Saturday, September 5, 2020

IN THE GARDEN: Summer Critters

A few of my summer visitors. 

A baby Praying Mantis. Can't see it? Here's a closer look.

There it is at the back, where the cucumber leaf is trying to come together. 

Slow and steady wins the race?

Hello, Beautiful!

Don't look at me that way, little bee, the flower is for you!


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Masters Hotel - Burr Oak, Iowa

I am a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Almanzo and their daughter Rose Wilder Lane. My interest in little Laura and little Almanzo began in grade school when a teacher read one of the Little House books to our class. I was hooked! Little did I know at the time that when my parents moved our family back to Missouri, from Illinois, that Laura and Almanzo's Mansfield home would not be far away.

Recently, I  found a couple of pictures from a trip to Iowa and a hotel that Laura's parents managed when she was a child. Their stay was for only a year according to the Masters Hotel website. Because most tourist places are currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I thought I would share!

Traveling through Iowa  

It has been a few years since I dragged my adult daughter along on a trip to Iowa and the town of Burr Oak. Before I share our short visit there, I need to talk about traveling through Iowa. Of course, I knew that Iowa grew corn because I had ridden in the backseat of a car at the age of 18 to an Iowa based wedding, but I was not prepared for driving through the state of Iowa during a prime growing season of corn. On each side of the highway, corn stood tall, thick and in perfect rows. I had never experienced claustrophobia aggravated by corn until that trip.

When there were breaks in the cornfields, we were allowed glimpses of beautiful farms with houses.

Now back to the trip.

On the Road

The trip from Southern Missouri to Burr Oak, Iowa was not a day trip for me. It was necessary to stop in a small city with a name I don't remember and at a two story "motel" with a name I also don't remember, to spend the night. Before we left home, I found on the internet a possible place to stop, but did not make reservations since I wasn't sure we'd end up there. It was an easy location, just off the highway we were traveling. In those days, I used Mapquest printout pages to assist me in traveling.

The minute we entered the building (NOT pictured above), I didn't like the dirty feel or the smell. No problem! We couldn't stay there anyway. The place was booked up with road construction workers who were living there until they finished the construction on the highway we'd just exited. This is one of those "God things" that I love, where he watches over me and gives me blessings without my asking. I had no way to check the internet from my phone for another place to stay. I'm pretty certain it was the era of my flip phone (still have it in its original box). So I did the next best thing! I asked the clerk if she could recommend a nice place in or near that city. She recommended a beautiful inn (place in photo above) that was built in a country setting. Our room with two comfortable beds was super lovely and clean!

Burr Oak

The next morning we headed out and finally reached Burr Oak, Iowa. I wish that I had driven around Burr Oak and photographed it, but I did not.

There was a visitor center with items you could purchase for souvenirs.

The Masters Hotel

The Masters Hotel sat across the street from the visitor center. The hotel was operated by Charles and Caroline Ingalls (Pa and Ma) after leaving Walnut Grove. Pa did more of the managing and Ma did the cooking. Laura is reported to have been nine years old at the time. Her sister Grace was born in Burr Oak. Read about her birth here. In my photo below, you can see a window air conditioner. Photos on their website do not show the window unit. I conclude they switched to a central air system.

The Masters Hotel was its own museum. We took a step back in time and with a guide toured the hotel. It's been years since we took that trip, but I remember the kitchen's location was in the basement. I believe the Ingall's bedroom was located there, as well. Something else that stuck in my memory was a bedroom on the top floor, a tiny room, smaller than most of today's walk-in closets. Our guide told us that the room was often used to bunk several men overnight. It was hard to wrap my head around that at least two men would sleep on the tiny cot like beds while other men slept side-by-side on the floor. The hotel got their money's worth!

The day was beautiful. The hotel was alive with history. Our guide helped us imagine life then and the people who passed through the Master's Hotel. 

Have you read any of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? Have you visited any of the historic home sites? 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Little House on the Prairie Museum - Kansas

If you know me at all, then you might remember how much I loved reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child. Who am I kidding, I still read them. I'm a huge fan of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose. Since I live near-ish Mansfield, Missouri, I have visited that home site many times since my children were in elementary school. I have visited yearly, sometimes once, sometimes twice a year. 

I didn't mean to (yes I did), but I got my daughter hooked!  Dr. Lovely daughter is a voracious reader and one summer as a child, while we were perusing a flea market, she picked up one of the Little House books and asked me if it was a good book.

My heart jumped to my throat. Could this be true? Was she really asking me this question? At that time, I didn't realize that Laura and Almanzo Wilder's Missouri homestead was under two hours away. Once I found out it was there, we took our children and visited the homesite and its museum. My daughter loved the first trip. My son not so much.

The other day, I was going through some of my old digital pictures and found pictures from two road trips in 2011. Dr. Lovely Daughter and I had traveled to Kansas to visit the Little House on the Prairie Museum. As close as Kansas is to Missouri, I had never been to Kansas or the Little House on the Prairie Museum. This was a day trip. Here are photos from that trip.

Before we saw the Little House on the Prairie site, we saw Independence, Kansas. I can't recall what this building is but I sure love the architecture. If anyone knows what the building is or was, let me know in the comments.

Then there was this road to the Kansas homestead and museum. 

Then a sign to let us know we had arrive. I'm not positive, but I don't think any of the buildings are original buildings to Laura's family. I believe, however, that the land was actually homesteaded by Ma and Pa Ingalls.

A schoolhouse and another building. To the right of them is a cabin built in late 1970's.  

Here's the cabin a little closer. 

A sign!

Inside the little cabin.

Inside the school on the property. 

I had to add this picture of an ugly tourist in the school room! Do not make fun of her. She hates her picture taken. She told me so.

Here is Dr. Lovely Daughter sitting on the front porch, looking out over the land that little Laura lived on. Well actually she was looking at the camera, but before that she was looking out over the land.

Visit their website for more information here. I have a couple of pictures from our Iowa trip where we traveled to see the hotel where Ma and Pa worked. I will write that for a future post. The Iowa trip was not a day trip. I might have gone corn sane a few times.

If you're interested and haven't read them here are posts regarding the Mansfield site: Laura Ingalls Wilder Gravesite, Laura Ingalls Wilder and more Pictures and Laura Ingalls Wilder Quilt Block Patterns.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Not My She-Shed!

My Barn/Shed that is about 40 years old and needs a haircut! 

It was a warm day in January when I decided to spend thirty minutes cleaning out the winter creeper vine in a section along the back fence. I'm having lower back issues so don't tell my family that I did that, but I needed to start the process. I have fought the invasive winter creeper for years--a battle I am not winning. I have no clue who introduced this vine into our rural neighborhood, but those people are not my friends. 

I took this photo January 1, 2020 of my old barn/shed that is covered in the winter creeper vine. I did not work on this project. The building is made of old but sturdy wood and it's a mess with it's missing boards and creepiness. I need to have it taken down, but it's not in my way. It has character.

When I looked at my photograph, the shed gave me the vibes of a hairy monster. The least I could do is give it a haircut, I guess.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Rural Rewards and Blocks

Living in a rural area where the people population is less and small towns are your go to place for goods and services seems like a wonderful idea and a Mayberry experience. If you want to avoid others being in your face and place, if you want the government to stay out of your business more, if you want fewer restrictions on building structures and if you’d rather hear frog peepers instead of people voices, rural living might be for you. Well-water tastes better than city water. The air smells better unless you happen to live downwind from individuals who buy up real estate to run egg laying farms that are not favored close to towns or cities. If you want to cast your eyes on an ever changing country landscape complete with wildlife and experience stress relief, the rural experience might be for you. People in rural areas mostly know your name and sometimes your business, but if anything goes wrong, rural folks line up at your door, in the olden days. Today, they might show up on your social media page to help out.

Rural life offers rewards, but it also can be a stumbling block.

Growing up rural meant for me that I rode the school bus for at least an hour one way, depending on the year. Back then, I couldn’t join after school activities. I wanted to but knew the reality of the commitment. We lived in the area where my mom grew up, but when she was a child/youth her school was only a couple of miles away from her home. She could join activities and walk home after, as needed. My school was much farther away. Kids today in rural areas still have a long commute to school. At our district, there are school activity buses now where kids can participate after school and be delivered to centralized bus stops for parent pick up.
Remote rural areas can also draw in the criminal element. Because of the remoteness, rural areas are handy places for manufacturing meth and stashing stolen goods.

Inconveniences Linked to Rural Life 

Rural individuals go to their doctors less and often miss early diagnosis of chronic diseases (Saylor, 2012). If there are tests to be done, patients are sent to large cities quite the distance away.

Getting to any appointment anywhere can be difficult for the elderly or for anyone who does not own or can't borrow a vehicle.

Aging in place in remote rural areas is a concern unless you have family living with you or nearby. If those are in place is your house aging compliant and if not do you have the money to make it so. If you have passed the above obstacles, there is one more--a shortage of people who can help the aging population with housekeeping chores in rural areas.


Unavailable transportation not only restricts doctor visits, but other important life things. Without transportation, the pursuit of higher education is a struggle or not attainable. In most cases, education is a way to escape poverty.

Employment opportunities cannot be continued if an individual does not have a vehicle or a ride to work. There are no city buses in the country and most of the time not a reality in small towns. However, in town individuals can ride a bike or walk to their destination. And without a job, it’s difficult or impossible to buy or maintain transportation. If an individual is lucky enough to have a car, then the cost of fuel can be a hindrance especially when the commute to employment is from a rural setting. Therefore, living in a small town is a better option, if you do not have access to transportation.

Shopping Choices

Choices of grocery stores are limited in rural towns and often are not as affordable without the competition. The same goes for buying clothing. What choices are there in a small town? Why not order online you say? We'll get to that later.

Emergency Services' Delays

If you live in the rural and become ill, do you have time to wait for an ambulance that might be traveling twenty plus miles to get to you?

Living in the rural, you might be an easier target for criminal activity since they also know that law enforcement does not patrol rural areas as much as (perhaps) they should. How will you protect yourself and property until county law enforcement can assist you?

Inclement weather takes down electricity on a regular basis in some rural areas. Are your lines the last to be fixed? These are issues rural people face daily.


Let's talk about internet options and actual working internet. Internet connectivity in my mom's area was better ten years ago than now. Today, it is a pathetic or nonexistent reality in many rural areas. You might think that the internet is a privilege and not a right, but I argue that most things in today's business world are performed through online access: job applications, online medical care and education access, just to mention a few.

All over the United States, broadband legislation is introduced and not adopted (NCSL). Profit over people, in my opinion.


Many administrators and teachers do not want to teach in the far away land called The Ruralhood. In my 29th year working for a school district, I have lost track of the number of building administrators who have passed through our doors. Some used the district as a stepping stone, some left because they wanted a school closer to home and some exited due to the noncompetitive salaries we offered at the time. The same goes for getting good teachers and keeping them.

However, the quality of education in our district has never waned. I can't speak for other rural schools, but our district through the years has provided excellent learning opportunities with up-to-date technology for both college and trade school bound students. We also have a vocational school. Not only have we kept its doors open, but in the next five years, with the support of our community, we will build a new vocational school so that our students and neighboring rural school districts' students may learn a trade.


Housing is also a rural and small town problem. Well, let me clarify. Often rural communities and towns lack not only in quantity but quality housing options, places where humans should live. It's easier to be a slumlord in rural places. 

Final Thought 

As the rural child grows up they are faced with life decisions that includes where they will call home. Will they live in a rural area where the benefits are soul pleasing or in a city where opportunities and conveniences abound? Many of our career bound students do not return after college, which is sad, but I can't blame them. Sometimes the land of opportunity wins out over soul pleasing. I mean, we need to pay the bills.

Do you live in or ever have lived in a rural area? Did you experience any of the issues listed above?

Problems of Rural Life Support the Rural Landscape Saylor Academy, 2012
NCSL: Challenges facing Rural Communities

Monday, October 14, 2019

Returning To Where We Started

I’ve said this before and will repeat; I loved living in Illinois for the three-ish years we lived there. This was actually my second time at Illinois residency. My parents (with me) also lived in Joliet, from my age of 6 months to 3 years old. There are a couple of things that I consider memories, from that time, which is interesting since I was so young. That will be a future post. 
The story of our moving day from country living to city living is featured in Trading Lives. I think I was twelve when my parents made their very happy decision to move back to the place where they belonged. I kind of had to go with them, but I had built friendships and expectations on the next school year. As a kid you go where the folks go and make the best of the new until it becomes your normal. 
Washington, IL: Family Picnic
When we were just a couple of weeks out from moving for good, my dad loaded me up with our Rat Terrier, Bluto, a few of our household and personal goods in the car and headed to Missouri.

Before we left Washington and sorry in advance for "too much information", my stomach began to hurt. I think I was nervous about traveling to Missouri, with my dad who really didn't talk to me much and staying with my grandma and cousins without my mom. At one point, I begged my mother to give me a laxative because I had not had a BM in a while. She did NOT want to do this, but I pleaded and won, if you call it winning. 
The last hour before we landed in our tiny hometown, I was ready to explode. The first place we stopped was at our neighbors house. They owned one of the country stores and ran the post office. I stayed in their one bathroom so long that both Dad and the woman of the house knocked on the door, at separate times, asking me if I was okay. Of course, when I exited the bathroom there was some teasing, and I was embarrassed.

Our little Rat Terrier, Bluto, was a mighty dog, rarely
(R-L) Me, my brother and Bluto with
his head turned. I'm probably 4 and
my brother near a year. 

 afraid of much. He was a bit energetic so the long distance car trip was not his favorite thing to do. Along the way, he became...gassy. This was not fun for the humans, but it did make my dad (who NEVER wanted to stop and stretch) stop so that Bluto could take care of business, as needed.


As a child, anytime I stayed all night with anyone other than home, I missed my mom terribly. Until my parents, two siblings and a truckload of furniture and things arrived at our house, I would be staying with my grandma. Staying with my Grandma Sadie and the three cousins was fun, but I was so homesick for my mom. They were so excited to have me stay and spend time with them that I told no one of missing my mom. 

My Uncle Charles, his wife Glenda and their children lived with my grandma and ran the farm. My uncle was leaving the army when my granddad died of a heart attack. Grandma couldn't run a farm on her own so Charles moved in. Later he would marry Aunt Glenda and their five children would grow up there. My youngest cousin was actually a couple of months older than my son.  
Ultimately, my family moved back into our farmhouse, near both sides of our family. Bluto got to explore wherever he wanted--a much better life than in the city. Throughout the years, I felt sad for kids who did not live near grandparents and cousins. I understood the gift I'd been given. Not all family members are people you want to live near, but living near the "roots" of your family gives a glimpse into your own identity. A cool thing.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Cherry Tomatoes: After the rain

What can you do when you're in between computers and writing from an iPad is not your talent?

Answer: Finish up a draft and publish it OR tell the story of my cherry tomatoes when it rained this summer.  Here it is:

It rained. My cherry tomatoes got a shower. I think they liked it, but who can tell.

The End!