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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SMALL TOWN STONEMASON -- CHARLES JONES


CHARLES AND NATHAN AT WORK SITE

Now I am not going to say that I know everything about historic masonry -- but it is an interest of mine left over from a masonry class that I took at university many years ago.The class dealt with historic brick and stone -- I found the class tough yet intriguing.  So when I met Charles Jones, a stonemason of more than forty years, I was extremely delighted and  impressed with his knowledge. 

How did I find Charles? Well, I was driving through Lancaster, Kentucky when I spotted two men working on an elevated brick porch leading up to a beautiful historic building. I stopped in the middle of the street and called out my window, " do you have time to talk to me for a few minutes?" I really did not know that I was yelling to this expert tradesman on repairing historic brickwork. I just had a feeling I might learn something from this man and I sure did. 

CHARLES JONES

The man's name was Charles Jones and he was very receptive to taking a small break to explain a bit about what he was repairing. Parts of the brick porch needed to be re-grouted as they  were coming loose. He and his helper, Nathan, were in the process of re-grouting in the three photos below. He mixed up a special mix to use with the old bricks. 

Charles, a native of Lancaster, told me that he learned the trade from his father when he was young. His grandfather, many years ago, had hand mixed cement and laid all the sidewalks in Lancaster. Charles said he has witnessed the disappearance of many fine old buildings in Lancaster.

CHARLES AND HELPER ASSOCIATE NATHAN
Charles even walked down the street a little to show me a historic deteriorating brick house, built using old lime  mortar. He told me that this  type of mortar is found in very early brickwork. From the deteriorating foundation of the house he picked up a small piece of mortar and showed me how it crumbled easily as he broke it in his hand.  He told me that this was one of its characteristics. 





We then stood on the sidewalk as he pointed out repairs recently made to buildings on the commercial block. He gave a tally on a few of the buildings that had been altered or torn down in the main commercial section of town. 

CHARLES GROUTING
I then excused myself as I knew he had to continue the porch's repair. -- working along with his associate helper Nathan. 


HISTORIC IRONWORK RAILING

Preservation techniques such as Charles was doing help prolong the life of a building. In this case the porch being preserved -- it was well worth it for both  stability and aesthetics. The artistic early ironwork railing of the porch would be almost impossible to duplicate.






One can read books and articles about a subject but talking with a hands-on skilled tradesman can give you an education in a short amount of time. 

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FOR INFORMATION ON REPAIRING OLD BRICK AND STONE CLICK BELOW

Saturday, September 25, 2010

FOLK VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURAL FRAGMENTS -- Sunday Simplicities

Folk architectural fragments, vernacular in feeling, that I found in Madison, Mason, and Garrard Counties of Kentucky

Backside of smokehouse -- Madison County


Limestone entrance stairs to early 1800s house -- Garrard County


Deteriorating gingerbread trim -- Garrard County

Entrance Door to old business place -- Mason County

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BARNS, BARN SWALLOWS AND POPULATION DECLINE

PLEASANT VIEW FARM BARN, RICHMOND KENTUCKY AREA
My son and I made a trip to the above historic farm to check out some old farm  structures that  still remain on the early 1800s property. We were unaware of the beautiful twentieth-century barn that rested on a knoll at the back of property. 


As we approached the barn a burst of approximately 30 - 50 Barn Swallows flew out from unknown corners of the barn and swirled about in the air. They eventually settled down on bare branches and telephone wires giving us a look- over. 

My son escaped into the barn from the swirling birds and discovered their nests built on the barn beams. Since this was mid-August we presumed that the nests were empty?

Afterwards, back at my house we talked about the beautiful birds and their place in the environment. I decided to do a bit of "digging" to find information on their behavior and history.
BARN INTERIOR WITH BARN SWALLOW NESTS ON UPPER BEAMS

In the photo above, if one looks at the top barn rafters, one can make out the many barn swallow nests. 


Barn swallows are found over much of the globe. Here, I am only discussing those found in the North American continent. These birds are migratory, spending the winters in South America. Their diet is mainly insects that they grab in the air as they fly. They migrate to South America as winter in North America provides little in the way of insects. They spend their summers in North America breeding and raising their young on a rich abundance of insects. 


BARN SWALLOWS -- (hirundo - rustica)
PERCHING ON NEARBY  ELECTRICAL WIRES OUTSIDE OF ABOVE BARN
Their population remains somewhat steady but declines in populations are being observed. As an example, they are still common in Washington State but the Breeding Bird census indicates that swallows have decreased significantly in the state since 1980

OLDER BARN SWALLOW CHICKS IN THEIR NEST
(Wikipedia -- Walter Siegmund photo)
The main reasons for decline seems to be urban development and industrial agriculture. Barn swallow habitat requires open fields and meadows, water availability and structures such as old barns that one finds in the country. In these old structures they can colonize their nests and be somewhat protected from their main predators such as owls, hawks, and snakes. However, barns and other farm outbuildings are being torn down as industrial agriculture and urban growth reach their tentacles into the countryside. Another factor is that family farms are ceasing operation, forced out by economic reasons, reducing insect populations to 50% resulting in a 50% reduction in barn swallows in these small farm areas. 

Barn swallows play an important role in controlling insects in cultivated areas where they dine on mosquitoes, crickets, flies, grasshoppers and other flying insects. 


What measures can be taken to stop Barn Swallow decline?


Barn Swallow at Nest
(Reference-Artificial Barn Swallow Nests Site)
A suggestion is being made on the site, Artificial Barn Swallow NestsOpening passage is as follows:
"In the past two years since posting these personal pages, several hundred people have emailed asking about either how to get rid of barn swallows nesting on the light fixture over their front door or how to attract swallows to their property. The majority of people emailing us about swallows have a single pair nesting on their porch or under their eaves or deck. They often state that they had several pair in their yard in the spring, but only one pair stayed to nest. The frequency of single pair nestings was a surprise to me, since my experience has been with large or smaller colonies, both on our property and elsewhere. Here in the East, old barns are disappearing at an alarming rate and many long term colonies of swallows have been forced to disperse ..." 


Click here to read the entire article mentioned above that encourages nesting boxes or shelves to provide places for our beleaguered Barn Swallows.

To learn more about breeding, mating and other interesting Barn Swallow facts check out the identification tips and links below. 
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U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY IDENTIFICATION TIPS:

  • Length: 6 inches
  • Tiny bill
  • Dark orange forehead and throat
  • Pale orange underparts
  • Dark, iridiscent upperparts
  • Long, deeply forked tail
  • Juvenile similar to adult but paler underneath with a shorter tail
  • Most often seen flying
  • Will nest communally in mud nests under bridges, in barns and caves, etc

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LINKS:


Bird Web; Washington State, Seattle Audubon Society


University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Web


Life Histories of Familiar North American Birds 1942 Smithsonian Institute


Artificial Barn Swallow Nests

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SUNDIALS, POEMS, AND TIME -- Sunday Simplicities

SUNDIAL -- ABOUT THIRTY YEARS OLD
(Located at Garrard County Historical Society)
If you are like me, you don't wear a watch. I seem to manage alright through the day with swift glances intermittently at my stove clock. If you aren't like me you probably wear a watch. All this 'time watching" began with a type of mechanical measurement called the  sundial which was invented specifically to tell time in 1500 BC.  Today, one can find sundials in all shapes and forms to tell accurate time, from pocket size to large sizes usually found in parks. 

Before clocks and watches, folks depended on some type of sun dial or some natural  sun and shade based design, such as with sticks or stones placed on the ground to get an idea of  time passing. Other means could be used such as simply being deeply in touch with mother earth. Time as we know it now, and then, reflects our inner sense of  its fleeting nature. 

The sundial form most folks are familiar with is the garden variety, the photo above is an example. Usually made with artistic style, especially the older ones, they lend a lovely ambiance to the yard. 

FLAT METAL TOP OF SUNDIAL

One artistic aspect of a sundial that I especially like is the poetry and prose associated with it. On the outer edge of the sundial above are the words; Count none but the sunny hours.


Henry Van Dyke (1852 - 1933) made a few contributions to sundial poems. I find them thoughtful. I will close my post with two of his poems below. 


Sun Dial At Wells College

The shadow of my finger cast

Divides the future from the past

Before it, sleeps the unborn hour.

In darkness, and beyond thy power

Beyond its unrelenting line,

The vanished hour, no longer thine.

One hour alone in thy hands --

The NOW on which the shadow stands. 

AND 

Katrina's Sundial

Hours fly

Flowers die

New days

New ways

Pass by

Love stays


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Additional information links
Wikipedia
Helga Nordhoff website 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I'LL DANCE AT YOUR WEDDING IN A PIG TROUGH

PIG TROUGH
OLD WASHINGTON, MASON COUNTY, KENTUCKY
I found this old pig, or sometimes refered to as a hog trough in Old Washington, Kentucky. It was on display with some old log buildings that were built in the town in the late 1700s and early 1800s. 

I knew that it was a trough to prepare pigs or hogs for winter food needed on the farm.The trough was part of the process that involved the slaughtering of the hogs or pigs. But I am not going to go into this aspect of the hog trough. I am going to talk about a tradition that somehow evolved from it. 

The tradition is a dance that is performed at weddings. Folklore stories about the dance mention that it came from various ethnic and geographic areas --Cajun, Mohawk, Appalachian, and New York.  No one place could be pinpointed in my findings. It dates back to at least the early 1800s according to folklore.

It is rather a strange tradition. It involves the older sibling of either the bride or the groom. If the older sibling, of the same gender, of either the bride or groom is not married yet -- they have to dance in the trough at the wedding to bring them good luck. 

Now you would think that such a strange tradition would die out as time marched into modern times. But no, it is still being done at weddings. Not all weddings mind you just some for unexplainable reasons. Is it an ethnic,  Appalachian, Cajun or New York tradition? 

Anyway, here is a video of a recent wedding with the older brother dancing in a pig trough. Look for yourself and realize that old folkways don't always die out. It's a fun dance to watch.

But tell me -- what does a pig trough have to do with good luck for the older sibling?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

PRAYING MANTIS ON MY SCREEN

CHINESE PRAYING MANTIS
Mantis religiosa


A few days ago I was in  my chair looking out the window when I noticed a shadow of some monstrous insect climbing near my window screen. What the heck is that huge thing, I muttered to myself while grabbing my camera and flying out the door. Well, it was something I hadn't seen in a long time --. a very large praying mantis. 

Now these guys are not the friendliest insects to handle unless you know what you are doing. My daughter was mildly bit by one a couple years ago when she tried to pick one up to show her daughter. So I wasn't in the mood to move the insect around for different photo shots, So, the above is the only position I captured. 

There are three different types of praying mantis that reside in Kentucky all falling under a group called the Matids.I identified mine as a Chinese praying mantis or more correctly -- a Mantid. I will use praying mantis and Chinese Mantid interchangeably.

This Chinese Mantid usually grows 3 to 5 inches long, is an import from about 75 years ago, and is the largest Mantid found in our state. The one I was looking at was about 5 inches! He was brown colored which threw me. I had always thought Matids were green. I got online with a few sources and found that the Chinese praying mantis can be either green or brown. 

Fall is the time when Mantids are mating. Now if I was a male I would hesitate to get mixed up with the female for mating purposes. If during copulation the female gets a notion, she swivels her head (which can rotate 180 degrees as can the males) and decapitate the male. Ouch! So much for good sex. 

The female lays between 12 and 400 eggs in a hard-case shell lined with frothy juice in the fall. In the spring the juveniles emerge and oftentimes their first meal consists of a few of their siblings.  Ouch again. 

Overall. the praying mantis is a deadly predator. 

An interesting fact about the Chinese praying mantis is it has an ear in its abdomen area that picks up ultra-high frequencies that possibly might help in finding a mate or knowing a predator is nearby. They are the only known animal with only one ear. 

A little folklore is known about the Mantids. One, is that the Greeks thought they were prophets and two, the Chinese used them for various medicinal purposes.

A beautiful and intriguing insect but deadly for both beneficial and non-beneficial insects.

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To find out other information about the praying mantis I would suggest the following sites:



This is a Sunday Simplicities post reflecting my outlook on life. Now in retirement I am observing new horizons -- opportunities have surfaced.  Economies have changed as well as my perspective on what is truly important in my simple life.  Stay tuned. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

VEGETABLE SIGN POSTED ON OLD FARM


Don't know what the paper with duct tape is for? Even though this sign just says tomatoes, cucumbers everyone knows it means --  that they are for sale at this farm. It is a sign that has a dual meaning; one is that farm produce is for sale and two, it is an example of local economies. And perhaps it can also mean that one can get some wonderful fresh stuff at this farm! Stop and support your local farmers and gardeners.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

APPALACHIAN "MAKE DO" DOLLS

1940s CLOTH DOLL 
In Appalachia, as well as other parts of the country, cloth dolls have been part of the culture as long as there has been fabric around to make them. Cloth dolls were both hand-stitched or machine-stitched or both types of stitching were found in one doll. The cloth dolls in this post average about 15 inches in height. 

I found these dolls in the Appalachian area. They probably are indigenous to the area however they could also be migrants from other parts of the country. No documented history came with these dolls. 

The above doll is more than likely from the 1940's. She has both hand stitching and machine stitching on her body as well as her clothes. The fabric appears to be 1940s plaid. The buttons also speak out 1940s. She is in excellent condition given her age.


CLOTH DOLL CLOSE-UP OF HAND-STITCHED FACE
A close-up of the cloth doll shows her hand stitched face. Hair is sewn on yarn

HAND-STITCHED CLOTH DOLL'S SHOES
Her cloth shoes made with the same material as the dress are capped by swirling buttons. The maker of the shoes even used a white material to indicate soles. 
HAND-STITCHED RAG DOLL
I would consider the doll in the charming rose floral dress above to be a "rag doll." Some use the term cloth and rag interchangeably. To me a rag doll looks rather primitive in its structure I would consider them a piece of folk art. . I sometimes wonder if these loosely made dolls were made by children.

HAND-STITCHED RAG DOLL
This guy in the blue polka dot pajamas has a happy smile on his face -- another doll that I would classify as folk art. Both the rose dress lady doll and the blue pajama guy have early printed fabric as clothes. They could or could not be original to the doll. 

Folk art can be found in many types of material including fabric. The cloth and rag dolls are part of our "make do" culture. Our doll history can be traced back to when this country began. 

Take a look around -- attics, yard sales, and second hand stores. You might just find one of these pieces of our folk culture. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

CREPE PAPER, PARADES AND LABOR DAY -- Sunday Simplicities



PROBABLY 40s SMALL TOWN PARADE
When I think of Labor Day visions of small town parades come into my head. I was raised in what was then a small town and I guess it still would be considered a small town had it has not been swallowed up by nearby growth, giving it the appearance today of being a larger whole. 

On Monday we will celebrate our federal holiday -- Labor Day -- established so in 1884 although its beginning really began in 1882. It came about thorough the labor union movement advocating for an 8 hour work day -- its proposal for a federal labor holiday said that there should be a parade to exhibit the strength and spirit of trade and labor unions. Thus, began the pattern of our Labor Day celebrations. 

MY BIKE AND I DECORATED IN CREPE PAPER
BEFORE THE PARADE
The photo at the top of this post was probably taken in one of the many small towns of our country in the 1940s. I picked up the photo in my wanderings through second hand stores -- looking for old photos and ephemera. Although I can't say it is a Labor Day parade -- it is similar -- lots of crepe paper decorating floats and trucks. I believe it is a forties photo as the women are in slacks probably a result of the WWII Rosie the Riveter influence. And, the fact that the cars along the side street were made in the 30s -- it was tough to get new model cars in the 40s because metals were needed for the war effort. Also, it was probably a small town as the crowds along the sidewalk are minimal. 

In this top photo we have the typical material used in parades to decorate floats, trucks, cars, and even people -- crepe paper. Crepe was a light weight paper that could be bought in either rolls or sheets in all colors. This material was great to twist and turn around vehicles in Labor Day parades

THE PARADE I RODE IN WITH THE COMMUNITY ATTENDING
I was subject to my mother's addiction for crepe paper decorating.. With love in her heart she produced a crepe paper dress for me to wear in our small town 40s parade and even decorated my bike  in matching colors with the paper.  I think the colors were red, white and blue if I remember correctly. But as a child I loved the dress and rode in the parade with a smile. 

The photo above is the parade I rode in. Children were encouraged to participate in the parade as well as citizens, organizations and politicians. It was a gathering of community for the small town. 

And why do I remember parades so fondly -- because I won a prize for being the best decorated person in the children's part of the parade -- thanks to my mom!

Have a good Labor Day everyone!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

DYNAMIC ARCHITECTURE OF AN OHIO RIVER TOWN

OLD ROW HOUSES ALONG MARKET STREET
MAYSVILLE, KENTUCKY 


Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky, is a small town with a  large area of housing and commercial buildings that need to be seen to be appreciated. It is an old river town, along the Ohio River,  that had its beginning in the late 1700s.

Here is a town in situ (buildings not moved) that has remained viable for the folks that live in the area. There is a movement to upgrade sympathetically -- keeping the structure in line with its original design. 

I recently talked with Sara Swope from the Maysville Chamber of Commerce and Lynn David from the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center to ascertain the architectural history of their town. They were both very informative about the mindset of the folks that live there. They both said that the town had families going back several generations and were not anxious to change the architecture of the town. Many natives of the area owned the buildings and felt they should remain as they are.. With such citizens their buildings have become their architectural legacy to Kentucky. 


2ND STREET -- STREETSCAPE --  MAYSVILLE KENTUCKY
My trip to Maysville was a jaw-dropping experience. As I rode into town I was met by a commercial downtown that seems to have every historic type of style imaginable.. Known locally as Old Town, it reflected its economic pattern  by the types of buildings standing -- they were built from 1784 through the late 1800s. If you are a folklife or historic preservation student or layperson of architecture this is where you should visit, to not only see the structures but the connections that they have to the land and the social setting of the town, This is a real working and living town not a planned museum complex. 

OLD OPERA HOUSE -- 2ND STREET --  MAYSVILLE, KENTUCKY
Unfortunately, my time was very limited in the town. I had my camera with me however, some turned out dark as the sun was going down. Given the wrong conditions for taking streetscapes, I still pointed the camera and clicked. I wanted to at least give you a small window of some of Maysville's streetscapes. I plan to revisit this place often as it holds threads to our present life -- such as art history, architectural history, settlement patterns, economies, and a cultural matrix of other realities. 

A couple thoughts stood out in my mind as I glanced at the buildings. First and foremost was that the town essentially resembled a time warp. not economically but through their buildings. If I were designing a mid- 1800s movie location, I would say that this town would be the perfect set.

EARLY 1930s SHERWIN WILLIAMS SIGN, 2ND STREET
Above is an Italianate building that housed the Hendrickson Paint Company beginning in 1908  through 2004. The Sherwin Williams sign was installed on its facade in the early 1930s. Its retail business was paint, wallpaper and home furnishing. This is just one of the many examples of the historic and cultural  elements of the town.

2ND STREET -- STREETSCAPE
MAYSVILLE, KENTUCKY

More of  2nd Street. This street section appears to hold earlier buildings than the photo -- second one down from the top -- of this post.  Of course my fast glimpse of the town didn't allow time for close examination.

Ms Swope and Ms David provided quite a bit of detail of the Maysville area. Their generoisity and time was greatly appreciated. 

Now when I visit Maysville again (and again) I will allow plenty of time to take in the town.