Our Farm in Illinois: Red Buds and Dogwoods   Beth Koebel
  Apr 11, 2007 15:37 PDT 


I know that I live in Missouri but I am from Illinois.
My mother was from rural Oakdale and my father from
Lebanon. I grew up in Lebanon, home of Mc Kendree
College (oops, I think it is called University now).
Our farm is located about 2-1/2 miles southeast of
Oakdale in the eastern half of section 25 of Oakdale
township and in southwestern corner and upper middle
of section 30 along with part of the northern half of
section 29 and 40 acres in the southwestern corner of
section 19 the in pilot knob township in Washington
county. All of it is in the Winkle, IL Quadrangle map
from the USGA. All in all we have just over 517 acres
of which about 100 acres is not tillable.

There is about 2 acres on which a farm house and barn
are on that we mow. The house was built "when I was 6
years old" according to the Late Judge Joe Maxwell
(born Nov. 1890). Also according to Judge Joe Maxwell
the barn "was built just time for the boys to go fight
the great war" (WWI). When we bought Maxwell House
(the farm house not the coffee company. I wish it was
the coffee company then I would fund most of your
projects) it reminded me of the farm house the
Douglas' own on "Green Acres". The only "running
water" there was was a small hand pump at the kitchen
sink. The house has a 2 story section of 2 rooms down
and 2 upstairs north and south of each other. The
kitchen section is one story and comes off of the two
story section on the east side. The kitchen had a
porch on the south and north sides that extended out
to the edge of the two story part, thus creating a
rectangle. We enclosed the north porch and in the
western side we put a bathroom and the eastern side
the hot water heater and storage. This "update" done
in the mid 70's is the only part of the house that has
any insulation. The rest of the house was built of
green oak from the surrounding area. When the
electrician come to wire the house he saw that it was
wood and use a wood bit for the first 2X4 and after
that he had to use a masonry bit since the oak had
seasoned just a bit.

The barn is a two stall horse barn also built of green
oak. The outer planks and doors need to be fixed
and/or replaced (not that we are going to do it) but
the frame is still solid. Upstairs in the hay loft
you can still see the hay fork for lifting the hay up.
same of the wood frames in the hay loft still have
the bark on them. The barn is just northwest of the

About 30 feet west of the barn is one of the top 10
post oaks in state of Illinois. We have just cleared
a 20-40 diameter circle under it to help it maintain
its health and to keep down some competition. This tree
measures 97' high, 131" cbh, and an ave. crown of 80'.

About 20 feet west of the post oak is the dam for one
of two small ponds on the farm. This one lays on
about 2-3 acres. There is a tree line between the
pond and the house that follows the township line.
(this is were I plan on planting the red buds and
dogwoods). On the north side of the pond the western
half is a dewberry patch and the eastern half is a
small grove of hickorys and oaks that are just large
enough to form a canopy. My borther-in-law keeps some
paths mowed through the grove and dewberrys with our
1950's Massy Furgson (fully restored in 2005).

Just north of the house the ground drops off about
20-30 feet quite rapidly to a creek bottom. The creek
starts at Eisnhower Rd. about 1/2 mile west and about
1/3 mile north of the house and runs in a easterly
direction till it meets up with Carson Branch and turns
in a Southerly direction. (this is the creek that
moved into the 2 acres that is now fallow). The creek
north of the house doesn't have name but I call it the
Maxwell Branch.

About 1/4 mile north of the house is about 50-60 acres
of pasture/woods. This is where the second pond is
located and where the Illinois champion Black Oak is
(85' tall, 222" cbh, and crown of 77'). Also
tentatively the Illinois champion Cockspur Hawthorn is
just 30 feet from the black oak. I am waiting till
this Aug. to turn in the cockspur just in case I find
one bigger. Through this patch of woods runs the
Carson Branch of the Swanwick Creek. It is so called
because it starts on the land still owed by the Carson

We have another patch of about 7-13 acres (depending
on whom you talk to) of woods on what we call the
Luney Farm. (Robert Luney owned it is 1952. Sometime
after that my grandfather bought it and left it to us
grandkids, Mike, Barb, Steve, and myself)

All the rest is tree lines in between fields and
around the Maxwell Branch and Carson Branch creeks.
The dominate trees are Shagbark and pignut hickory,
red, shingle, pin, black, and bur oaks with shingle
and pin oaks dominating the oaks. There are ash,
hackberry, black cherry, sassafras, silver maples,
sycamores, persimmons, swamp white oak, basswoods,
slippery and American elms, everyone's favorite honey
locust, cockspur and red hawthorns, white mulberries,
and others that I can't think of right now.

All of this provides homes for goldfinches (wild
canaries is what my grandfather called them), barn
swallows, white breasted nuthatches, eastern
bluebirds, redwing black birds, ruby throated humming
birds, turkey buzzards, wild turkeys, barn owls,
whippoorwills, bats, white tailed deer, coyotes,
bobcats, red foxes, snapping turtles, muskrats,
beavers among others. We are very proud of the
bluebirds. They were almost extinct in Washington
county in 1975 and now we have seen flocks up to 20 at
a time. There is talk about cougars making their back
to the area. Officially Illinois says that they don't
exist in Illinois, but several have been killed by
trains and vehicles. My nephew said that one of his
friends had photo of one on his wildlife camera. I'm
sure that was nothing more than a tale.

Our Farm in Illinois   beth koebel
  Apr 12, 2007 07:15 PDT 


First, sorry about all the typos in my last message, I was extremely
tired at the time. One of the things I like to do with visitors is to
drive them to the pasture/woods. I park on the outside in the field and
then we cross the gate trying not to snagged on the barb wire. Then we
walk up into a clearing about 30 feet east then turn towards the right
and walk southwest following a cow path for about another 30-40 feet.
After ducking the branches of the honey locust we come out on the west
side of the pond. We continue walking around with the pond on the left
and head east again. To our right there is small to medium size Osage
orange and many small hickories and oaks. As we head east we go down a
gradual slope then we hang a right and head south back up the hill. As
you get to the top of the rise you then can see the massive trunk on the
black oak. Most people can hardly believe the size of it. But this is
only relative to what they are accustomed of seeing. All of us have seen

I love just sitting on of the many branches that have fallen from my old
friend and thinking and wondering. Sometimes I have seen ants climbing
the tree and start to try and imagine finding a tree that is as big to
me as this tree is to the ant. I wonder about what all this tree as
seen. although I am not sure of it's age (trunk is hollow making a home
for some critter or another), I am sure that it saw the arrival of white
man to the area. It has seen many of its sisters and brothers and maybe
its offspring cut down, the decline and rise the deer, bobcat, turkey,
and coyote populations. It possibly saw the disappearance of cougars,
prairie chickens, bears and other life in the area. Even though my
friend is very old (compared to me) I was happy this spring to see that
it had started to leave out, but sadden to know the extreme cold (lows
below 30 for six days straight) might have damage this new growth, but
given its age it probably as seen this before.

RE: Our Farm in Illinois   Matthew Hannum
  Apr 17, 2007 15:34 PDT 

Wonderful post - I can see the big, old black oak in my mind by reading
your words.

Old trees really do get you thinking about what they have seen over the
years and how the world has changed and yet they have remained. You are
fortunate to be able to appreciate that tree in a more wilderness
setting - the relative silence and freedom from the noise of
civilization does wonders for the mind and soul.

Tree condition in Southern Illinois   beth koebel
  Apr 20, 2007 04:50 PDT 


I am sorry that I haven't kept up on my email, but my I killed my modem
and it cost me $62 for a new one. Once back online it took me two days
to read my mail. I was down on our farm Tuesday and Wednesday and the
trees had a very eery(sp?) look to them. All of the trees that had
started to come out before our one week of hard freeze followed by a
week of highs in the 40s and lows right around freezing were all freeze
dried. Thus our ashes' seeds were brown, the silver maples leaves were a
grey color, the oaks and hickorys were the right color but when you
touched they were dry as a bone. The trees that were not out before the
cold are green. It just gives the place an odd look to it. There are
signs of recovery. I noticed on some of the shingle oaks are starting
to put out new leaves and flowers.

Spring is here as I saw the Barn swallows flying around and my family
and I found over 3 gallons of morel mushrooms in two days. We also
found a skeleton of some small critter. It was almost intact. We think
it belonged to a bobcat. We have seen tracks of them yet on our farm
but last fall I thought I saw one running through the woods and we have
seen pics of them from our neighbors wildlife cams. I also saw eastern
bluebirds. I don't know if they migrate or not so I don't know if this
was a sign of spring or not.

I went down there to plant some trees in the woods because we all know
there are none there. ha ha. I planted 18 red buds in a finger of trees
growing along a fence line about 50 feet long. I also planted five
around our pet cemetery. I have ordered 25 dogwoods also and when they
get here (I think it would be in the fall now) I am going to plant them
in the same area.

I think I mentioned this before so excuse me for repeating if I did. We
have an area of about 2 acres that we can no longer farm so my nephew is
trying to plant white and red clover there as a deer feed plot (like you
really need to feed them around here). Once he has the clover in for at
least one year then the following spring we are really going to plant
some trees about 300 to 400 per acre of oak and hickory species plus
other species such as sycamore and other moist area loving species

Beth Koebel.