Archive for August, 2017

Overcoming Barriers: What I Learned in the Army

August 21, 2017

Barriers – we all face them. As a manager and everyday person we all face challenges in getting what we need or want to get accomplished.  Whether you call them hidden doorbarriers, obstacles, obstructions, hurdles, a stumbling block, being  blocked, impeded, hindered, or just simply facing a response of “NO!”  Something as simple as providing direction to a co-worker such as “make an appointment with  such and such person” results in many cases a first response back “I couldn’t reach them.”  And then the matter is returned to you the manager.  To me it really doesn’t matter if this is the initial response or one of a dozen different excuses (which may be true) as to why we couldn’t make the appointment or get the task accomplished.

This discussion here is to share a training method called the “chair” I created while as the Battalion Logistics Office (S4) in Germany and working with more junior personnel. In this role I was constantly asked to take on and solve other peoples problem because I was the “leader.”  Well being the leader doesn’t mean you solve all the problems, just the ones that seems to be more difficult (even then a group approach usually works better).

social-mediaSo here is how it works. A chair is usually available in most situations to use as a training aide. Lets say you assign a task for a co-worker to get in touch with a certain person to either provide needed information or to gain needed information. Your co-worker assigned the task goes out and then comes back to update you that “no,” in fact they did not get in touch with said person. So now the discussion begins – “why didn’t you get in touch with said person?” Possible responses although not limited to include:

  • Person was not in the office
  • person did not answer the phone
  • Person was in the office but didn’t want to talk to me
  • Person didn’t return my email, tweet, snapchat, instagram, facebook message.
  • I couldn’t find their office
  • They moved their office
  • Their office was closed

Well, you get the picture – there are a thousand and one excuses – I mean reasons why the task or any task was not accomplished. Its usually at this point the co-worked comes back to report and pass the task back to the leader for resolution.  Oh not so fast!

Here is the beauty of this simple technique.  Begin by asking the follow on questions telephoneto the excuse (insert excuse here) they lead with.  For instance, “person was not in.”  Question; “did you seek to speak with some one else, did you ask when the primary person would return, did you leave a message that you need to see them and would return at a specific time, did you get their cell phone number, did you ask where they were at this time?” These questions will normally result in your co-worker going back out to seek the resolution to these  questions.

NoUTurnNext – when you coworker come back again and indicates they still could not complete the task , you again ask why (in no case do not  as the leader accept responsibility to “just do it myself”).  This time the responses to failure might be something about the office or the phone or no-one there.  So this time you ask about who was in the office, you ask about email, you ask about telephone contact, you ask about alternative points of contact. Here is where the chair comes in.

wall ladderAs you are discussing the task reference a chair.  In this case explain that overcoming barriers is a lot like getting past a chair. The chair is the barrier to getting to your task completed.  In discussing the challenge your co-worker usually approaches the task straight ahead. I usually then ask if following their initial repulse, did they try another approach? In this case I ask if the co-worker tried to go to the left of the chair; if not then I suggest that they first try another path. If this path is not viable then I recommend trying to go around to the alternative side.  If in this case the co-worker is not successful, they should then try to go under the proverbial chair or in this case to go over the chair. 

chair 3 The bottom line is that until the co-worker has tried to go to the left, to the right, over the top and under the obstacle, then I ask the co-worker to not come back to me and tell me they cannot accomplish the task.  This is their task to accomplish not mine, when they have exhausted all alternatives, then come back and lets talk about it.  Normally, by this point the co-worker has figured out a way to accomplish the task themselves. In the future the co-worker will have more confidence to solve problems instead of coming back to the leader after their first rejection. 

 

 

 

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The Bee Keeper Next Door

August 16, 2017
Week 1a

Week 1; photo Jonathan Long

Excerpts from a recent interview with Creative Consultant & Director of the Magazine @NutsandLemons; Michelle Niellose. I want to thank Michelle for the excellent provocation to provide some insights into “The Bee Keeper Next Door.”

 

How did I get started? I have always been intrigued with gardens and growing things since a little boy. Growing up in Oregon, a neighbor had a small farm including honey bees. I remember getting a mason jar filled with honey and comb and thinking that was the greatest thing in the world. Later on in school, one of my favorite characters from the JKK Tolkien book “The Hobbit” was a bee keeper named Beorn and I really

HidebrandtTolkineBeorn

image created by the Brothers Hildebrandt

thought he was a cool character because he was ferocious but at the same time mellow. As I gained additional experiences, I really like the idea of growing and producing some of my own food or at least understanding the process. While living in Germany I feel in love with the whole idea of developing a vineyard and the wine making process but the realities of military life were a barrier to really exploring that idea. Once I retired from active military service I decided I would make time to become a bee keeper – that I could do.

What should a person do if they want to become a “bee keeper?” The decision to start keeping honey bees should not be taken lightly because after all, these are living things. When you first start out you will be contacting a local bee keeping to purchase bees and  “hiving” a box of bees into a new hive (and you

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Package of Bees; photo Jonathan Long

really should have two hives for several good reasons). A three pound box of bees includes one queen and about 10,000 bees so you will be caring for about 20,000 bees initially. This number will grow at the height of summer to about 50,000 bees, so that’s a lot of buzzing going on. Most of the time, the majority of these inhabitants will be in the bee hive so you won’t really see that many at one time. The first thing to do is read a book or three on beginning bee keeping and look for a local bee keepers association to take a class.  That is your first step – its best to take a class over the winter because then you have time to order your bees, order and prepare your hive boxes (referred to as a “deep”) and pick out your location.

 

How does a person determine if becoming a “bee keeper” is right for them? One of the keep factors to consider first if you have the

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Initial Deep + Feeder; photo Jonathan Long

necessary room for a bee hive (the two can sit right next to each other without any problem). You don’t have to live in the country to keep bees as there is a whole sub-culture dedicated to roof top – city bee keeping – that’s not the issue. Other humans are the issue. In planning your location called the “bee yard’ you have to consider two things: (1) how close is the location to your and your neighbors outside living area?  If within 100 feet or less of where you or  neighbors occupy outside spaces, probably too close. Now this is not because the bee’s will seek you out (they won’t – they don’t care) but you could be in their flight path to where ever they go on a daily basis (water sources included). This is related to the next item (2).  Position the bee yard in relation to sunrise and the suns path of travel during the day.  The hive opening should face South East (SE) cardinal direction.  This is so the sun most quickly warms up the hives entrance and gets things going (any day with a temperature over 60 degrees F will enable a Queen to lay).  If structures or dense trees don’t allow a somewhat clear path to the SE then you have a challenge.

 

What are the general guidelines for the maintenance of hives and when to harvest? Lets back up a bit – before you can maintain a hive you have to decide on hive styles, source and purchase. Your local bee keepers association can help and there are several great companies such as Brushy Mountain or Pigeon Mountain that can provide you supplies.

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Centrifuge Extraction; Photo Jonathan Long

Once you decide what style of hive, you then need to treat and protect the wooden hive bodies with either stain or paint. I added a small Decoupage image, again from the Tolkien works (art by the Brothers Hildebrandt) to each box which helps the bee distinguish which hive is theirs.  However, this is not necessary and they will focus in on the wood grain or another feature or the Queens pheromone to figure out where to go. The you have to plan on when your boxed bees arrive and when to hive them which sets up your new bee hives with their occupants. So there is a lot to talk about here with feeding and caring for a new colony but what I like it’s really just once a week that a bee keeper needs to go into the hive to look around. If you start out with a super strong hive you may be able to harvest the first year but really the second year is more reasonable – and then it’s usually the first week in July to pull the honey supers off which is where the bees store that portion of their work that can be harvested without damaging the hive.

 

 

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Fresh Honey Comb; photo Jonathan Long

What can you create with “honey bee” products at home? Well obviously the first product is pure “organic” wild flower honey. Now a word about truth in labeling – unless you live in the middle of a wilderness without any other humans around for 50 miles your honey is not 100% organic because its likely there are some forms of federalization or husbands going on but our intent it’s pretty much organic because there is no chemical or heat treatment – it come from the hive and comb into the jar. Second – again unless your bees are in the middle of a fifty acres clover field or a 20 acre orange grove, your honey will have mixed pollen and nectar from lots of different plants. So in this case its most likely “wild flower” honey. In my case we have made shaving cream, soap, ice cream, whip cream, cocktails and liquors all with home grown honey.

 

Important “do’s and Don’ts.” (1) can’t be in a hurry – everything to do with keeping bees is slow and steady; (2) always use a natural fuel when creating smoke to calm the

smoker

Smoker; photo Jonathan Long

bees in the hive – you don’t want chemical gases from plastics to injury your occupants; (3) take time to hang out in the bee yard and just watch the bees come and go – you will be amazed at the little door step hive entrance dances that going on or mini battle between guard bees and infiltrators and even the cold hard reality or when members of the hive have completed their life span and are removed from the hive to tumble lifeless in from of the colony. Each hive is its own operating environment unto its self.  The colony somehow together makes all the decisions, not the Queen; from when to raise female workers to male drones to even when a new Queen should be raised.  Take time to watch and you will be amazed.

 

Are there certain flowers that can be grown in a “bee keepers” garden that are popular with bees? Anything that has heavy pollen like sun flowers, butterfly bush, or lots of sweet nectar like honey suckle or gardenias (all in my backyard). There are lots of reference guides to help an aspiring bee keeping plant attractive and beneficial plants around the yard.

Does the type of flower affect the honey and or wax? So short answer is yes as mentioned before with regard to Clover Honey, or Apple Blossom Honey or Orange Blossom Honey. These will all impart a different level of sweetness but that not the thing

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Italian Honey Bee; photo Jonathan Long

for me – I think its really the trees around your bee yard and the pollen that they produce that creates a bigger impact. It’s the pollen that helps develop resistance to allergies and I think it’s the pollen that imparts so much of the distinction and character to the honey. The honey’s color will be directly impacted by the tree pollen the bees eat (bees live on both pollen and honey – the honey comes from the nectar).  So honey from a heavy pine forest will be different than honey from oak, beech and ash. Honey from sourwood is defiantly prized for its distinct taste (therefore the expense).

 

Conclusion – keeping bees is just that, you don’t really raise bees – they raise themselves but they do better when a bee keeper looks after them.  In the end it’s a somewhat symbiotic relationship; we give them a safe a secure home and feed them when they

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Bee Yard; photo Jonathan Long

need it – they provide us with excess production of their honey.  The other cool thing about being a bee keeper is our actual contribution to the world. A lot of people talk about social issues or the environment but by keeping bees a person has a direct and first hand impact on making the world a better place. I have read that cross-pollination by bees helps at least 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of our wild plants to thrive. I believe pretty much that without the help of honey bees, many plant species —including food crops—would die off. I understand that about 50% of our oxygen comes from the ocean phytoplankton but the other 50% comes from photosynthesis on land (trees, shrubs, grasses, plants). So if blending environmental causes, helping make the world a better place, and enjoying the sweet output of honey bees is your thing, then bee keeping might be a great fit.