Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Farm Report

Fall harvest is in full swing on my family's farm in Kansas.  In fact, it's been so busy I've barely had time to take any photos. But, two friends have shared theirs with me, along with their permission to post them here.

The photo above was taken by Tate, our hired man, while he was driving the grain cart.  I love the way the sun at dusk gleams on the combine driven by my 85-year-old father.  Tate used his camera-equipped drone with its remote control to capture this amazing photo.

Then, on the morning of the equinox, Elizabeth, a friend from Bible study, caught a view of the sun rising between the former antique shop and the bank.  Again, another amazing shot! 


So, what's been keeping me from snapping my own photos?  Three tasks!  Cooking for the harvest crew, caring for my mother who has dementia, and calculating why my entries in the farm's Quick Books do not match the bank's statement.  Ugh!  There's a reason I never became an accountant. 

My brother Jon

Noontime often found the crew tailgating, not at a stadium before a sporting event, but on a country road next to the field they were cutting.

Nephew Miles and my camera-shy Dad

Caught you, Dad!

Schlepping the meal to the field had its perks.  Who wouldn't want to enjoy an alfresco meal under such a gorgeous blue sky? 

Or watch the combine in action

as it dumps a load of corn into the semi.

Then, there's the cute truck driver, my husband Tim.

This fall harvest is yielding not only a bumper crop of corn, but also milo.  In fact, so much grain has been harvested that the local grain cooperative has filled the elevator.  There's no alternative except to dump the excess grain in huge piles on the ground.

Our crew took several loads to town to the Coop, but most of our grain is stored on the farm in grain bins.

This gives Jon the opportunity to sell the grain at what will hopefully be a better price once the market supply dwindles.

What won't dwindle is my appreciation of a Kansas sky.

The expanse of sky unconstrained by any buildings speaks to my soul,

reminding me of God's goodness.  Thank you for a bountiful harvest, Lord!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Queen Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Mayes

It wasn't the birthday of Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth, but that of Stafford's very own centenarian, Elizabeth Mayes.  On Saturday morning, many of my hometown's inhabitants turned out to honor her and to view her celebratory birthday parade.  

Her daughter Linda

The procession was planned by Elizabeth's daughter Linda who telephoned my brother Friday evening to ask if he could drive his John Deere tractor to town to participate. But now that corn harvest has begun, the tractor was powering the vacuum system of the farm's grain bins.  Still, harvest was stalled when a thunderstorm blew through the area Friday night so why not be part of the fun?  

Choosing an alternate parade entry, Jon uncoupled our semi's cab from its trailer and drove that to town instead.  

For many years, Elizabeth taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School classes for the children at 1st Baptist Church.  I was one of those lucky kids.  I wanted to wish Elizabeth many happy returns of her day so I went along for the ride.

Parade participants on bicycles, motorcycles, golf carts, pickups or automobiles--the mode of transportation really didn't matter--gathered in front of the town's rest home so its residents could view the proceedings.

While Linda shuffled the parade members into some semblance of order behind the golf cart carrying our Queen Elizabeth, her husband Steve handed out balloons.  Jon tied ours to the truck's side mirror, I stuck our American flag out the passenger's window and we were off!

It took a couple of blocks for the procession to get up steam, but by the time it turned onto Main Street, it was moving along at a proper parade pace.  Our truck was supposed to bring up the rear, but a semi passing through town was caught behind us, an unscripted (and probably unwilling) addition to our motorcade.

On our first pass through the two blocks of our town's business district, the spectators congregated on the east side of the street near the bank.

I'm sorry!  There wasn't time to wash off the bug splatters on our windshield.

However, when the parade made the U-turn to go back through town,

many observers migrated to the west side of the street to wave to Elizabeth again.  

Jon pulled over to let the unwitting semi driver get by; then, deftly turned the cab around to catch up with the rest.  


All along the route, there was a cacophony of noise as drivers of the various parade vehicles unofficially competed for whose horn honked the loudest.  Personally, I think Jon's truck won that contest by a landslide.  

Too soon, the parade passed and the crowd dispersed, all hoping that there will be another parade next year to honor this inspiring and beloved lady. 

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!

Farewell to the Mountains

Labor Day was our last day in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. After eight weeks on the road, it's time to head back to the farm in Kansas to help with fall harvest. 

But there was still time for one last hike, the Ouzel Lake trail with its wealth of waterfalls and cascades.  

Our five-mile hike turned into nine miles when we mistook a horse trail for the real deal.  You'd think we would have noticed the steaming piles they left behind, but we just thought some equine had an upset stomach.  I guess the joke was on us!

Still, we did find the right trail eventually and it was worth the extra miles.  I'll let the following photographs speak for themselves.

Copeland Falls

Calypso Cascades

Ouzel Falls

On our way back to the campground, a herd of 40 to 50 elk stopped traffic as they crossed the highway from one meadow to another.

It's rutting season in Rocky Mountain National Park, the mating season when bull elk gather cows and calves into their harem of females.  The bulls wallow in the mud to cover themselves with their urine perfume in order to attract the females.  They also aggressively guard their harems from other bulls, sometimes fighting encroachers to the death.

Packing up that night, we saw this harem of elk who had wandered into the campground.

Leading the herd was a magnificent bull.  What a chance to see them up close--but not too close!

They must have been attracted to the lush grass of the campground and by the nearby Big Thompson River.

Big Thompson River at the rear of our campground

Wildlife, waterfalls, winding rivers and our week in this beautiful place made me feel that I, too, had gotten near to the heart of the world.

"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.  I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche.  I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can." ~ John Muir

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Drive With Altitude

On a misty Friday when the rain made hiking unappealing, Tim and I ventured up the 11 miles of Old Fall River Road, the first auto route through Rocky Mountain National Park, gaining 4,274 feet in elevation along the way.  

Begun in 1913 and finally finished seven years later, this gravel road was built with Ford Model T's in mind.  

Only 14 feet wide, the lane is a one-way adventure with twisting switchbacks, turning radii as tight as 20 feet, and steep grades that sometimes reach 16 percent.  Some early automobiles had to make the climb in reserve gear due to their gravity-fed fuel systems.  

Oh, and did I mention?  There are no guard rails. 

Luckily for us, cars have improved since the Model T.   

Still, Tim had to shift our Jeep into second and even third gear as we ascended to the Alpine Visitor Center at the summit.  

But it was worth it!  Not only did we see some incredible views, but also wildlife like these elk. 

Arriving at the summit, we had a choice to make.  Should we return to Estes Park via Trail Ridge Road or extend our journey down the other side of the mountains to the charming town of Grand Lake, Colorado?  That was a no-brainer!  We decided to make it a day trip and set our course for Grand Lake.  

We made a few stops along the way.  The first was the Colorado River trailhead where Tim and I searched for the headwaters of the mighty river which today quenches the thirst of much of the Southwest.  

This photograph of the Colorado Riverside was taken at the trailhead kiosk.

I feel a special connection to the Colorado River.  During the last years of my teaching career, I assisted seventh graders in a research project that pitted Native Americans against Colorado River rafters, hydropower industrialists and southwestern communities dependent on the river's water, always an interesting debate with such conflicting stakeholders. Then, at the end of each school year, the science teachers organized a field trip to Glen Canyon Dam, one of a series of dams that harness the power of the river. I rode along as an additional chaperone on the three-day trips, an incredible opportunity for first-hand learning.

Returning to our car, Tim and I continued down Trail Ridge Road to the Holzwarth Historic Site, the homestead and later dude ranch of John G. Holzwarth, Sr.  How resourceful this man was!  Baker, brewer, Texas Ranger, saloonkeeper, boardinghouse owner, homesteader, rancher, taxidermist, dude ranch proprietor!  For a 15-year-old German immigrant who travelled to the U.S. alone, Holzwarth deftly parlayed his skills to survive and provide for his family.

By the age of 19, he had migrated to Denver, married Sophia, and together opened a saloon, a business that morphed into a boardinghouse when Prohibition was passed. 

Dissatisfied with city life, Holzwarths homesteaded this site, but found the conditions too extreme for farming or ranching. So they built additional cabins and transformed the homestead into a profitable dude ranch, the Holzwarths Trout Lodge, an amazing success story. 

Hungry, we headed to Grand Lake where the historic Grand Lake Lodge sits majestically above its namesake's waters.  On the lodge's back porch, we ordered bowls of soup to warm us up on a chilly day.  Later we walked the streets of the town, ducking into the shops that drew our attention.

By then, the sun had burned the clouds away.  Perfect timing to return to Estes Park via Trail Ridge Road!