Portrait in Ice

Portrait in Ice
January 2017

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Class of 2018: Bovine Edition

This photo taken Sunday, soon after the first baby of 2018 was born.
Welcome to the first arrivals of the Class of 2018! Our heifers were scheduled to begin calving on January 28. But, like human babies, due dates are not dictated by the calendar, but rather Mother Nature.

We have the 24 heifers in a corral near our house to make it easier to check the expectant mamas and with easy access to the calving shed, which we built a couple of years ago to replace a falling-down barn.

By definition, the heifers are expecting their first calves. Once upon a time, they were among the County Line's Class of 2016. Each year, we keep 25 of the female calves born to serve as replacement heifers for our cattle herd. (When the veterinarian did the preg checks in November, one of the 25 was scheduled for a very late arrival date, so she got pulled from the herd.)

We always schedule the heifers to calve first, since they require more frequent checks to make sure they can deliver without problems.

We try to alleviate as many problems as possible by using a bull which is expected to produce a lower birth weight baby. 
A baby girl was the first to arrive on Sunday, January 21. She got the first eartag of the year - No. 800. Each of the babies born during 2018 will get a tag that begins with an "8." As the cattle become "upperclassmen," it's easy to tell at a glance that they were born in 2018. That's especially important for the girls who will stay in our County Line herd. In a couple of years, No. 800 could be delivering a baby herself!
Number 801 is the first boy born this year. He took advantage of the comfier accommodations - hay rolled out in the corral for bedding.
The guys also freshened up the hay in the calving shed. Last night, the guys ran four heifers into the calving shed, mamas who Randy thought looked closer to calving. I always tease Randy about his cattleman prowess. Will a mama in the shed calve, giving credence to his observation skills?
This time, he was right! One of the mamas had a baby overnight - out of the wind and in the warmth provided by body heat in a small shed.
So far, the Class of 2018 consists of four members - all of whom arrived without help from the farmer.
Like that overused phrase from the movie Sunset Boulevard, the calves were "ready for their closeups." However, it won't be long before I'll need a video to keep up with their antics.
The forecast for the rest of the week shows warmer weather, perfect for calving. Let's hope the mamas agree and keep up the good work.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

On the Move

I was at the state fair last fall when a friend came up behind me and squeezed my backpack.

"OK," she said. "I was just wondering if you really carry your camera all the time."

Yes, I have my camera most of the time. It's the reason I had to pay a "fine" at a PEO meeting in which the member with the heaviest purse forked over money by the pound to the treasury.

Portability and convenience are why I don't use a fancy camera. I want one that I can stuff into a pocket or where I can hang a small camera bag around my neck to keep it protected while I'm on the 4-wheeler.

But let's get real:  The faithful few who read my blog or see my photos on Facebook are getting the highlights. I usually don't share the outtakes ... like these that accidentally got clicked as we've moved cattle a few times this fall and winter.
This is straight out of the camera. I didn't turn it for illustration purposes.
You'd have thought I would have learned my lesson about trying to take photos on the 4-wheeler while moving cattle. I had to replace a camera last March when it bounced out of my hand during a cattle drive. (Evidently, I'm a slow learner.)

I am ambidextrous. I write left-handed, though my penmanship is better than most with my right hand (as long as I go fairly slowly). I eat right-handed. I shoot or throw a ball left-handed. I prefer using right-handed scissors. I am fortunate because I can use both hands fairly interchangeably. But let's face it: The world is designed for right-handed people. 

Most days, I don't even think about the fact that a camera is designed for right-handed use. But when you want to use your right hand to click a camera at the same time you're using the throttle on a 4-wheeler, it just doesn't work.

You try holding a camera (or your camera phone) and taking a photo with your left hand by clicking the button on the right-hand side of the camera. Go ahead: I'll wait. ... Not so easy, right?

Then think about doing it while trying to get cattle to move the direction you want, whipping the 4-wheeler around to chase those that don't want to cooperate.

That's why I got a few lovely photos like this:
 Hey! At least you can see the cattle in the very corner of this one.
With as dry as it's been, the action shots are a bit clouded by dust anyway.
But mission accomplished: One set of cows is at Peace Creek ready for calving.
And, last week, we did one of our final moves in preparation for calving, which starts for the heifers at the end of this month. I took a photo before we started moving the cows off stalks and into the calving pasture south of our house.
But I didn't get a single in-the-heat-of-the-moment shot. I had to snap one while waiting for the guys to lower the electric fence instead.
We moved these cows to a different section of stalks earlier this month:
But it will take another move to get them nearer to the barn and corrals before calving begins.

Will the camera stay in my pocket? Probably not.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Read All About It!

My sister, Lisa, and I share some reading time
I don't need a contest to "make" me read.

I read for my sanity. Therefore, I read every day. Some days, it may not be much. I may read a few pages in bed before I fall asleep, and Randy tries to gently lift the book out of my hands while I startle awake and vow, "I was reading!" (Sorry Randy!)

(Darci, me and Lisa with our books:  I have no idea why Lisa and I are in our robes outside
I can't remember a time when I wasn't a library patron. My mom took us to the old library at the Pratt County Courthouse from the time we could toddle in on our own steam. It was exciting when the new library was built in Pratt. There was a whole room of children's books where I discovered Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I still love mysteries and thrillers today, and I have to believe those days of uncovering clues with them had to have laid an early groundwork for this love affair that's lasted all of my life.

I was a champion reader. And I have the certificate to prove it. When I was a third grader, I read 166 books. (Let's just say I didn't win any certificates for math.)

I got to go to the Peace Treaty pageant in Medicine Lodge one year after reading the most books in my age division during the summer reading program at the Pratt Public Library.

When I moved to Hutchinson for my first job after college, I lived a couple of blocks from the Hutchinson Public Library. One of my first Hutchinson errands was getting a library card. I think I've worn out three or four of them since 1979. I used to argue with the librarian about replacing them because I had my ID number memorized. Since that's how you get into the system to reserve books, I didn't want to learn a new number. The last time I got a new card, I switched the log-in to a non-numeric password. I don't know why this number-challenged brain didn't think of that earlier!
But, much as I love my Hutchinson Public Library, there are two other libraries which are "challenging" me this year as a reader. In January 2017, I saw an article by reporter in The Wichita Eagle, announcing a reading challenge, but I didn't join in. This year, I decided to try and meet the 2018 challenge in which The Eagle partners with the Wichita Public Library.

The categories are flexible, so readers can bend and twist them to meet their individual reading habits and goals. Here's a printable link I'm using to track my books.

 Here are the categories:
1. A library book
2. A detective novel or true crime book
3. A book about reading or writing
4. A book set somewhere you’ve never been
5. A book recommended/given/loaned to you by a friend
6. A book with an animal on the cover
7. A graphic novel
8. An essay or short story collection
9. A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you
10. A book about a topic in the news
11. A book published the year you were born
12. A book by an author slated to visit Wichita in 2018

I predict the hardest category for me will be the graphic novel, so if you have suggestions, let me know. (Of course, that would fit in the No. 5 category, too.)
Stained glass window at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford
Then, last week, there was an article in The Stafford Courier, announcing an adult reading challenge at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library, our public library in Stafford. The Stafford library is undergoing a revival. (For more history and photos from the Stafford library, check out this link to an old blog post.)

And while I know that I won't give up going to the Hutchinson Public Library - where, just like the TV show Cheers, they know me by name - I do need to do a better job of visiting and using my local library.

The first challenge for Stafford is reading a book from the library about Kansas, appropriate during this month when we celebrate Kansas' statehood. Other categories are one Western, one Mystery, one Biography and one "you choose." For my first book, I picked up "What I Love About Kansas," a collection of essays.

It's not my usual read. And that's probably the point. Having these categories urges me out of my comfort zone. I guarantee that it's not going to keep me from reading the books I want to read. When Jodi Picoult or Lee Child or Jonathan Kellerman or a host of other favorite authors have a new book out, I'll be putting my name on the reserve list at the library. If it doesn't fit into a "category" I have left, it doesn't matter to me.

But broadening my horizons is a good thing. Want to join me? At the very least, give me some ideas of books you recommend - whether they fit the criterion or not! I think part of the reason I joined the #ReadICT Challenge Facebook page is so I could see what other people are reading and get ideas!

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/entertainment/books/article191923794.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Skipping Light at Quivira

On a cold winter evening, it was as if the heavens were "skipping light" instead of "skipping stones" across the surface of the ice at Little Salt Marsh at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
After several days of Kansas being in the "deep freeze," ice covered much of the surface of the water. As the sun sank, I watched the scene subtly shift, moment by moment.
We were at the spillway at the Little Salt Marsh, and even though much of the surface was frozen, we could hear the rush of water as it pushed underneath the surface and into another pond.

I thought about working my way down the rocky shore to the water's edge. But I decided that a view from above was better than breaking a bone or my camera. The view was just fine where I was ... even spectacular ... as I watched the colors of the sunset mimicked - though muted - on the icy surface, like fabric left too long in the sun.
As we drove away from that location, I asked Randy to stop a few hundred yards away at a place where I knew I could easily make it to shore.
Friday, January 5, 2018 (this photo and all those above)
But, by that time, the sun had already set, so it was no longer sparkling like diamonds across the ice. Still, it was beautiful in a subtle, less flashy way.
Saturday, January 6, 2018
We went back the next day, but by sunset, the skies were overcast. Again, there was no light skipping across the icy surface, though the beauty was undeniable, all the same.
Saturday, January 6, 2018
Sunday night, we decided to test the theory of "third time's the charm." It was.
January 7, 2018 - This photo and all those below
I kept thinking of the Rihanna song which has that line that says, "shine bright like a diamond."

Earlier in the day, Pastor Nate gave an Epiphany message at church. January 6 - Epiphany - marks the end of the Christmas season or Christmastide in Western churches. Epiphany Day marks the observance of the arrival of the wise men and celebrates that the Light of the World - Jesus Christ - came to the Earth to live among us.
During the service, Pastor Nate played a recording of his son, Philip, lyrically reading a piece by poet B. Kevin Smalls:

“Spoken Word” by B. Kevin Smalls
Seemingly, the darkness has been so thick
not quick to trust anything resembling light
Might be a trick...and tricks don't always
lead to a treat, so I retreat in the darkness
hoping, slightly, ever so lightly that
my deepest fears will submit to the changing
of dark gears leading to light years of praise
and adoration.

Then, the light is not found, seemingly,
in the measure of the day but the Way
the voice appeared...it was the light
and life to all people and there was
no equal to its clear and present
demand.  I can, I believed. I can rise
right along with the sun.

Darkness is for lying down, laying down, hanging
around, pretending to be asleep.  All the
while the light slowly creeps between the
cracks in the blinds...which are unsuccessful
in stopping the invitation...to liberation...
arise, shine, the light has come...
arise, shine the light has come…

I remembered the message as the sun sank below the horizon and all that was left were the call of coyotes and the sound of birds as they took cover for the night on refuge waterways.
The warmer day had started the melting process at the refuge, creating a sort of "freeway" of paths across the surface of the waterway. And I thought about how each of us comes from a different place and takes a different path as we work to carry the light of Christ into the world. 

Being in God's beautiful world was the perfect benediction ... and an epiphany.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A WILD Birthday!

We had a WILD time last weekend - and I'm not talking about New Year's Eve. On the eve of the Eve, we celebrated Kinley's 6th birthday!

Kinley loves animals, so she had her "kid party" at the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan.
She chose a unicorn ensemble for her party wear. Her little sister fit right into the zoo atmosphere with a cheetah print. (Brooke was all smiles for this photo. However, it was sometimes hard to not be the birthday girl, but she did pretty well overall!)
When Jill scheduled the party, Kinley chose the the zoo's otters for her enrichment activity. However, the zoo called and said it was too cold for otters. So the partygoers got to create an enrichment activity for Vlad the Amur Leopard.
Kinley got help from Brooke and her cousin Hannah to decorate a cardboard box. Others of her friends decorated a couple of other boxes. Each box had a different scent to tempt Vlad. Kinley chose cinnamon, and the other two boxes were dosed with cayenne pepper and Old Spice spray.
The zoo keeper put the three boxes in Vlad's enclosure, and the partygoers watched to see which Vlad would choose. He opted for the cinnamon scent - the birthday girl's box. (It probably had more to do with the meat that the keeper added, but the suspense was still palatable among the 6-year-old party set!)
Kinley could also choose an animal for an indoor up-close-and-personal encounter. She could have chosen a snake. (No way, she said!) She considered a rabbit and a possum. But in the end, she chose an armadillo.
I think the deciding factor was that it could play in a wading pool of colorful balls. For the record, the three-banded armadillo was smaller than its "cousins" that tear up our farmyard. The zoo assistant guessed that our "in the wild" armadillos have nine bands.

Kinley kept with the animal theme and chose a panda donut from Varsity Donuts for her breakfast treat. A candle-studded donut is among the birthday traditions at their house. They also decorate the special girl's bedroom door with streamers. However, her parents were not thrilled that she exited the streamer-decorated door at 4 AM! (She did go back to sleep ... but it's so exciting to be 6!)
She had cupcakes at the zoo, but her choice for birthday treat was an Oreo Cheesecake made by her Mommy. (Cheesecake is her Daddy's favorite, so it must be in the genes. And our little family Christmas featured an Oreo Cheesecake, so she knew just what kind she wanted!)
It's an unusual choice for a 6 year old, but we adults weren't complaining.
Her cousins and sister weren't necessarily fans of the cheesecake, but no one went hungry with plenty of pizza, salad and a snack mix with animal crackers (iced and un-iced),  Very Berry Cheerios, marshmallows and pretzels.
Getting a decent photo of all of them was like Christmas Eve deja vu.
For her zoo party, Kinley had her friends bring gifts for the Manhattan animal shelter. But she got plenty of gifts from family.
She wasn't the only one to enjoy the new presents. It's good that Grandma and Grandpa put "Doctor Ladd" on the veterinarian coat. That way, two little animal doctors can treat their menagerie of stuffed animals.

It's hard for me to believe that Kinley is 6. Though her due date was January 11, she "crashed" our family's Christmas celebration 6 years ago. That's my kind of party crasher.

At age 6, Kinley ...
  • loves kindergarten.
  • wants to be a dolphin trainer.
  • loves drawing and crafting.
  • is starting to read.
  • is a rule follower (she is first-born after all)!
  • is sometimes a little shy in new situations. 
  • loves her family. 
Photo by Kim Adair Photography, Topeka
 And we love her! She is a blessing!