Thursday, May 31, 2007

someone you should know

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This is Tim Christakos who is an exhibit specialist at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, and someone you should know.

Anyone raised in the greater Chicagoland area would have at some time or another in his educational experience visited the museum on a field trip. One of the most popular exhibits is the chick hatchery where live chicks emerge from their shells. In 1999 the Museum became aware of the Garfield Farm flock of Java chickens and their efforts to conserve the breed. The museum offered to help hatch eggs and as a result helped to produce over 2,000 black Java's. These chickens exhibited recessive traits and the first to appear was the white Java which was last recorded in the 1950's. In the year 2000 a female hatched with recessive traits including a auburn head and black body. Research gave clues to the existence of an Auburn Java which had gone extinct in the 1800's. The later hatching of a rooster with auburn hightlights provided Tim with a breeding pair and eventually this pair produced some auburn colored chicks.

The mature pair of spectacularly colored Auburn Java's at Garfield Farms Rare Breeds Show were 3rd generation and exhibited the markings and colorations described in historical literature.

Tim worked for three years to produce these spectacular birds. His work is fascinating but at this time there are only 8 auburn Java roosters and 4 auburn hens. The pair were safely tucked in a cage which did not allow for a good photograph of their beautiful colorations.

I'm very grateful for Tim's work to save this breed of fowl.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


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Not coffee - Java chicks! In the 1880's Java chickens could be found in nearly every barnyard. They were a good all around breed, but with the advent of specialization they nearly disappeared. The Java's were good layers and were good for meat, but farmers moved towards breeding either for egg production or meat production and the Java's neary disappeared as a breed.

Garfield Farm Museum obtained a small flock of in the 1980's and began to add to the very low numbers of Java's worldwide. To this day the numbers are considered at a critical level.

Tomorrow we'll meet someone who stepped in to help Garfield Farm save Java's.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

shear work out

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There are reasons you won't see modern health clubs out on the prairie. First of all the population density is nil, allowing for only a tiny customer base. Secondly farmers get plenty of hard physical labor during the course of a day. Couch potatoes need not apply for this job.

If you want to shear a sheep you must first get it into the barn, which as we witnessed in yesterday's photo can be no small feat. Then you grab the animal and left him up for the takedown......

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The animal, now on his back is easier to control.

Let the shearing begin.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


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Leading the sheep to the barn for a shearing demonstration proved to be quite a chore. Since I don't raise sheep I'm not familiar with their temperments, but these sheep didn't seem to be able to draw a distinction between being led to shearing or led to slaughter. They certainly acted as if it was the latter.

They were pulled, they were pushed, they bucked and thrashed, not realizing that in less than a half hour their heavy coat of wool would be lifted from their backs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


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There are a special group of people who are dedicated to saving the old livestock breeds that are fast disappearing in a world of modernization and specialization. Some traveled great distances to participate in Garfield Farm Museum's annual Rare Breeds Show.

You certainly won't get rich breeding these rare animals which makes it a commitment to the future and the past. As I mentioned there are breeds which are in a critical state and some that have disappeared forever. No longer needed for their original purpose (such as some of the draft animals) they've been relegated to the status of a curiousity.

This woman is gazing at the Suffolk horse she brought to the show. You can read more about the Suffolk HERE.

Monday, May 21, 2007

the cutest little sheep on the planet

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It did my heart good to see that the Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep were represented at Garfield Farm's Rare Breeds Show. These docile little sheep are so happy looking. They have fine fleece but with my meager spinning talent I'd probably never be able to spin their wool into anything that resembles yarn.

The breeder was from nearby Hampshire, Illinois and she purchased her first ram from the exhibitor that was in attendance a couple years ago. If you've been reading for awhile you'll remember that those sheep each wore their own little red bandana.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


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This is the lovely and talented Patty Kennedy, who is the Assistant Site Manager and Museum Education Director at Garfield Farm Museum.

Patty is equally comfortable in a black cocktail dress for a fundraising event or in a John Deere cowgirl hat as she was at today's Rare Breeds Show. The museum is lucky to have an enthusiatic staff and a virtual army of volunteers.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

the farmers wife

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Two years into the blog and today the photobucket (literally and figuratively) came up empty. Tomorrow evening I'll have tons and tons of photos to edit because tomorrow is Garfield Farm's annual Rare Breeds Show. There's going to be some Irish Bog Ponies in attendance but I'm hoping for more Southdown Baby Doll Sheep.

The only image I've got from yesterday is a self-portrait taken as we walked out the door to a local soiree. I did post another portrait once, standing out in the corn field to provide scale as to the height of the corn.

I wouldn't post this portrait except for the fact that there's funny little story that goes with it and I was able to do some non-invasive plastic surgery in Photoshop.

The neighbors decided to have a wine tasting party and since we're often accused of not having alot of culture out on the prairie she decided we should put on our best night-at-the-opera clothes.

So I donned my basic black dress and dragged out the seldom worn jewels, in this case some of my favorite vintage 1950's Kramer rhinestones purchase on Ebay. I slipped into my very fashionable black mules with kitten heels (sorry I've been watching too much Style TV) and applied lots of goo to my hair so that when I stepped out into the northern Illinois monsoon winds I wouldn't have an instant bad hair day.

Grabbing a cute little evening bag with nothing but a lipstick inside, I was ready to go. The husband had the car ready to go and I stepped out for the evening feeling "swell".

Ooooops! When I crossed the threshhold there was my little tractor staring me in the face. I'd forgotten to put it away when I finished my yard chores. YES - the farmers wife had to climb aboard the tractor in her adorable kitten heels, and with rhinestones blazing in the light of the setting sun drive the tractor back inside.

It's all in a days work. Anyway, I'm please to meet you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

bringing up the rear

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Here's what I'll call one of those silly feel-good photos. It was interesting to watch momma and poppa lead the babies across the road. Poppa's actions were dramatic and exagerated, as he moved his head up and down, trumpeting loudly. Momma calmly brought up the rear. (I think I have the sexes correctly identified!)

This was on the very busy road that leads (among other places) to the lifestyle mall and I was surprised that the guy in the Hummer behind me didn't whip around to pass me. That would have been bad news for this little family.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

shocking pink

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The woman's matching workout suit and shoes are definitely shocking pink, but the most shocking thing about the photo is that she's walking along a lonely, rural stretch of road carrying a large drink, and a large handbag with a cell phone glued to her ear.

First of all, cell coverage is not guaranteed on these roads regardless of the number of cell towers that have replaced windmills on the farms. She looks misplaced in this setting but would not cause a second thought at the nearby lifestyle mall.

This reminds me of the day an old friend called to say she'd been driving along a country road and saw this "crazy lady" standing at the edge of a field taking photos. She looked closer as she passed and said to herself, "Oh, it's just Suzie" as of knowing it was me explained away the craziness of the scene in her mind.

What it says about me is that unsual behavior for someone else is just the norm for me. (Parking car in a safe place, walking a quarter mile and standing downwind of the harvesting process just to get a photo would be considered crazy by local farmers).

Monday, May 14, 2007

then and now.....


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I'd driven past this barn many, many times over the years but one snowy morning I couldn't contain myself from pulling into the driveway to take a photograph. The road approach from the south curves and rises to the point of the driveway and there is no shoulder on which to pull the car for safety purposes.

The beauty of the moment made me forget that people might still be living in the brick ranch house. On second glance the windows were broken and the doors boarded up telling me that the residents had moved on.

I studied the photograph carefully, noting the basketball hoop, electric lines, ramp and other features. Many people don't realize that many rural farms didn't have electricity until some time in the 1960's when President Johnson made it a priority to electricfy the countryside.

This image was used as my Christmas card that year.

Here is now......

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I'm standing in the same spot although it was a little difficult to get my bearings as the old oak tree I leaned against is now gone. The fact is that the barn had not been used for it's original purpose for many years. That way of life, at least in our area which skirts a huge metropolitan population, has passed by the way of the dinosaur. As far as my sister and I can figure things started changing for these family farms in the late 1960's, and perhaps the last time a dairy cow was milked in this barn was sometime in the '80's. Over 20 years had passed since purposeful activity filled the structure. The barn sat and waited, it's fate already decided and plotted on urban developers master plans. At that point it was just a matter of time and infrastructure until the barn was razed and signs went up proclaiming, "Townhouses from the high $200's, single family homes from the $400's."

We are witness to the final death knell of these buildings and a way of life. This is the moment in time that should be remembered and documented. Will people in the future wonder or care? Perhaps in 100 years it will be a curiousity that before the active adult community there was once a family farm complete with snow covered barn.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

slow moving vehicle

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There's alot of farm machinery traffic on the roads at this time of year. The once rural and little traveled roads closer to town are now bustling with traffic. Newer residents to this area are not familiar with the fact that farmers must utilize these roadways to access some of their fields and some drivers have the habit of driving at outrageous speeds on the flat straightaways only to have a big Deere facing them when they round the curve.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

a shell

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The lower level brick foundation is all that remains of the barn on Empire Road. I've mentioned before that the barn was dismantled by a company that provides wood for historic renovation and other worthy projects. They do not sell the old barnwood to be used as the interior of a new steak house.

The Village decided to leave the unusual Flemish bond brick foundation intact, although I don't believe they actually have any ideas on how to use this space. I personally think it would be a great venue for small outdoor music concerts or with a stage at one end an outdoor theater. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


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The other horses could have cared less but this one was quite curious about the visitors in the barn. Heritage Prairie Market allows customers to look around the farm. Since it is a working farm there are rules to follow to ensure everyone's safety. Traffic in and out of the barn was quite heavy as people came to check out the newborn baby goat.

Monday, May 07, 2007


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A dessicated skull becomes a work of art when framed in the camera's viewfinder. This skull was hanging in the barn at the Heritage Prairie Market in Elburn, Illinois.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


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Today was my first visit to Heritage Prairie Market which is an extension of Erehwon Farm. This is the latest entry into the growing number of community supported agricultural operations. They offer subcriptions to a share of the farm's produce and each week you can pick up your fresh veggies and herbs.

There's a lovely shop filled with wonderful things including products from a local family dairy, handmade soaps, fresh produce and more. The farm is open for people to observe the operation with rules to keep everyone safe. Be sure to visit if you find yourself in northern Illinois in season.

Co-owners Beth Propst, Tim Fuller, and Bronwyn Weaver and her husband Bob Archibald are responsible for the wonderful operation. Beth was kind enough to alert me to the newest member of the farm family - a baby Nubian goat born this morning at 6:30 a.m. And since it's Cinco de Mayo they have tentatively named her Esperanza. Here's the proud mom Daisy and her wobbly kid. Esperanza tried to navigate the small pen but the workings of her hind legs were still a mystery and she kept lurching backwards.

Happy Birthday Esperanza and happy birthday to our Chihuahua Pancho. (A chihuahua born on Cinco de Mayo - how perfect is that?)

Friday, May 04, 2007


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It's been awhile since I've been to the area of town around the Fox River. There's not much business that takes me across the river to the east side of town. This week I met some friends for dinner and the restaurant is located in the heart of what is being called the First Street Redevelopment. From blocks away I could see this behemoth of a building rising just to the west of the river. Unfortunately the building blocks any possible view of the building from the elevated locations to the west. Perhaps it offers great river views to those purchasing on the east side of the building.

If you look closely you'll see a small beige building to the left. That's Beith House, a historic two-story home built from local limestone. In the long-distant future will preservationists seek to restore and maintain the now-new four story condo building?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

history tree

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The history tree has been around long enough to see many changes in the local landscape. I'm not much good at guessing the age of trees but this one surely lived through the horse and buggy days. It's also seen the self-sufficient family farm go the way of the dinosaurs.

light stream

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I love the way the light streams in through the open window in the old pump house. The brick was whitewashed at some point and that is now slowly wearing away.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

recipe for disaster

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It appears that someone on a motorcycle has been laying down rubber on nearby Swanberg Road. The country roads are dangerous enough without tempting fate with foolish behavior. Just this afternoon two kids on bikes passed me at incredible speeds. I guess they're not paying attention to all the little white crosses on the roads around here.

This particular road poses a danger at night as deer cross when feeding in the two adjoining fields. My husbands damaged hood is testament to what a grazing glance can do.