Sunday, July 24, 2011

Goodbye Farm


This weekend I visited my Grandparent Gochanour's Farm outside Osceola, Iowa for probably the last time.  My grandmother now lives in a nursing home and the farm is being sold.  While it is a sad moment, I have lovely memories of 20 years of visiting the farm.  When I was a kid, my brother, Andy, and I would stay at Grandma and Grandpa's for two weeks out of the summer.  These visits helped foster my relationship with my grandparents as well as help my imagination grow.  I remember one specific summer when my brother and I decided we were going to build a karate studio out of the wire corn crib.  We definitely had (and still have) wild imaginations!

Farm yard layout to the east

Farm yard layout to the west
While there I had a chance to look at the abstract to reveal some history on the house.  As a preservationist, I have always been interested in the farm's past - speculating about the farmhouse, how large the farm was, and how it evolved over time.  Finally, I had some answers!

Loafing Shed

The land was originally sold to Ebenezer (yes, really) Staling in 1855 by the United States government.  Staling sold the land in 1902 to the Marshalls.  I speculate that the Marshalls built the house - a two-story modest cube that had lead glass windows and a hip roof. 

The farm lost a big chunk of land in 1967 to the Iowa Department of Transportation for the construction of Interstate 35.  In the abstract, the interstate removed two corn cribs and a silo, and divided the farmland in half.  I was really interested in this piece of information because I never knew how large the farm originally was!  The Marshall family owned the land until the 1970s when it was sold to the Larry Reynolds, who sold the land to the east of the interstate to my grandparents in the late-1980s.

One of my favorite buildings at the farm is the barn.  I didn't remember how tall the gambrel-roof barn was! There were many afternoons spent roaming around in the hay loft, and coming up with great ways to attach a zip-line to fall into a pile of hay.  I never noticed when I was a kid the original hay hook that was inside.  I can imagine it being the 1900s with men pitching hay in the hay loft. 


Inside the barn
My grandparents, with my parent's help, did a lot of updating to the farmhouse, including additions to three elevations, adding vinyl siding, and replacing most of the windows.  Because the farm is only a fragment of what it was originally and the updates were made to the house, it would never be eligible for the National Register.  Not that it really matters - the farm will always hold a very special place in my heart.  

The Pacific Northwest


For work I and one of my work colleagues, Bob, were sent to the Columbia Gorge Area of the Pacific Northwest to do a Historic Buildings Survey (HABS) on seven little cabins located around Northwestern Lake.  After arriving in Portland, we drove east for about an hour to the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area, which divides the states of Washington and Oregon.
On our way to the cabins along State Highway 14 in Washington.

Starvation Creek is on of many hiking trail heads in the area.  This particular creek is named after the 1884 Pacific Express trail that was buried near this point under 25 feet of snow.  The passengers were stranded for three weeks.  More history of this event and the area can be found at
The lake, well really a reservoir, was created in 1915 by the creation of the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Skamania and Klickitat Counties, Washington.  A number of years ago, the company that owns the dam decided to decommission the structure and remove it.  The result: Northwestern Lake will no longer be a lake, and cabin-owner's lake-front property would revert to White Salmon river-front property.  As part of the mitigation efforts undertaken, seven cabins were determined eligible by the Washington State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  In a nut-shell, the cabins are now being documented so that future generations would know what the lake and cabins looked like. 
One of the cabins surveyed constructed c.1925

Large format photography is a HABS requirement.  This is the camera used by the photographer to shoot black and white photos of the cabins and Northwestern Lake before the lake is drained this August.

For the most part, the cabin owners that we talked to were somewhat saddened by the loss of Northwestern Lake, but looking forward to having a river in their back yard.  In on instance, a young boy told me that he was excited to go out and hunt for artifacts in the dry lake bed.  The area in general was beautiful, with over 120 tall cedar and pine trees, the call of birds, and picturesque views. 
A view of Northwestern Lake from one of the cabins surveyed.  The river will naturally flow along the banks of trees in the background.  In some cases, such as this one, the cabin will be far from the river.

This is possibly the oldest cabin (c.1915) on Northwestern Lake.  What a setting!

After work I had the chance to do a little exploring.  The Columbia Gorge Scenic Area was absolutely gorgeous!  While the Midwest was sweltering under the heat bubble, the area was a cool 65 degrees and everything was so green.  The area has great recreational opportunities including hiking and biking trails, wind surfing, kite surfing, and sailing.  Not to mention all of the breweries and wineries.  Heaven!
Bob and I enjoying ice cream (yes those are little chairs) after a hard day's work.  Bob's ice cream had Huckleberries, while mine had fresh cherries, mixed in.... Yum!!

One of the many recreational opportunities - kite surfing on the Columbia River.

One of my favorite hikes was along the Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead (whew, what a name!).  The trail wound up along Mount Hood and overlooked the Columbia River.  The trail was originally the historic state highway route. In order to get through the mountains, engineers used controlled blasting to create a series of tunnels.  In the 1960s, the construction of Interstate 84 demolished many of the tunnels, but here along the Hatfeld Trail, a few of the extraordinary tunnels are still in use by hikers and bikers.  The last scenic spot Bob and I stopped at before heading back to the airport was Multnohma Falls.  The Falls was touted as the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States.  Multnohma Falls is actually made up of two waterfalls - the upper waterfall is 542 feet and a secondary waterfall 69 feet. This waterfall has been a tourist attraction since 1915.  The small concrete bridge spanning between the two falls was constructed in 1925. 
View of the Columbia River basin from the trail.  Interstate 84 snakes along the right side; Washington is to the left.

Along a scenic overlook just after the tunnel system.  The 8-mile, roundtrip, walk was worth it!

Tunnel along the historic state highway. 
Multnomah Falls

Overall, I loved this area!  The recreational and social opportunities abound.  They have so many great fruits in season, and while there I had my first taste of the Marionberry and the Huckleberry.  The people were friendly and weather perfect.  A future visit for more adventuring is already being planned....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Relaxing" at Home

7.2.11 - 7.4.11 - July 4th weekend

Welcome summer!  I always think of Memorial Day as being the "unofficial" start to the summer.  But it is the July 4th weekend when it really hits home that summer is in full swing.  The heat, the sparklers, the endless days, and yes, the mosquitoes, are tell-tale signs that this is the best weekend in the summer. 

Quilting - one of the many things my Mother is wonderful at. 
No weekend at home is complete with out a project taking place.  I guess the Iowa Haun's aren't into relaxing much. So in between the Mitchell wedding the family visited the almost completed Historic Park Inn Hotel, finished some quilting projects, decided it was time to tackle Dad's shop, and even found time to squeeze in a Mother/Daughter spa trip.
Beautiful manicured toes - in pink!
One of my favorite adventures during the weekend was stopping to see the restoration progress for a favorite historic place - the Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank.  I am pleased to announce that the restoration is almost finished!  I can't really claim this as my project, I played only a small role as an intern between my graduate school years.  Ann MacGregor, executive director, and the Wright on the Park, Inc. Board have done so much to make this project actually be a successful preservation project.  The hotel will open at the end of August, with the official grand opening in September, 101 years after the hotel was completed.
The Hotel (right, background) and newly reconstructed Bank (left, foreground).  The building hasn't looked like this for over 70 years. What a sight!
 The hotel and bank was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, himself. After its completion it was a hot spot for visitors to Mason City stay for the evening.  Like so many other great historic (and interesting) buildings from the past, the hotel and bank building declined into a state of poor repair. But with great determination and tenacity the Wright on the Park organization took hold of the property and have brought it back to its original form.  The hotel is located in the heart of downtown Mason City, and has remained a treasure for the community.
The front entry of the hotel in place.
You can read more about Wright on the Park, Inc., the opening of the Historic Park Inn Hotel, and what's next for this great building at  If you're interested in reading more about the history of Frank Lloyd Wright's Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank Building, you can order a copy of the book I wrote at (4th book down).  I can't wait to see the entire project finished!
Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank Building Cover
The remainder of the weekend was spent working through Dad's shop and helping him organize a portion of his tools.  It has been a while folks since the shop has been cleaned out - like, since we moved in 1998.  The best part of getting to help with this project is the reassurance that if I ever need a tool, I know who to ask.

The cleaned portion of the shop

Cleaning out the shop is a work in progress, of course... 
The part that is left to go

There were so many treasures found in only the quarter of the shop that I helped clean out and reorganize!  I love all of the unique tools and machines that Dad has in order to create all of the wonderful pieces of furniture, crafts, and useful items he has made for me and others. Three quarters left to go - it seems daunting, but when it is all finished it will be glorious.  Maybe a party will be in order - or at least the start of another project and adventure... :)

The Mitchell Wedding

7.2.11 - July 4th weekend

My good friend from grade school, Kelli Gilbert, became Mrs. Kelli Mitchell over the the 4th of July weekend.  The Gilbert family, with Pam, Gary, Angie, and Kelli, have been vast friends since we were young.  For the girls there were many evenings creating new dance routines, decorating the house into haunted lairs, and exploring the farm fields and streams behind the Gilbert's farm outside of Mason City.  Kelli and I were in the same dance class through high school - and we have the photos to prove it. 
Since high school, Kelli and I haven't been in great amounts of contact (ah, life), but I was excited to be able to attend her wedding this last weekend.  Kelli met Jake Mitchell at work and the sparks flew from there.  After a long engagement they said their "I do's" at Holy Family Catholic Church in Mason City in a lovely Saturday afternoon wedding.  Angie was Kelli's maid of honor.  

Kelli and Jake Mitchell

After the ceremony we headed to the Knights of Columbus Hall for dinner, cake, and dancing.  The wedding's theme was "This is Love" with black and white decor.  The bouquets were created using feathers instead of flowers; tables were topped with homemade runners and candles; and black and white wine stoppers were guest favors.  The effect was lovely.

Mom and Dad at the reception
The night was a great success, and it was great to see Kelli so happy.  The best part of the evening was spending time with my parents and hearing all of their stories about the time before they had children.  I laughed so hard at some of their tales!  You must ask them to share with you, sometime.  It was refreshing and insightful to picture them as young people having great adventures of their own!

Stuffed Shell Results and Mariachi

6.24.11 - 6.26.11

In response to many questions on how the stuffed shells turned out, I thought I'd post this picture of my father.  I think it pretty much sums it up.  The dinner was quite delicious, and super easy to make.  I think Andy liked the dish the most.  The zing of crushed red pepper flakes in the tomato sauce really brought it all to life.


Ricotta Stuffed Shells in all of their glory

This same weekend, I had a lovely dinner with my college friend, Kerri, and her husband Scott.  While enjoying a relaxing Mexican meal of tacos, burritos, and salty tortilla chips we were serenaded by a mariachi band.  I have never heard the polka "Roll Out the Barrel" played in such a way...
Mariachi playing polka

Scott and Kerri Kent
It was a nice weekend of fun with family and friends.