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I used to live in Bloomington, down about an hour south of Indianapolis. About twenty minutes east of Bloomington, the state of Indiana maintains the home of T.C. Steele and his wife as a state historical site. I was sure I remembered posting to [community profile] common_nature about it before, but all I can find is a post I made about it in my journal last year.

Steele was a prominent Midwestern artist around the turn of the twentieth century; he trained in Europe and hung out with the Cincinnati artist colony crowd in the late 1800s. He lived in Indianapolis most of his career, but towards the end of his life, he had a house and studio built on a ridge in Brown County, which had its own little artists' colony. At the time it was apparently nothing but fields and hills; he chose that spot for the house because of the view across to the next ridge. At some point over the last century, the land on the ridges was left to grow wild again and now most of the land around it is Yellowwood State Forest and Brown County State Park. So Steele's sweeping vista is gone, but there's still this lovely old house and gardens up on the ridge.

I moved to Ohio a couple years ago, but I still stop through the Steele house site every time I go back to Bloomington. I was down in mid-April and went to look at the progress they've made restoring the grounds and gardens.


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The house sits at the top of the ridge, and there are a couple little ponds on the side of the hill below it.


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I counted nearly twenty bullfrogs in the smaller pond more than once, and a good half dozen goldfish. In the summer, the raft of water lily took over almost the entire larger pond. I've seen water snakes and fishing spiders in among it.

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Back before a few years ago, it seemed like they let the little ponds on the hill below the house grow wild. Recently the organization that maintains the grounds and pays for improvements has been trying to get it back to a state more like it originally was, so they've smoothed out the borders of the ponds and cut back the water lily.

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I couldn't get any good shots of the frogs in the little pond, but I went to see if there was anything to see in the bigger one. And there was: lots and lots of American toads, presumably soon to be even more American toads. Easily a good dozen mating pairs bobbing around near the walls doing their thing, and three or four lone males that kept trying to ram and break up pairs near them.

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The crest of the hill closer to the house is surrounded by gigantic old sycamores. I've always heard a lot of birds making noise up in the branches, but that visit I actually saw a red-bellied woodpecker and a blue jay.
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