Thursday, December 27, 2012

Assumption Abbey Fruitcakes

For our December issue of Rural Missouri, I did a story on the fruitcakes Assumption Abbey makes. Each year, the Trappist monks at the remote monastery outside of Ava make more than 35,000 fruitcakes a year for the holiday season.

Read more in the online edition at:

The famous Assumption Abbey fruitcakes.

Joseph Reisch puts fruitcakes into the oven at the monastery's bakery.

Brothers apply corn starch as a glaze.

Red and green cherries are added to the fruitcakes.

Pecans are added as well.

Finished fruitcakes are set to age for several months before shipped.

Father Cyprian adds glaze to fruitcakes at the bakery. The Trappist monk has lived at the monastery for several decades.

Each fruitcake is injected with rum.

Joseph mixes fruit that has been marinating in brandy wine for 10 days.

Father Cyprian wraps up a fruitcake to be aged.

The exterior of the monastery.

The church at the monastery.  

The graves of fallen brothers on the monastery grounds.

The monastery owns more than 6,000 acres in the Ozark Mountains.

Fruitcakes are prepared for shipping.

During the holiday rush, more than a thousand fruitcakes are shipped daily.

Some of the landscape at the monastery.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Laurel Falls | Great Smoky Mountains National Park

While visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park in November, our first hike was to Laurel Falls. This very scenic, cascading waterfall is a very popular hike for visitors to the picturesque national park.

We visited here late fall during the middle of the week, so the crowds were not as large as normal, which made it more enjoyable.

Gastineau Log Homes | New Bloomfield, MO

For our November issue of Rural Missouri Magazine I featured Gastineau Log Homes, which is based in New Bloomfield, Missouri.

Lynn Gastineau started the manufacturing company 35 years ago and today the company is known worldwide for their high-quality oak log homes. To date, nearly 5,000 homes have been sold to folks in all 50 states and several countries in Asia and Europe.

When a homeowner buys from Gastineau, they are shipped basically the outer shell of the house, which includes several Missouri-made products including oaks harvested from the Show-Me State, windows, shingles, doors and any other materials used for construction.

Read more about Gastineau Log Homes in our digital edition at:

Lynn Gastineau started Gastineau Log Homes 35 years with help from her father, who owned a saw mill in New Bloomfield, MO. 

Cut oak logs arrive at Gastineau and must be dried before cut for the home. Gastineau's one-of-a-kind air-forced solar kiln dries the logs in a cost-effectively and is more green.

Gastineau gets all their oak logs from Missouri loggers.

At Gastineau's manufacturing facility, Jason Buschman cuts a dovetail into the end of a log as Mike Tatlock helps.

After grooves are cut into each log, each piece is cut into specific lengths and marked to allow the home builder know where each log goes. 


The density of the oak logs make it a tough day for sawmill blades. Each day, blades must be sharpened to ensure perfect cuts. With pine logs, a mill can go a week before blades need to be sharpened.

Logs are loaded onto a trailer to be shipped to a homeowner.
New to Gastineau's business are the "log cabins to go." Inside the New Bloomfield shop, Mike Martin climbs a ladder to sand the roof of a cabin bound for Maine.

Mike Martin applies a sealant on oak logs inside a log cabin to go. Each cabin is customized for the homeowner and can be installed with sinks, electrical appliances, fireplaces and lofts. Once on site, the cabin just needs to be hooked up to water, electric and heat.

This Gastineau log home near Fulton was built in 2003.

A stone fireplace and beamed cathedral ceilings highlight the interior of this Gastineau log home. The company offers several floor plans and is open to any custom plans.

A hallmark of a Gastineau home is the precise engineering that has gone into every home. Over the years the company has perfected the construction process and the look a perfectly dovetailed log home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Crane Lake Trail

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I finally took the time to hike down into the shut-ins below Crane Lake damn. Its only a mile and some change hike to the shut-ins but totally worth it.

Take the time to hike around the shut-ins and scout the cedar glades above the creek. The geology is great here and makes you feel like you are in Colorado or out west.

The trail that runs from the parking lot to the shut-ins is along the Marble Creek Section of the Ozark Trail. Visit their site for more information: To get to Crane Lake, take Highway E west of Fredericktown and Highway 67. Continue on E for about 18 miles and then take a left onto County Road 124 and then a left onto Crane Pond Road. There are signs directing to you from off of Highway E.

Not too many make it down here, so the next time you are here, make it a point to visit a rarely visited gem in the St. Francis Mountains.

Because I was visiting during midday, I decided to try out my new infrared filter. Most of these exposures were 3 to 5 minutes long.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Granny's Country Cottage

In September, I had the pleasure to stay the night at Granny's Country Cottage in northern Missouri. Owners Jack and Donna Thieme's first adventure into the bed-and-breakfast world by opening Donna's childhood farm home.

In July, they finished converting their 4,000-bushel grain bin into a two-story bed-and-breakfast. The 700-square foot home is fully finished and furnished with a kitchen, sitting area and dining area on the main floor. Follow a curvy set of stairs up to the second floor to find a queen-sized bed and full bathroom.

Both homes are decorated in the rural, country theme and a great chance to get away from the hustle and bustle to relax.

Jack and Donna Thieme make each guest's stay memorable by providing a comforting atmosphere and great meals from homemade ingredients.

Read more in the online edition at:

To book a night's stay, visit:


The grain bin or "Round House" is located on a small farm property in Linn County. A nearby farm pond and picturesque scenery provide for a peaceful weekend.

Jack and Donna Thieme opened the Round House in July. It took a team of workers including several of Jack and Donna's grandkids, 5 months to convert the grain bin to a place to stray.

The first floor features a living room setting with a pull-out couch.

The other side of the first floor features a dining area and kitchen. 

A homemade meal by Jack and Donna that included pot roast, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffed peppers and homemade rolls.

Follow the winding stairs up to the second floor to find a queen-sized bed with a bent-willow headboard made by Jack and Donna's son, Lin.

The Round House at night with a peaceful, country sky.