SOTO Members making #SustainableOzarks possible...

Rebekah House / Downing Apparel

Downing Apparel

“I want to serve Hollister, Missouri and provide a different shopping experience with elevated vintage clothing and fully curated vintage items for both women and men! My background includes 10 years in fashion and I also offer personal shopping.”

Downing Apparel

with Rebekah Houle

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“For me, vintage is elevated ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.” Give her your budget and your ideas and Rebekah will work her magic. Contact her for personal shopping or to view vintage fashion collections and follow in Instagram.

Downing Apparel
Terry Zeyen Photography

Terry Zeyen

Photographer Terry Zeyen, born and raised in California’s coastal Santa Cruz County near Monterey Bay, has been a professional photographer since 1976. “After graduating from Pacific College with a B.S. in art, I served as an army medic (1970-72).

Terry Zeyen Photography

Hollister, Missouri

(707) 332-8789
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“I’ve worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, and sold work to private collectors. In 1995, I discovered the Ozark Mountains and the village of Hollister. Need an environmental or family portrait, headshot/composite update, or event photographer, contact me.

Terry Zeyen Photography
Chuckwagon Lemonade

Chuck Wagon Lemonade

“The BEST lemonade I have ever had in my life! They have lots of flavors. My favorite was the Mixed Berry Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade with fresh blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.” — Chad McDole

“I want the Wild Berry Lemonade all the time. It’s so good!” — Rachel Bush

Chuck Wagon Lemonade

(417) 736-9120
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“Delicious raspberry limeade! You don’t want to miss it!” — Elizabeth Bonkoski

Chuck Wagon Lemonade is a refreshment concession wagon available for area fairs and events of all types. We are based in Strafford, Missouri.

Chuck Wagon Lemonade
Mike and Nancee Micham

Ez’n’Dil

Ez’n’Dil (Mike and Nancee Micham) have performed together for nearly 30 years. They met as performers at Rawhide, an 1880s’-themed western town and in 1992 became featured performers at Silver Dollar City’s McHaffie Homestead.

Photo credit: Sight Photography

Ez’N’Dil

Mike and Nancee Micham

(417) 251-2292
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In the Ozark Mountains, they gained a passion for folk and traditional Irish songs and toured Ireland four times with the Homestead Pickers. Their eclectic music range includes Irish, folk, originals, storytelling, historical and comedy. They’ll make you laugh and cry and ask them back!

EzNDil
#SustainableOzarks
Pig Poetry by Gideon Pellegrino

Pig Poetry

by Gideon Pellegrino

A cold November air bites at my cheeks as I walk, head down trying to avoid a slap in the face from the gusty wind. The stars have been out for a while now and I’m late for my regular night time chores. I hear the usual parade of animals as I enter the barn… but something is missing. I feed the chickens, collect the eggs and then get the food out for the pigs. When I walk to the pig pen all is silent.  I call for them but they don’t come — and trust me, pigs are never late for their feeding time! I look all over the pen and when I finally find them, I let out a gasp. I almost drop the food on the ground when I get a close look of what had happened and bolt for my mom.

Early winter wind is cold on my face as I dart across the yard but my excitement is too high to even care! It had been a long day and we were just getting back home so mom hadn’t even gotten out of the truck.  In fact, as I beat on the window of the truck door, she jumped and I realized she had been dozing.  I continue to pound on the window until she finally rolls it down.  Hey, you might want to come see this!” I nearly shout.  “Do I have to?” she mumbles, still sleepy.  “Yes. You have to!”  Her sleepiness vanishes when she sees what I had seen and she ran inside to  get my dad and Charlee, my sister. While waiting on everyone else to come see the new arrival I count one, no, two, no… three, four, five, six, seven little noses beneath Mama pig.  We knew she had been pregnant, but being new to pig farming (and Mama pig being new to being a mother) we were not sure of how long it would take for the new arrivals to make their grand entrance into the world.

Late that November night was the first birth Charlee and I had ever witnessed. We were not there for the other seven but as we stood there watching the piglets nurse, we were sent a little special surprise when out came the eighth piglet. The last one. The runt. We were amazed to find that they came out in their own sack, like a present all wrapped up! The runt wriggled around in it’s packaging until finally it burst out with a small grunt, then hit the ground running! Although pigs are a bit unsteady at first, they do, as some say, ”come out runnin’.” There we stood in the cold, watching the new life on the farm and we all smiled at Mama pig’s success as eight little pigs lifted their faces high in the air to greet us with their baby pig noses. That was the beginning of our many adventures with our happy pig bunch.

When we first got interested in raising pigs we wanted to research different breeds before diving head first into something we knew nothing about. My mom grew up with the 600-pound pink pigs and she knew that with I and my sister taking care of them she wanted a gentler breed. We ended up getting Ossabaw Island hogs. They are very gentle and rare. Over 400 years ago, this breed was brought to Ossabaw Island (just off the coast of Georgia) by Spanish explorers. A heritage breed, they resemble a wild hog, with thick coats, pointy ears, long snouts and long and wiry bristles as hair. Ossabaw are typically black though some are spotted and a few also come in tan, gray, red and occasionally white.  Unlike most pigs these days, they are not waddling sacks of fat. In fact, they rarely exceed 200 pounds.

We started off with only three pigs: a male, known as Ralph, named after my Grandpa; a female, known as Mama; and then a runt who came with the other two because the guy told us he wouldn’t ever grow. The runt became Charlee’s little pet pig and she named him Pumba (as in Pumba from the Lion King). Soon Pumba lived up to his name. He began to grow (despite what we had been told). Though no longer a runt, he was short and fat. And that reminds me: Have you ever tried lassoing a fat pig?

To be quite honest, it’s not an easy feat but I’ve pretty much become an expert, if I do say so myself. Early one morning as I gazed out the window, I found myself wide-eyed, wondering if I was seeing a pig-mirage. Pumba was taking a morning stroll to the neighbor’s house and delighting himself with anything that fit into his chubby-cheeked mouth. “Pigs out!” I yelled and bolted downstairs to pull my boots on.

Charlee and mom joined me to corral Pumba. If you have never had pigs before, let me tell you they are stubborn — very stubborn — and strangely smart. We quickly found out that corralling the pig was not going to work, because even though he was short and fat he was also speedy. Charlee ran to get a rope before Pumba could make an escape to the luxurious green grass at the neighbor’s house.

Lassoing him was probably a strange-looking sight. It didn’t look like one of those rodeos where the cowboys swing their ropes in the air and then all-but effortlessly rope the bull. It was more like this:

Three girls in their front yard, one with a stick, one with a rope…and then one standing to the side “supervising.” I tip-toed up behind Pumba (who was already panicked from being chased all over the yard) but as soon as I would get my rope close enough to slip it around his chubby neck, he would take off running — all the while letting out little panicked pig grunts. It took several tries but finally I slipped the lasso around his neck and held on for dear life. I figured he would start running and I expected to be dragged all over the yard. But there was no tension on the rope.

I look down to find him just standing there. Head down, feet planted firmly in the dirt. In fact, he wouldn’t budge. Like a whiny toddler clinging to the swing set in the city park, he planted himself so strongly he wasn’t going anywhere. It took all of us to get him back in the pig pen! I dug in my heels and pulled for all I was worth. Mom pushed on his butt. Charlee kept poking him with a stick (which didn’t really help). After lots of hard work, and a few more panicked pig grunts, we got Pumba back in the pig pen. Can anyone say girl power?

Eventually we had to get rid of Pumba and by get rid of I mean get him into our freezer. The reason is that you can’t have two boars in one pen. Ralph and Pumba were fighting all the time and I thought they were going to kill each other. But hey, Pumba made excellent bacon! Yes, it is sad when it’s processing time but just knowing that the food is not going to waste makes it a whole lot easier.

I had someone tell me once that they would rather not know where their food came from or how it was processed. As they snarled their nose at the thought of processing their own meat, I kept quiet. That was hard. I thought of all the horrible things that had happened to the animals they ate on a daily basis. They said, “How could you be so cruel to animals?” Actually, I should be asking them that question.

When you pay for food that has been raised and processed in what probably wasn’t a humane manner, you are supporting that business’s way of operation. And even if they are processing in a humane way, hey, that big company is still getting the money — all because people would “Rather not know where my food comes from!” When we process any animal on our farm, we do it as humanely as possible. There is something rewarding about raising the animal properly yourself and then knowing that animal helps raise you. When I know how the animal was raised and treated, it makes the cycle all the better. I think we all could use a bit more respect for God’s creation!

[Continued below]

Pig Poetry by Gideon Pellegrino
Pig Poetry by Gideon Pellegrino
Pig Poetry by Gideon Pellegrino
Summer Phlox
trumpet vine

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicals) may be an aggressive species, but its blooms are loved by hummingbirds and the scarlet blossoms are a classic symbol of summertime.

Pig Poetry
Pig Poetry
Pig Poetry
Pig Poetry

[Pig Poetry, continued from above]

By respect I mean this: when you raise an animal, raise it the right way and not just the way that makes more money. If you can’t raise your own animals, try your hardest to support the farms that do raise their animals right. So next time you think it’s so cruel that someone could raise their own animals to have them for their meat supply, look a little closer at the farms your buying from. Investigate how they treat their animals. I’m not bashing all big farms but when someone tells me I am being cruel to animals and then turns around and orders chicken strips from the fast food place down the street, I think there is something missing in their point of view. God demands us to treat his creation with respect. He gave creation to us to use and enjoy. And the reason I am saying all of this is because I believe our Lord is sad when he sees us take his creation and make something out of it he never intended. We have made food and farming into something far too complicated. It’s just so simple and I wish people could see that.

When we first got the pigs, we had a small area fenced off with a makeshift fence of used wood pallets. After Mama pig had her first litters, ten pigs in one small pen was not working! We couldn’t stand seeing them in a muddy mess. So we had an electric fence put up around about a half-an-acre of woods so they could have plenty of room to roam. In the summertime, they are always in the back grazing on all the new greens. In the fall they munch on the hundreds of acorns from the oak trees. They also like to eat the roots of the plants and they root up the dirt looking for bugs.

Twice a day we feed them all-natural wheat middlings and occasionally treat them with corn. Too much corn will make the meat get too fatty so we strive for a nice happy medium of the fat-to-meat ratio.The pigs also get all our leftovers and any of the cow’s milk we don’t use.

Ralph enjoys drinking milk and I’ve caught him blowing bubbles in the milk pan. We also get produce from an all-natural grocery store. The store always gives us the out-of-date stuff but every time we get our weekly supply, the produce looks fresh enough for me to eat! The pigs always love it when they see me in the garden because they know I’ll soon be heading their way with a bucket of weeds!

Pigs are actually very friendly when they are raised properly. I mean, I would be pretty crabby also if I were in a muddy, manure-filled pen with 600 overweight pigs living nose-to-nose next to me! But when there is plenty of room to roam, clean bedding and lots to eat, pigs are friendly and social.  All you have to do is give a fine “Heerree piggg” and they come running with happy little pig grunts. Ralph is usually the first to greet us, then Mama, then if there are any piglets they don’t follow too far behind Mama. When Mama had her first litter of piglets, people gave us lots of traditional advice:

“You can’t keep the boar in there with the piglets. He will eat them!”

“You can’t let the sow sleep with her piglets. She will trample them!”

“You can’t, you can’t, you can’t!” But guess what? We did! I’m the kind of person that when someone says “You can’t do that!” I will try it just to prove them wrong! But happily, the results were exactly the opposite from what everyone had said:

When Mama was about to deliver, Ralph collected straw, hay, weeds and sticks and he built her a nest. Then he laid in it up until her delivery and he does that every time she gives birth. When Mama gets up to eat, he will lay in the nest with the piglets and wait for her to get back. Both Mama and Ralph are very gentle with the piglets. We have never had one eaten or trampled…and as for the people who said “You can’t do this or that”? Well they have kept pretty much quiet.

Sometimes people don’t even realize how smart animals are. One day we were outsmarted by a pig and it ended up a muddy mess. We were castrating a group of male pigs. They weren’t really big (but they weren’t too small either) and trying to catch them and hold them down was not an easy chore.

The plan was to separate the males and the females; then once we had the males in a small fenced-in area, we would catch them one at a time to get the job done.  Well, it went pretty smoothly up until the last one. By then I’m sure he’d figured out what was going down and was determined not to be caught. We had gathered the males into the old pig pen (the small, muddy, manure-filled pen) which didn’t smell too pleasant.

And since we needed someone a bit stronger than me to wrestle a pig, we called my Uncle Ryan to help us with the whole procedure. My uncle is best described as,  well, a redneck. And also my Aunt Michelle — who happens to be maybe a little over five foot tall — came along. We asked them to help, figuring that my uncle would be the one to catch the pigs.

But when it came down to that last pig, it was Ryan, my parents, and my sister Charlee who were watching as my Aunt Michelle and I did our best in the mud and manure. Once we got the pig in the corner of the pig, I thought we had caught him. But did I mention pigs are smart? I could see an escape plan forming inside his hard little head and put my hands out and my knees together, thinking  he couldn’t bust through my legs.

BAD IDEA! With a quick pig grunt, he sent his headstrong body right through me. I felt something give way in my knee and heard a popping noise and knew I was done with pig wrestling for the day. I turned to tell Michelle to forget about the pig, only to see her — with a determined look in her eyes — plant her feet, bend her knees like a cat preparing to pounce, and like a scene from a cartoon, she dove onto the pig!

Arms spread wide, legs and all her body flying through the air! She landed on the pig and the fight was on! We all stood back and watched as she wallowed around with the pig in that mess full of manure. Eventually, she pinned the pig and by that time she was head-to-toe caked with manure. It was honestly the funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Lesson learned! Pigs are smarter than I thought. We ended the day with one busted-up knee and one manure-covered girl!

There is never a dull moment around here and we are always on our toes…but strangely enough, I find farming the most peaceful thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s the sight of new life. The stillness of the barn at night. People have lost that these days: that stillness. That peace that should be a part of every life. People are far too busy. I think people have lost this way of life because it is hard. It’s more time-consuming than just going to the store and picking food from a shelf. It’s harder than the drive down the street. But to me, farm life feels simple.

Yes, there is work (and a lot of it), but when you raise an animal, there is a bond. Sometimes I wonder how we got so far away from this lifestyle. When you are closer to the earth there is a connection. A connection to the One who made all things possible. And a connection to yourself. We are made of dirt. So naturally we must be close to the dirt. When we lose our connection to nature, I believe we lose our connection to God and ourselves.

It’s easy to get lost in this world. But so simple to find your soul once again. You cannot hear God in the clutter and chaos of the city. Farming is important to living. I feel the closest to God when I’m outside, on our little farm, with all our animals and all that life around me. Somehow, out there, I find myself.

summer herbal decoction

Wild Grape, elderberry and mullein (Verbascum thapsus) gathered for medicinal use.

Moon Sign

Louise Riotte Astrological Gardening

“The Moone slowest her power most evidently in those bodies, which have neither sense nor lively breath: for carpenters reject the timber of trees fallen in the ful-moone, as being soft and tender, subject also to the worms and putrefaction, and that quickly by means of excessive moisture, husbandmen, likewise make haste to gather up their wheat and the grain from the threshing-floore, in the wane of the moon, and toward the end of the month [4th quarter], that being hardened thus with drinesse, the heaps, in the garner may keep the better from being fustie [moldy], and continue the longer; whereas corne which is inner and laide up at the full of the moon, by reason of the softness and overmuch moisture, of all other, doth most crackle and burst. It is commonly said also, that if a leaven be laid in the ful-moone, the paste will rise and take leaven better.” — Plutarch

I shall pass through this world but once,
Any good, therefore, that I can do,
Or any kindness that I can show,
To any human being,
Let me do it now.
Let me not defer it or neglect it,
For I shall not pass this way again.
— Anonymous

If you want to be happy for an hour,
roast a pig. If you want to be happy for
a year, marry. If you want to be happy
for a lifetime, plant a garden.
— Old Chinese proverb

Astrology has survived all the ages because it magnificently reflects nature. It is the greatest body of knowledge in human history—bar none.
— Joseph E. Goodavage
Astrology, the Space Age Science