Celebrate Community

It’s thistle season (mid-June) in Osage County as I write this; I spent several evenings this week and a good part of last weekend cutting blossoms, digging roots and spot spraying with herbicide. In this part of Kansas, the musk thistle (Carduus nutans) is an especially problematic (legally noxious) weed that has made considerable headway over the past few years, especially in overgrazed pastures and disturbed meadows. The biannual herbaceous plant is native to Eurasia and, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, was introduced to this country in the mid-19th century – some say it was delivered along with several tons of ship ballast.

I have fought the musk thistle long enough to know that I can’t eradicate it, but I am compelled to control the species by law and, more importantly, because it’s downright neighborly to do so. Each musk thistle plant will produce around 120,000 wind-dispersed seeds when given the chance to flower. Unfortunately, no fence has been invented that could keep those seeds from sailing right through, so while good fences sometimes make good neighbors, in my neighborhood good Carduus control does, too.

Speaking of neighbors, I am really pleased that “community” scored well on GRIT’s recent article topic survey – thanks to all of you who took time out of busy schedules to help out. In this issue, Linda Shockley explores community at the Callaway cannery in Virginia, where folks get together to put up home-raised meats and produce, in a half-century-long practice that nourishes their families and feeds the soul. Never mind food security and all the other good reasons to preserve a little provender – people working together makes it a celebration.

Cowboy poet Jerry Schleicher also tackles community with an entertaining look at the country café. This nerve center (or information center, anyway) of most small towns is a place where you can get some heart-warming fare, while discovering what’s happening with agricultural commodities markets, national politics and how the junior high school girls’ volleyball team did last night. It’s an inviting place where you might find the best pulled-chicken barbecue and coleslaw in the country, too. And, just in case your local café doesn’t serve these delicacies, we have you covered with Susan Belsinger’s cabbage considerations and GRIT Senior Associate Editor Jean Teller’s mouthwatering report from the 2007 National Chicken Cooking Contest.

I could say quite a bit more about the September-October GRIT, but why not just turn the page and enjoy it firsthand.

As always, our goals include feeding your dreams and celebrating the rural lifestyle right along with you. Please let me know how we are doing by emailing your comments and story ideas to And don’t forget to sign up to be a member of our advisory group next time you visit our Web site (

See you in November,

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published on Sep 1, 2007
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