Category Archives: work

The Favor

As you all know, I adore being retired.  It’s been six months and the novelty has not worn off.  And my boss knows as well.  When she called me last week, the first words out of her mouth were “don’t hang up on me”.  Two new programs for the first week of May have just sold, an unusual happenstance for this late in the fiscal year.  They are warehouse programs, of which I was the undisputed queen, and nobody else has any wiggle room in their workload to fit these in.  Could I pretty please with a cherry on top come out of retirement on a temporary, part time basis and run these two programs?

I thought about it over the weekend and got input from several friends (all of whom said “go for it’ – I need new friends).  When I told my boss I would do it, I gave her a long list of requirements, all of which she agreed to.  Rats.  I also told her that this was a big favor and it was the only one she was going to get.  If these programs re-up next year, I won’t do them.  And she can’t apply the favor to a non-warehouse program.  It’s these two and no others.

I’m not all that excited about this development, but all my former team-mates are ecstatic.  Not so much because I’m coming back temporarily but because now they know they don’t have to try to squeeze either of these programs into their calendar!

Tell me about a huge favor you’ve done for someone.  Or a huge favor they’ve done for you!

Snowed

Today’s Farm Update comes from Ben.

Snowed overnight. About 5” wet, sticky snow. Gave daughter a snow day. I started waking her up, kept looking out the window at the snow falling, talked with Kelly, and we decided, life is too short. Covered daughter back up and turned off her light. She wasn’t awake anyway. Can you say ‘teenager’??

I made a quick path up the driveway and back. Will do more around the yard later with Kelly so she can refresh how to drive the tractor and work the blade. Header photo is halfway down our driveway.

I finished meteorology class. Got 57/60 on the final (which the teacher opened early for me), and I submitted the final lab assignment (on water usage in our homes) and got 10 points of extra credit for doing another test. Don’t know my final grade yet as the teacher hasn’t graded three assignments, but I’m expecting an A. Three credits closer to getting a degree someday.

I won some items in an online auction this week. This auction is open for about 8 days. And if someone bids on an item in the last 5 minutes, the timer resets for another 5 minutes. I was bidding on some heavy-duty pallet shelving. Did some research on new stuff, and it’s about $600 for one end and 2 bars. Typically, you figure half the price for used. So, these three auction lots were three uprights, six bars, and a bunch of cross pieces. There was three lots and I bid on two. Got one lot for $725. Couldn’t afford the second, but still a bargain.

Also got a set of 6’ fork extensions to put on the pallet forks I use on the loader. I remember first using forklift extensions as a stagehand and sometimes there was larger, awkward cases that needed a longer reach than normal forklift forks.

These will be good for picking up branches, or scrap iron. I thought about taking my trailer to pick up this stuff. But my trailer has sides on it, about 1′ tall. It’s great for hauling straw. It’s not so great when trying to load something from the sides, like pallet shelving, because a forklift can’t set it down with those sides in the way. I may have to buy a flat trailer too, because… you know. Toys.

I hauled in the scrap iron I dumped on the trailer a few weeks ago, plus a couple other things I had tossed on there. It weighed 1000 lbs and scrap was a low price of $50/ton. I never check the price; I just haul it in. Sometimes scrap is $400 / ton. Obviously, more people are hauling their scrap in when the price is high. I learned from the salvage yard guy that when they scrap cars, they drain the fuel out of them, and they save the good fuel and use it in their own cars. He did admit it’s a little like Russian roulette. But the machine they use to drain and filter the fuel has a site gauge and you can see bad fuel and divert it. It also costs them $4/gallon to get rid of old fuel.

This week at the college I’ve been working on lighting our holiday concert. My friend Paul creates the decor. I light it up. One night only, so I can tolerate that. We have ice mountains and a giant Nutcracker.

And this is my view from the booth.

After Paul finishes building the set, he leaves some bit of decor in the office. This year it was Version 1 of the Nutcracker’s mustache.

I was outside the other day and suddenly the chickens all made a racket and they headed for shelter and the dogs started barking and ran around trying to figure out what was happening. And there was a red-tailed hawk right next to the house trying to get a chicken. It flew away. No blood, some feathers. It might have been after one of the roosters; Number 3 was missing some neck feathers. Seems pretty ambitious for a hawk. Or desperation.

And some of the ducks are bathing in the water tank down by the barn. Nothing wrong with that except they spill a lot of water and it’s making an icy spot. Won’t be my problem in a few days.

Here’s some chicken and duck photos. The last one is Rosie and Guildy.

Hasn’t been any particular music this week. Just trying to keep the Holiday earworms away.

Next week is knee surgery. Yippee!

WHICH AMBITIOUS GOAL DID YOU WORK ON THIS YEAR?

Teamwork

I am happy to report that the Youth and Family Team at my agency will soon be fully staffed. We provide mental health services to seriously emotionally disturbed children and their families in the far southwest counties in our state. We are supposed to have a clinical lead (a licensed social worker or licensed counselor) who supervises and also also acts as a therapist, another therapist (either a licensed social worker or a licensed counselor), a Skills Trainer who teaches basic coping skills to children and parenting skill to their parents. two Mental Health technicians who reinforce the skills for the parents and children at home and in the community after they have demonstrated minimal mastery of them, and a case manager who keeps track of things and makes sure we are in compliance with all the deadlines and fills out all the releases of information and goes to school and social services meetings. I am sort of an adjunct therapist and consultant for the team.

Last spring we lost a therapist, team lead, skills trainer and case manager. We have gradually filled all the empty positions, including two this week. Positions are hard to fill all over the state, but especially here in the remote West. We are fortunate, but especially fortunate because we all get along and work well together. The people we just hired are amiable and hard working.

It is really miserable to work on a team where there are conflicts and poor communication. Knowing how to work on a team is a special skill..

What are your experiences on teams? What qualities do you think make for a good team player?

A Brand New Start

It was a year ago that we lost our Steve.  I’m re-running one of his posts (from February 2020) for the day.  You can answer his intial question or share a Steve memory!

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

I have been marveling at what my daughter accomplished this past year. Last winter she, her family and I were living in Port Huron, Michigan. She couldn’t find a job, for the local economy is depressed. My son-in-law had a job he detested, with no possibility of finding a better job. I lived in a senior citizen complex near their rental home, staying alone in my room unless my daughter was visiting me. Nobody was very happy.

It became painfully clear that my daughter and s-i-l had to move and set up new lives. Since I cast my lot with my daughter’s family when I sold my home in 2014, I would have to move too. The experiment of living in Michigan was mostly a botch.

Because my daughter was not working, she was the obvious person to do the research and planning necessary to make the move possible. But, oh my, what a fiendishly complicated task that would be.

Breaking this challenge down into smaller pieces, my daughter needed to:

  • Pick a new town and neighborhood to live in where all four of us (three adults, a kid and a large old dog) might be happy.
  • Find a new apartment or rental home where my daughter’s family could live, doing this research while living in Michigan, unable to look at rental properties in person. This would be especially difficult due to the shortage of affordable housing.
  • Find a senior living community for me. It had to be near her home near her new job . . . wherever they might be. Once again, my daughter had no way to visit the various facilities under consideration.
  • Find movers who could relocate two households 800 miles without charging much.
  • Devise a way to get three automobiles from Michigan to Minnesota, a feat complicated by the fact we had only two drivers.
  • Find a job for herself (a job near her new home and my new apartment, wherever they would turn out to be). This decision, too, had to be done without the benefit of a visit.
  • Find a job for her husband (or at least identify a process which he could follow to find one).
  • Find a great new school for her fourth-grade son.
  • Do all the physical work of boxing up two households for the move.
  • Clean her rental home and my apartment.
  • Accomplish all of this and make the actual move in less than three months.

I wonder if that list adequately reflects how complicated this was. The sixth item alone is daunting. Everything on the list was inextricably connected to all the other issues, which made the overall project extremely tricky. Each choice depended on several other decisions, and there seemed to be no obvious place to start.

My daughter was amused by how her research turned out. The Minnesota metro region emerged as the clear favorite for many reasons but especially its strong economy. St. Paul seemed the most attractive city in Minnesota. The most desirable place to live in St. Paul, her research said, turned out to be Highland Park. So my daughter’s search for the ideal place to move led her to exactly the neighborhood where she had grown up.

We made the move last June. I believe this is the most difficult my daughter has ever faced. As of the middle of January, 2020, every single item on the list has been met successfully. My daughter now lives in an apartment a few blocks from her childhood home (although serious house-hunting begins this spring). And everybody, even the old dog, is delighted to be here.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Have you ever discovered that you needed to make a brand new start?

Making Progress

Although not everyone might think so, the following photos suggest to me that great progress is being made with our bathroom remodals.

Things have been stalled for a couple of weeks due to weather and getting the plumbers to finally show up, which they did on Tuesday. For the upstairs bathroom they had to move the pipes for the toilet over about 3 feet to make room for a larger vanity and sink. They also had to set up new pipes for the shower, and cap pipes for the old shower. They had to do some work in the attic and in the basement for running the pipes.

The downstairs bathroom didn’t need any new plumbing. The tub there just gets a liner and new surround.

The carpenters are coming next week to finish the drywall. After that, the main contractor can come to install the new flooring and fixtures. This is taking longer than I anticipated, but seeing the progress this week has given me hope that our home will soon be back in order. I am not a patient person, and the uproar that this remodel has caused has been hard to deal with.

Would you rather be a plumber, an electrician, or a carpenter? What is giving you hope these days? What are some satisfying projects you have seen to their conclusions?

The Rockets Red Glare!

Hallelujah!!!  Joy of joys – let the heavens part and rain down the praise of angels!!!

Yes, it’s really me.  All the painting is done – the breakfast room, the kitchen and the windows on the front porch.

As if this isn’t momentous enough, I cleaned up and organized the tool room in the basement before putting all the various tools away that have been cluttering up the porch and the dining room and the breakfast room for weeks.  I hadn’t planned on the clean up/organization.  In fact, my initial plan was to dump everything into the tool room and then ignore it until after the holidays.  Then at the very last minute, I changed my mind.  Assuming it would take a lot longer than it actually did, I was thinking I would do the clean up on day and then sort out all the tools the next day.  But it went swimmingly and once I got going, I just kept going. 

One big black garbage bag got filled with junk as I emptied every cabinet and drawer so I could clean them.  It’s amazing what you find when you do this.  We have 8 of those paint keys that they give you when you purchase paint.  We have 12 scrappers.  We have six handles for scrubbing pads.  We have four bags of steel wool, each with a different amount in it.  But the most amazing was the tape.

It seems like I am always buying tape and now I know why… we keep taking it to the basement when we’re done with a project.  The photo only shows the tape that survived – several rolls were too dirty or dried out to keep.  I brought all the tape up so that it’s in the dining room chest of drawers; hopefully this will keep us from buying more the next time we have a project!

What do you have too much of?

Getting Ready

In about a week, carpenters will arrive at our home and start demolishing two of our three bathrooms. One slated for renovation is just off our bedroom. The other is in the basement.

In order to prepare for the carpenters, we had to move three large bookcases in the basement that were full of vinyl record albums, sheet music, and all our cookbooks and various other books. The carpenters need access to the basement ceiling which is under the upstairs bathroom and right above the bookcases. As long as we were moving them, Husband decided to cull what he didn’t want or need anymore. His pickup is now full of what we threw out. We are exhausted but feeling accomplished. We were able to eliminate the contents of one bookcase entirely.

Next, Husband has to move all the things from the bathroom off our bedroom (the one which he uses) into the one I use that isn’t being renovated. For a couple of weeks, we will have to share a bathroom. This means I have to go through the cupboards in my bathroom to make room for Husband’s stuff from his bathroom.

We will be “at all sixes and sevens” most of November until the renovations are done. We are spending Thanksgiving with our son and family in Brookings, so no pressure to have the house all up to snuff. I am glad we don’t do this on a regular basis. I like having a bathroom to myself.

How many bathrooms do you have? What are your experiences with remodeling. How are you at sharing?

Upset

We have only two moderately large universities in our state, the University of North Dakota, and North Dakota State University. Ice hockey is king at UND, while football reigns at NDSU. Passions run high on game days, especially when the NDSU Bison play the SDSU (South Dakota State University) Jack Rabbits.

Husband and I don’t care very much about any sports teams. We must admit to divided loyalties when NDSU plays SDSU, though, as our son and daughter-in-law both work for SDSU. Last week before the big football match-up between the two teams, Husband wore a SDSU jersey to a work meeting where he knew there were several NDSU aficionados. They teased him, saying they could no longer be friends.

Well, SDSU pulled a major upset last week and beat NDSU in a surprising comeback. Husband has yet to have a work meeting with the NDSU fans, but I hope he wears his SDSU jersey again, just to be a smart aleck

When have you engineered an upset? What sports teams do you follow? When have you been a smart aleck?

Happy Together

Husband and I both work for separate Human Service Centers right now. His agency is in Bismarck. Mine is in our town. The magic of technology means that he only needs to go to Bismarck one day a week, and all the other days he can work out of my office building. The State calls it “Hoteling” when you set up like a squatter at another State agency building. He works in an office I occasionally use for testing, just across the hall. We spent part of yesterday scoring Rorschach Inkblot Tests together. How romatic, right?

This isn’t the first time we worked in the same building. We worked together in the same department at my current agency for 15 years before he retired the first time. I suppose it is fortunate we get along. We have spent a lot of time together over the decades. At least neither of us had to supervise the other at any time.

The people at my work tell me they think it is so “cute” when they see us at work together. I don’t quite know what they mean by that. We aren’t lovey-dovey or anything like that. I suppose it is sort of unusual to have a married couple at the same agency. I can only imagine the drama had we been at odds or openly hostile with each other.

How do you think it would have turned out if you had to work with your partner or spouse? Any stories about couples working together at the same place? Were you a Turtles fan in the 60’s?

Which Came First?

Today’s post comes from Ben.

There was supposed to be a hard freeze Thursday night. Only got to 35°.  We’re down in a valley so whatever the TV says the low will be, we’re going to be about 10° colder. It’s coming. Sooner or later. Minor cold spells, I unhook the hoses and put the pressure washer in the barn. Once it gets seriously cold, I’ll have to get more things picked up and put somewhere warm.

Driving to Plainview for parts last week showed a lot of farmers harvesting soybeans. Sounds like they might get to mine in the next few days. Good to hear. It was fun to see all the different combines. Some John Deere’s, some Case IH, even one Claas. You don’t see many of them in this area. I’m not even sure who the dealer is for Claas. That’s a big thing when buying equipment; who’s going to support it when needed. I really liked the Deutz tractor I bought back in 1986. But eventually it was hard to find mechanics or parts locally. There was a shop over in Wells MN that did good work on Deutz tractors, but 86 miles is a long ways to go for parts or service.  

I’m bummed all the sweetcorn froze last week so that’s done for the season. What a shame; one cold night and that’s it. Glad we got some froze a month ago. It felt early when we did it, but this is why I guess.

We drove to Plainview so I could pick up some oil filters for the lawn mower and gator. My local dealer has most of my equipment in their records, but they didn’t have the gator for some reason, and I have a hard time remembering all the equipment model numbers. I knew it was an 835, but was it an “E”, “M” or “R”? And there’s a serial number break that uses different oil filters… shucks. I don’t remember. Eventually I found an email on my phone from the insurance company that had the VIN number so we got the right one. I wrote it down. In my phone where I have a file of oil changes on equipment.

All the tractors and machinery have model numbers. I know a lot of them but sometimes I forget. Is the soil finisher a 714 or 716? Wait, it’s a 724. The chisel plow is a 714. Or 716… Know there’s a 7 in there. Maybe this weekend I can get the oil and fuel filters changed in the truck too.

We quit filling the bird feeders this summer when the avian flu was going around. I filled them again this week, but so far nothing has come back.

Rosie and Guildy are still fine. The chickens seem to think those two have better food than they do. It’s all the same food, but it’s inside a pen so it must be better. One of those ‘grass is greener’ things. Right up until this happens.

See what happens when you do things you shouldn’t be doing? You get hung up and need to be rescued. She wasn’t there long. Kelly and I were out picking pears and then having a gator date when we spotted her. Once rescued she ran off to the pen and didn’t even appear too dizzy.

I haven’t seen anyone harvesting corn yet. The kernels are probably a little too wet yet and it’s early enough no one wants to pay for drying the corn yet if they don’t have too. Shelled corn (really, any crop) must be 15% or less moisture to store without spoiling. I’m guessing most corn is still upper 20’s. The ears are mostly still standing upright. The old timers used to wait until the ear had tipped down, then it was ready to harvest. I was just reading that corn on the stalk loses about .5% moisture / day. Course that depends on the weather. It dries a lot more at 70° than it does at 40° of course.

This is a good looking ear because of how it’s filled all the way to the tip. If the plant had any stress it would abort the kernels at the upper end. And there are some ears in the field that are not filled. But it’s neat to see this ear and know the crop had everything it needed to make good ears. Enough rain, the right nutrients, and no stresses. Think about how we could all do if we had no stresses and everything we needed to prosper?

DRUMSTICK OR BREAST?