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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Red ivy

On my way home from the SJC homecoming (SJC won the football game in overtime, 24-21--I watched about five minutes of it and then talked to alums), I noticed some beautiful red ivy.
 Even poison ivy can be beautiful this time of the year.

The asters are blooming, probably the last major flower group of the year. You can see tiny white asters above next to some scruffy corn. My New England asters, which I worried might not be able to cope with the dry summer, are in their prime.
My wild sunflowers are almost done blooming and I have some small birds feasting on the seeds.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wind farm excursion

This afternoon I enjoyed one of the early SJC Homecoming events, a trip to Brookston to visit a bit of the Waugh farm and one of the wind turbines on the farm.

People who read this blog may know that Juanita Waugh passed away several years ago and left Saint Joseph's College a large amount of land in White County. (See here.) The Waugh holdings were put together over many years, starting with her grandfather and total 7634 acres, about 12 square miles. About 6800 of that is cropland that is cash rented to a single family who have farmed the land for many years. Below you see a map of part of White County with Chalmers and Brookston on the right and I-65 running diagonally through the middle with the Waugh holdings in red.
The excursion was on two SJC vans with about 50 alums and others along for the adventure. The first stop was just south of Chalmers, in a large building with no signage telling what it is. It is the building from which the maintenance crew operate to keep the windmills in operating order.
The building has a rather strange floor plan, with four different pods. It was designed that way because in the construction of the wind farm, the builders used four different brands of wind turbines and each pod houses the people who work on one of those four brands. During construction there was a high demand for wind turbines and the company building it had to take the best deals that it could get. Having four different brands of wind turbines is not an ideal situation; from a maintenance point of view, it would be easier if everything was standardized.

The total cost of this wind farm, by the way, was about a billion dollars. It has a potential capacity of about 500 megawatts, but its average operating capacity is about 30% of that, or about 150 megawatts.

After a long question and answer session, it was time to load up the vans and go see a wind mill. We drove a bit west and south to the big red area in the middle of the map above and pulled up and parked by windmill number 68. (It may look like only one van made the trip, but there were two. The second is hiding behind the first.)
We were in the middle of a large soybean field that was being harvested. The access roads to get to the windmills are also used by the farmers, but they are private roads and the public is not supposed to drive on them. They are also level with the fields so that farm equipment can easily cross over them. The Waugh land produces about 600,000 bushels of corn and 200,000 bushels of soybeans annually, though this year the corn yield will be about half of that and the soybean yield 70% or 75% of that. The corn I saw looked very short.
You can see a power line going through the property. Unused capacity on that line was one of the reasons for siting the wind farm here. Other reasons were that this area has the best wind in Indiana, it is close to markets, and there is public acceptance. It is quite possible that this facility of about 300 turbines will be expanded in the future.

The Waugh Farms has 32 turbines on its land, giving SJC a substantial amount of lease money annually. One of the concerns of the farm manager and many of the farmers who have leased land to the wind farms is what will happen when the windmills are retired. The turbines have an expected life of about 25 years. It is possible that new turbines may replace the old ones at that time, though no one can really predict what will happen that far out. There is a tremendous block of concrete extending deep into the ground under each of the towers, which are 80 meters tall. The contract with the farmers says that the company will remove concrete as deep as four feet when the windmills are no longer in use, but that assumes that the companies will still be viable at that time.
We did not get to go inside and look up.

If you stand at the base and look up, this is what you see:

It is a lot more impressive when you are actually there. The windmills do make a whooshing sound at certain speeds and the loudness varies a lot depending where you are. I thought it was louder a bit in front of the turbine than it was directly below it.

On the way back the farm manager rode in the van I was in (he had been in the other van on the way out) and answered questions. He had some interesting things to say about Juanita Waugh. She originally offered the property to another college, but they would not agree to her stipulation that the land never be sold or developed. (The map shows property at the SR 18 and I-65 interchange--no gas stations or fast food restaurants will be built there.) She had met Fr Banet and liked him, and she was very impressed with one of the White County bankers, who was an alumnus of SJC. That prompted the idea of leaving the land to SJC, which was smart enough to agree to her conditions. If SJC ever tries to sell the land, it will revert to the Mayo Foundation.

Ms Waugh lived in a house in Brookston that had been build by her grandfather and had been the family home for a century. She decided that she did not want anyone else to live in the house after she died, so her orders were to tear it down after her death. Her orders were carried out and the land was given to Brookston as a park, though no funds came with the land to develop the park.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Construction update, end of September 2012

A number of construction projects are on-going, and for lack of anything better to post about, here is a quick look at the progress being made at some of the sites mentioned recently.

The building trades house has a floor and this week the students began to frame a wall.
The Louck medical building on Drexel Drive has the electric cables in their conduits and is almost ready for a concrete pour to put in a floor. The rather reddish color where the floor will be is from the re-enforcing steel mesh that is in place.
Below you see the Court House from the southeast. On the right the gray roof is completed. You can see a bit of gray on the bottom on the left; that is where shingles have been placed. The scaffolding that was on the southwest side of the building has been removed and put up on the northwest side of the building.
Below is a better look at the work on the corner of the roof that faces the firehouse.
Metal railing on the north bank of the river was being worked on the past couple days. The railing for the bridge itself has been delayed, and that delay will push the completion of the bridge back a few weeks. Notice that the leaves are beginning to change color. There was very little yellow in the leaves a week ago. Now it is quite noticeable.
There were a lot of workers in the bridge area today. Some of them were working on paving the east remnant of Austin Avenue. Even that little bit of street required at least five truck loads of asphalt.
Earlier this week I heard about rumors that Walmart wanted to build a bigger store but could not simply expand their existing one. Anyone have real information? I saw people working in the former Sears store in the College Mall, or rather I heard people working there--they had completely blocked the windows. Anyone know if someone has plans for that space? Finally, I heard that even though the area farmers have a small harvest, the much higher corn prices is making this a very good year for most farmers.

I have been really busy lately, but the things that keep me occupied are not things that would interest many readers of this blog. However, tomorrow I may be going on a blog-worthy adventure.

Monday, September 24, 2012

First light frost

This morning I noticed that a few leaves of sweet potatoes and squash had suffered some frost damage. My guess is that it happened last night.
I drove to Indianapolis on Friday and was surprised that the leaves get more yellow and orange in them as you get further south. It is a result of the much drier summer that Indianapolis had. Most of the corn around Indianapolis is only about four feet tall.

Fall is a wonderful season, but the realization that winter is on the way kind of spoils it.

Update: A check of my garden plot that is outside of Rensselaer showed that the frost was much more severe in the country than it was inside of Rensselaer. There is a degree or two of difference in temperature between the country and the town, enough in this case to limit the damage of the frost.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The backside

I mentioned the new Talbert Bridge monument on Tuesday, but I did not realize when I took the picture that there was an inscription on the backside as well as on the front. Below you can see the side of the monument as you come off the bridge.
This has been a quiet week with not a lot happening, at least not a lot happening that deserves mention on this blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday's tidbits 9-18-2012

The weather has turned cooler, and though the trees are still green, the fields are not. They look ready to harvest.
There is a chance of some patch frost this week. What a difference a month makes.

The building trades class from the high school has almost completed the foundation for this year's house. It looks like it will have a stoop space rather than a crawl space.
The monument that I mentioned in the last post has been installed at the south end of the Talbert Bridge.
There is a sign on the store that previously was Amy's Attic: "New Store Opening Soon." I could not tell from what was in the window what kind of store it will be.
The address on the door is 116. Above the door is an old address, 124. When did the addresses of the downtown stores change?

The bakery next door is open again after an gas explosion damaged the ovens and injured the baker.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Another week almost gone

It was a pretty quiet week, though we had some excitement when we found a mouse trapped in a garbage can on Wednesday. It had climbed in to feast on some food morsels and could not get back out .I relocated him about half a mile from my house, on the other side of the river.
It is time to set mouse traps. The next mouse in the house will not be as lucky as this one.

A couple days later in the same area that my former house guest now resides, I saw park people digging a hole near the south side of the Talbert Bridge. I asked why. The hole is for a foundation of a monument citing the people who were instrumental in getting the bridge built. It will undoubtedly be the subject of a future post.

A couple of young doves were hanging around my backyard this past week, and I could get very close to them. I think hunting season for doves started a week or two ago. They were safe in my backyard, but if they ever come inside....
The last flowers of summer are blooming. A few years ago I planted some sunflower seeds I found in plants along the road and they grew. I did not know at the time that they were Jerusalem artichokes, which can be a real pain to eradicate though it does have edible tubers. The plants get about nine feet tall.
I had never eaten at the Doghouse, so I decided to give it a try before it closed. I thought the picture of a coat hook would be an appropriate illustration for the occasion. I asked why the business was closing and was told that sales were poor. Another victim of the sluggish economy.
I noticed that the repair shop on Washington and Weston--it was Paul's Auto Repair--was empty. I could not recall if I had noticed that it was empty before or not. Is this a recent closing, or has it been closed for a while?

Saint Joseph's College was notified last week that they were one of 14 colleges to awarded a Title III Strengthening Institutions Program grant from the Department of Education. I looked online to find how large the grant was, but the 2012 grants were not yet listed. The colleges getting funded from this program last year were getting between $300,000 and $400,000.

On my trip to La Fiesta Market, I took a picture of what I think is a pump station on the new sewer line that links the businesses at the intersection with the Rensselaer sewer system. Construction seems to be finished on this project.
This past week workers were installing new windows on the lift station adjacent to Weston Cemetery. It was undramatic. I noticed this giant concrete pump getting ready to leave the water treatment plant. I can hear lots of activity going on, and I can see the piles of supplies and building materials, but the work is almost all inside, so there are not many photo opportunities.
I finally got to a networking event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. The folks at First Trust Credit Union were very friendly, and I enjoyed talking to a variety of people.

Construction of the new building on Drexel Drive is proceeding very rapidly. By the end of the week, a couple layers of concrete blocks outlined where the building would be.
I had to close the windows this week. Instead of trying to get rid of heat, as we did all summer, we now need to preserve it. Fall is here even though the trees are still green.

Friday, September 14, 2012

La Fiesta Market 2

A new Mexican grocery has opened east of the I65 SR114 intersection, so I checked it out though my knowledge of grocery shopping is almost nil. The store is located in the old Pancake House building that more recently was a Mexican restaurant. It does not have its permanent signage yet.
There will be a restaurant as part of the business, but it is not ready to go yet.
There are bright piƱatas hanging above the aisles of the grocery section. And of course it has old Mexican favorites like Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.
I am not sure what these round things were, but then again, my knowledge of food is quite limited.
I searched Tamarindo fruit on the Internet and found that it grows on a small tree that is native to Africa, but which is now mostly grown in Asia and the Americas. It is tropical
Having endured the pain of cactus spines, I find it difficult to imagine eating cactus. But the spines can be scraped off much like the scales of a fish. The lady at the counter said that the pads were used in salads.
There were a lot of dried peppers for sale.
Goya is a popular brand in Mexican cuisine.
The store has a meat counter, and I thought the large fish were intriguing.
The store was attractive and inviting but I rarely shop for food. I suspect any business I give them will be in the restaurant part of the establishment.

I forgot to ask them where Market 1 was. I suspect Lafayette because there is a La Fiesta Market in Lafayette that seems to be a combined grocery and restaurant.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Comings and goings

Some comments on an earlier post alerted me to big sales at Fashion Bug. The entire chain is going out of business. I asked how long the store would be open and was told until the end of January. My guess is that they want to be open for the Christmas season, which is the profitable time of the year for many retailers. (Black Friday--the day in which stores finally get into the black for the year.)
I had never been in the store before, and was surprised at how big it was. I asked if I could take some pictures of the inside and was told that was against store policy. Lots of stores seem to have that policy. I am not sure why.

There are newspaper ads for a new beauty salon in the Laundry room, Just Teasing Family Salon. I usually do not follow the comings and goings of this type of business--there are just too many of them.

While I was at The Little Cousin Jasper Festival one of the food vendors told me that a new Mexican grocery/restaurant was opening in the old Pancake House building just to the west of Knights Inn near the I-65 SR 114 intersection. He thought it would be successful even though it is in a location that has not seen successful food operations because he thought the owners knew what they were doing. They have done a similar store elsewhere--maybe Lafayette. It is open for business now, but does not have signage. The newspaper has a report from the health department of a LaFiesta Market #2 ready to open as of August 17. That is probably the name.

Today we celebrate a sad memorial, but on Thursday we have a happier one. It will be the 50th anniversary of the visit by Dwight Eisenhower to SJC to lay the cornerstone for Halleck Center.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Busy weekend

Few weekends have as many events taking place as this past weekend. On Saturday morning the Little Cousin Jasper Festival got started with a 5K run, but most of the running during the day was done at the high school, which hosted the annual Rensselaer Cross Country Invite. At one time it was a major high school cross country meet, but in recent years the middle school part of the meet has attracted the most teams. I think the group running below was seventh grade boys. A minute after the start, some of them have run 400 yards while others have only run 200.
In the evening, the high school hosted a marching band contest, so it was a busy day at the high school

I visited the Fall Festival at the fair grounds, and it was pretty much like it was last year. There were a lot of vendors selling things and a respectable crowd. The big news from this festival is that next year it will be held the weekend before Labor Day, so it will not longer coincide with the Little Cousin Jasper Festival. (The Fall Festival got started when the LCJ festival ceased operating for a couple of years.) It will be interesting to see how these two festivals do next year on different dates.

On the way out to the fair grounds, I met the tractors from the Retired Iron club heading into Rensselaer to take part in the LCJ festival parade. I was able to get back in time for the entire parade. In addition to the tractors, there was a horse. The Rensselaer Republican had a story about the the horse and its owner. The owner is starting a business giving carriage rides. I guess there are wedding parties and other occasions where a horse drawn carriage would be fun.
The SJC band was impressive and very colorful in their tie-dyed tee shirts.
I had other things to do on Saturday, so I did not catch much of the entertainment. I wandered around the various booths and saw this big chair next to Slice of Pie Pizza. It was available for anyone who wanted to sit on it. This little girl had a fun time trying on the pink wig and the giant sunglasses.
A second stage was set up for some of the entertainment, especially for the featured band on Saturday night. Below you can see the opening act.
Sunday was cloudy, cool, and windy. The booths were supposed to stay open until 3:00 and had a financial incentive to do so, so most of them did not take down until then. The penultimate performance was a band concert from the Community Band. They always do a good job.
I do not have anything else listed on my calendar for September. Is there anything interesting coming up?

Friday, September 7, 2012

911 memorial dedication

The rain canceled the evening schedule for the Little Cousin Jasper Festival today (Friday), but it did not cancel the dedication ceremony for the 911 memorial that is now next to the fire station. A good sized crowd attended and listened to the fire chief, sheriff, former mayor, and mayor give short speeches. A trumpeter played the Star Spangled Banner and a couple of other patriotic favorites, and the St Augustine School choir sang. Then it was time for the unveiling.
The two girders in the monument are thought to have come from about the 90th floor of the second tower. The granite base is from a quarry in the area of where the plane crashed in Pennsylvania. The base has seven cubic yards of concrete. The project cost $20,000, which was raised from private sources.

After the unveiling, the members of the fire department posed for a picture.

The early bird gets the storm

Today was the first day for the Little Cousin Jasper Festival but some people had set up their tents yesterday. A storm with strong winds passed through the area this morning and the storm mangled a couple of those tents.
Hardest hit was the tent for Bags, Bangles, and Baskets, which at one time had a store on the Court House Square. The wind not only destroyed the tent but also damaged much of the merchandise. The owner will not be at the Festival this year.

Intermittent showers and the threat of rain pretty well shut down the festival this afternoon. It was empty and many of the booths and tents were covered to protect from rain.
The people in charge have worked very hard to organize this. I hope they have better weather and big crowds tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Title? (Updated)

What should I have called this post? I thought of "Getting high in Rensselaer" or "High in Rensselaer," but thought that might offend people. "High on Rensselaer" sounded like it was boosterism. "High over Rensselaer" is accurate, but not as much fun as the other two.
Work on the Court House roof has been scaled back and will probably stop today as the Little Cousin Jasper Festival gets set up. There was quite a bit of activity on the lawn today.

I noticed from Facebook that the Doghouse will be closing on September 15.

Busy Bee will close after this weekend, another indication the seasons are changing. Another indication--the LaRue Pool was emptied this morning. The water from the pool made Brookside Creek look like a creek again.

The Journey has ended--the storefront across Cullen from CVS is empty.

The workers are putting the wooden planks on the pedestrian bridge.

That's about it from where I sit.

Update: Fashion Bug was mentioned in the comments. Not only is the Rensselaer store closing, but the entire chain is being shuttered. You can read about the details here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Right here in River City-Updated

This morning I rode around a bit to see what was happening in Rensselaer. The building trades class from the high school was watching excavation for the new home that they will be building this year on the west end of Vine Street. It will be east of the houses built in the last two years.

Workers were busy on the pedestrian bridge, laying the I-beams (the real bridge) and cutting the wood for the decking.
I circled the Court House, trying to get a good view of the workers who were installing flashing on the roof of the tower. As I did that, I noticed the door was open on the building that I know as the Johnny Rusk building, the large building that has been mostly empty for years and that is located between the Court House and the Post Office.
 There was a lady inside with a pool table, so I stopped and chatted. She said that she would soon be opening a pool hall that will be called Vicky's Corner Pocket. She allowed me to take a picture of the tables, both assembled and not yet assembled.
I hope she gets far enough along so that she can do some promotion during the Little Cousin Jasper Festival this weekend.

Update: Is any explanation needed?