Amber Waves of Grain

Amber Waves of Grain

Thursday, June 4, 2020

For the Birds

Crop updates, rainfall totals and gossip aren't the only things served up alongside bacon and eggs at Joan's Cafe in Stafford. And grape jelly isn't just for putting on that whole wheat toast that cozies up beside the breakfast special.

Randy heard through the grapevine - so to speak - that grape jelly attracts orioles. A plethora of blackbirds dominate our backyard branches. In hopes of enticing more colorful visitors, he decided to test the grape jelly theory. He cut down a 2-liter pop bottle and plopped in a hefty spoonful of grape jelly, then hung the contraption from an unused TV antenna wire.

Huh ... Joan's breakfast crew appears to know what they're talking about.
On the other hand, this amateur photographer has only been able to "capture" the backyard tourists through the porch window so far. But I'll keep trying, since we're now on our second jumbo jar of grape jelly (and we haven't consumed a single spoonful).
Our fishing trip last week netted a somewhat blurry photo of a red-winged blackbird. That was the only bird who lit on a branch long enough for me to click the lens a few times.

The spring afternoon trip was a success even if we didn't catch a single fish.
We caught a clam.

We caught a turtle, though there is no photographic evidence to support that claim since Randy had to cut the line to free it.
I caught some time reading. (I moved the lawn chair to the shade shortly thereafter and was much happier.)
We caught a glimpse of the two bulls and the cow-calf pairs since they came up to investigate who was invading their summer vacation spot.
And we caught some beautiful scenery.
Let's hope the Monarch butterflies "catch" the news that there are milkweed plants blooming in the pasture.
And it's always good to catch a beautiful sunset, especially when the news of the world is so bleak.

From Romans 8: 26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

County Line Virtual Crop Tour

We had no trouble social distancing during our County Line wheat tour.

This year, because of Covid-19, the Wheat Quality Council substituted a Virtual Wheat Tour for its usual in-person variety. After the abbreviated version with volunteer scouts was completed the week of May 18, the final report estimated a potential Kansas wheat harvest of 284.4 million bushels. That was below the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent estimate of 306 million bushels.
The virtual tour was not meant to fully replace the annual Wheat Quality Council’s Hard Winter Wheat Tour that annually hosts 80 to 100 or more participants. In that tour, participants drive across Kansas for three days, scouting several hundred wheat fields the first week of May. This year’s tour was hosted by Kansas Wheat and Kansas State University Research & Extension, with support from the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The abbreviated tour May 18 to 21 was offered as a snapshot of the wheat crop’s potential, using a later-season formula from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

We completed our own County Line tour on Thursday, May 28. It was not virtual for me. I had my own personal guide and scout.
My guide believes our wheat is the best its been for several years.
Last year, this field was totally in corn because heavy rains in the fall of 2018 kept us from planting part of our 2019 wheat crop.
The wheat in this field is a little taller.
This past month, we've had timely rains - about 4 inches of gentle, soaking-in rain spread out in regular intervals during the month. (The photos below were taken on May 7.)
We've also had cooler weather, which has aided in filling the wheat heads. In our fields, there's not evidence of diseases like stripe rust, though some has been reported in parts of Kansas.
We did find some freeze damage, particularly in low-lying areas. You can see the damage at the top of the head in the photo above. However, there is grain further down in the head.

While it's not "amber waves of grain" quite yet, we're well on our way to America, the Beautiful in wheat country. A general rule of thumb from the farmers at the coffee shop says that we should be cutting wheat about six weeks after it begins heading. That would put our projected start date in mid-June. You've heard of "old wives' tales." We'll see how accurate the "old farmers" are.
Our County Line tour wasn't exclusive to wheat. We also had some stops in corn fields.
 The rains have been beneficial for the corn, too, which we planted the third week of April.
It's grown a lot since these photos were taken May 1.
It's amazing what a little time and some rain will do!
The rains have also been beneficial to greening up our pastures to enhance our cow-calf pairs' summer dining experience.
We had quite an audience as we fished at the Ninnescah on Friday.
Our alfalfa got off to a slow start because of insects. It's taken awhile for it to rebound, but Randy hopes to begin our first cutting this week. 

Randy planted silage yesterday, and milo planting is also on the agenda this week.

This completes this edition of the County Line Virtual Tour. You are cordially invited to attend future tours right here at this web address.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Marie Kondo Would Not Approve

Marie Kondo would not approve.

"Tidy your space; 
transform your life," she promises.

But I'm a pack rat.
There: I said it.
I've also lived in the same house for nearly 35 years now.
It's a recipe for an overwhelming task.
Only a pandemic could have forced my hand.
Well, that's one good thing, I suppose.

The casual visitor wouldn't necessarily uncover this particular character flaw.
On the surface, there may be a little extra dust from time to time.
For the most part, my house is presentable ... at least, at surface level.
But I sure didn't want anyone opening a closet or drawer.

And even though I've been slowly chipping away - a cabinet or closet at a time - I still am not ready for a visit from the white-glove lady.

Kondo - the organizational guru - says you should get rid of "stuff" that doesn't "Spark Joy." OK, but some of it does spark joy - or at the very least - it sparks memories. (I am guessing Kondo is happy enough that some people bought her book. She must be betting that her missive is worth the real estate it takes on the book shelf. Something to ponder, right?!)

Anyway, I've thrown away a bunch of stuff.
We've donated some other stuff.

I couldn't bring myself to throw away some of the cards or letters my kids sent, so those went into a little storage box. I guess they'll get to throw them away some day.
I uncovered a stack of thank you notes from people from back in my days as a writer at The Hutchinson News. Among the stacks of letters I'd saved, I counted five from people who had a bone to pick with a story I wrote. Two of them were connected to a story in which I quoted someone saying that the Kansas Author's Club members were "a bunch of old ladies in hats."

First of all, I didn't say it.
I shared an accurate quote from someone I interviewed.
Their opinion, not mine.
Upon further reflection, perhaps I should have left that quote out. I was young.

A couple more were from the grammar police.
I usually do a better-than-average job with grammar.
But I'm certainly not infallible. One lady enumerated my many faults in a multi-page missive.

Isn't it curious that I've spent a whole lot more time thinking about the criticisms than the largely-positive "thank yous" and "so well done" remarks?" I suppose it's a lesson in human nature as much as it is grammar.

Long, long ago, the Class Prophecy for Skyline High School's Class of 1975 predicted I'd be a writer at The New York Times. Since I'm a small-town girl through and through, I never bought into the vision some creative classmate penned 45 years ago. At the time, I suppose we all envisioned that success was measured far, far away from the plains of Kansas.
I'd forgotten a letter from an opera singer I'd interviewed. It said, in part:
My friends here in New York have decided that you should be on the staff of Opera News or at least The New York Times. I agree. You captured the essence of "me" on paper.
A Lindsborg native sent me a letter from Germany by "Air Mail" after I interviewed her for a feature story. 
I found notes from two of my elementary-school teachers. My college advisor and instructor sent a note after I won some national writing and page design awards.

Two other letters were addressed to Kim Moore and Pete Souza. At the time, Pete was a staff photographer for The News.
Pete Souza went on to serve as White House photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. (Well, at least one of us moved on to bigger things.)

I read all of the letters again and then reluctantly tossed them. And, in truth, I didn't specifically remember three-fourths of the articles they mentioned. 

In an evaluation I uncovered, a former editor called my feature work "exceptional." He had a lot of nice things to say, but he also pegged my shortcomings rather well.
1) While her reporting is - as always - thorough, it tends to be lengthy ...

2) She often gets very involved in the stories she's doing, and while so far that has actually been a benefit by giving her greater insight, caution must be exercised to see that it doesn't foul her ability to still look at the issue with the detachment necessary to provide balanced reporting.
Guilty as charged to both counts. This blog post certainly qualifies.
I feel really old after finding some thank you notes from Mrs. Leavelle's 2nd grade class at Stafford Elementary. They were sent to me following their field trip to The News. Some of those "second graders" are now friends on Facebook and have their own families.

I may have a harder time throwing away the actual clippings. I'm still in the sorting phase of that particular Kondo-inspired project. It's slow going.
I have a whole legal-sized file folder filled with the love of Herman. (No, I haven't been two-timing Randy. Herman was a sourdough starter whose appeal grew as exponentially as his dough.) Ironically, during this pandemic, there's been a resurgence in bread baking and also an interest in sourdough. I just haven't heard anyone call it "Herman" yet. See? Maybe I'm not ready to get rid of that file quite yet.

I'm having similar withdrawal pangs about tossing:
  • Mountains of newspaper clips, some of which I had entered in state and national competitions;
  • Foothill-sized mounds of newsletter publications for Wesley Towers, Newton Medical Center, Youthville and others for whom I wrote as a freelancer after "retiring" from The News;
  • Vocal solo accompaniment tapes, even though I don't have a working cassette player any longer and the church audio system can no longer play them;
  • 4-H foods and photography leader files. This represents another huge investment of time and effort through my kids' growing-up years.
I did toss a stack of newspaper clips crammed inside 5- by 7-inch manila envelopes. How research has changed! Back in the pre-Google days, we filed articles so we could reference them again. For example, if I was going to write another article about the Cosmosphere, I could pull my handy-dandy manila envelope for background material.
Also destined for the trash pile are file cabinets full of clips from other magazines, newspapers, etc., that might serve as a springboards for story ideas. They range from asparagus to zucchini in the food article realm to files on miscarriage, adoption and more. As long as my helper's back holds out, I'll keep weeding out those file folders and having him tote them by laundry-basket-full out of the basement.

Isn't Google miraculous when you think about it?

I was amused by a file I found labeled "computers." An article in Kansas Farmer from 1989 had this headline: To Computer Or Not to Computer" with the subtitle: That is the question. A computer for your farm isn't necessary. Be aware of how much time it's going to take if you do decide to buy a computer."

My, how times have changed, right?

Another article in the computer file was from Family Fun magazine: "So You'd Like to Buy A Computer: What every family in search of a computer needs to know to get the biggest bang for the buck."

I guess that article ended up with the most pull, since there's also a receipt for the first home computer I purchased in that file folder.
Another publication made me kind of sad. When I worked at The Hutchinson News, it was the flagship paper in the Harris Group. The community newspaper is on its deathbed, I fear, as large media conglomerates have swallowed up papers and slashed local staff.

My old proportion wheel reflects a time when page design required more brainpower than a computer.

I know my old Junior Parent notebook is obsolete, but serving as chair or co-chair of those efforts for both Jill's and Brent's classes also represents a lot of time and effort. Same goes for the kids' scholarship notebooks. And no way am I getting rid of the 3-ring wedding binder yet. 

I don't even want to think about the tubs of photos and my kids' school mementos that need to be sorted and organized. But I have plenty to do before I get to that seemingly insurmountable task. I sure wish that digital photography had arrived a little sooner.

You can't expect miracles, Marie Kondo. I'm trying ... I really am.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

I Know A Green Cathedral

I still know the first few phrases of the first vocal solo I ever sang for a music festival. It was "The Green Cathedral." It was my 7th grade year at Skyline Schools, and I remember standing by the piano in the music room with Mr. Bob White, practicing over and over again, trying to perfect the performance before the music festival.

These days, I sometimes can't remember why I walked from one room to the other without retracing my steps and trying again. But the words to that long-ago solo were among the first I remembered as Randy and I stepped into the light and shadows of an abandoned farmstead.
"I know a green cathedral, 
a shadowed forest shrine.
Where leaves in love join hands above 
and arch your prayer and mine."

It might not be a forest in the middle of the Kansas plains. But the Dame's rocket flowers were a siren call stretching far into the shelterbelt and dotting the blanket of green underfoot and overhead with a splash of lavender.

That day, we had been driving by at 55 MPH on our way back home. But the splash of purple at the side of the road had me asking Randy to turn around.
We've been to this spot on other springtime afternoons. But never do I remember the flowers being so prolific and magical.
True confessions: I didn't remember all the words to the song without Googling them. (And, by the way, isn't that reference tool a major upgrade from the old card catalog? After all, it was probably 50 years ago or so.)

So, "The Green Cathedral" has joined the never-ending sound track of my mind.

"Memories, light the corner of my mind. Misty, water-colored memories
Of the way we were."

Oops ... wrong song.

"The Green Cathedral" 
Verse by Gordon Johnstone

I know a green cathedral, a shadowed forest shrine,
 Where leaves in love join hands above
 and arch your prayer and mine;
Within its cool depths sacred, the priestly cedar sighs,
 And the fir and pine lift arms divine unto the pure blue skies
In my dear green cathedral there is a flowered seat,
Birdhouse at Sterling golf course, photo taken the same day.
 And choir loft in branched croft, 
 where songs of bird hymns sweet;
 And I like to dream at evening, 
when the stars its arches light,
That my Lord and God treads its hallowed sod, 
In the cool calm peace of night.