Matfield Green - Our first years

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Rogler Ranch

We spent almost a week in Matfield Green, returning home to Chicago on Thursday evening. While we were away we received an excellent offer on our house, so we now have "contract pending" attached to the FOR SALE sign in our front yard. Yippee yay! A big step. As I wrote to friend Pete Leki yesterday, now we really have to go! Closing will be in mid-March, so we will be able to pack up the whole house and really move to Kansas, with no unfinished business to hold us back.

I was sick most of the time we were away - with a chest cold or flu that the doctor now terms "atypical pneumonia." I'm now all set up with antibiotics and a good expectorant and can already feel movement toward recovery.

So about all I did while were were in Matifield was lie around and read, facilitate the Symphony in the Flint Hills board retreat (the reason for the trip), unload a few books in the new office, and take one good, long walk around the Rogler Ranch with Bill and Pepper. Bill and I walked about 3 1/2 miles. My guess is Pepper covered at least 2 or 3 times that much ground in her running, sniffing and doubling back around. Nothiing like my dog to help me notice the little things.

The Rogler Ranch, 4128 acres of mostly rangeland, surrounds our property on 3 sides. Charles Rogler walked into Chase County (from Switzerland or Germany) in 1859, chose his property and started his business. Grazing and grass. The ranch has been in the family since that time, Charles' son Henry taking over from him, before passing it all on to his youngest son, Wayne, who ran the ranch until his death in the early 1990s. Wayne's widow, Elizabeth Ronniger Rogler, died just last year and now her five heirs are preparing to sell the property at auction in the fall.

With encouragement from The Land Institute's (www.landinstitute.org) Wes Jackson, Bill and I (Bill in particular) are taking the lead in putting together a group of "conservation investors" to purchase the ranch. Our goal is to raise 5 million from a maximum of 10 investors - we already have one person in at $500,000 and we are prepared to send out a letter to other prospects next week. It is a long shot (that we can raise the money and then outbid big cattle interests and take control of the land) but a shot well worth taking.

Back to our walk....We cut straight across the broam field east of the bunkhouse, walking toward the rising sun and the South Branch of the Cottonwood River - a crystal clear (compared to what I'm used to) prairie stream that runs through the ranch, fertilizing the bottom land and wooded banks. It's work getting through the woods - deerpaths but no sign of the few humans who have gone before us there. The water was low - evidence of the drought we'll be suffering in our new homeland - so we were able to cross the river on a skinny tree branch, left for us be beavers no doubt. We supported ourselves on the crossing with sturdy walking sticks.

We continued west at the bottom of the dried-up bed of Corn Creek. Our goal was an old settlement, a fallen down house, dilapated silo, underground storm shelter and the ruins of an old resevoir or well at the creekbank. Tom Burton, Wayne Rogler's long-trusted ranch manager and the person charged with keeping things going on behalf of the heirs, remembers hiking up that house to buy eggs from its owners. From the looks of the site - a pile of wood beams and metal roofing - its been decades since hens and humans made this place a home.

Hen or human, however, couldn't ask for a more beatiful place to live. High enough above Corn Creek that the rainiest season would wash you out, the rocky bluffs around the house make the site feel cozy and protected from the elements. And out the door to the east - a heaven of tallgrass blowing in the breeze, glowing in the morning sunlight.

Our idea is to cluster up to 10 "eco-houses" at the Corn Creek site. Straw bale construction, off the grid, accessible only by mile and half driveway up from highway 177 into the praire. As we left the housing site, we walking along that driveway, imagining restoring from cropland to prairie in the bottomland along the Little Cottonwood, listening to the song of the meadowlarks and watching for the glint of the bluebirds I adore. Walking west now, we pasted the old barn - still in excellent repair - and the spacious "Henry House" - built in the 1940's and a perfect spot for some future bed and breakfast - surrounded by acres and acres of organic vegetables.

4 Comments:

  • Best wishes on your move!

    By Blogger Beth, at 4:37 PM  

  • Julia,

    I met you on Monday, and it was great to meet the people who are planning such wonderful things for such a beutiful spot in Kansas. I am Linday Dodge, my husband & I came to talk with Bill and his board about the caretaker position at the Rogler.

    What a spectacular place. I had driven by it for many years of my life and am so excited about what the goals are for the place. It is great to see that such a flinthills landmark is going to stay and become a teaching tool for the younger generation.

    Good luck in the plans for the ranch!

    By Blogger Lindsay, at 11:39 AM  

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