From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mennonite and Amish Engagement Gifts

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



I was at Crofton yesterday, so I stopped at the Amish bulk food store there. The Crofton store doesn't have as wide a selection of bulk goods as at the Amish store at Guthrie. It's not bad though, and Crofton is closer for us than Guthrie.

The Amish at the Crofton store (and also at the Guthrie store) are New Order Amish. They dress plainly, but they don't drive horses and buggies. They travel around locally in tractors pulling a trailer that has been made from a pickup truck box.

Clocks in an Amish storeIn the Crofton store, an inventory of fancy clocks is displayed behind the cash register. Most of the clocks have chimes or play a song. There are a few minutes of much music and chiming in the store every hour and half hour.

The Amish (and also the Mennonites who live in our immediate neighborhood) don't wear jewelry so when a young couple gets engaged, the boy does not give the girl an engagement ring.

Instead, a young man buys his lady a practical gift. Often he'll buy a nice clock, and when they start their home, it will hang in a special place. Or, if it's a mantle clock, it will sit on a shelf of honor, perhaps with a little lace cloth to decorate the shelf. Or at least that's how it is in our neighbors' homes where I've visited.

A clock has nice symbolism. A young couple can think about spending their time together, sharing their hours. They can look forward to their new home where the clock will be used. It's also a nod to their German and Swiss heritage when they buy a nice clock to commemorate a life-event.

A few years ago, one of our "English" neighbor ladies told me about driving a local Mennonite boy and his girlfriend to choose their clock. They chose a beautiful clock, and the neighbor lady thought they seemed very happy about it.

On the web: How to Plan an Amish Wedding

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Grape Leaves in Sunshine

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees and Plants...



Grapevine in sunshine

We had a lot of fog yesterday morning, and when the sun finally broke through, the grape leaves were outlined by beads of dew.

I tried once to dig out this grapevine, but it refused to die. You can read its history in the post, "House Wrens in the Grape Arbor".

Blast from the Past

Blogs and Blogging...



Here's what I was blogging about at the end of March a year ago:

Playing the Piano -- This topic may return soon because they've been talking about starting a Thursday night service at church and they recently asked me to play the piano for it. Aaaaack! (I can do it. Of course I can. Or at least, I'm telling myself that.)

Kentucky Farmhouse -- Photo and a bit of commentary about a big old farmhouse that was looking rough but now has received some much-needed care.

A Big Flock of Wild Turkeys -- When I saw these turkeys, one of Isaac's Scout leaders told me it was unusual to see such a large flock in spring. I think he was mistaken because I've seen a big flock in this same spot this spring, and in another place along the river, I've seen big flocks several times in the last few weeks.

Mennonite Barn -- Photo and a few comments about a new barn that was being built. It's now finished and in use!

Maternal Instincts and Little Rabbits
-- A year ago, I was wondering if the big, not-very-wild rabbit we were seeing on the lawn might be Costello, a baby rabbit that our cat Skittles brought to us. We bottle-fed him until he was big enough to survive alone. This spring we're still seeing a big, unusually tame rabbit, and I'm still wondering if it might be my little rabbit baby. Here's a photo of him that I took a few days ago.

Could this be the rabbit I bottle-fed?Who is this almost tame rabbit?!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Nightly Walk

All In The Family... Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...



Rural road with horse and buggy hazard signThe road where we've been walking

Isaac and I have been taking an evening walk whenever we can, and we find ourselves returning to the same little road nearly every time.

It's such a narrow, quiet road that it's like following a path through the woods -- and I suppose that it was a path once. We haven't yet seen a horse and buggy on the road despite the warning sign at our starting point, and we usually meet only one or two automobiles.

A Mennonite family lives along our route, but their place is hidden by the trees. Their buildings are newly-built because no one has ever lived there before. I think they moved here about a year ago.

Young redbud blooming A young redbud tree beside this country road
The cemetery that Isaac restored for his Eagle Scout project (see the links below) is out in the pasture along this road. We can see it from the road, but if we didn't know it was there, we'd never notice it.

We turn around at the point that the road changes from gravel to blacktop, but another Mennonite family lives farther down the road on the blacktop part. The wife runs a greenhouse, and she is one of the most gifted gardeners and landscapers I've ever known.

She doesn't advertise, but she does a lot of business, especially in the spring. Her prices are reasonable, she has a good selection of healthy plants and she always throws in something for free. Cars are always parked in front of the greenhouse with their trunks open, and you will probably see some horses and buggies tied to the hitching posts, too.

After walking the gravel part of this rustic country road a few times, we decided we'd pick up the many aluminum cans in its ditches and recycle them. We got most of them in a couple nights, and we are still finding one every now and then. They are mostly beer cans. Apparently the teenagers party on this road, or perhaps it is the hunters.

Tonight we started picking up some of the dozens of glass and plastic bottles in the ditches. We both filled our Wal-Mart sack in just a short distance. All of the glass is beer bottles, of course, and all of the plastic is soda bottles. We decided we would leave the paper litter since it will bio-degrade eventually.

This project will take a few weeks, but we hope to get that scenic little country road cleaned up.

I don't know the name of the plant below, so please tell me if you know it! It looks like it may turn into a vine? I saw it along the roadside at the base of a tree.

What is the name of this plant? What is the name of this plant?


Related posts:
Mid-March in the Kentucky Countryside
Eagle Project is Taking Shape
Eagle Project Begun
Peaceful Valley

Forsythia -- Born to Be Wild?

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees and Plants...



Like many shrubs and trees, forsythia propagates itself by sending up suckers -- that is, new sprouts from its roots. In most lawns, the suckers are mowed off frequently, so it usually takes a few years for a bush to creep out and become a clump.

In 15 years, the old forsythia on the edge of our south bank has expanded a little. It used to be a big clump and a small clump. Now it is one big(ger!) clump.

It doesn't bloom well, even when I prune it. I suppose fertilizer might help it. It's not a bush I'm fond of, but I would never take it out because the little birds love it so in winter. I see them sitting in it all the time.

I have a couple of new forsythia bushes that bloom in a profusion of brash, blatant yellow. They are "Beatrix Farrand" forsythias -- a cultivar known for the brilliance of its blossoms. They're so yellow that they're almost insulting to my eyes. I prefer their fall blooms which are much more subdued!

To tell the truth, forsythia is not one of my favorite shrubs, but I do like the way it looks where the bush has been allowed to spread naturally. In the photo where it's growing in the trees, I suppose it could even be called invasive!


Forsythia thicketAlong Highway 68/80
east of Hopkinsville, KY
Another forsythia thicketForsythia by an old barn
in rural Christian Co.


And this is a look that I personally don't care for at all -- forsythia trimmed into a un-natural manicured hedge.



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Muscari Gone Wild

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Grape hyacinth

I won't mention the setting of this photo because every time I use the c-word on the blog, it seems that the Google ads take a very melancholy turn for a week or so! I'll just say that it's unusual to see clump after clump of muscari (grape hyacinth) in a place like this. Usually in these old sites, it's all daffodils.

This photo was taken along Lake Tandy Road, a few miles northeast of Hopkinsville, and it dates back to the 1880's or so, with Jenkins being a prominent name.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Amazing Garter Snake Stories

Garter snakes in the Nebraska Sandhills


I have snakes on my mind lately because we've been seeing them. A few days ago, we saw some sort of a 4-foot snake headed across the yard. Yesterday, we saw a big blacksnake crossing the highway.

And today, Dennis was moving some railroad ties and found a big brown snake under them. It might have been the same snake we saw last summer in the hollow tree branch. He came to the house twice to tell me to come look at it. I hurried, but the snake disappeared both times before I got there. We think he was retreating to a hole in the ground.

So, I am feeling a bit "snakey" and this has reminded me of an amazing thing I saw when I was a kid in the Nebraska Sandhills.

We had a well that my mother used for irrigating her garden and the lawn. The pump sat at the bottom of a concrete-block pit, about six feet underground. One spring for some reason, my dad took the lid off that well, and what he saw inside was so amazing that he called us all to see it.

The well pit was filled with hundreds of garter snakes, twisted and twined together, and the entire mass of snakes was writhing and wriggling. It was like Medusa's hair on a much larger scale! The snakes had probably just awakened from hibernation and they were either preparing to leave their den or they were doing mating maneuvers.

An Audubon Magazine article talks about tangled heaps of snakes in its description of the mating of the red-sided garter snake, one of the native garter snakes of Nebraska. (The article is about Manitoba. Apparently, there are some incredibly large garter snake dens there.)

Garter snake One more garter snake story -- also from my childhood in Nebraska. When I was about ten, my parents installed a new furnace. The furnace heated the house by running hot water through baseboard radiators and through coils under the floor.

During installation, the furnace guys drilled a hole through the foundation of the house to insert some of the necessary piping, and they didn't fill the hole when they were done. That fall as the days grew cold, many garter snakes crawled through that little hole looking for a haven for hibernation.

That was the Winter of the Snakes. In the heated crawlspace, it didn't get cold enough for them to really hibernate. They stayed active, and they crawled up into the house through any little openings they could find.

They liked to go inside the baseboard radiators where it was nice and warm. I remember lying in my bed more than one night, listening to a snake slither across the coils of the radiator.

They also liked the kitchen. One time my mother found a garter snake resting inside a cast iron skillet on the gas range (a warm spot because of the pilot lights.) Another time, she found one curled up in a bowl on the shelf.

Every now and then, a snake slithered across the floor on its way to somewhere. I suppose they were hungry! I was afraid to get out of bed at night because I might step on one in the dark!

I found one swimming in the toilet one day. Another snake crawled up into the wall of our bedroom, got stuck and died there, which made our room smell bad for a while.

My mother didn't take kindly to the invasion, and soon the handle of her broom was dented and bloody from beating garter snakes to death with it.

Of course, we located and plugged the hole when we realized we had a snake problem, but it was too late. When spring finally came, my mom opened the hole every morning so the snakes could leave and put the plug back in every night so they couldn't return. Finally we stopped finding them in the house, and my dad filled their entry-hole permanently with cement. Boy, were we glad!

Snake image from U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rattlesnake Stories from South Dakota Homesteaders

History and Old Stuff...



Prairie RattlesnakePrairie rattlesnake. Photo by Tom Wyant,
Los Alamos National Laboratory.


The following rattlesnake stories are quoted from the book, Mellette County, 1911-1961*. Mellette County lies just north of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in south central South Dakota.

The book tells the stories of pioneers who settled Mellette County, South Dakota, after the state of South Dakota reneged on an 1868 peace treaty that had given the land to the Sioux Indians. The land was thrown open for settlement in 1911, and thousands of people came to enter their names in a drawing to have the privilege to buy the prairie land.

Some common themes run through many of the pioneer stories--the blizzards, the grasshoppers and "Mormon crickets," the fenceless range, the repeated and dangerous well-digging until water was finally found, the diphtheria and influenza--and the rattlesnakes!

During the century since settlement began in Mellette County, prairie dogs (one of the rattlesnakes' main foods) have been reduced to a tiny fraction of their 1911 population. I doubt that the rattlesnakes thrive as they once did on the prairie lands, though I am sure they may still be found.

From the story of Jens J. Norup:
...Rattlesnakes were more than plentiful when we were all breaking sod with walking plows. It seems like I killed a snake nearly every day during the hot summer weather for three years or more. Three young homesteaders in less than three hours killed over 100 snakes in one day...


From the story of Otto Hansen:
...The first year, I borrowed a team from Dan Ryan, a neighbor, to go with a team I'd bought which were not broke to work. One day while breaking sod with them, I heard a rattler buzzing under my feet. The plow share had just skinned his back and pulled him out of his hold. Did I ever get out of that furrow! And I would not get back in the rest of that day. I wore boots after that. I broke 25 acres that year with a walking plow...


From the story of Mrs. Maymie Hutchens:
...Rattlesnakes were plentiful on the prairies and the homesteaders had to be very careful for they would crawl under their shacks and when you walked across the floor they would hiss and rattle...


From the story of Beulah Krieger Towne:
...When Dad had selected our ranch he had picked the most beautiful spot in the whole country, nestled at the north edge of a range of buttes. There were no buildings, so we slept in a tent the first night. The carpenters and hired men bedded down on blankets under the stars, inside a circle of lariat rope to keep the rattlesnakes away...


J. B. Brown and his bride of a few days arrived in October of 1912. They had a long, hard first winter, but they planted a big garden as soon as the snow drifts were gone and the weather had warmed during their first spring. From his story:
...Mrs Brown, armed with a long handled hoe, not only helped to keep the weeds down, but she also killed some 10 or 12 large rattlesnakes that crossed her path between the house and the garden...


From the story of Fay Kaufman:
...I went to see my mother one day. The dog was really up in the air about something. We both went out and there were two very large snakes. Mother sent me to the house for a gun. Of course, I had to pick up an automatic revolver which neither one of us knew how to shoot. A good thing we didn't get the gun off safety for it would have shot a full round before stopping. The rattlesnakes turned out to be the biggest bull snakes [a non-poisonous prairie snake] I have ever seen. Mother and I had many a laugh years later.


From the story of Mrs. Mae Strange Snyder:
Rattlesnakes were one of the hazards of those times. One day I rode down to see Mrs. George Kent. A rattler crawled across the road. I took the bridle off my horse and tried to kill it. About that time, Floyd Eaton happened by. He ended up killing 17 and said that some had crawled into their holes. It happened to be a den of them.


I am not sure which species or subspecies of rattlesnakes they had in Mellette County, South Dakota, but I suspect the rattlers they encountered were prairie rattlesnakes.

I took the photo below on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, about five miles south of the Mellette County line, along Highway 18 east of Mission, South Dakota.

Near Mellette County, South DakotaRattlesnake Country


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* Source of the above quotes: Mellette County, 1911-1961, published by the Mellete County Centennial Committee of White River, South Dakota. No copyright information or publication date is given.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shiloh Baptist Church, Christian County, KY

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Shiloh Baptist Church in rural Christian Co., KentuckyShiloh Baptist Church


This is the Shiloh Baptist Church in northeastern Christian County, KY. It's about 10 miles from Hopkinsville as the crow flies but farther by the roads. The Shiloh Church Road is named for this church. The church sits beside the Shiloh Church Road, a few miles southeast of a crossroads and tiny community that is known as Carl. The terrain around it is high, rough, and rocky, but the church sits in a little valley surrounded by tall oak trees.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Christian County's 2006 Tornado Revisited

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...



Tornado damage

Today I drove through some of the area northeast of Hopkinsville, KY, that was hit by an F3 tornado on April 2, 2006. This tall sycamore tree still has some roofing metal caught in it. Plenty of damage is still visible to property and trees but some buildings have been replaced and some have seen some repair.

The tornado was a strange but interesting experience as a blogger. My blog was new at that time, and I was lucky to get 50 page-views a day. Suddenly, I had several hundred page-views a day from people across the nation and around the world who were trying to find out about the tornado. I suppose that many of them had family or friends here or had once lived here themselves. I tried to report some of the news and provide some links for them.

The Kentucky New Era has run a couple of follow-up stories lately about the tornado. In a report published on March 13, 2007, a lady said she had received a lot of help from the American Red Cross and she was grateful for it. When the tornado hit, she and her husband were thrown out of their mobile home onto the top of their car. Both their home and their car were destroyed, and they spent several days in a Nashville hospital. They ended up selling their property and moving to a home in town.

On March 14, 2007, the Kentucky New Era reported that the Christian County Road Department was nearly finished with assistance to the tornado cleanup. A state of emergency was declared after the tornado to allow the Road Department to haul storm debris from private property to the landfill.

The storm cleanup has cost the Road Department $423,000. The county will receive a $250,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Kentucky to help with the expense. About 3,000 tons of debris have been taken to the landfill.

The tornado posts I made last year were:


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The Flower Fairies of Cicely Mary Barker

History and Old Stuff...



Sometimes I see an old-time illustration and it stirs a vague memory. I had one of those deja vu moments a few days ago when I was searching for an image of green ash blossoms to compare with the photo I had just taken.

Along with images of tree leaves, blossoms, twigs and buds, two images of beautiful little fairies appeared in the search results -- the Mountain Ash fairy and the Elm fairy. I can't tell you where or when I'd seen such fairies before, but I thought, "Oh, I remember them!" and it warmed my heart to see them again.

Intrigued, I followed the link and found a number of similar fairy illustrations listed on an eBay page. I was in a hurry but I wanted to know more, so I bookmarked the page. Today, I went back to enjoy the images and to find out more about the artist.

They are the work of Cicely Mary Barker, an English illustrator who lived from 1895 to 1973. She painted dozens of Flower Fairies. Some were part of a Flower Fairy alphabet. Others were Flower Fairies of the garden, of the forest, and of spring, summer, and fall.

I would love to put a Flower Fairy image here for you to enjoy but the art is still under copyright. You can see a good group of the Flower Fairies at Julie's Antique Prints, at Flower Fairies Pictures or at Prints With a Past.

The paintings have an air of innocent imagination and sweetness about them. Each fairy has a child's face and its wings and costume mirror and complement the flower that the fairy tends. The flowers are painted with careful attention to botanical detail.

When I read about Cicely Mary Barker, I learned that she had epilepsy as a child, so her parents did not send her to school. She studied at home with governesses. When she was 15, her father showed some samples of her paintings to a publisher, and he bought them and produced a series of note cards from them. That was the beginning of her professional art career.

After her father died, Barker helped support the family by selling illustrations and poetry to magazines. Fairies were a fad at the time, partly because Queen Mary was fond of sending fairy postcards, and so Barker began painting fairies and eventually published eight volumes of Flower Fairies. Perhaps I saw one of these books somewhere, sometime.

The models for the fairies were children wearing costumes that Barker designed and sewed. Each costume matched the color and the mood of the flower it complemented. As Barker painted, she had the fairy model hold a specimen of the flower so she could be sure of the flower's details. In each of the finished paintings, the fairy is the same size as the flower.

Barker's sister ran a kindergarten in the family home, so children were always nearby to serve as models, and Barker heard their little voices and their footsteps as she painted.

Barker also produced a lot of Christian art over the years. She donated art and designs to Christian mission and charity groups and created art for churches as well. However, she is most remembered for her Flower Fairies.

My daughter says when she has children, she's going to use bright primary colors in their bedrooms, but in their room at Grandma's house they may have Flower Fairies on the walls.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Enjoy Your Coffee

Some Interesting News... And What I Think About It...



Scientific American reported a few days ago that a cup of coffee contains soluble dietary fiber -- the same sort of cholesterol-lowering fiber that is found in oatmeal.

The article* states that 16 ounces of coffee can contain as much fiber as an apple (though of course, it doesn't have the vitamins that an apple does.) It also states that freeze-dried coffee has the most fiber.

Other studies have found that coffee contains many antioxidents and caffeinated coffee may reduce the chance of developing Alzheimers, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease. You don't have to feel guilty about enjoying a cup of real coffee, despite what some militant coffee tee-totalers or hard-core decaf drinkers may try to tell you.

Do I sound strangely passionate on this topic? I suppose it's from being around the old folks at church for many years. They want decaf if they drink coffee at all, and a couple of them are rather opinionated about their preferences.

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* " Need Fiber? Have Some Coffee" by Coco Ballantyne. Published by Scientific American on March 13, 2007.


Related post: "Coffee is good for you!"

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Nuthatches Speak Chickadee

More About Birds and Animals... Some Interesting News...



Red-breasted nuthatchYou might enjoy reading this AP story: Birds learn meaning of other species' call.

It seems that chickadees give specific information in their warning cries about the type of predator they have spotted, and nuthatches understand the specific information and respond appropriately.

For example, nuthatches understand chickadee warnings for small fast raptor predators and they respond by grouping up, ready to mob the threatening bird. The article describes how this was tested by playing chickadee calls on a loudspeaker.

Carolina chickadeeThe old expression that "Birds of a feather stick together" is still correct, but it's apparently not inclusive enough. These little birds operate more like the Arab proverb, "My brother and I against my cousin. My cousin and I against the enemy."

Nuthatches and chickadees are birds we often see around our feeders.


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Public domain images from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Institutes of Health.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Cellar Is a Cellar

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Kansas...



Our young rascal, Casper Cat, disappeared for a while today. About suppertime, we realized he was missing. When we called and Casper didn't appear, we decided to check the shed. Sure enough, when Dennis opened the shed door, there was Casper -- napping on the workbench. He awoke, stretched, and ambled out.

This reminded me of something I hadn't thought of for a while. When I was six and my family moved to the ranch at Rose (NE), there was an old cellar in the side yard. It looked like a small hill on the lawn. On one end, some steps led down to the cellar's door. The door and the cellar's floor were probably about 6 feet underground.

I was outside exploring the new surroundings and I decided to peek inside the cellar. I ventured down the steps and pulled the door open a few inches. To my surprise, an emaciated cat shot out like a bolt of lightning and began eating grass ravenously. Poor thing! He must have been locked in there for quite a while.

I also remember a bit about the cellar we had at the ranch south of Johnstown where we had lived before the move. As I recall, it was built into the side of a little hill, and the entry was at ground level on the outside. At any rate, the entry's roof slanted at an angle that reminded me of a playground slide. One day, I climbed it and slid down, and that night my mom picked out wood slivers from my legs and backside with a needle.

Those cellars were old, even when I was a little child. I don't think my mom used the one at Johnstown, and my dad tore out the one at Rose because it was in bad shape structurally. Wooden roofs of cellars tended to cave in. Concrete cellars were more durable.

Driving through the Ozarks, I've seen a few old cellars dug right into hillsides like caves. The front walls around the entry doors were made of native stone, mortared together.

I drew a little sketch of the cellars I remember from childhood and showed it to Isaac. He said, "Oh, like Uncle Dwight and Aunt Kathy's storm shelter." And he is absolutely correct about the similarity. Come to think of it, storm shelters are often called "storm cellars."

Not long after Dwight and Kathy and my parents moved to the ranch out west of Wichita, KS, a tornado passed by too close for comfort. Since they had no storm cellar, they got in the pickup truck, drove into the pit silo which sits deep in the ground between a couple of hills, and waited for the storm to pass over. Soon after that, Dwight built the storm shelter that Isaac was talking about. It's right there in the yard if they need it.

Entrance to a Kansas storm cellarDwight and Kathy's storm shelter is made of a huge old salvaged oilfield tank -- like maybe 2000 gallons in size(?) -- cut in half and set back into a small hill. (The other half of the tank was used for something else on the ranch that I don't recall right now.) On the part sticking out of the hillside, Dwight built a a door. The framing of the little stoop over the doorway is salvaged oilfield pipe.

Inside are a few lawn chairs so they can sit down. A dozen people could probably pack into the shelter if necessary, but it would be a little crowded.

The upside-down bucket on top is covering a vent that lets in a little fresh air. I assume the vent in the door has some mesh over the backside of it (or is completely closed off) because I remember Dwight saying he made it tight enough to keep out snakes.

With a few shelves and storage bins, Dwight's storm shelter would make a pretty good cellar, because it fits the criteria of being an underground room (though its round interior and steel walls are unique.) For conventional cellar construction, see "An Old Time Cellar" that gives a general plan for constructing a wooden cellar. Mother Earth News also has an informative article about "Root Cellars."

Bar

Updated 3/22/07: I found a larger version of the photo and posted it this morning. When I wrote this last night, I was thinking that Dwight put the tank on its side and that the floor was rounded, but after some memory searching and looking at the photo closely, I believe the half-tank was turned upside down onto a concrete floor and the sides are the rounded part. I apologize for my confusion. It's been about ten years since I peeked inside it!

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Wild Plums Are Blooming

Beautiful wild shrubs


Wild plum blossomsA branch of wild plum, covered with blossoms

The wild plums have been blooming this week on the "south bank" of our small rural property. I love to walk through that part of the yard. The fragrance of the blooms fills the air all around the little plum thicket.

On that south bank, the plums always bloom a little too early and are nearly always frosted. There are never enough plums to make jelly. But to me, they're worth having just for these days of spring when they are blooming.

Wild plum blossoms I wish I could post the fragrance of these plum blossoms!

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Related posts:
Wild Fruits of the Nebraska Sandhills
Springtime in Christian County, Kentucky

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Seen at the Thrift Shop: Rustic Wall Plaques

History and Old Stuff...



1950's kitsch

Remember when these wooden wall plaques were very popular, back in the 1950's and 1960's? It would be impossible to estimate the number of art prints that were glued to slices of tree trunks. And it can't be denied that some did have a rustic charm.

I remember larger plaques with "The Lord's Supper" or "Jesus at Gethsemane" pictures on them. I think I can remember one hanging in our church -- or somewhere?!

Soon after I made this photo, I saw these plaques at the cash register. A lady had them and dozens more items piled in her cart. She had such an excess of merchandise for checkout that I wondered if she might be a compulsive shopper. Or maybe she just happened to hit the jackpot at the Goodwill yesterday.

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On the web:
Retro Housewife
Google Directory: 1950's Memorabilia

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In the Archives

Blogs and Blogging...



Here are some articles from a year ago that I think you might enjoy:

Wild Fruits of the Nebraska Sandhills -- memories of fruit-picking expeditions with my mother.

Shagbark Silhouette
-- photo and description of the shagbark hickory tree that is commonly seen in Kentucky

It's Kite Flying Weather! -- Memories of flying kites in the no-man's-land between East and West Berlin.

Hoping For a Snow Day -- Confession that I loved to sound important when I was a little girl.

Periwinkle, the Conqueror -- An old-time ground cover that's often seen around here.

1954 Ford Bread Truck

History and Old Stuff... Blogs and Blogging...



One of the interesting things about having a blog is observing the many internet travellers who pass through it and sometimes hearing from them in comments or via e-mail.

A few days ago, I had an email from a reader in California. He said he had visited the photos I posted a few weeks ago of a 1951 Ford F5 Cab-over truck and mentioned that he has a 1954 Ford bread truck that he might sell to the right person. He bought the truck to save it from being melted down or stripped for salvage, but he's not sure if he has the time and talent to restore it. He's torn between keeping it and selling it, but if he sells it, he wants it to go to a person who appreciates it.

I asked if he could send some photos and he did. Two of them are posted below. If you have any advice or comments about restoring this truck or if you are interested in owning the vehicle, you can send e-mail to imagedump2003 at yahoo dot com.

I don't intend to turn the blog into a used-car lot, but I appreciated the uniqueness of this vehicle and the desire of its owner to do right by it.

 1954 Ford bread truck

 1954 Ford bread truck

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Pioneer Life on the Prairie: A Wagner Matinée

History and Old Stuff...



When we look back at pioneer days on the prairie, it's easy to imagine the lives of the settlers as more idyllic than most actually were.

We've all watched "Little House On the Prairie," and many of us have read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books! The world would be a poorer place without the wonderful stories of her childhood that Laura recorded for us. She truthfully recorded many of the difficulties and dangers that her family faced, and she wrote with great good cheer and a determined optimism. I don't doubt that her family had that attitude and that it helped them to survive many hardships, but it gives a rosy hue to the picture that Laura paints.

Willa Cather wrote realistically about the grim circumstances some homesteaders found themselves in. In her stories about Nebraska, she noted that many were ill-suited for life on the raw prairie. Some came from cities and had no experience at all with farming. They knew nothing about plants and animals. Others lacked the financial resources and emotional strength to hang on through droughts, grasshopper attacks, tornados, blizzards and prairie fires.

Here is a vignette of one woman's life from Cather's short story, "A Wagner Matinée"

My Aunt Georgiana had been a music teacher at the Boston Conservatory, somewhere back in the latter sixties. One summer, while visiting in the little village among the Green Mountains where her ancestors had dwelt for generations, she had kindled the callow fancy of the most idle and shiftless of all the village lads, and had conceived for this Howard Carpenter one of those extravagant passions which a handsome country boy of twenty-one sometimes inspires in an angular, spectacled woman of thirty. When she returned to her duties in Boston, Howard followed her, and the upshot of this inexplicable infatuation was that she eloped with him, eluding the reproaches of her family and the criticisms of her friends by going with him to the Nebraska frontier. Carpenter, who, of course, had no money, had taken a homestead in Red Willow County, fifty miles from the railroad. There they had measured off their quarter section themselves by driving across the prairie in a wagon, to the wheel of which they had tied a red cotton handkerchief, and counting off its revolutions. They built a dugout in the red hillside, one of those cave dwellings whose inmates so often reverted to primitive conditions. Their water they got from the lagoons where the buffalo drank, and their slender stock of provisions was always at the mercy of bands of roving Indians. For thirty years my aunt had not been further than fifty miles from the homestead.

Quoted from "A Wagner Matinée" by Willa Cather. Originally published in Everybody's Magazine in 1904.


"A Wagner Matinée", source of the quotation above, is the story of a woman and her nephew. He was brought up as a rough homestead boy, though he learned Latin and music under his aunt's care and training. As an adult, he goes to the city and becomes a suave and polished gentleman (on the surface at least). His aunt has undergone an opposite transformation, from a talented lady musician to an overworked prairie pioneer and farm wife. Both aunt and nephew have opportunity at the matinée to recall and marvel at their former and current lives.

It's a poignant and touching look at a relationship, and I found myself identifying to an extent with the nephew, a person who left the homestead and went far away. I'm sure the nephew is a representation of Willa Cather herself. She went to New York City and became a successful editor and writer, but she could never forget where she was from -- Red Cloud, Nebraska, was part of her. She knew it deeply. That's what makes her stories so powerful and authentic, even 100 years later.

"A Wagner Matinée" is also a look at the darker side of the homestead experience. Loss and sacrifice are part of the great story of America's homesteaders. I pay lip service to that fact often, but I was still surprised at the bleakness I saw and felt as I was drawn into this story.

I took my Mennonite neighbor to the chiropractor today. While I was waiting, I read a couple of Willa Cather stories. I have been thinking about this one ever since.

Bar

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mid-March in the Kentucky Countryside

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...



Rural road, Christian County, KYIsaac and I had a nice walk late this afternoon, down a narrow and somewhat winding road near our home. It's about .8 mile from the beginning of the road to the point that it changes from gravel to blacktop. The round trip is 1.6 miles with a couple big hills to increase the heart rate.

The road is so narrow that two vehicles cannot meet on it. When that rare event does occur, one has to either back up or wait in a pasture gateway along the road until the other vehicle passes.

We didn't meet any vehicles at all while we were walking. It was very quiet and pleasant, walking along through the trees and beside the pastures and fields.

Cattle herd in Christian County, KY Our neighbor has his Beefalo cattle in some of the pastures along the way. The buffalo ancestry of his bull is quite obvious.

The fields haven't been touched yet, but I'm sure the farmers are preparing their machinery and ordering the seed.

Rural scene, Christian County, KYComing back up the last hill, we heard a bird calling close beside the road. Isaac spotted him in a thicket when he moved. It was an eastern towhee (also called a rufous-sided towhee.) I have seen them in our yard infrequently, but often enough that I recognize them.

After listening to some recordings of the towhee's calls on the internet this evening, I realize that he was making the "towhee" sound that the bird is named for. You can read more about the eastern towhee and hear its call on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website (Real Player needed) or on the Wild Bird Watching website (mp3 player needed).

The weather here has been so nice lately for walking -- cool, but not cold. This is the second time that Isaac and I have walked down this road this week. We can walk up and down the hill from our house to the highway three times and have about the same distance, but a change of scenery always makes walking more interesting.

Eastern or rufous-sided towhee
Eastern towhee, National Park Service photo


Bar
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Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Farmer's Creed -- and Its Author, Frank I. Mann

Goals for the 1915 farmer



The following was published about 1915.

The Farmer's Creed

I believe in a permanent agriculture; a soil that will grow richer rather than poorer from year to year.

I believe in 100-bushel corn and in 50-bushel wheat, and I shall not be satisfied with anything less.

I believe that the only good weed is a dead weed, and that a clean farm is as important as a clean conscience.

I believe in the farm boy and in the farm girl, the farmer's best crops, the future's best hope.

I believe in the farm woman and will do all in my power to make her life easier and happier.

I believe in the country school that prepares for country life and a country church that teaches its people to love deeply and live honorably.

I believe in community spirit, a pride in home and neighbors, and I will do my part to make my community the best in the State.

I believe in the farmer, I believe in farm life, I believe in the inspiration of the open country.

I am proud to be a farmer, and I will try earnestly to be worthy of the name.

--By Frank I. Mann.

Source: Kentucky Arbor and Bird Day 1914-1915, compiled by Mrs. V. O. Gilbert. Published in Frankfort, Kentucky by the State Journal Company, no publishing or copyright date given.

After I read "The Farmer's Creed", I was quite curious about whom Mr. Frank I. Mann might have been. Of course, I decided to do some internet searches, and I soon found a Frank I. Mann mentioned in an online book. He seems a likely suspect:

On his 500-acre farm near Gilman, in the heart of the Illinois Corn Belt, Mr. Frank I. Mann has produced a 70-bushel average yield of corn for a five-year period, and with 200 acres of land in corn annually. It cost him only $1 an acre a year in fine-ground natural rock phosphate to produce increased yields of 16 bushels more corn, 23 bushels more oats and 1 ton more clover than the average yields secured without adding phosphorus.

Source: Chapter IV of the online book, The Farm That Won't Wear Out.
Mr. Mann's soil improvement methods are discussed for several paragraphs beyond the one that I quoted above. I think he was also an editor of a farm newspaper, the Prairie Farmer, and the author of Frank Mann's Soil Book: How One Illinois Farmer Has Doubled the Production of His Farm by Methods that Paid For Themselves as He Went Along.

Book coverA Google book search turns up over 30 mentions of "Frank I. Mann" in publications mostly from the early 1900's, and his name is associated with agriculture and/or Illinois in nearly every instance.

I'm not at all sure why "The Farmer's Creed" was included in the Kentucky Arbor and Bird Day 1914-1915. The introduction to the book states that it is a source of information and exercises for Arbor Day, November 6, 1914, in order to draw attention to the importance of planting trees. I don't see anything at all about planting trees in the creed!

I noticed in the book search that "The Farmer's Creed" was also included in The Connecticut School Document of 1914-1915. I guess they thought it was good, inspirational reading for children.

I know you're just fascinated with this stuff. That's why I post it for you.

Bar

Related post: The Country Boy's Creed


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The Country Boy's Creed

The natural life


The Country Boy's Creed

I believe that the Country which God made is more beautiful than the City which man made; that life out of doors and in touch with the earth is the natural life of man.

I believe that work is work wherever I find it, but that work with nature is more inspiring than work with the most intricate machinery.

I believe that the dignity of labor depends not on what you do but on how you do it; that opportunity comes to the boy on the farm as often as to a boy in the city; that life is larger and freer and happier on the farm than in town; that my success depends not upon my location, but upon myself.

I believe in working when you work, and playing when you play, and in giving and demanding a square deal in every act of life."

-- Northwest Journal of Education

Source: Kentucky Arbor and Bird Day 1914-1915, compiled by Mrs. V. O. Gilbert. Published in Frankfort, Kentucky by the State Journal Company, no publishing or copyright date given.


I doubt we'd see such an idealized view of rural life published in a journal of education today. The life of the average American child has changed in many, many ways since 1915!

Bar
Related post: The Farmer's Creed -- and Its Author, Frank I. Mann

The Valentine, Nebraska, Post Office Remembered

Post office mural at Valentine Nebraska



One of the odd things about getting older is that I'm becoming more and more like my parents.

In the mirror, I have caught glimpses of my mother, my father, and my Grandma Nora in my face. But the similarities go farther. I find myself saying and doing what my parents -- and especially my mother -- said and did. I suspect that even the processes of my mind are becoming like my mother.

For example, today I went to town with a plastic bag of bills that needed to be paid and mailed. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of the post office, writing checks and licking envelope flaps, when it dawned on me that I was doing exactly what I saw my mother do a zillion times -- getting the mail ready at the post office.

I remember sitting in the car outside the post office or standing inside until I thought my legs would drop off, waiting, hoping, dying for Mama to finish getting the mail ready and finally drop it through the slot in the wall. I think sometimes she was writing to her sister. They carried on a regular correspondence.

This train of thought brought me to an early memory of the Valentine, Nebraska, post office. I remember several things clearly. I remember my mother standing at the table in the post office lobby, writing mail. I was sitting under the table on the hard square bar that connected the table's legs. That was uncomfortable, so after a while, I sat on the floor. The floor had some kind of ceramic or stone tile on it, and it was smooth and cold.

And I remember the mural on the wall of the Valentine post office. It was the largest picture I had ever seen, and it had a train in it. I probably had plenty of time to look at it while my mother stood at the table and wrote.

This is an early memory. We must have still been living south of Johnstown, NE, and that would mean I was six or younger. That was a long time ago!

I found that mural on the internet this evening. You can see an image of it on a Nebraska State Historical Society page titled "Nebraska National Register Sites in Cherry County." It really does have the train that I remember.

The mural was painted in 1939 by Kady Faulkner, who was working as an artist for the Section of Fine Arts. The Section was a program of the Treasury Department that hired artists to create art in public buildings during the Great Depression. Nebraska has a dozen post office murals: their locations are listed at http://www.wpamurals.com/nebraska.htm.

Bar

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Friday, March 16, 2007

An Idea About Daylight Savings Time

And What I Think About It...



I've been reading many blog rants about the switchover to Daylight Savings Time (DST) last weekend. Bloggers across the nation hated losing an hour of sleep.

The folks at church early Sunday morning had plenty to say about DST, and I've been hearing complaints all week from friends and neighbors. Even my Mennonite neighbor lady mentioned the recent unpleasantness of losing an hour.

I've given the situation some thought and here's what I propose. The "spring forward" weekend of DST should be eliminated because the loss of an hour is very stressful to the general public.

However, since everyone enjoys gaining an extra hour on the "fall back" weekend of DST, we need to fall back more often.

I propose that all legal holidays be made automatic fall-back days. In addition, I suggest that we allow the President to declare "fall back" weekends whenever he thinks we deserve a little treat or need a little extra rest.

For example, on April 16th, the President might announce that since we have all been so good about doing our duty with income taxes, we will have a fall-back weekend.

Maybe we could all be issued a certain number of fall-back days per year that we could use at our own discretion, much like personal-leave days at work.

Frequent fall-back days would do wonders for the national morale, don't you think?

I rather like this idea. Don't bring up the complications, please. I don't want to hear about them.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Some 1947 Advertisers

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... History and Old Stuff...



In the March, 1947, issue of the National Geographic magazine, some ads were printed in color and some were printed in black and white. Some advertisers are listed below with slogans that were emphasized in their ads.

  • The Magnavox Company: "The Magnificent Magnavox radio-phonograph ...for new horizons in musical enjoyment"
  • Allen B. Du Mont Laboratories: "In television, tuning is the test and only Du Mont offers you the Inputuner®."
  • Matson Shiplines: "Matson Knows The Pacific"
  • Dictaphone Electronic Dictation: "Are you handcuffed to your secretary?"
  • Pan American World Airways: "The System of the Flying Clippers"
  • Pullman (sleeping compartment train cars): "Go Pullman, the Safest, most Comfortable way of going places fast."
  • Canadian National Railways: "The Railway to Everywhere in Canada"
  • Lockheed Aircraft Corporation: "The Leader to Mexico. The Leader at Home. Lockheed Corporation."
  • Association of American Railroads: "Today's magic carpet travels on a railroad track."
  • Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation: "Why some things get better all the time"
  • Southern Railway System: "Look Ahead - Look South!"
  • General Motors Electro-Motive Division: "Better trains follow better locomotives!"
  • The Texas Company: "Texaco Dealers In All 48 States"
  • General Electric (electric blanket): "Undisturbed slumber -- all night, every night-- thanks to G-E Automatic Sleeping Comfort"
  • Kodak: "Double Reward from Kodachrome in your miniature camera: Projection and Prints"
  • Greyhound Buslines: "Remember... By Highway means By Greyhound"
  • Victor Animatograph Corporation: "Makers of Movie Equipment Since 1910"
  • Howard Radio Company: "Chairside Charm," "America's Oldest Radio Manufacturer"
  • Bell Telephone System: "How much does the telephone company earn? How would you answer this question?" (And in smaller print, the answer: "The actual figure is far less than many people think. Even with telephone calls at a record peak, Bell System earnings on the money invested in the business have averaged only a shade over 5-1/2% for the last five years -- including the war years. And that's not enough to insure good telephone service." Apparently there had been a rate increase.)

And from the back cover of the magazine...

  • W. A. Scheaffer Pen Co. (advertising a ballpointed instrument that was "neither pen nor pencil"): "Sheaffer's Stratowriter rolls your writing on dry."


In 1947, my parents had been married for two years. My brother was a year old. I would not be born for another four years.

Bar

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dafodils Along the Country Roads

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South...



Daffodils along the roadside

In spring here in western Kentucky and across the region, daffodils bloom along the roadsides. Their bright yellow flowers often mark the site where a farmhouse sat years ago. One can only speculate what the farmhouse might have looked like, but it's safe to say that in Christian County, many of them were log houses.

The daffodils in the photo above were planted within the last ten years or so, but they mark an old homesite. An old two-story farmhouse used to stand here and a young couple lived in it. She loved flowers and planted daffodils, iris, and much more. They moved away when the land changed hands, and the new owner recently tore down the old house and the little sheds that had stood around it.

Unlike most of the daffodils that spring up in such places, these are large-blossomed double daffodils. You can tell by their fat buds.

I was amused yesterday to see a photo of old-time simple daffodils in our local newspaper with a caption labeling them as "wildflowers". They are certainly common enough along the roadsides to be a native wildflower, but they were all planted here by human hands, and they don't spread over much of an area naturally. For efficient propagation, the clumps have to be dug up, and the bulbs separated and transplanted.

Bar

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.