Veal’s Ice Tree

Nestled just off I-74 on Indianapolis’ southeast side is a winter spectacle that’s been delighting Hoosiers for over 50 years. Since 1961, the Veal family has been creating the ice tree in their back yard, and today their granddaughter Wynter Veal-Drummond continues the family tradition.

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The tree started by accident. Wynter’s grandparents Mabel and Vierl Veal were trying to make a hill for their children to sled down, so they started pumping water out of the pond next to the house to make an ice hill. The wind had other ideas, and blew the water onto some nearby bushes, creating the first ice tree. The family thought it was pretty and decided to keep growing it. Eventually, it took on the form of the ice tree that we see today.

Building the tree is a pretty involved process and as soon as it starts getting cold out, Wynter begins building the frame. She uses 2×4 boards for a steady base and adds branches from the neighbors’ tree trimmings.

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Photo courtesy of Wynter Veal-Drummond

Once there are several days of temperatures 30 degrees or lower, they turn the hoses on and begin pumping the water out of the pond to spray on the tree form. As the tree grows, Wynter adds more hoses, and during the 2013-2014 season, the tree grew to 80 feet tall!

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The dying process gives the ice tree that magical look that people love to use for unique photo backdrops. Wynter dyes it using a powder form of food coloring and most years they are able to hook a special spray bottle that contains the food coloring up to the hoses and dye it that way. This year, though, she had to do it the way her grandfather did and dye it by hand.

It can take hours to get the final results and on Wednesday, the coldest day of the year, she was outside dying the tree for six hours in negative degree temperatures.

She leaves the backside of the ice tree in its natural state, which looks beautiful as well. Wynter offered to let me climb the formation using cleats, but I decided to stay safely on the ground 🙂

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Her mother, Janet Veal-Drummond, lives in the family home next to the tree and estimates there have only been about eight winters that haven’t been cold enough for them to grow the ice tree.

This year’s season may also be a short one; since I visited on Saturday, Indiana has had some unseasonably warm temperatures that will begin to melt the ice formation. Wynter says that once the tree starts to melt, it’s very hard to rebuild it.

Creating the ice tree may be a lot of work, but it’s a family tradition that Wynter hopes to continue for years to come. She says not only does it help her feel close to her grandparents who have both passed away, but it gives her joy to see how happy it makes other people when they see it.

How to get there: 11333 Southeastern Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46259. From I-465 take I-74 east toward Cincinnati. Exit at #99, Acton Rd. 3. Go south to Southeastern Ave. (1st road) and turn left. Turn left at the first drive after the sharp curve.

Follow Veal’s Ice Tree on Facebook & Instagram for the latest on the tree’s condition.

 

 

Mural Hunting in Indianapolis

About a year ago, I wrote a post featuring some of Indianapolis’ fun wall art. Since then, many new murals have popped up, especially on the south side of town. I thought it would be fun to do another post because who doesn’t love seeing these colorful pieces of art pop up in our neighborhoods?


This gorgeous mural is located at the Central State Mansion – an apartment community built on the grounds of an old mental institution. It’s located at 202 Steeples Boulevard, not far from Speedway.


This  hip rendition of Benjamin Franklin is located on the south side in Franklin, Indiana and pays tribute to the man the town was named after. You can find Ben at 351 E. Jefferson St. Be sure to check out the fun shops downtown Franklin has to offer!


The Monon Trail has a plethora of mural art. This colorful creation is located in Carmel, and was painted by a group of high school students. It’s located at 43 W. Main St.


Right next to Benjamin Franklin is a collection of kites. Perhaps an ode to his kite experiment with electricity?


This is one of my favorites! It’s actually part of a larger mural (see below) and was painted by Amy Hommell from the Teal Canary. You can find it in downtown Greenwood, Indiana located at 189 W. Main St.

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This mural is so new that the paint was barely dry when I took a picture of it! Also located in Franklin, you can find this colorful wall underneath the Main Street bridge next to the skate park.

Located in Whiteland, Indiana, this super cute heart mural would be the perfect backdrop for engagement or Valentine photos. Just turn on Main Street off of 31 and it’s on the side of a building next to Crystal Graphics.

Explore Indiana: the University of Notre Dame

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house for a few hours! Adam and I had a rare day off together and I wanted to do something instead of spending the day doing laundry and cleaning. Our schedules have both been kind of weird lately and three days out of the week we just see each other when saying “hi” and “bye” in the mornings.

I’d been wanting to drive up to Michigan to get my state sign picture but needed an excuse to go so I decided we should stop in South Bend to walk around the University of Notre Dame campus. We’re not Catholic but I’ve visited both Purdue and went to IU so it seemed like we should see it at least once in our lifetime.

There wasn’t really much else to do on the way up or back – so besides the campus and the Michigan state sign, that’s really all we did that day but it was still nice to get out for a few hours. Here’s a couple pictures from our day trip!

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Explore Indiana: Exotic Feline Rescue Center

This year is Indiana’s Bicentennial so I’ve made it a summer goal to check out a few unique and semi-local places. My first stop: the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana. I first learned about the rescue a few years ago when planning for a library program and it’s been on my “to visit” list ever since. I was scheduled to work the weekend, so I had Friday off and decided to take a short drive to check out the big cats!

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Founded in 1991, the Exotic Feline Rescue Center houses over 200 big cats. Most came from abusive or neglectful situations. A few are former circus cats but many were just owned by regular people who had no idea how to properly care for an animal that should have remained in the wild.

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Our tour lasted about an hour and I was surprised at how friendly the tigers were. They came right up to the edge of the cage and rubbed their heads on the fence as we approached. Several of them just loved our tour guide and would chuff at her when she talked to them. She told us that one of her favorites gets so playful when he sees her that if she turns her back on the cage, he will jump in his water trough, splash her with water and make happy sounds when she laughs at him.

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The lions on the other hand preferred to sleep 🙂

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It was a really fun afternoon and if you have time, you can even stay all night at the rescue and get a second tour of an area where they keep some of the cats that aren’t in the main area that most people see. I wouldn’t recommend that small children go – the cats do come right up to the edge of the cage and kids seem like they’d want to stick their hands in there at them which would probably be a bad experience for everyone.

There’s also a literary connection to EFRC that’s worth mentioning – New York Times bestselling Indiana author and Bloomington resident Michael Koryta wrote a supernatural thriller loosely based on the rescue. Koryta is a huge supporter of the rescue and when purchased on site, 100% of the proceeds from sales of The Ridge go directly to EFRC.
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The cost to visit is $10/per person. You are not allowed to touch or interact with the cats – just enjoy from the other side of the fence. There are lots of other fun activities going on at the rescue, so take a look at their web site for more info on upcoming events.

P.S. I sneaked across the state line to snap a photo with the Welcome to Illinois sign. I’m trying to get all 50 states and have 38 more to go. I should have started this a long time ago since I’ve been to all of the lower 48…

 

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