Mailbox Irises

Mailbox Irises

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Family Ties: Going to Pasture

Life can be like a winding river ... or, in this case, ... a meandering creek. 

In 1900, Albert Brinkman bought acreage along the Rattlesnake Creek in Stafford County, Kansas. Brinkman, who was a great-great-great uncle of Randy's, paid about $4 an acre. Originally in a tract of 1,040 acres, 560 acres remain in the Fritzemeier family. 

Today, Randy owns the pasture, along with his cousin, Don Fritzemeier. On May 1, we delivered cow-calf pairs and a bull to graze for the summer on the native pasture. Traditionally, we don't move cattle to the Big Pasture before May 1. Randy says that's because it his grandpa and his great-uncles wanted to keep it fair for everyone. So our Rattlesnake pasture delivery marked the final group of cattle to move to summer pasture this year.


Randy helping direct the trailer into place to unload at the corrals. Since it takes multiple loads to transport the cows and calves to the pasture, we keep them in the corrals until they have all arrived. That way, the mamas and babies are able to pair up before we let them out into the pasture.

These babies were born in January and February. It's their first visit to this pasture along the Rattlesnake. But maybe their moms remember from other years.

The next day, we went back to check on the herd. It looked like they were taking their Sunday afternoon nap.

And I wanted to take some new photos of a sign we got about 20 years ago, identifying this pasture as a Farm Bureau Century Farm. 


With a trailer attached and work to do, we didn't take time to snap pictures on the bridge as we made the delivery. But as I stood on the bridge and looked east the next day, I marveled at the picture postcard beauty that Randy's family has been privileged to nurture for 121 years. 

Randy has been making the journey to the pasture since he was a little boy. He rode shotgun as his Grandpa Clarence and his Dad Melvin delivered calves to the pasture.

Two generations ago, Randy's Grandpa Clarence owned the pasture with his brothers, Ed and Harve. 

This is an undated photo of Randy's Grandpa, Clarence Fritzemeier, with a bull. The back of the photo has written (in Randy's Grandma Ava's handwriting): "He looks like he knew he was going to be sold."

Things have changed markedly in those 120+ years, whether talking farming or the world in general. So having a tie to the past is unusual in this disposable world we live in today. 

County Line file photo
I miss the cottonwoods that used to line the road that's not much better than a cow path. I understand the reasons for taking them down several years ago, but I miss seeing those cottonwoods that were probably there when Albert Brinkman bought the ground so long ago. 

July 2013 - This was before the township tore down most of the cottonwoods along the road.

 Below, here's a September 2018 photo, which shows that most of the trees are gone.

But even without the stately old cottonwoods, there is plenty of beauty to enjoy. On days like that Sunday, I marveled at God's handiwork on display and felt so blessed to have been a little part of it for 40 years.

The Big Pasture - as Randy's family has always called it - seems like a good place to spend your summer vacation, especially if we get enough rain to keep the grass green and the Rattlesnake filled.

Do you like old photos? Here's another blog post about the Rattlesnake Pasture, along with more family history photos. More about the cottonwoods can be found here.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Old Wives' Tales and Newer Technology


My Grandpa Neelly believed in the Old Farmer's Almanac. While many people might put their stock in old wives' tales, Grandpa paid more attention to what I'll call "old farmers' tales." Since he lived to age 100, he had plenty of time to accumulate such wisdom. (One that has nothing to do with farming seemed to be that Cramer's Analgesic would fix almost any ailment, but I digress.)

My mom, my Great-Grandma Neelly, Grandpa Neelly and me at about 2 months

He planted potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, and he consulted the moon for other planting decisions. We'll again test out one of those old farmers' tales this year: It's said that wheat harvest will be 6 weeks after the wheat heads.

Randy and I scouted wheat fields on May Day and found that the wheat heads were beginning to emerge. Our son-in-law says he's going to give those "old wives" a test and mark June 14 on his calendar.

Eric's response triggered a friendly family wager about the start date for harvest. For posterity, here are the guesses:
Jill, June 13 
Eric, June 14
Randy, June 16, 3:32 PM
Brent, June 17
Susan, June 18
Kim, June 19 (Just like a good mom, I waited 'til last, so I took June 19 by default. With our cool temps this week, I may luck out anyway!)
(I need to figure out a prize for the winner. ... I've got it: A ride on the combine!)

Anyway, we shall see. But the 2021 wheat crop is definitely working its way toward harvest.  

As we checked our fields May 1, Randy was evaluating whether or not to apply a foliar fungicide to the wheat crop. Scouting efforts from across Kansas reported several new occurrences of stripe rust the last week in April.

This shows some rust on the leaf on the righthand side.

Stripe rust is most yield-limiting when it advances to the upper canopy, particularly the flag leaf, according to K-State Research and Extension. In a report issued on April 29, K-State gave a stripe rust risk assessment;

Here we integrate current stripe rust reports, risk due to recent weather conditions (relative humidity and rainfall), and crop growth stage to assess the current risk of severe stripe rust in Kansas (Figure 2). The high-risk regions (dark purple) correspond to regions where weather has been particularly suitable for stripe rust establishment, and where the pathogen has been detected for sufficient time. The risk in other parts of the state may change as the season progresses and as more favorable weather events accumulate.
K-State Extension report, April 29, 2021
Figure 2. Estimated risk of severe stripe rust as of April 29, 2021. Map takes into account the current wheat growth stage, stripe rust observations, and recent weather conditions. Map created by Kelsey Andersen Onofre, K-State Research and Extension.
Figure 2. Estimated risk of severe stripe rust as of April 29, 2021. Map takes into account the current wheat growth stage, stripe rust observations, and recent weather conditions. Map created by Kelsey Andersen Onofre, K-State Research and Extension.
The decision to apply a fungicide should be balanced with the yield potential of the crop, variety disease rating and current grain price, according to K-State. Fields with the potential to yield greater than 40 bushels per acre should be prioritized for a fungicide application.
Randy decided that it is cost-effective to spray with a fungicide this year. He says that the application cost is about $9/acre. If we get a "bump" of even 2 more bushels per acre, the fungicide will pay for itself.  
In several years of field trials at Kansas State University, the application of fungicides between the flag leaf and flowering stages of wheat development resulted in a yield boost of 4 to 14 percent.

It's kind of a calculated risk: Will the cost of the fungicide pay off with a better crop? Only time will tell.
A foliar fungicide application will not make a 40-bushel crop into a 60-bushel crop, but it will prevent a 60-bushel crop from being reduced to a 40-bushel crop by foliar disease.
Bob Hunger, an Oklahoma State University wheat disease specialist,
and Jeff Edwards, an OSU Extension wheat specialist

So, is your bag of flour safe after farmers spray fungicide on the developing crop? Yes, as long as farmers follow the restrictions on when to apply it and how long after the application the crop is harvested.

Believe me, farmers and their families want a safe and affordable food supply, too. We buy bags of flour at the store. We buy that loaf of wheat bread and feed it to our families.

We went to one of our fields and talked with Joey, who operates one of the Kanza Co-op applicators. He was waiting for the tender truck driver to return with more water for the sprayer. 

In scare tactic memes and articles, I read about "evil farmers" dousing the food source with tons of chemicals. But here's the reality.

Only 4 OUNCES of active chemical is applied per acre. That is 1/2 cup per acre. The bulk of what is being sprayed is water. 

The two 2.5 gallon jugs of active chemical (Tebuzol Fungicide) that Joey put in his rig were combined with 1,400 gallons of water from this tank. 

The tender truck driver attached a hose to the spray rig to transfer the water.

Once the water and chemical are in the tank, the rig operator can adjust the spray nozzles for the various chemicals being applied. For Tebuzol, he'll spray 140 acres with that load (5 gallons chemical in 1,400 gallons water) with 10 gallons of the water/chemical mix applied per acre.

Then there was no more time for chit-chat. (Thanks to Joey for answering all my questions while he waited though!)

He climbed into the rig and spread out the 120-foot boom, kind of looking like the Transformers that Brent loved in elementary school. It's quite a wingspan when fully unfolded!

The rig is equipped with GPS, which Joey uses to make sure he's not overlapping where he's spraying the field. 

These photos were taken looking into the sun, but it did show the stream of liquid being applied.

And, below, a different angle - as Joey traveled west

There is a withdrawal time between the time a crop is sprayed and the time it is harvested. (In this particular case, it's 30 days.) As long as that is observed, the wheat will have benefited from the fungicide application, but there will be no residue in the mature grain.

We did another scouting trip yesterday afternoon.

May 10, 2021

The wheat is more fully headed out and is looking good after 0.60" of rain last week. We won't turn down a little more, and we do have chances for rain for much of the week.

May 10, 2021

The wheat is also pollinating: See the little yellow flecks on the wheat head? That's pollen. Having the cool weather for pollination is also good news.

There is still a lot of time - and uncertainty - between now and harvest. 


Weather, hail and disease could conspire against us, too. But, as usual, my farmer is a glass-half-full kind of guy. So, he's betting that the investment will pay off.  

Thursday, May 6, 2021



You could look at an overgrown lawn and think about another task that needs doing.

Or you could find a memory nestled among the dandelions and such. So it was last week.

Randy called me and told me about little purple flowers he saw at his old childhood home. It's where we have our shop and the bulk of our farm tools and equipment. 

It had been years since he'd noticed them. We're not sure whether that's because we don't usually let the lawn get that tall or whether weather conditions were just right for its growth. (I use the term "lawn" loosely in this instance.)

"They're where the wash house used to be," he told me.

"O ... kay...???" I replied. "... That was WAY before my time."

"It's where the clothesline and sand pile were," he further explained. (Same answer from the wife.)

Last fall, when Randy's brother Lyle died, I found this photo of Randy as I was looking at an old scrapbook. I thought of that photo as Randy was describing his memory of childhood.

"Would you please take a picture?" Randy asked. (People are always remarking about how cooperative Randy is with my blogging and the constant photography. He is. But he also prompts a fair number of the photos himself.)

I snapped a few photos of the purple flowers before taking off to Hutchinson for planter parts. 

Later, I asked my friend, Diana, who's a Master Gardener, if my identification of the plant as a grape hyacinth was accurate. It was. 

But for Randy, who spent a lot of hours in the tractor cab last week planting corn, I figure that glimpse of pretty purple flowers in an overgrown lawn was about a lot more than that.

  It was a portal to remembering his mom hanging clothes on the line while he played nearby. 

It was about playtime in the backyard with his brother.

Maybe those memories were further prompted by the recent placement of Lyle's stone at the Stafford Cemetery.


Our friend and funeral director, Jay, told us it was in place, so we drove out to the cemetery after church. (He also told us Fritzemeier was spelled correctly, so we wouldn't need our WhiteOut. What a relief!)

Later last week, an email devotional arrived from Guideposts.

A Time to Think

The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see. 

—Robert Holden, Ph.D

A Time to Act

Recognize the infinite possibilities of God’s work.

A Time to Pray

Dear Lord, when I am focused on my problems, and most likely making mountains out of molehills, guide me to go outside, look upwards and have faith in Your omnipotence.

I got another reminder as I glanced out our window at sundown. Yes, there were those infernal dandelions in an overgrown lawn - at our house, too. But the light was causing them to glow as if they had halos. I was drawn outside for a closer look and heard the birds serenading me as the sun went down.

The complexity and delicacy of a dandelion is amazing - even if it is a weed.

 There's always something to be thankful for and something at which to marvel.

It may be as close as just outside our door if only we look at things in a different way.

 Maybe it's worth making a wish that we have eyes to see.

As we approach Mother's Day this weekend, I figured this was a fitting tribute to Marie, Randy's mom. I didn't appreciate her nearly enough when she was still here. 
Mom & me - 1957
And an early "Happy Mother's Day" to my mom! 

Randy and I were both blessed with wonderful moms! I'm fortunate enough to still be able to celebrate with my mom. And after a year of pandemic, it was good to get together for an early celebration yesterday.
It's definitely not a professional decorating job, but it tasted good. If you have ripe bananas on your counter, this Banana Sheet Cake recipe from the County Line could be a contender!
Wishing our daughter a wonderful Mother's Day, too! We're so proud of all the hats she wears - including amazing mommy!