Prairie View

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kingman Lake and Miscellaneous

We had our second annual Memorial Day cookout at Kingman State Fishing Lake last evening.  (Can you tell that I'm busily trying to inaugurate a new tradition?)  It almost didn't happen there because of rapid air movement--that kind that comes out of Oklahoma and rushes toward Nebraska, at a clip of up to 39 miles per hour.

Besides the wind, another concern was hail and tornadoes.  Kingman Lake was pretty far from our familiar safe shelters.  All the way home we saw lightening straight ahead, in the north.  This morning I saw a picture of a hailstone that fell in northern Kansas last night.  It nestled mostly in the palm of an adult's hand and reached almost to the fingertips.  I'm guessing it was 4 inches across.  The area up there was in a tornado watch.  Earlier in the day when we finally concluded that the weather excitement was likely to happen elsewhere, we opted to go ahead with the plan to go to Kingman Lake.

If Mom and Dad had chosen the picnic spot, it would likely have happened in Marvin and Lois' backyard.  Mom didn't relish the prospect of a windy event, and Dad was feeling less adventuresome than usual because of his surgery less than two weeks ago.  Deciding to go was one of the many times when the folks in my generation have to choose what seems best for everyone, trying to accommodate the needs of the young and old and those in between.  It still doesn't feel good to say, in effect, to one's parents,  "You'll just have to put up with what we decide, or skip the event and stay home."    It worked out fairly well, with bundling Mom up after the sun slipped behind the trees, and choosing our picnic spot in appropriately close proximity to the restroom facilities.


Everyone in the family who was there last year for the Memorial Day picnic has a memory of an idyllic scene.  It was calm and cool and clear and dry.  But not everyone could be there.  Lowell's family was missing because they were cutting wheat at home.  Dad was missing because he was helping Lowell with harvest.  Mom and Linda didn't come because it didn't seem worth the effort with Dad not going.

This year, everything was verdant and green, including the wheat, some of which only now is beginning to show a hint of ripening.  The air was heavy with humidity--not welcome for people's comfort, but so good for allowing the wheat kernels to fill out and mature without shriveling--especially a hazard with hot, dry winds.


We were still missing quite a few people this year besides those who live elsewhere.  Benji is in Chile, and Shane and Dorcas are in Tennessee with Dorcas' family.  Kristi and Christy are in Guatemala, and Hannah and Heidi were at a youth girls' cookout.  Grant and Clarissa were with a group from Plainview, and Hiromi was working at Wal-Mart.  Marcus was missing too.  Isaac, Susie, and Adam Peters helped fill the void.

It was really good to have Joel's family present, which will not likely happen often in the foreseeable future.


Kingman Lake has two nice-looking cabins, which can be rented from the Park Service.  They are equipped with heating and cooling and a complete kitchen and bathroom, with sleeping space for six people.  They are handicap accessible.  Food, linens, and toiletries must be furnished by the renter, and the place must be left clean.  The cost is $70 a day, with a reservation fee of $14.00.  You can read all about it here.  Apparently the cabins were built by inmates in the state penal system.

Both times we've been there, the place was almost forsaken, except for our tribe.


Before we ate, while the boys were exploring, they saw a Common Loon swimming in the lake.  A hurried trip back to the cookout area, an excited announcement, and a gaggle of interested observers following them happened then in rapid-fire order, and many of us saw it.  It's unusually late to see them migrating through here, and I couldn't see its markings since it was silhouetted against the setting sun, but that silhouette was distinctive, and I presume the boys had been able to see more markings than I could.

Earlier yesterday, at their place, Joseph had seen a hybrid Indigo/Lazuli Bunting.  It had the typical bunting shape, but its breast was white, and it had wing bars, with blue elsewhere.  Its song combined elements of both the Indigo and Lazuli Buntings.  Hybridization between these two species is apparently fairly common, but not commonly seen this late in this area.


On the way home from Kingman Lake, most of the distance is traveled on a road that used to be K14.  In Reno County, this road is now treated as a county road, and farther south, it has been renamed K11.  This is because of some fancy wheeling and dealing in state agencies, with the county having assumed maintenance expenses for the section of the old K14 within the county, in exchange for the state paying for the construction of a four-lane road on K61 between Hutchinson and McPherson.  K14 has been routed east to K17 for at least a portion of its meander through Reno County.

I don't know if the rerouting explains this, but on the trek home via 20-30 miles of that old K14, our caravan of vehicles did not meet a single vehicle between K61 and K400.  Marvin and Lois' observation that Kansas has a vastly overbuilt highway system came to mind--good roads with minimal traffic.


I was driving Li'l Red last night.  This time I got the headlights on on the second try, so that represents progress.  I was feeling fairly good about how things were going on the way home till I discovered that the driver's side window was cockeyed in the extreme.  I had cranked it down all the way after I got to the picnic area. When I was ready to leave, it had gotten a lot cooler, and it was still really windy, so I cranked it up.  I noticed that it hadn't closed completely, but I couldn't seem to crank it any farther, so I left well enough alone and put up with the wind whistling through the cab at annoying speeds.  I was busy hurtling along a bumpy dirt road at the time, and ruing the minimal effect the shocks were exerting on the jolting sensations this involved.

Later, on the highway, when I discovered how bad the window really was, I could hardly force myself to maintain what felt like a slightly reckless 60 mph speed--necessary because of the whole family caravan politely following behind.  Lowell's tail lights had long since disappeared up ahead.  The top back corner of the window somehow ended up outside the frame at the top of the door, while the top front corner was firmly  lodged in the window track, about halfway up.  I don't know if side wind pressure had somehow knocked it off its normal track or what.

After Hiromi got home, he checked it out a bit and soon saw that the window was entirely disengaged from the window crank, and he couldn't dislodge it from its racked position.  Since there was still a slight chance of rain, he took the precaution of pulling it inside the open-front garage.

I'm still thankful for the use of Li'l Red, but I'm increasingly convinced that I liked my Mercury Villager minivan a whole lot better.


On Sunday, Hiromi and I went with Joel to Wesley Hospital in Wichita to visit two people:  Marian Y. and Hiromi's brother-in-law, Vernon Smith (Smitty).

Marian was recovering from an infection which showed up in the vicinity of a port that had been surgically installed the previous week, to facilitate chemotherapy with fewer needle sticks involved.  She came home again on Monday, feeling much better, after having the port removed, the infection treated with antibiotics, and taking in IV nourishment and hydration.

Smitty had a stroke on Friday of last week.  After fairly normal early morning activities, his wife noticed some strange behavior at the breakfast table and had the presence of mind to call 911.  When the first responders arrived, she went to let them in at the front door, and Smitty, who was sitting at the breakfast table, apparently attempted to follow and fell, striking his head on something hard.

At the hospital in Hutchinson, they promptly transferred him to Wichita by ambulance.  One concern was bleeding on his brain.

After things were further sorted out, it was discovered that the bleeding on the brain, which was apparently not too extensive, was likely a result of his fall, since the stroke effects happened on the other side of his brain.  By Sunday afternoon, he had recovered the ability to speak, to use his right side, and to do a limited amount of walking.  We haven't heard when he will be released, but it's good to see him improving gradually.

My sister, Lois, who is a nurse, observed that treating Smitty's condition could be difficult, especially if the stroke was caused by a blood clot.  To try to dissolve a clot and control bleeding at the same time--that would be the challenge.


My fall tomatoes have germinated in containers inside--so designated because I'm way too late for the normal planting time.  I planted three high-furaneol (good flavor gene) varieties:  Fabulous, Red Defender, and Scarlet Red.  I've already tried and rejected Mountain Glory (plant health and productivity were both unimpressive in our climate), but have yet to try SecurITY.  Scarlet Red is an extremely compact and bushy plant--so much so that it's difficult to find the fruit.  Red Defender is apparently very attractive to rabbits or something else, since I replanted three times in several spots last year, and they got nibbled off every time.  I did have at least one plant survive, but Hiromi pronounced the fruit slightly less tasty than Fabulous.  Both were good though.  Hiromi's highly prejudiced in favor of Fabulous, so I'm on my own in experimenting with other varieties.  I personally think it makes good sense since Fabulous seed is apparently commercially unavailable now--sad as that is.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


When I was in high school, one of the singing groups there sang the theme song from the movie Oklahoma! in a program.  I didn't ever see the movie, and I don't remember much of the song, but I sometimes sing the part I remember--usually when it would fit perfectly for Kansas.  "OOOOOOOOOOklahoma--where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, down the plain, and the waving wheat can sure smell sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain."

Today I have Oklahoma on my mind, and whenever I think of the song, I can't get past the first syllable without hearing a wail or at least a moan in that long drawn-out OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  I'm very grateful that the death toll from yesterday's powerful F4 tornado has been revised downward from 91 to 24, and that among the school fatalities, there were only nine children instead of many more, but there is still a lot of grief and destruction to deal with.  Over 200 are injured, and hundreds of homes are destroyed.

In trying to visualize the nearly total destruction we're hearing about, Kansans will think of Greensburg, only Moore, OK was a much larger urban area.  In the late 90s, a similarly destructive storm also destroyed much of the city.  I knew this one was bad when the Weather Watchers Facebook site I was following yesterday said "An incredible tornado disaster is unfolding in Moore, OK . . . They need our prayers."  I couldn't have summed it up better myself.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Food Production Class

I'm getting excited about teaching this class again in the 2013-2014 school year.  I'm hatching plans for several field trips to experts in the area who grow fruit trees and grapes.  The vineyard keeper who agreed to having us visit his vineyard on the east side of Hutchinson is trained in horticulture and works as a foreman in a nursery. He sells grapevines at the farmer's market this time of year, and is very helpful in sharing his experience and information.   The orchardist is also an experienced grafter, and I hope to have him show my students how to graft fruit trees.  Another thing I like about his approach is that he is extraordinarily tuned in to natural methods of pest and disease control, and early on in his fruit tree growing venture, he transplanted many plants from the wild if he knew they were natural hosts to insects that helped control damaging insects.  Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is the only one I remember.

I also hope to give the students hands-on experience in pruning bramble fruits and fruit trees--in the process helping nearby families with some of their spring food production chores.


We plan to use an extension service booklet as the "textbook" for growing vegetables.  It's an excellent guide written specifically for Kansas gardeners, and is available at a reasonable price.  I'd like something similar for growing fruits, herbs, and for raising food-producing animals--from honeybees to beef.  Everything should be applicable to family-sized, small-farm production models, and should be low-cost.  If you know of such a resource, please tell me.


I hope students take this class with their parents' full support.  A few students know they want to take the class, but I'm sure there's a lot of "I'm afraid it'll be too much work" sentiment out there, and students are clever enough to convince their parents that this is a valid argument.   I do have plans to make some of the details easier to manage than when I first taught the class.  That's part of the reason for seeking out textbook "booklets" instead of relying entirely on gathered materials as we did earlier.  I also expect to streamline the studying/quizzing process.   What I will not do is "dumb down" the class so much that students find it a breeze, but run the risk of emerging without having learned much at all beyond what their parents could have taught them in a few sessions at the end of a hoe.  I'd like for everyone in the class to learn the sum of all that any of the parents know, and perhaps a few things beyond that.  

I wish students could look ahead far enough to see what might be very much harder than taking a class on food production:  having a family to feed on a tight budget (and in families with stay-at-home-moms, this will usually be the case), especially if good nutrition is a matter of concern--and NOT having the skills to produce low-cost, nutritious food at home.   After one year of not growing my own transplants, I'm dismayed at how much it costs to have someone else do it for me.  While setup costs for growing your own transplants may not pay off in one year, it won't take long for that to happen.  For me, this year, I would certainly have not paid more in setup costs than I paid for plants.  Besides this, if you do this with your children's help, they will feel the delight of being involved with living things, and they will know how to do this when they have a family to provide for.

Another thing I'd be happy to have students understand now is that if they learn to produce food in Kansas, they can probably do so anywhere.  The same strategies that produce food here will produce more food almost everywhere else.

If students are fortunate enough to acquire a love for gardening, they will welcome every new growing season with joy.  What's not to like about that?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Wrapup 5/20/2013

We've survived the second day of dire weather predictions without having been impacted severely by wind, hail, or tornadoes.  What we've had instead are two little rains of about a third of an inch each, with lots of thunder. Things were more exciting elsewhere in the state and region, and right now I'm pretty sure that, in this department, boring is better than exciting.

A number of the people driving home today from having been at Marcus Wagler's wedding in Missouri drove through some of the active weather events.  A few of them spent time in a tornado shelter near Augusta and others were in a cooler at the Flying J rest area near Emporia.  A few ____________? (choose your own adjective) souls continued driving right through it all.

Yesterday I pondered what would happen to cattle on this place if we really did get baseball-sized hail with 70 mph winds.  They can't get in under roof anywhere.  I remember when the old tin-roofed barn was still standing during a hail storm like this in the sixties--minus the high winds.  We stood on the porch and watched as the cattle ran in and out of the barn in a panic.  The noise inside freaked them out and the hailstone bonks on the outside did the same.


My dad had colostomy reversal surgery last Wednesday and is still at Wesley Hospital in Wichita.  He will likely come home as soon as he is able to eat solid foods and handle them well.  In general, he is doing quite well, but it's obvious that he sometimes needs an advocate to help see that he gets what he needs (and avoids getting what he does not need).

From his 8th-floor room with a view to the west, he likely had a good view of the recent storms blowing in.

I think they must have had a real party in his room this evening.  Marvin and Lois, Ronald and Brenda, and Shane and Dorcas were all there at the same time.  Shane's family had spent Sat. night and Sun. morning at Ronald's place and they drove together to Wichita.

One strange incident during Dad's hospital stay was the disappearance of his cellphone.  The only two ways anyone could think of it having left the room were either via the meal tray or the bedding, and neither the dining room or the laundry area had found the phone.

Last night I got a call from Clarence Stutzman from Ohio--Dad's friend and age-mate, who had been trying to call him over the past few days.  No one ever answered--until last night, when a stranger finally answered and said they were at Wesley Hospital but they didn't know who the phone belonged to.  Clarence told them it was David Miller's phone, and then he called Uncle Paul, who suggested he call me.

I had just gotten home from having visited Dad, so I sent word to the hospital that the phone was somewhere there, although Clarence had not been able to give me much information, except that he assumed it was in the hospital's "lost and found." Lowell was the one at the hospital with Dad, so he was the one to receive the phone when a lady walked in with it while still talking to Marvin, who was the one I had notified, since he was staying with Dad when we left.  Marvin told her the owner was in room 831.

While she was there, someone mentioned having a problem with Dad's bed.  She reached confidently into a certain spot and flipped a lever that fixed things immediately.  She left promptly then before anyone had a chance to ask any more questions.  It's still not clear how she happened to be in possession of the phone.

People who were praying for Dad probably didn't know that their prayers might result in a conscience attack for someone else, and I'm sure they weren't praying specifically for that.  It's a good thing God can interpret and answer our prayers any way He chooses.


The crowd at church was smaller than at any time in recent memory.  There were actually some empty sections on some benches.

Several families were gone to Faith Builders' graduation.  Jewel Y., John M., Holli N., and Kenneth S. all graduated this year.  Others had gone to Marcus Wagler's wedding, and still others went to a volleyball tournament in MO.  (I probably shouldn't tell you what I think of interstate travel for volleyball.)

Seven of our eight ministers were elsewhere today.  Oren, LaVerne, and Gary were somewhere between PA and home.  Gary had spent the night in Chicago, presumably because of weather-related flight cancellations.  Julian was in Mexico, Arlyn in OK, David at Arlington, and dad in the hospital.  Dwight was the lone minister present.


When my sister  Clara's family moved to Columbus, OH, they moved in next to Bob and Marla Spencer.    They became almost as close as family.  Bob and Marla took the children under their wing, shared a room in their house when the Schrocks had overnight guests, and did many other things families would do for each other.  Bob died today or yesterday.

Bob had suffered a tragedy as young man.  When he retrieved a stray ball from the edge of someone else’s property, the resident shot him, and permanently paralyzed his lower extremities.

As an adult, Bob made his living by serving others who were handicapped.

I’m sure that those who were closer to Bob could share a great deal about his life that I don’t know.  I do know that he lived an amazingly bitter-free and productive life.

Stories like Bob’s have influenced my views on gun rights, as well.


In Shane’s absence, Hiromi and I went to Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  The weather was nice and it was a pleasant day, although the crowd was a bit more sparse than a week earlier.  I think graduations must have affected the crowd.


On Tuesday of this week, the Spanish class plans to leave for Guatemala, with two couples going as sponsors.  A total of 21 people will travel together.


We found summer homes for all the hanging baskets at school–just ahead of the church cleaning, when one of the plants got a severe haircut last year.  A year later it is no longer painful to look at, but it still has less than half of the foliage it had earlier.


I spent my first week out of school mostly in working on getting the garden planted at the Trail West place.  The only crops are warm weather crops, since it’s too late to plant cool weather crops.  I didn’t start my own seeds this year, but bought the plants at Stutzmans instead.  When I paid for them I had a sharp reminder of why I usually start my own seeds.


I’m pretty sure that my priorities in getting ready to move are different from other people’s.  I won’t defend mine.  I just know what feels manageable and what doesn’t right now, so getting the garden ready is happening before getting the boxes packed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Birding Boys

Here is a link to a blog post on the Pratt Tribune website about the North American Migration Count at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, about 30 miles west of here. My nephew, Joseph, sent me a link to the blog. Three nephews, one cousin's son, and one family friend are the five young men in the article.  The father who is identified should be Myron--not Lowell.  Both are my brothers.  Since it's a short post, I am copying it here:

  • Tracking bird migration with five young men
    • By Brandon Case
  • How many youth today would arise well before dawn and travel 30 miles to spend most of the day identifying and tallying bird species?
    At least five young men from the Partridge and Abbyville area did as much when they headed for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to take part in the annual North American Migration Count.
    I spent about three and a half hours with the Miller cousins/brothers: Bryant, 14, Andrew, 12, Joseph, 14, and Anthony, 14; their friend Ben Garrett;  a couple of fathers, Lowell Miller and Joel Garrett; and Barry Jones, who works at the refuge.
    The experience of interacting with and observing these young men gives me great hope for the future. While many youth today seem almost inseparable from their cell phones and other personal electronic devices, these five spend ample time outdoors and been birding for the past five years in Kansas and other states. They have definitely not lost touch with nature and our interconnectedness with God’s creation.
    These young men readily identified birds in flight, on the ground, and hidden in the trees and brush. I was impressed with their birding knowledge and skills.
    I left the refuge around 12:15 p.m., by which time the group had already six hours sighting 121 species. After lunch, the Millers and Garretts continued the count with Barry Jones, driving north to the Big Salt Marsh.
    The North American Migration Count is a great way to spend all, or part, of a day. You don’t even have to travel to Quivira to participate. You can head anywhere in Pratt County and start counting. For more information about this annual event, visit .
    I'm also copying an email Andrew sent me:
    Dear Birders, 

    This past Saturday we (Joey, Anthony,Dad,a Friend,and Bryant and I) went to Quivira for a day of birding.
     Barry Jones the refuge manager had invited us because it was the North American Migration Count that
     day and he was going to be out most of the light hours.  His goal was to get as many species as possible
    in a 24-hour period.  We had a great day and our group ended up with 147 birds.  Some of the highlights

    Ruddy Turnstone (breeding male)

    Lark Bunting (15 to 20)


    Cinnamon Teal( breeding male)

    Dark-eyed Junco(Gray-headed)(beating the Kansas late date by 30 days)

    Blue-headed Vireo

    Black-bellied Plover

    Western Sandpiper

    Virginia Rail

    We had a great day for birding and tons of fun

                                      Happy Birding

    Another happy event of the day was learning about a program Barry Jones has up his sleeve, which will feature a series of levels through which birders can advance and acquire some recognition along the way.  He hopes the five boys named above will be the first to try out the program and earn the recognition.  The highest level will require the birder to photograph a whooping crane.  These birds were at one time so nearly extinct that only sixteen remained in the wild.  Although this bird is still one of the rarest North American birds, the population has begun to recover and migrates through Quivira each year.  These majestic birds stand just under five feet tall and are the tallest North American birds.  
    At graduation the evening before the big counting day, I had heard from Ben's mother about the  plans for the following day.  It seems that Ben may actually have been the one who put the plans together.  All the boys are homeschooled.
    Ben's father is an art teacher in the Nickerson school district.  We have learned to know the family through Hiromi and Joel Garrett's mutual interest in creating pottery.  We traveled together several years ago to the Great Bend area to dig clay in an area owned by a major brick manufacturing company.  The company president took us back into the hills around the factory to show us where to dig for the various colors of clay.  It was a lovely outing.  
  • Saturday, May 11, 2013

    Luxurious Exhale

    It's over for this year.  School, that is.  All the seniors "made" graduation, and all the teachers "made" grade cards.

    At the awards assembly today, all the teachers who terminated their Pilgrim careers either last year or this year were rewarded with gifts from their students' families--varying according to their years of service:  fancy "31" handbags (Sara), gift certificates for dining room chairs (Lyle), a gift certificate for an industrial jointer--Will (I hope I got this machine name right.),  a garden tiller (Darrell), and a bicycle and decorative water fountain (Janice).

    Next year's new staff members were also announced--all at the grade school:  Gideon Yutzy--grades 7 & 8, Glenda Miller--grades 1 & 2, Crystal Struhbar--grades 5 & 6, Sheila Ropp--resource teacher.  A music teacher is still being sought for all grades.  Only Glenda is currently living here.  Gideon comes from Poland, Crystal from Oklahoma, and Sheila will come home from Virginia, where she has been serving at Faith Mission Home.


    Something rather astounding happened this year with the typing speeds.  With exactly the same program (Mavis Beacon) we have used ever since I've first taught the class at Pilgrim, the average speed for the entire class was 73 adjusted words per minute (awpm), and the median score was 72.  That means there were three scores in the class higher than 72 and three scores lower.  Actually, all except two scores (the highest and lowest) lay between 67 and 86.  Every student had good typing skills (read:  had learned to keep their eyes on the screen and not on the keyboard).

    The adjusted words per minute score takes into account both speed and accuracy.  That's what the "adjusted" in the term refers to.  The speed score is lowered slightly for each error.

    All this was astounding only by comparison with previous years.  I looked back into two old typing class records and found that instead of 72 and 73, the numbers there were between 45 and 49.  I really can't account for this difference, although I'm pondering several possibilities.

    One student was typing very well before the class began this year, due to her mother having started her at home with Mavis Beacon when she was about in fourth grade.  No one else had particularly notable skills, although it's possible that a few had pecked around on a keyboard fairly randomly before this year.  So maybe slightly greater familiarity with computers made a small difference.

    Another factor this year is that the computers did not lock up repeatedly, as was the case some years.  Also, we avoided triggering some of the bugs in the Mavis Beacon program by leaving all the settings in the default mode.  Last year we had tried some variations and finally figured out that this is what was causing mega amounts of grief, necessitating frequent start-overs.  All this simply boils down to people being able to work efficiently when their equipment functions optimally.   That was the case this year, for the most part.


    The typing class' final assignments provided material for my little speech at the awards assembly today.  In a composing-at-the-computer assignment, I asked them to take on the role of an advice columnist.  The first day was devoted to imagining and recording questions students might ask of such a person.  In the second day's assignment, they were to answer a handful of questions created by another student, and I also asked them to answer their own questions.  I told them they could be as serious as they wanted to be.  (It turned out that was not very serious.)  I was fairly evasive any time one of them inquired about what I was planning to do with the assignment.

    I didn't read all the questions and answers out loud--especially the most controversial ones, but the ones I did read aloud proved to be quite entertaining.  Some of the answers were wise, and others were just silly.  My favorite  question asked what can be done about the epidemic of chronic "flirtosis" at the high school.  The question was complete with diacritical marks to make the pronunciation clear, and a definition was provided.


    Fifteen eighth graders and 12 twelfth graders graduated last evening.  Sixteen of those 27 graduates were homeschoolers.  Dwight Miller had the commencement address.  I especially enjoyed his references to the way migratory animals follow invisible signals to find the same spots their "ancestors" left several generations earlier.  He suggested that perhaps God Himself guides them with His eye, and Dwight likened that to the way God guides His people if they don't take their own way instead.

    At the party afterward, where each graduate had prepared a display highlighting their interests and accomplishments, I was "blown away" by some of the outstanding artwork the graduates had produced. Most of them were homeschoolers who had either learned by self-study or by taking art classes from a lady who lives directly across the road from the high school.  The student and graduate, Clarissa Miller, who won the Kansas state Junior Duck Stamp competition this year was her student.  One was a student enrolled at our high school.  The sad thing is that we, at our high school, offer no art classes except through paces--which everyone agrees is not an ideal way to learn art.  Last night this class void struck me as a serious shortcoming.  I wonder what can be done about this.  None of our current staff members would be able to teach art, but surely someone could.  I'm thoughtful especially about the fact that some who are less successful academically are among those with outstanding artistic talent.

    Anja did something I've never seen before at a similar event.  She had written and then framed--all in one document--short tributes to all the teachers and mentors who had aided in her education.  Despite never having been enrolled full time in any classroom school, she had quite a list of teachers--perhaps 10 or 12.  Her parents were her primary teachers.


    Today is Hiromi's 68th birthday.  We've spent the whole day going different directions, which is not the way I idealize celebrating it.  He went to the Hutchinson Art Fair this morning, an annual event he is very fond of.  This afternoon and evening he had to work.  I was at the school picnic and awards day and then spent the evening at home.


    I will still need to spend a bit of time at school next week, but then we'll be turning our efforts to getting ourselves moved so that Shane and Dorcas can start working on preparing this house as their home.   It looks daunting, but it's a relief to be ready to start, with minimal interference from other obligations.

    Thursday, May 09, 2013


    For Supper:

    1)  Papa Murphy's Chicago-style pizza--purchased by Hiromi
    2)  Freshly picked asparagus--from plants I planted a long time ago at the Trail West place
    3)  Morel mushrooms (from Rani's family--great gift from a student to a teacher)  One of them was six inches tall, with a 4 1/2 inch cap.

    Right after school:

    4)  Raspberry cheesecake (left from the meal Music 1 students provided at noon for their class)

    5)  Seeing Brandon get completely finished with his schoolwork--a good thing since it was the last day of school and he wants to graduate tomorrow evening.  He recited two months' worth of Bible memory passages in the last hour and half of school, and wrote a written report for literature.  Earlier in the day he finished up several speech assignments and took a pace test.  Earlier in the week he handed in the assignment needed to erase an incomplete in a class he took as a freshman.  Upon completion of the aforementioned projects, we teachers had some surreptitious exchanges on our in-school instant messaging system (Gox Box)--references to seismic activity in progress.  Norma pegged the intensity at 9.3 on the Richter scale.  (Can you tell that the end of school makes teachers a little silly too?)

    6)  Singing "It's a happy day" for our dismissal song.

    Yesterday morning before school:

    7)  A delightful lecture on permaculture by Bill Mollison.  It was long and I shouldn't have started it then, but it was enormously stimulating.  I hope to listen to the whole set very soon.

    I've got to pick my nephew Zachary's brain on this subject.  On Facebook, I see that he's apparently in the process of taking a permaculture design course.  I'd love to do that some time, but I may need more than one lifetime to see it happen--and more than one job to pay for it.  I've recently seen a new course by Geoff Lawton advertised for about $1,000.  He apprenticed or trained under Bill Mollison.  Both of these men are apparently Aussies, and their speech betrays them.

    Zack had shared a link earlier to a Geoff Lawton lecture, and I got started listening to a series of his lectures.  I think of Lawton as a sophisticated back-to-the-lander, with a deep knowledge of how to maximize efficiency from natural processes--to create abundance.  As he says, it all begins with harvesting rainwater.

    Bill Mollison has bad hair (what's left of it) and slightly rude language and manners, and is not a polished speaker, but I could listen to him all day because he knows so many things I want to know.  His lectures are free.

    Here is a link to the first of the Mollison lectures.  This takes you to an 18-minute TED talk by Geoff Lawton--an excellent introduction to permaculture.  On this page, you'll find links to a number of videos about various aspects of permaculture.

    Yesterday during the final child development class:

    8)  Hilda brought the little princess Arwen to class and let us pass her around and hold her.  We also watched her handle and latch onto a sippy cup for the first time and observed how she snarfed down cooked carrots, which she had never tasted before.  She's quite new to this business of eating from a spoon, but she seems to take to it very naturally.  This class is the one place where grandmothering and teaching intersect most comfortably.

    Saturday, May 04, 2013

    Farmer's Market--Back to Warm Fuzzies

    I'm home from market and have finally thawed out.  Earl had Red Delicious apples on his table, and Dons had herb plants on theirs.  I was told they also had a bit of asparagus and rhubarb early in the day.    Frieda had hot-house tomatoes.  Otherwise the offerings were non-produce items.

    I went around and talked to someone at each occupied stall and remembered again why I like this place so much.  Most of these vendors are people with initiative, creativity, resourcefulness, passion, and deep knowledge about their products.  Some of them are really nice people too.  In talking with Pam about the moving going on in our family this year, I heard the story of what happened to their daughter when she and her husband needed to sell a house and move to go to school, right after the bottom fell out of the housing market in 2008.  Pam and her Sunday School class prayed over this matter.  Against all odds, someone walked into the house and looked it over, then came back a second time, offering cash for the house at their original listed price.  Pam said her son-in-law joked that if he had known how well that Sunday School class' prayers worked, he would have asked for a lot more a lot sooner.  What a spirit-lifting story!  That daughter is now through school and is a doctor in the Kansas City area.

    The guy who had many, many well-rooted grape vines for sale today gave me first-hand advice on the best varieties (Mars and Reliance).  I already have a Mars vine growing, and I've wanted Reliance for a long time so I bought one.  It's a red seedless grape.  This guy recommended the two-year old vines over the one-year old ones he also offered at a lower price.  "Your survival rate will be a lot better on the 2-year-old plants," he told me.  "I planted 250 of the 2-year old ones and lost one plant."  I value advice from someone with such first-hand-experience.

    The coffee and tea man was a new vendor.  He buys roasted beans and grinds it on the spot for his customers.  He also brews and sells coffee or tea.  Those hot drinks tasted really good this morning.  Iced tea is planned for this summer.

    Arno and Linda felt good about their sales of ready-to-cook frozen foods.  This was a new product for the market too.  We've had vendors of Mexican food in the past, but last year none of them could meet the regulations for preparing the food in a certified kitchen, and they stopped coming.  Their absence was a loss.

    Other vendors offered handmade soaps and other cosmetics and health and hygiene items, natural bug spray, hand-crafted items, and oodles of delectable baked goods and jams and jellies.

    The new ceiling fans installed down the center of the market for sure weren't needed today.  There was an excess of cold air circulating as it was.  But someday the fans will be a great blessing.  The retractable drop cords overhead in the center aisle were put to use in the coffee booth today.  Underfoot, the smooth surface and the freshly painted striping to designate the stall areas were snappy new features.

    The best thing about the day was the overwhelming support the members expressed by their votes--in favor of continuing to offer the card purchase option (see previous post).  There were no dissenting votes, although several people abstained--people who had expressed their intention to vote no, and/or spoke up against the proposal during the discussion.  I think that by the time all the facts were out in the open and it was clear which way the wind blew, they saw the wisdom of "playing nice."

    One person who talked to several vendors today helped make preserving the food stamps option seem wise.  She has been a long-time, reliable customer.  She's expecting a baby very soon, and her husband lost his job last fall.  They have several other young children.  Although she has apparently never paid with "food stamps" funds before, she looked for the food stamps stall immediately when she arrived today, and was disappointed when she couldn't find it.  She told one vendor that she would not be able to afford to shop at the market in the future if the food stamp option were not available.  At some point, apparently before she realized that the card option was on "life support," she had told Shane she would buy some meat next week, after the funds in her food stamps account were replenished.    Before she left, she stopped by again and begged him not do away with the option.  It was clear to everyone that she is not a leech, sucking favors out of other people's thumbs, but is caught in a tough spot right now, and still wants to feed her family real food instead of junk.

    Publicity and increased use will be critical in keeping this program alive beyond this year.  I appeal to everyone locally who has the opportunity, please help us out here in spreading the word:  the farmer's market accepts cards--debit, credit, or Vision (same as SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps).  Certainly, the food stamps program is abused sometimes, but using it for healthful meat, honey, eggs, whole-grain foods, and fresh produce is a good use of the funds.


    People still don't "get" the cole crop term.  They think it's synonymous with "cold crop."  Not so.  Cole crop means "plants in the cabbage family" or "crucifers," or "plants in the mustard family." Those plants also happen to be cold tolerant, so using them interchangeably is not always misleading, but I'm embarrassed when people speaking for the market are quoted in the paper as saying that "cole crops" will be available on the first market days.  No.  Cole crops are never ready on the first market days.  Cold-season crops like lettuce and spinach?  Perhaps, but not this year.  This mistake appeared twice this year in the paper.  It makes us all look more stupid than we are.


    My trip to the market was more eventful than I had hoped.  I had noted on the way into town that I should probably get gas for Li'l Red--Grant's truck--soon, since the gauge showed that I had a little less than a quarter tank left.  Coasting down Rayl's Hill, (Around here, hills are so notable that they get their own private name.) the engine sputtered and then went quiet.  With a bridge looming ahead, I had to slow and pull off fairly promptly, even though I had a semi on my tail--going downhill, remember?  I couldn't restart the engine, so I quickly called home to have Hiromi bring gas.  I knew he would follow in ten minutes or so.  It rang, but my phone battery died before anyone answered.  (Yes, I neglect my cell phone shamefully.) So I waited for Hiromi.

    I know enough about his powers of observation regarding vehicles (too much like mine--very weak) to worry a bit about catching his attention as he sped by.  So I made plans to lay on the horn if I saw him approach.  He approached and I honked and he sped by.  He did, however, have second thoughts when he saw that there was someone inside the vehicle, so he turned around and came back.  I joined him in Joel's car and we went together to the market and got there in time for the opening ceremonies.  Afterward we came home together for gas, and made a quick trip to some of the Partridge garage sales and headed back.  Hiromi poured in gas and we filled it up all the way when we got to the West 4th Co-op.  In the meantime, Jared came along and saw Grant's truck, apparently stalled beside the road, so he called Grant to inquire.  Grant called Shane, who told him it had run out of gas.  "Oh yeah," Grant said.  "I forgot to tell them that the gas gauge doesn't work."

    Market: A Real Blast

    Two years ago we thought the first market day weather was probably as bad as it would ever get.  It was cloudy and a cold wind blew and the temperature kept dropping as the day wore on.  Today it's likely to be worse.  The wind is already gusty, and sustained speeds are predicted to be 16 to 24 mph, with gusts to 33.  Clouds will increase during the day, and the temperature now is around 40.  We have nothing to sell today, but we plan to be there for the opening ceremonies at 9:00 and for whatever follows that.  The market itself opens at 7:30.

    Another event I want to be present for is the dedication of a plaque honoring Janis Bair, who was a long-time market vendor and also a board member and friend.  She lost her battle with cancer last year, and her family suggested memorials to the farmer's market, and a good bit of money was donated.  Her husband will be there today and Shane (or someone he recruited) will preside over the dedication.

    After the market closes for the day, a meeting of members will be convened to vote on whether to retain the service that allows people to make card purchases at the market.  For the past two years, the market accepted debit and credit cards, and Vision cards, the latter also known as SNAP cards or food stamps.  This service was provided through the personal initiative and financial and time investment of the past president of the market board.  Since he resigned, an unholy ruckus has broken out over whether the service continues or not, and, as the new president, lucky Shane gets to preside over it all.  Everything would be a lot simpler if vindictiveness and selfishness were not part of the picture.  Telling it like it is carries risks too, as everyone knows who has ever done so--even if you exercise great restraint by sticking only to strictly verifiable facts, or make it abundantly clear when you are expressing an opinion, and leave unsaid a flood of facts that would further support your opinion.

    It seems obvious to us that the card service should continue.  As a cashier in a major retail establishment, Hiromi sees every work day how much revenue comes in via cards.  Simply lopping off that option for farmer's market customers seems ever-so-short-sighted, especially in light of the fact that this purchasing method will likely only grow as time goes on.

    In addition to the above-mentioned vindictiveness, I believe another factor in evidence is disdain toward people on "food stamps."  A few people can take debit and credit cards with a little device on their smart phones, and others do not sell food items covered by "food stamps" cards, so to agree to accept cards at the market does not affect everyone equally.  To us, though, offering the service is clearly a benefit to our customers and, for the good of the vendors as a group also, the vote should come down on the side of continuing the service.


    After a very early spring last year, we all were pretty sure that we should have started our market season earlier than the middle of May, so we planned to be ready this year.  The first day of market was set, way back in January, for the first Saturday in May.  Big mistake.  It's been the latest spring in a long time, and we had below freezing temps just yesterday, with snow and sleet the day before.  I'm curious whether anyone will have any vegetables to bring.


    Today is also the day for garage sales all over Partridge.  Joel and Hilda's garage and basement is laden with many good things to sell, and Linda's garage will have some offerings as well, from various individuals.  My teacher-neighbor, Chris, who is retiring this year, will have many of her schoolbooks for sale as well.  She's setting up in one of the group sale locations--either the bus barn or King Street Center.


    One of the big perks for not going to market is being able to sleep till a decent getting-up time on Saturday mornings.  It didn't work out so well for me though.  I forgot to turn off my weekend alarm, and it rang at 5:30.  I was awake long before then, but gave up trying to go to sleep at that point.  I had lots of time to pray for the market this way.

    Thursday, May 02, 2013

    Snow and Sun and Suzie

    It's raining down huge snow flakes and the forecast calls for 100% chance of snow and sleet today.  Most of it is melting as it falls because the temperature is slightly above freezing.  Tonight though, 29 degrees is predicted.  On Tuesday the temperature was in the upper 80s.

    This Saturday is the first day of Farmer's Market. We vendors may have to rely on unfamiliar details to recognize each other.  We're not used to seeing each other in parkas.


    I've been working on printing the graduation program and have noticed a pattern among second names for the 18 girls who are listed.  Four are Danae, two are Renee, and one is Janae.


    Yesterday Hiromi stopped in at our neighbor's place to provide some information, and Suzie O. talked to him about a project he had helped her with.  It was an electronic device which she was constructing to measure some aspect of solar activity--solar flares or sunspots or something like that.  Hiromi was amazed at her success in creating the equipment, with only a bit of help.

    Yesterday she told him that she was one of only two people doing this research in the northern hemisphere.  She feeds her data to four different scientists.

    She also showed him a picture of about 29 people besides herself--a group from all over the world, gathered in Arizona to share information on this subject.

    Suzie has an observatory in her backyard.  It's a Sturdi-bilt barn with a slide-off roof, designed by her son-in-law who's part of the family-owned Sturdi-bilt business.  The large telescope inside was purchased from a hobbyist in Wichita.

    Amateur is the correct term for Suzie as an astronomer because she has no academic background in the subject.  Her professional associates understand, however, that passion, personal investigation, and hard work make her work authoritative in every sense that matters.  I applaud this level of personal initiative and expertise, especially for a Beachy dairy farmer's wife.