Monday, April 30, 2007


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A lightning storm blew through here last night which made me glad I'd taken the time in the afternoon to mow the two acres around the house. Otherwise the rain would trigger a growing spurt and we'd have to be raking big time.

I'm fascinated by the warm glow from the neighbors windows opposed to the white hot power of a lightning strike. It evidently did some damage because today we had a strange situation. We had electricity, light were OK, but the larger drains on the electric power were not working - the TV, refrigerator, garage door opener. The electric company came out and worked their magic and all is back to normal this evening.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


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The person memorialized by the three roadside crosses was killed in an auto accident and not as a result of wandering into the local sportsman club firing range.


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On Wednesday my friend, anthropologist and author Ellen Steinberg and I met at Esther's Place in Big Rock, Illinois to study under shop owner Natasha Lehrer. About a year ago I read a fascinating book entitled, This Cruel War, which was an almost complete compilation of letters sent between Grant and Malinda Taylor during the civil war. It was an invaluable look into day-to-day life druing that era.

One thing that fascinated me the most was how fabric and fiber was held as a most precious commodity (that and salt). The salt was used to cure the meat when an animal was slaughtered, and the fabric was precious because of the amount of effort required to produce a length of cloth.

In their letters the husband and wife debated the use of a length of homespun fabric, whether it would be used for a shirt for him or clothing for the children. We soon learned the time and effort required to produce a very small skein of yarn - an entire afternoon's work amounted to a few yards after plying.

Friday, April 27, 2007

fallen giant

The walk through the woods was a reconnaisance mission to see how spring is progressing. The temperatures northern Illinois are positively frigid and damp. It's a possibility that we won't have a spring and leap right into summer.

The May Apples blanket sections of the forest floor and delicate white flowers appear in patches here and there. The discovery of the afternoon was this fallen giant, upended roots and all from it's anchored spot near a roadway. It simply speaks to the seasons of life.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

planting time

Farmers have started the planting season. This is a small field on Pouley Road. If I remember correctly last year it was planted in corn, so this year should be soybeans. We'll visit again when the seedlings come up and watch as the plants grow. The bags of seed are loaded on the back of the pick up and the green buckets pulled behind the tractor are filled with seed. And yes - Illinois topsoil is that black and rich.

Speaking of watching plants growing, there's still no activity on the Iowa Corn Cam. They should be planting the first part of May so check in often. I have to laugh when they get comments that their camera must be broken because the picture never changes. It does change but something on the scale of geological time - SLOW.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

tree drama

I'm always fascinated by this image as I drive the road to the west of Garfield Farm Museum. The trees, one dead and one living, seem to be playing out a drama.

I invite you to write your own story on this one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

alive and kicking

I want to assure everyone that my community is not simply a world filled with decaying barns empty silos, it's a vibrant place too, filled with people who are dedicated to life in rural Illinois.

One of my long time readers from Florida requested photographs of the food served at the Texas style barbecue. Unfortunately I was so busy cooking and playing ranch boss that I was completely remiss in that task. Well, earlier in the day I did manage to take a shot of bacon frying in the pan. This is part of the recipe for Blanco Beans. I guess the bacon is different in Australia because my stepsister went nuts when she was in the states, eating bacon for almost every meal during her stay.

I got some wonderful fresh herbs and hydroponic lettuce that's produced locally and distributed to the stores. The Herbal Garden's lettuce is so perfect that I decided to photograph it as a piece of art. I placed it in a large margarita glass and set up my fancy photo studio (a table cloth draped over the couch). Isn't it breathtaking? Who knew food could be so beautiful?

Here are the neighbors enjoying the meal. It's a large group (10 couples) and it's only fun if we can all sit together. If we move all the furniture out of the family room we can fit long tables down the middle.

The best part of the evening was when a stranger showed up to party. We were all enjoying our beer and Texas Tea and eating appetizers when the front door opened and in walked a tall cowboy. Nope, we didn't know him, didn't have a clue who he was. He walked into the kitchen where all the guys were drinkning beer, looked around and said, "Nobody looks familiar here!"

Poor guy, he was at the wrong party. New neighbors down the road had invited friends to see their new house. This guy was on the right road and stopped when he saw all the cars. We don't have house numbers out here, just fire numbers that are posted out on the road. So, we did what any good host would do, we told him how to get to his friends house and gave him a Lone Star for the road! Amazingly as this story is, it's not the first time it has happened. We had a couple walk into another party we had a couple years ago. I don't know, the house must look welcoming or something.

So there you go - we are alive and kicking out in the country. My computer cannot say the same and my posting may be spotty or nonexistent in the next woeek as I go into town looking for a new one. And as always, thanks for visiting the Farmers Wife!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lone Star Beer

Here's the final destination on my field trip, Crespo Food and Liquor in Chicago. They're one of the few retail outlets that carry Lone Star Beer. I was under the impression that this was a large grocery store but it seems there are no large grocery stores in the city, at least I didn't see a single one after I passed into the city limits. What do these people do for groceries?

This was a very small place, about the size of my family room. They carried mostly liquor and thankfully had plenty of the Lone Star I was hunting for. There was a small cooler inside the front door, the kind you find at the grocery check out filled with Coke and water. This cooler however was filled with quarts of cheap wine.

orchid storefront

The city neighborhoods I passed through on my trek to buy Lone Star Beer were colorful and quirky. There were lots of hand painted signs and it was a barrage of color and form. This storefront was painted orchid and I'm not quite sure if they've gone out of business or are just waiting to open. There were lots and lots of beauty salons and barber shops along the way so everyone must be very well groomed.

You never know what you might see, including this man who was standing in the middle of the very busy street with some hefty videography equipment. The light turned red as I passed him so the only way to get a shot was to aim in the side view mirror. He was taping a very nondescript storefront and my guess is that they were taping a commercial.

I can't say that anything quite this interesting happens out here in the country. Oh wait, there was the time a box fell out of a delivery van on Burlington blacktop road. Someone, surely a newbie to the area called the sheriff's police to report a suspicious package in the roadway. They called the bomb squad from another town to come out and investigate. I happened to drive by the area and was in disbelief. Did they possibly think that someone was attempting to blow up the corn, because that's all that was around for at least 3 miles. It turned out to be a Publisher's Clearing House package for a senior citizen in Maple Park.

That's about as exciting as it gets out here unless someone's cows sneak out of the pasture.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

the bike

Here's another image from my field trip into the city. These two people were having fun riding along North Avenue. The woman was laughing as he peddled along. This is not a scene we see out in the country. The only people riding bikes on the narrow country roads are the Lance Armstrong wannabes and their presence is quite dangerous. They ride directly on the roadway and there's not much if any shoulder.

Notice that these two are passing in front of one of the many storefront churches in the city.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

field trip

Just to prove that the farmers wife is not all barns all the time I thought I'd share some photos I took on my field trip today. Over the next couple of days I'll be posting the images taken on my trip down into the city by the big pond.

Why would I want to leave the countryside and head into the city you ask? Because we are throwing a party this weekend and it's a Texas barbecue with beef brisket and all the fixings. It was my decision that nothing but Lone Star Beer would suffice for such a soiree. Trouble is I couldn't find anyone that carried it around here, so I shot an e-mail off to the Lone Star Brewing Company and they replied with the name, address and phone number of a local distributor. Now, let me say at this point that I've contacted other companies for similar information and never received as much as a howdy-do. So ten gallon hats off to Lone Star for getting back to me.

The friendly lady at the distributor gave me the names of a few (very few) retail outlets in the Chicago area that carry Lone Star. So today I gassed up the ride and headed out on the 50 mile trek to the city and I didn't take the interstate! It's much more interesting to drive down on one of the main arteries through the colorful neighborhoods. This guy was spotted jogging somewhere around the Humboldt Park/Wicker Park area.

The thing about this is that farmer's don't jog, or work out at the gym. They do hard physical work all day long so no need for fancy work out gear or cross trainers. Stay tuned for more scenes from the city tomorrow.


This is the view from the pump house window at the old barn on Empire Road. The barn is gone but the Flemish bond brick foundation, the pump house, silos and windmill remain.

The pump house looks onto the big Harvestor grain silo. The Harvestor was the jewel of the farm, it's blue exterior streaked with color from wind and weather.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

cast a big shadow

In a whispery tone - "I see photographs".

I remember when Patty Kennedy from Garfield Farm asked me where I found my inspiration for photographs. At that moment it occurred to me that it was a question I'd never given any thought to. My answer simply flew out of my mouth though, so it's apparent that on some level I understood what was going on.

"My deadline is my inspiration," I answered.

It was true. If you commit to taking and publishing a photo a day, your deadline looms large in your thought process. There's a need to be actively looking for photographs, which is a good thing because that's how I work. I first see the photo in my mind and then shoot to capture that image.

Today's shot is a good case in point. I was driving down Empire Road late in the day and as I'm always scanning the landscape for something interesting I noticed the huge oak tree casting a large shadow on the grain bins. I drove a half mile or so to a place where I could turn around and drive back to the old farm. There are also many mental notes I've taken of places to get to when really dramatic skies present themselves. Again, I've mentally created a shot of a barn or farm with big drama in the skies and my job is to wait until conditions are right for the shot.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

johnson's mound

On my way to town I often take the route past Johnson's Mound Forest Preserve. It takes just a few minutes to drive along the narrow, winding path up to the top of the mound and down the other side. It's a beautiful ride and it's interesting to see what is happening deep in this forest. There are alot of huge trees that have been downed and lie prstrate on the forest floor.

The mound is the highest spot around, a kind of mini-mountain to us flatlanders. It's said to be material deposited when the last ice age rolled through here.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Remember the old satellite dishes that were the size of a radio telescope? Out here in the country we're pretty happy to have small, affordable satellite dishes that can connect us to more than the three local stations. There's a station that broadcasts information on the issues and problems with raising cattle...American Ranchers I believe.

Cable never, ever would have come out here. We're just grateful to be connected to the rest of the world, when we choose to be. Don't forget to keep watching that Iowa Corn Cam. Things are going to start heating up soon.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


This spot on the north side of the old Hughes Road barn reveals a number of things. The barn siding had been removed save for this one vertical strip. This tells me that the lean-to portion, which is still standing, was once painted yellow as was the pump house.

Hay has fallen through the edge of the flooring to fill the space between the inner and outer board, packing down tightly and forming a type of inadvertent insulation. At least I believe this was inadvertent. I've never heard of a farmer insulating the barn with hay.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

barbecue shed

I'm always fascinated by quirky little outbuildings. This shed stands some distance behind a small house. It appears to house garden tools and supplies. The grass has greened up nicely after the snow from the April snowstorm melted. It's in high contrast to the shed's siding, which has worn to a lovely grey patina. We'll visit here again later in the season because if I remember correctly they plant a sweet little vegetable garden near the shed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The old pump house will soon be hidden from view. Vines and electric wires entwine the tiny building and the buds will soon blossom into leaves, encasing and camouflaging the layers of paint. More recent layers of paint have worn away to show the past. Soon enough it will be bulldozed and this and parhaps some family photos of the property and this image will be all that will remain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

fresh snowfall

As punishment for my impertinence yesterday when I declared that spring had finally arrived Mother Nature has put me in my place. This morning we awoke to about 3 inches of fresh snowfall on the ground.

I would have taken a photo at the exact same spot, but the narrow and winding road up to Johnson's Mound will be closed today.

My plans yesterday included mowing 2 acres but there were difficulties starting the lawn tractor so I vowed to accomplish the task today. Nothing will be running but the snowblower.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


One of the first signs of spring was spotted yesterday afternoon at Johnson's Mound. We call them Dutchman's Breeches but the proper name is Dicentra cucullaria and they're related to poppies and bleeding hearts.

The patches of green under the still-grey tree trunks is a hopeful sign that spring is finally here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

happy sky

The blue sky and puffy white clouds are in contrast to the somber collapsed barn. Weakened by age and misuse it surged and collapsed in a wave at the base of the silo. It must have created a terrible noise and misplaced some homesteading raccoons.

This angle does not convey the amount of material that has collapsed. Maybe this gives a better idea -

This is one of the places that I make a mental note of, with plans to return on a day when there are particularly ominous clouds or dangerous atmospheric conditions. This scene calls for something besides a happy sky.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

easter morning

The first time I noticed this statue it was summertime and the stark white image peeked through the overgrown greenery. She's so peaceful and refined in contrast to the tangle of growth and the rough hewn shed behind her. When you see her for the first time it's surprising and it seems she would be more at place in a formal courtyard or on an altar surrounded by saints.

Mentally I refer to her as "Our Lady of the Side Yard" as opposed to the "Our Lady of the Bathtubs" that abound just east of here.

May you have a wonderful Easter Sunday, surrounded by loved ones.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


The barn and outbuildings stood just to the east of the old farmhouse we've been exploring this week. We visited this property before, on March 9, 2006. At that time I photographed from the roadway, not actually venturing on the property but I believe the barn had already collapsed at that time. 64 acre farm for sale, 64 acre farm still for sale.

Walking around the outbuildings it becomes apparent that the barn has collapsed in a giant wave of energy, sweeping towards the silo. The lean-to portion of the barn is left partially standing. The reverse side of the lean-to show above speaks to the power of the final death throes of the barn. The opposing force has pushed the structure into a convulted form. Patches of color reveal the original barn red paint.

64 acre farm for sale. Not ever to be used as a farm again. Perhaps the sign should read, "64 acre development plot for sale".

Friday, April 06, 2007


This is your chance to participate in the two year anniversary of The Farmers Wife, which is on April 9th.

Do you have a favorite photo from the last year? Please consider sending me an e-mail with the name and date of the photo and a little bit about why it's a favorite. Next week I'll share those thoughts with everyone

Thanks for all your support over the past two years. It's been alot of fun. Also be sure to check out the links on the right hand side of this page. I've updated a bit and added some wonderful sites.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


All the windows in the farmhouse are broken and glass shards cover every surface.

As I walk back into the kitchen area a breeze picks up and furls the curtains into the room.

Tomorrow we'll venture outside to discover the fate of the old barn.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


As you can see we are trying something new here at The Farmer's Wife. Blogger is offering some altered templates (although they sorely need to design something new). I've chosen one that allow me to post larger photos, but it doesn't come in black.

This view is from the kitchen of the old farmhouse into the parlor. An old fixture for an old lamp still sways on the parlor ceiling. The door to the left is the tiny stairway up to the two small bedrooms.


It's apparent that vandals have been in the house. The stove has been tossed in the back yard, the fixtures have been ripped up and the tub is missing. Thankfully there is no graffiti and there are no signs that it's been used as a party house by local teenagers.

I'm pretty confident that this farmhouse did not have indoor plumbing or electricity when it was built. Most farm were "electrified" in the 1960's. Most likely this bathroom was once a large pantry as it lies just off the kitchen.

Reader Pablo was correct about these old houses. I remembered his words when I was walking gingerly through the space. There were only two very, very tiny closets in this house. The upstairs bedrooms were tiny and it was not apparent to me how anyone could get furniture up the doll sized staircase with it's 90 degree turn.

Monday, April 02, 2007

wall history

Layers of wallpaper have peeled back in the kitchen revealing a thick layer of mold on the underside of the paper. This location isn't old enough or unique enough to draw the attention of archaeologists, but just like in ancient times there are several layers of decoration - paper upon paper and many layers of paint.

The layers are more apparent in the parlor. It occurs to me that I was not aware that it's possible to paper without removing the previous layer. This must have been in the days before strippable wallpaper.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I plan to spend a number of days examining the decaying interior of the old farmhouse. The patterns created as a building decomposes are fascinating.

Upstairs in one of the bedrooms the wallpaper has pulled away from the wall and gracefully draped to the floor, puddling at the bottom. The handheld shot is probably more than a little shaky. I was quite unsure of the condition of the flooring and was afraid that I might fall through to the first floor. Needless to say I didn't spend alot of time up there.