Prairie View

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lovely and Awful Comments

Be sure to read beyond the asterisks for the good words.

I'm getting fed up to here with the spam comments to my blog posts.  I took off the captcha because I heard from some legitimate commenters that it was almost impossible to decipher some of the captcha codes, and I certainly did not wish to discourage any legitimate comments.  I did preserve the moderation function to keep the spam out, but that is becoming a real trial.  Sometimes there are a dozen in a day, and sometimes the spam appears within minutes of a post.  I don't have time for this.  I used to read the spam for laughs, but I'm too disgusted by drivel such as the following to continue doing it this way.  It was a comment on a post dated August 4, 2009.

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I'm happy, however, to have you send me any legitimate comments by email, if the captcha gives you too many fits to comment in the straightforward way.  Tell me if it's OK to post them, or at least respond if I ask.  Email address:


The writer below sent me the following comment by email and I asked and was granted permission to post it here.  It refers to three posts that appeared on March 28:

     Amen on every point of your blog post! Exactly my thoughts! You said it for me the night of the meeting.
    I also agree totally on the natural environment issue. There is nothing better in my opinion. (maybe I'm "nature-smart" too) Forget the big building, big ball diamond and gym issue-- they are way over-played. Just build a modest grade school and let the children walk, run and explore during break. I love it!
    I have seen the results of stressed children in the out-of-doors and how they respond to it. Their attitudes improve, their aggressive behavior diminishes, their depression lifts, color comes into their cheeks and their eyes shine. It is amazing! But why should we be surprised, God designed it that way. I so wish people could listen.
    Just so you know, I am a kindred spirit!!
    Blessings, Judy

Pollen Count Alert

If you live where I do and are afflicted with cedar pollen allergies, I predict a miserable day for you today, and I'm sorry.  All morning I've seen clouds of dust billowing from the reddish, pollen-structure-laden branches of the cedar tree visible from my dining room windows.  It's blowing straight west.

Cedar pollen allergies is another good reason not to totally enclose your property with cedar trees, and especially not to plant them south of your residence.  Every day of south wind during this season will multiply your misery, and if you have them all around, you'll be miserable every day, period, during this season.

There are other good reasons for not planting cedar trees to the south of your property, but I've ranted about those before, so I'll spare you this time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Whispering Out Loud

It's always a little dangerous to sit beside a sister or sister-in-law or a close friend at a meeting like last night's.  It's too tempting to whisper one's comments to my neighbor, and we all know that's juvenile behavior.  Poor Judy was the recipient of some of my whispered offerings last night.

Here I don't have to whisper, and that's a relief.  I don't even have to camouflage my biases.  I only have to watch my attitudes and my words.

--I favor building a school on the Mast property.  I do not favor locating a community building there or anywhere right now--perhaps later at the Pleasantview property.  I would like for the discussion of a community building to be taken off the table and considered at a later time, separately.  What is needed right now is a grade school, and what is likely desired for the future is a grade and high school combined in one facility. Trying to provide for all the needs in one grand facility seems to me to complicate all of them and make them less functional than they could be otherwise.  If neither church housed a school, those facilities would be adequate for most of the needs that arise--funerals, for example, without a community building.  If a gym is needed right now, I would like to see it be a greenhouse-type structure.  (See earlier post.)

--I think the prevailing wind direction does not matter in the location of a lagoon.  When Lowell had one installed at their place, it was located straight south of the house.  When I questioned the wisdom of that, Lowell or Judy told me that there is no odor associated with a lagoon except during a day or two at a certain time of year when the bacteria digesting cycle is at a certain stage.  They have found this to be true during several years of use.

--I see Partridge people as friends and am not worried about school decisions at this stage  making much difference to them at all.  If we are as interested in being gracious as we are in preserving good relationships (as I heard expressed last night), I think we'll all be in good shape.  Four households in Partridge consist of members of my immediate family.  They feel like they're among friends.

--What we saw on the scale map with the placement of the various structures, etc. included a very large building and space for parking 126 vehicles.  If we did not include a community gathering place (gym) in the structure, the building could be much smaller, and the parking lot could also be much smaller.  On any given school day, the total number of cars is never more than 25 at the high school, by my estimate--usually far fewer. Grade schoolers don't drive themselves to school or need parking space.

--The model structure was for a facility that combined the high school and grade school.  Yet there was a good bit of talk about the distance between each of the  prospective locations and the present high school.  That becomes a moot point if the schools are combined.

--Also, there was talk of the disadvantage of crossing two railroads and a highway in traveling between the Mast property and the current high school.  That is, in fact, exactly what has been happening ever since the grade school started at Center.  Going to the high school from the grade school means crossing two railroads and a four-lane highway.

--Furthermore, David was exactly right in pointing out that none of that (dangerous crossings) would be necessary if  people used the US50 route instead of the Trail West route between the Mast property and the present high school.  I do something very similar almost every school morning.  I arrive at the Partridge Road/US 50 intersection and make a decision about whether to turn left or go straight ahead.  The Mast property is about a half mile beyond this intersection. By my calculations, there is very little difference in how long the trip takes, but I can make the US50 trip with less stopping and starting, and sometimes I just like being able to avoid that.  On the way home, I take the TW route more frequently--when I feel the need to unwind en route, and don't mind the stopping and starting.

--I don't think a walk to the ball field constitutes a hardship.  Fresh air and exercise are what break times are for, and that can happen on a walk as well as during an organized game.

--I don't think the Amish church people care where we have our school.  They have their own school and would not likely use ours.  They have their own community building too, and would be unlikely to use ours in any case.

A Better Thing

I made a comment at last night's meeting (see previous post) which I will reference here and elaborate on.  I didn't write it down, so I can't repeat exactly what I said, but my thoughts ran along these lines:

Two things that are important to me [in the school site selection process] are land use and children having access to a rich natural environment.  

Our community needs places that are highly visible, in high traffic areas, which can be developed as commercial property.  We also need fertile, tillable land.  Neither of those characteristics are particularly important, however, for a school site.  

When children attend school away from home between the ages of 6 and 18, they spend roughly half of their waking hours at school.  Studies have shown that children are happier and learn better when they have abundant opportunities to interact with a rich natural environment.  Providing such an environment for our children at school is a gift we can offer them.  

What I didn't say, but what everyone there knew, is that the Pleasantview site is on ideal farmland, in a location that is also ideal as a commercial location.  The Pleasantview site is also relatively devoid of readily accessible natural areas, being extensively developed in all directions except south, where there is a tilled field.  The Mast site on Partridge Road  is not currently in production except as grassland, and it is in a much less ideal commercial location.    With a compliant landowner on the rest of the 80-acre tract (and I believe that is the case), theoretically the whole area could serve as a ready-made outdoor learning lab and recreation area, without doing damage to the area or re-purposing its current use.  Some trees are present, especially along the fence row, in addition to the predominant vegetation, grasses.

For me, land use is an important stewardship issue.  Way back when we bought our Trail West place in 1984, I remember my cousin Mike commenting that he likes to see people utilizing existing home sites, rather than seeing agricultural land being taken out of production for use as a home site.  True, that place contained only old buildings, but it made a good home for us.

Since then I've come to see appropriate land use is an important consideration in building thriving communities.  We wince at government regulations that apply to land use, and, to be sure, sometimes they seem laughably ridiculous.  We must never laugh, however, at the high standards of conduct that our commitment to Christian stewardship calls us to.  If the matter of land use can't fit under the umbrella of things that we consider mindfully in our living out our faith principles, we need a bigger umbrella.

I don't mean to say that altering land for human use is always poor stewardship.  Not at all.  On the contrary, I believe that many times human intervention can maximize the usefulness and productivity of land in a way that would be impossible if it were simply left to itself.  I mean simply that waste is a stewardship problem when it spoils land for what could have been a better use of it--for the long-term health of the community.

The other matter--providing children with a rich natural environment--is sometimes difficult for me to talk about.  I feel so very deeply about this, and have felt so poorly understood or misunderstood and even been maligned at times when I have tried to talk of it in the past, that I can hardly muster the courage or hope to do so again.  I have never talked to a single person in our churches or schools who has looked into this, as far as I know, but it's there, hiding in plain sight.

Here I go . . .  (I should probably forego detailing the Biblical imagery that comes to mind--of lambs and dogs and lions.)

The research is simply indisputable.  Children deprived of contact with nature always suffer.  They may not know they're suffering because they've never known anything else.  They hardly ever know how to articulate what they're missing.  But they will surely experience the results of the deficiency.  Dread, sadness, depression, fearfulness, and lethargy can result.  Other possible manifestations are at the opposite end of the spectrum: hyperactivity, tension, anger, and hostility.  I've "seen" them all, and I believe the adults in such children's lives are remiss if they do not recognize this and do what is in their power to do to alleviate it.

My personal inclinations affirm all that I've read on this matter.  I do recognize that not everyone will view this with the same passion I do.  In Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences categorizations, I've come to understand that I fit into the "nature-smart" category, as opposed to music-smart or body-smart or people-smart or any other kind of "smart" category.  This really is part of who I am.  I can't not notice what is present in nature.  I see plant "friends" everywhere--along the roadsides, in yards and gardens, and at the garden center.  I see bird friends everywhere too--perched on the power  lines, flying up from the roadsides,  singing from the tree by the garden, and cavorting at the feeders.  I love watching the sky during the day and night.  Most children start out life like this, seeing the whole natural world as endlessly fascinating.    With the right opportunities, the wonder never leaves, and life is immeasurably richer for it.

What usually happens, however, is that the wonder in nature is systematically stifled by isolation from it.  What replaces it is not nearly so captivating--lessons at a desk, play on a diamond or in a gym, being riveted to a screen.  But it's often the best we or the children can think to do.  I propose replacing some of the above activities with random or purposeful, structured or open-ended periods of outdoor play in an undeveloped landscape.  It's so much more than walking through the grass or digging in the dirt, although those can be part of the picture.  It is noticing and celebrating and thanking God who made what is there.  It may be nurturing or tending or protecting it.  Ready access is essential for realizing this ideal.  I can already see the smiles and eagerness on the faces of children so favored.

My observations also affirm what I've read on the benefits of having plenty of time to interact with nature.  Such children have bright eyes and usually good health, they become proficient at a variety of tasks, they seem mature for their age--in the sense that they accept responsibility confidently and relate appropriately to people of a variety of ages.  They are minimally silly, and typically unpreoccupied with trivia like the drama of the lives of entertainers and sports figures.  They learn eagerly.  Sitting at a desk after such soul-satisfying play is not torture because the mind and body have been properly prepared. These "broad stroke" descriptions could be nuanced further, of course.

When I was in the upper elementary grades, our boys' basketball team was very good.  You'll have to ask one of them for the details--Oren or Gary could certainly fill you in.  David or LaVerne or Nevin, who live here, or Leon or LaVern or Phil, who now live out of state could no doubt also recite many more particulars than I can recall.  Uncle Perry (A.K.A. known as Mr. Miller) was the coach.  Mind you, he had never played this game himself, due to his handicap from polio.  Neither did he have a background in watching others play competitively.  But that team was still very good--champions, in fact.  Perry used to say that he thought it was because the boys knew how to work.  They got up early and did chores before school--including his own son, who did not live on a farm, but helped milk goats and take care of chickens, and who worked for his uncle on the farm during the summer.

I propose that "our boys" were good partly because those chores put them in regular contact with the natural world, and it gave them confidence and motivation and strength.  Their only practice time was during regular recess time--never after school.  Our class was also strong academically, lest I convey the idea that all we thought about or were good at was basketball.  I can't help but notice that the life most of the boys in my class experienced is very different from the life many students experience now.  How many students do you know who do outdoor chores before school?  I don't know all the details of our students' lives, but I venture a guess that very few students do outdoor chores before school.  Tell me if I'm wrong.

How often have you seen someone with a farm background "making good,"  to the surprise of people who think of such a life as being slightly deprived?  Their success is undoubtedly due to a combination of factors, but I firmly believe that contact with nature is an important one.

All I ask is that adults educate themselves on the matter of childhood interactions with nature by reading what they can (or at least taking the word of those who have studied it), remembering the wonder in their own childhood, observing what is happening now, and acting in the best interests of all children when it is in their power to do so.  Oh, and talk about it to others.

On a related matter, last night's discussion concerning the ball diamond left me wondering if we are not majoring in minors on that subject--exact number of feet necessary in the outfield, distance walked to the playing field, through the blue line or via an installed culvert, slope of the field, etc.  All this would be less critical if we had not already become very dependent on this as a recess time activity--maybe even more so in the minds of adults who remember their own prowess fondly as school children than in the minds of our current school children.  I propose that we have become dependent on softball because we have typically had fairly sterile school environments in the past, and there weren't many other options.  In the presence of other appealing options, I suspect that students could take or leave softball and regard it simply as one of several possible playtime options.  That would be healthy, in my opinion, and I believe the process has already begun.  I hope adults do not circumvent the process.  

Softball probably happens more frequently at the grade school than at the high school, where we play only several times a year--because at the high school there is a building where basketball can be played.  Much of the above would apply to basketball also--and, at our school, it doesn't even have the virtue of being played in the fresh air and sunshine.   Bottom line?  I believe both the gym and the softball field, while a convenience and sometimes a pleasure, ought not to be unduly emphasized in our planning.   Sports are not the main thing or the best thing about school.  They are what people do when there is nothing better to do.  Interacting with nature is a better thing.

Location, Location, Location

In the real estate trade, the three most important factors in determining a home's value are encapsulated in the hackneyed phrase:  location, location, location.  After last night's meeting, I'm pondering whether that is true of a school's value as well.  We're still talking about building a school, and had a meeting to discuss possible locations.

The presenting committee did a good job of explaining the maps of the two tracts that are being considered as a site, and telling the back story of regulations and challenges affecting the use of those sites.  They also made an effort to "stuff" their biases--successfully, most of the time, in my estimation.  I especially appreciated the explanation of why the location discussion has been reopened.

Both sites are ten acres in size, and both are available either because of having been purchased with donated money--from Bud Helmuth's estate--or by outright donation of land.  Both are situated on the east side of north-south roads, roughly 2-3 miles apart.  Both are carved out of the NW corner of a larger tract.  One is on a dirt road 1/8 mile off US50/K61 and two adjacent railroads, and the other is on a paved road between US50 and K61 in a spot where they are separated by about a mile. At this site the railroads are 1/2 mile south.

One site is "flat as a pancake" and is in the NW corner of what is currently a wheat field, but still needs $37,000 of dirt work to be readied for a school site.  It has a one foot elevation variation within the site.  A residence is located to the north, and a huge complex of greenhouses partially wraps around the tract on the east. Across the road is a charter school in the Haven district--formerly Elreka School.  One feature of this site is the presence of an underground high-pressure gas line crossing the property.  This is the Dean Road or the Pleasantview site.

The other site has a "blue line" running across it, roughly at the center of a rectangular tract with a short end bordering the road.  By definition, a blue line is a waterway that is dry 99% of the time.  It's currently part of 80 acres of CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) land, which means that it was enrolled in a government land conservation program that paid farmers to take highly erodible land out of production by planting it to native grasses.  That site would need $87,000 worth of dirt work, according to one quote.  The site includes an eight foot elevation variation from the highest point to the lowest point.  A very small irregularly-shaped "patch" along one side is in the flood plain.  There are no regulatory barriers to installing a culvert across the blue line.  To the south is a set of farm buildings, but it is no longer a working farm.  To the north is a tilled field.  A public grade school in the Haven district is located one-half mile away, in the town of Partridge.  This is the Moyer or the Mast site.

I prayed for the meeting at various times during the day yesterday.  Some time during the day I recalled a picture I had seen during a time when flooding was threatening a Mennonite school in Oregon.  From the picture, I understood what this school must have done--erected a greenhouse-like structure to be used as a gym.  That idea struck fire with me as a possible option for us, if a gym is determined to be necessary.  

I get a fat catalog and many smaller catalogs every year from Grower's Supply.  Farm Tek carries many of the same products and the two business names are either actually under the same ownership or are closely associated in some other way.  In those catalogs I've seen a lot of creative uses for greenhouse-like structures.  Some are glazed with semi-rigid  materials and others with flexible material.  The semi-rigid glazing is more durable and more expensive.  The flexible plastic is assumed to need replacing after a certain number of years because of deterioration from ultraviolet rays. Sometimes the ends are closed in with wood or metal, to allow for more substantial framing for entry doors, ventilation fans, etc.

What do I know about greenhouses?

--My grandmother's funeral was inside a greenhouse, in December, in Iowa.  The only uncomfortable thing about that situation was the backless benches we sat on.

--I worked in a greenhouse business for several seasons.  It was always bright and comfortable there, even on cold, cloudy days.  In both of the above cases, the temperatures were routinely kept comfortable for plants, and thus were comfortable for people as well.

--We have a small freestanding 10 x 10 "plastic" greenhouse now, and earlier, at the Trail West place, we built a larger (12 x 30?) greenhouse as a lean-to on the front of a shed-roof structure.  The roof was made of Lexan, a semi-rigid material, and the sides were mostly made of recycled windows.  While we lived elsewhere the sides have fallen into disrepair, but the roof is still in reasonably good shape.

--In years past, I've spent a lot of time poring over a Stuppy catalog--a commercial greenhouse supplier out of Kansas City.  In short, I was very familiar at that time with what is available in the trade.  Purchasing one of their buildings was always too much money for us to spend, though.  The Grower's Supply and Farm Tek catalogs have offerings similar to Stuppy, but feature more diversity in materials and applications for the structures.

--A cutflower grower from Oklahoma loves her Atlas greenhouses, which she selected specifically because of their solid construction, and thus more ideal for withstanding the winds at her site.  She built the first greenhouse herself, with help from another greenhouse owner from Texas.  I heard her speak on the subject.

There's definitely a lot I don't know about greenhouses, but what I do know factors into my interest in pursuing this as a "gym" possibility.  Here are some of the reasons why I'm interested:

--Construction costs would be far less than a more traditional structure made of wood or metal.

--Construction could utilize volunteer labor.

--High clearance (for playing volleyball, etc.) can be obtained with far less structural strength and materials cost than is necessary for heavier construction.

--If the structure were not needed at some point in the future, it could be dismantled, moved elsewhere, and re-purposed.

--It would always be light and bright during the school day.

--On sunny days, the solar heat gain would make supplemental heating unnecessary.  Kansas typically has sunny winters.  I like how this would let us take full advantage of one of our geographic location's good features, at little or very reasonable cost. The school year also coincides very neatly with the time of year in which solar heat gain is most needed and appreciated.

--The gym's use would be self-limiting in that on the warmest days, it would be too hot to be inviting.  Those are the times when children should play outside anyway.  (I've been told that the grade school teachers are not proponents of building a gym because they want the default recess activity to be outside play.)

--Bringing in outside air is a given in a greenhouse because of the necessity for cooling, even on cold days, if it's sunny outside.  I like how much more fresh air this would provide for exercising students than merely walking down the hall to a space within a traditional building structure.

--I assume that a "greenhouse gym" would be constructed on a concrete pad.  If needed, the pad could be constructed in such a way that it would also accommodate a more traditional building in the future.  While I don't see floor heating as being very necessary for a greenhouse gym, the tubing needed for floor heat could be installed with an eye to the future.  The concrete mass serves as a huge heat sink during the day and keeps the temperature from dropping precipitously at night.

--Some gatherings could happen inside a greenhouse.  School programs in the evening might be a bit of a stretch, but smaller events during the day could quite easily be accommodated.

--A greenhouse gym could provide an indoor walking space for adults.  That would be true, of course, for any gym, but allowing free access to a structure outside the main school building would be less problematic than to do so in a gym enclosed within a classroom building.

--Playing noises would be more isolated in a structure not inside a classroom building.  

--It would avoid massive "overbuild," which is a concern I've heard repeatedly from people who are thoughtful about matters of stewardship and the real and "image" hazards of affluence.

--In either location, a greenhouse would fit with one of the principles that architects (at least the ones I celebrate) routinely consider:   fitting the building to the site.  Wind and sun issues would be similar in both places.  In the Pleasantview site, this structure would be exactly like many nearby structures.  In the Mast  location, its image as an agricultural endeavor would fit in with the purposes of all the land around it.

I'll write more later about thoughts triggered during the meeting.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Sunday at Home

Church was canceled today because of the wintry weather we had overnight.  We had only several inches of snow, but it drifted on east-west roads, and the church yard was icy.  People who could still get out this morning weren't sure that they could get home afterward.  I know of one family that got stuck around noon when they tried to go somewhere for a Sunday dinner appointment.

Making these decisions is often not easy, but I, for one, thought canceling church was a good call.  I'm pretty sure that people who thought it was a bad call (if there were such), had one or more of the following:

--A four-wheel drive vehicle
--A young, strong body
--Mechanized equipment for clearing snow or getting themselves unstuck if they got stuck
--A residence on a north-south road
--No responsibility for the very young or the aged
--No responsibility for seeing that the church service runs smoothly (perhaps in the absence of people appointed to the various responsibilities--who couldn't get there)

If our salvation depended on having church every single Sunday, no effort would be too great.  As it is, not so much.


Tristan stayed here on Friday evening and then again from Saturday morning till this afternoon.  It was his first sleepover at our house.  Shane and Dorcas were participating in the "Art of Marriage" event at Cottonwood.

This is the first time that I saw the silly, teasing, playful side of Tristan's personality.  Peek-a-boo was his idea this time, and he did it with the throw on the couch and the Japanese fans he found in a  big pot on the bottom shelf of the coffee table.  (Breathtaking cuteness on the latter . . . )  All in one act, he could paste on a silly grin, look at  me out of the corner of his eye, do a chuckle-grunt and invite a response.

He's got the "Let's look at a book" routine down pat:  Find the book, take it to Grandma, hand it to her, back up to be lifted onto her lap, and help open the book.  Oh, and carefully turn only one page at a time (if it's a board book).

I also took note that he's an easy child to take care of in that he is, for the most part, deliberate rather than impulsive.  If he picks up the stemmed bowl on the coffee table, it's safe to remind him to be careful and then to wait watchfully, and the bowl will be fine.  Ditto for the ceramic lid to the garlic pot on the middle shelf of the kitchen "island."  He knows balls may be thrown, and he does so with abandon.  He has an eye for little things that don't belong--a single hair caught on the string hanging from the window blind, and a tiny sliver of cellophane from the food supplement package.  He picks them up carefully (great fine-motor skills) and offers them to me for disposal.  He shuts the lid on the trashcan--which I often leave open for my own convenience.  We can't be letting the little ones get into the trash.

In child development class we've been studying the various developmental stages during the first year of life, and it's a lot of fun to recognize all the milestones Tristan has now passed and the ones he's moving toward.

Some of these stages aren't so easy to celebrate.  Late Friday afternoon, Tristan was outside while Shane was planting potatoes.  He was having a great time, running around and playing in the dirt--till his mother appeared.  He must have been afraid this meant an end to being outside, or perhaps he was really enamored with the male bonding going on, but he turned purposefully and angrily toward his mother with dirt in his hands and threw it at her.  Wrong move.  Way wrong.  No angelic attitudes and actions in evidence.  Something else.

In the foods department, noodles and corn are not cool, but the following things are:  grapes, hot dogs, rice, tofu, seaweed, and daikon pickles.


I've often chuckled at the little tiffs I observe between people who are, for the most part, capable and mature and generous.  I don't know if my perspective is skewed or not, but I think they happen most often between people who did not both grow up in the same community.  Furthermore, I think the frequency rises another notch when neither one grew up in the community in which they now reside.

Have you observed something similar?  How do you explain whatever you've observed?


On Facebook, the County Sheriff reported an injury accident near Trail West and Salem Road early Saturday morning.  This intersection is 3/4 mile west of our house--where we plan to move to again after school closes, and where Grant and Clarissa live now.  That location is about 1 1/4 mile from another house farther west along the same road--of late, the scene of parties involving alcohol.

This accident  must have followed such a party--probably at that same place.  When one person passed out, his buddies loaded him onto the back of a pickup and headed east for town.  When they got there, he was missing.  After they backtracked to look for him, they found him between the party house and our place, with serious injuries.  No details about how he got "off-loaded" were given, but he was later identified as a 19-year-old from Hutchinson, who was transferred to Wichita with neck and head injuries.  The driver of the pickup, also from Hutchinson, was charged with DUI and aggravated battery.

Sounds like good clean fun all around.  (sarcasm alert)

We never worried about such things when Jeff and Sandy lived there as our closest neighbors to the west.  I'm praying for changed hearts for whoever lives there now.  I don't know the names of the people, but it's single guys, I hear.


Last week the students who earned the field trip went to Lindsborg, a community northeast of here that was settled mostly by Swedish people.  In a grocery store there, Mr. Schrock purchased lutefisk (lye fish), which is a traditional Swedish food.  On Thursday, he prepared the fish for everyone to sample.  It was cod, he informed us, but would not tell us the process for preparing it until after we'd eaten it--beyond the fact that he had baked it.

The appearance of the flesh was surprising--almost clear, and the texture was even stranger.  It was gelatin-like.  The flavor was mild. We added salt and pepper and ate it on some kind of flat bread--flour tortillas, perhaps.

It had been preserved by being immersed in lye-water.

Mr. Schrock told us that Swedish people don't necessarily declare lutefisk to be delicious.  They might eat it once or several times a year.  It's probably in the same category as some of our sturdy foods--hot cornmeal mush with milk, for example.


My co-teacher, Norma, is off to visit her friend Ruby in Indonesia during spring break.  En route, she has stops in Singpore, Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan.  That's a lot of countries in a short time.  Ruby was the recipient of a monetary gift which she decided to use to pay Norma's trip.  I'm happy for both of them that this is working out.

My spring break plans sound a lot tamer, but I'm anticipating a good "staycation. "


I had a good fill of liverwurst and fried mush on Friday evening.  The place was swarming with people, and I marveled at all the people involved in preparing and serving the food.  We sat at a table with a couple from Moundridge.  They told us they look for this event every year and make plans to attend.

I wish Journey@Yoder had a second drive to their parking area--one off Yoder Road.  Threading one's way past the buildings into the parking lot was a bit arduous, given all the people walking between their cars and the building.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Celebration

Locals will know Spring Celebration as the name of an annual event in Pleasantview.  It happens this weekend, primarily on Saturday.  Many of the businesses there sponsor drawings and offer refreshments and   advertising tokens of some kind.

We heard during announcements at church last night that, among some of the businesses represented there for the first time, will be Hutchinson Regional Medical Center.  They will set up at Pleasantview Home Improvement (PHI) and will offer several kinds of free screening services.  I understand that it's a public relations effort, and, as we all know, offering something for free is a great way to reach the target audience in the Pleasantview area.


Friday night is  the mush and liverwurst fundraiser for Mennonite Friendship Communities (MFC).  It was rescheduled because of the snowstorm that occurred over that time.


April 5 is the date for a fundraiser for the Pilgrim Spanish class.  It will be a chicken and rice dinner.


The weather prediction for Saturday and Saturday night looks more wintry than spring-like.  Right now the chance for snow stands at 70%.  All of Reno County is in the area with the best chances for significant accumulation.

As is usually the case, the track of the storm is still a bit uncertain, and predictions may change.  Our students hope that at least part of next week will be sunny and warm.  I'm sure that having "snow days" on spring break would seem like a waste.

This weekend though, as long as something wet is falling from the sky, I doubt that many people will complain about the weather, even if significant snowfall could change some weekend plans.  We're still that thirsty.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cedar Pollen Woes

Cedar trees are pollinating and causing distress for those who are allergic to the pollen.  I've never had a clear sense for what time of year this usually occurs, so this year I'm writing it down here so I can check back for it in later years.

My nephew, Joseph, sent a picture of a pollen cloud he photographed at their place. It looks like white smoke or dust.  I remember once seeing it at school in the rows of cedars lining the north and west sides of the property.  The "dust cloud" was downright impressive.

Eastern Redcedar is the most common windbreak tree planted here.  Sometimes it spreads into pastures and becomes a nuisance, but, for the most part, it's a welcome landscape feature.

We're on the eastern edge of the area where the Western Juniper is more adapted (read:  can survive in lower rainfall areas).  It's less ideal as a windbreak tree, however, and often is shorter-lived.  Knowing what cedars to plant is one of the difficulties of living smack in the middle of a number of climate transition zones.  East and West it's rainfall amounts and north and south it's temperature and day-length issues.  The major difficulty, of course, is that season to season and even day to day variations can be quite extreme, so "nothing" is quite comfortable here--except for the hardy people who have learned to adapt.  Sometimes without complaint.

In 1984 we planted an Eastern redcedar windbreak at our Trail West place.  The first few years we watered the trees faithfully, dragging very long hoses to all corners of the property.  For many years they've taken care of themselves.  This spring some of those trees look dead--apparent casualties of the drought we've experienced the past few years.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Web Log

I don't think I much like blogs of the kind I'm about to write.  It will resemble a log more than a journal or any other more thoughtful writing.

On Mar. 1, Hiromi and I went to Wichita for the weekend.  We took in an event at the Hyatt:  A Weekend to Remember.  It was a marriage enrichment event presented by Family Life.  I recommend the experience.  Joel and Hilda had given it to us as a Christmas gift.  We stayed at the Hyatt and ate in the dining room there the entire time except going and coming, when we ate at Asian buffets.  No bedbug worries either.  That was good.  The hostess at the Hyatt restaurant was a Sterling College grad who was there at the same time I was.  I didn't recognize her until she said her maiden name.  What fun!


The following week we had meetings at church with Johnny Miller speaking.  I thoroughly enjoyed those evenings, although I have less appreciation for the hectic schedule such meetings necessitate.  Johnny spoke at school on Friday.  No one moved while he spoke.  (Only a slight exaggeration.)


At the end of  last week my sister Carol from Shawnee, KS and my sister Dorcas and her family from NC came for a week-long visit.  Carol attended the all-day Gathering for Gardeners with me in Hutchinson on Saturday.


They were all here for supper on Monday evening, and I loved having them here.


This is Joel's family's final week (of five) in Colorado.  They're coming home late tomorrow night.


Today all the ladies in the DLM family gathered at Downtown Samplers (my cousin Eileen's restaurant) and celebrated Carol's upcoming birthday.  I left school over the noon hour, with Kristi in tow, and we returned presently, full of good food and memories of good fellowship.  Hannah was the only one missing.


Tomorrow the temperature is predicted to reach 82 degrees.  It was slightly cooler than that today, but wonderfully spring-like.


On Tuesday the Reno County Commission denied the Farmer's Market request for financial help in re-paving the very uneven floor of the Farmer's Market pavilion.  I'm not impressed with the action of some of the people who represent rural Reno County--Dan Deming excepted.  There's a fund for giving assistance to anyone who can provide employment for at least 10 people.  It turns out that at least one member, the lawyer of the three, does not see us as fitting in that category.  I acknowledge, of course, that we're not a typical open-up-a-factory-and-start-hiring-people-off-the-street kind of organization, but I think we all know that farmer's market vendors are most assuredly working hard at their producing and marketing "job" and anyone who represents a rural area ought to know that rural business enterprises are mostly like this.  Many more than ten vendors regularly sell at the Farmer's Market.

Many of the vendors have already donated money toward this project, and an anonymous donor provided $2,000.00.  We also would very much like to do electrical wiring overhead down the center of the building so that overhead fans could provide air circulation during the hottest days, and so that people whose marketing setup would benefit from access to electrical power could acquire it without running cords across walkways.  That will require additional funds.

On the night before the meeting Ron Hirst called here to ask whether we planned to attend the meeting.  He promotes rural development and was there to speak on our behalf.  He's our former neighbor, and Hiromi reported that he did a good job in representing our interests.  He works out of the Quest Center in Hutchinson.


Marian's cancer has been determined to be clear cell cancer, a fairly aggressive type.  Present plans are to go to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa for a consultation.


We met in our newly organized church cell groups last night in lieu of our regular Wednesday evening service.  Our group met at Orens.  Each group has a pastor-leader, and this week most of us met in the pastor's home.  It was a very good evening.  We did some planning for how we want to proceed in the future.


Shane did some concrete work in the shop at the Trail West place last week.  The floor is much improved.  Now it needs a better roof and a lot of paint inside, and maybe it will last as long as we do.  Our boys are not very affirming of our efforts to make this building "do" instead of building a new shed, but our modest means helped us decide.


This has been a strange spring season.  I'm not feverishly starting plants as usual because I've decided that gardening will be for the benefit of our household primarily this year rather than for market sales.  This is a "moving year" for us and each of our children's households, so our gardens are being visualized for a location that is not presently our home.  I'm thinking of all the digging up and replanting of perennials I want to do, but without a clear plan for where they'll be  placed at the Trail West place, it's a fairly daunting prospect.

Packing up this rambling house with its cavernous basement and moving into a small one-story house without a basement presents its daunting prospects as well.  For now I'm pushing off most such thoughts till after school closes.


Shane discovered one of his steers dead in the pasture today.  He's puzzled about the cause of death.


Hiromi is working on getting our tax papers filed.  Just now I heard him mutter, "This is just too complicated. Too complicated . . ."  If I were doing it, I'm sure my sentiments would coincide with his, but I would probably not be muttering quietly about it.  Something more vigorous and  noisy would be my likely way of handling things.


We have one more week of school before spring break.  Tra-la-la!


Lowell leaves this Saturday for several weeks of teaching pastors in Liberia, West Africa.  Some locations are very remote, and seeing pictures of some of the bridges their vehicles will need to cross are good incentives to remember to pray.  They look like haphazard collections of logs and boards, with wide gaps between them and very muddy approaches.  An intense teaching schedule, many hours of travel time, a steamy climate, and modest accommodations will likely add to the challenges.


Titus and Sherilyn's twins were born last weekend.  One of the boys weighed a little less than five pounds and the other more than five pounds.  Since they have two sets of grandparents in our church, each grandfather (Lester and Lorne) announced the details about one of the babies, without reference to the fact that he was one of twins.  It was clever and a little funny.  Everyone is doing well, but they were in the hospital at least through midweek.  One of them was slightly jaundiced and they both had lost a good bit of their birth weight.  The first names are Tyson and Taylan and the second names are Aaron and Andre.`  I'll need a little more time to get the combinations right.


We had a "first" at school yesterday when someone arrived from the electric service provider with orders to turn off our power because the bill had been neglected too long.  Being a reasonable man, instead of turning off the power, he inquired about where he could go to pick up payment, and something was arranged.  (It's handled through the C.C. Church.)  It turned out that automatic payment had been set up, but something apparently went awry, and the payments had not gone through.    It wasn't as negligent as it sounded.


Next weekend a number of couples are meeting at Cottonwood for an "Art of Marriage" event.  It's a DVD version of the live event we attended in Wichita, lasting from Fri. eve. through Sun. AM.  I think we get to keep Tristan for most or all of that time.  At the last report, there were still openings for interested couples.  Ask LaVon Miller for details.  (I'm actually not positive how wide open the invitation stands.  That would be a good thing to ask LaVon if you're unsure whether it's intended for people like you.)  There's a fee--smaller than for live venues.  Joel and Hilda had purchased the DVD set when they attended a live presentation earlier.


World magazine featured a picture and editorial on Amos Yoder from Grove City, MN.  His daughter, Dorcas, who had made the connection between the editor and her father, asked if I would take a photocopy of the article to her uncle, Johnny Junior, Amos' brother, who lives just up the road from school.  So I did.  I think he'd love to have a copy of the actual magazine, so if any locals would like to give him a copy, you're welcome.  Amos faithfully prays about many of the things he learns about by reading the news.


On Monday, local midwife, Lois Y. gave our child development class a tour of the birth center at Yoder.  We all loved the peaceful, homey atmosphere, and Lois' competent and informative manner.  Several members of the class have had siblings born there.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Visionaries in My Sights

My nephew, Zachary Schrock, who is very knowledgeable about many things in the natural world, posted a link yesterday to a TED talk on permaculture.  I watched the 18-minute presentation before school and held forth about it to our principal and several other hapless listeners over lunch.  With the barest hint of a cautionary tone, he commented that implementing the permaculture vision sounded like a major undertaking. He was absolutely right, of course, as he usually is.

I had always thought of permaculture in terms of plant communities only.  Geoff Lawson and his mentor, Bill Mollison (Mullison?--the British English falls on my ear indistinctly here.) present permaculture in much more sweeping terms--not only for water harvesting, but for creating many other systems: soil, energy, local economies, people systems, and useful living resources.  Stabilizing our climate occurs simultaneously with the creation of new systems, and it all begins with water harvesting.  The end result of all this is how they define civilization and development.  Now there's a concept . . .

The permaculture ideas and the comment from Wesley kept churning through my mind repeatedly throughout the day and now this morning.  The Grand Vision.  Is it evidence of foolhardiness or genius?   Divine anointing perhaps?  A mandate for service?

My hyperactive brain leaps easily from one novel idea to another, but plods slowly when those ideas must be meshed with others to effect sweeping change.  Foundational to my idea of what is possible in the natural world is the knowledge that it will all end some day.  In the intervening time, disorder and disasters will increase.  Our best efforts will be insufficient to stand against these realities.  I know also, however, that all of us have been given many gifts from God, which are to be offered back to Him in acts of service.  These gifts are surely acts of mercy on God's part, a way of offering hope to man--His crowning creation.  If God gives grand visions and people can paint them in strokes so large and striking that they inspire enthusiasm and motivation in others, should those visions be modestly "sat on" or boldly proclaimed?

Is it different when grand visions come from people who make no profession of faith?  Should those visions be rejected?  An affirmative answer makes some sense.  How can they get anything right if they don't get the foundation right?

A negative answer also makes sense.  I firmly believe that anyone who is capable of making accurate observations has something to offer all of us.  In other words, a clear-eyed perception of reality is so essential to any grand vision that wherever it occurs, it is to be celebrated and embraced.  Realities understood from our Christian faith must then be brought to bear on interpretation, application, and a mandate.

Last week my father passed on an idea he'd like for me to pursue in a realm very different from the permaculture realm.  Yet it has some of the same appeal, and much of the same laboriousness--trying to effect system change in an area gone far wrong on its own.  Geoff Lawton and my father.  If I could synthesize  both their wisdom . . . well, then I guess you should all listen.  Don't hold your breath.  In the meantime, just listen to whatever vision God is creating in you, by whatever means He chooses.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Local Event for Gardeners

The annual event featured here is one of the best around for anyone interested in food gardening or working in the landscape.  I know personally or have heard presentations from each of this year's presenters, and I'm confident this will be worth your time.  A lot of visuals accompany the lectures, making them memorable and interesting.  If you attend, you might even be lucky enough to win a door prize.  I once won a $20.00 gift certificate to Bornholdt's.

A Gathering for Gardeners

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Come to any or all topics; the event is free.

8:30 a.m.
Doors open at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 407 E. 12th Ave.  (West of the Cosmosphere on 12th)

9 a.m.
Compost Happens! James Taylor, retired instructor, Hutchinson Community College

10 a.m.
Plants that Need Less Water, Scott Vogt, director of Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, Hesston

11 a.m. 
Top 40 Prairie Star Annuals for Color, Alan Stevens, director of K-State Horticulture Research Centers, Hays, Colby, Wichita and Olathe

Noon- lunch on your own

1 p.m. 
Most Common Plant Problems, Ward Upham, extension associate, K-State Research & Extension, Manhattan

2 p.m.
Container Gardens-Succulents, Flowers and More, Ben Miller, president, Stutzmans Greenhouse, Hutchinson

3 p.m.
Curb Appeal- Landscaping your Front Yard, Bob Neier, Ornamental Horticulture Agent, K- State Research & Extension, Wichita