It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Willie Woodhouse is a well-traveled Englishman who has journeyed all the way to Kansas to taste the frontier life of a ranching friend near the Osage Catholic Mission in the southeastern corner of the new state. Although resolved to give the experience an honest try, he is still somewhat taken aback at the unaccustomed roughness around him:
“Are these my neighbours and friends?” soliloquised Woodhouse. “What can I do for them in these months to come?”
Woodhouse spends time learning about pioneer life, frontier justice, and the Osage Mission before an epidemic strikes and he finds the way in which he can be useful.
The characters and storyline of Gleanings from Western Prairies by the Reverend W. E. Youngman are engaging, if the denouement is rather weak. However, the book has primarily been included here for its faithful account of early settlement in Kansas. Readers will learn as much as Woodhouse did about Indians and ranchers, and will see how the Osage Mission made the transition from serving the natives to educating the white settlers.
If you are looking for a time capsule of early southeastern Kansas, you may find Gleanings from Western Prairies to be an interesting presentation of the hardships that the settlers faced. And it is available free online!
Onions are absolutely indispensable to cooking. They add character to everything from pasta to pizza, and they can contribute a nice flavor to cooked vegetables such as green beans, too. Red onions taste great on salads. For the ultimate onion-eating experience, however, chop or slice an onion and use it to top a hamburger. Add a slice of tomato to that and the meal is complete. Delicious!
Early in the season, you will need to decide if you are going to start your onions from seed or from sets. Seeds are much cheaper, but they tend to be delicate at first, and you will have to wait until the next year to harvest your onions. If you are feeling ambitious, give it a try. Beginners are better off planting sets.
Onions, like other root crops, suffer in soggy ground. Do not overwater them. Some mulch is beneficial, but keep it fairly light until dry weather sets in. By the same token, keep up with the weeds. A thick growth of grass tends to hold in moisture, which can lead to rot.
As the season progresses, keep a close eye on your onions. As the tops start to fall over and dry out a little, stop watering the plants. When most of the tops have fallen, bend down the rest with your hand to encourage them to start drying.
Any time you see onions with tops that are completely dry, pull them immediately. Let them dry on an elevated chicken wire screen in the shade, preferably in a breezy spot, for several days. When the tops feel completely dry and papery, brush off all of the dirt and loose skin and bring the onions inside.
Only store cured onions, and do not attempt to store any that seem likely to rot. The surest way to store onions is to braid them together or put them in a mesh bag and hang them up in a dry area just slightly above freezing. Another method is to loosely pile them into a slat-sided box. Be sure to check on them frequently, and remove any onions that are rotting or sprouting. (If you raised your onions from seed, remember to replant them in the spring, just as you would sets.)
Be aware that some onions simply will not store well. These are usually the ones that received too much water during the second half of the growing season. They will have thick, soft tops, possibly with a little green still in them. Use them as quickly as possible. If you must store them, your best bet is to chop them up and freeze them in plastic bags. They will have quite a bit of extra moisture when thawed, but once drained they are still good for cooking.
Onion Disease Guide
Free PDF with plenty of concise and well-photographed information on identifying onion diseases.
A list of factsheets.
“Once in a blue moon” is one of those phrases that just roll off of our tongues without much prior analysis from our brains. Somewhere in the back of our consciousness is the knowledge that the phrase means “every once in a great while.” But where did this saying come from?
It just so happens that a blue moon is a real astronomical event. It also just so happens that astronomers are somewhat divided on the precise event.
There are two events that the term “blue moon” is sometimes used to describe:
The first definition seems to be more common than the second (perhaps because it’s easier to remember). However, it also appears to date back no farther than 1946, when an amateur astronomer mistakenly connected blue moons with a comment in a copy of the Maine’s Farmer Almanac which said that the moon sometimes “comes full thirteen times in a year.”
The second definition, however, is much older. It dates to an old custom of naming the full moon of each month. “Harvest moon” is one of the last relics remaining of this practice, and it refers to the convenient full moon that gave light in harvest time in some parts of the world.
Some of the moon names we are less familiar with today include:
And there were many others. Different cultures used different names to describe the full moons, and many of these names revolved around agricultural activities.
Once in about every three years, however, an event occurred which threw this handy calendar out of alignment—there would be 13 full moons in a year instead of 12!
To solve this problem, the third full moon in the offending season would be called “blue,” the fourth moon would follow the regular calendar of names, and the months could progress as usual.
Why the extra full moon was called blue is something of a mystery. The Native Americans referred to pink moons (the moon of the month when a flower called moss pink or mountain phlox was prevalent) and red moons (the moon of the month when the sky is filled with reddish haze). But blue? The explanation seems to be lost in the mists of time.
So now you have the origin of the phrase “once in a blue moon.” A blue moon is actually the third full moon in a season with four full moons instead of three, an astronomical event occurring approximately once in three years.
Now that we have a glossary to work with, we’re ready to find out how to use EPDs.
In this post, we’ll try to answer two questions:
EPDs are most useful when comparing two animals. Let us suppose for this example that we are going to look for a Hereford bull.
If you recall, the first of the four basic EPDs is BW, or birth weight. We happen to know of two Hereford bulls with BW EPDs of -5.2 and +0.4. What does this mean? Well, there are two ways to think of this.
First, recall that the unit of measure for BW is pounds. But we cannot just assume that Bull A (BW -5.2) is going to knock about five pounds off the birth weight of his progeny; nor can we assume that Bull B (BW +0.4) will increase the birth weight of his progeny by nearly half a pound. Instead, we are comparing Bull A and Bull B to each other. The EPDs tell us that Bull A’s calves are lighter at birth than Bull B’s calves by 5.6 pounds on average.
We can also compare the EPDs of individual bulls to the breed average. Using the example above, suppose that we want to know how Bull A stacks up compared to other Hereford sires across the breed. Also suppose that the average EPD for birth weight in Herefords this year is +3.3. This puts the average birth weight of Bull A’s calves 8.5 pounds lower than the breed average.
You may have seen an additional number next to the EPD, perhaps labeled Accuracy or ACC. This is usually a number between 0 and 1, and it reflects the amount of data that was available when the EPD was calculated. The closer the accuracy number is to 1, the more accurate the EPD is considered to be and the less likely it is to change over time as more data is collected.
Calculating EPDs is an incredibly complex process and uses an enormous amount of data. Furthermore, it is a task that must be repeated frequently by each individual breed association so that the EPDs and averages are up to date. The process of collecting data and outputting EPDs is called a national cattle evaluation (NCE).
The data being collected falls into two broad categories:
Like begets like. For this reason, the performance of a sire’s ancestors, relatives, and progeny is a useful indicator of that sire’s potential. The NCE collects data on each sire’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, siblings, and offspring. Of course, a young bull may not have any offspring, or at least any offspring old enough to have associated performance data. In that case, interim EPDs are calculated primarily based on pedigree data, and the accuracy is set at a lower number.
All of this data goes into computer models for processing. Many factors besides the raw data are considered in the models. For example, the data is adjusted to account for the differing management practices between producers, changing genetic trends across the breed, and genetic linkage between the traits themselves, among other things.
While you might think that an EPD of 0 for any given trait would mean average, this is not the case. EPDs are assigned relative to a base population. An arbitrary year is selected, and the base population consists of all of the animals born in that year. The base population is assigned EPDs totaling 0, and current EPDs are reported relative to the base population’s EPDs. This is why the average birth weight EPD for a breed can be +3.3, as in the example above.
When the EPDs are finally calculated, they are reported along with the breed averages and percentile rankings. The percentile rankings simply tell us how a given sire stacks up in comparison to the rest of the breed. For instance, if our bull has a CED (calving ease direct) of +7.3, he might rank in the top 1% of the breed for that trait, while if his CED is +2.6, he might only be in the top 25%.
So now you have the basics of how to use EPDs. But like any other tool, this one has both advantages and disadvantages.
Next week: Pros and Cons
Trust in the living God is the bullion out of which heroism is coined.
—Charles H. Spurgeon
If you like maps and you love Kansas history, have we found the book for you! The Historical Atlas of Kansas by Homer E. Socolofsky and Huber Self contains over 70 maps presenting different aspects of life in Kansas, past and present.
Each map is accompanied by interpretive text, which provides useful and interesting background. Some of the information is no longer current; for instance, Kansas has lost a congressional district since the second edition was published, but the state’s agriculture sales have nearly tripled in value. However, there is still much of value in this book.
Great for research and for the serious history buff—or for those who just love maps!
There is nothing like fresh, homegrown lettuce to make a great salad. If you pick leaf by leaf instead of a head at a time, you may even be able to enjoy a salad a day when the weather is right! Top the salad with a new dressing each time for variety. Throw in some of the other vegetables growing in your garden—tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, radishes, even uncooked peas straight out of the pod. Add some hard-boiled eggs or chopped ham and serve your salad with toast to make a light lunch. The possibilities are endless!
Water is the primary need of lettuce. This plant is not only sensitive to heat, but it is shallow-rooted and can’t really fend for itself. In warm, dry weather, you will probably have to water it every day, and you should definitely mulch it well. On the other hand, don’t overdo the water, either. Lettuce leaves that have been sitting on soggy ground are not particularly appealing.
Lettuce needs special care in the summer. If you want to extend its life a little longer, you may have luck protecting it with shade cloth; or try raising it under a dense canopy of asparagus fronds. If the lettuce bolts (puts up a flower stalk) in spite of all your efforts, you may be able to get a few more salads out of it by cutting it back to the bottom inch or so of the lower leaves.
If you only take a leaf at a time, you can start harvesting your lettuce any time after it has become established and looks like it can stand the loss. Pinch the leaves gently, taking care not to uproot the whole plant, and try to take from the outside, leaving the tender inner leaves to develop and feed the plant until a later date.
You can also cut a whole head of lettuce when it looks about the right size, but the plant will not keep producing throughout the season. Use a knife to do this job cleanly.
Like most things, lettuce is really best when used fresh. If you must store it for a little while, soak the leaves in a sink full of cold water to clean them. Then rinse the leaves off and spin. Store the lettuce in the refrigerator in a lettuce keeper.
Leafy Vegetable Diseases
These factsheets include diseases of lettuce, as well as endive, spinach, and celery.
When Kansas was accepted into the Union, the state constitution declared that a seal would be necessary. Governor Charles Robinson brought this requirement to public attention on March 30, 1861. Committees in both the State House and the State Senate were appointed to draw up a design.
But for several months, nothing could be decided. What would the seal look like?
Different designs were proposed, but the state seal as we know it was probably an imaginative combination of two ideas.
The first idea was that of John H. McDowell, and it was fairly simple. McDowell proposed just a fitting landscape scene and a motto, which he suggested should be We will.
The second idea was proposed by John J. Ingalls, one of the most famous state senators in Kansas history. He envisioned something a little more elaborate:
…A blue shield at the base of a cloud, out of which was emerging one silver star to join the constellation in the firmament, comprising the thirty-four then in the Union, with the motto: “Ad Astra per Aspera.”
This idea was officially adopted in committee, but somehow the final design looked nothing quite like what Ingalls originally proposed. Still, some of the basic elements were there, set off by McDowell’s landscape and embellished with the visionary symbolism of the state’s earliest enthusiasts. The state seal in its present form was finally adopted on May 25, 1861.
The state constitution explained the purpose of the seal:
All commissions shall be issued in the name of the state of Kansas; and shall be signed by the governor, countersigned by the Secretary of State, and sealed with the great seal.
In 1879, the state legislature added further directions:
[The seal] shall be used only in attestation of the proclamations, commissions and executive warrants issued by the governor.
When the state flag was adopted in 1927, the seal appeared as the centerpiece of the design.
If you are interested in beef cattle, one of the tools you will soon become familiar with is the EPD, or estimated progeny difference.
Perhaps you have already seen some EPDs in ads. Among the major selling points listed for a bull, you may have seen something like “WW +10,” for example. That is an EPD.
So what does it mean? And how is it useful?
Simply put, EPDs are for comparing the genetic value of different bulls of the same breed. If you understand the EPDs, you will have a general idea of the direction that a given sire will take your herd, genetically speaking.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at how to decipher EPDs, and then we’ll discuss the pros and cons of this breeding tool.
This week, we’ll start by examining some of the traits that EPDs seek to evaluate. Along the way, you’ll find out what the “WW” in “WW +10” means.
All profit indexes are calculated in dollars per head unless otherwise noted.
Notice that different breeds use different sets of EPDs, frequently geared toward mitigating the weaknesses and maximizing the profit potential of each breed.
So now that you have a glossary to work with, you’re ready to start learning how to use EPDs.
Next week: Crunching the Numbers