Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Being Short Is No Joke

Being short is no joke. Our 2015 wheat crop is "height-challenged," due to lack of moisture through the fall and winter.

And while we benefited from 3 inches to more than 8 inches of rain during the past few days, depending upon the location, the moisture likely won't make the crop a whole lot taller. The shorter crop means the combine header will have to stay closer to the ground, making it a little more difficult to harvest the crop when the time comes.

The rain came with some hail at one of our fields north of Stafford. Hail stripped part of the stalk, revealing the wheat heads in boot stage.
We must not have gotten hail on the west end of the same mile-long field. At that end, the head was still in the "boot," where Randy is pointing in the photo below.
Below, he used his fingernail to break the stalk and reveal the head. It won't be long before all the wheat will be heading out. 
The rains brought some relief to the state of Kansas, 93 percent of which has been classified in some form of drought. Some 70 percent of the state is listed in moderate to extreme drought.
As with most farmers in the South Central part of the state, we had enough moisture to get the wheat up after it was planted last fall.
Planting the 2015 wheat crop, September 2014
In fact, we had a nice 3.20 inch rain soon after planting, giving the crop a good beginning boost.
Early October 2014
However, we had very little snow or other moisture this winter, and the spring had been dry before the rains that fell, starting last Thursday.
“It’s definitely a million-dollar rain. Unfortunately, not everyone got it. One rain isn’t going to save the wheat crop. It is sure welcome, but this crop isn’t made yet.”
Kansas State University agronomist John Holman
in The Hutchinson News
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported last week that 28 percent of the state's wheat is in poor to very poor condition. The agency rates another 46 percent as fair and just 28 percent as good or excellent.

Time will tell.
We shall see.

Choose whichever worn-out axiom you'd like. But for now, we're thankful for the rain.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blessings: Rain and Family

Peace Creek, taken from the bridge.
The rain dance evidently worked.
The cow didn't have to go around to the gate to get a drink of water!
Last Thursday, we got 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge. Then, we got another 0.60" of rain on Saturday. You could practically hear our 2015 wheat crop and the pasture lands gulping it down. The rainfall amounts varied dramatically in our area.

On Saturday morning, I took this reflection photo as we turned north to go to the Rattlesnake Pasture. There - just 6 miles away from home - they'd gotten 5.30" of rain in the same time frame. In the center of the photo is a metal corner fencing unit that they hadn't gotten planted yet. The reflection of the fencing unit and the telephone poles caught my eye as we rounded the corner. And, yes, we backed up to get the photo. My farmer is a patient man.
Only 10 miles away or so rain gauges overflowed with 8 inches of rain during a 24-hour period. All that rain upstream had the Rattlesnake Creek flowing well on Saturday morning. That's good news, since we'll be moving cows and calves there to summer pasture in a couple of weeks. The rain will also help green up the pastures.
After a dry winter, we'd never turn down moisture. But, truth be told, we were very thankful for our more moderate rainfall total.
Our Ninnescah River pasture also got a boost from the rainfall.

The rain did halt 2015 corn planting in its tracks. Some cattle chores are on the agenda for the next couple of days. We'll be sorting and hauling cattle this morning and tomorrow morning. It will a messy job, but that's OK.

The rain sure helped the scenery ... and the mood.
The mood also varied in Topeka. I was there a few days last week, giving snuggles to a sick little girl. Thankfully, Brooke is feeling better now and getting closer and closer to figuring out how to crawl. (All those brains make her head heavy. That's Grandma's assessment anyway!) We're all hoping that spring brings fewer germs.
Kinley was excited for costume day at preschool.
Her Daddy reports she was not the only princess there. Imagine that!
It's always fun to spend time with my girls - and Micky and Minnie, of course. Somehow, that doesn't make the viewing list here on the County Line.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Curiosity and the Cattle

We all know what curiosity is said to do to cats. The cattle evidently haven't heard that cautionary tale. I know from experience that they are curious creatures, too.

I didn't really have time to spare on my way to a meeting. But the cattle lined up along the pasture fence caught my eye, so I had to stop. (Even though I backtracked from the corner after telling myself I should just go on, I made it on time!)

The cattle were watching Randy load alfalfa bales on the semi for a trip to a Dodge City feedlot. Randy's theory is that they were wishing he'd feed them those good alfalfa bales instead of the sudan ones that were in the feeder at that moment. 
But I know that they sometimes run to the fence to check out a passerby on a morning walk, too.
Whatever the reason, they made me smile. (Not getting the cattle and the tractor in the same photo frame didn't. Well, I got one, but it was blurry. That's what I get for hurrying!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Where's the Beef?

An old Wendy's commercial used to ask, "Where's the beef?"

My answer? "It's in my freezer."

Half a beef - 419 pounds' worth - is now packed into my downstairs chest freezer. It's been packaged as hamburger, roasts, steaks, ribs and brisket.

Additional beef went to our daughter's house in Topeka. (Brent is still working on his last installment of County Line beef.) It's also filling freezers for three other families.

No, it's not certified organic. It's not totally grass-fed. But I know exactly how the animal was cared for because I helped take care of it.

The story ends on a dinner plate.
This beef was star of the plate in a Farmer's Market Salad.
But it began in the winter of 2013. The two animals we most recently butchered were born then.
We cared for them throughout that cold, snowy winter.
In late April and early May 2014, it was time to take them to summer pasture.

I can't believe it, but I found photos - albeit not very good ones - of both the calves that ended up in our freezer. They were No. 3033 ...
... and No. 3069.
They and their "classmates" spent the summer at the Ninnescah and Rattlesnake Pastures.
In late October 2013, we gathered them off the summer pastures.
We brought them back to the farm to be weaned from their mamas and to spend the winter.
 All winter, they got a steady diet of grain, hay and silage.
This shows the silage being fed via the feed truck being augered into the feed bunks.
In February 2014, we sorted steers and heifers. We kept the heifers that we wanted to breed and add to our herd. A semi came and picked up the steers and their sisters who weren't going to be added to our operation.
They were transported to the Pratt Livestock Sale Barn, where they were sold. 
No. 3033 and 3069 were among the "girls" who stayed on the County Line to join the cow-calf operation.

Last April (2014), they had "visits" with the bulls. Then, in May, they went with the other heifers - and a bull - to spend another summer in the pasture.
In November 2014, we brought the cows and heifers back to the farmstead. Our veterinarian came to do pregnancy checks.
No. 3033 and No. 3069 did not pass that test. But they now had a new job: We continued to feed them to prepare for their important job of feeding our family.

On a cold and snowy day, March 1, 2015, we hooked up the trailer ...

... and loaded the two cows. Randy estimates they tipped the scales at approximately 1,400 pounds each.
We took them to Ellinwood Packing and unloaded them.
They were harvested the next morning, March 2.
On April 1, about a month later, Randy brought home the custom-packaged beef. The two 1,400-pound cows yielded 1,714 pounds of processed beef, which went to five families, three getting half a beef and two getting a quarter.

So, where's the beef? It's in our freezer and on our dinner plates. But it's a story that's a long time in the making.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cloud of Witnesses

Almost 90 years ago, the parishioners at Stafford Methodist Church began building a church. It was different than other churches of its time. There was no church steeple, and, from the outside, naysayers thought it looked more like a school or auditorium than a house of worship.
But, build it, they did. Parishioners brought their teams of horses to dig out the basement. The more handy among them laid forms and started pouring in concrete for the 18 steps that would lead to a new sanctuary, a design patterned after Unity Temple in suburban Chicago by a student of Architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The building was the third for Stafford Methodists. The first frame church was followed by a second structure that the congregation had outgrown.

"When they built the third church on the same site, they said they were building a church that was big enough and strong enough that they wouldn't have to rebuild again," said Earl Hayes, a lifetime church member in an interview with The Hutchinson News several years ago.

But, after 90 years, the front steps were crumbling. Rain water leaked into the cracks and into the church basement. It was again time for church members to respond to a need.
On Sunday, we celebrated the culmination of a project to restore the front entrance to the church. During several years of fundraising, 434 individual donors contributed. Some were large gifts. Some were small. Some were given in memory of faithful members. Some monies were given by our newest members. As it was when the church was built 90 years ago, it was possible with many different people working together for a common goal.
"The stairs at the front of the building are more than concrete and limestone," Pastor Ben Hanne said during the re-dedication service. "The stairs are the heart of what the church stands for. Without the stairs, there would be no means of entering into the building. It's through the entrance that all are welcomed to hear the Gospel. It's where faith and hope are experienced."
It's also by those stairs that we leave the sanctuary and go out into the world to share the Message we've just heard of faith, hope, justice, peace and love.
Tulips outside the Stafford First United Methodist Church 

Lifelong church member Ruth Teichman shared some of her memories of growing up in the church. As she talked, members responded with laughter as she remembered traversing the perimeter of the church on the narrow ledge. I asked Randy later: Yes, he did it, too. And, later that evening at a Sunday School party, the next generation of daredevils appeared to have been inspired by her words. Since I was one of the adults responsible for their well-being, I was thinking she should have shared less "active" memories.
But she also told about "Grandma Gerdes" who gave pansies to her Sunday School charges every Easter. A wagon full of pansies sat among tulips in her honor, just to the right of the newly-finished steps.
One of our young parishioners listened to Pastor Ben from a perch on a limestone landing. Generation after generation of church children has done the same -- and, if truth be told, has leaped off into the flower bed below.
Ruth talked about counting the squares in the stained glass ceiling during long church services. She shared about hearing the church chimes call people to worship. She remembered standing at the front of the church and reciting the books of the Bible in front of the whole congregation. Food seemed to taste better at church potluck dinners, especially if you were first through the serving line. She remembered getting bags of candy and fruit after the church Christmas pageant. (That's been a tradition for 83 years, and it still continues today.)

As she talked, I thought about so many of the familiar faces who filled the pews and did the work of the church before they passed from this life to the next. I couldn't help but look up to the west balcony and remember my in-laws, Melvin and Marie, who sat there week after week.

It reminded me of the song, "Cloud of Witnesses," by Christian recording artist, Mark Schultz. (I love his music and his voice, but I also love that he's a Kansas native and a K-State graduate.)
I remembered it again as former pastor Amy's son played near the front steps during the re-dedication. The song says, in part:
We watched them runnin' down the aisles,
Children's time, Sunday morning.
The preacher asked them who they loved,
They all smiled and started pointing
To their mom, their dad, teacher from the kindergarten class
Each and every one had just become
A cloud of witnesses.

A cloud of witnesses that would see them through the years
Cheer them with a smile
And pray them through the tears
A cloud of witnesses that would see them to the end
Shower them with love that never ends
A cloud of witnesses.

For our family, it's certainly provided "a cloud of witnesses" and has been a centerpiece of our lives.
  • Randy has worshiped there his entire life, and it's been my church home for the past 34 years. Our children were the fourth generation of the family to worship there.
  • It's where we gather with our best friends for worship and fellowship each week.
  • It's where our children were baptized and were taught and nurtured by a whole congregation.
  • It's where we said goodbye to Randy's parents. 
  • It's where our daughter was married. (It's also where Randy's parents married.)
  • It's where we share a portion of our time and talents through service, resources and committee work.
I'm thankful for so great a cloud of witnesses. Enjoy the song!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12: 1-3