Winter Sunrise

Winter Sunrise

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A Decade Later: A Blog Anniversary

Sunset, January 18, 2020
Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. have been everywhere this week - from internet memes to television broadcasts. One that arrived via my daily email devotional from Guideposts resonated with me:
 
If I cannot do great things,
 I can do small things in a great way.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Class Prophecy for Skyline High School's Class of 1975 predicted I'd be a writer at The New York Times by now. Since I'm a small-town girl through and through, I never bought into the vision some creative classmate penned 45 years ago.

At the time, I suppose we all envisioned that success was measured far, far away from the plains of Kansas. But maybe our 17- and 18-year-old selves were a little short-sighted. (Imagine that.)
Sunset, January 18, 2020
Even with the supposed wisdom that comes in living 60-plus years, I can still get caught up in measuring success by measuring numbers or by comparing myself to others. And it doesn't take long to figure that I don't add up. No, we don't have the biggest, most modern house. No, we don't farm as much as that person. No, I'm not the Kansas farm wife version of a super model. No, I don't have legions of blog readers or a line of cookware so those blog readers can adore me even more and clutter their kitchen cabinets with "my" cookware.

As I read Martin Luther King's words, a song we used to sing in the basement of the Byers United Methodist Church popped into my head. I hadn't thought of "Brighten the Corner Where You Are" for years, and I doubt I'd actually sung it since I'd belted it out from the yellow children's chairs lined up by the out-of-tune upright piano in the church basement. Even so, I remembered the words of the chorus, and when I found Burl Ives' version on YouTube, I remembered some of the verses, too:
Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,
Do not wait to shed your light afar,
To the many duties ever near you now be true,
Brighten the corner where you are.
Brighten the corner where you are!
Brighten the corner where you are!
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;
Brighten the corner where you are!

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,
Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;
Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,
Brighten the corner where you are ...

Songwriters: Robert Lee Black / Charles Hutchison Gabriel / Ina Duley Ogdon / R Price
Brighten the Corner Where You Are lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
 

This week, I celebrate my 10th blog anniversary. I first clicked "publish" on Blogger on January 24, 2010. Today was my 1,873rd blog post.

If I were doing this for the numbers, I'd have quit a long time ago.

But for the past 10 years, Kim's County Line has helped me track our lives on a five-generation Central Kansas farm. Having this avenue to collect words and photos has helped me to connect with our  heritage and this life in a new way. It's helped me pay attention. I've approached telling our story like the reporter I am. I take notes. I ask more questions. I want my farmer's "farm speak" translated in a way that makes sense to me so I can share it with others.
So often, we overlook the things that we see every day. It's like we're living life at 60 miles an hour, flying by familiar places and people, thinking we already know everything there is to know about these ordinary things that make up our lives and livelihoods.
Taken earlier this week
Even the most mundane, everyday things can cause us to pause in wonder. It may be something as simple as the morning light and a lacy curtain creating momentary art. The blog has given me the eyes to see how small, simple things are really the most important things of all. It's part of how I try to "brighten the corner" where I am.
 
Each quarter, I've compiled my blog posts into hardcover blog books. I got my latest one just yesterday, and I struggled to cram yet another volume into an already overflowing cabinet. But, for now, I will continue to write. I'll continue to tell the stories. And I want to thank those of you who come along for the journey - whether it's every time I post or whether you just take an occasional jaunt down the County Line.

It's my blogiversary, but to celebrate, one person will get a gift from me ...
  • a selection of my photo notecards, or ...
 
  •  a copy of "Count on It! Adventures from a Kansas Farm" my rhyming, farm-themed counting book, ...
  • OR a revamped version of my farm alphabet book
To qualify, either comment about this blog post in the comment section of the blog or on my Facebook page, Kim Moore Fritzemeier. Or, if you have trouble with either of those avenues, you may email me at rkjbfarms@gmail.com. The winner will be chosen at random from the commenters. Enter your comment by January 31 for a chance to win.

Again, I thank you!


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Cheeseburger Soup

Cold day + hot soup = Winning lunch (or supper).

Two of my friends - Barb and Julie - served a Cheeseburger Soup at a Bible study at church before Christmas, and it got rave reviews. I asked for the recipe, but with the hectic pace of the holidays, I hadn't yet given it a try myself. With freezing rain in the forecast last week, I decided it would hit the spot after a morning of feeding and watering calves in the cold. With snow a possibility again today, it's good we still have leftovers.

I made some changes to how the original recipe was constructed. In addition, the recipe called for shredded carrots, but I just chopped them, since I prefer chunky soup. It also lists shredded Velveeta cheese. They do have shredded Velveeta in the dairy case these days, but I just used a portion of the block of Velveeta and chopped it instead. It may have taken a few more stirs to get it melted, but the warm milk mixture did its part quickly.

It was just as good as I remembered. And Randy thought it was mighty tasty, too. It will be making repeat appearances in the rotation of soups we enjoy.

Enjoy!
Cheeseburger Soup
From my friend, Barb's kitchen
(adapted from Taste of Home)
1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots (I just chopped them, rather than shredded them)
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-3/4 pounds (about 4 cups) cubed peeled potatoes
3 cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole milk
2 to 4 cups shredded Velveeta
1/4 cup sour cream

Brown and crumble beef until no longer pink; drain well. Combine browned hamburger, chopped vegetables, chicken broth, dried basil and parsley, salt and pepper in a large stock pot.  Cook until veggies are tender, but not mushy.

In a separate skillet, melt butter. Stir in flour and combine well, making a roux, cooking about 2 minutes while stirring constantly so that it doesn't burn. Stir in milk and cook until smooth and thickened. Stir in cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat; add sour cream. Stir the cheese mixture into the stock pot and stir until well blended.

Serve with crackers, fresh veggies and fruit. Makes 2 1/4 quarts.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Winter Sky

Winter's sky is an old blue soul,
weaving dark clouds with wonder.
Angie Wieland-Crosby
A windmill just off 4th Street on my way home from Hutchinson
Watching the skies will be more than a hobby today. The weathermen are talking about freezing precipitation tonight.
Taken on the way home from Pratt one evening.
One of them even said the dreaded words, "It could affect power lines."
I vote "no" on that. I also hope none of the heifers decide that freezing rain is a good welcome for our first baby calves of the year.

As for me, I'll be wearing my long underwear for feeding today. Brrrr! The cold makes for beautiful blue winter skies, but the feed truck doesn't get very warm. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy likely conjures up images of the 1989 Academy Award winning movie.

We drive our share of "ladies" around here, too. However, we don't provide a nattily-dressed chauffeur in bowtie and livery cap. Sweatshirts and jeans are the uniform of choice. The hat Jessica Tandy was wearing as she relaxed in the back seat of her limo would not last long on a 4-wheeler. The pink suit would be rather unforgiving, too, following the business end of a cow on a dusty road.
And the driving is a whole different animal ... so to speak.
Cattle drive 
Noun
  1. The process of transporting a herd of bovine animals (such as bulls, cows or steers) by compelling them to walk across a significant distance of countryside under the escort of drovers on horseback and often over a period of days.
  2. A trail or route used for the movement of herds of cattle.
Well, driving our cattle may not fit every part of the Wikipedia definition. But we do "compel" them to walk from one location to another. Thankfully, our cattle drives don't last days and don't involve a significant distance. And, instead of cowboys on horseback, we opt for what Randy calls our Japanese horses - our 4-wheelers.
We have spent a couple of recent afternoons moving cattle off milo and sudan stalks and into pastures or corrals. It's almost calving time on The County Line, and it's easier to have said bovines in a more contained area.
The first challenge is urging the cattle to cross the line where the electric fence has been. During their time munching on stalks, they've gotten used to the boundaries and they know that the electric fence can provide a little bit of a shock if they touch it.
A little bait hay eventually entices them to cross the old barrier. One of my jobs was tossing the hay up into the air in an effort to get the cattle moving toward me and the fence we'd let down.
Mission accomplished!
Then it's a matter of getting them to move in the right direction.
Sometimes, they want to stop for a bite to eat from the wheat fields.
But some "hey, hey, heying" and a push from behind with the 4-wheelers usually gets them moving again.
Once on the road, we try to keep them from mingling with our neighbor's cattle or having an excursion into a shelter belt.
There are always some that lag behind. (Believe me, I get it. I'm not ever going to be the first one to cross a finish line either!)
Others are more like "Eat my dust!"
Well, I'd rather not. Thanks anyway.

We moved the final group last Thursday. It was a beautiful day. I was worried when they went through a gate before getting to the pasture.
But while I blocked the road, the guys urged them on, and they ended up playing follow-the-leader into the pasture south of our house. Well done, ladies!

After we finished our drive time, we had to separate some cows and heifers that had mingled together earlier this fall.
 
The heifers actually did get a little real "drive time" with a chauffeured trip to the corral right by our house. Since heifers - first-time mamas - require more frequent checks in the "maternity ward," it's handier to have them right by the house.
The heifers are scheduled to start calving the last week of January.
Most of the cattle have access to water generated at the corrals. However, we still have to haul water to one location.
Feeding hay and silage are also part of the winter cattle chores. The feeder calves are always glad to see me arrive in the feed truck.


Hopefully, I'll be sharing cute baby photos soon.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Sold! Home-Raised, Home-Grown, Homespun

"Look at these here, boys: They are home-raised, home-grown, homespun."

We collected a paycheck for our "home-raised, home-grown, homespun" feeder calves a little earlier than usual when we sold 73 of them at Pratt Livestock on December 19.

Because our supply of silage was dwindling, Randy decided to sell the calves in December, rather than our usual January or February. (We sold February 7 last year.) Just what I needed: More to do in December, along with the Christmas rush. But ... such is life.

That move to the auction block is only a small portion of the journey that epitomizes that "home-raised, home-grown, homespun" slogan.
 
The first one born was this little guy, who got the first ear tag of the year - 900. (The first number on the eartag tells us when the baby was born - in this case, 2019.)
 
He wasn't the only cutie, of course.
 
 They warmed up on cold winter days with their own personal milk machines - aka their moms.
On our wedding anniversary in March 2019, we worked baby calves for the third day in a row, giving them vaccinations and eartags. The boy calves were also transitioned from bulls to steers.
This eartag caught my eye, since it was our 38th anniversary.
 
 In May, the calves traveled via trailer with their mamas to summer pastures.
This group arrived at the Big Pasture, which has been in Randy's family for more than 100 years. While there is definitely less work with cattle when they are on pasture, this year provided its own set of challenges with five pair that would not stay in, no matter what we did.
We lost track of the number of trips we made on 4-wheelers to bring them back to the pasture. As Randy says, we toured some shelterbelts and back roads that we'd never experienced before.
In early November, on a frosty morning, we gathered the cattle from the the Ninnescah pasture and brought them back home.
On another day, Randy and his cousin Don (along with some other excellent help, if I do say so myself), gathered cattle from the Big Pasture and we transported them home.

After they arrived home from the pastures, they were weaned from their moms. Like wellness checks for humans, the calves had a doctor's appointment, too. Dr. Figger gave them another round of vaccinations. 
My stint with the feed truck began in earnest.
In December, with feed supplies dwindling, Randy was ready to sell.
After getting them in the corrals, we sorted out the 25 heifers we planned to keep. They will become mothers in our herd for the first time in 2021.
There are no pictures from sorting because I had plenty of other things to do. The following day, the semi arrived to transport the 73 calves to the sale barn.
Though we have two farm-sized cattle trailers, it would take several trips to get all the cattle to the sale barn. So we hired Darrel Harner Trucking to do our hauling to market.
The semi is divided into different compartments, which can hold anywhere from six head to 25 head of cattle. Darrel told us how many calves he wanted at a time to load the semi, and we sent them on their way.
It's always a good feeling to watch the semi leave the farmstead ...
... and then watch it arrive in Pratt at the sale barn.
As we watched the calves unload, I noticed our shadows. This journey requires a lot of teamwork from start to finish.
The calves stayed overnight so they were ready for the sale the next day.
Randy says sale day is always a highlight for him, a culmination of a season of work. He had hoped the calves would weigh 600 pounds apiece, but they weren't quite that big. While the price wasn't quite as good as last year, he was pleased enough with the paycheck.
The cattle work didn't end. We are still feeding the 25 sisters left behind at home. Randy is hauling hay and water to the expectant mothers. Today, with the cow's due dates fast approaching, we are driving one group of cattle off stalks and into a pasture. We are sorting another group that got mingled together earlier this winter.

The 2020 maternity ward is only a couple of weeks away. And the whole process will begin again. (I'm hoping for no repeat of the summertime escapees in 2020.)