Monday, November 29, 2010

Odds and Ends (1)

Photos from the "To be posted" folder

Keely and I had fun shopping at Burkes Outlet and the Mighty Dollar in Russellville (KY), about a week ago. At Burkes, I successfully resisted buying a chicken. I like chicken knickknacks, but I am determined not to start a collection.

Burkes and the Mighty Dollar are in the same strip mall, next to the Russellville WalMart. They're the sort of stores that have an unpredictable, interesting and inexpensive inventory.


Our landscape was colored with brown for several months due to the long drought this area suffered last summer. Now, around Christian County, winter wheat is greening many fields. I enjoy seeing the bright new growth!

This photo was taken at the intersection of Pilot Rock Road and Robinson Lane in Christian County, looking southeast toward Fairview.  

We've had a couple of nice rains and in fact, rain is falling at this very moment. It's been quite a wet and windy evening, but it's still 50 degrees. Tomorrow the temperatures will fall, and tomorrow night will be below freezing. Although our weather has been mostly mild so far, we did have some snow on Thanksgiving night.


Two summers ago, I saw this pretty little clump of flowers in Land Between the Lakes near the Egner Ferry Bridge. It was growing a hundred feet from the lakeshore in a gravel-filled wash. The debris in the background suggests a high-water episode in the past.

You never know where you'll find a flower. If the soil is right for them to flourish, they bloom despite their humble surroundings.


This photo is a year or two old, too. I came out to the kitchen one summer morning to make coffee, and found this large moth. Dennis had seen him resting on a white towel and put a glass jar over him so I could see him too.  That's a penny beside him. After I took the photo, I slid a piece of paper under him and carried him outside. I never did get to see him open his wings and fly.


This is one of the interesting homes on South Main Street in Hopkinsville. This style is (I think) Mission Revival -- at least, the roofline and arched windows certainly are. (I'm not sure about the front porch!) Mission Revival was especially popular for the first few decades of the 1900s.


This is another home on South Main Street in Hopkinsville. The photo is a little out of perspective because I tried to straighten it using a stretch-grid in Paintshop Pro.

After my treatment, the photo looks like it was taken from the air, instead of from the ground. I'm not sure that the chimneys and the front roof peak are that tall in real life, either.

Despite those flaws, if the porch railings were straight, the photo would probably look OK. I couldn't seem to get them in line without grossly stretching something else.

Nonetheless, it's a pretty house. The two-story gingerbread porch and the red front door give it personality. Without them, it would be a big, plain box.

(To be continued another day. More such photos wait.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Old, Empty Tobacco Barns

Common sight in Christian County, KY

Dozens of old tobacco barns like this one can be seen across Christian County, KY. Some stand along roads that are (more or less) traveled. Others can be glimpsed on the back sides of fields and at the edges of woods, where farmers and hunters pass only occasionally.

Some of these aged barns remain in use by tobacco growers, but many of them stand empty year-round. The empty barns illustrate two trends in Christian County agriculture.
  •  In the past, every tobacco barn or two might have represented a small farm and a farm family. Today, we have far fewer small farms. More and more, Christian County's tobacco is raised on larger farms.  
  • Less tobacco is produced now than in the past, and less barn space is needed to cure the crop.

A 2004 USDA report, "Trends in U.S. Tobacco Farming",  says that Kentucky dropped from 136,000 tobacco-growing farms in 1954 to 29,000 such farms in 2002.

The report gives the following overview of changes in U.S. tobacco production:
The number of farms growing tobacco has declined rapidly during the last 50 years. From 1997 to 2002, farm numbers declined by a larger percentage than in any other 5-year period since 1950. Acreage and production both declined due to smaller quotas. The trend toward fewer larger farms will likely continue, but the future rate of change and location of production will depend on several factors: the impact of the tobacco buyout, U.S. and world consumption of tobacco, and alternative crop and off-farm income opportunities for tobacco growers.

Source: "Trends in U.S. Tobacco Farming", published in 2004 by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It Begins

The first signs of Thanksgiving

This is Keely, your on-the-scene reporter, interrupting my mother's regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this update on how early preparations Thanksgiving are coming along here in the Netz Family. As you can see, cooking fans, today was the first big push for the big day, as indicated by the commencement of bread baking.

As you can see, the photograph above is of the bread in its rising state. I decided to get an early start on it this year because for some reason completely unknown to me, I have it in my head that baking bread takes 4 hours. I don't know where I got this from at all. This usually means that I start bread the night before Thanksgiving at about 8 PM, and then realize that I'm missing a key ingredient, generally something that can't be faked from the usual kitchen supplies. Year before last, I went to the grocery store the Wednesday before Thanksgiving not just once, but twice. Not my bright shining moment.

The bread (and bread dough) shown is this recipe from King Arthur Flour. I've made it once before and I really like it, but I will say two things about it. First, when I make it, it takes about 2/3 that much flour, for whatever reason. Second, I, at least, have to make the rolls smaller than I think I should.

Well, I guess I actually have one more thing to say, which is that you should make sure you have powdered milk and potato flakes before you start this. This was something I failed miserably at the first time (please, see above about realizing that I don't have everything after it's too late).

Also, also (I seem to have a lot to say about this recipe for only having two things to say), I don't in fact melt the butter and apply it with a pastry brush. I just use a stick of butter and apply it directly. That's just laziness, though, and not actually something that should make any difference whatsoever.

Anyway (apparently I'm a rambling reporter), Thanksgiving preparations are swimming along fairly well here, but I've left out one of the surest signs that Thanksgiving is on it's way.

This is my Christmas cactus. As you can see, the poor dear thing is clearly confused and every year, it blooms at Thanksgiving, instead of at Christmas. Well, it's about to bloom again, clearly signifying that the season is upon us, and also signifying that my plant, unsurprisingly, doesn't know what day of the year it is.

Well, I guess your reporter is signing off. I hope all of you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, and I hope that your preparations are going at least as well as mine. Hopefully, yours are going without the part where you run out of everything, or the part where you set the oven on fire - twice (I'll tell you all about that one another time. That story is also known as "The Reason that Taurus is in Charge of Cooking the Turkey"). Have a blessed holiday, everyone.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shopper Talk

Cooking for Thanksgiving, shopping for Christmas

As I straightened merchandise in the store today, two grandmotherly ladies stood in the aisle chatting. They exclaimed about how surprised and happy they were to see each other. They exchanged news -- the son's new job, the grandkids' sports, the mutual friend who has retired and moved to Florida.

Then one silver-haired lady asked the other, "Are you cooking for Thanksgiving?"

"Why, HELL, yes!" the other lady said. I will never know for sure why she was so emphatic, because I was called away at that very moment. I liked her attitude, though. She sounded like a fearless cook.

The stores have been having great sales, and many of our senior citizens have been shopping for Christmas. They know that this warm weather could change at any time, making it much less pleasant to venture out of the house. They've decided to take the bargains that are being offered now, rather than waiting for better sales later.

As I've rung up my customers' purchases at the cash register, I've learned that some are mailing Christmas packages, and they want to get everything in the box and ready to go. Others will be traveling this week to spend Thanksgiving with their families. They won't be making the trip again at Christmas, so they're delivering the Christmas packages now.

Our own Thanksgiving will be celebrated without much travel. Isaac will drive home from college on Tuesday evening. Keely and Taurus live in Hopkinsville. I won't need to have the Christmas packages ready by Thanksgiving Day, but I do hope to put up my Christmas tree and wrap some gifts before Thanksgiving weekend is over.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Indignities Endured

Victim of excessive crafting

I saw this little angel, kneeling on a shelf at Goodwill in Hopkinsville. His huge ruff looks very uncomfortable.

There's something vaguely creepy about this little fellow. Sad to say, he would fit right into the set of a scary movie. In his current costume, he certainly could serve as a symbol of suffering!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Resistance Is Futile

That machine in front of Kroger

I was visiting with my neighbor Sally a few weeks ago, and I mentioned that Blockbuster Video was having financial problems. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed, visibly distressed.

"Yes," I said. "It seems that Blockbuster has been hurt by Redbox and Netflix. It's just not getting enough business to turn a profit."

"If we lose Blockbuster, we won't have a video rental store in Hopkinsville." Sally paused to imagine that situation. "Just what is that Netflix?" she demanded.

I explained Netflix the best I could, from my own second-hand knowledge. People subscribe to Netflix online. They choose movies from a huge list, and Netflix delivers the movies by mail. People find the service convenient and affordable.

"So, you have to own a computer," Sally said with disgust. "Well, I don't have one, and I don't want one! Going to the video store is part of what I really enjoy about renting a movie!"

"...that machine in front of Kroger"
"If Blockbuster closes," she continued, "the only place left to rent a movie will be that machine in front of Kroger. I don't want to rent a movie from a machine on a sidewalk. I want to go to a video store." (The machine in front of Kroger is, in fact, a Redbox, part of the competition that is giving Blockbuster so much trouble.)

So far, Blockbuster in Hopkinsville is still open, and I hope that Sally is renting enough movies to help it stay in business. However, when I won a $5 Blockbuster gift card at work recently, I decided to spend it right away, just in case our store closes. I didn't want the hassle of renting and returning a movie, so I just got $5 of microwave popcorn packets.

The law of supply and demand is at work here. Blockbuster is in financial trouble because many people have decided that lower prices and convenience are more desirable than a shopping experience in a store. The internet has played a part in that change.

I feel a little sad for Sally.  She has set her mind against having a computer. She could easily afford one, but maybe she is afraid she couldn't learn to use it. I don't think she'd have much trouble. She has mastered her DVD/VCR player and her satellite TV. Turning on the computer and getting on the internet is hardly that complicated.

Or maybe Sally has taken her anti-computer stance solely as a protest to unwanted change. Well, she can decide that she won't participate, but that won't stop computers and computerized machines from changing things.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Buggy or Carriage?

Seen at the Mennonite store

Most of the "English" around Christian County, KY, would say there is a "horse and buggy" in this photo. However, the Mennonites would say that this is a "horse and carriage."

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary says that a buggy is a "light vehicle with two or four wheels, with or without a top, generally with one seat, and usually drawn by one horse".

A carriage, according to Webster's, is "a four-wheeled passenger vehicle, usually horse-drawn and often private." adds that a carriage is "designed for comfort and elegance."

I think that vehicles like the one pictured above have two seats. I believe that some vehicles of this design also have a small cargo space behind the back seat. That second seat must be what makes this vehicle a carriage instead of a buggy -- to the discerning.

On the internet:
Word list: Carriages, Carts and Chariots

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Growing Older

Accepting what you cannot change

An old woman feeding birds in Kazimierz
the old Jewish district in Krakow, Poland.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I clipped this stanza of verse from an old book, because this is how I would prefer to grow old -- with a zest for living.

At sixty-two life is begun;
At seventy-three begin once more.
Fly swifter as you near the sun,
And brighter shine at eighty-four.
At ninety-five
Shouldst thou arrive,
Still wait on God, and work and thrive.

Uncredited poet, quoted by Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, in All Around the House, or, How to Make Homes Happy. Published in New York, 1881, by D. Appleton and Co.

That's upbeat, don't you think? But apparently, the book's author, Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, thought it was an inadequate,  shallow vision of old age.

In a long, depressing commentary that follows the poem, Mrs. Beecher says that old age is often not the easy experience envisioned in the poem. She describes how someone can be doing very well as they clip along through life. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, a serious illness can transform robust maturity into helpless dependency.

Mrs. Beecher concludes her lament with this paragraph:

But to be stopped in the midst of usefulness and stricken down helpless — to become a burden where once one was most looked to for help — to meet this mysterious dispensation with patience and courage, and, without a murmur, cheerfully wait God's own good time — is an attainment which none acquire but those who live near to Heaven — whose "life is hid with Christ in God."

Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, in All Around the House, or, How to Make Homes Happy. Published in New York, 1881, by D. Appleton and Co.

Mrs. Beecher is not wrong, but I'm not sure why she makes this point. Maybe she wants people to better understand the suffering that some endure. Or maybe she thinks people should better appreciate the saintliness of some who endure suffering.

Or is Mrs. Beecher reminding us that such suffering could be in our own futures? If so, this is my comment: God doesn't want His children to obsess and prematurely grieve over the infinity of ills that the future could hold. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about worry and asks, "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" and "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 

The Lord is My Shepherd

Monday, November 08, 2010

Oakland Manor

Historic home near Hopkinsville, KY

Oakland Manor, where Keely and Taurus were married a few weeks ago, is a lovely place. From early spring to late fall, it is a popular site for outdoor weddings. Many brides and grooms have walked the long flagstone sidewalk that leads to the gazebo.

As I look at some of the photos I took at Oakland Manor, the phrase "pastoral setting" comes to mind. The mansion, is surrounded by some of Christian County's finest farmland. It is located on Newstead Road, roughly 5 miles from the western outskirts of Hopkinsville.

Oakland (as it was originally named) was built in 1857 for a railroad executive named Gano Henry. Its architect and builder was Dan Umbenhour, who enjoys considerable renown and respect to this day for various structures he built in and around Hopkinsville.

After the Civil War, Henry sold the property to Dr. John Clardy, a local physician, farmer, and politician. The Clardy family lived in the home through the early 1930s, and the buildings were called "the old Clardy Place" for many years thereafter. A later owner of the house called it Dolly Oaks, and it is currently known as  Oakland Manor.

During the latter 1930s, the Farm Security Organization used the house as an office building. The home passed into private hands again in 1944. A more detailed history of the mansion by Mary D. Ferguson can be read in the April 14, 1967, Kentucky New Era (page 6 and page 7).

Today, Oakland Manor is owned by Melissa Jones, who has lived there since the late 1980s.  She hosts weddings, receptions, showers, parties, dinners, reunions, and events of all sorts, year round. Four Seasons Catering, operated by daughter and son-in-law Jennifer and Julio Diaz, has its headquarters on the property as well.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Cold Snap Approaches

A hard year for gardeners and farmers

November skies
I took this photo on my way home from work this afternoon. As the cloud cover breaks up, temperatures are falling. We are expecting a hard frost here in western Kentucky tomorrow night. The forecast says that the highs tomorrow will be in the upper 40s and the lows tomorrow night will be in the mid-20s. Brrrrr!

It will probably be cold enough tonight to finish off the New Guinea impatiens. They are such dedicated bloomers; they are still loaded with dozens of flowers even though they've gone through several nights that were colder than they really like. The pansies and marigolds are hardier. They should make it through tonight OK, and I will cover them tomorrow night.

A lady at work today told me that she still has tomatoes on the vine in her garden. Obviously, she has been watering her garden faithfully for months. I and a lot of other people gave up on our poor gardens a long time ago.

We've had a number of field fires in Christian County this fall due to the very dry conditions. Even though we had some rain a week or two ago, we had "Fire Weather" warnings again last week. The current weather system brought light showers as it moved in, but it was just enough rainfall to settle the dust until the sun comes back out.

At the polls last Tuesday, a neighbor told us that he has been feeding hay to his little herd of cattle for more than three months already, due to the drought. He didn't get much hay from his own fields, so he has been buying it. He'll have to buy hay all winter. He said that it takes the joy out of farming. (He meant that this year's calf crop probably won't pay this year's hay bill.)

And so another growing season is coming to its end. In the Pennyrile region of Kentucky, it's been a difficult year for farmers and gardeners. When the winter rains finally begin, it will be a good thing.

This fire in late October burned 130 acres near
Dawson Springs Rd. north of Hopkinsville. It
was finally extinguished through joint efforts
of 50-60 firefighters from 8 volunteer fire departments
and about 75 migrant workers from nearby farms.
Agri-Chem and the Garnett Farm helped haul water and
loaned their machinery. Smoke was visible for miles.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A 1903 Writer's View of America

Beauty, utility, method, and energy

While browsing through an old book, 300 Things a Bright Girl Can Do, I came across an interesting quotation. But before I share it, I'll swing a broad brush and paint a very rough picture of the United States 110 years ago, about the time that the book was written and published.

  • America had just concluded the Spanish American War. Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders were war heroes. Now Teddy Roosevelt was talking about a canal through the Isthmus of Panama.
  • The population of the United States was growing rapidly through immigration, especially from Europe. Ellis Island was one of the main entry points. 
  • The Hull House in Chicago was teaching immigrants, organizing children's clubs, and holding free lectures and concerts.
  • Homesteaders were still staking their claims on designated public lands in the western states.
  • Automobiles had recently been invented, and Wilbur and Orville Wright were working on an airplane. The pneumatic hammer, gas and steam turbines, radio, and the Brownie camera were all brand-new wonders.
  • Monopolies in steel, the railroads, and other industries were under attack. The government's weapon was the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
  • Factory and mine workers, expected to perform like machines, were organizing into unions and striking for better wages and working conditions.

Now, here are the sentences that caught my attention. Writer Lilla Elizabeth Kelley is describing changes in turn of the century America (1900 A.D.) to an unseen audience of "bright girls". Kelley connects several diverse conditions, concepts, and changes in American culture -- the labor movement, immigration, American exceptionalism, inventiveness, a recognition of the need for beauty, a respect for craftsmen -- all within a few, high-minded sentences.

A love and desire for the beautiful, like a great wave, is sweeping over the country. The time has come for all workers to unite beauty and utility, and the people of the United States are peculiarly fitted to do this.

From Europe many of the best craftsmen have come, seeking homes and opportunities in the new world. The fusion of European methods and American energy, ambition, and quickness of perception must develop art and originality, taking the sordidness from labor, and making the ideal practical.

Quoted from: 300 Things a Bright Girl Can Do (p.369) by Lilla Elizabeth Kelley, published in Boston by Dana Estes & Company, 1903.

Workers in the H. J. Heinz can factory stamping
out end discs (Wikimedia Commons image)
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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.