Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ozarks entrepreneurship: Smokerbuilder.com and The Mid-Mo Smoke Show

This morning I am listening to the Mid-Mo Smoke Show on the local ESPN radio station, and they are talking about what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers.
Right now, they are talking about making gumbo. That is not quite an Ozarkian dish, nor is it made with smoke, but it is the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I an understand why they have set aside the usual agenda of smoking meat.
The description of the dishes they have talked about so far this morning have sounded delicious and the hosts, Frank, Pig Daddy and The Czar, have indicated they will post recipes on their show site later this week.
You can, of course, access that site from anywhere with your computer device, and you can listen to the show live, or on its archives, from anywhere.
The Mid-Mo Smoke Show is the radio voice of Smokerbuilder.com, an Ozarks company based right here in Phelps County.
There was an interesting story about the Smokerbuilder.com Fall Gathering at the Phelps County Focus newspaper website, and it includes quite a bit of history about the company that started when Frank Cox merely wanted to find a good smoker to cook meat for gatherings of family and friends and his home.
He couldn't find one to his liking, so he built one, and now he helps others build their own or modify their current smokers. It's a matter of finding a need, figuring out how to fill it and then provide quality products and service.
That's Ozarks entrepreneurship.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

It is the best holiday of the year

Today is Thanksgiving Day, the best holiday of the year.
Yes, I know some of you, especially children, will say Christmas is the best holiday of the year because you get presents. Plus, it celebrates, for some of us, the birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is one benefit of it; it brings attention to Jesus Christ. People who don’t know him, if they pay attention, will hear the gospel, at least in part, and if they have any curiosity, it might lead to their seeking him. That’s one thing to pray for.
The problem with Christmas is that it has become cluttered for many people. Not for me. I’ve got no problem with Black Friday sales or gift-giving, but for many, maybe most, that kind of activity takes preeminence, instead of Jesus. Never has for me. I guess most people are more prosperous nowadays than my family was. Christmas was a big spendin
Here is the beautifully roasted, golden bird my wife fixed today. Fine, mighty fine.
g season for my family, spending for new socks, underwear, T-shirts, pajamas, bathrobes, maybe shirts for school and a new pair of blue jeans. And maybe one toy.
One time my Grandma gave me a couple jars of dill pickles because I liked them.
Christmas never cluttered for us back in those days, and it is not cluttered for me now. I’m as poor now as we were then. So Christmas is still important to me, especially the church activities, but I think for most people, it’s a big pain, so I put Thanksgiving above it.
And Easter is the best holiday, some would say, because it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an unnecessary holiday, as far as I am concerned. I don’t need it. At my little country church, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ every Sunday; in fact, we celebrate his birth, life, death, burial and resurrection every Sunday. We talk about Jesus a lot in our little country church. So Easter is unnecessary for us. All of the traditions, like eggs and rabbits and the like, are pagan-oriented, so I wouldn’t care if we ignored the so-called Easter holiday.
Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, aren’t they more important than Thanksgiving? Well, not in my opinion. The birth of the nation, the veterans who have served, the service members who have died--all of that is important to me. And that is why in my Thanksgiving Day dinner prayer I thanked God for all of that, the nation, our republic, our veterans both living and dead. I thanked God for all of his blessings on our family, our friends and church. I thanked God most of all for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who offers us eternal life.
There is a lot to celebrate, but there is more to be thankful for, and that’s why I like Thanksgiving Day best of all.
I hope you've had a great day of gratitude.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Are you interested in homesteading? I always was

Growing up on a five-acre homestead in Southwest Missouri, I was eager to get away from the place and the chores. In my junior year at the university, I ran across a publication called Ozarks Access Catalog or something similar. I discovered the "back to the land" movement, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Well, I was, but only in my imagination. After the university, I took a job as a small-town reporter/photographer/editor, and that took a lot of hours every day for seven years. Then I moved to another paper, just a little bigger but not much, and that took as many hours or more. I worked about seven days a week for that paper for 20 years. Then my wife and I started our own little publication and that took a lot of time for three years before it went broke. For the past dozen years or so, I have been working in retail full-time and journalism part-time, plus occasional blogging, so I guess I have three jobs and they take up about 13 hours a day.
As much as I'd like to have a homestead, I can't afford it and I don't have the time to work it.
Oveer the years, I had a huge collectionof Mother Earth News and similar publications. I always dreamed about having five acres  or so to have a small orchard, a big garden, ssome bees, rabbits and chickens, and room to fatten a steer every year.
Alas, none of that has come to pass and likely won't now.
But perhaps you have such a dream. If so, here's an interesting item I ran across from the University of Missouri Extension office in Springfield.
Five acres of land, a small pond and a desire for schedule flexibility does not sound like the typical path to success for cattle producers.
However, land in southwest Missouri can provide a reasonably priced home for a cow compared to other parts of the nation, which is why Missouri ranks number two in beef cows behind Texas according to Andy McCorkill, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Cattle are also a great option for people with small acreages and flexible schedules.
"I would encourage people in that situation to look into running some aged cows that you would buy bred, calve out and then sell as pairs. Another option is to keep them until the calves are ready to wean and sell them separately. Running young growing stock would probably be the best way to get some experience," said McCorkill.
With growing cattle, a producer is hoping to profit from efficient gains of weight. That is doable on small acreages.
"In most years, October and early November mark the softest point of the year in the calf market so it is usually a good time to buy lighter weight calves if you can keep them healthy. You would then sell them at a heavier weight in the spring," said McCorkill.
In this scenario, a person could buy back a set to summer that would be sold in July or August which would give the land some time to rest and stockpile grass until October or November when you would do it all over again.
"It would take good management of the grass for things pan out at that intensive of a level, but it is what many folks do," said McCorkill.
Water is, of course, a very important factor for cattle and for many people it can be a limiting factor. With a small pond, a watering tank is still going to be necessary.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS
According to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with MU Extension in Lawrence County, says not expect huge profits from beef operations. A lot depends on what you include in your costs.
"Backgrounding operations rely on buying and selling skills plus market shifts for profits. A $100 per head profit is a goal of many backgrounders," said Cole.
Running beef cattle is viewed by many as a desired lifestyle and a great way to introduce children or grandchildren to cattle so they can grow up with an appreciation for agriculture. Getting them involved with 4-H may be an outgrowth of this lifestyle choice which can mean making a profit is secondary.
"The first consideration before you buy any cattle is to have something for them to eat and drink. The best cattle producers are the best forage managers. One beef cow and her calf require about three acres per year," said Cole.
If southwest Missouri has a comparative advantage over other areas of the country in producing an agriculture product it is probably beef cattle, specifically cows, and calves.
"Even though our land is not overly fertile and seems high priced, we can still provide a reasonably priced home for a cow compared to other parts of the United States. This is the reason Missouri ranks number two in beef cows behind only Texas," said Cole.
MORE INFORMATION
For more information, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Douglas County at (417) 679-3525; or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.

 My homesteading today is limited to five 4x8 raised garden beds. I don't have livestock, but we have three poodles and a cat, plus some feral cats that wander in sometimes. I guess that will have to do.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Listening to the Opry, just like Grandpa

For years, we had a great public radio station here in town. The broadcast studios for the station, formerly KUMR and then later KMST to reflect the university’s name, were located in the basement of the campus library. The station played a range of music, folk, blues, classical, big band and bluegrass.
I especially liked the bluegrass programs, Bluegrass for a Saturday Night from 7-10 p.m., Sunday Morning Sounds from 7-9 a.m.
Five hours of bluegrass every weekend from the public radio station were joined with five or six hours on Saturday morning on a commercial station. The host of that show was named Ray Hicks, and when his station sold, he was quickly snatched up by another commercial station, although his program was cut to three hours every Saturday morning. Sadly, Ray had a stroke and was unable to continue; he passed away a couple of years ago.
The public radio host was Wayne Bledsoe, a history professor who had a long involvement with bluegrass going back to his North Carolina childhood. He played a good mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass tunes on Saturday night and good bluegrass gospel with a dab of Southern gospel on Sunday morning.
I said once or twice or more in my newspaper column that Wayne’s Sunday morning bluegrass show was better than a sermon when it came to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Well, the university got tired of running the station after many decades, I reckon, and they sold it to St. Louis Public Radio, who immediately killed the gospel program, let go all the local folks who worked there and eliminated the local programming, such as the Backyard Birder feature. If Rolla people are interested in what’s going on in St. Louis, though, KMST is the station to turn to.
Before much time elapsed, Wayne announced his retirement and he played his last bluegrass tunes a couple of months ago. Sad time for us bluegrass fans who for years and years had listened on most Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
Now there is plenty to listen to on the radio these days, especially if you have a Smartphone, I have discovered. I bought one of those Tracfone pay as you go Androids, and I hook iinto our home internet service so I don’t use any minutes. I can listen to just about any radio station in the country, I guess, thanks to apps like Tune-in and I Heart Radio. Plus, I have some Pandora channels that I have created.
So I have plenty to listen to. My favorite stations are KFWR-FM out of Fort Worth, which plays Texas and “Red Dirt” artists; KTXR-FM out of Springfield, which has changed its easy listening format to outlaw country, and several bluegrass outlets, like WAMU, I think, which is from somewhere east. On Pandora, I listen to my Flatt and Scruggs channel and my Don Edwards cowboy music channel.
On Saturday nights, I like to use one of the apps to pick up the Grand Ole Opry on WSM, the legendary station from Nashville.
I heard the Grand Ole Opry quite a bit when I was a kid, for we didn’t have television, and you could hear it well on an AM radio back then because there wasn’t near the clutter on the airwaves there is today. Also, we would drive three hours to central Missouri every 4-6 weeks to see my grandparents, and that is what we usually listened to on the Saturday night drives after my dad closed his barbershop and came home and got us. That was where I got my love of Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs.
When we got to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, they’d have the Opry on, too, until they finally got TV some years later.
So on Saturday night, listening to the Grand Ole Opry, I figure I’m turning into my grandpa.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A present from my Mama in 1972

If my memory is right--and at my age that is doubtful--my Mama gave me this Bible for Christmas 1972.
I was a sophomore at the University of Missouri, and I lived off-campus with a bunch of guys in a two-bedroom apartment. Breaking the rules to cut our rent share, we moved in two or three more guys.
I will not lie to you. I was not leading a Christian life. Now, I wasn’t as wild as many college students, because I worked my way through school. On most nights and every weekend, I was at work washing dishes in the kitchen at the restaurant at Stephens Magnolia Inn, an old motel on the business loop.
But occasionally, when I had a chance, I would cut loose with the other fellows.
My mother has always been a well-grounded Christian, as has my Daddy. Every time I did something I shouldn’t, like cutting loose on a rare weekend off,I worried about disappointing them, not Jesus. She gave me this Bible for Christmas that year, I guess to keep me mindful of my upbringing. For the most part, I think, it worked. As I say, I was not the best Christian in the world, and, to be honest, I still am not.
But I read the Bible as often as possible, and I think about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ a whole lot. Mostly, I think about how unlike him I am.
I’d like to tell you, and Mama would probably like for me to be able to tell you, that this book, The Living Bible paraphrase, changed my life and made me a wonderful Christian.
Well, it probably did change my life. It was so easy to read that I read and reread passages of it for many years later. It did not make me a wonderful Christian. Reading the Bible makes me more curious and more aware of how much I need and rely on Jesus Christ. So I keep stumbling along in life, reading and worshiping and trying to be Christlike (and failing), and I think this Bible had a lot to do with my current state of spirituality. I read it regularly, well, fairly regularly after my mother gave it to me for Christmas, and I have carried it with me everywhere I have lived since she gave it to me. Had she not given it to me, I might have just chucked the whole business of Christ-following.
It was a new edition in 1972, which is the copyright date in it. It is The Living Bible paraphrase, and it has notes at the beginning of each Bible “book” that make the World of God relevant to the early Seventies. I always skipped those parts, and still do, to read the Bible itself.
I always liked the plain paraphrase of The Living Bible. Years later, I heard criticism of it from learned theologians, but I’ve always had a bad attitude toward theologians, so I ignored them, as always.
This Bible was packed away for awhile, then it was laid on a shelf for even longer, for I have a New International Version that I’ve been reading, as well as my good old King James Version.
Now that I’ve taken it off the shelf and paged through it, I think I might try reading through it again in 2018. I will need to get a head start tonight.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 4

Seriously, that water is clean, not muddy like it looks in this picture.
One last thing in this birdfeeding series, and this could be the most important thing we tell you:
OK, we’ve discussed where to feed the birds, what feeders to use and what to put in those feeders.
That’s all there is to it, right?
Well, no. When you eat, you like to have something to drink, don’t you? And you like to have something to bathe in, too, right?
We don’t bathe in our drinking water, but some creatures do, and they need a plentiful supply of it.
It’s up to you to provide that necessity, H2O, along with the food.
In fact, my good friend, Mike Doyen, who I believe is the state’s leading birding, for he devised the Great Missouri Birding Trail, told me that providing water at times is more important than providing food. They can usually find a little food in nature, but sometimes, water is so scarce that they can’t find it.
We’re heading into one of those periods, winter. Water turns to ice in winter, and sometimes stays that way for days, weeks, maybe more than a month. Oh, heaven help us, if it gets that cold and stays cold.
Mike showed me his watering trough, an big old skillet out back that he kept filled with water.
My wife had a concrete birdbath when we married, so we use that at The Ozarks Almanac. I even went to The Family Center a few years back when we got real serious about the birds, and I bought a heater that stays warm enough to keep the water thawed in the birdbath.

OK, that does it for our series on bird feeding and watering.
You can buy whatever blend of food you can afford and want to buy. You can do whatever you want about watering. There are all kinds of contraptions to buy, and I’m not opposed to doing so, I just don’t have the money for all that. I’ve seen a mister for hummingbirds. It isn’t expensive, but I’m on city water here, and I don’t want to add on any more gallons that I have to.
You do what you can afford and like to do. Or do nothing. Let the birds fend for themselves this winter. I hope, though, that we’ve created some interest in most of our readers to try caring for the birds. They can use the help, but most of it, it is just fun to have them around to look at.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 3

Here is what we've been feeding the birds lately.
Yesterday, we talked about what feeders we use. Now here's what we put into those feeders each week.
For years, we bought and fed black oil sunflower seed only that we got from Sands Farm and Home, but Sands shut down. It was a great little store.
Then we started buying a mix from The Family Center, as well as thistle seed for the finches. We fed that for a few years.
Last year a new farm and home supply store opened here, Dickey Bub, which is a funny name that is combination of family names. It is a good store, and the price is right for wild bird seed. It is a True Value store, and we buy a 40-pound mix that contains cracked corn, milo, white millet, sunflower seed, calcium carbonate, white, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement.
I know you’re going to tell me that is a lot of fillers, and perhaps so, but they eat it. They congregate in here and eat it. I fill the feeders on Saturday or Sunday and have to refill them in the middle of the week.
I told my wife that I thought we needed to go back to the black oil sunflower seed, so we bought a 50-pound bag of it. I put the sunflower seed in the cylindrical feeder and the mix in the red barn/schoolhouse feeder. The birds preferred the mix.
So I added sunflower seed to the rest of the mix, and they liked that. I think I will try to convince my wife to continue buying both, fortifying the mix with several scoops of black oil sunflower seed.
We still buy the thistle seed for the finches at The Family Center, because they sell it by the pound, and we bag it ourselves. My wife prefers that, so I do, too.
You can do a lot of research on what to feed. Go online and you’ll see all kinds of seeds that birds like including something called, of all things, rapeseed. What in the sam hill is that?
For The Ozarks Almanac, it boils down to this: What is available here? What can we afford? So far, we have found affordable seed that the birds eat, so that’s about all we care about.
The suit cakes we buy as we can find them on sale. You can spend a lot of money on suet cakes if you want to. We don’t want do and won’t. The birds eat what we place before them, unlike some children.

Tomorrow: Wrapping it up with the most important thing to do for the birds

Monday, November 6, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 2

Throw a scoop or two on the ground for the ground-feeders.
Today, we're going to tell you about the feeders we use at The Ozarks Almanac. You can see a picture of three of them in yesterday's post, which was Part 1 of this four-part series.

We want to appeal to the range of birds, so we have a range of feeders. I’m just missing one that I want, but I’ll have to build it, and I haven’t found the time yet.
For the finches, we have tube feeders and sock feeders that dispense the tiny seeds they like.
For the woodpeckers, we have suet feeders that hold the suet cakes.
For the cardinals, blue jays and others, we have a large cylindrical feeder with a perch around the bottom and holes that give access to the seeds. We also have a large feeder shaped like a red barn or a red schoolhouse, I’m not sure which. It has spring-activated perches on both sides that are supposed to keep squirrels out of the food.
We also use the ground to feed birds like large and beautiful mourning doves. They feed on the ground as do some other birds. I usually throw a scoop or two of bird food on the ground when I fill the feeders. Then as the birds feed on the feeders, they move them and knock down more seed to the ground.
What I’m missing is a platform feeder. All I need to do is sink two posts and then nail or screw a 1-by board  across the top. I’m not sure how wide it needs to be, 1x8, 1x10, 1x12. Not sure. Simple to put up, just haven’t got around to doing it, for I work another full-time manual-labor job and a half-time reporting job in addition to my sporadic writing here at The Ozarks Almanac.

Tomorrow: What we put in those feeders






Sunday, November 5, 2017

Feed the birds this winter--and year around for fun--Part 1

Three of the feeders we use at The Ozarks Almanac, located next to a hedge.
We feed birds year-round at The Ozarks Almanac. I don’t know if that is good or bad for the birds. Is it making them dependent on us, raising up a generation of birds expecting handouts from us birdwatchers? I don’t know, but right or wrong, that’s what we do.
If you don’t feed the birds at your place, think about doing it this winter. Get started on it now, in fact. They are fun to watch, and they probably need the food in winter.
I am no expert on birding, but here’s what we do at The Ozarks Almanac.

Location

The bird feeders are on the east side between the house and the neighbor’s hedge that he doesn’t take care of very well. That may be a good thing, for birds like to have a refuge they can fly to after eating. They go back and forth from the hedge to the feeders at feeding time.
If there’s a problem with too much vegetation in the yard, it is probably from our side, not the neighbor’s hedge. We’ve got a big Nine Bark bush. It’s something my wife likes, but it has grown unruly. That and the Golden Currant bushes provide refuge for the birds during feeding, but they also provide shelter for the neighborhood cats.
We’ve got one cat that is ours, Buddy, but there are four feral cats that hang around The Ozarks Almanac, too, because they know they’ll get a free meal from time to time. I’ve found some feathers and twice I’ve seen a feral cat with a dead bird in its mouth, so I guess our bird sanctuary is a banquet hall for the ferals. I’m going to have to get out and trim back the Nine Bark, the Currant and some of the neighbor’s hedge so the birds have a clearer viewing range.
Despite all that, I think the location is good, for it is sunny the biggest part of the day, protected from the prevailing wind and provides good protection, as long as the birds stay out of the range of the cats.

Tomorrow: The feeders we use

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What kind of a construction worker was Jesus?


Sir John Everett Millais' Christ in the house of his parents, 1850
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Just about everything you have read and believed about Christianity has been revised, and I might talk about that from time to time here.
One thing that has changed is Jesus’ occupation. I’m not sure what the truth is now. I grew up hearing that he was a carpenter, and the stories and illustrations that I heard in Sunday School as a child indicated that  Our Lord and Savior grew up working with his earthly father, really step-father, I guess, as his Father was Jehovah, in a woodworking shop. I always imagined them making furniture, like baby cradles and such.
Then I was watching  The History Channel a few years ago and there was a show on there that claimed Jesus was actually something called a “tekton,” which is the Greek word for a laborer, very likely helping the Romans build a new city close to Nazareth, a city called Sepphoris.
The show said he likely was a stone-cutter or a stone carrier or someone doing a lot of work with stones. The show pointed out that there was not a whole lot of wood over there, as there is here, so Jesus probably was not a woodworker, certainly not a carpenter, but probably a stone worker of some sort.
Well, boy howdy, that sure changes the picture.
I thought Jesus grew up quietly in Nazareth, him and Joseph working together sawing and planing and sanding all those baby cradles. Ever now and again, Mother Mary would bring out a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea to the workshop and say something like, “How are my boys doing?’ and then give them each a peck on the cheek.
At lunch time, she’d holler out the back door of the house, “Come and get it, but wash your hands first,” and Jesus and Joseph would go to the bucket of water at the back door and pour some in a pan and wash their hands and face and then go into the house and eat themselves a bowl of soup or a grilled cheese sandwich or something. Then they’d thank Mary for lunch and go back to the workshop and spend the afternoon making some more baby cradles before heading back to the house for supper and then an evening of study of the scriptures.
And I figured that went on from the time Jesus was 12 and got left at the Temple until the time he was 30 and headed to Capernaum and beyond to go into business for himself as a rabbi, or teacher, having done all that scriptural study.
But, according to The History Channel, the incarnate Word was actually a construction worker, and he and Joseph probably spent a good many years on a work crew in Sepphoris building the city.
What was Jesus like as a construction worker around all those other construction workers? That can be a rough crowd. They tell dirty jokes, talk about getting drunk and getting laid. When a good-looking woman walks by they stop and stare, maybe make a comment, hoping  she’ll stop and flirt a little while.
What did Our Lord and Savior, who was sinless, do while all that tomfoolery was going on? What is a sinless person supposed to do around that kind of baloney? Ignore it? Say nothing? Say “tut-tut” or “tsk-tsk” and keep on working? Preach about the sins of the flesh? What if someone tells a dirty joke and it is really funny? How does a human, and Jesus was 100 percent human as well as 100 percent divine, not laugh at a funny joke, even if it is off-color?
I got reported at my day job for telling an inappropriate joke in the break room. The HR manager called me into the office and told me a complaint by a female worker had been filed for an inappropriate joke. I said, “The only joke I know I told recently was this one“ and then I told her this joke: Old boy goes into a bar and there is a big, fat girl in Daisy Duke shorts dancing on the table. Guy watches a while and then says, “Great legs.” The fat girl giggles and says, “Really? You think so?” And the guy says, “Sure, most tables would have collapsed under the weight by now.” The HR manager laughed out loud, told me to get out of her office and quit telling jokes in the employee break room.
Jesus would not have told a joke like that, nor would he have laughed. He is probably pissed off at me now for telling it again. No, wait, he doesn’t get pissed off. I get pissed off, because getting pissed off is a sin, and I am a sinner, but Jesus is not.
Wow, it must have been difficult being The Word Made Flesh, Divinity living amongst us sinful humans, and going to the cross to die for us, because we all deserve death, but he wants us to have eternal life.
I guess I don’t care whether he was a woodworker, a rough-in carpenter, a hod carrier or a skilled stone cutter.
I know that he was the Word of God to us, God in the flesh, who came to teach us and to die for us to atone for our sins. Because of him, we can live eternally, if we recognize our inability to save ourselves, recognize that he alone is the way to God, believe he died for us to cleanse us of our sins. He rose from the grave and now he offers us grace, mercy and peace. All we must do is receive him into our daily lives and worship him and follow him as the true expression of the Father.
That is truth that has not changed.