Wednesday, September 30, 2009

House of the Rising Sun

Art of the mundane. Is this a commissioned metal sculpture? If you glance through this site you will notice the focus on the mundane as art. Featured above is a metal storm sewer cover in 42N country. Know that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Serious Snow Removal for Linn County

Ready for snow in 42N country? Linn County, Iowa is prepared for almost any snow accumulation. Huge snow drifts require big equipment. Linn County's secret weapon is the SNOGO snow plow. This two-stage auger plow can heave-ho 2,500 tons of the white stuff an hour. See if you can do that with your Toro.

Last winter's storms produced near record level of snow in the Midwest - almost a return to the levels from the 1970s. Back in 1974 Time magazine and other popular media proclaimed the eventual return of the ice age based on geologic records. Twenty years later other experts predict global warming and point to their data as evidence. A better theory is that politics entered the discussion, insisting that elected officials are the voice for nature. Gag where appropriate.

Regardless of which theory, if any, is correct the roads in these northern latitudes still need to be cleared in a timely fashion. Linn County is prepared for anything - just add snow and fuel.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Farming Era Slips Away

Last year a nearly 100-year old farm house in 42N country was destroyed by arson. Authorities arrested several people in connection with this fire and other related farm home fires. The barn and a few out buildings remain in rundown condition.

On Friday, September 25, 2009 the last original family member of that rural home passed away. She represented the second wave of US born farm families who helped settle this area.

As a group, the Czechs helped clear and farm the land for row crops and livestock. Later their descendants became more varied in their jobs and careers with many leaving agriculture for office and retail jobs. In her lifetime she saw farming change from horse team pulled wagons and steam tractors to modern diesel tractors operating with GPS precision capabilities and air-conditioned comfort from an enclosured cab. It was quite a journey for all. Know that.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

The old saying, attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra, about taking the fork in the road comes into play quite often. Sometimes you make a judgement based solely on instincts, other times its random (see previous post on chaos.)

At this 42N location the decisions come fast. From one spot looking north in the top photo your choices will lead you to town (left) or to warehouse areas (right.) Looking south in the bottom photo your choices are left to a dead end storage or to the right to a grain processor.

There is another road saying to consider when you are deciding which fork to take. From Robert Frost's 1916 poem "The Road Not Taken" the final lines read:

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —I took the 'one less traveled' by, And that has made all the difference." Know that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chaos in the Wires

Like order and direction? Then don't look behind Hawkeye Downs' chaos garbage pile in 42N country. Actually its an area where various constructions materials are collected and sorted before being recycled. Hawkeye Downs consists of an ASA raceway, camping facilities and exhibition buildings. Are these tangled wires randomly placed or chaotically bundled? Probably just a clump of disorder -- for the moment. Know that.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Umbrella Clothes Bars - 1904

Something so simple represents something so practical. A patented clothes dryer from 1904 recently was offered at auction in 42N country's Traer, Iowa. eBay sold one of these for about $50 recently. Whether you remember using one of these or not the practical technology is always something to keep in mind if you need to dry clothing. New line dryers go for $75 or so but don't look so cool. Know that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Iowa's Guardian of Forever

"A question. Since before your sun burned hot in space, and before your race was born, I have awaited ... a question." STOS, Ep. 28.

While not quite the time portal portrayed in science fiction, this gate mimicks the Guardian's distortion of time. By remaining chained and locked for years the Guardian has kept this wooded area secure from development. But for how long as the property is nearing sale.

Before leaving this 42N country relic it seemed to say, "Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before," and added, "Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway." Know that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Iowa Corn Crop Finally Begins to Dry Ahead of Fall Harvest 2009

Finally. After a cool, wet summer, 42N country in the state of Iowa is experiencing three consecutive weeks of warm sunshine and low humidity air masses.

The result is yellowing corn and soybeans, a sign that crops are maturing and drying has begun. Ag experts continue to predict that this fall's harvest of corn in Iowa will be one of the largest - some estimated 13 billion bushels - just shy of the 2007 record of 13.04 billion bushels.

To those who live outside the American Midwest or have limited access to cornfields here are two looks of productive acres located in north central Iowa. Miles and miles of corn is evident but also notice the gently rolling hills. This is evidence that the "Hawkeye" state is not universally flat. Know that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

American Crayon Company - Indian Chalk Brand. That's Fly.

A major element in any classroom is white chalk - was then, is now. The American Crayon Company produced much of the school chalk during the last century in Sandusky, Ohio and Waltham, Massachusetts. Marketing for school room chalk in the early 1920s was so expansive that the company advertised in the Saturday Evening Post (December 16, 1922) with a theme of quality art education in a multi part ad series (one example above.)

The American Crayon Company went on to purchase more school and related supply vendors throughout the century and is known today as the Dixon Ticonderoga Company. Name ring a bell? It should. That's the Number 2 lead pencil people.

Back in the 1920s the packaging for a gross of chalk sticks consisted of a wooden dovetailed box (above) with a sliding top. The Indian chalk brand appeared on the side. This specimen complete with winged insect appeared recently at a farm estate auction near Traer, Iowa. That's fly. Know that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

See the Saws

Collecting saws is a viable hobby and one that is also practical. Vintage saws can be found at estate auctions, garage sales, and thrift stores. These three old timers were offered at a recent farm estate auction near Traer, Iowa.

Like any working saw, the teeth become dull with repetitive wear. Keeping your investment in like new sharpness requires occasional file sharpening. If you didn't learn how how to get this done from someone like master carpenter Norm Abram, here is an excellent primer on the subject. Depending on how much hand sawing you do, file sharpening is a way to save a few sawbacks. Know that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Barn of a Different Color

Around 42N country (and a quarter turn west or so past the prime meridian) it is fair to say that there are many, many farms where you may find barns in colors of red, white, yellow and gray. Generally the construction material on these local barns is made of cedar or pine siding boards. Oak is sometimes used for the main frame.

In the last two decades metal roofs have been installed on many existing barns covering the original wood shingles. Newer barn designs can include traditional construction material and non-traditional material like metal. Walters Buildings and U.S Buildings have some fine examples of each style.

This barn, located outside of Traer, Iowa (42.19N, 92.46W) was built in the 1940s according to an expert. Dan Reed of Fairfield, Iowa explained that the barn’s clean design and the way the roof is peaked is an example of the post World War II construction style that occurred in these here parts.

This particular barn (and another one closer to Traer) are unique in their siding material. It’s masonite – a fiberglass like man-made material that can be cut in large sections and nailed to the barn frame. The material is extremely weather resistant holding up well for 60 some years. Like the other nearby example near Traer both buildings were of the same color - masonite white gray.

Wood, one of the more traditional materials used in this barn is evident in the door and window frames. Sixty years of weather and paint layers has left the door hinge in a more typical setting of elemental exposure. Know that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Horses Sold Monthly at Kalona Sales Barn

The first Monday of the month brings a well attended horse sale at the Kalona Sales Barn in 42N country's Kalona, Iowa (41.48N, 91.70W.) This past Monday being Labor Day, and a perfect weather day, both combined to attract hundreds of people to the sale ring. Horses of many breeds and ages were auctioned as well as a wide variety of gear such as saddles, bites, ropes, blankets, feed, and what not.

Kalona is home to a large Amish community. They were represented at the auction as buyers, ring workers, cooks, and sellers. Plenty of Amish horse and buggies were also present at the facility in between the pick ups, cattle trucks and livestock trailers.

Highlights of the auction included a longhorn steer bull who sold for $800. On the horse side of the sale many working and hobby breeds sold. A brother-sister pair of work horses, ages 6 and 7 years old respectively, circled inside the sale ring together. The winning bidder had the opportunity to purchase both horses at $50 a piece, but after a long pause following the win decision she elected to only purchase one horse. Some people in the audience did not like that decision, especially a certain news person making her first trip to a livestock auction. Know that.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Swing Bridge at Sabula

A massive truss bridge with steel spans located in 42N country (42.06N, 90.16W) at Sabula, Iowa on the Mississippi River carries one track for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The Iowa side span pivots 90 degrees to disconnect the rail line. By doing so the swing bridge allows tall ship traffic to pass without incident. A close look at the photos above reveal that the utility lines are always connected. Know that.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lady Bird Johnson and the JW Hershey Towboat Connection

1967 Lady Bird Johnson Photo Courtesy of web site.

A recent 42N post centered on watching the towboat, JW Hershey maneuver through the Mississippi River's Lock and Dam #16. Digging a bit further in the history of the vessel I came across this interesting story.

According to the December 1967 edition of the Quincey, Illinois newspaper, then US president Lyndon Johnson's wife, Lady Bird (Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson) made a tour of the American Midwest. Her trip included a special lunch aboard the then two year old JW Hershey towboat. The meal featured catfish, which she thoroughly enjoyed enough to take time to write a handwritten note of thanks to the ship's owner. Know that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

JW Hershey Up Bound on the Mississippi River

Commercial strength 5,000 horse power diesels propel the JW Hershey tug through Lock #16 on Mississippi River. Built in 1965, the 157-foot vessel was seen on August 30th pushing thirteen cargo barges through the Illinois side of Lock and Dam #16 directly across from Muscatine, Iowa. Home port for the JW Hershey is in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
A barge crew works to keep the tug/barge configuration in place within the lock as muddy waters rose to equal the up-river pool. Barge men give the pilot their verbal "ok" once the secure rigging is untied from the lock's side. With a powerful thrust of the engine the JW Hershey slowly pushed her cargo northward as a down bound tug waited to enter the lock. Two days later she continues her journey, and is presently situated at pool 11 on September 1.

Whether you watch these workhorses on the Mississippi River or their bigger brethren slip through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan or on the Saint Lawrence Seaway in upstate New York there is something captivating about large scale water-based travel. Perhaps it represents the freedom to go many places on this water planet. Know that.