Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter slothfulness

Snow falling on cedars. Birds scampering across our outside deck, vying for seeds we scattered. For some reason, two victims this morning, birds trying to enter our sun room and smashing into the glass window. One dead, one apparently survived. There is no grief among the survivors, only continuing competition for free food.
Our cedar Christmas tree is stripped of it's lights and decorations and now sits outside where birds use it's limbs for brief respites. When cardinals come, drab cedars turn back into gaudy Christmas trees. Red, white and green are today's colors. White swirls across the deck. Finches, juncos in numbers; woodpeckers at the beef fat hanging.
Inside, warm, and reflective, I am two weeks past knee surgery. Two weeks of forced reticence and, yes, pain. But I have given myself over to modern chemistry and little white pills. They have helped stay the gremlin while I've watched Kathy carry in firewood, stoke the fire, feed the birds, and absorb other tasks that are normally mine. But, I progress, if slowly.
Rock Eddy Bluff Farm is closed and will be for several weeks. I have fallen backward into sloth and indolence, while outside the birds struggle and flit in the cold whiteness. Nearby, green cedars frame a snow covered landscape running onward to a grey horizon.
There is a certain zen today, one of simple awareness.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Hired Man goes to the big city

It was kinda like "Goober Goes to Chicago." Every once in a while we have to load up and head into a metropolis just to see how the other 90% lives. Well, we just got home from one such foray. (I drug along the Missus, the daughter and son-in-law, and two grand kids -- 1 and 3 years of age.)

Transportation was provided by Amtrak and then Megabus on the return (look it up - ) Our hotel was of a class that was clearly above our station in life, but it had excellent views of the Chicago River and the skyline of Chi town.

Well, we just had an excellent time and nearly froze our collective hineys off. Boy Howdy, was it cold. (When was the last time you heard Boy Howdy'?) We had two and a half days in town, but ran out of time quickly. Here is what we saw:
  • Millennium Park
  • Macy's Christmas windows and Santa
  • The Science and Industry Museum (5 stars)
  • The Shedd Aquarium
  • The German Christmas Market
  • "Precious" at the Movie Theatre
  • Quite a lot of town thru the taxi window.
Here is what we learned:
  • Those city fellers sure know how to charge a lot. (Or, as they say in the country, "They's real proud of their stuff.")
  • No matter where you are you can get a taxi quick.
  • There is a real good reason that they call it "The Windy City."
  • Big Cities are really kinda neat -- enough to spend up to two and a half days.
  • There sure are lots of things to see and we'd like to go back again once we save up some cash.
  • It is so much fun to have a Christmas break with family.
  • Little grand kids are wonderful but very tiring.
The trip got us in the Christmas mood, so we are sending along a heartfelt "Happy Christmas" to everyone.

From down on the Bluff, The Hired Man

Friday, November 27, 2009

A cartoonist comes to Line Camp Cabin

Some folks who come to Rock Eddy Bluff do us a special honor when they leave something of themselves here. That was true a few days ago when Robert Quick and Hillary settled into Line Camp Cabin. Robert, it turns out, is an artist and cartoonist who left some of his talent in our little "Guest to Guest" book in the cabin.

Of course, we have to share the cartoons he left with us. It seems Bob was quite taken with Line Camp and our place on the river. "You have what I dream about. Can you adopt me?"

Thanks Bob and Hillary.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What the heck is that next to the door?

I will check to see if you remember this next summer when you need it!
I am gonna tell it to you now since, truth is, I probably won't remember to tell you next summer when the weather is warm. And, the other reason is that our guests have asked us about this so many times that we were thinking about writing a little blurb in the welcome folder that they see when they arrive. Doing that would keep us from explaining it over and over.

We discovered this on a jaunt somewhere,and, like many things, once you have seen it, then you notice it everywhere after that. A clear water-filled plastic bag was hanging up over the door. Yep, just water in perhaps a quart-size clear plastic bag that was tied with a string or wire and hung near the outside doorway. So we asked about it. The reply went something like this, "Well, it keeps flies from going inside the house. Don't ask me how it works; I don't know. I am tired of telling people about it."

So we tried it ourselves at our house, at the cottage and the cabins. We got the same response from many people; "what the heck it that?" Others told us, "We have known about that since we were kids." One of our friends who lives in Ireland said that her parents had always filled bags with water to keep out flies.

What do we think after trying it for a summer? We think it works. We had very few flies inside this year. How does it work then? We don't know, but the most consistent explanation offered when we asked was something about the light refraction in the clear plastic bag somehow confuses the multi-faceted eye of the flies. After that, your guess is as good as ours.

We even checked it our on They don't say it is true or false. They say "Undetermined."
So, try it for yourselves next summer (or even now, as there are some flies still hankering to be indoors). And remember to tell us how it works. You have nothing to lose but your flies. The only downside is having to repeatedly answer the question, "What the heck is that thing?"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Molasses (Them shore is good)

I haven't seen Declan have more fun than he did on Saturday when he "helped" make molasses. His sister, Lily Grace, sat on the wagon and helped by sucking the sweetness from a short piece of cane. It was one of those rare brisk and sunny fall days that have become even rarer this autumn. Our three-year-old grandson was having the time of his life feeding cane into the mule-powered press.

The molasses making has become an annual October ritual at the farm of one of our neighbors. They both are getting well on in years, but with the help of their offspring, each year they plant a patch of cane in the spring. Then, on one weekend in the fall the hard work begins. They cut the cane with a knife, strip the leaves from the canes, and load it onto a wagon to be taken to the press and kiln.

Neighbors arrive mid-morning on Saturday with covered dishes for the noon meal. The mule is hitched to a long pole that powers the press as the mule circles. A hot fire is built under the long cooking pan that will reduce the thin cane juice to a thick golden molasses. There is dinner on the grounds, lots of visiting between neighbors, and the aromatic steam from the cooker scenting the fall air. The older kids sometimes get to ride the mule.

Sadly, last Saturday may have been the last time we will make molasses in our neighborhood. The hosts are getting older and even with lots of help, the responsiblity of the event tires them considerably. It will be a loss for all of us. Likely, this old-fashioned process will only seen only as an attraction at country fairs and festivals.

From the Hills, The Hired Man, Missus, and young folk

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In An Autumn Rain

This happens every fall, the rains come amid the time of ripest color in the hills and pummels the leaves from the trees. Most years the autumn rain signals the end of the riot of pigment that spreads across the ridges. A breeze comes and pushes the sodden leaves from their branches. This fall I have hopes that the rains have come just a smidgen too early.

I am sitting here on our sun porch above the valley as evening light weakens in a drizzling rain that has lasted all day. Oh, the rain has taken its share of the golden leaves. This morning they swirled and eddied around the house as we, inside, begrudged each one making its way earfthward. But, this evening we still have color in the timber, leaves hanging on waiting for some more October sunshine and painted blue sky. Yes, the woods are less dense now; you can see further into the trees. But, without a strong wind tonight we will have more golden autumn days ahead.

Already we have marked off a few of our alloted golden fall days. Together with our daughter and grandchildren we have loaded a couple of ATVs with a picnic and headed into the countryside. We careened up dry creek beds, meandered down country roads known to only a few, and visited old house places back in the timber that are no longer connected to roads. It was truly wonderful, and left us wanting more.

But even rainy fall days have their compensations. With guests enscounsed in their cabins, I suspect they are on the porches listening to the patter of the rain on tin roofs. And, often this time of year sleep comes early, peaceful and long.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig

We are home a week now and have almost caught up with our work getting ready for guests. (the place is full this weekend). After being gone for such a long time in a different environment it takes a little while get get back into the old system.

Kathy's favorite holiday (except it is not a holiday) is Halloween. She can't control herself. Right now there are skeletons hanging from the trees near the house. Bats also. She even wears a little hat that says, "Happy Holloween." I point out to her that folks are not supposed to be happy on Holloween. They are supposed to be scared s--tless.

The pumkins are set out, except these that we grew out in the pasture (see photo). I looks like the deer got into these excellent specimens and ruined them. K is heartbroken.

I sense a wonderful fall coming. Right now, twinges of color are seen on the hillsides. Cattle are in the pastures across the river. The walnuts have already lost their leaves, leaving the green balls hung among the limbs like ornaments. This is the time of year for hikes and long walks in the woods.

We think that we will concentrate on enjoying every single moment of lovely fall weather. Each year this magical part of the year seems too soon gone. We look back and shake our heads, wondering how we missed so much of it.
That's why I must get away from this computer. It's a beatiful, crisp day.

From the hills, Tom & Kathy
To paraphrase past wisdom, "You can measure how rich a person is by how little he needs" — i.e. the richest person isn't the person who has everything; it's the person who needs nothing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Old houses out in the hills

While going through some files today, I happened upon these photos I am including. They show a two old houses, which, if they were currently occupied, would be some of our closest neighbors at Rock Eddy Bluff Farm.

As you can see from the photos, the first house is in bad condition and may not stand many more years. I can hardly believe that I remember the people who lived here. One of the girls who grew up in this house was a contemporary of my brothers and me. The family farmed the upper end of this creek bottom. Some years later, after I left for college to make my own way in the big world, the family dispersed leaving the house abandoned.

Over the years hunters and others have gone into the house and ransacked it. But even now there is strong evidence of the family that once lived there. The oddest thing is that it appears that the family just walked out of the house and took almost nothing with them. Clothes are still on hooks. The battered furniture in still in the house. There is perhaps more to that story.

Now, at my age I have a memory of other such house places not far from here. Most were not occupied when I was a child but they were then standing, along with a few outbuildings and hand-dug wells. Cabins (not houses as we think of them) were scattered along dirt roads and deep in the woods where the tracks leading to them are no longer even faint. You have to know where the remains of these places are located to find them. Some are now gone to rot with only a few foundation stones remaining to mark their location.

I have always been intrigued by these old house places. They each have a story. I know only a few of those stories. The last photo showing the old house that now has collapsed into the ground was called the Algerine Place. In that log cabin a son accidentally shot and killed his mother. He was preparing to shoot a hawk that was perhaps threatening their chickens. The shotgun somehow discharged in the house, killing his mother instantly.

Nearby is a house (not shown) where a wayward daughter killed several of her family members by poisoning the water pail. And, there are more such places where families once somehow scratched out an existence. Many are now only traces in the ground.

Well, I like these old pictures. I like to look at them even though they make me feel old. And somewhere among boxes of old photos that were taken on some medium they long ago called "film", I may even have photos of some of these old places when they were younger and in a better state of repair.

From the Hills, The Old Hired Man

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Kids and the creek

Recent experience at Rock Eddy Bluff shows that there are two options for handling grandkids who claim to be bored: (1) Set them in front of a TV with an antimated movie, or (2) take them to the creek or river. Get them wet!

We prefer option two for a variety of reasons. The kids actually get excercise, they connect with nature, and when we bring them home they are tired and ready to rest. Splashing around in the water seems to have a wearying effect on kids. Can I get a halleluya?

The photo shows our grandkids: Declan, Lily, and David.

Chances are you will have to deal with assorted fauna that the children love to collect. Crawdads are a favorite, along with tadpoles and minnows. Here is where we need to be sneaky. Of course kids want to bring home the critters. They have named them and are envisioning a long relationship extending into their teen years. Older folks, if they plan well are able to somehow allow a merciful escape back into the wild before the party returns.

We have two wonderful places for kid splashing here: The excellent gravel bar at Rock Eddy below the bluff, and Clifty Creek, about a mile down the road. At either location the Hired Man and Missus plan ahead and take folking chairs. We are comfy while kids splash. An excellent refinement for hot days is to move the chairs into the water where you can recline partially submerged. On certain occassions it has been known that there was beer involved.

I am quite certain that kids will remember their river and creek time long after the images of the animated characters in movies have faded. Who could forget the first encounter with a Jesus bug? (They walk on water). And how about tadpoles changing into frogs, legs sprouting from their sides. Snake are alway facinating, and when encountered, are an excellent opportunitiy for teaching.

Then there are rocks! Many a throwing arm has seen early developement at the creek. With no shortage of rocks of all sizes, the act of heaving them into the creek may proceed for hours. At a certain stage of youthful maturation the refinement of skipping rocks can be added.

We have had quite a bit of kid time in the water this summer. We hope for more.
The Hired Man

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cadet Baloney arrives at the Bluff

It was 1964, I was fresh out of college and loaded for bear. President Kennedy had convinced me to sign up with the Peace Corps. I was accepted and headed for a two-year stint in Colombia .

Problem was, Kennedy (before he was killed), had warmed up a little war in far off Viet Nam that now looked like it would only get bigger. "Rats," I thought.

At my local Selective Service Office (the draft board) I was assured that I would be drafted into the Army the moment my commitment with the Peace Corps ended. That would extend my service to the country by at least two years. And I thought, "How could they take someone with my sensibilities into the infantry (known as 'Grunts')?"

So, I joined the Navy Flight program and was whisked off to Pensacola, Florida. Along with several other guys, I was slammed into a program called "Preflight". The Idea was to convert college kids, over a period of months, into Officers ready to become Naval Aviators. It was intense. It was memorable.

I am remembering all of this because my old roomie in Preflight, Denny Bolena (Cadet Boloney) has just visited us on the bluff. Hey, in case you are not counting, we last saw each other a mere 45 years ago. Denny was a kid from Queens, out of ethnic Albanian extraction. I was a kid from the Missouri hills. We hit it off wonderfully.

So, it was a blast to see him and his wife, Jan, when they drove in a couple of days ago. We caught up with each other. We discussed Navy friends and their adventures. We commented how we could still see some of those fresh-faced kids in the images of the older gentlemen we have become.

We remembered the time during a RLP (room, locker and personnel inspection) when he gave the one-finger salute to the Marine Drill Sargent while standing behing him. My eyes fickered and then I broke. So, I was the one with a substancial number of demerits added to my total.

There were many nearly forgotten recollections. Our memories complimented each other, so that in the end we both relived much of the decades-old experience.

Thanks Denny for coming. Here are some photos of us as we now appear. And just for practice, Cadet Bolena, I would like you to put yourself on report for flipping that bird.

Cadet Corey

Monday, June 15, 2009

Things turned old fashion this morning

We lost one hundred years in an instant this morning. Yes, we had another bit of bad weather and it changed things instantly.

It all started with another of our signature toad stranglers. That is one hell of a hard rain, for those who ain’t from the hills. That storm caused an unexplained loss of power. (We don’t know where the problem is but this happens with some frequency here.) So all morning things were dark and wet, and the rain came in buckets full.
Right now I have the generator running. We need that to provide power for our well pump so that we can get water. Otherwise we are pretty well prepared for power losses, but we can’t do without water for very long. So, while I have the generator on I flipped on another circuit and I have line power to this computer. We are sitting pretty except that there is another problem.

We are surrounded here by creeks with low water crossings and simple concrete fords. When the creeks are up we are stranded, and that is our condition this morning. We can stand a pretty fair rain before our final avenue of escape becomes closed to us. That is the low water bridge on highway E about two miles from the house. Here is a picture taken this morning.

Things have changed here in the country. We used to have hard rains but there was nothing like the frequency that now exists. These rains come so hard that they wash out roads, spill over ditches and play havoc with things in general.
What is the reason for the change in the weather. Perhaps it is a shift in weather patterns in general. I hesitate to mention global warming because that brings the ire of locals who hold that the whole thing is just another liberal plot to take over more of the world.
The theory held by weather scientists is that along with warmer average global temperatures events in local regions will become more erratic. They say that almost any weather event will be more dramatic. Erratic, emphatic and dramatic. Apparently there is good evidence for that since the vast majority of scientists hold this view.

You all have a good day, and think of us hillbillies living like we did before we got electric down here in the woods.

The Hired Man and Missus stuck at home in the dark.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Garden Food

Yesterday Kathy canned some food from the garden and I figured that this photo of a few jars of canned beets would make folks jealous. Well maybe! She has given away one jar to a guest who fancied it. I told her that I thought I fancied it more than they did, but that did not save it.

We have gotten back into canning this year and hope to have enough garden veggies to supply some of our winter needs. We have even taken a friend's advice and canned pinto beans. For that we simply put dry beans in the jar along with some ham or bacon and some salt. Fill the jar nearly full with water and process it in the canner. You can then have a ham and bean dinner at a moment's notice. Just open the jar and heat.

We have been overrun with strawberries this year and Kathy has made some wonderful freezer jam. Wish I had a picture.

The garden has been quite productive despite the wet spring. A chief factor, we think, is that most of it is planted in raised beds, which drain well. You can see what we have done with spare watering troughs. They make great raised beds. We are even considering converting an old leaky aluminum boat to a raised bed in our garden.
It just keeps raining here. The poor guests want to get out on the river but it seems to rain every afternoon and night. We had a toad strangler again last night and it washed out our road in several places. So fixing the road is back on the hired man's list of things to do.

From the Hills, The Hired Man & Missus

Friday, June 5, 2009

Guns and Whiskey

Remember the old wild west cowboy movies and how the saloons made folks check their guns at the door. Maybe it was in old Dodge City where the proprietors felt the need to do this. Perhaps it was just common sense. Maybe they found that cleaning up the place after a wild Saturday night just went smoother when the cowboys hadn't had access to their sidearms.

Probably there was a body of evidence showing that whiskey and guns don't mix, or when they do, the results are rather messy. Hey, I've been in enough redneck roadhouses myself to entertain that same notion.

Turns out that those saloons back in Dodge during the wild west were probably run by a bunch of limp-wristed liberals. The legislature of the State of Tennessee has corrected that idea.

Acording to the news, the Tennessee legislature passed a law allowing guns to be carried in drinking establishments. So, whem the bill comes to the governor he vetos it, saying that people get silly when they drink and perhaps silly people should not be armed in bars. That idea so upset the legislature that they overrode the veto with more votes than the original bill received.

A Tennessee political spokesmen of some persuasion made a statement afterward. This isn't an exact quote but catches the meaning: "Things will be a lot safer when everyone who is not a convicted felon inside the bar is packing heat somewhere on his person."

Now I don't want to pass judgment on this situation or differ with the collective wisdom of the Tennessee legislature. But I do plan to remain cold sober when in Tennessee. And I think I will steer clear of bars, roadhouses, and whiskey palaces.

Its probably because I am not as fast on the draw as I used to be.

The Hired Man

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Farm Friends

They are the last of only a few, the tail end of a generation of country folk from hereabouts. They are the keepers of some important things that will soon be lost. In them resides old ideas about hay fields, about where to look for goldenseal near the spring branch, about how to think about things on the porch in the evening when you are tired. So many things.

These are our friends, the last two of a family. They never left home. They never married. They know everything about the farm that they have never left; about a clapboard farm house they have returned to from the fields for all of their lives. There they cared for beloved parents until time took them. Then there were three siblings, two brothers and a sister.

Now there are only two. They are now in their eighties and time is gnawing on them. The years are reducing them, pulling away competences and possibilities with increasing swiftness. They seem to accept this. They have seen it before.

They have animals still: cattle, chickens, guineas, dogs, cats. And they have lambs, and it is well known that grandchildren need to see lambs. So off we went on a Sunday afternoon, kids, parents, and grandparents, to see the pretty lambs and see the farm and visit with our friends.

Oh, the kids had a great time, and our friends got to be near some children, something that has become less frequent for them. And it was a sunny day and we all got along wonderfully and spoke repeatedly about how we don’t see each other often enough and how we are going to start doing thing differently. And the billy goat climbed up high and inspected the children and the lambs scurried about in the barn lot. And there were eggs gathered from the chicken house.

And then we left. We drove down the lane, across the ford of the small creek bed below the farmhouse. And off we went back into a reality that was more contemporary. I think they enjoyed our visit. I know we did. And, looking back on that day at their farm, the thought strikes me that it will not be long until we could be the end of a generation of folks from hereabouts. And how will people think about us.
From the hills, The Hired Man & Missus

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All the pretty horses.........gone!

They were beautiful horses that lived here. And it has been pointed out to me that they were somewhat cultured, as they listened to the National Public Radio station that played constantly in the barn. I believe the proper term for NPR listeners is "elitist", which around here means anyone who doesn't listen to country music.
And is is true that those horses have been exposed to classical music for several hours a day and it only stands to reason that it somehow affected their manner and appreciation for art and culture. I wonder if the new owner of the horses has noticed that.
At any rate they are gone. We are horseless. That condition has not existed for the eighteen years we have lived here on a bluff above the Gasconade River. It will take a little getting used to. We have our reasons for going horseless, but sometimes they don't seem quite good enough.

If you have been around horses you can guess the things we will miss most. What about the smell? (OK, odor for you elitists.) I have loved the smell of horses since I was a child. That odor will gradually diminish now. And we will miss the sight of them in the pasture. Often their mutual exuberance had them running with the wind or kicking and twisting with the joy of movement.

We grow older and priorities change. Seeing that the horses were cared for became a problem for the times we were away and traveling. And, there are other reasons: Aches and pains (some of which were given to me by horses) have kept us from using the horses as much as we should. They need more attention than we were giving them.

But they were beautiful. And we had a good run with equines here for many years. Delivering new colts was always a favorite thing. Then watching them develop.

Our last two horses have gone to live with a couple who operate a riding school and boarding stable near Cole Camp, Missouri. We hope to go visit them sometime. Mister Big, our Percheron cross will be groomed to carry the heftier students of the riding school and perhaps will also get some harness time. And, truth is, even as beautiful as he is, Woodrow will have to find his own niche at his new home. He was part of the deal. "You take both of them or none," we said.

Well, here's to a good rest of your life guys. We will miss you.

Your Pals, The Hired Man and Missus.

Friday, May 22, 2009

We danced at the Fox in St. Louis

It wasn't much, not much more than a wiggle, and it was dark up there and,of course, the audience had left, but I can still say that I danced on stage at the Fox Theatre.

And so can Kathy. She did a couple of steps and didn't even hurt herself.

It was Wednesday night and we were on the town, together with Paul and Heather (daughter & son-in-law) as well as sis-in-law Cathy. A Chorus Line was playing at the Fox and we were gussied up to go see it.

The real draw was that niece, Hollie Howard, and her boyfriend, Colt Prattes, were in the cast. So we all had dinner at an overpriced restaurant near Union Station, then it was off to the show. It was wonderful, lots of dancing and singing. It made me recall a time when I just might have been able to to that. Or, something like it. But mostly it made me kinda sore just watching it.

Afterward we all trouped backstage where Hollie and Colt showed us the ropes and led us out on the darkened stage. Hollie explained how they use seams in the stage and bold white numbers under the lights at the front of the stage (that's upstage) to keep their places during the routines.

That's when we did our little wiggles.

For those who have not been to the Fox Theatre, I can tell you that it produces almost a sensory overload. It is truly an amazing venue. And, as a sometime performer, I can say that it ain't so bad to be onstage either.
The Hired Man back from the big city into the green hills.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Favorite Magazine

I owe it to our pal and long time guest, Amy Gutowski. One day it arrived in the mail with a little notice that Amy and Tom had sent a subscription.

There is was, a slender little rag, printed in one-color. Nothin fancy but wonderfully, no advertisements at all. I spent the first night with my new copy of The Sun in my ritual nighttime read-myself-to-sleep session. That did it. I was hooked.

I'm not gonna try to explain the magazine, except to say that I think.....I will touch you. It is quite varied in content. Let me go find a quote -- what they say about themselves. I'll be right back.
"The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that
for more than thirty years has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor
and heartache of being human. The Sun celebrates life, but not in a way that
ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry,
and photographs that appear in its pages explore the challenges we face and the
moments when we rise to meet those challenges.
The Sun publishes the work of
emerging and established artists who are striving to be thoughtful and
authentic. Writing from The Sun has won the Pushcart Prize, been published in
Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, and been broadcast on
National Public Radio.
The Sun invites readers to consider an array of
political, social, and philosophical ideas and then to join the conversation.
Each issue includes a section devoted entirely to writing by readers, who
address topics as varied as Telling the Truth, Neighbors, Hiding Places, Second
Chances, and Gambling."

OK, that's a start. Want more? Go to this website There you can look over the past issue and see if it suits you. (Don't know how they make any money that way.) If y0u like it, it is worth your support as it struggles financially sometimes.
I'm keeping my subscription paid up.

Thank you Amy, The Hired Man and Missus

p.s. I ain't making no money in case yer wondering! But sometime I want to tell you how doing what we do allows us to meet some pretty wonderful people at Rock Eddy Bluff Farm.

Friday, May 15, 2009

International Innkeeper Exchange

A few years ago a fellow from France introduced us to international exchanges between innkeepers. Since then he has become our friend and in many ways, our soul mate.

The idea was totally Philippe's and he has exchanged with perhaps twenty or more inns on four continents. By contrast, we have exchanged with only two international inns: one in France and one in Scotland. Click here to see a list of the inns Philippe has visited.

The photo shows the Hired Man and Missus with Philippe and his mother on a beautiful French day.

After returning from France a few years ago, I wrote a web page about our experience and visit with Philippe at his Gite in La Bastide in the south of France. Poking around the Internet this morning, I found that page translated into four languages on Philippe's website.

The page has lots of photos and links to interesting French things. So, for today's reading material, I thought I could just send you to that web page. (If you want to read it in English, just click on the British flag.)

Philippe is a wizard with web pages, so if you want to follow any of his many links from the page you will find loads of interesting stuff. And, if you ever want to his gite, L 'Etoile, in the Cevennes region of France, let us know and we will help you plan your adventure.

The H.M.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is wrong with the French?

Boy, do I flop around into different topics.
But if you know me you know that I have spent my whole life -- now 67 years-- flopping around.

Well, maybe I can get some sedate controversy going here. Here goes:

Why are Americans always complaining about the French? In my view they do a whole lot of things better than we do. A whole lot! I think they live better. Consider this from a recent survey reported by Arthur Frommer the travel guru. "According to a study published in "The French enjoy an average of 35 days a year of paid vacation. They sleep an average of nine hours a night, an hour longer than us, and also spend two hours a day on eating -- twice the time Americans spend eating. Read more: "

I suspect, when totalled, this likely indicates that the French enjoy life more than do Americans with no vacation but lots of toys and little time. We live pell mell. They live leisurely.
And, they have one of the best free health care systems in the world. On the other hand, we have....... Oh, surely you know what a perfect mess we have.

I know, they don't support us in every military incursion we decide on. Are they smart or just lucky in this?

I must be feeling like I want to stir the water a little this morning. If you agree or disagree let me know in a genteel manner.

The Hired Man needs now to earn his breakfast. Vive la France!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The wanderer awoke this morning

I am still afflicted. I want to wander the countryside. Heck, I am only one week back and I catch myself thinking about how things might be in some of my more popular places.

I believe there is new grass carpeting the Flint Hills of Kansas. It is a deluge of green with praire flowers and small tidy towns tucked down in the cottonwood draws. I would like to see it again....right now.

Another vision that surfaces is of the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The rolling hills, as if huge waves stretched onward on a sea of grass. Ranch houses and barns lost in the swells of green, down little track of roads, miles and miles from little "necessary" towns.

These are just my spring visions; they will change as the year progresses. I will think of other favorites in the summer. And in the fall I will move to the mountains, New England, the lake country.

In Maine, where a little me still lives, the winter is being forced out grudgingly by the gentle persistance of spring. And I can remember enough that I think I could still avoid the tourists running up highway 1 and locate some of the pictures that still swim in my mind.

And there are so many more that I will not discuss this morning. It is just that the wanderer in me just schook in his traces enough that I had to acknowlege him this morning. Ain't that typical! I should be discussing Mother's Day. Kathy is getting Mom's Day calls this morning while serving breakfast to the guests and I am back in this messy little room with the computer. I am sure it ain't right. I am certain that a more refined fella would do things differently.

Happy Mother's Day, The Hired Man

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back from the south now and meeting new people

We are back from our vacation in the south with our camper. We are now back in harness and have a complete complement of guests this weekend. Computer problems while we were away stopped this blog in its tracks.

We had a wonderful time while we were away. Here are a few of the things we did:

We slowed down. For most of the trip we did not get over 50 mph. That is the speed limit on the Natchez Trace and we maintained the same speed up thru the small ramshackle towns of the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta.

We resolved to get some exercise. Before we left we purchased a Wii Fit game. Yes, you actually do get exercise. And it is fun!

We immersed ourselves in the western theatre of the Civil War. Kathy was really excited because she is such a CW buff. In her words she "had a rosy glow" as we visited CW sites. I will include some photos taken at the battle site at Shiloh.

The siege of Vicksburg was quite interesting also.

We met some interesting characters. I think I have already written about one of them. One lady at a small Civil War center was starved to talk. She is 88 years and talked about her early life. While we were their her son, who is my age or older brought her lunch. he said, "Here is you lunch Mama!" She was married at 15. "We didn't have ANYTHING when we got married. Well, we had a little bit of food." Her husband has been gone for 22 years.

Spent family time with daughter and family. That is another topic.

We riffled a few antique stores and flea markets. We found that there are an inferior species of fleas at those places in the south. Found a few things that are truly unique.

I'll try to do a better job now. The Hired Man

Friday, April 17, 2009


They were all Americans. They met by the Tennessee River in early spring and butchered each other. The two-day killing was so intense that it is remembered in history as one of the greatest battles fought on the soil of the United States.

Yesterday we were touring the battleground called Shiloh . We find it interesting how the battle related to the topography, the ground, how the army was pushed up against the river and were only saved by reinforcements by water during the night.

So, during the day we spent tracing the history upon the land, we met another fellow doing the same in company with his daughter. You could tell that he was almost agitated with the excitement of day. We talked for a while. He was a southerner and traced his lineage to participants in the battle. He hailed originally from the Cumberland region of eastern Tennessee. He was a retired college professor and a wholly likable gentleman.

Our conversation touched on a subject that has stayed with me... that started me considering. The question we both wondered was this: How could men who were neighbors be pushed to the passionate savagery needed for this kind of killing. Official numbers put the total casualties --killed, wounded and missing -- at nearly 25,OOO.

Here are my reflections later in the evening, after we had retired to the woodland where our camper is now stationed: Throughout history, wars are fought between groups of people who differ in race/color, language, or religion. Both sides realize that "they are not like us" so savagery is made easier by some degree. For confirmation, simply consider our relatively recent wars: Korea, Viet Nam, and those bloody incursions into the middle east.

But, here at Shiloh there were none of those differences. Both sides were Americans; both were the same color, the same religion and spoke the same language. Perhaps this conundrum is a key reason why we Americans have been so obsessed with the civil war since the 186O's. How could neighbors, brothers and aquaintances do this to each other?

It was an invigorating day with spring in full force. Dogwood and redbud were in amazing flower. The sun shone yesterday upon the killing fields where almost at this same time of year soldiers drank from "bloody Pond" were dead men and horses had turned with water red. That happened on April 6 and 7, 1862.

I wish now that we had our southern acqaintance from yesterday for some more "considering".

Bonus question: Guess which key on my computer keyboard has stopped working? I was gonna put some neat photos with today's blog. But technology is failing us on this trip. One laptop has gone belly up and the ancient backup computer we keep as backup can't read the camera card. So, use your imagination!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Going footloose for a while

It has been this way for many years. Since I was a kid I have appreciated the feeling one gets just before setting out on an extended journey. It is that way now. We leave today.

And, like many other trips, this time we are also a little weak on planning. We like it that way. We happen upon things and experiences without anticipating them. No schedule!

Here's how we plan: We mark off days on our calendar for travel days a full year ahead. We say, "We're gonna be gone here, on those days that have X's on them." Quite often don't know our destination until shortly before leaving. This time we knew only that we were going to take the RV (5th wheel trailer).

Then someone said, "how about we head down to the Natchez Trace?" We agreed that the direction was right, as we would be heading into the northward march of spring. We could piddle around on the Trace we figured, which is something like 440 miles long, take in some neat civil war battlefields while we were about it, and do some serious relaxing. And, since we have been on portions of the trace before, we know there are some interesting experiences to be had under spanish moss-laden trees. Oh yes, and then there are the birds, and flowers and flowering trees and gentle southern breezes.

We were arranging to meet our Canadian pal, Cathy Collins, on the Trace as she returned home from her usual winter in Mexico with her tiny Scamp trailer . But she learned at the last minute that her brother in Scotland had died and she had to beat a direct path home. We will miss her this year.

So, PeeVee (our dog) has had a bath, we are mostly packed, and before long I will hook the whole rig together and get it in traveling mode. Cell phones are wonderful as they allow us to transfer our land line to the cell and get all calls we normally woujld. A laptop with an "air card" usually gets us internet access as we move about. And with a solar (photovoltaic) system on the roof of the camper, we can stop and be quite comfortable virtually anywhere.

Gotta get going now. I'm gonna slap in a photo of some camping spot we have had in the past. We'll see!

The Hired Man, Missus, and dogpal PeeVee

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What happened to that big mushroom?

We ate it! We sliced it up, dipped it in an egg mixture then rolled it in flour. The frying pan did the rest. Now remember, the mushroom in question is a false morel, a fungus that the books say can cause some problems when eaten.

Didn't happen! The hired man and the missus at Rock Eddy Bluff Farm ate their share. We were followed by our daughter, who was here at the time, and her two children (Ages 1 yr. and nearly 3 yrs.). There was no effect from the mushrooms.

That mushroom was delicious! As you can see from the picture, the mushroom fried up well. We actually ate it for breakfast, and, as I remember, we had little else until noon. The picture shows what was left.

We have found nine small common morels in our drive and will escort them to our digestive tracts soon. It occurs to me that with mushroom season coming on strong, you may like some reliable information. Here are a couple of websites: Mid-Missouri M0rels and Mushrooms and see what the Missouri Department of Conservation has to say.

We will be hunting the little morsels this spring. But we are headed to the Natchez trace in a couple of days. We'll send reports from there and also picts of any "scrooms" that we might happen upon.

Think Spring, The Hired Man and Missus

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I can't help myself

Perhaps I can be forgiven for staying with a subject. It is just that the first rumblings of the new growing season seem so powerful to me. I will spare you all the talk about renewal and the flowery metaphors for spring. Better, I want to show what things look like this morning here in the Ozarks. The photos are only minutes old.

We discovered this mushroom yesterday and waited to harvest it. In the Ozark parlance, this is known as a "red one". The reason is that most native folk around here recognize only the two most common edible mushrooms. The call them red ones and white ones. The white ones are actually common morels. This "red one" is a false morel. They are larger than the white ones. Now, the experts say to be careful with eating the false morels. They say that sometimes eating them can cause serious illness in some people. However, everyone I know eats them without affect, and so do we (and so will be have this one for breakfast tomorrow).
Knowing that there was a remarkable glade of bluebell flowers under the bluffs at Clifty Creek, we ventured there to see. What we found was a treat; bluebells covering the ground beside the babbling creek, under the giant white skeletons of sycamore trees. There we also found our first view of Dutchman's Britches"

And looking up the creek we see the first hints of color arriving. Leaves the size of your pinkie fingernails are appearing, particularly in elm trees. Red bud trees are just beginning to bloom. So are dogwoods. For those who pay attention to the usual sequence of such things, this year has been odd. Every woodland early blooming tree appears to be in about the same stage: red bud, dogwood, service berry, and wild plump.

And perhaps March 31 is a little early for "red ones", but there it is. We are pumped up for spring. Hope you are too.
From the hills, The Hired Man and The Missus