Thursday, April 19, 2007

Parents...please teach yout kids common tasks

I grew up on a ranch in southwest Oklahoma where we had cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. My parents made sure that I knew how to do the common tasks needed in order to keep things in running order. I worked mostly outside with dad but mom still taught me to sweep, wash dishes, cook, dust, mop, etc. I was lucky to have a Dad that lived with his work and taught me everything he knew about building things and tearing things down. I was taught resposibility in and out of the house and I think all children should be taught the same.

I live in a fraternity and you would be suprised how much city kids don't know about common cleaning tasks. I had to teach several of them how to sweep during there first week at the house. We have this awesome dish washing apperatus in the know the one that makes you want to do dishes just to use the sprayer and slide in dishwasher. Some of the guys had NEVER done dishes in their life. I couldn't believe it. One guy even told me that his idea of clean must be different than mine because we were discussing the need to clean the dining room and there was thrash and dishes on the tables and he was like, "doesn't look dirty to me."

As for the outside of the house, some of the guys had never ran a lawn mover...EVER. I guess they just watch some lawn company do it...or maybe they never noticed that grass needed mowing. I don't know but it's really sad that men at the age of 18 don't have the common skills that I had when I was 13.

Parents, please do the world a favor and teach your kids common tasks. I think a chinese guy once said that if we sweep if front of our own door, the whole world would be clean.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Polyface Experience

My trip to the Salatin’s Farm Polyface Inc. was a few days ago, but before my memory begins to fail me I must write down my experiences.

Day #1 (Wednesday, March 7th 2007)

I woke up an hour late in Stillwater (4:30am instead of 3:30am) and missed my flight from OKC. Northwest Airlines (NWA) was really good to me and put me on the next flight to get me to Detroit, via Memphis TN, so I could catch my flight to Charlottesville, VA. Joel Salatin was scheduled to pick me up at around 3:30PM so I couldn’t be late.

Once I got to Detroit I lucked out again. There was a wheelchair basketball team that was getting on the same plane as I and headed to Charlottesville to a tournament. Because of the added weight from their extra wheelchairs, the airline had decided to only allow the team and the people with the team plus six other people to board the flight. I made sure to be at the gate when they called for six more and got on first.

I got to Charlottesville on time and called Joel. He, Aaron (new apprentice), and Amy (Sheri’s sister) were at the end of a delivery route for a couple of Polyface’s buying clubs and were headed toward the airport. As I hung up the phone I began to wonder what Joel would be driving. I had heard that he never spends to much on any vehicle and that he always buys used, but that was several years ago and times have seemed good for the Salatin family, so I didn't know what to expect. After about 20 minutes of wondering, Joel pulled up and I could have never guessed his vehicle of choice. “The Bus.”

"The Bus"

“The Bus” is what he called it and that’s exactly what it was. He had purchased a used short bus that had once been able to carried people in wheelchairs. I guess it’s just ironic that I shared a plane with handicapped people designed to carry non-handicapped people and a bus with non-handicapped people designed to carry handicapped people. Anyway, the bus seemed to be perfect for the task that Polyface asked of it.

On the way back to the farm Joel and I had a good conversation about Virginia, the landscape, the rain, the grass, the climate/weather, etc. I was curious how different his part of the world was compared to mine. It is very different. I was surprised at all the hills, though I should have expected them…we were in the Appalachians. That night I helped unload The Bus and ate dinner with Joel, Teresa (Joel’s Wife), Aaron, and Matt (Apprentice). Teresa sure can cook and we had a great dinner and conversation. That night, Sheri (Daniel’s wife) picked me up and I slept in their basement with Nathan (Apprentice). I was pretty tired since I hadn’t really slept the night before. Repose.

Day #2 (Thursday, March 8th 2007)

The crew awoke earlier than usual (5:20AM) in order to fill several orders that would be delivered in the next couple days. I didn’t really know what to do so I just sat back and watched the seasoned pros in action. Sheri would call out to Matt and Nathan what she needed and they would gather her needs, weigh them and put them in an ice chest labeled with one or two letters. Each ice chest was to only contain the product of an individual buyer and we filled several ice chests. After they filled the order, the sun had started to rise and a van pulled in with the vegetables. Polyface has linked up with a man that has a garden and supplies vegetables to the buying clubs. It seemed to be a great deal and the customer could shop for a larger variety of locally produced food.

After the vegetables were unloaded we began to do chores. Chores consisted of feeding all of the chickens and cattle that were on the home place. Daniel fed his rabbits that were in cages in the hoop houses. We also checked their water and the water of the pigs. Most of the pigs had a self-feeder, but one group of young pigs had already begun to “pigerate” a small section of one of the hay barns. We feed the cattle hay that had been cut off the home place last summer, and we feed the chickens a mixture of what appeared to consist mainly of crushed corn. Matt told me what all was in the mixture, but that has left my mind. All of the chickens on the farm were layers, but the broilers were scheduled to arrive within the next two weeks.

Chicken Hoop House (See the Rabbit cages along the left side of the Hoop)

Hay Barn

Pigs on their own compost pile

This is the Group already Pigerating

Here are some of the bigger Pigs (May be Hogs)

After breakfast, that’s right we ate breakfast after chores, which seemed to fit right in, we went to feed more hay on one of the rented pastures. I’m not used to going to work without food in my belly, but I wasn’t really hungry until after chores. I agreed with Matt that doing a little work in the morning seemed to make you hungrier and feel better throughout the day. Feeding hay over at the rented farm was a sight. We fed 120 small rectangle bales off one of the hay wagons that Joel writes about. The goal for this group of cattle was to grass them all winter, but grass in the field ran out, so they had to start feeding hay, which wasn’t in the plan.

I climbed to the top of this hay wagon and started breaking bales and tossing hay down to the cows. At one point I looked down at the backs of the cattle, and there in the middle of the bunch stood a giant cow. I found out later that this giant cow was actually a 15ish year old lead steer, not a cow, but he was still a monster. He stood nearly 6 foot tall at the hip and shoulder and dwarfed the other cattle around. The Salatins had kept him to help teach new cattle how to move from one pasture to the next during moving time. We had a lead steer at the Phelan Ranch for a few years named “Black Bart,” but he never grew to be as big as this steer. Bart was a Mexican steer that dad had bought with a bunch of other steer to team rope. We loaded up another wagon and headed back to the farm for lunch.

After lunch they decided that it would be a good day to spread new bedding down in the hay barns at the home place. Nathan and Aaron went to fill a manure spreader with sawdust that someone had dropped off for the farm out by the entryway while Matt and I pushed the cattle out of the barn and took the front panels down to let the spreader back into the barn. This was a cool sight to see. Nathan backed the spreader into the barn and started spreading the sawdust in a pretty thick layer on what looked to be able 4 feet of compost layers. We finished the job with scoop shovels and turned the cattle back into the barn. I took several pictures and even a video of the spreader at work. Having the spreader certainly saved us a lot of hard labor and time, while adding to an awesome compost pile that would later be aerated by pigs in search of fermented corn that had been laid down between some of the layers of sawdust, wood chips, leaves, hay, etc.

It was about evening chore time after that and we fed all the chickens and cattle once again. While we were doing chores, Heidi, Joel’s niece, came down to the farm and collected the eggs from the chicken hoop-houses. Every afternoon she was responsible for collecting the eggs and the guys were responsible for cleaning, sorting, and stacking them in the walk-in refrigerator. On average she collected about 80-90 dozen, and it took about an hour to clean and sort them.

Egg cleaning and sorting was a lot different that I thought it would be. I guess I never really thought about what would need to be done to the eggs, but in reality not much was done. Eggs got separated into two sized, Large (over 2 oz.) and Small (under 2 oz.). If they had a little dirt on them, we wiped them off with a rags damp with warm water. If they were really dirty, they soaked in hot soapy water for a couple minutes and then were wiped down. Washing 90 dozen eggs was a pretty monotonous job, but as I started counting the money they were worth, the job didn’t seem so bad.

That night I ate dinner with Sheri, Daniel, Amy, Travis, and Andrew (Daniel’s sons). I showered and went to bed really early (like 7:30PM). I was worn out and needed the sleep. Slept like a sleepy baby. Repose.

Day #3 (Friday, March 9th 2007)

Friday started and ended just like Thursday, without the early wakeup and order fill. We did all the chores and fed hay at the rental farm. That morning a tour group came to Polyface and Joel spoke to them for a couple minutes, and then left for a conference in Georgia where he had been hired to speak. Matt led the tour and did a good job of telling them about the farm and answering they’re many, many questions. The group was a conservation group from Virginia and most of them looked like they worked for the government in some form or fashion.

One of the ladies mentioned that the day before they came to Polyface they had been to another place that produced turkeys. From what she said, they produced several thousand turkeys and it all took place inside. Once they arrived they were asked to put on white protective suits and masks to guard themselves from the turkeys and the turkeys from any diseases they might be carrying. She was telling us this while the group of about 30 was standing in a chicken broader that was full of about 1000 chicks. She asked why Polyface didn’t require them to wear the same types of suits and if Polyface was worried about transferring germs to the chicks or vice versa. Matt respond with one phrase, “Our animals have an immune system.” Polyface lives by the idea that you should be able to walk among the animals without fear of disease transmission. This idea seemed to have what I call the “Eureka Effect” on some the group members.

That afternoon Aaron, Matt, and I cleaned out the portable henhouses or “Eggmobiles” and put fresh hay in each individual laying box. The Eggmobiles were pretty clean already and it didn’t take long to replace the hay. We even finished building the feed box on the outside of one of the Eggmobiles. I love to build things, so I had a good time helping Nathan with that project. Repose.

Day #4 (Saturday, March 10 2007)

We awoke at the regular 5:45AM and did the chores like usual. After breakfast we had to load up a trailer of hay to take to the rental farm to feed hay. The hay that we were feeding them was almost out and since it was Saturday, Daniel wanted to leave a hay wagon full at the rental farm so on Sunday, feeding would be easy.

After that Daniel, Nathan, and I did a little milling on some purchased, treated lumber for use on the mobile broiler pens and a new log that needed to be cut into boards. I was really excited to get to see their small, portable milling saw in action. First we ripped several 1X6’s into 3 pieces, and then the rest of the 1X6’s in to two pieces. We also ripped some 2X4’s in half making some 2X2’s. Milling the log was a little more exciting. Nathan used the front-end loader with forklift fingers to load the log on the mill and Daniel did the milling. He began by cutting two pieces off one side that were about an inch wide. Then he would rotate the log a quarter of a turn and do the same on all four sides. This gave him 4 non-lumber pieces (firewood), 4 potential 1X6’s, and a giant 8X8 post. He cut the 8X8 in half and then flipped it on its side and cut out 8 2X4’s. What amazed me most is that he never reached for a ruler or measuring tape. He used his eye (and years of experience) and it looked like a computer professionally milled each board.

After lunch I said my goodbyes and Teresa took me to the Charlottesville airport. I had a nice trip home and slept in late the next day. I guess my body had had enough for a few days. What a nice trip and what a group of nice people. I hope to go back one day and apprentice. In the 4 days that I was there I learned a lot, and I can’t imagine what all I would learn if I spent a year on the Polyface Farm.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lets Be Reasonable And Use Our Reason

(Note: I wrote this essay for a philosophy class and I thought I would publish it. The professor gave me props for it, so I thought I would share. It refers to the movie "Contact" with Jodie Foster, so it you don't understand what I'm talking about you should watch the movie. Its a great movie.)

A common debate in today’s society is whether or not one should use science or faith as a primary foundation on which we build paradigms. This debate is so strong that people have asked our government to consider teaching stories based on faith in the public school system. What we need to understand is that science and faith are not competing in a futile battle of “who’s right.” Instead, science and faith are striving to explain different unknowns, and are both doing this in the most reasonable manor possible. Reason is used in both faith and science and seems to be the way human beings have separated themselves from the other animals on this planet.

Science is reasonable. Everyday scientists observe their surroundings and try and figure out what is happening around them. They use these observations or evidence to make a hypothesis. Then they design a test that is designed to narrow down the possible reasons that cause that certain event of interest. After the test is completed multiple times they interpret the data in the most reasonable way possible. After interpretation they have added more evidence to the event and come that much closer to fully understanding what is truly happening.

Faith is also reasonable. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Do I believe in God?” If so you probably sat down and went over the reasons there might be a God and reasons that show that a God doesn’t exist. You weighed the consequences of not believing in God to the consequences of believing and decided what you now believe about the existence of God. You have in fact used reason to decide if you are to believe in God. Maybe you looked at all the evidence of God’s existence like sacred text, personal testimonies, the amount of people who in one form or another believe in one or many divine beings, and you made your decision. Even faith must use reason when choosing what to have faith in.

The difference between science and faith is the field in which they make claims. For science, only claims based on events in the tangible world are taken into consideration. The only evidence considered is the variety you can touch, taste, smell, see and hear. Faith on the other hand makes claims about the supernatural and many times the intangible. Faith deals with the existence and happenings of events and beings that cannot be studied with only the primary senses of the human body, but must also be studied with thought and beliefs.

In the movie Contact, Ellie Arroway is a very reasonable scientist. She and her father share the idea that if the universe doesn’t contain life besides that which is on earth then it “seems like an awfully big waste of space.” They have both decided that since the universe is unknowingly expansive, reason would have you believe that the possibility of life on other planets is possible. As a scientist she believes that “the most important thing is that you keep searching for your own answers.”

Rene Descartes has a similar stance on the ability of reason and questioning. He believes that reason “is naturally equal in all men, and that the diversity of our opinions does not arise from the fact that some people are reasonable than others, but solely from the fact that we lead our thoughts along a different paths and do not take the same things into consideration.” (Page 1) As different people take different things into consideration, different beliefs are formed and paradigms are created when the majority of people in a society are reasoning the same way.

In the same movie, a man by the name of Palmer Joss seems to take different things into consideration then Arroway. Arroway quotes Joss in the movie saying that in Joss’s book he wrote, “the thing that people are most hungry for, meaning, is the one thing that science hasn’t been able to give them.” Ironically, he is right. Science isn’t in the business of assigning meaning. Science is only in the business discovering what is happening at the base level.

In the book The Philosophy of Science, David Papineau quotes Bas van Fraassen saying that van Fraassen believes “Science aims to give us, in its theories, a literally true story of what the world is like.” (Page 167) The idea that science in is in the business of doing more than that is simply not true. If you were to ask a scientist the purpose of fatal viruses, they won’t even try to answer you. They would merely tell you that nature has no scientific purpose. Life just happens to continue itself through various forms, science itself cannot reason through any meanings.

Why is reason so important? What role does it play in day-to-day life? Can someone truly live a life based on unreasoned faith alone? Reason is what we use everyday when making decisions that affect our proximate and ultimate goals. One uses reason without thinking about it, without questioning it, and without wondering if their reason is identical to others. It’s just a step toward developing one’s way of life. Faith and Science cannot exist without the ability to reason. This is why, as far as we know, we are the only living thing on this planet that has fully developed the ability to have faith and use science to understand the world. One shouldn’t fear reason, but should embrace it for its wonderful ability to explain your surroundings.

Works Cited

Contact. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, 2 hr. 30min. Warner, 1997. DVD.

Descartes, Rene. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, Fourth ed. Translated by Donald A. Cress. Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis, Indiana/Cambridge, 1998.

Papineau, David. The Philosophy of Science. Oxford University Press, New York,1996.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why A Progressively Tenacious Fellow?

Every day it feels as though I learn more and more about who I am and who I want to be. I have always wanted to do something that effected the world in a positive way. I don't understand vexatious people and I don't think they tend to understand me. I choose Progressively Tenacious Fellow as the title of this Blog because it describes me well.

pro·gres·sive /prəˈgrɛsɪv/ [pruh-gres-iv] –adjective

  • making progress toward better conditions
  • employing or advocating more enlightened ideas, new or experimental
  • characterized by such progress, or by continuous improvement.

te·na·cious /təˈneɪʃəs/ [tuh-ney-shuhs] –adjective

  • holding fast; characterized by keeping a firm hold
  • highly retentive
  • pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate.
  • adhesive or sticky; viscous or glutinous.
  • holding together; cohesive; not easily pulled asunder; tough.

fel·low /ˈfɛloʊ/ [fel-oh] –noun

  • a man or boy
  • a companion; comrade; associate
  • a person belonging to the same rank or class; equal; peer
  • one of a pair; mate; match

Essentially, I am a young man looking for companionship whose ideas and principles are improving and becoming stronger by the day. In a word, maturing.