altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Besides the usual Saturday chores (and a funeral that Gary sang for in the morning) we spent the afternoon at "Trail of History," an annual historic recreation event at Glacial Park near Ringwood, IL. The period covered is roughly from Early Colonial North America through perhaps the War of 1812. It was pretty interesting, though the sunny weather brought out crowds and way too many wild "Indians" (by which I mean children.)

Ready for the trail


If you click through the thumbnail above, you can view 15 different photos in sequence by clicking the "newer" button at the upper right corner of each.

It was fun, but involved a lot of walking, including climbing several steep hills to get back into the park. We should sleep well tonight.
altivo: (rocking horse)
Here's a teaser image from Spencer Park in Belvidere, where the Autumn Pioneer Festival is held each year.

Spencer Park overlook


This was taken from an overlook along the route in to the festival location. As you can see, autumn color is just beginning to touch the trees, and the clouds were piled up in a most fetchingly artistic manner even though the sun was quite bright when I snapped this.

No I haven't forgotten that I promised more photos of the Illinois Railroad Museum last weekend, and in fact I have a couple dozen from the Pioneer Festival too. It's too much bandwidth to upload them all from home, and work has been too hectic. But I promise to finish uploading both this week.

We went to the orchard for apples today, then went back over to Belvidere so Gary would have a chance to tour the exhibits at the festival. Of course he spent more time chatting with people he knew than he did on actually looking at stuff, but it was OK. The weather cooperated in spite of dire predictions of rain. In fact, it's well after sunset now and still no rain has materialized.
altivo: (rocking horse)
Tire still holding pressure this morning. A good sign, I hope.

Gary and Rob had a stage performance to give at the Boone County Pioneer Festival this afternoon, and I tagged along. I enjoy that event and in spite of threatening weather and cool temperatures, it was still good. While they tuned up I made a round to look at exhibitors, re-enactors, and vendors as well as the many historical "settler's gardens" they have on the grounds. These are kitchen gardens maintained to show what immigrants from various nations might have planted. I toured the Norwegian, German, Scottish, and American plots. The Norwegian was best, not only well-kept but they had chickens running loose in it to keep down the bugs and scratch up the earth. The American garden was also quite tidy. All were very productive, with lots of beans, squash, tomatoes, and eggplants in evidence. There are two original wood cabins, or mostly original, that were recovered from where they had been built up into larger houses later, leaving them entirely encapsulated. (I had never heard of such a thing until I first saw these a few years ago. They are very well preserved, even down to the marks on the walls where shelves were hung and furniture rubbed.

There are many re-enactors playing the roles of trappers, traders, surveyors, and various craftsmen. I took some photos, but will wait to post until after tomorrow because we plan to return so Gary can walk through the exhibits too.

We came back to Woodstock for lunch and then dropped Rob off at the train station. I went grocery shopping while Gary did barn chores, and found the price of gasoline down to $3.59, the lowest it has been since last March, but a year ago it was more like $2.79 so it has quite a way to go. Now a pie made from leftovers is in the oven and we are going to have supper. Haywagon is in the arena but still not unloaded. Somehow that has to fit into tomorrow, I guess.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Some teaser photos from the Boone County Fair today. I could watch the horses all day, but just didn't have time to stay there. Fortunately I was able to time our visit to allow me to catch some of the draft horses in the ring, including the "Ladies' cart, Clydesdale division." Sample photos under cut. I also have a two minute video but I'll upload that from work due to bandwidth issues. (It's 112 MB.)

Clydesdale photos )

All in all, I took 74 photos of the Clydesdales, Percherons, and a few ponies, plus two videos before running out of space on my memory card. Oops, I hadn't cleared it off for a while.

EDIT: The video is now available on YouTube.

Strangeness

Aug. 4th, 2011 10:58 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Went to the local county fair today. It keeps shrinking. The yuppies who run it clearly don't understand the concepts and are doing their best to kill the whole thing off. Barn spaces standing empty, The only thing increasing is the booths full of political kooks and medical quacks.

I also hit 1000 in an odd place: My 1000th post on the FurRag writer's forum. I never thought I'd end up the chattiest participant there.

Mosquitoes were nearly extinct here 10 days ago. Now with the heavy rain we suddenly got, they're back and very hungry. Swarms of them. I took Tess out to the pasture late this afternoon, and after two hours she was begging to go back in. As soon as she saw me she came galloping, and not out of any affection for me, I'm sure. More like "Get me out of here before they carry me away!" Fortunately, these aren't the really big B52 biters but rather the tiny whiner kind but there are so many it's quite unbelievable.

We watched High Society this evening. Released in 1956, it was Grace Kelly's last film before she became Princess Grace. Ironically, it had a scene where she was driving a sports car recklessly. (In 1982 she died in a car crash.) The reason it was on our list, though, was for Cole Porter's music. He wrote so many hit musicals, but hardly any of them ever made it to film. This one was actually a remake of The Philadelphia Story rather than an actual stage musical, and Porter wrote the songs for it. First time Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra appeared in a film together, too, I think.

OK, work tomorrow still, so off to bed.
altivo: Plush horsey (plushie)
I swear, when I'm stuck on the desk alone I attract all the weirdest cases within 20 miles or more.

Also, I've got a public catalog machine that dies when it is left out overnight, but runs for days without a hitch when I bring it back to the workroom to try to figure out what's wrong with it. Fortunately, I have several idle spares so tomorrow I'm going to just yank the hard disk out of it and swap with another machine.

Not so hot today, quite, and a little less humid too I think. When we left the building at 8:10 it didn't feel all that bad.

Tomorrow Gary wants to go to the county fair, so that's what we'll be doing in the afternoon. Our own county disappoints me though, so I want to go to the next county over. Theirs is next week, and they have lots of big draft horses. We can probably go on Thursday, when there should be Clydesdales there. Yay.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Went after all. I did get the barns cleaned before 9, and they promised to get me back by 3:30 so I could make the requested salad for the potluck birthday party, so I went. It was chilly and windy but not rainy, and nice as usual. I particularly like a feature of that park: they have individual vegetable gardens intended to replicate what various immigrant groups would have planted, such as a Scottish garden, a Norwegian garden, a German garden. This year all had done very well, and I enjoyed looking them over.

Got quite a bit of spinning done (drop spindle, so easily portable) at the festival and later at the birthday party. Now I have to decide how to ply the singles.

Did not get any weaving done this weekend, which is a bit of a problem. Gonna have to do something about that.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
OK, finally unloaded the camera, or at least, the still photos. Didn't bring up the video of herd dogs being disobedient, but it may not be very good anyway.

Batts and rovingsThese fluffs of wool are the products of the drum carding class I took on Friday morning. The large rolls are called batts and this is the way carded wool comes off the machine. The coils or balls are called rovings and are made by gradually stretching a batt out with your hands until it forms a soft rope. All are very light and fluffy and ready to spin with either a wheel or a drop spindle. I'm eager to try them but need to finish some other projects first.


Blue denim pineAnd here's my self-indulgent souvenir, purchased in one of the dealers' buildings: a hand-turned drop spindle by Stephen Kundert, with a whorl of "Blue Denim(tm)" pine. I was intrigued by the light wood with blue streaks in the grain, but held off long enough to think about it overnight. Since it was still there on Saturday and only $25, I bought it. Like the other spindle by Kundert that I've owned for several years, it spins beautifully as well as being a handsome piece of wood work.


Cotton looper rugHere's one of the projects that needs to be finished before I can play with that carded wool. This is a bathroom mat woven of "loopers," a fluffy by-product of cotton sock manufacturing. These circular loops of heavy knitted terry are the trimmings from the tops of the socks. They make a squishy, absorbent rug about a half inch thick, and I intend to use this in the bathroom this winter. It has a planned color design I'm calling "Winter Sunset."

(As usual, click any of the photo thumbnails above for a larger view.)
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Started the day early because Gary needed to drop his car off for a new set of tires. Fed critters and ran up to Harvard to the dealer. Except he'll have to go back Monday. After scheduling the service, he found a coupon for a $100 rebate on a set of tires on the Ford web site. They said they would honor the coupon, but it called for a brand of tires they didn't have in stock, so they had to order them in for Monday morning. Oops. Well, that much saving is worth the extra trip.

Then we went to the county fair, because I wanted to see and photograph the fiber craft exhibits now that they would be all assembled, and we like looking at the various livestock. My hunch seems to have been correct. The number of knitting and weaving entries was down this year due to their failure to print a premium book or prospectus, or to mail notices of any kind. You can't expect all those older ladies who do this stuff to be hanging on a web site looking for news. You just can't. Someone doesn't get it.

Holding the prize up for scale Then we went looking for a couple of geocaches. I walked in a tight circle around the first one a couple of times before Gary spotted it. It was his first time bagging one of these critters, but he insisted on photographic me holding the prize. It's strictly a catch and release sport, so after signing the log book and snapping photos, we put the little guy back right where we had found him.

After that we tried for a second cache, but were not successful. I'm sure we would have found it eventually, and we were probably just about tripping over it, but the mosquitoes in the second location were horrendous and we hadn't brought any repellent. I notice on geocaching.com that the hunter who located it yesterday says he actually had to wear a mosquito netting hood to go in there for it. Yuck. We'll go back later in the month when things have dried out. That particular park has two other caches very close to the one we were seeking, so it's worth the trip.

Came home, took care of horses and sheep, and made Caesar salad with chicken grilled over applewood. Also homemade biscuits. Tasty and not too terribly unhealthy either.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
DragonsOn a whim, we dropped everything and drove up to Janesville, Wisconsin for the Renaissance Faire. In spite of some very strange routing by the GPS and missed turns, we did get there. It was fun, the weather was nice, and except for the black powder cannon demonstrations (I loathe loud noises) it was quite enjoyable. Here's a photo of some wares that were being offered, though I have it on good authority that dragons prefer mustard to ketchup because it has more "bite."

A few additional photos of some performers can be found here.

Got home just in time to feed critters, and make dinner. I put Tess out in the pasture for the first time since the deluge Thursday night. She was overly eager to go, but I kept her tightly reined in until she was inside the fence. When it was time to bring her in, she didn't want to come. Normally once I stand next to her she holds her head up and lets me clip a lead on without any fuss. This time she dashed around me and out the open gate. At first she headed for the barn anyway, so I followed her. Then she changed her mind and turned around, passing me and heading back for the pasture. She didn't go in the gate, but turned west toward the border with the neighbors who let all their animals run loose all the time. There is no good fence at that point, and I was sure she'd go over there. Fortunately not. She stopped to eat grass and I got around her to head her off. Then she headed north and finally went right through the gate to another pasture we haven't been using lately. I closed the gate on her and went for Gary who had already seen that something was amiss and was headed out with an extra lead rope. It took some coaxing before we got a lead on her and brought her in, but at least nothing too bad happened. I've grown too confident of her good behavior, and will have to remember to close the pasture gate behind me when I go in.

Now rhubarb pie for dessert (yes, I baked today as well) and then to bed. Car goes in for service first thing in the morning.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (radio)

Jamming at the James' Tent
Originally uploaded by Altivo
The weather relented and was quite pleasant, which meant there was a good turnout for the festival. While Gary and Rob were performing on stage from 1 to 3, I sat in the front row of the audience spinning cashmere on a small drop spindle. This of course generated many of the usual questions. This year's prize winning exchange:

Visitor: "What are you doing?"
Me: "I'm spinning yarn from wool, as it was done before the spinning wheel was invented."
Visitor: "What is yarn?"

(This was an adult male, not a child.)

The photo shows Gary and Rob jamming with Ray James, surveyor, history professor, and bass player. Click through the photo for a larger view and access to additional photos from the festival.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (radio)

Jamming at the James' Tent
Originally uploaded by Altivo
The weather relented and was quite pleasant, which meant there was a good turnout for the festival. While Gary and Rob were performing on stage from 1 to 3, I sat in the front row of the audience spinning cashmere on a small drop spindle. This of course generated many of the usual questions. This year's prize winning exchange:

Visitor: "What are you doing?"
Me: "I'm spinning yarn from wool, as it was done before the spinning wheel was invented."
Visitor: "What is yarn?"

(This was an adult male, not a child.)

The photo shows Gary and Rob jamming with Ray James, surveyor, history professor, and bass player. Click through the photo for a larger view and access to additional photos from the festival.
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (radio)
This one was in Freeport, and this year was to feature "horse power." I rode out with quickcasey and it was good. Last time we went together to this one was three years ago, I think. That year it was held in August and fell on a spectacularly hot and dry weekend, with temperatures in the high 90s and heat index over 100F. Today there were rolling clouds, mixed sun and shade, occasional rain spritzes, and temperatures in the low 70s.

The horse and mule power was great. They had a horse-powered thresher built in 1880 that has been well-maintained and still operates smoothly. We saw it running twice, once powered by six span of mules, and later by three spans plus three horse teams. The teams are hitched to the bars of a rotating turnstile like gearbox that passes their circular motion through a thirty foot drive shaft on the ground to the thresher itself. The thresher separates grain from straw and chaff.

Then we saw a horse-powered baler in operation, making the straw into bales. This was very inefficient in our estimation, but it did work. They also had a horse-powered reciprocating sawmill, which was driven by two span of mules, and a corn grinder that was operated by a single horse. The single horse who provided power to the baler and the corn grinder was a young one, just being trained, but he seemed quite eager to work and walked willingly in circles to run the machines. It actually took some urging to get him to stop when necessary. I was reminded of seeing a young filly driving an ice cream freezer several years ago at Tudor Oaks. She too was very eager and you'd have thought she was going to get some of the ice cream as a reward (actually she got apples and oats I think.) She did not require urging to push the lever around and around, but instead had to be reminded to slow down so as not to turn the cream into butter before it could freeze.

There were steam tractors again, though not as many as at Sycamore, and a large display of gasoline and diesel tractors of various ages. The parade was followed by a demonstration of team driving, with two horse drawn wagons (six horses each) and a six mule team. The mule driver demonstrated docking (just as with a semi, backing the wagon up to a loading dock.) A difference with a large team like that is the need to swing the team to one side after the wagon is positioned, so that they don't block the road or alley. The mules executed this rather tricky maneuver perfectly. Later he showed that he could turn in such a tight circle that one rear wheel would just stand perfectly still while the wagon and team revolved around it.

The most interesting demonstration, though, was something I have never seen before. A team of five men drove a Model T Ford up to the reviewing stand and parked it. They then dismantled it into a pile of parts, and reassembled it, finishing by restarting the engine and driving it off. This entire operation took less than four minutes, with one minute and 38 seconds for the reassembly. Apparently this same stunt has been performed with the reassembly taking less than a minute on some occasions. The vehicle is pretty much stripped down, having only a wooden bench seat, no fenders or sidewalls, and no lights or other non-mechanical parts. It does have fully functioning brakes, steering, and drive train, however. They don't break down the engine in that time of course, but it is removed and laid on the ground, and must be reinstalled.

Returned home where we loaded a reed organ into quickcasey's truck for later delivery to Ohio, and then went out for a quick supper in Marengo before he went on his way. A fun day, even though it didn't get any of my pressing fiber work done.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Went over to Belvidere for the Boone County Fair this morning, got there early enough that the bible-thumpers, politicians, and chiropracters were not in their booths yet so we zipped through the "commercial" buildings without being pressured, accosted, and delayed.

Horse show at that fair has expanded tremendously in recent years. They put up two new barns for ponies, freeing up space in the main horse barn for more draft horses, but that wasn't enough. Now they have a temporary tent (huge) for more draft horses and another for more ponies. Haflingers were competing in the pony hitch classes, which was also a new development though I think quite appropriate. We watched one class that they were calling a "Jack Benny" hitch, but I'm not sure what that means and I haven't looked it up yet. They were carts, usually for two people, drawn by a single horse. Most were two wheelers, but a couple had four wheels. A Welsh pony took the blue, but Haflingers got most of the other ribbons.

The Clydesdales were lovely, as always. Tall and sweet tempered, oh so handsome. *preens*

The needlework exhibits were about twice as large as the ones last week at McHenry. We had a long talk with one of the assistants in the department. She said she didn't know where to get yarn that wasn't acrylic, so we gave her a dozen possibilities. They had four entries in a class for handkerchieves with tatted edges. Several other tatted pieces as well. I haven't seen that much tatting in one place in probably 50 years. Lots of quilts, but I was disappointed that most of them had not been quilted by the entrants, but rather sent to a commercial quilting shop for the quilting. This is permitted and there is a separate category for it, but to me it defeats the purpose of the competition.

Stopped for lunch on the way home at the cafe on US 20 in Garden Prairie. We realized as we were sitting there that the last time we ate at the place was on the way to the Boone County Fair last year. They closed down a week later, and have only reopened under new ownership quite recently. Different menu, slightly higher prices, but the same friendly place. It's like the Chatterbox Cafe on Prairie Home Companion, I'd say. One of the older waitresses recognized us and came over to say she was glad to see us, and of course we told her we had missed the place, which was true.

After we got home, Gary finally managed to get hold of our hay supplier. We've bought almost all our hay from the same guy for ten years. Suddenly this summer he just wasn't returning our calls. Now he tells us he sold his haying equipment to a neighbor. Why the heck didn't he respond with that information six weeks ago. Now we are going to have to scrounge to find the 650 more bales we need for the winter, when it's already late in the season. Grrr. All he had to do was tell us the truth back in June. We wouldn't have held it against him. Now we do have reason to be grumpy with him.

The Boone County Fair is huge, and my feet are sore. Tomorrow, the Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee. See you there!
altivo: (rocking horse)
Another county fair, since we live right on the edge between two counties. Boone County has a much larger fair because until recently it was still a much more rural area. The fairgrounds are owned and operated by The Grange and have been in the same place forever or nearly so. They have a huge horse show that runs all week, focused on draft horses and ponies, no ordinary sized horses at all. Saturday is the big day for horses because that's when they show all the hitch teams, big and little. It's great fun to watch but this year we couldn't go until Sunday.

I counted in the three "commercial" buildings just to see. There were no less than four chiropractors pushing their services. More politicians and religious groups than I wanted to bother counting, and other than that the usual hucksters selling "magic non-stick" pots, storm windows, and all kinds of quack gadgets to "purify" your water or air or whatever. Time was when there'd be a dozen sellers of cheap toys, embroidered goods, and printed t-shirts and sweatshirts, but not any more. Many, especially the real estate dealers, were trying to coax people to give their name, address, and number to be entered into a drawing for $50 or $100 in "free" gasoline. This seems like a new angle. At one time they might have offered a pair of tickets to a ball game, or a paid weekend at some hotel in Chicago, but now they think that free fuel is going to be a big draw. Sign of the times, I suppose.

The horses were beautiful, as always, at least the ones that were still there. Many had already pulled out, the competitions being over for this year. We noticed more wool sheep breeds than in the past, which I liked. In the rabbit barn there were some English Angoras, first time I've seen those since ten years ago. There were also an increased number of English Lops, the rabbits with ears so big they ought to be able to fly. (Instead, they probably trip over their own ears all the time.) Gary was looking for runner ducks to buy, and at least got a possible lead on some.

Boone normally has had four times the amount of needlework and related crafts as are found in McHenry, but their entries are dwindling too. They did have lots of vegetables and fruits, but the baking and canning seemed reduced from past years as well.

One other thing I was acutely aware of: it's true. Americans are getting morbidly fat. I've never seen so many hugely fat people in my life. I'm no little wisp myself, but I'm talking about folks who make me look like Twiggy. I can still wear normal clothing, where these people must have to shop at specialized places to get size 60 waistlines and 4XL t-shirts. You can guess where I saw the most of them too. They were all lined up to buy things like huge gooey cinnamon buns, cream puffs, greasy donuts, and so forth. Gaaah. At this rate I predict the question of social security and medicare will become moot as the average lifespan decreases significantly from heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
After a quick stop by the guild meeting to drop off show entries (three handspun skeins for my boss, who couldn't attend due to a funeral, and eight for myself) we dashed down to Sycamore, Illinois for the 51st Steam Threshing Bee. We met [livejournal.com profile] quickcasey there by prearrangement, and proceeded to tour the stationary engines, steam tractors, conventional Diesel and gasoline engine tractors, hit-or-miss engines, and flea markets, as well as watching the parade of equipment, enjoying a thresher's luncheon (grilled chicken and pork chops, baked beans, cole slaw, cottage cheese, applesauce, bread and butter, and cold beverages) and [mostly] resisting the urge to buy toys and junk.

A few photos under cut )
altivo: Trojan horse image (wheelhorse)
Went to the county fair in neighboring Boone County this afternoon. As I've remarked before, that one is still a real agricultural fair, with serious animal exhibits and vegetables and flowers and all. It also has the usual commercial pavilions with little booths in them. At one time, those were filled with people trying to sell stuff, from self-help books to eyeglass polish. Nowadays it seems they are mostly occupied by various flavors of bible thumpers (it's a wonder they don't get in fights, they are packed so close together) and more medical quackery than you can shake a crutch at, from chiropractors who claim they can cure cancer to vitamin hawkers to snake oil sellers. And then there are the mandatory kitchen gadget demonstrators, with their magic sauce pans and vitameatavegomatic choppers or whatever. The anti abortion campaigners and the politicians fill in the gaps. It's hardly worth walking through those buildings any more.

Iron-shod feather-feet pounding the dust...

Mostly that is made up for by the huge draft horse show that has grown so large that even after putting up two new horse barns a couple of years ago, they need temporary tents with long rows of portable stalls in them to accommodate the number of attendees. So many huge horses, most of them very mild and gentle acting. I'd need a ladder to get on one, because their backs are about eye level for me and their feet are bigger around than my thighs. Even so, I think it would be a pleasant thing to try... if I didn't get altitude sickness or a nosebleed at least.

Longest ears at the fair

It's hard to say. Well, if you do it in proportion to body size, the English Lop rabbits win it, ears down. They can hardly move around without stepping on their own ears. The Nubian goats have lovely big floppy ears too, though. We saw no mules, but there were two miniature donkeys in the petting zoo with lovely long fuzzy ears.

Most surprising moment?

Being asked at the gate if I were a senior citizen because today is senior day and you could get in free. You have to be over 65 to qualify, and I still have a ways to go before that. I guess I have enough gray in my hair and beard though to get asked.

A lot of walking, even though we skipped the midway and the acres of car dealers. I think the fairgrounds are 120 acres. At least the weather cooperated, a little warm but the rain stopped and the sun came out.

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