May Day

May Day

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Honor of Memorial Day

C. Melvin Fritzemeier, 10th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
My 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 as we approach this Memorial Day weekend, 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 Memorial 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 serve (or 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
Happy Memorial Day! 

Note:  This was updated from a 2012 Veteran's Day post. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Blueberry Almond Crumble Bread

Everyone needs a little red, white and BLUEberry for their Memorial Day weekend, don't you think? This recipe would be great for a breakfast treat, but, with its crumb topping and almond-flavored glaze, it could also double as a dessert offering for friends and family as they gather for the holiday weekend.

Randy is hoping I don't wait for a special occasion to make this quick bread again. Blueberries are his favorite fruit, and he is always happy when they appear in baked goods, too. Blueberries have been on sale at my local grocery store the past two weeks, but you could also use frozen berries with a slight adjustment to the recipe.

The crumb topping and glaze add additional flavor and pizazz to an already-tasty quick bread recipe. The original recipe said to use three mini loaf pans for this recipe. However, that filled them really full, especially by the time I added the crumb topping. I ended up with crumb topping on the bottom of the oven, so the next time I make this, I'll fill the loaf pans less full. If I don't think I have enough batter for a 4th mini loaf, I'll bake the extra in muffin tins or greased custard cups. That's just a word to the wise:  I wouldn't want you to have to clean your oven, like I did!
Blueberry Almond Crumble Bread
Adapted from Inside BruCrew Life
2/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup finely-chopped almonds
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

For Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1 tbsp. melted butter

For Glaze:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Beat together the oil, sugar, egg and extract until well blended. Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda and almonds. Slowly add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk to the sugar mixture until everything is combined. Stir blueberries gently into the batter. Spoon batter into 3 or 4 greased 5 3/4- by 3-inch loaf pans.

Topping: Stir together topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter in the pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes before turning bread out onto wire racks to continue cooling. Turn the bread back upright so the topping doesn't fall off. Cool completely before glazing.

Glaze: Stir together all the glaze ingredients, adding additional powdered sugar or liquid to make it the right consistency. Use a decorator tube to drizzle the frosting over the cooled bread. Let the glaze set up before putting in sealed containers for storage. Bread freezes well.
Recipe notes: 
  •  If you don't have buttermilk (and I usually don't!), put 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the bottom of a 1-cup measure. Fill with milk to the 1 cup line.
  • If fresh blueberries aren't available, you may use frozen blueberries. Combine frozen blueberries with an additional 2 teaspoons of flour before folding into the bread mixture. If you are using fresh berries, you don't need the additional flour.
  • This batter can also be baked as 16 regular-sized muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes.
  • I used 3 mini loaf pans for this recipe, as the original recipe called for. However, that filled them really full, especially with the crumb topping. I ended up with crumb topping on the bottom of the oven, so the next time I make this, I'll fill the loaf pans less full. If I don't think I have enough batter for a 4th mini loaf, I'll bake the extra in muffin tins or greased custard cups.
  • I doubled the recipe, which I often do when I'm already making a mess in the kitchen. This freezes well. I know that because I've already pulled some from the freezer to serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Love A Good Mystery - Usually

Kim's County Line photo from April 2012
I love mysteries. In fact, there's one on my bedside table right now. Maybe I should clarify: I love mystery books. However, when it comes to our wheat crop, I find the allure of the mystery less appealing. Maybe I'd opt for a love story: A beautiful seed germinates and then is coddled by perfect growing conditions until the full trucks drive off into the sunset toward the elevator. There's a fantasy for you (another book genre)!

Instead, a whole lot of uncontrollable factors affect the 9-month life cycle of wheat.
Sunrise photos from May 19, 2015. Seeing the sun was short-lived on Tuesday. I think it lasted about 15 minutes at sunrise and then we didn't see it the rest of the day!
After a dry fall and winter, our 2015 wheat crop got another good drink of water this past weekend. Here on the Stafford/Reno County line, we got a total of 1.40" last weekend. We got an additional 1.40" on Tuesday and overnight. More rain is in the forecast for this week. If truth is told, we'd like to bankroll a little of the rain for later in the summer.
The 2015 corn crop
The corn crop could use some sunshine after this nice rain. 
But, back to wheat: The 2015 Wheat Quality Council's Hard Red Winter Wheat tour traveled through Kansas earlier this month. Bushel per acre estimates for the tour were: Day 1, 34.3 bushels per acre; Day 2, 32.8 bu/acre; Day 3, 48.9 bu/acre. The 288.5 million bushel projection for the 2015 crop is higher than last year's tour prediction of 260 million bushels, but it's still below the state average.

Last year's actual production was 246.4 million bushels. The 2014 wheat crop suffered from severe drought stress due to lack of moisture throughout the growth stages and an overabundance of rain during harvest.

Ironically, heavy rains fell during much of the 2015 wheat tour. The 92 participants on the tour were getting their feet wet as they checked fields across the state, while still noting the short stature of the crop in many locations due to little moisture throughout the fall and winter.
Still, the rains did help with filling the wheat heads. And, at least around here, the plants also have grown taller after the spring rains, which should make it easier to combine in June.
There are other challenges to the 2015 crop, including stripe rust, wheat streak mosaic virus, barley yellow dwarf virus, winter kill and pest infestations such as aphids, according to Kansas Wheat. The moisture, at this stage, is a mixed blessing, since moisture increases disease pressure, especially in some wheat varieties.
We also have some wheat lying down in the fields because of the rain. As Randy says, the "upside" of that is that there is grain in the head. It happened last weekend, too, but with some sunshine and drying, it stood back up. We'll hope for the same outcome after this round of rain.

Yes, the 2015 crop is still a mystery. Just like any good "whodunit," we can have our theories about the ending. But, until we finish the last chapter, we won't have the answer.

For more on the Wheat Quality Tour, check out Kansas Wheat. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Peekaboo Flowers

Sometimes, I get blinded by the road before me. I'm hurrying to the next thing - whether that's picking up someone from the field or getting to town for a meeting. The dotted lines down the center of the blacktop can be hypnotizing - churning away the miles to get me to where I'm supposed to be.

Sometimes, I think it's my eyesight that fails me. I see the fluffy clouds dotting a bright blue sky, and I say a little prayer for that extra bit of beauty in my day. But the smaller things seem to elude my glasses-obscured peripheral vision.

That's when it's good to have a farmer who only needs glasses for reading. He sees some of those little things I miss. And he's good about sharing. Last week, he told me about some pretty purple blooms along the Raymond Road. He saw them while on a tractor, so it also put his line of sight above the CRP grasses. I had to go and see them for myself. 
Besides having an observant husband, I knew I could send a photo to my Master Gardener friend, Jeanie, and have the blossoms quickly identified. She says they are Dame's Rocket or hesperis matronalis, if you want to get all technical. Her seed catalog says that "hesperis" is Greek for evening, and the name was probably given because the scent of the flowers becomes more conspicuous towards evening. I can verify that, as I parked the car and waded through the ditch and downed tree limbs to see them up close.
This beautiful "crop" is likely at the site of an old farmstead. Jeanie says she's been seeing stands of these purple blossoms as she's delivered mail on rural routes in the last few weeks. 

Dame's rocket was brought from Europe in the 17th Century. In our neighboring Colorado, this member of the mustard family has been identified as a noxious weed (according to Wikipedia). I'm reminded of an A.A. Milne quote:
Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them. 
A.A. Milne
Author of Winnie the Pooh
They look like flowers to me. And beautiful ones at that.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Loving Leftovers

I personally don't mind having leftovers in the fridge. It simplifies the next meal or two. So, I guess I shouldn't mind having leftovers creep into my photo files either.

These were photos I took this spring that didn't make it into a blog post. But I decided they were worth another look anyway, since they provide a snapshot - literally - of what's been going on.
This first one just makes me smile. A cow looked ready to depart the cattle trailer for her summer vacation. "Open the door already!" she appeared to be telling us.
The next two were from the Palmer pasture. I shared photos from the Rattlesnake and the Ninnescah, but, for some reason, these didn't make the cut the first time around.
These ladies sure weren't complaining when we let them out of the trailer. They left their chauffeured ride without a backwards glance.

I always look at this trio of trees just before the pasture gate at the Ninnescah. They never disappoint - no matter the season.

"I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree." I sang a song based on that Joyce Kilmer poem at one of my first music festivals. I just didn't know how true I would find it throughout my lifetime. I love traveling through this tree-lined canopy on the way to and from the Rattlesnake pasture.

The wild mustard provided a scenic foreground to the pasture fence just south of our house. I'm glad I captured it, since the bright yellow flowers have faded now.

Since I take hundreds of photos, I am sure there are others hiding in plain sight. And that's OK. Sometimes, taking the photos opens my eyes to the beauty and blessings all around me - whether I share them or not. That thought was confirmed by a recent email devotional from Guideposts:

A Time to Act

Become more aware of the blessings that surround you.

A Time to Act

Oh, Lord, teach me to remember You in all things, every day of my life.

A Time to Pray

Creator God, thank You for the works of Your hand
that cry out the awesome truth of Your care for me.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Salted Caramel Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

I left "oatmeal" out of the title. But I think pretty much every other bar cookie ingredient is wrapped up in the title of these bars.

Yep, it has the new (relatively new) caramel-filled chocolate chips and caramel topping, plus peanut butter in the bar and in the frosting glaze. (You can use creamy or chunky peanut butter. Since chunky is what's in my cabinet, that's what I used.)

It has a sprinkle of coarse salt, if you're into that kind of thing. (If you're not, just leave it off.) I guess it would no longer be salted caramel, but that's OK, too.

And it has the ease of a bar cookie instead of standing there making drop cookies. Even my farmer, who isn't necessarily a PB fan, deemed these tasty. Put them on your list of treats to make for a Memorial Day gathering next weekend!
Salted Caramel Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Adapted from Inside Brucrew Life
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup caramel topping
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup quick oats
1 cup caramel-filled chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp. caramel topping
3 tbsp. milk
Coarse ground sea salt

For cookie bars:  Cream butter and the sugars. Add the egg, vanilla, peanut butter and caramel. Blend until well combined. Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture; mix well. Stir in oatmeal and caramel-filled chocolate chips. Spread in a prepared 13- by 9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 24 minutes. Don't overbake!

Cool for 5 minutes. Stir together glaze ingredients. Spread over hot bars. After completely cool, cut into 24 bars. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired, before serving.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Carriers of the Light

The sun was slowly saying goodbye to the day as we rode 4-wheelers across the Ninnescah River bridge. After a recent rain, Randy was checking to make sure the fence wire was still in place to keep the cattle where they were supposed to be.
As we again crossed the bridge to take the 4-wheelers back to the trailer, I glanced to my left and saw the sun playing hide and seek through the canopy of century-old trees. It was worth a detour to the cool, light-dappled path under the arms of the cottonwoods and elms.
FYI: HDR treatment on the photo
A few nights later, I was at our school's middle school and high school music concert. One of the songs sung by the 5th and 6th graders, Carriers of the Light by Jerry Estes, reminded me of that quiet scene.

I can get caught up in the daily to-do lists. Words can pierce the soul, many times unintentionally. Attitudes can falter in the crush of a life lived full-speed ahead. But I should be a carrier of Light instead of darkness.
Here are the words to the song. They resonate with me as graduates prepare to walk across high school and college stages this weekend. I should develop this kind of tunnel vision:

We are ignited, we are ablaze,
Burning with the fire of life.
We have invited you to this place,
To step into the circle of light.

We are carriers of the light,
Come to shatter the darkness.
We have power to pierce the night,
Carriers of the light.

Standing together shining our light,
There is no stopping us now.
Chasing the shadows into the night,
Overcoming darkness and doubt.

For when it touches you
When it sets you aglow,
The spark within your heart
will light the flame in your soul!
In case you'd like to listen, here's a children's choir rendition from YouTube. It might as well be stuck in your head, too!