Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Sky's the Limit

Whether it's sunrise or sunset or the blue expanse dotted with the marshmallow puff clouds of spring, I love sky watching. 
Sunset, April 19, 2015
Friday night, as I was driving home from a birthday party in Stafford, I stopped several times to take photos of the stormy sky. If I would have driven straight home, I wouldn't have gotten wet. But I also wouldn't have witnessed the ever-shifting majesty of the Kansas sky.
Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op (HDR photo treatment), April 24, 2015
Even though I didn't get any lightning photos, I marveled at the beauty and the power of God's creation. I'm thankful we missed the hail and tornadoes and just got the beauty shots.

I saved a devotional that arrived in my in-box last week from Guideposts. These photos seemed made to illustrate it. 
April 24, 2015, Stafford/Reno County line, looking east
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.  Genesis 1:31


A Time to Think

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–
the assurance that dawn comes after night,
and spring after winter.
 Rachel Carson
April 24, 2015, Stafford/Reno County line, looking northwest

A Time to Act

Look at the world with a vision magnified by the power of faith deep within you.
Sunset, April 19, 2015

A Time to Pray

Father, today I resolve to be a good steward of our world.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Fresh Brussels Sprouts Salad

I have never been accused of being trendy. I just don't think it's part of my DNA.

So imagine my surprise when I saw an article about food trends in The Wall Street Journal. Using Brussels sprouts raw in a salad was one of the food trends pictured in a photo accompanying Sarah Nassauer's article, Here Today, Kale Tomorrow: The Arc of a Food Fad.

And, lo and behold, I had Brussels sprouts in the fridge, ready to use raw in a salad recipe I found on Iowa Girl Eats.

Nassauer writes:
Food trends typically advance in predictable stages. New culinary fashions often appear first in a creative chef's kitchen, at an ethnic restaurant or are invented by the eccentric owner of a small food company. ... Foods like acai, kimchi, kale, coconut sugar, sprouted grains and fancy burgers first became popular this way. In the early stage, almost anything can get a day in the sun. Cricket flour is now being pitched by a handful of small companies as cheap protein. ...
OK, let's not get crazy now. There will be no cricket flour in the County Line kitchen. But Brussels sprouts? I can get trendy for those! 

The fresh taste of the Brussels sprouts is enhanced with salty crumbled bacon and almonds. Red apple and dried cranberries add just the right hint of sweetness. And a homemade warm bacon vinaigrette dressing brings it all together.

This time, I served it with teriyaki-glazed salmon and cheese grits. Yummy! The fresh salad was definitely better than the leftovers, so if you can, just make enough for one meal.
Fresh Brussels Sprouts Salad
(with apples, almonds & bacon)
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
4 slices bacon, reserving fat
Olive oil, if needed
1 tbsp. shallots(or substitute sweet onions)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or white balsamic)
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
1/4 cup whole salted almonds, roughly chopped
1 red, tart apple (like Jonathan, McIntosh or Pink Lady)
2-3 tbsp. dried cranberries

Cook bacon until crisp in large skillet over medium heat. Remove to paper towel to drain. Reserve 3 tablespoons bacon grease in skillet, adding extra virgin olive oil if there's not enough. To the bacon grease over medium heat, add shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and whisk in vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Return skillet to heat and whisk until ingredients are combined, about 30 seconds. Again, remove from heat.

Using a grating blade attachment on a food processor, slice trimmed Brussels sprouts very thin. Put in a large bowl. Crumble cooled bacon. Add to Brussels sprouts, along with chopped almonds, apple and dried cranberries. Pour dressing over the salad. Mix and serve immediately.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Synchronized Isn't Just for Swimming

I have always been a little in awe of synchronized swimming. I personally am "dance challenged" standing upright on a dance floor. How can these swimmers coordinate every movement of their perfectly stretched toes and fingertips - all while trying not to drown? (I might mention I'm not much of a swimmer either, despite my mom and the neighbor ladies taking turns driving us to the pool 15 miles away to take lessons every summer.)

But synchronization isn't just for bathing-capped swimmers. It's also for our heifers. Tuesday, these ladies were on their way toward being synchronized. However, they don't have many dance moves either - though Jake did comment about some coordinated raised tails as they ran through the puddle on the way to the corral.
This kind of synchronization is so the heifers will come into estrus (or heat) at the same time.

In March, Randy and Jake mixed MGA into the feed given to 21 heifers. MGA stands for melengestrol acetate, which suppresses the ovulation cycle for the heifers. For 14 days, the guys added the MGA to the grain in the feed truck and fed the equivalent of 1/2 a pound per head per day.
 
On Tuesday, we gathered the heifers and ran them through the working chute for the next phase of their OB-GYN appointment.
Randy gave each heifer a shot of Lutalyse, which makes the heifers come into estrus (or heat).
 
He also gave each of the 25 heifers a shot of vaccine to prevent respiratory issues and diarrhea. 
 
So why do we try to synchronize the heifers' cycles? We do it to shorten the calving season for the heifers, which saves labor at calving time. (Well, it saves some labor for the humans - not the mama cows.) Because heifers are first-time mamas, we check them frequently in case they are having trouble calving.

The same day the Lutalyse shot was given, four bulls came a callin'. The bulls were chosen for the "job" because they are bulls whose offspring are expected to have lower birth weight, making it easier for the first-time mothers to deliver their calves.

Then 283 days later, the babies are supposed to arrive. So we will expect to get our first 80-pound bundles of joy next January 28 or so.
The four bulls will stay with the heifers for 10 days. Then one will remain with the heifers, while the others will go to different pastures with mature cows. Our cow herd should begin calving around February 7.

The photo below was taken before the heifers went through the working chute, while the heifers were on the west side of the fence and the bulls were on the right. It appeared the bulls were "checking out the ladies."
Let's hope they like what they see so there will be lots of babies in late January and early February next year!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Right Place, Right Time

Are you ready for your closeup, little guy? This belted kingfisher appeared to be.

On our excursion Saturday morning to check rain gauges and pasture ground, we went through part of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Initially, I didn't see the handsome fellow perching on the fence post, but my sharp-eyed husband did.

Randy backed up the pickup, and the bird miraculously stayed put. I rarely get a chance to photograph birds, so I couldn't believe my luck.
We wondered if he might have been hurt, since he didn't make an attempt to fly away. I sent a photo and asked for information from my friend and fellow photography enthusiast Pam Martin, who works as an educator at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms. She said: "He looks a little rumpled up. He might have gotten in a tussle with a larger bird or some predator. They are a really cool bird. They nest in earthen burrows made in steep sides along waterways."

So, he had good reason for hanging out near Quivira. 
He even showed us both profiles. Does he have a "better side?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Being Short Is No Joke


Being short is no joke. Our 2015 wheat crop is "height-challenged," due to lack of moisture through the fall and winter.

And while we benefited from 3 inches to more than 8 inches of rain during the past few days, depending upon the location, the moisture likely won't make the crop a whole lot taller. The shorter crop means the combine header will have to stay closer to the ground, making it a little more difficult to harvest the crop when the time comes.

The rain came with some hail at one of our fields north of Stafford. Hail stripped part of the stalk, revealing the wheat heads in boot stage.
We must not have gotten hail on the west end of the same mile-long field. At that end, the head was still in the "boot," where Randy is pointing in the photo below.
Below, he used his fingernail to break the stalk and reveal the head. It won't be long before all the wheat will be heading out. 
The rains brought some relief to the state of Kansas, 93 percent of which has been classified in some form of drought. Some 70 percent of the state is listed in moderate to extreme drought.
As with most farmers in the South Central part of the state, we had enough moisture to get the wheat up after it was planted last fall.
Planting the 2015 wheat crop, September 2014
In fact, we had a nice 3.20 inch rain soon after planting, giving the crop a good beginning boost.
Early October 2014
However, we had very little snow or other moisture this winter, and the spring had been dry before the rains that fell, starting last Thursday.
“It’s definitely a million-dollar rain. Unfortunately, not everyone got it. One rain isn’t going to save the wheat crop. It is sure welcome, but this crop isn’t made yet.”
Kansas State University agronomist John Holman
in The Hutchinson News
The Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported last week that 28 percent of the state's wheat is in poor to very poor condition. The agency rates another 46 percent as fair and just 28 percent as good or excellent.

Time will tell.
We shall see.

Choose whichever worn-out axiom you'd like. But for now, we're thankful for the rain.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blessings: Rain and Family

Peace Creek, taken from the bridge.
The rain dance evidently worked.
The cow didn't have to go around to the gate to get a drink of water!
Last Thursday, we got 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge. Then, we got another 0.60" of rain on Saturday. You could practically hear our 2015 wheat crop and the pasture lands gulping it down. The rainfall amounts varied dramatically in our area.

On Saturday morning, I took this reflection photo as we turned north to go to the Rattlesnake Pasture. There - just 6 miles away from home - they'd gotten 5.30" of rain in the same time frame. In the center of the photo is a metal corner fencing unit that they hadn't gotten planted yet. The reflection of the fencing unit and the telephone poles caught my eye as we rounded the corner. And, yes, we backed up to get the photo. My farmer is a patient man.
Only 10 miles away or so rain gauges overflowed with 8 inches of rain during a 24-hour period. All that rain upstream had the Rattlesnake Creek flowing well on Saturday morning. That's good news, since we'll be moving cows and calves there to summer pasture in a couple of weeks. The rain will also help green up the pastures.
After a dry winter, we'd never turn down moisture. But, truth be told, we were very thankful for our more moderate rainfall total.
Our Ninnescah River pasture also got a boost from the rainfall.

The rain did halt 2015 corn planting in its tracks. Some cattle chores are on the agenda for the next couple of days. We'll be sorting and hauling cattle this morning and tomorrow morning. It will a messy job, but that's OK.

The rain sure helped the scenery ... and the mood.
The mood also varied in Topeka. I was there a few days last week, giving snuggles to a sick little girl. Thankfully, Brooke is feeling better now and getting closer and closer to figuring out how to crawl. (All those brains make her head heavy. That's Grandma's assessment anyway!) We're all hoping that spring brings fewer germs.
Kinley was excited for costume day at preschool.
Her Daddy reports she was not the only princess there. Imagine that!
It's always fun to spend time with my girls - and Micky and Minnie, of course. Somehow, that doesn't make the viewing list here on the County Line.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Curiosity and the Cattle

We all know what curiosity is said to do to cats. The cattle evidently haven't heard that cautionary tale. I know from experience that they are curious creatures, too.

I didn't really have time to spare on my way to a meeting. But the cattle lined up along the pasture fence caught my eye, so I had to stop. (Even though I backtracked from the corner after telling myself I should just go on, I made it on time!)

The cattle were watching Randy load alfalfa bales on the semi for a trip to a Dodge City feedlot. Randy's theory is that they were wishing he'd feed them those good alfalfa bales instead of the sudan ones that were in the feeder at that moment. 
But I know that they sometimes run to the fence to check out a passerby on a morning walk, too.
Whatever the reason, they made me smile. (Not getting the cattle and the tractor in the same photo frame didn't. Well, I got one, but it was blurry. That's what I get for hurrying!)