Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas From The Blair's 2011

At Christ the Redeemer
in Rio de Janeiro
At a church in Rio
First off, we hope that this finds you and your family doing well. If you are like us we can’t believe that another year is gone and passed. If you paid any attention to the news it seemed like the world was going to implode with unrest in the Middle East due to bread prices, regime change in North Korea, economic instability in Europe, Japan’s tsunami, and our own troubles in the U.S. Just think, the Mayan calendar calls for complete destruction in 2012. With that in mind you had better of enjoyed 2011 ;)

Dillon & Logan in the shop
with Dixie Dog
My name is Wally Weather Station and I will be your host this year. I am in position to give you a great account of what happens on the farm. Not only with weather, but with everything else. I live on a pole in the center of the farm, giving me a bird’s eye view of everything that happens. Since weather played a big role in 2011 I was asked to do this.

And what a year 2011 turned out to be. You could say that it was the year of different weather. We had snow into May, rain that prevented us from planting crops this spring, tropical weather in Brazil, and freezing cold when we arrived home. May set a record for rainfall, causing haying and harvest to be late. Even Bandit was tired of the weather. Without any spring crops harvest was done in eight (8) days, but we have more winter wheat planted than we have ever had on the farm. And it is looking really good.

Dillon turned 15 in February and has his learners permit so watch the roads next year. Logan turned 13 while in Brazil (will talk about that later) and had the best present of his life. Rhonda and Robert celebrated 17 years of marriage, meeting each other in Sao Paulo, Brazil on their anniversary. This is the first year they have been able to spend that day together without anything going on for several years. However, I won’t tell you their age because they will unplug me.

Sports and school take up the most time. Dillon is a sophomore and Logan is in 7th and both carry straight A’s. Both boys played basketball. Dillon spent time on JV, but played some varsity earning his letter. Logan played on an AAU team from the Craigmont area and his class was moved up to play Jr. High basketball. The 7th Jr. High almost went undefeated, losing in overtime on the last game. They both played 3-on-3 at Locust Blossom and Logan had his cousins as teammates. They attended a basketball minicamp with a former coach at LCSC and Dillon played summer league. Dillon also went to NBC Camp and won the “Grit” award.
Dillon & Logan
with coach Walker
Dillon played on the Kendrick Golf team and they made it to State. Logan played baseball, was a pitcher and played different positions. Logan and some of his friends played in a baseball tournament in Potlatch…for Genesee. It was tough for Robert to see him in those colors, but he said a Genesee uniform never looked better. Both played football this fall and Dillon received his letter in that. Now basketball is in full swing again.

Chris (Robert’s brother) started working full time on the farm taking place of Dean King who had worked for 7 years. Dean had been diagnosed with cancer and beat it. Dean is doing well and was able to drive truck at harvest and helped with fall fertilizer. Chris started at the right time helping to clean up the 23 trees that blew down or were topped out during a windstorm last November. We also had lots of fence to fix due to that.

In June the America’s Heartland film crew was at the farm. They were interested in what was being done with Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and precision agriculture. It was an interesting experience that everyone partook in. You can watch the video from our website or this link

Brazilian Whitetails
The biggest news was Robert being named an Eisenhower Fellow. In April Robert traveled to headquarters in Philadelphia to meet the other U.S. and International Fellows. General Colin Powell is the Chairman and there are just over 2,000 Fellows worldwide with 18 being Ag Fellows. In May Gong Weibin, a Fellow from China, visited the farm starting what they hope will be many visits from people around the world. To learn about the Eisenhower Fellowship you can go to .

Robert’s Fellowship took him to Argentina, Uruguay (where he spoke in front of 1,000+ farmers), and Brazil where he learned about their agriculture, precision farming, remote sensing, and UAVs. He met with Eisenhower Fellows in the respective countries creating a closer bond between the countries. He spent a total of 6 weeks down there totaling 51 meetings.

Rhonda & I with Flavio
Nogueira & family
Rhonda joined him on November 5th in Sao Paulo and as mentioned, they were able to celebrate their anniversary together. They traveled north of Sao Paulo to different towns for meetings along with stops in Brasilia and Belo Horizonte. In Belo they spent time with Robert’s friend and 2011 Brazilian Fellow Flavio and his family. They had a weekend together seeing some sites and celebrated Robert’s birthday and their last day having dinner with Flavio’s family and other Fellows.

Then the fun really began, Dillon and Logan arrived in Rio de Janeiro on November 19th. They traveled alone and met up with mom and dad at the airport. During the week in Rio they toured the sites like Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer along with playing on the beach. Everyone became sunburned at some point and there was not enough aloe in Brazil to sooth the pain.

Dillon & Logan with the
Girls from Brazil
The highlight of their time in Rio was traveling to Petropolis (north of Rio). Petropolis is the home to the summer palace of the last monarch of Portugal and Brazil. There is also a strong German community there because farmers were needed to harvest their cash crop, coffee. It is something of a retreat and there had been a casino there built in Bavarian style architecture that is tourist site…and that is where the real fun began.

While going through the old casino a group of students were on a fieldtrip there. We walked down a hallway and a group of girls followed and went past. Robert saw them huddle up, look back, and giggle. He motioned to the group and Dillon and Logan to get together for a picture. That picture started about a ½ hour of picture taking with many girls.

Dillon & Logan going
bananas in Brazil
Since it was Logan’s birthday (the driver told the girls this as well), it is customary for girls to give the birthday boy a kiss and they lined up to do it. Dillon was watching and said “I wish it was my birthday” prompting the driver to tell the group of girls this and they started kissing him as well. Needless to say Dillon and Logan both want to return to Brazil.

Now it is time to finish up and get back to work tracking weather. It is cold, but there is no snow. We hope that you had a great year and wish you a Merry Christmas and an Awesome New Year! Take care and God Bless! Adios, Feliz Navidad y Feliz Ano Nuevo! (Spanish)  Feliz Natal e Feliz Ano Novo! (Portuguese)


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Three Weeks Down

We watched the tower do
different things for about
an hour. It was spectacular.
My oh my, time is fllying by like a comet in overdrive. It still feels like I just arrived a couple of days ago. I am now in Sao Paulo...and my wife Rhonda is with me. It is nice to have someone to talk to and to recap my experiences.

We both arrived in Sao Paulo on Satuday, November 5th which happened to be our 17th anniversary. She arrived before I did, but because of baggage claim and getting through customs she didn't have to wait that long. What a sight for sore eyes she was.

We were both tired. Her because she hadn't been sleeping much while getting ready to travel, the last night home and then over a day of travel. Me because I couldn't really sleep and was worried about catching my flight from Montevideo to Sao Paulo (I had to leave the hotel by 3am).

We made it to the airport, through security, and to the hotel. Then we met my program officer Luciano and his wife and daughter. We went over the schedule and then went for lunch to a restaurant built around a 100 year old fig tree (the restaurant is called Figueira). It was awesome.

The time was 8:11, but I
took it because it
represents the year! Go
The EF Class of 2011!
They had a buffet style lunch that they only serve on Saturday (at lunch time) based upon the food the slaves ate. It would be similar to the start of American BBQ and the types of meat. We went through and had a little of everything including pigs ear, pig tounge, sausages, and other meats. There were also great vegetable dishes and beef. Lots of meat.

We also tried the local drink made from sugar cane alcohol and limes. They also brought another type of drink to the table with 4 shot glasses. There were two types of alcohol (same base) but one was straight and the other had honey. They were delicious.

We finished lunch after 3 hours, went back to the hotel and grabbed my cell phone for Brazil. We had to put a new sim card in, buy credits, and set it up. Now I have contact within the Brazil. We went to our room, took some pictures and went to bed around 8 or 9 pm. We were exhausted.

Today we didn't do much except work out, eat breakfast and pack our luggage for easy use. We combined clothes into certain cases for easier access. I organized pictures, cleaned powerpoints off my thumb drive to make room, and sized pictures from previous adventures for use later this week.

We are getting ready to head out of the room for some sight seeing and dinner. We are just begining our travels in Brazil and hope to keep things up to date better. Ciao for now!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Time Flies on Fellowship

I can't believe that two weeks have past already. It seems like yesterday that I left my family early in the morning and dogs with looks that would make even the toughest of men break down.

This is definitely an experience of a lifetime. Although the schedule has been demanding with travel, tight time frames between meetings, little chance for communication home (except at places with WiFi), and buses being canceled I would not have missed this for the world.

I know that I have skipped a bunch of time since the last posting, but managing data, laundry, pictures, farming, and travel leave me little time for this. I am also writing a column a week (deadline Wednesday/Thursday) so those things are taking priority.

Camera batteries (two), two computers, keyboard, and a Gopro video camera takes time and juggling to keep charged. The priority is the ipad and camera batteries. When I download pictures to the windows computer I put excess onto a 500 GB hard drive.

Anyway, the information that I have learned has been very useful, I just hope that it does not get wasted by not being able to share it with people. The way they manage their farms in Argentina is at a higher level than in the U.S.

The youth that is involved in agriculture at all levels is something we in the U.S. should envy. The average age of a farmer is 55-59 in the US, but my guess is around 35-40 in Argentina. This youth brings a love for technology and a hunger for being successful in agriculture. I am jealous of their country for this.

The Pampas is a top notch production area in the world and the logistics for export are better than the US. However, their could be improved by building an extra lane of road each way. When traveling in the country I thought that it sucked because the side roads were dirt, but after learning there are no rocks on the Pampas and hauling rock for gravel roads is cost prohibitive.

Wind erosion is the main concern ecologically. Because the early use of the land was mainly for beef production, many trees had been planted to stop the wind, but to mainly give cows shelter. Otherwise trees are not native to the Pampas. I wonder what the environmentalists would say if they were to be cut down.

I had a great learning experience with all of my meetings. This one-on-one learning from biotechnology to precision theory and practical use to politics makes me (as a friend and EF Alumni said) the only person in the world with that knowledge base. It is pretty humbling when you think about it like that.

I was fortunate to arrive a week before their Presidential Election and to see all of the propaganda and campaign material makes the US look cheap by comparison. The incumbent won and I had an opportunity to sit in on an explanation of the the results by a famous Argentine political analyst (name in other suitcase that is still checked in with the hotel). I could not have planned things better if I had tried. It would be like Bill O'Reilly or someone of that level giving the presentation to a small group of people. What an opportunity.

Finally I traveled to two Estancias (farms) for my last weekend in Argentina. I was picked up by a car and driven 6 hours basically west of BsAs to Rufino. I was picked up around 8pm by the Chief Production Officer (Julio) and we headed off to the farm. I was put into my own casa and dinner was served to the two of us along with the agronomy team (Jorge-Head, Gustavo and Arturo). After some small talk we went to bed for a 7am start.

I woke up without an alarm (John Denver said it best - "Thank God I'm A Country Boy) at 5:30 and a good thing too, my battery died. Julio and I had breakfast together after meeting with the crew in their quarters. Then out to the field with Julio and the crew of three.

Our first stop was a corn field being fertilized with UN32 by a Rogator. I hopped on board and road two passes with Julio standing on the steps. The fertilizer was being placed according to a prescription map and it was fun to watch it increase, decrease, or stop according to the zones or areas already treated.

Next we head to a field that was being seeded to sorghum by an Argentine no-till drill and an Agco tractor. We hopped on board and at the end of the pass I took over. I set the drill to seed, reved the tractor, and engaged the auto steer. Finally I have driven a tractor in both hemispheres. At the end of my pass I make the turn and head back and make the next turn and hop off for the next adventure.

A field of last years corn was being seeded to soybeans with an air seeder, JD 9220, and fertilizer. They were just finishing filling up the fertilizer and we hopped on. No auto steer on this one yet but I drove it back seeding my first soybeans and straight and true. AWESOME!!!

We head back to the farm and I hop on a motorcycle and a worker hops on another one and we take a ride around the farm before lunch. We stop at the feed lot holding over 3,000 head of beef of different weights. We drive around some more and grab lunch.

After lunch I give a presentation of what I am doing on my farm and how the UAV is being used and then we head to another Estancia that is rented by Caldenes. This Estancia is also owned by the 3rd EF in Argentina who happens to be my Program Officer's father.

We tour the corn, with the Julio and Jorge, head back to the farm for tea, and I walk around taking pictures before it rains or the light leaves. After siesta and showering time, I meet Conrado Etcebarne again. We talk for almost two hours and then dinner and bed. What a day of learning and experiencing.

The next day I sleep in a little and finally head outside at 7am to find a quite spot to process images and catch up on my journal. I finish and am served breakfast around 9am.

I grab my camera because the grounds keeper Carlos is getting the wood ready for Argentine BBQ. Lamb is on the menu and I get some great pictures. I head back to my room, grab my windows computer, and show Carlos and his wife the pictures of him and the farm from the day before and they were pleased.

We ate around 2pm (as is customary) and I bring my bags down to the car to catch my bus. We head to Rufino and learn at the bus station that my 4:30 bus is canceled and the next one is at 11:30pm. We grab that ticket and head back to the farm.

I rest a little, have dinner at 9pm, and the car arrives to take me to the station. I was saddened parting my new friends on my last evening in Argentina and I was definitely not looking forward to the bus ride at that time.

It worked out fine because I spent more time with my friends and did catch about 5 hours sleep on the bus. Not bad, but I was definitely tired. Arrive BsAs at 6am, hotel at 6:15, and my room just a little after. I had to take a shower to get the travel off of me. Ate breakfast and the took a dip in the jacuzzi tub...very relaxing after the travel debacle.

I will sum things up better after I get home, but the experience is something that I will never forget. I have fallen in love with Argentina and it's people. The knowledge that I gained can never be replaced and I hope I am better for it and can live up to the expectations of the EF goals and motto. Until next time keep it between the fence rows!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Argentina Day 2

Had an awesome nights rest and get up at 8am to work out. They have nice weight equipment and a decent eliptical. Spend about an hour there, head back to my room, and get ready for breakfast and the day.

The breakfast is included and is buffet style. Lots of different breads and pasteries, runny eggs, Argentine bacon, small sausages, seasoned potatoes sliced thinly, meets (like lunch meats) and cheese, fruit, and yogurt. I grabbed what I wanted and poured my OJ and had coffee. The differences that I see between meals in Argentina and the U.S. is it is treated as an occassion. No one was dressed in shorts or pajamas and time is taken to enjoy the food.

I head back to my room to check email, Facebook, and call home. I decide to grab my tripod and EOS camera and head out. I go the opposite direction from last night and walk past the French and Brazilian Embassys. I walk along the main avenue towards the "Oblisk" and the building with Eva Peron.

As I am walking I look down a side street and see an awesome building with it's reflection in another one. I walk past a huge building with security and think it is something political. After taking pictures and moseying around a little I come upon the signs describing what the big building is...a world renowned opera house.

I take more pictures of it and the park across the street. It had "music stands" as decorations with pigeon nests in them. Rhonda would freak because of her "love" of birds. I walk some more with my camera still on the tripod. I figured I am a big boy and not many people would probably mess with me. Also, 90% of all people are good and would help out if needed. Also it was Sunday.

I scramble around and finally find my way back to the main avenue (me, directions, and cities don't always jive) and see the "Obleisk." I take pictures of side streets (I hope they capture the mood I was feeling) and make my way to a better place to see the monument. As I look around I can see 3 McDonald's and a Burger King.

I head towards the hotel with tripod and camera in tow taking pictures here and there of things that catch my eye. One thing that popped out most was a marquee that said TANGO in big silver letters with a black background. I had to have that picture since Argentina is the birthplace of the Tango.

Back at the hotel at 4pm I start to get ready to meet my Program Officer (PO) Ines at 5pm. She called not long after I get into my room and says that they will be an hour late due to the ash coming down from a Chilean volcano. That explains why it was kind of hazy out and I was coughing a little (I was also fighting being sick).

Ines and her husband, Sebatian, arrive and we tour the city. We stop at a coffee shop called Tortino that is a local favorite. We go over my agenda and grab a bite and a beer (Ines has OJ because she is pregnant) and then head to a community center in the city where she had set up a
"Jazz" concert.

When we arrive the local people are doing the tango. It was awesome to see something that was not a tourist attraction. We take pictures (and I took some video) and then the band came on around 9:30. They played dixieland music and were not bad.

We then head to dinner. In their culture dinner starts around 9 or 10 pm. We try a restraunt that was their first choice but the wait was was Mother's Day in Argentina. We go to a German restraunt and I have bbq ribs (pork chops).

Back to the hotel around midnight and I see the light dusting of ash on their car. To my room and off to bed for a car that will pick me up at 6am for my first meeting. Now the Fellowship really starts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Brand New "Fellow"

I can't believe that it has been just over a year and I have started my travel portion of being an Eisenhower Fellow. I did not know what to expect, but I have found out that there is not much free time.

I thought for sure that I would be able to keep up the blog, but sleep was more important. Now I regret giving the other Ag Fellow, Rhett Proctor, a bad time during his journey. I completely understand why he didn't post as often as I thought he should :)

I woke up at 2:30 am PST to catch my 5:30 flight to Salt Lake City. As I was walking out of the office the emotions really hit me that I would not be seeing my boys for 5 weeks. I was also torn by the look Bandit gave me while he was sitting on the porch. He knew I would be gone for awhile and was miffed.

Rhonda rode with me to Lewiston. We talked business, boys, and Brazil. The timing for getting to the airport could not have been better and I didn't have to wait long. As Rhonda is accompanying me in line the emotions start to hit again. We have never been apart for more than a week at the most. Torn between excitement and regret I take my shoes off, put my electronics in the bin and prepare to leave Idaho for the longest period since college.

After arriving at the airport I am on a mission to find the Brookstone store to purchase an iPad holder with built in bluetooth keyboard. It is awesome BTW. As I am walking I run into Senator Jim Risch (Jr. U.S. Senator) and we have a quick chat. We wished each other well and went our ways. After going into another terminal (SLC is under construction) I finally find Brookestone, make my purchase and head for the Crown Room to have a quick bite and play on the iPad.

The flight to Atlanta was fine and I had a 5 hour layover there. That is a bunch of time to kill. I walk around for a couple of hours to get the blood flowing. I stop at a money exchange place and convert dollars to pesos...4.2 to 1. I head to the Crown Room to have a few snacks and a couple of cocktails to prep me to get some sleep. Hop on the plane at 8:30 and we are delayed an hour for some reason. Finally we take off leaving the good ol' US of A behind.

The meal was wonderful and the movies available were good. I watched the Green Lantern. As the movie was playing I switched to the traveling map and saw that we were over Cuba. I open the shade and see lights and not much happening. As I am preparing for sleep I look at the map again and notice we are over Kingston, Jamaica. I scramble to grab the camera and take a picture. Finally sleep.

I am awakened at 6 am (4 hours before home time) and have an English Muffin with spinach, eggs, and cheese, fruit, and COFFEE! I slept ok, but I am tired. We arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina and have to wait on the tarmac for 15 minutes due to our delay. Hop off, grab my luggage, and go through customs with no problems. Waiting for me is my driver holding a sign with my name...a first.

The travels to the hotel take about an hour and I am in a semi coma, but I am so curious with a new country and city that I am trying to take everything in. I grab my little point and shoot Canon camera (PowerShot SX210 IS) and take picts. I also get the GoPro out and take some video. I am amazed and concerened about the driving and all the traffic...almost panic. Not a good thing for someone who likes to be in control of situations like that.

As we are traveling down the main avenue, I see a bulding with a likeness of Eva Peron talking into a microphone. I realize I am in Argentina.

I check into the Hotel Emperador around 11am and I start to get situated. I scramble to call home on Skype. My excitement is dashed by learning that my oldest bagged his first bull elk...a 5 point. I was not there. We chat for awhile and I proceed to take a nap. I was not planning on eating, but just getting sleep for the schedule I have.

I woke up at 4pm after a 2 hour nap and I feel the pangs of hunger from airline food at 6am. I get into my new cool jeans and start to do a walkbout. I ask the front desk about seafood and he points me to Puerto Madaero. I walk the other direction to see what is there (came in from that way).

I head back past the hotel with map in hand and a camera in my pocket. I see the sights (A bell tower dedicated by the British citizens for the 100 year anniversary of democracy). I cross the railroad tracks and I am begining to wonder if I am heading the right direction. Me no hablo makes me worried.

I make it to the old port and am in awe of the newer buildings and the companies that have offices there. I consult my map and keep walking towards a neet looking bridge. As I come to it I put more attention to the grain elevator on the other first glimpse of agriculture while on the ground.

I finally come to my restraunt, Puerto Cristal, and have a wonderful appetizer of veal salami, cheese, greens, in a vinegrette. Nice and light but full of flavor. I am fascinated by the basket of breads that is placed at the table as well. My main course arrives...seafood stew with clams, shrimp, octopus, squid, and other fish in a tomato sauce...mucho bueno.

With dinner I had the server pair a wine for me that was wonderful. It went extremely well with the appetizer and the main course. I am stuffed and left a bunch. Since it was my first meal in Argentina I had to try a desert. I had the creme brulee...vanilla, chocolate, and caramel. I was in heaven.

I grab a cab back to my hotel and through gestures and finally pulling out my room key give the driver the address. Lesson number one...when you don't speak the language make sure you have the address of where you need to go. I went to bed satisfied around midnight with a great first experience in Argentina.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

3-2-1 Liftoff: Three More Days Until Travel

Where does time go? Last year I was just learning that I was an Eisenhower Fellow for Agriculture and now I have less than three days until I leave for Argentina.

I am used to being gone 3-5 days maximum, but being away from Rhonda for three weeks and the boys for five is definitely a new challenge. The emotions are starting to hit all of us. To be sure we had quality time the boys and I golfed Sunday with beautiful weather.

I was able to see Logan’s football game Monday night, but miss the rest of his and Dillon’s. If the team keeps winning, I will miss the playoffs and potentially the Idaho Championship game.

Rhonda stayed home this week to help me get things organized and we have spent some great time together talking about farm stuff and the trip. However, life happens and those moments are interrupted.

Seeding is done with both soft white and hard red winter wheat poking through. Most things are winterized and I have tried to get things lined up for my brother to take care of on the ranch while I am gone. The only thing left is to spray roundup on the stubble and chisel plowing. Oh, how I will miss my tractors.

This weekend panic started to hit. I realized I didn’t have any clothes except suites and jeans with cowboy boots; nothing in between. A trip to Spokane, WA fixed that and now I have stuff in between. I just might stick out with a chaw of tabaccy and a cowboy hat down there.

I believe all of the paperwork is done. Crops reported to insurance and the government, bills are paid, and other paperwork is finished. So far no fires to put out. Travel arrangements are made, meetings set up, and clothes are being washed. Gifts are bought, my PowerPoint presentation is finished, and confirmation on meetings when I get back are done.

WHEWWWW! Trying to cram so much stuff into a smaller time frame with what seems like a ton of bricks on my mind is starting to get to me. DID I FORGET SOMETHING IMPORTANT? I will wait to sync my computers and phone, packing will be tomorrow and Thursday, and airline tickets will be printed as well.

Toothpaste, tums, aloe vera, bug spray with DEET, socks, shoes, ties, underwear, etc. I feel like I need to take the kitchen sink. Did I remember my underwear? I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

With all of that aside, I have some very interesting meetings and opportunities ahead of me. In Argentina I will be staying an evening on a farm (Estancia), one of five farms (Campos). The link is They raise Polled Herefords. Maybe I can drive a tractor down there.

I will also spend time with the Argentina No-Till Association (Aapersid) , an Argentina based ag biotechnology company (INDEAR/Bioceres) , and something similar to our University Extension systems (AACREA) . There are quite a few other meetings.

After Argentina I head to Uruguay by way of ferry (2-3 hours) from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. I will visit Uruguay’s Parliament and meet with Senators, give a presentation to the Faculty of Agrarian Sciences, Universidad de la Empresa, and then travel to Delores City (Northwest of Montevideo) and participate in and give a presentation to Agronegocios del Plata (ADP) at their annual meeting. At the meeting will be Uruguay’s Minister of Agriculture, what an opportunity. You can also see me listed on their program at . It is definitely different seeing everything in another language.

From Montevideo I travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil and meet up with Rhonda…on our anniversary! While in Brazil I meet with their Ministry of Agriculture people, the President of Monsanto – Brazil, and EMBRAPA (similar to our extension) . On November 15th I get to share the honor of having my birthday with Brazil becoming a Republic.

File:Flag of Brazil 15-19 November.svgIn Wikipedia – “Upon the proclamation of the Republic, one of the civilian leaders of the movement, the lawyer Ruy Barbosa, proposed a design for the nation's new flag strongly inspired by the flag of the United States. It was flown from November 15, 1889, until November 19, 1889, when Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca – acting as provisional president of Brazil – vetoed the design, citing concerns that it looked too similar to the flag of another state.” This will be special because I truly believe in the power of a Republic!

The last week there will be vacation. Dillon and Logan will join us on November 19th. We will spend time in the Rio de Janeiro area and celebrate Logan’s birthday on the 23rd (November is a big month in our family). 

Writing this hasn’t helped to cure my nerves like I had hoped, they are still there. I know once I am on the plane I will relax and my mind will be working in another mode. I am hoping that it will take my mind off of missing my family and little corner of the world.

I will try to post as often as I can on the blog and Facebook. I will have a couple of different cameras and I also bought a GoPro to attach to me for video. Since I am not as proficient with video I probably won’t have much up until I get back home, we will see. I will have email and you can contact me through the blog or Facebook. By the way, did I pack my underwear?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago: 9-11-01

Many things happen that shape our lives, for better or worse. Also, years stand out like stars against the night sky. My senior year in high school, my first year of college, and my first year of marriage come back to me like taking a book off of a shelf and opening a page.


Harvest was done and dad was recovering from surgery. I was bound a determined to do the fall work by myself. I wanted to prove to him and I that I was worthy of   being a farmer.

I woke up early on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 to get out to the field. I needed to change the fuel filter on the Challenger 65E. I had been mowing stubble in order to chisel plow later. I got out to the field around 5-5:30 in the morning and got the job done. Since it was protocol for me to have coffee with my parents between 6-6:30, I drove to the farm to let them know what I was doing.

I walked in through the porch door and sat on one of the four steps that lead to the kitchen area. Mom and dad were in their usual places watching TV. I took a quick glance over at it and commenced telling them what I had been doing and what my plans were for the day.

I glanced over again at the TV and asked which movie was on. Their reply was the start of a new life chapter for me and all Americans. Dad’s reply was “It’s not a movie it’s the news. A plane flew into the World Trade Center a little bit ago.”

I got up, grabbed a cup of coffee (I was planning to head right back out to the field), and sat at the table. We talked for awhile and then I saw the other plane fly into the second tower.

I could not believe it…two planes. I had no idea why things were happening. In my safe and remote corner of the world I would not have thought of terrorists. That report came later. I stayed and heard about another plane crashing into the Pentagon and watched people jumping from the buildings. I also saw both towers crash to the ground. The worst was over and I had work to do, but more memories would be put into place later.

As I was mowing stubble and listening to talk radio covering the tragedy I heard about flight 93 crashing into a Pennsylvania field. My thoughts were “What is going on”? I was stunned.

The day was almost surreal. There are things that we take for granted every day like the grass being green, flowers blooming, and crops growing. We register that they are there, but we do not really see them. We don’t give them hardly a thought at all. The same goes for contrails.

Being a farmer means, I work outside and look at the sky. I look for rain clouds, I look to see sunrises and sunsets, and I see it when I look at the horizon of the area I live in. Sometimes I even watch as planes fly from Seattle, Denver, and Salt Lake City to places across America leaving contrails. But this day there weren’t any.

Having no planes and especially no contrails was definitely the scariest part of the day for me. They are always there. It was a sixth sense like sensation of someone staring at you and you can feel it. No contrails in a cloudless sky. That lasted all week.

On Friday night I saw my first plane…a military fighter. My little brother was in high school and we had a home football game. We had a moment of silence and then the Star Spangled Banner was playing. While it was playing this U.S. military plane flies over. I got goose bumps and tears in my eyes. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.

As a farmer I also have time to think about things, especially on a tractor. I watched specials on TV and read things in the newspaper that asked “Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated” or “Where were you when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor”? I would think, “why run articles or TV time on things like that”, now I know. They are life changers.

Looking back through my life I have had other moments like that, the biggest being the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. We were working in the garden hoeing weeds and we heard the boom. Later in the day this thick cloud dropped ash all over. The dogs went berserk and we had to wear dust masks. Harvest was a mess, but the wild apples were the largest ever and I helped my grandfather pick them.

Another moment was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. We were watching the launch in 1986 in accounting class and saw it explode. Events like these slow time down and are etched forever in your memory.

2001 was a big year, a major life event. Because of dad having surgery I ran the farm, did harvest and all the fall work. We bought some farm ground that year and a brand new combine. I became a member of the Nez Perce County Grain Producers and started the first of at least 10 years on the Idaho Grain Producers Association full board. I also watched my father pass away on December 1st during the first snow of the year. 2001 is definitely etched in my mind.

In that ten years worth of time I have grown as a person and it is due to the events of 2001. I will be traveling on a Fellowship to South America to learn not only about precision agriculture, but other countries as well. I look to make new friends and to open my mind to a new way of thinking.

But things have changed in America. The pride and can do attitude that was brought about by this horrific act is not there. The media will not show people jumping out of the towers, which is something that should be shown lest we forget. We need to remember or history will repeat itself.

Politicians and those in the media bicker about little things instead of doing what is right. We all have jobs to do, just like the police and fire fighters at ground zero. They didn't bicker in a time of tragedy, they got the job done. The American people got the job done. And right now our country is in danger. Not from terrorists, but from within.

We need to do the same thing now. Get the job done of getting our country back on the path of prosperity and out of debt. Since today is a day of rememberence, the best way we can honor those that suffered or are still suffering is to get the job done.

2001 was definitely a life changer and eye opener. And 10 years later in 2011 I believe I will be experiencing another one. God Bless and God Bless America!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Harvest - Day 6 - A Generation Lost

I was hoping to write a little more often than six days, but that is how it goes. Waiting for trucks, a minor breakdown, and a high school practice football game (Orange and Black game) have kept me in the field longer which has deprived me of sleep. Anyway, it is the weekend and no phone calls that are really demanding.
I finished up the first field Tuesday but haven’t had a chance to tally the final yield. If you are a Facebook friend you have seen some of the pictures I posted. It is definitely one of my favorite fields because of the view down the Clearwater River canyon, the route that Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific.
It took me Tuesday to Friday to finish up the second field (twice as large as the first) and I moved onto the third one. Wednesday brought the mechanic out in the morning to replace a couple of bushings for the straw walkers. We had it apart and at the shop so he could press them in. It is very crucial to get them seated properly.
But as I have been cutting I have been thinking about a generation that was lost this year. My great aunt, Henny Reil, passed away earlier this year at the age of 96. Looking at her house is not the same. Her husband and my grandparents farmed together in the 20’s and 30’s. Her mind was still sharp up to the end.
This will be the first harvest in my memory that there will not be 4 generations alive. The wealth of knowledge and history that is lost is immeasurable. I asked Henny earlier this year if she ever remembered a year this wet and she said no. We had a record amount of rain and I didn’t get any spring crops planted.
As I am sitting on my butt going around in circles, I have been wondering about farming and the future for my boys. What major changes will be made in my lifetime that will seem foreign? Will farmers be regulated out of business? Will they even be able to keep farming? These questions bother me because I don’t have the answer.
I think of the changes that happened in Henny’s lifetime like the move away from horse drawn equipment to mechanized farming. The change from steel wheels and tracks to ones made from rubber. Or to the extreme, the use of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and auto steering to assist with farming.
Today, our lives are so dependent upon electricity of one form or another. I use it to light my shop, run my welder, grinders and drill press. Gone is the stationary motor and drive wheels on the wall to run shop equipment.
What would I do without my Android smart phone, Jawbone ear piece, yield monitor, or camera to help me during harvest? I can call about markets, talk to the service department, and take pictures of problems in the field. But are we better off for the advancements?
There are some in the U.S. and world, elitists that are trying to halt advances for agriculture and business. They would almost like to see us go back to riding horses. I mean, how does the EPA expect us to regulate dust on a job that requires us to work in dirt? Should we all go back to picking berries and eating pemmican?
No, I believe the advances made during the lifetime of my great aunt have made us better as people and a society. We are not only living longer, but we are living better. The American people don’t have to worry about food, it has always been there.
Why? It is because of the advancements of technology. I am thankful that I don’t have to farm with horses anymore; I deal with enough horse puckey as it is due to radicals and government regulations. Take care and keep it between the fences!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Harvest - Day 1

It is that time of year again (finally)….HARVEST!
Yesterday we put the water tank on the back of my pickup in case of fires,
did a few odds and ends, and moved equipment to the field. Put the header on the combine, set the fan, concave spacing and rotor speed and calibrated the yield monitor.
With the engine going full throttle I gently place the header into the wheat to start harvest. Wheat bunches up on the platform because the rust and grime isn’t worn off yet and cut up the hill to where we will park the equipment for this field.
I cut my circle, the bankout wagon is placed, and the disc is put into the ground to provide black dirt to park equipment on to reduce the threat of fire. I move the combine around to a straw free spot after dumping a full bulk tank load into the wagon.
Chris climbs into the wagon with a can for a sample and we head to town to get a moisture reading. At the elevator the moisture tests 10.5 and we are good to go for harvest (moisture needs to be 12 or less). We head back home to get the semi, service rig, and lunch boxes.
When I get to the field it starts to sprinkle. I climb into the cab, set up my cell booster and climb back out to put tarps on the truck, trailer, and wagon. It quits raining. I stand there with my brother and hired man looking at the root structure of the wheat that was worked up (basically killing time) and contemplate cutting or not. I get back on the combine (this is around 1:30) and it cuts beautifully.
The boys come out to the field (they were at a basketball clinic) and run wagon, Rhonda takes pictures, and our hired man drives the truck to the elevator. I am dumping into the wagon while watching a rabbit run at everyone because his home is now headed to the elevator. Yields aren’t bad, but I haven’t been able to calibrate the monitor with a weight.
Both Rhonda and Logan ride with me on the combine and Dillon leaves for football practice. We see a couple of deer and fill up the truck, trailer and wagons for tomorrow. We head for home after walking around the combine around 8 pm. The one paycheck that a farmer receives for his hard work, the investment, and worrying that has to last 365 days is finally here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Harvest Almost Ready

Well it has been awhile since I have last posted in April. Farming is a busy occupation and when you throw kids in the mix, it is almost insane. I did not get any spring crop planted, the trees that blew down in November were cut up and taken to the mill, and we ended up with two cutting of alfalfa hay.

Today however we are nearing harvest. We have winter wheat to cut and this will be my shortest harvest in memory. I figure it will take around 8 days to cut our wheat baring any breakdowns.

My little brother Chris has been working on the farm full time and Dillon and Logan go back to school on the 24th.My hired men will be helping out again as well to drive truck and Rhonda will be cooking meals, taking care of the farm, and running the boys to registration and practices.

I am looking forward to harvest right now because there is an opportunity for Chris and Dillon to learn how to properly run a combine. Depending upon the weather I am sure they will get their chances.

Looking back on this year, it is almost a blessing that I did not plant any spring crops because we are already 2-3 weeks later than normal and the garbanzo beans look like they will be ready late September to early October.

Another reason I am thankful for not planting a spring crop is my Fellowship. I leave on October 14th for Argentina. Most of the meetings are in place, airline tickets are purchased, and hotels are reserved. As I get closer to my departing date I will give a better account of my meetings.

Back to harvest. The combine is as ready as we can make it, the semi is ready, and all the tractors and wagons are good to go. Water tanks and extinguishers are filled in case of fire, and tools are ready in case of breakdown. The Jawbone is connected to the Android and the Insight is ready to give me instant feedback.

Even though harvest is the most stressful time of the year, I am thankful that I am a farmer. What other occupation can a person have that allows them to see their family any time and to watch their kids grow right before their eyes. Even when they take time to pose from getting equipment ready or Bandit get into the groove.

To all of those that are harvesting, good luck and God Bless!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Three Canyon Farms 2011

This was a great project and we came upon it accidentally. We bought a camera at the begining of the year at Best Buy and a coupon and code came with it. We decided to try it out and have our first finished book.

The hard part was what to put in it and how to lay it out. We decided to use chapters and do pages based upon different things that take place in our lives. Family is first and then other activities.

We hope you enjoy looking at it and catching a glimpse of our family and farm. We plan on doing a book for each year now to highlight the different things that take place and make a collection for future generations. Enjoy.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What A Day

Have you ever had one of those days where things just always seem to go wrong, even with good things happening? A type of day when no matter what you do you just can’t get ahead? Well, I had one of those days.

The day started out good enough, I woke up (one more day blessed), had my coffee and did my early morning computer time. A normal enough day so far. The weather looked decent and we were able to get stuff done around the farm like looking over the harrow to make sure it is ready for spring work. Also, no rain (although it was predicted tomorrow).

I have a chat with my brother who is working on the farm with me in the morning to discuss his progress and things that he is doing well and things that need improvement. Great conversation and work starts out fine. It was normal enough until late afternoon.

Logan was home from school and said we had a dead cow (third one in two weeks) and it wouldn't get up when he mooed at it from the barn. I told him it doesn’t always work making a sound at them, sometimes you have to walk out there. He walked, came back and said the cow was fine but we had a new calf. Great, the bull did his job last year and calving season is starting.

Now the fun begins. We get the needle, medicine, ear tag, and rubber bands (in case it is a male) and head out as a family to the pasture. Sure enough a beautiful little calf lying in the field. It gets up and starts moving…a nice healthy calf. Even better. But who is the momma?

Turns out momma is a first calf heifer whose bag is not dropping and doesn’t want the calf. Chris (little brother) gave the calf its shots, put the tag in, and banded it. Then we got him up and sent him off for momma to find. No go. We spent about 45 minutes trying to get momma to hook up with the calf to no avail.

As I get into the Kubota to go out of the pasture with Rhonda, Logan starts walking over and goes through the crust into really soft stinky manure…in his baseball cleats. He had to leave in less than ½ hour. We get out and I wash off his shoes and get them cleaned up. I leave the Kubota parked by the pump house in the middle of the farm.

After washing the shoes off I go in the office to get the colostrum (the first milk) out of the freezer to thaw. A newborn mammal needs the colostrums to kick start its immune system and we had milked a cow to keep some on hand, just in case.

As this goes on Rhonda is ready to take Dillon to drivers education and Logan to his game. We say goodbye (I am preoccupied with my thoughts) and she promptly gets into her car to go. However, when backing up she runs into the Kubota bending the tailgate that Logan sat on for the calf and dented the hatch on her Trailblazer, right rear quarter panel, and broke the backup lens.

After I rant and rave about the situation (not at her or anyone else) I get back to business of dealing with the calf. Momma still is not taking it after Chris and I feed it the colostrum. We carry the calf to the shop and make a nice pen for it to warm up and stay the night. And I miss a meeting.

I know this may sound trivial because there are other people in this country and world that have bigger problems than this. Keeping an even head and dealing with the problems head on gets the job done instead of dwelling on it.

As I was relaxing in the evening with my thoughts, the newspaper, and the NBA playoffs I started thinking about the bigger problems agriculture has…image. Movies like Food Inc., organizations like PETA, and magazines like Time all want to paint a picture that farmers, ranchers, and agriculture is bad. There is no compassion for anything we do.

Now is when I really get upset for the day. The minor things that happen on a farm or ranch are good things when looked back on. No one was hurt and material things can be replaced or fixed. The best part of the day wasn’t when it started, it was how it finished. It finished by having a new born animal being cared for, not because of money but because it is my place to do it.

It is my responsibility to make sure the people and animals that are in my care get the best possible chance. Sometimes things don’t always work out, but this time it did. It is moments like this on a farm, overcoming adversity, that’s what makes being a farmer awesome.

What we do every day on a farm or ranch is completely contrary to what is in movies, magazines and on the websites of organizations that have an agenda above any animal’s welfare.  It is not everyone who can save a life and make it prosper every day.

Momma still won’t take the calf, but Dillon and Logan will have a new project and a new responsibility on the farm. They will learn another farm lesson that can only be taught by experience. One of them might even have an FFA or 4-H project. However, the memory of their experience will last with them for the rest of their lives, regardless of people against agriculture.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Philly Eisenhower Experience – Day 3

I was too tired to write in the morning, but will tackle that task now. After being sick and fighting the crud I needed my rest, and there was a full day on the agenda. Breakfast starts at 8 am and I am one of the first down. I took my computer with me to show the Fellows that were interested what I was doing with precision agriculture and Unmanned Air Vehicles. Definitely not enough time to eat and do everything. Cest la Vie!

Today is the day we learn the results of the tests that were sent to us a month earlier by Dr. Cheng Zhu, Expert in Leadership Development, Doctorate of Harvard. I was just hoping I didn’t fail the tests. We were still in our groups from the day before, but positions were switched around in the room. Instead of being in the back, we were in the front (probably due to necessity.)

The first test results (Change Style Indicator) placed a person on a scale from 66 (Conserver side) to zero (Pragmatist) to 66 (Originator), a range of 132. I was a 2 on Conserver side labeling me a Pragmatist. I have never thought of myself as a pragmatist, the sound of the word makes me feel dirty or something.

The definition according to “The Free Dictionary” is: A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems. I agree, but instead of fancy words that I don’t understand I call it common sense or being a farmer.

Everyone got up and had to line up from highest score on one side, to zero, then to the highest score on the other side of the scale. There were more people on the originator side (about 2/3). However, I was not alone and had another 2, a kindred spirit in James Rosen. I called us the negative numbers.

Ariel Hernandez (Philippines) was the highest on the originator side with a score of 24 and Gong Weibin (China) had the highest score of 12 for conservers. And imagine that, both farmers were conservers. In reality, not much separated one side from the other (36 points) on the 132 point scale or 27%. We all like to have goals and objectives to help guide us.

After a working lunch, we received the results from the FIRO-B test. It is designed to help a person understand their behavior and the behavior of others in an organization. The results consisted of two rows and three columns, a total of six boxes. The score in each row or column was then added to get a total for each.

The interesting class result was on the column for “Inclusion” and the row for “Wanted.” Out of 21 scores that I counted, 17 had a score of 3 or less (0). Inclusion is defined by the test as “…Relates to forming new relations and associating with others.” Wanted is defined as “The extent to which you want or will accept that behavior from others.”

 In a nut shell the result means that we may get many invitations to attend meetings or discussions but often turn them down or don’t show up and we pick and choose which social events to attend. We are also not bothered by rejection and are exhausted by constant meetings. In other words, we could care less for being invited and it depends upon the situation. A very interesting trait for the class.

We also did an exercise involving blind folds. We were handed two puzzle pieces and as a group (about 15 people) had to decide which two shapes were missing and which two colors. This was a tough exercise with type A personalities. Our group guessed both colors and one shape ahead of the other group before time expired.

Class was officially over and we left to change into business attire and walk to the Rittenhouse Hotel for individual and group pictures. The time for hamming it up started. Not only did we get professional pictures, but everyone’s camera came out to take pictures. A great moment.

Next was the discussion meeting with Ambassador John Negroponte. This was a wonderful experience and opportunity to interact with a world leader that I grew up reading about. The questions from the Fellows were outstanding. The insight that he provided is beyond description.

A social hour followed and it was a great opportunity to talk to Fellows that I had not spent much time with and to chat with former New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd Whitman. My usual audience is my ladies (cows) and the conversation consists of them mooing to bring them hay. Most definitely a step above the norm.

Dinner followed. The Fellows were spread out at different tables and had a chance to interact with EF Trustees and Directors. This was proved to be very beneficial for my trip to Argentina. I sat at the table with 1988 Fellow Julio Hang and his wife. Julio is from Argentina and his brother has a farm. I look forward to seeing him again on my visit there.

Then to the watering hole. Since this was the last night for the US Fellows, we decided to kick up our heels and drink some adult beverages. It is not a party time, but a time to get to know each other better and to develop a better network. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely had a good time but being 40 something’s has allowed us to use better common sense.

The US Fellows definitely lived up to expectations and then some. With a time together of just two day, it was not long enough to really get close to everyone. I look forward to getting together with them next year during the closing session of our adventure. What a great time with a great group of people. Too bad it had to end.