Category: food

Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 10/19/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful, inspirational or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

SPIRITUAL

When someone follows me on Twitter, I don’t follow back automatically. There are just too many people out there cluttering up my feed in an effort to get attention, and I sometimes scratch my head and say, “Why in the world would that person want to follow me?”

But if the person looks semi-legit, I usually check out his or her website, if there is one (bonus if it’s a personal blog with something human to say), then I decide whether to follow back.

When Stefne Miller followed me a couple of days ago, I knew almost immediately that I would keep going back to her website. In this link, she writes about the “F” word: forgiveness. I really like her writing style, and I hope her post will speak to you as it did me.

Check it out: The “F” Word

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ProjectSTIRlogoFAMILY • FOOD/RECIPES

On my other blog, Suzy & Spice, I wrote recently about Project STIR, my friend Sarah’s documentary film project in which she highlights family recipes around the globe.

This has been tremendous fun, and I’ve “met” lots of people all over the world who are as sentimental as I am about preserving family recipes. Many of us are “Project STIR Ambassadors,” which just means we love this project and want to help Sarah spread the word so we promote the project online. (Sarah spotlighted me on her blog here, and I wrote about my Nanny’s Pickles here; my cousins and I had a grand time with our family memories.)

Sarah launched her Kickstarter (fundraising) project with a video of “Mamaw’s Chicken Dumplins,” where she films a dear family friend, “Mamaw” (who in some ways took over for Sarah’s deceased grandparents), showing granddaughter Rachel how she makes chicken and dumplings. The video is just over 3 minutes – well worth your time.

Sarah has less than two weeks to raise the rest of her funds on Kickstarter, so please consider making a donation – nothing is too small to help her reach the goal, which will help her film the families and their recipes. This project is so wonderful, I know you’ll want to be a part of it.

Also, another blogger friend, new mom Paige, who recently started a podcast, features Sarah and Project STIR on this episode of Hear Motherhood (who is not a mom yet, but the project is about family, so it counts!). Sarah tells how she came to know Mamaw, how Project STIR came about, and where it’s going. Take a listen.

Sarah also created a Project STIR page on Facebook. And if you’re interested in being an ambassador (share a food memory on your own website), click here for details.

Another great thing about this project is that Sarah has partnered with The Pack Shack! Keep reading …

Check it out: Project STIR

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thepackshack-logoGIVING BACK

I wrote about my first experience with The Pack Shack on the Arkansas Women Bloggers website in September, when I was Blogger of the Month.

I say “my first experience,” because I’m not finished yet. I came home from Arkansas Women Bloggers University determined to spread the word. I had heard about The Pack Shack, a new-ish organization based in northwest Arkansas that helps feed the needy, but until you experience a Feed the Funnel party firsthand, you really have no idea.

After everyone else had left the party that August weekend at AWBU, I talked to Pack Shack co-founder Bret Raymond, and I was struck by his humble spirit and his desire not to shine a light on himself or even the organization but to bring glory to God.

I took the Feed the Funnel idea to my running club and my small group at church, and I also plan to present it to my new employer (I start next week). Stay tuned; I’m sure to be talking about it again in the coming months.

Click below to see what a great time we Arkansas Women Bloggers had serving such a worthy cause. It includes a fun video that I shot on Periscope.

Check it out: Giving Back with The Pack Shack

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That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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A Whole30 days of clean eating: It’s a gut feeling

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Whole30QuoteA year ago I was off sugar and grains, and I felt better than I had felt in a long time.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve read so much about inflammation and the things that cause it – sugar being one of the main culprits – that it didn’t take much convincing for me to start following the No Sugar No Grains philosophy. I read a book and listened to a podcast explaining the benefits of following the guidelines: avoid simple sugars, limit natural sugars (don’t overdo the fruit juice, for example); don’t consume grains, including corn, rice and wheat; and stick to complex carbs in limited quantities.

That plan made sense after some of the books I read (I’ve read a lot of them) and the dietitian I follow, and I kept up with it and the NSNG creator, Vinnie, on his podcast – until I just couldn’t stomach the vulgarity on his podcast for one more day.

By the time I quit listening to the podcast, I had already fallen off the wagon, and now I’m a carb addict again. (One little slip can send you down a slippery slope if you’re not careful.) I do order Vinnie’s multivitamin online, though, because I trust him when he says it’s pure: no fillers, no artificial ingredients, all that stuff. And the price is great.

So when a blogger friend posted a few days ago that she was about to start the Whole30, I was skeptical, but because I trust her judgment I decided to check it out. I had never heard of Whole30, but I visited the website and really liked what I saw.

It was No Sugar No Grains with one addition (or subtraction, if you will): no dairy.

Gulp.

I come from a long line of milk drinkers. In fact, I liked the No Sugar No Grains plan because I could have milk. The Taylors LOVE milk with a passion that is so strong I can hardly explain it to you. Like the sun’s gravitational pull on the earth. That strong.

So, even though the NSNG proponents cautioned that I might do better without dairy, I just wasn’t willing to give up milk.

That was then; this is now.

Many of the Taylors are overweight and, worse, unhealthy. That gravitational pull is enough to get me to rethink my milk obsession.

Starting today, I’m giving Whole30 a whole 30 days to see if milk contributes to some of my problems: seasonal allergies (“seasonal” for me meaning 365 days a year), eczema, my self-diagnosed “silent reflux,” trouble controlling my weight, and any number of other things that might be improved with a cleaned-up diet.

I don’t like “diets” in general, for various reasons, but this one is really just an elimination plan that the creators consider a “reset” for your gut and your body. Get all the junk out and see how your body responds. See how well you sleep, whether your diabetes or your blood pressure or your hormone function improves, whether mood and mental clarity take a positive leap.

You can read the testimonials on the Whole 30 website, and, let me tell you, friends, this is the best “diet” website I’ve ever seen. The founders of this plan are transparent, forthright and not “sales-y,” as far as I’ve seen. They lay out exactly what to expect, and they include a printable PDF that boils it down to four pages. I also started reading their book It Starts With Food ($9.99 on Kindle; audio version also available) on my lunch break today, and I like their approach.

One more thing: When I’ve “dieted” in the past, I regret that I’ve never journaled what was happening to my mind and my body before, during and after. Remembering to sit down and write in a notebook is just hard.

My solution: My journal will be public, and it will be part of this blog. No way can I forget to post it here. 🙂

Don’t worry – I plan to keep it short and simple, just the broad strokes. I want to be able to say things like:

Thursday, the day before I started, I ate too much trail mix and drank too much diet Coke because I looked at it as my “last hurrah” before starting the plan.

It’s kinda silly now that I see it on paper.

If you look over the Whole30 site and decide you want to join me, leave a comment or email me at suzy@suzyoakley.com. We’ll take the journey together.

I’ve been through this before, and I can almost guarantee you’ll thank me at the end of your 30-day experiment. You’ll learn things, and you’ll feel better.

Let’s do this!

(Note: In case you were wondering, no one paid me, urged me or even asked me to mention any of the products I wrote about today.)

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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 07/27/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

FEEL-GOOD STORIES

I’m a member of several blogger/writer groups on Facebook, and through one of them I was introduced recently to Rita Herrmann, whom I’m so happy to have discovered. I just like the things she writes about! (And the way she expresses her thoughts.)

Her blog is She Wears Red Shoes, and I hope you’ll visit when you have a few minutes and a good cup of tea or coffee at hand.

Meanwhile, be sure to make time for this one, which reminds us that not every convenience store clerk is a grumpy lump, despite the low pay and weird hours. If this story doesn’t give you a positive vibe, you need a tuneup.

Check it out: It’s Showtime!


FOOD/RECIPES

Dort'sVegetableBeefSoupI recently asked my mom to make some of her yummy vegetable soup, and she did not disappoint. (Food is one of the many ways she shows love to her family.)

In fact, I do believe this is the best pot of vegetable soup she’s ever served me. We discussed the reasons, as this pot was a bit different from her usual “recipe” (it’s not really a recipe; nothing is written down and the amounts are approximate).

The great thing about this soup (besides that it’s my mom’s recipe!) is that it’s nutritious and versatile. You can adapt it to suit your family’s veggie preferences and whatever’s in season. It serves a crowd, but it’s also freezable for those days you just don’t have time to cook.

Check it out: Dort’s Vegetable Beef Soup


EMOTIONAL HEALTH

I try to be emotionally strong and have worked extremely hard at that over the years. As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I ran across an article tweeted by Michael Hyatt. He’s good at finding tips that are insightful and practical.

In this article, the author took a to-do list and turned it on its head, making it a don’t-do list. I hope you’ll find the information as valuable as I did.

Check it out: 16 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 07/20/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

HEALTH

My dad started smoking before he became a teenager — maybe age 11 or 12. After at least two heart attacks, bypass surgery and years of attempts to stop smoking, he died of heart disease. He was only 59. (Actually, on that horrible day, the doc said it wasn’t actually a heart problem that killed him, even though his heart hadn’t been working well up to that point; something happened in his brain. Mom thinks it was the drug he was taking to help him quit smoking.) Dad’s older brother, also a smoker, died of lung cancer. Decades earlier, their father died of emphysema and cancer. They watched their dad take his last breath, yet they still smoked.

I sit next to a smoker at my job and, even though a cubicle wall separates us, I inhale secondhand smoke every morning and first thing after lunch (she sits in her car and smokes). When she enters our workspace, she reeks of it.

I had asthma as a kid and still have lots of breathing issues; it would be an extreme understatement to say secondhand smoke is unpleasant.

My co-worker is 31 and has three little girls; I don’t want to see her die of a tobacco-related illness. I know what it’s like to lose a beloved parent to this. (My dad, who in my eyes hung the moon, died 11 days before my wedding.)

I used to nag Dad about his smoking. That was before I realized that overcoming a “bad habit” — especially one that involves addictive chemicals invading your body’s systems — is more complicated than just deciding to quit. (And the tobacco companies do their best to keep your cravings strong.)

The solution, in my opinion, is to keep people from picking up that first cigarette. That, in itself, is a challenge because, for some reason, kids think it’s cool.

I HATE CIGARETTES.

Here’s a powerful SlideShare presentation with some grim facts about smoking; maybe it will help at least one person decide not to start.

Check it out: (Just click the right arrow to see the next slide. And don’t worry; the slides aren’t overly wordy, so it won’t take you long to get through them.)

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[slideshare id=5602255&doc=smoke-theconvenienttruth-ep-101028211434-phpapp01]


FOOD/RECIPES

zucchini-noodle-bowl-thumbnail
Photo courtesy of Taste Arkansas

Fellow Arkansas Women Blogger Heather DiSarro makes some wonderful dishes. In fact, her blog is called Heather’s Dish. (She’s an awesome photographer, too.) Head on over to Taste Arkansas (the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s blog) and get Heather’s recipe for Zucchini Noodle Bowls. It’s a low-carb way to have your “spaghetti” and eat it, too. 🙂

I can’t wait to try this dish. (Gotta get me some zucchini first.)

Oh, I almost forgot: If you post a comment below the recipe, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a Spiralizer. I’ve wanted one of those for a long time. (On second thought: Don’t post a comment; I want to win it! 🙂 )

Check it out: Zucchini Noodle Bowls


#10THINGS

10 ThingsLogoMercy, I almost forgot that I’m supposed to be telling you stuff you don’t know about me. (See this post and this one for the scoop.) OK, here goes Part 3 … ugh.

I cleaned out my closet yesterday. Took out every stitch of clothing, every shoe, every sheet, every tote bag and purse, and every stuffed animal or doll (yes, I still have my babies) and flung them onto the bed.

It wasn’t pretty.

(Also, I didn’t fling; I placed. 🙂 )

Last week I mentioned a book I had read with the promise that I’d write about it in more detail this week. I’m going to post an actual book review, but what I need to tell you today is that …

I have clothes in my closet in size 8 and in sizes 14 and 16.

That’s not the hard part. This is the hard part: All the difficult work I put into losing 50 pounds in the past couple of years was very valuable, and now the weight is back on. I’ve managed to start going back in a positive direction, especially after my last cardio checkup in late May. After a hello hug, my cardiologist said there seemed to be more to me to love this time around. We talked at length about why this weight is back, all the challenges I’ve had since my heart surgery, and how stinking hard it is to lose weight. (It’s a lot harder than it used to be. I used to be able to set my mind to it and just do it.)

Bottom line: I’m working on it, and I’ve lost 8 pounds since I saw him. That’s a start, but after the initial 6-7 pounds, I’ve been losing and regaining the same 1 or 2 each week.

This is the first time I’ve written about it. It’s embarrassing, especially when I call myself a wellness coach. (Hypocrite?)

It took me a couple of years to lose the weight, and that’s as it should be — it’s safer that way, and a quick fix teaches you ZERO. And it took me about 18 months to gain it all back.

I keep saying — to myself and others — that I’m sticking by my original statement: If it takes (X amount of time) to lose it but I help someone else in her/his struggle along the way, it’s worth it.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. God either causes it or allows it, because He sees the entire picture — all we see is our little slice. My weight struggles are part of that picture — my own journey to wellness and wholeness — and my goal is to learn from this. I can only think that I haven’t learned all the lessons I’m supposed to learn on this journey, so I’m having to repeat some of them, and learn new ones.

I’m very grateful that you’re here today, and if you need someone to come alongside as you battle a challenging situation, please get in touch by leaving a comment or emailing me at suzy@suzyoakley.com.

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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Farm2Home 2015 – for everything there is a season

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Farm2HomeLogoFarm2Home is going on hiatus for a while, but you can read the previous posts here, here and here.

Today’s post was supposed to be another in my Farm2Home series.

But I think I need to give the farmers a break. What was I thinking, trying to get folks to answer a bunch of questions during the growing and producing season?

I’m putting the series on hold for a while, and maybe I can get everyone caught up at a less-busy time of year. What they’re doing right now is more pressing than my questions.

I’m pondering the same thing about my other blog, Suzy & Spice, where I’ve been working on a Main Street Farmers Market (Batesville) series. One farmer has responded to my questionnaire, and, to be honest, I haven’t reminded the others that I’m waiting …

I just figured they were too busy to bother with my pesky questions, or they had forgotten. I’m not a farmer, but I know they are superbusy this time of year.

And this has been a wacky week for me, schedule-wise. You might have noticed.

I haven’t posted at the times I had set up to post regularly (Monday and Friday mornings here at To Well With You and Saturday mornings at Suzy & Spice).

It’s just been wacky.

To tell the truth, I’ve needed a mental break, and even though I’ve tried to stay true to the schedule, my brain simply hasn’t been working fast enough to stay on track. I hope you’ll forgive me.

I would say I’m mentally exhausted, but that’s not exactly true. I’m mentally tired but not near the point of exhaustion. Just dealing with a few stressors:

  • Blind dog who now needs even more attention than before (she was already high-maintenance!).
  • Plumbing problems that took 11 days to fix. And I realized last night – two weeks after the plumber came – that I had filed the bill in the PAID folder instead of mailing the check. 🙁
  • A full-time work schedule at my “day job.”
  • Trying to keep up with writing/blogging/publishing while learning how to do it all better (honing my photography skills, making my own graphics, learning about marketing and content, writing better, etc.).
  • Working on a wellness talk I’m supposed to give at the farmers market Aug. 1.
  • Working on a session I’ll be teaching at the Arkansas Women Bloggers conference at the end of August.

I really and truly love writing for my blogs, but sometimes it means I neglect other things, like spending time with my mom. I hate that. My family is the most important thing in my life besides my relationship with Jesus. (Oh, yeah: I’ve been neglecting that, too.)

One of the things on my to-do list has been to learn a new piece of software that’s supposed to help me keep up with all the irons I have in the fire. It has been a bit of a challenge just to find the time to make use of this tool!

Oh, the irony.

So when I get this way, I have to look up at my white board and see where I’ve written: REMEMBER YOUR WHY.

RememberYourWhy

Michael Hyatt says, correctly, that this – staying connected to your why – is what keeps you on track when you’re veering off course or are tempted to give up. This is absolutely true. (Here’s my why.)

I’ve read a lot lately about persevering when: 1) others think you’re crazy, 2) things get hard or 3) common sense might tell you it’s not worth it, to cut your losses and move on.

A book I’m reading says to dispense with the “lofty” terms perseverance and tenacity and go with stubbornness:

When we’re stubborn, there’s no quit in us. We’re mean. We’re mulish. We’re ornery. … We will sink our junkyard-dog teeth into Resistance’s a** and not let go, no matter how hard he kicks.”

– Steven Pressfield,
‘Do the Work: Overcome Resistance
and Get Out of Your Own Way’

 

I am nothing if not stubborn. (Right, Mom?)

So, while I’m not ready to give up, I need a break now and then. And the farmers need to keep doing what they’re doing right now. If they weren’t persistent, tenacious and stubborn – producing fresh food every season to keep me healthy – I’d be eating ramen noodles for breakfast every day. (And even the ramen noodles come from … something on a farm.)

My goal for the Farm2Home series was to showcase the farmers so that they could keep doing what they’re doing. We all need to sow when we can, harvest when it’s ripe and savor the fruits of our labor when the time is right.

Even though I need little mental breaks now and then (don’t we all?), I continue to sow and water.

Someday I’ll begin harvesting, but for now I’m still in the perseveringly tenacious stubborn phase. 🙂

Ecclesiastes3cropped2What about you? Are you planting or harvesting right now?

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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

NUTRITION

My friend Betsy has shared some great recipes with me. The first time I had her vegan brownies, we were in the car on the way home from an out-of-town race. I thought they were awesome and told her I wanted to try making them, so a week or two later, for my birthday, here came Betsy with the recipe and all the ingredients to make the brownies, all packaged in a cute little polka-dot gift box.

Betsy’s the kind of friend who doesn’t just give you a recipe when you ask her for it; she goes the extra mile and provides everything you need! (Especially when what you need isn’t readily available in your pantry or even at the regular grocery store, although these ingredients are findable nowadays.)

If you’re picky about texture or labels, don’t think of these as brownies, because they’re not what you’ll find from a mix from the grocery store. You don’t bake ’em, and you’ll need to store them in the fridge. Just think of them as a delicious chocolate dessert that’s hard to keep your paws off of.

Call them what you want. I call them irresistible.

Betsy’s Vegan Brownies

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 8 large OR 12 medium-size pitted dates (about 1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 packet pure stevia extract (powder)
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs (for sprinkling on top)

In food processor, grind walnuts into a flour (until it’s fine but grainy). Add dates and grind until mixture is relatively smooth (it will still be grainy).

Add remaining ingredients and mix in processor until well blended.

Spread in ungreased 8×8” pan. Press cacao nibs on top.

Store in refrigerator.


DemetriosMatsakisQuoteSCIENCE

I’d never thought much about the leap second until last week, but I’m just enough of a science geek (or maybe just an information junkie) that this headline intrigued me: “The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished.”

Also, I like the guy who Tweeted it, because he always has something interesting (and usually amusing) to share.

The article is a bit longish, but it will answer most – if not all – of the questions you’ve ever had about the leap second, including how and why it was born and why it should die.

And just for kicks, be sure to watch the 6-minute video with Demetrios Matsakis (“The Timekeeper”). He’s a hoot, in a dry, scientist sort of way. The other video (less than 2 minutes) is fun, too.

For something to stimulate your inner scientist …

Check it out: The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished


FINANCES

People love their cars, and this is the season for big treks across the good ol’ US of A. In this tip, my favorite frugal guru, Mary Hunt, helps us keep a bit of our hard-earned cash when we visit the gas pump, even if the trip we’re taking is just across town.

Check it out: 10 Easy Ways to Save Fuel

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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Farm2Home 2015 – Big D Ranch in Center Ridge, Ark.

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Farm2HomeLogoThis is the third in a series on Farm2Home 2015. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

DeSalvoFamilyAtFarm2Home
Meet the DeSalvo family of Big D Ranch in Center Ridge: Phillip, Benjamin, Isabella and Beth. (Photo courtesy of Beth DeSalvo.)

When Beth DeSalvo quit her job at Petit Jean Meats in 2012 and began working on her family’s cattle ranch full time, she soon realized that she needed to go whole hog (whole cow?) in promoting the operation.

Her departure from the “corporate world” left the family with no other income source but cattle and hay, so making sure that folks knew about Big D Ranch – the place her husband’s family has called home for five generations – was going to become a part-time job in itself. (That’s in addition to the other tasks, such as keeping the books and helping out in whatever other ways she’s needed.)

A busy mom of two, she knew that if she wanted to help sustain the family’s income, she would have to take time out of all the things that go into cattle ranching and be available to educate people, show them around and talk up the virtues of locally grown, pastured beef, and of farming and ranching in general.

With all the nitty-gritty of running a cattle ranch, how does she have time for the “marketing and promotion” part of the job?

“You make time,” she said at the recent Farm2Home event at Moss Mountain Farm west of Little Rock. It’s just what local ranchers and growers have to do to raise awareness of their products. No Sam Elliott voice-overs or James Garner promos – she and her family just get out there and talk to people face to face.

And they do a great job: I stood at her table at Farm2Home, chatted with Beth and her daughter, 9-year-old-Isabella, and got a taste of what beef is supposed to taste like.

As Isabella speared a piece of grilled beef on a toothpick for me, Beth and I talked, and the conversation was as delicious as the beef.

BigDTable_Farm2Home2015

Center Ridge, Ark., population 388 (as of 2010 census).
Center Ridge, Ark., population 388 (as of 2010 census).

When you engage with someone who is as passionate as Beth is about her “job,” you lose track of time. This matriarch of the 2012 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year (which also includes Phillip’s dad, Tony) takes her role so seriously that she travels from the ranch in Center Ridge, Ark., to farmers markets and events such as Farm2Home as an evangelist for the virtues of buying locally grown, healthful foods.

“I believe by buying local you are commending your local farmers and ranchers on what they do every day,” she said in answer to my follow-up questions after Farm2Home. “Farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food for consumers, and it is very rewarding to be able share that with our neighbors.”

I asked Beth why she wanted to participate in Farm2Home.

I think it is very important to get out to tell our story. I feel that consumers want to know where their food comes from, and we the farmers and ranchers want the consumers to feel safe about what we provide for their families. The best way to do that is let people know what you are doing and how you do it.”

It’s so important to the DeSalvos that they take their beef outside the local area on weekends to sell and promote. Look for them at the Conway Farmers Market at the Antioch Baptist Church and at the Argenta Farmers Market in downtown North Little Rock. (The Argenta market is where I used to do my “shop local” socializing when Bruce and I lived in North Little Rock. I miss it!)

Ben&IsabellaAtArgenta
Ben and Isabella DeSalvo at the Argenta Farmers Market in downtown North Little Rock, Ark. (Photo courtesy of Beth DeSalvo.)

As Phillip and Beth raise the sixth generation at Big D, they support Ben (age 11) and Isabella’s participation in the Nemo Vista Pioneers 4-H Club, and Beth says the family is “very active” at the county fair. That’s evident by the photos she emailed me (I didn’t use them all). Phillip and Beth are active members in the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and no doubt their children are future members of those organizations.

Both kiddos know how to win prizes at the county fair. Take a look:

Cow&BenWithRibbon
Ben and his heifer Big Momma took Reserve Grand Champion honors last year at the Conway County Fair. (Photo courtesy of Beth DeSalvo.)
Cow&Isabella
Isabella and Betsy took home Pee Wee Showmanship honors at last year’s county fair, and Izzy also won Grand Champion with her turkeys. (Photo courtesy of Beth DeSalvo.)

Arkansas is fortunate to have folks like Tony, Phillip and Beth DeSalvo, who are raising their young’uns to know the value of hard work and the importance of supporting your neighbors as they work hard, too. They’re the ones who feed us, my friends. Or at least they should be.

As often as you can, buy local. You’ll be helping your neighbors and yourself. (And try some beef from the DeSalvos. It’s “The Better Beef to Eat!”)

All right, one last picture. This image makes me think of a photo in one of the Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks. I bet Beth DeSalvo swoons every time she looks at this picture of her man and her boy walking hand-in-hand on their family’s land.

Ladies, wouldn’t you?

Ben&PhillipFromBehindWithCows
(Photo courtesy of Beth DeSalvo.)

Big D Ranch
173 Miller Ln.
Center Ridge, AR 72027 (northern Conway County)
(501) 208-6120 (Beth’s cell)
Website: Bigdranch.net
Twitter: @bigdranch1
Facebook: Big D Ranch or Beth Rohlman DeSalvo
Instagram: BIG_D_RANCH

Stay tuned for Part 4 next Friday. Meanwhile, I’d like to publish a healthful recipe for Monday’s post. Suggestions?

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Farm2Home 2015 – P. Allen Smith

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Farm2HomeLogoThis is the second in a series on Farm2Home 2015. Read Part 1 here.

When Allen Smith was 10, he earned a blue ribbon for a hen he showed at the county fair. This is not surprising, given his family heritage of farming and livestock and poultry raising.

A few decades later, if you called him “the crazy chicken man,” you might not be far off (sorry, Allen). With his first hen – not the white silkie that won the blue ribbon but a brown Leghorn that young Allen had to chase down on Main Street – he began a love affair with growing and preserving poultry breeds that has only become stronger with time.

Known for his design, cooking and gardening expertise, Allen (better known as P. Allen Smith) has grown a multimedia empire right along with those chickens he’s so fond of. (Eat your heart out, Martha.) He houses his fine-feathered hens in a structure of his own design, dubbed the Poultry Palace.

This “crazy chicken man” is crazy like a fox, though.

His knowledge of poultry breeds rivals that of anyone I’ve ever met. I might be able to find some PhD fellow with a more formal poultry pedigree, but I would have to search far. And I have a feeling that pedigreed poultry professor would be much less endearing, much less engaging, much less in love with the birds, and probably a lot boring.

Allen Smith is not boring.

When you’re passionate about a subject, your enthusiasm is infectious.

At the recent Farm2Home event at Allen’s Moss Mountain Farm outside Little Rock, Ark., I and 29 other bloggers were treated to a tour of his house and the grounds, including Poultryville, where he houses – you guessed it – poultry.

Allen’s love of this particular subject stems from his combined love of history, genetics and conservation. Cases in point:

  • Ask him about any of our country’s founding founders, and he’s sure to have a story for you. His knowledge is not based on “factoids” found by Googling but by a love of history he acquired from his family.
  • He created the Heritage Poultry Conservancy, which exists to preserve and support “all threatened breeds and strains of domestic poultry through the encouragement of education, stewardship and good breeding practices,” according to the website. I could spend hours on this website reading all the “breed profiles” – which include photos and extensive histories of the breeds, complete with bibliographies – and “ask the expert” articles and other information.
  • He designed and built a little village for his birds on Moss Mountain Farm. Listening to him talk about the birds at Poultryville – and watching as he shows them off – well, it’s just … poultry in motion. (I know: Groan. Sorry.)

But seriously, the man knows poultry.

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If I had been taking notes instead of worrying about how much juice was left in my phone battery, I would’ve heard Allen tell what kind of chicken this is.

And he wants others to know about it, too. As we tromped along through Poultryville, he offered bits of information, trivial and non. I wish I could remember what Mediterranean princess he referenced in relation to the design of the Poultry Palace. She visited because she was interested in heritage poultry and had heard about Moss Mountain Farm.

I’ve used most of my allotted words here (y’all know I limit my word count, right? 🙂 ) talking about poultry, because, seriously, visiting Poultryville and hearing this man wax poetic about chickens, French geese, swans and all that – and to see them up close and personal – makes me love them, too! If you visited, you would be the same way.

C’mon. Take a gander at these photos from Allen’s blog and tell me you wouldn’t love to hang out with some of these crazy chicks. Seriously.

OK, so.

Besides poultry, horses, dogs (the farm dog and a Scottish terrier that Allen was dog-sitting for friends), sheep and some cute baby goats, we were treated to:

  • A beautiful house. Allen bought the farm (literally) about 10 years ago and built this gorgeously appointed Greek Revival-style house seven years ago. He said he wanted it to look like it belonged on the beautiful farm of 600 or so acres (give or take, with the whims of the Arkansas River, which was flooded when we visited). Y’all, there is no way to show you all the pictures I took, even with dying batteries.
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The Garden Home at Moss Mountain Farm is a Greek Revival-style house on about 600 acres along the Arkansas River.
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The man decorates with books. This is my kinda house.

My friends, there were books EVERYWHERE. I asked Allen whether he’d read all of them. “Every one. Cover to cover,” he deadpanned. It took me a second to be sure he was joking.

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A view from the kitchen.
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The all-white kitchen appointed with white hydrangeas (and orange-clad blogger chicks).
  • Gardens: vegetables, flowers, trees, grasses. I had so many photos of flowers and veggies to choose from, I had trouble deciding. I’m giving you but a taste. (And if my camera battery hadn’t died before noon and my phone battery hadn’t died by 3:30 p.m., Lord, have mercy, I would have had even more pics!)
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As we approached the vegetable gardens, Allen offered to let us pull weeds for him. (I’m pretty sure he was joking, although: FREE HELP. But do you see any weeds?)
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I don’t know my flowers as well as I used to, but I think this is some type of sunflower. Anyone?
  • A pond with swans, frogs and at least one snake (viewed after my camera battery died, and it’s too bad because the swans were really cute – one of them talked to me!).

I wasn’t going to post this pic of Duncan (the visiting dog), but, as you know, I’m a dog person and can’t resist a good dog picture, especially when the pooch is doing something cute.

Duncan
Duncan wasn’t playing hard to get; I think he’s just weird, like my doggie who likes to sleep under her bed.
  • Views of the Arkansas River.
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A view of the flooded, muddy Arkansas River from Moss Mountain Farm’s sleeping porch. You get a glimpse of one of the gardens, too.
  • Food, glorious food! Everything was delicious and beautiful, and here’s my lunch. (I missed the beautiful watermelon breakfast snack that everyone else had earlier because I was busy talking to farmers outside and didn’t hear the bell; see previous post.)
Lunch_PAllenSmith
If you visit Moss Mountain Farm, they’ll feed you meals from Allen’s latest cookbook, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden.
DessertGone_PAllenSmith
As you can see, the dessert (pecan cookie with strawberry-cobbler-type filling) was delicious! (I did leave some of the garnish.) And you may wonder how I managed to get two glasses of iced tea, with endless refills. I’ll never tell!
  • Bloggers. Thirty of us. Here are a few.
Bloggers_PAllenSmith
Wouldn’t you want to hang out with these chicks (and a couple of blogger dudes)?
  • Farmers. This is what Farm2Home was all about, ya’ll. Stay tuned, because I have more farmers for ya, but you’ll have to wait until next week. This is a series, remember?

But Farm2Home is not the only event on Moss Mountain Farm’s calendar. This beautiful place is host to classes, workshops, tours, parties, weddings and other events. Allen also “trials” specimens for seed and plant companies that sell their fare at garden centers around the country. And he shoots his TV shows there.

If you view this video from Allen’s website, you will want to make a reservation right now to visit Moss Mountain Farm. Unless you’re totally crazy.

Next week: Farm2Home 2015 – Big D Ranch in Center Ridge, Ark.

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Farm2Home 2015: Overview

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Farm2HomeLogoThis is the first in a series on Farm2Home 2015.
ArrivalAtMMF060215_lightened
I’m here!

I pulled up to Moss Mountain Farm on a sunny morning last week practically giddy with anticipation. I was going to get to:

  • Spend the day with 29 other Arkansas bloggers, most of whom I hadn’t seen since a retreat in September.
  • Meet lots of Arkansas growers and producers – the heroes of this event I was arriving for.
  • Spend the day with P. Allen Smith, whom I’ve long admired for his gardening expertise, design skills and reputation for Southern hospitality. He and his staff were the ones who pulled this day together (in conjunction with Arkansas Grown, Arkansas Made, Farm Credit and the Arkansas Agriculture Department) and invited us all to the farm.
  • Spend most of the day outdoors.
  • Wear a cute T-shirt. 🙂
JodiBeingInterviewed
Fellow blogger Jodi Coffee (in hat) being interviewed by P. Allen Smith staff. (They talked to all of us on camera.)

The event? Farm2Home 2015, which brings together bloggers and farmers for a day of networking, fellowshipping, eating (one of the best parts) and brainstorming.

And, boy, did we network, fellowship, eat and brainstorm.

In fact, I was so busy networking, fellowshipping and eating (sampling fermented jalapenos and cabbage, spiced pecans, elk and venison jerky, grass-fed beef, frozen fruit pops, popcorn laced with spice blends, you name it) that I missed the clanging of the bell calling us into the barn, where our host welcomed the bloggers to his farm and laid out the day.

Oops.

It’s not like me to be the one breaking schedule, ignoring protocol and being truant.

I guess I was having a little too much fun talking to the farmers, trying lotions, smelling soaps, chatting about the no-sugar-added jelly (delicious), seeing the twin baby goats, peppering the farmers with questions (“How do you process your sunflower oil?” “What gives the watermelon-scented soap its color?” “Did you design your own packaging?”) and having a generally fantastic morning in the sunshine to be aware of such trivial matters as clanging bells and schedules.

Just a few of the delicious-smelling soaps at Farm2Home 2015. I loaded up (= bought way too many).
Just a few of the delicious-smelling soaps at Farm2Home 2015. I loaded up (= bought way too many).

I came home with a bunch of loot.

Even so, I didn’t make it home with my bag of jellies. 🙁 (I only realized that sad fact as I was writing this.)

At Farm2Home, we chatted and sampled, took a “bio break” (visited the potty, for you city slickers), chatted some more, then went inside for a panel discussion with four of the farmers.

Yes, more chatting. (The panel discussions made up the aforementioned “brainstorming,” although the talk was heavy on education, enlightenment and empathy.)

GrowersPanel
Allen (left) and the bloggers listen to Mark Morgan, Beth DeSalvo, Jeffery Hall and Chuck McCool, aka the event’s Arkansas Grown panel.

What are the challenges of growing/distributing/marketing your crop or livestock? What do you want people to understand about what you do? Where do we go to learn more? How can we teach others?

We all know that, despite modern conveniences, farming still has a bucket-load of challenges, many of which are out of the farmers’ and ranchers’ control. (This season’s extremely wet weather springs to mind.) They have to concern themselves not only with the actual growing, harvesting and processing of their fare (plenty can go wrong there) but with government regulations, distribution, marketing, budgeting, lack of awareness, apathy, consumer education and a host of other areas that we can begin to grasp only by walking a mile in their muck boots.

This is where the bloggers came in: Our objective at Farm2Home was to understand small (as opposed to industrial) farming as best we could without actually driving up to one of their farms on a John Deere.

Not that we wouldn’t be welcomed if we did.

In fact, one of the panelists, Beth DeSalvo of Big D Ranch in Center Ridge, said she welcomes visitors who want to learn about ranching.

BigDRanchTable
More on Big D Ranch of Center Ridge in a future post.

How does she find time to show people around while also doing the work required to run a cattle ranch?

“You make time,” she said. Beth considers marketing and awareness-raising part of her job description. This is why she was on hand at Farm2Home.

The ranch is her family’s sole source of income, and when someone tells you that, you want to do everything you can to spread the word – to make sure that this fifth generation of ranchers won’t be the last in the family to live and serve and raise cattle on that ranch. To make sure it’s still around for the next five generations.

And you only know – and care this much – by listening to their stories.

As Beth and her daughter, Isabella, offered me samples of their delicious grass-fed beef, Beth told a bit of her family’s story before I had to move on. I’ve never ranched cattle (or anything, actually), so her story is compelling, and I’ll share it with you in a post later this month.

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Each blogger had a one-on-one photo shoot with Allen.

Amid all the chit-chatting, sample-chomping, lotion-rubbing, photo-opping and quote-tweeting, we managed to tour Allen’s house, eat lunch, sit down for a panel discussion with the “makers” (those who handcraft products out of their farms’ bounty) and tour the Moss Mountain Farm gardens (lots of them) and Poultryville. (More on Allen’s house and his interest in poultry in next week’s post).

One of my favorite parts of the afternoon discussion included a couple of women involved with alleviating hunger in Arkansas. I can’t wait to tell you about what I learned from them (also in a future post). As they explained the Arkansas Gleaning Project, I couldn’t help but think of the biblical story of Ruth and Boaz.

Hey, I’m jumping ahead. Be sure to tune in next week for more, but here’s a sneak peek.

hydrangeas

5 reasons to buy local

You’re helping your neighbors. Some farmers have an income outside of their crop or livestock, and some don’t. Either way, farming is a challenge.

You’re helping yourself. When your food dollar stays within your locality, you’re cutting out the middle man. It creates a ripple effect, which helps the bottom line of your city, your county and your state. That translates to savings for you.

It’s fresher and tastes better. There is nothing like having an omelet made with farm-fresh eggs and a little spinach, vine-ripened tomato and cheese from your neighbor’s dairy (or whatever fresh vegetables you can think of!). No Pop-Tarts for this gal!

It fosters a sense of community. The farmers market is full of folks just like you. I love visiting my local farmers market. I get to chat up the growers, sample delicious foods, maybe try something new, and sometimes even watch a demonstration (cooking, cheese making, rug-making, painting). Heck, last Saturday we were serenaded by two little girls singing karaoke. And I love knowing where my food comes from!

It helps cut down on fuel consumption and, thus, air pollution because the food has to travel fewer miles to get to your plate. It reduces our carbon footprint. Less pollution = happier lungs.

What are some reasons you can think of to buy local and/or organic? Leave a comment sharing your ideas.

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Next week: Farm2Home 2015 P. Allen Smith.

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