Amber Waves of Grain

Amber Waves of Grain

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Corny As Kansas in August

Walking through a corn field these days is starting to sound like you're shaking cornflakes from the cardboard cereal box into a bowl.

Our 2019 corn crop is beginning to dry down. There's still plenty of green, but it's losing its lush, verdant color as it transitions toward harvest.

A corn field nearing harvest looks like it needs an airbrush before a beauty shot. In contrast, I think a wheat field looks pretty from start to finish ... well, except if it gets hailed on or a combine is stuck in the field. OK, I guess there are exceptions to every generalization. But, by the time the corn crop is ready to combine, those dried out leaves and husks just don't look that appealing from afar.

Last week, we tested moisture on some fields to see if the moisture was right for transporting to Haw Ranch Feedlot near Turon. While traditional co-op elevators want moisture content at around 16 or below, the feedlot wanted high-moisture corn - grain between 24 to 32 percent moisture.
Randy hand-shelled some kernels, choosing a couple of cobs from stalks that looked more dried down. He put them in the moisture tester while I held on to the canister to prevent spills.
The drier cobs' moisture tested at 18.0.
He then tried a couple of cobs from stalks still showing more green. However, the moisture contest was 21.2, so it was still too dry for the feedlot and not yet dry enough for the co-op. 
We had been missing the rains that had zigzagged across Kansas in the past week or so. However, on Saturday night into Sunday morning, we got 2.90" of rain. It filled the mudholes back up, and it will put the 2019 corn harvest on hold for awhile longer. (But the rain was great for sudan and milo. We hope it will help boost the third cutting of alfalfa, too.)
The prevented planting of wheat acres meant an increase to those we devoted to corn on the County Line this year.
Photo taken August 2 - If you compare how brown the field is now, you can see how much it's dried down this month.
The countdown - and dry down - continues. Planting date makes a difference.

Both the following photos were taken on Friday, August 23.
The field in the photo above was planted a week before the field in the photo below. It's the same variety of corn, so the week difference in planting date is definitely evident. The fields are about 2 miles apart, so there could be a slight difference in rainfall, but not appreciable.
Let's hope this year's corn story has a happy ending!


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

All God's Creatures: A 6-Footed Calf Update

Agri-tourism is one way farms and ranches make money in a challenging market environment. The topic for many a breakout session at producer meetings involves finding new and innovative ways to make a living - beyond running the combine header up and down the field come harvest.
February 2018
The County Line has missed its opportunity to become a sideshow attraction at the state fair or other venue. When a 6-footed calf was born in the winter of 2018, Randy contemplated contacting a traveling animal farm to gauge their interest. For awhile, a K-State veterinary student thought she might have a friend interested in buying it to become her clinic's "mascot."

However, as it turned out, No. 830 stayed in the County Line herd, making the move to and from summer pasture with its contemporaries. When we sold most of the 2018 calves this past February, we kept No. 830 at home in a pen of other misfits - cows who had swollen jaws but hadn't yet had or raised their latest offspring or old cows who would be culled from the herd after they raised their babies.

But last week, we rounded up this ragtag band of brothers and sisters and took some of them to Pratt Livestock. No. 830 was one of those that went through the sale barn.
When I first wrote about the calf, we assumed that the extra parts were associated with an undeveloped conjoined twin. We'd just seen "The Greatest Showman" and our unusual calf had me thinking about society's outcasts in a different way. (Click on the link to check out the song and more.)

However, our veterinarian Bruce Figger provided a fact sheet about Developmental Duplication from the American Angus Association. The abnormality has been long observed in Angus cattle. It was previously thought to be caused by conjoined twins or other anomalies during fetal development.

Instead, it was found to be a simply inherited recessive genetic condition passed through certain lines of Angus cattle. Animals affected with this condition can sometimes be born with an extra limb or part of an extra limb, a condition referred to as polymelia.
February 2018
The calf had its four limbs in the right place, and it moved just as freely as the other babies born during the same season. (Check out the video I took that winter of the calf and his mother.)



6-footed calf from Kim Fritzemeier on Vimeo.

I took the photo below when we worked baby calves in the spring of 2018, and it was doing great. At that time, I wrote another blog post.
March 21, 2018
But since then, No. 830 has done a lot of growing.
August 21, 2019
This past week, we had time to gather and sort the cattle, so No. 830 got a ride to the Pratt sale barn, along with three cows.
None of them were prize specimens, so we didn't expect a huge paycheck from the sale.
Well, I didn't expect a huge payout. Randy joked with the sale barn manager that he expected a premium price for the extra legs. As we walked out of the office, I asked Randy: "He knows you're joking, right?!"
We got the check in the mail yesterday. No. 830 had weighed 715 pounds and brought in a measly $311 check, about the same amount that the cow with lump jaw had garnered. And so the story ends - gone, but probably not forgotten for awhile.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Hired (?) Help

Taken while filling up a diesel tank at the Kanza Co-op, Zenith branch
Meet the County Line's latest hired man ... er, hired person ... er, unpaid laborer.

We have been without a full-time farm employee since late June. If we decide to hire a full-time person again, it will require yet another round of work on the employee house to make it habitable for the next person. Since we've done more work on that house than on the house we actually live in, it's kind of a touchy subject. Enough said about that, I suppose.

Anyway, Randy has born the brunt of more hours in the tractor cab and the extra work. It's nice not to have to write a paycheck every two weeks, but there's definitely a down side, too. 

I've done my best to fill in the gaps, too. Lately, those "gaps" have been craters, so it hasn't left a lot of extra time for writing and other optional activities. 

Here's a synopsis of some of my duties in the past few weeks:
Fuel filling and delivery 
I like it the best when I remember to bring my book and can read while the slow-running pump trickles its way to filling the 100-gallon tank in the back of the pickup. 

The co-op manager told me I need to request that the boss move the tank closer to the edge so that said helper doesn't have to climb onto the pickup bed to put the fuel hose in and then take it out. (In the summer, that pickup bed is HOT! And I am well past the point of just leaping onto the pickup bed!)
Cowgirl and cattle herder
A few of the cattle in the Ninnescah pasture have learned that yes, indeed, "the grass (or soybeans) are greener on the other side of the fence."
 
Unfortunately, those soybeans belong to someone else. After chasing them through some trees, we got them back inside the fence. We've been doing our best to keep them contained, which led to the next job:
 
Fence fixing assistant
While my skills at fence "fixing" are not very good, I am good at helping to carry supplies for fixing said fence. 

 Chauffeur
 
I've lost count of how many trips we've made to Miller Seed Farm in the past couple of weeks. We are taking the seed wheat we saved during this year's wheat harvest to get it cleaned and treated to get things ready for planting in late September/early October for Harvest 2020. 

We take the wheat trucks to Miller Seed Farm and leave them until it's our turn, then I then take Randy back to pick up the truck with the cleaned wheat. I realized one day last week that I was using my Miller Seed Farm coffee cup, so I took a photo as I drove past their sign off Highway 14. 
Earlier this week, Randy took the truck to Miller's, and I picked him up to take him on to the Hutchinson Case dealer. He picked up the combine, which had been in the repair shop, for the long drive home. 
Randy had to travel on Highway 50 for a few miles before he could turn off on a less-traveled road. That always makes me nervous!
I also have provided an "Uber" service when we've needed to leave vehicles at the co-op shop, the local auto repair shop and the local auto body repair shop. We are helping to keep these local service providers in business, it appears.

 Pilot and pace car driver
One of our farm trucks doesn't have a working speedometer. So I was like the pace car for the Indy 500 on the multiple trips to Miller Seed Farm. OK, not really, but I did help Randy make sure that he wasn't driving more than 55 on 4th Street. In reality, I had to slow down because I was losing him at 55 mph.
I later provided warning flasher lights when Randy had a blow-out on the same truck. Thankfully, he was able to keep it on the road when it blew, and the Kanza Co-op came to our rescue quickly.    
Traffic cop 
Provide hand signals to get the truck backed up to unload the cleaned seed wheat back into the bin. 
Shove a board behind the tires so it doesn't roll. 

Photographer & historian
 
Try to find a creative way to take photos of something I've taken photos of several times before.
 
 PTO engineer
Run the PTO on the auger so the farmer can safely clean out the remainder of the wheat from the truck. 

Mechanic apprentice
 Hand tools, nuts, bolts, washers and whatever else is required for a repair on the baler. Provide a little extra umphh for lifting things into place (such as it was).
The cuter mechanic's helper was this little guy. 
 Cook, Meal Delivery, Laundress, Secretary, Go-Fer, Correspondent, Co-bookkeeper, Personal Assistant and Lawn Care
 You'll just have to take my word on these extra duties since I don't have photo confirmation. 

Just like other women in today's world, farm women come in all shapes and sizes. They are young and old and in between. Some work in the field alongside their husbands. Some keep the books. Some have dinner on the table at 12 noon without fail. Some load up the meal in the car and deliver it places that no Pizza Hut delivery guy could ever hope to find, even with GPS.

Some work at off-farm jobs to help supplement farm income. I drove to Hutchinson to work for more years than I wanted early in our marriage, and I've had part-time employment of some sort for most of our married lives. All of those things have been essential to the success of the farm.
I may not be collecting a paycheck every two weeks from the County Line, but I do get some nice fringe benefits.You can't beat the work environment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

When Life Gives You Lemons ... or Lemon-Colored Lockers

I keep thinking about these bright yellow lockers.

Kinley started second grade at a new school in a new town last week. And, truth be told, she was pretty nervous about the whole thing.

She had bosom buddies at her old school. She knew where the lunch room was. She knew how many books she could check out of the school library at one time and where her favorite authors were located. The old school was familiar, like a snugly blanket wrapped around you as you drift off to sleep.

This girl who has always loved school was not nearly as excited to go to a new place with new classmates and new teachers and new surroundings.

But the day before classes began, they went to meet-the-teacher night at her new school. And she found out she had her name on one of these bright-yellow-as-a-school-bus-colored lockers. All of the sudden, this new place looked exciting, rather than scary. She discovered that she'd share the locker with Natalie, who was also new to the school.

Everything was going to be OK. (Jill said she has never been more thankful for lockers in her life.)
Among Kinley's artwork was the pink heart with stars around it.
At church the Sunday before school started, Pastor Andrew blessed the students' backpacks and each received a tag to help them remember that God is with them always - at church, at home and, yes, at school, too.

After children's time, the kids departed for Sunday School, and Kinley and her classmates drew chalk messages on the sidewalk in front of the church.When we adults came out from the worship service, we were greeted with rainbows and LOVE and an exhortation to "Be Happy."
 One drawing reminded us to "Let the light shine!"
Shining seems a lot easier when you're in comfortable surroundings, among people you know and circumstances you understand. But, despite our gravitating toward the familiar and the comparatively easy path, life bombards us with change.

And we change-averse humans - like Kinley ... and, yes, Kinley's Grandma Kim - dread our shift in circumstances. Given the chance, we'd avoid that change and all the accompanying discomfort it brings if only we could.
And yet, stormy skies always yield the most dramatic and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. There can be beauty in change and in storms, if we shift our attitudes. (Yes, I'm preaching to a choir of one - me!)
Life often brings us to stormy crossroads. So this Message from God in my email devotional really struck me:
On this day, God wants you to know
that change is the very nature of life. 
Welcome it! No glass ever became sand again.
No bread ever became wheat.


No ripened fruit ever became a flower again.
Welcome change, and choose what kind of glass you create, 
what kind of bread you bake, 
what kind of fruit you harvest.
And when changes in life make you feel like you're sucking on sour lemons, make lemonade ... or at least find some bright yellow lockers (or sun-soaked sunflowers) and find a reason to smile.