Monday, October 31, 2016

Stockpile: A Silage Pictoral

Have you noticed the squirrels running around collecting their provisions for the winter? I've read that squirrels began gathering food earlier this year to prepare for a long, cold winter. The Farmers' Almanac also predicts a cold and snowy winter for many parts of the country. (The almanac map shows "freezing cold and average snowfall" for us.) Of course, it's a little hard to believe that on October 31 when the temperatures are supposed to be in the 80s later today. But then again, it's Kansas, so there's no point trying to predict the weather.

But, just like the squirrels, we've been packing away provisions for the winter. It's not for us. It's for our cows.

A couple of weeks ago, a custom crew came to harvest our silage crop. Rains early in the summer made for tall stalks.
However, Randy was disappointed in how little grain was in the heads of the silage. The rains quit about the time the grain was supposed to be filling the heads.
The crew arrived on an overcast day. It didn't rain, but it was gloomy (which didn't make for the best photos).
 With the tall stalks, it didn't take long to fill the trucks with the chopped silage.
The three truck drivers were meeting themselves coming and going, and the cutter operator still had some downtime waiting for them to get back from dumping at the silo.
The silage (or forage sorghum) we grow is dual purpose: It has both grain and forage (or roughage), both of which are important to the cattle's diets as TDN - total digestible nutrients.

Silage cutting is another one of those choreographed farm "dances." The silage feeds into the cutter and is chopped. An auger carries the chopped silage into the truck.
All this happens "on the go," with the truck and the cutter continuing in sync through the field until they get to the end of the rows.
They then move into position for the next swath down the field. Or, if the truck is full, it begins its short trip to the trench silo.
By design, Randy plants the silage in fields fairly close to the silo so that it doesn't have to be trucked so far.
Once at the silo, the truck dumps its load.
Then it's back to the field for another load on the go.
In the meantime, a tractor driver packs down the silage. 
Packing allows more to be put into the "pantry," so to speak, and it helps the fermenting process. Once in the silo, the silage goes through an "ensiling" process. It goes through chemical changes, and the heat builds up. It raises the pH of the silage so that it doesn't spoil or ferment any longer. The top 6 inches of it will rot, then it forms an airtight seal, protecting the silage underneath.

After we bring the cows and calves off the summer pastures, the guys will start feeding the silage to the cattle. The mama cows will get the silage as is. For the feeder calves, the guys will add about 3 to 4 pounds of vitamin- and mineral-enriched grain per head, since they need the additional energy to grow to get ready for market.

It's good to get another harvest crossed off the books ... and to see the cattle's "pantry" full and ready for Old Man Winter.
Today, we're going to bring the first group of cows and calves back home from summer pasture. We know the cold and snow will arrive soon enough - even if it's not on this 80-degree day. But with plentiful rains early in the summer and the newly-filled silo, they'll have plenty to eat - even if the Farmers' Almanac is right and it's a cold winter!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Oreo Blondies: Definitely TREAT!

'Tis the season for trick or treat. These Oreo Blondies definitely fall in the "treat" category. The "trick" will be figuring out how to limit your intake once you get a whiff (and bite!) of these bar cookies.

I belong to a Farmers Wives group on Facebook and someone shared the recipe for these Oreo Blondies after making them to include in meals to the field during fall harvest. Farmers wives have a reputation as good cooks, so I was already intrigued. But then I noticed that this particular farmer's wife happened to be my niece, Paige.

She gave them rave reviews, even calling them her "find" of the fall harvest season.  With an endorsement like that, I decided to make them for a tailgate party we went to after the K-State football game last weekend.

I know homemade Halloween goodies are frowned upon in most circles. Was the whole razor-blade-in-the-apple story fact or urban legend? Or was it "leaked" from a candy company who wanted to sell more hermetically-sealed mini treats during the Halloween rush?

It's not like I get any Halloween visitors anyway. If I bought a bag of candy, it would just sit there tempting Randy and me. So, on the off-chance I have a Halloween visitor or two, I just might wrap up a homemade treat. (Yes, those kind of treats sit around tempting Randy and me, too. Let's not get hung up on that, OK?)

Since we live 11 miles or so from town, we don't get much Halloween foot traffic. But, on the off chance that someone drops by, I just might have a homemade treat. Back in my Halloween excursions trick or treating for UNICEF, my favorite treat was a homemade popcorn ball from my Grandma Neelly. Homemade treats weren't out of the ordinary back then. (No, I wasn't of the generation that walked to school 3 miles one way through snow, but it's starting to sound like it, isn't it?) I promise I'll label any homemade Halloween treats with my name and phone number. These bars aren't wicked. Then again, maybe they are, if you're counting calories.

I used regular Oreos, but if you are someplace where you could get the orange-stuffed Oreos, it would provide an even more festive bar!
Oreo Blondies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) instant vanilla pudding
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips (milk or semi sweet)
1 cup white chocolate chips
16 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces

In mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing together until well blended. Add in dry pudding mix, and mix until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips and Oreo pieces.

Spray a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Put batter into pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes. Don't overbake; cook until the center is set, but it's still gooey. Let cool and cut into squares.

Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck hosted by these bloggers. Click on the link for recipes for more goodies, main dishes and more from cooks across the country. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Picture It!

Sometimes scrolling through Facebook offers opportunities you'd never imagined.

I admit it: I probably waste a fair amount of time looking at Facebook. But in June, I saw a post from K-State's College of Business Administration. They were asking K-State alumni to submit original photos to be considered as decor for the new building.

Since Brent is the Communications Coordinator at the college, I emailed him about it. But he didn't know any more than what had been posted. So I decided I'd give it a try.

It wasn't limited to College of Business alums. Even those of us who graduated from K-State's College of Home Economics (1979) could submit up to five photographs for consideration. It wasn't limited to K-State themed images. When I asked, they told me this:
Whatever you shoot that’s exceptional: Kansas, France, K-State, California… We just want good work by KSU alumni.
Well, I was fresh out of photos from France or California, but I have lots of Kansas and K-State. I spent a few days thinking about it, then emailed my choices. And in July, I was notified that three of the five had been chosen for inclusion in the new building! The final selections were made by the Leopold Gallery + Art Consulting in Kansas City. (And Brent didn't have a thing to do with it.)
I was anxious to see the new building. For one thing, Brent works there, and I like visualizing where my kids are. (Mom habits die hard.) However, we were planting wheat when they had the grand opening ceremony earlier in October. Brent said he'd give us a personalized tour later. We finally got our chance last Friday.

It was such a thrill for me to see my photos enlarged to archival prints and matted to decorate the walls of the new building. Little gold plaques are mounted beside each print, giving the name of the photo and the photographer.

One of them - which I titled Hope for the Harvest - is in the Student Success Center on the building's first floor. I took it in June, as the sun was coming up over a nearly ripe wheat field.
Another is hung over a communal study area on the 3rd floor. It's called Rainbow's Gold. It was an older photo I'd taken in September 2009.
My shot from a K-State football game is in the offices for the National Strategic Selling Institute. (The universe - and wind - aligned just right during the pregame ceremonies in September 2014, and the flags were perfectly framed by the goalposts. I'd never captured it before or since in just that way.) I called it "Faithful to Our Colors," a line from the K-State Fight Song.
I didn't whip out a tape measure to figure out how large they are printed. (I was already embarrassing Brent enough.) But it definitely gave me a thrill to see my photos on walls other than my own.

Photography takes an instant out of time, 
altering life by holding it still.
Dorothea Lange

Just a note:  I suppose someone out there will read this and think I'm bragging.  That may be part of the reason it's taken me from the time I was notified in July until now to write about it - or talk about it at all. Until now, I had told my parents and my kids. For one thing, I thought it was just too good to be true until I saw it with my very own eyes.

However, one of my missions for this blog is sharing about our life on a Central Kansas farm. This is part of my story. If I had a diary like a turn-of-the-century farm wife, I would have recorded it there so my descendants would know about it someday. This is my modern-day diary, I suppose. I am humbled to share a couple of images from the County Line and another from our beloved alma mater with visitors to the College of Business Administration. I am thankful for the opportunity and for the honor!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wickedly Wild(Cat) Weekend

The soundtrack from Wicked has been playing in the car - and my head - since Randy and I saw it last week in Wichita. If you haven't seen it, the underlying message is that there is a back story to everyone. Was the Wicked Witch of the West really wicked? Or was she just misunderstood because she didn't look like everyone else? Is Glinda the Good Witch really just a pretty face or is there more substance there? 

It's been a long summer. With rain delays, wheat harvest took a month and ended when we had to hire a bulldozer to pull a borrowed combine out of hail-damaged wheat. That was followed with haying. The past few weeks, we've been harvesting fall crops and planting the 2017 wheat crop. Seeing Wicked was the first stop in a weekend away from the farm. On Friday, we drove the back roads from Wichita to Manhattan.

We missed the height of the red sumac season in the Flint Hills, but the region was still dressed in its fall finery. The rolling hills and the brownish-red tinged grass against the blue sky even caused this confirmed bookworm to put down the novel and instead feast on the surroundings outside the windshield.
We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks and then made our way to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve on Kansas Highway 177 near Strong City. I'd been there once before, but this was Randy's first stop.
The National Park Service operates 32 acres there, including the 1881 historic ranch house, limestone barn and outbuildings, as well as a one-room schoolhouse just down the road. 
I suppose there is a fair amount of irony in the farm couple stopping at a farm during a mini vacation. But maybe there was an explanation on one of the displays at the preserve:

You must not be in the prairie;
but the prairie must be in you.
William A. Quayle
The prairie - and Kansas - are in us. Just like Glinda and Elphaba, we are products of our surroundings and our upbringing.
So, it's not a surprise when Randy wants to be photographed with a three-story historic barn. The barn where we live will be torn down this winter, so it was with a bit of nostalgia that we walked through the restored barn at the Preserve.
Further down the road, we visited another restored barn on the Kansas State University campus.
The Gardens at Kansas State University also have a barn for a backdrop. The K-State Dairy Barn and Milk House (caretakers cottage) was built in 1933 in the same location where it sits today.

The actual dairy production was moved to a new site north of campus in the fall of 1976.
The cottage, which today serves as the Gardens Visitor Center, once housed student workers that lived upstairs and milked for their rent. The first floor contained a weighing room, milk room, refrigerator, washroom and the herdsman’s office.
The gardens today serve as an educational resource and learning laboratory for K-State horticulture students and the visiting public.

After a visit to some of the older buildings on campus at the gardens, we were off to see the newest building. The K-State College of Business Administration moved into its new building just in time for the start of classes this fall. The grand opening ceremonies were earlier this month, but we were planting wheat and couldn't go. 
As Communications Coordinator for the College of Business Administration, this is Brent's new "stomping grounds." So we got a personalized tour on Friday. (He is his mother's son: He wouldn't let me take his picture. At least he didn't walk away from me while I was snapping away during the tour.)
I had to settle for a photo of Randy in Brent's office chair.
At my core, I'm a mom. So I like seeing where my kids spend their time. Besides experiencing the beauty in the new building, we also got to see some of the fruits of Brent's labor, since he updates the college's interactive displays.
There are places for group and individual study scattered throughout the four floors of the building.
Randy says he would never get any studying done since the huge glass windows would be the centerpiece for endless daydreaming.

It was homecoming week at K-State, and we had a mini family reunion on the steps of the Manhattan First United Methodist Church while we waited for the parade to pass by. My parents were there, along with my sister and assorted nieces and nephews. Eric brought the girls to their first homecoming parade.
Neither was very brave to begin with.  Willie was admired from afar, though other kids gave him exuberant high 5s.

The girls wouldn't wander very far away from Daddy.
Eventually, the lure of candy pulled Kinley out to the street. And Brooke leaped from Daddy's to Grandpa's to Grandma's laps. She admired the "big trucks" and "fire trucks."
The theme for homecoming this year was Growing Up Purple. (I wish I'd gotten the whole phrase on this shot, but I didn't see it until I was editing photos.)
Just like Glinda and Elphaba, we are products of our environments. Elphaba grew up "green." I grew up on a Kansas farm "bleeding purple." Through osmosis, our kids and granddaughters also have that heritage. And no matter Kinley's and Brooke's eventual paths - whether it takes them through the doors of a K-State classroom or not - the people and places of their childhood help form them into the adult people they'll be some day.
And that's all "For Good."
My favorite song from Wicked is "For Good," which says in part:

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives

For a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led to those who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Now I don't know if I believe that's true

But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you


So much of me is what I learned from you

You'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart

... Who can say if I've been changed for the better

But because I knew you,

I have been changed for good.

See why that song has been playing on a continual soundtrack in my head?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Beauty Of Letting Go

The trees are about to show you
 just how beautiful letting go can be.

A friend posted that quote on Facebook last week. I had just visited Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson on a fall afternoon. I had a few minutes to wander the paths there while I was waiting to pick up another friend who was at the dialysis center.
The trees weren't yet at their peak, but with a hint of fall in the air, it was a beautiful detour after I ran the errands I'd been forced to delay during wheat planting time.

Without my afternoon respite at Dillon Nature Center, maybe I would have read the quote and scrolled on by. But with those images of colorful leaves still on my mind, I jotted down the message on the notepad on my desk.
With other things on my to-do list, I didn't think about the quote until I started to compile the photos into a blog post. But this time, I read the quote in a whole new way.

The trees are about to show you
 just how beautiful letting go can be.

"Letting go ..." It's good for more than just leaves on trees. Someone had said something to me that really bothered me. I don't think the person meant any harm. But I stewed and fretted over the words nonetheless. In honesty, I gave them a lot more weight than they deserved.

I am someone who does better writing my feelings out, rather than trying to speak them. I composed a lengthy email to this person, but I left it in my "drafts" rather than hitting "send." I had a busy day, so it sat in my computer, but it also took up space in my mind.

And then I opened up my work-in-progress blog post, and I read those words about letting go in a whole new way. In that moment, it had nothing to do with the beauty of fall leaves. It had everything to do with "letting go" of the hurt.

So, instead of pushing "send" on the email, I deleted it from the drafts. I may still be working on "deleting" it from my mind, but I'm trying.

Around the same time, my Guideposts devotional had these words:

O God, give me the wisdom to know 
when to hold on and when to let go.
Only a few days before, I had stood in the quietness and watched the sun filter through trees, casting light and shadow over scene after scene.
I decided I needed to reflect His Light, too. I admit it took me awhile to get there.

Psalm 130:3-5New International Version (NIV)

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
On another scroll through Facebook, there was a quote shared by another friend:
Letting go ... forgiveness ... kindness: Those attributes seemed to be the right thing to do - even if the leaves weren't quite ready to do the same quite yet. 
As I was finishing up this post, I got a call from Randy to go and pick him up from a hay field several miles away. And wouldn't you know it, a song came on K-LOVE, Matthew West's "Forgiveness." (Click on the link to listen.)

Here are just some of the words:

It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don't deserve
It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they cause is just too real.
It takes everything you have to say the word

It was just another instance that one of my friends calls a "God wink." 

I'm linked to Tell His Story with Jennifer Dukes Lee. Click on the link to read more stories of faith.