Friday, January 29, 2016

Happy 155th Birthday, Kansas!

A Kansas sunrise is like a fingerprint. No two are exactly the same. But this morning, I thought about sunrise on January 29, 1861. On this day 155 years ago, were the settlers even aware that January 29 would become a momentous day for their ancestors?

The trees I often use as silhouettes in my sunrise photos likely weren't there. Many of them were probably planted as part of the timber claims by Kansas settlers. But as men and women left their humble houses on a vast Kansas prairie and ventured out to feed or milk cattle on a brisk January morning, did they watch the clouds illuminated as the sun made its way toward the horizon?  Did they appreciate the beauty of a new day, a day that would become an important part of their heritage?
This day, I thought about my family members who packed up their families and moved across the nation to Kansas for new opportunities for themselves and their families.

On my Dad's side, Kentuckian James T. Moore (my dad's great-grandfather) came to Kansas in the late 1860s, spending a brief time as a helper to a buffalo hunter. He was impressed with the potential of Kansas for cattle grazing and went home to tell his wife, Chalista, that "the grass stood as high as the stirrups on a horse."

In 1876, he and Chalista brought their family to Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. They arrived in December of 1876 in Sodtown, Kansas, later known as Stafford. (And isn't it ironic that his great-great-granddaughter ended up later calling Stafford home!)

A hotel proprietor there mentioned to J.T. that he might do well to homestead in Pratt County. And so he did, 15 years after Kansas became a state.
The Moores filed a claim which lay 3 miles east and a half mile north of what is now Byers in northern Pratt County. They began living on the claim in the spring of 1877. They later filed a timber claim which originally gave them a total of 320 acres of land.
My mom's grandfather, Charley James Neelly, came to Pratt County from his native Missouri in 1898. Charley went to work for a farmer. In 1900, he married Ethel Denton, and they had 10 children, including my grandfather, Shelby Neelly, the second oldest.
So, on this Kansas Day 2016, I thought about these pioneers, the people in my family who saw opportunity in the Central Plains. As a jet stream pierced the canvas of Kansas sky, I thought how incredulous they'd be at the changes to this place they called home. And I was thankful for the vision that brought them to this state I love so much.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Not Always Rosy

I generally try to keep this little bit of the worldwide web filled with positivity. A positive attitude is a good thing. But it isn't always reality.

By the end of the week, our long-time farm employee will be moving on. Jake has been with us for 13.5 years. We wish him and his family the absolute best. Interviewing potential new employees is stressful. And no matter who we choose, we know there's a learning curve for everyone -- including us.

About the same time Jake resigned, we had a water leak going out to the corral. We have self-waterers there so the cattle can drink as they please. It's also a convenience for us, since it's one location where we don't have to haul water or break ice.
Of course, it happened on a Friday and a plumber couldn't come until Monday. Then they came and didn't bring a backhoe (even though Randy told them they'd need one). And they didn't show up again until the next day. Thankfully, there was still water at the house. 
By the time they got here, both self-waterers were frozen. (I didn't get a photo, but Randy covered them with a tarp and put a space heater underneath. Eventually, they thawed out.)
And we've lost two pregnant cows in the last couple of weeks. One laid down on an incline and couldn't get back up. Another one had unexplained paralysis in its rear legs and had to be put down. We don't want any animal to suffer. And it's not very good on the financial bottom line either.

No, I can't always wear my rose-colored glasses. But, I'm still thankful every day for the beauty all around me ...
and for the lives with which we are entrusted.
I see faces like this one - less than 12 hours old - and I'm thankful ... despite broken pipes and uncertainty.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Baby Boom

The new calf shed got a workout on Saturday night. The County Line calf crop got off to a running start with three calves born to heifers.

Randy doesn't need a gym membership. He got both cardio and weight training in as he carried two of the three calves to the shed. Naturally, one of them was about as far away as it could have been. (In the photo below, you can see it lying beside the fence behind Randy.) The little black-white face was a bit closer - but not a lot. Only one of the three walked the distance ... with a little nudging along the way.
My farmer had his eyes shut, so his face got cropped out.
At first, the heifers (first-time mamas) were a little confused about which baby belonged to which. But after watching them for a little bit, Randy matched up the pairs.
We got them separated into the three pens and left them to get acquainted.
However, one of the calves was slow to get up, and the mama wasn't all that interested either.

So, on our third trip out to check on them, we got the mama in the head gate and Randy tried his skills as a milkman.
He fed the colostrum to the baby, using an oral calf feeding bag. (I tried photos, but I was also holding the bag in the air, and I didn't have much luck with multi-tasking.)

By the next morning, the calf had nursed on its own. And even though they were both new to their respective roles, they got them figured out. Nature is a miraculous thing.
By Sunday afternoon, all three of the calves were cleaned off and ready for their class photos. (The photos I took on Saturday really did remind me of school photos. Sometimes, you just need to take advantage of retake day.)
The black-white face was up and roaming with its mama. The other two were hunkered down, one near a feeder and the other in some weeds. Not everybody appreciates the paparazzi, I guess.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Falling Star

Image from from Google Images

The falling star winked at me and was gone in the wintery, dark sky just as suddenly as it appeared. I was driving home from church choir a week ago. The star fell into my vision just after I turned onto the Zenith Road.

As usual, I was scanning the road, right to left and back again, trying to avoid a nighttime collision with a deer. And, yes, just a half mile later, a doe with eyes glowing in my headlights stood in the right-hand ditch. 

The star had glided from the top of my windshield to the middle at just the right moment. If I'd still been driving east, I wouldn't have seen it. If I hadn't spent time visiting with my good friends after choir, the timing would have been different. I wouldn't have been at the right place at the right time.

A falling star isn't something that can be captured in the single click of a camera shutter without benefit of a tripod and timer ... and even then, there are no guarantees. In reality, the star's path into my field of vision began and ended in the same breath.

Randy asked me later, "Did you make a wish?"

"No," I told him. "But I did say, 'Thank you, Lord.' "

The next day or so, this quote appeared in my daily devotional email from Guideposts. And I again thought of that elusive falling star. 

A Time to Think

I believe God embedded the miraculous in the ordinary, 
and it is our task to discover it and celebrate it.
 –Kent Nerburn, author
Too often, we're too busy to find the miraculous in the ordinary. Do I really want to go outside in the cold and take a photo of a sunset? But, after day after day of gloomy, cloud-covered skies, it was a treat to see color appear in the western sky one evening this week.

 So, yes, I bundled up, and out I went.
The scene was prettier than the photos. Sometimes, you just have to be there ... kind of like that night with the falling star.

But it's definitely worth opening my eyes to the beauty that's there ... however fleeting.

A Time to Think

If you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, 
your heart breaks regularly.
In fact, your heart is made to break;
its purpose is to burst open again and again
so it can hold ever more wonders.
 –Andrew Harvey, author

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Get a Mooove On!

Do you like the photos I took from the back of the 4-wheeler on Monday? Many of them look like abstract art. I erased a whole bunch of them. Then, after downloading them to the computer, I discovered I had a dozen more. Oops! That's what happens when the accelerator is on the right handlebar and you must also use your right hand for clicking the camera. Maybe it wasn't such a great idea to keep the camera on when I was trying to chase cattle. Live and learn.
Thankfully, moving the cattle went better than photographing the process. With their due dates fast approaching, it was time to move cows from the sudan and wheat fields where they'd been grazing.
Randy and I were on 4-wheelers, while Jake tried to tempt the cows with a bale of hay. It was COLD. I think it was about 16 degrees and that didn't count the wind chill as we rode the 4-wheelers.
With a little coaxing, they did follow the tractor out of the field. Some of them went into the south gate.
A few others didn't get the memo to play "follow the leader." But Jake guided them toward the north and I got ahead of them and turned them in at the main gate.
They are now in the pasture south of the house, where it will be easier to make "maternity ward" checks for our mothers-to-be.
It only took me an hour to thaw out!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cribs (aka Sheds)

You know those shows where the famous celebrity invites you, the television viewer, into their home so we can all "Oooh" and "Ahhh" and drool over their fancy digs?

Yeah, well, that's not what this is. But maybe you can just pretend that this is the cattle version of one of those shows. OK, it's not fancy. It's not that big. But that doesn't mean my farmer isn't happy to have you along on the tour.
We didn't even need the "magic of television" to construct the cattle shed shell in a day. The "Tinkertoy" assembly parts arrived December 31.
Then, one day last week, four workers showed up around 7:45 AM. Watching them was like watching a well-choreographed dance.
They each had their moves down, even if some of those moves involved balancing on top of wood beams!
By shortly after noon, they already had the tin on the building ...
... and they were hanging the doors.

By 2:30 PM the very same day, they had packed up their tools and were gone.
It took Randy and Jake another couple of days to get the "interior decorating" done. They moved the calving pen out of the barn and into the new shed. They also installed fencing to keep the cattle from rubbing on the insulated walls.
They also had to do some work on the corral so that we could run cattle from the corral into the new shed.
Randy learned that his predecessor wasn't afraid to use concrete to get things situated. Both he and Jake spent some time digging dirt with a fence post digger. They eventually had to attach a chain and pull the cement-encased corner post out with the loader tractor. 
Then I found it terribly ironic when they proceeded to use two bags of Quik-Crete to set the new post! Someday, someone will be thinking the same thing about Randy!
My favorite part of the new set-up is the walk-through gate. I am looking forward to walking through - and not climbing over - the fence on our cattle adventures.

All that's left now is adding the electricity, and the electrician is supposed to arrive this week. Then it will be all ready to welcome the 2016 calf class on the County Line!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Red Cabbage, Date & Feta Salad

I love salads. I always have romaine in the fridge. Some days, I add more veggies ... carrots, colored peppers, tomatoes and such. Other days, I go with a more fruit-centric salad atop the greens, using whatever fruit is handy and topping everything with raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

But even with me trying to mix things up with the toppings, it can feel like we're in a rut. So when I saw a salad with red cabbage on my Facebook feed, I decided it was just the thing to shake up my ho-hum salad choices.

Feta cheese often makes its way into the fruit-based salads I make. Dates are not an ingredient I usually have on my salad radar, though I have them on hand for quick breads and muffins. But I loved the combo of the salty feta and the sweet dates along with the lime-infused cabbage.

This week, I served the salad alongside grilled steak and baked potatoes. The cabbage would be a natural with pork, but since beef is what's for dinner for this cow-calf-raising Kansas farm, beef it is! It made a colorful and tasty side dish that will be making encore appearances on the County Line! 
I served the salad with steak and baked potatoes - a colorful, tasty addition!
Red Cabbage, Date & Feta Salad
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 to 1 1/4 lbs. red cabbage (1 small head or half of a large one)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. honey
Salt to taste
Pepper (or red pepper flakes) to taste
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Shred or thinly slice cabbage. (I used the grating blade on my food processor.) Combine oil, lime juice and honey, blending well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over red cabbage. Toss to coat. Taste and add more lime juice, salt and pepper, if needed. Toss dressed cabbage with half of dates and half of feta; stir. Sprinkle with remaining dates, feta and toasted sesame seeds. Serve.

The whole salad can be assembled and sit for at least an hour. (But leftovers are good, too. The cabbage just isn't as crisp.) You can prepare the parts separately to assemble right before serving, if doing this for a potluck, church dinner, holiday meal, etc.

The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Since I didn't have that, I omitted it, and it was still tasty.

I'm linked today to the Weekend Potluck. Click on the link to find more tasty recipes from bloggers. Thanks to the potluck hostesses: