Meet Farmer Tyler

Every now and again I meet someone who is so full of joy and gratitude I can’t help but like them. And when he or she shares my love of gardening? Well, that’s a friend for life. So it went when I met the winner of our 100,000 Fan Giveaway sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tyler Baras (a.k.a. Farmer Tyler) entered the contest last summer and was selected as the winner of a trip to Little Rock to visit some of the city’s hot spots and to tape a TV segment with me.

Tyler wasn’t the only winner in the deal. I got to learn something about his specialty – hydroponics. Tyler works at The GrowHaus, which is a non-profit urban farm in Denver that provides fresh vegetables and education on healthy living to the surrounding community. The GrowHaus uses greenhouses and hydroponics to produce greens year-round in the cold Colorado climate. Hence Tyler’s expertise in the method.

Tyler and I taped a segment about how to build a home hydroponics system.

Another talent Tyler shared was playing the accordion.

While Tyler was in town we wanted to make sure he saw some of the best of Little Rock and good food was on the top of the list. He had barbeque and greens at Lindsey’s Hospitality House, fried black-eyed peas at the Capital Hotel and catfish with hoppin’ John at South on Main. We also made sure he tried a locally brewed beer and some of Kent Walker’s cheese at Stone’s Throw Brewery.

Having a beer, homemade pickles and Kent Walker Artisan Cheese at Stone’s Throw Brewery. The pickled squash was our favorite.

Tyler couldn’t leave Little Rick without walking The Big Dam Bridge, visiting Central High School and touring the Clinton Library.

We had lunch at the Clinton Library. Tyler was tickled to see that Moss Mountain Farm was listed as a food supplier on the menu.

At the Clinton Library Tyler demonstrated how he would drive the Presidential state car. He should probably stick to growing lettuce.

 This is the mid-way point across The Big Dam Bridge. It’s a gorgeous view any time of the year.

Because Tyler is into urban farming we wanted to make sure he got to visit a few area agriculture-related attractions. The first stop was Little Rock Urban Farming in the heart of the city. He spoke with Chris about the farm’s operation and intern program. On Friday we headed to Lonoke to meet with Dr. Anita Kelly at the Cooperative Extension Center. And finally we toured Barnhill Orchards also in Lonoke.

Chris and Tyler walking through a bamboo thicket heading to Little Rock Urban Farming’s high tunnel greenhouses.

Dr. Kelly demonstrated her work combining aquaponics with hydroponics.

Bob Barnhill toured us around his farm.

Even this late in the year Mr. Barnhill has crops he harvests to sell. Tyler got to harvest a few persimmons and learn how to operate a pecan cracking machine.

I want to say a BIG thank you to everyone who entered the 100,000 Fan Giveaway. We received some fantastic videos and it was hard to pick just one. I also want to thank the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau for making Tyler’s trip possible. They hooked him up with a hotel room, passes to the Clinton Library and a $250 gift card to use for pocket money. Thank you Little Rock for being such a swell place to live!

Hands-Free Holidays!

United Solutions Hands-Free ToteMerry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and happy Kwanzaa! So many celebrations, so little time! December is the most social month of the year and I spend a lot of time dashing from party to party. My constant companion to all these engagements is my United Solutions Hands-Free Tote. I pack it with food, wine and gifts and go!

How would you like a Hands-Free Tote to use around your home and garden? Post a comment below about your favorite holiday tradition. I’ll select a winner on December 18th.

Turn Up the Lights!

It’s not shocking that light plays such an important role in the December holidays. It is, after all, the darkest month of the year when days are the shortest. Who wouldn’t want a little extra glow?

It’s also not a big surprise that the inventor of the light bulb introduced the idea of using strings of electric lights to decorate for the holidays. If you were riding the subway past Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab in December 1880, you would have undoubtedly seen his Christmas light display. His motive was product promotion, but his legacy is the tradition of adorning our homes in festive lights.

I’m thankful for Mr. Edison’s marketing ploy because I really enjoy seeing my town lit up for the holidays. This year I’m planning to take it on the road to visit some places along the “Arkansas Trail of Lights.” Sixty communities across the state participate with outdoor holiday light displays, parades and festivals. My first stop will be Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, where they have over 4 million lights. It’s a sight to behold! I also want to make my way to Mountain View to see their historic court square festooned with lights and hopefully get a ticket to “Caroling in the Caverns” at Blanchard Springs Caverns. I imagine the sound of singing in an underground cave is magical. For a pre-Edison experience I hope to go to Historic Washington State Park to see the luminaries and take the candlelight tour.

Each of these destinations is an easy day trip from Little Rock and the state makes planning my trip a breeze with their interactive map of locations and itineraries for the different regions. Who knows? With the price of gas so low right now, I might just try to hit all 60 stops!

Blanchard Springs Caroling in the Caverns

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Candlelight Tour at Old Washington State Park

Arkansas Made for the Holidays

If you are looking for something unique to give this holiday season, I suggest a gift from my home state of Arkansas. From tasty treats to sweet smelling soaps there is something for everyone on your list.

Lambrecht Gourmet’s Southern Pecan Toffee

Lambrecht Gournet's Southern Pecan Toffee

Lambrecht Gourmet’s award winning Southern Pecan Toffee is made with roasted pecan halves, covered in rich butter toffee and drenched in imported, single origin milk chocolate. The resulting confection is a perfect balance of crisp, buttery toffee covered pecans and smooth milk chocolate. It’s a gift that will be well-received and quickly devoured!

Wicked Mix

Photo courtesy of Wicked Mix
Spice up someone’s life with a bag of this fiery snack mix made with pecans, cashews, almonds and other tasty morsels. Available is Spicy Original, Hot Chipotle and, my fav, Chocolate-Laced.

PK Grill

Photo courtesy of PK Grills
If you grew up in the South, chances are your family had a cast aluminum grill in the back yard. The “Portable Kitchen” is a classic cooker for a backyard barbeque. Durable and timeless, this grill will become a family heirloom that you pass down to your kids.

Aromatique Orange and Evergreen Candle

Photo courtesy of Aromatique
Aromatique is a premier potpourri and candle maker in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Founder Patti Upton and I go way back, further than I’d like to admit. I love this orange and evergreen scent for the holidays.

Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun

At the Daisy Museum in Northwest Arkansas
If there is someone on your list who is a fan of A Christmas Story, they’ll be sure to appreciate a Red Ryder BB gun. Just be sure the recipient heeds the film’s warning about shooting out an eye.

ARKANSAS MADE


Are you an Arkansas craftsperson, grower or maker? I encourage you to join ARKANSAS GROWN to help get your product out in front of consumers. And if you are a shopper, look for the Arkansas Made logo to identify locally produced goods. Check them out at www.ArkansasGrown.org.

Ohio National Poultry Show

It’s November again and the much anticipated 3-day Ohio National Poultry Show was a couple of weeks ago. Yes, so thankful the weather was perfect for the drive. I still remember clear as yesterday my first poultry show as a young boy. I was so excited and full of wonder. My love for poultry was nurtured at such an early age by family that believed in the preservation and respect of all creatures big and small.

If you didn’t know, poultry shows allow breeders, young and old, to exhibit their best birds in show. Many of these birds are beloved pets too. You would be amazed at the hundreds of chickens, geese, turkeys, and ducks at the show. It was quite an exceptional presentation of breeds in Ohio this year!
Like every year, I returned home with renewed vigor to improve upon my efforts to preserve our heritage breeds and encourage our young enthusiasts to do the same. I will miss seeing old friends until next time.

What I like best of all, this competitive yet amazing forum gives everyone who shares my passion in poultry a chance to network and promote education, conservation and rare breed preservation—which is especially important for junior participants. So glad to be a part of it and I can hardly wait for the next show.

First day at Ohio National

Reserve Champion Spanish Black Turkey

Dr. Keith Bramwell with a large Light Brahma Rooster

Spitzhauben Rooster

Bantam Salmon Faverolle

African Goose

Naked Neck Buff Silkie

Royal Palm Tom

Mandarin Duck

Young junior participant

Arkansas Wine Country

You might not think of Arkansas when you think of wine, but my home state is actually one of the oldest and largest wine producers in the South. The groundwork for this started millions of years ago with the formation of the Ozark Mountains in the upper northwest corner of the state. These ancient mountains help create a beautiful sandy loam that has proven to be an exquisite terroir for growing wine grapes.

Vineyards at Chateau aux Arc

Bacchus blessed us again in the 19th century when German-Swiss immigrants began flowing into the area to work in the coal mines. The European transplants found that the conditions were perfect for planting vineyards like those they grew back home. Many of these vineyards are still in production today and touring them is a fun way to take in the beauty of the region.

Visiting the heart of Arkansas wine country is an easy day trip to the town of Altus, where it’s possible to taste over 100 different wines in just a five mile stretch. I recommend making the trip in spring when the dogwoods are in bloom or fall as the leaves turn and the grapes are ready for harvest.

There are about a dozen wineries in Arkansas, but for this post I’m focusing on three – Post Familie Vineyard (www.PostFamilie.com), Wiederkehr Wine Cellars
(www.WiederkehrWines.com) and Chateau aux Arc (www.ChateauAuxArc.com).

Post Familie Vineyard

Open daily for tours and tastings.
800-275-8423
1700 St. Mary’s Mountain Rd
Altus, AR 72821
www.PostFamilie.com

Viewing processing grapes with Joseph Post.

The Post Familie Vineyard specializes in wine made from the muscadine, a native of the southeastern United States. Because they are a native grape they are easy to care for with no spraying necessary. This quality also makes muscadines a great choice for homeowners. And if you select a self-pollinating variety such as ‘Noble’ you don’t have to plant both a male and female vine.

At Post you’ll find 100 acres in cultivation. Northwest Arkansas is the northern boundary of where this grape will grow so Post plants the most cold hardy varieties. The most coveted in the red is ‘Noble’ and in the white, ‘Carlos’. The winery processes in excess of 1,000 tons each year, which makes them the leading grower and buyer in the central U.S.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars

Open daily except Sunday.
1-800-622-WINE
3324 Swiss Family Drive
Wiederkehr Village, AR 72821
www.WiederkehrWines.com

Al Wiederkehr and me in front of the Weinkeller Restaurant.

If you want to learn more about the German-Swiss immigrants who settled in Altus Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is a must see. Established in 1880 by Johann Andreas Wiederkehr it is the oldest winery in continuous operation in central United States.

The Champagne Cellar is a beautiful example of 19th century stone work. All the stones are dry laid with a mix of lime and sand for mortar. It was the first wine cellar on the property and now houses a restaurant where you can dine on dishes from the French, German and Italian regions of Switzerland. Even the tables and chairs were handmade on the property in the style of the Swiss Alps.

If you are a festival-goer head over to Wiederkehr in October for their annual weinfest. Flowing wine, great food and beautiful scenery; it’s a party you won’t want to miss.

Chateau aux Arc

Tasting Room open Monday – Saturday, Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
800-558-9463
8045 Champagne Drive-HWY 186
Altus, Arkansas 72821
www.ChateauAuxArc.com

Chateau aux Arc

If you’re into sustainability practices like I am, then you’ll love the Chateau aux Arc vineyard and winery. The owner, Audrey House, is doing everything she can to produce an extraordinary glass of wine while reducing her carbon footprint on the planet.

Audrey set her sights on viniculture after a 1997 tour of a California winery. It just took ten minutes for her to realize that growing grapes and producing wine was her life’s ambition. Less than a year later she bought ten acres of Chardonnay grapes in Arkansas.

Her philosophy of working with the land is evident from the vineyards to the tasting room. She built a series of ponds that take advantage of a natural spring. Fish in the ponds fertilize the irrigation water so there isn’t any need for chemical fertilizers. Cover crops are planted to attract beneficial insects and return nitrogen to the soil.

It’s a beautiful place with a beautiful tasting room.

Enjoying a glass of local wine with Audrey House.

Laundry Day Hands-Free Tote Giveaway

How does laundry go at your house? Do you wash everything at a specific time or is laundry day every day? It feels like the washer never stops at Moss Mountain Farm. There’s a load running right now!

United Solutions Hands-Free ToteMy washer and dryer are on the first floor. This makes carrying laundry from the basement or second floor seem very similar to Sisyphus’s rock and hill. Unlike Sisyphus I have a Hands-Free™ Tote from United Solutions. I can load the tote with linens, throw the strap over my shoulder and climb up and down the stairs with ease.

Congratulations to Chrissy K! She’s the winner of the Hands-free Tote. Check your email Chrissy because we’ve sent you info on how to get your tote. Thank you to everyone for participating! Lots of great tips.

How about you? Are you burdened with forever hauling a heavy laundry basket to and fro? Post a comment that includes your best laundry tip for a chance to win a Hands-Free™ Tote from United Solutions. I’ll pick a winner at the end of November, 2014.

Garden Clean Up Hands-Free Tote Giveaway

Congratulations to Jeanne! She was randomly selected as this month’s winner of the United Solutions Hands-Free™ Tote! Check your inbox Jeanne, we’ve sent you an email with the details about how to get your tote.

In my mid-South garden, fall slowly transforms into winter with the heat breaking late September and the first frost occurring at the end of November. And right in the middle of the transition is the month of October, an oft-overlooked critical point of garden maintenance. It’s a time for garden clean-up, to clear away and tidy, to set a fresh stage to ensure a vivacious spring.

United Solutions Hands-Free ToteFirst, when the temperature outside cools to a similar temperature to inside, I move my vacationing houseplants back indoors. I also add humus and manure to my flowerbeds. I clean up the blueberry patch by pruning broken or diseased limbs, and thicken the mulch with pine needles or shredded oak leaves. I steadfastly stake tall-growing autumn blooms such as salvia, dahlias and chrysanthemums and gather up materials to add to my compost bin. It’s quite the bustling month. Plus, I like to throw a big Halloween party and getting ready for that is its own wonderful, but significantly time-consuming enterprise.

I’ve partnered with United Solutions, and I use these baskets to carry my garden refuse, decorative gourds and whatnot, and they help me complete my tasks in this busy month. I’m giving away one United Solutions Hands-Free™ Tote to help you streamline your October too. Simply, leave a comment on my blog about your garden maintenance plans to enter.

Garden Harvest Hands-Free Tote Giveaway

Life needs a tote!

September means it’s time to harvest summer’s bounty, to take in the bumper crop of cucumbers, to trim the basil back for the last time. It’s a time for the final summer harvest, for carrying the corn, tomatoes and eggplants from the garden to the kitchen, where they will be canned, stewed or frozen and kept for winter. It’s the beginning of a final frenzy of activity on summer’s last legs. I find myself making numerous trips to garden in early morning or around dusk when the temperature drops to slightly less sweltering.

United Solutions Hands-Free ToteI’ve partnered with United Solutions, and I use these baskets to carry my produce. I pick the crops, place them in the basket and rinse them with the hose, while they’re still resting in the basket, and carry the whole thing back to the house. It cuts down on my trips back and forth and it’s profoundly helpful in this season of harvest. I’m giving away one United Solutions Hands-Free™ Tote to help you streamline your harvest too. Simply, leave a comment on my blog about what you’ll be harvesting to enter.