Sunflower State

Sunflower State

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.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Take Me Home, Country Roads

"Painting" filter from my camera
Come and find the quiet center
in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.
From a hymn/poem by Shirley Erena Murray
Words copyright 1992, 2005, Hope Publishing Company
Sometimes, going along for the ride is just the destination I need.

Randy wanted to drive down to the Ninnescah pasture to make sure his fence repairs were keeping the cows from exploring the old adage, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."

Randy's favorite part of the trip was finding that the cattle were where they belong. My favorite part was a side trip on the way home through a tunnel of majestic old trees with the evening light playing hide and seek with the canopy of green.
I got out of the pickup and walked down the road, enjoying the glitter of light on century-old cottonwood trees and their octogenarian neighbors.
It's hard to capture on the camera, but a special filter shows the pinpoints of light streaming through the lush ceiling of green.
It reminded me of a hymn we sang not too long ago at church, which tells us to "clear the chaos and the clutter ... and simply be."

That's not a natural state for me with my to-do lists and expectations. There seems to be this stereotype of a laid-back lifestyle and attitude permeating farm country. But with weather concerns for the past year, employee problems and the farm economy, I'm not feeling that mellow feeling at the moment.
Instead, it feels more like trudging through the sand (or mud) and just trying to slog my way through it.
So stopping on top of the old wooden bridge at the Ninnescah and getting out to watch the water gently ruffle the grasses lining the banks was a quiet diversion.
So was looking up at the backlit green leaves against a blue and white puffy "quilt" of a sky.
I can find that quiet center in God's beautiful canvases painted in evening skies - if I just take the time to go out and look.
Sunset over my folks/brother's circle of corn - Pratt County
Silence is a friend who claims us,
cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us,
 knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking,
lifting shades to show the sun,
raising courage when we're shrinking,
finding scope for faith begun. ... 
More from the hymn/poem by Shirley Erena Murray
Taken in Pratt County, just north of my folks' house
An update: Our trip to the Ninnescah to check on the cattle last night was not as successful. It was still pretty, but four pair were on the wrong side of the fence. We got two back in, but we'll leave in a few minutes to try and shepherd the rest back to our pasture. 

Tomorrow, the National Master Farm Homemaker Guild convention begins in Manhattan. I'm in charge of the Hospitality Room, so my to-do-lists have their own lists (so to speak)! Here's hoping our visitors from Iowa, Kentucky and Colorado glimpse some of Kansas' beauty during their visit to the Sunflower State. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Asking the "Probing" Questions

Your roving agricultural reporter asks the "probing" questions. OK, I really asked the questions about soil probing, but who can resist another farm pun? Not this girl.

I went along for the ride as Randy did soil samples in freshly-harvested wheat fields. Yes, farmers notoriously like to dig in the dirt, but this expedition had a deeper purpose. (Why just leave it at one corny pun per blog post?)

Randy was gathering soil samples to have analyzed at the co-op. Actually, they send the samples off to a lab, which analyzes it for nitrogen and other nutrients. Because of the all the rain we've gotten this year, Randy knew there would be a greater deficiency of nitrogen, which leaches out after rain. He wanted the information so he can make the best management decisions about how much nitrogen and other soil nutrients to add before planting wheat this coming fall.
For each field, he used a soil probe. Because of all the moisture, he didn't have to expend much energy this year to get the probe into the ground. The soil collects inside a tube.
We took samples from seven or eight different locations in the field, dumping each time into the bucket. He then used the highly scientific "shake" method to mix all the samples from one field together.
He labeled each sample bag with the name of the field and what he wanted evaluated. 
Randy wanted the soil evaluated for "small grains," in our case, for wheat. He also marked that his target yield is 40 to 60 bushels per acre. The results will help him know how much fertilizer is needed to optimize the potential for our 2020 wheat crop.
He collected soil samples in four different fields. That way, he can apply the fertilizer and other nutrients specifically needed at the different locations.
Once collected, we took the sample bags to the Zenith branch of the co-op, and they sent them off to Servi-Tech.
As predicted, the soil samples revealed the need for additional nitrogen. Some of the fields also showed an increased need for phosphorus. Randy will use the test details to work with the co-op to determine the percentages of nutrients in the fertilizer.
And that is why I ask the probing questions ... so you, too, can know why we do what we do. Unlike what some modern farming detractors would have you believe, we're not just "pouring chemicals" on crops. We are doing our best to maximize the soil and our own resources. That sounds like a good business plan to me.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Rolling Hills Zoo: Kansas Staycation

With only a couple of couple of weeks before the start of the 2019-20 school year, time for vacation is fleeting. But here's another Kansas Staycation that provides a whole lot of fun right here in our own backyard.
We went early in the summer with the girls and Jill, and I've compiled the photos along with a rhyming tale into a keepsake book for both Kinley and Brooke. Come along for a visit to the Rolling Hills Zoo near Salina!

An outing was planned at the Rolling Hills Zoo
A day among creatures: What a fun thing to do!
First on the docket was to each grab a map
Grandpa says maps make the visit a snap.

Grandpa says maps help to know when and where.
Kinley consulted the map with great care.
Grandma says apples don't fall far from the tree.
I guess that she's talking 'bout him and 'bout me!
However, some animals weren't found on the sheet
But still their acquaintance, we surely did meet!
Geese wandered and flew throughout the whole park
In one hidden nest, a mom left a mark.
Some eggs she had laid were tucked into a nest.
Keeping our distance surely was best!

The butterflies, too, missed a spot on map page. 
Their flight among blooms seemed to be all the rage!

Flamingos were standing around on one foot
We had to try it: Would we go kaput?
No, we were so regal and filled with such grace
Even one-legged, we still could keep pace.

Next stop on the outing was at a big pond.
It seemed that a school of fish had been spawned.
A quarter we paid so we could feed fish.
It seemed that they liked it and found it delish!

Big cats laid around; they were ready to sleep.
Roaring at them? Still they made not a peep.
A good, long nap seemed a part of their plan.
We finally gave up and down the sidewalk we ran.
This chimp was not sleeping; he was ready to play.
He threw that big disk at the window display!
We were surprised, and we let out a shout.
We were sure hoping he could not get out!
That big yellow disk gave him lots of good fun.
In his arms, on his head, and he still wasn't done.
His orangutan friend didn't make such a fuss.
He stared and he gazed right over at us.
No antics for him. No cute interaction.
He made not a sound - not even one fraction.

Not all of the creatures were real and alive
A few we could ride, and we'd surely survive. 
Upon this big turtle we surely could hop.
More fun was to come: We weren't ready to stop.
Our Grandma said she could remember that creature.
On a previous visit, it was also a feature.
When Kinley was little, she named all the parts
The eyes and the head and the mouth just for starts!

Inside of the building, we saw the real thing.
"Aldabra tortoise:" It has quite a ring!
Keepers had brought them some veggies to munch.
That is what tortoises like for their lunch.
They didn't move fast; they were really quite slow.
But still when we watched them, we saw that they'd go.
They live long, long lives - up to 100 years.
However, extinction was once quite a fear.

Sichuan Takin was the next animal's name.
A most curious creature, we would likely proclaim!
The sign said the name would rhyme the word, "rockin'
It warns others like him with a loud "cough" for "talkin'. 
Some people do call it a "goat antelope."
It's threatened by poaching: (That's a definite "Nope!)
In China, it's thought as a national treasure
As precious as pandas? It is hard to measure.

Giraffes were inside, though a beautiful day.
We wish that they'd wanted to roam and to play.
Perhaps they'd been fed with their daily hay ration.
So munching and crunching was their current attraction!
As Mommy and we looked through windows that day,
Grandma said, "Looks like you girls are displayed!"

Giraffes eat a whole bunch, the sign clearly said.
Using long tongues in their big knobby heads.
75 pounds worth? No wonder they stay
Inside while they're eating and don't want to play.

It looked like the camel was telling a joke.
His expression was funny, a quite humorous bloke!
Imagining's fun, said our Grandma to us.
Thinking a camel would like to discuss
A story or joke or one or two puns
Before we moved on and our visit was done.

A rhino was next on the visit that day
His big, single horn was there on display.
His skin looked like armor; he looked really strong.
An enemy likely would not last long.
A rhino can weigh up to 6,000 pounds.
His size and his strength and his power abound.

Then it was time to strike a new pose
Grandma and cameras mean plenty of those!
We climbed on the statues for our next photo op
She clicked and she snapped. She rarely does stop!
We couldn't let animals have all the fun.
WE wanted to play before we were done.
We climbed and we dug in the dirt for awhile.
All of the playing left us with a smile.

A little barn scene came into our view.
There at Salina at the Rolling Hills Zoo.
Some sheep and some goats were all there to pet.
They were among the cutest, we'd bet!
Also at barnyard, we saw a small tractor
It was a sure Grandpa Randy attractor!
We climbed up on top. He showed us how.
And we could imagine we'd take off and plow.

Some free "souvenirs" we found on the ground
There were plenty of goose feathers we found.
They were all scattered and strewn all about.
There for our eyes to search out and scout.
We gave one to Grandpa to feather his hat.
Who knew that Grandpa was as stylish as that?!

Kinley used one for a pointer, you see
For marking her name: It filled her with glee!
Finding her name on a plaque was so sweet.
One with Brooke's name would be equally neat. 
But we didn't find one. Oh well, not to be.
Maybe another time? I guess we will see.
An "I Visited" sign gave us reason to pose.
The fun we were having, it certainly shows.
A day at the zoo is just hard to beat.
Exploring the animals surely is sweet!
Grandpa and Grandma and Mommy and us
Had fun for the day with the rhinoceros
And the camel and goats and big cats and the chimps
More fun for a day, as you probably glimpse
From looking at pictures, you surely can tell.
Our day at the zoo was certainly swell!