Friday, April 30, 2010

In 1999

We bought our property in the Ozarks after, Rex says, I convinced him we should. I don’t necessarily remember that conversation. However I do remember my initial reaction.

One summer afternoon, while driving between relatives and friends in Arkansas, we noticed a highway on our map that traveled north for several miles and then abruptly stopped in the National Forest. It called to us. After twenty miles through foothills and nine miles of snaking our way through twists, curves, and true switchbacks we arrived in the Mulberry Valley.  As we drove down the Mulberry River, blue-green swift water on our left, rock bluffs on our right, my face was stuck to the window. Trees canopied the road, water trickled from rock ledges, this place was alive, and are those ferns? The only ferns I knew were those bought from the store in pots to be hung neatly under the eaves of a house. These grew naturally.  It was then that I fell in love. 

So I can’t say I didn’t convince my husband to sell his Harley so we could purchase our 30 acres nestled in the Ozark National Forest. All I can say is that I’m glad he agreed.    

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Friend: Tooter Stepp

The Little Mulberry has forever lost a one of a kind soul. Tooter Stepp. He left us suddenly on Saturday. Tooter entered the world on the Little Mulberry and departed here also. He worked for the Oark School for 36 years and I am proud to say my children had the privilege to ride his bus for almost 2. I laughed often with this man, as did many, many others. His booming voice and presence turned any face to a smile. I think I hugged his belly every time we met. Had I known last week, as he sat on my porch, it would be his last visit, I would have lingered, I should have.

We laid Tooter in the ground today. Too soon. I don’t believe the Evans Cemetery, a small burial ground down a one lane dirt road in the middle of the national forest, has ever held the gathering it did today. We estimate the attendance at 600. The school provided Tooter’s bus as a shuttle, to carry mourners to and from the cemetery, from a nearby field. Some attendees, eager to reach the graveside, began walking  the half mile incline road to the cemetery, crossing the Little Mulberry and wetting their shoes and pants. One young man waded into the water and spent the afternoon building a dam of rocks for the walkers to cross on. All for our friend Tooter, I wasn’t surprised. It was all a testament to the light Tooter was to this community.

Thank you Lord, for including Tooter in my life.  Thank you Lord, for bringing me to this beautiful place I call home. 
Tooter, ready for a hog hunt last fall.
Tooter, showing us how to skin a hog at last year's pig roast.

Tooter, as we burned Art's field last winter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living with Chickens

Chickens have been a part of our lives for 7 years, even before we moved to the Ozarks. We lived in a small neighborhood on Bastrop Bayou in southeast Texas, just a few miles off the Gulf Coast.  Our neighborhood was initially a vacation spot for fishermen, but slowly full time residents began to move in. Because it was miles from the city and the residents were laid-back, easy-going people the neighborhood didn’t have rules and regulations. It was here that we bought our first hens. 
I remember the first egg we found. What a celebration. From that time on we were hooked on their fresh taste and bright orange color, full of all that good stuff, a.k.a beta carotene.  There have been a few seasons when we have been in between mature hens and have had to buy eggs from the store, you should have heard us whine and complain.
Seven years later we are still enjoying chickens...

only in a different setting. 
In addition to eggs they eat bugs and keep the vicinity scratched up. I believe this keeps snakes from taking up residence in our yard. 
I have read having them helps keep flies under control if you also have larger animals, as they will scratch through the piles of poo and eat larvae. And boy does Commander leave piles of poo! 
However, they can be quite destructive. In the past I have managed to have an unfenced flower garden by placing chicken wire down over the top of newly planted seeds. This prevents them from taking their dirt baths in the freshly tilled soil. It also deters Toby/Kunta from making a litter box out of the beds. As the plants emerge from the ground they easily grow through the chicken wire and the chickens seem to avoid eating the flower plants. Not so for vegetable plants. They appear to be tasty at all stages of growth. I carelessly forgot to close my garden gate one evening this week and was horrified the next day as I discovered my mistake.
My happy broccoli plants had been stripped to the stalks. So had the cabbages and radishes. I think the peas and spinach may survive the assault. Even so, it was my mistake and the chickens shall stay. I just need to be more careful. 

To  read more about the benefits of free range eggs click here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Recycling Food

Now is the time to focus on emptying our deep freeze in anticipation of the garden vegetables. One rather large box of turkey legs had been occupying a shelf. They were out of date and unsuitable for our consumption, but certainly not for the coyotes, cats and other carnivores. So one afternoon this week as we rode, top down, in the Jeep, we tossed turkey legs out like tossing candy out at a parade.  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

1 Rooster, 12 Hens: a.k.a., Lucky

While busy in the kitchen one morning I heard our rooster crow, not unusual. I looked up and saw he was staring right at me through our windows.
Think again Lucky.


Rex feeding our neighbors catfish...And packin'. You might want to turn your speakers down because Loudmouth here is quite loud at the end.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Firewood For Fall

Spring is a good time to think about fall. Just when the woodstove has retired from its long winter work, it’s time to consider the wood needed for the cooler temperatures of next fall. 

Rex works hard on our firewood supply. It is one of the chores I think he enjoys. However, with the longer and warmer days, we decided to all pitch in and help Dad fill the wood shed. 

Mmmmm, Mmmmm!