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Looking Toward Home

Arkansas River Valley

I wrote my first post as Miss July just before we left on our 40th wedding anniversary trip to Navarre Beach, Florida. Consequently, you’ve read a lot about Johnson history and the things I love about the Emerald Coast. However, today, I find my heart turning toward home. By the time you read this, I’ll be back on my beloved ridge in Little Rock, which makes me happy. I don’t care if it’s Hot-Hot-Hot-97-degrees-Hot there. You see, I’m an Arkansas girl through and through. I’m accustomed to it. In spite of the dog days of summer, I’ve been content to live in our beautiful state most of my life.

Welcome to Arkansas

When we travel, we sometimes meet people who have formed an opinion of Arkansas without ever having stepped foot in the state. A few have made it clear that they think we’re backward and ignorant. Once we shared a table with a man on a cruise who laughed in my face when I said I was from Arkansas. When I was a young mother living near one of the Great Lakes, a woman asked in all seriousness if everyone really went barefoot here. She was a neighbor, and I can tell you she was less educated and refined than most of the people I know. Little did she know she was talking to the Shoe Queen. (I have a weakness for cute shoes, even devote a place on my blog to my love affair with them.)


Perhaps my worst experience was the evening I was entertained in the home of a transplant from South Carolina. She spent the entire evening criticizing Arkansas to several women who had recently relocated to Little Rock. I stayed long enough to be polite. Later when I heard she had moved back home, I was glad for all of us. I figured she must have been really homesick that night.

I was taught to be gracious, even when people are not. So in the face of such rudeness, I usually say that Arkansas is beautiful and full of lovely people—that they should visit sometime. But what I’m really thinking is Please stay away. We don’t need ill-mannered folks messing up our state.

Sunrise over Arkansas

Recently, it occurred to me that those who ridicule Arkansas are the ignorant ones. They lack experience. They’ve never watched the sunrise over Greer’s Ferry Lake, witnessed a sunset on Petit Jean Mountain or seen the mighty Arkansas River covered in fog. They couldn’t have ever driven through the Ozarks in the autumn or spring, floated the Buffalo, picked peaches at Guy or Clarksville, watched a crop duster swoop across a sea of soybeans or cotton. They surely never bumped their way along a dirt track bordered by pines so thick and tall you could almost break your neck looking up at their tops.

I’m certain they’ve never experienced the thrill of seeing ducks circle over rice fields, fished for trout, crappie and brim, dug for diamonds near Murfreesboro, rock climbed at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch or tasted a Bradley county tomato. They’ve never water skied on Lake Hamilton, visited the bathhouses in Hot Springs or camped in one of our state parks. They’re probably clueless about Crystal Bridges, the Arkansas Art Center, our excellent universities and so much more. Bless their hearts. They just don’t know.

Cats & People

But I do know. And as much as I enjoy our beach getaway, I’m a little homesick. I don’t care if it’s 97 degrees in Arkansas. I’m ready to get back to our cranky Lucy, audacious Max, and fraidy-cat, Timmy. I want to see my children and grandchildren, have dinner with our neighbors, visit Aunt Gladys—even do her laundry. I’m ready to get back to my Sunday school class and to meet the new preacher. I want to have lunch with my girlfriends, brunch with our Searcy group, go to the farmer’s market, even weed my flower beds and clean my house because all those things are what make it home. And I’m ready to be there soon.


In fact, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go pack my bag right now, because that other Dorothy had it right. There truly is no place like home.

Ruby Slippers

You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. Ps. 65:8b




By Kristie Jones of Love On Main Street

bernice garden 2

Popping the most delicious grape tomatoes in my mouth made a warm, sunny Sunday in July even sunnier at The Bernice Garden Farmer’s Market.  Situated on the corner of 14th and Main streets in downtown Little Rock, it’s a welcomed oasis for those in search of locally produced fruits, vegetables, wildflowers, honey, coffee, and more.  My dear friend, Kelly Brant, accompanied me on a journey to discover the wonder of the market.  The vibrant colors, aromatic herbs and juicy flavors far surpass anything found in the produce section at your local commercial grocery.  Meeting the farmers would serve to add another dimension to an already personal experience of hand picking locally grown food.

Robert of Willow Springs Market Garden provided a sampling of peppers and humor in his handwritten signs describing defiant tomatoes and cosmetically challenged garlic.  He provided a lemon drop pepper for the recipe that began to unfold with a visit to each booth.  This little pepper is known for its citrus flavor and packs a bit of heat that ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville Scale.

bernice garden 3

Kelly Carney of the certified organic North Pulaski Farms enticed us with heirloom grape tomatoes of a somewhat addictive quality and unmatched sweetness.  Carney has been a fixture at this market since the first Sunday it began back in 2012.  In addition to the tomatoes, there were overflowing pints of blackberries capable of inducing dreams of grandma’s homemade cobblers.  With charming humor, Carney described his exclusive use of organic tools as more expensive and less effective.

tomatoes from Bernice Garden

Flat leaf parsley was the gem found by meeting Kevin Haggerty and Lauren Tyner of the North Little Rock Community Farm.  All of their lovely vegetables and herbs were harvested from the student farm of Lakewood Middle School’s freshman campus.  From seed to market, I thought of the work and pride that they poured into their colorful array from the garden.  With corn on the cob from Barnhill Orchards and peaches from Val of the Russian Farmer, items from practically every vendor combined to make a sweet yet savory salsa idea.  Small purple onions from Sara Fulton-Koerbling and Ryan Boswell of The Victory Garden and a touch of Sun Harvest Honey from Pat Cullivan’s apiary in North Little Rock were the final ingredients needed.

blackberries bernice garden

The Bee in my Bonnet booth was by far the most charmed as it was adorned with hand-tied bouquets of wildflowers.  Katie, the farmer, allowed me to take her photo holding a bouquet and although we chose the lemon drop pepper over a jalapeño, her peppers were the prettiest.  One of the fresh bunches of flowers had to come along for the journey and made a lovely display on Kelly’s dining room table.

bernice garden 4

From seed to plant, harvest to  table, this adventure to create a recipe from The Bernice Garden Farmer’s Market was a rewarding experience with a great payoff.  Here’s the recipe for a perfect summer salsa to keep you cool and refreshed.


bernice garden arkansas

Arkansas Peach and Tomato Salsa {Bernice Garden}
Yields 3
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  1. 1 ear of fresh corn, in husk
  2. 2 small ripe peaches
  3. ½ pint grape tomatoes
  4. 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons minced purple onion (see tip)
  5. ½ to 1 small lemon drop pepper, seeds and membranes removed, minced
  6. 3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, minced PLUS 1 sprig for garnish
  7. ¼ teaspoon red wine vinegar or to taste
  8. 1 light pinch coarse salt or to taste
  9. 1 teaspoon honey or to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast corn for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, dice the peaches and quarter the tomatoes.
  3. Shuck corn and using a sharp knife, carefully cut kernels from cob. Discard cob (or freeze for another use such as making corn chowder).
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the diced peaches, tomatoes, corn, onion, lemon drop pepper and parsley and mix well.
  5. Add the vinegar, salt and honey and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust salt, vinegar and honey, if needed.
  6. Garnish with a sprig of the flat leaf parsley. Serve with tortilla chips or atop chicken breast or fish. Makes about 3 cups
  1. Tip: To tame the bite of raw onion, soak it in cold water for 5 minutes; drain well and proceed with recipe.
Arkansas Women Bloggers

arkansas peach and tomato salsa

headshot kristie love on main street

I love carbs and men who lie.
I’m nostalgic at heart and a lover of all things vintage.
Writing and photography have been passions since childhood, and I’m constantly amazed at the beauty found in what others may see as ordinary.
I think there’s a bit of love in everything if you’re willing to see and feel it. My journey is to find love in the places, people, food, communities and stuff of life.
Adventure awaits!



Instagram: loveonmainst


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Feta with Peppered Honey and Toasted Almonds {Foodie Friday}

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By Debbie Arnold of Dining With Debbie   One of my favorites for summer dining is a simple cheese and fruit plate, such as this Feta with Peppered Honey and Toasted Almonds served along with locally grown Arkansas peaches.  This plus a fresh-from-the-garden salad (or local farmers’ market) and probably some crunchy bread might easily be a meal [...]

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Farm to School and What it Means to McCool Farms {#Farm2Home14}

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Farm2Home14 FarmerPanel From Left: Beth Eggers (Wye Mountain Flowers and Berries), Mark Morgan (Peach Pickin’ Paradise), Chuck McCool (McCool Farms) and Bob Barnhill (Barnhill Orchards)  By Chuck McCool, owner of McCool Farms Note: Chuck McCool was a recent panel participant in #Farm2Home14 sponsored by Arkansas Grown, The Arkansas Agriculture Department and P. Allen Smith.  He [...]

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