Monday, February 20, 2012

Interstate Interlude

After departing Paradise Produce, we had a leisurely few days getting to the next farm. We left early in the morn, in preparation for our one day, three-city tourist marathon of Hot Springs, Little Rock, and Memphis. The first stop was Hot Springs where we stocked up on bulk snacks at the health food store, and splurged on six fruit-juice sweetened yogurt-covered raisins. Before we left Hot Springs we filled up all the water containers we had with the legendary healing spring water. 

Central HS
Next we went to Little Rock and stopped to see the famous Central High School where the Little Rock 9 integrated. It was a beautiful day, and we decided to go to the visitor’s center before enjoying a picnic lunch on campus. We took our time looking at the exhibit, and we learned that all Little Rock schools were simply shut down for an entire year in an effort to stop integration, and that after the crises Little Rock businesses that did business out of state suffered because so many, especially in the North, had such a negative view of the city. Unbeknownst to us, Minnijean Brown’s daughter was actually at the visitor’s center the same time we were, which the docent later mentioned. While we were taking in the exhibit, it started thunderstorming, and by the time we went back to the car it was hailing. So much for our picnic. Instead we ate our lunch in the car, snapped a few pictures of the campus out the window, and headed out. It stormed most of the way to Memphis, though we drove into a sweet double rainbow for a good 20 minutes.
Slumbering Kudzu is still quite formidable
In Memphis we had the good fortune of staying with a friend of a friend who was the best hostess two weary travelers could ask for. We got the flash tour of her Midtown neighborhood, ate some delicious spicy noodles, and crashed on a comfy futon. After a lazy morning we braved the brutal Memphis February (70 degrees and sunny) for lunch, and then set out for Broken Magnolia Farm. On our way out of Tennessee we passed by Graceland, and glimpsed several cars and planes out front that Elvis must have been in at some point. We decided to take the highway instead of the interstate, and got a feel for the kudzu-covered countryside of Mississippi.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Paradise Produce

Zombie-free since 1856
We leisurely drove down to Mount Ida, which only took a few hours, but we stopped in the towns of Nogo, Dover, and Russellville to walk around and explore. We arrived at Paradise Produce around dark, and were greeted by two excited dogs orbiting the car. From the house emerged a tall, blond, hugging German.
Pamela and Dominik, the farm owners, moved to Arkansas from Hawaii about three years ago. They loved the Hawaiian weather, all the amazing fruit (including some that tasted like chocolate pudding), and the people, but land in Arkansas was far cheaper. Dominik currently works in a crystal mine/rock shop (which is less grueling than it sounds) until their farm can be self-sustaining, and Pamela is taking art classes. Their farm is four acres with a nice big pond and plenty of young fruit trees. They also have bees and a beaver, both busy, but not both welcome.
Pamela and Dominik are ex-WWOOFers, so they had been on our side of the bargain, and made sure our accommodations were extra cozy. We had a big four-poster wooden bed with lots of nice warm blankets and quilts, and the room had a wood floor with a big rug. Pamela is an excellent cook, and we dined on such delicacies as caramel praline apple bread, fried cauliflower, homemade pizza, and T-bone STEAK.
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Sorrel victory!
While at Paradise Produce we dug up approximately one ton of a bitter, invasive sorrel from their garden (nothing like the "sweet grass" I used to eat as as kid). We took out so much sorrel, day after day, that one night I dreamed of how much sorrel we'd missed. After conquering the sorrel battle we spread manure and straw over the beds, planting some of them with garlic, and readying the others for later seeds. We also painted their gazebo and relocated a beaver dam.
We planted five beds full of garlic, and Dominik already had planted two beds full. They really like garlic, and they’re also hoping to have enough to sell at the farmer’s market.
Pamela and Dominik are really laid back people, they made sure that our work ended after 5 hours, and most of their directions ended in “…or whatever you want to do.”
The town of Mount Ida is a bustling metropolis compared to Tilly; there is not only more than one church, there is also more than one dollar store, and even a library and thrift store.  The thrift store was incredibly cheap compared to the Goodwill stores we’re used to; most clothes were 50 cents, and books were either 25 or 50 cents. We were astounded at the cheap price of books, and the first time there we purchased more books than two people in a Volkswagon should. Being the travelling entrepreneurs with an ever-shrinking bank account that we are, we decided to take advantage of this untapped resource. Our system was as follows: first we took pictures of the shelves of books, so that later in our “spare” time we could ascertain their value online, then we could go back and buy the valuable ones, and try to sell them on Amazon. After hours and hours of research and after Amazon’s hefty piece of the pie, our grand net profit is about $4, not including labor. We figure we’ll be retiring by the time we hit the Mason-Dixon Line.
A puppy  from next door, who looked suspiciously like Balou, came over almost everyday and got in our way while we worked.
Apparently this is an unseasonably warm winter for the South; while at Pamela and Dominik’s we enjoyed several days that started with frost and three layers, and ended with being hot in our t-shirts. One of these warm “spring” days we treated ourselves to a hot fudge sundae from the Mount Ida Dairyette.
One rainy day when there was no inside work, we decided to check out the relatively nearby town of Mena, near the Oklahoma border. Mena in the rain turned out not to be too exciting, though we did stop at an art gallery for a while. We also found a discount food store where we took advantage of cheap Newman O’s and olive oil. On the way back to Mount Ida we passed the Salem Baptist church in Nunley, which advertised a free community dinner that night. We decided to stop in and see the locals. We were early, and had an extra hour to talk to the Pastor and a few parishioners.  After a fine spaghetti spread, we hung out for the after dinner Bible study.
On Saturday Pamela and Dominik had a potluck with a few of their friends; we helped out by making apple cake and sangria. A delicious dinner segued into a lively drum circle with plenty of dancing, rainsticks, and didgeridoos.
One of the highlights of our time at Paradise Produce was the next day when they took us crystal mining. The four of us and Nonnie went to a secluded quartz mine where we spent several hours hunting for treasure in mine tailings and fresh veins.  They told us it was “open pit” and we were picturing a bulldozed, barren wasteland of a mountain; but, where we were was very scenic, and our mining experience was less invasive than we thought. We had no idea that Arkansas had a “Crystal Belt,” or that we were in it, but we have the crystals to prove it. Randy was more ambitious and spent most of his time digging out a vein, while Holly enjoyed simply picking up rocks off the ground and finding their inner beauty (some of which were bigger crystals than what Randy dug out).
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Finding the diamonds in the rough