From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Homemade Orange Julius

Slush fun


These smoothies will really cool you down on a hot day.

Combine the following ingredients in a 6-cup blender:

Ice cubes to the 3-cup mark
6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
2 rounded tablespoons sugar or Splenda
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 banana (if desired)
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (if desired)
Enough regular orange juice (not concentrate) to fill the blender to the top mark.

Put on the lid and blend on high speed until the slush is smooth. Serve immediately in glasses with straws.  Enjoy with a clear conscience -- orange juice, milk and water are good for you, and the banana is good for you too, if you added it.

Suggestion: While you have all the ingredients out, make a second batch of the recipe to freeze. Pour into styrofoam coffee cups; cover each cup with plastic wrap held in place by a rubber band. Place in freezer until solid. Serve the frozen ices with a spoon -- they are very similar to the "Frozen Lemonades" found in grocery freezer sections.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fire in a Pile of Hay Bales

Spontaneous combustion of hay


Our neighbor had some bad luck last week with a large stack of big round bales. Apparently the hay was not dry enough when he baled and stacked it. A few days later, the stack of bales ignited.

Our volunteer fire department responded and sprayed the bales with water. The farmer pulled the bale pile apart with a tractor to allow the bales to cool. The smoke from the fire could be smelled for a mile or more, and the bales smoldered for several days.

Hay fires like this are all too common, and they are usually caused by baling and/or storing hay before it is fully cured (dried). The hay can also self-heat and combust if it becomes wet in storage.

The problem is that bacteria and mold grow on wet hay, causing it to ferment and producing flammable gases and heat. Also, as the hay dries, it goes through a natural chemical process called "sweating" in which it releases moisture and heat.

In a stack or pile of hay, the heat from fermenting and sweating cannot escape. The internal temperature can increase to the point that the hay will blacken, smolder, or even burst into flames.

The hay is spoiled even if it just warms up and turns a little brown. It loses most of its nutrients, and of course, livestock prefer not to to eat it.

This sort of combustion can occur in a hay pile of any size. Some of us have seen this in small scale with green lawn clippings or a compost pile.

This farmer lost a lot of hay, but at least he didn't lose a barn. I remember a barn fire that was caused by wet hay bales when I was a child. I was with my mother when she noticed smoke coming from a neighbor's barn and alerted him. The men from nearby ranches gathered and fought the fire, but the barn burned down. (This was on the Ray Ranch at Rose, Nebraska, in the late 1950s or early 1960s when Jay and Martha Hixson were running it.)

Read more on the web:
Cooperative Extension System bulletin "Spontaneous Combustion in Hay Poses Danger"

A Break From the Heat

Cooler weather next week


We've had a full week of heat advisories, high humidity and temperatures over 90° every day. The heat indexes have been up to 105° every afternoon.  Weather like this in June could be the harbinger of a long, hot summer, though I hope not..

Our forecast predicts cooler weather next week, particularly at night. If we really do get some cooler days, it certainly will be a welcome relief. Meanwhile, I'm very grateful for air conditioning.

Sunday Night -- Partly cloudy. Lows in the upper 60s.

Monday -- Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 80s.

Monday Night -- Mostly clear. Lows in the mid 60s.

Tuesday through Thursday --Mostly clear. Highs in the upper 80s. Lows in the upper 60s

Source: Weather Underground for Hopkinsville, KY.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Barkers of the West Fork

Early landowners in southern Christian County, Kentucky


Disclaimer -- This is not an authoritative history of the Barkers. I believe it to be more or less correct, but it probably contains inaccuracies.

Settlement of the area that is now southeastern Christian County, Kentucky. began shortly after the Revolutionary War. The land was mostly flat or slightly rolling. It was covered with prairie grasses, except along the creeks and rivers. The fertile soil was clay over limestone, well suited to crop production, especially dark tobacco.

Fort constructed


In 1783, Revolutionary War veterans John Montgomery, and James Davis received land grants in the area. They built a fort along Montgomery Creek, a few miles southeast of present-day Pembroke, KY. Montgomery Creek was a tributary of the West Fork River (source). Franklin M. Chestnut is also mentioned as one of the earliest pioneers. Perin's history of Christian County, Kentucky, describes the fort as a "blockhouse, with loop-holes cut in the sides and a thick slab door made out of walnut." 

Surge of settlement


The fort was the center around which settlement of southeastern Christian County, KY, began. Perin's and Meacham's histories of the area agree that few if any hostile Indians lived there. However, the area was sometimes traveled by Indian hunters or war parties. Within just a few decades, the Indians were gone permanently, and the land was under cultivation by white settlers and, in many cases, by their black slaves.

Charles M. Meacham wrote in his 1930 history of Christian County:

At the beginning of the new century [the 1800s] a stampede had set in and what became known as South Christian was soon settled by immigrants from Virginia, a different race from the hardy woodsmen from North Carolina who had settled in the north. They came with their families, Sons of Revolutionary soldiers and statesmen of the east, bringing their slaves with them, their herds of cattle, horses, mules and other livestock. In their wake came the preachers and school teachers, and before the county was twenty-five years old its citizens compared favorably with any in the state. (Source)

Charles Barker (1771-1851), a Virginian, arrived in the West Fork area in 1809, during the wave of settlement that Meacham described. He was joined by his wife, Barbara Walton Barker (1772-1824), by 1812, if not earlier. They settled somewhere in the area that is now southern Todd or southeastern Christian County in Kentucky or northern Montgomery County in Tennessee.  I haven't found any information about the specific location of their home.

Charles and Barbara Walton Barker had six sons and four daughters. The older children were born in Virginia, and the younger children were born in Kentucky and Tennessee.

John Walton Barker and Cloverlands



John Walton Barker (1793-1867) was the oldest of Charles and Barbara Walton Barker's children. He was a teenager when his parents moved to Tennessee. Perhaps he was a student; he seems to have stayed behind in Virginia for a few years. He came west in 1814, after his marriage to Mary Minor Merriwether, a native of Louisa County, Virginia.
Upon arriving in the West Fork area, John W. Barker built (with slave labor) a large home for his bride. Completed around 1820, the house was located in today's Montgomery County, Tennessee, less than a mile from the Kentucky/ Tennessee state line  He named it Cloverlands (or Cloverdale).

John Walton Barker and Mary Minor Merriwether Barker had four children. Their firstborn, Thomas L. Barker, died as a child. The second child was Chiles T. Barker. He was the Barker who bought Barker's Mill in the mid-19th century. Daughter Barbara (or Barbary) Ann Barker married Alexander Mosby Clayton, a lawyer who served as a judge in Arkansas while it was a territory and also in the state of Mississippi. Daughter Nancy M. Barker, married Robert F. Ferguson, a journalist who became a Tennessee state legislator and a prosperous farmer in the Clarksville, Tennessee area.

Mary Minor Merriwether Barker died in 1831, and in 1838, John Walton Barker married again and had five more daughters whose family lines I did not attempt to follow. Despite the second marriage, Chiles T. Barker remained the only surviving son of John Walton Barker, a fact that probably influenced his earthly fortunes and inheritance. A Tennessee history says that John Walton Barker was believed to be the richest man of Montgomery County in his time.

Cloverlands, the 4700-square-foot home built by John Walton Barker, still stands on the Tylertown Road, north of St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, according to the National Register of Historic Places. It was used as a bed and breakfast a few years ago, but the B&B seems to have gone out of business now.

Tobacco stemmery


John Walton Barker's home and farm were both called Cloverlands. The B&B owner provided a bit of history in 2004:

Cloverlands was a tobacco plantation. Mr. Barker not only made money from his tobacco, but also bought his neighbors' tobacco and removed the stems in a stemming house located on the property. Then he would take the tobacco himself to New Orleans where it was shipped to European markets. This gave him a contact in London, so that before the Civil War began, he took his money and put it in the Bank of London. He was one of the few Southerners who came out of the War still a millionaire. (Source)

The following information about John W. Barker comes from Folk Finders, an excellent website about Montgomery County, Tennessee history:

Before the Civil War, John W. Barker was a pioneer in the tobacco industry in Clarksville. He was one of the first in Clarksville to establish a tobacco stemmery. In 1838 he was among the individuals appointed by the Montgomery County Court to mark the route for the Clarksville and Russellville Turnpike. [Note: This route probably became modern-day Highway 79.] These men were to determine the need for a new bridge at any point between Barker’s ferry and the mouth of West Fork of Red River if the present bridge was not on the chosen route. (Source)

A family-history researcher wrote these notes about John W. Barker on an internet: genealogy bulletin board:

John Walton Barker was a tobacco farmer, and took trips to New Orleans to sell and ship his crop, always bringing home pecan seedlings to set out, some of which flourish today. The house is full restored and is a private residence. "Meriwethers were known for their culture and learning and the Barkers for their business acumen." (Source)

John Walton Barker, his wife Mary Minor Merriwether Barker, and many other members of the Barker family are buried in the Barker family cemetery at Cloverlands. The B&B owner stated that there is also an unmarked slave cemetery on the property. The general location is known, but the exact sites of individual graves are unknown.

Meriwether Connection


Charles Barker and Barbara Walton Barker, the parents of John Walton Barker, are said to be buried in the Meriwether Cemetery at Meriville in Todd County, Kentucky. Meriville was a large plantation between Trenton and Guthrie. Its house, known also as Meriville, was built around 1810 by Dr.Charles Meriwether (1766-1843) who was married to Barbara Walton Barker's sister, Mary Walton Meriwether (1786-1869).

John Walton Barker married a Meriwether (Mary Minor Meriwether). Intermarrying between the two families continued in the generations that followed. The Barkers were also connected to the Meriwethers through other families, as cousins' cousins.

A number of Barkers are buried in the Meriwether Cemetery, but a list of the names on tombstones in that cemetery does not include the names of Charles and Barbara Walton Barker. It seems odd to me that their graves would be unmarked, but perhaps something has happened to their stones over the years.

These were the first two generations of Barkers in the West Fork area -- Charles Barker and his son John Walton Barker. I would like to give more sources for this information, but I can't figure out how to make a reliable link to most of the information at RootsWeb. If you would like to wander through the Barker family trees yourself, just type the surname, given name, and birth year of any of these people into the search form at RootsWeb.

Related posts:
Exploring the West Fork Community
Barker's Mill in Christian County, Kentucky

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Exploring the Barker's Mill Community

Adventures in local history


It's hard to describe what I've been doing in my blogging time. lately. It's been both fascinating and frustrating. I began with a topic that I thought would be quite simple, and instead, it has branched in a dozen different directions.

It started in early April when I got an e-mail from a reader of the blog. He suggested that I might enjoy visiting the Chapel Hill Church and cemetery in the Barker's Mill community of southeast Christian County, Kentucky.

I found the Barker's Mill Road on my map of Christian County, and late one afternoon, I drove down there. I should have left earlier in the day, because it took longer than I expected to reach the area. It was quite dark by the time I crossed the bridge over the West Fork, and I didn't even see the church and cemetery. I was too busy following Barker's Mill Road, I guess.

I was a little surprised when Barker's Mill Road went over a large 4-lane highway, but I knew it had to be I-24. The subdivisions surprised me too. Soon, my road intersected with a heavily-traveled road whose name I recognized -- Tinytown Road in Montgomery County, Tennessee.  I followed it to Fort Campbell, and went home from there.

I learned a few things on that trip, even though it was too dark to see much. I learned that the southeast corner of Christian County is much closer to Clarksville, Tennessee, than it is to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I also learned that the West Fork is a river of some consequence. And I learned that on the backroads, there's no indication of the state line between Kentucky and Tennessee.

On my several trips to the area since then, I had plenty of daylight. I enjoyed driving the roads of the area. I saw the remains of Barker's Mill, and I visited the Chapel Hill Church (originally called Carneal's Chapel). The Chapel Hill cemetery is probably the most peaceful, beautiful country cemetery I've ever visited. I will write more about all of this later.

I drove into southern Todd County and saw some of the fine farmland and old country mansions in that area. I also located Glenburnie, a large plantation home that is on the historic register and saw other large, old homes on the Christian County side of the West Fork community.

Glenburnie was the home of one of the Barkers who once owned Barker's Mill, so I decided to do a little research about the Barkers. It turns out that there is a good deal of information about the Barker family on internet genealogical sites, in old books available through Google, and in the Christian County history books that I own myself. It has been fascinating to learn about the generations of Barkers who were wealthy landowners and prominent citizens of the West Fork area. I see their history as not just a story of Christian County, but a story of the South.

That brings me to the point where I am currently. I've been writing and writing about the Barkers, and if I ever get all those words condensed down to something of a reasonable length that might be of interest, I'll post it.

Related post:
Barker's Mill in Christian County, KY

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bug Eyes

Jeepers creepers, where'd you get those peepers?


Seen in Hopkinsville, KY

Monday, June 15, 2009

Greenhouse at Fairview, KY

Flower shopping at Fairview


The Country Barn, with the Jefferson Davis Monument in the background.

I bought some flowers and tomato plants at the Mennonite greenhouse on the outskirts of Fairview, KY a couple of weeks ago. It's a pleasant place to visit, even when you really don't need any plants.

It was late in the season when I finally planted my garden. At the greenhouse, I bought two flats of marigolds that were past their first bloom. They were already marked down, and Mrs. Weaver agreed to take an even  lower price for a full flat. The flowers are putting on new blooms, now that they've been planted in the ground.

Fairview is a small town, but it might be possible to miss the greenhouse somehow, so I will give directions. The Country Barn is located at 112 Britmart Road on the north side of Fairview. From Highway 68/80, take the exit for Highway 1801 (Britmart Road) and turn toward the Jefferson Davis Monument.

The easy-to-find location of the greenhouse has made it popular with many people who ordinarily would hesitate to venture out into the countryside. It's quite apparent that The Country Barn's business is flourishing. The ability of the Mennonites to make a living with hard work and a small acreage is being demonstrated again.

See more information about The Country Barn at the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture website.

Related post:
Jeff Davis and the Mennonites
Pennysaver Market at Fairview KY

Saturday, June 13, 2009

20 Years Old

Happy birthday, Isaac!




Much of my activity for the last few days has centered around the celebration of Isaac's 20th birthday. A group of his friends came over this evening. They played badminton, roasted hot dogs, ate birthday cake, and did a lot of talking and laughing.

This is a time of transition. Isaac graduated from our local community college this spring, and he will be going to Murray State University this fall. We have just one more bit of paperwork to complete, and then he will be scheduled for orientation and enrollment. Shortly thereafter, school starts.

When Isaac moves to the dormitory, we'll have an almost-empty nest. We will have only Skittles and Casper to parent.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wheatfield

Nearly ready for harvest


Wheatfield in Christian County, KY

Barkers Mill in Christian County, KY

Milling on the West Fork of the Red River


Old foundations of Barker's Mill and dam (at right)

Barker's Mill, on the West Fork of the Red River, was one of several mills that once operated on the river in that area. Other nearby mills included Coleman's Mill, Ringgold Mill, and Peacher's Mill.

The Barker's Mill Bridge, where I stood in mid-April to take the photo at the top of this post, is on Barker's Mill Road in extreme southeastern Christian County. Stone structures can be seen on both sides of the river. These were probably anchors for a dam.

Dates and owners


The exact construction date of Barker's Mill is unclear. Western KY History's history of Barker's Mill says that the mill had been in operation at least 20 years before 1860. Kentucky Genealogy's history of Trenton precinct is a little more specific. It says that the mill is believed to have been in operation as early as 1812.

A biography of Thomas S. Watson mentions that he was an early owner of the mill. Watson was a Tennessean who had a brief business partnership with Andrew Jackson in the Nashville area before investing in milling and ironworks along the West Fork.

[Thomas S. Watson] became owner of Barker's Mill on the West Fork of the Red River in Christian County, Kentucky by 1815; and he also built, about 1816, what later became known as Peacher's Mill in Montgomery County, Tennessee. (Source)

A historic marker, erected in 2005 by "relatives of former residents of the West Fork community" at the nearby Chapel Hill Methodist Church gives this information:

The water mill, built in 1812 by Bailey Martin, was located on West Fork downstream from a covered (later iron, now concrete) bridge. Later mill owners were: Stephen Woodward, 1826; James Miller, 1826; John T. Allensworth, 1841, Richard H. Kelly, 1853; Peter Peacher, 1859; Chiles T. Barker, 1860; and his son John W. Barker, 1884, hence the current community name, Barker's Mill. The mill operated until the late 1920s and was torn down after 1937. For a time it was known as "Glenburnie Mills.

A photograph of Barker's Mill is included in Christian County by Chris Gilkey and William Turner. These authors note that the mill was closed about 1910, but was not torn down until 1937 after a flood.

Wooden mills, gone but not forgotten


Despite the various disagreements about dates, it seems that a mill operated for about a century in a site near the Barker's Mill Bridge. It's certain that the mill was renovated or rebuilt several times within those years. The wheels of mills like this were made of wood, as were their gears. The sluices that channeled water to the wheel were also wooden.

When steam engines (and later, gasoline motors and electricity) became available for power to grind grain, watermills were abandoned. Most mills were torn down, fell down, or rotted away. They are still remembered in the names of the roads that once led to them -- such as the Barker's Mill Road of Christian County, Kentucky.

On the web:
How a gristmill works

Related post:
Two Red Barns on Edwards Mill Road

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Bad Signs

Seen in a town that shall remain nameless


I've been looking at this sign for about a year now. I think the owners of the store speak English as a second language. Still, you'd think they'd have noticed by now. It might be my duty to tell them.
I wonder -- how do you meatloaf fry a chicken? I'm intrigued. I'm also glad there's much more on the buffet because that chicken could be really strange.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Vegetable Garden Architecture

Some of my garden hardware


I have a metal livestock fence panel -- a grid about 12 feet long and 5 feet tall. Recently, I've been growing cucumbers on it, but I've used it for pole beans in the past. I stand the panel up against three steel fence posts. I place a large stone under each end of the panel to lift it about 8 inches off the ground, and then I wire the panel to the posts. The space under the panel makes it easier to hoe or to mulch around the plants.

For the zucchinis, I use a long pallet that I picked up beside a dumpster some years ago. I lay it over the bed so the vines will grow up and lie on the pallet. My theory is that the zucchinis resist mildew and squash borers better with their vines off the ground. This method doesn't seem to deter the squash bugs, but they can be controlled somewhat by inspecting the leaves regularly and eliminating the eggs.

This year, I planted the tomatoes and peppers in groups of three. I gave each plant a cage and tied each group of cages to a steel fence post in their center. I do this because unsupported cages are likely to fall over in a rain or wind storm. The fence post eliminates this problem.

Related post:
My Experience with Tomato Cages and Stakes

A Lazy Gardener's Garden

Mulch is the answer.


This is my 17th (or 18th?) garden in Kentucky. I've only had the garden plowed once. All the other years, I've dug it up myself with a garden fork. I do recommend a fork for digging, rather than a spade. It is amazing how much easier it is to dig with a fork.

I have considered getting a rototiller, but it seems an extravagance that would just take up room in the shed. I would probably only use it once a year.

Mulching out the weeds


You see, I don't waste time and effort in cultivating soil I'm not going to plant. I put some kind of mulch over every part of the garden except the beds where my plants are growing. I like to keep the weeds and grass down with mulch because I am not fond of hoeing.

This year, I covered my entire garden with two large sheets of black plastic. The plastic is held down around the outer edge with some large cut stones we happen to have from a couple of old chimneys. I used scissors to cut large holes in the plastic where I wanted to make this year's beds. 

In each bed, I dug up the soil very well and enriched it with a humus/manure mix and a little lime before setting the plants. In a few weeks when the plants are bigger, I will mulch around them with straw. The rest of the garden (everywhere but the beds) is still covered with the black plastic.

I've also used newspaper as a mulch with good success. I put down a layer 6 to 8 sheets thick and covered it with enough straw to hold it in place. Some years, I've bought end-rolls of newsprint from the newspaper office for mulch -- 6 to 8 strips thick, weighed down with a little straw.

Work in the spring, and relax in the summer,


I work pretty hard for a few days to get the garden set up and planted, but after that, it doesn't require much effort. I wander through and look for tomato worms and squash bugs and pull up any bindweeds that are winding their way up the tomato cage legs.

The mulch around the plants helps keep the soil moist, so a good soaking about once a week is all they need. Mother Nature often takes care of it for me. (If I could just teach her to pick the tomatoes and bring them to the house, I could really take it easy.)

Sometime after frost, I pull up the plants. It is best to pull up any plastic at that time also, as it will probably start disintegrating over the winter.

These ideas certainly won't work for everyone or every situation, but they work for me.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Late Garden This Year

Finally planted


At last, we've had a stretch of sunny days. The farmers have been planting corn and making hay as fast as they can. I've also been busy in my little garden and have nearly finished planting it.  Thank goodness -- I was starting to wonder if I would have a garden this year.

So far, I have planted:

9 Better Boy tomato plants
3 Bell Boy pepper plants
3 King Arthur bell pepper plants
1 Sweet 100 cherry tomato plant
3 hills of Armenian Yard-long Cucumbers
2 hills of NK Dark Green zucchinis
9 marigolds

I have two jalapeƱo pepper plants and six more marigolds to set out, I still want to get one more cherry tomato plant, and I plan to plant some clumps of dill.  I like the way it smells. It reminds me of my grandma's garden.

The marigolds are for Keely, who would think my garden incomplete without them. She likes their spicy fragrance. This year, the marigolds are all yellow because I got a good deal on a flat of them at the Mennonite greenhouse in Fairview.

A small garden


I used to grow a much larger garden, but I don't have that much time and energy now, and it's unnecessary anyway. This little garden will produce much more than Dennis, Isaac, and I can eat. We'll be begging people to take a few zucchinis home with them and hauling bags of tomatoes to town to foist off on Keely.

When I had a bigger garden, I did a lot of canning. I have packed up most of my fruit jars and stored them in the shed, now. However, I am thinking about making and preserving some salsa this summer -- thus, the jalapeƱos.

We like corn, watermelon, canteloupe, squash, and all the other fresh veggies too, but if I grew all of them, I'd have a big garden, not a small one! We'll buy them from the several Mennonite produce stands that operate in our area.

And this year, since it will be July before the zucchini and cukes begin to produce and sometime in August before we have tomatoes and peppers, we'll be buying them at the produce stands for a while, too.


Gardens from other summers:

Tomatoes Someday
Dill Flower
Fields and Gardens Are Being Planted
My Vegetable Garden
Living off the Fat of the Land
Zucchini, Anyone?
Flats of Flowers
Planting the Garden with Mama
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.