Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year

2007 is coming to a close. Hard to believe. I’m having a hard time adjusting to the 2000’s it seems. Here we are nearly 8 years into it already. But then again, I don’t do change very well. I remember when it turned 1980 and it freaked me out for a long time. 1990 was hard to fathom, but I was a young father then and life was just too busy to get too worked up about it.

My wife likes change. She rearranges the house a couple times a year. I’m more like my dad's mom. Her house stayed the same for 30 years at least. Every knick-knack, every piece of furniture stayed in exactly the same spot. Only got moved for dusting and cleaning. Keeps everything predictable in my opinion. No stubbed toes in Grandma’s house!

As we close this year we are gearing up for change in our business. One of the big corporate big wigs is getting out of residential garbage service in our area so many of their customers are calling us. Then at the same time a larger hauler from Eagle River offered to swap some customers with us. They had a few in Sugar Camp here where we are based at and we had a few in a nearby town that they pick up in. It’ll save me a lot of miles a week picking up just a small number and it’ll do the same for the other hauler.

The owner of the Eagle River company is a pretty nice fellow and he’s a good business man. He lives in a world that is completely foreign to me. He has employees and lots of equipment and trucks, as well as thousands of customers and two office worker ladies that answer the constantly ringing phones. I’d have a stroke living that kind of life. It takes a lot of forethought and effort for us to keep it simple. The demands of the world are like a roaring river and you’re just inches from being swept away into the raging current.

Giving up doing business in the nearby town makes sense from both a business stand point and a simplicity one. We don’t make much of a profit if any over there but, we now we do have a bit of a dilemma. We first started picking up over there because one old man needed someone to come up his driveway to get his garbage. The Eagle River hauler wasn’t picking up there then. At the time we drove out there once a week taking our daughter to her piano lessons. So I told him while we were there for that we could get his garbage for him. Soon, by word of mouth it spread that we were picking up over there and one by one we built up a small route, although pretty spread out. And most of the stops were for elderly people who needed someone to go up to the house. By the way, one of the conditions we made for this swap was that the other company had to continue with the drive-up service.

We believe in building relationships with our customers. Many have become our good friends. We have a lot of cheerleaders out there because of it. So it hasn’t been an easy decision to pull out of this nearby town. Then when one elderly lady, who has a particularly strong affection to us, heard that we were doing this she lamented that she looks so forward to seeing me every week, that we just can’t stop coming out! She commented that, in fact, she sees me more than she sees her own son. Man, that was like a knife to the heart……ugh!

It’s been a tough decision, but, an opportunity we can’t pass up, especially with the other hauler being willing to continue with the drive-up service. In fact they are buying a small truck like ours that will enable them to do that. The trade off is just too good to not take. In fact it will save us over one hundred miles a week. Less work for the same income, can’t beat that.

I never dreamed of picking up garbage for a living, especially up here while trying to homestead. But, it seemed the Lord had other idea’s and gave us this thing when we were at rock bottom. After 7 years of doing this it is finally getting afloat financially. Actually it’s been doing that for a couple years. In our fifth year it finally got to were we could breath again as far as an income goes. At least we don’t just about croak over every unforeseen expense that comes up.

A while back now, a small hauler like us, down by Rhinelander, sold his route for a nice little sum which gave us the thought that maybe some day we could do the same. So it’s always kind of in the back of my mind that if God ever gave us the opportunity then it’d be nice to quit this and homestead full time and try to make an income from the land instead. Making my living from the land is something I’ve always wanted to do.

So with this in mind, we decided to get brave and with this quarter's billing ( we bill quarterly with the garbage business), we included a letter to all our customers telling about the farmstand and that we would be willing to expand our garden and chicken operation if anyone would be interested. It’s been just a couple weeks and so far we have 8 or 9 families who want to sign up. I think it would be safe to say that there was at least that many who bought from the farmstand so at this point I think we can estimate that we will be growing food for around 20 families besides ourselves.

For a long time I’ve been thinking of the possible opportunities we could have with all our garbage customers as far as marketing farm produce to them or even other things. Especially after reading Joel Salatin writings. He says it’s easier for him to get 100 people to spend $1000 than it is to get 1000 people to spend $100. So during those bad days when I want to just throw in the towel concerning the trash business I think about all the opportunities that these good folks could provide to us. Now if the Lord ever happens to provide a way out of the garbage business we will have taken advantage of the potential blessings these customers could bring.

Our original plan before this business came along was to make our money from renting out our log cabin to people looking to get away and enjoy a vacation at a real northern Wisconsin homestead. Our farm had always been a popular vacation spot for many family members and friends, even with my Aunt and Uncle who faithfully traveled from Alabama in the summer, for a week or so, every year. People have always loved it here and we’ve been more than happy to share this wonderful blessing with others.

We put a lot of effort and money into building the cabin. We wanted to provide a nice place for people to stay. But, we have found that we don’t make good business people as far as marketing goes. At first we joined the Eagle River chamber of commerce and were advertising the cabin through them. We were getting quite a few rentals through that but, something just didn’t feel right. It was being promoted right along with all the touristy type stuff and we didn’t care for the clientele that was being reached. Well, maybe not so much the people as it was just the spirit in which it was promoted. Even though the North Woods is a popular tourist destination we don’t want this place being lumped in with all that. I’m not really even sure why we feel that way, it’s kind of hard to explain. Like one time a guy who enquired about staying here, he stated that he would “require a boat and a trailer”. We were wondering what in the world he thought we had going on here? This ain’t Disney Land.

So the cabin hasn’t really given us an income like we first thought it would. But on the other hand it is accomplishing a goal we have had all along and that it could be a kind of ministry. And I suppose that is more what it has been. I’m thinking that as the farm gets going better then we will probably direct our advertising more towards people who are interested homesteading and just steer far away from all the touristy stuff.

Tonight we are staying in the cabin and have been discussing the things we hope to accomplish in the coming year. Were going through seed catalogs and kind of getting warmed up to start planning our gardens. In addition to that the kids are revved up to plant more fruit trees and berry patches. Something I’d hoped to have done way before now but, like the verse says, “man makes his plans but, the Lord determines his steps”, (can’t remember the verse exactly but, I’m sure I’ve read that before). The Lord knows best what we need or don’t need anyway.

Well, I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year. May you prosper in every way in 2008.

Until Next Time

2 Comments:

Blogger charisse said...

Dear Russ,

It was so nice to see the cabin again. I have such wonderful memories of all of us helping to get it up. Doing the floors was my favorite. I always loved to hear your thoughts on things which shaped me much, thankyou dear friend.
Charisse

8:32 AM  
Blogger RL said...

Hey Charisse,

Great to hear from you! We've actually been staying in the cabin for the past couple days. Mini- retreat without even leaving home.

Every time I'm up there I remember the fond memories and fellowship we all had. Especially when Paul braved the cold, cold weather with me putting up the cross ties. That first one "fit like a glove"!

Just came down to the house to get some food for supper to take back up, checked the messages and found yours from this morning.

Yes, we were out late last night. Spent New Years Eve with friends in Rhinelander and didn't get home until well after 3am.

Kelli wants to give you a call when she has some time to visit. Tonight we have some family time planned after supper and tomorrow Kelli will be at her Mom's. Perhaps tomorrow evening she will be calling.

Hope you had a nice time during the holidays.

Talk to you soon.

Your Friend Indeed
Russ

4:20 PM  

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