4th of July: The Prairie and the Party

After filling a few Blind Tiger growlers for the Independence Day party (Pale Ale, ESB and Java Porter), we parted ways with Tim for a bit.  D and I headed south toward Emporium to explore the Flint Hills and tallgrass prairie (bird list is at the end of this post.) A 10,894-acre property with Kansas limestone buildings from the early 1800’s is now operated by the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy as Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.  The barn houses a display area, and the house has a nice gift shop.  You can also visit the 3-seater outhouse and the summer kitchen.   

But most fun was walking the trail through the tallgrass prairie (okay, most fun might have been the bus tour out to the prairie – there are 20 miles of roads and trails to explore – but I neede the exercise.) The loop trail took us across the prairie, through the woods to an old schoolhouse, then back to the house by way of one of the hills.  It was great to see the rolling nature of these Flint Hills – contrary to the popular belief that
Kansas is flat!A sign at the entrance to the trail warned of several things – most of which I am not afraid of – but one of those things was chiggers, and I knew nothing of them.  D said if we stayed out of the high grass, we had no worries.  But on the tallgrass prairie, that’s not easy to do. (If I forget to mention it later, I DID get chiggers…man, do they itch!) 

After our time at the prairie, we high-tailed it back to Tecumseh for the party.  It was as comfortable as walking into our own family gatherings.  Amy and Mike were our hosts, and they put out a spread in an atmosphere that seemed both flawless and easy.  Their home is on greenhouse property, and the enclosed garden area was the perfect setting for a cookout.  The lattice provided ample shade but kept a sense of the open air; the surrounding gardens were filled with rosemary, lavender, fennel and other favorite plants.  A corner area was perfect for serving food, and a large cooler in the greenhouse held the multiple growlers of beer that kept showing up.  Just outside the enclosed garden was a campfire ring and hay bales.  It was definitely going to be a fun night! 

Tim, Amy and Mike invited a variety of friends and family, and everyone was really great.  Mike cooked up wings, smoked ribs and grilled kabobs of shrimp and chicken.  Amy’s homemade barbeque sauce was fabulous, as was her bean salad, popcorn shrimp with coconut sauce…everything, really everything was just perfect. 

The campfire got started a little earlier than planned due to a smokebomb gone wild, but soon it was time to move the party there anyway.  Before sundown, we took a Cushman ride (D describes it as a golf cart on steroids) around the property.  When Prairie Meadows was operating as a greenhouse, it also had an 18-hole frisbee golf course which is still set up with terrific signage.  We toured the trails, then returned to the campfire to enjoy the fireworks display over Lake Shawnee.  We listened to coyotes howl, and are pretty certain we watched the space shuttle go overhead (we watched the launch earlier in the day at Blind Tiger.)

Of course, the whole time we were enjoying the beers (D and I only needed to get from the campfire to our first floor room, so we weren’t concerned about how much we had!)  In all, we think there were 12 growlers from Blind Tiger, and his friend Doug brought two growlers of homebrew.  Now, generally, I’m not a big fan of homebrew, but I’m thinking I just don’t know the right homebrewers.  His stuff was better than anything we’ve had since arriving in Kansas, and right now rates third (behind Founder’s and Three Floyd’s.)  Doug made an IPA and a clone of Sierra Nevada Celebration.  Both were terrific!  

I don’t know how late it was when everyone left, but with just the five of us there, someone suggested a Cushman ride to the “secret garden”.  Prairie Meadows is just like it sounds…open grassland only disturbed by the greenhouse buildings and the vegetable garden, but off in a distant nook there is a beautiful forested area with a pond and sitting pavilion on one side of the trail and a campfire ring on the other.  Amy broke out the glowstick necklaces and bracelets, which we donned for the trip, and off we went. 

It’s hard to say whose idea it was to start a fire, but since the makings of one were already in the circle, we got started.  Mike collected everything dry he could find, Amy added some toilet paper and good cheer (and a few campfire songs!), and Tim, D and I all had our faces in there trying to get the damp wood to burn.  We were successful, and enjoyed our time in the secret garden until D fell asleep with the beer in his hand…it was 2 AM, and we needed to sleep. 

And now for the new birds (not in taxonomical order) 

Tokeka, KS
Common Nighthawk
American Crow
Grackle
European Starling
Blue Jay
Rock Pigeon
Brown Thrasher
Downy Woodpecker
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Great Blue Heron
Upland Sandpiper 

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
Eastern Bluebird
Western Meadowlark
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 

Other birds seen at Tallgrass Prairie (not new for the trip)
Eastern Meadowlark
Western Kingbird
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Black-capped Chickadee
Common Nighthawk
Grasshopper Sparrow

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