Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lawrence couple spend almost 20 years developing a pristine vista

Debby Hird has personally had a hand in most of the landscaping endeavors on her family's hilltop property south of Lawrence.

Debby Hird has personally had a hand in most of the landscaping endeavors on her family's hilltop property south of Lawrence.

July 10, 2008


Debby Hird is all smiles. And why not - life is good.

She wakes every morning to a dazzling vista that is certainly morphing and molding on any given day, quite possibly each day being more spectacular than the last.

Yes, the views that the Hirds are able to savor from their hilltop home south of Lawrence are phenomenal, and they definitely savor those views.

"Some people drive through the Flint Hills and say, 'What is this about?' But to me it's more beautiful than the mountains. It's spiritual," says Debby Hird. "We went to the Symphony in the Flint Hills, and I just cried the entire time. It is so gorgeous. I mean, look at this sky - we have wide open spaces."

The Hirds have an enormous covered patio that looks as if it is straight off of the back of a Tuscan winery. The posts that hold the rustic structure into the ground are additionally anchored by thick, winding stalks of bittersweet vine. The open lattice work above is long overgrown, and Mumbo the cat's tail is swishing as he partakes in a morning siesta among the bittersweet.

Under the living roof sits sturdy wooden furnishings and chipping antiques. All that is missing from this Tuscan inspired theme is a bottle of wine - but that, too, is in the works.

Debby describes their space as "a bohemian Napa Valley thing happening." From the large patio the view is that of a brilliant Kansas landscape painting. A stone wall lines the long pebbled drive as it rolls down the path and into the vast prairie below. On the crest of this hill, Pleasant Valley is ours to gaze upon, and it does indeed appear quite pleasant with forested swaths, prairie lands and agricultural acres. And to top it all off, a red barn and silo perfect this pristine vista.

But don't think for a minute that this awe-inspiring setting wasn't a labor of love mixed in with plenty of elbow grease. Nineteen years ago, when Debby and Rick acquired this land from Rick's father, it was literally an empty hilltop.

"I wanted the kids to be able to run around," Debby Hird recalls. "It was rough though the first couple of years - no trees and no grass. That was the most difficult part, choosing where to put stuff with so much space."

Rick's father originally used the acreage to land his para-planes, so it was unencumbered by trees or plantings. It was mostly a lot of overgrown weeds and leggy trees peppered in with some poison ivy and rattlesnakes.

"Oh yes," says Debby Hird. "We kept clearing back and clearing back because we had a big rattlesnake problem. The first year we eradicated like 30. Once we got rid of the bush piles they got away. Then I built this stone wall and Rick said, 'Well, now you are building a habitat for them.' So, when I harvest rocks, Rick worries and rightfully so. Sure enough, I found two copperheads, I was very quick to jump onto the hay wagon."

Although this empty apex with its stunning views might have been an overwhelming project for most people, Debby Hird thrives on rolling up her sleeves and taking on tasks she's never tried before.

"I grew up in Ellsworth, and we just always worked hard. Plus my best friend can do anything so there is a competitive spirit there," she says. "I built a thatched roof for the boys' playhouse years ago and I look back and think, 'What was I thinking?' But my family is hard-working and that is just what I've been taught. It is really a miracle I'm still here. I remember one time I thought I'd yank out an old clothes line. I hooked it up to the tractor and tried to pull it out. The tractor started to go back on its hind wheels. It was amazing I got out of it."

There is a lot of fun to be had at the Hirds' household with two fire pits for riveting conversations that last late into the night, or riding off road and forging trails on a four-wheeler. There is a large two-story treehouse that Rick and their boys constructed.

Debby laughs and says, "We've had two broken arms out of that tree house, it has a tricky trap door!"

But the latest passion for these soon-to-be empty-nesters is the 800 grape vines that are growing south of the home.

"It is such hard work," Debby muses. "I looked at Rick and thought, great idea! Here we are digging holes, wiring lines, sowing the plants, and on and on. Rick doesn't garden, but he does love this, so we love to do it together. We just planted them last year. We had this area and we wanted to plant something there. Our friends planted a vineyard, and we thought that is too cool. We are now in season two; it is season three when you can start making wines.

"Some day we hope to have wine tastings with our grapes and start a whole new chapter. But if we make wine and it doesn't sell then at least it will be wine we like to drink."

- Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


acg 9 years, 11 months ago

Wow, what a bunch of hateful jerks.

Eric Neuteboom 9 years, 11 months ago

No kidding bernadette! Some people just can't say anything nice...

morganlefay 9 years, 11 months ago

All native americans have that same belief system. They just want handouts and don't want to work for anything. It's pathetic and a waste of my tax $$.

morganlefay 9 years, 11 months ago

Well, looks like the horrible economy has been able to escape one family. Too bad the rest of the population isn't so lucky.And barry, get over your stolen land garbage. The "indigenous people" are reaping free healthcare & education benefits everyday. The dues have been long overpaid.

RuralKsGirl 9 years, 11 months ago

Absolutely beautiful picture! I can imagine getting their property to that condition took years and years of hard work, sweat and tears. But it looks as though it paid off. I, too, would like to have seen more pictures. Very elaborate descriptions, though, in the article. Much appreciated. Great article! (And for you sour-pusses... no, this isn't a "breaking news" type of story, but it's refreshing to read articles every now and again that aren't chock full of negative information.)

newday 9 years, 11 months ago

wow,maybe a little gardening will help relieve a bit of the pent up frustration. Its free dispite the economy,so get off your----fingers ,and get moving, gardening also helps clear your head, and some of you need it!

morganlefay 9 years, 11 months ago

Newday, we have a huge garden on our property consisting of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Go give your advice to someone it applies to.

morganlefay 9 years, 11 months ago

You're right, jumpin, who cares?! This reminds me of that stupid bravo bride story, but at least this isn't the headline.

newday 9 years, 11 months ago

morganlefay, garden harder, sounds like you STILL have alot of anger issues .Then again,anger therapy might work.

Jaylee 9 years, 11 months ago

"I see land stolen from indigenous people.Where are the buffalo? The white man steal by force, disease and rape the women."white people have oppressed tons of people since native americans.... soooo yesterday to be upset about the whole land-stealing.seriously though barry, when are you from? that sh*t still sounds fresh to you

hawklet21 9 years, 11 months ago

Those pictures look amazing. I would have loved to see about 50 more :)

bernadette 9 years, 11 months ago

What is wrong with you commenters? Can you ever say anything nice? I think the Hirds vista is beautiful. My only comment is that I would like to see more pictures. Don't be so grumpy!

number1jayhawker 9 years, 11 months ago

Have to agree with some that there are a few childish posters on here that need to grow up or find another hobby.

hawklet21 9 years, 11 months ago

morganlefay, you are wrong. And rude. And bitter. And a bigot. Enjoy life, it won't hurt you one little bit.

mmiller 9 years, 11 months ago

This is nice. However, I'm not so sure I would want to share such detailed information about my property and home in a newspaper/on the internet. That's pretty risky! Still, nonetheless, nice story. Anybody agree?

morganlefay 9 years, 11 months ago

Guess the truth hurts a lot of you people. That's your problem, not mine.

james bush 9 years, 11 months ago

It's a beautiful view and good story. Thanks Jennifer.

taucetiman 9 years, 11 months ago

I thought pristine meant the original untouched state, so how can you develop a property into its pristine state?

alm77 9 years, 11 months ago

It's my dream to own something similar one day. Thanks LJW and the Hirds! It's nice to have an inspiring reminder of what we're working our way toward.

newbaby24 9 years, 11 months ago

I am so happy to see an article on this family! I practically grew up at this house and saw the stages it has gone through. The mailbox area is only a preview of what lies on top of the hill where the house sits. You can nearly get lost in the beds of flowers surrounding the house. It is such a gorgeous place and i can not wait for them to make wine and for more people to see their beautiful home. I love you Hird family! Kara

Bone777 9 years, 11 months ago

Breaking News- 30 rattlesnakes and 2 copperheads would have attacked wedding party...Nice article and really pretty place.

Ashley Lafond 9 years, 5 months ago

does anyone know if this is open to the public to rent for wedding. I saw this article and died from how beautiful it is. I love it so much. If anyone has any info i would love to know.thank you!!!

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