Tag Archives: Farm


First, I am having a ball in Baku! Sleeping in late and going to spa are some of my favorite things about my adventure to Azerbaijan.  Most mornings starts with room service and then I go sightseeing… Who am I kidding!  It has been hard work, but very rewarding.  I have made friends with people from Huntsville, Turkey and locals here in Baku.  For those who do not know, I am here with an exhibit from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  It is an amazing exhibition in a wonderful venue Heydar Aliyev Center.

I know I made a commitment to write twice a week.  Well, lets make that an average of twice a week.  Last week was very busy.  We worked twelve plus hour days and sleep was precious.  The only time we sacrificed sleep was to send off our Huntsville friends. When Trish and I arrived the project was already behind schedule.  Everyone was giving the extra effort to make sure things where ready.  The first to leave Baku was Daniel, Nathan and Michael.  Michael couldn’t stay very long in Baku, he was expecting his second child any day.  The next to leave was Carolyn, Cowan, and Joel.  Joel doesn’t work at the Rocket Center, but he sure has a special place in his heart for the USSRC.  He stayed ten extra days to help pull off the feat! Each day since he left, Trish and I have tried to find our inter Joel.  Then waiting until the last possible minute to finish things was Roger, Mike and Ed.  Ed left for Huntsville the day after his birthday.  He missed having the longest birthday every.

Everyone worked super hard. Early on before I arrived Michael rallied the local workers, while Nathan defied gravity by hoisting tons of equipment and displays from the ground floor to our second and third floor nest. It has to be an eagles nest, because we have the Apollo 11 astronauts hand cast on exhibition.  Roger worked on the sims, while Cowan built MIR and all the other giant displays.  I loved Roger before, but I now have a huge place in my heart for him and Cowan.  Carolyn did all things related to the artifacts and kept Ed happy.  Ed made sure everything was precisely placed and all the many items were on display. Mike had to be Mike, plus he had to help build, answer questions from everyone and make sure we behaved!

We were a happy family.  Now it is just Trish and me from Huntsville and Echo from Turkey.  He has a real name, but since I am writing commando, why bother trying to spell it.  Yesterday, we left work after the venue closed.  We walked back to the hotel and crashed for double digit hours of sleep. We walked because George, our shuttle driver, took vacation and the other driver had only been driving for fifteen minutes.  We got lost multiple times on the morning drive and had to teach the new driver how manual transmission works.  Closest to death I have been in a long time.  George will be back on Thursday, which will be perfect since it is Thanksgiving!!!

This will be only the second Thanksgiving I have not spend in Carroll County, Mississippi. The only other time was with my two aunts and grandmother in Indianapolis when I was senior in high school.  Trish and I have decided to have dinner with Echo on Thursday night after work.  Echo has been looking for us a Turkey with no luck!  However, we will have Turkish food on Thanksgiving.  Echo is from Turkey so it all makes sense.  I will miss my family and being in Carroll County.  But I still have a lot to be thankful for!  This experience is one of them.  It has been crazy, but very fruitful.

So much fun!

It took over three weeks to complete the set up of the exhibition.  While all those hours seemed difficult at the time, one of the things that made it so rewarding was working with the locals.  They have the biggest of hearts.  I mean this with no disrespect, but they are a lot like the Minions from Despicable Me.  They talk in a language I can not understand, they are the hardest working people ever, and all they want to do is make us happy.  The similarity was sealed for me when I realized the yellow vest they wore made them look like the Minions.  Jimmy is my favorite.  Oxran Cavadli is Jimmy’s real name but he really likes when we call him Jimmy.  He and I bonded over our iPhones.  He thought I had a 5S, which would have made me cooler than reindeer nuts. But nope, we both have iPhone 5’s.  Now, we both have translation apps on our phones.

Now matter what, we all worked together as one big family.  No, we are not trying to steal the moon.  Just inspire kids and adults to travel there someday soon.  We are all like minions trying to fulfill JFK’s vision again fifty years after his death.  It has been a good week and a half.  Hopefully there will be more blog post! Good night, good morning, or good afternoon whichever time zone you may be reading from.

Turkey Blog 4.0

Do you know where you were a few days before Thanksgiving four years ago? Well, my answer to that question is, right here. I was sitting on this couch with my laptop computer creating my blog, GraphiteFree.  I haven’t been the most faithful companion to my blog. Life sometimes happens and it is less than eventful when you put it into print. This post is to help mark the anniversary and the Thanksgiving season.

The latest Facebook trend this month is to put what you are thankful for each day of November.  I didn’t discover this until a few days ago. I am less than observant at times. This is my futile attempt to be as cool as everyone who started on November 1st, listing what they are thankful for and desperately hoping to keep my blog relevant.

One – God:  I am very thank for our gracious Creator. Knowing that our God and Father is watching over us and loved us enough to save us is the most precious thing in our lives. This is what I am most thankful for.

Two – Family:  I have a wonderful family. Being home in Mississippi recharges my heart and soul. I love being on the farm near my family with my mom cooking in the kitchen and daddy in his chair. On top of that, I have a wonderful extended family in Madison County Alabama.

Three – Blinkers:  I love safety. I am the Be Ready Girl! Blinkers represent planning ahead… look for the safest route to your final goal… and not running into the driver next to you. Blinkers are important.

Four – Freedom:  Until the socialist take my freedom. I will be very thankful for this. Don’t believe everything you read. Thinking for yourself is the best way to experience freedom. The ability to pick and choose what you want to do on a daily basis is a glorious thing.

Five – Great Friends:  Throughout my life I have all ways been surrounded by wonderful people. Life is not much fun unless you have great friends to enjoy life with.

Six – Sports:  I am very thankful to be a fan of sports, a lover of ESPN Sports Center and a competitor in many sporting events. I love crying at sports movies and those touching “Inside the Lines” stories on Sunday mornings.

Seven – Bunnies:  This year, I was blessed by having a litter of rabbit kits. There were seven of the little guys. It was one of the coolest things ever! I now want to start a farm.

Eight – Health:  God has truly blessed me with great health. I can do all things I need to do. I have been given great endurance and I am seldom sick.

Nine – Ragnar:  On November 9th, a team of crazy friends and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville. I am thankful for friends and for the ability run… I am still not fast, but I can run.

Ten – Soda Box Cookies:  These cookies are not made from some super secret recipe. These cookies however are the best ever conceived and my grandmother taught me how to make them. I miss my grandparents and are truly thankful to have some of the greatest to ever live.

Eleven – Electricity:  I could be one of those people who lives in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. However, electricity and technology has given us so much extra enjoyment in life. Without refrigeration our modern day Thanksgiving would not be possible.  It is great to type a blog and not use graphite to record all my ramblings.

Twelve – Cowbells:  No, Mississippi State is not known for its multiple national titles, but it is know for its cowbells. Mississippi State is a wonderful place with many happy memories attached to it. Hearing a cowbell ring gives me great joy! I am thankful for the Bulldogs and I hope they beat the University of Mississippi on Saturday.

Thirteen – Thanksgiving:  Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever conceived.  There is not a push to over commercialize it. People don’t get lost in shopping to help fuel our economy.  It is a day where we all pause and thank God for those things that are truly important in our lives.

Fourteen – Pencils:  The Dixon Ticonderoga is the quintessential American pencil.  It has been in my backpack, on my desk and behind my ear for many years. I love the pencil, because it does not expect me to be perfect like the pen does. The pencil is a non-judgmental companion that I am very thankful for.

Fifteen – Peanut Butter:  I was a picky eater growing up.  Some say I am still a picky eater.  However, if it wasn’t for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I might not have lived to see the age fifteen. Heck, I didn’t like pizza for a while. I feel sorry for all the poor souls who are allergic to peanut butter.

Sixteen – Golf:  Is there anything better than taking a club and beating the crap out of a small round object. To focus your energy on one single point in space and driving the ball beyond your own expectations is one of the best ways to release stress!

Seventeen – Math:  Seventeen is a prime number.  So is 37, which will be my age this time next year. No matter the number or age, I love math. I loved teaching math and doing math. I even like the new exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Math Alive.

Eighteen – Peyton Manning:  True, Peyton is not with the Colts anymore, but he is still my most favorite boy friend. But I am still very lucky to see my favorite Manning playing football this season! Thank you for Peyton’s health! Also, I am very happy Peyton attended Rocky Top and not Ole Piss.

Nineteen – Okra:  Delta State is a wonderful university found in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Knowing how quirky I am, you should know that I would go to school where they have a mascot like the Fighting Okra. I am an okra girl. The Statesmen is a dumb mascot!

Twenty – Salt:  What would we do without salt? It a multifunctional tool which I can not imagine a day without. It makes stuff taste better. It is used for many great Biblical analogies. And it is useful in making ice cream.

Twenty One – Antiperspirant:  Let me be honest with you all, I sweat more than most human beings do. If it were not for Degree antiperspirant I wouldn’t have friends and my Ragnar team mates would have kicked me out of the van after my first run. I am very thankful for the help I receive in the use of antiperspirant.

Twenty Two – Cotton:  I love being a farm kid. I love all the amazing memories I have either in the cotton field or the cotton gin. I loved having acres and acres to roam when growing up. I am very thankful for my farming family.

Twenty Three – Proof Readers:  I can’t spell or write very well without an army of people to help me. I need to have proof readers to make this blog thing a reality. It is fun connecting with people though my blog. I couldn’t do that without people to help me.

Twenty Four – Weddings:  This is going to seem like a crazy thing to be thankful for, but I am thankful for Anderson’s wedding last year. After the wedding my mom saw pictures of me on Facebook. She thought I was fat and told me I was fat. Later that fall she told me again after another wedding. I am thankful for this, because it was the kick in the pants I needed to get in shape!

Twenty Five – Running: I am thankful to be able to run, because it makes me not so fat. However, I wish I could be thankful for good genetics which makes me a good runner. But that is not the case, I am slow and thankful for the abilities I do have.

Twenty Six – Recruiting Staff:  Yes, I am very thankful for the efforts made to recruit new staff for Space Camp. But one of the most coolest things about staff recruitment, is staff training is not far behind. Did I mention, I have the coolest job in the world.

Twenty Seven – Baseball:  Since I was 20 months old I have been fascinated with the game of baseball. I have been to many professional, college and high school games. It doesn’t matter if it is a World Series or a little league game, I love the game of baseball. Get well soon Derek Jeter.

Twenty Eight – Gadgets:  I love knives, first aid supplies, tools and electronics. I like being ready for most anything that life could through at me. I am thankful that Lysol can kill 99.9% of germs. I am thankful for those who invented these things and the spirit of innovation.

Twenty Nine – Space Camp:  I am truly thankful for being able to work at a camp that operates year around.  Space Camp has wonderful staff. Everyday is a different day! I am thankful to work at the coolest place for space!

Thirty – Turkey:  I am a turkey for some of the things I have listed. But all in all, I have enjoyed this exercise. I will enjoy my time with my family around the Thanksgiving table. Thank you so much Mr. Butterball!

Limited Interest

Growing up, my parents made sure we were exposed to the world beyond Carroll County, Mississippi. It was very important for us to be interested in culture, science, politics, art, and other things of the sort. While here in New York I am reminded of their efforts. However, I am here to say I have limited interests. I am interested in baseball, space/flight, and climbing tall things.

In the sea of humanity that is New York City, I seem to be drawn to the same everyday things that I am at home. Chris and I took the train to Queens for a Mets game on Saturday. It was amazing how when we got off the train we managed to find two rockets at the New York Hall of Science. We didn’t even know they existed and we were drawn to them like a moths to a flame. We walked like a mile out of our way to see what these Gemini-Titan and Mercury-Atlas were doing in Flushing Meadows.

On Sunday, we visited the USS Intrepid. Yes, you are thinking that it is a Navy vessel, I am branching out. Nope, the USS Intrepid is a sea, air, and space museum. They had some fantastically awesome aircraft. My favorite thing on board was an exhibit called 27 Seconds, dedicated to the Apollo 1 astronauts. It gave an outline of what happened the day Grissom, Chaffee, and White were killed in a capsule fire during the plugs out test. At the end of the exhibit there was a long numbered line, 1 – 27. From the time the fire started until the astronaut lives were claimed by the fire it was only 27 seconds.  As the seconds ticked away on the number, I tried to read the events of the accident, but the 27 seconds flew by.

Baseball, we are going to visit the new Yankee Stadium today. We went to a Mets game on Saturday. That is surely something my parents succeeded in teaching me about, baseball. We went on many summer vacations that included ballgames. Our first ballgame as a family was in Cincinnati to see Johnny Bench play the Phillies. That year the Phillies had picked up a guy called Pete Rose. I was four and more into the game than the grown ups. I think I have loved baseball since!

So far, my favorite activity this vacation has been the Top of the Rock, the observation deck at Rockefeller Plaza. I was amazed! At Rockefeller you get a great view of the Empire State Building and Central Park. I didn’t have my camera with me to snap hundreds of photos, so I just soaked it all in. Looking to the south, I thought wow there is seemingly a hole in the sky line, which we all know there is something missing. Especially with the recent political news of a mosque being built at Ground Zero, it is like the whole thing was just erased. My eyes drifted to the New Jersey shoreline to see the Statue of Liberty. She is still standing, and I am sure what is good will prevail in the end.

Chris and I are making memories while we are here in New York. I could have stood at the top of Rockefeller Plaza for hours. It was amazing! We ran into a kid at M&M World near Times Square. He was running from candy bin to toy bin begging his parents to buy him stuff. He proudly proclaimed, “I want MEMORIES!” I think the young chap had it mixed up. Memories are the things you don’t have to pay for in New York City. What he was begging for was souvenirs. Just like the souvenirs I brought home from my childhood vacations, his souvenirs will be gone sooner than the memories of him running through M&M World like a banshee! One of my most cherished baseball memories is when the whole family, including Will went to a baseball game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Thanks mom and dad for creating in me an adventurous spirit. However, I am sorry I have limited interests.

A 500-Pound Gift of Love

On April 17th of 2004 Chris and I exchanged vows in the presence of our friends and family in Winona, Mississippi.  One year later we both unknowingly committed to purchasing traditional anniversary gifts for one another.  The next year we made it a tradition of ours to give traditional gifts when I gave him a bale of cotton.

This year was no different.  We’ve been married for six years now and the anniversary is iron. So as I type we are watching Iron Man.  See how quirky we are.  The point of the blog is to republish the story of our cotton bale, this time as it should be, with a photo of the bale.

According to “the lists,” the twenty-fifth and fiftieth wedding anniversary silver and gold gifts are familiar to most people.  Those same lists contain more obscure gifts like wood, iron, tin, and cotton for lesser marital milestones.  In a world of MP3 players, digital cameras, and video games, it can be difficult for a young couple to find an acceptable gift from a list published in 1937 by the American National Retail Jeweler Association.

I set out on a mission to find a new twist to the old list. The simple fact that I am Ruth Marie Oliver, a cotton farmer’s daughter, meant the common ideas for the second anniversary cotton gifts of shirts and sheets would not do for me.

My childhood memories revolve around cotton farming. My daddy, Bobby Oliver, has been farming land in Carroll County, Mississippi nearly all his life. My grandfather, Sandy Land, grew cotton and owned a gin in Winona, Miss.  I have so many memories of visiting with my grandparents in the office of the gin where my parents met and started my story. My parents say they drank coffee to pass the time.  I remember drinking ice cold Coca-Cola and eating homemade biscuits and sausage my grandmother, Ruth Land, made when I visited the office of the Land & Lott Gin.

My second anniversary dilemma: “How does a woman with cotton in her vein do justice to cotton? How could I let the second anniversary go by with out giving my husband, Chris – the love of my life – a piece of my childhood, my heritage?”  The idea of giving a full sized bale of cotton came to me while I was at work. I thought if there was anyone who could find a bale of cotton in the middle of April it would be my daddy. He was a bit surprised by my request. After that conversation I though I would have to settle for a small bale similar to the ones they sell yankee tourist.

My dad called around to his friends in the farming community. I was just as surprised as he was with my original request when he called me back to tell me that Emmett Chassaniol, who markets his cotton for him, had helped him locate a bale in Greenwood, Miss.  Then the problem became how to transport it from Winona to Huntsville, Ala., without my husband finding out.

On a spring day similar to our wedding day, I met my parents, Bobby and Shirley Oliver, just north of Tupelo, Miss., at the Dogwood Valley rest stop on the Natchez Trace Parkway to exchange the bale from truck bed to truck bed. My next challenge was that I have never been good at keeping secrets from my husband.  So, smuggling a bale of cotton into the house without any suspicion was truly difficult, but I had help from my friends.

Once home, I kept the cotton in the bed of the truck covered with a tarp until our anniversary. Over the next two days many ideas of what it could be ran through Chris’ head. But he never guessed anything close to a 500-pound bale of cotton grown in the hills of Mississippi.

On our anniversary, April 17, 2006, I took Chris outside to uncover the gift. He asked, “What is it?  What does it do?”  But when he saw the Cotton Incorporated logo on the bale, he knew that it wasn’t mechanical. It doesn’t do anything but clothe the world and support families like mine.

Currently, the bale sits is in the front room of our house in the corner as a testament to our quirky mix of modern and traditional love for one another and because, quite frankly, it’s too heavy to move anywhere else.

Ideas for making it into a coffee table or ottoman have been discussed. But Chris just likes to show it off.  I like to think it shows people how much I love him.  There is one thing that is certain. No matter where we go, the bale of cotton will go with us, no matter how hard it is to move.

Originality published in the October 2006 issues of Cotton Farming magazine.

Pom Pom

Grandparents are priceless! They are the people who spoil you when you are already rotten. One of the coolest things about grandparents is that you have two sets of them. Grandparents teach how to bake cookies, make Kool-Aid, and instant grits. My grandmother, Pom Pom, passed away last night. She was my father’s mother and my final grandparent.

Pom Pom lived just down the hill from my home. We could walk there in just a few minutes. I always walked with my German Sheppard Maggie or one of the Dobermans. I remember crazy things about walking down to Pom Pom’s house. Once I found a tick in my ear. My mother knew I had to have gotten the tick from walking thought the tall grass to Pom Pom’s house. One Sunday afternoon, Will and I were walking to her house, and Walter was riding on the three-wheeler. Will got excited and ran after Walt. It didn’t end very pretty but I have a lasting image in my head of Will telling me and Walt to hush up and stop crying after Walt hit him with the three-wheeler.

I remember watching Scooby Doo and the Andy Griffith Show. At some point in the 80s there was a United States Marine Corps Colonel on every afternoon for days. His name was Oliver North. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do and I only remember it at Pom Pom’s house. While watching copious amounts of television, she would let my brothers and me do pretty much whatever we wanted to do. We would make kamikazes with Kool-Aid and soda. We really just made large messes. Pom Pom had a red apple cookie jar which she kept stocked with butter chocolate chip cookies, the kind that had a hole in the middle and looking similar to a flower. We would stack these cookies on our pinky fingers and eat them like cookie kabobs.

Pom Pom was always around to take care of people. She was a constant spirit in our church. As long as there was fuel in her tan Nova, she was at church. She visited her little old lady friends on a regular basis. If she couldn’t get out visiting she would call. Our church really had a great foundation of strong women… old women.

Her faith was strong, just as strong as her will. Before I was even a thought in my parents mind, she worked in a shirt factory and kept the dairy farm going. She made sure everyone had what they needed. Some of my first memories of her were working in the garden. That lady could work hard. She had an iron will. In 2005, she had a major surgery to remove an abscessed colon. She was resigned to dying then. She was at peace with it and knew where she was headed. The morning of her surgery we visited and I read to her from Romans and Psalms. We all had wrestled with the fact she may die during the surgery. She woke up in the recovery room madder than a rooster with his tail on fire.

I guess when you hope to wake up face to face with the Lord and all the loved ones who’ve passed away before you; a nurse taking your blood pressure is a disparaging sight. I didn’t know my grandmother could say words like that. She was pissed. Well last night just before 11 o’clock she got what she had hoped for five years ago. This afternoon, she is chatting with all the little old ladies. Will has hugged her neck and welcomed her home. She is with all her loved ones that have gone before her and she isn’t pissed off anymore!

Bucking Tradition

Manger Growing up Christmas was so special. You learn about the birth of Christ in the nativity play. You witness the compassion and giving through family gatherings on Christmas day. Santa is a larger than life figure in a child’s development. The magic he represents and the belief that anything is possible can impact a child to dream big dreams. For me Christmas was all those things, but now I am just like all other adults I have stopped believing in Christmas.

My father laid a foundation of Christian beliefs before the belief of Santa and his elves. Each year before opening presents he would read the nativity story from Luke 2. He would always remind us that Christmas was more about our Lord giving his Son to us than it was about gifts and treats. I remember enjoying being in the Christmas play and sign carols at church. I loved Christmas.

One year in the late 80s my father and I heard a story about a cross being removed from hill side public land during the Christmas season. To answer this action, my dad build a ninety foot cross with PVC pipe and strands of Christmas lights. Drivers could see the cross from US 51 and sometime Interstate 55. I remember playing outside in the glow of that cross. It was comforting and somewhat protective. No one could change the culture on our hill in Carroll County.

As a thirty-three year old kid I don’t enjoy Christmas as much. I have seen the world and all its marketing executives hijack the meaning of Christmas. I work in a retail job where I see people flood into our store and the mall just to find stuff for people who do not need stuff. Most of the time what these people really need is love, hope, peace, or grace. So often in our modern, on the go, culture we forget the simple things. I have grown to hate Christmas as an adult. I know that is some strong words. However, we creep ever closer to forgetting what love really means.

For example, advertisements for jewelry stories trying to convince consumers that diamonds are the sign and seal of “True Love!” That if anyone wants to tell their significant other how much he or she really means to them they should buy a diamond and give it to them in a driving thunderstorm or at 2 AM beside the Christmas tree. What is love any how? Isn’t it patient, kind, protective, trusting, and true? And the only one who I think can pull off that kind of love is the exact person Christmas is supposes to honor and glorify, not Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, Saint Nick or any bearded old man in a red suit.

If you have been reading my blog since the start, this may all sound a little familiar. In my second blog entry, Traditions and Symbols, I talked about creating a new Christmas tradition of using a “feed trough” rather than a Christmas tree in my home. Pottery Barn didn’t catch the trend, but my father made me a darn nice manger. This year my gifts are wrapped in brown paper packages and tied up with string laying gently in a manger, just like baby Jesus thousands of years ago. Having my manger has melted just little of my Christmas hostility.

So I encourage everyone to finds something about Christmas they love. Latch on to some old traditions, break some rules, be nice to everyone, and create your own tradition. Our lives are not going to be as perfect as the Zales commercial might lead us to think they should be. However, if we put our faith in Christ and follow his example for life our next life will be perfect!

Rainbow Cupcakes

My place card at the dinner tableSome of my favorite memories have been standing around the chop block in my mother’s kitchen. This was the case this morning and this afternoon as we prepped for our large Thanksgiving Day spread. Last night as I helped my mom prep the turkey on the chop block for its overnight stay in the oven, I realized how lucky I was to be born in a family that knew how to cook. I remember standing on a stool in my Gran’s kitchen learning how to bake cookies. Each batch of her soda box cookies we made was precious and dear to me. Cooking is just as special to me as eating on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Thanksgiving.

Today I woke up excited about helping cook the 2009 edition of Big Mama’s Thanksgiving meal. We have basically had the same menu for years. Oven roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, five-cup salad, sweet corn from our farm, asparagus casserole, green beans, giblet gravy, and cranberry sauce from a can. Mom has thrown in a few things to keep us guessing like broccoli salad, mac-n-cheese (the real stuff), mashed potatoes and fruit salad. I must mention the saga of the rolls. My dad loves brown-n-serve. I love the ready to eat rolls that come in a tin pan. But my mom loves to make home made yeast rolls. She seems to always win out.

This year as I was setting the table and the Little Indians were fighting over who could help. I devised a plan to split the warring tribes. Reece would make place cards for the table while Rhett helped me set the table. I knew working at the Barn would pay off. I would have never thought of this plan if not for the dozens of tablescapes I have worked on at the Barn. Everyone helps with lunch, even little Lucy helps by taking drink orders. She wrote each drink order on a note card with a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. I trained her well.

The Cupcake PrincessThis afternoon I had to play “babies” with Lucy. Strange thing is, I didn’t know how to play “babies.” Growing up I played football, cowboys and Indians, or army with my brothers and cousins. This concept of playing with dolls was new to me. I didn’t know how to feed the baby, change the baby, or burp the baby. Come on, it has a plastic head with a cotton body and synthetic stuffing. You can feed it, change it, or burp it! The only thing worse about this playing “babies” is my brother put Lucy up to asking for a cousin for Christmas. Unfortunately I think she will be disappointed, because that isn’t on our Christmas list.

This afternoon it all seemed to come full circle. Lucy was left with me while everyone else went hunting. She wanted to make cup cakes with multicolored icing. She was standing on a stool helping me bake. Sure it wasn’t some family recipe or traditional holiday treat. It was more like we were playing in the kitchen than cooking. I learned that Lucy loves cake batter and icing. After putting the cupcakes in to bake we added food coloring to the frosting. Lucy had to sample the blue, the pink, the green, and the orange icing to see which one tasted better. As we were baking Chris was in the woods hunting.

Pumkin and BuckHe has taken on the sport in recent years. He loves growing his beard out, wearing his hunting clothes, and spending time in search of the great white tail buck! This morning he woke up and hit the dear stand before day break. This afternoon he tried his luck again. He is such a technology driven hunter. Last year he played with Blackberry more than he shot his gun. I text messaged him to see if he took a shot. He informed me that he shot at a six point. It wasn’t until I saw the bearded wonder outside with his not six point, but eight point buck I had confirmation of the kill.

We have a lot to be thankful for, cooking, cupcakes, and trophy bucks. I look forward to the Iron Bowl tomorrow, finding a taxidermist, and the Egg Bowl on Saturday!

Turkey Day

Everyone has their favorite holiday or day of the year. My favorite season is fall, favorite month is November, and favorite day is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the last great holiday left. The once great Christmas has been taken over by the high end retail firms and the big box stores. Easter should really be the greatest of all holidays, but my mom always made me wear a pastel frock. In my book, Halloween was never even in the top five. Nope, there just isn’t a holiday as great as Thanksgiving.

Traditionally Thanksgiving is a time to rest and give thanks after the harvest season. Here in the United States we trace the origin of Thanksgiving back to 1621 and the feast shared by the colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts and Wampanoag Indians. Turkey was not on the menu. The Indians supplied many dried meats and grains. The colonist prepared fowl, deer, fish, and lobster for the feast. Turkey didn’t come to the party until much later. Just after the Battle of Saratoga, the Continental Congress asked all colonies to celebrate a day of thanksgiving for the victory over the British army.

Early in our nation’s history, our forefathers and mothers instilled in us the importance of stopping to thank our Creator for his grace, mercy and bountiful kindness. Abraham Lincoln, with a little encouragement from a magazine editor, signed into law the last Thursday in November to be observed as a national holiday. Lincoln was hopeful that this holiday would help the nation on the brink of war. The legislation didn’t bring peace to a nation divided, but has government ever solved a problem? Thanksgiving would lead to millions of families celebrating with Butterball turkey on their plates and a TV remote in their hands watching either Detroit or Dallas.

At my house on a farm in Mississippi we celebrate with the best of traditions. My mom cooks a twenty-plus pounds turkey overnight. The morning of Thanksgiving, as Macy’s Thanksgiving parade is on NBC, she prepares cornbread dressing with the drippings from the roasted turkey. We always have the same menu and way too much of everything. Coming together as family is really the best part of the holiday. However, I don’t think I would understand the greatness of Thanksgiving if I didn’t come from a farming family. The farm’s harvest is the best visual or teaching tool to show God’s sovereign power over the universe. God takes care of every detail, the rain, the temperature, the bugs and critters, and the farmer.

One of the most memorable Thanksgivings on the farm was while I was in college. I was home helping mom cook while Walter and Daddy had to work Thanksgiving morning picking cotton. It had been a rough harvest season with rain keeping them out of the field and forcing the crops to stay. The last cotton was picked that morning and my dad in his Ford pickup truck lead a line of John Deere cotton pickers and tractors home. It was the coolest Thanksgiving Day parade ever. My mom still cooked the same meal that day, but we did have a contingency plan to eat in the field if they didn’t get done.

The joy of Thanksgiving is being with family and praising the Master of all things. And when it comes to football, when and if Mississippi State beats Ole Miss we will be extra thankful! I hope everyone has a wonderful Turkey Day! Thanks for your friendship and for reading my random blog! I hope your turkey is filling, your team wins, and your afternoon nap is restful!


This weekend Chris and I visited the farm in Mississippi! We arrived just before a thunderstorm hit. And I am not talking about my nephews, but that too. Chris and I have grown accustom to peace and quiet so when we visit the farm we must be ready to rumble. The boys want to play, the boys want to wrestle, and the little girl wants to sing and dance. What more could dinks ask for?

Please don’t get me wrong. My nephews, Rhett and Reese, are made from the same stock as me! I am loud! I am stubborn! And most of all I am a giant goof ball! On Friday the boys and I were watching baseball. They Yankees were trailing to the Twins. We shared stories on why we loved Derek Jeter and why A-Rod was over paid. The boys really like A-Rod! When Alex Rodriquez hit a two run homer in the ninth inning to tie the game Rhett and I went nuts! Unfortunately my dog, Boo, doesn’t like loud noise. Boo barked and howled at the two of us. This all happened in between efforts to pull out one of Reese’s teeth. Loud doesn’t really describe the noise level. To sum up the night, the tooth wasn’t pulled, Mark Teixeira won the game with a walk off hit, and Boo barked.

Boo doesn’t like commotion! On Saturday we visited our church up the road. We all piled into my dad’s truck. The seating arrangements were Rhett, Reese, Chris, Boo and me on the backseat and mom, dad and Lucy on the front. Yes, we didn’t have enough seat belts. But, it was a dirt road or something like that. We hopped out and left Boo in the truck with the boys and Lucy. If you want to know what terror looks like, trap Boo into a truck cab with my niece and nephews. His ears were cocked backwards and his eyes were as large as golf balls. If he could talk, he would be pleading for deliverance back home!

Lucy's FingersHe survived as did I. But I am not so sure about Lucy. Saturday we cooked steaks out on the grill. Hot grill plus little girl equals burnt finger. Poor little Lucy cried and cried! At first, I thought she had cut her finger on something. No blood, so it wasn’t a big deal. She continued to cry. I can’t speak crying kid so I didn’t understand what was going on. I tried to help with my expert Be Ready Camp skills, but setting up a triage tent was an over kill. When I saw the little blisters on her fingers I almost started to cry. We bandaged her fingers up by using ace bandages as substitute for gauze, but we didn’t use duct tape.

We changed gears from baseball to football on Saturday just as we were changing gears from treating a second degree burn to pulling a tooth. As a child, I felt that parents had a twisted desire to pull their children’s teeth. This was proven when my mother was so determined to pull Reese’s tooth that she bribed him. That didn’t work. She tried inspiration speeches… “Yes, We Can!” That didn’t work. I tried comparing it to an eight second bull ride. Reese loves cowboy movies, but that didn’t work. But my mom did wait, and wait until Reese fell asleep. She tried stirring him to get up and then yanked the tooth with floss looped in his month. As cruel as I thought it was, Reese jumped up, whimpered, and rejoiced! “Cool, my tooth is gone”, he proclaimed as I was having flash backs of my childhood!

The night settled down, Boo cuddled up, and eventually I fell asleep. I love visiting my childhood home. I would say that it brings me peace and refreshes me but that wouldn’t be completely true. I love my family. I love all the little kid hugs and cheers. I love my mom’s cooking. I love showing Chris around my family’s farm. I love it all! It may be noisy and rough at times. But the ruckus is what makes Rhett and Reese special! Lucy on the other hand is just sweeter than a rice-crispy treat! And being on the farm is simply magnificent!

The Farm

On Friday morning I woke up shouting “We’re going to the FARM!” This did not make the husband or dog very happy. But I was so excited to be on my way to Carroll County, Mississippi. Going to the farm meant visiting family, a crawfish boil, riding 4-wheelers, and shooting fire arms! The farm is better than any amusement or vacation destination. It is the Disneyland of Central Mississippi. It would be comparable to Disney World, but it is only one park, The Farm!

There really is something great about going home. Winona has changed a lot since I left for college and even since I moved to Huntsville. But home is what makes me who I am. You know, the stubborn, red headed, tomboy who doesn’t mind getting dirty or arguing from any point of view. I love getting dirty and playing poker. I can’t do justice to last weekend’s journey to the farm in my blog, but I will give it a try. The best way to understand life on my family’s farm is to just come for a visit one day.

From shouting at the top of my lungs to the drive down the Natchez Trace and stopping for crab boil in Tupelo we arrived at the hill close to two o’clock in the afternoon. It was perfectly timed for an afternoon snack of left over mac-n-cheese and prime rib. Not your typical snack, but Big Momma’s kitchen is always open. We did have to limit ourselves, because we had plans for “the Mexican restaurant” for dinner. It’s real name is something like El Cabrito but I never hear it called that around town. My mom had the El Big-o margarita and lots of cheese dip. Cheese dip and guacamole has become a family tradition.

Saturday morning was another adventure. Chris needed food so we stopped at Sonic before the coach pitch practice baseball game. Really, isn’t coach pitching baseball practice in the first place? Well the credit call machine at Sonic was down, so we had to give our only real dollars to the lady at Sonic. Needless to say we were late to the game, because our only real dollars were earmarked for the ball park. Game was good, but I wouldn’t have the patience to coach at that level. God bless those daddies!

Post game Edie and Mary Beth arrived in Winona for a warm up to the Camp of the Rising Son Mega Reunion in July with our own CRS mini reunion. We even had a ride on a gator. It wasn’t Babe-the-blue-airport-tug-converted-to-a-camper-hauler, but it was fun! We chatted and reminisced about our days as Chiefs. We plan to form the winning team for the first Camp Stew Cook Off! Iron Chef watch out, new series coming to Food Network, Iron Chief!

Late afternoon we had to clean mud bugs for the crawfish boil that night. My favorite part of this afternoon was shooting my new cowboy gun and teaching Lucy to pick up the dirty little crawfish. Fun! We even let Lucy and Reece shoot the cowboy gun. There was some excitement when Reece accidentally shut Lucy’s hand in the truck door. It was a scary moment, but I think all is good now and no broken bones. The crawfish was really good that evening. We eat it at the shop with the roll up door open on a home made crawfish table. Such good food! We finished the night with a little poker where I invested money into the Winona economy. Life is fun and simple on the farm. I love my time there.

Sunday we had to do some real work. Teach my parents how to use their new computer and patch up their old computer. This was fun and frustrating. We had to leave after lunch. That was the toughest part. I am sure I would be bored living in Winona, but I sometimes wish I lived there. It is a fun place where everyone is welcome… as long as you are not an Ole Miss alum or Democrat! We do have standards. If you don’t fall into either of those categories please visit some day.

Khaki & Blue Memories

Recently the Space Camp managers have moved from white shirt to light blue shirts. Being a red head, I couldn’t be happier about the change! But now that I wear a blue oxford shirt with khakis I am reminded of my grandfather’s standard dress code. He would work at his gin or drive his tractor Ford tractor in khakis and a long sleeve blue oxford. This has flooded me with memories.

Some memories are more vivid and fresh in your mind than others. When I remember my grandfather’s gin it is almost like I was transported back in time to my youth. It is so clear in my head. The sights, the sounds, the smell fill my head and tears come to my eyes at times. I loved those days visiting my grandparents and watching the world go by.

My mother sometimes helped out at the gin keeping the books and running the office. I tagged along at times. Farmers and gin hands would come in and out of the cinder block office, so I had to stay out of the way. I never could go into the gin while it was running. The machinery and belts would chew me up and spit me out if I was not careful. I remember spending my time visiting, playing in the office, coloring, or getting dirty in the gin trash. Gin trash is all the leaves, twigs, cotton burrs and some seeds that are removed from the cotton fiber during the ginning process.

On the rare occasion that the gin would stop I could go in and explore. I remember a dusty, dirty, greasy place with machinery and pipes everywhere. I remember playing and sometimes climbing on things until my grandfather spotted me. He told me it was no place for a little girl. I might get dirty. Being the only granddaughter this was somewhat of a disappointment. But I did love visiting the office with my grandmother.

I remember her desk was next to the window. There were two metal files jammed under the window silll. This made a perfect slot to slip gin tags through the window. The cotton trailers and the bales of cotton were all tagged to keep track of which farmer produced which cotton. See cotton is graded after it leaves the gin. Scores are sent back to the farm, the better the cotton, the better the price. There were all sorts of buttons and knobs I could play with behind the desk. But most of the time, it was off limits to me. I could only go behind the desk to sharpen my pencil. When I got a little older, my mother and grandmother would let me write down some of the weights in the ledger.

The office had such a great smell. It was a blend of cotton defoliant, black coffee, dust, and Pine-sol. I know you think that is an odd combination, but I remember the smell. Since I moved to Huntsville, I have heard people complain of the smell of cotton defoliant. But it is an intoxicating smell to me. It reminds me of growing up. It is the smell of fall to me. I remember countless trips to the gin and hundreds of rounds on the cotton picker with my Daddy. It is definitely strange how strong scent is in relationship to memories.

My stomach also has a strong relationship to my memories. On days that I would visit afterschool I would snack on left over biscuits, sausage, or ham. In the center drawer of the office desk was a stash of quarters. If I was good my grandmother would give me two. Just outside of the office was a drink machine which worked extra hard to keep the drinks cold. I loved getting a Sunkist or Coca-Cola that was almost frozen. It had little flakes of ice in them. My grandmother was known for her sweets. My favorite was her soda box cookies. She even taught me how to make the delicate cookies.

I have so many memories of my Gran and Ga-Ga around the gin. My cousins and I are now all grown up. My brother is the farmer, Sandy is the rebel, Russell is an architect, and his brother Dustin will be getting married this spring. One of my favorite pictures is all of us sitting on top of cotton bales outside the gin. I will always remember my grandmother behind the desk and my grandfather watching over the gin near the seed stand. He always wore a blue long sleeve oxford shirt with khakis.

Today while I was at work, I looked in the mirror and chuckled. I thought what do Space Camp and Land & Lott Gin have in common? The dress code! It is funny how life and khakis remind you of the past. I miss the gin and my grandparents.