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12/20/2011

Homemade Crackers YouTube photoshoot

The focus of the video is my Homemade Crackers and Easy Dips with Herbs books.

You've probably heard me mention before that we have aYouTube/longcreekherbs channel where we post videos of my recipes and books. Check it out if you haven't. Yesterday we filmed 2 more videos. That's the easy part, the editing and pasting it all together is the harder, and more creative part. Thankfully, my job is to stand in front of the camera and let David Selby and his associates do all the work. Here are some views of the photo shoot from yesterday. The end product will be 2 videos, one that will be about 3-4 minutes long, where I'm showing my friend, Makala, how I make cheddar crackers. The other is a 2 minute video telling what roses are good to eat and which ones to avoid. (There's more about the Herb of the Year and the Rose, official Herb of the Year for 2012, on my Herb of the Year blog, here). In a few weeks the videos will be up on our YouTube channel, but for not they're "in the can" awaiting the editing process.

Makala is the daughter of one of our employees, Neva Milke. Neva is one of the 2 ladies who answers phones when you call us to place an order. Makala first came to visit Long Creek Herb Farm when she was 4 years old, with 19 other vacation Bible schoolers. She was interested in herbs and gardening then, and her interests continue to grow. I invited her to be a part ofHomemade Crackers with Herbs video taping and she was fun to work with. Here are some scenes from the kitchen and the crew yesterday.



I took this photo, looking down into the kitchen from my upstairs office. You can see the kitchen counter all set with our working tools, David and Ben are getting the cameras and lights set up.

Everyone just discovered I was taking their pictures, too.
David does lots of film projects. He intends to make movies but for now, does a great job doing videos. Ben, to the left, grew up with David. Ben is in the Army Reserves and is currently attending Drury University School of Nursing. Makala, standing on set at the ready, is a second year student at College of the Ozarks.
It takes a lot of tinkering with lights, sound, cameras to get everything working right.
I could have slept another hour!

Out of camera view, on the sunporch, I had backups of the crackers, the baked crackers, the unbaked ones and the roses for the what roses to eat video that came next.
And here we are in front of the lights, almost ready for the rose video. Makala was patient and fun to work with. David and Ben were loads of fun and very professional. David's production company does an outstanding job. All the recipes for the crackers and dips came from my books.
I hope each and everyone a pleasant and peaceful holiday season.

12/09/2011

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

The 3 wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


We’ve all seen those late night t.v. ads for, “Bring your old gold jewelry to sell - prices are the best in history.” The last I looked, gold was selling for $1724 per (Troy) ounce. I don’t really know what an ounce of gold looks like, but I know it’s a lot of money for not much to hold in your hand. Most everyone knows the story in the Bible of how the three wise men brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know what gold is, but few people know what the frankincense and myrrh are.

Frankincense tears.

Frankincense is from the Boswellia tree and comes from Somalia on the southern coastal area of Arabia. It was used in ancient times as an incense, for embalming and as a treatment for depression. People used it in temples, believing the smoke from the burning incense would carry their prayers Heavenward. 
Myrrh "tears" meaning, drops of resin, caught from the tree after it has a cut in the bark.

Myrrh, a brown to red aromatic tree resin comes from Commiphora abyssinica (which is in the same overall plant family as the frankincense tree). It’s a scraggly bush-tree which grows in semi-desert regions of North Africa and near the Red Sea. It is considered a wound healer because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to treat wounds, bruises and bleeding as well as a treatment for swelling.

Frankincense and myrrh were once as valuable as gold.

Both frankincense and myrrh were burned, usually together, as incense and were deeply connected to holy places and worship. Even today in Catholic and Episcopal churches, you will find these two resins still burned as incense during special services. Back in Biblical times, these resins were extremely valuable, fully as expensive as gold. Harvested far from  Jerusalem, they were brought on the spice routes over long distances on the backs of camels. Everyday people couldn’t afford to buy them. The specific healing properties of both made them even more desirable. For a mother who had recently given birth, the two resins were even more useful and valuable.
Our Frankincense and Myrrh Incense Kit in a Keepsake box.

We use frankincense and myrrh today in much the same way as they were used in Biblical times, in medicines, incense and aromatherapy. With better growing conditions and faster and less expensive shipping methods, they are no longer equal to the price of gold. You can buy these in today’s world, for just a dollar or two per ounce.

Both frankincense and myrrh are created when multiple cuts are made into the bark of each plant. As the sap oozes out it hardens into a hard resin. The resin is collected into bags and sold. The cutting process, of not done to excess, does not kill the tree or bush and can produce resin for many years. It's a slow process on plants that grow slowly in desert climates. The resins are harvested by hand, the same way they were 2,000 years ago.
Our Frankincense and Myrrh Incense Kit in a Keepsake box.
If you would like your own Frankincense and Myrrh Kit, you can order one from my website. It's on special this month. Each kit contains a bag of Frankincense and Myrrh, a charcoal disk for burning the incense, a special tile for the charcoal, instructions, all in a keepsake wooden treasure chest. Order two for $25 or one for $12.95 plus shipping.

11/27/2011

Growing Up in a Country Store

Colonial Bread is Good Bread, most stores had screen doors provided by Colonial Bread Company.
When people ask me where I grew up, I often tell them, “In the back of a country store.” While that is partly true, my parents didn’t simply begin in the store business when I was born. It wasn’t until I was about eleven when they bought the south grocery store (there were two stores at times) in Taberville, but the store came to define my childhood.
Mom and Dad early in their life.

My parents, Lloyd and Mada, had survived the Great Depression, an event and a time that profoundly defined the rest of their lives. They were married November 17, 1934, just weeks after my grandfather James Edward Harper unexpectedly passed away. Because of his death, they cancelled their plans for a simple church wedding and instead eloped, being married at the home of a pastor friend. Their first years together were spent trying to eke out a living on a rented farm outside Johnson City, MO near my grandparents Long. My parents describe those years as the lowest times of their lives. Crops failed, drought decreased the garden to a patch of turnips and the only livestock they had were a few chickens and some hogs. Mother always claimed all they had to eat were turnips and salt pork their first two years together, two foods she despised for the rest of her life.

My parents had run a store soon after starving out on the farm, in Iuka Springs, south of Johnson City, but not owning the building, had to move on when the owners sold the building. They moved to Tabverville, a slightly larger and more prosperous town than Johnson City - Taberville had 50 citizens, Johnson City had 12. My father drove a stock truck for awhile, hauling farmers’ grain and livestock to town. My mother taught school for a couple of years and did sewing for people. After I was born she stayed at home with me and sewed cloth toys and crocheting, items she sold through a shop in Nevada, MO. They rented out a bedroom to boarders from time to time, providing sleeping space and 2 meals a day for road construction crews. When the Taberville store business was offered to them by Roy Dody, who had been running it, they decided to go back into the grocery business. They borrowed money and opened the store.
My parents on the front porch of their store.

The store building was owned by the Taberville Masonic Lodge # 419. It was a two story brown brick building, the lodge hall in the second story, grocery store below. The walls were not insulated in any way, just brick, the ceilings high and the store was difficult to cool in summer and impossible to keep warm in winter. There was no indoor plumbing, no running water, and no well. Water for hand washing had to be carried in buckets from home, bathroom facilities was an outhouse next to the building that housed animal feed. The Masonic Lodge refused to modernize the building, would not agree to any changes nor the drilling of a well. Their stance was, “if you don’t like the building, we’ll rent it to someone else.” My parents put up with conditions that would today seem impossible to live with.

Customers monthly charges were kept in a register under the counter.

Taberville was surrounded on all sides by farms and farm families and everyone in the community came to the store on a regular basis. Because a store in those days was expected to stock just about anything a farm family might need, the list of items my parents stocked was extensive. Boots, socks, overhauls, children’s’ ladies’ and mens’ underwear, gloves, tires, animal feed, salt blocks, seasonal gift items, over-the-counter drugs and first-aid, along with fresh meat, cheese, bologna, watches, produce and canned goods. Stocking shelves was an endless activity, one I could barely stand to do. Because the floor was concrete and very difficult to keep clean with floor sweet, the shelves required constant dusting, another disagreeable job.
My father, mother and me at the front counter.

The store was also the main social gathering place in town. Everyone, regardless of age, passed through our store with regularity. Workers going to work in a nearby town stopped for supplies or a candy bar and cigarettes. School children stopped in on their way to and from school for school supplies or ice cream. Farmers, whose days were filled with the work of raising crops and tending animals, came to town in the evening. The wives, sometimes worn down by days of gardens, cooking for farm hands and canning, came, too. They’d come at dark, after their chores were done and often eat something in the store. My parents made sandwiches out of the deli case upon request. Some people were content with a bottle of pop and a candy bar, anything for a change of pace from their own cooking.

Every day, six days a week, my father opened the store at 7:00 a.m. My mother would finish up the breakfast dishes, do housework, then arrive at 8:00. Most days they would close the store at 6:30 in the evening, but on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, they kept the store open until 9:00 p.m. for farmers who couldn’t get to town during daylight. Because people would predictably knock on our door at home on Sunday morning for some item they’d forgotten during the week and my father would obligingly open the store, he began keeping Sunday hours, as well, 8:00 to noon.

The front porch of the store had a long, wooden bench and a couple of nail kegs and in summer people would gather there to visit. Old men took up residence there on a daily basis, bored, just wanting someone to talk to. In the evening, because the store had no windows that opened for air, patrons and my parents sat outside on the porch, as well. But in winter, the spit and whittle bunch gathered around the old gas heating stove in the back of the store. Up front, near the cash register and counter upon which it sat, were 2 old wooden folding chairs and those were often occupied day and evening. Not by my parents but by people who just came to socialize. It was often a frustration to my parents that people would come and sit for hours at a time, taking up space and my parents patience and energy, and sometimes not buy anything but a ten cent bottle of pop.

There was no place to sit for my parents. The store’s concrete floor was painfully hard and they had to stand, eight, ten, twelve or more hours a day. There simply wasn’t room behind the counter for a chair or stool, and since the folding chairs were always occupied, my parents stood. On winter nights when it got dark at 5:30 and farmers and their wives came to town, the old chairs, pop cases on end, even the counter, had people sitting for hours at a time. My parents would stand and patiently listen to stories, carry groceries to peoples’ cars, socialize, all the while wishing people would go home so they could close. There are more nights that I can remember when people would stay, sitting, talking, long hours after closing time. My parents never said, “We’re closing now” as they thought that rude. Instead they stayed, feet and backs hurting, wishing for supper, anxious for bed.

As a young teenager I bored quickly of the life in the store. Sometimes I’d sit and listen to the older people tell stories but usually in wintertime I had homework to do. I hated homework but I hated going home to an empty house even more, so my habit was to sit in the back of the store on the piles of sacks of pecans that were waiting to be trucked away, and do my homework. I was within earshot of people and activity, but far enough away that I wasn’t distracted from my math and reading assignments.

In the summer my escape was delivering groceries on my bicycle. The little town of Taberville was made up mostly of retired farmers who had moved to town in their old age. There were a couple of families with kids but those were older than me, so I felt like the only kid in town. The older widow ladies would call the store and make an order for groceries and my mother would tell me who they were to be delivered to. There wasn’t any charge for the service but the treat for me was getting out of store duties and getting to visit with old ladies who liked flowers, remembered stories and who sometimes would feed me cookies or a piece of pie they had saved just for me. Delivering a bag of groceries two blocks away, by bike, would take me about two hours or longer, much to my mother’s displeasure.

My parents worked very hard running their store business. In the back of their minds, there was always the memory of the Depression days, of their first years of nearly starving and of having failed at farming. It caused them to be frugal in ways that seem silly today - saving aluminum pie pans, for instance. Or of sewing patches upon patches on bed sheets rather than buying new ones. I wore homemade shirts to school and by the time I was in high school, I was embarrassed when I would splurge and buy myself a new, not-made-at-home shirt with my own money, earned from summer jobs.
Mom and Dad, late in life, after retirement.

I learned my work ethic from my parents. In grade school I would buy penny candy from my father at his wholesale price of 60 cents for a box of 100 pieces, for which I charged my school mates a penny a piece, netting a profit of 40 cents. I mowed lawns for neighbors, I worked in the hay field for farmers, raking hay and bucking bales into the barn. I cooked in a local restaurant on weekends. I learned to work because that’s what my parents did, all day, every day. Even on holidays, work at home for them was the garden, canning and freezing, keeping some cattle or shetland ponies which they sold.

So that question, when it arrises of, “Where did you grow up? can pretty much be summed up, “In the back of an old country store.” It was a hard life, sometimes fun, rewarding in that it provided us with a living. It was a time and a place that no longer exists but remains part of may peoples’ history.

9/02/2011

Joe Brinkman, Taberville Postmaster

The Ozarks Herbalist column for The Ozarks Mountaineer
Jim Long

The Postmaster

I grew up in Taberville, Missouri, in the 1950s and ‘60s, a time when the rest of the world was awakening and modernizing. It was the early days of shopping malls, of ranch-style houses and color television. The fins on Chevrolets and Fords came and went, smoothing out to more sleek sky-rocketed models. It was a time when rock and roll replaced the Big Bands, when Elvis Presley pushed aside Lawrence Welk and t.v. dinners made cooking from scratch seem old-fashioned.

But our little town didn’t take much notice of any of that. What was happening in New York City or Los Angeles, Little Rock or Atlanta, had little bearing on our lives. The Civil Rights movement seemed far away, prejudice and bigotry wasn’t a local problem. Hippies may have demonstrated for peace somewhere, but it was only on television and didn’t exist anywhere within the borders of our lives.

The major conduit for information into and out of Taberville, was the Post Office. More correctly, the conduit was Joe Brinkman, the official Postmaster for 32 years, who, upon his retirement was forced to take 3 1/2 months of vacation time before he could receive his first retirement check. It was discovered by the Post Office officials that Joe had never taken a day off, not a sick day and not a single day of vacation in all of his years of service.

It’s reasonable to say that Joe Brinkman was dedicated to the Post Office and to his job.  You could sit on the front porch of my father’s grocery store and set your watch by Joe’s daily routine. At five minutes before 7:00 a.m., Joe hoisted the American flag up the old Osage Orange flag pole. Sometimes, if the wind was blowing, the flag would catch on a limb of the catalpa tree as it was drawn upward and Joe would retrieve his cane fishing pole and knock it free. But always, the flag went up at five of the hour.

You would know it was twelve o’clock, too, because the door was locked for the fifteen minutes Joe went next door to eat lunch. And you could tell it was 12:15 when you heard the radio click on, signaling the Post Office was again open for business. At exactly 5:00 p.m., not a minute before nor one minute after, five days a week, the flag was lowered, carefully folded so as to not touch the ground and taken inside before the Post Office door was locked for the night. On Saturdays, the routine was the same except the closing hour was noon.

Everyone, all fifty three of us who lived within the city limits of Taberville, stepped through the Post Office door every day. If someone was ill, or infirm, a neighbor would ask Joe for their mail and drop it off on their way home. The important fact is, every bit of news that informed the citizens of the town, and every reply or inquiry they made regarding that information, went through Joe Brinkman’s careful hands.

The Post Office was a tiny shack, just six nine feet, tacked onto the south side of the old wooden garage where Joe fixed flat tires during the same hours the Post
office was open. The garage was ancient, and leaning precariously. Within its shamble of walls sat a Model A Ford, parked there when Joe replaced it with a shiny, newly used, 1951 Ford sedan. There didn’t seem to be a reason to sell the old Model A, and since it wasn’t still in use, became simply a fixture of the garage upon which spare tires were piled. In the back seat extra, new tire repair materials sat, along with new inner tubes and Monkey brand tire patches, covered with dust but at the ready when needed.
Joe Brinkman, bent over the tire, fixed flat tires as well as dispensing the mail.

What kept the whole building from falling over in a wind storm, wasn’t the Post Office which had been added as an after thought, but the catalpa tree that had grown up from under the concrete slab of the Post Office floor, some thirty or forty years before. The tree grew had grown so close to the building, on the outside wall of the Post Office, that it kept the Post Office’s walls from falling outward and by so doing, continued to prop up the larger garage.

To get into the Post Office you had to climb up two uneven steps, one was an old squared sandstone from the foundation of a much older building, the second step being the edge of the concrete slab that made the floor of the building. The old screen door, the only entry door into the room, had never been painted but had darkened to a coffee-colored patina by years of oil, DDT sprayed on the screens to kill flies, and tobacco juice spit that didn’t quite make it through the mostly opened door.

Anytime you went to the Post Office in the summer and there was a ball game somewhere, you would hear the radio as you approached the building, cranked up to a high decibel. 
“There’s the windup....and the pitch!” the announcer said. You’d hear the roar of the crowd, then the announcer would announce, “Hit!” or “Strike!” Play by play, the ballgame was always on the radio and if you walked in while the ball was in play, or if the announcer was describing the position on the field or what an outfielder was doing, Joe would ignore you completely as if you were invisible. Joe was a diehard Cardinals fan, he’d whoop and yell when one of his players got a hit. He’d jump and down on his old nail keg stool with excitement when his team was winning. When there was a break for a commercial, or between plays, Joe would again be amicable to retrieving a patron’s mail.

Joe loved two things in life, baseball and tomato soup. More explicitly, he liked his wife, Myra’s tomato soup. He said more than once, when he died, he wanted it to be by drowning in a big bowl of Myra’s tomato soup. He also liked sitting on my father’s front store porch and listening to, and telling stories. He had worked as a farm laborer in his early years and he designated that time, and those stories in a predictable way.

Anytime one of Joe’s stories began, “I remember, up on the prairie...” it designated a story from his youth. The thousand acre virgin grassland Taberville Prairie lay just a mile to the north of Taberville, and the rolling hills that undulated southward into the Ozarks, began just past the Osage River to the south. Town sat almost on the riverbank, the dividing line between the prairie to the north and the river and hills to the south. Joe’s youth, and his best memories, came from the time he and his parents lived up on the prairie.

However, Joe’s stories weren’t confined to the prairie days, nor even to his tomato soup and baseball adventures. Joe had a particularly inquisitive mind, with lots of time on his hands since processing and sorting the mail, and stuffing it into the little wooden cubbyholes that made our Post Office efficient, didn’t really take much time out of each day. Therefore, when no ball game was on the radio, and no patrons were inside the building, Joe sat, staring at the rows and rows of little wooden cubbyholes, many filled with news from the outside world. Temptation would rear its head and Joe would read.

When you stepped through the door into the Post Office, you had to ask for your mail. Joe would retrieve it from your Post Office Box cubbyhole and hand it across the little counter to your waiting hands. But while he was reaching, he might mention, “I see your aunt has been back in Oregon again.” Or, “You have a birthday card here from your grandmother. How’s she doing? I remember her from years ago. Does she still have the old gray tomcat?”
The nail keg Joe sat on for all his years as Postmaster.

Yes sir, Joe kept tabs on everyone in town by reading their mail. Not just the post cards, either, but the letters that weren’t well sealed. The packages, too, if they weren’t wrapped well and could reveal a bit of their contents. “Tell your mother the new shoes she ordered are here,” Joe would say. “I always like those white summer shoes she buys.”

The fact that Joe read everyone’s mail wasn’t so bad, we all knew and expected it. What was bad was Joe didn’t just discuss your new shoes, or your application for a job with just you. No, he carried that information with him to the front porch of the store or even into the next town where he played pool with friends. If there was a lull in the conversation, he might toss out a bit of gossip. If you inquired how he knew, he’d always have a story ready for where he’d overheard the tidbit. Yet everyone knew, Joe read the population’s mail. The only way to be sure your outgoing mail wasn’t pilfered by Joe Brinkman, was to take it to someone outside of town and put it in their mailbox for the next town’s mail carrier to pick up.

The Post Office might have been automating in the cities, mail service might have been improving and modernizing, but in Taberville, in those years, you would walk in and have your mail recited to you and not even have to open the letter yourself. Joe Brinkman sat on his little nail keg stool and dispensed the news as well as the mail like the Oracle of Delphi, always there, always ready with the latest news and a word or bit of sage advice.

7/10/2011

Rose Butter, from Fragrant Roses

Both pretty, and food!
There are lots of kinds of roses that are also wonderful seasoning and decorative herbs. How do you know which ones to eat? (Click this link to see my YouTube video on eating roses: http://www.youtube.com/longcreekherbs).

1-Don't eat roses from a florist shop. Those have been highly sprayed with insecticides. Additionally, they have little fragrance, and thus, no flavor.

2-Don't eat roses from your own garden if you are using systemic fertilizers - those include insecticides that are taken up by the rose bush with the fertilizer, and dispersed throughout the leaves and flowers.

Other than that, if the roses are un-sprayed, and have good fragrance, they will also have good flavor and are good to eat.

Roses are related to apples and several other fruits, all edible plants.

Rose butter, made with very fragrant dark pink roses. It's delicious on any good bread!

An easy way to start eating roses is by making rose butter.

Start with a pound of unsalted butter (don't substitute margarine, use real butter for this, your taste buds will thank you). Let it come to room temperature or soften it slightly in the microwave but do not let it melt.

Gather a heaping cup full of fragrant rose petals in the morning, after the dew has evaporated but before the heat of the day. Why? Because the rose oils are strongest then and the flavor will be the best.

Chop up the rose petals, or put them in a blender and gently pulse-blend until the petals are finely chopped.

Combine the finely chopped rose petals and the butter and mix well. Form the butter into a mound, add whole, fresh rose petals to the outside, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The flavors will be best after about 24 hours or overnight.

Food grade rose water is available in many whole foods stores.

Note, if you are using red rose petals, most red rose varieties have little flavor or fragrance ('Mr. Lincoln', a hybrid tea, is an exception, it has pretty good fragrance and flavor. But if you want rose butter and your roses aren't the tastiest, add 2 teaspoons of food grade rose water as you are mixing the rose petals into the butter.

5/26/2011

Tomato Beds

Yellow sticky traps catch aphids and flea beetles.
Ozarks Gardening; May 3, 2011
Jim Long

Preparing Tomato Beds

The past couple of springs I’ve written about new research  on controlling tomato viruses, from Texas A & M University, and tried their recommended methods. It didn’t control all of the virus problems, thanks to an unusually wet, cool and humid spring we had last season, but I still saw considerable improvements, and will continue with their methods this year.

The methods I use for helping to control tomato virus (often called, “the wilt.”) are as follows. First, I incorporate agricultural cornmeal into the soil early in the year and again just before planting. Whether your local feed store calls it agricultural. cornmeal, or simply ground corn feed, it’s the same thing. Texas A & M has demonstrated that pulverized corn, with some cobs and husks, it’s worked into the soil and causes the growth of beneficial bacteria which attack tomato virus in the soil. I apply 2 lbs. of cornmeal and 1 lb. of dry molasses (which studies show helps the cornmeal work better) per 12 feet of tomato row, poured on top then mixed into the soil.

The second treatment I use, is to mulch the entire tomato bed immediately after the tomatoes are planted. Formerly I’d wait for several weeks to let the ground warm faster, but researchers have proven that putting mulch down immediately, eliminates the splash-up from the soil onto the leaves, and that is how the virus first gets on the lowest tomato leaves. The virus remains in the soil where tomatoes have grown before, and rain splashes the soil, and the virus, on to the lowest leaves of the tomato plants.


Third, I use homemade sticky traps, two for each tomato plant, to trap the aphids that settle in on the tomato plants. It is the aphids that spread the virus (the “wilt), from the bottom leaves upward, by their eating habits. My traps consist of yellow plastic cups, turned upside down and stuck onto 16 inch tall, broomstick-sized sticks, using a thumbtack. The sticks are pushed into the ground about a foot from the tomato plant. I coat the yellow plastic cup on the outside, with Tree Tanglefoot, a very sticky substance that doesn’t wash off. The aphids are attracted to the color yellow, they fly onto the cups and the Tanglefoot catches them. (Don't substitute something else, Tree Tanglefoot is the only thing that doesn't wash off and keeps catching plants. Here's the link to order Tree Tanglefoot).

And last, I begin spraying the plants with Neem oil spray about the second week after planting. Neem prevents the aphids from getting a good start, and kills the eggs and young aphids that can’t yet get to the sticky traps.

To summarize, work the cornmeal into the soil in March, and again in late April; mulch as soon as the plants are in the ground. Then put out yellow sticky traps, 2 for every plant, and within a week of planting, begin spraying the plants with Neem and continue the spraying every 10 days well into summer. This is the best method I’ve found for stopping the wilt and virus problems on tomatoes. (The alternative, which is what old-time tomato growers used, was to plant tomatoes in “new” soil, meaning areas which haven’t had tomatoes growing in them before. That helps cut down on the amount of wilt considerably).

Tree Tanglefoot is available in most garden stores and on-line. Agricultural cornmeal, or its equivalent, pulverized corn feed, is available at most area feed stores. If they don't’ have it, ask them to order it, it’s easily available from their wholesale supplier.  Yellow plastic cups were difficult to find last year, so I used yellow, “water wings,” the flexible foam tubes kids use in swimming pools, cutting them up into 4 inch pieces and they worked as well as cups.

To see photos and links to more information, visit the Ozarks Gardening blog at ozarksgardening.blogspot.com. You can see what’s happening in my garden this week at jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com. Happy gardening!

4/24/2011

Bacon, America's Olive Oil

The Ozarks Herbalist column for
The Ozarks Mountaineer magazine
Jim Long, April 2011
Jim, riding a pet pig.

Bacon, the American Olive Oil

Bacon is a truly American food. While cured pork is eaten in other parts of the world, it is an American innovation that cures and smokes the bacon in the way we know it today.

The likely first introduction of pigs to the Americas dates to the Hernando de Soto expedition which arrived in Florida in 1539, and his ship records show pigs as part of the cargo. Bacon and ham, along with peanuts and tobacco were being exported back to England as early as about 1640.

It wasn’t long before tame hogs were escaping into the wild. The Foxfire books list wild boar hunting as a common rural activity as late as the 1960s. As the feral hogs spread, they acquired regional names. Edward Norris Wentworth, in his book, Pigs from Cave to Corn Belt, list these regional names: bristle bearer, wood wanderer, mountain liver, alligator, landpike, stump rooter and razorback, and hunting them in most Southern states has a long and proud tradition.

I met a man in Alabama a few years back whose hobby was hunting wild pigs using an atlatl, that ancient spear-throwing weapon used in many parts of the world in prehistory. Today we know that razorbacks or wild pigs are so prevalent in the Ozarks and south that the Conservation Department encourages hunting the critters the year around, and without limits.

During the War of 1812, there was a 21-year old young man named Samuel Wilson, from New Hampshire, who was the main pork packer for the army. The story goes that he was very popular with the troops because of his tireless work in providing them with good provisions and an always upbeat personality. Barrels of pork that were shipped to his receiving center were labeled, “to U.S.” Wilson, standing for “Uncle Sam Wilson.” The Uncle Sam name stuck and the legendary character of Uncle Sam was born, with a firm connection between army provisions and bacon.

It’s been said that the hardest thing for a vegetarian to resist is bacon. I learned back in the 1970s when a lot of my friends were vegetarian, not to fry bacon when any of them were around, because more than once, I caused someone to backslide into the world of eating meat with a simple slice of bacon.

There are two kinds of bacon in the U.S., wet-cured and dry-cured. The wet cure method is done by putting the slabs of bacon in a brine containing salt and seasonings for several days, then hanging the slabs to drain and dry, and then smoking them. Smoking over slow hardwood embers is the typical smoking method.

Dry curing is what farmers in the Ozarks typically did. My grandfather used a mixture of salt and seasonings and as soon as the bacon was cut from the freshly-butchered hog, the seasonings would be rubbed into the slab of bacon where it would lay in the smokehouse to drain and absorb the curing mixture. The bacon slab would then be hung up from the rafters where it would begin to dry. The slabs would have to be rubbed with more mixture several more times during the drying and curing process. Once the slabs of bacon quit draining and began to dry, a whitish covering called, “protein” would form on the outside and it was  was a protective layer that protected the meat.

Typically now, when a packaging company dry cures bacon, it is also slow-smoked over hickory, maple or apple wood and kept at a constant temperature to age before being sold. A typical dry-cure seasoning includes salt and sugar, with twice as much salt as sugar (either white sugar or brown sugar), along with salt peter (saltpetre refers to: Potassium nitrate, or the mineral niter, the critical oxidizing component of gunpowder, and a food preservative ), and black pepper. Some recipes call for liquid or powdered smoke seasoning, as well. The bacon is rubbed about every day for a couple of weeks with more seasoning.

Bacon in America is cured, often smoked pork belly, while British bacon is made from the back, rather than the belly, cured in a brine but not smoked. Canadian Peameal Bacon is a pork loin cured in wet brine and then rolled in cornmeal and sold raw, but never smoked.

Fatback is the strip of fat from the top of the hog’s back, above the loin and commonly used in early American cooking. Green bacon is the British term for cured but unsmoked bacon, while guanciale is an Italian-style pork jowl, dry cured and unsmoked.

Irish bacon is similar to British bacon but generally used in boiled dishes. Pancetta is a dry-cured, unsmoked Italian bacon made from pork belly, but doesn’t taste like American bacon due to the different seasonings used.

It’s fallen out of fashion in today’s health-conscious world, to fry bacon and save the bacon grease. Bacon grease was long considered the equivalent of olive oil, in our country as it was more commonly used. We’ve replaced it with vegetable oils, either liquid or solid. However, you can’t make a good wilted lettuce salad with vegetable oil, no matter how hard you try. Here’s our family’s recipe (and probably yours, too), unchanged in many generations.

Wilted Lettuce Salad

Gather and clean a big bowl full of leaf lettuce. Black Seeded Simpson was my family’s favorite lettuce variety, but any spring leaf lettuce will work. Set it aside (or refrigerate) until a few minutes before you are ready to serve dinner.

About 5-7 minutes before serving time, fry 3 pieces of your favorite bacon until crisp in an iron skillet. Remove the bacon and drain. Keep low heat on under the skillet and add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and 2 tabslespoons sugar to the bacon grease, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Salt to taste. Finely chop a spring green onion into the hot dressing and crumble the 3 slices of crisp bacon.

Drizzle the hot bacon dressing over the bowl of lettuce, tossing to make sure the dressing is well mixed. The lettuce will wilt a bit. Serve immediately.

No matter how many artificial soy-based bacons come onto the market, no matter the bacon flavorings or bacon substitutes, nothing tastes the same as good old American bacon.

4/14/2011

Farmers Markets in the Ozarks

 

Ozarks Gardening, April 14, 2011

Jim Long

Farmer’s Markets

The popularity of shopping locally for local produce has increased in popularity in recent years. This year, with big increases in  prices of food at the grocery store, will only increase the demand for locally grown vegetables and fruit. Not only do you get the freshest produce at a farmer’s market (picked just hours before you purchase it) but you support the local economy, as well. Isn’t it better to see your grocery money go to the farmer down the road, than to support large corporations in Peru, China or Central America?



Look at www.fruitstands.com/states/missouri for a complete listing in MO (although the website appears to need corrections and updates). The AR Dept. of Ag. has a website, “ArkansasGrown.org” but it’s also not up to date and somewhat hard to use. Here are some farmers markets around the area, with contact information (from those 2 websites) in case you want to sell your produce, or simply want to shop for good food. Most markets require a weekly or seasonal fee to sell, and you need to apply for booth space if you are a grower.
Homemade Goats Milk Soap


Springfield, MO Farmer’s Market is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. You’ll find it on the corner of Glenstone and Battlefield, open Tues., Thurs. and Sat. (417) 887-4156. There’s also a market on Commercial St. in Springfield, open Sun., Wed. and Sat. 417-887-4156.

Ava, MO has a remarkably large market on the square on Saturdays and it’s a busy place for shoppers. Contact: Mary Bell (417) 796-2449.

Berryville, AR, Tues. 3-6 p.m. and Sat. mornings. Contact Linda Jones, linda_g92@yahoo.com. Eureka Springs, AR market is Tues. and Thurs. mornings; contact Katie Ambach; kate.ambach@gmail.com and www.carrollcountyfresh.org.
Fresh picked herbs and greens at good prices.

Hermann, MO Farmers Market is open Wed. & Sat. mornings in the First Bank Parking lot; contact  Bob Kirchhofer, 573-486-2121. Kennett, MO’s Food Fair Market is open on Sat. until noon; contact Sylvas Pendleton (573) 888-9644.
This lady makes the BEST pepper jelly, for the Farmers Market in Fayetteville, AR. I wish I'd bought more than one jar.

Kimberling City’s market is on Friday mornings and the contact there is Joann Conner, 417-779-5725. The Lebanon Farmers Market of Laclede County (MO) is open May 20 thru Oct. 13 every Sat. morning, held at the Christian Life Fellowship Church. Contact person there is Judy Lambeth (573)765-3874.
Fun with Food is a project organized by the Iowa Extension Service and area youth.

Willow Springs, MO market opens May 20 on 812 E. Main; contact Elizabeth Boyle, 417-469-2454.
This enterprising young entrepreneur was making water yo-yos, demonstrating and selling them at the market.

An innovative farmers new market opens May 14 in Reeds Spring, MO and is open from 4 to 8 p.m. every Saturday. Evening farmers markets are very popular in many states, making it easy for families to shop. This market is held on the side of the main street through town with open air booth space for fresh produce and plant vendors, as well as space for musicians to play music, with old-time movies some evenings. For vendor information contact Flavie Mirat at Reeds Spring Pizza Co., 417-272-3507.

If you want the freshest produce, locally grown, you can’t beat shopping at your local farmers market. For more information, do a Google search for your town.  You can what’s happening in my garden this week on my garden blog: jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com. Happy gardening!

1/09/2011

Just Where IS the Ozarks, Anyway?


I was in standing in line at the cash register in a restaurant in Columbia, Missouri recently, waiting to pay my ticket. I overheard the cashier comment, “We (meaning Columbia) are on the northern edge of the Ozarks.” The gentleman paying his ticket replied with, “Really. Just where are the Ozarks, anyway?”

I asked the cashier, when it was my turn at the register, how she determined Columbia to be part of the Ozarks. She explained when she moved to north Missouri she looked on a map to see if there was a mountain range in the area (of course, I’m thinking to myself, Look out the window lady, do you see any mountains in any direction?) She said when looking over the map, the nearest mountains she could see were the Ozarks Mountains, so she determined that Columbia was on the northern edge. I just smiled and left her to her ignorance of geography, choosing to not block the line of people waiting behind me with a geography lesson.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2008 describes the Ozarks or Ozark Plateau as, “...an upland region, actually a dissected plateau (of about) 50,000 square miles, chiefly in S. Mo. and N. Ark., but partly in Oklahoma and Kansas, between the Arkansas and Missouri rivers; the Boston Mountains are the highest and most rugged section, with several peaks more than 2,000 feet high.”

Robert Flanders, Director of the Center for Ozarks Studies said in an article in the Ozarks Watch magazine, “I conclude that ‘Ozarks’ like ‘Great Plains,’ is a singular noun ending in ‘s’ (can one Ozark be found, anymore than one Great Plain?)” Therefore, where IS the Ozarks is correct, rather than where ARE the Ozarks.

I’ve had many battles with my book editors over the years when I list where I live, in my author material. When I insist that I live in the Ozarks Mountains, undereducated East Coast editors always cross out the ‘s’ and try to make it the Ozark Mountains. Explaining that Ozark is a town in Arkansas (and Missouri), but the region and the mountains are the Ozarks, falls on deaf ears; they have the red pencil and the last word.

There are several myths about where the name, Ozarks, originates. One version says it is from an Osage Indian word for bent river, although no corresponding Osage word has been found.

Donald Harrington, in his book, Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks has a description of the word originating from bois d'arc, the French name for the Osage orange tree. His story describes the fictitious Ingledew family learning how the Osage Indians used bois d'arc wood for making bows and ties the name of the wood, and the arch of the bow, to the origin of Ozarks.

The late Clay Anderson, former owner of The Ozarks Mountaineer magazine, wrote in his book, Ozarks, “There are a number of theories (about the origins) but the most plausible is that the name evolved from the French, aux arcs. Aux is a preposition meaning of, to, or from, while arcs signifies hills or bows. The pronunciation of aux arcs is roughly the same as Ozarks.”

The more likely origin of the name comes from the French who mapped the area in the late 1600s and early 1700s. After France gained control of the area (which we know later as the Louisiana Purchase), the French sent surveyors to explore their holdings.

The French cartographers entered the area where the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers join, and mapped the rivers for several hundred miles. They named the northernmost bend in the Arkansas River as the Aux Arcs, which translates to “top of the arc” or northernmost bend in the river. It was a significant landmark for early travelers and the phrase Aux Arcs, when spoken by non-French speakers evolved into what sounded like Ozarks (even though the “s” would be silent in French). That northernmost location was eventually simply deemed Aux Arcs, meaning beyond the last bend of the Arkansas River. Eventually the entire mountainous region above the last great bend in the Arkansas River was simply called, the Ozarks.

The Ozarks and the northern Missouri plains had been the homeland of the Great and Little Osage Indian tribes. When the government confiscated their land and moved them west into Indian Territory (later Oklahoma), other tribes were pushed by the government into the Missouri and Arkansas territories. Once those tribes were also pushed farther west the region was opened to white settlement and the new Ozarks immigrants were primarily Scotch, Irish, English and German people, many of whom had moved from Tennessee and before that, North Carolina.

The mountains of the Ozarks is an ancient chain of mountains, older and larger than the Rockies, but so worn down over time to appear now as eroded hills. The late Phil Sullivan, a friend who visited my farm many years ago, remarked how the Ozarks Mountains aren’t any smaller than those in his homeland of Upstate New York, but seemed so. He said, “The primary difference between roads in the Ozarks and the Adirondacs is that  in the Ozarks, roads follow the mountain tops and you look down at the landscape. But in the Adirondacs, nearly all of the roads follow the valleys and you are always looking upward at the landscape, which makes them seem much larger.”

But ask any native of the region what is the origin of the name and you’ll get, “Doesn’t matter where it came from, it’s not just a place, anyway. It’s a culture, a feeling and it has no set borders.” I’ve heard that kind of description from a great many people over the years.


If you look at the entire map of the Ozarks Plateau, the mass of rock underlying the land, it is described as running all the way up to Booneville, Missouri. Maybe that cashier in the restaurant in Columbia, Missouri, wasn’t so far off after all.

As Clay Anderson so succinctly put it, “The geology, history, folklore and culture of the Ozarks are distinct, but the precise thing that makes the Ozarks unique remains nebulous. Most likely it has to do with the people, who shape the land and are shaped by it.”