Matfield Green - Our first years

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.


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