The Recovering Farmer

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Much has been said about GPS (Global Positioning System) in the last few years. Where I first began noticing the use of GPS was in agriculture. Farmers talked about it. They used it. It was amazing to see the straight lines made by tillage equipment. I remember when I used to drive tractors the lines were anything but straight. Now that is different. Must be boring me thinks.

For Father’s Day my kids gave me a Garmin watch. For those that have no clue what that is it simply is a watch that I wear when golfing. It, quite frankly, is amazing technology. It provides me with yardages from wherever I might be on the course. I switch it on when I start my round, pick the course I am on, it has the coordinates for 3000 courses, and the rest is automatic. As a matter of fact I can get a yardage distance to every green at Kingswood from in my office. Like I say, incredible technology.

Earlier this year we purchased a convertible. Something that had been on our bucket list for a while. A week ago my wife and I took it on a road trip. We traveled east to Ottawa, down to Niagara Falls and then back home. Over 5000 kilometers of beautiful scenery, busy highways, and interesting destinations. Each morning my wife would punch in the address of our destination for the day on the GPS in our car. Quite interesting to have someone other than my wife telling me where to go and how to get there. As we approached Ottawa my wife decided to overrule the GPS. After all she still had a map in her hands and felt she knew where would be better routes to take. Imagine my consternation when I heeded the directions from my wife and the GPS kept telling me to make a legal Uturn. Who to listen to? Actually a no brainer. I listened to my wife.

Found out in a hurry that GPS can also lead you astray. Good thing we had a backup. After the built in GPS took us to a residential area, we were looking for our Hotel, we switched that one off and pulled out the backup one. It took us to the other side of town to another residential area. At that point I was calling the voice from the GPS very bad names. We then each took out our Iphones and used the GPS on them. Even they showed different routes to our destination. 4 GPS’s and two hours later we found the Hotel. Turns out we were a mere few blocks from it when we first pulled into town. Interesting how often we still went wrong in spite of this wonderful technology.

I mulled over that for the rest of the trip. Except, of course, as we traveled past Toronto, or did we drive through the city. Not sure. With multiple lanes going every direction it was tough to really think about anything except survival. Check the speed limit, add 20 kmh plus 10% and there is a chance you will actually keep up to traffic. With conditions like that it is not surprising we missed a few turns. Except on those roads you don’t make turns. You veer right or left depending on what the wonderful female in GPS land is yelling at you. Sorry. I digress.

It seems that my brain’s built in GPS also, at times, takes me to destinations I don’t care to visit. Why is that? Perhaps I have programed it wrong. Used the wrong coordinates. Wrong street address. The lesson is not to despair. There are various means to finding your way back to a life that makes sense. A life filled with happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. And as our trip showed us it may take a while but eventually you will get there and when you do you will realize and understand that it was worth the trip. Make it a good one.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” Thomas H. Palmer

Sunday, May 15, 2016


My wife sometimes suggests that I have a touch of Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD). Not to a serious degree but it seems that I get into a certain routine and stick with it. For starters I need to check and recheck certain things I do. For example. I will lock the door and then go back and check it because I can’t remember whether I locked it. Numerous times I have left home only to go back and make sure I actually closed the garage door. I also seem to get into a rut with eating certain foods. I have had Bran Flakes with raisins for breakfast for a long long time. Before that it was carrot raisin muffins. Now I have to have a protein shake every day at a certain time. I also get that way with certain topics I like to write about. Communication. That is what I am fixated on these days.

Texting seems to be the communication flavor of the day. And with texting comes texting lingo which I still have some difficulty always understanding. This coming from someone involved in agriculture for many years where acronyms were used far too often. I remember AIDA and CFIP and GRIP and CAIS. Government support programs where one evolved into another that evolved into yet another and so on. There were trade deals from NAFTA to GATT to WTO to TIPP. There were insurance programs that were administered by MASC called CI that included your IPI. Lenders such as FCC, RBC, MASC, SCU, and others. I could go on but I digress.

Just recently I was exchanging texts with a golfing buddy who likes this texting lingo. She sent me a text that involved a bunch of letters that I to this day can’t figure out. I responded by asking her what she did with all her extra time she had because she used what I call shorthand. She might have saved a few seconds while I had to spend an extra minute of my life trying to figure out what she was actually saying, a minute I will never get back. LOL, which can mean laughing out loud or lots of love or living on Lipitor, is a common one. LMAO, ROTFLO, TTYL, TMI, STBY, and OMG are but a few. Google it. There are hundreds of them. BTW R U sure that you want to say that because me thinks you should CYA because my POV is like OMG, are you serious? When I see gobble de goop like that I just simply respond WTF. That one works for me. It covers everything. From good news to bad news and everything in between.

I had a reminder this week that I have been overdoing it with emails. I sent an email to a client suggesting which day would work for me to meet with them. The evening of the day I could meet I got a response. They suggested that they did not regularly check emails so it would be better if I called and left a message. Touché. I agree. What is this hang-up, no pun intended, with actually talking to people, even if it is by telephone? Is it actually a time saver? Sometimes I think it’s another way of avoidance. A way of not actually communicating but rather sending a message for which there is little accountability.

Ever sat in a restaurant and when a cell phone rang everyone reached for their pocket? Notice how often people in a social setting keep checking their phones and using their phones? It seems that effective communication has gone the way of the dodo bird. Along with it relationships are not being retained or maintained. I think we can improve on that. Next time you are with a group of friends leave your phone on silent and in your pocket. Bet you can’t do it. By the way. .02, the title I used, in texting lingo means sharing my two cents worth. And that is what this is, my two cents worth. Perhaps you feel short changed. Doesn’t matter. TTYL. Make it a good one.

“Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.” Mark Twain

Thursday, May 5, 2016

You Got This

It took a while but I think it is safe to say “Spring is sprung and the grass is riz”. It is a time for optimism. A time for regrowth. This past weekend brought the warmer temperatures, gale force winds calmed, it was downright nice weather. Particularly for golf.

Over the last few days I have also noticed increased activity in the fields. Farmers are getting at it. After months of waiting, planning, fixing, and generally getting ready, they are putting in the 2016 crop. For the most part they too are filled with optimism. Although, metaphorically speaking, there appear to be some storm clouds in the distance. Some issues, particularly financial, have created some anxiety. Commodity prices have softened from the levels experienced over the last few years. It seems that costs keep going up regardless. Forecasts are calling for a hot, dry summer. However farmers prove time and time again that they have resilience. They have what it takes. They are innovative. They adapt. They can do this.

This busy time of year also provides opportunity for thought. What else do you do as you put in countless hours going up and down the fields on your tractors? You think. You plan. I suspect that there will be those who will wonder whether it is time to call it a day and sell out. Many are wondering if it is time to leave it to the next generation. Perhaps there are those who will wish they had started the conversation sooner.

The thought of transitioning from the farm, whether selling or passing on to the next generation, can be frightening. Questions abound. Will my kids want to farm? Are they capable? What will I retire on? What will I do? Where will I live? How will this work? Who can help me? This is but a sampling of questions many ask. It becomes so overwhelming that many just simply ignore what needs to be done.

The challenge becomes to take the process one step at a time. There are many steps involved in a transition plan. That is why it is best to start with the first step without thinking too far ahead. Normally that first step would be to have a conversation. A conversation with your spouse, your partner and your kids. Through the conversation come to an understanding of what everyone’s expectations are. They may be different than you thought. Others may have assumed what you wanted only to find out they were wrong. The conversation will get everyone on the same page.

Not to scare anyone, but these conversations may be difficult at times. Many interests, fears, concerns, and desires may have been avoided over the years. The reality of the farm and all that goes with it may not have been truly understood. What may be equitable will not feel fair. With increased challenges on the farm there may be some who no longer want to farm. All these challenges bring fear to the retiring generation and the succeeding generation. The solutions may not be easy to come by but with the right intentions and hard work a successful plan can be implemented.

The good news is there are professionals that can help with the various components of a plan. There are those who can assist with the difficult conversations. There are those who can help mapping out the process. It is a matter of retaining that help and getting on with the plan. Make it a good one.

“Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything all at once. Breathe. You’re strong. You got this. Take it day by day.” Karen Salmansohn

Monday, May 2, 2016

Can I Rely on You

I don’t know about you but I am suffering from election fatigue. I know, I should get over it as the election in Manitoba, which started shortly after the federal election, is finally over. However it feels like a hangover. Perhaps it’s because there is still a constant barrage of election “stuff” coming from south of the border. That in itself is scary enough. I mean the people involved. But I am not going there.

Shortly after I posted my last blog I realized that what I had written did not necessarily apply to all walks of life. I wrote about the fact that everyone makes mistakes, we all experience failures, we all mess up but should not let our failures define our lives, who we are, and who we will be. However, as has again been proven, if you want to be involved in politics past mistakes, errors, or failures will come back to haunt you. Far too often an election boils down to who we can trust the most.

What is it that we, as a society, want? What are we looking for? Trust. Plain and simple. We want to trust others. Our spouses, our partners, our kids, our colleagues, people we do business with, and those that are in power, such as politicians. And equally so others want to trust us.
I like one of the definitions of trust that the Encarta Dictionary has. Trust means to “rely on somebody or something”. It goes further and states that it means “to place confidence in somebody or in somebody's good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor, or ability. . . to allow somebody to do something, having confidence that the person will behave responsibly or properly”. It does not sound complicated but, unfortunately, can be.

Patrick Lencioni, a management consultant specializing in organizational health, talks about trust being at the very foundation of a team. In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he outlines a compelling case for trust being that foundation. As he puts it, “members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors”. He goes on to explain why this is essential for teams to be effective and efficient.

That same concept can be applied in most any, if not all, relationships we have. How can any relationship thrive with the absence of trust? Lack of trust leads to break downs, break ups, conflict, and lack of commitment. It destroys relationships. It destroys teams. It destroys individuals. Like the Irish saying goes, “when mistrust comes in, love goes out.”

Being involved with others, being able to trust others, requires us to be authentic. And to be authentic requires us to become vulnerable. Open ourselves up. That in itself is a scary thought. We have a tendency to hide behind walls. We are frightened at the thought of others finding out who we really are. But when we practice this we see ourselves and others in a different light. It opens up a whole new world. Yes, at times uncomfortable, but overtime it builds that trust. Trust in yourself. Trust in others. It works. Trust me. Make it a good one.

You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” Mandy Hale

Friday, April 15, 2016

Recovering From Failure

As an avid golfer I tend to draw life lessons from golf, as some of you will have noticed over the years. In fact, some may argue, my life revolves around golf. Perhaps that is why my winters tend to be long, drawn out affairs because of the lack of golf. The Masters seems to be the start to my season of hope and recovery. It is the first “major” of the year. It heralds the beginning of my golf season. And as such my course has opened for the year, although it is still brown and dusty. I have not been out but have been to the driving range to see whether I actually have any muscle memory left.

For the record I did not watch all of the Masters. I do record it and then can watch the bits and pieces at my own pace. However I did switch on the TV on Sunday just to see where play was at. Earlier it had appeared that it would be another run away win by Jordan Spieth and as much as I like the guy I prefer to watch tournaments that are close and make for some excitement. I switched on just in time to watch Spieth have a meltdown. At the start of the back nine he was up by four strokes. The he bogeyed the tenth hole and the eleventh hole. Disaster struck on the par 3 twelfth. He had a quadruple bogey. In a tournament that he had led for seven consecutive rounds, going back to the start of last year’s Masters, he was suddenly four strokes behind. As much as he tried he could not regain the lead and ended up tied for second.

In the post-game festivities, where he had to stick around to put the green jacket on the winner, he looked shell shocked. His voice cracked in an interview viewed by millions around the world, viewers that were shocked by the turn of events. As someone suggested to me he was probably still angry when he deposited his cheque for $880,000, prize money for second place. My thought being that all my problems would go away if I could only get that kind of cash for four days of golf on a pristine golf course. Oh well, I can dream.

For Spieth it is not about the money. Monday morning I listened to a talk show that was focusing on the recovery from failure that Spieth would need to go through. All of us have failures in life. The list could be, and probably is, endless. Financial failures. Relational failures. Personal failures. Employment failures. Family failures. Health failures. And more. These can be quite significant. Other times it is relatively minor failures that seem to destroy our very being. We set goals, sometimes unrealistic, that we find difficult to meet. Some of us have a tendency to become consumed by failure. And when that happens we lose out on the opportunities of the future. We are so intent of looking in the rear view mirror that we run into obstacles that crop up in front of us.

So it needs to be a learning process, to educate and get better. We must be willing to dust ourselves off, stand up, and try again. Use the understanding and knowledge of the failure to build a foundation from which you can grow and flourish and maintain perspective. The key is not to be spooked by failure but rather to have a willingness to fail again, because if we don’t take risks, if we don’t step outside of our comfort zone, we will not become better. And, most important of all, forgive ourselves for the failure. Without forgiveness we will continue to beat ourselves up which inevitably will lead to more failures. Make it a good one.

“Forget past mistakes and forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now and do it.” William J. Durant

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Heebe Geebees

I used the term heebe geebees in my last posting. I had no idea whether this was actually part of the English language till I googled it. The Urban Dictionary (don’t know if it is legitimate) defines it as “something that gives a person a sense of dread and fear, also means it freaks the f@&k out of a person”. It perfectly describes what I was trying to portray.

The Masters is on this week. A golf tournament that many people enjoy watching, myself included, for various reasons. First off the golf course, located in Augusta, Georgia, is one of, if not the premier golf courses ever. From the drive down magnolia lane to the blooming azaleas to the lush green fairways and the undulating greens. The best of the best gather here on an annual basis to try to beat the odds. To win a coveted green jacket and the prestige that accompanies the win. And as golf goes it will show you incredible shots, mediocre attempts, and complete melt downs.

I found it rather ironic that just as I had done whining about my putting woes, particularly as it concerns the elimination of anchored putters, I witnessed a spectacle not often, if ever, seen. Ernie Els, a 46 year old, four time major champion, six putted a green. Not just any green but the first hole. Those six putts came from within five feet of the hole. Talk about the heebe geebees. If not then certainly those putts will linger in his thought patterns for numerous putts to come. I suspect as much as he would have liked to pack it in at that point he carried on. In a post-game interview he suggested that something like that mental lapse could well drive someone to quit the game. But he showed resilience and finished the round.

I can well imagine the shame and embarrassment he felt, playing in front of all the fans that attend the Masters and the millions that watch the tournament on TV. Never mind the fact that his debacle on that first green will be part of the highlight reel for days to come. I can well imagine his inner critic having a heyday with this. Mocking him. Swearing at him. Telling him what an idiot he is. It will take immense effort on his part to quiet the demons, to regain some sense of sanity after those short minutes of insanity.

All of us have those lapses where everything considered to be normal becomes anything but. All of us have inner critics. And all of us, some more than others, beat ourselves up when we screw up and even when we don’t. Often times we are our own worst judge. Always second guessing, wondering what went wrong. I have alluded to moments where I have a memory from the past that makes me literally swear at myself. Happened just this week when I remembered something from 1978. Go figure.

How can we quiet that inner critic, that judgemental self that seems to be perched on our shoulder? Perhaps we need to take a step back and reassess. Re-configure this “judge” that seems to make us think less of ourselves. Me thinks if I had an opportunity to talk to Ernie Els today I would not be telling him the same things he is telling himself. I imagine the conversation would include snippets of the numerous wins he has had on tour. It would include a piece on self-compassion. It would include a challenge to get up, dust himself off, and be proud of all he has accomplished and will accomplish in the days, weeks, and years to come. Is that not the way we should treat ourselves? I think so. Make it a good one.

“If you talked to others the way you talk to yourself, would you have any friends?”
Rick Warren

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Cruel Joke

Perhaps that is overstating it. This weather we are having is not conducive to anything except complaining about. Friday, it being April Fool’s Day, prompted one weather “expert” to suggest that the weather we were having was the “big guy’s” way of playing a joke on us. If that is the case I would suggest that the joke is over. Not funny anymore.

A mere week ago we had balmy temperatures. The guys at the golf course were getting ready to open up. I had visions of swinging the clubs. Looking forward to a brand new year. Visions of parring the course. Even the flags were put in. It looked promising. Now all I can do is look out the window and ruminate about what might have been.

And I was reminded of an old wives tale. I was once told that the weather we have on Good Friday will be the weather we have for the next forty days. I suppose that is happening now. Cold, miserable weather. Not sure I want to believe that. But looking out the window it does not look like Spring. In fact it looks and feels like November.

I did take my golf clubs out of storage last week. After all, as mentioned, the weather looked promising. As I longingly looked at my clubs I realized I had another cruel joke to deal with. I never have won a golf game with my putting abilities. However a few years ago I did invest in a belly putter. One that I can anchor in my belly. My putting did improve. You see, I have what some call the Friesen shakes. Meaning my hands are not steady and you can well imagine what that does to my putting. Anchoring the putter helped. Now they have been outlawed. After all these years. That is simply cruel. So with tears in my eyes I took a hack saw to the putter. Now I have to deal with the hee bee jeebies again. May be a long year.

The weather is also creating another problem. When I went through my mid-life crisis a number of years ago resources did not allow for me to deal with it properly. You hear of guys buying motorcycles, or muscle cars, or any other expensive toys. I bought a guitar. Did not seem to help much. Perhaps that is why I have issues in my life. I need to blame it on something. Best leave that one for another day.

What happened is that my wife and I had talked about buying a convertible for some time now. One of the items on our bucket list. Something we both agreed on. So we had started looking online for what might work. A few weeks ago we started another painting project in our house. That meant we needed to make a trip to Home Depot for painting supplies. Long story short we went for paint and came home with a convertible. Best shopping trip I have ever made. However, because of the weather, it has sat in our garage since we bought it. That is not working out either.

So what’s left? In just over two months the days start getting shorter. I can’t golf. I can’t go cruising in my convertible. I can’t do yard work. You would hardly think that April would be the time to take a winter vacation. Perhaps I should reconsider. Wait a minute. Spent my money on a car. Based on the forecast there are weather warnings out for Southwestern Manitoba. Another snowfall enroute. We are supposed to get a few inches as well. It seems hopeless. I guess I might as well paint. It could be worse. Make it a good one.

“The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”
Theodore I. Rubin