Friday, January 31, 2014

Harvesting Faith: Praying for Rain

A photo from Celeste Settrini's Facebook page:  Photo by Sally Strohn, taken on her ranch located just outside of Salinas, California
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning seems to throw a pass from the magazine insert cover right into my living room. Sports pundits endlessly debate "yay" or "nay" about the verbal bravado of Seattle Seahawks defender Richard Sherman. Companies are "leaking" previews of the commercials for which they paid $4 million for 30 seconds of prime time. Party planners are jotting down menu plans.

Super Bowl XLVIII is coming on Sunday:  You would have to be living in the same hole as Punxsutawney Phil not to realize that. (Sunday, February 2, is also Groundhog Day, by the way.)

But you likely don't know about another event on Sunday. It hasn't been on the national news. It doesn't occupy the fronts of popular magazines. Yet, it could have a much deeper impact than whose team has more points on the scoreboard after four, 15-minute quarters on Sunday night.

On Sunday, you're invited to Harvesting Faith: A day of reflection, prayer and fasting. It was organized by someone I've never met in person, Celeste Settrini, a rancher near Salinas, Calif. I first heard her on KFRM 550 AM, the radio station where I give my daily Central Kansas reports. I clicked her name on Facebook, and we became "friends."

She is an ag-vocate. In addition to raising cattle in California, she travels to events across the country promoting agriculture. A couple of weeks ago, she set up the Harvesting Faith Facebook page, with these words: 
In good times and in times of need, I have often turned to prayer to pull me through. We celebrate in thanksgiving for the good that has been given to us and, when times are not so good, I pray for guidance, help and balance in all God puts in front of me.

This is different for me ~ I have never vocally shared my faith or my need of help. That is something I have done within the privacy of my own self. However, this past week I had someone tell me “Celeste, you need to create a day of prayer and fasting, and if anyone can get it done, it will be you. You have the ability to take the lead, and we will follow." My friend inspired me enough to say, "What do we have to lose?"

On Sunday, February 2, I ask that you all join me in prayer and fasting to ask for rain for our livestock, our crops, our livelihood here in California and in those places that need added moisture. How? Maybe it is extra time spent at your worship service, maybe passing up on your favorite treat and taking that time to think. Whatever the situation may be, I ask that you join me in praying for rain. It's that simple. And when it does come, I ask that you give thanks. God Bless!
Here on the Central Plains of Kansas, we understand drought. For more than two years, we were in exceptional drought. Here on the County Line, we brought cattle home from summer pasture early, then sold off the calves, since we didn't have enough feed for the winter for them and the mama cows both.
Rattlesnake Creek, Summer 2012
 Crops wilted and failed
2012 milo crop, which we baled up for feed.
Last year was better. We got good moisture from snow and some timely rains in the spring and summer. And while Kansas isn't "drought free," conditions have improved.

I'm not asking you to fast on Super Bowl Sunday, but I am asking you to say an extra prayer for rain for those who so desperately need it. If you feel so inclined, "join" Harvesting Faith on Facebook.
From Celeste's Facebook page this week.
It won't cost you a thing except a little time. But the effects could make all the difference in the world. Thanks, friends!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Snack Mix

Do you have a game plan for your Super Bowl viewing? Just like coaches refer to their playbooks, I like having some tried-and-true, go-to options for snacking. Snack mixes "score" because they require minimal effort and maximum taste.

I won't be flying high on game day since I'm no Seahawk, perched here on the plains of Kansas. I don't even have a "horse" in the race, unlike some of my Denver Bronco-loving friends. But we'll still be watching and munching this Sunday. (Unless it gets postponed to Monday because of weather. I heard that on some television newscast, but I can't imagine that happening. We shall see, I guess.)

On Sunday Bowl Sunday, some 8 million pounds of guacamole will be consumed. Football (and commercial) fans will tear through 28 million pounds of chips. My little contribution to making a dent in that mountain of chips purchased from the snack aisle? This snack mix that  I've been making for so long that I no longer know where I got the recipe. I've used it for VBS snacks, and it's always the savory snack mix option in a sea of sweet during the Christmas snacking season.

The combo of popcorn, pretzels and cheese curls gets even better with buttery seasonings. (It even has a bit of orange for you Bronco fans.)
Super Snack Mix-Up
1/3 cup butter
2 qts. popped popcorn
5 to 6 cups pretzels
3 to 4 cups cheese curls
2/3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 tsp. garlic salt
2/3 tsp. seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine popcorn, pretzels and cheese curls in large roaster pan. Melt butter in microwave. Add Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt and seasoned salt, stirring well to combine. Drizzle the butter mixture over the popcorn mixture and toss lightly to coat. Bake for 20 minutes total, stirring halfway through cooking time. Makes about 3 quarts. I always at least double this recipe. Store in an airtight container.

Need some other snack mix ideas before this weekend's big game? Here are a few other favorites:

AND, Good as Gold Snack Mix. (Hey, with a name like that, maybe this is the one for Olympics viewing!)

Even though it's Thursday, I'm linked today to Wake Up Wednesdays on Ashley's Kitchen Meets Girl. (Kansas Day preempted posting about food yesterday.) Click on the link for lots more recipes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kansas!

You probably wouldn't think about having a birthday party in a cemetery. But as Kansas celebrates 153 years of statehood today, I am thinking about those pioneers who settled this land I now call home. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union and became the 34th star on the American flag.

Peace Creek Cemetery is just a mile from Randy's boyhood home. Some of his ancestors rest in this quiet plot at the edge of a wheat field. Maybe a visitor or two who take the wrong road to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge might happen across it. But, for the most part, it's off the beaten track. The chilly silence may be broken by the growl of a tractor or a pickup traversing the sandy road. But most often, the sound is just the breeze through the trees that stirs the music of a wind chime near one of the graves.

As we drove by one January evening, I asked Randy to stop. I watched the sun sink into the horizon of the western sky, and I thought about those pioneers who came before me. They may have marveled at a similar sunset sky, the velvet blue lightened with pinks and yellows and oranges - the vibrant colors that come only on a cold January night.
There were probably fewer trees then, but the same sun and the moon still hung from the sky. These celestial bodies defined their days - probably more so than they do mine since they would have lit their homes with candles or kerosene lanterns on dark January nights.
I wonder about the people buried there, some as long ago as 1879. There are mothers and fathers, babies and toddlers, neighbors and friends.
Were they adventurers? Were they dreamers? Were they looking to improve life for themselves and their families? Under the Homestead Act, any person older than 21 could choose 160 acres of land on which to farm or ranch. If the homesteader could live and farm on the land for a period of five years, they could own it.

Clearing the land of the tall, tough prairie grass was back breaking work. They had to figure out what crops would grow, often a process of trial and error. Droughts, thunderstorms, bitter winters, prairie fires and grasshopper invasions stood in the way of fulfilling their hopes for a different way of life.
The dreams they planted on the Kansas prairie took root like the trees they planted to block their homesteads from the unrelenting wind.

And they worked hard. They planted churches and schools along with the winter wheat.
They raised their families. They lived and they died on the Kansas prairie.
And as we celebrate 153 years of statehood, I am thankful for my ancestors and those of my husband who had a vision and worked hard to provide a future for their children and their children's children and beyond.
Kansas is celebrating its birthday. But we got the gift.
This is updated from a 2012 blog post on Kim's County Line.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Seeds of Kindness

The Magic Marker has faded a bit. The flower sprigs are bedraggled, even for flora that started out dried.  But I can't bring myself to throw away this message created by one of our kids at Sunday School long ago.

The little paper pocket, dabbed in pastel paint, hangs by the back door, amidst a collection of keys that may or may not run something on our farm these days. The message, "Sow seeds of kindness," is a key in itself, isn't it? If I catch a quick glimpse of it as I dash out the door on the way to accompany at school or to help Randy, maybe it will provide that subliminal nudge to actually practice what it preaches.

"Sow seeds of kindness." It's just another way to consider the Golden Rule, I suppose. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
On the other side of the kitchen door, I transplanted two messages from my late mother-in-law, Marie's, kitchen.

One of the little cardboard-backed fabric plaques has this prayer:

Lord, make me a blessing today. 
Let me be a sunflower in a garden full of thorns.
And the other says:

A day hemmed in prayer seldom unravels. 
Though she's been gone for years, I am still getting reminders from Marie about what is truly important in life, if only I take time to take the messages to heart. And I'm thankful.
But, they are only words as faded as the Magic Marker that wrote them if I don't carry them with me as I hurry through the door.

I am linked to Jennifer Dukes Lee's Tell His Story. Click on the link for more messages of faith. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Phone Home


"Phone home."

In the 1982 blockbuster, E.T., the extraterrestrial, tells 10-year-old  Elliott and his 5-year-old sister Gertie that he needs to "phone home." The request is prompted when E.T. reads a comic strip where a stranded Buck Rogers calls for help by building a makeshift communications device. E.T. and Elliott then use a Speak and Spell toy to build a device for E.T. to "phone home."

This year's calf crop on the County Line have their own version of "phone home." Our new eartags have Randy's cell phone number printed on the back.
I blanked out the last four digits.
If you raise cattle, you've likely gotten the same nighttime call we get from the sheriff's office on occasion.

"There are some cattle out on 4th Street," the caller says, usually after dark and usually after you're snuggled into warm jammies. "They have yellow ear tags in the left ear. Are they yours?"

I always hope for green ear tags. Or red ear tags. Or yellow tags in the right ear. Then, they wouldn't be ours. Now, if the caller can get close enough to the ear tags, we will know for sure whether they are escapees from our farm.

Or if we could teach them to dial their own number, kind of like drilling your prekindergarten student to make sure he/she knows full name, address and telephone number. (When your last name is Fritzemeier, it takes repeated efforts for this lesson.)

Better yet, why don't they just stay where they are supposed to be? But, if they do escape, wouldn't it be nice if  they were as easy to lure back home as E.T., who was tempted by a trail of Reese's Pieces?

If you watch the clip, please excuse one cuss word. Why do movie makers think that's necessary?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Ultimate Gift

Sunrise, January 22,2014
A journey may be long or short,
but it must start 
at the very spot one finds oneself.
From The Ultimate Gift
By Jim Stovall

What's important in life? Is it a full bank account? Is it status? Or is it something less tangible?

Last fall, Randy went to a financial workshop in Great Bend sponsored by an area bank. One of the presenters recommended a book. It went on Randy's Christmas list, but it turned out to be a gift for both of us. (Thanks, Kathy!)

The book, The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall, is the fictional account of a young man named Jason. The book opens in a lawyer's office, where Jason and his relatives are all eagerly awaiting the disposition of Red Stevens' multi-billion dollar estate. One by one, Jason's relatives leave the room with some of the fortune.

Then, it's Jason's turn to sit with his Great Uncle Red's old lawyer and friend, Theodore Hamilton, and learn what treasures he'll receive from the estate. The lawyer puts a videotape into a machine and Great Uncle Red begins to talk to Jason.

To receive his portion of the fortune, Jason will have to learn a series of lessons and prove that he understands the concepts to the satisfaction of Red's old friend and lawyer. At any time he fails, Jason forfeits whatever wealth his Uncle Red has left for him.

Via video, Uncle Red says:
"I lived my life in a big way. I had a lot of big accomplishments, and I made a lot of big mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was when I gave everyone in our family everything they thought they ever wanted. It took me many years to figure out that everything we ever do or know or have in this life is a gift from the good Lord. He has a special plan for each of us, and He has provided everything we need to fulfill that plan. ... Only as an old man did I come to learn that all happiness comes from the gifts that God has given us ... not from money or possessions."
At the beginning of each month, Jason must meet with Ted Hamilton and listen to the "gift" from his Uncle Red. Jason is none too thrilled that he has to jump through all these hoops with no guarantee that he'll ever get any of the billion dollars in loot.

But, as the lessons go on, month after month, there's a change in Jason. And the lessons were food for thought for a couple of Kansas farmers, too. We both highly recommend the book. (I understand there's a movie based on the book, too, but I always choose the book over the movie.)

While there's much more to the lessons than just this brief synopsis, the book's message has stayed with me. So, here are the gifts, illustrated with my photos:
The Gift of Work:  
He who loves his work never labors.

The Gift of Money: 
Money is nothing more than a tool.
 It can be a force for good, a force for evil, or simply be idle.

The Gift of Friends:
 It is a wealthy person, indeed, 
who calculates riches not in gold but in friends.

The Gift of Learning: 
Education is a lifelong journey 
whose destination expands as you travel.

The Gift of Problems: 
Problems can only be avoided by exercising good judgment. 
Good judgment can only be gained by experiencing life's problems.

The Gift of Family: 
Some people are born into wonderful families. 
Others have to find or create them. 
Being a member of a family is a priceless privilege 
which costs nothing but love.

The Gift of Laughter:
 Laughter is good medicine for the soul. 
Our world is desperately in need of more such medicine.

The Gift of Dreams:
 Faith is all that dreamers need to see into the future.

 The Gift of Giving: 
The only way you can truly get more out of life for yourself
 is to give part of yourself away.

The Gift of Gratitude:
 In those times when we yearn to have more in our lives,
 we should dwell on the things we already have. 
In doing so, we will often find that our lives are already full to overflowing.

The Gift of a Day: 
 Life at its essence boils down to one day at a time. Today is the day!

The Gift of Love: 
 Love is a treasure for which we can never pay. 
The only way we keep it is to give it away.

The Ultimate Gift:
  In the end, life lived to its fullest
 is its own ultimate gift.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cold With a Chance of Babies

The County Line is proud to announce its first baby of 2014. 
The bouncing baby girl arrived January 22, 
weighing in at about 75 pounds,
ahead of its projected January 28 due date.
Baby is the spitting image of its mother.
Both mama and baby are doing fine.

Wouldn't you know that calving would begin as winter returns with a vengeance? With a temperature of 0 and wind gusts up to 36 mph, wind chill values could fall to -10 to -15 across central Kansas, according to the National Weather Service. Randy loaded new batteries into his high-powered flashlight yesterday, so he was ready for his late night and early morning checks of our maternity ward. (As of 6 this morning, no more new babies.)

The first baby of 2014 arrived from a heifer, a first-time mama. It got a 400 tag number, with the "4" signifying its birth year. The next one born will get the 401 tag, and so on. We have 23 heifers to calve this year. Last year, Randy opted not to calve out heifers. Because of the drought, he sold cattle early. Plus, with his back surgery in November 2012, he knew he couldn't help Jake with pulling any calves when a mother had a difficult delivery. 

Our 87 cows should start calving around February 10.

Last evening, the little calf bawled for its mama. 
Two heifers came running to little 400's call. It reminded me of the children's book, Are You My Mother?
But only one was able to provide the "chuckwagon" the little calf wanted. (There might be just a little family resemblance, too.)
One down, 109 to go! Here's hoping that some will opt for temperatures in the 50s this weekend instead of the bitter cold of today.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Say Cheese!

I grew up watching sports on television. Back in the "olden days," we didn't have so many choices with our rural antenna, but if there was a game of any kind on TV, we were watching it.
Dad passed along his love of all things sports to his children. (If only my abilities had matched my fervor. I was, however, an excellent bench sitter on a couple of state championship basketball teams. And, as my Dad says, who did those girls practice against?)

We grew up going to high school games - home and away. And my love for K-State football developed early as we made the trek to Manhattan to watch our beloved Wildcats. 

So, I'm not one of the people who watches the Super Bowl for the commercials. Even though I don't have a favorite team in the line-up this year, I'll be just as attentive to the game between the Broncos and the Seahawks as I am to the outrageously-priced, 30-second spots advertising beer and chips. 

I'm also a fan of the Super Bowl spread. If you're looking for a winner in that department, you might want to try this cheeseball recipe. Before Christmas, the kids' piano teacher, Dorothy Trinkle, sent it via email, saying it was the "best cheeseball recipe I've ever found." She got it while cruising the Mississippi on a boat trip.

Dorothy usually halves the recipe when she makes it. However, since I was using it for three different holiday gatherings, I decided to make the full recipe. (The full recipe is below.)

You can make the cheeseballs as big or small as you'd like. For crisper almonds, roll the cheeseballs in the nuts just before serving, but leftovers are good, too. As Dorothy says, "It lasts well ... if people don't eat it!"
Gridley Cheese Ball
Recipe from Dorothy Trinkle
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
8 oz. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip)
1/4 cup milk
2 oz. dried beef, chopped finely
6-8 green onions, chopped
2 tsp. garlic salt (original recipe call for 3 teaspoons)
Toasted almonds

Combine all ingredients except almonds. (The original recipe said to do it with a heavy spoon, but I used my mixer, and it worked great.) Refrigerate at least 6 hours. Shape into balls and roll in toasted almonds, pressing lightly so they stick. You may make the balls as small or as large as you like. I made this at Christmastime and divided the cheese mixture into several  balls so that I could take them to different holiday gatherings. You can also freeze cheeseballs, minus the nuts. When you're ready to serve, thaw one out. Roll in almonds just before serving.

Serve with crackers, vegetables and/or fruit.

Looking for other recipes for your Super Bowl party? Try these from my kitchen:
(aka Funeral Sandwiches)

(The contest is over, but the recipe is still a winner!)
Today, I'm linked to Wake Up Wednesdays, a feature of Wichita blogger (and fellow K-State fan!) Ashley on her Kitchen Meets Girl blog. Click out the link to check out lots of other recipes for the game or for every day.