Thursday, June 28, 2018

Singin' in the Rain (But Not Dancing)

Milo field, June 26, 2018
"I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain.
"What a glorious feeling! I'm happy again. ...
"Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face
"I walk down the lane with a happy refrain
"Just singin', singin' in the rain."

We'll skip the Gene Kelly dance. Dancing is not our forte. (I've been trying to forget my pitiful K-State Singers choreography audition for years, but it keeps playing like a nightmare in my dreams. Thankfully, K-State Concert Choir did not require dancing.)

A-n-y-w-a-y ... we may not be dancing in the rain, but we are singing God's praises with this timely rain,  even though I had hoped to write a wheat harvest summary by now.  However, since we still have 100 acres of wheat to cut, we'll move on to a tour of crops that have loved the 3.40 inches of rain we've had in different installments since June 20. We will try the wheat again later this afternoon.

Ah, the smell of geosmin on a summer day!

(Yeah, I didn't know what to call that unique aroma that wafts from a field after a rain, but a quick question typed into Google says it's ‘geosmin’ - literally “Earth smell.")

There's no better perfume according to a farmer who sees the little green plants visibly perking up after a soaking rain.
The milo was planted May 23, and this past week's rains should make it grow faster than a toddler on a growth spurt.

This photo was taken May 1, when we were planting the corn crop. (Corn planting was April 29 through May 3.)
On June 26, it's almost chest height on Randy. This year's variety is a little shorter to begin with, but it was also stressed with heat and lack of moisture as it started to grow. You can see the stress on the leaves.
However, the 3.40 inches of rain we've gotten in the past week has come at an opportune time for the crop, since the corn is pollinating.
 It's also forming ears.
The rain was "super beneficial and came at an opportune time. However, we'll need more rain in a few weeks for good yields"... a direct quote from my farmer.

I know this doesn't look much different than the milo field. But it's a silage field. It, too, likes the rainfall. Since our alfalfa has been impacted with drought conditions so far, we hope to have plenty of silage to put in the trench silo this fall to give our cows and calves plenty to eat this coming winter.


The rain has delayed the planting of sudan. Later this summer (if all goes as planned), we'll swath and bale sudan, also for cattle feed.

 Our rain Tuesday morning was somewhat unexpected, and Randy had already put some of the sudan seed in the drill.
I'd never noticed this handy-dandy chart for grain in pounds per acre inside the drill.
It will be ready to go when the fields dry out just a bit - maybe even today!
It's not "Singin' in the Rain" that I've been humming since last night. Instead, I've had a revolving medley of "Luck Be A Lady" and "Bushel and a Peck" after going to Music Theatre of Wichita and seeing "Guys and Dolls" last night. A friend sent us complimentary tickets we could use for any show this summer, and rain earlier in the week kept us out of the field on my birthday. Surprise! We had to go to the ticket office to exchange them in person for the real thing, and we were lucky enough that tickets were available. As always, the sets, the choreography and the performers were top-notch. It was the perfect birthday gift. Thanks, Sheila!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Enchanted Forest

An enchanted forest is just moments away from our door. Our neighbor has created a hideaway in an old shelterbelt. It's been the setting for an intimate wedding and a stroll for a church group during Halloween. Its creator, Gary, also invited us to meander down the path he spent hours clearing and decorating.

During harvest, Grandpa wanted to take Kinley and Brooke to explore the enchanted forest. There was time before the combine geared up for the day, and Grandpa was probably more excited than the girls ... at least, before we got there.
But after they arrived, they were just as enamored as Grandpa. There are surprises around every bend of the path.
Gary has placed gnomes and turtles and owls and frogs and tree people all throughout the forest.
There are so many things to see that you don't always glimpse everything on the first pass through.
Each discovery had the girls running ahead to find the next hidden treasure, kind of like one of those hidden picture puzzle books ... but even better because you can do the exploring with your own two feet.
You know how earlier I said there were surprises around every bend of the path? Well, this was the site for our encounter with a deer crashing through the trees. And not long after that, it's where we got a little too close to a skunk. (Read the whole post about that by clicking here, but here's Kinley's drawing, in case you missed it before.)
I'm not sure whether the trauma of repeated baths with hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dishwashing soap and baking soda will keep all of us out of the Enchanted Forest or not.

But I do know that Gary's creation inspired Randy to make a mini version across the road from our house this past winter.
Randy put up the gnomes in January, which is when I took the photos above. That's why there are no leaves. He had to wait to show them off to the girls when they came for harvest in June.

He used the tree's "toad stools" as little gnome houses. (It sounds better than fungus, doesn't it?)
The Dollar General at St. John probably wonders why this farmer was buying them out of small gnomes. 
But look at those faces ...
 ...that's why!
This face was pretty happy about his creation, too. Just sayin'!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Who's On First? A Guide to T-Ball

Ready at first base!
I got to watch the Mariners play ball on June 11. No, I wasn't in Seattle. These Mariners were stars of a t-ball game in Manhattan. No, not the Big Apple either. We were visiting the Little Apple.

But it was better than a pro game in my book. (However, the weather in Seattle might be more to my liking. The temperatures when the ball was first hit off the tee was still about 95 degrees at 7:30 at night and very humid!).
It was Kinley's second t-ball game. The first week, we'd received a photo of our rookie t-ball girl. By the second game, she and her teammates were practically pros. Well, practically.

Still, from what I remember from 25 years ago when we went through this t-ball stage with our own children, the Mariners are knocking it out of the park ... so to speak. Or maybe I'm just wearing rose-colored Grandma glasses.
Kinley played catcher one inning after some instruction from the coach. She did not get her ability to get down in that stance from Grandma!
Jill reports that the conversation among parents is that girls' teams are easier to coach at this age. In Stafford, the t-ball teams were co-ed.

In Manhattan, they have a girls' league and a boy's league. One experienced dad in the stands lamented that coaching a boy's t-ball team was the most frustrating coaching experience of his life.

For the most part, the Mariners paid close attention. Eric gave me a clue as to the coaching mastermind behind the scenes. At the first practice, one of the coaching moms told every girl to draw a picture in the dirt. Then she said, "That will be your last picture in the dirt on a t-ball field. We're here to play ball!"

It seems to have worked.
Stafford Recreation Yellow Team - 1992
I dug out a column I'd written for The Hutchinson News back in July 1992, Jill's first year in t-ball. She was the same age as Kinley is right now. I thought it would be fun to repeat it here for posterity:

I have been introduced this summer to the toughest spectator sport known to man or mom.

For you uninitiated, I'm talking about t-ball. Our 6-year-old Jill is on the Stafford Recreation Commission Yellow Team. She and her teammates are all still alive and well after four games, despite wildly tossed balls, thrown bats and a 0-4 record.

Confucius was known for his snappy sayings, but he didn't know a thing about t-ball or he wouldn't have neglected this vital bit of wisdom, "The kids with gloves on their hands don't run the bases."

Although I am no expert in the baseball knowledge department, I had to impart this bit of wisdom to my daughter during a practice session. She had dutifully tagged second, getting the runner out. But when the next person hit the ball, Jill took off for third base. I called her back with that bit of wisdom.

"That's t-ball," her coach said, laughing.
My sister, Lisa, who has already lived through two t-ballers and has progressed to the "big leagues," said there were two brands of t-ballers - dirt diggers, who most often are little boys, and bird watchers, a more unisex label.

I know firsthand that she is right. On my night to serve as dugout Mom, my responsibility was to keep the children in correct batting order. But I spent more time saying, "Hey, get out of that water unless you want a drink. Coach didn't bring it so you could build roads. Watch the game!"
Rainbow at Jill's first t-ball game - 1992
Bird watchers don't actually have to be watching birds. They could be watching rainbows, which was actually an option at our first game. They could be watching a late arrival to the ball field. But they are usually looking everywhere but at the batter and ball - until it streaks by them to the far reaches of the outfield.
Even the first graders who usually have a little bit better understanding of the game play what I've dubbed the t-ball shuffle. That's when they fight over the ball and in the process, kick it between bases and gloves while the runner advances yet another base.
Parents bring their video cameras, but they are missing the best action. They should filming the stands where the parents are yelling. Usually, it's a word of encouragement, with an occasional moan thrown in under their breath. But as excited as we all get, you would think it was the World Series.
"Kill the ump!" a dad yelled, forgetting where he is until his wife shushes him and says that's not allowed in t-ball.

Those road trips are tough on us parents. The first game was about 30 miles away from our farm. The entire way home was filled with questions from our confused t-baller.

"Mom, who was that guy who stood behind me?" Jill asked.
"Who?" I thought for a second. "Oh, you mean the umpire."
"What's an umpire?"
"He's the guy who says whether you're out or safe."
"What's safe?"
"That's when you get to the base before someone tags you out."
"What's that?"
"That's when the other team touches you with the ball or tags the base before you get there," I said.
Kinley on first base.
I was beginning to think we were going to do this variation of the Abbott and Costello "Who's on first?" routine all night.

"Mom, mom, why did we hit each others' hands?"
"You know. At the end," Jill persisted.
"Oh, that's to say, 'Good game!' to the other team and to be good sports."
"What a good sport?"

That's when a mother continues to answer question after question on the ride home from a t-ball game.

There have been some moments that have been worthy of replays - like the time our pitcher actually caught the batted ball. Parents were excited and so was the pitcher after she figured out the ball was in her mitt, not rolling around on the ground.

There were some spectacular slides. However, these were into wet grass and mud puddles, not bases.

They have actually improved. But we've got to remember they're rookies. I know how that feels.

It doesn't happen only to t-ballers. It also happens to farm wives on their first trip to the ASCS office. I got to sign up for a new CRP bid while Randy was back home on the combine.

It was like they were speaking a foreign language. I could related to Jill's questions about umpires and tagging, after hearing such foreign phrases as "highly erodible land conservation," "wetland conservation" 156EZ," "AD-1026" and on and on on on.

Even with my cheat sheet, I was out of my league. And, of course, Randy had forgotten to tell me something I just had to know.

It was like a trip to the parts store. They always forget to tell you something vital and you're invariably out of business-band radio range when you need to ask a question. (Now, there's a flash from the past: This was written before cell phones!)

"What basis does he want this off of?" Katie, the CRP expert, asked.
"What? I thought were were talking CRP, not t-ball," I muttered under my breath.

The people at the ASCS office were really nice. They can spot a rookie a mile away.

"I could explain it all to you if you'd like," one said.

I think I'll stick with t-ball. Thanks anyway.
After the 2nd game!
Note - I can NOT believe I found photos from Jill's first t-ball season. Even though they aren't great photos, I included a few here. After I found them, I just had to use them! Oh how I wish all the photos were organized! As I've told my kids, if you want the story of your life, you'll have to dig through plastic storage tubs. It would have been nice if blogging were a thing back then. But, if you read the At Home with Column from The Hutchinson News from 1992, cell phones weren't even part of regular life back then!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Won't Worry 'Bout a Thing (And Other Harvest Lies)

Free like a bird in the big blue sky 
Not a cloud or a care for a million miles
I won't worry, worry 'bout a thing.

God loves me and He loved me first
He rescued me when I was in a lurch
And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

To the left I’ll fly, fly, fly
To the right, I’ll glide, glide, glide.
No, and I won't worry, worry 'bout a thing!
Gonna scoop down low, low, low
Gonna soar up high, high, high.
And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

I've chosen an unlikely theme song for harvest this year. Or maybe it chose me.

I have been singing snippets of the catchy, Calypso-style tune ever since I heard it at Kinley's VBS program June 10. This past weekend, two little harvest helpers sang with me and even added in the actions during a trip to the grocery store for more harvest supplies.
"No, Grandma! It's like this," Brooke insisted when I didn't comply and do the actions, too.

It's a great message. But, if I'm honest, I've had a little more trouble actually believing it.

I'm in good company.
On the Monday after a fun-filled week of VBS, when Kinley was hesitant about returning to day camp, I asked her, "Don't you remember that song? The one that talked about letting your worries fly, fly, fly away?" She just looked at me with sleepy eyes, but maybe she'll remember the next time she's anxious.
I'm great at giving advice about not worrying. But then we got home from Manhattan.

Randy went to the combine to do a test cut to see if we could get Wheat Harvest 2018 underway (way back on June 12). I thought I'd get a phone call from him, telling me it was a "go" or "no go." But I didn't expect the one I got.

"Well, we've had a disaster," he said.
My stomach clinched, and my heart went into my throat.

"A raccoon went through the radiator, the fan and the belts," he said, the frustration practically making the phone lines quiver.

"Can I do anything?" I asked
"No, I've been on the phone to Case, and I'm waiting for someone to call me back."

So what did I do? I worried. I asked God, "Why?" And I worried some more.

Maybe I should have had a week of VBS ... especially if the theme was Shipwrecked: Rescued by Jesus.

Though we're in landlocked Kansas, I needed my own sea rescue ... in a sea of amber waves of grain without a way to harvest it.

Thankfully, Case had all the parts. They spent all day on Wednesday, June 13, fixing the combine. It was a humid day, and we would have had to start late and quit early if we'd gotten to cut at all, making my farmer a little more relaxed than he'd have been otherwise.

We got a call about 7 o'clock that evening, saying that by the time we got to Hutchinson, the combine would be ready to go.

I would like to say I quit worrying then. I know the Bible says not to worry. However, knowing it and practicing it are two different things. There had already been two fatality accidents on Kansas highways that day. What if someone wasn't paying attention to the flashing lights on our slow-moving vehicle and crashed into Randy?
What if? What if? What if? My mind could come up with plenty of disaster scenarios.
After a few miles on busy U.S Highway 50 into the setting sun, Randy turned off onto country roads. Two hours later, he called me to pick him up at the field. He was home. None of the "shipwreck" imaginings actually happened. I said a "thank You" prayer and may have hummed that VBS song under my breath yet again.
We started cutting wheat on Flag Day June 14. Or so we thought.
It took awhile for Randy to get the combine adjusted. He was rolling ... and then, there was another breakdown ... and another call to Case.

Jill and Eric and the girls had planned to come out for a harvest weekend. We warned them that things were not in full swing, but they decided to come anyway. Though the rides had more stops and starts than a trip down a traffic-light-littered Main Street, they did a little riding.
And then we shared our bad luck with them. Randy has been excited to take the girls to a neighbor's enchanted forest he's constructed in a shelterbelt. Randy even started his own mini version across the road from our house (more on that later). However, the early Saturday morning walk had an unexpected encounter with all kinds of wildlife. A deer dashing and crashing through the shelterbelt sent Kinley running into her mom's arms.
And then, when we were almost to the end of the path, we made our acquaintance with a skunk. Brooke got the worst of it, but Kinley and I also had to take our turns ridding our bodies of the stink. Jill had a whiff of it, too, where she'd picked up Brooke to carry her after the "incident."

For the record, tomato juice is not the best skunk deodorizer. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and Dawn dishwashing soap are our recommendation. Thankfully, most of the odor was below the knees. After repeated scrubbings (and about an hour and a half later), we were deemed odor-free.
Since I did not get a photo of our wildlife adventures, Kinley drew a picture of our enchanted forest encounter. (Click on the photo to make it bigger and see the detail.) I hope we are not forever known as the smelly grandparents.

It literally took until the evening of June 16 to get the combine running correctly. Both Randy and I are dreading the bill from Case. The repair guy has practically become part of the family, he was out at our farm so often in the past week.
The other Randy, the Case repair guy, joined us for a harvest picnic Saturday evening. (He was offered meals at other times, too, but that was the first time he accepted the invitation.)
I think the girls enjoyed the picnic more than the guys, who were at peak frustration by that time.
Randy got the perfect Father's Day gift on Sunday, June 17. It was literally our first full day of cutting since our first attempt on Tuesday.
Bottom photos are by Kinley and Brooke
He had some good helpers before they left to drive back home. (And to stop on the way home for new tennis shoes for Brooke, whose shoes had a pungent reminder of her trip to the farm.)
The girls were the perfect antidote to a frustrated farmer.
Before the ill-fated walk in the "Enchanted" forest.
They love the kitties just as much as Grandpa does.
They got to encounter less smelly wildlife in our hired man's vegetable garden on Sunday before church. Bunnies are definitely better than skunks!
They soared on the backyard swing, where Brooke - our little daredevil - was delighted with "under doggies" and "touching the sky."
I really have that had the "don't worry" song as an "earworm" for a week now. And I think it was probably a good thing - even when I don't always successfully follow its message. Maybe I should get the CD. The theme song says:
Through every storm of life
I know You’re by my side.
So I am holding on to Your promises
You are the God who holds
My future, all my dreams
So I am holding on
You’ll never let go of me.
 We hope it's smoother sailing this week!