Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Like a Rocket - A Dame's Rocket, That Is!

The farmstead was abandoned long ago. Time has erased the evidence that this little grove of trees ever sheltered a family from the worst of the Kansas winds. 

Only the Dame's rocket was left behind. The spindly purple-headed plants are still nestled in a grove of trees along the Raymond Road. Randy noticed them several years ago, and since then, we watch every spring for their blooming. 

Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses says that Dame's rocket was "an ornamental often planted by early settlers."

Granted, I have a vivid imagination, but I think about a farm wife new to the open plains of Kansas. Many settlers at the time had come from the east - from areas with more trees and vegetation. And I think about her trying to beautify this little spot of a new home with some pretty purple blooms.

Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) produces either white, pink or purple flowers in April and May. It was introduced to North America in the 1600s from Eurasia.  It is often seen in roadside ditches, hedgerows and older farmsteads. Scott Vogt from Dyck Arboretum in Hesston sees Dame's rocket as an invasive weed. In a publication from Dyck's Arboretum, Vogt writes: 

Dame’s Rocket is closely related to other problematic weeds of the mustard, family such as garlic mustard, hedge mustard, wild radish and yellow rocket. All of these weeds are prolific and opportunistic, infesting field margins, woodlands, open grassland and wetlands.  It ... has the ability to produce chemicals that prevent or reduce the growth of other plants similar to garlic mustard. With these tendencies, Dame’s rocket and garlic mustard will quickly form dense monocultures within a few years, pushing out other desirable native plants. 

That may be, but I still love the purple nestled under the trees. Randy knows I love them, so he tried to transplant some of the Dame's rocket at our homestead last year. It didn't take. So he tried again this year. We'll see how it fares.

 I am firmly in Winnie the Pooh's camp on this one:

Weeds are flowers, too,
once you get to know them.
Winnie the Pooh


Monday, May 13, 2024

Sky's the Limit!

 Sunrise February 19. 2024

The sky is the infinite movie for me. I never get tired of looking at what's happening up there.
Singer K.D. Lang

There's a game called "Never have I ever." Evidently, it's popular among teens at slumber parties. Well, I crossed a "Never have I ever" thing off my list last Friday. The Northern Lights were visible on the Kansas plains. And, from looking at Facebook, we weren't alone. People posted awe-inspiring photos from across the nation from places that don't normally experience them.

In truth, they were barely visible to the naked eye. But point the cell phone camera to the skies and a whole kaleidoscope filled the screen. 

We weren't the only ones driving around in our pajamas Friday night. We had to turn our headlights back on when our neighbors turned down the same dark country road where we were viewing the free light show. And yes, we all admitted to wearing our PJs for the trip outside.
We tried again on Saturday night, but clouds had started to move in, blocking the view. I did see photos from our neighbor, Rebecca, who knows more about photography than I do. But Saturday night didn't provide a repeat of the glut of Facebook posts that Friday spawned.

I've always loved to watch the sky.
My sisters and I sang a Joni Mitchell song, "Both Sides Now," for a 4-H Club Day long, long ago. That song often rolls around in my head, much like the clouds that shift in Kansas skies:
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way.
 Sunrise February 19. 2024

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's clouds' illusions, I recall
I really don't know clouds at all.

I've always liked clouds, but I think I became even more aware when Brent was little. Some people have backseat drivers. I had a backseat cloud watcher. 

Sunrise and my sunrise tree - February

Brent was always discovering some shape in the marshmallow fluff of clouds floating by. 

Clouds reflected in the Rattlesnake Creek, April 2024

When the kids were little, I "retired" from working full-time as a writer-editor at The Hutchinson News, but I wrote a column for them, "At Home with Kim," for several years. Here an excerpt of what I wrote when Brent was in kindergarten:  
It was one of those days when it looks like the angels are using the clouds for tumbling mats. Brent and I were driving home, and he started cloud-watching.

"Oh, look, Mommy! That one looks like a dinosaur. And that one looks like a puppy."

We found an eagle and a dragon and a cat among the whipped-cream clouds. I was thinking that even though our world changes, some things - like cloud watching - have been children's pastimes for years and years.

And then he said, "Oh, there a roller blade."
As a child, I saw dragons and rabbits, but not a single roller blade was suspended in my cotton-candy skies. Change is part of us - even daydreaming cloud watchers confirm that.

Though I no longer have cloud watchers in the backseat, I still love watching the clouds. Perhaps it is their ability to change quickly, shifting the scenery in an instant. I personally struggle with change, so I guess I admire it in other things. 

April 2024

Maybe it's OK to have your head in the clouds on occasion

I recently saw this post featuring an Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on a friend's Facebook feed:

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. Begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Maybe sunrises and sunsets are our celebration of a life colored by those attitudes - leaving behind the worries of the day and looking forward to the clear page provided by another new day.
It's worth a try.

Once upon a time, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.

Terry Tempest Williams


Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Every Month is Beef Month in Kansas


Maybe a cattle drive would be a fitting tribute to Kansas Beef Month. Never mind that the cattle drive actually happened at the end of April and not in May, which Gov. Laura Kelly has declared is officially Kansas Beef Month. Most any month is Beef Month in Kansas.

Kansas has nearly 44.8 million acres of agricultural ground. However, not all this land is suitable for growing crops. Some 22,000 Kansas farmers/ranchers use the 14 million acres of pasture and rangeland unsuitable for crops for cattle grazing and delivering high-quality protein to consumers through the meat case at grocery stores or sold directly to consumers.

According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture economic model, the beef industry has a direct output of more than $11 billion to the state’s economy, with the ranching and cattle feeding sectors employing nearly 20,000 Kansans and the meatpacking and prepared meat manufacturing industries employing 46,000. Additionally, Kansas ranks third nationally with 6.2 million cattle and calves on ranches and in feedyards. The most recent data shows the state also ranks third in total red meat production, with beef representing more than 6 billion pounds.

Our neighbor, Gary, had plenty of help on horseback as he moved cattle from a circle where they had been grazing on stalks back home to work them. He had told Randy that the "parade" would be passing by our house, so we were watching. Actually, we were listening to begin with. The cattle started their journey about a mile from our house. We could hear them bawling as they ambled closer toward us.

I'm sure it didn't seem like a quick process to those people actually involved, but the old-fashioned cattle drive passed by our house quickly. Our part in the cattle drive was mainly watching - though we did use a "Hey, hey, hey!" from our active cattle working days to keep the cattle moving down the road and out of our front lawn.

A trailer followed behind to transport any baby calves who couldn't keep up.  

That wasn't our only cattle activities this spring. While we retired from active farming in August 2022, we still own our mama cows. We provide the pasture, and Tye and his dad, Todd, do the daily care for the cows and calves for a percentage of the calves born each year. 

Randy helped the Millers gather cattle a couple of days and also helped work them. I guess when you're the retired one, you can sit down on the job on occasion.

Randy really did have jobs ...

including working the squeeze chute (which was more high-tech than ours was) ...

 ...and giving shots ...

 ... and applying the pour-on.

Though I was there mostly to take photos (at Randy's request), I did help write down eartag numbers. Nothing like doing something for old-time's sake, right?

That left Norva Lee free to keep the cows moving down the lane and getting other groups from the adjoining corrals.

And the number list helped Tye know which mama cow was coming up next. The Millers were artifically-inseminating the cows with help from John Fisher, an Artificial Breeding Services (ABI) AI technician. 

Todd had gone through the herd and determined which of five bulls they wanted to use for each cow. Tye would get the straw containing the appropriate semen ready for Todd or John to use in the AI process. 

The semen straws are stored in these liquid nitrogen canisters until it's time for use. Then, Tye would check ear tag numbers on the list and get the straws lined up accordingly.  

He put the appropriate straw into a warming unit, so it would be ready for inserting. 


 John's trailer has stalls for two cows at a time. So both Todd and John could be doing the AI process simultaneously.

Once the process was complete, the cow departed the AI shed and rejoined its corral mates. 


We didn't have to stick around 'til the cows came home this time - so to speak. We headed to the Wild West (aka Dodge City) for a dinner theater at the restored depot. 

 This was my belated anniversary present from Randy.

It didn't include beef on the menu. Instead, it was "airline chicken" to go with the play's military aircraft and pilot theme. That's chicken with a wing sticking up. (I only know that from Food Network.)

The play was pretty heavy, but we had a good time at the Depot Theater. 

I told Randy maybe we should go for a comedy or musical the next time.