The Farmer and the Field [Guest Post]
Guest Post: Donald Sweigart worked with “The Body Shop @” which developed the “Star-Link Certified” Lean business model improving Profitability, CSI, and Cycle Time in the Collision Repair Industry. This model is now licensed by a Fortune 100 in it’s Industry-wide Lean Training. His passion is implementing Lean solutions in industry.
The long trek to his newly acquired land was long and tiring. He awoke and had a cup of coffee and got dressed. The morning sun was coming earlier in late winter and James looked forward to starting his new life. His first chore to do was to survey his new land and figure out how he would be able to work it so that he could grow enough for the people who said they would buy from him. They knew him as a good man when he lived in the city and worked hard at his city job. He knew that he would have to get them what they needed if he wanted to succeed. James knew that it would be a lot of hard work.
He had to walk through the small woods behind his tiny wooden house and past the run down barn which seemed huge to him. Being from the city he thought that it was a lot of space, but he didn’t have any experience with barns so he didn’t give it much thought. The sparkling of the morning sun through the leaves made him feel good. He knew he was now the owner of his fate and wouldn’t have to ever listen to a boss again. He had grown tired of all the games he had to play to stay in his boss’s good graces, none of which helped him to get his job done. He figured that instead of putting all that energy into trying to figure out what the boss wanted to hear every second, he could put all that energy into making his own business grow. He could feel the weight lifting off his shoulders and his steps becoming lighter as he came to the edge of the woods and he first saw his field.
“What am I going to do with this?” he uttered.
He had imagined a nice large field that he could work with some machinery and grow long rows of crops. He had dreamed of taking long walks down the straight rows and admiring his crops. He hadn’t thought to ask about the state of the fields when he purchased it with his last pennies. He was now looking at a rock filled rolling field with gullies created by the rains and wild animals grazing wherever they pleased. His heart sank. He would never be able to grow enough to keep his customers happy! Fear and worry started to grip him. All his joy was gone. He started to think about how he could make this work because he had no choice, all his money was gone except for what he needed to purchase seeds and food to live on through the summer. Then he thought, “Well, nothing is going to get done by worrying.” He remembered how everyone had told him that it would be a lot harder than he thought to make a go of it being a farmer. Then he remembered what his grandfather had told him. “The only way to succeed is with a plan and hard work.” He had heard him say that a thousand times and never paid any attention to him. Now he was getting a real understanding of what his grandpa was talking about.
He decided to take a walk around the whole five acres and headed off. As he approached the back edge of his field he saw the marker post’s that showed the borders of his land. He was staring off across the field when he heard something behind him. He turned to see two men standing across his border giggling and shuffling their feet. “I guess you’re the fool who bought the place huh?” He was startled by the men and not amused by their little joke. He gathered his wits together and replied, “Yes, that fool would be me.” The comment broke the tension and they all had a little laugh about it. He wanted to learn more from them and asked what happened to the last farmer. “Well, he couldn’t grow enough because the field had so many rocks. The rocks not only lowered the total yield, but they also kept breaking his plow which stopped him from working because he had to go in to town and have the blacksmith weld it back up. The blacksmith didn’t offer credit so he had to tap into his savings and this didn’t leave him with enough money to survive so eventually he had to leave and go back east.” Well, that was definitely not what he wanted to hear. His heart sank again and he felt that there was no way that he could make a go of it here. The two men said they had to get back to hunting and strode off back into their woods. James headed back to his home, expressionless and dejected.
After a night of tossing and turning and dreams of being swallowed up by a large green rocky field, he awoke to a blazing sunrise and lively animal sounds. He thought to himself that he had good sunshine so at least that was a good thing. He walked outside and went to his barn and saw that it was well constructed. It also had shade which would be nice in the hot summers. He walked out to the field through the woods. Walking throught the woods he thought that he would try to remove a rock and see what he was going to have to contend with. He enjoyed the woods this morning. It was a place where he could think.
He started with his pick axe and pry bar and one of the smaller rocks. He struggled and sweat a bit but was able to remove it pretty handily. He was very pleased with himself and tried a larger rock. The second rock was about two feet across. His pick axe speared throught the moist earth easily but digging up the heavy earth was a chore. As he dug he began to see that the rock was way bigger below ground than above ground. He was going to need a better way to do this. He had nowhere else to be that day so he worked digging up rocks all morning before walking back through the woods for lunch. He started to think that there has got to be a better way to clear up all the rocks so that he can plant these fields and get the yield that he needed.
Lunch was not what you would call a feast but dried beef and beans were going to be all he was going to see for a while and he was so hungry that it tasted like steak and potatoes to him. He wiped his hands off and cleaned his pan. He headed back through the woods and remembered to bring his gun. It was not a good idea to be out here unarmed. He thought about how such a simple thing as a gun could improve his life out here in the country. Just then a rabbit shuddered in the weeds. He stopped, took aim and had himself a nice fresh rabbit for dinner. This day was turning out to be pretty good.
After he dressed down the rabbit he started again on the rocks. He worked hard and struggled all afternoon with the one big rock. It was a lot of work but it finally released it’s hold on his field. He figured that he would not be able to remove all the biggest rocks. He returned home and had a nice rabbit feast and fell asleep in his chair.
He was awakened by wild pig squeals in his field. He quickly ran out with his gun and chased them off and was able to kill one with a lucky shot. This was a big bonus for him. He already had enough food for the summer and he could sell the pig for cash. He went out to the field with high spirits and dug up rocks all day. After his second long day he was exhausted and fell asleep in his chair again. His dreams were livelier and included gunshots, wild animals and giant piles of rocks holding him down. He awoke with a start because of the wild pigs again. He heated up some beans and coffee and ate slowly while his muscles learned to move again. He butchered his pig and headed into town to sell his new found fortune.
He kept thinking about his dreams all the way to town and arrived at the general store. The owner was cordial and asked how could could he help. James told the owner his story so far and explained his idea about selling his pig and keeping the money for unexpected emergencies. The owner said he couldn’t do that. He don’t have any money until the crops came in and everyone paid him at the end of the harvest. Then the owner said “I could barter some gun powder with you so you can blow up the rocks”. James never thought of that! That what what his dream was telling him! He quickly made the transaction and headed back walking on clouds and eager to see how this would work.
When he got out to the field he quickly set up the first big rock with some black powder and proceeded to blow a ten foot hole in the earth. That was way too much he figured but now it looked like he would have his field cleared before planting started. There were some rocks that just weren’t worth removing because they were so big so he left them. He figured out how much powder he needed for the average rocks and found that if he split the rock in the center first that it would break into evenly sized pieces. He thought about this after seeing the remains of a rock wall surrounding the field and seeing where the wild pigs had broken it down to gain access to his field. It would be stupid to get his crops all planted and then have them ruined by the wild pigs. The pigs manure had enriched the field which made his soil very healthy and he hoped to have great yields. He needed the better yields because he would never get the whole five acres done before planting season. He would be able to get four acres planted and then spend the summer clearing the rocks from the last acre. So now his plan was to take all the stones and build a nice wall around his field. He had a month to get it done. The stones would be there to protect his crops while they grew. With the stone wall, his hard work would be protected and he could replant the fields next year and know that he wouldn’t have to deal with protecting the crops during the growing season. His increased yield would let him meet his customer’s orders and he would be able to sustain the farm until next year.
After he cleared the four acres and rebuilt his stone wall, he got his crops planted and was able to hunt and fish to supplement his dried beans and beef diet. He was working all day out in the fields repairing the wall and clear rocks when the wild pigs would sometimes get back in. They never quit coming even though his lucky shots reduced their numbers a little bit. He would have to keep working on his shooting skills because it seemed that the wild pigs weren’t going to quit. They would get in but he started sleeping out in the field so that he could learn their patterns and improve his strategy for dealing with them. His wall was well built and strong because of how well the evenly sized rocks nestled together. His dream of a well protected field that had great yields was coming to pass. All his hard work clearing each rock that stood in the way of good productive fields was coming to fruition. The rocks which were a problem were now a resource to him. He had removed all the obstacles, set up straight neat rows that were easy to weed, and was able to use the free wildlife in the field that would have been wasted, to support his needs. Like grandpa said, “The only way to succeed is with a plan and hard work.” And everyone knows that hard work brings luck too.
Turn your obstacles into solutions, if the obstacle is too large, tackle it later, turn your hard work into luck and never think of anything as a problem. There are no problems that you can’t solve with what what’s right at hand.
Good luck in whatever field you find yourself.