Monday, September 29, 2008

A summer/fall vacation

I'm back from a week's vacation, which probably sounds pretty strange to people who work in agriculture. This is the the busy time of year for most people in agriculture. A summer vacation for a farmer or agriculture business in the northern hemisphere is pretty much impossible.

Frankly, that's one reason I didn't go to work for my dad in his aerial application (i.e. crop dusting) business. When I worked for my dad in my late teens, it was just impossible to plan anything with friends because you just didn't know when you would be able to get away from work. Evening events were out, even though we didn't work after dark, because we were always up and at it before it was light each morning to get the airplanes fueled and head out to remote airstrips to work in the calm conditions after dawn. We often stopped work in the middle of the day, as the rising temperatures were often accompanied by wind, making it impossible to spray.

But that didn't mean we were done working for the day. There was always work to do, like servicing equipment and cleaning. Oh, how I hated the cleaning. And it seemed there was always something to clean. If it wasn't washing airplanes, pickups or other service vehicles, then there was always the shop floor to clean. Then, as sunset approached, the winds would calm down, and it was back to spraying again until twilight.

Even on days when we woke up to windy conditions you could never venture too far on the off chance conditions improved later in the day. So, some days we did get days off, but you didn't necessarily know it would be a full day off until the day was done and you hadn't worked.

I didn't like the unpredictability of that sort of schedule. So, instead, I ventured into newspapers, where you work a specific schedule but cover unpredictable events. It seemed a good compromise. Oh, sure, sometimes those unpredictable events have meant canceled plans, like on Sept. 11, 2001, I had been on vacation that week, but got called in to work as the nation and the world tried to come to grips with, and the media tried to cover, the stunning enormity of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and the airline industry.

Agriculture businesses, like my father's, have changed a lot since I was making my career choices. There is a lot more regulation and oversight of things like work schedules, moving the industry closer too general society's "norms." Who knows, maybe if I were making my career choice today I would choose a different path. But, as the saying goes, you have to make hay while the sun shines and in agriculture, you work with the growing seasons and the weather permit it, and you take time off to recreate in the off season.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ag educator lost in farm tragedy

I want to offer condolences to the family of Max Corbett and the current and former agriculture students and staff at Tulare Union and Tulare Western high schools in Tulare, Calif.

Corbett, the farm manager for the Tulare Joint Union High School District Farm, was killed by a bull on that farm over the weekend. It's a sad reminder of the dangers of working on a farm setting around large, powerful equipment and large, powerful and unpredictable livestock.

I never met Mr. Corbett, at least not that I recall, but I was editor of the Porterville Recorder for a time in neighboring Porterville, Calif., about 10 years ago. The Tulare County economy is still driven by agriculture, as is California's, but like so much of California, a lot of the understanding and appreciation for agriculture is lost in the cities surrounded by all that precious farmland. Teachers like Corbett play a vital role in maintaining interest in agriculture for young people along the rapidly growing Highway 99 corridor through the heart of California's farm country.

You can read accounts of the tragedy from the Associated Press, Visalia Times-Delta/Tulare Advance-Register and Fresno Bee.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thanks to Paul Bausch and ORblogs

Blogriculture is not specifically intended to be an Oregon blog, or even a blog about Oregon agriculture. The intent when I started it was to have a blog about agriculture in the Western states of California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

But the simple fact of the matter is that Blogriculture is an Oregon blog because the people who contribute to it most are in Oregon most of the time. For good or ill, blogging is largely a first-person perspective thing. Bloggers write about what they see, hear and know or what they are interested in and the immediate geography around us all has a huge influence on what interests us personally and professionally.

I'm proud to say that Blogriculture has been part of the ORblogs directory/community since the very early days of this blog's existence. If you aren't familiar with ORblogs, that's too bad, because Orblogs is going away.

ORblogs' creator Paul Bausch posted a notice on the website on Thursday, Sept. 4, that ORblogs is closed. He writes that he's going to leave the directory in place for a while to give people time to figure out other ways to monitor their favorite blogs, but you won't be able to find the latest post from Oregon-based blogs there anymore.

The site was a pretty cool thing if you were interested in what the latest buzz was in the Oregon blogosphere. You could go to one site and see things like the most recent posts, most popular topics written about, most popular posts with ORblogs' visitors. You could (and still can for a little while at least) find blogs based on what cities the bloggers were blogging from. What made it even more remarkable, is that this was all just a side gig, a hobby, for the guy who created it — Paul Bausch.

Of course many of the best, or at least most interesting, blogs out there are written by people who write out of passion, not for pay. That passion, in the best blogs and bloggers, comes out in their writing. Oregon bloggers got to share their passion much more efficiently and effectively with the help of Paul Bausch and ORblogs. ORblogs was not a perfect site, but it was a great resource for finding interesting blogs based here and a way for bloggers based here to get some exposure for their little corner of the blogosphere.

I don't know Paul personally. I think we exchanges a few e-mails back in the days I was getting Blogriculture hooked up with his site. But from what I've read about him, he's a pretty remarkable dude. He helped create the Blogger software popular with many blog writers (including the software we use here at Blogriculture). Do a Google search of his name or follow this link to his biography on his site or on his about page if you want to read more about him. For example, you will find that he is web developer, author and a journalism graduate from the University of Nebraska who is based in Corvallis, Ore.

It just seemed appropriate to give Paul and ORblogs some recognition and appreciation here on our website for what he has contributed to bloggers in general and Oregon bloggers in particular.

As a native Nebraskan, a journalist trained in technical writing in Corvallis at Oregon State and an amateur computer geek, this Oregon blogger just wants to say thanks. ORblogs will be missed, but I am thrilled that it was around for as long as it was. It was an honor to be included in ORblogs.

Story about fair manager placed on leave attracts attention

A story about Dave Koellermeier, manager of the Oregon State Fair manager, being placed on paid administrative leave is drawing attention today on the Capital Press website.

An investigation is under way into complaints about undisclosed conduct at the recently completed State Fair. Capital Press reporter Mateusz Perkowski broke the story Thursday on the newspaper's website. The story got picked up by the Associated Press wire service. An item on the Oregonian's OregonLive website and a link from are feeding traffic to the Capital Press story.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

When computers misbehave

I love computers, but they are sort of like teenagers. They do a lot of amazing things that can be quite difficult to understand. And just when you think you can trust them and leave them alone unsupervised, they mess up big time!

A machine with a mind of its own recently left me scratching my head, and wishing I could turn it over my knee.

The Capital Press has started a new blog about small farms, sometimes lovingly (or disparagingly perhaps) referred to as hobby farms. So after getting the site up and operational (not fancy mind you, but there), I decided to register it with Technorati. Technorati attempts to keep an obviously electronic eye on what's happening in blogs and track things like popularity of sites and topics. So i plug the new information into Technorati for the blog, which we are calling Back Forty, and some machine with a screw loose somehow figures the name of the site is — get this — "Reilable backstreet boys compilation."

I can assure you that there is not one reference to the Backstreet Boys on the new blog. The best I can figure is that someone, at some point, had used the URL we are using for the Back Forty blog to write about allegedly reliable (unless there really is such a word as reilable) compilations of music, or whatever, related to the pop boy band, and Technorati didn't take the information I gave it but instead decided to live in some realm of the cyberpast where someone actually gave a rip about boy bands.

Sadly, the ghosts of that era still haunt us and our new blog. I have the iPod cranking out some country music (The Wreckers, "Leave the Pieces" at the moment) to expunge any boy band lyrics that try to sneak into my synapses. If only Technorati's misfiring memory could be repaired so easily.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Photos from the Oregon State Fair

Here are some photos of the Capital Press staff at the Oregon State Fair over the Labor Day weekend. It was fun to see so many people and get a chance to take note of agriculture's importance to Oregon's economy and lifestyle.

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

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