The Useful Duck!

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The new farm

An interesting article about new agriculture. Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Farmers.
Everybody is looking for an angle to make money. Everybody is looking for the next best thing. There is always a seminar on clever new ways to farm. Organic farming and sustainability are really nice sounding terms.
There is no glory in writing about failure, but most of these new style farms are losing money.
This is the point where I offend all my farmer friends.
I suspect that real farming, the way God intended us to farm, is practiced only by the Amish and a few oddball hippies, and OhioFarmGirl.
I'm not sure mainstream production agriculture is not really farming, (my opinion as one who is involved in it). Sure we pride ourselves on feeding the world and we have the bumper stickers and we like to think we are some sort of protected class of folks, with our new combines that cost more than your house and our determination to farm 500 acres more than our neighbor.
But it ain't really farming in the centuries old traditions. We don't eat what we grow, we farm more ground than we can walk in a day, we don't raise animals, we don't have a balanced ecosystem on our farm, where what we grow feeds our "tractor," which fertilizes the ground which grows stuff we eat, and feed for our chickens, who give us eggs, and so on. And we are not really feeding the world. Providing cover crop for the Midwest perhaps, or grass for the golf courses of the world, noodles for Japan, but no one would starve if all the farmers in the Western half of this state went on strike.

I'm not sure there is anything really wrong with this. Current trends towards bigger farms are leaving a few of us behind and some of us are more bitter than the rest.
But according to the census of agriculture, farms under 100 acres are increasing at a rapid rate.
I've found the new farmers quite interesting. Most of them annoy the heck out of me and so I kind of avoid them, but I like a few of them I've met. Well, perhaps two of them...or one...
With that in mind, I was just talking with Jose today and he told me about his friend who sold a goat for $20,000 and another friend who has 100 acres of fruit trees and is making big money.
Both of those people are not main stream agriculture.
There are two ways to be a farmer. The first is to rent what ever ground you can find and try to make it in traditional 20th century farming. Growing grass seed or commodity crops and doing trucking or custom work or what ever to bring in cash flow. You work with all the government farm programs and you fill out the paperwork and you get a young farmer loan and you go to endless farm meetings.
And then there are the other folks.
There is a lot of energy in farming which you see in small farms with young people working outside the  traditional farm service agency route. Most of these people just decide they want to farm and they go do it. Most also fail, but there are those who succeed.
If I were starting out in farming I would never set foot in the Farm Service Agency. Never go to one of those stupid seminars where the speaker gets paid a nice fee to tell you how to start a farm business and you know good and well that the speaker is up there because it is easier to get paid to tell people how to farm than it is too actually do the farming.
I can't use myself as an example because I am terrible at customer service and my feed business is failing because I refuse to answer the phone. And I'm not starting from scratch.
Take feed as an example, this is what I should be doing. Feed prices in the farm stores are kind of outrageous. If I had ten acres of barley, ten acres of oats, five acres of flax, a truck load of alfalfa, and twenty tons or so of pea screenings I could sell a really good multipurpose feed, 16 percent protein and under $400 a ton. I would start small with my old equipment and a few customers and sell through word of mouth. I'm not going to Farmer's markets because sitting in a booth all day Saturday and Sunday and talking to the same five hippies does not really appeal to me. I don't have the time.
You want people to come to you.
I think in five years I could be as busy as I wanted to be. In fact, I think the only reason I'm not making feed every day right now is that I don't really want to.
Which brings us to the genetically modified labeling issue. My customers can't afford the certification. They are not certified nonprofits, they are not retired rich people, generally they can't even do Organic Certification. They sell by providing good tasting food raised locally and can show their customers where their ingredients come from. The new initiatives are written to make money for the certification agencies and to weed out people like my customers. The interesting things in farming are always done by passionate individual farmers.
And now my battery is dead and I have to go to work. Feeding the world! If you don't like farmers, don't talk with your mouthful! Going to go chop some genetically modified corn...and possibly do some field trails for Monsanto. Hoping to score another flying corn hat. I like flying corn hats...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dad goes for a ride, I put my new spanner to work, and we startchopping silage

Sunday my brother took my farther (thanks iPhone auto spell) FATHER and I for a ride.

We went to see our chicken farmer friend. I should have taken a picture. He has such a wonderful bucolic little farm.
We meandered our way through the backroads and ended up in Willamina.
We had lunch at Coyote joe's which is reliably good food.
Then we decided to spy on my friend's field of Teff.
But we got distracted.

This map doesn't really do justice to the drive. If it were in Gorges neck of the woods it would be "up a couple holler's."
(However you are supposed to spell it)
But then dad went to sleep, we did stop by the Dairy Queen for ice cream. We thought about going to see muddy valley but we were thinking he was away at the drone races.

Later, I made use of my Whitworth spanners to remove the rear tyre on my motorcycle.
I had to remove the special nonstandard exhaust pipes in order to block up the triumph to remove the rear wheel. 

I found out why the rear brake doesn't work.
Today we are going to chop silage.
Which is what I should be doing right now and not blogging using speech to text on my iPhone.
Have a nice day.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I love my iPhone

Apple has become is a wonderful company. I remember back in the old days when you could just buy an Apple product and bring it home turn it on and start using it. Or plug some random device into the Apple and have it show up as an external hard drive and then use disk tools to figure out how to get it to work.
The New Apple is so much better. I love many layers of password protection, I really love typing with a touch screen and trying to get the "m" key to work without hitting backspace. The experience of accepting a phone upgrade and getting the opportunity to retype all my passwords, not have to worry about posting videos to YouTube or photos to dropbox is wonderful. I also love having random identities from my family assigned to me when someone else updates their phone. This is even better than wearing my wife's underwear, (hypothetically speaking-not that I have ever done that) Although, once, some years ago I may have accidently put her pants on one morning and then when my daughter freaked out I may have sort of flounced around the house refusing to take them off because they, "made me feel pretty." I would never do that because I have lots of self respect and would never want to do anything that would cause my daughter to need counseling in the future.
But, I digress...
Let me just get to the point.
1. I was going to post video of my exciting life, planting and having a nerf machine gun battle (two videos not one) and random photos but I can't.
2. I've been busy planting and getting ready to chop silage and have been posting with my iphone. At this point I can't email anyone.
3. Anger management....

In a completely unrelated point...
People are debating the Oregon voter initiative to label genetically modified ingredients in food. I won't debate. It is stupid. It is funded and promoted by people who love regulation when it is on other folks. We don't need more regulation. That is the bottom line.
If people don't want genetically modified food there will be a market for it and it will happen. Let it happen, don't force me to prove my hay or my grain is nonGMO.
I have spoken...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Happiness! Day Two, I go to open house at school, comment on a teacher fired daughter's old school for leaving the door open

Now that I am a positive and happy person I have a much different perspective.
I took my daughter to open house at her school last night. I met her teachers. They seemed nice. We looked for places I had carved my name into tables. Didn't find them.
I pointed out to her the spot where the girl in first grade pooped on the floor.
I noted that the school executive secretary was the only person left at the school that I knew. We stopped and talked to her. She had just started when I was in 8th grade.
I did not tell her about that Halloween when she came to school dressed as Mae Yokum and all the 8th grade boys, including the Principal,  turned to jello.
It was a nice father-daugher bonding experience.
She is doing well and her teachers say she stands up for the oppressed.
Everything is common core. Language arts/reading seems to focus on current literature which is pretty much crap. But, on the other hand, Jonathan Swift and the Irish Potato famine, or Gulliver putting out fires, would get the tight-arses in up in arms, if anyone could figure out what they were saying.
The teachers are enthusiastic and sincere and I have no complaints.
I'm really glad she is not attending the private Christian School this year. Meltdowns in Administration produce cynical kids. Especially when it is at a school where you look to the leadership to really provide an example and they are really trying to do the right thing but have gone about it in such a silly, incompetent and ill-thought-out way that it has completely made a mockery out of the process.

I so much want to write a Daily Strumpet article about the school.
I have the headline:
Born in a Barn? Western Mennonite School teacher opens fire door and gets fired!
Or Furious Fake Farts by Foolish Fellows Find Funky Teacher Fired! Students say it stinks!

On the Job too long? Was leaving the door open the last straw?
Administrators at WMS did not announce the firing of nearly 20 year veteran teacher Dave Engle last week.
Engle may have been fired after a string of misadventures which include but are not contained to, propping a class room door open to supposedly provide ventilation during 90 degree weather, the rude and unforgivable misjudgement of  instructing students to make flatulent noises while saying their names during classroom introductions on the first day of school, and having a US Army poster on the wall in old Testament Bible class.
Little information was given on the termination as Students and Staff were encouraged to accept that the leadership of the school had everyone's best interests at heart and that of course it was a confidential matter and Mr. E's privacy was of utmost concern and that much prayer and counsel had been sought and God and Moses had been consulted personally.
Later, it may or may not have stated that Mr. E. was fired due to a pattern of insubordination as evidenced by open doors, fart noises, and military posters on the wall of an institution which pay homage to it's Anabaptist past by banning anything military, applying conflict resolution to paying students and issues which in no way challenge the God inspired leadership and direction of the school.
An anonymous source cited examples of unsound doctrine and something so offensive on the first day of school that this writer would wish his daughter was in public school. However, no examples were given as that would be violating Mr. E's privacy.

But, the Daily Strumpet (America's favorite irregular newsletter for regular people) has not been published in years and now the former editor must go to work.

Have a happy day! And remember, if you don't have the balls to standup and disagree with someone just fire them for insubordination or write snarky semi anonymous comments about them in a your kind of whiny blog!
Words and hands are not for hurting!
If you let yourself down you let your country down!
Get off my lawn!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A change of attitude and I attempt to salvage flax

I have decided to become an optimist. I read that optimists are well paid. In fact you can get paid for being an optimist, it is actually one of the 12 best jobs in America!  Then I realized that I now need reading glasses.
I have been somewhat embarrassed. In reviewing my blog I realize I may complain just a little bit. This is supposed to be funny. More of a light-hearted look at the misadventures of a reluctant farmer.
That whole combine fire thing, did as they most likely say in the burgeoning recreational chronic business in Oregon and Washing say, "harsh my mellow."
One must need to be familiar with the current colloquialisms if one wants to be "hip," something which I most certainly strive to be.
But, I digress...
Yes it is true that the combine did burn up and that my attempts at a restful vacation did not get off to a good start, but I must remember, no one died, I didn't have to walk, and I got pie...
It could just be bad luck, well not really BAD luck as, no one died, I didn't have to walk, and I got pie, but and three neighbor's offered to help combine.
The first neighbor to show up also had a few things go wrong. First he ran out of diesel, second, he got violently ill, then his father got violently ill...
The other neighbor who was getting ready to come over had his starter blow up on his combine. I mean it failed so badly it started a small fire.
My other neighbor has offered to help three times but I'm sort of afraid he will be struck by lightning and I've declined his offer of help. (but said thanks) Three friends are better than two friends and I really hate funerals.
But there is hope. After days of discussions with insurance companies and much prayer by the followers of Gorges Grouse, there may be an insurance settlement. AND the local farm equipment salvage yard has offered $3,500 for the charred combine and we can keep the header.
I'm afraid to discuss details due to the whole "sideways luck," issue that I have discussed in past posts. (Something always goes wrong followed by something going right but never so right that it negates the going wrong.)
Also, my father seem content that he is 95 years of age, although it still bothers him that he has been 95 for the past five years. I suggested that he be happy that he hasn't gotten any older. I'm not sure that really helped but he did give a chuckle.
In other news which I will deem positive, we are getting a warm rain which is sprouting all the worked ground so when it stops raining (which I'm sure it will at precisely the right time) we can spray out the sprout and plant. (And chop silage all at the same time.)
Yesterday I attempted to salvage toasted flax. It turns to mush with moisture. It is funny stuff. My brother took the hydraulic motor off the belt pickup and hooked it up to the unloading auger drive on the BBQ combine. This way he was able to unload the full tank of seed into a truck without using five gallon buckets. There was quite a bit of charred and wet flax around the edges of the tank.

I made a screen to go into the throat of the auger and screened out much of the big chunks. I got something like 6,500lbs out of 7,500lbs in the tank. It is not good enough to go for seed but I can use it for chicken feed.
Of course it was raining while I was doing that but with my newfound sense of optimism I was happy, happy, happy!
Have a nice day!

Monday, September 22, 2014

I heart pie

My wife's sister made me a pie for my birthday. It was a work of art. 
I suppose it was no coincidence they were camped in the space next to ours. My brother in law makes the best breakfasts ever. 
The work was here patiently waiting for me. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I go on vacation and things break...

My wife and daughter convinced me to go camping for my birthday this past weekend.

I just turned 50...
Of course things did not go as planned.
A blowout on the trailer on 99W, unexpected fuel usage combined with our arrival at the gas station in Mapleton ten minutes after closing time, failure of the trailer lights, and today it rained at the coast.

So what went wrong:
1. The timing of the whole event- I thought I could spare a few days in September. I even planned in advance. Then there was a combine fire and then my employee got sick and it is supposed to rain in two days and now it is time to chop silage. But the campsite was reserved and wheels were set in motion and we went.

2. Thursday things went wrong. We were to leave at 3:30 p.m. I was to fill the truck with gas and hook up the trailer. But things went wrong... Insurance fellow showed up, Major parts supplier representative brought lunch, Uncles old hunting partner showed up, Dad decided he needed to subtract 1919 from 2014 to find his age. No little helper. He didn't show up because it rained, I was incredulous and somewhat short tempered.
 I didn't get the truck full of gas.

The events as the transpired: On the road at 4:30 p.m.
A blowout on the trailer on 99W, it was on the passenger side so it was not too bad.
We passed the last gas station and realized that the gas gauge was dropping really fast.
The low gas light comes on, we stop and drain gas out of the generator and use a safety cone as a funnel.
7:10 p.m. We get to Mapleton to discover that the gas station is closed. Wife checks the bar to see if the other gas station owner is in the bar drinking but he is not. We call AAA.

8:50 p.m. I am really tired of waiting for the AAA guy to hitch hike from Eugene with two gallons of gas and start checking things on the trailer. Discover we have no lights.
9:10 AAA guy arrives in a van label RV service. I ask him if he has any test equipment for checking lights. He says "no." I mean that is actually all he said. "no" Then he got in his van and left. I thought about making another call to AAA.
Instead I crawled under the trailer with a pocket knife and my iPhone as a flashlight.
9:20 I twisted some wire together and got lights. We were on the road...

Had a nice time in Florence. I slept in. My wife's sister and her husband were in the adjacent camping spot. My brother in law is an excellent breakfast cook. We had a nice time.

Plus I got this cool old Calrad volt meter at a yard sale, and a soldering iron, and an axe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Flax BBQ

OSome photos of my mistake...
A mess

Imaginary farming is better than real farming.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I had a post which I then removed and now I replace it with meaningless drivel. Have a nice day...

I thought it was kind of funny but perhaps it sounded just a bit on the bitter side. If you want to know what it was then you could email me.
Some folks stopped by for a visit right about time to get ready for Church. Had a nice visit.
I'd post some photos of my daily life on the farm but when I backed up my phone I lost my photos. I don't mean that they are deleted. I used GraphicConverter to download them into a folder which I accidently put into the wrong folder (not the photo's folder) and I screwed up the name of the folder and now I can't find them and then I had the delete photos upon download button clicked and I now have no photos in my phone to post.
Since it is Sunday I will post some inspirational music.

My favorite Gospel Artist
Probably Orin's favorite singers,
And to be all inclusive:

And For the Die Hard Fans....

Friday, September 12, 2014

I comment on the news

I've been watching the news...
First they said it was a visit to the beach, now it could be that her family is from Lincoln City. 
McMinnville said the girls kidneys had shut down and sent her to Portland, where she died.
I figured out the story three days ago, when I first heard the story.
The girl is dead, not because some local eatery had a bad sandwich, or didn't wash her hands, the girl is dead because the local hospital and the local doctor misdiagnosed her.
Yesterday we saw photos of investigators taking samples of something from the family home and we were given the name of the restaurant where the family ate lunch.
Today, we see the parents are thinking about a lawsuit against the local hospital. I wonder if they would have filed a lawsuit if they (the parents) were not subjected to an investigation.
This is how we deal with random acts which the authorities usually can't handle. We investigate the random act like it is going to happen every day and we make excuses for the idiots in charge...

2. Two days ago there was a teaser for a story about an Islamic fellow in Portland who was subjected to racist taunts by a TriMet bus driver.
I waited for the story. 
They showed a photo of the offended person. It was a white guy in what appeared to be a Yassir Arafat  costume, or it could have been a surplus Three Wiseman costume from GoodWill.
He was quite articulate and had quite a speech about discrimination.
I wonder...
Picture this: You are a TriMet bus driver who deals with crazy people in Portland every day. A moronic white guy gets on the bus who is pretending to be an Islamic Cleric and something sarcastic just slips out. Honestly, how could you keep it in?
And the tears and lawsuits follow....
I'm just saying...

The guy went to Tigard High School and has taken on an Islamic name and has a Facebook page. Perhaps he is for real but it is Portland. I just assume he is a freak.

UPDATE: The Islamic guy is in fact a crazy maroon. Don't know if he is really a Islamic, but he is a Maroon. Click here to read more about it.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We go on a bridge tour

My wife worries about me. She tries to come up with plans to get me away for a vacation or take my mind off farming.
The latest effort was the purchase of a Groupon for the Portland Spirit.

The Portland Spirit is a big boat that does dinner cruises on the Willamette river in Portland.
She got a good deal on a bridge tour.
I didn't pay a lot of attention. Lulu seemed excited and I figured if everyone else was excited and the Groupon was purchased I was not going to complain.

We headed to the big city after Church on Sunday. We have been going to a new Church and going somewhat infrequently. Probably because I usually end up talking about farming with people I know there and boring my family to tears.
Part of the plan was to go to Powell's book store. It is a huge used bookstore, you can browse for hours. I like to check the stock of Gene Logsden books. I never buy any because they all cost $20 and I am way too cheap.

I did buy a book that tells how to build handy things on the farm. It was written in 1946. I suppose I'm going to have a problem finding model-T axle housing to build a stand for the vice my neighbor gave me three years ago and is laying in the exact spot I dumped it.
But I digress,

We headed down to the waterfront and found the Portland Spirit at its berth. Not much sign of life so we watched the dragon boat races and observed various nutcases and bicyclists that make up much of the population of the city.

After a while a group of 10-15 people gathered at the gates so we joined them. Seemed like a small group for such a big ship.
After a brief wait a crew member came up with a clipboard and started comparing reservations with our photo id's. It would seem the US Coast Guard is worried that folks who ride the Portland Spirit are potential terrorist threats. Yes indeed, those elderly folks out for a Sunday ride are much more dangerous than all the freaks who hand out UNDER the bridges in Portland...
But, I digress...
We skipped down the gangplank anticipating the pleasant airconditioning the possibility of refreshing cold drinks and snacks on board the Portland Spirit, the luxury cruiser of the Willamette River.
Yes, we walked into the cool air conditioned dining room and continued across the dining room and out a small hatch in the side and made a precarious step into a bouncing small boat on the other side...
It was a Portland Spirit bridge cruise. Portland Spirit is the name of the parent company as well as the name of a boat. But... The Bridge Cruise is a small boat called the Explorer.
It was pretty obvious we were going to look at bridges from a dingy.
We kept pretty quit until several other people admitted to the same mistake.
We all had a good laugh.

It was a fun ride. A young crew member kept up a cheerful banter and explained all the bridges and interesting trivia.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Little glowing arrows

I want to plant annual ryegrass as early as possible so it is above the water level on our farm. After no-tilling for a number of years you forget how many trips you have to make across a field. It won't pack, my little helper had an accident with the heavy roller, I'm trying to make hay, and the dust is so thick at night I can't see a thing.
I'm attempting to use GPS but it is much more difficult than playing Super Mario brothers on the Wii.
I kept looking for the end of the field and suddenly I caught a hint of a reflector. I put the clutch in at the very last moment.

I knew I should have parked on the other side of the ditch...
Just about smashed by nephew's favorite pickup...

Monday, September 8, 2014

A letter which I probably don't have permission to post and can't remember where it came from

An open letter to the Board, the Administration, and the Alumni of Western Mennonite:

In view of the recent happenings, at Western Mennonite, i.e. the firing of Dave Engle, I am choosing to reveal what I know about this matter and to clearly articulate my understanding of Dave’s firing so that all interested can understand and determine whether his firing was appropriate or whether there were other issues involved. In addition, I plan to remove all financial support, and my witness to the benefits of Western for the foreseeable  future.  I do this with sadness because my connection with Western Mennonite has been long and rich.  I came to Oregon and to Western in 1978 and served as English teacher and counselor until 1990.  During that time, I built life-long friendships with administrators, faculty, and many, many students.  

Since 1990 a number of changes have come to Western due to some administrative decisions, some changes in demographics, and some Board decisions.  The campus has undergone dramatic change with the building of a chapel and performance auditorium, the building of a science, computer, and library building, and adding a new entrance to the administration building.  All of these changes have created  the appearance of positive change, but inside, there seems to be a growing culture of administrative cronyism, unfair firing practice with many staff wondering if they will be the next target for dismissal,  a general distrust of administration, and a gradual movement away from anabaptist teaching and practice. So it comes as small surprise that the personnel committee confirmed last week the firing of long-time anabaptist Bible teacher, Dave Engle.  Dave has taught at Western Mennonite for the past 18 years, feels a deep calling to the ministry at Western Mennonite, and has admittedly made some mistakes in judgement, but certainly nothing egregious or criminal, and nothing that would have merited dismissal. Since his dismissal,the Administration and Board have been totally silent on this matter, leaving alumni and friends wondering about what is going on. What did he do? I have talked with Dave who has given me documents and has given me permission to share their content as I saw fit to break the silence.

The charges leveled against Dave were generally listed as inappropriate patterns of behavior, and specifically listed as centered on student interactions, student management, and insubordination towards administration as listed in the following examples:  (All of these behaviors happened on the first day of school with students this year, 2014)

1)Parents have reported that on the first day of school (September 2nd) you asked students to give their name and then asked them to share their “best farting noises.”

Comment:  Granted this was the first day of school and students may have felt a little embarrassed and self-conscious, but “farting” is always funny especially when it isn’t coming out of your mouth.  So, you might question the appropriateness of this ice-breaker, but it was an attempt to put students at ease, and it is certainly not cause for firing. Was it professional, probably not, but at the same time did not cause any lasting injury and could probably be placed on the quirky pile of “do not use again.”

2)Unwillingness to close your classroom door as directed and involving students to break directive issued to you.

Comment: This issue comes with long history with staff responding to a culture created by the administration as they responded to the mandates of a previous fire marshal who was lenient in his response to Western’s administration as long as they assured him that they were taking steps to comply.  The culture was created by  jokingly suggesting that staff would get in trouble if they didn’t keep their doors shut, etc.. When a new fire marshall came on and after inspecting the record, determined that Western was out of compliance and wasn’t making reasonable efforts to comply with installing safely requirements into the building, lowered the hammer and threatened to shut down the school until they were in compliance with fire doors and laser alarms installed. Dave was not the only teacher who did not take the directive to keep doors shut as the room temperatures escalated in the afternoon, (above 80 degrees) but he was to my knowledge, the only one written up. Numerous teachers were out of compliance that afternoon due to the culture that had previously been created by administration that “shutting one’s door” was not a serious request. Thus, Dave is being dismissed by an administration that was itself insubordinate and noncompliant to the fire marshall over time, and then was written up for that insubordination when an air conditioner might have been a better reaction. Dave admits that using a student to shut the door if he/she saw an administrator was poor judgement, but this again suggests the level of the created culture and the outside temperature as it seeped into the classroom from the afternoon sun. Dave did shut his door and kept it shut in spite of the temperature when an administrator peered into his room giving him the “stink eye” and sternly stated, “Keep this door shut.” 

3)Telling parents that there will be levels of mistrust with their students and that their students smell like a sewer at the parent orientation.

Comment: Dave assigns daily Bible reading to his students which is mostly on the honor system. When he sees something that looks a little suspicious he asks the student about it to validate the assignment. To me this seems a reasonable approach and certainly not responsible for creating levels  of “mistrust.” The sewer comment came from the fact that just outside Dave’s window is a huge sewer pit.  On warm days if the wind is just right, it wafts into his classroom.  On the first day of school the wind was right and Dave made a comment at the end of class because it was too obvious to ignore, that the kids better get out of there “before they got that smell all over them.”  This accusation seems like an obvious misrepresentation. 

4)Putting the military poster back on your classroom wall without permission from Paul Schultz to do so. 

Comment: The poster in question had been down for two years.  With the new construction in his classroom he was rearranging his classroom walls and wanted to rehang the poster “ Uncle Sam Wants You!” to which Paul had objected two years before. Dave had hung this poster beside another one which read, “Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other.” Students would often comment on the juxtaposition of these two posters which led into a classroom discussion. Dave rehung the poster and sent a  note to Paul saying that he was not trying to pick a fight, but looked forward to having a discussion with him about why he felt that these two posters were important to his classroom and consistent with the message that Western was trying to represent. Paul did not come to Dave to have this discussion but sent an email saying he wished Dave had asked him first before putting it on the wall.  Paul continued by saying, “I do not want to see it on the wall because it is possible that people may see it and take offense.  Without the opportunity to communicate to our parents ahead of time I would be concerned about people drawing inaccurate conclusions about what we teach.” Dave covered the poster, but did not tell Paul that he had.

These were the reasons given to Dave for his dismissal when he met with the Personnel committee which consisted of Paul Schultz (Head of School), Zig Derochowski (Principal), Stan Oyer (Board member), Linda Dibble (Current Board President), and Cherie Barnhart (Board Member). When they finished interviewing him, they put him on administrative leave, and said they were doing so because he wasn’t “contrite enough” and because of his “pattern of behavior” which suddenly went from the four incidents that took place on the first day of the school, to the year 2002 and 2004.

In 2002, Eric Martin was principal and Dave was teaching a lesson on the difference between swearing and using obscenities.  At the beginning of the lesson Dave used the illustration of a little kid running in and holding up his middle finger and asking, “Why is this the swearing finger?”  Dave then used this to differentiate between these two concepts.  At the time, Eric Martin was concerned enough to call Dave into his office and discuss this matter. Both Eric and Dave agree that there were no directives given at that time, though Eric did comment that illustrations like this were a double edged sword... effective for kids, but problematic for some parents and most often the brunt of parental response stopped at Eric’s desk.

In 2004, there was another principal at Western.  Dave gave the same lesson and when called into the office explained that two years earlier, he had been given no directive, simply had a conversation, and though he had not forgotten the conversation with Eric Martin when reminded, at the time of re-presenting the lesson as it was not given every year, the prior conversation did not pop immediately to mind. For this , Dave was given a written reprimand for disobeying a directive, and placed on a plan of assistance.  The plan of assistance was that his classroom would be visited every month by an administrator with a final evaluation at the end of the year.  None of this was done.  Yet, suddenly, in 2014 these two incidents were suddenly recalled as an indication that there had been a pattern of inappropriate behavior culminating in the four behaviors described earlier on September 2.  As a result, Dave was notified on September 12, 2014 that he was being terminated at Western Mennonite. 

To me, none of this seems reasonable for grounds of dismissal or firing.  After the first meeting with the Personnel Committee, Dave wrote a letter of apology to the administrators and the Board.  In the letter, Dave admitted his faults and said he would continue to pray for the mission of Western regardless of the outcome of this matter, but that he would appeal his termination. 

Dave was then called a second time and a third time before the personnel committee.  This was the same group of people who had already decided that he should be terminated.  After listening to his story and asking further questions, they dismissed him and later told him that they were standing by their decision. In all of this, there has been absolute silence from school administrators, and the Board in spite of the outrage  and concern expressed on social media, conference churches, and throughout the valley. Again, the question hung in the air... What awful thing must he have done? There were no answers given and everyone was left with their worst fears.

My number one concern is that an outstanding member of Salem Mennonite,  an outstanding member of our school community, an academic scholar, and a good friend has been diminished and terminated on grounds that have been embellished and exaggerated, and his educational career as he knows it is over.  Additionally, on every application he fills out for future jobs, he has to respond to the question,  “Have you ever been fired from a job?”  This is not right.

In most public schools, the termination of a teacher is handled with considerably more concern and compassion, and they make no effort to embrace anabaptist theology. Usually there is a plan of assistance that often takes place over the course of a year or even two years in which administrators make classroom visits, meet personally to make suggestions and offer conferences and trainings.  If, after exhausting numerous opportunities to show progress and gain mastery, the teacher is still showing lack of understanding, he is told that his contract will not be renewed, and he is given a letter of recommendation, and is encouraged to continue his career in a new setting. I have never known a dismissal to be given after the first day of school unless there was some egregious reason, usually criminal in nature.  There is no egregious reason here.

Secondly, an appeal deserves the respect to be enacted before an impartial committee. To appeal a termination before the very group that initiated the termination is not comprehensible. Once the appeal was requested, a new committee with impartial representation or an outside mediator should have been acquired.  At the very least, Dave deserved to be reinstated, placed on an implemented plan of assistance, and if the plan were deemed unsuccessful, terminated with a letter of recommendation.  The educational model is that both sides work together to find resolution and agree that another setting might be better if it doesn’t work out.  That is the way it works in most business and educational settings.  To fire someone on the basis of  the events of one day, and to reference a couple incidents from 10 years earlier is unconscionable. This top down, heavy handed model of authority is not only out-dated, but has no place in an anabaptist institution. 

Thirdly, The current administration has no one evaluating their conduct. There is no one who is holding administrators to account. Western Mennonite is no longer under the umbrella of the Pacific Coast Conference, nor accountable to the Mennonite Educational Agency.  There is a lack of education at the helm and though Paul Schultz is a passionate and resourceful fund raiser, he is totally lacking in educational methodology which is why we like our teachers and administrators to be credentialed. Thus, there are a couple additional things I would ask of the Board:

1)I would request that the Board require Paul to enter an undergraduate program immediately, to be followed by entrance into a Master’s Degree in Administration which would include any financial help normally given to Western teachers seeking advanced degrees. It is only fitting that the Head of School be credentialed in the same manner that is expected of the teachers he hires.

2)In lieu of that, rearrange the administrative model, making Paul the Director of Fund Raising and Foundation Building, an area of true giftedness and excellence.  Compensate him with a direct percentage of the money he brings in per year. (Financial planners make 1% of all monies invested per year.) The Board can investigate and decide on the appropriate percentage.

3)Reshuffle the Administration. The current number of administrators is too high for the size of the school.  Making Zig the principal was a good move, (He has his credentials.) now streamline others. I am unsure if he is a Mennonite.  This might be a problem as Western’s Charter calls for the Principal and, I assume, Head of School to be Mennonite.  Find a way to develop Women in leadership.  The current leadership on the Board is a fine model of this.

 4)Seek out Governance Trainings for the Board.  Develop fair, Anabaptist discipline policies that address the accountability of all professional employees, develop strategies for helping new teachers, providing them with teacher mentors, and identifying common pitfalls and challenges for new teachers and help for avoiding them.  Set up credible plans of assistance with administrative follow though and yearly Board examination of whether the current administrator has followed though with mentoring and assisting developing teachers in a restorative manner. The intention of the discipline policy is for administrators to respond to questionable practice in a manner that embraces love, grace, forgiveness and transforming, Anabaptist faith. Criminal behavioral always results in termination.

Conclusion:  The firing and termination of Dave Engle is an injustice.  Because of all the mistakes in judgement by administration, the failure of administration to follow up with an implemented plan of assistance, their own insubordination with the fire marshall and trifling with the safety of students at Western Mennonite, and using Dave Engle as a scapegoat because he is quirky and teaches the Bible in an uncensored manner, the Boardhas the responsibility to offer Dave full reinstatement if he will take it, and if not, full pardon and a wonderful recommendation for the next job to which he applies.  In the meantime, the Board should recommend giving Dave full compensation for the year under which he is contracted. This is right and this is just.

The Board is the only body to whom Western is accountable at the moment.  Unfortunately, the Board has been woefully silent and appears to be simply rubber-stamping the decisions made by a high school educated, Head of School. I would call on the Board to step up and become the governing body they were intended to be.  Bring transparency where there has been none. Bring voice where there has been silence, and replace fear with compassion. Only you can do this work, and there are many people up and down the valley who are waiting to hear your wisdom, watching to see what you will do, and making decisions based on whether they will continue to support your endeavors or withhold their blessings based on what you decide and do.

With respect and hope for what you are up against...

Tony Handrich

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Some random video from farming that doesn't show corn or a view from a drone

Here is a video of straw baling operation. Daughter is running the double rake, little helper is baling, I'm out standing in the field...

Yesterday was a continuation of my harrowing experiences. (get it, harrowing?) The tractor kept running hot. I would have to park in the shade at the end of the field and let it cool down. I blew out the radiator several times. I went slower. Then I sort of went to sleep. After dark it ran cool. I know the radiator is not plugged but yet it acts that way. It was 90 degrees or so.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Random thoughts and focusing on thing irrelevant to farming

You know you drive like an old farmer when...
You drive down the highway, down the hill to the field, and discover your coffee cup on the toolbox, and even though it doesn't have a lid, it still has coffee in it...

I saw something shiny on the harrow-

Cow magnet stuck to the bottom of the harrow? Did it come out of the poop or was it put there to catch wire and nails? Just bought the harrow from the estate of a retired farmer who didn't use cow manure.

I downloaded 23 hours of Joan Jett from Amazon Prime...
Community College was so long ago... If I close my eyes and listen to "Album" I can get thath feeling of being out of High School and looking forward to life but then I get lost in the field and plug up the harrow. Then i get depressed and thing about lost opportunities, not going to Willamette, not taking that internship, not... Yeah I'm deleting the playlist...
Last night my daughter had a talk with me...
Her: "You know Dad when I was little and I'd be into some type of toy and then suddenly I would have way more of that toy then I could even play with?"
Me: "Well, yes, but that lady on eBay gave me all her Polly Pocket collection when I wrote that nice note saying how much you loved PollyPocket and you were dying of cancer such a sweet little girl...
Her: "Yes, but, I have a hug box of PollyPocket that I only played with for a year,"
(And we got off subject for a while...)
Her: "BUT THATS NOT THE POINT!" exclaimed a frustrated 13 year old, to her father who doesn't always have the attention span to listen to the whole speech but tends to guess the ending...
"So you discovered I downloaded 23 hours of Joan Jett," said her father who had correctly guessed where this was going.
"Yes!" said Lulu
I had forgotten that we all share an AmazonPrime account and that Lulu now also has 23 hours of Joan Jett on her iPhone.
"Normal Parents are not like this," said my daughter.
Then she went on to point out that only a year ago it was weird old country western music and note that just because she enjoyed the Joan Jett concert did not mean that she wanted every song Ms Jett had ever written, multiple Blackheart T-shirts, or a father who was a groupie.
Fair enough...
23 hours of Joan Jett is kind of getting to me.
I must learn to pace myself...
Later I asked her what regular parents did for entertainment and she admitted that perhaps she did benefit from parents who obsessed about things she found interesting...
IF I COULD JUST FOCUS ON SOMETHING THAT MADE MONEY or produced better crops or was useful in anyway...

Example: Did you know that PT boats had three 12 cylinder Packard engines and could go 35 mph and produced 1500 hp per engine? 
Well of course you did, anyone who reads this blog knows that, common knowledge...
I gotta go to work...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What people don't understand about farming

Mindnumbing boredom going in circles with a tractor for hours.
And stress, weather, finances, alien abduction.

And out the view out the back window.

It would seem, the term "too old to rock and roll" is no longer applicable in modern life

Daughter and I went to see Joan Jett at the State Fair.
It was quite the cultural experience for her.

I pointed out that I was once in my twenties and listened to that "hit and roll" music.
She seemed to find this quite amusing.
We went up from after the show to try and score a guitar pic. A roadie gave her a set list.
Lulu and I were doing a little head banging during the show and it must have caught the attention of Ms. Jett who  made eye contact with Lulu. Lulu was thrilled.
If she starts wearing hot pants and singing "little liar" I will rue the day...
Joan Jett is pretty amazing, she can't be that young anymore, but you wouldn't know it.

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