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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


After a couple of chilly days, summer seems to have arrived. Memorial Day is one of the semi-official markers for the beginning of summer, and Rensselaer had its traditional memorial day commemoration in Weston Cemetery on Monday. Speakers were Robert Monfort, Mayor Arihood, and Fr. William Stang. There was a good attendance on a warm, sunny day.
I took the picture below on Sunday evening as yet another batch of storms moved through. The only reason I am posting it is that it turned out very well for cloud pictures.
Another marker for the beginning of summer is the end of school. Rensselaer Central High School had its graduation on Sunday, but today, Tuesday, is the last day of school. St. Augustine's students spent most of the day in the park where the big kids (fourth and fifth graders) had a ride-your-bike-to-the-park day.
I am not sure what the object of this activity was, but the kids were having a lot of fun.
And then it was lunch time. The students did not require much encouragement to stop playing and line up in the lunch line.
The pool at the park is still without water although it was scheduled to be filled today. The problem is that the park workers need to clean the pool before they fill it, but the pool drains into Brookside creek and the level of the creek is now above the bottom of the pool. So they cannot drain the water used to clean the pool.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A weird window lock

Last weekend I went to the Building Trades open house on Saturday, but on Sunday there was another open house, this one provided by Landmark Realty. They had four houses open for viewing, two of them quite close to where I live. So I did what a lot of my neighbors did: I took a look at the houses. (I got to chat with quite a number of people I knew along the way--it was quite an interesting social event.)

Some houses are more interesting than others. The most interesting house on this tour of homes was a big 19th century home on the corner of Lincoln and College. I live in a house that is only a century old, and it is fun to compare what these houses have with what my house has or had.

One of the little things that attracted my attention were the window locks--I had never seen any like these before. Below is a picture of one locked.
And the next picture shows it open, so you can move the window sash.
Not all of these old locks were still in working order.

I like old houses because they have character, but my conclusion after viewing three of the four houses that were on this free tour of homes was that old houses are for young people. They require a lot of maintenance, or in the case of two of the houses I saw, a lot of restoration and repair. Young people are both willing and able to do a lot more of that work than most of us older people.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Just one more (maybe)

I know I said that I was done with the tornadoes, but how often do we have them in the area? And I wrote the title to that post before I realized that there had been a second tornado just to the west of Rensselaer. How could I ignore it, especially since I needed to get out and get some exercise this afternoon?

The second tornado started near the Interstate, and the report in the Rensselaer Republican said its origin was in Memory Gardens. I looked around a bit before I found one tree that had been damaged.
The twister then crossed SR 114 and headed for a house. From the distance I could see a large tree branch that had been snapped.
After that house, it was open fields until it hit the line of trees along the road to the Old Settler's/ Makeever Cemetery. It tore up three of the small trees and tossed them on the road. They had already been cleared from the road, but the debris was still there.
It then crossed County Road 400S and apparently pushed one of the electrical poles from its vertical stand. A crew from REMC was there this afternoon pushing it back to vertical. I asked if it was caused by the tornado, and the guy I asked did not know, but said it was some kind of wind. Since it was on the path, I think we can assume it was tornado related.
After crossing the road, it was in open fields. There is a tree line in the distance, but I could not see any obvious destruction along it. In fact I could find no other signs of storm damage. Chad's Weather blog had this one traveling up to 300S, while the Rensselear Republican reported it only went to 400S. My observations support the Rensselaer Republican.

If all tornadoes only did as little damage as this one, we would not worry much about them.

Here is an article about the outbreak in the Post Tribune.

Postponements and seedings

The Family River Adventure scheduled for tomorrow morning has been postponed again--no real surprise with the rise in the river after this week's rains. If conditions allow, the Adventure will float by on June 18.

The boys track regionals were supposed to take place last night but the four that are in the northern part of the state were postponed to tonight, probably due to high winds. Meanwhile the heat sheets for the girls state finals were posted on the website. Rensselaer's sophomore Chelsie Meeks is seeded sixth (of 27) in the discus throw. The high seeding is not surprising because she did meet the state standard in the regional. (The state standard is based on the results of previous state competitions and is supposed to represent a result that would give a top-9 finish.) The girl who beat her in the regional, a senior from Portage, is seeded first in both discus and shot. The next best seeding from the area is Marissa Hamilton for West Central. Fourteen girls have the same high-jump height and can be considered tied for sixth. Alisha Bahler in 300 hurdles for Tri-County and Kristin Fritz in the 1600 for KV are seeded near the back of their fields.

Update: I did not see any boys from the area who made the state track finals.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Final thoughts (I hope) on the tornadoes

Last night I had to quit my tornado path tracking because it was starting to get dark. Today I found that I could track it a bit further. After making a mess in the woods just north of the CenturyLink building behind the Rensselaer Care Center, it crossed the ditch and then the highway, and hit the farm house that is east of the high school and on the west side of the river across from Laird's Landing. I could not see if it had done any structural damage, but it had uprooted one tree and it appeared to have damaged two others.
I could not see where it hit the line of trees on the banks of the river. Perhaps if I had walked up the river from Laird's Landing I would have seen something, but there are limits to my curiosity.

According the the Rensselaer Republican, there was other storm damage in the Paar area and somewhere along Bunkum Road.

Chad's Weather blog said that there were four tornadoes in Jasper and Newton Counties on Wednesday. The strongest was an EF2 that was near Mt Ayr. A second started near Memory Gardens east of the Interstate and did not quite make it to the radio station. A third is the one I have written about. It started near Lake Banet and ended west of Laird's Landing. I am not sure if the damage in College Woods was caused by this tornado or if it was other winds from the storm.

I do not see how the river float scheduled for this Saturday can take place. Not only will the river be too high, but there is danger of trees blocking the channel.

Planting has been running late this year, and the rains of the past week will delay it for several more days. The corn that has been planted is emerging. However, if it emerges to a temporary lake, it may have to be replanted. There is water in many fields, though not usually as much as is shown in the picture below. The photo below was taken from the Marion School Road looking east toward Pleasant Ridge.
I think this blog hit an all-time record number of daily visitors yesterday, when it had over 1200 visits. Anything over 200 is a good day, and anything below 100 is a slow day.

Addendum: I found that the saturated soil makes it easier to pull out the little trees that have popped up in places where I do not want them. Some of them I have cut down for several years, and now they have very big roots compared to their growth above ground.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another tornado? (Updated)

I heard the tornado sirens go off again this morning, but did not think much of it because there was virtually no wind at my house. But then I heard reports that there were trees down at St. Joseph's. I rode out and did not see anything unusual, but did hear chain saws and a shredder. At the south end of the campus there was a short and narrow path of devastation. The only man-made structure that I saw damaged was the welcome-to-Rensselaer sign that welcomes people from the south.
A couple of trees east of US 231 were down, one that had rot snapped, and one that was healthy uprooted.
A much larger tree that had dominated the field south of Schweitermann Hall was also uprooted. Its absence will change the look of that whole area.
Along the road that forms the southern boundary of the campus (Shuster Drive?) several trees were down and others were damaged. Some large branches from one of the huge willows were on the ground.
Pretty much everyone who was available was cleaning up the damage. The branches were being picked up and fed into the shredder, and the large tree trunks were being cut up and loaded onto a truck. The trees that had been extensively damaged were being cut down.
One of the workers said that a small tornado had touched down briefly. It was coming from the direction of Lake Banet, heading ENE. Once you got away from this small path of destruction, there was no real evidence of the storm. There was, of course, plenty of evidence of all the rain--pools of water are everywhere.

At the beginning of the destruction are two tree trunks that once were parts of healthy trees.
I wanted to follow the path and see if there had been more signs of damage once it crossed US 231, but the next wave of storms was approaching from the west, so I got out of there.

Are you as tired of this weather pattern as I am?

Update: This evening I got a chance to take a more leisurely look at the path of destruction and found that the storm was much bigger than I had initially thought it was.

There were about ten trees down in College Woods, but there was no obvious damage to the houses. Entering the subdivision from Mt. Calvary Road, one could see one tree that had been knocked over onto another tree, breaking the second tree.
There was a steady steam of cars through the woods as lots of people checked out the storm damage.

Another impressive fallen tree was just a bit further on the road. It had been uprooted.
Much of the mess at Saint Joseph's College was still there. The afternoon storm stopped the clean up.

I had a picture of this old elm earlier, but without people it is hard to judge just how big the tree was. It may have already been a sizable tree when the college was founded. Maybe the Indians from the old Indian school played around it when it was a young tree. I hope someone counts the tree rings when it is cut up.

I talked to a person who was watching the storm out a window in Schweitermann because the noise had attracted her attention. She said that it was raining very hard, so it was hard to see much, but the trees were knocked over in seconds, so fast that she was not sure what had just happened. Her viewpoint did not allow her to see the big tree knocked over.

After crossing the highway, the twister passed over a field and then toppled at least four trees in the woods behind Drexel Hall. In the picture below you can see one tree that has been uprooted, and to its right is another that has been split. The wind must have hit the old hog barn, but does not seem to have done additional damage to this derelict structure.
Leaving the woods, the tornado headed for Drexel Drive. People told me that it knocked over a semi, but there was no evidence left of that this evening. Before it did that, it encountered the new USDA building and tore many of the shingles off the southern side of its roof, the side that you cannot see from Drexel Drive.

From there the twister passed west of Con Agra and just nicked the southeast corner of the Babcock Quarry. If you look closely, you can see a couple of trees that it broke or uprooted at the edge of the quarry, but I could not get a good picture of them.

Looking down the trail of destruction, it seemed that the tornado was headed for the large antenna at the CenturyLink building. I rode over to check it out and could not see any damage to the building or the antenna, but there were trees down in the woods to the east of the building. I could not see how many because the whole area was heavily overgrown, but it looked like quite a mess in there.

There is always a silver lining to the storm clouds, and the resulting pools were great fun for the small boys who found them.
What did I miss?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Building trades open house

On Saturday and Sunday the Renssealer Central High School Building Trades class had its annual open house. This year the house they helped build is near the west end of Vine Street.
Entering the house, you find yourself in a large room that is a combination kitchen, dining area, and living room. The picture below was taken from just inside the front door looking north.
Below is the same room, but from the north end looking south. Several area merchants use the open house to showcase furniture or appliances that they sell. The furniture helps give one a better idea of what the house would be like when occupied.
To the west of the main room lies the two-car garage and also a laundry/utility room. There is a small room off the garage that contains the furnace, behind from where the picture below was taken.
The most impressive area of the house was the master bedroom area. The bedroom itself was large, and to its west a hallway led to a large bathroom. Along that hallway were closets on either side.

The bathroom had the two sinks that seem to be standard for master bathrooms in new houses.
At the east end of the house were the other two bedrooms and another bathroom. These bedrooms where quite small.
The target audience for the building trade houses seems to be empty-nesters and retired couples. The asking price is $179K.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Storm damage

We had quite a storm blow through last night. It knocked down a few trees and enough branches to keep city crews busy today. This tree near Weston Cemetery had a large poison ivy vine growing on it--I hope that the worker pays attention to what he is touching as he cuts up the tree. Like the other trees that I saw down, this tree had a lot of rot. It must have been home to many generations of carpenter ants.
This rotted tree on North Franklin Street also found the wind too much. It fell across Franklin, but had been cut apart to clear the street by early this morning. If you look closely, you can see a mulberry tree had been trying to grow up inside this old silver maple.
This tree that fell by College Ave was a bit smaller than the other two.
The most serious damage was north of town where a funnel cloud was sighted. It tore off a bit of the roof from Farm Bureau Insurance building, destroyed one of the entrance porches and damaged the other.
In the background you can see the new county building that last week we visited for an open house.
It had most of the gutter on the west side of the building ripped lose and tossed over the roof. It also looks like it lost a window back there, but it was fortunate not to have had more serious damage.
Below you can see most of the missing roof from the Farm Bureau Insurance.
Given the strength of the winds, I was surprised that there was not more damage.

Our storm damage made the evening news on WLFI last night. The previous night they had nice coverage of the 5th Annual Chloe K 5k Run/Rock/Ride for Autism Research.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Another empty lot

The twice-burned house next to Columbia park is gone. Sitting on the lot on Thursday night, looking like a predator gloating over its demolished its prey, was an excavator. The city moved fast--it was less than a month ago that they were discussing on whether they should demolish it.
 Life goes on. Across the street a tee-ball game was in progress. The players seemed very small and young, so I asked one of the Lions selling concessions how old these kids were. He joked that it looked like some of them still had diaper bulges under their uniforms.
It could be true--in some places they start soccer at three. Why not tee-ball?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Open House for Purdue Extension and County Surveyor

On Wednesday two county offices that recently moved had an open house. (It was a year ago that the county was thinking of buying the old Ceres Solution offices north of Rensselaer--time flies.) The two offices that moved were the Purdue Extension office, which had been in the County Annex, and the County Surveyors office, which had been in the Court House.
The extension office occupies the southern part of the building and the surveyor the northern half. When one enters the main door, one goes past the reception area of the surveyor on the right and continues to the reception area for the extension offices. The extension reception area is shown below, looking toward the north.
The whole extension area had a comfortable feel to it. In addition to the plants, there were interesting decorative items that the staff had brought from their old offices. I noticed an old scales in the office area above. The person who brought it did not know what it had been used for. There were also some old publications that would fit in nicely at the historical museum.
In the extension area the offices small and on the west wall. The extension people said that they did not have appreciably more space in the new area, but that the space that they had was more useable. One thing that they liked was a lunch room. Below you can see one of the offices.
On the eastern side of the building was a large conference room. I wanted to get a picture of it without any people, but there was a good attendance and I never got the chance to take the picture I wanted. I settled for a picture of the light refreshments that they were serving in the conference room.
Purdue extension does a number of things and has a complex structure. Three of the people are employees of Purdue, but some of the staff is hired by the county. The funding comes from county, state, and federal sources. They do a lot of work with 4-H and also do educational programs in the schools. They provide a number of services to the farmers, mostly that have an educational component.

The surveyors office has a completely different feel to it. They have bigger toys-note the large printer/plotter in this picture. I bet you do not have one of those in your office. This picture shows the large work room that dominates the space used by the surveyor.
Below is the same room, looking west.
The individual offices in the surveyors quarters are on the eastern side of the building. The far north end of the building has a storage area that is full of maps and documents. I have forgotten what was in these drawers--it might have been ditch records. The surveyors office is in charge of the many ditches of the county, and each ditch has lots of records that go with it. If you want to write a best seller about the ditches of Jasper County, you will want to have access to these records.
Or maybe you would rather study the roads. They have records on the roads as well. I am sure there is some fascinating reading in these volumes.
The county surveyor gets the biggest and best office in the building.
At one time the hospital was planning an open house this spring. Anyone know if there is a date for it?