Thursday, July 26, 2018

Fair to Middlin'

You just never know.

My photo of Vlad the Amur Leopard at the Manhattan (KS) Zoo won grand champion in the open class division at the Stafford County Fair last week.

It wasn't even on my initial list of potential fair entries. During the year, I make notes about photos I might enter at the county fair or use for a family birthday calendar project. (Type A, anyone?!)
I'd quickly snapped it during a freezing cold day when we celebrated Kinley's 6th birthday at the zoo. At the time, we just wanted Vlad to pick the enrichment box the party-goers had created so we could go back to the warm building!
The up-close photo of Vlad ended up in a collage in the birthday post. But, as I was looking through photos I'd taken in the past year, I decided Vlad was more unusual than the cattle and kitties I normally photograph. What's another three bucks to print another 8 x 10? (And, I had a 60 percent discount!)

The "eyes" (Vlad's eyes, that is) had it, the photography superintendent later told me, and the judge selected it as Grand Champion. 

And it just goes to show you: Judging in one person's opinion on one day. I heard that from my parents whether it was before 4-H foods judging or a league music festival.

I'm sure there were people who looked at the purple ribbon by Vlad's photo and wondered "Why that one?" If you handed ballots to fairgoers and asked them to choose their favorite, I'm convinced that a few photos would garner more votes than others. But it certainly wouldn't be a unanimous decision.

For me, it's just fun to enter. Evidently, old habits die hard.

I've been exhibiting things at county fairs since I was 10 years old. I was a fourth grader and a member of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club. My only project my first year was "Snacks and Little Lunches," a foods and nutrition project. According to my meticulous record book, my first fair netted a blue ribbon on cookies and red ribbons on both my cupcakes and brownies.
If my 4-H story is to be believed, I had a "lot of fun." In fact, several times, I had "a lot of fun." Perhaps my descriptive writing had not yet been developed.

But, at any rate, I evidently did have "a lot of fun." Here we are ... um ... several years later, and I'm still entering exhibits at a county fair.

Even though I love to cook and bake, photography is the exhibit area I choose these days. However, I'm still connected to 4-H foods all these years later, too, since I'm 4-H foods superintendent and have been for more than 20 years.

All 4-H entries get a ribbon. But in open class divisions at the Stafford County Fair, only the 1st, 2nd and 3rd photos are selected in each class. Classes are divided into color and black and white divisions. Some of the classes were nature, people, landscape, agriculture, computer-manipulated, action, humor and human interest.

I ended up with four blues, three reds and five whites. About half of my entries didn't get ribbons at all.
This one got a blue. I took it during our trip to South Dakota last September when Randy's brother was sick. It was taken at a stream we discovered just off the highway, but the light was perfect at the time.
Another blue: I took this one at the Kansas State University greenhouses during a tour for Kansas Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemakers last March.
This computer-manipulated image got a blue. I loved the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote and used the image for an Ag Day blog post about farm wife partners.
This one, which I titled "Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full," got a red in the humor class. I snapped the photo of one of our feeder calves as we were waiting for the veterinarian to arrive last November.
This one got a red, too. Brooke was my "action" model during a playground stop during our spring break trip to Hays.
Another amateur photographer friend asked me if I had a favorite photo I'd entered this year. This one I took at the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, S.D., was definitely one of my favorites. The black and white version got a 3rd place ribbon.
The color version didn't place at all. (Obviously, I couldn't decide which I liked better, so I entered both B/W and color and let the judge decide.)
The painted lady butterfly on roadside sunflowers got a 3rd-place ribbon, too. It's an image I've put on notecards since taking the photo last September.
This computer-manipulated image also got a red ribbon. I used a poem written by May Williams Ward in 1927. For a time, she lived in Belpre - a tiny town in the county to our west. Her husband was a manager at the grain elevator there, so her poems that feature Kansas landscapes are my favorites. I used this for a blog illustration.
My little hide-and-seek calf earned me another white ribbon.
This photo I took at our church last December was my black and white computer-manipulated entry. Part of the edits were done with the camera before I ever downloaded the image. It got a 3rd place ribbon, too.
This photo of Randy was one of my favorite entries. I took it last October when I took supper to the field and he was filling the wheat drill. I liked it enough that I made a 16- by 20-inch canvas that represents autumn in my "Seasons" display in our living room. However, the judge only gave it a 3rd place. I also entered it in the Stafford County Economic Development contest in the "commerce" category and got an "honorable mention" ... and a little prize money.

I also used my photos for my two entries in the Stafford County Fair's Arts and Crafts department. I entered two books in the online scrapbooking class. Though I don't think that's a particularly accurate description of what the books are, it's the category that fits.
 The book I made for Randy for Christmas last year got the blue ribbon.
So many times these days, the photos we take on our cameras or phones never get printed.
I use my photos for blog posts, so I do edit photos and use them.
But the books put the photos in a more accessible form.
A book I made for Kinley and Brooke after a spring break trip was 3rd in the online scrapbooking class. 
Sometimes, I write blog posts about adventures with the girls in rhyme. Later, I put the rhymes and photos in books and give a copy to each of the girls (and keep one for myself, of course).
Since I'm not a quilter or seamstress, maybe these books will provide a legacy of sorts.

I never bring in enough prize money to cover the cost of photo mats, enlargements, book production, etc. So why do it?

People have been experiencing fairs since the days of the Roman empire (At least that's what Wikipedia - the authority of all things - told me). I suppose there's a little rush to being chosen "best" at something, satisfying that little kernel of competitiveness in the human spirit.
But I truly think it's about helping to make sure fairs last another 2,000 years. Fairs give people an excuse to come together, to visit with people they don't see everyday.

It brings volunteers together to work on something that's bigger than what any one person could accomplish on their own.

It's about being part of a community. I'll give that a purple ribbon any day. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Kittens: A Natural Blood Pressure Reducer

Kittens will make your sad go away.
David Wong

I am convinced kittens have lowered Randy's blood pressure as we've dealt with more summer breakdowns, et al. Two weeks ago, we waited three days for a disc part to arrive from Wisconsin. Randy got it home, and it was the wrong part.

There was a misprint in the parts book. So, three trips to Hutchinson later, we finally had the disc working again. It was not a happy time. Baby kittens worked better than aspirin (or a therapist), I do believe.
Who wouldn't feel better after looking at that face? Randy discovered this baby and its sibling several weeks ago. He's never been able to catch their mama cat, so he's doing his best to tame this generation. He could only catch one for this photo shoot, so I'm not sure how well that's going.
When the girls were here for wheat harvest, they met two of the kittens:
July 11, 2018
Even though Oreo and Whiskers are siblings, Whiskers is twice the size of Oreo these days. It's also about to outpace Cozy, their mama..

A week or so ago, Randy discovered another crop of kittens in a window well. They belong to Midnight. (Midnight's eyes have always made her look ultra mysterious!)
Kittens are born with their eyes shut. 
They open them in about six days, 
take a look around, then close them again
 for the better part of their lives.
Stephen Bake
I'm not really a cat person. (OK, I'm not really an animal person at all, which I know is probably not a politically-correct thing to admit, but it's true.)

I think this quote has it right:
Gather kittens while you may,
Time brings only sorrow.
And the kittens of today
Will be old cats tomorrow.
Oliver Herford

And when they get big, they'll probably like me just about as much as Big Cat does. He doesn't even try to hide his disdain for me. He is a one-human cat. And I'm convinced he gives me the Big Cat Evil Eye.
As long as they do their job keeping mice out of my house, we can co-exist just fine, thank you! And as long as they help lower this guy's blood pressure? Even better!

This weekend, we'll see whether Brooke is the next generation of "cat whisperer." I have a feeling it's inherited (and not from me)! Grandpa Randy and Grandma Christy have that covered.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Don't Count Your Chickens (Or Your Kernels)

" Don't count your chickens before they hatch."
It's advice that's become so ingrained that we all know the saying.

I'm thinking I need to add an addendum for my chronically-optimistic farmer: 
Don't count your kernels before they're combined.

A 2.10" rain last weekend practically had Randy dancing between the rows of corn. (Well, he might have if he were a dancer. Instead, he wanted me to come and take a photo.) However, since our dryland corn has never been a bin buster in the 6 years we've had it in the crop rotation, I'm tamping down any feelings of elation I might have until I can see the elevator receipts. And we've got a while until that happens.
However, there's no question that more than 2 inches of rain were a blessing on our farm. We got another 0.25" Tuesday morning.
Still, it came too late for some locations. Compare this cob to the fully-loaded one in the other photo.
The recent rains should help with filling milo heads.
And it definitely helped give our pastures another needed boost. Since the second cutting of hay is off the fields, we're hoping for some good growth for the alfalfa crop, too. 
Randy was excited enough about fall crops that he entered field corn, milo and forage sorghum in the Stafford County Fair. They all got blue ribbons. (Nobody else entered those categories, but who's counting?!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

And So It Begins: Looking to Wheat Harvest 2019

This photo is from a previous year. I didn't get a photo this year. It shows loading out wheat to take to Miller Seed Farms.
Not a seed has been planted. And Wheat Harvest 2019 is likely 11 months away. But Randy has already begun the planning and ground work to make our next wheat harvest a reality, less than a month after we finished the last harvest.
During this year's harvest, the guys binned wheat we'll use for seed wheat for our 2019 crop. Before planting this fall, we take the wheat we stored in on-farm bins during harvest time to Miller Seed Farms to get it cleaned and treated.
Once at Miller's Seed Farm, the trucks pull onto a scale to be weighed.
Just like at the co-op elevator, we need to know - and the seed farm needs to know - how much grain was trucked in.
We brought wheat in both the tandem truck and the semi. Farmers may store their own wheat and plant it for their next crop, but only for their own use.
This year, Randy saved two varieties at harvest time, Zenda (a K-State release) and WB 4458 (a WestBred variety) to plant for our 2019 crop.
Photo collage from a previous post
We have our wheat treated with an insecticide - Cruiser - and a fungicide - Vibrance Extreme. This is an extra expense, but we believe it will get the 2019 wheat crop off to a good start. Detractors worry about the amount of chemicals that go into the mix. However, only 0.48 ounce per bushel of Cruiser is used, while 1.68 ounce per bushel of the Vibrance product is used. Think about a little bottle of eye drops (usually about 0.5 ounces). Adding slightly more than 2 ounces to a whole bushel of grain is really not much!

When the wheat arrived at Miller's, it was 60.2 per bushel test weight. After cleaning, it was bumped up to 62 pounds per bushel. The cleaning process gets rid of any chaff and other foreign matter that doesn't get sifted out in the combine. We brought 1,030 bushels to be cleaned and brought back home 910 bushels after the cleaning.
Once back at home, Randy had to transfer the cleaned wheat back into our on-farm storage bin. While we can take the wheat to be cleaned in both the tandem and the semi, we bring it all back to the farm in the smaller truck. He raises the truck bed and the wheat goes into a tub. The auger is turned with a tractor's PTO.

Seed wheat into storage bin from Kim Fritzemeier on Vimeo.

The auger carries the wheat back into the grain bin.
Randy climbed into the truck bed to scoop out the remaining wheat.
We don't want any to go to waste!
Once all the grain was loaded, Randy climbed up to put the lid on the bin.
It will be ready to go in September or October when we begin planting our 2019 crop.
This fall, we'll also pick up some certified seed in sacks. Randy reserved more Zenda and another K-State release, Larry, to plant for the 2020 seed wheat.
He also reserved Double Stop CL+ wheat to try to get rid of some rye and chaff in fields. Double Stop CL+ is a two-gene Clearfield wheat from Oklahoma State University. It has a strong herbicide tolerance for Beyond herbicide and methylated seed oil to control unwanted cheat, goat grass, rye and other "stuff" you don't want in your wheat crop. We'll pick that up in bulk this fall.

Until then ... there's plenty to do. The guys just finished up the second cutting of alfalfa and are about to get through with discing wheat ground for the first time after harvest. That process was slowed by a 2.10" rain Saturday night, but we're sure not complaining about that!

This afternoon, I go to set up for the Stafford County Fair 4-H foods and nutrition judging, which gets underway at 9 on Wednesday morning. I'm starting to think the forecast for slightly cooler temperatures during fair time was only a pipe dream.