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Population Density: 4

December 4, 2011

An article I read recently mentioned population density — people per square mile. The term left my brain until the other day when I was driving into town. Our farm is on the northeast corner of a section, which is 640 acres or one square mile. Population density for that square mile: 4. Us.

Head a mile north. Population density: 0. Head a mile south: 0. East: 0. West: 0.

We do have neighbors, who live just outside the sections around us. But, “aloneness” is one of the reasons we love our rural life. And, it quiets the soul to look at land free of electric poles.

In the Woods

November 25, 2011

On a  cold, gray, windy, post-Thanksgiving day, D., E., Cesar and I headed to the woods.

Such a pretty scene on the drive into town yesterday: Great lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) in a fall pasture.

Great Lobelia

This was tucked in with my mail. Sad news regarding our country post office that I wrote about in February: http://lynnwoolf.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/whats-so-special-about-milton-kansas-67106/

My V. says,  “That little ol’ post office never hurt anyone.”

Maybe this was the last resort of a desperate person in need. I bet the good people of Milton would have helped this person, if they only had asked.

This  Beloit, Kansas, farmstead must have been a show place in its day. The limestone house and barn are stunning even now, despite the crumbling walls.

I first came upon this scene about a year and a half ago. Perhaps the historical society is raising funds to continue with its restoration? If so, I hope a donor comes forward soon. I also hope one day to step in the home and step back in time.  

For now, here are some outside views I found especially interesting.

Front view

Side view, with washhouse (or summer kitchen)

 

Well housing

Water tower

Shed with antique farm implements

Stone barn and lean-to

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date, face carving and leaf carving in the limestone rock

 

Milton, Kansas, rural post office

Milton, Kansas, rural post office

News this week:

The U.S. Postal Service will begin the process of closing as many as 2,000 postal offices in March and will review 16,000 more — half of all existing post offices — that are losing money, The Wall Street Journal reports. The new round of closures is in addition to 491 that are already being shuttered.

What will this mean for our rural post office, a tiny white building in the near-dead town of Milton? I headed to Milton to find out. The town is about 10 miles from our farm.

Postmaster Betty is not worried. She gives me the facts (after recognizing me by the volume of mail we get). She has two mail carriers which serve 287 rural mailboxes in the nearby town of Norwich and 104 post office boxes at the Norwich hardware store. (Unfortunately, Norwich’s post office shut down a year or so ago because of a moldy building.) She also serves 138 rural mailboxes in the Milton zip code and 26 boxes in her building.

She’s proud of the vintage post office touches in her building, which used to be a one-bedroom home.  The outside was painted just last year, she says. While I’m there, a customer comes in to buy stamps and she answers a phone call or two. We chat about life — everything from the weather to mobile phones to the Internet to recent farm family tragedies.

Betty and her post office are treasures — real-life Americana. I hope she’s right that Milton, Kansas 67106 will survive the cuts. Take a peek:

Red barn in snow Kansas

Antique farm wagon in snow Kansas

Horse in snow Kansas

Horse and Angus crossbred young bred cow

Women 4 Ag

September 16, 2010

Gayla — with  her shoulder-length curls and awesome purple cowgirl boots — greeted me when I arrived a the Agriland booth at the Kansas State Fair. I was volunteering for the Kansas Agri-Women, one of several groups that sponsor the booth.

Gayla squeezed my elbow, looked me deeply in the eyes, thanked me for joining and for helping out, then said, “Let’s go find a spot for your purse.” Loved it. She embodied what I admire about many I meet in agriculture — warmth, simplicity, authenticity and always being ready for a hard day’s work, no matter where they are.

She introduced me to a long-time leader of the group — who is still active in the organization at 80 years old. I took over at her station, a scale where kids could be weighed and then compared to a farm commodity.  The kids loved hearing they weighed as much as a baby calf (about 75 pounds) or were only a few pounds shy of a bushel of corn (56 pounds). Surprisingly, parents and teachers joined in.

The booth was loaded with other hands-on activities — a combine cab, buckets full of seed, a soil tunnel, even Blossom, the full-sized cow with her squeezable udder. (“Squeeze, don’t pull,” the sign read.)

It was a fun day of answering questions and listening to stories. Gayla’s grandson stopped by. I’m sure the little boy, who was barely walking, has a limited vocabulary, but he exclaimed, “Big. Cow,” when he came upon Blossom. It was the  powdered sugar on my funnel cake of an afternoon.

Learn more about the Kansas Agri-Women and the national group, American Agri-Women here: http://americanagriwomen.org/kansas-agri-women. Follow them on at Twitter: http://twitter.com/women4ag.

When bins fly

August 22, 2010

You know the moment — that micro-millisecond — when you see  something terribly wrong, but before your brain has  processed it? We experienced just such a moment a week ago. We were driving home about 9:30 p.m. when we saw our small 1,000-bushel grain bin in the neighbor’s field. It was dark and rainy, so we could only see as far as the headlights.

The devastation was frightening as we made our way through our farmyard. Power lines were down. Our 7000-bushel bin was caved in from the impact of the small bin, which had been blown from its foundation. Our mini-van, which we owned just six weeks, was smashed in on one side — another victim of the flying grain bin. Our cattle shed, which V., his dad and D. rebuilt just two years ago, was obliterated from the straight-line winds that reached 70 mph. V.’s pickup was buried in the rubble. Thankfully, the house  had just minor shingle damage. In fact, the power had only been out a short time. If we hadn’t stopped at the grocery store, we would have been smack dab in the middle of it.

We had a restless, restless night as we calmed D. and E. and fretted about what was ahead. The morning light revealed more damage — our 70-year-old red barn was shifted eight inches off its foundation, augers and windows were smashed, and our seed wheat was trapped in the crushed bin.

I shed many tears. We will never replace the large bin. It was put up when V.’s family stored a lot of wheat and milo. The cattle shed’s block foundation, each block poured and laid  by V.’s Grandpa, could not be saved. Both our van and the pickup were sure to be total losses. 

The next morning and all this week, V. and his dad, Stanley, showed me yet again what it means to be a farm family. It’s OK to look back on your farm’s legacy, as long as it doesn’t keep you from looking forward. You get up, clean up and rebuild. Along the way, you share meals and care for kids, animals and crops. In fact, thanks to our rural electric cooperative and a caring neighbor, we had power restored by 11:30 a.m. — and came in as usual for a large noon meal.

V. says our farm will be better than ever when all is said and done. I know he’s absolutely right. Plus, our kids will have a great story to tell their own kids as they sit in our yet-to-be-built cattle shed.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

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