By Kathy Hanks - The Hutchinson News - firstname.lastname@example.org For those wanting a unique Christmas tree, there's a farm in western Kansas offering a deal - buy one, get a hundred free. But, be forewarned, these aren't pine trees, but the tumbling tumbleweeds. After last week's sustained high winds over 50 mph in areas of central and western Kansas, Vance and Louise Ehmke had drifts of tumble weeds alongside their rural Lane County home. But, that's to be expected. After all, it's tumbleweed season out west, where the large kochia weeds and Russian thistle soaked up some good rains this summer. Now they are dying, breaking off at the base and beginning their migration across pastures and fields, crossing highways, dodging - sometimes dinging - vehicles, and stopped only by fences and buildings. In Lane County, where it has been like a desert for the past three years, they began getting rain Aug. 1. Weeds grew, and this year there is a bumper crop. "Pastures with moderate to no grazing were losing permanent cover, buffalo grass was literally dying," Vance Ehmke said. "I have never seen so much open ground in my life. We didn't have any cattle on a pasture directly south of the house. With no grazing, we grew a tremendous crop of weeds, some were humongous. One weed filled the back of a pick up." Some of the rolling weeds bunched in piles 10- feet tall. Drifted up against the house, these highly flammable weeds were a danger. Once the wind died down they got pitchforks and began piling thousands of tumbleweeds in the driveway and burning them. They were at it an entire day and still are not done. Ehmke expects it will be a winter-long project. "But, we had fun burning (them)," he said. "You have to make it fun or you'll be miserable." The season is just beginning and motorists on isolated patches of highway should not swerve for tumbleweeds. Run the weeds down. But be warned they might attach to the front of the vehicle or make an annoying scratching sound as they hitch a ride underneath. More than 20 years ago, a western Kansas woman turned tumbleweeds into a small business that is still in existence. "It began as a joke," said Linda Katz, Garden City. She put up a site for Prairie Tumbleweed Farm, when the Internet was just beginning, with a price list. In just two weeks she had a customer. Someone from "Barney & Friends," the show about a big purple dinosaur, contacted her for some tumbleweeds to use on the set. Tumbleweeds collected around Finney County have been in movies and television shows as well as commercial and print advertising. NASA bought some to test in a wind rover for Mars. They only buy their tumbleweeds from Prairie Tumbleweed Farm, Katz said. Actually, Katz doesn't live on a farm, but in Sage Brush Estates in the sand hills west of Garden City, and the prairie is her farm. All these years later she hasn't changed her prices. She still charges $25 for large tumbleweeds and $15 for the small. But shipping has gone up. She deals in only round Russian thistle, and ships them in a cardboard box. Her tumbleweeds have been used to decorate Ralph Lauren stores and Pottery Barn. "I have sent them to schools for free," Katz said. "I sent them to a school in Alaska and a boy wrote back that he liked his tumbleweed, but it was broke, because it wouldn't roll." She imagines the poor kid didn't know it takes wind to make a tumbleweed work. As for using them for Christmas trees, Katz warns people the dried weeds are extremely flammable, and people should never put Christmas lights on them. She agrees the rains in late summer contributed to the spread of the weeds. "When you get a lot of rain, those giant ones grow as big as a car," Katz said. When they are green they are soft and bushy. But in the fall they die, and when the Kansas wind blows across the prairie, they begin tumbling. As they roll they distribute their seeds while they are on the move. Ehmke said during times of economic distress in the farm country, people couldn't afford trees and had Christmas weeds. "My mother did that occasionally," he said. His offer still holds: Buy one, get a hundred free. "Take all you want," Ehmke said. "Bring a big truck."