Friday, July 28, 2006

the kid

The rail line running through tiny La Fox, Illinois is a major transport line. It's been said that 120 trains pass through here everyday. I'm sure the folks that live in town, near the tracks can attest to that number.

They've just installed a new set of crossing gates that include an artificial bell sound that can only be categorized as annoying noise. This train included many, many graffiti covered cars including several that were virtually right of the production line - brand new.

I'm not an art critic, but it seems to me that "The Kid" lacks talent. Perhaps he could improve with some practice....maybe on his own home?...or his car?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


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The tall corn all but hides the cooling towers rising in the distance. The Byron nuclear power plant sits in the middle of an agricultural area. The condensation plumes are visible from many, many miles away. Some days they are more dramatic than others.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

long day

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Earlier in the day we'd passed two women who had set up a sweet corn stand on the side of the road. They'd chosen a good spot on a well-traveled road in the tiny town of Kings, Illinois. The speed limit drops considerably and people have to slow down just before the sweet corn stand. They seemed to be doing a brisk business earlier, but we passed by as we were late for a birthday party.

I made a mental note to stop on my way back through Kings, but we were tired and so was she! It was evidently a long, hot day selling sweet corn. $4.00 a dozen seemed a little pricey when the grocery stores sell sweet corn, 10 for $1.00. But the grocery story corn cannot compare to something freshly picked from a Illinois cornfield.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


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This week we discovered one of our satellite channels is rebroadcasting one of our favorite science shows, "Cosmos", hosted by the late Carl Sagan. I miss the old lineup of what I'd call "science superstars", working scientists who were also able to teach via the medium of television. The shows were all well written and we always looked forward to the next installment.

There were several, including Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall and of course, my favorite, Sagan.

Who can forget his enthusiasm and how he continued to exude wonder at that grandeur of nature. "Billions & billions of stars...." rings in my mind.

He spoke of the elegance of nature and this scene of cornstalks reminded me of that elegance. "Billions and billions of corn cobs...."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

rough road revisited

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We've visited this sleepy lane before. I never tire of looking down this road with it's arching, leafy bower. It's a peaceful sight to see in any season. The road rises and dips and you're always left wondering what's just out of sight.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


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The heat must have a negative effect on diesel engines. This was the second truck I saw pulled over with the hood popped open. I can't imagine what they were tinkering with and the other poor guy was blocking the busiest intersection in the county.

The hot and angry drivers were not happy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

fresh eggs

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Rural commerce is as easy as this:

Take the fresh eggs from the fridge in the shed.

Leave the money in the box.

Monday, July 17, 2006

riders on the storm

The heat and humidity have been oppressive the last couple of days. The heat index reach 105 degrees today. We all watched the weather report with a mixture of hope and dread. This afternoon it was reported that a cool front would be moving in this evening, and that can mean serious trouble. Deadly hot weather followed by a cold front spawns tornados.

A couple hours ago lightning appeared in the distance, growing ever closer. Thunder rolled across the fields of corn. Lacking the thousands of dollars of lightning-triggered camera gadgetry I propped my camera on a clay pot aimed at the neighbors house and shot frame after frame after frame after frame. Well, you get the idea.
A little shaky effort, but this will give you an idea of the drama of the light show.

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The following photo is not what it appears.

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It is not a twister bearing down on the neighbors house. The air was calm and this triangular shaped cloud was backlit by the lighting bolt.

The evening is not over, and we never quite sleep soundly on a night such as this. We're listening for freight trains.....


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A quick trip out to the garden last night revealed a Japanese invader, the Japanese Beetle or popillia japonica. They're very interesting looking and equally destructive. Gladly they're busy destroying a weed.

If you look closely you'll see somewhat of a self portrait in silhouette in the beetles shell.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


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Nothing to do in this heat but duck quickly into the cornfield and take some photos. No extended picture taking excursions this weekend.

The heat actually helps to produce a good corn crop. The corn needs moisture and heat to develop properly. It in the state of reproduction now. The silk is luxuriant and spouting like fountains from the top of the husk. The pollen grains are falling everywhere and you can see one sitting on the leaf. It's the rod shaped structure.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

brace roots

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Brace roots form at the bottom of a corn stalk. These roots will continue to grow, turn downwards and establish themselves in the soil. They help support the plant and scavenge top levels of soil for moisture and nutrients which are used during the plants reproductive stage.

Beyond that, they're very cool, and all thats left when a field has been harvested is a short dried stalk and the brace roots.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


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We drove along my daily route, but I had forgotten that my husband hasn't been this way in quite awhile. When we crested the rise on Keslinger Road he looked to the right and with a great amount of shock in his voice queried, "What's THAT?"

Well, last year it was a soybean field, but now from our high perspective it resembles the beginning of a strip mining process. These large earth movers darted back and forth across the acreage, kicking up huge amounts of dust. The rich black topsoil has been stripped away and the underlying dry layer creates mini dust storms. New residents, fleeing the city for a bit of the country life write letters to the editor, bemoaning the fact that they need to dust their solid cherrywood dining tables twice a day. Once when the farmer tills the field to the north and once when the earth movers create the newest enclave to the west.

I instruct my husband to roll down the window and snap the photo as we pass.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

the edge

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It always seemed to me that the edge of a cornfield would be a wonderful place to play. There's some shade and the corn rows make cool tunnels. G.I Joe would have some places to hide or Barbie could ride her ATV down the shallow ditch. Mostly you could think of things to do without Joe or Barbie. The leaves could be pulled into thin strips and braided, or you could pull open one of the ears and check on the development of the kernels.

Certainly there are bugs crawling around to study. Or you could simply lie on your back and look at the blue sky and listen to the corn squeak.

Don't go too far down the corn tunnel, you might never find your way out.

Monday, July 10, 2006


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Several times a year the county comes around and does a brush pickup. If memory serves me well, they actually tow a large wood chipper and dispatch the branches into a large truck and haul it all off somewhere to be used as wood mulch.

These hand stenciled signs appeared all over the area about a week ago. It seems the brush pickup has been cancelled by the U.S.D.A. Ash borer beetles have been found about a mile from here and this action is in an attempt to keep the damage from spreading.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

the farmers dog

There's not been much photoblogging around here the last couple of days. We've been busy trying to spoil rotten acclimate the farmers new dog.

Technically the photo would be the farmers daughter and the farmers dog.

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Pancho, born on....what else but Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May. Yes, he's a Chihuahua. Ears haven't perked up yet, but we like floppy eared Chihuahua's anyway. Don't laugh, a neighbors Chihuahua single handedly kept a 1,200 pound bull from escaping when a gate was accidently left open.

Yeah, he's bad.....bad to the bone.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I've made it a habit of leaving early for appointments. There's a reason, as evidenced by today's experience.

This was the tail end of a string of three slow moving farm implements. Actually, they're outfitted for mowing. The fact that there were three made it impossible to pass.

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So you simply take a deep breath and drive slowly, looking at the scenery. If you're successful it has the effect of lowering the blood pressure instead of raising it.

Five minutes later you find yourself behind this -

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What's a person to do? Nothing, drive slow, look at the cows in the field on the right.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

knee high

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The old saying goes, the corn should be "knee high by the Fourth of July".

At the beginning of June that was in doubt. The corn wasn't growing very fast. But recent rains caused a growing spurt.

My good intentions were to get a young child to stand in the corn field for a photographic shoot. Pictures of corn mean nothing scale-wise unless there's some point of reference. A cute young kid would have been a great reference. The nieces and nephews were otherwide engaged in fun Fourth of July activities. Likewise the neighbor kids, although I can imagine the parents pondering the request....."You want to drive my kid over to the Swanberg cornfield and do what?"

Lacking any outside cooperation I set the camera on the timer, propped it on the trunk of the car and pushed the shutter. Next I ran across the roadway and attempted to position myself in a pose with the corn. What am I looking at? I'm looking at the shallow ditch at the edge of the field. This soon-to-be-60-year-old is trying not to fall in the attempt at photo taking.

Anyway, here's the corn. I'm 5 foot 6 inches tall, so as you can see it's certainly bigger than knee-high. Here at the Farmers Wife we will probably spend alot of time in the next couple of months watching the corn grow. Regardless of what you might think, it's an exciting activity.

Here's a Corn Cam - bookmark it and watch along as the corn grows!

Corn Cam

Sunday, July 02, 2006

o beautiful

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My belief is this - when all else fails, and you haven't an image in mind to fill the days posting.....

amber waves of grain will always be appropriate.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

lunch at alice's

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I've taken you to Alice's many times, but we're never visited inside. If you go for lunch you order at the window and take it to your car, or you can sit inside on one of the 7 stools.

The kitchen is just behind the counter and you can watch as your food is being cooked. That kitchen is the size of the closet in your first apartment - you remember your first apartment, don't you? You remember the closet...behind the bifold or sliding mirrored doors. Yes, that's a very small kitchen.

I had my favorite - mini tacos with sour cream and salsa. This gentleman was having an area favorite - Chicago hot dog and chili cheese fries.