Take the Farm Road this Fall

I grew up in rural Eastern North Carolina— grandchild of country folk— driving along farm roads was a way of life.

The first nine years of my life were spent in a tick bite-sized farming community where my brother, our friends, and I roamed dirt aisles along tobacco fields— and lurked along the woods’ edge where old tractors and appliances went to die, rust among changing fall leaves.

It is no wonder I yearn for country roads… truly a therapeutic outing for me which provides a safe escape from city life and sets my busy mind at ease.

I need to see rich, fertile soil overturned by plows and the people who tend God’s good Earth.

Souls who care deeply for their own— so much so generation after generation live side by side and support one another through their faith, loyalty, and simplicity of country living.

Folks who still sit together at their dining tables on Sunday’s after church for home cooked lunches, eat fresh grown vegetables from their very own gardens, and pray over their full plates for grace— another year, their loved ones, a full crop.

One of my favorite roads in Fayetteville, NC is Gillis Hill Farm Road which is named for the Gillis Family’s Farm which has been in existence for over a century or more.

I’ve previously written I practically raised my son during his toddler years on the grounds of Gillis Hill Farm because there are delicious sweets and homemade ice cream, an outdoor produce market, and serene farm land perfect for a child to roam while their parents refresh their mindset from the hustle and bustle.

This time of year the farm becomes even more magical as the pumpkins 🎃 line up and the hot North Carolina air begins to cool.

Plenty of friendly folks are around the farm to chat with about quaint country life. Not to mention, covered wagon rides which bring a smile to any child’s face— no matter your age.

I stopped into the market recently and picked up a pretty yellow mum as well as winter veggie plants (Kale, Swiss Chard, Cabbage) for my garden.

A gregarious member of the Gillis clan gave me an education on the Paw Paw tree and its fruit which ripens this season.

https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/2017/09/native-pawpaw-tree/

Photo courtesy of NC Cooperative Extension

“When it hits the ground, it’s ready,” he said and gave me a slice to try, it’s juices sweet as mango.

I’d grown up with Paw Paws all about the woods of my stomping grounds, but had never eaten it’s fruit. He said a brewery out of Durham, NC is brewing craft beer with Paw Paw fruit.

https://www.fullsteam.ag/beer/style/wild-paw-paw-ale

Our chat was an added bonus on my country road drive today as I love talking all things North Carolina— history, people, places, botany, agriculture, beer, whatever— I’m willing and eager to listen.

Truly, I could have sat there and talked to him all day. He had a good southern brogue too which made it all the better.

Made me feel at home— yet all the more wiser— full of pride and wonder.

If you keep winding further down Gillis Hill Farm Road, you cross the County line and find yourself in the middle of the Rockfish community off Lindsay Road in Raeford, NC.

There’s Rockfish Flea Market that boasts an arcade— even a food truck or two. As well as market vendors selling all types of things.

https://m.facebook.com/RockfishFleaMarket/

The flea market is adjacent to Rockfish Speedway which hosts events for the Motorsports lover in your life.

The old fire truck with a classic race car on top is a nice touch as well as a great photo-op.

https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Race-Track/Rockfish-Speedway-160330377671161/

I keep meaning to contact the kind folks at the speedway to inquire about setting up a booth one weekend for a speedway event to sell my children’s travel and adventure picture book, Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck.

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

I believe it would be a “right nice” fit. Don’t you?

My next Lindsay Road suggestion is a little gem (just a hop and a skip down from the speedway) called Re-Imagined which is the most precious repurposed furniture, home decor and gift store.

https://m.facebook.com/reimaginedlindsayhouse/

Last November, I signed up for my very first craft fair which was hosted at Re-Imagined and I have since become a vendor selling my handcrafted art as well as refinished/repurposed vintage and antique furniture.

https://m.facebook.com/nautigulcustomwoodartandgifts/

Let me tell you, I fell in love with this adorable shop housed in an old, restored country cottage which features repurposed vintage and antique furniture— as well as shabby chic, farmhouse-style, handmade decor and gifts.

It’s the bees knees. You must go check out the beautiful goods and support all of the local artisans!

You will fall in love too!

After all this wonderful Fall shopping your last stop on the country road should most definitely be The Mill at Puppy Creek to grab a delicious bite to eat while enjoying tranquil country views.

https://www.facebook.com/themillatpuppycreek/

The Mill at Puppy Creek has great food, local brews and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

The restaurant is also child-friendly for those with kiddos in tow.

But also makes for an awesome adult date spot.

I hope you heed my suggestions and find your way wandering the farm road this weekend!

Tell them all I sent you!

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Alison Paul Klakowicz is an Eastern North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

A Day at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom, Farmers Market

“North Carolina’s I-95 Brewery” 

“We have all come to the realization that we are Dirtbags; not that we are bad people, but that real innovators and pioneers don’t follow a rule book, and doing what’s right often requires not conforming to conventional wisdom.” -Tito, Eric, & Jerry, Dirtbag Ales Brewery & Taproom

http://www.dirtbagales.com/

#sponsored

Hope Mills, North Carolina-

Do you love craft beer? Farm-to-table cuisine? Farmers Markets? Yoga? Great music? A chill vibe? Kid-friendly open, outdoor spaces where your children can roam? Supporting local businesses and farmers?

If you answered yes to any of the above, Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom is for you!

This past Sunday, I was invited by Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau along with other local, and North Carolina based bloggers, to spend the day at Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom to check out all of the establishments new improvements to their wildly successful business.

To say I was impressed is putting it lightly.

This veteran owned and operated business is top-notch— and so much more than just a brewery.

It is a community.

The love and dedication owners Vernardo Simmons-Valenzuela (“Tito”), Eric Whealton, and Jerry Hall have for their business oozes from every corner of the gorgeous, countryside property. The heavenly smell of cedar permeates the air as recycled wood is used within the interior of the brewery.

Upon arrival, we were given a tour of the brewery and an education by Hope Demetris, a military spouse, mother, and lead female brewer at Dirtbag Ales. Hope explained the love and care that goes into creating a quality brew.

Her in depth knowledge of the equipment and process was enchanting and impressive. She studied under brew master and co-owner of Dirtbag Ales, Tito, who is the visionary behind the fabulous brewed beer.

When the journey first began, Hope acknowledged they hand stirred the product, but due to high demand and a successful business they have graduated to more savvy brewery equipment to ensure a perfect pour.

There is a plethora of beer choices, from Blood Orange Kolsch to IPA, Mocha Porter to Smash— a little something for every beer connoisseur. Not to mention, Sangria, Ciders, and more.

Following the brewery tour, the bloggers were offered a yoga class to connect with their minds and bodies outdoors on the serene grounds of the compound.

Hayat Hakim— a seventeen year Army veteran turned yoga instructor and owner of the popular Hayat Yoga Shaka in Fayetteville, NC— lead us in the most tranquil yet challenging morning meditation.

The weather was perfect— and with each breath and balance pose, a welcomed breeze flowed over the crowd like a dream.

Truly, a wonderful way to begin a Sunday.

http://hayatyogadance.com/

We worked up quite a hunger and thirst from our morning exercise so it was only fitting our next stop was a beer tasting and brunch provided by the onsite farm-to-table restaurant, Napkins.

Let me brag on Napkins just a bit. Brian Graybill, the owner of Gray Bill Hospitality and lead chef of Napkins, met with our group to give us an overview of the restaurant’s mission.

Brian informed us he shops from the vendors at Dirtbag Farmers Market on Sunday morning (Cathis Farm, Purpose Driven Family Farm, Spartan Tusk and Feather Livestock, Jackson Farms Produce, to name a few), he then purchases farm fresh meats and veggies from the local farmers onsite and prepares the daily menu based on available products.

This concept of #supportlocal and #sustainability blew me away.

Not only is it a beautiful concept, but the food is AMAZING.

We were served decadent Stone-ground Shrimp and Grits with cilantro cheese curd (dare I say some of the best I’ve ever eaten), Scotch eggs cased in fresh sausage and yummy sweet potato hash browns.

My mouth waters just thinking of all the goodness that was on my plate.

Well done, Napkins.

Well done!

http://www.graybillhospitality.com/

“Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.” -Benjamin Franklin

And now, let’s talk BEER.

To accompany our delicious meal, we were offered a selection of brews on tap (commonly known as a beer flight) and/or a full pint of cider and glass of Sangria.

I chose the beer flight and sampled some deliciously crafted hops— each refreshing and delightful.

The signature kolsch was my favorite. Even the sour beer was a pleasant surprise— which I was told is brewed with a tea blend purchased locally from Winterbloom Tea in nearby downtown Fayetteville.

I love the support these folks show their fellow local businesses.

After an amazing beer tasting and brunch, we were off to shop the fabulous vendors of Dirtbag’s Sunday Farmers Market which draws in tons of locals and visitors as it is conveniently located right off of #I-95.

From education of sustainability and agriculture-commerce by Sustainable Sandhills, to bakers, candle-makers, apothecaries, farmers, artisans— there are fabulous products available for all your shopping needs and desires.

Sustainable Sandhills 👇

https://sustainablesandhills.org/

Some vendors that caught my eye and shopping senses were:

Bread & Sugar by Dali👇

https://www.facebook.com/breadandsugarbydali/

Upcycle Candle Company 👇

https://upcyclecandlecompany.com/

Cathis Farm 👇

https://cathisfarm.com/

The Humble Bakery 👇

https://www.facebook.com/thehumblebakery/

Parkerhouse Candles 👇

https://www.instagram.com/parkerhousecandleco/

Mariah’s Gourmet Relish 👇

https://www.instagram.com/mariahsrelishes/

Mustard Seed Arts & Crafts 👇

https://www.facebook.com/tmsaac/

Paradox Farm 👇

https://www.paradoxfarmcreamery.com/

Jackson Farms Produce 👇

https://jacksonfarmsproduc.wixsite.com/jacksonfarmsproduce

Spartan Tusk and Feather Livestock 👇

https://www.facebook.com/locallygrowncleanmeat/

Purpose Driven Family Farm 👇

https://www.facebook.com/pdfamilyfarm/

There are also tons of recreation activities on site for the thrill seeker in your life. Such as:

VSR (Virtual Shooting Range) https://www.vsrfay.com/

As well as Axe’s & X’s Axe Throwing Range http://www.axesandxs.com/

Overall, I give Dirtbag Ales Brewery three thumbs up 👍 👍👍!

This place seriously has it ALL and should be on your “MUST VISIT” list.

You will be supporting so many wonderful and deserving local businesses and farmers who appreciate quality customer care and creating an engaging community of fun and fellowship.

I will definitely be back soon.

– Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast

Alison Paul Klakowicz is an Eastern North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

Contentment Found at Gillis Hill Farm

Five years ago, my family found a treasure tucked away on a winding country road on the edges of Cumberland County, North Carolina not far from our home in Fayetteville.

A sacred place where we would find contentment, quiet moments of togetherness and joyful, sugar-filled hikes along green pastures and wooded trails.

Five years ago, we found Gillis Hill Farm.

At the time, I knew it would become a special place in our Sandhills journey. But, I did not realize the void it would fill in our hearts.

Overtime, it became a sanctuary where we could escape the hustle and bustle of daily routines, military family woes, and a busy city life.

And, just be a family wandering the grounds of a simple, beautiful farm.

With the purchase of {a multitude of flavors} homemade, ice cream served in a cup or waffle cone— as well as daily fresh baked goods (we highly recommend the brownies 👍😋), you can peruse the terrain of the eighth generation family owned and operated contentment farm.

Our favorite spot to savor the delectable cold, sweet treat (or other delicious goodies) is along the screened porch of the old farmhouse office and bakery— gliding on white rockers overlooking the grounds bursting with azalea and hydrangea blooms that have welcomed visitors for many years each spring.

I have introduced friends and family to “the farm” over the years— to share this magical place with loved ones in hopes it might serve them a bit of the joy my family has gained from its fertile and safe harbored grounds much like my country roots— and the porches where I rocked with my grandparents during hot North Carolina summers.

Gillis Hill opens to the public each spring and closes in late November— we are always so sad to see it close for the winter.

Alas, I begin to stalk their Facebook pages in March each year to see if there are postings of when our favorite local hideaway will welcome us back.

AND, Lo and behold… LOOK 👀 what I found on their FB page today:

WOOHOO!!!! April 1st cannot come soon enough! 😃

I am like a toddler on a sugar high!👆👆👆

I cannot wait to pack up my family and friends, and haul them out to Gillis Hill Road!

If you are new to the area or are looking for a perfect place to spend a spring day in Central NC, make this a MUST on your destination list. You won’t be disappointed (If you are, then you need to re-evaluate your priorities. 🤔 Just sayin’ 😂)!

Plus, you are supporting a local family farm!

To find out more information about Gillis Hill Farm, visit their Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/GillisHillFarm/

To contact them, look 👀 here:

And, mark April 1st on your calendar!!!

We will see you at “the farm!”

Alison Paul Klakowicz, BA, MS

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Alison Paul Klakowicz is a North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.

I Love Fall

I love Fall.

Like, I really LOVE it.

I’m not one of those pumpkin spice addicts or anything (although I enjoy a pumpkin latte from time to time).

But there is just something special about the Fall season.

Partly, coming off a North Carolina summer the first day you encounter with a high temp below 80 degrees and a night in the low 60s is like a blessing sent from above.

A reminder we can carry on without feeling boiled alive— and sweating our heads off just from walking out the front door into a cauldron of irrational summer heat and humidity— and don’t get me started about those darned mosquitoes that feed upon our Southern blood like raptors.

Yes, autumn is a time of blissful renewal.

I find myself much happier and perkier… the image of Julie Andrews playing the role of Maria in the Sound of Music spinning around and around on the hilltop comes to mind.

Finally! I can breathe!

I can walk outside without being attacked by pesky insects, my head is not wet from perspiration, and my hair is better— not a hot, humid mane of frizz.

Plus, it’s the beginning of so much fun and festivity.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Halloween?

What a spooktacular event! It makes me giddy with joy.

Carving pumpkins, hayrides, ghost stories, playing dress up with your kiddos, and embracing your inner witch.

Muuuuaaah- velous!

My late 1970s, 80s upbringing was filled with whimsy and fun. So many images of Halloween pop into my mind.

My childhood neighbor, Mrs. Layla who dressed up as the Wicked Witch of the West and stirred her black pot bubbling with liquid smoke on her front porch, was one of the first times I recall being frightfully scared— yet intrigued and wanton of more eerie fun.

Thank you, Mrs. Layla for that thrill and lasting impression.

A good reminder to us all to just put on the dang costume.

Be silly.

Play the part.

Have fun.

Be “that” person.

Do it for the children.

Who will they remember? The guy in the tee-shirt handing out candy out of Tupperware or the guy dressed up as Freddy Kruger handing them candy from a hollow skull?

You decide.

But let me digress.

Fall is the window to all kinds of fun and celebration: Octoberfest, Harvest Festivals, cool nights by the fire pit roasting marshmallows, my birthday… you get the drift.

AND, it paves the way to none other than the most wonderful time of the year… THE HOLIDAYS!

Thanksgiving!

Let us count our many blessings on God’s great Earth!

Christmas!

The birthday of JESUS! Can I get an AMEN!?

Hooray!

Did I mention the changing of leaves? How gorgeous and magical! And scientifically cool that it happens each year, at the same time in perfect coordination.

That is AMAZING.

A miracle. Truly.

Leaves of every color… red, brown, purple, gold.

A sensory overload.

For those of you who are diehard summer lovers who look at fall as the time of year that leads to all the stress the holidays bring and the start of a long, cold winter— well, you might not want to read anymore because you probably just don’t get me.

That’s okay. Not everyone does.

I’m okay with that.

But, if you DO get me and are as overjoyed as I am by the autumn season’s arrival, then let us rejoice together!

We made it! It’s here.

Hallelujah!

I also want to talk about this season’s fashion. Not the kind where the ladies start showing off their new tall riding boots with the frilly boot socks peeking out of the top.

No, no.

My kind of fashion which involves long sleeve tee-shirts and well-worn jeans during the day with perhaps a quilted vest thrown on top to make a statement or rather serve as a disguise for protruding love handles.

And the nightly fashion statement of cozy athletic pants (to be worn on the sofa while sipping hot tea), sweatshirts, and fuzzy socks.

What more could you ask for, right?

Fabulous.

Fabulous Fall, I love you.

So with that I will leave you and bid you farewell.

It’s Fall, Y’all!

Enjoy!

Alison Paul Klakowicz

Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck

https://www.amazon.com/Mommys-Big-Red-Monster-Truck/dp/1525530178

http://www.alisonpaulklakowicz.com

Alison Paul Klakowicz is an Eastern North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.