Sunflower from the Sunflower State

Sunflower from the Sunflower State

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beauty in the Rocky Places

Amidst the craggy, rough boulders on a Colorado mountainside, there grew a rainbow of wildflowers.
This Kansas girl comes from farm country, a place where fertile soil yielded our second best wheat crop ever this summer. Good soil means strong plants, right? Well, it certainly is one factor in the equation.
And yet, there in the Rocky Mountain National Park, delicate wildflowers seemed incongruous as their spindly stems poked through rough mountain rock and created a bouquet along the sides of the road and up the mountain passes.
Purple peeked from beneath pine needles that had fallen.
Blooms crowded right next to roadways where thousands of vehicles traverse up winding roads.
The flowers flourish in conditions that certainly seem less than ideal.
Even though we've been home for a few weeks now, I've thought about those flowers.
Like these mountain flowers, we all go through these "rocky places" in our lives.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 
the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrew 11:1
We humans would like to receive everything we hope for or pray for. But life isn't that simple. There are tragedies - pain, suffering and loss. There are untimely deaths and health scares and job losses and family breakdowns. There are low commodity prices on the farm and breakdowns and uncooperative weather. The list goes on and on.
So how do we keep going in the face of those struggles? It all comes back to faith. We may not see it at the time. It may not be the timing we'd prefer. Hebrews 11 reminds us that Bible heroes weren't immune either. Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Jacob and Noah all had to have faith in a future they couldn't see right in front of them.

The wildflowers bravely winding their way through rock show us there can be beauty in hard places, too.
There is beauty all around ... if only we open our eyes to see it. The beauty is probably not in the situation itself. But it can be found in the people who walk alongside us through difficult journeys. It may not be discovered in the hard moments, but our lives may bloom in other ways after the trial is over.
I ask for eyes to see the beauty in both the fertile soil and in the rocky places ...

... and for the faith to make it through.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Putting A "Dent" In It

 The lack of rain is putting a dent in our hopes for a good 2017 dryland corn crop.
Really ... the corn is "denting"  You can see the little indentations in this closeup photo. In other words, when the corn begins to "dent," the kernels are starting to dry down.

Rainfall has been spotty this summer. And our farmstead has been in one of the dry zones. The storms on Saturday night into Sunday dodged our part of the Stafford/Reno County line. We only got 0.30" of rain. As we drove to church Sunday morning, we were seeing puddles in fields and along ditches, so Randy pulled into the co-op to look at their rain gauge. It had 2 inches! We tried not to be jealous. We were on our way to church, after all. 
The weekly U.S. drought monitor released August 1 showed that our part of the world is "abnormally dry" (the part in the yellow).
In reality, rain that falls now will be too late to save the corn crop. The yield potential has already been determined, and it was hot and dry during pollination earlier this summer. Then there wasn't rain to help fill the corn heads either.
There is some corn there, but the ears are small.
We still have some chances for rain this week, so we'll hope it materializes. The milo crop could still benefit from some timely rains.
The milo looks surprisingly good, despite the lack of moisture.
The alfalfa hasn't fared so well. Randy tried a third cutting on a portion of our alfalfa acres. We got a whopping 8 bales off of 45 acres. Some additional acres down now should do a little better because that area got a rain during county fair time, unlike the acres closer to home.
For fields like this one, he decided it wasn't worth the time or the fuel to harvest what was there.
If it rains, it's possible we would still be able to harvest more alfalfa. Right now, Randy is more concerned that we haven't been able to plant any after-harvest sudan. We usually supplement our alfalfa and silage with sudan as part of our cattle's wintertime rations.

All day on Monday, I kept thinking about The Carpenters song, "Rainy Days and Mondays." We would have been celebrating with rain on Monday. It sure wouldn't haven't gotten us "down."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Par for the Course

"For me, the worst part of playing golf, by far,
has always been hitting the ball.
Comedian Dave Barry

Oh, Dave: I can so relate. That's why I decide to let my husband hit the ball, and I ride along in the cart. We are both much happier that way.
Early in Randy's fascination with golf, he bought me a used set of women's left-handed golf clubs. He even took me to a driving range and had a professional give me pointers.(Smart man: He didn't try to "instruct" me himself!)

But he can't change my natural propensities: I like being good at the things I do. Yes, I realize that's a narrow-minded way to live, but there you go. It's the truth. I am not good at golf. 

I am good at riding in the cart. I am good at taking photos of pretty places where Randy golfs.
I am good at reading a book while we wait on the foursome ahead of us. I am good at being a conversationalist when called upon and in being quiet during the all-important golf swing.

Randy has made his peace with that. When we go to a new location, Randy likes to golf at courses in the area. The same was true during our trip to Estes Park, Colorado.
Driving range - Estes Park Golf Course
The overall "green" of the course was quite a contrast from the withered lawn and scorched farm fields we'd left behind in Kansas, where 100-degree temperatures were the norm at the time.

As it turned out, Estes Park also was warmer than normal. But it was still cooler than home. And we weren't watching dryland corn and milo fields burn up while there. Out of sight, out of mind? Well, in theory, it works.

Randy golfed at two different courses while there.  The 18-hole Estes Park Golf Course is a public golf course that opened in 1917. He also golfed at the 9-hole Lake Estes Executive 9-Hole Course, a public course that opened in 1972.
A view from the golf cart - Estes Park Golf Course
With the mountain backdrop, I didn't do a lot of reading during our time on the courses.
I have added a new "job" to my role as Randy's No. 1 golf fan. Once during a golf outing, I call out, "In the hole," trying to give Randy the experience the pro golfers get on Sunday afternoons. (I always wonder whether the people who are shouting this have their DVRs recording and want to hear themselves on television. I just roll my eyes.) But it is good for a laugh.
So was this sign along the way. For the record, we did not see any elk droppings or hoof prints, so there were no real excuses for mulligans.
Estes Park Golf Course was recognized as the sixth most beautiful golf courses in the United States by Mitch Kaplan, author of The Golf Book of Lists.
We concur:  It was beautiful!
Randy likes to wear K-State gear while golfing because it often generates conversations. At the 18-hole course, he was paired with a couple of golfers who were wearing Oklahoma State orange. I guess we kept it all in the Big 12.
They were all comparable golfers, which made it fun for them all. 
The rain held off until near the end, and the guys played through it. We would have loved to send the rain to Central Kansas instead.

On another day, Randy golfed the 9-hole Lake Estes course.
According to publicity materials, it's home to a herd of elk that are active during elk calving and elk rut seasons. We didn't see any elk on the course. But there were plenty of geese.
Randy planned to golf the short course in the morning, and then we were going to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park and drive to Beaver Lake. However, nature was "too crowded." We saw the electronic signs, saying that vehicle access to Beaver Lake was "restricted." We later learned that the parking lot at Beaver Lake was full and had been since 7:40 that morning. Park rangers suggested we come back later in the afternoon.
So ... we went back to the 9-hole golf course. They gave Randy a discount on another trip around the course. It was a pretty day. There was a nice breeze. I had a camera and a book. All was right with the world.
The Lake Estes 9-Hole Golf Course incorporates the Big Thompson River on the last four holes.
Randy only landed the ball in the water once. (One other time, it glanced across the river like skipping stones. That was impressive!)
All was going so well that he decided to make a third round of the 9-hole course. We almost got to the end before we got rained out.
Since it kept raining, we didn't drive back out to the National Park. I guess Beaver Lake will be on a "next time" list.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rocky Mountain High

It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions 
now and then up among the clouds, 
on mountain tops, 
to see better what the sun sees 
on our return to common, everyday beauty.
John Muir
Quote at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center
Rocky Mountain National Park

I must agree with John Muir. Indeed, it was good to make a short excursion to the mountains.
Two weeks ago, we were in Colorado. It was a last-minute trip, which is what farmers seem to do ... well, it's what my farmer seems to do. As a child, he remembers similar occasions when his dad would come to the house and announce an impromptu adventure.

We were caught up with farm work because it was so hot and dry. In typical fashion, Stafford County Fair week had brought 100-degree temperatures. While the fairgrounds got some rain one evening, we had missed out on any rainfall at home.

Our last trip that didn't involve children, grandchildren or K-State sports was in 2011, so it was time for a getaway. Randy suggested either Branson or Estes Park. I voted for Colorado, since I figured Branson would be just as hot and even more humid than Kansas.

Colorado didn't disappoint!
We were envisioning a little cabin along a Colorado river. However, when you are making last-minute reservations, you take what you can find. The motel wasn't cheap (but it should have been if going by the quality). While we weren't in a picturesque cabin along the roaring river, we did stop and enjoy the beauty and sounds of water rushing over river rock.
It was our first time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
One day, we traveled the Trail Ridge Road from Estes Park to Grand Lake.
As we traveled upwards in the Park, the temperatures got cooler, and we even pulled on jackets for a little while. It was wonderful!
Even though we called it "snow," the information boards called it a "glacial landscape," or rivers of ice. No matter what it was called, it was a welcome relief from 100-degree temperatures and watching the dryland corn and milo burn up back in Kansas.
While trees don't grow in the alpine tundra, delicate little wildflowers still flourish. It's like a colorful miracle!
For a couple of Kansans, the mountain vistas were a beautiful change of pace, including the play of light and shadows as clouds drifted in and out of the panoramic views.
One of my favorite stops along the way was the valley nestled at the feet of the Bowen-Baker peaks. It was just one of those places where my reaction was "Thank you, God!"
When we got to Grand Lake, we ate our picnic lunch and watched the boats.

We definitely didn't need our jackets any longer. Grand Lake is the largest natural lake in Colorado and is known as the headwaters of the Colorado River.
We pulled into the Grand Lake Lodge so we could get a view from above.

Our trip back to Estes Park was just as picturesque - maybe even more so since our views early in the day had been obscured by a cloudy, hazy morning.
I love Kansas, and I will never agree that it's a flyover state or simply a way to get to the mountains from the east.
But it was a treat to see mountain vistas - a change of pace from our life on the flat Plains of Kansas. (Not all of Kansas is flat, but our part of the world is.)
We were amused at one of the visitor centers when Randy heard a dad ask how he and his boys could see a bear. The park ranger suggested going to a campground and looking for the dirtiest camp site. I don't know whether the dad tried it or not. We didn't see any bears. But we did see a few animals ...

 including an elk ...
... some mountain goats ...
 ... and some cute chipmunks.
We did not feed the animals.