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Sunday, January 31, 2010

FULL MOON BRIGHT TONIGHT


Align CenterWOLF MOON
Flickr: Nounou12Maryse
The full moon was yesterday but the sky was so dark and overcast that I could not observe it. Tonight it shines bright, large and clear, looking milky white through the black-cast tree branches. Native Americans have a name for this January moon, the one following the Yule. It is Full Wolf Moon. Let's all howl at the moon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

WAYNE'S FOLK CARVINGS

SELF PORTRAIT

"The animals are inside the wood -- I go in and find them and bring them out.” Folk artist Wayne Wolfinger was holding a large section of a cutoff tree limb as he spoke these words. Wayne carves with a chain-saw releasing from the wood full-bodied folksy animals. He also, for the past twenty years, has designed folk metal pieces but his true calling is his wood pieces. He began this interlude with wood when he retired from the auto industry in Lansing, Michigan.

PART OF WAYNE'S GALLERY OF CARVINGS

Now 74 years of age, Wayne has created a gallery of animals around his home. His spark came when he viewed a chainsaw carving at an art show. That influential carving has resulted in a yard full of exuberant animals roaming across and through his vegetable and flower gardens. He has absolutely no desire to sell his work. He has feelings wrapped up in each piece and would not part with any of them. He has plenty of wood available from tree stumps on his large urban yard. To Wayne, the stumps are just the thing to turn into a standing bear, turtle or other folk art animal.

PENGUIN

Perhaps his love of nature also influenced his work when he started ten years ago. He creates his animals in an outdoor area behind his home. Wayne succinctly says "the wood directs what is to be made - then look for a photo of an animal to fit it - sketch it on paper and start to work". So with walnut, cypress, ash, and maple Wayne has taken his chainsaw and released characters to play in his yard.

Wayne and his wife lived winters in Florida for a while when he retired. While there he brought home cypress to carve. Some of his animals are therefore Floridians at heart.

TURTLE CARVED AS ONE WHOLE PIECE FROM A STUMP

Wayne spoke gently as we rounded his yard filled with various types of gardens. There was obvious delight in his voice as he told me about what he had created here. "The first one I did was the hoot owl on top of the grape arbor,” and, “it turned out so good that I couldn't quit." He explained that once he started making the animals "he just couldn't stop". He paints them with spray paint or any paint he has laying about -- ever so often he repaints them as they weather.


WAYNE'S WATCH DOG

Wayne is right when he says he can't quit carving. He is now preparing for his next project. Wayne pointed out a tree stump about five feet high. With it he is planning to carve the upper part into a goshawk. And, of course, after that project he is already thinking about the next -- a nice totem for another tall stump on his property.


BEAVER FROM A STUMP

BEAR FROM A TALL STUMP




Sunday, January 24, 2010

SWINGING WOODEN FOOTBRIDGE -- KENTUCKY COUNTRY, VERNACULAR

SWINGING WOODEN BRIDGE SNAKING TOWARD AND OVER RED LICK CREEK
When I was a small girl my parents took me to a park that had a swinging bridge. They convinced me that it was safe so I began to walk with them over the bridge. Then the swaying began and I ran back to where I had started. No threats or smooth-talking could convince me to cross that moving bridge.

I hadn't seen a swinging bridge from that long ago time until I was riding through Red Lick Valley along beautiful Red Lick Creek last summer. It was difficult to make out as the nearby trees were hiding parts of it with their leaves. but I knew what I was looking at when I blinked a few times.


STARTING POINT TOWARD WALKING TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CREEK
That particular day I was out investigating the area. It is a mix of old and new ways. Farms dot the valley in this section of Estill County where I was driving. I had been this way a few times but never spotted the bridge before.

I was lucky to find several people that knew about the bridge and this is what I found out from them. That the bridge had been there at least fifty years, maybe longer. That it was used to get over the creek when it was flooded to feed the farm animals that were located on the other side of the creek from where the farmer lived. That at one time there were several swinging footbridges along Red Lick Creek but now were gone. That this particular swinging bridge was probably the only one left. A large flood some years ago damaged the bridge and they didn't know if it had been repaired. Builder was unknown. As always, one finds out plenty about an area through local folks.


WAVY CONSTRUCTION
In late fall I made a return trip to the swinging bridge. I purposely came at that time as I knew the leaves would be off the trees resulting in exposure of the bridge.

As I am not an engineer I still will attempt to describe its construction as a layperson. Here is my description. Full length cables, one on each side, run along the bridge's walking platform. The cables are attached to large cylindrical vertical posts that are placed along the side of the bridge intermittently all along its course. The cables have wires leading down to crosswise boards beneath the walking platform. The cable line would be about waist high when walking the wooden planks of the bridge. Ever so many feet along the walking platform would be an "H" structure built out of cylindrical logs. In the above photo the high part of the platform is where it crossed over the "H" structure, the dipping part was only supported by the underneath boards attached by wires to the cable. When you stood back and looked at the whole it appeared to run along like waves.

As when I was young, on this day I would not dare walk on the bridge, especially, as I had been told about its flood damage. However, one can enjoy it by standing on the creek's sloping bank and imagine the times when it provided a way to get across the creek for the farmer to feed his animals. It probably would have been an edgy experience if the creek was on a rampage..


RED LICK CREEK RUNNING LOW
Red Lick Creek runs shallow most of the time. One could wade across it or drive a truck through it. Here, I am looking from one side over to where the farm animals are kept. A barn can be seen across the creek. In this area one finds wildlife, mountains, farms, history, peace and quiet -- and a piece of material culture unnoticed for the most part -- the swinging wooden footbridge.

Another swinging footbridge can be viewed at the Arkansas Historic Preservation site, click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

BEFORE THE MUSIC STOPPED IN HAITI

BEAUTIFUL
FOLK ARTIST-- LOUISANA SAINT FILEWRANT
Source Medalia Art

A tribute to the vibrant art of the Haitian people. Above an example of the spirited folk art that they are known for -- and below one can listen to the rhythmic sounds of their original music. They have contributed dazzling art and music to the world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

RED SKY -- GRAY SKY

RED SKIES AT NIGHT -- A SAILORS DELIGHT
Red skies at night -- a sailors delight. An old adage that was oft repeated when I young. A red sky meaning similar to the above photo that I took as the sun was setting last night. Although it looks a bit beige in the photo it was quite red just minutes before. My thoughts were that the next day would be sunny and bright.

However, the photo above was taken today, the morning after the red sky at night, and it is not sunny and bright. But that is OK. It is gray and foggy yet beautiful. It certainly has a mysterious quality about it. I love the ability to sit at my computer and view nature's changes out my window.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

VERNACULAR -- SMALL TOWN COMMERCIAL GARAGE?

The town of Kirksville is a small quaint town -- so small it does not even have a post office. Yet it is filled with a few buildings and homes that read like all the small towns that existed before the agricultural and transportation world changed. Small towns once offered most of the services and goods needed by a community but now many struggle to survive.

Yet in Kirsville, one can still detect a vibrancy however on a different scale than before. Now, its homes are the heart of the town, while at one time the homes and commercial places worked in tandem providing the essence of the community.

One example of its former commercial buildings is the above wooden structure. I stopped and talked to several locals about the building and their remarks went something like this, , "it's a garage but I really can't say for sure as its been vacant as long as we can remember." So goes it with many structures from about one hundred years ago. What was their original use? What determined their original form?

The building's windows on both the first and second story are boarded. The false facade that if positioned atop the two level building no doubt held a sign announcing the type of business. False facades usually indicate that a building was built around the late 1800s through the early 1900s. The one level open space at the corner of the building could have been used for many activities. However it is barely tall enough to stand under.

When one spots these old buildings in the countryside or in small towns many questions arise and many ideas of use spring to mind. Maybe someday when I am back in Kirksville I will run into a person that will have an answer to what this building's use was originally. But in the mean time, persons out for a drive in the country can view this silvered-wood beauty and entertain thoughts of use and age.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ANYONE CAN GARDEN ANYWHERE

Whether seasoned or beginner, this garden book is packed with ideas and tips on successful gardening ... be it container, window box, a slip of earth or --- really anywhere.

The author, Alys Fowler comes with strong credentials -- trained at the New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Gardens at Kew and is now head gardener at BBC's Gardener's World.
With these credentials one might expect a pretentious gardener but no -- she is as homespun as they get.

Illustrated with scads of photos and 190 pages of text one is pummeled with the how, when and what of gardening anywhere.

What a great idea for a book. So many people live on small urban plots or apartments and have little or no space to grow. Or perhaps live in the suburbs or country and just want to have a small growing space. She can show you how to grow garlic in a pail, chickens and hens in an old brick, or grow heirlooms in a homemade window box. She brings the reader along from plant starts, soil construction, worm bins, composting, transplanting and finding unique places to buy plants. Her focus is on growing plants, not long lists of flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Her emphasis is on putting a growing place together no matter the size and for a reasonable price.

Amy's book is well planned out in presentation, practicallity, excellent photography and unusual gardening ideas. If you want to find some funky ideas or serious ideas, Amy has it all together in her new book.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

POSTING ON POSTS

OH, OH, DOG ALERT!!!
STANDING BEFORE A DRIVEWAY GATE POST ENTRANCE
I travel many country roads looking for interesting subjects for folkways notebook. Usually I spot something of interest then stop to take photos. I have found that this sometimes leads to dog confrontation issues. I love dogs and I do respect their instinct to protect their territory. Above are two large, beautiful dogs that greeted me as I stepped out of my car to take photos of old gate posts in the Kirksville area of Madison County, KY.

I found their demeanor a bit edgy. I find the universal dog recognition of a stern "NO" deters them from coming close. Then I sweet talk them while I take the photos for my post, all the while keeping them at a distance with a constant eye on them.

I call my investigative trips for my posts -- field trips. So far, I have been lucky not to have met an overly protective dog. I am careful, believe me.

Anyway, the above gate post was one of a pair that sat on either side of this particular drive opening. It was constructed of painted white stacked limestone and had a large slab of natural limestone as its capstone. The drive continued across acreage to a large new house being built. No sign of an old home. The aged gate posts were surely part of an old homestead. I think the gateposts were all that was left of what was in all probability a historic farm. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I had come to this area to take photos of several gate posts that I had noticed on a previous trip to the area. There are sprinklings of posts in central Kentucky but this area seemed to have an abundance of them. For the most part, many had an aged look.

Before I came back to the area I had done some research on old gate posts in Kentucky and came up with nothing. So, most of what I write about today is purely from my observations and thoughts about their age.


CHURCH WALKWAY GATE POST ENTRANCE
Above is a pair of walkway posts constructed of limestone. Limestone being an abundant natural material in this part of Kentucky and was used extensively by early builders. As a natural resource it was used for such things as buildings, steps, gate posts, building foundations and other types of construction.

Kirksville is a very small rural town with a farming base. The Kirksville church above was built in 1878. Perhaps the gate posts of this church were from that time-frame? I feel that they are from the 1800s. The motifs on the body (upright part) of the above limestone posts are found on other similar posts around Kirksville. Perhaps a local stone mason had a shop in the area , using this motif to identify the business like today's commercial logos?


DRIVEWAY GATE POST ENTRANCE
Above is a similar yet with a slight variation of the limestone motif of the previous church's posts. The capstone is very different. Here we see a capstone of a mushroom form with square capstone. The post's uprights have the same motif as the previous church pair. As the above photo shows, these posts were used aside a drive rather then as a walkway entrance.

I believe that when posts near the road were of the drive type, they led to a farm with acreage. If the posts near the road were of the walkway type then it was for a non-farm homestead. All the old gate posts I discovered abutted the roadway, both drive and walkways types. None were set back far from the road. Many of the old extant posts I discovered did not have structures associated with them: apparently they had disappeared from the landscape. Now they stood alone.


WALKWAY GATE POST ENTRANCE
Above is similar to the church pair: a walkway type post entrance. The motif is almost identical to the church posts motif as well as the drive post uprights. Here we have what I feel is the original ironwork gate. The church post pair had iron fragments that indicated a gate had once been attached. The church walkway posts as well as the above walkway posts have limestone steps leading up to them. No home was present with the above pair.


WALKWAY GATE POST -- IRON GATE DESIGN
Above, I tried to take a clear photo of the iron tips on the top of the walkway's gate . The motif of the iron tips are similar to types that I have seen on Victorian fencing.

Leaving the Kirksville area, I thought that some historic preservation student could do some great research in this area on these old gateposts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

THOUGHTS ON THE UNIVERSE

January is a time of a harvest festival in India. It prompts Carl Sagan to ask questions about the creation of the universe. For a thoughtful presentation by Mr. Sagan, click on the youtube below for his fascinating talk.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

AN OLD SEED CATALOG AND WHAT IT CAN TEACH US.

1926 FERRY SEED CATALOG
Since I was a child, helping my father grow a garden, I have been interested in all things garden. I have grown both large and small plots, grown herbs, flowers, vegetables, native plants and taught gardening classes, sold at farmers markets, all the while collecting old seed catalogs and tools.

As for my gardening pursuits today, I now encourage mother nature to grow her wild plants while I disturb only enough of her ground to grow an organic mini-garden. It provides a bit of vegetables and flowers for me during the growing season.

I still have many of my old seed catalogs stored away in a large box. Recently I unpacked them to enjoy during this chilly, wintry January. As I browsed their pages, I became aware that they "spoke" a history of our home gardens. They were teaching me the social and technological gardening history of a past time period.

To illustrate my point of "teaching,"I will use the 1926 D. M. Ferry Seed Annual (read catalog) pictured at the top of this post. In fact all the photos in this post were taken from this one catalog. Following is what I learned about Ferry's adventures of growing a business that emphasized home gardens.

In 1926 the D. M. Ferry Seed Company was located in Detroit, Michigan. Under the Ferry name they eventually expanded to include an 850 acre track of experimental gardens in Rochester, Michigan. The experimental gardens provided jobs to hundreds, most of them were female gardener positions. Ferry built housing for his employees at this Rochester site which, at the time, was located in a very rural area.


FERRY INNOVATIVE SEED RACKS
Mr. Ferry was an astute businessman. He culled his home gardening business into an international seed company. He made improvements to seed packets by adding color to the packets, introduced retail seed racks to small stores around the nation, and improved varieties through their experimental gardens.

FERRY'S CALVERT LITHOGRAPH -- ZINNIA GIANT DOUBLE
As I was looking over Ferry's 1926 seed catalog I admired the four, full-paged, colored lithographs in the 104 page seed catalog. All the other pages were black and white print. Apparently, in 1926 color printing was either not available or too expensive. Also, color photography seemed non-existent in early catalogs.

FERRY'S CALVERT CELOSIA LITHOGRAPH
While looking at the beauty of the colors used on the featured lithographs, I noticed a name on all of them; Calvert Litho Company, Detroit Michigan. Hmm, who were these folks? I searched the net and found out they were one of the largest lithography businesses in the United States during this period. And what gorgeous lithographs they produced. Visit, I Like Boring Things," to view a parade of Calvert's beautiful historic lithographs. For the history of the Calvert Company click here.

FERRY'S CALVERT BEAN LITHOGRAPH
The beans illustrated above are now considered heirlooms seeds. For a definition of heirloom seeds/plants view here. I could not find a seed source for the Stringless Kidney Wax bean. featured above. However, Full Measure bean seeds can be found here.

1926 CALVERT LITHOGRAPH FOUND IN THE FERRY SEED CATALOG
The Early Fortune cucumber illustrated above is now an heirloom as well as the Early Scarlet Radish and the White Icicle Radish. Early Fortune seeds can be found here. For radish seeds click here for Early Scarlet and here for White Icicle.

Eventually Ferry merged with the Morse seed company and became the Ferry-Morse Seed Company. Today the company is located in Fulton, Kentucky.

Overall, my Ferry catalog taught me the following: history of a seed and agricultural business, early plant research gardens, introductions of new plant varieties, catalogs as art, early garden styles and graphic art technologies. Granted I had to conduct additional research for some of these categories but the catalog was the initial "seed" planted in my mind that led me down this fascinating path. A path that continues to provide more information about old seed companies and seed catalogs.

SUN RAYS THROUGH MY WINDOW

PAPERWEIGHTS ON MY WINDOW SILL ABSORB AND REFLECT SUNLIGHT ON A COLD AFTERNOON
Daylight begins its trek toward longer days. Let the violins play and the trumpets blow their sounds of hallelujah! At least that is the feeling of joy I have when the winter solstice turns mother nature in that direction. I dig out my vintage catalogs to peruse. They tell so much about gardens, gardeners, and our culture. It is now the time of ritual -- the time when folks start their annual garden planning with seed catalogs. Hallelujah!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A REAL COFFEE HOUSE: LOCAL CUSTOMERS, LOCAL OWNER AND LOCAL FLAVOR

An authentic hometown coffee house is located in Berea, Kentucky. Established as Berea Coffee and Tea about 20 years ago it continues to be a place where locals and visitors can relax and have some drinks with some great fresh fare. My daughter and granddaughter take in lunch here several times when they visit in the summer. Most everything is freshly made on the spot. Above are some locals that frequent BC&T as it is called locally. You'll find no corporate atmosphere here.


It's located along Berea's historic merchant block and across the street from the well known Berea College. Berea is a small town yet is is a magnet for folks that seek out arts and crafts. On any given day one finds visitors strolling the block looking in the interesting shops. Inside or sitting outside, BC&T draws young students, visitors, retirees, and all the ages in between.


Here is a a free spirited musician playing out his soul at one of the outside tables in front of BC&T. In the warmer months there is a roomy outside back area that provides seating in a beautiful container garden landscape.


The owner, Adam Walker, is a "hands on" type of owner. Here he is painting the back area by the back entrance. He uses 100% zero VOC paints. In fact, although the coffee house has been around for awhile it continuously follows updated sustainable practices. Click here to view all the sustainable practices that have occurred.


The idea of having a "sit up to" counter is a popular place for customers. I have noticed some "regulars" only use the counter for eating and having a cup of coffee rather than sit at the tables. All the coffee that is sold is fair trade organic. In back of the counter area are large chalk boards that serve as menus. No need to waste paper with individual menus.


Counters are convenient for bantering amongst the customers as well as the wait staff.

Keeping local community in mind, a bulletin board with local events is located toward the back.

I have been in many coffee houses in many states and I would rank this as representing the true essence of a coffee house as it was intended to be when they first began in the U.S. Starbucks is at the bottom of my list and a place in Oregon called the Beanery is at the top. Click here to read an article about Starbucks that underscores the reason they are at the bottom of my list. I put BC&T along side Oregon's Beanery as a top notch community coffee house.

Berea Coffee and Tea website