Thursday, June 17, 2021

Fiesta Chop Salad

Farmer's Market season + hot weather: It's the formula for a main dish salad for a tasty meal.

I love main dish salads in the summer. Randy likes them, too, but, in his estimation, some sort of protein needs to be included. And he'd prefer it not be chicken. I've been rationing the few steaks we have left in the freezer, but I decided to pull a package out when I saw the Fiesta Chop Salad recipe in an email from a Hutchinson kitchen store, Apron Strings. 

Covid-19 threw off our butchering schedule, so my beef freezer stash is alarmingly low. But grilled chicken or grilled shrimp would be tasty as an accompaniment to this salad, flavor-packed with spices and cilantro.

The original recipe called for iceberg lettuce. I prefer romaine hearts. When available, I buy the package with three hearts packaged together and chop them myself as I need them. They stay fresher and I can control the size of the bite. 


However, you could use salad greens from your garden or the farmer's market. With this salad, there's a "fiesta" of Mexican-inspired flavors coating the greens and the other veggies. The recipe called for corn grilled and cut from the cob, cherry tomatoes and finely-diced red onion. Randy and I prefer leaving the onion out ... so I did. That's the beauty of recipes like this - mix and match to suit your taste!

I also didn't have corn on the cob, so I charred frozen corn in a hot skillet on my stove top. It worked well.

While I used drained and rinsed black beans, you could use slightly-drained chili beans (like the email recipe suggested) or kidney beans. Sharp Cheddar cheese added flavor, along with the salty crunch of the corn chips tossed in at the very end.

The dressing started with a yogurt base, to which I added vinegar and oil, along with several spices. 

The recipe serves 6 to 8. Because I was making it for just us two, I used the ingredients needed to prepare two servings and kept the rest dressing free. That way, I could make fresh salad for another meal - much better than rehashing soggy salad greens and soggy corn chips!  

We also had more dressing than we needed for our two main dish salads. Just store the extra in the fridge and use the next time you make a salad.

A light meal will likely be on the menu at noon today. Randy test-cut wheat yesterday afternoon, and it was still a little too wet. The elevator at Zenith says it needs to be 13.4% before they'll take loads of wheat. 

Randy is like a little boy waiting for his birthday. He's hopeful that today is the day. And, if you're keeping track of our friendly family wager on our start date, Brent is poised to be the winner ... IF we go today. Susan has June 18, and I'm on the calendar for June 19. (I don't think I'm going to win the contest, but I'll win if we can actually start. And remember: Like a good mom, I had last pick of the dates.)

Randy actually went out twice yesterday to test cut - once right after lunch and once at 5 PM to see if it had dried enough. I accused him of wanting to stack the deck, since he had the June 16 date. We might have had to call disqualification.

Whether you're trying this salad as a harvest meal or just the way to beat the heat on a day when temperature records may be broken, I hope you enjoy! And good luck to our fellow farmers! h


Fiesta Chop Salad
Adapted from Apron Strings kitchen store
Serves 6-8
 
Salad
1 head chopped iceberg lettuce or 1 pkg. of 3 hearts of romaine, chopped
10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ears corn, grilled and kernels cut off the cob
Olive oil for brushing corn cobs
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 cups corn chips
1/4 red onion, finely diced (opt.)
 
To make it a main dish:
3-4 ounces per person to be served of your choice of grilled chicken, grilled steak, grilled shrimp, etc.
 
Creamy Cilantro Dressing
(Makes about 1 cup dressing)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, minced
 
Dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix well. Refrigerate until serving. 
 
For Salad: Grill corn over direct heat until char marks appear. Once it's cooled slightly, carefully cut the kernels from the cob. (Because I didn't have corn on the cob, I charred frozen corn in a hot skillet on my stove top.) Wash and chop lettuce (I used romaine.) Half the grape tomatoes. Finely dice onion (if you want to use it. We prefer leaving out the raw onions.)

Assemble: Toss all the salad ingredients (except corn chips) together in a large bowl and combine with dressing, as desired. Top with corn chips. Serve immediately. 

To make it a main dish salad, top with seasoned chicken, beef or shrimp. 

Note: Since we don't have 6-8 people to serve at our typical noon meal, I just used enough ingredients for the two of us and refrigerated the remaining ingredients separately for another meal. Once dressed, the salad isn't as good for leftovers.
 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

50 Years in the Making

Recognize this handsome high schooler? 

Maybe this guy looks a little more familiar. 

They are one in the same. And he celebrated a milestone last week. For 50 years, he's been harvesting crops on this ground along the Stafford/Reno County line. 

When Randy was a junior in high school, his Great Uncle Glenn Bagley gave him the opportunity to put up hay on his ground. Randy got a share of the hay. It was the start of Randy's own farming journey, independent of his dad. 

Undated photo, but probably the mid-'90s. Randy with Uncle Glenn during wheat harvest as we harvested his crop.

Randy has never stopped being grateful for the confidence his Uncle Glenn showed him at such a young age. Later, Glenn and Gladys' daughter, Mary Hughes, inherited the land and was an inquisitive and involved landlord. 

From Glenn & Gladys' 60th wedding anniversary. I'm thankful for the great scrapbooks Marie (Randy's mom) kept.
 

Unfortunately, Mary died suddenly last year from Covid-19. We miss her and wish we could share this milestone anniversary with her, but we know she's cheering us on from heaven. 

Last year, as Randy was baling on that ground, he called me and said, "Next summer, I'd like for you to write a blog when I harvest this field of alfalfa. It will be 50 years since I began working on this hay field."

Back in the day, he used the alfalfa field as an FFA project, so we had some photos and descriptions of the experience (along with some really snazzy photos of Randy modeling clothes from the 1970s, including his letter jacket paired with plaid pants.)

Click on these images to enlarge them and read the text written by Randy for the FFA report.

As a senior, Randy won a crop production award in the South Central area of FFA. He still has the plaque on our office wall.


 On June 4, we began swathing the field. 


The operator has changed a smidge ... but so has the equipment to accomplish the job. 

 
 
We got a rain on it on June 7, so the baling was delayed until June 10.

 
Now, instead of doing small bales like Randy did early in his career, we harvest it into large round bales, which we then use for feeding cattle during the wintertime.
 





We no longer use that shed Randy used for square bale storage and that property has since been sold. But we got permission from the owner to take a few photos there for old times' sake.


We celebrated 40 years of married life together in March. And, now in June, Randy gets to celebrate another big milestone - 50 years of farming. It's a great privilege. We are blessed and thankful.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Ugly Corn Syndrome

June 4, 2021

The headline on the email caught my eye: Ugly corn syndrome.

"OK, that's a new one," I thought. Even an old farm wife can learn something new. So I clicked on the link to the Farm Journal article on www.agweb.com to look at the article written by Rhonda Brooks, dated June 3.

Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie was advising farmers in the Corn Belt to look for three conditions, including ugly corn syndrome. (They were also to scout for making replant decisions and scout for insects.) While Ferrie said that some farmers tell him they have some of their best corn and soybean crops in recent memory, others say they have some of their worst. Here's what the article had to say about ugly corn syndrome:

It’s showing up in some fields now. Farmers finding yellow or yellow-streaked corn this spring have likely experienced too much rainfall, affecting nitrogen availability. High carbon loads can also be a factor—corn-on-corn or areas that had cover crops are more likely to show this phenomenon.

Ferrie’s research in Illinois shows it takes 60 pounds of N for corn after beans and 100 pounds of N for corn after corn to keep the corn crop from slowing down during what he calls the carbon penalty stage.

June 4, 2021

 

Last week, Randy and I were laughing about ugly corn syndrome. By the way, he hadn't heard of it either. But this week, we began to wonder if some of our corn is suffering from that malady. There is a yellow tinge in some places. Since we got an unexpected 0.70" of rain Monday, it's possible that the corn's off-color can be attributed to "wet feet," lack of sunshine and the resulting deficit in nitrogen. Forecasts are for hot and humid the rest of this week, so I guess the corn will be getting the heat units it needs to grow (though there's also some concern when there's a rapid shift from cool to downright hot, too). I, on the other hand, would prefer the "heat units" and humidity to be lower. I'm not ready for mid-90s, with a heat index of 100. 

June 9, 2021: You can notice the yellow tinge in some of the corn plants.

In the name of research, I emailed my corn crop consultant (AKA my brother, Kent, who raises a lot more corn than we do.) His diagnosis - after I sent some photos - was, indeed, ugly corn syndrome. He attributes it to the amount of cold, cloudy and wet weather we've had. He also said some varieties show it more than others. 

June 9, 2021

 And the hot weather is doing more than making me uncomfortable, he says. It also impacts the corn. They started planting irrigated corn almost two months ago.

We see it (ugly corn syndrome) to some extent most years, more this year due to the amount of cold, cloudy and wet we’ve had. Some varieties show it more than others. I think it’s also the plant having to metabolize the herbicides we use in the cloudy and cold. It’s doing fine but should be waist high at this point, and we’re not.  And now that we’ve warmed up, it’s really trying to grow fast, and it doesn’t have the root system developed to handle that quite yet.
Kent Moore, Pratt County farmer

Another spring-planted crop - our milo crop (below) - appears off to a good start. It may be hard to see the little green sprouts down the rows in this overview shot.

But a closer look revealed a good stand after good moisture.

No ugly milo syndrome here ... at least, not yet. (For the record, I'm not sure ugly milo syndrome is a "thing," but until last week, I didn't know about ugly corn either ... other than corn that was impacted by a drought or low yields or another dozen problems.)

So far, so good.

***

If you'd like an in-depth look at corn, my brother is featured in this video produced by Kansas Corn. He operates our family's fifth-generation Pratt County farm in South Central Kansas.


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Pie in the Sky and Other Tall Tales

  

 You send the kids to school, and they come home with all sorts of newfangled ideas.

Randy went to Wichita for one of the evening stops on the 2021 Wheat Quality Council's Hard Winter Wheat Tour. Last year's tour was abbreviated and mostly virtual because of Covid-19. But the 2021 tour from May 17-20 was back in session. The 63rd tour hosted 45 participants from 13 states, traveling along six routes from Manhattan to Colby to Wichita and back to Manhattan. On the way, carloads of participants stopped in wheat fields in an effort to project wheat yields for Kansas' wheat harvest. 

Each evening, the tour groups would reconvene and share their findings. Randy went to the evening session in Wichita. 

At the tour's conclusion, the three-day average yield estimates were calculated to be 58.1 bushels per acre. This surpassed the USDA's estimate of 48 bushels per acre. The official Wheat Quality Council tour projection for total production of wheat this year in Kansas is 365 million bushels, again more than National Ag Statistics' May 1 prediction of 331 million bushels. You can find the Kansas Wheat recap here.


As many good students are wont to do, Randy came home and used the same formula in one of our wheat fields. For this year's tour, they used a later season formula. (Previous tours were completed earlier in May, so they used a different formula for calculating yield.)

First, he measured off one foot, using a yardstick.


 Then he counted the number of heads in 1 foot.

  

Next up was counting the number of spikelets per head. He counted several different heads and averaged them

From the tour booklet

Plug the numbers into a formula and get the estimate for that field.


The estimated yield he derived was astronomical for a wheat yield. If it happens, it will be the largest crop we've ever harvested ... by a long shot. It would be a miracle.

I insisted he got the formula wrong. 

He showed me his handy-dandy handout. 

Yield Formula, Late Season

1. Enter the field.
2. Count the number of wheat heads per foot.
3. Measure the width between rows. Usually 6 to 10 inches. (Ours are 7 inches).
4. Take a few heads and return to the car. Make observations on uniform stand, crop maturity and expected harvest date.
5. While you travel to your next stop, look at the head.
6. From the bottom of the head to the top, count the number of spikelets (usually 6-12). Spikelets are the V-shaped cover where the grain is produced and held until harvest.
7. Count the number of kernels in each spikelet. Usually 2-3.
8. Enter your findings into the yield formula below.
 


9. Note: The formula is just a guide. It does not take into consideration high test weight or low test weight.
10. Ask questions.
 
I'm good at No. 10. I question the results, all right. Actually, so does Randy.

The wheat was pollinating when I took this photo, May 20, 2021. See the little straw-colored flecks on the green wheat heads?


We aren't even going to record the pre-harvest yield estimate on the blog for posterity. If it happens, I'll be the first to let you know. I hope I have to eat my words ... but I REALLY doubt it.
 
May 20, 2021
Note: I took the photos with Randy calculating yield on May 20, but I didn't get it written until now. 
 
June 4, 2021
The wheat is now starting to turn, even with all the rain we've had. During the Memorial Day weekend, we had 2.15 inches of rain. It delayed our start to the alfalfa swathing, but the moisture and cooler weather provided textbook conditions for filling wheat heads.
 
You can even see some smaller kernels filling in, which likely wouldn't have happened without the rain. 

The wheat is kind of that "yellow green" color you find in the Crayola box. 


It's not the vibrant green of earlier spring, and it's not the beautiful gold that will signal the start of harvest. But I'm sure not complaining about the view.

June 6, 2021
(As an aside, we got 0.70" of rain yesterday afternoon (June 7). A neighbor said it looked like there was a black cloud over our house, and it just poured. Only a couple of miles away, it barely sprinkled. Of course, we had every field of hay swathed and waiting to dry out to bale. Such is life on the farm.)