Sunday, December 18, 2005


Recycling yesterday

by Larry Gabriel

"One man's junk is another man's treasure." The other person is a recycler.

That saying applies to much more than items found at rummage sales and auctions. It might be more accurate to say, "One producer's waste is another's valuable byproduct."

Sawdust, for example, was a waste product of saw mills. Mills did not want it. Entrepreneurs helped get rid of it by transforming it into new products such as dust inhibitors, animal bedding, garden mulch, compost, fiber boards and alcohol.

Dozens of waste products from food processing become food supplements for livestock or people. About 80% of a kernel of wheat is used for flour. The rest is waste and becomes byproducts such as wheat germ or bran.

Recycling and reusing are traditions on the prairie. In part, we learned it from the original inhabitants who recycled the buffalo into dozens of valuable products.

Rocks are waste to many farmers. Rocks damage equipment and cut production. Rocks seem to "grow" in some fields. The farmers constantly "pick rock" and put them in piles, but new ones arise from the glacial drift the following year.

When my son wanted to use a pile of rocks from two previous barns to build a new one, I was skeptical. The sandstone slabs are two feet wide and weigh up to two hundred pounds.

I saw no point to building barn walls two feet thick, especially since the old barns were smaller and more rock would be needed for the new one. But, my son believed in it, so we built it.

The top half is wood and the bottom half of the barn is made of those rocks set in cement. It may last a hundred years. Those barn rocks have served several generations of ranchers as three different barns on that ranch. It is impressive.

When my grandson is a grandfather he may bring his grandson to the barn and teach him its history. The grandson will remember. The barn will become part of his identity.

Turning waste into opportunity is not new. Many companies specialize in it. Many web pages are devoted to discussing methods of doing that. Rocks are products on the internet.

Agriculture produces a number of things that we call waste, but each one is an opportunity for somebody.

Some people fear the "waste problems" of agriculture. Don't worry, the next generation will recycle our old problems into new solutions. Like us, they will do it not for themselves, but to build a better future.

Opportunity is not found. Opportunity is made by those who "waste not, want not."

Larry Gabriel is the South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture

A thankful nature is the cowboy way

By Julie Carter

A cowboy as a rule is a man of few words. His thankfulness for his life is heartfelt but will be expressed in a simple manner. This is how it was explained to me.

The job doesn’t pay much, but the air is clean. The benefit package is limited, meaning ranch rules are he can have two horses, one dog and he must use both for work. If he happens to get hurt or sick he will just have to get better and the sooner rather than later.

His clothes don’t have designer labels. He has one “town” shirt and Lord willing, he will have saved enough for new chaps by Christmas. A pair of clean jeans, a mostly ironed shirt and the dust knocked of the toe of his boots makes him ready for polite company.

He gets mail once in awhile. A latest catalog from the veterinary supply is a highlight in the week.

His schedule is pretty simple. It coincides with Mother Nature and Father Time. If the weather lets him and there is any daylight left, he will get it done.

His pickup is old but it still runs good. His horse is young and still bucks. For a cowboy, it doesn’t get much better.

The roads out at ranch don’t have traffic lights and definitely no traffic jams. A traffic jam to a cowboy is when he is stuffing a large herd of cattle through a small gate.

Neighborhood gangs are made up of the neighbors coming to help. The closest thing to smog arrives in the spring and it is actually just branding smoke. Sometimes when he starts up the old pickup it belches a little black smoke that some might call smog.

Office politics don’t exist and a nylon rope keeps things politically correct with a cow.

There are no lines to stand in to wait for anything. Back of the line to a cowboy means riding drag behind the herd.

His outlook on the weather sums up in an ever optimistic attitude of “maybe it’ll rain one of these days. It always does eventually.” In the meantime, its winter and time to chop a little fire wood before it gets dark.

He sees in a day more of creation than most will see in a lifetime of the Discovery Channel. He watches natures cycle in wildlife of all kinds as the coyote hunts, the deer and elk graze and hawks on the wing observe from above.

For this life he is most thankful. He knows he can ride to the top of a ridge and be just about as close to his Lord as he is going to get on this earth. His prayer for himself is that Lord willing; he’ll be here next year to say thanks again.

copyright Julie Carter 2005

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