Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat

Beggars' night in the country means getting in the car and driving around to relatives who may actually be expecting trick-or-treat'ers and then parking in a subdivision to take advantage of the generosity of the people who live there.

This year we went out as Spiderman, a princess and our sole homemade costume: John Deere Tractor, complete with official stickers purchased at the dealer.
I originally made the tractor costume for Ryan. Justin was a baby that year, so he was the pig, of course. We even took the tractor costume to town and won a contest--all the judges must have been farmers. This year we didn't fare as well at a MUCH more crowded event in the same town.
Justin was a real trooper and carried the tractor around all evening. He got beat out by an OSU cheerleader wearing fake curly pigtails. Even my husband the rabid Buckeye fan couldn't believe it.

In a totally unrelated matter, I have this announcement:
FOR SALE Foamboard JD tractor,
Some post-Halloween damage due
to wrestling cousins, two-legged
powertrain not included.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PR Idea of the Week

Have you heard about the new Pepsi logo? What a case study in social media and branding.

Pepsi launched their new logo by sending the new look first to a select group of only 25 bloggers (my package must have gotten lost in the mail). Oddly, they sent three packages in twenty minute increments. The first two boxes included empty cans with old logos, the third box was branded with the new logo and contained six full cans (the contents are still the same).

Besides counting on the bloggers to post about these packages, the online component to the launch included a spot on FriendFeed.

Did it work? Well, my last Google of "Pepsi new logo" generated 287,000 hits. Of course, the Web is abuzz with branding experts and other critics who aren't sure this is the right move.

But I am fascinated with the method they chose, mixing courier deliveries with blogging. I have to think they accomplished exactly what they set out to do. The select bloggers felt special. Others jumped in to share the news and offer commentary. The fact that not all these marketing experts and branding gurus liked the logo is irrelevant. Pepsi wanted to create online buzz and anticipation of their new launch--which actually rolls out in 2009.

I think it's important for PR people to note that not a single part of this strategy involved trying to get on the front page of USA Today. I think it's a lesson for all of us in how important connecting with influencers--whether online or offline--is becoming just as important, or maybe more important than connecting with media.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winning Ticket

I would like to officially endorse my Maverick-y island-dwelling Palin-in-law and her age-challenged running mate.
NOTE: This is not actually an endorsement of any look-alike candidates. I agree with Charles Schulz - There are three things never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Beauty is in the Eye of the Pig-holder

Growing old is never easy. Your skin isn't as taut as it used to be, your hair loses some of its radiance, and the toll that childbirth takes--well, you really make sacrifices for that litter of babies you had. On top of it all, you have to worry about being replaced with a young showy little miss.

Here on the farm, the old sows don't worry about such things.

All I did was gently suggest that her skin might feel smoother if she did not take naps in manure. See the look I got. Is she sticking her tongue out at me?

This old gal doesn't have time to do her hair. (She's starting to get a little nappy.) But how many of us didn't put on a few pounds and let ourselves go when we're days away from giving birth.

And finally, my heart goes out to this old sow who sacrificed her body and the shapeliness of her tits to nourish her growing brood.

Being the female of the species is never easy. But it's good to be married to a man who knows how to appreciate a female whose award-winning county fair days are behind her. A man who can look past the changes that childbirth has wrought and see strong genetics. A sensitive guy who knows that your State Fair profile shot from when you were a young gilt is the preferred photo to use when touting your son's latest State Fair win.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Farm Wife of the Decade

I would now like to introduce you to the farm wife of the decade.

I haven't met this beautiful couple but I have to say they are off to a good start. Think of the negotiations that must have led to this photo.

Her: I want the groomsmen to wear pink.

Him: OK, but then the entire wedding party is going to pose with a Yorkshire gilt and we're going to use the photo in our farm's ad in a national pig magazine.

Her: They also have to wear thongs.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Farm Kids Do for Fun - Part II

They may not have sidewalks for their bikes or any neighbors under 50 in a five mile radius, but kids in the country know how to have fun.

This weekend our kids and their country cousins hosted a fall party at the farm. Thank goodness we invited our teacher mother and teacher mother-in-law for crowd control, because we did not know how to manage 19 kids. We did some things right like planning lots of activities, but the very challenge of keeping the attention of that many kids while you give instructions and organize them--that's why teachers make the big bucks (oh, wait...).

You MUST click on this photo to see the full cuteness of these pumpkins.

They decorated pumpkins using "Mr. Potato Head" branded kits with plastic pieces. If such things existed when we were kids, they would have come equipped with sharp points, probably metal, for stabbing into the pumpkin. I'm not sure how the people at Hasbro think that their rounded plastic tipped parts are supposed to pierce a raw vegetable, but having done this before, we were prepared with screwdrivers with which to stab Mr. Pumpkin Head repeatedly until all 13 parts were added.

While I handled all the invitations, cleaned the house, made the cupcakes, weeded the flower bed, and procured two dozen Mr. Potato Head kits, my husband had one main job for the party--the straw maze. And while he did grumble about getting 50 bales out of the barn, I think he had fun making the maze. All the kids LOVED it.

What party on the farm is complete without a hay ride. Note: all regular readers of this blog should know that we don't really use hay.

This was Morgan and Justin's first opportunity to invite their own friends to a party. Morgan invited "big girl" friends of the family and Justin invited friends from pre-school.

In two hours we played in the straw maze, went on a treasure hunt around the farm, made sand art in a jar, ate a snack, decorated pumpkins and went on a hay ride. Whew. Try doing that on your cul de sac.

Friday, October 17, 2008

PR Idea of the Week

Get with the times, New Roman. If you've ever designed a publication, or even just sweated through the drop-down options in Word, you will love this.

Mailbox, mailbox, mailbox!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh, No! Omar

UPDATE: Brother and family are OK. Paradise to be restored by 2:00 today. Yeah!

Batten down the hatches island-dwelling brother and family. We are thinking of you and hoping that you are safe.

Having recently survived a hurricane here in Ohio, let me give you some advice... oh, heck you're going to be dodging pieces of jungle traveling at 100 mph. I'm not sure I have any advice.

Stay dry and watch out for flying tourists.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who are You? And What did You do With our Bacon?

Thanks to Ohio Farm Girl, I learned about the free backgrounds available at

UPDATE: I'm back to Blogger templates now, having gotten my "dark background phase" out of my system.
UPDATE UPDATE: I'm back to a "cute" template again. Sorry.

I apologize if this is like the early days of the Internet when people found out how to make things blink in html, and so they did. All the time. Even the company logo was blinking.

And then they moved on to adding bright yellow starbursts that said "new" to everything.

This was only slightly less annoying than the people who used dark gray patterned backgrounds with white text. Surrounded by things that were blinking.

So, I promise, no blinking on this site. But we may see a few more new backgrounds before I settle on one for a while.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Special Delivery

Friendly Suburban-Dwelling friends and co-workers frequently ask me, so what's going on at the farm this time of year?

I know they are expecting to hear wonderful autumn-on-the-farm stories about harvesting corn, tapping maple trees, and selecting the perfect pumpkin from our own little patch.

Well, I respond, this time of year, we get a lot of semen in the mail. Seriously, my husband, who normally can't plan more than twenty minutes into the future, knows that now is the time to breed his pigs so they can be born in December, January, and February. This ensures they will be big enough for 4-H kids to buy in April for the county fair in August.

But back to the semen. In the mail. Actually, it usually ships overnight via UPS. Brings a whole new answer to the question What can Brown do for you?

Here's how it works... My husband has a sow (female pig) that is coming in heat, so he opens his boar catalog, selects her perfect mate, picks up the phone and orders two plastic bottles of his swimmers to be shipped overnight.

Yes, just like you have LL Bean and Lands End in your magazine rack, we have Cain's Super Sires and Swine Genetics International. The boars are selected based on their pedigrees and the goals for the litter, i.e. we need purebred pigs to take to the State Fair or this litter should be crossbred to produce pigs for kids to show at the county fair.

The semen arrives in a Styrofoam cooler (not frozen) inside a box. How does it get in the bottle? Look here.

I just want to make an environmental side note here that we DO reuse the Styrofoam coolers. In fact, when I was breastfeeding I would take the pig semen coolers with me on business trips. They worked GREAT to store and ship breast milk too. (Say ewwwww all you want, but I actually did this.)

Once the bottles arrive, my husband takes a long tube especially designed for this purpose, sticks it in the vulva of the pig and then squeezes the contents of the bottle until, if all goes well, the sow is bred.

You can imagine... no, you probably can't... that between talking on the phone almost daily about semen, keeping boxes of newly arrived semen in the kitchen (it's not on the table, at least), and all the breeding that goes on in the barn, our kids have picked up a few things along the way.

Our oldest has already had a bonding moment with his father when they picked out the "piglet daddy" for his new gilt. And our daughter has very innocently inquired about the equipment other men possess for this important task, asking her father while he was breeding a sow with his special plastic rod, does Uncle (his brother) have a breeder?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

PR Idea of the Week

If anyone in the company is going to be asked to find a giant something, it's going to be the PR person, especially if they also do events.

ABC News did a local segment on and shared the video online at The company, very wisely, put the video on YouTube and I have embedded it here.

This company has had great success in product placement, including Ellen, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and even CSI. I love how the tone of their About Us page reflects their fun company culture.

I'm adding this site to my bookmarks, because you never know when the boss will come back from a meeting, having promised you would procure a giant coffee cup.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Swine Lecture Series - Breeds of Hogs

Welcome back to the Internet's one and only Swine Lecture Series. Today we'll cover the basic breeds of hogs.

Every species of animals that includes registered breeds, whether that's dogs, horses, or Big Ten football fans, has non-negotiable breed characteristics. For most animals, breed characteristics include size, coat color and texture, attitude, plus the desire to wear necklaces made out of poisonous nuts and spell the state name during gibberish songs.

For pigs, breed characteristics include color (their hair is clear, so all coloring comes from the skin), color markings (spots, belt, contrast on face and legs) and the direction their ears point (pointy and alert vs. hanging down over the eyes).

The National Swine Registry, the AKC of pigs, oversees the main breeds of hogs, Yorkshire, Hampshire, Duroc and Landrace. But there are other breeds that are less populous and don't feature class sizes of 500; think of them as the Mid-American Conference of pigs.

For example, there are the Berkshires, mostly black pigs with white noses and white "socks" on four legs. The Berkshire breeders have admirably attempted to market their product as the "Angus Beef" of pork.

You don't see them that often, but many state fairs have a show for purebred Tamworth hogs. Tamworth's are known for their pointy snouts and WILD nature. Years ago hogs were mainly raised outside in lots where tough, rangy hogs survived best and the Tamworth's remain a throwback to that era.

Speaking of hogs that are rare or unpopular (depending on who you ask), our farm raises Hereford hogs, in addition to our main herd of State Fair-winning Yorkshires and Hampshires.

Check out this lovely specimen--and a nice looking Hereford too. This barrow (castrated male) hog was raised by us and then sold to the the cute 4-Her next door who won reserve champion at the Ohio State Fair. The champion was also raised by us. In fact, the champion or reserve Hereford at the Ohio State Fair has come from our farm for the last 10 years or so.

Years ago, when we were young and ambitious (foolish?), my husband and I would load up a trailer or two of purebred hogs and stay for about a week at the Ohio State Fair. The year our son was born, I was still on maternity leave during the fair, so we thought it would be fun to show LOTS of pigs. So we loaded up our Yorkshires, Hampshires and Herefords, plus our eight-week-old baby and headed to Columbus. We did pretty well, winning champions with all three breeds.

We had a lot of help from our family showing most of the hogs, but when it came time to show our Herefords that year, everyone had left, leaving us with no one to watch our baby while we showed. Luckily the kind women who worked in the swine barn office were more than willing to hold our little guy.

Which brings me to the final point about purebred hogs. The best aspect to being part of the purebred hog community (everyone has a "community" these days) is the people. People like us who keep coolers of pig semen in their kitchen, people who fill their magazine racks with boar catalogs, people who know more about the genealogy of their herd than the names of their cousins, people known for their hard work and integrity--they make up a rare breed, indeed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

PR Idea of the Week

I have blogged about her before, but EVERY PR person who cares about good writing should subscribe to Ann Wylie's newsletter.

Her most recent issue advises us to "start with the snake" when writing. For my purposes, I'll change that to start with the pig.

What I mean is this: if I were to write an article about an unexpected moment in my day today, I could talk about how I went to a class, how I arrived home before my husband and kids did from our evening activities, how I enjoyed watching DVR'd Ugly Betty in peace AND THEN I could get to the part where my husband arrived home and came running into the house to tell me there is a pig on the back porch. (this really happened)

Or I could lead with the essence of my story. Because you only have seconds to catch a reader.

But how many times in corporate life do we bury the "pig" of our story, under BORING parenthetical phrases dictated by someone in marketing. XYZ Corporation, the global leader in innovative solutions, today announced.... and mind-numbing quotes, "We are so very pleased to be leading the charge into this important and innovative industry initiative, said VP of Something Irrelevant.

I am just as guilty as the next overworked communicator in shoving this stuff out the door. But I have renewed my commitment to keeping my writing crisp. No more discussing the mundane aspects of the day when there is a pig to catch.

Appointment Pooping

  NOTE: If you do not want to read about my healthy bowel movement, well too late you just did. I recently became you-better-get-a-colonosco...