A Little Reinforcement: Why we do what we do in photography.

We started our 4th of July 2012 with a photography trip through Porcupine – an unincorporated community in Pepin County, WI.  Air temperatures were expected to approach records, and the heat index was near 110 degrees in some areas, but the sweltering heat did not stop us as we ventured out that day.  Our plan was to photograph the beautiful rolling hills of this area and to visit an old, abandoned farmhouse that Dan had photographed in the winter of 2011.

Instantly, sweat started forming on our brows as we stepped out of the air-conditioned car.  The light caught my eye as it danced across the roof of the old farmhouse and I thought to myself “This place is worth the sweltering heat” and stepped inside.  With any abandoned building there comes a story – one you may know while others are fabricated in your mind as you view what was left behind.  As I walk the floors of these abandoned buildings sometimes my mind does wander and I become lost behind my camera’s viewfinder.  Dan is usually right there bringing me back into reality when the dangers of walking into these buildings become apparent.  However, on this particular day the roles were somewhat reversed only I didn’t see the threat coming… neither did Dan.  All I heard was a crack, bang, and a rustle, followed by air escaping from Dan’s mouth.  As I turned around, I saw Dan pulling his leg out of the old floorboards.  After making sure he was okay (seeing only a few scraps and a large bruise forming on his upper thigh), I turned to hide a smile that was forming on my lips.  Sometimes, I have this problem of seeing the humor in events at the wrong time (only after making sure no one is hurt of course).  A smile did form on Dan’s face as well after the realization that he too can become engrossed in what he is trying to photograph.  Among the rickety floorboards was the sight of bird nests constructed on the old walls and the intense sound of humming from within the walls and ceilings… Yes, the vibration caused by the movement of thousands of tiny little wings was heard and felt. We left with the appreciation of Mother Nature in how it can adapt by turning the ruins of man into a shelter or temporary home.

In the winter of 2013, we again took the trip out to Porcupine Valley to visit this old farmstead only to see the ruins of its’ foundation.

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We had learned later that this home was burnt to the ground in December of 2012.  To make way for new, old structures are demolished and a little piece of history is gone forever.

This is why we do what we do.

To see Dan’s work from this site, please click on the following links:
Porcupine Valley Farmstead

Porcupine Valley Farmstead – Revisited

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The grinding continues… Schech’s Mill 2012

grist•mill (ˈgrɪstˌmɪl)
a mill, esp one equipped with large grinding stones for grinding grain.

This is one of the most memorable trips to date; a day of fun and adventure for us all.  Both of these mills were absolutely gorgeous and to see them work like how they did over 100 years ago was mind-blowing.

As we pulled up onto the property of Schech’s Mill, we were struck by the beauty of the buildings and scenery surrounding it.  Edward came out to greet us with his welcoming demeanor and ushered us inside the old mill.   He gave us a tour of the facility, showed us how the equipment worked and shared its amazing history.  Power for the mill came from three Leffel turbines and one Sampson turbine. The equipment included four run of 22” Diamond buhrstones, a roller mill, crusher, sheller, bolters, and related elevators.  Again, the powerful force that sent the machinery into motion caused a rumbling of the building was felt deep in our bones. What an honor to be able to step inside and see exactly how the gristmill worked its magic.  Most of the original equipment is still in use including the original millstone imported from France.  A lot of history to grasp, certainly not enough for one trip; Dan and I will be planning to return in the near future.  I recently used all of the Corn Meal on delicous homemade Corn Bread but I still have the wheat flour made from this mill today.  Tasty, tasty, tasty!!  With appreciation, I thank you Edward, for sharing a little part of history with us on that day.

Schech’s Mill History:

In 1876, John Blinn built a mill in one of the beautiful valleys of southeastern Minnesota. An article in an 1887 mill paper brought the mill to the attention of Michael Schech, a master miller who had immigrated from Bavaria and was employed at one of the large mills in Minneapolis. Schech purchased the mill which was operated by Schech’s brother until 1890 when Michael Schech relocated their family to their Beaver Creek Valley home in Houston County. The mill became known as Schech’s Mill.

When Michael retired in 1913, Edward took over the operation. In 1922, a concrete dam replaced the old wooden one and two years later a concrete water wheel pit was constructed. After Edward’s death in 1941, his wife continued operating the mill for the next five years.

In 1946, Edward’s daughter, Eleanor, and her husband Ivan took over all mill operations. Eleanor and Ivan’s son Edward began helping with operations in 1960. “Every September their son Edward would come over and help clean the mud from the turbine pit”, said Ivan.

Since Eleanor and Ivan’s death Edward and his wife Joanie have run the mill. Schech’s Mill was nominated for the National Registry of Historic Places in 1977. At that time it was the only mill in the state to contain unchanged, operable milling equipment and to have its original stone. It is one of only three mills in the state to operate solely on water power

Proprietor:      Edward Krugmire Call to schedule tour: 507-896-3481or 651-245-5566

Calendar:
OPEN:  May 1st – October 31, 2012   (closed Sept 22  & 23)
Friday    1:00pm – 6:00pm
Saturday 8:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday   8:00am – 6:00pm

Cost:   
Ages 6 – 15 $1.00
Over 15- $5.00
Under 6 free

Samples:                Whole Wheat Flour & Corn Meal

Grinding our way south… To and Fro

On a recent trip, we traveled about 500 miles through Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.  A friend and co-worker made the statement “Wow, doesn’t the driving get boring when you are traveling from point A to point B?”  After a smile formed, I answered “No, that is what makes the trip worth while”.

We are constantly on the lookout for that special something on our trips; an abandoned building or home, a long forgotten car, an adorable wild or farm animal, or just the way the light is hitting a particular item.  Between the laughing, singing (which Dan loves), whistling, telling stories, making Daisy crowns :-), so on and so forth, we always have a great time on our travels.  The “in-between” is where the fun comes in… A turn of the head or an Ooohh, Ahhh, humff, or sigh might escape our lips, which in turn notifies the other of an upcoming special treat.  About 90% of the time, the slamming of the breaks or putting the car in reverse is followed by one of those subtle hints.  It is the “in-between” that we all forget about at times- You know, those sights or people that we otherwise take for granted as we are passing from point A to point B.

My friends comment really made me realize just how important life is and was an important reminder to cherish those “in-between” times.

Grinding our way south… Pickwick Mill

grist•mill (ˈgrɪstˌmɪl)
a mill, esp one equipped with large grinding stones for grinding grain.

We were tipped off earlier in the year about a gristmill located in Southern Minnesota that is still operational after all these years. After more research, we actually found a few within a days drive from home that we would like to visit.  Our eyes opened to a beautiful June morning, so we decided to pack up our gear and the girls (Tindra and Audrey) and head out for a day trip to Southeastern MN in search of the whispered gristmills.

The first stop was the Pickwick Mill located near Winona, MN.  Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis built the mill during the years 1856 to 1858 and is one of the oldest water powered gristmills found in southeast Minnesota.   This old gristmill has some history as it ran 24 hours a day during the Civil War and produced 100 barrels daily for the Union Army. After the war, the mill became a flour-milling center for most of southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Wisconsin.

The mill was built from locally quarried limestone, with a timber frame that was so closely fit, that nails were not used (outside of the floor). The six-story building is now registered as a historic site by Pickwick Mill, Inc., a privately funded, non-profit organization.

As we walked into this old mill we were greeted by a courteous volunteer who was so eager to share its history.  After a brief video, the volunteer went over to the water-shoot and opened the forces that powered this mill.  As the creaking noise of the turning waterwheel became louder and louder, the vibration started and shook the entire building.  Feeling the power of this mill straight down to your bones was an amazing sensation.

We had a great time learning about this mill and I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

Click on the following link for more information:    Pickwick Mill

Days and Hours of Operation
The Pickwick Mill will be open
* Weekends during May, September, and October
* Tuesday through Sunday during June, July, and August
Hours of operation:
10AM – 5PM Tuesday through Saturday
11AM – 5PM Sunday
Tours at other times available by appointment. Call 507-457-0499,
507-457-3296, 507-457-9658

Ticket Purchase
Tickets cost $3 adults, $2 teenagers over age 12, $1 children age 12 or under. Group tour prices available.

Off we go…  Into the wild blue yonder to our next destination, Schech’s Mill located south of Houston, MN.

A weekend made for memories

Memorial Day of 2012- A day to remember and give thanks to the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

It was a beautiful sun-shiny day with a slight breeze. Certainly, a day photographing the countryside was called for.  We packed the car with the necessary items needed for a full day of photography fun.  Photography gear, Check. Cooler full of food and drink, check. The four legged wonders (Tindra and Audrey), check.  The “girls” are 13 and 14 years of age, and weigh around 11 Lbs but they are still full of spit and vinegar (Dan says just like their human mamma) 🙂   Now, if you have ever had the privilege to know a Dachshund or have been owned by a Dachshund, you know their little noses can get them into trouble.  Especially when they can figure out how to get on top of tables, counters, basins, into garbage and food containers, etc, etc.   Tindra can sniff out any morsel of food… anywhere.  The girls motto- Where there is a will, there is a way  🙂

The girls had a spring in their step and were excited that they were able to grace us with their presence.  Fresh country air, and all that comes along with it… So exciting!  Off we go.

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On our outings, we find at least one abandoned house, building, or farmstead and that day was no different. As we pulled onto this particular property, the excitement of photographing the establishment kept rising.  With a huge smile on my face, I jumped out of the car and headed for the house…  Off I go without looking back.  Realizing later, of course, that I had just left the girls unattended with a package of beef jerky and a bag of animal crackers in the car.  Needless to say that when we returned (and we never leave for too long), the girls had polished off both bags of food.  Mostly Tindra and boy, she was thirsty!!  We had to wait and see what happened… A little while later a sound was heard from the back- the sound that gets you moving and fast.  Saving the car upholstery, my hands were the only thing close enough to catch what was spewing from Tindra’s mouth.  A mixture of beef jerky and animal crackers… YUCK!  After pulling over and cleaning up, we headed on our way.  Tindra slept for the rest of the trip but was fine by the time we had returned home- Bad Mamma, poor little furry wonder 🙂

The day spent traveling around the Red Wing, MN and surrounding area was a day I’ll never forget- one full of laughter, amusement, excitement, and for Tindra- pleasure followed by anguish.  Although Tindra will never learn a lesson, we did and have since purchased a Dachshund proof food container that we travel with.

The Round Barn, Red Wing, MN

After our trip touring the countryside in Wisconsin for round barns last April, we decided to contact a local Bed and Breakfast, which just happens to be called The Round Barn.  Robin and Elaine Kleffman, owners of the The Round Barn Bed and Breakfast and restored round barn, were gracious enough to give us a private tour of the facilities.

I could not say enough of the hospitality of the owners and the history involved with astonishing example of architecture. The round barn was originally built in 1915 by Henry and Mary Dammon for their dairy cattle, and subsequently used as a honey processing facility by Earl and Retha Griffith.  The barn has been renovated and is used for wedding receptions, dances, parties and reunions.

The house was built on a design from 1861 by architect Samuel Sloan and is beyond beautiful.  The charm of the place shines as you drive onto the property and you are filled with tranquility as you step out of your car.  I still would like to taste Robin’s award winning bread as he pulls it from the wood-fired hearth bread oven.

If ever in the area, I would highly recommend a stay!

Over the river and through the woods- Birthday Weekend- Day #2

After our “clean up” from the stuck in the muck episode, Dan and I enjoyed our delicious breakfast and a morning hike around the property of Justin Trails Resort.  We were then off into the surrounding communities of Vernon and Monroe counties for a day of photographic amusement.

Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling in the bottom of you gut when on a roller coaster ride? I do every time we travel over a hill at a certain speed with a certain drop off gradient.  Dan thinks this is funny and will hit every hill that has that right drop-off and at the right speed. This trip was full of those sinking feelings in my stomach, as the landscape in this area was pretty steep at times.

Over the river and through the woods in search of round barns and covered bridges we go.  Included in with the enchanted beauty of Wisconsin’s hidden valleys are large congregations of German-speaking Amish farm families.  They continue to worship, live, and farm today as their pioneering ancestors did 150 years ago.  A friendly, quiet community who welcome anyone with a wave of their hand or a nod of their head. Their farms are immaculate and well kept; it was a treat to see how they live and work off the land.