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Our Second Visit to the Flint Hills

April 24, 2011
Bison on the preserve

Bison on the preserve (photo by John Wheadon)

Saturday

After presenting our projects (Part 1 and Part 2) to the public in Cottonwood Falls on Saturday morning, we drove out onto the prairie to see the annual burning of the grasses. Ranchers burn their pastures in late March or early April each year to clear the dead winter grasses. Because the grasses have stored energy in their deep root systems since late summer, the burning provokes rapid spring growth in time for the arrival of yearling cattle from Texas and Mexico. We found our first burnings north of Alma in Wabaunsee County. The hillsides were blackened, revealing the enormous scattering of flint stones that gave the Flint Hills their name and prevented the uplands from being plowed for cultivation.

The freshly burned landscape

The freshly burned landscape (photo by James Klauder)

Wendell meets a ranch worker who's overseeing a burn

Wendell meets a ranch worker who's overseeing a burn (photo by Max Bemberg)

Burning grasses

Burning grasses (photo by Yu-Cheng Hsieh)

In the early evening, we stopped for beer, chips, and salsa at a historic farm being restored by George Terbovich, an interior designer from Kansas City. In addition to his interior design practice, George owns George, a curated antiques store in Kansas City. A lover of the Flint Hills, he is in the process of remodeling historic hotel in Alma with David Dowell of El Dorado Architects.

George Terbovich and David Dowell outside of George's restored historic farmhouse

George Terbovich and David Dowell outside of George's restored historic limestone farmhouse (photo by James Klauder)

As it happened, the pasture behind George's farm was burning that evening

As it happened, the pasture behind George's farm was burning that evening (photo by Max Bemberg))

Wendell observes the burning grasses

Wendell observes the burning grasses (photo by James Klauder)

Getting in it

Getting in it (photo by Yu-Cheng Hsieh)

Sunday

On Sunday we split into groups to visit our various project sites to further documentation. Some of our sites are located near main roads and easy to reach. Others have chosen locations out on the west border of the preserve. Jared Marcantoni had to hike several miles to reach his site near the northwest corner of the preserve.

Gabe Lampe (left) and Andrew Buck crossing Fox Creek near the Spring Hill Ranch

Gabe Lampe (left) and Andrew Buck crossing Fox Creek near the Spring Hill Ranch (photo by James Klauder)

Boris Tchatalbachev's ride parked across from the Spring Hill Ranch

Boris Tchatalbachev's ride parked across from the Spring Hill Ranch (photo by James Klauder)

Jared Marcantoni drains water from his shoe on his way to the northwest corner of the Preserve

Jared Marcantoni drains water from his shoe on his way to the northwest corner of the Preserve (photo by John Wheadon)

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