Soft Landing

The story of the stranded lamb shipment has a happy ending.

FedEx called back late last night with an update: it turns out, the package had never gone to Arizona Wednesday night. On the tracking site, it APPEARED to have done so because the CONTAINER scanned in at the airport in Arizona — but my box of lamb was mistakenly left off that container. It spent Wednesday night and all day Thursday in a warehouse in Memphis, and fortunately that warehouse was extremely cold. The box touched down in Arizona early this morning, and was delivered to my folks by noon.

Amazingly, the meat was still frozen solid as a rock. Thank God for small miracles. Still frozen, and I get my shipping charges refunded because it was late.

Mom says she’s planning to thaw the largest package of ribs and enjoy it tomorrow night with some good friends of our family who have also retired to that area.


Strange Sacrament

In case you had any doubts about abortion being a holy sacrament in the church of militant secularism, LifeNews today brings us this story:

Rev. Larry Phillips of Schenectady’s Emmanuel-Friedens Church dedicated the ground, according to a report in the Albany Times Union.

He called the abortion facility “sacred and holy … where women’s voices and stories are welcomed, valued and affirmed.”

Phillips said the abortion business was “sacred ground where women are treated with dignity, supported in their role as moral decision-makers … sacred ground where the violent voices of hatred and oppression are quelled.”

Note to clergy: When Jesus said (Luke 23:29), “For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck,” he wasn’t saying that would be a good thing.

Another Reason to Eat Local

One of the nicest things about having a farm is that your produce makes for wonderful gifts. My family members are spread out around the country, and really appreciate a shipment of frozen meat that was raised on our farm.

We’d planned to send a box of lamb to my parents, right before Christmas. They ended up going out of town just as we were about to ship it, so I put the box back in our freezer. This week, the timing seemed perfect for everyone. The kids and I took Grandma & Grandpa’s package to FedEx last night, and called my folks to let them know it was on the way. They were thrilled, and said they’d keep an eye open for the truck tomorrow, so they could get the meat right back into the freezer.

Ah, FedEx. Remember their commercials from the 1970s and 80s, when they were brand new? They were the company to use when it “absolutely, positively, HAS to be there overnight.” This box sure fit that description.

When my cell phone rang this afternoon, and my mom’s cell number lit up the display, I assumed it was to let us know the meat had arrived. Instead, she was worried. They’d been watching all day, but there was still no sign of a FedEx truck. I dashed to my computer, kicked up the tracking website, and discovered something unsettling: the package was indeed shipped out to Arizona and arrived right on schedule this morning — but instead of going on a delivery truck, the next scan was at 4:38 this afternoon…IN MEMPHIS.

I got on the phone right away with FedEx, and the woman confirmed that the package had gone back to Memphis. She didn’t know why, and immediately opened up a trace, but we likely won’t have more information until tomorrow morning. She was very apologetic, and assured me that FedEx would cancel the shipping charges and reimburse me for the value of the meat.

But what is the value of this meat? I figured I could have sold it for $100, so that’s what I declared as the value. But how do you put a dollar number on 13 pounds of gourmet Icelandic lamb that was born and nurtured on your farm, carefully raised to maturity on organic pasture, taken to a custom butcher for processing, and promised as a special Christmas gift to one’s parents? I cannot go to the store and replace this package. I can’t even go to another Icelandic sheep breeder and buy 13 more pounds of meat; what made this package special was the fact that it was raised on our farm. It was a gift literally from the heart of our farm — not from a supermarket.

And now, that lamb is likely rotting in a FedEx facility in Memphis…for a reason that has yet to be explained. We’re just hoping that the cold weather will keep it from spoiling altogether. At a minimum, hopefully my folks will be able to cook up all that meat this week and invite their friends over for a series of feasts. They certainly won’t be able to put it back in the freezer and enjoy it over time at special occasions, as had been planned. But maybe something can be salvaged.

And, as I assured my father this evening when I had to call and break the news, when the kids and I go out to visit them in the Spring, we’ll hopefully be able to bring some more of that meat with us.

Eating Locally. Even Now

The NY Times has an excellent story this morning about eating locally-produced food — even at this time of year. Seems that some folks on Martha’s Vineyard have developed an informal barter/food economy, in which (for example) those who catch extra fish share them in the summer and those who put up large root cellars of vegetables share those in the winter.

Following Ms. Buhrman for a day or two as she gathers ingredients is a lesson in how to eat locally, even in the coldest days of winter. Because she seems to know everybody on the island who raises, catches or forages for food, it is also a glimpse of an alternative economy of eating, one in which modern capitalism takes a back seat to a looser, island-grown style of bartering.

In summer, for instance, Ms. Buhrman hands out ice from her freezers to help the local fishermen keep their catch cold. In winter, they repay her with fish, oysters and bay scallops.

“It’s just the way we do it here,” she said.

Back to School

Hard to believe…but I am again a student.

Even harder to believe: I am a student at a university in Connecticut.

No, we haven’t moved again. The course is being offered online, and most of the students are mid-career professionals; many already have post-graduate degrees.

I’ve been finding that data mining is becoming an increasingly important part of political campaigns, and I’ve very much enjoyed doing that sort of work in the last couple of election cycles. In the downtime between busy periods, I’ve made a point of buying and reading books about data mining, and exploring the capabilities of my software.

I’ve discovered, however, that there is a limit to how much a person can teach himself—even with a good textbook. There’s really no substitute for taking a graduate-level course at a university. And that’s what I’ve decided to do. Central Connecticut State University has established an excellent online program in data mining, and even offers a Masters degree in that field. I doubt I’ll go that far in the program, but I’m definitely looking forward to expanding my toolbox and strengthening my understanding of the fundamentals of statistics. And that’s the wonderful thing about these programs: you can do as much or as little as you like. The more motivated you are to put effort into it, the more you’ll get out of it. This isn’t about getting a ticket punched; it’s about learning more about doing something you love.

Today was my first day of class. I think the kids are excited that they are no longer the only ones at our place who are being homeschooled.

Dueling Geese

Back in Illinois, we called ourselves “Rolling Goose Farm.” It was basically an elaborate pun; we figured we were the only family in Ford County with two old Volvo 240s. The word “Volvo,” in Swedish, means “rolling.” And we raised geese. Put it all together, and you get “Rolling Goose.” Here is the logo we had a friend design; we used it on our farm sign and on egg carton labels, etc. It basically shows one of our geese commandeering our 1978 Volvo 244 (after having chopped the top).

And yes, one customer actually asked us, “Did that ever really happen?”

Anyway, because “goose” is in the name of our farm, and we’re listed on a number of internet farm directories, we seem to turn up on everybody’s search…and as a result, we get quite a few inquiries about geese for sale. And we have to turn most of them away, as we can’t ship goose meat.

Usually, these inquiries end at Christmas time. But today, I got an amusing call from a gentleman in Arizona who was looking for goose. Actually, two geese. He has a friend from Europe (many of our goose customers are European immigrants) who really likes to cook goose. And my caller says he really likes to cook goose, too. That friend will be coming to Arizona soon to visit, and they’re trying to organize a cook-off. They were trying to get two large fresh geese from one farm, go head-to-head cooking them, and then have a large gathering of friends and family judge the winner.

“Sounds like Dueling Banjos!” I laughed. If I had more musical talent, I might have attempted to do the song’s opening riff, but with “Honk-a-honk-honk-honk.” Instead, I added, “Wish I could be there to sample that.”

“I wish you could, too!” he chuckled.

And then I explained that we can’t ship our meat…and that he’d have a tough time finding anyone — even local — that has fresh geese at this time of year. Goslings have a very limited hatching period (basically February-June…our birds just started laying this week), and cannot be raised off-season. To be any good for eating, geese must be butchered in their first year of life, and nearly every gosling ends up getting butchered for Christmas. Any goose left from last year’s hatch would be likely be intended as a breeder, as they’d be borderline too tough for eating now.

He appreciated talking with me about how geese are raised, and I enjoyed hearing about what he’d like to do. He’ll probably end up getting a couple of six pound frozen geese at Whole Foods…but I still wish I could be there to sample the results.