Monday, August 29, 2016

All the King's Horses ...

Randy purchased a barn at a sale on Saturday. If only the little Fisher-Price barn could replace the real McCoy.

Just the day before the sale, we discovered that the old barn at the County Line was falling down. It wasn't really a surprise. After a  2015 windstorm, the front of the barn was bowing deeper than a curtsying dancer.
April 2015
But, this time, there was no big windstorm. We heard no dramatic crash. The cupola and the hay loft simply gave way to gravity. Randy joked that it must have been the 0.60" of rain that fell Thursday and Friday.
As of this month, we've lived in our home for 31 years. We moved here when I was 8 months pregnant with Jill. The house was built as a wedding present for James and Katherine Johnson in 1938. But the farmstead itself was settled in the 1880s. We don't know when the barn was built. Back when the Johnsons lived here, they raised Hereford cattle and pigs. In its day, it was a grand old barn with lots of different stalls and compartments.

Randy started renting the barn and corrals just before we were married. Last year, after we witnessed the demise of a 100-year-old stone barn in the neighborhood and saw the damage to "our" barn, we decided it was time to put up a calving shed

For the 2016 calving season, our ladies-in-waiting heifers and newborn babies were housed in the new accommodations.
But, even though it was past its prime, the old barn had sheltered mamas and babies during snowstorms  and cold weather for many years.
We still planned to use the barn as an alleyway to load out cattle. And, so far, the roof hasn't fallen into the barn itself. But I think we need to come up with a Plan B sooner, rather than later.
Kind of like those makeover shows, but in reverse, here's the before ...
 ... And the after. 
The old barn has been a backdrop for lots of sunrises on the County Line.
While we didn't house the kids' 4-H animals in that barn, the show box and other supplies were kept there, so the kids were frequently in and out of heavy wood door as they cared for bucket calves and steers.

Just like in the picture books, the barn has been a landmark for Kinley and Brooke as they have visited us at the farm.
May 2014 - Kinley & Randy
We're picking up the girls tomorrow for a short visit. But a trip to the barn won't be on the agenda.
Grandpa does hope they will enjoy playing with the new-to-us toy barn and silo he purchased at the downsizing sale.

Someday soon, the old barn will just be a memory for all of us. Old friend, it's been good to know you.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

At first, the yellow flowers were the ones that caught my eye as I delivered lunch to the field. But then, when I got out of the car, I realized that the white "flowers" along the ditch mimicked the white clouds in the sky. (Randy later told me that he thinks the white plants are ragweed. My eyes may like them, but my nose definitely doesn't.)
Yellow flowers wave and bob a greeting from the ditches and fence line as the Kansas wind blows more hot air than a know-it-all. I wonder if the yellow blooms were part of the prairie landscape as this area was settled? I imagine that a pioneer woman would be encouraged to see a splash of color in the sea of grasses. Maybe it would even make her think she could settle here.
In 35 years of living in the same area and traveling the same roads, you'd think I would have seen every indigenous wildflower. I suppose the timely rains throughout the summer have nourished some extra beauty. Or maybe it's just being at the right place at the right time. It's enough to send me to the Kansas Wildflower website to try and figure out these latest specimens by color. "The Color Purple" is more than a book and movie - at least on that site!
But, even with online resources, these purple beauties are still a mystery guest in my peripheral vision.
They are as pretty as any mixed bouquet.

Who needs a game of "Name That Tune" when you can play "Name that Wildflower!"
I guess I need an in-house botanist. If anyone can name the prairie wildflowers today, please share!
But wildflowers aren't the only beauties along the roadways. A milo field changing hues as it ripens toward harvest provided a beautiful "bouquet" against a stormy summer sky.
And, for just a moment, a glimpse of rainbow hue dipped toward the horizon, just above the colorful field.
Just like an ever-shifting sunset, the landscape changes colors hour by hour and day by day .,, sometimes, even minute by minute. And I'll appreciate God's handiwork - whether I know the flowers' names or not.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My Personal Crop Consultant

We are always getting notifications by email, newsletter or farm magazine about the latest crop tours. I'm sure they are wonderful tours. But they can't compare to having my own personal crop consultant take me on a tour of the 2016 fall crops.


Our first stop was a field to see the prairie hay that Randy had baled for a neighbor. (That's in the shot above, framed by my ride for the morning.)
Elsewhere, part of our third cutting of alfalfa was baled up and ready to be moved to the edge of the field. (Cierra got that done on Saturday.) With rain in the forecast on Friday, Randy didn't put down any more hay after he got this baled. However, more of the third cutting was swathed yesterday. So, yes, it will probably rain! If not, the guys will probably rake and bale tonight.
While those hay bales are on long-established fields, Randy also took me to the newest alfalfa field. We got a good stand of alfalfa, though there is also some crabgrass coming up in the field. Turnips are also coming up in the field, but that was by design. Randy planted turnip seeds along with the alfalfa to help with cover and prevent wind erosion as the new field is established.

Photo taken August 1, 2016
We planted sudan in late July and early August.
After a week or so, it was up and growing.
Sudan grows fairly quickly. I took the planting photos on August 1. By August 19, it was ankle height.
Taken August 19, 2016
We usually swath and bale a portion of the sudan. We also leave some of it and fence it off. It will be a fall buffet for some of our cattle.

It's been a few years since we have grown milo on the County Line. I am glad to see it back. With our abundant rains, it's done well this year.
It's already turning color on its march toward harvest. Kansas has become the Number 1 producer of sorghum, another name for milo. Our acreage devoted to milo won't add a lot to those numbers, but we will add a little to the totals.

The crop towering over my model is silage. This fall, we'll have a crew come in and chop it for silage. It will go into a trench silo, and we'll pull from that "stash" to feed cattle this winter.
This year's rains have helped the silage grow to 12 feet tall. Yes, we got a tape measure and checked!
The well-established brace roots help keep the tall plant upright. 

The planter goofed up right here, leaving a swath that didn't get planted. But it made for some interesting light and shadows between rows.

This corn is way past corn-on-the-cob stage! Corn was the headliner in a blog earlier in the week. Click here to read about that crop's progress.

Thanks for coming along on the tour. You didn't even have to leave home!

Monday, August 22, 2016

I'm As Corny as Kansas in August

Walking through the corn these days is starting to sound like you're shaking cornflakes from the cardboard cereal box into a bowl.

Our 2016 corn crop is beginning to dry down. There's still plenty of green, but it's losing its lush, verdant color as it transitions toward harvest.
A corn field nearing harvest looks like it needs an airbrush before a beauty shot. In contrast, I think a wheat field looks pretty from start to finish. Well, except if it gets hailed on or a combine is stuck in the field. OK, I guess there are exceptions to every generalization. But, by the time the corn crop is ready to combine, those dried out leaves and husks just don't look at appealing from afar.
However, all those yellow kernels hiding inside the husks make up for it!
On Friday, Randy picked several ears from the field and hand-shucked them into a bucket.
He was curious about the moisture level.
Our tester showed that it was still 25.4 moisture. It needs to be 16 or lower to cut for hauling to the local co-op.
Harvest of our dryland corn crop is likely a couple of weeks away, depending on the weather.

For a look back at the highlights of the 2016 corn crop, click on this link.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Building A Better Back to School

This year, the Stafford Elementary School is "Building a Future at Trojan Nation!" So the Stafford PTO/Homeroom Connect decided to follow the Lego theme with some special treats at last night's back-to-school bash.
Photo by Carrie Hildebrand

Though I "did my time" on the organizational level in PTO when my kids were in grade school, I'm always willing to help out with special projects.

Since the kids are returning to school, I have a couple of scientific hypotheses to offer about this recipe:

1)  It likely took more than one pass of the toothbrush to sweep away all the color from mouths after eating the vibrantly-colored icing. (I tested that hypothesis myself with my hands as I constructed my share of the treats)
2) The author of the recipe is either much quicker than I am in the kitchen or she fudged the completion time to make the recipe more attractive. (It said 30 minutes. I beg to differ. By the time I got all the components done and packaged, it was an  hour and a half later.) But I realize that I am a perfectionist. I had several gel and liquid colors in my decorating stash. I used three of them to try to achieve the correct green. I added a squeeze of brown to go along with several dashes of red to get the fire-engine red color. And I didn't realize that the recipe author had just covered the tops of the treats. I tried to cover the sides, too. And, you must admit, it does give them a more authentic Lego look! (For a YouTube tutorial from the original recipe author, go to the bottom of this blog post.)
Even though I didn't go the back-to-school party, my additional hypothesis is that these treats were a hit. (And if our granddaughters ever want a Lego party, do I have a deal for them!)
Lego Rice Krispie Treats
5 cups crisp rice cereal
1/4 cup butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
1 large bag M & M candies
Multiple colors cookie decorator icing - store-bought or homemade

Line a 13- by -9-inch baking pan with waxed paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add marshmallows. Cook on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Pour in rice cereal. Stir well to coat.

Put cereal mixture in prepared pan. Spread out using another piece of waxed paper. Press evenly. Let cool completely. (You can refrigerate them for 5 minutes to speed the process.)

While the treats are cooling, separate the M & Ms into colors that match the icing you are using. You will need 6 of the same color per Lego Krispie.

Turn out Rice Krispie treats onto a wax-paper-covered cookie sheet. Cut into 18 rectangles (3 across and 6 down). Dip the top of the Rice Krispie treat into the icing and use a butter knife to smooth it out on top and down the sides (or just on top, if you prefer). Place M & Ms on top in parallel rows of 3 while icing is still wet. Repeat with remaining Rice Krispie treats in varying colors.

Once cookies are decorated, place on a flat, wax-paper-covered surface to allow frosting to dry. Store cookies in a covered container.

The original recipe used store-purchased Betty Crocker cookie decorator icing. I didn't have that available locally, so I made my own. I doubled this recipe to make enough to cover the 18 bars. If you don't frost the sides, you could probably get by with just one recipe.

Many of the icing recipes I found don't have butter in them but are mainly a combination of water and powdered sugar. But I figure if you're going to the trouble to frost something, it might as well taste good.
 Cookie Decorator Icing
Adapted from

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. corn syrup
2 tbsp. softened butter
1/4 tsp. almond extract
Gel food coloring - variety of Lego colors

Place sugar in mixing bowl. Combine milk, corn syrup, softened butter and almond extract. Add to powdered sugar and mix thoroughly. If it seems too thick, add a little more milk. (I did add some more milk, which I didn't measure. Sorry!) If it seems too thin, add more powdered sugar.

When it is the right consistency, divide into separate bowls, equal to as many colors as you want to do. Add gel food coloring, trying to match the color of the M & Ms. I already had red, yellow and green colors, so that's what I used. (I used three different greens I had in my cabinet, trying to get the color to match. It's still not a perfect match to the green M & Ms.)

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