Thursday, January 22, 2009

Road Trip - Harvesting the Wind

Are school kids still required to learn about regional crops and livestock production as part of their geography lessons?

I distinctly remember memorizing which food products were produced in each state. The same for livestock. It certainly wasn't a "country" curriculum because I was raised within spitting distance of the city of Chicago.

My fourth grade teacher Miss Leifson went as far as to require us to construct a diorama of the city of New Orleans, complete with boats bringing corn and wheat down the Mississippi River. We also had to include boats arriving from the Caribbean loaded with bananas. She brought in pralines made with pecans from Georgia and we listened to Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat song as we finished our work.

Wisconsin makess cheese, and Georgia grows peaches. The Florida panhandle was covered in cotton and peanuts. What's Kansas? Wheat, of course. Illinois is corn and soybeans with some pork and beef added to the mix. But as I have mentioned several times the wind is as much of the landscape in Illinois as the cornstalks and bean fields.

Illinois is all about wind. I get nervous if the air is still.

If you drive through north central Illinois on Route 39, you'll come across two large wind farm operations. I was amazed when the first one was built but the newest crop of windmills are unbelievable in scale.

Have a look.


I can guarantee you these are very large buildings. The barn is 2 to 2-1/2 stories tall.


The telephone poles literally look like matchsticks. The footprint of each windmill is actually small and the farmers plant all around the base of these monsters. The electricity produced by these huge machines is not used locally but sent elsewhere. The investment must be huge, and the maintenance also.

Our wind is brisk but I can't imagine that it would be enough to move these humongous blades.

Have you seen a wind farm? They're quite amazing and you don't even have to get off the interstate.

Tomorrow we get off the interstate at an exit that has no gas or hotels...... just a surprising secret!


tam said...

I am pretty sure we did not have to learn about specifically what crops and so on for each state. That as I remember was something my parents talked about. Me being raised in a big city (L.A.) and my family being from the east coast, and many of which were farmers. I was always very interested to learn about that though. I have seen windmill farms-they have them out in the desserts in California and it is really something to see!Thanks for that fun post- Hope you are having a terrific Thursday!~Smiles~Tam!

belladella said...

I first saw a wind farm when living in Europe. Germany has many, many of them. I know there are some folks that don't like them because of the sound they make and think they are an eyesore. I quite like them and think we need a lot more!

Lisa said...

I just asked my 13 year old the question that you posed about kids learning about crops in school. He looked at me like I had 3 head. Crops?? Ummm No.


chocolatechic said...

I have seen several.

The largest one had about 30 wind mills. It was a beautiful sight.

CatHerder said...

I actually get my electricity from Windmills near Atlantic City NJ....we actually pay MORE for it, but we signed up because we thought it was the right thing to do. If we ever get to move back out to the country, i want a windmill of my own (they have smaller versions that mount on the house)...what a great idea...when we lived in the rural area of nj the kids were taught alot about 4h, farming etc...back in the burbs these kids think the food just appears in their fridge sad

Anonymous said...

We learned about crops too. And, yes, have seen wind farms... HUGE windfarm along Interstate 10 on the drive from Arizona to California. The blades are so big that it takes a huge flatbed semi trailer to haul just one of them.

Molly said...

I recall learning about the crops...just don't ask me to list them like you did because I could probably only do about 2/3 of the states.

As to the windmills, all I can see when I see photos is that the blades make a big Mercedes symbol. That must be a sign.

Mim said...

I don't remember having to learn that in school.

Hey, I know those wind farms. Right around Paw Paw right? We take 39 up to Sycamore when we visit.

It's not quite as windy down here in the southern part of Illinois. I used to live in Champaign and it's as bad as Chicago!

Ang. said...

Our county Extension comes to our schools every month for Ag in the Classroom. They talk about all sorts of agricultural products and where they are produced. Did you know that Illinois is the leader in pumpkin production? They learn some good stuff.

I have been by that wind farm. If you turn off onto route 30 you can get pretty close the the towers.They are talking about putting a wind farm in here in nearby McDonough county. It will be interesting to see if that goes through.

Jenni said...

I've been to Illinois several times and through it many. I've always wondered why Chicago is the windy city. It seems to me y'all don't have as much wind up that way as we do here in Kansas, but maybe I haven't spent enough time in Illinois. We have two wind farms that I know of here. I passed one on the highway during a trip last June and stopped to take pictures. The other is in my own county or very close, I think. I'll have to go check it out this spring or summer.

Jenni said...

Oh, and I've seen the blades to those windmills being moved by train. I thought they were airplane wings at first because the train was right across the highway from Boeing and I couldn't imagine what else they could be. They really seem much bigger on the ground than high in the air.

arlene said...

Kansas is getting into the wind farm business. I think the largest one has about 150 windmills. Hubby and I drove down a little country road and stopped as close to one as possible. We decided then that we could live with the 'noise.' There is a huge controversy in a county near me about a proposed wind farm. One of my favorite arguments against: the blades will slice and dice birds. One person responded: the blades are moving so slowly...if a bird IS killed by a blade, do you really want that bird in the gene pool?

A school near here has erected one to use an their main energy source. Oh, when it gets too windy, the blades stop.

And yes, we did learn about crops when I was a young'n. Some basics should still be taught. Guess there are other things considered more important.

martina said...

I remember learning about topography but no detailed education on crops. Have heard they are putting in wind energy things near the Columbia River here in Washington.

Anonymous said...

Those photos of the wind turbines are pretty cool. I have only seen a couple in PA and that was closer to the Ohio border. Too many mountains, I guess.

Joanna said...

North Carolina = tobacco.

Love wind farms.

Suzanne, I have a research project for you. What was the purpose of covered bridges? I have read and heard many theories but never have found out the particular real answer.

Mary Rex said...

While cleaning out the attic in my moms house recently, I found a report I did in 4th grade that had cut-out pictures of different crops/foods pasted on a map of the USA. The report included my version of in-depth coverage with more pictures. I got an A+. My mom is quite a saver! I live in Central PA, and there are a lot of farms around here. Wind Farms...not so much.

Anonymous said...


I just came across your very interesting blog. I wanted to mention that I grew up in central IL. Last summer when my family and I were driving to my parent's for a visit, we arrived quite late at night. As we drove along some familiar back roads about an hour from home, we came across a wind farm. It was a bit freaky since initially, all we could see were what seemed like miles of red lights in the dark....felt like we were on another planet. As we came upon them, it was still rather strange to behold the monstous windmills!!
I'm looking forward to reading more of your writing.

Cindy L said...

Reading this post, I was reminded of a wonderful sixth-grade teacher I had. She brought ethnic dishes and costumes (from her world travels) each time she introduced us to a new country. I've forgotten so many teachers, but always remembered Miss Friedman. Thanks for reminding me.

And I loved the windmill lessons!

vintagechica said...

Wow...this is amazing. And yes, we learned about crops...but I am teaching my boys...not sure that the schools will do that these days.

Cottage Rose said...

Hey Suzanne; I have not ever seen and Wind farm up close and in person. Only in photos or on TV. I would like to see one, I know that they are very huge and very high. I like to watch Dirty Jobs on Discovery and he had to go to the top of one and clean it, it was very scary to watch..... can't wait to see the next post, the surprise sounds very exciting.....


Mary said...

They are so neat! As for learning about crops in school, my kids are past that age. The closest my daughter gets is AP Macroeconomics. LOL