Sunflower from the Sunflower State

Sunflower from the Sunflower State

Monday, August 21, 2017

Looking at the Sky

It seems we are all a bit obsessed with the solar eclipse that will travel across the U.S. today. In my part of Kansas, we'll only experience a partial eclipse. But that didn't prevent a run on eclipse viewing glasses in Central Kansas. When I was in Hutchinson last week, I went to five different stores, trying to find the special viewing glasses. I had no luck, even at the Cosmosphere. I guess we'll settle for Randy's welding helmet.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a fact TV newscasters have been telling us all summer. (So I should have looked for eclipse glasses earlier, right?!) Not many people are still around who would have experienced the last one in the U.S. On June 8, 1918, a total solar eclipse crossed the United States from Washington State to Florida in a path similar to today's event. That was the last time totality crossed the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I guess eclipse glasses were a "thing" back in 1918, too. This ad from The Denver Post was found on The Great American Eclipse website.
Looking to the sky is nothing new for me. Though we don't often experience this phenomenon when the Sun, Moon and Earth line up in just this way, I am always fascinated with the sky. I love the sunrise, the sunset and the daily variety of clouds and sky.

Once I get past the shelterbelt trees west of our house, a summer sunset in my part of Kansas pretty much stretches from horizon to horizon with very little interruption. I love the beautiful and unique nightly masterpieces created on our Kansas plains, where the only interruption in the sea of color is a strategically-placed tree or windmill to create a silhouette.
In the past month or so, I've gotten to experience new sunset views as we've traveled away from the farm.
When we were in Estes Park, I told Randy I wanted to witness a sunset in the Rockies. We arrived at the Lake Estes walking path one evening during our Colorado stay.
It was a beautiful evening as we walked the path along Lake Estes. The calm lake surface reflected the mountains and the sky (and some high-line poles, but they were easily ignored). 
Wildflowers decorated the riverbanks of the Big Thompson River in a few places, adding visual beauty to the musical notes of water rushing over rock.
Looking away from the sun, we were rewarded with the beauty of the so-called golden hour and a view of the 9-hole golf course where Randy had played. 
Later, geese impersonated actors in a old-time Western, as they left the Lake Estes Golf Course and traveled off toward the sunset. I thought sunset would happen more quickly in the Mountain Time Zone. But it seemed to be on a lazy tourist schedule, and it took its own sweet time.
Worth the wait? Though the backlit cloud bank seemed to create another level of Rocky Mountain "high," I think Kansas sunsets have the Colorado version beat. But I'm still glad we did it.

Then, from August 11 to 13, we traveled to Chicago for a wedding reception for my sister, Darci, and her husband, Andrew. On our first night in the big city, they invited us to their apartment for Greek food, a nod to their actual nuptials in Greece.
When we arrived, I snapped a photo of the view from their balcony.
Their apartment faces east, so they don't have a direct sunset view. But as the sun started to set, we still experienced "sunset" through the reflections on the buildings. 
And I completed the trilogy with a snapshot after dark, but I could still see the remnants of the sun reflected on some wispy clouds (in the upper righthand side of the photo).
It just proves there is beauty to be found, no matter the location. But I always love the quiet solitude and the ever-changing colors of sunset on the Kansas plains.


I think I prefer the daytime glimpses of the mountains. Here are a few "leftovers" from my previous Colorado posts.
 Mountain view before rain shower

One day, we had planned to drive to Beaver Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park.  However, as I like to say, nature was full. The parking lot for that particular spot was at capacity and they were turning back vehicles. We don't know what we missed, but we did see the beautiful Moraine Park. 

The valley was once the melting basin of the Thompson Glacier. The huge mass of ice deposited loads of rock debris or lateral moraines that are now the forested ridges.
I'm a fan of leftovers - whether they simplify the next meal or provide another glimpse of God's beautiful creation.

I have been on a bit of a hiatus from Kim's County Line, so this post may seem a mishmash of photos and thoughts. I hope to get back on a more regular schedule after my gallivanting about! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beauty in the Rocky Places

Amidst the craggy, rough boulders on a Colorado mountainside, there grew a rainbow of wildflowers.
This Kansas girl comes from farm country, a place where fertile soil yielded our second best wheat crop ever this summer. Good soil means strong plants, right? Well, it certainly is one factor in the equation.
And yet, there in the Rocky Mountain National Park, delicate wildflowers seemed incongruous as their spindly stems poked through rough mountain rock and created a bouquet along the sides of the road and up the mountain passes.
Purple peeked from beneath pine needles that had fallen.
Blooms crowded right next to roadways where thousands of vehicles traverse up winding roads.
The flowers flourish in conditions that certainly seem less than ideal.
Even though we've been home for a few weeks now, I've thought about those flowers.
Like these mountain flowers, we all go through these "rocky places" in our lives.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 
the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrew 11:1
We humans would like to receive everything we hope for or pray for. But life isn't that simple. There are tragedies - pain, suffering and loss. There are untimely deaths and health scares and job losses and family breakdowns. There are low commodity prices on the farm and breakdowns and uncooperative weather. The list goes on and on.
So how do we keep going in the face of those struggles? It all comes back to faith. We may not see it at the time. It may not be the timing we'd prefer. Hebrews 11 reminds us that Bible heroes weren't immune either. Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Jacob and Noah all had to have faith in a future they couldn't see right in front of them.

The wildflowers bravely winding their way through rock show us there can be beauty in hard places, too.
There is beauty all around ... if only we open our eyes to see it. The beauty is probably not in the situation itself. But it can be found in the people who walk alongside us through difficult journeys. It may not be discovered in the hard moments, but our lives may bloom in other ways after the trial is over.
I ask for eyes to see the beauty in both the fertile soil and in the rocky places ...

... and for the faith to make it through.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Putting A "Dent" In It

 The lack of rain is putting a dent in our hopes for a good 2017 dryland corn crop.
Really ... the corn is "denting"  You can see the little indentations in this closeup photo. In other words, when the corn begins to "dent," the kernels are starting to dry down.

Rainfall has been spotty this summer. And our farmstead has been in one of the dry zones. The storms on Saturday night into Sunday dodged our part of the Stafford/Reno County line. We only got 0.30" of rain. As we drove to church Sunday morning, we were seeing puddles in fields and along ditches, so Randy pulled into the co-op to look at their rain gauge. It had 2 inches! We tried not to be jealous. We were on our way to church, after all. 
The weekly U.S. drought monitor released August 1 showed that our part of the world is "abnormally dry" (the part in the yellow).
In reality, rain that falls now will be too late to save the corn crop. The yield potential has already been determined, and it was hot and dry during pollination earlier this summer. Then there wasn't rain to help fill the corn heads either.
There is some corn there, but the ears are small.
We still have some chances for rain this week, so we'll hope it materializes. The milo crop could still benefit from some timely rains.
The milo looks surprisingly good, despite the lack of moisture.
The alfalfa hasn't fared so well. Randy tried a third cutting on a portion of our alfalfa acres. We got a whopping 8 bales off of 45 acres. Some additional acres down now should do a little better because that area got a rain during county fair time, unlike the acres closer to home.
For fields like this one, he decided it wasn't worth the time or the fuel to harvest what was there.
If it rains, it's possible we would still be able to harvest more alfalfa. Right now, Randy is more concerned that we haven't been able to plant any after-harvest sudan. We usually supplement our alfalfa and silage with sudan as part of our cattle's wintertime rations.

All day on Monday, I kept thinking about The Carpenters song, "Rainy Days and Mondays." We would have been celebrating with rain on Monday. It sure wouldn't haven't gotten us "down."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Par for the Course

"For me, the worst part of playing golf, by far,
has always been hitting the ball.
Comedian Dave Barry

Oh, Dave: I can so relate. That's why I decide to let my husband hit the ball, and I ride along in the cart. We are both much happier that way.
Early in Randy's fascination with golf, he bought me a used set of women's left-handed golf clubs. He even took me to a driving range and had a professional give me pointers.(Smart man: He didn't try to "instruct" me himself!)

But he can't change my natural propensities: I like being good at the things I do. Yes, I realize that's a narrow-minded way to live, but there you go. It's the truth. I am not good at golf. 

I am good at riding in the cart. I am good at taking photos of pretty places where Randy golfs.
I am good at reading a book while we wait on the foursome ahead of us. I am good at being a conversationalist when called upon and in being quiet during the all-important golf swing.

Randy has made his peace with that. When we go to a new location, Randy likes to golf at courses in the area. The same was true during our trip to Estes Park, Colorado.
Driving range - Estes Park Golf Course
The overall "green" of the course was quite a contrast from the withered lawn and scorched farm fields we'd left behind in Kansas, where 100-degree temperatures were the norm at the time.

As it turned out, Estes Park also was warmer than normal. But it was still cooler than home. And we weren't watching dryland corn and milo fields burn up while there. Out of sight, out of mind? Well, in theory, it works.

Randy golfed at two different courses while there.  The 18-hole Estes Park Golf Course is a public golf course that opened in 1917. He also golfed at the 9-hole Lake Estes Executive 9-Hole Course, a public course that opened in 1972.
A view from the golf cart - Estes Park Golf Course
With the mountain backdrop, I didn't do a lot of reading during our time on the courses.
I have added a new "job" to my role as Randy's No. 1 golf fan. Once during a golf outing, I call out, "In the hole," trying to give Randy the experience the pro golfers get on Sunday afternoons. (I always wonder whether the people who are shouting this have their DVRs recording and want to hear themselves on television. I just roll my eyes.) But it is good for a laugh.
So was this sign along the way. For the record, we did not see any elk droppings or hoof prints, so there were no real excuses for mulligans.
Estes Park Golf Course was recognized as the sixth most beautiful golf courses in the United States by Mitch Kaplan, author of The Golf Book of Lists.
We concur:  It was beautiful!
Randy likes to wear K-State gear while golfing because it often generates conversations. At the 18-hole course, he was paired with a couple of golfers who were wearing Oklahoma State orange. I guess we kept it all in the Big 12.
They were all comparable golfers, which made it fun for them all. 
The rain held off until near the end, and the guys played through it. We would have loved to send the rain to Central Kansas instead.

On another day, Randy golfed the 9-hole Lake Estes course.
According to publicity materials, it's home to a herd of elk that are active during elk calving and elk rut seasons. We didn't see any elk on the course. But there were plenty of geese.
Randy planned to golf the short course in the morning, and then we were going to go back to Rocky Mountain National Park and drive to Beaver Lake. However, nature was "too crowded." We saw the electronic signs, saying that vehicle access to Beaver Lake was "restricted." We later learned that the parking lot at Beaver Lake was full and had been since 7:40 that morning. Park rangers suggested we come back later in the afternoon.
So ... we went back to the 9-hole golf course. They gave Randy a discount on another trip around the course. It was a pretty day. There was a nice breeze. I had a camera and a book. All was right with the world.
The Lake Estes 9-Hole Golf Course incorporates the Big Thompson River on the last four holes.
Randy only landed the ball in the water once. (One other time, it glanced across the river like skipping stones. That was impressive!)
All was going so well that he decided to make a third round of the 9-hole course. We almost got to the end before we got rained out.
Since it kept raining, we didn't drive back out to the National Park. I guess Beaver Lake will be on a "next time" list.