Tuesday, April 30, 2019

In Sync

Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, "In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."
Well, I don't know about love, exactly. But it's "birds and bees" time on our Kansas farm. Last week on Earth Day, we ran the heifers through the working chute in preparation for this season of "love," or, more accurately, lust.

Earlier, the bulls had their doctor's appointments with Veterinarian Bruce Figger to make sure they were ready to fulfill their job description here on the County Line. But the bulls aren't the only factor in the "birds and bees" of a Kansas cattleman. The heifers who will become first-time mothers next winter also have been getting some extra care.
Beginning in March, our 25 yearling heifers had their silage topped with MGA. MGA is melengestrol acetate, which suppresses the ovulation cycle for the heifers. For 14 days, Randy added the MGA to the silage and fed the equivalent of 1/2 a pound per head per day.
This was the first step in getting the heifers to come into estrus (or heat) at the same time. These young ladies were born in early 2018. In 2020, they will become mothers for the first time.
During their Earth Day "doctor's" appointment, the heifers each got a shot of Lutalyse, which makes them come into heat. We do this to synchronize the heifer's reproductive cycles.
N'Sync isn't just a singing group. We get the heifers' reproductive cycles "in sync" to shorten the calving season for the heifers, which saves labor at calving time. (Well, it saves some labor for the humans - not the mama cows.) Because heifers are first-time mamas, we check them frequently in case they are having trouble calving.
 Randy also gave each heifer a vaccination to prevent respiratory issues and diarrhea.
Then it was time to introduce the guys to the ladies. Some 283 days later, the babies are supposed to arrive. So we will expect to get our first 80-pound bundles of joy next January 28 or so. 

Later this week, we'll be moving the remainder of the older cows to summer pastures. Then, we'll "assign" bulls to their respective pastures. 
The bulls are ready. The cows are ready. And if all goes as planned,  the miracle of life begins yet again on the County Line.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Corn Is On the Horizon

In the old-time westerns, the hero rides off into the sunset after overcoming trials and tribulations. The implication is that he has survived to fight another day and will begin anew the next day after a day of rest and renewed spirit.

Is it so different to watch the tractor and planter ambling toward the western horizon? This year, it seems apt. Randy began planting corn on April 15 and is about to finish up. Just like a cowboy in a Wild Wild West film, we've had our share of battles this past year, including 15 inches of rain falling in just one month last fall. The deluge kept us from planting one-third of the acres we'd planned for wheat for 2019.
So, corn it is. And with the longer days of springtime, the hours in the field have increased again, too. It makes for a happier farmer, who says, "I finally feel like I'm getting something done."
The prevented planting of wheat acres means an increase to those we'll devote to corn on the County Line.
Two piles of bagged corn seed are marked for us at the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op.
Today, many farmers plant RIB corn (refuge in a bag) - whether it's irrigated or dryland.
The green-colored seeds have a different genetic make-up and are treated with a different insecticide than the purple-colored seeds. The purple seeds are a refuge for several different insects in a field, giving them a habitat to satisfy EPA rules. Before RIB technology was available, farmers had to plant so many acres in a field to a corn that wasn't resistant to the bugs and the rest of the field could be resistant. With RIB technology, farmers can plant it all at the same time, without changing seed and figuring acreage requirements. 
Randy adds a seed talc - or lubricant - to the planter boxes to facilitate the seed's journey from planter to soil.
He is also putting on a starter fertilizer to promote early growth. This comes after the co-op applied 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre earlier this spring. I'm often the delivery driver for the starter fertilizer, going to Zenith when Randy empties the tank.

The make-up of the starter fertilizer was determined after Randy did soil testing before planting. It includes 40 pounds of nitrogen, 5 pounds of sulfur and 1 pound of zinc per acre.
The fertilizer is in the tank pulled by the pickup. First stop is pulling up to the scales at the elevator to weigh the empty pickup and fertilizer trailer and tell the scale operator what kind of fertilizer we want. (There's another stop after the tank is filled.)
Then, it's off to the fertilizer shed, where an employee fills the tank with the "recipe" Randy has ordered.
This year, we're picking up the seed as we need it at Zenith, so on some trips, I also get the bagged seed from another building.
Once back to the field, Randy can then use the fertilizer in the trailer to refill the fertilizer tanks on the planter, attaching a hose ...
And then starting a motor to pump the fertilizer to the planter.
It's a little hard to see, but he can watch the levels rise in the yellow tanks.
And then he's off again.
We are planting more corn this year than ever - 600 acres. That's not much when compared to other farmers, especially those with irrigated acres, but it's significant for us. We'll also plant 95 acres of milo and 30 acres of silage, doubling our normal row crop acreage.

Often, the field across the road is filled with an ocean of waving wheat in June. This year, it will be corn instead. I've always thought the lyricist for the musical, "South Pacific," didn't really know that much about Kansas crops, when he claimed, "I'm as corny as Kansas in August" in one of the songs from that show.

But with wheat acreage down and corn planting up, maybe I'll have to re-evaluate!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

For the Beauty of the Earth: Earth Day 2019

A neighbor burned off a pasture last Friday night. It was Good Friday. Though I'd hoped to be able to go to the community worship service, the supper schedule during this busy corn planting time didn't work out, and I needed to stay closer to home. 
When Randy quit for the night, we drove south to check out the burn. It was a calm, quiet night, and even half a mile away, we could hear the crackle of flames as they burned through the dry, brittle grasses left behind after winter.
Photo from our 2012 burn, showing the charred ground left behind.
Though you couldn't see the scorched earth until the next day, it looked charred and lifeless in the light of day.

I couldn't help thinking of the first Good Friday, as Christ hung on the cross, when things looked bleak and without hope. But there's a reason that farmers and ranchers complete controlled burns on pasture lands. The burned vegetation will give away to new green growth in a few weeks' time. The native grasses will return to increased vigor and life.
New growth after a burn we did in 2012.
Earth Day fell the day after Easter this year. And as we hauled a group of cows and calves to the Ninnescah pasture Monday morning, I kept thinking about the timing.
Ninnescah Pasture - April 22, 2019 - Earth Day
Eastertide is a season to rejoice, and discern what Christ’s Resurrection means for believers today. Amid that celebration this year is Earth Day, the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in the U.S. It's been observed each year on April 22 since 1970, and it just happened to coincide with Easter this calendar year.
The first job description God gave to humans was to till and keep the garden (Genesis 2:15). Later, God commanded them to care for the animals He'd created. American farmers and ranchers do that every day - not just on Earth Day.

As we worked, I kept thinking of the words to a favorite hymn: For the Beauty of the Earth. And I mentally thought of the thousands of snapshots I have taken that illustrate the beauty of this Earth, most taken near this little slice of creation on the Stafford/Reno County line. Here are just a few of them:
For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies
For the love which from our birth
 Over and around us lies
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
 For the beauty of each hour

Of the day 
and of the night
Hill and vale
and tree and flower
Sun and moon
and stars of light.

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

So the work to care for God's creation will continue on this day after Earth Day, too. Our families have been doing that for five generations.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter Brunch: Quiche & Sweets

Don't you love a recipe that can be used for any meal? Or for a holiday breakfast or brunch? This Cheesy Ham and Veggie Quiche will have your family hopping to the table for Easter breakfast or brunch.

Ham is often the centerpiece of an Easter meal. But even if you're not hosting a huge Easter dinner this year, a quiche featuring ham still gives you the holiday flavor you crave. And, if you plan a big ham meal with all the trimmings for after church on Sunday, there will likely be leftovers. This quiche is a delicious way to use up leftover ham in a way that doesn't say "re-run."

However, this quiche doesn't have to wait for a special occasion or holiday. It's tasty at any meal. I'm a big believer in breakfast for supper. Or breakfast for dinner. This quiche made its first appearance for dinner, which, at our house, is 12 noon. My house, my rules, though my kids and grandkids don't see eye-to-eye with me on the terminology.

Anyway, I served the quiche for our noon meal. And then Randy ate leftovers for breakfast the next day. And we still had enough for a supper serving for him as well. Bonus! (And, thankfully, my husband doesn't turn up his nose to leftovers.)

I used homemade pie crust, but you can just as easily use pie dough you find in the refrigerated case at the grocery store. For one of my parents' Christmas gifts, I make homemade pies for their freezer. (This year, they got three blueberry, three cherry, two apple and one peach). My sister's never-fail pie dough recipe makes three crusts. And when all was done from my marathon baking day, I had enough pie crust "leftovers" to roll a couple of extra crusts and stick them in the freezer for another day.

I labeled them for home use, since they'd been rolled out twice and had more flour incorporated. But one of those crusts came in handy for this quiche.
The original recipe didn't call for any vegetables. I chopped enough onion, broccoli and colored sweet peppers to make 1 cup and microwaved the veggies to soften them. That added some additional flavor, nutrition and color to our meal.
 I served it with Apple Almond Crunch Salad, which would also make a delicious accompaniment to your Easter meal.
After you've checked out the quiche recipe, keep scrolling for some Easter treats at the bottom of this post.

Cheesy Ham and Veggie Quiche
1 unbaked pie shell
1 cup diced fully-cooked ham
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Chopped broccoli, onion and colored sweet peppers to equal 1 cup

Put vegetables in a microwave-safe bowl or mixing cup, cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave until tender, about 4 minutes. No extra water is needed. Cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put unbaked pie crust in pie plate; do not prick. Line pastry shell with foil. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or uncooked rice. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove foil and weights. Bake 3 to 5 minutes longer or until bottom is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Beat eggs and add half-and-half, mixing well. Add salt and pepper. Stir in cooled vegetables.

Put ham and cheese in the bottom of the pie crust. Pour egg mixture over the ham and cheese. Cover pie crust edges with foil or pie shields. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before cutting to serve. Makes 6 servings. That day, I served it with Apple Almond Crunch Salad.

Other Easter Treats

If you do have Easter gatherings to attend or serve, here are some fun ways to celebrate:

Lemon Buddies (Add Easter M&Ms to make it full of holiday fun and color.)
Use Easter M & Ms for an easy-to-do-with-the-kids treat

 Try these Blonde Brownies
Happy Easter to you and yours!