Friday, July 29, 2016

County Fair Time!

This week was the local Jackson County Fair which included a parade Wednesday evening in Holton. The boys enjoyed picking up some candy after a few tense moments of not knowing where to put it or not realizing they were competing for it with adjacent kids. There were the usual local businesses, schools, 4-H groups, and of course politicians. Those were followed by tractors and horses, but there was one group missing, the fire trucks and ambulances. Just prior to the parade a local volunteer Fire Department truck was involved in an accident while in route to the parade. One of the firemen involved lost their life and the other had serious injuries. All of the surrounding fire departments agreed to drop out of the parade as a show of respect for their fellow volunteers.

Here's a few pictures from the parade, and a few from the fairgrounds as the boys checked out the animals. Rabbits have, at least for now, entered the top spot in animals we need to have just ahead of chickens. Goats are still in the running too, and of course cows and horses are always mentioned but are out of the running due to lack of barn and acres.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Wildflower Identification: Prairie Blazing Star

We've entered the hot, and quickly drying, portion of the summer and as such many of the spring and early summer wildflowers have come and gone. But, a new selection of wildflowers have made their way into view. These will bloom during the heat of summer, July and August, many resilient to heat and drought conditions. A neighboring field had a few of these flowers, and when the oldest boys and I ventured back into our tallgrass we saw several on our property too! The Prairie Blazing Star lives us to its name being 3-5 feet tall and full of bright violet/purple flowers. It is also called Thickspike Gayfeather, being a part of the liatris (Gayfeather) genus of plants. There are several other liatrus wildflowers that have varying flower types and heights including Button, Dotted, and Scaly Gayfeather, but this is the tallest of them all.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Rodeo Weekend

The heat continued into the weekend with heat indicies well into the 100s. We kept it cool through the day on Saturday and headed up to Holton Saturday evening for the Jackson County Rodeo. The boys enjoyed the animals in general, and had to pet a few of the sheep and steers used for the kids events and roping. The rodeo had bronco riding, mutten busting, steer riding, steer roping, team roping, barrel racing, and the finale of bull riding. The final bull rider, an incoming high school freshman, took a hard hit from the bull bucking. His helmet flew off and he was knocked unconscious, but it sounded as if he was going to be okay.

The remainder of the weekend included a trip to the farmers market for sweet corn, green beans, and more; mowing the lawn; and a look through the electrical fuse boxes to ensure they are marked correctly.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fun in the Sun(setting)

It's been hot outside here, as it has been for much of the Plains with temperatures in the 90s to near 100 and heat indicies in the 100s to 110s each afternoon. The boys have been bearing the afternoon heat by playing water table, sprinkler, or kiddie pools. Playtime in the cool downstairs is always a great alternative too, of course provided the three boys can handle being within a few feet of each other. The best time to enjoy the outdoors has been after dinner as the sun begins to set, and the temperature is only around 90 degrees.

There's the swing, trampoline, the usual water enjoyment, Frisbee, and more. A ride on the lawn mower was a request too after I finished the west side of our lawn. The dumping of the water after finishing play always leaves a few puddles to enjoy too.

Looks like the heat will subside for next week with more bearable temperatures near 90 degrees. We will also see the potential for thunderstorms return with chances nearly everyday next week too!

Monday, July 18, 2016


I've mowed our 1+ acre yard with a 22" push mower many more times than I wanted to. It was taking around 8 hours and either many evenings or one very long weekend to accomplish. I was hoping to find a good used riding mower, but they are much harder to find than you'd imagine. Most purchase one and use it until it becomes destined for the scrap yard. This weekend I found a used Cub Cadet 46" riding mower that I was hoping didn't sell before I could look at it this afternoon. Unfortunately, it did. I decided to peruse through for sale postings once more as I left work and found another used Cub Cadet, this one a 2011, well taken care of, 50" cut, 25HP two cyclinder engine. Best of all I got it for the same price as the older, smaller one and the guy delivered it this afternoon.

The lawn was in desperate need of a mow so I got right to it this evening giving the boys a ride as I went up and down the yard. It's going to be a touch over 2 hours in the first go-around with the new rider, and I'm certain I can have it down to 1.5 hours once I'm used to the handle and width. The only negatives I've found is a glitch with engaging the PTO, the mow in reverse option must be on, and it seems as if in deep grass/weeds the blades are missing a swath. The cutting dilemma may be fixed with sharper blades and a few adjustments, but otherwise in typical grass it seems to do just fine. Finally looking forward to a bit of mowing!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wildflower Identification: Blue Verbena

A common wildflower with the plant varying in height from 2-7 feet tall, and most common along edges of gravel roads or other locations with gravely soil. Flowers appear more purple than blue, but nonetheless our flower below is called a Blue Verbena and is native to Kansas. There are several similar varieties of Verbena including Rose, Dakota, White, Woolly, etc. The Blue Verbena is however the tallest growing species in the Vervain family.

The inflorescences (remember that word from a prior post?) are narrow and spiky, measuring 2-6 inches long with many individual flowers. The flowers themselves are typically less than a 1/4 inch wide and are 5-parted. The example above has just started to bloom, so you can see a good variance in what the inflorescences may look like.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Blowing In The Wind

Living in Kansas, and in the country means there is no shortage of wind throughout the year. The boys found a few pinwheels and have placed them between the house and detached garage. This past weekend we added a few more decorative pieces that are made to blow in the Kansas wind.

Turtle wind chime on the detached garage

Bee with propellers that will move in the wind

Reclaimed wood spinner painted by my parents

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Weekend Work

Owning a house means there is always work to do, and a house plus acreage means even more work! That said, nothing is more satisfying than a job well done improving your home. This weekend was full of work outside of the house with the help of my parents who brought some much needed tools, and hands to get things done.

Started off the extended weekend on Friday with the chainsaw. We ended up removing 8 trees from the property, many more bushes and starts of trees, and trimmed up the rest of the trees to remove broken or dead branches. I was responsible for operating the chainsaw while the rest of the crew carried and drug branches to a pile in the back, I think I came away with the better end of that deal. We also came away with some campfire wood and some wood for the fireplace. We also found out we have an apple tree! Yet to determine what type of apple tree it is, but I'll work on that as the apples mature.


Next job was installing gutters on the two porches. The front porch, pictured below, has a rain chain installed for the downspout, and the entry porch has the usual downspout.

We also did a few fun tasks including putting up a toddler swing for the little guy (which has already put him to sleep as shown), and a tree swing for the older boys to enjoy. A wind chime and a few other little additions were made, and fixing the mailbox this evening capped off the busy weekend of work.


It wasn't all work though, we did manage a Saturday evening at Thunderhill Speedway for dirt track racing. And afterwards my dad, wife, and I headed to the casino to lose a few (or more) bucks.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wildflower Identification: Wild Bergamot

A wildflower we found along the roadside while on a bike ride, these somewhat crazy petaled flowers have a fragrant smell and long-lasting blooms that bees and other pollinators enjoy. There are a few other flowers that may appear similar, but are however in different families, Western Ironeed and Rocky Mountain Bee Plant are two such ones. The Wild Bergamot may also be referred to as Mint-Leaf Beebalm as it is in the mint family and highly attractive to bees.

The pictures above hopefully give you a good idea of the flowers characteristics. Leaves are opposite and simple with pointed tips and hairy below. They are a solitary flower on the head of the plant with 3 inch or so wide flowers, take notice of the large stamens too. They can be found nearly anywhere and can tolerate wet to dry conditions, even drought, making them a hardy flower with a great appearance in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fireworks & Five Lined Skink

A follow-up to a previous post on Fourth of July festivities here is two photos that my wife took while attending the fireworks show in Horton, Kansas. A pretty good show for a 'small town' that has a great view along Mission Lake.

The basement in the house is partially finished with a guest bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette alongside a family room area. Since we've moved in it has essentially been a play room for the boys to have their train tracks and toys strung about. Well today my wife was down there cleaning and while sweeping underneath a work table this came out alongside the dust:

It's a Five Lined Skink that at some point got into the basment and passed away. Neat little creatures that as juveniles or females have bright blue lines on their tails. Kansas is on the far western edge of their geographical distribution as shown below via Wikipedia. After today's discovery I saw another skink, a juvenile or female, this evening while mowing as it had the bright blue lines on the tail.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wildflower Identification: Queen Anne's Lace

Our bike ride Monday took us along a nearby gravel road with a grass pasture adjacent to the road. As we stopped before the road turned to mud and went down another hill we were treated to quite a few small butterflies. This is where Brayden had his picture with one on his hand in the previous posting. In the roadside my eyes were drawn to a bunching of white flowers, and I quickly was able to entertain my wife by informing her it was Queen Anne's Lace.

While there are other flowers which may be similar in appearance with white bunches, by the way these bunches or clusters of flowes are called the flowers inflorescence, the givaway with Queen Anne's Lace is while it is in fruiting. A very bristled, egg-shaped basket as shown below.

A few final notes on Queen Anne's Lace is that it is not a true native plant to Kansad, nor even the United States. It was brought over by colonists, and became naturalized. It is also considered an aggressive invader, and can crowd out other plants. While a great flower, I don't believe I'll be planting any owing to it's non-native status.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July Exploring

Wet and cool conditions kept activities a bit subdued for the Fourth of July weekend, but the sun and warmth returned for the Fourth. The family took a drive into town on Saturday and stopped at the local Farm and Home store where we picked up some new rain boots. We put them to use later that afternoon walking to the back of the acreage. Alongside looking at the pond we discovered a few patches of wild black raspberries!


We headed to nearby Hoyt, Kansas to view their fireworks show Sunday evening. Not too often in Kansas will you watch Fourth of July fireworks with a temperature of 65 degrees and under foggy conditions, but that's what we did. To make up for those conditions we are headed to another fireworks show this evening. We also did the traditional sparklers for the boys, and I bought a box of the big boomers for the boys to watch dad shoot off at home too.

We managed two bike rides over the extended weekend too, heading up and down the gravel hills. Today's ride managed a stop where a few butterflies were roaming around, and of course the 'Butterfly Whisperer' managed to have it on his hand.

During our walk through the back acres and our bike rides we managed to view and identify quite a few wildflowers. They will be some future blog posts this week!