Sunday, April 29, 2012

Farm Heritage Days, Labadie, MO

The ad said, "Labadie Station Antique Tractor Farm Heritage Days, April 28 & 29, 2012. Antique and vintage tractors and implements of ALL makes, models and conditions to be displayed and demonstrated." Well, resistance was futile. These things, like old cars, make me happy; they were thoughtfully designed and made to last, pure love-letters of American engineering, and my dad built Case tractors on their assembly line. Sunday in the little town of Labadie I saw mostly FarmAlls, but some John Deeres and one Allis-Chalmers, and the gas-powered 8-inch diaphragm water pump (view it in action) and the 1870s freight wagon, plus I watched the blacksmith at his forge. What you see above is a 1953 FarmAll B, a two-seater. Also displayed were several FarmAll Cubs with single seats, and a stunning bright-yellow FarmAll, 1946. The bluegrass band was kickin' out some John Denver and Woody Guthrie despite the cloudy chilly day. The little girl was put in the 1957 FarmAll tractor seat by her grandaddy. Ain't she a punkin?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tommy Toes II

The Tommy Toe tomato seeds planted last Thursday looked this way on Monday. I'm thrilled. New life! Summer tomatoes!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ye Shall Know Them

I plant arugula, a peppery little salad green, always, because it's easy to grow -- like a weed, the more you ignore it the better -- and because it's expensive at the store. The seeds resemble poppy seeds. In March I poked a pencil tip into the cold ground, dropped a seed in the hole, and after 30 days, ruffly healthy plants. Clip the larger leaves to eat and the plant will generously make some more.

The most helpful quotation I know comes from gardening: "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20). It reminds me that we are what we do, not what we say. You can gauge moral character by the results of people's actions, by the grace or disorder they leave in their wake. Just sayin'.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tommy Toes

 "Tommy Toes" is a real Ozark heirloom tomato, a bush that pumps 'em out til the last week of October unbothered by heat, droughts, frosts, and the soil around here. Demetrius grew and fed us heirloom tomatoes named Boxcar Willie, Mister Stripey, and Mortgage Lifter, but only Tommy Toes grow like mad. I got it from the catalog Totally Tomatoes, which sells only seed packets, not plants. Demetrius grew all his vegetables from seeds but this is my first time, and I did what I had watched him do, and felt the same holy love.

One tiny ivory seed per pocket
Grape-sized tomatoes means squirrels and hornworms don't wreck them before we get some, and we can pop 'em into our mouths anytime we're nearby. So the Tommy Toe is the right tomato in the right place.

How to germinate: Poke holes in all 12 pockets of an egg carton, fill each with organic potting soil, set in each one tiny ivory seed, cover 'em up with soil, water, and set in warm sunshine 70 to 80 degrees. Cartons are easier than flats to carry and manage. Our frost-free date is May 15 so seedlings won't be planted til then. I'll have extra for the neighbor's garden. Happy Earth Day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

St. John's Church, Mount Hope, MO

This gorgeous April day I found St. John's E&R Church of Christ, a 1905 country church along Highway 47. Although it's labeled "Mt. Hope, MO" it's technically in today's St. Clair in Franklin County. Behind it is Mount Hope Cemetery with a great vista, and some of the gravestones facing the vista (nice). The church looks fragile but it has a ramp so it must be in use. The windows are covered with wood painted a beautiful soft green. The unlovely outhouse is separate, as it is in all good classic wooden country churches.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It Called Me "Earthling"

This crawled out from beneath the dishwasher. I was at the table eating chicken salad, which, at the sight of this rather large plump entity, suddenly tasted unpleasant. I took another sip of wine, wiped my spectacles with my napkin, and looked again and darned if it wasn't still there. Heavy rains probably drove it indoors, but exactly how it got in I don't know. I believe it is a "Broad-Headed Skink" (Eumeces laticeps) and the book says it lives "near dilapidated farm buildings," which well describes the Divine Cabin and environs. It is unlike the Five-Lined Skink, with which I am very familiar because it plays MahJongg at the Community Center every Monday night. During droughts, lizards and skinks will also frequently seek the Divine Cabin's hospitality. I'm sending this photo in as a cover photo for Midwest Living magazine.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

View From Hughes Mountain

Some of the oldest exposed rock in the world, 1.5 billion years old (that's old!), can be seen on Hughes Mountain, an ancient volcano in a Natural Area south of Potosi, MO, in Washington County, just off of Highway M. Most people don't know that this area of eastern Missouri, the St. Francois Mountains that you see, so rich with lead and iron, is not your mother's Missouri. It's igneous or volcanic rock: lava. This area was once a bunch of boiling volcanic islands that blew their tops. On the trail, keep going, keep going, up the stream bed; it takes about half an hour from start to to the big open glade at the top. You'll see rocks and columns six-sided or four-sided, like cubes, crystals, bricks, Lego pieces.

This area is locally called the Devil's Honeycomb (geologists say, "polygonal joining") and geologically it's like the Devil's Tower in Wyoming. The Hughes family came from Tennessee in 1810 and bought 120 acres of the mountain, but couldn't make a living out of the soil here so John Hughes and wife Suzanna ran a grist mill. The Department of Conservation has added 306 more acres to the area. Not too far away is a better-known Eastern Missouri volcanic-rock attraction: the Elephant Rocks. But Hughes Mountain and perfect weather suited me just fine on a day that I got my work done early and said, "Let's go somewhere I've never been." Click on the photo for the full panoramic view.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ideal Spring Meal

Forget those pesky taxes for a minute and have some dinner. (Cooked for me and presented by Tim and JoAnne who live in the city.) Start with a glass of champagne. The meal centers on lamb roasted to rare perfection. And then whole new potatoes boiled in their jackets, with butter and parsley. And spinach salad with pecans and dried cherries in a lemony vinaigrette. And (partially hidden) the finest Greek Shrimp ever: plump juicy perfectly-cooked shrimp with chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped fresh oregano, and feta. Then a "sardo"  (Missouri pronunciation) roll with crisp crust. Slather plenty of butter on that. In fact, there's a basket of 'em on the table so you can have two. Then new peas with pearl onions. To drink: Wine, of course. Dessert? From a Mexican bakery, Tres Leches (three-milk) cake with whipped-cream frosting. Coffee for those done drinking wine. And then chocolate truffles. One of the finest meals on earth. Celebrate life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Threatening Sky

In our corner of eastern Missouri we're all still so shell-shocked by the tornadoes that tore a concourse off the airport last year and flattened Joplin last May that dark skies here unnerve us, just a little. People drive faster, heading for home. I've found out, traveling out west, that you have to live in a place for several years to be able to read its sky. But there's nothing like the ink-and-indigo colors of a Midwestern storm about to unzip the firmament and unleash torrents of rain, which are then pulled into silver ingots by the wind. An Iowa painter named Grant Wood, in some paintings, captured this kind of Midwestern sky and the strange sunlight often paired with it. Facing southeast on Highway F about 6 p.m.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Find the Greensnake

Suddenly I saw it in the poison ivy, which is still pale green and a bit sparse. It was hanging festooned in there, so well camouflaged it took my country-sharpened eye to see it. I got my camera. So eager was I to get theses photo for us that I poison-ivied my right forearm, the first poison ivy of the year. Worth it. And to watch it slink away suspended in poison ivy branches--priceless. In the vertical picture the snake twines up from the bottom of the photo, around a branch.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter, the Bunny Holiday

City friends Suzanne and Tom, invited for lunch, brought an Easter basket they custom-made and wrapped for me. They even curled the ribbon. I almost cried from their thoughtfulness. No malt-ball eggs or nougat stuff here. Pure chocolate bunnies and Bissinger peanut-butter-chocolate eggs -- and a three-pack of microfiber quarter socks in bright pink, blue and teal green! They are great! These are the kind of friends to have over on a holiday -- or anytime -- even if they do think a woman living alone on 100 acres is eccentric and in a bit of danger. Au contraire! A woman alone is not looking for trouble. She is looking for transcendence.

In return they got ham au gratin and banana cream pudding made from scratch, a Florida recipe, sort of Southern and not often served here. Missourians aren't pudding people. But it blew away every dessert expectation anyone could have. The whole thing serves 12 and it contains exactly two tablespoons of sugar and no more. Next time I make one, I'll be sure to take its picture before anyone gets at it, and also post the amazingly simple recipe.

This happens to be post #500 in Divinebunbun's Rugged Rural Missouri blog, begun in June 2007. Celebrate by eating marshmallow chickens and chocolate carrots and putting on bright socks.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Last Supper Re-Enactment, Pacific, MO

On Good Friday, the Pacific Christian Church put on its annual Last Supper re-enactment with samples of Passover foods. Beardless Jesus is second from left; bearded Judas sits on his left and beloved John on his right. That Supper was a Passover meal and the audience heard the Passover songs and prayers and, in little plastic containers, got tastes of unleavened bread, bitter herbs (parsley in salt water that represented the tears of the enslaved Hebrews), and roast lamb (wow), and grape juice subbing for wine. The kids asked questions as is traditional at Passover, and a woman was there because women light the candles and of course a woman must have been serving and cleaning up. Just as the Bible says, Judas was fingered as the betrayer and fled into the night; Peter was crushed to learn he would deny Jesus three times before dawn. It was a miracle that the church or their wives talked these guys into dressing up and doing this, and one of them had glasses on, but it was a respectful performance and a really good spiritual experience.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Carmel and The Shooting Berm

Carmel promised the gun club could practice shooting on her land, but to do it some earth had to be moved into a pile to absorb our projectiles and keep everyone safe. She hired a guy with an earth mover to build what is called a shooting berm and invited me to be the first to blow some bullets at it with my Colt .38. Some trees were cut down to make room, and the stumps help to brace the pile of earth, eventually to be covered with nice grass. Cost $900. Benefits: Fun, socializing, and firearm practice! Carmel has also ordered target stands and other desirable range accessories. Who first put a firearm in Carmel's hand? I did! Now she's a great shot, using her ex's Hallmark cards and valentines as targets.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When Lilacs at Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

 Called my neighbor Sherri and asked, "Would you like some lilacs?"

They're on the cliff edge facing the road and grow nowhere else on the property. Have to sidle out onto the cliff top, very carefully, because it's sandstone and eroding. If I'm going there I thought I might as well clip enough for two, because they are too fragrant not to share. And because every one of our Moms had some lilac something. Because we see them for only a week per year.
      So I wrapped them in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and delivered lilac branches to Sherri. And while we chatted I admired her two raised garden boxes, one with lettuce growing, and several kale plants with small tender leaves. I love to eat kale, but my yard is unfenced, and when I was allowed to plant them, bunnies ate them down to a nub before I could. Sherri invited me to just clip the kale plants and take them, to make room to plant summer vegetables. So I scored some baby kale! I call that a fair trade!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hello, Southern Coal Skink

While I was cutting patches for the porch screens about noon, a rustling next to the pump house made me think, "It's the blacksnake." But the resident blacksnake is usually noiseless. More rustling. I went to look. Saw something unusual, cumin-colored, fat and glossy. I thought, "The glass lizard," but when I went outside with the camera and knelt by the ivy that covers fallen oak leaves, I saw its face and little alligator legs. What intelligent eyes. I said, "Hello."

When I moved too close it backed up beneath the ivy so that only its tail showed. I said, "I can still see you." The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri by Tom R. Johnson, the only handbook ever needed around here, ID'd it as Southern Coal Skink, plump body, stubby legs and all. Latin: Eumeces anthracinus pluvialis Cope. This is a female. The male has orange patches on its cheeks because it doesn't know how to blend foundation.