Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Rolling Hills Zoo: Kansas Staycation

With only a couple of couple of weeks before the start of the 2019-20 school year, time for vacation is fleeting. But here's another Kansas Staycation that provides a whole lot of fun right here in our own backyard.
We went early in the summer with the girls and Jill, and I've compiled the photos along with a rhyming tale into a keepsake book for both Kinley and Brooke. Come along for a visit to the Rolling Hills Zoo near Salina!

An outing was planned at the Rolling Hills Zoo
A day among creatures: What a fun thing to do!
First on the docket was to each grab a map
Grandpa says maps make the visit a snap.

Grandpa says maps help to know when and where.
Kinley consulted the map with great care.
Grandma says apples don't fall far from the tree.
I guess that she's talking 'bout him and 'bout me!
However, some animals weren't found on the sheet
But still their acquaintance, we surely did meet!
Geese wandered and flew throughout the whole park
In one hidden nest, a mom left a mark.
Some eggs she had laid were tucked into a nest.
Keeping our distance surely was best!

The butterflies, too, missed a spot on map page. 
Their flight among blooms seemed to be all the rage!

Flamingos were standing around on one foot
We had to try it: Would we go kaput?
No, we were so regal and filled with such grace
Even one-legged, we still could keep pace.

Next stop on the outing was at a big pond.
It seemed that a school of fish had been spawned.
A quarter we paid so we could feed fish.
It seemed that they liked it and found it delish!

Big cats laid around; they were ready to sleep.
Roaring at them? Still they made not a peep.
A good, long nap seemed a part of their plan.
We finally gave up and down the sidewalk we ran.
This chimp was not sleeping; he was ready to play.
He threw that big disk at the window display!
We were surprised, and we let out a shout.
We were sure hoping he could not get out!
That big yellow disk gave him lots of good fun.
In his arms, on his head, and he still wasn't done.
His orangutan friend didn't make such a fuss.
He stared and he gazed right over at us.
No antics for him. No cute interaction.
He made not a sound - not even one fraction.

Not all of the creatures were real and alive
A few we could ride, and we'd surely survive. 
Upon this big turtle we surely could hop.
More fun was to come: We weren't ready to stop.
Our Grandma said she could remember that creature.
On a previous visit, it was also a feature.
When Kinley was little, she named all the parts
The eyes and the head and the mouth just for starts!

Inside of the building, we saw the real thing.
"Aldabra tortoise:" It has quite a ring!
Keepers had brought them some veggies to munch.
That is what tortoises like for their lunch.
They didn't move fast; they were really quite slow.
But still when we watched them, we saw that they'd go.
They live long, long lives - up to 100 years.
However, extinction was once quite a fear.

Sichuan Takin was the next animal's name.
A most curious creature, we would likely proclaim!
The sign said the name would rhyme the word, "rockin'
It warns others like him with a loud "cough" for "talkin'. 
Some people do call it a "goat antelope."
It's threatened by poaching: (That's a definite "Nope!)
In China, it's thought as a national treasure
As precious as pandas? It is hard to measure.

Giraffes were inside, though a beautiful day.
We wish that they'd wanted to roam and to play.
Perhaps they'd been fed with their daily hay ration.
So munching and crunching was their current attraction!
As Mommy and we looked through windows that day,
Grandma said, "Looks like you girls are displayed!"

Giraffes eat a whole bunch, the sign clearly said.
Using long tongues in their big knobby heads.
75 pounds worth? No wonder they stay
Inside while they're eating and don't want to play.

It looked like the camel was telling a joke.
His expression was funny, a quite humorous bloke!
Imagining's fun, said our Grandma to us.
Thinking a camel would like to discuss
A story or joke or one or two puns
Before we moved on and our visit was done.

A rhino was next on the visit that day
His big, single horn was there on display.
His skin looked like armor; he looked really strong.
An enemy likely would not last long.
A rhino can weigh up to 6,000 pounds.
His size and his strength and his power abound.

Then it was time to strike a new pose
Grandma and cameras mean plenty of those!
We climbed on the statues for our next photo op
She clicked and she snapped. She rarely does stop!
We couldn't let animals have all the fun.
WE wanted to play before we were done.
We climbed and we dug in the dirt for awhile.
All of the playing left us with a smile.

A little barn scene came into our view.
There at Salina at the Rolling Hills Zoo.
Some sheep and some goats were all there to pet.
They were among the cutest, we'd bet!
Also at barnyard, we saw a small tractor
It was a sure Grandpa Randy attractor!
We climbed up on top. He showed us how.
And we could imagine we'd take off and plow.

Some free "souvenirs" we found on the ground
There were plenty of goose feathers we found.
They were all scattered and strewn all about.
There for our eyes to search out and scout.
We gave one to Grandpa to feather his hat.
Who knew that Grandpa was as stylish as that?!

Kinley used one for a pointer, you see
For marking her name: It filled her with glee!
Finding her name on a plaque was so sweet.
One with Brooke's name would be equally neat. 
But we didn't find one. Oh well, not to be.
Maybe another time? I guess we will see.
An "I Visited" sign gave us reason to pose.
The fun we were having, it certainly shows.
A day at the zoo is just hard to beat.
Exploring the animals surely is sweet!
Grandpa and Grandma and Mommy and us
Had fun for the day with the rhinoceros
And the camel and goats and big cats and the chimps
More fun for a day, as you probably glimpse
From looking at pictures, you surely can tell.
Our day at the zoo was certainly swell!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Fini, Finito, Kaput!: Wheat Harvest 2019

In whatever language, our Wheat Harvest 2019 is finally in the rearview mirror.

We began the odyssey June 26. By June 27, we'd already run out of dry grain and dry ground. It was a series of starts and stops and hiatuses until Randy finally trucked the last load of grain to the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op Monday afternoon, July 22.
As I mentioned at the beginning of harvest, this year's start date was later than normal. Here are the stats:
2010:  June 18
2011:  June 10
2012:  May 26 (an anomaly and the earliest harvest, by far, we've ever had)
2013:  June 21
2014:  June 17
2015:  June 20
2016:  June 15
2017:  June 12
2018: June 12
2019: June 26
The finish dates are all over the board in the past 10 years, too:
2010: June 25
2011: June 20
2012: June 9 (an anomaly)
2013: July 6
2014: July 7
2015: July 1
2016: July 13 (another saga of a harvest)
2017: June 28
2018: June 29
2019: July 22
It was the worst harvest we'd had in the 10 years I've been blogging about it. We averaged 23.6 bushels per acre. Our high field (by far) was 45 bushels per acre on one landlord's farm. Nothing else came close. That's what monsoon weather will do for you.

Yield averages in the past few years since I've been blogging have been:

2010: 37.2 bu/acre
2011: 36.7 bu/acre
2012: 45.5 bu/acre
2013: 52 bu/acre
2014: 24.5 bu/acre
2015: 50 bu/acre
2016: 48.5 bu/acre
2017: 50.84 bu/acre
2018: 39.2 bu/acre
2019: 23.6 bu/acre
We began planting on time in late September 2018, and we planted a few days before the deluge of rain fell.

For the first time ever, we weren't able to plant almost one-third of our 2019 wheat crop - about 385 acres. This has never happened since Randy began planting wheat in 1974 as a senior in high school.

The ground was too wet to plant after 14-plus inches in October and 2.5 inches more in November, along with three snows. Because we were unable to get on the ground, we elected to take a prevented planting option in our crop insurance policy. It will pay a percentage of our revenue guarantee. Part has already been paid and more could possibly be paid later, if we don't collect crop insurance on the next crop.

We ended up replanting most of our seed wheat, and thankfully, we had enough to bin for planting the 2020 crop this fall. 
July 2, 2019
It felt like we were the last ones in our area done with cutting. (You know that feeling as a child when you were picked last for the game at recess. Yeah. It felt like that.)
July 2, 2019 - among my prettiest photos from this year's harvest
However, Randy says he saw a neighbor cutting some wheat yesterday afternoon. We evidently weren't totally alone. According to this week's U.S. Wheat Associates Harvest Report, harvest in Kansas was 96 percent finished as of last Sunday.
We are glad to be done, even if we're not thrilled with the results.
Kansas Wheat reported that yields in South Central Kansas were below average. We concur. In southwest Kansas, however, this year's harvest produced some of the best wheat in years, with some people calling it their "best crop ever" or a "once in a lifetime crop," according to Kansas Wheat. We are happy for them.

Certainly, this harvest has been one to remember. Some of it, we'd probably prefer to forget. But that's part of farming. Kind of like the amnesia that new moms experience following labor, we'll put it behind us. And the journey will begin anew in September and October as we plant the 2020 wheat crop. (And let's hope those 100-degree days last week didn't hurt the dryland corn crop too much.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It's never more true than when you enter photos in a county fair. My three favorite photos I've taken during the past year didn't even garner a ribbon at the 2019 Stafford County Fair. Not one.

First of all, let me say that the Grand Champion chosen this year is phenomenal. It's an action shot of a cowboy on a bucking bull. This is not sour grapes because that purple ribbon is exactly where it should have gone.

I do photography for fun. Way back as a fifth grader, I was documenting our family's winter break trip to California through a camera lens. Having a camera in my hand is second nature ... and what makes my purse so heavy!

When I looked through my photos from the past year, I didn't think most of my photos were as strong as some I've entered in the past. But it's fun to get the photos out of the camera and off the blog and blow them up to 8 X 10s. And, if nothing else, lots of them end up decorating my home throughout the year.

So why did I like those three photos so much more than the judge did? I've been trying to evaluate that. I think it's because they were hard to get and things I'd never photographed before.
I put this beautiful blue butterfly on notecards, and I've already reordered them since I've used so many. Blue and purple have always been my favorite colors. For my childhood bedroom, I chose a purple and blue shag carpet. So the colors in this shot just naturally appeal to me.

These male Melissa's blue butterflies are about the size of a thumbnail, so it's not easy to get close enough for a clear shot before they flit away to another perch. I took the photo in an alfalfa field in late September of last year and blogged about it then. I had delivered Randy's lunch to the field and wanted photos of him filling the wheat drill. To fill my time, I wandered into the alfalfa field, looking for Monarch butterflies who hadn't yet migrated. Monarchs are easy, compared to these tiny creatures.

Equally difficult to capture with my point-and-shoot camera were two different bluebird sightings. The first was in the pasture south of our house. The group of migrating mountain bluebirds stayed for less than a day in February. I took bunches of photos from the pickup, trying to get a bird in focus on the dry pasture grass before it flew to its next perch.
I've also reordered the bluebirds on notecards since I've used so many of them.
The second bluebird was spotted at the Stafford County Country Club golf course. Thanks to Randy's eagle eyes (pun intended), I captured an eastern bluebird in a tree near the tee-off for Hole 5. It wasn't easy without a telephoto lens. And I realize I had to lighten it too much, which resulted in a colorless sky, but I still love the photo. Neither of the bluebird photos garnered a ribbon either.

Two of my blue-ribbon photos were taken in the snow. I think the judge must have been hot (which I can definitely relate to. I was hot, too!) I do love that photo at the top of this blog post of a mama and baby in front of that craggy tree on a snowy evening. It got a blue in the black and white "animal" category.
 I entered this other pair in the agriculture category in the color division, and it got a blue also.
This black and white version of an ivory rose in the Ted Ensley Gardens in Topeka in June was my other blue and my only "warm season" blue. Ironically, I had asked Randy if he thought I "ought to bother" even entering that one. Shows what I know!

The "cold" theme continued among my photos which received reds (2nd in the class).
I took this photo in Kansas City when I was with Randy who was attending the Kanza Co-op board retreat.
This springtime photo also got a red.
This close-up of our backyard spirea bush got a white ribbon. I thought it looked like a miniature bridal bouquet.
This photo of Randy got lots of "likes" on Facebook, but it didn't get a ribbon. I still love it.

Stafford County Economic Development sponsors a photo contest. Three of my six photos received an honorable mention. One of them was the photo of Randy in the corn field (above).
Another was also in a corn field, but it was taken on the first day of summer at sunrise. Both of those were entered in the "commerce" category.
Randy must have been my good luck charm, since he was in all three of the winners. (Not really a big surprise. As already established, he's my No. 1 model.) The one at the Stafford County Country Club golf course was entered in the "Places" category.

I also entered a couple of books that I made for the girls in the online scrapbooking category. Sometimes, I write blog posts about adventures with our granddaughters 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). I don't make quilts and I'm not particularly crafty. So these are my versions of family heirlooms for them.
I absolutely love the Zoobilation! book, but it only got 2nd in the class. (Watch for it in an upcoming blog post on a Kansas Staycation.)
This book I did for Brooke after her solo visit to the farm last summer didn't place (but I love it, too). Here's the story in a blog post.

It may not have been a banner year in the ribbon department, but I doubt it will deter me from entering next year. My premium money didn't begin to cover the cost of enlarging photos, buying matboard and special plastic bags.

But it's not about the money. It's about being part of something bigger. If people don't enter, there's nothing to look at during the fair. And if there's nothing to look at, nobody is going to come. And if no one comes, fairs are going to die.
So I guess I'll do my part to keep the tradition alive - whether that means entering photos in the open class division or continuing to serve as 4-H foods superintendent on a hot day in July!