Sunrise Tree

Sunrise Tree

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Heading" Toward Harvest

My Grandpa Neelly believed in the Old Farmer's Almanac. While many people might put their stock in old wives' tales, Grandpa paid more attention to what I'll call "old farmers' tales." Since he lived to age 100, he had plenty of time to accumulate such wisdom. (One that has nothing to do with farming seemed to be that Cramer's Analgesic would fix almost any ailment, but I digress.)

He planted potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, and he consulted the moon for other planting decisions. We'll again test out one of those old farmers' tales this year: It's said that wheat harvest will be 6 weeks after the wheat heads.

If that's the case, we're in for an early harvest here on the County Line. (This does not bode well for my ability to attend the Great Plains UMC annual church conference in early June in Nebraska, but we shall see!)
Whether or not the 6-week figure is accurate, wheat heading does signal the march toward the upcoming harvest. My farmer is a known optimist, a good quality to have for someone whose livelihood depends on weather and a myriad of other uncontrollable factors. But it's easier for everyone to be more optimistic after some timely rains.

We had a dry winter, except for a January ice storm that left behind 2.60 inches of moisture. April has filled the rain gauge more. Early in the month, we had a total of 5.3 inches during a one-week period. This week, we've collected another 0.70" in two separate showers. It was good timing for the wheat, which needs the moisture to fill the heads and produce kernels. Today, we are already getting sprinkles, and additional rainfall is forecast. That's great for the crops and pastures, but it will make the cattle work we've got scheduled for today a little sloppy.

This week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service rated the state's winter wheat crop as 6 percent excellent, 45 percent good and 33 percent fair. About 16 percent is in poor to very poor condition. About 9 percent of the state's wheat has now headed. (Not all our wheat has headed either, just some of our earlier-planted fields.)

Now if only timely rains could be accompanied by a timely bump in wheat prices. As of this morning, wheat was priced at $3.16 per bushel at our local co-op. As we stood in the field earlier this week, Randy said he doesn't think it is cost effective to treat the wheat with fungicide this year. Last year, we paid approximately $10 per acre to have the wheat sprayed with fungicide, which helps control rust and other rust-related diseases in wheat.

However, with the price of wheat at $3.l6, we would need a 3-bushel-per-acre increase in yield to pay for the fungicide. Luckily, we haven't seen any disease pressure in our wheat yet. Now would be the ideal time for spraying since the flag leaf is exposed. The flag leaf - the top leaf - controls a lot of the yield from now until harvest.
We applied herbicide and fertilizer in February, but Randy isn't sure the fertilizer got down to the roots because we didn't have any rain at that time. It needed to be in the root zone by the time the wheat jointed - or by the time the growing point of the head was out of the ground.

As I look at the wheat price, I'm reminded of a quote from John F. Kennedy:
The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale and pays the freight both ways.
After my senior year in high school - 1975 - wheat was $3.54 per bushel. Here we are, 42 years later, and the price is lower than it was then. However, costs for land, machinery and inputs are vastly higher in the same time frame.

Yet the general public has the impression that farmers are sitting around with our hands out, getting rich. Maybe those detractors should look at the size of our operating loan right about now.

It's a good thing that farmers are generally an optimistic bunch.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

I walked into the church basement Monday morning, and I smelled the lilacs. The tiny blooms were decorating the tables for a dear friend's funeral dinner, stuffed into unlikely vases made from plastic K-State stadium cups.

That "purple pride" was just one common thread in our lives. So was farming and family and church and the Kansas City Chiefs. The list is long and the feelings are deep.
I looked at those intricate blossoms and marveled at the big fragrance from such tiny flowers. As I busied myself making tea and coffee, a Bible verse kept tickling my memory, but I wasn't coming up with it.

Yesterday, after I'd packed away two baskets of belongings I'd toted to the church for the dinner, I looked it up:
Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance
rising up to God.
2 Corinthians 2:15

All morning long on funeral day, people came to the church basement to leave pans of cheesy potatoes and to drop off plastic-wrap-covered salads. When I'd asked, not one person said, "No, I can't help." In fact, more food arrived than I knew was coming.  Filling the refrigerators was like a giant jigsaw puzzle, squeezing another salad in a bit of empty space.
Later, the fragrance of ham and potatoes displaced the delicate aroma from the lilacs. But through it all, I kept thinking about our lives as a "fragrance rising up to God."

Each little floret that makes up a lilac stem is beautiful individually. The intricate detail on each petal is kind of like a human fingerprint, different, yet similar.
A single lilac floret is beautiful, but alone, it can't make the aroma that permeates the room. We, as individuals, can be beautiful and strong and accomplish a great deal. But how much more can we do when we come together? It was Exhibit A at the funeral and dinner on Monday. Everyone contributing in big and small ways came together to honor a friend and his family with a "Christ-like fragrance."

Just counting quickly, I came up with 41 people (not counting immediate family) who came together to help celebrate a special life in behind-the-scenes work for the funeral, burial and dinner. Many, many others came to celebrate his life at the memorial service. Many gave memorial contributions or offered a tribute of flowers.
Church of the Resurrection UMC Pastor Adam Hamilton wrote a book called The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus. Among the Scripture readings is Mark 2: 1-12.

It's a familiar story told over and over again as children gather for Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Jesus is preaching at Peter's home in Capernaum. Some men have a friend who is sick and paralyzed. They have heard that Jesus is a healer, so they carry their friend to the place where Jesus is preaching, believing He can help. When they find that the home is too crowded to enter through the door, they cut a hole in Peter's roof. They lower their friend, who is resting on a stretcher, through the hole and into Jesus' presence. And Jesus sees the friends' great faith and heals the paralyzed man.
There are several things we can take away from this story. The first is that all of us need stretcher-bearers. ... Who are the people who would pick you up, tear off the roof and lower you to Jesus? We all need friends like that, whose faith is strong even when ours is weak, who are friends not just in word, but in deed.

Who are our stretcher-bearers? Whose stretcher-bearer are you?

From Adam Hamilton's book, The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus
It's a good question. And I think I've had it answered over and over again in the past week. The possibilities to serve as Christ's hands and feet in this world today are plentiful:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Teresa of Avila
And His is the fragrance through which we can honor God in our lives here on earth.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Last-Minute Easter Treats: Hop To It!

Even though these Easter treats are super simple, we didn't get any made during our whirlwind trip to Manhattan last weekend. Kinley and I made them together two Easters ago, and she had a great time helping make noodle nests.
Noodle Nests 

If you're looking for last-minute treats for an Easter gathering, try any of these tried-and-true recipes previously featured on Kim's County Line. Just click on the links for the recipes. 


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to Terrify A Child

How to terrify a 2 year old in one easy step: Approach a large white bunny. 

Pay no attention to the friendly smile and spring-themed vest. 

Abject terror! Cling to Mommy with all your might.
The Easter Bunny is tolerable when positioned on Mommy's hip away from said creature. The 5-year-old sister gets a little more brave ... just a little.
Watch very carefully to make sure the Easter Bunny does not abscond with your sister or your Mommy.

After we left the area, Brooke was much more brave. (Talk is cheap, little girl!)

Talk about the Easter Bunny non-stop until the next activity:
Kinley: "Do you think it's the real Easter bunny when it's wearing shoes?"
Brooke: "Easter Bunny no talk to me!"
Me:  "Did you like the Easter Bunny?"
Brooke: "Yes!"
Me: "Really??!!!"

I happened to find a photo of Jill with the Easter bunny from 1991. She would have been between her 5th and 6th birthdays, just like Kinley today. 
Jill - 1991 (about Kinley's current age!)
The photo was in a promotional book from Crayola that we must have gotten when the Easter Bunny visited Elroy's in Stafford. Do you think Kinley looks just a tad like Jill?
Brent would have been a little older than Brooke in this photo from 1991.  (I'm sure he'll be thrilled I found it ... and shared it!)

The little kids who turned out to be Uncle Brent and Mommy seem  more comfortable with the big old bunny than Kinley and Brooke. But who really needs the Easter bunny to bring eggs when you can make them yourself? We don't need a big old rabbit to get ready for Easter. We just need Mommy and Grandma! 
These plastic egg wrappers were some of my favorite egg-decorating accessories back when Jill & Brent were little. We always decorated eggs and added them to our Easter egg tree. The egg wrappers are snuggled around eggs, dipped in boiling water and are instantly beautiful. 
They worked back in the "olden days," too! Here are Jill & Brent with our Easter tree.
However easy the plastic wrappers are, it's just not Easter without the smell of vinegar in the colored water and dye on little kids' clothing!
"I do it!" was a common refrain.
When Jill & Brent were little, we blew out of the innards of the eggs so they could be saved each year. Jill did that, too, though she's not a saver and the eggs will likely not last past the holiday.
Brooke's reactions of joy are just as big as her reactions of terror!
A spring day is also good for a trip to the playground.
You have to work on your muscle strength to get ready for those grueling egg hunts coming up later in the week!
It seems climbing playground equipment is not nearly as terrifying as meeting the Easter bunny ...
... even when your sister is rocking the "boat."
We were glad to get in on some pre-Easter fun!

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Blast From the Past: Kansas Tourism in Ellinwood

Shhhh! You know what they say about those women who frequent Ellinwood's underground tunnels.
More than a century ago, it was a fairly common practice for up-and-coming cities to build underground tunnels and shops. Such was the case for Ellinwood, a town founded by German Protestant immigrants on the Central Plains of Kansas in 1878.
The day our PEO group was in Ellinwood, it was rainy and cloudy.
The underground was decidedly not a place for ladies like my PEO sisters and me. Back then, the tunnels were the ultimate "man cave" - long before HGTV coined the phrase.

There were bars and barbers and brawls and, well -- brothels -- underneath the feet of the respectable, God-fearing, church-going citizens.
Ellinwood was a stop on the Santa Fe Trail, so it brought in its share of cowboys and characters who were just passing through. Once their horses were hitched to the post and the cattle they were driving were squared away for the evening, the men would clomp down the wooden stairs into the underground city. 
Once there, they could get a shave and a haircut at William Yung's establishment, Richard Casagrande told my PEO group on our field trip last week.
The boys could belly up to the bar and play a hand of cards.
Yung was also the proprietor of the bathhouse next door. For 15 cents, travelers could get a warm bath, a clean towel and some lye soap to wash off the dust of the trail. If that price seemed too steep, they could wash in used bath water for a nickel. For a few more coins, they could get their clothes washed, too.
While their clothes tumbled, they could "tumble" with one of the "soiled doves," a woman who was decidedly not a lady.

There were less nefarious businesses underground, too. A harness shop could fix up any equipment that failed during the ride down the Santa Fe Trail and also kept the locals' equipment in good repair.

By the mid-1930s to early 1940s, the Ellinwood tunnels were closed off to the public.However, in 1979, the late Adrianna Dierolf rediscovered the tunnels after inheriting some of the downtown buildings in Ellinwood, and she began showing the tunnels to the public.

During the summer of 1982, new sidewalks were built on Main Street, and city officials had most of the remaining tunnels filled with sand because of liability concerns. Because her building was on the Historic Register, Dierolf managed to save a short stretch of Ellinwood tunnels and left three of the underground businesses under the two-story Dick Building intact showing what they might have looked like a century ago.
This was taken last Friday, when we went to pick up meat from Ellinwood Packing.
 For many years, it was thought those were the only tunnels that survived the city's sidewalk remodel.
However, when new owner Chris McCord bought the old Wolf Hotel across the street and the former owner's belongings were cleared out, he found additional tunnels.
They were among those that had once run on both sides of Main Street. McCord and a team of volunteers have worked since 2013 to bring the old hotel back to its heyday and also provide a glimpse of underground life on their side of Main Street. 
Today under the Wolf Hotel's lobby, visitors can tour the Drummer's Sample Room,  where salesmen riding the rails on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad could display their wares in a merchandise room just across the street from the train station.
Just down the wooden sidewalk corridor, there's a Prohibition-era bar set up to serve guests on the weekends or private parties any time.

Ellinwood's library was in the basement of the hotel through the 1960s. Old library cards in wooden frames form part of the wall decorations in the library, refurbished by volunteer Beth Brummer (who is also a wonderful waitress for private parties, we learned by experience)!
The upstairs has gotten a facelift, too. The Wolf Hotel was built in 1894 and once housed the Bank of Ellinwood.
The old bank lobby has become a popular venue for small weddings, class reunions and other gatherings.
Fred Wolf, John Wolf’s son, added on the Sunflower Dining room in 1924. It was a showcase restaurant in Barton County that attracted people from many places with its large, wood-cased windows, tin ceiling and wheat shock columns. (There's even a bullet hole in the ceiling from an unfortunate incident in the hotel's past.)

Our PEO group enjoyed paninis and fixings, plus an ice cream topped gooey brownie for dessert. McCord and volunteers cater private parties and gatherings in the Sunflower room. Eventually, McCord wants to open the dining room for Sunday chicken dinners, served family style on vintage wheat-patterned china (I should have taken a photo of the plates. This wheat farmer loved them!)
There's a "woman" on the east side of Main Street, too, but she's no "soiled dove." For years, Sally the Mannequin greeted visitors to the antique store that filled every nook and cranny of the old hotel. When McCord bought the Wolf from former owner Bill Starr, Sally was part of the package deal. During April, she is decked out in her Easter bonnet and finery in the lobby. She no longer greets passersby on the sidewalk, however. She was the unfortunate victim of a kidnapping. Even though she was eventually returned unharmed (with no ransom paid), she now stays inside the hotel.

McCord has refurbished five hotel rooms which are available for overnight stays. Most rooms have a private bath and all offer free wi-fi, satellite TV, antique furnishings and continental breakfast in a wood-paneled kitchen and dining room.
For more information about the Wolf Hotel, go to or call 620-617-6915.