Block by Block

The neighbors are getting weary. They were told to prepare for a long project — but how do you define long?

Visible progress is good. It’s difficult to see most of the activity from the street — that may be a good thing. But traffic is affected. Parking spaces have been claimed by pipe, concrete inlets, rock, and equipment. Lanes are narrow and you have had to wait for a few minutes when equipment is moving that rock or a delivery of more materials is taking place.

Oh — and you needed to go around the other way the day they dug across the street and buried the new drain pipe.

Work continues on non-rain days. And block by block the project progresses. Still lots of finishing to do — it will not be finished until the drainage swale is shaped and topped with mats of straw and grass seed. And the sidewalk repaired in the places where treaded equipment crushed it.

The new retaining wall grows block by block.


The Unveiling

In the author circles in which I move, they call it a Cover Reveal.

It’s a good name for the action of making the cover art for a new, or re-released, volume public. In romance it can also imply other things — some of which will remain unsaid in this G-rated blog.

Are you ready for a pretty book cover???

This is a re-release of my debut novel. This sweet romance with a touch of mystery is set in a fictional small Wisconsin town.

The ebook is available for pre-order with an official release date of October 3, 2018. It’s available at your favorite ebook retailer.

The paperback is available from Amazon.

Click on over to the Starr Tree Farm page of this website for a slightly longer description.

Restored Habitat

Progress implies forward movement. Change toward some unknown future.

But in some cases, it’s good to take a step back. Take this chain of events as they played out over a century or two.

Woodlands developed along the waterways. The mix of trees changes over generations as various Native American tribes across the land hunting game and pausing long enough to plant crops in the open spaces. The larger open spaces, those filled with the diverse plants of a North American prairie thrived. Their extensive root systems held the soil in place, provided food and shelter to wildlife.

Then the Europeans arrived. They came with domestic animals and plows. Cutting down the forest to build homes, they turned the prairie into fields of corn and wheat.

Then a few descendants of the pioneers realized the forest and the prairie were good things. So they purchased land and guided it back to a condition close to that of before settlement.

They created an oasis of sorts. A small area where native wildlife and plants flourish. In the process they give human visitors beautiful vistas and an opportunity to re-connect (for a brief time) with the past.

                          Prairie and woodland on display on a fine day.                                      City visitors such as the author are grateful to the managers of the property who cut trails of short grass through the waist and higher prairie plants.


Riverfront Attraction

Quick — I say St. Louis.    You say ______.

Aside from the baseball fans who correctly replied “Cardinals”, my guess is that a large number of you replied “Arch”.

The correct name for this monument is “Gateway Arch National Park.” Until a few months ago the proper name was Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Yes, it was a mouthful. And the new one will take a little while to get used to. (I’m still getting used to the idea of a National Park inside a city.)

They had a Grand Re-Opening with a completely refreshed museum at the foot of the Arch. (I’m anticipating a trip to see for my self in a few weeks.) And if you want to ride to the top you may. I understand the view from 630 feet is fabulous.

The grounds — all fresh with new walkways and trees — plus the older Grand Staircase to the street along the river — are a delightful place to walk and view either the river or the city.

Sunset turned the stainless steel golden.

Sing for the Hero

Yesterday the United States celebrated a holiday.

No — it’s not named End of Summer BBQ.

Labor Day — in honor of the men & women who do the difficult, often physical work, to make out society function. And while I’ve never been a member of a Union — other family members have been and currently are.

So this is my belated “THANK YOU” for the 40 hour week, paid vacations, and the many safety standards initiated through the years.

Recently, while concentrating on other objects in the photo — I even recorded a man doing skilled labor.

Educational Attraction

Don’t let the title fool you. There’s plenty of fun mixed in with the serious facts in this St. Louis building.

This is where you can star-gaze on a sunny day. Build your own copy of the signature St. Louis Arch (I suggest a friend or two). Check out the traffic speed under the highway bridge. Try your hand at operating an excavator. Follow the balls in a maze. Learn about dinosaurs. Or electricity.

Visiting exhibits always make the experience new. And the Omnimax theater presents a thrill plus facts.

So add St. Louis Science Center to your list of attractions. It does not matter if this is your first, second or hundredth visit — you’ll find something new.

Careful! You might learn something!


In this Corner

American pioneers may have had less than the merchant and well-to-do residents in a city — but they had dishes. Some of them brought over from Europe. Others were manufactured more local.

It was common for the kitchens in the first half of the 19th Century to have a corner cupboard. This is where the dishes were kept. It used a minimum of floor space — important in a small cabin. The pioneers were also aware of the taxes.

Taxes? A corner cupboard?

Yes — taxes were not always assessed as they are today. At various time and various places the tax collector counted windows, doors, or rooms. A closet counted as a room — they used shelves with half (not full) doors as a “clothes press” or a free standing wardrobe. A built in kitchen cupboard would count as a room if it had three sides and a door — hence the corner cupboard.

             Plates, platter, bowls, cups, and a teapot.                                          Everything necessary to set a table for guests on the frontier.

Quiet Attraction

A person wants to hush as they enter. Perhaps not in the first few steps as they pass some of the more modern features — but certainly as they enter and tip their head back to gaze up into the rotunda ceiling.

St. Louisians call it the Old Courthouse. The original building on the site was completed in 1828. The city was growing rapidly and soon demanded a larger Courthouse. The first of several additions/expansions/reconstructions was begun in 1839. The iron dome (one of the first in the United States) was completed in 1861. At 190 feet, it instantly became a landmark within the city and a reference point for steamboat pilots on the river.

Like all courthouses, history happened within it’s walls. During the years of operation a variety of cases in a variety of jurisdictions were heard, settled, appealed, and argued again. The most famous of these started routine in November 1846 when the salves Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit against their owner for freedom based on the grounds of previous residence in free territory. The Scotts lost and appealed. The won the second trial but the case was then sent to the Missouri State Supreme Court. Eventually the case was decided in March 1857 by the United States Supreme Court. (The Scotts lost and straw was laid on the smoldering fire which would erupt into the Civil War.)

In the mist of a winter morning, the Old Courthouse copper sheathed dome is framed by the taller Gateway Arch.

The building is a museum operated by the National Park Service. A good, quiet place to get a summary of St. Louis history amid some pleasing, practical architecture.

No Advertisement Necessary

A sign over the shop door to alert passerbys to your product or service have been around for a long time. Centuries. But not every business in every community needed one.

At times a product display outside the door served the same purpose. Plus it gave the owner room to move around while making more product during business hours.

A distinctive scent may have announced your product to the public. After all, follow your nose and you’ll end up in front of fresh bread. Or soap. Or pigs for sale. It depends on the odor your nose picks up.

The example below demonstrates the product display method.

The barrels clarify this is the cooper’s shop. And while the scent of fresh planed wood is lovely — it could also have led you to the carpenter or wheelwright’s place of business.

Several generations ago, wooden barrels were a common sight. They were used for dry goods, wet goods, raw good, finished goods. Pickles. Vinegar. Flour. Beer. Nails. We use other containers for these products now. They are gone from the corner store. Banished to the wineries and distilleries.

Green Attraction

It’s the size of a small farm. And a welcome green spot within the city.

Beginning a few years ago, I became a regular visitor. A few hours among the flowers, trees, and vegetables of the Missouri Botanical Garden turned out to be the calorie-free reward I needed for a writing goal accomplished.

My blog has often featured photos taken on the grounds. A piece of permanent sculpture. A glass creation from a temporary exhibit. A seasonal peek from the Christmas train display or annual orchid show. And plants —

Local plants in the home demonstration garden. Roses. Water lilies. Tropical species from within the Climatron. Trees and shrubs and grasses that caught my eye. And on a lucky day — the bee, butterfly, or dragon fly visiting a blossom.

So if you’re even in St. Louis with a couple hours to sightsee — go for a walk in the garden. Parking is fee. Admission is modest. The sights are constantly changing.

Reflecting pool with the tropical Climatron in the background.