Friday, March 28, 2014

Love to Last

Wedding photos by Stan Reimer, Pratt
It was 33 years ago today that we walked down the aisle of the Pratt United Methodist Church and started a life together. We had no idea what we were getting into. I was 23. Randy was 25.
His Farm House buddies put milo into the vents of his old car. Thankfully, we were only driving it to my parents' house, where we picked up my car for our honeymoon trip to Colorado. I don't suppose they realized that the milo had Randy coughing and sneezing for hours, long after the 15-minute trip to the farm.
I tell Randy that he's lucky we survived the honeymoon. He took me skiing at Keystone. He had been skiing before. I had not. He was smart enough to know that he shouldn't try and teach me himself. I took lessons the first day. I was miserable. It was late in March, and despite the snow all around, it was fairly warm, especially when repeatedly picking myself up from yet another fall. I had on ski overalls, a ski jacket, a scarf and gloves. I had too many layers for as hard as I was working. The warmer temperatures made the slopes icy.  By lunchtime when we met, I was drenched in sweat and totally discouraged.

It was his first introduction to my aversion to things I'm bad at doing. I admit it: I hate being bad at things. It was true as a high school sophomore in Algebra. It was true 33 years ago on a ski slope in Colorado. It was true when I tried to learn golf. I know we can't be good at everything. But I'd sure like to be.

I did get a little bit better at skiing the next day and the day after that. As long as we stayed on the green slopes, I stayed upright ... most of the time.

To make the honeymoon even more challenging, I ended up with a horrible toothache one night. We had driven to Aspen for supper. By the time we got back to the condo at Keystone, I was ready to yank the tooth out myself. It was just the first of a long line of teeth problems. (I had my first root canal after we got back from the honeymoon.)

He should have examined my mouth for soundness prior to marrying me. (Yes, I know he does that to cows now, but he was wise enough not to comment about that while on the honeymoon. He did make a reference to calving during our first labor and delivery experience. For you newlywed farm men: That's probably not the best choice of words to a wife in labor. Just a little free advice for you!)

But, we made it through the honeymoon and through the myriad of ups and downs that 33 years of marriage brings. Life and death. Joy and pain. Success and failure. Hospitals for celebrations, for surgeries and for saying goodbye. 
I couldn't have chosen a better father for my children.
Kinley is breaking him in as a superb Grandpa.
He's a good provider and an even better sport.

One thing we never thought about as young newlyweds was being named to the Class of 2013 Master Farmer Master Farm Homemaker by K-State Research and Extension and Kansas Farmer magazine. Farm couples have been chosen for this honor for their commitment to agriculture, family and the community since 1927. We were humbled to be chosen as one of six couples from across the state. Our family was there to help celebrate during the March 14 banquet in Manhattan.
Eric, Jill, Kinley, Brent, me and Randy
My parents, Bob and Janis Moore, were part of the Class of 1989. We are fortunate we've had their example and that of Randy's folks, Melvin and Marie Fritzemeier, upon which to base our married, professional and community lives.
Yes, we've had our share of successes and some challenges, too.

But, I made one of the best decisions of my life 33 years ago, and I feel blessed beyond measure. Happy Anniversary, Randy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Every Day Is Ag Day

Tuesday was National Ag Day. This sometimes-ag blogger didn't purposefully ignore it. I just didn't have an Ag Day blog ready to go, so I published something else. Poor planning on my part? Perhaps. But, I think it's OK.

I try to work ahead on my blog posts. Monday was busy. Besides my normal KFRM Central Kansas report and a blog post after a fire at our old high school, I helped serve a funeral dinner at church, accompanied at middle school choir and left school a few minutes early so I could be back to the church to sing at the funeral.

I poured coffee. I refilled water glasses. I scraped plates and washed dishes alongside my church friends.  I played a too-fast-for-me accompaniment for a boys' ensemble. I sang at a friend's memorial service.

I didn't have time to write about being part of an agricultural community that day. I was living it.

Usually at harvest time, there's a story in the local newspaper about a community coming together to harvest an ailing neighbor's fields. But it happens quietly many days.

Sometimes, we're on the receiving end.

Sometimes, we're on the giving end.

It's part of what it means to be living and working in a small, rural community.

So, no, I didn't blog about National Ag Day on Tuesday. I probably missed the opportunity to join a hashtag movement (if only I understood Twitter's hashtags) or piggyback onto some other form of publicity for myself, though I have no illusions that I'll become the next Pioneer Woman anyway.

I could have told you lots of interesting facts. For example (from the Corn & Soybean Digest):
  • The U.S. farmer of today produces enough food and fiber for approximately 160 people. This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960, and 115 people in 1980.
  • Farmers receive just under 16¢ of every consumer dollar that is spent on food. The other 84¢ is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution and retail costs of the food supply.
But, instead of chastising myself for my lack of pre-planning,  I'd like to think I jumped on the Ag Day bandwagon early when I hosted Flat Aggie from a fourth grade classroom in California. I was celebrating Ag Day when I helped my husband work baby calves three days last week during my "spring break" from my school accompanying job.
Randy did more of the heavy lifting than I did!
Every day is Ag Day for Randy, who works to provide food, fuel and fiber through crops and livestock. Every day is Ag Day for me, whether I'm helping with cattle tasks or delivering meals. It could be via  my KFRM Central Kansas reports and through Kim's County Line, where I offer a glimpse at one Kansas farm family by featuring farming, family, faith, food and photography.
It could be like I spent Monday, not specifically involved in agriculture, but being a part of a rural community.

Some day, I hope my kids and grandkids will use this as a record of our lives on this piece of God's earth on the Stafford/Reno County Line. And I hope they'll know it was more than just statistics. It was a way of life.

I'm linked to the Country Fair Blog Hop via Nicole's Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom. Click on the link for more news from the country.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Luck o' the Irish: Reuben Crescent Bake

In a perfect world, I would have posted this recipe sometime before St. Patrick's Day. It's a little bit different take on corned beef and cabbage.

But, at the time, Flat Aggie was visiting, and I needed to keep those adventures coming for the Walden Academy fourth graders. I did make this Reuben Crescent Bake for Randy for St. Patty's Day. It was the third time I used the recipe which I saw on someone's Facebook feed awhile back.

I am not usually a sauerkraut fan, but I make an exception for reuben sandwiches. The same exception applies for this easy casserole. It makes a big recipe, which means leftovers. Thankfully, Randy is willing to eat leftovers, unlike some men I know. But, even if the kids were home, they wouldn't eat a whole lot of this one,  I don't think. Sauerkraut is an acquired taste, and neither of them have acquired it.

But, if you like reubens, you'll like this casserole. It's even a recipe that Randy has asked me to repeat. Yep, it's that good. Sorry I missed the corned beef-laden St. Patrick's Day. But the deli case still has plenty of corned beef they'll slice up for you. Enjoy!
Reuben Crescent Bake
Found on Facebook and revised
2 tubes (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 pound Swiss cheese, divided
1 pound sliced deli corned beef
1 can (14 oz.) sauerkraut, rinsed and sell drained
2/3 cup Thousand Island salad dressing
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Caraway seeds to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain sauerkraut and rinse well. I used a strainer then used paper towels to press additional moisture out of the sauerkraut. Set aside.

Unroll one tube of crescent dough into one long rectangle. Seal seams and perforations. Press onto the bottom of a greased 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Layer with half the cheese. (The original recipe called for sliced cheese, but I prefer grating a 16-ounce block of cheese in the food processor. Either way is fine.) Layer all the corned beef on top. Combine sauerkraut and salad dressing. Spread over beef. Top with remaining cheese.

Put a piece of waxed paper on the counter. Remove the remaining roll of crescent dough from the tube and put on the waxed paper, forming a rectangle. Place another piece of waxed paper on top. Use a rolling pin to seal the perforations and form it into a 13- by 9-inch rectangle. Take off the top layer of waxed paper, and flip it onto the casserole. Remove the other layer of waxed paper and stretch to fit the casserole dish, sealing any perforations. Brush with egg white. Sprinkle with caraway seeds.

Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until heated through and the crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Yield: 8 servings.

Today, I'm linked to Wichita blogger Ashley's Wake Up Wednesdays. Click on the link for more ideas for your dinner table. I'm also linked to the Country Fair Blog Party via Nicole of Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Beast of a Day by Kinley

Hi! It's Kinley again. I must tell you that I've been so busy that it's taken me awhile to tell you about my adventure at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Who has time to write when you're busy, busy, busy with important things like potty training and singing songs and helping cook and reading "Go, Dog, Go!" over and over again. I've also been ultra-busy researching my upcoming role as a big sister.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my Mommy took me with her when she went to work in Wichita. My Grandma and Grandpa met us there. While Mommy worked, I took Grandma and Grandpa to the zoo.

I'm telling you:  It was a day fit for penguins. It was cold - not Kansas cold, but Arctic cold! There was still some snow on the ground. But the grandparents seemed to think it was a good idea. You know that I'm supposed to respect my elders and all.
I think the flamingos might have been shivering in that cold water. They didn't have a coat, hat and gloves like me. I could have lent them my pink fleece blanket, but I was using that, too.
The good thing about it being cold? We sure weren't fighting the crowds, and I had a front-row seat when the trainers worked with the elephants.
Grandpa and I had quite a conversation with an orangutan. She didn't seem scared of me at all.
Grandpa and I pretended we were in  the jungle where the ape hangs out. But at the zoo, he wasn't in a grassy nest. Instead, he was high up in the air in a sling, hanging around watching me watch him and his friends.
Grandma thought she was reenacting The Lion King movie since a big Daddy lion was hanging around on top of a rock. He kept a close eye on us. The Mama lion and a tiger pretty much ignored us.
I like turtles. In fact, my first sentence ever was "I see turtles!" at the Louisville Zoo with Uncle Brent, Mommy and Daddy back in the olden days when I was 1. These turtles were B-I-G! I was glad there was glass between me and the crocodile! I think he has more teeth than me. I wonder if his Mommy helps him brush them like my Mommy helps me?
When we first got to the zoo, it was so cold that the giraffes were inside. But, after we ate lunch at The Beastro (cute name, huh?), the giraffes got to get a breath of fresh air.
Most of the time, I stayed in my stroller and got a free ride from Grandpa. But, in the petting zoo area, I got out. I looked, but I didn't really want to touch. I let Grandpa do that.
The bird touched the fluffy sheep, but I didn't want to. I tried to encourage the peacock to show me her pretty feathers, but she wouldn't do it. Maybe she was too cold.
By the time the grandparents were ready to leave, I was falling asleep in the stroller. A girl needs her beauty rest, you know! My grandma says that was OK. Since I was dozing as we walked through the gift shop, there was no temptation to stop and look.

Hey, wait! I need to get my timing worked out a little better the next time. I sure hope there will be a next time. And I hope it will be just a little bit warmer.

Until next time,
Kinley Marie

Monday, March 24, 2014

SHS: Memories Cling Like Smoke

Like the smell of smoke from the still smoldering ruins, the memories cling as tenaciously to our minds as smoke does to cloth.
On March 15, the old Stafford High School was destroyed by flames. We had been out of town and didn't know anything about it until Sunday morning, March 16.

The school sat just catty-cornered from the Stafford United Methodist Church. As I stood at the door and greeted people for the Sunday church service March 16, I kept glancing over at the front of the school, the upper floors blackened by soot and wood pieces hanging out of broken windows. When we saw flecks of white in the air, we weren't sure whether they were snow or ash.

After church, we explored, staying behind the yellow crime scene tape. As I looked at the 1916 date on the east doors, I thought about the history there.

1916 ... 98 years standing in that very spot.
But I was remembering another Sunday morning in December 1998. We had crossed the street after church that day, too. I had been taking photos outside the church, trying for that year's version of our annual photo Christmas card. 

But I wanted to mark another event. That Sunday, while Jill and Randy were dressed up, I took some photos of them in front of the school. A move to the new school just down the street to the east on Broadway was planned for February 1999. I wanted some photos of the two members of our family who had walked the halls of the grand old building as students. Randy graduated from Stafford High in 1974. Jill was a 7th grade student at the time, and the middle school attended classes there. (Brent didn't make the photos because he was a 5th grader and was still in the elementary school building.)
It was a minor miracle that I found the photos in my less-than-organized tubs of photos.
And then there were the photos of moving day, February 25, 1999. Bernard Bartlett carried mementos from the old school to the new one by a horse-drawn buggy.

Earlier, teams of students formed a version of a bucket brigade to transfer supplies from the top floors to the ground floor. They sat in the auditorium and listened to some history. Some of the students then carried desks and trophies to the waiting buggy.
Just as it had for many other families, the school was the centerpiece of the community. Randy's maternal grandmother Laura Russell (Ritts) graduated from there. So did both his paternal grandparents, Clarence Fritzemeier and Ava Hornbaker (Fritzemeier).

His Dad, Melvin Fritzemeier, graduated from SHS in 1948, and his Mom, Marie Ritts, got her diploma two years later. As I dug through tubs looking for old photos, I found a 1948 Staffordonian, the yearbook from Melvin's senior year.
The front of the yearbook showed the school through a window. Inside, someone had drawn a sketch of the school. (I think the artist may have been Lawrence Tretbar. Click on the photo to see it larger.)

Randy graduated there in 1974; his brother, Lyle, in 1976, and sister, Kathy, in 1984. Their graduation ceremonies were all in the old auditorium, where the memories were piled as deeply as the debris.
I took a photo of Jill on Moving Day 1999. The torch of education was passing from the old three-story building to the brand new addition a few blocks east.
It's there where Jill's graduation ceremonies happened in 2004 and Brent's two years later in 2006.

But last Sunday, I was remembering the old school. It's where I went to work part-time in the middle/high school office when Brent was a first grader. It was a teeny-tiny office I shared with Judy Clough. It's where I first accompanied for the high school choir under the direction of Presley Herndon. On several May days, I was one of four pianists who played Pomp and Circumstance on two pianos in the auditorium for SHS graduation.
It's where Jill debuted as Woodstock in "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" in 1996. It was a high school play, but as a fifth grader, she got to play the part of the little yellow bird. (My attempt to find a photo is unsuccessful so far.) She remembers staying up past her bedtime to go to play practice. She says that if Dad took her to town for practice, she got to get a pop. (I guess Mom wasn't so easy.)
Then, as a seventh grader, she joined the cast of "Grease."  It, like Charlie Brown, was under the direction of Pam Turner. Jill and several of the middle school kids, were added to the large cast. Grandma Marie made her a poodle skirt.
Jill sang a solo as Teen Angel (bottom left in the collage above). It would have been the last play in the old auditorium, produced November 13-14, 1998.
It's been a week of reminiscing as crews have torn down the walls of the old school. With three days of working baby calves, I didn't witness it in person.
Photo by Stafford Emergency Services

But the school's demise was center stage on Facebook news feeds for Stafford residents and SHS graduates.
Photos in collage by Janet Vasey Hardin

Just one week later, the majestic east entrance is all that's left of the three-story building. The corner of Broadway and Park will never be the same.
But the memories? The good thing is that they don't just drift into the atmosphere like smoke. They are alive and well.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Signs of Spring

Yesterday, it was like the daffodils woke up and knew that the calendar said "spring." The day before, the yellow blossoms were tucked firmly inside the green leaves. But yesterday, on the first day of spring, a few opened.
Two purple crocus also opened their petals to the sun.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had it right:  "Came the spring with all its splendor. All its birds and all its blossoms. All its flowers and leaves and grasses."

At our house, the birds are sandhill cranes that make a racket as they feed in the fields or fly overhead back toward Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in the evening. 

But Wadsworth missed one of the sounds and signs of spring, at least as it applies to life on the County Line. Today will be the third day of working baby calves.
Here are the sounds of our spring. You may need ear plugs!

We separate the moms and babies so that we can work the calves. The moms are none too pleased to be on the other side of the fence, and they vocalize their protests rather loudly.
They don't realize that they will reunited after their babies' "doctor appointments."
Round three of working the calves begins later this morning.  It's springtime on the County Line. The flowers say so. And so do the calves.

Today, I'm linked to Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom's Country Fair Blog Party. Click on the link to read other blog posts from the country. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's a Wrap, Aggie!

Our time with Flat Aggie has come to a close. When Aggie arrived from Miss Holbrook's fourth grade class at a charter school, Walden Academy, in Willows, California, we welcomed him to our farm on Salt Marsh Road. We live on the Stafford/Reno County line in South Central Kansas.

Stafford County is colored orange on this map of Kansas, and the orange dot is the city of Stafford. Reno County is the big rectangular county just to the right of Stafford County. Since we straddle the county line, we have farm and pasture ground in both counties. However, we probably identify more with Stafford County. It's where Randy attended school, as did our kids. It's where we go to church, participate in 4-H and where we do our banking and much of our other business. Our farm is just a few miles from the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Through the magic of travel across the country, our Flat Aggie had some special properties. He arrived in his "normal" size - about 81/2- by 11 inches. But he also "morphed" into sizes 2 to 3 times his original size so that the fourth graders could see him better in some situations on the farm. (Click on the links below for more details about each of Aggie's adventures.)

Our primary crop is wheat. But when Aggie arrived, it was cold and wintery. Hard red winter wheat like we raise is dormant in the winter, so there's nothing we do with it during this time of the year. (We did have the co-op fertilize it while Aggie was here.) However, because wheat is so important to our farm and our livelihood, I wanted Aggie and the fourth graders to know more about the life cycle of wheat during the nine months it takes to get from planting to harvest. Aggie did visit a wheat field as it is beginning to green up and grow.
The fourth graders will have their own opportunity to grow some wheat. Randy and I sent a box to Miss Holbrook's class at Walden Academy. In it, we included some Kansas wheat postcards which had a small packet of wheat and growing instructions attached. Thanks to Kansas Wheat for providing the postcards, as well as pencils, lapel pins and book marks. Randy is on the board of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, one arm of Kansas Wheat.

We also sent a Kailey's Ag Adventures anthology, a series from the Kansas Farm Bureau. Even though it's for a reading level younger than fourth grade, we hoped the pictures and stories would help supplement Aggie's adventures from here on The County Line.

During his visit, Aggie got to experience much more on the cattle side of our farming operation. Because Randy can't do field work in the wintertime months, we schedule our cows and heifers to calve beginning in late January and continuing into March. 

When Aggie arrived, we were experiencing bitter cold, sub-zero temperatures and snow. That is not good calving weather. One weekend, Aggie went with us as we tried to save baby calves during the bitter cold and snow. Two calves died that weekend, despite our best efforts to care for them.
I asked my blog readers and Facebook friends about whether I should tell the fourth graders that part of the story. I never intended to lie and say that the calves had survived. However, I did think about just not telling that particular story. However, everyone encouraged me to tell the whole story, not just the happy parts. Many fourth graders have experienced the loss of a pet or maybe even a family member, so they already understand that life includes death. Aggie learned that, too.
But we also had plenty of success stories from our cattle adventures.
Aggie helped us round up a baby who had strayed from the pasture and helped us return him to his mama.
We looked for a beaver in one of our pastures. We found a beaver dam, but not the beaver.
Aggie became a cattle wrangler and helped us gather and sort feeder calves so that we could take them to the cattle sale. He also got to see the big semi come to haul the cattle to the sale barn.
Then, the next day, Aggie went with us to the cattle sale and watched the feeder calves sell.
Aggie liked listening to the auctioneer so much that we took him to a farm sale at a neighboring farm. Randy bought some used equipment. Aggie and I tried to keep our hands down so we weren't unintentionally bidding!
We couldn't find a hard hat Aggie's size, but he still got to go with us as we toured an ethanol plant near Pratt.

We are so glad that Aggie came to The County Line to visit us. We hope that his adventures help tell the story of life on one Kansas farm. Thanks to Nicole and her Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom blog for the opportunity to host Aggie. She makes it possible for Flat Aggies to travel the country and learn about agriculture, and we sincerely appreciate the time and effort she takes to serve as a "travel agent" for Aggie.

We also are thankful to Kansas Wheat for the goodies we were able to send for the fourth graders. Thanks to Walden mom, Sandy, for delivering the package to the school and serving as Nicole and my contact to make Aggie's visit possible. 

You can keep up with Aggie's adventures on the Flat Aggie Facebook page. Thanks for visiting us, Aggie! Hope you enjoy your next adventure. Tell your friends at Walden Academy "Hi!" from Kansas!

I'm linked to Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom's Country Fair Blog Party. Click on the link to read other blog posts from the country.