Matfield Green - Our first years

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pepper and the coyote

Finally Pepper spotted the coyote, who had been grazing for mice and baby bunnies in the newly plowed field straight across the road from the bunkhouse for at least 20 minutes. Bill and I had started out with binoculars, then got out out the spotting scope, and finally thanked the coyote for a rural evening's entertainment and went in to make dinner.

Pepper, as almost always, followed us inside to see if she could help.

All of a sudden she was up on the bed looking out the window and barking like mad. What made her notice?

Because we wanted to see what would happen in this unexpected Act II, and because there were no cars coming down highway 177, we opened the door and out darted the pup. Across the street. Under the fence. Up to about 250 feet from the coyote. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Shuffle shuffle. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Bark.

I think that's dog for, "What are you doing. I'm in charge here. Either come over here, introduce yourself and play with me, or get the hell out of here!"

The interloper ignored Pepper utterly. Didn't even look up.

After a few more barks just to prove she wasn't a complete woos, domestic doggy turned around, trotted back across the road, allowed herself to be led back inside and took a good look around to see if there were any dirty dishes that needed licking.

Organic gardening is murderous business

I'm teaching an online class for the University of Massachusetts' Arts Extension Service and I'm finding that communicating with my 15+ students saps some of my blogging energy. Forgive me if entries come a bit less frequently in the next 9 weeks or so.

A garden inventory always brings me back down to earth - so to speak.

We tasted our first tomatoes this week. Two tiny golden cherry tomatoes and one large beefsteak. The beefsteak had some "blossom end rot," the result to drastic fluxuation between too much and not enough water. That will cure itself as the season progresses. A potentially more damaging issue is an infestation of tomato hornworms. Annie Wilson had alerted me on Friday to the danger of these nasty little varmints who think nothing of defoliating your tomato patch and of the nasty green ooze that spills from their bodies when crushed underfoot. It was Sunday afternoon before I got back to my own garden and there they were. Not only noshing on tomatoes but decimating the potato vines as well.

Betty Swift has collected hundreds from her garden in the last couple of days. Her sister-in-law says they make good fishing bait. Having no time for fishing, Betty plans to pour gasoline on her bucket-full.

Any way you approach it, it's nasty business. They are difficult to spot because they have found the perfect plants to match their color. I start by finding the naked branches, follow them toward the intact foliage and there at the intersection 9 times out of 10 I find my hornworm. They are stubborn beasts. I have to peel them off of the vine, and they stick to my gloves and need to be peeled once again. Betty says get 'em now cause if I don't I'll have to deal with exponentially more green ooze at this time next year.

Friday, June 23, 2006


It was a cool dew covered morning and I went out at about 6:30 to mulch the garden. It's rained at least an inch in the last couple of days and we took a delivery of one hundred bails of straw left over from the Symphony in the Flint Hills. Weeding is easy and with plenty of straw at my fingertips, I'm in gardener heaven. As I finished in the strawberries and moved over to the watermelons (healthy seedlings now become hearty adolescent vines, courtesy of neighbor Kenny), I was surprised by a lark sparrow darting out of the weeds and up into the air. Thinking not much of it I made a bed of straw around one watermelon vine and moved on to the second. There at the base of the plant, surrounded by the meager amont of straw that I'd placed there about 3 weeks ago, was a birds nest, about 5 inches in diameter with four tiny white eggs inside.

Up on the electric wire mama lark watched as I carefully pulled the weeds around her home, made a fresh, ample bed of new straw, and then quietly went on with my day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Birds, bugs, beans and beer

It's so hot here in my office this afternoon but I elect to leave the doors and windows open and the air conditioning off in favor of the birdsong.

Pepper and I walked west across the prairie this morning. I'm glad that Pepper is just exactly as speedy as she is - and no more. She gives birds and bunnies and little mice a run for their money but never catches one. We scared up a couple of larks from the grass, and a few smaller birds. Were they sleeping down their or just hunting for bugs?

The soy beans we planted for cover crop are doing so well that we can't bear mow them down now, before they go to seed, which would, I think, be the usual way of treating a cover crop - we've decided to let them seed and do the work of harvesting. We'll have a freezer full of edemame in a couple of weeks.

Flies are a problem these days. The other night I was sipping iced white wine, enjoying the view from the front of the bunkhouse, when I looked down to see two of the little bastards dead in my glass. Knowing that it was 17 miles to another glass of wine I picked them out and kept right on drinking, only slightly disgusted. It reminded me of the time Bill heard Sue, the bartender/owner/cook at the Hitchin' Post here in Matfield, regaling the locals with the story of the woman who had come in the night before and requested a glass of chardonnay. Sue laughed and the regulars joined her as she proclaimed, "Around here we spell chardonnay 'B-U-D'"

I wasn't there, so I'm not sure if Sue was making fun of the outsider for her high-falutin tastes or of the Kansas liquor laws that allow only 3.2 beer to be sold in bars. Probably a bit of both.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Coyotes on the run

The other night Bill looked west toward the corral just in time to see a young female deer confront two coyotes who had been nosing around a pile of rocks. The doe charged and the coyotes took off running with mama deer in hot pursuit. There must have been a fawn hidden somewhere and those hairy beasts were getting much to close.

I spent hours this weekend weeding around the strawberry plants. I found two sweet red berries hidden among the leaves. Perfect. I was supposed to pick off all of the blossoms so the plant's energy could go into developing roots rather than producing berries this first season. Glad I missed a couple!

I replanted beans and corn in the places seeds failed to sprout the first time. Meanwhile we are eating slightly bitter lettuce leaves - the only one of our cool weather crops that has survived the hot hot spring. Tomotoes, peppers, squashes, melons and cucumbers are going gangbusters though, so I'm hoping for some good mid-summer meals.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Photo album - June Growth

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Symphony in the Flint Hills

The town of Matfield Green breathed a collective sigh of relief as the Symphony in the Flint Hills went off without a hitch. Saturday afternoon found close to 7000 people at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City. The Kansas City Symphony and Chorus along with the Paul Winter Consort performed Grasslands: Prairie Voices as the hot hot sun sank slowly in the west. Kathy and Phil Miller and Elaine Hunter of our fair city were the brains and braun behind the whole venture, working and worrying and raising money for more than two years in order to pull off this miracle. Governor Kathleen Sebelius welcomed everyone to the concert and Bill was all excited because at intermission we met cattle mogul Ed Bass - until now a kind of superhuman force from Texas who could be our prime competition for the Rogler Ranch. It's good to put a face to the challenge. Here's the link to more about the Symphony.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I'm home! And so happy to be here. There is much to report but first I have to take a couple of days to dig out of a hole of unpaid bills and the like. More soon!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Just in case you are wondering

There have been no entries lately because I have been out of town for work and some family stuff. Happily, I'll be back in Matfield Green on Saturday!