Thursday, June 29, 2023

Harvest from the Sidelines


I was an all-star bench sitter during my not-so-illustrious high school sports career. I wasn't known for my fabulous shooting or skillful ball handling. I was the girl who sang The Star Spangled Banner in my basketball uniform. That was the most action I got during a basketball game.

So I'm used to life on the sidelines - at least, in some things. But sideline sitting during wheat harvest is a foreign concept. From the time I was old enough to operate a stick shift and reach the pedals, I'd had some kind of job during wheat harvest. For Randy, it was the same. 

It is definitely a different feeling to sit and watch custom cutters chomp through the wheat on our ground. Four huge combines, a grain cart and a couple of semis can get things done quickly! Tye and Todd, who farm our ground, hired Frederick Harvesting out of Alden to cut our wheat, along with their own and that of other landlords. In about an hour, they had already cut one 65-acre patch and were moving onto the next field.

Later in the day, I was hoping for some sunset photos in our 80-acre field south of our house. But even with a quick supper break thrown in, they were in and out in a little more than an hour - well before the sun was starting to set.

"So, any regrets?" I asked Randy about our August 14, 2022, retirement as we sat there trying to watch the action through the heavy dust that's part of this sub-par, drought-impacted crop. 

"No," he said, admitting that the poor crop made it a little easier for the transition. (Not that either of us wished for a poor crop. That's just the card Mother Nature dealt this year in much of Kansas.)

We later drove by a combine stopped while its operator unplugged his header. Weeds in the thin wheat had likely plugged it up. 

"Well, I don't think I'll volunteer to help him with that," my farmer said as we drove by in our air-conditioned pickup with the windows closed tight to avoid the itchy dust.

Since I began blogging in 2010, I have kept track of the start date for wheat harvest. 

2010:  June 18
2011:  June 10
2012:  May 26 (an anomaly and the earliest harvest, by far, we've ever had)
2013:  June 21
2014:  June 17
2015:  June 20
2016:  June 15
2017:  June 12
2018: June 12
2019: June 26
2020: June 16
2021: June 17
2022: June 13
2023: June 28 

It was late this year. After months of no rain, we've had some moisture in the past few weeks. The rain was too late to help the yield very much. But it did give a boost to weeds which were able to thrive and make for an even more challenging harvest.  

We don't have information about yields or anything else at this point.

And even though Randy says he doesn't have any regrets about his decision to retire, he made multiple trips to the field to watch the progress. OK ... so did I.

And when they drove through the yard to get to their next field, Randy walked out to catch a ride.

Once a farmer, always a farmer.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A Bird in the Bush ... Or Outhouse?


We have some new guests at our backyard Airbnb. Thankfully, they don't seem to mind that their accommodations look like an outhouse.

Randy put up several new birdhouses this spring. He was really hoping the purple martin house - which kind of looks like a hotel - would attract some travelers who might want an extended vacation stay. So far, we are not getting "bookings" at our brand new facility. (He read about them online and proceeded as directed - away from trees and structures.)

So, if you have an "in" with the bird community, would you mind talking it up a bit? 

But some house wrens have taken a liking to our new one-bedroom apartments. And they are singing our praises - literally - even though we stuck them in the outhouse. The tiny little birds make up for their size with lots of trilling solos and duets.

The house wren is a very small bird of the wren family, Troglodytidae. It's the most widely distributed native bird in the Americas. Its name means "hole dweller" and is is a reference to the bird's tendency to disappear into crevices when hunting insects or to seek shelter.

I can attest to that tendency. It took several tries - and a lot of luck - to finally get a photo of the wren peaking out of its new digs. Both Randy and I were bound and determined to do it, though!

From Randy's cell phone

All About Birds says that wrens are "a plain brown bird with an effervescent voice with a rush-and-jumble song." We would concur. (I wish I'd thought of that description of its music.) I can even hear them when I'm in the basement through the office window. 

The bird's weight can be compared to the weight of two quarters. Hard to imagine, isn't it, that these tiny creatures can sing so exuberantly and flit from nest to branch so quickly?

Wrens aren't the only ones who make music. I play the piano for our church services most weeks. I try to tie the prelude, offertory and postlude music with the Scripture lessons that Pastor Benjamin is using. Ironically, last week, one of the passages was Matthew 10: 24-39. It includes:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 
Matthew 10: 29-33 

It brought to mind the old hymn, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." It had a revival when it was featured in Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. I played a version for my prelude music last Sunday.

There are full recordings of the hymn on YouTube, if you're interested. 

What a message, right?! When life seems overwhelming at times, it's a good reminder to take a breath. If Jesus has the birds of the air, he's bound to have me covered, too. That's worth singing about (or playing the piano about).

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

A Trip to the Fishing Hole


"Your chariot awaits."

Cinderella may have had a pumpkin-shaped coach and a fancy new dress for her outing. I get a loud John Deere Gator and old blue jeans on the way to a fishing hole.

Rain in June finally had the water in the Ninnescah River pasture flowing. This old Cinderella and her Prince much prefer nature's paintings over a fancy crowded ballroom anyway.

We didn't catch a thing - other than a feast for the eyes.

The rain had refreshed the pasture landscape to a verdant green.

Many years ago, hunters created a dam at the Ninnescah, and the spillway always fascinates me. I duck-walked on the rounded pipe that forms a bridge, holding on to the railing. Rushing water gave a feeling of vertigo, but I snapped a few photos before carefully making my way back. No old ladies were harmed in the snapping of this photo.

However, I preferred being back on solid ground where I could enjoy the sights and sounds without fear of falling in!

I did put a line in for awhile.

Patience is not my virtue. I ended up wandering around taking photos instead, leaving Randy to keep trying his luck. 

He had some nibbles, but no catfish dinner for us that day!

I did have some success in the beauty department, though.

These may be pretty yellow flowers, but I don't like the "stickers" attached.

These itty-bitty blue flowers - erect day flowers - are some of my pasture favorites. 

Even Randy was ready to pack up the fishing gear after awhile. But we still enjoyed a Gator ride through the pasture.

It was the very definition of "pastoral."

Even though we aren't the "official" cattle checking crew, we still had to drive through them. 

 It appeared they were enjoying their summer vacation spot.

 Cattle are curious creatures.

We made our usual stop at the bridge, too. It was nice to see some water flowing.

That was a Saturday morning well spent! I came home and made something other than fish for lunch. And that was OK, too.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Singing with the Frogs


There is so much to be grateful for that words are poor things.
Marilynne Robinson

Our yard is usually filled with bird song. Even when I'm in my basement office, I can hear the trill of birds conversing outside my tiny window. 

Not long ago, I was talking on the phone to my sister who lives in Chicago. The conversation had started in the car, but when I got home, I sat on the back steps to enjoy the pretty afternoon. (And my cell phone doesn't work well inside my house out here in Timbuktu.) It wasn't long before she commented on the background "music" of bird song.

Like so many things we experience every day, I often take it for granted. But when something is gone or different and it suddenly returns, there's a new appreciation. That was the case when I heard the frogs' chorus as the sun was setting one evening. It was an audible sign of wonderful rains we got during late May and early June. 

Last week, I went out to take photos of the sunset. I couldn't remember the last time that the sunset's colors were captured in mirror image in puddles in fields. And I was thankful.

The 3.20 inches of rain didn't take us out of the extreme drought designation on the Kansas Drought Monitor. It did take us out of the Exceptional Drought we'd been in for weeks. And it definitely perked up spirits in farm country. 

June 8 Kansas Drought Monitor

As a reference, this was the April 27 drought monitor:

Spirits weren't the only things perked up: Our neighbor's corn across the road looked like it grew overnight. It's grown more since then.

The rain was too late to help the 2023 wheat crop much. But spring-planted crops and the pastures are enjoying their Big Gulp of water. It does wonders as an attitude adjustment for people, too. 

Just like the singing frogs, we're thankful, too!


Taking photos of my surroundings helps me appreciate the beauty of God's world. Last Friday evening, my photography was part of Stafford's Nora Larabee Memorial Library's Nora's Gathering for June. Nora's Gatherings are a celebration of art, music and creativity, held once a month at our library.

Then, on Monday, Bike Across Kansas had an overnight stay in Stafford. 

Our little town welcomed about 500 extra people to the community. The library again opened its doors and sponsored a pie and ice cream fundraiser. Monies raised will go toward blinds at the library, another project in efforts to revitalize our unique library.

Our guests were amazed at the library's stained glass window, leaded glass, pressed tin ceiling and other unique architecture.

I called my show, Seasons, based on Ecclesiastes 3:1: To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. My show summary included:

Those who don't live in Kansas may think we live in a so-called "flyover state." Kansas is just that place to travel through to get to the mountains, right? But it's my contention that beauty is all around us  whether it's as big as a Kansas sky or as small as a butterfly sipping nectar from a flower.

While I've always been interested in photography, I've been more committed to capturing the beauty around me since beginning my blog, Kim's County Line in 2010. My tagline is Camera Clicks and Commentary from a Kansas Farm Wife. It gives me the opportunity to share some of the photos I take while living and working with my husband, Randy, on the Stafford/Reno County line.

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.
Dorothea Lange 

I also displayed the books I've written - most after adventures with our granddaughters. 

Thanks to the library for including me in these events. It was an honor! And, by the way, the town of Stafford came together in big ways to welcome our guests. At the library, we heard comment after comment about how Stafford had rolled out the red carpet.