No matter how beautiful snow covered evergreens of northern Indiana may be, after a month or two of frozen landscape, I’m longing for green growing plants. That’s when a trip to the Botanical Gardens is in order.
The Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is always a refuge for me in the cold winter months. An hour or two inside the greenhouses serves as a mini-vacation.
When I last visited, right after Christmas, the Atrium was filled with hundreds of festive poinsettias and Christmas trees decorated the hallways.
The theme throughout, was the Twelve Days of Christmas. There was even a (fake) cow to milk as I became one of the Eight Maids a Milking.
My first stop was the Showcase Garden, which features changing seasonal displays as well as permanent plants such as bamboo, loquat tree, gardenias, hibiscus, and creeping fig.
After that was the Tropical Garden. This is my favorite place. Thirteen types of exquisite palms, breadfruit, coffee, banana and orange trees, cycads, and ferns grow in abundance there. There’s even a chocolate tree.
Stress slips away with the peaceful background sounds of the waterfall. Rushing water tumbles from a rock ledge high above, and feeds into a rushing stream. I climbed steps to the top, for a bird’s eye view of the gardens and returned below to walk under the fall of water. I followed the stream that wound through lush undergrowth until it emptied into a goldfish pond.
The tropical plants are fascinating. Delicate orchids, lilies and various tiny blooms are sheltered by palms and the over-sized leaves of unknown (to me) vines. Possibly the showiest of the flowering plants is the Bird of Paradise.
After marveling over the individual plants, I took time to sit on the park bench, breathing in the aroma of moist earth and growing things.
The next garden in my path was the Desert Garden, hauntingly quiet and intriguing. Saguaro cacti, fishhook barrel cactus, prickly pear, creosote bush, jojoba, and yucca, mesquite and ironwood trees are among the residents in this southwest desert greenhouse. The plants are allowed to grow and ramble just as they would in the desert.
There are several gardens to explore outside in the summer months. Since I visited to escape the cold, I saved those for later.
In the novel, Heart Strings, Lauren Halloren reluctantly moves back to her home town— Evelynton, IN, after twenty-five years. It’s the last place she wants to be, and only makes the move when she is out of options. In her memory the small town is full of nosy people, is boring, and lacking in any excitement or opportunity. She longed for the city life to which she’d become accustomed.
There were some big differences between the city and the hometown in which she was now forced to live. She would have to cope to these differences. After twenty-five years away, would Lauren’s small town roots begin to make their way to the surface?
There was something going on all the time. Even at night, the air was full of the sounds of traffic, car horns and alarms, the sounds of people on the street. If you couldn’t sleep, you could find something to do. There were restaurants and clubs open at all hours.
As soon as the sun goes down, the only sounds you hear are crickets, owls, and the occasional dog bark or cat screech.
A Night Out
You drive 30 to 45 minutes to get to your destination, leave and drive another 30 minutes to the next place.
You spend the evening driving up and down the same street watching to see who else is out.
There were beautifully landscaped city parks. Take your lunch and sit on a park bench to enjoy the sun shine.
Almost everyone has a backyard to relax in. If you don’t, there is a city park with a ball diamond and a few picnic tables.
There is an endless variety of choices in shopping. All the big name stores are there. You can reach almost any store in thirty to sixty minutes.
Get to the grocery store or hardware store in 5 minutes, and be back to your favorite TV show before the commercial is over. Choices are limited, unless you’re looking for farm implements or auto parts.
Travel an hour to a city to find a mall.
Concerts with top performers, art galleries, plays, and even opra.
Concerts with local artists, street fairs, craft shows, and high school or community plays.
You’ll see a large variety of people of all backgrounds on a daily basis.
Occasionally you’ll see someone from out of town.
There are endless options of all kinds of ethnic foods.
There are limited options of mostly home cooking, hamburgers, or Americanized ethnic food.
There is always lots of traffic. If you drive to work, be prepared to be in a traffic jam at least once a day.
If there is much traffic in town, you wonder what’s going on. Be prepared to get behind a farm vehicle or a horse and buggy.
Spend twenty minutes looking for a space or look for a parking garage. Learn to parallel park.
There is always parking available. The only time you parallel park is when there are two spaces open and you can drive into it.
The population of your block may be higher than an entire small town.
The newspapers are so full of crime reports, you get desensitized to it.
If there is a purse snatching, everyone talks about it. The newspaper is full of high school football news and anniversary parties.
You don’t know your neighbors. People rarely make eye-contact.
You know all your neighbors and you probably got a pie when you moved in.
Everybody makes eye-contact because they're sure they know your parents, siblings or cousins.
Hoosiers like to have fun and we like our festivals. You can find festivities all throughout the state beginning in the Spring and into Autumn.
This is a taste of what Indiana has to offer, in no certain order, and by no means an is it ans exhaustive list.
Festival of the Lakes at Wolf Lake Park in Hammond, IN
This festival takes place in July and celebrates Wolf Lake, Lake George, and Lake Michigan. It spans several days showcasing local bands and entertainers on the community stage. There is a senior day with free lunch and goody bags for those over 55. There is also a special persons day designed for those with permanent disabilities. Free lunch, rides and goody bags are provided. There’s something for everyone, with a fishing derby, golf scramble, carnival rides, Polka party and fireworks.
The Three Rivers Festival is in July at Freimann Square in downtown Fort Wayne
Lots of events at this festival, starting with a parade juried Art in the Park fine art show, Crafter’s market, and food alley. There’s a raft race, a bed race, Downtown Midway rides and beer tasting. The festival ends with a Fireworks display in downtown Fort Wayne.
There’s also the Two Rivers Arts and Music Festival in June. It takes place in Logansport, at the Little Turtle Way Plaza.
The Covered Bridge Festival begins on the second Friday in October in Rockville, IN. Surrounding towns celebrate the county’s 31 covered bridges. There is a historic bridge tour, hog roast, crafts, and food.
The Pierogi Festival is in July in Whiting, IN
It’s all about pierogis. This Eastern European heritage festival honors the Polish pastry. There’s a Pierogi Toss, along with music, cooking competitions, traditional dances, a parade, rides and story time for kids
The Strawberry Festival is in June in Crawfordsville, IN. There’s a Pioneer Tractor Show, a softball Tournament, tennis tournament, a 5K run and music, among other entertainment.
In June, you may be interested in the Gathering of Great Lakes Nations Powwow at Tri-State Antique Tractor Grounds in Portland IN. There are Native American singers, dancers, foods, and artisan demonstrations.
Vintage Indiana Wine and Food Festival is in June at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. It promotes Indiana wine and food. Sample more than 200 award-winning wines. Ticket and ID required.
The Fremont Music Fest is in July in Historic Downtown Fremont, IN. This quaint small town recorded a population of 2,137 in the 2010 census. A bit of history: Fremont was originally settled in 1834 as Willow Prairie, Village of Brockville and renamed in 1848 to honor John C. Fremont.
And finally, my favorite--the Marshmallow Festival is held over Labor Day weekend in Ligonier. Among the many events are marshmallow games, a marshmallow roast, marshmallow bake-off, strongman competition, car show, chicken barbeque, and Cornhole tournament.
You've heard the "You might be a Hoosier" jokes before. Here are a few more you may only understand if you are from a small Indiana town.
You’re from a small Indiana town if:
Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
You drive out of your way to avoid a traffic light.
You grew up knowing what "knee high by the fourth of July" meant.
You vacation on a Florida gulf beach and see five people from your home town.
You don’t drink soda, you drink pop.
It has been sixty degrees at Christmas and snowed during Spring break.
You come to a stop before turning off the highway into a parking lot.
You have eaten turtle. (I swear, this is not a joke. It tastes like chicken.)
Madam C. J. Walker, was a pioneer of the black hair care industry.
Born into poverty, she was orphaned at age seven, married at fourteen and widowed by the age of twenty. For most of the next twenty years, she worked as a washerwoman. Madam Walker went on to become the first black woman millionaire and before women had won the right to vote.
Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, Madam Walker grew up in a time when it was difficult for black women to care for their appearance. Most had no running water and no beauty supplies suitable for their hair care needs. In a culture where the model for beauty was dictated by the Caucasian standard, any beauty supplies available were inappropriate for the hair of black women. The processes used to straighten hair were so damaging that they were painful and caused hair loss. Having experienced hair loss herself, Madam Walker began experimenting with preparations to nurture hair. She had an ideal of encouraging black women to take greater pride in their appearance and start giving their hair proper care.
Madam Walker continued working as a laundress two days a week to pay for her infant business. She mixed her preparations in laundry tubs and sold them door-to-door. As she developed her business, she began training agents to sell for her for a commission and a share of the profits. In 1917, an average black woman made about $1.00 a day. By 1919, some of the 25,000 women who were Madam Walker’s agents earned as much as $1000.00 a day, seven days a week.
She developed beauty colleges and beauty parlors throughout the United States, South America and the West Indies, where black women could go to be cared for and to feel beautiful. Madam C. J. Walker’s empire grew to include door-to-door, mail order, and drug store sales, beauty salons and colleges, and manufacturing facilities.
Her first products were:
· Wonderful Hair Grower, which restored hair loss due to malnutrition and poor care,
· Glossine, a hair oil that would keep the hair manageable,
· Vegetable Shampoo,
· Temple Grower and Tetter Salve, designed to cure psoriasis.
· A Steel Comb with the teeth properly spaced to allow black women to straighten their hair. The comb was heated and with a special ointment was applied to it that made the hair easier to manipulate.
Madam Walker had hoped, that by improving their appearance, black women would gain a sense of dignity and self-esteem and therefore be able to find better employment. Madam Walker helped thousands of women build a better life and is a role model to all women.
There is much more to Madam C. J. Walker’s life than I have had time to tell you about. If you are interested in learning more, read On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker or Madam C. J. Walker (Black Americans Of Achievement).
As long as I can remember, I knew the term Hoosier referred to a resident of Indiana. In grade school I was given one of the following reasons for the nick-name.
1. Coming from the word Hoosa, meaning American Indian maize or corn.
2. Indiana employees of a canal contractor named Hoosier, were called Hoosier’s Men
3. James Whitcomb Riley joked that it came from early Indian settlers following tavern fights,
wondering “Who’s ear” had been cut off and left on the floor.
4. Early Indian settlers were said to answer a knock on the door with “Who’s here?”
5. Another legend says that the nick-name is a shortened form of “Who’s your (relative)?”
If you have been referred to as a Hoosier, what explanation were you given?
The mundane becomes inspiration.