Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Harvest Fair Building

It's that time of year again.  The time when our seasonal summer crew has gone back to college and harvest has cranked up to Ridiculous Speed.  To keep ourselves from running to fat we added the madness of Harvest Fair a few decades back.  We're getting on in years now and our joints don't appreciate the decision as much.  Tossing bales and building pyramids are great activities for keeping fit, but after an 18 hour day of our regular chores we often lack enthusiasm for the added event.  We have been been blessed over the years with a small dedicated group of family friends that come volunteer with the building and implementation of Harvest Fair Activities.  It's a gift of love most family farms rely on.   The fair has grown and changed over the years but the labor involved has not lessened.  We considered dropping it all together last year, exhaustion ran deep and physically fit employees are difficult to hire on after school starts up.
The family thought it through again: do we do it this year? But the calls keep coming.  There are those of you who seem to really appreciate the effort. For you, our loyal customers and champions on market day, the hours are worth it.  You line our driveway opening day, your laughter ringing through the corn field, children of all ages gleefully skipping out to the pumpkin patch, the smiles beaming across the bins of apples fresh from the orchard and we know why we work so hard.

Wilson Banner Ranch Musings: Food Partners

Wilson Banner Ranch Musings: Food Partners: Food Partners I have several friends where one of the partners is slender and gifted with a high metabolism, and the other partner is more ...

Hugh's Observations

This is a competitive world. No matter who you are or where you are in your stage of life or your business. There always seems to be someone better than you, better than your business, better than your kid. Looking left and right you can always find prettier, faster, smarter, better, richer and wiser. Looking in the mirror you can always find reasons to be disappointed because you are not, as Andy Stanley puts it, more "-er" than the next guy and the next guy's kid.

Typically this is because we manufacture not just any kid to compare our children with, but we invent a Superkid. All these comparisons prevent us from enjoying life, our businesses and even our kids.

Ambition. We would not be in business if we were not ambitious. Likely, it is in our blood and family mythology. My Grandfather Hugh, who died when my father was 18 years old, was that mythological figure in our family. He grew his farm to a size not before seen in the area, had the first mechanical combine and was considered an innovator in the industry which, at the time, was the potato business. He was ambitious anivity on the positive side and envy on the negative side. Competition and ambition aren't badd I always sought that acclaim as well.

Ambition is a good thing. It drives innovation which creates jobs and products and livelihoods. Without the ambitious, I fully believe that America would not exist  and we'd likely be peasants serving a king somewhere. Ambition in society creates competition which inspires creat, but the envious  byproduct is.

Envy. If you've ever secretly hoped that someone successful would fail, you have felt envy. Follow the path of your life and you see a pattern of envy creeping in everywhere. When you were young, you wanted your friends toys. (My friends had big TVs and Atari)When you were in school, you wished to be cooler, smarter and definitely more popular. (Me: D. All of the above.) When you were in college, well honestly, it was just high school with beer until it was time to get a job, then you had to get as many offers as your friends.

In work and business, it's bigger, better, faster, more. Then get married and your spouse, well, you probably secretly wished to be thinner, taller, smarter, better paid, more active etc. (Except for me because mine's the best already. Love you, honey!)

Your kids. Then came your kids. Once you have kids, you are welcomed into the world of parenthood by your family and community. It really is a magical time, but competition starts early, so be ready if you want to win.  (Pardon me if you are reading this without having, or yet having, or never having kids. I'll bring it back to business soon enough, just stick with me. If you don't have kids and you think you'd be any different than I am about to describe, you are delusional. I know because I was, too.)

Prenatal competition. Mom's hook earphones to their bellies in hopes of teaching baby Mozart in the womb. "Preggo" yoga. Mommy-to-be fitness classes. Read to your womb. Seriously I've just scratched the surface. (I'd love to hear some of the far out things you did or "have heard about a friend who did.." PLEASE post them on the blog or Facebook.)

When baby arrives, ring the school bell. Baby Einstein, anyone? $90million in sales. Baby sign language? Did it and my daughter's smarter than yours. Kindermusic? The boy just got  "4" on the report card! Preschool? Preschool prep school? Early to kindergarden? Summer Academy for 1st grade? Do you see where this is going? We seem desperate to advance our kids in the world at any cost. 

Enter the Superkid. Time goes on. Kids grow. Competition increases. We hide the way we push our kids by saying as Andy Stanely put it, "We just want them to reach their full potential", but really we want them to beat those other kids so we feel good about our parenting skills; so they will win one for the family. So to rationalize pushing them further and harder, we invent Superkid. 

You may not even know that you are doing it, but you are creating Superkid. Superkid gets his powers like this: We take the 5-10 of our kid's classmates, cherry-pick the best skill from each child and merge these best skills. Superkid is the best at everything because he represents the single best ability of 5-10 kids. We then proceed to hold our child up next to imaginary Superkid to compare and contrast. 

"Well you might have gotten a 95% on the spelling test, but Timmy got 100%." 
"You got an A in music, but Sally got an A in English." 
"You scored a goal in soccer, but Billy's on the travel team."
"Oh, you're in the Gifted program, nice but I heard Kyle is skipping 6th grade."

Now let's be honest, Kyle can't play soccer. Sally needs help with math. Billy can't spell and Timmy can't carry a tune in a bucket, but TOGETHER they merge to form Superkid: The unassailable-bastion-of-everything-awesome-that-would-really-help-us-feel-better-about-being-a-parent-as-I-live-vicariously-through-you! (Cue superkid's theme song)

How to defeat Superkid. Every Super Hero has a weakness and Superkid's is glaringly obvious: He doesn't exist. Just as we have had to come to terms with our own strengths and weaknesses, our own shortcomings and advantages, we must come to terms with those of our children. No one in the world is put together like you are. No one in the world is like your child. Super heroes are super because they are unlike anything else in the universe and each child is already uniquely their own little person. Superkid's real power is mind control over adults who, despite rational understanding and self-control, perpetuate the idea of Superkid as "real".

SuperBizKid. We do this in our businesses every day. We wake up and should look forward to another day serving our customers, doing what only we can uniquely do. Instead we wake up in fear of SuperBizKid. We take the best of our closest 5 competitors and we mentally merge them into one being, so powerful we could never survive.

We start thinking of all the ways in which we fall short of Jones' berries, Smiths' sweet corn, Carolyn's school tours and Jerry's corn maze. Why, in the face of all that, one look in the mirror tells us we just don't measure up.

How to defeat SuperBizKid. The first chink in the armor of SuperBizKid is that our internal feelings are universal. Everyone feels like this! Carolyn wishes she grew corn like Smith, Jerry can't grow berries, Jones is scared of talking to kids and Smith is navigationally challenged.

In agritourism, more than any other industry we can each focus on our primary area of interest, mix in our special mix of all the unique things that make us who we are, add a heaping helping of hard work and be successful. 

Is your mindset fixed or flexible? Going around the circles of literature these days is the idea of "Fixed" vs. "Flexible" views of the world. Kids are a great example. Is a child's I.Q. and ability to be successful fixed at birth or flexible to grow throughout life? 

Fixed. Fixed mindset says, "You get what you get. If you are smart, you were lucky to get it at birth." In studies, kids told they were "smart", or given a fixed mindset, were less likely to try difficult problems they didn't know how to solve because they were worried about using the designation of "smart".

Flexible. The flexible mindset says, "Growth and learning are a process. You make mistakes along the way, but that's part of learning to get better." Kids told they were "hard workers", excelled in solving tough problems because they weren't wrapped up in losing their "title" of "smart". Making mistakes is part of the process.

Being a Superkid. Let's face it: We all want to be Superkids. We all want the best for our families and businesses and we sure do like to win. Being a Superkid takes a lot of hard work, persistence, patience and a willingness to permit failure. If we want tough, resilient kids, we have to allow them to fail, stick by them, dust them off and put them back in the game or classroom to try again. We also must allow them to be the unique conglomeration of strengths and weaknesses they are without the pressure of living up to a fantasy Superkid.

It's the same in your business. Be that magical, unique amalgamation of strengths and weaknesses that only you can be. Fail early and often. Pick yourself back up and do it again. Focus on being hardworking and persistent, so you don't have to be "smart'". Be flexible and treat your business experiences as a ongoing journey towards mastery. That's how to be truly super, and you can be sure your kids are paying close attention to what you do and how you do it. 

My son recently asked, "Daddy why do you have to travel so much?" 
I answered, "Because I'm building our business." 
He asked, "Isn't your business big enough already?"

Don't let competition with Superkid devalue the wonderful life you already lead. Fight the desire to push your kids to compete with Superkid and simply enjoy their individual life-learning adventure. Squeeze great pleasure from serving the customers you have really, really well. Stay ambitious, but keep gratitude in your heart for each blessing that has already been bestowed.

You've already got Superkids. Do you really know them?

Have a great week.

From the Maze Master “Your kid vs. Superkid”

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Haircut

Farmers don’t have a very serious dress code, we are about function.  Most farmers I know spend more on their boots than they do on health insurance. We are a practical bunch to say the least.  Most of us aren’t overly concerned about our personal maintenance.  My answer to high fashion is a good hat and clean jeans.
 I don’t think much about haircuts.  It’s not until I’m blinded by a swath of annoying strands clinging to my eyelashes and obscuring my view that I consider the whole concept of beauticians.  As a general rule a good hat and a scrunchie will pull into submission even the most unruly hair.  It’s when I have to start searching for bobby pins that I draw the limit.   We recently adopted a newborn (human child this time).   The early feedings combined with lack of sleep and full scale 80’s hair was bringing me to the point of clippers. On a recent trip in to the feed store, I decided to book in last minute to the local beauty school in town.   Over the years I’ve met some great young people and had some wonderful service at the school.  I was in a hurry (when am I not in a hurry?) and was delighted they could fit me in right after another appointment.
When I arrived I was met by all the frivolity of ‘Spirit Week’ at the school.   It appeared that the lovely young girl who did my hair cut was a fairly new student.  Her constant questioning of the instructor on basic technique showed insecurity.  This really didn’t trouble me, but the comment that she’d “ruined the mannequin’s hair” gave me pause.   I sat even more stoically.
 As a child my mother would admonish me to ‘hold still’ as she cut my hair.  I think I was in a hurry even then.  She would place the scissors along my bangs and cut carefully, repeating “DON’T MOVE!”  Then when she’d finished the sensitive part around my face I was allowed to get my wiggles out.  My mom still cuts my hair when I can book in, but she’s in high demand…not just for haircutting, for everything.  So I try not to overbook her with things I can get done by someone else.
Overseas and later in college, my friends were on a tight budget.  I’d watched my mom cut hair for years, she was the resident beautician (bookkeeper, chef, chauffer, landscaper, doctor, and educator) and I figured it couldn’t be that hard.  There’s a learning curve in everything, right?  I bought a pair of decent scissors and trimmed ends, learning as I went... using the oft quoted “hold still”.   I wasn’t great at it, but for a group who wore baseball hats I was passable and the price was right.
Back to the beauty school chair, my young miss was dealing with the conundrum of my bangs.  Her fear of getting too close with the scissors was palpable. I closed my eyes.  Slowly, the snipped ends fell in my lap, as she moved from one side of the chair to the other.  I waited.  The scissors receded.  I opened my eyes.  Sheldon.  Sheldon from the Big Bang… oh well, I wear a hat and the price is right.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Food Partners

Food Partners
I have several friends where one of the partners is slender and gifted with a high metabolism, and the other partner is more generously proportioned and doomed to calorie counting.   It occurred to me the other day as I was visiting with one of these vivacious couples that like many of us in partnerships we are often responsible for each other. 
As a child I had a girlfriend named Christy.  She was hysterically funny, with a voice that could make angles weep.  Christy was gorgeous and large.  As a kid, in what they now call 'tweens, I noticed that other folks weren’t always fair to her…and neither were her folks.  Many times Christy decided she wanted lose weight.  She was very active and popular and never lacked for events to keep busy, but the kicker for her was her mom.  Christie’s mom could guilt a girl into eating an entire roast chicken, two helpings of mashed potatoes, four ears of corn and a whole peach pie at one sitting.  I know, because I got asked over a lot. Christy’s mom was painfully thin.  Mom would then make comments, like “Oh sweetie, you're getting so big.” 
Now, I’m no Dr. Phil, but I can spot a train wreck and I know that most of us are in some way responsible for the way the other folks in our life relate to food.
When our partners turn to us and say, “How about dessert?” we need to think through the answer.  (“No way, Chubby” is never the right answer, by the way.) 
I’m very lucky when it comes to having a great food partner.  My partner recognizes my need to eat before I go into melt-down.  Over-hungry is not a good time to make food decisions.  We both eat lots of fruits and vegetables and neither of us begrudges the other occasional calorie indulgences.  We both avoid high fats, because he’s genetically at high risk for heart attacks and I’m not capable of digesting them.  This turns out to be a food marriage made in heaven.
Back to my vivacious couple:  Mrs. Mac is a fabulous chef.  The woman makes Paula Deen look miserly with her Southern Style Home cooking.  Mr. Mac?  Yep, he’s packing an extra 150 since he met his beautiful little bride.  Easy to do.  Right?  Been there done that, own the scale...  So even though Mrs. Mac isn't affected by her divine high calorie cooking, she might be loving Mr. Mac to death.  (Yes, we could ALL just eat less.  But do you? Sounds easy, but 34% of obese Americans would disagree) 
Slender partners are often accomplices to their heavier counterparts.  We need to recognize that our eating habits can be kryptonite to others, and if that person just happens to be the person we want to have around for 40 or 50 years…it might just be worth investigating some Farmers’ Market snacks.  I recommend cherries, apricots, peaches, sautéed (olive oil!) onions, salad greens with mixed herbs (instead of heavy dressing use a little vinegar/oil/Mrs. Dash), strawberries…the choices are many.  Get out of the junk food aisle and steer clear of the boxed frozen food section.  Eat dinner together and remember that beautiful, magical person you hang out with is partly your responsibility to maintain (and vice versa!).  I'm glad my family loves me unconditionally.  I'm also thankful that they recognize my need to be fit and healthy and help me stay on that path.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wilson Banner Ranch Musings: Biannual Crescent Moon Ball

Wilson Banner Ranch Musings: Biannual Crescent Moon Ball: "I realized today how many single animals there are in the orchard. Must be lonely. I’m considering opening up an internet dating site, s..."

Biannual Crescent Moon Ball

I realized today how many single animals there are in the orchard.  Must be lonely.  I’m considering opening up an internet dating site, something along the lines of or maybe more craigslist singles. 
Young Male Cougar seeks plump dim witted white tail Doe for a quick bite.
Mama Mink organizing speed social prefers sleepy poultry, fat voles and young muskrat.
Big Bull Snake finds conversation tedious wants short term relationship with small Rattlers, Voles or Orchard Mice.
Beaver looking for long term relationship with tall healthy wood, prefer expensive bark in nice rows.
Pheasant invites insects to cocktail party.
Robin Red Breast too busy for mate; likes diamond fruit, not too ripe.  Please leave nest alone.
Coyote in search of…anything.  Not particular; Likes fur, feathers and fat.  Bring it on!

Maybe it should just be announced through a large megaphone by an interpreting Babel Fish (for those of you not versed in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy…Run to your nearest library).  We could throw a Biannual Crescent Moon Ball in the Corn Field and everyone could come wearing masks.  I myself couldn’t stand the excitement, but perhaps a Coliseum type affair would go over well.  We could sell tickets and those into Gladiator sports could ring the hill with their night scope opera glasses and settle down for a ghoulish dance.
What do you think?