Thursday, June 29, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The biker attempts to outrun the approaching rain.

My riding days are now over and the bike is long gone. This is one part of riding that I did not enjoy. Many hours were spent over the years sitting under bridges waiting for the storm to pass.


Oregon, Illinois has a long history of connection with the fine arts, beginning in the early 1900's when sculptor Loredo Taft founded an art colony along the Rock River. Today the area is home to several foundries that cast bronze statues.

This week including the field art and scultures, artists lived on the farms and created a body of work based on their experience. These large canvases were produced by artist Bill Stone. His work is very interesting, being created by broad stroke with a pallette knife. He focused on the farms cattle herd.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

One of the existing statues is in Mix Park. It's 13 feet high and depicts Abraham Lincoln and Chief Blackhawk. This is a detail of the statue. Chief Blackhawk clings to a buffalo robe, the only covering left to him.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I thought this artist quite brave to transport his work (lifesize) to the park for display. This will soon be cast in bronze. Even in it's clay state it's beautiful. It depicts Demeter, the greek goddess of the bountiful harvest.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

the fields project

For those city dwellers who believe there is no cultural outlets in rural America, take heart. We do indeed engage in music, theater and art. This past weekend was the culmination of a 9 day art extravanganza.

Visiting artists from all over North America descend upon the Rock River Valley, living with local farm families for nine days, immersing themselves in rural culture and beauty. They paint, photograph or sculpt, interpreting their experiences in whatever medium they choose. It's an attempt to combine art and agriculture.

One of the more ambitious design tasks is the creation of "Field Art". Four designs are chosen and carved into a 15 acre farm field, using mowing equipment and a GPS system. It's kind of a purposeful crop circle endeavor. Local art students from either the high school or community college are given the task of creating at least one of the designs.

As you can now understand, the field art is visible only from the air. Area pilots offer plane rides to view the field. The cost? $25 for about a half hour in the air - What a bargain!

Three stalks of giant corn are visible in the field below:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

One of the other designs is a Kokopelli:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The other two designs are a man in the moon and this year's Field Project logo. Keep in mind that an airplane window does not lend itself to creating good photos.

The weather is moving in fast from the west and after a second turn around the field pilot Darryl Jensen heads back towards the airport.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

He takes me for a turn around the town of Oregon, Illinois - that's the dam at the top of the photo. We fly over my sisters house and my mom's house too!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

On the way back to the airport we pass over the most awesome sight of the day. A peek in the clouds casts a beam of sunlight down on one of the farms.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We come in for a landing on......yes.... a grass covered landing strip. Quite plush and quiet, soft landing. Another plane is waiting to take off.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Read more about the project: The Fields Project

Come back tomorrow and see some of the other art that was created during the week.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Early Sunday morning was overcast and raining. It wasn't apparent whether the flights would actually get off, but I left after 8 a.m. to make the hours drive out to Oregon, Illinois. The weather cleared up along the way and I arrived in time for my reserved 9:30 flight, just as another front began to move in from the west.

Here are the ladies that were inside the building at the airport. That's Dixie on the right, and her friend. Sorry I didn't jot down her name. They were selling bottled water and Pringles.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

After checking in I proceed back to "Gate One", and just beyond my chariot (a Piper) awaited.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The pilot introduced himself and launching into my interviewer-mode I determined he'd been flying since the '70's and he really liked this new plane he'd purchased - more horsepower! He'd flown over from Freeport to offer rides for the day.

I've been in alot of small planes in my day, some while traveling in Central America that literally had tape holding some instruments from sliding around on top of the cockpit dashboard. But most of the planes I've flown in had a high wing, I think that's what's it's called. This plane required that we step on a small bar, grab a handhold and walk up on the wing to climb into the very small cockpit area. There's two seats in the back - for some very, very tiny people.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It's so interesting to be in the cockpit and watch the instruments and take off and landing, which is something that never happens in a commercial jet.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

My pilot, Darryl Jensen, banks to the left after takeoff and we head south towards the reason for my trip - the Fields Project.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Come back tomorrow and find out more about high culture in the middle of a 15 acre farm field.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

plane rides

Here at the Farmers Wife we spare no expense to bring you interesting experiences from the American heartland.

Today we're going to go flying...........

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is the small airport that lies between Oregon and Mt. Morris, Illinois.

From my quick count there can only be a dozen or less planes kept in the hangars.

And no, there is no gate 2.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Train stations across the country are being rehabbed and given new life and new responsibilities. What was once the hub of transportation can become a visitors center for travelers.

In 1966 I caught a train to Chicago from the station in Huntsville, Alabama. Of course railroad travel continued to decline and that station was eventually retired from it's original purpose. Fast forward to 1992 and I found myself once again in Huntsville, this time taking a child to U.S. Space Camp.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the old train station was now a part of ths historic downtown section and part of a walking tour. Upstairs, in the attic of the station, it was discovered that during the civil war troops had hidden out and marked the walls with their historical record.

This is the old Union Station in Springfield, Illinois. The original clock tower from the late 1800's is being restored, having been removed in the 1940's. This appears to be very complicated and dangerous work. The terra cotta detail on the front of the building was absolutely beautiful.

NOTE: I've decided it was getting stagnant around here and it was time to get out and about for awhile. As you can see I finally figured out how to link (duh) and I've added some new friends. There's a great little blog from Montana, and two from Iran. The Iranian blogs have some fantastic landscapes, and check out Farokh's dog. It makes me feel that he's just around the corner, instead of around the globe.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The quilter sat by the open window at the old Rutledge Tavern in New Salem, Illinois. It was warm and the humidity created an oppressive blanket of air that seemed to cling to everything like a damp wool blanket. I wondered how she could abide the cap and the seemlingly endless yards of fabric that made up her period costume.

The information at the visitors center contained much speculation as to the truth about Abraham Lincoln's love for Anne Rutledge, whose father owned this tavern. It's odd to stand in this spot and realize that you are separated from these people - not by space, but time.

teenager meets the Lincolns

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois is a most excellent non-traditional library space. It bring Lincoln, his family and his contemporaries alive - making them your friend, your neighbor. No expense has been spared in this endeavor.

As Lincoln said of Illinois....

"To this place, I owe everything"

I was struck by this teenager, who stood for quite awhile before the Lincoln figures, thinking perhaps that maybe her family wasn't so different from his.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

cooper shop

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The cooper shop* is the only original building in New Salem, the remainder are reproductions re-built in the 1930's. The large logs that make up the construction clearly show the marks of the hand tools used to finish the logs. These logs were dressed out about 180 years ago.

The work involved in constructing even the smallest log cabin was considerable. The interesting window swings on an axis.

*NOTE: A cooper was a tradesman who produced barrels and buckets for the community.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

passing time

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

A young man passes time at the first Berry-Lincoln store. Abraham Lincoln bought half interest into the business from Rowan Herndon in 1832, with nothing more than a promissory note. The small log store was a central meeting place where stories were swapped and politics and weather discussed.

The tradition of the general store continued well into the 20th century. Somewhere along the way a pot bellied stove was added. I can remember well the assorted merchandise in my great-uncles general store that stood along Baggett Branch Creek in Shiloh, Tennessee.

Monday, June 19, 2006

new salem

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

History comes alive in New Salem, Illinois. The reconstructed village that was home to Abraham Lincoln for 6 years depicts life as it was during the day when he was a young adult.

It's a beautiful, peaceful place.

Friday, June 16, 2006

three for the road

I'll leave you with three for the road -
We're leaving for a few days to take a field trip to the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.

Here are three photos from todays shoot at Peck Farm Lake. From a distance it appears that Peck Lake is being slowly consumed by a bright green ring that inches day by day farther from the shoreline.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Not being versed in pond biology I cannot identify the culprit. Perhaps it's a form of algae bloom that's all over the TV news. It seems that algae bloom is a problem in the Great Lakes this summer.

Having tripped on a rock and taken a dive in the upper gravel pathway, I gingerly walked out onto the small floating pier to look around. This feather had fallen into the "goop" and I had no intention of doing likewise.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Luckily no one was around to see my less-than-graceful plummet into the gravel. The half a foot long scrape on my arm proves that I will do anything to get the shot. It also leaves me wondering how I ever rode a motorcycle without wearing leathers. Falling while traveling at slightly over 0 miles per hour, I've managed a very nasty scrape.

Back up the pathway to the car I was harassed at intervals by Orioles, loud and persistent birds. Both side of the path were lined with milkweeds. Despite their tag as a weed, they produce beautiful blossoms. Don't touch - they're extremely sticky!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Have a beautiful weekend.


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The flyover of an old bi-plane signaled the kick-off of the Harvard parade.

The plane flew directly overhead the entire length of the parade route. He flew low enough so that you could see the tank strapped to the bottom of the plane which produced the white plume streaming behind him.

It's not the Blue Angels, but nonetheless exciting to all the kids in the crowd.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

the queen

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In my humble estimation this is the queen of all flowers - the peony.

'Tis reason enough to live in a cold clime, if once a year for a week or two, you are rewarded with peony blossoms, heavy and beautiful, and as large as salad plates.

This is peony, "Sarah Bernhardt".

Monday, June 12, 2006

patient crop

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In addition to corn, soybeans, hogs and cattle, we raise a crop that requires great patience.

Large plots of land just west of here are carpeted with trees and shrubs for the large Chicagoland landscaping industry. This stand of trees grows for many years before being shipped to the market.

A patient crop indeed.

saffron flag

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Once a Lutheran Church, the traditional architecture now houses the Shridi Sai temple.

Just west of this location is the Buddhist Wat Lo property. If you're in the area the Buddhist's will host a festival next weekend. Everyone is welcome.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

mow of hay

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hay has been mowed and lies mounded in the fields. Before it can be baled it much be turned at least twice.

Some farm equipment looks like instruments of torture, as is the case with the pull-behind contraption that turns the hay. Large circular wheels of metal fingers spin as they pass along the field.

If you see one (in it's retracted position) being pulled along the road behind a tractor, it's positively frightening.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

fire alarm

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

While passing through beautiful, historic La Fox yesterday I noticed a fire truck had pulled up in front of the cute blue house on the east side of La Fox Road. The firefighters didn't have sirens blaring and certainly weren't running, so it's our hope that there wasn't any serious problem.

I quickly grabbed the camera and shot out the window while passing by. Imagine my suprise when, after downloading the image, I discovered this odd perspective.

No, this is not a gigantic fire truck.
No, that is not a dollhouse.
No, those are small children, those are grown men.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As evidenced by yesterday's photo of "Used Car Corner", it's apparent that zoning regulations and the way of doing business are a little less structured in rural areas.

The Sunglass Hut is a prime example of the haphazard way that businesses spring up. No need for a $2,300 space in a strip mall if you can erect a small hut at the edge of someone's property. This enterprising man probably approached the owners of the rural craft store and offered a monthly fee to set up on the patch of open grass.

On one corner nearby is a gentleman who carves large bears and other critters out of logs. He pulls his small cargo trailer in and sets up for a weekend of business. The village officials are after him now to pay sales tax.

More plentiful are the vegetable and fruit stands that dot the countryside.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

vintage trucks

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Vintage trucks are parked on a corner we have dubbed "Used Car Corner".

Although still rural this is a very busy intersection. A major north/south route intersects the east/west road. This corner was once part of a farm, but the corn crib and other outbuildings were demolished within the last year. Because of the high volume of passing traffic locals have used this as an unofficial used car lot for years.

There are all kinds of vehicles parked here and I'm never quite sure who controls this turf. Can anyone leave a car for sale on this corner?

The beautiful lupines growing wild add a nice touch.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Parade goers line up early to get the best spots. The storefronts looked well-maintained. It all had the effect of one of those collectible Christmas villages.... the summertime version.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

parade day

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It's parade day in small town America. Electricity fills the air from early morning on. The street was whitewashed the night before, as is tradition, for the Milk Days parade in Harvard, Illinois.

There are all the elements of a good parade, bands play, marchers march, pipers pipe, sirens wail and a float drifts by carrying the 2006 Milk Days Queen. The most important element of all is the crowd without whose enthusiasm all this hoopla would be meaningless.

A rustle of excitement charges down the street in our direction. People jump to their feet and otherwise well behaved parade goers spill out on the white pavement to get a better look at the cause of the commotion.

The amazing marching Lawn Chair Dads are approaching! Northern Illinois businessman Kent Welch and his team perform their routine for the crowd. Lawn chairs whirl and twirl and in a final flourish the dads all sit at parade rest. Proving what we all know, dads work hard and rest equally hard.

Monday, June 05, 2006

old and new

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The good thing about weekend festivals is that I can amass a number of images that allows me to take a breather from the daily hunt of finding an image to post.

At times, like a tragic figure in an O.E. Rolvaag novel, I fear succumbing to madness if I post yet another image of corn seedlings or lonely vistas. There's a need for images of people, and large numbers of people are not an everyday occurrence in the hinterlands.

This photo, taken at Harvard Milk Days summed up the feeling of the day - old and new, traditional farming community makes way for some new faces, new economics and just simply new ways of doing things.

So here are some human beings living in small town America. Could be your town, could be my town, but in this case Harvard, Illinois.

NOTE: If you're interested in reading an expanded version of my thoughts on change in small town America, visit The Back Porch.
If you're interested in viewing the entire photo set from the parade, visit the Flickr set.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

harvard milk days

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This weekend they're celebrating Milk Days in Harvard, Illinois. We made the drive today to catch the annual parade.

This is the longest running festival in Illinois, and was created to honor the local farmers who stepped up production in 1942 in order to feed the troops in World War II. At that time Harvard was known as the Milk Capital of the World.

It was a great parade and the route was lined with kids of all ages, including these girls who were escorted from the retirement home and given a prime shaded location from which to watch the activities.

My mind has entertained the thought that one of the girls had been the Milk Days Queen in the distant past.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

An old red bike is offered for sale at the red barn.

How many adventures did this bike see? How many times did it transport a young boy down a country road? How many fishing trips and flat tires?

Gosh I remember how much I love my bike with the old coaster brake. I could never quite warm up to the fancier hand brakes.

This sure brings back alot of memories.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm always struck by the manner in which reenactors and historical interpreters move their hands. Even more interesting is what happens when their hands are not in motion - working or otherwise engaged.

In the past personal mannerisms were more formal and contained. When a woman was at rest her hands would have been cupped together and held in repose in front of their body.

Also interesting is that fact that the cavalrymen held their hands in a certain position when at parade rest.

Again....another study in hands.