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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday adventures

I did not do any Black Friday shopping this year. We had some out-of-town visitors who had not seen Fair Oaks Farms recently, so we headed out there. I was very curious to see how much progress was being made on the new restaurant that is being constructed just to the south of the visitors' center. There is not much to see yet, but a couple of concrete trucks were pouring foundations while I was there.
 We hopped aboard the dairy bus and saw the dairy operation. If you have ever taken that tour, you will recognize the picture below.
 Then it was on to a Pig Adventure bus.
 I had seen the Pig Adventure last summer, so most of it was familiar. There were more pigs in the wing where they grow the pigs from piglets to gilts. The very young pigs were frisky and seemed to be either sleeping, fighting, or trying to nurse from each other. They must have been very recently weaned.
 The Pig Adventure is full of funny facts. One other fact I learned is that when the baby male pigs are four days old, they have a small procedure done that turns them into barrows.
 After an hour or two at the Pig Adventure, we returned to the Visitors' Center. Some kids were having a lot of run climbing a wall with magnetic gloves and shoes.
 Then it was off to the Birthing Barn, which has some funny art work.
We saw one pretty normal delivery. The front hooves emerge first, and then for a while you can also see the tongue of the calf sticking out. Finally the momma cow give a big push and expels the head, and then the rest of the body follows pretty quickly.
 About five percent of the births need some assistance and we saw one of those. I wondered if the calf would live, but although it was exhausted by the ordeal of birth, it seemed to be doing OK after the mother licked it for a while. Cows instinctively lick their calves and the licking stimulates them to get up and start nursing.
I have a son-in-law that has considerable experience helping cows deliver. He has aided cows in this situation many times.

Fair Oaks Farms uses a lot of arm-length plastic gloves, both in the dairy farms and in the pig farm. My daughter informs me that reaching up into a cow's private parts is warm and gooey.

For some previous posts about Fair Oaks Farms, see here, here, here and here. (Plus there are others.)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving day

Some years have nice weather for Thanksgiving. This year we are getting some very cold weather. It feels like January. Most of the water in ponds still has enough heat from the fall to keep the ice at bay, but there is an impressive display of icicles in the quarry.
 Several people have decorated their yards with Thanksgiving decorations. Inflatable turkeys are the most common. Below is one model.
 And here is a second.
 If you are not able to cook your own Thanksgiving meal today, you can get a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the American Legion Post. Dinner is served from 11:00 am till 2:00 pm.

Every year there are a lot of early Thanksgiving meals. The students at Saint Joseph's College had a big Thanksgiving feast last week before they headed home for the break. I was honored to be invited to a Thanksgiving dinner (lunch) at the CDC Resources center on Angelica Street last Thursday. The food was abundant and delicious. For dessert people had a choice of pumpkin pie or apple pie. I would have like to tried the homemade apple pie, but I have eaten so many apples in the past month that I opted for the pumpkin.
 The celebration took place in the work room of the center. Everyone seemed to be happy and thankful. The picture below is taken from a Facebook posting of the event. You can see more pictures by clicking the arrows here.
 Work has been a little slow in the workshop. The consumers have been doing packaging for Donaldsons and National Gypsum. They have also been working on decorating bowling pins. These are discards from the Strike Zone (bowling pins do wear out) and will see another life. I am not sure where they will be sold.
Enjoy the day. I am more than a little sorry seeing how the Black Friday sales have crept into Thanksgiving. But once one store decided to move up the sales, it is hard for the others to resist. (People think that the old laws that restricted sales on Sundays were enacted for religious reasons, but the major motivation may have been to control hours, preventing the sort of thing we see happening with shopping on Thanksgiving. The prisoner's dilemma explains it all.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Have you ever wondered what is in the big metal building that you pass on the way to Fountain Stone Theaters? It is the headquarters of Cooperative School Services, an agency that provides services to nine area school corporations: Benton Community, Frontier, Kankakee Valley, North Newton, North White, Rensselaer Central, South Newton, Tri-County, and West Central. The idea is that there are specialized services that a school may need, such as speech therapy, psychology services, occupation therapy, and various other services for students with physical handicaps, developmental disabilities, emotional disorders, or learning disabilities, but the school may have only a few students who need these services, not enough to justify hiring a full time person to deal with them. The solution is to hire a few specialists who can provide the services and to share them with other school corporations. That is what the Cooperative School Services does.
 The building that they are in was dedicated at the end of 2007. Before that CSS had offices in several of the compartments in the old Sears Building in downtown Rensselaer. The building is functional and not an architectural masterpiece. You enter on the west. To the south is a large training room/classroom/conference room. To the north is a huge area of cubicles that takes up more than half the building. CSS employs a lot of people but they do not spend much time in their cubicles. They spend their time on the job out in the nine school corporations that CSS serves.
 Below is the cubicle room from another angle.
Cooperative School Services began in 1969 and today serves 2100 students in the nine school corporations. The executive board consists of the superintendents of the nine school corporations.

The website for CSS is Check it out to learn more about them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a slow week

Every once in a while I peek at the sitemeter statistics for this blog. They have a lot of information, most of which I do not know how to use. However, they show that something very unusual happened this month.
Normally this blog gets between 100 and 200 visitors per day. When it sinks below 100 it is slow day, probably a day on which there is no post. When it gets over 200 it is a busy day. But last weekend there was a spike and on November 17 there were almost 1000 visits. What happened? That was the day on which I posted pictures of storm damage. Why that got as much attention as it did I cannot explain.

Because it is a slow week, last night I decided to attend a meeting of the Jasper County Plan Commission. The Commission consists of nine members and they meet every fourth Monday of the month in the County Commissioners quarters on the second floor of the court house. They sit around a table and the public can sit in the rows of wooden seats that are permanently attached to the floor--the sort of seat that was in auditoriums fifty years ago. Because of the arrangement, half of the commissioners have their backs to the audience. That probably does not matter much because there is not much of an audience--the meetings do not appear to be very interesting unless they involve your property.

There were two items on the agenda. A citizen who lives between Demotte and Rensselaer wanted his property approved for a two lot subdivision. He wanted to sell his house and move to town and this division of his property into lots would make his property more sellable--at least that is what I understood his position to be. After the members of the commission bounced a variety of ideas around, mostly involving drainage, they approved the subdivision. The rest of the meeting was taken up with discussion of fees for building permits and/or building inspections. At present there is no variation in fee for the size of a building (unless your shed is less than 200 square feet, in which case you do not need a building permit). Other counties, such as Porter and Tippecanoe, vary the charge based on size. The topic will come up at a future meeting when a new fee schedule may be on the agenda.

The building inspector did say that this year housing permits have increased after being a very low levels for several years. During those lean housing years, most permits were for sheds or pole barns.

The meeting lasted about half an hour. The minutes of the Commissions meetings are available on line at here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Frosty the Iceman

It's cold. It's dark. It looks like winter. It feels like winter. All that is missing is snow.

The very cold nights (my computer said that it was 12 degrees on Sunday morning) have frozen water that had collected in some buckets (and which I had not gotten around to emptying). I was able to extract some of the ice without breaking it up, and I thought that since I could not make a snowman, I would make an iceman. So behold, Frosty the Iceman.
You can see a metal watering can behind Frosty's head. It also had water, and it froze solid. As it did, the freezing water stretched the metal and we could hear it popping every five or ten minutes on Saturday night. But it was too cold to go out and do anything about it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Annual Christmas Open House

I spent part of the afternoon visiting Rensselaer retail merchants participating in the Annual Christmas Open House. It officially ends tomorrow, but in a way it continues to December 18. As part of the promotion, the eleven retailers have a card that you can pick up at any of the participating retailers. When you have visited all eleven and had your card punched or signed, you leave it at the last retailer. From all the completed cards, one will be chosen to receive a gift basket containing a gift from each of the retailers. As I visited the retailers, I was struck with how clever this simple promotion was, and how it really benefited some of the lesser known stores. A lot of people were stopping by stores that they had never previously visited, and even if they did not buy something, they at least became aware of what the store offered.

The eleven participants are Brookside Florist, Browns Garden & Floral Shop, Steffen's Jewelry, The Willow Switch, Prairie's Edge, Stunt Dawg & Studio 110 Frames, Kids Corner and Unique Things, Home Sweet Home, Sew many Stitches 2, Dales Steak & Chop Shop, and Longs Gifts & From the Needle's Point. The only one of the stores that I have not done a post on is Longs Gifts & From the Needle's Point, which has a larger and more varied selection of items than any of the others. I am not sure why I have never done a post on them--I will have to remedy that some day.

I commented to one of the retailers that I did not see why more retailers were not in on this promotion. He responded that most of the locally owned, non chain retailers were. Think about that.

In the evening I stopped by the Business After Hours event at the Carnegie Center, which was also the opening of the 11th Annual Photography Exhibit of the Jasper County Art League. I was interested in hearing if anyone knew how Rensselaer could ride the coattails of Fair Oaks Farms, which is planning major expansion with restaurant, hotel, water park, chickens, beef, and an airshow all in the planning stages or more. I did not get a good answer. Jasper County will initiate a Tourist Board or Visitor Committee--I forget the exact name--starting in 2014 and that will be funded by a tax on motel/hotel accommodations. Maybe we will get some answers next year. The conversation turned to sports and the announcement that Gene Edmunds is being inducted into the National Officials Hall of Fame. I heard stories about Dan Brandenburg, who may be the most talented athlete to ever attend RCHS. He played football in the NFL for several years. He holds the RCHS track records in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and high jump despite being a large person--he played linebacker in the NFL.

As I write this, I see that the football season has ended for the Bombers. They lost to Tipton 27 to 0. Tipton is the last Hoosier Conference team still alive--West Lafayette was defeated convincingly by Andrean.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Traffic Jam

Rensselaer had a traffic jam of sorts today as cars lined up along Front Street.
People were excited about the grand opening of the BP station. Radio station WLQI was broadcasting live from the site and free hamburgers and hotdogs were available for those willing to get out into the rain. The gas for $2.999 was the big draw, however.
Alas, I did not anticipate that the station would have cheap gas for the grand opening--I filled up in Monon yesterday because their price of $3.119 was cheaper than anything in Rensselaer. But in the tradition of sour grapes, it may be for the best. My car has the gas tank opening on the passenger side of the car and few others do. So when there are gas lines, the line of cars will force me next to a pump with my car facing the wrong way.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chickens (updated)

I do not have much today, just a couple things from the Internet. First, Fair Oaks Farms has confirmed that they are considering adding chickens to their campus.They posted the picture below on their Facebook page.
Of course if you are a faithful reader of this blog, you knew this already.

Tomorrow (Nov 21) the BP station near the river will have a grand opening and will give you a chance to win gas cards. They will also have free food from 1:00 until 4:00.

I was told that the Christmas street decorations are up downtown. I will have to check them out tomorrow.

Update: The Facebook page of Rensselaer Adventures made it to 600 likes!

Another Update: Fair Oaks Farms will be hosting the South Shore Air Show in 2014, See the announcement here ore here. I have only been to air shows in Indianapolis, so I do not know how an airshow works when it is not at an airport. The Indianapolis Air Show is no more--my son told me why a while back, but I do not remember the reason. Somehow Riley Hospital for Children was part of the story. You can see what I thought of the Indianapolis Air Show here.

The Youtube video of the press conference is here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


After I posted a picture of the RCSC Administration building with a dumpster near it, a commenter said that the people currently in the building would be moving to new offices at Van Rensselaer School. I stopped by to verify the comment and found that it was true.
 At the beginning of September I noticed some construction at Van Rensselaer. Now I know what it was for. There is room at Van Rensselaer because the second grade moved to the new Primary School when it opened.
 The move is planned to to take place over the Christmas break. I think that the building then reverts back to city ownership. I do not know if there are any plans for it. I hope it avoids the fate of the old Monnett School. What do you think the building could be used for? It was built in 1925 as a dormitory for the Monnett School for Girls and converted to offices in 1954.

Another move that will happen in just a few days is that the little store with two names, Unique Things and Kids Corner, will be moving to a three story building across from the Court House. I do not know if the building has a name, but according to the Walking Tour of the Court House Historical District, it "was built by George Collins as a shoe store, but has hosted a Traub's Clothier, Montgomery Ward, Escape, Gifts from the Heart, and Irene's Consignment Shop." Most recently if was the store with no name. With about triple the floor space that Unique Things/Kids Corner now has, it should allow for a substantially larger inventory. It will be interesting to see what if will look like in a few months.
There are offices on the second floor, and the third floor has been used by a band as a practice room. Presently the upper floors a joined with those of the I.O.O.F. Building to the east, but that may change.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A few more storm pictures (updated)

Below are a few more pictures showing damage from Sunday's storms.

The storm not only toppled this swing set, but it blew the plastic panels out of the privacy fence. One of them ended about a block to the north.
 This large tree does not seem to have done much damage when it fell. It was in a backyard near the power plant. The black clouds in the distance are from the second wave of storms, which hit about twenty minutes later.
 A number of houses had some singles blown off. One response was to put a tarp on the roof, a challenge given the very strong winds that were still blowing.
 Here is another house with damage that has been tarped up.
 This afternoon I noticed that one of the tables with an umbrella had been flung against the fence at Brookside Pool. The fence is nice and shiny because it was painted recently, as has the concrete base. Do you like the blue?
 There must have been a finger of extra strong wind that hit the park because it did damage to the fence and announcer's booth at Roth Field.
 My guess is that the wind picked up the south bleachers and hurled them into the fence before leaving them twisted on the ground next to the Gifford Shelter.
Jasper County REMC has a series of pictures showing damage to power lines in the country and other damage on Facebook. Start here and click on the advance arrow to see them all.

Every once in a while the city has a shredder in to make mulch of its piles of tree limbs that it collects north of the railroad tracks on Mattheson Street. Today the shredder was there. I wonder if it will be there long enough to process all the downed tree limbs that the storm left.
(I have wanted to get a picture of the shredder for several years and was happy to find it operating today.)

Update: Although many of the downed trees have been cleared away as of Tuesday, there were still some that had not been touched. The most interesting were two trees in the river at the north end of Sparling.
 These two, plus another downed tree across the river near the lift station a bit further upstream, would make canoeing or rafting the river a challenge. They may also cause flooding if we get some really heavy rains.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday storm

The peacefulness of Sunday was interrupted by two waves of storms, the first of which did considerable damage. I ventured out between them and got caught by the rain of the second one.

There were many small branches down in the streets and also some debris. A number of houses had minor damage, like the one below which lost some siding.
 The wind must have been very strong to tilt the Martin's Restaurant sign.
 I saw shingles in the street in several neighborhoods. The roofers should be busy for a couple weeks repairing damaged roofs. I only saw one chimney cap in the street.
 There were a number of trees and large branches down. Several closed streets, as the one below, which also took down the power line. This one was in the northeast part of town, in a neighborhood that had several other trees down.
 The most impressive damage was north of town, where one building was demolished. Someone told me that this had been the L&P Body Shop. You cannot really tell anymore.
 The same structure from a different angle. I think the debris at the bottom is part of the roof from the building on the other side of the highway.
 The building that until recently was Bazz's Eat and Sip had roof damage. On the other side the roof the overhang was gone and I think it is what you can see in the picture above. Also, notice the leaning power line pole. It was wobbling in the wind, which was still very strong though the sky had cleared.
 There must have been something special in this area, perhaps a microburst, because the building just to the north of the demolished building also had structural damage.
There was a lot of local damage, but it is nothing compared to the tornado damage in several Illinois towns.

Update: I forgot to mention that the storm knocked out power to all or most of Rensselaer for at least an hour.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ribbon cutting and a bomb (updated)

Home Sweet Home had its ribbon cutting ceremony today. The store opened in July. The store has a variety of antiques and decorative items, and also sells several product lines of jewelry and food products. If you have not visited the store, you should. It has a lot of fun things to look at.
As I was leaving, I noticed a bomb on the corner of Cullen and Washington. I suspect that it is a decoration to celebrate the football teams regional playoff game that will be held at the high school tonight. It has girls names and years on it, so it commemorated some sort of achievement. Was it for woman's basketball?
 Around the corner from Home Sweet Home, in the space most recently occupied by a Mexican clothing boutique, something seems to be happening. The window is covered with black plastic, and through a gap I could see that work was being done inside.
I think it was someone at the ribbon cutting, though it may have been one of the Mainstreet ladies I talked to a few minutes later, that told me that 24-7 Club Fit would be moving this weekend. Their new location now has the sign above the awning in nice red letters on a black background--Bomber colors.
 I took a picture of their old location because soon it will not look like this.
I have been trying to keep up with the changes in the local medical situation. Dr Spicer is retiring from his practice at the Clinic of Family Medicine but will continue as director of the Hospital's hospice. Dr Wakefield is leaving the Clinic of Family Medicine and opening an office in the College View Mall, in the location formerly occupied by Dr. Louck and before that Dr Nelson. I think that leaves only two doctors at the Clinic of Family Medicine. Dr Pellicore closed her practice a few months ago after she had twins and has apparently left town. Dr Finley who joined Dr Chis Louck in his practice left a few months ago. We may be a little short on general practitioners, but the hospital has an impressively long list of consulting physicians.

Update: From two comments on the Facebook link to this post:

The history of the Bomber guy at the courthouse from Kelly Odom- Wright: My senior year... My father was delivering furniture to the HS and this was an old bomb shell they had upstairs in the nest(you old schoolers know where I mean) and they were going to throw it out. My father being a vietnam vet had seen and used these in his day and asked if he could have it. He brought it home and mom was distraught as to what he was going to do with this and where it was going to go. This was my senior year and I had Mr. Beehler for an art teacher... He gave us a project to take an old object and use as a piece of art? So I took the old bomb shell and painted and designed it to look like the "Mr Bob" ( old schoolers know what I mean). I got an A on the project but again ...not sure what to do with this object. So at graduation time I used him at my open house, I wrote my name and my grad year on the back and began making it a tradition to hand it down to a friend of the family that was a senior and each recipient had to add their name make him present at their graduation open house and then pass on to a friend. It was asked that each person make a mental note of who they gave it to as someday when we had kids we could return him back to our homes! The first 2 years were very dear friends, sisters and family Donna Stevens Horner and Julie Kozen from that point on it was to have been a dear friend of each recipient . OVer time it lost its meaning and was reinvented as another type of award but after some hard work and 2 failed attempts at getting him back... we finally had a recipient that was understanding and sympathetic to its original meaning and wanted to see it returned to the rightful owner....Jenna Webb. It was used first for Zachery Horners Open house then to Taylor's (my daughters) and then to Jace Horner and Jaydon Steele and then to Hunter Wright... from there time will tell what and how we handle him... but it is AWESOME to us 3 that were the first to hold him and it was an incredible feeling for him to be returned to us after all these years!! This year will mark 26 years in traveling.... Still love him

and from the owner of the neighboring business:

The building with the black bags covering the window will soon be some kind of a spa I believe. The lady renting there is a massage therapist

Update 2: The Bombers won the regional championship 24-0 over Bremen and are now in the final four. Next week they face Tipton, a team they narrowly defeated earlier this season. Tipton finished fourth in the Hoosier, but is one of three Hoosier Conference teams still alive in the playoffs. Wouldn't it be something if they won the state championship? How often does a team that finishes fourth in its conference win state? Of course we all hope that the team that finished third in the conference will win the state championship. In any case, a team from the Hoosier Conference will be playing in the state finals.

One more update: 24/7 did move over the weekend. Some pictures here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Yesterday (Wednesday) morning I noticed that there were an unusual number of contrails in the sky that were persisting rather than dissipating. Below was the view looking to the north.
 There were others looking to the south.
All of them were stretched east-west. Normally when I notice planes high above, they are traveling north-south. I did notice some planes leaving contrails going north-south, but they did not persist as the east-west ones did. The only routes that I can think of that would fly over our area on east-west routes would be traffic on Seattle/Portland to and from the east coast.