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.
December 18, 2013
November 27, 2013
November 4, 2013
An abandoned property we called “The Old Kohler Place” went up for auction last weekend. The property was split into two tracts. The farmstead and five acres (old prairie house, shed and cement block barn) made up one tract and 155 acres of farm ground along the Ninnescah River made up the second tract.
The house had been abandoned for as long as I can remember and it was in sorry shape — the roof was mostly gone, the porch was sagging and most of the windows were broken. I often thought that maybe a fresh coat of paint would spring it back into life, but that was wishful thinking.
From the road, the barn looked like it was holding strong. The property boasts mature trees, including beautiful cherry trees — and lots of wildlife passes through on the way to the river. The house was sold “as is,” with no inspections. The realty company and auctioneer (Farm and Home Realty and Hillman Auction Service) did a good job explaining that the house most likely didn’t meet current codes. It will be interesting to see if the buyer, a young man from the community, will fix it back up.
It was a fun auction to watch. I think there were three bidders, with the winning bid at $50,000. As the auctioneer said, “A kid’s dream came true today.” Watch the final moments to see for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFdm0S1Ibys
September 19, 2013
I found myself part of an unexpected archaeological dig recently, uncovering treasures from past generations on our farm. I was digging in a flower bed and found this, an old wagon hitch pin:
I had to laugh at V.’s response: “I can use that.” Shortly after, we were cleaning out the lean-to shed on the barn and found this on a wall:
His grandpa, ever the resourceful farmer, used an old license plate to patch a hole in a grain storage bin.
I wonder what treasures of ours might be discovered in 50 years?
July 30, 2013
For at least the next generation, our corner of the country is insulated from a population growth trend called megaregions. The smart people at a project called America 2050 define a megaregion as “multiple, adjacent metropolitan areas connected by overlapping commuting patterns, business travel, environmental landscapes and watersheds, linked economies and social networks.”
The U.S. is expected to have 11 megaregions by the year 2050. The Great Lakes megaregion, for example, will include the cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. This megaregion is expected to experience a 28.3% growth in population by 2050. The Texas Triangle is another megaregion and includes the cities of Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. About 70% of the Texas population is expected to live in this region by 2050.
Our farm is about 30 miles south of the green circle in the middle of the map, Wichita, Kan. — not yet a megaregion, but still an area to watch. Maybe two generations from now that green circle will become another megaregion, connected to the Kansas City area. That’s OK with us. That development is north and we’re south.
Don’t get me wrong. I think these megaregions offer lots of opportunities, especially for employment, mass transit and more. I just want to be on the outside looking in.
July 1, 2013
I’m a day late in bringing you the update from Month 9 — harvest! We officially started cutting wheat on June 22. This year’s start was a little later than usual. We generally start cutting by Father’s Day. However, the wheat crop took a little longer to dry down because of the high humidity. We checked fields a couple days earlier, but the kernels were still soft — you could make a dent with your fingernail.
After several days of blistering temperatures and winds, the wheat was ripe. V. says you can hear when it’s ready. It rustles as it waves in the wind.
I enjoyed some time riding in the combine with V. (A combine is the machinery that cuts the wheat in the field and separates the kernel from the rest of the plant.) Mostly, I’m on the “support crew,” helping with meals, supply runs, chores, etc. We’re lucky in that we only have to haul wheat about three miles to the nearest grain elevator (a facility that stores grain in large steel or concrete bins).
The condition of the crop? We saw the toll from the late freezes. The stems in some areas were weakened and that wheat laid over. The combines were able to pick up most of it. Besides that, the yields looked good. We’re surprised and pleased after the rollercoaster growing season.
V. sums it up with this statement: “I love wheat harvest and I hate wheat harvest.” I know he wouldn’t have it any other way. Me either.
Here are a few scenes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPb4QM4JuJ8
Thanks for following our crop this year. The 2014 crop starts now.
June 19, 2013
May 31, 2013
There have been a lot of changes since we took a first look inside the wheat plant stem on May 3.
The plant now reaches about 34 inches from the ground to its tip. The seed head is fully developed, but the kernels are still soft. The kernels are now “filling” or reaching maturity. Rain is still important because it influences the weight of each kernel.
We get paid on the number of bushels. Bushels are figured by weight and the average bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds. The cash price for wheat this morning is $7.30 per bushel. Our yield will be the true indicator of the effect of the late freezes.
You can see how the plants are losing their green color as they complete the life cycle. The kernels will harden and the plant will turn golden as it dries down, or essentially, dies.
We begin harvest when we’re sure that the seed kernel is dry enough. Kernels that are too wet would eventually spoil. So, the grain companies that receive the wheat have set limits on moisture content.
Take a look at month 8. Next month: Harvest!
May 10, 2013
Moved Away is an accidental series about forgotten farmsteads and rural homes.