Tag: Travel

U-Pick Farms

I once asked a 3rd grader where peaches came from and he responded, “A can.” Having grown up in a time and place where everyone knew a farmer, I was a little surprised by the answer. This is why I’m glad to see a resurgence of you-pick farms popping up close to urban areas. Now there are new opportunities for people, especially kids, to harvest what they eat.

A you-pick, or u-pick if you are extra hip, farm is just what it sounds like. Small farms where you can pick and take home produce. Peaches, apples, berries, pumpkins and corn are a few popular crops.

Some farms specialize in one or two items such as peaches or blueberries, while others offer multiple crops over the course of the growing season. Here is a list of common fruits and vegetables in a rough order of when they would be available for picking.

Spring – asparagus, strawberries

Summers – peaches, blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, raspberries

Fall – pumpkins, figs, apples, grapes

If you are a newbie to you-pick farms here are some helpful tips.*

  • Call ahead! Ask about hours, what’s in season and how much they charge. Also ask if there is a minimum picking quantity and if children are welcome.
  • Dress the part. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty. Remember to bring sunscreen too.
  • Look for a check in/check out and talk with the farmers or farm hands. They can give you tips about how to select the best produce and where to start.
  • Be a courteous guest. Remember that you are visiting a working farm. Walk in the spaces provided. Stay away from equipment and tools.
  • Bring snacks and beverages. You’ll work up an appetite and a thirst picking fruits and veggies. It’s good to have something on hand to wet your whistle and fill your tummy.
  • Don’t assume it’s organic. Ask about the farm’s use of chemical controls and fertilizers.
  • You’ll need something to hold your harvest. Bring bags. Some operations may have them on site but to be safe bring your own.

In my home state of Arkansas there are scads of you-pick farms offering everything from blueberries to pumpkins. Here are two that I have visited and recommend.

High Orchard

Just outside of Cabot, Arkansas
1000 E. Justice Rd
Phone: 501-988-4720
Strawberries late April through early June
Peaches starting in June
Open 7 a.m. to noon

They have a second location for strawberries called The Cabot Patch located at 500 Mount Caramel Road. The Cabot Patch is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hidden Valley Farm

Little Rock, Arkansas
719 Ferncliff
Phone: 501-821-2929 or 501-416-4371
Email: farmerdonferdale@yahoo.com
Raspberries June through August
Blueberries and blackberries mid-June through July
Pumpkins in fall
Monday to Sunday, from 7am to 8pm

Hidden Valley Farm uses natural growing methods but they are not certified organic.

A few other farms in Arkansas that I have not visited, but are worth checking out.

Mountain Home Berry Farm

Mountain Home, Arkansas
693 County Road 57
Phone: 870-425-7028
Asparagus, radishes, spinach and lettuce April through mid-May
Raspberries May through June and then again mid-September through October
Blueberries and blackberries mid-June through July
Monday through Saturday 7 am to 12 noon

They have a Fall Festival Starting the last weekend in September through the first weekend in November. You can pick pumpkins and raspberries, go on a hayride and send the kids to play on the haystack.

Collins Round Mountain Orchard

Conway, Arkansas
159 Mill Pond Road
Phone: (501) 327-0450
Peaches and nectarines June through August
Blackberries and plums mid-June through July
Apples September through October
Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Collins Round Mountain Orchard also offers watermelon, muscadines and popular warm season veggies such as tomatoes, cucumbers and corn. Arrangements can be made for those with disabilities.

Good to Know

The website PickYourOwn.org is the source for the you-pick tips listed in this article. The site covers just about anything you could possibly want to know about you-pick farms including harvesting info and a list of farms for each state.

PickYourOwn.org State List

Flower Show Tips

One of the best ways to escape the winter chill is to visit one of the many spring flower shows being held this year. Flower shows are fantastic places to gather ideas, meet fellow gardeners and learn what is new on the gardening scene. Just remember to wear a good pair of walking shoes, because you will want to see everything and there will be a lot of ground to cover. Here are a few other tips that you will find helpful.

Before you head out, find out about parking and transportation to the show. Some shows are very congested, so public transportation may be the best way to get there. Or there may be a designated parking area with a shuttle to the show.

Find out what your ticket covers. If you are visually or physically impaired is a helper’s admission included in your ticket? Are children admitted? Can you leave and return to the show?

Purchase a program. Spending money on a program will save you time in the long run. Most programs contain maps of the show floor indicating the location of bathrooms, dining areas and other conveniences. Plus it will help you find any specific booths or displays you are interested in. I’m all for letting fate be your guide, but trust me when I say that a good time can quickly turn bad when you can’t find the bathroom.

Wear comfortable clothes and a good pair of walking shoes with waterproof soles. One year when lecturing at a large flower show I made the mistake of wearing a pair of nice dress shoes. Although the shoes may have looked nice for my talk, there was too much that I wanted to see to stay off my feet. Needless to say by the end of the day not only did my feet hurt, but my back and legs ached as well. Also, if the show has outdoor displays and rain is predicted, wear a raincoat rather than carry an umbrella because umbrellas are hard to manage in a crowd.

Bring a tote or backpack, a small camera, a pen and a notepad. Whenever I attend a flower show I always end up with a sizeable collection of brochures and business cards. I finally got wise one year and brought along a book bag to carry everything in. Write down the names of plants that you catch your eye. It is also a good idea to jot down a note on the back of business cards to remind yourself why you picked up the card in the first place. And, as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Most shows will allow you to photograph or even video tape displays.

If possible, schedule your visit during off peak hours. I prefer to visit flower shows during the week, rather than the weekend. There are less people so it is easier for me to see everything and booth vendors and garden designers have more time to talk. And early evening seems to be slower than morning or mid-day. Many shows offer an afternoon pass that is good from late afternoon until closing, which in many cases is as late as 8:00 p.m. Also, shows produced by a specific a horticultural society usually have days set aside for members only. This is just one of the many good reasons to join.

LongHouse Reserve

On a recent trip to New York I visited LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton Township’s great North Woods. A merging of art and nature, it’s a wonderful place to gather ideas for using sculpture in the garden.

When you visit the gardens at LongHouse it is clear that art plays an important role in the experience. As you enter into each of the garden spaces you find yourself examining the art before you. The spaces are generous and give the visitor a thoughtful, but playful exchange between manmade art and the art of nature.

I met with Elizabeth Lear, Chair of the LongHouse Reserve Garden Committee, about how sculpture is integrated into the landscape.

Allen: Elizabeth this dome is just fantastic.

Allen and Elizabeth Lear
Elizabeth: I’m glad that you appreciate it. This is Fly’s Eye dome, the geodesic dome, which was an idea in the 20th century for domestic housing. But, here at Longhouse it is really a sculptural object and I think that what it accomplishes is if you were to frame the view using a circular frame.

Allen: Like a camera lens?

Elizabeth: Like a camera lens it calls attention to the wider landscape beyond.

Allen: Yes, you move around you see little framed pictures all the way. And I love the way the shadows create these shapes and forms on the ground.

Elizabeth: It is very playful.

Figure 8 Sculpture with Fly's Eye in BackgroundYou know as a garden designer I find that placing sculpture in the landscape whether it is large or small can be tricky business. Elizabeth went on to tell me that with this being a circular space the scale of the sculpture was very important to the landscape. A circular object like this allows a designer to engage in repetitive thinking. This sculpture of a double black circle positioned a few yards beyond the dome also repeats this theme. In other areas of this garden in which sculptures are sited in the landscape vertical elements are introduced, but still using the design technique of repetition. Here at Longhouse they haven’t just placed art in the garden, but the garden itself has become art.

Obviously the scale and size of this garden requires the talent and dedication of many talented people to get a better understanding of the layout of the garden let’s step over here and have a visit with Marla Gagnum, a member of the LongHouse Reserve Garden Committee.

Allen: So Marla how did this idea of the Longhouse gardens come about?

Marla: Jack originally owned RoundHouse, which was next door here and this property was all a part of that. He decided to develop this one and build LongHouse as opposed to RoundHouse. In the beginning it was virtually undeveloped in terms of the gardens. Before Jack built LongHouse he built the red allee with the cedar posts and the red azaleas and berberas and all those plants that do their thing at different seasons of the year. Then he also did the earth works, which is the amphitheater. The first time I ever came here was when LongHouse was just a construction site. The house itself was framed and you could see basically what it was going to look like, but around it was just mounds of sand, which eventually became the sand dunes out in front. I didn’t have any idea that Jack was going to have such a marvelous inspiration for using all that sand.

Allen: When you look from the house out into the garden there are elements in the landscape that help extend the architecture of the building out into the garden.

Marla: Well, for example, the long hedge here from the house frames this whole area with the pond, frogs and all the lotus. It’s a strong horizontal line and that helps pull the whole thing together in this area of the garden. There are so many different areas to this garden.

Allen: And it is divided into a series of garden rooms really sort of I guess garden experiences.

Marla: Exactly.

Allen: Are there certain areas of this garden that have become favorites of yours over the years?

Marla: This part right here is one of my most favorite. It’s open; it’s lovely with the boulder sculptures down at the end. Then if you look this way you have the lotus pond, which is spectacular when the lotus are all in bloom with millions of frogs over there.

Allen: Yes, it feels very tranquil here. You know Marla I have to say that LongHouse Reserve has to be one of my favorite American gardens. There is always something happening here.

Dale ChahuleyMarla: Right, well every year several artists have exhibitions here and some of the pieces stay for a long time and others float on out to other exhibitions. But the Dale Chihuly, for example, has been here, well his first exhibition here was probably 10 years ago.

Allen: Those pieces really illuminate those spaces.

Marla: I know, cobalt blue with the light shining through it is as if the light comes from within. And this year there are other new additions to the garden. There is a sculpture garden and in the sculpture garden the pieces change, but this year there is some wonderful ethereal bells over there that you will have to have a look at those.

Winterthur Museum and Country Estate

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades;
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744)

One of my most delightful experiences this fall was a visit to Winterthur (winter-TUR) Museum and Country Estate in Delaware. I was there speaking at the annual GardenFair, a mix of workshops, lectures and shopping for plants, art and antiques.

Winterthur Museum and Country Estate
Winterthur Museum and Country Estate is the creation of Henry Francis du Pont (1880 – 1969). It had been the family home for close 100 years when H.F. du Pont took over managing the estate at the beginning of the 20th century. By the time of his death in 1969, he had transformed the place into a public museum showcasing his extensive collection of early American decorative arts and 60 acres of naturalistic garden.

What I love about Winterthur is the spirit. It is a garden that looks outward, embracing the hills, streams and forests of the surrounding Brandywine Valley. Mr. du Pont’s love of plants and the surrounding woodlands is apparent in the careful choreography of flowers and foliage and how they are placed in the landscape. Specimen plants are positioned to show off their beauty in the most natural arrangements, as if they just popped up on their own.

Autumn Crocus Colchicum While I was there a large drift of autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) were in bloom under the canopy of a sour gum (Nyssa sylvatica). The tree’s scarlet leaves had just started to fall to the ground, landing among the delicate, lavender crocus blooms. The combination of color and texture was subtle, yet superb. A wonderful example of Mr. du Pont’s understanding of horticulture, garden design and honoring the "genius of the place."

To learn more about Winterthur visit their website at www.winterthur.org.

Unique Eureka

I’m lucky that my line of work enables me to travel all over the country, but some of my favorite trips have been to places right here in my home state of Arkansas. Recently I had the opportunity to visit northwest Arkansas and check out the hidden gem of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs. This town carved into a rocky ravine is on the national registry of historic places and is one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s top 12 distinctive destinations.

I love history so one of the first things I do when I visit a place is learn something about its past and Eureka Springs has quite a past. The town literally rose up out of the ground when people started converging on the area’s unique cold water springs. After the Civil War soldiers who had walked the land during the war came back to partake in the region’s healing waters – a treasure well known to the territory’s Native Americans. At the time medical treatments were limited and it wasn’t unusual for people to use natural healing waters as a treatment. In fact, it’s a tradition that goes back to biblical times and many still believe in the power of spring water today. In 1879 word began to spread about the springs and people started coming. And coming and coming. What was once wilderness went from a population of zero to 15,000 in one year and on July 4th, 1879 the members of the encampment decided to name the place Eureka Springs.

Now, you can’t go from zero to 15,000 without someone taking notice. Arkansas’ governor Powel Clayton recognized the potential of Eureka Springs as a tourist destination and set his mind to making it easier for folks to get there. On Valentine’s Day, 1880 the state of Arkansas declared Eureka Springs a city and by 1882 a rail line was built so people could get to it from anywhere in the country.

Not long after the railroad came to town the Crescent opened. This grand resort is perched at the top of the city and has the distinction of being the most haunted hotel in the United States. The oldest spirit in residence is that of a young Irish stone mason who died during construction of the building. Legend says he takes a particular shine to the ladies who stay in the hotel. Probably the largest number of ghosts arrived during the time when the hotel was a treatment center run by a charlatan who promised a cure for cancer.

In 1934 the Depression shuttered most of Eureka Springs including the Crescent Hotel. It sat empty until Norman Baker, a radio broadcaster with a good eye for a fast buck, purchased the building in 1937 and opened the Baker Cancer Cure Hospital. Baker bilked over $4 million from his clients before being arrested for mail fraud in 1940. Sadly many of the patients died under Baker’s care and some say they are still at the hotel. The Crescent sat empty through WWII and then in 1946 it was opened up again as a hotel. If scary is what floats your boat I suggest you take the Ghost Tour at the Crescent to learn about the hotel’s other-world guests. You’ll even get to visit the old Baker Hospital morgue in the basement.

In addition to a large population of ghosts Eureka is also home to a vibrant artists’ community and great restaurants. The area is well known for its rivers, hiking trails and lakes. Nearby Lake Leatherwood Park covers 1600 acres with an 85 acre spring fed lake formed by one of the largest hand cut lime stone dams in the country.

With its rich history and contemporary attractions, Eureka Springs is a fascinating and fun getaway.

Tulip Displays in Arkansas

Arkansas attracts travelers from all over the country with all the splendor the Natural State has to offer, especially in spring. The vivid blooms of tulips usher in the warmer months and knock out the remaining gray of winter.

Here are a few of the state’s most spectacular tulip displays:

Moss Mountain Farm

We’ve planted 8,000 tulip bulbs at the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home this year. I choose an array of types, bloom times and colors, including: ‘Blushing Girl’, ‘Menton’, ‘Maureen’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Princess Irene’, ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘Daydream’, ‘Red Impression’, ‘Golden Parade’, ‘Apeldoorn’, ‘West Point’ and ‘Red Shine’. The vast diversity of tulips makes them one of my favorite flowers–€” I never get tired of growing them.

The tulip display makes April’s tours at the farm a real treat. One of the greatest joys of gardening for me is to share the beauty with visitors, making the tours of the farm very personally rewarding. There are four tours that will be available in April, the 4th, 5th, 11th and 25th. These give me a chance to meet fellow gardeners, poultry enthusiasts and flower lovers. Plus when I see visitors enjoying the farm, it renews it for me; I see it in a fresh light. Click here to learn more about visiting the farm.

Garvin Woodland Gardens

Garvin Woodland Gardens boasts a spectacular display of tulips every spring for its Tulip Extravaganza. This 210-acre garden, owned by the University of Arkansas, has planted 130,000 tulips of all types this year. Just outside of Hot Springs, a spa city famed for its purportedly healing waters, the garden makes for an excellent day trip. The tulips are planted in curving, full beds, blocked by their respective colors – pink, red, purple, orange and variegated – and surrounded with still-blooming daffodils and hyacinths. The sheer numbers overwhelm your senses with beauty, and it’s simply impossible to take a bad picture in these gardens. If you’re in Arkansas in the spring, this is a must-see. The Tulip Extravaganza is March 16 through April 16, 2013. Click here for details.

Downtown Little Rock

The streets of downtown Little Rock are bursting with pink and purple tulips this month. I partnered with the City of Little Rock this year to create March Tulip Madness, and we filled planters around downtown with 25,000 tulips bulbs as part of the city’s effort to revitalize downtown.

I choose a blend of three different types for the planters: ‘Menton’, ‘Pink Impression’ and ‘Negrita’, which when combined create a pleasing pink and purple display. These mid and late bloomers take full advantage of the season and make stunning streetscapes. Read about everything you can do in downtown Little Rock.

Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock

The Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock is another fantastic place to see tulips. The city planted 28,000 ‘Red Impression’ tulips this year. These bright flowers reach the peak of their blooming in late March and continue through early April. They are growing in beds and planters throughout the Arts District.

One of the most wonderful aspects of this display is that the majority were planted by 75 volunteers last fall during a tulip planting party. The Bank of America, the North Little Rock City Beautiful Commission and the Park Hill Garden Club partnered to sponsor this effort, and the red tulips paired with yellow spring flowers create a vivid contrast in the district’s streets. Find out what’s going on in Argenta.

Buffalo, Yoga and Black Walnut Pie

I recently spent a great couple of days around the Jasper area shooting some segments for an upcoming episode of my Garden Home television show. This scenic town is nestled in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Buffalo River.

The Buffalo River Valley

My trip included a stay at the historic Arkansas House. This inn is ideally located along scenic Highway 7 with easy access to both the Buffalo River and Ozark National Forest. Janet Morgan, owner of the Arkansas House with her husband, Joseph, graciously taught me how to make her famous Black Walnut Pie.

Janet showed me how to make the famous Arkansas House Black Walnut Pie.

I also visited with the Ratchford family on their farm. Originally founded in the 1950s, Ratchford Farms grazes buffalo, elk, and cattle on a 500 acre spread. The farm is located along the Buffalo River, which provides a beautiful area for the cattle to roam the open meadows and drink from pure spring water.

Jethro mugs for the camera and for a treat.

Finally, I visited with Holly and Matt Krepps, owners of the Circle Yoga Shala. They were kind enough to walk me around the 25 acre working homestead located on Shiloh Mountain. The property includes a fruit orchard, grape vineyard, pastures, and walking trails. They also showed me some easy, but beneficial yoga poses for gardeners.

A little yoga before gardening.

It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend spending a few days in this beautiful part of our state.

Destination Northwest Arkansas

I know I know… You’re headed up to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. And you’re going to love it because it’s one of the most amazing places in Arkansas. But did you know the whole northwest portion of the state is filled with exciting things to do as well as some of the best food the region has to offer? In fact four Bentonville restaurant chefs where invited to cook at the James Beard Foundation in New York because, well, they’re just that good!

Boston Mountains in Northwest Arkansas

To help you get the most out of the trip I’ve created a Northwest Arkansas itinerary for you, which includes art, gardens, and of course food!

  1. Pig Trail Scenic Byway – If it’s on your route be sure to take the short cut between Ozark and Fayetteville lovingly referred to as the Pig Trail. This winding two-lane highway through the Ozark Mountains offers spectacular views, especially in spring and fall. Jump on Highway 23 just past Ozark and enjoy 19 miles of beautiful scenery. To get to Fayetteville take a left on Highway 16 at Brashears.
  2. Coffee Break – The first stop on your way to Crystal Bridges is Fayetteville. It’s a university town with lots of charm. I always like to take a coffee break on my road trips so I can stretch my legs. At Mama Carmen’s Café© I can do some good while I’m at it. Mama Carmen’s was born out of a partnership with the namesake who runs an orphanage in Guatemala City. The café© purchases the beans grown on Mama Carmen’s farm as well as donating 10% of the profits to the orphanage. And the coffee is good to boot. www.mamacarmen.com
  3. Garden Tour – While in Fayetteville be sure to visit the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. There are 12 gardens to discover plus a butterfly house. www.bgozarks.org
  4. Lunch – The next town you’ll pass through on your way to Bentonville is Rogers. The historic downtown area is delightful with brick roads and classic storefronts. There are a number of wonderful restaurants, but I suggest Heirloom Food + Wine. Everything is made from scratch using only fresh, local ingredients – they even make the bread and condiments! Every day they create a soup, salad and sandwich based on what’s in season. www.heirloomfoodandwine.com
  5. Garden Tour and Crystal Bridges – From Rogers it’s just a 15 minute drive to Bentonville home of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Either before or after visiting the museum take a stroll along the woodland trail at Compton Gardens. This public park is open from dawn to dusk and is a wonderful place to pick up ideas for using native plants. www.peelcompton.org  crystalbridges.org
  6. Dinner – At this point you’re probably looking to sit back, relax with a good meal. Petit Bistro is a French Mediterranean restaurant that is sure to please. Delicious 5 star recipes that is the perfect way to end a great day in northwest Arkansas. petitbistro.biz

Whew, that’s one very big day. If you decide to make it a weekend trip, I suggest the 21c Museum Hotel. It’s within walking distance of the museum and located right on the town square. Remember, there are so many more things to do here and all over Arkansas. The best way to find them is to visit Arkansas.com.

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.
1700 St. Mary’s Mountain Rd
Altus, AR 72821

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.
3324 Swiss Family Drive
Wiederkehr Village, AR 72821

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.
8045 Champagne Drive-HWY 186
Altus, Arkansas 72821

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.

Adventures in Arkansas

Oh my goodness! Did I have a great year last year touring and filming around the Natural State!

There are so many ways to spend affordable family vacations, romantic getaways or have a business meeting in Arkansas.

Here are three places that I can’t wait for you to go to and see for yourself! Go to some of or all of them and then tell me about your experiences at these destinations on my Facebook wall.

Lakeport Plantation, Lake Village, AR

Lakeport Plantation Arkansas

If you love old houses then go see Lakeport Plantation. This mansion is the last mostly unaltered colonial house on the Mississippi River in Arkansas lovingly restored as a wonderful museum. This historic late 1850s modified Greek Revival home is an official project of the Save America’s Treasures program through the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

We went and visited recently and the setting is sublime! This gem of a house in the plantation tradition has a columned double front porch that is sited in the middle of a cotton field facing the great Mississippi River. It is the quintessential Antebellum home.

The interior has 14′ tall ceilings that are capped around the room with enormous plaster moldings that have survived since 1858. There are 17 rooms and 13 fireplaces in an “L-shaped” layout with the original cast iron cookstove in the kitchen! Colossal faux-finished 10′ 8″ doors are topped with pediments making the openings appear 12′ tall! Many of the original furnishings were located from around the world and recovered from private collectors. Descendants of the original occupants, the Johnson family members, also pitched in to make the house as authentically furnished as possible. What an amazing feat!

Be sure to make this a stop on your traveling itinerary. More information on Lakeport Plantation.

Strawberry Fields at Holland Bottoms, Cabot, AR

Holland Bottom Strawberry Farm Arkansas

Did you know that Arkansas strawberry production is one of the tops in the Nation?? I am an avid berry lover and eating strawberries in any form, ranks right up there with breathing.

I was thrilled when I was able to visit with Larry Odom of the family owned Holland Bottom Farm. To produce a better quality of strawberries and to prolong their growing season they grow them on black plastic covered mounds. The plastic mulch aids ripening; increases air circulation which helps to prevent diseases and stops weeds from competing plus it makes it easier to harvest the berries. Young strawberry plants are planted during a narrow window in mid-October here in Cabot, AR. After planting they are carefully monitored over the winter.

The strawberry season normally begins in April and lasts till June. Their berries are renowned as the sweetest berries in Arkansas. I can’t argue with that, they really are delicious!

Be sure to plan to attend one of the annual Strawberry Festivals when in Cabot.

Once strawberry season ends then they home grow and sell summer fruits such as blackberries, blueberries, melons and 7 to 8 varieties of peaches. Plus they grow vegetables like cucumbers, okra, peppers, purple hull peas, squash, sweet corn, sweet onions and tomatoes. There’s a huge fireworks tent to celebrate the 4th of July holiday. Later in the fall they grow pumpkins, do hay rides on the weekends and sell straw and chrysanthemums.

I hope that you will all come to Holland Bottom Farm for all of your home grown fruits and vegetables, just maybe not have everyone arrive here at the same time.

Visit www.HollandBottomFarm.com/ for more information.

Loco Ropes

Loco Ropes in Arkansas

Yes it’s true! I finally went Loco – for Loco Ropes at Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, AR. It’s definitely a new perspective from which to experience a landscape. You have got to go!! The kids will love it, parents will love it; take a date — it’s definitely an ice-breaker! After the initial couple of hard gulps, I could not get enough of it. I have to say we laughed until our sides hurt. Loco Ropes is so fun but also such a cool thing to do any season of the year. Go each season to watch the change in color of the leaves and tree canopies. See LocoRopes.com to plan a day to visit the craft grounds, listen to some great music and swing in the trees!

These are just a few of the fun family attractions around the state. You can also enjoy activities like hunting and fishing, hiking and camping, exploring a real diamond mine, Civil War history and caves or attending festivals and annual events throughout the year! There is something to see and do for everybody!

I urge you to come to my state to explore the scenic beauty of the Natural State of Arkansas!