Thursday, July 29, 2021

Scout's Honor

We're used to hearing scouting reports from the Kansas City Chiefs training camp or yet another commentary on how K-State and other Big 12 schools will fare if and when OU and Texas actually depart our conference.

This fall crop scouting report may not have mass appeal. But it's rather important to a specific farmer.

We practically had to cut through the humidity with a knife, and both my camera and my glasses fogged up on our morning scouting expedition. But after wiping off both, I got the mission accomplished.

The milo is headed out and looking good. (True confessions: We ended up driving to the other side of the milo field after deeming one end ugly. On second thought, that's not very kind. How about this? It was not photogenic because of weeds.)

Milo has made a lot of progress since my last blog post about it. Back in a June 10 post, it looked like this:

It was just up and growing. 

The corn got a little earlier start. We began planting it April 26. 


By June 4, it looked like this:


 And this was yesterday morning, July 28:

The corn and milo right got an additional boost from the unexpected 1.60" of rain we received as we were leaving church last Sunday. However, the rainfall was spotty. North of town, we got 0.20". That's better than many people, who missed the scattered rainfall all together.
The ears are looking large and full.
The rainfall was especially beneficial since it's been so hot this week.

Since our dryland crop is dependent solely on Mother Nature, the rains have been particularly beneficial. Still, there's still some time between now and harvest. My husband is his usual optimistic self. I am more a "Don't count your chickens" proponent when it comes to corn.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Clearer Thinking, Greater Loyalty, Larger Service, Better Living

Buyer ribbons, 2021 Stafford County Fair

I pledge my head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty
My hands to larger service
And my health to better living
For my club, my community, my country and my world.
The 4-H Pledge, Written in 1919 by Kansas 4-H Leader Otis Hall

Our family's newest 4-Her experienced her first fair last week. 
Kinley collected a champion ribbon for her six decorated cookies, along with a bonus $20 premium, for her frosted watermelon cookies. (The recipe is from Sally's Baking Addiction. Click here for the recipe.)

And while it's great to collect those purple ribbons and extra prize money, I hope what she ultimately collects from the 4-H experience is to take the 4-H pledge and the 4-H experience to heart. 
It would probably be a better world if all of humanity would think about the principles that 4-Hers vow to uphold: Clearer thinking, greater loyalty, larger service, better living ... those are all attributes that would do this old world a whole lot of good.

For 115 years, 4-H has been changing lives. Back in 2006, we celebrated 100 years of Kansas 4-H. The youth program has been part of the national landscape since 1902.

The 4-H website says:

The 4-H idea is simple: help young people and their families gain the skills they need to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy. That idea was the catalyst to begin the 4-H movement and those values continue today.
Kinley comes from a long line of 4-Hers, including her maternal great-grandparents.
Bob & Janis Moore - Pratt County Fair service award recipients in 2011
My family's involvement with 4-H started with my parents back in the 1940s. Both were members of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club in Pratt County, the club that my siblings and I later joined. (That club later merged with another, and we became the Lincoln Climbers.)

All four of us and all seven of the grandchildren have been part of the 4-H program, two in Pratt County in the same club their grandparents attended, two in Stafford County and three in Clay County. Now some of their great-grandchildren are 4-Hers - some in Clay County and Kinley in Shawnee County.
Randy also spent his childhood in 4-H.  Randy's parents were leaders in the Stafford County 4-H program, too, though we're not sure they were 4-H members themselves. For a dozen years, Randy & I were community leaders of the Corn Valley 4-H Club, the same club Randy was a part of back when he took his first animal to the fair.

That's not Kinley's only 4-H legacy. Eric's dad spent his career in Extension in both Kansas and Iowa, so, of course, Eric and his brothers were active 4-Hers. Eric and Jill actually met for the first time at the Kansas 4-H Emerald Banquet when they were seniors in high school - Eric earning a state scholarship for his work in 4-H and Jill earned state project winner in foods and nutrition. (It evidently wasn't love at first sight, since they didn't start dating until later as students at K-State.)
I grew up in rural Kansas (and stayed there), so I was curious how a county fair in the "big city" of Topeka would differ. And I suppose there were some differences ... but there were similarities as well. 

When Jill sent me the photo of Kinley getting her foods entries judged last week, I couldn't help but think of Jill's first experience, too. 

This photo was from Jill's very first year for foods judging. She looks a little scared by the whole process. It also makes me think about how much she - and I - learned during her 4-H career. The top picture shows a microwave cake. Yes, it was a category back in the early '90s. We should have skipped that particular entry. But, then again, we both learned a lot from that cake ... and all the other cakes and cookies and breads after it.

Jill's very first year of 4-H foods judging

By the time she was veteran 4-Her, Jill was teaching others, and she, too, was serving as a foods superintendent at the county fair.

There are definitely more options for families and kids than there were when I was a child – whether that’s playing MAYB ball during the summer or other activities. But I contend that 4-H gives kids – and their families – more long-time skills than any of those other activities.
Besides collecting ribbons for her foods and crafts for her first year in 4-H, Kinley and her parents worked at the pancake feed, a fundraiser for the 4-H program. (For Pratt and Stafford County 4-Hers, it's always time in the concession stand.)

Kinley & Eric before their shift at the pancake feed. As Uncle Brent says, 4-H t-shirts haven't evolved a lot from the '90s.

She worked in another fundraising booth on Friday. (Both sets of grandparents were willing customers.) And, on Saturday, she got to tour the fairgrounds with her fellow club members, which may help her figure out her project choices for her second year of 4-H.

She got a couple of other purple ribbons - one for her "Glamping" table setting

... and another for her raspberry thumbprint cookies. She got blues on her mango muffins and her poured painting art project.

Animal projects may not be in the future for our Shawnee County 4-Hers ... though Brooke was certainly a fan of a miniature horse named Spot. She also joined Grandma and Grandpa in watching the dog agility contest while Kinley and her parents worked at the pancake feed. 

I didn't do livestock either, but both Jill and Brent did. And it taught them a lot. How to get from Point A ...

to Point B ... by digging in your heels and practicing - day after day after day.
They learned about dependability and consistency and experienced a whole lot of other character development, too.
But the 4-H program does more than help you figure out how to lead a calf in a show ring or how to show a pig or bake a loaf of bread.
I like a meme that a 4-H mom shared after a fair earlier this summer (sorry it's blurry, but I think it's still readable):

I'm thankful that it's been all that and more for my family ... and will continue to be.

Thanks to all those extension agents, fair boards and volunteers who keep the 4-H program growing well into its second century of impacting the lives of Kansas youth and their families.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Hay You!


Randy went to the hay auction this week to buy bait hay to entice our cow-calf herd as we gather them off summer pastures this fall.

I was there to people watch. 

We both got what we were looking for.

My favorite people to observe were the kids who arrived at the sale with their daddies ...

... especially the little Amish or Mennonite girls. (It's probably fitting that the photo of this little bare-footed darling was blurred, so she couldn't be identified, even though I was initially disappointed.)

I listened as the two Amish dads shifted seamlessly between English and Pennsylvania Dutch as they visited with one another - one waiting to sell hay and the other waiting to purchase.  

Another little curly-haired little girl had her pink cowboy boots on. That seemed a more sensible choice than bare feet to me in the sea of prickly hay.

These two young entrepreneurs - likely brothers - did their own bidding on a stack of hay. There was quite a negotiation going on.

And I imagined that these two guys treat the hay auction like the coffee shop: "How much rain did you get?" "What do you think of the price of corn?" "What do you think about that heat wave that's coming?"


There were a couple of dogs in attendance who did not leave the auction as best of friends. There was a brief time out from the auctioneer as the dogs yipped at one another.

Who knew there would be such a crowd? There were plaid-shirted farmers. There were cowboy hats and seed company caps. The variety didn't end with the people. There was brome hay. There was alfalfa. There was teff. There were small bales, big square bales and a few big round bales.

Most Tuesdays this summer, the hay auction takes place outside the South Hutchinson sale barn before the sale ring opens for cattle later in the morning.  

 We got there early to look over the selection brought to the auction by those who had bales to sell. 

After scoping out the hay that peaked his interest, Randy wanted to visit the sale barn cafe for a cinnamon roll. Alas, there were no cinnamon rolls that day.  But the sign made me smile. 

It's not the only sign of interest. A vintage sale barn sign decorates a hallway.

So why would we need to buy hay when we raise hay? In fact, we grow alfalfa and sudan, both of which we bind up in big round bales and feed to our cattle. Randy was bidding on small square bales of hay to use as "bait hay." (That's an oxymoron, too: The "square" bales are actually rectangular. Hmmm - That's what they're called anyway.)


The small bales come in handy for my role in calling cattle into the corrals to bring them home from summer pastures or to entice them to change locations during the winter. It's a little tough to toss those 1,500-pound big round bales, don't you think? A 60-pound bale works better. (And let's get real: I'm not tossing the whole bale myself either. I end up pulling chunks from the bale for enticement purposes.)

I leave the whole bale tossing to my favorite farmer. He's been doing that since junior high days. Growing alfalfa has always been part of the crop rotation for Randy's family. Back when Randy was a child, they used a sickle mower which laid the hay flat. Then, they would rake the hay. Since they didn't own a baler, a neighbor would bale it into square bales. Then, Randy, his brother and dad would pick up the hay from the field.   

Randy with his hay crop back in high school
After Randy's junior year at K-State, he purchased his first swather. Then, during his senior year, he and his dad purchased their first round baler. They haven't produced small bales since that time, so periodically, Randy purchases some through an auction or from another producer who has extra. 

So these days, he isn't bucking bales in a whole field. As auction bidder No. 618, he nodded his head to the auctioneer and purchased two different piles of alfalfa hay, totaling 16 bales.  

Besides looking for quality hay, he chose a couple of piles closest to the driveway for easier loading. Always thinking, my farmer! I'm always thinking, too. I could say I forgot my gloves. But, honestly, Randy didn't ask me to help, and I didn't volunteer. I took pictures instead.
He was still smiling when he was done.
The whole auction was over in about 35 minutes. And so was my time people watching.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Photo Finish


At the end of the Kentucky Derby a couple of years ago, it took eons for the winner to be determined. Yes, they had a camera at the finish line. But there was some scuffle during the race, and the winner was in question for quite some time.

I'm guessing the same could be said for the decision on the grand champion ribbon in open class photography at the 2021 Stafford County Fair. There were no scuffles. However, there were many worthy contenders. One of my shots just happened to edge out the others for the win. As always, it was that one judge's opinion on that particular day at that particular time. A different judge would likely have yielded a different outcome.

Me in 4th Grade
As a Pratt County 4-Her, I entered foods, clothing construction and reading and leadership posters or notebooks in the fair. I suppose photography was one of the options back then, but it wasn't one I explored. Still, old habits die hard.

When my youngest sister was in high school, she took a college math course at Barton County Community College one summer. (I think it was calculus, but math abilities skipped my genetic code.) I was a journalism student at K-State, and BCCC had a photography class offered at the same time. I figured it was a good skill for a burgeoning journalist. So we car-pooled to Great Bend. It was my first opportunity to work in a dark room.

Blue ribbon, Miscellaneous

When I was a beginning reporter at The Hutchinson News,  I'd carry a camera along if a "real" photographer wasn't available to go with me. And I loved entering that "tube" at the north end of the news room and retreating to the dark room there, even though I wasn't the one usually developing the film.

Then, both Jill and Brent chose 4-H photography. Jill moved on to other things, but Brent kept that project through almost all his 4-H years. As often happens when you have kids in 4-H, you take on the role of a project leader. I always felt like I learned just as much as the 4-Hers (and maybe even more) as we went to workshops and did our own photo project shoots in parks, backyards and mini field trips. And I was always eager to hear what the judge at the county fair had to tell Brent and my other photographers. I usually got the opportunity to listen in when I'd help with the behind-the-scenes organizing, etc. I learned a lot.

The photos I took of my kids fill multiple plastic tubs in our basement. (Oh, if only things had been digital sooner!) Even though I did a lot of purging last year, that's still on my to-do list (way, way down the list). 

Starting the blog in January 2010 further spurred my interest in photos to illustrate a story. I look at food photos I took in the beginning, compared to now, and I think there's been significant progress. 

It was a thrill to walk into the fair building and see the purple ribbon hanging from the photo I took during harvest 2020.  As with many things in life, it was a case of being at the right place at the right time. I certainly can't compete with God's handiwork. 

This fair was a bit different in that entrants could bring photos taken after the 2019 fair through 2021. Because of Covid, there was no open class competition last year. Weeding through hundreds (OK, thousands) of photos is a daunting task most years. It was even more difficult since I was drawing from two years. Thankfully, I kept a notebook with some of my favorites, which speeds the process some. (Decision making has never been my strongest skill. Just ask my parents or my siblings or Randy. OK, the list goes on.)

The harvest photo was in the scenic/landscape category. In open class, only three ribbons are awarded in each class. Stafford County fair contestants can enter two per class, so you're competing against yourself and anyone else who enters that particular category.

This photo at Peace Creek (taken Palm Sunday 2020 and another of my favorite photos from that year) was 2nd place in scenic landscape. 

True confessions: I entered a lot of photos. It's not inexpensive when you buy enlargements, mat board, etc. But, as Randy says, I could have worse vices. 

This year, I collected a lot of ribbons. And I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't give me a thrill to have my work recognized. But it's also being part of a community. Having entries to look at gives people a reason to come to the fair. 
Here are my other blue ribbon winners:
Action, Blue, taken harvest 2020
Animals, Blue, taken July 30, 2020

Humor, Blue, Sedgwick County Zoo, March 2021

Black & White, Humor, Blue, working cows and calves, March 2021

Miscellaneous, BW, Blue, taken February 2021 of an icy puddle during that solar plunge

Agriculture, BW, Blue, taken silage harvest, September 2020

People, BW, Blue, taken winter 2020

Nature, BW, Blue, Winter 2021

Scenic landscape, BW, Blue, Taken July 2021

Animal, BW, Blue, tired ape at Sedgwick County Zoo, March 2021

Action, BW, Blue, taken at Sedgwick County Zoo, March 2021

Our zoo trip with the girls and Jill during spring break also netted me a 2nd place finish in the computer-generated scrapbook division. I did a book with photos and told the story in rhyme. My PEO history book, marking 100 years of the Stafford PEO chapter, got 3rd place.

I also entered six photos in the Stafford County Economic Development contest. The photo with Randy's hands in the wheat got the top prize in commerce. That photo also got a blue ribbon in Human Interest in the open class photography.

Randy says it's all because of him and his hands. I'm not sure. But I think these cute models helped me gather an honorable mention in the People category. (It also placed 2nd in the People class in the open class enlargements.)

I also was awarded honorable mentions in Stafford County Places, for a photo from our trip to the Quivira Kids' Fishing Pond this May ...

... and a photo of cowboys helping us round up bulls, which also got an HM in the people category.
I had an additional three reds and two whites, and eight of my photos didn't place. All in all, a great fair! Our son-in-law is negotiating for a cut of the premium money for some of the models used in the fair winners. Everyone needs a good agent. But I think he needs to read the fine print on the Grandma photo contract.