Sunday, April 30, 2006


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If, while driving through the countryside you happen upon the remants of a two-track road, and in the distance stand a group of trees, you can be assured that at one time there was also a farmhouse.

One day I'll walk up this old road and find the remnants of the foundation. The farmhouse is not a part of my local memory, which means it's been gone longer than 14 years. I always wonder if there exist photographs of the space - in another time. Perhaps a white farmhouse and outbuildings, barn and milk house. Oh, to look back in time.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

tire swing

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The tree is barely leafing out, but soon it will be fully green and dense. The rounded canopy will shade the daydreamer swinging back and forth in the tire swing. I've seen these swings everywhere I travel, including one hanging from a live oak tree dripping with Spanish moss in the Carolina lowcountry. It was a scene righ out of "To Kill a Mockingbird".

As a kid I'd put my legs through the ring and hang upside down. Lots of hours were spent daydreaming in a tire swing.

This is an excellent activity, allowing the mind to wander from task oriented thoughts and into the realm of the "what if...". Daydreaming in a tire swing is a type of cheap therapy, free association with a view. I always felt it was time well spent.

Friday, April 28, 2006


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A window in the stone shelter at Johnsons Mound Forest Preserve creates a frame image of the forest beyond.

The shelter could easily hold a large crowd, but mostly it stands empty. In the 1950's it would have been filled to overflowing with families on an all-day picnic. They were vets from World War II and their families, arriving with baskets of home fried chicken and potato salad, and balls and bats for a game of baseball. There would be blankets for laying in the sun and taking a nap.

People don't seem to "do" picnics anymore.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

yellow and green

About 12 miles west of the push of development, where former fields are stripped of their rich black topsoil, the race is on.

We've finally turned the corner past winter and warmer days are heating up the soil. John Deere tractors create their perfect patterns and flatbeds loaded with seed wait at the edge of the fields. The rains will follow and soon this land will be covered with corn or soybean sprouts.

It's an amazing sight.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

the deep

The once beautiful old white farmhouse lies back in a deep tangle of trees and vines. From the roadway it's hardly visible, but the huge barn standing even deeper in the wooded chaos draws your eye to the spot. Everything is a confusion of brown, black and grey. I step carefully through the underbrush as you never know where an old well might be hidden.

Even in bright sunlight the scene is frightening. I can't imagine this place in a thunderstorm.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


The local flea markets and antique markets should be marketed as affordable entertaintment venues. For the $5 entrance fee you get an entire day of people watching and literally acres of crazy and cool stuff. It's amazing what's hauled to the sale, and more amazing is what actually sells. I watched as an ugly 70's metal wall sculpture sold for $70. It occurred to me that I'm in the wrong business.

In addition to people watching there's plenty of great food for sale. The spinach pie wagon got my vote at Sundays antique market. The perfect square of spinach, cheese and fillo dough was hot and savory with a crispy crust ... just perfect. I took a pass on the funnel cakes, and next time I'll surely check out the pork chop sandwiches prepared by a local church group.

This photograph depicts a booth that sold vintage clothing. I simply loved the image, a disembodied ingenue and a prom queen.

Monday, April 24, 2006

left behind

Nearby there stands a shockingly decayed farm. The barn and house are barely visible in the tangle of trees and vines that cover the entire scene. It's downright creepy on a perfectly sunny day. While exploring and taking some photos I spotted this doll, lying underneath what was once the parlor window. It jolts me into the realization that this skeletal place was once a beautiful and thriving farm. This doll most likely belonged to renters, who moved in after the farmers ceased their operation. Renters stay on for awhile and then the place is abandoned forever, becoming the playground for raccoons and bats.

The loss of the self-sustaining family farm is most evident at this strange place.

This trend however, is nothing new. Andrew Wyeth's beautiful work "Public Sale", painted in 1943, depicted the dissolution of a farm homestead. And so it goes.....

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Today was the beginning of the season for the Sandwich antique market. It was such a beautiful day, albeit very windy even for Illinois. My photography friend and antique dealer Ron was spending the day selling a load of antiques and one vintage 1960 Airstream Trailer.

The tiny bathroom was bathed in a strange greenish light. Outside the green plastic sunshade was lowered over the window. The entire scene just begged to be captured, with a sliver of light streaming down from the ceiling air vent.

My mind always turns to the history - wondering where this old trailer has traveled and what adventures it has seen.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

tin roof

The tin roof of an old barn shines in the sunlight like a new dime. The shiny roof seems to opppose the weathered barnwood.

The awards dinner last evening was wonderful experience. Director Jerry Johnson has committed his life to the endeavors at Garfield Farm Museum, and his hand is evident in all the good things the organization brings to our community. Just to my right at dinner sat a new employee of the farm museum, Patty. She's an assistant site manager and a very interesting young woman.

She asked a very good question, basically wanting to know where I get my inspiration and how I decide what to photograph. It's curious that it's not something I've spent alot of time pondering, and I was quite surprised at how easily my answer tumbled out of my mouth, "My deadline is my inspiration." And that is true. When you impose a deadline upon yourself each and every day, you are force to be constantly scanning, thinking of possible images.

For an example, Patty loved the photo posted on April 6, entitled "Vintage". It depicts a length of chain type material hanging on a wall. Here's how that image came about - knowing I needed to shoot an image for the following day I ate my lunch at Peck Farm Park and wandered around in search of inspiration. The chain material was hanging on the wall of a shed and it occurred to me that framed correctly it almost appeared to be an art installation of sorts. I snapped the shot.

The deadline forces you to create something from nothing at times. Thanks Patty for the interesting question. The museum is lucky indeed to have such an enthusastic and capable employee. You are a wonderful ambassador for the organization.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I am extremely proud to announce that this evening "The Farmers Wife" photoblog will receive an award at the 18th annual dinner and awards ceremony hosted by the Friends of Garfield Farm Museum. The board of the museum has voted to present the blog their "2006 Agricultural Preservation Award" stating, "Your documentation to an internet wide audience of the changes in rural life that are engulfing our community will be a valuable future record. These awards are established to bring attention and publicity to efforts that parallel Garfield Farm Museum's three themes: history, farming and the environment."

This holds special meaning for me because it comes from a dedicated group whose work I greatly admire.

In addition, the award is important for the larger world of bloggers who struggle to gain credibility. A former CBS new executive described bloggers as, "guys sitting in their living rooms in their pajamas, writing and publishing."

Blogging in fact levels the playing field, allowing anyone with a computer and internet access to have a voice. The challenge remaining is to find interesting subject matter, hopefully something you love and are passionate about. If you can do this, chances are that your message will resonate with readers.

And yes, I publish regularly in my pajamas, and it doesn't detract from my statements. Thanks to all my loyal readers.

The photo above is the fenceline at Garfield Farm Museum.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I'm forced to dip into my archives. Life has been busy the last few days, not allowing for any creative endeavors.

Being the inveterate gearhead that I am, it's wonderful to drive around and spot vintage cars, either parked on the side of the road with a for sale sign, or sitting in a barn or shed waiting patiently for the farmer to meet up with the restorer. There are at least two little TR-3's hanging out with the mice in nearby sheds, and Josie has an MGB that was driven up into her hay loft years ago. It sits in the corner surrounded by the antiques that she sells on weekends.

Personally I'm always looking to spot a Karmann Ghia - one of the cars I let get away many years ago. Fun little ride - my Ghia pet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

seed corn

DeKalb seed corn is delivered on a flat bed trailer at the edge of a field, in preparation for planting. The tractor is harrowing the field and the second tractor with the planting machinery will arrive soon.

All eyes are on the skies and everyone is nervous that there might be a repeat of last years drought. I've never in my life seen corn so stressed. The normally soft, arching leaves were pointing like daggers at the sky, pleading for moisture. Many of the fields were sacrified and turned into silage, so as not to lose everything.

Monday, April 17, 2006

My Favorites

As you can see, I've used the plural form of the word simply because it proved too difficult to choose just one photo. It's like trying to name your favorite child - impossible.

I've chosen a photo that represents some themes I try to cover. The first is "Weather" which typifies the struggle between the farmer and natural elements.

Next is my photo of local businessman R.F. Houtz. This photo is very special to me because it depicts the country way of doing business, what I'll call the "sit-a-spell" method.

The county fair photo is a slice of Americana.

The photo of the young woman and the steer is an example of the symbiotic relationship between the farmer and his animals. It also shows determination of a 100 lb. human handling a 1,300 lb. steer.

The photo of the volunteer fireman filling their tanker with water is my example of the volunteer and help-your-neighbor spirit that supports the rural community.

Thanks to all for traveling with me this past year. If you're in the area please support the Burlington, Illinois volunteer fire department next Sunday, April 23, 2006 when they hold their annual pancake breakfast. All you can eat for $5. Debbie will be doing the toast, Rock will be flipping pancakes and Twinnie will be frying up the bacon.

Thanks again from my little corner of the world.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

between water and sky

Development creeps in, sandwiched between water and sky. The developments jump major roads and water hazards, inching westward. Every so often there's a shift and the building explodes with the speed of a prairie fire.

Continuing with Favorites. Bully writes that among the favorites are Fog (March 7), Hiking (March 4) and Weather (Sept. 26). But then there's hard to choose Bully lists:

Change of Seasons (Jan. 31), evokes much sadness. The passing of one way of life.
Oxblood Red - Nov. 12
Winter Light - Dec. 15
Feather Ligth - Nov. 8
Windpower - Oct. 27
Entrepreneur - Oct. 23
Lonely Tree - Oct. 22
Shocks - Oct 20
Fall (in golden mist) - Oct. 14
Fully Involved - (the barn fire) - Oct. 11
Ribbon of Road - Sept. 23
Blue Highway - Sept. 6
Observation Silo - Sept. 15

SRP listed her favorite as Attractive posted on July 23.

Check back tomorrow when I attempt to choose my favorite photo.

Friday, April 14, 2006

looking forward

I'm looking forward to continuing as long as there's something interesting to shoot and write about. Publishing daily presents an interesting challenge that certainly keeps your mind alert and open to what's going on in your community.

The readers are a big part of what drives an effort such as this.

Reader Donna is also a local resident, living in nearby LaFox. Her beautiful property has been featured several times in the last year. This tiny town is truly a jewel and Donna's historic home, barn and outbuildings are the centerpiece. LaFox will struggle every day from this point on, as more than 1,500 homes and townhouses are scheduled to be built, encircling the small historic downtown and changing forever the fabric of the place. Check out March 10, October 31 and December 8th.

My friend the Cracker found an entry on December 6, entitled "Fresh Snow" as his favorite. He decribes it as a Curried and Ives image. I agree, it was such a beautiful scene, who could resist?

Juli, otherwise known as the Girl on a Glide weighs in with the following:
4.13.05: The Family Plot - I love how the dearly departed are still a part of the farm. Their headstones seem to serve as a reminder of how and why.
4.27.05: Baby Doll - The sheep has a gentle smile for the camera and appears to be a stuffed animal. Precious.
7.22.05: Corn Rows - I appreciate this photo because it's a new perspective. A view I've never seen. It appears magical, otherworldly. It makes me feel small.
11.15.05: Day and Night - A silent statement. Says more than words.
I Love checking for your updates, your photos and the impressions you share both visually and wordly. :)

We will continue tomorrow, so be sure to check in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Nothing of interest, except a sky the color of a rare gem. It's such a boost to the spirit after what seems like an eternity of grey.

Today I will continue the one year celebration with the help of loyal readers.

Val Jack wrote that her favorite was from November 1, 2005, "Rough Road". She says, "The picture with its arching trees & the road disappearing over the rise. I love going on road trips and this reminds me of the fun & adventure of being lost on a back road, unsure where it's heading to & hoping another car or town isn't too far away. I've been lost many a time on our roads around here & towns are a long distance in between, so that's not a good thing."

I know the feeling exactly Val. One day I decided to pick a highway and follow it as far as it would take me - - I ended up at the Mississippi River than afternoon!

Sheila says that Coal Train (March 5, 2006) and Moon Dog (Jan. 14, 2006) were among her favorites. "Your blog is a treasure island. You keep it marvelously simple which just adds to its beauty."

Tim Rice, who publishes Ramblings love the photos of kids and their farm animals, taken at Garfield Farms Rare Breeds Show (May 23rd, 2005). I know that Tim loves kids, so I knew that these would be among his favorites.

Join me again tomorrow for a few more favorites.

And please accept my sincere thanks for making the Farmers Wife a part of your day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

head on down the highway

This bike belongs to a local man. It's a V-12. Yes, you heard me right...V-12.

Continuing on our list of Farmers Wife favorites....

Nancy Bea Miller weighs in with the choice of Sept 26 entitled "Weather". She writes, "It's a great photo and I love your observation that perhaps Illinois should be know as Pretty Big Sky Country." Her husband is from Illinois and they come back for family gatherings, etc.

Pablo, the publisher of Round Rock Journal chose October 12, Volunteer as his favorite. He writes, "I love the lighting in that photo. It is absolutely perfect, and the narrative that accompanies it illustrates perfectly the nature of small town & rural living."

Pablo, that photo is one of my favorites also. Beyond the perfect lighting it was a very dramatic scene, a roaring barn fire about a mile away and volunteer firemen ferrying back and forth to fill their water trucks.

Adrian Hudson, from Devon, U.K. votes for October 22, the Lonely Tree. He says he's a sucker for lonely tree shots. He has half a hard disk full of them!! Bravo Adrian. I have "lonely tree" wallpaper image on my cell phone, that's how much I love them.

Monday, April 10, 2006

more favorites

Carrie from Anoka, Minnesota writes that her favorites photos are /Faith and Lily Lake Cemetery both published in December 2005. She says, "I grew up in a small Minnesota town & spent my childhood attending events with family & friends at small country churches in Minnesota & North Dakota. The pictures make me reflect back to those times & in my mind that is what pictures are meant to do."

I agree, and am so glad that those pictures struck a chord with you.

Alissa writes, "I have been a loyal visitor to your site since last summer. I don't
comment much at all, but I do visit nearly every day. I love your photos.
I don't have time to search, but I can tell you right off the top of
my head which photo is my favorite. John Deere tractor (or maybe it was a
combine), out in the field, with a storm cloud coming up fast in the
background. You know which one I'm talking about?" YES Alissa, it's the photo on May 15th Nothing Runs Like a Deere and it's one of my favorites also. I remember the sense of danger as the storm approached from the west.

Check back tomorrow for more Farmers Wife Favorites.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

did you hear the news??

It was one year ago today that the Farmers Wife was launched. At the time I thought, let's see if I can come up with something interesting and see how long I can maintain the site. There are dog days when there doesn't seem to be anything interesting going on, and days when the grey pall moves in turning everything the color of mud.

All in all it's been an interesting journey. My husband is now well trained. When he sees me grab the camera bag he turns and says, "Perfect light?" ... yep, occasionally perfect light.

My sincere thanks to everyone who take the time out of their day to check in. I hope you find our little part of the world beautiful, or at least interesting. I've met some wonderful people and learned alot about my community.

Thanks also to all those who accepted the invitation to compile a list of Farmers Wife Favorites. It's interesting to discover why photos touch a chord. I'll start the favorite list today and continue through the week.

KAT chose a photo from October 23rd entitled, Enterpreneur. She says, "The colors in the barn are such a contrast to the pumpkins below."

The Farmer from Denmark chose October 19, Archaeologist. He says, "Archaeologists ask good questions. Did we ever get the full answer?"
- No we didn't, but I've met the group that owns this barn so I will ask them the history the next time I meet up with them.

Watch tomorrow for more Favorites. And thanks again to all of you for making this journey so much fun. Please forgive the fact that Blogger seems to be having issues and won't allow me to link to anything "Blogger".

airstream at sunset

Returning from a day trip we passed a vintage Airstream. The sun was going down in a dramatic show and some of the beautiful light reflected on the side of the old trailer. It didn't look to be in the best of condition, but one could just imagine that with a little spit and polish it would once again shine.

Friday, April 07, 2006

carving out a space

The old farmhouse is stranded, high and dry. The heavy equipment has carefully carved out the rich black topsoil and underlying clay. It creates a platform on which to display the home. Whereas before it looked lonely sitting on the empty land, it now looks fanciful and silly - a giant wedding cake on a bed of cinnamon and chocolate, waiting to be decorated.

The house was spared the wrecking balls that took the barns and silo. And now it seems, evidenced by the care to preserve it in place, that it will probably be moved to another site.

It will be exciting to see the home take on a new life, and once again be surrounded by trees that anchor to the land.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


It seems we are not allowed more than one day of sunshine in northern Illinois. Today we are back to depresseing greyness. At least the grass is greening up after the last rain, but there doesn't seem to be anything interesting to photograph.

And so, I'm forced into a barn for subject matter. This interesting piece hangs in the barn at Peck Farm Park and looks all the world like a tribal necklace. And for the life of me, I have no idea what equipment this might have been a part of.

It does illustrate how everyday items can take on the aura of art.

I will title this piece, "Vintage Farm Cast-Off".

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

concert for one

It was a clear and warm day in northern Illinois, and I decided to take a ride to Peck Farm Park and climb the circular staircase inside the silo that has been converted to an observation building. There are three levels, with windows at each platform, looking out onto the prairie, lake and presentation barn.

As you can imagine sound reverberates inside the concrete structure. My shoes clanked against the metal stairs, as I climbed to the second level and snapped some photos. There was a sound.....someone was on the level above me. I took a few more photos and decided whether to climb further. Standing at the next curve of stairs, the entire building suddenly filled with the most haunting music. I was mesmerized. The sound reminded me of a native American flute, haunting...plaintive notes echoed off the walls surrounding me and literally vibrating in every direction.

The music continued, fading and rising, warbling lightly and the next moment gone...silence. I stood stock still, unable and unwilling to move. I thought for a moment about whether to climb up, not wanting to invade this musicians space. But I had to thank him for the concert.

I resisted the temptation to satisfy my curiousity... who was he, why was he here, how often does he come here to play? Usually I want to know everything, but the music was so perfect and stood alone in that perfection. He did show me the flute, a Japanese Shakuhachi, something entirely new to me.

Climbing back down the staircase I left him to his music. The notes floated through the building, out the doorway and across the prairie, fading as it moved along the grassy hillside.

If you go here, you can read all about the Shakuhachi flute and listen to one being played. They say that it's used in Zen Buddhist meditation, and this evening I am meditating about the improbability of experiencing an impromptu Shakuhachi concert in a grain silo!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


The Illinois Central once passed along this grade. The track and ties are long gone and the county has created a path for bicycles, hikers and joggers.

The original underpasses remain and although they are quite small, farmers continue to use them as passage to the roadway. As you drive by the concrete form of the underpass creates a frame around the rural scene.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Horrible weather is sweeping across the midwest, leaving communities destroyed and lives lost. Yesterday was grey and wet in northern Illinois, but elsewhere big trouble was brewing.

Our son called from central Illinois where he was visiting his sister at college. He said that he was delaying the departure for home - the sky just to the west was black and clouds had begun to swirl, moving in a way that could only spell danger.

Mother Nature demands respect. All the work of man can be destroyed in an instant. Our egocentric minds believe we have things under control, which is a foolish thought actually. She can throw you a curve at any time.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


My intention this morning was to take two photographs to illustrate the clash of culture that is occurring in our area. Heavily developed and rural agricultural communities are living side-by-side without a buffer zone of any type. I remember traveling from the open ocean to the inner coastline of Belize, and understanding the importance of the dense Mangrove swamps with buffered the transition between salt and fresh water ecospheres. In culture, as in nature, this buffer zone is important.

I intended an mildly amusing post demonstrating my premise that we are perhaps the only place in the United States where a Coach handbag store.......

stands within 2.5 miles of this scene:

which is Johnsen's Livestock Feed and Supply store - closed on Wednesdays, by the way.

I was running a few errands early so stores at the lifestyle mall were closed when I pulled in front of Coach to snap the photo. What happened next slammed me back into the reality of this culture-encroaching-culture scenario. I sat there for less than two minutes, and one unmarked and one marked security detail approached. I was stunned and pulled away slowly, they followed for quite a distance and then turned away to attend to some other danger, real or imagined.

We have chosen our communities because we value the connection, trust and cooperation that they provide. The advancing development is bringing the opposite - mistrust, crime and suspicion and people who are disconnected. Does crime exist in rural communities? Yes, but rarely in our community and even more rarely committed by someone in our midst. you are not very likely to commit a crime against a man you know, and one whom you might need to depend on for your survival.

The Johnsen's employ a security force also - a big dog that runs out to the roadway and barks at you a bit. There lies the difference and hence there lies the problem for us.