Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Oh Deer!

So ... do you think this deer could read?
This doe was hanging out around the "No Hunting Zone" sign at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Was she taunting us? I could almost hear the "Na, na, na, na, na!" as we sat in the pickup and she commenced with the stare down. However, my camera was my only "hunting" equipment anyway.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Birds

Uninvited guests can wreak havoc at a party. No Kansas wheat farmer wants to provide a never-ending buffet for tens of thousands of geese. But, for several weeks, migrating geese have evidently seen an all-you-can-eat buffet sign flashing green from the heavens. And they say, "Don't mind if we do!"
Farmers try to send them on their way by honking their horns and making more drive-bys than a police cruiser trying to clean up a shady neighborhood. But about as soon as farmers mosey on down the road to the next location, the geese circle back for another taste of tender green wheat.
While hunters might enjoy the influx of geese in Central Kansas, wheat farmers prefer the feathered beasts find their buffet elsewhere, since they can eat a young wheat field to bare ground faster than a teenage boy and his friends can plow through a bag of chips.
We are just south of the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Thankfully, we don't have as many birds on our crop land as they host on the refuge. One of the sites I researched estimates that more than 800,000 ducks and geese visit the Refuge until severe weather drives them southward to winter along the Gulf Coast and in Mexico. Being nearby when they lift off reminds me a bit of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Simple Praise

Our church choir sang a song for our community Thanksgiving service last Sunday titled  Simple Praise.

As I sit at my computer ...
As I've ridden the 4-wheeler to help move cattle ...
As I've baked and chopped and stirred ...
The words and music of this song have drifted through my mind, over and over again.

And when I've been at choir, pictures have floated into my mind as we've sung the words.

It's about thanks giving. Not necessarily Thanksgiving, though it's certainly the perfect time to recognize God's gifts and blessings all around us. But our thanks giving should be every day, not just on the fourth Thursday in November each year.

I found one choir had uploaded Simple Praise by Craig Courtney and Pamela Martin to youtube. If you'd like, listen to the song (the link is at the bottom of this post) and look at the illustrations that have been floating through my mind and are now assembled together, kind of like that other favorite song of the season, We Gather Together.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from The County Line.

 For a canvas of colors
For a concert of sound
For the unfolding seasons
The earth spinning round
 For the birth of each sunrise
For the sky set ablaze
For these simple gifts
We give simple praise
 Simple praise for the Giver
And thanks to the One
Who has given us breath
And given His Son
To the Giver of blessings
For all of our days
  For these simple gifts

We give simple praise

For the love of a mother
For the touch of a hand
For the deeper emotions
We can't understand

For the lessons we learn
From the trials we face

For these simple gifts
We give simple praise

The heart of the Giver

 The hand of the One
From whom every blessing
Of living has come
 For measureless mercy and limitless grace
For these simple gifts
We give simple praise.

This was updated from a 2012 post.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Life In the "Hood (Calfhood That Is)!

Some of our calves are in the 'hood - the "calfhood," that is.

We build our cow-calf crop by keeping 25 of the heifers born each winter. To work toward that addition to our herd, Randy chooses some of the females as potential future mamas for the County Line.

Dr. David Harder from Prairie Vista Veterinary Clinic recently came to the County Line to "work" the calves which had been born last February and March. As the calves came through the chute, Randy identified the heifers he wanted to retain for our herd, choosing the ones in good body condition and good confirmation.
Dr. Harder gave those heifers a calfhood vaccination to prevent brucellosis, also known as "bangs." This disease causes abortion or premature calving. The vaccination must be performed by an accredited veterinarian, in compliance with state and national regulations.
Dr. Harder used a device to "tattoo" the animal to show it had received the brucellosis vaccination. Then he used green ink to mark the tattoo.
The orange "bands" help identify the calves who've been calfhood vaccinated. Most of these heifers will become part of our cow-calf herd and will have their first calves in 2018 as 2 year olds.

The male calves aren't ignored during this doctor visit. Just like we humans can benefit from routine physicals and preventative care, our bovine charges also need regular doctor visits.
The calves go down a lane and into a squeeze chute. We use the chute to safely restrain the animal and also to keep the people involved safe. Dr. Harder lowered a panel in the chute to check and see whether the "patient" was a boy or girl.
File photo from 2014
He had syringes in both hands, giving the calves shots to prevent blackleg and PBD (persistent bovine diarrhea).
He also gave a shot to control parasites inside and outside the animal. That syringe hung from the chute on a gerry-rigged baling wire hanger. What would we do without baling wire on a farm?
They kept the medications cool by storing them in a specially-fabricated cooler.
A few of the calves had lost their yellow identification ear tags, so Randy put in new ones.

Dr. Harder also gave a growth implant to steers and to heifers we don't plan to keep for breeding. 
The implant is Ralgrow, a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow faster.
The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. We believe it's a matter of using the technology available to more efficiently grow food for consumers. And yes, we eat the cattle we raise here on our farm, too.

Like keeping a patient record for humans, the assistant Liz recorded the "office" visit, making note of the calves we calfhood vaccinated. 
We keep the weaned calves in the corrals for a couple of weeks to get used to being separated from their moms. It also gets them acclimated to eating hay and silage.
They are less likely to be "spooked" by deer or other animals when they are in the corrals, which reduces the chance of them breaking through a fence. We will feed the calves through the winter. In March, we'll sell the steers and any heifers we don't retain for our own herd.

In the meantime, we took some of the ladies-in-waiting to graze on sudan that the guys had fenced off. Others have been dining on an alfalfa field.

The bulls also got a break. They evidently didn't want to leave the summer pasture. When we gathered the mamas at the Ninnescah, two of them were hanging out in cattails. Once we got the cows caught, Randy and I went off on another expedition to find them.
They, too, were run through the chute at the farmstead.
These two from the Ninnescah Pasture joined the two bulls from the Rattlesnake Creek last week at the Palmer pasture.
And there was a rumble in the 'hood. Boys will be boys. They had to have a little contest to see who was "boss," even though there were no "ladies" nearby to impress.
Another fall task is "culling" cows that aren't pregnant. When Dr. Harder found an "open" cow, Randy would mark it with a yellow line on its face and big "O"s on either side. This helps us see them more quickly to sort them off.

We hauled a total of 6 open cows to the sale barn in Hutchinson.
Sometimes, we have to say goodbye to some of the ladies in our 'hood. That's life on the farm.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving Side Dish: Harvest Vegetable and Rice Bowl

I like mashed potatoes and gravy as much as the next person. But if you're looking for an out-of-the-ordinary side dish to add to the Thanksgiving table, Harvest Vegetable and Rice Bowl is a worthy contender.

It features the flavors of fall - butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, tart apples, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds - combined with wild rice. Then it's topped with a homemade fig and balsamic vinaigrette.

It makes a lot, so it would feed a crowd at your Thanksgiving gathering. Even though it requires several steps, you can do some of the preparation the day before - always important as you figure out the ballet of oven and stovetop timing during the busiest cooking day of the year!

Since I made it before the holiday, we discovered that it's great for leftovers, too. On the first day, I served it with a grilled steak.
For Randy, I just served the harvest bowl as a side dish. For myself, I used less of the steak and served it on top of the salad. (The photos are a little misleading. The top photo is a dinner plate and the photo below is on a smaller luncheon plate.)
We still had plenty of leftovers for additional meals. And it was just as tasty after being refrigerated and rewarmed.

So, if you want to break out of the tried-and-true this Thanksgiving - or add a new element to the old favorites - this Harvest Vegetable and Rice Bowl is just the solution!

Harvest Vegetable and Rice Bowl 
with Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
Recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
1 cup wild brown rice blend
1 3/4 cups chicken broth (You may use water and chicken bouillon)
3 cups 1-inch cubes of butternut squash (about 1 small squash)
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/8 tsp. each garlic powder, chili powder & cinnamon
Salt & pepper
9 oz. thinly shredded Brussels sprouts
1 large or 2 small tart apples, chopped (I like Jonathan)
3 oz. white Cheddar cheese (or use yellow Cheddar or Swiss)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (or sliced almonds)
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fig jam
Salt and pepper

Add rice and chicken broth to a small saucepan then bring to a boil; place a lid on top, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until rice is al dente. Set aside to cool slightly. Can be done the day before.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with foil (or silpat). Spray with cooking spray if using foil. Add butternut squash cubes, 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Toss with your fingers to evenly coat. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until squash is tender, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool slightly. This can be done the day ahead.

Meanwhile, line another half sheet pan with foil that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Add shredded Brussels sprouts, remaining oil, salt and pepper. Toss with fingers to evenly coat. Add to oven after stirring the squash mid-way through cooking. Roast both the squash and the Brussels sprouts (in separate pans) for another 8 to 10 minutes until the Brussels sprouts are tender and golden brown.

For the vinaigrette:  Combine ingredients in a bowl or jar with tight-fitting lid. Whisk or shake all ingredients together. (You may need to microwave briefly to loosen the jam.) Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

To serve:  In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, squash, Brussels sprouts, apples, cheese, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss to coat and serve. Leftovers are good for 3 to 4 days.

Note:  You may shred the Brussels sprouts in a food processor. Or, larger grocery stores now have shredded Brussels sprouts in bags in the produce section. 

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fall Homecoming: A Parade of Sorts

A few weeks ago, we were at K-State's fall homecoming parade. We've had "homecoming" of a different sort during the past couple of weeks on the County Line.
In Manhattan, there's a parade staging area at the mall. The organizer gets all the floats and vehicles lined up for a steady line of traffic down Poyntz Avenue. We could have used a parade marshal to organize our annual round up of cattle off the summer pasture at the Ninnescah River.
Instead of tunes to a marching band ...
... our cattle danced to the "music" of a honking pickup horn. But they definitely weren't interested in marching to a 4/4 tempo. They marched to the beat of their own drummer.
Please keep the line moving, guys!

Instead of tissue paper-packed floats to provide decor ...
the falls colors of the prairie gave the ambiance. But early in the day, the colors were faded under an overcast sky.
We do the round up in two phases:  First, we gather all the cows, bulls and calves together into a lot. 
The bull and one of the cows were glad to clean up the hay leftovers from the back of the pickup before they were herded into a smaller pen for sorting.
During our first trip to the pasture, we separate off the calves and bring them back home via farm trailers to the farmstead for weaning.
It takes several trips using two pickups and trailers.
After we have the calves sorted off, we turn the mama cows and the bulls back into the pasture for an extended "vacation."
We don't have enough pens at the farmstead to keep everything separate while we wait for the veterinarian's visit to work the calves which were born in February and March of this year.
You'd think that the mothers would relish a little uninterrupted grazing after they've been serving as personal milk machines during the past six-plus months.
But when they realize their babies are leaving without them, there's a parade toward the trailers.
Every return trip, I stood at the gate while the trailers came through so the mamas didn't follow the trailers out of the pasture gate.
Before going back to the farmstead, we stopped at the co-op elevator scales to get both an empty weight and a loaded weight. After doing a little math, Randy figured that the calves averaged 565 pounds per head. He was pleased with the rate of gain.
Once at the farmstead, we counted calves as they came off the trailer, then they could enjoy a plentiful silage buffet in the corrals.
Our counting revealed a problem, however. We were several several cows and calves short. So Randy and I went back to the pasture to look for them.

By that time, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful fall day.
Don't tell the boss, but it didn't seem like work to ride a 4-wheeler in a pretty setting. 
While we could use some rain now, summer rains have kept the Ninnescah River flowing this fall.
However, after we had been searching for awhile, I must admit I was getting a little nervous about finding them. We hoped they hadn't escaped to a neighboring pasture. 
But the stragglers were eventually found. Randy opted to leave them there, knowing we'd be back the next week to pick up the rest of the mama cows.
Coming up on the County Line:  A visit from the vet and the 2016 finale to the summer pasture season.