Monday, June 29, 2015

Garden Party

Being plugged into the Filipino community as I am, they like to get together about three or four times a year for a get together so that they can speak their native tongue and eat native food. Since almost all of them are female, we males of a different descent generally sit outside in lawn furniture sipping beers and talking among ourselves.

As we were sitting there, I noticed this cloud heading over the trees towards us. In today's smart phone world, a half dozen people pulled out there phones with radar apps and promptly declared that we were in for a bit of rain. I on the other hand decided we might be in for a bit of wind too and that perhaps we might start securing things and heading in doors.

The host of the part didn't seem to worried but after awhile, some of the ladies started picking up the buffet and carting it inside. It probably was five minutes later when the wind hit and hit us it did coming in somewhere around 70 to 80 mph I learned later. Darn near tornado status.

At first there was a bit of a panic among the kids and the Filipinos as people scrambled toward the door of the house. It was justifiable panic for seconds later the wind blew a large ladder propped up against a nearby building and almost squashed a few people but missed. After that, people had a bit more pep in their step. My biggest concern was from flying debris as the house where we were having our party tends to leave quite a bit of debris out in their yard all the time. Fortunately however, this storm came in over the pasture which was clean and gave us some eyesight so I just kept my eye upwind as I tried to help wrangle in all the lawn furniture and other party detriment that was quickly flying away.

Eventually we got things wrangled up as best as you can do in a gale and headed inside. However the house is small and we were probably nearing 60 or 70 in number and with the humidity of the storm, it was more like a sauna. I opted to go stand back outside under the roof with no sides where we were having our buffet and wait out the storm. Despite staying on the downwind side forty feet away from the upwind side, I still ended up getting plenty wet until the winds died down to respectable levels but at least it was comfortable temperature wise. This storm did end up producing some tornadoes and hail in other parts of Iowa but fortunately for us we only saw wind and 2 inches of rain in about 30 minutes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Killing Time

After a week of driving around country roads looking for old barns to photograph while my daughter attended morning classes, I was looking to shake things up a bit. I came across this river southwest of town and after consulting a fisherman, I determined that it was the Skunk River. I am familiar with the river but from quite a ways farther west where one can just about jump across it. Along the Skunk I found a park that contained the old bridge seen above which is now just a pedestrian bridge with some park benches and a picnic table on it. I like these old iron bridges but the sign saying that a maximum of 100 people could be on the bridge gave me some notice. That doesn't seem like a lot of weight for a bridge.

The bridge, like many of its kind, was full of interesting decorative ironwork that you just don't see these days.

Downstream of the bridge about a 100 yards was what used to be a hydroelectric dam. If you had asked me if there were any dams on the Skunk river I would have told you absolutely not, much less dams that used to produce electricity. The dam had been defunct for many years by the looks of things but according to the fisherman poling for flatheads off of it, there had been talk about bringing it back to life.

The scary part of the dam was that there was absolutely no warning that it existed on the river and no cable or self-rescue device for a boater to save themselves before going over the brink. The way the water was flowing due to recent rains, I judged from passing stumps and logs like the one above, that you had about two minutes after coming around a nearby bend before going over the dam into the huge re-circulatory wave at the bottom that was full of logs that would have ground you into a bloody pulp. As someone who kayaks, those are one of the most dangerous things you can find on the river. I watched the above massive stump flow over the dam and recirculate for over 15 minutes before I tired of watching it and moved on. That is an eternity for a human to survive especially when most of that time would be spent under water.

On the upstream side of the hydro part of the dam, I saw a large tree trunk about 18 inches in diameter wedged against the dam and a huge whirlpool about two feet in diameter and going down deeper than I could see at the end of the log. While this might not kill someone, it would sure scare the bajeebers out of someone to get caught in one of those and sucked down.

After that first time at the dam, I came back a couple more days and spent lots of time parked on the other side of the river reading and watching logs and entire trees wash downstream over the dam. (Note you can see the hydro part of the dam in the background of the above picture.) The first tree I saw happened so fast that I didn't get any pictures and then I didn't see another one the rest of the day. On my final day, I happened to see one in plenty of time to get a series of pictures. You can see the base of it jutting out from the water after the edge of the dam and a large part of the upper structure in the far right of the photo.

The tree got caught up in the recirculating water beneath the falls and thrashed about there for about 15 minutes and was quite a site to see. I could hear deep booms from beneath the water as other logs mashed against it stripping it of much of its small branches and washing them off downstream. A couple times it got closed to the concrete jutty on my side of the river and I backed off for fear that the water might flip parts of it up onto the jutty and seriously injuring me.

Finally after 15 minutes of this and about 50 pictures on my part, the tree finally escaped the boil line beneath the dam about 30 feet which divided the recirculating part of the water from the water heading downstream. I took one parting shot of the tree as it made it's way south to the Des Moines river and then the Mississippi where it would likely spend it's life upstream of the river lock just south of their confluence.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bullet and International Pens

During my garage sale, one of the people who bought a pen from me was intrigued when I told him I could make customized pens. He was into hunting so I told him that I could make a pen that came with bullet casings for ends and had a rifle clip and a bolt action to the ball point. He immediately said that he wanted one of those using deer antler. I looked through my catalog that night and got the parts ordered but it took me a month to get the parts and the time to make the pen for him. I actually made two because I wasn't sure what part of the antler he would like and in case I messed up making one since it would be my first time. Both turned out well so when he comes to pick up the one he wants here in a couple days, I will keep the other one as a display piece, especially since there is a huge deer hunting community in these parts.

Deer antler in interesting to work with. It has an extremely hard shell which plays heck on my lathe tools requiring me to sharpen then three or four times per pen instead of maybe once every two or three pens using wood. Also, as you get towards the root end of the antler, the center gets pithy which means I have to be really careful turning it or the whole thing will fly off in pieces. However if I take my time and get it turned, once I apply my superglue finish, it can gets some beautiful colors like the bottom one seen above. That is probably my most colorful antler to date and I really don't want to let it go but I know I can make another one if I find the right shed.

Out at the ends of the deer antler, they don't develop the soft pith in the center and keep a whiter color with pinkish tinges to it. Some people will bleach them to pure white but I like to keep the color as a reminder that it is deer and not ivory or some such. Also, to maximize the antler, I usually turn down some pretty small pieces which after drilling the center hole, means that the curve of the antler can show up on the pen barrel and not be completely round. That is the case with the upper pen shown above though it is mostly lost in the shadows on the bottom side of the pen. Personally I like the curvature because it reinforces that it is a handcrafted pen and not a store bought one.

I should also mention that I'm taking my hobby international and sold my first pen out of this country, plus shipping. I never really was aiming to do that since I think you need to see and feel the pens in person before plunking down money but the person who bought it has read my blog enough to trust me when I say it is worth it. Since their blog is on my sidebar, they may be reviewing it after they receive it. Whatever the review, I know it is going to a good home and it means that with that one and the custom one above, I not have the funds to order parts for another pen or two. I need to look through the catalog and see what catches my eye.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Forgotten Barns: Part 6

Many of the older barns in the area have stone foundations on the lower parts and you can see a bit on this one. However, it seems like many of those with stone foundations are still functioning barns and have been up kept better. Others have just been in areas where I can't photograph them without first getting permission or trespassing and so I pass them by. This one however, I could see from the side of the road.

Although there weren't many windows on this one, I'm guessing it was probably a house at one point due to the front porch with columns. It's days are clearly numbered judging by the lean and the sag. I'm always find it interesting how the roof rusts in such odd looking but uniform patterns. Judging from the striping effect, I'm guessing the paint application process wasn't as good on the right side of the sheet as the left for whatever reasons.

I've seen many barns shaped like the one above but this is the first all wood and shingle one I've seen. Most are metal roofed or sheathed in fabric with metal hoops supporting it. From a distance, I had thought this was a barn that had collapsed but left the roof largely intact. I'm not sure why this barn is shaped or why it was built this way. Maybe they wanted to make it all roof so they could save on paint. Driving by the entrance, you could see all the holes in the roofing allowing daylight to shine into it.

This barn was probably still in use as a storage building for farm wagons or such but what struck me was the rust pattern on the roof. Not only is there a vertical element to it but also a horizontal element.

Finally, one last one with days that are numbered. Back in the day, we used to salvage these barns for their lumber. You would find solid two-by lumber 16 inches wide and twenty feet long with nary a knot in the entire span made from oak trees. Now an oak board one inch thick and half as wide will cost you fortune and will be full of imperfections. This barn however, is too far gone to salvage directly. If it was my barn, I would try to push it over gently so not to break up or twist too much of the wood and then try salvaging it. Seems a shame to just let it rot away.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Forgotten Barns: Part 5

With my daughter attending "college", I have plenty of time to kill every morning for two weeks. I have been spending part of that time feeding my addiction of driving around and photographing decaying barns. They call to me, partly because I wish I had a large barn out back to do with as I wish and two, because I'm probably the only one who is noticing them as they slowly decay back into the earth from which they came. The one above is a particular favorite of mine due to its shear size and how nice it must have looked back when it was being used.

This one has the classic overhang and steep roof suggesting it was used as a hay barn back in the day. Lots of these barns that are still water tight are used as hay storage even in modern times though they have gone from storing loose hay to square hay bales. I spent many a summer of my youth putting up 50,000+ square bales of hay in various barns on various farms my parents owned or farmed.

Here is another barn with a similar overhang. It has more openings in the bottom half suggesting it was probably used for animal protection as well as hay storage. In the background, you can see the modern "barns" that now populate the farming landscape. They are ubiquitous in shape and color and frankly uninspiring.

Here is a barn that did not survive. Most if not all of these barns have wells nearby that were serviced with windmills that did the pumping. Many wells were filled in and capped in the 80's as part of a push to eliminate direct water source contamination but probably many more still lie out there in the weeds, still accepting runoff. The windmills have been replace by rural waterfication which happened in the late 80's. Now thousands of people in the rural part of the state get their water from a few man made lakes and hundreds of thousands of miles of piping. The windmills have largely disappeared having been sold for scrap metal pricing. A few had their tops lopped off and now serve as yard ornaments. Growing up, it always felt reassuring to lie in bed at night and hear that windmill squeaking off in the distance as it worked away without complaint. I had completely forgotten about that sound until the picture above sparked that memory.

Another large barn with an even rust patina on the metal roofing. As you can see from many of my other pictures, many barns have a patchwork of roofing material that was put in place to extend the life of the barn without too much cost. In my youth, farmers with rusty roofs of barns facing the road would get offers of free paint jobs (on the road facing side) from companies wishing to advertise their products. Occasionally I still see what looks to me like a disgruntled farmer protesting Obama using their roof but gone are the days of barn roof billboards.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One of The Early Iowegians

I have blogged about this family a few times in the past and they are one of the first of my ancestors to push into the territory that would later become the state of Iowa. Of all my third great grandparents, 30 of the total 32 of them are buried in this state and the two that made the mistake of being buried outside of its borders are only outside by less than a 100 yards. It has been my goal to visit the graves of all of them and as many of the prior generations also buried here that I can. Thus while in the area due to my daughter with time to kill, I swung south to visit the graves of my four times great grandparents the Reverend Salmon Cowles and his wife Polly (Mary) Miner Cowles. They immigrated to Iowa territory six years before it would become a state due to Salmon's calling as a Presbyterian minister. He started out preaching in West Point, Iowa before extending his services all over southeast Iowa all the way to a little village of Des Moines which would eventually become the capital city of the state. As he aged, he went back to West Point and carried out his days preaching in the church shown below, the first brick church in the state. It was locked when I arrived but I was able to look in through the windows and see that it still looked very much like it probably did back in the mid 1800's. I could imagine Salmon standing up at the pulpit preaching his sermons to the town folk sitting in the plain wooden pews. Little did he know that his granddaughter would marry into the "Abbey" family shown in the previous post and nearly three quarters of a century later, I entered into the world and "blogged" about him and his church still standing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Then and Now

One of the thinks on my genealogy bucket list has been to find the house of my 3rd great grandfather. My daughter was accepted into a two week summer school for Talented and Gifted students at a college near where my 3rd great grandfather ended his days which means a long drive twice a day and four hours a day for the next two weeks in which I have time to burn. So one day one while she was in school, I set off in search of his house.

I only knew the town where it was located in a mailing address but didn't know if it was actually in town or in the miles of surrounding countryside. I decided that since it is a small town, that I would be able to scour the town and the surrounding countryside in a few days if need be but since I knew it was standing 26 years later in 2002 when another picture of it was taken during a 76th family reunion there which I didn't know about until a couple years ago. I called up the organizer of that reunion and though she couldn't tell me where it was, she did seem to think it MIGHT be on the northeast side of town.

With that information to go upon, I drove down the main road through town and when I got towards the east side I turned north. Whether it be luck, good intuition or perhaps some genetic homing beacon, I drove right to the house. It was still occupied by someone and I didn't want them to feel like I was stalking them so I didn't linger. I took the photo below and drove on down the road away where I could see the house and the lay of the land and contemplate things.

Two generations of my family are in the photo above, my great grandfather and his father. My third great grandfather had died only six years before the picture was taken and I have featured pictures of his grave and a barn on a farm he lived for a time previously on this blog. For some reason, I felt connected to him at his grave and at the old barn that he used to work in on a farm he rented earlier in his life but felt little connection to this house. I could have stood in the very inches of earth that my great great grandfather stood for the photo and those of his son and my great grandfather but for some reason, being in the barn where they sweated and toiled working the land meant more to me.

Still I guess I can say I've been there and cross it off my genealogical bucket list. While calling the coordinator for the family reunion 13 years ago, she reminded me that the family is having the 90th family reunion since the above picture was taken later this summer and invited me to attend. I'm not sure if I'll go since it would inevitably mean meeting my biological father for the first time since he left 35 plus years ago. A family reunion is supposed to be full of good memories and not uncomfortable pauses in what would probably be awkward conversation. Hey, how have you've been? But then, perhaps I need to just get it done and over with and out of the way in a setting with plenty of others around to help alleviate any awkwardness. I guess I still have a couple months to decide.

Friday, June 12, 2015


From my personal collection

I got a question about my pens on a previous post and I realized I hadn't updated everyone on that little hobby. But let me do a little background first. I love pens. I write a daily journal and it provided me great pleasure writing on a fresh page with a nice high quality pen. The pen needs a little bit of heft to it and needs to write smoothly. My wife being in a more prestigious occupation that mine, always seemed to get a few over the years given to her as gifts. She looks at them, puts them back in the box and back in a drawer where they collect dust. I asked a time or two if I could use them but was refused. That was when I googled how to make your own pen on the internet. It turned out that you really didn't need much in the way of tools other than a small lathe which I had purchased many years ago with leftover money in a gift card given to me and had never used. I broke out the lathe and became addicted.

My first pens were made to give as gifts for relatives back in the Philippines. They were big hits and looked nice compared to the average Bic, put I'm almost embarrassed at how they look compared to the ones I turn out now. That's not to say the ones I turn out now are the most beautiful in the world but they certainly make my first pens look like toads. I experimented around with a few different styles but found a style I liked that was reasonably priced and ordered a bunch of parts so I could get a bulk discount. I have been making pens ever since.

I started out with some local woods and some that I brought back from the Philippines. I moved on to other materials like deer antler, acrylics and synthetic stones. About five out of every six pens turns out pretty good so I put them in a display box that I got and salvaged the parts from the sixth one that didn't turn out so well. Most of the time it was due to some internal flaw that caused it to explode apart while turning on the lathe but occasionally it was just some flaw that I did in the finishing process which marred the beauty of it. Occasionally, one pen would catch my breath on how beautiful it turned out and those have mostly gone in my personal collection. I don't just collect them to admire but when I have a meeting, I pick one that suits my mood and take it along. They are working pens.

Gradually I built up a lot of pens that were not in my personal collection and started selling them by word of mouth. That sold a few but not a lot which is okay with me. I just make them because I like them and it is relaxing. If it became a business to make money, it would quickly turn into drudgery and I would probably stop making them. The few I sell are priced so that it pays for the parts in the pen and allows me to buy some more parts for another pen. On average, it takes me two pens to get enough funds to make another pen from scratch. Word is starting to spread a little and now I have one custom pen I am working on for someone who bought one of my pens already but "needs" another.

Mostly the people that buy them are penafiles like me. They love a good pen and use them quite a bit. One fellow used it to fill out forms for his business in where he had to put on an display of being very professional. Some collect them and others just find ones that I make out of deer antler unique enough to give as a gift. Which brings me to the one at the head of this blog post.

I have been recently experimenting with making pens out of burl wood. A burl is a knot of wood that grows on the side of a tree due to some past injury. The grain pattern can go every direction and even take on different colors which really provides a beautiful effect when turning the wood on a lathe. I made four or five of them initially and sold every single one of them already. They appear to be the next level that make even the ones made out of deer antler seem dull and unappealing. The only bad part with this is that burl wood is hard to come by and for the most part I have to buy the wood online. Eventually I may try hunting down some local burls and try harvesting some but now being the heat and tick season is not the time for walking in the woods.

So that's where I'm at with this hobby. I now have about a dozen pens in my personal collection, including the one at the top of this post and about 50 pens that I have made up for selling to those who come knocking at my door. After I finish up the custom made pen for my customer and a few that were already in the works, I will probably close up shop until cooler weather arrives in the fall.

The For Sale Collection

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


We are not accumulators by any means. We do have plenty of stuff in our household but most of it is stuff that we regularly use or has some sort of value to hanging onto it. However, having raised two kids with the youngest going to be three later this year, we decided it was time to purge. The pile in our basement storage room was more than halfway to the ceiling and taking up way to much space. It was time for a garage sale.

We live on the outskirts of town so we don't get much traffic in our area. However, our neighbors put on an annual multi-family garage sale that attracts a lot of people so this year we told them that we wanted to coincide with their sale. We shared an add, put out lots of signs directing people from both entrances to our community on opposing sides of the ridge and opened our doors for the same hours. Unfortunately for me, they were wanting to open their doors for four days from 8 to 6.

With the wife at work, that pretty much meant that I would be the one butting in 10 hour days selling my personal belongings out of the garage, not something I was looking forward too. However, I thought I could improve my lot by selling some of the pens I have been making and perhaps make a few more in-between customers. I was able to do both so I can't complain.

I did notice that I could judge a shopper by their cover as they were walking up the drive. With the stuff we had for sale, older women almost never bought anything. Younger women usually bought quite a bit. Older men were a mixed bag. Most were interested in my pens but I had a hard time figuring out which one would buy one. Being a penafile is not something outwardly apparent. Younger men mostly just stood outside the garage looking board while the woman in their life bought things.

All told, we cleared four figures which is about four times better than our best garage sale though I think this is only the third one we have ever had. I can't complain because that buys us a lot of nights out on the town. It also buys me a lot of space in our basement storage room which for me, is more valuable than the cash.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Preparing Another Nursery

As your probably already suspect by the picture above, I wasn't referring to the baby human kind of nursery. I am starting my own tree nursery. When we moved into this place almost three years ago, our move coincided with two harsh droughts that had been preceded by six extremely wet years. As a result, many of the oak and black cherry trees in the area were stressed which led them to be susceptible to oak wilt disease. Our property consists of two acres and one of those acres had been thickly wooded until about ten years ago. At that time the occupant had bulldozed out the under story leaving behind the biggest trees. The problem with that is the larger trees all grew up in crowded conditions and none of them were specimen trees. In fact most of them looked pretty sickly. All this is to say that in the last three years, I've cut down around 30 of those trees as they died off from the oak wilt.

I love trees and want to replant some trees now that the under story has been cleared and for the most part, the over story too. Buying small trees from a nursery is very expensive with the average rate for a four to five foot tree being $100 - $150 a pop. With lots of deer in the area that are willing to mug somebody for the slightest thing green to feed their addiction, I didn't want to feed the deer such expensive stuff. So I looked for alternatives. As I mentioned before, I am trying to cultivate some redbud trees from seeds which can be seen in the two larger pots on the left side of the picture. They haven't sprouted yet but have only been "planted" for less than a week. For the rest of the trees, I joined the Arbor Day Foundation and with my $10 membership, I got ten "free" trees shipped directly to my door. I thought they might arrive this fall since I signed up after the optimum time for planting trees of early spring. I also thought that they would give me some sort of notice so that I could be prepared. Instead, I went out to our mailbox, the day after our mail was delivered, and found an envelope of trees stuffed inside and with roots that were drying out. I quickly put them in a bucket of water to rehydrate and the directions warned me not to let them soak for more than 6 hours or I might kill them. So instead of spending the rest of the day trying to put them in their future homes and protecting them against deer hoodlums only to have them later not show any signs of life, I stuck them in pots with some leftover soil I used for our large deck planter.

Thus far about half of them are showing signs of life so perhaps they will live. If they do survive through to this fall, I'm going to have to decide what my next move is. I don't know if I should plant them or wait another year to let them get larger. I don't know how well trees can overwinter in pots on a deck. For now though, I am just going to roll the dice and see how things go until then. It will also give me a chance to figure out where I am going to plant all the various trees.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Forgotten Iowa: Part 4

So many times in the past, I have admired barns from the road as I have driven past them until one day I go by and they look like the one above. It is a shame to see those barns disappear. My recent hobby of photographing these barns before they end up like the one has turned into somewhat of an addiction. Now when I am alone on the road, I keep my camera close by in case I see an old barn that grabs my attention. A recent road trip to pick up some things for a garage sale we are holding allowed me to take a few more pictures of classic old barns.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bridge Over River Fox Revisited

Ten years ago, I wrote a piece for this blog on the bridge seen above, a favorite of mine that will probably not be in this world for too many years. Back then, I had pictures in the post showing a lightly ivy covered metal bridge that though recently closed, you could still drive up too and walk across. The pictures disappeared when blogger changed hands many years ago but as you can see in this more recent picture, the drive up to it is still possible though a bit sketchier and only the sure footed can cross over it. The ivy has pretty much taken over one end of the bridge and as I walked over the old plank decking, I could feel the bridge shake and pieces of iron clang together underneath. I imagine all it will take is one good flood and one of my cherished places will be gone. One sunny day when I was nearby, I decided to go for one last visit.

About four feet of decking has been removed on either side of the bridge for reasons unknown to me. However the beams are plenty wide enough to take a couple of steps to get across the gap.

The bridge crosses the Fox River which drains roughly 400 square miles in this part of the world. During higher water, I have canoed many miles of it as it winds through the farm fields of southeast Iowa.

Not it is apparently where people hang out and try target practice on the signs warning people on either end of the bridge that it has been closed to traffic.

I remember driving across this bridge shortly after getting my license and sweating bullets that I was going to fall off the planks in the center of the bridge and then fall through the other thinner decking and either high center my car or fall into the river. Of course with all the beams underneath the decking, I'm sure neither would have happened, however I had cause to worry. My grandpa drove his combine across this bridge one upon a time and actually fell through it up to the axle of the combine. It took a lot of work and a couple of wreckers to get his combine up and out of the bridge. While that was happening, it was a ten mile journey to get from this side to the other side of the bridge.

These are the river bottom fields that my grandpa and father were heading to at the time to farm. Being on bottom ground that flooded about two out of every three years during the time they farmed it, they never farmed it for long. Since they rented it from the owner who lived in the farm at the base of the hills in the background, they simply gave notice that they wouldn't be farming it and he rented it to someone else. Years later as I was visiting the farmer who owned these fields as he laid in his bed dying, he said that my father had said that by not farming it, "both of us would be making money."

Looking up at the vines interlaced among the old iron work, you can't help but regret that they don't make bridges like this anymore. Modern bridges are only designed to last a third as long and resemble a concrete block when built.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Barns, Houses and Schools

I grew up around barns most of my life and someday, I would love to have a barn of my own. I'm not sure what I would do with my barn other than have a heck of a wood working shop where I could spread out and not spend most of my time shuffling equipment to this corner or the next. Perhaps I would just sit in the loft and watch the sunlight stream in through the mow doors.

Anyway, the barn show above is a barn I have driven by most of my life and is one of only two barns, in which I would buy the property solely for the barn. It is a huge barn and every time I drive by, I imagine myself living in one wing, the kids in the other with my huge wood working shop occupying the middle. I've often wondered who built that barn and for what reasons. I imagine they were wealthy because that is about three times the size of any other barn I've seen in this area.

About ten miles down the road from the barn at the top of this post is this place, site of my childhood home. The tree on the left is where I spent many a summer day playing in my sandbox in the shade.  It is the first house I have memories of living inside and I can still draw a map of the layout of the house which was a small two bedroom, one bath bungalow. The house itself stood there until about ten years ago when it was finally torn down due to years of neglect. When I last lived in it 35 years ago, it was a bit rough around the edges then and it never improved. I don't know who owns the property now but these days it is utilized for storage by the looks of it.

Just a block and a half away from the above house is the above school where I attended kindergarten. The wing on the right side of the building was where my classroom was and I remember many a day playing inside it and watching the traffic pass by on the highway out front. I don't know when this building ceased to be an elementary school but it has been at least two decades ago, probably more. Since that time, it has been a private residence to a couple who planted their orchard and garden out front. About ten years ago, they propped up the walls of my kindergarten classroom with wooden boards and it has been that way every since. Amazingly, this was my first school I attended and the only one that remains standing. On one bit of a side note, I still see my art teacher from that school occasionally around town and we still say hello.

The building on the right was the music building of where I attended most of my elementary school years. Kindergarten was spent in the building previously shown and first grade in the urban jungle that is the capital of our state. That building has long since been torn down and rebuilt. In the above picture, I attended second through fifth grade music classes and where the attached building on the left is, stood the auditorium where I played high school sports and acted in various plays and programs for the rest of my undergraduate career. It was the nicest school building of all that I had the privilege of attending but sadly was the first to be torn down after the school closed. It was a nice well built brick building but had been built with wooden stairs which for a school, it highly frowned upon by state fire inspectors.

Five miles up the road from the elementary school is the former site of my high school where I attended from 6th to 12th grades. All that remains were the outside basketball and tennis courts which sat in front of the school building. Both of my parents attended this school and even back in their day, there was talk of closing down the school and merging with bigger school districts. That continued on when I was going to school there and even after my younger brother graduated from there. Probably about ten years after I left, they finally closed the school down and it was only a year or two later that they tore the old school building down. A young boy who used to ride our school bus and was one of the last graduating classes from the school, eventually bought the land from the city and lives in the music building which is just out of side behind the vine covered courts.

Finally, I started this post by saying there are two places I would buy just for the barns on them. This is the second of those places. Although round barns in this area aren't rare, they are also not very common. This is one of the larger and more elaborate round barns and has a storied history as a sales pavilion for livestock. In fact, it is on the state register of historic buildings. It is also for sale. I think it would be a great place to fix up into a residence with literally a view that is almost 360 degrees around with all the windows. However, the current owners wants too much money for it and pretty much wants to sell only the house and the postage stamp worth of land it sits on. The problem is that out of view are a half dozen outbuildings that he would be continuing to use along with all the farm land surrounding the barn. If I were to buy the place and spends tens of thousands of dollars to fix the place up, I would want all the buildings along with more land around to protect my investment. On a side note, when I was a senior in high school, we took a tour of the barn and were seriously considering holding our senior prom on the top floor of this barn. However, the floors had too many holes in them that would have to be repaired and we were worried about the liability aspect of girls with dresses having to climb a ladder to get up to the loft.