Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Tapestry of Kansas: Celebrating Kansas Day

Randy and the calving pen in 2010

Earlier this month, we sold the last bit of farming equipment. Though most of our farm equipment and supplies went on the auction block during our sale last August, Randy held onto the calving pen. 

It was at our house, rather than the farm headquarters. He decided to wait to sell it until it was calving season. That time came in mid-January. I put it on Facebook, and we had seven inquiries about it before we went to bed that night. The first one to call was the lucky owner of the new-to-them calving pen.

2020, milking a cow using the breakaway gate, so that we could feed her baby

The calving pen was located in the calving shed we erected in 2016 after the barn we had been using succumbed to gravity. Until I read the old blog post, I had forgotten, but we bought the pen in 2010 from another farmer who was retiring from the cattle business. Originally, it went in the barn. At the time, I wrote that some wives get little blue boxes from Tiffany's for Christmas presents. I got a calving pen.

Here's part of what I wrote:

Maybe you were like me and were initially thinking that the calving pen might have been a gift more suited to Randy. That's OK. I thought it, too. But then I got to thinking: Maybe this big metal box does say love. I remembered last February when Randy was at a meeting, and we had a heifer in trouble. My attempts to get the vet on the phone went unanswered. Jake (our farm employee at the time), a helpful neighbor and I finally got the calf delivered. But a nice calving pen, complete with head gate, would sure have made it easier. A pen with lots of different gates and openings would make it safer for the people and the animals.

That blog post turned out to be prophetic. The calving pen with its breakaway gate helped reluctant mothers and their new babies bond. The head gate helped contain mothers who needed some extra help when Mother Nature wasn't yielding a baby calf in a timely manner. (Click HERE for a photo essay of a birth using the calving pen.) Being able to use it saved several babies. The shed provided shelter for mamas and their new babies on particularly brutal winter nights.

 

And, I must admit, I was a little misty-eyed, thinking about it leaving the farmyard. 

But, on the other hand, it will serve another farm family in a similar way. Just like we benefited from buying someone else's equipment, they - and their cow-calf herd - will benefit from the purchase they made from us, too.  

We will celebrate Kansas Day on Sunday, January 29. It will be Kansas' 162nd birthday. Kansas became the 34th state of the union in 1861. My Moore ancestors came to Kansas in 1876, 15 years after Kansas became a state. My Neelly ancestors were a little later, in 1898. I'm sure all of them would be amazed at the changes in Kansas, and especially, in farming. 

I'm thankful that both sides of my family saw beauty and opportunity here. (Click on the links to read more about how the Moores and the Neellys came to Kansas.) Randy, who is a fifth-generation farmer in his family, still owns a pasture that's been in his family since 1900.

This is an undated photo of Randy's Grandpa, Clarence Fritzemeier, with a bull. The back of the photo has written (in Randy's Grandma Ava's handwriting): "He looks like he knew he was going to be sold."

As we near the Kansas Day celebration, I thought again about that calving pen. It was used by our friend, Joe. Then it came to our farm, and now it will serve another farm family in Central Kansas.

Those threads of connection are woven throughout Kansas history and Kansas agriculture. Even back in 1861, the livestock industry was an important aspect of the state's agricultural economy. The state ranked third in the nation in cattle population by 1890, a position it held for several decades. Mixed farming (grain-livestock) has always been the predominant form of agriculture on Kansas family farms, including both the Fritzemeier and Moore agricultural legacies.

Thousands of head of cattle were shipped on trains from rail heads in Kansas to packing plants in Kansas City, Chicago, and other cities to the east.  

A photo I took in 2011 during the Kansas Cattle Drive to commemorate Kansas' 150th birthday

Between 1867 and 1885, towns like Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Newton, Caldwell, and Dodge City became famous for their place in the cattle industry.

Photo from the Kansas State Historical Society, dated between 1891 and 1912

With the closing of the open range, Kansas cattlemen began to place greater emphasis on the breeding of better stock.  Shorthorns and Herefords were popular in the 1890s, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. Herefords are still part of the genetics on our County Line farm, along with Angus.

Generation to generation - the legacy of Kansas and of Kansas agriculture continues. And Kansas farmers are a strong thread in the tapestry of our state.

Let no one say the past is dead. 
The past is all around us and within.
Oodgeroo Noonucal, Aboriginal poet

Happy Birthday, Kansas!

Kinley, Kansas Day, 2019. I shared my Kansas books and sunflower cookies with her first grade class.

If you want to celebrate with special Kansas Day cookies, here's a LINK to the recipe.


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Lucky No. 13

 

Sunrise, January 10, 2023

13 has a bad reputation.

High-rise buildings often refrain from listing a 13th floor. TV newscasters warn their viewers about Friday the 13th. (We just had one this month.)

But, today, No. 13 deserves a celebration. Today, January 24, marks 13 years since I first clicked "Publish" on Kim's County Line. Back in January 2010, I didn't have a clear vision of what the blog would entail. At the time, three family members were blogging. I'd been asked to write a monthly blog column for a local church group. Once I figured out the logistics, I decided to try a personal blog, too.

These days, vlogs (video blogs), podcasts, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok all have more cache than an old-fashioned blog. But Kim's County Line has persisted, even though it's evolved during the 13 years. I'm the only one in my family who is still blogging. The church group no longer makes its monthly posts. 
 


Today is my 2,155th blog post on Kim's County Line. Through the years, I say that it's evolved into a place where I talk about the four "F"s and a "PH" - farming, family, faith, food and photography. I subtitled the blog, "Camera Clicks and Commentary from a Kansas Farm Wife."
 
As I enter the 14th year of blogging, Kim's County Line is sure to evolve again. Last year, we retired from farming. In the past couple of months, as my Facebook memories come up, I realize how much I wrote about caring for cattle during the winter months. During the year, I wrote updates on crops. We still have our farm ground and our cows, but we aren't the ones doing the day-to-day work any longer. Our cows just started having babies. Since we have a liberal "visitation policy" granted by Tye and Todd who care for the cattle herd, the babies will likely make an appearance or two on the blog. But I don't have the babies in my "backyard" any longer, so there are inevitably fewer blog posts and photos. 


When I first began blogging, I posted five or six days a week. What was I thinking? In the past couple of years, I've been posting fairly consistently on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since we retired, I've taken some hiatuses when we traveled to six National Parks in October and during the holidays. I'm going to try to feel more relaxed about missing a post. (I'm sure I'm the only one who really cares anyway.) 

No matter what, the blog has helped me track our lives on a five-generation Central Kansas farm. Having this avenue to collect words and photos has helped me to connect with our heritage and this life in a different way. It was a good avenue for connecting with landlords, letting them know what's going on at the farm and showing them through words and photos.
 
Probably the biggest impact was on me. It helped me pay attention. It made me appreciate our heritage. It's given me the opportunity to hone my photography skills. While I don't claim to be Ansel Adams, I can see how my photography has improved during the past 13 years. (Just comparing food photography from 2010 to now is startling. And that's just one example.) 


Photography and prose help me look at even the most mundane, everyday things in new ways and with new wonder. It may be something as simple as the sunrise-streaked sky or a chance rainbow smack dab in the middle of two of Kansas' biggest icons - sunflowers and wheat. The blog has given me the eyes to see how small, simple things are really the most important things of all. 
 
Since 2010, I've printed a quarterly blog book. This year, I emptied Brent's bookcase and gathered my blog books in one place. It's really kind of amazing to see all these books which contain words and images from our lives in the past 13 years. I've also used photos and poetry to write 11 children's books - mostly for my granddaughters. 

Each quarter, I write another dedication, and I invariably struggle with something to say. (Looking at those rows of books, you wouldn't think so, but ...)
 
Here's the dedication from the first quarter of 2011:
I started Kim's County Line, in part, to tell the story of our farm. It's important WE tell the story of agriculture. The tagline on the blog says, "Camera Clicks and Commentary from a Kansas Farm Wife." I hope that it also serves as a record of a period of time and a snapshot of Kansas rural life.

From 2013:

... This is dedicated to my family - the ones I love and cherish now and ones down the road who I hope will discover something about us as they read our story.
From 2014:

... We are thankful for our ancestors who also farmed this land and look forward to continuing the legacy of faith, farm and family in the years to come.

Life is always changing, and we figure out the ways we'll evolve with it. Thanks for making the journey with me! It's my blogiversary, but to celebrate, one person will get a gift from me ...
  • a selection of my photo notecards, or ...
 
  •  a copy of "Count on It! Adventures from a Kansas Farm" my rhyming, farm-themed counting book, ...
  • OR my farm alphabet book
To qualify, either comment about this blog post in the comment section of the blog or on my Facebook page, Kim Moore Fritzemeier. Or, if you have trouble with either of those avenues, you may email me at rkjbfarms@gmail.com. The winner will be chosen at random from the commenters. Enter your comment by January 31 for a chance to win.

Again, I thank you for visiting Kim's County Line!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Tomato Tortellini Soup

There is nothing like soup.
It is by nature eccentric:
No two are ever alike, unless of course,
you get your soup from a can.
Laurie Colwin, Author of "Home Cooking"


There's nothing wrong with soup from a can. I am definitely not a food snob, and prepared soups offer tons of convenience and versatility. This recipe actually uses a couple of cans of tomato soup to add flavor and body to the final finished product. I am not averse to using a can of cream of chicken soup or cream of celery soup in a casserole or some other recipe either.

But I do love making homemade soups in the wintertime. I have my old standbys. But I'm always on the lookout for something new, too, and I couldn't resist this one while scrolling through Facebook. See? Something good comes from Facebook. 

I did some recipe revision since I couldn't get all the ingredients locally. And I think it turned out well. But I've also included a link to the original recipe, which used a slow cooker. That would be a great option if you're going to be gone all day.

I was surprised the recipe didn't have added salt. However, the flavorful Italian sausage, the prepared tomato soup and the chicken broth offered just the right amount of salt without adding more. 

If you have leftovers - like we did - you will likely need to add a little milk as you reheat it. Pasta invariably absorbs liquid. If you try it, let me know what you think!

 

Tomato Tortellini Soup
Adapted from Plain Chicken blog
 
1 lb. Italian sausage
32 oz. chicken broth (or water plus bouillon)
28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes with sweet onions
2 cans tomato soup
1 tsp. dried chives
1 20-oz. package refrigerated cheese tortellini, uncooked
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened

In a Dutch oven, brown Italian sausage; drain fat. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato soup and dried chives. Cover and bring to boiling. Turn down heat to low. Add cheese tortellini and cook until done. Put heat on low and add cream cheese, stirring frequently to melt. Serve when cream cheese has melted and made a creamy broth.

The original recipe used a slow cooker. You can combine the broth, tomatoes and chives and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. When it's 15 to 30 minutes before you want to serve the meal, put the tortellini and cream cheese in the slow cooker with the broth and turn it up to high. 

Note: The original recipe used two 8-ounce containers of chives and onion cream cheese spread, softened. That's not an ingredient I can buy locally. I used only 1 regular 8-ounce cream cheese and added the dried chives. HERE is the link to the original recipe from the Plain Chicken blog.


 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Loving Our Library

 

Our hometown library is undergoing a renaissance. 

In October 2021, the Preserving Nora's Legacy fundraiser began. The goal was to raise money for restoration projects at the Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library. A dedicated group of volunteers dreamed big. They called their neighbors. They called their classmates. They sent letters. They talked about their dreams at civic clubs and in the local grocery store aisles. They wrote grants. They talked some more. 

And the community responded, raising more money than even those big-dreaming volunteers thought possible in a little town during uncertain times. A Wall of Giving - Preserving Nora's Legacy - was recently installed at the library. (Thanks to local artisan Robert Owens for his beautiful work.) It includes the names of those who donated at least $100 to the project. 

This photo is by "courthouselover" on Flickr. Currently, they are working on the front door replica and the yard was torn up as crews worked on the foundation, so I didn't take my own photo.
And I took this photo in 2014. (We could sure use the moisture from that snow!)

The Preserving Nora's Legacy Facebook page appropriately uses a children's book analogy to symbolize the volunteer's efforts: "I think I can, I think I can..." It's a book we all read as children, whether it was in the basement children's room at the Larabee Library or from a library in another town or sitting on our mother's lap. And, we, like that Little Engine That Could, dreamed about doing big things.

I can't help but think of the people who originally gifted the library to the city. They were certainly big dreamers as well. The Larabees left quite a footprint in Stafford - in banking, flour milling and civic leadership.

Nora Larabee was the only daughter of two of Stafford's leading citizens, Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Larabee. When Nora died of tuberculosis in 1904, her parents wanted to build a tribute to her. In 1906, they erected a red brick building at a cost of $5,000. Nora Larabee's portrait in stained glass dominates one of the library's west windows.


The building was designed by Charles E. Shepard, a leading architect in Kansas during the first part of the 20th century. At that time, most libraries weren't designed by architects. But he envisioned the dark red brick building in a Corinthian style. The Larabees and Shepard also cooperated on a bank building in Stafford at Main and Broadway. (It is currently one of the buildings used by the Stafford County Historical Society.)


 The library hasn't been without controversy:

      The library is unique as a focal point in a 1907 feud between the town banker and The Stafford Courier editor. The building became a public library only after a controversy which turned the town upside down. Public sentiment about the library was so strong that the entire Stafford City council and mayor resigned before the deed for the building was finally accepted. The condition of the deed that caused the furor read as follows: "Owing to certain unwarranted attacks made by The Stafford Courier…it is made a condition of this deed that the present editor of said newspaper, nor any of his family shall at any time be a member of the said board of directors."
        Finally, in May of 1907, a petition from Stafford citizens requested the library council to either accept the conditions of the deed to the library or resign. The new city council voted to accept the building from the Larabee family along with the stipulation that the editor of The Stafford Courier and his descendants be barred from membership on the library board in perpetuity.
Information from http://skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Stafford/libhist.html

Besides the individual donors, the library received monies from the Heritage Trust Fund grant program from Kansas State Historical Society.

The renovation projects include:

  • Trenches were dug and pipes were laid to carry water from the downspouts away from the building to the curb. The trenches are now back-filled, the sidewalk replaced, the lawn graded and leveled and grass sown.
  • The interior basement walls got a functional facelift; the bricks and stone were re-pointed with the historically-correct mortar "recipe."
  • The exterior will be spot-repointed and masonry reconstruction will restore a portion of the north wall.
  • The historic door was irreparable, but a master craftsman is working on a new replica that will incorporate the original beveled glass.
  • The electrical system has been updated.
More projects listed on the architect’s report of 2017 are now under consideration by the board and committees. Topics under discussion are:
  • Updating entries, steps and one bathroom to meet ADA-compliance recommendations.
  • Making the envelope of the building safe and secure, specifically windows. 
  • Front step renovation.
  • 4 windows (double-hung and beveled glass surround), stained glass windows around Nora's portrait window, trim repair/painting, replacement of overhead light fixtures in two original rooms, and baseboards.
The stained glass window isn't the only unique feature of the library. Many of the other windows feature leaded glass. (Even though it doesn't show the woodwork, I like the angled view below because I could avoid the storm siren and the power lines you see when you look out the window directly.)
The windows are encased in beautiful original woodwork.
This photo also shows one of the pieces of 100-year-old Mission-style furniture in the library. It's a photo I took in 2014. 


Photo taken January 2023

The library remains today, more than 100 years after it was constructed as a memorial to honor a beloved daughter. 

It's not just the building that's undergoing a renaissance. During the past couple of years, the library has added a First Friday event to its programming in the spring, summer and fall. They've featured artists, musicians, photographers, magicians, a car show, readers, crafts and much more. 

The library also offers classes and other special events, along with summer reading for children and adult reading programs all through the year. In fact, I picked up my next contest sheet when we were at the library the other day.

(NOTE: I took some of the photos of the library in 2014, when there was snow on the ground.)

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Leftovers from the Camera Roll

 

I think leftovers get a bad reputation. I, for one, like leftovers. It means that dinner is ready in no time. 

Leftovers are also good on the camera roll, especially when you are contemplating what to write for a blog post. On December 21, our area was blanketed with heavy fog. Unfortunately for drivers, the moisture turned some roadways and overpasses into a skating rink. But it was a bonanza for amateur photographers like me.

Randy and I braved the dropping temperatures to capture the beauty. However, that was the same day Jill and family arrived a day early for the Christmas holidays - again, thanks to the worsening weather. So the snapshots never made it into a blog post or even onto a "What's on your mind?" post on Facebook.

They were too pretty just to gather figurative dust on the camera roll until I'm looking for photos for my 2024 family/farm calendar.

Thankfully, our electric lines stayed up and the electric fence kept the cattle corralled. 


 

Since Jill and company got here safely, I can still appreciate the beauty of that cold afternoon.

December's wintry breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memory.
John Geddes A Familiar Rain
Feathered with hoar frost, skeletal trees loom closer; fog shrouded arches.
Paul Brown

***

On Monday and Tuesday, Randy and I had our first two trips to the Stafford County Golf Course in 2023. It was unseasonably warm for January.

 

He got to use his new driver - a Christmas present from me - topped off with the new cover from Brent and Susan. Go 'Cats! (Brent worked at Morehead State in his first job out of grad school. The sweatshirt is still in the wardrobe. We were Morehead Eagles "on the side" for awhile.)

As is our custom, he golfed. I read my book. (I laughed out loud several times, but I promise I didn't mess up my golfer's drives or putting with my mirth.)


It was unseasonably warm on Monday and Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday into this morning, we were supposed to get a little snow overnight. It didn't happen here, but it is definitely cold, windy and overcast.

Winter weather in Kansas is schizophrenic!


Tuesday, January 10, 2023

To Read Is To Fly

 

No offense to my human email contacts, but Wowbray from the Hutchinson Public Library is probably my favorite Wednesday in-box entry.

Wowbray gives thumbnail glimpses of new books coming to the Hutchinson Public Library and offers a chance to put them "on hold." It's a good day when a favorite author has a new book coming to the library.

Here's how Wowbray describes itself:

Free Alerts about Your Library's Newest Books, Movies & Music!

✓ Receive free weekly email alerts or RSS
✓ Discover the latest books, DVDs and CDs
✓ Reserve bestsellers instantly
✓ Enjoy the early notification
✓ Completely private - 100% spam-free
✓ Wildly convenient - view it from home

 

My first "click" is always "Mysteries and Thrillers." After I've perused and clicked my way through that list, I go to "Literature and Fiction." I usually take a quick glance at "Romance," though unless it's a go-to author in that genre, I usually don't do a lot of reserves.

It was a sad day on Wednesday, January 4: My Wowbray didn't show any new books in any of those categories. 

"Oh woe is me! Oh lack-a-day!" In other words, I was sad I couldn't add to my ever-burgeoning "hold" list. (That's a family joke. That phrase was my most memorable line from Skyline High School's play back in the mid-1970s. I don't remember the name of the play, but I remember the line and have thrown it out repeatedly through the years.)

There were a few new additions coming to the Hutchinson library's shelves, but none in my usual categories and none had me signing up. 

As I've mentioned before, libraries are among my favorite places. Just like I can't go to Stafford without making a stop at the local grocery store, I can't go to Hutchinson without a trip to the library. Borrowing from the library keeps me out of the poor house. I read 101 books last year. Imagine the impact on my checkbook if I were purchasing them all from a bookstore.

On the same week that Wowbray let me down, another email from Inspiring Quotes arrived in my in-box. Its subject line read: To Read Is to Fly: 25 Quotes about the Wonder of Reading." (Honestly, I don't remember signing up to receive Inspiring Quotes. But I do love quotes, and the subject lines often capture my attention. So, of course, I clicked.)

I loved many of the quotes. (Click on the link above to see them all.) Here's one from Walt Disney:

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main… and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.

— Walt Disney

And from Jackie Kennedy:

There are many little ways to enlarge your world.  Love of books is the best of all.

— Jacqueline Kennedy 

During the past year, I've recommended a few books to blog post readers. As I've said before, I always find it a little risky to recommend books to others. We all have wildly different tastes. I may love a book, but that doesn't guarantee that you will, too. When Jill or my sister, Lisa, recommend a book, I am usually fairly confident that I'll like it. We've been trading books ideas long enough that each knows what the other likes.

Sometimes, a reader may find the content offensive. I may not always agree with every decision made by a literary character either. But sometimes thinking about topics in new ways expands our ideas. It may open an avenue to a real-life discussion or connection. I find value in that, too.

So, with that caveat in mind, I have a few books to suggest. They were among my favorites in 2022.

This book was inspired by a true story from Depression-era America. In 1938, two giraffes survive a hurricane while crossing the Atlantic. West with Giraffes tells the story of their journey from the eastern seaboard to the San Diego Zoo with their truck driver, Woodrow Wilson Nickel, and an accompanying cast of characters. In the book, Woodrow, now age 105, tells their story - part adventure, part love story, part history. I'm not the biggest animal lover in the world, so I wouldn't necessarily have gravitated toward this book. However, I saw it recommended on numerous book lovers' sites. I'm glad I added it to my "hold" list at the library. 

***


Same message as above on this book: I held out for awhile on this book, even though I'd seen it recommended multiple times. But I really couldn't imagine a book partially narrated by an octopus. However, this New York Times bestseller proved me wrong yet again. 

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift as a custodian at the Sowell Bay Aquarium in Puget Sound. She forms an unlikely friendship with Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus who lives there. Marcellus eventually helps Tova uncover the truth about the mysterious long-ago disappearance of her 18-year-old son, Erik. She also connects with a young man new to the city and to work at the aquarium. Amazon describes the book this way: Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

***

The cover of this book is misleading. It looks like a romance. And while there's some romance involved, it's more about life for a strong woman in the early 1960s. Chemist Elizabeth Zott is the only woman among an all-male team at Hastings Research Institute. Her striving for equality in the workplace is not well-received among most colleagues. Forced out of the lab, she uses her love of chemistry in a very different way - as the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. While she shares recipes, she also subtly urges women to change the status quo.  And, it's funny!

***


A Quiet Life follows three people dealing with loss: a man who mourns his wife, a daughter who loses her father and a young mom whose daughter is abducted. As their lives intersect, all of them find a way to move forward with a little help from each other. The book celebrates the way we connect as humans during times of pain and uncertainty. 

I plan to request Joella's other book, A Little Hope, from interlibrary loan at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford. 

***

OK: This is one of those books that some people aren't going to like because of the subject matter. I am a Jodi Picoult fan. I've only quit reading one of her books. My parents never censored my books - even as a child. I believe reading should help you open your mind to new ideas and help you look at the world in a way you may not have considered before. OK: You've been warned.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising their son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She moved back to her New Hampshire hometown, living in the house where she grew up and taking over her father’s beekeeping business. High schooler Lily Campanello is also starting over with her mother in the same New Hampshire town. 

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Amazon says: Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.

***


Molly Gray struggles with social skills and misreads others. Her grandmother helped her navigate the world, but now 25-year-old Molly is on her own. Even though being a maid is not everyone's dream job, Molly finds comfort in the routines and procedures that make her good at her job at the Regency Grand Hotel. A murder happens in one of the Regency's hotel rooms, and Molly's unusual mannerisms have the police considering her as No. 1 suspect. With a little help from her friends, can she convince the police that she's not the one they're looking for? Amazon says: A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

*** 

In a Kim's County Line blog post on September 20, 2022, I suggested some other books. They still rise to the top of my list in 2022. They include The Measure by Nikki Erlick; The Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley; and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

To read is to fly: It is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience, and the fruits of many inquiries.

— A.C. Grayling, philosopher and author

For the record, I am also a big fan of the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford. I'll have more on it another day.