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Thursday 30th of September 2010 06:10 AM

By Kim L. Fritzemeier

KFRM Central Kansas Reporter

Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line


I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;

I'll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I sha'n't be gone long. You come, too.
Robert Frost

Randy's not much of a poet. But he could definitely understand the sentiment of the poem, "The Pasture" by Robert Frost.

We had an evening trip to the Rattlesnake Creek last week, which I suppose is our version of Frost's "pasture spring."

And Randy was raking the leaves - or grasses - off the electric fence. The fence catches debris as it floats down the creek and can knock out the power of the electric fence. Since we'd prefer to keep our cattle in their appointed home-away-from-home and out of the neighbor's pasture, this is a housekeeping chore that must be done from time to time.

Robert Frost did know what he was talking about. However, he was a more successful poet than he was a farmer. His grandfather bought Frost and his wife a farm in Derry, New Hampshire. Frost spent nine years there, farming and writing. He didn't do so well with chicken farming, but I guess the poetry thing worked out pretty well.

I think Randy will have to keep his day job, since I don't believe poetry is in his repertoire.

His effort did help "the water clear," as Frost would say, on a beautiful autumn evening in Kansas.

Usually, the "wildlife" in the pasture is our herd of mama cows and babies, whose growth over the summer has probably put them in the adolescent phase, rather than toddlerdom these days.

Some visiting pelicans changed the usual landscape until our efforts to get a little closer caused them to take off.

It may not have been our fault. It was approaching sundown, and they may have been returning to their nighttime roost. They flew off in the direction of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

It may have appeared we were following them, but we weren't. Really. We were just taking the alternate route home.

It was definitely worth the detour as we watched the sun set on another beautiful fall day.
I think a return trip through Quivira was just what the doctor ordered. As it happened, I had been having technical issues with uploading photos to the worldwide web.

"I don't know what else to try!" I told my husband when he came in the house before going to the pasture.

My wise husband didn't refer to Frost's "The Pasture," but it was still his advice.

"Take a break and come with me," he said.

After watching the sun set on the day, I think my blood pressure returned to normal and my outlook turned about 180 degrees.

So Robert Frost (and yes, Randy, too) had it right:

I sha'n't be gone long. You come, too.

I'm glad I did.



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A Little Off the Top
Wednesday 29th of September 2010 07:10 AM

By Kim L. Fritzemeier

KFRM Central Kansas Reporter

Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line

You know that feeling when you first get a dramatic new haircut and you wonder if you've made a horrible mistake? You look in the mirror and you hardly recognize yourself. (I am such a stick-in-the-mud that it doesn't happen often to me because I don't change my hair on a whim. But if you've ever lived with a teenage girl, you know what I mean. The simplest of hair trims can be a red-alert crisis.)

That's kind of how I feel when I drive home from the north these days. Our shelterbelt to the north of the house has had a little "taken off the top." Actually, it was more than a trim. The first row of trees has been scalped.

It's all for a good cause, however. Our rural electric company has contracted with some tree companies to trim trees and limbs away from the power poles. The company that worked in our area gave us options. We could have the trees trimmed. Or we could have a row taken out. We opted for removal.

You might opt for removal, too, if you'd experienced what we did three winters ago. We were without electricity for 12 days after an ice storm in December 2007. The best Christmas present that year was getting the electricity back on a couple of days before Christmas Eve.

I know removing the trees along our road isn't going to keep my lights on indefinitely. But I also know there are tree crews trimming all over Ark Valley Electric's service area, using FEMA disaster funds. We can always hope it will help, right?


This is the before picture. You can see the trees in relation to the power pole. There wasn't a lot of wiggle room there for falling branches in an ice storm.

The electric company is also replacing some poles to further strengthen the infrastructure. (Note to self: You need to get your Cat Crossing sign off the pole before it disappears forever.) According to the tree crew, the "R" stands for removal. The yellow stake shows where they will put another pole in its place. (Thank goodness! I will admit I am an electricity addict. Withdrawal for this addiction is agony.)


The crews worked a couple of days sawing down the trees and turning some of them into wood chips and some into firewood.


We have a couple of fireplaces in our house, but we don't burn wood in them anymore. The last time we tried it, we had 25-plus people coming to Thanksgiving dinner and it smoked up the house. (No, it was not my cooking!) No amount of visits from a chimney sweep seemed to fix the problem.


But a neighbor came and picked up the wood and plans to use it at his house, as well as share it with some of his family members.

It really looks different when you drive in from the north these days. And, if you're a regular reader, you know how much I love change (sarcasm alert!).

All the time the tree crew was working, I kept thinking about the shelterbelt that my parents added to the south of my childhood home one summer. My sister and I carried water to the trees and hoed them all summer long. I wondered if some little boy or girl had hauled water and hoed weeds to establish these trees along the County Line to protect the house from the north winds. How would they feel to see their "work" crashing down years later?

But there are definitely some positive sides to the change. We can see traffic coming from the north much more clearly now (Not that there's much, but we do get a little traffic along the County Line).

And I'm still holding out hope that it will help us during the next ice storm.

Honestly, tree trimming and removal probably isn't going to make much impact on ice as thick as we had in 2007.

Power line after power line was gone along the Zenith Road.

Our front yard looked like a combat zone.


It was the same in the back yard.


The electric fence was weighted down with ice. Unfortunately, the electric lines looked like this in many places, too.


About the only good thing to come out of the ice storm was the feeling of camaraderie among neighbors and a few amazing photos. Here's proof there were a few pretty images of ice in the trees.


So, much as I love photos like this, I will gladly keep my electric lines, thank you very much.

Just to show them how much I appreciated them, I took pop and cookies out to the crew two times. Come to think of it, did they come back the next day just for my cookies? (No, but they did tell Randy that the cookies sure were good.)


For more information about me and my family, check out my personal blog at www.kimscountyline.blogspot.com

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Fall Chill = Fall Chili
Tuesday 28th of September 2010 06:10 AM

By Kim L. Fritzemeier

KFRM Central Kansas Reporter

Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line

A chill in the air equals chili on the menu.

Fall officially arrived on the County Line yesterday. I pulled on a sweatshirt for the first time this autumn when the open windows overnight made for a brisk morning, even inside the house.

So as I was leafing through a recipe book in search of a meal to take to the field for Randy & Jake, chili seemed the perfect choice. Jake is disking ground ahead of Randy drilling wheat. To save time, I have been taking the noon meal to the field. (Let me clarify: To save time for
them, I'm taking meals to the field.)

This was a new recipe for me, but it will definitely be repeated. I found it in a Bisquick cookbook I purchased at school several years ago.

I modified it a bit. The original recipe didn't have beans, but I threw in a small can of chili beans and reduced the amount of chili powder. We're not huge fans of ultra-spicy, so I left out the red pepper sauce entirely. But if your family likes spicier chili, it would be easy to bump up the heat with chili powder, hot sauce or jalapenos.

I had more biscuit dough than I wanted to use for the dumplings. I wanted the dough to be well-cooked in the middle, and I wasn't sure how it would cook in the steamy environment. By the time the dough expanded in the chili, I was glad I'd baked four biscuits separately.

Randy liked the dumplings in the chili, but he also enjoyed the crisper texture of the baked biscuits.

I have an insulated carrier that I used to transport the bowls of chili to the field to keep them nice and warm.

It was the perfect meal for a beautiful fall day.

Chili with Corn Dumplings

2 lbs. hamburger, browned with minced onion
1 can (15.25 oz.) whole kernel corn, undrained
1 can (14.5 oz.) stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 small can chili beans
1 can (16 oz.) tomato sauce
2 tsp. chili powder (you may add more if you like things spicier)
1 1/3 cups Bisquick
2/3 cup cornmeal
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (opt.)
A sprinkle of dried cilantro or parsley, if desired

Brown hamburger with minced onion in 4-quart Dutch oven (or similar pot) until beef is browned; drain well. Reserve 1/2 cup of corn. Stir remaining corn with liquid, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili beans and chili powder into beef mixture. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.


 Mix Bisquick and cornmeal. Stir in milk, cheese and reserved corn just until moistened. (My photo of this step wasn't worth posting - sorry!)

Heat chili to boiling. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto chili. Sprinkle lightly with dried parsley or dried cilantro. Reduce heat to low. Cook, uncovered, 10 minutes. Cover and cook about 10 minutes longer or until dumplings are dry.

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of red pepper sauce. We don't like things that hot, but you may adjust accordingly. The original recipe also didn't call for cheese in the dumplings, but that was a tasty addition.



For more recipes or for more about my family or our farm, visit my personal blog at www.kimscountyline.blogspot.com

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Monday 27th of September 2010 06:50 AM

By Kim L. Fritzemeier

KFRM Central Kansas Reporter

Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line



Is it bad if you know most Barry Manilow songs by heart?

OK. Don't answer that.

I am not ashamed to admit that I had pretty much every Barry Manilow album produced back in the 1970s. Yes, I said albums. This was before CDs and iPods and digital downloads.

If that's dating me, so be it.

Barry joined Richard and Karen in getting me through my share of teenage angst back in the day. (You know, Richard and Karen Carpenter. I aspired to be Karen Carpenter. Alas, it didn't quite work out that way.)

When I saw the gorgeous sunrise a few days ago, it was Barry's song, "Daybreak," that popped into my head. I have my circa 1976 "This One's for You" album on a shelf in the office, which includes "Daybreak."

But I have no record player to play the album, so I went to youtube to listen to it instead.

Barry didn't disappoint.

Neither did the gorgeous sunrise. Yes, Barry, I DO wanna believe in Daybreak. And with beauty like that, it can't help but make me "shine, shine, shine" - maybe not all around the world, but surely on the County Line and my little part of the world.

I think it's the perfect message for a Monday. Enjoy!

Singin' to the world
It's time we let the spirit come in.
Let it come on in!
I'm singin' to the world
Everybody's caught in a spin
Look at where we've been
We've been runnin' around
Year after year
Blinded with pride, blinded with fear.

But it's daybreak
If you wanna believe
It can be daybreak
Ain't no time to grieve
Said it's daybreak
If you'll only believe
And let it shine, shine, shine!
All around the world.
(Singin' to the world, singin', singin')
Singin' to the world
What's the point in putting it down
There's so much love to share
I'm singin' to the world.
Don't you see it all come around
The feeling's everywhere
We're been closing our eyes
Day after day
Covered in clouds, losing our way.
But it's daybreak
If you wanna believe
It can be daybreak
Ain't no time to grieve
Said it's daybreak
If you'll only believe
And let it shine, shine, shine!
All around the world.
(Singin' to the world, singin', singin')


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Sheep Thrills
Friday 24th of September 2010 07:10 AM

By Kim L. Fritzemeier

KFRM Central Kansas Reporter

Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line


Ruth Cramer and her winning Governor's Cookie Jar at the 2010 Kansas State Fair

If you visit the Domestic Arts Building at the Kansas State Fair, there's a good chance you'll run into some familiar faces.

 Ruth Cramer is one of those faces.  She's been exhibiting at the fair since I was a beginning reporter at The Hutchinson News. I covered my first fair in 1979, so both Ruth and I have been around the block a few times since then. 

The 85-year-old grandmother won the coveted Governor's Cookie Jar champion ribbon at the 2010 Kansas State Fair. She's won this prize so many times her family had trouble remembering just how successful she's been.

"How many times has Ruth won the Governor's Cookie Jar?" I asked her son Stan after the ceremony last Friday in which Ruth shook Gov. Mark Parkinson's hand and presented the cookie carousel.

He paused for awhile and said, "I think this is her 3rd time."

 He forgot one. Actually, the Hutchinson woman has won the cookie jar prize four times - 1991, 1997, 2007 and 2010. That's a lot of cookies!

Back when I was an editor at The News, Ruth was a frequent entrant to the newspaper's recipe contest. She won prizes in that contest on more than one occasion, too. Let's face it: The woman can bake.

This year's cookie jar was a team effort. Ruth baked 14 different kinds of cookies for the jar. Actually, she made 15 different kinds - the most allowed in the jar - but the 15th one just didn't live up to her standards. 

Her son, Stan, constructed the carousel that surrounded the gallon jar. Her daughter, Marilyn, made the carousel animals that "rode" the merry-go-round to victory.



Ruth's neighbors and family had to critique cookies: It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. Ruth, I'd like to volunteer the next time. 

The cookies and the carousel all fit the 2010 fair theme: Sheep Thrills. She gave some of her favorite cookie recipes new names to correspond to the theme, for example, "Green Pastures" lime and Brazil nut logs and "Meadow Delights" for her carrot cookies with orange frosting.  

The competitors have to include at least one cookie representing these general methods for cookie baking: drop, bar, refrigerator, rolled and molded.

I have had the privilege of judging foods at the Kansas State Fair several times. I've judged a salad dressing contest and Spam contest on more than one occasion. But I only got to judge the Governor's Cookie Jar one time. (I didn't judge any foods events at the 2010 fair.)

If you're not a state fair food contest groupie, you might not know that the quality of the cookies carries the most weight. Cookie quality counts 60 percent, with the outside decorations worth 40 percent.

The fair book also says that the cookies should be mostly visible. I've been standing around the display case at the fair and have overheard visitors speculating as to why this or that particular cookie jar didn't place better. 

The outside may be beautiful, but the cookies might be less than perfect. Or an elaborately decorated cookie jar may totally cover up the cookies inside. 

But, as usual, Ruth got it all right ... with a little help from her friends and her family. 

I've been saving Governor's Cookie Jar cookie recipes for years. Back in Jill's 4-H baking years, we would often use recipes that had been state fair winners.

 Here are a couple of Ruth's creations I'll gladly add to my own collection:

Meadow Delights Carrot Cookies

with Orange Frosting

1 cup mashed cooked carrots (about 4 medium carrots)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup shredded or flaked coconut

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix carrots, sugar, butter, shortening and eggs. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in coconut. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until almost no indentation remains when touched, about 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Cool. Frost with Orange Butter Frosting. Makes about 5 dozen.

Orange Butter Frosting

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp. butter, softened

2 tsp. grated orange peel

1 tbsp. orange juice

Mix powdered sugar and butter. Beat in orange peel and orange juice until frosting is of spreading consistency. 

Shepherd's Snacks

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

3/4 cup raisins

3 tbsp. orange juice

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel

1 large egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 cups quick oats

8 oz. white chocolate chips

1 tsp. shortening

Soak raisins in orange juice overnight in refrigerator. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add sugar and egg along with orange peel. Mix well until thoroughly blended. Combine flour and soda together. Stir into butter mixture. Add raisins and the liquid they were soaking in. Add the oats. Mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes; don't overbake. Cool completely on wire rack. In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate and shortening over a warm temperature. Don't let the mixture get too hot or the chocolate will thicken. (I would personally do this in the microwave. Use reduced power and stir often to make sure you don't burn the chocolate.) Remove from heat once the mixture is smooth and well blended.

Put mixture into a small pastry bag with a fine writing tip and drizzle back and forth over each cookie to achieve a pretty effect. Cool thoroughly. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

                                                             *** *** *** *** ***

For more recipes and to learn more about me and my family, check out my personal blog at www.kimscountyline.blogspot.com




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