Thursday, September 23, 2021

Pretty on the Inside?


I think wheat fields are beautiful at pretty much every stage - from bright green sprout to those iconic "amber waves of grain" waving in the Kansas wind. 

However, to me, corn is not a "looker" at harvest time. But we always hope it will be pretty on the inside. (I wrote about ugly corn syndrome in June. Evidently it didn't get a complex because it did OK in the end.) 

Last Friday, we completed our annual quest to discover the "inner beauty" of the crop.

We are relative newcomers to corn and have only had it in our crop rotation since 2013. (Randy has been producing alfalfa for 50 years and wheat for almost that long.) Our 99 bushels/acre 2021 corn crop was almost identical to the verdict last year:

2021 - 99 bu/acre
2020 - 98 bu/acre
2019 - 66.6 bu/acre
2018 - 82 bu/acre 
2017 - 43.6 bu/acre
2016 - 71 bu/acre
2015 - 43.88 bu/acre
2014 - 108 bu/acre
2013 - 57 bu/acre (This was the first year we added corn into the crop rotation).

We began corn harvest on Thursday, September 2. There was an abrupt pause the next day, when it was foggy and humid. Friday night (September 3), we got 3 inches of rain at our house, which stopped corn harvest in its tracks. While the corn was dry earlier, we couldn't get over the ground with the combine again until Wednesday, September 8. We stayed home from the K-State football home opener September 11 to cut corn. We had to be at the state fair on Tuesday, September 14, for Kansas Master Farmer and Farm Homemaker Day. As presidents of our respective branches of the organization, both of us had parts in the meeting and program. Then it rained that evening. 

However, it was pretty from the grandstand as we watched the storm roll in.

We made it through about 45 minutes of the Logan Mize concert before nearby lightning strikes shut down the music for awhile. (We drove home instead of waiting for Sawyer Brown. Looking at radar, we weren't sure the concert would continue, but it did.)

It took until Friday (September 17) for the ground to dry out out enough again for cutting. And we cut the last load of corn for 2021 that afternoon.

This spring, we planted 294 acres to dryland corn. (See the blog post about planting here. The corn was a lot higher than knee high on the 4th of July. And for photos on how it was looking later in July, click here.)

Our acres don't amount to much in the overall statistics of production for Kansas. 

According to the Kansas Corn Commission, a third of our corn stays in Kansas to feed livestock; a third is made into ethanol and dried distillers grain at Kansas ethanol plants; and a third of our corn leaves Kansas to be used in other states or exported overseas, along with corn products. 

Only five states produced more corn than Kansas in 2020. However, since our primary crop here on the County Line is wheat, we don't contribute much to the state's total. For us, corn is one of the crops used in our rotational program to keep soil quality good and weeds down. For my brother and parents in a neighboring county, corn is a primary crop.

Whether it's wheat, corn or milo, Randy still likes being in the combine seat. And I like to go along for the ride.

I think the dry corn cobs look a little like missiles as they get propelled into the header. The corn ears are pulled off the corn stalk and are dragged into the combine with rollers. Inside the combine, the corn kernels are separated from the husks and cobs.


The cobs and debris are dispersed out the back of the combine. And the corn kernels go into the semi for a trip to the co-op elevator.

Many farmers have a grain cart pulled by a tractor to transfer the corn from the combine to the grain cart to the truck. 

But we unload from the combine directly into the truck.


Here's a little video, but the combine cab window is kind of dusty. It's probably not particularly "pretty on the inside."

It's always good to have the sun set on another harvest season.


Unrelated to corn, we discovered that Randy's wheat entry in the Kansas State Fair wheat show had done well. He got second in one of the classes on his Bob Dole wheat variety. And the cycle continues: He began planting our 2022 crop on September 21, the final day of summer (at least, according to the calendar).

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

High Tea for Low Brow?


It's not every day that a bunch of farm folk have high tea on fine china.

Well, it's not that way at our house anyway. I suppose I can't speak for every farm family. 

Our National Master Farm Homemakers Guild conference attendees were treated to high tea at the Iowa governor's mansion, Terrace Hill. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds do live in the mansion, but we didn't see them.

Even the back of the house was fancy!

The construction of Terrace Hill began in 1866 at the height of B.F. Allen’s fortune. In October 1866, a local newspaper announced the employment of workers to prepare a 29-acre site for Allen’s new home. It described “a country residence in modern French design with a mansard roof.”  Another early newspaper source referred to a “fairy-land castle with towers and turrets.” ... Allen selected Chicago architect William W. Boyington to design Terrace Hill. Additionally, Job T. Elletson, a landscape gardener from England, was hired to design the grass-plats, flower banks, vineyards and orchards with graveled walks and drives throughout.  It was completed in 1869.
From the Terrace Hill website


The mansion has been used as the governor's residence since 1971. 

Even though it was opulent, there were a few signs that it's occupied by a family with young grandchildren. The pool area had a couple of bright-hued beach chairs, just right for watching the grandkids play in the water.

For high tea, our group was seated at tables of eight in the various public rooms of the mansion. 


The tables were already set with china place settings and the high tea fare, which was stacked three plates high on servers.

The treats were prepared by Chef Sharon Van Verth and her staff. She has served several of the state's governors.

After tasting her scones with lemon curd, I can see why. The scones were moist, different than the dried-out texture of many scones I've had in the past. Of course, the moistness was helped along with the lemon curd we smeared on the scones.

The tea sandwiches ...

... and the other sweets were tasty as well. Another favorite at our table was the Scandinavian Almond Bars (which you can barely see in the center of the plate below).

 My friend, Millie, got a better photo of her plate. (The almond bars were at the lower left in her photo below.)

Photo by Millie Dearden
Once we'd emptied one of the plates, we discovered this farm scene. Maybe we weren't so far from the farm after all!

 The tea servers did a wonderful job in tight quarters.

Photo by Millie Dearden

Photo by Millie Dearden

True confessions: Randy may not have gotten filled up with this meal. But he also didn't want to go to Iowa and not have a pork tenderloin sandwich. So, after we got back from our bus tours, he drove to Smitty's, which was supposed to have the best pork tenderloin sandwich in Des Moines. 

He had some time to let his tea fare settle before his extracurricular trip. Our group toured the public floor and the gardens (and, of course, the gift shop).


They were renovating on the second floor, so it wasn't open, but the stained glass at the top of the staircase was beautiful. 

We took our turn on the courting chair. 

After we got home, I Googled, trying to find Chef Sharon's recipes online. But then I decided I'd go to the source. I requested the recipes from the governor's mansion itself. And I was delighted they shared them. They also noted the ones that I asked for are the most popularly requested. 

I thought I'd share with you, too. I haven't tried them here at home yet.

Scones from Terrace Hill
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
4 oz. butter, cut in eighths
2/3 cup cream
1/3 cup dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries)
Additional cream and sugar
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in food processor. Process until butter crumbles and is distributed. Add cream and process just until dough starts to form. Place the mixture in a bowl. Add dried fruit. (The scones we were served had cranraisins.) 
Form into circle on floured surface, about 1 inch thick. Cut into eight wedges.
Let sit for 15 minutes. Brush with additional cream and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
Lemon Curd from Terrace Hill
1 cup butter
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. (at least) grated lemon peel
3 eggs, lightly beaten
In double boiler, melt butter. Stir in sugar, eggs, lemon juice and peel. Cook over simmering water for 1 hour or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Pour into container and store in refrigerator. Spread over scones, biscuits or toasts. Makes 3 cups.
Scandinavian Almond Bars
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Almond icing
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat together butter and sugar. Add egg and almond extract, beating well. Add flour mixture and beat until dough forms. Divide dough into fourths. Form each into a 12-inch roll. Place 2 strands on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten until 3 inches apart. Repeat with rest. Brush with milk and sprinkle with almonds. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. While still warm, cut crosswise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips. Cool and drizzle with icing.

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract 

Combine powdered sugar with extract. Add enough water to make icing that can be drizzled on cooled bars.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Bridges of Madison County


We weren't starring in a big-screen romance. But we did have our own moment on The Bridges of Madison County.

A couple of weeks ago, Randy and I traveled to Iowa for a National Master Farm Homemaker convention. We enjoyed a visit with Jill's in-laws - Alan & Christy Ladd - in Atlantic, Iowa. It was more than bed and breakfast since we got supper, breakfast and lunch ... plus an after-supper tour and lots of good conversation.

Randy is used to my frequent requests for photo stops. Alan was willing, too, but I found it hard to translate the rolling 3-D hills to my 2-D camera screen.

 Iowa farm ground is so different from the flatlands of Kansas where we farm.


It was beautiful in a whole different way.

The next day, we went to church at the Atlantic United Methodist Church. 

It was nice to sit in the pews and not be responsible for the music or anything else.
Ceiling glass at Atlantic UMC
But back to the bridges ...

As we were driving from Atlantic toward Des Moines on Highway 92, I saw the Madison County sign. And I didn't want to come all the way to Iowa, drive into Madison County and not see the famous bridges.

Randy reminded me of our less-than-successful search for covered bridges near Morehead, Ky., when Brent worked there. But when we drove by the sign for the Roseman Covered Bridge, I again pled my case, and Randy turned around. 

There was no mileage sign to our destination. And after we drove down a twisted gravel road, we were beginning to have deju vu from our Kentucky search. But after 4.3 miles, we arrived at the Roseman Covered Bridge. 

As it so happened, two other travelers were there at the same time, so we swapped cameras and took photos of each other. Bonus!

Built in 1883 by Harvey P. Jones and George K. Foster, the Roseman Bridge is 107 feet in length and sits in its original location. It was renovated in 1992 at a cost of $152,515. In Robert James Waller’s novel, The Bridges of Madison County, and the movie of the same name, Roseman is the bridge Robert Kincaid seeks when he stops at Francesca Johnson’s home for directions. It is also where Francesca leaves her note inviting him to dinner. 

There's also a connection to Eric's family at the Roseman bridge. Christy said her maternal grandpa, Roy Hatfield, and his family grew up south of the bridge. His initials and his brothers' are carved in the bridge. The last time they visited, they could still find the initials. (I didn't look.)


Christy says her Great Uncle Frank was interviewed when the Roseman Bridge came to fame after the release of The Bridges of Madison County movie.

I saw the movie and read the book, but I could probably stand to do both again after our visit. 

Also known as the “haunted” bridge, Roseman is where two sheriff’s posses trapped a county jail escapee in 1892. It is said the man rose up straight through the roof of the bridge, uttering a wild cry, and disappeared. He was never found, and it was decided that anyone capable of such a feat must be innocent.

Though only six covered bridges remain, there were many covered bridges that once dotted Madison County in the early 19th century - all built by local bridge builders, with each builder utilizing his own engineering design that uniquely separated the various construction styles of Madison County's six covered bridges still standing today.  

Many still ask the question, "Why did they cover the bridges?" They were covered to protect them from the weather and extend their longevity. In 1870, the Board of Supervisors adopted new rules for bridge construction that includes the required that they be covered, siting that "the expense of the roof is more than made up by the permanency of the bridge." The bridges ranged in cost from $900 to $1,900. One historian quipped, "Bridges were covered for the same reasons women wore hoop skirts and crinolines - to protect the beauty seldom seen, but nonetheless appreciated." These remaining covered bridges paint a story of pioneer people who took what they had and did the most with it. These structures ... are a tribute to the generation of pioneers who left a land better than they found it and leaves to us a link with a romantic past.
From the plaque at the Roseman bridge

The bridge spans the Middle River, which eventually empties into the Des Moines River near Carlisle in northern Warren County.

We only had time for one more bridge before we needed to leave for me to get to my meeting. It was located in the Winterset, Iowa, city park, and honestly, we had more trouble finding that bridge than the one 4.3 miles down a dirt road! My Google maps kept leading us astray. Randy had to do it the old-fashioned way and stop for directions.
Built in 1870 by Eli Cox, the Cutler-Donahoe bridge is 79 feet in length and features a pitched roof. Originally located over the North River near Bevington, it was moved to its present site in Winterset’s City Park in 1970.
I got a photo of Randy at that bridge ... and then I couldn't resist a photo of him by the Bridges of Madison County display at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines, one of our tour locations during the convention.

Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood weren't the only movie stars with an Iowa connection.

One of my favorite museum areas was Hollywood in the Heartland.

There, I couldn't resist a photo in front of a scene from one of my favorite musicals, "The Music Man." I had to text that one to my brother, who had the starring role in high school.

Since we'd just seen the pro baseball game played at the Field of Dreams on TV, we were also interested in that display.

Photo by Millie Dearden (her photo turned out better!)

We did have meetings in Iowa, too. Here's a photo of the Kansas ladies who attended.