One Foot

One Foot

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nature Outing at Bartlett Arboretum

There is always something new at Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Plaine, Ks., even in February.  It was a brisk day, but we had calm winds until noon.  The owner, Robin Macy, has added a number of new trees, replacing many of those lost from pine bark beetles and age.  The flowers are coming up, including the tulips which we told to stay put for awhile, as we need them for the tulip festival in a few weeks.

For the first time in weeks there is water in the ponds and the ducks have found a spring vacation spot.  The drought last year was hard on the total environment, but volunteers are already in gear doing the spring cleanup and tree trimming.

This small group originally met through an Emporia State graduate class taught by Dr. Tom Eddy.  This arboretum was only one field trip of several we enjoyed together last summer.  If interested, check your state universities for field offerings.  We all plan to take another field class this year with Dr. Eddy.  

By noon, we had covered the grounds and took shelter in the "Garage-mahal," a central multi-function building that served as a lunch room that day as we shared our observations.

The gardens will be in top shape in just a couple of weeks and will be open to the public for the tulip festival and for music concerts.  You can get on the mailing list and discover the arboretum online at

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Good Day in Nature

Eagle Watch
I have read the books of author Richard Louv for several years and confess they have had significant impact upon me.  Last Child in the Woods points to what should be the obvious connection between childhood health and the benefits of outdoor play. I thought he was right-on in promoting exploration and fun in nature as a standard part of a child’s life.
            Louv recently expanded this theme to include the needs of adults. The Nature Principle is a convincing presentation of research and ideas about the richness one receives by being with nature, even for short time periods.  When I read this book, I recommended it to many others.  Tied to my desk for years, I knew in my gut that the world outside the window was where I was meant to be.
            Now that I have some free time, I try to structure new experiences in nature.  Of course, I  go on a daily walk, but that isn’t a new experience.  A good friend who certified with me in the master naturalist program agreed to a pact that once monthly, we would have a “nature day.”  On that day we would pick an activity and destination in nature and simply “go play.” 
            This month, we chose an Audubon “Eagle Watch” at a nature center about 40 miles from our homes.  The center manages a few miles of river sandbars along the water which are a good vantage point for eagle viewing.
            That day we met about twenty new nature lovers, got some very good photographs, had a good lunch and still had time to catch up on the news.  This was a good example of a travel destination that we “always meant to see, but never got around to.”  Now I can say that we should have gone there sooner.  The nature center is a wonderful resource for groups and the hiking trails are excellent.   Of course, we could choose many local nature sites as well, but we like the challenge of a once-a-month trip.
            I am convinced new outdoor experiences are essential as you age. That day was brisk and a bit windy, but the experience made me feel young and my thinking was clear.  Lacking the muse to strike a line of poetry, I borrowed the following.  I think it fits.  Of course, its exactly what I meant to say.

           I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses
                         put in order.        
                                                                    - John Burroughs

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Be As A Child

          The seed catalogs are coming in the mail this month and they continue to tempt me as much as they did my farm-bound mother years ago.  My mother was like a child awaiting Christmas when spring beckoned.  Her early poverty suppressed her need for luxuries.  When her love of flowers was unleashed in later years, it coincided with the development of supermarket garden centers.  She was a child granted her best wish. 

           There was an area of the yard where she liked to sit, so her garden design was determined by line-of-sight.   If she found a plant with a striking flower, she bought it and placed it, not where it should grow, but where she could see it.  She often proved garden instinct wrong; shade plants thrived for her in full sun; sun plants did well in shade.  They survived because she loved and tended them devotedly.  She was a rare soul who truly looked at her garden.  She drew up a lawn chair and sat right in front of the flowers and took them in.

          One spring, in the interest of expanding her small shrubs and roses, Mom placed a large catalog mail order.  Planting day was brisk, bordering on unpleasant and she had already dug dozens of holes, was soaking some bare root shrubs, and had planted several before my son and I arrived to help.  She had worked hours already on her project.

          My son was the muscle and horticultural expert.  As we divided the labor, my son gave a questionable sniff to the buckets where shrubs were being soaked before planting.

          “Grandma,” he sniffed cautiously, “what are you soaking these shrubs in?”

          “Water with root stimulator,” she responded.  Already he had the bottle at eye level and read “weed killer” aloud.  Her failing vision had missed the distinction of labels.

          We were a sad family that day as we pulled every planted shrub, washed each in fresh water and dug new holes.  She was deeply disappointed in her mistake, but we pretended that we had caught it in time. 

          The results were dismal as we waited for life to show in those shrubs, but her optimism was contagious and we soon shared her hope and celebrated those that did survive. 

          How can you not love someone who so genuinely loves a flower?  Is this not one of the first things a small child finds to admire as he softly holds a bloom up to be sniffed by a parent?  It is one of the first moments of wonder of our lives.  Mom’s wonder simply lasted a lifetime.

          A small plaque in her garden expressed how she felt –

“One is closer to God in a garden than any place else on earth.” 

She lived that belief.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Angels with One Wing – 
          The winter storms that had locked in most of the eastern states that day had caused airports across the Midwest to be either locked down or to be on long delays. My flight had been waiting since dawn, but finally we had boarded and in late afternoon were arriving in Wichita. I was in a cheap seat at the back of the plane, as was a young couple with five month-old twins, a four-year-old, and all the necessary baby seats and carry-on luggage needed for such a journey.
           It had been a stress-filled flight for them, with babies crying and the four year-old being a bit of a pill as she pushed her limits with her parents and nearby passengers. All of us who sat nearby already knew her as “Amy.”
          As passengers rose to exit the plane, the young father balanced the twins while his wife attempted to carry all the carry-on luggage and coats. They had the situation admirably under control until Dad became snagged near the front of the plane and Amy took the opportunity to investigate the door-handling buttons.
          We all gasped as we watched her little round fist form and begin a downward motion toward the big red button that seemed to control the access tunnel. Just as we all thought both parents were going to attempt a lunge for her, even with their arms full of babies and cargo, out of nowhere came a grey-haired grandma type that scooped Amy into the access tunnel and engaged her completely in a window view. Before Amy could protest, her parents were alongside and again in control, grateful that someone had been there to help.
          I have had moments in my life when I felt just as helplessly out-of-control as those parents did at that moment. No matter how we try to keep control over every situation, life often takes an alternate route, leaving us in need of support and help, even though we aren’t always aware of it.
          While God is our mainstay and our guide, when things get rough he gave us helpers – our friends, neighbors, family, and yes, sometimes grey-haired granny types that can take control. If you are ever tempted to say you can handle your problems alone, you’d best get over it. Use the human resources given to us and accept help. They are God’s gift to us. An old philosopher once said “We are each of us angels with only one wing. And we can only fly embracing each other.”
Or as Jesus said, “Love one another.” When we do, we are never alone.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Casting Seeds on a January Snow

-     There is a small stretch of land just north of my country farmhouse that begs for improvement.  Last year I solicited help from my sons to tear down an old outbuilding that stood in that spot for some sixty years.  It had become fixed in our minds as a part of the farmyard, so it was jolting to see it gone. The scar that resulted from the removal of the foundation has begged for someone to restore earthly dignity.
            Since I try to nurture the wildlife around the area, I thought I should plant some quail-supporting native grasses and wildflowers that would have grown there when that space was native prairie.  I waited all last summer for the rainy season so I could broadcast seeds, but last year was a drought year.
            The surface soil in that area is still poor and we still wait for rain, but I have a plan given to me by some successful old farming friends.  “First,” they tell me, “you want to mix the native seeds with some red clover.  The clover will sprout quickly and protect the slower sprouting native seeds.  Second, you want to throw the seed mixture out on the January snow and let the thawing action work with the moisture to set the roots.”
            Of course, I asked the expert, Dr. Google, to verify this advice, and sure enough, it seems to be a good farming practice.  In that search, I found more scriptural references to casting seed than those of a scientific nature and spent considerable time that afternoon going through the farming and agricultural foundation of many stories and parables of the Bible.  A farming context, it seems, made stories understandable for the people of that day. 
            Farming has always been an industry closely connected to God.  We may think we have the science of farming in our control, and these days do some pretty fancy seed manipulation, but when it comes to growing plants, we still find that it is not the one who plants, waters or fertilizes, but God, who makes things grow.
            My grandfather was quick to credit the crop to his higher power.  As he brought in his grain, he was sure to say it was by “the grace of God and back-breaking work” that he brought in a crop. Unlike him, my livelihood doesn’t depend on these seeds, but I never tire of the miracle of growth.   Come a January snow, I will cast them.