New Day Dawning

New Day Dawning

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ice Breaker

"Now it's time for an ice breaker!" Usually the words are uttered by a perky individual at the front of a meeting room. About that time, my heart starts beating a little faster, my throat gets dry and I surreptitiously scan the room for the closest exit.

I'm not wild about playing games among family and friends. Put me in a room full of strangers, and "ice breaker" is akin to torture.
This photo was taken on Sunday. The bulk of them were taken on Monday.
This week, "ice breaker" took on a whole different meaning. After our weekend ice storm, the temperatures started warming. As the thermometer went up, the ice on the trees around the house started falling down onto the roof, sounding like artillery rounds. After reading about a massive tree limb going through a roof in Hutchinson, I figured we were in the middle of a combat zone.

The ice caused cancellations and reshuffled schedules. It made feeding cattle a more time-consuming job. It did a lousy job trimming trees. And it is still causing power outages across the state, though we were fortunate this time around. This "ice breaker" was about as fun as one of those meeting types I dread.
But it also created undeniable beauty. When I saw this ice-coated "3" in the weeds, I thought about the Count on Sesame Street.
Use a little imagination, and this icy weed looks ready for Valentine's Day. 
The red berries looked like holdovers from Christmas decorations. 
 This one looked like it could form lace on a dress or a necklace dripping with diamonds. 
The ice and the overcast day made everything monochromatic (though I helped this one along by making it black and white.)
After checking the bulls, I asked Randy if we could stop at the Peace Creek Cemetery to wrap up my morning-long photo foray.
I had been seeing ice-encased farm fences all morning, but this one was unique - the delicate ice contrasted against the rough brick wall. 
One of the finials on a gravestone had a little extra decoration.
These little angels provided a fitting reminder to the morning: It's good to find the joy, even when conditions are less than perfect.
That's an ice breaker that always applies.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Ice Capades

When I was in grade school, we took a vacation to Colorado. While there, our parents treated us to an evening at the Ice Capades.
The silo is barely discernible through the icy fence.
For weeks afterwards, we girls twirled and swirled throughout our days. The living room became an ice rink. The hallway was transformed into a small venue, and we used the mirror as our imaginary camera, smiling broadly for our imagined adoring crowd. Socks on the marble entryway was the closest thing we had to fulfilling our skating fantasies, its slick surface a conveyance for our imaginary Ice Capades sequined costumes and glittery headgear. We thought we were so graceful as we dipped and swayed in our fictional shows.
We had our own version of the Ice Capades this week in Kansas. But now that I am old and wise, I know that I don't have a graceful bone in my body. My goal for the past couple of days was to remain upright. There was no twirling, unless it was a little dance for balance when my feet slipped on the icy ground.
The guys didn't have the option of whether they were going out in the icy mess. The cows needed to eat, so there was no "snow day" in the work schedule - and no "ice day" either. I decided to go along for the ride.
These two soon-to-be mamas wondered what I was doing as I crouched down for an icy camera shot through the fence.
They were interested in me until the tractor came.
I used the icy barbed wire fence as a photo frame as the guys fed bales of hay.
Then we went to the pasture, where Randy undid the net wrap from the hale bales ...
... while the cows patiently waited for breakfast ...
... before Ricky deposited the hay into the bale feeders. 
I  was surprised when a few icicles survived the tractor dumping the hay into the round bale feeder.
The cows didn't seem to care that they were having "iced hay" for breakfast.
We checked on the bulls in another pasture to make sure ice-laden trees hadn't fallen on the fence, giving them an escape route. All was well.
The solar panel that usually fills the water tank looked more like an ice sculpture than a functional piece of equipment, so we also checked the water level in the tank.
As the guys fed at another location, I wandered around and clicked the camera shutter.
I liked the contrast of the teardrop ice on the weeds and the rustic wooden fence post and rusty chain.
Even though the ice made the roads and corrals sloppy and slick, the moisture was cause for celebration. Our part of the state was on the drought map. By the time the rain, freezing rain and ice was done, we had accumulated 2.60" of rain in the gauge.
The moisture will be a boon to the winter wheat crop ...
... even though it looked like a slushy machine had exploded all over the fields.
Along with the beauty, there was plenty of destruction.
Our old trees look like they've gone through another war. For us, it wasn't as bad as the December 2007 ice storm, when we were without electricity for 12 days. We were without power only for a few hours. I know there are many others (including my parents and brother) who are still waiting for the power to be restored, so we are very thankful that we didn't even have to hook up the generator.
But there is still a lot of cleanup to do at home and to clear the way to get to the cattle at several locations.
As we listened to limbs cracking and ice hitting the roof, Randy was afraid that the branch holding our swing would fall.
While several other limbs from that tree fell to the ground, the swing is still there. It will be ready for Kinley and Brooke the next time they're at the farm!
More beauty shots from the ice storm in the next blog (I took 179 photos yesterday morning and some the day before, too. I promise I'm not showing all of them.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time

My sister, Lisa, and I share some reading time.
So many books, so little time.

I saw someone with that slogan emblazoned on their sweatshirt several years ago. It could be my theme song. You know the old TV show, Cheers? In the theme song, Cheers is a place "where everyone knows your name." I don't have any bars that fit that description, but the Hutchinson Public Library checkout desk personnel definitely know my name. I usually have books "on hold" there.

If I were independently wealthy, I might buy my favorite authors' books the minute they are published. But, alas, since I am not, I am a frequent flyer at my library.

These days, I'm not usually at the library on Sundays. But back in 1979 and 1980, I was there almost every Sunday afternoon. I was a reporter at The Hutchinson News back then, and I lived by myself in a one-bedroom apartment on 7th Street, just a couple blocks south of the library at 9th and Main.

Sundays were my loneliest day of the week. I missed going to church with my family and having Sunday dinner together. Though I got involved with a Sunday School class, sang in the choir and became part of the church family at Hutchinson's First United Methodist Church, Sunday afternoon stretched out in front of me. Most weeks, I'd head off to the library after lunch.
(me and Lisa in November 1959. Lisa always says I taught her to read. She was a year behind me in school, but she sat right beside me as I learned to read. By the time she was in first grade, she was an old pro.)
It almost seemed like my home away from home. I can't remember a time when I wasn't a library patron. My mom took us to the old library at the Pratt County Courthouse from the time we could toddle in on our own steam.
It was exciting when the new library was built in Pratt. There was a whole room of children's books where I discovered Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I still love mysteries and thrillers today, and I have to believe those days of uncovering clues with them had to have laid an early groundwork for this love affair that's lasted all of my life.

On Sunday, I read an article in The Wichita Eagle, encouraging parents to read at least 1,000 books to their child by the time he or she is ready for kindergarten. Ironically, I had a dozen children's books in the backseat of the car at the time! I'd spent the past week babysitting Kinley and Brooke. It's become my custom to stop at the Hutchinson Public Library and select books from their extensive children's department. I usually settle on 12, since it's easy to remember how many need to go back into my plastic library sack at the end of our time together. 
July 2016: Brooke reading "Count On It," the rhyming farm counting book I wrote and illustrated for Kinley & her.
This time, Brooke's favorite was "Encore for Eleanor." I brought it the last time, too, and they both liked it so much that I picked it up again. It has too many words for a 2 year old, but Brooke "reads" it with me the same way every time. During this trip, she showed her personality when she added a new fictional destination as Eleanor is trucked from her job at the circus to a zoo. Instead, Brooke insisted Eleanor was off to the "pizza place." Brooke would laugh, turn the page and show that Eleanor had arrived at the zoo instead.
Brooke reading to her baby: July 2016
Because the girls liked Bill Peet's Eleanor book so much, I also selected a couple more of his titles. Kinley liked the rhyming "Smokey" and "The Luckiest One of All." But Kinley's favorite this time was one I remember from childhood, "Katy No Pocket," which was published in 1961 and illustrated by H.A. Rey, who also drew the Curious George books. They also both loved "DW's Library Card," which talks about checking out books at the library.
Kinley in August 2014, reading Go, Dog, Go! to me. It was also a favorite of her Mommy's.
In the Wichita Eagle article, it says repeating books counts, too, since children love and learn through repetition. In the five days I was with them, I'm guessing we read the equivalent of 40 books (and I think I'm being conservative). When I linked the article to Facebook, their daddy reminded me that they read two books a night before bedtime, not counting books read during other times of the day, so 5-year-old Kinley reached the 1,000-book mark long ago (and honestly, I think Brooke probably has, too).
February 2016
I hope they'll remember those times reading with Grandma. One of my favorite childhood memories is  my mom reading the "Little House on the Prairie" books to us. One by one, she checked them out of the Pratt library and read the whole series, with all of us crowded together on the living room couch. Later, I read them again for myself - more than once.
(Darci, me and Lisa with our books:  I have no idea why Lisa and I are in our robes outside)

I carried on the reading and library tradition with Jill & Brent. Randy & I read to them long before they could actually comprehend the words. We visited both the Stafford and Hutchinson libraries and carted home armfuls of books. Both of them still love reading today.

If you're an adult looking for a reading challenge, Eagle reporter one book a month from a list of 12 categories, including a favorite book from childhood, a memoir, a book by a Kansas author or one set in Kansas, and a book with a blue cover.

As I was putting yet another book on hold on the Hutchinson Public Library's site, I clicked on a link that listed their 10 most popular books for checkout during 2016. Five of the top ten were children’s picture books, and another three were children's fiction books, making 7 of the top 10 children's literature. Even in this world of Kindles and tablets, people are still finding it valuable to nestle a child on a lap and open traditional books. That is good news indeed!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

All the King's Horses - Part III

All the king's horses
And all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again!

With apologies to Mother Goose, maybe they should have found a farmer.

As I wrote about before, the old barn at our farmstead served two families well. But, as the grand old lady was taking her final bows, Randy hired a local company to pull it down. Since the barn provided the lane for loading cattle into trailers, we needed a new method.
Randy sketched out a plan and ordered some new fencing and gates. He and Ricky worked on installing it, including some time welding some of the closures together. (No eyes were harmed in the photography of this blog post. From the time I was a little girl, my dad told me never to look at the welding spark. Randy reminded me again as I watched him.)
With my familiar landmarks gone, I am a little like a hiker on a cloudy day without a compass as I stand in the corral these days. But the new lane is now ready to use. 
Right now, the heifers are at this location, awaiting their debut as mamas. Their first babies will start arriving at the end of January.
We'll use some new gates - along with some old ones - to sort mamas and babies as needed into the calving shed or to separate pairs into different corrals. 
The old wooden gate was near the southeast corner of the barn.
You can see the wooden gate and its proximity to the barn in this 2014 photo.
The gate is still in service, but it certainly looks different without the mammoth barn beside it.
I'll be helping Randy back up the trailer to the lane, rather than the barn, as we've done for so many years.
Hopefully, Randy's plans will work as well in reality as they do on paper!
Cattle loading and the barn - April 2011