double rainbow

double rainbow

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Sort Of

Doesn't this look like a painting? On one of my farm "taxi" trips, I drove over the bridge on 4th Street Road. And even though it's a paved road,  I stopped and backed up. There are benefits to living in a place where traffic jams only happen when you're behind a slow-moving tractor.
This is Peace Creek: It lives up to its name on a beautiful summer day, doesn't it? 

Joy is what happens 
when we allow ourselves
to recognize 
how good things really are. 
–Marianne Williamson, author
Peace Creek - just down our dirt road

Some bloggers traditionally post photos for Wordless Wednesday. I can never seem to manage truly wordless.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ap'pear'antly, It Was a Good Year

Ap'pear'antly, it's a good year for fruit trees.

What is the secret to our success? Neglect.
(I'll bet you're never heard that recipe for success before. It's not something I normally recommend.)
The pear trees are in our side yard. Back in 2010, we had lots of pears, too, but they suddenly disappeared. I never solved that mystery.

I do think the deer and squirrels are visiting our buffet, but they'd have to invite all their friends from neighboring counties to get through all the pears.
If I had canning equipment, I might try my Grandma Neelly's Pear Honey recipe. It was a sweet combination of pears, pineapple and sugar and was one of my favorites on Grandma's table. I still might try freezing some.
Four generations: My mom, Janis Neelly Moore, my grandma Lela Johnson Neelly holding Jill Renee Fritzemeier, and me, a much younger version, on Jill's Baptism Day - December 1985
Yesterday, I searched online for fresh pear recipes. I even found a few that weren't for desserts.

The challenge with pears is to know when to pick them. I Googled that, too, and found a publication from Oregon State University Extension. (I love Extension.)
"To tell if a pear is mature, a general rule of thumb is that, while still on the tree, most mature, ready to ripen pears will usually detach when "tilted" to a horizontal position from their usual vertical hanging position. 
"Unlike apples, which are ready to eat from the day they are picked, pears must go through a series of changes before they can deliver their full splendor. Pears do not ripen on the tree to our liking. If allowed to tree-ripen, pears typically ripen from the inside out, so that the center is mushy by the time the outside flesh is ready."                        David Sugar, Oregon State University
Commercial growers refrigerate pears right after picking. So that's what we're trying. Our downstairs extra fridge is full of pears at the moment. We'll take a few out at a time to ripen on the kitchen counter.

On Sunday, we took a plastic tub of pears to church. For a contribution to Missions and Ministries, people could sack up pears to take home. This week, anyone who comes to the Stafford Food Bank can take home fresh pears.

If you have a family favorite pear recipe, please send it my way! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Farmer's Goldilocks Story

Remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Since Goldilocks was trespassing, I'm not sure she really should have been that picky. But I'm sure you remember the story: Papa Bear's porridge was too hot. Mama Bear's porridge was too cold. Baby Bear's porridge was just right. And so on and so forth.

Farmers like things "just right," too. For the first time in several years, conditions are right to apply anhydrous ammonia to the ground where we'll plant wheat in another 6 to 8 weeks or so.

We know we haven't put on anhydrous in the past five years, since I haven't ever written about it. (What? I thought I'd written about every detail of farm life at least one time!)

The ground might have been too hard. (Think 3-year-plus drought.)
The ground might have been too wet.
The ground may have had too much organic matter on top for the applicator to get through.
Time was ticking, and it didn't get done with everything else on the to-do list.

It's sounding a little like Goldilocks, right?

But this year, it's "just right."
NH3 - anhydrous ammonia - is less expensive than urea or liquid fertilizer. It is 82 percent nitrogen. Nitrogen is the most essential nutrient for crop development. Some nitrogen is formed by the breakdown of plant material in the soil. To achieve higher yields on most crops, additional nitrogen is needed.

We are applying about 60 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre as we put on anhydrous. We will probably add 10 pounds per acre as starter fertilizer when we plant wheat, along with some phosphorus.

Nitrogen is the most common element in the world. Air is mostly nitrogen but plants are unable to pull it out of the air.

Each tank holds about 2 tons of NH3. Each tank costs $1,120, or 38 cents per pound of actual nitrogen. Each tank covers a little more than 50 acres. We can run a tank out in about 2 hours. Cha-ching! Hopefully, it will pay off in better wheat yields next summer.

How many have we used? A lot. (I asked. That's the answer I got. I think my Farmer has lost track, but I'm sure the co-op has not. There's a reason we get our co-op bill in a manilla envelope.)

Jake has been running the tractor pulling the applicator and the anhydrous ammonia tank behind it. Randy has been the shuttle driver, pulling the tanks between the field and the co-op. He usually helps switch the tanks.

Natural gas is used in the manufacturing of anhydrous ammonia. It is a more dangerous fertilizer to use in this form than urea or liquid fertilizer. When it is exposed to air, it vaporizes. That's why we use an applicator with knives that slice through the soil about 8 inches deep, so when it vaporizes under the ground, it will attach to soil particles that have moisture in them. Then, the plant can use the nutrient.
The NH3 comes out of the applicator here, when the applicator is in the soil.
In the photo below, they are "bleeding" the tank before Randy unhooks it. (You can see the anhydrous ammonia vaporizing as it hits the air if you click on the photo and view it larger.) Randy stayed back during this process so that he didn't inhale any of the vapor.
He then removed the hose so that he could attach it to the next tank. Then he unhooked the tank from the applicator.
Jake then backed the tractor and applicator up so that Randy could hook up the new tank. Randy used those ubiquitous hand signals. While Randy hooked up the hoses to the applicator and the tank, Jake cleaned dirt out of the applicator "fingers."
Repeat as needed.
And hope we get it "just right."

Today, they'll continue the process. And my job will be supplying lunch and supper in the field. Hopefully, it will be "just right," too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sandy Kansas: Snapshot Kansas

Sometimes, I participate in Snapshot Kansas, a Facebook group of amateur and professional photographers. Sometimes, I just enjoy the photos shot all across our beautiful state.

Last week, the challenge was Kansas dogs. I could have used old photos from our days with Sandy, Lucky, Mindy, Ralph and Millie. But it made me kind of sad to think about them. So I stayed on the sidelines last week and just watched the Facebook feed. 

This week's challenge is "Sandy Kansas." I can do sand.
Ironically, the photos that most represent "sand" to me are also old photos. They are ones I took in September 2011. The three-week Kansas Cattle Drive was in honor of Kansas' 150th birthday. They began the journey on Labor Day weekend in Caldwell and ended September 24 in Ellsworth. 
The 210 longhorns herded by some 35 trail riders came through our area, and I went to take photos a couple of days. The route took them right by one of our pastures before they arrived at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to spend the night. 
Sandy roads have been part of my life since I was a baby. I tried to learn to ride a bicycle on the sandy roads in front of my house in Pratt County. I learned to drive a stick shift pickup with the sand pulling the tires inevitably toward the ditch.

I still live on a dirt road, though it's typically less sandy than the ones of my childhood.
We drive over dirt roads, under a canopy of cottonwoods, to take cattle to pasture.
While it's not a particularly beautiful photo, I took this photo at Randy's request. Someone had tied a deer skull to an oil tank. The ants in the sand cleaned the skull.
I took this photo from the top of Coronado Heights near Lindsborg. From a bird's eye view, the dirt road goes on forever.
Then I thought about the purple sand at the No. 5 hole at Colbert Hills in Manhattan. That sand is a little different than the sand I dump out of my shoes after a morning walk. 
I could do sand photos for a lot longer than one week.


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Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Rose Is A Rose, A Mary Is A Mary

A Rose is a Rose.
A Mary is a Mary.
A Kinley is a Kinley.
Kinley and Jill by her wall decal, January 2012

And the new baby is ....

I don't know. I will just have to wait until she's born. (Her due date is September 3.)

I haven't been subtle in asking for clues. I do know that Baby Ladd's name is not in the Top 100 names as determined by the Social Security Administration.

But that's all I know. 

No first initial.
No rhyming hint.
No deal. No how.

So, if I look at the list, I know what it's not: It's not Piper or Genesis or Madelyn. It's not "Stella, hey, Stellaaaaa," so I won't have "A Streetcar Named Desire" come to mind when I talk to her. 

Jill and Eric know her name. They've ordered the new decal for her room.

I could be like the kid before Christmas and search in the closet ... if only I weren't so far away.

I could ask Kinley, but they decided not to tell her, since she might spill the beans. If you ask her, she either says, "Baby" or "Sister." (Yes, I tried.)

So, I guess I'll just have to wait like everyone else.

My Grandma Neelly didn't listen to her friends' advice for names back when she was expecting either. My mom found a sheet of name suggestions from a baby shower game, and the guests suggested monikers for the Neellys' bundle of joy.

She could have been Mary Jane or Mary Sue or Mary Helen or Mary Ruth. If my grandparents had chosen that name, they would have picked the most popular girls' name of the 1930s. My Mom could have been Elizabeth, Mildred, Esther or Ruth, if they'd listened to their friends' advice.

Interestingly, my mother-in-law's name is on the list, though in reverse order, Esther Marie. 

The shower guests had the names covered for boys, too. Of course, back then, parents didn't know what they were having until the little one arrived on the scene. 

My grandparents chose Janis Leone. Had they spelled it Janice, my mom's name would have been 42nd on the list of Top 100 names of the 1930s. With her spelling, it didn't make the Top 200.

My dad's name, Bobby, was 27th in the 1930s. Kim was 78th in the 1950s, and Randy's was 33rd. In the 1980s, Eric was 21st, Jill was 121st and Brent was 95th. When Kinley was born in 2011, her name was 194th, according to the Social Security list.

Jill & Eric don't want to hear reviews of their selected name, so unless Jill slips up in the next couple of weeks, I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Patience is not my virtue. 
A baby card from the same box of memories where my mom found the name list.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kentucky Hot Brown Bake

I'm not sure the Kentucky Hot Brown Bake took me back to Louisville. But it was a pretty tasty Sunday night meal.

When we visited Brent last Thanksgiving, we stopped at The Brown Hotel in Louisville and had one of their famous Hot Browns.

In the 1920s, The Brown Hotel drew more than 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. In the wee hours of the morning, the guests would grow tired of dancing and go the restaurant for a bite to eat. Bored with the traditional ham and eggs, Chef Fred Schmidt created the Hot Brown, an open-face turkey sandwich with bacon, tomatoes and Mornay sauce.
The Hot Brown is now a Louisville tradition and has been featured in Southern Living, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and on the Today Show, as well as a mainstay in southern cookbooks.

At the time, I didn't know that Brent was moving from Kentucky back to Kansas, so I'm glad I tried a true Hot Brown when I had the chance. Still, when I saw the Kentucky Hot Brown Bake on my Facebook feed, I knew I wanted to try it.

They don't meet Funeral Sandwiches in our rating system, but I'm sure I'll make them again. Here's the recipe for the casserole bake. If you want the fancier-schmancier version, The Brown Hotel's recipe is at the bottom of this post.
Kentucky Hot Brown Bake
From Facebook
8 oz. pkg. refrigerated crescent rolls
1 lb. pkg. smoked turkey lunch meat
8 slices cooked bacon
8 slices of Swiss cheese (or grate about 8 ounces of block cheese)
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
4 eggs, beaten

Unroll the crescent dough and separate into 2 squares. Place one square in bottom of an 8-inch-square pan that is greased or lined with parchment paper. Press dough to fit pan. Layer with half the turkey and cheese and all the bacon and tomatoes. Pour half the eggs over the top. Layer the remaining turkey and cheese on top.

Top with remaining dough square. Cover with remaining beaten eggs.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Let set at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving.

  • The recipe says it serves 9. It doesn't feed 9 of my husband. I would say it would feed 4 to 5 people.
  • The original recipe said to use half the bacon and half the tomatoes in the first layer. However, the 8 slices of bacon covered the whole 8-inch square nicely. Had I just used 4 strips, I think there could have been "pockets" without bacon in the cooked sandwich. The same was true for the tomatoes. You could increase the amounts of the bacon and tomato if you truly want to have a double layer of filling.
Photo from The Brown Hotel
 The Hot Brown
From The Brown Hotel, Louisville, KY
Makes 2 Hot Browns
2 oz. whole butter
2 oz. flour
8 oz. heavy cream
8 oz. whole milk
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese plus 1 tbsp. for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
14 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast
2 slices Texas toast, crust trimmed
4 slices of crispy bacon
2 Roma tomatoes, cut in half

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For each Hot Brown, place one slice toast in an oven-safe dish and cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of the Roma tomatoes and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Next, pour half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Romano cheese. Place entire dish under broiler until cheese starts to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler; cross two pieces of bacon on top, and sprinkle with paprika and parsley. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cat's Meow

Midnight, the Cat

A black cat crossing your path 
signifies that the animal is going somewhere.
--Groucho Marx

Groucho and I agree when it comes to black cats. I'm not superstitious. The only bad luck I anticipate is if I trip over them as I rush out the back door. (I don't need help being clumsy.)

These are the kittens that Kinley and Grandpa retrieved from the old stone chimney last May with the "kitten catcher" (aka, a hoe).

Yesterday morning, after I returned home from my walk, I sat on the back steps and watched them wrestle with one another.
They've definitely changed since their baby kitty days. When I went back to look for photos from earlier this summer, I discovered one big difference. I've heard it said that most human babies appear to have blue eyes when they are born and then they change into their permanent eye color. It happened for this kitty.  The little blue-eyed dark calico now has hazel-colored eyes.
The yellow kitten has some of the most interesting markings we've ever seen on a County Line cat. See the circular pattern? My able assistant pretended he was showing a goat or a rabbit at the county fair and "set it up" so you could see its unusual coat.
We found a new crop of kitties in the window well not long ago. We think the mother must have had them elsewhere and then moved them closer to the house. Randy is diligently working to tame them, too.
After trying to get all three of them to look at me in the same shot, I decided that it was a trial run for photographing Kinley and her new baby sister. I hope I can do that more successfully than I got three kittens in the same frame. However, I'm fairly confident a 2 1/2 year old and her baby sister will be a challenge better left to a professional (even though Grandma did get them a couple of cute coordinating outfits).
No outfits for the cats. Randy did try to introduce cheese to our newest brood. They appear to be unimpressed. But they are going to have to step up soon and earn their keep around here. When it comes to cats, I agree with a Chinese philosopher:

Black cat or white cat:
If it can catch mice, it's a good cat.
-- Chinese proverb

The same can be said about yellow and gray cats and calicos, too!