Fall Sunset

Fall Sunset

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

For Want of a Nail ...

Go to the Case parts counter.
Do not run into the library.
Do not go into Smith's Market.
Do not pass "Go!"
Do not collect $200. (In reality, leave some money behind. "Would you like to put that on your Case charge account?")
Come right back to the farm shop.

In the last few weeks, I've had plenty of time to think as I've run to Hutchinson or Pratt or Partridge for parts or seed wheat or some other last-minute errand or contemplated the futility of another trip to Sylvia to coax cattle back to their pasture yet again.

And a quote by Benjamin Franklin came to mind. I couldn't remember it exactly, so I Googled it (of course):

For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For the want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For the want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The same could be said of $20 bolts: For want of a $20 bolt, the multi-thousand-dollar combine was immobile ... until said bolt was duly installed.
It's true for $20 bolts. But most of all, it's true for people.

Sometimes, we may not see our significance. We aren't a big name on a corporate letterhead. There's no gold-plated nameplate on a desk. There may not even be a desk. You may do what you do without a paycheck. Our own agenda may be superseded by a more pressing need.
The welcoming committee: Bulls butting heads.
Sometimes, we "butt heads" when we're more concerned about our own importance than our role as team players.

We're just "a cog in the machine," which is, by definition, "someone who has only a small role in a company or institution, someone who is insignificant."

It's easy to take things for granted. We enjoy Oktoberfest and don't thank the people who went to committee meetings for a year so the rest of us could enjoy a small-town festival. We complain to our city leaders or our school board members instead of appreciating their sense of civic pride and the time they spend to make our communities better. The list is endless for people who serve quietly and without fanfare.
But that $20 bolt should remind me that even the smallest thing has a great deal of significance. In reality, if a cog doesn't work correctly, the entire machine may fail. (Our combine and tractors remind me of this continually.)

A few years ago during a Bible study, someone used the redwoods as an illustration for living life in community.
Muir Woods, California
Most trees have a root system that grows deep into the earth to anchor the tree and feed it. That's not how redwoods grow. Instead, they integrate their roots with other redwoods close to the top of the earth. This integration, or intertwining, of roots helps all the redwood trees stay together and live a long and healthy life. 
Sunlight through the redwoods, Muir Woods, California
I've only seen the redwoods once in my life on a trip to the Muir Woods near San Francisco, and they definitely made an impression. But I have symbols of this interdependency just down the road. Randy should get done planting our 2020 wheat crop this week. When you think about it, wheat is a pretty amazing plant, too.
You plant a kernel of wheat. And through a process called tillering, that one kernel becomes many. "Tillering" refers to the production of side shoots, enabling that original, initial, single seedling to produce multiple stems or tillers. When the right amount of moisture, nutrients and light come together, that single kernel of wheat produces a bountiful harvest.
Too often in our busy lives, we forget the importance of our small contributions. But, in reality, our small part may be the thing that keeps the whole "machine" we call life moving ahead.
We, too, need to bloom where we're planted. We, like wheat, can "tiller" and branch out to make a difference.
 Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12, NIV
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Even though we sometimes forget it when we're feeling insignificant, being a "cog in the wheel" or that $20 bolt that helps the whole machine run is pretty valuable after all.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Life Lessons from Golf

Note: This was an expedition back at the end of August. I wrote it awhile ago but never posted it. Still, I want it in our blog book, so I'm posting it on this blustery day when the weather does not suggest a leisurely golf game at all. It's my usual sense of impeccable timing.

Jill's and Eric's pastor from back when they lived in Omaha had this to say on his DailyCraig post on Facebook recently:

Golf is a lot like life.
1. It’s best done with others.
2. You get good and bad breaks. Deal with it.
3. You don’t have to win to enjoy it.
4. Your most important shot is the next one.
5. Perfection isn’t possible.

 Craig Finnestad, Water's Edge UMC, Omaha, NE

No. 5 was my sticking point back when I was attempting to learn the sport. I know I'm not going to be perfect at anything, but I really hate being bad at "stuff," including golf. One of the fundamentals of golf seems to be that you have to keep trying until you get better. I obviously wasn't patient enough for that. However, while playing golf is not for me, I do enjoy going along for the ride. (See Rule 1.)
"Painting" setting on my camera
At the end of August, after a rain kept us out of the field, that ride took us to Sand Creek Station in Newton. Randy has golfed there several times before and was anxious to share the unusual course with me.
This time, the "ride" seemed to include a caboose. In reality, we couldn't really ride the rails on this historic train car. But Randy couldn't resist climbing up for a closer look. And he wanted me to send a photo to the kids of him swinging his club from the caboose. I think it also got shown to his in-town breakfast buddies.
While the caboose is firmly ensconced in the parking lot, there are plenty of trains that rumble near the 18-hole course. Newton is a railroad hub, and it's evident with the frequent bump and rattle as trains ambled over the tracks. Don't they know that golfers insist on quiet for their golf swings? (I always roll my eyes a bit about that. As a basketball player (OK, basketball bench sitter), I was always told that you have to tune out crowd noise while shooting a free throw. Since I was lucky if I got into the game with 20 seconds or so to go, I didn't ever have to put that principle to work, so what do I know? But I always find pro golfer's insistence on total silence a little primadona-ish.
To get to Hole 1, you drive under the railroad tracks.
The caboose is visible from a few holes on the course and serves as a colorful backdrop.
While Randy enjoys golfing, I enjoy the scenery and the other "visitors" to the golf course ...
... like this heron ...
... and this cute guy.
But I also appreciate being able to sit in the shade of the golf cart and read my book. With an afternoon away from home, I don't have to feel guilty about reading when I should be writing or cleaning or doing laundry or any other more productive activity.
It's also fun to try and come up with new photo angles and ideas for photography shots, including playing with light and shadow.

One of my favorites that day was the pyramid of practice balls with a train in the background.
I should have taken a picture of the contraption the groundskeeper was using to build the pyramid (but alas, maybe another time).

Randy had a good golf game. I read more of a good book. (Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. I recommend it.) I captured some cool photos. As they used to say on the society pages of the weekly newspapers, "A good time was had by all!"

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hay! Here's an Conundrum for You!

It's kind of an oxymoron: We raise alfalfa, so you'd think that going to a hay sale to purchase, rather than sell, is counterintuitive.

However, that's just where we found ourselves a couple of weeks ago.  I went with Randy to buy some small bales at the Central Livestock hay auction.
An old sign from 1945 at Central Livestock
Most Tuesdays throughout the summer, the hay auction takes place outside the South Hutchinson sale barn before the sale ring opens for cattle later in the morning.
We got there early to look over the selection brought to the auction by those who had bales to sell. 

So why would we need to buy hay when we raise hay? In fact, we grow alfalfa and sudan, both of which we bind up in big round bales and feed to our cattle. Randy was bidding on small square bales of hay to use as "bait hay." (That's an oxymoron, too: The "square" bales are actually rectangular. Hmmm - That's what they're called anyway.)
The small bales come in handy for my role in calling cattle into the corrals to bring them home from summer pastures or to entice them to change locations during the winter. It's a little tough to toss those 1,500-pound big round bales, don't you think? A 60-pound bale works better. (And let's get real: I'm not tossing the whole bale myself either. I end up pulling chunks from the bale for enticement purposes.)
Who knew there'd be such a crowd? There were preschoolers there with their Daddies and plaid-shirted farmers. There were cowboy hats and seed company caps. The variety didn't end with the people. There was brome hay. There was alfalfa. There was millet hay. There were small bales, big square bales and a couple of big round bales.
I may sometimes toss some hay into the air for calling the cattle, but I leave the whole bale tossing to my favorite farmer. He's been doing that since junior high days. Growing alfalfa has always been part of the crop rotation for Randy's family.
Back when Randy was a child, they used a sickle mower which laid the hay flat. Then, they would rake the hay. Since they didn't own a baler, a neighbor would bale it into square bales. Then, Randy, his brother and dad would pick up the hay from the field. 
These days, he isn't bucking bales in a whole field. As auction bidder No. 835, he raised his hand and purchased two different piles of alfalfa hay, totaling 34 bales. 
Besides looking for quality hay, he chose a couple of piles closest to the driveway for easier loading. Always thinking, my farmer! I'm always thinking, too. I occupied myself with paying for the hay and then taking photos. I could say I forgot my gloves. But, honestly, Randy didn't ask me to help and I didn't volunteer.
Once we got home, he reversed the process and unloaded the hay in a storage shed. A couple of kittens who'd been hiding out in the few remaining bales of hay we purchased a couple of years ago had to be momentarily relocated to the wheelbarrow.
The kittens were returned to their hay "condominium."
 However, the mother didn't like the human interference and moved them.

Our neighbor borrowed a few bales for a homecoming float. And now we're ready for those cattle-gathering expeditions this fall. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Bob Dole's Chauffeur

I was Bob Dole's chauffeur on Tuesday.

Before anyone thinks I've suddenly begun Ubering former presidential candidates in my spare time, I should probably confess that the Bob Dole I was carting around was actually 50 bags of Bob Dole seed wheat.
I made a couple of trips to Miller Seed Farm on Tuesday. Bob Dole was my first passenger. On the second trip, I picked up 50 bags of Zenda seed wheat.
Randy started planting wheat on September 25.
There are four zones of ideal planting in Kansas. Romulo Lollato, K-State Extension wheat specialist, has done research and concluded that sowing date plays a major role in crop yields. Planting after recommended dates can mean a whopping decrease in yields of up to 3.5 bushels an acre per day.
  • Zone 1: Sept. 10-30
  • Zone 2: Sept. 15 to Oct. 20
  • Zone 3: Sept. 25 to Oct. 20
  • Zone 4: Oct. 5-25
Since we live in Zone 3, our start date falls within the recommendation.
Randy saved two varieties of wheat during our 2019 harvest - Larry and Zenda - and that is the wheat we started drilling this fall.  We binned some of the wheat as we were harvesting this summer in our on-farm storage. Later, we took the retained wheat to Miller Seed Farm for cleaning and seed treatment.
It went back in our home bins until we were ready to plant. It is augered out of the truck into the drill boxes. The wheat we save at harvest can only be used by our farm.
This year, we are planting 1,575 acres to wheat which will be harvested in 2020 (if all goes as planned).

This is the first time we've "invited" Bob Dole to our farm. It's a new wheat variety developed by Kansas State University and released in a public-private partnership between Syngenta and Kansas wheat farmers through the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Wheat Alliance. The hard red winter wheat variety, which is distributed by Agri-Pro, was first introduced in Kansas during the 2018 season.

We always plant seed wheat in fields closer to the on-farm storage bins. Before Randy puts the bagged seed wheat in the drill, he cleans out the other seed. He starts baling it out with an old coffee can and ends up using a shop vacuum to get the rest.
While Randy planted the Bob Dole wheat, I went back to Miller Seed Farm for our other seed wheat variety - Zenda. It was released in 2017 by the Kansas Wheat Alliance.
 New varieties of wheat are developed in efforts to resist disease and improve yields.
About the time Randy got done loading the Zenda into the drill, it began raining.We've gotten about 0.60" in the past couple of days, so wheat planting is shut down for the time being.
The newly-emerging wheat that was put in the ground a week ago is loving this moisture.