These Ozarks Hills

These Ozarks Hills


KSMU's monthly series These Ozarks Hills features stories about people and places in the Ozarks collected and presented by long-time journalist and Ozarks native Marideth Sisco.More from These Ozarks Hills »

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A New Year In The Ozarks

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. A brand new year is upon us, one which fills some with great expectations and others with just as great trepidations. Here in the Ozarks, a recipe for a host of conditions is often just as simple as a walk in the woods. And thankfully, wind and weather permitting, we have a lot of woods we can walk in. On this cold, blustery day, when I think of the woods, I am drawn to a memory of a day long ago, when I was a reporter for the West Plains Daily Quill. I was sent out every day to cover something different than before - court hearings, chamber meetings, crime scenes and all sorts of public events. Including the monthly meetings of the Audubon Society. It was there I met Mary Drummy, and not long after, visited her at her home. Down in her woods had been found the state record tulip poplar tree. I took its picture and went up to Mary's house to get the story of how that tree, not a Missouri native, had come to be there. She told me her family

A Gesture of Peace

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Well, we've come to it again, the yearly descent into the long dark, an occasion that is as much metaphor as is the reality of day length. It won't console us a bit that while we descend into winter, the southern hemisphere is just now entering spring, even though that's the reason we are able to eat strawberries in January or cherries in March. They all come from the land down under – somewhere down under, as likely to be Chile as New Zealand. I'll never forget my first foray into reading about the concept of "permaculture," of arranging your home landscape into a system where every bit of it produces food, water and/or shelter as near to all year round as possible. They assured me I could grow plants not native to my own climate by planting them on the sheltered North Side of the house. It wasn't until the second such reference that I checked the small print in the front and discovered that the book was written by and for Australians,

Where's November?

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills. I don't know if you've noticed it, but November is here, and something's just not right. There's no wood smoke in the air, for one thing. And the trees haven't had enough water to even change color before they fall. And as for the temperature, it may be in the 70s today, but just two days ago we were on the last of a string of days in the 80s. And it's November, for heaven's sake. Where do we think we are, Mississippi? This is supposed to be the Upper South. November 4th in the upper south, in case you don't know it, is supposed to be cold. Not very cold, and not every day, but we're 13 days now past the average fall frost date, and the best we've been able to do for a low is 42, not 32. Now I know it's no use calling in the law of averages here. In fact I once won a debate in high school (a long time ago) after my opponent used the law of averages one too many times and I asked him if, hypothetically of course, if a man had one foot on a

These Ozarks Hills: Signs of Fall

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. I don't know where it is you live, but out here in the rural Ozarks we've begun hearing whispers of fall this past week, as the Autumn Equinox has now passed and is receding into memory. We feel a little spark of energy in the cooler and dryer air. The leaves of the black walnut are the first to fall and are doing so, revealing the harvest that is already beginning to pepper fencerows and the tin roof on the machine shed. Those houseplants we put outdoors in the shade to enjoy the summer breezes and the soft rainfall seem to have suddenly become a little more present and watchful. Surely we mean to put aside a day soon to trim them back and scoop up the debris gathered at their bases, check for resident colonies of ants and bring them in. Surely we will. And soon, ok? And if we live out away from town and its services, and not in an all-electric home, our thoughts are also turning toward making arrangements for the winter's warmth, and we

These Ozark Hills: "'s pert near fall."

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills. If you've spent any time at all outdoors in the past couple of weeks, even as summer's heat has been the most reliable measure of where we are in the seasons, I bet you've noticed as I have that little scraps and snippets of autumn have been slipping in, testing the waters, as it were, making us stop for a second and whisper under our breaths, Ah. That' more like it. The mornings are cooler, the air sweeter, and that peculiar shift of the light is beginning to take hold, turning things just a little more golden. Slowly, a minute or two at a time, the days begin to shorten, morning comes later and dusk a little earlier. Though most days we don't notice the turning of the seasons, now is when it all becomes visible, that magical, never ending, live performance of how life goes on planet earth. Long before we knew the word chlorophyll, we could count on it that right after the heat and the harvest comes the fading of the green into reds,

These Ozarks Hills: It All Comes From The Garden

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. It's time for another episode in this long journey that starts in my head and ends on the radio, and sometimes when I'm stuck, I look over my archive of random bits for some jumping off place, a place to begin. When I go there, I am always surprised at how many things I talk about that seem to revolve around the garden, from the food it produces to the attachment to the seasons it provides and all manner of stuff. And as you probably know, I recently put out a whole book of such thoughts, and I thought I'd pretty much covered everything. But still, even when it's too darn hot to be out there, it's the first place I go in my thoughts. You'd think that with that kind of attachment I'd be growing lots of flowers and trees and objects of beauty. But actually not so much. Just the odd Echinacea and a few blackberry lilies, a dwarf buckeye in a pot. And some perennials and self-seeding annuals that just spring up whether I remember to plant them

Happiness Comes from Dirt

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. I've just come in from the garden where I finally, with help, evicted the last of the weeds where my cucumbers, beans and winter squash should already be in and growing up to my chin or beyond. One of the most aggravating things about getting old is that one is apt to run out of steam long before the things that steam was supposed to accomplish get done. So I have great green tomatoes, lovely green and red cabbages just about to head up, and robust eggplants and pepper plants gathering their steam, getting ready to make splendid things like Tabouli and Babaganouj. And Potatoes. Wonderful potatoes of a half-dozen varieties, blooming their majestic heads off. All well and good. But then came the rains, and then a deadline arrived, and then I had to, I mean I got to, go out and tell some stories. And of course, then came the heat to deal with. And while I was doing that, the weeds did what they always do. They got way out ahead of me. Then I

The Soil That Keeps us Grounded

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozark Hills. It's June in the Ozarks. I could have written about my potatoes, which look promising, or my strawberries, which are heaping abundance on my head. But then I saw a post on Facebook that put literally everything I know about life into a whole different perspective. And it's not about Politics. Somebody posted a sign that's attributed to the Farm Equipment Association of Minnesota and South Dakota. It offers this message: Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains. Well, how's that for reducing things to the essentials. But we know that message could not have originated from any farm association in the Ozarks. Anyone living in these hills would be grateful to God to have six inches of topsoil, or three, or one. Farmers here, unless they are farming a creek bottom, are as likely to be dealing with soil that's mostly just crumbs of organic matter lodged in sand and gravel and

A Fools Harvest

In this months episode of These Ozark Hills, Marideth Sisco presents centuries of April Fools pranks from across history. Included are amusing stories such as the "left handed hamburger" from Burger King, and a comedic football dropped on German troops in the First World War. Marideth also entertains with stories from her own childhood involving the most comedic of holidays.

These Ozarks Hills: March, and the Wheel of Life

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Somewhere back in the past, before there were memes, there was a widespread notion regarding weather and the seasons, asserting that if March comes in like a Lion, it will go out like a lamb. And vice versa. So what are we to do with a March that comes in insipid, neither one nor the other - just another day? Well, there was Super Tuesday, of course. But here in our hills, it wasn't our election day, we could only look out on the landscape still barren of trees, the sky that couldn't decide whether or not to be cloudy, and decide that the March winds had just come early, this was just another one of them, and if one had come to find politics by now full of a similar wind - well, I couldn't find anything resembling either lion or lamb in such a day, and so had to look elsewhere for a sign of the season. I found it in a sheltered spot just outside the front door. The lowly jonquils, whose buds are fat and ready to pop, the surprise lilies

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