Thursday, July 29, 2010

Barren Co., KY Has Unique Pot Luck (copied)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Visit With THE Wendell Berry

I'm writing this for my own record, but elected to share this with you since you might appreciate my observations about Wendell.  Wendell Berry might be Kentucky's best known writer. You can google him to learn more, but he writes as a calling to remind people and society of simplified ways of life, the importance of  family and community, and reverence and conservation of the land, farms and forest.  He is an advocate for sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities.  My contact with Wendell was because of my work in sustainable agriculture and Partners for Family Farms.

Wendell, Bonnie Tanner and I were charged as a committee to think of a way to honor Sue Weant, who retired as Ex Dir. of PFF.  Bonnie and I went to Wendell and Tonya's farm in Port RoyalKY.  Wendell and Tonya live in a simple frame house perched on a steep hillside overlooking the Ky River.  Bonnie knew that it was best for us to park at the road and walk up the steps to the house.  Wendell greeted us from the porch and offered to come get us in his pick up if the climb was more than we needed.  We climbed.

  One step into the living room revealed that Wendell lived the way he writes.  I don't remember a TV set anywhere, but there were walls of filled bookshelves.  I wish I had taken the time to browse at least the spines of his library collection. The home was cozily furnished with furniture of the 20th century and warmed with two small but efficient wood stoves.  We met around a round table in the kitchen/dining room.  I thought of the many discussions that had probably taken place around that table.  As we sat there, Wendell mentioned that the new governor's office had contacted him to see what he thought about their efforts to "green" state government.  I'm sure the official got more than they expected when Wendell gave his list, after hearing the list of what Wendell called token efforts.

While we got our work done it was fun to meet with the Berrys.  Wendell could illustrate about every point of our conversation with a story.  At one point he told a story and said "I might have written about that."  Not only could he tell stories, but he was an eager listener. While Wendell is serious about his mission, he is quick to burst into a chuckle that turns briefly into a belly laugh. The tall man that he is keeps that belly laugh from reverberating long.

We finished our work quickly so that we could tour the farm.  Out front, between River Road and the river, was a narrow pasture where his flock of Cheviot sheep were grazing with their guard donkey and a llama. We went by his team; one white and one black gelding that Wendell had purchased from an Amish friend when they were colts.  He broke them to a mowing machine (and tore up one when low flying jets spooked the young team).  He said his son would come get them to plow, since they worked better than his own horses. Wendell pointed to a steep cleared field and said, "it's a work of art to mow that field.  I lay it off in several lands (sections) so that the horses don't have to do so much steep work."

We drove through a wooded area and he described the timber that had finally gotten above the water weeds and was beginning to "take off ."  He named the varieties of trees in the stand as if they were children and then said, "there is one Walnut that I can't see just now."

He took us to both his children's farms.  A son farms several acres and had a big turning plow and a large cultivator in the barn lot that were pulled by horses.  Fields were all laid out on a contour and in a specific rotation that returned them to sod frequently.

At the Smith-Berry winery we saw the vineyards, with Wendell's sheep cleaning out the weeds between the vines. "They've removed the need to cultivate the vineyards,  but Chuck needs to get them out before the sugar comes up in the grapes."  We saw the tobacco barn that was serving as a storage shed, but could be readily transformed into a stage for music groups  that help make this a diversified farm. The stage was such that the audience could enjoy the music from an adjoining field or, if weather dictated it, from inside the barn.  I recognized the site as where I think the first Extension-sponsored "Sustainable Agriculture Field Day"  was held with Steve Moore, Henry County Ag Agent, as the organizer.  I remembered that this was probably where I first met Wendell.  The then Governor Brereton Jones and Libby attended as farmers and asked not to be introduced.

It was a great trip through and around Port Royal with Wendell as a guide and historical commentator.

We saw Wendell's "factory."  It was a small, one-room building built on stilts to keep it above the raging Ky River at flood stage. It had a porch facing the river, a chimney to carry out the wood smoke, and an outhouse out back.  Wendell goes to his river cabin most every day to ponder and write.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Off the Beaten in Branson

Branson, Mo is a popular tourist spot.  Music, comedy, shopping and all kinds of activities draw people to this Ozark spot. Our family time at Branson was very special since we found things off the beaten path that  most tourist would never see.  Most of these side features came about because the Beyer children are home schooled  and the family volunteers at camp Sagrada, a summer camp for children of incarcerated parents.
Home schooled kids seem to be magnetized. We visited the shop of Art Reed in the Mill Wheel Crafter's mall.  Two teenagers, Okie and Rocky were helping the instrument maker in his shop.  The Beyers and the Teske youth struck up a conversation that led to an impromptu concert.

That led to information  about a jam session that happens every Monday night at Brunner, Mo.
The jam session at Brunner is held at a school house that celebrated its 100th birthday this year.  It has been 50 years since it was used as a school and it had to be renovated by neighbors to make it a pleasant community center.  We found it with about 15 musicians jamming a very friendly audience.
Back to the Beyer's  Sagrada friends; they are the Lingner family and they normally play at the Branson Landing on Saturdays.  The kids called to get time and place and learned that the extreme heat was canceling their street performance but they invited us to their church and to have Sunday lunch at their house.  We said yes to both and we are glad we did.
Their church met in a beautiful chapel, The Chapel at Integrity Hills. The chapel overlooked Table Rock Lake and was built to the Glory of the Lord by Rob Voss, a former Executive Vice President of Walmart.  The message that Rob heard from the Lord is printed on the wall.

We finised that rememberable Sunday afternoon with a private concert by the Lingners in their home in Northern Arkansas.

These experiences made our vacation in Branson a very special get away!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


 We attended the National Association of County Agricultural Agent's 2010 Annual Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  We enjoyed spending time with Karen (she was a section chair) and Neal who came in for the last part of the meeting.  We had many interesting side trips.

The first was a visit to Will Roger's boyhood home.(above)

The visit to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was a very emotional Experience. A feature of the memorial is a reflecting pool with "doors" or passage ways on either end. On one the time 9:01 is inscribed: on the other, 9:03.  In the narrative it is explained in that brief passage of time
168 people lost their lives and all of our lives were changed forever.

A large chair was erected on the lawn to memorialize each adult who lost their life;  19 small chairs were erected for the children killed in the day care center.
The somber mood of the trip was brightened by the spectacular art at the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and a fun time at Discoveryland back in Tulsa.  At Discoveryland we had a great steak, saw the OSU mascot, a black Quarter Horse, and enjoyed the singing/dance troupe as they performed a sample of the musical, Oklahoma and other Western classics.
Our surprise discovery was an excellent restaurant spot on 2nd Street just up the street from our hotel. We wouldn't have gone in without a recommendation but the Blue Dome Diner is now on our recommended list!
While the side trips were great, a highlight for Curtis was to be present when his major professor from Oklahoma State, Dr. Bob Totusek, received the Service to World Agriculture Award.  He accepted in his humble way and made some significant remarks that implied useful guidelines for Land Grant Universities. He expressed dismay that he received awards for jobs he was paid to do.  After he was my major professor he served as Animal Science Chairman. A former student reported that Dr. Totusek introduced every Animal Science teacher at the start of each class.  His wife of 62 years accompanied him at the presentation.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cozy Cottage is filling the need

We call the renovated Poff House, "The Cozy Cottage." We purchased and renovated the little house to provide a comfortable environment for family, friends, and guests.  We have tried to make the cottage a place where family, friends, or guest want to spend some of their vacation time while visiting family members or friends as well as visiting some of the natural and historical attractions in the area.  We've tried to furnish it with surplus and used furniture to keep it affordable for short-term renters.  Family comes first when it comes to use of the Cozy Cottage.  Friends of family can rent it for even less than the already competitive rates.

The living room  and master bed room has been furnished with antiques and family hand-me-downs to preserve the feel of an old but simple farm house.

A second bedroom has a bunk bed with a full size mattress on the bottom and a twin on top.

The Cozy Cottage actually has two featured living areas. One is the front porch furnished with Cracker Barrel  rocking chairs and a panoramic view of the mountains.

A carport was converted to a "family port" with vaulted ceilings and a flat screen television.

The Cozy Cottage is already serving its purpose.  Families have stayed there while visiting the grand parents.  Several families have spent some of their vacation in Blacksburg because of the house.   A family was there for the funeral of a loved one.  A family celebrated a daughter's graduation and a family has  used it as headquarters for a wedding.   The Cottage has been shared by couples  on a football week end. And we hope their will be more.

Grandson Joshua McCulley is  developing a website, 
and we have a blog, ,
where we archive stories about people, places and events  around the area.
We hope you can visit either electronically or physically.