America the Beautiful ~ Our Summer Vacation

Our summer vacation took us through five states within a week’s time. Our main destination was Colorado, because we had never been there before, but our route took us through other new areas, as well. We did an awful lot of driving and within that short time span the vistas changed dramatically, as did the temperatures. (They ranged from mid-40s, to 112!!) We started in the Ozark “mountains,” went through the flat high plains, then through the Rocky Mountains, and then through arid New Mexico and the Panhandle of Texas. Then drove the entire width of Oklahoma on our return home. I was happy to see some areas of our beautiful country that I had never seen before.

Roadfood ~ The Roadtripper's CompanionRoadfood ~ The Roadtripper’s Companion is a companion post to this one. We ate really well on this trip, thanks to this handy book!

The Sunflower State

My dad grew up in Kansas, so the corn and wheat fields, and grain elevators brought back childhood memories of my grandparents’ farm and grain elevator. It was interesting to see all of the wind turbines looming on the horizon. I was surprised there were so many of them. We saw them again as we drove through the Texas Panhandle and Western Oklahoma.

When we were driving west in the high plains of western Kansas, we headed into a storm. The contrast between the dark sky and the golden wheat fields was beautiful. That was the first time that the first verse of “America the Beautiful” popped into my head, and it lodged there for the duration of the trip.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

A Silly Childhood Memory

As we crossed the state line into Colorado, I remembered a time when I was very young and traveling with my parents. As we crossed a state line my dad raised his hands in the air and exclaimed, “Yay, we’re in Arkansas!” For some reason it amazed me that he could take both of his hands off of the steering wheel and I remember it vividly to this day.

Majestic Mountains

I was in total awe of the mountains. We visited Breckenridge, Ouray, Telluride, and Durango. At first Margaret and I took lots of photos, but we realized it was impossible to capture their grandeur and slowed down. At times, we’d be exclaiming, “Wow, look at that!” while pointing out opposite sides of the car.

The majestic mountains coming into view took my breath away!

Our first stop was in Breckinridge where we spent a few days. The gardener in me was envious of the flowers literally everywhere! The native trees and plants were all so beautiful. I didn’t even see a weed I didn’t like.

My nickname for Margaret is Petunia, so it was appropriate to get a picture beneath a basket of them.

It’s a beautiful town, and the weather was nice. We had a little rain, but you know I like rain, so no problem.

A drizzly evening in Breckinridge.

We rode the Alpine Coaster and that was a lot of fun! We also went on a guided Jeep tour.

I couldn’t resist goofing off with Margaret, pretending to push her down the mountain. (I would never do that!)

Everywhere that we ate was really good. We also got some good exercise, walking everywhere.

Acting like a kid on the Alpine Coaster in Breckinridge

While near Breckinridge, Colorado, we stopped at the Continental Divide marker. It was a popular photo op, so other tourists were also waiting their turn to take their picture with it. We offered to take another group’s photo and learned that they were also from Missouri and lived about an hour from us. It was rainy and chilly, so we hurriedly took our pictures and jumped back in the car. The next day we were driving back by it, so we decided to stop and take another picture with the improved weather. Again, we traded taking pictures with another group, and they, too, were from Missouri!

Our family, divided. (Minus our son who wasn’t able to join us)

Margaret and I got to spend a little bit of time panning for gold. See my big ol’ purse there on the rocks? It was full of gold! (I wish)

Ouray was a beautiful little town, nestled picturesquely in the mountains. We all agreed that we’d like to return and spend more time.

While there, we rented a Jeep and spent the day driving over a couple of mountain passes. We weren’t sure what to expect, and I think that was a good thing, because we might not have gone. The narrow trails took us along the edge of the mountains. It was usually only wide enough for one vehicle, so if we met someone going the opposite way, both drivers had to navigate carefully. A few times, I was afraid that the vehicle passing us was going to flip over on top of us as it squeaked by on the mountain incline.

Narrow treacherous road. I hope nobody comes around that corner!

I was amazed at all of the wildflowers and would have liked to have taken more pictures of them. They thickly covered the hillsides.

Beautiful wildflowers!
The narrow mountain road. Note the approaching vehicles.

We made it!

Margaret at Ophir Pass
The village of Ophir

As we descended from Ophir Pass we had this beautiful view of Ophir, a little mountain village.

Mid-way through our Jeep excursion, we briefly visited Telluride for lunch. Both there and in Breckinridge we rode the gondolas to enjoy the beautiful views. I couldn’t believe they were free! That was a fun new experience for me.

Goodbye, Telluride!

So far, so good, but our next destination, the Imogene Pass, was at 14,000 ft, so off we went. Margaret and I “oohed” and “ahed” while taking pictures, but Scott had to keep his eyes on the narrow trail. It wasn’t for the faint of heart, for sure.

Um, yah, that looks safe!

Margaret has a tendency to get car sick, and anyone could have an anxiety attack while looking over the edge, so I worried about how she was doing. I was relieved when, at one point as the Jeep was tipping, Margaret exclaimed, “This is the coolest vacation we’ve taken so far!” (Insert lots of laughing)

During our driving adventure, we often saw remains of old mining operations.

Be sure to check your accommodations on TripAdvisor.

 

A Port-a-Potty with a view. If you make it up to 8,000 ft, you’re rewarded with a rest stop.

With sparse vegetation and greenish rocks, the top of the mountains reminded me of the moon. I thought that was the closest I’d get to being an astronaut.

I felt like an astronaut on the moon.

I can’t believe we were at the very top of a mountain at 14,000 ft! I’m glad we did it, but I think once was enough for me, especially on the Imogene.

We made it!
My husband taking pictures at Imogene Pass

There was a lot more to our vacation, and it was literally all down hill from there. It was all great, except for the fact that our son wasn’t with us. We spent a night in Durango, and then went to New Mexico. We spent an afternoon and evening in Santa Fe where we had just enough time to visit the vendors and buy a few souvenirs before it started pouring rain.

Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, Texas

The next morning we continued on to Amarillo where we ate at The Big Texan and then went to see the outdoor play, Texas, in the Palo Duro canyon. Although it was a very hot night, the play was good. What I wanted to mention, though, was that the performance ended with the song…”America the Beautiful.” It was the theme of our vacation.

Did you take a trip this summer? Where did you go? Please subscribe to see where the road takes us next.

Related Reading

Roadfood

America the Beautiful ~ Our Summer Vacation

Seasons of Parenting

When I was expecting our first child, I read a lot of books to prepare myself for the new world of parenting. I didn’t know much of anything about taking care of babies and raising children, so I wanted to learn as much as I could. Little did I know that parenting had different seasons, and I would always feel inept and lacking in wisdom.

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Birth

The moment Hayden was born, my life changed. I can laugh now as I think about the changes that those maternal hormones caused. I was so protective of my tiny new son that if I could have had a police escort or an armored vehicle to take him home in, I would have. Instincts kicked in and a lot came naturally, but there were still times when problems arose and I felt incompetent. It’s amazing how quickly those sweet little babies grow and develop. Before you know it, they’re trying to roll over, sit up, walk and talk.

Toddlers

When our son approached his second birthday, I mentally prepared for the legendary “Terrible Twos.” Maybe it was because I had expected the worst, but I really didn’t think it was that bad. My son didn’t get more challenging until he was about three. Around that same age, I remember having a battle of wills with our daughter. When our little humans start to declare their independence and exert their will, new challenges start to arise.

Early Childhood

The ages from about 4 to 12 were pretty smooth sailing. I enjoyed watching my kids grow and develop. Homeschooling was fun and relatively easy. They were fairly compliant and pleasant to be around. It was a time of teaching manners and thinking outside of one’s self, learning in leaps and bounds, guiding and guarding.

Tweens & Teens

The tweens and teens seasons were fraught with hormones and the emotional upheaval that they caused. When my kids reached thirteen, they changed so quickly that it made my head spin. They could be happy one moment and mysteriously crying (or yelling) the next.  Although challenging, the teen years seemed to go quickly. They matured and started to find their passions, earn their driver’s licenses, and get their first jobs. One day, after our son turned eighteen, he was carrying his belongings out the front door, saying he was moving out. Then last year our daughter started college, and although she’s home for holidays and breaks, she has spread her wings. Our relationship is different with both of them.

Empty Nest

Now my husband and I are adjusting again. Our kids are young adults, coming and going from our home. We’re learning a new balancing act of parenting – when to encourage, when to correct…and when to bite our tongue. We know that they still need us, and we still want them around.

Seasons

When my children were small, people often commented about how quickly they grew up. As a young mother in the trenches it didn’t seem like it at the time, but now I’ve joined that chorus. I often find myself reflecting over my child-rearing years and wondering where all of that time went.

Each stage had different challenges, but now those aren’t the times I most remember. The happy and awe-filled occasions are the ones that are locked up in my heart. Many of them are a result of the time we spent homeschooling, being present when the kids overcame an obstacle or discovered a new interest. Whatever season of parenting you find yourself in now, the good way outweighs the bad.

Related Reading

Wings

Empty Nest ~ What’s Next?

Helpful Links

9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling

Recommended Books

 


 

 

Seasons of Parenting

Roadfood ~ The Roadtripper’s Companion

My husband and I both enjoy road trips, watching the scenery go by and being in control of our route and schedule. We also prefer eating in diners and local joints as a way to further experience the areas we visit. When I saw Jane and Michael Stern’s book, Roadfood, on Blogging for Books, I knew it was one that I would enjoy reviewing. At the time I requested it, we were talking about taking a summer trip, but hadn’t decided where. We wanted to take our two kids on an adventure before our daughter started back at college.

Our kids are 18 and 22, so we’re reaching a time when they may not want to travel with us or are unable to, as was the case with Hayden, who had to work and wasn’t able to join us. Margaret was still interested in doing something with us, so we wanted to take her somewhere while we could. We ended up deciding to visit Colorado since none of us had ever been there. Scott planned an elliptical route that would take us through five different states: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. What a great opportunity to take Roadfood along and try to visit some of the restaurants they recommended!

This post contains affiliate links. If you use one of my links to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, but it doesn’t affect the price you pay. It’s an easy way to support my blog.

Roadfood

Roadfoodwritten by Jane and Michael Stern, is in its 10th edition, printed in 2017. It’s organized by region of the continental United States and each section has a map with dots designating the location of recommended restaurants. Most seem to be along major highways, perfect for when you’re traveling a long distance and taking the quickest route.  Each restaurant listed has the address, phone number, and codes for which meals they serve and price range. The Sterns then give a brief description of  the restaurant, what they offer, and highlight some of their favorite dishes.

Newton, Kansas

The first restaurant we had the opportunity to try was The Breadbasket in Newton, Kansas. It was right on our way, we only had to detour a few blocks and it was easy to find. The Sterns’ description of their homemade breads, salad bar, and German buffet was appealing. It had been a long time since we’d eaten German food, so this little adventure helped start off our vacation. It was just as described, and everything was very good. The buffet also included a dessert, with a tempting variety to choose from.

The advantage of a buffet, is the quickness of it. We were able to eat a delicious meal and be back on the road in no time.

Denver, Colorado

There were four different listings for Denver, so I read them aloud to my husband and daughter, and we decided to try Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. They had a huge variety of hot dogs made with exotic meats such as reindeer, elk, and rattlesnake, plus an array of unusual toppings. It sounded like a one-of-a-kind place.

Deciding what to order was difficult, but I chose the Southwest Buffalo Dog with the El Diablo topping. It was almost too spicy for me, but it was very good. Scott got the Jack-A-Lope, and Margaret also ordered the Southwest Buffalo Dog.

Southwest Buffalo Dog with El Diablo Topping

The family favorite was their Fried Mac-N-Cheese. None of us had tried that before. The exterior was crunchy, and the inside was warm and cheesy. It was a hit! We’re still talking about it.

Biker Jim’s was only a few blocks from the Rockies’ baseball stadium and fans were filing in for a game. Traffic and parking were challenging, but we managed to find a parking place a short walk away.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

We were able to visit three different restaurants in Santa Fe:

We arrived in Santa Fe in time for a late lunch, so we made a bee-line to Santa Fe Bite. It had the distinction of being included on Roadfood’s Honor Roll, which is the Sterns’ top 100 recommended restaurants. Scott ordered the Green Chile Cheeseburger. Margaret ordered the Fish Tacos, and I ordered the Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas. We eat Mexican food often, but their dishes definitely had the New Mexico flavors that we were looking forward to.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

For dinner that evening we tried the Plaza Cafe. I tried the Stuffed Sopaipilla. Margaret got the Cashew Mole Enchiladas and highly recommended them. Scott ordered the Quesadillas. They were all good, and we enjoyed the atmosphere and excellent service there.

For breakfast the following morning, we sought out Tecolate. After reading their description in Roadfood, I was looking forward to trying their pancakes made with blue cornmeal. When we were seated, they immediately served fresh, delicious coffee. A few moments later they brought a basket of assorted breads. Scott ordered the Sheepherder’s Breakfast. He likes spice, but he said it was almost too spicy. Margaret ordered Huevos Yucatecos, and hers had the best presentation. I finally got the Atole Piñon Pancakes and they were huge, as big as my plate. Even with Scott and Margaret’s help, we only ate half of a full stack. If you like breakfast, Tecolote is a must-try!

Amarillo, Texas
The Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas

As we turned back towards home, our next stop was in Amarillo, Texas, the home of the famous Big Texan. My husband researched online and found conflicting reviews. We decided to go ahead and try it, and see what we thought. Located on the old Route 66, The Big Texan is famous for their “72 oz Steak Challenge” – if you can eat a 72oz steak, three shrimp, a salad, a baked potato, and a roll, in one hour, then you get your meal free. None of us took the challenge.

72 oz Steak Challenge – you have to eat everything pictured.

It’s a large restaurant with a lot of atmosphere. We all ordered Chicken-Fried Steak, and then couldn’t resist trying their huge slab of chocolate cake. With all three of us, we only ate about half of it, but it was moist and delicious. They serve their drinks in souvenir plastic cups so you can take them with you. Of all the places we visited, this was the most “touristy,” but I still enjoyed it.

Clinton, Oklahoma

Roadfood ~ The Roadtripper's Companion

Headed back home on I-40, we neared Clinton, Oklahoma, just in time for lunch, so we stopped at Jigg’s Smokehouse. I must divulge a conflict of interest, and that is that our family owns a BBQ restaurant, so it’s hard to be unbiased. Jigg’s was right on the interstate. It’s a small, rustic joint, as most BBQ places are. The menu was very simple, consisting of sandwiches and a few sides. Our sandwiches were all large and good, served on paper.

We were entertained by funny signs, and marveling at the business cards that looked like they had been there for decades. The food was good and we were quickly back on the road.

An Invitation

Although our family restaurant isn’t on a major thoroughfare, I invite Jane and Michael Stern, and you, to visit BBQ Station in Cassville, Missouri. I’ve already admitted to my personal bias, but they have a 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. They’re located in southwest Missouri, near Roaring River State Park, Branson, Missouri, and Bentonville, Arkansas. They have loyal patrons who drive an hour or more, so they’re definitely worth the drive.

BBQ Station Truck by Mid-Life Blogger

End of the Road

Our trip turned out to be perfect for trying out Roadfood. In all, we were able to visit seven restaurants in five different states from its listings. We double-checked them on TripAdvisor, to make sure they were still in business and in the same spot, but all of them were just as listed.

If we hadn’t had Roadfood, I don’t think we would have starved, but left to our own devices, I think we would have had some lackluster meals, and possible bombs. As it was, every meal was delicious and an adventure in itself. With the Sterns’ tips, we got to experience different cultures, which definitely added another dimension to our trip.

Favorite Meals

Each of us chose our favorite meal from our trip: Scott chose the Green Chile Cheeseburger from Santa Fe Bite, saying it was the best burger he’d ever had, and he’s a hamburger connoisseur. Margaret’s favorite was the Cashew Mole Enchiladas at Plaza Cafe in Santa Fe. I ate much too well this trip, and it’s hard to choose just one, but I think I’d choose the pancakes I had at Tecolote. They were huge, delicious, and something I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Now that Scott and I have an empty nest, roadtripping is something we want to do more of. If, like us, you enjoy the drive, then I recommend that you take along  Roadfood. It’ll give you the confidence to leave the comfort zone of chain restaurants and experience something new.

Which of these reastaurants would you most like to try? Do you already have Roadfood? Tell me in the comments!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Helpful Links

Roadfood

Jane & Michael Stern Bio

BBQ Station

Roadfood ~ The Roadtripper's Companion

 

Mid-Life Blogger’s Peach Cobbler

I managed to salvage some peaches in my battle with Brown Rot and I wanted to make a cobbler. There are lots of recipes for peach cobbler, but I was looking for one with more of a crunchy topping, versus a “cakey” one. I ended up combining two different recipes. I was really happy with how it came out and wanted to write out the recipe for future use, so I thought I might as well share it with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Mid-Life Blogger’s Peach Cobbler

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen sliced peaches
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 c brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Batter topping:
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp soft butter
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a saucepan, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, water, and peaches. Cook over medium until mixture is thickened, about 15 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp butter, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into an 8" round baking dish.
  • Batter Topping: Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, 2 Tbsp soft butter, and egg. Beat with a spoon until batter is smooth. Drop by spoonfuls over hot peach mixture. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of sugar. Bake 40-50 minutes.
  • Serves 4 alone, or 6 with ice cream.
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Peach Cobbler was good.
It was good!

 

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Mid-Life Blogger's Peach Cobbler

 

 

 

Brown Rot is the Pits

I wasn’t sure if we’d get peaches this year because we had a late freeze right in the middle of blooming. A lot of peaches formed, but most of them fell from the tree. The tree has grown by leaps and bounds this season and has a lot of foliage. A few chickens have taken to roosting in it and my husband joked that it was because of their droppings. It seemed as if all of the peaches had dropped, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there will still some hidden among all of the leaves. The remaining peaches are a nice hefty size and are starting to ripen.  A few days ago I was alarmed to find that some had a mold growing on them, so I researched what it was and what to do about it.

Before pruning: our peach tree had put on a lot of growth this spring.

Looking at that picture above, would you believe that I drastically pruned that tree earlier this spring? I did, and I have a blog post to prove it! Below is the “after” picture from that pruning.

Patiently Pruning Peaches and Pears
“After” photo of early spring pruning.

 

This post contains affiliate links which means that I earn a small commission if you use them to make a purchase. It doesn’t affect the price you pay, but helps to support my blog. 

Monilinia Fruiticola

Monilinia Fruiticola, aka “Brown Rot,” seems to be the culprit. Evidently, it affects all stone fruits (with pits, get my title? LOL), so I’ll need to watch my cherry trees for it as well. They’re planted on the opposite side of the yard from the peach trees, so hopefully that will help prevent it from spreading to them. From what I’ve read, wet and humid weather contributes to the problem and we’ve had a very wet spring and early summer.

Signs of Brown Rot

The ugly signs of Brown Rot are:

  • Brown, wilted blossoms.
  • Dark, sunken spots on new shoots, and brown, hanging leaves on infected limbs.
  • Affected fruit develops small spots of rot that enlarge quickly.
  • Rotting fruit develops fuzzy tan or gray spores that cover the fruit’s surface.
  • If left on the tree, the fruit shrivels and hardens up into “mummies.”
A “mummy”

I’m glad that I gave the peach tree such a thorough pruning in the spring, otherwise my problem might be worse. In the future I’ll keep an eye out for the signs of infected limbs and remove them asap.

An infected limb.
What to Do About It?

Here are the recommendations I’ve found:

  • Remove all infected fruit immediately and dispose of it.
  • Trim out any infected branches, cleaning the pruners between cuts.
  • Dispose of infected material. Do not compost.
  • In the winter remove infected twigs. Identify by looking for cankers.
  • Practice good sanitation habits by cleaning up fallen fruit under the tree.
  • Also spray for the Plum curculio, the insect responsible for the worms found around stone fruit. Their damage is what allows the mold spores to enter the fruit.
  • Plant resistant varieties.

 

Insect damage which offered entry point to fungus.
Another damaged limb.
Yuck!
Ready for Battle

Armed with this information, the following morning I headed outside with my pruners and loppers. I cut out any obviously diseased branches, plus more that didn’t have fruit on them to open up the canopy to more sunlight and airflow. I removed the diseased peaches and put them into a plastic bag to contain the fungal spores. Also, I took out a spray bottle with diluted bleach and sprayed my tools often. I’m not sure if that’s the best thing to use, but I wanted to try to prevent spreading the fungus. When the Mule was loaded up, my sweet husband drove it all away to another part of the farm for disposal.

A Mule load of peach branches.

The end result was a tree that was much more open. I ran out of time that morning, but the next step is to spray it with some copper fungicide. I also got some spray for the insects that damage the fruit, which then enables the fungus to enter.

The peach tree after my pruning job. Huge difference!

I’ll put up the best fight I can to save the remaining peaches. It sure would be nice to make a peach cobbler as my reward. Wish me luck!

Update

Mid-Life Blogger's Peach CobblerI was able to save some peaches and rewarded my efforts with this yummy peach cobbler.

Mid-Life Blogger's Peach Cobbler
Mid-Life Blogger’s Peach Cobbler

 

Related Reading

Patiently Pruning Peaches and Pears

A Passion for Seeds ~ Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

I’ve wanted to visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company for a long time. For at least ten years I’ve received their catalogs and watched Jere Gettle’s business and family grow. Their festivals have always looked like so much fun, yet I never found the time to make the 2 1/2 hour trip.

My contact there, Kathy McFarland, has been supportive of my blog. When I approached her for a donation for my recent anniversary celebration, I offered to visit and write about them in return, purposely making that commitment so I would finally get to go.

My visit just happened to be on June 21st, the first day of summer. Somehow that seemed appropriate, although I didn’t plan it that way. I would love to visit again during one of their special events, but for this visit I was happy to go when I would get to meet some of the people who would otherwise be too busy. It was a beautiful day and an easy drive. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company is located in Mansfield, Missouri, about an hour east of Springfield, on the historic Rippee land grant homestead near the Gasconade River.

The Gettle family lives in this beautiful 1906 farmhouse on the company premises.
Warm Welcome

When I arrived I wasn’t sure where to go, so I went into the General Store. The employee there seemed to be expecting me and asked if I was there to see Kathy. That was nice because immediately I felt welcomed and not so lost. While I waited for Kathy, I looked around the charming store. There were racks and racks of seeds, which I had expected to see, but also other products for sale such as gardening books, cooking supplies, decorative items, and even fabrics and sewing patterns. It had the authentic feel of a general store.

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Debbie Gettle’s Paintings

I immediately recognized Debbie Gettle’s paintings. Jere’s mother is a talented artist, and many of them had served as beautiful catalog covers in years past. Baker Creek’s catalogs really stand apart from most because of their personality – the artwork, the quotes and trivia, and the photos of the Gettles (especially of their darling daughters, Sasha and Malia) and the people that actually work there and are part of the Baker Creek family, all make them a joy to read, especially during the bleak winter months.

Kathy arrived and it was so nice to meet her in person as she was very warm and friendly. She took me to her office where she told me about the history of the company.

Passion Takes Root

Jere Gettle started his first garden when he was three years old, and learned to read by reading seed packets. As a young child he realized that some varieties of seeds were disappearing from the catalogs and that sprouted his interest in saving seeds. At that time, Jere’s family lived in the northwest, but when Jere was about twelve, his family purchased the land grant homestead in Mansfield, Missouri, where his company is now located. (Emilee later told me that the Gettles moved to Missouri for the climate and the less-constrictive homeschool laws.) His seed collection gradually grew, and soon after moving to Missouri, in his early teens, Jere started selling his seeds at swap meets.

When he was seventeen, Jere made his first seed list, naming it after nearby Baker Creek. That first year he made 250 copies of his catalog, and nearly twenty years later in 2017 they made 750,000! Kathy said that the local banker still tells the story of how Jere walked into the bank carrying a metal bucket full of money to open his first account.

Very first Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, 1998.
1998 Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog. Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds/rareseeds.com
Pioneer Village

“Bakersville,” the pioneer village, was started in the year 2000 because Jere wanted to host a gathering to talk about seeds. That was the beginning of their festivals which are now held on the first Sunday of the month, March through October, and the village grew up around them. The annual May “Planting Festival,” is the biggest event and attracts 10,000 visitors.

The village consists of many differently-themed buildings and looks like Little House on the Prairie could have been filmed there. During my visit the village was quiet, but during festivals it comes to life with live demonstrations and authentic costumes.

About four years ago, on a trip to Italy, Jere fell in love with their courtyards. When he returned home he designed a similar garden. The fountain was designed by a local potter and then was built by an Amish crew.

Courtyard Garden
The fountain in the courtyard garden was designed by a local potter

Jere also has an interest in heritage breeds of poultry, so there are cages with all sorts of birds throughout the grounds.

As if all of the events at their home office in Mansfield, Missouri, weren’t enough, Baker Creek has branched out and also has events in California. The Seed Bank is housed in an old bank building in Petaluma, an old-gold mining town. At this location they offer special events such as lectures, workshops, and a book club – all gardening related, of course. The 7th annual National Heirloom Exposition will take place in Santa Rosa, California, September 5-7, 2017. The Exposition brings together people who are passionate about pure food and heirloom seeds from all over the world. They have hundreds of speakers and vendors, plus demonstrations. There are even special activities for children. You can learn more about these events by following their links.

Baker Creek Restaurant
Dave Kaiser

I had read about the Baker Creek Restaurant and was excited to experience it. As we walked in, I met Dave Kaiser, whom I immediately recognized from their catalogs. I got to spend quite a bit of time with him, so more about him shortly. The restaurant carried out the pioneer feel with rustic furniture, wooden floors and walls. Each table was adorned with fresh cut flowers.

Their chef, Loghan Call, prepares vegan meals using the bounty of the garden, plus locally-grown produce, as much as possible. Their menu is “ever-changing,” reflecting what’s in season. It’s a donation-based restaurant. They have a suggested donation of $5-10 per person, but you pay what you’re able when you leave the restaurant by leaving it in a donation box.

When you walk in, you have a choice of two beverages which also vary. On my visit I had a choice between homemade lemonade, and lemongrass-blueberry infused water. I chose the pretty pink lemonade.

For lunch, I tried the “Baker Creek Garden Salad with Blueberry, Thyme Dressing,” and “Roasted Tomato and Black Lentil Polenta with Cauliflower Rice and Marinated Zucchini.” I loved the uniqueness and creativity of the menu items, and I felt like I had really eaten a healthy meal. It sure can’t get any fresher! It even included a small scoop of ice cream. That day’s choices were “Thyme,” or “Chocolate Marble.” I chose the Chocolate Marble, but Kathy offered me a sample of her Thyme and both were very good. Their ice creams are also vegan, made with coconut milk.

Dave Kaiser and Kathy McFarland

When Kathy and I finished eating, Dave came and sat with us to visit. Dave has known Jere pretty much since his family moved to the area when he was about 12. Dave’s son, Andrew, was a close friend of Jere’s and helped him in the early days of his budding business. Dave was able to tell me all sorts of stories and he gave me a tour of his own later in the afternoon. But at this point, Emilee came to visit with me so both Kathy and Dave excused themselves.

The First Lady of Bakersville

Both Jere and Emilee are very busy, so I was appreciative of Emilee taking time to sit down with me. She’s such a pretty and charming young lady, and very easy to talk to. Another reason I’ve been a loyal customer of Baker Creek was the homeschooling connection. Both Jere and Emilee were homeschooled, and they are now homeschooling their own children. Since I like writing about both gardening and homeschooling, their family fits both of those interests.

The Gettle family: Jere, Emilee, Sasha, and Malia. Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds/rareseeds.com

I don’t remember exactly when I started getting their catalogs, but I feel like it was a year or two before Jere and Emilee married because I remember her suddenly appearing in the catalog. Emilee told me the story of how they met: She lived in central Missouri and was an only child. She loved writing and had posted in a magazine, seeking a penpal. She said she had over ninety responses, so she started an online magazine for homeschooled girls. After awhile she decided to also write for boys. She had become good friends with a penpal from Tennessee whose mother had recommended the Baker Creek catalog to her. Emilee thought it would be interesting to interview Jere for her magazine, that his story might be of interest to young men. She started communicating with Jere in January, they met in March for the interview, and they were married in August. Emilee commented that she felt like she saw God’s hand in the events that led to them meeting.

I asked Emilee if she gardened before she met Jere. She said that while growing up, her family had gardened and that she also had a garden of her own. Because of it she also learned to love canning. Where Jere enjoys the seed and sowing part, she really prefers the harvesting and preserving part.

Emilee is very creative and is a good compliment to Jere. She has used her writing talent to co-author books, and she served as the Editor-in-Chief of “Heirloom Garden Magazine” which was recently sold.

Homeschooling

I was curious about how homeschooling affected Jere, Emilee, their family and their business. Emilee said that she felt like homeschooling helps kids find their voice. When she was young she went to public school and was shy, but when her parents started homeschooling her, she became more confident.

Emilee characterized Jere’s education as “unschooling” because he was allowed to focus on his interests. Without that, she said that the business would not have happened, noting that even at a very young age, Jere was a member of Seed Savers.

Homeschooled children can learn so much within entrepreneurial families, so I asked Emilee if their daughters would be involved in the business as they grew up. She replied that they already were, that even at 3 years of age, Malia was helping to fill orders by putting the seed packets and receipts in the envelope. Sasha, who is 9, runs her own lemonade stand during special events. The Gettles are teaching their daughters to give back by allowing them to choose an organization to donate up to half of their earnings to. Sasha recently donated about $1000 to earthquake victims in Nepal. Sasha also enjoys cooking and helps her mother prepare their evening meals in the restaurant’s commercial kitchen. “Both are excellent managers…they both tell us what to do,” she laughed. Emilee added that through the family business, both girls are learning people skills, how to treat people. “Lots of kids are so plugged in that they don’t know how to interact,” she said.

Emilee said that she tells her daughters, “You can start really small, like a seed, and grow as big as you want…with a little fertilizer.” Then laughing, she added, “Organic, of course!” She explained what she meant by “fertilizer” by saying that they have made connections with their competitors – that they didn’t grow by stepping on people, but by working with them. “We don’t really gain anything by being islands. Organic growers accomplish more by joining forces.”

The Gettles’ business requires extensive traveling. They’ve been to many different countries and usually stay for a month at a time. Jere always takes his family with him, so their daughters are growing up being exposed to a range of different cultures and languages. Some of the countries Emilee named that they had recently visited were Mexico, Thailand, and Abu Dhabi. Their next trip will be this fall to China where they plan to adopt two children.

When I was eating lunch in the restaurant, I noticed the Gettles eating lunch together as a family on the other side. Most families in our culture today are dispersed by their different job and school schedules. One of the biggest blessings of homeschooling is the ability of the family unit to spend so much more time together, resulting in stronger bonds, and the Gettle family is definitely taking advantage of that.

Emilee’s Endeavors

Besides contributing to Baker Creek Seed Company and homeschooling their daughters, Emilee has other pursuits. She is starting a new business in which she’ll sell children’s clothing and toys made with natural materials. Her goal is to be fair trade and organic. She still has not settled on the name, but hopes to launch her new business soon. You can follow her on Facebook under “Heirloom Girl.” She also recently completed her second Bachelor’s degree, so now she has two: one in Christian Education, and one in Maternal Health. She’s also a Certified Lactation Consultant. She’s a very busy lady!

Behind the Scenes Tour

When I finished visiting with Emilee I went outside to look around more and take pictures. I soon bumped into Dave Kaiser and he offered to show me around the facilities. As we walked to the warehouse, he pointed out the little cabin where he lived. Although it looks old and rickety, it’s just designed to look that way. It’s actually fairly new.

The cabin where Dave lives

As you might guess, there are many different gardens on the premises. There is one large garden that is solely for the restaurant. The others are “trial” gardens and have three purposes: 1) to test new seeds, 2) to grow seeds to give to contractors, and 3) for photographs.

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Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company contracts with over 200 small farmers all over the world to produce most of their seeds. The remaining seeds are purchased from seed houses, but the Gettles are picky, buying only non-GMO stock.

Growing Like a Weed

January through March is Baker Creek’s busy season. At one time they hand-typed the forms, picked and packed the seeds by hand, and could fill about 1000 orders a day. Currently, they have an automated system that allows them to fill 3000 orders per day.

Inside the current warehouse, Dave introduced me to some of the employees and described the machinery and how it works. I was surprised at how high-tech it was. I got to see one of the machines in action that automatically fills seed packets and seals them.

Dave showing me the current packaging system.
This machine automatically measures out seeds, fills and seals seed packets.

Then he showed me the new warehouse and the new system which will triple the daily number of orders they’re able to fill. When it’s completed they’ll be able to handle about 9000 orders a day. Don’t let Bakersville’s pioneer village fool you. Behind that facade, the company is actually high-tech.

The new warehouse automated system being designed and built.
Greenhouses
Tamarillo

Jere has a private greenhouse where he grows tropical plants. Dave let me sample a Tamarillo, a fruit that he says people either love or hate. I thought it had a unique flavor that would take some getting used to.

In a second, larger greenhouse there were huge banana trees, citrus trees, and plants that were being tested. While passing through I happened to see Malia and took this cute picture of her.

Malia and a caretaker among the banana trees.
Plants being tested

This greenhouse wasn’t big enough for the tall banana trees that were scraping the ceiling. Dave showed me the beginning of a huge new geodesic greenhouse that was being built where that wouldn’t be a problem anymore.

Fresh from Peru

During the tour, we entered an office where Dave showed me a basket of corn and beans that were recently procured from Peru. It was really interesting to see the different sizes and colors of corn and beans. They were bagged and waiting to go through the process of cataloging and testing.

A unique specimen of corn from Peru.
Dave thought these beans from Peru looked like they had fingerprints on them.

From there, Dave showed me the “seed bank” where they store small quantities of seeds for safekeeping. The dark and chilly, concrete-encased room also serves as the company’s storm shelter.

Seeds stored for safekeeping in the Seed Bank
Tour’s End

We ended up back at the General Store where Dave pointed out the very first Baker Creek Seed Company display that Jere built. It was very nice for Dave to spend that time with me, giving me his personal tour.

The first Baker Creek Seed Company display

I had a wonderful visit to Bakersville and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. I’ve included links to make it easy to visit their website to request a catalog or order some seeds. I can definitely recommend a visit to Mansfield. Not only can you visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, but the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder is also located there. Not too far away is Branson, Missouri, another nice place for family vacations.

Helpful Links

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Heirloom Girl on Facebook

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum

A Passion for Seeds ~ The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company-2

 

 

 

Let Homeschool Freedom Ring!

When we first started homeschooling, I was full of anxiety and self-doubt. As time passed, however, I relaxed and started to enjoy the freedoms it had to offer. I truly treasured them and am thankful that we were able to spend more time with our kids during their fleeting childhood years. At a time when we celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans, I also celebrate the freedoms that we as homeschoolers enjoy and need to protect.

Schedule

Homeschooling allows the freedom of scheduling. Do you want to homeschool four or five days per week? How many hours a day? Morning or afternoon? Should you homeschool year ’round, or take a summer break?

Some of these questions may be answered according to the ages and needs of your children, but the schedule can also be tailored to maximize time together as a family. If dad travels a lot, schoolwork can be done while he’s away, and then time taken off while he’s at home to spend with him. If mom and dad both work, parents can take turns teaching. Vacations can be taken when public schools are in session and special attractions are less busy.

Approach

Homeschoolers aren’t tied to a particular approach. Parents are free to research the options and make the choice that best fits their family’s current needs, and make changes as those needs change.

Children have different learning styles. Even within one family, one child might learn best through listening (auditory), while another learns best through moving (kinesthetic). Some students have challenges that need to be accommodated such as dyslexia. Homeschooling can address all of these needs, and more.

Adaptability

Even after you find a schedule that works for you, life can have unexpected seasons such as an adoption, illness, disability, or many other reasons. No matter what it is, homeschooling can adapt.

Curriculum

Where public schools all use the same textbooks purchased by the state, homeschool parents can choose from hundreds of sources, write their own, or use none at all.

They can choose a curriculum with a particular worldview. They can teach their children from a structured curriculum, or allow them to pursue their own passions. They can use the same course with all students, or a different one for each.

Curriculum can further be tailored to each student by either slowing down to master a concept, or adding additional work to challenge a precocious learner.

Location

You can homeschool near, you can homeschool far.
You can homeschool in a boat, you can homeschool in a car.
You can homeschool in, you can homeschool out
Homeschooling’s the best, without a doubt!

In the den or the dining room? Inside or out? At home or away? With homeschooling, you are no longer confined to a desk. The world is your classroom.

On a beautiful day, you can take your studies outside to enjoy the weather. You could even take them to a park or beach. Even as you do schoolwork inside, it doesn’t have to be confined to a particular place. You can read while cuddled up on the couch, or let the kids move around while you read aloud.

For a family that relocates often, homeschooling offers continuity of teacher and learning environment. Instead of continually adjusting to a different school and expectations, homeschooling can provide some consistency that children need.

Whether parents are called to be missionaries in a foreign land, or just love traveling to experience different cultures, they can homeschool on the go. The travel accentuates schoolwork by providing immersion into history, geography, cultures and languages.

Protecting

Our homeschool freedoms haven’t come easily. The homeschool community is blessed to have an organization that protects and defends us, and that is Home School Legal Defense Association. I encourage homeschool families to be members of HSLDA. They monitor proposed legislation for anything that might constrain homeschooling, or even allow a foot in the door for restrictions in the future. If a member family has problems with the school district or child protection services, they can call HSLDA for advice or legal services. HSLDA also provides a lot of information on their website.

We should all do our part to protect homeschooling, not only for our own family, but for our nation as a whole.

Let Freedom Ring

Puerto Rico recently gave homeschooling the highest protection possible by designating it a fundamental right. It now has the same constitutional protection as the freedom of speech. I would love to see the United States follow suit and ensure that parents always have the right to educate their children.

As you celebrate the freedoms you enjoy as an American, don’t forget to give thanks for the ones we enjoy as homeschoolers. I hope that they will be protected, if not expanded, so that our children have the freedom to choose for their children, too. Let homeschool freedom ring!

Related Reading

Homeschool Heroes ~ An Interview with J. Michael Smith of HSLDA

Thinking Outside the Desk While Homeschooling

Helpful Links

9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling

Nomadic Homeschoolers

Traveling Homeschoolers