Good Earth Garden Center a little muck raking going on!

On a garden bus trip tour to Arkansas we stopped at the Good Earth Garden Center which was a very cool place to buy fountains, plants and an amazing gift shop. Being an antique tractor and equipment enthusiast I was excited when I spied a manure spreader and old tractor. At the center they had a good eye for adding old iron to their displays.

I went up close to get a good look at it and got talking to another woman on the trip. We were both looking at this piece of agricultural history and we got talking. It turned out that my husband and his brothers most likely baled hay at her father’s farm in their younger days. Her father is gone now and she lives in the city. The baling crew is no more, but for a few short minutes at the Good Earth Garden Center memories from long ago lived on.

Log on to for details.

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Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock where justice is beautiful

This house of justice in Little Rock located on Markham Avenue not far from the Arkansas River is quite lovely. Located directly across the street from the Doubletree hotel where we stayed on a recent bus trip to Little Rock my mom and I during our early morning jaunt took a stroll (after going through security that is) to oogle at the beauty of the rotunda, the statues and the details that went into this building where legal matters and serious activities take place on a daily basis.

While not the usual tourist stop, who can resist beautiful architecture? The security at the courthouse got a kick out of our interest in their lovely building and allowed us to take a quick circuit of the building. Beauty can often be found in unexpected places






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The Capital Hotel is capital!

Although all we had was a quick glimpse of the lovely Capital Hotel my mom and I could tell on our early morning venture in September in Little Rock that the hotel was superb. With lovely cast iron façade the outside of the hotel is quite striking.

The hotel is aptly named since it sits just down the street from both the new and old state Capital Building. The Capital Hotel was first called the Denckla Block and housed offices, shops, and gentlemen’s apartments for businessmen. Built in 1872 by William P. Denckla, a wealthy New York railroad tycoon in 1877 the building became an upscale hotel. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture states, “The new hotel got its name from a Little Rock matron, Mrs. Morehead Wright…Wright noted that it was a “capital enterprise located in a capital building” in the “capital of the state,” which she hoped would be a “capital success.”

One legend of the hotel states that one of the visitors was President Ulysses S. Grant and that the Capital’s unusually large elevator was built to allow Grant to take his horse to his hotel room. Over time the hotel changed hands and was the site of many political activites. After falling into decline, the hotel was restored to its original beauty and in 2013, Forbes Travel Guide awarded the Capital Hotel a four-star rating. We wandered into the lobby of the lovely hotel oohed and ahhed and headed down the road.

While we were quite comfortable in the Double Tree down the street, I will admit to a bit of hotel envy when we strode though the lobby of his historic building before we moved on.

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Early morning wanderings led to unexpected H. U. Lee International Gate and Garden

On a trip to Little Rock my mom and I continued our usual tradition of an early morning walk. It is amazing what you can see as the sun comes over the horizon in a new city. We were staying at the Double Tree along the Arkansas River and after traversing past the beautiful Old State House Museum and the Capital Hotel we came upon the astounding H.U. Lee International Gate and Garden.

We were greeted by an 80-ton Douglas fir gate that was handcrafted by South Korea artisans and leads to a garden. We walked through the gate to find an array of statues a fountain and a reflecting pond. Familiar with Foo Dogs because my parents collected them, we were amazed by the beauty of this spot in downtown Arkansas. The H. U. Lee International Gate and Garden Ifound is a symbol of friendship between South Korea and America honoring Lee, the founder of the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). The gate wasa gift to Arkansas by the family of the late H.U. Lee, founder of the ATA, whose international headquarters are in Little Rock.

Early morning musings sometimes lead to wonderful surprises!






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Dancing the night away, VFW style! – Picture by Rose Hammitt

The Springfield VFW Post 755 on Fridays nights is the place to be to trip the light fantastic especially if you like the oldies but goodies. Kevin Turner’s band plays dance tunes that dancers with much more skill that I ever had or will have use to float across the room like dancing on a cloud.

I went to the VFW to cover Helen Turner’s 100th Birtdhday. I went with my friend Rose who used to go every Friday with her late father. It was a bit nostalgic / sad for Rose who took the pictures of an amazing dancing Helen as she danced the polka and the waltz.

The group that comes to the dances are on the far side of 50, but all are welcome and this dance group showed me a kinder gentler time when dancing was king and dress up was the norm. Think about putting on your dancing shoes getting all dolled up and swaying with your sweetie to songs of yesteryear

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East Pike Lending Library, a lovely building with a special story


For the first time my husband and I took part in the Pike County Fall Color Drive. One of the towns along this gloriously beautiful countryside was the small burg of Detroit. We checked out a bake sale, a doll collection and spied a lovely old brick building with a table of books outside.

Curious I was drawn in by the beauty of the old building that Susan Manker and other residents have converted to a library for the community. The building was sold in the mid 1800’s and was once a grocery store and many other things.

Susan said that the community with a whopping population of around 83 was in need of a place where kids could see books for free without having to pay a fee, late library rates or drive a distance. So Susan and other community members collected donations to fill the shelves after revamping this old, lovely building and started a library for the town. It was interesting looking through a book that a friend had made for Susan and the other volunteers showing them tackling dry wall, building shelves and creating the library with nothing but guts and determination.

“This summer kids were here every day,” Susan said adding that for many this is the only connection to the Internet they have available. Many students come in to use the computers for homework.

Since Susan is a teacher she knows all about the needs for Internet and reference materials. The shelves are filling, the building lovely and the library reverberates with good intentions and success. As an author of children’s farm books along with Jane Aumann who is also a teacher, we were quite touched by the efforts Susan and her friends went to bringing the dream of a reading sanctuary to the children and residents of Detroit and surrounding towns

According to their Facebook page, “The East Pike Lending Library is located in Detroit, IL and is in the beginning stages of becoming a free library to the residents of Detroit and the surrounding communities.”

Susan wrote on their page that during their first year of operation from October 2013 to October of 2014 that 1,336 people came though their door. To find out more about this fun stop, log onto

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Come to the 3rd Annual Craft Fair at Trinity Luthern Church Oct. 25th

Fall festivals are what October is made of. Apple cider, turning leaves and festivals bring out the best in us. At the end of the month, my eye always turns towards the holidays and I start to look for the best gift ideas. Craft fairs offer a unique opportunity to find those handmade and collectible items that can’t be found anywhere else.
This October 25th from 9 to 1 Trinity Lutheran Church in Auburn Illinois is hosting the 3rd annual event. I will be set up with my books at the event, but best of all I will have a chance to shop from the 25 some vendors there for my own Christmas stockings. Vendors include Paparazzi jewelry, Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, 31 Gifts, Scentsy, Wietfeldt Woodworking, This & That Crafts for missions, Avon Younique, Da-Bag, All’asta, Mary’s Creative Crafts, Origami Owl, It Works, Stuck on it vinyls, Pink Zebra, For Tails Only, Cake Pops and More, Caramels by Alicia and a variety of the children’s farm books Jane Aumann and I have written and a few of my fiction stories as well.

What makes events like this special is that it is not only a craft fair, but an event that will make the difference for a group of teens. Amy Barrington the coordinator of the event said, “Proceeds from the event go to the youth groups to help spread the word of God through mission and outreach as well as fund the expenses to the triennial LCMS National Youth Gathering. Our Youth Groups (junior high and high school) regularly take part in service projects, such as Do Something Day of Service, food drives, preparing food for the Ronald McDonald House, visiting shut ins and the residents of Eastland and Auburn Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Held every 3 years, the LCMS Youth Gathering provides thousands of youth and adults the opportunity to come together as a community of God’s people to learn more about Jesus Christ, the Christian faith and their Lutheran identity. During the five days of the Gathering, youth spend time together in God’s word, worship, service and fellowship with others from across the synod. For more information about this event, log onto”
The event also offers baked goods grilled items for lunch and activities for the kiddos. Located at 1201 West Jackson right off Highway 104, if you are looking for something fun, come shop and you will find some great items for a great cause, that is if I don’t beat you too it!
Fall only comes once a year, get out and enjoy!



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









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

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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 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.





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

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