Friday, September 28, 2012

Rotten Apples

It's hard to pick up a paper or turn on the tv or even to get on Facebook right now. We are in the midst of another election year and it brings out the uglies. The ugly comments about the way "All Republicans are" or "All Democrats are." There's a need to lump them together when one bad apple is found. I don't know about you, but when I find a rotten apple in the barrel I throw it away but I keep the good ones! It can cause even good friends to get their "feathers fluffed." I have to adopt a don't read policy and I work at keeping my opinions to myself. "Work" because that's not the easiest thing to do!

When I first started blogging, I was blindsided one morning with an ugly comment about how the sun must always shine on Granny Mountain, no bad news ever in Blogland. It came out of no where, anonymous of course. I don't remember what the post was about, probably pictures I'd taken and posted with memories or observations since that's what the bulk of my blog is about. Whatever, to that reader all they could see was my pretty header pictures, and they assumed that my live was sunny and perfect. No one's life is perfect. In Blogland, you don't have to look very far to find the reals. We may talk about the county fair or what we had for dinner last night, but eventually we peel the onion and get down to what we really want to talk about.

Sometimes we don't even know it's in us, but with post we etch away until it's on the surface and we can share what we needed to say all along. For me it's senior issues that I've had to face since Mom and my Father-in-law have developed dementia/Alzheimer's. I also like to blog about the good things in my community, the businesses that give more than they take, the restaurants that feel like home and the pretty in my world. The sky is blue on Granny Mountain, but make no mistake there are gray days too. I just wear my rose colored glasses on those days!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Today's Coop- Shepherd's Pie

Potatoes make their way into millions of shopping carts every day. It's the old standby for most of us, it goes with practically any meal and there's hardly a person who dislikes them. I'm never without potatoes, I only vary the kind I buy. Right now we have baby reds and russets in the potato bin. My bin is actually a shallow wicker basket that's lined with newspaper and it sets on the floor of my kitchen pantry. It's dark and gets enough circulation that I rarely have to throw one away. We can thank Luther Burbank for the Russet Burbank, it was a lifesaver coming along just at the right time to end the Irish potato famine. That blight nearly wiped out all of Ireland's potato crop. Many poor people starved to death, the ones that survived moved to other places, including the United States. 

When we think of potatoes, Idaho comes to mind... but actually potatoes are grown commercially in 36 states. It's almost the perfect food; fat, sodium and cholesterol free, low in calories and loaded with nutrients. One medium potato has nearly half the day's requirement for Vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. A great antioxidant, potatoes contain glutathione that may help protect against some cancers. That's well worth the 110 calories! You thought there were more calories in there, didn't you? Well, it's what we do with the potato that gives them a bad reputation! By the time we load them up with butter, sour cream, shredded Cheddar and bacon bits... that healthy baked potato is now a full meal of calories! The russett also is the chosen potato for french fries and potato chips, all I can say is... 
"Thank you Lord" for the potato!

For the Barrett family who grow under the Springlake, Seminole Chief and Muleshoe brands, their story goes back over 100 years. Starting in Idaho in 1910 Fred Spencer Barrett grew and shipped his first crop of potatoes, shipped by rail to St. Louis and Chicago. By 1939, he was convinced that the Texas Panhandle's climate, soil and water had the right conditions for growing a superior quality potato. Fred Barrett moved his wife and 8 children to pursue his dream of growing and producing a potato crop using  a mechanical planter instead of by hand. He developed more efficient irrigation methods that allowed him to have a presence in the southwest market. Those first few years were hard, but they survived. Today they draw from those early years and now use cutting edge technology in the production of their potatoes. GPS-driven tractors, computer-assisted irrigation and electronic grading. Their commitment took them through two World Wars, a depression, a dust bowl and many other hardships through the years.  The Barretts' now are five generations strong and they take great pride in the part they have played in making high quality potatoes available every day of the year in American homes.

Shepherd's Pie 
leftover mashed potatoes
ground beef, browned and drained (or leftover beef roast, cut in bite size pieces)
half an onion, chopped
celery, corn or just frozen peas and carrots
salt and pepper
beef broth
Cheddar cheese, shredded

In a medium skillet, cook the onion and other uncooked veggies until they get soft. Add the beef, cooked veggies, and enough to broth to moisten everything and cook until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a casserole dish and cover with leftover mashed potatoes. Put on a good amount of cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are golden brown.

How you store your potatoes makes a big difference in their shelf life. When you bring home a bag of potatoes, you need to go through them to make sure there aren't any green, bruised or soft ones. In fact, give that bag a good once over before you leave the store. You can easily spot a bad one. The best tip of all is to find a cool, dark place with good ventilation to store your potatoes. The ideal temperature to store them is between 50 and 60 degrees, the temperature of many garages in the winter is perfect. Transfer them to a brown grocery bag or a cardboard box to keep the light out. A single ripe apple will prevent the potatoes from sprouting since the apple produces ethylene gas and will lengthen the time you can keep your potatoes. Armed with all these suggestions, go ahead and buy that 20 pound bag of russets and reap the rewards of buying in bulk!

I'd like to say a big Thank You to the nice folks at the Farmer's Co-op who allowed me to have this Thursday platform to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart, farming in America. I've enjoyed sharing some of my family's history, gardening tips and even a few recipes.  I want to encourage you to visit your local hometown Co-ops where old-fashioned service has never went out of style! Since 1944 their mission and purpose has been to provide quality supplies and services to both members and non-members in the community. Thirteen locations, Ten in Arkansas: Fort Smith, Branch, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Van Buren, Waldron, Lincoln, Greenwood, Ozark and Subiaco; and three in Oklahoma: Poteau, Westville, and Sallisaw. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bikes, Blues and BBQ 2012

Bikes, Blues and BBQ will be rolling into NWA this week, the largest charitable motorcycle rally in the U.S., Fayetteville has become a choice destination for the thousands of bikers that make the trek each year to these Ozark Mountains. Riding the winding roads with picture perfect fall scenery, a big part of why this has become a favorite rally!

That rumble is unmistakable, it starts low and then you FEEL IT as they pass by! This year is the 12th anniversary of Bikes, Blues & BBQ. Last year over 425,000 people attended the rally from all 50 states and many other countries. Before you say you don't like motorcycles, let me tell you the organization is not only a huge 3 million dollar "shot in the arm" for NW Arkansas, but BBB has donated over $500,000 to local charities since 2000.  Dickson Street rolls out the red carpet, welcoming bikers to a multitude of dining spots from pubs to upscale restaurants. Students of the nearby University of Arkansas make room for the crowd at favorite hangouts. We always go during the day and the streets are packed with a mix of seasoned bikers, weekend warriors and stroller pushing Moms and Dads! From itty bitty babies to senior citizens, we are all there to see the bikes, eat the BBQ and listen to the music!

It's the best place I've ever been to practice the art of people watching. I inherited this gene, it courses through my veins! Luckily, bikers like for us to stare and take pictures, they have spent a lot of money on their ride and their clothes so bring it on, snap away!

Motorcycles as far as the eye can see lined up on each side of Dickson and all of the side streets. Over and over the parade of bikes rumble down Dickson and like the circus has come to town, the locals line up for the show. You see what you are expecting to see, hardcore bikers who look the part on bikes built to WOW!

This year the rally will host the first BB&B Car Show on Saturday the 29th. Customs, hot rods and some of the coolest cars in the Midwest will be on display!

Baum Stadium just off Dickson offers a Motorcycle Village with everything you ever wanted for the bike you own or if you're in the market for a new one...
Harley-Davidson tempts you with their "Dare to Compare" Program, swap your ride for a Harley for the day!

The Indian Motorcycle Company Museum will be on site at the Baum Motorcycle Village with all their new models and a trailer featuring the history of Indian Motorcycles.

The AMP concerts this year are legendary rock band Candlebox (Miss You) on Thursday night and country artist Jamie Johnson (In Color) on Friday night. Along with many other bands, there's music for everyone!

This is THE place to see one of a kind motorcycles and people! 

This must have been a club, there were lots of men in buffalo hats...I didn't ask!

The pictures don't do these bikes justice, they are custom from frames to paint.

Part Corvette, part Harley!

Jesse James, is that you?

Lots of bikes with American themes, veterans take great pride in the freedom to express their patriotism on their ride.

Look at the bystanders faces, men drooling ; )

 This one was at least 20 foot long. My husband asked, "What's that?" He hollered back, "A Buick!"


It's a sea of bikes, as far as the eye can see. Fayetteville is a college town, tolerant and welcoming to everyone. The rally brings a mix of people but it doesn't bring the things that are sometimes associated with motorcycles. The police say that there are few incidents reported over the 4 day event.

It's just a time to get out and enjoy the nice Fall days... a little people watching, is that you Willie???

The locals enjoy the show, we are an eclectic group of individuals too!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Spider Phobia

If you are creeped out by spiders, go no further. You know if you have a problem with arachnids, just saying the word makes your skin crawl. If you actually see one you either go into speechless mode or you scream your lungs out! Even if spiders don't get you in a tizzy, I don't know too many people who wouldn't do the quick step if they saw a tarantula!

This one was spotted by a friend in his yard the other day. They live far enough away from us that I'm not freaked out that we will have a sighting, but after doing a little reading I now know tarantulas are actually all over Arkansas except the far south areas.

I'd expect them to like where we live, it's wooded and mountainous. I was surprised to learn that they have long life spans, up to twenty years. They live underground most of their life, they hunt by sitting nearby their burrows and capture their prey by inserting their fangs and injecting venom. Mostly they live on beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and other spiders.

The reason Bob saw this one, most likely a male, is that Fall is mating season in Arkansas for taratulas. Males who are sexually mature at ten years old venture out of their burrows and travel long distances to find a mate. After mating they usually die from starvation or winter takes it's toll. The females spend the winter underground in their burrows. In early spring the fertilized females create silken egg sacs, then lay 200-800 eggs. They are excellent Mothers... don't bother their babies while they are growing! Typically they hatch in July and August. 

I had always thought that they didn't bite, but thanks to Wikipedia I now know that they do. It's kind of like a bee sting but that wouldn't matter, I would die of a heart attack first! So for those of you who share a fear of the creepy little buggers, here's directions what to do when you spot one...

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Rail- A Pizza Company

FOOD NETWORK was in town this summer filming The Great Food Truck Race and we missed it! We were on our way to Cincinnati and didn't have a clue that they were destined to visit The Rail in Rogers. It was a surprise to owners David Davis and Shane Zimmerman too, but when they got a call that Tyler Florence wanted to film a few shots at the restaurant even though they were closed, well it didn't take them long to open the doors and roll out the welcome mat! They just ran Episode 4 (Baby Got Razorback) on September 9th and we missed that too! Bummed is the word, so when our daughter asked if we wanted to celebrate her Dad's BIG birthday (more than 60 but less than "You've just qualified for Social Security") we jumped at the chance!  

 One of Rogers' favorite local hangouts in the downtown area, it sets just off 1st Street close to the old Frisco Depot. If you are lucky, and we were, the Arkansas-Missouri train came through and gave us a reminder why the restaurant was named "The Rail!"

The Birthday Boy couldn't wait since they serve two of his favorite foods...

It was hard to choose, they had some great looking pies on the menu. The Thai Peanut Pizza was calling my name, but the Birthday Boy ordered the Meat Town Jones and The Dumpster. Both were a meatfest but had just enough veggies to make it a healthy choice! The crust, oh man the crust was out of this world! It was crispy and bubbled along the edge just like the one's we see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives!

The reason the crust was amazing, was the oven they use. Owners Shane and David traveled to Chicago to bring home an authentic brick oven that had cooked enough pizzas that she could almost do it all by herself!  

Our waitress Marina shared that the two owners used to be carpenters by trade. The recession took it's toll in NWA too, but they found a new profession that just may have been their true calling! They've achieved a lot of success in a little over a year. 

The next time we go I want to set out on their patio and try their Hog Wings, little ribs of pork that are sauced just right. 

Maybe the Cheesy Bread too... it comes highly recommended!

We've found a new favorite place to go for pizza, wings and beer. It may be the ONLY place I want to go from now on... just in case Tyler Florence drops in again!
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