Ninnescah Pasture

Ninnescah Pasture

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Bird In Hand (Or Nest)

To find the universal elements enough;
to find the air and the water exhilarating;
to be refreshed by a morning walk 
or an evening saunter;
to be thrilled by the stars at night;
to be elated over a bird's nest
or a wildflower in spring ...
these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
                                                             --John Burroughs

I was beginning to think that the old saying, "A watched pot never boils," also applied to watching a bird's nest.

When Randy first discovered the nest in April, there were only two eggs in the nest atop the 4-wheeler ramps.
Then, a few days later, we found four eggs.
Not long afterwards, Randy discovered some delicate blue egg shells at the base of the ramps, and only three eggs were left in the nest. We don't know why one of the eggs toppled to the ground.
We patiently checked the nest every few days, hoping that they would hatch. And they did!
Two of the eggs are now baby birds.
Taken May 8
It's been amazing how quickly they've changed from scrawny, skeletal looking creatures to our feathered friends. We've not sure whether the third egg will hatch, but we doubt it will at this point. (You can see it under the feathers in the photo below.)
Taken May 15 - 1 week later
Initially, we didn't know what bird had laid the eggs. We never saw a mama sitting on the nest.
But now that the babies are hatched, a couple of robins aren't thrilled when I've peered into the nest or moved it to the nearby wheelbarrow for photos. They don't seem to understand that I'm just admiring their handiwork. 
Last Friday afternoon, we checked the nest again. As I walked into the shed, one of the babies flew out of the nest!
With its sibling off on an adventure, only one baby still resides in the nest. 
Their parents were none too pleased at the attention we were giving their babies. One led a particularly vocal protest and tried dive-bombing the shed.
Nature is a marvel, isn't it? I took the first nest photos on April 23, just a couple of days after Randy initially discovered the nest. The newly-hatched babies looked like space aliens on May 8. And then, by May 19 - less than a month after we discovered the nest - one robin was already off exploring the world.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.
Emily Dickinson

Friday, May 19, 2017

Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats (and so do cattle)!

When I was a kid, one set of grandparents lived in Haskell County. To a child, it seemed like it took FOREVER to get to western Kansas from the south central part of the state. One of my memories of those long car rides was of my dad singing nonsense songs. One of them went like this:

Mares eat oats
And does eat oats
And little lambs eat ivy
A kid'll eat ivy, too,
Wouldn't you?

When sung quickly, it ends up sounding more like this:

and doezedotes
and littlelambszedyvy
Wouldn't you?

Other songs in my dad's car repertoire included "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "I'm An Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande."

But when we checked a field, it was that "Mares eat oats ..." song that I couldn't get out of my head. We're sure hoping that cattle eat oats, too, ... not just mares and does!
In March, Randy planted oats in an old alfalfa field.
They are "haying" oats vs. "grain" oats. This is the alfalfa field's last "hurrah" before it's torn up and planted to something else.
He used the disc to lightly break up the soil and to kill volunteer cheat and other weeds. Then, he planted the oats, using the same drill we use to plant wheat. Disking up the alfalfa wouldn't be a "normal" thing to do. But it's an old field, and to stretch its productivity for one more year, Randy planted the oats in the already-established alfalfa field. It should provide a mixture of alfalfa and oats that we can bale up for cattle feed this summer.
The spring rains have given the oats a good start. Depending on weather, Randy may put down our first cutting of hay next week.
It will be disked up after we harvest the oats/alfalfa combination this summer. But until then, it may not be the last time that the old song is stuck in my head!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Change Commences

 com·mence·ment  (kə-mĕns′mənt)
1. A beginning; a start.
a. A ceremony at which academic degrees or diplomas are conferred.
b. The day on which such a ceremony occurs.
The caps and gowns were just pint-sized versions of the garb that older students would soon wear in this season of transition. Their faces were also a preview of their older compatriots: Some were solemn and cautious. Others were exuberant and carefree. And there was every reaction in between.

Our family had one of the serious preschool graduates from the K-State Center for Child Development. Thankfully, Kinley's class was the third of the classrooms to walk across the big stage toward Willie the Wildcat. She'd had time to watch her classmates interact with Willie and survive the encounter. When you're 5, Willie can seem a little overwhelming, even if he is on bended knee. 
When you think about it, graduation is a bit overwhelming - no matter the stage of life. It's all about change. While some people may embrace change, others of us struggle with it.

If you think about this grand ceremony as "graduation," it's all about ending something. It's kind of like that book you don't want to end. You're afraid the next one won't be quite as good.

If you think about it as "commencement," it's about new beginnings. And that can be a scary thing, too - whether you're a 5 year old who will enter kindergarten in a few months or a high school senior from a small town class of 15 going to a university where not "everyone knows your name." (That can be good and bad, I suppose.)

It can be scary for a college graduate, whether moving on to a graduate program or off to conquer a new job. Even scarier is the phase where you're still looking and worrying about finding that job or hearing from that next school. 

But we "old" people aren't immune either. Circumstances often force us to "graduate" or "commence" to a different stage of life - whether it's a newly empty nest, an illness or death, a job, a move or any number of situations in which we are searching for a new "normal."
But facing those changes is much easier with a support system. It's a lot easier to smile if you've got people protecting you and standing beside you in difficult or scary circumstances.
It's easier to face those transitions when you have cheerleaders, like parents and little sisters ...
... and grandparents ...
... and even uncles (who may "tweet" about questioning the "need" for preschool graduations but then get converted because of the cute pint-sized caps and gowns).
Before the ceremony, neither Kinley or Brooke would get their photo taken with the new Willie the Wildcat statue at K-State's Student Union. But after Kinley faced a living, breathing Willie, the statue was a whole lot easier (though it didn't matter to Brooke, who still kept her distance).

That's typical of change, isn't it? We dread it. We drag our feet. And sometimes, it transforms us to a better version of ourselves.
So here's to you, Kinley. May you commence to all the good things life has in store for you!
Same goes for your little sister!

Yesterday, Jill sent me an email of thoughts shared with Wheatland USD 292's 13 graduates by their Superintendent Gary Kraus. Kraus shared insight from Hal Urban's book, The 10 Commandments of Common Sense: Wisdom from the Scriptures for People of All Beliefs.

It seems the world today is sadly lacking in common sense, don't you think? Though these ideas may be a bit esoteric for a 5 year old and 2 year old, I hope their parents and we in their supporting cast can help these little girls to live their lives this way. It wouldn't hurt the rest of us either. I decided to include them for future reference - for me, as much as for them:

5 things we should avoid because they are bad for us:

1.          Don’t be seduced by popular culture; it prevents you from thinking for yourself.

2.          Don’t fall in love with money and possessions; it will make you greedy and shallow.

3.          Don’t use destructive language; it hurts others as well as yourself.

4.          Don’t judge other people; it’s better to work on your own faults.

5.          Don’t let anger get out of control; it can wreck relationships and ruin lives.
5 things we should do because they are good for us:
6.          Keep a positive outlook on life; it’s the first step toward joy.

7.          Bring out the best in other people; it’s better to build them up than tear them down.

8.          Have impeccable integrity; it brings peace of mind and a reputation of honor.

9.          Help those in need; it really is better to give than to receive.

10.     Do everything in love; it’s the only way to find true peace and fulfillment.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Detours: Secret Gardens

"The last job of the day is cleaning out the trailers," my farmer joked.

"It's not part of my job description," I answered quickly. "You don't pay me enough for that job!" (Even if he doubled my pay, 2 times 0 is still 0!)

The hired man had called in sick, so it was Randy and I who would get mamas and babies moved to the Ninnescah Pasture and then bulls deposited at various locations. I was already on the crew; it just shifted from a three-person job to a duo. 

(He got a lot of mileage from my refusal to clean out the trailer from his breakfast buddies at Joan's Cafe. However, some of them said their wives wouldn't have helped with the cattle to begin with, so I guess I did OK with the public opinion poll from small town Kansas.)

We got it done with no bodily harm to man, woman or beast, though we had a few moments of frustration when cattle didn't cooperate. By late afternoon, all of the bovines had their annual "change of address" - moving from lots and pastures closer to home to their summer abodes. 

And, as it turned out, the "last job of the day" did end up being a fragrant one. But it didn't involve manure. I may not have gotten a bouquet from my hubby for my efforts in the cattle pens. I got something better: He gave me time with two secret gardens.
A few years ago, we discovered two spots where purple irises grow. One is along a road near the Ninnescah pasture. The other spot is along the Zenith Road. Maybe they are at a sites of a long-ago farmsteads, but there is no falling down barn or cement foundation that give us any clues.

Was it home to someone long forgotten? Did this patch of purple mark a farmstead mailbox long ago? Did someone plant the bulbs, knowing that springtime would bring majestic purple blooms and smiles? They don't seem to belong to anyone, but I will gladly claim them. 
After we took the bulls to the Ninnescah, Randy stopped the pickup and let me take photos of the purple blooms.
Next stop was along the Zenith Road, where only one car had to go around the parked pickup and trailer during our "photo session."

Those blooms are purple, too, but they are a different variety - a paler, more translucent hue. For years, we raced by those blooms just off the Zenith Road and never saw them. Then three years ago, my sharp-eyed farmer saw them, and now we anxiously await the time when they are in full bloom.
Just like the other location, we don't know their history. Early in our marriage, we lived less than a half mile from their location, and I don't ever remember seeing them. They, too, were likely part of a long-ago farmstead. However, Randy grew up here and he doesn't ever remember a house at that location. They are nestled under old cottonwood trees.
These days, they are flanked by a CRP field, the dry, brown grasses of winter a sharp contrast to the brilliant colors and soft petals that form the old-fashioned spring flowers. As we examined them more closely, we noticed several of the stems devoid of their blooms. They were likely food for the deer that flash in and out of the same trees and have been the source of more than one close call on our Zenith Road travels. 
I took several photos while Randy waited patiently in the pickup that day.
Then, on the way to choir practice the next evening, I stopped again as the sun dropping toward the horizon gave golden-hour light to the scene.
It was just me and the mosquitoes that night.
Irises remind me of my Grandma Neelly, who had them in her backyard. Maybe that's why I love them so much.
The flower offered of itself
And eloquently spoke
Of God
In languages of rainbows
And secret silence...
~Phillip Pulfrey
 from Love, Abstraction and other Speculations

Friday, May 12, 2017

Down the Road to the Big Pasture

Perhaps you have noticed that even
in the very lightest breeze,
you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree.
--Black Elk

(I can't find the original of this photo, so I have to settle for this one that I've edited. It ends up looking more like a painting.)

I've always loved the tunnel of cottonwood trees that leads to the Big Pasture. For more than 100 years, Randy's ancestors brought cattle through the tree-lined road to the pasture on the Rattlesnake Creek. The ground was purchased in 1900 for about $4 per acre by August Brinkman, a great-great-great uncle of Randy's. Originally in a tract of 1,040 acres, 560 acres remain in the Fritzemeier family.
A few years ago, this location was designated as a Farm Bureau Century Farm. Randy's Grandpa, Clarence, and two of his brothers owned the pasture together. Now Randy and his cousin, Don, are the owners.
July 2013
The road has never been the best maintained. But it was still one of my favorites because of the play of light and shadows from the mighty cottonwoods. I imagined Randy's predecessors appreciating the road less traveled as they brought cattle to pasture and then checked them throughout the summer months.

Traditionally, we don't move cattle to the Big Pasture before May 1. Randy says that's because it his grandpa and his great-uncles wanted to keep it fair for everyone. After weekend rains, we couldn't move the cattle on May Day. Instead, we were a day later in taking the mamas and babies to the summer pasture.

I knew that there were changes in the scenery. Randy had gotten a preview when they worked on rebuilding and repairing pasture fence. But this was my first venture down the road to the Big Pasture since county crews had torn out the bulk of the cottonwood trees.

The first time I went this spring, I was too busy driving a loaded trailer through the deep, muddy ruts to truly see the changes. After that first attempt down the road, we went an alternative route, adding 14 miles to each trip to the pasture but assuring that we wouldn't be stuck.
We went back later in the week to check on the cattle and the fence. It made me sad.
Only a few of the magnificent old trees survived. Most ended up in the brush piles on either side of the road.
Cottonwoods always make me think of the song my very first voice teacher had me sing at my very first lesson,

"I hear the cottonwoods whispering above ...
"The old hootie owl hootie-hoots to the dove ..."
(It wasn't exactly an art song, but I digress.)

The mama cows probably couldn't care less about the scenery, but this mama will miss those old cottonwoods.
They are likely much more concerned with the condition of the grass and the water in the creek. With abundant rains in the last six weeks or so, those are in good shape. We are thankful for the full creek. In the midst of a drought in 2012, there was no water there at all.

August 2012
It's a much prettier scene to have ripples in the creek as the water flows by.
May 2017
It will require some fence repair once the water goes down a bit.
But you sure can't beat the scenery when the rains have greened up the pastures and filled the creek to its banks.
From our pasture looking to the neighbor's pasture to the east.
The pairs we hauled to the pasture should have plenty to eat and drink. They arrived at the old corrals, which have been used time and time again by Randy's family.
This is the first time at the pasture for these calves, born in January and February of this year.
But maybe it's like "old home week" for their mamas as they return during their productive years to the pasture. I guess they'll show them the ropes!
It's not the bull's first rodeo at the Big Pasture either.
And they're off to greener pastures!