If you love me, you will take these turnips.

Standard

I spent the late afternoon yesterday digging and planting. This year we have decided to add to the landscaping in the front of our shop. We are adding some shrubbery that will remain green all winter. The current inhabitants of the front yard all drop their leaves in winter. A bunch of naked branches doesn’t exactly scream welcome. So in an attempt to keep color going all year we are tackling an overhaul. The guys and I decided to incorporate edible plants into our landscaping this year. We do our best to help the environment and thought why not take advantage of the fact that we have to water the yard all summer anyway.
We have amassed a tiny collection of seeds to plant. We will have green beans and tomatoes growing along side boxwoods and spirea. I put sunflowers in the ground yesterday. I have to say it felt a little naughty tucking them in behind the formal plantings that wrap our front porch. The idea that their sunny faces would soon tower over their more traditional bed mates would frighten more timid gardeners. It just isn’t respectable to have such flamboyance scattered about willy nilly where everyone can see.
This year our efforts to keep newly planted shrubs alive in the frustratingly hot and humid Illinois summer will also be putting fresh food on our table. I think that is just sexy as hell. If I have to be bent over out there pulling weeds from between the bushes, then I am going to pick peas while I’m doing it! I slipped some beautiful tricolor sage with purple, white and silver leaves into the pots out front that held boxwoods all winter. Tyler and I found the most amazing oregano again this year. It has the brightest lime green and yellow leaves. I love the way it flows over the edge of pots, so we thought, why not put it out there where everyone can enjoy it instead of hiding it somewhere out back.
In a few days we will tuck some heirloom tomatoes into the ground. I can’t wait to make fresh salsa. There is nothing like the taste of the triumph of growing your own food.
Lettuce will go in soon. Don’t spend anytime imagining that it will grow in neat little rows. That Mr. McGregor stuff doesn’t fly around our house. We will plant it in sunny spots between the established prairie plants out back. There are a few open spaces that the bee balm vacated last summer. It will fit in nicely there. I love the colors leaf lettuce comes in. The bright greens and deep burgundy and purples. Mouth is officially watering. The little rabbit that has claimed our back yard for her own will be in heaven. Our dogs have already given up trying to chase her from the neighborhood. I let them out one morning last week and they began their usual Tom and Jerry chase sequence. This time however that little bunny stood her ground. She didn’t even flinch. Just looked up from nibbling the clover and sort of stared the dogs down. They were baffled. Truly disappointed. They haven’t messed with her since. I wouldn’t either. I have seen it in her eyes, she means business. She will of course have first dibs on the lettuce, I will gladly feast on her leftovers.
I would kill for a fruit tree. I think I have the perfect spot for a little apple tree. I would love a cherry tree, but around here that means sharing your harvest with flocks of hungry birds. I picture myself forced into playing the part of Tippi Hedren. Running about in the yard swatting at ferocious swarms of angry starlings as they peck at my eyeballs. In fact if a cherry tree went in I would spend my summers being suspicious of any birds that were congregating in groups of three or more. God forbid a murder of crows land on the deck. I would pee my pants before curling up in the fetal position and dying of fright. Alfred Hitchcock, you were a bad bad man. Twisted sick and I love you for it. No cherry tree for me. My imagination is way to over active.
Summer is here and I am celebrating every minute of it. I was born a man of the sun . I crave the warmth. Vitamin D. Fresh air. I get lost in that color of blue the sky turns in summer. The way the green leaves stand out against the clouds. The weeks ahead will be filled with much mulch flinging and muddy flip flops. Sunny afternoons and dirty fingernails. Nothing compares to the tired you feel after spending the day outside working in the yard.
Hopefully this year with a little extra effort we can coax a meal or two out of the dirt…. if Mother Nature cooperates. Some groups throughout history have been known to prepare a sacrifice to ensure the soils fertility. I think I will shy away from tradition this year and just light my incense and pour a beer or two on my newly planted green beans.
When my sunflowers bloom I will feel like the luckiest man on the planet. A proud papa. I’m looking forward to having way tooooo many tomatoes. The living is easy. It doesn’t get any better than the joy a person feels when you have to force home grown fresh produce onto unwilling recipients. That watery eyed look of terror on a persons face when you hand them a bag stuffed to the brim with turnips or a box the size of a minivan bursting at the seams with the zucchini you picked that morning. Ahhhh abundance.

20140504-193146.jpg

Advertisements

Small towns are like little islands…

Standard

I’m from a small town. Let me rephrase that. I am from just outside of a small town. I grew up on a farm about a mile out of a town of around 5,000 people. Before you give me the ” that isn’t a small town” speech, save it. John is from a town of about 30 people so I’ve heard it all before. I remember when my town got its first stop light. It was a very big deal. I don’t remember but I’m sure there was some sort of parade or ribbon cutting or something to commemorate the event. At least in my mind that would have been appropriate given the importance of the day. I’ve moved around and one event led to the other bringing me here. For the uninitiated living in a small town can be a total and complete shock to the system. Every morning you can find yourself praying to the gods to drop a Starbucks on the corner. Any corner. Addictions can be a serious thing.
The challenge of living on a remote island isn’t about coping with missing the conveniences available on the main land. It’s about learning to appreciate the things that are available all around you. That same philosophy translates into living in a small community. You have the opportunity to tap into natural hunting and gathering instincts. Explore and discover. That’s how I look at it anyway.
Yesterday I spent some time chatting with another business owner about encouraging visitors to explore what our town has to offer. We are considering putting together a little book that has a map of our favorite things that are available nearby. My conversation with Cathrine made me start thinking of all of the things that I like about where I live. So as an experiment last night I got cozy and poured myself a glass of my favorite wine. My dear friends own an outstanding winery just 20 minutes from my front door. Through the country between cornfields and over the lake you can find a bottle of Harvest Red at Willow Ridge Winery . Just incase you were wondering, it would be the perfect gift for me any time you are feeling like buying me a gift. My birthday is coming up after all.
A glass of wine down the hatch and my list of favorite things grew and grew.
So here are some of the things I love. If you’re visiting and wander into any of these places you will soon find that I’ve picked some of them for what they offer. Some of them because of what they offer and the people that make them happen. The best part of living on a little island in the middle of Illinois can be getting to know the people.
Top of my list and with absolutely no question, the number one reason people visit Sullivan Illinois. The Little Theatre on the Square . The Little Theatre is a not for profit organization that produces killer musicals and offers a ton of classes from dance to acting. The talent that graces the stage or works behind the scenes often finds it’s way to Broadway or has already worked There!
I love to shop at junk shops and thrift stores. Sorting through people’s cast offs can provide a ton of inspiration. Digging for a deal can be exhilarating, finding a good deal can be euphoric. Try satisfying your junking urges or your vintage clothes obsession at Thrifty Boutique, you can see it from the Theatre’s front door. I found a Burberry jacket there for $1.00. Yup that is one whole dollar bill.
I adore to visit My Garden Greenhouses . Being there always calms my nerves. It’s like a little oasis. Chances are you will bump into the owner with her arms, elbow deep digging in the dirt. She loves what she does and it shows.
I crave being at Tabor park. You will find it tucked away on North Worth Street. It’s a jewel. Miles of easy trails through prairie and woods across bridges and over streams. I like to walk there to feel close to nature. The little grove of Hedge Apple trees is like a scene from a movie. I can imagine Snow White herself gathering firewood in the little clearing. Magical.
The food at Los Potros on the west side of the square is always perfect, fast and cheap. The wait staff means business and speeds your order to you always with a friendly smile. If you’re not a total light weight try to conquer the Jumbo Margarita. It’s like a punch in the face with a whole lot of happy.
A few doors down you’ll find China King. The owner fills orders minds the counter and helps her kids with their homework simultaneously. You won’t find fancy here. It’s just honest and real, I can’t help but love that. The Crab Rangoon are beyond bliss. The little pockets of cream cheese and crab filled crispy wonton might as well be crack. I get two meals out of the Chicken Curry with Angel Hair rice noodles. Ok, so I usually eat it all for one meal, but I would like to think if I had will power it would make lovely leftovers.
The guys and I always look dapper after a visit to Split Ends 10 West Harrison. It’s the kind of place where the owner makes you feel at home the minute you step in the door. Her family has rescued the building giving it a remarkable new life, you walk in off the street and go, wait a minute, this isn’t small town.
On the same block you will find Nite Al’s. This pub is owned buy the nicest people. You can often find them tending bar. It has a great vibe. They keep the place incredibly clean and when you belly up to the bar you can always count on the friendliest service. You can kick back with a beer after a long day. Or make it a night out. I recommend trying an apple pie shot. Or three.
If you’re in the mood for a soft serve treat or want to indulge in a kick ass burger that will melt in your mouth…. Head over to Dairy Delites. You will find it on West Jackson. They have a huge mushroom house out front with a giant pig peeking out of the window… Seriously a kick ass burger.
If you make a trip over here Don’t forget to stop in at Cathrine’s at 7 west Jefferson. She is right off of the square and has a great gallery, sip a glass of wine and buy a box of locally made chocolates.
… And if you do find yourself in my part of the cornfield.. Stop in and see us at the shop. We would be glad to see you! All of the most extraordinary people shop here. Come and check it out.

20140314-153013.jpg

20140314-153023.jpg

20140314-153042.jpg

20140314-153053.jpg

20140314-153059.jpg

20140314-153112.jpg

20140314-153126.jpg

20140314-153135.jpg

20140314-153314.jpg

20140314-153320.jpg