Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's Black and White All Over?

I'll be seeing black and white cows today (and some brown ones, too). But it won't be the cow I really want to see.

Kinley is a cow for Halloween this year. She is quick on all fours, just like some of the cattle I'll be helping sort today.
They may be cute, but they aren't as cute as our 10-month-old trick-or-treater.

She won't care much about Halloween this year. She and her friend the giraffe (also known as Porter) will be helping their parents hand out candy to bigger ghosts and goblins at the Ladd house this year.

Kinley's big Halloween treat is unlimited Puffs, finger food for babies. (Mommy the Dietitian usually rations the Puffs, so it really is a treat.)

We got a preview of the cow costume at Jill's and Eric's church last Friday. Susannah Wesley UMC had their annual trunk and treat. Kinley will be more interested in the games and the candy at the church event next year, but we big people thought it was fun to see all the kids in costume.
We happen to think the cow was the cutest one of all. 

It would be nice if we lived just a couple of miles away and could have the cow and her parents come and trick or treat at our house.
Our cowboy and Japanese princess paid a visit to their Grandma and Grandpa Fritzemeier at a long-ago Halloween. My favorite Halloween stop when I was growing up was my Grandma and Grandpa Neelly's house, where I collected a homemade popcorn ball and some pocket change for our milk carton during the Byers United Methodist Church's annual Trick or Treat for UNICEF.
There likely won't be any trick or treaters here on the County Line today. Most of the neighborhood kids are grown up or they bypass the country stops in favor of walking the streets in Stafford for quicker candy collection. I could get all melodramatic about that, but I guess I'll leave that to the people in costumes.
I have cattle sorting to do. Here's hoping the real cattle are more a treat than a trick.

Happy Halloween all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hello, Old Friend

"Inside a barn is a whole universe, with its own time zone and climate and ecosystem, a shadowy world of swirling dust illuminated in tiger stripes by light shining through the cracks in the boards."
--Carolyn Jourden from her book, Heart in the Right Place

I am a confessed trespasser. Last week, I finally wound my way through a shelterbelt, branches pulling on my shirt and stickery weeds gripping my socks and lodging in my tennis shoes. I wanted a closer look at a barn that I've driven by and walked by literally hundreds of times.
It's not on land that we farm, so I was an uninvited guest. Like many other wooden barns in this part of the country, it may have been grand in its day. But those days are gone.
Not too long ago, a friend who grew up in the area asked who now lived in the house at the same farmstead. In the 27 years I've lived on the County Line, there's never been a house on the property. Maybe it was where those few boards still stand, several yards away from the now always open barn doors. 

And, like the house, the barn is coming apart at the seams, kind of like an old frayed dress, with thread after thread unraveling. The sounds of a busy farmstead have long since faded into the sunset of days. Instead, the only murmurs are from the whistle of wind through the cracks in the walls and the trill of bird song.

 I have glimpsed the barn in all seasons. In winter, it's more visible as the trees lose their leaves.
But, most of the year, the trees in the shelterbelt and around the old farmstead hide the big old barn from view except to the birds, squirrels and deer who wander the countryside. 
And I joined them on a recent fall morning. It was worth braving the brambles and the stickers to make its acquaintance.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Boo-tiful Weekend!

It was a boo-tiful weekend! We got to see Kinley (and her parents, of course). We even got to see Brent via Skype.

We watched K-State defeat Texas Tech, 55-24, on a perfect-for-football homecoming day in the Little Apple. We watched Collin Klein make another case for why he should be in the hunt for the Heisman.
Earlier in the day, we watched the Skyline High School girls' cross country team and the Stafford High School boys' cross country team compete at the KSHSAA 1A meet in Wamego.
Top: Skyline girls get ready to run; Center: Sophomore Derek McClure runs for Stafford and places 9th overall; my niece Madi runs the hilly course at the Wamego Country Club golf course; Bottom: Senior Dustin McClure makes his final state run and helps Stafford place 4th as a team. Skyline girls before the race. That's what it means to be a team!
And we ended Saturday getting to babysit this girl while her Mom and Dad went out.
Kinley and her Halloween present from Grandma and Grandpa. It's supposed to teach her to clap! She's already got the dancing down.
Like I said, it was a boo-tiful weekend! Now onto a week of taking the last of the cattle off pasture and baking for the UMW bazaar on Election Day. The to-do list is too long. Deep breath ... here we go!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A "Magical" Cookie Bar

Randy is the magician at our house.  He was bitten by the magic bug after we saw a Siegfried and Roy magic show in Las Vegas on a trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary more than 20 years ago. After tigers appeared in boxes about 6 feet from us during that show, he was intrigued enough to come home and check out books from the library. He uses magic for children's sermons at church and has taught a generation of 4-Hers the "tricks" of the trade. (And, honestly, golf is now the hobby of choice these days - when he doesn't have a broken wrist, that is.)

But when I saw this recipe for Butterscotch Bars with Chocolate and Disappearing Marshmallows on the blog, A Farm Girl's Dabbles, I thought it was the perfect treat for my amateur magician. Randy shouldn't be the only one in the family who can make things disappear. As long as the marshmallows were melting into some butterscotch and chocolate cookie dough, I knew that I could make these disappear quickly by packing them in lunches to the field.

With too many tasks on the to-do list, a bar cookie is a quick and easy way to get a sweet treat done with just a small investment of time. And even though they take only a little time, these Butterscotch Bars with Chocolate and Disappearing Marshmallows have great big taste appeal

I'll bet they disappear at your house, too, whether you're making them for another football weekend, packaging them up for homemade Halloween treats or taking them to a fundraiser bake sale.
Butterscotch Bars 
with Chocolate and Disappearing Marshmallows

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch pan with cooking spray; set aside. Note: Even with spraying with cooking spray, the bars had a tendency to stick. You may want to use parchment paper on the bottom of your pan to avoid sticking. 

In a large saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butterscotch chips and butter, stirring constantly. Remove from heat to cool. (I did this step in the microwave, using it at 1-minute intervals at 50 percent power until melted, taking care not to burn.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.

Add vanilla and eggs to the cooled butterscotch mixture and stir well. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Fold in marshmallows and chocolate chips. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, taking care not to overbake. The edges should be browned nicely but the center not quite set. The bars will firm upon cooling.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If These Rings Could Talk

You know how you can tell how old a tree is by looking at the rings in the center? Well, if only the rings on this sudan bale could talk.

On second thought, maybe it's best if they don't have audio. Swathing sudan for ourselves and for a neighbor has had more drama than an episode of "Days of Our Lives." Oh, wait a minute! This literally has taken days of our lives.

Randy started trying to custom swath a sudan field for our neighbor last week. All it would do was ball up in front of the swather. Since he's a one-arm bandit at the moment, he was plenty frustrated, trying to fix the problem without all his appendages. Eventually, the Case repair guys came out and gave it a try. No luck. We had another neighbor try his swather on the same field. Still nothing.

The guys had a meeting of the minds. And it didn't even involve a coffee shop. They finally decided it was just too dry. The sudan stalk was so hard it wouldn't cut.
They arranged for another custom crew to come and give it a try with a draper header. But, since the custom harvesters were already booked with other jobs, they hadn't yet made their attempt.

Some foggy and overcast mornings finally came to our rescue. The moisture softened up the stalks. Randy started swathing about 10 Monday night and swathed into the early morning hours. Jake took over Tuesday morning and got all the fields swathed. It will likely take a week for the sudan to dry enough to bale.
There is one bale from Randy's earlier attempts. It looks a little lonely out there. But, after some cussing and discussing, we're another step closer to having another feed source for our cattle this winter and so is our neighbor.

Click here for a step-by-step view of sudan harvest on The County Line. It's from 2010 when we had a bumper crop of sudan after timely rains. It's a little different than 2011 and 2012, both drought years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where's the Beef?

Where's the beef? It could be on your tailgate table this weekend. But it will take a little advance preparation.

Brisket is a family tradition for our Christmas Eve supper at my parents' house each year, too. Brisket is not a naturally tender cut of meat. But some marinating time and several hours in the oven yields a melt-in-your-mouth main dish - whether it's around a holiday table, the main attraction at a K-State tailgate or shared at a PEO picnic (my most recent brisket venture).

For the PEO event, I prepared the meat a day in advance and sliced it thin (see photo above). I didn't want to be rushing around right before the event since I had to help make apple butter at church that morning. It also gave me the chance to get the fat removed from the meat.

The day of the picnic, I used a plastic Crock Pot liner, added my brisket and a generous amount of barbecue sauce. (We like Curly's.) By the time we served it, it looked more like pulled beef - not slices. But that just made it even more tender.

Today is Kansas Food Day.
While it is important for us to know where our food comes from and to show our appreciation to the hard-working men and women who work each day to produce safe, wholesome food, it is disappointing that the national Food Day denounces modern agricultural practices that allow farmers and ranchers to produce more using fewer resources and mislead consumers about agriculture. In Kansas, agriculture is our largest industry and we are excited to celebrate the contributions of all farmers and ranchers on Food Day and the other 364 days of the year.
Dale Rodman, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture
Kansas Food Day encompasses all of the state's agriculture production, whether large or small, organic or conventional:

  •  In 2010, Kansas produced more than $2.7 billion in agriculture exports.
  •  At 28.2 million acres, Kansas has the second-most cropland of any state and the most cropland of any state by percentage.
  •  In 1940, one Kansas farmer fed 19 people. Today, thanks to technology advancements, research and more land being farmed by each farmer, one Kansas farmer feeds 155 people.
  •  Kansas is the top producing wheat and grain sorghum state in the nation. It also ranks third in beef production.
  • There are more than twice as many cattle in Kansas than people.
  What better way to celebrate than with Kansas beef!

Barbecue Brisket
Recipe from My Mom, Janis Moore
Brisket (about a 4 -pound brisket for this amount of marinade)
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Your favorite barbecue sauce

Combine all the ingredients except brisket, mixing well. Pour over meat. Marinate meat in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 hours.

To cook, wrap the meat in foil, shiny side to the meat, and bake at 300 degrees for 4 to 5 hours. Add 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce. Cook 1 more hour. The meat should separate and pull apart easily. If it feels tough or meets with much resistance, just return it to the oven for another 45 minutes or so. When it is fork tender, cool slightly and slice as thinly as possible across the grain.

Note:  If you are using a bigger brisket or cooking multiple briskets for a large group, double or triple your marinate ingredients accordingly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tired But Not Retired

Randy, Jill & Kinley - Easter 2012 - April
I think we've gotten our money's worth out of this Ford 8N tractor. Maybe it's time to make it a prop for family photos. (Of course, that might be a problem because somebody just dropping by for a random visit might think that's the way we still farm around here.)

My musings were prompted when the radiator started leaking while the guys were using it to string electric fence across the road for pasture for cattle. I thought maybe it was time to retire the old faithful work horse. But not so fast. Randy started searching the internet for a radiator replacement. He got one ordered and the guys got the radiator replaced.
It's as good as new. Well, maybe it's as good as new if you overlook the rust.  On second thought, the rust may be what's holding it together these days.
That tractor seat has been occupied with five different generations now. I couldn't find a photo of the tractor in action, but here's a four-generation photo of Clarence (Randy's Grandpa, seated), his Dad Melvin and Randy holding Brent in 1988.
When Kinley and Jill were here for Easter, Randy wanted a photo on the old Ford tractor. We need to take another photo when they are here again. Kinley has changed a lot since April! She did wear her overall jumper for the occasion. What a good little farm girl!
April 2012
Melvin and Clarence bought the tractor back in the 1960s, when Randy was in grade school. They used it to load silage for feeding cattle. Randy remembers using it to pull a two-row John Deere planter when they planted milo. He also cultivated milo with it when he was junior high age.
These days, we have a wire winder on the back and use it for building and rolling up electric fence.

It may be tired, but it's not retired. Come to think of it, that might describe me at the moment, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bleeding Purple

Shelby Neelly - K-State football letterman, 1927, 1931, 1932
My family didn't have anyone on the field at Morgantown, WV, on Saturday night. But the last time K-State played at Morgantown, my Grandpa, Shelby Neelly, was on the team. It was October 31, 1931.
Pages from K-State programs - At left, Neelly is listed as a probable starter against Missouri; top right, the program vs. West Virginia in 1931; bottom right, Grandpa is on the right.

My brother, Kent, posted a photo of the 1931 program on Facebook Saturday morning. I don't remember the story, but Kent says that Grandpa told about taking the train to Chicago, practicing at Soldier Field, and then traveling on to West Virginia, where they beat the Mountaineers, 19-0.
At left, a page from an old K-State program. Grandpa is at the top righthand corner of the page. He was Fan of the Game at a K-State women's basketball game in 2002 at age 98.
Unlike specialized players today, Grandpa played both offensive and defensive end, first lettering in 1927. After his second year at K-State Grandpa was forced to drop out because of financial concerns. He came back to Pratt County, and he shucked corn for his parents and for neighbors and planned to return to Manhattan the next fall. However, his parents needed money to pay off a farm debt, so he gave them the money and began saving again.

The K-State coaches called him, asking him to come back. He told them that if they could help him find a job at Manhattan, he would return. He began working at Manhattan's Wareham Hotel, where he earned his room and board by keeping the hotel's car clean and doing odd jobs for the hotel owners. He also cleaned for a bank to make extra money. He earned 25 cents an hour as an athletic trainer, wrapping athletes' ankles before practices and competitions.

Shelby returned to the K-State football team and letters in both 1931 and 1932. He also was the heavyweight intramural wrestling champion.
Grandpa is on the end of the front row
Grandpa bled purple. Or at least he painted with purple. On his farmstead, purple was the color of choice for an old outhouse, his barn, the chicken house and even the trim on his house. He also erected a purple metal building that's still in use today. (For more on the Neelly homestead, click here.)

He went to K-State football games until he was 94 or 95 years old and was thrilled to be the Fan of the Game at a K-State women's basketball game in 2002.  
Saturday night, my parents were at the game and watched K-State again triumph over West Virginia, 81 years after my Grandpa stepped onto the field at Morgantown. Brent made the 4-hour drive from Morehead, Ky., to watch the 'Cats win.
I'm looking forward to next weekend, when now No. 3 K-State takes on Texas Tech for homecoming. Go 'Cats! Purple runs deep in this family. EMAW!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Another Treat: Oreo Bars

Maybe you're looking for a homemade goodie for trick or treaters. Maybe you need a sweet treat for tailgating or for a football weekend in the comfort of your living room. (Go 'Cats! Beat West Virginia!) Or maybe you are looking for a new cookie to add to your holiday cookie trays.

These Oreo Bars fill the bill on all accounts. I know I got the recipe from a blog. I printed off the recipe and stuck it in my to-try-sometime pile. The time came. But then I discovered that I didn't print off the source. I did a little exploring of my usual blog haunts, but I couldn't find them again. I'd be glad to give credit where credit is due if only I could.

The recipe said it came from a friend. I think I'll be your friend for sharing this recipe with you - wherever it came from! Enjoy for trick-or-treaters, for football, for a cookie tray or just because!

Oreo Bars
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
2 cups crumbled Oreo cookies

Icing Glaze:
1/3 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 to 4 tbsp. milk

For the brownies: Melt chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in microwave-safe bowl, heating in 1 minute intervals at 70 percent power. Stir after each minute and continue heating until completely melted, taking care not to burn. Let cool to room temperature.

Beat eggs and salt until very fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla. Fold in chocolate mixture. Add flour and gently fold until blended.

Pour batter into a greased 13- by 9-inch pan. Scatter crushed Oreos evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until set.

For Icing Glaze: While the brownies are baking, heat 1/3 cup butter until melted. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until glaze is of desired consistency.

Once brownies are out of the oven, drizzle the glaze on top. Cool before cutting and serving.

Note: I used store brand chocolate sandwich cookies, not Oreos.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anne Got It Right

Frank Anneberg Park - Manhattan, KS
I'm so glad I live in a world 
where there are Octobers.
                                  --Anne of Green Gables

On this October morning, I'm sharing some of my favorite shots from Octobers past, along with some quotes I like. I don't believe I'll be taking many photos today with winds continuing to howl. We'll see how many autumn leaves survive the melee!

Wishing you a day when you see the beauty all around us, even when the wind is gusty 30 miles an hour. (FYI: My October header photo was taken at North Platte, Neb., in October 2010 on a trip to Mount Rushmore and points in between and beyond.)
Dillon Nature Center, Hutchinson, KS
Autumn is a second spring 
when every leaf is a flower.
                                                                ~~Albert Camus

Dillon Nature Center
falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly

                    ~John Bailey

Dillon Nature Center
How beautifully leaves grow old.  
How full of light and color 
are their last days. 
                                                ~John Burroughs

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

                                                                   ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Frank Anneberg Park, Manhattan
October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.

                                   ~George Cooper, "October's Party"
Dillon Nature Center
There is a harmony in autumn, 
and a luster in its sky,
which through the summer is not heard or seen, 
as if it could not be, as if it had not been!
                                                                            ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

The County Line - October Sunrise, 2011