By Karen La Pierre
Embracing the field to table trend, and growing tasty fresh vegetables and fragrant colorful flowers, the Scorched Stones homestead has taken on a new look for a traditional central Kansas farm.
Homesteaded over a 100 years ago, the house, barn, tool shed, chicken house, root cellar, and smokehouse are all made of the tawny colored limestone cut in to 400 pound blocks. The chickens were even provided windows in their house, which is currently empty.
Burr oak trees form the shelter belt and provide shade to the farm. The name, Scorched Stones, was used because fire scorched the stones of the barn, giving it a red color.
Jim Holmolka’s great-grandfather built the farm with stone quarried on the property. The farm is located a few miles north of Claflin off of the Wilson blacktop.
“He quarried it in the spring and built in the fall,” said Jim’s wife, Katie Holmolka. “The barn was built first because the cows were important.
“The house was built next.”
Although the transition is in its beginning stages, Jim and Katie, with assistance of son Josh and daughter-in-law Jessica, took a progressive view to keep the farm profitable. Growing wheat, corn and milo wasn’t enough even though both work other full-time jobs.
“It’s come to where the farm can’t survive on crops alone,” Katie said. “You have to use every resource on your farm to survive.”
Wagyu cattle, which is a prime Japanese beef that is high in unsaturated fat and produces great marbling, now roam the pastures. The meat commands a high price.
Katie would like to bring a chef out to the farm for prime rib dinners. The beef would be served along with fresh vegetables. Farm grown flowers would decorate the tables.
They also plan to sell the beef through custom orders.
During the spring, 1,500 tulips and daffodils blossomed with hydrangeas, roses, hibiscus, zinnias and sunflowers blooming in August. Each morning, Katie waters each plant by hand and then weeds with the assistant of Jessica and the grandkids at times.
“We have all of this land,” Katie said. “I decided I’m going to plant beauty and share it.”
“It’s the biggest garden I’ve ever seen,” Jessica said.
Katie has even figured out a way to keep the hibiscus fresh in arrangements, which involves soaking and pounding the stem.
She sells the flower arrangements, which can last up to three weeks, at the Farmer’s Market. The scent of the flowers also makes them exceptional.
Katie also provides floral arrangements and can do weddings and special occasions.
“Everything comes from the farm,” Katie said. “It’s a really pretty time of the year.”
They already hold women’s day out workshops at the farm.
Along with the flowers, Katie grows fresh watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, peppers and squash.
Two 30 by 96 foot greenhouses are being put up on the property, which have already been planted with 300 tomatoes and 130 peppers. The vegetables will be for sale to restaurants or by order during the winter.
They are also planting an orchard with apples and peaches. Fruit trees take five or so years to produce, so it will be awhile yet before they have fruit.
“In five or ten years, it’s going to be one awesome place to come see,” Katie said.
Dreams for the future include building gazebos, and fixing up the barn for rustic weddings and dances.
“We have a lot of long term plans coming,” Jessica said. “Our vision is coming (true). A lot of work is going to get us there.”
Katie and Jim thought they’d never have a child move back in the area but having the younger Holmolkas back has injected new life into the farm.
“We’re just excited,” Katie said. “We have our two grandchildren and it just makes it so much more inviting to do.”
The family works hard to make this dream come true, Katie said, pretty much going from morning until 10 p.m. each night. They haven’t hired help and do all of the work themselves.
“We’re trying to use the land we have and give back to the earth for sustainability,” Jessica said. “And to give people the opportunity to learn about new things.”