Sunday, October 29, 2006

road ends

Lots of decisions like this to make out in the country. Road ends - turn right or turn left....continue to the next one - turn right or turn left. I don't normally turn blindly down side roads because many are simply blind roads leading directly up to a farmhouse.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Last fall this was a harvested soybean fields. This year it's the site of frantic construction efforts to create a subdivision of new homes. You can see homes in the distance, creeping northward.

Last year there were barns and silos. Those were demolished in one morning. the oak trees were dispatched in one afternoon. The farmhouse was isolated and eventually moved.

And now, in a most ironic move, the developer has had a windmill delivered. Not the honest-to-goodness workhorse of old farming tradition, but a sleek silver Hollywood movie prop kind of windmill. It's to stand at the entrance of the subdivision to visually complete the sense of why people will be moving here.....everyone's dream to live in the country.

The dream will tarnish a little come next spring when residents start writing letters to the editor about the layers of dust on their cherrywood dining sets when the still-farmed fields to the west are plowed. They'll discuss the smell coming from the field as the farmer spread manure, and howl in objection as their small pets are snatched by coyotes as they allow them to run unattended in their yards.

I've overheard people saying that country life ain't all it's cracked up to be......depends upon your expectations.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

new lebanon

The sun broke through the clouds this afternoon and after a small bit of shopping I decided to head west on Route 72. That took me into Hampshire and snaking my way through town I headed out in search of New Lebanon, Illinois.

Road signs point west stating in effect, New Lebanon this way. I've driven this route before and have yet to find it. A search on Mapquest later reveals that there isn't acutally a town or settlement, although a search through some local history books might reveal that there once was a small settlement named New Lebanon.

This half harvested field stands near the once-upon-a-time site.

Friday, October 20, 2006

seed pod

The wind was biting this afternoon, and the sky was grey and threatening over the patch of restored Illinois prairie where I spent some time walking and shooting photos. A seed pod is nothing in the crazy quilt of dead foliage. It's just one among thousands, perhaps millions of pod that are remants of the growing season.

Photographing the pods among this chaos just didn't seem to do justice to the interesting form. I plucked one of the pods from it's stem and brought it home to place it in a stark setting, so that it's beauty would stand alone.

Seed pod as art form.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

vintage ride

There are many vintage car owners in the area and hundreds more vintage cars languishing in barns and outbuildings, waiting for the day when loving hands restore them to their former glory.

Car shows and cruise nights fill the local calendars. But the weather is turning and the cars will be stored safely for the winter.

As winter comes the challenge returns - how to find an image a day in a bleak landscape with nothing much going on. The fairs are done for the season, reenactors have packed up as we enter the down time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

the fisherman

Despite a chilly breeze I decided to grab my lunch and head over to the riverbank and eat at a picnic table just below the historic Fabyan Mansion. Fishermen line up at intervals along the banks of the river. This older gentleman was packing it up for the day. The Canada Geese are in town though, and the beggars are always looking from a scrap of food or discarded bait. Unfortunately the geese have been emboldened by years of people feeding them stale bread.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


The little church in Plato Center, Illinois, has been converted to a youth chapel. The congregation has moved around the corner into a large modern building.

I do love the simplicity and beauty of the original rural community houses of worship.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

milkweed pods

Earlier in the season I posted a photo of the milkweed blooms. In the fall the pods form and bust open to reveal the seeds, borne on white fluff. This is at the edge of a restored tallgrass prairie.

It's incomprehensible that pioneers stood at the edge of prairie, as far as the eye could see - and nonetheless plunged in. I do know that some pioneer women planted their heels and refused to enter the landscape, treeless without a single object to anchor to.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Last years soybean field is home to this years semi-custom subdivision. People are paid to plant thousands of roadside signs every weekend, pointing the way to "Big Homes - Less Money".

Alot of the farmers I talk to seem resigned, but some make their children promise that the last crop planted on their land will not be a housing development. One farmer wanted his ashes spread over the land he'd spent a lifetime farming. His children could not bring themselves to comply with his wishes knowing that they would not be able to stave off those with other plans for the land, leaving dad possibly sitting under someone's powder room or wet bar.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

soybean harvest

This farmer readies his equipment before resuming the harvest of soybeans in LaFox.

Many of these men have been farming their whole lives. Some in the Burlington area were refugees from the late 60's-early '70's development push into Schaumburg. They moved west and now development has followed them once again. Most are at or near retirement age so moving on to another farming community is out of the question.

On Monday evening farmers were out in the nearby field late into the night. They were attempting to get the beans in before the forecasted rain and possible snow. A race against time. Unfortunately for me combines do not stand still to have their pictures taken, but believe me it was a dramatic sight. The combines chugged across the field, spotlights illuminating the rows of soybeans, kicking up clouds of dust and chaff from the plants. Closer.. closer.... to the end of the row, and a perfect turn, heading back up towards the cemetery.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

fresh coat of paint

This barn in LaFox is part of one of the loveliest properties in the Fox River Valley area, and the original mistress of the farm was the daughter of Timothy Garfield, whose home and inn is a living history museum.

Donna, the modern day mistress of the property, has given great care to maintaining it's beauty and simplicity. Here the barn has been powerwashed and scraped in preparation for a new coat of paint. It's a example of a typical northern Illinois barn.

It brings to mind passages I read in "Slaves in the Family" by Edward Ball. The plantation owners around Charleston, South Carolina were often strapped for enough cash to have the houses painted. These were much less opulent structures than what is brought to mind when you think of southern plantation. The houses and outbuildings would quickly deteriorate in the heat and humidity of the low country. Many times all that would be holding a structure together would be a fresh coat of paint.

That's not the case in LaFox, as this is a well cared for barn. Livestock no longer calls this place home, but it's a beautiful oasis in the middle of advancing development.

Monday, October 09, 2006

new crop

Yesterday I took a field trip out to Paw Paw, Illinois where there's a new crop on the landscape. These huge modern day windmills blanket the landscape, standing amoungst the corn crop.

They do make a sound, kind of a low key whoosh. The energy produced here is not consumed here however. Just for a point of reference, that's a 2+ story silo at the far left of the frame, standing next to one of the windmills in the distance.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. The last time I did some photography here it was bitter cold. I drove along the gravel roads looking for just the right spot to take a photo of a farm on a hillside with the windmills all around. I drove up and down the road looking for just the perfect view. Then I got out and walked, framing the image in my mind - 2 feet in this direction, 3 feet back, over a step or two. After taking a couple shots I looked down and directly at my feet was the lens cap from another photographer's camera. Guess we all think and see somewhat alike.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Back by popular demand is the Sunday feature, Faith. Thanks to the Porch Sitters who have requested it's return.

This is the tiny church in Lily Lake, Illinois. It stands at the edge of a large cornfield and looks out across the field towards Lily Lake Cemetery. These rural churches were built by the immigrant German and Swedish farmers who inhabited the countryside.

The sky was very blue early this morning, hours before the worshipers arrived.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


These oval corn cribs dot the landscape and are very typical of this area. They're constructed of a concrete type material with spacing to allow air to flow through. The small structure at the top is a space that allows the chain driven system to transfer the corn to the top of the building.

As with the barns, these very beautiful structures are disappearing fast. This crib stands on a stretch of Route 72 which is the area where massive home developments are popping up like dandelions.

It was quite disconcerting when I drove down this road recently, having not taken this route in awhile. I lost my bearings completely as many of the familiar landmarks are gone - as if they never existed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

soybean field

Did you know there are only 2 fields between Chicago and St. Louis? One is corn and one is soybeans.

Just a little inside Illinois farmer joke.

We've seen this field before and you can view the scene yourself if you stand at the top of the small hill that is Lily Lake Cemetery and look north. The last time I photographed this it was Easter morning and the field was covered with the corn stalk stubbled from the previous growing season...corn one year, soybean the next.

The trees are just beginning to turn and the deep golden glow of the dried soybeans present quite a show.

The "Easter Morning" version graces my hand out cards. I'm not in the money making business of photography but wanted a card to hand out to people I meet while shooting in an effort to spread the word and the message of the farmers wife.

Thanks as always for visiting. Wish you were here to enjoy our beautiful midwestern fall.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Back in the day, people had more than one job. They were multi-tasking, having responsibilities for different positions in their community.

My great-great-grandfather was a tobacco farmer and a circuit judge. He traveled the county holding court in different towns. Likewise other men would have served as circuit preachers and farm their own small plot of land. Or farmer/innkeeper as was the case of Mr. Garfield.

My great-great uncle was a physician, but when you take a look at the instruments of his trade in that day it's apparent your health was in dire straights unless it was something that could have been cured with a good bleeding, leeches or thick black salve.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


In the days when my grandfather and great-grandfather were farming peanuts and cotton in the Florida panhandle the rule of thumb was that a man with a good mule could plow an acre a day.

My friend Ellen quickly computed that it would take a third of a year to plow a 100 acre plot of land, which of course made it impossible for a family to farm large tracks of land. The labor involved in harvest was equally daunting until the invention of the steam engine and mechanized farm equipment.

This volunteer at Garfield Farm Museum is demonstrating threshing wheat by hand. That length of wood has a free-swinging piece on the end that would flail the wheat and separate the grains of wheat from the stalks. The wheat grains would fall to the bottom.

That left wheat grains that needed to be separated from the chaff, which is paper thin and lighter than the actual grain. The wheat would be loaded into this box and tossed into the air. This method depended upon a windy day, which would blow the chaff away, leaving only the grain.

All you had to do was to process enough grain to send off to the grist mill for grinding, and only then could you make a loaf of bread. Oh.....AFTER you gathered the eggs from the henhouse.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This lovely young woman was demonstrating spinning at the Harvest Fest, set up under the shade of a large tree next to the chicken coop. She's spinning wool from the Merino sheep raised on the farm. Merino is a more difficult fiber to work with.

These photos are snapshots into the past when life was simpler (simpler....not easier). Day to day living required a trememdous effort with lots of planning and thinking ahead. Laundry, for example, required an entire day, sun up to sun down.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Garfields Inn

Thanks to all the knowledgable volunteers at Garfield Farm & Museum for a lovely and informative day. Jerry Johnson, site manager Patty Kennedy, farm manager Thomas their small army of volunteers continue to amaze me with their dedication and abilities to put together some awesome events. These people are at the forefront of keeping history alive.

This volunteer stands at the side doorway to Garfield Inn, which was the Holiday Inn of it's day. Garfields property sat midway on the wagon route between Rockford and Chicago and for a meer 37 cents you could have a meal, board your horse and bed down for the night.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

chicken fricasee

Don't forget that today is Garfield Farm & Museum's Harvest Day celebration.

This is a photo from last year's event. It's chicken fricasee being prepared over an open fire in a large iron pot. This year archaeologists will be discussing the discovery of the location of the orginal 170-yr. old log cabin. Exciting stuff for the history minded.

Garfield Farm is about 40 miles west of Chicago, just off Route 38.


While I always think of a squall as a storm that blows across open water, my Webster's New World dictionary says, "a brief violent windstorm, usually with rain or snow". So, it seems this quick moving storm would qualify as a squall.

It would be an interesting exercise to confabulate a new word that denoted a brief, fast-moving rainstorm that approaches across a cornfield. Maybe I'll do just that, after a few more cups of coffee.