Friday, December 30, 2005
I think people out in the country appreciate art as much as the next guy, but it's not anytime soon that Christo and his wife will erect giant umbrellas in the soybean fields, or ring the cattle ponds with pink fabric.
We'll have to be satisfied with a home-grown form of artwork - a huge fallow cornfield dotted with McMansions-in-progress wrapped in blue plastic. There are a dozen or so just a half mile from here. The entryways framed in scaffolding and bright blue plastic protecting the tradesmen as they apply any number of decorative stonework touches.
It's a bit jarring to drive around the bend and see all this garish blue plastic in a landscape of white and brown. Maybe Christo would approve, perhaps not ... since it didn't begin as a "concept".
There seem to be an inordinate number of terrible accidents on the rural roads around here. The ubiquitous white crosses are everywhere, some intersections or curves piled with more than a few indicating the dangerous nature of the spot.
Having a Mack truck barreling towards you on a snowy, blowy, slippery day is more than enough inspiration to slow down and pay close attention to your driving. The one car accidents are usually caused by excessive speed, and it's easy to do on a lonely road, tooling along without other cars to set the pace your speed increases, almost unknowingly. That is, until you realize those Holsteins are just a blur as you whiz by.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Waves appear on the surface of the Fox River. A closer look reveals that they are frozen in place, the effect of whitecaps are created as the drifting snow nestles on the leading edge.
A large contingent of Canada Geese set up camp on the edges of the still unfrozen open water. Crashing waves, seemingly frozen in mid-air are an awesome sight on the larger Lake Michigan.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
An old milking shed has long outlived its usefulness. It decays slowly, standing alone in the elements, unheated, uncared for. The building, like some kind of radioactive isotope, loses vitality at a mathmatically determined rate, the decaying processes taking its toll.
Buildings in their prime exude a beauty that comes with usefulness and maintenance, the hand of man shows, caring for the structure. As the shed ages, things fall slowly to disrepair and simply look tired and tacky. The interesting stage comes when it passes into what we'll call desolate beauty, when it's crumbling features take on a beauty of their own, a character cloaked in the silvery patina of old age.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost
We've visited this bend in Mill Creek several times before, but I've always found it to be a lovely spot in any season. Here it dons its winter cloak, the large willow clinging to the slim leaves.
As I've mentioned, very few residents of the upscale subdivision bearing the name "Mill Creek" would be aware that there acutally is a creek, which their community was name after. This bend lies north of the subdivision on a dusty gravel road. The condition of the road pretty much assures the loneliness of the spot.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
"For unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a saviour which is Christ the Lord."
This lovely watercolor representation was created by a member of the nearby Christ Community Church. Cheryl Smith is only one of a large number of creative people who lend their talents to the church community. In addition to musical gifts, dancers, videographers and photographers, traditional artists participate.
Once a month a theme is determined and artists submit their work for display. For the christmas season 23 small canvases were distributed and each artist was assigned a letter, the combination of which spelled out the phrase, "For unto you is born.......". It's always amazing to see the different talents and styles.
Merry Christmas to all. May you have a joyous time, however you choose to celebrate this time of year. Many thanks for all the people who view and participate in my efforts. My intention, beyond fulfilling my creative urges, is to present my little corner of the world and promote a better understanding of those in the heartland.
"I bring you good tidings of great joy, that will be for all people."
Saturday, December 24, 2005
This oval shaped building is a corn crib, and this particular style of crib is my favorite. This particular crib is a type made of a concrete type substance that is fireproof. Notice the slotted areas which provide air circulation and the iron bands that encircle and strengthen the structure. The feature at the top houses machinery for a conveyor system that loaded grain into the crib.
The grain stored in this crib was used to feed the farmers livestock. Grain for sale is stored in large co-op graineries, usually there's one in each rural town, and a huge regional grain storage facility. This crib stands in the direct path of new development, and farmers in this area have moved on, of those that remain few keep their own livestock.
It would be interesting to think of new uses for some of these building.
Friday, December 23, 2005
Nestled in this windbreak of trees stands the only farmhouse on Swanberg Road. There's a grass roots effort to buy up farmland before the developers move in, creating open space areas. Sounds like a decent plan, but most of the open space land already purchased is lying fallow, the fields empty except for weeds. It seems the groups have not thought about the problem of utilization and maintenance.
Some, wisely, have rented out the land to local farmers for planting, until viable plans can be developed for useage.
One plan did surface that enraged our local populace. One day while driving down Swanberg I noticed a sign had popped up in the field, "Future site of Poyner Recreation Area". It sent the mind to spinning - groomed snowmobile and cross country trails maybe? No........the plan was for 15 baseball and soccer fields - - 15 - - with enough parking to support those fields. And large stanchion lighting for night play. Basically in my neighbors back yard. And the kicker was that usage was only for the soccer and baseball groups from communities about 10 miles away. Our kids couldn't even use this "recreation area".
Certainly not our idea of "open space". It's been challenged, and for now, we've won the battle. Not yet the war.
This was taken at the side of yesterdays lonely road. It is, in fact, quite lonely. This road runs north and south for only about a mile, and it's only purpose is to connect two other rural roads. It also provides access to the only farmhouse on this stretch of road. One house, one barn, a couple outbuildings and unfortunately another item.
Check the photo out carefully. Like the old puzzles where you had to search the drawing for what "didn't belong", this image contains a portend of things to come. There's a small stake in the center, with a piece of blaze orange surveyors tape tied at the top. This is the harbinger of developers.
I my vivid imagination I bring the trees alive, Ents from the Lord of Rings stalk the fields and rip out all of the surveyors markers, temporarily saving the fields from destruction, or development, however your point of view runs.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
As if an avant garde artist, creating a temporary masterpiece, Mother Natures brilliant show disappears as the sun rises towards its apex. The darker surfaces of the tree trunks give up the sugary coating first, as the rays of the sun heat up the surfaces.
As if to rewards those willing to live in the unforgiving cold, Mother Nature rewards us with scenes of unparalled beauty. One of her most dramatic effects is something called hoarfrost. A quick search on the internet could provide a scientific explanation, but that knowledge would add nothing to the experience. Some things are best left to the realm of magic.
In the evening the moon casts it's light across the snow, creating a scene of stark contrasts. You fall asleep in the purple and blue glow, unaware of what will await you the next morning. Rising early you walk to the window and discover that the entire landscape has been blanketed with a white sugary coating - hoarfrost.
Falling snow lands and collects only on the upper edges of the branches, but hoarfrost covers every surface in it's glittering shards of frost.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
There are no used car lots out here. Don't need them. Just park your car/truck/tractor next to the barn, facing the roadway, put a sign "For Sale" on it and prepare to bargain.
People often wonder why there are so many junk cars on rural property. Where are you going to take the car when it dies? To a junkyard? Well, in some cases that's a hundred miles or more. How are you going to get it there? Tow trucks charge per mile....times a hundred miles. Besides it provides wildlife with some cover.
And don't forget the best reason of all to hang on to the old Chevelle - - because a car restoration buff will give you big money 30 years down the road! And....he'll haul it away.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Danger still lurks, long after the snowstorm has passed. It's said the Eskimos have up to 40 words for snow, and this would represent the situation after a snowstorm of the variety that is a bit dry and grainy.
Farms and outbuilding or wooded areas along the roadway serve as a windbreak, preventing snow from blowing across the highway. In this case we're just passing a farm that's surrounded by woods and you can see the pavement is clear, but just ahead as the highway passes through open fields, the strong west wind has kicked up the snow, creating a drifting situation.
This can be dangerous especially if you're not familiar with the roads. On a bright sunny day you can come up over a hill, or around a bend to find the road is drifted shut. This can happen as fast as 10-15 minutes after the snow plows have passed through. My husband once drove up and over a small rise only to bury the nose of the car into a 6 foot drift. Now you're in trouble because if there's another vehicle coming up behind they'll plow into you. If you can get out of the car (think about pushing a car door open against chest deep snow) you'll be faced with trudging through deep snow. Some snow can support your weight and some cannot.
This is a situation we rarely face, as conditions must be right for the super drifting to occur. The trunk in winter contains - a blanket, a shovel, a bag of salt (for weight and traction), hazard marker, candy bars or granola bars (honestly, you never know), an old rug. The old rug can be wedged under a real tire to "grab" and get you out of some sticky situations.
I know alot of you live in warmer climates and can't understand it, but i count myself as one of those people who loves winter, loves the snow and loves the change of seasons and variety. To be a dyed in the wool midwesterner, you gotta love a challenge!
Monday, December 19, 2005
My relationship with the old barn didn't begin until after it ended it's life of usefulness. The renters moved out of the farmhouse and it was demolished, the basement filled in leaving no footprint that a house had ever existed.
In the late fall I decided to start photographing the barn. It stands on a small piece of land owned by the Village. The remainder of the land is in development, million dollar mansions being built on the open farmland. The villages' original plan was to convert the barn to a village hall and community center, but when the price tag for renovation came in at well over a million dollars, the plans were abandoned.
It's ironic that an area that will soon boast mega-million dollars in residential properties cannot bear the burden of the barn rehab. Our small community is home to only two businesses, and only one of those, the gas station on Route 64, collects sales tax.
Small communities such as ours represents local government in its smallest garden variety. There are about 750 residents, but certainly that includes pets and livestock. We struggle to maintain the 8 miles of roads that fall to our responsibility. There's no police force or fire station, those services are provided by the county. And so it is that we chose to build a more affordable village hall and contracted a firm to dismantel the old barn.
The Flemish bond brick foundation is all that remains. This property will be a park for our village, and they are hoping to include the foundation as part of the plan.
I'm not sure there are more than a dozen people who remember what this milking room looked like before it was transformed into an empty shell. I'm glad to be one of them.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The Congregational Church in Fox Mill is silhouetted against a strange looking atmospheric sunrise.
The older churches out in the countryside are small traditional structures. The newer congregations in the approaching development are larger with a modern flair. The smaller churches tend to burn a person out, as there's not much of a volunteer labor pool to keep things running. The new large churches allow you to get lost in the crowd, so to speak.
Some buildings have taken on new lives as places of worship for other religions. When the Lutherans build a new structure on Plank Road, a sect, the Shridi Sai took up residence in the old white church on Route 47. And so the building lives on as a place of worship.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
At some point as a midwesterner you become aware of the wind. Of course on some level you're aware of the wind your whole life, but not in a cognizant way. You never fully realize that the wind is an element of the landscape, as much as the sky or terra firma. It's the invisible element that defines the place.
Usually it isn't until you move elsewhere, or spend a significant block of time away from home the thought creeps in that something is missing. Things seem off-kilter, something's not quite right and you can't put your finger on it. The wind, where's the wind? Where's the driving, punishing enforcer of the weather gods, the force that turns cornfields into valleys of the moon, that pushes snow across the scene like a sandstorm in the Sahara?
Every place had it's silent element. In areas of the south it's the smell. I can get off a plane, take a deep breath and memories and visions of the south fill my brain. A heady cocktail of sandy soil and pine needles takes me back to the Florida panhandle with an old pickup truck bumping along the back roads, the bed loaded with kids anticipating a swim in the old sand pond.
Friday, December 16, 2005
I like to visit the cemetery in all kinds of weather. It's a place of quiet contemplation, a beautiful hilltop location that looks down a gently sloping hillside to the west. It's interesting that in the tradition of the Indians, all the graves are lined up east to west, everyone buried with their heads facing the rising sun.
My daughters friend Cody is buried here, and I visit when I'm driving by and have the time. It's a matter of respect, for him and his family.
My family cemetery is located on a hilltop overlooking the Cumberland River in northern Tennessee. The maintenance of a cemetery is alot of work, and a labor of love and again, respect for our ancestors. We would help my elderly uncle as he mowed and generallly cleaned the area, which is probably 5 or 6 acres. In the heat of the day we'd sit and rest on the low concrete wall surrounding the graves of my grandfather and his wives, one of whom died in the influenza epidemic and the other died shortly after my mothers birth.
We would sit a spell in the southern tradition, talking about old times and stories about the people who now laid at rest in the Nesbitt cemetery. My uncle is gone and he now rests among the others.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Perhaps Mother Nature compensates for the cold weather by putting on a show each morning and evening. As the sun rises on the horizon, a sliver of the sky turns a creamy pink. Thousands of miles from the beach on Ambergris Caye in Belize, I'm reminded of the smooth pink interior of the conch shell lying at the edge of the bay.
Morning light bathes the snow in blue light, and I honestly can't say these sunrises are any less beautiful than the tropical variety.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
No this isn't a photo of Fargo, North Dakota. It's just that everytime I drive a snowy rural road I'm reminded of when the movie Fargo was released.
The critics waxed poetic about the landscape, making it a silent character of sorts. In all seriousness they discussed the exotic desolate landscape as if it was the valleys of the moon. On and on they went until it began to seem silly to a midwesterner. Nah, that's not an exotic dangerous landscape, it's just rural route 43, only dangerous if you slide off into a culvert and are covered by a snowdrift before another car drives by.
I'll tell you right now, you're gonna get plenty sick of snowy-landscape-with-farms-in-the-distance photos. That's all that on the menu these days and it's snowing again as we speak. Perhaps I'll switch indoors and get some shots of the mountains of Christmas cookies we'll be baking over the next week or so.......hmmmmm.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
There's no island in this part of the Fox River called Goose Island. It occurred to me that this huge congregation of Canada Geese actually made up an island. Thousands and thousands of geese were gathered along the edges of open water, creating an unbelievable sight.
Unfortunately this area of the river is difficult to approach and in flat Illinois there are few points of high elevation from which to capture a broad view. This was taken from a car window as we traveled over the bridge. And no, I was not driving the car (this time).
Monday, December 12, 2005
The morning after the snowstorm, acres of cornfield are transformed by the white blanket. The occasional cornstalk or silo in the distance are the only features as land and sky meld together in a frosty image. The view is not quite monotone as the light of winter creates beautiful pink and blue tones.
This is not acutally a white out, which is a very dangerous atmospheric condition. I've driven in a white out and can honestly say it's the only time in my very long life that I've been truly frightened. A huge snowstorm blanketed everything, making the landscape totally featureless. The roads had not yet been plowed, so it was not clear where the road ended and where the field began. It was continuing to snow and thus the sky was color of the ground snow - - and it had warmed up enough that it was foggy! That's a white out.
Luckily I knew the road very well, and fainty, ever so faintly, I could make out the very top of some fence posts on the right hand side. Mentally I calculated in my head the distance of the fence posts from the road, and driving slowly I was able to keep the car on the road. It's what we call in the midwest "White Knuckle White Out Time".
Saturday, December 10, 2005
There's nothing better than a snowy evening, when you know there's no where to go and nothing to do but light a fire and doze off by the light of the Christmas tree.
It's snowing heavily and firing up the tractor to plow the drive will wait until morning. For now it's a good book and a glass of wine.
Stay safe everyone.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Here's Christmas in LaFox, a tiny community about 6 miles from my home. I'm not quite sure how many people would be counted into their census, but in the "town" area there are no more than 12 homes. It's a very historic little town with lovely old homes and one large barn. The people in LaFox have set up a Christmas tree sale at the barn.
This lovely, lovely town breaks my heart every morning when I drive through. This is the last little La Fox Christmas. The commuter train station is located just a few thousand feet down the tracks from the center of the small community - no town really, just a post office and a quilt shop. In January the trains will begin to bring commuters to the station. The developers already are in place with a sales office set up in the old one room schoolhouse. Soon the charm of La Fox will be transformed into one of those make-believe Disneyfied versions of what the town is and was. Baristas will set up shop to be close to the commuters needing early morning coffee and charm galore will be manufactured.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
As promised yesterday, I dug into the archives in the computer and found the photo that was used for last years Christmas card.
This was one of my favorite barns and I loved to pass by in all seasons. The fact that the fairly modern ranch house was abandoned and boarded up should have been a clue that the developers were moving in. I didn't however, see any surveyors or blaze orange surveyors tape anywhere in sight.
I pulled up into the driveway one Sunday morning to take some photos. It was very quiet and I imagined the teenagers shooting some hoops on the small basketball court on the west side of the barn, after they finished their chores. The barn was once filled with hay and dairy cows.
I pass this way at least once a week. A couple months after this photo was taken I rounded the curve on my weekly trip and was shocked to see nothing. The barn had been razed or dismanteled, the house demolished and the entire area looked bare and small.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
This is the same farm where we watched corn being loaded into a truck for transport to the grain elevator.
The farmhouse and outbuildings cozy up to the side of a hill. The crops have all been harvested and a fresh dusting of snow makes everything look fresh and clean.
It's unclear what I shall find to photograph in the next few months. Daylight is just breaking on my short drive to work, but it's pitch black when I leave. Grey winter skies do not make for good shooting conditions. So we shall see how disciplined I can be about grabbing enough shots on the weekends to fill in during the week. Perhaps I'll resort to trolling the archives of unpublished photos buried deep in my computer.
Monday, December 05, 2005
No farmer could make a living off selling Christmas trees, but it does provide a little extra money in the wintertime.
Most of the cut-your-own tree places around here were actually planted by the older farmers many years ago, and the operation "given" to their kids as a way to make some extra money. A few acres were set aside, planted and the trees were allowed to mature. Only a certain number may be harvested each year, allowing the others to grow for the following year.
Unfortunately with liability insurance issues and droughts, many of the Christmas tree farms have given up selling to the public.
This is Zieglers, on McDonald Road. In the summer time they sell regular trees and perennials.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Members of The Little Home Church by the Wayside, in the small community of Wayne, Illinois, gather each year to decorate the santuary in a time honored traditional called the hanging of the greens.
This church was built by early settlers and resembles houses of worship in New England in it's simplicity and design.
Mrs. Richardson and her friend sat in the back pew for as many years as I can remember. Her friend has passed away and Mrs. Richardson, who turned 100 years old this year, rarely attends church anymore. But the traditions that her generation and those before her instituted, live on with a few new twists.
Everyone who wishes to participate is given a task, and even the children help out. On the evening of the Christmas pageant, live animals (sheep, goats and occasionally a donkey) inhabit the creche just outside the door. One year the donkey brayed loudly through the entire pageant. The littlest newborn in the congregation serves as baby Jesus as the children reenact the Christmas story on the altar. Younger boys serving as cherubs look forward to the day they can move up to being shepherds.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
If you haven't checked out "Express Train", please do so. It is one of my favorite photoblogs. It's the blog home of Travis Ruse, who posts one photo each day, taken during his daily commute in the New York subway system.
A quick glance is not enough, as with most blogs you must spend some time and watch the story evolve over time. Writer William Least Heat-Moon would probably refer to it as a photographic "deep map" of the New York Subways. Many stories are played out and you are only limited by your imagination as to the storyline. I am reminded of the old TV show, which would proclaim at the beginning of each show - "There are a million stories in the Naked City".
He started one year ago in December, with the express intention of posting one photo each day.
Express Train -
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Please understand that "the farmers wife" is truly lo-tech....sometimes operating off of a generator. Out here is sometimes like a third world country, if a black cloud passes over we have no power! And "the farmers wife" is old and not computer savvy, lucky I know how to log on. As you can see there are no links to the right of my blog because the truth is I've never figured out how to do that.
But, if you like images and words from the heartland, and a peek into a simpler, gentler lifestyle - stick around. As soon as the troops blast the gremlins out ... I'll be back.
Taking lots of photos and hope to post some soon.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Some barns fall down one board at a time and other come down in a dramatic implosion caused when a strong wind creates a difference in air pressure.
Many of the outbuildings seem to be held together by a boat of paint, the think molecules bonding to hold the structures in a tenuous battle against the elements. The problem arises that you never quite know which are the most dangerous, so it's best to be wary of all.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Harvested corn flows like gold into the 18-wheel grain hauler. The operation is choreographed like a ballet. A holding vehicle runs alongside the harvester at some point, accepting a download of grain. It then drives to the edge of the field and downloads the grain again, this time into the hauling truck.
The grain flow so freely and undulates like a ribbon of gold. I found a safe place to pull off and park my car and walked across LaFox Road to take some photographs. The county Sheriff stopped and asked me if I needed some help.....saw the camera and said, "Have a nice day".
I will try to post every day, but my computer is having major woes again. So if you've seen I've "gone fishing", don't fret and don't forget - like Arnold said, "I'll be back....."
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
When conditions are right and it's time to harvest the machinery runs day and night. The large rigs nowadays have banks of lights and GPS systems.
This farmer had stopped for awhile, leaving his equipment in the middle of an already harvested corn field. If he's been working they would be a large 18-wheeler grain hauler sitting at the edge of the field or in the field if it was dry.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Some of the older and more architecturally traditional churches have closed, moving into buildings that are larger and more functionally diverse. Like the local barns whose purposes have changed or become obsolete, the older church buildings find new uses.
Some have been transformed into homes, and in this case, a large resale shop benefitting the local hospital. There are three of these windows, reaching 30 feet high or more. The colors and the workmanship are fantastic.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
This small barn is probably all that's left standing of a farmstead and was probably used as a utility or equpment storage shed. It stands at the edge of 250 acres of cornfield, which in itself is unusual. Most barns and outbuilding stand cozied up to the farmhouse, creating a small farm compound.
This small building is in very good condition and sports a coat of deeply red oxblood paint, the color of dark penny loafers. Barns in this area are painted white (mostly with green trim), a brighter barn red and even one farmstead that has a barn and three other buildings painted a shade of pinky mauve. My guess is that the farmer had some red paint and white and mixed it all together to get the job done. The older barns have lost all hint of paint except for under the protected eaves, and they shimmer the pearly grey of weathered barn wood.
They are all in various states of disrepair. One beautiful small barn imploded into a heap, with ends upturned to the sky. A storm blew through a week ago and it collapsed.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Somewhere on the road south to the Florida panhandle.
Many who served in World War II were simple farm boys who'd never traveled more than 10 miles from home. My father had left the farm to live with friends in the city, allowing him to finish high school. Some of the soldiers and sailors had never owned a pair of proper shoes until their military service.
My dad was on ship in the Sea of Japan for the signing of the peace treaty a piece of history to which he will always be linked, even if it is only - "I was there."
The young men returned home after experiences (good and bad) that stagger the mind. My uncle returned to the peanut and cotton farm where he still lives. My dad returned to the city and started a family. They saved money to buy one of those small ranch houses built by the thousands for the returning veterans.
Plans were put on hold for awhile as he was called back into the Navy to serve in the Korean War. I never once heard my parents complain their lives interrupted. It was service to your country... a tithe for all the freedoms we enjoy.
I offer my greatest respect for my dad the veteran. He never had a high powered career or made a million dollars. He gave us so much more - a pattern on how to live your life - honesty, hard work, and charity - giving of yourself and your resources to help those less fortunate.
For a country boy, you "done good".
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Fall is winding down and with each day the temperature dips lower. The light begins to change as well. The hot, yellow tones tones of summer turn every so slowly to winter light. Blues, purples and pinks rule the winter and everything will soon be painted with a pastel palette.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
As a kid I had my share of bruises. It wasn't that I was particularly clumsy but I had a habit of looking down at the ground when I walked, increasing the possibility of crashing into something. I'm not quite sure how this habit developed but it only got worse when I found a five-dollar bill on the sidewalk.
I found all kinds of things - jewelry, a wallet, and lots of lots of feathers. I'm not quite sure if birds drop that many feathers, or whether they just find their way to me. At some point I decided the feathers were a sign, of what I was never sure, but a sign nonetheless.
After a particularly horrible day at work there was a feather on the ground. Bending over to pick it up I smiled, taking this particular feather to mean, "Take a deep breath, nothing is that serious." A white feather awaited me as I stepped out of the car to keep a doctors appointment where I was given the results of a test. The news was not good but I sat in the car with the feather in hand, cried for about 5 minutes and said to myself, "Now, what? What are you going to do with this information?"
Whether you choose to believe it or not the most freeing thing that can happen to you is when someone says, "You have a chronic illness that will probably eventually kill you." Whew. That's a sentence alright. We all know we're going to die, we just don't know when. It's a nebulous thought rattling around somewhere in the back of our mind, but when the thought presents itself in earnest and crystalizes....what comes from the depth of your being is, "If I'm really going to die, then I'm really going to live."
Alot of my life was spent in fear - fear of getting sick, fear of flying, fear of losing a job, just one big bundle of fear. That one sentence blew everything apart and for the first time in my life I began to live - really live, with joy and excitement about what the next day would bring.
Eight years into the journey with the wolf, Lupus, and pushing through the physical problems is a challenge, but it's one of the best things that every happened to me.
The feather I found that morning is taped in my journal. Look down, find a feather, there's a message for you there.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Two seemingly unrelated events happened last Friday. First, our village newsletter was delivered in the mail and secondly a large backhoe was delivered at the edge of the woods across the street from my home.
The newsletter for our tiny village (population 750 including pets and livestock) announced that the Indian Creek drainage project was beginning. There's not much standing or flowing water of any kind in our area, although at one time there was a real Lily Lake. At the beginning of the century there were reported several cases of malaria, so residents drained the lake. I wasn't aware it was possible to drain a naturally occurring lake.
The only flowing water I was aware of would be Ferson Creek which runs north to south about 5,000 yards from my property line.
On Saturday morning the backhoe headed into the forest on its tank-like tracts, and began digging the narrow trench pictured above. It was at this point that I realized it was the drainage project and for 12 years I've been living across from Indian Creek. Well, better known as the "damp spot in the woods which was the silted over Indian Creek". The southwest corner of my property is actually the headwater of Indian Creek...also nothing more than a damp spot filled with cattails on the other side of the drainage pipe. But it's at this point the possibilities become exiciting.
My intention is to head out one afternoon and discover whether Indian Creek/damp spots turn to meet up with Ferson Creek running parallel just a short distance away. If that is indeed the case then with shoeleather, canoe, boat and ship I can travel to any shore in the entire world, from my front door.
This is what comes from reading William Least Heat-Moon's, "River Horse". It piques a fascination for the vagueries of water - trickling, flowing, spitting, moving, roaring, joining.... traveling, having it's way, defying most attempts at taming, challenging the adventurous to travel along its sinuous and sometimes dangerous trail.
If tiny Indian Creek joins up with Ferson Creek, it can be followed to where it empties into the Fox River, just above Boy Scout Island. The Fox wends its way south and west to flow into the Illinois river at Ottawa. The Illinois travels to a point above St. Louis where it lends its strength to the mighty Mississippi. It should be enough that the Mississippi leads to the Gulf of Mexico, but from the Mississippi you can take the Ohio and snake your way through other waterways to the Atlantic Ocean, or take the more dangerous ride up the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean in the tradition of Lewis and Clark.
It's a journey that will be taken only in my imagination, but think of the possibilities - the Amazon River, the San Blas Islands, Iceland and beyond. Outside my front door.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
At this point things will get interesting at the Farmers Wife. The blog was born in April with the thought of posting at least one photo per day. There are those times when I'm "gone fishing", but the stats tell me I've entered 263 posts, some days 3 or 4 photos, more than making up for skipped entries.
And now we have - daylight savings time. I'm not quite sure exactly what daylight is being saved, because it's not very light when I leave for work in the morning and very dark when I return at night. I would stop many times on the drive home to take photographs. Now I'll be relegated to shots on my lunch hour or weekends. Let's see how many times I'll be digging in my unpublished files for something to post.
This is the other end of Pouley Road, on a misty grey-bright morning. I usually avoid this route as small town police lay in wait to hand out tickets for any infraction, including not having a front license plate. When the train goes through in December, and the building boom hits the town like a tract home avalanche, they'll have plenty to do - real crime will come as a gift of civilization.
It's probably a good idea to stay off this road, until which time they decide to correct the orientation of this pole. A good wind from the west and it will be history.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Monday, October 31, 2005
This pumpkin greet kids from the porch of a beautiful old farmhouse in La Fox. The town area consists of less than a dozen homes, so I don't imagine they'll get alot of trick-or-treat action.
Screen porches always remind me of author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home in Cross Creek Florida. Her good sized porch includes a bed (sleeping porch), a table, her typewriter, a small bookshelf and a chair. Marjorie would sit on the porch and write, looking out over an orange grove.
If you're ever in the area around Gainesville, don't miss a visit to Cross Creek. Step back into old Florida, complete with a cracker dog run house out back.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Beautiful old country churches dot the landscape. Some are simple, some are more ornate and filled with interesting details. To me, the stained glass is always the most interesting element.
I wonder about their design and contruction. Very few are alike, which leads me to wonder who designed them. Certainly this seemingly simple and pleasing combination of three arched windows was not easy to construct. The framing around each had to be a difficult task.
Tonight at dusk I drove over to Alices Place for one last turtle sundae. Todays the last day of the season and she'll be closed until next spring.
This is one of those small town operations. You can walk up front, order and enjoy your treat at an outside picnic table, or go inside and sit at one of her 8 stools. If you sit inside you can watch her cook at the tiny grill just behind the counter. Space is so tight that she's had to build a small refrigerated storage building out back to house her supplies.
Lots of high school students have worked the summer at Alices, it's a rite of passage and sure beats detassling corn.
With the commuter train coming in from Chicago in December, the nature of the town will change and become gentrified. Alices will give way to something on the order of a Cold Stone Creamery, where a hand mixed designer combination in a hand rolled waffle cone costs somewhere around 6 bucks.
Have a good winter Alice - see you in the spring!
Saturday, October 29, 2005
The open farmlands of northern Illinois would not be the place for you if you're one of those people with a phobia of open spaces. For me fear lies in crossing bridges over open water. The vast spaces of the wide open prairies holds stark and simple beauty.
Two grain storage buildings stand as silent sentinels, stark geometric shapes standing guard at the edge of a thousands acres of corn in Big Rock.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Back when wind was a major power source, Batavia, Illinois served as the center of windmill production. Plants hugged the shore of the Fox River and windmills fueled the economy.
The Batavia dam is crumbling and the old factories house newer technologies. Old restored Batavia windmills, and reproductions have been popping up as decor at local restaurants and shopping centers, paying homage to the towns history.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Unlike the filtered light of winter, which produces pastel tones of pink and blue, the light of fall is strong and clear, producing saturated scenes. Blood red barns decorate the countryside, competing with the blast of fall colors in the nearby forest. All are putting on a show, one last performance before winter tosses her grey coat over the countryside.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Photographer friends drove out from the city yesterday and we spent the afternoon navigating a corn maze. With civilization creeping closer and closer some of the farmers and businesses are dabbling in "rural tourism". The pumpkin farms have long been successful but some enterprising person planted a corn maze and the craze has taken off.
The day was grey and dreary, not making for good photographs, but I found a while back that when the sky is grey objects under the canopy of trees (or in this case cornstalks) photograph very well. So, I took to crawling around, looking for surprises Mother Nature had created. This lovely form was one treasure.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
All you need to go into the pumpkin business is a small piece of land and some pumpkin seeds. Most small roadside pumpkin stand are on the honor system. This person had the pumpkins marked with little signs, and you simply leave the money in a box.
Likewise, the fresh egg businesses. One farm wife has a refrigerator next to one of the outbuildings. You take the eggs out of the fridge and leave the money in a container. It's called trust - it works.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
It occurred to me that I hadn't yet subjected you to a "lonely tree" photo. Well, it's about time.
This, of course, is technically a "lonely trees" photo, but since their standing with their arms outstretched and holding hands, we'll view them as one entity.
Critics will say of course ..... trite - yeah, don't care.....lacking tension - it's in the middle of nowhere, no tension in this spot.
Please enjoy the trite lonely trees. I love 'em, got a million of these shots. Gotta love a lonely tree.