October Richness

Life flies by for all of us and it is easy to miss or forget what happens in a given month. When reviewing recent photographs on my phone, I was pleasantly reminded of all the richness that happened over the last four weeks or so. October in Kansas is that great fall transition period between summer and winter, hot and cold, green and brown, and fast and slow when there is SO MUCH to see. For those that feel that they endure the extremes of Kansas to revel in the moderation that comes with fall, October is your time.

I was reminded from these photos of our Dyck Arboretum of the Plains mission – cultivating transformative relationships between people and the land. Let’s review in the following photos the richness that can be found in that interface between the plants/wildlife of Kansas and the people that enjoy this place in October.

Monarch fallout.

October 1 brought a monarch “fallout” when their migration was interrupted by strong south winds. They momentarily took a break from their journey and sought shelter in our Osage orange hedge row.

Tagged monarchs.

Local monarch enthusiast, Karen Fulk, took advantage of the fallout to capture and tag monarchs with identification numbers that help other monarch observers in Mexico or elsewhere to better understand the speed and location of their migration.

Middle school students measuring tree height with the “rough estimate” method.

Santa Fe Middle School students from Newton were able to witness the end of the monarch fallout on October 2 and also enjoyed various activities on the Dyck Arboretum campus that included insect collecting, plant sampling and measuring tree height. The Dyck Arboretum’s Kansas Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS) Program curriculum has a lesson that teaches students how to measure tree height with five different methods including estimation, shadows, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

Measuring tree height.
Lorna Harder teaching a 5th Grader about plant identification.

On October 6, former and current Dyck Arboretum board members hosted tours of their homes and land near Hesston for Arboretum Prairie Partners. Lorna and Bob Harder gave a tour of their solar photovoltaic-powered home and surrounding prairie landscape and LeAnn and Stan Clark hosted everyone for dinner on their patio surrounded by extensive native plant landscaping.

Lorna Harder leading a tour of the native prairie she is helping steward.
Director, Scott Vogt, welcoming Arboretum Prairie Partners to a meal on LeAnn and Stan Clark’s patio.

Hesston Elementary students took a field trip to the Arboretum on October 10 to conduct a leaf scavenger hunt, learn about monarch migration, observe different seed dispersal mechanisms and study insect diversity in the prairie.

Hesston Elementary students search for insects in the Arboretum reconstructed prairie.
Finding seeds, grasshoppers, beetles, flies, spiders, true bugs, and more.
Insect sweeping.
Students found a female striped wolf spider carrying its newborn young on its abdomen.
Grasshoppers are plentiful in the prairie during October.
Initial insect skittishness turned to fondness during the field trip.
Beehives at Earhart.

Earhart Environmental Magnet Elementary in Wichita, a Kansas Earth Partnership for Schools participating school, engages their students in environmental education with hands-on activities such as beekeeping. Students tend the bees, grow and maintain native plant gardens as nectar sources, and regularly camp on their grounds to learn more about the natural world around them.

Earhart students check a birdfeeder while searching for insects in one of their courtyard native plant gardens.
Earhart students found a preying mantis egg casing or ootheca.

On October 17, Walton Elementary (another Kansas EPS School) students came to the Arboretum to collect seed and study how seeds disperse. They each had a target plant they were searching for and from which they were aiming to collect seed. They did the same last year, germinated the seed in their greenhouse over the winter, and had a successful native plant sale in the Walton community.

College students observing a garter snake.

Bethel College environmental science classes visited the Arboretum on October 24 to learn about the native plants and wildlife of Kansas, natural resource management, and ecological restoration. When students become interested in and well-versed about the natural world around them, they will turn into more informed and better-educated environmental decision-makers of the future.

Bethel students found a Pandorus sphinx moth caterpillar crossing an Arboretum sidewalk.
‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac from an Arboretum plant sale was in autumn splendor on October 26 at my house.

Part of establishing a rich sense of place for people in any one location involves not only natural history connection cultural enrichment through the arts. The Dyck Arboretum’s Prairie Window Concert Series (PWCS) features eight live music performances each season. Our 2019-20 season was kicked off with October bookend performances featuring Mark Erelli on September 29 and recently The Steel Wheels on October 26.

Mark Erelli – the first show of the 2019-20 PWCS.
The Steel Wheels – the second show of the 2019-20 PWCS.

On October 29, a stunning cold front rolled through Kansas and chilling temperatures caused delicately-held leaves on trees like ash, maple, Osage orange, and ginko to fall within hours. Social media posts were featuring leaves dropping quickly that day all over Kansas to make for a memorable fall day.

Ginko leaves and ‘iron butterfly’ ironweed.

The 2019 Eco-Meet Championships will be held at Dyck Arboretum in early November. In late October, organizers and high school teams from around the state were visiting the Arboretum to prepare for the big event. The competition will allow some of the brightest science students from around the state to showcase their knowledge on subjects including prairies, woodlands, entomology, and ornithology.

Students from Smoky Valley High visited the Arboretum on October 31 to prepare for Eco-Meet.

The cold nights and relatively warm days of late October have allowed the grass and tree leaves to show off their bright colors that have been hidden all growing season by the green pigments of chlorophyll. Seed heads are opening and dispersal mechanisms that catch the wind or lure animals are on full display. Good ground moisture and warm temperatures are still even allowing for a bit of late-season flowering from some species.

Sugar maple.
Little bluestem.
Seeds dispersing from a common milkweed pod.
The fall prairie is loaded with seeds this season which is good for seed-eating mammals and birds.
It has been a mast year for trees and the ground under this burr oak was covered with acorns.
Late season flowering by Leavenworth eryngo.
Aromatic aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’.

I’ll leave you with a video (sorry for the terrible camera work) of one of my favorite sights of every October – when the aromatic asters are in full bloom and late-season pollinators belly up to the nectar bar on a warm fall day. Enjoy.

Video of Pollinators nectaring on aromatic aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’

The Prairie Window Concert Series Is Good for You

I usually like to have data and science to back up what I believe and claim. But today, I’m going to go with a gut feeling and make a bold statement. The Prairie Window Concert Series (PWCS) is good for you. It will make improvements to your physical, mental, spiritual well-being…yeah, all of it.

If you are anything like me, I would expect you to approach this claim with skepticism. Therefore, I’ll include a couple of references in this post to loosely back up its premise and make both of us feel better. (See obligatory reference #1 after this paragraph). But with this claim, I profess it mostly because it feels right.

The Goodness of Music

I’ll start with how music is seemingly ever-present during some of the most revered time with my family and friends throughout the year. Vacation and holiday playlists always are special and highly anticipated. The Walnut Valley Festival (aka, “Winfield”) playlist is extensive and was put together with great care. When it starts playing late summer in anticipation of September, it brings about tingling excitement in our family like no other time of the year. Music is essential to these experiences and these experiences are good for me, so there you have it.

The next generation making music at Winfield (Photo by Jenni Koontz).

Whether I’m happy, sad, excited, somber, exercising or being still, I know of music to fit that particular situation. Americana, bluegrass, classical, country, rock, jazz, rap, honky tonk, Irish, new age, Zydeco, hip hop, and alternative are all proper contributors. Portable devices, powerful small speakers, noise-canceling headphones, feather-light earbuds, digital music collections, and limitless streaming services make it easier than ever to allow music to accompany us and accentuate any occasion. (Obligatory reference #2, How Music Affects the Brain) Usually, that music listening happens while multi-tasking on something else.

The Prairie Window Concert Series

Thanks to the Old Settler’s Inn and the Prairie Window Concert Series, I’ve been able to regularly enjoy the music of blues legend, Guy Davis, up close and personal.

When you specifically focus on live music, uninterrupted in an intimate, listening room setting with friends and family, the music experience can be even better. With the PWCS at Dyck Arboretum, you can engage your senses further with a stroll through a diverse and thriving landscape teeming with colorful flowers and pollinators.

Late summer is a great time to visit the Arboretum when flowers and pollinators are showiest.

At intermission, you can indulge in delicious Crust & Crumb fare. The culmination of these layers at a PWCS show has to be good for you.

Crust & Crumb loves you and is good for you (Photo by Sharon Entz).

28 Years and Counting

Miner and Valetta Seymour designed this experience to perfection in 1991 at the Old Settler’s Inn in Moundridge. (See PWCS History) The overall structure of the series, including Sunday afternoon shows to hear quality artists of various genres and enjoy good food during intermission, still thrives 28 years later. Talented artists bring their passions to the PWCS stage on eight occasions each season. They share their finely honed craft, passions, and dreams while trying to make a living doing something they love.

Today, I am excited to introduce the 2019-2020 PWCS lineup. It is loaded with immense talent that includes a number of new artists and a few familiar ones. Visit our website, learn more about the artists and enjoy their music. Join the growing group of season ticket holders and take advantage of our early bird discount, and consider becoming an underwriter. You will not only support this unique live musical arts experience in South Central Kansas, but you will have fun while engaging regularly with familiar faces in a music-loving community.

Dare I say, your happiness and well-being depend on it.

Art in the Garden

Great art picks up where nature ends.” ~Marc Chagall

As inhabitants of the Great Plains prairie, we are motivated to landscape with native plants for a variety of reasons. We are especially inspired by what pleases us visually.

The Dyck Arboretum of the Plains has been developing a strong connection with the public through the arts. For the last five years, our Prairie Window Concert Series has promoted enjoyment of music in a prairie garden setting, and for at least 15 years, we have been featuring visual art on our grounds and in our buildings. In the spring of 2013, we held a well-attended Prairie Inspired Art Symposium.

ArtSymposium

Native plants provide so many appealing visual traits in their flowers, vegetation, seed heads, and pollinators they attract. Visual art in the garden gives yet one more way of enhancing the visitor experience. The following works of visual artists are featured at Dyck Arboretum.

Norman Epp (Denver, CO) – Norman’s works are created from reclaimed materials, are friendly to the environment, and nurture a spiritual concept that “being human is to actively be “one with nature”.” The piece Paean A Priori is made of Kansas limestone and can be found just south of our visitor center.

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Paean A Priori (by Norman Epp)

Paul Friesen (Hesston, KS) – Long-time professor at both Hesston and Bethel College, Paul has produced for Dyck Arboretum native material sculptures made from Osage orange (Prairie Sentinel) in the Visitor Center and Kansas limestone (Bearer of the Ammonite) on the pond island, respectively.

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Prairie Sentinel (by Paul Friesen)

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Bearer of the Ammonite (by Paul Friesen)

Conrad Snider (Newton, KS) – Making use of large clay pieces for which he has constructed his own special kiln, Conrad has produced three installations for Dyck Arboretum. Two pieces honor the donors that helped fund our Visitor Center and Prairie Pavilion. A Sense of Place is a spatially-scaled mural representing the mile sections that consist of the Arboretum watershed between West Emma and Middle Emma Creeks and the unnamed Pavilion piece accentuates our symbolic twining vines of support.

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A Sense of Place (by Conrad Snider)

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Donor Recognition Mural, Prairie Pavilion (by Conrad Snider)

The 12-pieces of Prairie Fence, made of clay, Osage orange, and steel along our walking path symbolically represent the barriers that exist between urban and natural areas. Featuring quotes by both nationally renowned and local conservationists, these “fences” are made to appear weathered and deteriorating, because at Dyck Arboretum we are working to break down these barriers.

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Prairie Fences (by Conrad Snider)

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Prairie Fences (by Conrad Snider)

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Prairie Fences (by Conrad Snider)

Hanna Eastin (Newton, KS) – As artist-in-residence and Hesston College faculty member, Hanna worked with students to create and install ceramic and steel pieces that reside along our Prairie Window Project rain garden.

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Rain Garden Installation (by Hanna Eastin and students)

John Merigian (Newton, KS) – A 13-foot tall temporary installation (Contender) made of Corten steel.

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Contender (by John Merigian)

Let us not forget the art found in architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright, considered by many to be the greatest American architect of all time, was very artistic in his architecture. He believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture or sometimes “prairie style.” This style echoed the wide, flat, treeless expanses of the Plains where structures look as if they naturally grow from the site.While the Arboretum cannot claim to have Wright architecture, many of our structures certainly embody elements of his elegant and natural style.

Visitor Center and Prairie Pavilion – Use of native limestone and low, horizontal lines help these two facilities fit nicely into the prairie landscape (designed by Schaefer, Johnson, Cox, Frey Architecture).

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Visitor Center (by SJCF Architecture)

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Prairie Pavilion (by SJCF Architecture)

Prairie Shelter – A favorite shady spot tucked in next to our natural amphitheater with an overlook view of the pond (designed by John Miller).

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Prairie Shelter (by John Miller)

Cedar Gazebo and Leaf House – These two structures developed out of available natural resources including eastern red cedar posts (cut from a nearby prairie restoration project), cedar boughs, and community tree leaves. These structures are seen as semi-temporary on the landscape since they are dynamic and will weather more quickly over time (designed by Scott Vogt and Gerry Selzer).

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Cedar Gazebo (by Scott Vogt)

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Leaf House (by Scott Vogt and Gerry Selzer)

Our Visitor Center entrance and art gallery has rotating displays of wall hanging works from local artists. The current featured artist is Barbara Haynes. (Wichita, KS).

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Dyck Arboretum Visitor Center Entrance Gallery

Come to the Arboretum and experience how the Kansas prairie and our permanent as well as temporary art installations can be pleasing to you.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau