Thursday, September 3, 2015
Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, even though I live about 45 minutes away. But I got to play tourist in my own backyard during the National Master Farm Homemaker Guild's convention last week. I joined farm women and their guests from Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky and throughout Kansas for meetings, fellowship and, yes, even some sightseeing at two of the 8 wonders of Kansas located right in Hutchinson, Kansas, less than an hour's drive away from our farm.
Randy had been to Strataca - with my parents. We can't figure out why I didn't go at the same time, but I suppose I had some other obligation that day.
I have a tendency toward claustrophobia, but once you're out of the elevator, the underground salt mine is vast. There's no feeling of being closed in. Though you don't see the salt particles in the air, they show up in the flash of the camera.
The museum is just a small part of the underground beneath Hutchinson, known as the Salt City. An early-day settler in the Central Kansas community discovered salt in 1887. The Permian Wellington Formation was formed about 275 million years ago when the Permian Sea dried up. One of the largest in the world, the extent of this bedded salt deposit is 27,000 square miles in central and south-central Kansas and is marginal to Permian Basin salt deposits in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and southeastern New Mexico that cover 100,000 square miles.
Today there are three salt companies in Reno County: Morton and Cargill operate brine evaporation plants and the Hutchinson Salt Company operates the original Carey rock salt mine in which Strataca is located. The Hutchinson Salt Company produces salt for treating roads in the winter. It's a different process than mining for table salt.
My farmer was most intrigued about how they get the machinery down to the mines. They literally have to break down the equipment, transport the pieces in the elevators and then put them back together once underground.
Besides salt production, the environment is perfect for underground storage, with its constant temperature and humidity. It's a lesson that was learned during World War II, when the Nazis hid artwork and valuables in the salt mines of Europe. It's the story told in the movie, The Monuments Men.
I had to take a picture of the boxes from Warner Brothers with the tapes from the television show, Friends, since I was touring the museum with my new farm friends from across the country.
After our tour, we had Hog Wild Pit BBQ while down in the mine and also got to hear Larry Hatteberg, the long-time news anchor at KAKE-TV, talk about some of the "characters" he met while doing the popular video series, Hatteberg's People. He reminded us that everyone has a story. It's a truth I've also found as a reporter and writer. And sometimes the best stories aren't grabbed from the news headline, but rather, from ordinary people ... like the ones we met during the convention.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
And when I got back there were 11. YES, 11!
Monday, August 31, 2015
A Time to Think
Some days there won't be a song in your heart.The tires clickety-clacked over the small wooden bridge. I'd been over it three times already, and each time, I turned to the left as I passed. A creek meandered through a pasture, and clouds dotted a blue August sky. It registered each time, but I didn't stop the car. I thought I didn't have time to dig through my purse and unearth the camera when I had another place to be.
–Emory Austin, motivational speaker
(From my email devotional from Guideposts)
–Emory Austin, motivational speaker
(From my email devotional from Guideposts)
But, on my final trip (for now), returning from Miller Seed Farm, I decided I'd stop. I looked both directions on the rutted dirt road and didn't see anyone coming. I wasn't going to block anyone's progress in a farm truck as it rambled to get seed wheat cleaned or force anyone to wiggle by me on the narrow road.
It was an uncharacteristically cool morning for August. As I stepped on the bridge and jockeyed around, trying to figure out the best angle, I heard the creek babbling under my feet as it made its way under the bridge, doing the Limbo under the fence and gurgling its way through the green grass-fringed banks. Birds sounded their own tune, and the grasses provided the gentle drum brush accompaniment. And I remembered the words of the devotional that I'd just read the day before:
Some days there won't be a song in your heart.
When I am distracted by my agenda or by my worries or by my disappointments or the latest farm breakdown, it's easy to forget to "sing." When I feel that way, it's easier to drive right by those everyday, ordinary gifts from God and hardly even notice the miracles right outside my window.
"It's a beautiful sunrise," my farmer told me.
So I left my computer and drove down the road. When I saw the sky, my first thought was of the hymn, "When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries! Let Jesus Christ be praised!"
And then, when I was editing the photos later, a simple children's Sunday School song drifted in my mind: "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for him each day. In every way try to please Him, at home, at school, at play. ... I'll be a sunbeam for Him."
When those dark clouds cover up my "sunbeam," I still need to remember to shine ... and sing.
|Taken as I delivered Randy to the tractor to bale. By the time I had gotten him there, the sun had almost sunk below the horizon.|
12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Friday, August 28, 2015
|I took this before I added the dressing to better show the ingredients.|
"No recipe. I will try and tell you what I did."Then, the next day, I got another email, saying:
"I think I forgot I also put in rinsed black beans and fresh corn that I cooked in the skillet for a few minutes."Back in another era, savvy cooks combined a pinch of this and a smidgen of that. I have a tendency to start with a recipe and then adapt from there. A recipe writer opts for unsalted butter: I invariably used salted. Another uses all butter for a drop cookie recipe, but I like the texture that shortening provides, so I substitute all or part.
This recipe for Chopped Salad is kind of like that. If you've just come home from a farmer's market and have fresh zucchini, by all means, chop up some and add it. Same goes for other fresh veggies. This could also be called a "mix and match" salad, I suppose.
For the dressing, Barb gave me some measurements and then terminology like "a splash of honey" and "a splash of vinegar."
She went to all the work to type it and then the recipe got buried at my house until this summer. I measured my splashes and then I lost the internet at home. So I carried my recipe notes to another location. And I lost them.
In her original recipe, Barb cooked chicken breasts on top of the stove. Since we are in the midst of grilling season, I grilled seasoned chicken, along with beef to serve to my cattleman. (I like beef, too, but I also like a change of pace once in awhile.)
The recipe makes a large amount, perfect for a potluck or family reunion. You can adjust the amounts downward if you're only serving a few.
This is not a low-cal salad. But it sure is yummy!
|I put both my serving and Randy's on a platter for illustration purposes!|
Recipe from Barb Sewing
4 chicken breasts cooked in non-stick skillet with butter, olive oil, salt and pepper
3 hearts of romaine, chopped
1 bunch green onions, diced
2 green, red or other colored peppers (or use the multi-colored baby peppers)
1 cup shredded cheese (use your favorite)
3 diced avocadoes
1 carton cherry or grape tomatoes (or chop up regular tomatoes)
1 cup rinsed black beans
2 cobs of fresh corn (or use frozen)
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. honey
Salt & pepper to taste
Half & half needed to thin the dressing
Cook the chicken breasts and set aside to cool. You may also season and grill chicken or steak. If you're using fresh corn, remove the kernels from the cobs and cook in the same skillet until tender. If you're using frozen, set it out to thaw while you are preparing the other ingredients.
Chop lettuce and other vegetables. Toss to combine.
Combine dressing ingredients, adding ingredients to taste and thinning with half and half. When ready to serve, stir the dressing into the salad and gently toss. Barb also stirred the cooled chicken into the salad. I served it separately. It's delicious either way. Serve immediately.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
|Sunrise, August 25|
It's been beautiful, almost like the sky is on fire. And unfortunately, the red sky at dusk and dawn has had fire as its source, according to meteorologists.
|Sunrise, August 25|
|Sunset framed by trees, August 24|
|Sunset, August 21. I wondered if the smoke made this sunset hazy.|
Pastor Nate has asked us to pray for a California church camp, Hume Lake, where he spent many happy summers. This long-time church camp has been threatened by wildfire. They are not alone. Prayers for those who've lost so much in the fires - even their lives - and for the safety of the firefighters combating the blazes.
It's a reminder to celebrate the small things every day. The small things often become the big things.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Farmers may store their own wheat and plant it for their next crop, but only for their own use. During harvest this summer, Randy saved two varieties: 1863 (a K-State Wheat Alliance release) and Cedar (a WestBred wheat variety). Each year, Randy has specific fields from which we harvest the seed wheat. Usually, he plants that wheat fairly close to the farm headquarters, where we have the capacity to store 2,100 bushels in on-farm storage in two different bins.
After the wheat came back from Miller Seed Farms, the guys hoisted the truck bed up and opened a hatch in the center of the truck bed, just raising it enough to let a slow, steady stream fall into the rubber trough.
Because Miller Seed Farms gets so busy closer to planting time, we schedule our wheat cleaning early. That way, it's ready to go when we are.
|Photo from 2013 wheat planting|
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
|Dolores Wagler, Photo from http://millerseedfarms.com|
Let's face it: I'm not cashing a paycheck every two weeks from my job as "office manager" on the County Line. So when Dolores, the office manager at Miller Seed Farms, chased me down and gave me a purple clipboard, I felt like I had just gotten a prize.
Randy had taken photos with his phone of our struggling alfalfa crop so he could get a replant rate on the seed cost. But I was the one that got them texted to owner LaVerne Miller's phone. Randy made a comment about being glad he brought his office manager and communications specialist to run the technology. And I joked that I hoped Dolores got paid more than I did for her office management duties.
We all laughed. But, after we left the office, Dolores brought me that purple clipboard while we were waiting on the guys to load the alfalfa seed. I wouldn't have liked a dozen roses any better. Don't get me wrong: My farmer definitely makes me feel valued (and I know I'm fortunate because of that. Not every farm wife feels that way). But it was still nice to have someone else acknowledge my contribution to the cause.
The clipboard wasn't the only customer appreciation freebie. Alongside the jars of wheat, customers can help themselves to a Lifesaver candy or a snack mix.
We've reserved KanMark (a K-State release) and WB 4458 (a WestBred variety) to plant for seed wheat this year. We'll go back to our friends at Miller Seed Farms at planting time to pick it up. Maybe I'll take my clipboard to keep track of the paperwork!
Next up: The cleaned and treated wheat goes back in the on-farm bins until we're ready to begin wheat planting in late September/early October.