Farm Family Fun Around Laurel Mississippi

I am pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexi. 

Traveling with kids near Laurel, Mississippi and looking for outdoor activities just a short drive from town? You may want to get out of the car and check out some of these fun attractions for the preteen set. With a dairy farm, a replica homestead and village, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes, you’ll not only find places to stretch your legs, but some family fun and entertainment, too!  Every year, some of the farms in the region open their doors and give eager visitors a chance to connect with local farmers and learn about and experience working farms.  Most of these activities are seasonal so be sure to check with their websites for scheduled events.  Also, please remember these are working farms so wear appropriate clothing, older shoes (not open toe), and maybe a change of clothes/shoes if it is muddy.

Lazy Acres Plantation

(596 Lazy Acres Road, Chunky, MS 39323): Lazy Acres has two main crops, Christmas trees and pumpkins.  Like many farms their big season is fall with the harvest of the pumpkins and then later the cutting of Christmas trees. However, they also have an annual Easter egg hunt and Breakfast with the Bunny at the farm in the spring.  Easter activities for children include field trips to the Bunny Patch, story time, Easter egg scavenger hunt with prizes, the previously mentioned Breakfast with the Bunny, and chances to learn about the farm and farm animals.  During the fall there are wagon rides to the pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins, children’s educational talks about the pumpkin’s life cycle, giant jumping pillow and slide to play on, and a chance to visit with the farm animals. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are Christmas lights displays, Santa’s workshop, and a chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Please see the Lazy Acres website for details about events and schedules 

Landrum’s Homestead & Village photo from Landrum Homestead & Village website

Landrum’s Homestead & Village

(1356 Highway 15 South, Laurel, MS 39443): The Landrum’s Homestead and Village is only a few miles from downtown and has many great opportunities for family style events.  The village is a replica of a late 1800s settlement with over 60-buildings including a restored cabin, chapel, schoolhouse, general store, smokehouse, trading post, and a small replica Indian village. The site is open year round (Monday through Saturday) and welcomes walk-in visitors, however they do have special events scheduled throughout the year. During the spring they have Spring Heritage field trips (reservations needed) with demonstrations of  some of the everyday tasks for early settlers, wagon rides, nature trails, and tours of the buildings.  One of their largest events is the annual Christmas at the Village with visit with Santa, food vendors (kettle corn, smokehouse, and homemade ice cream), hand-made craft vendors, civil war re-enactments, a chance to meet and pet some of the farm animals, and lots of live entertainment. For a list of events and schedules please see their calendar on their website 

Ard’s Dairy photo sourc

Ard’s Dairy Farm

(3479 Orchard Lane SE, Ruth, MS 39662): Ard’s Dairy Farm is a working family run dairy farm near Ruth, MS, about a 1.5 hour drive west of downtown Laurel.  They offer year round tours of the farm (with reservations) and a chance to learn about dairy farming and “how your milk, butter, cheese, and cream magically appear on your grocery store shelves”.  Fall is their biggest time of the year with their Fall Festival in October.  Every Saturday in October they have tours, wagon rides, a chance to pet and feed baby calves, and their annual corn maze.  At night they have a bonfire, with bring your own marshmallows and hot dog cooking (they do have food available for purchase), and flashlight maze adventures.  Please see their website for updated information and schedules.

 

Mitchell Farms Photo Source

Mitchell Farms

(650 Leaf River Church Road, Collins, MS 39428): Just half an hour drive from Laurel is another great fall opportunity to learn about daily life on a working 1,500 acre farm.  Every fall (2017: September 30 – November 5) Mitchell Farms opens its door to visitors for their annual farm event.  Every weekend (also weekday school tours) they have tours of historic log cabins, antique tractors, wagon rides, pumpkin patch, chance to meet some of their “furry farm friends”, corn maze, and many other family fun activities.  More information can be found on their website 

 

Feeding Alpacas  Photo Source

A Stroka Gene-Us Alpacas

(383 County Road 155, Stringer, MS 39481): Every year the A Stroka Gene-Us Alpacas open up their farm to the public and host the annual Alpaca Festival on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  For groups of 10 or more they do have tours at other times of the year (with reservations) and they also host birthday parties (petting alpacas on your birthday is a must do!).  During the annual festival, families will have a chance to learn about these wonderful creatures along with the other farm animals (goats, Scottish highland cow, and four Great White Pyrenees) and the daily workings of the farm.  For more information about Alpaca Festival and tours please see their website .

Walk Among Nature Within A Short Drive Of Cape May, New Jersey

I am pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexi. 
The wind it blew from Sou’sou’east,
It blew a pleasant breeze
And the man upon the lookout cried:
“A Light upon the lee!”
They reported to the Captain and
these words did he say –
“Cheer up my sailor lads,
Its the light on old Cape May.
(Traditional sea shanty from late 1800’s to early 1900’s)

Cape May, New Jersey is well known as one of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations and claims to be America’s first seaside resort. Known for its rich maritime history, Victorian style architecture, restaurants, and beautiful beaches, Cape May attracts visitors from all over the world. In a county with only about 95,000 permanent residents, but with summer weekends where the population can grow to 800,000, finding places to escape and walk among the wetlands and trees and enjoy solace from the crowds can be difficult. However, Cape May is also a favorite destination for many birdwatchers and there are many natural hideaways just a short drive from downtown that can help soothe the weary vacationer. The locations that are presented here are ones with easy access and well marked hiking trails, with the farthest being only about 25 minutes travel time from the beaches, with most much closer.

Cape May, New Jersey

South Cape May Meadows

A very short drive (1.4 miles/2.25 km) from downtown off of Sunset Blvd, is The Nature Conservancy’s 212 acre (0.86 Km2) South Cape May Meadows. With an estimated 90,000 visitors a year and the close proximity to town, this may not be the least crowded location, but the ease of access and convenience allows for a nice easy side trip from shopping. There are two miles of trails, scenic overlooks, observation platforms, and other places to relax and explore the nature of the Cape May Peninsula. However, this is a preserve for wildlife and not a park, so there are no provisions for picnicking or recreational activities (no swimming, bikes, or pets) other than observing nature. Information about the refuge area and a trail map can be found at the Nature Conservancy website 

 

Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek

 Another short drive from downtown is another The Nature Conservancy site, the Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek. Located about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from downtown, take Seashore Rd north until you come to Wilson St and take a left. There is a parking area just over the railroad tracks on the west side of the property. Unlike South Cape May Meadows, this preserve does have provisions for picnicking and recreational activities such as biking, although trash containers are not provided so please carry out what you carry in. This 180 acre (0.73 km2) area of recovering farm fields (now wildflower meadows), upland forests, and wetlands was originally slated to be developed but was protect in 2013 through the generosity of the Garrett family. There are about 4 miles (6.4 km) of hiking trails that take you through the different ecosystems to picnic tables and shelters, bird blinds, arbors, and wildflowers, to help you escape and relax from a day at the beach or shopping. Information about the refuge area and a trail map can be found at the Nature Conservancy website

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge Office  photo credit Damon Noe and the TNC

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

Part of the national wildlife refuge system for the United States, Cape May NWR was set aside to preserve key habitats for wildlife, but they also provide an opportunity for recreational use such as hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, environmental education, photography, and hunting. The Cape May NWR system is made of up of multiple land tracts broken up into three units and encompassing over 21,200 acres (86 km2): the Delaware Bay Division, the Great Cedar Swamp Division, and the Two Mile Beach Unit. The Two Mile Beach Unit is located just a short drive east (5.4 miles / 8.7 km) from downtown near Diamond Beach. This is a nice place to spend an afternoon, especially on weekends during the summer when the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge often present Free Family Nature Walks including special walks to observe the ghost crabs and mole crab beach habitats. Information can be found on the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife webpage along with other activities 
The headquarters office and visitor contact station Cape May NWR is a longer drive from Cap May, about 14 miles (22.5 km), however, there are more opportunities for longer hikes and a chance to see more of the county as you drive some of the less traveled roads. The Cape May NWR website provides details about hiking trails  and activities  within the three units. In addition, the Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge also present some activities and walks at Kimbles Beach near the visitor contact station 
Directions to Two Mile Beach Unit: Go north on Lafayette St (109) and turn right at Ocean Dr., then in about 4.7 miles (7.6 km) turn right at USCG Entrance St. and follow this road until you see the Two Mile Beach Visitor Center on the left; the parking lot is on Two Mile Beach Access Rd. Watch your speed as you travel on Ocean Dr. towards Diamond Beach, the police like to park just before the entrance to the preserve.
Directions to Cape May NWR headquarters office and visitor contact station: It’s about a 14 mile (22.5 km) drive from Cape May to the visitor contact station (24 Kimbles Beach Road, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210); take Seashore Rd north for about 7 miles (11.2 km) and turn left at South Delsea Dr., go another 6.6 miles (10.6 km) and turn left at Kimbles Beach Rd. and the headquarters will be on the left in a few 100 feet.

Locating the Right Home

Have you lived in an apartment for many years? If this is the case, you might think it is finally time for you and your family to upgrade to a house. This will obviously be a very big step in your life so you should not rush into anything. Carefully look at all of your options because it will be a very large financial commitment on your part. There are many things that you should take into consideration before you settle on a house. Being an educated buyer will allow you to find the perfect home and save you money in the process. Here are some of the top considerations you need to make while house hunting.

1. Will the house be a good investment?

This is one of the things that many people do not think about before they buy a home. There is a good chance that you will not live in your new home forever. Therefore, you need to seriously consider how much potential a home has to go up in value after you have lived there for a few years. Is the home in a desirable area? Does the house sit on an attractive piece of property? Does the house have many features that potential buyers would find attractive? Basically, you need to be certain that you will not have a hard time selling the home. You will also need to get a solid return on your investment.

2. Is the house large enough for your requirements?

You should take some time to consider the space requirements that your family has. Do you have many possessions that you will be putting in the house? Will you be buying things in the future like gym equipment that will take up a lot of space? Will you be having more children while you are living in this home? These are all questions that you will need to ask yourself. You can then limit your house hunting to homes that are large enough for the specific needs of your family.

3. You might want to think about leasing your new home.

Taking out a mortgage is not the only way that you will be able to get a new home. The option of leasing a beautiful home from a company such as Invitation Homes could be an alternative that can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. Invitation Homes housing is something you should seriously look into if you are lacking the funds to make a down payment on a typical mortgage. Homes that are leased are also maintained by a property management company. This means that they are always in outstanding condition.

4. Does the home come with all of the features that you and your family will require?

There will most likely be features that you have in mind when you go house hunting. You might not be able to find a house that has all of them. However, you should be patient and try to find a home that contains as many of them as possible. Make a list of the features that you want and give it to your realtor. This will prevent your realtor from wasting your time by showing you homes that you are not interested in.

Fabric.com: The Place To Shop For Spring And Summer Fabrics

Get ready for Easter with these cute fabrics! Fabric.com has so many to choose from, but this is my favorite: fabric.com

If you love fabric as much as I do, then you don’t think of them as being a spring or a summer fabric. You just love them because they are prestty. But this winter has been so unseasonably warm that we are all ready for summer! Shop your favorite styles at Fabric.com to bring warmth and sunshine inside! Redecorate your pool house, start a nautical-themed project, design summer dresses for the family and more.

 
Shop all prints here, or check out our favorites below.
 
This cream print brings a bohemian vibe to any project. Sew leggings, jumpers, aprons and more with the nature-inspired fabric. It’s 95% cotton and 5% Spandex, making it a little stretchy for additional comfort.
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This lightweight cotton jersey knit fabric is perfect for t-shirts, summer lounge shorts, leggings, children’s clothes and more. Use this print to create a mother-daughter look that’s perfect for summertime beach photos.
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This bright floral fabric has hints of lime, magenta, white and peach on a teal background. The vibrant fabric is perfect for outdoor cushions or a beach cover up. Grab a similar print from the same artists with the Tumble Roses Pink fabric.
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Kaffe Fassett Collective 2012 Cactus Dahlias Red
Bring green, blue, pink, hot orange, red and maroon into your next quilting project or DIY project. The fabric is lightweight, 100% cotton and can be machine-washed in cold water, making it a good choice for blankets or apparel projects.
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Choosing A Car To Fit Your Lifestyle

When my children all still lived at home, I always took them with me when I shopped for a car. We all “tried on” the car, to make sure it would fit our family. We spent so much time in the car together in those days, that it only made sense to make sure we all fit in it comfortably before I bought a car. It is very important to make sure to choose the vehile to fit your lifestyle! 

Three Kids and a Dog?

If you are a busy mom with three kids and a dog you will need to make sure that your entire family fits comfortably inside the car. What age are the kids? Some kids grow rather quicky from ages 12 thru 15, so make sure any teen have plenty of leg room to grow into. You’ need to choose a car like a Jeep Patriot or a Dodge Durango will fit your lifestyle for quite a few years. 

Empty Nest

As an empty nester, you can purchase just about any vehicle you like. Even though there are no children living in your home any longer, think about what your hobbies are? Do you sew, knit, or enjoy scrapbooking? Make sure the trunk is large enough to hold all the things you’ll make that you will be taking to craft shows, crafting meetups, and things like that. What about camping? Will this vehicle pull a small tent camper? You can be comfortable in a Chrysler Sedan or a Dodge Ram Pickup.

Grandma Babysitter?

You brought up three kids, right? Back when we were having babies, we could just put them in a box on the back seat. Now in order to even drive down the street with a child, you have to know CPR, how to rescue a baby trapped in a mini van, and have room for a diaper bag, a box of diapers, a ton of baby milk, and directions to the preferred pediatrician. By the time you get all the stuff in the car that you will need, you will have no more room for the baby! Look at mini vans, station wagons, and hatchback models like the Chrysler Pacifica Van

There are lots of different lifestyles out there, so it is up to you to determine which model of autos will fit you for several years. Do you see yourself stiff doing the same thing for longer than five years? The point is, try to think about the things you do that make you unique, and choose an automobile that will still work for you in several years. Not only will it save you a lot of money, it will keep you smiling as you drive it every day. You can check all the  different choices  that fit your lifestyle at Brennan Dodge Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

The Natchez Trace Parkway

I a pleased to introduce my son-in-law, Ken McCarron, who is an enviromental consultant, and the author of this post. He lives in Denver, Colorado with my daughter, Becca. They have two dogs, Konza and Lexie. 

 

Old Trace (milepost 221.4) on the Natchez Trace Parkway

For anyone that dreams of the open road, a place to explore and escape from traffic, powerlines, and road signs, to drive at a pace that allows you to feel that you belong, then head to Mississippi, and follow the Natchez Trace.  When one thinks of Mississippi, they may often envision the culture of the South, magnolia trees, or the War Between the States, and everyone remembers the river, but only a few know the “Trace”. Established in 1938 and maintained by the National Park Service, the Natchez Trace Parkway commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez, Mississippi.  Originally a trail that followed the pre-historical migratory path (or “traces”) of the bison, it was used as an important trade route for centuries by the early Native Americans and later became the main path for European exploration into the south central region of North America. Less used after river traffic and railroads replaced its purpose, it remained a seldom used route until the Civilian Conservation Corps began building the park in the 1930s.

Today, the Natchez Trace is a 444 mile two lane road, which is void of commercial vehicles and welcomes those that wish to experience a relaxing, steady, and uninterrupted drive through the history of the region.  The park encompasses more than 51,740 acres of protected lands and in many areas parallels the original Trace and includes 65 miles of hiking trails that take you along the original route, to early Native American archaeology sites, and beautiful natural landmarks.  Traffic along the Natchez Trace is generally light, especially on weekdays, and has become a popular route for many cyclists. 

Traveling the Natchez Trace is a relaxing experience and a unique park that is not to miss. Below I have outlined a few highlights of things to see along the way.  My first experience with this beautiful parkways was from the book “Blue Highways: A Journey into America” by William Least Heat-Moon, and I leave you with his description of Natchez Trace:

“Now new road, opening the woods again, went in among redbuds and white blossoms of dogwood, curving about under a cool evergreen cover. For miles, no power lines or billboards. Just tree, rock, water, bush, and road.  The new Trace, like a river, followed natural contours and gave focus to the land, it so brought out the beauty that every road commissioner in the nation should drive the trace to see that highway does not have to outrage landscape.” – William Least Heat-Moon

Natchez Trace Parkway in early fall.  All photo are from the Public Domain NPS site: https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=B6BFCEF9-1DD8-B71C-07734C8CDA457AB2

Some highlights along the Natchez Trace include:

Emerald Mound Site (Milepost 10.3): An eight acre archaeological site with the second-largest Mississippian Period ceremonial mound in North America and one of the seven mound groups found along the Natchez Trace Parkway. There is an established trail that allows visitors to climb the mound and information signs describing how the mound was built and how it may have been used.

The ghost town of Rocky Springs.  One of the original European settlements along the route, Rocky Springs was settled in the late 1700s, but began to decline after the Civil War and was abandoned by 1930.  Today, the only surviving building is the Methodist church (established in 1837) along with the graveyard, although many remnants of the town can still be seen along the interpretive National Park Service trail. 

Cypress Swamp (Milepost 122.0): One of my favorite stopping points along the Natchez Trace, the Cypress Swamp trail and boardwalk, gives visitors a chance to walk among the tupelos and cypress trees of a Mississippi swamp.  The full trail system takes about 30 minutes but is an easy hike and a nice place to stretch. 

Cypress Swamp, Natchez Trace Parkway, milepost 122

Bynum Mounds (Milepost 232.4): A 15 acre archaeological site along the Houlka Creek with a complex of six burial mounds from the Middle Woodland period built between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D. (LINK: 

Pharr Mounds (Milepost 286.7): A Middle Woodland period archaeological site with eight burial mounds built between 1 and 200 A.D. 

Rock Spring Nature Trail (Milepost 330.2):  A nature trail that runs along a series of wetlands across Colbert Creek past Rock Spring and through a woodland setting.  The trail takes about 20 minutes to complete at an easy pace and is a favorite for birding enthusiasts 

Jackson Falls and Baker Bluff Overlook (Milepost 385.9): From the Jackson Falls overlook there is a 900 foot long paved walkway (steep) that takes you to the base of the beautiful Jackson Falls.  Also at this stop there is a 1/3 miles (gentle) trail that takes you to the Baker Bluff Overlook above the Duck River.

Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (Milepost 401.4): One of two places within the park where you can drive on the actual Old Trace road.  As part of the more recent history of the area, a restored Tobacco Farm provides information of the growing and drying of tobacco.