Friday, March 30, 2012

It's in the Details

In our rush to get from Point A to Point B, we may see something out of the corner of our eye. And, fleetingly, we might haphazardly acknowledge the beauty.

But, if we take time to look - really look - there is treasure to be found. It's found in contrasts - a rough, worn board is bordered by flower petals as soft as baby's skin.

And the promise for more beauty is hidden among green-shrouded buds, patiently waiting for their time to burst forth. The black stamen surrounds the sun-yellow pistil like planets orbiting the sun, casting shadows on the red petals colored by God's hand.

Every morning you are handed 24 golden hours.
They are one of the few things
in this world that you get free of charge.
If you had all the money in the world,
you couldn't buy an extra hour.
What will you do with this priceless treasure?

- Author Unknown

Maybe what we should do is open our eyes to simple - yet profound - beauty. It's all around us. It's in people. It's in nature. And in the rush of our everyday lives, may we pause to see the beauty.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Life's a Zoo

There are days when you just want to cover your head.

Indulge in a little emotional eating.

Do an impersonation of the old "ostrich hiding his head in the sand" routine.

Or find a place to chill out and take a nap.

There is always a detractor or two in the crowd,
watching smugly from the sidelines.

But, in those times, you sometimes have to stick your neck out
and go on.

Slow and steady wins the race. That's what I've heard, anyway.


We celebrated our anniversary with a Saturday outing to Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure near Salina. (We were trying it out so that next time we can take Kinley. Randy pointed out that the rest of the people who were our age had grandchildren in tow.)

Since our little getaway, we have:
  • Moved and sorted mamas and baby calves three mornings in a row.
  • Worked baby calves, three mornings in a row.
  • Reunited the mamas and babies, three mornings in a row.
  • Had an unplanned visit from several fire departments while burning CRP grass.
  • Fixed fence because of above. (Actually, Randy & Jake have done this one.)
  • And I've begun the 1 week countdown to playing 26 different piano accompaniments for a middle school music festival.

So, I must admit, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'd hide in a box like the orangutan at Rolling Hills - but they'd probably find me.

More on all our on-the-farm adventures to come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

If I Knew Then ...

We talk about 20/20 hindsight and things we would change if we only had it. We think about things that would be different and lament, "If I knew then what I know now."

But on this day, I say, "I would do it all over again."

Randy and I celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary today. On March 28, 1981, a couple of farm kids from Kansas walked down the aisle of the Pratt United Methodist Church and began a new journey.

I think about what I wouldn't have if I hadn't said, "I do." I wouldn't have Randy. We wouldn't have had Jill or Brent to take us on this journey we call parenthood.

We wouldn't have a beautiful new granddaughter named Kinley who continues a legacy of love, laughter, hope and dreams.

I am immeasurably blessed. So on this special day, here's a song. All the lyrics aren't perfect for this Kansas couple, since we haven't spent much time riding buses in Chicago.

But isn't that a metaphor, too? Love isn't perfect either. But I wouldn't trade it, "If I knew then, what I know now ..."

Love only comes once in awhile
Knocks on your door and throws you a smile
And takes every breath
And leaves every scar
Speaks to your soul
And sings to your heart

If I knew then what I knew now
I'd fall in love

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Own 'B' Movie

One rainy day last week, Randy spent the afternoon watching B movies on some cable channel. Mutant ants were taking over the world.

We might be able to make our own B movie around here these days. In it, little green alfalfa weevils are invading the world - or at least our alfalfa fields.

This spring's warm temperatures have the weevils out in full force a little earlier than normal. They may not look that ferocious. But these little green worms are turning healthy alfalfa plants like these:

... into plants that have more holes than a teenager's fashionable jeans.

We aren't the only ones with the problem. When Randy walked in to the co-op yesterday morning with maps of our alfalfa fields, the co-op's spray rigs were already on the go before the official start to the work day.

Even from the road, you can see the damage caused by the weevils. The alfalfa plants appear white or silvery instead of vibrant green. If the weevils aren't controlled with an insecticide application, the foliage loss may also reduce the quantity and quality of later cuttings of alfalfa.

After last year's drought and the resulting paltry alfalfa crop, we need to do all we can to protect this year's cuttings - a primary food source for our cattle.

If all goes as planned, we will not be producing that 'B' movie, "Weevils Take Over the County Line." (Randy already finds enough weird stuff to watch on TV. Who watches polka on TV? Yep, that's right: He does. Shhhh! We won't ask him what he thinks of some of my HGTV and Food Network viewing choices.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Narrow Gate

The little boy reaches for the homemade gate blocking the stairs. He knows it's off limits. But the temptation is there.

"Maybe Grandma won't notice if I reach sideways and keep my eyes focused straight ahead," he thinks.

"Oops! Busted again. I guess she really meant it," thinks Braden, my sister's grandson, turning to leave the scene of the "crime." (I'm sure my granddaughter, Kinley, will have similar moments when she's a bit older!)

Our family has had three new babies in the past 18 months. This influx of little ones has been a reawakening into the world of babies and toddlers and how their little minds work. Remember playing peekaboo with a toddler? If they have their eyes covered, they think they're invisible.

Today, check out the rest of the story at my Food for Thought blog. While you're at Lovely Branches Ministries, be sure to visit my friends' monthly blogs, too.

Happy Monday, everyone! I'm off to help sort cattle and work baby calves this morning. We had planned to do that job last week, but the 2.30 inches of rain we got changed the to-do list. And that's just fine: We are thankful for the rain.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bake & Take: Blueberry Banana Bread

I doubled this recipe so I could Bake and Take -- and I could make my husband happy by leaving some at home, too.

March is Kansas Wheat's promotion, Bake and Take Month. Bake and Take Day began in 1970 as a community service project of the Kansas Wheathearts in Sumner County. The Kansas Wheathearts, an auxiliary organization of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, set out to share baked goods with family members, friends, neighbors, and those in need.

The idea became so successful that the Kansas Wheathearts created a national Bake and Take Day celebration in 1973. Even though the Kansas Wheathearts disbanded in 2001, the tradition continues to be supported by the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.

Now, instead of just one day, the Bake and Take movement gets its own month. I took some of this bread to Jill's and Eric's when we were there for Kinley's baptism a couple weeks ago.

If you want to formally participate in Bake and Take Month, you have a chance to win a prize bundle with recipe books and more from Kansas Wheat and the American Home Baking Association. Check out the book bundle prize pack by visiting and get a brochure and entry form.

Whether you "bake it and take it" or just eat it at home, I think you'll like this Blueberry Banana Bread. Enjoy!

Blueberry Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen: Don't thaw before using)

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening and sugar. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Beat in mashed bananas. Gradually add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Fold in blueberries.

Pour into three greased 5 3/4- by 3- by 2-inch loaf pans or 2 9- by 5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes for the smaller pans and 40 to 45 minutes for the larger pans or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Recipe from Heat Oven to 350 blog.

If I make this again, I might add some cinnamon. But we liked it "as is," too!

Need more ideas for baking and taking? Try these Cappuccino Cookies.

The Kansas Wheat website has lots of recipes to explore, everything from their annual recipe booklet, a popular giveaway at the Kansas State Fair, to bread machine recipes. Check it out!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Planting Hope

He who plants a tree

Plants a hope.
~-Lucy Larcom, "Plant a Tree"

Randy planted a little hope last week. And as he did, he continued a legacy that began long before we moved to this house, 8 months pregnant with our first baby and looking toward the future with excitement and a little trepidation.

Our house is nestled among big old trees that give us shade in the summer and shelter us from winter winds.

Years ago, there were people like Randy who planted those trees. Did they imagine that a little boy and a little girl would soar into the air on a swing hung from a backyard hackberry tree?

Did they think that children would gather under the branches and make mudpies, tend to their baby dolls or make roads with Tonka trucks? Did they think about that canopy of green that would nestle a family as it grew?

Those long-ago tree planters and my husband must share an optimism for the future and generations to come. As Randy dug the holes, he said he didn't know whether the trees would grow big enough for us to enjoy them.

"But someone will," he said simply.

The true meaning of life is to plant trees
under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
~Nelson Henderson

Randy planted two Fat Albert blue spruce trees. See the tree over his shoulder in the photo above? He and Jill planted that blue spruce 25 years ago.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The next best time is now.
~Chinese Proverb

Through the years, Randy has planted other trees, including this red maple that greets us with fiery arms open wide each fall as we enter the driveway coming home.

Pine wilt has taken some of the majestic old trees that surrounded our house. Many of our trees were given an unwanted trim with the ice storm of 2007.

But, like faithful old friends, others continue to stand by as silent witnesses to our comings and goings.

The oaks and the pines, and their brethren of the wood, have seen so many suns rise and set, so many seasons come and go, and so many generations pass into silence, that we may well wonder what "the story of the trees" would be to us if they had tongues to tell it, or we ears fine enough to understand.
~Author Unknown,
quoted in Quotations for Special Occasions
by Maud van Buren, 1938

Someday, the Autumn Blaze tree Randy planted last week will greet a family as they arrive home from the north. And they will be thankful to the man who cared enough to plant it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring on a Plate

Our first day of spring was kind of a dreary day, not that I'm complaining about the extra moisture we got. My dreary mood was probably more a function of a morning full of internet problems instead of the weather.

But our noontime meal was like spring on a plate. And, I must confess that I kind of needed spring on a plate about that time. Asparagus, spinach and spring seem to go hand-in-hand. I made Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Tortellini for our main dish, but smaller servings could certainly be a yummy Easter side dish.

It was colorful, tasty and fairly healthy. I served some fresh fruit on the side. But if you'd like a heartier accompaniment, toasted garlic cheese bread would mesh perfectly.

If you want to see step-by-step photos, check out Jamie Cooks It Up, the blog from which I adapted this recipe.


Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Tortellini
2 pints grape tomatoes
1 pound fresh asparagus
5-6 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 9-oz. package cheese tortellini
1 cup chopped spinach
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut about 1 inch of the bottoms off of each stalk of asparagus. Chop the rest of the asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Spread asparagus pieces and the tomatoes out evenly over a sheet cake pan. Peel and roughly chop 5 to 6 cloves of garlic. (Note: I used 1 tablespoon of jarred minced garlic instead of peeling and chopping fresh garlic, but you can add more to taste.) Add garlic to tomatoes and asparagus. Drizzle olive oil over the top. (The original recipe estimated using 2 to 3 tablespoons. I used less.)

Season with salt and pepper. Using two large spoons, toss the ingredients together, making sure all the veggies have a little oil on them. Roast vegetables at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until asparagus is fork tender.

When the veggies are about halfway done, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously and add tortellini. Cook until done but not overcooked, usually boiling it about 5 minutes.

Drain the tortellini in a colander, and run warm water over it. Drain well and put in a large mixing bowl. Add chopped spinach. Take roasted veggies out of oven and pour into the mixing bowl, making sure to scrape any of the juices into the bowl, too.

Season with additional salt and cracked pepper, if desired. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the bowl and add Parmesan cheese. Toss together and serve.

Note: The original recipe called for a 24-ounce package of tortellini. I used a 9-ounce package. We thought that provided a good amount to accompany the roasted vegetables. You can alter the amount to your own taste.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scouting: It's Not Just for Youth!

Randy was never a Boy Scout. The youth program of choice for both of us was 4-H. But "scouting" is part of his farming duties.

Scouting wheat fields last week showed that the wheat is way ahead of schedule, mostly due to the unseasonably high temperatures. C'mon now: 80 degrees in mid-March is just too warm. Still, jubilation seemed to be the general theme for everyone I heard talking about the weather - until I talked to my usually unrelentingly optimistic husband.

The warm weather makes the 2012 wheat crop susceptible to a late freeze. K-State Wheat Specialist Jim Shroyer told the Kansas City Star last week: "The wheat looks actually too good for this time of year. With the warm weather conditions we've had, the wheat has really taken off. It's not paying any attention to the calendar whatsoever."

We don't have to search too far back in the memory banks to realize that a late freeze could decimate the Kansas wheat crop. Just five years ago, in 2007, Easter weekend brought snow and cold to Kansas. The freeze cut yields considerably on a crop that had looked better than average.

With the unseasonably warm temperatures, the 2012 wheat crop needed a drink of water. We are thankful for the 0.60 we received Monday and are hopeful that the weather forecast comes true and brings additional rain this week. Though we've had some moisture this winter, we haven't had nearly enough to break the drought of 2011.

Our wheat is "jointing," where the leaf begins to elongate, forming a stem. This is the time frame in the wheat plant where yield potential is determined, so it's a benefit if it has adequate moisture and nutrients available to it.

We've done what we can about the nutrients. We topdressed the wheat fields with liquid nitrogen. Now it's up to Mother Nature to supply the moisture we need and to keep the temperatures above freezing.

Randy is smiling right now. Hopefully, he'll still be smiling at harvest!

Monday, March 19, 2012


I am beginning to learn
that it is the sweet, simple things of life
which are the real ones after all.
--Laura Ingalls Wilder

The sunlight skipped across the waves created by the brisk Kansas breeze. It looked as though God had tossed pebbles of illumination from the heavens onto the marsh's surface, creating concentric circles of brilliance as the day slowly ticktocked into night.

Several months ago, I watched the sun rise on the Atlantic Ocean, and I was awed by the vastness of God's creation. This shoreline at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge certainly doesn't have the immensity of a vista of ocean that stretches as far as the eye can see. It doesn't roar with crashing waves. Rather it's more like the silent sweep of a minute hand on a clock dial as it ticks the seconds from the day.

Here, it is not so much the enormity of the water, but the vastness of the Kansas sky. After a gloomy afternoon, the sun colors the underside of the clouds, giving a King Midas touch to the end of the day.

Along the shore, scattered feathers serve as a reminder of how quickly life can change.

It is a cautionary tale, I suppose, and a silent prayer to appreciate the small moments of everyday.

There is beauty in the bravado of a concert of crashing waves along the Atlantic Ocean. But there is also beauty in quiet.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations.
I will be exalted in the earth.
--Psalm 46: 9-11

And this place is quiet, pierced not by the music of waves, but by the call of birds as they return to the marsh. As the sun sinks onto the western horizon, the sandhill cranes make dots and dashes in the clouds as sunset writes a Morse code end to the day.

Father, I praise You
for providing moments of illumination
that encourage me in my walk.


Today I am linked to Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday at Michelle's Graceful: Faith in the Everyday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irish Blessing

An Irish Blessing
with snapshots from Kansas

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

The rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Don't forget to wear your green tomorrow!
Happy Weekend, friends!