Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Fritz Carlton West

The Fritz Carlton is open for business.

Let me pause here to confess that I appropriated my son's name for his house in Manhattan. When he moved back to the Little Apple and bought a house just blocks from the football stadium, his abode became a popular bed-and-breakfast spot for his fraternity brothers. OK, he doesn't usually provide breakfast. He's more likely to provide dinner. It's nearly impossible to get a "reservation" at the Fritz Carlton during K-State's football season (though he's always told us that we can have priority booking).

So, let's just say the Fritz Carlton West has opened for business. The founding members of the Class of 2019 began arriving on Sunday. Two calves were born on that relatively mild day. 
This little guy got the very first ear tag of the year. His number and the rest of his classmates begin with a "9." That signifies he was born in 2019.
This system allows us to know at a glance when the animal was born, especially important if it remains in our herd.
As an example, its mother has a 767 tag, so it was born in 2017. In the case of our newest additions on the County Line so far, all of the mothers have a 7-- tag. 
They are heifers: In other words, they are first-time mothers. They were born in January and February two years ago. They were the 25 females we kept at the end of calving season in 2017 to become the newest mothers in our herd in 2019. We keep the heifers in a corral east of our house so that Randy can check them frequently. First-time moms have the potential for more calving problems than older females, though we try to mitigate that by using bulls that produce lower birth weight progeny.
With the first calves born on a fairly warm day, they didn't need a "room in the inn" - or the calving shed, in our case.
Monday was a little chillier. But, since it was early afternoon when this little guy was born and the mom had already licked it off, Randy decided a move to dry straw for the afternoon would give the calf a cozy spot. Those calves are heavy when you're carrying them across a muddy lot. (Not that I would know personally.)
It wasn't long before No. 902 was trying to stand.
And we were there when it took its first steps. (Randy was wishing it had been a little more mobile so he wouldn't have had to carry it!)
The coldest night of the year so far was Tuesday night. This baby was the first guest in Fritz Carlton West, our calving shed. (Learn more about the calving shed here and here.)
After it warmed up out of the wind in the cozy straw, Randy added its eartag and pushed it out the door to rejoin its mom. (Many times, the moms are with them in the shed, but this heifer's mom didn't want a spot in the "motel.")
We were both pushing the calf out to the bigger lot. And then we discovered that we had made a tactical error.
Randy took off across the lot to get a closer look at the other mothers-to-be. And it was like he was the Pied Piper to little No. 903.
Are you my mother? (For the record, the mom and No. 903 have found one another and all is well.)

Two other new babies born Wednesday afternoon and their mamas spent the night in the calving shed last night. Randy also put another three heifers he thought might be close to calving in the shed - just in case.
You know I said that Brent doesn't provide breakfast at his version of the Fritz Carlton. (Most of the time, they're going to a tailgate before the game anyway.) Well, neither do we for the young set, though we provide plenty of hay and feed for their moms.
The Fritz Carlton in Manhattan sometimes provides dinner. We don't have to do that either.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Prairie Poet: A Kansas Day Tribute

Kansas celebrates her 158th birthday today, January 29. Unlike me, Kansas doesn't seem to mind counting each of her years.

Kansas poet May Williams Ward captured the essence of this state I call home with her poem, Sky Mountain. While I'm not usually a poetry fan, her poem spoke to my appreciation for Kansas, where I've lived my entire life. I illustrated her words with my photos in an earlier blog post. After harvest, I used the same poem for an entry in the Stafford County Fair's computer-manipulated division (see the photo at the top of this post). 

Ward lived for a time in Belpre in Edwards County, our neighbor to the west. Belpre isn't exactly a thriving metropolis.
May Williams Ward
Even though I'm sure it had more businesses and people a hundred years ago, I was even more intrigued by this young poet who harvested words in a small Kansas town, while her husband Merle collected the harvests of area farmers at the grain elevator his family owned.

While living in Belpre, Ward became editor of The Harp, a national poetry magazine. Last year, I discovered that the Hutchinson Public Library had added a book about Ward to its shelves. I get a weekly email from the Hutch library, which summarizes some of the new books in their collection. I couldn't believe the timing. I think I was probably the first patron to check it out.
Prairie Rhythms: The Life and Poetry of May Williams Ward was written by Lana Wirt Myers and published by Mammoth Publications in Lawrence.

William Allen White had this to say about Ward:
This Kansas poetress ... contributes to the most important magazines of verse and is easily the champion poet of Kansas. Her verse is beautiful, poignant, understanding. She excels because she is of the prairie. She takes her music out of her environment, winds, birds, the rhythm of the windmill, the Kansas scene. ...
 Literary correspondent Dorothy Brown Thompson wrote:
Why shouldn't more poets write about their own background instead of the isle of Capri sort of thing - especially an almost untouched field like our middle west? Probably because they don't see a sky mountain or the monstrous horn of a unicorn. You and William Allen White and John Stewart Curry give a three-faceted view of Kansas - utterly different but all true.
As I was reading her work, another of her poems struck a chord with me, and I remembered it again during wheat harvest.  Song Cycle: Farmer and Wheat placed fourth in a Kansas Authors Club poetry competition in 1921.

On this Kansas Day, here are more of Ward's words, with my photo illustrations, celebrating our Wheat State:

Wheat Farmer  (A Sequence)

I. Scene 

My valley is covered with riches
Gold wheat in the soft breeze blown;
More golden than gold itself for it blends
Two golds, the sun's and its own.

II. Action
I worked and I sweat and somehow
The complex rhythms of toil
Made contact that brought forth the beaded wheat
From the wedding of seed and soil.
It was magic. Moreover, provided
By the cunning planning of men
There was a miracle machine
For the working of magic again
The intricate harvester-thresher.
It slid though the yellowed field
Cut and winnowed and threshed and cleaned
And weighed and measured the yield

 Tons of my wheat at the market
Enough to cargo a ship
Has its bulk compressed (by magic again)
To a narrow paper slip
And so I pocketed my wheat crop.
With power to transmute it at will
Into heat and clothing and food and books
And a new white house on the hill;
But a part I shall change into solid coin
For something heavy to hold
A tangible weight to remind me
Of my labor turned into gold.

III. Gift
Wife, do you know what I dreamed last night?
I dreamed I sweat drops like dew
And they turned into gold and I gathered them up
And gave them to you.
Happy 158th birthday, Kansas! You sure look good to me!
Today, I get to spend part of my day reading my farm counting book to Kinley's first grade class in Manhattan and sharing these Kansas sunflower cookies I made. (Recipe to come in a future blog.)  It sounds like the perfect way to celebrate!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Living the Dash: A Blog Anniversary

Just a mile from Randy's childhood home is the Peace Creek Cemetery. We drive past it when we take cattle to the Palmer pasture. It's over on the left-hand side of the road when we take a bale of hay to the bulls during their winter hiatus. The combine squeezes past the cemetery on the narrow road that leads to one of our fields. But, most of the time, we drive by its iron gates and don't pay much attention.

It's one of those things that's there. But do we really see it? How often can we say that about life itself? We're so busy navigating our way through the minutia that we don't take the time to really celebrate the joys or dissect the challenges.
Today is the ninth "anniversary" of Kim's County Line. I pushed "publish" on my first blog post on January 24, 2010. Today is my 1,780th published post.

As I've been thinking about this nine-year journey, I recalled the poem that circulated several years ago about "living your dash" -  the period between your birth and the moment you draw your last breath.
Look closely to see the rainbow in the clouds over Randy's parents' graves at Stafford - photo from 2016
The dash is who we are, and it will one day be our legacy. It’s not our birth or death date that matters most, but how we spend each passing year.

For the past nine years, Kim's County Line has helped me keep track of how I'm "living the dash"  on a Central Kansas farm. The sub-title is "Camera Clicks and Commentary from a Kansas Farm Wife," so it provides my perspective with words and images about our journey on a five-generation farm.

Having this avenue to collect words and photos has helped me to connect with my heritage and this life in a new way. It's helped me pay attention. I've approached telling our story like the reporter I am. I take notes. I ask more questions. I want my farmer's "farm speak" translated in a way that makes sense to me so I can share it with others.
January 2019
So often, we overlook the things that we see every day. It's like we're living life at 60 miles an hour, flying by familiar places and people, thinking we already know everything there is to know about these ordinary things that make up our lives and livelihoods.

Because of the cyclical nature of farming, I've written "the same" stories during these past nine years. We've had nine wheat harvests. So, behind the scenes, we've planted the wheat crop and managed it every year - from seed wheat to fertilizing to praying for rain or for praying the rain quits - and then again sending the golden grain through the combine reel.

We've welcomed new calves each January and February, and we've cared for cows that have been part of the herd all during that time. We've run those cattle through the working chute.

We've said goodbye to some employees and hello to others. We've introduced the farming life to two beautiful granddaughters. 

The list of yearly farm tasks and traditions goes on and on. There have been multiple blog posts about all of these steps and stages. And I've taken thousands of photos that illustrate all these components and moments of our lives.

Sometimes, it seems I'm telling the same story again and again. But when I really think about it, I realize that even though I may be telling the "same" story about why we give vaccines to baby calves or why we fertilize a corn crop, the circumstances subtly change.
Take my sunrise tree, for instance. I've taken dozens - maybe hundreds - of photos at a tree south of our house. In fact, I was there again just a week ago. And while it's similar to those I've taken before, the sky is never exactly the same. There aren't always mud puddles in the road or in the neighboring fields. The clouds reflect and refract the rising sun in new and miraculous ways every day. I only need eyes to see it ... and the motivation to go down the road to experience it.
Each quarter, I've compiled my blog posts into hardcover blog books. I got my latest one just the other day, and I struggled to cram yet another volume into an already overflowing cabinet. But, for now, I will continue to write. I'll continue to tell the stories. And I want to thank those of you who come along for the journey - whether it's every time I post or whether you just take an occasional jaunt down the County Line.

It's my blogiversary, but to celebrate, one person will get a gift from me - a selection of my photo notecards or a copy of "Count on It! Adventures from a Kansas Farm," my rhyming, farm-themed counting book - your choice.
To qualify, either comment about this blog post in the comment section of the blog or on my Facebook page, Kim Moore Fritzemeier. Or, if you have trouble with either of those avenues, you may email me at The winner will be chosen at random from the commenters. Enter your comment by January 31 for a chance to win.

Again, I thank you! 

UPDATE:  Mary Jo Taylor was the winner of the anniversary drawing. She chose a copy of the book as her prizes. Thanks to all for the wonderful comments! I appreciate each and every one of them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Who Needs the Lottery?

I don't play the lottery. So why am I taking a photo of a PowerBall ticket?

It was a gift from someone who said I had to be the luckiest person he knew. I really am fortunate. But I am not going to attribute my good fortune last week to "luck." Instead, I've been thanking God for His protection.

I had a 4-wheeler accident last Monday (January 14) while we were moving cattle. I probably should have been hurt badly. Instead, I'm just a little bruised and battered.
I wasn't going to tell anyone about it. I hate mistakes.This first-born perfectionist especially hates my  mistakes. So I was going to cover it up. I told Randy to tell the other two people who witnessed the accident that they were to keep their mouths shut.

As far as I know, they did. But one of them is the purchaser of the lottery ticket. He stopped Randy on the road the next day and said it was for me ... for the aforementioned luck.

The lottery ticket was not a winner. In fact, it didn't have even one matching number. But that was OK. I didn't think my "deliverance" from major harm had anything to do with "luck" anyway.

It took me two days to confess the accident to anyone in my family. I took a backwards vault off the Peace Creek bridge with the 4-wheeler. It's not easy to get the 4-wheeler into reverse. My inexperience with the reverse button and the bridge location collided. However, all that rain and mud we've been frustrated by likely helped cushion my fall. I vaguely remember pushing the 4-wheeler away from me as I fell, and it didn't land on top of me. That helped, too.
I had some bruises - inside and out - and I wasn't too comfortable for a few days. But even the bruises are fading now.

Farming is a dangerous job. Sometimes it's dangerous because we make stupid mistakes. Sometimes animals don't react the way we anticipate. We are around big machinery and moving parts and chemicals, and accidents happen. We're sometimes tired and impatient - two things that can lead to mistakes.

I could have just showed the photos of moving the cattle. Believe me: I considered it. We moved two groups that day and things went well until the end. We had one "escapee," and I was trying to go help retrieve that one left behind when the accident happened.

I've been privately thanking God for His protection for a week. If I'm not willing to say that and to show all sides of farming, then I'm not being an honest representative for agriculture or for my faith.

In the adult Sunday School class I facilitate, the chapter theme last week was "Revealing Authenticity." Hmmm ... I have to admit it was another nudge to be honest. One of the quotes from the book, "#struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World," was from Mother Teresa. Really? Who can argue with Mother Teresa?
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
In this world of Instagram filters and pithy "tweets," it's become our "norm" to edit our images and our words. We crop our photos to show our best features. We only post photos of ourselves and our families when everyone looks their best. We write, then edit, then edit some more until we have what we hope will translate into the maximum number of "likes."

Author of the book Craig Groeschel says: "The more filtered our lives become - the more we show others only the "me" we want them to see - the more difficulty we have being authentic. ... If we can't be real, are we really living?"

So here you have me: Unfiltered and authentic. I am not the perfect farm wife. I'm far from it. But you know that saying about getting back on your horse after getting bucked off? I'll be back on the 4-wheeler again. (But I will probably do everything in my power to keep from having to use the reverse. Just saying. And just being real. For sure, I won't use it if I'm on a bridge.)

Here are the photos and the story of what happened before the accident, It really was a pretty day: 
There's at least one in every crowd. It's the guy (or gal) who doesn't join the rest. You know the type: It's the one who is insistent about not following the carefully-prescribed plan of action. While others follow a straight line toward a common destination, that obstinate non-rule follower will willfully mess up the carefully-detailed plan of action.
This cow who didn't walk down the cattle trail is kind of like that toddler who looks over at his/her mother while doing the very thing that she'd just said not to do. It's like the kindergarten student who can't seem to remain in single file on the way to the lunch room. Honestly, these cows were well-behaved.
Once we got them moving in the same direction with the 4-wheelers, they went willingly.
Cattle - like humans - are creatures of habit. It took awhile for them to realize that the electric fence was no longer there. Even the enticement of a big round bale of tasty hay didn't have them crossing the line where the fence had been.
They finally crossed the "demilitarized" zone.
And with a little urging, they were across the road.
We ran them into the corrals until the roads froze enough to move them. Thankfully, that happened on Saturday. It was before the heifers started calving. While the "due date" is January 28, we had our first baby calves by January 23 last year.

Since there's another cold snap with potential flurries or a "wintry mix" coming, it will probably happen soon. Randy is already making trips to "the girls" to see if we have any early arrivals for the Class of 2019. Alert: Cute calf pictures soon to come!