Kansas Outdoor Treasures

Kansas Outdoor TreasuresIf you love exploring the beautiful scenery of Kansas, then this guide is a must for you!

Kansas Outdoor Treasures: A Guide to Over 60 Natural Destinations by Julie M. Cirlincuina has something to offer to outdoor enthusiasts of all varieties:

  • Hiking.
  • Biking.
  • Horseback riding.
  • Auto tours.
  • Fishing.
  • Hunting.
  • Camping.

This guide to the parks, byways, and other wonders of Kansas can help you plan your trip by providing valuable information on the location, facilities, traffic, hours, and contacts for each destination. If you want to search for wildlife or expand your trip by exploring other nearby sights, you will find helps here, as well.

Consider some of these destinations:

  • Monument Rocks.
  • Cimarron National Grassland.
  • Coronado Heights.
  • Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.
  • Great Plains Nature Center.
  • Flint Hills National Scenic Byway.
  • Konza Prairie Biological Station.
  • Oregon Trail Nature Park.

And this is just the beginning.

Maps, descriptions of the 11 regions of Kansas, and explanations of what to expect at each stop round out this excellent guide.

Any time scenic Kansas calls you, take a look at Kansas Outdoor Treasures to plan your trip. Keep a copy in your car for those spur-of-the-moment excursions.

Highly recommended!

South Devon

South DevonThe South Devon, affectionately known as the “Orange Elephant,” is not to be confused with the unrelated Devon. The Devon dates back to pre-Roman times, while the South Devon traces its ancestry to the red cattle brought to southern England during the Norman Conquest.

The two breeds were probably crossed on rare occasions, but the Devon and the South Devon were generally isolated from each other on tenant farms. Like the Devon, the South Devon was a multipurpose animal used to pull plows and supply farmers with both milk and beef.

Some claim that the South Devon first came to American on board the Mayflower, but there appears to be no definite proof of this. Instead, the breed was left in its native England until after World War II. By that time, the South Devon had been developed into a hefty beef breed to fit with the trend of specialization.

And so it was that the South Devon arrived in the United States to participate in the race for larger frame sizes. It was first imported in 1969 by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former vice president, Henry Wallace, an expert in genetics and one of the earliest proponents of the hybrid vigor theory. By the 1970s, 150 bulls had arrived in the United States.

Although not one of the top breeds in the country, the South Devon is still well established. Seedstock producers have established black, polled (hornless) variety to meet the demands of sale barns.

 

South DevonUses

In America, the South Devon is almost exclusively used for beef, either as a purebred or in crossbreeding programs. In Britain, however, efforts are being made to re-establish the breed’s dual-purpose qualities.

 

Temperament

Besides “Orange Elephant,” another one of the South Devon’s nicknames is the “Gentle Solution.” Owners say South Devon cattle are a pleasure to work with. Both cows and bulls are easy to handle.

Although South Devon cows are protective of their calves, they are intelligent enough to distinguish between real and perceived threats and thus should present no problem to trusted owners.

 

Health

At the present time, the South Devon is a hardy breed with a sound structure and few health problems. However, the gene for double-muscling does exist in this breed. So far most breeders have not actively pursued the extreme muscling found in the Belgian Blue, but it is well to be aware of the situation to avoid calving problems.

The South Devon takes a little more time to grow than the other British breeds. To avoid calving difficulties, it should not have its first calf until 2-1/2 to 3 years of age.

 

South DevonPros

  • Hardiness.
  • Exceptional adaptability.
  • Suitability for both small farms and open-range situations.
  • Low maintenance requirements.
  • Longevity.
  • Fertility.
  • Good mothering instincts.
  • Productive milk yields.
  • High butterfat content in milk.
  • Heavy, high-yielding carcass.
  • Exceptionally tender beef.
  • Lean, tasty meat.

 

Cons

  • Somewhat slow maturity.
  • Increasing calving difficulties.

 

Complete Series

Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds

 

What is Integrated Pest Management?

What is Integrated Pest Management?Integrated pest management (IPM) is a difficult concept to define because of its complexity. The idea is to use multiple tactics, both proactive and reactive, to keep crop damage below the economic injury level (EIL).

Proactive Tactics

Much of IPM focuses on preventing pests from becoming a major problem in the first place:

  • Keeping growing conditions sanitary.
  • Attracting beneficial insects.
  • Promoting a healthy soil.
  • Removing pest habitats.
  • Tilling and rotating crops to disrupt the life cycle of pests.
  • Raising plants adapted to the climate and resistant to pests.
  • Altering planting dates to avoid times when infestation is likely.
  • Putting physical pest barriers around vulnerable crops.

The next key feature of IPM involves monitoring plants closely to assess current pest levels and types. The producer may use sticky traps or sweep nets to catch insects to count and identify. He may also observe the plants themselves to check for damage. Monitoring goes hand in hand with keeping good records, not just of pests, but of soil and weather conditions, and other factors that may affect plant health.

Reactive Tactics

If pest numbers climb above acceptable levels, the producer will use his knowledge of the pest’s species, life cycle, and current population to choose a control strategy. The general idea is to use the least toxic control method first.

Control methods vary widely:

  • Hand picking.
  • Vacuuming.
  • Introduction of predators.
  • Introduction of diseases fatal to the pest species.
  • Introduction of sterile male pests to disrupt the breeding cycle.
  • Insect growth regulators.
  • Both chemical and biorational (natural) pesticides.

Many IPM programs also use similar monitoring and control methods to keep weeds and crop diseases in check.

Summary

The main advantage of IPM is that it tends to fit well with a whole-farm approach, working with nature to avoid major infestations. On the other hand, it does require the producer to spend considerable time monitoring plants, keeping records, and researching insect pests.

Of course, there are many variations on IPM, but a well-constructed IPM program will always have these three principles in place:

  1. A combination of pest-prevention techniques.
  2. A system of plant monitoring and record keeping.
  3. A control strategy that seeks to use the least toxic method possible.
Helpful Resources

Biointensive Integrated Pest Management
A free introduction to the theory behind IPM.

A Whole-Farm Approach to Managing Pests
This bulletin presents many creative solutions and success stories. Good way to get started thinking proactively.

Integrated Pest Management for Greenhouse Crops
This free guide is a little more practical than the ones above. Although written with greenhouse crops in view, it can also give you an idea of how IPM can work in other areas of farming.

The Farm Journal
Our own series on keeping records.

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal
Our own tool for keeping garden records. Includes plenty of room for observations, as well as reference pages ready for your personal notes on plant varieties, insect pests, beneficial insects, and plant diseases. Read more.

Insects in Kansas
Handy book from K-State that can help with pest identification. Read our full review.

Greenwood Hotel: Part 1—Construction

Greenwood HotelIf old buildings could talk, what stories they would have to tell!

And the Greenwood Hotel on 300 North Main in Eureka, Kansas, could tell its fair share of tales of railroads and cowboys, oil men and visionaries, neglect and preservation.

It all started in the days of cattle drives, when Texas Longhorns filled up the summer pastures to fatten on bluestem grass before being loaded onto train cars to be shipped east. In 1879, a branch of the Santa Fe Railroad was completed as far as Eureka to pick up some of these cattle. The Missouri Pacific followed in 1882.

Railroads and cattle brought quite a bit of business to the town, and residents decided that they needed a hotel. The Eureka Hotel Company was formed on August 4, 1882. Charles W. Squires of Emporia was hired as architect later that year, and work began in March 1883.

The new hotel was to be called “Greenwood Hotel” in honor of Greenwood County, of which Eureka is the seat. Greenwood County was in turn named for Alfred B. Greenwood, Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President James Buchanan.

Slowly the Greenwood Hotel took shape, a brick-and-limestone structure rising three stories high and containing 43 boarding rooms. It was completed in October 1883 at a cost of $23,000. A grand opening ball was held on March 7, 1884, and the hotel began its long history of useful service.

Right from the start, the Greenwood Hotel became the place where cattlemen congregated. This practice prevailed even after the cattle-drive era was well over:

The lobby of Eureka’s largest hotel is a sort of small livestock exchange. There are the same men with broad-brimmed hats and whips that the visitor sees in Kansas City’s exchange building in the first floor’s corridors. Always they are “talking cattle.”

Kansas City Star, 1911

By the 1920s, oil barons began to mingle with the local ranchers in the hotel lobby. It has been reported that the Greenwood Hotel saw million-dollar deals made on a regular basis. Between the two thriving industries, Eureka was set for a period of unprecedented prosperity.

Up next: Part 2—Remodeling

Album of Horses

Album of HorsesWho doesn’t love books by Marguerite Henry?  If your family has enjoyed her horse stories, you will love this title, gorgeously illustrated by Wesley Dennis.

Although not exhaustive, the Album of Horses covers popular horse breeds in story form, making it a great choice for children.

The Album of Horses includes 24 of America’s favorite breeds:

Beautiful artwork, appealing writing, and thorough research combine to make the Album of Horses a must-read for families who love horses.  Don’t miss it!

Simmental

SimmentalThe Simmental is a dual-purpose cattle breed tracing back to Switzerland of the Middle Ages. It is believed to be the result of a cross between native Swiss cattle and a large German breed brought to the area by nomads in the 5th century.

For centuries Swiss farmers prized the Simmental for its strength, copious milk, and fast growth. It was not until the 1800s, however, that other nations recognized the abilities of the breed. Then the Simmental spread quickly throughout Continental Europe, taking new names and new forms in each country where it arrived.

The first Simmental in the United States may have been imported to Illinois as early as 1887. The breed had an established presence by the mid-1890s, but did not become popular until “exotic” breeds from Continental Europe began to dominate the American beef industry.

Thus it was that an import of 1971 became known as the first purebred Simmental bull in America. Since importations were costly and complicated because of quarantine requirements, most Simmentals today are the descendents of a few purebred bulls from Canada crossed with a variety of breeds, most notably the Hereford and the Angus.

The Simmental is now one of the top breeds in America, as well as one of the most popular breeds of cattle in the world.

SimmentalUses

In America, Simmentals are used almost exclusively for raising crossbred beef calves. In other countries, however, they still function as dairy cows and draft oxen.

Temperament

The Simmental is known for its docile, relaxed demeanor. It is easy to handle and, if accustomed to humans at an early age, may even become petlike in its demands for attention.

Although Simmental cows typically do not object to having a trusted owner handle their calves, they may become protective around strangers.

Health

The Simmental is typically a healthy breed with a sound body structure. Pigment around its eyes protects it from pinkeye, sunburn, and related problems.

However, the Simmental may be prone to mastitis because of its dairy background, and to prolapse and other calving difficulties because of its large frame. The breed also has a few genetic defects, which are being closely monitored.

SimmentalPros

  • Resistance to stress.
  • Parasite resistance.
  • Adaptability to many environments thanks to diverse bloodlines.
  • Fairly good longevity.
  • Heavy milk production.
  • High yield of beef.
  • Lean, flavorful meat.
  • Good prices at sale barns for blacks.
  • Sturdy structure for draft work.

Cons

  • Sometimes expensive.
  • Variable hardiness.
  • Large feed and pasture requirements.
  • Poor calving ease (better in black Simmentals).
  • Low calf vigor.
  • Hard to finish without large quantities of grain.
  • Less-than-ideal beef tenderness.
Helpful Resource

Choosing a Breed of CattleChoosing a Breed of Cattle
Is the Simmental right for you? This book will help you assess your five needs and make that decision. Includes a brief profile of the Simmental breed. Free sample pages are available here.

Complete Series

Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds

 

How Often Should a Garden Be Watered?

How Often Should a Garden Be Watered?As the temperatures rise and hot winds blow, those of you who are still fairly new to gardening may be asking this question:

How often should I water my garden?

The simple answer:

As often as it needs it.

 

The Leaf Test

The way that you become a green thumb is by working with plants until your fingers are stained.  By the same token, the way that you learn how often a garden should be watered is by observing your plants.

The leaves of your garden and orchard plants can tell you a great deal about how the plants themselves are feeling.  That vibrant, glossy green of new leaves in spring tells you that the plants are spunky and growing fast.  When the leaves look dull and dusty, maybe with a little bit of curl to the edges, the plants are suffering from dehydration.

There is no better way to gauge how often the garden should be watered than by reading the leaves.  It is 100% reliable and will enable you to catch problems early.  This method does require experience and close observation, however.

 

The Finger Test

So for those of you who are still trying to figure out what a thirsty plant looks like, there is another, simpler way to get a fairly good idea of when the garden needs to be watered.  Take a look at the soil.  Is it moist on top?  If not, poke a finger down beside a plant.  Do you feel any moisture further down?  A thin layer of dry soil on the surface usually won’t hurt anything, but there must be moisture down at the level of the roots.

This soil moisture test is useful, but not quite as reliable as the leaf test above.  Different plants have roots at different levels.  A lettuce plant has a very shallow root system and needs access to water very close to the surface.  A fruit tree, on the other hand, can seek water deep enough below the ground that the finger test won’t really avail you anything.  For most garden plants, however, the test can still work fairly well.

 

A Word on Scheduling

Finally, a word on scheduling watering times.  A rigid watering schedule can be a hindrance in the garden.  Although it’s a good idea to have a time for watering planned into your daily routine so that you don’t forget and miss a day, for best results you must learn to tailor your schedule to the needs of your plants.  Suppose you plan to water certain plants daily, others every other day, and still others weekly.  Can you adjust to meet changing weather conditions?  If a heavy rain falls, you will want to skip watering that day.  On the other hand, if the weather is exceptionally hot and dry, you probably will need to water your garden more frequently to keep it alive.

So learn to read the plants.  They can tell you when they’re thirsty.

Challenges to the Ogallala Aquifer

Challenges to the Ogallala AquiferThe Ogallala (OH-ga-la-la) Aquifer stretches underneath 174,000 square miles of dry plains, making it one of the largest aquifers in the world. It supplies water to some of the thirstiest farmland in the nation, including parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

This aquifer has been a real boon to farmers over the years. With the rise of industrial agriculture, beginning in about the 1940s, irrigation became an important part of maintaining extensive crop production in arid and semiarid places, such as the High Plains of Kansas. In this region, water from the Ogallala Aquifer supports vast fields of wheat, sorghum, and even corn. Without irrigation, however, farmers in the High Plains would lose their corn crops four out of every five years.

Unfortunately, irrigation is not without drawbacks. The Ogallala Aquifer is not an inexhaustible resource. It must be recharged by rain and melted snow trickling down through the soil. But this recharging is limited for two reasons:

  1. The High Plains receive little annual precipitation.
  2. In many places a hard mineral called “caliche” prevents water from penetrating into the ground.

The result is that the Ogallala Aquifer recharges very slowly. In Kansas, that means it receives up to six inches of water a year.

On the other hand, much of the High Plains uses over 50 acre-feet of water per square mile annually. Parts of southwestern Kansas use over 500 acre-feet per square mile every year.

Starting in the 1970s, farmers became aware that they were using the water in the Ogallala Aquifer at an unsustainable rate. The question then became, “What on earth can we do about it?” Raising crops is vital to the High Plains economy, but it is a practice that is nearly impossible without the aid of irrigation.

One thing that has changed for the better over the years is the reduction of wasted water during irrigation. Improved center pivot irrigation systems have been developed, which deliver the water directly to the plants with minimal loss. Whereas it was common in the 1960s and 1970s to see irrigation water running out of the fields into roadside ditches, such waste is now relatively rare.

However, some would contend that this improvement has created a new problem. Because center pivot irrigation is so efficient in delivering water to the spot where it is needed, it has enabled farmers in dry areas to grow water-loving crops like corn on an even larger scale than before. This in turn may deplete the aquifer at an even faster rate.

No one knows just what the future may hold for the Ogallala Aquifer. Farmers continue to experiment with water conservation practices, while scientists work to release more groundwater from underneath the aquifer. All agree that preventing water depletion is critical to the people of the High Plains.

 

Helpful Resource

Kansas High Plains Aquifer Atlas
Everything you could want to know about the Ogallala Aquifer in Kansas, from water levels to irrigation trends.

HomeMade

HomeMadeHere is just the thing for the handyman of the family.  Whatever you want to build, whether it is for your home, your garden, or your farm, check out this book for ideas.

HomeMade: 101 Easy-to-Make Things for Your Garden, Home, or Farm by Ken Braren and Roger Griffith provides a drawing and a brief summary for each project.  Many of the projects also include exact dimensions.  Others are less specific and more for brainstorming purposes.

Take a look at the list of things you can build with the help of HomeMade:

  • Workbenches.
  • Basement closets.
  • Root cellars.
  • Lawn chairs.
  • Tool sheds.
  • Compost bins.
  • Plant supports.
  • Gates.
  • Bird feeders.
  • Loading chutes.
  • Stables.
  • Incubators.

HomeMadeMany useful skills are explained, as well, such as:

  • How to clean and store paintbrushes.
  • How to sharpen tools.
  • How to build a compost pile that will actually compost.
  • How to bale hay on a small scale.
  • How to tighten a fence.

Are you ready to build something?

Shorthorn

Shorthorn
Photo courtesy of USDA ARS

Short-horned cattle have existed in Great Britain since at least the time of the Romans. The Shorthorn breed as we know it, however, dates back to the 1700s, when cattle owners in northeastern England took the native stock in hand and began selective breeding. These early breeders mainly raised dual-purpose cattle, which in this case meant reliable dairy cows and calves that would eventually be fat enough to slaughter after finishing on ample grain rations.

The next step came around 1783, when Charles Colling bought four cows with an unusually beefy build. At the same time, his brother Robert had discovered a bull that produced impressive offspring. The two set to work to study breeding methods from Robert Bakewell of English Longhorn fame and soon achieved a truly dual-purpose Shorthorn, one that was not only a good milker, but that grew fast and produced higher yields of beef.

Other breeders continued the work of the Colling brothers, some preferring to focus on dairy qualities, others developing the Shorthorn’s beef potential. In general, however, the breed remained dual-purpose, and it was in this form that it first arrived in Jamestown in 1783. As the new nation grew, the dual-purpose Shorthorn (then called the Durham) spread with the pioneers. Settlers brought their favorite milk cows with them to their new homes, while trusty oxen pulled wagons westward.

But in the 1850s some of the settlers of the Midwest began to import a beef type of Shorthorn from Scotland. It was one of the first breeds of cattle used in an attempt to add a little more meat and tallow to the Texas Longhorn’s bony frame. Soon, however, the Scotch Shorthorn was recognized as a valuable animal in its own right, and quickly became the nation’s top beef breed.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, however, the hardier Hereford came to the forefront, as did the Angus. Breeders of beef-type Shorthorns developed a polled variety and intensified their selection practices, hoping to compete. This raised concerns among breeders of the dairy-type animals, and in 1948 the two varieties were separated into separate breeds: the Shorthorn and the Milking Shorthorn.

But the Milking Shorthorn soon left its dual-purpose roots, as well. Under pressure from the rising popularity of the Holstein, breeders began introducing blood from a variety of high-producing dairy breeds, most notably the Red and White, an offshoot of the Holstein. It has been estimated that most Milking Shorthorns today actually have 50% or more Holstein parentage.

Both the Shorthorn and the Milking Shorthorn have enjoyed better popularity in recent times. They have found niches in crossbreeding programs, and the dairy variety has won a place on grass-based dairy farms across the country.

ShorthornUses

The beef-type Shorthorn has two main purposes: beef and crossbreeding with other beef breeds for increased hybrid vigor.

The Milking Shorthorn can make a good beef animal, too, as well as serving as a dairy cow or a draft ox. In the dairy world, it is a good choice for those interested in making cheese.

Temperament

Shorthorns of both varieties are slow-moving, mild-mannered animals. Furthermore, they are fairly trainable, which helps them adapt readily to the daily farm routine or to draft work.

ShorthornHealth

Unfortunately, the Shorthorn carries a number of genetic defects. One of the most dreaded is tibial hemimelia, a condition in which calves are born with deformed skulls, twisted legs, and no shin bones.  Another difficulty is pulmonary hypoplasia, or incomplete development of the lungs. White Shorthorns are prone to yet another defect that renders them sterile.

Other health issues besides genetic defects include pinkeye, a chronic wasting disease known as Johne’s disease, and a number of hoof problems (usually not a problem in cattle raised on forage-based diets).

All this said, the Shorthorn is typically considered to be less prone to health problems than some of the more popular breeds of cattle.

Pros

  • Wide range of bloodlines to fit every purpose.
  • Adaptability to cool and temperate climates.
  • Ability to thrive on forage alone (traditional bloodlines only).
  • Longevity.
  • Early maturity.
  • Excellent fertility.
  • Calving ease.
  • Calf vigor.
  • Large quantities of milk.
  • High protein-to-fat ratio of dairy products.
  • Rapid growth.
  • Exceptionally tender meat on grass alone.
  • Rich beef flavor.
  • Trainable disposition.
  • Muscular draft oxen.

Cons

Shorthorn

  • Genetic defects.
  • Poor hardiness in many of the modern bloodlines.
  • Poor performance on fescue pastures.
  • Unsuitability for extremely hot climates
  • Obesity when fed grain.
  • Unusual beef texture.
  • Poor prices for whites and roans at sale barns.
  • Low hybrid vigor of Milking Shorthorn crosses due to extensive Holstein influence.
Helpful Resource

Choosing a Breed of CattleChoosing a Breed of Cattle
Is the Shorthorn right for you? This book will help you assess your five needs and make that decision. Includes a brief profile of the Shorthorn breed. Free sample pages are available here.

Complete Series

Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds