The Hoosier Harvest: Family, Food & Fun

Amazing Maize in Indiana

You probably already know that Indiana is one of the top agricultural states in the U.S. In fact, it’s in the top five for the production of corn, soybeans, popcorn, tomatoes, peppermint, chicken eggs, ducks and ice cream. In Indiana, there are a total of 61,000 farms adding up to 14.7 million acres. So, this October, the Indiana State Museum invites Hoosiers to relish in the bountiful harvest of Indiana’s rich soil through sampling events, workshops, hands-on activities and food.

 The Hoosier Harvest event, lasting throughout the month of October, has special weekend events and on going daily activities for the entire family that dive into the rich and diverse agricultural heritage through conversing with area urban and rural farmers, growing, processing and canning own food and learning the history of farming in Indiana.

 Weekend events include the Harvest Jubilee, Oct. 1 through 3, which features “Bodacious Gourd Birdhouses” that you can make and take.   Oct. 9 and 11 is the Crocked, Sauced and Pickled event (including a workshop where you can make refrigerator pickles); and Oct. 16 and 17 is the Urban Fresh event, with composting and rain barrel workshops and a Farmer’s Chic Buffet.

 For more information about this fun-for-all celebration,  call 317.232.1637 or visit

Contributed by Chris Della Rocco, Indiana State Museum.


The Turner Garden

Contributed by Donovan Miller, Master Gardener and Museum Volunteer

Just in front of the museum, above the parking garage and out along Washington Street is the Turner Garden, a small green space you may never have noticed. But as you drive down the parking ramp, catch a glimpse of flowering plants above and beside you. This is the Turner Garden presently designated as “Wildflower Meadow.”

Over the spring and summer a group of volunteers began renovation to update the plot. The goal is to replicate a Midwest prairie — typical of the grasslands of the Great Plains. Devoid of trees, this area will feature native grasses and forbs (prairie flowers) in an approximate ratio of 50/50 grasses and flowers. The project is being attacked in sections with an eye to completion in four years.

The plan to make changes in the garden arose with the recognition that two species of plants, Rosinweed and Bee Balm, were becoming dominant in the plot. Without attention it appeared that we would gradually see only a tall yellow flowering plant, Rosinweed, and the violet of Bee Balm. Though attractive native plants, these were crowding out the brilliant orange of Butterfly Weed, the white flowers and bluish foliage of Wild Indigo and many other natives. Installation of the first section is now complete. Note photos for a contrasting view before and after renovation.

An inviting wood-chip path has been cut through the growth to give up-close access to the plants, insect and bird life. This time of year the goldfinches and other seeding-eating birds are in profusion. The pollinating bees and other insects are everywhere to be viewed at a safe distance. Come take a walk, see all the color and fauna activity along the path. You may catch a glimpse of a mouse scurrying across the path. Lift your eyes to the museum roof where a resident red-tailed hawk may be waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting rodent. In the center of the city, at the Indiana State Museum, lives this vibrant slice of nature … a true respite from the bustle of the city.

Inspired by Nature

Photo by Alaina Carnahan

Photo by Alaina Carnahan

On Sept. 19, the day after the nature poetry program for students, poet Joyce Brinkman led a program for adults at the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site. Poets Gerard Manley Hopkins and, to a lesser extent, Mary Oliver were given as models for “inscape” or more than surface descriptions of nature. We were instructed to select an object and delve deep into its essence, using word combinations, even made-up words and internal rhyming. So these are not finished poems, but the beginning of poems.

Poplar Seed Pod by Steve Ferguson
Splotch-brown, mold-white stripes
Delicate grooves, banana-bruised
Densely pregnant
Ten Ten thousand trees
The breeze sighs and rising,
The babes to sprout, grow
Destiny fulfilled.

The Nursing Log by Martha Ferguson
You beckon me,
With slanted sun skimming you
As you sink into the soil.

Bright red in the sun, out of shady dark brown.

You’re cracked, perfect squares, rectangles.
All linear where once you were round
Invaded-insects, your only round now.

No long gray-barked, but green-mossed
No long standing, but supine
No longer green-leafed, but feeding tomorrow’s green.

In addition, Ball State University Professor Nancy Carlson talked about the writing process in creating her documentary, Gene Stratton-Porter: Voice of the Limberlost in 1996.

Thank you to Dr. Louis and Anne B. Schneider Foundation of Fort Wayne, Indiana for underwriting this workshop.

Martha Ferguson writes an unofficial blog about the gardens at Gene Stratton-Porter.

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Nature’s Palette, Always in Style

Written by Davie Kean, master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site



Somewhere, there are people who are paid to predict (or create) which colors will be ‘hot’ for the coming year. Apparently there are people who are color blind in the fashion sense — unable to decide for themselves what color to wear or decorate with. There are even websites to consult when in doubt.

I choose my color schemes on my daily drive to work, and at home enjoying the view from my porch. I follow nature’s seasonal palette rather than fashion’s fickle trends. I’m not sure where the color consultants get their inspiration, but indirectly, it probably comes from the same source as mine.

Anyone who has looked at photographs from National Geographic or Discovery magazines will recognize that even the most outlandish colors were first found in nature. Hot pinks, florescent greens, electric blues — Mother Nature just smiles and thinks, “Been there, done that.”

Fashion color preferences are cyclical. Every few years, ‘naturals’ are the latest cool thing (again). Sometimes we fall under the illusion (or delusion) that we have created these colors or color combinations, but we are really just copying or interpreting what has always been around us.

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Renaissance Woman

Loosely defined as a woman who defies convention and sets her own goals for personal achievements and perhaps is even somewhat outrageous, a renaissance woman is someone you’d probably want to know!  She gets things done, even if its sometimes unconventional.

Gene Stratton-Porter was just such a woman.  She lived in the early 1900’s, the youngest of 12 children.  She grew up to be a reknowned author of such books as “A Girl of the Limberlost” and “Freckles”, often outselling even Jack London at that time!  She was a naturalist and tended beautiful gardens at her home near the Limberlost Swamp in Geneva, Indiana and later at “The Cabin at Wildflower Woods” on Sylvan Lake in Rome City, Indiana, as well as in Hollywood, where she had quite a career as a film producer.  Her two Indiana homesteads are well-preserved as Indiana State Historic Sites, and still include fabulous gardens.  Gene is said to have hand-planted over 15,000 plants on the grounds of her Sylvan Lake “cottage” , including 1500 different species of Indiana plants.  Many of the plants were endangered at the time, but thanks to her efforts, are now flourishing. 

Enjoy a few photos, but like any thing of beauty, it is best viewed “up close and personal”.  The sites are open year-round, with information here and here.

P.S.  Visited the site again over the holiday weekend and got some great early-morning shots!  See how lighting makes all the difference in photography, in the last 3 photos shown…