Tag: Travel

2018 Reading Challenge: Kansas
The Lifestyle

2018 Reading Challenge: Kansas

2018 Reading Challenge: KansasA new year—a new reading challenge!

This year, Kansas is the theme. To complete the challenge, you must read 12 Kansas-related books by the end of 2018:

  1. A book about Kansas prior to 1854.
  2. A book about Kansas flora.
  3. A fictional book written by a Kansas author.
  4. A book about territorial Kansas.
  5. A book about Kansas travel.
  6. A book about Kansas fauna.
  7. A book about Kansas in the late 1800s.
  8. A book of poetry written by a Kansas author.
  9. A book about a famous Kansan.
  10. A book about Kansas in the 1900s.
  11. A book of Kansas photography.
  12. A book about a current issue in Kansas.

Here are the rules:

  • Books in electronic formats count.
  • Both fiction and nonfiction books count.
  • You can read the books in any order.
  • Books cannot be counted twice, even if they fit into more than one category.

If you can complete a book a month, you will be able to complete the challenge easily.

Stuck? Sign up for On the Range, our free weekly country living update (learn more). In the last issue of every month, we’ll suggest a book for one of the categories as a hint.

Let us know what you’re reading this year! We’d love to hear from you!


Helpful Resource

The Homestead Bookshelf
Looking for a good book? Start here.

Kansas Ag Connection
The Farm

Kansas Ag Connection

Kansas Ag ConnectionLooking for a good way to keep up with daily agriculture-related headlines? Give Kansas Ag Connection a try!

Subscribers to On the Range, our weekly country living update (read more), may already be familiar with this site as a source for some of our headlines. There’s a reason for that. Kansas Ag Connection is a clutter-free aggregator of news stories and press releases of interest to farmers small and large across the state.

Kansas Ag Connection offers a way to keep up with the latest stories on:

  • USDA news.
  • Updates from the governor and state legislature.
  • Health issues currently affecting Kansans.
  • KU and K-State research on health, nature, and agricultural topics.
  • Press releases from Kansas-based companies.
  • State and regional crop and weather reports.
  • Conferences and workshops coming to Kansas.
  • Ron Wilson’s Kansas Profile column, featuring Kansas entrepreneurs with rural roots.

Links are also provided to more headlines from neighboring states, across the nation, and around the world.

Highly recommended!

El Cuartelejo: Rediscovery
The Sunflower State

El Cuartelejo: Rediscovery

El Cuartelejo: RediscoveryArchaeologists have determined that the ultimate cause of El Cuartelejo’s demise was fire, as testified by the remains of charred posts and corn seeds. The Comanches who later took up residence near the pueblo had a legend that the ruins were struck by lightning.

In any case, for the next hundred years, the walls slowly crumbled and vanished, leaving the pueblo to be buried in a grave of blowing soil. The location was eventually forgotten.


Enter the Steele Family

The Steele family arrived in 1888. They did not discover the fascinating history of their new homestead right away, but sometime in the 1890s the father of the family, Herbert L. Steele, ran across the irrigation ditches. These he quickly put to use watering his garden.

What Steele found next is still debated to this day. But when he discovered other artifacts up on the old hill, whether they were parched corn kernels unearthed by ground squirrels or a large collection of arrowheads and pieces of pottery, he quickly realized that he owned something unusual.

Accordingly, two archaeologists from the University of Kansas, S.W. Williston and H.T. Martin, paid the Steele homestead a visit in 1898. While probing the structure, they noted walls 18 to 24 inches thick, with no apparent openings for doors or windows. How would the inhabitants come and go from the building? There was one answer—through the roof!

The idea that this building might have been a pueblo was further confirmed by the discovery of charred post ends that might once have belonged to a ladder. The archaeologists also found broken pottery similar in style to that of the Southwest during the late 1600s and early 1700s, and they found pieces of obsidian, a volcanic stone common in the native lands of the Taos and the Picuris. Historians quickly realized the implications of the discovery—this might be El Cuartelejo!

While the Steele family made full use of their land, including the parts influenced by the Pueblo refugees, they were careful not to abuse it. They dreamed of someday creating a public park out of their homestead. Accordingly, in the 1920s they donated the pueblo site to the Daughters of the American Revolution, who in 1925 erected a granite marker on the ruins (literally; the marker was later moved). The D.A.R. still own the rights to the ruins. The rest of the Steele homestead went to the Kansas Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission in 1928. A dam for a recreational lake was built the next year.


El Cuartelejo: RediscoverySpeculation

Not all historians were willing to accept the theory that the ruins discovered by the Steele family were part of El Cuartelejo. Based on daily marching distances listed in the expedition diary of Juan de Ulibarrí, some hypothesized that El Cuartelejo was actually in eastern Colorado.

In 1939 and 1940, Smithsonian Institution archaeologist Waldo Wedel paid a visit to the site. He turned up additional artifacts that further confirmed the identity of the ruins. For example, he discovered pieces of pipes, decorated in a style similar to that of Southwestern work of the late 1600s and early 1700s.

However, Wedel found far more Apache artifacts than Pueblo artifacts on the site, including some otherwise distinctly Apache ware that was tempered with mica, similar to the custom of the Southwestern tribes. Therefore, he concluded, the pueblo did not belong to Pueblos, but to Apaches who had contact with Southwestern Indians and who mimicked their customs. If there were Pueblos at the site, either they must have adopted Apache tools or they had remained for a very short time.

However, no evidence for a pueblo in eastern Colorado could be found. Nor was there much evidence of French and Spanish activity in that area. While Spanish records did not pinpoint El Cuartelejo precisely at the location of the Scott County ruins, the Steele discovery fit far better with the maps and descriptions in existence than any other site that had been found or proposed. Furthermore, the Scott County location for El Cuartelejo corresponded with various well-traveled Native American trails that the Spaniards likely would have used.

Unfortunately, El Cuartelejo was still not preserved as the Steele family might have wished. Local artifact collectors did some amateur work on the ruins, but turned up little of value. Furthermore, these would-be archaeologists did considerable damage to the pueblo, digging through the floor and destroying more subtle features. The landmark also continued to deteriorate due to weather for several decades.


Preservation Efforts

El Cuartelejo was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1964, opening new doors for restoration possibilities.

Further excavation was carried out under the supervision of Tom Witty of the Kansas State Historical Society beginning in 1969. The entire floor was disinterred, revealing hearthstones and posts, not to mention more potsherds. Witty was more thorough than the archaeologists before him and revealed the complete outline of the pueblo, only partially found up to that time.

While examining artifacts, archaeologists also started work on an interpretive exhibit, putting El Cuartelejo into historical context. The walls were rebuilt and stabilized up to a height of one or two feet to clearly show the floor plan of the pueblo, consisting of seven rooms. Signs were put up to explain the site for park visitors.

But the previous restoration efforts have failed the test of time. The National Park Service listed El Cuartelejo as an “at risk” site in 2004. The walls continue to crumble in the unforgiving Kansas weather.

All agree that the ruins must be preserved. What the future will bring to El Cuartelejo is yet to be determined, however, as the Kansas State Historical Society, the Scott County Historical Society, and the present-day Picuris tribe continue to iron out a solution.


Helpful Resources

“Ambushed at Dawn: An Archaeological Analysis of the Catastrophic Defeat of the 1720 Villasur Expedition”
Chapter 4 of this thesis makes a solid case for the Scott County location of El Cuartelejo.

“Remains of the Indian pueblo ‘El Cuartelejo’ in Scott County, Kansas, USA”
How El Cuartelejo looks today.

My Kansas
The Sunflower State

My Kansas

My KansasBack in 2011, the Kansas Department of Commerce, Travel and Tourism Division, published a spectacular 160-page collection of best-of-Kansas scenes by the best Kansas photographers. This book, My Kansas: A Photographic Journey Across the Sunflower State, may now be easier to borrow than to buy. But if you can find a copy, by all means enjoy it.

This beautiful book includes photos in the following categories:

  • Small-town treasures.
  • Wildlife wonders.
  • Roads to discovery.
  • Classic flavors.
  • Elbow room.
  • Kansas legacies.
  • Cowboy country.

Scenes of architecture, birds, harvests, sunsets, and more are sure to delight and inspire. The photos are well captioned, and some are embellished with fitting quotes.

If you love Kansas scenery, you will love My Kansas. It can make a delightful gift for a fellow Kansan. Or put a copy on your coffee table, conveniently within reach of out-of-state guests.

Get Ready for December 2016
The Lifestyle

Get Ready for December 2016

Get Ready for December 2016Christmas will be here before you know it! Prepare tasty treats and heartfelt gifts from your own homegrown offerings, and snuggle up on the couch for a little storytelling.

  1. Retell the story of Sod Corn Jones.
  2. Read Scripture passages about the meaning of Christmas.
  3. Make a sweet potato beetle.
  4. Encourage your child to start an EcoJournal.
  5. Give a weather diary this Christmas.
  6. Create homemade gifts from the heart.
  7. Cook up some stovetop apples.
  8. Put a sweet potato casserole on the table.
  9. Visit the Christmas City of the High Plains.
  10. Check out our favorite posts from 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Registers of Historic Places
The Sunflower State

Registers of Historic Places

Registers of Historic PlacesLooking for a particular landmark, or just curious to know what historic places are in your part of Kansas?  Check out the registers kept by the Kansas Historical Society.

These databases can help you view historic sites listed in several places:

  • National Register of Historic Places.
  • Register of Kansas Historic Places.
  • Kansas Historic Resources Inventory.

Along the way, read about historical background, architectural notes, and more.  This page also provides links to more information on nominating a property to either the national or state register.

Worth a visit if you’re interested in Kansas history or are planning a road trip.

6 Great Birdwatching Resources...and a Bonus!
The Sunflower State

6 Great Birdwatching Resources…and a Bonus!

6 Great Birdwatching Resources...and a Bonus!Don’t let that summer heat turn you off of birdwatching. Fall migration season is just around the corner! Are you ready?

Stock your birdwatching bookshelf with good identification tools before you need them. Here are a few that we’ve enjoyed:

  1. Peterson Field Guides to Birds: Every birdwatcher needs a good field guide, and these have stood the test of time. The accurate color plates and concise species descriptions point out exactly what you need to know. The eastern/central guide and the western guide have been combined into a larger book covering all of North America, but we recommend the smaller regional guides for portability and ease of use. Includes a life list. Read our full review.
  2. Online Bird Guide: When you’ve used your Peterson field guide to whittle down your choices, check out this site from Cornell to compare color photos and audio recordings. Also fun just to browse.
  3. Birdwatching Glossary: What is a casual species? A speculum? A passerine? Find the answers fast in our glossary.
  4. All-Weather Birder’s Journal: We can’t say enough about this handy little journal! It’s compact and sturdy, but with plenty of room for notes and sketches. It’s great for recording those memorable finds and as an identification aid. Read our full review.
  5. How to Identify Birds: Find out how to use your journal and field guide to advantage. Our step-by-step explanation of zeroing in on critical field marks can help you become a birdwatching expert.
  6. The Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible: This cheerful little encyclopedia makes attracting passing birds fun and simple. Find out how to tailor your offerings to the tastes of your favorite species, and how to landscape the perfect birdwatching paradise. Highly recommended! Read our full review.
  7. Bonus: Kansas Outdoor Treasures: Those of you who enjoy birding in the Sunflower State will probably find this book to be a real boon. Explore the varied parks, byways, and other wonders of Kansas. This guide will tell you just what to expect as you travel. Read our full review.
Top 10 Kansas Towns
The Sunflower State

Top 10 Kansas Towns

Top 10 Kansas Towns

Historic courthouse in Cottonwood Falls

Many Kansas towns have charm. However, a few stand out as delightful places to visit and explore.

Allow us to share 10 towns that we feel are must-sees.


10. McPherson

A larger town with a busy but inviting feel, named for Union General James McPherson of the Civil War. Enjoy the attractive architecture, particularly the stunning, castle-like county courthouse. Keep your eyes open for murals.


9. Lyons

For a quieter neighborhood, try this one. Impressive architecture, such as the courthouse and the middle school, is present here. The highlight, however, is the Davis Walking Trail on the east side of town. The trailhead is across the highway from the Celebration Centre.


8. Yoder

Amish country has a unique charm. When you’ve enjoyed the rural scenery a bit, stop at Carriage Crossing for a cinnamon roll or piece of pie. Or shop for food and gifts at Yoder Meats and Kansas Station near Kansas Highway 96.


7. Madison

Now for another truly small town! The historic Santa Fe Railroad depot on 3rd and Boone is an attractive building, well worth visiting and photographing. The most memorable part of Madison, though? Just spend a little bit of time driving through town, preferably from south to north. The hills are rather impressive.


6. Cottonwood Falls

If you like limestone, this is the town for you.  Start at the historic and beautiful bridge over the Cottonwood River. Then follow Broadway right up to the spectacular Chase County Courthouse. This 1873 structure is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture.


5. Atchison

Top 10 Kansas Towns

International Forest of Friendship in Atchison

Atchison is an incredibly interesting town—we’re just scratching the surface in our recommendations. If you enjoy history, start your trip at the visitor center and county historical museum on 200 S. 10th. If you like architecture, you could probably spend a whole day perusing the streets. If you want to get out of the car and walk around, head southwest out of town to enjoy the scenery of the International Forest of Friendship. And, whatever your plans, drive over the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge on U.S. 59. The 1938 bridge is unfortunately no longer with us, as it was too narrow for modern traffic demands. Still, the new bridge provides a spectacular view of the Missouri River well worth seeing.


4. Concordia

This town has quite a bit to offer! Brownstone Hall and the Brown Grand Theatre are both worth seeing, as is the elaborate Nazareth Motherhouse. Outside of town is Camp Concordia, where German prisoners of war were kept during World War II. Joler Park at Peck and Crestview offers a chance to get out and walk on a shredded rubber path. On the quirky side, be sure to stop at the courthouse and contemplate the sight of a granite ball weighing just under a ton rotating slowly in a fountain.


3. Peabody

Step back in time with the bright, well-kept downtown of Peabody. The historic buildings enhance the small-town charm. Looking for a specific recommendation? Just drive through town on Walnut Street and enjoy the ride.


2. Scott City

Scott City has an open, spacious feel. Check out the stately county courthouse, then drive around to admire the town. Don’t miss the sculpture titled Cattleman’s Harvest outside Security State Bank.


1. Council Grove

Top 10 Kansas Towns

Madonna of the Trail in Council Grove

History, architecture, food, and scenic walkways—this town has it all! There is too much to pack into this brief paragraph, so keep your eyes open as you drive. Many of the historic landmarks of this Santa Fe Trail town are well marked. Must-sees include the beautiful downtown, the Kaw Mission, the Madonna of the Trail, and the gorgeous walkway along the Neosho River. When you’re done exploring, stop at the Trail Days Cafe and Museum for a fascinating combination of good food and over 150 years of local history. Little wonder that Council Grove is listed as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas History.


Helpful Resources

Need help finding the murals in McPherson? Find addresses and summaries here.

Madison Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Depot
A substantial amount of information from the National Register of Historic Places registration form.

Welcome to Yoder, Kansas
Good place to start planning your trip.

Council Grove & Morris County
This brochure will guide you to 25 historic sites in and around Council Grove.

Kaw Mission
Find out what you’ll see when you visit this stop in Council Grove.

Trail Days Cafe and Museum
Learn more about the amazing and varied history of this landmark in Council Grove.