Sunday, September 29, 2013

Random Thoughts While Driving Across the Country

Western Kansas is flat and boring.

Eastern Kansas and further east is flat, but not boring. Trees make all the difference.
Colorado and Arizona and New Mexico are very dry. Most of the lakes are man-made reservoirs. Further east, there is a lot more water. There are small, natural lakes and ponds everywhere.

When the country is flat, rivers sometimes are smooth as glass. They look like calm lakes.

Campgrounds in the west are different than those to the east. There aren’t many people in the west and they often drive long distances to a campground. They don’t return every weekend to the same spot. We don’t see seasonal campsite rentals. People who go the same place every time in the West tend to own a cabin and spend their time there, not in a campground. Campgrounds in the Midwest tend to be seasonal communities. People may rent a spot and leave their RV there all summer. And the campgrounds have lots of activities for both adults and children. It looks like campers live close by. Unless the campground is right off the Interstate, out-of-state campers are unusual.

When you drive all day on the interstate, you jockey back and forth with the same vehicles. You pass them, they pass you. One day, we saw the same people in 2 or 3 of rest areas we stopped in. We recognized each other and said “Hi.”

We would never be successful over-the-road truckers. Driving every day gets really tiring. Even if the drive is only 150 to 250 miles, it becomes the focus of the whole day. There is nothing else but hook up, drive, set up camp, go get fuel, cook dinner, sleep. Get up, pack lunch, start all over again. We went 1400 miles, driving 5 out of 6 days, to get to Indiana to see our new trailer. It was a grind, we felt pressured every day. We made the return trip while staying 2 to 4 or more days at each campground. A much better way to travel.

We stayed in a Corps of Engineers park on Carlyle Lake in Illinois. It was full for the weekend. Many campers had strings of lights outlining their site, others had them hanging from the awning. One tree trunk was actually wrapped with flashing lights! You can’t stay there more than 14 days. And I don’t understand it, even if you are in a spot for months. Doesn’t anyone appreciate a dark sky where you can see the stars?

Where are all those trucks going? And what are they carrying. As we whiz down the road, there are so many questions. What is growing in that field? Corn, we recognize. Wheat we would know. And sorghum, at least when it is near harvest, we know. But so many other things are grown and we have no idea. Every field should be labeled, just light streets have signs

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Prefer Today

If I want to use some flour, I go to my cupboard and get out the flour canister (really a plastic container that holds a 5-pound bag of flour).  If I had lived around 1832, I might have had to grow my own wheat, take it to the nearby grist mill, and wait to have it ground into flour.  During our trip on the Heritage Trail, we visited the Bonneyville Mill, an Elkhart County Parks location near Goshen, Indiana.

This is the stream that provides the energy to operate the mill.  It isn't large enough or fast enough to drive the familiar water wheel we all know.  Indiana is flat and Edward Bonney installed two horizontal turbines to make use of the St. Joseph River.

The mill grinds corn and several types of wheat. The day we visited, it was grinding corn. The output was very slow. Like I said, I'm glad I have a better way to get my flour. These are samples of the grains and flours they still grind at Bonneyville.

The "outhouse" on the lower level of the mill

This is one of the original grinding wheels from the mill. It empties into the river,  just downstream from the turbines.

The park's interpreter adding corn to the hopper so it can be ground.

If you look closely at the small window to the right of that wheel in his hand, you can see where the ground corn comes from the grinding wheels.

From there, it goes up a conveyer to the sifter. This blurry photo shows the sifted corn flour.

The mill's turbines move all these belts, which operate all aspects of the mill.

Here you can see the outside of the mill, reflected in the mill pond.

The Bonneyville Mill is the oldest continuously operating grist mill in Indiana. It was a very interesting visit.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Quilts and Flowers

Sunday we drove part of the Amish Country Heritage Trail, looking for quilt gardens and murals. Numerous businesses in the area have planted gardens in quilt patterns. In other places, we saw quilt murals on the side of buildings. The quilt gardens were past their prime--the flowers overgrown or past their most vibrant colors. But we enjoyed the tour anyway. The visitor center in Shipshewana gave us a free 2-volume CD that gives the history of the communities along the Heritage Trail. It was very informative and interesting.

We found information sheets and signs explaining the quilt patterns and listing the flowering plants used. I have included copies of the signs where possible. It was difficult to get high enough to see the gardens at times. The first garden we saw was the Menno-Hof logo. Menno-Hof is an organization which explains the Amish-Mennonite story. The garden uses 4,752 flower plants: Boy Yellow Marigolds, Picobella Blue Petunia and Eureka Bronze Leaf Scarlet Begonia.

Just down the street, we came on a Goose Tracks garden.

At a nearby hardware store, we found the Hometown USA garden.

Next we saw the Dresden Plate garden. It was the best one of the day.

We saw one real quilt in a store window. We couldn't go in and look at more quilts. This shop and most businesses in Amish country are closed on Sundays. Anybody else remember when that was true in most of the country? It is kind of nice to have one day of quiet each week and I'll bet most employees love it, too.

We also saw several quilt murals. Most of them weren't identified.

This one uses a Trapunto and Applique style, whatever that is.

I recognize this pattern, double wedding ring.

We also saw a dahlia garden. The flowers are beautiful.

I can't identify this flower or the tree with interesting fruit in the next photo. Anyone know what they are?

This, I know, is a pumpkin patch.

Other scenes from yesterday.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Apples and More

Yesterday the sun came out and we decided to go to the Apple Festival in Nappanee, a small town about 40 miles from here.  Now in its 38th year, the festival attracted 85,000 visitors last year and is one of the largest festivals in Indiana.  More about the festival in a bit.  On the way there, we stopped at E & S Sales, a bulk food store in Shipshewana.  The store is decorated with old toys and farm implements.  (You can click on the picture to see more detail.)

The store caters to both the local Amish and their English neighbors--anyone who is not Amish.  Most of the food was sold in large quantities and is often packaged in plastic bags, rather then cans or boxes.  This shows just a few examples of what they have for sale.  Fifty pounds of potatoes, anyone? Or some anise stars?

When we arrived at the apple festival, we were able to see the last part of the parade. There were old tractors and horse-drawn wagons.

There was a tractor pulling a steam-driven calliope.

I'm guessing this machine was for harvesting corn. Anyone know for sure?

Since we used to own a funeral home, this matched pair of black horses and hearse was our favorite.

And this was clearly the cutest entry we saw.

Miller Farms was selling mums. They are obviously at their peak right now.

This lawn furniture was equally as colorful.

Have you ever heard of eating elephant ears? I hadn't. But we saw them for sale at the festival, after first spotting them at the flea market. For those of you from the western part of the country, they look like a large-sized sopaipilla or fry bread.

This is a miniature hay baler.

I had seen the cornhole game in campgrounds, but had no idea it was a commercial product. I thought they were homemade. Obviously not.

Read this sign carefully. They don't sell the products that use the new iOs7, they sell food made from apples. That included apple butter, apple bars and this delicious-looking apple strudel.

They also sold pieces of this 7-foot apple pie. The last 1/4 of the pie was on display in a downtown store. Below is a copy of the sign giving more information about the pie.

For 50 cents, you could buy a plain apple to eat.

We saw an owl

and a puppet show.

The downtown streets are decorated with painted apples.

As we drive from town to town here in northern Indiana, we see beautiful farms. Thankfully, those clouds didn't produce any rain yesterday.