August 2003 Newsletter
This is our first anniversary of life on the farm. One more year to go and then we will be ready to conclude our rural experience in Kansas. I think we have enjoyed it enough to look for a house with a few acres rather than going back to the middle of the city.
Looking back on last year and comparing it to this August, we are enjoying a much improved house thanks to Davidís efforts and improved landscaping with two large gardens that I planted this spring. We have gained two more rooms upstairs by putting in new windows and David putting in new electrical wiring. The garden provides us with fresh bouquets for almost every room. Zinnias, Cosmos, Dahlias do especially well. We also have an over-abundance of tomatoes, summer squash, and melons. I am proud to announce that I did my first canning and put away five jars of salsa made from fresh tomatoes. We also grow potatoes, green beens, and a variety of peppers. I especially enjoy my herb garden. Kansas heat produces very pungent herbs that make for great cooking. I have also started planting again for my fall garden: spinach, turnips, radishes, and so on. Pictures of the garden are attached.
Last August we got our puppy Max and found Muffin, the cat that had 6 kittens this spring. Both animals ventured too far from the house this summer and were run over during the busy wheat harvest traffic. They were both not used to traffic since the roads around us are usually deserted -- except for harvest time. We had to learn the hard lesson that outdoor animals often do not enjoy long lives. We really miss them. All the little kittens got sick after they lost their mother, but luckily five made it through without their mother under the expert care of Dr. David. They are great fun now, but we are still thinking about another puppy as well. As for the chickens- their numbers have been diminished with our intent. From all the eggs that we hatched this spring, 2/3 turned out to be roosters. Davidís parents came to show us how to butcher all these extra roosters. I now feel pretty comfortable with plucking and dressing them, but I still canít slit their throats.
As we are starting our second year, Cecile will start school on August 19th, 2003 which is only a few days off. Luckily she will only have a full day of school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays so I still get to have her home for part of the week. Christina canít wait to start second grade, but Cecile is very ambivalent. She says she is scared and wishes that she did not have to grow up. ďCouldnít I stay 5 years old a little bit longer and not start school?Ē she asks and part of me would like to stop time as well. However, I am also looking forward to a few days by myself when Iíll hopefully get some of the projects done that never got finished this first year. I also think that Cecile will be really happy with school when she figures out how to read.
We also have added a new family member. My nephew Lars from Germany arrived on August 10th to start a semester in high school in Kensington. He just turned 16 and will be a junior this year. His two big goals are to get a driverís license and to improve his English. So instead of one child, I will be sending three children to the yellow school bus in the morning.
We were lucky this summer to leave on the first day where the temperatures went over 100 degrees. We then spent 6 comfortable weeks away from the farm in Germany and on Cape Ann. Of course, August is still very hot here, but the days are shorter and it usually cools off at night. Unfortunately, it is very dry again. The pond has almost dried up again and the milkweeds are about the only thing still standing tall in otherwise flat and brown pastures. Luckily, wheat did well this year due to spring rains, but the fall crops are dying in the fields due to the heat and drought. Some fields have been irrigated, but now the lakes are so low that even irrigation systems have been shut down. This is when you see cacti thrive and other annoying weeds like puncture vines. These plants creeps along the roads and in lawns and grows incredible sharp stickers like tack pins everywhere. It thrives in the drought and punctures bicycle tires in no time.
We find relief from the heat in the local swimming pool where you can find the kids and me at least every other day. Christina and Cecile have made great progress in their swimming skills this year and are very confident about staying afloat in deep water now. I sometimes wonder how long Kensington will still have this pool since the grocery store in Kensington is closing this month, leaving only the bank and the post office in an otherwise already deserted Main Street. The population here is shrinking fast. Each week the newspaper reports about four times as many deaths in the county than births. More houses stay empty and it is very possible that our home here will never find other renters again after we leave. Very few people want to live 17 miles from the nearest grocery store.
My sister's house Rose garden Cecile cooling off Christina & cousin Holger
Vacation House View from house Annisquam lighthouse