Prairie Tayles

Saturday morning, 7:30 central during Weekend Edition

A sixth generation Kansan, Karen Madorin cherishes the prairie in a way only one who has left a beloved homeland and returned can.  A writer, amateur photographer, and teacher, Karen loves finding fossils from the ancient inland seas  as well as  learning about  modern  pioneers who harvest Kansas wind. Each week Prairie Tayles takes you inside everyday life.  It is a celebration of living the good life on the high plains.

Karen also writes a blog by the same name, Prairie Tayles.

Mud blessings

Feb 18, 2017
Creative Commons CC0

Chinese philosophers are on to something with their Yin and Yang concepts. Light balances dark, silence/noise, joy/sorrow, and in our case, mud offsets dust.

Yes, mud. Icky, gooey, sticky mud. Like cat hair, it latches onto anything it touches, finding its way from roads, yards, and pastures onto shoes and pant legs and into homes. It finds its way into the oddest places—a speckle stuck to a grocery sack, a chunk dropped by the door, a smear on a purse.

www.goodfreephotos.com

When I talk to friends who love to live in cities, they often wonder what we do for fun in our rural setting.  Even my former students who live in a nearby small town frequently asked, “Don’t you get bored in the country?  All you have to do is watch grass grow.” Anyone who reads my essays knows I don’t get bored even though we don’t have any neon lights or busy city streets lined with businesses that cater to people who just want to have fun.

Creative Commons Zero - CC0

Weather forecasters have a miserable job. On one hand, they predict impending catastrophic weather and save lives. Think of residents if Oklahoma who made it to shelter before devastating F5 tornadoes bore down on their neighborhoods and businesses. On the other, these predictions are often wrong. A  cell fritzes out, leaving the audience to compare yesterday’s hero to the boy who cried wolf. It’s a dilemma.

Quilted treasures

Jan 28, 2017

I’d be the first to tell you I’m not a quilter and unlikely to become one unless catastrophe requires me to recycle old clothing remnants into blankets to warm me or my loved ones in the cold of winter. While I don’t have patience to construct such intricate coverlets, I admire those who do. When our youngest daughter learned to quilt in a high school sewing class, I was thrilled she’d continue a family tradition that has waned since my great-grandmother last sorted through her ragbag to come up with pieces to create a lovely blue and red star heirloom that my mother treasures.

Misguided perceptions

Jan 21, 2017
http://www.cgpgrey.com/

Ask people from outside Kansas to describe our state and many would state definitely, “It’s flat.” A drive across western Kansas on I-70 or Highway 54 would support their idea of monotonously level terrain. What folks passing through don’t realize is that highway planners intentionally select the easiest route to turn into an interstate. It’s cheaper to build and easier to drive. Travelers who never travel the two lane black tops that weave one little community to another don’t have a clue about our river valleys and rolling hills.

Creatures of habit

Jan 7, 2017

The other day, I watched our Jack Russell fidget impatiently by the bedroom door, waiting for someone to let him into the hallway. Directly behind him was an alternate path that led through the bath to the living area on the other side of the house. Because he’s in a new home, he never considered exiting via this route. After I released him from his self-imposed trap, I began thinking about how I, too, am a creature of habit locked into boundaries established only my mind.

Wikimedia Commons

Mother Nature does a fantastic job of cleaning up after herself. Humans could learn a trick or ten from the efficient way natural processes clean water, recycle plants into humus, and tidy up dead critters lying on roadways. For each specific job, creatures abound to make sure nothing stinky lies around too long. Two of my favorite helpers include the roadkill eradication team: magpies and turkey vultures. 

Public Domain

Few baby boomers can flip through old photo albums without finding black and white pictures featuring themselves, siblings, and cousins as youngsters. They often show off cowboy hats with stampede strings tied tight under their chins, fuzzy chaps, and belts holding plastic six shooters that fired red ribbons of firecracker-scented caps. Not many escaped that ache to ride the range on a stick horse or to rope sad-faced pups and kittens. Watching Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Lone Ranger on those two-channel TVs fueled dreams and guided neighborhood shootouts.

mommypotamus.com

Despite the fact I had a flu shot the minute the doctor made them available, one of those germs invaded, took up residence in my ears, lungs, and sinuses, and has hung around with his buddies far too long. I’ve taken antibiotics and added a few homeopathic treatments to see if I can send this invader packing. Some of my self-care, which includes slathering Vicks on my feet and wearing cotton socks to bed, has offered comfort but not a cure. Several sympathetic friends recommended taking elderberry elixir, and one provided a bottle of his homebrew. When I looked up elderberries, it appears science agrees that syrups made from this native fruit have successfully evicted this nasty attacker and its accompanying symptoms.

nature.mdc.mo.gov

In the past week, I met a garden neighbor.  Apparently, this blue/green juvenile racerunner lizard moved from his burrow or wherever his last digs were into my 12 x 18 foot raised-bed garden.  Our hilltop is too rocky to support an in-ground garden, so we had to create our own little haven for tomatoes, peppers, onions, and okra.  Mr. Psychedelic must enjoy the insects that also call the Salsa in the Makings Ranch home, and he is now dining al fresco under the tomato vines.

While I was on my hands and knees pulling weeds, this little character’s reptilian movements alarmed me to leap swiftly to my feet.  After all, we live on a sunny, rocky hilltop that translates into perfect snake habitat.  I have found it is best to be on the lookout since slithery things live here too.  After my brain settled and eyes focused, I realized the new garden guard was a cute little lizard called a racerunner.

www.ourhenhouse.org

 Something’s been eating my strawberries. Yes, the luscious berries that we planted two springs ago and carefully nurtured so we’d have fresh fruit over our ice cream and cake or sliced to sweeten a fresh  spinach salad. Since they first began blooming in May, I’ve harvested about 15 scarlet bursts of flavor that hip hop on my taste buds. Last week, I went to pick some for supper and discovered I’m not the only one that likes this spring treat.

Fourth of July Fun

Jul 1, 2016

“Gramma, wuuuhms (worms), pops!” giggled my three-year-old granddaughter, calling from western Kansas. It’s July 3, so I realize her parents have taken her to buy childhood firecrackers such as black snakes and those little poppers that I, our daughters, and now our grand love to throw on hard ground. Sure enough, my little caller’s mother confirms that’s what happened. This is G’s first year to enjoy these holiday favorites, and she wanted to share her excitement.

4th of July Traditions

Jun 24, 2016

Add a bucket, crank, rock salt, ice, canister, milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, eggs, and arm strong power to take any summer celebration over the top. As a kid, I loved arriving at a gathering where men sat or knelt circled around a good size wooden or plastic bucket and each took a turn cranking a long metal handle. Oftentimes, a child perched atop the bucket to stabilize the turning device. I knew when I saw this, it didn’t mean the guys were just telling good stories. It meant we’d soon be eating homemade ice cream.

Troglodyte Miscue

Jun 17, 2016
learner.org

Kids love to find words that get under the skin of siblings or enemies. This term  gains power due scatological or other socially inappropriate connotations. For me, the word troglodyte, meaning knuckle-scraping Neanderthal, carried great import.. What could be more insulting?

www.goodlifegarden.ucdavis.edu

Picking and shelling peas is a labor of love, not practicality. After three evenings bent over knee-high vines finding and shelling full pods, I conceded the payoff—healthy calories—doesn’t match effort expended. Some folks might wise up and start buying canned or frozen peas at the market, but they’d miss what some researchers call the intangibles.

whereintheusarv.blogspot.com

After months of wearing long pants, heavy sweaters over flannel shirts, and clunky shoes, folks are enjoying the chance to leave jackets behind and head to the park. It’s like a spring cleaning for the spirit as everyone goes down a slide, swings, or teeter totters in order to wipe away winter’s cobwebs and staleness.

oriooli.com

A phone call brings Karen one step closer to becoming the oldest generation.

sundgren.com

I recently overheard someone at an area coffee shop say, “The worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work.” I’m not sure I agree 100 percent, but any day with a baited hook tossed out, waiting for a nibble is a good day. You’re near water, catching sunrays, listening to birds twitter, and smelling that nose teasing scent of mud, water plants, and fish. If you happen to reel something in to put on the dinner table, it’s a bonus.

mdt.mt.gov

Does anyone else wonder what highway workers charged with stopping one lane of traffic during road construction think about as they stand in the elements and flip their signs from stop to slow eight to twelve hours a day? Whenever possible, I visit with these souls who brave extreme temperatures and irate drivers to see how their jobs compare to my inside work.

cubakansas.com

I’ve grown up hearing America called the melting pot of the world. If you spend time traveling Kansas, then you understand the Sunflower State is the biggest bubble in that boiling mess. In a few hours’ time, travelers can visit Lebanon, Denmark, Norway, and Cuba. During that journey, drivers can drop south to Glasco, named for Glasgow, Scotland. Kansas is a state of many cultures, evidenced not only by town names but also by buildings designed to honor old-country customs.

Just Swingin

Apr 28, 2016
dailymail.co.uk

Once upon a long time ago, children played on asphalt or gravel playgrounds filled with tall metal swing sets and finger pinching chains. Those thick links froze little hands November through February and roasted those same palms July through September.

Four Letter Words

Apr 15, 2016
thodasasomething.wordpress.com

Most of us have heard about four letter words. The minute you mention them, many immediately think naughty words. But this time of year, hope is a four-letter word. As is soil, seed, rain, bird, root, stem and grow. Four letter words-- every one. As I roamed about my yard planting hollyhocks, bachelor buttons, sweet William, zinnias, and other butterfly attractors, I kept thinking, I hope for moisture and that the hard little hulls I tucked in the earth would sprout roots and stems to unfurl skyward under warm, spring sun.

bioquest.org

For a man who wrote easy-on-the-ear verse in line after line of iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare must spin in his grave to think he’s the reason millions of screeching, squabbling starlings swarm from shore to shore and border to border in America.

So who had the misguided idea to import these obnoxious creatures? In 1890 and 91, New Yorker Edward Schieffelin, a leader of the American Acclimatization Society, acted on a romantic notion to import examples of everything ever mentioned in a Shakespearian play to his hometown. Unfortunately, the bard included starlings in a scene in part one of Henry IV. That was the beginning of this cursed bird’s existence in the New World.

juliezickefoose.blogspot.com

You’ve heard the saying, “Looks can be deceiving.” That statement describes our little terrier’s coat. When you meet him, he looks like a sleek pooch that doesn’t shed. That’s true July through February. However, when the calendar says spring, he gives March Madness a new interpretation.

Most folks who meet the winter Buster love to stroke his silky fur and rub his soft ears. Let them visit before a spring de-thatching, and they’ll wear Buster home. That little guy sheds like a champ. If there were Olympics for losing winter hair, our pet would win a gold medal.

dariennewsonline.com

Easter is about much more than egg hunts and a big ol’ rabbit posing for pictures with little ones. However, in small towns across Kansas such festivities remind winter -weary children and adults that spring truly has arrived. With the promise of sugary treats, hope rises like sap in tots impatient to collect brightly colored eggs tempting them from a green lawn. Their enthusiasm should be bottled and sold.

Almost Empty Nest

Mar 18, 2016
Vincent Mancini

I’ve observed a great-horned owl on her nest for the past three months. This triggered a reflection on parenting similarities humans and critters share. It also added questions to those already swirling about my busy brain. One of those is do birds experience a sense of unsettledness like the one humans have when their young first leave home? After surviving those aching months when our youngest moved away, leaving behind an unnaturally quiet house, I recall a moment when my husband and I looked at one another, and said something along the lines of, “We’re going to have to relearn what a world without kids is like.”  

Blooming Turkeys

Mar 18, 2016

Outback Steakhouse may advertise blooming onions, but I know where turkeys bloom in  green fields near my house.  Like a rose going from a tight bud to full summer bloom, those big ol’ gobblers put on a show. Puffing their feathers and spreading their fan-shape tails into a full blown sail, they strut and rattle.  All this action occurs to woo nearby hens that coyly scan the area for insects and greens.

youthjournalism.org

You don’t have to travel far to learn something new. During Spring Break, my husband and I jaunted to Courtland, Kansas, to explore Jamestown Marsh and other area sites. I expected to see migratory birds, including eagles, ducks, and geese. I hoped to visit the Pawnee Indian Village Museum to study more about early residents of my region. My to-do list also included antiquing and photography. One thing I never expected to discover was a maple tapping/syrup making operation. In fact, I thought of this as a New England only activity, never considering that Kansans produce local maple products.

Paul Phillips

Before my students read a section of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca’s travel journal about his exploration of Texas, I had them write directions from their house to a nearby destination. It sounded like a simple assignment until I add these qualifiers. They couldn’t use man-made landmarks or addresses in their instructions, nor could they use vehicles or GPS systems. They were limited to foot travel, and they needed to depend on the sun and stars for directions.

csmonitor.com

A nostalgic essay about the good old days when all food was slow and TVs only received two channels recently caught my attention. It made me think about the differences between my childhood and my grandkids’.

The paragraph about not having a remote really struck home. The author explained how adults expected children to trudge to the television to manually switch from one channel to the other. I remember those days when dad would tell us to change channels. I might have been a grown up in my own home before I owned a television with a device that allowed us to flick channels without leaving our seats. That was just the beginning of technology that encouraged dependence. Now it’s expanded into restrooms.

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