Posts tagged with Citizen Journalism Academy

1017 Pages

Democrats are set to bring their health care reform bill to the floor of the House the end of the week. Republicans have their own bill ready to introduce about the same time.

It looks doubtful that the massive reform will move through Congress by the end of the year. Still, discussions are out of committee and set to come before the entire House. I'll be the first to admit, all I know about the 1017 pages is what I have heard and read in the media. For that reason, my husband and I plan to make the travel time commitment to attend this Forum in Abilene tomorrow night.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is presenting the timely Kansas Town Hall Meeting at 7:00 pm at the Visitors Center Auditorium on Wednesday, November 4, 2009. Abilene is 152 miles or a little less than two hours west of Lawrence.

The forum will discuss the current three approaches in health care reform for deliberation.

Approach #1: Reduce the threat of financial ruin Approach #2: Restrain out-of-control costs Approach #3: Provide coverage as a right

Quoting from the Library web site:

"This is the second of three forums scheduled this year in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI). Kettering and NIFI have partnered with the Presidential Libraries network administered by the National Archives and Records Administration to discuss important public policy issues at forums hosted by each of the Presidential Libraries."

Click here for a telephone number and Facebook link.


Waking up Cinque Terre Italy

The bell tower rings seven chimes. I am awake. The rooster in the distance told me it is morning. The geese residing in the slow moving mountain stream nearby are on first call.

The little porch outside my room in Vernazza, Italy, is a perfect place to take in the morning. I can sleep at home.

Below a man is watering his patio garden. His porch is much bigger than mine and is filled with green plants in colorful pots. The Morning Glory is climbing a trellis nearly up to my level and is happily bouncing in the cool morning breeze.

The little café below the building is open. I hear the familiar voice of the owner. It is obvious he is well liked as he banters with customers. He knows enough English to be charming and brings his American customers back. We eat breakfast there each morning. Off in the distance I see the church tower. It is a simple church but sitting at the top of this hillside town. The apartment buildings are built up the side of the hill leading to the church. Behind them are vineyards on narrow ridges. Each ridge is reached by narrow steps. Outside of town entire hillsides are covered by these terraced grape vines and tended by a machine that crawls up and down the hill.

A group passes with their hiking poles, ready to begin an early morning hike along the ancient narrow paths that connect the five Cinque Terre (five towns) villages Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. For hundreds of years these villages were only accessible by sea or the paths, now connected by modern electric trains. Built as a defense against Ligroin Sea pirates, the trails are so beautiful that Italy has made them a National Park and charges a small fee for the privilege to hike them.

We hiked the trail connecting three of the towns yesterday. As the 360 steps lift us up the mountainside the panoramic view of the villages and rugged coast opens before us. It is hard to look down for sure footing on the steep drop off side of the trail. The sun is setting. We must hurry to finish before dark. Finally, my daughter admonishes me to, “Put the camera away, Mom.” We finished before dark. The local residents are moving about now. A elder lady passes with her shopping bag, most likely having visited the fresh produce market down near the dock. The shop keeper below greets her warmly. As I glance down the narrow street, I notice wash hanging out windows and off apartment porches. They are as colorful flags fluttering in the breeze. There are no clotheslines as there are no yards. Everything goes straight up.

Morning is in full swing. It is time to start our day. This is beach day. A day to watch, listen, and learn.



Linda’s Backroads—In Italy?

How does a country girl who loves the backroads of America, prepare for a two-week trip to Italy?

With a lot of help. Hopefully, more from you.

The adventure started when I accepted an invitation from my daughter to accompany her and six other ladies to Agriturismo Cascina Papaveri, a working vineyard, cooking school and palates studio in the Piedmont region of Italy. Perhaps a church or two, but mostly this trip will be to experience cuisine, culture, land and the people. And, maybe truffles!

It's not like I am a travel novice. Well, actually, I am.

True travelers experience a foreign culture, cross the ocean, communicate without knowing the language, order food without an interpreter. I feel comfortable poking around our good ole US of A. Even Canada. A ship to Mexico with international personnel—who talk my talk.

Here is where I hope all of you will help. I find that most students now travel abroad at least once, sometimes with only a backpack. Tell me, what should I leave at home? What should I remember to take above all else? I'm looking for advice. I would like to blog this trip for you right here on this site. Suggestions for doing that would be appreciated.

We fly into Milan, jump a train to Cinque Terre for three days, The Farm for six days, back to Milan for one full day and home.

There you have it. I know I am limited to 40 lbs luggage. My goal is 20-25. The only thing I am set on is shoes—hiking shoes and my new pair of Birkenstocks that I've been breaking in all summer. Other than that, I'm open.


I’m Bored…

School starts in how many days!? Depending on emphasis on words, parent or child could make this statement.

Summer is winding down. Swimming is boring, ball games are over and vacation pictures are in the camera.

Looking for a new idea to occupy my seven and ten year old grand boys, we decided to start blogs.

Any online project involving children must include addressing privacy. Parents should make that decision for their children. After talking to the parents, here is how I addressed it. Google’s Blogger is a free and simple blog format. It allows a blog to be private with only those with the internet address to view. Another suggestion is to have all the information involving the blogs in an adult name.

Now for the fun part, setting up the blog.

We spent time laughing about names for the blogs. Try to have three or four possibilities before starting the program in case one of the names is already in use. Next, pick a template. There are free children’s templates online, but it is easy to use one provided by Blogger. Most of the blog templates have a place for an icon. If you are good at it, there are programs available to cartoonize pictures. This is fun for kids. However, it might be best to keep it simple at first and add extras later.

Now it is time to post. Getting started is the hardest. I suggest pretending their parents are walking in the door. Then write down what they would tell them about their day or something they observed. That seems to work. Have them write with a pencil and paper and then type. I did not correct spelling, but let them use a program that showed misspelled words. Probably, I should make them look the word up in a dictionary, but I let them auto correct. Now, copy and paste onto the program.

Click “Publish.”

In fact, that is what their little blog is, their own newspaper. We take pictures and write a story. I’ve tried to get them to draw and scan an artistic endeavor, but so far no luck. We did make a little movie for each. That took three days and ended up being a source of great pride. I did have to remind myself several times that this is their creation and not put my ideas into it.

With summer vacation winding down, perhaps this suggestion will fill time with fun and a creative warm-up for school. So far, it has worked for us.


Freezing Corn on a Hot Day

Almost two bushels of corn and that is only half of it. Time to begin the harvest that started here.

Our process:

First, we locate our propane turkey fryer and the big stainless steel stew pot we purchased to make Frogmore Stew. (Which, by the way, sounds pretty good right now with all the fresh vegetables.) This setup will provide boiling water to blanch the corn.

I dig out a huge muck bucket, scrub, run a disinfectant clothe over it and rinse again just to make sure, then add three gallon milk cartons of ice and water.

It is best to get the corn from the garden to the table or freezer quickly. So, we pick and immediately shuck and wash the corn to get as much of the silk off as possible.

By then, the water is boiling. The pot has a basket so we fill it half full and drop in the boiling water. Most information says to blanch sweet corn four minutes. That time seems too long for our tender ears. We end up leaving them in for only one minute. In that time, they taste done.

Then comes the trick. Dumping the hot corn immediately go into the ice water without a burn or scald. After time to cool in ice, drain and slice kernels off with a sharp knife, bag and spread about in the freezer.

Family arrives to help around 3:00 pm and by 5:00 we were mostly finished except for the cleanup. It went smoothly. And in a couple days it will be even better now that we have the routine.

The day was hot but maybe that memory plus the tasty homegrown corn will add a little warmth to cold winter days in only a few short months.


Celebration in Stull Cemetery A cemetery tour might seem an unusual beginning of a 4th of July celebration. On the other hand, it is a place of history, a documentation of the opportunities and sacrifices our freedom offers.

Stull United Methodist Church began its 150th anniversary celebration with a potluck supper and fireworks display on Friday night. Continuing on Saturday, July 4th, is the cemetery tour.

A cloudy rather dreary morning greets an upbeat group gathered on the hayrack for the ride around and through the Stull cemetery tombstones. Our tour guide Iona Spencer has researched the lives of over 4,000 people in the Stull and Lecompton communities. Elsie Middleton also works on the project and provides color commentary for the tour.

The first grave marker we encounter is Wittich, 1832-1910. An unfortunate family name spelling most likely is the reason for persistent stories of this cemetery being haunted. A KU professor, bed sheets and fraternity initiations fuel the fire. Over the years, Iona Spencer said she frequently brought coffee and cookies to Douglas County Sheriff deputies guarding the cemetery at Halloween and the 13th of the month. Razing the original church high on the hill has deterred this activity in recent years.

Tombstone names are familiar to most on the wagon. Many families emigrated from Germany in the mid 1800s because of the unrest in Europe as well as opportunities to find cheap land here in the newly organized Kansas territory.

There seem to be many old tombstones with birth and death dates indicating children. One baby is buried with its mother, both having died during childbirth. Diphtheria was often a deadly early disease for children. One child died because of a prairie fire. His older brother was able to climb the rock fence to escape.

Adults died before their time. A roll over lumber wagon, family feud over equipment and as well as hard work involved in living off the earth—all stories affecting the lives and deaths of local residents.

Perils of early homesteading often found children with one parent other than their own. One father raised two sets of stepchildren plus his own.

The common European homeland gave the community a connection and often children found their partners within the community. An assumption for someone new in the community is, “always assume everyone is related when talking about anyone.” A custom in Germany, which carried over to early America, was if a family were all girls, the eldest would retain the family name when married.

All too soon, our 4th of July cemetery tour is over. It was a great opportunity to hear Stull community history by looking at family burial plots. We appreciate Iona and Elsie’s work in chronicling the past and, in doing so, gathering stories for future.


Warm Kansas Summer Evening

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow:


Symphony in the Flint Hills 2009

The prairie has a voice. Often a quiet whisper.

There are times when the bubbling spring water, neigh of horses, song of birds, and distant tuneful call of cattle roll out over the soft green flint hills, whirl with the prairie wind and return sounding like a symphony.

On Saturday June 13th, it was a symphony—Symphony in the Flint Hills, 2009.

Nestled in a cove in the Upper Turkey Creek Pasture of the Doyle Land and Cattle Company, Inc. in Chase County, Kansas, where the endless view of the rolling hills meet the blue sky, the Kansas City Symphony and the native inhabitants captured the hearts of 6,000 guests of owners Randy and Judy Mills. From a distance, the symphony area appears as low clouds on the horizon. The meandering walk to the symphony site includes a bridge over a clear sparkling spring, inviting all to stop and dangle feet in the cold water. Our duties as two of over 500 volunteers helping to make the concert possible beckons so we pause, wish and continue on.

Abby Dechant, Symphony seating coordinator, directs us to our assigned jobs. Among other duties, we prepare seating for 26 sponsors and 138 patrons. Without these contributors, the concert would not be possible. The stage sits at the bottom of a long sloping hillside. There is no bad seat whether on lawn chair, blanket or special front row chair.

Our four-hour shift soon over, we have time to visit afternoon activities before the concert. Linzy and Lucy, 7-year old black draft horse sisters, driven by Larry Patton and watched over by experienced sidesaddle rider Terrie Todd, help us understand why many early settlers walk instead of ride in their covered wagons.

In the Butterfly Tent, Randy and Judy Mills tell us about their operation. The ranch is named after Patrick Doyle the first settler in Marion County. Their current home, built in 1882 by Mr. Doyle, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Randy Mills tells of the benefit of fire in maintaining the prairie. My observation is the Flint Hills saying, “Take care of the grass and it will take care of you” is evident in their pasture. Proper grass care as well as their high quality, controlled and documented cattle breeding program makes them successful “current stewards” of the Hills.

I attend educational programs explaining the native grasses and birds that inhabit them, the many prolific natural springs, and archeological formations. It is the Evening Primrose Tent with its “Prairie as Muse” presentations that most inspire my day. TerryLee Whetstone, a Cheyenne, plays Native American flute music with such meaning that I only have to close my eyes to slip back in time.

Writers Steven Hind, Jim Hoy and Denise Low read their poems and prose, eloquently telling of their feelings of beauty and love of Kansas in general and Flint Hills specifically. HC Palmer and Leon Loughridge have collaborated in publishing their artistic descriptions by poem and woodblock prints of the landscapes of the Flint Hills. Loughridge, a Colorado artist tells of his love of the region and its people despite his early stereotyped feelings of Kansas' flat terrain. I felt honored to have these professional and talented writers share their work and inspirations. A perfect prelude to the anticipated final program of the day, the concert.

My words cannot describe the beauty of a full orchestra in this setting. The sound system enables the entire hillside to hear the smallest, quietest note as well as the full expression of each instrument. Copeland, Grofe, Bernstein, Barry. All recognized music even to an inexperienced ear such as mine. For me, Director Steven Jarvi’s final presentation of John Berry’s Dances with Wolves Suite brought tears when Native American riders circled the site then ascended the nearby hill to silhouette against the sky as the last notes rolled across the valley.

Randy Mills said earlier in the day, “I like to be out here by myself. Early in the morning on a horse or in a pickup. It’s quiet.” Judy quickly added, “It’s God’s Country.” For a split second, even among thousands of others before the applause erupted, I for one and perhaps many others at the 2009 Symphony in the Flint Hills shared Randy and Judy’s feeling of quietly being by ourselves with nature.


Master Gardener Tour 2009

Flowers and garden art create landscape design. Audio was recorded on our front porch. We hope they make our home theirs.


Drama plays out at Clinton Lake duck marsh Clinton Lake Wildlife and Parks duck marshes are mostly dry. Those not dry are draining. There are always spots where the water does not reach the tube and small pools form.

Our neighbor stopped by to say he noticed one of these pools had small perch. He mentioned it would be a good place for me to practice fly fishing.

I don't think so:

And the perch are probably why they are there: