Sinking In...

Our old house was built in 1861. The kitchen, however, is considerably newer...

...It was remodeled in the 1940’s.

To be fair, the appliances are not from the 1940’s - the oven and stove are not new, but are certainly of a more recent vintage than the cabinetry and countertop. The refrigerator is a newer item that we purchased when we moved in.

Shortly after we moved in we also installed a new faucet on the old double-basin stainless steel kitchen sink. This was done in an effort to somewhat modernize the equipment we were working with, and we chose a Moen faucet with a pull-out head that had stream and sprayer settings. Moen is a brand we’ve had good luck with in the past, but this particular faucet was a disappointment. The head piece began to leak at the bottom of base intermittently a couple of years into owning the faucet. At first this only happened when the screen filter inside of it needed to be cleaned out, but it ultimately persisted even when the filter was clean, and/or when it was replaced with a new one.

The bigger part of the problem was the process of discovering the faucet to be leaking. The design of the faucet has the base of the head sitting at a downward angle in the base of the faucet, and that base is open to the cabinet below. This meant that wet feet were often the first sign that it was leaking - wet because the water was now trickling out of the cabinet below the sink and onto the floor. Ultimately we ended up leaving the faucet head pulled out all of the time to avoid this problem:

bad faucet

This solution was not a triumph of ergonomic design, to say the least.

We had been reluctant to purchase new items for the kitchen one at a time, hoping instead to wait and do a larger kitchen remodel. That’s still in the long-term plans (1940’s, remember), but it was clear something needed to be done here. MLW and I headed out to Menards to seek out candidates for a new kitchen faucet and ended up coming across an all-in-one sink and faucet combination by Tuscany.

new sink?.jpg

We cook at home frequently, and MLW and I usually cook as a team. When one is doing this in our 1940’s kitchen, one quickly realizes that, like most kitchens of the era, it was designed around the idea that one person would be doing the meal preparation (that one person was specifically my Grandma Marie, who expertly navigated this kitchen despite its limitations). Though the kitchen is, by far, the single largest room in the house, the amount of counter space to work on is limited, and it typically leaves at least one person re-purposing the kitchen table for food preparation.

This setup offered a number of options that looked like would work well for us, and would address some of those space issues, including a colander for cleaning veggies, and a cutting board that sits in the basin. The included faucet was also very consistent with the types of designs we were looking at.

The measurements on the sink were a little bigger than the one it would be replacing, so we made the call to have an installer look at our setup before buying the kit. The folks from Triple Service were very helpful both for this, and when it came time to do the installation (I know how to install a sink in theory, but I’ve learned the value of letting an expert handle this sort of thing over the years - what would take a skilled installer a couple of hours would take me at least an entire weekend of sweating, swearing, and bloody knuckles; An entire weekend during which we would not have use of a kitchen sink...).

We were pleased with the result:

Happy new sink

We did make one modification from the kit. It came with a built-in soap dispenser, but we elected to keep our hard water drinking line. MLW picked up a small gooseneck faucet to go in that spot, which matches nicely with the main faucet.

We got a chance to try it all out last night with one of our Blue Apron deliveries. So far, it seems to be working out very nicely.

Unusual Visitor

The week of Valentine’s Day this year we had an unusual visitor in our neighborhood. The first time I saw it I wasn’t sure about what I was looking at. It was from a distance, out in the field a hundred yards or more from the car. Still, one it took off and flew away I was pretty sure...


Part of the uncertainty upon the first sighting is that we routinely see birds of prey - hawks and falcons - out here on the prairie. This wasn’t always so. Growing up out here in the 1970’s seeing a hawk was a rare and special event - I can vividly remember my mother’s excitement when she would point them out. I continue to share that excitement when I see them now, and I get to share it far more frequently than when I was young. Thanks, undoubtedly, to the efforts of the EPA restricting the use of DDT, one can now routinely see a hawk sitting atop a telephone pole or a fence post, or soaring overhead. It’s not uncommon to hear their shrieking calls when one is outside on a summer’s day.

This visitor looked to be different, both in size and with respect to coloration, but it was far in the distance that first day. The second sighting, however, a day or so later, was more clear. It was in the same area, again starting in the field. But then it took flight and flew ahead of me for nearly a mile, staying close to the road. At that point I was certain, but given the choice between enjoying the view or trying to stop and get a photo, I opted for the view.

MLW was with me in the car for the third sighting however, and the visitor cooperated by remaining on the ground long enough for her to get these pictures:

Yup - that’s an Eagle all right



Thing is, while we see hawks and falcons and vultures on a regular basis, I have never seen a bald eagle out here. Certainly I did not see them when I was younger, when they were on the endangered species list, but they’ve been absent for the nearly 10 years we’ve been back out here as well. Absent, that is, until two weeks ago.

According to Wikipedia (which is never wrong), the open prairie really isn’t the bald eagle’s ideal habitat. Rather, they prefer large bodies of open water and old-growth trees. We certainly have creeks and ponds, but these are small and disparate, so it’s not surprising they aren’t regular visitors. This makes one wonder why this particular specimen was hanging out in our area (assuming, of course, that it was the same eagle at each sighting). Was it just passing through, or have the populations along major waterways finally grown enough that they are venturing out?

Hard to say. While we had three sightings within the week of Valentine’s day, it’s now been over a week since the last viewing. I’ll be keeping an eye out, though, hoping to catch it again.

Paths in the Snow

When we get a real snowfall it visually changes the landscape around us. Physical markers disappear, changes in the topography are erased. Driving down the road after a heavy, accumulating snowfall finds the demarcation between the edge of the road and the sharp drop off of the ditch now invisible, suggesting a wide, flat expanse from road to field that is present at no other time.

The sights of this moment will also change as the wind picks up, blowing the snow into drifting patterns that shift as the strength and direction of the wind ebbs and flows. In other times of year what we see varies with the season - the buds of spring, the verdant hues of summer, the colors of fall - but no other time of year is so dynamic as winter with real snow.

The weather changes the landscape, and then we follow behind and change it again to suit our needs. As we venture out, we cut our paths through the snow to allow our footfall, and the wheels of our vehicles easier transit. These, again, offer an ephemeral visual change seen only now, only in the moment.

For our human purpose, we may make large changes to the winter landscape - clearing out the driveway:

Large Paths

Or smaller ones to make moving about the yard easier:

small paths and Calamity Jane

But we humans aren’t the only ones who need to find the way through the snow. Here, Calamity Jane is content to use the path I’ve shoveled, but she has other places to be, other things to see, than I. For those purposes she - who patrols the property tirelessly - has forged her own trails:

CJ Trail

This is the type of path you get from a canine with six inch legs who is nonetheless not to be swayed from her self-appointed duties. And, other members of the canine contingent - who may not, themselves, be quite so motivated - do appreciate the benefit of her efforts:

Freyja, you lazy slug...

And all of these things are self-evident as you see them. But then, on occasion, you encounter other, less typical pathways or tracks through the snow:

Bouncy Marks

For perspective, it’s helpful to know that this shot is taken from an upstairs window, some 20’ above, and at least 20’ out from the closest marks. There is real space between each track - at least a foot on some cases, certainly more in others. This leaves one to wonder what exotic creature has ventured into the yard to take such strides...

And then one realizes: this is what the snow looks like after an Australian Shepard has bounded through like Pepe LePew chasing his true love (of the moment), refusing the indignity of simply barreling down the snow in front of her in favor of what must seem, at least in the moment, a far more elegant solution.

Old Pictures

One of the many upsides to doing genealogical research is having the opportunity to look through old family photos and get a glance - however fleeting - into the lives of ones ancestors. In the house itself we have a handful of pictures, and family members have allowed for the gathering of others.

While I enjoy them all, I was particularly impressed to find that my uncle, who is certainly our foremost family historian, had pictures of three pairs of my generation’s third-great (great-great-great) grandparents. This is delightful and surprising, as these are people born in the first half of the 1800’s or, in one case, late in the 1700’s. None of them were born in, or really anywhere near, their final settlements in Illinois.

Here are Smith H. "Prairie" Johnson and Ziba Johnson (née Tompkins):

Prairie and Ziba Johnson

Prairie has the distinction of being the earliest born of the bunch, in 1797 in Vermont. Ziba was several years younger than he, born in 1809 and hailing from New York. Both are buried in Fisk Cemetery.

Joel Compton and Nancy Compton (née Townsend):

Joel and Nancy Compton

Joel and Nancy were born in 1819 and 1824, respectively. He was from New Jersey and she from Pennsylvania, and my records indicate that they were married in Pennsylvania in 1842. They opened a general store and a town that became their namesake was founded around them. Both are buried in Melugin Grove Cemetery.

John Foulk and Martha Foulk (née Morrow):

John and Martha Foulk

Both born in 1822, John was born in Pennsylvania, while Martha hailed from Ohio. These folks are the builders of our old house, the people responsible for the living history around me each day. They are buried at Restland Cemetery in a family plot.

These photos give a glimpse into their lives, and give a reference for our modern day family. Photography would have been a new technology in their times, making the existence of these pictures all the more remarkable. Clearly, these moments were special occasions, and you can see in the shots that they’ve selected their finery, such as it was. Nancy Compton, in particular, is decked out in necklaces, ribbons, and earrings.

It’s interesting to consider as one looks through these and considers current day family members where the resemblances lie - who looks like a Compton, a Johnson, a Foulk, from days of old. Or does a given person perhaps more resemble one of the other third greats, for whom we may not have pictures? There are, of course, six of these per parent, 12 to consider in all...

Part of the long-term goal is to have these pictures and the known stories about these folk preserved in order to know them better myself, but also to allow for others to know them. Having this ability is a gift many are not given, whether due to poor family record keeping or, often, due to the unfortunate nature of how their ancestors arrived into our country. It seems appropriate to make of that gift what we can.

Edward’s Church

Edward and Erna lived In a house just down the road from our old house when I was growing up. Most of my memories of them were from when I was very young, but they are all fond. I remember that they had a three legged dog - my recollection is that it had been hit by a lawnmower (poor thing). My memory also records that Edward had a delightful speaking voice - a voice I can best describe as being reminiscent of Paul Lynde.

I had no idea at the time that Edward was my grandmother’s first cousin. It makes sense, of course - her brother, also Edward’s cousin, lived right across the road from Edward, and it’s clear that this was a family stretch of road. But I was frequently unaware of these relations as a child, coming to learn and appreciate them all the more as an adult.

I also came to learn that Edward was a painter. Not a painter of houses or fences and such, though I’m sure he was capable in that regard. Rather, he painted oil on canvas of things around him. One of those paintings hung in my grandmother’s house for the entirety of my recollection, and it is of the old church.

the old church in frame

I realize as I write this that I know very little about the painting beyond its original subject and the artist. For example, I do not know when it was painted, nor how old Edward was when he did so, nor where this fell in his artistic arc - e.g. is this an early work, or something that occurred later?

Assuming that he intended a realistic representation of the subject, some clues can be gathered from the painting itself when compared to current day (photo taken from the seat of my trike, so the vantage point is a little different):

Church photograph

Church painting close up

The differences here suggest some things about the era in which the painting was made. The difference in the roads stands out, of course. In all four directions out of the intersection the road is asphalt in current day (though two of those directions change to gravel after a short distance), while Edward portrayed either gravel or dirt roadways. The road signs are absent, of course, as is any sign of anything resembling a power line.

The fence in the foreground of the painting is gone now, though I remember it within my lifetime. Edward’s Church also does not have lightening rods atop the peak of the roof. You can see that he took pains to try to accurately represent the complex lines of the stained glass window.

Though part of it may be the differences in the days portrayed - Edward’s a bright, partly cloudy summer, mine a steely gray midwinter - as I look at the painting I find that I’d rather be in his picture than in mine much of the time. His is quiet, serene, while mine is harsh and cold. I can see that he is connected to the place and the time, and I find that I very much appreciate the window into that place and time that he has given.

Winter Warm-Up

As we enter the last third of January 2018 here at the Homestead we are presented with temperatures sitting decidedly above 30°(F). As I write this we have a current temperature of 38°, with a forecast high of 41° for the day. Tomorrow is promising temps in the low- to mid-50’s, and the coming week has highs ranging from the low 30’s to the high 40’s.


People are predictably very pleased about the warm-up, especially coming off of the cold snap of a couple of weeks ago. While, further north, sustained tempatures in the negative single digits are not unusual (and are frankly not all that unusual here), our modern amenities seem to ill-prepare us for the realities of winter at its harshest. As such, the warmer weather is greeted with joy by many.

I am not among them.

When the temperatures rise on the prairie in winter it is warmer, to be sure. But along with it comes several other, predictable effects that, to my mind, do not compare favorably to the features that accompany the sharp bite of the air on a true winter day.

It’s Ugly Out There

Warm winter days on the prairie are typically gloomy affairs. As can be seen on the weather report, above, along with the rise in temperatures comes fog and rain. And the fog, here, she ain’t just-a-kidding. Life in the country is one of isolation by choice, but the degree of that increases markedly as the white wall of cloud descends to ground level.

The view out my back stairwell window looks something like this most mornings:


This is the tableau that greets from the same window today:


Go back to the first picture and count the wind turbines you cannot see in the second picture. Some of them are more distant, of course, but one of them - the largest in the picture - is less than a half mile away. These things are huge, but the fog swallows them up as if they were never there.

As the temperatures rise the snow we were blessed with over the past couple of weeks retreats. It doesn’t go all at once, of course, but pulls back in patches. The braver, heartier, cleverer flakes which chose to fall on to shaded areas remain longer, holding out as best they can. This leaves them transformed, however - like Jeremiah Johnson walking out of the mountains at the end of the winter, they are hairier, more grizzled versions of their former selves.


The melting snow is part of the reason for the fog, of course, and the two conspire to concoct the final, perhaps most objectionable component of this warm winter weather trifecta:

The mud.

A week ago everything was covered in a lovely blanket of white. As it pulls back it reveals patches of brown and black soup lying in wait for an errant foot. And while all mud can be unpleasant, mid-winter mud has the additional special property of sitting on top of the frozen layer below. Instead of simply sinking in, the mud acts as a viscous lubricant on the slip-and-slide that your yard has now become.

As a special bonus, you will find that your dogs will appear to have made a special effort to step in each and every errant mud-bog that the yard offers, just before trying to crawl into your lap.

While you are slipping and sliding, and regretting the attention of your beloved pets, you are also becoming soaked to the bone because the ambient humidity level is nearly 100%. Single digit temperatures are cold, to be sure, but they aren’t generally wet. 35° and damp has a way of cutting through the skin that is differentially unpleasant from a cold day on its own.

A true, cold winter day has a way of inviting one outside - the bright blue skies, the shimmering blanket of snow. It’s days like today that keep me in, away, isolated.

Searl Ridge Cemetery


In the latter part of this past summer I had an opportunity to search out and find Searl Ridge Cemetery. This little site is tucked away in one of the more rural areas of the already very rural Bureau County here in Illinois. Many of the ancestors on my father’s side of the family lived in this area, and I was interested in this site in particular because it includes the gravesite of my great-great grandparents.

I often like to bike or trike to visit these graveyards, but Searl Ridge is a good 30+ miles from home. I may work up to that type of distance, but I’m not there yet, so when one of LB’s Cross Country meets took us into Bureau County I took the opportunity to find it. Like many of these older cemeteries, it’s clear that the site has been cared for. Still, the degree of this declines over time, likely as descendants move out past the generations that actively remember those interned within. As a testament to this, the iron fence and sign have on it a plaque indicating it was "donated by M.R. Clark [and] R.L. Clark, 1994". This seems, to a person from my era, like recent attention paid to the site by benefactors until one realizes that 1994 was 23 years ago...

There are other indications of change as well. As is often the case, I found this site through This site often includes pictures not just of gravestones, but also of the entranceway to the graveyard itself, which can be helpful when things are hidden away behind trees and the like. The black fence and sign here are unmistakable, but to the right of the sign there is a building foundation with charred remnants of its former occupant.

Charred Remnants

I’d saved the entranceway photo from findagrave back when I first came across the location. It’s unclear when that photo was taken, but the building was still present at that time.


When you enter the cemetery you see that someone cared about this site not just enough to put up a fence, but also to make an informational sign:

Searl Ridge Sing

The sign was put up as part of a restoration project that appears to have started back in 2007, according to this article from BCRNews. The building that is gone was The Ridge Chapel. The cemetery, the chapel, as well as some history about the buildings, are touched on here by Avra Valley John on his site Off the Beaten Path in Illinois. The article, which is from March of 2017, refers to the chapel as being present, which suggests it burned relatively recently. A comment on his site suggests it was in very poor repair so it’s possible the fire was intentional, though vandalism also rears its ugly head out in rural areas.

Also referred to in these sources is the old schoolhouse, which is still there:


Avra Valley John indicates the structure, built in 1875, is the third school built on the site. The first was a log cabin which hosted the first classes in 1837. This was replaced by another building in 1860, and then the current building, pictured, built in 1875. The history on the sign indicates that it continued to be used as a school until 1947.

The graveyard itself is like many in the region, with stones ranging in age from the mid-1800s to the late 1970’s (at least), in varying states of repair:



Several of the "stones" weren’t stone at all, but appeared to be a cast metal, and are hollow:

cast iron?

This was new to me, and it’s difficult to tell just by looking, but knock on them and they ring out. Wikipedia suggests that these could be cast iron, or sand-cast zinc, which were popular for the era. In many cases the "engravings" and information appear to have withstood the ravages of time better than their stone counterparts.

George Washington and Sarah Amelia (Ireland) Wade are the great-great-grandparents I was here to find, and their site was present:

George Washington Wade and Sarah Amelia Ireland Wade

I know very little about these folks, aside from some demographic information. They had eight children together, including my great grandfather, Percy.

George and Sarah Amelia Descendants

Two of their daughters - Jessie Pearl and Nina Elsie - worked as school teachers in the area (they show up frequently in newspaper archives). Percy himself was a lock tender on the I&M Canal.

There are only these Wades in the cemetery, but there are several Irelands. There are also Searls, as one might expect, and at least some (if not all) of these are family to Sarah Amelia. Included among them are her great-grandfather, Timothy Searl, and her parents, Jonathan Ireland and Elizabeth Catherine. The broken gravestone, above, is possibly for Elizabeth - it reads "Eliza, wife of J. Ireland". If so, it was later replaced with this, much larger stone:

Elizabeth C Ireland

It appears she also has two brothers here. Wilber, buried with his wife Mary:

Wilber G and Mary A Ireland

And her brother Frank, is also here:

Frank L Ireland

The inscription on the stone reads "Uncle". This would suggest that he never married.

It seems likely, given the nature of these sites, that several of the other Searls and Irelands are also relations. I realize, as I look through my family tree and try to pair pictures with people, that I will need to take another trip to Searl Ridge Cemetery. I was focused primarily on finding George and Amelia’s grave. I was successful in this, but i missed out on many others. I’ll need to take more time on another day

The Kerr Shortbread Cookies Carry On In The Old Homestead

The Holidays are upon us with all the trimmings and merriment, but also the hustle, bustle and fretting too. The frenzied running about, decorating, gift wrapping and shopping for food and gifts.

What gifts to get our loved ones? Will they like it or hate it? Be creative with a gift or go with money? What to cook, will it be loved or abhorred? To put giblets in the gravy or not? Which dressing to make? Serve ham, turkey or both? Decisions, decisions and even more decisions to be made. One can easily become overwhelmed and forget what Christmas is all about.

Add a very ambitious and busy high schooler to the mix and one can easily vacillate between a crying heap of jello or a raving lunatic. I can feel the stress, worry and excitement pouring off my teenager as they study for finals, work on dance in preparation for trying out for show choir and the musical, The Little Mermaid. Also my teen has started a new organization at the high school, Gender Sexuality Acceptance or GSA. I am a proud Mum to be sure, but wow that’s a crazy schedule.

Seemed like time for Shortbread.

The moment my hands started to cream flour, soft butter and sugar the stress melted away, much like a well made shortbread cookie should do in one’s mouth. In the heart of this Grand Old Lady generations past and present comforted my troubled soul by reminding of what is truly important.

 Dough with flour on top

My Dad was here to guide me through a process my Grandma, Muriel, once taught me long ago; A recipe that was taught to her by a baker family member from Glasgow. My Dad has since made it a mission to carry on his family’s tradition. My Dad even taught our child, Devin, a few years back.

The memories of eating Grandma’s shortbread always signaled Christmas and family gatherings. When we still lived in Canada, I remember the times I watched Grandma mixing the butter, flour and sugar with her hands. Listening to her say “mixing it with the hands was one of the most important ingredients”. The heat of our hands helped melt the butter and sugar together to create that melt-in-your-mouth taste.

The hands also could feel the proper consistency your shortbread dough should be. It had to be done by sight and feel. Too little flour and the shortbread spreads out turning into more of a sugar cookie. Too much flour and your shortbread would be too hard. Neither my Dad and I have the experience that only comes from making hundreds of batches of shortbread. My Dad solved this problem by doing a “tester cookie” with each new batch. You put 1 cup of flour down, then 1pound butter followed by 1 cup of flour and 1 cup ultra-fine sugar. The recipe gets a little less exact after that. Grandma would always say somewhere between 3 to four cups of flour more or less.

My Dad rolls out his dough somewhere between 3 to 4 cups of flour and bakes 1 cookie. If it spreads too much need more flour. He just adds a touch more flour and bakes one cookie again till he is happy with the texture and taste. “Can always add more flour, but can’t take back too much flour”, Grandma would say. What a genius move on my Dad’s part, that tester cookie, making it easier for me to learn without ruining a whole batch.

Cookies on the way!

Grandma would talk about the variety of variables that would cause the flour level to fluctuate. The house is too dry or too humid; The brand or batch of all purpose flour you use; The temperature of your hands or the kitchen. Sometimes the pound of butter has more or less water in it.

I did try a batch with homemade Amish butter, which was wetter and needed a bit more flour. The batch with Amish butter was quicker to melt in the mouth as well as having a different but delightful taste. My Dad and I theorized that, because it was hand made, the Amish butter better replicated the butters of Great Grandmother’s time, and my Grandmother’s, as well as his childhood.

He has fond memories of being a child, climbing up onto counters to get at his Grandmother’s butter, which he would eat straight from the butter dish. Butter, he says, tasted creamier and different then than the butter does today.

I used a rectangular cookie cutter Grandma gave me from her own set of cookie cutters. She needlessly worried that it was rectangular and not round like the one she used for her cookies. She fussed that she had given the other round ones away. I reassured her the shortbread would be the same whether in a circle or rectangle. Either way my shortbread would bear the Kerr family mark - the mark of a fork pricked in the top in 3 rows. Every family had their own combination of fork marks so one could tell who had made which shortbread. She politely mused that some shortbread with certain marks were to be coveted while others were avoided.


As my Dad and I made shortbread together the previous generations of my family were present with the previous generations of this old home. The German/Mendota origins of my husband with my Canadian, Scottish and Ukrainian roots brought inspiration and joy to this Grand Old Lady as well as bringing peace to my harried soul.

Just like the amount of flour changes because of different variables, so does life. I admit being intimidated by so much in my life including making shortbread. Without realizing it my Dad reminded me to start small, try, be flexible and find balance.

As my hands crafted the shortbread dough, I had to be patient with the ebb, flow and balance while not forcing it. While doing this I realized in my own life there is lack of balance and inclination to force things.

My husband and child came home from their busy days while I was still creating. There in kitchen they ate shortbread as we chatted and for a moment all of our stresses melted away. This became a time as a family to recharge and refocus. Never underestimate the power of making an old family recipe while creating new memories. It is those recipes and traditions that will be cherished and held more dear than any gift you could buy.

Thank you Grandma and Dad for sharing your wisdom and time, I love you both.

With those thoughts I am off to enjoy a spot of tea in my Grandma’s tea cups alongside her shortbread. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year with simplicity and balance.

Tea and biscuits...

As I finish this writing my husband has admitted to possibly surviving on mostly shortbread for the last two days. I am also certain that my child and their best friend, Angelique, have used shortbread to fuel their final exam studies this weekend.

Historical Detritus

Our Homestead is old, but it is not now, and has never been, a museum. Throughout the course of its existence it has either served as a home, or sat empty, unused. This applies to the house itself, as well as to the property and it’s outbuildings.

The old barn on the property is nearly as old as the house itself, and it appears to have originally been built as an animal barn, with stalls for horses that include feeding troughs and the like. As time has gone on, the need for this type of structure has waned, and it has been put to other purposes - grain storage, general storage, and, apparently, raccoon sanctuary.

In these transitions, however, no one has bothered to remove or relocate the remnants of the prior usages. Hanging in the barn have been old bits of horse tack - various leather strappings and mechanisms designed for hitching horses up to wagons and similar devices.

I’d like to say that I know this because I’ve seen such items hanging in the barn and, to a certain degree this is true. However, it turns out that we have another, far more eager group of historical archeologists living on the property:

Our dogs.



Over the years that we have lived here they have pulled out of the barn more bits of animal tack than I can ever recall seeing in there myself - the experience of finding yet another such item laying in the yard is a little like watching a slow motion clown car performance.

While I’d like to think that they are interested in sharing these historical discoveries with the rest of the family, I should note that most of these items have leather strapping attached to them, and I suspect it is this which actually gains the interest of our canine contingent. Still, they also have buckles and other metal components as well, which inevitably show up elsewhere in the yard (a delightful thing to encounter with a lawn mower, let me tell you).

The supply of these items surely must end at some point, and then we will no longer have these educational encounters with history. Until then, it does lend a reminder of the fact that it really hasn’t been that long since people used animals, rather than tractors, to plow the fields and get their product to market.

Roadside History Lessons


I suppose it’s a bit of a truism to say that, despite how much you think you know, there is always more to learn. Still, new information insists on presenting itself, and sometimes in unexpected ways.

There is a site a few miles from home that I have ridden by many times, both since moving out here to the Homestead, and back when I lived here as a child. It’s a small plot of land at a very rural intersection that has always been mowed and tended, despite the appearance of there being virtually nothing there.


Now, nothing is not an entirely accurate description. Part of what made me take notice of the site riding past it in our recent occupation is the fact that something is missing from it. When I was younger, I distinctly remember this site having a storm cellar on it. These, for the uninitiated, are concrete bunkers set low to the ground with the intention that one will get inside when high-wind storm events (think tornados) appear to be imminent. I remember this distinctly because I can remember that, as a child, I desperately wanted to go in to that storm cellar and I was, of course, also terrified to do so.

This is a distinct feeling of childhood, I think, and one that I can recall feeling over and over and over again. It usually involved choosing to do something that was likely inadvisable at best - walking across a railroad trellis, riding the rail system in the hay mount, climbing up the tower at the grain elevator late at night... (how did we not die doing these things?)

The storm cellar was dark, and indeterminately deep when viewed from the outside. And since one could not see in, one could only imagine what might be living inside - might we encounter snakes? Raccoons? A hibernating bear???

I did finally screw up enough resolve, as well as the foresight to bring along a flashlight. The outcome was... disappointing. There were no bears, no raccoons, no snakes. There was, in fact, nothing. Nothing but a muddy floor, and it was far less deep than it seemed it should be, suggesting it had probably been slowly filling in with mud flow over the years.

I always assumed this site was a former home site, with the house no longer present - either torn down or moved. Still, this did not explain why someone was continuing to maintain the site, nor why it also had what looked to me like the remnants of a bit of playground equipment set to one end.

Lilliputian Monkey Bars

So it was the recollection, and the notable absence, of the storm cellar that initially made me take notice of the site as I rode by it. I also noticed that there was a large stone there, with what appeared to be a plaque set in it. I was curious about this, but I’ll admit that I rode by it many times without stopping, always figuring that I would check on another ride, more concerned about getting my miles in.

This summer I did go ahead and stop to look, and thereby to learn the something new:

In honor of Immanuel Ev Lutheran Church

The Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church that I know - that I attended throughout my childhood - is a mile to the west of this site. I knew that it was old, and established by settlers to the area, including my ancestors - the stained glass windows at the church still display wording in German, the language those early settlers spoke. But I did not realize that the church was not always at its current site, that it had been first established further down the road. Nor did I realize when. Establishment in 1864 would set it only three years after our own Homestead was built, and place it at a time when the settlers were likely still carving their lives out of the prairie.

And the Lilliputian monkey bars? I wonder if this perhaps wasn’t a hitching bar...

I have no notion at the moment as to who decided to place the stone and the plaque at this site, it being well off the beaten path. However, I do very much appreciate that decision, opening up as it does yet another opportunity for discovery, and demonstrating that there are others about who truly care for the history of this place.

First Snow 2017

As I walked to the stairwell to begin my search for another cup of coffee this morning a glance out the window revealed this:


Big fluffy flakes here in the middle-ish of November reflect the first meaningful snowfall of the season. We are ahead of the astronomical winter by a more than a month, but as usual, the weather gods of the Midwest feel not the limits of our puny calendars.


There is something about the first real snowfall that always makes me happy. This is not something I’ve ever been able to really explain - it’s just a visceral thing that happens. Perhaps, like fall, or the first buds of spring, it reflects a change in the landscape, a variation what has been the typical order of things for the several weeks and months prior.


Perhaps. But snow makes me giddy in a way that the other examples do not. There is something more to it. IMG_5018.GIF Undoubtedly some look out the window and experience the dread of a coming season of heavy coats, cold hands and noses, and shoveling. I know these things will be coming too, and I have no illusions about the potential future swearing I will do as I’m trying to rock, then shovel, then rock some more in my efforts to get my car unstuck from somewhere, where "somewhere" is even, possibly, my own driveway.

All of that is a ways off for now, tho, and from the vantage point of my warm room, with no need to go anywhere, this is a beautiful thing.


Of Shed Roofs and Holes...

For the past couple of years we’ve had a very large hole in the roof of our shed.

Hole in Roof

It was there for the hole winter

Like most rural residential properties in Illinois, we have outbuildings in addition to the house itself. Like most such properties of similar age to ours - that is to say, 150+ years of age - those buildings vary considerably in terms of condition.

I’ve written before about the old barn, which is slightly younger than the house itself. It was in a state of decay when I wrote that, and it continues to insist on embracing entropy. In addition to the barn, we have two other outbuildings - a small garage, and the aforementioned shed.

The garage is a smallish building - probably technically a car-and-a-half in size - into which we manage to stuff our two, smallish Honda Fits. This is an exercise in automotive yoga, involving parking one of the two cars - mine - so closely to the wall of the building that it is physically impossible for a human being to enter the vehicle from the passenger side. Prospective passengers - my wife and child primarily - must wait outside the building while I back out before they can enter the vehicle. This mostly works out fine - I almost never fail to stop and let them in, virtually never drive off having forgotten them...

Despite its smallishness, the garage also does the heavy lifting of housing most of the things we care about enough to care for them but, you know, not enough to bring them into the house. The cars, the bikes, spare lumber, dog food, and so on.

The shed is a much larger building. It is a pole structure, sided in corrugated steel. Growing up out here we called these "machine sheds" or, sometimes, "Morton Buildings". "Morton" is a brand name, suffering here in the Midwest the same fate as "Xerox" and "Kleenex" have nationwide. There is nothing on the building to indicate that it was manufactured by the Morton company and yet, on multiple occasions I’ve been heard to utter than name in relation to it. More recently, however, I’m sure much to the relief of Morton Buildings, Inc., I’ve just been referring to it as "the f&%king shed".

And this takes us to where we started: there was a hole in the roof of the shed.

While the majority of the building - both sides and roof - is covered in corrugated steel, it did feature skylights made of translucent fiberglass. I wouldn't have actually known they were made of fiberglass, but Mother Nature felt it important to educate me, and so chose to rip one of the panels off in a windstorm, providing me the opportunity for close inspection of pieces of it down on the ground.

Now, I’m all for gaining knowledge, and I don’t want to seem unappreciative, but this lesson had a rather permanent effect upon the weather-tightness of the building. Perhaps Mother Nature could, in future, email me a link to a Wikipedia entry or something...

The process for addressing this took longer than one - particularly if one is me - might have expected. First up was a call to the insurance company in hopes that repairs to the building might be covered. Unfortunately, they pronounced the repair costs to be below our deductible, and drove off with their checkbook secure and unmolested.

Not expensive enough for the insurance company isn’t the same as inexpensive, however. Given this, and given the fact that most of our items of value were already stored in the garage (even with a roof fully sealed against the elements, the dirt floor of the shed is not ideal for longevity of stored items), we moved the few other items in there away from under the roof opening and started to save up.

Once we were ready to get the roof repaired, early exploration of this found a new area of concern. As I mentioned, there is no indication on the building to suggest that it is a Morton Shed and, in fact, no indication on it (that I can find) of its manufacturer at all.

And - not only am I unaware of the make of the building, but I’m also unsure of its age. I know that it was not there when I was little, and that it had appeared at some point between when I moved away and when I returned. The progression of years is such that this seems to encompass but the briefest period of time, but reality insists that it covers a span of at least 15 years, if not closer to twenty.

I am not always a fan of reality.

This wouldn't seem much of an issue to the casual observer, but it turns out that corrugated steel siding comes in multiple, subtlety different shapes and designs. What this means is that matching the pattern on the building becomes a challenge. The pattern on our shed looks like this:

Shed Pattern

When first informed of this issue I thought perhaps of repurposing sections of siding that appeared on the old barn. Two different types of siding had been added there over the years, likely in both cases to better seal it up against the elements and extend its lifespan.

The Barn white siding

The Barn steel siding

However, given the barn’s decaying state and, perhaps more importantly, it’s ongoing engagement in providing aid and comfort to the enemy, I would have been willing to repurpose those sections. And you’d think, being on the same property and all, that they’d perhaps be the same type of siding...

You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. And of course, by "you", here, I mean "me".

Shed again

Barn White up close

Barn steel up close

If you look up close and personal at those pictures you’ll see that the patterns do not match. Whether this reflects a different era of product, different style, different manufacturer, or all three remains a mystery, but they are, in fact, different nonetheless.

And here I was learning so much about the diversity both within the world of corrugated steel siding, and within the bounds of my very property. The nature of these lessons were such that, while I originally thought them visited upon me by a gracious, if heavy handed Mother Nature, I found myself now wondering if they were not perhaps the work of the old gods brought over by my ancestors, perhaps the whim of Loki peeking thru...

Ultimately I was pleased to find at there is a way to cover the opening with a newer roof panel that does not match, exactly, but which will function to keep the elements out regardless. In fact, this could be done using new translucent panels that continued to function as skylights, but were not made of the fiberglass material that tends to become brittle over time, and do things like break off in the wind.

The shed guys came out and repaired the roof this past week, leaving it looking a little different, but now sealed - at least at the top - from the elements.

All sealed up


It’s like a switch is flipped just as the calendar is flipped over.

I swear that the advent of October is like a signal to Mother Nature. "Oh" she says “they’ve enjoyed a sufficient amount of moderate, still, dry weather. It’s time to kick up the wind and rain".

It does not seem right to picture Mother Nature giving an evil laugh, and yet I cannot help but envision a Muh-hah-hah-hah at the end of her statement.

There will, of course, be very nice autumn days ahead of us and, in many ways, autumn is my favorite time of year. The weather is cool, the fall colors begin to pop, apples and pumpkins are ready for harvest, and the best of all holidays is right around the corner. But still, the sudden shift seems to throw me every year.

As I write this, it’s Saturday afternoon, October 7th. It’s been raining more or less continuously for the past two days. Not a hard rain, mind you, but rather just enough mist and moisture to make it unpleasant to spend time out in it. And then it happened:


Honestly, the sunlight took me by surprise. As I saw it coming in through my window, I realized that now was my opportunity - I could go outside!

What I’d really been jonesing to do was to get out and go for a ride. I made a quick wardrobe change and geared up the Catrike and, ignoring the 18-mile-an-hour winds, headed out (besides, the wind is only a problem when it’s against you, right?)

My outing wasn’t long - just enough to, as my mother oh-so-elegantly used to say (and still says) "blow the stink off of you". But you have to take these opportunities as the season offers them.

 We have wind here... 

We have wind here... 

The Mantis Strikes!

A handful of times over the years I have encountered people who have found and caught Praying Mantis’s. For myself, however, despite an abundant amount of time spent in the out-of-doors I have never personally come across one.

Not until this summer - now I’ve seen three.

The very first was found by LB, who saw it along the north wall of the old barn, and pointed it out to me. I’m not sure I would have noticed it myself, but there it was. I considered myself lucky for this encounter.

Then, a few weeks later I came across another, in grass that was perhaps a little longer than it should have been around the garden. This one I came across on my own, and I spent a little time with it.

Mantis in the grass

At first it did not notice me, too busy trying to navigate its way through the long blades (did I mention the grass may have been too long?). But then it turned and saw me and my phone there, intruding on its personal space, and took offense...

Mantis Attack!

Mantis Attack! close up

This Mantis was here to say "I will beat your ass if I have to", and showing it’s martial arts cred for the world, and more specifically, for me, to be aware. We stayed in this position, the two of us, for a short while. If I moved in and out the Mantis would reassert, making certain that I would not forget the danger posed by its arcane knowledge.

Seriously Dude - I will beat your ass!

Finally, détente reached, the Mantis took its leave of me, satisfied that I would fear and respect it, and all of its kind for the remainder of my days (Dude had quite an opinion of itself).

I am outta here

The Praying Mantis, or Mantis Religiosa (yup) is apparently not native to North America but rather, like Columbus (and ourselves), is an invader. Wikipedia (which is never wrong) actually lists its page on these critters under the title European Mantis. I actually thought that it might be the case that the versions we were seeing in the yard were some different variety of Mantis, since the outer carapace was a light brown rather than green, but apparently they come in a variety of colors.

And that fancy pose, warding me off and striking fear in my heart? It has a fancy scientific name, of course. This is the deimatic display, and is intended to make it look big and frightening and show off that extra set of eye marks on its upper chest (and who wouldn't want to show those if they had them?).

My third encounter - the day following, as it turns out, which I did not realize until I saw the dates in Photos - was the one that I included in last week’s post. That fellow, of course, was happily munching on a bee when I encountered it.

Bees are what’s for dinner

That one did not attempt to ward me off. One might assume it was too taken with its meal to notice me, but I suspect it is because it was confident that it’s comrade had sufficiently cowed me the day prior such that I was no longer a concern. I was now beneath notice.

Given history as a prelude, I may never see a Mantis in the wild again, but this summer has certainly offered a rich array of experiences with them.

Late Summer Oasis

The Stand

At one corner of the property we have a stand of tall plants primarily dominated by goldenrod and false sunflowers. When I first started taking pictures of the stand, it was with the thought that I would research and write a piece about the plants themselves, in a vein similar to the one about Chicory a short while back.

I enjoy learning about the things around us, especially about the things that are ubiquitous in a way that we often take them for granted. In many respects we think of these as ditch weeds, things that grow in areas that we do not tend and likely don't care much about.

Goldenrod is everywhere in the Midwest in late summer, and sometimes blamed for allergy flare-ups. Still, according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) this is an error of association - ragweed is in bloom at the same time, and can be readily and more appropriately assigned that blame (f&%king ragweed!).

I remember the Goldenrod from childhood. The false sunflowers I do not, though that could simply be due to fuzzy memory or a childhood lack of attentiveness. They are also everywhere now, blooming along the roadside. And I should note that I believe these are false sunflowers - a bit of research makes me question that a bit. Multiple sources indicate that these plants grow anywhere from 16" to 59" tall. I think we can all agree that a five foot tall plant is a respectable height, but here's the thing - I'm about 5'8" tall, and I was standing up straight when I took this picture:

too tall?

...and this picture:

these are very tall plants

As you can tell from the angle of the shot, I'm looking up at these plants as I take the pictures. They are easily six foot tall, if not a bit taller. So, either these are a different type of plant, or my internet sources, including Wikipedia, have inaccurate or incomplete information about the growth range for these guys.

Like I said, I started out approaching this with the intent of writing a piece about these plants. Then I got in close to the stand for more pictures...

Now, before we moved out to The Homestead I had grown a small garden of native wildflowers, so the fact that there were bees buzzing about didn't entirely surprise me, but the sheer volume of them did.

Bee on Goldenrod

This batch of late summer blooms is one of many across the countryside, but most, like ours, are little islands, oases in what must otherwise seem a floral desert to our bee friends. I know that the potential for getting stung can frighten some people when they come across something like this. Still, I, and I suspect many people with gardening experience, have typically found that the bees are content to tolerate your presence as long as you aren't disturbing them. As my Grandma Marie would often be heard to say "if you don't bother them, they won't bother you".

And speaking of bothering them, I also came across this fine specimen:

Mantis Lunch

I've always known that their name, while referencing an appearance that suggests penitence, also reflected a predatory nature. Still, I've rarely ever seen them in person, and certainly never seen them in action. Given the decline in bees that has been going on, I briefly considered trying to free the victim - he was still moving. But nature is as nature does, and the mantis would undoubtedly catch another.

Ultimately, what I love about areas like this is that they become their very own ecosystems. The bees and other small insects are there, of course, and the presence of the mantis shows that they, and likely other critters are also about, preying on the pollinators. There is something pleasant and peaceful about having something like this, right there, nearby.

yard War II

Amongst My Weaponry...

The sky was a steel gray as I approached the battlefield. There, across from me they stood. Some of the names I knew - Chinese Mulberry, Euonymus, Woody Nightshade, Canadian Thistle - while others were mysterious. Still, I feared them not, for I knew my weapon was fear. Fear, and... amongst my weaponry was... let me come in again...

I feared them not, for I had my weapons at hand - pruning shears, pruning saw, and - of course - my trusty axe. I knew the battle would be difficult, but that glory would be mine if it was victorious.

I moved in strategically at first, long-handled shears in hand, facing my opponents in the rose garden. I snipped off my opponents one by one in precision strikes, clearing the field to face the heavy infantry. Recognizing now that the situation had changed, and not to my advantage, I retreated and regrouped. I cast aside the shears and pulled the pruning saw into service. The saw represents a compromise - more powerful than the shears, but still precise. But it takes time and effort - considerably more than the shears, and so I must watch for attack from behind while I work (Euonymus are known for their surreptitious strikes).

As I clear the field, leaving roses standing, unaccosted now by the encroachment of the scourge of the Chinese Mulberry, I heave a sigh of relief. Even as I do this, I know that, while this battle has passed, the war is not yet over. I look across the yard to the hillside, and gird myself for the next campaign.

Along the hillside the enemy has encamped along multiple locations. As I move in I consider my prior strategy, shears in hand. I march along the hillside, and begin my attack and, moments later, I look back at my arsenal. I toss the shears aside and pick up the axe and begin to swing.

...and swing, and swing. Carmina Burana begins to run through my head1, and I am now a Viking warrior, taking down opponents with my axe like a scythe through sheaves of wheat. There are brief moments when I think "this moment perhaps requires a more subtle tool", but then I swing my axe again, and the thought flees my head as if it had never arrived.

When the dust clears I look about and survey what I have wrought. The bodies of my enemies lay on the battlefield like cordwood2.

The vanquished

bodies of the dead

stacked like cordwood

The sweat and sawdust drip down my face and I realize it's time to shift gears.

my trusty steed

I harness my trusty steed to the wagon and pull around, calling out "bring out your dead". I pile them up and take them around to their final resting place, their future pyre. One valiant foe proclaims he is not dead yet, and attempts escape from the wagon. This is to no avail, and I collect him on the way back. As I return him to the wagon I look at home and wonder - what manner of foe is this?

mystery tree
Seriously - does anyone know what kind of tree this is?

And now, as I cast the last of the fallen on the pile, I know the battle is done. I may see these valiant warriors again one day in Valhalla (or next year, most likely), but for today it is done.

If you gotta do yard work, you may as well have some fun with it.

  1. Actually, If I Had a Million Dollars was playing through my head all afternoon - I have no idea why.  

  2. Literally.  



As the summer winds towards a close the landscape begins to change a bit. The first hints of drying of the leaves of the corn and soybeans begin to show, and the chicory begins to bloom along the roadsides. The picture here was taken a few miles from home on one of my Sunday rides.

Many years ago, when I first started driving through the countryside to commute to work, I became fascinated with learning what the variety of things I was seeing growing in the ditches were. In this quest I came across the UofI Weed Identification Site - which is honestly the sort of thing that one wouldn't even consider would possibly exist unless one were looking specifically for it.

I've learned a lot about what is around us by using that reference, but discovering that the multitudinous pretty blue flowers coloring the roadsides in the late summer were, in fact, chicory, was one of the most surprising. In most cases my searches would simply involve looking through the pictures and seeing that the items I was pulling had a name - "Oh - so you are lambsquarter. Nice to meet you - now get the hell out of my garden..."

But chicory is different. Here was a discovery that a thing I'd heard the name of for years was actually a thing right nearby, indeed, perhaps under foot. Anyone who is a fan of westerns, or civil war-era fiction, will have heard of chicory. Soldiers or traveling cowboys will be found to be brewing and sharing it while they camp by the roadside. It's one of those tiny references to historical fiction that gives the era being described a different feel and helps put one in the place of the story.

In those stories chicory is being brewed like, and in the place of, coffee. The implication, often, is that the characters in the story are living rough, and so chicory is what they have to work with. This has apparently been a common usage, as the Wikipedia entry illustrates, using chicory in place of coffee, or at least blending it in with coffee to make it go further, in times of scarcity. The Wikipedia entry on the plant illustrates this quite nicely.

That practice of mixing it into coffee still stands, though now by choice and for flavor, something we learned when friends from Louisiana shared coffee with us a few years ago.

Café Du Monde

The can, sadly, is empty now, but it made for a delightful change of pace, and felt a little like drinking history with each cup.

Critter Patrol

When one gets a dog, one anticipates many of the features that accompany such an animal. They offer affection and companionship. They provide warning of new arrivals and intruders (albeit at their discretion). One thing I didn't expect, even with a lifetime of dog experience, was the level of vermin management that our canine team offers - indeed, seems to revel in.

We've detailed some of our issues with the Trash Pandas here, including the roles the dogs have played (and frankly, which we wish they would not play) in rounding them up. But the pest management goes much further than that - our furry exterminators offer more comprehensive services.

It is not at all uncommon for us to find, typically in the grass by the patio and back step, one or more recently dispatched members of the family rodentia, as well as the odd North American marsupial and periodic avian remains. To date, the list of gifts we have been left include:

  • House mice
  • Deer mice
  • Opossums
  • Shrews (I originally had moles on the list, but Wikipedia now has me convinced that what the dogs have caught were actually shrews)
  • Rats
  • Raccoons
  • Various and sundry birds

We have rabbits at the edges of the property - relatively recent additions. Thus far the dogs don't appear to have caught any of them, though it's not for lack of trying. There are no squirrels in our vicinity, but I'm sure they would be a target as well.

For the first few years at the Homestead we had a contingent of outdoor cats, brought in with the explicit intention of pest management. They were a fine batch of felines, as far as it goes, but at this point it's fairly clear that our canine crew is far more effective - perhaps because the cats didn't always see the need to quickly finish their prey off. The dogs are, however, perhaps less discriminating about what they eliminate - the birds are not pests, and possums are not problematic.

All of which brings me to the event that made me think of sitting and writing this post. Almost every morning, when I get up to make my coffee, Calamity comes to the back step to greet me through the window. And when she came to see me this morning this is the view that greeted me:

Calamity Back step

Because of the color of her fur you have to look closely to see it, but sure enough, she has a bird in her mouth.

Calamity the bird hunter

Bird Circled

And one might think: "okay, but she probably found that dead somewhere - a dog can't catch a bird". And that might be true for this particular bird - I can't say. But I can say that I've watched both Rosie and Calamity run into flocks of birds on the ground and scoop up individual birds as they start to take flight. And to be clear, I'm not looking to encourage this - we don't see the birds as pests to manage - but it is both surprising and impressive to see.

When I was very young we had a dog - a male rat terrier named Gladys (thanks Mom) who would routinely bring captured mice to the back step. This sort of thing is common for terriers, as I understand it, but our dogs are not terriers - they are herding dogs.

And they apparently like to herd a variety of critters right off this mortal coil...


A couple of years back we made the first foray towards planting what we hope will become a small orchard. This first group of three included a pear, cherry, and cold-hardy peach tree.

I was, I will admit, somewhat skeptical at the prospect of planting the peach tree. I think of peaches as being a southern fruit - Georgia Peaches, anyone? - and so the idea of them working out here, weathering through a winter on the open prairie, seemed dubious. Still, it's been two years, and not only has the tree survived, its faring far better in the war against Japanese Beetles than my cherry tree.

I check the trees periodically for the beginnings of fruit throughout the spring. This year, for most of the spring I saw almost nothing. The cherry tree seemed uninterested in offering anything at all, and the pear tree made an early attempt at a couple of fruits, which then later simply vanished (though I'm sure our local wildlife had something to do with the vanishing...). And in all of this the peach tree, for the second year in a row, turned its woody nose up and refused to display even the beginnings of anything fruit-like, as near as I could tell.

As near as I could tell indeed, because I was walking towards the tree on my way to the shed last Sunday afternoon and I saw something... Honestly I wasn't sure what I was looking at from a distance, because I really had no expectation of finding that the tree was bearing anything.

But sure enough, it was:

Peach One

Peach Two

a pair of peaches

There are only just the two of them on the tree - it's still very young - but they are absolutely there and look very healthy. I can't imagine they were quite ripe yet, but I'll be checking them periodically. And I've gone from skeptical to cautiously optimistic. Given that it does look like the tree will yield fruit, even here on the periodically frozen northern prairie, it may be worth it to plant another of the same variety to allow for better pollination.

And - of course - the real bonus is that, in the near future, I'm gonna get to eat a peach!

Update: Somehow, when I was discovering the two peaches on our peach tree, I missed a third. It was apparently hiding, lower in the tree.

Hidden Peach

I've looked over the rest of the tree pretty closely, and I don't believe there are any others - three appears to be the limit. Of course, I thought I had looked over the entire tree before, and it's really not that big...