Small Town Christmas

Small Town Christmas

Monday, February 29, 2016

Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall

"Into each life, some rain must fall." So sang Ella Fitzgerald and The Ink Spots back in 1944.

Could we please have ours now?  Our wheat could use a healthy drink of water.

Randy thinks the 2016 wheat crop looks good, but it definitely could use a rain. However, unlike California and other western climes, none of Kansas is currently on the U.S. Drought Monitor. That's good news for us.

Still, with all the warm temperatures and the strong winds that have intermittently appeared during the last few weeks, we could definitely use some rainfall as we move closer to Harvest 2016.
There's an additional concern with the warm temperatures. If it stays warm for an extended period of time, the wheat crop could break dormancy and start to grow, which would make it vulnerable to a late freeze if a cold snap hits in late March or early April, as it so often does.
Wheat at the golden hour
That's a whole lot of "ifs," isn't it? As Randy is fond of saying, "There's a long time until harvest."

But the wheat fields sure looked pretty during the golden hour ...
... and at sunset.





Friday, February 26, 2016

Pizza Minestrone Soup


I could eat soup every day during the winter. Really. Now if I could just convince Randy of that. But he definitely wasn't complaining when I dished up this pizza-themed soup.

January was National Soup Month, but I didn't quit making soup when the calendar flipped to February. And I am sure there will be more soup in March. Despite the more spring-like forecast for this upcoming weekend, I predict we'll still have some cold winter days ahead. Soup always is a great warm-up when the skies are gloomy.

The recipe uses mini pepperonis, but if you can't find them in your store, you can use kitchen shears to cut regular-sized pepperoni into quarters. The original recipe called for sausage, but I used hamburger, since that's what we have in the freezer. 

Broil up some Parmesan-sprinkled, buttered Texas toast for a crunchy accompaniment. Sprinkle the top of the soup with shaved Parmesan cheese and a few herbs like parsley, basil or cilantro for a little color. And enjoy the flavors of pizza in soup form!
Pizza Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Inside BruCrew Life
2 lbs. hamburger
8 cups chicken broth (64 oz.)
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 11.5-oz. can tomato juice
1 cup pepperoni minis
1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon
1 cup diced green pepper (or other colored pepper)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta, uncooked
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Minced fresh parsley (or fresh basil or cilantro)

Brown hamburger in a stock pot with onion and green pepper until meat is browned. Drain grease.

Stir in all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, top with shaved Parmesan cheese and minced fresh parsley or cilantro.

Recipe notes:
  • Instead of using chicken broth, I used an equivalent amount of water and added dry chicken soup mix. It's less expensive and I don't think you can tell the difference. 
  • The original recipe called for a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. If you like things more spicy than we do, try it!
  • I used hamburger because it's what's readily available at my house. You could use 1 pound of sausage and 1 pound of hamburger, too. 
  • If you can't find the mini pepperonis,  you could quarter regular-sized pepperoni. 
  • I like my soup thick. If you prefer it less thick, add additional water and/or broth. For reheating leftovers, you will likely have to add a little additional water, since pasta absorbs moisture after cooling and sitting.
***
Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck. Click on the link for recipes from cooks and bakers from all across the country. Thanks to the hostesses:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Channeling His Inner Milkman

Even though we don't live on a dairy farm, my Farmer has had to channel his inner milkman a couple of times during this calving season. 
Sometimes a heifer needs a little help getting this motherhood thing figured out and a baby needs a nudge after entering the real world from the warm confines of its mama. Such was the case with a heifer and her calf. The baby was having trouble getting up, even after the mama had cleaned it off. So we put the heifer in the head gate and Randy milked it.
Just like with human babies, it's important for the bovine baby to get the colostrum - the first, nutrition-rich milk - from its mother. Once Randy had the milk, we poured it into a calf feeder.
A little teamwork from Randy and Robby got the warm milk into the calf's tummy via a tube.
That's the boost it needed. Mother and baby are doing well.

(Note: This happened earlier this month, but I hadn't gotten it posted yet. All but four of the heifers have calved now, and we are more than halfway through calving out the cows.)

Monday, February 22, 2016

February Skies

At the sunrise tree

Sometimes, you don't need a lot of words, which is hard for a word person to admit. But the pictures of our February skies speak volumes.

Sunrise from the heifer corral

A Time to Think

Unwrap the hidden beauties in an ordinary day.
–Gerhard E. Frost, author

A Time to Act

Find joy where and when it surfaces.

A Time to Pray

Dear Lord, please help me to see the beauty of every day.
February sunset
The sunset changed from minute to minute.
Sunset at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Job 37:14

A Time to Think

Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world 
with grateful hearts and no one to thank.
 –Christina Rossetti, poet

A Time to Act

Approach today with a grateful heart.

A Time to Pray

Lord, let my life reflect Your wonderful qualities,
portrayed in Your creation all around us.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sloppy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Every so often, a recipe seems to catch the collective eye of my friends on Facebook. Several will "share" a recipe to their timeline, I suppose so they can find it later to try out in their own kitchens.

Sloppy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches appeared to be one of those recipes making the Facebook rounds. It may sound like sacrilege, but my kids weren't fans of sloppy Joes. I made several variations of the popular sandwiches during their childhood and teen years. But neither Jill or Brent liked traditional sloppy Joes.

I don't know whether this latest version would convert their tastebuds, but Randy liked them. It's a tasty addition to a lunch or supper line-up. I served them with carrot and celery sticks, as well as apple slices.

Though the recipe makes enough for five or six people, you don't have to make them all at once. I just used enough Texas toast and meat mixture to make one meal for two and saved the rest for another meal. That's the best kind of leftovers!
Sloppy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Adapted from a Facebook feed
1 lb. hamburger
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper or colored pepper
2 tbsp. prepared mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
10 - 12 slices Texas toast bread
Butter, softened
2 cups shredded Cheddar or marble cheese (or more, if you prefer)

Brown ground beef with onion and peppers until cooked. Drain off any grease. Add mustard, ketchup, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. To assemble sandwiches, place one slice bread, butter side down, onto griddle or skillet. Sprinkle with cheese and a scoop of the beef mixture. Top with additional cheese. Place a piece of bread on top, butter side up. Cook over medium heat until browned. Carefully flip over and brown the other side.

Note:  If you aren't serving 5 or 6 people, just make the amount of sandwiches you need. Butter as many pieces of bread as you'll use at one meal. Refrigerate the beef mixture and use it for another meal, making the sandwiches as you need them rather than heating up leftover sandwiches.

***
Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck. Click on the link for recipes from cooks and bakers from all across the country. Thanks to the hostesses:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Farmyard Jenga

Anyone for a game of Farmyard Jenga?
The supplier used a piece of chalk to mark and count the hedge posts.
The goal of the Hasbro game is to remove one block at a time from the tower, and stack it on top. The last player to stack a block without making the tower fall wins the game.
My goal for the Farmyard Jenga game? Don't let anyone get hurt by falling hedge posts.
Randy ordered 100 hedge posts from a Yates Center supplier, but he brought 175. First, Randy and Robby (our new employee) hooked up the loader tractor to remove the posts on both sides that were holding the load on the trailer.  

It had been several years since we'd gotten fence posts from the same man. He had slowed down considerably since the last time he was here. (OK, so have we, if we want to be honest.) However, Randy and I had trouble not laughing when the man pulled out a luggage rack, sat down and then watched the proceedings like he was watching a television show. I just hoped he was far enough back that it wouldn't turn into a horror show!
Timber! (Of course, at the same time I was clicking the camera shutter as the hedge posts were coming off the trailer, I got a message saying that my memory card was full. No sequential photos of the load crashing down! However, no hedge post suppliers were harmed in the making of this blog.)
Once the hedge posts were off the trailer, Randy and Robby used the loader tractor to move the posts to an out-of the-way pile. They both thought the posts got heavier as the morning went on!
This supply of hedge posts should last through several years of fence repairs. These are considered "line posts" rather than "corner posts" because of their smaller diameter. Hedge posts are among the sturdiest materials for permanent pasture fencing.
A few of the new fence posts have already been put to use.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hoping for a Fairytale Ending

This little twin went to market. So did his brother. Not all stories on a farm have a fairytale ending.

But in my mind this morning, I thought about a little 4-Her getting up before school to bottle feed a bucket calf. Maybe Little 649 has a new name now, a real name. Maybe a little pony-tailed girl measured out the milk powder, added water and about got knocked over as the little calf eagerly had his breakfast. She gave him a pat and headed back to the house for her own breakfast before the school bus arrived.
Maybe at another farmyard, a little boy pulled on his manure-covered boots and headed out to a pen to feed No. 648. He called him by a new name and laughed as the calf eagerly slurped down a bottle.

Well, that's the story in my mind, anyway.
On a Facebook post on February 4, I wrote: "Double the pleasure. It looks like the mama will claim both bull calves born today."
 
And she did. Both babies were being fed, but then the mama started going downhill. Last Wednesday night, after we got home from taking Kinley and Brooke back to their mama, Randy and I had a nighttime mission.

I don't recommend loading cattle in the dark, if you can help it. I shone a flashlight on the barn door to help guide Randy backwards. After a few attempts, we were lined up right. Then, our flashlight beams hit a grisly sight - a dead coyote along the lane in the barn where the cow would need to walk. That was enough to spook man or beast, so Randy got rid of it.

The poor mama was confused by these crazy humans trying to get her to go into a trailer in the dark. It took several attempts. It was equally challenging to load the babies in the back of the trailer, and Randy ended up carrying both of them.


The taillights on the trailer wouldn't work, so we couldn't take the cow anywhere at night. The next morning, she was dead. So Randy took the two little calves to the sale. And there is where my fantasy story commenced. I am hoping that two 4-Hers will be caring for the calves and using them as a bucket calf project for a county fair this summer. I can picture those 4-Hers in my mind because both Jill and Brent loved the bucket calf project.
A page from Brent's 4-H book

We didn't get a check from Pratt Livestock in the mail on Saturday. With the President's Day holiday today, we won't know until Tuesday how much the little calves brought at the sale. But I hope they'll become "priceless" to a couple of 4-Hers. At least, that's how the story goes in my mind.
And a page from Jill's 4-H record book

Friday, February 12, 2016

Heart to Heart

It has been a long time since I've helped make a Valentine box. But with a little help for ideas from a Google search and expert sticker placement from a willing and able 4 year old, Valentine's Day 2016 will be the cat's meow!
Jill says when Kinley carried it into her classroom, one of her friends said, "Oh look! It's a cat!" Mission accomplished. (Yes, confirmation from an unrelated 4 year old is validation for the quality of our work. Sad, but true.)
The school Valentine box was just one of several holiday projects that the girls and I accomplished during our time together this week. Jill was at a conference in Wichita, so Kinley and Brooke got a trip to the farm.  Do you think we got enough sprinkles on these Rice Krispie treats? I was going to go around the outside with frosting or candy melts to define the heart shapes. But I reconsidered after trying to keep two girls on chairs while helping mold and unmold cereal treats. (Yes, I kept them in their PJs during the cooking session to reduce the laundry needed after this sticky project.)

I should have gotten photos of both girls trying to sweep up the sprinkles from the floor. It's good I had two brooms for two big helpers. Brooke also tried to climb into the dishwasher to help me unload the top rack. That's dedication!

Grandma didn't just promote sweet treats. The girls also were our pizza chefs for the evening. I wonder why they didn't eat much at supper: Could it have been that they ate the ingredients along the way?
Our craft projects weren't done. Kinley also made decorated this wooden heart. Grandma didn't realize that the flowers weren't stickers. So Kinley held each tiny flower while I dabbed them individually with a little glue. Then she put each into place, creating the pattern herself. She was meticulous and very patient. It turned out better than I could have imagined, especially since I was also trying to keep Brooke entertained at the same time. Stickers, pipe cleaners and the kitchen Tupperware drawer distracted the littlest helper. (And I may have also had to keep her from climbing some shelves at the same time.) Some day, she may be gluing decorations, too. But we'll see if she ever sits still long enough. Busy, busy, BUSY!
Case in point: We hung the heart on our back door to get a photo before Kinley took it home. Brooke was a little too interested to suit Kinley. The photographic session was cut short before I could get a posed photo with both girls. It seems to be the story of my efforts to photograph the girls together!

Brooke's busyness may also be why I didn't get any photos at all of Kinley decorating bookmarks, though it kept her occupied for a long time. I didn't expect her to decorate all 25 in the package. But she loved picking out which stickers she wanted to use and then decided which bookmark she wanted to share with other people.
While the Valentine's projects were a hit, the baby calves were less of an attraction than we predicted. Brooke is an expert animal sound imitator. And she did do her share of mooing in the cattle lot. But neither of the girls was wild about touching the baby calves. Kinley had her eyes on the big mama cows that were too close by to suit her. None of the heifers were aggressive. But they are pretty big to a 4 year old and a 17 month old.
The girls liked watching them from a little further away! I'm guessing the mamas felt the same way.
The girls also checked out the head stall in the cattle shed and explored the other outbuildings.
They much preferred seeing the cows and calves from the pickup window
The next day, they checked out the cattle trailer. (At least the cattle poop was dry, Mommy!)
The cats continued to be the star attractions at the farm. Kinley was reunited with her favorite, Cozy. When I looked at the photos later, their connection was further cemented because of their big, beautiful eyes. (But, true to form, it couldn't happen in the same photo.)
Brooke liked whichever cat was nearest to her at the time.
Unlike Kinley, she doesn't play favorites in the feline department.
We read every story in the Fancy Nancy book collection. Brooke sat there for a few of them.(We used a new Valentine's bookmark to keep our place between reading sessions!)
Kinley was such a big help with Brooke. When Brooke was inconsolable, wanting Mommy at bedtime, my singing of Sunday School songs only worked for a little bit. But having Kinley lying beside her finally calmed Brooke down enough for her to fall asleep.
As the oldest sister myself, I know that little sisters can sometimes want to do whatever you're doing. They can mess up your stuff. But there's also a bond that never ends. They are fortunate to have one another.
And we are blessed to have them both (though I am definitely reminded why God made it so that you parent when you are young).