Monday, April 30, 2012

Going Green

Our mama cows and their babies are going green - to greener pastures, that is.

Sorting cattle is always an adventure. The sorting process is not conducive to photos. I have yet to figure out how to deftly stop a baby calf, send the mother out of the pen and take a unblurred photo at the same time. (OK, maybe "deftly" is a stretch for this cowgirl. Let's just say, "Stay upright through the whole process without breaking any bones - since I didn't even accomplish that last year.)

So just take my word for it. Nobody said "going green" was easy. 

But one recent day, our sorting job was even more challenging because we were dividing the heifers and their babies among two different pastures. So, we had to match the mama's numbers with the corresponding baby's numbers so that everyone would end in the right place. Randy had his handwritten list of pairs, and we all needed Superman vision.
They didn't always stand this still. Sometimes, they like to play hide-and-seek with their eartags, a problem for this already visually-challenged helper.

But, once we got the sorting job done, we took additional pairs to the Ninnescah pasture ...
... and to the Palmer Pasture.
It was not without mishaps. One trailer got stuck on sand that had built up at the pasture gate.

It required a trip to get a tractor to pull out the pickup and trailer and then a little smoothing of the way with the loader on the tractor.

But, better late than never, the mamas and babies were turned out into greener pastures.
Let's hope we get a little rain so the pastures will stay that way! We did get 0.15 this weekend, but that doesn't go far in our quest for "green" living.

All the cow-calf pairs will be in their summer homes this week. Tomorrow, we'll sort again, and we'll take the rest to the Rattlesnake Creek pasture.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Challenge All Around

I wish I could say that I've had opportunities to take rain photos this week here in Central Kansas. Our wheat crop could use a long, deep drink of water as the heads fill.

Today's theme for the Leap Into Spring Photo Challenge is rain and water. Since last night's chances for rain showers bypassed our farm, Randy plans to swath some alfalfa today. So maybe we'll get rain after all. (You can send your thank you notes to the County Line because swathing often leads to moisture. And believe me, we'll be OK with it, too.)

So, while I wait for rain to fall around here,  I've pulled together some of my favorite rain photos from the past. Hope you enjoy them and the quotes I've found to go with them. 

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down.
 Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. 
Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces.
Smell the rain, and feel the wind.
Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.
Ashley Smith
April showers bring May flowers.

Tell me how many beads there are
In a silver chain
Of evening rain,
Unraveled from the tumbling main...
~Thomas Lovell Beddoes

All was silent as before -
All silent save the dripping rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Let the rain kiss you. 
 Let the rain beat upon your head 
with silver liquid drops.  
Let the rain sing you a lullaby. 
 ~Langston Hughes

<em>Leap Into Spring!</em> Photo Challenge

I'm linked today to the Leap Into Spring Photo Challenge. Hosts for the challenge are Alicia at Project Alicia, Kristi at Live and Love Out Loud and Rebecca at Bumbles and Light. Check out the photos on their websites.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On the Sidelines Today

 Some people will do practically anything to get out of moving cattle ...

... like unexpectedly get a tooth pulled.

Believe me, I 'd rather move cattle.

Instead, I'll nurse my aching mouth and a neighbor will help Randy and Jake today.

I'm guessing there won't be photos. So here are some from a March 27 move. Even though I'm on the sidelines today, I don't want you to miss out, too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's a Date!

Everyone likes date night, right? But this "date" works morning, noon or night. This nut bread recipe has been in my arsenal since Jill's 4-H cooking days. We tried lots of recipes, looking for one that combined great texture and taste. My old Betty Crocker cookbook came to the rescue as it often does for basic recipes. Yep, I have the spattered pages to prove it. 

Hope your family enjoys it, too.
Date Nut Bread
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cut-up dates
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 egg
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. grated fresh orange peel
1 cup chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of loaf pan (1 if using 9- by 5- by 3-inch pan or 2 if using 8.5- by 4.5- by 2.5-inch pans). Mix boiling water and dates; cool.

Combine dry ingredients; set aside. Combine sugars and oil. Add egg and orange peel. Stir in dry ingredients, alternating with soaked dates. Combine just until well moistened; don't overmix. Stir in chopped nuts. (I like walnuts, but pecans work well, too.)

Pour into prepared pans. Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean: 9-inch loaf, approximately 55 to 65 minutes and 8.5-inch loaf, approximately 55 to 60 minutes. Cool slightly. Loosen sides of loaf from pan; remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Freezes well.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Flyover State

Jet streams made a huge Zorro-like "Z" and crisscrossed the Kansas sky. And I wondered about the people who were zipping along at 600 miles per hour. Do those people look outside their windows and wonder what's going on under the blanket of clouds some 35,000 feet below them?

Are they like the sandhill cranes who fly close to the moon?
Some of those travelers may believe the Great Plains are just a place to fly over - a way to get from one coast to the other.
But life down here as as real as the gravel that gets lodged in my tennis shoes as I walk down our dirt roads. Some days, I get caught in the shadows as the sun plays hide and seek. I may trudge along, not giving a lot of thought to the beauty that is all around me. But spring scenes during the past few weeks have opened my eyes again to the beauty. So has reading the book, One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, and her blog, A Holy Experience.

Beauty truly is in recognizing the small things:
Morning dew on flowers has been a welcome sign after last summer's record heat and drought. We pray that this week will bring some much-needed rain to our wheat crop as it continues to mature.

Pear blossoms were like clouds surrounding an American flag blowing hard in the Kansas wind.

Forsythia blossoms gave a splash of yellow like the sun to a cloud-filled spring sky. 

The fragrance and beauty of blossoms greeted me as I made my way toward home.

And the purple of the hyacinths welcomed me to my front door.

As spring has come to Central Kansas, those naysayers who think we're just stuck down here in the flyover states just don't know what they're missing. Give me the "middle of nowhere," as Jason Aldean says, in his song.

Note: These images have been taken in March and April. Most of these blooms and blossoms are long gone now, but little reminders of God's creative genius continue to come to the County Line in this "Flyover State."

I am reposting this with a link to another Kansas farm wife's blog, Alive and Well in Kansas, this morning. Living in the "middle of nowhere" is also about helping your neighbors after a tornado.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sunshine and Smiles

What sunshine is to flowers,

smiles are to humanity.
These are but trifles, to be sure,
but, scattered along life's pathway,
the good they do is inconceivable.
-- By Joseph Addison

Some unexpected projects didn't leave me with a lot of time. So, I'll just share the Joseph Addison quote and photos. Hope your day is filled with flowers and smiles.

(Instead of sunshine, I'm not-so-secretly hoping for a little rain. That would put a smile on the face of a wheat farmer I know.)
<em>Leap Into Spring!</em> Photo Challenge

I'm linked today to the Leap Into Spring Challenge. Today's theme is Blossoms/Trees. Hosts for the challenge are Alicia at Project Alicia, Kristi and Live and Love Out Loud and Rebecca at Bumbles and Light. Check out the photos on their pages.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Non-Italian Farm Wife Lasagna

Back when I was a young bride, I remember making lasagna for guests. The lasagna noodles were supposed to be cooked before you put them in your pan with all the other ingredients.

I searched high and low for a pan big enough to cook those noodles without scrunching them up. I think I finally opted for a roaster on top of the stove. Note: Don't try this at home. What a mess!

But I then discovered an Easy Lasagna Recipe in my Stafford Oktoberfest cookbook. It didn't require pre-cooking of noodles. The first time I tried it, I doubted whether the noodles could be tender without that extra step. But, as it turned out, nobody broke their teeth on tough noodles, and I kept my roaster for things like pot roast and big batches of snack mix. Through the years, I've also substituted ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese in the original recipe.

I realize that a true Italian cook would make her own noodles, and she sure wouldn't use canned spaghetti sauce. But I don't have a drop of Italian blood. This suits a Kansas farm family ... and assorted guests ... just fine.

I realize this isn't going to win any prizes for innovation or creativity. But sometimes easy and familiar is good.

Quick Lasagna
8 oz. pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
32 oz. spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 pounds browned ground beef (I always brown a little onion with my beef)
16 oz. ricotta cheese
12 oz. grated Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef; drain and add to spaghetti sauce. Combine ricotta and Mozzarella cheeses. Grease bottom of 9- by 13-inch pan with small amount of sauce. Put a layer of uncooked noodles on top, lengthwise. Layer with 1/3 of sauce, then 1/3 of cheese mixture. Repeat layers 2 times. If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Remove cover and bake another 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Harvest 'Head'way

What will I be doing 6 weeks from now? If you believe old wives' tales - or, in this case, old farmers' tales - we'll be starting to harvest the 2012 wheat crop. Harvest is supposed to arrive 6 weeks from the time the wheat heads.

That would put the start of harvest sometime in the last week of May. May? For wheat harvest? We'll see.

Last year, our wheat headed around May 2 and we finished harvest on June 22. (I thought that was early!) In 2010, the wheat headed May 5 or thereabouts, and we finished harvest on June 25.

We'd like to order a nice rainfall right about now, just in time for the wheat heads to fill. We'll take that rain without hail or tornadoes or drama please - just a nice, gentle, soaking rain.

We had a crop consultant look at the wheat fields on Easter Sunday, April 8.

See? She even wore her denim overall jumper for her job as Grandpa's chief wheat scout.

Kinley is not revealing when she thinks harvest might start.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hand Me the Scalpel ... Stat!

Hand me the scalpel! Stat!

Perhaps it wasn't quite as dramatic as all that. There weren't any cliffhanger, TV medical moments as I fulfilled my role as able assistant during three mornings of working baby calves. I'm no surgical scrub nurse, but you get what you pay for, right?

I did keep things lined up and ready to use, deftly alternating hands to give Randy the next instrument to be used as we worked 132 baby calves.

First, we separated the cows and calves, sending the cows into another pen to await the return of their babies. (It's a little tough to get a photo of this process when I'm helping with the sorting. It's frowned upon if a calf goes by me when I'm clicking the camera shutter.)

Then the babies go, one at at time, down a lane and into a calf cradle - a miniature squeeze chute. Though I didn't get a photo, it's not quite as simple as that. Jake gets the unenviable job of pushing the calves down the lane and is sometimes rewarded with a swift kick for his efforts.

We'll let this little black baldy illustrate the process. Once the calf is in the calf cradle, the "doctor's appointment" begins.

First, he received his number, 2105.

We use eartags and ear notches to identify our cattle. This year's calf crop has numbers starting in 2, since they were born in 2012. (Last year's started in 1 to signify 2011, and so on.)

We give each calf two injections.

One is Ultrabac 7, an immunization to prevent blackleg. The other is Bovi-Shield Gold 5, which prevents viral diseases in cattle. People often question the reasons for giving immunizations to animals that will eventually enter the food chain. But these injections are like giving immunizations to our own children. It helps keep the calves healthy, and healthy cattle provide a good source of protein in the human diet. The black baldy (and his friends) also got growth implants in their right ears. Ralgrow is a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow. The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. Randy believes it's a matter of using the technology available to more efficiently grow food for consumers.

And, yes, we eat the cattle we raise here on our farm.

The bull calves, like Number 2105, also become steers during their time in the chute.

Randy makes an incision in the sac.

He pulls the testicles through the incision.

And then he cuts the cords, adding a squirt of iodine for germ control.

With all the steps done, little 2105 rejoins his fellow "class"mates - none the worse for wear.

After we got the process completed, the babies were back with their mothers, just in time for a snack.