Sunday, December 30, 2007


Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile might remember this image:


It was taken during a previous winter's snowstorm. Since I've left my job a the newspaper I rarely drive this route but while running errands the other day I turned down Peck Road. Here's the same spot, just about 20 feet to the left of the original image:


It was all I could do to keep from running off the road when I spotted this gargantuan skeletal structures rising from what once was a corn and soybean field. This property had been acquired by the town park district but I have no idea what this is. My knowledge of local current events has suffered since I left the paper. In that environment you could barely keep from being informed.

Perhaps I'm insulating myself from the daily realities of developments push and shove.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

winter crypt


We visited this site before but with a fresh cover of snow it looks quite different. This lies directly across the roadway from an old farmstead. The farmhouse has been torn down in the last couple of years but the outbuilding remain and it's a retail feed supply store that sells vegetables and pumpkins in season.

At one time the very busy state highway was just a country road. The crypt is carved into a low hillside that was once a railbed. Just on the other side of the crypt and hillside are million dollar homes including one so large that the first time I saw it I thought it was a public building - a library maybe. Yes, that large.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

merry christmas


Merry Christmas to everyone.

This photo is an oldie but it's one of my favorites. It was our Christmas card one year. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

local superhighway


My neighbors on the hill assure me that our property is a major superhighway for wildlife. That came as a suprise to me because I rarely, if ever, see animals in our yard. But tracks don't lie and there are plenty of them after a fresh snowfall.

Bunny tracks are easy to spot. These were made by deer and are visible out of our office window. Another main artery of travel is visible from my upstairs studio. I'm up there all day long with large windows uncovered. Why don't I see the deer?

Perhaps they make their commute early in the morning when I'm still groggy.

The interesting thing is that these tracks appeared shortly after the last snowfall and I checked them every day after that and the pattern remained static. There were no further passages in the following days.

Learning how to read animal tracks and trails sounds like a very interesting subject to investigate. Can you read tracks?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

perpetual Christmas


The nearby abandoned property stands in a state of perpetual Christmas. The icicle lights, swags and wreath have been in place for years, back to the time when the house was occupied. Bushes have grown and over time have literally swallowed up the entrance. As I said before, nature has gone about her business of reclamation.

A member of our neighborhood watch committee called the sheriff's office and got some information. It seems there was a burglary in progress the day of the activity. The story starts to emerge as I remember that a year ago, out of curiousity some of the neighbors stopped and looked in the windows. They mentioned major water damage in some areas due to a deteriorating roof. But the most curious thing was that they reported the house is filled, sometimes to the ceiling, with merchandise, most of it still in original packaging.

Last summer a young man drove through the area asking neighbors if they'd seen a green truck driving around. He explained that someone in a green truck had stolen stuff out of his house.....yep, the abandoned property. My son said it seemed odd because he was a very young man. Certainly not someone who could afford 3 acres and a large house.

My best guess is that it's the storehouse and base for a fencing operation. The Brothers Grimm meet the Goodfellas out on the prairie.

Monday, December 17, 2007

the unquiet woods

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We live in a very small community. The most excitement in recent times was when the Pierce's baby Jesus was stolen from the nativity scene in their front yard, and the flag-waving, top-hat wearing hot dog figurine was stolen from the hot dog place about 2 miles from here.

Although I photograph alot of abandoned farms, there are some fairly modern properties that are also abandoned. The most visible one lies 1/4 mile from our home. It was once a beautiful and well kept home of an unusual architectural design. About 10 years ago I was working nights and at any time of the night the television would be burning bright in the family room. A perpetual bluish glow streamed from the windows. Then it became apparent that the house was empty.

There seemed to be a caretaker living in the coach house a short distance from the main house. Cars began to accumulate in the space between the two buildings. Nature went about the business of reclaiming what was rightfully hers. Fences fell into disrepair and the large area in front of the house took on the look of a wild prairie. Christmas decorations hung frozen in time for years and years. Huge trees along the roadway died and stood like ghostly sentinels, threatening to flatten passing cars in the event of a strong wind.

At some point it became apparent that the caretaker was gone. That's when things truly went wild. Sheriff's police started showing up regularly. No one knew the nature of the trouble but a couple months ago they led someone away in handcuffs. Squatter?

Today as I turned out onto the main road four Sheriff's cars flew by lights flashing but without sirens. As I approached the dip in the road which marked the beginning of the property I counted five police cars and more approaching fast from a distance. The woods are deep between the house the the stream to the west. Standing around the house were at least 5 officers with what appeared to me to be guns drawn. Can you see one in the photo above?

No word yet what difficulty would draw such a force but it should be in tomorrow's newspaper. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

sugar forest

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A light snow fell while we were sleeping. It frosted the ice covered trees with a coating the turned the landscape into a sugar forest. The fresh snowfall creates a blank palette for the animals to create new patterns.

My neighbor up on the hill swears that a family of deer pass through my property each day. I can't deny her claim because their trail is left in the snow but my timing is not good because I rarely catch a glimpse of them.

One Christmas however they gave a fantastic showing during our family gathering. We were all sitting in the family room in front of the large window. The large blue spruce at the back of our property were artistically draped with fresh snow. The younger children were opening their gifts when 6 deer, including a 10 point buck, strolled into the yard and stopped, perfectly centered in the view. They posed, looking all the world like the regal animals that they are. The buck raised his head and surveyed the landscape. The children gasped and let out a squeal. All at once they screamed, "Santa's reindeer!!! Santa's reindeer are in the yard."

At this point my nephew turned to me and asked, "What did you have to pay the deer to do that?"

NOTE: If you check out the right hand column you'll see a link to my newest blog, "At Home With the Farmer's Wife". I know, I know, there are a couple of other efforts of mine that are languishing, unattended. I promise to make a better effort on "At Home". After almost three years of tramping around the countryside recording the decay of the farms and the advance of civilization I thought it might be fun to also come inside and see what goes on in the farmer's house. Thanks as always for reading and supporting my creative efforts. It's greatly appreciated.

MEME Fact #6 - I have the rarest blood type - AB Negative. My husband has the second rarest - AB positive. He claims that when he was in the army they were constanting waking him up in the middle of the night to donate blood.

Friday, December 14, 2007


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Everything is covered with a layer of ice which reflects the light and transforms the landscape into a magical fairyland. All is not sweetness and light beacause many trees have been damaged by the ice.

When I say that everything is covered, that means everything. Every blade of grass and cattail, every tree, every piece of corn stalk stubble. I'm not knowledgable as to whether the ice causes damage due to what I will call the "magnifying glass" effect. If any knows, please share.

Recently Alicia over at Posie Gets Cozy wrote an entry about her memories of beautiful snowfalls and all things winter wonderful in the Chicago area. This of course is my stomping ground as we are 50 miles due west of Chicago. I was transplanted to Texas for four years and I can relate to her longing for the beautiful Christmas eve snowfall, the special snowfall of crystal diamond snow. The Eskimo's have many, many words for snow and if you live in snow country you can relate.

Anyway, thinking about Alicia's story helped me to realize that when you live "away", you remember only the beautiful, precious and magical memories of winter. Your brain selectively forgets the difficulties, dangers and sometimes dowright ugliness of the season. Think greyish black slush everywhere and roads drifting over with 5 minutes of the snow plow's pass.

It doesn't matter because I'm all about selective memory loss! So here's an image for all those midwesterners living afar and trust me that it's literally impossible to capture the spectacular beauty of the scene with a camera.

MEME Fact #5 - I'm the first person in my father's side of the family to be born outside of Florida. There were among the first white settlers. I'm the first person in my mother's family to be born outside of Tennessee. My great-great-grandfather and his four brothers were given land around Charlotte, Tennessee as partial payment for their service in the Revolutionary War. I'm a hybrid...a northerner by birth but a southerner by tradition.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

matched pair

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It was not uncommon to see long horned steers when I lived in Texas, but they are very unusual in northern Illinois.

Norm, the local farrier, keeps these two on their nearby property. They always bring a smile to my face. Norm's wife Margie always says they're his pets.

MEME Fact #4 - I went to high school with musician John Prine and actor Dennis Franz (Dennis Schlachta back then).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

iced berries

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Yesterday we woke up to a mini-ice storm. It was nothing like the dangerous storms that hit Iowa and Missouri, although some of our trees were heavily weighed down with ice.

The temperature warmed up and it began to rain. This was our Hawthorne tree whose berries were heavily coated with ice.

MEME Fact # 3 - I've visited and climbed most of the major Mayan temples in North America, and some of the smaller ones too. We still haven't visited Copan but I'll rate the Tikal temple complex in the Peten region of Guatemala as the most impressive and magical places I've ever seen.

Monday, December 10, 2007


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Here's yet another abandoned farm in our area. It did find a second life a couple years ago when it was purchased by a religious group (Hindu, I believe) that used it as a gathering site and community center for young people. It was nice to see it revitalized and alive with activity.

I'm not quite sure what happened, perhaps the group found another more suitable site, but this property was once again abandoned and is waiting for either demolition or revitalization.

MEME FACT #2 - Remember, I've been tagged by Betty Western to complete a list of 7 random facts about myself.

I was clunked over the head by one of anthropology's icons - Margaret Mead.
As a young undergraduate studying anthropology I was put in charge of organizing a dinner in Margaret Mead's honor. She was slated to speak at our school on one of her lecture tours and after the lecture the anthropology department would have a chance to meet and greet her at the dinner.

The lecture went off without a hitch and I approached Mead to escort her to the dinner venue. She looked like something out of a Grimm's fairy tale, short and stout in a voluminous cape that trailed behind her in the wind. She carried a large walking staff, think Gandalf the Wizard in the Lord of the Rings. Her countenance should have given me a clue to her general disposition but being young and so enthusiastic about meeting one of the field's icons I blindly charged ahead. I wondered about her crabby nature. Her active career was over and she had been relegated to the task of lecturing and holding up her image without a chance of building upon it, perhaps that made her crabby.

I was interested in how an anthropologist goes about choosing who or what they will ultimately specialize in. Since my great-grandmother was a Seminole my interests were focused on the American Indian culture. And so, in my youthful exhuberance I turned to Mead and asked, "Why did you choose to study the Samoan culture and not work with the American Indians?

"I wouldn't work with the Indians, they always want something in return." To which I replied, "Gee, I wonder where they learned that."

Her reaction came quick and sharp as she turned slightly and hit me over the head with her large walking staff. Ouch! I'd just been assaulted by my icon!

"Impertinent!" she declared. And there I was faced with a crabby legend with feet of clay (at least in my eyes).

Years later I became friends with renowned anthropologist and author Ellen Fitzsimmons Steinberg. When I recounted my long-ago encounter with Margaret Mead, she laughed out loud.

"You're not anyone unless Mead has rapped you over the head!" she said.

It seems that it was Margaret Mead's modus operandi and I learned that she had not chosen to work in Samoa, but had been sent there by Franz Boaz.

Ellen Fitzsimmons Steinberg is a truly giving woman who has created a fascinating life for herself in the field of anthropology - - a truly admirable icon. Be sure to check out her books on

Saturday, December 08, 2007

christmas in the town

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You might think that our community is only about abandoned buildings, barns and livestock, but that's not true. There are some lovely towns nearby and I've always found the original downtown areas to be more to my liking that the manufactured shopping experiences of the mall variety.

Once a year at Christmastime the city of Geneva, Illinois holds its Christmas Walk. All the shops are open late and most have refreshments and special treats. The police block off Third Street, allowing the throngs of people to shop and mingle without traffic.

Chicago Hyatt Regency's pastry chef Alain Roby and his lovely wife Esther organize a Gingerbread House competition that raises money for charity. (More about that later. The farmer's son and I have an entry!)

I really appreciate the wonderful independent restaurants in our area. They're a class unto themselves and so much more interesting than chain restaurants.

As I was walking around shooting photos I came across this scene. It emphasises the fact that our community is truly about people and the lives they are creating.

MEME ENTRY: Remember when I said yesterday that I'd been tagged by Betty Western? Her meme assignment is to list 7 random facts about yourself. It seems wierd to be doing this because my photoblog has never been about me, it's been about th elocal culture, environment and community. So here goes:

It occurred to me when pondering about what facts people might find interesting, to do it from the perspective of my children. Think about it for a moment. Did you ever imagine that your parents were actually interesting people in their own right, that they were once young and vibrant and had adventures? I know I didn't think of my parents in that light. So I've chosen 7 facts that break the farmer's wife out of the boring wheat-bread-baking model.

Fact number one: At one time in my career I held a top secret clearance with the U.S. Government.

I can literally hear my children rolling on the floor in laughter. Remember the movie "True Lies"? Yeah right, mom was a spy???? Not a spy but during the Vietnam war I worked in the publishing field and our company has a contract to produce spec and repair manuals for the U.S. Air Force jets. During a time of war working with information to do with military hardware required a top secret clearance. You can imagine my mother's suprise when F.B.I. agents appeared on her doorstop as part of the clearance process.

If any young people are reading this I challenge them to question their parents about interesting and unknown facts about them. Only after my father died did I learn he was on board his Naval ship in the Sea of Japan when the instrument of surrender was signed with the Japanese.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


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This is a pedestrian bridge over a busy highway. It's a bike/hiking trail that was one a rail bed. It's interesting to see how things can be used after their original purpose has passed.

I'm thankful for folks like the Reeds on Hanson Road, who bought the old two story store on Empire Road that was slated for demolition. They moved it to a space on their property and spent over two years renovating it.

Betty Western has tagged me for a meme. I've been blogging for almost three years and I believe this is the first time I've been tagged. Maybe not....maybe I wasn't paying attention or maybe I slipped through like a greased pig.

Anyway, I need to think about my meme entries. Hopefully I'll start tomorrow.