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.