Browsing Archives for April 2009

Our town is nestled in at the northern edge of the Flint Hills, one of the last places on earth where Native Tallgrass can still be found covering the prairie in huge quantities.  There are several Tallgrass preserves in our area, and the Country Doctor and I love to take the kids to the Konza outside of Manhattan and the National Tallgrass Preserve near Cottonwood Falls for hikes.  We both love the wide open, wind swept, ocean of grass that is the Flint Hills.   (For great pictures, click the Flint Hills link.)




We have long wanted plant our own little patch of tallgrass on the further reaches of our yard.  

This Spring, we finally got the seed in the ground.  




Besides finding the time, our only other obstacle was deciding how to best plant the seed.

 The task was somewhat daunting as everyone we talked to gave us a different set of complicated directions.  






“You are going to have to kill all the existing grass with Round-up, before you plant anything…”

“You gotta get yourself a disk, plow up the ground, and then you can plant the seed…”

“First you need to plant a cover crop of milo…. then plow it in and the next year you can plant tall grass…”

“Get a boom truck… spray all the existing grass with Round-Up… plant clover…. wait six years and then spray Round-Up again.”


The suggestions and recommendations went on and on and on.  The Country Doctor almost gave up on the idea as he just doesn’t have time to follow all those steps and he didn’t know which way was the right way to go.   I absolutely insisted that we would not be spraying mass quantities on Round-Up on our land.  We have fish in the pond and plants that I don’t want to die and a neighborhood full of kids… I just don’t like putting poison on the ground for any reason.





Finally, I said, “Honey?… when God planted the tall grass prairie did He use Round-Up?  Did He plant a cover crop of milo first?  Did God get a boom truck?  Good Grief!  Sometimes we just need to have a little faith in the laws of nature!  You put a seed in the ground, cover it with dirt, pray for rain, and usually something will come up.”



And that’s how I ended up sitting on the tractor.







Which the Country Doctor has to start for me because you can’t just turn the key… oh no… you have to pull this knob, flip this switch, push this button, turn around and bow to the East, pump the throttle, jimmy the clutch, jiggle the handle, yank the hydraulic, and then you turn the key…at which point nothing happens… so you start all over … except this time you bow to the West as you aren’t quite sure which benevolent force you have to please before the tractor will start… go through the whole process again… and finally you realize that you are in park… or have the mower engaged… or are out of gas…

It takes about three hours to start the tractor.





And another three hours to get the planter that you borrowed from the USDA to work.







But we did finally get that seed in the ground. My best guess is that some of it will wither in the ground… and some of it will get choked out by the brome and the weeds… but some of it is going to sprout and grow, and thrive.  Just like in the Bible… except back then…


…they got the boom truck first.

My sister really nailed the descriptions of everyone we met, so I feel kind of repetitive saying anything else. But what the heck… I’ll give it a go.

Marlboro Man – Exudes a quiet confidence.  Laughs easily.  Makes bacon.  Does the dishes.  I was really amazed at the amount of time he spent with us. Why? Why? WHY?  I kept asking myself over and over. Why is he hanging out with us? Surely he has a cow to inviscerate or a horse to excavate or a pasture to fumigate.  I mean he was really there, you know what I mean?  He was in the moment.  He was friendly and open and not afraid to boss people around if we looked lost and helpless… which we did most of the time.

He answered all of April’s nine thousand questions without flinching.  He spoke of his kids with pride.  He told us about some of the projects they are working on.  He laughed at my ascerbic comments.  Yeah… I made Marlboro man laugh, but like I said… he laughs easily... not loudly like April and I do.  He doesn’t bray like a donkey like my sister and I.  It is more of a heh, heh, heh. In fact, it’s not really a very impressive laugh at all.  It doesn’t even make your ears ring. I bet he never even got a stomach ache from laughing… or cracked a rib… or gave the person sitting next to him a brain aneurysm. Still, it is a laugh and it came to him easily.  I really liked Ladd.  He was my favorite.

Pie Near Woman – Now Ree is harder to describe than MM is. She is more complicated. Typical of a woman to be more complicated isn’t it?  She is a writer and a photographer and a cook and a homeschooler.  These are her passions.  These are the things that make her tick.  If I had not been there, I am sure that my sister, Jenni, and Ree would have talked homeschooling the entire weekend.  Sadly, I was there and that made everyone a little nervous about exclaiming over the virtue of homeschooling your kids versus taking advantage of that little brick building in the center of town that educates your kids FOR YOU!  This resulted in me asking myself… why?  Why???  WHY am I here?  What am I doing here?  How did I get here?  What is going on?

It was kind of a surreal situation. In some ways, I was lucky, as I actually knew half of the party there (my sister and Clay). For Ree, Ladd, Jenni and Dan, everyone at the lodge was a complete stranger.  Of course, us girls had blogging in common. Lord knows, we could talk blogging. We all had children, so we could talk about our kids. The ranch is an interesting place, so Ladd patiently answered all of our questions about his job, but ultimately, Ree was our hostess and she had six people to take care of that she did not really know from Adam and Eve. PLUS – (with the exception of April) we are all kind of quiet people.

I have always been amazed at people who can swing their jaws open and closed, ninety miles an hour, talking about whatever pops into their heads. All of my closest friends tend to be ‘talkers’ and I tend to be the ‘non-talker’.  I can’t really call myself ‘the listener’ as I am usually flying off into the milky way on a unicorn, while they are blabbering on and on and on and on.  For the sake of friendship, I have learned to grunt and nod my head at the right time and to discern the exact right moment to exclaim,”Hey! Let’s go get a latte!”

What’s weird is that the Country Doctor is also a non-talker. He may talk slightly more than I do, but only because he asks so many questions!  In our house, our youngest son, Jack does all the talking.  The rest of us exist in a shroud of delicious silence.

So Ree’s job was kind of hard.  She had to draw out five non-talkers and try to distract April long enough to let someone else have a say.  I occasionally heard her saying, ”April… April… look… outside… about a half mile down the road… there is a chicken!  Why don’t you go catch it and bring it back and then you can tell us all about it!”

Or maybe that was me that was saying that…


Here is the run down on the talking versus non-talking of the other people that were there.

Jenni – non-talker and when she does talk, she whispers.

Dan – non-talker who occasionally tells a good story in hushed tones.

Clay – expresses himself primarily through the art of ball room dance.

April – TALKER!  Thank God!  Someone had to do the talking at this shindig.

The Country Doctor – non-talker except when asking questions of his wife.

Me – hostile non-talker… because of all those years of questions…

Ladd – non-talker that was forced to talk to answer all of April’s questions. He actually talked so much, his voice grew hoarse. 

Ree – Talker… but the question is… is she really a talker? Or was she forced to talk because of the circumstances? She didn’t talk the way a real talker talks. You know… the whole whatever pops into my head I say out loud to whoever is within hearing distance … and whatever I just said will lead me to say something else… and that will make me think of something else… which I will have to tell you… which will remind me of this one time…. and then we went to…. and that’s where I met… because she is related to…. who has a gimpy leg…. heart condition… psoriasis…. crick neck… rodeo clown… died in a bull fight… orphaned in Pakistan… leeches… tractor accident… knee replacement surgery… puppet show… head lice…

She wasn’t one of those kind of talkers, but she did talk.  She attempted to cook and talk at the same time which was difficult for her.  She kept losing count of how many cups of flour she had put into the cinnamon roll dough.  She couldn’t remember whether or not she had added the salt, the baking soda, the eggs.  April and Jenni began keeping track of what she had added to her recipes, so that when she got lost, they could tell her exactly where she was.  It made me wonder what would happen if she ever tried to do any cooking videos on her blog?  She might have to film herself cooking in silence and then have someone at Pixar animate her lips to move in sync with her overdubs.  Sounds like a lot of work to me!  I was completely unable to help Ree keep track of her cups of flour as I was too busy nodding towards the talkers, and grunting at appropriate intervals, while mentally practicing modern dance steps across the patterns of light on the floor of the lodge.

Sometimes being a non-talker is physically exhausting.

Especially if you are a non-talker that is forced to make other non-talkers talk.  

It is almost like performing a one-woman puppet show… except that there are eight puppets and you have to make them all talk at the same time.  Trust me, as the world’s most reluctant puppeteer, I can tell you that this is virtually impossible.  

Unless you know how to use photoshop.  

I really don’t know where Ree falls along the spectrum of talking and non-talking.  All I know is that she struggles with cooking and talking at the same time.  

And since she loves to cook… she must not talk that much.

Oh… and Ree was my favorite.


Cowboy Josh  - Tall, lanky, perpetual smile, his eyes sparkle with laughter, walks like someone who spends most of their time on a horse.  He glows… he radiates a sort of joie de vivre.  What can I say?  I only spent a few hours with him and I fell hopelessly in love.  Please don’t tell the Country Doctor!

Cowboy Josh was my favorite.



Hmmmmm.. my stay at Pioneer Woman’s lodge seems to have these strange religious overtones… First the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse show up… and then a visit from the Oracle… and now the Last Supper…  Can someone please interpret these omens… these signs… these portents… for me.  

Oh wait!  I am sure The Oracle Known as Steve will be able to explain it all to me the next time I see him.  

He usually does.


Our last night at the lodge was celebrated with a simple but superb meal.  





Marlboro Man cut the ribeye steaks right off of a cow!  

He then seasoned them, and grilled them to a perfection that I did not know existed on this temporal plane we call middle earth.





Ree made a salad.



And some garlic mashed potatoes.  




And then while everyone else stood around…

telling Ree jokes…

drinking wine… 



Swapping stories…


with their arms hanging uselessly at their sides…




I set the table.  


Someone has to do the work around here!



Ree asked me if I was setting the table…

…or conducting a social experiment.



I told her to give me some more potatoes.






This was our meal.  It was delicious.  I am looking at this photo of our dinner and thinking about Marilyn who is always plating things.  I learned the art of plating from Marilyn.  I learned the word ‘plating’ from Marilyn.  Sorry Marilyn… probably not plated very well… as you know… I plated it.

But it was DELICIOUS!  

Oh my gosh!

We dug into that meal and ate with  the gusto of real cowboys.  Because we were real cowboys.  We rode horses!  We wrestled calves!  We had figured out how to put on a pair of chaps!  We had all dozed off to the sound of my sister’s voice asking MM ten thousand questions about ranching.  So, we were hungry… famished… ravenous!   And the meal was delicious!  It was like dancing with a sunrise, floating on a moonbeam, riding on a unicorn, sliding down a mountain into a silvery lake of clouds.  It was a perfect meal.  



And then I met Cowboy Josh.  



And my heart will never be the same again.