Friday, April 29, 2016

Smoky Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are sometimes called ''the cabbage with a college education." However, despite that lofty title, they are still among the most maligned vegetable on the planet. And, admittedly, they aren't too tasty if they end up soggy and limp.

I didn't grow up eating Brussels sprouts, but I've grown to like them as an adult. And with bacon? How can you go wrong with a little bacon?

This spring, my hometown grocery store has had them in the produce section. Bonus! A 12-ounce package was just the right amount for Randy and me when served with teriyaki salmon and rice pilaf. The recipe can easily be doubled to serve more people.
Smoky Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine
12 oz. package Brussels sprouts
3 strips smoky bacon
3 tbsp. sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. While water is heating, cut off ends of Brussels sprouts and cut each in half. Add the Brussels sprouts to the boiling water. Cook over high heat until tender, but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Drain well, reserving about 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid.

Cut bacon into 1/4-inch strips. In a large skillet, cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 7 minutes. Add the cooked Brussels sprouts and cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sour cream and reserved cooking liquid. Simmer briefly over moderate heat until the Brussels sprouts are coated. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 2-3 people.

Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck, hosted by these bloggers. Check out the tried-and-true recipes from them and other foodies!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Corny Post

It's the crop that almost wasn't.

Before last week's 2.80" of rain, Randy wasn't going to plant corn on the 200 acres he'd planned. He'd ordered seed from our friendly neighborhood salesman. But without moisture, it would have been a lesson in futility to plant the expensive seed.
Who knows? It may still be a lesson in futility. Since we are dryland farmers, we need the rain to fall at the right time and moderate temperatures during pollination later this summer.  But the much-needed moisture was the "green light" to start planting the green seed.

God says, "Leave the miracle part to me. 

I've got the seed, the soil, the sunshine, the rain and the seasons.

I'm God and all this miracles stuff is easy for me. 

I have reserved something very special for you 

and that is to plant the seed."
--Jim Rohn, Author & Motivational Speaker

Randy just might have jinxed himself the night before the planting began by saying something like this: "I think we are caught up on repairs at the moment."

At the time that declaration came out of his mouth, I looked at him and shook my head. "You are tempting fate!" I told him.

So guess who was off for parts the next day? I picked up two fertilizer tanks to replace the ones that had cracked during the winter. And $1,200-plus later, I was back from my whirlwind trip to Hutchinson, and the guys got the tanks installed. Randy started planting last Friday (April 22) afternoon.

We got one field planted, but then had another breakdown. (It's just one other variation of the Farmer's Law: "If you're in a hurry to get something done, there will inevitably be breakdowns."

The parts didn't come in until Tuesday morning. Once they were in place, he was off to the field to try and get more planted before the forecasted severe weather came in. (It never did, by the way.)
Randy also applies fertilizer to give the seed a boost of energy for germination and early growth.
Our planter was set at 18,800 corn seeds per acre. Each $205 bag has 80,000 seeds and plants 4.3 acres. By comparison, one bag of certified wheat seed costs $15 and plants a little more than 1/2 an acre. A bag of milo seed costs $100 and plants 14 acres.
And now we'll leave the miracle part to God. We may need some more miracles in the repair department, too. I'm off to Hutchinson again today to pick up more parts. (Farm wife hint: NEVER say you are caught up on repairs.)

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Path Less Traveled

This quote is found in the Dillon Nature Center educational area. I added it to one of the images I took on our recent walk on the nature trails there.

Sometimes I go nowhere on the treadmill. Sometimes I kick up dust on our dirt road. And, once in awhile, I travel the road less traveled.

Randy and I had a little extra time between appointments in Hutchinson last week. So we went to Dillon Nature Center and walked the trails there for a change of pace - pun intended.

The birds sang. (No, I couldn't capture them in my camera viewfinder as they darted quickly from tree to tree. But I did catch glimpses of red and brown among the branches of trees as they flitted from perch to perch.)
The overhead branches formed a canopy of light and shadow over the nature trail. And I couldn't help but think of the very first song I sang for a music festival in junior high.

I know a green cathedral
A shadowed forest shrine
Where leaves in love join hands above
And arch your prayer and mine.
It's a lesson in irony to remember lyrics from a long-ago solo and not be able to remember why I came into a room. But it's my reality, it seems.

Some of the annual flowers brightened our way. My favorite was this beautiful columbine.
Flowering shrubs provided fragrance and beauty, too.
The sun created bursts of light through red buds and green leaves.
It was almost as if these cypress roots are like little people enjoying the view from the shoreline of the pond.
We enjoyed the view, too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Farmers: The First Environmentalists

For 45 years, environmentalists have celebrated Earth Day. It's today - April 22 - by the way. Here on the County Line, we will celebrate Earth Day just like we do pretty much every other day on this wonderful planet. We'll be caring for the earth and the creatures it shelters.
Cow-calf pairs arrive at the Ninnescah Pasture
Farmers are the world's first environmentalists. They've been the caretakers from the time God gave man authority over the plants and animals of the earth. However, some of the loudest voices from the environmental community will tell you that modern agriculture is killing the planet. They denounce herbicides and pesticides and fungicides. They think meat production is creating too big a carbon footprint. They want a return to overall-clad farmers hitching up their teams of horses or oxen to work the ground to produce solely organic products. (By the way, I have nothing against farmers in overalls. Overalls were the "uniform" of choice for my Grandpa Neelly who lived to be 100 and would have taken his cow herd to the rest home, if they would have let him. I also have nothing against organic foods or farmers. There is a place for every kind of farmer - from conventional to organic.)

This morning, Randy is taking maps to the Kanza Co-op so our wheat fields can be sprayed with fungicide. While this week's rain gave our ailing 2016 wheat crop a much-needed boost, it also prompted disease formation.
Let me tell you: It's not an inexpensive venture to treat a wheat crop with fungicide. When we consider the cost of all the inputs compared to the price we'll get at the elevator, there's a thin margin. And we also have to go on faith that the crop will make it to harvest with enough well-timed rain, avoiding any accompanying hailstorms or other of the myriad of scenarios that could impact it negatively. We definitely aren't doing it "just because" there is such a product available today. We are doing it to be good managers of our crop.

At a wheat profitability conference back in 2010, I heard Dr. Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute speak. (Click here for the entire blog post.) He said, in part:
"Set aside time in your life to promote agriculture to those who don't understand it. The greatest problem with agriculture today isn't the volatility of the price of inputs. It's not the volatility of prices. It's the negative attitude toward farming. Environmental zealots want to convince the public that you are spoiling the land.

"You need to become an agriculture activist.
... We need to let people know that if we don't use herbicides and insecticides, people across the globe will starve.
"Let people know that despite "news" to the contrary, the family farm is not dead. There are 2 million farms in the U.S. Only 1 percent are owned by absentee organizations.

"We need to tell people that we are the best land conservationists. We produce three times more food than we did 40 years ago with greater yields on less land.

"We need to let people know that every day is Earth Day on the farm, not just April 22."
Who better to appreciate the earth and its resources than the nation's farmers and ranchers? We recently took some pairs to the Ninnescah Pasture for an early start to their summer "vacation" there. It was a beautiful, overcast day. The wild mustard made a pretty backdrop for some "family photos."

We first hauled the babies to the pasture, then we went back for their mamas. Each time we drove through the gate under the branches of a towering old cottonwood, I was struck by the beauty of the landscape at this pasture, a place that Randy has been renting to use for cow-calf pairs for nearly 40 years.
It's a great privilege to run cattle at this beautiful place. It's in the best interest of our family, our farming operation, the land owners and the creatures we care for to appreciate the earth and everything in it.
It's our job.
It's our calling and passion.
We don't take it for granted. From sunrise to sunset and beyond, we celebrate the small moments that can too easily be overlooked. That's what it means to be a farmer on Earth Day and the other 364 days of the year.
I was honored this week to be included on In the Furrow's "Big List of Farmer Blogs." Click on the link to check out the other farm bloggers on the list, which were chosen for doing "a great job of spreading positive messages about all the wonderful things farmers are doing to feed the world." Thanks for making my day, In the Furrow!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bulls and Babies - Present and Future

We had our own rodeo on the County Line last Friday. Thankfully, the bulls skipped the bucking portion of the rodeo event and proceeded calmly to their doctor's appointment with Dr. Dayul Dick from Prairie Vista Veterinary Hospital. So maybe I should call it a round-up instead. Semantics, you know! And I'll gladly give credit where credit is due.
Dr. Dick came to the farm to test our five bulls through a breeding soundness examination. (For a complete - though PG - description of the process, click here on last year's "job interview" post.)
All five bulls passed the exam and were ready for action, so to speak. 
The four Angus bulls "went a callin' " to the heifers, beginning yesterday.
The ladies had to have their doctor's appointments, too. From March 18-31, our 25 yearling heifers had their silage topped with MGA. MGA stands for melengestrol acetate, which suppresses the ovulation cycle for the heifers. That was the first step in getting  the heifers to come into estrus (or heat) at the same time. These heifers were born in early 2015. In 2017, they will become mothers for the first time.

Yesterday, we rounded up the heifers for their turn through the working chute.
Randy gave each heifer a shot of Lutalyse, which makes them come into estrus (or heat).

The Lutalyse also synchronizes the heifers' cycles. We do this to shorten the calving season for the heifers, which saves labor at calving time. (Well, it saves some labor for the humans - not the mama cows.) Because heifers are first-time mamas, we check them frequently in case they are having trouble calving.
"What? It's my turn?" this heifer seemed to say. She reminded me of a toddler who covers her eyes and thinks no one can see her. Despite her diversion tactics, she had her turn in the chute, too.

Once the heifers got their shots, it was time for the bulls to join them. It will likely be a couple of days for "romance" to blossom, in other words, for the Lutalyse to work.
And then, some 9 months later, we'll hope to have lots of healthy babies running around. We are down to just a few to calve for the 2016 County Line "class."
Also last Friday, we had another rodeo event - calf wrestling - without the horse or the rope.
 Three babies had been born at this location since we had worked baby calves earlier.
The guys followed the same routine, but it was a little more challenging without the squeeze chute. Randy wanted this particular "rodeo" event scheduled before the rain. I guess he didn't want to reenact a greased pig race. These guys were already fast enough!
The mamas were none too happy to be separated from their babies. They didn't mind protesting - loudly!
I was guarding a gate to keep the babies from making a hasty exit underneath. A mama seemed to question my intentions.

A critic in every bunch, right? Political rallies aren't the only events with protesters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Raindrops on Roses ... errr .... Wheat

"Raindrops on wheat fields" just isn't as catchy as "Raindrops on roses" from the song in The Sound of Music. But rain was definitely among this weekend's "favorite things," as the song says.  Put all those raindrops together and they totaled 2.10 inches of moisture.
It was a timely rain for our 2016 wheat crop, which is "heading." That means it is producing wheat kernels. An old wives' tale - or, probably more accurately, an old farmers' tale - says that harvest will be 6 weeks after the wheat is headed. If so, it could be an early harvest this year, depending upon how much more rain we get and how warm it gets in the next few weeks.

The rain should help fill more kernels and make the plants grow a little taller. The yellowish-brown places in the field still show that the crop was stressed due to lack of moisture before this life-giving rain. Back to that folklore thing ... Wheat is said to have nine lives, kind of like cats. The rain will help, but it likely won't fully recover. We could definitely use more rain, but we're thankful for the moisture we did receive.

My lilacs lapped up the extra moisture, too.
I have been waiting several years to have lilacs in my yard again. After an unfortunate herbicide accident, I have been missing the fragrant bushes. Randy replanted some several years ago and they finally decided to bloom this year.
With the rain and lilacs, it smelled like springtime and was better than any perfume.
I am not much of a gardener, so I appreciate the flowering plants that return, year after year ... especially when "kissed" with a gentle, soaking rain.