The creek, west of our Casa is home to many  transient guests. This is the latest interloper, Canis latrans.  I use plural because there were three of them.


He/she knew I was watching. Those eyes…so penetrating and mysterious! A little skinny but a handsome specimen. Almost seems as though he has a furrow in his brow.


The trio continued to sniff and look my way.

I may have to rethink my walks around our property. With these three lurking about, some precautions may be in order.


We often hear their eerie yips and howls at night…sounds like they are right outside our window. But, out here on the prairie, what sounds close can be miles away.

It does give my husband and I pause. We have grandkids who love to explore on foot or on our trusty golf cart. Now, it might be a little risky. One coyote is interesting…three is a pack. We know they’re capable of doing harm.


These wiley critters are a tenacious species, adapting as they must, be it here in Kansas or suburbia.

I love that we have wildlife all around us. It’s good to know not everything is domesticated. On this foggy morning they fade away into the late-winter landscape, continuing their search. 

The leader seems to be saying, “Come on, we’ve got rabbits to catch!”


Dividends For Old Age



My Mother used to say, “My children and grandchildren are dividends for old age!”

I always thought that was a silly thing to say, but as I get a little older and wiser I see her point. That’s not to say that if you don’t have children  your lives are void of dividends.  I have friends who don’t have children, by choice or happenstance, and I know they are wonderful aunts and uncles or mentors to children they know.



As I watched my kids, and now my grand kids develop and grow from babies to little people, and now teens, I see the traits that mirror their heritage. I feel blessed and concerned at the same time. I hope their temperament is like their great grandma’s, that they have the creativity that my husband and I possess, the kindness of my mother, the smile of this, or that aunt. I hope they love the land and nature. I want them to respect all who cross their paths, but also astute enough to know the value good judgment.

I remember my experiences raising children–the exhilaration, fatigue, and struggles. I feel for my kids going through all that, now. But, the dividends for me as a parent and grandparent far out way the hills and valley’s that they will encounter.

Children, for the most part, give us a sense of what’s right with the world. You look at a newborn’s soft, unlined face, devoid of life’s impressions and you see the hope for new beginnings.

The genetic pool from which they sprouted hold many talents, personalities and history. I hope they will pick up where we left off, completing the dreams we started.



The possibilities are endless, for a productive life. The choices they make are ultimately theirs, but our influence and legacy will live on.





Standing Alone

When I travel around in my adopted state of Kansas, I often come across a deserted building like this one.  My mind wanders…I start to think,  “What’s the story here?”


What went on here?

Who built this structure?

Was this a home… a school…what?

I love a good story, and I’m sure this little stone building has one.


It sits on a hill east of Rock Springs, Kansas, where rock and stones are plentiful. The Flint Hills of Kansas are dotted with outcroppings of native stone. The topsoil is but inches deep, sprouting some of the richest native grasses anywhere. This expanse of untilled land stretches to the horizon much like it did when pioneers crossed it.

Getting back to the building, I’m guessing it was probably a school.

I imagine there was eight grades with one teacher instructing them all. It probably served the surrounding ranch community. I went to a rural one-room school until I was in eighth grade.

The scene fills me with longing and a calm. Stone and mortar stands strong against decades and elements. It is from a simpler time where earth and man lived in harmony.

I envision children playing games around the schoolyard–prairie dresses blowing in the wind and young boys tossing horseshoes, or playing catch. Braids attached to rosy cheeks peek out of the doorway… beckoning me to come inside.

A hitching rail secures the ponies and wagon the children and their teacher used to reach this place.

A south breeze whip my hair around…voices of the past float on the wind with laughter and sorrow. It was not an easy life out here. The sun and puffy clouds weren’t always as comforting as this scene depicts.


Wildfires, tornadoes, drought and flash flood could plagued the plains with unforgiving fury. As bucolic as this picture seems, there is a loneliness to it.

I fill my lungs with the clean prairie perfume of this place. Sweet grass, earth, and sun bathe my face.

Night will fall, Coyotes will howl–the little stone building will stand to face the sunrise another day. Ghosts of the past will run and play with the Kanza south wind.

I hate to leave, but my car and life awaits, so I click a few more shots before I depart.


Helpin’ Grandpa

This past weekend, our oldest Grandson came out to the Ranchette and worked on a project with grandpa.

Daniel loves coming out to the country and all that goes with what eleven year-old boys do–explore, pretend, and get dirty.

Last Saturday my husband had a job that he knew Daniel would love, and he needed help. So, they hauled posts, dug holes, and finished a new entrance to our long lane.

It’s called a Coyote fence.


The posts are irregular–not very purdy, individually.  But, as you’ll see, the end product is quite nice.


He’s gettin’ so tall and handsome. Well, grandpa is too!


Beside being an attractive entrance, it hides the dadgumm garbage container!



Never underestimate benefits of letting your kiddos learn from the older generation. Getting out and making something with your hands is a wonderful esteem booster for a child.

I hope that fence stands a long time…long enough for Daniel to point and say, “I helped Grandpa build that!”


Farewell Sweet Sage

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our beloved pet, and companion, Sage.

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After thirteen years (that’s 91 in dog years) our sweet Sage left this heartbroken family, and her playground here on the Ranchette. The creek, hills, and the horses she loved to work, made her happy. It was her destiny to herd!

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Our children and grandchildren will miss her jubilant personality, her licks and always… that extended paw. She was a good babysitter too!


We’ve always had a dog, but Sage was one of our best!

“Sagie,” as we sometimes called her… was smart, obedient, intelligent, and  a darn good dog!

Sage was a “keeper!”

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Australian Shepherds have that working instinct bred into them. They will herd anything, including children and other pets.

We once had a litter of kittens… they would invariably wander away from their mother’s watchful eye. Sage would gently, but firmly nudge and prod the unruly felines back to their mama.



I will miss seeing Sage in my husband’s studio, keeping him company while he worked on his paintings.

And, I will miss her sneaking up the stairs for a snack…sometimes a hot dog or a bagel… she wasn’t picky. My husband would often find her buried booty in the sofa cushions, or under her pallet.


And, one of her favorite treats was the hoof clippings when the farrier came. He’d line them up, and she’d have her own buffet!

She wouldn’t turn down an ice cream cone from McDonald’s, either.

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Getting around had become difficult with the progression of arthritis, and her hearing wasn’t as sharp as it once was. We had to remind ourselves that Sage was getting older and at thirteen she’d lived a long life for her breed.

So, when her quality of life became an issue, we made the tough decision to let her go. As any pet owner knows, its gut wrenching when, for the last time, their eyes say, “I love you and would do anything for you!”

Our sweet and professional veterinarian, Dr. Karen, helped us navigate a peaceful and dignified, goodbye.


If there’s a dog heaven, I hope she’s herding her heart out, and has all the clippings she wants!

“RIP, Sagie!”



Today, the temperatures reached a high of 73 degrees here on the plains of Kansas.


I like to refer to this as our Chinook ,or January thaw.

Often, the temps will be warmer in January than in the early spring months of March and April.

So…I had to walk around the yard and record the thermometer readings this afternoon.


As you can see, the temperatures reflect where, around the yard or house, the gauges were placed.


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We have no snow on the ground so the warm winds had nothing to melt.

I mainly like saying, “Chinook.”

It’s a cool word!

A true Chinook happens more in Canada and the Northwestern states.

Whatever the reason, or name… I love it!

I walked twice this week and it was wonderful.


About this time of year, I feel the need for sun, and a good walk! The rays on my face boost my moral and spirit!

I can almost believe it’s April.

In fact, I opened the house up to get some fresh air circulating throughout.

Hows that, for the middle of January!

I know, in a day or two, it could all change!


Here’s a little history about the, Chinook…

Chinooks and foehn winds in the United States

Chinooks are generally called foehn winds by meteorologists and climatologists, and, regardless of name, can occur in most places on the leeward side of a nearby mountain range. They are called “Chinook winds” throughout most of western North America, particularly the Rocky Mountain region. Montana, in particular, has a significant amount of Chinook winds across much of the state during the winter months, but particularly coming off the Rocky Mountain Front in the northern and west-central areas of the state.

One such wind occurs in the Cook Inlet region in Alaska as air moves over the Chugach Mountains between Prince William Sound and Portage GlacierAnchorage residents often believe the warm winds which melt snow and leave their streets slushy and muddy are a midwinter gift from Hawaii, following a common mistake that the warm winds come from the same place as the similar winds near the coasts in southern British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.

Read more if you like, at this link…








The plains can be a lonely place unless you value the loneliness, as a chance to perceive.

The endless sea of native grasses, niches in the earth hallowed out by the wind…the coyote, and the buffalo eons ago.

A place where the sky is an ever-changing canvas of moving shapes and colors.

A land not tilled by man, but for digging of huff, horn and claw.


Man is an unwelcome disturbance here…attempting to tame, subdue… harness it’s power and beauty.

If we left, we would not be missed. Our imprint brushed away by the next storm or wildfire.


The prairie will burn and revive on its own.

We are but guest here.

Photographs by Phil Epp