Harvest Sunrise 2016

Harvest Sunrise 2016

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rising to the Occasion: National Festival of Breads

Ronna Farley and her Seeded Corn and Onion Bubble Loaf.
Ronna Farley had a big smile on her face when I visited her kitchen at the Festival of Breads competition last Saturday. Her first attempt at baking her Seeded Corn and Onion Bubble Loaf had come out of the pan cleanly. If you've ever made anything in a Bundt pan, you know there's no guarantee: Part could end up on the cooling rack while some is stuck in the pan.
But after carefully inching her way around each crook and crevice with an ice pick, the bubble loaf was out in one piece, looking evenly browned and with that unmistakable fragrance of freshly-baked yeast bread combined with an undertone of onion.

She had more reasons to smile that evening. Her Seeded Corn and Onion Bubble Loaf won the grand prize at the 5th biennial National Festival of Breads.

She and seven other finalists spent the time from 7 AM Saturday morning until 2:45 or so that afternoon making their recipes three different times. By 3, each had delivered her best effort to a judge's room for evaluation.

Farley traveled to Kansas from her home in Rockville, Maryland, where she works as a cashier in a grocery store. She gets inspiration for developing original recipes based on the ingredients she rings up for customers as they empty their carts onto the supermarket conveyor belt.
I especially love seeing what people from other countries are buying and the different ideas of ingredients I should try in recipes. Sometimes I'll even ask them, 'What are you doing with that?' or 'What is that?' because there are different things we sell that I don't even know what they are.
Ronna Farley as quoted in the Festival of Breads recipe book
As the 2017 National Festival of Breads champion, Farley received $2,000 cash, plus a trip to attend a baking class of her choice at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont. She will receive 120 envelopes of Red Star Yeast. 

This was Farley's second time as a top eight finalist in the Festival of Breads. Like several of the competitors, she is no stranger to cooking contests.  Patrice Hurd has been chosen as a finalist in a dozen national contests. Three times, she's been a contestant in the "grandmother" of them all - the Pillsbury Bakeoff. Once you've competed a trio of times, you're no longer eligible at Pillsbury. She's also been a finalist in the national beef cookoff, Build A Better Burger and Midwest Living events, among others.
Patrice Hurd and her Toasted Cardamom Nordic Crown.
But Patrice was glad to be back at the National Festival of Breads in Kansas. She was also a finalist in the 2015 contest. This time, her recipe was Toasted Cardamom Nordic Crown

"It's a fun hobby to compete in these contests," Patrice said. "You meet people who are just as crazed about doing this as I am. We get to know one another, and it's kind of like family when we get together."

There's a family feel to the National Festival of Breads competition itself, she said. 

"At the Pillsburg Bakeoff, there are 100 finalists, so you're basically a number," Patrice said Saturday as she worked on her bread recipe. "This contest (Festival of Breads) has so much heart and a real down-home feeling. I was thrilled to get back here. The organizers take care of every single detail. They do everything to make you feel welcome and make it an experience to remember." 

One of those experiences was her first-ever ride on a combine. Though it was on the schedule in 2015, a drizzly day kept the contestants from truly experiencing a Kansas wheat harvest. This year, Patrice and other contestants traveled on Friday to the Brookville farm of Joe and Geena Kejr where they took turns riding the John Deere combine. They also toured the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan and the Farmer Direct Foods Inc. flour mill in New Cambria. It gave them a glimpse at how wheat grown and harvested in Kansas ultimately becomes flour that can be used in their kitchens scattered across the U.S.
Michele Kusma with her Mexican Street Corn Skillet Bread.
Contestant Michele Kusma from Columbus, Ohio, loved the combine ride, too. This was the first time she was a National Festival of Breads finalist and her first visit to Kansas.

"It was just awesome," Michele bubbled. "It was interesting and beautiful to see the wheat being harvested." 

Michele, too, is a contest veteran. As she developed her recipe for Mexican Street Corn Skillet Bread, she was thinking about flavors that consumers tend to enjoy.
Though she's a contest pro now, she didn't grow up baking. Michele turned to creating recipes and baking as an outlet after her second bout with breast cancer.

"My mother didn't bake bread. My grandmother didn't bake bread. It was me and YouTube," Michele said with a laugh. "I love baking, and you might as well love what you do. None of us know how long we have on this earth, so we need to pursue the things that give us joy."
Jane Fry (on the right) and her kitchen assistant look over her Southwest Focaccia.
It definitely wasn't finalist Jane Fry's first time on a combine or in a Kansas wheat field. Jane didn't have to hop on an airplane to get to Manhattan. She was down the road in Elk Falls, Kansas.

Like many Kansas cooks, her love of baking dates back to her days in 4-H. This was her second time as one of the Top 8 in the National Festival of Breads. This time, her recipe was Southwest Focaccia.

Jane isn't just an expert in shaping bread. She and her husband, Steve, also shape stoneware, much with a wheat theme. Each piece is individually made on a potter’s wheel or by other hand methods, glazed, decorated and fired. The business has grown, but remains a small family enterprise to provide the kind of “home-grown” lifestyle. In 1987, Jane incorporated her love for quilts by developing a line of porcelain pins and earrings using traditional quilt patterns as well as original and custom designs, which are sold under the name Elk Falls Piecemakers.
Fellow contestant Kellie White grew up on a farm near Westmoreland, Kansas, though she now resides in Valley Park, Missouri. Her entry, Orange Spice Anadama Wreath with Walnuts and Dates, won the People's Choice award voting the day of the festival. Her Kansas fan club cheered loudly when those results were announced Saturday afternoon. Festival goers could vote for their favorites by depositing $1 in voting jars. Those efforts raised more than $600 for the Flint Hills Bread Basket, a local food pantry.

She credits her love of baking to her mom and also to a neighbor lady named Ethel who shared a day of baking with Kellie as a young girl and also gave their family gifts of homemade bread at Christmas.
One of Shauna Havey's Butternut Romesco Braid's was shaped and rising, while she had another dough rising.
On the other hand, contestant Shauna Havey didn't grow up baking. The Roy, Utah, finalist began experimenting in the kitchen after marrying her husband. The mother of two prefers savory recipes, so she developed Butternut Romesco Braid
Pam Correll shapes her Orange Marmalade Breakfast Crescents.
Pam Correll was hoping for a "sweet" victory with her Orange Marmalade Breakfast Crescents. The smells of orange zest and fresh orange juice permeated the work station for the Brockport, Pennsylvania, baker. The FACS teacher enjoys teaching her students to bake from scratch.

"It's becoming a lost art," Correll said. This was the Pennsylvania baker's second time to enter the Festival of Breads, and two of her recipes were awarded honorable mention in 2015. The 2017 contest was her first as one of the eight top finalists.
Turmeric-Rosemary and Sweet Potato Rosettes
Somehow I missed talking to Tiffany Aaron, whose recipe was Turmeric-Rosemary and Sweet Potato Rosettes. Aaron is from Quitman, Arkansas, but she grew up in Montana. In her interview included in the festival brochure, she says her father-in-law supplied all the sweet potatoes she used for her experimentation and recipe development. In 2015, she had won an honorable mention. This year, she only entered the one recipe, but it still got her included in the Top 8. The mother of five brought her middle daughter with her to Kansas to experience all the festival happenings.

The National Festival of Breads, the nation’s only amateur bread-baking competition, is sponsored by King Arthur Flour, Red Star Yeast and the Kansas Wheat Commission. Many more recipes from previous years' contests, as well as bread baking tips, are available at the National Festival of Breads website. Check it out.

I volunteered at the festival. Watch for my next blog post about why I took time during our own wheat harvest to travel to Manhattan and help out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Harvest Rhyme Time

At one Kansas farm, it was time to cut wheat
Two young girls, Grandpa Randy did greet.
They arrived with their mom, to the field they did go.
But upon their arrival, winds started to blow.
The skies became dark, though it wasn't at night.
All the lightning around gave Grandma a fright.
No picnic for supper. No stopping to eat.
Get into the combine: It was time to cut wheat!
Off they did go, as the thunder did rumble.
But even before the rain started to tumble
A belt on the combine, it split right in two.
Oh no! Now just what would they do?
A ride in the semi, to Zenith they'd go.
At harvest time, you just go with the flow.
Grandpa would drive them away in a truck.
Before the storm came, if they had any luck!
They rolled into the co-op. The trip it was fine. 
They came to a stop at the end of the line. 
Other farmers had the same plan, it did seem.
Beating the storm was part of their scheme.
The girls waited patiently for their own turn.
Waiting with Grandpa, there was much they could learn.
He answered their questions; he considered each one.
One question? Two questions? No, they were not done!
Then it was time to pull onto the scale.
It was the next spot on the wheat's market trail.
A probe dipped into the semi truck bed.
Took a sample of wheat from that farmstead.
Some tests must be done, co-op workers have said.
They want to make sure it can be made into bread!
Into the elevator, it was a tight squeeze.
But Grandpa could do it. He did it with ease.
Now inside, it was time to dump wheat.
Once it was done, it was time to retreat.
Then the big semi was once again weighed. 
A ticket would reveal if the wheat made the grade.
Yes, it was fine. Yes, it was great!
Once made into flour, it could appear on your plate! 

Since rain sprinkles fell, we quit for the night.
We came to the house for some harvest bites.
The storm had made the girls late for their meal.
So they tore into supper with a great deal of zeal!

Because of the rain, harvest couldn't start soon.
Until the next day, it would be afternoon.
So Grandpa took two little girls to the pond.
Fishing with Grandpa can forge quite a bond.
Kinley had barely cast her line in
When a fish bit her worm, she started to grin. 
For Brooke, it took longer. She had to wait. 
But then she got one, and, boy, was that great!
The sun and the wind, they dried the wheat out.
"We're ready to help Grandpa!" They declared with a shout!
So off they went, down through the field.
Grandpa was hoping for a very good yield!
On the combine, there was a thing called a reel.
It turned through the wheat stalks. It was a pretty big deal.
All of the wheat goes through the machine.
From the stalk and the chaff, the grain then is gleaned.
When the combine tank was all full of grain
We could tell it was, too, through a big window pane.

Grandpa then let us push on some knobs.
The wheat came out of the bin in a pretty big gob!
An auger delivered the grain to the truck. 
Into each corner, the wheat soon was tucked.
When it was full, the truck driver did start
To drive to the co-op to do his own part.
It takes all kinds of workers to do all the tasks.
We all try to help Grandpa out when he asks!
Harvest is hard work, so hard that it seems.
A nap is in order. Hope for sweet dreams!
Then it was time for a good harvest meal.
We sat in the car. It was such a great deal.
Our time on the farm had to come to an end.
Until next year, more time we will spend!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Murmur of the Wheat

At church Sunday, a friend handed me a bookmark she'd found stashed away. She knew I'd love the poem, and she was right. (Thanks Gerry Ann!)

The wheat has been doing plenty of  "murmuring" as strong southern winds blew Harvest 2017 right on into South Central Kansas. Here's Exhibit A, a video I shot last night after delivering supper to the field:
Admittedly, part of the sound is the wind rushing past the camera. But listen for the rustle, too. It sounds a little like the legs of corduroy pants rubbing together. (Not that I'd know that sound or anything!)
We started harvesting wheat Monday afternoon (June 12). The strong southernly winds dried down the KanMark variety first. So far, it appears to be an average crop, though test weights have been really good.
Brief rain showers brought the cutting to a halt Tuesday evening.
Randy likely won't be able to start cutting quite as early today because of the rain. (And the wind doesn't seem to be howling this morning for the first time in four days!)
But the clouds sure made for some pretty photos last evening. (You have to find the silver lining, I suppose, when you're stopped in your tracks when you've barely gotten started!)
We'll likely be back at it later today. When wheat fields near harvest, they seem to do more than "murmur" to farmers. They give a full out "siren song," enticing them to fire up the big machines and bring in the harvest.
Note: The bookmark was from the Kansas Wheat Commission. It doesn't have a year on it. Here are both sides. If you click on the photo, you should be able to read it more clearly.

And Happy Flag Day from the County Line!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Check Please!

Check please!
I'll gladly take a "check" when it involves riding 4-wheelers on a beautiful summer morning ...
... especially when it's with this guy!
The "check" involved trips to two pastures to see if the cattle were doing OK in their summer vacation spots. The fences were in place, and the calves and their mamas seemed to be thriving.
We did find an extra inhabitant. (The bull on the left in the photo below was an uninvited guest. I never would have known. He looked right at home to me.)

A neighbor's bull seemed to think we were having a better party on our side of the fence, so he joined in.
While we were waiting on reinforcements to arrive, we took the 4-wheelers down to a bridge for another photo op.
But after our best efforts to encourage him to part with his new friends - our cow-calf pairs and our own bulls - he wanted to make himself at home. Even with two more 4-wheelers added to the round-up crew, we eventually gave up, and our neighbor called a cowboy to round him up and take him home.
But really: Who'd want to leave this place?
The dam at the Ninnescah is always a picturesque place.
But so are the venues with no rushing waters.
Randy sometimes teases me about the "flowers" I like. But at least he didn't call these pretty pinkish-purple flowers weeds. (I couldn't find them on my online Kansas wildflower guide, so if you know what they are, please let me know.)
As the day got a little warmer, the cattle decided to take a swim. Who could blame them?
But we still had one more location to check. Our pasture on the Rattlesnake is lush after our spring rains.
Pretty views of the creek were a lot easier to find than the cattle.
They were trying to escape the heat and the flies by hiding out in the plum thickets
I think I would have preferred a dip in the water.