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A bit of earth Summer brings carefree trips to the country

  • Published Saturday, June 22, 2013, at 6:54 a.m.

If you go

Flowers in the Flint Hills tour

When: 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. June 29

Where: Tour of three gardens in Marion and one at Marion Lake

How much: $5; tickets and refreshments available at the Marion City Library, 101 Library St., in the restored Santa Fe Railroad Station behind the Marion County Courthouse (visible from Main Street).

I was taking a walk one recent evening when I ran into my friend Tim and his daughter in their front yard.

“Wanna go see ‘Iron Man 3’?” Tim asked me as they prepared to head to the movies.

“I can’t,” I said immediately, though I was regretful. It wasn’t only because I had seen neither “Iron Man” or “Iron Man 2.” It was because I had to be up early in the morning for work, and I had plenty yet to accomplish before then at home.

But for several minutes after I walked away, I tried to make myself enter into the impromptu world of this family, where school was out for summer.

I tried to recapture the limitless horizon of childhood summers, with their lack of responsibility, their lack of anything going on when I got home, or anything going on the next day when I woke up, just whatever my library books and my friends held out to me as the carefree moments unfolded.

It wasn’t the same coming at it as an adult as I’m sure it was when I was a child, but I think that even when we become adults we, whether consciously or unconsciously, try to re-enter that zone at least a bit each summer.

So when I was weighing this week whether to drive out to Marion to get a peek at the gardens that will be on the annual Flowers in the Flint Hills Garden Tour next weekend, I had to remind myself of the fleeting, freeing days of summer and march myself to the car. Of course I was glad I did.

The trip to Marion is just over an hour, and the tour itself is brief, comprising only three gardens in town and one at Marion Lake just a couple of miles away, right at the entrance to the lake. It was an adventure because I followed Mapquest and missed a couple of turns because of unmarked roads — or maybe bad eyes — but I got to see a pretty cemetery outside Peabody and, while driving out of it, a gorgeous red barn straight in front of me. Back on the correct road, I drove by a sweet green house that had a sweet shed made of limestone, complete with a window.

Can somebody get the house around 150th and Nighthawk on some kind of country tour?

As usual I love driving around Marion, and headed first to Jona and Darin Neufeld’s beautiful house at 115 N. Elm, built between 1904 and 1906. The back yard leads down to Luna Creek, and people on the tour will also be able to walk on the two levels of the house’s porches.

Two small gardens — Janet and Doug Marler’s at 201 N. Coble and a reprise of the garden of Marian Crofoot and her daughter Pam Bowers at 412 S. Thorp — were next up before I headed out to the lake.

There, Jackie and Lawrence Volbrecht have lived at 48 Lakeshore Drive for three years. Lawrence told me that they were among about 35 percent of the residents who live at the lake even during the winter. He said he made the drive to and from Wichita every day for a year and a half before pulling up that anchor.

The Volbrechts said that their shaded lot, which runs downhill toward the lake across the street, is on rock. They’ve managed to get grass to grow beautifully, but when Larry tried to sink the post for a purple-martin house into the ground, he was only able to go 6 inches down before he hit rock. He chiseled out another 6 inches before calling it good.

Between the canopy of towering trees above and the stone below, he misses having a vegetable garden, but he’s built some planter boxes where big beautiful heads of cabbage and other edibles grow. Stumps of two trees that came down in a wind storm have been turned into garden vignettes, and a patio has been placed in the middle of the sloped yard to hold a charming array of pots.

“It’s always cool back here,” Jackie said of the shade. Another little patio holds a chimenea where the Volbrechts burn all the twigs that are always falling.

As I drove back to Wichita in the afternoon heat, I remembered a photo that meteorologist Mike Smith had posted on Facebook earlier in the week, of a golden sun setting alongside a red barn out in the country.

“Why would you want to live in a crowded, expensive big city when you can enjoy views like this?” Smith asked.

I think the answer to that is hanging around with the one to “Wanna go see ‘Iron Man 3’?”

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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