Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Sunrise, November 18, 2015

A Time to Think

A grateful heart is one that finds 
the countless blessings of God 
in the seemingly mundane everyday life. 

A Time to Act

Thank the Lord for the possibilities of a new day.

 Portion in blue from an email devotional from Guideposts

"Just tell me if you need to stop."

My Farmer said the words as we were driving toward the cattle lots to round up cattle before the veterinarian arrived. We had just left home, so his solicitous remarks weren't aimed at an emergency bathroom break or the need to stop to stretch my legs during a long journey.

He looked at the eastern sky. He looked at me. And he knew that the beauty stretched across the horizon would have me itching to push the camera's shutter button.

I waited a beat. And I said, "Yes, I think I do need to stop."

So, less than a half mile from home, he pulled over so that I could capture a moment ... even though we had things to do and places to be.

I am blessed.

It was the second day of running cows through the working chute for pregnancy checks and vaccination updates.
On that day, the lot was sloppy with mud and manure after a total of 0.95" of rain had fallen. It may not have been ideal on tennis shoes, but it was great for a thirsty wheat crop. 
It was a chillier day than the first go-round, and the wind cut through layers of t-shirts, sweatshirts and gloves. But the cold temperatures made the cattle's breath look like mini rainbows through the camera lens. 
 As we ushered the cattle down the lane and into the chute, a chorus of geese sang a serenade.
Pelicans kept circling overhead, bucking the chilly breeze and coming back around as they left from their overnight stay at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge just down the road and searched for leftovers in nearby corn and milo stubble.

We didn't have any cattle jump a fence. The majority of the mama cows were pregnant. No humans or animals were hurt. We got the "ladies" where they needed to be.
It was a good day all around.
And it ended just like it began. This time, I was pointing the camera to the west, capturing another expansive Kansas sky.
There's a theme in the devotional reading material by my recliner these days. I've pulled out Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts," a book I've read and re-read three times. (I've shared quotes from that book here several times before - here and here among them.)

I borrowed "The Gratitude Diaries" by Janice Kaplan from the library, and I'm about halfway through it. The subtitle is "How A Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life." And, earlier this year, I ordered the book, "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers" by Anne Lamott. I have several little green Post-It tabs stuck in the margins of that book, too.
"The notion of gratitude cuts across all generations, ethnicities and social or economic boundaries. Gratitude is universal, and it's the one thing that can pull us together."
 Doug Conant, Former CEO of Campbell's Soup Co.
Interviewed by Janice Kaplan 
Sunset, November 18, 2015
Do I practice gratefulness always? I admit that I struggle some days more than others. But, on this eve of Thanksgiving and as we approach another Advent season, it is a worthy goal, don't you think?

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! May we all be thankful.

A Time to Pray

O Great Creator, may I see Your hand today
in something ordinary and amazing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fall Journey

As Thanksgiving approaches this week, some of us are thinking about a journey to gather with family or friends. You may be the one making the journey. You may be the one opening your door to welcome the travelers.

Before we get ready for a Thanksgiving trip, we fill the car with gas and check the tire pressure. We try to shake the fall cold or flu that has arrived at the doorstep along with colder temperatures so that we don't share it with our family across the miles.

Our cows have been making a journey, too, but their destination isn't hours away. They are all home from summer pastures. After their arrival closer to home, they are dining at a banquet with the silage, alfalfa and sudan we've harvested this year.

But before their short journey, they needed a visit to the doctor. Rather, the doctor came to them. We had two different days when veterinarians from Prairie Vista Vet Clinic in Hutchinson came calling to give our "ladies" the once over. They got "preg checks," making sure they were carrying the next little bundles of joy that will begin arriving come February.
I want to hide, too, when it's "that kind" of appointment.
If they weren't pregnant, they got a trip to the sale barn instead of to their winter "resorts" on the County Line. We had five who traveled to the sale barn instead of to our cattle lots.
And they got their shots up to date - to keep them and their babies healthy
For those who've lost the ear tags that tell us their birth date and who now have the generic version, they get an extra check. Randy feels their mouths to see if any of them are a little "long in the tooth," or, in this case, a little SHORT in the tooth. We keep track of those cows. After they raise their next calves, they will be culled from the herd.
Once the doctor's appointments were complete, we loaded the cows into trailers for the short ride to their winter abodes.
Some went to graze on the sudan that Randy left standing.
As Jake and I let them off there, we thought we might not see them for a few days. (Maybe it's kind of like we humans at the Thanksgiving table, you think?)
Others went to Peace Creek. That's also the location where our silage is stored in the trench silo, but it's fenced off so the cows don't have an all-you-can-eat buffet experience.
Others took the short ride to the "round top" location, where they, too, will dine on standing sudan for awhile.
It's a good feeling to have another fall task crossed off the list. There's plenty of thanksgiving in that!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Not So Little Anymore

"The only thing constant in life is change." 
Francois de la Rochefoucauld
French author of maxims and memoirs 

I see the truth of that maxim demonstrated every time I see our granddaughters. And even when we're doing the same farm tasks yet again, the miracle of change and growth is startling.

Last February, I took a photo of Calf No. 515 and her mom on a cold February day in the corral east of our house. She was the first calf born to No. 3004, a heifer. After 9 months of feasting on mother's milk, she was back from the pasture on a journey in which she, too, will become a heifer on the County Line. (Her first calf should be born in 2017.)

Dr. Dayul Dick from Prairie Vista Veterinary Clinic came earlier this month to treat the 101 calves born during the 2015 calving season. He and his assistant, Katie, arrived with their "doctor's office on wheels," a toolbox attached in the back of his pickup.

We had brought the calves and their mamas home from pastures earlier this month. After weaning them from their mothers, it was time for their "well-child checks," kind of like those doctor visits for our young children.
As the calves go through the working chute, Randy decides whether or not he wants to keep the heifers as part of our cow-calf herd. He's looking at size and confirmation. No. 515 made the "cut." She had grown a bit since February, don't you think?

To those heifers that we may retain in our herd -- like No. 515, No. 505 and about 28 others -- Dr. Dick gave a calfhood vaccination to prevent brucellosis, also known as "bangs."
No. 505 in February
This disease causes abortion or premature calving. The vaccination must be performed by an accredited veterinarian, in compliance with state and national regulations. He used a device to "tattoo" the animal in its right ear to show it had received the brucellosis vaccination.
No. 505 in November - 9 months later and several hundred pounds bigger!
Then he used green ink to mark the tattoo.
He added a numbered orange band, but those can fall out. 
The tattooing provides a more permanent mark. The veterinary clinic will turn the numbers in to state and federal regulators.
The calves also are given a blackleg booster shot. Blackleg is a highly fatal disease of the skeletal and heart muscle of cattle. We also give a combination shot that prevents leptospiriosis and BVD. Leptospiriosis is an bacterial infection that may cause abortion or stillbirth. BVD stands for Bovine Viral Diarrhea - 'nuff said. Dr. Dick also gave a shot as a dewormer to control parasites like worms, lice and liver flukes.

Cattlemen want to produce healthy cattle. It's better for the cattle, and it's also better for the bottom line. Just like we gave recommended vaccinations to our children, we believe it's important to give our cattle every medical advantage to have a healthy life.

We humans take medicines to lower our blood pressure and lower our cholesterol and for a myriad of other conditions. We take medications when we are sick to help us get better. It's the same principle for the animals we care for. It's part of our stewardship of the animals to provide the best care possible.

Last May, when we worked calves before sending them to pasture with their mamas, we had added a new "fashion" accessory - an insecticide tag (blue tag in the right ear.)
Some of the calves had already lost those tags, but Randy cut off any that remained since they no longer were effective. 

After each calf went through the chute, they joined their buddies in another pen.
Now they are dining on silage and grain in a pasture south of the farmstead. And the journey continues.

"The only thing constant in life is change."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Glazed Apple Cider Streusel Quick Bread

I love a new four-lane highway between Hutchinson and McPherson. For years, those 29 miles inevitably slowed one segment of our trip from home to Manhattan. It never failed that we'd get stuck behind someone who was crawling along, and there was rarely a chance to pass on the heavily-traveled roadway.

However, much as I love that four-lane highway, I have missed stopping at a roadside market at the tiny "spot-in-the-road" town of Medora. To reach the little white shack now, you have to take an exit and quit zooming along at 70 miles an hour. And, let's face it, we don't take the time. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

I used to buy apple cider and apples from that little roadside market. This year, I bought my apple cider at a grocery store. And, as I've said before, I've made sure to stock up on Jonathan apples, two bags at a time, to make sure I can savor those tangy seasonal treats for as long as possible.

I initially bought the cider for a caramel sauce for an apple cake. I knew I could use the leftovers for my own variation of a wassail to serve when I hosted PEO at my house this week. Then I saw a recipe for apple cider muffins and thought they sounded good. But to save time and add my own twists on the recipe, I added a streusel and a glaze with even more apple cider flavor.

It would be a tasty addition to your Thanksgiving snack table or for breakfast on that special day. Your guests will definitely thank you!

I slipped a couple of loaves into decorative fall bags and gave them as thank you gifts this week. If you can still find apple cider during December, this recipe would also be great for gifts from the kitchen, since it makes seven mini loaves! It might be worth grabbing an extra container of apple cider during this fall harvest season and freezing it for apple cider goodness later on!
Glazed Apple Cider Streusel Quick Bread
For the Bread:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 eggs
4 cups flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2 cups apples, finely diced

For the Streusel:
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

For the Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp. apple cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare mini loaf pans. (For me, this made 7 mini loaves. You could also make larger loaves or muffins, if desired.)

For Streusel: Combine oatmeal, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon, mixing together. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until evenly distributed. Set aside. 

For Bread: Beat the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs; beat again. Stir together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Stir together the milk and the apple cider. Alternate adding dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture until well combined. Stir in the apples. Pour batter into loaf pans (or muffin tins). Evenly distribute the streusel over the batter. Bake until the bread is done, about 25-30 minutes for mini loaves, depending on your oven. (Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out dry.)

Turn out onto cooling racks and cool completely.

Mix glaze ingredients, adding additional powdered sugar or cider to make it the right consistency. Using a piping tube, pipe glaze in a decorative manner. (Or, you can just spread the glaze, if you prefer.)

Note:  I used leftovers from a wassail punch I served at PEO this week for the apple cider. (It had apple cider, cranberry juice, orange juice, lemonade, tea and spices). It worked well.

Today, I'm linked to the Weekend Potluck. Check out lots of other recipes from bloggers across the country, including the hosts of Weekend Potluck, just in time for your Thanksgiving meal preparation:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fall Colors & Quotes

These are some of the photos I've taken during the past month or or so. This year, because our area has been so dry, there haven't been the vibrant colors we sometimes enjoy. However, there is still a beauty in the season. Isn't it amazing that there is such beauty as a growing season comes to a close?

Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.

Emily Bronte

Delicious autumn! 
My very soul is wedded to it, 
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
 seeking the successive autumns.
George Eliot
(The photo above and the next two below were taken at the Kids' Fishing Pond at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. I thought the quote fit because at the time I was taking the photo, I could hear the birds on the salt marsh, taking a rest as they migrated through on an autumn day.)

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant

Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. 
The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
 and the storms their energy, 
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
John Muir

falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly
John Bailey
Autumn, A Haiku Year.

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, 
which through the summer is not heard or seen,
 as if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Autumn wins you best by this, 
its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.
Robert Browning

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.
Elizabeth Lawrence

Autumn is a symphony of permanence and change.
Bonaro W. Overstreet
(Same windmill taken at different times of the day and different angles.)

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. 
For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.
Edwin Way Teale
Autumn Across America.