Freedom’s Not Always Fun!

Freedom ain’t free.  We’ve all heard that.

But freedom is also tough to take at times!

Living in a land of liberty ensures that we hear things we vehemently disagree with – things that would never be thought, let alone said, in our own home.

It means that the rock band next door might have daily jam sessions.

Flag burning

It guarantees that a symbol of freedom which we love dearly will be burned or stomped on.

It means that our neighbor will use his property in a way we know to be harmful to the land or in a way that offends our own sense of taste.

It allows for the possibility that a woman might own 235 cats and have no way of taking care of them to the extent we deem they should be cared for.

But freedom cannot be qualified.  Either people are free to do with their own property – including themselves! – what they wish… or not.

“But,” you might say, “I’ve always been taught that my freedom ends where another person’s nose begins.  Freedom has to be qualified!”

We do not live in a slave society.  Other people are not our property, and we are not the property of others.

If we believe in freedom, we believe in the sanctity of each individual to own and control the fruits of his labors.  This means that freedom naturally encompasses the six or seven commandments that deal with how we treat others.

Thou shalt not steal, kill, lie, covet others’ possessions, or dishonor others.

We must understand that in order for our own freedom to be respected, we must equally respect others’ freedom.  Once we start eroding the edges of freedom, no matter how “morally justified,” freedom itself has been infringed.

Liberty is tough to take.  But a society which holds the sanctity of life, liberty and property in the highest regard will reap untold benefits of peace and prosperity.

The biggest challenge within a truly free society is to withstand the eternal temptation to control other people.

♠♠♠♠

I love ag. I love the general attitude of “live and let live” that most farmers and ranchers embrace.

I Love Pink Slime!

As you may or may not know, I love ag and I love freedom.  I also love technology in general and food science in particular.  I’m thankful every day, for example, for those evil preservatives that make my scarce food dollars go further.

And I LOVE “Pink Slime!”

I was reminded of this when a friend whom I respect and admire a lot posted on Facebook “Hamburger Chef Jamie Oliver Proves McDonald’s Burgers ‘Unfit for Human Consumption.'”

Jamie Oliver
The story was about how Oliver got McDonald’s to change their recipe because, “in a long-fought battle,” he had been campaigning against the safety of their burgers because “the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger.”

Of course, nobody has been made sick by McDonald’s burgers, but that didn’t keep McDonald’s from capitulating to this “perception is reality” type pressure.

Goodbye efficiency, hello more expensive hamburgers!  Nope, the hamburgers won’t be any safer, and McDonald’s has now tarnished their reputation even more by giving the appearance that what they were doing before was wrong!

I’m “spitting chips” angry, not at my friend nor at Jamie Oliver (although he does aggravate me), but at McDonald’s.  The biggest single consumer of mince meat in the world has just denigrated our product (beef) and by making this announcement, has relegated a brilliant advance in food technology to the proverbial dustbin.

That’s a shame for our world.  Efficiency makes our world a better place.  It makes food cheaper, it makes our environment cleaner, it makes better use of our natural resources.  Efficiency is a wonderful thing to strive for and to celebrate.

I’m sick of these better-than-thou food activists attacking it.  But I’m even more sick of big companies trying to appease these food activists and their followers at the expense of all of those benefits of efficiency (and at the expense of my pocketbook in general and certainly on the rare times we eat out!).

Here is how I responded to my friend’s post:

Okay, this is misinformation. Ammonium hydroxide is used in lots of food production (including cheese and wine).

This LFTB (lean, finely textured beef) aka “pink slime,” is a wonderful product that has made a relatively worthless product worth something. The man that invented it, Eldon Roth, is amazing. He’s been doing it for over 20 years, and it has increased efficiency, which is great for the environment.

The reason the beef is unfit for human consumption beforehand is because it’s too high in fat. It’s the tiny bits of trim that have little bits of meat intertwined.

Roth’s process separates out those little bits, making them edible. It is 100% safe, and I’m thankful for a cheaper mince product when it is mixed with normal mince.

I am very happy to eat it, and to feed it to my family.

Does Jamie Oliver eat cheese and drink wine?  Even I know that he does!  What an arrogant, hypocritical jerk!

But McDonald’s is even worse.  They have taken themselves further away from what has made them successful throughout the years:  giving their customers decent fast food at a decent price.

I wish I could defend McDonald’s as I’m defending “Pink Slime!”  But, alas, they are catering to my enemies and abandoning their principles.  They are the true slime.

And they won’t gain a single customer on the back of their decision.

That also makes them idiots.

♠♠

I love ag.  I love the principles on which McDonald’s was founded.  I love sticking to principles.

 

 

 

PIPs and Trojan Horses

Trojan Horse 2The Trojan Horse.

Would we recognize it if we saw it today, in our time, disguised in contemporary clothing?

Have we already unwittingly allowed it through our gates?

Do we mindlessly celebrate minor victories while dancing around the Horse, ignoring the many signs of trouble all around us?

Jack Yantis shot and killed in Council, Idaho.

LaVoy Finicum shot and killed in an FBI ambush in Oregon.

Numerous ranchers run off their properties over the past few decades due to out-of-control regulations allowing unfair ratcheting-down of permit rules.  (See page 40 of link.)

The Hammonds in Federal Prison for conducting normal burning operations in Oregon.

Ammon, Ryan, and Cliven Bundy, along with 33 others, arrested, and most held without bail in Federal Prison. Many held in solitary confinement for weeks.

Vast expansion of Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations.

Vast expansion of the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Federal agencies, including BLM, militarized.

“Sue and Settle” practices enriching Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with our tax dollars while empowering bureaucracies. (Win-win for the “defendant” and the “applicant”; big loss for tax payers and freedom.)

The list goes on.

All while our peak industry organizations have been at the table. Have maintained their seats.

Most people are convinced that it would be much worse if those vital seats had not been filled with the flesh of our hired guns.

I beg to differ. It is precisely BECAUSE of our presence at tables with people who despise our existence that things have got as bad as they have.

Without our voluntary compliance, insane regulations would never have flourished.

Peak Industry Parasites (shall we call them PIPs?) spend more time with WWF and HSUS than they do with cattle and tractors and the people who run them.

Board members are given 5-star treatment while being brought along in the ways of compromise and “reasonableness.”

Just as our federal political processes are front shows for the fact that bureaucrats are really in charge, boards are facades of representation while CEOs, swimming in big bucks, schmooze with Washington DC (and Rio de Janeiro and Paris and…) elites.

Our industry associations are modern day Trojan Horses. They’re killing us from within.

It’s time we stop funding our demise.

It’s time we stop worrying about how the anti-productivity brigade views us.

It’s time we stand up and manage our property, our animals and our families….

… without kowtowing to unelected and unaccountable leaches who care more about pacifying pansies in suits than about standing unabashedly for the principles upon which this country was founded.

In fact, it’s past time.

Time to destroy the Horse.

The Stand of Finicum

Finicum #29

 

I’ve written a poem in tribute to Robert LaVoy Finicum, the brave man who was mown down by our Government this past week.  Text is below, but I’ve read it aloud in this video:

Gather ‘round, my children, I beseech you, come,
And hear of the Stand of Finicum.
‘Twas the 26 of January, 2016,
When news came down of the awful scene,
Hands in the air, his time had come.

An Arizona rancher, a God-fearing man,
Ol’ Finicum loved taking care of his land,
His wife and his children (the source of much pride),
His dog and his horses, worked hard by his side,
Living honest and earnest and calloused and tanned.

One day short of his 55th complete year,
Patriot Finicum stood, not out of fear,
But to protect the ones in his care,
He knew they’d not get out of there,
So he stood on his own, without tear.

The background story is vital indeed,
Finicum knew good people were in need,
Of a leader, a legend, a down-to-earth man,
To re-set the course of this once-great land,
The law upon which Founding Fathers had agreed.

The Constitution, my children, is this law of our land,
Don’t agree with it’s writing, but you must understand,
Freedom fighters knew, Federal Gov., once founded,
Would reel out of control, if not constantly hounded,
Ol’ Finicum realized that it had got out of hand.

In ’14 with the Bundys, he’d taken a stand,
Unarmed ranchers faced death to protect their land.
Federal agencies, armed to the hilt with SWAT team,
Threatened the cowboys, automatic rifles did gleam,
Ol’ Finicum, willing to die, advanced, grand.

The Feds backed down in that glorious moment,
Knew they couldn’t win with the camera component,
They’d bide their time, wait for the day,
When they controlled the situation, make the cowboys pay,
There’d be a day of revenge, they’d get their opponent.

What once had been bureaucratic ineptitude,
Had morphed into evil, no longer subdued,
Ol’ Finicum knew that a Stand he must make,
Laws used against honest ranchers made us all ache.
The Hammonds, imprisoned, the facts grossly skewed.

“We have FARMERS in PRISON!” good people decried,
We moaned and we blogged, from our soft chairs, we tried,
To get out the facts, to educate non-ag folk,
For years, heavy laden, we almost went broke,
Working to sway public opinion to our side.

But, you see, Dear Children, that’s not how it should be,
The intent of our founding was to protect liberty.
We are not a democracy, majority shouldn’t rule,
Laws are meant to protect, from the powerful, cruel,
Each person’s life, their freedom and property.

Ol’ Finicum saw, he experienced, he breathed,
The increasing assault on original ideas conceived,
Supposedly enshrined in our Constitution,
Finicum saw the ongoing dilution,
Of individual rights; he was extremely bereaved.

“Liberty or death,” was what he lived by,
Put his life where his mouth was, with God did he lie,
Dying in snow, bleeding, mown down,
An FBI ambush, far, far from town,
Ol’ Finicum, Faithful Servant, did die.

Ol’ Finicum stood, side by side with his brothers,
Stood tall for truth, goodness and justice,
No concrete box imprisons this legend,
He’s free with the angels, as we always reckoned,
Now let him be our guide and fair compass.

Let his death be of value! Let it be not in vain,
Let us honor his memory, Let true justice reign,
Let us, Dear Children, continue his fight,
Let us ensure might does not conquer right,
In mind of the Stand of Finicum, may our courage not wane.

Imminent Starvation

People are going to starve.

Here. In the United States. In Australia. In Europe. All over the world.

Now. Not in some far-distant time. In our time.

Within a market-based economy in which the sanctity of private property is honored and protected, if food begins to get scarce, a monetary incentive arises for producers to produce more…take more risks, improve property holdings, invent things, try different methods, break new ground.

IMG_3767

On the road to hunger?

Success in ag production leads naturally to a freeing-up of more people to pursue things other than finding or making food for themselves every day. These things include making better houses and improving water and sewer infrastructure.

Once basic needs are improved to a significant extent, leisure activity increases. Sports and games become more popular. The quality of food improves and it becomes more tasty. People have time to make that food more enticing in appearance and flavor.

Unfortunately, people then also have more time to stick their noses into other people’s business. Rules and regulations begin to proliferate. It becomes harder and harder to adapt to changing circumstances.

Food producers should be rich. What they do underpins what everyone else is able to do. But when property wealth begins to become apparent, jealousies drive others wild. It’s not fair that one should own more property than another! Facts be damned. Emotions triumph.

In lesser-developed cultures, producers are killed and their property taken. But in “civilized” society, one must be much more suave.

Actions are taken over a period of time, through government coercion, with the (not to be spoken of) threat of physical force. What individuals will not do themselves in polite society, they are happy to have done with the imprimatur of Government. They support collective action that accomplishes the goal without offending their own highly-developed sensitivities.

The people who depend upon producers support the passage of laws, the creation and enforcement of regulations, the bringing to bear of pressure for “voluntary” agreements, all which mandate to producers how and when to do things. “Best Practice” is defined.

Language is twisted. Sustainability takes on a completely new definition.

The ability to adapt to ever-changing circumstances dwindles. Hands are tied. Committees are consulted. Legislatures are lobbied. Phone calls are made. Letters are written. Submissions are submitted.

Productivity gains disappear. Efficiency dwindles. Profits plummet.

Producers find it easier to “join them” rather than trying to “beat them.” They leave production and go into retail, service, trading, government jobs.

The weight upon the shoulders of the remaining producers burgeons. True producers become smaller in number while the pressure to produce becomes infinitely greater.

Who could blame them for shrugging off this weight?

Who could deride them for softly declaring, “Let them enjoy the fruits of their policies!”?

We have arrived at such a point.

People, soon, will enjoy those fruits: real hunger and starvation.

♠♠♠♠
I love ag.  I love traveling and history, too.

Thought bubble #1:

Matt and I visited Copan Ruinas in Honduras back in 1998 when we were driving from Texas to the southern tip of South America — Tierra del Fuego.

The Mayan civilization had built up to a high level, and then, mysteriously disappeared. Nobody knows with certainty why. But the most logical explanation I came across was that the population outstripped the capacity for food production.

I do not believe that would happen with freedom and personal responsibility. It only occurs under centralized control. Governments picking fights with other societies is also problematic, as young men go off to fight rather than staying home and producing.

If the people of Copan perished because of a lack of food, it was because they drove their producers away, killed them, or regulated them out of business.

Thought bubble #2:

Stalin, in 1932-33, intentionally killed off his best ag producers (largely Ethnic Ukrainians). He did not appreciate independent thought that was naturally present in successful farmers and ranchers. He was threatened by them. Using force, he stripped the farmers of their own produce and starved them to death. Estimates are that 10 million people died in what is known as the Holodomor.

The Value of Money

I’m reading Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Farmer Boy to my four kids again.  The chapter titled “Independence Day” has a story that never ceases to resonate with me.

I don’t know why, but I can’t read it aloud without crying.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia for my own hard-work, conservative, country raising.  Or because I understand that the value of money has been undermined by an out-of-control central authority.  Maybe it’s the knowledge that, contrary to its current status, money should be sound and trust-worthy, a thing of integrity and honor.

In any case, I feel compelled to share the story with you here.  I hope the excerpt brings some emotion to you, too.

Father was a little way down the street, talking to Mr. Paddock, the wagon maker. Almanzo walked slowly toward them. He was faint-hearted, but he had to go. The nearer he got to Father, the more he dreaded asking for a nickel. He had never before thought of doing such a thing. He was sure Father would not give it to him.

He waited until Father stopped talking and looked at him.

“What is it, son?” Father asked.

Almanzo was scared. “Father,” he said.

“Well, son?”

“Father,” Almanzo said, “would you — would you give me — a nickel?”

He stood there while Father and Mr. Paddock looked at him, and he wished he could get away. Finally Father asked:

“What for?”

Almanzo looked down at his moccasins and muttered:

“Frank had a nickel. He bought lemonade.”

“Well,” Father said, slowly, “if Frank treated you, it’s only right you should treat him.” Father put his hand in his pocket. Then he stopped and asked:

“Did Frank treat you to lemonade?”

Almanzo wanted so badly to get the nickel that he nodded. Then he squirmed and said:

“No, Father.”

Father looked at him a long time. Then he took out his wallet and opened it, and slowly he took out a round, big silver half-dollar. He asked:

“Almanzo, do you know what this is?”

“Half a dollar,” Almanzo answered.

“Yes. But do you know what half a dollar is?”

Almanzo didn’t know it was anything but half a dollar.

“It’s work, son,” Father said. “That’s what money is; it’s hard work.”

Mr. Paddock chuckled. “The boy’s too young, Wilder,” he said. “You can’t make a youngster understand that.”

“Almanzo’s smarter than you think,” said Father.

Almanzo didn’t understand at all. He wished he could get away. But Mr. Paddock was looking at Father just as Frank had looked at Almanzo when he double-dared him, and Father had said Almanzo was smart, so Almanzo tried to look like a smart boy. Father asked:

“You know how to raise potatoes, Almanzo?”

“Yes,” Almanzo said.

“Say you have a seed potato in the spring, what do you do with it?”

“You cut it up,” Almanzo said.

“Go on, son.”

“Then you harrow — first you manure the field, and plow it. Then you harrow, and mark the ground. And plant the potatoes, and plow them, and hoe them. You plow and hoe them twice.”

“That’s right, son. And then?”

Then you dig them and put them down cellar.”

“Yes. Then you pick them over all winter; you throw out all the little ones and the rotten ones. Come spring, you load them up an haul them here to Malone, and you sell them. And if you get a good price, son, how much do you get to show for all that work? How much do you get for half a bushel of potatoes?”

“Half a dollar,” Almanzo said.

“Yes,” said Father. “That’s what’s in this half-dollar, Almanzo. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it.”

Almanzo looked at the round piece of money that Father held up. It looked small, compared with all that work.

“You can have it, Almanzo,” Father said. Almanzo could hardly believe his ears. Father gave him the heavy half-dollar.

“It’s yours,” said Father. “You could buy a sucking pig with it, if you want to. You could raise it, and it would raise a litter of pigs, worth four, five dollars apiece. Or you can trade that half-dollar for lemonade, and drink it up. You do as you want, it’s your money.”

Almanzo forgot to say thank you. He held the half-dollar a minute, then he put his hand in his pocket and went back to the boys by the lemonade stand. The man was calling out,

“Step this way, step this way! Ice-cold lemonade, pink lemonade, only five cents a glass! Only half a dime, ice-cold pink lemonade! The twentieth part of a dollar!”

Frank asked Almanzo:

“Where’s the nickel?”

“He didn’t give me a nickel,” said Almanzo, and Frank yelled:

“Yah, yah! I told you he wouldn’t! I told you so!”

“He gave me half a dollar,” said Almanzo.

The boys wouldn’t believe it till he showed them. Then they crowded around, waiting for him to spend it. He showed it to them all, and put it back in his pocket.

“I’m going to look around,” he said, “and buy me a good little sucking pig.”

Almanzo-Wilder♠♠♠♠

I love ag.  I love the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, that celebrate ag production, improvement and integrity.

A Pause…

Driving to Amarillo on Tuesday morning, I took advantage of the “down time” to call my friend and mentor, Leon Bradley, in Western Australia.  His wife, Pat, answered the phone.  Leon is battling melanoma cancer and was not available to talk.

I wrote this letter to him this morning, through tears and laughter.  I do not even know if it’s appropriate to post here.  But another friend, Shorty Hofer from Montana, encouraged me this morning to keep writing.  So here you go, Shorty.

Back row, L-R:  Matt Thompson, Leon Bradley, Gary McGill, Janet Thompson.  Front:  Kate, Abby, Will and Luke Thompson Photo taken November 2011

Back row, L-R: Matt Thompson, Leon Bradley, Gary McGill, Janet Thompson. Front: Kate, Abby, Will and Luke Thompson
Photo taken November 2011

Dear Leon-

You once told me that you loved horse racing, in part, due to the attitude of the participants in that game.  They understood that losing was part of life;  whatever happened to them, they took it in their stride and carried on stoically and with a sense of humor.

I’ve reminded myself of this time and again since speaking to Pat on Tuesday evening your time.  I must admit, I’m struggling.  I’m sorry.  I know you’d hate that.  I’ll say this, get it off my chest, and then move on to other topics.  I feel like a dark curtain has been hanging over me since Pat informed me of your condition.  I am sorry for you, for her, and for the rest of us who have been so positively impacted by you and your beautiful mind.  I hate the thought of you suffering at all.

I am buoyed by considering the impact you’ve had on my life.  I do not know if you understand how significant that impact has been.  Pat (quite understandably) was irritated by the hours you spent on the telephone on “agri-political” issues.  But I want her and you to know that, as far as I’m concerned, those conversations were much bigger than “issues.”

They were bigger than liberalizing wheat marketing, growing GMO crops, getting a competing grain handling facility into Western Australia, fighting AGW (or ACC or whatever it’s called now!) policies, or working to free ourselves from an unfair levy.

For a short period of time, I was directly exposed to philosophy in motion — a fascinating, entertaining and inspiring fusion of idealism and realism.  I was able to witness you in action, mentally fencing with self-important persons who had no idea of the fatal wounds you were inflicting upon them.  You always left me wanting more.  I could never get enough of your quick wit and clever tongue.

In our conversations, you never hit me over the head in opposition to my ill-conceived notions; you simply inserted one-liners that caused me to pause in my thinking.  I usually would not pause soon enough, and, embarrassingly for me, you had to repeat your little gem more than once…but spaced a respectable distance apart for subtlety.  “It’s not the person that’s the problem.  It’s the system.”  “The Liberals are worse than Labor.”  “Behemoth corporations would not exist within a truly free economy.”

The first time we met, you recommended Terence Kealey’s The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.  Later, you gifted your copy to me.  With your hand-written comments and yellow sticky notes protruding, I consider it one of my few prized possessions.

Your knowledge of, and ability to recall, important authors and works inspired me.  You encouraged me to read Leonard Read’s I, Pencil, Garet Garrett’s Satan’s Bushel and Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man.

You freely quoted (okay, paraphrased!) Von Mises, Hazlitt, Hoppe, Rothbard and Bastiat.  You introduced me to Gary North and led me to appreciate more fully Ron Paul.

You recommended beautiful movies like “Seabiscuit” and “Sunshine.”  We discussed “Dr. Zhivago” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Book, movie or article, you took the time to discuss the ideas behind each work and person.

You were the first to educate me on the story behind Helicobacter pylori…and how we could (should!) take heart from those Australian researchers’ struggle to advance truth.

You taught me the true account behind the miracle of Germany’s post-WWII economy, specifically the role of Ropke and Erhard.  That caused me to begin to question all of the history I had been taught, which opened an entire new world of discovery.  Much of that discovery has been painful, as it involved an abandonment of child-like trust and relatively mindless cheerleading.  But I would not trade that discovery for anything.

The world to which you helped lead me is sparsely populated, but rich in depth of character and adherence to truth.  Satisfaction of intellectual purity salves the pain of existence outside the realm of accepted opinion.

The few glimpses I’ve had into your personal life revealed your accepting and generous nature, and included you playing chess with your grandson.  What a wonderful gift to him!

You taught me how to improve my writing (please don’t analyze this one too closely!!) by playing mental chess with my arguments — by thinking ahead, applying logic at every step, working to make my assertions unassailable.  You also taught me that less is more — to use meaningful words and shorter phrases that conveyed ideas more succinctly.

And this brings me full-circle to the beginning of this letter (another writing tactic you always strove for).  We should treat our lives as you did your articles.  Life is fleeting; we should not waste a moment.  We should fill it with depth and beauty, avoid pretense, cut out the junk and focus on what’s really important.

You modeled this to me.  Thank you for being the best mentor and friend possible.  I will be forever grateful and will endeavor to impact upon other people’s lives as you have mine.

I’ll never do that as graciously, as elegantly or as humorously as you did, but that won’t stop me trying.

From the Missouri River Bottoms to the Sandhills of Nebraska

On December 27, 2014, we drove from my husband’s parents’ place in Columbia, Missouri, to Valentine, Nebraska.

We met my sister and her family at Saturday evening mass, after a 10 hour drive. Celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family was the perfect end to a perfect day. I was with my own family (husband and four children) plus my sister’s family (her husband and 5 children and son-in-law, plus little Clara Marie, my first great-niece, born November 3).

In addition, I was brimming with satisfaction, pride and pleasure, having just driven through the Missouri River bottoms and then across the state of Nebraska. Agricultural production, fed by power, was everywhere I looked. I’m thankful for the human ingenuity and inventiveness that carved something from nothing in what many would consider cold, uninhabitable, inhospitable places in middle America.

I wanted to stop and hug every land owner along Highway 275 and then Highway 20 for their care of the land and their animals! Of course, they do not do these things for my praise, approval or appreciation. They do them because it’s in their interest to do so. That is at it should be.

No centralized planning — no matter how smart the planner — could ever come close to yielding such bounty and beauty!

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed the drive. (Thanks for driving, Matt!)  (If you click on a photo, it will open in full-size in another tab.)

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(Photos are in chronological order from just south of Omaha to just east of Valentine.)

♠♠♠♠

I sure do love agriculture!  I’m feeling slightly voyeuristic, though.  If your place is in one of the photos above and you don’t want it to be, let me know.  I’m in the Dalhart, Texas, phone book.  If your place is in one of the photos above and you don’t mind me sharing my appreciation of what you do, thank you.  If you contact me, I’ll caption the photo of your place however you want me to!  Special note to the man on the four-wheeler:  We were driving past at about 65 mph and I had no idea you were driving into my frame.  I only realized it half way through the snap.  Kudos to you, sir!  It’s easy for me to ooh and ahh at the snow when I don’t have to work outside in it!