Friday, April 17, 2015

The Real Iowaville

Long time readers will know that in the past, when I've written about my hometown where I grew up, I have used the name Iowaville to preserve a bit of anonymity. I didn't however just pull the name Iowaville out of a hat because there actually was a town of that name years ago. Above you see some of the former residents of Iowaville where they are buried on a steep knob overlooking the river valley.

Indians were the first occupants of Iowaville until the land was purchased by white settlers. They platted out the town and were going to name it Iowa City but that name had already been taken so they settled on Iowaville. The town flourished until the mid 1850's when the railroad went by further north and it gradually declined never seeing a population of greater than 200 residents. Eventually it disappeared until there is nothing left along the river.

Sign on the fence next to the cemetery
 Where Iowaville once stood is now mostly farm land and the grove of trees seen below. If you look closely there is an old barn amidst all those trees though I'm fairly certain it was built after Iowaville disappeared. Only a plaque mounted to a post along the gravel river road is left to tell future occupants of this world that Iowaville once existed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Glory Days

I knew the day would come eventually and as we were down on the farm visiting my parents, my mom had a pile of stuff from her recent basement cleaning spree that she gave to me. Most of it were childhood books that I can pass on to my oldest who is at that age of becoming a voracious reader like her old man was. One box however took me completely by surprise. Unbeknownst to me, every model I had labored over to glue, paint and apply stickers too she had saved, wrapped up in newspaper and put in a box.

I loved to build model cars as a young boy but frankly sucked out at. It seemed as if every model started out with the engine which required lots of gluing microscopic parts together and painted them all shades of the rainbow. I've never seen a factory engine in the colors model manufacturers suggested. By the time I was finished with my rainbow hued, sticky mass of plastic that vaguely resembled an engine, it was time to move onto the chasis and body. Those went together pretty well until I had to apply the stickers. They always required soaking in warm water and then gently sliding into place. Then I spent the next ten minutes repairing all the rips and rearranging all the air bubbles until in disgust I threw the sodden mess into the trash can. That is why almost all my models are sans stickers and the ones that are there I wouldn't recommend looking at very closely.

By the time I was done with the model, I was so disgusted with my efforts, I never wanted to display them and all these years I assumed they had gone quietly to the landfill only to find out my mom had saved them. As I unpacked them on the dining room table last night, pieces were falling off and they were in pretty rough shape after 30 years of storage. I didn't know what to do with them at first. If I sold them at a garage sale, I'm not sure anyone would want to buy them except for a random kid looking for something to spice up his fourth of July firework shooting spree. That is when it hit me that I should just turn my daughters loose with them with one condition, if anything breaks off, they throw that piece in the trash. Several pieces that were loose immediately ended up in the trash but for the most part after one day of play, they are all still largely intact.

My oldest daughter seemed fascinated by them and when she learned that they still make model kits, she was after me to get one for her. I am constantly amazed at seeing things through the eyes of a child. In my eyes, these are relics of past frustrations and frankly quite embarrassing. To her, they are the coolest things on earth and now she wants to build some. I wonder how much has changed in model kit technology after 30 years?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Basement Unprogress

As I suspected, the basement office remodel project got off to a slow start and then slowed down. It just seems like a shame to waste spring working in a windowless basement room. Instead I've been working in the garage this past week finishing up some projects started late last fall and putting the finishing touches on the front door. The latter project I have officially completed and crossed off the master list and later replaced with a couple more projects.

I was able to remove the two closets at the near end of the office. I'm not sure why part of the concrete was painted and the other part wasn't and since I haven't removed the rest of the drywall, I'm not sure which part is like the rest. I suspect though that originally there was only one closet and later someone added the second. In their place though I am going to build a murphy bed and some shelving after insulating and drywalling the wall.

In the top right corner, you can see my progress on the ductwork. Originally there was ductwork extending out to the top center of the picture which made the room feel incredibly small and claustrophobic. After some investigation, the outer duct was the return duct and only extended into this room to move air from a return duct up in our kitchen that doesn't exist anymore and hasn't since we bought the place. Because returns can affect heating and cooling performance in a house and we were one short of the original ones, I removed the ductwork back to the far wall of the office and put a wall register in its place so now the furnace can draw air from the office as well as the other return ducts throughout the house. I also shorted the heating duct in the bottom photo, upper left corner, which extended out to the old bulkhead to just enough space for me to build a new bulkhead next to the remaining ductwork. This will effectively give me another two and a half feet of full height ceilings in this room and really gives it a much larger appearance.

I had a ventilation guy come over to look at reducing the forced air supply side of the ductwork with something much lower profile but due to the five connections on this side of the house, it would cost more money than I was willing to spend to just gain another couple feet. Next up, I need to remove the rest of the drywall on the side with the previous water damage and possibly containing black mold. I bought a new respirator to wear while doing that instead of my normal loose fitting cotton masks. Once I get all the drywall gone, I plan to insulate the two concrete sides with closed cell foam and the other two sides with cheap fiberglass batting just for noise and then drywall everything. I suspect with all the other projects I want to get done this spring and summer, that alone will keep me working in this room until fall before I get it finished.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Spring is here though it really hasn't allowed me to photograph it. Since the blossoms and buds have appeared, we've pretty much had cloudy and rainy weather as witnessed in the above photograph. I don't mind since it was pretty dry here a few weeks ago and we need the moisture to get things going. Besides, we still have a week to go before crop insurance can be purchased and farmers start getting the crops put in the ground.

I love trees and one of my favorites is the Serviceberry tree. For a decade of my life, I rented apartments and had no land. For the second decade I owned a house and a quarter acre of land with two huge mature trees on it plus a few other smaller ornamental type trees so I had no room to plant any more trees. Finally three years ago, we bought this place on two acres and I finally have room to plant some trees so the first one I planted is the serviceberry seen above which is almost ready to blossom. I can't wait. I love spring flowering trees like redbuds, dogwoods and serviceberry and long term, I would like a whole row of them planted down at the bottom of our hill.

The front landscaping is also greening up and starting to blossom though I can't tell you what anything is. My mind just doesn't have the capacity to remember which bulb flower is which.

If you recall, last fall I planted four trees in front of our house, the serviceberry, a sour cherry shown below, a macintosh and a red delicious apple trees. All are starting to bud and leaf out so they have survived their first winter after getting seriously pruned by the local deer which is why you can see the fence in the background. My favorite fruit tree though is always a sour cherry tree and I can't wait until this gets big enough for me to make a sour cherry pie.

My hope is to plant a couple trees every year for awhile until we get things diversified to where I like it. I have great plans to go down into the ditch at the bottom of the hill and mark some trees that can be dug up and transplanted into the more open spaces of our lawn later this fall. Others which aren't growing on my property I am going to have to propagate or perhaps buy in bulk from a tree seedling place to reduce costs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Smoking Gun

As many of you know I am a genealogist though the past two years I haven't done much due to work on fixer upper house. But I get a few moments here and there and poke around still. The Baker side of my family is holding a reunion this summer and I've been invited to attend. This branch has always fascinated me since it had one of the hardest brick walls I've had to knock down while doing research but eventually I discovered that my third great grandfather Joseph Baker was actually Joseph Chicken and changed his name after the Civil War. All the pieces of my puzzle fit together but I've never had that concrete proof. I needed something to tie the Baker family to the Chicken family in document form.

I recently had a few minutes waiting for paint to dry and decided to do a Google search to see what turned up on Joseph Chicken. After a long while of scrolling through thousands of results for chicken dinners at various churches named after St. Joseph, I finally hit pay dirt after all this time. In some records labeled 'Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934', I found a record that was the smoking gun. It was the record of Joseph Chicken/Baker's son Robert and his marriage to Viola. In the details it lists his father as Joseph Chicken and his mother as Fanny Brocton whom with I have many ties to the Baker side of the family. At long last, I can say with 100% certainty, that I have Chicken's in my bloodline. Now if I could only figure out why he changed his name from Chicken to Baker.