Monday, December 29, 2008

Earning my keep around the old homestead

I spent the weekend back in Eastern Oregon, visiting family for the holidays. I got to relive a little of my youth too, as I did a few chores while I was home.

When I arrived at my folks' place Friday evening, after braving some icy roads through the Columbia Gorge and freezing rain in Interstate 84 from Boardman to the Hermiston/Lexington exit, I was relieved to see my parents' home as I drove south on the Buttercreek Highway. Little did I know, the most treacherous part of my drive was still to come. As I slowed to turn into the driveway, I could see the ruts of tire tracks through the deep snow leading up the hill. I turned in, picking what looked to be the clearest tracks and headed up the hill only to feel the traction give way on the back wheels of my pickup. The tires started to spin, sending the back end of the truck sideways.

I just knew I would end my journey trudging the final 50 yards of my trip through a foot of snow carrying my luggage.

Fortunately, there is not a traffic on the road in front of my parents' house, so I backed down the driveway and onto the highway, which had been cleared of snow. I backed as far as I could without getting my back tires into the snowy shoulder to get a run at the driveway again. But I wasn't at all confident that I would get great traction as I had been driving in freezing drizzle for the last 30-40 miles. But I was sure I wanted to drive up to the house far more than than walk, I accelerated as quickly as I could without spinning the tires and charged the hill.

This time I carried more speed into the driveway and was able to keep the truck churning and slipping forward, but still making progress up the hill. I reached the house, tired from a long trip on difficult roads, but relieved to be home safe and sound.

Saturday, fortunately brought some warmer weather and the snow and ice were starting to melt. But I wasn't sure if things might freeze again. Since I had another obligation in Pilot Rock Saturday afternoon and evening, I didn't want to try to navigate an icy driveway on my return. So I decided to work on some snow removal.

I started off clearing snow, ice and slush off the sidewalks around the house. Fortunately, my brother Ron pitched in too, to save a little strain on my middle-aged back.

The driveway proved a bigger challenge. The battery was dead on the old Ford tractor, and my father informed me that the hydraulics to lift the blade weren't working either. So, I used why I had at my disposal, which was my truck and its tires. I made repeated trips up and down the driveway, trying to break up the deepest spots in the snow and widen the ruts to more than a single tire track in width. Perhaps predictably, the results were less than satisfactory.

At one point I found myself, scoop shovel in hand, trying to clear snow and slush at the bottom of the driveway.

It turned out that I needn't have worried. The meltoff continued throughout the day and the temperature stayed above freezing all evening, so there were no problems getting up the driveway later that night. And by the time I woke up Sunday, the snow was all but gone in the yard and driveway.

But if felt good to get out and do a little physical work around the ol' place. The exercise was good, but the biggest satisfaction came from pitching in without being asked — or ordered — to do so. I used to hate those sorts of chores as a kid. It seemed I was always being directed to do lawn or weed mowing, or watering, or wash cars (or trucks or airplanes) around the place. I hated it all. But this was different. It felt good to do something because it was my idea and it was something I wanted to do. Never mind that Mother Nature did the job I was trying to do much more effectively all on her own. For a few hours, it was easier to walk around the house and navigate the driveway because I got out there to put in some sweat equity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feeling lost on Christmas Eve

I think it may be time to get a GPS. I should have put that on my gift list. I need to know where I am.

For some reason, YouTube seems to think I'm somewhere across the pond in the United Kingdom today. I'm not sure what's going on there. I thought I was in Salem, Ore., but every time I venture outside and see snow all around me, I'm not so sure. So maybe I have been transplanted and don't even know it.

Wherever you are this Christmas Eve, I hope you have a happy, healthy and safe holiday. I am sending out holiday greetings — from wherever I am.

I wonder if NORAD can track my whereabouts. I don't have Santa's clout through.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A little something for your Christmas stocking

Since Christmas falls on Thursday, the Capital Press is working a little ahead this week to get the print editions of the paper out and in the mail before the holiday. But if the thrill of anticipation is too much, you can get a sneak peak online Wednesday afternoon.

We should have stories and other items for this week's edition posted online tomorrow. It's just a little something extra — something you can open early without getting intro trouble for peaking — this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fight for your right to farm

A story by Mitch Lies in this week's Capital Press is drawing some attention on our website today. The article, headlines "Farm Bureau jumps into battle over animal rights" is generating the most views on our website today. One reason for that may be because of a blog post on the American Farm Bureau Federation's FBlog by Chris Chinn.

Chinn is urging farmers to post a comment in response to a comment from a non-farmer on the article. As Mace Thornton, deputy director of public relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, to the Oregon Farm Bureau, farmers need to be part of the discussion. And a lot of that discussion nowadays is taking place on websites, in addition to voting booths and government halls. Agriculture needs to use the tools available to be part of the discussion.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama picks cabinet members who will have big influence on farm policy issues

We finally know who President-elect Barack Obama has picked for his secretaries of Agriculture and Interior. Look for more reaction from ag folks to be posted later today on the Capital Press website.

Will Tom Vilsack be a good Agriculture Secretary for farmers and ranchers? Will Ken Salazar serve the best interests of livestock producers and growers on issues related to federal lands, federal water and endangered species issues?

Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Are any Blogriculture/Capital Press readers going to Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo?

I won't be here or making any posts next week. I'm taking some vacation time and heading off to Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

A couple of years ago I filed some blog posts from the NFR here on Blogriculture. I won't be doing that this year, but I may posts some updates via cellphone to my Twitter account.

My family has had NFR tickets for years, and I've been fortunate to utilize one of the tickets most years since about 1995. I'm pretty excited about this year, which is the 50th NFR. The rodeo performances are always spectacular.

I've found my tastes in rodeo have changed over the years. When I was younger I preferred the rough stock events. But as I've gotten older, I've learned to appreciate the roping events more. And maybe it's because there are still a few guys in my age range competing in those events.

Even though this is a vacation, I still inevitably end up talking about Capital Press during the trip. That's probably because a lot of the people who are part of the tour group I go with are farmers and ranchers from Eastern Oregon, so agriculture is a common topic of conversation on the bus back and forth to the rodeo, or on the plane ride from Portland to Vegas. Sometimes the Capital Press even comes up with other people, like the time I was standing in line at a concession stand at the Thomas & Mack and a couple of guys behind me noticed my Capital Press shirt and asked me if I worked they. They said they were both subscribers, even though neither one of them lived in one of our 4 core coverage states. One was from Nevada and one was from Utah, if memory serves.

So, I won't be working next week, but I'll still be talking up farming, ranching, as well as roping and riding, with aggies here in the West.

I hope to see some of you in Vegas next week. I'll be one of the guys in the Capital Press caps with the tractor tread design.

Wrong number update

Last week I made a post about some mysterious wrong numbers I've been getting. The callers who have been dialing me up were really trying to get Bank of America.

I may have finally figured out why callers who thought they were calling Bank of America got little ol' me instead. One of the callers provided a key clue. He told me the number he was trying to dial, which was an 800 number.

In doing a little research, it appears the number he was trying to call is for Bank of America mortgage in Tennessee. Which explains why so many people were asking me about whether they could refinance their loans. And perhaps this whole mortgage crisis may help explain why I've been getting more calls like that in recent months. If more people are calling, that would increase the odds of more people misdialing and getting me.

But just why the calls were coming through on my line was still perplexing. The 800 number people were calling did not match my direct line number, which has a 503 area code.

The other crucial clue in the puzzle came from our new editor, Joe Beach, and a job applicant for one of our California reporting positions for Capital Press.

Joe had given out a toll-free number he found on some note pads we had made up years ago. I'm not sure when they were made up. I've been here three and half years and they were here when I got here. The pads list an 800 number at the bottom. And that number is exactly the same as the 800 number the caller trying to reach Bank of America gave me, except for the last digit. But that number, our number, is not listed on any of our contemporary in-house phone lists. So, we had a toll-free line we (or most of us anyway) really didn't know about. And, for whatever reason, that line doesn't go through our switchboard. It rings right at my desk.

So, if you need to talk to me, let me know. I can give you a toll free number that will put you right through to my desk. But be careful. If you misdial you might get someone in Tennessee from Bank of America who may ask a bunch of questions about your mortgage.

Suddenly, I have the chorus from a classic Blondie song running through my head:

Call me, on the line
Call me, call me any anytime
Call me

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Corn Down...Gas Down....What about Food?

I chatted briefly with Brad Etling of Hebron, Nebraska yesterday. He said corn was down to 3.30. from over 7.00 a bushel affecting the price of almost everything in the area.

He said the house he rented for 475 last year now rents for 275.00.

We both pondered why if corn is down, and so are gas prices, why are food prices staying high? Somebody is keeping the profits somewhere.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Western states plan for less tax revenue

Governors from the West in Idaho, Oregon and California had press conferences today to detail their plans for dealing with less funds flowing into state coffers.

Of course California, with the biggest coffers, has the most to lose and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is declaring a fiscal emergency. Govs. Butch Otter in Idaho and Ted Kulongoski in Oregon don't report such dire news.

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