Posts Tagged ‘Wagner Farm’

Off to a difficult start.  I shouldn’t have stayed out til 3 am painting musicians at the Raven’s Nest Blues Jam! But how could I resist?

Rob Fraser playing guitar at Blues Jam

I set the alarm for 6:45, hoping I wouldn’t fall back to sleep.  Of course, I did.  Luckily I awoke at 7:21, just in time to shower, call Dad and get on the road. Dad and I had a 9 am appointment at Bank of America with a locksmith to drill open Dad’s Safety Deposit Box.

Alas ….. I found myself behind a school bus, then a salt spreader, then a well digger truck. I arrived at Chelsea to find Dad in the dining room having just finished his breakfast.  I introduced myself to the woman sitting at his table whom I’d seen before, but not met.  Apologizing for being a whirlwind, I told Dad we had to leave immediately.  On the way to his room, I asked the woman’s name.

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you talk to her, Dad?”

“Hmmmm….. I think so.”

We arrived at the bank with three minutes to spare.  While waiting for the locksmith I encouraged Dad to write giving him a few hints at what had already happened that morning.

February 9, 2012.  9 a.m.

Bank of America, Martinsville

Ate breakfast with C…… F…..

Black ice in the parking lot.

We are waiting for the locksmith.

Dad thought I said “Black-eyed peas”, not “black ice” and wondered why he had black-eyed peas for breakfast.

The locksmith arrived and drilled the lock.  The technique reminded me of opening a bottle of wine and took about the same amount of time.  Much to my surprise, the box was not empty.  It contained Grandmother Carter’s death certificate and several envelopes filled with folded documents.  I reached into the long, thin, narrow box to see if there was anything else.  Feeling something hard and perhaps furry, I stifled a scream and withdrew my hand while shivers ran down my spine.  I could understand mice finding their way into the drawers of my oak card catalog where I store art supplies, but I didn’t understand how one could get into a bank safety deposit box.  Before alarming the dignified bank attendant who was acting as witness to the opening of the box, I tipped the box and peered into the darkness.  That didn’t help.  Gently, I tipped the box forward.  A small, well-worn, suede pouch slid into view.  Inside was my Great Grandfather’s pocket watch.


After a typical bank ordeal of no one knowing how to handle a situation that didn’t fall neatly into place, Dad and I returned to the car.  While the experience was fresh, I asked Dad to write a few words in his green sketchbook.

Searching for thoughts

Dad didn’t have any idea why we had gone to the bank.  I took the pocket watch out of my bag to jog his memory.

The Pocket Watch Rodent

The watch belonged to my grandfather

My father’s father

Whom I never met

I think he died

When I was a baby – about 1925

Dad seemed to have fond memories

Of his father.

I have very fond memories

Of his mother, —

My Grandmother Carter.

My cousin Dick Davison

Called her “Nin”.

She lived with The Davisons

In West Lafayette – on Evergreen Street

Until her death.

I roomed there during my Freshman

And Sophomore years at Purdue.

Our next stop was Dr. Frisoli’s office for Dad’s monthly B12 shot.  They took a blood sample to re-evaluate the frequency of his B12 shots.

Contour Drawing Demo for Dad while waiting for his B12 shot

With our two appointments out of the way, Dad and I were free to spend the rest of the day as we liked. I was famished, having dashed off without breakfast.  We headed to Benny’s for coffee and a fried egg sandwich.

Dad and Benny

Before leaving, Dad noticed the framed sign on the wall, one that he had printed and framed himself several years ago.

The Culture Center

He wondered how many other people stop to read the notice of the morning gathering of men commonly referred to by the members as The Culture Club.

Sufficiently fed and filled with caffeine, we drove to Wagner’s Farm where Dad and I volunteer in the Community Gardens.  I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but I thought it might be a good spot to test the sogginess of the ground and to begin our day’s adventure in nature.

Heading up the road toward the farm, I pulled into the parking lot of Trinity United Church on King George Road.  I wanted to jot down a few notes before they slipped from my mind.  Mind-slipping feels contagious when I’m with Dad.

Fence Patterns

I couldn’t resist a quick sketch of the fence we faced while sitting in the K-car.  I handed Dad his green sketchbook.

Pencil to paper

Eyes to the sky

All is so quiet, —

Even Chris and I.

But silence is fine,

It gives us time to reflect

Upon the many fine walks and rides, —

that together we have spent.

Feb. 9, 2012

The fence with cast shadows

After reading me what he wrote, I asked him to write a few descriptive words inspired by the fence.

The Fence draws attention


It scans one fifth of the view

And is flooded with sunlight

Its plainNESS dominates

Its grayness defines it.

The day was improving by the minute…. I started the car and turned out of the parking lot, the blue sky above and smiles on our faces.

Wood Chips from trees damaged in snow storm

Looks like we have plenty of wood chips for the gardens!  I reminded Dad that we are volunteers and we would be working in the garden again in the spring.  He was pleased.  Knowing that the trail bridge crossing the river to the Glen Hurst Open Space had been washed out I left the Farm and drove a quarter mile up the road to the main entrance of Glen Hurst.

Decades Later

From the vantage point of a small gazebo, Dad and I gazed at the open field, now home to small cedar trees.  I stood on the same spot where I made out with my boyfriend in the late 60’s.  Dad’s thoughts were on teeing off from that same spot when playing golf with Gary Kidd, probably in the 60’s.

“Looks like it’s been a while since anyone collected green fees.”

We left our memories behind, so to speak, and chose a trail.

Heading across the overgrown golf course

The trail, surprisingly dry, led us through diverse terrain.

Through sun speckled woods

Walks with Dad always include stopping to marvel at the blue, blue sky!

Breathing in the beauty of the sky

At one point the trail opened up to a cleared path for high tension wires, inspiring comments on electricity, wiring and the enormous size of the towers.

High Tension Towers

We walked about a mile when we came to a fork in the trail.  Dad chose to go to the right rather than to curve back around to the car. His stamina was excellent and it was clear he was not ready for the adventure to end.  Perhaps he would have chosen differently had he foreseen the challenges ahead.  Most likely, he would have made the same choice.

Warning signs?

We noticed metal signs facing a trail to the right.


Maybe the sign registered somewhere in Dad’s brain as a warning.  He didn’t change course, but the foggy thought must have stayed with him.  The trail led deeper into the woods, giant trees uprooted everywhere, having fallen into the river, across the path, taking several other trees down with them as they fell, reminders of the damage from the late autumn snow storm.

Storm damage

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Chris.”

“Why not?”

“Well …… this might lead to …… the North Pole.”

The tone of concern in his voice alarmed me.  It didn’t sound as if he were joking.  Before I could respond, he continued.

“….. or, it might lead somewhere  like ….. maybe California!”

“I think we’ll be alright, Dad.  I’m sure I can find the way back.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

Riverside Trail

Soon enough, a paper sign reassured us that we weren’t on our way to the North Pole or California.  The beauty of reflections in the river chased away Dad’s fears.

Abstract designs in the river

Distracted by the patterns and textures of the river and trees, Dad and I followed the trail and took photos from the bridge that crossed the river.  Eventually the trail curved back around and we found ourselves headed back in the direction of the car.  We had walked about a mile and a half.  The trail vanished beneath a section of mud and swamp.  We could see the trail emerge again about fifty feet ahead.  I didn’t want to turn around and retrace our steps.  It appeared that we might be able to cross without sinking to our knees in puddles.

“Are you ready to cross the swamp, Dad?”

“Just wait til I put my swimming trunks on.”

After stepping on what I thought to be solid ground I sank to my ankle in soft mud.  I chose a better route and we made our way across the mud flats.  Ahead, a bit to the right, I could see the barns and silos at Wagner Farm.  I remembered we had crossed the river earlier and that we were now on the wrong side of the river. I also knew the bridge ahead was washed out.  Last time we crossed the marshy fields that led to Wagner Farm, Dad had fallen face first into a giant marsh mound. To the right was a field of marshy mounds, behind us were the mud flats.  Looking to the left I saw a giant tree fallen across the river and decided it might be a better option.  Dad was growing tired and I didn’t want to push my luck.  I pushed it anyway, but not by turning back.

“Are you up for it, Dad?  Are you up for crossing the river on that fallen tree?”


Already I knew that I had stepped into the realm of foolhardiness.  Already I decided not to take a photo of the tree were were about to use as a bridge.  I didn’t want to be disowned by my siblings for endangering our father.

The first three feet of tree was surrounded in brambles, giant thorns along thin, bouncy branches.  I took almost five minutes carefully separating the brambles, securing them on either side of the fallen trunk to allow us clear passage.  I led the way to test the footing.  After two steps along the trunk I stepped down to a pile of leaves that covered a somewhat stable mound of dirt and branches that had washed up near the bank and were held captive by the fallen tree. I turned to give Dad a hand to balance as he stepped onto the trunk and over two small branches that crossed the main trunk.

One foot over…. excellent.  The second foot was in the air when some of the brambles let loose, caught his jacket and threw him off balance.  He was headed into the river on the far side of the tree trunk.  I had hold of one hand and grabbed his jacket with the other, pulling him toward me, redirecting his fall.  More brambles let loose, slapping my face and driving thorns into my cheek. S-l-o-w-l-y he finished his fall and lay safely on top of me, my back resting on the tree trunk.  Not a great time for a photo shoot.

“Are you okay, Dad?”

“Yup …. how about you?”

That was the worst of it.  We made our way across the river safely, climbed up the bank and found the trail that ran along the river on the other side where the car was parked.

“I’m glad you’re not a wuss, Dad.”  I had to explain what a wuss is.

Trailside Bench

We saw a bench ahead on the trail and felt we deserved a bit of a rest.  I wish I could say I wont’ take chances like that again.  The truth is, I probably will.

Around a curve, a couple hundred yards further, I discovered that the washed out bridge is not the only bridge that ties Wagner Farm to Glen Hurst Open Space.

An easier way to cross the river

Back at the car, we took a few minutes to write and draw.

Glen Hurst Open Space Trail Head

Time passed and I asked Dad how he was doing with his writing.  Turns out he had copied everything written on the signs tacked to the Trail Head boards.

“Dad…. after our huge adventure of crossing the river isn’t there something you can think to say about it?”

We crossed the river

By walking carefully on a fallen tree.

We slogged through the marsh

Knees were kept dry.  I didn’t fall,

For I leaned on Chris’s shoulder.

She “saved the day”

The sky is still quite clear.

We are seated in the front seat of her parked car

Both doors are WIDE OPEN.

there is may a sound and no clouds.

No clouds

Sh – Sh.


Our muddy footprints back at Chelsea

Read Full Post »

Dad was dressed in gardening clothes when I arrived at Chelsea.  We were scheduled to meet Ernie at the Giving Garden at 1 pm.  That gave us time to pick up trail maps at the Warren Municipal Building and grab lunch.

Watering Can at the Giving Garden

Chelsea is decorated beautifully for the holidays.  The tree in the foyer is covered with ornaments with the names of each resident.

Dad's tree ornament

As I searched for Dad’s ornament, he remained focused on the pots of amaryllis.

Amaryllis blossom

“Did you notice that their are seven of these (pointed to the stamen) and seven of these (pointed to the petals)?”

The blue, blue sky

We were blessed with another gorgeous day.  Naturally, Dad stopped on the way to the car to admire the blue, blue sky.

“My chemistry professor at Purdue showed us a beaker filled with blue liquid, vapor rising from the surface.  He told us that it was no coincidence that the sky was the same blue color.  The beaker was filled with cold, vaporizing liquid oxygen.”

A few minutes later…..

“Isn’t it amazing that seeing the sky today would remind me of my professor?”

On the way to the Warren Municipal Complex we passed two policemen by the side of the road keeping watch over the traffic as trees were being trimmed.

“Do you remember that your mother used to say molicepen instead of policemen when we were driving around in the car?”

I don’t remember that.

A couple minutes later we stopped next to a truck at a red light. The company name, Tree Mgt. Svcs., was lettered on the side. Dad read the name aloud to me…. Tree Management Services.  Before spending Thursdays with Dad, I wouldn’t have thought much about it.  Dad stays occupied by reading.  He reads everything around him.  It has been his way of being attentive even if only momentarily.  What struck me this time is that Dad easily understood the abbreviations for the words.  My analytical brain continues to search for both consistencies and inconsistencies in Dad’s ability to process the world around him.  Earlier, we had played a short game of Rummy 500 (Rummy 300) in his room.  Though he played his cards well, he had difficulty finding the stack of cards to draw from.

Warren Library with air vents

After picking up the trail maps we checked the library schedule for special programs we might attend during inclement winter weather.

“Pretty interesting that the surface of the chimneys is the same as the side of the building.  It looks as if those chimneys aren’t chimneys at all.  They look more like air vents.”

Real Chimneys

“That other building has real chimneys, not air vents.  I wonder where their air vents are.”

Police Communications Tower

“And look at that tall tower behind the building.  That’s obviously a police communications tower.  I say obviously when I don’t really know. I would guess it’s for high frequency communication with the police cars.  I hope that’s accurate …. the field keeps changing.”

Next to the Municipal Complex is a strip mall.  We stopped in at the Muscle Maker Grill and ordered lunch to go. Check it out… www.musclemakergrill.com.

With our bag of healthy, yummy food, we headed to Wagner Farm where we slid the front seat back and enjoyed our lunch of BBQ chicken nuggets (not fried), cucumber salad and European Wrap.  Just as we were finishing, Ernie arrived.

The Giving Garden at Wagner Farm

Our task was to spread manure on the beds and to pull out any rocks and large weeds.

“Is this your garden, Chris?”

“No, Dad, this is a community garden.  The produce is donated to the local Food Bank.”

That turned out to be the question of the day.  After about six rounds of the same question and variations of the answer, I left Dad to rake the manure and I moved on to the next bed to rid it of giant weeds.

Dad spreading manure.

The Giving Garden is an organic garden.  Any small weeds remain in the garden to add nutrients.  Only the large, thick-rooted weeds are removed.  This is against Dad’s gardening habits.  I think it drove him a bit crazy tossing the little weeds back into the garden.

“They’re only going to cause problems next year, Chris.”

Getting a little tuckered out

What a trooper.  Dad worked diligently without complaint.  He continued to rake manure while I attacked  weeds.  I should have used a shovel rather than a hoe.  After the first four weeds, I broke the hoe.  Feeling a bit sheepish, I carried the broken hoe to Ernie.

“Don’t worry.  That’s what tools are for.  There are more hoes in the shed.  Help yourself.”

Two more volunteers had joined us.  George and Ernie shoveled the manure into two wheelbarrows and Pepe dumped the manure into the beds.  Pepe is originally from Cuba.  He left forty years ago, moved to Spain, and now lives in New Jersey.  Between loads of manure we shared stories of delicious Portuguese food. He smiled when I mentioned the bright orange color of the egg yolks, the result of chickens fed on a diet of corn and cabbage.

En Plein Air

When Dad’s back began to tire, we cleaned our tools and switched activities.  I brought two chairs out of the trunk and handed Dad his green sketchbook and pencil.

Dad's Watering Can

“I can start right in the middle of the can, can’t I” Dad asked.

Dad painting with Water Brush

When his drawing was complete I asked he would like to add color.

“Hmmmm.  I guess so.”

I handed him the water brush and the palette of Peerless Watercolor Papers.  Without hesitation he began.

The Water Brush

After a few strokes, he chuckled.

“What are you laughing at, Dad?”

“I was about to ask you where my water is!  Hah….. it’s in the brush.”

Wow…… (link to Where’s My Water post from a couple of weeks ago)

After completing his painting I asked him what he thought about it.

“Very amateurish, sort of First Grade.”

In spite of his harsh judgement, he had a big smile on his face.

I asked him to write a few words while the painting dried and I packed the car.

In New Jersey

Dad with daughter

Love flowing

This beautiful, beautiful day!

Ah Ah Ah

DCC 12/01/11

Read Full Post »

We could have been safe and warm at Chelsea playing Crazy Eights with Parker.  Instead, Dad lay flat on the ground in the middle of a wetland meadow, his face buried in a mound of swamp grass.

Wetland Grasses behind Wagner Farm

Clouds blocked out the sun, but the rain had decided to take a break and permit Dad and I to have a day of adventure.  For both of us it turned out to be a journey down memory lane.  The Wagner Farm in Warren is only a couple of miles from Chelsea, Dad’s new home.  I recognized it as the dairy farm where, as a teenager, I purchased thick and creamy chocolate milk that they bottled and sold in the small store next to the farmhouse.  Now, the only cows on the farm are the large fiberglass Holsteins in the Children’s Garden.

Children's Garden at Wagner Farm

Dad informed me that Holsteins give an abundance of milk.  The trade-off for volume is lack of richness.  As a boy in Indiana, Dad raised Guernsey and Jersey cows, preferring richer milk.

The Giving Garden at Wagner Farm

Adjacent to the Children’s Garden is a large community garden.  We were fortunate to arrive at the same time that Ernest Cottrill arrived.  After parking the car we surveyed the vast wetlands behind the farm searching for signs of the paths I’d read about online We turned to Ernest for assistance.  Not only did we learn about the trails, we also learned about the Giving Garden and the opportunity for Dad and I to work as volunteers in the garden raising food for the local food pantry.  Ernest will be sending me information this evening.  If we like, we may also rent a small plot to grow our own vegetables, herbs and flowers.  What a fabulous way to start our day!

Ernie writing his contact info in my sketchbook

Ernie warned us that it might be pretty wet cutting across the field to the hedgerow that divided Wagner Farm from the Glenhurst Meadows Park trails.  He’d never gone that way, but was sure there was a break in the fence and that we could get to the trails that way if we wished.  Most people drive a bit more down the road and enter at the old golf course drive.

A changed and beautiful landscape

Hah!  Glenhurst Golf Course!  As a teen, I spent many a night lying on the grass beside the green, watching the sky for shooting stars and conversing with my boyfriend.

Dad and I headed in the direction Ernie pointed, hoping to find the break in the fence.

The break in the fence

We had no problem sneaking through the fence.

The long grasses disguised the uneven terrain as well as the water-filled holes and small trenches.  Halfway to the hedgerow I heard a rustle behind me.  I turned to see Dad lose his balance and fall flat onto the spongy ground.  He was straight as a board, arms down at his sides, face looking at China through a clump of swamp grass.  For a moment or two he didn’t move.  I tried to help him get up, but his arms were at his sides and it took a moment or two to reposition them so that he could push his chest up and get his face out of the swamp grass.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t too wet and his glasses were intact.  Awkwardly, we worked together to get him to his feet.  He cleaned his glasses, gave me a bewildered look and said, “I don’t think I’m picking my feet up…. let’s get going!”  And so we did, heading straight for the break in the hedgerow.

Dad high-stepping through the marsh grass.

On the far side of the hedgerow we found the Glenhurst Meadows trail, far wetter than the swampy meadow we just crossed.

Hedge Tree

Along the path we saw a gnarly tree stripped of its leaves, its fruit still clinging to the twisted branches.  Neither of us knew what it was.  Dad thought it was a Hedge Tree.

The hedgerow

“You mean because it’s in the hedgerow, Dad?”

“No, I think that’s what kind of tree it is…. a Hedge Tree.”

Fruit of the Hedge Tree

When the path turned into a small stream we turned back and followed it in the other direction.

Washed out road to Glenhurst Meadows

In spite of the difficult terrain, there were no more spills.

“How’s your stamina, Dad?”

I think he wanted to say “Fantastic!” but it came out “Staminique!”  He looked puzzled…. “I think I just made up a new word.  It’s a pretty good word, though.”

“After you fell I thought I should call today’s blog post The Foolish Daughter but maybe I’ll call it Staminique instead.”

“That would be much better”

Before returning to the car we explored the grounds around the barns.

Barn and Silo at Wagner Farm

“That barn used to be very useful.”

Dad went on to tell me how farmers chopped the corn stalks by hand, tied them into bundles and leaned them upright against each other in the fields until the bundles were dried and brought to the base of the silo where they were chopped into small pieces and blown up into the silo.

“Fred Pell had a silo … we didn’t.  Fred’s daughter, Imogene Van Hook lived with her husband in the tenant house on her father’s farm directly across the gravel pit pond from Fred’s house. ”

There were two gravel pits in the area, one on Fred Pell’s property and one on Thoaks, the Carter’s farm.  The county bought gravel from the Carters and the Pells.  The owner of the property got half the money and the man that dug the gravel out of the pit got the other half.

Dad drew a diagram of how the gravel was dug from the water-filled pits.

Digging for gravel

A steam engine with a belt drove a pulley on one side of the gravel pit pond.  An endless chain with buckets attached every six feet turned on that pulley and another pulley attached to a twenty-five foot high pole on the other side of the pond.  The chain of buckets dragged along the bottom of the pit and the buckets filled with gravel.  The buckets were lifted out of the water and the gravel dumped out as the chain looped around the second pulley at the top of the pole.  The digger shoveled into his truck and drove it to the county office.

Both gravel pits filled with water and made for good swimming and fishing during the hot, Indiana summers.

We returned to the car and headed out to find a place to eat lunch, draw and rediscover the expressive nature of words.

Check back for Staminique …. Part Two

Read Full Post »