Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ Category

Details from Monday’s site.



Are you loving the stars?

The Vermillion River wanders slowly along the entire backside of the complex.  I’m guessing that this whole multi-level, multi-color scattershot design extravaganza began simply with a mill built at exactly this spot.




From eastern Minnesota:  This is actually just one piece of a giant agribusiness complex. Each section appears to have sprung up spontaneously as needed.

What is this “planning” of which you speak?

To underscore that impression of random construction, I simplified the components by softening the edges and details and intensifying the colors.

conagra abstract

Wow.  Print it, paint it or turn it into fabric art?

I’ll show you more shots of this site this week. Oh, yes. Huge grain elevators AND a waterfall yet to come, all in one convenient location.

Minnesota:  Land of 10,000 Lakes, 10,000 grain elevators and feed mills and 10,000 meat markets.

 It says so on their license plates.

Okay. Maybe there isn’t room to write all of that on the plates, but people understand the “10,000 Lakes” thing to be shorthand for the larger motto.

Which I think is on their flag, but in Latin.

These three merged nicely on a Saturday morning drive into Clear Lake with my son.

(Did you say “Lake?” Check one.)

He was picking up both a crown roast and a giant tenderloin at MacDonald’s Meat Market which was HOPPING with activity, an actual traffic jam of cars trying to get into the parking lot.

(“Meat market” you say? Check two.)

Not wishing to stand in line inside, I opted to pick my way across the parking lot to the Clear Lake Farmers Cooperative and take some pictures.

(Hat trick!)

This was a pretty large operation, but once again, I was most interested in how the lines and angles all stack up together

and how the variety of textures play off each other.

I was snapping away when I heard someone yelling “Hey, Pete!” but after a second time and “Pete” hadn’t responded, I realized that a man toting a mammoth sack across his shoulder was yelling at me and he was actually yelling  “Whatcha see?”

“Nothing! This is just so beautiful!”  I yelled back. That sounded like a supremely lame answer even to me DESPITE the deliberate use of my happy voice,  but it was 24 degrees outside and the parking lot was covered with ice and I was wearing a useless sweatshirt and if I walked over to explain myself, I could have maybe frozen in place. The friendly man was either 1) disgusted that I was refusing to share my vision because there was probably something up there and I was just being a jerk or 2) he was afraid that I’d escaped from my minders.

Either way, he wasn’t going to get involved and mess up his Saturday. He turned around and headed back to his pickup.

I worked my way all the way to the back of the co-op before my minder caught up with me. I’m sorry I didn’t get the whole last side and completely missed the elevators, but at that point I believe my core temperature had already dropped into the danger zone and I was grateful to be rescued, particularly by someone driving a car with heated seats.

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The star of Saturday evening’s dinner gathering. Cornbread stuffing in the center, a glimpse of tenderloin on the right.

I love the color red.

Although my wardrobe careens crazily across the entire spectrum of black, I will nonetheless confess that I am helpless when confronted with a pair of red shoes.

Do not look in my closet.

Red leather boots, four red cars and several years when I chose to have red hair: I believe I have established my red bona fides and we can move on to the topic at hand.

At the rear of the Feed Mill of the Gods there is what appears to be an addition to the original structure. I think it is mostly cement block with wood and then some metal siding in places . There’s also a little particle board and plaster happening, probably from later repairs.

Best part? It’s all painted a glorious red. This was a good deep-throated red in its time. As the building began its slow slide into ruin, wood and siding began to peel back, leaving a rich chorus of rough textures and a determined red paint that is just not going to go quietly.

To my eyes, the results looked like a series of glyphs or runes.

You know, legend says that Leif Ericson and his Viking crew pushed westward into Minnesota as they explored this new Vinland.

Maybe these are messages left by long-vanished Norsemen, messages which are only now emerging from beneath the modern covers. Maybe they are summaries of battles, prayers to the gods or perhaps even an ancient Viking “to-do” list:  “Running low on red paint…must find more…”

From the Department of Useless Information:  The Wabi Sabi red shoe gravatar is a detail from the statue of Dorothy in Chicago’s Oz Park.

So just what is it about this particular building that has caused me to go into paroxysms of power-swooning?

Well, the sheer size of it for one thing. And, hand-in-hand with the size comes accessibility. It’s not only satisfyingly large, we could walk round and round and there were no fences or nearby buildings to block our views. I think the nearest business was the Eagles Bar (see last post) and I’m pretty sure their patrons didn’t give a whoop about the crazy women over by the Feed Mill.

Then there’s the matter of the rooflines.  I always concentrate on capturing roofs and angles no matter what I’m shooting, but I do that because they never fail to make me grin like a crazy person. In this case, I narrowly avoided a TMJ flareup.

This next one is the very first picture I took when I got out of the car. Please note the squatter in the upper window. He was briefly visible (and I think maybe his missus is peeking over his shoulder) and then nary a feather nor a coo for the rest of our visit.

The colors are wonderful.  There is something about the blue-gray on the main body of the building that I have returned to dozens of times already, mostly just to stare and go “ahhhh….” Then, factor in the red that has bled into rust up against that blue-gray and it feels as though the old girl is wearing an heirloom brooch…a lavalier, perhaps. All of this was enhanced by the univerally overcast and gray sky that day.

Finally, there is the matter of all that mixed surface texture: splintered wood, metal, peeling paint, broken glass and rust.

Tomorrow, we’ll walk around to the back of the building and eavesdrop on a dialogue between wood and red.

Holy Mother of Pearl. I don’t know where to begin this particular project.

At one point, I considered asking you all to come over to my house to look at every single picture I took of this feed mill. (I would bake something, of course.)

However,  I realized that this is a terrible time of year to travel and flights are overbooked already, so I’m going to have to do this a little bit at a time.

An abandoned deserted no-longer-functioning feed mill in southeastern Minnesota and it is so beautiful from every side that I feel as though I’ve hit the mother lode no matter where I look.

Here we are, full on. I am going to consider this the front of the building even though it was the last side I saw. There’s a parking lot on the left and we circled the building clockwise ending up at this point.

The next two shots are like gallery pictures displayed on the side of the building.

I have 3 or 4 more posts-worth of pictures from this structure, from full-building shots to close-up details on the metalwork. Whenever I start to work on them, I get full-blown chestal pinging syndrome with a soupcon of sparks: a sure sign that I am  seriously happy.

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So…just who is this “we” who were circling the building in a shark-like picture-taking frenzy?.

Meet Carrie. When I asked if she and I could get a little camera time in, she was in the car and gunning the motor while I was still looking for my hoodie.

Any woman who will lay on the railroad tracks WEARING A WHITE VEST (!) so she can get exactly the right angle for a shot gets a lifetime membership in my tribe. Should she and my son ever quarrel, I think I might have to let him go.

I’m under Minnesota Highway 60 and this bridge spans a road, railroad tracks and a river. If I was pressed to name the river, I would say “Zumbro,” since that is the name of most rivers in eastern Minnesota.

Unless its name is “Mississippi,” of course.

This bridge sang to me so clearly that I was forced to make an unplanned stop and check it out.

Two things: a very clean community here. There was underbridge graffiti, of course, but it was apparently mostly trash-talking between rival Lutheran gangs.  (I felt the Missouri synod group really had some good stuff and most definitely zinged those ELCA guys big time, though dissing Aunt Lena’s jello dish was both hurtful and unnecessary.)

Secondly,  unlike bridges that I like to haunt at home, I had only one opportunity and a sharply limited window to take these pictures. So, I was forced to go with the lighting that was given me: bright gorgeous full sun…grumble grumble grumble. All well and good if you are out and about like regular folk, but not so good if you are a troll and trying to expose for both shadows and brilliance.

In processing the pictures, I’ve decided that the sharp differences turned out to be a good thing and if queried, my story will be that I planned it for exactly these effects.

And I expect you to back me up on that.

I played with the exposure and white balance quite a bit while I was taking these shots, so that in part accounts for the different looks.

The only things I did on the computer to process these pictures was to play with exposure some more (up and down) and clarity (up and down.) And, of course, some cropping to square things up.

And finally:

Because I love the idea of dressing the concrete with a dreamy other-world softness.