Friday, September 30, 2016

Brownies for a Crowd

Long, long ago, I did a column in The Hutchinson News called "Cook of the Week," which featured cooks and their favorite recipes. Even though it's literally been 25 years ago, I still get comments once in awhile from people who loved that newspaper feature and who religiously saved those tried-and-true recipes from good cooks. 

One of those Cooks of the Week was Minnye Weers. When I knew Minnye, she lived at Stafford's Leisure Homestead. She was known as the Cookie Lady. She used the kitchen in the activity room at the rest home and baked hundreds of cookies. She baked for other residents. She baked for special events. She baked just to bake.

Minnye has been gone for years, but I still use one of her recipes fairly regularly. Because it makes a large 11- by 15-inch sheet cake pan of brownies, it's one of my go-to recipes when I need a big batch  - whether it's for lunches to take to the field, a potluck or other event where chocolatey goodness is the flavor prescription! (We are planting wheat right now, so I am elbow-deep in taking meals to the field - some days, both noon and evening meals.)

Her Brownies for a Crowd recipe was included in one of the Stafford Oktoberfest cookbooks. And, speaking of Oktoberfest, it's this weekend in Stafford! This recipe from an Oktoberfest cookbook would be great for welcoming family back home or if you need a pick-me-up while decorating that class reunion float.

Photo from Oktoberfest Parade 2015

The last couple of times I've made them, I've added variety to the basic recipe by sprinkling different toppings on the batter before I bake. That way, it's like I'm getting two (or more!) different kinds with just one bake.

In the photo above, I used mini M&Ms on one portion of the batter and a praline crumble on the other half. But the possibilities are endless ... as are the taste variations!
Let me know what you come up with, too!

Brownies for A Crowd
Recipe from Minnye Weers,
Stafford Oktoberfest Cookbook
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups oil
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
5 eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. water
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. cocoa

Cream together sugar and oil. Add vanilla, water and eggs, mixing well. Add dry ingredients, mixing well. Put into a prepared 11- by 15-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies test done.

Optional:  If you'd like, you may add different "sprinkle on" ingredients to the top of the batter before baking - like mini M&Ms, Butterfinger bits, toffee bits, Andes Mint bits, peanut butter chips or other similar items. If I'm not adding a topping, I often throw in some mini chocolate chips to the batter before baking these brownies.

I also like using this Praline Topping to sprinkle on top before baking. 

Praline Topping (Optional)
1 1/2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine all the praline ingredients and sprinkle over the top of the brownies before baking. Note: This amount of topping covers only half of the 11- by 15-inch sheet cake pan. Leave the other half plain or use another add-on on the remainder.
Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck, hosted by these bloggers. Check out the tried-and-true recipes from them and other foodies!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Road Trip!

Road trip!

There are definitely times when you'd prefer that your cattle not take a road trip. A call from the sheriff's office regarding cattle out is one of those times. That did happen a couple of times this summer. One time, we did have an escapee. We got a call the next day, saying we had cattle out again. We headed down in the dark, looking for them. After a search and no sign of tracks, I called the sheriff's office. The dispatcher looked at the report and said the cattle were by the Reno/Kingman County Line. Long story short, that's nowhere near us, and we shouldn't have gotten a call in the first place. Oh well! I told the officer that I guessed it was a good night for a drive.

But sometimes, a road trip is in the plans. We recently moved the heifers from one pasture to another one for a little rotational grazing as the summer pasture availability winds down for another year. These 25 young heifers will become mamas for the first time in February.
This was the first time we'd brought cattle back to the pasture where we'd lost a big old cottonwood tree this summer. Watching the trailer go through the gate was definitely a different view with only the stump still standing. 
A June storm brought down the mighty old cottonwood. (Click here for more on the old tree.)
The heifers seemed happy to arrive - even without the old landmark.
There are still plenty of cottonwoods that provide shade and a little respite from the sun.
Welcome to the new digs, ladies!
It looks like a nice place to be on a pretty fall day!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Go Big Red: No, Not the Football Team

Kansas grows more sorghum than any other U.S. state. However, here on the County Line, we are not contributing much to the total.
Still, it was the first time in four years that we'd had any milo planted.  I, for one, was glad to see it back. I think it's pretty.
August 20, 2016
However, that is not a valid reason for planting a crop (much like choosing a car by color only). This year, Randy planted milo on some poorer ground on which corn had not been productive. It took us less than a day to harvest the 30 acres we'd planted to milo.
August 20, 2016
By the end of the growing time, there was a factor that didn't make it nearly as pretty. The milo fields were invaded by sugarcane aphids. Those are the tiny little white dots on the milo leaves in the photo below.
Because the grain on the County Line had mostly turned color by the time the aphids arrived, we didn't spray the milo with an insecticide. (Our silage and sudan also have sugarcane aphids. We did have our silage sprayed by an aerial applicator to try and prevent further damage to it. That field isn't right by our house, so I didn't hear the plane and I missed the opportunity for pictures. Darn!)

When I went to the milo field to take photos of harvest, I noticed all the ladybugs. They were feasting on the aphids.

The tiny aphids migrate on southern winds, pierce the leaves of sorghum plants, suck out the sap and excrete a sticky substance known as honeydew that will gum up harvesting equipment such as combines and ensilage cutters.

As Randy moved through the fields, you could see the sticky residue, making the milo leaves glisten. Thankfully, it didn't gum up the combine for us.

A custom harvester who was eating breakfast in town last week said he'd told his customers that he wouldn't cut aphid-infested fields without them being sprayed because he didn't want to tear up his equipment. It's kind of a Catch-22. Choosing whether or not to spray comes down to a couple of factors: economics and harvestability. It can cost between $15 and $25 an acre to spray the insecticide. Also, there's a four-week withdrawal time before it can be harvested. With milo only at $2.57 a bushel, it's not easy to make a decision to add additional expenses to production of the crop. 
“Right now, with the price of sorghum, you need 90 to 100 bushels just to break even,” said J.P. Michaud, entomologist at the K-State Agricultural Research Center in Hays.
In the photo above, the little dots on the combine windshield are ladybugs. They were taking a ride as Randy went through the field.
One field of our milo made 90 bushels per acre. The other field averaged 60 bushels per acre.
In 2014, Kansas ranked first in grain sorghum production in the U.S. with more than 200 million bushels grown, which equated to more than 40 percent of the country's total production. 

The use of sorghum for human consumption is being developed further in countries where malnutrition and hunger are prevalent. The fall issue of the Kansas State University College of Agriculture Ag Report had an article about sorghum:
In the Mara Region of Tanzania, one of the most starved areas of the world, K-State grain scientist Sajid Alavi is part of a research team working to improve child nutrition and health by providing a sorghum-soybean porridge blend to children younger than 5. ... While the results of the five-month study are yet to be finalized, Alavi said the early indications are that children were more healthy and had average growth rates.
 Even closer to home, Stafford High School students are researching milo. A post to the Stafford High School Greenhouse and Aquaponics page last week showed a photo and explained research being done by students at our small, 1A school. (That makes me really proud of our school!)
From the Stafford High School Greenhouse and Aquaponics Facebook page
Here's what they had to say:
The Ag Research class has begun to investigate sorghum as an alternative to corn production in arid regions of the world. Sorghum isn't nearly as thirsty or hungry as corn, yet produces a grain seed with 95% the nutritional value of corn (lacking vitamin A). We soaked locally grown sorghum in water overnight, next morning brought the container to a rolling boil, then let it simmer for almost 2 hours. The sorghum berries where soft and tender ready to be eaten. Compared to beans, sorghum would save preparation time and save limited resources while providing a nutritious replacement for beans. The sorghum grown in the most of the US is for feed.
Last night, Luke Alpers and his teacher Mike Cargill spoke at a PEO gathering. Luke has been selected to represent the state of Kansas as a delegate to the 2016 Global Youth Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, October 12-15. He'll be part of the conversation with the World Food Organization about world food security. Luke will present his paper on the aquaponic system at Stafford High School.

The SHS students are also doing experiments with mealworms.These insects were able to utilize non-food products - like Styrofoam, cardboard, banana leaves and cut-up plastic milk cartons - and convert the media into a biological food source. The worms could provide another protein source for malnourished countries and could also have implications at landfills. It is fascinating stuff! Want to know more about what our SHS students are doing? "Like" the Stafford High School Greenhouse and Aquaponics on Facebook for periodic updates on what's going on in the greenhouse and in the Ag Research class. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

My State Fair Is the Best State Fair

Two little girls came to the fair
Brooke, at first, didn't want to be there.
She was afraid that she would be left
Without her Mommy, she'd be bereft. 
Kinley was ready to hop into fun
Her face poked out of a flower of "sun."
Brooke was all shy and hiding her face.
She wasn't sure what to think of this place! 
Once that she realized her parents would stay.
Then it was time to get underway.
Who'd want to ride when you can walk with your feet?
But being pushed by your sister is pretty sweet!
A magic show was one of the stops.
Daddy got used as a ventriloquist prop.
Some of his antics made us all laugh
Even though ostrich might get cut in half!
A bunny named Stardust was part of the show.
She sat in her hat and went with the flow!
By the time we got to the Kansas Wheat booth
Brooke was all smiles - and that is the truth!
Both Kinley and Brooke peeked out with good cheer
There they were grinning from ear to ear.
There at the wheat booth, the combine was red.
But at Agriland, it was bright green instead.
It is probably good to give equal time
At fair exhibits on which to climb.
At Agriland, we also felt grain.
We stuck in our hands; we didn't abstain.
There we touched some corn and some wheat
Feeling sunflowers and cotton also was neat!
Those cutouts were fun for a couple of girls.
We stuck in our heads and gave it a whirl.
We were like flowers. We were like vets.
Pretending is pretty much good as it gets!
We watched as the worker was milking a cow.
Seeing all of the milk made us say, "Wow!"
Though we buy our milk in the grocery store
It's good to discover and learn even more.
We are thankful for cows and for farms
Giving us milk is one of their charms!
Since we had learned all about milking from pros,
we thought that we, too, should give it a go. 
Though the cow that we used, she wasn't a real one.
We milked and we milked until we were done!
Brooke looked closely and checked out the cow.
So proud of her efforts, she almost did bow!
She spent lots of time putting milk in the pail.
And was ready to tell all the tale!
There in a building we also saw sheep.
Though we listened for "baas," there was nary a peep!
At the fair's Birthing Center, there were new little pigs.
Off of their mama, they were taking some swigs!
Mama was glad to give them a drink
It made the piggies all plumped up and pink!
All of those piggies had gotten to eat.
So we thought it was time that we got a treat! 
At another fun place, we put cattle in fence
Driving a truck also made sense!
We like pretending that we're on a farm. 
Being like Grandpa? There's surely no harm!
One of our favorites was the place made for bunnies!
Watching their noses wiggle gave us some funnies!
Kinley had waited all day for a horse
Riding Tornado pleased her, of course!
'Round and 'round in a circle, the horse it did go
She wasn't ready at all to say "Whoa!"
At first, Brooke had said that she wouldn't ride.
But after walking away, it wasn't denied
So Brooke saddled up with her mom as her guide.
And her face was filled with a big look of pride!
The petting zoo goats were all ready to greet
With mouths at the ready, they wanted to eat!
Kinley filled shovels and shovels with grain.
None of those goats were heard to complain!

Brooke had decided that she would just watch.
That way she wasn't knocked over or squashed!
But before leaving, Brooke gave one a pet.
Since it was little, that was a good bet!
Then it was time for a ride in a train.
Brooke needed a nap so she wouldn't complain.
The rest of us kept our eyes on the track.
And all waved at Grandpa as the train rumbled back!
Mommy and Daddy went down the big slide
Two girls on their laps with them did ride. 
One was all smiles and filled with good cheer.
One's face revealed a little more fear!
Then it was time to go on some rides
But first we had to stand next to a guide.
It told us if we were tall enough now
To climb on a ride and maybe say, "Wow!"
Brooke was big enough to drive a car.
And even if it did not go far.
She still had a smile fixed on her face.
The midway was fun ... a wonderful place!
Sometimes the ride required a Mom
To ride such a ride without any qualm.
But Kinley was able to ride up on high.
Without any parent, she was ready to fly!
Then she went over to ride on a coaster.
All alone did she ride, but she wasn't a boaster!
The dragon was grinning. Kinley was, too.
It was really such a fun thing to do!
While Kinley was flying up high in the sky.
Brooke gave the fish ride a bit of a try. 
Even though it stayed close to the ground.
She was all smiles. There wasn't a frown!
Though Kinley had earlier slid on a slide. 
Now by herself, she was ready to ride. 
She climbed up the stairs. It was really high.
With a rug underneath her, down she did fly!
A trip to the midway just isn't complete.
Without a ride on the carousel. Wasn't it sweet? 
With music playing a wonderful tune.
The ride was all over just a bit too soon! 
Photo taken by Brooke!
Then we were off and went to "Do Art."
There we made rockets. Fun off the chart!
Scissors and markers and buckets of glue.
We're always happy when crafts we can do!
Did you all notice that Kinley had smiles.
Even though we had walked miles and miles.
Her smile was as wide at the end of the day
As the first one she'd offered before our fair stay. 

As the rain came, we all ran for our car.
But even a deluge just couldn't mar
The fun that we'd had and the smiles that we'd shared
We can't wait until next year - the Kansas State Fair!

(A note from the poet: Grandma was slow posting this. It takes awhile to edit 100+ photos and write a post in verse. But I still wanted to share it for the girls and to preserve the memory of a fun family day!)