Winter came upon us early. We were hoping to put this colder weather off until closer to Christmas, but the Midwest has its own mind. For the past 4 or 5 autumn seasons, Dean and I manage to get away for a long weekend in the Ozark Mountains, about a 4 or 5-hour drive for us. Some months ago I planned a long weekend trip to attend a writer’ workshop in the Ozarks at one of my favorite places The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. Dean used his last vacation days of the year to join me as a chauffeur, but also as a fellow partaker of the slower-paced Ozarks countryside and local cuisine. The writer’s workshop was thought-provoking learning more about using ekphrasis and hearing the shared words of other writers.
The children’s & cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon calls the local food, “‘zark cuisine” and made it famous at her Dairy Hollow House back in the 1980’s and 90’s. From this establishment came The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, and that unique culinary suite I wrote from one week the summer of 2021. The foods come to the forefront of our long weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Branson, Missouri. This year we met up with my sister and her partner, Sandy at the Local Flavor Cafe in Eureka Springs for delicious dinner entrees. I found a great deal for sleeping accommodations at the Bridgeford B & B situated close to downtown on Spring Street. Breakfast fare and fellowship with other guests and the hostess was delightful on that first snowy morning. For lunch Dean partook of a veggie hash bowl and I had a slice of spinach-mushroom-sausage quiche at Mud Street Cafe before heading to our beloved Branson for a 2-night stay at a snuggled lakeside resort. A quaint eatery run by a husband-and-wife team downtown Branson served us delicious Thai-style plates at a decent price. A ‘Zark-style breakfast at Clockers Cafe is served all day and we are game for anytime.
Local shoppes, Silver Maple and Crescent Moon Beads are our stops in downtown Eureka Springs. I found a string of beautiful beads to make my first eyeglasses lanyard. I need those reading glasses more often with increased age, reading, and writing. Our Branson entertainment was the Market Days craft show during the afternoon with booths of crafts, fancy cowgirl garments, jewelry, jackets, and boots. Two gorgeous Christmas light displays dazzled us, one for each evening while in Branson. The Big Cedar Lodge is fabulously displayed with holiday cheer! We come back to our suite with a small pizza from a local pizzeria and watch a 2-hour Opry special. Of all people the Opry is honoring Johnny Morris, founder and owner of 50-year-old Bass Pro, Big Cedar Lodge, and multiple other outdoor business adventures as well as a successful philanthropist and nature conservationist. How appropriate for our Ozark weekend! Finished the weekend with another antique shop for holiday gifts on the way home.
Here in my neck of the woods autumn arrived overnight when a cold front blew in rain and cooler temperatures. By the books the summer ends today and the meteorologists are saying officially the autumn equinox takes place this evening. But my senses tell me it is already here! All just in time for a road trip to Colorado to see groves of glowing aspen, rigid mountains, and brief visits with friends and family along the way and back. Packed long and short-sleeve shirts, shorts, leggings, jeans, jackets, socks and my boots. I brought my sandals as well as a winter coat just in case. Ready for it all!
Preparations have been made all week. Bills paid ahead, ordered the mail to be held until we get back, arrangements made for my brother & sister-in-law to look after our cottage and yard, ate leftovers and emptied the frig. All were a reminder that vacation is finally here. Dean and I put off a week-long vacation this summer to experience this autumn get-away. Our last long road trips this year were to St. Augustine in February for a sunny vacation, and Gulfport, Mississippi in March to make arrangements for my younger brother’s remains after his sudden death. But these next 9 days away we will travel to the countryside and be with the “Talking Tree, a place where spirit and nature can be”.
Come with me to the Talking Tree
a place where spirit and nature can be.
Where science of the forest couples
with ancient traditions of the land.
Where indigenous people learn to live
with trees mindfully hand in hand.
Listen to branches rustling hymns
through silent sounds in their limbs.
Mighty Maples murmur in the breeze
sweet tales of syrup drawn to please.
Trees converse, they do care
sending forest messages everywhere.
Through the air and underground
signals pulse from floor to crown.
Quaking Aspen is known for being
the earth's most massive living thing
these trees united by one root system
the world's largest superorganism.
Trees often act for collective good
doing exactly what they should.
Sometimes they will reset their mast
until the attacking danger's passed.
Internal rhythms set their pace
slower than the human race.
Tree's daily burden that they bare
is they process the world's air.
Did trees learn survival plans proven
in the 360 million years pre-human?
What do 7 billion humans foresee
as the fate for earth's 3 trillion trees?
Fallen trees again live too
vessels that life flows through.
Their wood relives deeply in
buildings, books even violins.
So stand with me in equanimity
and listen for lyrics patiently.
Wait to hear beneath this tree
poised to the sound of "poetree".
by Greg Gaul
I put on my rain boots anticipating a muddy walk to the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm. Sure enough the storms we received earlier in the week produced quite a bit of rain, and the creek beds were full. Dean and I parked near the barn, gathered our gardening gear, jumped across the rain-filled ditch, and walked up the hill to our 9-month greenhouse/screenhouse. We had not been there all winter season as it was too frigid cold for 3 solid months, a true Missouri winter like I remember years past. And unlike last year where it drug on for 5 months!
Spring has arrived in Missouri! The frogs croak and birds tweet in harmony making an evening song of peace! What a welcome greeting to Dean and I! I love gardening. Not the exact science-type gardening. Care-free and whimsical like. There is work involved, but less so with a bed of organic soil inside the screenhouse side of our structure. We pulled old tomato vines and prepped the soil. It turned up nicely, loose but a little dry. We had enough snow and winter rains to keep the soil moist even without being in direct exposure. We watered the soil with the rain/snow water from our barrel just outside the structure. And then the first sowing. We made 11 rows altogether. I sowed 8 rows of greens seeds. My favorite, arugula, and then various lettuces. We are trying a oriental variety this year. The other 3 rows are beets. My first stab at growing these, too. As an apprentice with EarthDance Farms, I learned to love this root vegetable, greens and all.
Next weekend the herbs will be sown as well as zinnias, forget-me-nots, black-eye susans, and wildflowers at the farm along with the cottage gardens. The evening drive back from the greenhouse was lovely, a longer drive to the cottage than our other house. We will make every trip to the countryside count. Savoring the frog and bird chorus, smelling the blossoms along the strolls at Boone Hollow Farm, and harvesting delicious organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers for our dinner table. And we trust our God and Mother Nature for plenty to share!
Weekend before last the arctic cold blew in, causing our feathered friends to feed on seeds in and under the bird feeder hanging from the dogwood tree to stay warm. Our three feline friends, posted themselves on the back of the couch fixated on the birds just outside the living room window on several occasions throughout the day. Birds, and birds only. Dean captured Celine’s, Pennylane’s, and Jonas’ gaze out the window.
Do you remember the movie “City Slickers”? Do you remember what Jack Palance said to Billy Crystal about the secret of life while riding under the western sky?
“Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what YOU have to find out.”
At different seasons of my life, I find myself in Billy Crystal’s city slicker cowboy boots. And I am in one of those seasons now. I need to find out that “one thing”.
“Paraphernalia” is an underused word. In most cases it conveys “drugs”. According to Widipedia, it is “apparatus, equipment, or furnishing used for a particular activity”. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraphernalia
.) For me gardening is a necessity of life. As the Thomas Jefferson quote states, “no culture comparable to that of the garden.” It is my therapy, and I relish the fruits of my labor. A greenhouse, leather gloves, muck boots, dresser planters, troughs, a weather vane, and even writing this garden blog are paraphernalia. They are not necessary for a garden, but they each make the gardener’s or farmer’s chore easier, more enjoyable, gives life. Plus gardening becomes an art form, an expression from the heart as St. Francis of Assisi told us hundreds of years ago. Cooking from the heart with what I receive from my garden is an art form, too. Just as writing on this WordPress blog.
Dean and I are northward bound in 8 days. We will have a 7-day visit with friends who are family to us. The birth of a book has taken place at this destination. More of the family story will be told to us. While in Minnesota we will take a country day-trip to peruse some local antique shoppes and flea markets. We are looking for a unique, artsy weathervane to place atop the teepee-shaped trellis we made with repurposed steel poles for our gourds vines. We will scout out some narrow wooden troughs for window boxes to plant our overabundance of airplane plants and wandering jews. What garden “paraphernalia” do you enjoy?
As we frequent the greenhouse more often with our watering duties, I wonder about our visitors to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Greens And Garden Art greenhouse and screenhouse. What critters are there when we are not, or hiding when we are there? Ticks, bees, and dozens of bugs make an appearance at every visit. No deer seen yet by Dean and I, but we see their prints. The neighbor farmer has crops chewed on. A couple of weeks ago I placed my large planters of geraniums outside to greet us when we drive up the dirt road to the greenhouse. No signs of deer eating on them for a snack none less dinner. While in the screenhouse this week, I found a baby copperhead snake, with its shedded skin just inches from him. He wiggled his tongue at me, and I quickly hollered for Dean’s assistance. Relieved I had my muck boots on. The baby toad Dean found earlier would be this slicky guy’s dinner if we did not get him outside as far from the screenhouse as possible. I will share our plant space with frogs and toads, but not snakes. Sorry Slick. And keep your brothers out, too! Butterflies flutter about and bees buzz from the hives our neighbors have. Always good to have natural pollinators with plants. An owl starts hooting about 4:00 every afternoon. In past posts I have written about coyotes and I believe, Chuck the groundhog. God is the Creator of all these critters. So what do these critters think of us? Is our dog, Midnight, Dean, and I invading their homes? What prints are we leaving in the countryside? Maybe Midnight, Dean, and I are the visitors at Boone Hollow Farm?
This St. Patrick’s Day brought snow flurries, sleety rain, thunder, and later pouring rain. No rainbow with a pot of gold, though the soil still welcomes much moisture after the parched seasons of past. Hard to believe yesterday was a warm and partly sunny spring-like day. Yellow daffodils blooming on the country hillsides contrasting green while tree frogs croaked near the rain-filled creek beds. Midnight, our labrador retriever seemed to be in heaven sitting in the slushy cold rain, dreaming of ducks and geese landing on the water while Dean and I worked at the greenhouse. I, bundled in boots, snow pants, heavy winter coat, and hat kept warming water on the camp stove for hot tea. My Irish blessings came with an old hymn this morning at church …
An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
These late winter snows create survival tactics to say the least. For me with my cold allergy, severe side effects could take my life. So I take precautions, carrying extra gloves, hat, sweatshirts, boots, blanket, and epie pin if we ever have a vehicle breakdown. Of course good snow tires and vehicle maintenance is a must. We have the kitchen fireplace and fire wood in case the furnace would go out.
My mother lives an hour north of of us in Pike County. Pike County is always 10 degrees cooler than St. Charles County, and produces more severe winter storms. We received about a foot of snow the past 10 days, where Mom’s neck of the woods received two foot of snow. Her neighborhood is just outside of the town of Bowling Green. All her neighbors are older like herself, though Mother has a heart condition which keeps her indoors during extreme heat or cold. Normally she has senior assistance come to her house twice a week, but this past two weeks it posed a problem for the agency to get to their clients. I called Mother every day or two, checking on her. She kept saying I am fine, I have food, drinking water, medicines, and a warm house. But she failed to see what her mental and soul health needed. Survival tactics also mean taking care of the inside person as well. Since father’s death in October, Mother is lonely and still mourning. A computer, TV, or novels go only so far. The human voice and human presence heals.
Thursday evening, I decided Dean and I would go up to see my mother on Friday morning after we got the van packed and our banking done for our trip to Kansas City. A funeral wake Friday evening, and a graduation party on Saturday afternoon were the plans with Dean’s family. I asked my mother to come with us, though she declined. I am so glad we went to my mother’s home. She was snowed in, housebound. Two-foot snow piled high on the gravel driveway, mailbox, garage, and sidewalk to the front door. When Mother opened the door, she looked old and reclused to me, almost did not recognize her, and she me. It scared me and made me sad. After helping Dean clean the sidewalk off, while he finished the rest, Mother and I talked. Mother said she must have made a mistake, and should have come down to St. Charles County with us last week. After digging our way out Friday morning, we went into town for a couple of errands and ate lunch at one of her favorite local cafes. Mother just bought a villa a mile away from our home, plans to move there in June. But June is three long months away still, maybe three or four more snow storms away.
Make a visit to your neighbors and family, no matter what age or condition they are in. Their soul depends on it. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper – it takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning”. ~ Maya Angelou
Our Texas mini vacation included a jeep, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, cattle, big houses, a larger family, and a huge menu of local dishes. More on the Texas tea as promised … Dean & I made time for an early afternoon tea on Friday. We found a tea place in the northern suburb area of Dallas/Forth Worth inside an antique mall. The weather was a mild 70 degrees, warmer than it had been in St. Louis. I was hot after touring the Fort Worth stockyards and happen upon a livestock auction. A cup of hot tea wouldn’t do, though iced tea was served at this establishment with raspberry as the flavor of the day. Simplicitea had all the charm of a small tea house, minus an excellent glass of iced tea. Not homemade, as I did not experience plump flavorful berries in the taste or texture. Disappointed there. Though where their iced tea falls short, their quiche of the day, bacon asparagus and an elegant dessert, orange dream cake ranked high with us! The quiche had a smokey flavor with crisp asparagus tips. And the cake burst with citrus! There were actual bits of orange in the cake, whipping cream between and atop the cake layers, and swirls of orange zest garnished the delicious dessert.
Yes, the quote from “Texas Tea (Part One)” post is a rather bold statement, yet mostly true. The people of Texas love to brag, “the bigger the better”. And Texans love to eat! Therefore, they believe “Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them…” Many are foodies, and not just foodies, but locavores. They savor local foods and are proud of their creations.
Two of the three dinners we had this vacation weekend included some type of corn dish. At the BBQ on Friday night, a cold corn salad was served as a side dish to beef brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. Other sides accompanied, but the corn salad scored #1! I did not see any green at this meal, other than the green chilis in a dip. Beer, wine, and spirits flowed endlessly amongst the family in the home of one of Dean’s cousins. On Saturday the 80th birthday party for Dean’s aunt was held at her youngest son’s well-decorated home. Hors d’oeuvres were catered as the main entree. Thinly sliced roast beef wrapping a blanched asparagus tip & red sweet bell pepper strip was my favorite followed by another fruity cake, strawberry. Flecks of berries dazzled the birthday girl and 100+ guests. Very luscious! And then there is Babes in downtown Arlington, a famous fried chicken eatery with all the fine fixins including a warm corn dish. Sunday’s dinner was mounds of crispy chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, milk gravy, bacon-smothered fava beans, and herb biscuits with sorghum and honey … no dessert necessary! The ambiance took us away from urban Texas, back 80 years in a small, simple town with a porch light and swing. I am sharing a photo of the warm Grandma’s Corn dish from Babes found on their website. Let me know if you find a recipe that mimics this dish. I, too will do likewise.
“Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them. It congratulates you, on your arrival to having escaped from the slop pails of the other 49 states.” ~ Alistair Cooke ~ Quite a bold statement about the culinary creations in Texas considering the wonderful Italian pasta dishes on The Hill in St. Louis to the creamy seafood bisque found along the Oregon coast to the smoked northern pike in Minnesota. Texas is where Dean & I are headed for a mini vacation to inhale some sunshine and reunite with the Gall cousins. The family is celebrating his aunt’s 80th birthday on Saturday. We fly into Dallas/Ft. Worth tomorrow afternoon. So when you think of Texas food, do you think of huge sirloin steaks smothered with spicy BBQ sauce or keg of beer or Tex-Mex chili? Well, I think “Texas tea”. No, not the kind of “Texas tea” from Beverly Hillbillies. I am envisioning seated in a tea room sipping on a cup of rose tea and savoring a freshly baked herb scone surrounded with potted geraniums, English ivy,and lace tablecloths. Why? I am not sure, other than I am a romantic at heart. Don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoor life, earth, farming, critters, blue jeans, and cowgirl boots. But the more refined me, likes to wear a simple floral dress or blouse/skirt duo with a lace sweater and slight heels while visiting a local tea room establishment. So Dean & I will find such a vignette in Arlington/Ft. Worth area this weekend. I will write about our discoveries in “Texas Tea (Part 2)”. Maybe a recipe or two will be revealed as well.