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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A visit to FOF (part 3 of 3)

After checking out the convention center wing of the Farmhouse, it was time to return to the Restaurant and order dinner. The decor is fun. Below you can see one of the chandeliers.
The condiments were in a bucket and the beverage was served in a mason jar. In the background you can see the kitchen, which is visible from the dining area through large windows.
The menu is rather limited and most of the items on it are produced in the area. Prices for entrees range from $15 to $25, with sandwiches and pizzas ranging from $9 to $12. I thought the food was very good (but I claim no expertise as a food critic). The wait staff was efficient and courteous. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience.

As mentioned in the last post, the manager stopped by our table during the meal and I asked her where the customers came from. She said that during the summer most are tourists. During the winter they get a lot of business from people who travel between Indianapolis and Chicago on I-65. While we were there only about a third of the tables were occupied, but she said that in the morning they had been filled to capacity four times. (That would have been prime time for people scheduling a Christmas vacation visit to FOF.) The Restaurant had reached out to hire first-rate professionals to run the operation, but obviously it was also providing a lot of jobs for locals.

After we were finished, we asked the hostess for the manager because she had offered to show us around. Separated from the main part of the restaurant was the bar area. It was mostly deserted on the night we were there, but they expected a full house on New Year's Evening when Taylor Hicks is scheduled to perform.
Off to the side is a door to a special dining area, the Chef's Dining Room. This is a more exclusive area where you will be served by the kitchen staff and talk to the chefs.

From the Chef's Dining Room one can get a very good view of the most of the kitchen. The area closest is a cold line that prepares salads and desserts. The manager explained how the kitchen worked but my very limited knowledge of how restaurants work meant that I did not comprehend some of what she said.
Walking into the kitchen back a bit, we saw the area that has the pizza oven. This area would be only partially visible from the windows of the dining area.
An unexciting view from the dining area into the kitchen.
From the dining area one can see an intriguing balcony that with a pig and a cow in Christmas attire. Two spiral staircases lead up to this balcony.
With permission you might be able to go up--I saw a parent with a couple kids going up before we did.
At the top you could see the red-nosed milk cow who was ready to guide Santa's sleigh.

There was also a small room off the balcony with a couple of desks and a table--the Loft. This area can also be used for dining, though I do not know why anyone would want to go up the stairs to reach it.
Below is the view of the main dining area from the balcony. (A better view is available here.)

Fair Oaks Farms had an exciting year in 2014 and I suspect that 2015 will be at least as eventful. There are a lot of plans and possibilities that are being discussed. Somewhere in the next few years a 200 room hotel is in the plans and there is much more that I hear via rumors. I wonder what it will be like in ten years.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A visit to FOF (2 of 3)

We arrived at the Farmhouse Restaurant after checking out the construction progress of the Pork Education Center and browsing the Bakery and Market, recounted in Part One.
The door pulls were clever.
There are two doors in front. One leads to the convention halls of the the Farmhouse and the other to the Restaurant. Coming in via the Restaurant doors, you are greeted by the hostess who will seat you. However, I wanted to look around a bit before I was seated and the hostess told me that I was welcomed to do that. Immediately to the right of the entrance was a small dining room that seated about 30. Groups can reserve this room for meetings.

(By the way, the Fair Oaks Farms website has lots of pictures, some of them much better than what I have. Try here and here.)

Turning to the left, you could see the hallway down to the convention center rooms.
I noticed that the Restaurant was having some fun with their restroom signage.
Jumping ahead a bit, as we were eating the manager stopped by our table and I began to ask her questions. She invited us for a tour after we were done, and on that tour she told us that we really should take a look in the restrooms. Below is a picture of the men's restroom.
Same restroom, looking the other way.
The women's restroom had different decorations. There were plates on the wall from each of the fifty states. (And in case you were wondering, no, I did not take this picture.)
Proceeding down the hallway, we reached the conference center room. This room can be divided into two parts, and the parts are called the John Newton and William Jasper Rooms. Each has its own door, seen on the left. Between the doors you can see where a divider can be pulled to separate the halves.
Outside of these rooms is a water feature, which is a rustic fountain. It was too dark to take a picture of it, but looked like it would be very pretty in the summer.

I asked how often these rooms were used. During the summer there is a wedding or weddings pretty much every weekend. In addition, various farm groups have been using the convention center for meetings.

Then it was time to eat.

(A comment on the Facebook link to Part 1 said that the mystery building behind the Pork Education Center will be the Crop Adventure building.)


Monday, December 29, 2014

A couple of notes

The Jasper County Public Library Board held a short meeting this morning to tie up a few loose ends before the end of the year. They approved paying the bills that have accumulated since the regular December meeting and they approved some appropriation transfers. The latter item means that they transferred money from budget lines that were underspent to budget lines that were overspent. No matter how carefully a budget is prepared, there will always be unexpected expenses, so certain spending will be greater than anticipated. The Board must approve these transfers. The head librarian told the Board that all the insurance for the flood has been settled, though they expect one more check for damaged furniture. She said that insurance company had been very cooperative in dealing with them. The meeting was over in about 15 minutes.

This morning on the way back from an exciting holiday adventure (you should be reading about it in a few days) I noticed that gasoline prices had slipped below $2.00 per gallon in Rensselaer.
Milk is now more expensive than gasoline, and one pack of cigarettes costs more than two gallons of gasoline (and Indiana has cheap cigarette prices compared to many other states). Gas is still cheaper in Lafayette.

A visit to FOF (1 of 3)

On Saturday I had the opportunity to stop by Fair Oaks Farms--I cannot recall being there since last May. Before dining in the new Farmhouse Restaurant, I checked out the Pork Education Center, which has been under construction since the summer. The exterior looks finished. It is cute how they incorporated some of the features of an actual pig barn into the design.
To the west and north of the Pork Education Center some other construction seems to be underway. I asked a couple of people who worked at Fair Oak Farms what this project was and they were unsure, but thought it might be a John Deere Museum
Fair Oaks Farms wanted to get the Farmhouse Restaurant open by early July to be ready for the South Shore Air Show. They succeeded, but then wet weather caused a cancelation of the air show. A month or two or three later the Market and Bakery opened.
The Market and Bakery sells bakery goods (obviously) and also a variety of food products, most of which are obtained locally. It sells Fair Oaks cheese and you can see meat for sale in the display case at the far right.
Also for sale is Fair Life Milk, discussed in a post last week. (OK, not really discussed, but linked to a discussion.)
Also for sale is Core Power, a high protein milk shake that has connections to Fair Oaks Farms. (And Coca Cola, a product from a company that is helping market Core Power and Fair Life Milk.)
The Market also has a variety of local and regional wines for sale. If you look carefully, you might spot some bottles of Carpenter Creek Wine, a Jasper County product.
After spending some time looking around the Market and Bakery, it was time to continue on to the Farmhouse, the subject of the next two posts in this series.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Food news

Fair Oaks Farms had a link on their Facebook page to an NPR article about their re-invention of milk. I had seen things about this before, but this article was the first time that I understood what they were doing. (My daughter sent a different link to the article with different comments.) It is worth reading.

Today I ate at a restaurant in Lafayette and saw two people there who I knew. What are the odds of that happening?

Coming back into Rensselaer I noticed a new sign on South College. (It was not a surprise--see here.)
 I checked inside and found that the construction had not been completed. The new Noble Roman's Pizza is scheduled to open on January 16 in the entrance to Blockbuster.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Some final meetings for 2014

The County Commissioners met for the second time in December on Monday morning. As usual, they covered many topics. They began by approving contracts with Porter and Lake County to provide bed days for juvenile offenders. In the past Jasper County worked with Lake County, but then a new juvenile judge in Lake decided that only Lake offenders should be housed in the Lake County facility, so Jasper found another provider. Now that judge is gone and the old arrangements are coming back.

Community Corrections needed signatures on a $3K PREA [?] grant that will help them follow new federal guidelines for work release programs. 

The Airport Authority wants the county to deed the airport land to them with a reversion clause. Two of the commissioners are not convinced that a deed would be better than a long-term lease. The land in question is 132 acres. Thirty seven are rented for crops and another 11 for hay, and there was a lot of discussion of crop rental. The topic will be back on the agenda for January.

The Surveyor's office wanted approval to spend $6500 to finish scanning old documents. The state has started and they not only scan, but run the scans through software for character recognition so that the documents can be searched. The final product goes to the state archives. The request was approved.

There was a discussion of a tower that I did not understand. I think it was about the old jail tower (which was a mystery photo a post or two ago.)

The Emergency Management Director has a new role, planner for the County's response to the Indiana Bicentennial celebration in 2016. In the fall of 2016 the state bicentennial planners want to have a torch run that will carry a torch through all 92 counties. Jasper will be the 81st of the counties. The actual route will be up to the county as long as it stays within the time guideline that the state sets. If you have any creative ideas of what Rensselaer or Jasper County can do to celebrate the state's bicentennial, there is now someone who will listen to you.

There were two pairs of citizens with property issues. These discussions kept referring to maps that the Commissioners had, so were hard to follow. The first involved a woman who wanted to buy land that used an access that the county owned because in 1941 the owner of the land had back taxes of $2.41. The land that the county got was only a twenty foot strip of the lot that was used as access for two other properties, so it may be that the owner saw no reason to pay taxes on it. The potential buyer was having difficulty getting a loan because the lending institution wondered if the lot she wanted could become land locked if the county disposed of the land. The Commissioners assured her that she would have access rights regardless of who owned the land. The second case was a case of a bad neighbor, someone who is doing things on his property that is causing water issues on the property of the people complaining to the Commissioners. No immediate solution was forthcoming.
A bit after ten o'clock the Commissioners opened bids for tires, stone and aggregate, sand and pea gravel, and machine rental. As they usually do, they voted to accept all bids.

There followed signing lots of papers and discussing some issues with several departments. The most interesting bit was that the asbestos inspection of the Johnny Rusk building had been completed with no issues found. The bids for demolishing the building will not be ready for Commission review until at least the February meeting.

The next meeting will be on a Tuesday, not a Monday--January 6 at 8:15.

The Rensselaer City Council met for another very short meeting on Monday evening. Electric rates will be a little high in the three months starting January 1. The council approved a transfer of funds of $1.00--do not ask me to explain that one. They approved a reduction in the 2014 budget because they said that the various departments had done a good job of being frugal and had not spent all that was in the budget. 

There was motion to approve spending money from the public relations fund on flowers for the funeral of the father of a city employee. The Council reappointed two people to the Park Board for four-year terms and two people to the Planning Commission for one-year terms.


It was a short and not very exciting meeting. 

The winter solstice was yesterday at 5:03 pm. The days are now getting long, though you probably will not notice that for about six weeks. The weathermen say that we may set a record this December for the least amount of sunny skies.

Here is a picture because I dislike posts without a picture.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Santa Claus is coming to town

I saw Santa talking to little kids on the Court House Square this afternoon. While I was there, he seemed to have lots of kids stopping by to tell him how nice they have been.
A bit later I saw him in Strack and VanTil. He was not talking to anyone--parents apparently prefer to shop for food without kids in tow. Santa sure gets around.

Unique Finds now sells household items and furniture on the second floor of their building. I stopped by to see what they had and was told that they are running a bit low on inventory.
 They get a lot of things from a shop in Merrillville whose owner repairs and repurposes old furniture, and she is selling well at her shop so they have not been getting much for the holidays.
The building permit is up in the College Mall where two stores are being combined into one space and then subdivided into rooms. Help at Home, which currently rents in the Mall, will be moving and expanding.
Also undergoing renovation is Big Dog Rental and Sales. I have been there to see what they are doing, but I can view their efforts on Facebook.

(The mystery picture in the last post was of the radio tower in the parking lot of the old jail. Anonymous got the answer on the third try.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Only a few more days till Christmas

I returned a couple grandkids to their mother yesterday and they have been replaced with peace and tranquility. It was fun while it lasted.

While they were here we decorated for Christmas. Lots of other people are doing the same--Strack and VanTil has sold all of its Christmas trees.
Speaking of trees, on the other side of the highway and a bit to the south, the tree stumps are all that is left from 14 trees that once were southeast of the reflecting pond. It looks very different now, and I suspect it will look a lot more different next summer.

This morning (Friday) there were many trucks being loaded with stone from the piles at the Babcock Quarry. The piles do not look that big, but it takes only two scoops from the big loader to fill a truck. I do not know where the trucks were going, but by the end of the day the pile may be noticeably smaller.
The quarry is piling crushed stone to form berms to keep people from driving on the areas that once stored rock.

(Would a rock from the quarry serve as a substitute for a lump of coal as a present for a naughty boy or girl?)

A building permit in the window of the old Hoover Furniture Building suggests that rumors that it will be the future home of Ayda's Restaurant are true. (At one time the building housed a creamery or some operation that produced ice cream--if you remember details, leave them in a comment. So the building may be going back to something related to its roots--food.)
 I took the picture below recently. What is it and where is it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too many events

On Tuesday there were at least five events/meetings in the late afternoon and evening. At 5:30 the Animal Control Board met in the Library, at 6:30 the Jasper County Historical Society met at the museum, and at 7:00 the High School Music Department had its winter concert, the RCSC had a board meeting, and the County Council had its monthly meeting. Why is the third Tuesday such a popular day for meetings?

I peeked in the Historical Society meeting to see what goodies I was missing by going to the County Council meeting.
A few days ago the railing was installed on the Museums new ramp.

Then it was off to the County Council meeting. There was some routine transferring of money so that unbudgeted expenses could be met. The unusual snow of last winter resulted in some funds running short at the end of the year, so money had to be moved.

The most interesting item was a discussion of the upgrade of 911 equipment. The usual life of the equipment (much of it computer related) is five years, but the department is going on 7 years. The plan is in the next few months to completely replace the old equipment at a cost of more than $200,000 and less than $25,000. The funding for this comes from a tax on phones, and right now land lines are taxed about double what cell phones are. The legislature is working on equalizing the tax, which is probably necessary because people keep abandoning land lines. (A Verizon box is much cheaper for a home phone.) The upgrade will include the most recent version of the software and allow text messages to go to 911.

One member of the Council asked if the upgrade would interrupt 911 service. The answer was that whenever 911 service is interrupted in Jasper County, it is automatically switched to the White or Newton County 911 service. All 911 service in Jasper County is hosted by the Sheriff's Department, but there are 911 operators in the Rensselaer and DeMotte Police Departments. However, they act as satellites for the county 911 service.

There was some question if these plans were already in the budget or not. If they were not in the budget, then approval would not be possible until it had been advertised. However, the auditor checked her budget and discovered that more than enough money had been included in the recently passed budget, so the report was considered as an update to the council.

The other item that was interesting was the recognition by the Council of two members who were serving at their last meeting. Ron Sipkema did not run for re-election and was retiring after 16 years of service and Dan Stalbaum was defeated in his re-election attempt. He has served eight years. They were each given a plaque and a personalized tee-shirt. The Council members seem to be very close, something that can happen when people work together for a long period. With their departure, Councilmen Price and DeVries become the elder statesmen on the Council.


On an unrelated topic, I received an e-mail from Dan Perkins (whose farm has a blog at http://perkinsgoodearthfarm.com/) that his wife Julie had a recipe that was one of ten finalists in a Dannon Yogurt recipe contest. The winner is decided by viewer votes, so if you would like to help them out, you can vote here: http://www.betterwithyogurt.com/voting-recipe/?recipe_id=2677
You can vote once a day until the end of the month. There is a substantial cash prize for the top two.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Building

The library has some new toys in their play loft that encourage building, legos and blocks.
The blocks are not made of wood but rather of a soft plastic.
 The last time I took them to the library, my charges complained that they missed the play telephones, the ones that had a rotary dials. There are still some of the older toys available, like the one that teaches kids how to open up various kids of latches.
 There is actual building activity in the College Mall. The spaces between one of the rentals and Subway are being subdivided into little spaces. It does not appear it retail will be moving in.
 Walls are going up on the MacAllister building east of the airport.
 I was excited to see this vehicle last week.
 It was the truck of Jasper County Weights and Measures, which checks to make sure that gas pumps and scales are accurate. I sat through several county meetings that discussed the need for Jasper County to hire an employee to handle weights and measures. In the past the county had outsourced the job, but it had reached a level (maybe population) that meant that it now had to have its own Weights and Measures employee. Then the position was mentioned at more meetings as it was implemented. Now it is done and in operation.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gaudete Sunday 2014

Today is the third Sunday of Advent--we are past the midpoint of Advent for those of you who watch these things. The signs of Christmas are all over. On Friday I saw the owner of one of our floral shops delivering a Christmas decoration to a grave and I asked her how she found the graves. She said that most of her orders were standing orders, and that sometimes when she does not get paid, it is because the person who has the order has gone to his or her grave. There are quite a few graves in Weston Cemetery that have Christmas-themed decorations.
On Saturday I got up a bit too late to get good pictures of the Rudolph Run that started and ended in Brookside Park. Many of the people finishing had very festive clothing on. Decorating with appropriate clothing is part of the fun of that race. (The weather for the race was a lot better this year than last.)

Later in the day I stopped by Walgreens to check on an old movie I sent off to have digitized. It was not in yet, but I did get to see Santa taking Christmas orders from kids. There was a lot more screaming than laughing. As I left a little boy was desperate to get away from Santa and back to his mother. The Santa experience can be traumatic.

As I was getting close to home, I stopped to listen to some Christmas carolers.  I suspect I was the only bicyclist that received their joyous serenading.  The carolers were from the Faith Pentecostal Church of God.
There are a lot of very attractive Christmas light displays around town. Unfortunately I do not have a camera that can do them justice.

The high school has its Christmas band and chorus concerts on Tuesday starting at 7:00 pm  and the middle school will have a mini-musical on Thursday starting at 6:15 pm.