Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Century Farms: The Moores

(My dad as a toddler and his Dad)

As Kansas celebrated its 151st birthday on Sunday, I re-read a 16-page term paper I wrote in 1979 for History of American Agriculture, a class I took as a senior at Kansas State University. It didn't have a lot to do with my career goals at the time. But it was one of the best classes I took since it encouraged me to learn more about my heritage.

Every person and every family has a story. I did learn that in journalism school.

Today, my Dad and brother continue the story of the Moore family farm, which was established 135 years ago in Pratt County. The photos were gathered by my Mom into a family history book. She presented a copy to each grandchild. I keep telling the kids that I'm holding onto the books for safekeeping.

Excerpts from the paper:

Sometime in the late 1860s, Kentuckian James T. Moore spent a brief time in Kansas as a helper to a buffalo hunter. He was impressed with the potential of western Kansas for cattle grazing and went home to tell his wife, Chalista, that the grass stood as high as the stirrups on a horse.

He couldn't forget that undeveloped frontier. In 1876, the family came to Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. They arrived in December 1876 in Sodtown, later known as Stafford. A hotel proprietor mentioned to J.T. that he might do well to homestead in Pratt County.

A man whose business it was to locate claims helped J.T. and his family. The son, J.J. who was 9 at the time, later described the trip:
He told us of a place that we could homestead down in Pratt County where Kelly the buffalo hunter had put down a well. We started with an ox team to a wagon and the driver carried a compass as he drove. On the hind wheel of the wagon was tied a rag, and a man sitting in the back counted the revolutions of the wheel. So we came out 23 miles, so far south and so far west. We hit the place all right and found the government corners. We went to Larned and put in the (homestead) papers.
The Moores began living on the claim - located 3 miles east and a half mile north of present day Byers - in spring 1877. They later filed a timber claim which gave them a total of 320 acres of land.

(This was my childhood home for the first 6 years of my life.)

But times weren't easy in this new place. J.T. gathered buffalo bones from the prairie and hauled them to Larned or to Hutchinson to sell for fertilizer. The trip took all day, but he needed the $5 or $6 per wagon load to purchase food and necessities for his family. After delivering the load, he would spend the night in Larned (45 miles away) or Hutchinson (55 miles away). His wife, Chalista, would be scared and lonely while he was gone, so she would take the children to the barn and spend the night there with the horses for company.

My Dad's Grandpa, J.J. Moore, was the second owner/operator of the family farm. Besides farming, he played a part in the founding of Byers in 1914. J.J. also owned the bank in Byers. During the Depression, he lost the bank but was able to save the farm ground.

J.J. had many talents besides farming. He purchased young, strong mules and broke them for work on the farm. When they were well trained, he sold them for a good profit and repeated the process. He was also an accomplished blacksmith, making his own tools, sharpening shears and shoeing his own horses.

My Dad is the third owner/operator of the farm. The family tradition continues with him and my brother, Kent. A year ago, wheat harvest provided an opportunity to take a photo with the 4th, 5th and 6th generations to work on a family farm in South Central Kansas.

6th, 5th & 4th generations to work on the Moore Family Farms
Brian, Kent & Bob Moore

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ad Astra Per Aspera

You probably wouldn't think about having a birthday party in a cemetery. But as Kansas celebrated 151 years of statehood yesterday, I thought about those pioneers who settled this land I now call home. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union and became the 34th star on the American flag.

Peace Creek Cemetery is just a mile from Randy's boyhood home. Some of his ancestors rest in this quiet plot at the edge of a wheat field. Maybe a visitor or two who takes the wrong road to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge might happen across it. But, for the most part, it's off the beaten track. The chilly silence may be broken by the growl of a tractor or a pickup traversing the sandy road. But most often, the sound is just the breeze through the trees that stirs the music of a wind chime near one of the graves.

As we drove by one January evening, I asked Randy to stop. I watched the sun sink into the horizon of the western sky, and I thought about those pioneers who came before me. They may have marveled at a similar sunset sky, the velvet blue lightened with pinks and yellows and oranges - the vibrant colors that come only on a cold January night.

There were probably fewer trees then, but the same sun and the moon still hung from the sky. These celestial bodies defined their days - probably more so than they do mine since they would have lit their homes with candles or kerosene lanterns on dark January nights.

I wonder about the people buried there, some as long ago as 1879. There are mothers and fathers, babies and toddlers, neighbors and friends.

Were they adventurers? Were they dreamers? Were they looking to improve life for themselves and their families? Under the Homestead Act, any person older than 21 could choose 160 acres of land on which to farm or ranch. If the homesteader could live and farm on the land for a period of five years, they could own it.

Clearing the land of the tall, tough prairie grass was back breaking work. They had to figure out what crops would grow, often a process of trial and error. Droughts, thunderstorms, bitter winters, prairie fires and grasshopper invasions stood in the way of fulfilling their hopes for a different way of life.

The dreams they planted on the Kansas prairie took root like the trees they planted to block their homesteads from the unrelenting wind.

And they worked hard. They planted churches and schools along with the winter wheat.

They raised their families. They lived and they died on the Kansas prairie.

And as we celebrate 151 years of statehood, I am thankful for my ancestors and those of my husband who had a vision and worked hard to provide a future for their children and their children's children and beyond.

Kansas is celebrating its birthday. But we got the gift.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Miracle of Birth: A Photo Essay

Jill - Delivery Room - 1985

I was not one of those women who had a video camera in the room when I gave birth. We had a still camera in the delivery room. But the lens cap stayed firmly attached until after Jill and Brent were whisked away, cleaned up and ready for their close-ups.

Brent - Delivery Room - 1988

Not that there's anything wrong with recording a baby's birth. If no one allowed video cameras in the room, then there wouldn't be opportunities for every expectant mother and father to watch the miracle of birth during Lamaze classes. (OK, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing, since by the time you see the film, it's too late to back out.)

Sorry No. 032. I didn't give you a choice about whether you wanted your birth experience recorded for posterity. Just consider it a teaching moment, like those Lamaze videos.

Actually, Randy also called it a teaching moment for Jake, who has helped with plenty of deliveries but usually takes the role of lead assistant. By the time he got done with his more active role, he may have been re-evaluating his decision to wear a white T-shirt for the day.

No. 032 is a heifer, a cow having her first calf. Randy checks the heifers frequently. He saw that the calf's feet were showing, but the labor didn't progress. He made the decision to pull the calf. This is done to save both the mama and the baby.

We put the heifer in the calving pen, my Christmas gift of 2010. Sometimes cows can be riled up with the birthing process, so having them contained in the head gate is a much safer option for both mama and people.

Since it's hard to see in the above photo, I thought I'd show you another heifer who calved yesterday. In this photo, you can see part of the amniotic sack, which showed before the hooves did in this instance.

(By the way, this heifer had her calf without intervention.)

But back to 032 and her birth story. Jake first splashed disinfectant on the heifer to try to keep the birthing canal as clean as possible. (We've been using the same Tupperware bucket for this job since Randy's folks were in the cow-calf business.)

Then, the guys got the chains ready.

They tie a chain above the ankle on each of the front hooves of the calf. Then they tie the two chains together.

They attach the chains to a calf puller, which is a long rod with a pulley on the end.

They put the leather strap of the calf puller on the cow's rear end.

Then they use the pulley to gently pull the calf from the mama's womb. Here comes the front feet and the head! (Click on the photos to make them bigger).

Welcome to the world, baby!

You can see the steam as the warm baby calf arrives in the cool barn. Randy used his fingers to clear amniotic fluid from the baby's mouth.

And now baby No. 2007 is ready for its close-up. (All our calf numbers this year begin with a "2." That indicates that they were born in 2012. This calf was the 7th baby calf born this year, hence 2007.)

Mama gets the job of cleaning off the baby by licking it. It's part of the bonding process for the pair.

Just one day later, mama and baby are doing well.
Chow time!
And there you have it: The miracle of birth on the County Line.

I'm linked today with Fresh from the Farm: Farm Photo Friday. Check it out!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our Own Houdini

Swaddling wasn't in vogue back when my kids were little. These days, there are even newfangled wraps made especially for swaddling. Kinley has a couple of them.

But even if you get her all wrapped up in a tight cocoon, she finds a way to free her hands. I think she may have a future in magic.

See that hand starting to poke out?!

Magic is in her genes after all.

Her Grandpa has been called Fantastic Fritz on occasion.

He's done his fair share of magic at school, at 4-H, for community programs, for little girls' sleepovers and for children's sermons.

He hasn't tried the Houdini straitjacket illusion. And these days, he seems to spend more of his free time on the golf course than exploring magic.

But maybe it's in his granddaughter's future. She seems to have that escape artist thing down.

And she's already magic in our book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two Cute

Two calves.
Too many.
To a 4-Her.
The End.

C'mon now! I never give you the Reader's Digest version of any story.

One of our heifers (a first-time mom) had twins last week. Bonus, right? Two for the price of one!

But not so fast. Many times, mama cows just claim one of the babies. And that's what happened this time, too.

Randy is more into grandparenting mode these days. Hold the baby until said baby cries, then pass her off to the mama. (The joy of Grandpahood!)

Admittedly, there's no feeding possible in the Wonderful World of Grandparenting right now, as Mom is on call 24/7. But Randy got in on some feeding action with the unclaimed twin.

See, he has some commendable mothering skills, too.

Still, this little calf needed an extra dose of love and attention. Enter 4-Her.

This little lady will get lots of one-on-one time with a 4-Her who loves her and wants to take her to the Stafford County Fair in July.

Aubrey and her dad came and picked up the calf on Sunday. So Randy is out of his nursemaid job. He's OK with that, especially when he knows how the 4-H bucket calf program helps grow kids into responsible adults.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit B.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Year of the Dragon

I'm not a believer in the Chinese zodiac. Let's just get that out of the way from the beginning.

But what's a Kansas farm wife to do when she wants to use a photo that's not exactly the perfect illustration for calving season ... or harvest ... or planting ... or anything else having to do with a farm in Central Kansas?

So when she happens to notice that 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, you'll have to forgive her for remembering that colorful photo that's been hiding in the files since December 2010.

And then I found out that 2012 is the Year of the WATER dragon, so it's like it was meant to be, right?

The dragon is one of the lighted Christmas displays in Pratt's Lemon Park. I'm not sure what it has to do with Christmas either. But it sure makes for a pretty photo, doesn't it?

The Year of the Dragon started yesterday, January 23. If you want to celebrate with an American version of a Chinese meal, try Oriental Beef with Peppers, a meal Jill served us last May. (It was the same day I found out I was going to be a Grandma and then I couldn't tell anyone FOREVER!)

It may not be quite as colorful as that Lemon Park dragon. But it tastes better (especially when you find out you're going to be a Grandma! No guarantees to anyone for that happening).

I was going to post this yesterday. But Pie Day won out. What can I say? I have a sweet tooth.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I'll Take Pie, Not Pi

I'm not a mathematician. So Pi Day has never excited me. (For you people who like your math, Pi Day is March 14 or 3.14)

When you Google "Pie" Day, it's "Pi" Day that comes up for the first few entries on the list. Last week, a Facebook friend said that January 23 is PIE Day. Like me, she knew about the math celebration, but not the PIE party, until she wrote a feature article about pie. (How can I get writing jobs like that?)

But after I typed in "baking a pie day," I found a website devoted to pie. The American Pie Council has indeed dubbed January 23rd as National Pie Day:
Why is National Pie Day celebrated on January 23 or 1/23? Because celebrating the wholesome goodness of pie is as easy as 1-2-3.
I'm not sure I agree with that slogan, but I've had a pie photo and recipe rattling around, just ready to be shared. So what better day than National Pie Day?

The American Pie Council is "an organization committed to preserving America's pie heritage and promoting America's love affair with pies. Designed to raise awareness, enjoyment and consumption of pies, the APC offers amateur, professional and commercial memberships."

I think Randy would be thrilled if I would join. I don't make pie nearly as often as he'd like.

According to the APC website, pie has been around since the ancient Egyptians. The first pies were made by early Romans. Meat - not fruit - was the mainstay of early pies. Fruit pies have been around since the 1500s, when English tradition credits the first cherry pie to Queen Elizabeth I. Pie came to America with the first English settlers. And now the dessert is "as American as apple pie."

I made a Toll House Cookie Pie for our church's Sweet Tooth Auction last year. This pie is one of Brent's favorites, since he's not a fruit pie person. As pies go, it really is easy to put together.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Pie
1 unbaked 9-inch (4 cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened (no substitutes)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup chopped nuts (I usually use pecans)
Whipped cream or ice cream (opt.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour and both sugars. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell. Put pie shields on crust to prevent overbrowning.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. (If the top looks too brown before the center is set, cover whole pie with foil to prevent overbrowning.)

Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

If fruit pie is more to your liking, try this recipe for Blueberry Pie. (You can use frozen berries.) It has step-by-step photos for making and rolling out your pie dough.

And the American Pie Council has a link to pie recipes. So go ahead: Celebrate Pie Day. It will be tastier than Pi Day.

I'm linked to Two Maids a Baking. Check them out!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Aloha Quick Bread

When I have ripe bananas, I most often turn to my Byers United Methodist Church cookbook and make banana bread. Yes, I admit it. I sometimes get stuck in a rut.

But a new cookbook inspired me to try a different recipe. Aloha Quick Bread was in the PEO Incredible Food cookbook that my Mom gave me. And it happened to have a familiar name attached to the recipe ... my Mom's.

When I told her I'd made her recipe, she said, "Oh, I'd kind of forgotten about that one." After you try it, you won't want to forget to add it to your collection of quality quick bread recipes.

With these cold temperatures, we can take all the help we can get to imagine we're in Hawaii, right? Enjoy!

Aloha Quick Bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp. grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup crushed pineapple

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in banana, milk, orange peel and extracts. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in coconut, nuts and pineapple. Pour into 9- by 5- by 3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted at center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Yield: 1 large loaf.

I used small loaf pans. It will take less time to bake them (though I didn't keep track of the time. Sorry about that!). I doubled this recipe since I had plenty of bananas.

If you'd prefer to make a different recipe with your extra bananas, try this one with bananas, pineapple, cherries and nuts. It's another good recipe from the same cookbook (even though it doesn't have my Mom's name attached.)

Enjoy your weekend!