Personal Growth

A Not-So-Secret Formula

IMG_4203 (1)Consider the organization you dream of building. How big is it? How may people does it engage? How many lives does it change?

Now consider the person running that organization. What does he or she do every day?

What does she read, and how much? Does he watch tv? How often does she exercise?

Now get personal. What does she do on the weekends? How long does he sleep, and whom does she hang out with? How does he treat people when he is worn out, and wishes they would go away? (That one hits particularly close to home for me.)

Now, what if you or I begin acting like that person, every day, starting now?


Personal Growth

Sad Day at the Ahlmann House

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We buried Maggie on Monday. Maggie joined our family as a puppy from the local pound in 2008, just as we were beginning life in California. (We acquired her as a cattle dog, until we realized she was more terrier than heeler, a bad fit for rounding up livestock!) She saw our first house, new jobs, and birth of two kids, both of which had a tough time coming to terms with the fact that she’s gone.

What the kids don’t know, and Rachel has graciously forgiven, is the fact that Maggie wouldn’t have left the yard and run into traffic if yours truly had mended the fence in a timely fashion. That fact makes the loss a little more frustrating.

So, what’s the lesson? Fix the fence when it’s broken?   Maybe. Or maybe it’s simply that some days things go according to plan, and some days your buddy gets hit by a truck. I’m not quite sure what the lesson is. But when we set out to write a blog about “success and failure in the business of agriculture,” we intended to share the good and the bad. Now you know we meant it.



Cover the Ground, Change the World


That is my tomato patch. It’s pretty pathetic. In a rush, I planted the plot without improving the soil or covering the ground. I did cover it later, but it was too little too late. Thus, my tomatoes are sad and unproductive.

As opposed to what you find under my tomatoes plants, healthy soils are usually dark. That dark color comes from carbon.  Plants capture carbon from the air and put it in the ground. Carbon also ends up in the soil by decomposition from organic matter (think compost). All this good stuff leaves the soil through evaporation if it is not covered.

The good folks at the Savory Institute speculate that the grasslands of the earth have the potential to absorb enough carbon to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to pre-industrial levels. They believe Holistic Planned grazing can accomplish this. See

One aspect of this grazing strategy is to increase the number of animals and put them on a small piece of pasture for a very short period of time. They enjoy all the good grasses and trample all the other plants. The trampling covers the ground. No bare soil = a huge carbon sink.

I try to replicate this in my own garden by laying down thick green mulch. The success of this method is evident in my peppers. See below. They enjoyed soil improvement and mulch this season. This is just one contribution to changing the world.




What’s Your Number?


I recently met the owner of a local business.   While sharing about his company, he told me that they now have 50 employees. The same figure came up in casual conversation later that week with one of his employees.

It amused me that both men shared this seemingly arbitrary figure. (A company likely would do better to measure growth based on revenue, or club members, or subscriptions, just to mention a few.)

Several business experts, including Jim Collins (author of Good to Great) and Jack Stack (author of The Great Game of Business), emphasize the value of what Stack calls a “critical number,” a metric that represents the success or failure of an entire organization.

The value of such a number, one that unifies the effort of the team in a single direction, is obvious. And it’s interesting to observe that humans are programmed to pick such a metric, whether on purpose or not, and use it as their measure of progress.

With that in mind, one may be well advised to think that “critical number” through, and make it official, before a figure like “employee count” (and a bloated payroll) takes over as the key measure of success.