Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Father, We Thank Thee

  Father, We Thank Thee
Words by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Photos by me

For flowers that bloom about our feet,
Father, we thank Thee.
For tender grass so fresh and sweet,
Father, we thank Thee.
 For the song of bird and hum of bee,
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.
For blue of stream and blue of sky,
Father, we thank Thee.
For pleasant shade of branches high,
Father, we thank Thee.
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.
For this new morning with its light, 
Father, we thank Thee,
For rest and shelter of the night,
Father we thank Thee.
For health and food, for love and friends
For everything Thy goodness sends
Father in heaven, we thank Thee.
This is a rerun from an earlier post. But, on this Thanksgiving Eve, as I prepare to host Thanksgiving on Thursday and a Thanksgiving/Christmas gathering on Friday, I thought it was appropriate to share again.
I'll be away from the blog for a few days. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Old War Horse

I cringe when I see farmers depicted as country bumpkins. You know the drill: They are in overalls with a wheat straw in their mouth, but it doesn't matter anyway because they sound like uneducated fools. It's the "Green Acres" syndrome.

Of course, there is an increasing number of people who actually want farmers to take a step back into the early 1900s. While they bite the hand that feeds them via their latest version of iPhone and tweet their opinions about how farmers are poisoning the world, they would rather farmers use a horse and plow ... while wearing their overalls, of course. (By the way, my Grandpa Neelly wore overalls, and he was no country bumpkin either.)

So, when Randy fires up the old Ford 8N tractor and I share a photo of it on a Facebook post, I hope people don't think it's the way we farm.  We have our Case STX 375 tractor. (It has 375 horsepower, compared to about 25 horsepower for the Ford tractor.)
We have finally joined the army of semi trucks that take grain to our local co-op. (It has 425 horsepower.)
And we really went the Army route with our new-to-us feed wagon.
But, this past week, Randy again used the Ford tractor. These days, we have a wire winder on the back and use it for building and rolling up electric fence so we can move cattle there for grazing.
A photo from fall 2013.
 I think the rust is the only thing holding it together.
But there is something about tradition. That tractor seat has been occupied with five different generations now.  Melvin and Clarence bought the tractor back in the 1960s, when Randy was in grade school. They used it to load silage for feeding cattle. Randy remembers using it to pull a two-row John Deere planter when they planted milo. He also cultivated milo with it when he was junior high age.
Clarence (Randy's Grandpa, seated), his Dad Melvin and Randy holding Brent in 1988.
Randy was insistent that the tractor served as a focal point for a 2012 Easter-time photo with Kinley and Jill.
April 2012
We'll see if the weather is good enough to get both granddaughters on the old Ford this Thanksgiving.
It may be tired, but it's not retired.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Anti-Pumpkin Movement: Pear Cake

My homegrown pears may not look as blemish-free and beautiful as their grocery store cousins. But, like people, there's beauty on the inside, even if the outer package isn't perfectly airbrushed.
Our pear trees were laden with fruit this summer. After doing some online research, we picked them and put them in our extra refrigerator in the basement. We've been pulling a few at a time and eating them plain. I've also used them in Waldorf-style salads and Autumn Chopped Salad. Just yesterday, I chopped some up to put on our waffles for our after-church Sunday lunch.

When I needed to provide refreshments for PEO this month, I decided to look for a Pear Cake recipe. In November, pumpkin seems to be the fruit of choice for club meeting desserts.

But I have a sister who doesn't like pumpkin. So, with her in mind, I opted for the pear cake. I topped it with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a Caramel Sauce I've been using since Lori Fiscus first served it at a Nu Lambda meeting years ago. But the cake is also yummy just served plain.

I must admit that I ended up making the cake twice. The first time, I put it in a tube pan because I thought it would make prettier slices for the PEO refreshments. I sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray, but I must have not sprayed it well enough because bits of the cake stayed in the pan.

I probably could have "cut" around and come up with enough pretty slices. However, my perfectionist tendencies overtook my common sense. I made the second version in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Since the PEO meeting and our UMW Bazaar were the same day, I didn't want to make the cake a third time.

The moral of the story? If you are using a tube or Bundt pan, spray your pan well with cooking spray. Perhaps even dust it with a little flour to make sure it comes out of the pan. And the 9- by 13-inch pan works fine, too, and the cake is pretty enough to serve to the ladies, especially when dressed up with ice cream and caramel sauce. (Of course, everything is better with caramel sauce!)

The good part of making the cake twice? I still have some cake in the freezer, which we can pull out for Thanksgiving or another gathering.
Fresh Pear Cake
Adapted from Food.Com
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cloves
3 cups pears, peeled, cored and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan or tube pan. Combine sugar and oil, mixing well. Add eggs and vanilla; mixing well. Mix together flour, baking soda, salt and spices and add to sugar mixture. Add diced pears. It is a thick batter. Put into a prepared pan and bake for 1 to  1 1/4 hours or until done (depending on your oven).

Note:  I made it the first time in a tube pan because I wanted prettier slices for PEO refreshments. However, part stuck in the pan. So, I made it in a 13- by 9-inch pan because I didn't have time to make it a third time!

Caramel Sauce
(From Lori Fiscus)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup softened butter
2 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugars and flour in a saucepan. Add whipping cream. Bring to a boil, stirring. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in butter and vanilla. Makes 2 cups.

Serve cake with warm caramel sauce and cinnamon or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ladies in Waiting

R58's expression seems to indicate she just realized that her doctor's appointment is that doctor's appointment. Ladies: You know the one. It's the annual exam we all love so much.

Her bunk mate, R36, was ready to break out, too. (It's not a good thing when iron bars come loose during cattle working, but thankfully, R36 was our only attempted escape.)

Dr. Dayul Dick checked out R58 and R36, along with our other ladies in waiting, during a recent veterinarian visit. (Yes, Dr. Dick's arm is in the business end of the cow, while Randy is checking her teeth at the other end.)

In actuality, Randy was checking R58's teeth to approximate her age. These days, we use identification eartags that indicate which year each calf was born. For example, our tags this year started with a "4", indicating the calves were born in 2014.
This one gets a new ear tag.
However, sometimes the eartags are lost, so we have to substitute new ones. In that case, Randy checks the cow's mouth for teeth. If she is lacking in dental health, we identify her as "old" in the records. (Perhaps, with all my teeth problems, I should be more nervous about my longevity on the County Line. It's a good thing a similar policy has not been instituted for humans. Just saying!)

During Dr. Dick's internal exam, he estimates the age of each cow's fetus, which his assistant records.
They also give the cows shots for blackleg and PBD (persistent bovine diarrhea), as well as a shot for internal and external parasites.

Sometimes, the cows have not been bred. All 26 cows at the Rattlesnake pasture were pregnant. However, six of the 69 from the Ninnescah Pasture were "open," meaning they weren't pregnant. When a cow was open, Randy marked its forehead with yellow chalk and drew big "O"s on both their flanks. That helped us quickly determine which ones we needed to sort off to take to the cattle sale.
November 7, 2014
The ones who were pregnant were taken to their winter locations. Some of the Ninnescah pasture cows went to the Peace Creek pasture on a beautiful fall day. Others in that group went to the round top, but I didn't get a good photo there.
The cows from the Rattlesnake went to graze on some alfalfa ground and to eat sudan stalks.
November 5, 2014
It was a nice warm day, when we moved them on November 5.
It's looking a whole lot different these days, after our snow last weekend and more than a week of below-normal temperatures.
November 17, 2014
Our County Line maternity ward will officially open in late January with the heifers. Then, in February, the other ladies in waiting will begin dropping calves.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

That's My Story, and I'm Sticking To It!

True confessions: We probably didn't need to take a 4-wheeler ride through the Ninnescah pasture. When we got to the pasture to round up the mama cows, they were hanging out in the lot by the old hunting cabin. (We had already rounded up their babies and taken them back to the farm for the winter.)

It looked like they were all there, but it's tough to count them when they're milling around in a bigger lot. That's our story, and we're sticking to it. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a point to Randy and me taking a morning 4-wheeler ride in the pasture. 
And if we hadn't done that, we would have missed the beauty of a fall day in Kansas.
Even though the grasses were more brown than green, there was still beauty in the landscape as the sun streamed through the trees and danced across the surface of the Ninnescah River. 
As usual, I couldn't resist pausing to take pictures along the way.
We rode through the pasture, looking for cattle hiding in the trees near the river banks.
My riding companion may have questioned my scouting abilities, since I was equally interested in the scenery.  (We all have our roles, don't you think?)
I saw the well-worn cattle paths, where the mama cows and the babies trekked to get drinks of clear, cool water this summer.
Some of the trees had already shed their leaves and others had lost their vibrancy, but there was still beauty as we drove in the pasture grasses.
 We bounced across the grate that marks the dam over the river as we headed back to the corrals.
And while we didn't find any stragglers during our ride, it was time well spent.
 (Jake might not agree, since he was up in the lot waiting on us!)
Once we got back to the lot, we moved the cows into the south lot and around the old hunting cabin. The cabin and a fence form a lane through which we move the cattle into progressively smaller areas.
Since we had sorted off their calves during our first trip to the Ninnescah, we didn't have to do any sorting. We loaded the mama cows into trailers to make the trek back to the farm.
As the nursery rhyme goes, home again, home again, jiggety jig!
Next up:  A visit with the vet for our "ladies in waiting."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Doctor Appointments

I'm not a fan of going to the doctor. I know it's supposed to be the male species that avoids medical intervention, but in our family, I am the one dragging my feet.

Still, the studies show that going to the doctor for routine physicals and preventative care keeps you healthier in the long run. It's true for adults and for our children. And it's also true for the bovine inhabitants of our farm.

After we gathered the calves from their summer homes on the Ninnescah and Rattlesnake pastures, it was time for their doctor's appointments. Hutchinson veterinarian David Harder and his assistant came to help us "work" the calves. The calves go down a lane and into a squeeze chute.

We use the chute to safely restrain the animal and also to keep the people involved safe. Dr. Harder lowered a panel in the chute to check and see whether the "patient" was a boy or girl.
He had syringes in both hands, giving the calves shots to prevent blackleg and PBD (persistent bovine diarrhea).
He also gave a shot to control parasites inside and outside the animal. That syringe hung from the chute on a gerry-rigged baling wire hanger. What would we do without baling wire on a farm? They kept the medications cool by storing them in a specially-fabricated cooler. Other supplies were in a caddy hung over the fence, so they were ready to grab quickly.
Some of the heifer (girl) calves will eventually become part of our cow-calf herd. Randy identified the heifers he wanted to retain for our herd, choosing the ones in good body condition and good confirmation. Dr. Harder gave those heifers a calfhood vaccination to prevent brucellosis, also known as "bangs." This disease causes abortion or premature calving. The vaccination must be performed by an accredited veterinarian, in compliance with state and national regulations.
Dr. Harder used a device to "tattoo" the animal to show it had received the brucellosis vaccination. Then he used green ink to mark the tattoo.
A few of the calves had lost their yellow identification ear tags, so Randy put in new ones.
They also gave a growth implant to steers and to heifers we didn't plan to keep for breeding. 
Like keeping a patient record for humans, the assistant recorded the "office" visit, making note of the calves we calfhood vaccinated. 
We keep the weaned calves in the corrals for a couple of weeks to get used to being separated from their moms. It also gets them acclimated to eating hay and silage.
They are less likely to be "spooked" by deer or other animals when they are in the corrals, which reduces the chance of them breaking through a fence.

We will feed the calves through the winter. In March, we'll sell the steers and any heifers we don't retain for our own herd.