Saturday, October 27, 2012

Taking a countryside break with the best harvest hosts

October 23-26, Newton, Illinois

The Big EZ rolled into the driveway of our friends’ rural farm in Newton, Illinois, right on schedule at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Our motorhome site with full hook-ups was all ready for us with rubber mats marking the space and wooden blocks set aside to put under the jacks. Mike greeted us as I opened the door by handing me a glass of Seagram’s Crown dark honey blended whiskey on the rocks. The party was about to begin. In spite of the on and off again rain showers, we had a picnic around campfire ring with protection from the weather nearby in one of their three barns. Let the fun begin. Our dogs excitedly ran around sniffing the place that held fond memories for them from our visit here last April (mostly they remember the bones they scored here). To add to the festive atmosphere, BJ and Mike’s three grandchildren who live nearby were here for dinner around the campfire. Before long, the children’s father, Kent, joined the group, and another truck pulled up with our friends Steve and Diane. The next thing I knew the whole table was full of snacks, salads, several bottles of wine, and all the condiments for hot dogs roasted on the fire. A party was a-happening. A short while later, another couple pulled up and we had the pleasure of meeting Mike’s brother Bob, the vet, and his wife Carol. More wine and more snacks showed up; the occasional rainfall did not dampen anyone’s spirits for enjoying this seemingly spontaneous gathering. The piece de resistance came when BJ brought out her freshly baked apple pie with ice cream for dessert. Welcome to life on the Shafer farm and--check out the giant log with the flame coming through the middle.

We ended the evening with a good soak in their awesome spa. Boy did we sleep well that night. We melted into our pillows only to awake with the soft ding of a text message that said: “Fried or scrambled?” You gotta love this kind of hospitality.

After a hearty country breakfast and lots of storytelling around the table, we headed off on separate errands for awhile. With many chores to do with the fall harvest and lots of leaves to rake, we had good intentions to pitch in but somehow most of the day slipped away. We made plans to visit Steve and Diane at a Mill Creek County Park in their Monaco motorhome that night about an hour away, so BJ and I went to the local IGA to purchase ingredients for our meal: her amazing homemade beef vegetable soup and my chili. A soup buffet rounded out by cheese and crackers sounded perfect.  Vic and I did manage to help with a little raking, but Mike made it easy by just having us pile the leaves in the yard where he could run them through the mulching blade of his riding mower.  By 5 p.m. we were off to the county park for another evening around a campfire. It still seems pretty amazing to us that we have made such good friends from a chance encounter when we parked next to these folks just one night in a campground. Speaks to the need to stay open to possibilities, especially when they are least expected.

We thought we would just stay two nights in Newton, long enough to catch our breath after our push to get east of the Mississippi, but there’s something about being around Mike and BJ that makes one wonder, “What’s the hurry?” Our decision to stay was certainly rewarding as I had a little mishap with a drawer getting caught in the driver’s side slide on our way across country and Mike used his woodworking skills and shop full of every imaginable tool to erase the incident from my mind forever.  (Thank you so much for your painstaking efforts to make our drawer good-as-new!)

cabinet drawer
A small payback was my opportunity to help him set up and learn how to use his new Droid Razor phone. Vic thought I was a little overzealous in playing the teacher role, but I was glad to be useful. There is a saying that you learn by teaching and this was true as I realized I knew more than I thought I did considering I didn’t even know how to turn my Droid off and on when I first bought it.
Spending another day also gave us the chance to see the progress Mike has made in building a cabin on their pond. What we imagined would be a small little outbuilding has become a cozy retreat that could sleep a small family. The interior is not yet complete, but we were very impressed with the plans, especially for a big fireplace like the ones they have in Cracker Barrels with a wide open cooking hearth.

They better be careful or they are going to have overnight guests on a regular basis when word gets around about this “party” cabin. I am originally an Illinois girl who could be persuaded to spend more time here on a regular basis.  Ha-ha.

The daytime temp the first two days In Newton was in the low 80s, and coming from the Oregon desert, on the humid side. A weather system was coming in bringing high winds, rain, and much cooler temperature with highs in the 40s. BJ encouraged me to pick some fruits and vegetables for our travels before the rains came, so she and I loaded up some baskets with pears, apples, tomatoes, and hot banana peppers. Lucky us! We finished off the day by sitting around their kitchen table with a bottle of wine, some snacks, and my obsessive tutorials on how to use the Droid Razor.

Morning came too soon, but we felt a readiness to move on so we could be in Nashville for the weekend offerings of music venues. With a drive of only about five hours, it seemed like all we had to do was coast straight south to Grand Ole Opry land. We do, however, need to keep an eye on the weather with news that a mega storm, Hurricane Sandy, is hurtling toward the east coast with winds that reach over 500 miles inland.  We may choose to keep all four jacks on the ground in Nashville for awhile. Stay tuned for notes on the Nashville scene, this pre-Halloween weekend.


  1. Wow that is some campsite you've got there. I'd love THIs at s farm with food, drinks and friends. Don't move from Nashville. Sandy is HUGE1

  2. Omigosh...wish we could have made one of those fireside reunions...sounds so awesome!!!


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