Fall Reflections

Fall Reflections

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

There's No Business Like "Snow" Business

Sing along now:

There's snow business
Like snow business
Like snow business, I know!
This amalgamation of the Irving Berlin tune rattled around in my head like the trailer rattled over snowy roads yesterday morning.
Our earlier rains - 14 inches in a month - and the recent snows have slowed the timing of our annual ritual of moving cattle home from summer pastures. But we moved a group of 25 mamas to the pasture south of our house Monday morning.
Last Friday, we had a brisk morning for a visit from Dr. Figger as he preg-checked and vaccinated the 26 cows. (One was open - or not pregnant - so she had a chauffeur-escorted drive to the sale barn Monday afternoon.)
 Thankfully, we have a little windbreak at the cattle-working chute, and the job didn't take too long.
Hey, 696! Your eartag ruined my perfect line of sparkling snow.
Aw, well! I must remember my priorities!
However,  between running cattle up the lane, I took photos.
It kept my mind off my freezing fingers and toes.
The bulls probably wondered why they were arriving at this snow-covered pasture.  But, never fear: A big bale of hay had already been delivered for their rural Meals on Wheels.
And the surroundings were pretty spectacular.
I guess I wasn't too cold.
 
I wondered around the yard taking more photos after Randy dropped me off both Friday and after we moved the group Monday morning.
Ice on those remaining fall leaves was like icing on a decorated cake.
Even those leaves that had given up their hold on the branches were beautiful underfoot.
You'd think I would have had enough of the cold. But we braved frigid temperatures and an 11 AM start of the K-State vs. KU football game on Saturday.
It took me until we got to Hutchinson (2 hours after our departure) to thaw out! So I guess I really can't complain about the cold this morning as we gather pairs at the Ninnescah Pasture, then sort them and bring them home. Right? I'll try and remember that! It's going to be a long day, I'm afraid!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Leave a Light On: A Veterans Day Story

At Stafford United Methodist Church yesterday, the bells rang out at 11 AM - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. One hundred years ago, bells had tolled to signal the end of World War I and the signing of the Armistice between the Allied Forces and Germany.
Photo by Arlene Lickiss
I had goosebump on top of goosebump as veteran Clayton Grimmett carried the flag to the front of the sanctuary and our congregation repeated the Pledge of Allegiance.

The goosebumps didn't quit when Pastor Nathan Gift shared this story during our tribute to veterans:

The sacrifices of our veterans are manifold. They sacrifice when they sign their name, raise their right hand and don their uniform. They sacrifice by the hardships they face from weather, sometimes lack of food and sleep while on duty. They sacrifice through traumatic experiences in battle. They sacrifice when they return home physically, mentally and emotionally. They sacrifice when their friends die in front of their eyes. They sacrifice when they lay their own lives down while fighting foreign and domestic enemies of our nation. Their families sacrifice on as many levels.
         Romans 13:7—Give to everyone what you owe them…if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 

     John 15:12-13—My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
                Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI. But we remember all our veterans today.
Last night a stranger I’d never met, a veteran, stopped by the parsonage. He just wanted to talk. You know, we have no idea what our veterans go through, how sudden sounds and movements affect them. Their nightmares and mental illness. The pain of loss. And especially how our Vietnam veterans were abused after returning home.
This gentleman who came by last night, told me of one night in the year 2000 when he had intended to take his own life. But looking for some kind of hope, he walked up the steps of our Stafford church. He then rattled the locked doors unsuccessfully and sat down.
In complete despair, he remembered the poem Footprints in the Sand. He recited it as best he remembered. As he finished, the light above him turned on. He couldn’t believe it. He was in awe. But then he felt two arms reach around him and squeeze him in a warm embrace. At that moment he was overcome with tears and an indescribable sense of peace, and his despair faded. He went home and locked his weapon away and never took it out again.
Our world can be ugly, evil and deadly. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. It’s important to know that no matter how bad the world may seem, if you want hope, God is always there to give it to you. Whenever you see a church with a light on, remember that.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

On this 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I, I'm republishing one of my blog posts about Randy's dad, Melvin, and his service in Korea. On this Veterans Day, I'd also like to thank the families left behind for their sacrifices while their loved ones are protecting all of us.


C. Melvin Fritzemeier, 10th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
My late father-in-law, C. Melvin Fritzemeier, served in the U.S. Army following the Korean War. He didn't talk about his service with me. But on this Veterans Day, I wanted to pay tribute to him and others who have faithfully served our country during wartime and times of peace.

Maybe I just needed to take him on a road trip by Fort Riley. As a kid, Randy remembers hearing "war stories" in the back seat as his Dad drove by the fort, where he had trained before being shipped out to Korea. 
C. Melvin Fritzemeier in uniform; upper right, Camp Casey, Korea, 11-Sept.-54, Saturday night was on the back of this photo; lower left photo was not captioned; lower right, caption says, "Ready to ship out to Korea from Fort Lewis, Washington."

Not long ago, I was digging for photos and came across several from Melvin's military service. After Randy's folks died, we cleaned out their farmhouse. By the end, we were all tired of sorting, so we ended up putting family photos in plastic tubs. We got elected to be the repository for all the tubs. 


Also in the box was this Indianhead insignia, the symbol for the Army's Second Division since October 1917 at Bourmont, Haute-Marne, France, from troops in World War II. The color markings (red, white, and blue) used to identify the division and their equipment in France were chosen  by the commander of the division as the colors for this insignia.  The star and Indian head signify the American origin of the division.

 Melvin was drafted three months after the Korean War officially ended. He served as a truck driver. Randy says he talked about sleeping outside in tents.

Melvin often told a story about Army food. He would never eat dried beef gravy after serving in the Army. He also never touched fruit cocktail. Randy says that he and a buddy each ate a gallon of fruit cocktail that they'd cooled in a nearby stream. He ate so much of it that he never wanted it again. 

As is the case today, servicemen and women leave behind their families as they go to serve their country. I found several little yellow books of photos, which Marie must have sent to Melvin overseas. Marie stayed with her mother in Stafford while Melvin served, and she worked at the Farmers National Bank until he returned and they moved to the farm.

Melvin served two years. By the time he returned to Stafford, he had traded his Private 2nd Class stripes for a Corporal designation.

On this Veterans Day, I'd like to thank all the veterans for their service. Our little community of Stafford has a number of young men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. I thank them for keeping America strong, and I thank their families for the sacrifice of being apart from their loved ones, often in dangerous places. 

This nation will remain the land of the free 

only so long as it is the home of the brave.
  ~Elmer Davis

Thursday, November 8, 2018

'Tis the Season for Cranberry!

'Tis the season for fresh cranberries. The tiny fruit packs a punch of tart and flavorful goodness and just tastes like Thanksgiving and the fall, doesn't it? During this time of year when cranberries are on sale and abundant, I always stash extra bags in my freezer. In fact, I bought four bags of them last night at my hometown grocery store!

Before the South Central Community Foundation awards night, I found a new way to use these colorful bursts of flavor - Frosted Cranberry Drop Cookies. I used frozen cranberries because I find it easier and less messy to chop the frozen variety using a food processor.
 
These are soft, moist cookies - more cake-like than crisp. The yummy Brown Butter Frosting enforces that cake-like reputation. And speaking of brown butter! Yes, it deserves an exclamation point. I've seen other recipes where brown butter was called for, and I thought, "Surely, it doesn't make that much of a difference." Simply put: I was wrong. It adds a whole other dimension to the frosting and is the perfect accompaniment to this flavorful cookie.

If you'd like to reinforce the orange flavor, you could add a bit of orange zest to the batter. 

For the cookie platter, I decorated the frosted cookies with dried cranberries on some and walnuts on others (see the photo at the top). This "dresses up" the finished cookie, making it fancy enough for holiday trays. Holiday sprinkles would also add a festive touch. I highly recommend them for your Thanksgiving or Christmas get-togethers. Or they'd make a perfect gift from your kitchen this holiday season.
Frosted Cranberry Drop Cookies
From Taste of Home
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 egg
2 tbsp. orange juice
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
Brown Butter Frosting
1/3 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 to 4 tbsp. hot water or milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add milk, egg and orange juice; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in cranberries and nuts.

Use cookie scoop and put 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool and then frost. (My cookie scoop size made 3.5 dozen cookies.)

Frosting:
Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes; transfer to small bowl. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until frosting reaches desired consistency. Frost the cookies.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Nature in All Its Glory

How beautifully leaves grow old.
How full of light and color 
are their last days.
~John Burroughs

There's probably a lesson there, isn't there? Cold gusts will send more leaves crashing from their perch this week. Leaves dance their way to their inevitable end, whether it's crushed underfoot or crowded into overstuffed plastic bags.

As I age, do I focus on the aches and pains? Am I consumed with perceived slights? Do I get set in my ways? Do I resist change?

A change of perspective often helps us see things in a different light. Last week, I was coming home from Manhattan after a fun Halloween evening with the girls. 
I so enjoyed my time with my little trick or treaters - a 4-year-old bumblebee named Brooke and a 6-year-old witch named Kinley. (Kinley insisted that she was a good witch - not a bad one.)
However, I was not looking forward to the doctor's appointment scheduled for the next day in Hutchinson. After getting Kinley on the bus, I drove back to Hutchinson and had some time before my appointment. So I switched my dress shoes for tennis shoes so I could walk the paths of Dillon Nature Center.
If ever there was a natural blood pressure reliever, it has to be Dillon Nature Center on a beautiful fall morning.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

--Naturalist John Muir
During this month of Thanksgiving, Lord, open my eyes to the light, the color and my blessings that would fill more sacks than the autumn leaves.

 
A few days ago, I walked along the edge of the lake
and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves
with each step I made.
The acoustics of this season are different,
and all sounds, no matter how hushed,
are as crisp as autumn air.
                                                         --Eric Sloane

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant
falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly
John Bailey
Autumn, A Haiku Year.
Autumn wins you best by this, 
its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.
Robert Browning


Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.
Elizabeth Lawrence
Thank you, Lord, for autumn!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Caramel Bars

Having to provide cookies for a reception is a great excuse to try one of those recipes I've printed off and left cluttering up my kitchen counter.

I organized the South Central Community Foundation grants award night on Monday for Stafford County. As I told others who are bringing cookies, let's look for something a little more out of the ordinary than your standard chocolate chip.
These buttery, caramely cookies definitely qualify. And they taste like fall, too ... like caramel apples without the apple. OK, that may be a stretch. But they are really good.
I also made coconut macaroons for one of my offerings. (I used fall-colored candy discs and then topped with fall leaf sprinkles to add some pizazz.
I ended up making four different kinds of cookies. (It's not that I don't trust people to show up with their 2 dozen cookies, but I'm one of those people who doesn't want to serve a skimpy cookie platter. And here's the recipe for the decorated cookie bar in the middle of the tray - Blonde Brownies.)

I like to use vanilla bean paste in my cookies, and I did that with these, too. It's expensive, but you can't beat the flavor in this bar cookie ... or in anything else.  If you can't find the unwrapped caramel bits (pictured in the top photo), you can unwrap a 14-ounce bag of caramels.

Enjoy!
Caramel Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
11-ounce bag caramel bits
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray with cooking spray. I sometimes skip the parchment paper when a recipe calls for it, but it's worth it to add it for this recipe to avoid the caramel sticking to the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar and powdered sugar. add sour cream and 1 tablespoon vanilla until combined. Mix in the flour and salt; combine until it forms a soft dough. Press half the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place other half of dough in the refrigerator. (Just come close. I usually end up with a little more in the bottom of the pan. It will be OK!)

Bake crust in preheated oven to 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. While the crust is baking, combine caramels, heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 90 seconds at 70 percent power. Continue heating at 70 percent power for 30- to 45-second intervals until the caramels are melted and you're able to form a smooth caramel mixture. Take care not to burn!

Pour melted caramel mixture evenly over the hot crust. Remove remainder of dough from fridge and crumble over the top of the caramel. Return to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the filling is bubbly and the top is firm.

Cool completely before cutting into small squares.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Piercing the Worry

A glimpse of the morning sky had me grabbing my camera and taking off down the road for photos. The first stop was my sunrise tree, where the tapestry of sky almost made me ignore how much water is still in the fields. Almost. But there's still some water in the road, and the neighbor's mudhole reflected  a sliver of the morning sky.
As the sun creased the horizon, I hurried down the road to take some photos of the milo field we still need to cut. Those photos weren't all that memorable. I didn't like them with the flash any better.
But then I noticed a single jet stream creasing the sky like a bullet. Though you can't tell from the photo, the rising sun glinted off the underbelly of the jet plane. And I thought about the Plains' reputation as a flyover country. I wondered if those passengers were looking at the patchwork of water-logged fields below, watching the sunrise from their perch in the heavens, or whether they had their heads buried in a book or an in-flight movie or were still snoozing. 

But then I thought about all they were missing. I admit it. The last few weeks have been challenging. Thirteen inches of rain brought farming to a halt for three weeks during the busy time of fall harvest and wheat planting. Like the deep ruts that were left behind by flood waters coursing over dirt roads and through culverts and making rivets in fields, the rain gouged our hearts and minds with worry about getting everything done.

Then, last week, after only two days of trying to plant wheat again, we got another inch of rain, bringing our grand total to 14 inches. Randy got back onto the field again Monday to try and beat the October 31 deadline for planting wheat.

On a crisp fall morning, I tried to recognize how much I should be thankful for.
The other side of the sunrise brought morning's first light to a neighbor's mowed hunting trail.
It kissed the tops of hay bales in a CRP field just north of our house.
A week ago, I left just as the sun was rising to go to a meeting in Hutchinson. There was a thin layer of fog hanging in the air on this windless start to the day. I couldn't resist stopping to click a few photos. And, yes, I still made it on time to the meeting.
I have to admit that I've been in a fog of doubt the past few weeks. And, I'd be lying if I said those worries are gone. God doesn't like worrying, but I don't think He's a big fan of lying either.

But just like morning light penetrates fog, I know I have much to be thankful for. I look at the photos of destruction from Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Wilma. I still have a house. I still have power. I am still able to buy fuel or food without waiting in lines caused by a weather-induced shortage. I read Facebook updates from the wife of a young farmer who was critically injured while he was planting wheat last week, and I am thankful that we are just experiencing the aches of pains of our age, rather than mending from a terrible accident.
Am I happy that we'll be spending more money on certified seed wheat to replant seed wheat? No. But I can be happy that we're again able to be in the field planting ... even if Randy has to drive around some mudholes to get it done.
 And there is certainly enough beauty to appreciate.
During my morning walk, the geese call to each other and look like black pepper flakes floating on a soup bowl of bright blue.
That jet stream looks like a row of silver embroidery thread piercing through blue fabric.
And the shelterbelt to the north (the one that hides a secret fairyland ... and skunks) is dressed in its fall best.
All I have to do is open my eyes ... and my heart .. to hope. Maybe the worry can fall away like those autumn leaves. Well, I can pray that happens.
This photo was taken October 3, 2018. Wheat planting has been a marathon.
NOTE: We may not be able to plant 415 acres to wheat that were part of Randy's wheat plan for 2019. More on that in an upcoming blog post. We'll see how that all goes ...  since there are raindrops on the weatherman's map yet again.
Today is Randy's birthday. A blueberry pie is in his future!