Sunday, July 31, 2005


The old country churches age along with their membership, and as the younger generation goes to college and moves away, parishoners find it difficult to maintain the old buildings.

There are two churches in the tiny town of Creston, Illinois, just west of DeKalb. This is the United Methodist Church which is a typical design for the area. Church bells do not call the faithful to worship in Creston. The bell has fallen out of its mounting, and lies askew in the bell tower. Just two blocks away it seems that the bell in the Lutheran church has suffered the same fate. The bell tower has been enclosed and the entrance to the sanctuary seems to have been moved to the side of the building.

As I was photographing a man walked down the street to attend services. He stopped and commented, "Lovely little church, isn't it?"

It is, indeed, lovely.

a friendly game of cards

Playing cards was the chosen form of killing time for the teenagers. Each of the barns is divided into two sections with an open area in the middle. The young people created a sort of social zone in the center of the barn.

Curiously, just out of the frame, the younger kids have been relegated to sitting on a set of low bleachers. The group of teenagers were surrounded by a force field that the pre-teens and younger didn't dare attempt to enter. Oh how I remember being in that painful position of being a geeky outsider and longingly wanting to belong to the older group.

They gave me a look as I passed by and snapped a few shots. It's always a good idea to hang around for awhile, until the novelty of your presence and your camera wears off. Soon they forget about the camera and return to their animated game.

I wanted to tell them to lock this moment in their hearts, for these happy times will nourish them in the future when times get tough.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

marking time

It's day four of the fair, and it's 98 degrees. Huge industrial fans are set up in the barns in an attempt to keep the livestock cool. The days are long, 7 am till 10 at night, and the animals must be tended, watered and fed. It simply becomes too much for some of the younger kids.

They've spent their allowance on the midway, eaten the food and now bide their time trying to keep cool. They're hot and bored and the initial excitement of the fair has tarnished. Later in the evening fair officials will make the decision to release all the animals, except for the prize winners who will be auctioned off on Sunday.

Friday, July 29, 2005

sweet nothings

There's just something about hogs. There's the absolutely horrid smell of a hog production farm, but still there's something about hogs.

Chickens are noisy and gossipy, roosters are mean, and turkeys are dumb as rocks. Dairy cows are nice and I love the smell of a dairy farm and silage. The thing about hogs is that they're generally agreeable animals and they always have this goofy-happy look on their faces. And they seem to be touchy/feeley, always wanting to lay all over each other. Just when you get they all cleaned up for the show ring they roll around in the wood shavings again.

This hog was steadily moving it's snout and mouth as if whispering sweet nothings in it's barn-mates ear.'s sappy, but I just had to post "sweet nothings".

Thursday, July 28, 2005

lemon shake up

This young gentleman is enjoying the best part of the county fair - lemon shake ups. If you go back to the entry on the fried oreos, and look behind and to the left of the chef you'll see a heavy duty juicer and a stack of lemons.......that's a lemon shake up waiting to happen.

Fresh lemons are squeezed, mixed with a little sugar and some ice cold water. The mixture is poured into a large mixing cup with some chopped ice and then they shake, shake, shake. It's absolutely fantastic, nothing like fresh squeezed lemon juice to tingle your parched mouth.

The barn was hot as the blazes and this youngsters family was just a few steps away "detailing" a steer. More on that later.

milking maid

The exhibits open very early and I arrived sometime after 7:30 to find Elizabeth milking her goat. Some of the goats were being milked by automatic electrified milking machines, but this had such a nice feel to it, the milk maid keeping a mesmerizing rhythm. You will notice that she's wearing an earpiece which allows her to hold a phone conversation with a friend as she works.

I handed her my card before I left, so perhaps she'll check out the website and see the picture of her at work.


All the animals at the fair display curiosity about the streams of people wandering past their pens. Some are more curious than others, and the goats seems most curious of all. They're know to be little sneak theives also, so be careful what's sticking out of your back pocket because they just might help themselves to a possible meal. Goats will try to eat just about anything, including advertising flyers hastily jammed in a pocket.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

county fair - 4-H ready for the ring

What would you say if I asked you to characterize the expression on the young men's faces in this photograph? Think about it for a minute before you read further.

These two 4-H members are ready to enter the show ring, but alot has happened to get them to this place. The young people are required to have the animals at the fair and in their stalls (exhibits) by 9 p.m. on Tuesday. This requires the help of family and friends to transport, unload, prepare the stalls with straw bedding and provide feeding equipment. The fair is over on Sunday, and for five full days they must feed, water, provide fans in the heat, and muck the stalls......translation - shovel and remove all waste materials. All the time they're responsible for their livestock entered in the fair they also have chores and responsibilities at home, unless they've made arrangements otherwise.

Many of the animals require more attention than others, so the 4-H members in the milking goat barn usually set up cots and sleep in the barn with their animals. The goats need to be milked very early in the morning. Others groups showing different animals take turns staying in the barn and keeping an eye on the club entries.

This photo was taken on Saturday morning, about 9:45 a.m. and it's already 96 degrees. They've been up since probably 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., getting dressed, driving with their families for up to anywhere up to an hour. The steers need to be prepared for show, and that is a lengthy process with entire families pitching in to vacuum, spray, comb, trim, fluff and otherwise "beautify" the beasts! (More on that later).

So there you have it. Two very tired and stressed young men waiting to enter the show ring, and a chance at not only winning a blue ribbon, but the opportunity to auction off their steer and raise enough to pay for a semester at college. My highest regard for all their hard work.

Special Note to Human Resource and Hiring Managers - You might want to take a close look if you see "4-H member" on an applicants resume. They're no stranger to hard work, responsibility and organization.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

over the top

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It seems that each year at the fair they seem to come up with some over-the-top treat that is as bizarre as it is ridiculous. Sometimes you order just to say you've tried it. The staple at all local fairs is the funnel cake. Milk, egg and flour goodness in a squiggly circular shape. Lightly dusted with powdered sugar and eaten hot, steaming and beautifully browned.

A couple years ago they came up with fried Snickers bars. WHOA. They were the small individual Snickers coated with batter and fried. They were way too sweet for my taste, but this year they've come up with a winner - - fried Oreos!!!

Yes, oreos dipped in funnel cake batter and fried quickly in very hot oil, and again dusted with powdered sugar. They were quite delicious. The oreo loses it's hard crunchy texture and becomes a warm chocolately cake delight. The creamy center melts and creates an inner glaze. The chef gladly posed serving the creation.

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fair food still life

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Fair food traditionally has a bad reputation for being greasy and unhealthy, but everything I saw being prepared was at the very least fresh. Corn dogs are delicious, and are not those hard as rocks frozen numbers sold in the food store. The hot dogs are dipped into freshly mixed corn meal batter and yes...they're fried.

This still life shows a mountain of freshly sliced onions and peppers steaming on a very large grill. They're preparing to cozy up to a nice Italian sausage. Other offerings include chicken or traditional beef and lamb gyros, the ubiquitous midwestern pork chop sandwich and more.

Monday, July 25, 2005

county fair food

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The food wagons at the county fair are self-contained kitchens on wheels that travel all over the country. This years contract went to a company out of Florida and their wagons were spotless. I arrived each morning at the fair very early and the employees were scrubbing down the units inside and out.

I'm drawn like a moth to a flame by the bold colors and over-the-top patterns of the carnival midway design genre. It's a designer best and worst nightmare.

Whereas the previous photo was done in black and white, this one was treated to obtain an old photo look, with deeply saturated and aged colors.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

come to the fair

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This evening marked the close of the county fair. As fairs go I prefer these small gatherings to the huge state fair in Springfield. Have you ever been to fair? If not, join along with me. I've gathered together a collection of photos that depict the activites, the people and the food.

Let's have some fun. I know my band of loyal readers will join along, but how about asking someone you know who's never been to a fair. How about a street photographer or urban blogger?

On Saturday I arrived very early in order to get some photos of the food trailers before the crowds arrived. Luckily clouds had rolled in to alleviate some of the horrible heat we're experience in Northern Illinois - along with the largest severe drought area in the U.S., according to this mornings newspaper.

So, let's go to the fair.


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Although we have a St. Charles mailing address, we actually live in the tiny village of Lily Lake. If you're ever driving up Route 47 in northern Illinois just remember not to blink because you'll miss it. There's no "town", no stores, only a gas station down on the corner at the edge of the village. My husband serves in his spare time as the village treasurer, and he claims the population numbers 750. I'm very doubtful of that figure, unless of course it includes pets and livestock....then maybe.

Even with that small census figure we have two churches, literally just a couple thousand feet from each other. The Congregational church has been featured before, and this is Grace Lutheran church. The small fellowship hall around the back on the lower level also serves as our voting place, and since there's no funeral home around the dead can be waked in the sanctuary, as was the case for Cody's funeral.

Attendance was very light this morning as you can see. Anyone with kids in 4-H were at the fair to prepare for the livestock auction......and anyway it's 100 degrees with 35% humidity and that equals 108 degrees......and the church is NOT air conditioned!!!! Needless to say the sign out front indicates they are going to be building a new facility.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


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The Kane County fair continues through this weekend, ending tomorrow. The fair exibits open at 7 a.m., but I slept in a bit, arriving at 7:30. It was good to walk around early, before the midway came to life.

Steer judging started just after the vegetables were judged, about 9 a.m. The barns were a flurry of activity as each steer was spray and combed and fluffed and "detailed" for the judging ring. It was a busy, busy place.

This is my entry for this weeks Photo Friday challenge - "Attractive". There's probably nothing more attractive than a woman that can handle a 1,600 lb. steer. Attitude - yes! I have reasonable expectations that my bandwidth will be gobbled up like a billy goat with this entry, and perhaps those ChicagoPhotoblogger guys will realize the value of a trip out to the country for a photoshoot.

hot pink

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A honeybee does what he does best - collecting nectar. I watched for quite awhile as the bee crawled across the beautiful hot pink Monarda blooms, his wings tightly locked together. This plant is otherwise known as Bee Balm and secretes a large amount of nectar, which makes it a favorite with bees.

Friday, July 22, 2005

corn rows

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A day after the brief downpour the soil between the corn rows is damp and cushy. The bottom most leaves of the corn plant drapes itself across the secret passageway.

If I was smaller, and younger, the bower of corn plants would make a secret place to play.

When the movie "Signs" was released we all rushed to see it, depicting as it did a rural farmhouse surrounded by corn fields. An audible chuckle could be heard each time the characters rushed into rows of corn. Anyone who lives in farm country knows that you don't go running willy nilly into a fully grown corn field....unless you have the better part of a day to figure out how to get out! One of the most popular activities in the fall is to navigate a corn maze. More on that later........

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

perfect cradle

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After the storm had passed I walked along the edge of our property assessing damage by the winds. A birds nest had been dislodged from the shelter of a large evergreen that stands at the far edge near the roadway. The nest was empty and there were no broken eggs or baby birds lying nearby. It created a beautiful still life, sitting on a cushion of discarded pine needles and surrounded by walnut sized pine cones. Unfortunately the light was failing and a decent picture was out of the question.

I picked up the nest and was surprised at it's weight. The bottom portion had two distinct grooves where the base, heavy with a dried mud substance was formed around two branches. My impromptu photo studio consisted of a piece of matte photographic paper placed beneath the nest, and bathroom lighting overhead.

I love images of natural forms removed from their settings and placed in stark backdrops. They become a piece of art with nothing to detract from their simple construction and beauty. A perfect cradle for the fragile egg.


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Just before noon clouds gathered in the west. At this point we are almost afraid to hope for the much needed rain. Storms have moved across the central plains only to skirt our area, or move sharply to the north.

As I passed this construction site the clouds had darkened and within 10 minutes the skies opened up and drenched the parched ground. Unfortunately the rain only lasted about 30 minutes, followed a little later by another short cloudburst.

Driving home I noticed the corn which only yesterday had assumed a frightening posture - leaves extended skyward in a contorted plea, had relaxed with the gift of moisture. Water, traveling up the stalk to the leaves had filled the cells and relaxed the leaves. They now arch gracefully back towards the ground. More rain is promised for this weekend and that, as Martha would say, is a good thing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


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The windmill rusts in the afternoon sun. This is the barn on Empire Road and the final days are here. My husband, who serves as the village treasurer, informed me that last night at the village meeting the contract was approved to dismantle the barn. He didn't have a date, but it's slated for August. That means I have a few weeks to fill a 1 gig card with as many images of the old space as I can. And then it will be nothing but history and a kiddie playground for the 3/4 million dollar homes planted in the former cornfield.

I've decided to settle on something as a memento of my photographic relationship with the place. I don't know what though. Maybe a length of old chain, or a block and tackle, or perhaps I could take a small saw and remove the initials carved in the side of the hayloft.

Or perhaps I'll just take my memories, and the stories of concocted about the barns former life. I'm not sure.

Monday, July 18, 2005

5 b's catering

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My conservative estimates on the amount of food served at Saturday nights Barn Dance is 5,000 pork chops and 2,000 chickens. The midwest is a prime pork producer and local caterers have refined the grilling of pork chops down to a science.

Like I said before, I always find the peripheral people at an event eminently more interesting than those holding court on the stage. So as the organizers of the event thanked everyone involved (long, long list) I snuck behind the tent searching for the "chop grillers", who had cooked everything fresh that evening. Here's the crew from 5 B's Catering. They deserve a free plug, although the barbecue pit boss is blocking their phone number, I'm sure they're located in northern Illinois or southern Wisconsin. The large grills are being cleaned out, the coals shoveled into large metal cans. It was an oppressively hot evening and this crew stood over the grills and cooked 7,000 pieces of meat.

It was awesome guys...thanks!

the auctioneer

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It would be impossible to explain and auctioneer's duties. His job seems to be keeping things moving along without a pause in the "action" of bidding. Somehow he should be able to create some excitement that keeps creates a do or die situation for the bidder.

A good auctioneer develops a nonsensical vocal delivery that's right up there with yodeling. I can't imagine how you get started or how you would practice something like this.

Country auctioneers can spit this stuff out at an amazing rate and are not to be confused with the more genteel auctioneers who deal in 17th century antiques. I have fond memories of tobacco auctions in Tennessee when the auctioneer would run up the bidding and then shout in a booming voice, "Sold American!"

Sunday, July 17, 2005

the roadie

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Last evening we attended a cancer fundraising benefit in Crystal Lake. The Gavers Barn Dance was probably held in a barn at one time, but the event is so huge that it's now held in a tent. Not just any tent but one that resembles the tent city of Kubla Khan. We were told that it measured 300 feet long x 100 feet wide. There were over 3,000 people in attendance and plenty of room for everyone!

You'd think that a barn dance would include country and western entertainment, but this event featured native Chicagoans and aging rockers - The Ides of March. My husband had graduated high school with lead singer and songwriter Jim Peterik. Although I did grab a shot or two of Peterik and the band onstage, I always find the entourage much more interesting.

This aging roadie was a literal whirling dervish of activity. It's almost impossible to believe the amount of equipment that a band travels with, and there seemed to be lots of people to handle every task. This included a guitar wrangler whose job it was to set up the guitars in a nifty holding rack and test them all out during the sound check. Curiously I counted at least 3 sound boards, one huge motherboard, one smaller and a smaller one still on the side of the stage where the horn section stood.

So my hats off to the roadies.... as the told disco song goes, "They Work Hard for the Money."


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Just underneath the roof peak at the Congregational Church in Lily Lake they've installed a farm light. They're essential when you're out in the middle of nowhere, and usually one is installed on a pole in the area between the house and the barn, or mounted on the barn itself. Still......they're ugly. Well, not exactly ugly, but the light they emit is greenish blue and creepy.

The cross at the apex of the steeple is unique in this area - it's illuminated at night. You can see the cross from quite a distance. Shall I mention the evening I drove past the Lily Lake Cemetery, that sits on a rise about a quarter mile from this church? As I drove down the deserted road something caught my eye. There was a single light glowing at the back of the cemetery. I was not about to check it out in the dead of night. When I returned one day to place flowers on Cody's grave the mystery was solved. Someone has installed a large candle that's protected from the ever present wind. It's on the grave of a 10 year old girl who was killed in a car accident. The graves of the younger people, and those who have more recently died, are covered with any number of mementos.

Cody's teenage friends are now young adults, 22 and 23 years old. Some still visit, many do not. But on Thanksgiving eve, I will guarantee that they all give him a thought.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

a days work

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The tree service only spent one day on the property. I'm sure alot of hard work went into the felling of all the trees on the property. My memory isn't clear as to how many may have been dispatched, but there were at least three giant trees, and many smaller ones I call the handmaidens.

There are literally two mountains of woodchips piled close to the house, and down near the barns there are two huge logs stacked in piles. If time would have allowed I would have counted the rings on the biggest of the logs, but using my hand spread as a measuring tool (that's 8 inches) I measured the largest to be 4 1/2 feet across.

It will be interesting to do updates on what finally becomes of this piece of land.


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Just a week ago this farmstead would have presented a beautiful image. Many times while passing by, I longed to take a photograph of the beautiful large white house and the barns and outbuildings. The roads are narrow and there is no shoulder and I would have had to pull into the driveway.

Although this property is in the general path of development, it wasn't clear whether it had been slated for destruction. The barns were in a state of disrepair, but that's the normal state in this area. The house was obviously well cared for having been freshly painted with a small garden of perennials planted on either side of the front door. From the road it's difficult to see the lower part of the drive and the garage, and although I never saw any activity, I assumed that the house was still occupied.

On Wednesday there was a truck parked in the middle of the yard - "T's Tree Service". On the following day every tree was gone. The house has been stripped of it's shade and protection from strong prairie winds. You see, just a week ago this lovely property was surrounded by a half a dozen trees of various types and sizes. Included was an awesome oak tree just to the right of the house. Hanging from one of it's strong branches, itself the size of a tree trunk, a tire swing moved hypnotically in the gentle morning breeze.

Every morning I watched the tire swing move, back and forth like a pendulum, changing at intervals to a circular arc. The house, the huge oak tree and the smaller handmaiden trees all combined to create a beautiful image that made sense. This image however is cruel and obscene. The house has been stripped of it's protection, standing naked on the prairie, out of context with it's surroundings. The trees have been cut, the larger logs stacked to the left, and the smaller trees ground into mountains of wood chips. The stumps have been ground out, the yard generally ripped up and the truck has left tracks across the space.

The fate has been sealed and intentions announced with stakes and brightly colored surveyors tape. The best scenario would involve converting the house into a sales office for the coming hordes of tract homes. More likely the house will be burned as practice for the local fire department, or simply dozed under and hauled away a truck at a time with the barn wood being sold off to antique dealers.

And now my wish is that I'd taken the moment and the chance of angering the farmer by pulling into his driveway to capture a shot of the beautiful old farmhouse, hugged tightly by the oaks and maples. The farmer would have understood, of that I'm sure. Hopefully they're far away and won't bear witness to the destruction of their home.

Friday, July 15, 2005

wild hive

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Last weekend there was an opportunity to drive out the road that follows Big Rock Creek south outside of the town of Big Rock. This is where I'd found the wild hive on a walking photography mission at the end of May.

I felt more confident about inching halfway down the steep embankment, whose base was now fully hidden by the thick cover of roadside weeds. Registered in my memory was the basic pitch and shape of the hillside and now I had the help of the sturdy and well established weeds to hold onto if I felt myself slipping.

My knowledge of bees and insects in general is lacking, and it occurred to me that I should probably read up on their behavior. Last time the bees were frantically at work building a hive. Their activity was single minded and their work seemed guided by a general consensus of what needed to be done. With that in mind as I inched down the incline, I was shocked at the hives current state of activity.

The bees were sluggish, almost as if they were drugged. The hive didn't seem any larger or any nearer being completed than the last time I visited. The hive, which was more visible, seemed to be consructed of a styrofoam-type substance, instead of the waxy material I expected to see. And most surprising of all was the appearance of the bees themselves. This time they all seemed to have developed a round waxy/translucent spot just behind their head - almost the appearance of a blister. How curious.

So now I'm off to research the bee and try to determine what has gone wrong with this hive. None of the cells are filled and it seems to be an exercise in futility. Was the queen destroyed?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

party barn

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Gone are the days of useful work for this barn. Once home to Guernsey cows and collie dogs, the current residents include barn swallows, raccoons and feral cats. As evidenced by the broken whiskey bottles here and there, it's also host to the occasional barn party.

These are small affairs compared to the large teenage drinking parties held in the middle of 500 acre cornfields. The teens would probably never be found out and the party could continue without disturbing a soul except for that fact that the dead giveaway is 60-80 cars parked along a lonely dirt road. One of the county sheriffs was sorely angered, not only because these kids are putting themselves in grave danger by drinking and driving, but also by the fact that he had to haul the evidence - two kegs of beer - back through the cornfield to the roadway. That's a distance of probably a quarter of a mile.

The barn parties are small affairs - a couple of teens huddled in it's shelter, drinking booze and smoking cigarettes. If there's food involved the leftovers are quickly dispatched by the ever present raccoons, and all that's left are broken whiskey bottles as evidence of the barns latest incarnation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the view

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At least once a week my routine includes a visit to what will here forward be referred to as "the barn". There are hundreds of barns in Kane County, in various states of disrepair, all worthy of being immortalized on film. "The barn", however, has a couple of things going for it. First, it's accessible, in a state of ownership limbo between the developer and our tiny village. Second, it's near my place, and it's a beauty full of interesting things. And, last but not least, I've fallen in love with the place.

Author Barry Lopez talks about the love of place, and I have fulfilled some of his requirements for this relationship. Those include paying imitimate attention to a place. My eyes and my camera regularly feast on the details of this space - the beautiful aged barnwood, the crackling paint, the empty window frames and the magnificent cathedral-like space that is the hay loft.

I cannot claim to have a storied relationship with this place. I've never milked a cow, or filled the loft with hay, never having been a part of the barns working life. My storied relationship is limited to memories of the conditions, sights and sounds on image capturing missions.

The first time I ventured into the barn it was bitter cold, the kind of cold that jars your senses. It was in November and the light was that special winter light that captures pink and blue. Subsequent visits hold memories of vines creeping slowly into barn doors hanging ajar, and birds singing hymns in the rafters of the hay loft.

Lastly Lopez talks about living ethically with a place. My ethical relationship with this place is to record it's existence and it's beauty before it is no more. That day will come. There is no way to save the place, there is only creating a memory of it's working life and it's decay.

I have yet to find a way that is technically correct for capturing the hay loft. That remains elusive to me. But here is my offering for today....another look out of the milking room window. We've been here before, you and I, but the view is never quite the same, is it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


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Dennis slammed ashore and did his damage. The remnants of the storm swirled in an ever widening circle up the middle of America. Unfortunately this is all that was left of his fury......these paltry water droplets, which could hardly be called raindrops. His death throes also brought lots of wind. This is the midwest, home of tornado alley, we don't need anymore wind. Got plenty, thanks anyway Dennis.

The wierd weather conditions this growing season have created what I regard as mutant corn. A normal corn plant is characterized by broad leaves that rise vertically and then gently arch back towards the ground. They're beautiful and graceful when viewed as row upon row of gently arching leaf forms.

This year the leaves are narrow, with a swordlike shape that stabs straight into the sky, as if cursing Mother Nature for not providing nourishment. Only time will tell what fruit these sabre like plants will bear.

Monday, July 11, 2005

candid portrait

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Candid portraits have always fascinated me, and my favorite of all are those of people surrounded by their belongings, or at the very least in their element. It tells volumes about the person that you could never guess if they were posed in a studio.

Recently one of the young photographers at the newspaper was sent on an assignement to capture the image of a local woman who was turning 100. Naturally you think of a close up, showing all the lines and character than age has brought to the face. He returned with a profile shot from a distance, of the woman sitting in her living room, her space. The camera literally ate up the scene - the lace curtains, the womans easy chair, the old lamp with it's fussy lampshade, the wallpaper....the wallpaper alone spoke volumes, an old floral pattern, knick knacks and family pictures finished the scene. It was a marvelous and respectful depiction of the elderly.

This is my attempt at a candid portrait of my neighbor Marge in her element. She surrounded by the remnants of a persons life. These are the items that are left after family members have gone through possessions, choosing for themselves the meaningful, treasured or valuable objects. Left are the odds and ends of life - a few books, glassware, linens, old kitchen gadgets and odd collections that hold no draw for the bereaved. And for me? A set of era 1960's, Frank Sinatra rat pack style on the rocks glasses for my gin & tonic. Cost? 50 cents each.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


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This is architectural detail from the English Congregational Church in Big Rock, Illinois. This church is noteworthy because it is very unusual in this area. I've never seen a building with it's features anywhere in the midwest. At the top of this steeple is a cross/shape reminiscent of a ships wheel. Keep in mind that we are thousands of miles away from any ocean.

Friday, July 08, 2005

bob's TV & appliances

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There's not one single big box store in Oregon, Illinois. You'd have to drive up to Rockford if you're looking for the chains or big department stores. Oregon is strictly mom-and-pops. You can probably tell that Bob's once housed the local movie theater. Just around the corner from Bob's is a TV repair shop. Yep, it's true, in small town America we still repair our TV's instead of buying new.

Oregon is about an hour from our place, but we've got a similar appliance store nearby called Soukup's, a family owned business run by Doug Soukup. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong but it's kind of nice to know the people you're doing business with. Doug's a great guy and I got him to buy an ad in our newspaper one time when I promised to bring him some Krispy Kreme donuts.

This winter I'll have to get a picture at R.F. Houtz's Cub Cadet dealer. They quit doing business during the lunch hour, sit around and play cards for an hour!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

working hands adorned

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It's impolite to tell a woman's age, so let's just say that Marge and her husband have been married for 56 years. These are working hands. Hands that have probably never seen a professional manicure. They're hands with strength and characters, adorned with rings collected over the many years of conducting estate sales. Each ring has a story, known only to the original owner.

The line up changes constantly. Some rings stay on the hand for awhile and are replaced with something different, more interesting or more storied. Marge holds my five dollar bill in payment for special treasures I discovered at her barn sale - a pyrex glass pie plate and a hand-carved figurine from Indonesia.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

berry tales

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Picking berries fresh from the vine is a pleasant way to spent a summer's evening. As you walk along the line of brambles you are required to make a decision, over and over again. Is the berry fully ripe? Would it benefit from one more day on the vine?

Wearing long pants and being careful to avoid being caught on the thorns, I fill a small basket. The evenings efforts conjure up thoughts of blackberry jam or blackberry pie. It take several evening of picking to amass enough fruit to fill a pie and the work effort slides backwards as you sample the harvest.

Monday, July 04, 2005

big rock

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Communities sprang up along the rail lines, at intervals determined by how much grain the grain elevator could hold. This is a typical small town scene. As grain elevator complexes go, this is a small operation. Some of the bigger operations take up many acres.

Big Rock has no stop lights, no stop signs, no traffic and no smog. It's home to the Lamb of God organic farm. For a small subscription fee you can get fresh produce throughout the season.

Independence Day

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It's Independence Day in small town America. In this part of the midwest that means parades, cookouts and fireworks. This is Big Rock, Illinois, one of many small towns dotting the countryside. They've hung flags on the electric poles along Route 30, starting just before the Vacationland RV dealership.

Big Rock is one of the smaller towns, with just a few businesses and lots of beautiful farmland. This building houses the Big Rock Historical Society and it stands on a curving road at the edge of town.

Northern Illinois is a large hog producer, so you can bet that we'll be serving barbecued ribs and pork chop sandwiches later this afternoon. There will be homemade potato salad, baked bean, corn roasted in the husk and baked beans. Thanks for visiting our little corner of the world. Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 03, 2005


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It's early morning in Lily Lake. Parishoners won't be arriving at the Congregation Church for another 2 hours. The sun is just rising and a breeze has picked up. This is a detail of the stained glass windows that encircle the church. I've yet to experience the beauty of the glass from inside the church. I'm sure it's wonderful.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

used glamour

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Margies barn sales are filled with wonderful and surprising treasures. Glassware, dishes, books and any number of items are displayed in neat arrangements, looking for a new home. Plastic tubs are filled with earrings, matched and tucked in plastic bags. Vintage bracelets fill a display case, long since separated from their owners. I wonder what stories these bracelets could tell. Tales of cocktail parties, weddings, anniversary dinners and time past when they helped add a touch of glamour on their owners wrist.

Friday, July 01, 2005


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Organic refers to not only the fact that this cabbage was grown without the use of chemicals, but also to the nature of the design. It seemed to me a much more interesting as a black and white image, although the beautiful blueish green colors of the unfolding plant are equally compelling.

Brilliant yellow/orange marigolds are planted around the perimeter of the beds in an attempt to fend off the bugs amd a phony owl purchased from the nearby Farm and Fleet store is drafted into service standing watch over the garden patch. It won't be long till this is a batch of fresh cole slaw.