Monday, February 27, 2017

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
I was reading a book and saw a reference to Robert Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay." Since I didn't know the poem, I looked it up.

Later, I watched a sunrise morph and shape shift in incremental moments. And while the first gold of morning didn't "stay," I guess I'd prefer to find beauty in the unique qualities of each moment. No, the sunrise glory doesn't tarry long. But there's more to "unwrap" in each moment - if only we're willing to look.

A Time to Think

Unwrap the hidden beauties in an ordinary day. –Gerhard E. Frost, author

A Time to Act

Find joy where and when it surfaces.

A Time to Pray

Dear Lord, please help me to see the beauty of every day.

Devotional from Guideposts

Friday, February 24, 2017

Flipping for Pancakes

It's always a good day to flip for pancakes. But if you need an excuse to celebrate pancakes, International Pancake Day is Tuesday, February 28.

It seems there's a day for every food these days. There are days delighting in doughnuts. There are days for sandwiches, hamburger and hot dogs. Pie gets more than one day. But Pancake Day is especially important  in Liberal, Kansas, and Olney, England. For the past 68 years, the women of the two communities have raced down the streets of their respective communities, flipping pancakes and running against the clock and each other. The race is always on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It's the only race of its kind in the world.

In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back to 1445. Legend has it that a woman was busy making pancakes and using up cooking fats, which were forbidden during Lent at that time. Hearing the church bells ring to announce the Shrove Tuesday service, she grabbed her head scarf and ran to the church, with pancake-filled skillet in hand. In following years, neighbors joined the race to the church. The first to arrive collected a Kiss of Peace from the bell ringer.
Photo from the International Pancake Day Facebook page: Liberal's Billie Warden crosses the finish line in 1950. Billie won the local race with a time of 1:18 but lost to Olney's Florence Callow, who finished in 1:10.4.
The international race with Liberal began in 1950, when Liberal Jaycee President R.J. Leete saw a photo of the English race in Time magazine and then contacted Olney, challenging their women to race against the women of Liberal.

Racers must still wear a head scarf and apron. Each runner flips her pancake at the starting signal and again as she crosses the finish line to prove she still has her pancake after running the 415-yard course. The overall record stands at 37 wins for Liberal to Olney's 29. (Liberal lost last year, so it's time for a Kansas victory, don't you think?)
Image from International Pancake Day website,
2011 Liberal winner Nicole Schowengerdt

According to the book, America Celebrates! A Patchwork of Weird & Wonderful Holiday Lore, some superstitions have evolved among Liberal racers:
  • It is considered good luck to carry a past winner's skillet in the race or wear a past winner's apron.
  • One year, the stack of concrete pancakes marking the starting point of the race was stolen. This was considered a bad omen, but the stack was later returned.
  • Although the women practice running 415 yards, it is considered bad luck to run the official race course during the practice sessions.
I flip for pancakes anytime, not just on International Pancake Day. So I decided to try out a new recipe. I love to eat out for breakfast, but we don't get to do it all that often. On a couple of trips home from K-State ballgames, we've stopped at IHOP for breakfast. I had a new favorite - Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. But the last time we stopped, they were no longer on the menu. (For the record, the waitress said I'm not the only one who has asked for them since they disappeared from the menu.)

I'm not sure whether I liked the pancakes more or the cream cheese topping. Thankfully, the cream cheese topping is still an option at IHOP, and I chose that to top my Harvest Pancakes there during our last stop.

However, now that I found this recipe from Cooking on the Front Burner, I can make the whole shebang at home!

I'm an advocate of breakfast-for-supper, so if you want to celebrate Shrove Tuesday in a way that's been a tradition since 1455, here's the recipe. And you don't even have to wear a head scarf or run a race to enjoy them!

Whether you make pancakes or not, I'll leave you with the traditional blessing bestowed upon the winner - whether it be in Liberal or Olney:

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.
Cinnamon Roll Pancakes
with Cream Cheese Glaze
From Cooking on the Front Burner blog
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Glaze
1/4 cup butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 to 4 tbsp. milk

Pancakes:  Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and the salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the milk, egg, melted butter and vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour in the milk mixture and use a spoon to stir the two mixtures until combined. The batter will have small lumps in it and will be quite thick.

Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. A few drops of water should skittle across the griddle and evaporate. Lightly spray skillet or griddle with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup batter onto the skillet or griddle. When pancake edges look dry and bubbles start to appear on the top surfaces of the pancake, turn over. Once flipped, cook another 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked in the middle.

Glaze:  Mix together the butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and 3 tablespoons milk, using a mixer to make it smooth. (I tried doing it by hand and it was lumpy.) If it's too thick, add another tablespoon (or more) or milk. Serve over warm pancakes. Top with pecans or fruit, if desired. Store leftover glaze in refrigerator.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Class Photos

4th grade school photo
Remember picture day at school? Back in the 1960s, you wore your favorite dress, which your mom probably made at home. Your mom rolled your hair in rollers the night before so that you had those tight rolls of curls right next to your head. Your bangs threatened to crawl right up into the crown of your head.

I seem to recall an elementary school photo of me where my hair is a bit cattywampus. I'm sure it's in a cabinet at my folks' house, but I couldn't find it to share here. (What a pity, right?!)

I am sure that my hair was in place when I left home. However, the school photographers used to pass out these little combs before it was our turn to climb up into the portrait chair. Being the little rule follower I was, I probably tried to use that comb to "fix" my hair. I "fixed it" all right.

Experience is a good teacher:  I seem to recall telling Jill not to use the comb so conveniently provided before Lifetouch photos at school. 

As I was wandering around in the corral the other day, I couldn't help but think about taking class photos. So, here are some from the County Line Class of 2017.
This was our first little enrollee in the class. No. 700 always seems to catch my eye, and this time, he was being incognito up in the straw. There's always a Miss Photogenic in the bunch. (It was never me!)
Some kids never sit still for a photo. (I know a couple of granddaughters like that, too.)
No. 742 got a little carried away with the "eye shadow." You know those people who end up with raccoon eyes. Tragic!
Isn't this a sweet little face?
No. 704 glistened during the golden hour. We all like good lighting in our photos.
As an amateur photographer, I always like the little hams in the bunch 703, who stood so still ...
... and its corral mate, No. 713, who jauntily leaned her head "just so," like the old-time photographers used to do. 
With a corral full of black calves in the heifer lot, No. 708 wins the award for uniqueness. I always love the little black baldies and their sweet white faces. 
There are more white faces in the pasture though. This one has such a sweet expression.
Accessories always make a picture pop. That red feed bunk is just the right one.
Some do all they can to hide from the camera. I can relate!

Monday, February 20, 2017


We chomp through our share of leftovers around here. I know there are husbands who don't want to eat them. Thankfully, mine is not one of them. As long as there's something to eat, he isn't picky about whether it's a re-run. Oftentimes, I prefer the term "planned overs." I take leftover taco meat, for instance, and turn it into something else the second time around - like a taco pizza.

But last week, the loader tractor bucket also bit into a few leftovers. In January, an ice storm affected much of Central and Western Kansas. While it created a lot of beauty, it also brought some damage, including to the big high-line poles that run through one of our fields. Crews spent a day repairing it, and they put the "leftovers" in the ditch.

Some people might see trash. (True confessions: I was one of those people who didn't appreciate the boxes, buckets and even fast food wrappers left behind. That was especially true after someone came and destroyed the insulators - apparently just because they thought it would be fun. Besides the needless destruction, I see dollar signs rolling upwards as the broken pieces end up piercing our tires as we drive in and out of the field.
But Randy didn't just see trash. He also saw opportunity. Much like I see another meal in the leftover pot roast that becomes beef and noodles the next day, he saw replacement fence posts amidst the trash.
When the company called to talk about damages to the wheat field, Randy asked whether we could take some of the poles.
So after the semi got done hauling the 12 loads of hay we'd sold, it was ready for a new payload. Randy and Ricky hauled a couple of loads of leftover poles to our fencing piles. 
We can use the sturdy poles to replace rotted out posts in a corral or they could become corner posts in a new fence-building project.
Best of all: They were free. (Well, except for the labor and a little gas to haul them away.) And Randy called a couple of neighbors to share the bonanza. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Little Boost

Traffic jam - County Line style as Randy stops while feeding cows to talk to the Kanza Co-op spray rig workers.
Goldilocks had a hard time getting everything "just right." Papa Bear's porridge was too hot. Mama Bear's porridge was too cold. But Baby Bear's porridge was just right.

Getting things "just right" is best left for fairytales, though we'd all like to have a good dose of "happily ever after." That's easier said than done on a farm. Weather is always an uncontrollable factor in crop production. And these, days, with commodity prices low, it's a balancing act to try and keep input costs under control and still produce a good yield on a quality crop.
The Kanza Co-op recently used their ground rig to apply a couple of different inputs to part of our 2017 wheat crop - nitrogen fertilizer and Finesse herbicide.
This year, Randy decided to apply 10 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Last year, he had them apply 30 pounds per acre. He used the results from soil samples to determine the nitrogen application level. With each unit of nitrogen added to the field, there's a "diminishing return on investment." In other words, the cost outweighs the potential yield bump.

I'll admit that my eyes were starting to glaze over when Randy started explaining about "diminishing return on investment." So he pulled out his old textbook, "Economics for Agriculturalists: A Beginning Text in Agricultural Economics" and showed me a chart. Who knew those textbooks would still come in handy?

According to current research, if you put on 10 pounds of nitrogen per acre, there's a 2 bushel per acre boost in yield. If you put on an additional 10 pounds per acre, there's only a half bushel per acre increase in yield. The nitrogen costs $3.50 per acre.
 A "nurse" truck came to the field to replenish the rig.
During the applicator's same trip over the field, Randy also had them apply Finesse, an herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds, including kochia, henbit and wild mustard. Finesse needs to be sprayed before the wheat breaks its dormancy. Moisture will incorporate it into the soil. We hope to get some rain soon.

This year, it costs $2.50 per acre for the Finesse. This is 20 percent less than it was last year, a financial advantage that Randy says comes from the merger of the Kanza Co-op with some other co-ops, giving it better buying power.

Since we don't have our own spraying rig, we pay $5.00 per acre for the application. If you're adding that all up, it costs $11 per acre, an input expense that we'll add to the bottom line of producing our 2017 wheat crop. 

Later, Randy will have additional 2017 wheat acres sprayed with a different herbicide. That herbicide has less carryover. In other words, Randy will be able to plant sudan hay on those acres after we harvest the wheat in June. That's not an option for the acres sprayed with Finesse. However, Finesse is less expensive and has longer lasting control. Again, it's a consideration of what's "just right" for our farm - or as close as we can get it.
The plot thickens. Just like Goldilocks, we are hoping for a happy ending. We'll see what Mother Nature has up her sleeve as we continue the march toward the 2017 wheat harvest. The thermometer climbing into the 70s in February may delight golfers, but if the wheat breaks dormancy and starts growing, there is the potential for a damaging freeze if the temperature then goes back to more seasonal levels.
Just like in a fairytale, there are a lot of pages between "Once upon a time" and "They lived happily ever after." (For a complete look at the life cycle of wheat on our Kansas farm, check out "Aggie Visits the Wheat State," a blog I wrote a few years ago when we had Flat Aggie visit from a California elementary school.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Double Trouble?

Two for the price of one?
Double the fun?
Double trouble?

Even though you'd think that twins would be a good thing, it isn't always in the calving world. Sometimes, the cow doesn't have enough milk for two babies. She may not claim both offspring. Also, if one calf is a boy and one is a girl, the female is more likely to be infertile, a condition called "freemartinism."

Cow R47 gave birth to two bouncing boys.  (Forgive the poor photo at the top of this post. Randy got in a hurry to give eartags to the calves. What was he thinking? Work got in the way of my photo op - ha!)

The calf who was up and around with its mom ended up with tag No. 741.
The mom moved it away from we pesky humans.
Its brother, No. 740, stayed behind, hunkered down into the dried grasses.
Then, the next day, we had a heifer - No. 556 - lose a calf.
So Randy brought one of the twins - No. 740 - to the calving shed to try to get the heifer to claim the calf. Even though the white-faced heifer had been bawling for its lost calf, it didn't claim the new baby right away.
However, after a couple of days, it appeared that the heifer and the twin calf were getting along. Little 740 calf looked healthy, so Randy turned them both out with the other heifers and their offspring.
Once out of the pen, the mama wasn't as generous. It was back to pushing the baby away when it tried to nurse. But another mama allowed the baby to steal a drink while its baby stood patiently aside. (See photo below.)
That earned heifer No. 556 another trip to a smaller pen to see if she would have "an attitude adjustment." Sometimes it works for toddlers and teenagers, right?!

The conclusion?  No. 556 is not going to win the Mother of the Year Award. But several other heifers seem to have "adopted" the calf and don't mind sharing the wealth - in this case, the mother's milk - with an interloper.

You've heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." In this case, it's taking a corral of heifers to raise No. 740. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lessons from a Valentine Box

I feel a little like a Valentine's slacker. Last year, Kinley and Brooke were here at the farm shortly before Valentine's Day, and Kinley needed a Valentine box for school. I spent some time perusing the internet for ideas and finally settled on helping her construct a kitty box.
I declared success when one of her friends told her that she liked her "kitty." I'm not known for my crafting ability, so it was a proud Grandma moment when Jill reported the conversation!

A few weeks ago, I had the girls for the week, and I decided I'd take "Valentine's box" off Jill's already full "to-do" list. But I went an easier route this time. I bought a bunch of foam stickers at Hobby Lobby and let the girls peel and stick to their hearts' content on hot pink boxes I also took off the shelf at the craft store. (We also used the foam stickers to decorate foam frames.)
They both had a great time arranging the stickers on their boxes. The glittery stickers were Kinley's favorite. (I'm sure Jill and Eric found glitter on and under their kitchen table for days afterward, and Eric is not a lover of glitter.)
But mission accomplished: They were happy to show them off to Mommy and Daddy. (Jill had to do the hard part and supervise the painstaking writing of classmates' names this weekend. I would have done it, but they didn't have the Valentines or the classmate list at the time.)
Just like the "olden days," kids are supposed to give a Valentine to each member of their class.

At tiny Byers Grade School - my alma mater - Valentine's Day provided a lesson in how we'd all like to be treated: We had to give a Valentine to each classmate. No leaving out any pesky boy who teased me about my red tights.
(I'm second from the left, and it appears I'm wearing the red tights!)

Before Valentine's Day, we carefully cut out pink and red paper hearts and used our Elmer's Glue bottles to adhere them to shoeboxes. Mrs. Bond cut a slot in the top of the lid to make a Valentine's mailbox, which we perched on our desks. Other years, the teacher might give us a white paper sack, and we'd liberally decorate with crayon hearts and cutout cupids. We'd hang them with a piece of tape from the edge of our desks and wait anxiously for holiday greetings from our classmates. If we were lucky, someone might include a heart-shaped sucker along with the holiday card.

My Mom let each of us choose our box of Valentines from the store. I'm sure I very deliberately considered my options in an effort to choose just the right box. I also contemplated which Valentine to give to each classmate. That pesky boy needed a generic greeting, and I wanted to give just the right one to each of my female friends.

Each Valentine's Day, Jill and Brent chose their box of cards, too. A few are still in a box in the cabinet, and I use some each year for this and that. It's fun to look back and think about the choices they made at the time - a football theme for Brent or Barbies for Jill.  We had the same rule at our house. Every class member had to get a Valentine - no matter what.

And wouldn't the world be a better place if we treated each other with a little unconditional friendship? And not only on Valentine's Day, but every day.

Maybe Valentine's Day would be a good day to dust off the New York Times bestselling book from 20-some years ago, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

In it, author Robert Fulghum explains how the world would be a better place if adults adhered to the same basic rules as kindergarten-aged children, like sharing and being kind to one another.

For the record, I didn't go to kindergarten. It wasn't an option at Byers Grade School. But the lessons are still valid - and maybe even more so in this contentious world. 
As Robert Fulghum would say:
  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Be aware of wonder.
  • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.