Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May Day! May Day!

May Day! May Day!

It's not just an SOS sent out by a struggling aircraft or sinking ship. Tomorrow is May 1 or May Day.  When Jill and Brent were little, we enjoyed making and delivering May baskets. For those who don't know about the tradition, May baskets are delivered on May 1. They are traditionally filled with flowers and treats and left hanging on a friend or neighbor's front doorknob. Once the basket is in place, the deliverer rings the doorbell and runs off to hide and watch the recipient's reaction.
My husband's parents lived just two miles north of us when Jill & Brent were small. They were always recipients of a May Day basket. And their over-the-top reactions always thrilled my little cohorts. It wasn't long until Jill & Brent would burst out from the bushes and make their presence known. (I wish I could find photos, but I haven't run across them yet.)
Spring flowers are always a centerpiece of May baskets, but a homemade treat is another welcome addition to the surprise. 
If you don't have small baskets to use for your May surprises, you can make them from items found around your house.

Here are just a few examples:
  • Use a cake mix box and cut it down to about 4 1/2 inches high. Wrap the box with flowered gift wrap, etc.
  • Use a 12-inch doily or pastel construction paper and fold it into a cone
  • Back when Jill & Brent were young, we used the green baskets that fruits and vegetables came in at the grocery store and wove ribbon through the holes. However, produce is now packed in clear plastic tubs instead. You may cut the top off the plastic tub and use the bottom for your flowers and cookies. If you wish, you can add leftover Easter grass or shredded paper to the bottom. You will have to put one cookie in the front and one in the back so that the tub doesn't tip!
  • On each, just attach a ribbon with staples and use the ribbon to hang to the door knob! 
Here's an easy recipe to use to fill the baskets, if you choose to leave a treat along with the flowers. Do you have May Day memories?
Toll House Cookie Bars

2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (or mini M & Ms)
1 cup chopped nuts (opt.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, soda and salt; set aside. In large bowl, cream together butter, sugars and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips (or M & Ms) and nuts, if desired. Spread into greased 15- by 10- by 1-inch pan. bake 20 minutes. Cool and cut into squares or bars.

Today, I'm linked to Wake Up Wednesdays. Click on the link for more recipes from food bloggers across the nation. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Miracles in the Making?

God says, "Leave the miracle part to me. 
I've got the seed, the soil, the sunshine, the rain and the seasons.
I'm God and all this miracles stuff is easy for me. 
I have reserved something very special for you 
and that is to plant the seed."
--Jim Rohn, Author & Motivational Speaker

Two weeks ago, I walked across the road and took photos of Randy planting corn. It was one of those days when the brilliant blue sky dusted with wisps of clouds beautifully offset the brown earth. My farmer was planting seeds.

A farmer believes in miracles. If he didn't, he'd never plant a seed. Last Friday, we walked across the road again, and little green corn sprouts lined up like soldiers down rows of brown earth.
We had gotten 0.40" of rain Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. That little bit of moisture had perked up these tiny, delicate plants. Do we need more rain to make this start a crop? Yes. We didn't get more than a sprinkle over the weekend when some areas in Central Kansas got as much as 1.5 inches of much-needed moisture.

Do we need the wind to die down and quit blowing dirt across Kansas? Absolutely, and that's where the miracle comes in, I suppose.
Wheat is still our primary crop at the County Line. But this is our second year of adding dryland corn to the rotation. In recent years, there has been some dryland corn planted in our area, but wheat is the dominate crop. For most in this immediate area, irrigation is not an option. Our proximity to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and its salt marshes is not ideal for quality ground water for irrigation.
Corn was a primary crop in this area when it was settled. The 6th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture of 1888 reported that corn was the main crop for Stafford County, covering 48,030 acres. Oats were grown on 10,849 acres, while the winter wheat crop totaled 8,717 acres. Pasture ground was tallied at 13,446 acres. Other crops in 1888 were millet, spring wheat, rye, Irish and sweet potatoes, sorghum, castor beans, cotton, flax, hemp, tobacco and broom corn. Swine outnumbered cattle in livestock. (Information taken from Stafford County History: 1870-1990.)

The corn across the road was planted on ground where we harvested wheat last year.

We have a no-till planter, so we are planting into the residue left after the wheat was harvested. The multi-fingered blades cut through the wheat straw so that the seed can be deposited into the soil. After the last few days of relentless wind, Randy's investment in buying the no-till planter seems smarter by the minute. With the sky (and we humans) choked by flying dirt, the residue on the surface is helping to keep a fragile hold on the soil in the corn fields as the small plants emerge.
Randy also applies fertilizer to give the seed a boost of energy for germination and early growth.
In some ways, I guess we are returning to Randy's Stafford County farming ancestors' roots by planting corn. However, the corn planted today is much different than the varieties planted 125 years ago.
Today, many farmers plant RIB corn (refuge in a bag) - whether it's irrigated or dryland.
The green-colored seeds have a different genetic make-up and are treated with a different insecticide than the pink-colored seeds. The pink seeds are a refuge for several different insects in a field, giving them a habitat to satisfy EPA rules. Before RIB technology was available, farmers had to plant so many acres in a field to a corn that wasn't resistant to the bugs and the rest of the field could be resistant. With RIB technology, farmers can plant it all at the same time, without changing seed and figuring acreage requirements. 
Our planter was set at 18,800 corn seeds per acre. Each $260 bag had 80,000 seeds and plants 4.3 acres. One bag of certified wheat seed costs $15 and plants a little more than 1/2 an acre. A bag of milo seed costs $100 and plants 14 acres.
Prior to last year, we planted milo as our row crop. Corn offers a potential for higher yields (or so my Farmer says. I don't think he is just justifying the purchase of a corn header for the combine). There is more drought tolerance built into dryland corn seeds than previously available. 

Additionally, corn is Round-Up ready, and milo is not. We have been having trouble controlling weeds in milo. If there are weeds and grasses in the corn, we can spray with Round-Up without harming the growing plants.

As with any crop, there is a great deal of time between planting and harvest. We will need rain to fall and hail to stay away and the wind to quit blowing in 50 MPH gusts. But, my always optimistic farmer is hopeful. That's just the way he's built, though I must say the unrelenting wind is cracking his armor of optimism just a bit. 

I know for certain that miracles happen,
but only for those who hang on to hope.
--Nick Vujicic
Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life 
I walked across the road last night near sunset, and the little plants looked like they'd been in a nine-round prize fight against a heavyweight champion. They have. They've been beaten by the unrelenting Kansas wind for the past three days. And the forecast today won't give the tender plants a breather in the neutral corner either. Randy says the corn can come back from this beat-down. I think they will have to be champion prize fighters to do it!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Famous Trio - K-State Style

There are plenty of famous trios.
The Chipmunks - Alvin, Simon & Theodore.
Huey, Dewy & Louie - Donald Duck's nephews.
The Bee Gees
Peter, Paul & Mary
The list goes on.

Now, our little family has a famous trio, too. Well, maybe not famous, but this trio spruced up K-State Athletics' debut of its master plan for the Vanier Football Complex.

Eric & Jill called Saturday afternoon.

"Did you look at the master plan for the Vanier complex?" Eric asked.

"Yes, I watched the video," I told them.

"Well, go to The photo you took of us going toward the stadium last fall is there."

When I finally clicked through to the right place, I could see it, too ... if I looked closely enough.
Eric circled their little K-State family in the photo he posted to Facebook, where he wrote:
I guess they needed to spiff up the renderings of the Vanier complex, so they added the best looking K-State family they could find ; ) Check out the original picture; and then find our family (mini sized) in the bottom left of the renderings!
I downloaded the rendering and cropped it so we could see it more closely. Yep, that was Eric, Kinley and Jill walking hand-in-hand toward Bill Snyder Family Stadium at Kinley's first football game of 2013.

Here's the original photo, which appeared on the blog September 17, 2013, where Kinley the K-Stater gave a Wildcat sideline report.
I think it's amazing that Eric saw it and recognized it.  I don't know who at K-State Sports found the photo, but this K-State family is loving being a tiny (and I do mean tiny - almost microscopic) part of this next phase of K-State football history.
It's a legacy that began long, long ago with my Grandpa, Shelby Neelly, who got K-State letters as a football player in 1927, 1931 and 1932. (He had to go back home and earn money before he could come back to finish his degree. That's the reason for the gap in years.).
(At left above, a page from an old K-State program. Grandpa is at the top righthand corner of the old program page. At the top right, he's wearing his K-State sweater. He was Fan of the Game at a K-State women's basketball game in 2002 at age 98.)

My Dad was also on the 1953 K-State football team. He's No.35 in the photo below. When he arrived on the K-State campus in the fall of 1952, he tried out for football and lettered his freshman year. He was on the squad his sophomore year and made the traveling squad for the game at Colorado State University. His most unique football experience was getting knocked out during practice by K-State's All-American and future pro player, Veryl Switzer.
Is it any wonder we bleed purple around here? Randy & I sit in the south end zone during football games, so the new Vanier complex at the north end zone (and its accompanying giant scoreboard and video board) will give us an even better view for Wildcat Victories!

I'm sure that cute little family on the renderings will inspire donors to give the big bucks, right?! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

"Where there's smoke, there's fire." Some of the cows didn't seem too concerned about a hay bale that was flaming just yards away from their morning buffet. But with 45 mph winds from the south, I didn't share their nonchalance.
A hay bale in a round feeder caught fire yesterday morning. We assume that it was caused by spontaneous combustion. Randy was returning from a doctor's appointment in Great Bend and saw the smoke. Since it was so windy, I'd opted for the treadmill in the basement, so I was oblivious that smoke was billowing from the south.

We grabbed shovels and went out to the pasture to try and keep the fire contained. Randy called Jake to fill a water container on the back of the 4-wheeler and to bring it to the pasture. 
The process of spontaneous combustion involves both microbial growth and chemical changes, according to a publication from Washington State University Extension. At the time, I was more concerned with putting out the fire and less with the root cause.
I began my campaign for Randy to call the fire department. The hay bale was south of a shelterbelt, and I was afraid if the fire spread there, the old cedar trees would light up like Roman candles on the 4th of July. That could spread all along the tree row, and my house and the old barn could be in danger, especially with the wind howling. Because the cattle congregate at the bales to eat, there was also plenty of manure to fuel the fire. There's a reason the pioneers used cow patties to heat their homes in the winter.
And, yesterday, Reno County was one of five Kansas counties in a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning for the possibility of "extreme grassland fire danger." (I always wonder how they designate the warnings by county lines. I'm guessing all of Kansas should have been in a red flag warning yesterday.)

"Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly and become very difficult to control," the advisory stated. (I had just read that as I prepared my Central Kansas report for KFRM 550 AM radio, so it was fresh in my mind!)

So, Randy called 9-1-1.  We were happy to see the lights and hear the sirens racing towards us from the south.
It may have seemed like overkill to have two small trucks, a larger truck and a supplemental water truck arrive to put out a hay bale fire. But we are very thankful for the quick response from the Sylvia-based Reno County Fire District No. 6 crew.
Once they'd put some water on the fire, Randy helped them move the circular bale feeder.
Then they could pour more water on the still-burning straw. 
Jake went to get the tractor so we could spread out the bale and knock down more of the flames.
We are thankful for the service of these volunteer firefighters. There just may be cookies at the May fire meeting.
You can see in this photo how much dirt the wind was moving. It was WINDY! Here, the truck was getting a refill from the supplemental tanker truck.

I'm linked to the Country Fair Blog Party hosted by:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resurrection Rolls

"I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date.
"No time to say 'Hello," 'Goodbye,'
"I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!"

The White Rabbit was late in Alice in Wonderland. Easter has come and gone, and this recipe would have been more timely before the big day. For several years, I've looked up recipes for Resurrection Rolls, but I didn't actually make them until last Friday, prior to our Saturday Easter celebration in Topeka. 

I could wait until next year and hope that I remembered I had this recipe lurking around in the files. But I had a request for the recipe. Plus, Jill says she likes these better than cinnamon rolls, so I will likely make them again before Easter. 

The rolls represent the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, thus the name. You put a large marshmallow inside a piece of dough and seal it up. After baking, the roll is hollow inside.

If you want to make them with children, grandchildren or a Sunday School class, here is the symbolism:
  • The piece of dough represents the cloth they wrapped Jesus' body in for burial. 
  • The marshmallow represents Jesus' body.
  • The butter and sugar-cinnamon mixture represent the oils and spices His body was anointed with for burial.
  • Seal the roll tightly around Jesus' body, like the stone was rolled in front of the tomb to secure it. 
  • Wait for the "rising." (Obviously, you're not waiting three days, but you can make that point with the children.)
To speed up this process, you can use frozen yeast rolls that you've thawed instead of making the dough from scratch. I've also seen several recipes that use a can of crescent rolls (and less butter, sugar and cinnamon, since you're only making eight rolls.)

If you're using this for a Sunday School class, you can read the story from the Bible as the rolls are baking. They are so good you won't want to wait until next Easter to make them. And the Easter story is one we should remember every day, not just once a year amidst white lilies and brand new dresses.
Homemade Resurrection Rolls
Makes 32
1/2 recipe Kim's yeast roll dough
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

32 large marshmallows

Make yeast dough as directed. (Click on the above link or use a favorite homemade yeast dough recipe.) Let rise until doubled in bulk. Divide dough in half. Use the other half for crescent rolls, cinnamon rolls or additional Resurrection Rolls.

Divide remaining dough into 32 pieces. Mix sugar and cinnamon together. Dip large marshmallow into melted butter. Roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Flatten one piece of dough. Put marshmallow in the middle of dough, wrapping the dough around and securing the marshmallow inside, making sure it is well covered. Dip into melted butter again and then roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. You can place the balls in muffin cups or place 16 each in two 13- by 9-inch pans. Let them rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until lightly browned. When you open the rolls, you'll find that the rolls are hollow inside, like Christ's empty tomb. (I did find that the rolls boiled over a bit in the muffin tins, so you need to line the oven with foil if you choose muffin tins.The marshmallow does melt out, making a gooey sauce in the bottom of the pan, which you don't want in your oven.)
Today, I'm linked to Wake Up Wednesdays. Click on the link for recipes from across the country.

I'm linked to the Country Fair Blog Party hosted by:
Nicole of Tales of A Kansas Farm Mom; Taysha of Dirt Road Charm; Danielle of High Heels and Shotgun Shells and Laurie of Country Linked.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Kinley and Hannah didn't get the most eggs at the Susannah Wesley United Methodist Church Easter event and egg hunt. But I'll bet they won the prize for most paparazzi and cheerleaders. Besides their Mommies and Daddies, they had three sets of grandparents and an uncle at the event. Let's just say the cameras and iPhones were clicking away.

On Saturday, the cousins went to the Easter celebration at Jill's and Eric's church. It began with stickers, coloring, games and "fishing" for prizes.
Then, it was time for the egg hunt.  The children were told they could collect 19 eggs each, which seemed to be a generous amount to me. Kinley left with 4. Hannah gathered 2. They were much more enthralled with the church playground. That seemed OK with the parents, who were already contemplating how to ration the candy. (Maybe the Dads were hoping for more so that they could "borrow" some.)
After the gender reveal and naptime for two girls, it was Round 2 for Easter egg hunting. Again, the slide provided a distraction, but they did manage to find all the eggs - eventually - with plenty of encouragement.
We took the girls on a field trip to Orschlen's to check out the baby chicks and the bunnies. We did not purchase either item.
The Sunday morning service at Susannah Wesley was packed with music, which Kinley and this Grandma loved. It was also fun to see Kinley go to children's sermon by herself and get a prime spot right by Pastor Maria.
After church, it was time to take photos in Kinley's Easter finery.
They were usually action shots!
She is one busy girl!
The Kansas wind turned out to provide more than just a method for messing up Easter hairdos. It also propelled a pinwheel from Kinley's Easter basket from Grandma and Grandpa.
We also got her a couple of Llama Llama books. (It's one of her favorite characters.) Mommy helped her add some Minnie Mouse bling to her wardrobe.
Mommy's and Daddy's basket also had the movie, Frozen. (Eric wondered whether it was a gift more for Jill or for Kinley). But I hear it was a hit with the short girl at their house. Grandma wishes she'd been there to see it and relish the soundtrack with my little music maven. Maybe next time! It was a great weekend - even without an afternoon movie matinee!