Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Piercing the Worry

A glimpse of the morning sky had me grabbing my camera and taking off down the road for photos. The first stop was my sunrise tree, where the tapestry of sky almost made me ignore how much water is still in the fields. Almost. But there's still some water in the road, and the neighbor's mudhole reflected  a sliver of the morning sky.
As the sun creased the horizon, I hurried down the road to take some photos of the milo field we still need to cut. Those photos weren't all that memorable. I didn't like them with the flash any better.
But then I noticed a single jet stream creasing the sky like a bullet. Though you can't tell from the photo, the rising sun glinted off the underbelly of the jet plane. And I thought about the Plains' reputation as a flyover country. I wondered if those passengers were looking at the patchwork of water-logged fields below, watching the sunrise from their perch in the heavens, or whether they had their heads buried in a book or an in-flight movie or were still snoozing. 

But then I thought about all they were missing. I admit it. The last few weeks have been challenging. Thirteen inches of rain brought farming to a halt for three weeks during the busy time of fall harvest and wheat planting. Like the deep ruts that were left behind by flood waters coursing over dirt roads and through culverts and making rivets in fields, the rain gouged our hearts and minds with worry about getting everything done.

Then, last week, after only two days of trying to plant wheat again, we got another inch of rain, bringing our grand total to 14 inches. Randy got back onto the field again Monday to try and beat the October 31 deadline for planting wheat.

On a crisp fall morning, I tried to recognize how much I should be thankful for.
The other side of the sunrise brought morning's first light to a neighbor's mowed hunting trail.
It kissed the tops of hay bales in a CRP field just north of our house.
A week ago, I left just as the sun was rising to go to a meeting in Hutchinson. There was a thin layer of fog hanging in the air on this windless start to the day. I couldn't resist stopping to click a few photos. And, yes, I still made it on time to the meeting.
I have to admit that I've been in a fog of doubt the past few weeks. And, I'd be lying if I said those worries are gone. God doesn't like worrying, but I don't think He's a big fan of lying either.

But just like morning light penetrates fog, I know I have much to be thankful for. I look at the photos of destruction from Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Wilma. I still have a house. I still have power. I am still able to buy fuel or food without waiting in lines caused by a weather-induced shortage. I read Facebook updates from the wife of a young farmer who was critically injured while he was planting wheat last week, and I am thankful that we are just experiencing the aches of pains of our age, rather than mending from a terrible accident.
Am I happy that we'll be spending more money on certified seed wheat to replant seed wheat? No. But I can be happy that we're again able to be in the field planting ... even if Randy has to drive around some mudholes to get it done.
 And there is certainly enough beauty to appreciate.
During my morning walk, the geese call to each other and look like black pepper flakes floating on a soup bowl of bright blue.
That jet stream looks like a row of silver embroidery thread piercing through blue fabric.
And the shelterbelt to the north (the one that hides a secret fairyland ... and skunks) is dressed in its fall best.
All I have to do is open my eyes ... and my heart .. to hope. Maybe the worry can fall away like those autumn leaves. Well, I can pray that happens.
This photo was taken October 3, 2018. Wheat planting has been a marathon.
NOTE: We may not be able to plant 415 acres to wheat that were part of Randy's wheat plan for 2019. More on that in an upcoming blog post. We'll see how that all goes ...  since there are raindrops on the weatherman's map yet again.
Today is Randy's birthday. A blueberry pie is in his future! 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Replaced by a Drone?

I couldn't resist clicking on a link yesterday that said, "Cargill develops industry-first robotic cattle driver." It probably had something to do with this reminder of our latest cattle adventure:
Though it's a little hard to see, I have a fairly sizable bruise on my arm. It was my own darn fault. I stuck my arm where I shouldn't have. It's one of those things you do and wish you hadn't.

It's not a big deal - a little broken skin and a tender arm is much better than anything broken. And it also points out my abundance of sunspots. Let's call them that rather than age spots, shall we? (Randy heard me say "ouch," but I don't think the other guys even knew anything had happened. I'm quite proud of that.)

With only that minor hiccup, we got our first round of cattle work done this fall Monday during our rain-imposed hiatus from wheat planting and milo harvesting.

Anyway ... I'm thinking one of those robotic cattle drivers would be quite the addition to the old farmstead after reading the article in Farm Journal's Ag Tech:
Improving animal welfare and employee safety—that’s the top two goals driving the creation of the industry’s first robotic cattle mover. Cargill says the robots are designed to move cattle from holding pens to the harvest area at processing plants, reducing stress to the animals by minimizing their proximity to human activity. Employees operate the robots from a catwalk above the holding pens. This also helps improve worker safety.

The machine uses automated arms, blowers and audio recordings to move cattle in a desired direction, and can operate in rain, snow, or mud with no delay in daily operations. Testing was conducted at Cargill’s Wyalusing, Penn., and Schuyler, Neb., beef processing facilities. The robotics are being implemented at Cargill Protein beef plants in the U.S. and Canada.
At any rate, it's not coming to the County Line any time soon, so I guess Randy will have to put up with his clumsy cattle helper instead.
The non-clumsy worker was Dr. Bruce Figger with South Wind Animal Health. He preg-checked 25 heifers, as well as vaccinating and applying a dewormer to the "ladies" and one bull.  

Yes, Dr. Figger got the glamorous job on the "business end" of the heifer. With an internal exam, he determines how far along the young moms are. Bulls arrived in these ladies' pasture in July, so they could be 6 months pregnant by now. Most were in the 5- to 6-month gestation stage. A few were a little "later to the party" and were about 4 months gestation. They will be the first in our County Line maternity ward to deliver the Class of 2019, beginning in late January and February.

The heifers are first-time mothers. Well, 23 of them will be first-time mother come late January. Two of them were "open," in other words, they weren't pregnant.

Now if those "young ladies" were your teenage daughters, that would be good news. As it is, they will become the meat in our freezer next spring.
After the exam, Dr. Figger applied a deworming solution to control parasites like worms, lice and liver flukes.
He also gave each pregnant heifer a shot of Virus Shield 6 that prevents leptospiriosis and BVD. Leptospiriosis is an bacterial infection that may cause abortion or stillbirth. BVD stands for Bovine Viral Diarrhea - 'nuff said. The pregnant heifers also got a shot of Scour Bos. The vaccination helps prevent scours (diarrhea) in their babies. Cattlemen want to produce healthy cattle. It's better for the cattle, and it's also better for the bottom line. Just like we gave recommended vaccinations to our children, we believe it's important to give our cattle every medical advantage to have a healthy life.
You remember those little pink vaccination books our parents used to keep track of our vaccinations as kids? Dr. Figger also made notes on each heifer, recording her eartag number, her gestation, the medicines she received and a body condition score.

The chute didn't work perfectly during this first round of cattle work, so Shawn did some repair work on it yesterday while Randy planted wheat. However, with 0.80" of rain overnight and this morning, we are AGAIN at a standstill.

True confessions: I had a blog post all ready with beautiful photos of sunrises and fall colors. But I just wasn't feeling it this morning after another round of rain.  We'll save that for a more optimistic day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Timing Is Everything: Silage at Dusk

The sun was setting when the silage cutting crew arrived October 1. (This post was rudely interrupted by 13 inches of rain, but I'm posting it anyway.)

After I'd picked up Randy from the field where he was drilling wheat, we hurried to the silage field so I could attempt some photos. (The Chiefs were playing the Broncos on Monday night football, and I didn't even have to beg.)
Since I began Kim's County Line in January 2010, I've taken silage cutting photos every year ... and written about wheat drilling ... and harvest ... and cutting hay ... and working with cattle and dozens of other tasks. After nine years for some of those mile markers on a Kansas farm, it's tough to find a new "angle," as I might have said in my previous life as a newspaper reporter and editor.
As I snapped away in the field, I thought the photos were turning out OK. It was kind of cool to watch the sunset sky fading into darkness and watch the lights come on the cutter and the trucks. And, besides, it's not like I could tell the silage cutting crew that they'd have to wait until tomorrow to do the job so the farmer's wife could get photos.
But that pretty setting sun also shut down the camera lens. The photos looking into the sun were more silhouettes than illustrations to show how the process works.
Looking to the east was a little better, but still not the clearest photos I've ever taken.
By the time we got to the trench silo, it was almost dark. But the crew kept working.
I think they must have worked until a little mishap, which we saw the following morning. The driver didn't go in the right drive. I'm really glad it wasn't me!
I knew I wouldn't have much of a chance to take photos the next day, since I was going to run from one task to the next. That included recording my KFRM report before 7, taking Randy to the field at 7, getting 100 gallons of diesel fuel at Zenith, running to Hutch for medicine and swinging back by Miller Seed Farm for a pickup bed full of Larry seed wheat. I'd left lunch in the crock pot so I could take meatball subs to Randy for lunch and then make it to Stafford for a meeting at 2. A trip to the grocery store and more trips to and from fields to help with moves kept me busy all day, so I missed the chance to take photos of the silage crew during daylight hours this year.

(For a complete run-down of silage harvest, check out this first blog post I did back in 2010. It's a different cutting crew, but the process and machinery are fairly consistent.) There are also a couple of videos on my 2016 blog post.)

Even though the timing wasn't great for photos, it turned out to be perfect timing. The silage crew finished before we were inundated with some 13 inches of rain in a little more than a week's time. It started raining the day after they were done. Whew!
June 26, 2018
To recap, Randy planted 27 acres of silage this year. By June 26, it was off to a good start.
August 17, 2018
By August, it was heading out (and also above Randy's head)!

We'll use the silage to feed cows this winter. Since our hay crop wasn't particularly prolific this year, having the supplemental silage for feed for our cattle is even more important. Randy was happy with the 16 tons per acre total.
After the veterinarian preg-checked and vaccinated 25 heifers yesterday afternoon (more on that to come), Randy fixed fence at the Rattlesnake Creek since the water had gone down enough to do it. 
Then, 20 days after the rain started, he finally planted a little wheat again toward evening. He said he came close to getting stuck once. I predict it won't be the last time.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Breakfast of Champions

Our usual breakfast when growing up consisted of opening the "cereal cabinet" next to the table and making a selection from a wide variety of cold cereals found next to the stash of napkins. In the winter, the options might include hot oatmeal or Cream of Wheat with chopped-up dates adding sweetness to a few lucky bites.

On the other hand, Randy grew up eating hot breakfasts the majority of the time. I got him converted in no time at all - ha!

I love eating an occasional breakfast out at a restaurant. In fact, it's one of my favorite meals to eat outside the home. And, at the Ladd B & B, where we often stay before or after K-State games, a hot breakfast is sometimes on the menu plan. This past weekend, Jill was already feeding a crowd after the homecoming parade Friday night with yummy slow cookers full of chili and chicken and rice soup. When I volunteered to bring food of some sort, she suggested Saturday breakfast.

I sometimes bring banana bread (and I did this time, too). But with an 11 AM start time for the game, I wanted to add a substantial start to our day ... and try to avoid spending a bundle at the stadium concession stand at the same time.

What did we do before we could go to a search engine, type in "breakfast casserole, sausage, eggs, hash browns" and get a list of possible ways to combine those tasty ingredients? Well, we used the shelves of cookbooks I have cluttering my kitchen, but the typing method is usually faster.

This time, I found a simple recipe at The Country Cook, a food blog. While it's not a blog I normally read, I definitely qualify as a "country cook," and the recipe qualified on the ingredients I wanted to use. I made a few modifications, and we ended up with a tasty, pre-game breakfast. (Check out the recipe below). 
Our whole family was able to sit together at the game this time, which was a lot of fun. 
After a week of rain, it was a perfect fall day. 
 And K-State even won the game vs. Oklahoma State with some help from this cute fan club!
Yes, Kinley was able to eat the breakfast casserole ... even with her current lack of front teeth.
Uncle Brent and Eric got to answer plenty of questions about the whys and where-fors of football games.
The girls actually made it the whole game, though they did take a brief time out to play with their cousins on "the hill."
We arrived in Manhattan in time for the Friday evening homecoming parade. The girls enjoyed hanging out with their cousins and a Sunday School friend.
 Who doesn't love a parade? (OK. Don't ask Brent that question. He's not a big fan.)

We saw Willie ... (Brooke hid from him) ...
... and the marching band ...

... and got a head start on Halloween candy. 
After all the candy collected, let's get back to that recipe, shall we? Besides a tasty breakfast, it would make a great breakfast for supper choice. Enjoy!
Breakfast Casserole
(Hash Browns, Eggs, Sausage)
Adapted from The Country Cook blog
2 lb. bag frozen hash browns, thawed
1 lb. pork sausage (you choose the spiciness level)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 sweet red, yellow or green pepper (or equivalent of mini peppers), finely chopped
8 eggs
1/2 cup cream or half and half
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13- by 9-inch baking pan with baking spray. Set aside.

Cook sausage, onions and peppers in skillet until the meat is browned and vegetables are softened. Drain any excess fat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, 1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper, mixing well.

In the prepared baking dish, spread out the thawed hash browns. Put cooked sausage mixture evenly on top. Pour egg mixture evenly over the sausage layer. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Take foil off, and bake for additional 10 minutes, checking to make sure the cheese doesn't become overly brown. Serve with fruit, etc.

Note: I put the casserole together the night before and refrigerated it. Because it started out cold, I baked it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes before removing the foil and baking for 10 minutes more. I started in a cold oven so I wouldn't break my glass baking dish.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Walkin' In a Winter Wonderfand

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening ...
Walking in a winter wonderland.
Now wait just a minute! Shouldn't we be humming "Autumn Leaves" right about now?
The calendar says October, but it felt more like December for a little while on Sunday night and Monday morning.
The weird weather continues. We had another 0.90" of rain during the day on Sunday. Then huge, wet snowflakes began tumbling down Sunday evening (October 14).
After another glum day, we were glad to see the sun come up on Monday morning. The Sunday rainfall brought our total to almost 13 inches of rain in just a little more than a week.

The snow didn't stick around for long. But it made for unusual photos since most of the leaves are still on the trees.
While I couldn't find records for Stafford County, the National Weather Service said Wichita's earliest measurable snowfall until this fall was 1888. On average, Wichita can expect its first measurable snowfall around December 2, with that chance increasing to 90 percent by January 1. Last year, we didn't get any snow at all here on the Stafford/Reno County line.
Jill's in-laws had given us homegrown pumpkins and gourds when we were in Manhattan for the K-State/Oklahoma State game.
Our Sunday night snowfall put a little "frost on the pumpkin" and seemed to confuse Oreo the cat.
The vine on our house had more icicles than it had fall-colored leaves.
The temperature is supposed to rebound this week. By week's end, we may push 70 degrees. I just hope it doesn't include any more rain. We are still drying out from the last round, and it's going to take awhile.
With milo to cut and more wheat to plant (or re-plant), we're not ready to "swing" totally into winter.