Tag Archives: rural communities

Summer…The Heat Is On…

Today was John Deere day on the homestead here. Spent the early, cooler half of the day out doing the Texas pinwheel. You know what I mean…’round and ’round she goes. Luckily, the wind was blowing lightly.

The anticipated rain from earlier in the week bypassed us as usual. I doubt we had even an inch fall all told. Lots of clouds…some winds…Not even enough rain to soak the ground. So my riding around in the heat today stirred up enormous amounts of dust. I was covered from head to toe. Needless to say, the shower ran black after I was finished.

I am glad I finished up early because this has become a 90° day. After the “cool” front blew through you would think it would have been cooler…Not happening. Though the humidity is lower than normal. That could explain the dryness of the grass.

My week has taken me over to the northwest side of Houston a couple of times. I have been spending some time killing time waiting for my daughter to visit a friend in the hospital…The first time I spent my time with Fred First’s new book, the second time I visited with Wendell Berry and “the art of the commonplace” collection. A nice way to spend a couple of hours on each day I must admit. Luckily for me I found shaded parking spots to enjoy the time.

I found a neighborhood park in the Garden Oaks area to hang out at…Like a lot of Houston, driving the streets of these neighborhoods is a bit strange. These older tract houses from the 40’s and the 50’s are in the process of being gradually replaced by the McMansions of the newer “master planned” communities further out on the “freeways”. Where the builder has been careful and the style of the house matches the existing homes it doesn’t look too bad. Just bigger homes between the smaller houses. But when you see some of these architectural monsters sitting there between two 1200 square foot, three bedroom, one bath homes…You have to wonder what these folk were thinking.

Oh well, me, I am about ready to say goodbye to these city byways and head to the rural landscape of the blue ridge mountains. Sanity indeed, if not in deed…

Roadtrip Time In Texas

I decided that I needed a roadtrip to hunt for the fields of Bluebonnets that bloom this time of year a few counties to the north and west. Yesterday I made the decision that today would be the day, come what may. It almost looked as if I’d be trying to shoot wildflower photos in the rain as I was spattered on my first stop, but the rain held off. The wind didn’t though…so the pictures aren’t quite as sharp as I would have liked…Oh well, I like ’em anywho.

The area around Brenham in Washington County is known for the wildflower displays in the fields and pastures along it’s highways and byways…It’s always hit or miss as to where you find the best show but who cares, the trip is worth the day and driving around on old gravel roads in spring is a tonic I really needed.

Here are a few shots I stumbled upon today…

This next shot caught my eye as I passed a break in an overgrown fence row…

I just love the way the drive curves up to the barn…

I’ll post more later…

February Wanes…Summer Seems Near.

I was reading a draft copy of Fred First’s next book this morning. Most of the essays are from his blog Fragments From Floyd, though some have had a more convoluted life of blog post to newspaper column or vice versa.

The last essay in the chapters I was reading/reviewing was all about the pleasures Fred feels as winter fades and the warmth of summer arrives. As I was reading this, on this the twenty fourth day of February, I was listening to the wind chimes in my back yard through the open doors of the kitchen. The temperature outside is pushing 75° and rising. The sun is peaking through the clouds every once and awhile as the wind blows in from the Gulf with cool gusts. There is a music podcast playing on the computer as a type, birds are singing outside…I found myself in the opposite position, wondering what happened to our winter.

Looking on the weather wunderground, I see that Fred is still feeding the woodstove and wearing the multiple layers of clothes he was lamenting in his essay. While I am enjoying the open door and the porch rocker, Fred is still dreaming his summer weather dreams.

You can check out the post I was reading in his archives here…Where the Wx Suits My Clothes.

Now, having visited Fred and seeing the road that passes by his house, I wouldn’t have any qualms about drinking my coffee on the front porch in my underwear either…I would say that he probably hasn’t seen more than one or two people pass by when he was in such a state. My front porch though probably has a thousand or so vehicles pass by on a normal day. It seems strange how the further out in the country I move the more traffic I see drive past my house…

Oh well, grandson number two is telling me I’ve ignored him long enough…gotta run.

Agriculture in America…Looking better?

When I was born in 1952, there were 203,000 farms in Iowa, only 11,000 fewer than when my dad was born in 1926. By 2002, the number had dropped to about 90,000, with roughly the same acreage in production in a state with a population that had remained roughly the same. The national numbers followed the same track: fewer farms, bigger farms, less-diverse farms. To a lot of people, this looked like progress because the ideal of efficiency promulgated by the Department of Agriculture was bigger yields with fewer people.

This industrial notion of efficiency has always seemed terribly inefficient in other important ways: socially, culturally and environmentally.

It seems to me that the more we think we know, the more our true ignorance shows through in the end. Be it our agricultural policy, our food policy, our drug policy…Hell, even our financial policy all have come back to haunt us in the past few years.

I was born just a couple of years after Verlyn. Almost all of my extended family lived in rural communities. Most did not farm…but all depended on the health of the farms for their incomes. My nuclear family was one of the few in our generation that made the move to the urban side of America. On my trips back to the area of Texas where my parents were raised, I have seen the urbanization of large swaths of these farmlands.

In a very real sense, they are going back to an earlier model of farming in Iowa. The farms are more diverse, and so are the crops they grow. To me, this is where the new passion for local foods finds its real meaning, and the best news is that Iowa is not alone. Nationwide, there are some 300,000 new farms since 2002. And the farmers? More diverse than ever, including a higher number of women. This is a genuine source of hope for American agriculture.

I am seeing some of the same changes in the counties around my home. More small farmers, growing more varied crops…Including some that wouldn’t have been considered crops thirty to forty years ago like sod grass…

via Editorial Notebook – Good News From Iowa – NYTimes.com.

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