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December 5, 2017 • Headline News
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Milan man makes music by handcrafting instruments

Sandy Day Howard

Musical instruments date back throughout history to the beginning of human culture. Shell trumpets, clay drums, and flutes made from bones date back as far as 67,000 years and were created by some of the earliest humans in existence. Jeff Brown of Milan began carrying on that tradition three years ago when his daughter, Ruby, then 6, got a violin for Christmas. Brown, who has been a wood worker since he was a boy, set about to craft a tear drop shaped ‘pochette’ violin like the ones carried by dance masters of years ago. The full length violin was beautifully crafted with a narrow body made by Brown using recycled wood and other materials. Also to his credit, Brown has constructed guitar-like instruments from cigar boxes, and a banjo and ukulele made using cookie tins. Brown crafts all of his instruments using recycled materials.

Jeff Brown is shown with his daughter, Ruby, each of them playing one of the beautifully crafted instruments Brown has made. Using only the finest recycled materials, Brown has the talent to create beauty and inspiration through the instruments he has crafted.

Among Brown’s creations is a dulcimer made from a cigar box. Historically these three stringed mountain instruments, considered by many to be an ancestor of the piano, originated in the Appalachians. Brown’s folk instrument has three frets (ridges of wood, metal, or string, set across the fingerboard of a guitar, banjo, lute or similar instrument) which help the fingers to stop the strings at the correct points and are just the frets needed to create a certain cord.”You can tune it any way you want,” stated the craftsman. “It’s playable in any key.”

Brown’s father played guitar when Jeff was a boy, but otherwise he has very little musical expertise. “I learn as I go,” stated the entrepreneur.” I research using the Internet on Google and YouTube.” Brown has learned that certain parts needed to create the musical appliances are generally not available locally and, if they are, they are very costly. “I order most of the parts I need off EBay,” he explained. Among Jeff’s most unique works is a wine box cello, one of his favorite creations thus far ‘because of the way it sounds.’ Brown said that the deep rich tone is pleasing and it is easily played. “I set it up just perfectly.”

The artisan has enlisted the assistance of his daughter, Ruby who began creating musical instruments of her own. Brown’s creations are listed on ETSY, a website that allows independent craftsmen to list unique, handmade and vintage items that are originally curated. “I only have a few instruments listed right now, but I have several more that I’m going to be featuring soon.”

Among Brown’s creations for sale on Etsy is one of his more complex pieces, an electric guitar constructed using a variety of recycled woods. The maple neck runs through the body with a salted maple fret board and poplar body. The headstock was made using cherry veneer. An eagle is painted on the front upper portion of the body, displayed using a lightly distressed painting technique, with the Liberty Bell painted on the lower part. The back of the instrument has a 13 star medallion American flag. The instrument is coated with clear acrylic and is equipped with D’Addarrio XL nickel strings.

Brown’s online store can be accessed at under the store name ‘CJB Instruments’. As the artisan continues to create unique pieces, he will expand his inventory with more hand crafted instruments.

Versailles business uses solar energy

Tom Crowe had been thinking about installing solar panels for his business, Southeastern Water Systems, even doing the job himself, but his work kept him too busy. This past summer he heard about a statewide program that encouraged homeowners and small businesses to hire a program authorized contractor to install the solar system to get him “grandfathered in” on Indiana’s current net-metering regulations and to get a discount for bulk ordering if many persons chose to go solar at the same time. He jumped at the opportunity. Crowe is now one of 15 persons in Southeastern Indiana who decided to invest in solar energy this fall and one of over 240 statewide. Why now?

Solar panels at Lohrum ElectricalSUBMITTED PHOTO
Solar panels were installed atop Southeastern Water Systems, Versailles.

Tom Crowe is pictured with the panel box installed by Micah Lohrum of Lohrum Electrical.

In April, the state legislature passed a bill (SEA 309) that was expected to squelch renewable energy in Indiana by changing the current net-metering rules for public utility companies.  Individuals who feel strongly that we must transition to clean energy mobilized to make it simple to go solar. Many of these persons were motivated by their faith to take such action. As a result, the short term impact of that bill is an unprecedented solar boom all across Indiana. This same group of volunteers plan to empower more households, businesses as well as schools and churches in 2018 even though the new net-metering incentive will be reduced from 30 years to 15 years unless that regulation gets rescinded. Activists are currently lobbying their state representatives to do just that. To learn how you can become part of the solution to climate change see the Facebook link, .

This Versailles business man joined the growing number of Hoosier households and businesses who want to do their part to cut carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels. He also wanted to enjoy the current economic benefits for going solar before Indiana’s public utility regulations on net-metering change at the end of this year. He and others wanted to be eligible for the current 30-year incentive to be able to sell back to their electric energy providers the excess energy their panels generated at the same price they paid those companies for electricity. Yes, he wanted the thrill of seeing his electric meter “run backwards!”

A local team of volunteers from the Batesville and Oldenburg area held information sessions in August, 2017 about the state-wide Solarize Indiana program, formerly known as Hoosier Solarize Initiative, to empower Indiana citizens to make a smart investment in solar energy. This team chose an experienced Greensburg company, Lohrum Electrical, LLC, to do the installations. The owner, Micah Lohrum, has been installing solar panels and home wind turbines since 2011. His reputation for quality work in the area and his top-notch proposal submitted for vetting by Hoosier Solar Initiative clinched the selection of his company by this local team.

This unique statewide citizen action program was noticed by VICE News Tonight and was featured on HBO September 25, 2017. (To view the video, google VICE News, Indiana Solar, or check out the October Newsletter of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light at

Sister Claire Whalen, OSF, team leader for Solarize Batesville/Oldenburg hopes to continue working with Solarize Indiana in 2018 to empower more area homeowners, businesses, schools and churches to explore using renewables as a significant way to reduce their carbon footprints—and save money as well! To register your interest and get alerts about the 2018 programs, contact Whalen at

In the meantime, there are many simple actions everyone can do to reduce their carbon footprints. A powerful new game called “2020 or bust” invites people from around the world to select an action to keep global warming at bay. Check it out at and download the app to do your part to end the climate crisis.

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