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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
As fall quietly slips in, the countryside in these parts is absolutely beautiful. The grasses are lush, wildflowers are in bloom and the fall crops maturing.
I've even got mushrooms growing in a part of my yard that most falls is so dry even the weeds die.
A farmer this week reported he was having trouble with his fall calving cows. He said the grass was so tall he had to check his pastures with a motorcycle instead of using his usual pickup truck. He explained by saying the grass was so tall and dense, he was afraid he would drive over a baby calf before he saw it.
I'm not very good at identifying grasses but I am certain we are seeing more than usual grass seed production this fall. Perhaps some grasses that normally produce little seed in this area are laden this year.
It's fun to drive through the country and see the grasses waving in the breeze but you better be careful which road you take. Thanks to all of the rain, many of our lesser maintained rural roads are hardly passable. Getting the fall harvest out over those roads is going to be a challenge.
While driving in the country, take time to look at the wildflowers. The sunflowers and golden rod flowers are extra brilliant, more plentiful and easy to spot.
As a youngster I was proud to be a resident of the sunflower state of Kansas and not the goldenrod state of Nebraska.
I knew farmers didn't like to have sunflowers growing in their fields but I enjoyed the sunflower patches that grew along the Republican River but I hated the goldenrod plants. I couldn't understand why my Nebraska neighbors had selected the nasty goldenrod as their state flower. Not only was the goldenrod the Nebraska state flower, some crazy Nebrakans liked it so much they named a highway that passed through Superior and Bostwick the Goldenrod Highway. (Now U.S. 136 follows the general route of the old Goldenrod Highway.) A Hastings manufacturing company, the Dutton-Lainson Company, had even selected Golden Rod for the brand name applied to the fence stretchers, oil cans, boat winches and trailers my father stocked at Blauvelt's Station.
Why, I wondered, would anyone want to honor the nasty goldenrod weed?
I liked to play with the long, tough sunflower stems for in my imagination they became lances and javelins and I liked to eat sunflower seeds. But get close to a goldenrod plant and my hay fever kicked in. My nose became stuffy and my eyes watered.
It wasn't until much later in life that I learned the goldenrod has been falsely accused. Scientists are now telling us the goldenrod is incapable of causing all the allergy problems it has been accused of.
Instead the problems are caused by ragweed. Ragweed likes to grow in the company of goldenrod and it is a master allergy producer.
Here's the story on ragweed straight from a Florida university:
"Many people with allergies blame plants for their misery (rightfully so), and summertime can be tough for hay fever sufferers. Hay fever is an allergic reaction that certain people have when they inhale pollen from specific plants. During summer, one of the most colorful plants we see blooming in roadside ditches is goldenrod (Solidago sp.), and since hay fever symptoms seem to be worse when it is in bloom, it is often blamed for causing hay fever. However, the true culprit is ragweed. Both plants begin blooming in late summer, but are actually quite different in many ways.
"Goldenrod produces masses of bright golden flowers on single-stemmed plants, and has relatively large, heavy pollen grains that are intended to be carried off by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Ragweed bares greenish yellow flowers in small heads which produce copious amounts of pollen, carried by the wind rather than insects for pollination. Ragweed flowers are not showy which means these plants are often easier to recognize by their stems and leaves.
"Ragweed has branching purplish stems that are rough and hairy, and leaves which are smooth, but deeply divided into lobed portions.
"Since 75 percent of all Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants are also allergic to ragweed, removal of this pest plant is important. Homeowners can control this shallow-rooted plant best by hoeing, hand-pulling, or mowing while plants are still young."
So there you have it. Enjoy the beauty of goldenrod while eradicating its hated neighbor, the ragweed plant.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

I may not have made it to Hollywood yet, but our film has. Our short film, "Leaving Kansas," is scheduled to screen Sept. 29 at the historic Grauman's Chinese Theatre, located along the famous "Walk of Fame" on Hollywood Boulevard. We were selected to screen as part of HollyShorts Film Festival's monthly short film screenings, to which a lot of agents and producers are invited.
David, my co-director and co-producer on the film, will be in attendance to support the film and host the Q and A. Picking up and flying to L.A. seems to be something he's willing and able to do, so it works out well. He was out there a few weeks ago supporting his first feature film, "Black Luck," at the L.A. Film Invasion Festival.
"Leaving Kansas" has also been accepted into the Outlaw Film Festival in St. Joseph, Mo., in November. That festival has experienced both a growth spurt and a name change. It operated for several years as Foster's Film Festival, a one-day event for short films. Only the films nominated for awards (about 15) were screened. Last year, a comedy short I wrote called "Damn it, Mamet!" was nominated for four awards there and brought home two ­­ best screenplay and best cinematography. "Shakespeare With Noodles" was nominated for two awards there last year and brought home one ­­ best documentary. This year, in addition to changing their name, they are scheduled to screen more than 80 short films over four days.
"Leaving Kansas" is also scheduled to screen at the Prairie Lights Film Festival in Grand Island, the Twin Falls Sandwiches Film Festival in Twin Falls, Idaho, and a special screening at the Alamo Drafthouse in Omaha. There are four festivals yet to announce ­­ Santa Fe, Chicago, St. Louis and Austin ­­ but they are all four Oscar-qualifying festivals, so I'm not confident we'll get in any of them. We submitted the film to a number of Oscar-qualifying festivals, but weren't been accepted by any that I'm aware of.
The Creative Edge Film Festival in Fairfield, Iowa, this weekend, will be the final festival screening for "Shakespeare With Noodles." The plan for that film is to go back into the editing booth, add somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 minutes and pitch it to PBS. Nebraska Educational Television aired a documentary made by a friend of mine two years ago, and I'm confident they'll want this one as well. I'll keep you posted.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Time to pull out the lawnmower again. Usually during August, with its lack of rain, mowing duties are cut in half, but not this year. Lately, it seems that just when the yard and the farmstead grounds have all been mowed, it is time to start all over again.
This August, rains have come at least every other day, and with the heat of summer afternoons, it has been humid. The first weeks of September seem to be following the same weather pattern. It has been good for the fall crops, though now some sunshine and drier weather would help in maturing these crops, but a farmer never seems to be satisfied with the weather. Don't get me wrong, rain is appreciated on the farm. Thinking back, I believe I only had to water my garden and flower beds three times in July, and I haven't done it since. With the humidity so high, the vegetable garden and flowers seem to be enjoying the weather, but the grass and weeds do too!
Once again, the call to mow is being heard as the grass is growing taller before my eyes. The concrete bench in the yard is almost invisible through the tall grass. My zinnias are peeking out to find sunshine. The mower is checked and filled with gas. The engine whines and off we go.
The yard is a "pat" course to mow, but not the farmstead ground. It's like running an obstacle course ­­ in and around tractor tires, a combine head, fuel tanks, a standing ladder to the grain bin, an auger, a trailer, a couple of barrels and a pile of concrete blocks. There is a tractor attached to some equipment left parked where it needs to be mowed and must be mowed around. Hopefully the tractor will soon be moved. There are limestone rocks that edge the driveway to be avoided with the mower, as sometimes those rocks become a rocket sent through a nearby window. If the grass and weeds are too tall or thick, a second run with the mower may be needed.
I always try to look on the positive side of things, so I am thankful to have a riding mower which makes the job much easier. I remember years ago when the mowers were pushed by hand. I can't imagine how that would work today. I guess some of the grounds just wouldn't get mowed. There is also the bright side of not having a lack of rain and everything burnt up as it has been in past summers.
Happy mowing!