Are family businesses a good thing?

(part one of two posts)

My father Jay at work.

My father Jay at work.


For years, we’ve been advertising how Lehman’s was family-owned. We boast about how my father, Jay (at age 80) still comes to work every day. Of course, Dad readily admits to only working about three hours a day. We like to joke that this is one of the privileges that comes with 50 years of seniority!

Why do we advertise our family ownership? One of my Facebook Friends said it best.

jane lehman“I always prefer a family business to a chain.  Typically they provide better service and better knowledge of their products.” (http://www.facebook.com/jane.g.lehman)

OK, I admit that Jane is a Lehman. Possibly the fact that she’s my cousin makes her a little biased. But that doesn’t change what we believe is true: We think that the folks who work in a family business take better care of their customers. We would like to think that family businesses are more stable, longer lasting and more flexible.

However, I realized in a panic last week that some people might not agree with that. Continue reading

Thanksgiving?

Socks again?
It’s happened to all of us. You unwrap a gift from a loved one and it’s about as far off the mark as it could be. (Hopefully this has never happened when it was a gift purchased at Lehman’s!)

How can you thank someone for a gift you didn’t want and don’t like? You don’t have the emotion required to give your words meaning, and you can’t fake it with a loved one.

Now imagine the other extreme. Your doorbell rings late at night and it’s a stranger returning your 16-year-old safely home after what could have been a deadly car accident.

Take it a step further and imagine that this Good Samaritan pulled your child from a burning car. How can you thank them enough? The emotions are so huge, so powerful Continue reading

Nature’s Flu Fighters

United Feature Syndicate

MARYJANE’S EVERYDAY ORGANIC87547695

Along with all of the wonders of the upcoming winter season comes the inevitable flu. Despite our best attempts to stay busy baking and planning celebrations, pesky cold and flu viruses often creep into our lives and put a damper on our plans. It usually starts with the sniffles, which shouldn’t be enough to waylay any party plans, but headaches, coughs and fevers can knock us down for the count. With characteristic can-do spirit, an old-fashioned farmgirl will likely face the flu with homemade chicken soup, hot tea and plenty of rest. She’ll try fresh air. She may even improvise her own neti pot using a repurposed dish-soap bottle — anything to avoid a trip to the doctor and the requisite dose of prescription pills. Continue reading

The Joy of Composting Toilets

The farm I live on, World Hunger Relief, Inc. in Waco, Texas, uses composting toilets rather than flushing toilets.  I had heard about them before I came and thought it was just a quirky thing that they did, having a toilet that didn’t require plumbing, but I quickly realized upon my arrival that every toilet in common use on the property uses sawdust instead of water.

I remember my first tour of the place—I arrived at night and was given a quick tour of the dorm by Melody.  We walked into the bathroom, with two sinks and a small shower and a teal-colored door in the back.  Melody worked up a bit of theatrics for us:  “And this,” she said as she opened the door, revealing a teal staircase with teal walls leading up to a bench with a toilet lid on it, “is the throne.” Continue reading

Cotton: The Everyday Fabric for Centuries

We come across cotton everyday in our homes, at the stores and ev87796576en at work. Our lives are intertwined with this fiber and most of us never think twice about it. What most people don’t know is that there are many different kinds of cotton. Cotton is grown all over the world and is a part of everyday life.

Scientists exploring in Mexico first found bits of cotton bolls and cotton cloth, in Mexican caves, that were aged at least 7,000 years old. The cotton itself was found to be much like the cotton that is grown in America today. Cotton was being grown, spun, and woven into cloth in Pakistan in 3,000 years BC. Around this time natives of the Nile valley in Egypt were making and wearing cotton clothing. In about 800 AD, Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe. Columbus found cotton growing in the Bahamas Islands when he traveled to the Americas. Continue reading

Watermelon Pickle Recipe (with cucumber amendments)

I love watermelon pickles.  My biggest goal of the summer is to coll87789287ect the best watermelon rinds that I can and make them into yummy, luscious sweet pickles to soothe my soul in the wintertime.

However, it seems to me that the watermelons these days are bred to have skinny rinds and there is NO rind left of any decent sort to make into pickles.  A shame!  A travesty!  How can we have those delicious pickles if there are no rinds to use?  I managed to get a total of three (count them, THREE) pints of pickles last year and they were a sorry sight to see, skinny little pickles, ashamed to show their heads against the fat ones in the past. Continue reading

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My economic benchmarks

Recently, MMA (a banking services and insurance provider associated with the Mennonite church) asked me to speak with some of their investors about how to read the economy. If you follow my Facebook or Twitter accounts, you already know I’m an amateur economist. Apparently, someone at MMA wondered where I was getting my ideas and decided to call me in to see if I knew what I was talking about. Do I know? Here’s what I told them. You can judge for yourself.

I believe there are two broad forces driving our economy, manufacturing and consumer demand. Let’s talk about how to measure what is happening in manufacturing, first.

A key measure of manufacturing strength is “Capacity Utilization.” It measures how much of our manufacturing capacity is actively being used. It normally falls in the range of 80% to 85%. It’s currently at 67.5%

We have very little demand for manufactured goods.

We have very little demand for manufactured goods.

Manufacturing? It’s as bad as it’s ever been since the 1960’s. Take a close look at the raw data on the Federal Reserve website. It’s too early to tell, but Continue reading

The White Stuff

SNOW! It’s SNOWING outside our windows here at Lehman’s (in northeast Ohio). Ok, ok, we realize many of you have already SEEN the white stuff this fall, but we were caught offguard this morning. Brrr…it’s chilly out, too. Time to fire up the wood stoves!

The scene outside our office window this morning - can you see the flakes?

The scene outside our office window this morning - can you see the flakes?

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Planning a Fruit Garden – Fall is a great time to start!

The crisp fall weather is an ideal time to start planning the additiongrapes of a fruit garden.  You do not need a large plot of land – a sunny area 100×100 feet is more than room enough.
Fruit trees can provide both flower power and fresh fruit.  Berry plants and brambles produce sweet, juicy and delicious fruit from spring to early fall.

The hardest part can be to understand where to start. Continue reading