Posts tagged with Nature

Next Winter Memories Some summer days are good enough for a next winter memory. Monday was such a day.

Six months from now the Holidays are over with family and friends hunkered down., not venturing out because of snow or ice or cold wind.

I will be contemplating summer, thinking about this day. Here’s why.

Warm, not hot. A little humid but a beautiful day with a slight northerly breeze. A perfect summer day in my book.

A windows-down-car-driving day.

7:45 pm and sun is still only thinking about setting.

Walk out any door and see a flower bloom with possible butterflies or honey bees hanging around

Ditto hummingbirds at the window feeder.

Thinking Barn Swallow poop on vehicles beats ice any day

And, the number one reason I’ll be thinking about this day six months from now:

Fresh green beans and corn on the cob picked within the hour together with two ripe red tomatoes for our evening meal.


Mush! Karen Land and Iditarod Race Begins For Karen Land, the idea of participating in the famous Alaskan Iditarod Race was born in 1997 while hiking the Appalachian Trail with her dog Kirby. She picked up a book about the race while restocking supplies.

Five years later, she hitched up sixteen dogs and set off to race 1100 miles from Anchorage to Nome Alaska. And, she did this not just one year, but three.

On Tuesday, January 26th, a packed room at the Lawrence Public Library, had the pleasure of following her journey from reading the book along the warm eastern Appalachian Trail to the frozen north Iditarod race, capturing us along the way with her dog, Borage, her actual sled, her experiences and pictures.

The Iditarod Race began in 1925 with the children living in Nome Alaska needing Diphtheria supplies. Dog mushers relayed the medicine in pony express fashion from Fairbanks to Nome with Balto, the leading dog on the last relay saving the day. Or, at least he got the credit with a statue in Central Park, New York. This historical feat set the stage for the annual race which now runs from Anchorage to Nome instead of Fairbanks.

Anticipating all our questions after this quick history, Ms Land set about telling us stories of preparing for and completing the face. We learn the race is all about the dogs and the mushers love and respect for each of them.

Superior pulling dogs are traditionally Alaskan Huskies, hardy, strong dogs; in recent times often mixed with German Short hair Pointers for speed. They are good eaters having to consume 10,000 calories a day to train and run the race. Although this breed is common, one of her lead dogs was a Border Collie mix named Pig.

The sled is 23 pounds of aluminum loaded with around 100 pounds of food for the dogs and extra clothing. We are quickly educated on exactly what force sixteen dogs pulling together creates. For example, she told stories of her team pulling out a tree as well as moving a full sized vehicle to which they are secured. Actually, they train year around, in the “off season” by pulling around a 4-wheel ATV. The most important advice given to new mushers is to never let go of the team and sled. At that point, I am sure all in the room were imagining what would happen if they got away.

In 2002, it took exactly two weeks for Karen to finish the race. She finished in little over 12 days the last race in 2004. There are check points with veterinarians along the way and one requiring a 24 hour rest. Where does a young lady sleep among a bunch of snoring, smelly men? Outside. She quickly points out that everyone becomes quite smelly with no bath, raw dog meat against clothing and the hard work that comes with guiding the sled around trees and other obstacles.

All too soon, the race was over along with the stories. I encourage a visit to her web site, to enjoy another gift, writing. It was on that site that I learn what I suspected after hearing her presentation. Karen Land says in her biography, “I wanted to write about dogs and people who love dogs. But it became much more than that. I fell in love with all of the dogs, the sport, the wilderness, and the lifestyle of a musher. I knew exactly what I wanted to do next.”

Thank you to Lawrence Public Library and Del Monte Pet Products for the opportunity to hear her story.


But, Mom, Does it Hurt? For Tracy Hill giving blood is a family matter as her children Martin, Gordon, Truman and Vivian along with husband, Dennis, gather around to provide company and ask questions.

And no, it doesn't hurt.

Stull United Methodist Church filled their entire Community Blood Center schedule with donors Sunday, January 17th. It is a cheerful gathering as donors roll up their sleeves for a nearly critical blood shortage. The delicious bowl of soup provided by the church bolsters the atmosphere.

Click here and fill in your zip code then "search" to find a donor location and date with the Community Blood Center. Walk-ins are always welcome.

Here are American Red Cross donation sites within 50 miles for the next month.


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:


Go Fly A Kite The kite was tucked at the back of the garage, forgotten. Spring cleaning has its surprises.

Today the sky is crystal clear with a slight breeze--great for outdoor work but perfect for flying a kite. So we do. Forget the flu, economy, and cluttered shed.

The red, white and blue delta wing is up in a minute. Tethered to a post, it bounces around with its tail wagging.

And, as we watch, the stress of the day floats away.


Luna Moth knows it is spring

Luna moth, Moon moth, scientific name Actias Luna, this beautiful creature has many names.

Information found on the web site All About Luna Moths tells me the Luna moth has no mouth. Its larva like hickory and walnut leaves but the adult lifespan is short.

Luna is the Latin name of the earth’s moon as well as a Roman moon goddess. The Luna moth prefers to fly at night. It seems his night preference had him transfixed--perhaps waiting for the sun to go down. All adding to the mystic and beauty of an Easter Sunday rebirth of nature sighting.


Spring Storm 2009

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Spring Storm 2009


Valley home to diverse wildlife

Most early, crisp mornings Chip Taylor and his dog make their way along the Coblentz marsh located in the Kansas Wildlife and Parks area of Clinton Lake.

As usual, there are ducks, geese and traces other wildlife from the previous night. Chugaah, a well-trained hunting dog, is nosing around his usual spots as they move around the marsh area

It was during their walk Sunday morning that Chugaah found and retrieved this beautiful, large mink.

The American Mink is a member of the Mustelidae family, a carnivore and lives in dens by water.  It has brown to black fur with a type of oil gland that makes the coat water proof.  Often up to two feet long, the tail 1/3 their length.  They have small bit of white on their chin and throat.  Chip, a Professor of Entomology at KU, says, “Mink are not rare in this part of Kansas, but they aren’t common either.”

It is still a mystery how the mink was killed.  “At first I thought the mink had been attacked by a coyote and then somehow escaped. They are quick and vicious fighters” However after further inspection of wounds in the neck region Taylor now thinks that the mink was attacked by, and somehow escaped from a bird of prey.

Dr. Robert M. Timm, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a curator of Mammals in the KU Natural History Museum agrees. “Perhaps a great horned owl or read-tailed hawk, both big enough to dive at the mink.”  Timm adds, “This mink has a beautiful winter coat. Forty years ago this pelt would have been worth $30-$40.”

This picture was taken the same day near the marsh however, I doubt if the mink coud have escaped an attack from one of these. On the other hand...