Could Fall Be Far Off?

The first half of August has felt like fall with all the cool temps we’ve been having in the woods! The days are shorter and the air feels different! Fall was definitely in the air in Shullsburg, Wisconsin last weekend – at Donna Shephard’s cabin, “Mother O’Leary’s!”

As you know Donna’s Log Cabin shops are featured in the current issue of A Simple Life, and when I was there last year doing the photography, we made a date for me to join her during her 2017 Fall Open House. I had the time of my life with Donna, her sweet family and wonderful customers!  I felt like Queen for the day!!!

Donna is on the right and her trusty helper, “The other Donna” is on the left!

One of the highlights was Donna’s “Make & Take” Scarecrow Workshop!!

My blessed weekend in Wisconsin continued when Donna Shepherd treated me to a stay at the historic Gratiot House Farm B & B in Shullsburg. This 1835 stone house was built by Col. Henry Gratiot and loving restored to its original glory over the past 6 years by Inn Keepers, Chris and Heather Price.

Photos Courtesy of Heather Price


It was an incredible experience and Chris & Heather are the best hosts you could ask for. The claw foot tub was heaven with homemade lavender bath salts, and the farm is home to Shetland sheep, chickens, 3 hives of bees, Lucky the duck, and a SOULFUL dog named Daisy.


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Heather is a WONDERFUL cook, and I had the best breakfast I have EVER eaten! The only thing better was the company!

If you find yourself in the Shullsburg, WI area, Galena, IL, or Eastern Iowa – this is a MUST STAY. Or make it a destination vacation for a weekend getaway – stay with Chris & Heather, visit Donna at her Log cabin shops, and visit charming downtown Galena, IL!!!
Visit their website to read the interesting history of the house, the Gratiot family, and the Price’s painstaking renovations.

This is also a wonderful article:

It was such a great weekend, I hated to leave Wisconsin, so I didn’t get home until 4:00 in the morning on Monday!! Whew!  But when I got up, I had to go down and see Erasmus!  He is a big boy now and doesn’t really need his bottle (he gets all the nourishment he needs from his mama) but we still like giving him his bottle to keep him friendly and gentle. Well, ok, it’s mostly for OUR benefit! Ha!  But apparently he had already had his breakfast because he wasn’t very hungry- but Mama wasn’t going to let good milk go to waste!!!



Antiques and Cattle Cesareans !

The last time we talked I promised you a video and photos from the Texas home of Clifford and Adrienne Dykes, and I let you down! It’s literally because my mouth got in the way! Ha! Adrienne and I have met several times and I had even been in her home before, although it was probably close to 13 years ago. But we had never “really” talked! Well, we made up for it last week when I photographed her and Cliff’s wonderful home. It was like we were sisters, connecting on every level. So the point I’m getting at is… I talked too much and forgot to take some photos for you with my phone so I could upload them to the blog from the road! And after arriving back in Virginia, my computer has been in the hospital! But never fear! HERE are a few sneak peeks of this incredible home, filled with so many great antiques! What a special day I had with this special couple!

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Adrienne is an avid rug hooker and wool dyer. She gives classes all over the United States in rug hooking and has a wonderful collection of early rugs we’ll share in her article!

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It’s been exciting on the farm since I returned home. We had a way overdue heifer calve and her baby was breech and way too big so we did a cesarean – four hour surgery in the dark near the barn. Mama is doing well but sore, and her bull calf wasn’t able to stand on his own for a couple of days. His back legs went through a lot of stress and strain while trying to pull him before the C-section. We were milking mama and he took right to the bottle. He is like a gentle dog – SO SWEET! His name is Erasmus.

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Yesterday we took him to the vet clinic for x-rays to make sure nothing was broken and he got a good report! Just severe ligament damage which will heal as he gets stronger! He got two new casts to help support him in the meantime!

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And today – he is doing so much better!

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Tomorrow it’s back on the road for me! I have a great photo shoot lined up with an old friend in Illinois on Thursday, and Saturday (the 12th) I will be with Donna Shephard at the Tailings Country Store located inside Mother O’Leary’s Cabin, for a Fall Open House and Meet & Greet! Donna’s wonderful cabins are featured in the fall issue of A Simple Life! She is also hosting a Scarecrow Making Workshop, so if ya’ll come out – I promise to help you with your creations! It’s going to be a WONDERFUL DAY! Come see me in Shullsburg, Wisconsin from 10:00 to 4:00!

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A Hodge Podge Sunday Blog

What a glorious Sunday in Galax, Virginia! It was 58 degrees here this morning! WOW, and it’s the end of JULY! I’m so thankful to live in the mountains and the woods, and especially in the summer!

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my reading friends – I haven’t posted any new books for you in way too long! So, for the last dog days of summer, here are some to put on your list. I waited for a new novel from my favorite writer, Robert Hicks, for seven years. As you know, he wrote the incredible book “Widow of the South” in 2005 and followed it up with another awesome novel, “A Separate Country” in 2009. His latest, “The Orphan Mother,” is kind of a follow up to “Widow of the South,” but not really. The main character, Mariah Reddick, was Carrie McGavock’s slave while living at Carnton Plantation and this new book is about her life after the Civil War. I have to be honest and say that I was a tad disappointed. Certainly not in Hick’s writing because he is by far the best – but just more so in the plot. But for ME, it would be extremely difficult to top his first two books, and perhaps I was expecting too much. And at the end of the day, “The Orphan Mother” may be Hick’s least appealing book – but it is still far superior to 60% of the other books out there. So give it a chance and let me know what you think!

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Another book I recently read was “The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson.” Again, an “OK” read, but a great one? No, but perhaps a B-.  But gosh, I’ve had a real dry spell the last several months trying to find anything great to read, so these two novels are the best I have to offer from my recent stack of reading material.

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In fact, I’ve consoled myself the last couple weeks re-reading two of my favorite novels from the past, (something I rarely do) and that was “Cold Mountain,” and “Fair and Tender Ladies,” by an all-time favorite author of mine, Lee Smith. Other recommendations I have for you from long ago books I’ve read are:

“Cataloochee” by Wayne Caldwell

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“Into the Savage Country” by Shannon Burke

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“The Good Journey” by Micaela Gilchrist

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“Wish You Well” by David Baldacci

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Many of you have emailed since yesterday to see how the cabin looked that I mentioned in my video from Friday. As you know, the man who crimped the tin for the log house was here last week, and he mentioned his Father-In-Law had a cabin on his property that he would like taken down before it falls. In great anticipation, myself and some friends went to see it last evening. It was a beautiful drive down to Wytheville, Virginia and out in the country. When we first came upon her, it struck my heart at her beauty.

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But this is a tale of, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” The “good” was certainly that first view of her from the road and her overall appearance. The “good” was the awesome staircase, amazing floor joists, and a “few” good logs.

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The chinking was done in the same way as Aunt Cory’s cabin here on the farm – with slats of wood placed horizontally behind the mortar.

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The ugly … well, that is better described in photos. What could have been an incredible cabin to restore and save if someone had just nailed the tin back down on the roof when it first came up on the ends, is now really just a home for millions of bugs to devour. This breaks my heart …

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This was a sweet little nest made between the logs. This little bird found a beautiful red ribbon to decorate her home with!

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So, I gave my book friends some recommendations, and I don’t want to leave out my music loving friends so here are some you tube links I think you might enjoy! In honor of my Texas trip coming up tomorrow, I’m going to give you three Texas connection songs – all in very different genres! The first is a really great project that was recorded live at the Schneider Dance Hall in Columbus, Texas which was built in the 1930’s. It is a tribute to the traditional sound of Southern Gospel. My personal favorites from the album are the tracks from Courtney Patton and Jamie Lin Wilson.

This website link gives you a video experience of just some of the songs on the album,

I don’t usually listen to main stream country music, but I will confess here that I do like me some Ronnie Dunn, and here is one that I can get rockin’ to when I’m driving:
“How Far to Waco.”

And to make sure I give you a well-rounded list of genres today, some of you might like this tune by Red Steagall, “Fiddle Man.” Red is a Texas native, and when I was in college, I listened to him faithfully. He is dubbed as the “Great American Story Teller.”

One last thing – if you haven’t seen these new Andrew Wyeth stamps from the USPS – run down to your local office and pick up a sheet (or two)! They are a dream for lovers of A Simple Life!

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When I return from my Texas trip, I might have some updated photos of the log house progress for you – hopefully with the roof on! Stay tuned for that! But for now, I bid you farewell as I pack my suitcase and head out to the Lone Star State with my “Texas Tunes” playing along the way!

Thanks for joining me today!


Everyone’s Favorite Farm

It’s the end of the week, and the final home sneak peek in our upcoming Fall issue – Everyone’s favorite farm: SEVEN GATES FARM! Home to the wonderful James Cramer and the late Dean Johnson. As you know, Jimmie is an Editor here at A Simple Life and we love having him in our family. It was an honor that I got to write this special article about someone I love dearly! Coming to your mailbox very soon! You won’t want to miss it!

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