Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I like the competition cooking show, "Chopped," on the Food Network. I usually DVR it, and watch it while walking on the treadmill. (The irony is not lost on me:  I watch chefs prepare calorie-laden food while I attempt to walk off some calories.)

Anyway, we had our own version of "Chopped" on the County Line last week, but it didn't involve mystery ingredients tucked into brown wicker picnic baskets. And I wasn't tempted to eat it. Instead, our 2014 silage crop got chopped into cattle feed for this winter.
If you're a regular reader of Kim's County Line, you know how I like using my 6-foot-1-inch tall "measuring stick" to assess the height of the crops we produce. Silage is rather tall - whether you're comparing it to my lovely model or the Jaguar cutter.
Back when Randy was young, his folks and a neighbor family got together to cut silage. The families shared a one-row, pull-type silage cutter. Then they upgraded to a two-row, pull-type silage cutter. They each provided a tractor, one to pull the cutter and the other to use to pack the trench silo.

They each furnished a truck to haul the cut silage from the field to the silo. And the wives made a harvest meal for the four- to six-man crew. Randy says it took two days to get everything ready. It took a week to get both family's silage cut and in the silos. And then it took another two days to get everything cleaned up.

These days, we hire Sallebradra Harvesting to cut our silage. They get it done in a day. That's my kind of harvest!
We grow the silage (also known as forage sorghum) for cattle feed. This particular variety is dual purpose: It has both grain and forage (or roughage), both of which are important to the cattle's diets as TDN - total digestible nutrients.

Silage cutting is another one of those choreographed farm "dances." The silage feeds into the cutter and is chopped. An auger carries the chopped silage into the truck.
All this happens "on the go," with the truck and the cutter continuing in sync through the field until they get to the end of the rows. They then move into position for the next swath down the field.

If maneuvering around curves in the field wasn't impressive enough, one truck driver backed up to save time. (It was just for a short distance, but I was still impressed.)
The cattle were evidently enthralled with the process, too. (Or maybe they were dreaming of their full bellies this winter. Or maybe they are just curious.)
As one truck was filled up, another arrived back from the silo to collect another load.
We store the silage in a trench silo. The full truck backs up into the silo.
The driver tilts the truck bed to dump out the silage, dumps the load, and then goes back to the field.
The tractor driver then packs the silage down. There are two goals for packing the silage. It allows more to be put into silo, and it helps the fermenting process. Once in the silo, the silage goes through an "ensiling" process. It goes through chemical changes, and the heat builds up. It raises the pH of the silage so that it doesn't spoil or ferment any longer. The top 6 inches of it will rot, then it forms an airtight seal, protecting the silage underneath.
After we bring the cows and calves off the summer pastures, the guys will start feeding the silage to the cattle. The mama cows will get the silage as is. For the feeder calves, Randy & Jake will add about 3 to 4 pounds of vitamin- and mineral-enriched grain per head, since they need the additional energy to grow to get ready for market.
Photos from Winter 2011 - (from upper left) Scooping out silage from the trench silo with the loader tractor; dumping it in the feed truck; the truck putting it in the feed troughs; the cattle enjoying their breakfast!
(This winter, the guys will get to use the new feed truck. They may have to draw straws to see who gets the honors!)

It's good to get another harvest crossed off the books ... and to see the cattle's "pantry" full and ready for Old Man Winter.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Good Day for Football ... Or Wheat Planting

There was a football ballgame in Manhattan on Saturday. But the Wildcats had to get the job done without us this week. We were in the midst of a job of our own - wheat planting.

In between helping the guys move the tractor and drill, seed wheat truck and fertilizer pickup from field to field, I watched the game on TV. I saw the American flag waving in the pretty blue, cloud-dotted sky over Bill Snyder Family Stadium and thought, "Wow, it would be a gorgeous day to shoot photos at the ballgame."

But it was a pretty day to shoot photos of wheat planting, too.

We began planting the 2015 wheat crop a week ago on Monday, September 22. We begin this Monday morning with approximately one-third of our 1,400 acres planted.
Here in Central Kansas, we plant winter wheat. It's planted in the fall and then goes dormant during the cold months of winter before coming out of its "hibernation" and growing again next spring, then maturing for a June harvest.

We saved some of our 2014 crop in bins on the farm to use as seed wheat. It's binned during harvest, and then we load it into the truck to take to Miller Seed Farms near Partridge for cleaning. They treat it with a fungicide, which helps protect the small wheat plants from disease. It's also treated with an insecticide which helps keep bugs at bay. (Those treatments are what gives the wheat its pink tinge.)
We also buy some certified seed from Miller Seed Farm to plant for our own seed wheat for the following year. This year, Randy bought 1863, a Kansas State University-developed variety, and Cedar, a WestBred-developed wheat seed. This helps keep the purity in the seed.
We got 0.80" of rain last Wednesday. It was a timely rain for us, and the guys are still planting into moisture. This is different from the past three years, when we've dusted in wheat in extremely dry conditions.
We get the fertilizer at the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op and haul it in a tank to the field. Randy applies a starter fertilizer to give the seeds a headstart. It's called 19-17: It's 19 percent nitrogen and 17 percent phosphorous. He applies 12 gallons of 19-17 fertilizer per acre.

This summer, the guys put anhydrous fertilizer  on the wheat ground at a rate of 60 pounds per acre .
And now we wait. Yesterday, as we drove by a field on the way to church, Randy squinted his eyes and said, "I think I see some green." For the record, I didn't.

As with every planting season, I think about the optimism that seems to be part of the fabric of every farmer. They put a seed in the ground and then wait like a kid on Christmas morning. They slow down as they pass a planted field, just waiting for that first glimmer of green. And then the miracle begins again for yet another season. (Or so we hope and pray!)
I'll be getting fertilizer today, as well as bringing the noon meal to the field so the guys can keep the tractors rolling. And so a new week begins on the County Line!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Bars

Pretty please with a cherry on top!

I remember saying it when I was a little girl when I really, really, really wanted something. I'm fairly confident it didn't work to sway my parents.

I thought of the phrase again when I added dried cherries to a chocolate chip bar cookie recipe. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate-covered cherries, but the tart dried cherries, teamed with both white and semi-sweet chocolate, were a tasty combination.

I left most of the bars plain, since I was just transporting them to the field for evening suppers. But I always like to figure out ways to make a Plain Jane bar fancy enough to put on a cookie tray or use for a women's luncheon. So I dressed up a few of the bars with some melted almond bark and used a decorator's tube to drizzle it in a zigzag pattern over cut bars. Then, I did put a cherry on top, using a little of the melted bark to make it stick.
If you had pink candy coating, that would add another pop of color. You could also make an icing with powdered sugar, maraschino cherry juice and a little butter and drizzle it on top for color. 

When I'm in a hurry, bar cookies are the answer, since you fix them, throw all the dough in a pan to bake at one time and then cut when cool. I especially like those recipes prepared in a jelly-roll pan because I can stretch them for even more meals to the field trips.

They would work well for a tailgate party, too. I'm hoping that my Wildcats can come back this week with a victory over UTEP.  Pretty please with a cherry on top?!

They'll have to do it without us, though, since we'll be staying home to plant wheat.

Chocolate Cherry Bars
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 5-oz. pkg. dried cherries
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts (opt.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 15- by 11-inch jellyroll pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars until well blended. Add vanilla and eggs, mixing well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips, dried cherries and nuts (opt.).

Spread evenly in the prepared baking pan, using a flat spatula. Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Don't overbake.

If you'd like to dress them up, you can melt 2 ounces of white candy coating in the microwave. Put in a decorator's tube and zig-zag over cut bars. Top with a dried cherry, using a little bit of melted candy to secure. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fall Wildflowers: Snapshot Kansas

It makes sense that a place like this is called Peace Creek.
I love this time of year, when the goldenrod casts its yellow happiness over the landscape as it prepares for fall.
The moths find nourishment from the tiny yellow flowers ...
... and caterpillars await their transformation to winged beauty. 
The Monarch butterflies pause briefly in our Kansas plains as they make their way to Mexico for the winter.
The yellow in their stained glass wings mirrors the landscape as they dine on the prairie's nectar.
Last week, the Snapshot Kansas challenge was fall wildflowers. Our alfalfa isn't wild, but it does provide a pretty backdrop for winged creatures who flit and float above the purple-dotted green fields before the fall freeze that's sure to come in a matter of weeks.

Even the grasses are like flowers when lit with the soft kiss of sunset.

Looking at these photos just confirmed the message from a Guideposts email devotional that I saved:

A Time to Think

The more I study nature, 
the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.
 –Louis Pasteur, French chemist

A Time to Act

Take notice of the changes that are blooming around you.

A Time to Pray

God, thank You for the moments that wake me up to this perfectly beautiful world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Many Faces of Brooke

There's a whole novel in the sighs and squeaks of a newborn baby.
And those hands ... well, I could watch her hands the whole day.
Jill says Miss Brooke raises both hands in surrender to sleep quite often. She looks like a champion sleeper to me, though her Mommy and Daddy might disagree in the middle of the night.
The subtle shifts of expression are an unending sense of wonder for a Grandma.

Brooke was sleepier than normal last Friday (or so I hear.) I guess her trip to the zoo tired her out.
Quiet is good sometimes. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Zoo Diary by Kinley Marie

The Zoo Diary
By Kinley Marie

Hello, folks! It's been awhile since Grandma let me take over on Kim's County Line. A lot has happened to me since I last wrote. Most importantly, I'm a big sister. It's quite a responsibility to show my sister, Brooke, all about this big old world we live in.

Since Grandma and Grandpa Fritzemeier were in town, I thought I'd entertain all of them with a trip to the Topeka Zoo. The grandparents just can't seem to get enough of that place. So far, I can't get Brooke to talk, no matter how much I talk to her, so I don't really know how she feels about zoos.
But, she must like animals. She wore her giraffe outfit, so I thought we'd start by visiting them. (Actually, it was my giraffe outfit from back when I was a baby. Aren't I good at sharing?) 
Mommy said that we needed to see the baby tigers next. They are usually only out in the mornings. There are actually three baby tigers. But Grandma said that photographing baby tigers is a little like trying to take pictures of toddlers. I'm not sure what she means by that! But it looks like she only got a picture of one of them. He was playing with his Mama's tail. It looked like he was having fun while his siblings lazed around on a rock ledge. I know the feeling! My sibling was lazing around, too. 
Temba and Sumba, the elephants, are some of my favorites, and they were just down the path from the tigers.
Grandma helped me take a picture of Grandpa and turtles. I guess we should have told him to smile. One of the turtles kind of looked like he was smiling at us. Or maybe he was just happy to be eating his salad. I like veggies with ranch dressing. The zoo workers didn't let the turtle have any ranch. Too bad!
We also saw the flamingos. They are dressed in one of my favorite colors - PINK!
We watched the orangutans for a long time. They were busy playing. It looked like fun. I kept saying, "What are they doing?"
I was even brave enough to feed some goats with Grandpa.
We always have a good time at the zoo. Before lunch, we had time for playing across the street in Gage Park.

My favorite thing to do at a park is swing. My Mommy says I'm about to outgrow these swings, but I love them. I can go so high!
My Grandma and Grandpa wanted to ride the Gage Park train, but I politely declined. Its whistle is just too loud. I decided I would just pretend instead.
I guess the whistle didn't bother Brooke. She was still asleep.
(For some reason, my Mommy was glad that Brooke slept through pretty much the whole zoo. I just can't figure it out! She missed everything!)

But, maybe it's OK. It'll just give me a chance to go to the zoo again. 

Until then,
Kinley Marie