Mow, Blow, Scrape and Brush: Versatility at its Finest

By the time we returned from our “vacation,” the lawn, driveway and fence edges were out of control. The grass looked like it was a foot tall and the weeds were even taller.

It didn’t take long to tame the grass but what was left behind really should have been baled. We had grass clippings in huge windrows everywhere!

Mow’n Machine to the rescue again!

IMG_1510IMG_1530

When we got our FZ22K we opted to also get the broom and blade attachments. We thought about the snow blower too, and may go back for that later. We wanted the broom to brush gravel back onto the driveway and clean up the concrete in front of the garage and shed. We also plan to use the blade to scrape manure in the pens and cattle runs.

One thing we didn’t expect was brushing grass clippings from the lawn. I’m not sure this is an “intended use,” but it sure worked and was certainly better than raking it by hand. The best part is the cows got to eat the grass when we brushed the clippings right into the pasture.

Maybe one of my entrepreneurial kids will design a mini round baler attachment for the Mow’n Machine next. Sign me up for that, too!

Just one tip: Don’t try this if the wind is blowing!

IMG_1528

Farewell, Mervel

This week we will say a final “good-bye” to Mervel Wood, the last surviving founder of Wood Brothers Manufacturing Co. Mervel passed away on Wednesday, June 16, signaling the end of an era at Woods Equipment. What remains is a lasting legacy of hard work, ingenuity, and a commitment to people — an approach to business that Mervel and his brothers instilled when they founded the company in 1946.

I had a chance to visit with Mervel on several occasions. The first was in 2005 when we invited him and his wife Ruth to Oregon, Illinois, to celebrate the manufacturing of our one millionth product. To honor Mervel for his role in this accomplishment — and because he was 85 at the time and I had no idea of his driving ability — I arranged to have a limousine pick them up at their house in Rockford and drive them to Oregon.

Mervel Wood and his wife Ruth shared their first ride in a limousine when visiting Woods Equipment to celebrate the manufacturing of the company's one millionth product in 2005.

Mervel Wood and his wife Ruth shared their first ride in a limousine when visiting Woods Equipment to celebrate the manufacturing of the company’s one millionth product in 2005.

When I called to share the details with Mervel, he was quite tickled, “I’ve never ridden in a limo before!” he told me. I too was tickled to be part of that small “first” in his life.

The next time Mervel visited the plant was for a family gathering, which we hosted for them, June 7, 2013. I was off to New York to enjoy a weekend of theatre with my mother (which turned out to be our last trip together), so I missed the joy of seeing the Wood family experience first-hand the legacy started by Mervel, Keith and Leonard.

Mervel and Sons in Plant 2013

Mervel (seated) and his sons Doug and Jim during the family visit to Woods in 2013.

I did, however, get to meet many members of the brothers’ families when the three were inducted into the AEM Hall of Fame in November 2012. A dozen members of the family joined Jerry Johnson, our president, and me in Los Angeles, California, for the Association’s gala induction celebration. It was a thrill for Jerry and I to hear stories of their first jobs in the manufacturing plant  (who knew a grease gun could shoot all the way to the ceiling) and their memories of Keith and Leonard whom we had never met.

My most memorable time with Mervel was the afternoon I shared with Chad Elmore and Michael Ellis in Mervel and Ruth’s living room. Michael and Chad were both with Lessiter Publishing at the time and had happily agreed to conduct a video interview with Mervel. We spent hours listening to him talk about the start-up of the company, its growth through the 1960’s and 70’s, and the eventual acquisition by Hesston Corporation in 1969.

My favorite story from Mervel was about the transition from belt to gearbox driven spindles on the rotary cutters. Their father, also an inventor, had sent them the idea to use gearboxes instead of belts, along with a drawing for a gearbox design. Being independent-minded (or perhaps stubborn, as admitted by Mervel), the brothers decided to design their own gearbox. The project was a success and sales picked up. In fact, they started receiving orders for just gearboxes, 25 at a time, from a company “down south.” After filling a few of these orders, they decided to learn more about where they were coming from and discovered that their new customer was the manufacturer of a competitive brand of red rotary cutters — proof that the agricultural equipment industry has always been a tight-knit group.

While I am saddened by Mervel’s passing, I am ever grateful for having spent time with him and his family. It is an honor to have known him and to be a part of his enduring legacy as an employee of Woods Equipment.

AKL

The Greatest Show on Earth; Our Own Circus

hereford panaramicSix kids. Seven Herefords. Ten Days. Now that’s a circus.

No, that’s our annual trek to Junior National Hereford Expo, one of the largest youth events in the country. Last week more than 700 kids from 40 states converged on Harrisburg, PA. They exhibited nearly 1,200 head of Hereford cattle and participated in 23 leadership and personal development competitions. The event also brought in more than 3,000 spectators.

Cattle walked through the ring for three full days, crowning champion heifers, bulls and cow/calf pairs. We brought home the banner for Champion Bred & Owned Cow/Calf pair! This was even more special because it was our youngest daughter’s favorite heifer that she raised from a little calf.

JNHE 14 stalls

Though the cattle show is an important aspect of the event, we also focus on the many contests available to improve speaking and critical thinking skills. This year was an exceptional one, with two of the kids winning national speaking events. They also earned one Top Ten in showmanship, two leadership/activities winners in their age group and two Creative Arts winners. We are so proud of them all.

IMG_1474 IMG_1459 IMG_1469 IMG_1462Brett showmanship

So, when education officials talk about the lower quality of education and the lack of opportunities in rural school districts, I just have to shake my head. We know that rural communities offer some of the best opportunities for kids to excel with life skills learned outside the classroom.

 

A Farmer’s Family Vacation

To most people, family vacation means toes in the sand, splashing in the pool or relaxing by a campfire. To us, family vacation means hard work, short nights and a “togetherness” rarely experienced in most families. To us, family vacation is A CATTLE SHOW.

Part of getting ready for a show is washing them everyday.

Part of getting ready for a show is washing them everyday.

Since most of our friends are involved in the cattle business, it comes as no surprise that we prefer the crazy schedule of a cattle show – and most of them are here with us. But to others, it’s just plain crazy.

This week we will wash each of our seven animals once a day, typically well before sunrise. We will spend all day and into the night in the barn, including eating most of our meals with the cattle. We will try to catch naps in a chair, feed and water the cattle before we feed ourselves and comb their hair more than we comb our own. We will be visiting a spa, but we’re doing the work and the cattle are reaping the benefit.

The kids will participate in speech contests, talent contests, sales contests, judging, showmanship, quiz bowl and herdsmanship. They will walk animals through the ring in front of a judge for four days straight. We will finish our week on Saturday, only to wake before dawn on Sunday to drive 16 hours home.

Working together at the "cow spa."

Working together at the “cow spa.”

Many of our non-farming friends ask us why we put ourselves through this, and sometimes we ask the same question.

But then we see the confidence developed by speaking in front of a panel of judges, the entrepreneurial spirit ignited as an invention takes shape during the sales contest and the pride felt as they walk out of the ring, knowing that they’ve done their best. And though they might not always enjoy it, the work ethic developed through showing cattle can’t be topped.

We know this is how we want to raise our kids. This is how we were raised. We just hope someday our kids will thank us for these early mornings, late nights and beach-less vacations.

Only time will tell.

Fun and games at the show.

Fun and games at the show.