Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wildflower Identification: Fleabane

I recently noted these small white and yellow flowers growing alongside the lilies, and abundant along the ditch. They had the appearance of a daisy with the white petals and the yellow interior; but they also had the petals more of an aster, being narrow and long. Yes, my wife tells me I know entirely too much about flowers.

So, I start the search using a wildflower guide. For Kansas I've become fond of this site, among others, that you can narrow by color or bloom time and has thumbnail images:

From there you can begin looking at the thumbnail photos and open the links to thise that look similar to the flower in question. Luckily, there is one that looks very similar right up at the top, Annual Fleabane. You can read more details, and look at the other images provided to ensure that your identification is correct. In this case, it is most likely correct although there are similar species like Daisy Fleabane. Fleabane is a native plant, but is typically found in rough or disturbed ground areas. Thankfully it is an annual so if I get some groundwork done this plant won't be as prevalent next year, and instead they'll be more grass. A few more photos of Fleabane are below:


Oh, and a final fun fact, the name Fleabane came about from the initial identifiers believing the plant repelled fleas! As it turns out though, it's not true.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Geology Beneath Our Home

I'm a scientist...

I love knowing what is going on around me, and why things are the way they are. While I studied Atmospheric Science in college I also ended up with a Geology minor. I'll use a bit of that knowledge alongside my general curiosity in some background of the geology beneath our new home. I grew up in rural Iowa surrounding by farmland on rich, dark loam soil that came as a result of glaciers and their alluvial plains. Moving to Kansas City obviously resulted in an urban setting, but was in the 'irregular plains' and more specifically within the Osage Cuestas. Cuesta is a spanish word for hill or cliff, and the eastern Kansas cuestas are a series of east-facing ridges with gentling rolling plains in between. Limestone and shale are present underneath the top soil, which includes some oil and gas plays. Southwest of Kansas City features many small oil wells working the small play of oil/gas.

I love the prairie, and enjoyed visiting the few spots in Iowa that have been returned to their native state. Kansas has the Tallgrass Prairie, and in fact the Flint Hills features millions of adjacent acres of original prairie that has never been disturbed. Most of that can be attributed to the lack of top soil which made growing row crops uneconomical. The Flint Hills is one of the best locations for livestock in the entire country thanks to the native tall grasses and variety of plants. These prairies aren't maintenance free though, as invasive plants and the red cedar attempt to take away the land. Prescribed fire is the most beneficial and economical way to control and maintain the prairie with millions of acres typically burned each year.

Our new home is near the intersection of the Flint Hills, the aforementioned Osage Cuestas, and the Loess and Glacial Hills drift which extends northeast into Nebraska, Iowa, and northwest Missouri. It is delicted by the darker brown color in northeast Kansas in the image below.

This is the only glaciated region in Kansas, having two glaciers, the most recent being approximately 600,000 years ago covering the land and depositing thick deposits of silt and other rocks, and even similar glacial drift as you'd find in Iowa. Many creeks and lowlands are mixed with rolling hills and a combination of grassland and cropland. Thr Little Soldier Creek is a mere 100 yards east of our property line, which during heavy rain means we see a lot of runoff that fills a drainage gully that runs through the middle of the property. It also brings even a bit more variety into the plant life. The soil at our location is classified as 'Martin silty clay loam' which has ~6" of the loam (dark) topsoil before transitioning to more silty clay. Soil is typically around 60" deep before reaching the shale and limestone rock formations. The water table is not deep, typcially found only 24 inches beneath and is prevalent in numerous ponds including our own in the northeast corner of our property. As you've seen from previous posts we do see quite a few native wildflowers and plants, however the back half of the property also suffers with an intense red cedar population which limits other plant growth and eliminates water resources. Did you know a mature red cedar can use more than 15 gallons of water per day? I hope to remedy that issue and attempt to bring a mix of grasses and wildflowers back into the mix. Clearing this area will also allow me to get that big home garden going! Below is a satellite view of Jackson County, Kansas (our approximate location is the orange crosshairs) that should help show the creeks and associated low land trees with the combination of grassland and cropland too.

You can find your soil type using the NRCS USDA web soil survey here:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Growing Up Country

No big adventures today... Had another round of thunderstorms this morning which provided 0.22" of rain. I took this quick panorama of the storm as it moved into east Topeka.

An evening at home brought out a large number of dragonflies, likely numbering in the dozens in the sky. No pictures as they were constantly flying around, but from the ones we've seen the common whitetail skimmer seems to be most prevalent. And as far as the title of tonight's post, the youngest certainly was enjoying his cowboy hat this evening!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Thunderstorm, Rainbow, & New Wildflowers

After seeing a mere 0.09" of rain since June 4th we saw our first substantial thunderstorm in nearly 4 weeks this evening. Nearly a half inch of rain fell accompanied by a few 30-40 mph wind gusts. As the storm departed an impressive rainbow, and near double rainbow, developed.


Just prior to our brief thunderstorm I was doing some trimming down by the ditch and saw a distinctive bright orange cluster of small flowers, pictured on the left, butterfly milkweed! On the other corner of the property, the youngest and I found more bright orange flowers, but these were a different type, pictured on the right, trumpet vine!


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Catching Up

A busy week has kept the updates away as I had a work trip to St. Louis, Missouri and Alyssa and the boys headed up to Iowa. The boys took swimming lessons while they were in Iowa like last year, and hopefully passed their respective classes. Alyssa and I were able to enjoy a day to ourselves on Friday. Our first stop was at the Oz Winery in Wamego, Kansas for a flight of wine; then lunch and beer flight at the Tallgrass Taproom in Manhatten, Kansas; then the remainder of the day at Tuttle Creek State Park in Manhatten, Kansas taking in the Country Stampede concert. The two headliners on Friday were Chris Janson and Tim McGraw; and Alyssa got a new country girl hat to wear.

The family got back together on Saturday with a visit to the Omaha Zoo to enjoy the animals. The Omaha Zoo is an absolute must see if you're anywhere near the area with a great variety of animals in an amazing facility.

Now back at the home and contiuing a slow unpacking and organizing of items!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Weekend Fun - Zoo & More...

We started the weekend off with made from scratch cinnamon rolls that no one could get enough of! There were just a few leftover for Sunday morning, but the boys and I cannot wait to have them again, my wife did an amazing job.

We were then off to the Topeka Zoo to enjoy the animals, both big and small. Brayden's favorite were the birds and butterflies; Keatyn's favorite were the lions; and Layton's favorite were the elephants. Here's a few pictures to summarize a portion of our visit.

Of course we couldn't avoid a stroll through Gage Park and a ride on the train.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Staying Cool...

Summer has arrived with temperatures in the 90s and heat indices in the 100s during the afternoon for much of this week, and today was no different. Today's high temperatures was 96°F and the heat index peaked just above 108°F. The best way to stay cool while still enjoying the outdoors? Water table, water guns, and a sprinkler! Here's a few of the boys enjoying their sprinkler time...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Interacting with Wildlife

Today the boys got to interact with a friendly butterfly and a bird as it took its first flight. The oldest with the butterfly definitely appears hesitant as it crawled around. They all enjoyed watching the young bird, which hatched and grew up in the upper corner of our porch, flapping wings and learning to take flight.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sounds from The Porch

Yesterday evening and early overnight I captured two ~30 second video clips as thunderstorms rumbled nearby. Alongside the thunder you could hear the rain falling, birds or frogs, and pretty much nothing else. Makes for quite the peaceful feeling, doesn't it?

Monday, June 13, 2016

One of the Daily Visitors

One of the great benefits of our new country home is the exponential increase in birds from our prior city living. We put all of our bird feeders in the front yard so the boys can see them from their rooms and you can see them from the living room. The favorite feeder is the hummingbird that we put right on the front porch. It took a day or two, but we now consistantly see hummingbirds every day and on occasion multiples at the feeder. Here's a quick phone snapshot of the hummingbird this evening:

Severe Weather Risk - 14 June 2016

Ample moisture and instability will combine with at least a couple surface boundaries and small disturbances in the upper atmosphere to bring the risk for severe weather to the Central Plains. Very large hail, damaging winds, and a few tornadoes all appear possible alongside flash flooding. A quick view of the surface setup shows a somewhat diffuse warm front across northeast Iowa running northwest to southeast, and an intensifying dryline over Nebraska and Kansas. One if not more, weak low pressure centers may develop at the surface in conjunction with upper level disturbances. Dew points in the warm sector will likely be near 70° even after afternoon mixing.

The base of an upper level trough will be working through the Northern Plains by the evening hours with at least a couple of weak pertubations further south over Kansas and areas north/east providong the dynamics for thunderstorm development. Note the max/min from the NAM indicative of thunderstorm development already occurring.

A combined look at instability and the wind fields shows a good amount of turning to support supercells as the primary storm mode. While lower level winds on the large scale do not appear particularly conducive for tornadoes any boundaries will have the means to create locally more favorable conditions, and thus at least a few tornadoes are possible. Also included below is a sounding for Topeka, KS which shows favorable thermodynamic conditions for large hail, and with a boundary nearby an increase in low level shear indicative of some tornado risk.

Here's a look at the current SPC Severe Weather Outlook for tomorrow.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Weekend Adventure: A Night at the Races

The highlight of this weekend, beyond more unpacking, organizing, and mowing of the yard, was a Saturday evening at the local race track. Something about a local race track brings primarily friendly folks who'll have a conversation for the entire evening even though it's the first time you've met.

Thunderhill Speedway is a 3/8 mile, high-banked, clay dirt track that features hobby stocks, modifieds, sportmods, and stock car races every Saturday evening. This weekend was also Ladies Night, which meant the entire family cost only $10 for admission. The boys, and the parents, enjoyed the evening of racing and a few bumps, spin outs, and crashes along the way. The night wasn't over until after 11pm, but the late bedtime was worth it for the boys. We will see, but I'm certain we will want to hit up the track for another visit before the summer is over.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gotta Have a Little Fun!

Plenty of household work has been done, from cleaning to painting, to repairs and replacing. With all of that going on you need to take a break and have a little fun, after you assemble the fun of course...

Last weekend my wife and I assembled a trampoline for the boys, and my wife, to enjoy.

And this morning we finished up the assembly of the new basketball hoop for everyone to enjoy! I had a bit of help digging the hole, and the final assembly. It's a nice upgrade from the Little Tikes hoop the boys have been using; and it adjusts from 7.5' to 10' to allow dad to show off the dunking skills.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Next Big Project: New Roof!

Today's big home improvement project was a new roof (shingles, underlayment, flashing, etc.). Thankfully this project didn't involve any manual labor on my part!

The prior roof had numerous impact marks from hail and deemed in need of replacement by insurance. The new, and upgraded roof? An impact resistant (class 4) and 110 mph rated architectural asphalt shingle. Means the shingles should be able to handle 2" diameter hail and those 110 mph winds without damage! A very necessary upgrade for Kansas in my opinion, and you can often get a decrease in your insurance premium for installing such a roof.

New Roof in Progress

New 'Weathered Wood' colored shingles

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

New Carpet!

New carpet was (finally*) installed today, from near 9am to 2pm with the boys onlooking every step of the way. My wife said our oldest was perfectly happy with the blue padding, and informed one of the installers that he could be done after installing just the pad. There was one hiccup: the supplier forgot to send out pad for the toy room! In the end we were upgraded to a premium foam pad as that is what the installer had in his van. You can definitely feel the difference, and you should for how expensive that pad is.
After it was all said and done, and nap time had past the youngest decided it was comfy enough to sleep on. I think it passed the test.

Kudos to my wife who managed and oversaw the whole operation today while I was attending a training.

* We had originally ordered carpet back on May 20 in hopes of having it installed the first week upon moving in. After multiple confirmations from store employees saying it wouldn't be a problem the installer said that June 8 would be the first date available! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Carpet Removal

This evenings task was carpet and pad removal, alongside hammering back in the staples all over the floor as a result of the previous pad installation. I did manage a bit of help in carrying out pieces.