Our Turn at this Earth: The Ogallala Road

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio.

 

I’m the kind of person who can’t resist a country road. I’ll be zipping down the interstate between somewhere big and somewhere else big, and a narrow track winding between pale buffalo grass pastures will catch my eye. Next thing I know, the interstate is fading into the distance in my rear-view mirror, as I follow my nose into the next county.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Beaver Creeks

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio.

My father pastured his sheep on what could loosely be termed the “shores” of Little Beaver Creek, a dry watercourse that flowed only after gully washers – his term for big rainstorms. Today it amazes me that I could have grown up in that place and never wondered how the creek got its name. Nor did I wonder what happened to the water or the trees that beavers could not live without.

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Our Turn at this Earth: Walls of Corn

 

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio.

Like any farmer, my father loved driving along a wall of green corn and computing the many bushels it would yield and the money these would put into his bank account. He irrigated his corn out of the Ogallala aquifer, and always believed that the government would shut him down before he ran out of water.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Carbon Cycle

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio.

Stories about disruptions in the carbon cycle abound in the news these days. But recently, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know what the carbon cycle was. A few Google searches later, and I will never again see my fall garden in quite the same way. It has always seemed a miracle to me that a tiny seed can sprout into a squash vine that takes over my backyard.

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Our Turn at this Earth: Animal Stories

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio.

 

My mother used to tell a story about a dog that our family had before I was born. She swore he could read her mind. “’Elmer, ‘ I said to him one time, “why don’t you get me that chicken?’ I didn’t even point. But danged if he didn’t go over and grab me the chicken I’d been thinking about.”

Mom also liked to recall the time she placed duck eggs into the nest of a mother hen.

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Our Turn at this Earth: Elephant, or Cash Cow?

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio.

 

 

A few years ago I attended a meeting in my hometown, Goodland, Kansas. It had been called by the Vision Team, appointees of then Governor Sam Brownback, who had taken a noteworthy interest in conserving the Ogallala Aquifer. We hundred or more attendees were divided into groups of around eight each and asked to address a series of questions.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Great Plains Are Not the Midwest

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio.

 

“He thought he knew what he was going to see, but now that his horse stood on the summit, he couldn’t believe. He couldn’t believe that flat could be so flat or that distance ran so far or that the sky lifted so dizzy-deep or that the world stood so empty. … He thought he never had seen the world before.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Soil Detective – Regenerative Ag on the High Plains

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio.

 

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking a lot about regenerative farming techniques. “But could they work where I’m from?” I kept wondering. In order to find out, I spoke with Michael Thompson, a sixth generation farmer from Norton County, Kansas, who grew up thinking, like I did, that wheat ground had to be fallowed every other year and kept bare to accumulate moisture for the next crop.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Farm Forest that Never Was

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio

 

When it came time to plant a new windbreak on my family’s farm back in the 1980s, my father wanted just junipers or elms, while I wanted both of those, plus lilacs, Russian olives and plums, not in rows, but all mixed together randomly, like in a real forest. We fought over those trees the way close family members will do,

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Our Turn at this Earth: Old Fools in the Wilderness

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio

 

Last month, my partner and I, having become mutually deluded, decided to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Al had done this many times as a younger man. Now 67, he likes to remind me that he is two whole years my junior. I had only backpacked a few times in that long life of mine,

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