Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

I love this snapshot. It was in a pile of family photographs, mixed in with pictures of children in rows on the steps of the Spitznogle Home Farm and vacation photos.

I wonder what made these pigs special enough to take a photograph? This was in the era before digital cameras and one hour photo processing. I like to write my own stories around old photographs. I imagine that it was a prized litter for a 4-H project. Or that one of my uncles was setting up his farm with his new bride after returning from the war. Or my dad sneaking the camera out of his mom's desk, proud of his barn cleaning task.

While I'll never know why the photo was taken, I do know that raising pigs has been a big part of my extended families farming business. Both sides of my family are based in Cass County. Back in the 60s it was safe for Mom to take me to meet the Greyhound Bus on the highway. I would eagerly board the bus with my little flowered suitcase and Nancy Drew book tucked under my arm and an hour later Grandma Leona would meet me at the bus station in Logansport.

We had a routine of stopping at a restaurant for smelt - small fish that were battered and fried to a crispy goodness. I'm not sure whether I loved the smelt as much as I thought I did or if it was the thrill of being in a restaurant. After we arrived at the farm I would scramble to change clothes - traveling outfits were not the same as playing in the barn clothes, after all - to find Grandpa and my uncles. I loved tagging along on as they did their chores and teased me. 

Pigs and their surroundings have a distinctive odor. I will forever equate that smell with visiting uncles and cousins and laughter and sunshine.

I also have fond memories of pigs at the Indiana State Fair - and not just the pork chop sandwiches. 

I always take time to oh and ah over the new piggies - aren't they darling?

 Swine barn, Indiana State Fair

The Swine Barn on the Indiana State Fairgrounds is beautiful and grand. It was built in 1923 and as modern and sanitary. as possible with its concrete floors, brick, steel and tile building materials.

The architects of Arts and Crafts building were J. Edwin Kopf and Deery — also built many of the other buildings on the Fairgrounds and several commercial buildings and schools around town. The style of tapestry brickwork and bands of tile were more typical for houses than commercial buildings. The whimsical hogs head sculpture was molded in terra-cotta — a new and popular building material for the time. The swine medallions are carved from Indiana limestone and many of the buildings feature whatever is appropriate for the building.

Make sure you take time to look up at the building when you're at the Fairgrounds this summer before you run in to see the World's Largest Boar - there is a lot of history in that building.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

farm kids

Nora will use this blog to tell stories of her childhood on the farm and her urban adventures in preparation for the Farm to Fair project.

Nora at five, Beth four, J.R. three, sister Ann was a few months from joining us.

I love this classic farm scene. The fact that I'm holding a sandwich is a bonus. 

Both of my parents grew up on farms, but this was the first place they lived that had room for farming activities.

My first memories are from living on that farm.

We had two cows - which against Dad's advice, I named - Popeye and Janie, for the cartoon character and the local host (with Cowboy Bob) of the show that showed cartoons. We didn't get to watch a lot of television, so anything I saw made a huge impact on me.
We didn't grow any crops there, but had a huge garden. I remember tons of eggplants and tomatoes. Let me tell you, there aren't any finer vegetables for lobbing at each other than those two. I remember Mom and Dad being mad at us, but eventually joining in the fun. 

I'm not sure what we prepared with the eggplant - I don't think I was introduced to eggplant Parmesan or eggplant lasagna until I was in my thirties, but the tomatoes were canned on blindingly hot days in the form of juice and whole tomatoes to be used in ox tail soup (I'm sure the Popeye and Janie's were part of the soup) or chili. 

Even though I'd read the book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, I never had a friend green tomato until the 2009 State Fair, coincidentally, "The Year of the Tomato." I'm hooked.