Monday, May 27, 2013


 June is National Dairy Month, so it seems like the perfect time to tell about a "road side attraction" I accidentally stumbled onto a while back, when making a road trip to Grapevine, Texas.  This gigantic jersey dairy cow makes its home in the town of Sulphur Springs, Texas ( ).  This town of about 16,000 residents is located on Interstate 30, halfway between Dallas and Texarkana.
 Beside the jersey cow stands an equally over sized Holstein dairy cow.  These two bovines let you know you have reached the location of the Southwest Dairy Center and Museum.  The facility is designed to look like a huge dairy barn, with a tall silo functioning as a conference room.
 It is not just my background as a Registered Dietitian that would make me aware that June is National Dairy Month.  It goes back to 1965, when a pretty young home economics instructor (Wilma Blevins) from my home county of Boone County, Arkansas, beat out hundreds of other competitors, to be named the American Dairy Princess.  This created lots of publicity in the small town where I lived, and was perhaps a factor to cause me  to still associate June with dairy, to this very day!  Likewise, in my career as a Registered Dietitian, the National Dairy Council, was always a major educational resource for providing colorful handouts to teach about good nutrition.  At the time of my visit to the dairy museum, the USDA's official teaching tool was the Food Pyramid, and the museum displayed a large graphic of the pyramid in their exhibit area .  (Currently, the USDA is using a different graphic to teach good nutrition, which can be accessed at  )
 One of the missions of the Southwest Dairy Center is to teach good nutrition.  I thought this skeleton on a bicycle was a fantastic visual aid to teach about the importance of calcium intake to assure healthy bone development. 
 Another mission of the Southwest Dairy Center is to teach current generations about the development of the dairy industry during the pioneer days of our country.  Displays of vintage dairy processing equipment, such as this cream separator and accompanying milk tins, are examples of milk processing in days gone by.
 Likewise, these cheese presses provide visual aids to explain how the liquid is pressed out of curds and whey, to make various types of cheeses.
 I was intrigued by this collection of antique milk bottles, because they were similar to what I had seen in my own home, when I was a child.
 Likewise, I remembered going to restaurants when I was a child where the tiny  clear bottles and tiny white pitchers were used as individual cream servers in cafes, when a customer ordered coffee.
 The Southwest Dairy Center has an old-fashioned soda fountain where customers can order ice cream and light snacks.  This inviting space is appropriately named "The Creamery". 
 There is a gift shop on site selling milk-related souvenirs.  These items and more, can also be ordered from their website .  This website will also give you the contact information, operating hours, and calendar of events for the Center and Museum. ( There is no fee to visit the museum. )  The term "southwest" in their name reflects the fact that it is an association made up of dairy farmers from Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. 
 The Dairy Center hosts student groups, which probably enjoy stamping their notebooks with these dairy-themed rubber stamps, as a memento of their tour.
 Other groups, besides students, can arrange to visit the facility and use their spacious meeting room.  It is interesting that the stage has a full-size cut-out of a football player, as an incentive to get kids to choose milk over soda as a beverage.  Their campaign must be working, at least locally, since Sulphur Springs has had several of its "kids" go on to play college and professional athletics!
 One of the exhibits shows how electric milking machines are used in current dairy operations.  If one makes arrangements in advance, tour groups can participate in milking demonstrations, as well as, ice cream and cheese-making demonstrations.
 After touring the dairy museum, I have a greater appreciation for the #9 metal milk tin that sits at my back door.  My grandparents used the tin  at their farm at Locust, in Marion County, Arkansas.  They would milk their cows, pour the milk into the tin, and then set the tin in the "spring house" down by the dirt road, where it would be picked up by the milk processor.  The next day, the emptied and washed #9 tin would be returned to their spring house, and the whole process would start over again.  Likewise, the metal cow bell hanging from the milk tin, was used to tell the location of their reliable old milk cow, when she would be away from the barn. 
 I also have the churn my grandmother used to make her famous "cow butter".  One of the benefits of making the trip to my grandparents' house on Sundays after church, was getting to take home a mound of her hand-made butter with us, when we left!  It was delicious!  Now the churn is just a depository for empty shell casings!
 I include these photos of some of my vintage glass milk jugs, which I now use for vases.  The current generation would not have a clue to what the original purpose of these jars were, so maybe this photo will be educational!  Milk has not always come in cardboard cartons!
 This Hiland Dairy glass jug represents one of the few dairies from long ago ( ) that is still in operation.  They started over 75 years ago, as a processor for dairy farmers in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska.  
 This is a vintage gallon-size glass milk jug.  Our family did not usually have this size, because they did not fit well in our tiny little refrigerator.
 Folks today are familiar with the practice of placing the photo of missing children on milk cartons.  This photo collage of the front and back  of a vintage glass milk quart container, shows that even back decades ago, there was an association between children and milk.  In fact, the association goes back even further:  For example, 1 Peter 2:2 states "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."  My Bible has a notation with this verse that says the unrestrained hunger of a healthy baby provides an example of the kind of eager desire for spiritual food that ought to mark the believer.  If all this talk about milk and dairy products has whetted your appetite, visit  to see some great recipes, learn the benefits of dairy products, and find out about June Dairy Month activities in your area.  Drinking a delicious, tall glass of milk will give you that famous milk marketing tool, called the "Milk Moustache", to go along with your "Miles of Smiles"!  Tricia
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013


 As dawn approached the secluded location of the 2013 Spring Overnight Kayaking group's campsite in a remote area of Lake Ouachita, I awoke to the realization that I had made it through the night without having to leave my tent to "use the facilities"!!  YEA!!  The plan of restricting my fluids after supper had worked!  One by one, folks yawned out of their tents, closely followed by a trip to the "little blue room" down at the pontoon boat.  Elsewhere, the sounds of  portable campfire stoves and coffee pots being prepared could be heard.  The portable stoves  were used to quickly heat water for the Folgers Coffee Singles and instant oatmeal packets (upper left photo)that were available, as well as a variety of fresh fruits and orange juice.  After the caffeine in the coffee kicked in, efforts were made to rebuild the campfire, for the purpose of cooking a hot breakfast.  Ouachita State Park staff member, Nicole, is shown in upper right photo of collage browning the sausage, in preparation for adding the eggs, to make a sausage egg scramble, to be placed on the tortillas she had heated on the fire.  This was topped with shredded cheese and salsa to create a delicious breakfast that would sustain us for the remainder of the trip.  Seeing Nicole cook breakfast on a fire, beside the lake, reminded me of the story from John 21:1-14, where Jesus cooked a "shore breakfast" for his followers, after they had been out on the lake all night fishing.  Nicole's "followers" had not been out all night fishing, but many of us DID get limited sleep the night before due to the extremely close (and loud) serenading of a whippoorwill symphony in the trees above our campsite!
 The area where we camped was like a  "micro ecosystem", based on the plants we saw there.  There was Spanish moss hanging from most of the cedar trees, and a bright green fern was flourishing on a big limb high up inside the canopy of an oak tree (upper right photo).  And did I mention, the prickly pear cactus were plentiful??  One had to be very careful where they set up their tent and placed their feet.
 Day 2 was the designated day for the group photo, and since the state park interpreter, Susan Adkins, has been a part of so many photo shoots,  ( I recognized her in many photographs on the state park website, so I concluded she is very photogenic, and must be the "go to" model for outdoor activities!), she suggested carrying up the kayak of our youngest member, to our fire ring, and then the rest of us would gather behind it.  Both her husband and her brother-in-law were in charge of snapping the photos using the many cameras they were handed, for this memorable "Kodak Moment"! 
 After the group photo, we had a brief meeting, so Susan could explain the plan for the rest of the day.  Instead of simply "back tracking" over the same shoreline we had paddled the previous day, Susan had arranged it so that we would continue paddling for several more hours further up the lake, and see some new and different scenery.  With the help of the park superintendent, and another employee, we now had TWO big boats shadowing us as we paddled ever farther away from the marina.  Susan and the boat drivers could communicate via "walkie-talkies" (cell phone coverage is unreliable there), so that, at a designated spot, the bigger boat could be loaded to haul the kayaks back to the marina, and the "more luxurious" pontoon boat, would haul the people back to the marina.  It was a well-thought-out logistical plan that they pulled off flawlessly!
 Susan is shown in this photo, leading our group through a "ghost forest" near the shore line.  She explained that when Lake Ouachita was formed, not all the trees were cut down.  This makes it a challenging lake for the owner of propeller boats, but a bonanza for sellers of propellers!
 The great thing about being in a kayak is that one can get close to the shore and see the flora, fauna, and geological formations much easier.  Seeing the way the sun made this water sparkle reminded me of how I read that the name "Washita" means "sparkling silver water".
 This guy is Lydell, and he has been a helper on all three of the kayak/camping weekends that I have participated in.  He was the one who helped me search for (what seemed like hours)  a missing link to my tent support system, on the last trip I went on.  The missing piece had somehow grown legs and walked several feet away from where I emptied out my tent components, and was invisible in the heavy grass.  This time, I marked all my stakes and poles with hot pink duct tape, so as not to repeat that fiasco!
 There was a mother/daughter couple on our trip, and I thought it was cool how this mom had made a place in her kayak to hold a bouquet of flowers, that her daughter had picked for her!
 This photo shows the hand-operated bilge pump that Susan let me borrow on Sunday morning.  It seems that when the group when out on the night kayak, one of the guys had used this kayak, and accidentally turned it over.  Since it was so dark when they got back, all of the water did not get emptied out of it, and after a very short time of paddling, I found myself sitting in about two inches of water!  However, I would rather have water in my kayak than spiders, which is what some of the other paddlers were greeted with, when they entered their kayaks first thing in the morning!
 When trying to get up close to take a photo of this beaver dam, my kayak accidentally bumped it.  Apparently that irritated a snake that was sunning himself there, and the big snake's movement (upon being startled), startled another nearby kayaker who saw it, and made her let out an "OH MY GOODNESS"!
 This is yet another of the unusual geological formations along the shore of Lake Ouachita that we paddled by.  It reminded me of a beautifully crafted retaining wall, laid by skilled stone masons.
 Many of us were intrigued by this vein of purple stone that was sandwiched between the sandstone layers of yet another beckoning shoreline.
 Our group paddled until around noon, then got out of our kayaks and loaded them onto the larger of the two pontoon boats.  As this photo shows, we made use of every single inch of space, including the roof!
 The people boarded the state park's cruise boat, and with Susan as the captain, started our boat ride back to the marina.  We had paddled about 12 - 13 miles up the late from where we started!
 On the trip back, Susan took us by the formation that they call "The Checkerboard" because of the way the rock squares have formed a "checkerboard" on one of the shorelines. 
 Another island Susan pointed out is what is nicknamed "Hotel Island" because of the way that erosion has made little "hotel rooms" all along the shoreline. 
 This is a another view of  "Hotel Island", when we rounded the tip of it, as our boat continued to circle it.  It was an added bonus that Susan took us on this "Island Hopper Scenic Cruise" to show us parts of the lake we had not explored via kayak!
 As mentioned in the Day 1 article of this series, recreation was one of the purposes of creating Lake Ouachita.  That  water recreation takes many forms, including sailing, houseboating, swimming, scuba diving, and water skiing.  The boat shown  in the lower left corner of this collage is designed to be a ski boat, but that is actually a large metal backyard barbecue grill that the guy is holding onto the boat with a rope!  It gives new meaning to the menu phrase "pulled pork" and the land-based practice of a "tailgate party"!
 It is helpful to know that locations on Lake Ouachita are numbered, depending on their distance from the dam.  It is also helpful to know that signs in the shape of a diamond (upper right corner) mean that location is an island.  Signs in the shape of a square mean that a particular location is not an island.  Speaking of islands, Susan told us about "Bird Island" (lower right photo).  It is America's largest known purple martin roost, with estimates of 8,000 - 50,000 birds using the area between late July and early August.  This is a staging area for the  martins, as they feed on insects and develop fat stores before migrating to South America.  In addition to purple martins, the island is used by herons, ibis, egrets, crows, eagles, osprey, loons, coots, and cormorants.  While we were kayaking, an eagle was spotted near a large eagle nest located in a pine tree near the edge of the lake.  Photo on the left of the collage gives you an indication of the vast size of the eagles' nest.
I want to send out KUDOS to all the staff of Lake Ouachita State Park for the skill with which they handled the complicated logistics and paperwork details of sponsoring a multi-day event such as this one.   They did an amazing job!!  I hope that my sharing of these photos and descriptions of a great weekend at Lake Ouachita State Park will inspire you to get outside and visit the FANTASTIC state parks we have in Arkansas!  Visit and sign up for their free e-newsletters, that will alert you to the myriad of activities available for you to do.  You will be glad you did, and I know your visit to an Arkansas State Park will give you "Miles of Smiles"!!  Tricia
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013


 Back on October 26, 2008, I put a photo of the group I kayaked with at Lake Ouachita on my blog, and said I would tell more about the trip in a future blog.  Well, it has been five years since I made that statement, and since I just experienced a "new and updated" version of the famous Lake Ouachita Kayak/Camping event, I am following through with my promise. ( FYI,  for this photo, I did a digital "double exposure" of the sunset we saw, along with the back of the tee shirt I wore both days of the trip.)  To help the non-locals know how to pronounce the word "Ouachita", it would probably help to learn that it was named after the Washita Indian Tribe.  Washita is an Indian word that means "good hunting grounds" and "sparkling silver water". 
 Our group gathered at 8 am on May 19, 2013, at the marina of Lake Ouachita State  Park near Hot Springs, Arkansas (  ).  There were about twenty folks in our "Kayak Karavan", with a sizable contingent from the metropolitan Dallas, Texas area, and the remainder being Arkansas residents.  There was a variety of ages, from pre-teen to senior citizens. 
 This sturdy-looking pontoon boat would be our "shadow" throughout the trip, to pick up anyone who got too tired to continue kayaking, and to carry the ever-popular "little blue room" for potty breaks.  Our leader told us that "back in the olden days", this pontoon boat had worked as a ferry on the lake to transport RV's to one of the 200 islands scattered throughout the 40,000 acres of water that makes up Lake Ouachita. 
 As the twenty participants lined up their camping gear to load onto the pontoon boat, you might say we were recreating the way the clay dirt was "lined up" to form the earthen dam (called Blakely Mountain Dam) that closed off the Ouachita River to create Lake Ouachita, starting in 1948.  Blakely Mountain Dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the purpose of hydroelectric power, recreation, water supply, and wildlife conservation.  It is the largest lake completely in Arkansas. ( Bull Shoals Lake covers more acreage, but encompasses parts of both Missouri and Arkansas )
 Some people brought their own kayaks, as shown in this photo, and thus carried their own kayaks from their vehicles to the lakeshore.
 Other folks, me included, rented their kayak, paddle, and lifejacket from the park, and thus let the park personnel do the toting.
 I was eager to get my kayak into the water while there were still people on shore to give me a "shove", once I settled into the kayak's comfortable seat, with the front of the kayak still resting on the shore.  Getting into the kayak from the water is a skill I have not mastered, even though I have seen demonstrations on how it is done. 
 The first feature our tour guide pointed out was these downed trees just across from the marina.  They were the first of many fallen trees we would see on the trip that were the  result of a tornado that hit the area about two years ago.  They were a reminder to say a prayer of thanks that our group was having good weather on the weekend of our excursion around the lake. ( That tornado two years ago was so bad that the park had to be closed to the public for an entire month, so that the park roads/campgrounds/picnic areas/etc., could be cleared of fallen debris, and electrical service could be restored.  There were so many electrical power lines and power line poles blown over during the storm, that the area was without electricity for an extensive period of time.)
 You have probably seen photos of swimming pools designed with an "Infinity Edge", and that is what this scene reminded me of as our group paddled down the lake into a light fog that enshrouded the area when we first started.  Seeing this group of people enjoying God's great outdoors, made my thankful I have been able to participate in the Arkansas Master Naturalist program ( ), which has as one of its mission statements, promoting activities that will give citizens a greater appreciation of the natural world. 
 A unique feature of Lake Ouachita is the Geofloat Trail.  This is a marked trail which can be followed with a brochure which details prominent geological features along the route.  For example, it is said that Lake Ouachita has one of the largest crystal veins in the world, and I was astonished by the numerous quartz crystal rocks that sparkled in the sunlight along the shoreline.  The Geofloat Trail covers 16 miles, with 12 exploration areas.  It was the first water-based interpretive trail included in the National Trails System, and was a project of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Arkansas Geological Commission, and U.S. Geological Survey.  One of the interesting features of the rock formations at Location D was the way the rock folded to make formations that looked liked old-fashioned wooden bobsleds (lower right photo). 
 Although some people took their digital cameras on the kayaks with them, I used an "old-fashioned" 35mm disposable camera while I was in my kayak.  It was easy to "toss" to a fellow kayaker to take this photo of me, so I could demonstrate that I followed our pre-trip instructions of wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, paddling gloves, sunscreen, and life vest.  I especially liked the life vest that the park provided for me, because it had pockets on the front where I could stash a snack!  My name badge holder from participating in a Becoming an Outdoor Woman program (  ) was a handy carrier for my inexpensive, disposable camera.
 This photo shows a "man-made" geological formation that our guide told us about.  The peace symbol, visible in the center of the photo, is made of dozens of quartz rocks.  The story goes that even if the peace symbol outline gets disturbed by hikers or boaters, the next morning, it has been miraculously reformed into the familiar peace symbol.  I guess this is the Ouachita version of the mysterious crop circles tales!
 The supply boat not only carried items for a mid-morning snack, but this photo shows that it also had all the components necessary for a delicious buffet lunch of assorted cold cuts, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, breads, pickles, peanut butter/jelly,  chips, cookies, condiments, and beverages.  A picnic on the water makes everything taste especially delicious!
 Our leader for this event was Lake Ouachita State Park Interpreter, Susan Adkins.  She was assisted by her husband, shown next to her.  She said the date for the next one will be the weekend of October 5, and interested persons can contact her to find out the details of that trip, by emailing    or phoning  501-767-9366.
 There were about as many different tent types as there were people, as this collage shows.  One of the kayakers spoke of the poetry of Ancient mathematician Omar Khayyam, while we were chatting, so when I got home, I looked up some of his work, and one of the lines of a poem he wrote says "The shears of Fate have cut the ten ropes of his life....", which seems to be a fitting description of the tent shown in the lower right corner of this collage!
 I like this photo taken late in the evening, because of the way the colorful kayaks are reflected in the ripples of the water.  The shores of Lake Ouachita all lie within the boundaries of the Ouachita National Forest ( ), and hence one does not see residences built along the shoreline.  The fact that it is national forest also means that there is ample space to find a secluded cove at numerous locations, along the 690 miles of shoreline, and set up your campsite "away from the maddening crowd", if you so desire .
 Our group was treated to a sunset cruise on the big boat, and we were not disappointed, as it was a beautiful sky, making a watercolor masterpiece in its reflection on the lake.   The first year I took this trip at Lake Ouachita, Chuck Dovish, of AETN ( ) accompanied our group and created a segment for his "Exploring Arkansas" program, that continues to air on public television.  The film includes an interview with me, asking why I was participating.  Although I am unrecognizable with my gigantic sunglasses, and wide-brimmed blue hat, a few people have asked me about it after seeing it, because  they recognized my voice, with its   distinct "Southern drawl".
 Our group was treated to a delicious barbecue meal of pulled pork , brisket, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, rolls, tea, and banana pudding.  The food was  piping hot, as it was delivered by the park superintendent at 6 pm, using insulated carriers to keep the food at the proper temperature.
 Anyone that wanted to, could go on a night-time kayak paddle , if they so desired.  This kayaker is wearing her head lamp at the beginning, but she said she turned it off after she got out on the water because it was drawing too many bugs!  Susan also passed out the green "glow sticks" for the paddlers to attach to their life vests.  Some of the night kayakers put their flashlights down inside their boats, which made them give off an eerie glow as they glided across the water in the nearby cove.  It reminded me of seeing the phosphorescent algae that covers some parts of the ocean bays around Puerto Rico!
 An enjoyable aspect of camping out, is sitting around the campfire after dark and engaging in stimulating conversation.  During the "kayak klatter"  earlier in the day, I learned that one of the couples from the Dallas area, a physician and his wife, shared my interest in promoting "heart healthy" living.  Maybe it was this heart-shaped prickly pear at our campsite that got us to talking about a plant-based, heart-healthy diet, as extolled in the popular documentary "Forks over Knives" ( ).  They indicated they were seeing good results in their patients that were using this program.  Like the program that I participate in, called First Place 4 Health ( ), there is an emphasis on achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight through a combination of diet and exercise.  We were pleased that Susan had planned our meals and snacks for the weekend, with an awareness that everyone benefits when there are HEART-healthy food choices available.  There is immense wisdom in the Proverbs 4:23 verse that says "Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life."  The Lake Ouachita State Park Kayaking/Camping weekend is an experience I highly recommend because it will get you outside, doing enjoyable activities, in a beautiful setting, with fascinating people!  It will bring you HEART-healthy " MILES OF SMILES!!!  Tricia
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