Thursday, December 30, 2021

The March Toward Harvest: December Update

Taken from my dining room window, December 15, 2021. You couldn't see our north driveway.

 This is not a December photo of the wheat field. But it does illustrate some of what happened to our wheat crop this month.

From my front door, December 15, 2021. You couldn't even see the road.

On December 15, we had a terrible windstorm. It turned the landscape into a reenactment of the Dust Bowl Days here on the Central Plains.

This was the dirt that swirled in through my front door. It was everywhere.

Though it was a mess and likely did some damage to the some of the wheat crop, we feel fortunate. Some farmers and ranchers in northwest and north central Kansas had a wind-whipped wildfire. Two people lost their lives. It's estimated that 1,000 head of livestock were lost in the fire. And dozens of homes and outbuildings were lost, along with miles and miles of fencing. 

Wind records were smashed for the month of December since 1996 for central and south-central Kansas, according to the National Weather Service. This includes Wichita, Hutchinson, Salina, and Russell. Russell saw winds peak to 100 mph, shattering their old record of 67 mph.

We live in a house surrounded by old trees. As the wind was roaring, I was concerned that a tree or a big branch would topple onto the house. Thankfully, the trees stayed together. 

December 21, 2021

 Our wheat that was better established seems OK.

However, we had some later planted wheat (that was also replanted in late October) that blew badly during the windstorm. 

December 21, 2021

It was planted in corn stubble, so there was some residue left in the field, though it's a little hard to tell at the moment.

The drought conditions across the state continue to slowly expand as the long stretch of dry weather continues. 

Most areas of western Kansas are in experiences drought conditions, and this area is expected to continue to slowly expand eastward as long and the dry weather continues.Right now, we are in the "abnormally dry" designation. The dry weather will also increase the inherent fire risk until significant moisture arrives in the region.

There is a little glimmer of hope on the horizon. We may get measurable snow on New Year's Day. Time will tell. We haven't had measurable moisture since October when we were trying to plant wheat.

Here's a look back at my monthly wheat updates so far:



Here's hoping I'll have moisture to report in January!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ho, Ho, Oh No!

Photo by Jill

Our Christmas lasted about 3 hours before Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Well, technically, reindeer weren't to blame. But Grandma's Christmas plans were stampeded by Covid. Bah humbug!

Jill, Eric and the girls arrived, as planned, just in time for supper on December 22. The girls got in a little snuggle time with the kitties that Grandpa's been working hard to tame. Brooke & I read some books.

They were still working their way through a series of possible names for the kitties.

And then Jill got an email that changed everything. She had tested positive for Covid. We let the girls open their presents.

I snapped a couple of photos.

And about 3 hours after they'd arrived, they loaded up and left for home. 

Since Randy and I had been exposed, Brent and Susan didn't make the trip. (They had planned to arrive by noon on December 23.)

At least the sunrise was pretty on December 24.

Mom's birthday sunrise - December 24, 2021

But, just like last Christmas, our immediate family did the Christmas Eve/Grandma's birthday celebration via Zoom. (Photo at the top of the page.) Darci & Andrew were also stuck in Chicago, thanks to Covid. 

(FYI: Every eligible family member had received their vaccines and most had gotten their boosters. We are guessing that the Omicron variant is the culprit. Those who succumbed have had mild symptoms and feel like they have a cold.)

Those at the Pratt County farm gathering still did the annual requisite photos of the Great Grands with Grandma and Grandpa Moore. I borrowed them from Snapchat.

The great-grand photo was missing a couple of girls. 

And the annual grandchild photo with Grandma Moore was also down 2.

Instead of being at the celebration, Randy did his best impression of the Christmas song, "Up on the Housetop." 

 But it was actually up on the roof of a shed repairing wind damage to the tin.

I was there to call 9-1-1 if he fell off the roof. Thankfully, that was one Christmas miracle. 

Another Christmas miracle? Getting close enough to juvenile bald eagles to get a decent photograph. These two were hanging out at the kids' fishing pond at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.


Maybe they were looking for Christmas dinner from their treetop perch.

We saw a slightly older bald eagle pair at another location, though only one stuck around for any photos (and they aren't great). It was just too far away for my little zoom.

We're fairly close to the Little Salt Marsh at Quivira, so we visit there on occasion.

We're about 15 miles from the Big Salt Marsh. But we made that drive on Christmas morning.

When life is disappointing, look for the beauty, I guess.

Thankfully, there was plenty of that.

Some creatures were stirring, unlike the Clement Clarke Moore poem ...

... though not a mouse (at least, not that we saw.) But we did see trumpeter swans.

And a great heron, who didn't seem to care that we were visiting for Christmas.

We hope to get together sometime in January to finish the Christmas celebration.  It will be just as sweet. ... Well, maybe not. The snack mixes will be long gone by then. I did send some home with Jill's family. I mailed some to Brent & Susan. And I met my niece Abby's family at Zenith to send a laundry basket full of snacks to the Moore family Christmas. Kinley and Eric gladly took Oreo cheesecake back with them. But Brent & Susan missed out. I didn't figure it would mail too well.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Stranger in the Lifeboat


I read the book, The Stranger in the Lifeboat, this month. The new Mitch Albom book isn't a "Christmas" book, per se. However, Albom is typically an author who makes you think. (Remember his Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven? This was no different.)

As I was reading it, I also saw a meme on a Facebook post. I emailed it to myself, but then made my own version, using my own photo:

As is often the case, it seems like I get multiple chances to get the message. Don't you suppose that means I'm supposed to pay attention?
Yep ... I think so. Because then this devotional arrived in my email inbox: 
The Nativity at Stafford UMC


A Time to Think

Every day can be like Christmas in its love and its peace if our hearts open up and make room for love. The holy child is waiting to be born in every instant, not just once a year. 
—Marianne Williamson

A Time to Act

Praise God for the gift of today. Reflect on blessings you may be taking for granted.

I admit it: This time of year can get "fuzzy" - kind of like when I take off my glasses to look at the Christmas lights on my mantle and tree. There are lists to keep track of my lists. I obsess about what needs to be done: Do I have the same number of gifts for this person and that? Have I made it fair? What Christmas treats are "must-haves" for each family member? Why can't I play the piano for the church service like I'm just in my living room practicing at home? Why do I have to let nerves get in the way?

I had a conversation with Jill about Christmas not long ago. She said that she and a friend were talking. They came to the conclusion that they didn't realize the "magic of Christmas" they felt as children was a reflection of how much their mothers loved them. And now they are the mothers! I just laughed and told her it didn't change - even when your children are grown up.

But The Stranger in the Lifeboat was just another reminder that my obsessive lists aren't the be-all and end-all of Christmas. 
Warm Lake, taken during a trip to Idaho several years ago
In the book, a ship goes down. Several survivors from the ship end up together in the lifeboat - from the rich guests to the lowly servants. And then a stranger shows up, claiming to be the Lord. So what happens if we call out to the Lord and He actually appears in the flesh? And what if everyone on the boat has to believe?
One of the survivors is the book's narrator, Benji. From the book:

I have thought about that many times, given the stranger in our lifeboat. I call him a stranger because if he were truly something divine, he must be as far from me as you can get. We are taught as children that we come from God, that we were created in His image, but the things we do as we grow, the way we behave, what is godlike about that? And the terrible things that befall us? How does a supreme being permit them? ... 

From The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

We don't have to look farm outside our own "lifeboats" to see the "ungodlike" behavior in our world. Here we are - a year later - and people are still fighting about vaccinations or no vaccinations. We are divided by politics. We are divided by race and gender and culture and immigration and ... and the list is unending.

From the book:

It's as if we'd been sorted by our beliefs. I suppose, when I think about it, much of the world is separated this way.
Benji, the narrator in The Stranger in the Lifeboat
Too often, we separate ourselves, not even trying to see the other side of an argument.  In the book, when one of the survivors dies, the other lifeboat inhabitants try to eulogize him, listing off his attributes. But the Lord says this:

Did he love others? the Lord asked. "Did he tend to the poor? Was he humble in his actions? Did he love me?"

If that doesn't sound like The Golden Rule, I don't know what does.
"Did you know that when I created this world, I made two Heavens? ... Above and below. At certain moments, you can see between them."

"Just stop, OK?" I said. "Can't you see we're slowly dying here?"

"People are slowly dying everywhere," he said. "They are also continuously living. Every moment they draw breath, they can find the glory I put here on Earth, if they look for it"

There is lots of "glory" here on Earth, isn't there? 

 From family to friends to community ... the list goes on and on. 

We just have to look for it. And that can be a challenge when there seems to be so much to do ... and pesky humans to deal with. (And the most perplexing human of all is often yourself - at least, I find that's the case.)

 In the end, there is the sea and the land and the news that happens between them. To spread that news, we tell each other stories. Sometimes the stories are about survival. And sometimes those stories, like the presence of the Lord, are hard to believe. Unless believing is what makes them true.

From the conclusion to The Stranger on the Lifeboat

 And that's my wish for of all us this Christmas season!

Peace on earth, good will toward all. 


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Look for Me in Rainbows

Sunset, December 14, 2021

I was one very small cog in a big wheel last week as a community said goodbye to one of its own. Serena was only 21 years old. But she lived a big life in a short time. 

Serena and her family have ties to many parts of our rural community. Her college days and extensive involvement extended her reach and her impact far beyond her home. 

Two volunteers from the Christian Church organized the dinner after the funeral. However, one of them said that almost every church in Stafford had contributed a dish or two for the dinner or had helped set up for the meal. I arranged for the 11 salads needed for the meal from our church, which blossomed into far more. Two people brought additional salads and most made at least double recipes of the dishes they contributed. The Rec Center opened its doors for the dinner to be served in its gym.

It wasn't hard to find people to say, "Yes!" when asked to contribute. We are blessed to live in a community that puts hands and feet to work as we love our neighbors as Christ commanded us. We served around 110 people. We could have served more, had there been more tables and chairs.

Over and over, Serena was described as a "bright light." Her go-get-it attitude and her ready smile were outward examples of that light. That description made me think of a favorite Bible verse, Matthew 5:15-16:

15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Randy and I got home from helping to clean up and deliver salad bowls to their rightful owners as the sun was beginning to set. After we carried things in the house, we went back out to look at the evening sky yet again. 

As we watched that spectacular sunset on the evening after Serena’s funeral, I thought  again of the poem the family had chosen for Serena's service bulletin:

  Look for Me in Rainbows
Music and lyrics: Conn Bernard (1990). Vicki Brown 

Time for me to go now, I won't say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
In the morning sunrise when all the world is new,
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.
Time for me to leave you, I won't say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, high up in the sky.
In the evening sunset, when all the world is through,
Just look for me and love me, and I'll be close to you.

It won't be forever, the day will come and then
My loving arms will hold you, when we meet again.
Time for us to part now, we won't say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, shining in the sky.
Every waking moment, and all your whole life through
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.
Just wish me to be near you,
And I'll be there with you.

It's the perfect imagery for a girl from the heartland of Kansas. And it's a reminder for the rest of us, too, especially during a week packed with extras and pressure for the "perfect" holiday celebration. What's really important in the long run? Is it another kind of cookies ... or slowing down and enjoying the time with family and friends?

The answer is likely in the rainbows and the sunrises and the sunsets.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Topeka Zoo Lights



I shared a lot of these on Facebook already, but I decided I wanted to include them in the blog, too. During Thanksgiving weekend, Jill arranged for tickets for the whole family to go to the Topeka Zoo Lights. 

Their family had gone last year and had enjoyed it. With even more lights promised at the zoo this year, it wasn't a hard sell to include in our holiday weekend. (The Zoo Lights are offered through December 26, but you must have reserved tickets.)

We have lucked out weather-wise on our excursions to light shows. It was the perfect crisp fall night.

 It gave plenty of Joy to Our World.

And it was perfect company.

The lights reflected on water were especially pretty.

We have enjoyed the Topeka Zoo in daylight many times. It was the perfect size when the girls were littler - not so spread out, but plenty of animals.

Even though there wasn't an animal to be seen, the lights provided the perfect start to the Christmas season for our family.


Happy Howlidays, everyone!