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The New Carterville Farmers’ Market

Last Sunday, I finally made it to the Carterville Farmers’ Market in it’s new time slot. Since it now runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Sundays at Cannon Park, there was plenty of time to walk around and grab lunch at the market after church.

Although it was a pretty hot afternoon, I enjoyed looking at all of the different things and chatting with some of the vendors. Dee Ann Hammack, who manages the market, had invited me to come out and see the changes since my last time there. She explained that a few of the regular vendors were absent due to the 4th of July holiday, but there was still a good variety. Some of the items I saw were local honey, fresh veggies, artisan-crafted items, kettle corn, plants, live music, and even a chuck wagon with picnic tables.

Dee Ann and her husband, Mike, also operate the Thunder 5 Ranch Chuck Wagon, a farm to fork culinary experience that also sets up at the Johnston City Farmer’s Market. The rib dinner that they prepared for me was wonderful: ribs, corn, and zucchini and onions. I also really liked the special edition 4th of July bib custom made by Nammers Crafts for the chuck wagon. Super cute. The T5R Chuck Wagon menu may vary a bit from week to week based upon what they have ready in their gardens.

The market does accept EBT/LINK and Debit/Credit for transactions. EBT/LINK purchases are limited to items allowed by law such as produce, pre-packaged food, and plants that produce food. If you enter Cannon Park from Greenbriar Street, you will drive on around to the little drive/road just past the skate park that turns toward the market and park in the grass behind the vendors (unless directed otherwise.)

Mmmm….kettle corn

Thunder 5 Ranch Chuck Wagon

BBQ Ribs!

Zucchini & onions on a custom-made bib by Nammers Crafts

Did somebody say funnel cake?

Nammers Crafts

The Potager’s Garden

Music by David Campbell of Lamp Lighter Farm

Fresh veggies

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Since I had spent the past year kicking cancer’s butt, I didn’t grow as much fresh produce or herbs as I once did last summer. However, I did grow a few of my beloved San Marzano tomatoes (plants from the Carbondale Farmer’s Market,) basil, a bit of oregano and rosemary– and a lot of mint. This gave me some flavorful options: salsa, pestos, gazpacho, and more.

Above: San Marzano Tomatoes and Thai Basil

Below: Herb Pesto and a bit of Pico de Gallo sauteed with mushrooms.

So far this season, I have a little lettuce, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil cilantro, and an expanding mint patch. I still need to finsish areas for tomatoes, peppers, onions, lots of basil, and hopefully even watermelons…. and more flowers. I am a fan of edible landscape.

Mixing herbs and flowers and veggies can be a good thing. Consulting a companion planting chart might be wise if they will share soil. Essentially, some have researched the Native American practice of planting certain plants together that support each other’s growth. Tisquantum, also known by many as Squanto, acted as a lifesaving liaison to the pilgrims. Without his assistance and sharing his knowledge of companion planting and organic fertilization, food would have been much more sparse. What is referred to as the Three Sister’s Method involved planting corn, beans, and squash together for successful growth. Squanto also taught the new immigrants to plant fish with corn as natural fertilizer. People now also may use other organic material when planting such as egg shells and shrimp shells.

Above: Cayenne peppers

Below: Japanese Eggplant

Listed below are some common companion planting groupings:

Tomatoes/basil

Corn/squash/beans

Mint/peas

Onions/garlic

Garlic/roses

Some No-No’s/Plants that Don’t Play Well Together:

Dill doesn’t go by tomatoes, rosemary, sage, onions, peas

Tomatoes don’t go by corns, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash

Fennel doesn’t go with onions, parsley, asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, nasturtiums, marigolds

There are also some functional benefits to landscape gardens beyond beauty and food. Marigolds have been used for many years as a detourrant to wildlife eating gardens as well as mosquitoes when used as a border.

Below are a few plants and what they are known for repelling:

Marigolds- plant lice, mosquitoes, rabbits.

Above: Marigolds

Chrysanthemums- Ants, Japanese beetles, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, silverfish, ticks, lice

Mint- spiders, ants, mosquitoes. (Will spread and take over an area quickly. Planters or separate patches are best.)

Below: Fresh Mint

Below: Basil-mosquitoes, houseflies

Citronella grass- mosquitoes and flying insects

Lavender-Gnats, mosquitoes

Chives-Japanese beetles

Petunias-beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, tomato worms

Above: Petunias

Bay leaves- flies, roaches

Garlic-beetles, root maggots, carrot root flies, moths,aphids

Rosemary-bugs

Above: Rosemary

I’m also a fan of repurposing or using unexpexted items as planters. A few things, usually at least tomatoes, tend to go directly into the ground when possible, but that also increases the prospects of weeds. I have previously turned old door frames and box springs into raised garden beds for more shallow-growing plants like my oregano, lettuce, and green onions.

In Southern Illinois, we are blessed to have a climate that allows us to grow many things. I am thankful for that opportunity.

Adventures in Mall Ratting & More in the Dale

The super-talented A Slice of Southern Illinois interns and I spent a nice evening in The Dale (for the non-locals, that’s Carbondale.) Before we could do much else, we had to tend to a turn signal light that just had to quit working… Athough they claim to have never changed one before, the put their heads together and fixed it like pros.

Once we could safely turn left again, we headed to University Mall. My early childhood memories of visiting this mall include trips from Salem in the family Pacer and riding the escalator in Sears to shop for View Master disks. (Our younger readers may have to search some of things–unless maybe they saw the Pacer in “Wayne’s World.”)So, during our mall rat (some folks may have to search that term…) adventures, we walked a bit and perhaps shopped a bit too. Since interning is not a paid gig, some checked on job applications… The bonus: we visited a bit with friends while we were there.

After the mall, we headed to The Strip to get some evening photos. Mijo and I debated dinner options while Mija and Josh walked along the strip for photos. No surprise, they didn’t just take a photo of the same nostalgic Dairy Queen that my parents visited as SIU students before I was ever born. They returned to the vehicle with frozen treats.

Then we headed to New Kahala to eat. If you’ve not eaten there before, just know that they have very generous portions. Oh, and the food is good too, not just plate-filling. We started off with yummy crab rangoon. Two interns had vegetarian lo mein, one had shrimp lo mein, and I was the oddball with the beef with scallions and ginger and rice…

As we left, I asked Mijo to get a quick photo of The Towers. He managed to catch this awesome shot of a car he liked passing the dorms in the background on Grand Avenue.

Saturday in Salem

A Slice of Southern Illinois had the pleasure of spending this past Saturday in Salem participating in the vendor fair for Royal Kids Camp and visiting familiar Salem icons. Each vendor donated items to the quarter auction to raise money for foster kids from group homes and in foster families to be able to attend the special camp this summer. Even though the weather outside was rainy and chilly, we had a great time.

I grabbed lunch at the concession stand at the event. Evergreen Christian Church does in fact have some great noodle makers. The nachos supreme looked pretty good too.

My young interns drove through one of the spots that former Salemites tend to visit when they come home: Chico’s Mexican American Restaurant.

After the craft show, we had an opportunity to visit family in the area. Then this Salem Wildcat/Selmaville Rocket alumnus decided to drive around a bit. I didn’t go by as many places as I wanted to see because the weather was not ideal. I did parallel park across from Sweney’s Drug Store, or rather, where it stood, to take some pictures. The building has been gone at least a couple of decades, but there is now mural on what was once an inside wall.

Sweney’s was not only a pharmacy. They sold gift items and had an elaborate soda fountain. Back in the day, Sweney’s was known for their five cent Cokes. I can remember standing in line at the pharmacy counter with my mom as a young child. On a weekend, I would be listening to Casey Kasem host “America’s top 40” on WJBD radio and staring with fascination at the huge, decorative glass container of blue liquid. I always wondered what was in that thing. At Christmastime, my parents would get boxes of chocolates at Sweney’s to give as presents. I liked to watch the store clerk expertly wrap each box.

The ABC Pub sits next to Sweney’s Corner. Of course, I have no childhood memories at pubs or bars, and I’m really not sure if they served food when I was living at Salem. I do know that it is now known for having great food. A few years ago, my high school class had our reunion there. The food was wonderful, the people were nice, and it was a lot of fun catching up with friends. We even walked next door as a class to Sweney’s Corner and released balloons in memory of classmates who are no longer with us.

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The old movie theater, now used for local and guest performances, sits across from the ABC Pub. The first movie I saw there as a kid was “The Unidentified Flying Oddball.” This was before everyone rented movies, multiplex cinema was everywhere, and you could just stream movies at home. We would wait with anticipation to see which movie came to town each week and looked forward to going to the show with friends on weekends. “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Secret of My Success,” “Big,” and many more great movies once graced that screen.

I finally got to visit GoGoGourmet in the newly rennovated Orchard strip mall (formerly Southern Gardens Shopping Center.) This is a place where I could really be a kid in a candy shop. I’m sure fellow foodies could relate. Lisa Lamb and her staff have done a great job with the shop. They had multiple gourmet teas, coffees, chocolate, and even a variety of finishing salts. We tasted some delicious dip mixes, dipping oils, and balsamic vinegars. I loved it. A surprise bonus was getting to visit with a friend at the shop who I had not seen since high school. We had a good time reminiscing and catching up with each other.

After we left GoGoGourmet, we headed toward Selmaville School. We inadvertently took a long route because things looked so different on roads that I used to know by heart. Houses where I played with friends and attended slumber parties have been remodeled, and there are more houses scattered along the way. I’m glad that I didn’t get us lost. That would have been embarrassing.

Perhaps if you listen really closely when you pull up to the school, you can still hear the echo of Mrs. Steinman’s seventh graders reciting their pronouns: “Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, we, they…” We really did have great teachers who cared about us and our futures. There are many great memories tied to that school. We were fortunate to be able to learn from many things beyond just books and classroom instruction.

Selmaville may have been a small school, but we had opportunities. It was a time before so much academic testing, increased regulations, and lofty government expectations that we could still be kids. We didn’t worry about being embarrassed on social media because unless the Salem Times Commoner or our small class newspaper printed it, it wasn’t going to be online for the world to see. “Online” was just bad grammar for being “on the line” in P.E. or sports. We still had class Room Mothers who were allowed to bring homemade treats.

We had good coaches, sponsors, and a wonderful music teacher that inspired me to pursue my music degree. Schoolmates and I lobbied for and eventually got to see and play on the school’s first girls’ basketball team. (They have come a LONG way since then.) We had a marching band and flag corp that actually placed in parades. If a sports team or the band did well at a competition or event, we were met with a police escort as we neared the school. We felt supported by our community. At ballgames, if it was a sport you didn’t play, you cheered on the Rockets and hung out with friends. We were not glued to cell phones. Granted, I couldn’t get by with anything too “horrendous” though because my dad was the principal…news did travel quick in a small school. Even if you were just making a mess by helping friends at your lunch table “operate” on green beans.

I thank God that many of us from my class stay in touch with each other. Part of me is sad that my kids did not have the full opportunity for the experiences that I had at Selmaville.

Eventually, we met my family at Pizza Man, another one of the places Salem people often crave when they move out of town. It was our opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day and a couple birthdays together. Of course, the Family Pleaser with the famous French dressing (seriously, people buy it in containers to take home…) and Little Egypt Special was wonderful. (I also love the Salem Special, but not everyone likes olives and jalapeños…)

After dinner, it was still a bit rainy, but I wanted to show my faithful interns the Dairy Mart, a seasonal favorite that has been in Salem as long as I can remember. As a kid, my brother and I couldnt tolerate cow’s milk, but we were able to get slushies. My childhood favorite was the Grasshopper Slushie. No insects were harmed in the making of the minty ice drink, but it was grasshopper green. I dont think it has been on the menu for at least one decade though. Initially, I planned to just drive by and snap a few photos since we had just stuffed ourselves at Pizza Man. Then I saw the drive thru… I decided that since I would not have to get out of the car again, I shouldn’t pass the opportunity for one of their iconic lemon soft serve icecream cones…It was the perfect, sweet way to top off a visit to my hometown.

Sunday Drive: Alto Pass and Pomona

Yesterday after church, my daughter, her boyfriend, and I headed to Alto Pass for the first, hopefully annual, Cinco de Mayo Festival.

When we got to the celebration, we were greeted by smiling faces and people enjoying the warm sun. A mix of music, Latin American blended with hit radio songs, filled the air. Bright, beautiful color was everywhere from the piñatas to food and items offered for sale. Two words could describe all of the authentic Mexican food for sale along the blocked off street: ¡Que rico!

There were seasoned mangos on sticks, elote, and agua frescas of tamarind and horchata. People were preparing fresh tacos of bisteq and carnitas and more. So good!

The Union County Sheriff car kicked off the parade. First responders, pageant queens, traditional dancers, and others followed. Horses brought up the end. It may not have been a long parade, but it was nice.

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After leaving the Cinco de Mayo Festival, we headed on to Bald Knob Cross. Thankfully, the road up to the cross is much better these days than when I was a child. It does still twist and wind for a few miles upward. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to get materials to the building site.

A nice visitor’s center sits by the cross with restrooms, information, souvenirs, and an observation deck with a gorgeous view of the Shawnee National Forest.

At the base of the cross, there is a timeline as well as signs to tell you what you might be able to see in that direction if conditions were right. Each side has a name : Faith, Hope, Charity, and Love. There are benches for sitting and picnic tables for eating and enjoying the view.

Leaving the cross, we decided to head to Pomona to see the Natural Bridge. It was a short distance, but part of the drive into the part of the Shawnee National Forest that has the rock formation is still gravel…

There is a small picnic area by the parking lot for the trail to the Natural Bridge. The trail itself does require some mobility as it is fairly natural and not accessible.

We could hear the sounds of running water as we approached the bridge. A faint mint smell was in the air. All of the lush, green foliage was beautiful. It was the perfect way to cap off a wonderful afternoon in Southern Illinois.

Related Links:

Cinco de Mayo Festival at Alto Pass

https://www.facebook.com/events/848378758828955/?ti=cl

Bald Knob Cross of Peace

https://www.baldknobcross.com/

Pomona Natural Bridge

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recarea/?recid=10678

Shawnee National Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/shawnee

It’s Porch Season

Spring is here, and throughout Southern Illinois, people are looking for excuses to be outside in the warmer weather. One way to do this is by making some easy updates to your outdoor living space.

I recently decided to tackle a few improvements to our front porch. My kids, and even my daughter’s boyfriend, helped do some editing and pitching of things that accumulate when it’s too cold and gloomy to do much on it. Granted, a power washer would do wonders, but that is yet to come. I hope…

Meanwhile, I decided that a few plants would bring some life and coziness to the space.

Fortunately, I saved my hanging baskets from last year to be reused. The Carbondale Farmer’s Market has already had a great selection of flowers and plants this spring. I’ve started filling the baskets with wave petunias from a local farm.

I also rescued some impatiens from a clearance rack at a local store. They really just needed to be dead headed and watered. Last year, I had painted my little bistro table chairs sea green and covered the table with a lemonade-ish colored thrift store cloth. Amazingly, I found a trendy striped trash “can” at a thrift store this spring that perfectly matches the chairs and tablecloth. So, I lined it with a plastic bag to protect the interior, added rocks for drainage, and planted the impatiens. It is now the living floral arrangement on the bistro table.

A goal is to make a cozy spot to paint on glass (or whatever I feel like doing to relax) when there is a nice breeze on the porch. Once upon a time, people spent more time relaxing and socializing on their front porches. We tend to hear more about decks now, but both are valuable outdoor living space. I hope to deal with our deck soon too, but at least one space now has a few fresh updates. I’m picturing a glass of refreshing sun tea poured over ice on the bistro table now…

Easter Celebrations in Southern Illinois

Easter is quickly approaching. There are many celebrations planned in Southern Illinois. These range from special worship services on Resurrection Day to specialty Easter Egg Hunts.

One of the sure signs that Easter was coming as a little kid was that the candy isle in Tresslar’s at Salem filled with beautiful Easter candies and baskets. We may have had palm leaves at church for Palm Sunday to represent Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. We had Easter parties in elementary school, and our class Room Mothers always treated us well. (Perhaps I’m biased, but Selmaville School District had some of the best.)

As I got older, I became more aware of Lent, and the practice of giving up something to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice. If you drive through Southern Illinois, or much of the United States during the 40 days before Easter, you might notice restaurants advertising fish on Fridays for those not eating other meat. Eggs may be on sale (and possibly sold out) during the week before Easter along with various types of food safe dye and likely vinegar. The smell of vinegar to this day reminds me of dying Easter eggs as a kid. We often had the egg dye kits with the little color tablets that dissolved in vinegar…

Some places will be closed on Good Friday, the day representing the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. Even more places will be closed Easter Sunday. I had always assumed it was this way everywhere until I visited my grad school roommate and her family in Costa Rica. Many people there have vacation during Semana Santa (Holy week.) On Good Friday, towns reenact Jesus carrying the cross with a parade and people portraying various characters. It is a beautiful and sobering experience. Not only are many things closed on Good Friday, some do not even drive that day. While we tend to close things on Easter Sunday in the United States to allow people time off to celebrate with family, many things reopen on Sunday there. This is because Ressurection Sunday is the day to rejoice again. Closing on Good Friday and reopening on Easter for some symbolizes a period of mourning followed by rejoicing in celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

I can remember hearing about people gathering for Sunrise Services at Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass for as long as I’ve been on this earth. My parents used to talk about how our postal carrier was one of the many people who helped in the initial building of the cross. We made trips to visit it many times. Although the little road leading to the cross was a bit scary, the view from the hill was gorgeous.

I’ve heard that the Easter morning services are beautiful–and sometimes a bit chilly up there. This year, there is even a concert planned at the cross the night before Easter.

It seems Good Friday 2019 will be a little cooler than some. In Southern Illinois, Easter weather can be pretty much anything. I can remember an Easter as a child visiting my aunt in the hospital at Flora. It was so hot that day that some of our candy in the car started melting. In a more recent year, my kids hunted Easter eggs with light snow in the air.

Although this is by far not an exhaustive list of Easter events in Southern Illinois, a few highlights are listed below. Links to events in Southern Illinois are listed in the Events section of this website as well as the ASOSI app.

ALTO PASS

4/20/19 Worship at the Crosshttps://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

4/21/19 83rd Annual Easter Sunrise Service https://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

CARBONDALE

4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSI https://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

COBDEN

4/20/19 Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Starview Vineyardshttps://www.facebook.com/events/243137456640250/?ti=as

CRAINVILLE

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Love & Truth Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/382060802585678/?ti=as

DUQUOIN

4/21/19 Easter: Egg Hunt, BBQ,iPad & Xbox Giveaway, Three Bounce Houses at Sunfield Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/288297261865558/?ti=as

EFFINGHAM

4/20/19 Easter Eggstravganza

JOHNSTON CITY

4/20/19 Johnston City Easter Egg Hunthttps://www.facebook.com/events/2085667121524160/?ti=as

MARION

4/19/19 Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at The Vault Café on the Squarehttps://www.facebook.com/events/407081753462594/?ti=as

4/19/19-4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSIhttps://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

4/20/19 Easter Fun with Franklin County 4-H at Black Diamond Harley Davidsonhttps://www.facebook.com/events/699596973789077/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Glow Egg Skate at Emery Brothers Skating Rinkhttps://www.facebook.com/events/2592037817479789/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Whiteash Free Willl Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/263642884579527/?ti=as

WEST FRANKFORT

4/20/19 West Frankfort Easter Egg Hunt https://www.facebook.com/events/200723847536342/?ti=as