If You Don’t Like the Weather in Indiana…

…wait 15 minutes and it will change.

Here are a few photos from around my yard and my neighborhood from the past two weeks. They include a couple snowfalls, neighborhood art in the snow, the orchid explosion in my kitchen window, skiing to work, the cat enjoying a nice day at the back door, and the first crocuses of the year.

Of Landscapes Natural and Constructed

John and I recently spent the weekend at the beautiful Goff House B&B in Cobden, IL.

Goff House

It’s situated in a landscape that features hills strewn with huge boulders, sharp canyons, and enormous rock formations carved from limestone. (Click on any photo below for a slideshow of larger images–and try to find John in two of the photos!)

The outdoors comes inside at the Goff House to make for wonderful, earthy architecture. (Again, click any photo for a slideshow of larger images.)

It was great to actually live in the space, if only for two nights. I would love to live there longer in order to watch the seasons change incrementally around the structure and to see the structure be changed by the seasons. The rocky house in the spare winter landscape with the bare trees silhouetted against the sunsets and sunrises was beautiful. With relatively early sunsets and frigid temperatures, John and I also enjoyed plenty of time reading by the fire. Breakfasts were good and hearty. There was also a lovely dog named Postal.

The house was designed by architect Bruce Goff for Hugh Duncan, a sociology and English professor at Southern Illinois University in nearby Carbondale, IL. It was designed in 1965 and built (from what I can tell) over the next few years. According to the Goff House website, it was Duncan’s intention to create a house that would achieve “an inside outside environmental delight to compare with Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘falling over brook’ structure in Pennsylvania”.

Duncan’s concept for the house was that “The House should therefore assume a natural place in the rocky Hillside site; It should provide a comfortable retreat for reading and writing in the midst of his thousand of books; it should make and appropriate setting for the social life the Duncans enjoyed, And it should include some Louis Sullivan artifacts as symbolic reminders of the sociological principles of architecture which Professor Duncan discerned in Sullivan’s works and writings.”

Duncan chose Bruce Goff to design this house. Of his work, Goff said, “We desire to enter into and inhabit any great and original work of art – to possess it and allow it possess us, be it literature, painting, music or architecture.  This is why architecture is such a powerful art: we can inhabit it physically as well as spiritually in time and space.  Someday perhaps it will, like music, become less earth-bound, more flexible and athletic, more ever-changing and free.” From – Bruce Goff  Toward Absolute Architecture , David G. DeLong 1988

Here’s the blueprint as artwork. You can see the layout is in essence three interconnected cylinders. A hallway runs along the center to connect the living areas. On one end is the library, the bedrooms are in the middle, and the living area is at the other end.

Bruce Goff House

You, too, can reserve a night at the Goff House. Visit the website to learn how. It’s an indoor/outdoor architectural adventure, so don’t expect a perfectly heated jacuzzi room, antiseptically clean spaces, or the latest in construction.

While John and I were out and about visiting state parks in the area, we drove by an art-full garden. It turns out that it was the back yard of shop in the town of Mankanda, IL. There was a serious burnt-out hippie vibe in the entire town, but the garden was pretty neat. When we mentioned it later to the owner of the Goff House, he said the artists who created the art garden had visited the Goff House for some of their inspiration. I think it shows.


Odds and Ends to Start the Year

I figured I’d better post my accumulated photos before I accumulated too many more! There’s no real theme in my garden for the start of 2016. The year started with some days still warm enough for Shamoo to enjoy the view from the back door. The old man still enjoys the sun and outdoor smells.

Shamoo starts 2016


I was also out and about in the neighborhood and saw that there was a new piece of art by the “Mystery Artist” in Haynie’s Corner. I’d heard rumors that the artist was working on some giant bells in his back yard and had been interested to see what they would be like. I spotted them on New Year’s:

Take it all in

And more of the details. There’s a whole lot to take in. Try to spot Bob. I really want him.

And more ACTUAL art in the Arts District: one of our neighbors sculpted this piece from a dead tree trunk that was located in his side yard. It’s the same guy with the giant dragonfly and sculpted cats in front of his house. One day it was a 30′ tall tree stump. Then next day it was this:

tree man

And then last weekend it snowed:

A Very Green Christmas to You!

The…umm…Christmas crocuses are popping up everywhere. Yes, it’s been more than a little warm lately.

Christmas crocuses

Though other things are attempting to stick to the regularly scheduled winter activities. Last week I woke up to find a large presence on the cable wires along the alley: the hawks are back for the winter and are scoping out my bird feeder.


The hosta leaves continue to sculpt themselves in beautiful ways as they dry, and the blackberry leaves’ colors continue to shift.


hosta 2

hosta 3


John and I spent Christmas morning together. We had a fantastic Northern Michigan breakfast: French toast made with amazing cinnamon bread from the Dutch Oven Bakery in Alanson, Michigan topped with Bourbon Barrel aged maple syrup from Maple Moon Sugarbush near Petosky, Michigan. We got both this summer during our vacation, and they were a great pairing.


And as a way of reviewing 2015: a year of Shamoo looking at the garden from a window (yes, he is still alive). He insists on having us set a chair at the back screen door so he can look out of it. When it’s warm enough, we let him. When it’s too cold, he gets angry that we haven’t adjusted the exterior thermostat to match his desires.

I was amazed to be putting his chair into position just this week, which made me think of looking through my photos to create this series. January 2015-December 2015 are represented below. May and November are missing not because he didn’t sit at the back door but because I failed to take photos of him then.


A Lightly Poached Christmas Tree and Hoar Frost

Our Christmas tree in the wild

It was the morning after Thanksgiving. Rain was forecast for the entire weekend but was holding off for the time being. John and I skipped breakfast, grabbed the Patchwork pickup truck and drove out to the old strip mine land for a Christmas tree. We don’t normally set up our tree on the day after Thanksgiving, but this year we knew that P1330941between work schedules and rainy weather, if we didn’t collect a tree at that moment we wouldn’t do it at all this year.

It has been a longstanding Patchwork tradition for a group to drive out to the countryside for trees for our homes and one for Patchwork. But this year, no one else was interested. Normally, our friend Alan goes to the mining company’s offices to listen to a safety lesson before being issued a permit. Normally, we bring the permit with us when we collect the trees and remark, “Hmmm. We’ve never, ever run into anyone asking to see this.” But we carry it just in case.

So this year, John and I were rebels and went without a permit. We were confident we could do a drive-by tree poaching and find a good one right next to the road without risking private property, hunters, or trap lines.

We got to our spot, and sure enough, there were several great candidates. Trying to make it really quick, we pointed out a couple that looked good from the truck. Then another one caught my eye. It was particularly lacy
looking–quite elegant.

“How about that one? It looks nice,” I said.

John agreed, so we jumped out of the truck and covered P1330945the short distance to the tree. It really was quite beautiful. There wasn’t much time. John started sawing at the base. He cut through. He hefted the tree up to carry it to the truck.

“Oh no,” I thought. “It’s enormous.”

It’s always so hard to judge height out in the field.

“Don’t worry. It actually fit in the truck this time,” said John.

Yeah. Diagonally.

It’s good that the feathery top branches curve so elegantly just below our 12 foot ceiling. It’s one of the larger red cedar trees we’ve come home with over the years. It just barely fits into the space, but it is a pretty tree. We’ve got it decorated and now have all of December to enjoy it and the fresh cedar scent it spreads through the house.

The top is too delicate for the angel I grew up with, so (as with previous red cedar Christmas trees) I added a little fake goldfinch to play the part of a star on this tree from the wild.


And following along with the theme of the wilds of Southern Indiana, the tree hunting weekend was followed by a beautiful hoar frost this weekend. I was glad to be able to get out and take some photos. I happened upon a good spot near Newburgh, but I couldn’t tell you where I was or get back there if I wanted to. It was a fun morning.

Here’s a collection of photos (click on any one for a larger view):

Shades of Winter Falling

For some reason, this year I’ve been more aware of the changing beauty of my garden as the plants respond to colder weather, then are touched by frost, are finally frozen, then thaw and refreeze.

The colors deepen, mixing across single leaves while the damage from the cold is still mild. Then the sharply expanding ice crystals break structures, change shapes, and leave plants with a watery translucency. Then the plants dry, darken, and shrink back.

Maybe this year it’s taken longer from the first fall weather and falling leaves to the first frost to the first freeze. Maybe this has given me more opportunity to observe the autumnal changes in my garden. Whatever it is, I’m glad to have noticed them. It’s the inverse of the garden slowly unfurling from the ground in the spring–the slow and beautiful dying back and drawing back into the earth.

For instance: one day I was admiring the combination of yellows and greens of a hosta against the reds and purples of the hydrangea behind it and the oranges and yellows of my glass garden art, and the next day the hosta’s leaves had frozen, the color was gone, and the leaves had collapsed. Similarly, one day I was admiring the bright red glimpses of zinnias still blooming among the piles of leaves I’d heaped in my vegetable garden, and a few days after the freeze, I realized the zinnias were transformed into brittle, rusty stars.

Looking back over the month of November, I’m surprised at how clearly I can see the changes. Here is my garden on November 6, at the height of the fall color:


Then a couple weeks later after some light frost:


And finally a week later after a freeze:



And here are the changes from closer up (click any image below for a bigger image). They’re in chronological order from the last couple weeks.