My Passion – Fast Food Farm

WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?   My passion is teaching our youth as well as adults at times about the importance of agriculture.  This time of the year ends my nine months of fulfilling my passion.  My year starts with the beginning of the spring season and ends with the end of the fall season in teaching about “Where Does Your Food Come From?”                                                        

Fast Food Farm sign

At the Fast Food Farm the youth become physically involved in the growing process of their food.

Through hands-on activities they learn how the weather affects the plants, and what happens to the food when it leaves the farm.   They also learn about food nutrition, food preparation, and food processing.

#3 .Harvesting for the Needy - Geans 2

In working with the Ag Science students throughout the school year I have seen them grow in leadership and character to become leaders in our community.   At the Fast Food Farm students learn how to respect the land as they discover how to cultivate and prepare the soil for planting.  

 Throughout the nine months over 5000 students are learning about “Where Does Your Food Come From?”  It is so rewarding to see our youth connect to the soil, plants, animals, and the source of their foods.

Winter weather wimp

There are a lot of things that make a farmer tough and one of these things is winter weather. When a farmer has to take care of animals in sub-zero temperatures, priorities of said farmer are never clearer. To demonstrate, let me explain what it takes to even get ready to go outdoors, let alone be functional completing chores.

chores

Coming into the house after a few hours in the field feels so good!

Layers. Your mama told you to dress in layers no matter the season, right? A northerner’s winter is the rule, not the exception for this tip. A running tank top, long-sleeve waffle T-shirt, a sweater and a hooded sweatshirt will get you started, underlined with a pair of long underwear and jeans or tight pair of jeans that hug to your body to keep in warmth. Top all that with a pair of lined coverall pants (or adult snowpants and regular coveralls), a wool button-up shirt, an insulated jacket and maybe a second, larger insulated jacket with a hood. Before you put on your farm boots, now is the time to decide if you have to shed some layers to use the bathroom or go back for a belt. You’ll thank yourself in the fourth hour of chores when you’re not dancing or needing to pull up your first layer of pants that are inconveniently located under your jackets and coveralls.

Finding the right gloves and other accessories. I’m still trying to get this right and this is the number one thing that makes me a winter weather wimp. My sheep are not impressed with the pearls that I wear to my office job and they don’t care if my belt (that you can’t even see under all those layers) matches my manure-covered boots. I don’t need to say that you should find a good pair of thick, wool socks – you already know that, right? A ski mask may not be pretty but it’s definitely the best option, otherwise you may settle for a neck gator and a tight hat that covers your ears.

The gloves are what get me. My hands are slightly bigger than a teenager’s and are absolutely drowned in men’s gloves, which are the most abundant in our household and in farm stores. Dainty garden gloves won’t do it this season and kid’s gloves aren’t likely to have the tough padding needed for barn and field work. My solution is to use a pair of kid’s gloves under a men’s pair of gloves that have a wrist strap to pull tight and lock in a more solid fit. It’s important for a person’s hands to be functional to open gates, use a knife to cut bale strings, handle the tractor gears, wrap around bucket handles and use a pen for hand-written records while sorting sheep. No matter how tempting it is to take those gloves off to use your cell phone to take a video or photo of your hard work in the cold, it’s just not worth it some days. There are warmer days for #felfies.

Optimism. Knowing chores will be over in a certain (estimated) timeframe keeps a person focused on what needs to be done for the farm animals. If you know you’ll stop for lunch, that helps. Lunch hasn’t always been a first priority for us so I usually ask for the day’s agenda before dressing in my layers. And, naturally, the list is usually an optimistic list so I like to ask for more clarification of the day’s priorities. It also helps to know that June is not too far off… and with summer comes grilling season of the meat we’re caring for today!

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

January 6, 2014

Good evening from chilly Southwest Kansas.  We certainly aren’t the coldest spot in the nation tonight with the thermometer sitting at a balmy 12 degrees after a low of -11 this morning.  Factor in the windchill and it’s plenty cool even for a winter lover like me.  I’m one of the few who will have a smile on my face on the rare occaision we get snow and cold that sticks around for awhile.

Blanket of snow brushed away from a tender, young wheat plant.

Blanket of snow brushed away from a tender, young wheat plant.

We did recieve a couple of inches of snow on Saturday night which is a real blessing since the temperature has been in the deep freeze yesterday and today.  Our winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, grows some during the warm fall days and then goes dormant in the cold winter really needed some insulation from the bitter cold and, believe it or not, a blanket of snow does a great job of protecting the tender, young wheat plant.  An added bonus is that when that snow melts, we also get some much needed moisture to help the thirstly little plants grow when it warms up again.

I checked the evening temperatures and it looks like we will do a steady warm up to around 16 degrees  through the rest of the night and early morning.  Tomorrow we will have a real heat wave with a high around 50 degrees…we will probably pull out the short sleeves for this warm up!  Southwest Kansas winter weather tends to be just like that, freezing cold one day and nice and toasty the next day.

My farmer checking the wheat seed in the drill on a balmy fall day during planting season.

My farmer checking the wheat seed in the drill on a balmy fall day during planting season.

If it sounds like I am a little obsessed with the weather, that would be correct.  Stop into any feed store, coffee shop, grain elevator or any other place that farmers and ranchers gather and you will most likely hear some of the conversation revolve around the weather.  Much of what we do to produce the food on your table depends on Mother Nature to bless us with moisture and good temperatures.  While there isn’t anything we can do to control the weather, we sure do like to talk about what we want it to do, think that it might do or, what weather forcasters are predicting it will do.

Are you interested in the weather?  When you stroll the aisles of the grocery store you might think about how the weather might cause the price of your favorite cereal to go up due to a failed grain crop which will cause the price of the grain to go up…it’s all about supply and demand and Mother Nature pulls on those strings every day on our farms and ranches and at your table.

Wishing you enough warmth to stay comfortable, enough winter weather to let you look forward to the changing of the seasons and enough family and friends so that you may enjoy all of your seasons surrounded by those you love!

Tumbling Along With the Tumbling Tumbleweeds

When you think of a windy Kansas winter day, you may just be able to picture a tumbling tumbleweed or two. I thought I would take a moment to share a few pictures of our most recent tumbleweed blow.

Tumbleweeds caught in the fence.

Tumbleweeds caught in the fence.

I live in the Southwest corner of Kansas where it has been very dry for several years. We haven’t been able to grow much in the way of crops on our non irrigated cropland, but this year we had a small amount of moisture at just the right time for the Russian Thistles to take off and grow into some mighty big weeds. While attached to their roots in the field, they are green and they were about the only green thing growing. Some farmers didn’t do much to disturb them because they were holding the top soil in place during some high wind days. Without something growing on the ground, the top soil likes to take off in the wind and creates dust storms that limit visibility and make breathing outside difficult. When the thistles dry up and a good wind comes along they break away from their roots and begin to tumble across the landscape catching on fence rows, the side of the house or barn, tree rows or anything that gets in their way.

Tumbleweeds everywhere you look!

Tumbleweeds everywhere you look!

We had a strong front come through our corner of the state on December 28th with a north wind that chilled you to the bone. I was heading home after a family Christmas celebration in town when I began to encounter the tumbleweeds racing south across our two lane highway. There were some small ones about the size of a beach ball but many of them were closer in size to a large dog or a small pony! It is almost impossible to dodge them all on a night like that. The best you can hope for is that one of them doesn’t hit you broadside and leave a nasty scratch on your car. I made it home without hitting too many of the blowing thistles. When I pulled into the yard to unload my car, I opened the shed door to put the car in and while I was unloading, the wind whipped about 2 dozen tumbleweeds into the door. I grabbed my gloves(you don’t want to handle the prickly things without gloves) and tossed them back out into the wind. We were fortunate that the wind was just right that night and we didn’t get too many of them hung up around our farm. The neighborhoods on the north end of my small town were not so lucky, they were bombarded with tumbleweeds that blocked streets and alleys, surrounded and covered up vehicles and piled up between houses. The past several days have been spent gathering and carefully burning the weeds. They burn hot and quick so one has to be careful to contain them so that they don’t take off in a gust of wind and light something on fire.

Neighbors work together to burn the tumbleweeds.

Neighbors work together to burn the tumbleweeds.

While they are a nuisance to those of us who have to deal with them annually, people who are passing through and see one will often times stop and try to chase one down and take it home with them. We honor the lowly tumbleweed locally with the Tumbleweed Bazaar, a craft show in the fall. The venue is sometimes decorated with tumbleweeds. Other folks have been known to spray paint the tumbleweeds white and stack and decorate them for a snowman when we are lacking snow. I even attended an event with a western theme where a very creative artist used tumbleweeds and branches to create a horse for their table decor.

Tumbleweed and branches form a horse for a Western themed dinner.

Tumbleweed and branches form a horse for a Western themed dinner.

As irritating as they can be, they do look delicate and lacy and are fascinating to those who don’t have to deal with them on a windy day. So if you are ever visiting Southwest Kansas on a windy day, keep your eyes peeled for the tumbling tumbleweed!

For the chocolate lover

“Peppermint Bark” (variations are unlimited)

  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 six-inch candy canes, chopped
  • Any other topping can be used – nuts, fruits, etc.
  1. Line a 15 1/2″ x 10 1/2″ jelly roll pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on two sides.
  2. In a micro-safe bowl, melt the dark chocolates on high. Stop and stir every 20 seconds until just-about melted (60-90 seconds total). Be careful to not over-melt. Spread it onto the prepared pan.
  3. In a safe bowl, melt the white chocolate on high, stop and stir every 20 seconds until just-melted.
  4. Drop small spoonfuls of white chocolate onto the dark chocolate. With a skewer, swirl the white chocolate through the dark.
  5. Let the chocolate set for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the candy canes, then refrigerate until set (about 30 minutes).
  6. Break or cut into pieces for serving.

Note: different nuts, dried fruit or other toppings can be used. White chocolate can be used for the base and drizzle with dark chocolate for a different look. Candy melts come in many different colors if you want to try something really different. Peanut butter (1 1/2 cups) can be stirred into base chocolate, follow same directions. Top with chocolate chips and stir when they melt.

This makes a great gift! Enjoy your chocolate!