Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More Photos? That's sNOw Surprise

There is s'NO'w doubt that the 2013 Blizzard of Oz provided beautiful scenes, along with some much needed moisture.
The second round of winter on Sunday and Monday delivered another 6 inches of snow to the County Line. This was on top of the 14-plus inches we got last week.
Randy says it's been a long time since the co-op made gates. This gate is in an old corral.
Though we are very thankful for the moisture, the snow doesn't end the drought for this region. A foot of snow translates to about 1 inch of moisture. Meteorologists said this was a wetter snow, so the 1 1/2-feet-plus of snow was equivalent to about 2 inches of rain. We are in the neighborhood of 10-12 inches behind in moisture after two years of drought.
Even with a blustery day on Monday, a good covering of snow stayed put on the wheat fields, where it insulated the 2013 wheat crop and will provide some timely moisture as it melts.
We had six babies during the storm and lost only one. One mama was smart enough to deliver her newborn in the barn on Monday.
While the old barn is nowhere close to airtight, it did provide some protection from the bitter wind and blowing snow.

Instead of attempting to drive out into the pasture south of our house yesterday morning, we walked to see if there were new babies.
No new babies, but it was a beautiful morning in the pasture.
One of the babies seemed to play hide and seek with us among the pasture trees, which provided good protection during the storms.
The babies also found some warmth in the hay bales - in hay spread for bedding ...
... and for their mamas to eat.
I'm thankful the electricity stayed on, and we stayed nice and cozy in our home on the County Line, despite all the snow and wind. 
I enjoyed the snow days. Today, it's back to reality. I don't recall ever having had five snow days in a row at school. Nothing says reality like a return to middle school choir.


Today, I'm linked with a couple of different bloggers who participate in Wordless (or Wordfull) Wednesday. (You know that I'm always wordfull!). Visit Project Alicia and Kristi's Live and Love Out Loud and check out the other photo posts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pancakes for a Snow Day

What? The average person didn't have ricotta cheese, blueberries and lemons on their must-have-for-the-blizzard shopping list? Those ingredients were undoubtedly easier to find than bread and milk last weekend as shoppers raced to the grocery store after Round 1 and before Round 2 of the Blizzard of Oz. 

Actually, I had all those ingredients (plus the milk and the bread) before it snowed the first time. I grew up on a farm 15 minutes from a grocery store. I still live 15 minutes from town, so my pantry sometimes spills over into my laundry room. I have an extra large refrigerator, which is usually packed full, with extra storage in an old fridge in the basement.

I was raised by a Mom who was a champion when it came to planning ahead. I learned my lesson well. It's rare that I run out of staples, though it has happened on occasion.

It was a pancake-kind-of-day with the snow coming down. And it was the perfect opportunity to try a recipe that I'd had on the back burner for awhile now. I grew up eating pancakes or waffles more often for supper than for breakfast. And today, I am still much more likely to make pancakes for lunch or supper. 

Blueberries are Randy's favorite fruit. When they were on sale last week at my local grocery store, I bought several pints. Some of them got incorporated into the pancake batter and some were used in the blueberry sauce. And I still had some leftover for fruit salad.

Yum! If you don't have those ingredients and are snowbound (like we are right now), be sure and save the recipe. (And, if you're now in a pancake mood, I have a few other options from other posts.) 
Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes
with Blueberry Sauce

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup part-skim ricotta
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. cornstarch

For pancakes: Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, milk, lemon zest and vanilla until frothy. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture just until combined. Lightly stir in blueberries. (If using frozen blueberries, toss them in a little flour before adding to the batter.)

Lightly grease a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/3 cup batter onto griddle and spread to make about a 4-inch pancake. Cook 3 minutes or until edges are dry, top is bubbly and the bottom is golden. Flip pancake and cook 2-3 minutes longer or until lightly golden brown on both sides. Adjust heat as needed to prevent burning.

Place pancakes on heat-proof platter and keep warm in a 200-degree oven (or use a tortilla warmer to keep them warm). Repeat with remaining batter.

For syrup: In a small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch; mix well. In a saucepan, combine blueberries, water and lemon juice. Heat until boiling. Stir in sugar mixture. Reduce heat. Cook until slightly thickened. Serve over pancakes or waffles (or, right now, over snow ice cream)!

with Cinnamon Brown Butter

I'm sharing this recipe over at Ashley's What In Your Kitchen Wednesday. Be sure and visit her blog, Kitchen Meets Girl, and find other yummy recipes!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stretcher Bearers

A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations,
but look what they can do when they stick together!

This morning, I again watch as the snowflakes come down. The sidewalk I cleared after our 14-inch snow last week is again obscured with a blanket of white, marred only by cat footprints.
The cattle are again wearing a coat of white.
A snowflake is said to be as individually unique as a human fingerprint. An individual flake looks fragile. And it is. With the heat of a human hand, a flake disappears almost immediately. But when they are piled together, they are a force to be reckoned with.
My car - February 22, 2013. I did get it partially dug out before this 2nd round of snow started.
We humans are like that, too. Yes, individuals can be strong and accomplish a great deal. But how much more can we do when we come together?

Yesterday, Pastor Amy continued a sermon series based on Church of the Resurrection Pastor Adam Hamilton's book, The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus. Among the Scripture readings for this week was Mark 2: 1-12.

It's a familiar story told over and over again as children gather for Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Jesus is preaching at Peter's home in Capernaum. Some men have a friend who is sick and paralyzed. They have heard that Jesus is a healer, so they carry their friend to the place where Jesus is preaching, believing He can help. When they find that the home is too crowded to enter through the door, they cut a hole in Peter's roof. They lower their friend, who is resting on a stretcher, through the hole and into Jesus' presence. And Jesus sees the friends' great faith and heals the paralyzed man.
There are several things we can take away from this story. The first is that all of us need stretcher-bearers. ... Who are the people who would pick you up, tear off the roof and lower you to Jesus? We all need friends like that, whose faith is strong even when ours is weak, who are friends not just in word, but in deed.

Who are our stretcher-bearers? Whose stretcher-bearer are you?

From Adam Hamilton's book, The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus
It's a good question. And I think I've had it answered over and over again in the past week. On Saturday, we had a funeral dinner for a lifetime member of our church. The funeral and the dinner were postponed because of the snowstorm.
But, on Saturday, church members who ranged in age from their 20s to their 80s came together to help. Some made "Methodist meatloaf," our church's go-to main dish for funeral dinners. Some made cakes, salads and potato casseroles at their own homes and brought them to be shared by the grieving family. A few of us gathered to serve the meal, pouring out kindness and hugs along with lots of hot coffee.
And there were more hands helping behind the scenes. A crew of men came to clear the sidewalks and the parking lot so that mourners could get into the building.

That funeral dinner is just one small example of how we can be stretcher-bearers for one another. On the news and through Facebook, I've read all sorts of accounts how people have come together to push stranded motorists out of snowbanks or taken a meal to a homebound person when their normal Meals on Wheels delivery wasn't possible.

Snowflakes aren't the only things that are strong when they stick together.
Today I am linked to Michelle DeRusha's Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday feature and Jennifer Dukes Lee's Tell His Story. Be sure and visit their blogs to see what other bloggers of faith are saying today.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Time-Lapse Photography

I stood on the back steps this morning and watched the sun come up. The light brings a whole new look to the Blizzard of Oz, as some commentators are calling the 14-inch-plus snow that fell in Kansas on Wednesday and Thursday.

When I went to bed, I thought there would be school today at Stafford. And while my own kids are grown and gone, I still live by the school calendar since I accompany the middle school choir and soloists. I must admit I was probably just as excited as they were to learn via Facebook this morning that school would be out for another day. Another snow day should mean uninterrupted time to get started on the church newsletter and get more writing done.

But, I'm just as happy it means that it's another day without makeup. It's another day to read a book or watch a movie under my warm K-State blanket and not feel too guilty. It's another day to find beauty in the outdoors (and perhaps tax some more muscles. Randy and I certainly did that yesterday as we slogged through the snow on the way to the barn.)

The beauty has shifted as quickly as the snow blown landscape. Though I don't have a fancy time-lapse setting on my camera, I have recorded the changes all the same with still photos.
What a difference a day makes! On Wednesday morning when we checked cows, I noticed the snow sticking to the side of the barn and took the photo above.
The return trip to the barn yesterday afternoon was a lot slower. It's no wonder when you see the pile of snow now blocking the old barn door.

These days, the old Ford tractor is brought out of retirement when the guys are ready to roll up electric fence wire. But this week, it served as another indicator of snowfall from one day to the next.

The same was true of a flower pot at the front of our house. On Wednesday afternoon, there was already a generous pile of snow. But those 4 inches of snow paled in comparison to the white "top hat" we found as we explored yesterday afternoon.
Today, we'll see how all the baby calves fared during the Blizzard of Oz.
A Kansas farmer and rancher has a split personality on snow days. He recognizes the blessing of the moisture as it falls on fields, especially in a drought. But the snow is hard on the baby calves and their mamas.

I'm guessing that Kansas farmers and ranchers would agree with this quote by Carl Reiner:
A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.
Yes, perhaps. But I still like snow days. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snow Day on the County Line

Taken Wednesday morning, February 20. Checking cattle is going to be harder going this morning, with 13+ inches on the ground.

It's another snow day here on the County Line. But it doesn't mean just curling up with a good book or watching a movie on TV, though those will likely be on the agenda at some point today, too.
Taken through an old wooden fence as Randy went to walk through the cows.
It is calving season, so the guys have to check the cows to make sure they aren't having problems delivering their babies.

They check to make sure the moms are claiming their newborns and letting them eat. Nothing warms up a new baby calf like warm mother's milk, straight from the source.
The preparations began the day before, when Jake fed at all three locations and also unrolled straw to provide some bedding during the storm.
This is a photo from 2011. I wasn't home during the day on Tuesday to take photos of the preparation.
The bedding straw gives the cows a place to hunker down. Jake unrolled the straw near trees, which also provides a windbreak for the cattle.
This little calf arrived yesterday and snuggled down in the hay by a feed bunk to stay warm.

He got a new "earring," too, as Randy gave him an ear tag while his mama watched around the corner, keeping a watchful eye. (The first number on the tag - the 3 - indicates that the baby was born in 2013. Last year's babies were tagged with ear tags which began with a 2.

These photos were all taken yesterday morning. Today, we have 13-plus inches on the ground, so getting through the snow is going to be a challenge. This is one of those days when we're glad we don't have heifers to calve out. (Heifers are first-time moms. They are more likely to need help with delivery. Click here for a post showing photos of a birth on the farm last winter.) The decision was made because we have less feed available because of the second year of drought. He also thought it would be better since he is still under the 10-pound weight restriction after his back surgery in November.
The mama cows often "listen" to their natural instincts. The mama in the top photo delivered her calf in the corner of a lot, where the calf was protected from the wind and in a little hollow.
It's good all these guys have their own warm "coats" to keep them toasty. Click here to see more about feeding cattle during the winter.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Peekaboo: I See You, The Real You

When you're a 1-year-old, peekaboo just never seems to get old. Our granddaughter Kinley finds everything from bowls to blankets to staircases to engage in endless games of peekaboo. She is repeatedly delighted to discover that we're still there, waiting to find her.

Like most children, Kinley thinks that if her head is covered up, she can't be seen. As I did with my own children, I often include a questioning session during our peekaboo games: Did Kinley go to Stafford? Did she go to Iowa to see Grandma Christy and Grandpa Alan? Did she go to the grocery store? Did she go to church? Is she visiting her friend Henry?

So it's all the more exciting for her when she uncovers her head, and she reveals that, no, she didn't go anyplace at all. She's right there with me.
As I thought about one of our latest peekaboo sessions, I realized something:  I'm sometimes not so different from Kinley. I can get "covered up" with life. Everything from this winter's latest persistent virus to feeling overwhelmed with work can be a wet blanket on my life. On those days, I am much more included to focus on my shortcomings, my unfinished tasks and unmet expectations. I feel the weight of that blanket dragging me down. 

But when I am covered up with those things (which are often self-imposed, by the way), God is there patiently waiting. Just like I'm there to "find" Kinley during peekaboo, God is there to find me. When I choose to hide, He draws near to me. He pursues me. He loves me anyway.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
Psalm 139:1-4
He is the God who sees me.
Not for what I do, but for who I truly am
He is delighted in me (even when I'm not so delighted with myself).

The 23rd Psalm is a familiar word picture "song" that tells us that God is always there. Many of us know the King James version by heart. But look at a Message translation for Psalm 23, Verse 6:
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life. (Psalm 23:6 – Message)
That's not a game. Instead, it's a wonderful promise.  

This was written for my monthly blog at Lovely Branches Ministries. Check out the other LBM bloggers by clicking here. 

I'm also linking today to Jennifer Dukes Lee's new Tell His Story. Check out what Jennifer and other bloggers of faith have to say!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Family Resemblance

When I was little, people always said I looked like my Dad. Even when I was in the midst of a family reunion on my Mom's side, people would note the resemblance between me and my Dad. As I've gotten older, I'll hear every so often that I look like my Mom.

The same is true for Randy. Thirty years ago, people usually made comments about how much he resembled his Mom. Today, he's much more likely to hear, "You look just like your Dad." 

Genetics are a funny thing - in the human world and the animal kingdom. Some baby calves are little carbon copies of their mothers. There is no doubt who belongs to whom because they have the same markings.
But sometimes, our rides through the pasture have me humming a different tune from my kids' Sesame Street days:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

The little black-white-faced calf doesn't look like it belongs to the brown and white mama. The all-black baby looks like it ought to belong to an all-black mama.

But the most jolting differences this year come with the arrival of three little beige babies. Randy knew there was a short period of time when a neighbor's Charolais bull came to call in our Rattlesnake Pasture. He stayed long enough to father three of our baby calves.

We are used to having baby calves hide in the native grasses of the pasture.
But, usually, they don't blend in quite so well. This little guy blended right into some stones leftover from an old cement stock tank.
The three Charolais calves are experts in winter pasture camouflage.  Their dad - the wandering bull - is long gone. But he's not forgotten, since these little calves don't look a bit like their mothers.
One of the babies doesn't need grass for hiding. He arrived with his own mask.

He might steal the scene since he's so darned cute.

Calving has gone well and quickly this year. We've had 68 babies of the 120 scheduled to arrive this winter. We lost a set of twins and one other calf. We'll see how they fare as the winter storm approaches on Wednesday night and Thursday. We will be glad to get any moisture, even though it's harder on brand new babies.