Monday, September 29, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Happy weekend everyone!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
As late afternoon was turning into evening yesterday, I put on jeans and a hat and found a branch to carry in front of me for the trek up the hill. The branch is for the cobwebs that hang like fishing net up the relatively open trail. Even with the branch, I took a few across the face—blech! Here is the road as you head up the trail:
And here it is looking back down: I made a huge racket crunching through the dry leaves. I thought of those frontiersmen I’m reading about and wondered how they managed to move silently through the woods in fall. Every so often, I stopped so that I could hear the sounds around me. There was an eerie feeling in the woods despite the warm glow of the early autumn sunlight. A breeze moved high up in the trees. I shivered a little and looked right and left. I felt the ghosts of the people and animals who traveled this defunct road long ago moving through the trees. I could hear the wagon wheels crunching gravel, the jingle of harness, and the calls of men. I could see children playing and dogs looking for scraps. All these ghosts of the past were busy once with worldly concerns just like me.
She is the witch who caught Rapunzel and now the twisted braid of her jealous soul is pulling her down into the earth.
She's an old beauty queen...
I don't know anything about the Abandoned House except that it was liveable in the 1970s when the Neff's bought the cabin. Wouldn't it be something to live in a "painted lady" tucked up in the middle of the woods at the end of an old township road? Too late for that, obviously. We did get permission from the woman who owns the land that it sits on, however, to harvest pieces of the house, and so a little of it can live on with us. We've got some of the decorative moulding and slate from the roof to make something pretty with in our new house. I know that John is still coveting the beautifully weathered wood off the carriage barn that is falling down in the woods next to the house.
Before the light faded too far and things got downright scary instead of just creepy, I headed back. At the bottom of the hill, I viewed my cabin from the old road--the same vantage point as all those ghosts from years past. I was cheered to know that my cabin is still happily inhabited by flesh and blood people.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Today, I hooked up the HP Photo-smart printer/scanner—something that was waiting for the office in the new house. I had to, though, because I can’t wait any longer to write this post about the history of the cabin and our little patch of land. My eagerness comes from the book I’m reading: The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert. I knew about Eckert from his book That Dark and Bloody River, a history of the Ohio River Valley. I had no idea what a prolific writer he is, though, as well as a “noted American naturalist” according to his website. He was nominated seven times for the Pulitzer Prize—one of those times was for The Frontiersmen. It is a historical narrative about the opening of Kentucky and the Northwest Territory (including my patch of Ohio) from 1755 – 1836. Our cabin was built in 1828. It is fascinating to read about what it was like back then, and a joy to have it written so well. Eckert writes with respect and admiration for both sides of the conflict—American Indian and white settler, in particular the frontiersmen Simon Kenton and Daniel Boone. Though it was inevitable that North America was invaded by Europeans, I wish that they would have done it with a lot more respect and tolerance. What a shame that we’ve lost the rich culture of the indigenous people of this part of the world. I think about them when I walk around our woods and meadows. I wonder what they did here—whether any villages sat here, or if it was a hunting ground, or an important trailway.
I also wonder often about the people who built this cabin, Abner and Jane Williams.
The cabin and differing portions of the land was in Abner’s family until we purchased it in 2001 from his great, great granddaughter, Mary Lou Neff and her husband, Bill. Bill and Mary Lou bought the property in the 1970s and worked hard to get it listed on the National Register of Historical Places. They were successful…
The Neffs were so friendly and shared a lot of information about the property. Mary Lou made color copies of the two original land deeds for the farm, signed by presidents James Madison and James Monroe. They were too big to scan, but I’m planning on framing them and hanging them in the cabin for visitors. She also gave us copies of pictures—of Abner and Jane above, and a long view of the land from sometime in the past. Lots of deforestation, for sure! The above is a shot from our neighbor's land across County Rd. 761 which doesn't exist in this picture. The old Township Rd 166 follows the tree line you see going past the cabin on the far left. Below is a closer view of the cabin and the barn from the picture above.Mary Lou also gave us copies of the application for the National Register designation. From that I learned the following:
“According to family records and Noble Co. History, Abner Williams (a Quaker) acquired the land in 1827, so presumably the house was built in 1827 or 1828. Abner was one of the first two Justices of the Peace for Wayne Twp (1851). Abner and his wife, Jane, had nine children who were raised in the house. One daughter died at age 16. A son, Aaron, died in the Civil War (Co. G., 78th Ohio Vol. Inf.). Another son, Thomas, represented Noble County in the State Legislature in the 1880s.
“The house is a fine specimen of the log architecture of the period. The foundation has been repaired (with logs from an old log building nearby). Some of the original hardware remains on doors. There is original flooring on the second floor, and doors and two of the windows appear to be original. Planned restoration includes removing additions of a kitchen and lean-to, also restoring original fireplace which was converted to a smaller parlor fireplace when kitchen was added (probably mid-1800s).”
When I read about the people who built this place that I’m sitting in 180 years later, I think several things. First I think: Nine children. Wow. At least Jane had a parlor fireplace. That was nice. And then I simply marvel at the passing of time and generations and cultures. What would those people say if they could visit their home today? They’d see me typing at my computer, scanning a worn picture of them on my Photo-smart, and drinking an espresso made on the electric range. And I’d have to tell them that my husband is off making a living for us in the nearby city. And that, oh yeah, I’ll be getting around to shelling those walnuts in just a few days. Jeez, give me a break, Abner! This land has been here for a long time. I presume that the Indians knew it intimately. The settlers came and got to know it in a different way. One family lived on it for generations. And now I live here. I feel a responsibility to learn more about the history of this place—not only about the people who have lived here, but of the land itself. History is as big as you want it to be, I guess. I don’t have any detailed plans on learning all the things I want to know, but I delight in finding tidbits here and there and pondering them while I sit listening to the late summer crickets and watching the colors turn yet again to those of another season.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Because we were in the basement, we didn’t hear the storm at all. When we left the party at 3:00 in the afternoon, we were stunned. The wind was tearing at the pansies in the centerpiece I took home with me and uplifting the skirt of my dress. Fully grown trees were uprooted and lying on the ground across roads and driveways, cars and electrical wires. Smaller branches were scattered everywhere, green against the browned grass of late summer. What had we missed while eating ham sandwiches and laughing over pictures from the Whitaker family’s archives?
My own Dad had accompanied me to the party and the two of us got in the car and began to make our way back to his house, north of Cincy. We took a detour before leaving the area, though, and drove past our old home on Beechmeadow Lane. As is often the case when you visit childhood landmarks, everything looked tiny. The giant hill that my friends and I flew down on our bikes and huffed and puffed back up was a mild slope. The mansions on Ralph Avenue behind our house looked like regular houses, a little worse for the wear. Dad suggested we drive past Seton High School, the scene of many crimes by (and against) me and Colette. The area around the school looked pretty much the same, but the school itself must have had a very successful fund drive. The lawn where we practiced archery is taken up by a big new addition. I assume it is a new gym and cafeteria and something else besides.
I dropped Dad off successfully, though his house had no power. I got back in my car and headed up I-71 to Columbus. Counter-intuitively, everyone was speeding along at 80 mph. I guess the wind speeds were setting the pace. Plenty of trees were down along the sides of the highway, and corn shucks were flying through the air, Wizard of Oz-like. Yellowed sheaves swirled off the fields to the right and left of the road, flying past the windshield against a backdrop of bruise-colored sky. It was ominous, a melancholy reminder of the coming season.
No power at the apartment in Columbus either. Mary and Jon had some, though, so we had a farewell pizza party for Sarah at their house. We dropped Sarah off at the airport at 5:00 the next morning, with a hope and a kiss that her flights were all a go. Jack and I went back to bed and by the time we woke up, we had power again, as did Stauf’s. Whoopee! After cappuccinos and a bagel, I was back on the road towards home.
My quiet little farm, how I miss you when I’m gone. I took a walk to survey the damage. It was much less intense here, but there was evidence of the storm. The gnome homes were swept away—yikes, poor gnomes!—and lots of branches were down in the yard around the cabin and along the woods trail. There were a few trees, tall skinny ones that were uprooted or snapped off near the base, lying across the trail. And walnuts everywhere! I thought about how the settlers might have appreciated that effect of the storm. I twisted my ankle on one yesterday while walking through the yard, so I’ll be picking them up today. I’m going to try cracking them open. I hear it is a lot of work, but worth it for the freshest walnuts you’ll ever taste.
I found this stick while on my walk.
You can look at it this way:
And this way: The camera doesn't quite capture the lovely mauve color of the underside of the fungus. It is quietly beautiful—another small gift from a big storm.
So, we’re safe out here in the country. Many of my friends and family are still without power in Columbus. And of course, the people in Texas are suffering greatly. After seeing the destruction from the aftermath of Ike, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be hit by it directly. I only hope that the victims of the storm will find small gifts somewhere, left unexpectedly in their path.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
In the meantime, click here to read the article that Sarah published recently on the webzine, Global Human.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The juice will turn a dark purple and the grapes will sink to the bottom over time. I had some grapes left over and I'm going to try to make raisins with them. If I'm successful, you'll see the results posted here.
Aren't they cute? One day they will grow up to become a large, green, and "firry" screen to hide the new buildings from the cabin, and shield the cabin from the road.