Raising Beef Cattle For Dummies (Review)

I don’t know why this book was displayed in the “New Books” section at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library. The copyright is listed as 2012. I found it next to the new books about caring for cats. I placed Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies back on the shelf and continued browsing through other book titles.

Curiosity gained the upper hand, so I went back to the pet shelf and pulled out the cattle raising book.  I mentally laughed at the irony of a vegetarian checking out a book about raising livestock for meat. I reasoned that it might give me some insight about some of my acquaintances who farm and raise livestock.  Besides, Nebraska’s old license plate motto used to be “The Beef State”. Because we live in a state with a predominantly agricultural economy, many Nebraskans take farms and feedlots for granted.

My ancestors were farmers. Even though I was raised in towns, I did get a small amount of farming knowledge from short visits to my maternal grandparents’ small farm. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn animal husbandry close up, nor did I have beefcattle-02the desire.  As a budding vegetarian, livestock farming was the furthest thing from my mind. That is the background of the person tapping out this review for you.

Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies by Nikki and Scott Royer shares the same basic layout and format of other “For Dummies” books. There are the familiar icons and sidebars we know plus cartoons at the beginnings of the chapters. If you’ve read other “For Dummies” books, you’ll be familiar with the organization of this book, too.

Any livestock farming operation is highly labor and cash intensive.  Anybody who is considering starting a livestock operation must realize they must commit themselves to a lot of hands-on physical work.  They will also need to learn sophisticated business skills. Raising cattle is pretty much a 24/7 proposition. Hence, this book can only be a reference guide.  There is no way it can substitute for actual experience and an agriculture college education.

Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies is a good tool for veteran and aspiring farmers, cattlewomen/cattlemen, veterinarieans, managers of businesses catering to livestock operations, agriculture journalists, and regular people who really want to know what it’s like to raise cattle for a living.

The range of topics is all inclusive. The first part of the book introduces the various breeds and descriptions of bovine animals. Next the authors tell how to prepare the land and buildings in order to accomodate a herd. There is a section on care and veterinary needs of the cattle. The next part goes into the nitty gritty of the business end of a cattle operation. The final part is a list of mistakes to avoid when raising a herd of cattle.

Even though this book is not a comprehensive study of beef cattle husbandry, it is a satisfactory overview of what is needed to raise beef cattle. The book covers every important aspect of beef cattle only, not dairy cattle. beefcattle-03

I’m glad the Royers decided to write their book as a “For Dummies”, because it allowed me to read and ruminate small portions at a time, at my own pace. I now have a better overview of how to have better discussions with my farming friends.

The Royer family is well qualified to write on this subject. They own an Indiana farm on which they raise cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens. Nikki is a life-long cattlewoman who showed her first calf when she was only six-years-old.  Scott has worked in the livestock feed business and is a livestock scientist. Nikki and Scott are graduates of Purdue University School of Agriculture. They bring their years of experience and family traditions together in the writing of Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies.

I’m glad I read this book.  I still do not want to raise livestock, but now I know a lot more about my farming friends and the cattle they raise. This book gets a thumbs up.

{ Raising Beef Cattle for Dummies by Nikki Royer and Scott Royer; 360 pages published July 3, 2012 by For Dummies; ISBN: 978-0-470-93061-8 }

1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes popcorn magnate Orville Redenbacher. “The cobs were delivered to a big pile. We were one of the first to feed corn cobs to cattle.”

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We Need More Mensches

While sitting in a waiting room at the local hospital this week, I happened to overhear bits and pieces of a conversation. It’s not that I tried to eavesdrop, the fact is, the two people were talking very loud.  One of the phrases that stood out was, “You’re such a Mensch!”  I thought to myself, “That’s something you don’t hear in Nebraska very often.”  mensch-01

The word “Mensch” is Yiddish and means a person of honesty and integrity. A Mensch is someone who does “the right thing” and is very kind towards  others, be they humans or animals. Being a Mensch isn’t related to social status, success, or wealth. An authentic Mensch does not label himself or herself as a Mensch.  People in society recognise a Mensch when we see one. We might not use the word “Mensch”, but we describe the individual as a “wonderful person”.

A string of memories about Mensches I’ve know soon appeared in my mind.  Like most people, I’ve had the good fortune to know several Mensches.

One Mensch in particular comes to mind. He owned a tiny, old “Derby” gasoline station across Main Street from Wayne (Nebraska) State College. I don’t remember anybody ever filling their cars at the gasoline pumps, but many students visited the little snack shop inside the tiny shack of a building. The Mensche was a short-statured elderly man named Harry Kinder. Although he pronounced his name with a short “i” sound, he behaved as if it was pronounced with a long “i”.

Harry always wore a smile and laughed with his customers who were mainly college students and neighborhood children.  He was sometimes referred to as a “good Pied Piper” because of his popularity with youngsters and youth. He was a very considerate listener who consoled troubled kids simply by allowing them to talk but he rarely doled out advise.  Perhaps it is that quality that made Harry so well loved.

Harry was a trusting old soul who often allowed college students to buy treats “on credit” when they were short on cash. As far as I know, everyone made a point of eventually paying Harry back, even though he never insisted that they do so. Harry and his customers conducted business the old fashioned way, by the honor system and trust.mensch-02

I can close my eyes right now and picture old Harry Kinder in my mind. Complete with beaming smile and friendly laughter, he was certainly a Mensch.

He certainly qualified by any measure of “Menschness”.  Harry always did the right thing. He stood up for the “little people”. He worked to understand other people, he didn’t judge by appearances. He saw others as unique, special individuals. Harry treated everybody with respect so he received respect in return.

Although he never strived to by famous or popular, all the Wayne State College students knew and adored Harry Kinder. You might say he was everyone’s perfect grandpa.

I’m glad I knew Harry Kinder when I was a kid.

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness remembers something Harry Kinder sometimes said. “Being a good person does not depend on your skin color, your religion, your politics, or how well-off you are. It all depends on how kindly you treat others.”

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So Simple …Floral Friday

In life, it turns out that the simple pleasures are the most satisfying.  So it is with many of human artifacts.  Apple’s high tech products became successful largely on account of their simple styling.  The streamline movement of the 1940s and 50s was successful in large part due to clean, simple design.

Whenever possible, I try to utilize simplicity in the floral arrangements for this blog. Today, I take this idea and run with it.


This old, heavy wallpocket planter has a shallow area that can actually be used for plantings. This factor automatically limits the complexity of any floral design.  In this case a creeping plant becomes the foundation for a tiny posy.


A very small, baby blue McCoy flower pot is perfect for a very simple statement. The cluster of pastel blooms works well with the ivy themed pot.


Greenery and blue “berries” complete the easy care nickel plated vase.  This turned out to be simple without appearing spartan.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Leonardo da Vinci. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

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The Beatles And India

Yesterday, the clerk at the thrift store in Wayne, Nebraska was testing an old boom box stereo unit to make sure the thing worked before putting it up for sale. He placed “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” into the cassette player. Evidently the tape had been cued up to play the second side because “Within You Without You” beatlesmaharishi-04came out of the boom box speakers. It was as if a time machine instantly whisked me back to 1967.

That year, I was a high school sophomore and an avid Beatles fanatic.  I owned every Beatles album released in the US. When “Sgt. Pepper’s” was released, I was the first kid in school to get a copy. The first playing of the record on my stereo was a watershed moment. I understood that the album was radically different than any previous rock or pop recording ever released. In other words, it blew me away. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Side two, cut one absolutely intrigued me. “Within You, Without You” had zero Western cultural influence. It was created by George Harrison with the collaboration of top-notch Indian musicians. Pure India flowed through the stereo speakers with the sounds of Sitar, Sarnangi, Jal tarnang, Tabla, and Tanpura. Harrison’s voice intoned the lyrics in a chant-like style.

beatlesmaharishi-03It was definitely side two, cut one that planted the seed in my mind that would soon grow into a personal fascination with all things India. This affinity remains strong within me today. Anecdotal remarks on the Web remind me that this paradigm shift was a major cultural “earthquake” across the West.  It was a phenomenon that took hold and helped fuel the budding New Age spiritual movement. The phenomenon also influenced other major sectors of mainstream culture as well.

The Beatles going to India could have been perceived as just one more pop culture obsession. However, a closer look reveals something much deeper. The focus was on Rishikesh, India and the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The four, fabulously famous musicians had gone on a spiritual retreat and became advocates for something called “Transcendental Meditation”.

What was this spiritual gift from a nation that had only declared its independence from Britain two decades prior?  Why would these four incredibly famous, wealthy stars immerse themselves into Eastern spiritual culture?

Indian influence was increasingly sprinkled into Beatles music. There was “Love You To”, with Sitar, Tabla, Tanpura, Indian chant like vocalizations by George Harrison. There are bits of Tanpura mixed into “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

From the Revolver album is “Tomorrow Never Knows”. It features sitar-like guitar stylings and a Tanpura drone throughout the track. A quick violin phrase that sounds Carnatic also pops into the song.


Many popular and rock music fans don’t remember that much of the “White Album’s” two records were written or dreamed up in Maharishi’s ashram. In fact, “Sexy Sadie” aludes to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In it John Lennon sings of his disappointment with the guru after the scandal brought about by accusations of the Maharishi’s misconduct with a female disciple.

In Lennon’s single release “India, India” the singer pleads with India for spiritual wisdom and enlightenment, but goes on to lament that we won’t receive it there because his heart is in England and he must go where his heart is.beatlesmaharishi-02

Then there is George Harrison, the band member most enamored by Indian culture. The most obvious example is  “My Sweet Lord” from the solo multi record album “All Things Must Pass”. On that very famous track, Harrison expresses his devotion to the God Krishna. In the “Guru Brahma” chorus he repeatedly chants “Hare Krishna”. Of course, there is “Within You, Without You” from “Sgt. Pepper’s”, as mentioned above.

A less noticed song is the flip side of the Beatles’ single “Lady Madonna”. The B-side is “The Inner Light”. The words are an interpretation of a verse from the Tao Te Ching, which was recommended to Harrison by a Sanskrit scholar. The song was not included in the “Wonderwall Music” album but it was recorded along with the other music that was recorded in Bombay (Mumbai).

I cannot think of any other popular music shift that so greatly influenced modern Western thought, spirituality, and culture than what emerged from the Beatles’ retreat to India.

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness shares a verse from “Inner Light” by George Harrison.
“Without going out of your door,
You can know all things on Earth
without looking out of your window,
you can know the ways of heaven.”

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I Like Second Hand Clothing

Maybe I love thrift stores and consignment shops too much.  I meet friends and acquaintances at them several times per month.  The manager and employees of the local Goodwill Store and I know each other on a first name basis. Going “thrifting” can easily become an obsession, because you never know what sorts of treasures might show up each day.secondhandwardrobe-02

One habit I have each week is to scrutinize the men’s shirt racks for sports team tee shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets.  I have at least two 49ers heavy duty tee shirts, a couple of that team’s sweatshirts, a 49ers pullover stadium jacket, and a warm SF winter parka, plus one cap. I’ve scored several articles of Nebraska Cornhuskers shirts and caps at thrift stores, too.

What are more difficult to find are San Francisco Giants baseball items for sale in this small Nebraska city. Over the past couple of years, Goodwill has provided me with several tee shirts and two caps.  Amazingly, there must be a fellow San Jose Sharks hockey fan around my town somewhere.  I found a team jersey, a Sharks tee shirt, and a cap at different times in three different stores.  The most far away sports related items I’ve found, in my size, at the Goodwill Store were two bicycle shirts from Sweden with the hang tags still attached to them.secondhandwardrobe-03

I have to blame this current habit of second hand clothing purchasing on a paint job a few years ago. The bathroom needed a coat of paint and I didn’t want to get spatters all over my regular clothes.  So, I drove to the Goodwill in order to scavenge something out of their dollar bin. I picked out a not-so-gently used Norfolk High School tee shirt and a pair of white dungarees.

Further rummaging through the dollar bin yielded a decent pair of Dockers cargo pants and a couple of decent everyday polo shirts. What’s not to like about these finds? I got the painting duds plus the nicer things for about $5, total.

secondhandwardrobe-01In my home wardrobe closet are several excellent quality dress and casual button down shirts, attractive, conservative sweaters, well-tailored slacks, a couple of sedate yet current fashion sport coats and several designer ties. It’s easy to put together an appropriate outfit that looks fresh for almost any occasion.

When I get tired of certain clothes or when the closet becomes packed, they simply get re-donated.  So in effect, I’m renting my wardrobe.

During most shopping runs, I notice women going through the racks and finding stylish lady’s garments. On weekends there are entire families finding clothes for the kids and parents.

One of the managers at a Norfolk thrift store told me that clothing sales are the mainstay of their operation. Household wares and furniture come in at second and third place with books a close fourth.

In these times of tight personal and family budgets, outfitting ourselves in second hand clothing is the smart way to go.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes British actor Ben Chaplin. “I like clothes that are simple and preferably cheap, unless I’m being given it for free.”

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Singles Appreciation Day

OK, so you’re single, unattached, or otherwise without a date for Valentine’s Day and you’ve made it through Desperation Day in one piece.  We’ve arrived at Singles Appreciation Day at last.  We have managed to get through some soul searching and accept our lot.

Despite your best efforts you might still have a nagging sense that you’re missing out on life because you might be spending the night alone. Why not go to your wardrobe closet right now and find a green shirt, skirt, or pair of slacks to wear. (Green is the complementary color on the spectrum to red.) This will help make you feel solidarity with other singles. It may help put you in the mood to more fully appreciate your single social status.

Some relationship “experts” recommend that you go out somewhere special alone like dinner or theatre. Or maybe buy a fancy gift for yourself.  If that’s your thing, great.  That’s not why or how I’m celebrating Singles Appreciation (or Awareness) Day.  I’ve done that, been there, and have the tee-shirts.

By all means, do show yourself respect and kindness, after all, today is not Singles Deprecation Day. If giving yourself a little treat helps you feel better, go ahead.

I’ve been single most of my life with only two instances of being partnered (but not married). Right now, even though I presently have a beau, my legal status is single. Due to distance and professional circumstances, I usually find myself alone each February 14th. This is the point of view from which today’s post is written.

singlesappreciationday-02There’s no need to feel self-conscious about your single status. Most folks are wrapped up in their own romantic or lack of romantic lives to give much thought to other people’s love lives. Even though there are some fanatical people who make it their business to disapprove of your business, pay them no heed; they’re up to no good anyway.  Sanctimonious folks just need to get over themselves. Our love lives, straight, gay, abstinent, or otherwise, are not on the table for discussion.

Despite your insistance that you love being single, the fact that coupled and married people will likely be on a date or celebrating together is going to enter your mind.  This is when you can enumerate the personal reasons that you are grateful for being single. There are many benefits to being single, don’t just think about them, write them down in ink on paper.singlesappreciationday-03

Don’t just jot down the nice things about being single, list the difficult aspects of being single. Contemplate the hardships and be thankful for the lessons they taught you. Perhaps you developed strength and resilience. One valuable lesson might be the importance of empathy and compassion towards others in your life.

One of the best things I appreciate about being single, is that I have more time for quiet contemplation and meditation.  It’s easier to spontaneously sit and enjoy the simple act of just being alive. We don’t need to be self-indulgent to celebrate and appreciate being single.

Singlehood is good and wholesome in and of itself. Being a single human can be very, very good.

moi1986bThe Blue Jay of Happiness says he’s not exactly single.  He’s in a long-term relationship with adventure, observation, and life.

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It’s Desperation Day

Face it, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. You might be one of many thousands of people who don’t have a date or a mate for the special day.  Some people panic at this realization.   What happened? Did they procrastinate?  Are they socially awkward?  Do they feel worthy?

We are inundated with advertising for chocolates, flowers, restaurants, greeting cards, diamond jewelry, and motor vehicles pushing the idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day. For folks who don’t have a spouse or lover, the ads can only increase the feeling of desperation and loneliness.   Sure, we can switch off or ignore the ads, but deep inside, we know they’re still there.

A feeling of desperation can even exist today for people who are coupled.  Perhaps their significant other is scheduled to work on the 14th or is stationed overseas on military duty. They may tell themselves that they’ll celebrate romance on a different evening.  We know that feels like a second rate Valentine’s Celebration.  It’s like celebrating Christmas on Boxing Day.  It can be meaningful, yes, but much of the thrill is gone.

Most of us have been in this situation at least once in our lives. It’s a lonely, empty feeling not to have a special someone lined up for February 14th.  Even though the committed, die-hard single person claims he/she doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day one iota, we know that deep inside they really do care. The fact is, that the more they insist that they don’t care, the more they actually do care.

We are social animals and even self-proclaimed hermits don’t like to be totally isolated for very long.  Beneath the surface of a self-affirmed connoisseur of solitude, is the tiny voice of someone wanting to be loved by another.desperationday-02

Doesn’t this make you feel just a bit desperate? The clock is ticking and there’s not much time left before the time to line up a date is over. Who knows, will today be  when lonely people find dates with other lonely people? The need to pair up with a mate is a deeply imbedded primal instinct that cannot be fully submerged. I think this instinct manifests itself in many ways.  If it is ignored, feelings of desperation return to the surface.

One major drawback about desperation is that people instinctively avoid desperate people. It’s also often true that desperate people avoid other desperate people. Do we think we might catch cooties from desperate people? Does desperation trigger some sort of self-protective emotional mechanism?desperationday-03

The thing is that the more we try to ignore desperation, the more it comes back. There’s a balancing act some people do. They find themselves becoming good at thinking themselves into endless loops of desperation. Then they focus on other people to get themselves out of the spiral.

Of course there are varying degrees of desperation.  People who intuit the need for professional counseling should follow up on that message. The rest of us will be OK if we simply accept the fact of desperation. Knowing that everybody on Earth can feel and has felt desperate, does help us get on with life.

If Desperation Day is something you relate to, you can either soldier through it or go out and find somebody. After all acknowledging and accepting our desperation, eases the burden and allows us to realize the day was invented in order for us to enjoy the humor within our predicament.

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Argentine writer and journalist Adolfo Bioy Casares. “The sea is endless when you are in a rowboat.”

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