Saturday, February 27, 2010

Down Memory Lane

A little girl and a calf: What's cuter than that?

Unless it's a little boy and his calf.

I can't decide. They are both darn cute.

A Corn Valley 4-Her came to the County Line yesterday and took home a new friend. Aubrey had been patiently waiting for a bull calf for her bucket calf project. I knew it was worth the wait when Aubrey squealed her little-girl squeal the minute she walked in the barn door and saw the calf's cute little face. Who could resist it?

I think she would have gladly taken home the calf's barn mate. Randy has been feeding another bucket calf - a twin - for several weeks now. Aubrey would have jumped at the discounted price Randy offered, but her dad wasn't convinced the calf needed a friend.

The bull calf, which was born just two days ago, doesn't have the bottle-feeding routine down, but its stall mate sure does. The minute you walk in the door, the heifer calf has her head poked through the gate, waiting to slurp a bottle. Fingers substitute just fine, as Aubrey found out.

It took me on a trip down Memory Lane. My kids both loved the bucket calf project. Jill's first calf was Runaway. It was named after a misadventure while Jill & her dad were breaking it to lead. Randy had told Jill not to let go of the lead rope - no matter what. Since it was our first experience with this, we didn't know that was going to involve Jill holding the rope as Runaway did what you'd expect with that name. Jill held on while Runaway dragged her along for the ride. Randy revised his instructions after that.

As you can see in the photo, Runaway also had his moments when he was difficult to budge. But, as Jill wrote in her 4-H book caption, "Runaway is stubborn. I am too."

And, when all else fails, we used the pickup to lead Runaway. Jill wrote: "Runaway HAD to follow when the pickup - not me - was pulling him." (And for all the safety police out there. Yes, that's my daughter in the back of the pickup while it's moving!)

And even with all that history, Jill still loved Runaway. There they were at the Stafford County Fair. (Jill is particularly proud of the shorts and boots fashion ensemble.)

Brent really started his bucket calf career before he was old enough for 4-H. He and Jill began their own cattle business and fed 5 or 6 calves. The photo below was in Brent's first 4-H record book. He labeled it himself (LOVE the little boy handwriting!) And look at Brent's gap-toothed grin. Ah, the memories!

Brent's first bucket calf was named Willie (for Willie the Wildcat, of course!) His second bucket calf (shown below) was Chief, named for his Kansas City Chiefs. Notice a theme here? It continued as the project continued. He had a Kelly and a Michael (named in honor of K-State football players, Jeff Kelly and Michael Bishop.)

Aubrey hadn't chosen a name yet. That is important work, as any parent or self-respecting bucket calf owner will tell you. But it appears that it was love at first sight as Aubrey settled the calf in the trailer for the ride to its new home.

Aubrey's brother, John, has gotten calves from us before. John's bucket calf from two years ago made a repeat appearance at last year's Stafford County Fair. John entered her and her first calf as a cow/calf pair. She was named Grand Champion female. Randy is hoping for the same great results from Aubrey and her new friend!

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Walk to Remember

Walking is certainly nothing unusual for me. I walk 4 to 4.5 miles a day, six days a week.

So why was today a walk to remember? For the first time in forever, I walked outside. Winter has had an unrelenting grip on the County Line. And while there is still plenty of evidence of winter in the persistent snow icing portions of the farmstead, there was also some hope of spring. The red maple tree in the front yard sports some new buds. There was green peeking through the icy remnants of last Sunday's storm. The wheat has started to wake up from its winter sleep.

I don't let winter interfere with the walking habit. I wore out one treadmill, and I've certainly put the miles on the new one this winter. And, unfortunately, the treadmill has left its mark on me. You know the little clip you're supposed to attach to your shirt as a safety precaution? I am a cautionary tale in the importance of its usage.

You see, I didn't think I needed to bother with that little clip. Two months ago, my treadmill got the last laugh when it unceremoniously threw me to the ground. And, because I neglected the safety clip, the treadmill continued to grind on both knees and my left side until I finally escaped its clutches. I fully suspect I will have scars for life. (Be glad that I didn't take a photo of my injuries. There is nothing pretty about them, I assure you.) My best advice for treadmill walkers? Wear your safety clip.

There was no need to be tethered to the treadmill today. What a mood lifter to be outside in the sunshine! In the cool breeze and sunshine, I searched for signs of spring. And while it did take some searching among the still brown pastures and the muddy roads, there were glimmers of spring. Hallelujah!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


The Crock Pot is a very clever invention. It comes in handy on Thursdays, my Bible study day. The study is supposed to conclude at 11 AM, which would theoretically allow time to get home and get something on the table. However, even if we finish on time, there's the socialization factor. Yes, I like to talk.

So it's a challenge to get home, get dinner on the table by noon and then get back to town by 1:12 PM to play for the piano for middle school choir.

Crock Pot to the rescue!

Today, GOOP is on the menu. Sounds delicious, right? Despite the name, it really is.

This was a recipe from Cook of the Week days, a feature I did back when I worked at The Hutchinson News. I'd forgotten about this recipe, but the kids' piano teacher, Dorothy Trinkle of Preston, included it in Recipes and Remembrances from the Pratt First United Methodist Church: 1884-2004.

You can cook the mixture on the top of the stove (which is also quick and easy). But on a day like today, the Crock Pot does the work while I'm gone all morning. I serve the GOOP on baked potatoes, though the recipe has different options. During the summer, when I prefer not to heat up the kitchen, I often bake potatoes in a different Crock Pot.

I further streamlined this meal by browning extra hamburger earlier in the week. Then I just have to dump everything into the Crock Pot before running out the door this morning.

I serve the GOOP with a romaine salad with lots of cut-up veggies. Enjoy!

3/4 lb. ground beef, browned and drained (I always throw a little minced onion in when browning hamburger)
17 oz. white kernel corn, drained (I usually just use regular corn or fiesta corn)
14 oz. stewed tomatoes, cut up
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped (I don't always use this)
1 tbsp. chili powder
Baked potatoes (can also use rice or cooked noodles, if you prefer)
Sour cream (I usually use fat free)
Shredded cheese
Green onion (if desired)

Brown the ground beef; drain. Add the corn, tomatoes, ketchup, green pepper and chili powder. Either heat through in the skillet or put in a Crock Pot.

Use about 1 cup on a baked potato (or alternative). Top with sour cream, cheese and onion to taste.

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes
(From the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook)

Prick desired number of potatoes with a fork, and wrap in foil. Cover. DO NOT add water. Cook on High for 2.5 to 4 hours or Low for 8-10 hours.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


You remember a couple of days ago when I hoped those would be the last photos of winter from the County Line.

I lied.

You see, the sun came out, and the ice was glistening. And I couldn't help myself. It was just too beautiful to resist.

So, I bundled up, yet again, and ventured outside. I can't wear gloves and manipulate the camera the way I want. But I think frozen fingers and feet are a small price to pay. I mean, come on! Look at the sun glistening off the icicle. I wish I were a poet. I think there's a poem there somewhere.

I love digital photography. I clicked and snapped and clicked some more before I finally captured just the right combination of blue sky and glistening, hooked icicle precariously clinging to the evergreen branch. I trudged back to the house to get a cooler to stand on. I stood on the porch and tried to review the images out of the bright sunlight which obscured my camera's viewfinder. But it wasn't until I loaded the photos onto the computer that I discovered I had finally gotten the shot of the day. (I haven't counted the "duds," but they were worth it in the end!)

As I told one of my friends who has a fledgling 4-H photographer, it's certainly less costly to let your young photo fiend snap the camera when it doesn't result in hundreds of out-of-focus photos cluttering the house. If the photo doesn't measure up, you can just delete it or never print it. Most of Brent's 4-H photography career was in the 35mm film days. And while he certainly got his share of beautiful photographs, we have the evidence of a lot of behind-the-scenes flops.

Even my daughter in Omaha has to admit these are pretty photos, right Jill? Even on the 90th day of snow on the ground in the frozen north (really!)

Even if she's never seen the patio of the house they just bought because of all that snow.

Even if the sun began melting the sheet of ice covering our country road, and I questioned whether or not my car was going to be caught in the mire (See my post from several days ago revealing the condition of the DRY road, and then just imagine the mess it is today! I seriously questioned whether I was going to have to call and tell the choir director that I had been unavoidably detained by mud! Who gives you a note for THAT?!)

Yes, we're all tired of the ice and the snow. But you have to admit: It sure can make some pretty photos!

And let's hope that it's helping - not hurting - the wheat crop.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Soup's On!

Eric's mom, Christy, made soup for lunch for the "crew" during the big move in Omaha. Jill had told me about this super-easy soup before. Once I tasted the soup, it was a must-add to my recipe box.

This past weekend was the perfect time to try it here at home. If you can open cans, you can make this soup. So it is perfect for a day when you don't have a lot of time or you just need a warm-up to cope with another winter day.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 can corn

1 can chicken broth

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

3/4 cup salsa (anything from mild to hot - suit your taste!)

1 can refried beans (I used fat-free beans)

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

Tortilla chips

Shredded cheese

Combine black beans, corn, chicken broth, salsa, refried beans and chicken. Heat until heated through (You could put in a crock pot, if desired). To serve, top with shredded cheese and slightly crushed tortilla chips (You can also use soft taco shells if you prefer). Jill & I just cook chicken breasts in the microwave and then chop them. You could also use a can of chicken meat, if you prefer.

I may try it with hamburger sometime since my hubby tends to prefer beef over chicken (Imagine that!) But I think that could be good also.

I served with a fruit salad, but you can also round it out with a green salad, baby carrots or another side dish. Christy served it with a homemade cheese ball that was also delicious. Enjoy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Note to Winter: Stop!

Brrrr! It was another weekend of ice and cold. I like the photos with the wintry weather, but I would be perfectly content to start interjecting some spring scenes from the County Line.

It didn't seem like Sunday around here. Church was canceled because the church parking lot, sidewalks and our old church steps were a glassy sheet of ice. So Randy and I watched a movie and the Olympics. I am not complaining about the lazy day, but it really does throw off my internal calendar when I don't start the week with church.

We were thankful the ice didn't knock out our electrical service. (We had enough of that in December 2007 when we were without electricity for 12 days!)

Our excursion for the day involved checking for baby calves. Overnight, we'd had two babies from heifers and another two from cows. But they all arrived safe and sound, despite the cold, cruel start in this world. These two momma and baby pairs had the right idea: They found some shelter in the barn.

The ice-covered weeds had extra light from the pickup headlights, and I liked the red gate in the background, too.

Enjoy some more glimpses of winter from The County Line. I froze my fingers to get some icicle shots. I hope these are the last of this season (but I'm not holding my breath!)

These last two photos were shots from today. I almost captured the water droplet in the first. And then, success! Note the water droplet falling from the icicle. I stood out there forever trying to capture it. This was as close as I came. Ah, the sacrifices I make for art!

Tomorrow, I'll share a recipe to warm you up on these cold days!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm a Grandparent!

OK, now that I have your attention, I have a confession. Jill & Eric are NOT providing me with my first grandchild.

Instead, I got to be a substitute grandma at Stafford Schools' Grandparent Day in the library yesterday. Or, if we preferred, we could be labeled a "Grand Pal."

No matter the terminology, I enjoyed my day.

Back when Jill & Brent were in grade school, they were well blessed with grandparents who willingly attended Grandparent Days at school. In fact, they often had two grandparents apiece.

At church last week, there was a plea for substitute grandparents. It seems that many elementary-aged children don't have grandparents living nearby or they couldn't get off work to attend.

Since the event was centered in the school library, I didn't have to have my arm twisted. I love reading. I love books. I love kids. I love book fairs.

We chose library books to read, had refreshments and visited the book fair.

I got matched with a fifth grader during one session and a kindergartener during another. The fifth grader talked as quickly and as adamantly as an elementary-aged Jill many years ago. We talked about dogs, cats, horses, families and school. We found a book featuring funny photos of animals having bad hair days.

The kindergarten girl was a little more shy. She loves pink. She loves princesses. When I asked her about what kind of book she'd like to have from the book fair, it didn't take long for her to say a "princess book." She examined all the princess and Barbie books and ended up with one that featured Ariel on one side and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the other.

What a fun morning (even if I am MUCH too young to be the grandmother of a 5th grader. Well ... maybe!?)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wild Kingdom

Who needs Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom when you live on the County Line? On an evening trip to check cows and calves with Randy, I saw a whole menagerie of animals.

The neighbor's lambs definitely topped the cuteness quotient.

But I also saw a dozen deer in a neighbor's soybean field (If I have to see that many deer I'd rather they congregate in a field. We have had more than our fair share of encounters with deer: deer and cars, deer and pickups, deer and grain trucks. We have been on collision courses with all of those.)

I also saw a turkey, guinea hens, horses, llama and goats - all within a 2-mile radius of our house. But the most unusual was a real live armadillo. The only armadillos I'd seen prior to our evening excursion had been roadkill.

(I wish I could take credit for the photo, but I wasn't that fast. However, it looked like this as it disappeared into the weeds and trees when we pulled up to check the cows.)

But the armadillo, deer and turkey weren't the only wild animals. We had an escapee among the baby calves.

I love watching calves kick up their heels and dance across the pasture. But sometimes, the calves can frolic a little too much for their own good. On our evening rounds, we discovered a bawling mother standing by the electric fence. Her baby calf had stumbled through the fence and into the wheat pasture. Usually, it's the older ones who boldly explore outside the fences. And they find their way back when their stomach says it's supper time.

But this was a baby born just that morning. So, it was time for a cattle round-up (or at least a baby calf round-up). I should have grabbed my camera, but then again, I probably wouldn't have been as much help if I'd been more interested in photos than escorting the wayward baby back toward its very upset mother.

We guided it toward the fence, and Randy urged it through. After several attempts, Randy picked it up and deposited the baby on the other side of the fence. By now, though, the cow was nervous and not sure about our intentions with her precious baby. She didn't settle down, so the baby darted back through the fence. Other moms got worried about the ruckus and rushed over to see what was going on. In the meantime, the wayward baby evidently was a bad example and encouraged a few of his little friends to join him in the wheat pasture. Randy again lifted the baby over the fence. He doesn't need a weight bench for his workouts. He uses wiggly baby calves!

Eventually, we got everybody back where they were supposed to be. Mission accomplished: Mom, baby, farmer and farmer's wife all happy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sign of the Times

This sign is on the Zenith Road, where we make the turn off Highway 50 for home. It's a daily crossroads for us, since it's the route to and from Stafford. This week, the arrow started pointing upward instead of north. Randy said he thought there was a sermon there.

And I think he's right. I'm pretty sure the Coldwell Banker realty agent hasn't driven by. But I'm kind of glad. Every time I drive by it, I've thought about the very real estate of my heavenly home.

Jesus said: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
John 14: 1-4

The Coldwell Banker realtor would be appalled to discover the wayward sign is covering up the agency phone number and would certainly not guide anyone to discover the location or the "rooms" of the home for sale. I suppose it will eventually be hammered back into place.

But, for now, I use it as a reminder, every time I drive by.

That's not to say that the heavenly path is easy. Unfortunately, I also had a sermon illustration when I turned onto our dirt road. The road grader operator had left the road in worse shape after he graded than before. (And, I must admit, I was not full of Christian mercy as I bumped my way through the 1.5 miles of clods, debris from the ditch and uneven surface.)

But I thought about that, too. And while it doesn't make me any happier about the condition of the road, I was reminded of the song we'd just done at middle school choir:

"All my trials, Lord, soon be over."

This life is short. We don't know what will happen from day to day and whether we'll even have another day to make things right. So, maybe these signposts are there for a reason.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1: 2-4

This definitely hasn't been as lighthearted as usual. But I guess it doesn't hurt to explore the road signs ... to make sure I'm moving in the right direction - not just to my home on the County Line, but to my heavenly home.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sweets for My Sweet

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Some profound philosopher said that. For my husband, I do believe it's true.

For Valentine's Day breakfast, I made him his favorite coffee cake. It's also been a favorite at the Easter breakfast at church. So I thought you might like to try it at your house.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 pkg. (18.25 oz.) white cake mix
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. cream cheese softened
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 cups fresh blueberries (I used frozen)

For streusel: Mix all ingredients using pastry cutter, mixing until crumbly. Set aside.

For cake: In a large mixer bowl, combine cake mix, sugar, cream cheese, eggs, oil and water. Beat on low speed for 1 minute to blend, then on medium speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Spread half of batter in prepared 13- by 9-inch pan. Scatter blueberries over batter (I probably didn't use 3 cups. I just generously covered the surface. See photo below.) Sprinkle with half of streusel. Spread remaining batter over berries. Sprinkle with remaining streusel. Bake 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until top springs back when lightly touched (or it tests done with a toothpick). Cool at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold.

I usually top with a powdered sugar glaze. (I don't measure, but to make the glaze, I use melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and make a thin frosting. Usually I frost it soon after removing from the oven so that it melts over the warm cake).

For the church Easter breakfast (and other special occasions), I've made this same recipe and used a Bundt pan. It makes it seem fancier. And even though a Valentine's breakfast for Randy is certainly special, it's easier to keep the cake covered in a 13- by 9-inch pan ... if it lasts that long!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Behind the Camera

I'm often behind the camera. When you look through the copious collection of photos stuffed into plastic tubs that document Jill & Brent's childhood, Randy most often served as the parent of record.

Usually that was by design. I much prefer "hiding" behind the lenses rather than being in front of it.

During Jill & Eric's move last weekend from their one-bedroom apartment to their three-bedroom home, I was again behind the camera. In my defense, Jill asked me to take some photos, since her camera was MIA at the time.

But when you look at one integral part of the move, it appears my position behind the camera could have been by design. I do know people who suddenly find something else to do when there's work involved. I'm really not one of them. Really. It just appears that way when the other five people involved in the move are juggling a king-sized mattress. (By the way, we wonder when mattress manufacturers began deleting the handles that used to be attached. If it was a cost-saving measure, it was a dumb idea. It took all 10 hands to muscle that mattress from the back of the U-Haul into their bedroom.)

I did hold the door. You just can't see that part.

And I guarantee I helped with the move, though I don't think there are any photos to prove it. Believe me, I found muscles in my arms that I'd forgotten I had (Jill is always telling me I need to add weight/strength training to my workout. OK, Jill ... I hear you!) My legs were none the worse for wear after going up and down the stairs from the apartment to the trailer umpteen times. But the arms? That was a different story.

I did not offer to dig out the newlywed's back patio. Eric's dad, Alan, attempted the task with the shovel we had gotten Eric for his birthday. (We just got the shovel. We didn't offer to use it!) He gave up after awhile. I guess it will be spring thaw before they find it.

And I did help Jill & Christy unload boxes and find new homes for all the stuff. But again, there's no proof.

But the sore muscles were worth it to see Jill & Eric in their new home. (Note the drifts in the front yard. While we were in Omaha, the newspaper reported 65 straight days of snow on the ground, just one other reason they haven't seen that back patio!)

Welcome home, Jill & Eric! (And keep that guest room ready!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Octagon of Doom

Behind the scenes at the Octagon of Doom: It sounds like a horror movie, but for die-hard K-State fans, it was more a romance (We do LOVE our Wildcats!)

The Octagon of Doom, for the uninitiated, is what fans are calling Bramlage Coliseum these days. (The coliseum is roughly shaped like an octagon.) Our K-State men's basketball team is at the No. 7 spot this week on the Associated Press poll. The 20-4 record is K-State's best in almost 50 years.

So it pays to know people. And in this case, PEOPLE is our son, Brent. He is a student intern for K-State Sports Information. I'll never forget the excited phone call when they gave him a key to the building. For a guy who has always been a BIG fan of K-State sports, the excitement quickly surpassed the nerves of being responsible for an actual key to Bramlage.

On Saturday, we were in town for the game vs. Colorado. But before Bramlage was packed to the rafters with purple-clad fans, Brent gave us a behind-the-scenes tour.

We got to see The Legends room, where we could look out on the Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

We walked onto the floor and stood on the Power Cat.

We also got to see his office ("It's just an office, Mom," he says. "Yes, but it's an office in Bramlage where you get to write ... pretty cool, even if it's just an office." By the way, after men's basketball games, check out the game wrap-up online at Brent writes those features. He's also the lead contact for K-State Equestrian Team, so he writes all the features about that team. Those are also online.)

We saw close up where Brent sits during basketball games. Besides watching the action on televised ballgames, we are always looking for Brent in the background. Our favorite "Brent sighting" was during ESPN's College Game Day before the KSU-KU game. ESPN commentator Digger Phelps got hit in the head with the basketball. We rewound the DVR several times watching the open-mouthed reactions from Brent and another intern as the ball bounces off Digger's head.

He thinks it's pretty cool that he's right on the floor of Bramlage watching the game, writing, keeping stats, or working with television stations ... and especially avoiding the long line of students waiting to get into the games (He spent time in that line prior to getting this job, so he's well acquainted with the wait!)

I love photos and my refrigerator is a billboard for plenty of family snapshots. The one with Brent at the ESPN College Game Day anchor desk is a new favorite.

The 68-51 victory over the Buffaloes was just icing on the cake.