Category Archives: Business

Mel-O!

Last week YA and I had dinner out with friends of ours.  In the course of the evening I mentioned that my last program was coming up – a warehouse run for which I always buy donuts for the warehouse crew.  This led to our friends sending us a Star Tribune article from a couple of weeks back that listed the top donut shops in the Twin Cities AND a lengthy discussion of their favorite donut place:  Mel-O-Glaze.

Mel-O-Glaze has been around for sixty years and I’ve driven by it numerous times but never in the morning, which is when my donut-desiring genes normally kick in.   Most of my routines are south and southwest of my place, so I have to make a decision to go someplace east and it doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

But after listening to rave reviews for a good ten minute, I determined to make a different decision.  I went east the next morning, timing my trip to about the time they opened.  This turned out not to be the best time to go…. although they were open, they weren’t really up to speed yet.  An hour later would probably have been better.

There were enough to choose from however.  When the owner, Paulette, came out from the back I told her it was my first time.  She quickly ran to the back and when she returned she had a donut hold that she gave me as a sample.  It’s easy to see how people say these are addictive.  In fact, even though I’m not usually a donut-hole fan, I bought six, along with another donut for myself and one for YA.   The donut holes didn’t even make it back home.  So now in addition to Sunrise Donuts, Bogarts Donuts, Sunrise Breads and, of course, Dunkin, I’ll be adding Mel-O-Glaze to my roster of donut place. Guess I’ll be going east a little more often now.

Any embarrassment of riches in your world?

The Rush Is Over

Today’s post comes from Ben.

The spring rush is over, at least on our farm. If you’ve got dairy cattle, it’s right into cutting hay and getting that first crop off. But here, we’re just cutting grass over and over again.

All the crops are out of the ground, they just need some heat to grow. Soybeans don’t grow quite as fast as corn, so even though I could see them coming, it takes a while to see the rows. That first field which had crusted and I finally dragged? It helped; they’re looking OK.

The last thing to plant was 2 acres of corn for a neighbor that he uses as a food plot so the deer are closer to his hunting stands. The next day my brother Ernie was out and we got extra seed cleaned out of the corn planter and got the power washer out and he washed the planter off and hosed off the back of my tractor and his tractor. The backs get very dirty; like your car back window, all the dust collects there. (Maybe that’s only us on gravel roads?) And the back is where the hydraulic hoses plug in, so it’s oily and attracts dust. I parked the planter back in the corner of the shed for next spring.

Next day we pulled the drill out, cleaned out the left-over seed, (We save extra seed for next year) and got the drill washed up and put away. I removed the cameras and cables and will work on getting them installed on the baler next.

We discovered that one tractor STILL has an oil leak. He fixed it last week; cost $1058. I’m hoping the repair guy just didn’t get something tight and it’s not a totally new issue.

And then I was cutting grass and the mower died. Just quit. No dash light, no hour meter, nothing. Well, that’s weird. I tried a few things (including the battery connections) and got nothing. Called John Deere and asked them to come and get the mower AND to come back for the tractor. The mower guy showed up; he changed a fuse and got it running, but it made noises. It made bad, expensive sounding noises. Sixteen years ago, when I was up for the college job, I had three goals if I got the job: New lawn mower, trade in grain drill, and there was a third thing I’ve forgotten, but I got them all.

We have a smaller, older mower and we got that out and running and I went back to cutting grass. Then I drove into a hole and got stuck. Harrumph. I was kinda fed up with the day by that point and I just went to the house and pouted.

Next day, I got a call my knee surgery has been postponed to August 1; need to get over all this other stuff first. (And I’m getting better. Kidney stone is gone, I’m almost walking unassisted again, cellulitis on my foot is cleared up, and PT is going well.) but we don’t want to risk any infections. I get that, but I’m still discouraged. Then I discovered one of the older tractors, a 2 cylinder John Deere 630, the crankcase is full of gas. Man ‘0 man; is there a black cloud over the house??

Sounds like just a shut off valve on the tank leaks, and the fuel leaks into the crankcase. Not the end of the tractor, just needs a fix.

I was pouty again. Went back to bed and figured I needed to just start this day over. Felt better after the nap.

Got the mower out of the hole and cut more grass. Next day made a deal on a different lawn mower.

The neighbors, Dave and Parm, have brought out some cattle.

The bulk oil truck came and refilled the oil containers. Still haven’t seen the price on that.

100 gallons engine oil on the left. 120 gallons trans / hydraulic oil on the right. Will last a couple years.

Kelly has been doing many of the chores while I deal with…. “all this”. 
I do chores because they need to be done; and I need to get through them in order to get on with something else. For Kelly, it’s a nice diversion from work and she enjoys being out there and spending time with the critters. My suggestions for more efficiency, “like I do it” are not always welcome. It’s nice we’ve figured out this difference and I wonder why it took 32 years of marriage to realize it.

Sadly, we’re out of the duckling business. It was quick. Friday morning there was 9 when we got them penned up. Saturday morning there was 8. Sunday morning there was 3 and we noticed them going outside the fence and wandering several feet from momma, who stayed inside the fence. We didn’t expect them to leave her so soon. And maybe she’s a first time Mom and didn’t have the hang of it all yet. Kelly created a smaller pen made of wire with smaller holes the duckling couldn’t get through. And Monday morning, they were all gone and the mom was out too. So, we’re thinking maybe owl? Never seen a hawk come down and the dogs wouldn’t have gone into the pen to get them. I’ve said, the real world is a cruel place. This was sure a learning opportunity.

HOW EFFICIENT ARE YOU? TALK ABOUT CLOUDS.

Flair?

The other day, when we were talking about ads, I had the tv on for a bit in the afternoon and I looked up just in time to see a young woman sporting a pair of jeans that were definitely flared at the ankle.  I actually backed up the ad to confirm I had seen it correctly.  Not only were the jeans flared out but the word “flare” actually flashed across the screen.  After fifty years it was a little hard to believe that flare jeans have become retro.

I called YA to confirm that flare jeans are “in” but she was very quick (and very vehement) in pointing out that it’s just a little flare that is in, not the huge wide flare jeans that were popular back in the 70s.  I remember the outfit that I put together for the first day back of sophomore year in high school.  Wide faded flare jeans with a “Make Love Not War” sweatshirt and a watch with a huge white wristband.  I thought I was the cat’s meow.  During the time that flared jeans were popular, I altered a few of mine by slitting open the leg and expanding the flare with bright patterned material.  All the rage!

YA tried to get me to promise not to purchase any flare jeans for myself.  She said “just keep your seventies memories to yourself.”  I’m pretty sure I should be insulted but I can’t quite figure out how.

Anything you’d like to come around again?  Or not?

Toilet Paper Math

I’m always confused by the array of claims on the packages as I walk down the toilet paper aisle, with enticements that I can really get a great deal if I only buy so and so’s product. “18 of these rolls = 82 smaller rolls” announces one Charmin package, while the next Charmin package claims “24 = 108”, and yet another insists that “12 = 48”. Cottonelle, on the other hand, goes for broke claiming that 12 Family Mega rolls = 128 regular rolls.

I just can’t get the math to work. I have taken enough statistics classes to know how to lie with numbers, but I just can’t figure out how the companies arrive at these claims. I wonder if they used another product quality as an enticement? “This package will fit under your bathroom sink and leave enough room for the iron and boxes of tissues and cleaning products” or “These rolls will fit in your toilet paper dispenser without getting stuck because they aren’t too big in diameter.” Now, those are claims that resonate!

What advertising gimmicks are you susceptible to? How good are you at doing math in your head? What are your favorite or least favorite ads or commercials?

A Visit From The Plumber

We have had hot water heater issues for the past two weeks. I noticed that the water was getting cooler and cooler a couple of weeks ago, and phoned the home service company that we pay for every month with our utility bill. I had never done this before, as we don’t have a lot of appliance repairs, and when it involves plumbing, I have always phoned a local plumber who does great work and who we have known for 35 years. I thought I could save some money.

I was told by the home service company that all the local contractors were booked out for two weeks, but they would find another one from nearby. Well, “nearby” turned out to be a guy from a little town north of Bismarck, more than 100 miles away. He arrived the next day, which was a Saturday, fiddled around and replaced a couple of parts and relit the pilot light, and that was it. So far, so good.

Last Saturday while our son and family were visiting, I noticed that the water was getting cooler and cooler, and saw that the pilot light had again gone out. This time I phoned our local plumber, who came over at 7:00 pm after he finished another job, relit the pilot light, posited a couple of theories for why it was happening, and told us to phone him if it happened again. He had a feeling that it would, but wasn’t sure. It indeed happened again on Monday, which was Memorial Day. Well, we phoned the plumber, who was again at another job, and he came over, replaced the one part the first plumber hadn’t replaced, and now it seems to be heating up just fine.

It is truly wonderful to see someone who is living out his/her vocation like our plumber is. Our plumber loves what he does. He comes on holidays. He is kind and competent. He is honest and reasonable. I doubt I will phone the home service company again unless the furnace goes out.

Did you ever feel you had a vocation that you had to fulfill? Who do you know who is living out their chosen vocation to the best of their ability?

Summer of Love

Today is the first day of “Summer of Love”.  Ten years ago, the owner of my company unveiled a summer employee appreciate program.  The main components are no dress code (seriously – the printed instructions say “if you can’t get arrested wearing it, it’s good”), 7 half Fridays off with pay, food trucks on Wednesdays and dogs allowed on Fridays.  There are usually three summer concerts as well on the big lawn of Building One, complete with snacks and beverages (of the alcoholic sorts).  Most years we’ve received t-shirts or hats.  It’s a lot of fun.

For opening day of Summer of Love I’m in shorts and one of my State Fair t-shirt collection.  YA actually went to the Memorial Day Mini State Fair yesterday.  Friends had gone the night before and said it was more robust than last year.  But in looking over the website, it didn’t look that much more robust to me, so I passed.  I don’t need any pretend state fairs… I can’t wait.  (I already have tickets for this year – bought them in January.)  YA has reported that the mini state fair was exactly that – mini.

And, of course, zories (flip flops).  To get ready for spring and Summer of Love, I got my zori bin out and straightened it up and re-organized it by color.  My current zori count is 45, although unbelievably enough I don’t have any red ones; the red ones bit the dust last summer.   Guess I’ll have to make a trip to Old Navy soon!

What are you looking forward to this summer?

The Presentation

Photo credit: Ben White

In the Events division at my job, the process of getting a travel program going is divided into lots of pie pieces.  We have the folks who source the hotels and write the programs, the folks who program the program websites, the folks who book the air, the folks who write and design the communications, the folks who manage the participants, the folks who go on site and run the program.  Then there’s what I do; from the time a program sells until the participants arrive at their destination, I oversee all the other pieces of pie, getting all the details wrapped up tight so the program runs successfully.

Over the years I’ve been corralled a few times into doing work in other departments; I’ve been successful but I don’t like it much.  A couple of months ago we got the opportunity to bid for a big piece of business with a client that I’ve worked with for 15 years – in fact I’ve done 46 trips for their various regions.  As you can imagine, this opportunity has taken on a life of its own – specs from the client, questions back to them, a preliminary presentation made.  The number of meetings has been alarming, especially since I really don’t have that much input.  Others involved are excited to be doing the work, love the corporate lingo and are happy to be jumping through all the necessary hoops.  I completely understand this work has to be done but it doesn’t ring my bell.  So I smile, answer any questions asked of me and multi-task.  It really makes me appreciate zoom meetings.

The notification that we made the initial cut and have a presentation date slated came down on Tuesday.   We had a meeting on Wednesday – I knew this would be the meeting in which decisions were made about who would be part of the presentation.  I’ve been dreading this prospect for weeks; while I certainly wouldn’t be tasked with heading up the presentation, I worried that with my overwhelming experience on the account, they would think I would be handy to have in the room.  Not my cup of tea and the idea of flying to the east coast for two days for this presentation doesn’t excite me at all.

They didn’t ask me.  I can’t tell anybody at work how relieved I am not to be part of the presentation team.  But I can tell you all – I am very happy to stay home.  I’m not even going to grouse about the fact that there are two “practice” meetings that I have been asked to attend, even though I’m not practicing.  Phew!

What topic could you give a 30-minute presentation on without any preparation?

The Dog Gate Conundrum

Last week I bought a fold up free-standing gate.  The dog behaviorist has finally made me realize that I am not going to “fix” Guinevere so that she doesn’t wake up violently when the kitty jumps down from the windowsill in the middle of the night.  That means I have to solve how to keep the kitty safe.   It’s always a pretty short scenario; Nimue thumps down on the floor, Guinevere startles awake and lunges.  Then Guinevere wakes up and it’s over. 

We tried keeping Nimue in YA’s room but kitty does not like being imprisoned all night.  After all she does her best hunting in the wee hours.  Then we put Guinevere in YA’s room but then the dog whined all night and scratched at the door.

So now we have a pretty white, fairly heavy free-standing gate in my room that separates where the kitty jumps down from my bed, where the dog hangs out all night.  It’s only been a few days so Nimue hasn’t quite figured it all out, but I expect in the next few days, she’ll have it worked out.

That’s not really what I’m here to talk about.  What I’m here to talk about is that it’s been over a week since I ordered this thing and today I have seen at least SIX ads recommending various dog gates.  Oh and an ad for a pet door.  I’ve probably said this before, but if the computers are so smart and connected into my life to know I’m looking at dog gates, then why aren’t they smart enough to know I already bought the darn thing.  Do they think I need lots and lots of dog gates?  I hate to think what would happen if I returned it – what pop-up ads would I get then?

Have you ever worked retail?  Any good stories?

Making Progress

All things do eventually arrive. Even good weather.

The corn is all planted and we’re working on soybeans. Growing Degree Units for my area are at 317; about 90 above normal, which, I’m finding hard to believe as cool as it was this spring. But I read it on the internet so it must be true.

I’m still struggling with the pinched nerve and I’m lucky my brother has been coming out and helping do fieldwork the last few years. He and Kelly got to work last Saturday with me pointing and giving instructions and they took the loader off the tractor, hooked up the corn planter, got it all greased, filled it with seed and started planting corn. Several times it became clear to us how many things we just do, without thinking about them, and then have to explain to someone *how* to do it, is much more difficult. Communication people, Communication.

Kelly planted the first field of corn. Again, so many things to watch, that I do automatically, but trying to explain it all to her…well, one thing at a time. It wasn’t helpful that sometimes I change my mind in the middle of what’s happening. But she did it! I knew she could! She just hadn’t had too before. Eventually I discovered I was able to get into the tractor and I was able to do the planting. I have more corn this year than normal, partially because the co-op and I had a mix up of maps and they weren’t spreading the fertilizer where I expected them to spread it. A few phone calls and texting photos of maps back and forth solved the issue. I’m still not sure what happen but it’s OK and I’ll verify next year before we start.

Several very fortuitous things have come about this year. We bought a gator two years ago; one of those side by side utility vehicles. I’m able to get in that and drive it. I can park it at the back door, I can drive it through the fields, and into the shed. It’s been very valuable. And the decision last fall to have the co-op spread all the fertilizer, while at the time was more about precision application of nutrients, certainly became valuable this spring as I wasn’t trying to explain how to run the fertilizer wagon to Kelly. Not to mention having to refill the planter so often. With the co-op doing it, all the corn fields are fertilized at once and I just have someone add seed to the planter and I can go many more acres before needing a refill. Ah, those decisions we make without realizing their full implications.

The barn swallows returned the first week of May and a pair have built a nest on top of a wind chime outside our front door. This has been a regular occurrence the last few years. We’ve learned to put some cardboard down to collect all the droppings. And a Robin is building a nest on top of a gutter downspout where it angles under the eave, at the back door. I enjoy watching the swallows fly around me when out in the fields. I’ve been seeing pheasants near the CRP, (Conservation Reserve Program) fields. He doesn’t seem to be very afraid of me in the tractor. One day daughter took a walk and said she saw an owl. I thought that was kind of unusual and figured she meant a hawk. Two days later, Kelly and I were going to get the mail, and there was an owl! Daughter was right.

Planting corn was almost without issues. On the second to last field, the planter settled to the ground by itself once and I thought the hydraulic valve on the tractor must be leaking. (It’s hydraulic oil that holds it up). When I got to the last field, I realized there was an oil leak and that’s why the planter had lowered itself. Oh. Heck. I tried to finish planting but it soon became apparent I was losing too much oil. Making a run for home, I almost made it before running completely out of hydraulic oil. The next day we found the leak and my brother got it apart, I found a replacement, he reassembled, and we finished planting corn.

The chicks are growing up; they’re kind of at that awkward teenage phase.

I watched a pair of guineas the other day. I’m not sure if they were fighting or playing or mating.

When have your intentions been misunderstood?

Too Much Mulch

It’s my Menards time of year.

One of the upshots of the “more flowers, less grass” way of life at our house is mulch.  We like the look of mulch around all the flowers and now that the front yard and boulevard are essentially all flowers, that’s a lot of mulch.

“A lot of mulch” and “very small Honda Insight” aren’t usually phrases you see in a sentence together.  That’s because you can only put 8 2-cubic foot bags of mulch IN a Honda Insight if you want to continue to see out the back window. (You could transport more if you used the backseat and not just the hatch but that lesson learned was ugly.)   If you go through 25-28 bags of mulch in the spring, that means several trips to Menards.  Yes, I’ve looked into having a boatload of mulch delivered, but one of the things I know about myself is how unhappy I will be with a mountain of mulch that might get rained on before I get to it, is taking up driveway space and is also making me feel guilty until it’s all gone.  And the savings isn’t that great anyway.

Mulch trips are in the morning – it’s cooler, plenty of room in the parking lot, not too crowded in the store – so for four mornings in a row, there I am, with my mulch on a big cart.  There is an older woman who works the first register shift every morning and she is NOT a happy person.  Could be that she resents working so early.  Maybe she resents still having to work at all at this stage of her life.  Might even be that she’s just not a morning person. 

I try not to take this personally, but I’m a chatter.  Every morning I say “good morning”.  Once I said “Eight of them (the bags), if I counted right”.   Couple of times I’ve said “see you tomorrow”.  Yesterday was “Thanks”.   Nothing from this woman.  Not even a smile, which I would have thought would be helpful in a customer service role. 

The mulch trips are probably over for this spring but I have determined that if I need more, I will probably just leave this poor woman alone when I go through her lane.  It won’t hurt me and maybe it will give her a little relief at 6:15 in the morning.  Of course, it’s not as much fun.

Tell me about a time you’ve gotten GREAT customer service!