Thursday, May 24, 2012

Visiting Kansas

After arriving from Germany and England, my family settled in Kansas.  Several served and some died in the Civil War.  Mostly they were farmers, but there were also teachers and merchants.  Enough said, my heritage is in Kansas, I was even born there.
I planned on spending several weeks visiting with family and friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in over 20 years.  It had been almost 4 years since I had been back this way.  Much of my family lives close to the border of Oklahoma, and since my last paying job was in Wichita, I had friends to go see, and then it was up to the Flint Hills to visit an Uncle and his family.
During my stay in Arkansas City and Wichita, I didn't do much sightseeing since I spent much of my time growing up in this area, but I had never visited the Flint Hills before and this time I only had a few days to check it out.  My uncle lives in the little town of Alma, KS, population 900.  Alma is the City of Native Stone and following are some pictures showing why.
A church on the hilltop made of native limestone blocks.  Even on the abandoned buildings the only thing you see deteriorating is the doors and windows.

Barns, fences and other outbuildings utilized the native limestone.

Some of the houses were quite impressive.

You see these limestone rock fences everywhere.  In 1867 they abolished the open range and the ranchers were paid 40 cents per 16 ft to build and maintain a fence.  Most ranchers used the rocks which were so abundant. 

While in Arkansas City, staying with my aunt out on her farm, I got to go horseback riding.  This is Jody, the gelding I rode.  He is a national champion several times over.  We rode out through the extensive wheat fields of the farm.  It was a lot of fun, but I was sore for a few days.  I'm not used to horseback riding.

On the way to Alma I stopped at a roadside stop and this herd of cattle followed me up and down the fence as I walked Fancy.  Maybe they were interested in what that little animal was, I don't know.  The Flint Hills are too rocky for farming, but it has great grasses for grazing cattle.  In fact, the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve is located in the Flint Hills.  They truck in cattle from all over the country, including Texas, so they can graze on the grass and get fat before they are taken to the slaughterhouse.  They say the cattle can put on as much as 1.83 pounds per day eating the grass here in the Flint Hills.  I want some of that steak!

More pictures from the town of Alma showing the beautiful buildings built from the native limestone.  Most of these buildings were built in the mid 1880s.

This house had such a regal look.  

And I liked this one for the ivy and the unique shape.

Alma also has a cheese factory where I, of course, bought some fresh cheese.   Yummmmmm

Down I-70 just a few miles is Grandma Hoerner's.  Owned and operated by a grandson, I believe, they have been in operation for 26 years.  Grandma was never involved, they just use her recipes.  One of the very first contracts 26 years ago was with Trader Joe's, to provide a Big and Chunky Applesauce.  Now they also produce a line of reduced jams for Trader Joe's as well.

If you look close you can see the apple slices in this applesauce.  This is the flagship product for the company.  Grandma Hoerner made her applesauce from the best apples and sliced them for her applesauce.  Of course I had to buy some items here too.  My favorite was her Bourbon Pecan Pie Filling.    They say it goes great over ice cream.

Yes, we are in Kansas, and here Toto has his own dog house.  Actually, I felt a little like Dorothy because  the wind blew and blew most of the time I was there.  But it is now time to head out to Colorado for a short visit over the Memorial Day weekend with my kids and grandson.

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