 10 came in at $50.11, seventy cents more than last year's average of $49.41.
"Are you sheetin' me?"
Now most of the headlines surrounding this year’s survey trumpet the dollars-and-cents increase over 2014, but that’s not the whole story.

When you factor inflation into the mix, using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) method, something interesting happens. You find that the 2015 meal came in at two cents less than 2014 meal.

A little pre-turkey food for thought.

The methodology of the AFBF survey, while not strictly scientific, is actually quite good. A total of 138 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 32 states. The shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, however, they are not allowed to include special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as a “free” turkey with a certain level of spending.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

Here are the average 2015 survey costs:

A 16 lb. turkey came in at $1.44 per pound for a total of $23.04. This cost is up about eight cents per pound from last year.

Although survey shoppers were not allowed to take advantage of special promotions when purchasing their bird, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Special sales and promotions on turkey and other holiday food items generally continue until the doors close on Wednesday evening. Quite often prices are reduced sharply in the last day or two before Thanksgiving.

Some markets feature prices much lower than the survey average, even without special promotions or giveaways. At Kimball’s Main Street Market I paid $0.69/lb for my 16 pound turkey.
That's right, $0.69/lb.
Items that declined modestly in price were mainly dairy items including one gallon of whole milk, $3.25; a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $3.18; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.94; and 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.29. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery (79 cents) and one pound of green peas ($1.52) also decreased slightly in price.

Foods showing the largest increases this year were pumpkin pie mix, a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, cubed bread stuffing and pie shells. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.20; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.61; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.47.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

Historically, the lowest AFBF Thanksgiving meal survey cost was in 1987, when the meal cost an average of $24.51. When adjusted for inflation, however, $24.51 is equal to $51.04 in 2015, so it’s fair to say that this year’s meal is less expensive than in 1987.

I conducted my own 2015 Thanksgiving meal survey at Main Street Market in Kimball this week, and priced the same items for $42.98, saving $7.13 compared to the AFBF survey. Although seven local items were more expensive, six were less expensive, including the turkey which, at 69 cents per pound, represented a $12.00 saving over the national survey price. And that's out here in the hinterlands, 200 miles from the nearest major food distribution hub. And just look at this -- a fully stocked supermarket out in the sticks doing a booming business in a town of fewer than 2,500.

When prices are adjusted for inflation, you find that not only have food prices remained quite stable over the last 28 years, but that food dollar value has steadily increased. For instance, when adjusted to the Consumer Price Index, the $28.70 paid for the 1986 survey meal would cost $69.86 in 2015. At $50.11, the 2015 survey meal is considerably less than the 30-year rate of inflation. When adjusted for inflation, the American food dollar has considerably more purchasing power than it did in 1986.

Just for fun, let's look back a bit farther. If you go here you can get a feel for various aspects of American life over the years. The information isn't comprehensive or encyclopedic, but what's there is valid and cited for the most part.

Let's do a little turkey price comparison, between 1950-dollars and in inflation adjusted dollars. In 1950, a 16 lb. turkey priced at $0.49/lb cost $7.84. In inflation adjusted dollars (as calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis CPI calculator) that would be a whopping $77.10 today! To take another couple of steps into the realm of comparative pricing, What do you suppose the per/lb price of my 2015 bird ($0.69/lb) would be in 1986? In 1950? Why $0.32 in '86, and $0.07 in 1950.

Another factor to consider when we think about the cost of our Thanksgiving meal is that Americans continue to enjoy the safest, most nutritious, most abundant and most inexpensive food supply in the world, and that by a fair margin.

All things considered, Americans have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season.

Tomorrow (or when I get around to it) I'll really go on a rant.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hard freeze reset

As summer faded into early autumn, I waxed poetically (or so I'm told) about the joys of the season of easy living while looking forward with no little trepidation to the coming winter.

Earlier in the week we got our first taste of wintry weather. The weekend had been rapturously beautiful, with gentle puffball skies, warming sunshine, temperatures nudging 70 degrees, and barely a puff of wind. I spent most of the daylight hours outside, attending to the manifold chores that grow like weeds around the ranch. It was glorious.

Nona and Red

Autumn range

The first ranch house

Tumbleweeds, fences, and next year's project

There she is

There she goes

Mmmmmm. Sodium and chlorine.

Ready for harvest

Autumn gold, shade 327.2

Autumn gold, shade 154.9

Light, shadow and iron oxide

Nature at play

Pferde Erwärmung in der Herbstsonne
On Tuesday nature did what nature does. It started with a line of gunmetal clouds on the far western horizon. The mercury tumbled, the winds freshened, and the snow fell.

As winter storms go it wasn't worth wasting ink on. A very mild, very vanilla weather event. But it was the first of the year, and it was cold and uncomfortable -- particularly as it came hard on the heels of a heavenish three days. I had to bundle up in layers, the roads were treacherous, I needed to engage the four wheel drive, and everything I had to do required the extra effort required to work in the cold, windy, freezing realm of not easy living.

First snow they've seen


Frosted wheat ground

The storm left wind sculpted mini-drifts behind
One of the things the first storm does is reset the comfort gyro. Before the snow and wind and cold arrived, 40 degrees seemed quite chilly, particularly if there was a touch of breeze. After the storm, morning sunshine and a windless 30 degrees was pure ambrosia. In these conditions I hiked and fixed fence and chopped thin ice and reveled in nature's delightful beauty.

I don't know for sure, but I think life would be a grim experience without variety, and I suspect I'd be an empty husk if there were no harsh days to stand in contrast to the beautiful days.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Autumn fades

After a three day weekend of the most beautiful autumn weather you can imagine, nature called in her markers and kissed us with a bit of typical November weather.

I was trying to recall the words to the state song of Nebraska, but it's been a lot of years since second grade music class with the demanding Miss Meyer. So my recollection was incomplete.

Beautiful Nebraska

Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairieland,
Laced with many rivers, and the hills of sand;
Dark green valleys cradled in the earth,
Rain and sunshine bring abundant birth.

Beautiful Nebraska, as you look around,
You will find a rainbow reaching to the ground;
All these wonders by the Master's hand;
Beautiful Nebraska land.

We are so proud of this state where we live,
There is no place that has so much to give.

Beautiful Nebraska, as you look around,
You will find a rainbow reaching to the ground;
All these wonders by the Master's hand,
Beautiful Nebraska land.

I'm just a bit meh about the song. That's just me though.

The weekend was nice though.

And the "storm" wasn't all that bad.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The day and the hour

"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Matthew 24:36.

I shipped some cattle to market this morning, and while loading them on the truck a bull took a swipe at me.

Now bulls are bigger than cows by a good margin, and as the day followeth the night, they have greater reach.

I don't often work with bulls from inside the pen. It's just the nature of the operation; while cows get handled and worked with 4-5-6 times a year, I only see the bulls in the corral once or twice a year, and even then they just get sorted off.

Eventually they go to market, though, which requires a bit of handling. I'm always cautious, and I'm pretty good at reading bulls and keeping myself safe and in a safe position.

Sometimes the difference between safe and unsafe is pretty small.

The 2,200 lb. bull kicked at me, and the tips of his hoof just barely grazed the left side of my neck. The kick was lightning fast and left no time for me to flinch away. I was right on the edge of too close, but I wasn't over the line. Another inch closer and the blow might have been fatal. There's a lot of important stuff in the neck; big arteries and veins and a trachea. I think there's a gizzard in there, too.

But I wasn't an inch closer. Skill and experience (and sure, a touch of luck) had me in the right place.

No big deal really. I remember the day the starboard main mount of an F-14 broke loose during a landing on Nimitz and missed me by about the same margin. Took the Unit One (aid bag) right off my hip. That wasn't a big deal either. A miss is a miss, and a miss is not a hit. Nothing to get hysterical about.

Worth thinking about, though, and reassessing risk management and mitigation.

Then you get back in there and carry out the plan of the day.