January 31, 2014
“I smell smoke.” That was the calm observation of our son, which catapulted our family into a grass fire fighting frenzy.
It was about 10 p.m. on Wednesday when we looked outside to see our farmyard ablaze. We learned later that a cord to a heater in a stock water tank shorted out, sending a spark into the nearby dry grass. The fire came up from the south behind our red barn and, because of the wind, went around it and then back north toward our house.
The 911 operator gave this advice: “Do not try to put it out yourself,” which we had to ignore. We live 10 miles from the nearest small town and rely on a volunteer fire department. I can’t imagine what we would have lost if we followed that sound advice.
So, we threw on boots and winter coats and rushed outside. My family was nothing short of amazing. V. hooked up hoses in the dark and started spraying water near the barn. He then set up our daughter with a hose by the house. Our son grabbed the fire extinguisher and worked the fire around the house propane tank. I went over to another structure, which has another hydrant, and began tossing out buckets of water. We then gathered west of the house to stomp out fire heading toward a row of trees.
The constant wind kept the fire moving, but the grass was short. That meant we could just follow the fire line and stomp along the way.
The fire crew arrived with just a few feet of fire left and they helped survey the area in the dark, looking for embers that could spark back up. We were thankful to see them!
We came in the house, stunned, around midnight, showered and tried to sleep. The wee hours of the night included many trips to the window, hoping we hadn’t missed any sparks.
It was chilling to look at the burn pattern the next day. I don’t know how we managed to avoid damage to structures. I think it was a matter of minutes — 10 minutes later and the red barn could have been in trouble.
Now, we breathe deeply, replace fire extinguishers and hope spring comes early and greens up our farmyard.
February 4, 2013
Warning: This is an up-close post about an aging family. If you’re having a bad day or were looking for light reading, click away. We can meet up another time. Or, here goes…
My mom’s Alzheimer’s/dementia/whatever-you-call-this-horrible disease has reached a point where two of my greatest fears have come true: She no longer recognizes me and she can’t live at home anymore.
In the messy aftermath, I realized there was an even greater fear lurking – that my mother wouldn’t love me anymore. But, my sweet mom showed this would never be the case, no matter how much Alzheimer’s separated us. And, she did so on a card game score pad during my recent visit.
She loves, loves, loves playing cards and she also loves winning, which means we always keep score. Since she didn’t know who I was, she just wrote “You” and “Me” at the top of the sheet. When I saw that, my mind hurtled back to something she said during a phone conversation this past summer, when she wasn’t so sick.
When I was hanging up, I told her that I loved her, just as I always do. Then, she answered in a sing-song voice, “I love you and you love me and that’s the way it will always be.”
So, despite what is awaiting mom, me and the rest of our family, I know there will always be love. And, hopefully, lots more card games.
December 20, 2011
This is how I know. I never hung that mirror that is so handy in the utility room. That dining room wall clock is not my style, but I would never think to move it. There are canning jars and baby bottles that were stashed in the cellar before I was born.
I am the third generation to live in this old farm house. I am the third mother that cleaned after her kids and worried about her kids and thanked God for her kids. I am the third wife that loved her husband with all her might.
Sometimes, I wonder about living in a house that was only mine, that I helped design or pick out. But, then, especially at the holidays, it’s so warm to share Darlene and Marie’s home.
September 6, 2011
Bank, newspaper, grocery store, doctor, dentist, chiropractor, accountant, auctioneer, pharmacy, hardware store, beauty salons, restaurants, flower shop, gift shop, realtor, insurance agencies, landscaper, car dealership – that’s just part of Cheney, Kansas’, Main Street.
This no-stoplight, rural, small town has 2,094 residents and a crowded, revenue-generating business district. These are long-standing businesses, too. Some are in the second-generation of family ownership.
What’s going on in Cheney? Where’s the dying small-town Main Street?
“Cheney has always felt a purpose for its existence,” says Carl Koster, long-time resident and former mayor. Some of that comes from its distance to Wichita, the nearest largest metro area. He also credits forward-thinking leaders who don’t have a political agenda; a locally owned bank that sees the potential in local businesses; and key economic anchors, such as a grocery store. Koster also says Cheney residents know how to work together, having been the host city for the Sedgwick County Fair for many years.
Another key factor to Cheney’s Main Street success is “the Wal-Mart rule,” Koster says, where a main street can survive if it’s more than 25 miles from Wal-Mart. Cheney is now 22 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart.
That will change in 2012. A Wal-Mart is being built in nearby Goddard, about 12 miles away.
The community is already going on the offensive with its “Think Local, Buy Local, Cheney First” program. Its first campaign involved $10,000 in Cheney Bucks. Shoppers could buy $100 in Cheney Bucks for just $90. The chamber and several local businesses provided money for the discounts.
I sincerely hope Cheney’s Main Street can survive, even when the campaigns stop — and that Cheney can always know its purpose for existence. What better way to show it than with a bustling Main Street.
Here are some sights. Come on over:
August 24, 2011
August 12, 2011
You know the TV commercials for charities helping children in poverty? “Just $1 a day” is all that’s needed to change a child’s life. You know what? They’re right. You can change a child’s life with $1 a day. But there’s more. Much more – at least with one organization called Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA).
For my family, it’s $1 a day to reach across the world. $1 a day to learn a new culture. $1 a day to feel love for and the love of someone you will never meet or even talk to on the phone. $1 a day to remind us to stop complaining about what we don’t have. $1 a day to teach our kids about the rewards of charity.
We sponsor two children through CFCA, Flora from Tanzania and Christian from Honduras. We learned about the organization at church. We learn about a lot of worthy organizations at church, but this one spoke to us as a family.
We chose Flora because her birthday is one day ahead of our wedding anniversary. She was born in 1993. Her father died in 1994. Her mother earns money selling tomatoes. Flora carries sand to earn money for school. Her life goal: Once I complete my primary education, I would like to continue studying up until university and be a doctor. I will assist my family, friends and the whole community.
How could we not benefit from knowing such a person? We have been sponsoring her since 2005 and have received dozens of letters with beautiful drawings. She writes them in her native language, Kiswahili, which are then translated. I still tear up over the letter she wrote after we shared that V.’s mom had died. In the midst of her daily challenges, she was so concerned for us and was praying for us.
We were drawn to another child a year later because he reminded us of our own son. Christian was just a year old when we began sponsoring him. His mother is a housekeeper and they live on $15 a month. We also receive wonderful letters from him through a family friend. Christian adds drawings of rabbits and turtles and flowers. Here’s the note he sent this past Christmas:
At midnight close your eyes and make a wish for the new year. At the same time I will do the same. My wish will be that your wish can come true!! Merry Christmas!!
As another commercial says, priceless.
If you’re interested in learning about other children awaiting sponsorship, I would be glad to share information about Hassan from Kenya, Benjamin from Mexico, Eveling from Nicaragua, Naresh from India, and Angely from Colombia.
Or, if you want to research the group further, here’s the site, http://www.cfcausa.org/. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter, @CFCA. One statistic you should know: More than 94 percent of donations go to program support.
I’ll sign this as Christian and his mother, Glendi, signed a recent letter — Receive hugs and kisses from the ones who love you very much and remember you always.
July 14, 2011
I make two dishes that I’m proud of – banana bread and lasagna. So, last year, when my 4-H kids were in county fair prep frenzy, I joined in and entered my banana bread in open class. I whipped it up. Plopped it on a paper plate. Zipped it up in a baggie and off we went. I thought it looked and smelled great.
What did the judges think? White ribbon. That’s one higher than the thank-you-for-coming ribbon. I didn’t think I had an ego, but, apparently, I do. It was bruised.
The judge’s comments: over filled; under done; ingredients not at room temperature; and others I’ve tried to forget.
Now, a year later, I had a chance to reclaim my baking honor. Humbled, I tried a new approach. I followed the recipe exactly. I measured the flour carefully, using a knife to scrape off the excess; not my usual shake and dump. I mindfully chopped and measured the nuts, adding just ½ cup. Bananas were mashed with love. I used a new baking pan. And, my ingredients were at room temperature (still puzzled by how the judge could identify that).
Most importantly, I didn’t multi-task. No phone calls. No starting a load of wash. No email checks. No Facebook or Twitter.
It was actually liberating to focus on one simple task – and aim to do it perfectly.
Unfortunately, the judge didn’t deem my bread perfect just yet , but I did bump up to a red ribbon. The bread was “nicely browned, moist
and had good flavor.” However, it was also a little soggy on the bottom (need to remove it from pan earlier) and top edges were overdone (go easier on the cooking spray).
Next year it’s my year. I can feel it. 357 more days to practice my banana bread — and single-tasking. My ego and shelf need that blue ribbon.
December 9, 2010
There were about 35 people in the Farm Bureau building on auction night — farmers, investors, brokers and others. Most were there out of curiosity about what the quarter section (160 acres) would bring. At the end, only one person mattered, and he wasn’t even in the room. V. had the winning bidding for his uncle, who listened by phone from Virginia.
The price went higher than was expected, $1,950 an acre — and higher than Uncle wanted to pay. The next day I emailed him to see how he was doing. His response: “Shouldn’t I be OK? LOL.”
He was looking for a good investment and feels he found one. The ground is right across from our home quarter and near other land Uncle owns. (Here’s a glimpse on this frosty December morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD5OfAtvjJA.)
We’re very pleased for the opportunity to farm more land. It also feels good to look out over Woolf land. Maybe someday, our son can farm it for Uncle’s daughters and grandchildren.
That’s the other value of farmland — what the land means for farm families. This rang especially true when I talked to the sellers, the granddaughters of the original owner. Their reason for selling: To help care for their father in his remaining years. Comments from Dana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf8IFvXpx9s.
Season to season, family to family.
December 1, 2010
November 24, 2010
Wheat farmers like us love seeing all the whole wheat products on grocery store shelves these days. It’s good to see food beyond the traditional breads and crackers, including whole wheat pasta, tortillas and pizza crust.
My farmer found a recipe that offers another way to enjoy wheat — this time with the whole berry. Wheat berry salad has become a family favorite and I thought your family might enjoy, too. It’s delicious hot or cold — and tastes great with leftover turkey sandwiches.
You’ll have to explore beyond the grocery store to find wheat berries. Here are two online sources: www.bakerscatalogue.com and www.bobsredmill.com. And, I happen to know a farmer who would be glad to share, too.
Enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving.
Wheat berry salad
Ingredients and directions:
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 3 cups cooked wheat berries (recipe follows)
- 1 large apple, unpeeled, diced
- 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped or unsalted sunflower seeds
- 3 tablespoons apple vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Combine orange juice and cranberries in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Combine cooked wheat berries, apple and nuts in a large bowl; stir gently. Drain the cranberries, reserving the juice. Stir the cranberries into the wheat berry mixture.
Whisk the reserved orange juice, vinegar and oil in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and stir gently to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Cooked Wheat Berry recipe
- 2 cups hard red winter-wheat berries
- 7 cups cold water
- 1 teaspoon salt
Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any chaff. Rinse well under cool running water. Place in a large heavy saucepan. Add water and salt.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse. To serve hot, use immediately. Otherwise, make it ahead for a cold salad. (Both are delicious.)