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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Homeowner Regrets We Don't Have

Houses we didn't buy


When Dennis was transferred to Fort Campbell, we became first-time home-buyers.  We were living out of suitcases in a hotel room with two little children, and Dennis was working midnights.  And we had a limited number of days that we could stay in the hotel with our expenses paid.  Naturally enough, we were desperate to find a place quickly.

Could have moved to Dover...
 
After our first session with a realtor, we thought about buying a little house near Dover, TN. It was an older home, but the owner had remodeled it nicely. It sat on five acres, and it had a small horse barn. A little creek ran through the back yard, barely fifty feet behind the house. We liked the house, but it just didn't have enough bedrooms for us.

Now that I'm enlightened about how streams can rise in this country, I am thankful that we didn't buy that house. I'll bet that little stream gets out of its banks frequently. Every time it rained heavily, I would have worried about the kids falling into that flooded creek!

Could have moved to Lafayette...

We looked at another group of houses with another realtor, and we liked a little house in southwest Christian County, near Lafayette, KY. In some ways, it was the house I'd always wanted. It was white with a big front porch. The rooms were fairly large, and there was an old-fashioned feel to the place. However, there was hardly a tree on the five acres, and the neighbor just over the fence had the most junk piled in his yard that I've ever seen around a dwelling.

Despite its shortcomings, we tried to bid on that little white house, but someone else got a bid in first and bought it. It's just as well. The junky neighbor next door would have been a perpetual irritation, and without trees, that little house must have been like an oven in the summer sun.

But here we are, instead

Instead, we bought the house where we live -- a brick ranch house built in the 1960s. We've had various homeowner problems, but one thing we've never worried about is flooding. Our little property is located on the edge of a broad ridge. A steep quarter-mile downhill slope starts at the edge of our front lawn. Excess surface water can't help draining away. It gets soggy up here sometimes, but we'll never be flooded. 

Another thing we've never worried about is junky neighbors. Our two nearest neighbors are Mennonites. Their farmyards are quite tidy. We try to keep our grass mowed so they won't be embarassed when their Mennonite friends visit. Thank goodness we only mow about an acre. I wonder why we ever thought we wanted five acres?

When our children think back about their childhoods, I think they'll remember the trees here. Their playhouses were under the big old trees where the log house once stood. Their swing, hung from a high branch, carried them over the bank and high into the open air. They lay on the trampoline on summer evenings and watched the hummingbirds in the mimosa blossoms. They raked huge leaf piles in the fall and played in them.  And how could they forget all the acorns and tree seedlings their dad has planted and how the new trees have grown over the years?

This is the story of how God led us to a house that was right for us. It's not a palace, but it was a good place for our kids to grow up.  We hope to continue living here for quite a while.  Now that we own the place free and clear,  Dennis says the only way they're moving him out of here is in a pine box.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stuffed Animals and Happy Childhoods

Wants, needs, and deprivations



A few days ago, I was in line at a store behind a lady and her granddaughter. The little girl had a stuffed animal, and she was whining and wheedling for the grandmother to buy it.

The pleading reached an emotional crescendo as Grandmother unloaded her purchases at the cash register. At the very end of the transaction, she bought the stuffed animal and handed it to her granddaughter. The little girl's tears vanished, a smile appeared, and (thank goodness!) a sudden quiet fell upon our little corner of the store.

The woman turned to me and explained that she never had a stuffed animal when she was a child. She wouldn't have dared to ask for one. That's why she buys stuffed animals for her granddaughter, she said. She has sixty stuffed animals in her home; some are for her grandchildren, but some are just for herself.

I don't remember a stuffed animal that belonged exclusively to me when I was little. My sister had a teddy bear, and I think there was a stuffed horse in the toy box that my mom had made. It didn't bother me not to have a personal stuffed animal. I had various dolls, and they were enough.

My children had dozens of stuffed animals that they had received as gifts from friends and relatives. I wonder if the popularity of stuffed animals as a gift suggests a repressed yearning amongst adults. Or do adults like to give stuffed animals so they can feel virtuous about giving a toy without batteries? Then again, maybe adults like stuffed animals simply because we have a biological predisposition to respond to big-eyed, soft, baby-sized critters.

It is sad to think of children who don't have many toys. My parents grew up during the Depression, and like many people their age, they didn't have many frivolities in their lives when they were children. My mother had one beloved dolly. My dad remembered blocks of wood to play with instead of toys, and an orange as his only Christmas gift. And there were other, much more serious lacks and losses and stresses and sorrows in their little lives.

When my parents married, they decided they would create a happy home together. As I look back at the childhood they gave me, it's hard for me to feel deprived about much of anything. (Well, I should admit that I felt deprived when I was a child because we didn't have a television. However, I've come to think of that as an advantage.)
______________

Millions of children are truly deprived. Many lack the most basic necessities of life. Your generosity can make a big difference in their lives. Please consider a donation to a reputable charity that helps children.

Flower Power

Still having fun


I saw a lady of unquenchable spirit today. This little elderly lady, the lady of unquenchable spirit, came into the store, leaning heavily on her cane. It was clear that she needed its support.

It was equally obvious that she had given her cane some pizazz. It was decorated from top to bottom with silk flowers, feathers, ribbons, and even a little flag, all in a red, white, and blue theme.

A little girl stared at the lady's wonderful walking stick, and the lady paused to let her see it better. I heard her explain to the little girl's mother that she'll change to an autumn theme in a few weeks.

When the time comes that I need a cane, I think my cane will have flower power, too. Yes, it will be decorated with cascades of imagination and flourishes of bravado, and it will flutter a little as I walk. The grandkids will like it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How to Apply for a Kentucky Historical Marker

Highway signs for historic sites


The Kentucky Historical Society is accepting applications for historical markers.  To have a historic site considered for a highway sign that describes its significance, complete the application before October 1, 2008. Fifteen applications will be selected.

The fee for a highway marker is $2,075 for a one-sided marker and $2,300 for a two-sided marker. This fee has increased from last year due to the rising cost of maintenance, which includes the cost for replacements, missing or severely damaged markers, new posts, or refurbishing.

Read the full news release for more details. Kentucky has over 2000 historical markers along its streets and highways.  You can browse or search through them at the Kentucky Historical Marker Database.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Corn Silks and Tassels

Tasseling and detasseling





About three weeks ago, I stopped along Old Highway 68/80, east of Hopkinsville, and took this photo of the Little River Valley. In the distance, a field of corn is growing in the rich bottom land along the river. It appears as a yellow patch because all the corn plants were tasseling (blooming). The tassel is the male flower of the corn plant.

The cornfield was also full of female flowers (little corn ears-to-be), though they aren't visible in the photo.  Each one had its silks (ovary extensions) ready to receive and transport the pollen. Each silk was connected to an ovule (kernel-to-be) on the ear that began to grow as soon as it was fertilized.

Pollen grain germination occurs within minutes after a pollen grain lands on a receptive silk. A pollen tube, containing the male genetic material, develops and grows inside the silk, and fertilizes the ovule within 24 hours. Pollen grains can land and germinate anywhere along the length of an exposed receptive silk. Many pollen grains may germinate on a receptive silk, but typically only one will successfully fertilize the ovule.

Source: "Silk Emergence" at the Corny News Network

When hybrid seed corn is grown, two varieties of corn are planted in a field, but only one variety is allowed to tassel. The tassels on the other variety are removed manually (often by teenagers who need a summer job) and/or by machine, or sometimes a corn variety with sterile tassels is planted.

The ears that grow on the detasseled plants will have hybrid seeds (kernels) -- a cross between two varieties. All of the corn kernels from ears on the tasseled plants are simply "chips off the old block", now a little more inbred.

After the corn tassels, the whole energy of the plant is devoted to growing the ear/s of corn and filling the kernels with all the nutrient and genetic material it will need for germination. The plant will not develop any more leaves or get any taller.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Seen at Hopkinsville's L&N Depot

Old depot in Hopkinsville, KY


I took care of two neighbor ladies' flowers and their seven dogs for several days over the past weekend, When the ladies arrived back home again, they insisted on taking me out to eat. We went to the Thai restaurant (the Main Street Grill on Ninth) in Hopkinsville .

After lunch, we stopped at the old L & N Depot, now the Pennyrile Arts Council building, and viewed the photos on exhibit. Three photographer friends have put together a show: "A Yank, A Canuck and A Southern Belle." (The Yank is Jeremy Easley, a native of Illinois; the Canuck is Judy Campbell, a native of Canada; and the Southern Belle is Nancy Stalls, a native of Murray, Kentucky).

I enjoyed the photographs and equally enjoyed looking around the old train depot. (It was built in 1892.) I've been in the depot before to buy tickets for the Alhambra Theater, but it's been a while. Out of respect for copyrights, I didn't do any closeups of the photos, but here are some general views around the depot.

The photography exhibit was held in the depot's southmost room. The windows in the east wall look out onto the platform and train tracks.  A large door facilitated the loading and unloading of  luggage and parcels.

On the opposite wall in the exhibition room, the windows look out onto the parking lot. With large windows on both the east and west sides of the building, the depot has an abundance of natural light. I didn't have to use a flash for these photos.

A setting of  L&N dinnerware and a diner-car menu are displayed in a glass case in the lobby.In the reflection, you can see one of the neighbor ladies, making a call on her cell phone. She was arranging to purchase one of the photographs in the exhibit.

The Wikipedia entry for Hopkinsville's L&N depot says the ticket office connected to three waiting rooms -- the ladies' waiting room, the colored waiting room, and the general waiting room.  One of the ticket windows can be seen in the photos at left.

The rooms in the north end of the building are used for offices. The depot has two of these little rounded-out rooms on its train-tracks (east) side.  Photos of the building's exterior can be seen in a 2006 Prairie Bluestem post, "Hopkinsville's Railroad".

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Saving Seeds

How to select corn seed to save


A few large agribusiness companies have great influence over the kinds of corn, soybeans, wheat, etc. that we grow in America. This wasn't always true. Farmers used to save a portion of each crop as seed for the next year.

My 1919 agriculture textbook describes how a farmer should select ears of corn from his field for the next year's seed.

Seed corn should be selected in the field directly from the growing stalk. This should be done before the general harvesting and before a frost.

When the husks and lower leaves have turned yellow and the kernels of corn are glazed, the corn is mature enough to be gathered. The ears should be typical of the variety in size, shape, color, and indentation.

The plant from which the ears are selected should be strong and leafy; it should have matured a little earlier than the main crop; and it should bear the ear at a height convenient for husking. that is, three or four feet from the ground... [I]t is essential that such ears be removed on the day it is gathered to a suitable place where it can quickly dry out or cure.

Source: An Introduction to Agriculture (pp. 84-85) by A. A. Upton and G. A. Schmidt, M.S. Copyright 1919 by D. Appleton and Company, New York.

The farmer was urged to do a germination test in February or March of the following spring, with a few kernels from each ear of corn he had saved If the sample seeds didn't sprout or if they produced weak seedlings, none of the seed from that ear should be planted.

In another chapter, the following characteristics of high quality seeds are listed:

1. Well matured and not more than two years old.
2. One hundred per cent pure.
3. Of a high weight per bushel.
4. Bright and have a live color and sweet odor.
5. Free from disease, injury, dirt and weed seeds.
6. Well graded [all imperfect seed removed].
7. A strong and high germination power.

Source: An Introduction to Agriculture (p. 130) by A. A. Upton and G. A. Schmidt, M.S. Copyright 1919 by D. Appleton and Company, New York.

Any gardener or farmer can become a seed saver. For best results, start by planting a non-hybrid seed. Then select the best seed from your crop, allow it to mature, dry it, and store it in a cool, dry place.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Seen in Smiths Grove, KY

Old Farmer's Bank building


Another chapter in what Keely calls "Mom's 'American Main Street' series":

What a surprise for the eyes to see this little limestone bank in Smiths Grove, KY.  (Smiths Grove is a small town in Warren County, about 20 miles east of Bowling Green.)

The Farmer's Bank building is currently unoccupied. I found the following information about its history:

Erected in 1894, Farmer's Bank is a pretentious limestone structure built for Dave and James R. Kirby by an itinerant stone mason. Closed in 1931, Farmer's Bank never reopened and was later used as a post office.

Source: Architecture of Warren County, KY 1790-1940, copyright 1984 by the Landmark Association of Bowling Green and Warren County, Inc., Bowling Green, KY.

A "pretentious limestone structure"? The adjective "pretentious" seems opinionated -- and thus, out-of-place.  This book is supposed to be reporting noteworthy facts about Warren County's best old architecture.

Were the writers insinuating that Smiths Grove was not a fancy enough town to deserve an attractive stone bank?  Or are they suggesting that a small building should not have so many details?  There's no way to know what they really meant, but I'm pretty sure they were expressing an opinion, not giving a fact.

According to WordNet (r) 2.0:

pretentious adj

1: making claim to or creating an appearance of (often undeserved) importance or distinction; "a pretentious country house"; "a pretentious fraud"; "a pretentious scholarly edition" [ant: unpretentious]

2: intended to attract notice and impress others; "an ostentatious sable coat" [syn: ostentatious] [ant: unostentatious]

3: of a display that is tawdry or vulgar [syn: ostentatious, kitsch]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stone Church in Auburn, KY

Pearce Memorial United Methodist Church


Stone church, Auburn, KYI was so busy photographing this interesting stone church in the little town of Auburn, KY, that I forgot to read the name on its sign! The letters are almost too faded to read in my photograph, but I verified its name on the internet. This is the Pearce Memorial United Methodist Church.

After I had the name, I found a church history that was written in 1974 by Nancy R. Wright. It says that the church was named for John Pearce, a lifelong member of the congregation, whose last will and testament designated $20,000 for the construction of the building.

Dedicated on March 26, 1939, this structure replaced an 1882 building and became the third meeting house of the congregation. A stone parsonage (barely visible at left in the photo below) was built behind the church in 1950-1951.

According to Wright's history, this is Bedford stone (a type of limestone) from the Halls Knob Quarry near Auburn. Her history also includes a description of the interior of the building.

The architect of the church was Mr. A. B. Gardner of Nashville. I have not located any additional information about him. I can only say that Mr. A.B. Gardner was not affiliated with the Nashville architectural firm, Dougherty and Gardner, which operated throughout the 1920s. (That was Thomas W. Gardner.) It seems that this fanciful little stone church in Auburn may have been Mr. A. B. Gardner's greatest work.

Stone church, Auburn, KY
(The walls of the church don't really slant in.
The distortion was caused by the wide-angle lens.)

Seen at Kirkmansville, KY

A light unto the Gentiles



Driving home from Greenville a few weeks ago, I paused in Kirkmansville and photographed the United Methodist Church, It is a simple structure with little adornment. Its fanciest parts are its arched windows and its steeple. The steeple (or bell tower) reminds me a little of a sturdy lighthouse.

The church sits along Highway 171, and as you can see from the shadows on the building, it is well-shaded in the late afternoon.

I read that the Methodist-Episcopal Church in Kirkmansville was established in 1876. Its 29 charter members were probably the forefathers of the Methodist congregation in Kirkmansville today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Horse Drawn Hay Sweep-Rake

Making hay with horses


In the hayfield, the hay sweep (or sweep-rake) moved hay. The driver lowered the sweep's teeth (the long wooden tines) to ground level and took the sweep down a windrow of raked hay. As the sweep moved forward, the hay piled onto the buck (the platform of wooden teeth.)

When the buck was full of hay, the load was taken to the haystack. A good man on the sweep planned his route so he was close to the haystack when the buck was full and heavy.

Mowing machines and dump rake were pulled from the front. However, horses could not walk in front of the sweep-rake -- they would have been wallowing through the hay windrows that the sweep was supposed to gather. This problem was solved by having the horses pull the sweep from the sides.

In the image below, the load of hay has been deposited on the haystacker buck (another platform of wooden tines.) The sweep driver has backed the horses away from the load. Now he is approaching the hay again to push it farther onto the stacker buck. The driver is physically lifting the sweep teeth. Men and horses worked hard in the hayfield.

Out of the camera's range, the stacker team waits. The horses are harnessed to the pulleys that take the stacker buck to the top of the triangular frame and throw the hay onto the haystack. The man who is standing by the stacker buck is probably the driver of the stacker team. This was a fairly easy job, perhaps one that a grandfather might be assigned to do.

By the time I was a child, the hay sweep was a tractor, with its transmission reversed and its seat turned around. Its big wheels were in front and its small wheels were in back. The sweep buck was mounted in front of the big wheels, and it was raised and lowered with hydraulic power. It could carry much larger loads of hay than a horse-powered sweep, and it went much faster.

A tractor pulled the load of hay to the top of the haystack. However, the tractor driver was still said to be "driving the stacker team." Maybe "stacker team" was easier to say than "stacker tractor."

Photographs in this post were taken between 1935 and 1945 by John Vachon (top-left image) and Russell Lee (the other three images) for the Farm Security Agency.

Related posts:
The Hayfield
Horse-drawn Hay Rake
Winter Memories

More images
Solomon Butcher's Nebraska images of hay equipment (stacking)

Arthur Rothstein Comments on a Famous Photo

The photographer explains his art.


UPDATE: I've redone the Library of Congress links in this post, and I hope they'll work now. If they don't, please let me know.

FSA photo by Arthur Rothstein
Cimarron County, Oklahoma, April 1936.

Arthur Rothstein worked as a photographer during the Great Depression for the Resettlement Agency, later known as the Farm Security Agency (FSA).  One of Rothstein's most famous FSA photographs appears above. (Click the image for a larger view.)

Rothstein commented on the photograph in a 1964 interview at the Smithsonian:

You may remember the stories in those days about the black blizzards that swept across the plains and even darkened the sky in New York City...

Well, it was a dramatic catastrophe in American agriculture. Strangely enough, it was a very difficult thing to show in pictures, but I lived in the Dust Bowl for several months and went out every day and took pictures.

In the process, one day, wandering around through Cimarron County in Oklahoma, which is in the panhandle of Oklahoma, I photographed this farm and the people who lived on the farm. The farmer and his two children, two little boys, were walking past a shed on their property and I took this photograph with the dust swirling all around them.

I had no idea at the time that it was going to become a famous photograph, but it looked like a good picture to me and I took it. And I took a number of other pictures on the same property. And then I went on to some other farms and took those pictures. This particular picture turned out to be the picture that was quite famous.

It was a picture that had a very simple kind of composition, but there was something about the swirling dust and the shed behind the farmer. What it did was the kind of thing Roy [Stryker, his FSA supervisor] always talked about-it showed an individual in relation to his environment.

Of course this is the sort of thing that painters from time immemorial have been trying to do-to show man in relation to his environment. You know the old axiom that " Art is the expression of man," so here, if this has any art, it's because it's an expression of man.

Source: Arthur Rothstein Oral History

In the same document, Rothstein also explains a controversial photo of a skull lying on the sunbaked soil of the South Dakota badlands.

One of my favorite Rothstein FSA photos is "Car on the plain", taken in October 1939 in Washington County, Colorado.

A short biography of Rothstein
Links to online archives of Rothstein images

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Comparison of Two Canned Fruits

Nutritional information for canned peaches and pineapple



Here are the nutrition facts from two cans of fruit. Both are Great Value brand from Wal-Mart.

Yellow cling sliced peaches
in heavy syrup:
Serving size -- 1/2 cup
Calories -- 100
Total fat -- 0%
Cholesterol -- 0%
Sodium -- 0%
Potassium -- 4%
Total Carbs -- 7%
Dietary fiber -- 0%
Vitamin A -- 2%
Vitamin C -- 2%
Calcium -- 0%
Iron -- 0%
Folic acid -- 0%

Pineapple chunks
in unsweetened pineapple juice:
Serving size -- 1/2 cup
Calories -- 70
Total fat -- 0%
Cholesterol -- 0%
Sodium -- 0%
Potassium -- 4%
Total Carbs -- 6%
Dietary fiber -- 4%
Vitamin A -- 0%
Vitamin C -- 20%
Calcium -- 0%
Iron -- 2%
Folic acid -- 0%

I suppose Great Value canned peaches are better for you than, let's say, chocolate bonbons. However, they're not exactly nutrient-laden They are minimally more nutritious than a glass of Kool-Aid. Let's hope that, maybe, peaches contain some trace minerals that aren't listed on the label.

Some other brands of canned peaches, including Del Monte, contain 8 to 10% of the RDA for Vitamin C.

In comparison, canned pineapple delivers a good dose of Vitamin C and a small amount of fiber. I've noticed that the Vitamin C content is about the same (around 20% of the RDA) across most of the brands of canned pineapple.

Somehow, pineapple manages to retain more Vitamin C despite the canning process. Maybe it's because of the acidity of pineapple. I suspect that being canned in juice (instead of syrup) boosts the Vitamin C, as well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Todd County Courthouse in Elkton, KY

A handsome 1830s building



Todd County KY CourthouseThe historic Todd County Courthouse sets on the town square in Elkton, Kentucky. It was built in 1835-1836 to replace a smaller courthouse, built in 1821.

This structure served as the seat of county government for the next 140 years, until a new, one-story courthouse was built in 1975-1976.

Near the end of the Civil War (1865), the Todd County Courthouse was occupied by Union forces. They left the building in a damaged state, and a major renovation was carried out in 1871. The cupola was added at that time.

Ironically, the occupation of the courthouse probably saved it from being burned. Confederate General Hylan B. Lyon torched 7 courthouses in Western Kentucky to prevent them from falling into Union hands, including the courthouses of Christian, Trigg, and Caldwell counties, just west of Todd County. Courthouse cupola

The Wikipedia entry for the old Todd County Courthouse says that the cupola was originally painted orange, olive green, and beige. Wow.

The old courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Many other fine old buildings surround the courthouse square. They were added to the National Register in 1989 as the "Elkton Commercial Historic District."

Photos of the interior of the old courthouse appear at the Old Courthouse Preservation Project webpage. The October, 2006, minutes of the Elkton City Council state that a museum is planned for the second floor of the building, and a Welcome Center is planned for the first floor.

I admire Elkton and Todd County for choosing to preserve their old buildings rather than demolish them. Downtown Elkton has its own unique atmosphere, and the old Todd County Courthouse is its jewel.

Most of the historic information in this post comes from two great books about Kentucky:

  • John W. Carpenter's Kentucky Courthouses by John W. Carpenter & William B. Scott, Jr. (Copyright 1988 by John W. Carpenter and William B. Scott, Jr. and published by John W. Carpenter, London KY.)
  • The Kentucky Encyclopedia, edited by John E. Kleeber. (Copyright 1992 by the University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Double Spaces Are Out

Typewriter rule bites the dust



I was searching for a punctuation rule about commas, when I came across an interesting paragraph.

Spacing at End of Sentence

Use a single space at the end of a sentence and after a colon. Double spaces date back to the days of typewriters, when all characters were allotted the same amount of space. Computerized typesetting adjusts the spacing for a good fit. Extra spaces create gaps and look unprofessional.

Source: Punctuation Primer

TypewriterI had never read this rule in print before. I did read a discussion about single-spacing after a paragraph, on Sarabeth's blog a while back. It seemed to me that the younger commenters were single-spacing, and the older ones were still double-spacing. It was evidence of the difference between keyboarding (taught nowadays) and typing (taught before the Computer Age).

Miss Tibbitts, the stern typewriting teacher of my high school days, is surely feeling some un-rest, whether she is still in this world or has gone on to the next. A single space at sentence-end was always an error in her classroom of big, manual, office typewriters.

In Blogger Draft, I notice that a double space is converted into a single space plus a space-holder symbol that creates the second space. It assumes that, if you double-space, you really want two spaces. (I think previous Bloggers automatically converted double spaces to single spaces.) To be honest, the double space does look like an unprofessional gap, just as the Punctuation Primer says (quoted above).

I can't express how hard it is to abandon the double space habit. I type without much conscious thought about the process. Typed words flow from my fingers like spoken words from my mouth. My right thumb is extremely well-trained after 40 years of typing. It goes "thump thump" automatically after every period.

Even in this post about the rule of single-spacing, I double-spaced after most of the periods. I had to remove the Blogger-inserted extra space-holders manually. If I do that often enough, maybe that will teach me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Measuring the Rain

Talking about rainfall



When my children were both in school, but still young, I worked for several years at a little country store in our neighborhood. It was a very short commute (less than 5 minutes), and the kids could get on or off the bus at the store as necessary, so it worked well.

One day, a customer asked me how much rain had fallen at my house. I said that we'd received about 30 hundredths (meaning .30 inch). He looked at me oddly for a long moment. Then he said, "Where are you from?"

He asked that question because, in Kentucky, people talk about tenths of rain. When I spoke of hundredths of rain, I was using the language of Nebraska. In the Nebraska Sandhills where I grew up, rain is precious enough most years that every hundredth of an inch is measured and appreciated. In Kentucky, where we get twice as much annual rainfall, we carelessly round off the measurement to the nearest tenth of an inch.

A slow, quiet rain is falling now. Its scent is drifting through the open window. I won't have to water my garden for another few days, and the crops in the neighborhood will welcome the moisture.

We live near a divide. On one side, the creeks run into the Pond River, and on the other side, they run into the Little River. This little area is often dryer than the rest of the county, because the rains either go north or south of us. We've been fortunate this year, though. We received several little showers in June that other parts of the county didn't get.

At work tonight, a lady who lives in the western part of the county told me that they had received three tenths of rain last night. She was thankful because their corn needed the moisture. I hope her corn got some more rain tonight.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Plain Vanilla Blog

Illusion is reality



UPDATE: Well, never mind, at least for now. I had so much email about changing to the plain white format that I've decided to go back to the old template with a smaller photo at top.

I've been worried that my blog loads much too slowly. I've removed some feeds, etc., but I don't want to remove anything else. (I like all that stuff that appears in the sidebar and at page bottom, and I often use parts of it myself.) I also enjoy posting photographs, even though they increase the loading time of the page.

To give the illusion that the blog loads faster, I've moved the posts to the left of the page and made the page a single color. The posts will load right after the header. Visitors should be able to read the post(s) fairly soon after they arrive, although the sidebar and page bottom may not finish loading if they read fast and leave.

Isaac looked at this page and said, "Oh, Mom, that's so plain," and I could only answer, "Yes, it is."

I'll leave it like this until I feel like changing it again. I'm going to install a fresh template next time I make a major revision. I've tinkered with the current template so many times that it's time for a new start.

On a related subject, Blogger (ordinary Blogger) is running all the sentences into one giant paragraph when I publish a post. I've tried and tried to fix it. (Delete the cookies, empty the cache, restart the computer. Go to Blogger and save the settings page again with the option clicked for converting two line breaks into a new paragraph. Repair the paragraphs in the post and publish it again. Check to see if the post is still a single paragraph. If so, repeat process.)

Blogger Draft was doing it also, but I fixed it using the above-described technique. Ordinary Blogger still refuses to cooperate. Thus, I guess I'm now a permanent Blogger Draft user.

The Truth about Horse and Buggy Days

Pollution before the automobile




On one of the internet forums I read, someone suggested that we should all go back to horses and buggies like the Mennonites and Amish. She wasn't entirely serious but she wasn't entirely joking, either. The manure and the flies would be terrible problems, I reminded her.

How bad could it be? In cities, manure problems were horrendous, according to one source.

Of the three million horses in American cities at the beginning of the twentiety century, New York had some 150,000, the healthier ones each producing between twenty and twenty-five pounds of manure a day.  These dumplings were numerous on every street, attracting swarms of flies and radiating a powerful stench.  The ambiance was further debased by the presence on almost every block of stables filled with urine-saturated hay.

During dry spells, the pounding traffic refined the manure to a dust, which blew "from the pavement as a sharp piercing powder, to cover our clothes, ruin our furniture and blow up into our nostrils."

Source: The Good Old Days -- They were Terrible! by Otto L. Bettmann.  Published by Random House, New York, 1974.
Bettmann also notes that the "15,000 horses of Rochester, NY, produced enough manure in 1900 to cover an acre of ground with a layer 175 feet high." A few pages later, when he writes about Pittsburgh, he mentions the "steamy cesspools around the hitching posts where flies plagued man and beast and a vile odor abounded."

No, I don't want to revert to the horse and buggy.  I think I'll just practice conservative driving techniques.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Body as an Industrial Palace

Man's internal machinery




Several years ago, I came across an interesting old illustration on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website. It shows the human body as a factory -- literally, as an "industrial palace." I saved the image because I liked it, and then I quickly forgot about it.

Tonight, I came across the "Industrial Palace" again, and looked at it a little differently, due to my recent (small) study of the modernistic architecture of the early and middle 20th century.

Here are the details of this piece of art, according to the NIH:

Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace)by Fritz Kahn (1888-1968)Stuttgart, 1926. Chromolithograph. National Library of Medicine.Kahn’s modernist visualization of the digestive and respiratory system as "industrial palace," really a chemical plant, was conceived in a period when the German chemical industry was the world’s most advanced.

Source: Dreaming the Industrial Body

It seems that, in the 1920s and 1930s, people were extremely excited about machines. It was the Machine Age. The assembly line had been invented, enabling many people to own personal machines -- automobiles. High speed travel was possible via big ocean liners and streamlined trains. Electricity, produced by generators and turbines, was transforming everyday life. Mechanized factories were churning out many new, inexpensive consumer goods. Machines even made it possible for people to fly.

I've been reading that modernists thought of schools as machines for learning, houses as machines for living, and hospitals as machines for healing. Designed for speed and efficiency, the architecture sometimes seemed cold. Unnecessary frills were stripped away, and the design was streamlined just as a train or an airplane might have been. This was modern!

Given all that, it's not too surprising to see the human body portrayed as a factory, in a drawing from 1926. Fritz Kahn, a doctor, was just creating a bit of modernistic medical art.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy 4th of July

Celebrate!



I wish you a happy (and safe!) celebration of freedom and democracy. I hope your day includes a slightly blackened hot dog and a slice of watermelon -- or whatever food you enjoy on this holiday. (Hmm. I wonder if it's too late to start a 4th of July cheesecake tradition in my family?)

This fun fireworks page is perfect for celebrating the 4th of July or any other day. The sparks won't set any fires, and you control the show. (Thanks for sending the link, Gloria.)

My cousin Elaine sent an interesting link that's also appropriate for the holiday. It's the homepage of an Ames, Iowa artist whose ongoing project is Freedom Rock. At Memorial Day each year, he paints a new patriotic mural on the rock. It's quite impressive. To see ten years of murals, visit the link that's titled "The Rock."

Patriotic heart My mother's cookouts

My mother loved to cook out on the 4th of July. When I was little we didn't have a barbecue grill, so Mama prevailed upon my dad every year to create a cooker with cement blocks and oven racks. Later on, I remember Mama cooking on an iron grill that my dad welded for her in his shop.

One 4th of July evening, I stepped on a hot rack that had been taken off one of Mama's outside cookers. It was twilight, and I was running around barefoot with my sparkler -- probably not a wise thing to do, all in all.

My mom coated the sole of my foot with slightly-beaten egg white. She had read that egg white was a good home remedy for burns.

The egg white must have worked because I honestly don't remember my foot hurting at all. It's likely that it was just a minor burn. I didn't like to wear shoes in the summer time, so my foot leather was pretty tough.

Love of country

Don't forget what we're celebrating on the 4th. It's a day to remember our national history and to show gratitude and respect for those who've worked and fought to keep our country free.

I don't express my love for the United States as often as I should. I remember the times I returned to the U.S. after many months of living elsewhere. I had a lump in my throat and tears of joy in my eyes when my feet touched American soil again. I do understand why people kiss the soil of their homeland when they return from their wanderings.

My Other Car is a Golf Cart

One way to save on gasoline



Fred Bishop, Prairie Bluestem reader and internet friend, recently sent some interesting photos of golf carts used on the streets around Sun City, Arizona (northwest Phoenix.) Fred, who knows his old cars much better than I do, has identified the little buggy below as a "1932 Ford." In explanation, Fred wrote:

We followed this Golf cart into the Shopping Center to get these photos.

There are a lot of Golf Carts operating on the streets in the Sun City - Pop. 38k, Sun City West - Pop. 28k and Sun City Grande - Pop. 35k (and growing) communities. (Three communities alone, Sun City, Sun City Grand, and Sun City West, together have a population of approximately 100,000 residents who are 55 or older). >> AGS Newsletter :: 2007 First Quarter - Arizona Geriatrics Society

Wife's cousin lives in Sun City Grande. I have not seen coyotes in Sun City west, but they roam and hunt rabbits and house pets, especially in new area Sun City Grande. Coyotes will walk on the top of block fences peering into the backyards looking for lunch. Fences are not used to separate backyards. Fences are only on major streets or used to separate sub-divisions. Backyards are defined by landscaping.

(Back to Golf Carts). Golf Carts are legally State Licensed to operate on the streets in these and other close by retirement areas. Have been told insurance cost less than $100.00 per year. All but in the older area of Sun City are required to be Electric.

Most will only run maybe 25-28 miles per hour. Of course, some of those old guys have geared their cart up so they will run maybe 31-35 mph. Many Golf Carts are used as a 2nd car. Some are designed to be just transportation vehicles as the one [at left.] That's wife Chris at the drivers door.

Note the more conventional cart at top right of photo. Many carts will have canvas/clear plastic panels to keep rain and cold out. Lot's of women , singly and in pairs, run about the area in a cart. Have noticed a lot of women driving with a male companion along for the ride.

Source: Email, June 23, 2008




And regarding this six-seater, Fred writes,

Took the photo last week. Sales person said it would be about $14K out the door. Background is Sun City West looking across Bell Road. There are lots of Palm Trees in the Sun Cities.

Source: Email, June 30, 2008



What does a golf cart need to be legal on Arizona streets?

In Arizona, all street-legal golf carts must be registered with ADOT. Because some are intended for private use only, the ADOT golf cart registry is not an accurate representation of how many vehicles are in the state. ADOT spokeswoman Cydney DeModica said she believes the number is much higher.

To be street-legal, the carts must be equipped with the same safety features as cars: headlights, taillights, turn signals and windshields, DeModica said. They must have license plates, and operators must be licensed. The carts must stay on streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less.

Source: "Souped-up golf carts taking to the streets," by Erin Zlomek, The Arizona Republic, Nov. 30, 2006 12:00 AM


A golf cart isn't a viable solution for everyone, but I can certainly see some benefits -- they're economical to operate, easy to park, and fun to customize.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

June's Last Sunset

Orange and purple




We've had some wonderfully cool weather for a few days. Last night, the temperatures were in the upper 50s. We slept with the windows open, and I actually got cold enough to pull the blanket over me.

The temperatures are supposed to be a little higher today, but just in the 80s. In fact, we are supposed to stay in the 80s for the next week. I'm sure this won't last, but for now, I'm loving it.
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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.