Beloved Branches

Asian pears grow on trees at Highpoint Orchards and Farm Market in Greensburg, Indiana. Located on historic ìPleaks Hillî in Northwest Decatur County, the orchard was established in 2005, on a property that has a home dating back to 1858 and an old mill barn dating back to 1854.

In our childhood, objects that were a common everyday event may have taken little notice. As we grow older, memories come flooding back when we least expected them to surface. Perhaps it’s the smell of a familiar fragrance, watching a trail of ants working together to carry a larger insect back to their nest, or the erosion of a ditch bank that reveals hidden treasures. For me, it was picking up a ripe pear in a West Tennessee Farmers’ Market. This simple act reminded me of the pear tree from my childhood, whose branches and shade allowed me to visit a pretend land of make-believe.

A few feet from the back porch of my childhood home stood a huge pear tree. I recall stories of this being the only sweet summer pear tree anywhere around our community. Who planted this tree? Where did the seed come from? Could an early pioneer have dropped a pear while traveling this land, moving westward after crossing the Appalachian Mountains? Even without these answers, I knew the tree produced an abundance of fruit as generations of family and neighbors walked by, filling burlap bags with the juicy, sweet treats.

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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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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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Lessons From the Garden

Lettuce grows in a greenhouse at Genesis Growers in St. Anne, IL. Genesis Growers runs a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program distributing its fresh produce to more than 200 local families. (JCI Photo / Todd Bennett)

Lettuce grows in a greenhouse at Genesis Growers in St. Anne, IL. Genesis Growers runs a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program distributing its fresh produce to more than 200 local families. (JCI Photo / Todd Bennett)

An excerpt from my Tennessee Home & Farm article “Lessons From the Garden:” 

The dew had almost dried on the warm spring morning. After long winter hours of studying the Old Farmer’s Almanac and finding the right phase of the moon, my dad chose this Saturday in April to plant the family garden.

Dad added fresh gasoline and checked the oil in the 1950s Troy-Bilt tiller. A few sputters and clinks later, the motor churned, caught and pulverized the soil. Soon, the sweet smell of fresh-turned earth permeated the country air.

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