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.


My grandparents were the last inhabitants of our old house. They were not especially well-to-do, but my grandfather was handy. The combination of these two facts can be seen around the home. Probably my favorite example, which I touched on briefly in another recent post, was the repurposing of materials from the old bay window that was on the south side of the house:

Bay Window

At some point in my grandparent's occupancy that window began to leak, and my Grandpa Ray made the call to remove it and replace it. In its place he installed a large multiple pane picture window, which still occupies that space today:

Picture Window

This decision seems to have been a practical one - either the bay window was worn beyond repair, or perhaps to a degree that was beyond Ray's capabilities to rectify. In either case, however, removal of that item did not signify the end of its useful life.

Two of the windows, and their shutters, were repurposed. If you look closely at the first, older picture you can see that the house originally had an open porch entry into the back door:

Porch Close-up Old

It's since been enclosed, and a close look at the second picture shows that Ray repurposed two of those windows for service on that enclosed porch:

Porch Close-up Recent

And, not only did he repurpose the Windows, but the shutters continue to grace them on the inside:

Shutters on Porch

This seems again, eminently practical, as the porch windows face south, and the temperature in the space can otherwise heat up considerably.

This is all pretty straightforward, of course, but there is also at least one example of some real imagination and out-of-the box thinking:

Closet Doors

These shutters - which appear to be the same shutters as those on the porch - are serving as a closet door for the room that was once my grandparent's bedroom. Two of the shutters are fastened together on one side, and the other is free, to make a sort of double door.

I saw this closet door many, many times across the course of my childhood. It was so familiar to me from such an early age that I don't believe it had ever occurred to me to ask, or even wonder, why the door was made from shutters. Having been away for a while, and coming back, combined with having the old pictures of the house to compare against has given the the opportunity to begin asking, and understanding, about these things. In a lot of ways it helps me to better get to know my grandfather, who died when I was only six.

It also means that, with the closet door and the porch windows, seven of the eight shutters from the original bay window - shutters first built in 1861 - have survived to current day. This might seem a small thing to others, but to me this is a pretty cool thing.

Mother's Day

Mother's Day in our Homestead makes me think about my mother, of course, and it also brings me to think about family and lineage and all that entails.

Many generations of family lived here in the homestead, and that's been nearly a continual thing since the 1940's. My Grandparents moved in to the homestead in that era, and left their stamp on the place. Going back through records and pictures we came across this picture of my Grandmother - Marie (Foulk) Johnson:

Oodles of Love

It's in a little folding paper frame, and on the facing cover she had written "Oodles of Love - Marie".

I suspect the picture comes from a time period before she lived in this house - she grew up in a house just down the road. But I love the tiny window it offers into her personality. I had the good fortune to spend a great deal of time with Grandma Marie growing up, and I have very fond memories of her - cooking in the kitchen, working in the garden, talking about family and family history, and chasing away the cats - the many farm cats that she professed to hate - who were perpetually trying to get into the house. She'd swipe at the cats with her feet or broom and shout ”Here now!" (though "here" was pronounced "hair" for this particular task).

When frustrated she never swore, but would utter oaths in German - I remember heil ich Miona and ach du Lieber Strosak. She didn't speak German - as I understand it, her generation was encouraged to learn English, perhaps to better assimilate, perhaps so that adults could speak freely without being overheard by children, perhaps a bit of both.

I am blessed that I got to know her very well, and this due to a clearly strong relationship between her and my own mother, who grew up in this very house.

Julia and Joel by the Bell

This is a picture of my mother and her brother, Mom striking a jaunty pose, he looking dapper in his uniform, just outside the back porch at the bell post.

We lived for several years in a house a mile across the field from this one. I have enduring memories of my mother talking with hers on the phone - our wall-mounted kitchen phone, with the cord (that had to be twenty feet long if it was an inch) stretching across the room, ear piece cradled on her neck - while preparing breakfast, writing checks, or what have you. I always knew, if I'd heard the start of the conversation, that it was Grandma that my Mom was talking to, because the call would start out with Mom saying "Ma'am? Sam here".

In fact, I have a received memory - one I don't recall directly, but retain from the story being told again and again - of my mother catching fire (briefly) while on the phone with her mother while working in the kitchen, and my toddler-age response being "telephone hot, mama"...

These memories are often on tap, and I firmly believe they remain stronger still with the surrounding homestead to help keep them in focus. On this Mother's Day I find them in sharp focus, and that makes me very happy. My mother did a fantastic job raising us, and the close relationship between her and her mother was a wonderful model to see.

Thanks Mom - I Love You!