Those annoying washouts

Our wet spring and summer meant we had to repair the lane several times. The destruction from the last gully washer in July has remained… until today.

I used our Woods HBL rear blade, turned around, to roll gravel from the grass back into the lane and then turned the rig over to Tommy for the final finessing (I know the limits of my earth-moving talents).

Next, hook up the GS72C grading scraper, fill in the ruts with more gravel, and make it look like new again.

I get to do the grading part… I’m just killing some time while I wait my turn.

Away we go!

AKL

Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!

We pulled it off! A trifecta of beauty at last Saturday’s wedding on the Larson farm: The bride was beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and the grounds were beautiful!

I can only take credit for the latter and even so, I need to share the credit with the friends who helped with the last-minute grading and mowing.

Add in some trimming, edging, weeding, and watering and we created a beautiful backdrop for the bride and groom… and their host, Bob the Dog.

The chicken coop turned alter was particularly befitting for Emily and Tommy’s wedding since Tommy is the one who renovated it from its dilapidated condition several years ago. Add in a whole lot of love and the ceremony came off without a hitch (or, I guess, “with a hitch” in the case of a wedding) and the bride and groom couldn’t have been happier, nor the bride more beautiful!

It is truly an honor to host the “once in a lifetime day” of those you love. We are blessed with a beautiful farm and beautiful friends and family… beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

AKL

Illinois Dealer Whirlwind Tour

As a new employee to Blount, this week as part of my on-boarding with the company, I was lucky enough to go on a ride along with one of our Woods District Managers, Kent Helbig. We visited several of our dealers and the folks we talked with were all great people, passionate about their businesses and dedicated to helping their customers.  What a pleasure it was learning so much from all of them!

Our first stop was Streator Farm Mart in Streator, Illinois.  This has been a multi-generational operation for 46 years.  They recently built a new showroom to better serve their customers.  Beautiful building!Streator

The second stop of our adventure led us to Buck Brothers in Hampshire, Illinois.  This was one of four of their locations that sell a wide variety of Woods branded equipment, including our rotary cutters and flail shreddersBuckBros

Bobcat of Rockford (IL) was our third stop.  Below, you can see one of the Woods Batwings sitting in front of the Bobcat building and a picture of Kent taking a look at a Case skid steer loader (shhh… don’t tell him I took a picture of him!). BobcatRkfd

We visited two out of five Stoller International locations: Pontiac and Minonk.  They also have locations in Herscher, Streator and Ottawa. Stoller has been family owned and operated for 80 years and the farming life runs deep in their blood. A special thank you to Dale for taking the time to chat with me about the websites! Stoller

Next on our adventure was Martin Sullivan, located in Lexington, Illinois.  In business since 1926 with 13 locations, they have the experience and knowledge to help their customers with anything farm related. They also have a good looking row of Batwing rotary cutters! MartinSullivan

Doyle Oil, located in Ellsworth, Illinois, is a father/son operation that has been around since 1975. Jack and his son, Doug, have a great selection of Woods equipment on their website.  Check it out! DoyleOil

The last stop in our journey was at Cross Implement in Minier, Illinois. Cross Implement was awarded the top 100 dealer award for 2015 and they continue to strive to do their very best in servicing their customers with a great line-up of Woods products. CrossImp

Someday, it would be fantastic to be able to visit more of our dealers and get to know more of these wonderful people who help the farming community every single day to “get their jobs done right.” Until then, I send out a huge heartfelt THANK YOU to all of the dealers that were so kind and so willing to share their stories with me!thankyou

Wedding week kicks off!

The final week of preparation for the farm wedding kicked-off on Friday evening with a crew of family and friends packing burlap, tulle fabric, grapevine and twinkle lights galore! Of course, before any of the shed decor could go up, tractors, planters, and rotary cutters had to go out, followed by moving racks of parts, tools, and all the other supplies that make a farm shop efficient and a wedding venue unsightly.

We all agreed that hosting a wedding every two years is a great way to get your shop cleaned!

While most of the crew focused on the building, a few of us took to the grounds and kept the Woods FZ25D zero-turn mower humming and the Oregon trimmer/edger buzzing most of the weekend. And, the grading scraper made quick work of repairing the lane, which had washed from the deluge Thursday night.

I have a reputation for wanting the place to look “just so” and am blessed with friends who not only tolerate my “slightly obsessive attention to detail” but also appreciate a well-kept farmstead. Even better, they know how to use our tractors and tools to get the job done. Of course, sometimes the work is more delicate (like planting petunias), requiring only a willingness to dig in the dirt and an occasional break to pose with Bob the Dog.

Jess and Bob in Petunias

We accomplished more than we had hoped Friday and Saturday and by early Sunday afternoon, we called it quits until the final preparations on Thursday. While getting the shed and grounds ready to welcome 300 guests is an enormous amount of work, it is oh so much easier, with a posse of friends and knowing that at the end of a hard days’ work is a good meal, cold beer, and a lot of laughs.

AKL

Only Seven Weekends?

Yesterday, I passed a business whose outdoor sign read, “Only seven shopping weekends before Christmas,” and all I could think is, “But I’m not done with summer!” And yet, the leaves are on the ground, the garden is dormant, and we’re approaching the end of harvest.

The lightning speed at which winter is hurling toward us seems compounded by the late spring and a crazily busy summer — on both the home and the work fronts.

On the farm, my summer days were filled with landscaping projects and wedding plans as we prepared to host the celebration of one of “our neighbor kids” (what an honor!). Along with a million other tasks, thanks to a Woods BrushBull and Mow’n Machine, we transformed a pasture into a manicured parking lot with a 200+ car capacity.

As for work, this summer marked the launches of our relationship with Massey Ferguson and our expansion into Brazil. For a marketer, these are monumental projects, wrought with excitement for the opportunities ahead — and achievable only with the talent of a strong team!

It’s no wonder that summer seems to have slipped by and dragged autumn right along with it. Now the farm is fully focused on getting the crops in (hopefully before Thanksgiving) and my work focus has turned toward 2015 planning, first quarter tradeshows, and a myriad of deadlines that all seem to align around 3/31/15.

Somewhere between now and then, I’ll need to take advantage of one of those “seven shopping weekends” to ensure Christmas doesn’t slip by.

“Tough Jobs” Complete … CHECK

The last of our summer “Tough Jobs” is cleaning out the fence rows. It’s amazing how quickly they get out of control. One day the weeds are barely visible, the next they are knee high, then waist high.

Our thistle population is almost unbelievable. They have invaded the side pasture, the back pasture and the cattle runs near the barn. We’ve kept them in check in the big pastures with the Woods 12-foot Batwing and we got into some tight places amongst the trees with the Woods RC6 Rotary Cutter.

This weekend, we needed a combination of the Rotary Cutter, Mow’n Machine and some good old-fashioned shovel work.

BJ fence rows DSC00016DSC00052

Finally after just a few hours of intense teamwork, the job was accomplished.

DSC00036To say “goodbye” to summer, we are hosting our club calf sale. Hopefully we’ll see many of these steer calves at the shows next summer. And, I’m sure we’ll have more tough jobs to tackle again next year. That’s one thing we always can count on, the farm jobs are never done.

steer 2014

End of Summer Jobs

As the summer is winding down and the kids are going back to school, we are all trying to cram in those last few projects. Tell us about the “Tough Jobs” you still need to tackle.

Tough jobs are easier with the right tools.

Mowing with the Woods Mow’n Machine is even fun.

Just submit the form below and we’ll try to feature them over the next few weeks. What a great way to help others learn from your experiences or gather suggestions on the best way to get those projects checked off your list.

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

Weeds are as High as a Cow’s Eye

The weeds were taking over the pasture.

The weeds were taking over the pasture.

On our farm, every decision and delay has a direct impact, and domino effect, on everything else. Our fencing project was delayed due to the wet weather, which meant the cows couldn’t go into the front pasture, which led to the back pasture being a bit overgrazed, which caused the front pasture to grow too long. Wow!

 

These flowers are easier to pick than the thistles.

These flowers are easier to pick than the thistles.

Now we’re dealing with blooming thistles and weeds taller than the baby calves. The little boys think the thistle flowers are beautiful and even tried to pick some to accompany my dandelion and violet bouquet. Unfortunately, the thorns stymied them.

Big weeds called for bringing in the big guns. We would typically use our small rotary cutter to cut the 10-acre pasture, but this job was a little more than it could handle.

Enter the Woods Batwing 180. This 15-foot Batwing is about 10 years old but still tackling everything thrown it’s way. It even made short work of a plastic bucket that ended up in the field.

Happy cows. Beautiful pasture. And hopefully, a stop to the domino-effect.

Woods Batwing tackling the tough weeds.

Woods Batwing tackling the tough weeds.

 

Photo shoots — why I love my job!

While my weeks are mostly filled with meetings, spreadsheets and endless email streams, a few times a year I get out of the office and into the field. This is one of those weeks. A team of creatives, engineers, product managers, and other assorted talent gathered at our farm yesterday to capture video and photography of the new Woods rear blades and landscape rakes.

As a marketer, I spend more time in a seat behind a desk than in the seat of a tractor, but photo shoots change all that. What’s better than promoting a new product? Actually putting that new product in the dirt!

Planning the Next Video Shot

Planning the Next Video Shot

In the past two days, we’ve bladed dirt over a trench where the septic line settled, cleaned up edges along the gravel lane, and mowed a waterway with the new Woods RC-Series Cutter (when you’ve got a crew available, might as well capture as much footage as you can!).

Both the blade and the rake are amazingly versatile, but we found more uses for the rake than I had originally imagined. We also cleared gravel from the grass (remnants from this winter’s snow plowing), smoothed small gullies in the sandy soil along the slope behind the new shed, and gathered rocks and sticks that had collected on a particularly messy part of the lane.

The nature of photo shoots is that you start a lot of projects, but don’t really finish them since you need to move to the next set-up for another shot. When the crew is done, I’m hoping to hang on to the blade and rake through the weekend to finish what we started. Afterall, the weatherman is predicting sunshine for  Saturday and Sunday and weekends typically offer more tractor time than desk time.

AKL