Thursday, March 29, 2018

37 Years? A Drop in the Bucket

Yesterday was our 37th wedding anniversary. We spent part of the day working another group of baby calves.

And that's OK with me.
Instead of a fancy dress, I was wearing jeans with fragrant "adornments" ... and I don't mean spring flowers like those I carried in my bouquet. The only tie involved for Randy was the rope used to hold the bull calves' legs in place for a quick bit of life-changing surgery.

We did celebrate our March 28 anniversary; we just did it on March 27. We went to a movie, "I Could Only Imagine," and out to eat at Jillian's in Hutchinson. Since our anniversary fell on Wednesday this year, an evening date would have conflicted with church choir. Our church choir is small (but mighty). Having even one voice gone as we practiced for Easter Sunday would make a big difference.
The same can be said of working calves. Everyone has a role, and it goes much better and more quickly if we all pull together.
The whispers of the past on this Century Farm come together when we work calves. See that old, yellowed Tupperware container?
I always say it was part of our inheritance. Really. It's been used to hold the pulling chains and disinfectant since I've been part of the family for 37 years now. I don't know how long it was used prior to that.

It used to be stored in my in-laws' mudroom, but it now makes its home in my basement or back porch, depending upon the season. I'm sure when Marie bought that Tupperware long ago, it was never intended for use in a barn or calving shed or for holding disinfectant for a scalpel as we turn boy calves into steers.

In fact, according to the label, the Tupperware container was part of the Millionaire Line. Man, if only THAT had come true! After a quick perusal at the Tupperware website, I have concluded they don't make it anymore. Maybe I could suggest a whole new marketing campaign for cow/calf producer products. On second thought, no. Somebody somewhere would protest that the plastic isn't "GMO-free" or "local" or some other buzzword.

Even though Marie has been gone for more than 20 years and Melvin for nearly 16, their farming legacy lives on through us on this land that's been farmed by Fritzemeiers for five generations.
The back of our calves' eartags have our address and Randy's phone number.
The transportation choice for our anniversary "date" included an open-air vehicle. Nope, not a convertible.
A 4-wheeler also lets the wind ruffle your hair while dashing through pastures and along dirt roads.
Everyone loves a "party," but some need a little encouragement to get out of their routine.
Some awfully cute guests attended our party.
Someone told a couple of calves that it was a masquerade ball. Their buddy didn't get the memo.

That's OK, guy. Our party wasn't that fancy!
It seemed this party attendee had had a fluff and a curl before attending.
There are always those introverts who want to hide among the crowd. I can relate!
There was no cake, but some of the partygoers couldn't wait to get the "door" closed back home before they grabbed a drink from their favorite milk "bar."
There may not have been cake, but Randy did get his blueberry pie later in the afternoon. I prefer the sappy card. He prefers homemade pie.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Live. Learn. Bloom.: The K-State Gardens

A Wildcat Victory is said to come from rubbing the nose of a bronze wildcat in the K-State Gardens. The wildcat's nose is bright and shiny, so Randy and my dad weren't the first to test the theory.
And it must have worked! Our men's basketball team made it all the way to the Elite Eight. However, the luck must have worn off. We should have made another trip to the gardens for a little more luck before our game vs. Loyola last Saturday. (Of course, they had Sister Jean on their side, and she evidently has a direct line to God - or so the national media contends.)
The wildcat was one of the important stops on the Master Farmer-Master Farm Homemakers tour of The Gardens at Kansas State University. The garden tour was an "extra" before the annual meeting earlier this month.

The gardens' motto is Live. Learn. Bloom.
I'd venture to say it's a motto that resonates with this bunch of farmers and farm wives, even though in early March, there was not a lot blooming outside.
Photo from the K-State Gardens website
Originally, the Gardens Visitor Center was the K-State Dairy Barn and Milk House. It was built in 1933 and housed students 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. In 1976, due to inadequate facilities, the actual dairy production was moved to a new site north of campus.
Today, the milk house serves as a Visitor's Center for the gardens. A few spring blooms were beginning to poke out.
As I leaned closer to take a photo, I noticed that the blossoms were coming up through the debris of fall and winter. New life was being nourished by the dying organic matter from a different season.

There's a lesson there, isn't there? We may feel like we're being consumed by the things that weigh us down. But we can still bloom and overcome obstacles in our way.

Several of the people in our Master Farmer/Homemaker group have had to do that through the years. Most of them lived through the farm crisis of the 1980s (and the less publicized ones that came before and after). They've had crop disasters through no fault of their own. They've lived though family joy and pain. 
 And, still, they put on their boots and got busy.
They've "bloomed where they were planted," so to speak.
They've burst through the hard ground and made a life and a living, despite the circumstances.
The light has overcome the darkness of life's challenges.
Our tour through the greenhouses was led by a horticulture student. Through their research, they are trying to come up with new and improved ways of doing things. 
Their research builds their own resumes, but it also provides new ideas for the world though things like aquaculture.
Adapting to new ways of thinking is vital - whether we're talking about a greenhouse or a farm or the world in general.
Air, good soil, light and water may be the fundamentals. But so is the willingness to adapt and change when needed.
It's what makes us bloom as individuals.
For some photos from a fall visit to the gardens, click on this link. I hope to get back to the K-State Gardens at other times of the year.
(I couldn't decide whether I liked this photo with the light and shadows better or the close-up of the bloom. I'm sure if I polled people, there would be a number of different opinions. And that's what makes the world go around!)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Million Dollar Rain?

"That was a million dollar rain, maybe even a billion dollar rain, wasn't it?"

The remark came from a neighbor as we were walking toward our cars following a funeral yesterday morning. And before anyone asks for a loan, that doesn't mean that we personally will rake in a million bucks from a timely rain. It means that the rain that fell Sunday night into Monday could make that much of an impact in our region.

We got 1.60 inches of rain. It was our first measurable precipitation since the first week of October. That's five months without moisture. Last weekend, the National Weather Service said if there was no precipitation during the weekend, it would be the driest winter in Kansas since they began tracking it in 1874.

Last week's U.S. drought monitor brought our area into the "extreme drought" category - that area in red. The new map will be released later today, so it will be interesting to see if the rain helped erase any of that bulls-eye. However, we know it will take more than one rain to begin recovering from this lack of moisture. 
The rain certainly "dressed up" the fields, kind of like adding a little color to your cheeks with some makeup. It may seem strange to city dwellers, but the vibrant green color in the fields has been a hot topic this week - whether at church choir practice, a PEO meeting or a stop at the grocery store.

The latest government crop report estimates that more than half of the winter wheat crop in Kansas is in poor or very poor condition. And we are the Wheat State, after all! The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 17 percent of the Kansas wheat is in very poor condition with another 38 percent rated as poor. About 34 percent is rated as fair with just 10 percent in good and 1 percent in excellent condition. That assessment comes at the same time that topsoil moisture supplies were rated as short or very short across 81 percent of the state.
After we worked a group of baby calves yesterday afternoon, we stopped for a closer look at a wheat field. Randy didn't find the growing point, which is good at this time of the year when a freeze could "zap" the life right out of the tender plant.

So was it a million dollar rain? (Or a billion dollar rain? Inflation, you know!)
Mother Nature will ultimately decide. All the technology, all the college courses, all the passed-down knowledge means zip if the weather doesn't cooperate.

But the rain sure brightened some attitudes and helped inject a little positivity in small town Kansas!
The rain also gave a boost to the spring flowers outside my front door.
They say "April showers bring May flowers." Those March rains do wonders for early spring blooms, too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Ag Day 2018: Farm Partner? Farm Wife? Farm Homemaker?

"Farm Homemaker:"

At first glance, the terminology may seem as archaic as wearing pearls, a perfectly-pressed apron and high heels in "Leave It To Beaver"-style while making dinner for the family.

But on this Ag Day 2018, I will wear the label with pride.
I started life as a Farm Daughter. I moved into my role as Farm Wife and Homemaker almost 37 years ago. But I, too, can get caught in the trap of thinking maybe farm women should change their image. Before I went to my first National Master Farm Homemaker Guild conference back in 2015,  I thought to myself, "Maybe they should change the name to Master Farm Family or Master Farm Partner. Maybe it shouldn't be Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker any longer."

Being a "homemaker" may not be society's ideal job for women any longer. But whether a mom goes to work at an 8-to-5 job at a city high rise office building or is trying to figure out yet another meal to take the harvest field, aren't we all trying to do the best for our families?
Just like other women, farm women come in all shapes and sizes. They are young and old and in between. Some work in the field alongside their husbands. Some keep the books. Some have dinner on the table at 12 noon without fail. Some load up the meal in the car and deliver it places that no Pizza Hut delivery guy could ever hope to find, even with GPS. Some, like my ag-vocate friend, Jen, have a Take Your Child To Work Day on a regular old Friday.
Photo by Jenny Burgess, Follow burgesshillfarms on Instagram. Used with permission.
We were one of six Kansas farm couples named to the Class of 2013 Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker, and we were officially welcomed into the group in March 2014. Earlier this month at the annual convention in Manhattan, I ended my term as treasurer of the Kansas organization and started my duties as secretary. Randy is doing a similar stair-step procedure through the Master Farmer offices. We'll be presidents of our respective arms of the organization at the same time.

Since 1927, Kansas farm couples have been chosen as Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers for their commitment to agriculture, family and the community.

My thoughts about changing the name or the organization itself flew away as swiftly as chaff separates from wheat in a Kansas wind once I saw the National Master Farm Homemakers Guild Goals.

The No. 1 goal is:
Place a greater focus on the family and create a greater awareness of problems that are affecting family life today. Demonstrate the highest possible standards of living in our farm homes. Emphasize the positive aspects of farm life.
Who can argue with that? I can't and don't want to.

Other goals that resonated with me were:
2. Encourage our members to be aware and come to the aid of farm families in the U.S., whose livelihoods are threatened by unexpected crisis.
3. Encourage and motivate younger people to become involved with agribusiness.
9. Encourage and assist women to actively participate in community and agricultural organizations.
11. Encourage women to use and promote all farm products.
      A. Be aware of and talk about their nutritional and economic value.
      B. Be more aware of adverse/false statements made about farm products and make every attempt to correct them. 
When I see my Facebook feed stuffed with anti-GMO rhetoric or applause for the "moral decisions" that restaurants say they are making, I want to be one of those farm homemakers who is speaking out and telling the truth. (I refuse to give any "ink" to name those restaurants, and I won't use my hard-earned money at them either!)

Despite using modern technology here on the County Line, we are not a "factory farm." We, like 99 percent of the farms in the U.S., are a family farm. 

It's one reason I blog. I realize I'm not impacting that many people with my little slice of the Internet, but I keep plugging away, trying to make a difference. And the terminology isn't what's important. Call me a Farm Homemaker. Call me a Farm Partner. Call me a Farm Family. It's living out the goals that define me and my peers, not a name.
Photo I took of a farm couple at the 2010 3i show.
During the memorial service at the national convention, Sandra Roberts from Princeton, Kentucky, read the F. Scott Fitzgerald poem, "She was beautiful." (See the photo illustration at the top of this blog post.) Simply put, I loved it.

She also read Sierra Shea's "So God Made A Farmer's Wife." Shea, a South Dakota farm wife, was inspired to write the prose after seeing the Ram truck commercial during the Super Bowl, which featured "So God Made a Farmer," written by Paul Harvey. Click on the link for the whole thing, but here are just a few of the phrases:
And on the 9th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "Oh, dear, the farmer is going to need help." So God made a farmer's wife. 

God said, "I need somebody who will get up before dawn, make breakfast, work all day in the kitchen, bank, school or alongside her farmer and then come home to fix supper and wash up the dishes." So God make a farmer's wife. 

Somebody who'd sew a family together with the soft strong stitches of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh and then reply with smiling eyes when her daughter says she wants to spend her life "doing what mom does."

So God made a farmer's wife.
So, on this Ag Day 2018, call me what you'd like. It's not the terminology that's important. It's the job itself.
My friend and classmate, Diana Hemphill, got these at an auction and then gave them to me. Thanks, Diana! They are beautifully framed, but since I wanted you to be able to read them, I just focused on the cross-stitched words.
For a previous post on Ag Day, click on this link.

This post was revised from an earlier one on Kim's County Line.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hawaiian Sloppy Joes

I had browned hamburger in the fridge but I was fresh out of ideas for what to do with it. I happened to be talking to Jill at the time. (I was keeping her company on the phone while she drove to Topeka to work.)

She suggested Hawaiian Sloppy Joes from one of her favorite food blogs, Carlsbad Cravings.

I must admit, I found her suggestion rather ironic. When she and Brent were sitting at my dinner table, neither of them was a sloppy Joe fan. But, suddenly, they are OK? And they are even worthy of a recommendation?

These sloppy Joes must be pretty good, I thought.
So we tried them.
And they were.

The sauce is mostly sweet with the pineapple and the splash of molasses. And there's a little tang from the vinegar and a little subtle heat from the chili powder and smoked paprika. The original recipe called for hot sauce to taste. For Randy and me, no hot sauce is "our taste."

I served it with baked beans and some grapes, and it made a quick and easy meal. And there were leftovers, which is also a good thing around here.

This would be a recipe that could easily be adjusted upwards for a crowd and then kept warm in a crock pot. I had Hawaiian rolls in the freezer, so we had sliders, which would also be great for a gathering.

With the NCAA basketball tournament beginning today, this would be a good recipe for a watch party, no matter the team you're cheering for at the Big Dance. 

Enjoy! And if you try it, let me know what you think!
Hawaiian Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings blog
8 to 10 Hawaiian Sandwich buns (or can use slider buns or rolls for smaller sandwiches)
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 tsp. refrigerated minced garlic (more or less to taste)
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple in 100 percent juice (not drained)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. EACH chili powder and salt
1/2 tsp. EACH ground ginger, smoked paprika and pepper

Brown hamburger and onions together in skillet over medium heat, breaking up any clumps. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Drain any excess fat.

Add all remaining ingredients to the skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add additional vinegar for tangier taste and more brown sugar for a sweeter taste, if desired. (We liked it as the recipe called for - no additions.)

Serve on Hawaiian sandwich buns or traditional sandwich buns. You may also serve on slider buns or Hawaiian rolls that have been split to serve as mini buns.