Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prairie Story 16- A Big Move In Many Lives




Never was it so hard to do something such as move to the city. Father had been elected to the state legislature, and they were to leave their prairie. This had been part of their lives for so long, full of an array of stories and heartfelt memories. Their oldest son would move into their home and pass his on to his daughter. The changing of homesteads filled all their hearts with mixed feelings. After all it was all new for each of them, in an old world. Each would find new horizons with this change in their lives, all different yet so much the same.

Father stayed in their new home for twenty more years, working in politics for the rest of his life. Gone were the hard callused hands that had broken the prairie sod. He had traded his plow for a political sword, and became a powerful speaker on the capital floor. His wife found a new social freedom, and was active in many community organizations. She was more the "farmer" of the family now, tending huge vegetable and flowerbeds. These tended to become places for grandchildren and great-grandchildren to work and play in. Even at a distance they were able to stay active with their family, which was a major part of their lives.

Their son and his wife moved into their home with two sons and a daughter. Their daughter had decided to go to college, the first in their family, and become a teacher. Both boys were active with their father on the farm. What had started out as a eighty acre homestead, now encompassed many homesteads. Many a toiled hour, sometimes given up altogether, and taken over by another. Life spent, lost, restored and reborn, the prairie had a lot to offer, but little to show having been ignored. Those who were able to stick it out made a good living. Where did the others all go? Where did the prairie go, one should ask? Gone were the oceans of grass they had explored when he and his wife first met. They had let a larger area go to pasture and hayfield, just because they missed what memories they had from their childhood. Part of this had the land her families had all been on temporarily, before being displaced again to the Nations. The scent of cedar burning whirled around the house, as they found their freedoms in their souls, soaring off to new dimensions and pathways.

Going to college in a small prairie town, was a bit of a change for the daughter. There were so many people just in her dormitory, more than in her tiny township she had grown up around. Her second year she met someone she described as the most exciting and wonderful man she had ever met. Her father had to differ upon a first meeting, this engineering student could barely talk, least be exciting. He later invented a better version of the streetlight to light our cities. They married when she graduated and moved into the house she had grown up in. In a few years, they moved near her grandparents to be closer to jobs. Her youngest brother moved into her home, and began to raise a quick family, with the first arrival twin girls. She went on to accumulate a number of children herself, bearing six in ten years, slowing her career to a halt, to be a mother.

Her youngest brother was short lived in the house, moving from farming to buying a grocery store, in a nearby town. His brother took over farm operations, and his parents moved to the city, to be closer to his grandparents. He worked hard at building his business, maybe to hard, having a heart attack at thirty-nine, and became a custodian part-time at the new school. Having lost his first two sons to childhood illnesses had left them with a daughter. They were blessed later in life with a son, thirteen years between the two children.

The farm continued with the oldest son, a portion of the original prairie somewhat standing. He raised four sons, but none of them would carry on his heritage. Through some very tough years of weather and crop prices, the homestead weathered, and started to show he age, her old age in a new age, in an old land. His wife and he lived on this precious parcel for the rest of their lives. That night he passed away in his sleep, he had stood on his front porch with his family, extending his arms out and offering a prayer of happiness for all he loved at the meal. Little did they fully realize how their lives had been enriched by this simple thought through three generations of life on this prairie. And they would all continue in their song, a song of life purposely retold over and over so none would be lost gently carried by the prairie breeze.



To touch, to feel, to be with each other again, and again

Memorial Day

A fun weekend to enjoy for many, a chance to relive the past. We all maintain a tradition, savoring this moment until the last.

Don't catch that tree while fishing, as many people will do. Is it a part of learning, what life has in store for you?

Take that hike, or find a treasure or something fun to do. There is always something in nature that is new to you.

Stop and smell that flower, but don't inhale that bug. Talk to someone you can enjoy, sharing a thoughtful hug.

This is a day to celebrate the living, but many share it with the dead. People who have been a part of our lives, happy memories swirl in our head.

When it is all over, I will look forward to the next time. When I can can share some beauty with all of you, and a bit of silly rhyme.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Brenda Photo Challenge


This month the challenge is three weathered and worn photos. These come from the Smoky Mountains, one of the more weathered and worn areas in the United States. I hope you enjoy them!

These old barns have seen plenty of activity in their existence. When I see old outbuildings I think of the families who used them and lived there.I had a lot of fun playing in barns as a child, spending many a day climbing and jumping around. Some barns have passed through a multitude of families so it is fun to look for initials and such that might identify them. I have had fun stopping and talking to the owners to find out how old and who built these palaces of the land.

Old tack hangs from a post as a remembrance to the work horses, oxen and mules that were a mainstay on our farms. When automation first arrived many were skeptical of owning something with such a great expense and many shared implements for farming. Today that is almost unheard of, but in my area are groups of Amish who shun anything mechanical and still use horses to both farm, but also travel.

A portion of a stream has been rerouted to power a wheel that turned huge grinding stones at a grist mill. Often the miller would stay for days grinding grain for settlers, so was a major businessman in the area. Water power was often used to power mills and sawmills before the use of steam power, so major settlements were close to this source of power.




It was hard to just pick three, as I have read many of you who are avid photographers like me have had, but take that times thirty or more and that is a lot to preview and try to narrow down some of the best.I have lots of old barns to show, many having stone foundations from stone right where they were built. Here in Iowa is a foundation trying to get people to maintain and preserve this heritage of our land. Many have been lost to not being used and poor maintenance. Grist mills have also hit the wayside. a few still offer products to people who admire the quality of the product, but I have hardly ever seen a water powered one in operation.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Prairie Story 15-Rapid Changes

Toady's story comes from a continued work that we saw two people whose lives intertwined on the prairie and now they have formed a new family. It is my Great grandfather, one of seven children who came from Bohemia to settle in SE Nebraska with their parents.

A Great Spangled Fritillary, a member of the Brush-footed butterflies, sits next to a stream.

Wild turkeys float across the woodland searching for acorns, bugs and anything else that looks good. At one time Benjamin Franklin felt these should be our national bird.

I'm hiding so you can't see me. How well these massive bucks do blend in to their surroundings.

I like this guy, he is almost six feet at the shoulder, but still a gentle giant for work in a field.

The children played around the yard while their mother sat inside watching. It was a beautiful day to enjoy and she had a hard time getting any housework done. His parents were coming over with some furniture they had replaced from their son’s store. Family heirlooms as it would soon be. She wasn’t sure where they would put it, maybe put their old out to use on the porch. Most all had been passed down to them, even their home, but it was a collection of fine ideas and love. On the side of their home stood a field full of flowers and she listened to the whisper of the wind as it carried on its song though the land. This song she had been taught to listen for when she sat with her Grandmother, sorting out berries or making some food. She thought of the story her father always shared of the day he had met this lost pioneer family and the bond that made their friendship strong. She often wondered if the remnants of her family shared the wealth and happiness she had found.

She could not believe what had changed since she had first arrived, and now this expansion continued like a wildfire. The prairie was being swept away with this wildfire, but not always to replenish it, as the cleansing fire had done in the past. They had saved a small plot, but still hayed it toward fall. She could smell the massive burns, which had passed by her village, unafraid who stood in its path. It had been a part of her childhood, and the children loved to hear the stories, marveling at their "pioneer lifestyles", already hard to imagine with progress. Her thoughts were interrupted with a horse pulling up their lane.

Her husband had came back for a town meeting. He rode looking around at his wonderful land, riding up the lane to their home. He had made a good business farming, but many of his friends today insisted he represent them in the legislature. He thought heavy about this, unsure what his family would feel. He would ask his wife tonight, and file his petition the next day if she agreed. He felt she would, and his feelings proved right when he spoke to her. Moving was a question she had, and he told her they would have a home in the capital. This would be quite a change from their beautiful home on the prairie. The talked all night and listened to the sounds carried on the prairie winds, a powerful yet fulfilling serenade of life.
I have a passion
A passion to share
A friendship so strong
Why should others care
So let us share passions
And let us soar free
Free to love, even casually.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Flowers Around Me

I want to take you through my garden, it is just a short walk around from where we sit. Bring your drink with you, it will help keep you cool while we talk and share.

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." quoted Juliet to Romeo. It actually was Shakespeare making fun of a rival theater, The Rose. I was talking to a friend and she tells me while we were talking I had a photo posted on TV that looks like a wax flower. It was this Columbine. The beauty of flowers always makes me think of verse I have read. Someone said flowers are how the earth smiles, and I truly believe it. A favorite in my garden I always have been intrigued with the columbine.

They surround the area in happiness and remind me of a fairy dance I saw in a painting, dancing under the stars. They really stand out when found in the woodlands, colors you don't see on a lot of woodland blooms. This one is close to a native species near me, but much larger.

Dianthus started to bloom this week. I have a frilly variety that was showing a lot of buds that is most unusual also. This is a very large family, I enjoy the common spicy scents and put in some Sweet William seed to add to my collection..

This tiny geranium looks as if someone painted its color to enrich the bloom. When I found it I knew I had to have a few, not knowing where it would end up. Abram L. Urban offers a good verse that I always think of when buying so many new blooms.
My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.

This is a first year for this wonderful hydrangea. I passed a yard last year that had them all across the front with white blooms almost a foot across. Never finding this older version I settled for a new pink to try out.

Clematis yells for me to try a new color. I placed two arbors last year just so I could have some more. This year I have only added on pink to my collection. This was suppose to be Nellie Moser a bicolor pink, so I guess I will look for her this next season. I hope my neighbor enjoys this as well, the first blooms were more on their side of the fence.

The trailing petunias in the tall box planter I made in a previous blog are doing great and receive a lot of compliments. I was glad to have placed them close to where I sit. Underneath I have heliotrope just starting to bloom so hope to have some nice purple accents to go with all the pansies around it.

The blue on the edge of the petals of this clematis is iridescent. I hope it will grow all over this fence . It couldn't decide if it had four or five petals. I found this late last year and was glad to see it come back.
A Bird came down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk
He did not know I saw
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Prairie Story 15- A New Life

This is a petroglyph of a bird over 12,000 years old. This carving was done in sandstone in northern Missouri, found in Thousand Hills State Park where I visited Saturday. I found a thunderbird that was dated around 5,000 years old last year that was only 3 1/2 inches wide in an Iowa State Park, and now get to see this at eighteen inches, along with a variety of other very worn figures. I was looking for something new in this very old area, as many had done before me.

Spiderwort blooms are some of the early color on the prairie offering a almost iridescent glow among all of the new plants ascending from the earth. One year on Father's Day we were in the Nebraska Sandhills at a biological station, and a father who had never missed the holiday with his family was getting very long in the face. Being forty miles from the nearest town, I drew him a card using this plant as a model because he had said it was one of his favorites.

This would have been a step up for new settlers on the prairie. With lack of trees in many areas, first homes were often fashioned from bricks of sod.

Homes like this old schoolhouse would have been built after the railroads came or if there was a sawmill close by, usually along a river. This is in Van Buren County, Iowa. I like to explore around this area not too far from the Mississippi River. There are a wide variety of cultures also so it is fun to meet new friends. In this county there are no stoplights, the only signal close is one blinking light to slow people down for cross traffic. There are no fast food restaurants so I enjoy stopping by a different family business to eat each time.
He worried too much throughout the better part of the day. Maybe today was a good day to go ask for a new loan to build on to their tiny home. In the eight years they had lived here, four children were born, and his wife was due again. He had a good job with the railroad, and worked part time for a neighbor. His brother had moved in also and was running their farm. He had actually thought about building a new home next to their present one. What worried him most was spending the nice savings he had accrued over the years. Living frugal made it hard to spend money like this, but down the road he recovered and enjoyed getting something new, in this old world. He felt he had paced long enough, and went to saddle his horse to go into town. He was shocked how easy it was filling out the paper work, with the help of the bank president. When he finally signed his name, pride swelled in his chest. His decision had been made, building a completely new home next to his old one.

His wife could hardly believe it when he came home and told her what had transpired at the bank. They danced all the way through their house and sat down in the kitchen, where she poured two glasses of wine. The saluted their venture, but began to look around at the home that had given them such a good life. Living in this new country the home shared many happy memories for both of them. Land of the plenty, if you had the stamina to toil endlessly, and this now was how they would reap what had been sown. He walked out to his saddlebag and got a catalog they would order their new home through. In two months he rode in on a train with the two flatbed cars carrying his new home. What a thrill when he waved the train to stop and placed the two cars on a siding. This was his place, his home to share with his family forever, si Dios quiera, God Willing. His brother had helped him dig the footings and place the foundation in, while waiting for the delivery. He hired eight teams from around the area to haul the materials from the station to his its new home, their home. Neighbors all came to help and within a week the basic roughing in was done.

Standing outside smelling the hog roasting made him happy to finally be free of the additional labor building this wonderful home. It was a grand home; everyone who came over tonight offered a lot of compliments. His wife joined him on the porch, held him tightly in her arms, and thanked him for being such a wonderful husband and providing for the family. She told him that her love grew every day they were together. He looked into her blurry eyes and professed his love for her, as big as all of the stars that night. They gazed at the stars above holding hands, and felt a tiny breeze pick up on the prairie, carrying off their merriment and love, across the land.

Praise goes to all
Who receive your glory
It is always retold as
The same but different story
To those that hear your song
Praises go to everyone
Held secure through love.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Brenda Photo Challenge

When I plant a few flowers I think of my grandmother saying, " You can't eat flowers." Perhaps this was in reference to forty new varieties I already had, or the space I could use to feed the world. The next year I planted as many as I could that you can eat, only to irritate her more, but still plant lots you can eat along with my great array of veggies .I am at eighty varieties of flowers and vegetables so far that I have added this year.

I shot these daffodils after a rain, down low facing the morning sun.My yard is full of diamonds!

Pink can be a power color, it always catches my eye. I have put in two pink gardens for friends with cancer to offer strength and spiritual health.

This is a native columbine outside of a limestone gate. They have an elegance to them when found in the woodlands that always catches my eye. As a child I saw a drawing of a fairy with a columbine cap. After that I was always on the lookout for them in the woods.

This is Black Locust blooms, they almost look like wisteria. You can eat them when fresh and enjoy a sweet treat while walking through the woods. They are an invasive tree so many foresters would give them the ax.I would like to try wine made with these, something I found out about this year.

Tulips are a flower I always wish would last longer. These are close to the end of season but still stand regal.

A favorite color of tulip this year, can you ever have enough of these beauties that mark the arrival of spring? One friend asked me how many were in a bed and I laughed since I log all flowers planted.

Walking past these in a nursery I tried to avoid these, only to make it about ten feet and coming back for them.A most enjoyable color combination. I like to put white or light colored petunias along garden paths so I can find my way at night.

This year I felt I wasn't going to use African Daisies, but this bloom was very unusual that I have them close to where I sit on my patio.

These iris were planted a long time ago in this old settler cemetery. The last burial here was in 1946 so needless to say it has been lost and forgotten by a few. I enjoy coming to this area, it had a prairie remnant that was harvested for seed to establish a major prairie center near my home. It is also next to an area that was a garrison to protect Native American lands from invasion by settlers.

You may have seen a few of these, but hopefully they have the warmth and beauty to hold your attention. I think I was #32 in a group to post pics of flowers. Peace

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Prairie Story 14 Changes For The Land

A variety of columbine surround a gazing ball in my garden.I started these from seed two winters ago in my basement under lights, so it is fun to watch my babies grow.

A male cardinal gazes all around before visiting a sunflower feeder placed in the shade.

A Trumpeter Swan graces the prairie with its beauty and serenity, accompanied by a delightful blast from a voice deep within, to announce it's resurgence into the land.

A shy Belgium horse always greets me when I pass by. I would imagine it gets a treat occasionally from the owner or his children when they come to put him to work. He has planted the corn pulling a two row planter, so his next job will be to mow the hay to eat all winter.

This vast land was now cordoned off with fences, a barrier to freedom she thought. When she was a child the grasses were so tall you could easily get lost, or hide from a friend. Her Grandmother often cautioned leaving the major paths and trails left by their horses or elk and deer. They would break the sweet grasses in the direction they explored, finding new horizons on the prairie. She remembered fire rolling across these plains, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Fighting them was a fact of life, a part of survival. Her Grandmother was revered for helping stop one coming to their village. Everyone went into the wind and carried glowing ash from cooking fires. Children carried wood to them to keep the fire spreading forming a burnt barrier around them. Next they took the sacred cedar boughs and put out the fire when it approached their area perimeters. They were still a strong group, not beaten down with the white mans way. Now she was going to follow the path of the white man, understanding through experience how to modify this lifestyle to fit hers.

This expansion offered new commerce to the area. The railroad was headed their way in all four directions. Steamers rich in cargo plied the ever-changing rivers. They always listened for new ventures to seek across this prairie. The pony Express was short lived with an array of valiant riders. The old and new fused together resembling both the past and future. This land was a melting pot of cultures and ideas, a new legacy for this world. It seemed hard to see any problems that might arise, but there were many. Everyone had came from someplace else, so it seemed silly to worry about cultural trivialities. Those who saw no problem became strong with a wealth of spirit and traditions. All of the families values were very strong and hard to disrupt. She missed her family, but made up for that enjoying her new one. They all worked at helping each other so well; there never was a dull moment in her life now.

The men with telescopes and chains invaded their new home. It frightened her to see what her father had told her in many stories, unsure of what they wanted. When asked what they were doing they said it was for a new rail line. An agent was at their door in a few days to see about buying a parcel in their middle forty acres. He said he would be back giving them time to think about his offer. He reminded them it was best to take first offers; you might not know what would be offered next. His next visit did offer a bit less, but they had a small parcel to the south they could buy with the money he offered and accepted. A road would come with this rail line and their land was split in two parcels by it. This road was nice in dry weather but when it got bad they often had visitors who needed to get help where they were stuck. This meant a strain for his team and rigging, sometimes paid with a handshake. When they said they were just down the road, could be a great distance. It was fun to hear the story of these weather-beaten travelers. They often were headed to new lands just as this family had done when they settled here. It was a good reminder that they weren’t the only ones who struggled to build a new life. This good life made you always think about sending love and compassion to others on a gentle prairie breeze.

So begins a new journey
A job always to be done
A helper to millions
When millions had none.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Prairie Story 13 Restless Youth

Painted turtles looking for some sun.

Trumpeter Swan, an amazing bird being brought back into nature, Their population dwindled so bad some bird books don't have them. By 1893 the last nesting pair was in Iowa due to hunting and reduction of wetlands. A program started in 1998 began to improve their chances of return to the state. Each year the population slowly grows, but to hear their proud trumpet call is one of the most unique experiences I have had in birding.It sounds like an orchestra warming up.

Spring tree blooms light up the landscape.

Eastern Kingbird, an acrobatic flier while chasing insects.

Red-winged Blackbird male scouts out it's territory. We had a pair stay in our yard each year for quite a few years, chasing my father down the driveway each day.

The lake called out his name and he returned to it as if to an old friend, greeted by a huge flock of pelicans. He stood in a tall observation tower watching some swim while others took off in flight. He wished he had wings so he could join in and share a simple life as they did. He raised up his arms catching their spirit, and soared off with them in his thoughts. Flying in perfect symmetry, when they turned you almost lost sight of them, only to have them turn and reappear. With huge six-foot wings, their black and white colors melded with the sky.

He kicked the motorcycle engine over hard. With a roar he took of down the highway, no destination planned. Life was a bit hectic and this always helped him cool off. The wind washed away his worries, and he glided down the road. Seeing an open stretch he gunned it full throttle feeling a sense of extreme power, King of the Road. Banking into the next curve at well over a hundred, he gunned it again on the straightaway. Hitting some rough highway the front end began to shimmer, he slowed a bit, but it made it worse. In a panic he braked hard and sent the bike down and sideways into a ditch. Opening his eyes he looked at the bloom of chicory, showing a pale blue all around him. Was he in heaven? He guessed not since he hurt everywhere. He took off his helmet and it had a gouge all across the forehead, but his head was okay. His leather chaps were chewed up bad, covered in dirt and rocks. He closed his eyes and dreamed of a vast prairie, listening to her lulling song, the song of life.

It took two months to recover and feel good enough to tackle work. His crew was headed out on the road, meaning long hotel stays and money in the pocket. This was a good life living with a good salary, in a comfortable middle class lifestyle. He missed the simple life and yearned to be back on the prairie. They were headed to the Deep South into pine covered mountains. The recreation he was told was to climb a tree and start it swaying from the top, and riding it to the ground. This sounded good for his masculinity ideals, and he quickly melded into this new world. The rich southern accents became a part of his speech, and he found it fun to have a lady read his favorite poetry books to him. Her voice mercerized him, and soon he had a favorite reader join him on days off with a picnic into the hills.

And so his spirit was carried away, into another world, times spent in an assortment of new lands. Should he stay or should he go there with so many new things to try. The travel spirit whispered constantly at him, follow me to the four corners of the world. If you haven’t been somewhere you may have missed out on a lifetime experience. The excitement made his restlessness relax and he saw how fast he could fill a passport. He found himself in Germany, based in a cousin’s chateau, taking trips where he had never been. Each day he started the same way, saying his prayer of happiness for the family and friends he had began to really miss. Arriving back to the states, he was greeted by a familiar song, a sense of spirit carried on a gentle prairie breeze.

What does it take for us to realize what we have lost
Do we have to wait until we have it no more?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Columbine, Blackbird ,Oriole and a Mule

This columbine is guarding the gate at a favorite state park where I like to bird. Red and the Peanut shared some really beautiful pictures last week that are a must to see, so I thought of those while taking a few around the woods. I have been going here the last few weeks to watch for indigo bunting and warbler migration. I was surprised to see a huge flock of goldfinches, our state bird, who obviously didn't overwinter in this area. Haven't seen any buntings but share some promise with sightings in GA last week at The Joy of Bird Watching and Living a Simple Life and now seeing great pics at Red and the Peanut. Thanks for some great sharing.

A female Red-winged Blackbird on an old cattail. I held long and got some good shots of her out on the prairie. These are one of the early birds to leave in the fall, so a sign that frost is coming and the summer is near its end. Seeing their arrival sparks ideas of the forthcoming spring and time to be starting a few things for the garden.

I often describe this friend as an Amish tractor. He has a matching brother who perform a variety of unmechanized farm work. It is a pleasure to watch them work, a treat I was fortunate to enjoy as a kid, picking corn by hand and riding three kids at a time on one of these gentle giants. This mule is a cross with a huge Belgium. A fun part is watching for carriages going down the road and wishing I could get around that way instead of my van I describe as my floating office.

This Baltimore Oriole has seen more of Central America than Baltimore.When my family immigrated here from Bohemia, they arrived by boat in Baltimore, so perhaps this has some draw to my liking this most beautiful bird. I have nectar feeders and a grape jelly feeder to keep them happy. Often they take a taste from hummingbird feeders. I have went through a huge jar of jelly already, a pair of Robins share the sweet tooth the Oriole has, along with a voracious appetite. My week is just starting with a lot of things to do on my list. I am headed out on the prairie to get that feel of being at one with nature. I would like to have some sun today, so it can activate the solar birdbath that just arrived in the mail.It only works in the sun, there is no backup energy supply. I added six solar lights of hummingbirds, butterflies and dragonflies that change color all night long. Hope my neighbors don't think they are from another planet. I hope to hear and share thoughts and feelings from all of you, carried on a gentle prairie breeze.