It is Well

Julie and I grew up singing hymns. We go to a church that has a contemporary worship service now so hymns are few and far between. But we love it when somebody takes a hymn and turns it into something contemporary. On Sunday our church sang a contemporary version of “It Is Well with My Soul“. We cried. We listened to it again Sunday night. We cried. I listened to it again in my car over lunch on Monday. I cried again. Here it is so you can cry too.

I want to take a moment to express gratitude to the many, many people who are reaching out to us right now. Complete strangers are sharing stories of their journeys through cancer and encouraging us. And in some ways, we are gaining perspective on our daughter and her illness. Last night she wanted to argue about taking her anti-nausea medicine. She staged a fit, cried, yelled, argued and frustrated her mommy. So I stepped in and said something shocking to get her attention and she instantly changed from fake tears to real dirty looks. It worked. I got through. She asked why she has to keep taking medicine.

“Because you have cancer, honey.”

She took her medicine.

I never imagined having that conversation with my daughter but we are grateful she is old enough that we can discuss this with her. Another nearby couple is also in the same hospital with their two-year-old daughter. How do they reason with her? How do they explain the tubes, shots, wires or the bump under the skin on her chest? The endless medicines? Why are they stuck in that same room for days on end? Why can’t they just go home and play with their toys?

And it’s not just them. The hospital is full of sick kids and desperate parents. The most terrifying words in the world for me are “pediatric oncology”. The bravest people in the world are on that floor.

Our little girl has a tumor on a bone in her leg. It has not spread. Her prognosis is good but we have MONTHS of chemo between now and the finish line and the shadow of some pretty terrible side effects to watch out for. But the tumor is on her leg and we caught it early. And we are within an hour of one of the best hospitals in the whole world. And it is in our insurance network. And my employer could not be more supportive. And our whole community has rallied around us.

So what do I have to complain about? It is well.

Even though there is nothing I can do about it. There is nothing you can directly do either. Julie’s brother shared that he felt helpless living in another country and unable to be here. But he is not helpless. We can’t massage the tumor out. We are relying on the doctors to help us with the mundane. Mundane work is part of any miracle. Moses had to hold up his arms. The widow had to gather jars. Wendy has to have chemo. The miracle comes from the Lord but there is always something we have to do.

So I replied to Julie’s brother that he could do as much there as he can here. He can pray.

We walk around that hospital seeing scared and tired parents who just want their baby to get better so they can go home. It is really troubling. We see these parents and work, in our own way, to embrace the opportunity. It seems like I’m on the elevator 20 times every day. As a consequence I run into people repeatedly. One young man was named Adam. I didn’t know why Adam was visiting the hospital. I knew he was there with his wife(?) walking to and from the parking garage to smoke but I never wanted to ask why they were there. I guess I was afraid. The answers are too painful. Julie asked. Adam was there hoping his 15-day-old son would soon begin to breathe on his own.

It breaks your heart.

Julie and I decided some years ago to never say, “I’ll be praying for you!” when speaking in person. Heck with that. We just ask to pray on the spot. Adam said that was cool and Julie led the way.

Though I rode the elevator frequently, I didn’t see Adam on my next stay four days later. I don’t know what that means. I may never know what that means.

But I do know this: It is well.

Either “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised” or it’s all our imagination and our weakness. The trouble with that later option is this: I have had multiple encounters with God. Encounters that I didn’t imagine. Encounters that are not coincidence. There is a reason my daughter is ill. But you know what? Even if the worst happens it is well. I, myself, baptized my daughter. It is well. I know it is well. I just don’t always feel it.

This is Julie: I want to share some of my thoughts on those words, “It is well.” It is amazing how so many different thoughts and feelings can flood your mind in the course of one song.

“Far be it from me to not believe, Even when my eyes can’t see. And this mountain that’s in front of me, will be thrown into the midst of the sea.”

I didn’t seek out this mountain. Mountains can be seen from a distance. Mountains don’t usually fall without warning out of no where and land right on top of you. I didn’t seek this route, I don’t want it. But I know He is with me. Even in the pediatricians office when the doctor spoke those first words of, “It is important that we stay in control of our emotions.” I never felt alone. This mountain has fallen, but I am not holding it up. He is. “It is well”

“Through it all, through it all. My eyes are on you. It is well with me.”

I sang those words on Sunday, out of faith because I may not be feeling that right now. My daughter has cancer. That is NOT well with me. I sang those words to proclaim it to myself. Even though I may not be feeling it, the words are true. I also sang those words to praise my Heavenly Father, because I can trust in Him.


It is well. Even if I am crying. It is well. And through it all my eyes are on You. So let it go my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name.

It is well with me.

One Hour At A Time

I am somewhat reluctant to spam my farm blog by pouring out my heart for my daughter but I’m going to do it anyway. She is a part of the farm. So there.

It was a hot day for picking apples yesterday. She was keeping it cool in the shade.

A photo posted by Julie Ann Jordan (@20acreacademy) on

Things change every day. Every day. More frequently than that. Every hour. On Tuesday the 15th I went to work and my daughter had Osteosarcoma. I got to work and the doctors had changed their diagnosis to Ewing’s sarcoma.

We had planned to start Wednesday with a hearing test because one of the chemo drugs they planned to use could cause loss of hearing. Now that plan was scrapped. We had a start time and no other detail.

I need a plan.

A reader wrote to me this week suggesting we work our plan one hour at a time. One day is too big of a bite. We need to break it down. This hour I’m not going to cry. This hour I’m not going to say it is unfair. This hour I am going to work the plan.

This specific hour, 6-7 on Sunday the 20th, Julie and I are packing eggs for tomorrow’s delivery and doing a little housework. As we work we sip our coffee and talk a little bit about the next step. What is the next step?

We need to be packed and ready. If our little girl gets a fever we have to be at the local hospital within 30 minutes. We need to have a script ready for the hospital explaining our situation and letting them know we are on our way. We have to notify our oncologist to prepare to transfer our daughter from the local hospital to the one in St. Louis. Oh, God!

OK. Too much.

I need to pick up some pajamas for her today. Maybe load up a board game in her backpack and a favorite blanket.

That’s better. I can handle that. At some point today I need to write out information about her port and make sure the phone numbers are in our phones.

Got it.

But there is more going on in our lives than just my daughter’s cancer. I am married. Our marriage doesn’t pause. I have to continue to invest in my relationship with Julie. I have to help Julie to widen her focus. It’s not all about my wife and daughter. We have 3 other children to love. We have each other too. Human relationships are difficult and require effort to maintain. We have to make the effort even if we don’t feel like it.

The hospital gave us a book about how teens deal with sibling cancer. One point it made is that some siblings can feel dumped on by the additional chore load. I laugh because I know they are talking about city kids. Chores? Ha. But my kids do chores, man. In fact, while Julie and I were in the hospital the kids ran the farm. An aunt commented that they just all magically knew what to do.

They don’t magically know what to do. We have trained our children. We have made ourselves redundant on the farm. That didn’t happen in a day. That happened slowly, over time and in small increments. One minute here, an hour there, a comment, a criticism, a reminder not to leave the water running in the pasture.

We share our observations with the kids. We ask for their input. We make adjustments. We train and re-train each other.

We learn together.

That’s how we manage the farm. That’s also how we manage cancer.

We sit together. We talk about it. We cry a little bit. But a little at a time, as a family, we work to understand what is going on and find ways to help each other out.

I have no idea what our kids will ask us today. I don’t know what hurdles we will have to overcome today. Today is too far away. But I know it is 7:00 now and I haven’t opened the chickens or milked the cow yet so I need to go do that.

I have conquered the next hour. That’s the best I can do.

Normally I try to publish my reading journal on Sundays. This week I found it difficult to focus on reading. I have been reading Lord Emsworth and Others by P.G. Wodehouse. Hilarious. Truly hilarious.

It is Important that we Remain in Control of our Emotions

Our youngest had a sore ankle and woke up Tuesday crying. For the previous two weeks we believed she had a sprain but the pain convinced us to be more serious about a possible break. We took her to our pediatrician for an x-ray.

About an hour after the appointment, as Julie was driving home, the pediatrician called Julie and asked her to return to the office. His first words to her were,

It is important that we remain in control of our emotions.

We are not certain who he was talking to. He may have been talking to himself. Obviously this was going to be bad. His next words were:

Your daughter has cancer.

Julie texted me:

I need you to come home now.

No explanation. I assumed the cows were out or something. I was in a meeting. I stepped out to call her.

I didn’t go back to the meeting. I lost control of my emotions.

I felt helpless and afraid. My little girl was sick and there was nothing I could do to help her. Maybe there was nothing anybody could do to help her. The internet was certainly no help.

My little girl has cancer in her leg. My healthy, happy, beautiful, laughing daughter has cancer in her leg.

Julie and I cried. A lot.

Love her smile.

A photo posted by Julie Ann Jordan (@20acreacademy) on

The next day the specialists confirmed that pediatrician had good cause for concern. We had an MRI. It showed a wad of what looked like cobweb where bone should be. More tears.

Days passed. Friends reached out to us. It was both encouraging and humbling.

On the fourth day we had an early morning appointment to get a CT scan and a biopsy performed. This would tell us what exactly we were dealing with and weather or not it has spread.

The cancer had not spread.

We lost control of our emotions again.

Four days before we were devastated to learn that our little girl had cancer in her leg. Friday we were elated to learn her cancer was just in her leg.

Today is …what day is it? Today is Thursday. How did that happen so fast? We have waited for the biopsy results, met with doctors, met with more doctors, toured the hospital and paid co-pays to all parties involved. Today, Thursday, was a big day for us. Today our little girl had surgery in preparation for chemotherapy.

She slept on the way to the hospital.

Feo Addleeton Oscar the cat is a very loyal friend. He is always by her side.

A photo posted by Julie Ann Jordan (@20acreacademy) on

She woke up in a lot of pain.

Our emotions were under control.

We don’t want to see our little girl in pain but we accept that this is part of the healing process. We held her. We told her we loved her. We kissed her. We asked the nurses to help her with the pain.

But we didn’t cry.

I don’t mean to imply that we are all cried out. Nor are we callous to the sufferings of our daughter. But the uncertainty is gone. We are afraid. Who wouldn’t be? But we have a plan. We know what is coming up. Today was the first step in the plan.

Usually I try to bring my tangents around to farming in some way but not today. I’ll finish this way instead. We are relying on God to fix our little girl…weather He uses miracles or medicines. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. And I will praise Him in this storm.

While I do work to make my blog real, honest and personal I usually leave the really personal stuff out…except for love letters for my bride. What we are wrestling with right now may shut the farm down. I have considered selling the herd of cattle. But I also enjoy having them around…even if I have to chase a cow/calf pair for two hours in the dark and rain once in a while. But the farm really doesn’t matter. My family matters. My little girl matters.

And right now we are focused on her.

Someone was playing with my phone this morning.

A photo posted by Julie Ann Jordan (@20acreacademy) on

Please pray for us. This is scary stuff.

Marriage, Mortgage and Faith…Reading Journal Week 34

My blog and I can’t seem to get together these days. I still farm. I still work. I still carry a stack of books around with me everywhere.

Recently I was talking to some co-workers about “rich people” saying you probably have no idea who they are. You only notice the flashy jerks but that doesn’t mean they are all flashy jerks.

So who are the millionaires really? That question was answered by The Millionaire Next Door by Stanley and Danko. Stanley goes the next step to find out what’s going on between a millionaire’s ears to separate them from the pack in The Millionaire Mind. This week I read The Millionaire Mind.

So back to my question. Who are they? The introduction covers that well enough. I’ll just pull a few quotes.

  • I am a fifty-four-year-old male. I have been married to the same woman for twenty-eight years.
  • We live in fine homes in quality neighborhoods, but only 2 percent of us inherited all or any part of our homes and property.
  • Some of us have inherited a portion of our wealth…61 percent of us never received any inheritance, financial gifts or income from an estate or trust.
  • 97% are homeowners
  • …with small outstanding mortgages
  • Nearly 50 percent of our wives do not work koutside of the home.
  • 90 percent of us are collage graduates.
  • Many of us play golf and/or tennis on a regular basis. In fact, there is a strong correlation between golf and level of net worth.
  • We became rich without compromising our integrity. In fact, we credit our integrity with significantly contributing to our success.

I’m pulling just a few examples from a lengthy list but I want to focus on three ideas: Marriage, mortgage and faith. I simply don’t have time to cover the book in depth today. I STRONGLY encourage you to read both this and the previous book, The Millionaire Next Door. Julie and I first read them in 2002 or 2003 and they made a big impact. Reading them again later we find them to be even more impactful…the path ahead is more clear now.


Millionaires do everything differently including how they pick spouses. There is a joking quote in the book that says,

Given the choice, I prefer to be physically attracted to a woman who is intelligent, honest, unselfish, well-adjusted…

So there you go. He breaks it down into qualities that lead to a successful marriage according to millionaires:

  • Honest
  • Responsible
  • Loving
  • Capable
  • Supportive

These words describe my wife well…not that my 18-year-old self had a clue what he was doing. But those are words that describe “spouses”. How did they describe potential mates?

  • Intelligent
  • Sincere
  • Cheerful
  • Reliable
  • Affectionate

Again, Julie.

But what’s not in that list? Measurements? Muscles? Money? Nope. So what if you married for money, muscles or measurements and find your marriage to be lacking in cheer, affection and honesty? You might try to become the embodiment of the attributes listed above.

The author goes on to cite research into “normal” marriages.

Dr. Tucker also found that, overall, both men and women would contemplate divorcing a spouse who lost his or her job!

Compare that to story after story of entrepreneurs who listed failure after failure, firing after firing, flop after flop. A whole series of examples of couples saving up, stepping into the unknown, getting their butts kicked by life, dusting each other off and trying again, ultimately succeeding.

I’m moving pretty fast here but Julie and I have been through the grinder and she has always been my biggest fan…even when I’m ready to give up. If we ever accomplish anything together it is because of her. And this book points out the significance of her contribution.


It’s amazing to read the details on the kinds of homes Millionaires typically owned in 1996. 5 bedroom homes. Nothing huge or opulent. Just a house. But a house that is worth $1.4 million in 1996? Surely there are better deals out there.

Most of us have mortgages, but 40 percent have no mortgage at all. Less than 5 percent of us have an outstanding mortgage balance of $1 million or more. Only about one in three (34 percent) of us have a mortgage balance outstanding of $300,000 or more.

Read that again.

Most of us enjoy living in well-established neighborhoods. There is nothing flashy or even modern about the style of houses in these neighborhoods. Our homes give us away – for the most part they are conservative in style, like our lifestyles.

I have TONS of people in my life who try to borrow 120% of a property’s value so they can lever up their way to wealth. But that’s not what the millionaires detailed in this book did. They were wealthy before they bought. And they bought something that would add to their wealth at a time when they could get a deal. Let me quote a little more from the book. He is narrating with a typical millionaire respondant’s voice:

I purchased my home about twelve years ago, and my family has lived there ever since. The approximate purchase price was just under $560,000. According to conservative estimates, it would sell today for just under $1.4 million.

Compare that to a recent conversation I had with a friend who had borrowed from his 401k to make the downpayment on a home he could just barely afford saying, “You should always buy as much house as you can, right?” I really don’t think so. Dude, you borrowed from your retirement so you could have a big house today. That’s not what the millionaires detailed in this book did. They bought high-quality but distressed properties when sellers greatly outnumbered buyers…and they probably bought them from people like you.

But let’s not talk about suburban palaces. Let’s talk about farms. I mean, this is a farm blog, right? How much money COULD I borrow? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I have a mortgage that is, according to this book, too large compared to my total net worth. What I need is a return on my investment from this farm. I started small. We grew a little. But before we grow any more we need a cash-generating machine to push us onward, not low interest rates. And I think that’s the lesson here. Produce before you consume.


In the chapter The Realtionship Between Courage and Wealth the author includes a few points about religious faith. He kicks things off early on by talking about overcoming fear. Let me tell you, I know a little bit about fear. I know a little bit about failure too. But I am not afraid. And I am not a failure. These are things millionaires have to remind themselves regularly. They have to build up some level of confidence and courage over time, daily reminding themselves of the truth. Every day I have to remind myself of the truth.

  • I am not an accident.
  • I was made for a purpose.
  • I am God’s workmanship.
  • Even if I fail I have value.
  • I am loved. No matter what.

But what if you were never taught those truths? The book indicates that you will be less likely to accumulate wealth. In fact, there is a positive correlation between faith and higher wealth.

I don’t like to be preachy so I’ll stop with one more quote. One I tell myself often.

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.

Is this a book about farming? No. But this is certainly a book about the majority of farmers I have met. Hard working and frugal with enduring marriages. They struggled together and built wealth over time and, as noted in the book:

There is a strong correlation between net worth and the proportion of one’s wealth that is invested in real estate.

Be sure to read that correctly. He said “wealth” not “debt”. You can’t farm in debt. That’s why I have a job in town.

I think there is a lot of real insight into what it is like on the other side. In fact, I think the truth presented in this book makes the endpoint approachable. The majority of millionaires didn’t inherit money, they didn’t necessarily get top grades in school, they aren’t the best looking people. But they are careful in choosing their spouse and they make that relationship last. They know the difference between risk and opportunity, between wealth and debt. And they appear to be fulfilling their role in creation.

These are goals I can work toward.

August Farm Photos

Hello everyone! This is Julie. I love to take pictures and I am going to start sharing some of them here on Chris’ blog. I hope you enjoy! You can also follow me on Instagram.0726150755~2~2




Chris taking over…You know I can’t let a post go up with so few words. Comments in order of pictures:

  1. Somebody photoshop me into the Abbey Road cover. And remind me to stand up straight.
  2. Reserve your turkey now. Now.
  3. How did he turn 11? What happened?
  4. Swallows have about a week left before they go away for the winter. Dragonflies are coming through now. Hawks will start soon. Less than a month until we light the wood stove. That picture is a reminder of how little time we have.



Our youngest likes to tag along and usually wants to hold our hands as we walk. It’s nice.

All of our kids help in one way or another. The youngest is a lousy dish washer. Lousy. But she’s an excellent kitten tamer. The boys are ready to rip the guts out of chickens on butcher day because that job pays the best. The girls prefer not to do that specific job. One spent the first 3 years of chicken processing in the house preparing lunch with grandma. And that’s helpful.

But the key is to find the opportunity for each of them and to appreciate what they each do.

I appreciate anybody who is willing to gut a chicken. I also appreciate anybody who is willing to bake a pie and share it with me.

And I appreciate my little girl taking big steps to keep up with mom and dad so she can hold our hands.

Some Thoughts on Keeping Chickens

I don’t claim to know all there is about keeping birds. Heck, I don’t claim to know anything at all. This is a post about what I think I know about chickens…and I have given this topic some thought.

Egg Eating

All chickens eat eggs happily. All chickens. Just break an egg open in front of your flock and see who comes running. I THINK this is a normal, instinctive behavior. Birds don’t want messy nests so they clean up broken eggs. And believe me, I have some experience in this matter. I have heard and read that egg eating is contagious and the only cure it is to cull the whole flock. I believe this to be false. I believe the contagion is the end-result of nutritional deficiency in the flock or of unclean nest boxes.


There. I said it. This is total heresy in the farming world though.

My birds have had trouble with this from time to time (keep in mind I have a flock of four year old birds). Most of the time the cure has been to keep oyster shell in front of the flock free-choice. When that runs out, eggs start breaking. The other possibility has been packed or dirty nesting material. If we have a prolonged period of rain I may not be as disciplined as I should be about cleaning next material. Wet birds with muddy feet do bad things to clean nests. The final reason I believe I have had periodic trouble with broken eggs is because we are sometimes delayed gathering eggs. Things work better if we collect eggs at 11am and at 4pm, not just when we tuck in the birds at night.

clean nest boxes

In summary, I THINK you should keep oyster shell in front of your birds keep your nesting material clean and fluffy and collect eggs frequently to prevent egg eating. And I don’t think you should cull the whole flock when you notice the behavior.

Old Birds Don’t Lay Eggs

I think there is some merit to this idea. I do. I have a flock of NH Reds that have passed the 4 year mark. This is a small flock. Survivor birds. They have been here since the beginning. They survived the mink, several skunks, hot, cold, rain and dry…these birds have seen what Macoupin County can throw at them. I say I keep these birds as breeding material to build my own flock of acclimated birds but, really, I’m not hatching any eggs. I just have the birds because I want the birds. They seem to lay well in the spring and summer but things slack off noticeably in the fall and winter. I suspect one should start chicks every six months and rotate out flocks every 18 months. But that’s a lot of work.


How much money can you make selling shell eggs? It depends. How much money do you have to spend to keep your birds alive, healthy and how efficiently can you pack eggs? I think layers provide two main benefits to your farm. First, they add and manage manure on your behalf without any training. Second, the eggs you do sell provide ongoing customer exposure. Every yummy dozen eggs you put in someone’s kitchen is a chance for more. Maybe they want a chicken. Maybe they have a neighbor who wants to try your eggs. You need exposure to get word of mouth. Eggs provide constant exposure.

But not a lot of profit. If Henderson couldn’t make shell eggs pay…

Sick birds

I am not a veterinarian. I can not afford to call a veterinarian. If I have a sick chicken I just make a decision on the bird and move on. I don’t spend a lot of time on this topic because I keep my birds well fed and healthy (and I do think you feed health into your livestock). But I also don’t waste a lot of emotional energy on this topic. When it’s time to do something I just do it. Make a decision and move on. For example, we found four turkey poults were having trouble walking and put them in a hospital pen. One bird was looking particularly rough, the other three were recovering. What caused the problem in the first place? Maybe too crowded? Not enough Riboflavin? Too much protein in their feed? Dunno. I’m monitoring the situation. But that one bird? Compost. No second thoughts.

Also, and I know this seems uncaring, sometimes birds just die. No apparent reason. Just a dead bird. Was it defective? Did it break its neck getting on the roost? Did it choke on a grasshopper? Dunno. One dead bird is not cause for alarm. It is going to happen. 20 dead birds in one night is a problem to be solved.

Size of flock

How many birds should you have? More. Always more. Too few birds and you don’t have enough to sell and I would suggest a minimum of 50 birds to make it worth the management effort. If I had 100 birds/acre I would be a busy boy but I don’t think I would overload my farm. My current marketing reach could not move that much product but it would be fun to solve that problem. But the more birds you have the more efficiently you can operate. Every 250 birds or so will need a range feeder and a couple of drinkers. You should probably have 80 nest boxes for each 250 birds. And once you crack 250 you need to aim for 500. Then you can start getting bulk discounts on egg boxes and selling eggs by the case to larger buyers. I’m not there yet. I, personally, may never get that far. But I suspect the next generation will expand what I have started. I think you need more birds. Yes, I’m talking to you. Yes, you.


Bird Breeds

It’s no fun to work with flighty birds. A reader, Eumaeus, suggested that his experiences with Silver Laced Wyandottes were negative…mostly that the birds were flighty. I find that I agree. SLW are flighty, lay medium eggs but they appear to winter well. Customers invariably ask me for Large eggs instead of Medium. It’s a problem.

We bought a flock of Rhode Island Reds from Central Hatchery some years ago. When I sold the aging birds they each weighed 10-12 pounds. Those were big, big birds. They were also pretty chill and gave fair numbers of large eggs.

We have also had good luck with a number of red sex-link breeds but our favorite, by far, are New Hampshire Red. Those are large birds but not as big as Central’s RIR. They lay dependably and tend to tip toward Large eggs.

Years ago we had Barred Plymouth Rock. Those birds didn’t do well with our heat here and I prefer not to raise them.


We have also kept large numbers of Americauna chickens. For years we would pack a blue egg in the front right of every egg box. But we stopped. Americauna seem to stop laying entirely in October and don’t pick up again until April. Their eggs tended to be medium, they don’t do well with the heat…not worth the novelty.



Our recent chicken house is, I humbly submit, a work of genius. We insulated the top and left the upper two feet open, wrapped with chicken wire. That is a cool structure for the birds to sleep in through the hot summer nights. Dad even wrapped the top in plastic over the winter to keep the birds warm in sub-zero weather. It worked very well. Predators seem to be reluctant to climb the ramp up to the chickens too. It’s a win all around.

It beats our other chicken housing attempts in every imaginable way. We have tried to close the birds up tight and they suffer in the heat. We have tried to leave them completely open to the elements and predators and they did a little better, though owls would pick them off as they roosted on the roof. The wheeled chicken house is highly portable, convenient and safe. 10/10. Would chicken house again.

Those are a few of my somewhat random thoughts on keeping chickens. Even if you don’t agree, please comment with your thoughts below. I can take it.

The Unsexy Truth Reading Journal Week 28

This morning I read Playing BIG: The Unsexy Truth About How to Succeed in Business by Kim Flynn. Julie attended an online seminar recently but, due to technical issues, the seminar couldn’t happen. The speaker, instead, sent everybody a free copy of her book. The book and the author’s primary focus are on women in business but truth is truth…even if I don’t understand the author’s near-constant references to shoes and haircuts named Bob.

I often start with a tangent then roll it back to the farm. Today, my friends, is no exception.

As I was sitting to write this post I accidentally clicked on Notepad++ icon in my toolbar instead of the Google Chrome icon. I spend an awful lot of time in Notepad++ professionally. Clicking on that icon just seems natural. But before I used Notepad++ I just used Notepad. But before I used Notepad I just ran stuff from command line. The first command line I remember using was on our Commodore SX-64 which Wikipedia tells me was released in 1984.



31 years.

I still practice. I still learn. I still read. I still research. Every day. I work each day to get a little bit better. I work to make myself a little bit more valuable. I work to gain skill and spread knowledge among my peers and employees.

31 years of continuous work and I still have a lot to learn.

That, my friends, is the unsexy truth. Kim Flynn says it clearly on page 21:

So here is the unsexy truth: You can’t shortcut growth.

And again on page 76:

The hard part, and the part that most people aren’t willing to do, is the every day. Doing small, seemingly insignificant things every day, one at a time, over and over again, now that is hard. You win the race by doing these unsexy, sometimes boring tasks, day after day after day.

How do you get a job like mine? You spend 30 years learning to type, writing scripts to delete files, writing scripts to retrieve data more quickly, writing scripts to notify system administrators of processing failure…the same solutions over and over and over day after day after day.

It’s time to roll this back to the farm.

Once upon a time I shared a big vision. What if we could graze all of Illinois? That’s not really our vision, that’s just an exercise we went through. What COULD be? What would it look like? I also read about Bob Kleberg of the King Ranch. He brought home the reality of that vision…apparently owning a big cattle operation includes a lot of flying around the world, making deals and drinking large quantities of alcohol.

But let’s step that back a bit. 5000 cows. That’s a more realistic vision.

How do I get to 5000 cows?

I start here.

I start with 20 cows. And I have to cull some of those.

Every day I walk to the cows. I greet my cows. I look at my cows. I look at the pasture behind my cows. I look at the pasture ahead of my cows. Every day. In the rain. In the heat. In the snow. Whatever. It’s kind of a grind.

But that’s what this book says business is all about. It’s not a series of efforts to begin something new. It’s a series of efforts to build momentum over time toward a single goal.

Now, let’s be clear. The book has some good advice. The author isn’t wasting the reader’s time with pure advertisement but the book is an advertisement. The author makes her money through coaching and seminars, not by authoring books. However, there is value in these pages. She lays out steps I can act on here at home, at work and on the farm to become better. In an early chapter she has you score yourself on leadership, marketing, customer service and finance. In the words of Wile E. Coyote, “Yipe!”

We have been here for 5 or 6 years, Julie and I. 5 or 6 years. We are still at the beginning. In part because we have so much to learn. In part because we haven’t been serious students.

This book was a light, quick read and served as a reminder that I have more “dream” than “do” in me right now. Big hat, no cattle.

But while the book was a light read, it is also worthy of further consideration. The author did an excellent job of pointing out my weaknesses. Now I have to address them. Little by little. Day by day. Year by year. I’m going to start with standardization and automation. I hate writing SOPs but I need some way to ensure that I am not a single point of failure either at work or on the farm. So we’ll begin by breaking things down. Here’s what you do on Monday. Here’s what to do if it goes wrong. Here’s how to know if it went well.

I am probably choosing this exercise because I don’t want to learn QuickBooks as the author suggests. That sounds like a lot of work.

I’m sure I’ll revisit this book in the future. But the author has given me a lot of work to do between now and then.

What Is It About You?

I kissed you for the first time in December of 1993. Do you remember that?  Of course you do. That didn’t end well.

But why didn’t it work then? I don’t really know. You were/are a pretty girl but…I dunno…something wasn’t quite…

The next summer I was busy telling you all about that other girl I was hoping to marry someday. But said girl wasn’t having any of it. Why was I telling you?

Shortly after that I swore off playing kissy face and got more “serious” about work and school. You remember that. I was “tired of wasting my kisses” (ah, the smell of teen drama…). I wouldn’t kiss another girl until I knew I was going to marry her. You were there. I told you about it. Why were you there? My parents had a party to celebrate the new house they had built. We were sitting on the front step talking. I was talking about that other girl. You were rolling your eyes.

How did you know?

I didn’t hold out. Somehow you broke down my barriers. I remember kissing you in November of 1995. Do you remember that? Of course you do. I got you an engagement ring at Christmas but it arrived late. I spent every last dime on that ring and I didn’t have a present for you on Christmas Eve. Not even a card. Oh, the things I would do differently…


What happened in between? How did I go from “something wasn’t quite…” to “let’s get hitched”?

You came home from a trip in the fall of ’94 talking about some dude you met and I felt myself getting angry. Mark. Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, MARK! Why was I getting angry? I had nothing to be jealous of. We weren’t dating. I was just hanging out at your house playing video games with you and your brothers.

I wasn’t there specifically to be with you. I was watching movies and making potato guns and listening to music…you were just somewhere nearby. We played king of the mountain in the snow, we caught frogs and snakes and stuff…we just played around. You were there too.

Why were you there?

Why did we get engaged? Not because of Mark.

I'm going through old boxes and found our engagement picture. I was only 4 years older than my oldest is now. Eek!

A photo posted by Julie Ann Jordan (@20acreacademy) on

What did you do to me?

Whatever you did seems to be working. Nearly half of my life I’ve been married to you. And Mark hasn’t. Nanny-nanny boo-boo. (I hope I don’t find out someday that Mark is fictional…)

So what is it about you? Is it your hair or your looks? You are certainly a pretty girl. 20 years and four children haven’t changed you at all.

The ever fashionable rainsuit.

A photo posted by Julie Ann Jordan (@20acreacademy) on

Maybe it’s that you look great standing in the rain and mud after milking the cow and taking a selfie. Or maybe it’s that you stand in the rain and mud after milking the cow and take a selfie. Or maybe that you milk the cow in spite of the rain and mud. Maybe that was the point of the selfie.

I really don’t know.

So what is it about you that I married?

Remember that part about your brothers? Your dad played video games with us too. Heck, your mom played Dr. Mario with us. And your mom made us pizza every week while we watched movies. And your grandpa hired me. And your grandpa fired me. And your grandma hired me. And your aunts and uncles are pretty cool.

Maybe I married your family and you were just a bonus.

Maybe. But I don’t think so.

I think it’s just something about you. Something I can’t quite pin down. And I have no idea how you did it.

Maybe I’ll figure it out in another couple of decades.

I know that I love you. It’s hard to be specific about what I love about you so I’ll just take the whole package and not ask “Why?” questions.

I love you. Happy 18th anniversary Julie Boo.


Friday night Julie said, “I know you do a blog post for our anniversary every year. It might be nice for us to work on that together.”

“Um…it’s already written and scheduled.”

This post isn’t old enough for me to regret writing it yet but maybe I should have just scrapped it in favor of the collaborative effort. But she’s reminding me of details that…ugh. What a dork. Why did she marry me? She even said, “You can’t put that in the post…” Nope. I can’t. Ugh.