Thursday, September 27, 2018

Done Deal: Corn Harvest 2018

Corn at harvest time is not that pretty. Someone may revoke my farm wife license for saying that. But it's the truth, at least for me.

I think wheat is beautiful at pretty much every stage of its 9-month journey. And at harvest? Well, those "amber waves of grain" actually made it into a pretty famous song, so I'm not alone in my appreciation for a prairie "seascape" of wheat rustling in the hot Kansas wind under an azure blue sky.
Corn on the other hand? Well, it's dried up. So are the stalks where the corn grew. It's a sea of dry brownness. No wonder they didn't make up a song about that.
So I'm always looking for a different way to show the beauty of corn harvest. Having all those golden kernels pile up in the combine's grain tank behind you is kind of pretty ... even through dirty glass.
My favorite farmer loves being in the combine, so that makes for a pretty picture, too.
We started corn harvest September 4. After some rain delays, we finished on Monday, September 24. This year, we had 280 acres of corn, a little less than last year. Since we are an all dryland farm, wheat remains our primary crop.
This year, we had a high of 107 bushels per acre and a low of 60. The overall average was 82 bushels per acre. Randy says one-third of the crop was great and the rest was OK. It all depended on when and where the rain fell this summer and the timing for 100-degree days.
All the corn was No. 1 quality. It was a good test weight and dry.

How does Corn Harvest 2018 stack up with previous years' averages?
2018 - 82 bu/acre
2017 - 43.6 bu/acre
2016 - 71 bu/acre
2015 43.88 bu/acre
2014 - 108 bu/acre
2013 - 57 bu/acre (This was the first year we added corn into the crop rotation).

When you reach the end of a season, it's always good to look back to where you've been. To read more about each stage, click on the links below the photos:
We started planting corn April 24.
Some of the corn was emerging in early May.
On June 26, it was almost chest height on Randy. This year's variety was a little shorter to begin with, but it was also stressed with heat and lack of moisture as it started to grow.
By late June, some was starting to form ears.
I took the next photo updates on July 16.
There's always harvest drama of some sort. This time, soggy ground led to some sticky situations.
But, we eventually, got the job done.
Next up? It's time to plant wheat. We plan to get started today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Royal Monarach Airbnb

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.
- Author Unknown

That's quite a reminder for this change-challenged person. Butterflies are the ultimate symbol of transformation. As George Carlin once quipped, "The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity."
I'm not sure that's true of monarch butterflies. It sounds like a lot of work to me to travel for two months, across thousands of miles, bucking wind and rain and predators. And it's all to get to a destination they've never visited before.

The Monarch butterflies begin the journey in their summer home in Canada and the northern regions of the U.S. They are headed for a mountain range 70 miles west of Mexico City in central Mexico, where they find the perfect habitat to survive November through March in the Oyamel forests. As many as 300 million spend the winter there. Wouldn't that be a sight to see?
It's not like the whooping cranes which migrate year after year. The butterflies will only make this journey one time. So how do they know where to go? It is just another miracle of God's creation. Researchers say that it appears to be a combination of directional aids such as the magnetic pull of the earth, the position of the sun and the availability of milkweed, where the butterflies lay their eggs.
Photo by Tami Brensing, Stafford, KS
They are a beautiful signal of fall. On Saturday night, my friend, Tami Brensing, posted this photo on Facebook as Monarchs bedded down for the night in the trees at their house.

So Randy and I wandered in our yard. We had some flitting from treetop to treetop, but our overnight accommodations must not have been right. Maybe we didn't get a good Airbnb review or something.We should definitely work on that!
I did manage to focus in on one butterfly, spreading its wings in the setting sun Saturday evening.

Then, another friend - Millie Dearden from Scott City - posted photos of all the butterflies in her farm yard, too.
Photo by Millie Dearden, Scott City
OK. We were officially jealous. We would love to hang out the welcome mat around here, too.
On Monday, we weren't booking our entire rural butterfly hostel like my friends, but we did have a few visit in one of our shelterbelts. 
Migrating butterflies are not the easiest creatures to photograph.
While they were visible to Randy and me as we walked yesterday morning, they were too far away for wonderful photos with my little camera, even using the zoom.
A little editing on the computer brought them in a little closer.
Take our word for it: The butterflies were "dancing" in the canopy of trees that line our road, so we walked with our heads to the sky and watched them flutter among the treetops.
(Not the best photo, but maybe you can get the idea.)

I finally decided I wasn't going to raise my heart rate by standing in the middle of the road looking up. The air show may not produce cardiovascular results, but is sure can lift the spirits.
However, for butterfly photography, the Kansas State Fair's Butterfly Experience was the easier option.
We got done cutting corn yesterday afternoon, and I had to deliver the guys to a field to pick up more equipment. (More on corn harvest later.) When I got back home, I walked in a tree line to the east of our house. It was worth the stroll.
Sometimes, the to-do list can wait.
I won't give up on capturing these allusive creatures in the wild! They are certainly persistent in their journey to their nesting grounds. But I have a stubborn streak, too. Just ask my family. On second thought ... don't.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Farmers Market Pasta: A Recipe

I am ready for fall. After our day-time temperatures again soared into the 90s this week, I'm ready for sweatshirt and soup weather. Anybody else with me?

Even though I won't miss the sweltering temperatures, the humidity or the gargantuan mosquitoes as we transition to fall, I will miss the plethora of fresh vegetables. Living where we do, I don't get the opportunity to frequent farmers markets as often as I'd like. But if I happen to go to Hutchinson on a Wednesday or Saturday during the summer, a stop at the Reno County Farmers Market is a must.

And, here in the U.S., we are fortunate to have fresh fruits and vegetables available to us at the grocery store year-round.

The stereotypical farm wife is queen of her garden. Sadly, I am not. That's probably not a surprise to anyone who reads this little spot of the internet with any regularity. But I am always thankful to my friends and family who share. And I certainly don't mind supporting the hard-working folks who bring their produce to farmers markets or the farmers who make it possible for me to choose beautiful fruits and vegetables in my grocery store's produce section.

During the summer, there's a long-running joke that you need to keep your car locked so productive gardeners don't load it with excess zucchini or squash. This Farmers Market Pasta includes those veggies, along with broccoli, a bell pepper and tomatoes. The delicious combination of pesto, balsamic vinegar and spices will have you searching out your gardening friends who are still reaping the bounty of their hard work.

Or pick up the ingredients the next time you're at the grocery store. We highly recommend this tasty dish! I served it with grilled steak, but it would be delicious with other proteins as well. Enjoy!
Farmers Market Pasta
Adapted from Skinny Taste blog
For vegetables:
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds (halve or quarter, if the zucchini is large)
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds (halve or quarter, if the squash is large)
1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, halves
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

For pasta:
1/3 cup basil pesto
1/2 pound fusilli pasta (you can use another shape, like rotini)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Additional balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 2 sheet pans with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, garlic, Italian herbs and salt. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and whisk until emulsified.

In a large bowl, combine vegetables. Stir in contents of small bowl and toss to evenly coat. Spread vegetables out in an even layer onto prepared sheet pans. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to the package directions or until al dente. Before draining pasta, reserve a small amount of pasta water.

To assemble: Combine drained, cooked pasta, pesto and beans, adding 2 tablespoons of reserved pasta water as needed. Toss with roasted veggies and top with Parmesan cheese.  Toss well to coat.

To serve, drizzle with a little more balsamic vinegar and additional Parmesan, as desired.

We had leftovers. I added a little additional pasta water before putting it in the fridge, since pasta leftovers notoriously absorb liquid. 

Makes 6, 1 1/2 cup-servings.

NOTE:  The original recipe called for 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Feel free to add those, if desired.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Pickin' and A Grinnin'?

We were back to "pickin' " yesterday, but there wasn't much "grinnin' " going on. Corn Harvest 2018 started way back on August 31. We got one landlord's corn harvest completed that day.

And then it rained ... and rained ... and rained.

Not that we're complaining. Really. After a winter with no moisture of any kind -- neither rain nor snow nor sleet -- we aren't turning down moisture.

Randy tried to resume corn harvest after a 2-week hiatus on Monday. The corn is dry. The ground is not. He did get more harvested yesterday, but it also involved being pulled out of the muck several times with a 4-wheel drive tractor.
About the same time as he got stuck the first time, we had a breakdown with the disc. I was already going to Hutchinson to pick up my state fair photos. But, of course, the dealership in Hutchinson didn't have the needed parts.

So I had a lovely detour to Kingman on the way home. It could have been worse. The parts could have been out-of-state and we would be waiting on UPS to get it fixed. And it really was a nice day for a drive.

After filling the truck and combine, Randy switched jobs and baled sudan. The same deluge also soaked our sudan hay. Randy had abandoned one field of swathed sudan because it rotted after getting soaked repeatedly. He plans to let that field of sudan re-grow, and he'll turn cattle out on it this fall.
But he is trying to salvage some of the sudan. It looked like he was baling up the sun last night.

From stuck combine to sunset beauty, it's all part of life on The County Line.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Livestock" Exhibits ... So To Speak

The "livestock" exhibits were my favorites at the Kansas State Fair.
OK, they were "live." But these creatures don't exactly fit in the traditional definition of "livestock."

ˈlīvˌstäk      noun: livestock
  1. farm animals regarded as an asset.

    "markets for the trading of livestock"
Well, maybe butterflies could be considered an asset on the farm. They are certainly a treasure to the senses, especially a beautiful Monarch, which ended up looking like stained glass as it spread its wings in the sunlight.
For the record, Randy did go to the livestock barns while I was in a Kansas Master Farm Homemaker Guild executive meeting. It was a "changing of the guard" day in the beef pavilion that day. One breed had been judged, and others were likely on their way to the Hutchinson fairgrounds. But there wasn't a lot of action in the traditional livestock barns on Tuesday.
But Randy liked this "livestock," too. He was much more successful in attracting butterflies to his sugar-soaked "feeder." Before entering the Butterfly Experience tent, each visitor is given a paint sponge dipped in diluted Gatorade. Holding the sponge in front of a butterfly allows it to step on and taste the juice with their feet. OK, truth be told, I was probably too busy clicking away with the camera to give the feeding thing much of a shot.
This pretty pink plant seemed as popular to butterflies as the fair's Pronto Pup stand to a team of hungry football players.
The Butterfly Experience is new to the Kansas State Fair. It's an inflatable tent, which promoters say has three different kinds of butterflies. Randy and I only saw Monarchs. But we weren't complaining.
(If you're going to the fair, the Butterfly Experience is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. It's near Lake Talbott, south of the 4-H Building. The exhibit is free, but donations are accepted to purchase milkweeds that assist in the Monarch’s migration.)

Butterflies weren't the only things flying at the fair that day. American flags were flying since it was Patriot's Day - the 17th anniversary of 9-11. It was also Kansas Master Farmer - Master Farm Homemaker Day at the Kansas State Fair.

During our noon meeting, three of our Kansas Master Farmers were honored by the Quilts of Valor program, whose mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts.
Robert Edwards, Olsburg, served in the U.S. Army from 1953-55 during the Korean Conflict. His quilt was made by Master Homemaker Barbara Rezac.
Henry Ericson, Fort Scott, gave his service to the U.S. Army from 1953-55, also during the Korean Conflict. His quilt was made by his wife, Doris.
Richard Reinhardt, Erie, was an instructor pilot, training other pilots who also served the U.S. Armed Forces. His quilt was made by Master Homemaker Jeri Albright. He's pictured here with his wife, Linda, and family members.
Paula Blasi, Bob Edwards, Barbara Rezac, Anita Davis
Master Farm Homemaker, Anita Davis (far right), has made sure Master Farmer veterans have been recognized for their military service by awarding handmade Quilts of Valor. These were the latest three to be honored in this way.  (Several other Master Farmer families contributed funds for making the quilts.)
Our group was treated to the grandstand show, Roots and Boots, featuring Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye and Aaron Tippin.  Tippin broke out his red, white and blue guitar for his hit, "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly." It earned him a Patriot's Day standing ovation.
Even though we didn't ride any rides, I couldn't resist taking a photo from the grandstand before we left after the concert.

One other highlight of the day was seeing the 2nd place ribbon on one of my photo entries in the Kansas Wheat contest.  None of my other photos placed in the regular divisions, but I was thrilled to be a ribbon winner!
All in all, a great day at the Kansas State Fair, even if my feet were tired. Back when I was a reporter at The Hutchinson News, I'd spend all day, every day of the 10-day run at the fairgrounds. I was obviously much younger then!