Friday, March 31, 2017

Steak & Sweet Potato Combination Bowls

Our oldest granddaughter likes "the rice and beans place." However, I have sworn off the restaurant that will not be named here because of their advertising and their nonsensical claims that smear every conventional farmer in the land.

So instead of forking over my hard-earned dollars to the never-to-be-mentioned restaurant, I will make my own combination bowls. They are less expensive and tastier at home anyway. This recipe is adapted from one found at Iowa Girl Eats. It's Jill's favorite blog. (Yes, she prefers it over her mother's. Such is life.)

This combines the flavors of roasted sweet potato with fresh avocado, marinated steak and spinach served over cilantro lime rice. It's all topped with an Avocado-Cilantro Drizzle.

This is one of those recipes that looks a lot more complicated than it is. There are several steps, but it's worth the effort.  I promise.

Steak & Sweet Potato Combination Bowls
with Avocado-Cilantro Drizzle
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats 
Serves 3-4 people.

1 1/4 pounds steak (I used sirloin, but use your favorite)
1/2 large avocado, sliced or chopped (other half will be used in drizzle)
1 large sweet potato (1 lb.), peeled and chopped into cubes
1 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
2 cups baby spinach
Cilantro-Lime Rice (see below)

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. high heat cooking oil
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Avocado-Cilantro Drizzle:
1/2 large avocado
1/4 cup packed cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic
Salt & pepper
2-4 tbsp. water

Cilantro-Lime Rice:
2 cups water
1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup long grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lime

Marinade:  Combine all marinade ingredients. Pour over steak and marinate for 1 to 6 hours. You may put it in a large plastic bag or marinade in a non-aluminum pan. Store marinating meat in refrigerator until ready to use. 

To prepare:
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Add cubed sweet potatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat sweet potatoes. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring about halfway through, until potatoes are golden brown and tender. 

For steak:  We grilled the marinated steak on a gas grill. Iowa Girl Eats suggests cutting the steak in 2 and heating a large cast iron skillet over heat that's just below high heat. Add enough cooking oil to create a very thin layer on the skillet. Add half the steak. Let steak sear for 2 minutes on each side for medium rare. Repeat with other half of the steak. If you prefer your steak medium or medium-well, add steak back into the skillet off the heat, then let the residual heat of the skillet continue to cook the steak for several minutes. Let steak sit for a minimum of 7 minutes on a cutting board before slicing into thin strips against the grain.

For Cilantro-Lime Rice:  Bring water, oil and salt to boil in saucepan. Add rice and place lid on top. Turn heat down and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and juice from half a lime. Stir to combine. 

For Avocado-Cilantro Drizzle:  Add all ingredients except water to a small food processor or blender. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add 2 tablespoons of water, then process until smooth, adding up to 2 more tablespoons water to get the sauce to a smooth, but not runny, consistency. Taste, then add more salt and pepper or lime juice, if necessary.

To serve: Scoop rice into bowls, then top with steak, roasted sweet potatoes, sliced or chopped avocado and baby spinach. Top with Avocado-Cilantro Drizzle, then serve.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cracks, Chips & All: 36 Years and Counting

Wedding photos by Stan Reimer, Pratt, KS
A high school classmate and I share a wedding anniversary. On March 28, she and her husband celebrated their 42nd anniversary. Randy & I celebrated Number 36. On Tuesday, Diana posted a photo to Facebook of a kitchen utensil rack they had received as a wedding gift from her parents.
No automatic alt text available.
Photo by Diana Bale Hemphill
It prompted me to think about some of the wedding gifts I still use. Back in 1981, brown Pyrex was the "hot" color. I have several brown glass 9-by 13-inch pans that have survived the three-plus decades. On Tuesday, I made a blueberry pie for Randy. He'd rather have that than a sappy card. (I personally like sappy cards.) Anyway, my pie crust recipe makes three crusts, so I put the extra one in another of my wedding gifts - a brown Pyrex pie plate - and stashed it in the freezer. Some of my Tupperware shows its age through the harvest gold, olive green and brick red color scheme.
But of all the gifts I received, our dinnerware pottery is the gift we still use every day. My wedding scrapbook has a photo of the pattern, which was called "Harvest." We picked it out at Pegue's, a department store in Hutchinson, which is no longer open.
I only have seven dinner plates and half a dozen luncheon plates from the original 12 we received as gifts. One cereal bowl is the only survivor of its type. Even though I didn't register for soup mugs in the Harvest pattern, some generous people wrapped them up in white wrapping paper and they also appeared on our gift table. Even though I didn't know I "needed" them, they have been used time and time again for wintertime soups. 
Through the years, I've thought about replacing them, but so far, they are the go-to dishes in my kitchen cabinet. We chose the pattern, Harvest, because we both grew up on farms and we were beginning a new life together on a farm. Randy's Grandma Ava was giving us eight place settings of china that had belonged to Melvin's sister, Gloria, who died before Randy was born. So, being the practical person I am, I decided I would put more "every day" dinnerware on the wedding registry.

As I emptied the dishwasher before dinner yesterday, I thought about how that wedding dinnerware could be a metaphor for marriage itself. Our remaining plates have a few chips and dings. The surfaces aren't pristine any longer.

But isn't that the way we are, too? There are cracks and dings and imperfections in our lives, and, yes, our bodies, too. But we are still of value. 

The bottom of the plates say they are good "from oven to table to dishwasher." A marriage is like that, too. You have to be able to adapt to lots of different circumstances. 

All those plates and cups and saucers didn't end up in my cabinet from one source either. We had many family members and friends who bought a place setting or bought the salt & pepper shakers and gifted them to us at showers and at our wedding. With a lot of people coming together, we ended up with a complete set. Likewise, we've had wonderful support from family and friends during our 36 years of marriage.

The fancy china that Ava gave us has been used for the occasional Easter meal or other special occasion. I know people say you should use your "special" stuff everyday. But I kind of like the well-lived and loved look of our wheat plates. They are more "real."

It's kind of like the story of The Velveteen Rabbit, when a stuffed animal becomes real by being loved:
 "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse to the Velveteen Rabbit. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
From Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit

Yesterday morning, Randy and I moved a bull that had escaped from our pasture and ended up in a neighbor's corral. (Thanks Todd and Ty! Remember what I was saying about people who help you along the way?)
As we were driving back to our corrals, Randy asked, "Did you expect to be doing this on your anniversary 36 years later?" I just laughed and shook my head because 36 years ago, I was more concerned whether the flower girl was going to stand in the right place during the ceremony and whether I'd get down the aisle without tripping in my unfamiliar high heels.

"Well," I told him, "I don't know that I would have imagined I'd be moving a bull on my anniversary. But I expected to still be married. I wouldn't have done it otherwise."

Being married isn't always easy. But through all the imperfections, we have definitely become more "real" and more loved ... just like that Velveteen rabbit. And I couldn't ask for more than that.
For an inside family joke, read this blog post from the early days of the blog, A Living Doll.
 It also talks about the Velveteen rabbit!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Perspective Changes

A sliver of pink seemed tucked between the seam allowance of ground and sky. As I walked by an eastern window in the house, the pink ribbon of light was enough to have me hurriedly slip on tennis shoes for a closer look.
It was the opening overture of the day, with birds providing the harmonies. After clicking a photo of the silo, I drove to my sunrise tree for a different perspective.

As I drove back into the farmyard, I thought about how different the view is, now that the barn and granary are gone.
At the beginning of this month, my March blog photo was one I'd taken in July 2007, also looking toward the east from our driveway. Several years ago, I added the Irish blessing to the photo, which, for me, conjured up visions of pots of gold and leprechauns at the end of the rainbow. 
This was the first St. Patrick's Day when the view was different. In the 2007 photo, you can see the silo in the background, if you know where to look. Ten years later, it's the main attraction, especially in the faint light of dawn.
The view isn't the only thing that changed as we tore down the barn. Working baby calves gave us our first opportunity to try out the new lanes we installed to sort and load out cattle.
April 2011
In the "olden days," we backed up the trailer to the barn. (OK, I didn't back the trailer. Randy did.)

In this shot, you can also see the old granary on the lefthand side of the photo.
Fast forward to our first load out from the corrals at our house in 2017. Now, instead of backing up to the barn, Randy backs into a lane.  In order to work the baby calves, we have to first sort off the mamas from the babies.
Before, the cattle were skirted around the barn to enter the pen from which we sorted mamas and babies.  
Now, they enter the same gate, but the view has changed.
If the smile is any indication, the farmer was fairly pleased with his design. 

One downside of the new method is that the babies can see their mamas. When the barn was still in place, we ran them through the barn and into the trailer. The mamas knew where they were and made a ruckus. But the babies couldn't see them. (It's not unlike human babies and their Mommy radar!)
When we were trying to get the babies inside the trailer, it may have helped to have another gate to help with the pushing. (After I took the photo below, I put the camera in my pocket and helped push.) Randy thinks the dark of the barn helped with loading, maybe because the calves had more "tunnel vision."
The mamas are more seasoned pros when it comes to getting loaded in a trailer, so they loaded fairly quickly and easily when it was their turn.
All in all, the new logistics were a success. And it's a subtle reminder that when things change, it's not always a bad thing.
For more on the barn, see All the King's Horses and All the King's Horses, Part II.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Crying Over Missed Milk - And Broken Cameras

There was a lot of bawling going on. Believe me, I felt like crying, right along with the mama cows.
The mamas were bawling because they were momentarily separated from their babies. I was sad because my camera flew out of my hand and met a quick demise during the first of four days of working baby calves. I should know better than to try to drive a 4-wheeler and take photos with the same hand that works the gas.

I was chasing cattle who were enticed by the green wheat that flanked the dusty road. As I came up out of the ditch, the camera flew out of my hand. I didn't run over it, but its wounds left it in critical condition. I didn't have time to worry about it. I stuck it in my sweatshirt pocket and commenced with the job at hand - getting the mamas and baby calves up to the corral.

Sadly, resuscitation efforts on the camera were unsuccessful. 
Back when Jill was in 4-H, one of her projects was clothing buymanship. One of the factors to consider was "cost per wear." As I tried to resurrect my camera afterwards, I thought about getting my money's worth with my camera. I use it almost every day. So my "cost per use" is pretty low. I wanted that to make me feel better. Who am I kidding? It didn't.

After we got the cows and calves in the corral, I made a detour back to our house to get an old camera so I could continue taking photos of the process. After using it for the rest of the week and viewing the photos, I remembered why I'd replaced it. It doesn't focus well, especially at a distance. And the zoom doesn't work 75 percent of the time. (But it is better than nothing.)
Randy says, as the price of farm equipment goes, my camera is a mere drop in the bucket. However, I'm still mad at myself. We took a detour to Best Buy Tuesday night before going to the musical, "Once" at Wichita's Century II. That was a nice diversion.
They didn't have what I wanted in stock, so a new camera is supposed to arrive at my door, maybe as soon as tomorrow. One of the young salesmen didn't like my choice, but, as I told him, I needed a camera that will fit in my pocket. Now, if I would have just left it in my pocket while driving a 4-wheeler, I wouldn't have had an accident and I wouldn't have been irritated with the young upstart questioning my decision.

Reunited from Kim Fritzemeier on Vimeo.

The mamas and babies had a happy ending. After the babies were done with their "appointments," they were reunited.

I'm hoping for my own happy ending soon - even if my checkbook is a little lighter.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Story To Tell: Ag Day 2017

I sometimes wonder about the people who settled the Kansas prairie. Did they marvel at the sky? Did the call of birds wake them to see the hint of color painting the eastern horizon? As their covered wagons rumbled toward the west, did they marvel at the sunsets?
I imagine the temperaments that marked the people who set off from established homes in the eastern part of the U.S. and decided on adventure, traveling westward to a new kind of life.

That pioneer spirit brought people to Kansas. And some of the heartiness remains generations later. Today is the 2017 National and Kansas Ag Day.
Four days last week, we worked baby calves. Last Friday, we temporarily separated another group of babies from their mamas. We loaded the babies into the cattle trailer through a fog of dust generated by dozens of hooves stirring up the dirt floor of a 75-year-old-plus barn.
I was tired after four days of it. But as I looked through the dusty haze, I realized how fortunate we were. We were doing our normal springtime cattle tasks. We temporarily separated mamas and babies and sent the babies through the working chute for their well-baby "appointments" and vaccinations.

And at the same time, cattlemen and women in southern Kansas had the grim task of burying thousands of cattle and calves that perished in the largest wildfire in Kansas history. Some of our farm and ranch neighbors in Oklahoma and Texas face the same seemingly insurmountable task. In Texas, some even lost their lives trying to move cattle to safety.
For those in the wildfire's path, lives won't go back to normal anytime soon. They are still burying their livelihoods in big mass graves in the burned ground. They are tending to injured cattle, bottle feeding babies whose mothers died, rebuilding thousands of miles of fence. And some of them no longer have a home where they can lay their weary heads come nighttime, after days of physical labor and emotional heartache.
It's going to take a new pioneer spirit for them to rebuild. Just like us, their families have been on Kansas soil for five generations, and, for a few, even six generations. That pioneer spirit is part of their DNA.

I don't watch a lot of national news. But, if my Facebook feed is right, there has been very little coverage of this emergency on the national level. The local TV stations, radio and newspapers have done a credible job of telling the stories. Yesterday, The New York Times featured an article, in which one rancher called the wildfires, "Our Hurricane Katrina."

I read the article, and then came back later in the day so I could link it to this blog post. I was dismayed by the comments from the majority of readers (up to 422 comments this morning). It again demonstrates how deeply the country is divided, as if we needed any reminders these days. (For the record, I didn't vote for President Trump, though most commenters assume I did - just because of where I live and what I do for a living.) After reading those comments, maybe it's better that the national media largely ignored this story. 

However, I know that many farmers and ranchers from across the country have responded with truckloads of hay and semis packed with fencing supplies. Some 4-H groups have volunteered to foster baby calves until the ranches have time to build fence and reintroduce the babies back into their herds. There have been funds set up so regular people like you and me can contribute to the rebuilding, including at Kansas Farm Bureau and at Kansas Livestock Association.

(FYI: I would recommend Amy Bickel's article in The Hutchinson News, plus sidebars and follow-up stories, as well as the accompanying photojournalism by News photographer Lindsey Bauman. The Wichita Eagle also provided in-depth coverage of the wildfire.)
This year's theme for National Ag Day is Agriculture: Food for Life. But the majority of the world would rather learn about food from people other than the producers. A couple of years ago,  I Am Agriculture Proud, posed this observation on their Facebook page:
Journalists, TV personalities, TV chefs and CEOs were all perceived as more influential on food than farmers, who come in at No. 50 on a list generated of The 50 Most Powerful People in Food on The Daily  And that was likely an arbitrary inclusion as a collective group. What's it gonna take for farmers to move up that list?
It's up to us - farmers and ranchers - to tell the story. As I've said before, I don't want to leave it to PETA or HSUS to tell the story of farming today. It's one of the reasons I began Kim's County Line seven years ago.

The Gardiner Angus Ranch has been in the news because of their losses. Two of the brothers - Mark & Greg - were in FarmHouse fraternity at K-State at the same time as Randy. The Gardiner Angus Ranch's annual production sale is still scheduled for March 31, though things will be somewhat different this year after losing more than 500 of their cows, hundreds of miles of fencing and even Mark's & Eva's home. But I was amazed at some of what Mark Gardiner had to say. I've put the link to the whole video clip below, but I wanted to highlight these quotes from Mark, just in case you don't take time to listen to the whole thing:

I want you all to know how truly fortunate we are to have so many friends and customers and family. When we had a bit of a challenge, our customers actually were some of the first ones who came running to help us. … 

The sale is on. It is on because it’s what we do. You know, we learn a lot in these situations about who we are as people. And people are good, especially people in agriculture and especially our customers, neighbors and friends. We’ve had some losses; we’ve had some challenges. …

We've had help from almost every state in the union. ... That’s what America is. That’s what rural America is. That’s what agriculture is. That’s what the cattle business is. We actually have no problems. We have worlds of opportunity. We have the greatest friends and the greatest nation … We’re excited about this sale. We’re excited about the things that matter with people, with family, with friends.

We need to celebrate this way of life. Even more importantly than the cattle, we need to celebrate the people who make this business so great.
If we listen to the detractors commenting on the wildfire story, it's clear that we're not doing a good job of sharing agriculture's story. With this post, I'll likely be "preaching to the choir." I can't seem to reach those people who really believe that we modern farmers are ignorant puppets who "are only looking for handouts."

The true story of agriculture is being written each and every day by the people who are living it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

An Irish Blessing

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here's hoping you planned ahead and wore green PJs to bed last night. Randy says we won't have to wear green clothes. We have another day of sorting mamas and babies, then treating the calves to their well-baby checks. Our "green" even comes with a lovely aroma.

When I was growing up, not wearing green on St. Patty's Day meant you got pinched. My sisters and brother were especially happy to remind me if I forgot. I couldn't even eat my Frosted Flakes in peace. (I was, of course, angelic and didn't return the favor. You believe me, right?)

We  weren't immune at school either. But sneaky people could get you in trouble there. What if you pinched someone, and they said, "I've got on green underwear!"? Well, it's not as if you could make them prove it. Teachers were usually quick to help out any forgetful student by supplying a green shamrock to pin to your shirt. I mailed shamrock pins and stickers to Kinley and Brooke this week, hoping to help them avoid any mishaps at school.

I'm not Irish, but I love Irish blessings. So I've illustrated sayings from the Emerald Isle with photos from Kansas. I've heard several of the blessing ones before, but I had to laugh at some of the funny ones. You have to appreciate a sense of humor - Irish or not!


May your feet never sweat, your neighbor give you ne're a treat. 
When flowers bloom, I hope you'll not sneeze. 
And may you always have someone to squeeze!
This is a lousy photo, which I took by accident this week when we were working baby calves. Believe me, there were times when my feet were sweating as we tried to push calves into the trailer.
May those who love us love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.
(I hope none of us come up limping today with Round 4 of working baby calves!)


May the hinges of our friendship never grow rusty.

May your troubles be less and your blessings be more
And nothing but happiness come through your door.


May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind always be at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

The rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you're looking for a little "luck of the Irish" on your dinner table today, try this Reuben Casserole:

Or, if you want some themed snack mix to watch K-State, KU and Wichita State play in the NCAA tournament tonight, here's one that's appropriate for your green theme. (And it shows no team favoritism. I'm the one to show favoritism - Go 'Cats!)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Good things come to those who wait.

Sometimes, when I use tired phrases like that, I try to make myself feel better by doing cursory research on the origins. So, I used another modern-day cliche: I Googled it:

Good things come to those who wait is an English phrase extolling the virtue of patience. The related phrase, "All things come to those who wait," was used by Violet Fane in 1892. It has been used as the basis for several pieces of popular culture:
  • "Good things come to those who wait", a 1984 song by the Freestylist Nayobe.
  • "Good things come to those who wait,"  a UK advertising campaign for Guinness stout in the 1990s and 2000s.
  • "Good things come to those who wait," a US advertising campaign for Heinz ketchup in the 1980s
From Wikipedia (the lazy man - or woman's - current encyclopedia)
Sometimes, you don't have to wait long. Kinley barely got her snow boots wet on Saturday as a light dusting of snow fell in Manhattan. I'm not sure whether she was cold ... or she just wanted the hot cocoa that came afterwards.

As I was looking up the phrase, I came across a related one attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

Things may come to those who wait, 
but only the things left by those who hustle.

Kinley may have hustled inside for hot chocolate. But, she didn't leave her little sister behind. Like good sisters everywhere, Kinley let Brooke know what she was missing. Brooke's marshmallow beard shows how much she welcomed the news of a mid-morning cocoa break.
We didn't have to wait to see the girls two weekends in a row. Playing outside this past weekend was a lot different than the week before when more springlike temperatures prevailed. We didn't have to find the coats and boots then.
Instead, we had to go inside for some water after all the running - including a foot race with Grandpa. I should have taken a photo of that for posterity!