Dayton: SunWatch

Like I mentioned yesterday, I tried to go to SunWatch on Friday, but they were closed. I mentioned it to Tony and we talked to the other guy that was with us and everyone was interested, so we stopped on our way home on Saturday.

To be honest, I was disappointed at how they downplayed the archeoastronomy. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but there were two blurbs about it on the museum displays (it was a small museum) and a few plaques out in the village. Part of the problem might have been that all of the plaques have QR codes, but not all of the codes work.

I was interested to see that there was one house that had been built and burned down (vandalized) shortly after its construction that was left to observe decomposition. The sign said the intent is to leave the debris until it is “someday […] excavated.” I’m surprised there isn’t already information on that sort of thing, but taking advantage of a bad situation like that is something that wouldn’t have occurred to me, but it made the display more engaging.

I think my disappointment with SunWatch was primarily in my expectations. Looking back through the pictures I took of the plaques, there’s a lot of interesting stuff. It just wasn’t hitting the topics I was most interested in learning about.

Dayton: Park Exploration

While I had fun exploring further out from Dayton on Thursday, I thought I should explore what places closer to the hotel had to offer on Friday. My first thought was to visit SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park. In trying to figure out a name for my farm, I did some reading on archeoastronomy (which is some really interesting stuff) and SunWatch was mentioned in several of the books, so I was excited to check it out. Turns out, it’s only open on the weekends in the winter. That was disappointing, but it turned out there’s a Five Rivers MetroPark (this seems to be Dayton’s park system) near SunWatch, so I drove over to check out Possum Creek.

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Possum Creek  is a pretty cool park with a lot of stuff to do. I explored the Argonne Forest and learned about Judge Null Hodapp and his Argonne Forest (created and named in honor of a friend who died in the French Argonne Forest in World War I), which is unusual (and really interesting) in that the park was preserved while Judge Hodapp’s nephew could tell them about the attractions and facilities. I’m not really clear on when or why the Argonne Forest Park was created, but it wasn’t an amusement park in the way that I think of “amusement park” with ferris wheels or other rides. They had a “dance floor” where people picnicked and a swimming pool (they dammed up the creek to make a huge pool) with concessions. There were also streetcars that had been brought in to be campsites, but during the Great Depression were used by families just looking for a place cheap enough to get by. They didn’t offer electricity or running water, but the letter they excerpted on the sign suggests that they were 2/3 the price of a “normal” house. The park left the cars to deteriorate in the park as a demonstration of how things are worn down over time, so all that’s left at this point is the undercarriage. The light was bad and the rusty metal was the same color as the leaves, so the pictures are pretty hard to see.

I wanted to check out the farm, but I wasn’t sure there’d be much to see in the winter and I was hungry, so I left for lunch. I did a little looking on Yelp and found Central Perc, which was just what I wanted. The cheese plate was just what I wanted. There was a wide variety of cheese (just the right amount of exotic for me…familiar, not not cheddar), some really good French-type bread, and fruit. This is the sort of thing I usually want from a lunch spot, but it doesn’t seem like a lot of places offer it as an option.

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After lunch, I decided to go to another of the MetroParks (it was the closest to Central Perc, I think) called Hills and Dales (you really should check out the site…the pictures they have are much better than mine turned out). That park seems to have a different purpose. It’s in a more upscale part of Dayton and seems to be where the locals take their dogs after they get off work. Which isn’t to say there aren’t attractions there as well. The first thing I went to look at was the stone tower. As the site says, the interior is no longer accessible, but it’s impressive and unusual. I would have liked to see a plaque or something that talked about the history of the tower.

I walked up to the Old Barn camp and saw the chimney. That was another place I would have liked to see some hints about what I was looking at or what I should look for, but I just looked at the chimney and went on my way. The other attraction (also without interpretation) at Hills and Dales was the Staged Gates landscape sculpture. It seemed like it’d be a really good place to sit and enjoy the quiet (the view was a parking lot, so that was less interesting), but the hill had eroded onto the platform and was muddy enough that I didn’t hang around on it.

After that park, I went to pick Tony up from work. We went to dinner with his work people at Wheat Penny. That was really good too, but since Tony wanted to go to all of his favorite places while we were in Dayton, that wasn’t really surprising.

Dayton: Hikes and Bridges

Last week, I went to Dayton with Tony (this was the third trip for me…I went in 2010 and 2014…sorry the pictures are broken…I don’t know how to fix them).

We arrived Wednesday afternoon and only had time for dinner. We went to Warped Wing, a beer brewing/tasting place with bar food that Tony really likes (it’s a beer place, so be warned that you have to confirm your age, if you visit the website). After dinner, we went back to the hotel and played board games with one of the people Tony works with up there.

Thursday, I dropped Tony and his coworker at their destination and went to the George Rogers Clark Park. It was on the way to the covered bridges I was going to look at and it advertised a hiking group. I thought it would be more along the lines of a ranger leading a group of people and telling them all the really basic stuff that they tend to talk about. It turned out to be a group of citizens who are mostly out for exercise. It wasn’t totally a loss though. While we walked around, a few people were interested in telling me about the park.

I was interested to learn about one of the ways that beekeeping differs in Ohio from Virginia. We walked past a hive that was protected only with chain link. Around here, hives are always in an electric fence to keep bears out. When I asked about it, I was told that they don’t have to worry about bears. When I got home, I did some looking…it seems like there aren’t black bears in Ohio at all.

Ohio has very nice parks. I don’t know how much of that is money that the state/localities spend on their parks and how much is the generosity of people like one of the guys on the hike with me. It turned out that, not only did he build the (very nice) trail markers, he also did some stained glass that is on display in the interpretive center. He walked with me a little while and said that, in addition to the things I’d already learned, he’d also done a lot of volunteer work in the park and helped build the barn (equipment storage, it looked like).

After the hike, I drove up to Marysville and had lunch at the Half Pint (I would go back). From there, it was two blocks to the Union County Chamber of Commerce, so I went to get a paper copy of the map for the covered bridges.

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The first bridge (Streng Road)  isn’t a covered bridge. When I was planning my trip, I thought about skipping it. I’m really glad I didn’t because it was a really impressive bridge. I don’t really know anything about bridges, so I’m all about the aesthetics. So, my comments about this bridge are it’s green, shinier/cleaner than I expected, and most decorative than I expected.

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The next several bridges looked a lot alike (not unlike the last Ohio bridge tour, but those were all grey and didn’t have window flap things). I enjoyed looking at the bridges, but I was a little disappointed that the “tour” part wasn’t more interesting. I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t really feel like being in the car or if the newness of Ohio is wearing off or if it was because it was February and no state looks that interesting in February unless there’s snow on the ground. I shouldn’t complain though: it was warm enough to be walking around, taking pictures in a t-shirt.

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I was surprised by how new some of the bridges were. Some were as new as the 2000s. And this bridge in particular was really busy. I did manage to get a picture without cars in it, but there wasn’t time for me to stand in the middle of the road and take a really good picture like I could at all of the other bridges. After this bridge, I had to return to Dayton to pick up Tony so we could get ready for dinner at Lucky’s (another of Tony’s favorites) with a couple of people he works with up there. It was good, but I ate too much at Half Pint to really appreciate it, I think.

You can see more pictures from the trip, including more bridge pictures, here.

2017 VABF Conference

The VABF conference has become a tradition for me. I’ve asked Tony every year if he wanted to/would be willing to go with me. Every year, he says he doesn’t have time. This year, it was at The Homestead, a place Tony has wanted to go for a few years, so he made time this year.

The drive out was beautiful. The snow from a couple of weeks ago was still on the ground and part of the drive was right on a river. I tried to get Tony to take some pictures, but he didn’t understand what I wanted (his words, not mine), so no pictures.

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The hotel itself was a huge disappointment. The beds were horrible, the climate control was really noisy and didn’t seem to be super effective. It actually made me think of the casinos in Las Vegas – worn out and forgotten (sorry for the broken image links in that post…with Picasa dead, I have no idea how to fix it). Not that  there weren’t pretty spots, but overall, it just felt sad.

The first session I attended was a talk by Meredith Leigh (author of The Big Food Talk). The most useful thing about this session was that she put up numbers for growing pigs (who ever talks about pigs?!). I had my numbers on my computer, so I pulled them up while she was talking. Although she’s from North Carolina and her numbers are probably a little different from mine, my numbers were nearly identical to hers, so it’s nice to know that I didn’t have a huge amount of waste. It felt like her talk was mostly, “Stop beating yourselves up for not producing exactly by your values…you can work into it.” Which was nice, but not terribly informative. While I was in that talk, Tony was in a talk about plants for increasing biological diversity. He said it was a good talk and it made him a little more forgiving (I think) of the piles of brush, logs, and other “unsightly” things in view of the house. A bonus in my opinion. We haven’t talked as much about that as one of the sessions we attended together (I’ll get to that in a minute).

For the second session, I went to Meredith Leigh’s second talk (mostly because nothing else seemed more interesting). It was another hand-wavy talk that didn’t offer much that I felt like I could take advantage of. Tony worked on his own work during this session.

The third session was a talk by Michael Judd about growing a food forest. I had forgotten I’d seen one of his presentations two years ago, but it didn’t take long for things to start sounding pretty familiar. Turns out, I went to one of his talks in 2015 and that’s what started me thinking that I wanted to put an orchard in the circle. The nice thing about his talk was that it was very applicable: “If you want to do this, here’s a way to start…then play with it.” So not only was it concrete steps to get started, but also a reminder that your farm/garden/homestead is a pretty personal thing and the way you do things is also personal. Anyway, his two talks (I went to his other talk on Wednesday) were my favorite of the conference.

While I was listening to the food forest talk, Tony went to listen to Free Union Grass Farm talk about their meat poultry production. It sounds like it was a really good talk with good ideas. They’re on a bigger scale than we are, but some of their ideas (using electric to deter bears) are still useful for us.

The last session of the day (Tony and I went together) was Mark Jones from Sharondale Farm talking about growing mushrooms. Between not eating well (the food for the conference lacked staying power the first day) and doing a lot more hard thinking than usual (brains require energy too, not just bodies), I was wiped out. I don’t really remember his talk all that well. There were a lot of things he talked about that seemed like fun to try, but it turns out our wood is too old to use for mushrooms. While we can’t use any of our ideas right now, there are a few trees we talked about taking out to make just a little more light here or there and we’re wondering if those might be good mushroom media.

Wednesday’s first session was surprisingly good. I wasn’t excited about any of the sessions, but I’d gone to a class Ellen Polishuk taught in town and really liked her style. So, I went to her session. And it was really good. She talked about the physical, chemical, and biological components of soil. The really nice thing was, even though it was really sciencey, it was also really useful. She talked about what nutrient levels she targets in her soil tests (but she also emphasized that a soil test is a tool and not a goal).

Tony and I went Michael Judd’s “Harvesting Rain” class Wednesday before lunch. The one I originally planned to go to was full by the time I got there, so I bailed on that and joined Tony. There was some overlap from the session I went to on Tuesday, but there was a lot of new material too. The thing Tony got the most excited about was the idea of building swales in our yard. I thought it was a cool idea too, but we haven’t yet agreed on how we want to do it.

The last session I went to was called “Making Your Farm into a Business” by Rob Lisenby, who sells herdshares. I was expecting something pretty different from what I got. It was the end of the day and I hadn’t slept well the night before, so I really wasn’t into the presentation. The description made it sound more applied than it turned out to be. There was some practical stuff at the beginning (make sure you eat meals, make sure you rest), but there was a lot of, “I really like this business podcast, you should try it.” Not that that sort of thing isn’t useful, but between being tired and surprised by the content, I was disappointed.

After the conference, we were supposed to stay an extra night at The Homestead, but neither of us slept well the two nights we’d already stayed, so we bailed on the final night we were supposed to be there. They were nice enough to not charge us for the night we didn’t stay. I suppose I should make sure to say that all of the employees were really great. They were always friendly and helpful.

If you’re still here and not bored, I’d like to revisit one of the comments I made last year. The USDA processor talk ended up being hugely helpful. It gave me more confidence when it was time to take the pigs and it gave me some ideas to discuss with Dad about farmers he knows and how they do things. So while it didn’t seem useful at the time, I think that might have been the most immediately useful session I attended last year.