Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The March Toward Harvest: November Update

November 21, 2021

The march toward Harvest 2022 continues. As I wrote last month, I have "borrowed" an idea from Stafford County Flour Mill. During the last growing season, the mill posted monthly photos on its Facebook page. 

Our summer 2022 harvest will be our final one as active farmers, so I decided to do something similar. Since we began planting wheat on September 21, I chose the 21st of each month as my target date. The photo at the top of the post is November's entry into this online journal of sorts.

October 21, 2021

Here's how the wheat looked a month earlier on October 21 at the same location. 

In October, I also photographed wheat that we'd planted in a field where we'd harvested corn. We had volunteer corn coming up among the wheat. 


At that time, I said that a hard freeze would "zap" the corn, and it would no longer be viable. But the winter wheat is designed to survive the winter.

Even though a hard freeze was later in our region than it normally is, it did happen. The still green-colored growth is wheat and the dried up plant matter is the corn. You can also see a portion of a corn cob.

The dying corn gives fields where it's located a yellow tinge. But the wheat will be just fine. 

Our planting was delayed by some rain. We didn't finish up planting and replanting until October 23. 

That wheat is a month behind the earliest planted wheat and you can definitely tell the difference. It's not nearly as thick and lush looking.

You can see where Randy replanted in this field. He ran the wheat drill a different direction, trying to fill in the stand.

I decided to take a photo at the same location I'd taken the October sunset photo. As you can see, there's still some water in the mudhole.

We are not alone in seeing the discrepancies in our wheat stand. We subscribe to "The Wheat Farmer/Row Crop Farmer," a publication that caters to wheat farmers. One of its Kansas columnists said this in the November 2021 issue:

Many farmers delayed planting because it was either too hot or too dry, while others went ahead and dusted in wheat. Then when they did get started, they ran into rain delays. There was a great deal of replanting. I know of several farmers who planted the same fields three times. ... In our case, we have a lot of terrific looking stands but others, while good enough to keep, are just scrappy looking. There could be some weed issues on those fields next spring.
Vance Ehmke, Ehmke Seed, Healy, Kansas
in The Wheat Farmer/Row Crop Farmer

Another columnist from Belle Plaine, Kansas, said:

There are good fields, and there are bad fields. ...

And that sums up farming in a nutshell.

Until next month ...

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars


All things pumpkin seem to take center stage on dessert tables for ladies' meetings and family gatherings this time of year.

But if I'm on the calendar to provide a fall treat, I think about my sister, Lisa. She's not a pumpkin fan, though she says she's more accepting of pumpkin-flavored desserts than she used to be. 

It's tough to be pumpkin-challenged at this time of year.

So I usually opt for another fall flavor. I was the dessert provider for my PEO group last week. I tried out an Apple Cheesecake recipe. It got good reviews with my cheesecake-loving granddaughter and her Daddy. Really, it got good reviews all around.

But I was looking for something even better. Jill suggested Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars from Sally's Baking Addiction. Sally's is Jill's go-to favorite baking blog. (I'll let that slide, since my blog has a schizophrenic focus - farm, family, faith, photography and, yes, food.)

Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars are what Jill makes herself as a birthday treat. (If you're the Mom, you know about making your own birthday treat.)

After tasting them, it's no wonder. It's good just as is. Who can argue with a buttery shortbread crust ... and crunchy streusel. But the homemade salted caramel sauce brings it to a whole other level of scrumptiousness. 

I will definitely add it among my favorite apple dessert recipes. For the PEO meeting, I topped with a small scoop of caramel ice cream and drizzled with a little additional warm caramel sauce.

It was a hit. If you're looking for a last-minute addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table, look no further!


Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars

Shortbread Crust

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Apple Filling

4 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced, 1/4 inch thick (I used Granny Smith, but Jonathan would be good, too, if you can find them)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cold and cubed
Homemade salted caramel (see below) or store-bought caramel sauce

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving enough overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven. (As the crust bakes, you can prepare the filling and streusel.)
  3. Make the apple filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
  4. Make the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  5. Turn the oven up to 350°F. Evenly layer the apples on top of the warm crust. It will look like there are too many apple slices, so layer them tightly and press them down to fit. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight). Lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. Cut into 12-16 bars, depending on what size you want. NOTE FROM ME: For a fancy dessert at a meeting you will probably want to cut them larger - maybe only 9 bars per pan, depending on the serving size you want. Once cut, drizzle some salted caramel sauce on top of each. These apple pie bars can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature, or even cold.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The bars will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. You can freeze the bars for up to 3 months. Then, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving and drizzling with caramel.
  2. Apples: Sally's Baking Addiction recommends using two different kinds of apples for a more complex flavor. She typically uses both a tart apple variety such as Granny Smith, and a sweeter apple variety such as Pink Lady. You’ll end up with about 3-4 cups. A little more or less is OK, based on your preference of filling.
      ** Sally's original recipe called for 2 apples. Jill suggested using double the amount of apples, so that's what I did. (This is one of those times it would be helpful to have a measurement in cups, since the size of apples varies. I used about 8 cups of apples for a 9- by 13-pan.  
      3.    Larger Batch: Recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9×13 pan. Pre-bake the crust for 18 minutes, then extend the bake time in step 5 to about 45-55 minutes.

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 cup granulated sugar (make sure it’s labeled “pure cane sugar”)
6 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium heavy-duty saucepan (avoid using non-stick) over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn it.
  2. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately stir in the butter until melted and combined. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. If you notice the butter separating or if the sugar clumps up, remove from heat and vigorously whisk to combine it again. (If you’re nervous for splatter, wear kitchen gloves. Keep whisking until it comes back together, even if it takes 3-4 minutes. It will eventually– just keep whisking. Return to heat when it’s combined again.)
  3. After the butter has melted and combined with the caramelized sugar, cook for 1 minute without stirring.
  4. Very slowly stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Since the heavy cream is colder than the hot caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble when added. After all the heavy cream has been added, stop stirring and allow to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Allow to slightly cool down before using. Caramel thickens as it cools.
  6. Cover tightly and store for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Caramel solidifies in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove to desired consistency.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can make this caramel in advance. Make sure it is covered tightly and store it for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe. This caramel is OK at room temperature for a day if you’re traveling or gifting it. You can freeze the salted caramel, too. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature, then warm up before using.
  2. Sugar: This recipe is most successful using granulated sugar that’s labeled “pure cane” on the packaging. (For example: Domino brand regular granulated sugar says “pure cane granulated” on the packaging.
  3. Salt: Use regular table salt or kosher salt. The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon. I thought that was a little salt forward, so I suggest 1/2 teaspoon instead. You may want to taste it and add more, if wanted.




Thursday, November 18, 2021

Appreciate the Moment

Our home, dressed in its fall finery

There's a lesson in this time of year: 

Appreciate the moment. It could be gone as quickly as the autumn leaves. 

Without an early hard freeze, autumn's vibrant colors painted the landscape far longer than usual on the Kansas plains. While we don't have "leaf peepers" arrive by the busload in Kansas, they could have gotten a show to rival eastern landscapes this year. 

I intended to stop and take photos - even though what I see on the camera lens never quite matches the beauty seen by the naked eye.

But, as usual, I had my "to-do" agenda in place and cattle duties to help navigate - places to be - things to do. So I didn't stop as often as I should have. 

The tree outside my kitchen window provided lots of good scenery while cleaning up after meals. But even a tree right outside my window didn't get as much attention as it should have. It wasn't that the tree wasn't ready for its closeup. It was me. And now the tree is bare.

However, I did take a few photos of our house clad in its fall finery. The vines don't often retain the fall colors for so long.


The tree near the south driveway provided a "window frame" for the house. But the "frame" is no more. It only lasted a snippet of time.

Every moment in your life is unique. You will never have two alike. Never. This is the science of living: Appreciate every moment. Have a heart so open, an understanding so beautiful, and a yearning for appreciation so complete that when that moment comes, you see exactly what it is.
Prem Rawat

Sunrises and sunsets are those fleeting moments in time, too. But I was glad I ventured out one morning this week to begin the day.
At sunrise, the blue sky paints herself with gold colors and joyfully dances to the music of a morning breeze.
Debasish Mridha
My sunrise tree

I had written the rough draft of this post earlier in the week, and I decided to listen to my own advice ... at least partially. I had an afternoon meeting in Stafford, and I noticed the fall colors on the prairie grasses and the autumn leaves framing the Zenith elevator. I drove on by. But before I got to the railroad tracks, I backed up and snapped a few photos of the scene.

I had just driven past "Exhibit A" in my reminder to pause to appreciate the beauty. A massive old cottonwood along the Zenith Road was resplendent in yellow last week. But I didn't stop at the time. Places to go, timetables to meet ... all the usual excuses. 

The old cottonwood has played a starring role in my blog before. It shades the irises that grow along the Zenith Road at an old farmstead nobody even remembers any longer. 

And then we had a hard freeze and the colors faded like fabric left out in the sunshine. 

Later, I was glad I'd taken the time to put the car - and my schedule - in reverse. It was dark by the time I was driving home, thanks to the time change. 

Enjoy every moment you have. Because in life, there are no rewinds, only flashbacks. Make sure it’s all worth it. – Anonymous © Source: https://www.quotespedia.org/authors/a/anonymous/enjoy-every-moment-you-have-because-in-life-there-are-no-rewinds-only-flashbacks-make-sure-its-all-worth-it-anonymous/
Enjoy every moment you have. In life, there are no rewinds, only flashbacks. Make sure it's all worth it. 
Enjoy every moment you have. Because in life, there are no rewinds, only flashbacks. Make sure it’s all worth it. – Anonymous © Source: https://www.quotespedia.org/authors/a/anonymous/enjoy-every-moment-you-have-because-in-life-there-are-no-rewinds-only-flashbacks-make-sure-its-all-worth-it-anonymous/

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Apple(?) of My Eye

Hedge posts and hedge apples - a farm still life

They look a little like brains - maybe a leftover from Halloween celebrations.

But my brain does not compute the price some people are willing to pay for these "treasures" found scattered for free along our country roads.

"Six Fresh Picked Homegrown Organic Hedge Apples, Osage Orange, 6 count." Only $17.95.  

 Oh, well, they are ORGANIC. It must make them extra valuable.  

I found a "bargain basement" price at another site:

Fresh Picked Homegrown Organic Hedge Apples, Osage Orange, Approximately 12-15, only $21.00. 
Hedge apples strategically placed on a pile of hedge posts.

Move over wheat crop! I think I have discovered a new cash crop. Agriculture today is always looking for that market to expand beyond producing wheat, corn and soybeans. Hedge apples just may be my niche market.  I'm seeing a cash crop lying along the ditches on country roads these days. Others still hang from the branches of the osage orange trees where they grow.

Hedge apples remind me of my Grandpa Leonard, who believed they repelled boxelder bugs. He would gather them in the fall and place them outside the house to keep the "Byers bugs" away. (People in my neck of the woods called boxelder bugs "Byers bugs" because they were the orange and black of the Byers Hornets, where I went to school through 4th grade.)
So, do Grandpa's claims have scientific validity? Of course, I turned to Google, the ultimate source for every modern researcher, right?

And that's when I discovered that I could have my own get-rich scheme. I was driving by a cash crop and didn't even know it. There are actually people selling these little yellow-green balls that remind me of brains.
From another website:

Each Hedgeapple comes with its own individual container to prevent damage to carpet and wood surfaces. Hedgeapple with container is shown at left. It is recommended to place a hedgeapple in each room or adjacent closet.
Average weight 1 LB. / Hedgeapple
Average repellant life in an air-condition environment is 3 months. Hedgeapples can be sliced in half to expedite their effects, although life is greatly reduced.

Now all that's left is finding those handy dandy containers, and I am set. 

Or maybe not.

 Here's what I learned in a Iowa State University Extension brochure:

The use of the hedge apples for insect control is one of the most enduring pest management home remedies. Placement of hedge apples around the foundation or inside the basement is claimed to provide relief from cockroaches, spiders, boxelder bugs, crickets and other pests.

The use of hedge apples as a pest solution is communicated as a folk tale complete with testimonials about apparent success. However, there is an absence of scientific research and therefore no valid evidence to confirm the claims of effectiveness. Although insect deterrent compounds have been extracted from hedge apples in laboratory studies, these do not provide a logical explanation about why hedge apples would work as claimed. At this time, there is nothing to recommend the use of hedge apples for pest control.

The Salina Journal had a Kids Page devoted to hedge apples earlier this month. It was written by Mike Szydlowski, a science coordinator for Columbia (OH) Public Schools, for the USA Today Network

The article said hedge apples' history goes back tens of thousands of years. Even though they aren't eaten by animals today, the hedge apples used to be delicious food for the giant mastodons and wooly mammoths that once roamed North America. 

Native Americans found the tree extremely useful. While they did not eat the fruit, the wood was prized for making high-quality bows. The Osage people would travel great distances to find this wood, and they gave the tree the name Osage orange.

Later on, the trees were planted one foot apart, creating hedges to keep livestock in place. The branches had small thorns on them and, when planted close, it made a good barrier. This is where the name “hedge apple” came from. This practice lasted a long time until barbed wire was invented in the 1870s. 


The Osage orange trees themselves do provide a valuable resource on the County Line and elsewhere on the Plains. They make great fence posts.

Whether the hedge apples work as boxelder repellents or not, seeing them scattered along the roadside was a great reminder of my Grandpa Leonard. And that's priceless.

So what do you think? Do hedge apples repel bugs?

Whether they do or not, my friend, Okema, found a new use for them. She decorated tables at a recent luncheon with hedge apples and Pyracantha branches.

May be an image of flower
Photo & arrangement by Okema Shaw

Who knew they could look so good!?


Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Land of the Free & the Home of the Brave

This is a post from my Kim's County Line archives (with a new photo created after the bald eagle visited in October.) It comes with my heartfelt thanks for veterans, active duty military and their families on this Veteran's Day.


C. Melvin Fritzemeier, 10th Infantry Division, U.S. Army

My late father-in-law, C. Melvin Fritzemeier, served in the U.S. Army following the Korean War. He didn't talk about his service with me. But on this Veteran's Day, I wanted to pay tribute to him and others who have faithfully served our country during wartime and times of peace.

Maybe I just needed to take him on a road trip by Fort Riley. As a kid, Randy remembers hearing "war stories" in the back seat as his Dad drove by the fort, where he had trained before being shipped out to Korea. 

C. Melvin Fritzemeier in uniform; upper right, Camp Casey, Korea, 11-Sept.-54, Saturday night was on the back of this photo; lower left photo was not captioned; lower right, caption says, "Ready to ship out to Korea from Fort Lewis, Washington."

Not long ago, I was digging for photos and came across several from Melvin's military service. After Randy's folks died, we cleaned out their farmhouse. By the end, we were all tired of sorting, so we ended up putting family photos in plastic tubs. We got elected to be the repository for all the tubs. 

Also in the box was this Indianhead insignia, the symbol for the Army's Second Division since October 1917 at Bourmont, Haute-Marne, France, from troops in World War II. The color markings (red, white, and blue) used to identify the division and their equipment in France were chosen  by the commander of the division as the colors for this insignia.  The star and Indian head signify the American origin of the division.

 Melvin was drafted three months after the Korean War officially ended. He served as a truck driver. Randy says he talked about sleeping outside in tents.

Melvin often told a story about Army food. He would never eat dried beef gravy after serving in the Army. He also never touched fruit cocktail. Randy says that he and a buddy each ate a gallon of fruit cocktail that they'd cooled in a nearby stream. He ate so much of it that he never wanted it again. 

As is the case today, servicemen and women leave behind their families as they go to serve their country. I found several little yellow books of photos, which Marie must have sent to Melvin overseas. Marie stayed with her mother in Stafford while Melvin served, and she worked at the Farmers National Bank until he returned and they moved to the farm.

Melvin served two years. By the time he returned to Stafford, he had traded his Private 2nd Class stripes for a Corporal designation.

On this Veterans' Day, I'd like to thank all the veterans for their service. Our little community of Stafford has a number of young men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. I thank them for keeping America strong, and I thank their families for the sacrifice of being apart from their loved ones, often in dangerous places. 

This nation will remain the land of the free 
only so long as it is the home of the brave.
  ~Elmer Davis


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Whoop! Whoop! for These Visitors

Whoop! Whoop!

Whooping cranes have been visiting in our area for the past week or so. A group of six has stayed about half a mile from the road on farm ground most of the time. My little camera can't handle that distance, though I've given it the old college try several times.

It's blurry, but if you know what you're looking at, you can tell they are whooping cranes.

But as fate would have it, they were just a bit closer to the road as we drove by one day last week.

Randy has become quite compliant with my requests to hold still and smile for yet another photo. Kinley and Brooke have also grown used to Grandma's constant need for them to pose for the camera and flash their smiles.

The whooping cranes evidently didn't get the memo about being "pose ready" at all times. They didn't take time to smile for the camera before launching into the sky. But it was still a spectacular sight.

The Whooping Crane is the tallest North American bird at 5 feet tall and has a 7- to 8-foot wing spread. Adults are white with black wing tips and a red face. Young may be whitish gray with rusty wash color on their head and neck and scattered reddish brown feathers over their back and sides, according to the National Wildlife Service.

We are only a couple of miles from Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Whooping cranes have been spotted there, too. I'm not sure whether these are the same group or a separate one. 

I made this collage from photos taken at Quivira's Education Center in 2013. Kinley and Grandpa were my models at the time.

Last year, we had the visitors on some of our farm ground, and they were closer to the road a couple of times.

Photos from 2020

Whooping Cranes are regular spring and fall transients through our part of Kansas, generally passing through the marked corridor in March-April and October-November. (For a link on where they've been seen this fall, click here.)


Preferred resting areas are wetlands in level to moderately rolling terrain away from human activity where low, sparse vegetation permits ease of movement and an open view. During migration, cranes feed on grain, frogs, crayfish, grasshoppers, fish, crickets, spiders, and aquatic plants. (From NWS)

I found this YouTube video on the cranes.


NOTE: This may be the only thing I get posted this week. We have been doing cattle tasks since last Saturday. More on that to come! And maybe, if I get lucky, I'll have more whooping crane photos to share later, too.