Winter Swing

Winter Swing

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Turning the Page

My sister, Lisa, and I share some reading time
I don't need a contest to "make" me read. However, in 2018, I joined a couple of reading contests at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford and the year-long #ICT challenge, a collaboration between The Wichita Eagle and The Wichita Public Library.

Even after I finished the challenges, I decided to keep track of my books for the year. The grand total was 97 books. (I guess I should have read a little more so that I could have made it an even 100!)  That doesn't count all the books I read to Kinley and Brooke during our reading marathons. I love children's books, too.
Darci, me and Lisa with our books
I can't remember a time when I wasn't a library patron. My mom took us to the old library at the Pratt County Courthouse from the time we could toddle in on our own steam. It was exciting when the new library was built in Pratt. There was a whole room of children's books where I discovered Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I still love mysteries and thrillers today, and I have to believe those days of uncovering clues with them had to have laid an early groundwork for this love affair that's lasted all of my life.

One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to my mom read "The Little House on the Prairie" books. I read and re-read them myself as I got older. 

I was a champion reader. And I have the certificate to prove it. When I was a third grader, I read 166 books. (Let's just say I didn't win any certificates for math.)

I've decided to again tackle the #ICT challenge. Participating urges me out of my usual reading preferences. In fact, #2 is "a book from a genre you don't normally read." What did I tell you?

Here are the categories, if you'd like to join along. (Here's a PDF if you want to print the categories):

1. A book with a face on the cover
2. A book from a genre you don’t normally read
3. A book that makes you LOL
4. A book set in the place you were born
5. A classic or retelling
6. A book you’ve avoided or didn’t finish
7. A translated book
8. An award winner (Pulitzer, National Book Award, Newbery, etc.)
9. A book recommended by a child or teenager
10. A biography, autobiography or memoir
11. A book featuring a character who is different than you in some way (race, religion, abilities, etc.)
12. A book by an author slated to visit Kansas in 2019

The categories are flexible, so readers can bend and twist them to meet their individual reading habits and goals. For example, one reader on the #ICT reading Facebook group said she's using a clock face as a "face on the cover." See what I mean about flexibility? Nobody is "grading" your efforts. It's just a fun way to challenge yourself. And, since I'm part of the Facebook group, I often find book recommendations from other voracious readers.

Our Stafford library is undergoing a renaissance, so I joined in a couple of adult reading challenges there, and a new one begins January 21. In it, readers have to read five books with authors whose names begin with the letters in "Nora E. Larabee."
Stained glass window at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford
Participating in the reading challenges doesn't keep me from reading what I want to read. If Jodi Picoult or Lee Child or Jonathan Kellerman or some other favorite author has a new book out, I'll be putting my name on the reserve list at the library, even if it doesn't fit into a "category."
Nora Larabee Memorial Library - Stafford, KS
But broadening my horizons is a good thing. Want to join me? At the very least, give me some ideas of books you recommend - whether they fit the criterion or not! But bonus points if they fit in a category!

Read more here: https://www.kansas.com/entertainment/books/article222395745.html#storylink=c

Read more here: https://www.kansas.com/entertainment/books/article222395745.html#storylink=

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Crunchy Apple Almond Salad

Two people asked for the recipe. I'll count that for a win.

Our Moore family Christmas is actually a mash-up of Christmas celebration and birthday party for my mom. One of her gifts isn't wrapped up in paper and bows. It's having the entire family at their house to celebrate.

Part of that celebration includes a teamwork effort to provide supper for a bunch of people. We are up to 31, so the celebratory supper has now moved to a shed, and it takes more than one table to hold all the offerings. And while the baby didn't eat much of the evening spread, everyone else enjoys the potluck of sides and salads that we all contribute to go with the beef brisket main course.

It's fun to try a new recipe when you have that many willing guinea pigs. So Crunchy Apple Almond Salad was one of my contributions. I'd printed it from a blog in that growing "to-be-tried" pile in my kitchen. It was time for a "try." Thankfully, it wasn't a swing and a miss.
My own little family had a preview for our earlier Christmas celebration. It also was a nice accompaniment to a meal with a ham as as the centerpiece. And two of the nieces asked for the recipe.

It's an easy recipe to double or triple or quadruple for that extra-large crowd. But it's also good for a dinner for just us two.

Enjoy!

Crunchy Apple Almond Salad
1 bag of spring greens or romaine lettuce, chopped (or combination)
1/2 cup craisins
1 tart apple, seeded and chopped
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup sliced celery (opt.)
1/2 cup ditalini pasta, cooked, drained, rinsed and cooled
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Sugared Nuts
1/3 cup almonds
1 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar

Dressing
4 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
2 tbsp. champagne vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dijon mustard

For nuts: In medium skillet, melt butter and brown sugar. Saute the almonds until they are glazed and light brown. Remove and cool on parchment paper. Break up when cool and then store in plastic bag until ready to use.

Dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small container with a lid and shake until mixed. Store in refrigerator until used. Shake before pouring over salad.

For salad: Combine salad ingredients just before serving. Toss. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle nuts on top and serve immediately.

Notes: 
  • I used a combination of spring mix and also chopped up some romaine lettuce. I prefer chopping my own rather than buying it in the bag because I think it stays fresher for longer. 
  • You can increase the ingredients for both the salad and the dressing to serve more people. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • I did not use celery because too many family members don't care for it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Don't Fence Me In

 
My first job on the farm was driving the pickup while my dad built or picked up electric fence.
I was 6 at the time.

This winter, I returned to my roots. But instead of driving the pickup for my dad, I was helping Randy. There were some differences.
  • I can now reach the brake and the gas with no problem. My sister, Lisa, and I were a tag team back in the olden days.
  • I was helping on the Stafford/Reno County line rather than northern Pratt County.
  • Back then, I wouldn't have gotten away with saying, "Wait just a minute while I get a photo."
Randy is used to my photo obsession. And since I was the only available worker, he put up with my need to stop and focus on the meadowlark watching our progress from the fence post. And, really, he's the one who called my attention to it in the first place. What could he expect?
Randy rode on the tailgate, and I drove the pickup between electric fence posts, where he'd jump off and toss each in the back of the pickup.
Back in the 1960s, I didn't have to help wind wire onto the spool. So I learned a new job. (Maybe he said OK to all the photos because he knew I was going to eventually be wielding a pitchfork - ha!)
The wire was threaded between the tines of the pitchfork, and I was supposed to gently move the handle back and forth to evenly distribute the wire on the spool.
 I couldn't keep from channeling the American Gothic painting as I did the job.
And, besides, Randy is always glad to get a photo with the old Ford 8N tractor.
There is something about tradition. That tractor seat has been occupied with five different generations now.  Melvin and Clarence bought the tractor back in the 1960s, when Randy was in grade school. They used it to load silage for feeding cattle. Randy remembers using it to pull a two-row John Deere planter when they planted milo. He also cultivated milo with it when he was junior high age.
Clarence (Randy's Grandpa, seated), his Dad Melvin and Randy holding Brent in 1988.
Randy was insistent that the tractor served as a focal point for a 2012 Easter-time photo with Kinley and Jill. (I should have taken a photo with Randy and the girls when they were here this fall.)
April 2012
The wire winder itself is homemade from a Model T frame, adding to the longevity of this farm workhorse.
It may be tired, but it's not retired. Come to think of it, that could apply to Randy and me, too.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Mud Wrestling: A Cattle Roundup

 35 ... the number of things that went wrong as we brought cattle home from summer pasture.

Truthfully, I'm not sure that number is high enough. But, as I stood waiting on the tractor to again pull the pickup and trailer through mud and muck, it's what went through my mind. It was more like mud wrestling than farming around here this fall.
By the way, the number is really there because of the pole's former life as an electric pole. But years ago, it got a second "career" as part of a loading chute at the Ninnescah Pasture.

So, am I exaggerating about the 35? Nope. 

First of all, we were a couple weeks behind schedule. We had waited until mid-November, hoping the water on our normal route would recede after the 14-plus inches of fall rain we'd received.

We couldn't wait any longer, so we added 12 miles to each of our trips to and from the pasture, since we had to go the long way around. (We made a total of 12 trips, so that's an extra 144 miles. See? I told you 35 wasn't exaggerating!)

In fact, it rained and deposited another 2 inches or so of rain, and it snowed a couple of times for good measure, including on the night before we were supposed to round up all the cattle at the Ninnescah. 
 Brrrr! At least the sun was shining, making it seem a little warmer.
 
But it was a brisk 4-wheeler ride to find the mamas and babies and get them to cross water into the pens and corral. 
 Still, the ride over the dam on the Ninnescah River was undeniably pretty.
Of course, a few of them were "visiting" a neighbor's pasture, so it added another step to the process. 
The pasture is 320 acres, so there are plenty of places for cattle to hide out. We also had to get some of them to cross the Ninnescah River, and the extra-soggy ground didn't make that job any easier either.
More than once, we thought we'd found them all. But a few stragglers eventually joined their buddies in the corrals. 

The ground was so saturated that a 4-wheel-drive pickup couldn't pull a trailer by itself. So each trip to the pasture also necessitated hooking up the loader tractor to the pickup and pulling it back out to the road.
The mud at the gate eventually led to no traction. And no traction eventually led to wiping out a gate post and tearing up one of the trailers in the process.

At first, Randy planned to have the loaded trailer "limp" all the way home. But one of the tires was leaving a dark mark on the blacktop road, and I started campaigning for an alternative. What if the trailer totally broke down on U.S. Highway 50, a route we had to take for several miles to get back home? I was envisioning trying to transfer cattle from one trailer to another while semis whizzed by.
So, instead, we pulled over at Sylvia and made the transfer there. I was impressed with my husband's backing skills. He didn't need more than one try to get the two trailers positioned end to end.

Getting the cattle to step from one trailer to the other is usually the bigger challenge, he contended. He and his Dad had to do it a long time ago. But the mamas and babies cooperated well. (Maybe they knew we were about at the breaking point.)
We did eventually get all the mamas and babies moved back home. The mamas had their OB/GYN appointments with Dr. Figger ...
... and the babies had their "well-child" checks. 
(And, I could add more to the number of ways things went wrong during that process, too. The hired man got hurt - not badly, thankfully.  But he was out of commission for an afternoon. So I did a lot more heavy lifting than I sometimes have to do. Literally, I did heavy lifting. After we got cows or calves into the lane toward the working chute, I lifted an awkward 20-pound pipe and inserted it behind the final one to keep them in position. When you only have four or five mama cows in the lane at once, that's a lot of lifting! It's the farm version of weight training.)
But, we eventually got everyone moved to their appointed places. Some of the mamas are on sudan or corn stalks while they await the births of their new babies in February. 
The feeder calves are getting their daily rations with the feed truck.
And, for a couple of weeks, I was the feed truck driver and full-time hired hand.
 
However, this fall, we also had some excellent short-term help from a couple of other volunteers. Kinley and Brooke helped me keep the gate blocked.
 They looked over the herd with Grandpa to observe any problems. 
And they just brightened our outlook, in general.
They also helped move some of the mama cows and used their newly-developed hand motions to get them moving out of the trailer and into their winter home. Reading hand signals is an integral part of farm-girl education.
I wonder if they're free next fall?

Note:  We actually moved cattle home from summer pastures in mid-November. I never got the blog post written - visiting granddaughters, holiday preparations, personnel problems ... the list goes on and on. But I still thought we needed a record of this memorable year. And by memorable, I don't mean enjoyable ... except the granddaughters. That part was enjoyable! As I've said in the past, it's important to tell about the hard stuff, too - not just the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets but what actually went on between them.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Cheese Popcorn: A New Year's Eve Snack

WARNING: Neon yellow fingers are a side effect of this snack.

But it's worth it. And it will make your New Year's Eve celebration merrier ... and tastier!

I've always loved cheddar popcorn. Well, let me qualify that. I've always loved the taste of the high-dollar cheddar popcorn at specialty stores. However, the inexpensive metal tins with three different popcorns just didn't satisfy. And my efforts to make a copycat version of the gourmet variety had always fallen short ... until this year.

My friend, Kim Baldwin, who raises Papa Baldy's popcorn with her in-laws, Dwight and Cindy Baldwin in McPherson County, posted a photo showing cheddar popcorn on their Facebook page before Christmas. So I asked her to share their recipe.
 
First of all, I highly recommend Papa Baldy's. (This is an unsolicited endorsement.) They just harvested their second crop of jumbo mushroom popcorn this past September. I've traded in my microwave popcorn for popping this Kansas-grown product on top of the stove.

But, back to the cheddar popcorn.

You need to find cheddar cheese powder. If all else fails, you can open boxes of macaroni and cheese with the cheese packets and collect enough there. However, if you have a place where you can buy cheddar cheese powder in bulk, that's what I would recommend. I got my cheddar cheese powder at Glenn's Bulk Food. I also found white cheddar powder there. But I didn't think it tasted as "cheesy" as the neon yellow variety, so I went with the "real" deal. Thus, the yellow fingers!

You can also order cheddar cheese powder online. And, I think it would also work to use those smaller containers of cheese flavorings you find near popcorn in the grocery store.

This recipe uses ground mustard. I admit: I was dubious. But maybe that's what was missing in earlier versions I'd tried. 

To put the recipe together, I used my circa 1980s green Tupperware bowl. (They call it a "fix and mix" bowl now.) But, if you don't have that, you can use a large, clean brown paper bag. The sealable bowl is less messy, but do what you have to do to get this done. It's worth it.

Papa Baldy's recipe is similar to one I found that was a copycat of Garrett's Popcorn, which is a Chicago staple.
Garrett's is also famous for combining their cheddar and caramel corns in what they call a "Chicago mix."
For that, I used the caramel corn recipe I've used since high school. (Click here for the recipe and ignore the cheese popcorn one I posted then. This version is much better.)

Cheddar Cheese Popcorn
from Papa Baldy's
3 quarts popped popcorn (from about 1/2 cup kernels)**
4 tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup cheddar cheese powder
2 tsp. ground mustard powder
Salt to taste (I found I didn't need additional salt)

Pop the popcorn and transfer into a BIG Tupperware-like bowl with a lid or a clean brown bag.

Melt the butter and pour over popcorn. Shake to get all popcorn covered.
 

Combine dry cheese and ground mustard. Add to buttered popcorn. Shake again.

Salt to taste. I found it didn't need extra salt with the powder I used.


** Kim says that if it's too "wet," you can microwave the popcorn for about 30 seconds. I never found I needed to do that. However, I used 1/4 cup butter-flavored popcorn oil and 2/3 cup popcorn kernels for the butter and the cheddar cheese mix called for, so I probably had more than 3 quarts popcorn. (I didn't measure.)  I thought it made it plenty cheesy.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Christmas Miracle

It was like a Christmas miracle. We added another person to the annual Christmas Eve photo ... and it was actually easier. Maybe it's the fact that the other ones were another year older.

Whatever it was, we'll take the victory. It's not easy getting 10 kids ages 8 and younger to look in the same direction at the same time.

Here's proof from last year:
2017
My parents now have 10 great-grandchildren after another was added in February 2018.
All but the very youngest enthusiastically sang "Happy Birthday" to my Mom, who is a Christmas Eve baby.
Since the grandchildren were little, we've been taking a photo of the birthday girl with the troops.The first one with all seven of them was in 1994.
From left: Abby, Brian, Blake, Mom holding Madison, Jill, Brent & Paige
The grandchildren shot is easier these days.
They ought to be experts by now. My dad got in on the picture this year, too.
We four kids also had a photo taken with them. But I'm my family's photographer, and none of my family took photos. There were plenty of paparazzi at this family photo shoot, so I'm sure I could ask for one.
That's OK. I'd rather be behind the view finder anyway.

And, speaking of traditions, photo Christmas cards are another one for this family. Here's this year's version of the Fritzemeier Christmas card.
We had family photos shot in November. And it's a good thing .. because of that aforementioned aversion to having my photo taken. (Below are the other photos I used on the back of the card.)
Photo credit - Jill Grogg, Manhattan
Demiurge Photography, Manhattan (From Jill & Eric's family session.)
Photo by Jill Grogg, Manhattan
I've been involved in Christmas photo cards for my whole life. It's a family tradition. I starred in my very first one in 1957, as a 6-month-old baby.

The first one with both Jill and Brent was in 1988. Brent would have been about 7 months and Jill was 3.

Christmas Card Photo - 1988
Back when Jill and Brent were little, this annual attempt was captured on film. And you weren't sure what you'd gotten until the film was developed. I have rolls and rolls of film chronicling the misadventures of getting two little kids to look their best in the same frame. The move to digital photography makes the storage problem easier - though it can't help everyone look great in every frame.
My brother took this photo of the whole crew (minus himself) as we gathered for the birthday/Christmas Eve meal. There were 31 of us.

Tradition is a good thing.