It's a grand old flag

It's a grand old flag

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It's never more true than when you enter photos in a county fair. My three favorite photos I've taken during the past year didn't even garner a ribbon at the 2019 Stafford County Fair. Not one.

First of all, let me say that the Grand Champion chosen this year is phenomenal. It's an action shot of a cowboy on a bucking bull. This is not sour grapes because that purple ribbon is exactly where it should have gone.

I do photography for fun. Way back as a fifth grader, I was documenting our family's winter break trip to California through a camera lens. Having a camera in my hand is second nature ... and what makes my purse so heavy!

When I looked through my photos from the past year, I didn't think most of my photos were as strong as some I've entered in the past. But it's fun to get the photos out of the camera and off the blog and blow them up to 8 X 10s. And, if nothing else, lots of them end up decorating my home throughout the year.

So why did I like those three photos so much more than the judge did? I've been trying to evaluate that. I think it's because they were hard to get and things I'd never photographed before.
I put this beautiful blue butterfly on notecards, and I've already reordered them since I've used so many. Blue and purple have always been my favorite colors. For my childhood bedroom, I chose a purple and blue shag carpet. So the colors in this shot just naturally appeal to me.

These male Melissa's blue butterflies are about the size of a thumbnail, so it's not easy to get close enough for a clear shot before they flit away to another perch. I took the photo in an alfalfa field in late September of last year and blogged about it then. I had delivered Randy's lunch to the field and wanted photos of him filling the wheat drill. To fill my time, I wandered into the alfalfa field, looking for Monarch butterflies who hadn't yet migrated. Monarchs are easy, compared to these tiny creatures.

Equally difficult to capture with my point-and-shoot camera were two different bluebird sightings. The first was in the pasture south of our house. The group of migrating mountain bluebirds stayed for less than a day in February. I took bunches of photos from the pickup, trying to get a bird in focus on the dry pasture grass before it flew to its next perch.
I've also reordered the bluebirds on notecards since I've used so many of them.
The second bluebird was spotted at the Stafford County Country Club golf course. Thanks to Randy's eagle eyes (pun intended), I captured an eastern bluebird in a tree near the tee-off for Hole 5. It wasn't easy without a telephoto lens. And I realize I had to lighten it too much, which resulted in a colorless sky, but I still love the photo. Neither of the bluebird photos garnered a ribbon either.

Two of my blue-ribbon photos were taken in the snow. I think the judge must have been hot (which I can definitely relate to. I was hot, too!) I do love that photo at the top of this blog post of a mama and baby in front of that craggy tree on a snowy evening. It got a blue in the black and white "animal" category.
 I entered this other pair in the agriculture category in the color division, and it got a blue also.
This black and white version of an ivory rose in the Ted Ensley Gardens in Topeka in June was my other blue and my only "warm season" blue. Ironically, I had asked Randy if he thought I "ought to bother" even entering that one. Shows what I know!

The "cold" theme continued among my photos which received reds (2nd in the class).
I took this photo in Kansas City when I was with Randy who was attending the Kanza Co-op board retreat.
This springtime photo also got a red.
This close-up of our backyard spirea bush got a white ribbon. I thought it looked like a miniature bridal bouquet.
This photo of Randy got lots of "likes" on Facebook, but it didn't get a ribbon. I still love it.

Stafford County Economic Development sponsors a photo contest. Three of my six photos received an honorable mention. One of them was the photo of Randy in the corn field (above).
Another was also in a corn field, but it was taken on the first day of summer at sunrise. Both of those were entered in the "commerce" category.
Randy must have been my good luck charm, since he was in all three of the winners. (Not really a big surprise. As already established, he's my No. 1 model.) The one at the Stafford County Country Club golf course was entered in the "Places" category.

I also entered a couple of books that I made for the girls in the online scrapbooking category. Sometimes, I write blog posts about adventures with our granddaughters in rhyme. Later, I put the rhymes and photos in books and give a copy to each of the girls (and keep one for myself, of course). I don't make quilts and I'm not particularly crafty. So these are my versions of family heirlooms for them.
I absolutely love the Zoobilation! book, but it only got 2nd in the class. (Watch for it in an upcoming blog post on a Kansas Staycation.)
This book I did for Brooke after her solo visit to the farm last summer didn't place (but I love it, too). Here's the story in a blog post.

It may not have been a banner year in the ribbon department, but I doubt it will deter me from entering next year. My premium money didn't begin to cover the cost of enlarging photos, buying matboard and special plastic bags.

But it's not about the money. It's about being part of something bigger. If people don't enter, there's nothing to look at during the fair. And if there's nothing to look at, nobody is going to come. And if no one comes, fairs are going to die.
So I guess I'll do my part to keep the tradition alive - whether that means entering photos in the open class division or continuing to serve as 4-H foods superintendent on a hot day in July!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

To Infinity and Beyond: The Moon, 50 Years Later

I was a Lost in Space addict as a kid. When I was 9, I tried to convince my parents we should name my new baby brother Don. They opted for Kent instead.

At the time, I just couldn't figure it out. Why wouldn't they want to name this newest member of our family after the dreamy Major Don West on my favorite TV show?
Well, I couldn't figure it out until I was in college and saw reruns of Lost in Space. Somehow this cherished TV series got a little cheesier in the ensuing years. It was definitely "B" movie material.

For those of you too young to remember, Lost in Space was a 60-minute, sci-fi series broadcast on CBS every Wednesday night. It was about the Robinson Family, Major Don West and their faithful robot who left Earth on the Jupiter II spacecraft. They were on a five-year mission to explore a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. Unfortunately, Dr. Zachary Smith sabotaged the ship, throwing it off course and leaving the entire crew Lost in Space. Gasp! Each week, they traveled from planet to planet, searching for a way back to Earth.

They found plenty of aliens and danger along the way. You would have thought the object of my preadolescent crush would have been Will Robinson, the precocious 9-year-old in the series.
He and his friend the robot were always in the thick of the action, hence the often repeated phrase: "Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!"

I had just turned 12 when the real-life astronauts landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the bulky television console and watching as Neil Armstrong left the lunar module and walked on the moon, with Walter Cronkite narrating his every step. For one, it was after my bedtime, so that was a big deal. But even as a young tween, I felt the significance of America's achievement of being the first on the moon.

Evidently, it made a big impression on my late mother-in-law as well. By default, our basement became the repository for tubs of family photos and memorabilia when we cleaned out their house.
In the midst of the family photos, Marie had saved The Hutchinson News from July 21, 1969, the day after Armstrong made "a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Ironically, I worked for nine years for that very newspaper after I graduated from Kansas State University. And we are still among the few who hold on to their subscription in these days of shrinking newspaper circulation.
It is huge! It measures 16.5 by 22.75 inches. Today's paper is 11 by 22.5 inches. And the moon landing was a huge story in July 1969. Hundreds of millions of people had tuned into radios or watched the grainy black-and-white images on television as the astronauts set foot on the moon. It was haled as one of humanity's most glorious technological achievements. Police around the world reported crime came to a near halt that midsummer Sunday night. 

And even though most people had been glued to their TV sets during the historic walk, I'm sure they poured over every word in their daily newspaper the next day, hoping to discover a new tidbit. 

In an anniversary article published in The Hutchinson News this week, astronaut Michael Collins,
who orbited the moon alone in the mother ship while his capsule-mates strode on the lunar surface,  was struck by the banding together of Earth’s inhabitants.
"How often can you get people around our globe to agree on anything? Hardly ever. And yet briefly at the time of the first landing on the moon, people were united. They felt they were participants. It was a wonderful achievement in the sense that people everywhere around the planet applauded it: north, south, east, west, rich, poor, Communist, whatever."
---Astronaut Michael Collins, now age 88, in an Associated Press interview
Of the 24 astronauts who flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, only 12 are still alive. Of the 12 who walked on the moon, four survive. A vast majority of Earth’s 7.7 billion inhabitants were born after Apollo ended, including NASA’s current administrator, 44-year-old Jim Bridenstine, who is overseeing the effort to send humans back to the moon by 2024.

One of the unique features of The News is the Intercepted Letter, which is found on each edition's front page. For awhile, new publishers did away with the folksy snippet. But it's back in 2019.
On that day in July 1969, the editors wrote:

Space Center
Houston, Tex. 
(Hold for Arrival)
Dear Neil,
With so many people jumping for joy down here, it's a good thing the earth does have a heavy gravitational pull.

One of the stories was headlined, "They prayed for the astronauts." I'd be surprised to see a headline like that in a newspaper today.
"I've been watching the simulated mock-ups all day. We went to church, but we have switched around to all the channels to listen to the commentary."
Allan Buckwalter
 It's more sensational than the Lindberg flight.
Mrs. Abby Burnett
A poem made it onto the front page, Voyage to the Moon by Archibald MacLeish. It reads, in part:
Presence among us
wandered in our skies.
Dazzle of silver in our leaves
and on our waters silver,
silver evasion in our farthest thought ...
"the visiting moon" ... 
"the glimpses of the moon" ...
and we have touched you!

From the first of time
before the first of time,
before the first men tested time,
we thought of you.
You were a wonder to us,
unattainable, a longing,
 a light beyond our light ...
Now our hands have touched you
in your depth of night. ...

Just like these days, when new parents give celebrity names to their newborns, The News told of a little boy named Apollo, the 11th child born to a family in Lebanon on the day of the Apollo 11 moonshot.
 It's interesting to see what the weather was at this time 50 years ago, too.
It was fun to look through the articles and the ads. A bank used a space theme that day in its display ad for banking hours.
The television schedule shows that I Dream of Jeanie (another one of my childhood favorites) was on the television that night. That show featured Larry Hagman as an astronaut besotted with the 2,000-year-old genie/Jeanie, so it was appropriate TV fare for the evening. So were Mayberry, Here's Lucy, Gunsmoke and Family Affair.

The Fox Theater in Hutchinson wanted to advertise their air-conditioning it appears, with ice on their logo. They were playing a movie called The Longest Day and suggested seeing it during the 25th anniversary of D-Day.
A Wichita theater advertised the "Frenchy" musical, Can Can.
I couldn't believe the bargain price on wedding sets or the bedspreads available for less than $15 each. 
The prices on the grocery store ads created a little shell shock for this consumer of today.
There were patterns for doll clothing and a woman's dress alongside an ad for a $169.95 automatic electric washer and a box of serving trays for $7.50 or $10, depending on the diameter, at the downtown department store.
A Calhoun's ad shows what the well-dressed woman of the era was wearing.

But my favorite ad was the one for a dry cleaners and laundry. It definitely reflects the times when women were beginning to join the work force in greater numbers and were no longer fulfilling the June Cleaver stereotype of wearing pearls while doing housework.
I know that downsizing is the recommended way to live life these days. And, after living 34 years in the same house, I can verify that a good purging would be a good idea. But, then, every so often, it pays to be a packrat.
Photo taken at the Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, KS
Sometimes glimpses of our history show us just how far we've traveled.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"Hay!" Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Inquiring minds want to know: Does Randy really want to be the poster child for my blogging efforts? Admittedly, he ends up being the "face" of Kim's County Line. Once in awhile, he's relieved from his duties by our cute granddaughters or an adorable baby calf. But he definitely is my most consistent model. Once in awhile, my Facebook friends ask me, "Is he really OK with that?"

I've had more than one person say:
  • "My husband wouldn't be that patient."
  • "Mine wouldn't cooperate like that!"
  • "It would be a cold day in July to get my hubby to stand there and take pictures when he has other things to do."
And, yes, Randy is patient ... as long as we're not talking about broken-down equipment, uncooperative cattle or not getting his cell phone to work in the never-never-land we call home.

I think he kind of likes having the farm featured in my blog and on my Facebook page (which, by the way, he reads Facebook on his tablet faithfully). In fact, he often suggests blog topics or photo ideas. For one, he sees it as a way to keep landlords in the loop about what's going on at the farm. Plus, it makes me more attentive to the whys and wherefores of this operation.
One of those things he really wanted a photo of was the long row of big, round hay bales generated from the oats he planted in an old alfalfa field.

As we rounded the corner from taking pictures in a corn field, I saw the long row of bales and remembered his request.
Randy was happy to get 176 bales of hay off the 47-acre field. And I'll tell you something else: It's not easy to get all those bales in one frame.
Sometimes, he doesn't get a choice in whether a photo is taken or not. I doubt he even knows I took this one yesterday morning as it appeared he was getting eaten alive while working on the combine straw chopper.

I paid him his "modeling fees" by serving as his assistant. As I told my family, if I am the assistant for any mechanical project, you know he's desperate. Mechanical ability is not one of my attributes.
But we got it done!

Randy started swathing the second cutting of alfalfa on Monday. Case has had our baling/loading tractor and has been working on it for awhile now, so Randy has been hesitant to put a lot of hay down.

We still have wheat to cut, but it's on ground really impacted by underflow. So we'll give it some more time this week when we have four days of projected 100 degree days. Oh, and did I mention it's county fair week? That's pretty much a guarantee for hot weather. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Grinning from Ear to Ear: A Corn Update

The corn is making my wheat farmer grin from ear to ear ... corn pun intended.

While we slog our way through the soggy ground and poor wheat crop toward the end of wheat harvest, Randy can't help but be excited about our dryland corn crop. He has to let his eternal optimist outlook shine somehow!
July 4, 2019
It's not the norm to have a tunnel of corn lining both sides of the road on the trip from our house to the Zenith Road. Corn still is not our primary crop, but prevent planting on wheat acres last fall meant a boost in the corn acres planted this spring.
We planted 600 acres of corn last April. That's not much when compared to other farmers, especially those with irrigated acres, but it's significant for us. We also planted 95 acres of milo and 30 acres of silage, doubling our normal row crop acreage.
Because of spring rains, we have our share of mudholes in the corn fields.
But now that the corn is taller, there's the illusion of a mile-long avenue of corn on one side of the road south of our house.

The 1.5 to 2 inches of rain that fell Friday into Saturday arrived at an inopportune time for wheat harvest. But it was an ideal time for corn pollination.
The tassel is the male flower of corn. Each tassel is comprised of a central tassel stalk and lateral branches. As the corn plant tassels, it opens its packets of pollen.
At the same time, silky strands become exposed on the lower portion of the plant. The pollen from the top of the plant must reach the silk. In the fields, this is done solely by wind and luck. Once the silk is covered in pollen, each strand will become a kernel of corn, and an ear of corn will start to form.

Corn is monoecious, which means that male and female reproductive structures are present on each plant. However, male and female flowers are in separate locations on the plant. Given the separation of the ear and tassel and considering the vast amounts of pollen transported within a field, it is understandable why corn is primarily cross-pollinated. Less than 5 percent of kernels may be fertilized by pollen from the same plant.
The ear is the female flower of corn. (Randy is pointing an undeveloped ear of corn in the photo above.)
Silks develop and elongate from the surface of each ovary on the ear. The silk functions as the stigma and style of the female flower providing a pathway for the male reproductive cells to reach the ovule. Silks begin growing from ovaries at the base of the ear, then progress toward the tip.
Normally, pollination is a continuous process with fertilization occurring gradually along the ear as silks emerge. A mass of long, green silks indicates that pollination has not occurred. Anything that interferes with pollination may reduce fertilization and kernel set.
Successful fertilization does not always result in a harvestable kernel. Even though the corn looks good right now, there's a lot of time until harvest. For several weeks following fertilization, grain quality and quantity can be reduced when photosynthesis is interrupted by cloudy conditions, moisture stress, heat stress and other factors.
But even with those caveats, the crop's current prospects have my farmer happy for the moment.
July 8, 2019
It's good to have something to dream about when it's taking forever to fill a truck with a poor wheat crop and you're backing out of endless mud to avoid getting stuck.