Archive for Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nature’s beauty prods farm owner to return land to its original state

April 18, 2007

It's little wonder 86-year-old Fred Leimkuhler is trying to restore his family farmstead to its original prairie state.

"I read books on theology and I read the Bible, but I look at nature and see the little bluets and the yellow violets, and I find God in nature." Leimkuhler said.

The Leimkuhler family has owned 137 acres in northeast Tonganoxie since 1929. The acreage was bought as farmland.

When Leimkuhler's father died in 1940, Fred left school to take over the farm.

"I didn't know how to farm and the land wasn't good either, but we made it," he said.

After his mother remarried, his stepfather began raising pigs on the land.

"It was a beautiful farm for raising pigs," Leimkuhler said.

The family no longer farms the land. Today family members are working to restore it to its natural prairie state.

Originally, the land was covered with tall grass until wagon traffic and plowing disrupted it. These disturbances in the land allowed for foreign seeds to enter the soil. Trees began growing in the area. Leimkuhler is trying to eliminate tree growth by mowing the ground and not disrupting the land in any unnatural manner.

The natural beauty is something to behold.

For those who look beyond the apparent, there are many beauties to be seen.

"Look deep into nature and you will find the answer to everything." Leimkuhler said, paraphrasing Albert Einstein.

One of Leimkuhler's favorites from "looking deep" into nature is the yellow violet, a small flower that thrives along streams and in wooded areas. It rarely grows in the open, but it is one of the most beautiful and vibrant flowers -- to those lucky enough to find it.

Leimkuhler still walks deep into his Tonganoxie property just to see it.

"The flower lives out there and doesn't interfere with anything, it is beautiful," Leimkuhler said. "But, other flowers look so great, we don't see it."

For Leimkuhler, the flower is a reminder of his magnificent life and the guiding power of God.

"The idea of finding God out in nature, that is the key to my whole life," Leimkuhler said.

These days, he believes, finding nature can be hard. "We are moving away from nature. I think we need to learn to live with nature and enjoy it."

That's why he's so intent on returning the farmstead to its original state.

Others have also recognized the beauty of his land and old farmstead. Leimkuhler and his daughter, Lynn, are currently working with the Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife to open the land up for tours. He also recently was approached by the Kansas State Historical Society with an offer to register his old farmhouse as a state historical site.

The house dates to when the property was still mostly prairie land -- 1865 or earlier. It is one of 82 original log structures in Kansas and one of two such two-story structures.

Leimkuhler, his sister and his parents moved into the home on March 1, 1929. It wasn't until 1975, when his parents were gone, that the family realized the home was a log structure. All those years, the home was covered in siding and the logs were hidden.

Leimkuhler has made no decision on registering the farmhouse but is continuing to restore the prairie beauty of his land. He says he believes he and his family members are 40 years into the job, with about 60 years of work to go.

He realizes he will not be around to see it completed, but he knows that his daughter, with the help of other family members, will see it happen.

"It is a never-ending job," Leimkuhler said.

"It will take about 100 years to restore it as God had it when man got here."

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