Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Out Among da Amish

On a recent trip back to Indiana to "dig up" dead relatives (genealogy research) and visiting living relatives, The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I crossed paths with some of Indiana's Amish population.

Indiana has the world's third greatest population of Amish. It also has the most Amish settlements, over ten church districts in size.

The Swiss Amish came to Indiana in 1850 and settled mostly in the east-central counties of Adams and Jay (some of our genealogy research was conducted there). The German Amish mostly settled in Northern Indiana.

The Swiss Amish differ from the German Amish in many ways. They are more conservative, maintain a farming tradition, are plainer dressed and have different practices.

Some of the differing practices are: travel by open buggy, yodeling, larger families, stricter shunning and atypical burial customs such as unmarked graves or simple wooden stakes with only the initials on them to mark the graves.

The Swiss Amish dialect is different too and some German Amish prefer to speak English with them in order to understand and be understood.

The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I saw an Amish woman and her children making a trip to Wal-Mart.

Where does an Amish family visiting Wal-Mart park their buggy and horse? Right here of course.

We later saw the same family at Arby's. I wanted to snap a picture of them but thought it might be frowned upon in such close quarters (plus I did not want to be strangled by the woman's bra...who remembers Harrison Ford's line from the movie Witness?). Here is their horse and buggy parked near Arby's.

Driving around the back roads we saw many well-kept farms.

We stopped at one farm to purchase some homemade noodles. A man and two boys were unloading wood into the barn and waved for us to enter the little shop next to the barn. The shop was full of shelves and the shelves were full of boxed boots of various sizes. We did not see one noodle.

The friendly woman of the house finally came into the shop. She had noodles in the house. We exited the shop and waited outside for her return. The Colonel tried to get a couple of kittens to play with him as we waited.

I loved seeing the family's laundry on the clothesline and asked upon her return if I could take a picture of it. She said she would have to ask her husband if it was okay. He agreed (I'm sure our purchase of three bags of noodles and two loaves of bread helped).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Peel Me a Grape

My Favorite Father-In-Law (a little joke between us...he is and has always been my only Father-In-Law and I am his Favorite and only Daughter-In-Law) had surgery earlier this year. He sailed through the surgery and post-op healing with flying colors. He just turned 80 on July 20th.

His surgery was performed using the da Vinci Surgical System which is a sophisticated, robotic surgical system.

Using the most advanced technology available today, the da Vinci Surgical System enables surgeons to perform delicate and complex operations through a few tiny incisions with increased vision, precision, dexterity and control.

The surgeon sits at the console and the patient is on the operating table a few feet away. The surgeon then operates the surgical tools remotely as the others in the operating room watch what is happening on the video screen.
In April, the local hospital had the da Vinci Surgical System on display and an expert on hand to tell about the system and answer any questions.

The expert (who looked a little like Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver) also let anyone "test drive" the system if they wanted to do so.
The Colonel, my In-Laws and I test drove the machinery. My Favorite-Father-In-Law thought it was interesting to operate the machine that operated on him.   
With very little instruction, I was able to sit at the console and manipulate the surgical tools that were a few feet from me. The tools moved the same way my fingers and wrists did. They were extremely responsive.

As I looked through the eyepiece of the console I saw a 3-D image of the tools and the items on the surgical table. I "operated" on the grapes.
I was able to pick up and peel a grape with the surgical tools shortly after I sat down...the machine was that user-friendly.
What an interesting and unique experience (all I need now is a degree in medicine and I will be well on my way to a god complex).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Loving Limberlost

I have always loved log cabins and thought at one time I wanted to live in one (with modern amenities of course).

So, how could I help but fall in love with Limberlost the moment I saw it. That love deepened as I walked within its walls and among its grounds.

Built in 1895, Limberlost is an impressive, 14-room, Queen Ann style, rustic log cabin. It was built by Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924)( By 1910 one of America's most successful female authors and one of the world's first nature photographers and conservationists) and her husband, Charles Porter. They built their lovely log cabin near the Limberlost Swamp (see earlier blog) in Geneva, Indiana.

The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law and I visited Limberlost while we were back in Indiana in June. Our guide was very informative as he gave us our private tour of Limberlost and told us about Gene Stratton-Porter's life.

There were no cars when Limberlost was built and the first building we visited was the coach house. The handyman/grounds keeper lived in a room located in the coach house while the horses and coaches were kept in the rest of the building.

This is a smoker made from a hollow log that Gene saw in the forest. She brought it to her home and used it to store garden tools.

Gene helped to build the fence around the cabin. Notice the openings...Gene was a great lover and observer of nature and she wanted small creatures to be able to come into her yard unhindered.

Curt, our guide, opened the front door of Limberlost and as I stepped over the threshold I was surprised by the oak paneling...very un-log cabin-like.

We entered the room where Gene wrote two of her most famous books: Freckles (1904) and A Girl of the Limberlost (1909).

This is the music room. On the fireplace's mantle was a picture of Gene standing beside the fireplace and before I saw it I asked Curt how tall Gene was. He had me stand in the same place and strike nearly the same pose, as he, Darling-Sister-n-Law and The Colonel compared the photo of Gene to me and it appears that she was about the same height as I am (5'7"). I saw some of her shoes and they were nearly the same size as mine.

Gene Stratton-Porter was quite talented. She was a writer, artist and photographer. This is a painting of hers in the music room.

In Limberlost's dining room is a beautiful English style fireplace and a gorgeous oak table (these feature in A Girl of the Limberlost).

At the end of the dinning room, separated by a heavy curtain, is the solarium.

In this room Gene took care of injured birds, grew plants, watched and waited for moths and butterflies to hatch. She would open the small windows and let the moths and butterflies fly in at will and when they would lay eggs around the house she would cover them with upturned glasses to prevent anyone stepping on them. There were moth eggs in the solarium when we visited. They were on the curtains and on the floor. These are Imperial Moth eggs.

The solarium from the outside. Love all of the windows.

This is Gene's bathroom. She used this room as a dark room when she began taking photographs and developing them.

There is a small, circular porch off of the sitting room of the downstairs bedroom. One evening Gene experienced, in her own words, "the most delightful experience of her life" there.

In middle May around midnight, Gene took a female Cecropia moth out onto the porch.

"The night-sky was alive with Cecropias. They came from every direction, floating like birds down the moonbeams". No doubt Gene was permeated with the odor of the female month. The male moths swarmed her and landed in her hair, on her shoulders and clung to her gown and hands. Gene counted close to a hundred and reveled with the moths until dawn drove them to shelter.

I remember seeing Cecropias in the bushes at our old house when I was a kid. They were huge moths and their cocoons looked like fuzzy, brown, paper bags.

We toured the upstairs of the house which consisted of a large sitting room and a couple of bedrooms. At the top of the stairs was this beautiful Lincrusta (a deeply embossed wall covering made from linoleum).

When we finished our tour of Limberlost we went to the visitor center to see what was there. There were books for sale and a few items on display. This was the desk of Gene's husband, Charles. He was a banker.

These dolls were dressed as two characters from A Girl of the Limberlost. The green dress is made to resemble a Luna moth and the yellow dress, an Imperial moth.

Our tour guide showed us an Imperial moth that had recently hatched. We were informed that the moth was a male. He was beautiful.

Gene Stratton-Porter lived in her "little" cabin for 18 years. When the Limberlost Swamp began to be drained in 1913 Gene moved away. It saddened her to see the swamp disappear. The swamp was her playground, laboratory and inspiration. She moved near Rome City, Indiana and built her second home, "The Cabin in Wildflower Woods" on the shores of Sylvan Lake. Maybe one day I will visit it.

I fell in love with Limberlost and the more I learned about Gene Stratton-Porter during my tour of her home, the more I felt the desire to have known her while she was alive (and read her books).

Gene was a writer, artist, photographer, conservationist and an organizer of  her own movie company (she moved to California in 1920).