Monday, February 25, 2013


Two buildings, the Old Creamery Building and the Miller Building, have been living next to each other since the 1800s. In fact, according to the local newspaper they are among some of the oldest buildings in the county. The Miller Building was located inside the city of Richmond's Downtown Historic zone. 

I was able to capture some "before demolition" photos of the two buildings a day before they met their demise . Sarah Hogsed caught the demolition action on a YouTube video which you can see below.

Always a sad occasion to see our historic built environment  disappear. 

My general question is -- who are we really and where are we going? 

Here are the before demolition photos that are followed up by the demolition video.




Friday, February 22, 2013


Spring is right around the corner. Signs of garden preparation are seen as I ride the back-country roads Here are a few.

Tractors have plowed  community gardens 

The country seed and feed store has cleaned out its plant sale shed in anticipation  of fresh trays of flowers and  vegetables.

The seed and feed store has readied its sale porch for garden supplies and spots for flower displays

No matter if you purchase one tomato plant or one geranium -- or plant a whole kitchen garden -- are you now having visions of flowers and vegetables dancing in your head?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Sometimes a tree can tell you more 
than can be read in a book
~ ~ C. G. Jung

American Sycamore's  fruit
average about one inch in diameter

Lined up on my deck railing, above, are the small fruit of the American Sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) -- an ancient tree species that has remained unchanged since before the ice age or about 50 million years ago. 

This tree intrigues me for its antiquity as well as its beauty on the landscape.

Sycamores are on my walking trail that runs along a creek bed. They dangle individually from small stringy stalks all through the winter. I collect them from the ground when they drop off randomly throughout the season.

Sycamore fruit hanging on stringy stalks
photo credit: ETSU Arboretum

Inside my home, I place the fruit in glass jars keeping them as symbolic reminders of the tree's strength and endurance. The trees are massive, can live for hundreds of years, and are one of the oldest species of trees on this earth. They are survivors. We all can be survivors through our strength and endurance.

Scaly bark on sycamore trunks.

When you see a sycamore today you are seeing the same unchanged species that existed  millions of years ago.

Close up of sycamore bark

Bark of a sycamore displays its ancient heritage by being   inelastic -- tearing as the trunk matures allows its white inner white bark to show through. This results are outer scales toned green, cream, brown, and gray against the white bark. It is an amazing look in nature. 

Native to the eastern part of the country they usually are found along creeks, streams and rivers. They usually  dominate the other trees found along these waterways. 

Reference: The Great American Forest, Rutherford Platt

Friday, February 15, 2013


Thinking of March and the fact that it would soon be Women's History Month, my thoughts floated to an old hilltop cemetery I was passing along a country road. It was very small and one that meant driving up an incline to a pocket of woods. 

Once there I viewed an undisturbed landscape with a small pond off to the west. A very serene and quiet area. So many of the small cemeteries I visit in the back-country have this quietude that settles within you.

Old gravestones among the weeds. Many of the stones illegible.

My intent was to visit the women who were buried here. To pause a moment to give thanks for their commitment to their families. The gravestones were very historic -- so many of these old stones were weathered with indistinguishable names.

My thoughts were to meditate on the women buried here who worked hard and difficult jobs that were thankless. Let me be frank -- men are almost always the ones who are honored in our history books. Women who grew kitchen gardens, canned,  prepared and served food,  made soap and churned butter, tended children and the sick, milked the cows, wove cotton and wool, made scrap bed-covers,  scoured the dishes, floors and windows with water from streams and wells -- and more --  go unappreciated by most of our historians.  

So I began reading the legible stones for women's names.


Here we have Sarah -- her dates tell us she lived until she was seventy-two. A fancy stone compared to  the others that stood nearby. A half circle appears with her name --  its meaning lost.  She might have had a fancier stone than the rest but she was still in the same boat as the other women in the cemetery -- they never had the right to vote.

"Gone Home," reads the epitaph of Sallie E.
( not to scrub floors I hope)

A name illegible from weathering -- hand-carved long ago -- a name and face lost -- perhaps forever. 

Even today I feel that women, for the most part, go unrecognized for their contributions to their families and community. The spoken word is still weighted in favor of men.

But positive change is slowly happening!

Monday, February 11, 2013


 Of course this is not a nest of an early bird that arrived just this  February. It is one that was vacated last fall and has been perched in my field entwined with two small saplings. It's a small cup shape with narrowing bottom -- cup mostly dried  grasses while bottom mostly leaves.  About 3  feet off ground.

I find that winter offers our eyes earthly beauty just as other seasons can. In summer my field's wild growth is high and that is undoubtedly why I missed the nest then -- now winter's die-back has exposed this hidden treasure.  I don't know what kind of bird/s built this constructed masterpiece -- perhaps someone can offer up a guess?

A remnant of a recent bit of snowfall can be seen at the bottom of the nest. I considered removing it to my indoor collection. But, I thought, perhaps it might be used again and decided just to enjoy it in its natural surroundings. 

Friday, February 8, 2013


Above is a spring house I saw as I was driving along a rural road in Rockcastle county. I stopped to take a shot of it even though it was way off in the distance. 

It sat alone -- no parts of a homestead were left. Constructed of   laid-up limestone and a tin roof, now rusticated,  it added charm to its rural setting. 

Basically spring houses are built into a hill embankment to capture a flowing spring. The spring water is kept clean by having an overhead structure to flow into which also  provides cool temperatures to its  interior. Having the walls built with stone or rock insulates the small building and provides a cool place for storing items such as butter, meat and other dairy products. The advent of electricity brought an end to the necessity of having a spring house.

Inside the old spring houses were rock troughs that held shallow pools of water. These troughs were used to store dairy products. This particular trough belongs to a man that saved it from his old family place in Madison county. Made of hand chiseled limestone and extremely heavy,  it now has been retired to his backyard in Berea, Kentucky. 

Monday, February 4, 2013


 Hand chiseled ends on large limestone stairs
 Lancaster, Kentucky

As one visits the towns and rural areas  of  central Kentucky you are likely to bypass many beautiful stairs that were designed for households and commercial establishments from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. More than likely you wouldn't notice them -- as stairs are just stairs -- right? 

However, the stairs that you see in my photos above and below all have a connection to the social and economic history of the area. I think a pretty interesting one.

Limestone steps to a historic home in Lancaster, Kentucky

The vintage stairs shown are made out of native limestone that  was found in either local rock outcroppings in fields, creek beds or in small quarries. 

Native limestone contributed an important and respectful architectural material to the area's settlement era.  One can still find an abundance of vintage limestone rock being used for walls, fences, chimneys, foundations, stairs,  housing, sidewalks and other building configurations.

It was a major building material in and around central Kentucky and to accomplish this certain social and economic factors came together.

One being immigration. During the 1800s stone masons,  mainly from Ireland, immigrated to the area to practice their homeland  trade of masonry. The Irish potato famine during the mid-1800s seemed to be one of the driving forces for immigration to the states. 

Secondly, prior to the civil war, black slaves were able to fill in as masonry assistants. After the civil war  black assistants became masons in their own right.  

Old limestone steps remaining from a buildings long gone.
Mt Vernon, Kentucky

Masonry during this time was slow work. The work was done by hand  -- having rock delivered to the work site and then carefully chiseled with special tools to fit the project at hand.   The rock was delivered by horse driven wagons.

If one studies the different old limestone masonry work around central Kentucky one will eventually recognize that each mason left his own individualized  imprint on his work.  Some very finely accomplished -- some rather naive. To be able to attach individual names to certain limestone projects is rare -- their names being lost to history. Basically masonry was a male trade during this era. 

So the interesting story is that it took blacks, immigrants and limestone coming together to leave not only a social impact on the area but an economic one that left architectural integrity on the built environment in central Kentucky. 

Reference used for this post:
My thanks to the authors Carolyn Murray-Wooley and Karl Raitz, authors of Rock Fences of the Bluegrass.Their book contains fascinating research on the limestone fences of central Kentucky. 

Friday, February 1, 2013


Off in the distance, is the soulful moan of a travelling train 
on this cold starless night.

Reminds me that my soundless home awaits the
spirits that speak through this distant howling.

Saying, "see how the night sounds can calm
your mind, folding it away from your ephemeral dark."


Listen for the train's howl  in the quiet of the night

~ ~ barbara