Thursday, October 29, 2020



I don't believe I'll be entering this photo in a contest or using it for our family birthday calendar. But it's indicative of the quality of photo you get when you're using one hand to hold the end gate of the working chute open and clicking the camera shutter with the free hand.

It may not be a good photo, but I'm kind of guessing Dr. Bruce prefers it to getting a concussion from a falling end gate while in the "business end" of a bred heifer.

Last week, Dr. Bruce came for the first of a series of pregnancy checks for our cattle herd. The heifers were his first patients on the County Line this fall. These 25 ladies are first-time mamas who began life as part of the Class of 2019 calf crop two winters ago. 

They were a lot smaller when they went through the chute in the spring of 2019!

Now, they'll be delivering the first arrivals of the Class of 2021 to The County Line at the end of January and early February.

Just look at the tilt of that head: Believe me, ladies, I can feel this way about my annual ob/gyn appointment, too. 

But back to photo quality: As I learned last year, there is a marked decrease in photo quality when working cattle now that I have more hands-on assignments. With no hired man, I have added a few more roles on cattle-working days. Photographer is not one of them.

I started taking photos as we were gathering the heifers from the Palmer Pasture. 

Here's the ringleader of our little caravan, bringing the heifers along the fence.
So far, so good ...
But, when they began circling back around - away from the open gate - the camera went in the pocket, and I got more serious about urging the ladies to go the direction we requested.

That mission was accomplished. However, getting them to quit turning in circles and go through the open barn door was the next challenge.

I didn't take the camera back out of my pocket until I was guarding the gate while Randy took the first load to the farmstead. 

I didn't fare much better during our appointment with Dr. Bruce. 

Between encouraging the heifers to move the lane for their appointment, then holding the end gate up while Dr. Bruce did his exam, I didn't get many quality photos. And I then went around the table to record each heifer's ear tag number, along with the "degree" with which she was "with child." Most were 5 or 6 months along. 

On a few occasions, I snapped a few photos while Bruce gave vaccines, but alas, those hurried "clicks" didn't yield any memorable shots.

I'll have some other opportunities in the next couple of weeks. We're supposed to work the next group on Saturday - Happy Halloween farm style! That's if we can get the group gathered from the Ninnescah Pasture tomorrow. We'll see whether the rain curtailed those activities ... not that we're complaining about rain. The Rattlesnake Pasture round-up will on the agenda next week. 

My cattle working photos weren't anything to get excited about. But yesterday, we loaded up the three open heifers for their ride to the Pratt sale barn. Sometimes those extra cattle tasks put you in the right place at the right time.

I guess it all evens out in the end.

We also saw 14 whooping cranes on two different days this week. They were too far away to get a good photo, but I tried anyway. 

On Tuesday, they were at a circle just about a mile from our house as the crow - or whooping crane - flies. On Wednesday morning, they were on ground we farm. But again, they were half a mile from a road and my camera zoom just wasn't powerful enough.

On a trip to the pasture, I had Randy stop for a quick snapshot of the fall leaves with our dusting of snow.

So I guess I can't complain about the view - unless it's the one where I'm holding up the working chute end gate.

Sometimes, being at the right place at the right time keeps the vet from getting a concussion from a falling end gate. Other times, it brings you rainbows. Which is more important? Depends on your perspective, I suppose. I'm guessing Dr. Bruce would vote for the end gate - even if it doesn't yield the best photos.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

You Are the Seed

I've been going to a Methodist Church since my parents carried me through the doors of the small Byers church as an infant. (Click here to read about the closing service at the Byers UMC.)
By now, you'd think I'd have heard all the songs in the hymnal. But, just like most things, we gravitate toward the familiar. We sing the same songs, over and over. And there's some beauty in that. More than once, I've sung some of those songs in my head, a comfort in an uncomfortable setting, or a praise at an unexpected pleasure.

Of course, you can take a good thing too far. If you know me, you know I'm not a big fan of "How Great Thou Art." Yes, I know it's a favorite to many, and I've sung it for a whole lot of funerals. But, it seemed I heard nearly weekly renditions of the hymn as a child waiting for the preacher to arrive at his second pulpit in a three-point charge. "How Great Thou Art" ranks up there as a "too much of a good thing" for me. 

When we were at Jill and Eric's church in Topeka a few weeks ago, one of the hymns was a new one to me. At Susanna Wesley UMC, they aren't singing aloud these days. If you're worshiping in person, you have to listen to a soloist sing the words. (It's another thing to hate about Covid-19. No offense to the soloist. I just like singing in church and now that I'm the pianist at my home church, I find fewer and fewer opportunities to sing hymns with others.) But I liked the song well enough that I sent a message to myself to look it up when I got home. It's found on Page 583, if you happen to have a UMC Hymnal sitting around.
We're on Month No. 7+ of a pandemic. We're a week away from a contentious election. These words seem to be good advice. And they also seemed to go with several photos I've accumulated in the past week or so -- plus a few from the archives.

First snowfall of this fall/winter, October 26, 2020, wheat field
You Are the Seed
UMC Hymnal, No. 583 - By Cesareo Gabarain
Translated from Spanish

You are the seed that will grow a new sprout
You're a star that will shine in the night. 

 You are the yeast and a small grain of salt,
A beacon to glow in the dark.
 Go, my friends, go to the world,
Proclaiming love to all
Stained glass at chapel at Youthville, Newton, KS
  Messengers of my forgiving peace, eternal love.

 You are the dawn that will bring a new day; 
You're the wheat that will bear golden grain.
You are a sting and a soft, gentle touch.
My witnesses where e'er you go.
 Be, my friends, a loyal witness
From the dead I arose.

"Lo, I'll be with you forever,
till the end of the world."

You are the flame that will lighten the dark,
sending sparkles of hope, faith and love.
Rattlesnake Pasture - October 26, 2020
You are the shepherds to lead the whole world

 through valleys and pastures of peace.
You are the friends that I chose for myself
the word that I want to proclaim.
You are the new kingdom built on a rock
where justice and truth always reign.
 You are the life that will nurture the plant;
you're the waves in a turbulent sea;

Yesterday's yeast is beginning to rise,
A new loaf of bread it will yield.
There is no place for a city to hide,
nor a mountain can cover its might.
May your good deeds show a world in despair
A path that will lead all to God. 
I found this version on YouTube. (Sorry if any unsuitable ads come up as you're trying to play it. It seems to happen since I don't pay for a subscription.)



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Frightfully Good: Oreo Cookies

 These drop cookies are frightfully good. But with Oreos and even more chocolate morsels, how can they be anything but tasty?

They have the usual suspects for ingredients - flour, butter, sugar and flour. But cream cheese and cornstarch provide a softer texture than many drop cookies. So if you're looking for a crispy cookie, this isn't your recipe. But there is a little crunch from the large pieces of Oreo sprinkled throughout each cookie. 

Halloween parties and gatherings may be another victim of Covid-19 this year. But your family will still think it's a treat to nibble on these cookies. And if fall harvest is still underway, tucking a few homemade cookies in a meal-to-go is never a bad idea!

If you try them, let me know how you liked them. Kinley and Brooke were fans!

Oreo Drop Cookies
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
8 oz. full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 1/2 cups butter, softened to room temp
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar 
2 large eggs at room temp
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped Oreos (or store brand chocolate sandwich cookies) regular or Double Stuff

For Oreos: Give the Oreos a very rough chop into bite-sized pieces or break them up by hand. Using a food processor will give too fine a crumb. Set aside. 
Combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt, and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium-high until completely smooth and creamy. Add the butter and beat until combined and smooth. Add sugar and brown sugar, mixing well. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat on high speed until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. 

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add white and chocolate chips until incorporated. Add the already-chopped Oreos on low speed, mixing briefly, or add by hand, trying not to break up the Oreos too much. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheets with baking spray or line with parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop to form scoops. The dough is fairly soft, so you may have to clean out your cookie scoop on occasion to make scooping easier. 

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides. (Ovens vary.) Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to cool completely. 

  • You may use any flavor of Oreos and then may adjust your add-ins accordingly. For example, use peanut butter Oreos and add peanut butter chips. Use golden Oreos and use only white chocolate. The possibilities are endless.
  • You can make the dough up to 4 days ahead of time and refrigerate. However, you'll need to have the dough sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes before scooping. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Golf: Perfect for Social Distancing


Even as the pandemic has shuttered restaurants, bars and gyms, many golf courses around the country managed to stay open, albeit with some precautions in place to promote social distancing, from sanitizing carts to leaving flag sticks in the holes.

Proponents believed golf could provide a safe outlet for the stir crazy, some fresh air and exercise, perhaps even a dose of normalcy, according to an article in The Christian Science Monitor.

 "None of the general public is good enough to hit it within six feet of each other," said Troy Andrew, executive director of the Washington Golf Association. 

Well, there is that. 

Sand Creek Station, Newton

However, some golf carts are bossy and remind players to wear masks and practice social distancing, the new buzzwords for 2020. 

Lake Shawnee Golf Course, Topeka

Our journey home from South Dakota provided a new course for Randy to try out. The Wild Horse Golf Club at Gothenburg, Nebraska, has won some national awards. (I guess that's what these subscriptions to golf magazines get me: A chance to ride along on award-winning courses.)

Golf Digest in 2015 named Wild Horse the 77th Best American Public Course. It's kind of stuck in the middle of a pasture, so we felt right at home.

Since Randy's tee time was later in the day, we had to wait a little bit so that personnel could do that sanitation. Of course, I wandered in the flower beds and took photos while Randy went to the driving range.

The front porch gave me a preview vista before we ever got started.

Randy was paired with a Wild Horse member, Dr. Jay.


We often meet interesting people this way, and this course was no exception. Having a person intimately acquainted with the course was kind of like Randy having his own personal caddy who could tell him where to aim and pitfalls to avoid.

This was Dr. Jay's house. (He didn't run in for a drink of water or anything.) 

Kind of like those ads that crop up on Facebook after you've Googled "Case engine parts," it's kind of creepy that the golf cart (and the club house) know where you are. 

And if you're lollygagging behind for some reason and you're not fitting into the "rate of play" parameters, you may get a visit from the course manager. Dr. Jay said so. (The timetable was right on the windshield.) Thankfully, we escaped without a reprimand.


Even though the course really was pared out of a pasture, the fairways and greens are perfectly manicured.

My favorite time on the course was as the sun was going down. That provided the best photo ops.

The Nebraska golf outing was certainly not the first foray onto a golf course during the pandemic. The Stafford County Country Club's 9-hole course is our normal golf destination. And we've taken full advantage of that membership this spring and summer - Randy to golf and me to read my latest book and hope for bird photos.

May 2019

I've read a lot of good books, but I didn't get anything to rival my Eastern bluebird photo from last year.

First Pandemic Golf Outing, April 6, 2020, Stafford Country Club

On April 23, I did capture a faint photo of a rainbow at the Stafford course.

But we've also traveled to some other golf courses in the area if we had a break from farm work due to weather or life circumstances.

Those included the Sterling Golf Course on May 6.

Lyons Country Club on May 22 (below):

A pretty sky at the Stafford course, June 23 (after a rain and wind storm interrupted wheat harvest):

 The Cherry Oaks Golf Course in Cheney, July 24:

Enterprising entrepreneurs had a refreshment stand in their grandparents' yard on the back 9 of the Cheney course. We weren't the only ones who stopped.

Sand Creek Station, Newton, July 28. (Just 4 days after Cheney: Can you tell it rained a bunch that week?)

We about didn't make it through the course without a downpour. I missed getting a photo of the iconic red caboose on the Sand Creek course because of the rain.

We visited the Lake Shawnee Golf Course in Topeka on July 31 (Just 2 days after the Newton excursion ... again, rain keeping us out of the field, not laziness. Plus a trip to Topeka includes a side benefit of seeing the granddaughters.)

 And here we were, back at our home course, on August 21. (I haven't included all the Stafford golf outings here.)

And just a reminder about what I really do during these golf outings ... besides take photos, of course.

We won't be on a golf course today. Dr. Bruce, our vet, is coming to preg-check our 25 heifers. And it's a little too chilly for a golf outing anyway. We'll see if there are any other golf dates in our fall agenda. We have quite a few days of cattle work ahead, so it's not likely. 

But, as I told Randy earlier this summer, I'm glad he took up golf several years ago. As for me, I agree with Mark Twain, "Golf is a good walk spoiled." But I'm glad to be along for the ride during a pandemic.