Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blizzard Qualifier

A foot of snow is probably not technically a blizzard, once the 40 and 50 mile per hour winds die down. So, for readers who come from serious snow country, including western Kansas, do not make fun of us wimpy snowbirds out here in the Flint Hills!

If you think we are soft namby pambies, I invite you to come out to Kansas in July, when the heat and humidity, mosquitoes and snakes make you long for winter, dream of snow, imagine 2 degree nights. Or when tornadoes are dropping out of the sky every five minutes, sucking up trees and houses and tow truck contractors.... Yeah, Bucko, that kind of weather separates the adults from the children!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blizzard Blows the Blues - Updated


Brrrrrrr - but beautiful!


The most common sight in Kansas.

It is an ill wind that blows no good. For some time, I have had the feeling of unease and worry. Nothing I could put my finger on. This winter blizzard has ushered in some more unwelcome circumstances. I have yet to see my son for Christmas. The poor guy spent the entire Christmas day alone. So did I, now that I think about it.

My truck is hopefully sitting in the vicinity of the garage that I called first thing Monday for a tow and for repairs. At noon Tuesday, it was still on the side of the road.

I was going to post a photo of the snow drifts that had to be bulldozed aside in order to open the road the day after Christmas but my camera is still in the truck.

Drifts higher than the cab of my truck. Cool!

There was not even a car available to rent Tuesday in Topeka. Too many people needed rental cars due to accidents.

The good news is that I did not lose electricity at any time during this cold weather. I could watch television, or play expert spades on line with bored people the world over, or read other blogs online. There are many, many blogs of people raising goats, chickens, gardens, small farmettes, people going back to the land. It is so encouraging.

I hope my truck is repaired and available tomorrow and that it does not cost a small fortune. I hope my digital camera is still in the truck when I get it back. I hope the weather continues to improve so I can travel to my son's house with his Christmas gifts. I hope I can rent a car tomorrow if I need to. I hope I win the big lottery this month. I hope for world peace.

The Ugly Truth of the Matter
Another pack rat built a nest under the hood of my truck and chewed through a wiring harness, including one wire at both ends, so the mechanic did not even know for sure where that wire went. It also chewed through some hoses. Rats and mice have cost me a small fortune. Two weeks ago, a rat built a nest under the hood of the truck but it only chewed through a small tube. I noticed a problem when I got to work. A garage located across the street from my office repaired the truck that day. I was able to have my truck in time to go home, and it cost less than $70. Piece of cherry pie!

This new damage is going to cost considerably more - already over $260 with the car rental and tow and diagnosis work at the first garage. The Topeka garage is only open until noon Thursday, then closed until Monday. I continue to wish the worthless Farmers Insurance Contracted Tow Service will be able to get the truck from Paxico to Topeka on Thursday. Even if that happens, I doubt there will be enough time for the garage to repair the truck before noon when they close for the holiday.

The most aggravating factor in this whole scenario is the insurance tow contractor. I have paid premiums for their service since 1993 and have only needed their service once before, in the summer, and with similar results. Pack rats and contractors!

Which reminds me of a Jim Gaffigan joke: A guy dies, goes to heaven, and is surprised to find heaven is a gated community. He compliments the beautiful gates. St. Peter says, "Yeah, those gates weren't easy! We had to go down to hell for the contractor n' everything."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cave Woman and The Water Hoses

A Cave Woman is just smart enough to get through life - no extra brain power for her. Something as simple as a water hose can be dangerously problematic.

The horses' water at Spirit Creek is provided in a sixty gallon tank and three hundred fifty feet of garden hose. In the winter, Cave Woman has to drain and roll up the hoses after each use, an enormous expenditure of energy for an overweight, out of shape, old Cave Woman. It takes hours dragging the hose up hill, filling the tank, draining the hose, winding it up (think frozen rubber), then wrestling it inside.

Eventually, even during the mildest winter, the hoses became hopelessly frozen, so buckets of water are filled and hauled up the hill in the back of the truck. No matter how carefully she drives, most of the water is spilled before it arrives at the tank. So, many buckets must be filled. It is a bit less energy expensive to simply carry two five gallon buckets of water up hill twice a day, and requires about the same amount of time.

Last year, Cave Woman installed a two-railed electric tape fence from the barn down to the edge of the yard. There, one fifty foot hose (piece of cake) and an electric tank heater made water available to the horses 24 hours a day. Putting in that fence took many more days to construct than anticipated. Because vegetation against the fence grounds it, the seven foot big blue stem plants had to be knocked down. Electric tape without a shock will not keep two full grown horses from wandering. In the absence of a suitable mower, the big blue stem was knocked down by driving the truck back and forth, up and down, for most of an afternoon. Then the fence posts were installed and the tape strung. It was Cave Woman's finest hour when the horses spiritedly trotted down the slope between the straight white electric rails to drink in the relocated tank!

Sadly, Cave Woman can not conceptualize into the future. She cannot extrapolate outcomes. With the arrival of warm weather, the tank was moved back up the hill and the electric corral was closed to reduce the chances of the horses getting out. The tank heater was no longer necessary and the hoses could lay on the ground all the time. But the prairie, fertilized by copious amounts of manure over the winter, and with no horses grazing it, grew to eight feet in the corral, too tall to mow with a lawn mower. With the fence in place there was not enough room to use the truck to knock down the grass. (And no room to drive the truck up the hill to haul water, either!) So, it was back to the hoses!

Here is the drill:
Turn on the faucet.
Walk up the hill to insure the water is running and actually going into the tank.
Wait for some indeterminate length of time for the tank to fill.
Walk down the hill to turn off the water.
Walk back up the hill to drain the hoses.
Slowly walk down the hill holding the hose high above the head - the cool-down for all that exercise.

Two trips up and down the hill per tank filling - except for Saturday after the blizzard. The hoses were buried under at least one foot of snow. But they were drained so water should flow through them, no problem. Alas, there had been a huge oversight before the blizzard by not hooking the delivery-end back to a fence post or something sturdy at last filling. Cave Woman had to dig around in the snow to find that end of the hose which was now "inexplicably" five feet too short to reach the tank. She walked down the hill, pulling the hose up through the heavy snow, stopping to rest every twenty feet, and sweating. She had to do this all the way down to the faucet, looking for that extra footage.

She turned right around and went up the hill with the snowy hose over her shoulder, pulling it straight as she went - too tired to cuss. Then back down the hill to turn the water on. Back up the hill to make sure water was flowing. Once the tank was filled, down the hill again, in her heavy mukluks, trudging through twelve to eighteen inches of soft snow every step of the way to turn the faucet off and unhook the hose. Then immediately back up the hill to begin the process of draining the water out of the hose before the water started to freeze. With hair wet from sweating, and frozen hands and feet, she finally accomplished the task.

In all, poor Cave Woman made four trips up and down the hill for a total of at least 2,800 feet - over a half mile in her mukluks - in deep snow - uphill. If only God had made her smarter....


The long hose path... it goes all the way to the little angled structure on the horizon. This was taken 20 days after the horrible ordeal documented in this blog....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Duke's Christmas Day


Another Christmas dawns and I am still alive on this old earth to welcome it. There is a lot of snow on the ground, blown into big drifts. The wind is still spinning snow into whirlwinds. I think the only Being happy about this much snow is The Duke. He loves the snow and celebrates in it as if he were still a pup.

Duke was about eight months old the first time he saw snow. When I walked out the back door that morning, he would not follow me into the mysterious white world. He would only peek out the dog door. I was shoveling a narrow path for myself around the house. As I got further away from him, he ventured out to follow cautiously behind me. It was just a few minutes before he discovered that it was perfectly safe to walk in the snow. Once he realized it was just white "stuff" over familiar ground, he was off! He ran in large figure eights, first to the right then to the left. At some point he leaned onto a shoulder and began to plow his nose through the snow, using three legs to power himself along. I was laughing hard at him by then. He was celebrating the snow with perfect dog abandon.

Duke is the happiest being I have ever known. His enthusiasm for life has never dimmed. He still plows through the snow with his nose, stopping only to sneeze a time or two. He still loves to chase rabbits, but the chases do not last long now. I have never seen him with a dead rabbit, or noticed any empty rabbit furs in the yard. He loves to snuffle around the barn, checking to see what critter might be living between the bales. He still loves to snuffle into prairie vole nests and dig frantically after them. I am certain he can catch and kill them with great expertise but I have never seen him actually catch a vole.

He leaves the cats, the horses, and the neighbor's cows alone. He tolerates the chickens, though I get the feeling he does not like them all that much. He does not chase them, but I have noticed that if he sees a chance, (as long as it has the appearance of legitimacy), he will run through them, scattering them into a squawking, flapping flurry. All other wildlife are allowed to exist peacefully in his territory unmolested, including the squirrels. Except rats - he takes rats out like a CIA assassin. (He is not a descendant of wolves for nothing.)

This big snowstorm is a dangerous event during the four day weekend of our country's largest holiday. Many people are going to be killed in car wrecks trying to forge ahead with holiday plans - even though a blizzard should be a valid reason to stay home. People are going to try to get together with family because of their schedules. No one's workplace will let them have do-overs next week. People will try to get to work too because the boss will not accept bad weather as a reason to miss work - though we all should agree it is.

Duke should rule the world. Every day is a good dog day. When it is too hot to chase rabbits, you lay in the cool dirt in the shade. When the boss wants you to stop fooling around and yells at you to report for duty, you just look earnestly at her, then take off over the hill - she knows you will be back. When it snows, you rejoice in it - not drive off into certain death and destruction. When people you love come on your property, you rejoice with wild abandon. When you have irritating friends, you accept them as they are, even if you do not agree with their politics or understand their language - though it is permissible to get a rise out of them occasionally.

Good old Duke - this snow's for you!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas.....


Santa's team relaxing before the big trip tonight!
Rudolph is not in this photo - he is a bit of a recluse and not often caught on film by the
paparazzi.

We are bracing for a serious snow storm expected to begin today. It rained most of yesterday and when I stepped out a few moments ago, it is still rather mild - above freezing, no wind, no ice. That is expected to change by nightfall: freezing rains changing to snow, accompanied by 40 mile per hour winds. As much as ten inches of snow could fall. It will be beautiful, but brutal.

Poor Santa. He might have some challenges in the Midwest tonight!


Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward (Some) Men

From the Critters and the Crazy Woman at Spirit Creek



PS Most of you probably already know this, but if you right click on the photos in my blog, and select "Open Link In New Window", the photos will load to their full size and you can see all the detail.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Junior's Adolescence


Junior, the teenaged roo'


Junior hatched out last summer. I thought he might be a rooster and in this instance, I was right. Roosters are like little boys in a lot of ways. When they begin to crow, they make funny noises that sound nothing like crowing. They sound strangled and off key. It takes a rooster a while to develop his crowing. Their voices change along with their body shape and of course, their beautiful plumage.

Junior will eventually earn a new name. "Junior" is not appropriate for a full grown rooster. He is a cross between a Porcelain D'Uccle father and a Partridge Cochin mother. He is still a bit goofy looking and might always be that way. You never know, Junior might be the exactly right name.

I have not seen what instigates the fights, but I have witnessed the end of a few tussles over the last week or so. Junior is trying to fight with Tenzing Norgay and Baby Sister. When one of the little hens "wins" and Junior turns tail, another hen follows, pecking at him for good measure. The hens are simply outraged. And yes, those little hens can whip some butt.

I think Junior is trying to work his way up in the pecking order, and not actually trying to court the ladies. When he is seriously interested in the ladies, Evil Roo will challenge him on that. I hope Evil Roo will challenge him. Right now it is rather endearing because once Junior gets his teenaged butt whipped by the women, he goes to his father's side, where he is safe. Only time will tell who will be the top roo but I hope Evil retains the title. He is a chivalrous patriarch and a benign ruler. The Cochin genes in Junior might cause him to be a dictator after the manner of his uncle, Big Man.

No one likes a dictator.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First Day of Winter


Photo from http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html


Happy Winter Solstice - Happy first day of winter.

When I went to the barn this morning, the absolute best aspect of living at Spirit Creek was gloriously present - the brilliant winter stars.

Light pollution is minimal, especially when the atmosphere is crystal clear and the stars are startlingly bright when I first step outdoors. They are living jewels caught among the winter branches.

This time of year, the Big Dipper appears to hang directly above my driveway and mighty Orion rises from the east. Cassiopeia and the Pleiades are familiar and I can always locate them. Sometimes the starshine is so bright that it casts faint shadows on the ground.

I am going to build a sleeping porch where I can sleep comfortably under the stars year 'round. It is already built in my imagination. I just need to bring it into reality.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Part Indian, Full Blood Cowboy


The world is missing one of its most original sons now. Ed Ketterman died last Tuesday when his big heart finally gave out. At the age of 75, not so old in these times, he made the decision he was tired and ready to move on. With his wife of fifty five years, and his loving family gathered around him, he took his leave the same way he lived his life - on his terms.

The day of the funeral, the main church was filled to capacity, with a large number of people relegated to the other side of the building where they could only hear the service. People of all ages came to say goodbye. It was no surprise to me that so many would come, but the preacher remarked on the unusually large funeral for someone Ed's age.

As I sat in the church with all those people who knew and loved Ed, I wondered who, in all of my life, was as honest and authentic as this good man. There was no one to compare.

Ed had a very quick mind, an excellent memory, and sized up any situation in an instant. He could not resist getting a person right where it stings, but it was never mean spirited. A darker man with the same attributes could have cut people to ribbons, but Ed's big heart and excellent humor saved all of us slower wits. There was always a twinkle in his eye.

Ed knew who he was and did not care who you may have thought you were. Marty Shottenheimer, head coach of Kansas City Chiefs, came through one day where Ed worked. The Chiefs had made the playoffs but lost in the first round. When Marty came by glad-handing everyone, Ed gave him the needle for bumbling the team's chances. Knowing Ed, he had distilled the entire failure of the game down to the pivotal point, and with his talent for truth, shot the arrow right into Marty's self important ego. Marty just walked on. Though I was not there, I can guarantee there was delight in Ed's eyes and likely a red-faced Marty.

You never had to guess where you stood with Ed Ketterman. He would tell you straight out what he thought. It was never in an overbearing, heavy handed way. It was just plain words, simple spoke. And he had a great sense of humor.

For quite some time he had to have a mechanical apparatus that regulated his heart beat. It was something more complicated than just a pace maker, as I understand it. Last year he needed to go in for an adjustment to this technology, which required some surgery. When they asked him to remove his boots, he refused. Knowing Ed, he was just checking to see what he could get away with. Ed had the surgery with his boots on, like any good cowboy.
Ed on the right.

Ed was a cowboy, a roper, a horse trainer. He was a hunter. He had a passion for sports - from his granddaughter's softball to all major league professional sports. He was a husband and a family man. A good neighbor. A grandfather and great grandfather. His obituary read, in part: "10 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and the many children that called him Dad and Grandpa". Some of those "children" who called him Dad are well into middle age. He was my father's best friend, so I have known and loved Ed from the day I was born. When my father died unexpectedly in my childhood, it was Ed's big heart that offered what shelter there was for my broken one.

Some years ago, a cousin in Ed's family traced the family tree and discovered they were descendants of Red Cloud's people, the Oglala Lakota. It did not surprise me in the least that Ed was Lakota.

There is no way to capture the man here, or do his life justice, or convey the grief his family feels at his passing. No way to fully honor this good man and what he meant to so many people. No way to explain who he was to me. It is a great sorrow that in this lifetime I will never again hear his voice, never see this man I loved as much as my own father.

It was a cold winter day when the hearse took Ed to his final resting place in a tiny township cemetery, not five miles from the front door of the house where he lived for the last fifty years. Four horses came galloping to the fence as the hearse drove slowly by. They took off to the west, bucking and cavorting in the cold air, celebrating the passing of an honorable Oglala son - a genuine cowboy - the best man I have ever known.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Choose Happiness



I was behind one of the new Smart Cars in the drive through the other day. I could not stop smiling. Two full grown adults were aboard, and it was just too darned cute - even from the back. Head on, these little cars look like they are smiling, too.

Until they are given four wheel drive and a higher road clearance, it simply will not be practical to drive a Smart Car and live on the farm. One good bounce over a deep rut in the road and the little Smart Car would likely be ruined. But if I lived in town, I would own one of these little jewels for sure.

Change takes a lot of effort to overcome inertia, to move the status quo off dead center, but once it begins, it becomes increasingly easier. As the technology for the greener energy sources and the far more efficient use of traditional energy improves, change will gain momentum and acceptance. Once everyone is driving a cute little machine like this, how could we possibly treat one another hatefully?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Truly, The Land of Oz

In the little town of Wamego, Kansas, there is an old wild west prairie town theater, the Columbian. Built as a music hall in 1893, genuine cowboys came there for entertainment. Some years ago a group of enterprising folks restored that wonderful old building located right on the main street. They have been holding plays and musicals there ever since.

It is difficult to gather enough support for the Arts in Kansas - except for country music, the highest art form embraced here. I find it remarkable that such a small town has managed to restore the theater, stage plays and musicals, and draw an international crowd at least once a year to OZtoberFEST (every October). It is a citywide celebration of the Wizard of Oz.

I have been asked at least five hundred times "How is Dorothy?" after admitting to an out lander that I hail from Kansas. The only thing the rest of the world knows of Kansas is from the movie "The Wizard of Oz" - Dorothy and Toto and Auntie Em, all from Kansas. When someone asks me about Dorothy or Toto, I always get to say yes, I am from Kansas and even better - I have an Auntie Em, too - my mother's older sister, Emma Jean, forever called Em. It is fun.

I am not complaining that Kansas' claim to fame is a wonderful, timeless story beloved by millions. We could be known as the state that elected a school board hell bent on teaching creationism instead of evolution in our public schools in the twenty first century!

Wamego has made the Wizard of Oz into a true event. The remaining original actors who portrayed Munchkins in the movie come for the festivities. My daughter and I attended a dinner with these tiny actors one year. We met them and visited just a bit with each one. It was fun.

One of the great grandsons of L. Frank Baum, author of the original book, was there, too. Robert Baum is a tall man, with white hair, and he was dressed as Professor Tinker, the fortune teller who was also the Wizard of Oz. Mr. Baum looked so much like Professor Tinker to me that I had to stop and do the math. The actor who played the Wizard could not possibly have still been alive! I thought it remarkable that he so resembled the Wizard. (What kind of crazy karma is going on there?!)

The Wizard of Oz is performed on the stage in the Columbian each year, and it is very well done. We are not talking a Broadway production, but the acting and singing are certainly well performed, and the stage sets are ingenius and excellent. The tornado was constructed from yards of dark cloth and spun about with appropriate sound effects - it resembled a tornado in appearance and behavior - so clever. My favorite, and the very best special effect, were the genuine sparks that flew between the finger tips of the Wicked Witch and Dorothy's ruby slippers! And yes, there is a little dog Toto, too. He resembles the original Toto, and knows his cues like any professional actor worth his dog biscuits.

After six years the play has been retired, but OZtoberFEST continues. The Oz Museum is open next to the Columbian Theater, and there are many other Oz related festivities each fall. I am sure there will be something else to take the place of the play.

This year when I drove through Wamego's main street during the 'FEST, there were license plates from all over the United States: New Jersey, Florida, New York, Tennessee, Texas, California... I can not remember all the different license plates I noticed. The magic of Oz still lives in Kansas, and pilgrims come from far and wide. How much fun is that?

Visit Columbian Theater here.
There are links to the Oz museum and the OZtoberFEST, too.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Artist Daniel W Coburn

Truly, the most beautiful photographs of Kansas!

This is the link directly to Daniel Coburn's web site, where he has published some of the most beautiful photographs of Kansas. I urge you to visit his site and to spend some time looking at his photographs. They are stunning. He is quite familiar with the beauty of Kansas and has captured moments in each season, each time of day that reveal this land to those patient enough to wait for the landscape to reveal itself.

Of all who have attempted to photograph the space and sky of Kansas, only Daniel Coburn succeeded in capturing what must be seen to be believed. He has photographed the spirit and beauty of Kansas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The First Installment of Cave Woman* Adventures

This morning it was 15 degrees Fahrenheit . It was darned cold in Kansas. There was a beautiful but hard frost covering everything. All the standing water was frozen in the dog dish, the chicken pen, and in the horse tank. All week I knew it was going to become this cold but naturally, I could not be proactive. No. Cave Woman can only be reactive.

So, there I was, wrestling with frozen electrical extension cords covered in frost - because when I rolled them up last spring, I left them right where I would need them again - in nine months.

Extension cords are not very flexible in below freezing weather but I got one cord untangled and plugged into to the light pole. I needed another extension cord to reach all the way to the chicken pen. I eventually got the second one unrolled and threaded through the chicken wire. As I connected the two cords, I realized a moment too late the rubber had been stripped off the end of one of the cords - the one in my left hand - where the snap, crackle, and pop of 110 volts of electricity was sparking and smoking in my gloved fingers.

I did not die. I did take my glove off and check to make sure I had not blown any holes in my cave woman self.

When I left for work, all the chickens were gathered round the fresh water, happily drinking from their heated water dispenser.

The shock therapy cleared the normal brain fog. All morning my mind has been as sharp as a razor.

To be continued....


*A nod to the two Cave Men I work with, Rog' and Gary.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dogs and Digital Mysteries

Digital Photography is the most miraculous thing that human beings have ever invented. No film, no waiting, no expensive disappointments. I can delete blurry and bad photos with reckless abandon. I can take one hundred photos of the same subject and not feel guilty. When I open the files on my computer screen, they come alive with the light from within, almost as magnificent as when originally seen with the human eye.

My little digital camera is capable of much more functionality than I know how to use. I have been experimenting with the camera's settings, hoping I can capture at least some of the more subtle and important aspects of subject matter that escape and frustrate me now. It is the same frustration I feel when I paint. I simply have not mastered the tools, neither the paints nor the camera, to reproduce what I see.

Once again, I tried to photograph the moonlit scenery. Tonight the moon is so bright that I can distinguish some colors outdoors. Of course, master photographers have been attempting to capture the magic of moonlight since the first camera was invented and most have failed. Oh, but I think I can do better with my little Kodak?

It is very cold tonight and clear. It is beautiful and I spent some time attempting to photograph the magic of the full moon illuminating the landscape. I wonder what my old dog Duke thinks I am doing when I go on these night forays. He understands feeding the horses, letting the chickens out of their pen. When my kids visit and hike the creek, Duke naturally gets the concept of the pack going on an adventure. I wonder what he thinks when I take the camera out at night, flashing an exceedingly bright light at random.

We assume the concept of taking pictures, and any number of other things, are beyond the intelligence of dogs. What if they are actually a superior race, so far evolved beyond us that they know photography, digital or otherwise, is such a futile endeavor only human beings would waste their time with it? Dogs do not go to war, build nuclear weapons, oppress and torture others. Dogs do not get in political debates. Sometimes when the ol' Dukenator, faithful and forever loyal, accompanies me in my idiot adventures, I know he is from the wisest species in the universe.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mother Earth News - The Nightmare

The new issue of Mother Earth News arrived yesterday in my mailbox. I love that magazine. My entire life I have wanted to own a small farm and get off the grid. That has been the biggest and most enduring dream - that and being a successful writer. Well, I do own a small acreage now, but the "farming" and "off the grid" parts are long past taking root. As Bob Dylan says, "Some things in life it just gets too late to learn."

I have had gardens a few times in my life, beginning at age twelve. The only garden that came to fruition was a small garden planted in the back yard of a rental home in east Topeka where a chicken coop once stood, according to the owner. Chicken poop - the stuff of miracles!

The small garden yielded a respectable crop of green beans, my favorite vegetable of all time. I had never canned anything, but my neighbor lady (whom I forgave daily for her gossip, interference, and Christian judgment against my divorced lifestyle) guided me through the process over her garden fence. Soon there were fourteen quarts of home grown green beans magnificently displayed on the kitchen counter top - in brand new Ball jars - with shiny lids. No human being had ever been more proud of green beans.

After a few days, a sour smell began to permeate the house. I almost cried when I tracked it down to the jars of beans. They did not properly seal. My green beans were spoiling in the jars. I emptied the beans and gave the jars to my nosy neighbor and Jesus.

This bean debacle came after tremendous effort: I purchased fencing and fence posts, enclosing about a ten by twelve plot in the back yard. I hand dug the soil with a spade. I planted that garden with such high hopes. I even put in hybrid corn that was designed to be planted in a single row and only grew about three feet high. It was for small urban gardens. I harvested corn alright - one tiny little ear per plant. My little girl and I had two tiny "roasting ears" for lunch one day, laughing over the dwarfed ears. I figured a net harvest of about 54 kernels of corn. Those green beans were my shining accomplishment for so much work and expense.

The green bean failure came hard on the heels of the ill-fated year of 1980, when my husband left me unexpectedly on six acres of land in Osage County. I had decided I would stay on even though The Jackass had left. Early that spring, I ordered seedlings of evergreens and lilac bushes and some other plants from the Kansas State University extension office. I continued to work full time in Topeka and work full time at improving "the farm".

I planted a row of little pine trees in depressions I had carefully dug to protect them from the wind. I mulched them with straw. Because I was broke, I could not afford another garden hose, so I carried buckets of water to them. I nourished those plants as if they were babies all that horrible hot summer. I might have to remind you that the summer of 1980 was one of the longest unbroken string of 100 degree plus days on local record, but I continued to water my little trees with great hope and vision. It came to an ugly end when The Jackass, in a misguided and worthless attempt to assuage his guilty conscience, came to mow the huge yard while I was at work in Topeka. He mowed down ALL the little trees, and the lilac bushes, and everything else I had been nursing along that hateful summer. It was a symbolic final straw and I moved back to Topeka in time for my daughter to begin third grade in Topeka that fall.

Those two horrible gardening calamities ended my gardening dreams and I bought a Harley Davidson instead. I could share a few more pathetic attempts at gardening, but why reopen the scabbed over wounds?!

Now, instead of risking the heartache of failure, I read of other people's success in Mother Earth News. This year there was an article about a 13 year old girl gloriously successful with her organic gardening, raising chickens, baking bread and writing about it!

These are the things that drive middle aged women to alcohol.