Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Tower Silo Monuments to the Past

  Since I live in a county where dairy production is the major agricultural enterprise, I am tuned into the trends in these businesses.  As a geezer, I have lived long enough to watch the number dairy farms decline at a precipitous rate.   In New York State in year 2000 there were 7615 dairy farms.  In 2016 the number was  4624 and continuing to decline.   For Cortland County New York where I now live in 2006 there were 143 dairies and by 2016 the number is 96.
    How do these changes impact what I see when I drive the countryside?   Today large dairies typically store huge quantities of forage in bunker silos.  In the past, however, smaller dairies stored forage in tower silos.  As these smaller dairies perish, the tower silos become monuments to the past.  Razing the silos seems to be a rare event.   Today I took a little tour within a few miles of our home, simply to photograph a few of these monuments.   Within ten minutes I passed over a dozen silos of varying designs and sizes.  All of them probably had not been filled in at least 10 or even 20 years. 
    In many respects these silos remain as forlorn objects of the past.  Having grown up on a farm I can imagine the angst of the farmers and their families as the next generation moves on from agriculture to other employment in society.  A whole way of life disappears.   Meanwhile,  I find there is a certain beauty to these monuments.  Perhaps we could consider them to be our Stone Henge equivalent for the 21st Century?   For the geezer me, I find it entertaining to look for the different numbers and types of unused tower silos.     And also to muse about the families and businesses that once thrived on those farms. 

     Here are a few examples of silo monuments.  Note the different designs and sizes! 
Concrete Stave Silos

Concrete Stave and Coated Steel
Galvanized Steel Panels - Likely from the 1960s.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Beyond Skiing

      This past Wednesday our geezer skier group gathered for an off season lunch at Greek Peak.  Usually after the ski season we rarely see each other since we go our separate ways to summer activities.  At the end of the season, I had the sense it would be good for us to get together occasionally to extend our socialization beyond the ski season.  We just might have a lot to talk about beyond the usual commentary about ski conditions.
       Seven of us gathered at the Hope Lodge Acorn Restaurant of the Greek Peak Resort.   My e-mail invitation sent out several weeks earlier rousted out at least a few of our group.  (We are looking to gather each second Wednesday of the month for the off-season.)    For an hour and a half we ate, drank and chatted with gusto.   Each one of us had a chance to swap stories of our recent activities and reveal something of who we are beyond our love of skiing.  We all have had an amazing array of experiences.  This has to be true since our youngest is in his upper seventies and our senior member is beyond 90. 
       There were an array of topics to be discussed.  Several geezers are military veterans in roles from grunts to officers.  For those of us who are not veterans it was interesting to hear of the impact of their service on their lives.  For several the service was a stepping stone to rewarding civilian careers.  Each person was encouraged to describe their career path.   It was a delight to learn of their experiences and accomplishments.  All in all, we were able to see multiple dimensions of our companions, well beyond our focus on skiing in our senior years.
     I am looking  forward to how this saga will continue.  Next lunch is June!
From what my wife tells me her women's group she has lunch with, gets into personal issues.  i.e. Sharing feelings etc.   As typical guys, that may be a stretch for our gatherings.  But who knows?  Now that we are beyond skiing, anything might happen!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Skiing and Agriculture: Weather Dependent

  It was a strange mid February ski day at Greek Peak.  In the midst of President's Week vacation the area has been struck with rain and near 70 F temperatures.  Only a small number of brave souls were out on the slopes.  I think I was the only geezer there. 
   Because I had no geezer companions to converse with on the lift, I had plenty of time to muse about the impact of weather on the ski resorts both presently and over all.  My childhood and teen years on the farm also brought back many memories of the impact of weather on the productivity of our crops and orchards.  There are a multitude of similarities of  the ski business and agribusiness.  If it doesn't snow it is hard to attract skiers and boarders.  If it doesn't rain at the right time on the farm, crops fail and income declines.   Both events can be mitigated, albeit at some cost to the businesses.  Making snow demands equipment, labor and energy as does agricultural irrigation.   Also their can be similar unmanageable weather that forgoes those mitigation's.
    Another similarity between the ski resort business and agribusiness is the wide swing in income from year to year.  On the farm we experienced feast and famine.  One year we would have great weather and bumper crops.  The next year could be a disaster from hail and wind storms and or pests and diseases.  Likewise there can be a year of great snow and conditions for a ski area followed by a year or sometimes two of a snow drought. 
     My geezer group of friends often get into a bitching session about the ski conditions and the vagaries of the management of the ski area.    Sometimes we are a bunch of crotchety old men.  When this happens, I wish I could be more positive in reminding ourselves that we are just blessed to be able to ski in our most senior years and we don't have the headaches of the ski area operators.   Again I am reminded of my farm background, that when bad things happen, the  tough get going and remain optimistic that next year will be a better year.   May it be so at my local ski area.   We truly are due for some fabulous ski seasons after the bummers we have had over the last three.
      There is an old joke about a farmer inheriting a fortune who was asked, "How long will you keep farming?"   The answer,  "Until the fortune is all gone!"  Seems like that is what is happening in East with ski resort operators now!


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Geezer Skier's Day

      I love haiku poetry.  Simple and straightforward structure appeals to me.  Five, seven and five syllables for a triplet of lines.  Here are three of them that captures my reflection on a geezer skier's day.   Readers, I hope you enjoy them.

See the morning light
Kick off the down blanket now
I’m up and with it

Skis waxed and ready
Kicking butt on the ski slope
Imbibed fresh snow joy

Sweet welcome at home
Kiss my dear ski widow bride

Inspired peace of soul

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Non-Event

    A few days ago I read the professional magazine Resource which is the periodical organ of my professional society the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.   The entire issue was devoted to safety.   It was especially interesting to me because I have done work in safety of agricultural machinery; in particular agricultural tractors.  This issue presented a broad scope of standards and regulations for promulgating safety.   I was especially taken with an observation of what constitutes a non-event related to safety.   In short, the author described a farm transporting machinery down a road at dusk with all the appropriate flashing lights and warning signs in action encountering a van operator coming the other way.   They passed each other without incident.  Each went on their way safely.   The point is that standards and regulations create actions and devices that keep us safe from accident events and we should celebrate the many non-events that occur.
      So now that I have your attention, what does this have to do with skiing?   All this prompted me to doing some research on standards and regulations to promulgate safe skiing.   Remarkably, I discovered there are no federal regulation that apply to ski resort operation.   States have jurisdiction.   Therefore if you ski in several different states you will have to be aware of any special differences of that state.  As a skier where do you look for guidance on safety on the slopes?  I have found that the Snow Sports Safety Foundation provides some interesting insights.
      They have published a safety pyramid as shown below.

        Primary responsibility is with the participant.   The greatest onus is on the snow sports enthusiast to behave responsibly.  Next is personal equipment.  Binding checks and adjustment for instance.   Also helmets meeting a safety standard would be in this area.   Of course we also should expect resort operations and management that keeps us safe.   On that note as a geezer skier, my pet peeve is the hazard of snow making on an open slope.   My one most major injury was related to a snow making hazard.  Here is a quote from the Foundation about facilities management and operation that is relevant.

"The resorts appear to fear that any documented standards, safety plans or performance analysis could lead to a pubic expectation of accountability that would threaten continuing court enforcement  of the strong liability protections they enjoy. The resorts clearly value their liability protections over the safety of their patrons."
     
The base of the pyramid is public policy and so on.   There is really no public policy on safety, regulation is more or less state specific,  so that leaves case law as the base driving force for improvement in safety.  Unfortunately a skier or boarder who experiences an injury ostensibly due to a safety issue will have to sue to affect any change in safety standards.   


       Back to my opening on a non-event.   I was fortunate to ski for about 800 days of non-events before I had my most serious accident.   I would hope for more than that before my next crash.  For geezer skiers non-events are essential for our continued participation.   So advice to ourselves is minimize hazardous behavior,  wear a helmet and keep the gear in adjustment,   and be aware that the resort will protect their own interests ahead of our safety.  

       








Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Being Rich

     Yesterday my geezer skier buddies and I gathered for a preseason lunch at Greek Peak, hosted by our good friend Frank.  Our most senior member is ninety and the youngest has to be at least in his late sixties!   Lots of memories in that group.   After many decades of living a good life even in spite of troubles we are an optimistic bunch.    All of us are looking forward to the new season with the hope we can ski many days in good conditions and even some bad.
     During our lunch gathering there were many verbal exchanges catching up on activities over the summer and recollections of our past histories.   Frank is an active CEO of his own business that continues to grow and expand and clearly is our most financially endowed citizen of our group.   Others of us maintain active lives in other realms that include all types of volunteering and support of family endeavors.   All in  all we are all very rich in many different ways.
    Most of the time when people talk about being rich, the immediate thought is how much financial wealth has been attained.  However, to me being rich has so many other dimensions beyond the financial.   Being rich in good memories is a personal dimension for all of us.  As an example during our lunch I was prompted to recall growing up on the family farm in Wayne County, New York.  I probably in some ways bored my lunch companions with stories of a farm growing apples,  having a mint still for fragrant oil production and a dry house for producing dried apple slices for world wide distribution.   On the skiing side of course we all can swap stories of the good and the bad days on the slopes.   Just being out there is a stimulation of rich memory.   Andy and I had an unusual Hawaiian shirt day last year when we were iced covered by the time we finished our morning runs.
   Another source of richness is the community of friends sharing like pursuits, whether it be skiing, tennis, golfing or what not.  Each day we can be fantastically rich in gratitude for family, friends, and the opportunity to give back to the world.
    Finally, a thought about the status of wealth distribution in the United States today.   No other time in our history has financial wealth been so unevenly distributed over the population.   To me it is a tragedy that so many hard working people are desperate to have health care and sufficient food and shelter for their families while billionaires continue to accumulate obscene levels of wealth.   Where is the integrity to share that wealth with the rest of mankind?   Data shows the wealthiest are the least likely to be tithers in giving to share their wealth.      I applaud some of the wealthiest people who pledge to give away half of their means by the time of their death.  Even in those cases, they will be left with billions to pass on to their heirs.   As I point my fingers at others, I also know I point three fingers back at myself.   Along with my own memories, I hope that I can continue to live a life of generosity with the means I have accrued and will be remembered as a good and faithful steward of the earth and mankind.
 
   

Monday, September 25, 2017

Anticipation and Geezerhood

  As October approaches, thoughts shift to anticipation of the coming ski season.  While enjoying this unusually warm summery late September, I a beginning to speculate on the nature of the coming winter.   Will we have another bust like last year or will things return to a more normal season.  One can only hope that global warming will not spoil our hopes.   Meanwhile we can enjoy a splendid display of tree colors, bask in the warm days and comfortably play more tennis.
  In geezerhood one wonders how many more ski seasons the body will tolerate.   Perhaps one of the markers of advanced age(geezerhood)  is the size of the medical file in your file cabinet.   I noticed today as I received my Medicare summary for most of the past year and deposited it in my file cabinet that the medical file takes up almost as much space as all the other files.   And for the most part I have been active and mostly healthy!   I guess the bottom is keeping on the move!  Thankfully, I am blessed with both Medicare and other supplemental insurance.   May all U.S.  citizens be so fortunate.
    Now back to anticipation of the coming ski season.  The skis are waxed and prepped and there is a supply of hand warmers. Unused equipment is up for sale at the Greek Peak Ski Club event the second weekend an October.   We are in the mode of downsizing and minimizing our worldly goods so any redundant ski gear is on the way out.   Anyone looking for older technlogy skis?
     The Farmer's Almanac says we are to have a mild winter, but I am beginning my snow dance the first of October.  This old farmer boy is going to deny any rumors from the Farmer's Almanac.
    Now is the time to get all those fall chores done.  No time in the winter for domestic chores except good old snow blowing and shoveling.   Living in the now is great, but anticipation and hope for the future is inspiring too.