Wednesday, May 31, 2006


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I had to stop and admire the workmanship on this old accordian that was being offered at Margie's weekend sale.

Running my fingers lightly over the keys I wondered about the beautiful color. Were they real ivory? Maybe a combination of age and the natural oils imparted by the musicians fingers had magically imbued the color that seemed to glow in the light of the old barn.

How perfect that Margie has displayed some grannies old hats around the squeeze box - a fitting vintage audience to the now silent instrument.

at rest

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Members of the 8th Regiment, Illinois Cavalry (Civil War Reenactors) stand at rest during the Memorial Day ceremony in Elburn, Illinois. This group hails from Woodstock, Illinois.

Yes, those are wool uniforms and they stood in the hot sun for over an hour. They also participated in last years "Elburn Days" festival when they set up a civil war era campsite.

The attention to detail on their uniforms and equipment is amazing.

Don't Forget.....the The Back Porch is open.

Monday, May 29, 2006


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Civil War reenactors representing the 8th Illinois Cavalry participated in today's Memorial Day ceremony at Blackberry Creek Cemetery in Elburn, Illinois.

Hats off to these men who volunteer their time to keep history alive. It was incredibly hot when the ceremony started at 9:00 a.m. They stood out in the hot sun in wool uniforms!

These are the colors of the 8th Illinois Cavalry.

I don't often have an opinion one way or another on my photographs, I simply enjoy the creative process......but this photo... I love this photo. I handed out some cards to the reenactors and hope they have a chance to check it out.

brick and mortar

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Here is the brick and mortar of our communities. These two people, many more like them, and everything they represent make up the foundation for a strong community. "Honest, hard-working people", a phrase that has been used to the point that it becomes meaningless. But it's a phrase that deserves some thought and reflection.

Honest, hard-working people are the strength and security that allow communities to grow and thrive. They are good neighbors who volunteer their efforts, both in formal and informal ways. People you can trust, people you can respect.

Pictured here are local residents Marge and husband Norm. They're part of that group that Tom Brokaw dubbed, "The Greatest Generation." They were children of the depression who had no concept of instant gratification, whose small luxuries were hard won by effort and made meaningful by their deprivations.

They were grandchildren of civil war veterans and their fathers had fought in World War I. Most were young marrieds when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Life had never been easy, and once again it seemed they couldn't catch a break. They went from the frying pan of the depression into the fire of World War II. The young husbands and fathers enlisted in the fight and the women were left to do what women do.......organize, work hard, stay on task and facilitate the universe.

The women filled the manufacturing plants and heavy industry in the absence of their men. The grandmothers tended their children, happy to maintain the traditional at-home role to which they were more accustomed.

The men returned and the younger ones were called again to serve in Korea, my father fell into this group. Perhaps because of their austere upbringing, and the fact that they never developed entitlement attitudes, they never grumbled about their service or the difficulties it imposed upon them.

Today I remember all those who have served our country, with a special nod to the "Greatest Generation."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

saturday night

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Saturday night in small town America. A thunderstorm had rolled through earlier, reducing both the humidity and temperature, making for a perfect evening.

It's relatively short drive to Alice's Place for a turtle sundae. We sit at the table out back and watch the Harley's ride up Route 47.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


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Weather is always an appropriate topic of conversation in a farming community. Livelihoods depend on the weather. Many a farm family woke up to the distinctive voice of farm reporter Orien Samuelson, intoning the price of pork bellies followed by a weather report.

Thankfully this year storm clouds continue to roll across the midwest, releasing the much needed rain onto the fields. No one wanted a repeat of last years drought when the cornstalks, stressed by the lack of rain, literally thrust their normally draping leaves upwards to the skies, pleading for rain. None came. Crops were turned into silage. Diminished yields hit the pocketbooks.

The white barn at Mongerson Farm glows as a pinpoint in the distance, across the burgeoning cornfield. The corn will busily shoot upwards, trying to live up to the old adage, "knee high by the Fourth of July."

Friday, May 26, 2006


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Like one of the ents in Tolkien's Fanghorn forest, an old wizened tree struggles to stand. A huge portion has fallen to the ground, like a limb severed in some unseen battle.

It's not apparent if the damage was caused by a lightning strike, but certainly something dramatic happened to cause the severe damage.

This particular forested area contains several fascinating old trees.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


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I'd like to declare May as "Wierd Cloud Formation Month". Strange clouds continue to roll across the farmland from the west.

Fortunately for us the weather has been cool. I fear that heat would have whipped the atmosphere into a tornado. The previous day a a huge anvil shaped cloud formed within a 15 minute period. It dissipated quickly.

This particularly nasty formation blew in quickly from the northwest. Ahead of it were sparkling clear blue skies brushed with thin white clouds. The contrast was dramatic.

This photo was adjusted slightly in Photoshop "curves". And yes, the cloud was this black and menacing. It also dissipated without a drop of rain, a bolt of lighting or a thunderous roar. Many people were taking photographs. The edges of the clouds in some places had the strange effect of coarse paper that had been torn along the edges.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


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You were probably expecting a photo of a burly labor organizer, but this more accurately represents a teamster. The term originated to describe the driver of a team of draft animals, in this case a team of yoked oxen.

Unlike horses, these are animals are driven and their movements controlled by voice and with the use of a goad, a type of switch. The goad is used to get and keep the animals attention. It's not used as a whip.

The animals start their training shortly after birth. It's amazing to see them in action. The teamster can back them up turning right or left, sort of like a muscular 18-wheeler.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

upstairs window

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Along with lonely tree photos one of my favorite genre of images is something I'll call "the upstairs window" photo. No matter how beautiful the weather, how sunny the day, an upstairs window always holds some danger and mystery.

The sky and some branches reflect off the old glass. You can never acutally see inside, maybe just a shadowy figure. The curtains seem to move someone watching? This always spooks me out. I wonder what Freud would say about that.

NOTE: The screen door is open, so please feel free to visit The Back Porch

Monday, May 22, 2006

auburn java

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This is a rare auburn Java Chick, being held by Tim Christakos from the Museum of Science and Industry. Tim was among the many exhibitors at Garfield Farm's annual Rare Breeds Show.

It was perfect day weather-wise and everyone seemed to be having a good time and learning alot in the process.

That's the beauty of these types of gatherings. It's not just about being amused, although the baby chicks were quite amusing.

Visit The Back Porch for further information on Java Chickens.

somewhere in time

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Somewhere in time a farmhouse stood on this spot. The signs are all around, so easy to read if you know what you're looking for. The first glaring clue was a post with an old fire number sign, down by the roadway. Fire numbers are the rural equivalent of house numbers, red numbered markers to allow the volunteer fireman to identify the property.

From a distance you can identify sites by locating a a grove of trees with an open area in the middle. Trees were planted as windbreaks around the farmhouse. As I walk closer to the open area the old fence and gateposts come into view. My best guess is that this gate and the long overgrown pathway led to the side entrace of the house.

It gets your imagination going to wonder who lived here - somewhere in time.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

laundry day

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This weekend's fantastic weather is so welcome after a particularly grey winter and spring.

On my way into town to buy some groceries I noticed that Val had done her laundry and had it hanging out to dry.

Nature's clothes dryer. Nothing better. Especially clean sheets.

Proctor & Gamble's development team has got their work cut out for them. "Spring Fresh" in a bottle? I don't think so.

ANNOUNCING - "The Back Porch" is open. The Farmers Wife has unlatched the screen door. Come on in and read up on what's going on in Lily Lake, Illinois. It was created for those of you who might want to take in one of our local festivals, events or other interesting things to do. I'm going to do some book reviews (hyper-local authors), comment on local issues and link you to interesting sites and more.

Let me know what you think about the Back Porch slogan, "We're More Than Corn".

Saturday, May 20, 2006


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The Van Vlack cemetery stands on the east side of Thatcher Road. It's typical of the many family cemeteries that dot the landscape in northern Illinois. Some are located in the middle of a cornfield, and this one is surrounded on three side by fields. It is shaded by very old trees and a fence that is meant to discourage vandalism.

As is the case with most of these old cemeteries, the graves are aligned east to west, with head pointing east. I'm not sure of the history of this practice, but it is the tradition of some of the Indian tribes also.

It occurs to me that this spot would be sufficiently spooky on a moonlit night, which snow clouds skittering across the sky. Just across the road is a singularly dark and densely overgrown orchard which could be harboring any number of mythical creatures. Van Vlack does sound a bit Transylvanian, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

down on the farm

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If you're anywhere within driving distance of northern Illinois, I encourage you to make the drive to La Fox on Sunday when Garfield Farm Museum hosts the annual Rare Breeds Show.

Pictured above is a Baby Doll Southdown Sheep, one of my personal favorites, and they'll be returning this year! There will also be the awesome English shire draft horse, oxen in yoke, Berkshire hogs, the rare Java chickens, heritage turkeys, demonstrations on llamas and alpacas, sheep shearing and maybe some dog sheep herding. Tours of the 1846 inn will be conducted, food will be available provided by Inglenook Pantry. Exhibitors plan to have lots of items for saling including goat milk soap, raw wool, roving wool, natural skin care products, sheep and llama fleeces, and hatching eggs.

So won't you make the trip and join the Farmers Wife for a day of fun down on the farm? Look for me, I'll be the old lady with all the cameras 'round her neck. Gosh, I think I've got to create a "Farmers Wife" tee shirt, or a "Farmers Wife" press pass. Bring your camera, bring your kids, bring your notebooks ..... but most of all, bring your enthusiasm for all things country.

The farm is located 3 miles west of Randall Road (St. Charles/Geneva). Turn onto Garfield Road (north) to the farm. Parking is in the pasture just east of the farm.
Hours - 11 am - 4 pm.
$6 & $2 for 12 and under.

I hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

the approach

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For the second time this week odd and dangerous looking clouds formed and moved quickly over the landscape.

On Sunday a huge dome shaped cloud wall formed to the west of here. Like today's storm nothing much came of it, no lightning, no rain. The cloud formation that literally flew across from northwest to southeast today, became the blackest formation I've ever witnessed. The edges were strange and stringy, resembling a coarse torn paper.

The weather is cool, which hopefully contributes to the fact that nothing has yet formed into a tornado.


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One of the more beautiful and hopeful signs of spring is when the mares and foals are turned out to pasture. There are many horse farms in northern Illinois, including large thoroughbred race horse operations.

What seemed like an interminable wet, cold and grey spring gives way to a perfectly clear and sunny sky. As the sun sets the light catches a mare grazing with her foal shadowing her every move.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

old fashioned

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One of the good things about living in USDA Zone 5 is that in addition to growing great corn and soybeans, you can grow some beautiful old fashioned blooms such as lilacs and peonies.

These are the old fashioned variety, the kind that grew in grandma's yard. They are characterized by a beautiful shade of purple and a heady, sometimes overpowering scent.

May is lilac season and this nostalgic flower represents a memory of home. At one point in my life I was living far away in Texas, which seemed like such a hostile environment to me at the time. That, of course, was only because it wasn't "home". It's hard to be somewhere with your heart residing elsewhere.

This bunch of lilacs is for a member of the farmers wife community who's currently stuck in that situation. It won't be forever, and the return home will be all the sweeter.

Monday, May 15, 2006

little redbird

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In a small central Illinois town, in the middle of millions of acres of corn and soybeans stands Illinois State University, otherwise known as the Redbirds.

My own little redbird takes her seat in preparation for graduation in the class of 2006. She's smart and confident and it's exciting to hear her and her friends talk about the future.

Congratulations Little Redbird.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


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Only an eighth of a mile from yesterday's burgeoning corn field is another large field. Last year it was planted in soybeans, which was the last crop for this land.

I suppose the developers press release would read something like this:

"Our company has begun work on the new "Tallgrass" community. Crews are on schedule with improvements that will be completed in time for new homeowners to take possession in late 2006."

Perhaps it's a matter of perspective. But for me, there are no improvements to be made on a nice soybean field.

The Polivka family, who sold their family farm to the local Forest Preserve District rather than developers, were recognized recently at an awards dinner. The Garfield Heritage Society and Campton Historic Agricultural Lands group awarded the family as "Cooperators for Conservation." As one of the Polivka sons said in his acceptance speech, "We knew our father did not want the last crop on this land to be little pink houses."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


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Gray skies move in again, but with the rain comes something of great beauty - the corn seedlings pop through the soil. The spots of green, perfectly spaced in the black topsoil are a work of art in themselves.

This is a good time of year. We're hoping for better weather and no repeat of last years drought.

Tomorrow we'll view what's happened to last years soybean field just down the road.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

fresh paint

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A book on written about the old south presented the interesting thought that the only thing holding some of the old structures together was a coat of fresh paint. I've seen for myself the rapid deterioration of barns and outbuildings that have been stripped clean of that protective coat.

Perhaps the paint is just a visible sign of the behind the scenes maintenance and care that keeps a building vital.

This interesting corn crib is painted in a vibrant and interesting red and white pattern. It's very beautiful, but curiously it stands in a field by itself. There's no farmhouse or barns nearby. The summer before last there was a vegetable garden growing alongside and obviously it's cared for. The blossoming trees create a visual game of hide and seek.

Monday, May 08, 2006

rust reclaims

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This rusted hulk of a building stands at the edge of Burlington, Illinois. In truth, downtown Burlington stretches for only what would be a couple of city blocks, so standing at the edge is not the far of a reach.

A single rail line passes through town and this building is on a small siding. Trains still pass through, but this building seems to have been from another era of railroad history. That small projection on the roof is indicative of some of the local corn cribs, and there is a small tube running down the outside of the building, but the space is certainly not large enough to hold grain to fill rail cars, so it shall remain a puzzle until I can question one of the old-timers in Burlington.

Lots of local photographers love this place, although the "Big Homes - Less Money" are going to be moving into this area, so the old rusted hulk will probably go. For now we'll just call it "photography fodder".

Sunday, May 07, 2006

vine covered

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No longer serving their original purpose, many of the larger silos are covered in vines. The old barnyards stand unused and the one element that always seems a bit spooky to me is the ever present basketball hoop.

The mind wanders to a time when teenager farm boys shot some hoops after finishing their chores. In all my driving around and photographing I've never, ever seen anyone shooting hoops.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

in remembrance

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On Tuesday an old friend died peacefully in her sleep. Florence Richardson was 100 years old, one month away from celebrating her 101st.

Florence lived a remarkable life filled with work and interesting experiences. In 1947 she supported her husbands entrepreneurial efforts, working side-by-side in a barn on their property. Today the company is internationally known Richardson Electronics.

I'll leave the known details of her life to be covered by the local, national and international news groups. My remembrance is a personal one.

We met at church, I was the mom struggling with the challenges of raising small children, and Florence was one of the elders. During the years I knew Florence she extended to me two extraordinary kindnesses. They were simple gestures, but in their nature revealed to me that she had never forgotten the challenges facing young moms. They were extraordinary in their simplicity - acts of kindness that had sticking power which not only helped me in the moment, but served as a model of how to truly care for others.

Her kindnesses were not done in a way that anyone but her or I would know about them. And they shall remain as she wished, quiet moments in which she reached out to me.

Florence moved in a world of movers and shakers, but I always sensed on some level she was still a simple "Missouri gal".

I'll miss that gal.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

see the u.s.a.

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Those readers of a "certain age" will be able to recite the next few lines of this slogan, and probably be able to sing the tune also.

This car appeared parked in a nearby barnyard and I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it. This vintage car (my guess is a 1952) bought back tons of memories. Back in the 1950's vacations meant long road trips to the Florida panhandle to visit relatives. That was three days in a Chevy sedan like this (later a station wagon), 4 kids and two air conditioning or back-of-the-seat DVD players. Just the games invented for long car trips. The roads were two-lane all the way, no such thing as an interstate back then. One year I decided to count the tar lines all the way from Chicago to Westville. I gave up that challenge somewhere in northern Indiana after developing a migraine that lastest four days!

Everyone went on vacation by car back then. The first person I ever knew that traveled in an airplane was my uncle, who flew out to California to serve in the Navy.

For the younger set - one of the most successful ad campaigns of the 20th century went something like this .....

See the U.S.A.
in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call.

50 points to the first "farmer's-wifer" who can remember who sang it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


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Years ago landscapers bought up plats of land and planted acres and acres of trees and shrubs. These operations dot the countryside and provide an interesting contrast to the endless corn and soybean fields. In fact, a large operation stands to the south and west of the old McGough Road barn.

In other areas closer to town the landscaping operations have moved on and the plantings were sold off to make way for new homes. While driving from meeting to meeting it occurred to me that one old plot had at last been totally surrounded by homes, chi-chi $4-a-cup coffee shops and fitness gyms.

The perfectly spaced allee of trees was coming up on the left. I grabbed the camera and caught a shot out the car window.....thus the dreamy motion quality. The trees look so strange, quiet and orderly standing in the chaos of advancing civilization.

Monday, May 01, 2006

mc gough revisited

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This barn was discovered while driving the country roads west of here on a sunny but cold afternoon. Photographic excursions to the McGough Road barn involve parking the car on a small pull-in at a landscapers field about an 1/8 of a mile away. From there I can walk the yellow line down the middle of the blacktop road, with nothing but the sound of wind and birds chirping in the trees.

McGough is not a well traveled road and approaching cars from the south are visible for a mile or so. Just behind the barn is a sharp turn to the east. I've yet to see4 a car approach from that direction.

The quiet and peaceful nature of this spot is unparalled. It's nature at it's most serene. It difficult though, to imagine the barn during its prime. But it's still beautiful in that divinely downslide. I often wonder what will signal the death knell for this barn - a lightning strike perhaps?