Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rain Delay

You know that feeling when you're in the stands of a baseball game or a football game and the stadium announcer proclaims, "There's going to be a rain delay."

That's not how we feel this morning. We are mighty thankful for this morning's rain delay in Harvest 2012. Last night, we got 0.80" of rain here at home and - more importantly - no hail to go with it.
Photo by Dale Hearn, Zenith branch, Kanza Co-op via Facebook
As the clouds rolled in late yesterday afternoon, one of our trucks lost its belts and ended up in a photo that our friend, Dale Hearn, took looking slightly north and east from the Zenith elevator office, where he works. We got quite a lightning show as the storm rolled its way from north to south, an unusual storm pattern for our part of the world. Our weather usually arrives via the southwest.

No matter how it got here, we are thankful for the rain. Sure, we won't be cutting wheat today.
But the rain was a blessing to our alfalfa fields ...

And to our new milo crop, which appeared to be guzzling in a nice, cool drink of water this morning.

Now that's a rain delay we can all appreciate.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

4/4 Vision

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. 
There are seven million. 
 ~Walt Streightiff 

Maybe what the world needs is 4-year-old vision. What would life be like if we approached it with the fascination and wonder of a child?

Randy picked up an extra rider for a little bit on Monday afternoon. Adam, age 4, came to the farm to ride a combine. I'm not sure who had more fun -- Adam or Randy.

"We are going to have a great time," Adam declared, big as you please as he joined Randy in the combine cab.
And they did.

Adam lives in Hutchinson with his parents and his baby brother, Asher, who had to watch from the sidelines as Adam rode shotgun with Randy.

His mom, Katie, said that Adam has been asking lots of questions about combines, so she and husband, Jared, who both grew up in Stafford, decided to see if they could get him an up-close-and-personal look at Harvest 2012. We were happy to oblige.

Here on The County Line, we strive to keep the helpers happy. So I fixed both boys a snack in brown paper bags labeled with their names. Combine driving makes you hungry for M & M Cookies, washed down with a bottle of water.
Adam learned about the header ...
about the grain collecting in the bin behind the cab ...
about unloading the wheat into the truck ...
about all the gadgets in the combine cab ...
And lots more.

His mom says that Adam informed them that, "Wheat is in the bread that makes my peanut butter and jellies!" (That just happens to be his favorite food.)

Randy was quoted in an article in The Hutchinson News this past weekend about fewer young people returning to their rural roots to farm. Adam definitely has the farming bug at the moment. We'll see where he is in 18 years or so. 

 The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives.
  ~Robert Brault

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Timing Is Everything

American flags weren't the only things flying on Memorial Day this year.

Strong south winds blew Harvest 2012 onto our South Central Kansas farm over the weekend. Those amber waves of grain could have made you seasick with their tossing and turning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It's not out of the ordinary to be cutting wheat on the 4th of July. Back when I was a kid, we were usually cutting wheat on my birthday, June 27, and harvest often extended into early July.

Since Randy and I have been married, harvest seems to have arrived earlier. and we have often been done cutting by my birthday and, certainly, by Independence Day. (Independence Day is rather an apt description of how it feels to be done with harvest, but I digress.)

But, until this year, we've never cut wheat on Memorial Day. We took our first truckloads of wheat to town on Saturday, May 26. Other people began cutting before we did. An area farmer cut one small field north of Stafford and hauled it to town on May 22. It caused a lot of "combine fever" and scrambling by his neighbors to find some dry wheat.
More joined the harvest parade by Friday, May 25, but ours was still too wet to cut. But, by late afternoon on Saturday, the moisture was down to 13.5, and Harvest 2012 on The County Line commenced.

Randy has been farming since he was a sophomore in high school. (Oh my goodness! That's 40 years.) He can't remember cutting wheat before the second week in June.

My parents, who have been farming full-time in Pratt County since the 1950s, think June 7th was their earliest wheat harvest start until this year.

According to a neighbor, Randy's late Great Uncle Glenn Bagley cut wheat on May 30th, though we're not sure what year. Randy rented his first farm ground from his Uncle Glenn, who lived just a half mile to the south of Randy's boyhood home, and we still farm for his daughter, Mary.

We decorated Randy's folks' graves on Friday afternoon with his sister, Kathy, and her girls, Amanda and Emily. (How did I miss getting photos?!)

On Sunday, Randy missed the annual cemetery trek with my family. But I went on the annual excursion to Pratt's Greenlawn Cemetery, as well as Iuka, Pleasant Plains, Prattsburg and Macksville Cemeteries.

It was a first cemetery tour for my great-niece Neelly. She posed by her great-great-grandparents' gravestone, for whom she is named.
She got quite the family history lesson (and I'm sure at 13 months, she'll remember every word of it.) She and Great Grandma Moore posed at Neelly's great-great-great grandpa's grave in the Prattsburg Cemetery in rural Stafford County.
(To read more about the unusual Woodmen of the World grave marker, read this post by blogger Lynda Beck Fenwick.)
But I was back home in time to make my Meals on Wheels delivery to the guys and to see a spectacular sunset over the wheat fields.

More to come on Harvest 2012!

Friday, May 25, 2012

In Memoriam

Those we love remain with us
For love itself lives on
And cherished memories never fade
Because a loved one's gone.
Those we love can never be
More than a thought apart
For as long as there is memory
They'll always live on in our hearts.
- Anonymous 

They stood taller than other monuments in the cemetery, reaching toward the sky as it transitioned from day to night, as blue gave way to gold and gray.

We had just been at St. Fidelis Church, better known as the Cathedral on the Plains. (More about that another day.) I had tucked my camera back in the bag and was about to open my book. But I caught a glimpse of the crosses to the right as we traveled toward I-70. 

We'd been to the cathedral before, though it had been several years. We'd been down this road before. But I'd never noticed the crosses.
We pulled into the cemetery, a plot tucked into a ripening wheat field on three sides, a landscape that was making its own subtle transition from green to gold, even as day faded to night.

We began to wander among the markers. 
The faded centers tell a snippet of the story. The pioneers these monuments honor have birthdates from the 1800s and death dates in the next century. In 1876, Germans who were immigrating to Kansas from the Volga River region of Russia began to settle in Ellis County. The Germans were accustomed to the hard work associated with farming in their homeland, so they persevered despite brutal winters, drought and poor crops. Eventually, in 1913, their settlement called Herzog and the earlier-established town of Victoria grew together and merged as one.
There are 110 iron cross grave markers in St. Fidelis Cemetery. Because wood was available and less expensive than granite or marble, the first burial markers for the Volga-German pioneers were simple wooden crosses. But with the strong Kansas winds and storms rotting the wooden crosses, local blacksmiths began to craft wrought iron crosses. 
Although the techniques used by the blacksmiths varied from community to community in Ellis County, many of the crosses were made of twin steel pipes bent and joined to form the main structure of the cross and rounded off with U-shaped joints. Metal lattice work was created and welded between the pipes. The coils were made from a soft rod clamped into a vise and turned to fit a particular pattern. The decorative inserts were twisted rods or thin, flat metal. The hearts and other shapes were cut from tin and welded into place. (Information taken from the brochure, "Victoria, Kansas: Home of One of the 8 Wonders of Kansas."

Just a little further north, there's a cross enclosed in native limestone fence posts, which marks the original cemetery.
This Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of summer. For many, it's a kickoff for summer rituals like barbecues and trips to the lake. This year, it may also usher wheat harvest into Central Kansas.

But no matter how busy we get with work or play, Memorial Day is also a time to remember those who came before us. It's a time to remember those who sacrificed their time and even their lives on battlefields in far-off lands to protect America's freedom.

It's a time to place flowers at family headstones and remember.
Jill - 1988
For it is in the remembering that we pay tribute to the past and look forward to the future with confidence.
Wishing you a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Time Lapse Photography

This is not actually time lapse photography. False advertising? Perhaps. But there has been a lapse of time of one month between the photo taken on April 23, when we were hauling cow-calf pairs to pasture ...

And this photo taken May 22.
What a difference a month makes! This isn't our field. I just like the optical illusion of the wheat "touching" the trees as it marches up the hill.

The first loads of Stafford wheat came into the Kanza Co-op on Tuesday, May 22. Harvest is certainly not in full swing in Stafford County, but one farmer north of Stafford found one dry 60-acre field. The cutting bug bit his neighbors, too, but samples brought into the co-op were too wet, according to Donnie Pound, the Stafford branch manager. This will be Pound’s 43rd harvest with the company. Before this year, June 6th was the earliest start date he’d experienced. Pound has talked to multiple farmers in the area, none of whom can remember ever cutting wheat in May. 

Personally, Randy says it will be Friday at the earliest before we sample any fields. But if a little wheat dust from combines running in the area starts swirling in the air, he – and a bunch of his friends – may come down with combine fever. 

Stay tuned. Combine fever is highly contagious.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Better Than a Bouquet

Remember that children, marriages and flower gardens
reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown Jr. 

I love gardens. I just don't like gardening. 

On Mother's Day, Randy treated me to a trip to Botanica in Wichita. It was free admission for all mothers and only $5 for everyone else. So we rubbed elbows with a lot of mothers and their minions that day. 
Never Too Big, a bronze by Jane DeDecker at Botanica, Wichita, KS, Dedicated Mother's Day 1995
It was better than a bouquet. 

So, today, I'm sharing the bouquet with some of my favorite photos from the day and some quotes to go with them.  And while you read, I'm off to the annual Kansas West Conference of the United Methodist Church at the state fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Wishing you a day filled with unexpected, beautiful surprises!

Plants cry their gratitude for the sun in green joy.  
~Terri Guillemets

'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes!

~William Wordsworth, "Lines Written in Early Spring" 

Can you find the ladybug? (Click on the image to make it bigger and then look in the upper left quadrant of the flower.)

It is a golden maxim to cultivate the garden for the nose, 
and the eyes will take care of themselves. 
 ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I've always regarded nature as the clothing of God. 
 ~Alan Hovhaness

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, 
through which God speaks to us every hour,
 if we will only tune in. 
 ~George Washington Carver

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers
is a delectable form of defeat. 
 ~Beverly Nichols

Flowers don't worry about how they're going to bloom.  
They just open up and turn toward the light
 and that makes them beautiful. 
 ~Jim Carrey

Earth laughs in flowers. 
 ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Circle of Life

Randy examines part of our 2012 wheat crop, Saturday, May 19, 2012
2012 forage sorghum (silage) crop, just emerging, May 19, 2012
 As one crop nears harvest on the County Line, another begins. Does anybody else hear "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King soaring in their brain? It's probably just me.

Randy just called and said someone had test cut a wheat field north of Stafford. Evidently, it was too wet to cut, since just a small strip was gone. But, ready or not, harvest is coming. The guys got the combine and the truck out of the shed yesterday. I got some cookies made, packaged in twos and in the freezer over the weekend. They are handy to grab to put in lunches during the busy harvest time.

The weekend also brought some hail to our area. We had pea-sized hail at the house on Saturday evening, so as the sun began its descent toward the horizon, Randy and I made a crop condition tour in what real photographers would call "the golden hour." The golden hue was also a product of last week's southerly winds that continued to push the 2012 wheat crop toward harvest some three weeks ahead of schedule.Those winds are set to make their return today after a couple of pleasant, more seasonal days.
The weekend hail damage varied from field to field. Here, Randy found a few wheat stalks broken over. However, south of the farm headquarters, Randy estimates a 25 percent loss in one field. Friends south of Zenith and north of Stafford had even more damage from hailstones the size of golf balls.

The forage sorghum (silage) plants that were just emerging appeared to weather the hailstorm relatively unscathed. The plants seem to march down the rows like tiny green soldiers, still standing strong despite being pelted with small hailstones.

The quarter to half inch of rain we got along with the hail will help give a growth boost to the silage crop, which we'll harvest for additional winter feed for our cow/calf pairs and feeder calves.

It's hard to believe that these little plants will tower above Randy's head later this summer - if we get the rain to make it grow. (Considering last year's drought, that's a big "if.")
September 2010
Silage harvest is our version of the movie, Jaws. Read about it while I contemplate all the ways I'm not ready for wheat harvest 2012. Maybe instead of The Circle of Life theme song, I'm hearing that suspenseful music that the shark is about to attack ...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Beauty from Ashes

Resurrection Window, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Clay Center, Photo by Lisa Bauer
The stained glass window doesn't look like it was taken from the pages of a children's Bible. There's not an image of Jesus welcoming the little children. The Good Shepherd is not cradling sheep in his arms while standing in a lush green pasture. Jesus is not standing on the other side of a door, ready for our knock.

Instead, it's like random shards of glass were tossed onto a stained glass canvas and soldered together. And, to a degree, they were.

When a tornado damaged the stained glass windows at Clay Center's St. Paul's Episcopal Church many years ago, the members collected the fragments of glass and had this window made. They call it the Resurrection Window. It now stands as a testament to God's faithfulness and the congregation's ability to piece together beauty from tragedy.

Out of despair, comes hope.
Out of hope, comes creativity.
Out of creativity, comes art.
Out of ashes, comes beauty. (Isaiah 61: 2-4)

Read the rest of the story on my blog, Food for Thought, at Lovely Branches Ministries. And while you're there, check out the blogs from my friends at Lovely Branches.

Have a good Monday!

I'm linked today to Michelle's Graceful: Faith in the Everyday, and her weekly feature, Hear It On Sunday, Use it On Monday.  Check out other bloggers by following the links.