Link to



Filed under: prairie musings, friends, print news — Peg Britton @ 5:31 pm


Ellsworthites will remember Debby Kempke, daughter of Genevieve and Foch.  Debby and  Rick Hird have developed a gorgeous garden spot south of Lawrence, as you can see from the above photo.  They have spent almost 20 years developing this pristine vista from rattlesnake infested raw land.  Last year they planted 800 grape vines to establish a vineyard. A large two-story tree house for their sons provides an aerial view of the valley below and a source for broken arms.  The following article is taken from the Lawrence Journal World.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  If you want to write to Debby, you can reach her at hirdhome_at_sunflower dot com.  You know how to remove the underlines that so it works.

July 10, 2008

Debby Hird is all smiles. And why not — life is good.

She wakes every morning to a dazzling vista that is certainly morphing and molding on any given day, quite possibly each day being more spectacular than the last.

Yes, the views that the Hirds are able to savor from their hilltop home south of Lawrence are phenomenal, and they definitely savor those views.

“Some people drive through the Flint Hills and say, ‘What is this about?’ But to me it’s more beautiful than the mountains. It’s spiritual,” says Debby Hird. “We went to the Symphony in the Flint Hills, and I just cried the entire time. It is so gorgeous. I mean, look at this sky — we have wide open spaces.”

The Hirds have an enormous covered patio that looks as if it is straight off of the back of a Tuscan winery. The posts that hold the rustic structure into the ground are additionally anchored by thick, winding stalks of bittersweet vine. The open lattice work above is long overgrown, and Mumbo the cat’s tail is swishing as he partakes in a morning siesta among the bittersweet.

Under the living roof sits sturdy wooden furnishings and chipping antiques. All that is missing from this Tuscan inspired theme is a bottle of wine — but that, too, is in the works.

Debby describes their space as “a bohemian Napa Valley thing happening.” From the large patio the view is that of a brilliant Kansas landscape painting. A stone wall lines the long pebbled drive as it rolls down the path and into the vast prairie below. On the crest of this hill, Pleasant Valley is ours to gaze upon, and it does indeed appear quite pleasant with forested swaths, prairie lands and agricultural acres. And to top it all off, a red barn and silo perfect this pristine vista.

But don’t think for a minute that this awe-inspiring setting wasn’t a labor of love mixed in with plenty of elbow grease. Nineteen years ago, when Debby and Rick acquired this land from Rick’s father, it was literally an empty hilltop.

“I wanted the kids to be able to run around,” Debby Hird recalls. “It was rough though the first couple of years — no trees and no grass. That was the most difficult part, choosing where to put stuff with so much space.”

Rick’s father originally used the acreage to land his para-planes, so it was unencumbered by trees or plantings. It was mostly a lot of overgrown weeds and leggy trees peppered in with some poison ivy and rattlesnakes.

“Oh yes,” says Debby Hird. “We kept clearing back and clearing back because we had a big rattlesnake problem. The first year we eradicated like 30. Once we got rid of the bush piles they got away. Then I built this stone wall and Rick said, ‘Well, now you are building a habitat for them.’ So, when I harvest rocks, Rick worries and rightfully so. Sure enough, I found two copperheads, I was very quick to jump onto the hay wagon.”

Although this empty apex with its stunning views might have been an overwhelming project for most people, Debby Hird thrives on rolling up her sleeves and taking on tasks she’s never tried before.

“I grew up in Ellsworth, and we just always worked hard. Plus my best friend can do anything so there is a competitive spirit there,” she says. “I built a thatched roof for the boys’ playhouse years ago and I look back and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ But my family is hard-working and that is just what I’ve been taught. It is really a miracle I’m still here. I remember one time I thought I’d yank out an old clothes line. I hooked it up to the tractor and tried to pull it out. The tractor started to go back on its hind wheels. It was amazing I got out of it.”

There is a lot of fun to be had at the Hirds’ household with two fire pits for riveting conversations that last late into the night, or riding off road and forging trails on a four-wheeler. There is a large two-story treehouse that Rick and their boys constructed.

Debby laughs and says, “We’ve had two broken arms out of that tree house, it has a tricky trap door!”

But the latest passion for these soon-to-be empty-nesters is the 800 grape vines that are growing south of the home.

“It is such hard work,” Debby muses. “I looked at Rick and thought, great idea! Here we are digging holes, wiring lines, sowing the plants, and on and on. Rick doesn’t garden, but he does love this, so we love to do it together. We just planted them last year. We had this area and we wanted to plant something there. Our friends planted a vineyard, and we thought that is too cool. We are now in season two; it is season three when you can start making wines.

“Some day we hope to have wine tastings with our grapes and start a whole new chapter. But if we make wine and it doesn’t sell then at least it will be wine we like to drink.”

Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


Filed under: political musings, print news, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 1:41 pm

From the pool report:

Sen. Obama gathered the pool outside after services at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. He told us that his campaign plans to mobilize its huge e-mail list of supporters to volunteer or send money once the impact of Gustav becomes apparent and authorities know better what kind of help is needed. He said his campaign is coordinating with local authorities.

“We can activate an e-mail list of a couple million people who want to give back,” he said. “I think we can get tons of volunteers to travel down there if it becomes necessary.”

Your pooler asked him if McCain’s visit now is appropriate.

His response: “A big storm like this raises bipartisan concerns and I think for John to want to find out what’s going on is fine.”

“The thing that I always am concerned about in the middle of a storm is whether we’re drawing resources away from folks on the ground because the Secret Service and various security requirements, sometimes it pulls police, fire and other departments away from concentrating on the job.”

“I’m assuming that where he went that wasn’t an issue. Were going to try to stay clear of the area until things have settled down and then we’ll probably try to figure out how we can be as helpful as possible.”


Filed under: prairie musings, family, recipes — Peg Britton @ 12:15 pm

Blogging is especially rewarding when I mention something that appeals to me then someone Googles for it and finds my blog.  Some time ago I blogged about “Catch a Piece of Maine” and the Ready brothers, John and Brenden, with whom I had corresponded.  They were featured on TV this morning and I just happened to see that too.  It was fun.  Now people are Googling to learn more and are hitting my blog.  The Ready brothers are wonderful examples of entrepreneurial enterprise…doing what you love most and approaching it in a way you can make a comfortable living at it.

Gustav is huge and  heading toward the LA-TX coasts.  The pictures of people attempting to leave New Orleans and elsewhere by waiting for public transportation to get out of harms way are very disturbing.  Heavy wind and rain with possible tornadoes are in their forecast.  All but three of Louisiana’s parishes are under emergency watch and evacuation warnings.  Here is what a friend in Houston says she is doing to prepare:

One story 1952 brick ranch style, kinda big: 3200 sq. feet but no garage.  Tropical landscaping, huge windows, lots of outdoor art, big pool and covered outdoor area.  Underground french drains, pain in the arse if winds over 70 mph because everything either has to be boarded up, tied down, laid down, drained down, or moved.  Usually have to figure out if we will have guests with pets, in which case.  If so, everybody has to have a place to eat and sleep.  It’s quite an undertaking.  But all goes smoothly if we don’t lose power, and even that only causes us to be uncomfortably warm.  For Rita, we had three extra adults and 5 extra pets.

Those with gardens are sharing zucchini.  That’s one vegetable that no one seems to have difficulty growing.  Here is a recipe from a friend that is a little different from some.  I like the orange juice flavor and the addition of a grated carrot. I usually also throw in a handful of raisins to round it out. Then the taste reminds me a lot of carrot cake.

Mary Mann’s Zucchini Bread.
Ingredients :
1 cup sugar or 3/4 cup fructose
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp  salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 dash nutmeg
1 cup grated zucchini
1 carrot grated
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup oil

Mix together sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl. Stir in zucchini, carrot, nuts, eggs, orange juice and oil. Mix well.
Bake at 350 degrees in greased 9- by 5-inch loaf pan until toothpick inserted in loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Tip out of pan and cool on rack.
This recipe yields 10 to 12 servings.

Tomorrow the family is gathering for a late breakfast of fresh blueberry French toast.  I’m in the process of throwing it together now so the cubed and toasted bread can mellow with the egg mixture in the refrigerator overnight.  I’ll bake it tomorrow after everyone arrives.

Something strange is going on with my email.  My junk mail that comes by the boat load is almost non-existent.  That’s okay except that some of my regular mail is usually sent to the spam folder as well and my inbox mail folder is skinnier than usual.  If you write and don’t hear from me, try again, or pick up the phone.

Thanks for tuning in.  This is going to be another banner month for hits…too many actually so that I’m stretching my luck with Metapros. Over 650,000 hits this month. They are very patient. The hits picked up when the Dem convention started and a lot of people worldwide took an interest in Obama and family.



Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 8:26 pm


Filed under: political musings, print news — Peg Britton @ 5:31 pm

The Anchorage Daily News published a candidate survey in October 2006 shortly before the election.  Here is one of Sarah Palin’s  responses that is in direct conflict to what she has said since being appointed as McCain’s running mate.

Two years ago Palin supported U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and his “Bridge to Nowhere” aka Gravina Island Bridge which was to be built principally with earmark funds. One of the questions raised is as follows:
“5. Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?
(Sarah Palins’ answer) Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now - while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.”

Since being chosen as running mate for McCain she has included in her acceptance speech and other public speeches that  if Alaskans wanted a bridge, they would build it themselves.  That is a sharp contrast from her position in 2006 and is an obvious attempt to distance herself from Sen. Stevens and earmarks that now she says she opposes.

To read her responses on other issues, click here for “Palin on Issues”.

Also in the Anchorage Daily News there is an article called “Troopergate”.  The first serious scandal surrounding Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration has roots in a family feud involving her sister, her sister’s ex-husband, and her sister’s ex-husband’s boss who was fired over the matter.  This all erupted into public view July 11th with the firing of the state’s top public safety official.  It’s clearly more than McCain has brushed aside with his comments and the matter won’t be resolved until the end of October when the results of a special counsel investigation are released to the Alaska Legislature.  If you want to read a full account of it, you can click here for the article.  The article was posted today and written by Lisa Demer. As she said, this case clouds the Governor’s bright day.


Filed under: prairie musings, family — Peg Britton @ 1:42 pm


Brit was sitting in his chair after dinner Thursday evening and suddenly called the family to gather around him to see what he saw. I didn’t get my flash turned off so there is a glare on the window, plus yucky dirty film, but you can see that we have our share of wildlife from time to time.

One evening Ringo barked alarmingly then started attacking one of our basement windows.  A possum had his nose against the window right by Ringo’s.  Apparently Ringo had been asleep with his nose up against the window only to awaken and be faced nose to nose with a stranger.  It was pretty funny since the possum made no attempt to move.

Then we have the usual troop of raccoons to contend with.


Filed under: Kanopolis Musings — Peg Britton @ 1:29 pm


This is for ex-pats who couldn’t be here today.  The food was great, as usual.


The basement was packed with friends hovering over plates of tamales, tostadas, tacos and beans.


Georgia has been associated with this event all her life.


Everyone has a specialty to make this event come together.


Time flies.  One of my grade school students then was in the fifth grade, but now is standing in a black and white shirt and white beard. That was 45 years ago.


The Orozco family provides the backbone of this operation.



Filed under: political musings — Peg Britton @ 3:30 pm

Friday, August 29, 2008
Convention Ratings Sky High at Mile High
Robert Arena · 8/29/2008 03:30:00 PM ET · Link

Nielsen has released their ratings for last night’s Obama speech - 38 million viewers. Stunning results, beating even the Olympic Opening Ceremonies that had weeks of hype surrounding it. From AP:

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was seen by more than 38 million people.
Nielsen Media Research said more people watched Obama speak than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final “American Idol” or the Academy Awards this year. Obama talked before a live audience of 80,000 people in Denver.
Overall, here’s the breakdown night-by-night (other days from MarketWatch):

Monday: 22.3 million
Tuesday: 25.9 million
Wednesday: 24 million
Thursday: 38 million
Those are really, really, great numbers.


Filed under: political musings — Peg Britton @ 10:45 am

Former Ellsworthite, Lori Rathbun Kerr, went downtown yesterday and snooped around the hotels, convention areas, 16th St. Mall, etc. to take in a little of the DNC fun and excitement.  The thing that struck her was the SIGNIFICANT police presence all around the downtown area.  She’s sharing her photos with us. The first one below was taken in  front of The Hard Rock Café.  Thanks, Lori.





Filed under: prairie musings, political musings — Peg Britton @ 10:19 am

John McCain doesn’t view the VP spot with the same importance as does Barack Obama.  Maybe that isn’t important to voters. What is McCain going to have Sarah Palin do?  What are other Republican women going to say about this appointment?  Kay Baily Hutchinson, Carly Fiorina, Condi Rice, Meg Whitman et al…were far more qualified and experienced so what do they think? Hutchinson’s response to the appointment was pretty bland.

Joe Biden could eviscerate Palin on the national stage. We’ll see how that plays out.

Palin served two terms on the Wasilla, Alaska, City Council from 1992 to 1996, was elected mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470 in 2000) in 1996, and ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in 2002. She was elected Governor of Alaska in 2006 by first defeating incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the Republican primary, then former Democratic Alaskan governor Tony Knowles in the general election. She gained attention for publicizing ethical violations by state Republican Party leaders.Palin has been governor of AK for a year and a half.

Her husband works for British Petroleum. She’s for opening up the north slope for drilling.

This is a bit like picking Dan Quale with McCain left to redefine his role.  This pick was way outside the box. People are going to take a second look at McCain and wonder if he truly is the craps lover/gambler/risk-taker that this pick indicates.  She has zero foreign policy experience.

It shows a lack of careful thought when you consider McCain’s age and she would be a heart-beat away from the presidency.  Palin is very, very staunch conservative…right down the line ultra hard-core conservative… life long member of the NRA, pro-lifer, anti-gay rights and someone who no one outside Alaska ever heard of.

I wonder how much importance will be put her on her being a mother of five (one with Down’s syndrome) while being Gov. of Alaska and how that will be her response to questions she can’t answer just as McCain reverts to his POW experience when faced with questions he can’t answer.  We’ll see how she stumps full-time for McCain and still devotes full time to a Down’s Syndrome baby, as they require, and her other children.It’s more than most women could manage.


Filed under: prairie musings, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 9:37 am

Magnificent.  I don’t know how else to describe Obama’s speech last night except to say it was the most important and moving convention speech I’ve ever heard.  Obama wrote his own speech and masterminded the flawless convention.  The rest is history.


Filed under: print news — Peg Britton @ 9:31 am

Anything is possible. Never give up. Keep trying.

Those were the thoughts that must have gone through the mind of the tennis-playing mathematics major from Clemson.  In one of the biggest upsets in sport’s history, Julie Coin who was ranked 188th beat the U.S. Open top-seeded player and French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic.

Never before in the Open era that began in 1960 had the No. 1 woman player lost this early in the tournament.

Even Coin couldn’t have figured on a win. When asked if she thought such a win was possible, she said “NO”.  And when asked when did she believe it might happen, “I guess when it was over,” she said.


Filed under: prairie musings, Deli — Peg Britton @ 9:19 am

Ally has Swiss steak served on egg noodles, with sides of corn and garlic bread for $6.99



Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 9:31 pm


When: Saturday, October 4, 2008

Location: Ellsworth Municipal Golf Course

Time: 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Cost: $15.00 per person or $25.00 per couple

Tickets are available for purchase at the Ellsworth Municipal Golf Course.  For information, contact Clarissa Cunninham at 785.472.4236 or Tina Davis at 785.531.1772

Only 80 tickets will be sold so buy yours today. (Must be 21 years of age to participate)

Featured Winery:  Smoky Hill Vineyard presenting their red and white collection

The event will also feature a variety of red wines, domestic and foreign, all for your tasting pleasure.  Merlot. Cabernet. Pinot Noir.

Opportunity drawings the day of event.


Filed under: friends, print news — Peg Britton @ 7:03 pm

August 28, 2008

FROM:  Kansas Sampler Foundation, 620.585.2374; 620.937.2101
CONTACT:  For pictures or information:

Voting begins!

INMAN – The Kansas Sampler Foundation announced the twenty-four finalists for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art on Thursday, August 28, 2008, at the Kansas Sampler Center near Inman.  Representatives of the finalists were in attendance.

In alphabetical order, the finalists are:

Thomas Hart Benton’s Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley

Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence

Blue Sky Sculpture, Newton

Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings, Belleville

Buffalo Bill Bronze Sculpture, Oakley

Martin Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection, Wichita

John Steuart Curry Murals, State Capitol, Topeka

Davis Memorial, Hiawatha

Dreamers Awake sculpture, Wichita Art Museum

Pete Felten Stone Sculptures, Hays

Garden of Eden/Lucas, Grassroots Art Mecca

Stan Herd Earthworks, Atchison and Lawrence

Justice statue, Kansas Judicial Center, Topeka

Kansas Art Collection, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manahttan

Keeper of the Plains, Wichita

Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton, Wellsville

M.T. Liggett’s Metal Sculptures, Mullinville

Gordon Parks, Fort Scott

Post Office Section Art, statewide

Red Barn Studio, Lindsborg

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. Benedict

Birger Sandzen, Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery, Lindsbog

Do-Ho Suh’s Some/One, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park

Tiffany Windows, First Presbyterian Church, Topeka

Wichita High School North exterior paintings

Foundation director Marci Penner said, “The diversity of these finalists is tremendous!  From the exterior of a school to the contemporary art of a military dog tag sculpture, the public is going to see the Kansas art with new eyes!”

Artists whose work is not on regular public display were not eligible.  The project is designed to educate the public about the state and to encourage travel.

Public vote will determine the top eight.  People are encouraged to vote online at, call 620.585.2374 for a ballot, or pick up a ballot at finalists that have an office.  Voting begins August 28 and will end October 15 at midnight.  The top eight will be announced October 31.

The 8 Wonders of Kansas series is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, a non-profit based near Inman.  The Foundation has long used the eight elements of rural culture (architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people) to help see Kansas with new eyes.  The series will continue until all eight elements have been featured.

On Kansas Day, January 29, Governor Sebelius declared the overall 8 Wonders of Kansas and in May the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture were announced.

For more information click here.



Filed under: political musings — Peg Britton @ 6:20 pm

My in-box the other day contained a letter from the “Slattery for Senate” campaign staff that contained a very unfortunate and objectionable (to me at least) comment about Pat Roberts.  It was one of those things that can happen in an e-mail that you are blocking out to determine space/design etc to send later but don’t intend to actually send.  Unfortunately,  this message was mailed in its raw state to those of us who requested it. It wasn’t Slattery’s fault yet he is ultimately responsible for what comes out of his office.  I canceled my subscription to the e-mail subscription just to let them know someone on the staff was activing frivolously and being too loose with comments.  It should not have happened.  I’ll still vote for Slattery, but Roberts deserved an apology.



Filed under: prairie musings, family, political musings, Barack Obama — Peg Britton @ 6:06 pm

Tyler is home!  Yay.  He stopped in Denver on the way from Las Vegas to spend the night with his little cousins, Nicholas, Demi and Benjamin.  He walked Nicholas to school.  Nicholas is five and really looks up to Tyler. Demi, who is 3, proclaimed her great love for Tyler.  What wonderful little children they are.

Today Brit had appointments with doctors here and in Salina and I was the designated driver. Everything is going well, Brit’s feeling well, he’s just short of energy so we’re working on that.  They stopped one of his medications.  Tyler  went with us to visit Dr. Slomka and now has a good understanding of his grandpa’s condition and is optimistic, as are all of us. Jerzy is very positive and it carries through to his patients.  He’s a great doctor.

There will be two good speeches tonight from Bill Clinton and Joe Biden.  I’m enjoying what I’ve heard so far.  Something different from programming. Tomorrow night should also be interesting with Obama on stage.
I like Barack’s positive stance about rural America, alternative energy and GI benefits, something lacking from the other side.  For those who say Obama doesn’t have enough experience to lead the country, I ask them to look at Bush, Cheney and Rove who have been running the country for eight years and look where their experience has led us.

Our family grows smaller. We’re gathering here for Mexican food tomorrow night, at Tyler’s request, and there will only be seven of us.  So far my only assignment is hominy casserole.  I can fix that in my sleep.

Thanks for tuning in…



Filed under: print news — Peg Britton @ 8:43 pm

BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

Read more…and see the video.

Oh, and btw….this news just in:  All of the Wal-Marts across Alabama sold out of ammunition as of yesterday.  A reliable source said that one of the purchasers commented that while Russia may have invaded Georgia, they sure as hell ain’t doin’ it to Alabama.


Filed under: political musings — Peg Britton @ 8:26 pm

This is just off the top of my head, but it appears there are a lot of people who in the past two days are taking an interest in the election for the first time.  My guesstimate is based on the number of people who have been looking up Barack Obama information on my website.  Hits to my website have been running about the same for weeks until yesterday and today when they tripled.

I was amazed when Joe Biden was named as Obama’s running mate and people asked who he was.  Biden has been active in politics at the national level for 35 years and people hadn’t heard of him.  They must be too young to remember the Anita Hill hearings. I wonder how well prepared…informed….voters are when they pull that handle.


Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, print news — Peg Britton @ 5:24 pm

Until Greensburg, imo, Sen. Pat Roberts has not appeared in Kansas very often.

Almost every time I walk out my front door I stumble over Jerry Moran. One would think he lived and worked here.  Not so with Roberts.  I haven’t seen him more than a half dozen times in the last 40 years.  Now that he’s in trouble with his election, he’s a more frequent visitor to the place he’s supposed to represent.

Last Saturday, August 23, the front-page above-the-fold headline for the Topeka Capital-Journal read, “Topeka Bank Closed”.  It highlighted how the Columbian Bank & Trust failed under the weight of $92 million in loans gone bad.

Then, in the same paper, seven pages later, there was an article about Pat Roberts’ “congressional update” to the Topeka Chamber on Friday where Sen. Roberts managed to demonstrate just how completely out-of-touch he is with Kansas:

“We’re not California, and we’re certainly not Texas or Florida,” he said. “Kansas banks”, he said, “are in good shape.”

That came from the mouth of a man sitting on the Senate Finance Committee.

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress