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Sedgwick County Fair ribbons
Sedgwick County Fair ribbons

I make two dishes that I’m proud of – banana bread and lasagna. So, last year, when my 4-H kids were in county fair prep frenzy,  I joined in and entered my banana bread in open class. I whipped it up. Plopped it on a paper plate. Zipped it up in a baggie and off we went. I thought it looked and smelled great.

What did the judges think? White ribbon. That’s one higher than the thank-you-for-coming ribbon. I didn’t think I had an ego, but, apparently, I do. It was bruised.

The judge’s comments: over filled; under done; ingredients not at room temperature; and others I’ve tried to forget.

Now, a year later, I had a chance to reclaim my baking honor. Humbled, I tried a new approach. I followed the recipe exactly. I measured the flour carefully, using a knife to scrape off the excess; not my usual shake and dump. I mindfully chopped and measured the nuts, adding just ½ cup. Bananas were mashed with love. I used a new baking pan.  And, my ingredients were at room temperature (still puzzled by how the judge could identify that).

Most importantly, I didn’t multi-task. No phone calls. No starting a load of wash. No email checks. No Facebook or Twitter.

It was actually liberating to focus on one simple task – and aim to do it perfectly.

Unfortunately, the judge didn’t deem my bread perfect just yet , but I did bump up to a red ribbon. The bread was “nicely browned, moist
and had good flavor.” However, it was also a little soggy on the bottom (need to remove it from pan earlier) and top edges were overdone (go easier on the cooking spray).

Next year it’s my year. I can feel it. 357 more days to practice my banana bread — and single-tasking. My ego and shelf need that blue ribbon.

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There were about 35 people in the Farm Bureau building on auction night — farmers, investors, brokers and others. Most were there out of curiosity about what the quarter section (160 acres) would bring.  At the end, only one person mattered, and he wasn’t even in the room. V. had the winning bidding for his uncle, who listened by phone from Virginia.

The price went higher than was expected, $1,950 an acre — and higher than Uncle wanted to pay. The next day I emailed him to see how he was doing. His response: “Shouldn’t I be OK? LOL.”

He was looking for a good investment and feels he found one. The ground is right across from our home quarter and near other land Uncle owns. (Here’s a glimpse on this frosty December morning:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD5OfAtvjJA.)

We’re very pleased for the opportunity to farm more land. It also feels good to look out over Woolf land. Maybe someday, our son can farm it for Uncle’s daughters and grandchildren.

That’s the other value of farmland — what the land means for farm families. This rang especially true when I talked to the sellers, the granddaughters of the original owner. Their reason for selling: To help care for their father in his remaining years. Comments from Dana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf8IFvXpx9s.

Season to season, family to family.

Farm kids in ripe Kansas hard red winter wheat

Wheat berry salad

November 24, 2010

Kansas hard red winter wheatWheat farmers like us love seeing all the whole wheat products on grocery store shelves these days. It’s good to see food beyond the traditional breads and crackers, including whole wheat pasta, tortillas and pizza crust.

My farmer found a recipe that offers another way to enjoy wheat — this time with the whole berry. Wheat berry salad has become a family favorite and I thought your family might enjoy, too. It’s delicious hot or cold — and tastes great with leftover turkey sandwiches.

You’ll have to explore beyond the grocery store to find wheat berries. Here are two online sources: www.bakerscatalogue.com and www.bobsredmill.com. And, I happen to know a farmer who would be glad to share, too.

Enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wheat berry salad

Ingredients and directions:

  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 cups cooked wheat berries (recipe follows)
  • 1 large apple, unpeeled, diced
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped or unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine orange juice and cranberries in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Combine cooked wheat berries, apple and nuts in a large bowl; stir gently. Drain the cranberries, reserving the juice. Stir the cranberries into the wheat berry mixture.

Whisk the reserved orange juice, vinegar and oil in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and stir gently to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Cooked Wheat Berry recipe

  • 2 cups hard red winter-wheat berries
  • 7 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any chaff. Rinse well under cool running water. Place in a large heavy saucepan. Add water and salt.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse. To serve hot, use immediately. Otherwise, make it ahead for a cold salad. (Both are delicious.)

Wordless Wednesday

November 3, 2010

Family portrait through E.’s eyes:

When bins fly

August 22, 2010

You know the moment — that micro-millisecond — when you see  something terribly wrong, but before your brain has  processed it? We experienced just such a moment a week ago. We were driving home about 9:30 p.m. when we saw our small 1,000-bushel grain bin in the neighbor’s field. It was dark and rainy, so we could only see as far as the headlights.

The devastation was frightening as we made our way through our farmyard. Power lines were down. Our 7000-bushel bin was caved in from the impact of the small bin, which had been blown from its foundation. Our mini-van, which we owned just six weeks, was smashed in on one side — another victim of the flying grain bin. Our cattle shed, which V., his dad and D. rebuilt just two years ago, was obliterated from the straight-line winds that reached 70 mph. V.’s pickup was buried in the rubble. Thankfully, the house  had just minor shingle damage. In fact, the power had only been out a short time. If we hadn’t stopped at the grocery store, we would have been smack dab in the middle of it.

We had a restless, restless night as we calmed D. and E. and fretted about what was ahead. The morning light revealed more damage — our 70-year-old red barn was shifted eight inches off its foundation, augers and windows were smashed, and our seed wheat was trapped in the crushed bin.

I shed many tears. We will never replace the large bin. It was put up when V.’s family stored a lot of wheat and milo. The cattle shed’s block foundation, each block poured and laid  by V.’s Grandpa, could not be saved. Both our van and the pickup were sure to be total losses. 

The next morning and all this week, V. and his dad, Stanley, showed me yet again what it means to be a farm family. It’s OK to look back on your farm’s legacy, as long as it doesn’t keep you from looking forward. You get up, clean up and rebuild. Along the way, you share meals and care for kids, animals and crops. In fact, thanks to our rural electric cooperative and a caring neighbor, we had power restored by 11:30 a.m. — and came in as usual for a large noon meal.

V. says our farm will be better than ever when all is said and done. I know he’s absolutely right. Plus, our kids will have a great story to tell their own kids as they sit in our yet-to-be-built cattle shed.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

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