October in the Ozarks

October may be almost over, but fall is just beginning for us here in the Ozarks; the leaves are just starting to change. It’s a beautiful day here at Big Springs (False, it’s a miserable, rainy day, and Misha kitty is outside on the front porch begging to be let in). But that hasn’t stopped us girls from thinking about some of our favorite fall activities!

Our community is just coming down from the hype of Falling Water (a yearly trail ride to Falling Water on Richland Creek), and JunkFest (would not recommend 2/10, but the idea is yard sales! Yard sales everywhere!) So we’re looking forward to some of the calmer fall things, like fall hikes on the Buffalo National River and our favorite fall/wintertime visitors, the elk.

We’re even looking forward to the Pumpkin Patch at the St. Joe School, where you can pick out your own pumpkin from their patch or buy one pre-picked for $5 or less - and it support the FFA, who planted these pumpkins during the summer specifically for this fundraiser.

 We think they did a pretty good job.

We think they did a pretty good job.

Whether you’re new to the area or just visiting, you’ll definitely enjoy some of the great views that we have here on the Buffalo National Park this time of year. If you’re looking for a short hike to enjoy some of the beautiful autumn scenery, we here at Big Springs recommend the Collier Homestead Hike, a two mile trail that is handicap accessible up to the homestead. It has plenty of great opportunities for all of those fall pictures that we just that know y’all are itching to take, and has a pretty overlook that’s worth checking out.

If you’re not up for a hike, there’s another place in the area that we’re sure would make for some great pictures of the fall leaves in Arkansas - Red Bluff, off from Tomahawk Slab Road on Mercy Lane. You can drive straight to it, and it’s only about 5 miles down a gravel road.

 Do you see it? Because we see it. Might wanna go get your eyes checked!

Do you see it? Because we see it. Might wanna go get your eyes checked!

But if neither one of these things really puts the sweet in your tea, we also have plenty of wildlife out this time of year. And the best part is, you really don’t have to look that hard to see deer or even elk! They come out just about every night around dusk, and our elk take great pictures! Their favorite spots are in the fields near Bear Creek just north of Marshall on US Highway 65. If you’re extra lucky, you can get the elk and the Smith Barn all in one photo. If you miss them right on the highway, you might also see them grazing in the fields along the Buffalo National River.

Whatever it is that you like doing, we hope you’ll consider doing it in the Buffalo River area - and if you’re out our way, stop by and get a sandwich for whatever you have planned!

What are some of your favorite fall activities?

Autumn in the Ozarks

People, people, people!

We know it’s October. Fall ain’t here yet, though! It’s 82 degrees and sunny today. The leaves are green. We mowed the yard 2 days ago. Just because we live on the Buffalo River and in the Arkansas Ozarks, it’s actually not a magical wonderland. Ok, maybe it really is, but the seasons change just like they do in Little Rock and Fayetteville. Give it 2 more weeks, and nights will be cooler, leaves will be changing, fires will feel good, and you can wear your hoodie. Geez.

Confession Time

So I have an actual confession.  Sigh.  Here goes.  I've been selling whole smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving for about 10 years now.  I had never actually eaten much of one until last Thanksgiving dinner at my granny's house.

See, one of my aunts is maybe not what you'd call "real bright."  She took the turkey we were supposed to cook out of the freezer and stuck it in the fridge in our garage probably the night before.  Now if you've ever made a turkey, you know this simply will not do.  Luckily, I had an extra smoked turkey from work, which I took over there thinking we might need it or give it away.  Lucky us, we had it for our big dinner.  

Dude.  It was awesome.

I'm making another one for us this year, and Kathy's getting one, too.

I'll start with how to reheat a smoked turkey, so you can stop reading if that's all you want to know.  If you get one from me, it'll come in a disposable aluminum pan with foil on top.  You've got two options.  Either heat up your oven to 325, or get out your roaster oven or giant crock pot. Either way, you're gonna steam this bad boy to get it hot.  It'll take about an hour or so. Add water or chicken broth to your turkey vessel, then just walk away and forget it.  If you think you want to eat the skin, you can stick it under the broiler to crisp it back up.  Brush it with some butter if you do.

So when I do my smoked turkeys, I keep things pretty simple.  I have a gigantic rotisserie smoker, so that part makes it easy.  It has electronic temperature control, so all I have to do is prep the birds, build a fire, set the temperature, and keep the fire going.  I should note here that since we're in the Ozarks, we smoke with hickory.  Not even fruit wood, and I think oak smells like poop when you cut it up.  Hickory it is.  It's plentiful, and I love the flavor.

To get my turkey ready for smoking, I do just a few essential things:

(You have to first of all make sure you get rid of all the impedimenta.  Unwrap it.  Take the giblets out and feed them to your cat.  Take the plastic thingy off its legs (they turkey, not the cat).  Be sure you check all its orifices for bags of mysterious gravy mix and stuff.  Your cat will love that. I say this because once my drug addict ex-husband put one in the smoker with one of those plastic bags of stuff still in it.  Don't do drugs, y'all.)

Assemble your troops.  Melt a whole bunch of real butter.  Get you some coarse ground salt and pepper.  Run out to your garden and cut a couple of large sprigs of fresh sage and rosemary.

Ask Me About My Hair

Ashely and Tony are some good friends of mine; Ashely worked at the restaurant many years ago, and married a good ol' local boy 5 years ago.  As a matter of fact, their anniversary was this past weekend, and it's Ashely's job to plan what they'll do every year to celebrate.  A couple of things you should know about them: Ashely has a salon in Marshall (she's the one who does my hair), and Tony is significantly older than she is.  A couple weeks ago, Ashely asked me if I would be willing to trade some picnic supplies for a hair session, and, duh, of course I'm willing.  Bartering is one of my favorites.

Since I picked this silly title for this post, I should probably interject here that my hair color is a favorite topic of conversation between me and restaurant customers.  They ask.  A lot.  I guess because my hair is a weird color and they've heard enough about my kids and grandkids.  I have another really great friend who also owns a salon in Marshall, so if you're looking for a first-class hair stylist around here, call Ashely at "All About You" (870-448-2000) or Trish at "Trish's Before and After" (870-448-4499). OK, back to the adventure at hand.

Tony and Ashely's adventure was this past weekend, and my hair appointment was Monday, so I got the scoop.  Y'all.  It made me super jealous.  Now these Hortons (if you're from Searcy County, you know you can't swing a cat without hitting a Horton) are fairly outdoorsy, but aren't gonna get too serious about it.  They're "minimalist campers" if they're only staying out a night or two.  They took an inflatable mattress that fits right in the back of their Durango, the grate off their BBQ grill, a couple of short, sturdy blocks of wood for a table, and a skillet. I'm assuming some drinks got thrown in there, too... 

The weather this fall has been unseasonably scorching, but the evenings are tolerable, just right for a little car camping. Ashe had me pack her up about half a pound of sliced ham, the same amount of cheese, and a sliced venison summer sausage for snacks.  She picked up crackers and bread at Harp's, and I think she said she grabbed some eggs for breakfast.  I put half a rack of ribs and a half pound of brisket in little foil packs that could just be thrown right over a fire.

They came up Friday night and had dinner at the restaurant, picked up their snacks, and headed out for adventure.  Since it was pretty late already (I mean, they both worked all day Friday), they just headed down to the Tyler Bend campground for their first night, then got up and had breakfast at Ferguson's.  Tony wanted biscuits, and that kind of trouble was definitely not on the agenda for the weekend. From there, they headed out to the Ozark National Forest and the elaborate network of back roads there.  If you've never been, the Forest actually starts about half an hour from St. Joe, and you can spend days and days exploring by car.  There are off-road trails for ATV's, hiking and horseback trails, campgrounds... But for this adventure, Tony and Ashely just drove around and enjoyed each other's company.  Remember, I did say Tony was a bit older.  Hiking was not really what he wanted to do with his weekend.