P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Home, an oasis of garden and gracious living!

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After studying up on P. Allen Smith, I must say the man is quite impressive, this farmer/nurseryman is an author, TV host, gardener, chef and designer and all of those elements are obvious at his garden mountain retreat outside of Little Rock Arkansas. P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Home is open for tours and I was part of a garden group honored to tour and dine at his Moss Mountain estate.

the garden home is set on 500 acres and while the home is new, however, it was built to appear to be of the 1840’s time period when the farm was originally established. Out his back view visitors can see the gardens fall away to the banks of the Arkansas River. Directly behind the house is a croquet lawn framed by Smith’s summer kitchen and art studio.

The gardens that surround the house include a fountain garden and a mix of annuals, herbs, perennials, roses, shrubs and ornamental grasses. His property also has orchards with heritage apple trees, stone fruit and blueberries and the vegetable garden that he uses for his recipes. While there we were lucky enough to sample some of the wonderful recipes he created like his Southern Buttermilk Pecan pie!

P. Allen Smith is a farmer at heart. Born on March 13, 1960heis a fourth-generation nursery operator that was raised in Morrison, Tennessee. Smith went to Hendrix College and received a Rotary International Scholarship to study garden design and history at the University of Manchester in England where according to his bio he also studied English gardens visited by both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century. After coming back to Little Rock, Smith entered the garden-design nursery business with his brother and became a private tour guide and started teaching garden workshops. These popular workshops led to his appearances on TV shows and ultimately his own show.

Today another passion that P. Allen Smith has is poultry. Growing up on a farm where he raised and showed livestock and poultry, as an adult he has established the Heritage Poultry Conservancy, an organization that is dedicated to the preservation and support of all threatened breeds of domestic poultry.

We had free rein at the mountain home and enjoyed the gardens, the home, the food and even the colorful chickens. If you have the chance to head this way, consider a visit. For more information log onto http://www.pallensmith.com/garden-home-retreat/visit.

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Pecking away in the Governor’s Lawn

On the bus tour to garden destinations in Arkansas, Harry Lewis and his wife Shelly were our guides along with Anne Kramer who planned the trip. During the trip I found out that along with keeping the lawn in tip top shape that Lewis, the, Executive Mansion Horticulturist also has a flock of hens at the mansion. Today I went to interview him about the chickens that are used to assist with composting for a Farm World story. It took a bit for me to wrap around the idea of chickens on the Governor’s lawn but the fact that they repurpose so many things and that the chickens assist with creating compost all makes sense.

With four breeds represented among the nine hens the chickens have already supplied two batches of compost and an amazing array of eggs. Daily they lay six to eight eggs each. The flock besides helping with compost also offers visitors a view of preservation of heritage breeds and an image of what a backyard flock looks like. In Springfield, Lewis said that residents are allowed to keep chickens as long as they are clean and orderly. Roosters are discouraged because of the noise.

The hens are quite lovely with their bright plumage and the visit was an interesting one. With newly place pavers around the garden provided by the Granite Man traversing the lawn is simple even in damp weather like we had during my visit. Lewis said they found a fire place mantle in the mansion basement that is being repurposed into a fire pit, this is new along with the rearrangement of statues to be more visible so if you are like me and have not been to the gardens for a while, it is new and different.

They are starting preparations for the Holidays, but if you have time, come see the chickens before the snow flies and the coop is covered on 3-sides to keep the hens warm. A walk around the Executive grounds might even get you a cackle or two from one of the “girls” in the pen and bring you a grin!

For more information, log onto http://www.springfield-il.com/attract/mansion.html for details. DSC01832

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Head for the water and the boatel!

My brother in law Wayne used to sing the praises of a place called the Boatel that was located in Naples, Illinois along the Illinois River. I never got a chance to venture that way and enjoy the fabled catfish before this cultural icon suffered a blazing fire that it could not recover from. This past weekend though I was able to travel with my husband, daughter and grand children and sample the wonders of the new Evandy Boatel. We loved it, pure and simple.
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The view is magical and the food was wonderful. The scenery in the area is quite picturesque although the port of Naples is now a sleepy town rather than the bustling stop between the Lawrence Sea Way and the Gulf of Mexico it was once built to serve. The first Naples Boatel that Wayne so loved according to the website, began, “…in 1958 when Paul Vannier and his wife Dorothy envisioned a welcome port for all boaters traveling between the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Gulf of Mexico. The Boatel was built by Mr. Vannier, a self taught carpenter, from wood salvaged from the old, abandoned Continental Grain Elevator on the same site that the old grain elevator once stood. During construction, Vannier and his family reportedly lived in four rooms above the restaurant while he worked to complete the restaurant, bar, and dining room.”

Finished in 1959, the first boatel was just that, a boat with “six sleeping rooms, a kitchen, dining room, a small bar and a large wraparound screened-in porch. The business boasted as a one stop shop on the Illinois River was just that. It was a motel, restaurant and gas station. Naples which was once the loading and unloading point for steamboat freight from New Orleans and St. Louis to Central Illinois now had a new “port” where automobile and boat travelers along the Illinois River, could enjoy a great catfish dinner, a cool drink, and hospitality with great views of passing barges and other river traffic.”
The boatel had a variety of owners until the horrific fire in 1991 that destroyed the restaurant. It was a group of locals that wanted to bring back the memories of sunsets on the River and Sunday dinners that the whole family could enjoy.

It was local farmer Eric Van Gundy in the spring of 2007 that brought the idea to friends Charlie and Nancy Evans. The three agreed and today the boatel is new again with an upscale look that says fine dining upstairs and a casual eat outside venue underneath the restaurant that offers panoramic views of the water.
Famous for the catfish, the new Evandy Boatel is still famous for its catfish and other great food as well. I enjoyed the crab cake while my daughter had to go with the fried chicken special. There were kid’s meals for the grandkids and the lunch was a success all around!

For details log onto the website at http://www.evandysboatel.com/index.html.

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Ellisville Post Office Museum, a glimpse of the postal past!

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I’ve been reading a historical romance and in the book they speak of posting a letter, by messenger.  It is hard to imagine what life would have been like without the trusty post office or the advent of email and texting to get your message across and the long wait to hear from a loved one or business associate.  At times in your life, everything would have been hanging in the balance waiting, waiting for that scrap of paper to determine your fate.  I know we wait today to hear if we got a job, into a school etc. but once the decision is made, the wait is much shorter than in days gone by to receive the  news.

When traveling along the Spoon River Drive this past weekend, I was able to get a glimpse into the postal past with the Ellisville Post Office Museum.  Sitting out in front of the post office was the rural delivery wagon that belonged to the first rural route postmaster Homer Overcast. Rural delivery for the post office was established in 1905. Mail was carried by this wagon to the rural occupants.

The Ellisville post office was established in 1838 by Levi Ellis, the first postmaster, who, ironically was the same man who laid out the town.  There is a historical marker for Ellis’s grave so he is still revered in the area today.

The post office did not have a building to call its own until 1939 when the post office moved into this building that is now the museum.  The building was first used as a bank in 1907.  Over the years it was used for a tavern and many other things until becoming the post office in 1939.

In 1940, the first woman post mistress, Elizabeth Ware was hired.  She served until 1972 moving the post office up the ladder from a 4th class post office to a 3rd class classification.  The post office moved once more in 1979 when a new building was built.

I enjoyed the chance to learn more about this little town along the Spoon River’s scenic byway!

For more information about the drive or Ellisville, write Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive, P.O. Box 525, Canton, Illinois 61520or telephone us at (309) 647-8980.  E-mail us at spoonriverdrive@mail.com

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Peter Cartwright, a gravesite for reflection

Last week I was traveling toward Virginia, Illinois when I spied a sign that said that outside of the town of Pleasant Plains was the gravesite of Peter Cartwright.  I start shuffling through my history lessons and sadly all I can come up with is Bonanza and thoughts of the Cartwright family on the western television show Bonanza.  I decided to drive out to the gravesite to see what I could learn about a man that was worthy of a historic marker along the highway.

At the site I learned several things that made me want to know more.  He had been an effective Methodist Preacher and served in the War of 1812.  I decided to do a bit of research and found that this Peter Cartwright had been a charismatic Circuit riding preacher that made his mark on the Christian faith by baptizing almost 10,000 converts, and preaching around 15,000 sermons in his more than 50 year career.  He had preached the gospel first in Kentucky and Tennessee until he decided to transfer to Illinois because he did not support slavery.

Besides his Christian faith and serving in various offices in the Methodist church, Cartwright also served in the Illinois legislature and made a bid for congress losing to Abraham Lincoln.  He also made an unsuccessful bid for Governor. Unlike today, Rev. Cartwright had no problem  mixing religion with politics and from the research I did, that was probably why he lost his bid for congress along with his aversion to alcohol.

It wasn’t until the age of 15 that Peter Cartwright found God. Before that he lived the life of a wild frontier boy with his father supporting his “boys will be boys” mentality.  His devout mother along with preaching at a camp meeting set Cartwright on the path to living a faith filled life that never left him after his conversion at 15.

Now I know who Peter Cartwright is and will try to slow down the pace a bit to stop at the wayside signs pointing out the history that makes up the fabric of our landscapes!

Peter Cartwright's grave

Peter Cartwright’s grave

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America’s Cup, a place where innovation is king!

Larry and Diane Pankey just got their liquor license so they can sell wine and beer at their antique store America’s Cup.  The store is so named because of a painted advertisement on the side of their store that was once a grocery store. The picture says, American’s Cup an ad for a coffee company that had been in Peoria, Illinois.  The Pleasant Plains based couple decided to keep the name in honor of the former owners Bill and Gloria Kelso that had the painting retouched during the 70’s.

The store has a lot of very cool touches like a rope elevator and the new bar that Larry, a retired shop teacher made from doors found in the basement of the store.  “We repurpose everything,” Larry said.

The mirror above the bar came from tennis star Jimmy Connors casino that was once in Henderson Nevada. Who knew Jimmy Connors had a casino?

Larry’s personal collection of tools hangs above the bar and Larry has a story for each one.  An ox yoke he bought at a garage sale was used to move a family from Kentucky to Johnson City, Illinois. They yoke had a broken piece and Larry crafted the piece out of a hickory oak.  Innovation is king at America’s Cup.  I was charmed by the Pankey’s and the store.

This was a looking for something and stopped for directions stop. Next time I will go ready to shop and sip a local wine while I do.

For those that want to visit America’s Cup and see Larry’s display, they are located at 100 West Main Street in Pleasant Plains and are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Call 217-626-1258 or log onto their Facebook page!https://www.facebook.com/AmericasCupAntiques/info for more information.

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The harvest stopping show

As a farmer’s wife, I know there are not many times that he will shut down the combine but a short morning trip to the Jacksonville Steam show is one time he will. As long as we are ahead of the game, it is an annual trek to head out to the Prairieland Museum grounds and soak up the tractors and the huge flea market where he usually spies a bargain or two.  This year though I admit to hitting it big with some doll clothes that will fit the American Girl doll my grand daughter just got for her 5th Birthday.  A cute coat, hat, boots and of course purse and PJ’s later, I was set.  He had a bit of literature, a wrench and I don’t know what else before we high tailed it back home to the fields.

Allis Chalmers was the featured tractor at this years event.  Keith’s favorite was am AC potato special, but I was quite taken with the Palamino Roof tractor that looks like a jeep.  I admit it, I want a jeep.  I have one, but it hasn’t made it through the to do list in the farmer’s shed.  Hopefully this winter it will top the list.

The show offered great  weather and a chance for a last tractor show fling before the snow flies.  The toy season is just around the corner!

The grounds of the Prairieland Museum offers some beautiful buildings like the Jacksonville Bandstand built in the late 1890’s.  While there is no one in the office to take calls, Bob Kominck will take appointments to open up the museum that offers a wide array of farm equipment.. He can be reached at 217-494-2193.  Log onto http://prairielandheritage.wordpress.com for more information.

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Longshadows, a business and garden retreat in the Shawnee Hills

Recently I went on a bus trip which was a first in itself.  My mom and I headed out with the ultimate destination Little Rock, Arkansas with a stop in southern, Illinois along the way.  When I told her we were going to a garden container site, she was not excited. That was, until we got there.  Charlotte and Daniel Ward, garden designers have carved a beautiful spot on a 100 acre hilltop in the Shawnee Hills near Pomona, Illinois.

The area is known for its wineries, wild beauty, Southern Illinois University, but not really for thriving businesses.  Daniel Ward attended school at SIU decades ago and lamented that if there was ever a chance to make a living in this lovely neck of the woods he would do it.  When he and Charlotte set out on an adventure to manufacture their own dry lime stone planters, pedestals, finials, figures, pool surrounds, benches, birdbaths and beautiful barriers in Arts & Crafts, Prairie and Traditional styles, for exterior residential and commercial use they chose a rundown farm and got to work.

One look at the original pictures of the house and buildings and you realize what a labor of love and amount of work went into the creation of this beautiful place where they make classic containers.  Needless to say before we left Longshadow mom and I both just wanted to sit in a chair on the hilltop under a tree and glance from side to side to take it all in.

It is not often I have met employees that have such glowing words for their job.  Doing something you love is not a job, but a joy and the 20 some people engaged in their architecture/art seem to fit into that category.

If you are ever heading down Pamona way, do yourself a favor and call ahead and make an appointment to take a look around the Wards realization of their dream.  On the bus heading to Little Rock, the Wards came along to see the garden destinations that awaited us and took the time to tell me their story for an upcoming article in Farm World

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Longshadow is located at 83 Longshadow Lane, Pomona, Illinois 62975.  Call 618-893-4831 for more information or to make an appointment to see their amazing products.

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The George Tractor Co. at 25th Annual Antique Power Days Farm Show at Salem Illinois

Sometimes you see something that shouts out story, story, story and at this year’s show in Salem, Illinois that featured lawn and garden tractors it was the George Company tractors.  I had never seen this brand of tractor and when I heard the story, I was transfixed, especially because I don’t live that far from Sullivan, Illinois where the tractors were built.  The tractor production began as a way to keep members of the Church of Jesus Christ employed during World War II.  As conscientious objectors holding jobs was hard to do during this time period when everyone was signing up for service.

The church started up the lawn and garden division under the umbrella of Community Industries, Ltd.  They first made a tractor called the Du-It which Gary Davis had on display at the show.  The church started a candy and ladies fashion division as well to keep the female members employed while the men folk worked in the lawn and garden division.  The George Garden Tool section took off with the walking mowers as well as the snow blower that became very popular.

When they expanded too far the company had to be sold and went through a number of owners.  When the last owner MTD was ready to pull the plug, the church members bought the buildings back and started up Agri-Fab that makes lawn and garden attachments.  More in depth coverage of the company will be coming in an issue of the Lawn and Garden Collector Magazine and a different take will be in Farm World.The Antique Power Days offered interesting history of life in central Illinois

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Bob Dunn a fireman with a passion for collecting

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My friend Annie Jansen and I decided to meet up and play tourist in the city of Taylorville, IL which was not too far from where either of us live.  While checking out the shops on Taylorville’s square that surrounds the Courthouse where kids cruise on the weekends and the downtown where many community activities take place, we stumbled upon Collections of Professions a shop where Bob Dunn, a Captain in the Taylorville Fire Department sells statues, guns and ammos and houses his huge collection of fire fighting toys and memorabilia.

In an interview with Bob for an article for Toy Trucker, I learned that Bob has wanted to be a fireman since he was three years old. Today at 47 Bob said he still loves the job he has had since 1996.  Years before he was a professional fireman, he was a volunteer like his father and grandfather.  Today he owns his store, an ambulance service and is a full time fire fighter with enough time somewhere and somehow to collect very cool fire fighting items.

Anyone that collects trucks will be enamored with Bob’s collection.  He has Nylant, Tonka and a series of other trucks an enthusiast will recognize.  For me, it was the historical items like the hand pulled Watras Fire Hose Cart that really caught my attention.  In the museum there is a salesman sample that includes these red globes that Bob said were once filled with tetra chloride.

“The globes were thrown at the base of the fire,” Bob explained. “They had carbon tetra chloride and would make the fire go out.”

His collection includes helmets and coats, some that were Bob’s as he made his way up the ranks.  He has his first helmet and his last. Bob is also a certified arson investigator and currently is the 3rd highest ranking member of the department.  The items on display he said could not be used for fire fighting today, but they show how fireman dress and work and statues and many plaques and other items reflect the courage it takes to answer the call to serve.

If in Taylorville, Illinois and like Annie and I you are looking for something special to do, stop by!

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