Skip Mancini

Producer and host of High Plains History and Growing on the High Plains

Home community: rural Haskell County, KS (PO Box 699, Sublette, KS  67877)

Phone: (800) 678--7444 (Garden City studios)

Ways to Connect

They say there are three things that matter when making decisions about real estate: ECHOLOCATION, ECHOLOCATION, ECHOLOCATION. And I suppose this especially rings true even when you're setting up a new residence for hometown bats.

They say, “Every rose has its thorn,” but not the beautiful blooms cropping up on today’s Growing on the High Plains. Nor do they require watering, pruning, or pest control—and yet they give new meaning to the word “perennial!”

In a time when good news and brotherly love sometimes seems to be at a low ebb, it's nice to know there are brilliant ideas still soaring through the minds of gifted innovators. Today's Growing on the High Plains shares the story of a British aeronautics engineer that's exploring novel methods to provide food aid to those in need. Spurred by war or natural disasters, critical food shortages have become all too common in our troubled times, but this man's solution warmed my gardening heart.

Every High Plains gardener knows that moisture maintenance can be a trying task in the unpredictable weather patterns of our region--and that's as true for our wild winters as it is for the sweltering heat of summer.

A rose is a rose is a…snack? Wait, that’s not how the line goes…but maybe it should!

Today’s Growing on the High Plains takes a close look at the blushing, bulbous berry known as rosehips, the edible fruit of the rose. You’ve likely seen this curious word posted on products geared toward health and wellness—sold as vitamin supplements, herbal teas, tinctures, and more. They are indeed rich in health benefits, and they make a tangy treat to boot.

As our short days of winter flutter by, many High Plains gardeners (like myself) have our minds on the forthcoming growing season. Today's Growing on the High Plains comes as a response to one of these foliage-focused friends that asked me about planting for pollinators—namely, monarch butterflies. They do have plants of preference, and I'll share some tips for those interested in showing these "flying flowers" some hospitality. 

No, we're not in Kentucky...and I don't think you saw me standin' around. Nonetheless, we have a pretty "loony" topic this week.

Last week I offered some history of The Old Farmer's Almanac, and this year's edition foretells a pair of rarities for us High Plains dwellers: blue moons, twice in the first few months of 2018.

Today's Growing on the High Plains offers the backstory on lunar "blueness" and what we might expect in our forthcoming growing season as a result.

Today's installment of Growing on the High Plains explores the longest-running, continuously-published periodical on our continent. While I remember the petite, butter-yellow booklet regularly crossing the counter at my father's pharmacy, I wanted to share some of the fascinating history of this annual reference volume and what it has meant to those who have historically made a living off the land.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll share my experiences with the many living Christmas trees we've had through the years. While they require a little extra care and attention (and demand a much shorter indoor stay), live trees make for a cozy, rustic Christmas display.

Our family has welcomed a variety of trees into our holiday home—and want to know the best part? Unlike cut trees, these fragrant fellows stick around all year long, reminding us of the love and joy shared during the season it sparkled in the spotlight.

We've all heard of a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate a new building, but have you ever seen a crew of construction workers hoisting what looks like a Christmas tree to the highest beam of a completed structure? Well, I assure you: it's a thing! Commonly referred to as "topping out," this age-old ceremony has a fascinating history that spans the globe.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I invite you to join me as we take a visit to the Wagon Wheel Cafe & Bakery in Ulysses, Kansas to celebrate one of the best things about being alive: PIE!

Tune in today to find out how these dedicated bakers keep the crusts and fillings flowing throughout the year, and especially during the holidays—and see if your favorite pie is one of their best sellers.

The holidays are coming, and some of us are scrambling to make our seasonal gift lists. If you happen to have a gardening enthusiast in your life, there's a great book available that you might consider: The Earth Knows My Name by Patricia Klindienst.

To compile the stories in this book, the author traveled across the US, digging deep into different cultures to unearth how they engage with the food they grow. From Native Americans to immigrants from Asia and Europe, you'll learn fascinating tales of bountiful gardens in both rural and urban regions. 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'm serving up some Thanksgiving reflections on this year's gardening season. There has been so much for which we are thankful, including the bounty of High Plains rain since Spring.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll dig back through my memories of the Osage orange tree—a scruffy-but-useful native of our region.

You might know them as the bushy bearer of hedge apples—those puckered, chartreuse orbs that usually just clonk to the ground and rot. Well, I grew up knowing them by a very different name, and our family employed them as pest control, believe it or not. But ask a rancher or farmer trying to secure their property border, and they'll tell you that these trees are good for a lot more!

The time is ripe for a flash of red and gold over a white rump, flickering through the sky and trees,  as well as digging dinner from the ground. (All you High Plains ornithophiles will know what I’m talking about!)

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll discuss Northern flickers (Colaptes auratus)—the medium-to-large, brownish woodpeckers that tend to appear when the colder seasons are near. Spotting their showy, dotted plumage always pairs well with our vibrant, changing leaves in the fall. 

For part two of our winter squash series, we'll get into the guts of a tender, lovely little fellow you might find much easier to handle and prepare for your harvest table. 

High Plains, meet the delicata! Its skin is edible, and the food scientists have perfected the bush variety so it resists the issues many other varieties face.  

We hope you enjoy today's Growing on the High Plains and are inspired to grow delicata squash in YOUR fall garden.

Today's Growing on the High Plains digs DEEP into the hearty meat of the winter squash.

While many are taken aback by their thick skin, heft, and cloistered cluster of slermy seeds, these gourds are sweet, succulent siblings that enrich every seasonal table. So don't be afraid to chop hard and enjoy these winter treasures. 

As the days get shorter, you might notice our High Plains foliage taking a long, slow bath in the glow of the October sunset.

That's right: our awesome Autumn is upon us, so today's edition of Growing on the High Plains will take an inventory of what makes a cornucopia of garden color. Will the recent, regular rainfall reign in the reds? Can potatoes predict a wet winter? And what will the wooly worms have to say about it? Whatever shade the shrubbery may fade, we must all revel in the "big reveal" or the coming color show.   

Today's edition of Growing on the High Plains asks you to hearken to our High Plains history as we ponder the lot of early pioneers, especially what harvest time meant to them. 

While our lush, summertime greens fall into Fall, the High Plains often fades to wheaty yellows and golden browns. However, there are ways to keep rich, warm colors popping in your garden as the season's crisp chill creeps across the flatlands. 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll reveal a showy shrub often called the "burning bush." It's easy to maintain in our region and serves a splash of color, from flamboyant fuchsia and ravishing red.  

Finally, we have reached our final installment of Growing on the High Plains where I check in with Steve and Janet Weidner at their fabulous Pumpkin Paradise in Sublette, KS. All that hard work has paid off, and we're thrilled to share so many beautiful photos with you. (As you'll see, the Weidners truly take "growing on the High Plains" to the next level!)

Move over chrysanthemums! There's a hearty new flower in town, and just in time for Autumn.

Today's edition of Growing on the High Plains, we'll get some history on a lovely Fall flower that I'm surprised doesn't get more attention in regional gardens. Meet the aster, whose stellar blooms bring a divine cavalcade of color throughout cooler seasons.  

Sometimes, if you want something done right, you just have to do it yourself. This has certainly been true for some of my more challenging garden endeavors, including Fall gardens. These pose many a hardship for those in our region. In fact, finding adequate seed options might be the biggest yet.

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll have a special report from Pumpkin Paradise -- part two of our three-part series. And this time, we'll hear from field correspondent, Bryan Bihorel.

Trudge through the mud with us, as Steve and Janet Weidner reveal the pumpkins' progress across their 12-acre pumpkin patch in Sublette, KS. We'll learn a about squash bees, cucumber beetles, and reproduction -- pumpkin style.

There's a peace in letting nature have its way. I've learned this well after so many years tending gardens in our challenging climate.

Today on Growing on the High Plains, we'll take a late-summer's amble to the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, Kansas -- a singular escape to prairie landscapes past. Come with me as we explore a sanctuary for native trees, shrubs, plants, wildflowers, and grasses -- not to mention education, recreation, birds, fish, and a few literary surprises. 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, we'll examine a non-native plant of biblical proportions. 

Polygonatum, also known as "Solomon's seal," offers much more than meets the eye. It can grow up to four feet in height, bearing beautifully-blanched, bobbing bells that morph into blue-black berries in the autumn. 

Furthermore, its underground root stalks, or rhizomes, are a known herbal remedy. Plus, this darling of the shaded flower bed is known to conceal a religious relic deep in the dirt.  

Few things give away a particularly High Plains landscape like a fine-but-fluffy, blue-kissed buffalo grass tickling a horizon. While a staple of our region's ground cover, I wonder why it's not more prevalent and popular. 

On today's Growing on the High Plains, I want to talk about this lush native -- including it's many benefits, and a few pointers for planters. So, buffalo grass, won't ya come out tonight?   

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll investigate the history of food fads. 

From gelatinous meats to Amazonian sweets, we'll explore a few consumable crazes from the American archives, as well as edible trends of today.

There's more behind these trendy treats than meets the tongue -- like the environmental impact and the politics of production.  

Get a tissue, because I'm about to set your sinuses ablaze.

Would a pepper by any other name taste just as sweet? Or spicy? Or seasoned? On today's Growing on the High Plains, let's tip our caps to the Capsicum, blow a horn for the peppercorn, and find out "what's the dilly" with the chili. Though different as they may be, these three cousins often answer to the same name: pepper.

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