Thursday, September 19, 2013

  The country side as we traveled around today.  So pretty.

 When out and about I was able to drop off the Kansas wheel chair lap robe too.

  Bridge over part of Wilson Lake where we are staying now

We saw field after field of this funny looking grain called sorghum.  It is used to feed animals. 

Driving on I-70 across the western part of Kansas you cannot help but notice a sign welcoming you to Post Rock Country.  After driving along you will start noticing that fence posts along the interstate are made from stone and not from wood.  Turns out that in a land of few trees and many cattle, the best way to build a fence was to use the local limestone, a yellow-tan rock easily quarried from just below the surface.  The layer, known locally as Fencepost limestone, comes out of the ground soft and easily worked, but hardens soon after exposure.
   The stone fence posts that started me looking into this part of the country.  

In 1862 the Homestead Act opened the way for the settlement of the plains. People with varied backgrounds were drawn to the dream of relatively free land. The fact that much of central Kansas was treeless created numerous problems for early settlers. A significant problem was finding a means by which to enclose portions of the free range.

The area known as "Post Rock Country" stretches for approximately 200 miles from the Nebraska border on the north to Dodge City on the south. The limestone that is found here comes from the uppermost bed of the Greenhorn Formation. It was out of necessity that settlers in the late 1800s began turning back the sod and cutting posts from the layer of rock that lay underneath. By the mid-1880s limestone fence posts were in general use because of the widespread use of barbed wire.

“Land of the Post Rock” is a distinction given to about 3 million acres in North Central Kansas- an area where a single bed of rock (the 8-12” Fencepost bed of the Greenhorn limestone layer) was used so extensively for fence posts during early Kansas settlement days that the posts have become an identifying feature of the landscape.  

Settlers to Kansas found that the area was destitute of timber and turned to the material at hand…a layer of rock close to the surface that they soon found could be used for fencing as well as building. Besides being durable and fire resistant, this limestone had several other advantages. Being close to the surface it could be obtained easily with the proper tools and techniques. It was uniform in thickness (8-12”). It was persistent, extending with little interruption for miles. And when freshly quarried it was soft enough to shape with tools and hardened after being exposed to air.

There were of course disadvantages. Quarrying rock in “post” length required skill, hard work, and time. Once split out and shaped they had to be transported. This again required hard work and ingenuity as each 5 to 6 ft long post weighed about 350-400 lbs.

Posts were hauled/delivered to the pasture using various means. To go short distances a “sled” or “boat” was often used. This has been described as being a large forked tree limb with branches laid crosswise to make a platform which would hold several posts. A team of horses would then pull the sled to the post hole.

After being delivered to the fence line it was considered a simple job to tip the post (always the heavier end) into the prepared holes. The holes were dug by hand to a depth of 18” to two or more feet (depending on the height of the posts). Holes were dug about every 15 feet so that in the finished fence line there were about 320 posts per mile. Corner posts were propped to stay in a vertical position by leaning other posts against them at about a 45 degree angle (generally in the direction of the fence lines).

  The layer of the stone.

The Garden of Eden is a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas because it is a world-renowned grassroots art site with one of the most fascinating (and bizarre) sculpture gardens in the world!

In 1907, at the age of 62, Civil War veteran Samuel Perry Dinsmoor began construction of this unusual site by building a structure of limestone logs, (some up to 21 feet long) for the family home. Then, using 113 tons of cement, Dinsmoor built 40-foot tall trees to hold his larger than life figures for his sculpture garden. He stopped working on the sculpture in 1929 because he went blind!

Tour guides help an observer become fully aware that every part of every cryptic sculpture has meaning about Populist politics, modern civilization, and the Bible that connect like a dot-to-dot puzzle. The humor and message that he conveys through the sculptures amazes visitors.
  You can see the cabin was built in 1907.

The front of the the house.
  This is all stone and concert.  The longest of the post stone is above the front door and is about 21ft. long.     

The house is made with the post rock cut and place in place to look like a log cabin.  You can see the dovetail in the corner stones.

The design along the top of the porch are beer bottles filled with cement then broken with the shape.

This is the mausoleum where Mr. Samuel Dinsmoor and his first wife are interned.  The lady giving the tour locked herself out of the main building and could not get to the key to the mausoleum so we did not get to see Mr. Samuel Dinsmoor's mummified remains.   He has a glass lid to his coffin so people would come pay to see him thus having money to keep his Garden of Eden open and in repair.  Creepy.  We did not wait for her to come back with the key. 

Dinsmoor built a mausoleum to house his mummified remains! Always a jokester, he claimed he would wink at anyone who paid to tour the garden. His vision was accurate and today the Garden of Eden supports itself through admissions. While Dinsmoor was building and creating locals tried to run him out of town. Decades later, the Garden of Eden became the town's main attraction and today Lucas is known as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas.

This is the flag with  48 stars.  He also has a turkey here.  He thought that the turkey should have been the national bird

   All of this outside art was created as it stands in place.  It depicts different things.  This is biblical and all the pieces having great meaning. 
  He also did art that depicted other beliefs he had about life and living. 

  View of home with the laundry room in the front of the pix.

Rog is in the laundry room.

Rog is showing me the tools used to make the home and art work.

Tools used in the quarrying and shaping process were simple. They included feathers and wedges (plugs), stone drills and bits of various sizes, chisels, stone hammers, slips and scrapers, and scribers. Most of the tools were made at home forges or in local blacksmith shops.

The quarrying process for obtaining building block, fence posts, or other products was the same: holes were drilled about 4 or 5” deep into the rock and 9- 12” apart along a line marked for splitting; feathers and wedges were placed in the holes; and tapping the wedges lightly with a stone hammer split out the slabs, posts, or blocks.

Although building block size was standard (2’x8”x8”), there were a variety of ways in which a block was dressed or finished: rough quarry faced, axe flattened (characterized by the kerf marks of the axe), pitched faced (also know as pillow faced), and sawn (although traditionally done with a two man bucksaw, some ingenious settlers came up with alternatives such as a mechanical saw on a beveled gear driven by a mule walking in a circle). Special hammers and chisels were used for finely dressing or architecturally carving lintels and sills (and sometimes quoins). Lintels were unique from building to building and were an opportunity to add an element of style and artistic beauty to a structure. Sills often followed in the style of the lintels and were usually weatherized to help shed water.
The mortar needed to lay building blocks came from “slaked” lime…burning broken pieces of limestone in crude kilns along creek banks to extract (which produced) a lime powder used for mortar and plaster. One needed to begin “slaking” their lime long before any other element of the building process could begin. Burning lime mortar and plaster was one of the first industries to evolve with limestone quarrying and the building trade

 Rog is showing me how to operate the washing machine.  Place clothes, water and soap, then take a hold of the handle and move it to and fro or back and forth.  
    This is called "hobo art".  The frame is made from cigar boxes. 

  More buildings made with the fence post stone. 


  This stone house has seen better days, but it is a beauty.  The cows are enjoying life there now. 

  We came upon this very very unique restroom in this very very small town.  Small is one main road about two blocks long and one flashing red light.  They maybe 8 stores in town and two of those are art studios. 

  This is the side of the little restroom.  This roll of toilet paper is the side walk!!!  It is soooo cool.  

  Inside is a small foyer and a his and her bath room with two stales each.  This is in the ladies section.  Both bathrooms were covered in mosaics.  

  This is in the men's room wall.  It is art using match box cars.  It is wonderful.  

  Close up. 

  As the men are sitting down taking care of business they can look up and see all of their super heros.  Isn't this just so wild and wonderful.

 Men's room mirror

  Ladies room mirror.

We had a great day.  

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