Matfield Green - Our first years

Saturday, September 30, 2006


I scared up a bobcat in the grass about six feet ahead of me this morning. We were walking on our property just a 100 feet or so west of the corral on the west side of the tracks. Pepper was busy up ahead. The cat was on the small side, but definitly bigger than a house cat. Sturdier. Gray and black spotted. It ran off east into the brush as Pepper gave belated chase. I've seen a bobcat in the distance before, and stuffed in the back of a neighbor's truck. But never alive and up close like this. A wild animal in the wild.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dream Roofers

Bill says that our roofers our a dream come true. Dennis from Rainflo in Easton Kansas and his team of two more workers are getting it done. Pat and Bill are getting the windows in and the house is taking on a personality all its own.

Meanwhile, Bill has created a spectacular terrace and set of stairs out front of the bunkhouse. All from stones found on our property.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Here I am

Here I am at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Gate 5 is a familiar one. I'm a loyal American Airlines traveler. Somewhat for the miles, but mostly for the knowing what to expect. I'll stop in to Chicago to visit Lisa and Chris Clancy & sons and then on to Traverse City and finally to an old hotel near the shores of Lake Michigan in Bay View Michigan.

It was a lovely birthday. Bill and I joined about 300 people (most of them wearing cowboy hats making it more difficult that usual to spot Bill's head sticking up over the top of the crowd) at the Rogler Equipment Auction. This was the prelude to the land auction on October 19. The Rogler Trust, assisted by Auctineer Rick Griffin was selling everything from an old butter churn to a shiny blue tractor and three good looking pickup trucks. We stayed for just the first couple of hours as auctioneer and audience moved through three wagons of miscellany and then on to some old furniture, including several antique school desks, a beautiful tin bathtub and a big cast-iron caldron. Bill's number 67 was a many time winner as we became the proud owners of two rusted block & tackles, a hay saw, a 24" diameter grinding stone, a small wooden worktable with spindly metal legs and - treasure of treasures - a stack of maps and arial photographs of Matfield Green and surrounding dating back to 1938. $60 buys a lot.

There was some sadness - as Mary Rogler, a relative but not an heir, lost her bid for the butter churn to an antique dealer. We left before she had her chance to rescue her Uncle Wayne Rogler's saddle. I hope she got it.

Tom Burton, who has managed the ranch as long as anyone around here can remember seemed like he'd made his peace with the changes that have come and are coming. It's a major turning point for Matfield Green, seeing this ranch become something other than Rogler Ranch. And for most at the auction, we'd rather turn back than trust what is ahead.

At these auctions some local group always has a concession stand. Barbeque, chips, coffee are typical fare. And cake! We bought 4 pieces of homemade chocolate cake, brought it home and stuck a big candle in it. A happy Happy Birthday celebration.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Busy Season/The Musing Mind

Fall nears and life gets busy. I'm off to lead a workshop in northern Michigan on Sunday, back on Thursday, and then off again to Atlanta on Sunday. I love presenting (the actor in me needs a fix), I love meeting new people and seeing new places, but I also dread leaving. I just miss the rhythm of home. The walks the daily bike ride to the office. Bill. Pepper. Pat. Everybody. The birds. Our Chase County birds, I mean, of course.

I'll be 45 years old tomorrow. Quite old. Not many signs of it really. The joint that connects my right big toe to my right foot gets sore if my shoes get wet. But that's about it. Still, even if I live to the 100 years that the palm reader promised me, I'm almost half way there. And certainly people can see that when they look at me. All the yoga in the world won't hide that I have a few years under my belt.

The point to this musing? Not sure.

Happy birthday to me. I hope that someone bakes a cake!

I miss my girlfriends back home in Chicago. Last year at this time they were vying for the opportunity to bake (or buy) a cake. There are many things that I can trust about Bill. But I just can't count on him for this one.

So, I've told him that I must have something to put a candle in. And I think he can handle that. If he doesn't, I'll ask again. Any good coach will tell you, "Don't complain; make requests."


Monday, September 18, 2006

The Town Picnic

Yesterday morning Tom, Phil and Bill put up Jane Koger's tent in the yard between the old elementary school and high school gym, in the place where Matfield Green High School used to be. June Talkington brought his cooker. A heavy, rusted steel grill that he made with a friend one day long ago. Tables came from our house, from Tom and Phil and from the Land Institute - the organization owns the land and the buildings and has renovated the grade school for use as a low-tech conference center. They carried 40 chairs out from storage in the grade school auditorium.

Burgers and buns and paper goods were provided using proceeds from "Matfield Green Day" an annual festival that ran from 2000 to 2004, drawing a crowd, earning some money and exhausting the five or six people who made it all happen.

At four o'clock the people started arriving, with salads and desserts and a handful of children to liven up the party. Tom set up a baci ball court and 8 of us played a down-to-the-wire game: Greens 15; Reds 14.

We filled up all of the chairs and ate a lot of the food. Half the town plus a few of us from outside the city limits whose addresses still read 'Matfield Green.' Pretty good turnout I'd say. We noted that only 2 of the town's 6 elected officials attended. On the one hand, very strange. Why not show up? Don't they need the votes? But on the other hand, this is not Chicago, or even Emporia or Cottonwood Falls. Our government leaders don't need to go out of their way to stay in touch or be seen by their constituents. There is no need to pretend that they want to be at a picnic if they'd rather be somewhere else.

We learned over dinner that last week in a man was killed, hit by a car walking home from work late at night on the sidewalk-less mile of 55 mph highway between the "twin cities" of Strong City and Cottonwood Falls. The driver was a local young man of 23. Just graduated from college. A good kid. But he'd been drinking.

Even though I didn't know the dead man and have never met the driver, when the world is this small, it feels like a personal loss. There are only 3000 or so of us in this county. It's a loss we cannot afford.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Morning walk & miscellenea

Pepper and I walked north through the Rogler property, across the river and up toward the prairie this morning. All of the Rogler farm equipment - decades and decades of heavy machinery - is lined up along the road between the beautiful old white house near the highway and the Little Cottonwood River. All equipment and house contents will be auctioned on September 23rd. The land auction is set for October 19. I walk and hope that the new owners will allow me to continue to enjoy the property.

We crossed the river on a raised gravel road that would be impassable if it we'd get a good rain or two. As I strolled along the east bank, Pepper scurried ahead, scaring a big flock of turkeys up into the trees. Her next encounter was with three adolescent coyotes racing just ahead and then darting down the steep bank toward the river and out of sight.

As we retraced our steps back to the bunkhouse, three deer grazed in the bean field just out of the dog's field of vision.

On another subject...My friend Jonathan is on the new season of Survivor. Bill and I went over to Barb & Tom's house last night to watch, since we have not bothered to get cable TV and get no local stations up at the bunkhouse. A strangely compelling show. Jonathan was sent to Exile Island (because he stole a chicken) and the end of the hour. As Jim Worster said, "If there's a Tsunami he's toast." I'll be worrying about him all week. :)

I spent the Wednesday in Kansas City. Lunch with Susi Lulaki and a friend of hers. Checked out a space that would great if I decide to offer workshops or group coaching there. And then a party in the evening for Susi's son's 17th birthday. A house full of boys on the verge of becoming young men. And neighbors (artist, photographers, an architect, somebody's elderly parents recenlty relocated nearby) arriving with pies and fudge. It made me miss my neighborhood and the Riverbank Neighbors' gatherings especially. There is a lot to be missed about urban life.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Wonderful Women

Thanks to the 8 wonderful women who attended my retreat this last weekend, and to Billie Blair of the Tallgrass Retreat Center for making it possible!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Moon & Conservation Easements

The full moon out here on the prairie is like nothing you can imagine. Kathy Miller just called to invite Bill and me to go up to Rogler hill to watch it rise tonight. She's making a picnic supper to eat before the show. I had to say no because I have a client this evening. Ah well. But I did get to see the moonset this morning at about 6:20. Bright bright orange slipping quickly over the hill in the west. I caught it just in time.

And the moonglow last night was another site to behold. In the middle of the night (yes, the trains do bother me the tiniest little bit) the sky was lit up like early evening, shadows everywhere.

Speaking of early evening, yesterday evening Jane Koger and Marva Wiegelt came to dinner. They have a large ranch about 5 miles southwest of town. Jane is a fourth generation Chase-Countian and famous as the woman rancher with the pink hightops featured in William Least-Heat Moons book about Chase County, Prairy Earth: A Deep Map. Jane used to run a program called "Prairie Women Adventures" where women would pay to stay on the ranch and work beside her - branding, castrating, and less violent work I'm sure. Marva is a poet who came out here from Kansas City about five years ago and, in her words "between Jane and the Flint Hills, how could I leave?"

Marva brought us a dozen eggs, brown and green, with a label on the carton that said they were laid by "the happiest chickens in the world." I won't argue!

Jane & Marva live in a strawbale house that, except for the recently extended DSL service and the telephone, is entirely off the grid. We compared notes on wind turbines (ours is on order), solar power, batteries and generators. We will not be off the grid - just generating our own power most of the time, drawing when we need to and selling power back when we manage to create more than we need.

Jane is a ground-breaker in many ways. She has donated easements on her whole ranch to the Nature Conservancy. She is running her ranch with a committee that includes Marva, her nephew, a rep from K State, and a bunch of government people. Flying in the face of the typical independent minded rancher profile. She is experimenting with a three-year burn rotation. Only burning a third of her land each year to encourage a diversity of plants and wildlife. She is disproving the general misconception that the way to make money with cattle is to burn every year so that you have more grass and a very few wildflowers in your pasture.

We talked about the Rogler Ranch. Jane knew Wayne Rogler, who died in 1992, and she says that he would be devasted to learn what is happening to his prized 4000 acres of prime Flint Hills grassland (dividede into 7 parcels by the Trust to maximize profits to heirs who apparently have no feeling for the land). Jane explained that in Wayne's time no one ever considered that development would threaten the Flint Hills. Conservations easements were unheard of back then or, says Jane, Wayne would absolutely have done it.

Wind Farms, mining, drilling, commercial and residential development -- the threats are very real now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Garden dwindling

I think we've had about the last of the tomatoes from our garden. Grasshoppers are eating the leaves and fruit is rotting on the vine. The strawberry patch needs weeding again - the prairie grasses refuse to give up. They laugh at my carefully placed bed of straw mulch and move right on through to the sun. I have watermelon and a few canteloupe. There is one watermelon that I had particular hopes for but it seems stuck for the past couple of weeks at about eight inches in diameter. And on the seed packet it says this variety matures at between 10 and 35 lbs. No way we're getting there.

It is going to take some time to make this soil fertile. I've got a handle on some free compost from the Emporia Recycling Center. I need to confirm the truth of this rumor and then find someone with a truck to hall it for me. Tractor and husband stand ready to till it in.

I'm not exactly down about it. Just humbled. Maybe even momentarily cowed. I just couldn't bring myself to go back into the strawberries today. Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe I'll just get the painting done at my office (bathroom, screen doors, kitchen cabinets) and then go back to thinking about the soil.