Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Saint Lucia Day to all!

St. Lucia’s Day is a festival of lights celebrated in Sweden (and around the world) on December 13 in honor of St. Lucia. One of the earliest Christian martyrs, St. Lucia was killed by the Romans in 304 AD because of her religious beliefs. During a dark winter in Scandinavia the idea of light overcoming darkness and the promise of returning sunlight has been observed for hundreds of years. The celebrations and processions on Saint Lucia Day are illuminated by thousands of candles. The settlers of Bishop Hill brought this tradition with them and we honor that custom each December.

This year Bishop Hill's luminary-lined  streets were crowded with visitors seeking a quiet alternative to the bustle the season. The unseasonably high temps and the warmth of the hospitality stations created an atmosphere of congeniality that was enjoyed by all.

This holiday signals a change in our community. Some businesses and museums remain open all year but many shift to a winter schedule. The Bishop Hill State Sites (Bishop Hill Museum, Colony Church, Bjorklund Hotel) are now open Wed to Sun 9am to 4pm. 
The BH Heritage Association's Steeple Building is now open 10 am to 4 pm, Sun 12 pm to 4 pm.

Bishop Hill is small enough to extend a personal interest in your visit. Please feel free to use the info on the directory pages to contact the businesses and venues you would like to visit. In many cases special arrangements can be made to accommodate you!

From all your friends in Bishop Hill we wish you the best of the season and look forward to seeing you in the new year ahead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin dreams in Bishop Hill

Before settling in Bishop Hill, my husband and I moved our two young children from New York to Geneseo, Illinois in search of a good and simple life. We found what we were looking for on a small flower farm. It kept us occupied for a dozen years. Looking back on farm life, I recall October meant muddy boots and pumpkin picking. As the first frost settled on the vines, the canopy died down to reveal an endless variety of shapes, colors, and sizes of the pumpkins that dotted our field. It was exciting. Each year we became more enchanted by the magic of the harvest.
Roy and Beth /Windy Corner Farm/ Geneseo, IL 1996
Amy and Roy David picking the "big ones" in 1996
Ours was a low-tech operation. My children and I carted the crop barrow by barrow from the patch to the porch of a one room schoolhouse where we sold flowers and produce. Grown now, my kids fondly recall their part in the process as "fun" - though I remember days when the mud got the best of us all. We recognize how special those years were. It made us very close and we share many happy memories.

Ryan Werkheiser's pumpkins in Bishop Hill September 2012
I can't remember exactly when I met Ryan Werkheiser and his family, but I can tell you that I was very very impressed. He was a young high school student back then and interested in growing gourds. Before long, Ryan was selling his ornamental crops at local fall festivals -  including Jordbruksdagarna here in Bishop Hill.
Nature's Creations 2012 Harvest

Gardeners, growers of things, recognize this passion for planting in one another. From the moment I met him, I knew Ryan was the real deal and wise beyond his years. He knows his stuff and is eager to learn even more about growing for market. Since graduating high school, Ryan has launched a successful business, Nature's Creations, located on the Werkheiser family farm in rural Galva, Illinois.  He has an eye for design and plans to expand his operation to welcome more visitors in 2013. His new greenhouses  hold succulents now and, by February, they will be filled with spring bedding plants. Though Ryan's farm is just a few miles down the road from Bishop Hill, I had not visited until this fall. When I did, I was amazed at what I found there: barnyards bursting with chickens, ducks, lamas, goats, and spectacular gourds and pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors!  Wherever I looked and whatever I saw brought back happy memories of life on the farm. I had a ball picking out a pile of pumpkins. 
The outstanding selection at Nature's Creations makes this the place to go for fantastic fall produce. I think I shall go there forever more. I know that Halloween is upon us and pumpkins have already been carved. But file this suggestion for next season. Go, find this place. You will be glad you did!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bishop Hill Heritage Association Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

By the middle of the last century, our Colony era buildings were in disrepair;  there was little attention paid to preserving them or the remarkable history linked to their creation. With the founding of The Bishop Hill Heritage Association this changed. The BHHA is responsible for saving and re-purposing  many historic structures about town. This work continues today, most evident in the current Steeple Building restoration. When the facelift is completed on this, our most prominent building, it will radiate a fresh air over the village and generate renewed interest in the history of Bishop Hill. The building is open during the transformation. Please stop in.

On Saturday, Oct 20 from 1 to 3 PM, the BHHA will be hosting special events in honor of its golden anniversary.
Heritage Board Members will personally greet guests at the following BHHA buildings:  the Steeple Building, Colony Store, Blacksmith Shop, and the Livery Stable and will describe the unique history of each structure.  A public reception will also be held in the 1854 Steeple Building.  Light refreshments will be served and a video, created just for this event, will show the past restoration projects of the BHHA. 

Please come join us and help us celebrate  
50 years of preserving Bishop Hill history.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hail The Harvest Home – make time to celebrate the oak and the acorn

The mighty oak has, throughout the centuries, been the subject of story, song and proverb.  Held sacred by many pre-Christian cultures, the majestic, long-lived oak was considered the most powerful of all trees and many religious rites were performed under its spreading branches.  More than 80 species of this beautiful tree are found in North America. Red Oaks and Swamp Oaks dot the landscape in and around Bishop Hill. All oaks are deciduous trees with toothed leaves and heavy, furrowed bark. The fruit is, of course, the acorn. 

I have always revered this tree; to me it represents strength, history, and tradition. As crazy as it sounds, I maintain a personal relationship with many oak trees in my neighborhood. I collect acorns from my favorites each season to plant as I travel. This time of year you will find acorns rolling around in my car, my purse, and my pockets. It’s just something I’m driven to do. 

When my daughter married, the wedding favors she offered her guests were oak seedlings planted at the time of her betrothal. Later on, when she moved to Peoria, I became enthralled with a grand old burr oak living in her vicinity. Known as the "sentinel on the bluff," it is estimated to be over 500 years old. Surrounding it is a few acres of lovely parkland on High Street. I find the acorns from this tree to be especially prolific!
A Peoria Landmark

This leads me to recommend a special story to read as autumn descends: A small book, simply written, originally published in Vogue in 1954, The Man Who Planted Trees, demonstrates the great difference a single insightful individual can make by adopting a consistent, determined effort. The author, Jean Giono, writes a moving story with a contemporary message about a shepherd who, over a lifetime, mends his barren corner of the world by simply planting acorns! The original published prose is enhanced by the woodcut illustrations of Michael McCurdy.

Though not new, I recently discovered a fantastic video of this story posted on YouTube. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 1987, this little masterpiece is narrated by Christopher Plummer.
So read it here or watch it below – you will be glad you did. You may even be inspired to plant an acorn or two yourself!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Everyone is Invited to the Grand Opening of the 1908 Albert Krans Livery Stable.

On Saturday, September 8 from 4-6 PM, 
the BHHA will host an open house at the Krans Livery Stable.   
Located at Christina and Erickson, the stable has been rebuilt and converted into a museum. 
Please come see all the changes!
Light snacks and beverages will be served.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


This press release came to me and I thought I'd share it here:
Bishop Hill, IL – VagnHall Galleri, above the Blacksmith Shop in Bishop Hill, Illinois, will host a photography and artifact display focusing on September 11, 2001. There will be a reception in the gallery on September 8, 2012, from 1 – 4 p.m. to introduce the display.  Area photographer, John Seder, who photographed ground zero, and John Feltham, a retired United States Marine Corp Colonel who was stationed at the Pentagon on the tragic day, will be present during the reception to discuss the events and answer questions.  The display will be in the gallery through the end of September. This is the first time the photographs and artifacts have been displayed together in this area.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't toss your daylily clippings - make this spectacular wreath instead!

Bishop Hill has been extremely hot and dry all summer and the beautiful daylilies that covered the front bank of littlebrick this June quickly turned to sun-baked twigs when temps hovered around 100 degrees in July. 

One sizzling morning last week I decided to pull the bindweed and lily stems that had become a such a sorry sight out front.
Even with a helper, it took most of the day. 

Later, as I piled the clippings high on the burn pile, I was struck by the lovely texture of the twigs. I put my matches away when better idea came to mind.

Quickly I gathered handfuls of the stems and wired them to a vine base. The resulting wreath was spectacular! No one would ever guess that such rustic charm could be fashioned from garden waste! 

I made several wreaths that afternoon and bunched the remaining stems for future projects. I am delighted to have found such beauty at my feet. From this year forward I will collect my daylily stems each August and remember this fortuitous discovery with a smile! Find these spectacular wreaths for sale here: