Friday, August 31, 2012

No Pie for Moving Day (But they did get cookies)

It's moving day for the cattle at the Big Pasture on the Rattlesnake Creek. Even with last week's rain, the grass is depleted. Randy and his cousin, Don, have been taking turns hauling hay bales to the pasture to make up for paltry pasture offerings in the past few weeks.

So today, there's a five-man crew ready to sort and move the cattle home. For the second year in a row, we will sell the calves instead of feeding them through the winter. This second year of drought has left us with enough hay and silage to feed the mama cows this winter, but not enough for the calves, too. The calves will go through the sale ring next week. 

Last year, we sold the calves in mid-October. In 2010, we finally moved the last pairs off pasture in mid-November. What a difference two years of drought makes!
Moving day was also different in the "olden days." (Now I sound like a real old-timer, don't I?) Back when Randy's and Don's fathers and grandfathers owned the pasture, the women would bring a hot meal to the pasture.

I've done it before, and I offered again. But, instead, I packed lunches for Randy and Jake this morning. Randy says it's easier since all five people aren't necessarily in the same place at the same time.

But I did pack an extra treat for all the guys. No, it wasn't pie, which was part of the Fritzemeier tradition. With me, they just got bar cookies.
I didn't make them look all pretty for the guys. I just dressed up some of the bars to show they are versatile enough to go in a lunch pail for a cattle moving day - or they can look pretty on an assorted cookie tray for people who won't be eating them with dirty hands.

The guys didn't get the pretty napkins either.
White Chocolate Blondies
Recipe adapted from Cookies and Cups blog
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, divided
5 tbsp. butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- by 9-inch pan with baking spray. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips. Melt them together, cooking for 1 minute intervals at 50 percent power until melted, taking care not to burn. Stir together as much as possible, though the butter will somewhat separate from the white chocolate.

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth. Pour in the white chocolate mixture and continue beating until smooth and combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt; stir until just incorporated. Add in remaining 3/4 cup white chocolate chips.

Spread in prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. If desired, drizzle with additional melted white chocolate. You can also add a Hershey's Cookies and Creme Drop to dress them up for a cookie tray, etc. Or serve them plain - without any additional adornment.

Note:  When I am baking, I want to get the most mileage out of the mess. So I doubled the recipe and baked it in a sheet cake pan. They baked in 15-20 minutes (but I have an oven that runs a bit hot.) 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tailgate Time

Football season is here. For many, it's time to pack up the party and take it to the parking lot. Others may be gathering with friends around the big screen. Some will be passing snacks as they sit in the bleachers and wait for their favorite high school team's kickoff tomorrow night.

No matter the setting, snack mixes are a snap to add to an all-star tailgate line-up. Since Labor Day weekend is almost here, this Lemon Buddies snack mix says goodbye to summer with just the right combination of tart and sweet. And, if you're not a football fan, take it to pass around the campfire for summer's last hurrah.

Lemon Buddies
9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 1/4 cups vanilla baking chips
1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
4 tsp. grated fresh lemon peel
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Measure cereal into a large bowl. Microwave chips, butter, lemon peel and juice uncovered on high 1 minute. Sttir and then microwave for an additional 30 seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.

Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag with powdered sugar.  Shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container. (If you want, you can throw in some unmelted white chocolate chips. Or, if you like chocolate and lemon, add M & Ms in your favorite team's colors.)

Need other ideas?
Click here for the recipes for both the Team Spirit Pretzel Snacks (above) and the Toffee Snack Mix (below.)
Below, it's School Spirit Munch. (It's rather obvious who we root for around here, isn't it?! But party supply stores and even some discount stores have colored M & Ms, so you can substitute your color of choice. For our Stafford Trojans, I would use white and red candies. You can also buy candy coating in a variety of colors.)

Or try this Peanutty Snack Mix. If you wanted to keep with the school colors theme, you could substitute colored M & Ms for the peanut  M & Ms. My family also likes this mix with Peanut Butter M & Ms.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sunny Thoughts

We don't need more to be thankful for,
we need to be more thankful.
—Source Unknown

Approach today with a grateful heart.

Those were the "headlines" from one of my email devotionals yesterday.

Sometimes, I get bogged down with the broken things. I tend to see the barbs rather than the blossoms.

I see the best-laid plans that have fallen by the wayside as surely as fallen trees ...

... instead of the opportunities and blessings blossoming all around me.
It requires is a change of focus - a change in attitude. 

Yesterday, Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts wrote on her blog, A Holy Experience:

It’s those who have given thanks till they know their cup is full — who can then pour their lives out like a gift.

I don't need more to be thankful for,
I need to be more thankful.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Struck By Lightning

You are more likely to be struck by lightening than to get a hole in one during a golf game - unless you're a golf pro.

My husband isn't. A golf pro, that is. He is now someone who has hit a hole in one. He's still  flying high more than a week later.
It kind of defies physics, when you think about it. You're whacking a 1.68" ball with a stick. On this particular hole - No. 5 at the Stafford County Country Club - the ball has to fly 135 feet and hit a hole in the ground that's only 4.25 inches across.

Randy began golfing about eight years ago and was playing in the club's annual tournament August 18 and 19. On Saturday, he got two birdies on the Par 3 hole. That doesn't often happen, and he's the first to admit it.

 “I consider myself lucky to even par a hole,” he says.

On Sunday afternoon, he birdied the No. 5 hole on the first round and then got a hole in one in the second round.  
On an earlier hole, one of Randy’s shots was going out of bounds, hit a telephone pole and bounced back on the green. Golfer J.J. Falk told him, “You’ll get a hole in one before that happens again.” 

Five holes later, he got his hole in one. It was witnessed by J.J. Falk, Jim Hoffman and Kenny Kisner.

Need more complications? On this particular hole, you can't even see the finish from where you tee off. 
For the record, the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 5,000.  ( I doubt they figured the odds of that happening during a two-year drought either, but that's another story).

In 2000, Golf Digest hired Francis Scheid to determine the odds of making a hole in one. Scheid broke the odds down based on the quality of the player and the amount of play:
  •  The odds of a PGA tour player making a hole in one are 3,000 to 1.
  •  His data showed a low handicap player to have 5,000 to 1 odds.
  • An average handicap player had 12,000 to 1 odds. 
Randy is one happy 12,000 to 1 kind of guy.
No. 5 - Looking back toward the tee box. But you can't see it from here!
Just in case you're interested, the Stafford County Country Club is open to the public. Green fees are $15 a day. From the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 281 in Stafford County, it is located 2 miles east and 1 ½ miles south. It is a 9-hole course, watered on the greens and fairways. For more information on the course, call 620-549-6597.

Full disclosure:  These photos weren't taken the day of the infamous hole in one. We went by the golf course on our way to a Farm Bureau meeting last week. But Randy did send Brent and Eric photos of the original hole in one via his camera phone. That's a 12,000 to 1 kind of moment, too. Here's that photo:


Monday, August 27, 2012

Singin' in the Rain

Saturday evening, August 25, 2012
We got 5 inches of rain this past weekend on the County Line. We had some water in the basement and our utility room roof leaked. And we couldn't be happier.

It's been ages since we've seen mudholes in fields or along ditches.
And while it's not possible to leave a two-year drought behind with just one rain, it lightened moods as surely as it perked up pastures and streams.

The Rattlesnake Creek pasture again has water flowing.
August 26, 2012
The creek was completely dry early this month, for the first time in Randy's lifetime.
August 3, 2012
It may buy a few more days on pasture for the cow-calf pairs. It helped incorporate the fertilizer we had applied last week into the soil, ready to give a nutrient boost to the 2013 wheat crop we'll plant within the next month to 6 weeks. Now we won't be "dusting" in the wheat - literally putting the wheat seed on top of the ground and praying for the best.

Water glistened from roadside sunflowers Saturday afternoon.
We all had on our happy faces. Thank you, Lord!
Saturday evening, August 25, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Cat's Meow

Kinley isn't the only baby to have captured Randy's heart. She remains Number 1 among our blue-eyed babies.
But Randy does love baby kittens. Even I can't quibble with the cuteness quotient of little feline faces.

The kittens have not joined the "crop failure" category here on the County Line. We have several hanging out in the backyard from a couple of different Moms. These mothers seem to have the equivalent of modern job-sharing roles, feeding whatever kitten shows up to dine. That doesn't happen with cows and calves, but these Mamas don't seem to care. 

Randy is making it his mission to tame this latest crop of kittens. I just hope they are getting schooled in the fine art of mousing. To me, that's their mission on the County Line.
Shoelaces aren't safe around here. 
They aren't safe from this girl either. Her Grandpa thinks Miss Kinley and the feline babies would be a perfect match and could go head-to-head to see who is most proficient at untying laces.
However, we haven't convinced her parents that she needs a kitty yet. She doesn't have Grandma Rules at her house. In this case, she needs a big dose of Grandpa Rules.
 But no kitty for Miss Kinley. She does, however, have a liberal visitation policy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dusty Haze

"It's another day in the dusty haze." The words of Jason Aldean's country song, "Amarillo Sky," float through my head as I take my morning walk. The dry fields obscure the fertilizer applicator rig as it races across our fields.

Randy is having the Kanza Co-op apply fertilizer to get the ground ready to plant the 2013 wheat crop in September. You have to appreciate the optimism of a farmer. Even while we are swathing and baling the failed milo crop, he's getting the ground ready to go for the next crop.

He just takes the tractor another round
And pulls the plow across the ground
And sends up another prayer
He says: Lord, I never complain, I never ask why
But please don't let my dream run dry
Underneath, Underneath this Amarillo sky. 

I mentally substitute "Stafford" for "Amarillo" even though it messes up the song-writing syllables. And I trudge on, keeping my eye on the spray rig and trying to stay out of the way of the cloud of dust. 
Earlier this summer, Randy gathered soil samples and had the co-op send them to a lab to be tested. When the soil tests come back, it gives a "recipe" for giving the soil its best nutrients for growth. The co-op is applying nitrogen now. When we plant next month, Randy will also use a starter fertilizer, a liquid fertilizer that gets squirted in the row with the wheat kernel. This extra burst of energy will help the wheat seed get started.

But he can't apply enough nitrogen through the planter, so he hired the co-op to apply some this week. Many times, he and Jake apply anhydrous fertilizer themselves. But because the ground is so hard and dry, he thought it would break off the applicator knives. This was Plan B.

In this field, the applicator driver was traveling back and forth for the whole mile, stopping only to get his rig refilled. I actually had a brief traffic jam on my normally wide open road as the applicator truck backed up to the tender truck for a refill.
In some fields, the soil tests also called for additions of zinc and potassium. Where needed, those nutrients are also added to the mix. Randy also had lime spread on some of our ground that needed it. (Click on the lime link to see photos and an explanation of that process.)
The fertilizer is augered from the tender truck into the spray rig and off it goes for another pass.
For many reasons, Randy is praying that the weather forecast for rain this weekend comes true. Of course, most of the nation desperately needs it. But it will also work that fertilizer down into the ground, helping build the soil nutrition for next year's crop.

As Jason Aldean says, "We'll send up another prayer."

This is the prettiest picture in the post, don't you think? May it come true!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Like the Redwoods

Muir Woods near San Francisco, California
I could probably learn a thing or two from a redwood tree.

Most trees have a root system that grows deep and long into the earth to anchor the tree and feed it. That's not how redwoods grow. Instead, they integrate their roots with other redwoods close to the top of the earth. This integration, or intertwining, of roots helps all the redwood trees stay together and live a long and healthy life.

How would our lives change if we became "community" like a redwood forest? Like the redwoods, when the winds blow and the storm rage, we can "hang on" to one another if we are involved in community. In order to survive the storms of life, we need a root system anchored by our faith in God and supported by a community of others.

Come on over to my monthly blog post at Lovely Branches Ministries, Food for Thought.  And while you're there, see what Theresa has to say at Young Hearts. (Her mission is to write for teens, but just as often, I think she's writing for me.) And you'll also want to read Suzanne's take on community in her blog this month at Heart and Home Matters.

C'mon! We'll make it worth the trip to visit!
Photos taken in 2007 on a trip for our 26th wedding anniversary.
Today, I'm linked to Iowa farm wife and blogger of faith Jennifer Dukes Lee's Getting Down With Jesus and her Wednesday link-up, God-Bumps and God Incidences. Her post today really hit home with me: Yoda, Jillian Michaels, Women of Faith. I think it will with you, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Baling" Out

We're baling out on this year's milo crop. Literally.

Last week, the guys swathed most of our milo fields.
After it dries down, they will bale it and use it for cattle feed this winter.
Photo from 2010 - showing baling.
Before swathing, Randy gathered samples of the milo stalks at two different locations and took them to Hutchinson for testing at a lab.
One location came back as suitable for cattle feed. The other field tested higher for nitrates, so he'll have to feed a mixture of half alfalfa and half milo stalks. 

Because of the drought, farmers/ranchers must take special care to check for nitrates in feedstuffs. Nitrates are normally converted into protein by a growing plant. But in severe droughts such as this one, nitrates can accumulate to toxic levels in the stalks of plants such as corn, sudangrass, sorghum, and even weeds. 

Nitrates can cause illness - and even death - in cattle, so it was important to do testing. Nitrate poisoning can also cause the abortion of a fetus and lower rates of gain, but those effects may show up later in the fall when ranchers or their veterinarians complete preg checks on the herd's cows and heifers.

Randy also had the insurance adjustor come to examine the fields before swathing. The guys left two, 8-row strips to satisfy the insurance claim needs.
The adjustor will come back to determine the yield of the grain still left standing.

Because double-crop milo isn't eligible for crop insurance, Randy left that field standing. Later this fall, he will probably fence it off and graze cattle on it.

You can click on the image to make it larger. But, what it boils down to is that even more of Kansas, including the counties where we farm are in exceptional drought.
We are certainly not alone. Last week, the drought map revealed that much of Kansas is now classified in Exceptional Drought. That dark red strip across the state is not good news for any fall crops, including our milo. 

Keep praying for rain! While it is too late for this crop, we need some moisture to plant next year's wheat crop and to replenish our pastures.