Friday, March 30, 2007


The elements, vandals and a family of racoons have taken their toll on the interior of the old farmhouse on Hughes Road. Many layers of wallpaper are peeling off the walls, sometimes creating surprisingly artistic forms.

This tableau was in the middle of the parlor floor and made me think of a netherworld decorator planning for the decay of the property.

"Here's the perfect wallpaper and floor covering, they match the gold silk cafe curtains perfectly."

The racoons seem to find it a perfectly lovely shelter.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

cafe curtains

The farmhouse on Hughes Road was abandoned some time ago. It's difficult to determine how long it's been standing empty. I've stood at the edge of the road to photograph the barn but until today I've never actually ventured into the property to examine the buildings up close.

The windows are all broken and the elements have taken their toll. The once clean cafe curtains escape through the open window to the outside.

NOTE: On the right hand side you will notice I've added a link to the Iowa Corn Cam. They won't be planting for awhile yet, but start checking it out and join in as we all watch the corn grow!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

laws of nature

Directly across from where yesterday's picture was taken you will see this sight. It's the result of a number of factors beginning with encroaching development.

What was once solid forest floor has been transformed in the muck and mire of a swampland. Just west of here a group of homes were built. The construction of these homes and their particular location changed the way that water flows, forcing excess to flow to the east. The boggy conditions have killed this giant and wind, weather and finally gravity brought a dramatic downfall. Even the largest giants are vulnerable.

I'm sure there's a much more dramatic shot to be had, but the last time I checked I couldn't walk on water.

Monday, March 26, 2007

marking time

The Farmers Wife has reached the goal of 100,000 visitors a bit ahead of the 2-year anniversary on April 9th. It's amazing to me that with a computer and an hour of time anyone can become a publisher, and 500+ posts later I still feel enthusiastic about the creative process.

Someone from Stoneham, Massachusetts accessed the site this afternoon and tipped the counter at 100K. If you read this please e-mail me and I will arrange to provide you with the promised piece of barnwood. Amazingly today also brought visitors read my words and viewed my image from all over the world, something I would have believed impossible when I was a kid looking at a world map. Today's viewers include people from Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam; Manning, Western Australia; West Yellowstone, Montana; Burnaby, British Colombia and Dodge City, Kansas. Thanks to each and everyone of you for your support.

A special word for longtime reader/viewer/commentor Pablo from Round Rock Journal, who kindly mentioned my dilemma on his site. Pablo is a naturalist and steward of the land. Be sure to check out his site because there's always something interesting happening at Round Rock. Never a dull moment, unless he's napping under the tarp! Mostly he's fretting about his lake. Anyway, it was one of Pablo's viewers who linked here and weighed in at the 100,000 mark. There will be an equally interesting/odd or curious item sent to Pablo in recognition of his help in this matter. It was in his honor that I ducked out to take this "foresty" photo for the announcement.

Again, thanks to each and every one of you for taking the time out of your busy day to visit my little corner of the world. Please don't be shy about leaving a comment as it's always good to know you're not talking to yourself!

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I struggle to think what the precipitating factor was in the collapse of this barn. Perhaps the beams were weakened by age and a significant snowfall pushed it into the danger zone. It must have been incredibly loud, the sound of danger itself.

There's no possible way to enter besides the use of a telephoto lens. It's a tangle of wood and the previously mentioned corrugated metal. At the upper edge a window is curiously positioned, no longer needed to provide light to the once dark interior. The hay is long gone, as are the farmers who worked this land.


The sheer scale of the open farmland challenges man to create anything of a size significant enough to make a visual impact. I've been poking around farm properties and photographing barns for a long enough to know that even large barns and silos can be dwarfed by the land itself.

The old barn on Empire Road (since dismantled) was a very large structure. Standing in the hay loft was like being in a cathedral. If chairs were arranged in neat rows it could easily have held several hundred people.

This barn, it's farmhouse, silos and outbuildings stand back away from a very busy highway. The speed limit and its location prevent most drivers from focusing on it for more than a millisecond. It looked interesting enough for me to return one day and find a safe place to pull off the road. Walking down through the gully and across the overgrown weeds brings you closer to the structures and it's at this point that you realize the enormity of this barn.

As a photographer it's frustrating not to be able to find a way to convey its size in an image. This barn is simply on a scale that I've never seen in Illinois. The roof is gone and the upper portion of the peak has fallen inwards but my guess is that it was more than 4 stories tall. It's menacing because at some point someone has clad the entire building in corrugated metal. The thought of a tornado hitting this spot and sending all that steel airborne is chilling. The silos are the largest I've seen on a private farm property. And they also reach 4 stories or more. Four or five stories in midtown Manhattan don't mean much but out on the prairie they make quite an impression.

Maybe it doesn't look like much but trust me, this place makes you feel you're in the land of the giants.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

the mantle

There's something comforting about the perfect symmetry of straight rows created by putting plow to topsoil. The lines stretch in every direction and in some areas in northern Illinois that's from horizon to horizon.

Like a quilter hard at work I imagine a farmer stitching the topsoil firmly to the earth's mantle. Just in case there's any wrinkle in the law of gravity this attachment will keep the whole planet firmly in place.

Yes, there's alot of quiet time to let your mind wander is such strange directions!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

beyond redemption

This old farmhouse has reached the tipping point where it's beyond redemption. The entire property is shockingly decayed and the barn and outbuildings are downright dangerous. A strong wind and the entire complex will simply collapse.

It takes a little imagination to picture this old farmhouse in its prime. The roof has been patched with materials that don't pretend to match. One of the upper windows has been replaced but perhaps that was just an attempt to forstall water damage.

The original porch would have wooden posts and some gingerbread in the corners. The bushes would have been trimmed back so that the occupants could have gazed at the road through the now hidden bay window. There's a lawn chair to the left where they would have sat drinking lemonade after a hard days work.

It's in an area that is being heavily developed and the condition of the house and outbuildings tell me that it's probably been sold to a developer years ago. The owners usually move on and renters take up residence and the property reaches a point where the decay progresses exponentially.

Monday, March 19, 2007

the dead zone

Apologies to Stephen King for the use of the phrase, but in this case it is apropos. This is a very large and very dead tree which stands very close to a busy country road.

A farmer once told me to remember that the long horned steers head is as large as his horns will reach. That thought applies also to this dangerous tree. The dead zone is the circumference of the area surrounding the tree in the possible "fall zone". Because this behemoth will fall. Maybe not this week or next but possibly during the next big thunderstorm.

The house hidden in the woods behind is waiting for an estate to be settled (we believe) and the entire property is overgrown and tangled. Maybe there's a gingerbread house and an old witch waiting back there somewhere.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Barns and outbuildings are disappearing at an alarming rate. The destruction continues at an exponential rate. Without a job and with some time on my hands it might not be a bad idea to compile a photographic record before they all go poof.

Yesterday I drove past an area that I last visited about 8 months ago. My mind seemed to be playing tricks with me - wasn't there a big barn at that crossroads? It's gone with nary a sign that it ever existed. I do understand the danger involved in these old building but hopefully it was disassembled by the guy who deals in vintage barnboard. It may have another life.

This barn is near Big Rock, Illinois and it's getting close to that danger zone. It is a beautiful example of the gray patina of old barn wood. Hopefully it's still standing the next time I drive by.

NOTE: The counter says 98,816 visits and the 2-year anniversary at the farmer's wife is on April 9th. Please do your part to get us to that 100K mark by that date. Pass the link along to friends and family. Hopefully I can determine who the 100,000th visitor is and gift them with a jar of homemade jam or a piece of old barn wood.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


The Norton burial crypt is tucked into a low hillside just across the road from the Norton family farm. At one point in time the road was a simple trail, but now it's one of the busiest highways in the county. In it's entirety it stretches from the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago to the Mississippi River.

I've photographed this spot before and it seems to me that they've installed a new gate. The farm property directly opposite is used to sell produce in season, animal feed and other items. Since I don't drive this route regularly I was very surprised to see that the old white farmhouse is GONE. Poof! Grass covers the area and it looks like the farmhouse never existed. The outbuildings and greenhouse remain and the business is open from spring to fall.

It always seems to me that someone returning years later would be totally disoriented. It's happened to me and it's quite unnerving.

Friday, March 16, 2007


The best part of doing business in a rural community is the fact that you work with someone like Leonard. In most cases you already know the person, but in the case where you don't there's a time honored tradition to be followed.

First you sit in the chairs provided and you chat. You get to know each other and who or what you have in common. After you've chatted for awhile you get down to the business of business. In this case we were purchasing a new car. Leonard is a good salesman because he know the value of listening and helping you find what you're looking for, thereby creating a loyal customer.

After you've purchased the car you've earned the right to stop by and chat anytime! Thanks Leonard. (Just a plug for him - he works at the Bob Jass Chevy dealership in nearby Elburn, Illinois).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

green bottle

The jolt of color from a green soda bottle punctuates an otherwise tan and brown landscape. As we see from yesterday and today's photos the leavings of society are everywhere, including rural areas.

The amount of garbage washing up on an otherwise beautiful beach in Belize was awful. Our hosts informed us that most of the trash is actually from their own inhabitants up the coast who, without any type of organized trash removal system simply dump the non-organics into the sea. The only place we didn't see any litter or obvious garbage was in the Peten region in Guatemala. Of course these people are not consumers in any meaning of the word. What we did notice being from an area where livestock is kept pastured or penned, the livestock in Guatemala seems to roam everywhere.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Large sheets of plastic got loose and flew across the prairie attaching itself to some trees at the edge of a cornfield. The plastic flaps wildly in the incessant northern Illinois wind suggesting a industrialist version of Tibetan prayer flags.

Have I mentioned that the wind is an invisible but inseparable element of our landscape? It's for this reason that dead calm strikes fear in the heart of a flatlander - the calm before the storm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


This lovely little farm is now totally surrounded by advancing development. They continue to farm small patches of hay, but the large crops of corn and soybeans are in the past.

As is the case with much of the land around here, this property has most likely already passed hands to the developers. They're just not ready to move forward with a shopping center or million dollar homes ....... just yet.

For now it's a lovely oasis.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


There's a slightly elevated boardwalk to allow you to walk across the fen, observing nature as you go along. The walkway ends at certain points, replaced by a footpath.

On the day I visited the boardwalk and footpaths were littered with dog droppings. If you are observant you'll notice that along the footpaths there are dog size droppings of a very different type and my best guess is that it's coyote scat. The difference is striking as the coyote scat is dark as tar (digested blood) and shows obvious signs of organic material - bones, feathers, etc. The dog droppings in contrast are obviously disgested grain material.

I'm sure that's more than you wanted to know about what litters the walkways, but it's just another interesting feature of the fen. Besides, it's not quite spring and there wasn't much in terms of birds or wildlife to observe. The river is still frozen from the shoreline to about 15 feet into the river.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

the fen

This is a small part of the Ferson Creek Fen. If you're unfamiliar with a fen, it's marshy area. This one is alongside the Fox River and additionally serves as a flood plain. Flood plains are important because when the river floods it's banks it deposits silt which would otherwise clog the waterway.

The slowly melting patches of ice and snow glow like moonstones tossed among the matted sedge grasses. I love the textures and muted colors.

And yes.......we're back in Illinois after searching for pirates and buried treasure in the Caribbean.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


To further abate cabin fever the farmer's wife pretends she's aboard the Beagle in the company of Charles Darwin, looking for creatures that are throwbacks to prehistoric times.

This iguana was encountered in a place called Hell in Grand Cayman. The landscape is otherwordly and the creatures are likewise.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


What does a winter-weary farmer's wife do when she can no longer tolerate the grey pall of the season?

She escapes to the caribbean in search of adventure and pirate ships.