Remembering the Revival

TN Home and Farm - Revival

I recall memories of my childhood in this Tennessee Home & Farm piece:

It wasn’t Mayberry. But it was a small West Tennessee community that resembled the famous television series. Parents raised their children by the Bible and how Andy Griffith raised Opie. It was a time when simple pleasures consisted of family and friends being together. People worked hard, played hard, and the school and church held the community together.

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Aruba: Land of white sand beaches and emerald waters

Aruba Sunset (Susan Renee / Flickr)

Aruba Sunset (Susan Renee / Flickr)

Looking for tropical destination for you next vacation? Here’s my article on Aruba for the Chester County Independent:

Covering approximately 74-square-miles, Aruba is a contrast between the beautiful white sandy beaches, emerald waters – and scrubby undergrowth. Sand, that feels like fine granulated sugar meets the coast. Turquoise, blue-green water reaches as far as the eye can see. Footprints fade quickly as the wind swept terrain blows constantly. A generally flat, river-less land, this is part of the island group making up the southern part of the Caribbean.

In addition to the beauty of this Caribbean land, Aruba has a fascinating history. Alonso de Ojeda claimed the area for the Spanish Crown in 1499 and after the end of the 80-year war with Spain; the Dutch took possession of the island around 1634. Dutch is the primary language spoken, but Papiamento is a blend of several languages spoken on a few islands. Aruba has a population of around 100,000 inhabitants with no major cities. Oranjested, the capital has only about 30,000 residents.

Once known for its gold mining until the minerals played out in 1913, the country sought other resources. With only 15 to 20 inches of annual rainfall, aloe, cacti and the windswept divi-divi – the national tree – prosper in this hot, dry climate. Fortunately, the aloe plant that thrives in this climate has become the island’s primary agricultural crop making Aruba a leading producer of skin care products. Also, plantations provide local employment and supply cosmetics around the world. Farmers tend these plants like locals raise cotton, corn, and soybeans in our area.

On visiting an aloe factory, we were told the outer leaves of the aloe plant are the ones to remove. The plant puts up new shoots from the center and will continue to multiply. One of the best natural medicines for a burn, the leaves of the aloe are broken and the sticky residue provides healing qualities.

Huge boulders, the size of small houses, line the coast. Strong waves crash against the rocks. This makes docking a small boat in the area treacherous.

Like a child’s building blocks, visitors notice small rocks stacked one on top of the other. Years ago tourists started this custom which means, “I was not alone. The rocks were here too.” Viewing this practice, one is aware of the land’s handiwork as the surf and wind demonstrate the forces of nature.

Carolyn Tomlin is a Jackson, Tennessee-based author that has been writing and publishing since 1988. She has authored 19 books and more than 4,000 articles in magazines such as Entrepreneur, Kansas City Star, American Profile, Tennessee Home & Farm, Home Life, Mature Living, ParentLife and many others.  You can purchase her full-length works here.

Five places to visit when in Cuba

(Carolyn Tomlin)

This large cemetery is the resting place for many famous Cubans. (Carolyn Tomlin)

With U.S. relations with Cuba being renewed, I share my favorite spots I visited there during my travels for the Chester County Independent:

It is not your typical Caribbean vacation. Following along the coast, the land is devoid of skyscrapers and high-rise hotels. Traffic jams are non-existent. In fact, when traveling down the main west-to-east highway connecting the sparsely populated countryside, travelers see few automobiles.

However, occasional horses pulling carts with a single or double occupant are the norm. On Saturday, in the rural area, lines of freshly-washed clothes dry outside in this tropical climate. Horses serve as lawnmowers as they are tied to small sections of the road where they eat lush green grass.

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Feeding the Hungry: Communities inspired by couple’s desire to feed the hungry

Jim and Linda Jones lead a team of volunteers to feed nearly 3,000 children with a backpack of food 49 weeks a year.

Jim and Linda Jones lead a team of volunteers to feed nearly 3,000 children with a backpack of food 49 weeks a year.

For Alabama Living, I profiled the Alabama Childhood Food Solution charity:

Jim and Linda Jones have always worked to make a difference, both in the U.S. and abroad. But their effort now is concentrated on their northeast Alabama community.

Serving on 23 short-term mission trips around the world — in the U.S., Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Kenya and Brazil — opened their eyes to hunger. But it was after a mission trip to Africa that Jim saw hunger within one mile of his home — in his own neighborhood.

Jim and Linda Jones lead a team of volunteers to feed nearly 3,000 children with a backpack of food 49 weeks a year.

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Casey Jones Village: Right on Track

Entrepeneur Magazine - Casey Jones

I wanted to post this piece from my personal archives on the Casey Jones Village in Jackson, Tennessee. It originally ran years ago in Entrepreneur Magazine‘s “Business Beat” column:

In 1965, Brooks Shaw of Jackson, Tennessee started collecting country folk antiques as a way to combat stress from the high pressure job as president of a canned meat company. Little did he know that along the way he would fall in love with the story of American railroad engineer and folk hero Casey Jones and start something that 26 years later would become a top notch business.   Continue reading

Cuba’s Orchid Garden

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Here’s my piece on the Orchid Gardens of Soroa in Cuba, as it appeared in the Chester County Independent :

On a summer afternoon with temperatures in the high 90s and extreme humidity our group of 13 educators climbed approximately 206 meters (1 meter equals 3.28 feet) to Cuba’s Orchid Park in Soroa. Orchids and other tropical plants thrive in this micro-climate that includes abundant rains and an average annual temperature of 74 degrees.

The Orchid Gardens of Soroa were developed due to a great sadness of the owner. In 1942 Tomás Felipe Camacho, a successful lawyer and native of the Canary Islands, purchased a tract of land in an area of Soroa. Filled with lush native vegetation, he wanted to share this beautiful site with others. At first, he thought of building a resort on the land, but a turn of events changed his plans. His beloved daughter died while giving birth. Shortly after, his grieving wife passed away. From that day forward, Don Tomás devoted himself totally to honoring his deceased loved ones. Thus, he developed a captivating interest in growing orchids.  Continue reading

Honoring the Spirit of Christmas

poinsetta

The poinsettia plant is symbolic with the spirit of Christmas.

My latest yuletide piece for the Chester County Independent:

There is something about the holiday season that brings out the best in people. When we bump into shoppers in crowded stores, we smile, say “excuse me” and allow them to move ahead. Our thoughts turn to helping the homeless and collecting food boxes for those who are in need. Perhaps an organization or church adopts a child for Christmas that otherwise would never receive gifts. Yes, Christmas is a time of year when we think of sharing material possessions as well as our time.

That baby named Jesus, born in a manger in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago is as real today as when the shepherds saw the star and came to worship him.

This Christmas think of ways your family can put joy into making this holiday season one of your best. Would it not be wonderful if your family could look back and say, “You know, Christmas 2015 was one I’ll always remember?” Could these ideas make that happen?

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Horse Motel is Keeping the Barn Door Open

Bud Sikes checks on one of his Arabian stallions at the Southern Star Horse Hotel in Jackson, Tennessee.

Bud Sikes checks on one of his Arabian stallions at the Southern Star Horse Hotel in Jackson, Tennessee.

I’m extremely excited to have the cover story for the Winter 2015-2016 edition of Tennessee Home & Farm. Here’s an excerpt from the piece, which focuses on a “horse motel” in Madison County:

A well-known motel has the slogan: “We’ll keep the lights on for you.” For Bud and Lelia Sikes, owners of Southern Star Farms in Madison County, it’s more along the lines of: “We’ll keep the barn door open for you.”

Like a layover station for the Pony Express, the Volunteer State is becoming an area where owners and drivers look for overnight lodging before leaving home. Fortunately, they won’t be disappointed. One website lists 48 overnight stables sites and another 65. However, some of those listed are places to ride or train. With the Interstate 40 corridor connecting the eastern and western U.S., equestrians choose this route when transporting horses.  Continue reading

Christmas Memories

Holly Tree Gap Road

Holly Tree Gap Road

Early in December, I knew the Christmas holidays were drawing near, as events started happening in our rural West Tennessee community.

Even as a 6-year-old, I felt the surge of excitement taking place among our parents and relatives. Probably the first hint was the Christmas catalog that arrived from Sears, Roebuck & Company. Page after page of wonderful toys invaded my mind, causing me to dream visions of ownership.

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Simplifying Thanksgiving Traditions

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner (Photo by Ian Freimuth)

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner (Photo by Ian Freimuth)

In this article for the Chester County Independent, I give some tips on how to change up your Thanksgiving plans:

As we grow older, we want to continue holiday traditions we have honored in the past. But with down-sizing to a smaller home or apartment, there is not space to feed or seat several generations of family or friends. However, that does not mean seniors should cancel celebrations or delete holiday events.

Here are some suggestions for keeping Thanksgiving customs while simplifying the usual rituals.

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