Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mini BBQ Cheddar Meatloaves

Meatloaf shouldn't be the punch line for a bad joke. Comedians are always bad-mouthing meatloaf. I think they are misguided. Or maybe they just haven't had the right meatloaf.

I recently tried a mini meatloaf recipe that Jill & Eric had recommended. Kinley wasn't sold, but she's 3. The recipe is from Iowa Girl Eats, one of Jill's and my favorite food blogs.

What makes it different than any other meatloaf recipe? Well, for one, it uses a recipe. I usually don't when it comes to meatloaf. Secondly, it uses caramelized onions in the mix. Kristen thinly sliced her onions, but Jill suggested chopping them, so that's what I did. The taste of the caramelized onions adds another whole layer of flavor. Thirdly, it incorporates sharp Cheddar cheese. Cheese makes everything better, in my book.

The meatloaves are shaped and put on a foil-covered baking sheet. Be sure and spray the foil with cooking spray for easy removal. Since the crunchy bits are my favorite part of meatloaf, I loved having extra "crispies" around each individual loaf. Yum! 

I doubled the recipe and put half of them in the freezer to pull out on a busy day. It also made enough for leftovers, always a winner in my book.

When I was a little girl, my mom usually make baked potatoes and baked beans to go along with meatloaf. I still love that combination. But this time, I served it with Brussels sprouts and crescent rolls from my freezer. These mini BBQ Meatloaves are yummy - no matter what you serve on the side!
Mini BBQ Cheddar Meatloaves
Serves 4
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats blog

1 large sweet onion
1 tbsp. butter
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg, whisked
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. BBQ sauce, divided
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Pepper to taste
2 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Chop onion and caramelize in butter in skillet, stirring every couple of minutes until onions are golden brown; don't burn. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, combine ground beef, egg, Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce, panko bread crumbs, dash of pepper, cheese cubes and caramelized onions. Mix until just combined. Divide mixture into 4 equal-sized portions, then form into loaves on a foil-lined, nonstick-sprayed baking sheet. Spread 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce over each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes or until no longer pink in the center.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Has Sprung: Wordless Wednesday

It's beginning to look like spring at the County Line. Much as it pains this wordsmith to say so, these beauties don't need words. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Down a Different Road

When there are more than 6,600 head of cattle going through a sale ring, it takes awhile. So we took a break during the action at Pratt Livestock and took a detour to the Pratt County Lake.
The Ninnescah River
We had our walking shoes and some time. It was a nice change of pace - so to speak - from my winter walks on the treadmill or on the gravel roads of the County Line.
Even though it's my home county, it had been years since I'd been at the Pratt County Lake.
We weren't the only creatures enjoying the lake on a sunny, early spring day.
And though the colors still seemed more like winter than spring, the warm day was a nice prelude to the season.
There's beauty in all seasons and in all places, if we just open our eyes.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Imposter

  Jim Richardson, National Geographic Photographer. Photo from www.nationalgeographic.com

As I walked into the Kansas Department of Agriculture building on Kansas Ag Day, I felt like an imposter. A few weeks before, I had gotten an email, inviting me to a workshop with Jim Richardson, a photographer for National Geographic. They were only accepting 20 reservations. By the time I saw it in my inbox on my phone screen, 14 of the slots had already been filled. 

I knew I didn't have time to be my usual indecisive self, so I filled out the form on my iPhone and I clicked submit. My spot was reserved! But then the doubt started creeping in. "What possessed me to think I should take a spot from some "real" photographer?" When I got the official "You're in!" email from the Department of Ag, it said to bring my camera. And then my stomach really started to churn.

All the way to Manhattan, I worried about having to dig my camera out of my purse and reveal that I use a point and shoot camera. Yep, they had invited the most amateur of amateurs to get advice from a National Geographic photographer.

But, thankfully, they didn't frisk me at the door and toss me out on my ear before the presentation ever began. And while I will likely never be able to use many of the tips Richardson gave, I'm still glad I went. 

Like me, Richardson grew up in rural Kansas. Like me, he has a degree from K-State and worked on The Collegian while a student, he in photography and me in editorial. But, unlike me, he has a portfolio of breathtaking photos from around the world. I just do my best to tell the story of our Kansas farm and family through commentary and camera clicks on this blog.

The workshop group was diverse. There were a few professional photographers. Another works with 4-H photographers. There was one other blogger. One worked for K-State Extension. Some worked for organizations like Kansas Wheat, The High Plains Journal and Kansas! magazine. Some incorporate photography into their corporate jobs.

When Richardson talked about the essential items in his camera bag, the professional photographers were nodding. That part may have flown over my head. But as he talked about telling stories through photography, it resonated with me and everyone else in the room.

"If I am ever known for any quote on photography, I'd say this:  Stand in front of more interesting stuff," Richardson told us at the workshop. "Research does matter. Doing your homework is the fastest way to make you a better photographer." 

Before he travels to Orkney or Stonehenge or some other far-flung spot, he Googles those places and looks at the photographs that come up. 

"I see what's been shot before. I see the standard shots. And I don't do that. I want the image that keeps the reader turning the page for the rest of the story."

He tries the shot from different angles until he has a unique perspective. Sometimes that means putting a camera up on a pole. Sometimes, it means lying on the ground and shooting up. Sometimes, it means hiring an airplane for an hour or two (If you are able to do that, Richardson recommends hiring a flight instructor with a high-wing Cessna. Not just any plane will do because you have to be able to shoot the scene without getting the airplane in the frame.) 

Other advice:
  • Look for geometric patterns in the scene for interest.
  • Look at light. A couple of flashlights focused on the scene can provide a focal point. (I imagined asking Randy and Jake to stop what they were doing to hold flashlights to illuminate a photo. I don't think I'll hold my breath, but I'm still trying to figure out how I could do it on my own.)
  • Shoot lots of frames. Somewhere in all of those camera clicks is the right photo. (He shoots 30,000 to 40,000 frames for each National Geographic story.) As Randy says, he's glad for my move to digital photography. Developing film on all the frames I shoot would cost prohibitive - not to mention storing all the finished photos!
  • Make connections with the people you're photographing. He says he follows the advice of photographer Dave Harvey who says, "I go someplace. I make a life for myself. Then I photograph my life." 
I may not be photographing Easter Island or Scotland like Richardson. But I am photographing my life. So I guess I'll keep doing that - even if it is with just a measly point and shoot camera.
For more on Jim Richardson's photography, check out his website. He lives in Lindsborg, Kansas, and has the Small World gallery there.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture has a photo contest each summer. Watch their Facebook page for details, which should be available soon. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


Tradition [truh-dish-uhn]
1. the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice

As I looked over into Section EE of the Hutchinson Sports Arena last night, I remembered my in-laws. That was Melvin and Marie's reserved spot for the National Junior College Athletic Association men's basketball tournament. 

It was tradition. 

My sister-in-law, Kathy, shared this on her Facebook page Wednesday night:
Every year, my parents attended the NJCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Hutchinson. This was a big deal to them. Mom would go shopping for new spring outfits, get her hair done, etc. They enjoyed talking to the people around them each year (same people every year!). Dad read about the players and told stories about them. I can't help but think how excited they would have been to attend this year's tournament. The Hutch men made it into the tournament (so did the women, but that is in Salina), and Amanda will be cheering tonight. Dad would have told everyone around him at the game, everyone at coffee that morning, basically anyone he came in contact with, that his granddaughter was cheering at the tournament!! I will be thinking of them tonight, and they will be smiling down from Heaven.
feeling blessed.
The Blue Dragons played again last night in the tournament. And Amanda had someone else bragging about her at Joan's Restaurant in Stafford yesterday morning. Uncle Randy told everyone who'd listen that he was going to the NJCAA tourament to see his niece cheer for the home team. 

Even though the Blue Dragons lost, it was worth the trip to see Amanda - and to remember.
There's NJCAA tradition on both sides of our family. For as long as I can remember, my parents have had tournament tickets. Back in the days before automatic ticket renewal, my Dad would camp out with other Pratt County basketball enthusiasts to score tickets for the national tournament. The tournament has been at the Sports Arena since 1952.

Last night, as I walked down the northwest corner aisle of the Sports Arena, my Dad was in his seat, basketball program and pen in hand.
Some of the red seats in that corner of the arena are noticeably empty. I could almost see Bill Kenworthy's cowboy hat hunched over his program as he orchestrated friendly wagers among the Coats cowboys, as we used to call them. And while he, like Melvin and Marie, is gone, other faces from that part of Pratt County remain. And they've brought the next generation of basketball fans with them, with kids and grandkids in the seats beside them.

Years ago, this group of ranchers jerry-rigged brackets so they could perch televisions on the metal railing in front of them. From their Sports Arena seats, they could watch the Juco players on the court, while keeping up with the NCAA action on their TV screens.

Last night, there was one screen there, but it seemed miniscule compared to the bulky TVs from the "olden days." Last night, there were probably dozens of people streaming NCAA games on their smart phones. But it's just not the same.

We were glad to be there to see Amanda's final cheer at the Sports Arena. We've enjoyed being close enough to see her cheer at some football and basketball games the past two years. She and her squad will head back to Salina today to continue to cheer on the Lady Dragons in the national tournament there. And she hopes to cheer somewhere else as she continues her education next year.

Like hand springs across the Sports Arena floor, the memories tumbled their way into our hearts and minds. And it was good.
I wish I'd gotten one of her longer tumbling runs. But this is the best this amateur videographer could do!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kansas Ag Day: Years in the Making

Today is Kansas Agriculture Day. I'm posting a story about selling feeder cattle last Thursday. But, in reality, the story is about much more than one day selling cattle. The story began when Randy was in high school. He bought a cow, and it produced a calf each year. Then, when he was a junior at K-State in 1977, he bought 35 cows and began renting the Ninnescah pasture, where we still take cow-calf pairs each spring. It was the true beginning of his cow-calf herd.

Much the same, the journey with this crop of feeder calves didn't start and end on one day in March. The calves were born on the County Line more than a year ago, and we have been caring for them ever since. The sale ends one chapter, but the next one has already begun with a new crop of 2015 calves. It also continues with 25 sisters to the yearlings we sold last week. Those 25 heifers will be producing part of our 2016 calf crop.

So the legacy continues. Every day is Ag Day around here, whether we're doing farm work or living everyday life in a rural Kansas community.
Cattle buyers had their phones molded to their ears with just about as much ferocity as teenage girls gossiping about the new boy in school. They pulled the phones from their Wranglers and wedged them underneath their cowboy hats as they took call after call, matching cattle with feedlots' needs.

We were at Pratt Livestock last Thursday to sell 73 feeder cattle.  

According to the sing-song chant of the auctioneers, the buyers undoubtedly were searching for "fussy and fancy heifers" and "green steers."

"There's power in the blood, boys," the auctioneer warbled, touting their lineage. "Look at the length on them, and their bigger sisters are coming right behind them."

The cattle turned in circles in the sale ring, reminding me of my hubby and me at a wedding dance, staying in our own little box.
"We have 7,700 of the best stocker and feeder cattle in the world here today, boys," the auctioneer proclaimed.

Ours were among them, though, thankfully, we didn't have any of the "party girls" that ended up coming through the sale ring twice. (As heifers come through the sale ring, they are guaranteed open, in other words, not pregnant. If the buyer requests it, the heifers are evaluated by a veterinarian. Any that are pregnant are sent back into the ring and sold again so the buyers know what they are getting.)

Our steers averaged 904 pounds apiece. Since we retained 25 of the bigger heifers to breed back for our own cow herd, the heifers we sold were smaller, averaging 746 pounds each.

It was a long day at the sale. We got there just after 10 AM, but our heifers didn't sell until nearly 12:30 PM. It was almost 6 o'clock when our steers went through the sale ring.

But it was worth the wait as we picked up the check.

It isn't just a long day on sale day. Selling feeder cattle is a process that's more than a year in the making. The feeder calves were born to our heifers and cows during the winter of 2014.
They got the eartags starting with "4" to signify that they were born in 2014.

 Through the cold and snow, they grew next to their mamas' sides.
By early May, they had already put on some pounds.
Mama at top and baby below at the Ninnescah Pasture in May.
Then, it was time to go the the summer pastures with their mamas, where they continued to dine on milk and prairie grasses.
We brought them back to the farm in early November and weaned them from their mothers.
They had a visit with the vet before taking up residence in a small pasture closer to home.
 All winter, Randy & Jake fed them silage and hay.
Then, last week, the semi came and picked them up for their ride to Pratt Livestock.
And we were glad to be there when the auctioneer proclaimed, "Sold!"
It may be the end of this chapter. But the next part of the journey is already under way. Every day is Ag Day - whether it gets a special hashtag on Twitter or not.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The "Grand" Scheme of Things

Capturing the "grand" in granddaughter is easier said than done. Don't get me wrong. They are truly grand. And they are truly cute - if I do say so myself.
But it's not easy getting natural-looking photos of a 3 year old and a 6 month old.
Kinley is at that age when telling her to smile creates a facial expression just short of a grimace. It's better to capture her unaware.

Brooke, on the other hand, is often more interested in her toes than the camera lens.
And then there's the whole lighting issue - too much direct sunlight, too many shadows ... so much to think about!
And I could never seem to get the camera angle just right.
Where, oh where, is PhotoShop when you need it? (Thanks to a Facebook friend, I played around with Windows Live Photo Gallery and attempted to "fuse" a couple of photos. It's going to require some more practice, but it was still fun to play with. Thanks, Mary!)
So, we will just have to wait for Emily J Photography's shots. Kim F's Photography did the best she could as an amateur.
And, while we were at it, Jill took a Grandma and Grandpa photo so I could update my Facebook page. Brooke changes so quickly that we should take a new one every time we see them. We are blessed!