Prairie View

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Another Piece of the Big Job

This post begins with a suggestion that you do a little homework before reading further.  I suggest that you go here to read some background on what follows.  It's a blog post that I wrote in May 2016, and it contains links to two other blog posts by Kelly that I recommend as well.  Kelly is a blogger who taught school in Finland for a time.  In an unrelated blog post I learned that she is a Christian.  No wonder her writing seemed full of truths I could relate to. If you're still up for more information, a Google search can provide a plethora of further material.

This post will continue in the vein I drilled down to in a previous post on how Christian schools in our time might consider reshaping themselves in a truly Christian model instead of throwing off some of the conventions that we inherited from those in use in the public school system, and adding new conventions.

I've been rereading For the Children's Sake, the book that probably has more profoundly shaped my ideals for Christian education than any other book.  The truth that I will focus on here is one I was reminded of in the rereading of the above book by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  Charlotte Mason believed it to be a foundational truth of successful teaching as God intended, and Macaulay embraced it, as do I.  "Children are born persons" is one way this foundational truth might be expressed.  Further explanation follows here via words from Macaulay:

"Charlotte Mason rejects the utilitarian view of education and the conventional educational standards of her day.  She challenges us instead to identify the child's actual needs and capacities; to serve him as he is, on the basis of what is right and good for him as a person. . . . And so Charlotte Mason rejected the idea that what this young person needed was molding.  'Their notion is that by means of a pull here, a push there, a compression elsewhere a person is at last turned out according to the pattern the educator has in his mind.'" (p. 14)

Kelly came home from teaching in Finland ready to try to implement some of the educational insights she had gleaned while she was gone.  In a very short time, however, she realized that because of a fundamental characteristic of education in America, the Finland model would not work here until a philosophical change occurred.  That underlying characteristic is competition.  In my opinion, that characteristic is alive and well in Christian schools also, often couched in very spiritual-sounding terms.  I believe furthermore that sometimes competitiveness directly sabotages what we are called by God to do as teachers--which begins with recognizing that "children are born persons."

Jesus modeled this.  Picture him seated on a Galileean hillside with a crowd before him.  Perhaps some of the parents in the crowd did as my father used to do when he introduced us to "famous" people he had learned to know.  When the children appeared before him, he took them in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them, and prayed for them.  Can you imagine a more "personhood-affirming" action?  On other occasions, Jesus specifically instructed others to receive children as He received them. (Mark 9:36, 37; Luke 9:47,48)  Those who did so were receiving Jesus Himself.  How's that for a compelling directive?

I believe that the Christian teachers I know also desire to bring students to Jesus, and desire to receive Him themselves.  Certainly some of this can happen regardless of the framework to which the process is confined.  I believe, however, that the framework we function in is geared primarily toward productivity.  In this model, we try to do these things:

1.  Quantify productivity.
2.  Document and track accomplishments.
3.  Strive to increase productivity.
4.  Compare accomplishments between students.
5.  Use productivity as a measure of success.
6.  Label children based on their productivity.

Each of these could be clarified by expansion.  Try it.  All of them tell part of the story of how we can lose sight of the personhood of each child in our current system.  All of them are tied to measures of what a child can do rather than who a child is.

I can already hear the protests--because many of them have been uttered inside my own head.  Aren't we responsible to shape students in a way that equips them for Christian service?  Don't we do students a disservice when we fail to develop their fullest potential?  How can we possibly know whether we're succeeding if we're not setting goals and constantly evaluating our progress?

I believe the single most important change that would address the above production-focused tendencies would be to more closely model the only child training model that Scripture spells out--that of the family.  This too could be expanded far beyond what will happen here.  I will mention only a few factors.  All of them would help to maximize the personhood aspects of instruction and shrink the productivity emphasis to an appropriately subordinate role.

1.  Preserve family-sized learning groups.  My arbitrary definition pegs this at 12 students--partly because that's the size of my parental family, and partly because I know how much better I like teaching this class size than a larger one.

2.  Preserve age diversity in every classroom.  I can already hear the howls of protest about the inefficiency of this approach, but I believe it's important both for how it helps students stay interested and involved and for how it helps avoid teacher burnout.

3.  Keep one teacher with the same students for a long time rather than passing them along to other teachers after a year or two.

4.  Do fewer "big" subjects in a day.

5.  Minimize homework.

6.  Inter-mingle physical labor and play with paper work and listening and speaking.

This is all I have time for now.





Thursday, March 09, 2017

Funerals, Fires, and Family Events

Today was the funeral of my aunt Susie.  She was married to my father's brother, Willis Miller.  Susie died at the age of 93, following four years of having needed total care after a stroke.  Her only daughter, Clara, provided that care, with the help of Willis.  Willis and Susie had been married for 72 years.

The funeral also brought a flood of memories of my father's funeral.  The first two songs sung today were also sung at Dad's funeral.  His siblings had gathered, just as they have done on a number of occasions in recent years when one has left the circle, and Dad's absence was very conspicuous.  His and my mother's grave marker are close to the spot where Susie was buried today, and Dad's grave is still mounded with dirt.

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

Some of the readers here have followed on social  media news of the wildfires in our area  beginning this past Saturday.  We had a number of days of very low humidity and high winds.  Apparently from a carelessly-disposed-of cigarette, about 6,000 acres of the NE corner of Reno County went up in smoke.  The fire started near Hutchinson, on the northwest side, in The Highlands.  Since the strong winds at first were out of the south, the fires spread to the north, away from town.

Here, SW of Hutchinson, we were getting a shower of ashes and a haze of smoke from fires in the county SW of us, near Pratt.  Fires in that direction burned over 200,000 acres.  Much of it was in sparsely populated areas.

In our county things got very serious very quickly on Monday evening when the wind shifted and blew just as strongly from the northwest, and the fires raced back toward Hutchinson.  Some residents saw the fires bearing down on their homes and escaped in their vehicles, with no time to take anything along, and only a minute to spare.  Everyone living in the area (north of 30th street in Hutchinson) was ordered to evacuate immediately.  This included 10,000 residents.

Brian and Cynthia, from our church, welcomed their first child into the world on Monday morning.  By evening they were home from the birth center, but then they got the evacuation order, and they had to move elsewhere

Fire crews from over 100 non-local agencies responded to the need for help here.  The military (National Guard) supplied several helicopters which dumped pond water on the fires steadily for several days.  Regional experts from a federal fire-disaster network came to the area to provide expertise.  Red Cross opened several shelters for those who were displaced.

Today, for the first time since the fires began, all evacuated areas were reopened.  Sadly, at least 10 families lost their homes.  and about the same number of houses suffered fire damage, but remained habitable.

We had a beautiful day today--sunny and 70 with light winds.  I really thought we were all "home free."  Since I've been typing this post, however, I've heard the wind pick up again, and I really hope that not a single hot spot reignites.

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

This weekend, four of my siblings will be together in the Holmes County, Ohio area, and none of them lives there.  Dorcas and Clara planned to be there together for a women's conference, at which Clara's sister-in-law is speaking.  My brother Ronald is preaching in a series of meetings at Messiah Fellowship.  My brother Myron is attending a board meeting (for New Horizons?).

I also heard via Rachel, who heard it from Steven Brubaker, that my brother Caleb spoke at Faith Builders on gay marriage, etc.  He was headed soon also to Eastern Mennonite University, and to Bluffton College to do the same.  I presume he had already presented this at the school where he teaches, Messiah College. He was examining especially whether gay marriage makes sense according to typical standards of philosophical inquiry.  He found that it doesn't.  Caleb has a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Monday, March 06, 2017

A Lot of Work: A Little Piece of It?

Most of the post below was written on Saturday--two days ago.

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

I was present this morning in a small group where Steven Brubaker from Faith Builders Educational Programs spoke about the integration of faith with education.  The session was thought-provoking and inspirational.  Something he said gave me the courage to write about something I've been thinking about for several months--and several decades.  I don't know that Mr. Brubaker would agree with how I'm developing his basic idea, so I'll try to be clear about what he said and what is coming from me.

Mr. Brubaker observed that the basic form that Christian education usually takes is largely copied from the form in use in public education.  I believe it would also be correct to say that it's the form that was in use at the time most Christian schools were founded.  Brubaker noted that, to be sure, Christian schools add some things (Bible class, for example), and take away some things.  I suppose the teaching of evolution is a typical take-away thing.  According to him, however, a lot of work needs to be done to create schools that serve the church and the family more effectively.  I could not agree more with this basic premise.  I've done my share of writing and raging and weeping and yes, even triangulating about this, and over the past decades, at times I've grown very weary of the burden of seeing this and seeing no significant changes.

I would tweak the reference to "schools" to say instead that a need exists to create educational systems that serve the church and the family more effectively.  I believe, in fact, that part of the work we should do is to lift our eyes beyond the roof lines of our brick and mortar structures to see the educational system in a larger context, one in which the church could still work together to see that effective education happens--without giving the school an out-sized role, creating an overwhelming workload for teachers, and a nearly unaffordable financial burden for everyone involved.

While meeting  the needs of the children is the reason for having an educational program in the first place,  what I have known for at least 30 years is that many of the means employed in traditional schools happen primarily for the convenience of adults rather than for the good of children.  A big chunk of what remains has to happen because of the constraints and limitations of the traditional system itself.  I could generate quite a list of such things, but will resist the temptation to digress.

As I see it, de-centralizing Christian education, or at least not becoming enamored with consolidation, may be an important key to making an educational system more effective and more balanced within the framework of church and family interests.  I did not always see this--only in the past few years.  Many,  many threads of learning, observation, and experience have combined to lead me to this conclusion.  Must not digress . . . 

This post will suggest only one significant change to the business-as-usual shape of our private Christian school program.

What if we simply sent our students away to school only four days a week instead of five?  This is already happening in America in more than 100 public school districts in more than 20 states.  An article on the National Education Association (NEA) website here tells about it.  A Google search reveals other articles and gives details of research done to determine whether the change affects test scores.

Most of the districts where four-day weeks are the norm are in sparsely populated western states. Fewer days is one way to minimize transportation costs.  Also, support personnel like custodians, bus drivers, cooks, etc.  are employed for one less day, so costs to the district are reduced.  Teachers, of course, still come to school as usual on the day students are absent.  Teachers still have five-day weeks, in other words.  They use the time to do lesson planning or grading.

Some research shows that initially standardized test scores improved significantly with the reduction in school days, but the effect did not necessarily persist.

Some disadvantages of the four-day week were cited in the article.  I noted that most of them would be less problematic in our school than in a typical American school.  Finding childcare for the fifth day was listed as a significant problem for some parents (most of our moms do not have outside employment).  Reduction of services for needy children was another.  Free or inexpensive meals at school insure that students eat decently on school days, but they may not get enough to eat on other days (our school doesn't provide meals--unless you count Friday's hot lunch meals, and most families can provide adequately for eating at home).  A longer school day might prove tiring for students (we had longer days when I was in grade school).  Support personnel at schools have a reduced pay check (we don't have such staff people on the payroll now).

In our setting, the advantage of lower transportation costs would be experienced on a family budget basis instead of a school budget basis. Families already bear this cost and would stand to benefit.

Teachers would absolutely be winners in a four-day school week scenario.  We had such a week last week.  It was at the end of the quarter, and the day was set aside to get the grade cards ready.  I can't believe how much I got done on that fifth day with few interruptions and no classes to teach.   True, I still spent five hours at school the next day, a Saturday, but the week wasn't completely overwhelming as it might have been, especially with special services at church some evenings.  I think it would alleviate what I believe to be the unsustainable teacher workload that seems to be the norm at most of our schools.

I doubt that I need to enumerate how families could benefit.  I'll let you figure it out, except for one less day of packing lunches--that compelling advantage must be noted by this uninspired lunch packer.  

In order for churches to benefit as much as they might, the "off" day could somehow be coordinated with the evening church service during the week.  I notice that many families with school-age children don't regularly attend evening meetings at church.  For example, if Friday were the usual day off, maybe church could take place on Thursday evening, and students could sleep in on the following day.  Fridays could also be days for church work projects.

In general, a four-day school week would seem to me to keep a better balance between time at home and time away from home--something that I believe to have implications far beyond those that most of us have begun to explore.

My other school-shape-changing ideas will have to wait for later posts.

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sunday Wrapup February 26, 2017

The parents of our daughter-in-law, Clarissa, came to Christian faith after they had several children.  Now Bob and Kathy have grandchildren the same age as their own children were when they became believers.  During all the intervening years, the family has prayed daily for salvation for Bob's parents, seemingly with nothing changing.  

Bob's father died of cancer several weeks ago. His body was promptly cremated, and no funeral service took place.  The family not having a chance to gather and grieve and remember seems sad to me, as does having had to part with a beloved family member.  Rejoicing is in order, however, since Bob's father made peace with God shortly before he died.  With that knowledge, a heavy burden is lifted.  To know that Grandpa is safe at home, pain-free, is cause for celebration.  

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

Steven Brubaker from Pennsylvania will be speaking at Center at 7:15 every evening from Friday through Sunday this coming weekend.  He will also speak on Sunday morning.  The topic is "An Anabaptist Worldview."

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

This morning in church we learned about the death of David Jesse Yoder.  I think I met him once when he was single, and traveling through Kansas with his parental family.  They knew members of our family from having served in El Salvador together.  He died of cancer in his early fifties.

My brother Lowell once drove to Central America with David Jesse as a passenger.  Even as young adults they were both big guys--over six feet tall.  They thought that might have helped them avoid becoming easy targets for thieves.  They had a safe trip.

Another death was Jenny Yoder, the mother of Stevie, who is married to the daughter of Mark and Rose from church.  She was in her early 50's as well and died during surgery (I think this is right) for bleeding on her brain from a stroke or an aneurysm.  Jenny was a native of Belize.  She had married an Indiana man and they raised their family there.

In each case, a large family remains.  

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

On Friday evening the Liverwurst and Fried Mush Fundraiser for Mennonite Friendship Communities raised around $15,000 for the continuing care fund for residents who have outlived their resources.  I love this food, and apparently about 849 other people do too.

Lowell Peachey, who is the CEO of MFC is undergoing treatment for lymphoma and was unable to be present.  People who wished to do so could sign a giant card for him.  Our BD son used to serve on the MFC board, so supporting this effort is always done partly in his honor.  

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

We had a few guests in church this morning who had come to the community for the Anabaptist Financial seminar yesterday.  We didn't attend, but I heard good reports about the meeting.  

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

I recently subscribed to the Mennonite World Review, a newspaper that my parents read regularly.  I was surprised to see in the Mosaic section a short piece lifted from my brother Ronald's "Observations" column (which he inherited upon Dad's death) in Calvary Messenger.  Dad would have enjoyed reading this.  Some quotes:  "Giving priority to family activities or church services is a vote cast with presence and absence . . . He wonders what it communicates when vacations and outings are scheduled to minimize conflicts with work but not the Sabbath."

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

Last week Linda gave me a booklet on wildflowers that had my name in it, along with Linda's and Carol's.  The names were written in my mother's neat handwriting, along with the family's address at the time:  Route 1, Box 51, Hutchinson, Kansas.  The book was published in 1960.  I remember when my mother gave it, along with a companion volume about birds.  I pored over both books for hours in my childhood.

I'm ever-so-grateful for how Mom encouraged us to learn about the natural world in this way, and I treasure this momento of her. 

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

Last Saturday Hiromi and I bought a new clothes washer.  In 35 years of marriage, we have only had two different automatic washers--both of them Maytags.  The first one was actually still working when we stored it because Mom's was still in place and usable when we moved to the farm.  Shane made an executive decision and tossed our stored one when we moved back here to the Trail West house.  He informed us there was a dead coon or something in there.  I think it might have been a blanket that got wet and grew mold.  We moved Mom's old washer along to Trail West.  It worked till now--sort of.  

The week before, the washer had committed an unpardonable sin and splashed black grease over my light-colored going-away dresses.  It had happened once a number of years ago, but the misbehavior did not reoccur so the washer did not get replaced then.  Since then it accumulated several other strikes against it--water leaks, mostly, and finally Hiromi decided it was time to replace rather than fix it.  We got a top-loading Speed Queen, based on Clare's recommendation after she researched the matter when their washer had to be replaced.  It's old-fashioned in most ways, which is fine with me, and a benefit in Hiromi's eyes. 

When we first got married, I did the laundry in a wringer washer.  We didn't have an automatic till after Joel was at least a year old.  I still feel nostalgic about washing that way, but I do enjoy the convenience of an automatic washer.

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

Yesterday I saw a cardinal in our yard.  This was notable because we have not seen cardinals at the bird feeder this year as we have in the past.  I don't know where this guy came from.  Either he was lurking here all along or he flew in from elsewhere recently.






Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Wrap Up 2/12/2017

Today in church we sang two of the congregational songs that we sang at my dad's funeral:  "Come, We That Love the Lord," and "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need." Shane led the singing, just as he had at the funeral.  The last line of the second song is "No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home."  In connection with that phrase, Shane referenced Dad's keen awareness of his identity as a pilgrim and stranger on earth.  It was a big part of Dad's way of living that we hadn't mentioned in the tribute, and I was glad it was not overlooked completely in the funeral service.

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

Singing at church is increasingly meaningful to me.  It's a compelling reason not to be late because the service is usually opened with singing and I hate to miss any of it.  We've begun using Hymns of the Church, known informally as the Purple Martin songbook (the compiler is John Martin and the cover is purple), and last year I found myself often wishing I could read over the words again at home and ponder them.

So I did what I've done before--bought my own Christmas present to save Hiromi the trouble.  I bought a songbook for myself.  I have used that songbook regularly during my private devotions ever since.  Since I own the book, I'm marking it up freely, according to the code I've developed as the need arose.

One of the first things I did was to check the Scripture Index to see if any of the songs were linked to the Sunday School lesson for the week.  If so, I read those songs and, if they were familiar, I sang them inside my head.  Those songs were marked like this:  H-1-1-17-SS.  That means I "sang" it at home on January 1, 2017, and it corresponded to the Sunday School lesson.  Inside-the-head singing is a kindness to Hiromi who is usually still asleep while I'm doing this.

If a song is marked with a C instead of an H, it means it's a song we sang in church.  If the date is followed by an asterisk, it means that it was a "new-song-of-the-month" at church.  Sometimes I add other notes.  For example, recently Menno's daughter-in-law selected a song in honor of Menno, who died within the past year or two, so I added the note "Sung in honor of Menno Nisly" after the date.

I usually read and reflect on the scripture verse listed with each song.  Often I follow up by reading the longer passage where it occurs.  

I have to write down the song numbers during church if I'm to remember what they were.  That's a slight inconvenience.  I just had an idea!!!!   What if those numbers could be added to the announcement sheet?  Maybe others would find it easier to worship through those same songs at home if this little detail was taken care of for them.

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

Last week our church hosted the Shepherd's Institute.  It was a week-long training session for pastors primarily.  The main presenters were Linford Berry, Chester Weaver, and Milo Zehr.  Only the evening sessions were open to the public.  Every evening featured a session on worship by Linford Berry and another on the story of the Dutch Mennonites by Chester Weaver.  These sessions were very worthwhile.  They can be accessed at centeramishmennonite.org.

I can't give a very satisfactory summary of the content, but I recognized in one part of what Linford Berry spoke of--that what happens in our church and what happens at home for me is that we are speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  This is an important part of worship.

Chester Weaver's story revealed details of one of the two great blots on Anabaptist/Mennonite history--the Mennonites of Germany who became good Nazis when Hitler came to power (the other one is Muenster).  Weaver very studiously avoided making comparisons to anything happening in America now, but I find the parallels stark enough to be terrifying.  Those German Mennonites of Dutch ancestry had completely lost identity with the signature Anabaptist gift to the world:  the separation of church and state.  The life in Christ at the center of living faith had also been lost, and nationalism took its place.

Fifty years after the fact, even those Mennonite Nazis realized their terrible mistake and apologized.  Seeking forgiveness is a good thing, but it would have been better to seek "permission" from God fifty years earlier.  Thinking about that even a tiny bit might have revealed how completely at odds Hitler's agenda was with the Spirit of Christ, and might have led Dutch/German Mennonites to step off the political/government train that carried many others to death.   The Mennonites were not only complicit in it; some of them helped kill "undesirables" directly by volunteering for the SS--the elite forces involved in the killing machine.

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

I'm thinking a lot about social studies right now.  Our curriculum committee is formulating a philosophy statement as the first step in making good curriculum choices for our school.  We've gotten only so far as an incomplete rough draft.  Even that has called for a lot of background reading and pondering historical documents.

From many angles, I've had a chance to think about what it means to be faithful to Christ while living in a world where government, geography, economics,  history, anthropology, sociology, and psychology are facets of the reality we must deal with.

Many influences enter into my thinking about how to parse and synthesize the truths that must be taken into account in developing a coherent, cohesive belief and statement--the example of my dad's pilgrim and stranger identity, his firm belief that being a witness is incumbent on Christians, papers written by students, Francis Schaeffer's influence on how Christians think about these things, the Schleitheim Confession, the insights of a Christian Facebook friend who lives abroad, thoughtful columnists who write about our times, the book Pilgrims and Politics, John Howard Yoder's writings, Anabaptist history, interactions with people who are politically involved, and memories of things learned in college classes.  Doing it all under the Lordship of Christ is my goal.

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

Conversation with Chester Weaver revealed that he is a first cousin to a young man whose life intersected with mine for a time a number of decades ago.  His comment that "he never recovered" sent me scurrying later to search for evidence that I was not really as guilty as that statement might have suggested that I am--although I don't think he meant to assign blame.  He did, in fact, acknowledge that major cultural differences were present,  Hiromi and I laughed later about the incongruity of my having cited cultural differences in that situation and then "ending up married to a former Buddhist from Japan."

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

Hiromi and I had all five grandsons here for the evening last night.  We loved it.  Ryker, who is about 2 1/2 months old slept nearly all evening.  The rest ate heartily and played happily.  They're really fun little people--every one of them.  Several days ago Ryker underwent a procedure where multiple "ties" inside his mouth were "untied." He had lip, cheek, and tongue ties--multiples of each--which were severed by laser.  I find it painful to think about.  I never heard of such things until recently, and now I seem to be hearing about them a lot.  If the condition is more common than earlier, I wonder why.

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

In our mailbox at church today were valentines from the far-away granddaughters, along with a  letter from their mother.  The mail was hand carried by Nelson and Hannah, who returned from BD recently.  That extended the grandchild fix from last night into today.

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

I learned today that my brother Ronald is to be the speaker for the weekend pre-ordination meetings that will take place later this spring, ahead of a scheduled deacon ordination.

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

I can't believe it.  My sister from the KC area was here for almost a week and I never saw her.  Long days at school and evenings at the Shepherd's Institute took up all my time.  Carol came with her daughter's family when her son-in-law came to install some epoxy floor covering for a job my brother Lowell was also helping with.

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

Many times during the Shepherd's Institute I thought of how much my dad would have enjoyed it.  I've missed him many other times, often when I was sure he could have supplied some missing information or perspective, or when I wasn't sure what to make of something I was hearing.  He was good at bringing balance to discussions, and his knowledge of history was often instructive.  What he's experiencing now is surely better, but it's not yet better for me.



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Roasted and Banished

I learned several weeks ago about a cause of fire that I had never thought to worry about.  This cause affected our son's property along K61.  Our daughter-in-law, Clarissa (Clare) first became aware of the problem when a fire truck appeared in the driveway.  Someone had seen that the pasture was on fire and had called for help.

The wind that day was from the north.  A power line borders the roadway on the south, marking the boundary between the public roadside and the pasture that is part of their 9-acre property.  The house and other outbuilding are mostly west of the pasture, although the pasture does curve around to the south of the buildings at the west end (my apologies to any reader not used to thinking in cardinal directions).

When the excitement was over, the cause was discovered near one of the power line poles.  It was a badly charred hawk--identifiable by his body shape, beak and talons.  He had apparently been electrocuted, with his feathers set aflame in the process.  When the flaming body fell onto dry grass, the grass ignited and the fire spread quickly under the force of the wind.  Two fire departments responded, and the fire was contained--not before it had burned all the way to the outside wall of one of the outbuildings.

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

A Great-Horned Owl has been frequenting our property of late.  I often hear its vocalizations if I wake up at night.  I've seen it perched nearby late in the evening and early in the morning.  Since these owls may nest as early as January, I presume that some of the hunting may be the work of hardworking parents.

In previous years, I often saw a Great Horned Owl perched in the evening on the cross-arm of a power line pole along the railroad on the opposite side of Trail West Road which goes by our place.

In recent months the entire row of power line poles along the railroad has been removed.  I lament the absence of the lines and poles for several reasons.  It makes the landscape more featureless, and it removes miles of perching space for songbirds and predator birds.

Training binoculars on a bird resting on a power line is relatively easy compared to locating it among the branches of a tree, so part of what I lament is that I don't have a clear view of birds as readily available anymore.  Also, I'm sorry that birds of prey don't have a good vantage point for hunting over the prey-rich un-mowed grass along the railroad.  That must be why the resident Great Horned Owl is busy on our  little 3-acre property.  I hope our cat and our chickens stay safe.  The Cottontail rabbits?  He can have those.  The mice too.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

PSA for the Locals

Dorcas Smucker, blogger and author, will be in this community for several days this week.  She plans to be at the Gospel Bookstore on Tuesday to sign books and meet friends and make new friends.  Here are the details, copied from her Facebook post:

Kansas friends: I'd love to see you and at least say hello at a book signing/meet-n-greet at Glenn's Bulk Food Shoppe & Gospel Bookstore on Tuesday, January 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
6405 W. Morgan Ave., Hutchinson, KS
620-662-2875

I hope this event is profitable all around.  Thanks to Dorcas for taking time to make it happen.