Saturday, July 28, 2012

100 Bales of Hay in the Barn

One hundred bales of hay in the barn. One hundred bales of hay. Take one down, pass it around...


But don't waste a single blade of it, this stuff is scarce!


"I know, I know, how many times are you going to tell us that?" asked Sophia.

"Just making sure you understand," I replied.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sundays in the Loom House

I arrived at the loom house before the crowds. The first task to raise the paned window sashes, propping each one open with a stick. The breeze is refreshing. 


The shaft harnesses are removed from the old barn loom and water drawn for the dye pot. Osage orange with tin today.


The drive band gets seated in its groove on the great wheel and for a moment, a fleeting moment, I'm there. In 1823.  Ready to begin my day's work.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Do It?

So now that I have confessed my sordid past of being a card carrying member of the Microsoft geek squad, many of you are thinking, "Why?"  Why would I give up a lucrative career to eventually end up working as an interpreter at Conner Prairie

On Wednesday of this week, I was working in the Animal Encounters barn. It was ridiculously hot and humid that day, the heat index above 100. A father, son and grandson approached me to meet the newborn lamb I was holding. The young boy was particularly interested in the animal's horns. I showed him how the horn had hair growing on it and explained that horns really were just that, hair, only very dense just like a fingernail.  As our conversation continued eventually the grandfather looked right at me and asked, "Christine, why do you do this?" He gestured as if to add, "under these extreme conditions." 

The quick answer would have been to say, "Hello, cute baby animals, what's not to love?" However, I could tell the man was sincere, and he really wanted to know why I would stand around all day, sweat dripping down my face and back, so I could explain to a five year old that horns are really just hair. My answer instead was this:

"I was lucky enough to grow up  on a farm right here in Indiana. I made mud pies in the garden, squeezed chicken manure through my toes and watched the circle of life unfold in the barnyard every season. My Dad took me tracking, trapping and fishing. I had a section of the garden to tend and call my own. I learned more before fifth grade about what is really important in life than most people learn in a lifetime. I had the best childhood a person could ask for. I can't take all of these kids fishing, but I can teach them about the animals and share a glimpse of the circle of life and I firmly believe they'll be better for it."

His smile broadened as he said, "I'm glad you're here. I brought my son here when he was a child and now I'm bringing my grandson for the same experience. Thank you for doing this."

DSC 2126

Of course, my answer really only scratched the surface. My own family history is another great motivator for me. I have an ancestor, Fanny Brooks, that raised sheep and took in spinning and weaving to support her seven children after her husband was killed. Her family followed and settled near the Wabash River instead of the White, but they were here in Indiana during the same time period as William Conner and so the stories are similar. I have record of her sending her sons out to herd the sheep to the livestock markets in Cincinnati the same as the Conner's did. I guess I could say I feel pride of ownership. I feel that I am somehow honoring my ancestors for all the work they did to settle and organize this state. Prairietown is a good representation of my ancestor's lives as there were farmers, blacksmiths and businessmen alike. 

Then, of course, the new Civil War Journey Raid on Indiana exhibit represents a long forgotten family feud. Theodore F. Hinton, my third great grandfather enlisted in the 7th Indiana Calvary immediately following Morgan's raid to defend his home and farm. It just so happens his first cousin, Benjamin Butler, had been one of Morgan's men doing the raiding. After Benjamin's capture in Ohio, the Butler's were never really heard from much again and were certainly never invited to the family reunions. 

While my connections to Conner Prairie's history runs deep, the future of the organization draws me to it as well. Playing a part in reestablishing an extinct breed of livestock, getting children excited about the science of agriculture and helping to fill the gaps in a failing public education system to me is far, far more important and will have more of a lasting impact than helping some CIO somewhere figure out how to slash his telecommunications costs. 

I guess my answer to, "Why?", could really be summed up in four words. I believe in it. That's why I do it.



Friday, July 13, 2012

I Have a Confession to Make

Sometimes we play a little game in the barn called, Tell Me Three Things I Didn't Know About You. It is a good way to get to know the people you're working with. I'm often at a disadvantage since every detail of my life for the past six years has been spelled out on a blog for public display. I have to dig deep to find something nobody knows about. Generally that means something from a past that now seems a lifetime ago. In the spirit of that little game we play, in order to tell today's story, I have to make a confession.

I am a geek. 

As in card carrying member of Bill Gates certified geek squad, complete with a former subscription to PC World. I could take a computer apart and put it back together, I walked around with one of those little loose screw grabber things to prove it. I knew BASIC. I blame that on my parents for buying that first TRS-80 and later the Commodore 64. I built networks. PC networks. I certainly wouldn't have been seen fiddling around with one of those MAC computers. Heavens no.

Problem was, I was a girl. A farm girl no less. A career in technology at the time pretty much required you to play D&D, drink a case of Mountain Dew a day and have body odor control problems. I didn't exactly fit in. Unlike my coworkers I was able to communicate effectively. I would attend meetings where all the men in the room would look at me as if they were thinking, "She's cute, but why is she here?"  Then, eventually, I would say something, their thoughts quickly turning to, "Dear God! She knows stuff. How can that be? I thought she was here in case we ran out of Mountain Dew." 

Eventually I became a technology consultant. I met with C-level executives and gave them my opinion on their corporate networks. I can assure you that I never, ever recommended anything other than a PC. Why would any corporation ever use a MAC anyway? I mean what would Bill think? Would he end our long term relationship by taking away my certification? *gasp* Throughout the years I have maintained my loyalty. Sure, I had a marketing job where I was provided with a MAC. I rarely used it. By then I felt I had a decent desktop publishing program on my PC. I didn't need a MAC.

Then, just recently, my laptop starting having problems. Major problems. Like it would get so hot it would nearly set my pants on fire or if I tried to watch an online video the fan would kick in and sound like the space shuttle taking off. Never mind that I had to archive my photos off every few weeks because the hard drive was miniscule. I've been told by experts I should drop Bill and go with MAC for years. I just couldn't let go. What if MAC wasn't better? Would Bill take me back?

Then, one day, I happened to meet an Apple genius while perusing the mall. All he had to do was show me how processing photos in a MAC works today and I was ready to drop old Bill like a hot potato. "I'll take that one," I said pointing to the solid state retina display model. Unfortunately, as in true Apple style, they released a product but didn't actually have any available to sell. I had to wait a month for it to be built and then show up in the mail. 

It arrived today. I've been using the new laptop for a couple of hours and can't even tell the darned thing is on, it makes no noise and is cold as can be. MAC is better. Much better. 

All I can say is, "I'm sorry, Bill. We've just grown apart. I feel I have changed and you are still the same you have always been. It's me, not you. Don't feel bad. I'm sure you will meet someone new. Goodbye Bill."





I Linger

My life is experiencing a great upheaval. It would be easy to look back with regret. To cling to the past and not let go.


It would be easy to fear the future. The unknown. Where will I end up? Who will be there with me?


Instead I am embracing the here and now. Savoring the moment. I linger as I go about my daily tasks. One more pet. A few more photos. Another glass of wine. I linger because right here, right now ain’t all bad and I don’t want to waste a moment of it.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Objects in Rear Are Closer Than They Appear

So we are still all abuzz about Elizabeth our new English Longhorn heifer calf. This morning I headed over to her pasture for a little photo shoot. She was napping when I got there.


With a little encouragement she stood so that I could get a nice shot of her markings.


I was so busy with the calf I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings. So I was a little taken aback when Mary appeared and demanded, “Did I just see you wake that baby?”


“Well, um, yes I guess I did, sort of,” I stammered.

“And just why would you do that?” she asked. “Don’t you know you’re supposed to let sleeping babies sleep?”


“Oh, well, uh, yeah I do know, but, uh I needed to get some glamour shots to send to those nice people over in England.” I said hesitating a little. “And, of course, since you are such a fine specimen of the breed yourself, I’ll need a good picture of you too.” I held my breath as I hoped she bought what I just dished up.

“My left side is my best. Make sure you get my udder. And let me pose my leg just right so it hides the extra baby weight. I just had her Tuesday you know.”



Of course, a few mother/daughter shots were required as well.


Until finally it became obvious that little Elizabeth was tired of getting her picture taken.


Something tells me this one is going to be a bit spoiled.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Long Live The Queen

Today something important happened. Very important. It didn’t make the six o’clock news. Probably won’t make the papers. And no doubt you went about your life as usual today, unaware of the ripple this event caused in the pond of life. Early this morning, without pomp and circumstance, a virgin Mary gave birth to her child in a stable.

It just so happens that Mary was an English Longhorn cow and her child a product of artificial insemination.

So why is this so important? Because before today there were only ten female English Longhorn cattle in the United States. Now there are eleven, a ten percent increase in the breeding capacity of this extremely rare breed. In fact, they are so rare the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy doesn’t even include them as a viable breed; their requirements being 20 females in 5 herds. Conner Prairie is the only public place in the U.S. to have this breed on display.


The English Longhorn is one of the oldest breeds of English cattle, believed by some to predate the Roman occupation of England. Popular in early America at one time, the breed lost favor around 1850 as the more fashionable Shorthorn took it’s place. It resulted in extinction of the breed on U.S. soil.


This ancient breed has returned and is increasing it’s numbers by utilizing the latest technology. Embryos from English Longhorn donor cows were frozen and shipped across the pond to the US where they were implanted into recipient cows. Mary was the product of that transfer. Not only will the sweet little heifer calf born today continue to increase the number of cattle, she will at some point be the successor of Mary. Of course it seemed appropriate to name her Elizabeth.

So you see, today was an important day. A queen was born to a virgin Mary in a stable. An event which will change history.

Long live the queen! Hip, hip, huzzah! Hip, hip, huzzah! Hip, hip, huzzah!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Would You Like to See the Upstairs?

I’m stressing out. The new house is much smaller than this one and there is far less storage space. I thought I’d take a break from sorting and purging to take you on a tour of the upstairs. Any excuse to avoid packing is a good one.

This is the view from the parlor, to the right is the living room to the left is the entry.


The entry doors. The stained glass in the center of the windows is just something hanging there. The windows are actually old wavy glass.


The first three steps curve. If the wood floors under the carpet are in as good of shape as the steps I will be a very happy woman. I’m not holding my breath.


The master is just to the right at the top of the stairs. In addition to a fireplace and stained glass windows it has a small dressing area. On the left you’ll notice some of the creative electrification old Uncle Bob must have done that I noted in a previous post. That will be rectified.


The wallpaper has been there for a very long time and asked me if I would please, please retire it. I am hoping to oblige. Along with some paint and a good waxing of the floor that should be all this room needs for now. The tile on the hearth needs reset, but that will be a long term restoration project.


The hallway has some plaster issues.


Aaron says he likes the frilly curtains and the flowery wallpaper in his room so much he wants to keep them.


Okay, not really. It is too bad, this wallpaper is in decent shape.


Can’t say as much for the ceiling though. At some point they covered it up with ceiling tiles. That must mean it is pretty scary up there.


The third bedroom made me cringe when I first walked into it. By the third or fourth visit though it started to grow on me.


It is such a tiny little room it’s not like anyone would spend much time in there anyway. And we don’t really want to make our guest too comfortable now do we?


Have you noticed all the transom windows above the closet doors? They are actually little storage areas. The faux leaded glass needs to come off as it is yellow  and peeling, the windows are actually just plain glass. That will be a fun project.


The fourth bedroom needs the most work. There was a leak in that corner many moons ago and the damage was never repaired.


It is a tiny little piece that fell off a room, but should make a good office space.


So. Show of hands. Who likes to strip wallpaper? Anybody?

(crickets chirping)


Where did everybody go?

Do You Want to See Something Really Scary?

We conducted the home inspection for the new house on Saturday. I fully expected Twilight Zone music to cue each time I peered into a nook or cranny. You can’t buy a 120 year-old house without there being some serious issues. However, we were pleasantly surprised that there really wasn’t anything major we hadn’t already realized. Sure there is a laundry list a mile long of things needing attention, but for her age the old girl is actually in decent shape. 


Some quick research revealed that James W. Boone, fourth cousin to Daniel Boone, built the house in 1892 for his second wife, Celestia. Mr. Boone, a Civil War veteran, had previously served as First Sargent with Company E of the 39th Indiana Regiment, 8th Indiana Cavalry and was later promoted to Lieutenant.  He fought in the battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga.

James W. Boone

While standing around outside Saturday we met the neighbors. Come to find out they were Civil War reenactors for over 2o years and only recently retired from it. He commanded the 49th Indiana.  The gentleman runs a barber shop out of his home called The Yankee Clipper.

Me thinks we are going to like it there.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Because The Cupboards Are Bare

I’ve had several people ask, “How can you possibly give up your animals and go live in the city.” It is a reasonable question from someone who doesn’t live out here. Someone who hasn’t struggled the past three years with drought and spent many a worrisome night wondering how to feed their livestock.

This is my lush green pasture. I took this photo just moments ago.


Even the weeds have started to shrivel up and die. This weekend I’ll be spending a ridiculous amount of money on some of last year’s hay.


If this were an actual income producing farm I would have been out of business the first year. I’m sure the farmers during the dust bowl of the 1930’s didn’t want to give up their dreams and move back to the city either. But there comes a time when you have to cut your losses. I am afraid no rain and record heat has done this farmer in. It is time.

I’m clinging to the duck though. His therapy is not complete and he still doesn’t understand how to eat grass anyway. I’m going to the new house in the morning to figure out where to build him a little duck hut.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

This Post is for Jayne & Milah

Because I know it is driving them crazy. Their inquiring minds want to know what the inside of that place looks like. The following are just the realtor’s photos. I’ll get more shots on Saturday during the inspection.
You’ll notice that the hideous bedroom wallpaper is not shown in any of these photos. Those realtors are sneaky like that. So girls, until we can gather in person, I hope this satisfies your curiosity. Start planning your visits and don’t forget to bring a scraper.