Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thermometer Calisthenics: A Wheat Report

A Time to Think

No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, 
or sailed to an uncharted land,
or opened a new heaven to the human spirit. 
–Helen Keller, author and lecturer
From a Guideposts email devotional
Some people see snow and freezing temperatures. Randy sees moisture and insulation. He is officially an optimist, even as the thermometer plays its version of calisthenics with its unpredictable ups and downs. 

On Easter morning, we got more snow than we'd had all winter. However, that isn't saying much. I bought some new snow boots last fall, and I didn't even take the tags off. We probably had an inch or two of snow that blanketed the ground on Easter morning.

It also covered the wheat fields. It was the thermometer's second dip into the 20s during the past couple of weeks. The first time, there was no snow cover on the ground. During this latest foray into the 20s, the snow helped insulate the wheat crop.

Snow on wheat isn't usually a problem, especially during the winter. Snow means moisture and moisture is a good thing. But we had already had temperatures that were more summer-like than spring-like, flirting with the high 80s, so the wheat was well on its way out of its winter "sleep" or dormancy.
This week, Randy has checked to see if there is freeze damage in our fields. He carefully broke apart the stem to reveal the "innards." In our fields, the wheat plants still appeared green and growing, inside and out.
A fellow Kansas Wheat board member who lives in Sumner County, found some freeze damage in his crop. Because his fields were a little further south, the wheat was a little further along, making it more susceptible to damage from the freeze.
For now, my resident optimist thinks our wheat continues to look pretty good, though it definitely needs some additional moisture. The unrelenting Kansas wind has dried out fields. A nice, gentle springtime rain would be just what the farmer ordered. And we'll take it without severe weather like hail and tornadoes, thank you! We don't ask for much, right?

Monday, March 28, 2016

What's In A Name?

I was contemplating a name change 35 years ago. I definitely was ready to marry Mr. Randy Fritzemeier, but I wasn't so sure that I was ready to give up my easy, five-letter last name for his 11-letter monstrosity - especially when it came to newspaper bylines.

As luck would have it, The Hutchinson News published a special bridal section that was delivered in the Sunday paper the day after my Saturday, March 28, wedding. As one of The News' lifestyle reporters, I wrote several stories in the special section. I also wrote a column called "Name's like an old friend; it's hard to give up."

Today, Randy and I celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. For one, I can't believe it's been 35 years. For two, I can't believe I actually found the newspaper supplement in my boxes of "stuff." For the record, I'm glad I changed my name, both personally and professionally, even though it's rarely spelled correctly (which is a big deal to a newspaper reporter/editor). Just for chuckles, here's what my 23-year-old self wrote back then:
It's a traumatic experience to lose your identity. For 23 1/2 years of my life, I've been Kim L. Moore to my family, to teachers, to the bank, to credit card companies. 

My parents obviously like the name. They gave it to me. And I've never been one of those people who complain constantly about the lifetime affliction branded upon them when their parents gave them a "John Henry" of their very own.

I'll admit it: I've heard often enough, "Your real name is Kimberly, isn't it?" To which I always replied, "No, just Kim. My parents don't believe in nicknames." And, with my unisex name, I've received a few letters addressed to "Mr. Kim Moore."

But, all in all, I've grown fond of that name. It's mine.

But not anymore. Kim (just plain Kim) will stay the same, but the last name underwent a big change. Literally. It jumped from five letters to 11 in a single half hour. I married a Fritzemeier yesterday, March 28. For another time in my life, I'm vastly thankful my parents don't like nicknames. Kimberly Fritzemeier would take too long to sign on anything.

I realize women change their names all the time. It happens hundreds of times per day across the country. My situation is a little different. My professional identity is tied up in my name. For a year and eight months, people have been reading stories in The Hutchinson News by Kim Moore. I "sign" every story with it through my byline. A teacher doesn't have her name stamped on a child every time she teaches his something. A librarian doesn't have her name stamped on every book she checks out. But my byline is an integral part of my story. It's there, front and center, for everyone to see. 

People tell me quite often they look for my name. My name is linked every week to my "Cook of the Week" feature and to "Herman," the sourdough starter. Will readers know to look for a new name?

I have no qualms at all about being Mrs. Randy Fritzemeier. Well, truthfully, I'd rather be called Kim Fritzemeier so I don't lose both my names. I'll use the name with pride and pleasure in my private and social life. My credit cards will change, as will my checking account and post office box. That's fine. I'm prepared. 

But I wanted to remain Kim Moore for my professional life. Randy doesn't agree. He said anyone who knows us will know about the change anyway. And he said the people who don't personally know us are smart enough to figure out that the Kim Fritzemeier now writing the "Cook of the Week" is the same person as Kim Moore.

I understand how Randy feels. Fritzemeier is his name; he's used to it. I don't have any quarrel with the name either. The name's fine, though one of my pet peeves is having names misspelled. 

Randy and his parents say with a name like Fritzemeier, you're bound to have you name misspelled at least half the time. In fact, I had to give my own family instructions on adding enough "E's" in all the right places. 

By the time this appears, I've already lost my name. It's hard saying goodbye to an old friend who's treated you well. 
Happy Anniversary to the guy who is responsible for my name change all those years ago. I'm still blessed to be your wife.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Then and Now

"In my Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it.
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade."

Easter 1963: We either didn't have new bonnets or we didn't wear them in the after-church shot at my Grandma/pa Neelly's house.

But it does show our Easter finery. My mom made our Easter dresses every year. Usually, she used the same pattern for my two sisters and me, and we each got a different color of the same fabric.
Brother Kent didn't get a matching tie for his first Easter back in 1967. We usually didn't wear hats except at Easter. I certainly can recall the choking grip of the elasticized band around my chubby neck. We may have begged to leave them off for the photo.

However, my memories didn't keep me from making my daughter wear an Easter bonnet (at least until she was old enough to protest!)
(Easter 1988)

The tradition for frilly dresses, white patent leather shoes and ruffled socks continued. I've always loved this photo. Brother and sister love and cleaned up kids ... what's not to like?

When our kids were little, we started an Easter egg tree tradition. We blew out eggs and decorated them. I've been storing them in egg cartons ever since, and each year, I enjoy remembering the fun we had decorating eggs. I got some of them out this year, though I didn't decorate the Easter egg tree, since we won't have guests for Easter.
When we stopped by Topeka last weekend, I got to watch as Kinley decorated her own blown-out Easter eggs. Strategically, the Easter egg dyeing was planned during Brooke's naptime. Brooke and fragile Easter eggs don't mix. Brooke and food dye don't mix. Maybe next year!
Kinley was fascinated, watching the food dye dissolve in the water.
Coloring eggs is serious business.
Even though Brooke was not invited to the egg decorating party, she did get to meet the bunnies and chicks at Orscheln's. 
Brooke will be glad to inform anyone that bunnies go "Hop, hop, hop!" She also does a good baby chick imitation. 
I hope the Easter bunny hops to your house this weekend! Happy Easter!

I debated about posting this lighthearted Easter message today on Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian year. However, even on this day of betrayal and sacrifice, we look forward to the Good News. For a more introspective look at Good Friday, check out these previous blog posts:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Well-Baby Checks

It was a lovely spring morning for a 4-wheeler ride in the pasture. But we had more in mind than just a farm version of an amusement ride as we bumped over the pasture ruts. It was time to round up the mamas and the babies for the youngster's "well-baby checks."

Just like human moms take their children to regularly-scheduled doctor's appointments, the bovine babies go through a similar process, though we skip the weight and height measurements. And, for this particular visit, Randy serves as the "physician's assistant," without the medical degree.
There are always a few who dawdle. (There are a few in every crowd, right?) We ran the mamas and babies through a series of corrals and then into a pen by the old barn, where we sorted the pairs. I didn't get photos of that process. It's not a Kodak moment to send the mamas out, while trying to keep the babies in the pen. (In other words, I don't have any extra hands for clicking the camera shutter.)
Then, you have to convince someone to become a leader. Here, most of them were turned in the wrong direction. Guys, it works better to go head first into the barn. They eventually figured out what direction they were going. We loaded them into a trailer and hauled them to the working corrals, where each waited for his or her turn.
A few already had eartags. They were calves from heifers, which we tag as we go.
Others would get their tags while in the calf cradle, a miniature squeeze chute.
Here on the County Line, the first number on the ear tag signifies the year the calf was born. So, this year's numbers begin with a "6" for 2016.  Last year's calves had a number beginning with 5 and so on. Randy's name and cell phone number are on the back for easier identification.
Each calf's left ear is notched, another form of identification we use on our farm.
Then, the baby calf and his friends get Tic-Tac-sized growth implants in their ears. Ralgrow is a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow.
The $1 implant will bring a $3 return. Randy believes it's a matter of using the technology available to more efficiently grow food for consumers. And, yes, we eat the meat that we produce here on the farm and share it with our children and grandchildren.
We give each calf two injections. One is Ultrabac 7, an immunization to prevent blackleg. The other is Bovi-Shield Gold 5, which prevents viral diseases in cattle. People often question the reasons for giving immunizations to animals that will eventually enter the food chain. But these injections are like giving immunizations to our own children. It helps keep the calves healthy, and healthy cattle provide a good source of protein in the human diet

The bull calves, like Number 635, also become steers during their time in the chute. (The next three photos below were taken a different year, but are better than those I took yesterday.)
Randy makes an incision in the sac.
He pulls the testicles through the incision.
And then he cuts the cords. It was time for No. 635 to exit the chute to make room for the next one and to join his buddies.

 Here is the one we were looking for all morning - the last one of the day - the 27th.
The moms were waiting anxiously as we returned to their corral.
Cue the music: "Reunited, and it feels so good!"
It was time for a snack break.
We sent them back to a nearby pasture to await their transport to greener summer pastures in May.
Today on the agenda? Working another group of County Line calves. It's supposed to be windy today, so it may not be the most pleasant of working conditions. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Family Resemblance

Do you remember the book, Are You My Mother? It was published in 1960 as part of Random House's Beginner Books series.

I remember checking this book out of the Pratt Public Library as a child. When I took Jill and Brent to the library, I loved pulling my favorite childhood books from the shelves and packing them in our book bag.

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman is the story about a mother bird who knows her egg will be in her nest where she left it, so she leaves him alone to go and get something for him to eat. The baby chick hatches. He does not understand where his mother is, so he goes to look for her. In his search, he asks a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a cow if they are his mother. They each say, "No."

Spoiler alert:  He eventually finds his mother.
During a weekend trip to Topeka, I was reminded that there's not a question about who Kinley's mother is. There's plenty of Daddy characteristics, too, as I watched the engineer and meticulous first-born daughter build together at the Discovery Center.
And, as Brooke transforms from toddler into little girl, now 18 months old, there is definitely some family resemblance there, too. (Actually, Brooke wasn't a toddler for long. She's more a "runner." I was reminded of that as Randy and I were chasing her around the Topeka Zoo!)
There might even be a few characteristics that come from an older generation.

It wasn't easy to get everyone standing in one place and looking the same direction.
We also see bloodlines reflected on the County Line. There's no question that this little calf and mother are a pair. Even their facial markings are virtually the same. 
While these aren't exactly a matched pair, the splotch on their face makes it easy to see they are related, too. 
We have lots of little all-black babies and mamas running around the pasture.
But when it's time to eat, mother and baby are sure to find one another!
Family resemblance: It's fun to see, whether human or bovine!

A note:  I wrote this last week and intended to post it on Thursday or Friday. But I went with Randy to a Kanza Co-op board retreat in Kansas City and was too cheap to pay the $9.95 it took to use the internet in my room. Plus, I spent most of the time in KC in the hotel room sick. I hated missing the group activities. As I told a couple of people, if I missed a dinner theater, you know I didn't feel well. On a positive note, I read three books and watched more NCAA basketball than I figured I'd be able to. See? You can find positives in anything.  And that may be easier, since I'm feeling a whole lot better today.