Sunday, March 15, 2009

Outside Cleanup and Possible New Neighbors?

The ice storm here in early February tore the heart out of many people with all the damage it did to the trees. We were spared most of the damage -- only lost two trees completely, one mostly, and several partially. Barry's been itching to burn the debris ever since. The County is picking up the branches, but one has to live near the road and we don't so burning it is about the only option. Unfortunately, it's been too windy to do much -- until recently. This is the last of the brush to clear up around the house. There's more way out back and down in the Salt River, but that's another day. We've replaced the Bradford Pear with a Cleveland Pear -- sturdier and more able to withstand the wind. We also have an apple tree coming shortly, buying grapes probably this week, then that's it for perennials or trees. At least until next time...

We also had the first prospective tenants looking at both of our "Bluegrass Bluebird Apartments". He'd try the house out for size while she watched. Then she'd fly around looking at the neighborhood and the landscape. I didn't see her poke her head inside to check out the interior decorating, window treatments, or appliances though.

They went back and forth from one apartment to another, chasing off any other potential undesirable tenants like the starlings, but in the end, they apparently decided not to move in today. We'll see if they found better "digs" somewhere else. They certainly won't find NEWER birdhouses anywhere in this neighborhood!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Visiting Cairo, 11 March

Have you ever thought about what racism and bigotry can do -- not just to people, but to a city? Well, take a look around at Cairo, IL (pronounced KAY-row, like the corn syrup).

I had heard about Cairo years ago, and since we were in Paducah this past week, we took the day to go over. This is the river city which was the inspiration for Edna Furber's book, Showboat, on which the musical and movie were based. The Lewis and Clark expedition stopped here on its way west. Grant headquartered here in 1861. It was a major lumber port for 30 years handling lumber from southern Illinois, eastern Missouri, western Kentucky and the entire region. I imagined a nice little city like Paducah, only smaller. After all, it DID have two of the world's largest rivers to the east, south and west of it.

This river city, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi SHOULD have grown into a prosperous river town. And until the 1950s, it was that. A population of 15,000 in 1920 has now dwindled to just under 3,000. Why?

Economics are part of it. The river traffic has moved elsewhere and centralized, causing a downturn in Cairo's economy. Interstate-57 is several miles away from the city. But more to the point, in the late 1960s, racism and discrimination reared their ugly heads.

The business in town were basically all white. The city hall and police/fire departments were all white. The schools were segregated, white and black. Public housing was segregated.

As blacks in Cairo joined the civil rights movement, racism surfaced. Most whites pulled their kids from public schools when they integrated, leaving mostly blacks there. Blacks boycotted businesses which refused to hire blacks -- and that was ALL the businesses. So whites organized a KKK-like organization, marched down the main street with swastika-decorated posters, and the deterioration, which had begun in the 1950s accelerated. Burning crosses, arson, looting, shootings, all were part of Cairo's landscape for several years. White-owned businesses packed up and left, or simply closed. The city isn't even trying to board up the abandoned buildings any more.

Along the riverfront, there's a 6-story apartment or condo building that's fairly new, in good condition, and outside are parked many fairly new cars. But a block north, a dog lay dead in the street, in front of several derelict buildings.

Today, Cairo has probably the lowest per-capita income in Illinois; the highest unemployment; the most poverty per capita; the lowest educational attainment level; in short, Cairo leads Illinois in all those measures that signify failure.

There isn't even a Wal-Mart within 20 miles.

Yet the architecture and history of the city show through the broken windows and burned shells of downtown. There are mansions along Magnolia Street which would beautify any town in the US. And right across the street, there are rotting, decaying Victorian hulks which are probably beyond repair. Many of the properties in the city are selling for under $40,000, some WAY under, like $5,000 or less.

Racism and discrimination can do a number on people. They can also destroy a once beautiful, bustling city.

Cairo, IL. -- R.I.P.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Charitable donations and exploring the countryside

We went down to Liberty, Casey County, today. Seems there are lots of attractions in our former county because we've been there several times in the past month or so.

To start off, the weather was beautiful. Upper 60s and low 70s, sunny after last night's torrential rain, grass greening, trees budding, daffodils out -- they grow wild along the road here. Anyway, I had gone through my books and clothes once more, seeing what books I didn't need any more, or what clothes didn't fit any more (it's all the fault of Barry's cooking).

We dropped the clothes off at the Liberty Trading Post, which is run by the Galilean Children's Home, an iconic charity around here. Gerry and his late wife Sandy Tucker began taking in "unwanted" children many years ago -- you can read about it by clicking the link above -- anyway, it's such a worthwhile charity and does so much good, I'd much rather my too-small clothes go to them. I was amazed and surprised at the quality of the clothing there -- no Goodwill or Salvation Army here -- anyone could put together a very nice look for under $20! I mean, first quality, look like new, button-down oxford shirts (my favorite) for $1.99! I almost came out with more than I brought in!

Then it was off to the Casey County Public Library. Casey is one of the poorest counties in Kentucky, being part of "Appalachia" (pronounced down here as "apple-LATCH-uh". Fewer than half the county's residents have graduated high school, yet the readership statistics at the beautiful and modern county library are among the highest in the Commonwealth. So whenever I have books, that's where they go -- where they will be the most appreciated and will do the most good. This time it was books, videos and cassette tapes I no longer need. The gal at the desk was thrilled. I felt good.

Then of to the settlement of "Phil", the beginning of the Casey County Amish region. We've been down there three times this spring to buy food at Sunny Valley bulk foods, Amish-run, and have stopped at Hillside Nursery twice, also Amish-run. We bought the broccoli, lettuce, and horseradish plants, which Barry may put in the ground tomorrow morning (before we head to Paducah to do more exploring in the western part of the state).

Finally, we drove around some back roads through the knobs, the community of "Teddy", and back home. All in all, it was a beautiful day, saw some good looking country (without leaves to obscure the view), and came home.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Is it Spring, yet?

Girl Scout cookies have arrived. I was good. Only ate half a box in 2 days. Usually I go for the whole thing at one sitting. Two boxes are in the freezer where I will probably forget about them for awhile.

Barry planted the peas and spinach on the 5th. We're not supposed to have any temps below 32 for the next ten days, so they should germinate just fine.

Over the past 10 days, temps have been from 5 to 72 (right now) -- and it seems the wind has never been under 20 mph. So even when it was 64 yesterday, it just felt cold.

The lilac leaves are about 1/2 inch long, and we're seeing different birds from mid-winter, so things are changing.