Frozen Swing

Frozen Swing

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's a Small, Small World

Photo by Leowang1995, posted in Wikipedia

When I was in fifth grade, my family went to Disneyland during Christmas break. I distinctly remember riding the boats in the "It's A Small World" attraction. The characters from around the world twirled and sang one of those songs that just gets stuck in your head:
 It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It's a small world after all ...

 I've been having the same feeling lately as random emails have arrived in my in-box. Here's one:
Hello! I saw the photo of the girl on a fence, overlooking a paddock. She wears pink, shiny, fringed chaps. My 4-year old granddaughter Charlotte is more horse-crazy than I was at that age.

I absolutely need to get a pair of those chaps for her. I've surfed thru so many sites and can't find them. Do you know from where those chaps can be purchased?

Any info you can give me will be greatly appreciated!!!

Thank you!
I thought I recognized the little girl, but the blog post about the Stafford Rodeo was from July 2010. So I did a little detective work, and yes, I had the right Stafford family. I used Facebook to message our cowgirl's mama, who just happened to still have the chaps. Long story short (or at least shorter than the 11 emails it took), the mom sold the chaps to the grandma and they were soon on their way to Duluth, Minnesota, to make another little cowgirl happy. Don't you love happy endings? I do!

CJ, the chap purchaser, lives just six blocks from Lake Superior and has four grown children, eight grandchildren and one great grandson. I'm now her Facebook friend, too.

My next out-of-the-ordinary blog reader was half a world away - Nitin, a farmer in India. He wrote:

I think your blog is awesome

I am sending some pics of my farm land with wheat and vegetable crop.

I am looking forward for association and opportunities of farming in USA and India.

Happy Farming
He sent this photo of his wheat field in India.

Also through the blog, I got an email from a University of Nebraska student, asking for help in finding people for a heat management survey in tractors and combines. I shared the survey with a Farmer's Wife group on Facebook. I hope it helped her out.

These were more unusual emails. But, through blogging, I've developed friendships with bloggers from all over the U.S. and the world, including Lynda, the Country Mum who posts a photo from their Australian farm each day at Farm-ily. There's Buttons at Buttons Thoughts from Canada and Robyn from The Ranch Wife Chronicles in South Dakota and Cheri from the scablands of Washington at My Ranch Life. Those just scratch the surface of the people who have become friends across the miles by commenting on each other's blog posts.

As I wrote last year, my photography has shown up on Facebook and sprinkled through the internet, including this May Day basket. Jill's family ended up on a K-State promotion for the Vanier Football complex.

But there can be a dark side to it, too. Besides the greetings from Minnesota and India the past month, I had an email from someone who thought one of my photos was being used by a person for nefarious purposes:
My name is Sue, and I found your blog in a very unusual way - a Google reverse image search.

Long story short - I have an acquaintance who I believe is being catphished by someone online. (Catphishing is when a person makes up an online persona with fake pictures and details in order to lure others into relationships with them.)  Because I believe this to be true, I used some of the images that the person posted as their own online and reverse image searched them on Google.

I am not saying you did anything!! I think someone found your image and used it as their own in order to keep up the ruse of their online persona - and if you could just give me some info on that photo - like if you took it yourself and when, that would help me prove to this acquaintance that somebody is using other people's stuff to trick him.

I'd like to reiterate that I don't think you are doing anything weird - I think someone used your photos, and just wanted to have some proof for my friend to help him see what's happening.
I wrote her back, telling her when and where I took the photo. I hope it helped her friend.

The internet is an amazing place. It can be used to build friendships and connections. But it can also be used in less reputable ways. I suppose that's true of life in general. It just is magnified by social media.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Heartbreak and Hallelujahs

Sometimes, farming breaks your heart. This mama cow lost her calf to cold temperatures over the weekend. Despite Randy checking the pastures frequently because of the snow and cold, her baby didn't survive the frigid wind chills overnight.

Randy put the calf into the back of the pickup to take it away. Now, every time we come into the pasture, she follows the pickup around. We can hear her bawling from the house. It just doesn't seem fair that such a good mama lost her baby. But that is life - and death - on a farm.
We didn't get the 6 inches of snow that some meteorologists were forecasting. The snow we did get was fairly dry, so it likely won't help the wheat crop too much. We were glad to miss the sleet that had been forecast for Sunday.

The snow did make for chilly rounds during the Saturday checks of the heifers and the cows. Besides the death in the pasture south of the house, we had another heifer calve and two other live births from cows.
Several of the calves huddled down in the hay to get warm.
Others got out of the wind in the dried prairie grasses.
Still others stayed closed to their mamas.
Nothing like warm milk on a chilly day, right?
By Sunday evening, most of the snow had melted. That was OK with us. I'm guessing it was OK with the cattle, too.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Snowflakes & Seasons

Taken Saturday afternoon

A Time to Think

The wonder of a single snowflake outweighs
 the wisdom of a million meteorologists.
–Sir Francis Bacon, philosopher

When I say "the four seasons," some may think of a singing group and others about a famous hotel. But I think about Kansas. The weekend's snow gave me a chance to capture the beauty of the winter season at Peace Creek.

The snow provided some Andrew Wyeth-painting-worthy scenes as we went to check cattle Saturday after lunch. Even though we didn't get the deluge of snow that the meteorologists were predicting, it gave me the chance to add to my four seasons photo portfolios.

As I posted last month, I added a snow scene to one of my favorite Manhattan locations. But, upon reflection, I realized I probably had more local four seasons shots in the literally thousands of photos I have on the computer.

In this Peace Creek montage, I am again one season short of the "full house" or, in this case, a full "creek." (For locals, this is the view from the bridge at 4th Street Road,  just east of the county line.)

To my winter scenes from the weekend ...
These two were taken late afternoon on Sunday.
 I can add the goldenrod-framed shot from the fall ...

... and a pastoral scene from August for my summer scene.
Spring is coming, even though it doesn't seem much like it after this weekend of snow and cold. And I'll be ready - in more ways than one!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cheesy Taco Soup

Watching the weekend weather forecast has me scrambling for soup recipes. We may get 3 to 6 inches of snow, along with "a wintery mix." A warm bowl of soup after checking for new babies in the pasture sounds like the perfect wintertime weekend meal.

This Cheesy Taco Soup recipe has been on my radar for quite some time, since Jill recommended it. I already have a go-to, just-open-the-cans Taco Soup recipe from Eric's mom, Christy. So trying a new taco soup moved to the back burner, so to speak. But it had "cheesy" in the title, so how could I resist for long?

Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese stirred into a buttery roux sauce added just the right flavor and dimension to the soup. To serve, I added a sprinkle of chopped cilantro for color and flavor, along with the Frito chips. You can also sprinkle with more cheese, if desired.

Serve it up with fresh veggies and/or fruit, and a wintertime feast is ready in no time at all!

I'd be all right with having the soup on the menu and doing without the accompanying "wintery mix."
Cheesy Taco Soup
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (or minced onion to taste)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
Salt & pepper
1 cup freshly shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 10-oz. can Rotel, undrained
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
Fritos chips or crushed tortilla chips (opt)
Cilantro, minced (opt)
Additional grated cheese (opt)

Brown ground beef and onion in a medium soup pot over medium-high heat until no longer brown, adding salt and pepper to taste. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, then stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 1 cup milk; season with salt and pepper, and stir until mixture is thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese until smooth. Set aside.

To the browned hamburger in the soup pot, add taco seasoning, Rotel, black beans, cheese sauce and remaining 1 1/2 cups milk. Stir well to combine. Bring to a heavy simmer, then turn heat down to medium and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle into soup mugs and top with Fritos, minced cilantro and additional grated cheese, if desired.

Need other soup ideas for this cold winter weekend? Here are some other tried and true recipes from The County Line.


(Copycat version of The Olive Garden recipe)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Seeing Double?

Randy has been seeing double in the cattle pastures and corrals. But he just might need glasses. (It's usually me whose eyesight is sketchy.)

One day, he called the house and told me there was a set of twins in the heifer corrals. To help them bond, he fastened the gate and left the two babies to nurse with the mama while he went to check other locations.

I decided to go out and document the arrival of the first set of twins for 2015. But, when the calves quit nursing and turned toward me, I made a discovery. I called my Farmer.

"Ummmm ... Did one of the calves come ready-made with an ear tag? I teased him.

It seems little No. 507 was an interloper, eating an afternoon snack from a substitute mama. She obliged. Sometimes, mamas aren't so accommodating, especially heifers. 
But it's this little baby - her "blood" - that later got the loves and nuzzles.
We had another "twin sighting" in the pasture south of our house. Randy saw two calves with very similar facial markings hanging around a mama.
We sat in the pickup and watched the trio for awhile. And, on closer inspection, one calf was larger than the other. And the mama definitely preferred the smaller calf and head-butted the other one away when he tried to nurse.
This pair "matched up" and the other calf eventually found its way back to its real mother. 
I must agree with Randy: The calves had more "family resemblance" with one another than with the mama. (The photo below shows the interloper.) See? The two babies could definitely be siblings.
But, if you're about to lose confidence in Randy's cattleman status, we did have a true set of twins.
However, as sometimes happens with twins, the heifer mama claimed one and didn't want to have anything to do with the other.
The claimed calf got the No. 515 ear tag.
Little No. 516 was racing around, trying to scavenge milk from different mamas. So No. 516 went to live with a Corn Valley 4-Her. Katie will give it a good home and then use it for a 4-H project. (Unfortunately, I was at a meeting when Katie and her family came to pick up the calf, so there are no photos of the introduction.)

Katie got a good price on a baby calf, and Randy didn't have to mess with bottle feeding an orphan. It was a win-win.
And his cattleman reputation remains intact - despite some unwarranted twin sightings. Big foot sightings? Crop circles? Alien landings? Nope, here on the County Line, we have twin sightings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Breaker, Breaker! Come In, Songbird!

This is a summer shot of the windmill tower. Right now, it's wearing its winter drab look. 
We have the world's tallest plant stand in our backyard. It didn't start out as a way to hold up our overgrown trumpet vine. In its former industrious life, the tower held a windmill, which pumped out water for the farmstead. But that was long before we moved here nearly 30 years ago.

For years, we used the tower to boost our television antenna above our tree-lined farmyard. But, with a satellite dish, it no longer serves that purpose, though the hardware still hangs there.  It also held up the antenna for the business band radio that we used to communicate on the farm. 

A couple of weeks ago, Randy took the business band radio out of his pickup. He hadn't used it for a couple of years, and it was just taking up space on the pickup's floor board. The move was likely prompted by a nice, warm afternoon and a fresh memory of trying to work around it as he used the pickup for a "spa" for a cold baby calf. (It was also not the best footrest for the middle rider in the pickup cab. Yes, I speak from personal experience.)
For years, the business band radio was the way we communicated during the day. Cell phones weren't in everyone's pocket. (I know it's hard to believe!) Instead, we had base radios in our house and in Melvin & Marie's house. The tractors, pickups and other farm vehicles had mobile radio units, and we could talk back and forth.

I always take credit for moving the Fritzemeier men from hand signals to radios. It was a survival tactic for a newlywed farm wife. Though hand signals likely predated smoke signals, they are not the ideal communication tool for conveying a message (though men might disagree). Why not tell me what you want me to do rather than signal 100 yards away? My eyesight is just not that good to begin with!
As a child, we had CB radios on our Pratt County farm. Just like the truckers, we had our CB handles. Mine was Songbird. My Dad, who was born on April 1, was April Fool. My mom was Gadabout; Lisa was Candy Cane; and Darci was Doodle. Kent, the youngest, was Captain Kid. My grandparents also had CB handles. My Grandpa and Grandma Leonard were Tiger Lily and Handyman, respectively. Former K-State football player Grandpa Neelly was Wildcat and Grandma Neelly's name included "Rose," but nobody remembers the rest of it. (Thanks to my siblings for help in remembering all the names.)

My folks then converted to business band radios when that technology was available, and the CB handles were no more. And, yes, back then, business bands were considered new technology.

When I became a Fritzemeier back in 1981, I campaigned for adding the business band radios. We had a radio frequency assigned to us so that we didn't hear everyone else's chatter. It wasn't exclusive, however, so we did hear radio transmissions from a farm about 20 miles away. Truth be told, eavesdropping on each other's farm foibles forged a friendship that's still in place today. We were less thrilled to listen to a custom cutting crew who flooded the airwaves with constant chatter ... and the occasional cuss word. 
The radios were used for everything from figuring out meal delivery to calling a "taxi" service as we moved from field to field. If the truck died on its way back from the elevator during wheat harvest, I keyed the mike and sent out my SOS to Randy or my father-in-law. Marie and I made plenty of phone calls to parts stores, serving as middlemen to try and communicate what the guys needed from the parts counter.

But the next phase of technology - cell phones - made the radios less relevant. Randy could make his own parts calls now. (That works OK unless the cell signal is sketchy, which is sometimes a problem at some of our fields.)

Now, to remove the business band base from my kitchen. I have plenty of cookbooks I can put it its place!
It's hard to imagine what the next breakthrough in communication will be. I know this farm girl from South Central Kansas never envisioned carrying a phone around in her pocket as she drove wheat trucks during harvest.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Snowy Sunday

The cattle in the background were using the trees as a windbreak from the north wind on Peace Creek.
Sunday was a day not fit for man or beast. But because we have "beasts" who rely on us, man (and woman) were out in the cold to check on mamas and babies.
I don't know how we got so lucky, but we didn't have any baby calves born yesterday. The babies already on the ground found plenty of ways to keep snuggled up and warm.
Number 503 was playing hide and seek in the feeder - and keeping warm at the same time.
These calves nestled down into the fresh straw the guys spread in the corral before the snow started.
 While mama ate, this calf had a snooze in the hay that littered the ground from the feed bunks. 
While the barn has seen better days, it does provide some shelter for cows and calves. During Randy's early morning check, he found several pairs inside the barn. After church, several babies were still inside the barn (though, in the photo, you only see the mama peering out into the falling snow).
The babies also get warmed up with milk on demand. Nothing like something warm in your belly to help feel all warm and comfy.
The farmer had to wait until after the cattle check to get something warm in his belly - our typical Sunday waffle lunch!