BARBWIRE by Barb Lumley

Barb Lumley’s weekly column!


From the very beginning of our lives, we have choices to make. At the beginning they are very minimal, do we sleep or do we cry? From that day on, choices will be made every day of our lives. As we grow and our lives progress, the choices change from being very simple ones to very important ones. Sometimes the choices are easy, other times they are very complicated and difficult to make. We don’t always make the right choices and then we must suffer the consequences. We try to learn from our mistakes. As we contemplate the possibilities and then make our decisions, those choices help to form the path that our life takes. “Sometimes it
is the smallest decisions that can change your life forever”. (Keri Russell)

 As the problems with inflation continue and the prices in the grocery store continue to rise, people are forced to make choices. Dairy products are an important part of everyone’s diet regardless of age. The shelves at the grocery stores are filled with all types of dairy products, as well as numerous products that are involved with dairy in one way or another. As the consumer walks the aisles and considers the items available, choices must be made.

Spring will soon be here, followed by summer, and one of the favorite things for everyone regardless of age is ice cream. As you check out the price for “real” ice cream, you also see that for about the same price you can buy at least two cans of Campbell’s soup or even three cans of the “off brand”. The “cream of soups” can be diluted with water (although using milk makes them better) and that will leave more milk for the kids to drink. Add some crackers or bread to soup and you have a meal. Buying whole milk is a good idea, as adding a couple ice cubes to each glass reduces the butterfat content and makes a jug of milk go farther.

While you prefer butter for bread, toast and some of your recipes, margarine is cheaper. The deli counter is filled with all types of cheese and the kids love cheese and crackers as a snack, however American slices will be the best buy, as it is usually used for toasted cheese sandwiches and that can make a meal. The kids love macaroni and cheese, and you like to make your own cheese sauce, however that cheapest box kind will make a meal and cost less.

The kids like the beef hot dogs, they say they taste better. The other kinds are cheaper, so they will just have to add a little more ketchup or mustard! They love yogurt, however you won’t be able to buy so many of those special little packages of both yogurt and cheese that they like so well. They will only be allowed to have those in their school lunches! Chips and special snacks? Only for lunches! Fast food from their favorite places? Only as special treats! More meals will be cooked at home! You must stretch your food dollars as far possible!

As the consumer walks the aisles making choices and hoping they will have enough money to pay the grocery bill, every choice that is being made will affect a farmer. If the consumer has to cut back on the purchase of dairy products, then not all the milk the dairy farmers’ cows are producing will be needed and the price he receives for it will go down. If the consumer cannot afford the prices for the meat products they normally choose, the farmer who grows livestock for meat will receive lower prices, as there will be less selling. And so it goes with all types of farm products!

Those farmers are also having to make different choices as they work to keep their farm going. Dairy farmers work hard to get top production from their cows. That requires feed consultants to work with them in preparing a menu for their cows that will not only make them top producers but also keep them healthy while doing so. That means choices for the recipe that maintains their production can be expensive. If changes have to be made in order to pay the feed bill, then production will drop, there will be less milk selling and less income coming in!

The same is true for the farmer who is raising different types of livestock for meat. While the farmers are worrying about the prices they are going to be receiving for what they produce, they are also having to make choices about farming. Spring planting time is here! Many farmers have already made the choice to order their seed and fertilizer before the end of 2022, concerned that the prices could be even higher this spring. Others have chosen to take a chance that possibly the prices might be down. Now all of them must make the choice of which crops they are going to plant, how many acres they will plant, how many acres will they be able to afford to spray for weeds, and how much diesel or gas they will be able to afford to do all the field work. And many will be making a choice to either try to get it done themselves or hire someone else to do it! Many are using old machinery that is costly to repair. The cost of new machinery is out of sight!

While I have written about how choices have to be made in the grocery store and on the farm, every choice that is made by every person every day affects someone in some way. It can be the person making the choice, it can be someone else or both! It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are! So think things through before making a decision and use common sense! “Life is a matter of choices and every choice you make makes you”. (John C. Maxwell)


     It is well known by friends and readers that I am a fan of old western movies.  As I was growing up, my heroes were Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and a few others.  There is a picture of me wearing my Hopalong Cassidy cowboy hat and leading a Guernsey calf.  (That was before my registered Holsteins.)  Dad and Mom would scrimp and save so we had money to go to the movie theater on Saturday night.  We all loved the movies and especially the westerns!
    The plots of old western movies are often the same.  A town that is full of good people has been taken over by a gang of outlaws and bad men.  The people are unaware that the leader of the gang is a well-known and trusted member of the community, who pretends to care about the people.  He has the sheriff and the judge under his control and is involved with the daughter of an important member of the town.   She is always sweet and very pretty and has no idea of what is going on!  The town’s people are afraid of the gang and know, if they try to stop the gang, something terrible will happen, so they just give in to whatever is asked of them, including giving them money and looking the other way when bad things happen.  Does any of this sound familiar?
    And then one day a stranger comes riding into town on a beautiful horse and wearing a white hat.  He usually has a trusted but funny companion with him.  Someone in the town is a good friend and has asked for his help in getting rid of the gang of bad men and making the town a prosperous and safe place for the people to live in again.  The person in the white hat is strong, brave, caring, honest, smart, and has common sense.  He straps on his six-guns and sets about to outwit the gang, expose and lock up the crooked leader, and encourages the town’s people to organize and fight back.  It is a long hard battle but the people win and after leading the people in making their town a better place, the person in the white hat rides off into the sunset.  Sometimes the girl goes with him!
    Our country will elect a new President in 2024.  Already there are people who have “thrown their hat into the ring” and want to be President of the United States.   There are more that are considering a run for the office and some who are just waiting for the right time to announce that they are going to run for the highest office in the land.  There are political ads running on television and being published in newspapers already.  It has become a subject on the daily news broadcasts.  Panelists on talk shows are giving their opinions about the people who are already running, as well as their opinions about those who might run.  The elections having to do with selecting who will be presidential candidates are a year and a couple months away!  Right now there are many important problems in our country that need attention!
    What our country needs is that person in the white hat!  In the old movies the people in the white hats were always cowboys, however in this day and age we have a lot of “cowgirls” who are well qualified to wear the white hat.  Cowgirls know how to “ride herd” on a group of contrary critters and drive them to the right destination.  Our country has numerous women in leadership roles, political offices, and other important roles in this country.  Some are outstanding in their positions, some are not.  The same is certainly true of the men.  It is well known that women are good at “multi-tasking”, going all the way back to pioneer days, so running the government should be a “breeze” for a qualified woman!  There are some people who just seem to be born leaders.  There are others who can have the very best qualifications, yet just don’t know how to successfully lead.
    The political parties will meet and hold their conventions.  They will select the candidates that they want to run for the offices of President and Vice-President.  We will be asked to listen to debates, to speeches by each candidate and to watch and hear their ads.  We will be given opinions of the candidates all the way from just friends and neighbors to some of the best educated people in our land.  It is best not to discuss politics with relatives!  It is going to be up to the people in our country to educate themselves about each candidate running for our highest office.  People will need to read, to listen and to learn about each person in each political party and then to vote for the person of their choice.  When it comes time in 2024 to vote for the candidates for President and Vice-President of this United States of America we all better hope and pray that it is the person in the white hat who rides into the White House!       


     The news in our country is still filled with gloom and doom.  On February 3, 2023, In the dark of the night in East Palestine, Ohio an Iron Horse loaded with hazardous materials kicked up its heels and went cattywampus, jumping the track and creating a huge fire and smoke filled atmosphere, leaving the people in that burg bumfuzzled and dealing with a fine kettle of fish.  As the days progressed they would find the fish in their creeks dying.  Jumpin jehashaphat, there was no warning!  The fire fighters, the emergency medical technicians and all those who came to help showed their moxie, as they fought the fire and embraced the danger. 
    The bodacious mayor of this little town took charge and fought to get the help that was needed and to bring attention to their problems.  Gee whillikers, the people of his town had their lives turned upside down!  The government’s sockdolager in charge of all types of transportation totally ignored the situation.  He wouldn’t even answer questions about it from the reporters because he was having a personal day.  When a knight in a red hat came riding in with supplies and help for the people, he was warmly welcomed by a huge crowd.  He walked among them, talked with them and heard their fears and needs.  It was obvious, he knew his onions and that they were in a pickle!  Only then did the government knucklehead make a decision to visit the town, scheduling it for seven o’clock in the morning when few people were around, and staying for only a very short period of time!  He was probably quaking in his shoes, as he didn’t know what the reception would be!  He might have been worried that someone would try to give him a shellacking!  The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.  (Ronald Reagan)
    As for the old codger at the head of our country, he was bumfuzzled, discombobulated and full of applesauce, and preferred to ignore the tragedy in East Palestine.  Instead he would flounce around in another country, telling the leader, “It’s the taxpayer’s nickel, so whatever floats your boat”!  He taradiddled that he had zoomed to lots of important people.  While he is being a wisenheimer, his biddy is currently bragging to the country about the wonderful job the old coot is doing and that he plans to run for election again.  Fiddlesticks!
    In the meantime, the people living in and near East Palestine are still waiting for help and answers and trying to move on with their lives, with no knowledge of what the future might hold for them or their children.  Gee whillikers, they have no idea what to expect!  Are they being told claptrap, flapdoodle, or tommyrot?  Or are they being told the truth?  They are being warned to watch out for dipsy doodles, don’t take any wooden nickels, and don’t let anyone hornswoggle you.  In the meantime, they are dealing with numerous problems, skin rashes,   headaches, breathing problems, gollywobbles and more.  It has affected business, school,   sports and everyday life.  Will they lose their homes, livelihood and finances?  They are living in fear!  Their lives literally went up in the air with the fire, the smoke and the toxins.   Keep East Palestine and the people affected by this tragedy in your prayers!  


     Each week as the deadline for my weekly column nears, I have to come up with a subject to write about.  Sometimes it is easy, I read about something, hear about something or something unusual happens in my daily life.  I have often said that sometimes ideas just seem to fall out of the air!  Other times I may not come up with a subject until the last minute!  This week it occurred to me that it would be a good time to write about good news.
    For a long period of time, all we have been hearing about is the bad news.  Open borders, fentanyl and other drugs killing our people, drug cartels invading our country, inflation driving prices up, homeless people living on our streets, shootings every day, criminals allowed to go free, China’s spying balloons, problems in our schools, lies, crooked deals, the list goes on and on.  The media keeps repeating all the problems over and over and over!  Can’t they find some good news to tell us about?
    We are constantly reading about and hearing about depression.  There is constant talk and printing of articles about depression being a major problem for retirees and older people like me.  Well, why wouldn’t it be?  Bad news is all we hear about!  We are the ones who have the most time to read and to listen to the daily news programs on television!  There is no doubt in my mind that younger people of all ages have worries and can be depressed.  However, if they are going to school, working, taking care of their families, and involved in various family and local activities, they don’t have the time to listen to all the bad news and sit around and think about it as older people do!   We can’t help but worry about what life in this country is going to be like for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren!  We need to “tune out” the news, find things that interest us to keep us busy, call up someone and share the latest gossip, get together with friends for lunch or coffee, keep active and not dwell on the bad stuff!!  There are times when no news is really good news.  I often think back to the days when there was no  television sets, no computers,  no cell phones, very few radios, and just the local newspaper.  Perhaps we didn’t know much about what was going on in our government and our country, but it was a much happier time!
    So, I set about to find some good things to write about in my column.  I discovered it was not an easy task!  I looked through the numerous magazines and newspapers that I subscribe to.  I watched news programs on television.  I looked on some of the Facebook pages that I can get on and read, and I talked to some friends to find out the latest gossip.  Finally I found a couple things that I hope will be good news for somebody!
    Good news for farmers who raise livestock to sell for meat.  Fake meat is not selling!  According to a recent article that I just read, fake meat seems to have been more of a fad than a hamburger stopper.  Companies who make faux meat are laying off a portion of their work force and their stock is down.  The executives of the companies blame inflation (Joe actually did something that helped farmers?)  Fake meat is more expensive than real meat.  Those who were influenced by the commercials evidently tried it but have now gone back to the comfort of a real burger and are saving money.  Fake meats would not be so bad if they were actually made from real plants.  They are not!  They are manufactured in laboratories! If real plants were used, farmers could grow them and sell them!  Maybe the fast food places could feature “alfalfaburgers”.  The alfalfa leaves could be combined with bread crumbs or quick oats, an egg, a little milk, seasonings, then made into a burger that is baked or fried, topped with a special dressing, cheese  and placed on a bun!  Alfalfa sprouts are packed full of powerful antioxidants and loaded with vitamin C.  Alfalfa has shown promise as a potential cholesterol lowering agent.    Now, if only a similar fate could happen to the fake drinks that claim to be milk!
    It was so enjoyable to read the following in Poor Will’s Almanack and learn that it is one week to crocus season and owl hatching time and woodcock mating time.  Two weeks to the beginning of the morning robin chorus before sunrise (robins have been seen already).   Three weeks to daffodil season (mine are up) and silver maple blooming season and the first golden goldfinches.  Four weeks to tulip season and the first wave of blooming woodland wildflowers and the first butterflies.  Five weeks until golden forsythia blooms and skunk cabbage sends out its first leaves and the lawn is long enough to cut.  Six weeks until American toads sing their mating songs in the dark and corn planting time begins.  Seven weeks until the peak of Middle Spring wildflowers in the wood.  Eight weeks until the Great Dandelion and Violet bloom begins.   Spring is on the way!!  


     All this news in the last few days about the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon and then shooting down more “unidentified flying objects” has certainly stirred up a “hornets’ nest” in our government and our country.  The government has become much “quicker on the trigger” since that Chinese spy balloon was actually spotted by someone!  It has created so many questions and concerns for everyone in our country, but as of yet, no answers!  As I have listened to the reports on all of this over the last few days, my thoughts turned to something strange that happened right here on this farm last summer.
     On a warm, pleasant, early summer morning, I took my cup of coffee and went out on my deck to enjoy the sunrise and the beauty of the hills.  As I looked down across my yard to the county road, I saw it.  There, across from my house, settled into the un-mowed grass along the road, was a big balloon.  It was almost the size of one of the smaller made round bales of hay.  It appeared to be a sort of smoky gray on the outside with some splotches of color on it.  I couldn’t tell if there was anything in it.  It was just sitting there!  The question was why!  How did it get there?  I had no choice but to go about my chores, however every once in a while I would check on it and it would still be there!  Now, in view of what has recently happened, I am wondering why and where did it come from?!  Was there equipment inside it that was recording something or looking for something? 
     Could it have been a spy balloon?  Was it seeking information about registered Holsteins   and the Ohio Holstein Association?  It was sitting right across from the location of my computer room, where I have stacks of Holstein magazines, Holstein books, a wall covered with show awards, pictures, as well as some other important information.  Could they have been checking out my Christmas cactus that is over 100 years old and sits by the sliding glass door?  There is no doubt in my mind that the Chinese want to know about everything we grow and raise!
     Could there be some type of “bug” that was collecting information from my computer and phone?  I am known to be someone who tends to speak out and express my opinions.  At the time I was corresponding with a friend, who was spending some time in jail because he expressed his opinion.  Maybe someone was concerned that we were going to start a protest march about free speech when he got out!  Could they have been checking my columns to see what I write about?  If so, that would certainly confuse them!  You never know what I am going to write about!!  Sometimes I don’t know until shortly before the column needs to be sent out!  Could it have been a spy balloon?  We will never know.  It was gone the next morning.
     A few weeks later I climbed on my “mean green machine” and began mowing the yard.  As I made my first pass in the backyard next to the pasture I suddenly saw something unusual ahead of me.  It was three large balls, each a little bigger than a grapefruit but smaller than a seedless watermelon, sitting there in the yard.  They were dark grey in color.  I had no idea what they were!  I didn’t know whether to just run my mower over them or drive around them!  Was it something that might explode?  I decided to just leave them alone for a few days.  They just laid there and nothing changed!  Finally, after a few days the grass had to be mowed again.  When I came to them, I got brave.  I aimed the “mean green machine” right at them!  When the mower hit them there was this cloud of gray dust that flew everywhere!  What were they?  I have no idea!  Neither the “mean green machine” nor I seemed to suffer any after affects!
     All this news about balloons and flying objects has made us question everything!  We have all seen the Goodyear Blimp fly over at some time.  Was it really the Goodyear Blimp or a “fake” Goodyear Blimp sent over by a foreign country?  When all those beautiful hot air balloons fly into Stark County for the Football Hall of Fame celebration each year, are they just enjoying the festival and the celebration or are they taking pictures and gathering information about the area, the industries, and seeking information about numerous other things there?  And what about that ordinary red balloon that you find in your field that asks you to send information back to the children in a school at a certain address?  Sounds so simple and innocent doesn’t it?  Even that could be a way of a foreign country seeking information about how far something might travel in the sky over our country!
     When the singing group, Fifth Dimension, won a Grammy in 1967, the Record of the Year Award and several other awards in 1968 for singing, “Up, up and away my beautiful, my beautiful balloon”, a song that symbolized happiness and lightness of sorrow, no one ever dreamed that the day might come when it could become the theme song for a foreign country and their spying balloons!                  


     I recently ran across an article proclaiming that a group of consultants, who were experts in certain fields, had been assembled to give advice to dairy farmers, who are dealing with a certain type of problem these days. There would be forms to fill out (there always is), information would be made available and meetings would probably be held. In my many years of living, it never ceases to amaze me at the many “so called experts” who pass out their advice every day on something! There is no doubt in my mind that the first words of expert advice were written with a quill pen. I wonder how that went!

     In my years as a dairy farmer and a breeder of registered Holsteins I have read the opinions of many experts and attended numerous meetings where the experts passed out their material, gave a speech and suggested that the only way to be successful was to follow their advice! Some of them did not like to be questioned about their ideas. Carroll County had some dairymen, who being both smart and successful, would ask tough questions and challenge the advice the speaker was giving. Several years ago at a meeting at Atwood Lodge, the group of farmers met with an expert from a state university. When they strongly challenged the
expert’s advice, he left during the lunch break and never came back!

     Financial institutions guided by their experts have always been very important to farmers. There are many expenses involved on a dairy farm and often a problem arises quickly and taking care of it requires a loan. How many of the people making the decisions about loans ever worked on a dairy farm? Yet over the years dairy farmers have had to yield to their rules, regulations and decisions. There have been many times when their decisions were not made using common sense. One example I have always remembered over the years had to do with a friend of mine. He milked a small herd of mixed breed cows, however he wanted to own registered Holsteins. He had an opportunity to buy ten (10) bred heifers, all bred to a registered bull and due to calve, at $1500 each. He went to the local well known lending institution that farmers used and asked to borrow the money. The odds were 50/50 that he would get at least five heifer calves. Registered Holstein heifer calves were in demand and selling for $500 and up. Do the math! Five heifer calves sold, $2500, divided by the ten heifers equals $250 subtracted from the $1500 equals a cost of $1250 for each heifer. Five bull calves would probably bring $50 each, so another $250 divided by 10 would be another $25 off the price, making the price of ten good pedigreed Holstein bred heifers $1225! Sounded like a pretty good deal! The lender refused to give him the money for the registered heifers! However, he agreed to lend him $1300 per bred heifer if he bought grade Holsteins! There was very little interest in grade heifer calves and they sold cheap! This “so called expert” had a long career of lending money and giving advice to farmers on how to spend it!

     Most dairy farmers over the years have welcomed information and data that could help them to be more successful with breeding their dairy cattle and raising their crops. However many looked to other respected breeders and farmers who were already successful for help and advice. So much of the guidance and the rules and regulations that dairy farmers must follow today are created by “so called experts” who have never lived on or managed a farm. There is a saying, “If you can’t do it, teach it”. So many of those experts giving advice today in every field imaginable base their advice on their college education rather than on personal experience with the subject or issue they work with.

     The same is so true for those currently making the rules, laws, and decisions for our government. How many have done anything except college, politics and government? Until you “walk the walk” how can you “talk the talk”? Some experience is needed so they know how the decision made really affects the people!

     As these government committee meetings are being held to discuss the many problems in our country, I find the attitude of some of the committee members most interesting. Some are asking questions and seeking the true answers to the problem they are focused on. Their decisions will be based on listening, learning and knowing the facts. Others who are involved can only project that they have no interest in listening or knowing the facts and the truth. They have no experience or proven information for the subject they are to make a decision on! Their decisions will be based on their attitude that they are the “experts” in government and smarter than anyone else! So sad! Every decision that is ever made by someone in charge of making decisions affects someone’s life! From cows to country! “Experience is the best teacher, and the worst experiences teach the best lessons”. (Jordan Peterson)



     This week on February 2nd there will be a celebration of Groundhog Day in several areas.  The purpose is to gain a prediction for the coming weather.  If it is a clear day and the groundhog sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter weather.  If he doesn’t see his shadow spring will come early.  One of those celebrations will be held in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania where Punxsutawny Phil will come out of hibernation and predict what is going to happen with our weather in the next few weeks.  It all depends on whether or not he sees his shadow!
    It has come to my attention that PETA, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, does not want this holiday celebration to take place.  PETA says that the groundhogs are forced to “perform” in front of large crowds and are exposed to flash photography and to loud noises.  Now, I am not sure what they mean by “perform”.  I have never seen Punxsutawny Phil singing or dancing.  He always just seems to lay there in someone’s arms and look bored by the whole celebration!  As for the flashes and noises, he is a “star” and stars have to expect crowds to gather, cameras to take pictures, and people to cheer!  Phil is a star and he has had to get used to the excitement and adjust to it.  PETA says they are “shy, sensitive animals”, however there is a record of one retaliating and biting the ear of a mayor in Wisconsin during a celebration.
    They also say Phil is denied hibernation and is forced to be on display at the local public library all year long.  But is that so bad?  He only has to work one day a year.  The rest of the year he is well taken care of!  A special burrow is dug for him, he doesn’t have to dig his own.  It has a special “window” so children can view and admire him.  He lives in a warm and clean environment all year long.  He can sleep as much as he wants to anytime he wants to.
    He is fed the foods he likes— celery, lettuce, kale, and carrots.  Those types of foods are why groundhogs choose to make their burrows near your garden!  Bananas and apples are a special treat for him.  Groundhogs have two teeth that never stop growing, so Phil is fed Granola Bars to help wear down those teeth.   He gets his longevity of life from drinking the “elixir of life”, a secret recipe (one of the secret ingredients is milk).  He takes a sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.  His wife, Phyllis, lives with him so he is not lonely.
    Why do they think Phil would be better off free?  How could releasing Phil in the “wilds” possibly make his life better?  He would have to dig his own holes, search for food every day, and hibernate in winter and become skinny.  He would be at the mercy of predators such as coyotes, dogs, hunters with guns who enjoy the sport of shooting groundhogs, irate farmers wanting them shot because of the holes made in their fields that cause wagons to upset or machinery to break, and cars that run over them when they go on the roads!  I am sure there are other groundhogs who would like to trade places with Phil!  The Punxsutawny Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle takes good care of Punxsutawny Phil.  It seems to me that Phil lives a comfortable and happy life.  There are a lot of people in our world who do not live as well! 
    Last summer thirty five (35) groundhogs or more (there were probably some I didn’t see to   count) came to visit me and took up residence under various buildings here on the farm.  There is no doubt in my mind that, as soon as warm weather comes this spring, more will be heading my way.  They will be looking for suitable places to settle, establish their residence and raise a family.  Should PETA or some caring person establish a “rescue shelter” for groundhogs I would be quite willing to allow them to be rescued!  The hard part will be catching them!  The last time I caught one in a trap, it enjoyed the bait and then proceeded to tear my Chinese manufactured animal trap apart and escaped!   It had taken me days to just get it to go into the trap!  We might have to hire a “groundhog wrangler”!
    While I do not condone the mistreatment of animals, I do feel that there are more urgent and important issues in our country in need of attention and solutions than the treatment of a groundhog, who will or will not see his shadow and predict our weather.  By the time you read this Punxsutawny Phil will have given his prediction and his caretakers and friends will have celebrated the holiday.  You will know whether to keep the Carhartt’s handy or check the spring catalog for some new shorts!