The Cross Centered Life

The Cross Centered LifeWhat is the point of the Christian faith?

Actually, the answer is not a what. It’s a who.

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing by C. J. Mahaney is short, but powerful, because its focus is simply the whole point—the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I can hear you asking, “But don’t I need more than that?” In one sense the answer is no. Nothing else is of equal importance. The message of the cross is the Christian’s hope, confidence, and assurance. Heaven will be spent marveling at the work of Christ, the God-Man who suffered in the place of us sinners.

Mahaney challenges us to look at our lives and see if the gospel is really at the center. He then shows how the gospel can set us free from three traps:

  • Legalism.
  • Condemnation.
  • Subjectivism.

Practical advice on giving the gospel the top priority and a look at how the cross relates to other topics found in the Bible round out this little book.

The Cross Centered Life is an excellent reminder of what is really important in the Christian walk—Christ. Great message!

Kaw River State Park

Kaw River State Park
Topeka, Kansas, in 1909 with the Kansas River in the background

The story of Kaw River State Park, the latest addition to the Kansas park system, begins with the Menninger family. Dr. Charles Frederick Menninger was a physician who had long hoped to set up practice with his sons. When the Menningers opened a clinic together in Topeka, it was Charles’s son Karl, a psychiatrist, who set the agenda—creating a group psychiatry practice.

Over time, the Menningers expanded, adding a school of psychiatry and a school for mentally handicapped children. By the 1960s the Menninger Foundation occupied 500 acres on SW 6th Avenue. This was prime property on the Kansas River, a sort of natural oasis in the city.

By the late 1990s, however, the Menninger Foundation found itself in hot water financially. In 2000, the foundation announced that its only hope of survival was to move to Houston in order to partner with Baylor College of Medicine. For the city of Topeka, the next question was one of using the property.

Initial discussions centered around retail, office, and residential development, but word soon came that a park might be in the works. The Menningers had long been proud of their scenic grounds, and worked with an investor group to make sure that at least some of the natural beauty would be preserved. State Park 24 became official in May 2004, and 76 acres were donated to the state in 2005.

Debates over a good name for the new park occupied several years, but in 2007 Kaw River State Park became the official designation. Development began in January 2008, including creating new roads, trails, and boat ramps where necessary. On September 4, 2010, the park was opened to the public.



  1. On Interstate 70 heading through Topeka, take Exit 357A to Fairlawn Road.
  2. Drive south on Fairlawn road to the first intersection.
  3. Turn right on SW 6th Avenue and continue for about half a mile.
  4. Watch for the state park sign and parking lot on the right.


Kaw River State ParkNature

Kaw River State Park is currently the only urban state park in Kansas. However, there is still plenty of natural scenery to enjoy. Located in the Glaciated Region, this park mostly features riparian hardwood forest, although some grassland is present.

Along the Kansas River, keep your eyes open for waterfowl, sandpipers, and eagles during the appropriate seasons. In the forest, watch for deer, turkey, and other woodland creatures.



Hunting is not allowed at Kaw River State Park.



Kaw River State Park offers access to the Kansas River, where fishing is both challenging and rewarding. Experts say to use live bait and fish in the deeper parts of the water. While a variety of fish can be caught, the Kansas River is best known for catfish, especially flathead catfish. However, successful fishermen are advised not to eat any bottom-feeding fish that they catch, and to limit the amount of other types of fish that they eat due to contaminants in the water.

Kaw River State Park
© 2015 Homestead on the Range


  • Kaw River Park Trails: Kaw River State Park has a complex hiking and biking trail system that meanders throughout the park. The terrain makes for a good challenge. Watch for ticks and mosquitoes!
  • Kansas River Trail: All 173 miles of the Kansas River have been designated as the Kansas River Trail, open to canoes, kayaks, and other small watercraft. Kaw River State Park is one of the access points.


Other Opportunities

The park is open for day use only, and has not been extensively developed.


Helpful Resources

Kaw River State Park
Information to help you plan your trip. A brochure is also available for download.

Kansas River Trail
Official website of the Kansas River Trail. Find printable maps, tips on river safety and etiquette, and other attractions along the river.


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Kansas State ParksKansas State Parks


What is a Chicken’s Comb For?

What is a Chicken's Comb For?Have you ever wondered about the purpose of a chicken’s comb? A comb certainly gives a chicken’s face character, particularly the big, bright comb of a rooster. The shape and size of chicken combs have been manipulated by selective breeding over thousands of years to suit the preferences of different poultry keepers. But is there a practical function for a chicken’s comb?

The answer is yes—several functions. Here are some of the uses that a chicken’s comb serves:

  • Regulating temperature. In hot weather, blood flows to the comb, where its heat is readily dissipated. Cooled blood then returns to the body, reducing the overall temperature of the chicken. This is necessary since chickens can’t sweat and panting is not an efficient method of temperature regulation. Unfortunately, this handy feature can become a problem in cold weather, leading to frostbite in some cases.
  • Recognition. Experiments suggest that chickens recognize other individuals of their flock by their facial features. Combs are useful memory aids.
  • Establishing pecking order. More dominant, aggressive chickens (both hens and roosters) typically have bigger combs, although this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
  • Attracting mates. In large flocks living in a natural free-range setting, hens may prefer roosters with large single combs, hence the reason that roosters typically have the bigger combs of the two. Some speculate that this preference may have been designed to ensure the genetic quality of chickens in general, since a healthy-looking comb will usually be found on the head of a healthy rooster.

A chicken’s comb can be useful to its owners, as well:

  • Hen or rooster? With most breeds of chickens, it can be difficult to tell if you are looking at a hen or a rooster when the bird is very young. Fortunately, checking the size of a chick’s comb is a fairly reliable way to tell which is which with a little practice. The baby roosters will have bigger combs than their sisters, even when they are freshly hatched. (Of course, some breeds have hardly any comb, and these will be more challenging.)
  • Sign of health. To the caretaker of the flock, combs are very useful! When a chicken’s comb is either unusually pale or unusually dark, it’s a sign of a health issue that needs to be looked into.
  • Pullet age. When a pullet is growing up into an adult hen, her comb will grow larger and become either red or purple, depending on the breed. This change is a good indicator that she will begin laying eggs soon.


ErasersWe love erasers.

Perhaps it’s because we have discovered that erasers are for more than just erasing. They are also great for bringing out highlights and toning down excessively dark areas in drawings.

Different erasers are good for different jobs. Over time, we have come to the conclusion that, well, you just can’t have too many erasers.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Pink Pearl: Yes, erasers are versatile, but for basic erasing, you can’t go wrong with the Pink Pearl. Works best with regular graphite pencils.
  • Factis Magic Black: For erasing charcoal pencil, this one seems to work well.
  • Art Gum: Stubborn marks? Large areas? Dark tones that need to be lightened? This chunky eraser can cover a lot of ground in a short time.
  • Kneaded rubber eraser: Every pencil and charcoal artist needs one of these. Kneaded rubber erasers are not the best when it comes to erasing, but they are unbeatable for picking out highlights in your work. Plus, you can pinch them into exactly the shape you happen to need at the moment!

Kanopolis State Park

Kanopolis State Park
Construction of Kanopolis Lake; photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

One look at the rugged landscape of Kanopolis State Park and you might imagine that you’ve gone back in time to the Old West. The early history of the area may not come as a surprise. Both cowboys and Indians roamed through the canyons and over the bluffs long before there was a lake anywhere nearby, as old carvings on the rocks attest.

The more recent history of the park has an appeal, as well, since several firsts are part of the story. When the Flood Control Act was passed in 1938, the United States Army Corps of Engineers quickly moved onto the Smoky Hill River to construct a reservoir, beginning work in 1940. World War II intervened, however, and the project was not completed until 1948, when Kanopolis Lake became the first USACE reservoir to be finished in Kansas.

The next first came in 1955, when Kanopolis State Park was founded—the first state park in Kansas. Evidently it was a success, because more followed until there are now 26 state parks. Kanopolis State Park has been surpassed in popularity by some of the later additions to the park system, but it still has a loyal following among all types of outdoor enthusiasts.



  1. Take Kansas Highway 140 east out of Ellsworth.
  2. Turn south on Kansas Highway 141 and drive a little over eight miles.
  3. Turn right on Venango Road (watch for the signs) and continue about a quarter of a mile.
  4. At the fork in the road, keep to the right.
  5. Continue on Horsethief Road until you reach the park entrance sign.



If you love the beautiful Smoky Hills, Kanopolis State Park is an excellent way to sample all that this region has to offer in the way of plant life. Literally hundreds of species of plants carpet the hills, ranging from yucca to little bluestem to colorful milkweed flowers.

The variety in the animal kingdom is impressive, too. Big mule deer run across the hills, beavers build dams across the creeks, and prairie dogs peer at visitors along the roads and trails. Not surprisingly, the reptile species are amply represented, including collared lizards, horned toads, and rattlesnakes. But the arena in which Kanopolis State Park has been severely underestimated is birdwatching. Migratory waterfowl stop by the lake in season. Ospreys and bald eagles spend the winter along the Smoky Hill River. Everything from meadowlarks to prairie chickens can be seen in the open grasslands. Songbirds abound in wooded areas.

Rockhounds will probably rate Kanopolis as one of their favorite Kansas state parks. A cursory view reveals an incredible panorama of hills and bluffs, but look closer. If you are traveling on foot, you are allowed to do a little off-road exploring in some places (no horses or bicycles, please). Caves can be spotted in canyon walls, while fossils and barite roses are waiting to be discovered in the rocks along the water’s edge.



Kanopolis State Park
Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Thousands of acres are open to hunters at this park. Try your luck at waterfowl, upland game birds, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, and deer. Furbearers are also present.



Fishing opportunities abound at Kanopolis State Park all year long. In spring, try catching crappie, walleye, saugeye, or white bass. In summer, channel catfish await at the upper end of Kanopolis Lake, particularly at night. In winter, ice fishing for crappie, walleye, and white bass is productive, or you might like to try fishing for trout in the seep stream below the dam.

Children might enjoy the kids’ fishing pond in Langley Point Area on the south end of the dam. Adults who find Kanopolis Lake too crowded can take advantage of Buckeye Fishing Access in the wildlife refuge on the west side of the lake. Please note, however, that the refuge is closed to all activities during some parts of the year—check with park staff for dates.



  • Wildlife Viewing Area: A paved nature trail is located behind the park office. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound with a marsh, two ponds, five photo blinds, and an observation deck. A short walk of just over half a mile.
  • Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail: Another hiking-only trail, this one is a mile long one way. Be sure to pick up a brochure. You will be amazed at the natural and historical wonders waiting for you in this little box canyon in the northeastern part of Horsethief Area.
  • Split Boulder Trail: If you like rocks, you may enjoy the boulders along this two-mile trail east of Eagle Point in Horsethief Area. The lake and meadow views are scenic, as well. The trail was designed for beginning mountain bikers, but you are welcome to do some hiking.
  • Loder Point Nature Trail: This two-mile path circles through Venango Park, north of the dam. Nothing too challenging, but a good choice for those interested in plants. An interpretive brochure is provided.
  • Kanopolis Multi-Use Trails: Over 27 miles of trails await hikers, bikers, and horseback riders alike.  Pick the combination of trails that will fit your experience and the time you have available. Some of the trails are too far to hike in a day, and camping is not allowed. The first loop is the Rockin’ K Trails, a relatively easy route from the campgrounds in Horsethief Area to the rest of the trail system. Then comes the Horsethief Canyon Trails, with spectacular geology, but difficult terrain. The next loop is the Prairie Trails, which are fairly easy and decidedly scenic. The final loop is the Alum Creek Trails, a nice mix of prairie, trees, and canyons. Please note that Prairie Trails and Alum Creek Trails pass through the wildlife area and will be closed during hunting season.
Kanopolis State Park
© 2015 Homestead on the Range

Other Opportunities

Touring Kanopolis State Park is a favorite pastime with some. Be sure to ask about stagecoach rides and guided trail rides for a new perspective on this destination.

For a little self-guided touring, pick up a Kanopolis Lake Legacy Tour brochure at one of the park’s information centers. This 80-mile tour is mostly on sand roads (save this trip for dry weather), but the views and points of interest are worthwhile. You will learn about area history and see interesting landmarks, such as Mushroom Rock State Park and the historic hand-carved Faris Caves.


Helpful Resource

Kanopolis State Park
Information to help you plan your trip. Brochures are also available for download.


Complete Series

Kansas State ParksKansas State Parks


Pros and Cons of Feeding Pets Raw Diets

Pros and Cons of Feeding Pets Raw DietsWhen people began turning to raw diets to improve their health, perhaps it was only natural that they started to wonder if raw foods might benefit their pets, as well.

Today, raw diets for dogs and cats have a dedicated following. Success stories abound.

So are these diets all they are cracked up to be, or are they overhyped? Let’s examine both sides of the coin.



  • Doing what comes naturally. Proponents of raw diets for pets do have a point—the dry, canned, and frozen rations sold today are nothing like the foods that cats or dogs would eat in the wild. For one thing, a natural diet would be uncooked. For another thing, it would contain more animal protein and less plant protein than most commercial foods offer. Finally, it would have no preservatives. Raw diets seek to replicate the natural eating habits of wild canids and felines.
  • Trusted sources. Constant recalls of commercial pet foods can’t help but to shake buyers’ confidence. Many feel that they can’t afford to trust their animals’ health to these companies any longer.
  • Customized pet food. Every pet is an individual and has individual needs. Raw diets offer the flexibility to meet those needs.
  • Peak nutritional value. When just about any type of food is cooked or stored, it loses some of its nutritional value. Raw feeding captures the full nutritional potential of the diet. Any necessary storage is typically over short periods of time and will usually take place in the freezer, minimizing nutrient losses.
  • Cut out the grains. Grains in pet foods have been accused of causing everything from allergies to diabetes in cats and dogs. However, grains are ubiquitous in commercial rations. If you are trying to eliminate grains from your pet’s diet, you may have little choice but to switch to a raw, or at least homemade, diet.
  • Optimal health. Yes, there are many success stories out there. There is no question that raw diets have changed some pets’ lives for the better. Clean teeth, shiny coats, increased energy—the list of claimed benefits goes on and on.
  • Happy pets. Does your dog have an insatiable desire to chew? Some owners feel that the chewiness of a raw diet has provided their pets with an acceptable outlet for the natural chewing instinct, thereby improving their manners.



  • Nutritional balance. Unfortunately, while the Internet has provided many with a way to investigate raw diets, it has also proven to be a method of propagating nutritionally deficient recipes. Doing your homework is essential, but not easy. Many raw food advocates recommend the additional expense of vitamin supplements, just in case.
  • Sticker shock. Raw foods are typically not cheap. You may be able to save money if you raise your own meat animals or if you are on good terms with a butcher, but you will still have to pencil it out.
  • Time crunch. For a country family with a lot of other responsibilities, preparing cat and dog food can be a major chore. At least with a raw diet you won’t have to do any cooking, but you will still have to shop for ingredients, store them, and ration them out.
  • Logistical considerations. Don’t forget that you will have to store quite a bit of raw food for your pets. Make sure that you have the space. Also consider what will happen if you travel. Will your boarding kennel accommodate your pet’s special needs? If you take your dog or cat with you, will you be able to bring along raw food, as well? Will the necessary ingredients be readily available at your destination?
  • Disease risk. Raw meat can carry a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Even if the cat or dog does not become ill from these nasties, the pet can still pass them on to its unwitting owners. You will have to be careful to disinfect all surfaces and objects that have come into contact with raw meat juices during feeding time. Furthermore, what if your dog or cat doesn’t lick the bowl clean every single time? You can’t leave raw food sitting out for your pets, or it will spoil and potentially cause food poisoning. You will have to dispose of it.
  • Special needs. Not all pets do well on raw diets. For example, puppies require precise mineral balances for proper growth, which can be difficult to find and provide in raw foods. Also, pets with existing health problems, particularly liver and kidney disease, may have difficulty digesting large amounts of raw protein.
  • Sharp edges. The modern dog typically looks forward to dinner time as the highlight of the day, and may not be able to moderate his rapid food intake. If he swallows a large, sharp piece of bone, he can either choke or suffer a dangerous intestinal injury or blockage. Some people eliminate the bones from the diet for this very reason, but this also eliminates the main source of calcium in a raw diet.
  • Digestibility. Many raw food advocates include vegetables in their pets’ diets to add extra nutrients, make the meals more filling, and help bones move through the digestive tract. However, cats and dogs may have a hard time digesting large quantities of raw veggies, which can lead to bloat. Those who want to offer their pets vegetables may have to depart from the rules of raw feeding and do some cooking.



Successfully feeding a pet a raw diet takes dedication. You must be committed to extensive and thorough research, as well as to purchasing and storing ingredients. As much as we all love our pets, many of us simply will not have the time and money to do an adequate job of providing a nutritionally balanced raw diet. Those who fit into this category should probably do some searching and find a commercial pet food manufactured by a reliable company, preferably one that is dedicated to research and that sources quality ingredients.

On the other hand, those of you who direct market meats may find that making pet food is quite feasible. (Some agripreneurs even sell their own natural pet food.) In this case, you will want to research pet nutritional needs to ensure that you are feeding a balanced diet, and you will also have to determine if you will feed a raw diet or one that is at least lightly cooked based on your pets’ health and eating habits, and on whether you would prefer to spend more time cooking or cleaning up.

So is a raw diet right for your cat or dog? Only you can decide.

Breeds of Livestock

Breeds of LivestockThe varied livestock breeds of the world have fascinating histories and characteristics.  Many country living enthusiasts have spent enjoyable hours researching their favorite breeds.

One good source of information is the Breeds of Livestock site put together by Oklahoma State University.  This is a handy online encyclopedia-type reference packed with facts about both popular and rare livestock breeds:

While little is known about some of the breeds, the compilers have made every effort to provide photographs and information on the history and characteristics of the livestock of the world.

Another interesting feature of the Breeds of Livestock site is the world regions map, where you can view lists of the breeds native to each continent or region.

Handy for research, but fun just to read and explore.  If you love livestock and enjoy reading about breeds, this is the site for you!

Hillsdale State Park

Hillsdale State ParkAlthough Hillsdale State Park is home to one of the more recent reservoirs in Kansas, the land has seen its share of history. Both Kaw and Osage Indians regularly hunted in this area. The Santa Fe Trail passed by a few miles to the north. Later, the landscape was marred by the violence of the Bleeding Kansas struggle.

It was not until 1954 that a plan was created for flood control in the Osage River Basin, and not until 1976 that the United States Army Corps of Engineers started work on a dam on Bull Creek. This created a new reservoir, which was finished in 1982. The state government began the process of making arrangements for a lease in 1984 and obtained land from the USACE in 1989. Hillsdale State Park opened in 1994.

Today, all of the wildlife area and recreational facilities are managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism. However, KDWPT partners with USACE in managing the lake, which is also the major water supply for the area.



  1. Follow U.S. Highway 169 south out of Olathe.
  2. Exit onto 255th Street and head west for about 2 1/2 miles.
  3. Continue straight ahead onto Lake Road at the intersection and drive another 2 1/2 miles.
  4. Turn right after crossing the dam to enter the park.



Hillsdale State Park is located in the eastern part of the Osage Cuestas, a transition zone between forest and grassland. Vegetation is diverse in this park.

And diverse vegetation means diverse wildlife. Hillsdale State Park is an outstanding place for birdwatching. Songbirds are scattered throughout the park, while waterbirds frequent the marshes and shores of the lake. Keep your eyes open for bald eagles in the trees in winter. In spring, look for nesting great blue herons in the trees along Rock Creek. Late November brings tremendous flocks of snow geese to the lake. Also watch for mammals, such as deer in the woods and beavers and muskrats in the wildlife area.



Hunting opportunities are rich at Hillsdale State Park. Waterfowl abound, but you might also be able to catch deer, squirrel, rabbit, and quail. Trapping is allowed in the wildlife area.

For the first two days of hunting season, a 9-acre field just a quarter mile west of the intersection between Waverly Road and 255th Street is made available to hunters under the age of 17 and their mentors. Season-long youth hunting is provided north of the lake on North Big Bull Creek. A handicapped hunting area is available in the southwest portion of the park, below the dam.

Also below the dam is Hillsdale Range, where you can practice your shotgun, pistol, or rifle skills by yourself or as part of a class. For archery practice, try the archery range in the Sunflower Day-Use Area on the south side of the lake.

Hillsdale State Park
© 2015 Homestead on the Range


Careful planning in the construction of the reservoir has made Hillsdale Lake one of the top fishing destinations in Kansas. Crappie, walleye, and largemouth bass are the main attractions, some of these reach impressive sizes. However, bluegill, channel catfish, and flathead catfish are also rewarding at this lake.



  • Hidden Spring Nature Trail: This trail starts at the Army Corps of Engineers visitor center on the east side of the lake, then loops through the woods for 1 1/2 miles. Keep your eyes open for wildlife as you walk.
  • ADA Hike/Bike Trail: Five miles of trail connect the Jayhawk Area with the Russel Crites Area, both on the south side of the lake. Enjoy the lakeside views.
  • Saddle Ridge Trails: Whether you prefer hiking, biking, or horseback riding, this 49-mile trail system is open to you. The trails were designed to accommodate a wide range of experience levels. Trails blazed with blue tend to be wooded, while trails blazed with red tend to showcase native grassland. Please exercise caution in hunting season. The trailhead is located on the east side of the lake.


Other Opportunities

To learn a bit more about Hillsdale Lake before heading outdoors, consider stopping at the USACE visitor center near the dam. Displays inform visitors about the history, nature, and recreation opportunities available to them. Birdwatchers may also want to look behind the visitor center to see what’s happening at the bird feeders.

One of the popular attractions of Hillsdale State Park is the airfield set aside for remote-controlled model aircraft south of the dam.


Helpful Resource

Hillsdale State Park
Information to help you plan your trip. Brochures are also available for download.


Complete Series

Kansas State ParksKansas State Parks