Off-Farm Income

For the past several weeks I have been giving you updates on a welding class that I have been taking through our local community college.  I just completed the class this previous Saturday.  The class was just a basic, learn to weld course.  There was no grade and no college credits or certifications received.  I had been thinking about taking this course for a couple of years and finally resolved myself to do it this year.

I was reflecting on the course yesterday and something occurred to me.  I am 48 years old, and finally learned to weld.  Why it took me this long, I don't know.  I've talked about the fact that I grew up in the very small town of Valley Home, California several times.  All of the men in Valley Home were blue collar.  Probably 9 out of ten men where I grew up knew how to weld.

When I was about seven years old my father and one of his lifelong friends started a well drilling company, appropriately called "Valley Home Drilling".  It was during this time that I remember my father welding in his shop at our house, although I don't know if he was repairing parts for the drill rigs or doing something different.  I know that he was a stick welder and he was also a gas welder as I remember watching strike the yellow flame at the end of the nozzle and then dial up the oxygen to bring the flame down to a short, sharp and precise, blue flame.  I can remember sneaking into the shop and trying to use his welding helmet as some sort of toy, but it was always too dark to really use.

Our Valley Home neighbor, Fred, welded and farmed, and many of his creations still stand today.  He had a shop on his lot in town, and many an evening you could see the familiar flashes of the arc he was creating and hear the sound of "frying bacon" coming from within his shop.  My friend, Danny's, dad did auto body work in his shop on the north side of town, and he was always welding there when I would visit.  My step father welded, and my step brother, Rick, was a professional welder when he first became my step-brother.  There was always a welder in the shop on my step father's small farm, but I never asked to be taught.

Even with the environment I grew up in, and all the influences around me, I never learned.  When I went through high school I definitely could have learned to weld in shop classes, but I never took any.  My dad had moved into Modesto and the well drilling company had failed years before, but his welding equipment was in the garage at the new house.  However, I don't recall ever seeing him do any welding other than when we all lived together in Valley Home.  I certainly could have asked him to teach me himself, but I never did so.

I have no explanation for why I never asked anyone to teach me to weld.  I learned about working with wood and using power saws from my dad, and I asked him to show me.  I asked my step father to show me how to change the oil in my car, how to swap out the alternator and how to do many other things in my vehicle and I learned.  But for some reason I never pursued welding.

With all of that background, I always knew that I should learn to weld but just never seemed to make time for this until I was 48 years of age.  Autumm and I have owned our own farm for 10.5 years now, and during that time there definitely have been projects that I needed to complete that required welding or repairs that needed to be done that required welding.  Every time these came up I either hired this done or asked a friend with the equipment and know how for a favor.  That has always been a little bit embarrassing to me.  Not knowing how to weld is not a revocation of one's man card, but owning your own farm and equipment and not knowing how to repair it borders on the inefficient.

I tell you all of this to explain the title of today's show.  All of us have a metaphorical closet in our minds.  We have a set amount of space to contain the things that we know we need to do or that we want to do at some point in the future.  Anytime you or somebody else uses the phrase, "it has been in the back of my mind" think of this closet.  The "back of the mind" is the term for the closet where we have been storing the things that we need to get done.

The "back of the mind" is a confined space with only so much room.  So, the more that you put off or say that you will get done on some day in the future, the more you clutter it up.  The more you clutter it up, the less room there is for big goals like starting a farm or beginning a business.  And the more clutter there is, the less able you will be to map out the small steps you need to take to reach the really big goals.  There will just be too much stuff laying around to distract you.

When I finished that welding class on Saturday, I made a bunch of room in the "back of my mind".  It turns out that knowing that I should learn to weld had been taking up a lot of space in there, and for decades now, anytime something needed to be welded, I knew that it was sitting in there.

By being proactive and forcing myself to finally learn this skill, I accessed a new part of the brain.  It is the part where I store knowledge, not where I store ideas, things I need to do and abstract thoughts.  I was able to take all of those cubic feet that the welding was taking up and move it to the shelf of knowledge, allowing me to put new ideas in the closet to finally be pulled out when I am ready.  This is the key to being creative and achieving lifelong goals.  You've got to keep things tidy up there so you have the time and focus to accomplish large and complex goals.

What is cluttering up your closet, and when are you going to clean it out?

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Category:farming -- posted at: 12:30am MDT