Thursday, July 31, 2014

TDN? BMR? It's Alphabet Soup!

As a voracious reader and writer, I understand the ABCs - most of the time anyway. But when my farmer starts throwing around unfamiliar initials, I have to stop him and make sure he enunciates. Our alphabet-filled conversation centered around the 130 acres of a sorghum-sudan cross that he just finished planting.

But, before I get started on the whys, wherefores and alphabet soup related to sudan, I just have to point out that jet contrail in the sky. (Yes, I am easily distracted.) When I delivered Randy back to the field after lunch, it appeared to be falling from the sky. It was a different kind of sky writing, it seemed, saying, "Hey! Look at me!"
Back to the sudan:  Randy used the drill to plant the sudan, which we will use for cattle feed. It's a fast-growing hybrid that goes from seed to feed source in approximately 60 days. Sudan can be grazed or it can be put up for hay. We'll likely do some of both.
It's higher in TDN than alfalfa. TDN is total digestible nutrients. However, it is lower in protein. So it's a cheaper ration for maintaining weight in cows, but it's not desirable as a growing ration for feeder cattle.

Sudan also has a trait called BMR - brown midrib. After the sudan is grown and you cut the stalk in two, you can see a brown circle near the center. It makes the stalk more palatable and digestible for the cattle. (I will take Randy's word for it.)
The 0.40" of rain we got during our day of drizzle yesterday should help the sudan germinate and come up.

The sudan was planted on ground from which we'd harvested wheat. Next year, the same ground will be planted to corn in our crop rotation.

And there you have it - the next crop for which we'll slow down as we pass the field to see if the green is breaking through. It may not get the headlines devoted to wheat or corn, but it's an important cog in the wheel, too. Such is life on the farm.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Berry Main Dish Salad

Summer berries are still in season. While I am content to rinse them and eat them straight from the carton, I also like using them in fresh salads. The season never lasts long enough to suit me. I'm always a little sad when the price for a box of blueberries or raspberries makes it a luxury, rather than an option. (I guess I should be happy for the berry farmers.)

Anyway, I found a recipe for a salad and a blueberry vinaigrette online, but I wanted to make some revisions to make it a main dish salad. I chopped some hearts of romaine for the base, and I added some other seasonal fruits still on sale. For protein, add grilled chicken breast or grilled steak. (This beef-producing family would have used the photos of the steak, but we just may have gotten it a little on the medium well side instead of medium. Oh the joys of grilling! I did extra meat so that I could use it for fajitas for another meal.)

Crumbled goat cheese added smoothness and homemade candied walnuts added the contrast of crunch. The original recipe called for a couple ears of sweet corn, but I added some field corn instead, since that was readily available in the field across the road.

While I regularly use commercially-made dressings, this homemade blueberry vinaigrette with honey, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard added just the right mix of sweet and sour to the salad. Enjoy!
Summer Berry Main Dish Salad
Serves 4
2 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 ears sweet corn, shucked and kernels cut from cob
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cup blueberries
3/4 cup strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup Bing cherry slices (cutting away from the pit)
3/4 cup green grapes
4 oz. goat cheese
Sugared walnut or pecan halves (opt.)
Seasoned and grilled chicken or steak (about 3-4 oz. for each serving)

Blueberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette
(Dressing recipe from Iowa Girl Eats)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For meat:  I marinated the chicken breasts in Kraft Zesty Lime Vinaigrette. I used a dry steak rub for the steak. Grill the meats until done. Let rest, then cut into strips and add about 3 to 4 ounces of grilled chicken or beef to each main dish salad.

For dressing: Combine all ingredients and use blender to mix well. Set aside. Stir before using.

Chop romaine lettuce and divide among four plates or bowls. Distribute fresh fruits and corn equally on the four salads. Using a fork to break it up, put about 1 ounce of goat cheese on each salad. Just before serving, top with sugared walnuts. Top with Blueberry-Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste.

Note:  You may purchase sugared walnuts or another nut of your choice. You may also make your own by putting 1 cup walnuts in a heavy-duty skillet. Add 1/4 cup sugar. Heat on high heat, watching it closely. When the sugar starts to melt, keep stirring and evenly coat the nuts, taking care not to burn them. Remove from heat and put on parchment paper; allow to cool before using. You won't use all of these nuts for the salads, but put in an airtight container for use in other salads, etc.

Another idea: If you prefer a saltier component, add shelled pistachios instead of the sugared nuts.

Today, I'm linked to Wake Up Wednesdays. Click on the link to see recipes from bloggers all over the country.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kinley: Renovation Inspector

Kinley here, reporting from my Uncle Brent's house in Manhattan.

Grandma and I have not been given permission to reveal details about the remodeling taking place. Maybe it will be like the big reveal on HGTV's "Fixer Upper" or "Property Brothers." But I thought I'd come supervise the renovations on Saturday evening.

The contractor was off for the weekend, and Uncle Brent needed some extra help. While my Daddy helped with some heavy lifting, I performed a close-up inspection of the new flooring installed just this past week.
To keep things interesting, I decided to ask my crew to construct a fort from an emptied packing box. That gave me the opportunity to check the quality of the work closely and see how the new flooring would perform as a play surface for a discerning 2.5 year old.
I believe it will work admirably.
While I was down there, I checked out the workmanship on the countertop from the underside. Uncle Brent plans to put bar stools there so he'll have plenty of seating to watch football. I wonder if he'll invite me.
Uncle Brent also needed some gardening advice in his backyard. My Dad is more the lawn care guy, but he was busy helping set up a bed frame and helping lift Brent's TV out of the box. My Grandma is not much help when it comes to plants, but she and I went to explore. 
The former owners left Uncle Brent lots of pretty flowers. We wish the plants the best of luck as they transition to their new owner. They are going to need it. (Grandma says that's because she wasn't a very good teacher for Mommy or Uncle Brent went it comes to gardening. She says she's sorry about that, but hopefully, they learned a few other, non-gardening valuable lessons under her tutelage, whatever that means.)

I went back to my house on Saturday evening since I had another engagement on Sunday. Grandma stayed and helped on Sunday. I'm sure she got lonely without me.

Uncle Brent told my Mommy it was probably for the best that we weren't there on Sunday. He said that Grandma is a better worker when I'm not around. Grandma says she might resemble that remark.

Until next time,
Kinley Marie

Monday, July 28, 2014


I tell my kids that they'll have to dig through plastic tubs to find the story of their lives. Unlike my sister and sister-in-law, I don't have Jill's and Brent's photos carefully sorted and grouped chronologically in neat photo books or scrapbooks.

I have tons of photos, chronicling their lives. They just aren't organized. I'm not proud of that, but it's a fact.

When we sorted through memorabilia at my in-laws' house after their deaths, our basement became the repository for even more tubs. One day, as I was looking for some photos, I found a couple of pocket watches buried beneath an avalanche of family photos.

I asked Randy about them, since I didn't remember seeing them before. One of them sat on the dresser in his Grandpa Clarence and Grandma Ava Fritzemeier's bedroom. He's not sure which side of the family it belonged to - Fritzemeier or Hornbaker. The other was from his Grandma Laura Ritts' home. Again, we don't know anything beyond that.
Clarence & Ava (Hornbaker) Fritzemeier and one of the pocket watches
Unlike me, Randy has never been a person who likes to wear a wristwatch. Before his cell phone became his de facto clock, he carried a pocket watch for several years. They were just pocket watches purchased at discount stores, not family heirlooms.

The old watches are utilitarian. There is no fancy embossing or design. The outsides are scuffed, and I imagine Randy's ancestors pulling them out of jean pockets and marring the surface as they clicked open the face and checked the time. Neither of these watches still works, but they now sit on the shelves in the office, where they provide a nod to the past.

Last week, as I was reading a daily devotional that arrives each morning in my computer in box, one of those watches caught my eye. The devotional said:

A Time to Think

Time is too slow for those who wait, 
too swift for those who fear,
 too long for those who grieve,
 too short for those who rejoice,
 but for those who love,
 time is eternity.
 –Henry Van Dyke, author, educator, and clergyman

Yes, indeed.
(The little books were also in Marie's things. They record family birthdays. I have them sitting in a grouping in my dining room.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

One Person's Opinion

As a high school and college vocalist, I got nervous before contest performances. A smidgen of nerves is probably a good thing. But these were the nerves that made my stomach ache, my voice tremble and my breath support crumble. All those hours at voice lessons and in practice rooms were in peril because of my struggle with nerves.

My parents told me over and over again: "The judge is just one person's opinion on one day."

And I never forgot it, though it didn't seem to ease this first-born, Type A perfectionist's trepidation about being judged.

The sunrise photo at the top of this post was the Stafford County Fair's Reserve Grand Champion this year. It was probably not my favorite of all the entries I made for the 2014 fair. So if there were people who looked at the photo and wondered what in the world the judge was thinking, I would tell them: "Judging is just one person's opinion on one day."

Of course, it's nice to be recognized and have a lovely lavender ribbon decorating your photo as the crowds walk by. (Let's get real: There really aren't crowds at the Stafford County Fair, but you know what I mean.)

Before the fair, I sit in front of my computer and look through the thousands of photos I take each year. I hem and I haw, and I wonder why I'm doing it if it makes me uptight and anxious.

But, if nobody entered anything at the fair, there would be no reason for anybody to go to the fair. And if nobody went to the fair, there wouldn't be a chance to visit with people from across the county whom you see only once in a coon's age. There wouldn't be a reason to get a $1 hamburger at the 4-H food stand on Farm Bureau night or steal a bite of your husband's coconut creme pie, fresh from the Wheatland Cafe.

And it wouldn't give me a chance to smile again at a picture of my favorite toddler. (As I labeled this one:  It's never too soon to begin the brainwashing!)
It's an opportunity to again realize the beauty in my very own backyard.
It's a chance to again be thankful for the wheat that got cut before another harvest storm rolled through.

So, yes, I entered a bunch of photos. (The ones I shared here all got blue ribbons, but I also got a handful of red and white ribbons. Only two of my enlargements didn't place this year.) The premium money doesn't cover the cost of the enlargements, the mounting board and the special plastic sleeves required for display. 
This was entered in the computer manipulated class.
But that's not the point.

People have been experiencing fairs since the days of the Roman empire (At least that's what Wikipedia - the authority of all things - told me). I suppose there's a little rush in being chosen "best" at something, satisfying that little kernel of competitiveness in the human spirit.

But I truly think it's about helping to make sure fairs last another 2,000 years. (Maybe women in Jerusalem met in the city square while gathering water and decided who had the best flat bread. Yes, I know I have a vivid imagination.)

Fairs bring volunteers together to work on something that's bigger than what any one person could accomplish on their own. It's about being part of a community.

I'll give that a purple ribbon any day ...
... or a camouflage ribbon like the 4-H premium auction buyers got this year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fruit Basket Upset

Every year, I think I should plant some herbs in my backyard. But then I admit that I'm the worst gardener ever, and I don't follow through.

When we were helping Brent paint at his new house a week ago, we discovered that the former homeowners had some mint growing just outside the back door. I had seen a couple of fruit salad recipes that included fresh mint in the dressing, so I decided I would collect my pay in fresh mint. (I don't know that we were worth even that much. As I told Brent:  You get what you pay for. Just in case you're considering hiring painters for a home improvement project, I wouldn't count on us. I don't think we'll be opening Mom and Pop Painting Services anytime soon.)

Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries were on sale at my hometown grocery store. And I had fresh mint straight from Manhattan. I added some green grapes for color and some watermelon because it's summertime. It makes a big salad, but the leftovers are great. Besides eating it for several meals, we also spooned it over waffles for our Sunday brunch after church. Yummy!

One of the recipes I referenced said to use 10 to 12 cups of assorted fruit, and it included apricots, honeydew and kiwi. Cantaloupe also would have added another color to the mix, so I will probably add that the next time, too. Combine whatever fruits you like - or the ones on sale for the week - and use the dressing over different combinations for a taste of summertime freshness. 
Mojito Fruit Salad
3 cups watermelon balls
2 cups strawberries, chopped
6 oz. raspberries
12 oz. blueberries
6 oz. blackberries
1 cup green grapes

1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp. finely-minced fresh mint (about 8-10 leaves)

Wash all the fruit and combine in a large bowl. Mix together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle over fruit and toss gently. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes for the natural juices in the fruits to come out, and then serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

I served this as a fruit salad for a meal and had lots of leftovers. The next day, I served it as a fruit topping on waffles. It could also be used for the fruit component on a romaine- or spinach-based salad - with or without meat for a cool main dish. 

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

From Point A to Point B

Rain is both a blessing and curse to a hay crop.

Randy was thrilled to be putting down nice, thick windrows of alfalfa. The rains that brought wheat harvest to a screeching halt in June also made some of the best alfalfa we've had after several years of drought.

But, after he got the hay down, it rained some more - a little more than 2 inches on the freshly swathed alfalfa, in fact.

However, there was a break in the weather and the guys put up 300 bales of alfalfa in two days. They got it done just about the time the baler broke. It's in Hutchinson at the repair shop now, getting the rollers inside the baler replaced.

All total, the guys have put up approximately 500 bales from 240 acres this summer. (We have 210 acres of alfalfa and we put up another 30 acres for a neighbor.) Then, they have to move the bales from Point A to Point B.

I've covered most aspects of hay production before (swathing, raking and baling), but I don't think I've shared too many photos of moving the bales out of the field.

We put a bale mover on the back of the tractor, kind of like a two-pronged fork.  Randy backs up the tractor and puts one big bale on each "tine" of the implement.
 Sometimes, we store the bales right at the edge of the field. In this case, he drove a few hundred yards away.
Here is the back view of the bales on the fork.
Then, he backed the tractor up to put the bales into the line-up.
Better him than me. Actually, Jill did the majority of the bale moving when she was home. I wish I could find a photo of her. I know I took some, but I haven't run across them.
After he got the bales into position, he lowers the fork and pulls the "tines" out of the bale. Then it's back to pick up the next two bales.
 Photo from 2008

With the bales along the road, they are readily accessible for the guys to feed our own cattle in the winter ...
... or sell to other buyers.
Randy is going to play the odds and put down more hay today. Let's just hope the parts come in as predicted for the baler, so that the alfalfa can be baled when it's ready to go.

Timing is everything.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Big Rig

Well, we're movin' on up,
To the semi side.
To a huge ol' big rig, ridin' high.
Movin on up,
To the semi side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Yes, I have a revised version of The Jeffersons' theme song floating around in my head after we added a semi and grain trailer to the fleet at the County Line last week. We have finally joined the big leagues, I guess, since many of our farm friends and family members have had semis for years.

My alter ego -- the teenaged truck driver from the 1970s -- is approaching this newest addition to the farm fleet with a little trepidation, if the truth is told.

Even if it does have air conditioning.
The 1999 International 9200 with a Detroit engine and a 10-speed transmission has been around the block a few times. In fact, it has 640,000 miles on it. So while it's new to us, it is by no means new. The DMF grain trailer is 32 feet long.

The decision to go truck shopping happened in the middle of harvest. A little rain during harvest can be a dangerous thing: It gives your husband time to think AND time to shop. Throw in the fact that we've had truck problems the last couple of harvests, and "Cha-Ching" goes the wallet!

With a large corn crop sitting in the fields, the semi should come in handy for hauling grain to the elevator. Since we don't irrigate and hadn't raised corn until the last two years, we hadn't seriously considered a semi before now. 
Randy also tells me that semis and trailers are more affordable than they used to be, especially the well-used ones. (It kind of sounds like me rationalizing that the baby/toddler clothes were on sale, doesn't it? Only my pièce de résistance isn't nearly so expensive!) 
But how could we resist the purchase when a Black Ice air freshener or two were thrown in - free of charge. (Kind of like those ball caps you get when you buy a tractor.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday on Friday

Throwback Thursday seems to be a popular feature on Facebook on Thursdays. However, I spent all day on Wednesday (and a good portion of Tuesday morning) at the Stafford County Fairgrounds, helping with the 4-H foods department. So my Throwback Thursday has evolved into a Throwback Friday blog post. (It seems that my motto this week is like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland:  "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.")

Our family has plenty of old photos related to the Stafford County Fair and the 4-H program. The photo at the top is from 1967. Randy was a 5th grader and in his first year in Stafford County 4-H with his first 4-H beef project.

Our kids continued that tradition 25 years later or so. Jill's and Brent's 4-H records take up a yardstick-long piece of book shelf real estate in the office. But what you learn in 4-H is much more valuable than you can encapsulate in a record book.

Before you can confidently lead your bucket calf into the show ring at the county fair, you have to put in the time.

You sometimes have to dig in your heels and keep practicing - day after day after day.
You have to go out and feed the calves before school and check on them after you get home.
But the 4-H program does more than help you figure out how to lead a calf in a show ring or how to show a pig.
It's about becoming a leader and teaching what you know to other people, too.
Jill's friend, Holly, & Jill making pretzels for a demonstration
Jill, several years later, teaching that skill to someone else.

A few years ago, The High Plains Journal ran a story about 4-H that shared this study:
Young people in 4-H are three times more likely to contribute to their communities than youth not participating in 4-H.
4-Hers all across the nation are empowered to take on the leading issues of their towns, counties and states and make a lasting difference. ... 4-H youth get the hands-on, real-world experience they need to become leaders and to make positive differences in their communities.
"The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development"
 from Tufts University 

While I didn't take livestock to the Pratt County Fair, I did my share of foods talks and experimented with recipes before taking them to the fairgrounds to be judged. I learned to sew and crochet, too. But it was the leadership skills that most impacted my life as a child and today.
I made the cookies and the dress.
My family's involvement with 4-H started with my parents back in the 1940s. Both were members of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club in Pratt County, the club that my siblings and I later joined. (It later combined with another club and became the Lincoln Climbers.) All four of us and all seven of the grandchildren have been part of the 4-H program, two in Pratt County in the same club their grandparents attended, two in Stafford County and three in Clay County.

Randy's parents were leaders in the Stafford County 4-H program, too, though we're not sure they were 4-H members themselves. For a dozen years, Randy & I were community leaders of the Corn Valley 4-H Club, the same club Randy was a part of back when he took his first steer to the fair.

In 2006, we celebrated 100 years of Kansas 4-H. The youth program has been part of the national landscape since 1902.

The 4-H website says:
The 4-H idea is simple: help young people and their families gain the skills they need to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy. That idea was the catalyst to begin the 4-H movement, and those values continue today.
Growing through 4-H isn't like magic (though that self-determined project was one of Brent's favorites when he was a little guy.)
There's no sleight of hand. It requires putting in the time and effort - as an individual, as a family and as a community.

That's how the magic happens ... the kind that lasts a lifetime.