Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Clear skies at sunset are usually boring. On a clear evening, the sun may be bright, and it may look like a red fireball sinking toward the horizon. There is beauty in that, to be sure. But clouds provide the texture. Think of the clouds as the painter’s canvas on which the sun paints its warm colors.
It was on such an evening that we made the short drive to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. With some of the water rights issues between Quivira and the farming community, I haven't wanted to give a lot of publicity to the refuge. I'm sure nobody but me knew I was "boycotting." Kind of silly, right?
But on this particular night, the thought of a beautiful sunset sky over a body of water lured me back.
We could hear the songbirds as they called to one another, and we saw an occasional ripple in the water caused by a turtle or fish.
I've been thinking about sunsets and Covid-19. How can beauty and such an ugly virus be spoken in the same sentence? How could they possibly relate?
Cloudy skies elicit the most beautiful sunsets. Maybe "cloudy" times in our lives can help us to see things differently - to find the beauty in simple things.
I've read posts from families who've dug old games out from the back of closets. Dinners around the table are a lot easier when there aren't the ballgames and dance lessons and meetings and the other "things" that clutter our lives with busyness. Those things are all good, but maybe, just maybe, being at home helps us take a breath.
Maybe it gives us time to look at the sunset and not worry about the things that are left undone. (And, of course, I'm not saying the virus itself is good. We can just find the good in a bad situation.)
Saturday, March 28, 2020
I made Randy pause during one of our calf-working sessions this week to take a photo of a particular ear tag. It took him awhile, but he figured it out. 039: Yes, today (March 28) we will have been married 39 years. When I saw the ear tag rise to the top of the pile, I couldn't resist. (Randy will tell you I don't need much of an excuse to take a photo anyway. You probably know that, too!)
We will work our final group of baby calves this afternoon. I've put steaks out to thaw and I'm making a blueberry pie. (Randy prefers pie over sappy cards, though he gave me one.)
For old times sake, I should wear this apron that we got at one of our bridal showers. They were made by Sue Thole, a Stafford farm wife who's still a matriarch at our church.
My dad's parents - Lester and Orva Moore - were married January 24, 1932. There was no photo of their wedding available, but my mom included these photos in a history book.
|Alvin & Laura Ritts - undated|
When I was digging through old family photos yesterday, the oldest wedding photo I found was from 1905 - Simon and Augusta Fritzemeier - married in 1905. They were Randy's paternal great-grandparents.
|Simon & Augusta Fritzemeier - Melvin's grandparents - 1905|
From left: L.C. & Orva Leonard; Shelby & Lela Neelly; us; Laura Ritts; Clarence & Ava Fritzemeier.
I couldn't resist including another couple of photos I uncovered. They are practically antiques - but not quite.
Taken at a bridal shower back in 1981
Taken at our first house. It was "fancy." We had a dressing room. OK - the truth. The bed was the only thing that would fit in the bedroom. Even then we could barely walk in the door of the room. We had our dressers in the next bedroom.
Marrying Randy was the best decision I've ever made. I'm thankful every day for this life we live together.
|From the combine, wheat harvest, June 2019|
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Anyway, our gathering in Manhattan happened just as the U.S. response to Covid-19 - or the coronavirus - was beginning. There was some talk of postponing the meeting, but several of our members were already on the road driving to Manhattan about the time the Big 12 canceled the rest of its tournament. While there, the NCAA sidelined the Big Dance. Governor Laura Kelly's request to limit group gatherings to 50 or less didn't come until after we'd all packed our bags to come home. And the 10-person limit was a week-and-a-half down the road at that point. The crowd was a little fewer than planned, but, for the most part, the Kansas Master Farmers/Farm Homemakers showed up to honor the six new couples who joined our ranks.
Since the 1920s, Kansas Farmer magazine began to publicly recognize excellence in farming, homemaking, farm living and rural citizenship. In 1953, K-State Extension got involved, handling the details of selecting Master Farm couples and planning the March recognition banquet. Local extension councils and districts submit nominations, and a committee picks one couple from each extension area, plus two couples at large.
The farm families are all different. Some have a lot of acres. Some don't. Some are primarily livestock operations. Others focus more on grain production. But all have figured out how to combine their livelihood with community service - though that looks different from couple to couple and from community to community, too.
It could be via my KFRM Central Kansas reports and through blog posts via Kim's County Line, where I offer a glimpse at one Kansas farm family by featuring farming, family, faith, food and photography.
We know that food and fiber doesn't just arrive at the grocery or clothing store or magically appear on the dinner table or in our closet. There's an entire industry dedicated to providing plentiful and safe food for consumption.
With the coronavirus outbreak, the Department of Homeland Security has labeled agriculture a critical industry, allowing businesses to continue operating as usual amid current and potential restrictions created to stem the spread of the virus. Farm groups had been concerned about the potential for movement restrictions put in place to limit exposure of the virus, including the potential for halted shipment of inputs needed for the upcoming planting season.
- Each American farmer feeds about 165 people. Agriculture is America's No. 1 export.
- New technology means farmers are more environmentally friendly than ever before.
Still, farm businesses are doing their part to prevent the spread, too. At our local co-op, visitors need to go through the office to arrange for services. Some of the extraneous interactions have been curtailed for the time being - whether that's getting together for a cup of coffee to talk rainfall or commodity prices while they wait for a tire repair or that bunch of retired farmers playing dominoes in the farm store.
We celebrate this nation with roots deep in the sod.
Our hearts are with our children.
Our souls reach up to God.
Our joys grow in sharing the sunshine and the rain.
And when those hard times come along
Friends help to ease the pain.
Farmers will still plant their spring crops, as long as they can get the inputs needed. Farmers and ranchers like us will continue to sort and work baby calves like we've done since our families settled as Kansas pioneers - and just like we did on Saturday and again on Monday. (More on that later.)
Just like other industries right now, there are plenty of "what ifs" and "what about that?s" that are being contemplated, whether that's supply and demand, the tottering economy and seasonal labor concerns.
The world is different today than it was a month ago. But we all need to figure out how to work together and live in the "same box."
***And, by the way, I didn't mention it in my memorial service, but some crayons have a farm connection. Soybean oil can be substituted for paraffin wax in some brands of crayons. In fact, the Wisconsin Soybean Association estimates that one acre of soybeans can produce about 82,368 crayons. Prang Crayons are made with 85 percent soybean oil.
Happy Agriculture Day!