This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Redbuds are not red

The magnolias have bloomed and faded. This week the redbuds, apples, and pears have been in their glory. The redbud is native to the eastern U.S. It is a small tree, never getting much over 30 feet tall. The trunks form strange shapes, as the one in the picture below has done.

The flowers are very pretty, but they are not red--they are purple-pink. The fruit is a pod that hangs on in the winter, so the shape of the tree plus the pods makes them easy to identify even in the winter.

There has been a project to make a redbud trail in Brookside Park and into Weston Cemetery. The trees do not seem to be doing all that well this spring. However, the picture below is of one of the trees on this trail. (I do not know why they are not growing better. I have spent several years trying to kill one that is growing where I do not want it to grow. If you cut down a big one, it sends up lots of new shoots.)
Also in their glory this week are the flowering apples and pears. Below is a flowering crab next to Van Rensselaer Grade School.
There are two very pretty flowering crabs in Memorial Park. Memorial (or Flat Iron) Park may be look better this week than during any other week of the year.Most regular apples, those meant for use as fruit as opposed to the crab apples which are mostly meant for decoration, have white flowers, as do pears. I think the flowers below are pears, but apple blossoms are almost the same. Pears and apples are closely related.
As the week ends, the liliac are starting to flower. Here is one across the street from the Carneige Center that has bloomed.
Meanwhile, the wind-pollinate trees are also blooming, though hardly anyone notices. I found a lot of boxelder near the river in Weston Cemetery. Boxelder are a type of maple, though you might not recognize that from their leaves. I grew up with boxelders in Minnesota, where they seem to be more common than they are in Indiana. They do not seem to be planted much in urban areas, maybe in part because they can attract large numbers of boxelder bugs. They are also one of the trees that are usually either male or female.
The birch are also flowering.
I took a lot more pictures of spring flowers and used a lot of them in the video here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blue Bird Op. 119

The Saint Joseph's College Choral Concert was well attended on Sunday, April 25. The video below has one complete piece, The Blue Bird by Charles Villiers Stanford. Since I was not in a great location to record, I thought it best to put in some pictures of spring to make the piece more visually appealing. You might enjoy comparing this performance to others. Search youtube for Stanford Blue Bird and you will find a number of other recordings, most done with better equipment.

At the end of the video you can hear the dueling sopranos, Paige Poprovack and Renée Rybolt, in an excerpt from Pie Jesu, which is part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. Poprovack is heard first, then Rybolt, and finally they sing together. The Requiem was a difficult piece to perform, and the choir did an excellent job with it. Saint Joe's has had over the past four years two excellent sopranos, and there is another who is a junior and who will undoubtedly be featured in performances next year. (What do you think they should perform? How about this?)

Paige Poprovack was the lead female in The Pirates of Penzance, and this blog has featured Renée Rybolt here and here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Raising dandelions

I thought this view of the new addition to Weston Cemetery was interesting. It looked like they are growing dandelions. Notice how they are arranged in nice rows. (Click on the picture for a better view.)
I am pretty sure that this pattern is caused by mowing, but I do not know how mowing did it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sounds of Spring

The seasonal pond next east of Weston Cemetery is alive with life. Not only are there are a lot of toads trying to spawn a new generation of their kind, but there are also fish (carp?) spawning. (The fish got into the pond when the river flooded.) Sometimes the efforts lead to a new generation, and sometimes the pond dries up and thousands of critters die. (The herons and raccoons do very well when it dries up.)

On a couple of April Saturdays I took some video with my digital camera and edited it to give you some sounds and sights of spring

Below is a picture of what the pond can look like the day before it is completely dry. Usually the pond produces tiny toads and sometimes small frogs, but one year it was full of salamanders, and I think that is what is in this picture.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


What a difference a couple of days with temperatures in the 80s make. You can almost watch the leaves grow. That is not all that has been growing. One of the readers of this blog sent me this picture of morels growing in her front yard. She has had them before, but never as many as she has had this year.
No, I will not tell you where she lives. Go find your own.

Going to church the Bethany way

(I thought it would be interesting to use Sundays to focus on Rensselaer's churches and to see how many Sundays I can go before I run out of material. Indiana is richly endowed with religious denominations, with influences from North and South, East and West. This is part of that series of posts.)

Bethany Evangelical Free Church is located east of Rensselaer at 2100 E Grace Street. According to the "Church Services Directory" in the Rensselaer Republican, the pastor is Dan Earhart. Sunday Celebration Service is at 10:15 a.m, and Sunday evening service is at 5:30 p.m. There are other events and services.
I could not find a web site for this church, nor could I find any organization or fellowship of churches to which it belongs.

The building it occupies was once a school, and the north-south road on which it sits is called the Marion School Road, but I could not find information about it on the Internet. Although many of the old schools are in the Jasper County Interim Report, this one is not, possibly because it has been too extensively changed.

(A thought--wouldn't it be interesting to have an day or two in which Rensselaer had a tour of churches much like it has had a tour of homes in past years? I think it would be fun to see the insides of the various churches and to learn about their histories and practices, and the atmosphere of a tour of churches would be an informative and ecumenical way to do it.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And the winner is....

As I was going past Monnett School on Wednesday morning, I saw two bucket trucks with their arms extended. It looked as if they were having a giant battle, the sort of thing that is fun to watch on cheap sci-fi movies.
It was nothing so exciting. Rather it was the city utility trucks working on an electrical connection for the Rensselaer Central School Administration Building.
A week or two ago I noticed that workmen had ripped up the old sidewalks, and then last week I saw a trencher busily digging a trench. I asked why, and discovered that the lines (electric, telephone, cable, internet) that were on the poles were going underground. I did not know why and did not ask at the time.
I did ask someone who usually knows what is happening in the schools when I noticed that there had been a lot of dirt moved next to the administration building. I was told that the alternative school will be placed in this location.
I enjoy watching construction. You can count on more pictures in the future.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Arbor Day and tree walk

On Friday there was a brief ceremony at the gazebo on the court house lawn in which Mayor Herb Arihood read a proclamation about Arbor Day.
There was a banner that proclaims Rensselaer as one of the tree cities in Indiana. (I was drafted into holding one side of the banner for a while, so I might be in a picture in the Rensselaer Republican tomorrow or whenever they feature the event. If the Republican uses that shot, you will see why I got the close-up picture of the mayor above.)

Below the mayor presents the proclamation to Connie Kingman.
After the brief ceremony, there was a tree walk led by James Potthoff, who identified the trees around the court house and made comments on them. He talked a bit about the threat of the emerald ash borer, which is being transported throughout the country in firewood. Jasper County is currently not infested, but White County has it, probably because of camping around Lake Shafer. If you see large, purple, kite-like structures in trees this summer, they probably will be emerald-ash-borer traps, which are checking to see if the insects are around. (By itself, the borer only moves about a quarter of a mile per year. But when people move it in firewood, it can move hundreds of miles a year.)

We have a lot of ash trees because they were planted to replace the elm trees that were wiped out by Dutch elm disease. It is probably not a good time to be planting a lot of new ash trees.
I had to leave early so did not hear all he had to say. He did say that the trees that work best in an urban setting might not be the best for rural settings, and the people should plant a mix of different kind of trees. One thing that surprised me was that he did not think tulip trees were a good urban tree because they get too big.

The big crane

Last week there was a crane assisting in work repairing or upgrading the equipment on the elevator. It was really quite a marvelous machine. It was sort of like the transformer toys that my kids used to play with. It could change shapes and become something very different from its original shape. Below is a picture of the crane when it was finished with its job and getting ready to leave.
I also caught it one morning as it was getting ready to go to work. It had raised its arm and was extending it. The arm telescoped out.
So after a few minutes the arm had become quite long, and it was still extending. When it was finished extending, there was a further extension that was attached. Fully extended and with a final attachment, it was much taller than the grain elevator.
I am not sure what they were doing, but a lot of rusted metal pipes and fittings were on the ground, so I assume those had been removed.
Do any of you readers know what they have been doing at the elevator? Or do you expect me to ask?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Youtube is four

Did you know that Youtube is four years old today?

In honor of that, and the ending of the school year at Saint Joseph's College, I offer this clip.

Update: The clip has been pulled. It was from Ferris Bueller's Day off, the scene with Ben Stein as the teacher talking to a class of totally bored students.

Kirby Risk construction update

Construction has been going quickly on the new Kirby Risk building just west of Rensselaer. I was out of town for a week at the beginning of March, and while I was gone, the workers poured the foundation and floor. (Click on the pictures for bigger versions.)
I was in town when they put up the steel, but I missed that as well. They must have been pretty quick. After the steel was erected, they enclosed the building. The three lifts that were parked in front of the steel skeleton reminded me of dinosaurs.Most of the building was covered in sheet metal, but a small part of the front will sport concrete blocks.
The workers started on the east side with the metal sheeting and then continued on the back or north side.
They probably wondered why a strange guy was taking pictures just about every day. Below they have finished the west side and have arrived at the front of the building.
After the walls were finished, it was time to work on the roof. For that they used scaffolding in addition to the lifts.
It appears that some daylight is still visible looking through the building, so the roof is not yet finished in the picture below.
In this picture they are applying finishing touches.
And finally, the outer shell has been completed. Now that construction is concentrated on the inside, there is not as much to see, so I will find some other place to visit on my morning jog.
There have been interesting things happening at the grain elevator, with an even bigger machine than the ones in these pictures. The workers there may also have been wondering why a strange guy kept taking pictures. I will tell you about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Art in the lobby

There is almost always some sort of art exhibit in the Core Building. At the end of the school year the art classes display their efforts.

One student liked the style of Jackson Pollock.
A class in mosaics was offered this semester, and there were a number of pieces from that class. None was more striking or stranger than this female torso.
I know the student who painted the picture below. I will have to ask her if she is in her Degas period.
Update: The assignment on the last picture make a picture without using a brush. It was done with chopsticks and a pallet knife.

The blooming trees

The magnolia trees are blooming this week, and they are spectacular.
Some interesting tidbits about magnolias--they are pollinated by beetles, not by bees, many species are native to the U.S., and most of the trees planted here are probably hybrids. The magnolia is the state flower of Mississippi.

Also blooming, though you might not recognize the flowers as flowers, are the Norway maples. As its name suggests, it is not a native tree but an import from Europe. Although a great many have been planted in Rensselaer, conservationists consider it a weed and would like to see it eradicated.
(You cannot make maple sugar from Norway maple. You need sugar maple trees for that.)

Silver maples are a native tree, but they bloomed a weeks ago and are busy growing their seeds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day and the Cystic Fibrosis 5K

On Saturday morning I stopped by Brookside Park to see how many people were running in the 5K run that was supporting research on cystic fibrosis. It was a rather small group of runners, but there was a very large crowd.

They ran the same route that the Santa Shuffle runs in December. I noticed that the one mile mark was different this year. In the past it was almost certainly short. I wonder if they used a site like the USATF site to find the mile marks. By the end of the race the runners were very strung out. Some of the young runners do not seem to have run much and found that 5K is hard to do without some training.
I do not know if they will post any results. The hospital race is one of the few local races that does.

However, most people were not in the park for the race but for an Earth Day celebration. You could get a free red-oak sapling to plant in your yard from the Master Gardeners.
On the other side of the shelter the Lion's Club was selling hot dogs and refreshments.
South of the shelter The Nature Conservancy was giving away wild petunias. (Wild Petunia--sounds like a hippy from the 1960s. I wonder if Desert Survivor has them where she lives and if they will ever appear on A Plant A Day.)
Also in the back was the city recycling truck with bales of plastic bottles. Did you recycle any of them?
It was the north side of the shelter that attracted the kids. There were a variety of games, and this blow-up structure in which kids could bounce.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Little 500 race and other weekend events

On Saturday, April 19, the annual Little 500 go-kart race was held. In addition to the race, which is not all that interesting to watch, there were a number of other events. I missed the football and volleyball scrimmages or games, but got some video clips of other things that were happening. I may have jinxed the girls softball game--when I came, the other team had a big inning, which gave me some good video, though I feel bad about showing the highlights for the visitors rather than the home team.

There are a lot more pictures here. (If you look hard enough, you will even find me in one of the pictures.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Toad chorus announces spring

I finally heard the songs of the toads in the seasonal pond east of Weston Cemetery. Unfortunately, when the toads try to get to the pond, they must cross a road, and a lot of them do not make it. On Sunday morning I saw six of them that had been killed by cars.
There were four near the main entrance to Weston Cemetery. They had been run over repeatedly and were very flat.
If the tadpoles make it to tiny toad status, many will have to cross the roads in the other way and there will be a repeat of the carnage.

My rant for Earth Week: The people who oppose wind farms often talk about the number of birds that will be killed by the rotating blades. The mere thought that anything could be killed by these blades strikes some people as reason to oppose wind farms. I wonder if these people ever get out of their cars and look at what is on and along the roads of American. There are dozens of birds, mammals, amphibians, or reptiles killed on every mile of even moderately busy roads. (And if we were worried about non vertebrates, it would be tens of thousands per mile. Check out any country road after a heavy rain for dead earthworms.)

A few years ago I thought it would be interesting to offer an offset to the wind-farm bird kills. Just as Al Gore says it is OK for him to use as much energy as a dozen normal people use because he offsets his carbon footprint, it would be OK for the wind farms to kill birds if for every bird they killed they saved a bird somewhere else. I could provide that service for a fee. I would go to the animal shelters, adopt cats, and kill them. Fewer cats, more birds.

It is good to rant every so often. I find it hard to take seriously the Al-Gore type of environmentalists, who talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. (By the way, electricity is fungible. That means paying for "green" electricity from the grid is nonsense.)