Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fashion 9-1-1


While driving through DeKalb I spotted this dress in a shop window. It has a strong graphic quality, don't you think?

Saturday, December 06, 2008



A once beautiful residence in DeKalb is reduced to ashes. The downhill decline continued for many, many years. Sometime in the past it was converted into apartments and the fire most likely means the end for this structure.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Farmhouse at the end of the Road


This farmhouse stands a distance back from what was once a country road, now a major highway lined with developments named fanciful things like "Settler's Cove". Never mind there are no coves within a hundred miles.

The property has undergone several incarnations. The first was as a family farm, raising all the grain to feed their cattle, cows for their milk and a vegetable garden, fruit trees and chickens to round out the diet. After that way of life passed the way of the dinosaur the property became a wholesale landscape nursery. Those businesses are moving further west and now it will become either homesites or the latest strip mall.

This photo was passed through my favorite Photoshop filter called, "Diffuse Glow". The pale blue sky disappears but it works magic on the old house and fence.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Room with a View


Here's a view from the interior of yet another decaying farmhouse.

It seems that all of a sudden these houses are being vacated by the hundreds. Directly across from this old farmhouse is a new development. And so it goes........

Friday, June 27, 2008



I have a fascination with manual typewriters and the start of a collection. This is a nice toy typewriter that was tucked in a tiny back room at Josie's Antiques in DeKalb.

I love the solid feel of having to strike a key with some force and the clackety-clack sound.

One of the oddest things I've ever seen is a tape of one of the original NASA launches back in the Gemini days. There, out in the sunshine covering the launch was a reporter with an old Underwood on his lap, typing away his news story.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

getting the shot


This is one of the many photographers covering the house move. Yes, this is front page news around here!

I like this shot because it shows how a photographer is always looking for an interesting angle. This young woman probably took 500 photos (or more) during the course of the day. She was doing double duty because she was also lugging around a video camera. Many of the newspaper websites include news videos.

And from my experience I'll say that photographers HATE having their pictures taken. So I'll just say, heh...heh...heh. Gotcha.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Progress Moves Homes


This is the historic Byron Kendall house. The original log portion of this home was built in 1840 and this home has been occupied at this location since that time.

Progress is marching west and the developer who owns this land has determined that this home does not fit into his plans for the property. It's on the corner of a busy road and the entrance to the commuter train station which carries passengers into the city of Chicago. My guess is that this corner will soon be home to lots of retail establishments.

The home was scheduled to be moved to it's new location on this day. As you can see the skies were threatening and there had been a heavy rain the night before and so the move was postponed.

NOTE: Thanks to all my readers for their patience. Creativity is a strange thing. You must listen to the voice that tells you "take a break". That's exactly what I needed to do and perhaps now I can begin anew. My sister e-mailed me and told me she was very weary of looking at the sheep, even though she likes sheep. And Betty Western was afraid I had fallen off the end the prairie. No, I've been busy with my other blog, At Home With the Farmer's Wife. It's where we go inside and make butter, cook, sew, knit and just follow the day-to-day happenings in the Farmer's house. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

hide and seek


Josie has moved her sheep to a different location. They used to be by the chicken coop but now they're over by the peacocks. Yes, Josie has a peacock and a pea hen, in addition to horses and other critters. Kids who come along to her antique barns have plenty to keep them busy.

This sheep was very skittery and playing hide and seek with me. If I approached the doorway it would run outside. If I attempted to take a photo from outside, he'd run inside. It was quite a task getting off a shot.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Josie's 1839 Barn - Sacred Space


Just west of here on Route 38 is Josie's Antiques. This is a wonderful spot to spend an hour or two looking at antiques and enjoying the fresh air on her farm. There are several building filled in interesting finds.

This is the historic 1839 barn. I've been here many times including times when winter is still in force and believe me these unheated buildings are very cold. They've draped huge sheets of plastic to cut down on the winter wind that blows through the space.

As I stepped inside the barn again today I became aware of my feeling about these barns. To me they are sacred spaces. These barns keep families alive. They housed the livestock that worked to till the land and harvest the crops. It housed cows that provided milk and chickens and pigs that fed the families.

Yes, this barn now houses antiques and that is full sized furniture in the main space. That will give you some idea of the scale of these barns. Those timbers are huge and I even doubt if any timber growth in North America would match their girth.

I never tire of standing inside a barn, of hearing the wind rush through. It's occurred to me many times that the architecture reminds me of a cathedral.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

picnic 1941


I spent the afternoon at the Kane County Flea Market, vowing to myself that I was just going to look. As always there was a huge variety of everything imaginable. I always vow to make a note of the most unusual item I come across. Nothing in today's offerings stood out in my mind.

Booth after booth I browsed, and was proud to be able to resist the temptation of some cast iron "crowns". The truth is I couldn't come up with one practical use for a crown. As I headed down the last aisle of the South Trades building and my exit to the parking lot I came across a vendor who had a large box of vintage photos. Uh oh.

I spent a good 20 minutes going through the box and came up with 5 that really spoke to me. This photo is my favorite of the group. I'm just crazy for this photo. There's no way to construct this just happens, and someone just snaps it.

If you've got some old photos and would consider donating them to my collection, please e-mail me. Thanks.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

smoke junkies

If you're driving along and you see smoke rising in the distance, and you turn your car in the direction of the billowing cloud, it can only mean one thing - you're a "Smoke Junkie". A smoke junkie is simply someone who needs to know the source of the smoke. Sometimes you're just a curious person and sometimes your the daughters of a firefighter like the two young women I met today.

They had already pulled up at the edge of the prairie burn when I arrived. The Kane County Forest Preserve District was doing a controlled burn on the large grassland area west of LaFox Road. This is one of the men in charge of the burn. He's riding a four wheeler which is loaded with water allowing him quick access to areas where the burn needs to be contained.


In the past the perimeters of the burn area would be maintained by a large number of people on foot with brooms.


The gentleman took off for the other side of the prairie that they were setting ablaze.


It burns hot and fast and creates what appears to be a great amount of smoke.


But in under 10 minutes the grasses have burned themselves out.


I realize it looks like total devastation but it's not. This is a natural way for a prairie to renew itself. In two week you won't even know this spot. New green growth will begin to cover the entire area.

You can read more about the process of controlled burns HERE.

I followed a tiny puff of smoke on my way home from work one day and about ten minutes after I arrived this was the scene at a barn fire in Elburn.


And to the two young women I met today and to any other smoke junkies out there, I think we need some tee shirts so that we can recognize each other. Here's our new logo, feel free to have some shirts made up.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

old age is not for sissies


An elderly woman's elderly cat holds his place on the bed. Together they try to deal with the realities of getting old, sometimes successful, sometimes not.

This is an entry for Thursday's Challenge, Pets.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008



"Nature is proving that she can't be beaten - not by the likes of us. She's taking the world away from intellectuals and giving it back to the apes." - Robert E. Sherwood

The front page of yesterday's newspaper featured a story about the flooding conditions on the Fox River. An afternoon appointment took me to the other side of town which meant I'd be crossing the river near the dam. I was surprised that when I got out of my car I could hear the water rushing over the dam from a distance.

The water was roiling over the spillway and the ledge which serves as a spot for fishermen to stand is a good 6-7 feet under water. The water was moving very fast and instantly you're reminded of the danger and power of nature.


Here's a video shot on the movie mode of my Fuji Finepix. It's poor quality but will give you an idea of how fast the water was moving.

Friday, March 28, 2008

more red stepstools

Here are some of the other results from the photo shoot. You can probably see what I was trying to achieve in each shot.


Black and white just didn't seem to work.


A black and white version of yesterday's shot.


The wall and ceiling to the right of the open window were in serious and interesting decay. The chair seems quite small and toy-like however.


A cropped version of the same photo.


In this version I wasn't happy with the stepstool being in the middle of the frame.

So that's it. That's the process of shooting and weeding through 130 photos, which in the world of photography is a very conservative photo shoot. Imagine wading through 1,000 or so.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

red stepstool


A vintage red stepstool shot inside the old farmhouse on Hughes Road. The deterioration has changed the place since the last time I visited.

This photo is an entry for Thursday's Spun With Tears Challenge - "Furniture"

Follow the link, scroll down and click on each entry to view the photos.

What's involved in producing an image: The above image was a result of a photo shoot at a local farmhouse that is in a very advanced stage of decay. I'm always aware of the inherent dangers of shooting in these locations. There are hidden wells and cisterns, sometimes the covers are missing and covered with vegetation. The house itself poses danger. I did venture onto the second floor one time, but the flooring was not safe so I haven't been back up there. The basement....well, I'm a little too spooked to venture there.

I brought the vintage red stepstool with me and dragged it up the muddy driveway. I felt the strong color would work well against the aging wallpaper. I took approximately 130 frames, moving the stool around the room, changing exposures, shooting from the floor, through the broken kitchen window from the outside and every combination you could imagine. When I returned home that meant I had 130 images to cull through, choosing the one I felt were most interesting. Omigosh, I could never work as a photo editor, the choices would fry my brain! After choosing 6 images I processed the photos and came up with this image.

I liked the way the stool was highlighted by the light from the window, casting a shadow on the wall. The curtains were billowing in the strong breeze throught the broken window. The light from the window is very strong and bright which would normally mean that your eye would only be drawn to the strong white, but I felt the red was vivid enough to hold it's own in the image.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

barn side


This barn has obviously been abandoned for many years. Vines and saplings have made their way up the side of the barn. Nature reclaims her own.

"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." - Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Sunday, March 23, 2008

young visitors


We've had lots of deer on the property in the last few months. Our land was once a horse pasture and it's located between two forested areas which provide them more protection. So they don't linger long here. Thankfully not long enough to eat my landscaping.

I'm not very knowledgable about deer but these seem to be youngsters, perhaps teenagers. They're smaller and more playful than the others. At this moment I forgot that my camera has a movie mode or I would have taken shots of them romping and playing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008



While running errands on Thursday I found myself on the road past an old farmhouse in Elburn. It been sitting like this for awhile, you might remember the first photo I took. It stands precariously on it's temporary wheeled base, waiting to be moved to another site for rehab.

The large white farmhouse that was moved from the latest Shodeen development has been relocated and the rehab completely. Unfortunately it was positioned on a very busy corner and as yet hastn't sold.

Monday, March 03, 2008



Nothing beats the end-of-winter blues better than a change of scenery.

Just a couple weeks ago we were viewing the eagles along the frozen Illinois river. Last week we escaped to St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The tropical colors are fantastic and lift your spirits. As you know, I'm always drawn to old structures in their various stages of sucumbing to wind and weather.

This is the old barrel house at Fort Christiansted, the original Danish fort. The Danes certainly didn't attempt to camouflage their fortresses. In addtion the this fort painted a bright ochre yellow, the fort at Frederiksted is painted a tomatoe red.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

winter still


It's winter still. As the sun goes down and the light fades, everything turns a shade of blue. Ice hangs like stalactites from the branches of an evergreen. And the temperatures plummet again.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

snow fence


The snow fence seems to stretch on does winter at this point.

We've had whiteout conditions on and off for awhile. The cold snow and warm temperatures create fog and if the roads are still covered with snow it's any eerie combination.

I was caught in a particularly horrible white out a couple of years back. It was foggy and snowing and I was totally disoriented. It's a very strange feeling when there's nothing for your eyes to focus on, or any point of reference.

There were just the faint tips of fence posts on my right hand side. I had to caluculate in my mind how far those posts were from the edge of the road and pray that I was right.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

filling in the blanks


If you had been raised in northern Illinois you could certainly fill in the blanks when you viewed this photograph.

Your mind's eye could replace the things that are missing, the vanes of the windmill and the livestock in the barnyard. The vines choking the windmill structure could easily be erased and the extended property mowed and clean of brush.

This could be true if you'd seen this particular barn or not because if you hadn't seen this one you'd seen a thousand just like it. This is a lifestyle that has passed and I'm not quite sure exactly when the final moment came. For now it's standing and decaying at a rate determined by nature.

One of the first photos I ever posted on the Farmer's Wife is still one of my favorites. It's a jacket hanging on a line in the barn that once stood on Empire Road. The farmer simply walked out of the barn one day and never returned. The barn has been demolished and the wood used to build a nature center south of here.

And so it goes......

Thursday, January 24, 2008

llama mama


Llama farms are popping up as fast as the dairy farms are disappearing. One family keeps them in a backyard suburban lot.

This is a large farm just north of here. The llama's are often in the barnyard doing whatever llama's do.

I'm going to explain a little bit about how some of these photos are shot. Most are shot on rural roads which are straight as an arrow. There is, however, no place to pull the car over to take shots. So I must stop in the roadway, constantly looking in the rear view mirror as a take a quick photo or two. There are occasional spots that have small pull offs that farmer uses to access the fields, but in the winter time those are covered with snow drifts.

It was 15 degrees below zero this morning and I'm feeling quite black & white!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008



On a recent trip to the local egg farm I spotted this milking equipment. The milk cans are old and rusted but the other items are new. I'm not quite sure if this farmer still milks his own cows bu tI sure wish that they sold cream in addition to the fresh eggs.

Someone had mentioned to me that there's still a working dairy farm out in DeKalb. I'm going to have to investigate a little further....and talk my way in.

Sunday, January 20, 2008



The other day I was returning home from doing a few errands. The light was so nice and it occurred to me that it had been quite awhile since I last visited the barn on McGough Road. I adjusted my route slightly and turned off the main highway headed towards the barn.

It's at this point that I get just a little nervous. It's entirely possible that when I return the barn (or building) will be gone, either razed for development or collapsed under it's own weight. One evening I was driving down Route 47 past a familiar old barn and my mind was jarred by the fact that the house that was across from the barn was gone. Simply gone. The land it stood on looked like it had been undisturbed for a century or more. There was no sign the house had ever existed not even a depression in the ground.

I drove on down McGough taking the first of many hairpin turns. Just before the second and third turn I came upon this and almost wrecked the car in my surprise!


As long time reader Pablo noted in a recent post, the contradictions that are created as development moves into the farmland sometimes look downright silly. This mansion is only a mile from the barn, as the crow flies.

I'm entranced by the McGough Road barn. It seems to hold magic in any light, any season, any time of day.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

pepto house redux


While digging through some archives I did find a picture of the pepto house in all it's glory.

I sincerely apologize for the infrequent posts, but it's very cold here in northern Illinois and with the flood and the subsequent remodeling of the basement I've been spending alot of time indoors.....doing manual labor.

Come back a little later today when I'll have a new barn shot for you. Till then...enjoy the Pepto house.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

the pepto house

There's a television show entitled, "What's Up With That House?", and the pepto house has long been a candidate for inclusion. When we first moved here 14 years ago it was a very striking contemporary home. The exterior surfaces excluding the stone work was a dark brown which was befitting it's design. But then came the "Pepto Years". I'm not quite certain why the house was painted a pepto bismol pink with dark cherry pink trim, but painted it was.

Many of you have asked to see pictures of the house and I do have a photo or two somewhere in the 10,000 computer files on my external hard drive. But finding the photos is another thing altogether. So today on my way out to do some errands I took the route past the home. It's no longer pink, although what's happening now will still qualify it for the TV show.

What IS still pink is the footbridge that crosses over the creek.


And yes, the entire house was painted that color. But now the house exterior is being clad with.......LOGS!


Any design sensibilities I have don't compute the logs with the modern lines. By the way, the large garage building and the house railings are still cherry pink & pink. I suppose it all makes our beige home look boring.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008



Yes, it's that kind of day today. The ugly part of winter has come quickly, washing away the beautiful white snow that at least made the landscape interesting.

The beige curved smudge in the center of this photo is the very beginning of Indian Creek. For most of the year it's a damp depression in the woods. During heavy rains it fills up quickly.

If you remember quite awhile back I pondered about the possibilities of travel using Indian Creek as a starting point. This trickle of water eventually leads to all the oceans of the world, by way of connecting with progressively large streams and rivers. At some point we'd reach the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Just think of the adventures we could have on the open seas.

Friday, January 04, 2008

fade away


From a distance this barn looked like it had huge icicles hanging from the roof. But as I got closer it became apparent that it's just the remnants of a long ago layer of paint.

The paint is scoured away by the force of wind and weather. The area just under the eaves is more protected and creates the icicle effect. This barn was once red and then painted white. The strangest barn I've seen in this area is an odd color of fleshy pink. I can't imagine they chose that color purposely, but then there is the pepto bismol pink house nearby!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

moving on


This barn looks pretty sturdy from this angle but the entire right hand side is gone, leaving a gaping space and the huge barn beams exposed to the elements. The road you see is the winding entrance to the new commuter train station and on the opposite side of the road (behind me) is a subdivision.

The other day reader Pablo observed that some of these juxtapositions are downright silly and he's right. It's like seeing ancient ruins surrounded by modern skyscrapers.

If we continue down the road a bit we come to the farmhouse, which has been standing empty for some time.


It's levitating on the prairie. Well, it's suspended on heavy beams preparing for it's move to a new location. This is a welcome sight to me because many of these farmhouses are simply bulldozed or burned as practice for the fire department. It seems that someone has determined the house has possibilities to live a new life in a new location. I can imagine it nestled in a sheltered rural setting.

The writing has been on the wall for many years as developers laid down their plans behind the scenes. Farming changed long ago and the dairy farms disappeared. Properties became rentals and then are abadoned as the timetable for destruction counts down.

The drama has played out in slow motion over many years but since I started this blog almost three years ago the old farms and outbuildings have disappeared at an alarming rate. You'd think that a tornado had blown through taking down only the old way of life sparing the new.

I'm thing about putting together a lenghty post or perhaps a series of "here" and "gone". Many, many of the wonderful places I've visited and photographed now exist only in memory, photo albums or pixels.

Jerry Johnson is a visionary who recognized the importance of preserving a way of life and a moment in time embodied in Garfield Farm Museum Hopefully there's someone who will feel as passionate about preserving a working fmaily farm or dairy farm which represented a whole chunk of our local history. Hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

the light of winter


The best thing about winter besides the sparkling diamond snow, is the color of twilight. Clear blues and shell pink sunsets transform the white landscape. I never tire of this show of color.

I want to take this time to thank all of my loyal readers. You know who you are! I'm very happy that you take time out of your busy day to visit our little part of the world. My sincere thanks.