A Little Bit Western


Pretty Paper

Feb 24, 2015

When I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. I knew that I wanted to do other things too, but early on I knew that I enjoyed working with cattle, making hay, marketing products, and analysing the weather, all things that I thought would be important for operating a ranch. I did, however, miss the memo regarding how much paperwork and administration that would be involved with farming. I’ve had off-farm jobs in sectors well-known for red tape, paperwork and excessive form-filling, yet not one of those jobs has ever come close to the filing, recording and notation required with running our ranch.

For any farmer and rancher reading this, I’m preaching to the choir here, but if you’re not involved in primary production, the amount of administration and paper-pushing that is required to be a rancher these days might come as a bit of a surprise. The voluminous paperwork really seems to mount at this time of year too. There are bull sale catalogs, contracts and agreements, maps, manifests, forms, registrations, equipment manuals, calving data books, financial records, feed inventories, licenses, statements of net worth, design blueprints, warranties, and advertising to keep track of. Then we have pedigrees…oh the pedigrees. There are dog pedigrees, horse papers, and of course cattle registration certificates for any and all registered animals who currently or have ever called our place home. I’ve dabbled with international paperwork, importing and exporting goods and services like animals and tractors, and possess a filing cabinet full of forms and documents to show for it. I haven’t even brought up the day-to-day book-keeping, bill-paying, invoicing and tax documents that all folks and businesses have.

I would be remiss in this paper discussion if I didn’t include my treasured tape calculator and the pretty ribbons of curled paper that it produces. This handy calculator has assisted me over the years, both on and off the farm, in navigating the murky waters of tax preparation, government paperwork, and dozens of non-profit funding proposals and reports. There is a direct correlation to the length of my calculator tape and the amount of midnight oil I have burned.

Our personal papers add to the fray, and the fact that I’m kind of nerdy doesn’t help my cause. We have a lot of books in our house, including reference books, children’s books and the odd piece of fiction. We also subscribe to many newspapers and agricultural publications and my beloved Rangeland magazine. The very newspaper in which you are reading this column enables the paper pervading my life. And all of these previously mentioned papers combined can only amount to a mere fraction when compared with the depth and breadth of children’s drawings that have accumulated in our home.

Not all of our ranch work involves paper I will admit, and society’s quest to become ‘paperless’ has had an impact. We use our ranch web-site, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts to connect with potential customers and consumers, and if I can pay a bill on-line, I certainly will do that instead of sending a cheque away in the mail.  But time and again, I’ve learned from many wise people that a tiny piece of paper hoarded away can come to the rescue and confirm a detail or prove a fact. Paper does indeed have a place.

I’m not sure I’ll see a reduction in paperwork in my near future, either in work or in play. Perhaps it would be wise to put pen to paper once again, and plan out where to plant a few pretty trees so I can do the right thing and replace all the ones I’ve killed.

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