Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wilburton, A Morton County Dead Town

A stone at the Wilburton, Kansas cemetery. The stone says the cemetery was established in 1916.

Stones in the cemetery.

The first burial was Katherine Hesston Leake, who died in 1916. She was 30.

A few old outbuildings at Wilburton.

An abandoned bus

As several populated the area, a town was formed in 1912 halfway between Elkhart and Rolla. They named it Tice, the name of a high official of the Santa Fe Railroad. They platted out lots on 20 acres along what would eventually be the Santa Fe track.
But when a post office was built in 1913 by Mrs. Nellie D. Wilbur, the town became known as Wilburton, according to the history book.
At first, the train at Wilburton never stopped. The outgoing mail was hung on a high post near the track. When the train passed, the incoming mail was pushed out of the train and the out-going mail was grabbed from the pole.
Eventually, when area residents began to ship cream, hides and other products, the train would stop. The depot was an old boxcar that sat besides the tracks, the name Wilburton on a board across the top.
It didn’t take long for the little town to bustle with residents and commerce. Wilburton boasted two dry-good stores, two groceries, a church, garage, grain elevators, a feed yard, bank, lumberyard and florist. There also was a stockyard, boarding house, shoe repair shop and telephone exchange. The grade school and high schools had more than 100 students.
“The population of the town for many years was in the hundreds,” the book states. 

This Kansas Memory photo shows a dust storm passing through Morton County in the 1930s. Morton County, in the southwest corner of the state, was among the hardest hit areas during the Dust Bowl. Dust storms, such as the one depicted here, could blow for a full day, coating everything in their path with a layer of dirt.      

When 2-year-old Rena Coen died of dust pneumonia, the closest cemetery was covered in drifts of dirt.
So the Morton County farm family with seven sons buried their only girl in the Rolla Cemetery – just one of several causalities of the Dirty Thirties.
Her brother, Dale, now 91, recalls those days well, remembering how as a teen he would watch the billowing clouds of dust roll in, darkening the sky and leaving dust covering almost every foot of the family farmstead – a dust that was easily inhaled deep into the lungs.
It also blanketed the Wilburton cemetery.
“It was blowed under from the dust,” he said, adding the cemetery wasn’t well-kept, either. “A bunch of us boys, four or five of us, dug it out, got the markers dug out so the graves wouldn’t be lost.”
Wilburton, too, didn’t survive through the dust storms and the Great Depression. Today, only a few homes dot the prairie landscape where a thriving community was stood.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Machu Picchu - the lost city of the Incas

The fog and clouds are lifting as we get the first glimpse of Machu Picchu.

Part of the city.

Paula Landoll-Smith, Marysville, and I at the start of the ruins.

Al and John walking the paths around Machu Picchu.

Part of the ruins. Only 40 percent has been restored.

Large drop-offs surround the city, which overlooks a river.

Our group heads down one of the narrow paths.

Shirley and Ron Suppes, Dighton, and Debra Bolton, Garden City, listen as our guide, Wilbert Ramos, tells us about how the Incas used these water pools lined in silver to study the stars.

Work continues to keep the site repaired.
The only way to Aquas Calientes is by train or by foot, the small village that sits at the foot of the lost city of the Incas.
As the sun breaks, so do the people from their hostels and hotels, beginning the journey up the winding mountain road. It’s foggy – almost misty-like along the narrow path that leads up the “old mountain.”
But by mid morning, the clouds roll away and a mystical city appears, revealing itself to the hundreds that flock to get a glimpse on this March day.
Here, amid the tropical mountain forest, I get my first view of the ancient city roughly 600 years old -- Machu Picchu -- with its ramps and walls, its agricultural rock terraces and its family huts and royal presence – an opportunity of a lifetime.
It’s nearing the last day of my journey to Peru, and my Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership class is up at dawn to see the remains. Half our group is lead by Wilbert Ramos, a local of Incan decent himself who knows the history surrounding the ancient city of his ancestors.
He guides us on our morning journey across the historical site, built on a hilltop with large drop offs to the Urubamba River valley below. It felt as if we were close to heaven as we walked the Inca paths – a steal-your-breathe-away experience I can now mark off the bucket list.
After all, this place in the clouds is an engineering marvel. Construction started sometime it the late 1300s and ended around 1460 – the end result a royal governmental estate or administration center that housed about 700 people. Wilbert notes that about 200,000 Incas worked on the construction for decades – almost like ants as they funneled precisely cut stones for their structures.
Inca engineers and architects designed the 13 square kilometers of rock structures, even building models, he said. The city had homes, factories, places to keep food cool and a funeral-type hut to mourn the dead. They built stone terraces up the mountains to cultivate crops – something still seen on many Peruvian peaks today.
Machu Picchu was a place of religious ceremonies honoring the sun and Pachamama – or Mother Earth. It guarded at least a dozen different access points and supplied the royal family, who lived in Cusco, with food and coca leaves.
But within a 100 years after it was built, the Incas fled Machu Picchu as the Spanish invaded Peru about 1532, Wilbert said. The Spanish began a conquest in search of the Incas gold and silver to ship back to Spain.
The Spaniards enslaved some Peruvians and killed their ruler.
Some of the Incas fled to Machu Picchu, which was abandoned at the time, hiding their treasures in mummies, Wilbert said. They blocked off all but four access points into the city, barricading themselves before eventually fleeing the city, burying their treasures along their route.
The Incas last settled Vilcabamba before disappearing into Peru's jungles.
Over the years, both German and French explored this area, but never found Machu Picchu, the city remaining lost until 1911 when Yale University Professor Hiram Bingham discovered the remains, which were overgrown in trees.
Bingham, in the country originally to research military campaigns, was traveling through the Sacred Valley of the Incas along the Urubamba River when he met a farmer who told me about some ruins on the “old mountain,” and Bingham paid him one coin for his troubles. When he reached the area, he found two families farming the steep sides of the mountain. But it was an 8-year-old child named Pablito of one of the families who led the explorers to the archeological remains.
Bingham returned a year later with a research team and began cleaning up the overgrown site. He eventually found a little of the gold and silver, along with 40,000 artifacts that the Peruvian government allowed him to take back to the United States to study, Wilbert said.
Only about a thousand have been returned, most of which are on display in a museum in Cusco, Wilbert said.
This is just a bit of the rich history of the area and there’s still debate on the history of the site, however. Inca oral history and Spanish archives differ about some of the events. Meanwhile, Wilbert said, only 40 percent of the site is restored and archeologists are finding more artifacts, including another mummy a few weeks ago.
It is now an Unesco world heritage site, one of 962 sites protected by the United Nations group. The organization prohibits more restoration of the ruins.
Today, it is one of the seven wonders of the “new world” – and a famous attraction. It draws more than a million tourists a year, according to the Peruvian Times. That number continues to grow.
The more adventurous types don a backpack trekking four days along the legendary Inca Trail, one of the old access roads into Machu Picchu. We, however, take the easy route, a scenic and relaxing two-hour train ride along the Urubamba River, from the small town of Ollantavia to Aquas Calientes. We stay overnight in one of the hostels then venture upward in one of the buses that travels the zig-zagging roads back and fourth from the site daily.
We took a short hike on one of the cobblestone trails, which led to a ledge that overlooks the city. As the misty clouds parted, the city appeared – leaving us all speechless at its presence, followed by the clicking of our cameras.
As I walked among the ruins, exploring roofless houses, ancient water systems and painstakingly fitted walls, I felt inspiration and wonder. I felt thankful for what I have. And I felt thankful I was able to make this special journey here that many can only dream of doing.
There could be no more fitting ending to such a wonderful trip.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More food pictures

This is pork and rice - not too bad, but we were a little late getting to lunch so it was a a little dry.

This is fish cooked in a lime juice. No, I didn't not try it. The plantanes were good, however. They are the dried banana-looking food.

Potatoes in some type of tomato sauce, a type of spaghetti and chicken. I tried a little.

Thankful for Kansas quality

Livestock feet for sale at the market in Tarapoto, Peru.

A woman stands at her booth in the market at Tarapoto. She is selling fish, which have been cured by salting them.
At the interview for my job at The News 10 years ago, the editors asked me where I wanted to eat for lunch.
Somewhere that serves beef, I told them.
They chuckled, probably thinking that was appropriate for an agricultural reporter, then took me to the now closed Amarillo Grill.
I have 100 percent faith in our U.S. Department of Agriculture. Our food supply is the safest in the world and my present trip to Peru makes me appreciate the stringent rules and regulations of our government.
Since our Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership class tour of Peru started, the cuisine has been interesting. Peruvians eat a lot of protein like chicken. They eat a ton of potatoes. And, of course, there are plenty of fruits here in this country south of the Equator.
Lunchtime typically consists of three course, the first two usually including potatoes. Then, most working class folks, it seems, takes a siesta.
There have been a lot of good meals here in the country, especially when you’re a meat and potatoes gal like me. However, while I might not be as adventurous as some when it comes to cultural dining, my appetite has turned quickly off after touring a market in the jungle city of Tarapoto, which has a population that exceeds 60,000.
Inside, vendors with booths about the size you’d see at the Kansas State Fair, if not smaller, lined walkways. Their counters were covered in proteins like raw beef, pork and chicken, as well as fish.
The fish seemed to be well salted, but everything else appeared at room temperature amid a hot and steamy jungle environment, which included dust and flies, no gloves, room-temperature meat – obviously everything for which our food inspectors would not issue a license.
We then sat down for lunch. A hamburger was on the menu, but I ruled that out fast. The safest bet was either French fries or maybe pizza.
Yes, I have become nearly a vegetarian, living, at present, on a diet of French fries and ice cream. At least half our KARL class has (or still is) battled illness since Sunday. As for myself, knock on wood, I’m still healthy, thanks maybe to picky eating, along with the countless breakfast bars and peanuts I packed before I left.
And, yes, I am trying a little bit of everything - for the most part.
I can’t wait to get home and have a juicy steak produced by our Kansas ranchers who work hard to produce a good and yummy quality product they put into the food supply. I can’t wait to have some bread – much of which is grown in Kansas, milled, more than likely, in Newton, Stafford or Wichita and put on our shelves in Dillons.
Obama plans to cut food inspections this summer as part of the sequester. Will the move affect our safe food supply? Probably not. Still, a tour of a third-world country food market would have any lawmaker second-guessing such a decision.
We still have several days left in our cultural enlightenment as we move into the highlands of Peru.
And we still haven’t been served our meal of guinea pig.
This is a potato sandwhich, in essence. Two slices of potato between chicken.

This was a great meal my first night in Chincha, fried chicken pieces dipped in a lime sauce.

Norky's I guess, is one of the famous chain Peruvian chicken houses. It was good.

Another meat market photo of raw beef being sold in the market.I just couldn't stomach the rows and rows of beef being sold this way.

Catching up - Peru

Internet connection has been terrible here in Peru. However, the sights have been fascinating. We left the dusty town of Chincha Saturday, flying into the lush green and wetter climate of Tarapoto that evening. It's a jungle town in the Amazon rain forest region. Thankfully, we didn't venture too far into the jungle where there are plenty of bad snakes.

Here's what we did see.

We took a lot of Kansas stuff to this Tarapoto orphanage. The orphanage is largely filled with children who were raped or their mothers might have been raped. The orphanage is similar to Kansas' foster care system. Some children are adopted to families. This orphanage has about 60 children.
they use cars for activities. This old van has books where children can read.

Natalie and a little boy at the home. Isn't he cute?

We had over 100 books donated with the help of KARL classmate Debra Bolton. We also brought crayons, balls, pencils, coloring books, clothing and much, much more.

The waterfalls -I'll have to look up the name. But this is the story of a beautiful Inca girl who had beautiful hair. She fell in love with a common Chilean, Witches turned her into a beautiful waterfall and her lover into a bull.
It was a nice little hike up there, and a beautiful view.

Dan walks behind the waterfall.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An aspharagus plant

Walking the fields of talo Giribaldi. He is a larger Peruvian farmer.

Italo Giribaldi talks to Kansas farmers.

Workers process grapes at Italo Giribaldi's farm. These grapes will be used for domestic use.

Italo Giribaldi talks at one of his asparagus fields.
I detest most greens, I admit.

Friday, however, I was excited to be one of 12 from our Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership group of 30 to tour an asparagus and mango processing plant.

I donned a white jacket, a mask and a hair net, along with a pair of white boots as farmer Italo Giribaldi showed of his investment.

The days started off at Giribaldi's farm. He's one of Peru's larger farmers. Giribaldi grew up on a large poultry farmer and his father owned a textile plant. He went to college to be an engineer but upon graduation, returned to the farm and made it bigger.

He's been successful and Giribaldi is well-to-do, especially considering about 35 percent of Peruvians live off of $3 a day. His 700-plus-acre expanse includes avocados, mangos and other citrus, along with passion fruit. He has several hundred workers on his own farm, and more depending on the season. His plantation includes large buildings for processing fruit for the domestic market, along with a lunch room where workers can buy a hot lunch for one sols, or roughly 50 cents.

But the 38-year-old says diversification is key, especially in Peru. He was one of four to invest in a packing plant called Fruchincha, which does about $45 million a year total in business, with asparagus equally about $8 to $10 million of the total.

Much of the product packaged here goes across the globe, Giribaldi said. The plant's largest importer typically is the United States, which purchases both asparagus, mangos and avocados, he said.

The plant, built in 1986, is one of the oldest processors in the Chincha area. It supplies largely for the fresh produce market, as well as the canned and frozen markets. The better market is the fresh market, he said, and he prefers to try to do all fresh, if possible. However, poorer quality asparagus is canned for the domestic market.

In March, the plant was processing about 5 tons a day. It can process anywhere from that to about 60 tons a day, he said. He didn't allow pictures, but I saw the entire process, which including washing an chilling the asparagus, then sorting and eventually boxing it. Boxes of freshly picked asparagus in the cooler this day where heading to U.S. Walmart stores, he said.They'll be flow there and from the time it's harvested to the time it goes to the store shelves is less than a week.

All told, the company operates 3,000 hectors to supply the plant, with about 1,800 in production and another 200 to be developed next year.

It was all impressive, including the quality control (cleanness and precaution), as well as just watching a product go from farm to fork.

Yes, I did try asparagus. It was OK. I tried mangos, too. They were wonderful.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mr. Bruno and Mr. Teo

Bruno, right with hat, long shirt, talks about his farm.

Teo and our tour guide, elsa.

Farmer Teo talks about his avocados.

People mingle at city building.

enjoying pesco with the family.

Bruno Mendoza proudly stood in his field of near-ripe avocados on a small plot in south central Peru.
This is his land, after all, the grandson of a slave who educated himself about the parcel he inherited. He started working the land in 1986 growing corn and cotton near Chincha. A few years ago, a Catholic non-governmental agency, knowing of his community leadership skills, asked him if he wanted to farm another hectare with avocados. With high land prices in the region, he jumped at the chance.
Today, Mendoza farms five hectares, or about 18 acres, growing both organic and conventional avocados, as well as corn. He lives on a narrow paved roadway, bicycling the bumpy dirt roadway outlined sparsely in banana trees, to his farm. He dreams of his own equipment. He dreams of expansion.
Most Americans would consider him and others in and around El Carmen to be living in poverty.  Their homes, seemingly left unfinished, are made of sun-dried bricks they made themselves. A tank on the roof supplies their water.
Bruno and his family are content and happy. He has passion for family and his land. He talks with pride of the classes he took through the nearby government research station – and yearns to learn more – all documented on the papers he proudly displays as our group of 30-plus Kansans tour his small farm.
We then head to his friend Teo’s small plantation, as he calls it, giving us the same tour with pride. Afterward, the two and their families offer us drinks of pesco wine they made themselves, passing around small glasses as everyone gathers at the community square of the town.
Not many make the trip to see what they do here, the family says excitedly to a translator. This, it seems, is a special celebration. They want us to come back. They want to learn more about how to do a better job.
My Kansas Agricultural and Rural Leadership class toured the farm on day two of our time in Peru. We are learning about the country’s agriculture production, as well as how it affects Kansas.
Just like a Kansas farmer, both want to better the land they are producing. Bruno helped form an irrigation district to help water his avocado tree – roughly 416 plants per hectare.
And just like a Kansas farmer, Teo too hopes to pass on his farm to the next generation. One is in college earning an agricultural degree, he says proudly.
It was a moving experience as we enjoyed these families’ company. One little girl played in the street clutching her new toy tractor. They posed with their John Deere implement hats.
Their lifestyle is simple, and yet they couldn’t ask for more.
Little girl playing with John Deere toy Randall Debler gave her.

Children playing.

Teo - talking about his farm.

where they live. A suburb of El Carmen