So where, Dear ProfessorRoush, have you been? My email has been ringing whilst my blog has been quiet for over a week, but yet never fear, back again, I am.
I confess that I have taken a short January break, toppled over by the dual effects of a moderately-severe gastrointestinal flu that sapped my energy for a few days and by an attack of the mid-winter doldrums. Even the winter catalogues seem slow in coming this year and my gardening enthusiasm is at the apogee of annual orbit in my soul. January, you are so cruel and hard, and my spirit is so weak and desolate without the sunshine.
I have been forced into a winter project, however, to pick up my spirits, and I got rid of the flu by passing it on to poor Mrs. ProfessorRoush, who I then nursed for another few days just as lovingly as she had nursed me earlier. Married life does occasionally justify its trials by providing a little comfort in the form of a cool cloth and a soothing voice while you are draped limply over a toilet.
But you're wondering about the winter project? Well, I'll keep you in suspense for a day or two, but I will teasingly reveal, for now, that it involves digging. The picture is a current cross-section of my soil profile from surface to approximately 8 feet deep, provided here in order to gain your eternal sympathy. You thought I've been kidding about the rocky nature of Kansas soil, didn't you? Well, here it is, about 6 inches of nice organic soil, followed by 4 feet or so of mixed clay and flint rock, followed by a foot or two of dark brown clay with a little less rock, then a foot of red anaerobic clay without rock, then chalk, then limestone. They don't call it the Flint Hills for nothing.
Now imagine digging through this dry nut-sprinkled mud pie. Your shovel, no matter how hard you jump on it, penetrates no more than three to four inches until it reaches rock. Or imagine that you are a root, a baby rootlet reaching deep to stretch your tender fingers between the sharp shards of flint. Ouch! See the roots, just short of half-way down the image? Those are from purple-leaf honeysuckle bushes, the most recent inhabitants of this particular bit of soil.
In a few days I'll reveal my new project in it's entirety, but for now, content yourself with thanking your lucky stars that you only have to contend with sticky Georgia clay, humus-poor Florida sand, or perfect Kentucky loam. Or we could both concentrate on the perfection of that clear blue Kansas sky taken early this morning, peeking from the top of the picture here. Ain't it pretty?