The first farmer was the first man. All historic nobility rests on the possession and use of land. Ralph Waldo Emerson

30 November 2010

A Little Walnut Humor

Okay, this is a shameless shill for our product, but it's also entertaining :)
With thanks to Lynn Johnston and her wonderful comic strip For Better Or For Worse

24 November 2010

What Thanksgiving Means To Me

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love this time of year for many reasons:

  • It is a uniquely American holiday. As I wrote in my post of 18 November, Thanksgiving has its roots in the first Thanksgiving celebration of the Pilgrims who came to America in 1620. They barely survived their first winter, and in the fall of 1621 they hosted a Thanksgiving feast to thank God for their successful and bountiful first harvest. The legend of that first Thanksgiving became a part of American lore and is remembered today, nearly four hundred years later.

  • Speaking of the harvest, Thanksgiving is particularly meaningful for those of us who make our living from the land. Harvest is an incredibly demanding time--both exhausting and exhilarating. The walnut harvest begins sometime right after Labor Day in early September and does not end until sometime around the 10th of November. The days are long. We're usually working an average of 14-16 hours. And weekends disappear during that time of the year. We work to gather the crop in, we require huge demands on our bodies and minds to ensure that the logistics of getting the crop in before the fall rains come--or minimizing the damage when they do come--are well-planned and executed. Our employees are incredibly dedicated. Yes, they love the overtime pay--but everyone gets tired. And by the last week of October, we're all ready for harvest to be over so we can get our lives back. But when it is over--when the last load of walnuts is brought in from the orchards--there's a great sense of accomplishment and gratitude.

  • And, speaking of gratitude, that's what Thanksgiving is for. It is a time to remember that the source of our strength and our provision comes not from our own hands, but from our Heavenly Father who graciously and faithfully brings us our crop each year. We are but stewards of what He has placed in our care. And if we care for the land and the trees, if we tend what He has created with passion and vigilance, if we treat our employees with dignity and honor and respect, and if we remember the source from which all of it comes, then God is faithful to bless us. And so Thanksgiving is a time of remembrance, of gratitude, of rest after the long harvest just completed.

  • Thanksgiving is a time for the gathering of families. This year two of our three sons will be with us (the oldest lives in Costa Rica, making it a little difficult to get home for the holiday). We'll enjoy time together, probably watch a few football games, maybe go to a movie--and, most of all, just enjoy some time together as a family. We'll watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. And we'll bundle up against the chilly nights and the brisk days.
To all of my faithful readers of this blog, I offer my fondest greetings and wish you all a happy and warm Thanksgiving holiday.

22 November 2010

"A Day Of Thanksgiving And Praise"

In October of 1863--in the months following the tenebrous summer of slaughter at Gettysburg and Vicksburg and the disaster at Chickamauga--President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving. As many of you know from earlier readings of previous posts on this blog, I am a great admirer of Mr. Lincoln. His proclamation is magnificently Lincolnesque: concise, eloquent, lyrical, even pastoral in its tone and simplistic elegance.

I had the pleasure of sharing it with my family last Thanksgiving as we gathered around our table to celebrate the holiday together, and now I wish to share it with you, my faithful readers (whoever and wherever you are):

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.  To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.  In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.  Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.  Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.   And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

18 November 2010

The First Thanksgiving

I'm currently reading a fascinating book entitled "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick. In it, Philbrick provides us with the story of the establishment of America's first successful European immigrant settlement. It's refreshing to read real history, as opposed to so much of the legend and myth that surrounds the founders of modern-day America.

The Pilgrims left England and settled temporarily in Holland to escape the religious persecution they were experiencing in their homeland under the rule of King James. But they increasingly felt stifled in Holland, for although they were free to worship as they pleased, they were still foreigners and were unable to find anything but the most menial of jobs to support their families. Their pastor was introduced to an investment group called The Adventurers who were willing to fund their emigration to the New World with the idea that they would ship back to England a half share of the riches they would undoubtedly find when they arrived on America's shores.

But the Pilgrims did not even arrive until November of 1620 at Provincetown Harbor. By the time they settled at Plymouth, winter had already set in and they hurriedly built a small village of 7 houses and four common buildings in which to live. The first winter was brutal. Of the 102 Pilgrims who arrived, only 50 survived to the spring of 1621. They forged an alliance with Massasoit, the chief of the Pokanoket tribe of Indians and they built a fast friendship with their interpreter, Squanto, who showed them how to plant native corn which was the critical crop which would allow them to survive the winters ahead.

Not all of the Pilgrims were religious. Some of the "Strangers", as the Puritans called them, came to start a new life, though they agreed to live under the governing rules established by the governor of the new settlement (first, John Carver and then--most famously--William Bradford).

Sometime in late September or early October 1621, a great feast was planned at the Plymouth settlement that included Massasoit and some ninety other Indians from the Pocanoket tribe. The feast lasted for three days and included fowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkins, squash, and wild turkey.

And contrary to revisionist historians who, sadly, misrepresent the real Thanksgiving in today's history textbooks, the 53 Pilgrims who celebrated that year did not hold the feast to thank the Indians. They thanked God. They took time to acknowledge the mighty provision and mercy of the Almighty, and they rightly attributed their safety and survival and establishment of their new settlement to God's protection.

Nearly 250 years later--in the middle of the crucible of the Civil War--President Lincoln memorialized that first Thanksgiving with an official holiday. More on that in my next post...

14 November 2010

"We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For"

One of the most disarming and endearing qualities in any leader--whether a business leader, academic leader, church leader, or politician--is the ability to poke fun at oneself, to engage in self-deprecating humor. It conveys a degree of humility--a quality of not taking oneself too seriously.

By contrast, leaders who display arrogance or an inflated self-importance necessarily separate themselves from those they're leading. They alienate themselves, and are more vulnerable to losing the respect of those they're leading to the point that the followers will soon agitate for new leadership.

The 2010 Midterm Elections witnessed the greatest turnover of U.S. House seats from one party to the other since 1938. The election was not so much a vote in favor of Republican policies or ideas as it was an abject repudiation of President Obama and the Democratic Party leadership. And part of that repudiation comes as a result of Obama's arrogance, who famously stated repeatedly during his campaign for President in 2008 "We are the one ones we've been waiting for!"

Aside from the curious and lazy phraseology of the statement, what is most striking is its puffed up self-importance. Obama was telling all of us that he has finally arrived, although his message is buried in The Royal We. What is The Royal We? It is also known as the Majestic plural and is used, according to Webster, as "the use of the plural pronoun to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch, bishop, pope, or rector.

So what is so arrogant about the statement "We are the ones we've been waiting for"? By employing The Royal We, Obama was already assuming the mantle of power before he'd been elected. Worse, he was proclaiming to America that he was the one we'd all been waiting for; he had finally arrived. There was not then--nor is there now--a drop of humility in the man. He is generally regarded as thin-skinned, as someone who does indeed take himself all too seriously. You don't find any self-deprecating humor in Obama.

If he was the one we'd been waiting for in 2008, the midterm elections of 2010 should send a clear message to Mr. Obama that we're not waiting for him anymore.

11 November 2010


Today is Veterans Day. It's celebrated on the 11th day of November every year, reaching back to Armistice Day 1918--when what was then called The Great War (now known as World War I)--ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

It is a day when we solemnly thank and remember the sacrifices of the thousands of men and women who have served our country in the name of freedom and liberty.

Veterans Day is commemorated with hometown parades, American flags on Main Street, visits to military cemeteries, and appreciation for the bravery, the suffering, the triumphs of generations of soldiers who've fought and served to keep our country great.

We thank you. From the bottom of our hearts.

They Want A Parade In Troy, New York

I ran across an endearing and fascinating story in the paper today. It seems the people of Troy, New York want the newly-minted baseball champs--the San Francisco Giants--to come to Troy and show off their new World Series trophy.

You see, the Giants are one of the very oldest professional baseball franchises in the country. And it turns out that they actually began their existence in 1879 as the Troy City Trojans. They played in Troy for three years before league owners voted to move the team to New York. In order to appease the fans of Troy, the league agreed to return teams to Troy occasionally for exhibition games. But that promise was broken, and no major league team has been there since the people of Troy lost the Trojans (now Giants) some 128 years ago.

Now the city is crying out, from across the continent, for some connection to the champs. And the Giants should give it to them. Just imagine Bruce Bochy, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, and Cody Ross holding the trophy and riding down Main Street to the cheers of the long-jilted fans of Troy.

Here's one Giants fan who says yes--let's spread the love.

09 November 2010

The Dumbest Voters In America

California is blessed with a lot of wonderful things: the grandeur of Yosemite, the spectacular coastline that stretches from Mexico to Oregon, a wonderful climate sparkling with lots of sunshine. We also have, I am loathe to admit, the dumbest voters in America.

Let me offer a few examples:

  • In 2008--as California was sliding toward insolvency--the voters of California approved Proposition 1A, which authorized the issuance of nearly $10 billion in bonds to build a high speed rail system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco. I won't comment on the efficacy of such a system. But it is ludicrous to borrow a huge amount of money at a time when California's budget deficits are out of control.
  • Speaking of budgets, Californians just approved Proposition 25 which allows the State Legislature to approve a budget on a simple majority vote, instead of the previous 2/3 supermajority needed. The ploy that California politicians used to get this passed was the provision that--for every day past the mandated July 1 deadline--legislators will lose their daily pay and per diem if a budget is not passed. This cynical provision successfully baited the voters to a) allow the current majority in both houses of the Legislature to more easily levy taxes to reduce the deficit and b) essentially guarantees that some kind of budget is passed--even though it says nothing about getting a budget signed into law.
  • California--once The Golden State of opportunity and innovation--has drifted over the past two decades into a dismal economic condition. This year California's budget deficit is over $20 billion. The state has been under Democratic control in both houses of the Legislature for more than 20 years--and the Democrats hold just short of a 2/3 majority in both houses. One would think there would be some measure of political accountability for what's happening in California. But one would be sadly mistaken, because the massive majorities of Democrats who have managed to tax and regulate businesses right out of California to neighboring Nevada and other states in the country have just been re-elected with even slightly larger majorities.
As I have written in previous posts, California has one of the most hostile business environments in the country. If you're producing so-called "green jobs" there are plenty of incentives. But if you're not, you're likely being overwhelmed by new and more oppressive regulations requiring huge investment in plant, property, and equipment. You're paying the highest minimum wage in the country. You're staggered by the array of building and environmental permits required to expand your business. You're being hit with among the highest tax rates in the country--and with new taxes and fees that do nothing more than fund more state programs while your bottom line suffers, thereby preventing you from hiring more workers. And you're probably looking for ways to follow so many others and move part or all of your business someplace else--away from the tax and regulatory madness of California. (I know of at least one friendly competitor who moved his business to Sparks, Nevada and willingly pays to truck his raw materials from the agricultural heartland of the San Joaquin Valley over the Sierras at huge cost in order to avoid the taxes and regulations in California.)

So what does this have to do with the voters of California? Well, the voters recently rejected Proposition 23--which would have suspended California's AB 32--the equivalent of California's Cap & Trade law. Yes, while Cap & Trade has been held back at the national level, California is boldly charging ahead. On the surface of it, it all sounds good. Who doesn't want cleaner air and reduction of greenhouse gases? But in a time when our country is experiencing near 10% unemployment (and California's is well over 12%), Cap & Trade is a bona fide jobs killer. Prop 23 would have suspended AB 32 unless and until unemployment fell below 5.5%--a quite reasonable provision to allow the state to generate new jobs and investment from the business community. The measure failed. Which simply means that regulatory pressures will continue to grow, the state will require more and more cost to businesses to comply with new regulations, and business owners will have less and less capital to spend on expansion of their plants and equipment--and will therefore be hiring fewer new workers.

It is a dismal state of affairs. But we are getting exactly what we keep voting for. And that's why we really do have the dumbest voters in America.

04 November 2010

Thoughts On My Beloved Giants

Thought #1: They say that great pitching neutralizes great hitting in the playoffs, especially in the World Series--and that was manifestly so in the 2010 World Series. The San Francisco Giants won this Series on the strength of a simply phenomenal pitching staff. Consider:

  • The Giants were locked in a three-way battle for the National League West crown with the Padres and the Rockies. Down the stretch, in the crucial month of September, the Giants pitching staff had the fifth best team Earned Run Average for a month in the history of Major League Baseball at a phenomenal 1.78. You have to go back to May of 1968 and the Cleveland Indians before you'll find a better month by a major league pitching staff. It was the Giants' pitching that even got them into the postseason to begin with.
  • The Giants bullpen was nothing short of sensational. Their ERA ranked second in the major leagues during the regular season, but in that same month of September--when every game counted--their team ERA dropped from 2.99 to 0.90. 
  • In the critical League Championship series against the heavily-favored Phillies, the Giants team ERA was 0.93--the third lowest since the LCS began in 1969.
  • The Giants were only the third team in Major League history to record four shutouts in the same postseason.
  • Coming into the World Series, the vaunted Texas Rangers hitters had the highest team batting average in the majors at .276. In the World Series, the Giants pitchers baffled the Rangers, who hit an anemic .190 against them.
  • It was even worse against the Giants bullpen, which gave up 3 runs in a collective 10 innings pitched--but all of those came in the ninth inning of Game 1 with the Giants leading 11-4. After that, it was lights out. The Rangers never touched the bullpen for the rest of the Series.
Thought #2: Since 1958 when the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco, they've been blessed with some legendary Hall of Fame players: Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Marichal, Perry, Will The Thrill, Matt Williams, Bobby Bonds, Jeff Kent, and--of course--Barry Bonds. They've had guys like Jim Davenport, Jim Ray Hart, the Alou brothers (all of them), Tom Haller, Ken Henderson, Mike McCormick, Ray Sadecki, Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, Tito Fuentes, Chris Speier, Randy Moffitt, Darrell Evans, Bill Madlock, Terry Whitfield, Larry Herndon, Joe Morgan, Bob Brenly, Chili Davis, Jeff Leonard, Gary Lavelle, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow, Atlee Hammaker, Brett Butler, Candy Maldonado, Dave Dravecky, Mike Lacoss, Rick Reuschel, Willie McGee, Robbie Thompson, Rod Beck, Rich Aurilia, JT Snow, and Frank Reberger (a little inside joke there, but the Giants really did have a guy named Frank Reberger on their roster). It's ironic and amazing that during all those previous 52 years--with such a host of talented players--the Giants could never get it done. 

And then 2010 happened. How do you characterize this team? They have one of the finest pitching staffs ever assembled, from their starters to their middle relievers to their closer. They have a gold-plated rookie catcher whose presence since he was called up in late May electrified the team and its fans. And then they have a collection of "misfits and castoffs" who jelled into a team in its true sense. The other day I was listening to MLB Radio where Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster was being interviewed. He made an interesting observation: "You can always tell how close a team is during warm-ups before a game. Most teams divide up into little groups of guys spread around the field to do their stretching and running. Not the Giants. They were all together. All of them. Every one. I was envious."

Baseball is a team sport. Yes, you have the dramatic element of the pitcher and the hitter, mano a mano. But the teamwork of the Giants was never more evident than in the 7th inning of the decisive Game 5 of the World Series: Pat Burrell had a horrible Series, going 0 for 13 with 11 strikeouts. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out in a scoreless pitching duel between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, Burrell had just struck out again, failing even to get the ball out of the infield to score the run from third. And then Edgar Renteria came up. He promptly blasted a three-run homer into the left center field seats and the Giants were ahead 3-0. And the first guy to greet him when he reached the dugout was Pat Burrell. He wasn't sulking on the bench about his poor performance. He was celebrating and congratulating his teammate. That epitomized the Giants of 2010, and it's a huge reason why all of Northern California is so enamored with this team.

Thought #3: The ragtag nature of this team has captured the imagination of baseball fans around the country. I'm going to close this post by quoting Rob Neyer of, who writes about baseball throughout the year: "Anyone who is shocked by the 2010 World Series hasn't been paying attention, over the years. The Giants were a very good team that played better than another very good team over the course of five games. If they play another five games next week, everything might be different. 

They're not going to play another five games. This one's over. The great majority of Giants fans have never seen their team win a World Series. No Giants fan has seen their team win a World Series since moving to California more than a half-century ago.

Now they've got one. And as anyone who followed the Royals in '85 or the Twins in '87 or the Reds in '90 or the Cardinals in '06 will tell you, the only thing that matters is getting one. All the rest is details.

Meanwhile, as a baseball fan (as opposed to a Giants fan), it's really easy to enjoy this team's success. The Giants wear classic uniforms in a beautiful ballpark. Their roster is studded with fascinating players like Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and Brian Wilson. Their manager was forced to make any number of tough decisions down the stretch and into the postseason, and nearly all of them worked brilliantly.

This one's for the fans who love the Giants, mostly. But there's plenty left over for the rest of us, too.

01 November 2010


Tonight my beloved Giants defeated the Texas Rangers in five games to win the World Series--their first championship in my lifetime. I'm over the moon. I can barely believe it. I'll have more to say about this a little later in the week after having taken the time to reflect on it. But, for now, it's complete elation.