Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Heritage of Faith

It's a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to a childhood church. On June 26, after we sang the familiar words to Blest Be the Tie That Binds, we gathered to share stories and memories about the Byers United Methodist Church, the church that has been a touchstone in the community since 1905.

It was the home of my ancestors. The membership rolls include the names of many of my family members, including my great-great-grandfather/grandmother, Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Moore, who joined with my Dad's Dad, Lester Moore, at Christmas time in 1924 ...

... and the names of my mother and her sister Merlene in 1949 (albeit with my mom's name misspelled).

The Byers United Methodist Church was my church home for the first 15 years of my life.

My parents carried me in the door as an infant. It was also the church of their childhood, since both grew up in the Byers community. They got married there in 1953.

And they were there at the closing service almost 58 years later.

The beautiful stained glass windows which adorn the sanctuary glowed in the light then and now.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents made the decision to transfer our family's membership to the Pratt UMC. It was the right decision for our family. But as someone who struggled with change even as a teenager, it took awhile to settle into a new Sunday morning routine.

The Byers UMC is where I sang my first solo, a 6-year-old's rendition of Jesus Loves Me. That first solo has led to dozens of special music offerings in the ensuing years. But it all started at the Byers UMC church piano, among friends and neighbors.

My family's roots in the rural church ran deep. One of the pews had the names of a grandfather and an uncle I never knew. Both were killed in separate accidents when my Dad was just a boy.

And on the other side of the aisle, we always sat in the vicinity of the Shelby Neelly Family pew. Last Sunday, I insisted we move to that side of the church because it just "felt" right.

It's where my sisters, brother and I stood in the pews beside my parents and my Neelly grandparents. When we sang the Gloria Patri (Glory Be to the Father), we thought we were singing to our Grandpa Shelby.

"As it was in the beginning
Is now and ever SHALL BE."

(It could sound like SHELBY to little ears, right?)

It's where my Grandma always had butter rum and wild cherry Lifesavers for wiggly kids. And her hankies could magically transform into a sleeping baby.

It's where I went to Sunday School, most often taught by my Mom or my Grandma. The Cherry Mash box still held the crayons, though I suppose new ones were added as the next generation of children came to Sunday School.

It was in those same chairs that I learned an important life lesson during a church potluck. I never forgot commenting negatively about a potluck dish ... and then finding out my friend's mom was the cook.

At the Byers UMC, we trick-or-treated for UNICEF. We had our little UNICEF milk cartons to collect change at the same time we collected homemade popcorn balls and Halloween candies.

My youngest sister remembers knocking this lighted picture of Jesus off the wall as a kid roughhousing with another little girl. It survived. She wasn't the only one to get in trouble at church. It only took one trip down the church aisle with my Dad during a church service to remember the expectations for pew behavior.

We sang around the downstairs piano for opening exercises, and I learned classic children's Bible songs like Deep and Wide, Oh Be Careful, This Little Light of Mine and Do Lord! And then years later, I taught them to my own children and my little Sunday School pupils.

(A poster on the wall in the Byers UMC nursery)

It's where we put our birthday money in a white plastic birthday cake during opening exercises. And we dropped our offering coins in a white, steepled church. Another worshiper and I looked in closets and in drawers last Sunday, searching for those cheap plastic memories. We only found this wooden imitation. Maybe other children have a memory of sticking their offering in its wooden slot.

Vacation Bible School meant cherry Kool-Aid served from this pitcher.

And it meant playing on the steps at the back of the church while my Mom cleaned up and got ready for the next day of VBS.

It's where we circled the sanctuary and sang Silent Night to the glow of candlelight.

Even as memories tumbled back, we all realized it was time to close the doors. Though the register listed 23 on the membership rolls, only a literal handful of people came through the doors each Sunday.

I liked the litany we shared during the service. It said, in part:

Blessed be the name of God, whose Word has long been proclaimed within this hallowed place.
We give you thanks, O God.
As generations have prayed theirs prayers and sung your praises here, your Spirit has blessed countless worshipers.
We give you thanks, O God.
From within these walls, many have gone out to serve You in the world.
We give you thanks, O God.
As we go now from this house into a further journey of faith,
We give you thanks, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rest in peace, Byers United Methodist Church.

(This church building was dedicated in 1947.)

The Byers church was one in a three-point charge called the Unity Parish. On Sunday, another sister church, the Cullison UMC, also closed its doors as a worship center. Only the Iuka UMC remains.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hot Commodity

It's a brilliant marketing plan. Gather a bunch of your friends. Stir together some flour, yeast, water and salt (along with a few other key ingredients). Entice the public with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Slice it up and serve it along with a side dish of information about the wheat industry.

Nebraska Wheat set up their traveling trailer in the parking lot of the Wichita Airport Hilton during last Saturday's National Festival of Breads. They came at the invitation of Kansas Wheat, one of the sponsors of the breads festival.

During the day, they made 13 dozen chocolate chip cookies for festival goers. They followed that up with 125 cinnamon rolls. Before shutting the trailer window in the afternoon, they churned out 80 loaves of fresh bread.

Festival goers didn't mind leaving the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel ballroom to traipse out for a slice of homemade bread - even if it was 103 degrees in the shade.

It was hotter than that in the Nebraska Wheat trailer, but I hope it was worth it for the Nebraska wheat farmers who volunteered their time. They are nearing harvest, and I'm sure they have combines to get ready and trucks to roll out of storage sheds.

They set up shop for the entire run of the Nebraska State Fair and have also made appearances at the Iowa State Fair and a couple of county fairs each summer. They pulled the trailer to the Urban Wheat Field project in Washington, D.C., where wheat organizations from across the U.S. came together to educate people about all things wheat, including growing, milling, baking and nutrition.

Nebraska Wheat Executive Director Zoe Olson admits it's a lot of work for the staff and for the farmer volunteers. Everything is mixed from scratch. And, by golly, it's hot in a parking lot on a summer day - even without ovens turned to 350-degrees-plus all day long.

But what better way to talk to someone about the importance of agriculture and the nation's wheat crop than when they are chomping down on a slice of nice, warm bread. It's hard to argue that point when your mouth is full.

Now that's a hot commodity.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The New Face of Baking

Gale Collier just knew she had a winner. The Redmond, Oregon, mom developed a braided yeast bread recipe with fresh peaches and a crumb topping. It tasted like peach cobbler, only better.

So she typed it up and sent it to the National Festival of Breads cooking contest. Because the Festival has multiple categories, she also included her recipe for Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls, a recipe she developed for use in her bread machine.

"It's more a run-of-the-mill, everyday kind of bread," Gale said.

When Cindy Falk of Kansas Wheat called her a couple of months ago to let her know she was one of eight finalists for the 2011 National Festival of Breads in Wichita, Gale just knew it was her peach braid.

"Was I ever surprised when she said it was my raisin and granola rolls, a recipe that came about when I was throwing things together!" Gale said during the competition on Saturday. "I had a little bit of Raisin Bran sitting on my kitchen counter. It wasn't enough for cereal in the morning, and I didn't want to throw it away. So I just threw it in some rolls I was baking. That's one thing I love about using the bread machine. I can throw almost anything into it, and it will still come out great. I can forget about it until it's time for me to shape it into whatever I want for dinner - whether that's pizza or rolls."

Those everyday rolls aren't so run-of-the-mill anymore. Gale and her Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls won the grand prize at Saturday evening's awards ceremony in Wichita. She receives $2,000 in cash, plus a free trip to a King Arthur Flour Baking Session in Norwich, Vermont, and a year's supply of Fleishmann's Yeast.

And a bonus? Her kids have grown to love raisins after repeated test runs in her Oregon kitchen.

Before the winner was announced, Melissa Knific, assistant food editor with Family Circle magazine, said the contestants' offerings on Saturday were judged on three criterion: Taste, Appearance and Ease of Preparation.

Contestants began baking at 7:30 Saturday morning in eight makeshift kitchens in the ballroom of the Airport Hilton. They could make their recipes as many times as they wished until they were satisfied with the results or until they reached the 3 PM submission deadline. They needed one to submit to the judges, one for auction and two plates for The Great American Bake Sale, a fundraiser for Share Our Strength, a program that combats childhood hunger.

The eight contestants arrived in Wichita on Thursday. Gale brought her husband, Matthew, plus her 9-old son Canaan and 10-year-old daughter Rochelle.

"My name was on a sign at the airport," Gale said. "I felt like a celebrity!"

On Friday, they all got a chance to ride in a combine in a Sedgwick County wheat field, then followed the truckload of wheat to the local elevator. They also toured the Cargill Flour Mill.

"My kids really enjoyed riding the combine. It is called a combine, right?" Gale said. "I came away with a whole new appreciation for what goes into that bag of flour I pick up at the grocery store. Farmers in my area are much more likely to grow garlic than wheat, so it was amazing to get a look behind-the-scenes."

This was the second cooking contest in which Gale was a national finalist. Her first venture in the national spotlight was the Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese cookoff in 2009. But because the national competitors came to Portland, Oregon, she just had to jump in the car and travel to the contest. Her Smoky Jalapeno and Cilantro Pesto Mac and Cheese didn't win the grand prize.

But she did begin learning about the fine art of recipe contests with that entry. As a young mom, she got more interested in cooking as she looked for fun and nutritious ways to feed her family. She happened to see the mac and cheese contest online.

"I made macaroni and cheese that night and threw in some homemade pesto I had," Gale said. "After dinner, I typed up the recipe online and hit enter. Three weeks later they called me and said I was one of the finalists and that I was invited to come to Portland for the cookoff. I had to ask them to send me the recipe. I hadn't kept a copy."

Because the contest was in her own "backyard," she didn't realize the significance until she got there and found out other competitors had flown in from all over the United States.

"It seemed like everyone else had done it before," Gale said.

But she was hooked. The avid cook and baker enters some recipe contests online, though she is busy with two young children and helps her husband, Matthew, with their experimental aircraft building business in Redmond.

At the Saturday night banquet, Master of Ceremony Eric Atkinson of the K-State Radio Network asked each contestant about their start in baking. Gale thinks she's improved since her earliest days in the kitchen.

"When I was about 10, I made biscuits for my family. They probably could have been used for hockey pucks, though everybody said they liked them. I've gotten better."

Yes, indeed. She has the title of the National Festival of Breads Champion to prove it.

Here's Gale's winning recipe. For recipes from other finalists, go to the festival's website. They should be available soon. (And as someone who got to sample all the finalists' yummy work, I highly recommend checking out all the recipes!)

Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls

1 cup Raisin Bran cereal
1 cup granola*
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature (80 degrees F)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/3 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup raisins
2 1/4 tsp. Fleishchmann's Active Dry Yeast

1 cup granola
1 egg white, beaten

* Quaker Natural Granola with Oats, Honey & Raisins
  1. Place Raisin Bran cereal and granola in large plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, finely crush the cereal.
  2. Have ingredients at room temperature. Add the ingredients to the bread machine's pan as suggested by the manufacturer. Start bread machine using the DOUGH cycle (about 1.5 hours). Open the machine and touch the dough to check its consistency after 5 minutes. The dough should form a ball around the kneading blade. If it's too dry, add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of water; if dough is too wet, add 1 tablespoon flour at a time until the right dough consistency is reached.
  3. Meanwhile, for topping, place 1 cup granola in bag; use a rolling pin to finely crush. Place egg white in small bowl and beat with fork.
  4. When cycle is complete, remove dough and divide into 18 equal pieces. Shape into uniform rolls.
  5. Dip each roll in egg white and granola, lightly pressing granola onto dough.
  6. Place rolls onto greased 13- by 18-inch sheet pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (45 to 60 minutes).
  7. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 17 to 20 minutes, depending on size, or until golden brown. Remove rolls from pan and cool on wire rack.
Note: This recipe makes 18 rolls but it can also be made into smaller sizes that fit perfectly in the kids' lunch for a snack.

One roll provides approximately 194 calories; 6 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate; 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g fat (1 g saturated); 4 mg cholesterol; 50 mcg folate; 2 mg iron and 195 mg sodium.

Kansas Wheat Test Kitchen Note:

If you don't have a bread machine, follow these easy steps to make the dough, then continue with Step 3.
  1. Place Raisin Bran cereal and granola in a large plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, finely crush.
  2. Have ingredients at room temperature. In electric mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water. Let stand 10 minutes.
  3. Add crushed Raisin Bran Cereal, granola and raisins. Add dry milk, buttermilk, brown sugar, honey, whole wheat flour, 2 cups bread flour, cinnamon, butter and salt. Mix 2 minutes on medium speed.
  4. Gradually add enough of the remaining 1/2 cup bread flour to make slightly sticky dough. Knead dough by hand or with dough hook 8 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough.
  5. Proceed with shaping and second rise as directed above.

I guess the old reporter in me came out with this blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Gale and to the other contestants throughout the festival day. They were all extremely gracious to talk to people as they came by their individual kitchens scattered around the exterior of the hotel ballroom.

I think the judges chose well. Gale's recipe is one that won't intimidate new bakers. It's not a complicated-looking braid. You don't have to be a phenomenal dough shaper or have tons of yeast bread experience.

I like to think that Gale is the new face of home baking. Gale was the youngest contestant there. The oldest proudly shared that she is 81 years "young." But choosing Gale and her rolls just might make young moms think that they, too, can do this: She shows you don't have to rely on pizza delivery or driving through a fast-food delivery lane to put a meal on your table at home. And, if kids are involved in the baking process, they may even learn to love new foods ... like raisins!

One thing that will stay with me was the contestants' universal pleasure at visiting the farm to see where wheat is grown and harvested. It didn't seem at all disingenuous.

And they all mentioned what friendliness and hospitality they found from every corner - from the other contestants to the contest organizers to the people who came to the festival for fun. It made me proud to be a Kansas farm wife!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Byers Banana Bread

My Community Kitchens Cookbook from the Byers United Methodist Church probably wins the prize for the most battered and stained in my whole cookbook collection (and I have an impressive collection).

It takes a rubber band to hold it together these days. On the inside cover, it reads:

A Book of Favorite Recipes
Women's Society of Christian Service of
The United Methodist Church
Byers, Kansas
My mom inscribed: To Kim from Mother, April 1972

The Byers UMC was my childhood church. When I was a sophomore in high school, we began going to the Pratt UMC.

But it was my church home for the first 15 years of my life. On Sunday, my parents, Randy & I went to the last service for the church in the town 3.5 miles from where I grew up. As is customary for United Methodist churches which are closing, there was a special service to say goodbye. (More on that later.)

It's where my parents were married and where I first remember gathering in the basement for song time and Sunday School, usually taught by my Grandma Neelly or my mom.

The Byers UMC has been an anchor for the little town of Byers for a long, long time. And the cookbook has been a sort of touchpoint for me throughout the years, too. Looking through it, I see the names of the ladies from my childhood, our neighbors and friends.

One of the most used recipes in the cookbook is for Banana Bread. In fact, instead of leaving the cover at the front, I have page 33, the one that features the Banana Bread recipe, just underneath the rubber band. I've converted it for a double or triple recipe more times than I can count. (I like being able to put extras in the freezer. It's great to mess up the kitchen once and get a bunch of production!)

Hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

Banana Bread
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

Cream together oil and sugar. Add mashed bananas, eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture, alternately with buttermilk, beating after each addition. Add nuts, stirring well.

Bake in large loaf pan or two small loaf pans at 325 degrees. The large pan takes about an hour to bake, the smaller ones, around 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

This freezes well.

Recipe Notes:
  • The bananas in the photo aren't ripe enough for this recipe. They are just for decoration!
  • You can leave out the nuts. I always had to leave nuts out of part of it for Jill.
  • If you don't have buttermilk, you can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar, then fill the measuring cup to 1/2 cup. Let sit while you are preparing other ingredients.
This weekend was jam-packed with activities. I went to the Festival of Breads in Wichita on Saturday. I'll have more from it later, including an interview with the winner and other contestants, as well as prize-winning recipes.

Winner Gale Collier, Redmond, Oregon, as she was taking her Quick Raisin Granola Breakfast Rolls into the judging room.

After the special Byers church closing service, we went to my folks' house for dinner. It was like a blast from the past, since my Mom fixed roast beef with potatoes and carrots. That was our customary Sunday dinner when I was growing up. She also made Strawberry Cake for my birthday, plus homemade ice cream (chocolate ice cream with Heath brickle chips). Yum! With a birthday that customarily falls during wheat harvest, it was the first time in a long time I'd been treated to homemade cake and ice cream that someone else had made. Thanks Mom!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Pretty Good Fake

Being fake isn't an attribute to which I usually aspire.

Is there anything that's better fake than real? Well, fake nails are better than my nails. A spray-on tan is better for you than a real one, I suppose.

But most of the time, we prefer to go with the real thing ... case in point, diamonds vs. zirconia.

But I did find a pretty good fake during harvest ... fake Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I didn't have time to make yeast bread from scratch, but I wanted to serve a hot bread with my roast beef meal.

Hot, fresh bread was supposed to accompany the next day's meal of beef and noodles, too. I had good intentions: I refrigerated some unbaked biscuits and was going to have them nice and hot for the noon meal. Unfortunately, I left them a little too long in the oven. (Yes, even we experienced cooks have our moments. This was not a stellar one. I fed them to the cats and dogs. Millie dug a hole for one under a bush in the backyard. Somehow, I don't think she was saving it for later. Sad but true!)

I looked online for a recipe, but couldn't find one that didn't use biscuit mix. So I did some modification and came up with this. I doubled the recipe. I always figure if I'm making a mess, I might as well make it worthwhile.

And speaking of worthwhile, I'm planning to go to the National Festival of Breads in Wichita tomorrow. Doors of the Wichita Airport Hilton ballroom will open at 7:30 AM to the public. Eight amateur bakers from across the U.S. will bake their original yeast bread recipes. There's also a mini trade show with food and cooking vendors, plus a full schedule of demonstrations about everything from basic sweet doughs to baking with whole grains. A Great American Bake Sale will benefit Share Our Strength, which combats childhood hunger.

I hope you'll join me from 7:30 AM to 4 PM at the Wichita Airport Hilton! And did I mention free bread samples? Yum!

But, if you can't come to Wichita, check out the Kansas Wheat website for the 2009 Festival of Bread finalists' recipes or other tried-and-true recipes. Or make Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

Cheddar Bay Biscuits
1/3 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, mixing together. Add shredded cheese, cutting in with the pastry blender. Cut in shortening, using a pastry blender, until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in milk, mixing with fork, until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and rounds up into a ball.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly about 10 times. Roll 1/2-inch thick. Cut with floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Melt butter in microwave. Add spices. Using a pastry brush, brush butter mixture over each biscuit. Reserve remaining butter mix.

Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Brush with remaining butter mixture and serve hot. Makes about 1 dozen.

  • I think Red Lobster makes drop biscuits (I might too if I were making as many as they serve a night). If you want to go that route, just drop them with a fork and bake as directed above.
  • If you want to use biscuit mix, the recipe I found used 2 cups Bisquick and 1/2 cup cold water. You would just add your 3/4 cheese to that mixture instead of working with the flour mixture and shortening.
  • As I said earlier, I doubled the recipe. However, I didn't double the butter and seasonings, and I had plenty for all the biscuits.
I know I'm no Pioneer Woman, but maybe there is some young bride or a 4-Her somewhere who has never made biscuits from scratch. So, here's a pictoral version. Feel free to skip it and go directly to making biscuits! Enjoy!

A Photo Step-by-Step

Combine flour, baking powder and salt, mixing together.

Shred the cheese.

Add the cheese and cut it in, using the pastry blender.

Cut in the shortening, using the pastry blender (if you don't have a pastry blender, two forks will work in a pinch.)

Below is is how it should look after cutting in the shortening. It should resemble "fine crumbs."

Stir in milk, mixing with fork, until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and rounds up into a ball.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. (I ended up having to add just a little flour because it was a little too sticky to knead. Don't add too much though or you'll have dry biscuits.) Knead lightly about 10 minutes.

Roll 1/2-inch thick. Cut with floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Melt butter in microwave. Add spices. Using a pastry brush, brush butter mixture over each biscuit. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Brush with remaining butter mixture and serve hot.

(Sorry, I guess I didn't get a photo of brushing the biscuits with the butter mixture. But I am confident you can do that on your own anyway.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Flat Dennis

Flat Dennis came to visit during harvest. He looked a lot like the North Dakota custom harvester who sometimes cuts some of our wheat crop.

But this guy didn't have Dennis' distinctive North Dakota accent. And he didn't hold out his hand for the Fritzemeier Farms paycheck before loading up his John Deere combines and driving on to the next stop on his harvest journey. (Maybe it's because his arms were pinned behind his back, I don't know.)

Flat Dennis was the brainchild of David Johnson, a friend of ours who also has benefited from Dennis' harvest skills throughout the years. Because of excess rainfall in North Dakota, Dennis didn't get his spring wheat planted. So he was missing his annual trip to Stafford County, where he joins his son Jason Crockett, a St. John-based custom harvester.

David didn't want Dennis to miss out on all the sites and adventures of the 2011 Kansas wheat harvest. So David and his wife, Jeanie, took Flat Dennis on quite a whirlwind tour of familiar spots.

He went to breakfast with David at Joan's Cafe in Stafford, where he was photographed with the guys. He visited wheat fields. He visited the farms of Dennis' harvest customers.

At the end of Flat Dennis' journey, Jeanie put together a tale of his adventures in a Heritage Makers book, a scrapbook that is created online and then made into a hardcover book.

Flat Dennis is based on Flat Stanley, a 1964 children's book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. In the book, Stanley is crushed by a falling bulletin board and is completely flattened. But Stanley makes the best of his altered state. One special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope.

In 1995, Canadian school teacher Dale Hubert started the Flat Stanley Project. It was designed to facilitate writing as schoolchildren document Flat Stanley's travels. They read the book, keep a journal for a few days and then send Flat Stanley down the road (or in an envelope, as the case may be). The recipient is asked to treat Flat Stanley as a guest and take him on excursions. They are to write in his journal and then send him back - or on to another friend - after a specified time.

Often Flat Stanley returns with a photo or postcard from his visit. These days, there's even a Flat Stanley "app" for the iPhone. There have been hundreds of thousands of Flat Stanleys who have visited all over the globe. In January, a Flat Stanley visited Debbie Lyons-Blythe, who writes the Life On a Kansas Cattle Ranch blog and ranches with her family in the Flint Hills.

We were glad to see Flat Dennis during harvest. But he's not as good a worker as the real Dennis.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Sun Sets on Harvest 2011

Wheat harvest 2011 on the County Line is in the history books.

When we consider how much wheat in western Kansas was "harvested" with a disc and not a combine, we feel particularly grateful for our blessings of harvest.

Wheat is a forgiving crop. That's why we dryland farmers plant it. Kind of like the purported reliability of postal carriers, it "delivers" in the face of drought, freeze and other untimely weather events.

We finished cutting wheat Monday:
  • Average yield on the County Line was 36.7 bushels per acre, with a range from 24 to 48 bu/acre. Surprisingly, last year's average was 37.2 bu/acre. That's a little misleading because we had some fields totaled last year by hail.
  • The wheat was an excellent test weight, averaging 62 to 64 pounds per bushel. (The benchmark is 60 pounds a bushel.)
  • The average length of time spent broken down was ... Just kidding, though maybe I should have figured that stat since it seemed to be a common occurrence this year - usually about suppertime.
  • One breakdown we didn't have was a single flat tire on a grain truck. Most harvests, there's a trip (or two or three) to Stafford to get a tire fixed. At lunch on Monday, all of us confessed that we'd thought about this unusual statistic at some point during harvest. But none of us said it out loud and risked jinxing our perfect record for the year.
  • We cut through some mudholes that Randy has never been able to harvest before in the 30-plus years he's been doing this. That's not necessarily a good thing because it illustrates just how dry we are.
  • But with all the facts and figures, some of the best parts of harvest are intangible ..
like visits from curious little girls ...

... and the beautiful scenery of Kansas. Besides the rainbow, the evening sky was decorated with a cloud bank to end the day on June 18.

June 18, 2011

We are proud to be a part of the 22,000 Kansas farmers growing wheat and helping to put bread on the table of the U.S. and the world!