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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Elsewhere in this issue a story based on reports from Kansas State University includes information about the growing popularity of a crop we commonly call milo.
After watching the crop gain in popularity in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, I thought milo was losing out to dryland corn.
The Kansas State information indicates that assumption is wrong. After trailing Texas in the production of milo, Kansas took the top spot in 2014 and now produces about 40 percent of all the milo grown in the United States.
I remember when hybrid milo was introduced about the same time area farmers were trying to cope with a drought. After watching their corn crops burn up in a dry summer, milo's water requirements were attractive and the number of acres planted soared. It was about 1960 when my Grandfather Blauvelt had me take his picture standing in his milo field. Though he was proud of that field which produced about 50 bushels to the acre improved varieties have now more than doubled that yield.
Today's story goes back to 1934 and a sale bill Grandfather had printed.
At the time, Grandfather was farming Kansas river bottom and hill land southwest of Superior. Those years were difficult ones for area residents, particularly the farmers coping with drought. And so in 1934 Grandfather decided to re-enter the gasoline business.
To raise the money needed for his last and longest lasting gasoline adventure, he planned to sell things he no longer needed. In that category was 100 bushels of corn. According to the sale bill, the corn would be sold in small lots to suit the small farmers.
I didn't understand the sale bill for I considered 100 bushels to be a small lot. Today a farmer would have difficulty selling just 100 bushels to an elevator and Grandfather proposed dividing his 100 bushels into smaller lots.
Dad explained, that prior to the introduction of hybrid seed corn most farmers saved next year's seed from their fall harvest. However in 1934, much of the dryland corn burnt up before making seed. Thus many farmers didn't have seed to plant the next year.
Grandfather was fortunate to have raised some corn. Dad recalled they had constructed a primative water collection system to catch the water that ran out of the hills and diverted that water onto the river bottom corn field. The system included a primative ditch and dike they had built along the bluff and a series of gates made from oil drums. When it rained and water flowed out of the hills, they opened the desired gate and diverted the water onto the thristy corn field. They didn't raise a lot of corn but with the water they raised some.
By the time I was old enough to help at the gasoline station, my father was selling Steckley seed, mostly hybrid seed corn. Only a few farmers were planting open pollinated milo. With a limited market, most of the milo they raised was used on their own farms as livestock feed.
Then hybrid milo was introduced and the market exploded. Steckley's R106 became a popular milo number and some years I remember scurrying around with my mother getting a 50-pound bag of unsold R106 from a dealer here and a dealer there to fill the demand of our customers while we had bags and bags of unsold corn numbers like 12 and 15.
For a youngster that didn't understand the seed business, I prefered selling milo. If a farmer sent his wife in for a bag or two of milo, I could load sacks of R106 in the trunk of her automobile and be confident it was a good choice.
Corn sales weren't nearly so easy. Not only did we have white and yellow corn, we had different numbers, different maturity dates and different kernel sizes and shapes. Often I was expected to know what was wanted. I had to look through the ticket books searching for what had been sold to that farm. And just because I determined what they had previously gotten, that didn't mean I knew what the farmer wanted to plant that day.
By the time Dad retired in the fall of 1971, the only hybrid corn he sold was for planting on irrigated acres. All the dryland had been converted to milo.
But when the seed companies introduced corn varieties adapted for dryland planting, the pendulum swung back. Corn became the best selling seed.
But that may be changing. With more research into hybrid seed development and new markets being developed, there is renewed interest in planting the new milo varieties. Though currently not true, some years the elevators are willing to pay more for milo than they are for corn.
The seed scientists may be developing varieties that withstand the spring chill, hot summer sun, limited moisture and weed competition but what about the itch?
The itchy dust associated with milo has cooled my interest in raising the crop. However, I'm told the air quality control systems on the equipment now being operated on our farms, even the itch has been moderated.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

You know you've been writing a personal column for a long time when something unexpected happens, and your wife says ­­ almost immediately ­­ "Well, at least you have something to write about in your column next week."
Such was the case last Thursday night, right about bedtime. I was at my desk, which is for right now in the dining room, shutting down my computer and laying out things for morning. Kathy had been moving things out of the room and vacuuming where they had been, in preparation to paint the room. When I heard glass breaking, I looked up to find she had backed into the big dining room window with just enough force to cause it to shatter. I think had the four-foot by four-foot pane of glass been intact, in wouldn't have broken, but there was a small crack near the bottom that I'm sure was there when my grandparents lived in the house. At any rate, down came the glass. A few big pieces went outside, but the majority of it fell onto the dining room carpet.
While she was apologizing for breaking what was probably a very old piece of glass in my grandparents' house, I was looking at the weather forecast to see what kind of patch job would be necessary to get us through the night. It looked good. No rain in the forecast until the following evening at the earliest. With that information, we duct-taped a plastic tarp over the opening from the inside and went to bed, something you would probably be hesitant to do if you lived in a large city.
The next day, she removed the sash, cleaned out all the remaining glass and took it to the lumber yard to have new glass installed. They said if we were worried about taking out the sash, they would cut the glass and loan us a suction cup with which to install it, but removing the sash in the old 1887 house was a breeze, so we decided to not handle the glass by itself. They had the new glass cut and in the sash by late afternoon and we had it installed before supper. And it did rain later that evening.
Kathy believes the window didn't date all the way back to 1887 because that part of the dining room was probably added along with the wraparound porch, dormers and two small nooks in the 1930s. On top of the big sash is another pane of ornate leaded glass that adds another 15 inches or so to overall height of the window. While the lower sash was out, we checked out the leaded glass and determined it was secure. We didn't work too hard to get the glass out of the carpet. It's quite old and will be removed, but I see no point in doing that until the room is painted.
The sheer size of the rooms in this house is sometimes overwhelming in terms of simple remodeling projects. The house we moved from had a total of 1,100 square feet. The dining room in this house is nearly 250 square feet alone, and has a 10-foot ceiling.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Fall trailer camping days are being enjoyed. Since rains have delayed fall harvest and wheat planting, joining friends at a nearby lake was welcomed. It was a better alternative to watching my husband walk the floor, anxious for the harvest duties to begin.
The temperatures are ideal, only light winds, and the scenery is wonderful. The leaves on the trees are beginning to turn colors and some are even falling. Mornings bring walks around the lakeside, seeing the sparkle from the sun bouncing off the water.
Potluck picnic meals are delicious as the men folk put their BBQ techniques into practice. Afternoons bring choices of going fishing in a friends boat, fishing off the lake shore or just sitting in a comfortable lawn chair visiting.
Evenings have been passed gathered around a cozy bon fire roasting marshmallows, but one of the nights everyone made their way into their trailers to watch the all-important presidential debate. The next morning a review of the debate was the group's topic. Thankfully, all share the same view point on that matter, otherwise the discussion would be avoided.
The colorful sunsets and sunrises are like art work in the skies each day. Often cameras are pulled out to capture these sights.
All too soon, the camping days will come to an end for the rest of the year and the trailers will be stored away. Enjoying each day that we can be by the lake is appreciated.