For family, soil conservation is part of life
The 160 acres of rolling hills, weed-free grassland and clean forested areas, is anything but the way nature left it.
After three decades of diligent conservation work, the land northwest of Easton stands as a shining example of what can happen when man and nature work in tandem.
John and Ruby Glassley and Calvin and Delores Fields are being honored as recipients of the 2001 Kansas Bankers Soil Conservation Award. The families were selected for their conservation practices which include pasture and hayland management, woodland improvement and the building and maintenance of two ponds.
The conservation work at the Easton property has been ongoing for 30 years.
John and Ruby Glassley and their daughter and son-in-law, Delores and Calvin Fields, each bought 80-acres of ground, side by side, in 1972, purchasing the entire 160 acres for $42,000.
"We bought it together," Calvin Fields said. "We sold our 80 to them a few years later, and then later on they gave it back to us and we built this house."
About the equivalent of a city block from the Field's home, just beyond the barn where the flat ground falls into a valley, or a holler as Fields, who grew up in West Virginia would say. That's where the Glassleys live in a small home overlooking a large pond.
To a first-time visitor, the entire area, well manicured and surrounded by scenic hillsides, seems more like a weekend getaway than a permanent homestead. In fact, the Glassleys also maintain, near their home, a second home where their children and grandchildren can stay when they come to visit. Last week, woodsmoke streamed from the chimneys of both homes, a testament to the Glassley's energetic work in clearing dead trees from the property.
Ruby Glassley says cutting firewood is more like exercise than work.
John, 82, cuts the logs with a chainsaw and Ruby stacks the wood in the front of the tractor. And, she takes care to recycle the brush, breaking it up and spreading it on hilly areas to stop soil erosion.
The pond near their house stays filled with water from five natural springs. The springs also provide fresh drinking water for the Glassleys. Meanwhile, the Fields use city water at their house.
The Glassleys and Fields run a cow-calf operation on the farm.
Ruby and John, who have been married for 63 years, said despite all their toils, their work on the farm is not yet complete. In fact, that's the way they like it, knowing each day when they get up that there is work yet to do.
"I hope that on the day they bury me that I can still say well I was going to fix that tree," Ruby said, laughing.
The family members laugh a lot and when everyone gets together gales of laughter often breaks through the conservation.
Delores loves to hear her parents tell of their wedding day. It was August, 1938 in Oklahoma and the first judge they asked to marry them turned them down because of their ages. John was 17 and Ruby was 16. So the couple next went to a justice of the peace, who married the couple after John stretched the truth and said he was 20.
"Our families said it wouldn't last," Ruby said, a sparkle in her eyes and humor in her voice as she added. "And it probably won't."
When the property was purchased as a weekend retreat, the Glassleys lived in Kansas City, Kan.
And, until two years ago, the Glassleys continued to maintain their city home, as well as the farm. But when their youngest daughter married , they gave the house to her, which gave the Lassleys even more time and energy to devote to the farm.
John, who five years ago underwent a five-bypass heart surgery, said he has no regrets about giving up city life, even though he and Ruby now live farther away from medical care.
"We just have fun every day," he said. "If I die someday on the farm, don't tell me you wish we'd stayed in town where I'd be closer to the doctor, because this is where I want to be."
The Fields, too, consider this home. They purchased the land when their three sons were young.
"When you have three boys, you don't like to have to keep them quiet all the time in a neighborhood," Delores said. "You always want them to get outside and hoop and holler."
Cal, who grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, felt at home in the rural area.
After he retired 10 years ago from the FAA, Fields and Delores decided to make a permanent home in the country. They had no trouble deciding where to build the house. Delores said it had to be built where she could see from her kitchen window the oak tree their sons had carved their initials in when they were boys.
The Fields credit the Lassleys with the bulk of the farm's conservation work. The older couple is ever vigilant in protecting the soil.
"Mom is almost 80 years old," Delores said. "And if any areas start to slide, she gets out there and gets it filled in."