Monthly Archives: March 2009

A Gift of Radicchio

I think a lot about vegetables lately – because I need quite a bit, and they are expensive in Wyoming. I am often surprised at how the Lord answers prayers, and try to make the most of it even when the answer isn’t what I really wanted.

I went out this morning to check to see if the strawberries we planted last summer were greening up yet – a friend said theirs were, and I was surprised because it is early for Wyoming. We had a mild winter though, even finding spinach plants that had managed to winter over – quite a few, in fact, and discovering more every day. The grass and dandelions are already making a comeback in the garden – the weeds grow long after the edible greens die, and they come back sooner in the spring too. So weeding starts before the ground is even fully thawed it seems.

Today, in last summer’s lettuce beds, I found some red heads poking up from the dirt. A plant that had grown leafy last summer was forming small tight heads – distinctly red with white veins. Close inspection and a nibble on a leaf proved it to be Radicchio.

I hate Radicchio. But I had prayed for vegetables, and here was Radicchio – something I had not intentionally planted, would have pulled if I had seen it last summer, and certainly did not ask for now. Our mesclun mix has 6 things I like, and three that I do not like. I do not like curly endive either, but it is distinctive enough to yank out the minute the leaves start to frill, and the arugula that makes me gag is also easily recognizable early on, and therefore erradicated without hesitation. The Radicchio had been green and red last summer, and had disguised itself as red lettuce, thereby escaping extermination.

Now I knew it for what it was. It is early spring. It will be many months before we have vegetables in the garden. It will be weeks before the plants in my indoor hydroponic system bear anything worth mention. Here was this vegetable, volunteering to grow NOW. Pickable and eatable, NOW. It demanded respect… and it plead for me to acknowledge that I had asked, and had been given.

I do not like Broccoli Raab really either. But it grows fast, and produces well out here. I find I can tolerate it, even come to enjoy it, if it is steamed, rinsed, and then sauteed in garlic butter. It has a similar flavor to Radicchio – sharp, bitter. If Broccoli Raab, then why not Radicchio?

So I searched out recipes – many of which made me want to cook more! One of which I have the ingredients for (important when many call for items I’ve never even seen in the local grocery stores), and which I can actually eat (many call for cured meats or cheeses that I cannot have), and which I think I can whip up and enjoy with dinner.

So I am heading to the garden to harvest some of the unexpected Radicchio, hoping I can like the gift I have been given. Trying my best to make lemonade of lemons.

There Are No Fireflies in Wyoming

In the book, the family crossed Wyoming, and stopped to camp one night and caught fireflies. The author could not have known… It was obvious she had never been here, or if she had, she had not noticed that one thing. Because Wyoming has no fireflies. Plenty of mosquitoes… none of which have lights on the end. Of course, if you grew up where fireflies were a common thing, you might never realize that someplace else did not have them!

It is details like that which only those who DO know will notice. But when they do, you lose all credibility!

This is pretty important if you write for a living. But I think there is a broader application also. We often make assumptions based on our own background and experience, and never realize that they may not be accurate for other situations.

We may make assumptions that are incorrect in client negotiations, in assessing an unfamiliar target market, or in networking situations. They can be embarrassing, or even disastrous for our business.

Sometimes we make those assumptions about our own skills or expertise, due to lack of experience, and end up muffing the job. That is REALLY embarrassing.

The most important thing that experience teaches us in this regard, is to not assume things, to research more carefully, so we don’t try to catch fireflies in Wyoming.

Why Would ANYONE Judge VALUE Based on Hourly Pricing Alone?

About a week ago an overseas outsourcing company contacted me through a venue that I frequent. Since I was looking for a coder for a specific database conversion project, I asked them for a quote – they had told me that it could be done for $10 per hour. I send them the two databases, along with instructions about what needed to be done. I knew it would take me about 5-6 hours to do it. It was not work I liked doing, so I was interested in outsourcing it.

Their quote came back for 24 hours of work, at $360. Hmmm. That isn’t $10 per hour…. And it is more than triple the maximum amount of time that I’d allote to the project.

I then contacted a regional coder – she charges $85 per hour. Ouch! That is a LOT compared to $10 per hour! Or even $15!

But, she could do the work in 2-3 hours. Hmmm…. $170 to $255, instead of $360! Which one is the real bargain? Especially when you consider language, cultural, time zone, and legal recourse limitations.

Even when you are comparing local with local, hourly rates are just NOT a reasonable basis of comparison. The best way to judge, is to ask for a list of included services, and a flat rate, or at least a firm estimate. Any experienced professional can give that, and a newbie can still offer reasonable guarantees that it won’t go over a certain amount.

Often, higher hourly rates pay for the following:

1. Reduced legal recourse risk. It is easier to recover from people who are within the same country as you, or who are in a country that has reciprocal agreements with your country.

2. Easier communication – time zones, language and cultural differences, or inexperience on the part of the technician in communicating with clients can all cause communication barriers, which equate to lost time or poorly done work.

3. Better tools – Better tools mean better quality output, and faster work speeds. The right tools can shave hours off many kinds of tasks, so hourly rates become meaningless when you are trying to compare the cost of one service that is done manually, and one that is done with better tools to do it more efficiently.

4. More experience – this means both faster output speeds, AND better quality. But it also means that an experienced professional has knowledge of “gotchas” that might bite you if you work with someone who is less experienced. For example, in our industry, there are certain things that municipalities or non-profits of certain types have to do with their sites, or which they cannot do on their sites, which are different than the standards required by small businesses. Experience protects those entities from potential lawsuits.

5. More Accurate Applicable Charges – One company may charge for research time, if they lack experience in a certain area, another may not. One company may charge for negotiation time, another may not.

6. Less Lost Time – Higher quality and accuracy can be worth paying a higher hourly rate for, because it saves you in the long run. If a lower hourly rate means work has to be redone, it costs you even if you don’t have to pay for it directly.

7. Attention to Different Kinds of Details – Often higher hourly rates are charged for higher risk projects because there are more details to attend to. Simple projects do not require this, but complex ones may. Often, as a business grows, so do their risks, so a service level that was appropriate for a startup may not be appropriate for a larger faster growing business. Higher risks almost always mean higher hourly rates, but they also result in more protection for the client.

There are MANY good companies who charge low rates. There are MANY new businseses and service providers who can do a very good job at a fair price. This is not in any way a condemnation of lower priced companies.

Rather, it is an encouragement to actually compare the REAL price, and the REAL VALUE rather than making a knee-jerk reaction based on the appearance of price, by using a number which is actually meaningless.

It would be like saying “A car that gets 35 MPG is better than a car that gets 12 MPG” without comparing anything else, like the reliability of the car, the size, the intended purpose, or even the side the steering wheel was located on!

Judge price and value based on factors that really matter, and you’ll find that what appears to be the lower price, often isn’t!

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.