Friday, June 28, 2013

Silver Linings

I am a farm girl with a harvest birthday. My childhood birthdays had cake and homemade ice cream squeezed in at noon before we went back to the field. So my biggest birthday wish yesterday was to get lots of wheat cut.

That didn't happen.

We were broken down most of the day. Even after Randy went to Hutchinson AND Great Bend for parts, we were still out of commission. (I volunteered to go on the parts runs, but he needed to consult with the mechanical gurus in search of solutions.)

However, there were some silver linings.
  • The custom cutters arrived and began cutting over west sooner than expected. So, even though we personally cut only one combine bin yesterday, some of our crop got cut and hauled to the co-op.
  • The guys had a great lunch (if I do say so myself.) I chose enchiladas and fixings, plus frozen lemonade dessert, for my birthday meal.
  • We didn't get the hail they kept talking about on TV last evening. (I don't know whether we got damage from the winds. However, after a quick perusal of Facebook this morning, I know we are far better off than a lot of people after high winds, rain and hail pummeled other of my farm friends across the state.)
  • The skies were beautiful.
The biggest silver lining of all? This little family showed up about 9 PM last night.

I was TOTALLY surprised! I was so surprised I didn't take even one photo last evening. Even though she was almost sleep-walking tired, we could tell Kinley was looking for the usual box of toys. So Grandpa brought it upstairs and we played a little and read books before bedtime.
Now that was one big silver lining! Let's hope today brings the right part for the combine and that we're able to introduce Kinley (and Eric) to wheat harvest.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Harvesting Wonder: Through the Eyes of a Child

Our little visitor ran as fast as his 2-year-old legs could carry him.

"Truck, truck, truck," Ricky repeated with the same cadence as his tennis-shoed feet hit the dirt road. 

As he neared the combine and its roaring engine, Ricky was a little less confident about his introduction to wheat harvest. First off, it required getting boosted into that big, loud machine with Randy.
Yes, Ricky knows us from his Sunday mornings at Stafford UMC, where his mom, Amy, is our pastor (until after this Sunday when we have the Methodist minister migration). But until Pastor Jeff (better known to Ricky as Daddy) joined them in the combine cab, Ricky was none too pleased to begin his career as a farm helper.
Even after his Dad joined him on the combine cab jump seat, he was less than impressed. As the door shut on a crying little boy and Amy watched them pull away, she said, "This may be a short trip."
But, as soon as the combine started moving, Randy reports that Ricky's eyes got big and the crying stopped.
Photo collage by me from another day
The combine swallowed up a swath of the waving wheat in front of him and spit the chaff out the back, and Ricky's big eyes took in all the moving parts.
Inside the combine cab photos by Jeff Slater
Randy reports that Ricky didn't have much to say. But he was taking it all in as the combine lumbered its way down a half mile and back again.
As they came back toward the road, Ricky waved to his Mom before he was distracted by the grain flowing from the combine into the truck.
The truck was full and ready to go to the elevator. But there was another truck to fill, and the guys were off again in a quest to fill up the next one.
"I guess he likes it after all," Amy said as we waved and watched them make two more down-and-back trips.

Harvest is hungry work, so Ricky needed his own sack lunch after his ride.
Photo by Jeff Slater
The harvest lunch lady should have brought a straw for the water bottle.
But she did bring a Rice Krispie treat and grapes. Those were more important anyway.
Every harvester needs helpers. Besides Farmer Randy, who provided an introduction to life on the farm, Ricky had his own camera crew to record the event.

As for us, it's always good to look at harvest through new eyes - especially reflected in the eyes of a 2-year-old visitor (or a 4-year-old visitor, like last year.)

Happy Day to my birthday buddy, Ricky. He turns 2 today. I turn 2 + 54 today. (Happy Birthday also to my other birthday buddies, Keva, Sarah, Rachel and Lawrence. I share this day with lots of good friends! And for the first time in several years, I also share it with harvest. And that's OK. That's how I grew up, too.)
I would have celebrated my 7th birthday Harvest 1964.
This John Deere combine was "born" the same year I was. It looks a little different than its counterparts today.
My, how times have changed - for combines and for birthday girls!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Harvest Meals: Don't Go Off Half-Baked!

Homemade cookies (hidden in lefthand corner, grapes, macaroni salad and baked ham & cheese sandwiches were on the menu for supper last evening.
Meals on wheels - country style. After 32 years, maybe I should come up with a theme song. I'm thinking the tune to "Love Boat." OK, maybe not.

When we were first married, I worked in Hutchinson, so I delivered evening harvest meals, while my mother-in-law, Marie, made the bigger noon repast. After I "retired" from The Hutchinson News when Brent was born, I expanded my repertoire to noon meals, too.

For the most part, the harvesters comes to the house for noon, and I deliver the evening meal. (Yes, I know I'm lucky.) If the custom cutters don't arrive in time and we end cutting "up north," as we call it, the delivery expands to both meal times. That was tricky in 1988, when Brent was a month old or so during his first harvest.

It's definitely less complicated than it used to be when the kids were little. While I was dirtying every pot and pan in the kitchen, they also needed attention. But it was a great adventure for my two "helpers" who enjoyed the picnics and the after-dinner entertainment - a ride on the combine with Daddy or Grandpa.
Jill would have been about 20 months old during the harvest pictured here. To serve the meal back then, I usually brought a blanket and spread it out on wheat stubble in the shade created by the combine or a truck.
I have tried-and-true recipes that I use every harvest. I make BBQ meatballs and serve them with potato casserole, corn casserole, or homemade macaroni and cheese. Part of the meatball recipe gets a pizza sauce for submarine sandwiches. I make a roast early in the harvest meal rotation. Yesterday, we had some of the leftover roast beef incorporated into beef and noodles over mashed potatoes. More of the beef ends up as BBQ supper sandwiches. Grilled hamburgers or BBQ sandwiches may be teamed with Sweet and Sour Beans. One of the guys' favorite suppers is Taco Pizza, a long-ago recipe contest winner from The News. An easy dessert that has already made a repeat appearance this year is Peach Butter Brickle Cobbler. (I could go on for quite some time finding links, but today's meal requires my attention. If you need additional menu ideas for harvest go-to meals and sides, I'm glad to share. Email me at

Some years, I've been both truck driver and meal person. When I fill both roles, the evening meal is cold sandwiches and fixings. 

But let me get to the latest addition to the harvest repertoire,  In the past, I've served hot ham sandwiches. Yesterday, though, I tried a variation. When Jake asked me what they were called, I had to admit, "Funeral Sandwiches." Really.

It was one of those church potluck offerings that had all of us talking. First, we were talking about how good it was. Then, we were talking about the recipe title. Surely someone could have come up with a better name than Funeral Sandwiches. Katie Minks brought them to a church potluck this spring. I was not the only one who requested the recipe. I'm not sure whether I'm the only one rebelling and renaming the recipe.

From this day forth, I believe I will declare them Baked Ham Harvest Sandwiches instead. I took these marinated, baked ham and Swiss sandwiches to the field last evening. Whether you serve them at a funeral, a church potluck, around your kitchen table or in the wheat harvest field, they will get good reviews. I paired them with macaroni salad, green grapes and cookies.
The sandwiches are marinated in a buttery sauce with both sweet and savory components. The recipe says they can be marinated for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. The first time I made the recipe, I marinated for 24 hours. That really allowed the marinade to soak in. When marinated that long, they were definitely a sandwich to eat with a fork, not your hands. With repeat performances, I didn't marinate as long, and they were less sticky. They are good either way, but I still serve them with a fork - especially when there's wheat dust involved.
Baked Ham Harvest Sandwiches
(aka Funeral Sandwiches)
Recipe from Katie Minks from church potluck

1 pkg. King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
1/2 to 1 lb. high-quality ham deli meat
Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. mustard
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Dash of onion powder

Note: I saw King's Hawaiian Sweet Mini-Sub Rolls and used those the first time I made these (and when I took the photo on the real plate). I've since made them with regular-sized rolls because that's what I could find.

Spray 9- by 13-inch pan with baking spray. Cut the rolls in half and line the bottom of a baking pan with the bottom of the rolls. Layer the ham slices, then cheese and place the top half of the roll on top.

Mix together all remaining ingredients. Pour over the buns, drenching each one. Cover tightly and marinate anywhere from 4 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, uncovered, or until cheese is melted and bun tops are golden brown.

Note: The last two times I've made these, I've put cheese on the bottom bun before topping with ham, more cheese and then the bun top.

Last night, I threw the scenery in for free as a bonus to the harvest meal. I'm nice like that.We may not have a tablecloth, but we have ambiance.

Today I'm linked to Ashley's What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday at Kitchen Meets Girl. Click on the link to see some 4th of July treats and other ideas from food bloggers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Moon Over Matter

Saturday, June 22, 2013, around 10 PM
I was super excited about the Super Moon ... until I was super disappointed in my photos.

I'd seen gorgeous photos of the Statue of Liberty in the rosy blush of the rising moon. (Other photos are at this link.) A jet plane looked like it was cruising right onto the moon itself. A runner looked like he had the moon nipping at his heels like a faithful dog.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Here on the County Line, sunset Saturday night was obscured in clouds, so I thought we might not see the moon at all. It finally did appear, but then it played hide-and-seek in clouds.

My grandiose ideas to capture the moon and the combine resulted in little more than eyes full of chewed up wheat straw and chaff as I stood downwind to get the "perfect" photo.

However, when I consider that the moon was still 225,623 miles away, I guess I might as well be happy with my little beacons of light in a Kansas wheat field. (Much of the time, the moon orbits at 238,855 miles away from Earth. Is it any wonder that being 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter didn't get the job done on my little point and shoot camera?)
My efforts paled in comparison to professionals and amateur shutterbugs alike. As Randy often tells me:

"It's good digital 'film' is cheap!"
Ah well! It's fun to try. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Harvest Solstice

I began the Summer Solstice June 21 watching the sun rise over the wheat fields on the County Line. The clouds obscured the actual sunrise, which was officially at 6:09 on this longest day of the year.
But clouds couldn't obscure the pink-tinged beauty as light penetrated the morning.
We got started cutting wheat about 3 o'clock June 21.  So, I watched the sunset at 8:58 PM in another field.
I was riding in the combine with Randy, so the sun had about said "so long" by the time I got out of the cab to end the day as I started it, with a wheat head silhouetted by the sun.
One of my favorite shots of the day was one I took in the combine cab as the sun was setting. The sun and the tree line were being reflected onto a window in the cab. The top image was the reflection, while the bottom was what I was actually seeing outside the window.

Last night's sunset (June 23) was even prettier. It had God's fingerprints all over it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summertime, And the Livin' Is ...

I noticed these pretty purple blooms among the sunflowers as I delivered my Father's Day treats to my Dad last Friday. I haven't seen them around here. I love purple and yellow together!
"Summertime and the livin' is easy" - or so says the song from Porgy and Bess

Today is the first official day of summer. Time will tell, but it also may be the first day of Wheat Harvest 2013. I don't think the song lyrics apply to wheat harvest, unless, of course, you are baby kittens lazing in the mid-afternoon heat.
Notice the one on the far left with a big old yawn!
Randy plans to do some test cutting today. We'll see if the wheat is as ready as he is.  
Our golden waves of grain provide a pretty spectacular backdrop this time of year. But even the ditches are ready for their close-ups, especially with nice little rain showers (another 0.40" earlier this week).
I noticed Katherine's day lilies blooming in the backyard for the first time yesterday.
The trumpet vine (a gift from my husband) is painting orange against a bright blue summer sky on my backyard windmill ...

... just in time to greet the summer.  Ah, summertime. The livin' may not be easy. But it sure is pretty.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Different Angles

Eyewitness accounts are only as reliable as the witnesses. It's a lesson I learned long ago in Reporting II at Kansas State University. Our class instructor was Bill Brown, who was director of student publications at K-State. During one of our first classes, he had a couple of people come into the room. I don't even remember what they did. But, after they left, we were supposed to write an account of their time in the room.

As I recall, the stories from this roomful of reporter-wanna-bes were similar. But there were some differences. We were training to be observers of human life and behavior, and yet, we had a lot to learn. It was a powerful lesson that I remembered as I wrote stories for The Collegian while at K-State and later took a job at The Hutchinson News

Mr. Brown had come to K-State after serving as editor and publisher of The Garden City Telegram. While he was there, two ex-convicts brutally murdered four members of the Herb Clutter family. Long before 24-hour news cycles and the internet, Brown witnessed how eyewitness accounts are colored by our own points of reference. National media saw the killings differently than homegrown journalists.

It's not only a lesson for journalists. It's a lesson for life. Our perceptions are colored by our own experiences.
Literally, no man ever sees himself as others see him. No photograph or reflection ever gives us the same slant on ourselves that others see. It has often been proved on the witness stand that no two people ever see the same accident precisely the same way. We see through different eyes and from different angles. But if we could see things as other people see them, we could come closer to knowing why they do what they do and why they say what they say. 
Richard L. Evans

We may see the same scene. We may experience the same event. But we see it through a different filter than the person sitting right next to us.
When we look at the big picture, we may see things one way.
When you look at an alfalfa field from a distance, you don't see the details in the beautiful purple blooms.
When we look more closely, our perception may shift, and we often see new details.We may see things as our neighbor sees them. Or, at least, we might consider their viewpoint.
It's not just a lesson for a neophyte reporter. It's something I should remember each and every day. 

I'm an adult Sunday School teacher at our church. For the past several weeks, Pastor Amy has been doing a series on the Sermon on the Mount. This coming Sunday, the Scripture is Matthew 7: 1-6, and her sermon topic is "Judging Logs and Splinters."
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7: 3

Our Sunday School hour follows the church service, so we continue the discussion, based on the Scripture lesson. One of the books I've been reading as I prepare for this Sunday's Sunday School class is When Christians Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the Church of the Resurrection. 
Jesus commands us not to judge, warns us against hypocrisy, and calls us to love all - both our neighbors and those with whom we do not see eye to eye. When we get it right, others see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23) and are drawn to our faith. 
Adam Hamilton
It's a worthy challenge, isn't it? It takes a big pair of tweezers to pull that log out of my own eye. Thankfully, Christ took on the wood of the cross and forgives me when I fail, time and time again.