Posts Tagged ‘rural’

Yale Makes Extensive Digital Image Collection Available to the Public

Sepia-toned rocking chair on a front porchRural American Baroque by Ralph Steiner/via Yale Digital Commons

The above image comes from Yale University’s Yale Digital Commons, a digital collection of images recently made available for online public access and use.  According to Yale’s news release:

Scholars, artists and other individuals around the world will enjoy free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new “Open Access” policy that the University announced today. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through a newly developed collective catalog.

The goal of the new policy is to make high quality digital images of Yale’s vast cultural heritage collections in the public domain openly and freely available.

Thank you to Yale for providing this valuable service.

This photograph was taken in 1929 by Ralph Steiner, an American photographer of Czech origin, and was donated to Yale in 1932 by one George Hopper Fitch. What initially interests me about this image is the title: Rural American Baroque. Steiner can rightly call the image rural because it recalls the confirmed rural practice of front porch sitting. But the addition of Baroque complicates the issue because Baroque is not something that one normally associates with rural America, nor is the chair really reflective of iconic Baroque style, which generally refers to an artistic or design style that is very ornate and highly decorated. Perhaps the photographer is referring to the the chair’s decorative scroll pattern, which is something like Baroque in that it is decorative and not simply utilitarian.  The addition of Baroque suggests a nice contradiction to traditional or common notions of rural as connoting simple, no-frills sort of design and lifestyle.

This photograph is visually interesting because the doppelganger shadow of the chair is more visible than the chair itself. Even though the chair itself is centered in the photograph and appears to be the subject, the shadow continually draws my attention away from the chair. It seems then that the shadow is the true subject of this photograph, especially because it is in the shadow that one can more clearly see the Baroque-like style which is referred to in the photograph’s title.

-Josie Javens

Garden by the Foot

Square Foot Gardening“Square Foot Gardening” – photo from Robert Goodwin‘s Flickr photostream

Developed in the 1970s by Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening produces the same amount of vegetables and fruit as traditional single-row gardens in a fraction of the space. These small, raised beds are popular among urban dwellers with limited space, particularly since they do not require digging–they build up rather than down–and can survive well in areas with poor soil. Furthermore, Bartholomew explains in his original text (there is now a second book) that this design “conserve[s] the amount of water, soil conditioners, and labor,” making it economical in a variety of ways.

The first step in creating your own square foot garden is to obtain or create a “box,” either of wood, brick, or stone. Although wood is perhaps the most common material used in this design (they can be found in yards all around West Asheville, for instance), some gardeners are wary of rotting and prefer brick or stone for that reason (this raised bed kit made from recycled materials and sold by Sam’s club is perhaps another option). The size of your garden box is, of course, dependent on location and the amount of available space; however, the default measurements for first-time square foot gardeners is 4′ x4′. It is important to be able to reach across the garden without having to step inside the box and onto the soil, so take that into consideration as well. For those with bad backs and/or pesky pets, try a table top design.

Once the box is complete, create a grid with whatever material you prefer–string, wood, metal, etc.–of 1′ x 1′ squares. There are several factors at play in determining the plants suitable for your garden, including climate and sunlight, but once those details are squared away (punny, right?) then you are ready to plan(t)! Honestly, a large amount of planning is involved in square foot gardens, but they are worth it. Be sure to allow enough depth for crops such as potatoes, provided trellises and support for tomatoes and vertically growing runners such as cucumber, and place the appropriate number of plants in each square foot (for instance, one broccoli plant per square, but up to sixteen plants for onion).

All of this information is available on the web. There are many websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to square foot gardening, and, of course, Bartholomew’s books are invaluable. Although I grew up in a rural area of North Carolina, I’ve been an urban apartment dweller for the last five years and have been limited to container gardening. My tomato and sunflower plants grew taller than me (not a great feat, really, since I’m barely 5’1″), but it still did not feel enough like gardening to please my little rural heart. This summer, however, I move into a house in West Asheville, and my first major project involves constructing a square foot garden. I cannot contain my excitement (buh-dum-bum)!

–Britt Garrett

Rural Decay

Old shed being consumed by the earthShed falling apart in Waynesville, Western North Carolina /Photo by Josie Javens

“All photographs testify to time’s relentless melt”––Susan Sontag

What rural image blog would be complete without a photograph of an abandoned wooden structure left to the forces of entropy? Certainly, old, abandoned, decaying barns, sheds, and other structures are a mainstay of rural photography. And this is not without reason: driving around the rural communities of Western North Carolina, you often see structures, such as the one pictured above, which have been left to slowly decay.

Various photography sites have a group of images organized under the subject of “rural decay,” such as this one, this one, and this one.  Why are those who record images of the rural drawn to documenting these decaying structures? Is it that they make us wonder? Is it that somewhere in our minds we think that they are the perfect symbolic representation of the romanticized (and maybe true) notion of rural life?—that it is a constant struggling against the forces of nature? Or perhaps the drive is nostalgic, growing from a wish to remember what the structure had been like when it was the pride of its carpenter or the prized possession of its owner. But then, perhaps the photographic act of “capturing the image” comes from the desire to preserve against the decaying.

-Josie Javens

Rural MMA breaking new ground

A photo of Blaine Thomas and Josh Sutton fighting in Cherokee, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of WN.com

With the economy currently on the rocks and its future unclear, rural communities are continuing to stay positive. Sometimes, the only thing a person or community can do in hard times is fight. A rural Native American town called Cherokee, located in the western mountains of North Carolina is doing just that: fighting. Cherokee is a community rich in history and traditions. Many of the traditions of the Cherokee carry on still today. The tradition which is most evident to me is the Cherokee’s fighting spirit. With times changing, traditions evolving, and life never standing still, the residents of Cherokee are fighting to keep many of their traditions. Beyond just having a fighting spirit the Cherokee are known for being warriors. Today, that inherent warrior spirit of the Cherokee and will to fight, can be seen as many young Cherokee men train in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Many of the younger Cherokee men train daily and test their warrior spirit in hand to hand combat, only now they train in a ring or cage. While many people used to consider fighting inside a cage or ring primitive, MMA is now viewed as a legitimate sport. MMA is currently the fastest growing sport on the planet. Rural towns like Cherokee are no exception to the growing expansion and competition of MMA. Local fighters train year round in hopes of making themselves better well rounded fighters. While the MMA events themselves are fairly small, there is still a strong turnout from local fans as they cheer on their favorite fighters.

MMA has taken Cherokee and many other rural communities by storm. Today, fighters from all parts of Western Carolina can be seen in Cherokee both as competitors and as enthusiastic audiences. While the MMA events in Cherokee are not a huge cash crop, they do bring in some money for the community and more importantly it helps raise awareness of the town’s deep traditions and heritage.

Trail Towns

A view of the town of Hot Springs, North Carolina with Appalachian Trail IndicatorA view of Bridge Street in Hot Springs, Western North Carolina. Photo by Joseph Massie

Hot Springs is a small rural town in Madison County, Western North Carolina, with a population of merely 645 according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Hot Springs, formerly Warm Springs, is one of the “most well known trail towns” along the Appalachian Trail, which runs some 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine.

The town of Hot Springs is tattooed with various symbols of  its trail town identity, from the banner advertising lodging for hikers at $45.97 a night (posted on the white building in the left of the photo) to white blazes such as the one pictured in the lower right corner of the photograph shown. The asphalt canvas has allowed the marker’s painter to craft a more elaborate symbol to mark the trail than the common white paint blotch which is normally found on trees and rocks. The symbol shown is satisfying in the multiplicity of its layers of representation. First, the marker is reminiscent of a pointy mountain peak. Second, the marker shows the common Appalachian Trail abbreviation, “A. T.”; finally, it fuses the “A” and the “T” to form an arrow pointing the way to the continuing trail.

From here, the trail crosses the bridge shown and continues to Lover’s Leap, a nearby loop trail offering scenic views. According to John Preston Arthur, some years before the Civil War, a local person bearing the title Old Man Peters one day fell from that rock which is today called Lover’s leap while raccoon hunting.  He survived the fall.

Besides being transected by the trail, Hot Springs’s other claim to notoriety is its being home to the famous, at least locally, Hot Springs Resort and Spa, which provides outdoor hot tubs fed by natural hot springs, which have been claimed to have healing properties due to mineral content.

-Josie Javens