Today in Mississippi May 2022 North East

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FOR MEMBERS OF NORTH EAST MISSISSIPPI ELECTRIC POWER ASSOCIATION

MARTY STUART’S

COUNTRY COLLECTION

M AY 2 0 2 2

MAKING COLLEGE

BASEBALL HISTORY

GOING TO

PINEVILLE DAY


scene around the ‘sip

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The rural charms of home The magic of rural Mississippi’s topography is something all our members know a little something about. Magnolia and pecan trees, the land’s rich and deep soil, the hills of the state’s northeast corner, pine woods, red clay, and the Mississippi River make up just a fraction of what the state’s rural regions have to offer residents who call them home. Our cover story star this month left a hustle and bustle cosmopolitan life in Tampa, Florida to regroup on five acres of rural Mississippi land near Oxford. Jake Keiser bought a farm here after deciding to leave the city, her successful marketing business, her friends, and the creature comforts of an urban existence. She traded creature comforts for creatures. About 50 creatures. Keiser’s farm “kids” include chickens, turkeys, goats, and geese. She wrote a book about her move that’s out in June — “Daffodil Hill: Uprooting My Life, Buying a Farm, and Learning to Bloom” (The Dial Press).

Some of us were planted here in Mississippi — our lifelong homes and communities that we never want to leave. Some came here for another reason — maybe work, or to be near family. While others might have landed in the state looking for something. Jake Keiser came to Mississippi looking for something, and ultimately, found it in herself. The animals, the serene woods, the friendship of neighbors, and her newfound rural community just made the journey a little easier. We hope you enjoy our May issue.

Photo by Dara Lane Davis. Clarcko State Park, south of Meridian.

Mississippi is... The first cool sharp of fall in my head, the breaking of bread and the passing of stories.

by Michael Callahan Executive Vice President/CEO Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

That endearing candor of sweet old glories and the fire of ardent youth. All found in our gentle rain from the Delta to the grain. Our Mississippi is our truth.

by Dara Lane Davis, a resident of Panama City, Florida and Meridian

What’s Mississippi to you? What do you treasure most about life in our state? Send your brief thoughts to Today in Mississippi, news@ecm.coop or mail to P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158

Photo by Jillian Page Martin

MAY 2022 | TODAY 3


in this issue

5

southern gardening The secret to successful citrus trees

6 scene around the ‘sip A look at special people and places in Mississippi

9

9

outdoors today Bluegill fishing to soothe the soul

14 local news 20 feature

Jake Keiser left her busy city life in Tampa, Florida for a farm in Mississippi. She’s written a book about her move and her journey to self-reliance.

20

26

for the love of the game Baseball coach Hill Denson is one of the good guys

28 on the menu

May is the time to play with fettuccini and blueberry cheesecake bars

28

31 mississippi seen

Walt Grayson goes to Pineville Day

The Official Publication of the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi

Vol. 75 No. 5

OFFICERS Eddie Howard - President Randy Carroll - First Vice President Ron Barnes - Second Vice President Tim Perkins - Secretary/Treasurer Michael Callahan - Executive Vice President/CEO EDITORIAL STAFF Lydia Walters - VP, Communications Steven Ward - Editor Chad Calcote - Creative Director/ Manager Kevin Wood - Graphic Designer Alan Burnitt - Graphic Designer Courtney Warren - Graphic Designer Chris Alexander - Member Services Coordinator Steve Temple - Social Media Director Mickey Jones - Administrative Assistant EDITORIAL OFFICE & ADVERTISING 601-605-8600

Acceptance of advertising by Today in Mississippi does not imply endorsement of the advertised product or services by the publisher or Mississippi’s electric power associations. Product satisfaction and delivery responsibility lie solely with the advertiser. • National advertising representative: American MainStreet Publications, 800-626-1181

Circulation of this issue: 481,017

Non-member subscription price: $9.50 per year. Today in Mississippi (ISSN 1052-2433) is published 12 times a year by Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Inc., P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300, or 665 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, MS 39157. Phone 601-605-8600. Periodical postage paid at Ridgeland, MS, and additional office. The publisher (and/or its agent) reserves the right to refuse or edit all advertising. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. (See DMM 507.1.5.2) NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: send address corrections to: Today in Mississippi, P.O. Box 3300, Ridgeland, MS 39158-3300

www.facebook.com/TodayinMississippi www.todayinmississippi.com

On the cover Jake Keiser holds one of her goats on her five-acre farm near Oxford. Photo by Chad Calcote.

And we think you’re going to love ours. So let’s work together: As electric cooperatives, we were built by the communities we serve—and by members just like you. 4 TODAY | MAY 2022


Citrus trees bloom in the spring, and this Rio Red grapefruit is bursting with flower buds.

New rootstock growth on grafted citrus is typically trifoliate, while the desirable scion has broader leaves. Remove this growth, as the rootstock produces fruit that is inedible.

I spent time outside recently enjoying my landscape and garden and trying to get caught up with early-spring pruning. I spent a couple of hours in my citrus grove marveling that I can grow such a variety of these delicious fruit trees. I’ve found that most years, there seems to be a difference in flowering among the trees. I’ve thought that maybe citrus will get into the alternate bearing pattern that is so common in the live oaks here on the Mississippi This year, it seems that every one of my citrus trees is bursting Gulf Coast. But this year, it seems with flower buds. I smelled the that every one of my sweet aroma of the opening citrus trees is bursting with flower buds. I flowers on the gentle breeze. smelled the sweet aroma of the opening flowers on the gentle breeze. My Rio Red grapefruit is loaded with flowers, and I can hardly wait to try the first grapefruit I’ve ever grown. Pruning citrus is a garden task that needs to be performed every year. These trees produce an abundance of new growth all over, up and down the trunk and along every branch. These new shoots must be removed, and most can be simply rubbed off with your thumb. This is the time of the year to look for and remove any growth popping out of the rootstock. Citruses, like many other fruit trees, are grafted. The rootstock is a hardy selection, and the scion — the citrus we want to grow — is grafted onto the rootstock. It’s easy to see the new rootstock growth, as it typically is trifoliate, while the desirable scion has broader leaves. There could also be a difference in the amount and length of thorns. If allowed to grow, the rootstock will produce fruit that is inedible.

Remove new citrus shoots that appear at the base of grafted trees in the spring. Most can be simply rubbed off with your thumb.

The other important pruning that you need to do on your citrus is to remove any dead or crossing branches. This type of pruning is common when maintaining any woody landscape plants. Each winter causes some of the branch tips to die back a bit, so go ahead and prune them back to green tissue. Remove any crossing branches to prevent damage caused by branches rubbing against each other. It also opens up the center of the tree for better sunlight penetration and air movement. While citrus is fairly easy to grow in south Mississippi, home gardeners in the northern part of the state aren’t completely out of luck. Many citrus selections are perfectly happy growing in larger containers that can be moved inside during the cold of winter. Satsuma, Meyer lemon, and kumquats have the greatest tolerance to cold. If you’re concerned about the potential size of citrus trees in containers, there are specialty growers that offer dwarf and smallerscale citrus varieties.

by Dr. Gary Bachman Gary Bachman, Ph.D., Extension/Research Professor of Horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also host of “Southern Gardening” radio and TV programs. He lives in Ocean Springs and is a Singing River Electric member.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 5


scene around the ‘sip

A COUNTRY MUSIC COLLECTION:

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF

by Steven Ward Country music luminary Marty Stuart is a storyteller. Whether he’s singing a song he wrote or interpreting another songwriter’s vision, Stuart knows how to tell a story musically. The Philadelphia, Mississippi native tells country music stories in another way as well — he collects them. For years, Stuart has collected memorabilia that tells the story of country music’s history. On May 7, an exhibition of Stuart’s country music artifacts will be open to the public at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson. “The World of Marty Stuart” will be on display through Dec. 31.

6 TODAY | MAY 2022

“The World of Marty Stuart” explores Stuart’s life and legacy and includes hundreds of items never shown before in Mississippi, including Stuart’s first guitar, original handwritten Hank Williams manuscripts, guitars from Merle Haggard and Pops Staples, costumes from Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, personal items from Johnny Cash, including his first black performance suit, among other items. During a news conference announcing the museum event, Stuart said country music became an important part of his life during the summer of 1964 in his home county of Neshoba, where three civil rights workers were murdered. “It was the first time that I really knew what the power of music could do. There was so much tension during that time and the music brought relief to that tension on Saturday afternoons when I would watch “The Porter Wagoner Show.” Music was an oak tree in my life,” Stuart said.


Stuart’s country music collection began in earnest after, in the early 1980s, he found a Patsy Cline train case on sale in a pawn shop for $75. “Then it all got out of hand,” Stuart said laughing. Stuart, who moved back to Mississippi 20 years ago, said the state is a place with a “musical legacy like no other place on Earth.” Stuart is also working on opening a country music museum in his hometown of Philadelphia. The Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of country music through live musical performance and educational programming. The tribute to the culture and rural ethics of America will be presented in a worldclass country music museum and performing arts center, according to congressofcountrymusic.org. “It’s been incredible to work on this exhibit with Marty Stuart, a true pioneer in the preservation of country music history,” said Shane Keil, Mississippi Department of Archives and History director of curatorial services. “The exhibit not only showcases Stuart’s phenomenal artifact collection but highlights his journey to country music stardom. Visitors will see the role and influence of his small-town Mississippi upbringing that took him to the world stage and ultimately has brought him back home.” “The World of Marty Stuart” is sponsored by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi, AT&T, and Visit Mississippi. To celebrate the launch of the exhibit, MDAH will host the inaugural Mississippi Makers Fest May 7 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. North Mississippi Allstars will headline the all-day music festival. Other performers include Mr. Sipp, Framing the Red, Chapel Hart, and others. Entergy Plaza at the museums will be packed with dozens of art and food vendors for this free event dedicated to celebrating Mississippi creativity in all forms.

THE MARTY STUART FILE Hometown: Philadelphia, Mississippi Age: 63 Main Guitar: Fender Telecaster Career Start: 1968 Awards/Accolades: Member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, five-time Grammy winner, Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Americana Music Association, platinum recording artist, and Grand Ole Opry star.

Timeline: He spent his teenage years on tour with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt in the 1970s. He spent six years in Johnny Cash’s band in the 1980s and became a solo artist in the 1990s.

Current Band: Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives.

For more information about “The World of Marty Stuart” exhibit, visit mdah.ms.gov MAY 2022 | TODAY 7


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I remember my daddy was paddling. Actually, he was more steering than paddling because we, in a ragged wooden boat, were riding a gentle and agreeable downstream current. He had, however, done some arduous paddling upstream to facilitate our placid drift down. I was awed by the entire affair. This was on the Old Straight along the Pearl River, near home. I had heard of it, had fanaticized about its mystique while the grown folks chatted of their experiences there, but I had never seen it. Then, on that spring day, it lay only inches from my fingertips.

The author is proud of his bluegill.

Courting the water’s edge on the left bank — for that matter, the right as well — were cypress trees. Big, imposing things that appeared to reach the stars, their bases encircled with knees which, that day, protruded from the surface waist-high to a youngster such as I. The knees portrayed sentinels standing guard for their generals. They were star-touching cypress trees. “See if you can get your hook behind those knees and close to the tree,” daddy coaxed. I did, and so did without great fuss or infraction. We both were amazed at the accomplishment. And then the goose-quill “cork” stood on end, and gradually began to move away. “Pull to the side,” he said. And the battle began.

The fish scooted this way and that. The monofilament line, cutting through water as per the bream’s dictates, sang a curious tune, its sound adding to the placidity of the day and to the quivering excitement of the moment. A sound I yet hold in near reverence. Presently, the fish, a bull bluegill, was hefted over the gunwale and lay on the boat floor. My fantasies from days past and conversations heard immediately cemented into far more than I had imagined. Bluegills — we call them bream — are among a rather lengthy list of sunfish available in Mississippi waters. And regardless of their proper names, many on that list are commonly designated bream — red ear, long ear, shell cracker, and redbelly. The name is not of great significance to the angler who is out for some recreation and exceptional eating but bream seems to fit just fine. But should one get me in a hammerlock and force me to choose in the catching and eating regimen, I opt singularly for the bluegill. These various fishes, whatever they are called colloquially, are generally abundant and willing to cooperate. From palm-sized to dinner-plate sized, they are a joy to catch. And did I mention eating? Delightful, they are. A texture apart from catfish and a finely sweet taste. No better fishing exists for the newcomer than that employed for bream. Some anglers conclude that the first full moon in May is the time to begin bream fishing. Maybe, maybe not. But since May is here, the time has come for some prospecting in ponds, lakes, and streams. Bream are there and should accommodate anyone who tosses an offering into those waters.

by Tony Kinton Tony Kinton has been an active outdoors writer for 30 years. He lives in Carthage and is a Central Electric member. Visit www.tonykinton.com for more information.

The long ear, better known as redbelly, is another superb sunfish.

MAY MAY 2022 2022 || TODAY TODAY 9 9


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We want to see your graduates! Send us past or present photos of your children or grandchildren on Graduation Day. High school or college. Make sure to let us know their names. The photos must be high-resolution JPG files of at least 1 MB in size. Please attach the photo to your email and send it to news@ecm.coop. Each entry must be accompanied by photographer’s name, address and co-op.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: May 31. Select photos will appear in the July 2022 issue.

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North East Mississippi ELECTRIC POWER ASSOCIATION For more information about Today in Mississippi, contact Sarah Brooke Bishop or Marlin Williams at 662-234-6331

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A group of 66 high school juniors from all over the state gathered in Jackson from March 2 to March 4 for the 35th Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Youth Leadership Workshop. The program instills leadership skills, inspires creative thinking, encourages community service, and introduces students to legislative elected officials from their communities. The conference was held at The Westin in downtown Jackson. The students earned a trip to the workshop following a competitive selection process sponsored by their local electric cooperative. They will

14 TODAY | MAY 2022

@NorthEastPower

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travel to Washington, D.C. in June for a six-day youth leadership tour. Connor Gibson, representing Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association, was selected as the 2022 Youth Leadership Council (YLC) member. A student at Oak Grove High School, Gibson will serve a oneyear term as Mississippi’s YLC member beginning June 1. As a council member, Gibson will travel to Biloxi to attend the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi Annual Meeting in September. In addition, he will also attend the NRECA Annual Meeting in Nashville in March 2023. After completion of his duties, Gibson will receive a $1,000 scholarship.


A

C B

D A. (From left to right) Rep. Steve Massengill, Sen. Neil Whaley, Haleigh Garcia, Aiden Jackson, Sophie Williams, Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd, Kaleigh Garcia, Rep. Clay Deweese, and Millie Williams. B. North East Mississippi Power’s Youth Workshop students Kaleigh Garcia, Sophie Williams, Haleigh Garcia, Aiden Jackson, and Millie Williams take photos on the first day of the workshop. C. More fun photos with the students. D. The students stand in front of the State Capitol. MAY 2022 | TODAY 15


NE SPARC celebrates construction completion to North East Mississippi Electric Power Association members NE SPARC announces a milestone achievement — completion of the construction of its world-class fiber optic network. Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley joined the NE SPARC team for the celebration at their offices on March 31. “None of us were here 80 some odd years ago when North East announced that everybody in the territory had electricity, but that was a historic day. This is also a day that is important and historic. North East is the first multi-county system in the state to provide service to all their members,” Presley said of NE SPARC. NE SPARC is now available in all of the coverage zones, bringing the option for broadband to all North East Mississippi Electric Power Association members. Fiber is the fastest, most reliable internet connection available. NE SPARC offers speeds of up to 1 gigabit, which is enough bandwidth to power your whole business or household. Fiber internet from NE SPARC has now passed 28,500 locations with 7,278 customers who are using the service and another 360 customers who have signed an order and are waiting to be connected. 44% of North East’s membership is a customer of NE SPARC. “When we were planning, I told the board if anyone in the state can do this, the people at North East Power can, but it wasn’t easy,” said Keith Hayward, CEO of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association and NE SPARC. “Our members wanted broadband and fought for it. It was only 24 months ago we were announcing our plans and now we have fiber with light to every single location that wants it — all 28,000 of our locations across four counties.” NE SPARC will begin the process to serve parts of Pontotoc and Union counties now that their service territory is complete.

Keith Hayward, CEO North East Mississippi Electric Power Association and NE SPARC (right) with Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. (left)

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley; Board Members at North East Mississippi Electric - Mickey Clayton, Danny Russell, John Briscoe, James Herod, Gene Hartley; and Keith Hayward, CEO North East Mississippi Electric Power Association and NE SPARC.

North East Mississippi Electric Power Association partners with TVA to donate to area non-profits North East Mississippi Electric Power Association is proud to announce that it has partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority to award grants to non-profits in the counties it serves. Funding from North East will be matched by TVA’s Community Care Fund, which helps local power companies meet immediate needs in their communities by providing matching funds for local initiatives addressing hardships. Each non-profit organization selected received a total of $5,000. “As a member-owned electric cooperative we must support the communities in which we serve. I am pleased TVA was able to continue their Community Cares Funds that matches North East to support a charity in each of the four counties we assist,” said Keith Hayward, CEO/General Manager at North East Mississippi Electric Power Association. “In the spirit of public power, we are honored to partner with local power companies to address the unprecedented challenges facing those we serve,” said Jeannette Mills, TVA executive vice president and chief external relations officer.

16 TODAY | MAY 2022

The donation recipients are: • Interfaith Compassion Ministries (ICM) was selected as the recipient from Lafayette County. ICM assists individuals and families through crisis situations by providing for their basic needs: food, shelter, utilities, medications, and transportation.

• United Way of Northeast Mississippi was selected to receive funds for Union County. United Way of Northeast Mississippi fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Northeast Mississippi.

• Hammers of Hope was selected as the grant recipient from Pontotoc County. Hammers of Hope repairs homes or builds wheelchair ramps for those in need, whether affected by natural disaster or life circumstances.

• Sacred Heart Southern Missions was selected as the grant recipient from Marshall County. Sacred Heart provides assistance on a case-by-case basis for low-income residents.


We can’t control the weather, but as a member of an electric cooperative, you can feel confident knowing we’re standing by, ready to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

by Abby Berry We do our best to avoid them, but there’s no way around it: power outages occasionally happen. For most electric cooperative members, outages are rare and only last a few hours. But when major storms impact our area, extended outages are unavoidable. So when the power goes out, how do co-op crews know where to start working? How do you know if your outage has been reported? We’ve got answers to these questions and more, and it all starts with a safe, efficient plan for power restoration. When the lights go out and it’s safe for We can’t control the weather, our crews to begin the but we can prepare for it. Your restoration process, they co-op keeps a supply of extra start by repairing power utility poles, transformers, and lines and equipment that will restore power other equipment on hand so to the greatest number we can quickly get to work of people in the shortest time possible. in the event of an outage. This process typically begins with repairs to the larger main distribution lines that service a great number of homes and businesses. After those repairs are made, crews work on tap lines, which deliver power to transformers, either mounted on utility poles (for above-ground service) or placed on pads (for underground service). Finally, individual service lines that run between the transformer and the home are repaired. We can’t control the weather, but we can prepare for it. Your co-op keeps a supply of extra utility poles, transformers, and other equipment on hand so we can quickly get to work in the event of an outage. When widespread outages occur, multiple crews will be out in the field simultaneously working to repair damage at multiple locations. We also coordinate with nearby co-ops to bring in additional crews when necessary. A proactive approach to maintenance helps minimize the chance of prolonged outages; this is why you see co-op crews periodically trimming trees and clearing vegetation near rights-of-way. We love trees

too, but it only takes one overgrown limb to knock out power for an entire neighborhood. Trimming improves power reliability for our entire community. In addition to managing vegetation, we regularly inspect utility poles, power lines, and other critical equipment to maintain a more reliable system. If you experience a power outage, don’t assume a neighbor reported it. It’s best to report the outage yourself, and we make it easy to do. The quickest way to report an outage is through your co-op’s app or website or you can also call the co-op’s outage reporting number. If you have a medical condition that requires electrical equipment, please let us know, and always have a backup plan in place. This plan could include a portable generator, extra medical supplies, or moving to an alternate location until power is restored. If you plan to use a generator for backup power, read all safety information and instructions before use. Mother Nature can be unpredictable, but as a member of your electric co-op, you can feel confident knowing we’re standing by, ready to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 17


Take steps now to keep by Nathan Gregory

Spring cleaning does not have to include the cleanup of Asian lady beetles. If homeowners want to check this task off their annual lists for good, they should take steps this summer to ensure these household pests are gone for good. Blake Layton, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the best way to avoid future beetle congregations is to keep them out of the house in the first place. “Summer is the best time to seal off entry points on the exterior of the home because any hibernating beetles have made their way out of the house,” Layton said. “Depending on location and weather conditions, lady beetles normally begin searching for overwintering sites in October.” Soffit and gable vents in home attics are common entry points for the beetles, but they will come in any way they can. Any crack in windows, walls or door frames is a welcome mat. Insecticides are not recommended for control of Asian lady beetles. Proactive sealing is far more effective than insecticides, and it can conserve energy, Layton said.

18 TODAY | MAY 2022

When sealing, install sweeps on door bottoms and metal spring strips or weather stripping around door jambs to keep lady beetles from entering at these points. Ensure window screens fit tightly and are not torn. Check for cracks and crevices in brickwork, woodwork, and around door and window casings. Caulk and foam sealant work well to seal small openings or crevices. Other areas that can have insect-sized cracks include eaves, ridge vents on roofs, spots where siding overlaps, and entry points for plumbing and other utilities. Homeowners who live in wooded areas are more likely to have Asian lady beetles. “It is no coincidence that most homeowners who face problems with Asian lady beetles and many other insects live in wooded areas,” Layton said. “Asian lady beetles are beneficial because they feed on tree-dwelling aphids, white flies, small caterpillars and other pests.”


However, when the beetles are indoors, they serve no good purpose and become pests themselves, Layton said. “They’re a real problem in the fall when they’re trying to come in,” Layton said. “When they get inside and settle in for the winter, you don’t see them until it warms up. Once spring arrives, they’re ready to leave, but many of them tend to get lost in the process and die inside the house. They can cause small stains on walls and wall coverings, and some people are allergic to the dust from the bodies of dead beetles.” If homeowners miss the summer window for sealing exterior entry points, the best thing to do is try to exclude them from the living areas of the home. “I tell people who call me about this problem to sweep or vacuum them up while they’re trying to move outdoors in the spring,” Hinds County Extension agent Kyle Lewis said. “I would recommend sealing cracks on the interior of the home to exclude them from coming into the living areas.” Any time of year is acceptable for sealing cracks on inside walls and ceilings, along with doors and windows that open directly to the outside.

“Even if the beetles have already gotten into your attic or wall voids, you may still be able to keep them from getting into your living area,” Layton said. “Seal around electrical outlets, light fixtures, and other holes in interior walls and ceilings. The better you are able to seal the beetles out of your living area, the fewer you will have to vacuum. But don’t overdo it. Be sure to maintain enough ventilation for health and safety.” Susan Collins-Smith contributed to this story.

OUT! When they get inside and settle in for the winter, you don’t see them until it warms up. Once spring arrives, they’re ready to leave, but many of them tend to get lost in the process and die inside the house.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 19


Photos by Chad Calcote

Jake Keiser’s

healing journey of self-reliance 20 TODAY | MAY 2022


by Steven Ward

ake Keiser doesn’t use alarms anymore to wake up in the morning. Before day’s light, roosters on her farm crow as they sense dawn approaching.

Not long after that, Keiser is out of bed and already at work taking care of her 50 animals — an array of chickens, turkeys, goats, and geese. Keiser’s life wasn’t always so rural. Before 2013, Keiser was a city girl. She ran her own high-powered public relations firm in Tampa, Florida. Her life back then was filled with drink dates, shopping sprees, and charity galas. Then, after struggling with anxiety for years following a divorce and several miscarriages, Keiser packed up and moved to Mississippi where she bought a five-acre farm just outside of Oxford. “This has been the most intense, life changing experience of my life,” Keiser, 48, said recently in the front yard of her farm, Daffodil Hill. Keiser has penned a memoir about the experience — “Daffodil Hill: Uprooting My Life, Buying a Farm, and Learning to Bloom” (The Dial Press) that will be out June 7.

This has been the most intense, life changing experience of my life. I think small town America is fantastic. “I think small town America is fantastic,” Keiser said. Sometimes it’s just the little things. In her book, Keiser — a member of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association — wrote about the ease in which she had her power turned on at the farm after arriving on the first night. “Dealing with utilities was always a time-consuming task, trying to get service online, fighting to speak with someone on the phone, and then enduring lengthy holds, animated prompts, and payments,” she wrote. “Expecting the worst, I dialed the number for North East Mississippi Electric Power. One ring, two rings, and then… a real human being’s voice. ‘Hello?’ I said, startled. “Is this, um, the electric company?’ ‘It sure is, honey,’ said a thickly accented woman on the other end. ‘How can I help you?’ I explained that I just moved from Tampa, and, as I rifled through my wallet for my debit card, I asked what form of payment they needed in terms of a deposit. Her response stopped me in my tracks. ‘Oh honey, we’ll get your electric on right away. You just come on into our office when you’re available, and you can pay then, no rush. Don’t you worry about it.’” Although Keiser has some roots in Mississippi — she lived there some as a child and graduated from the University of Mississippi — she never dreamed after moving to Florida that she would have moved back to buy a farm in the middle of nowhere.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 21


“Never. Not once. Which is probably one reason why I was so unnerved when I had been living in the city for well over a decade and started having strange desires to be more self-reliant. I didn’t have one single friend who was similarly minded and none who had a farm background. And I had never even touched a chicken,” Keiser said. Buying a farm on a whim and running it solo meant learning how to take care of animals and the land on the fly. This was no episode of the 1960s Eva Gabor sitcom, “Green Acres.” “I do a lot of dumb things and have had to learn just about everything the hard way. What most people see about my life is me smiling, interacting with animals but what they don’t see is how devastatingly difficult this lifestyle can be when doing it solo. Animal births, injuries, and deaths are far more common than I expected and just, wow, do those things take their toll emotionally and physically,” Keiser said. “Cradling your beloved dying animal with no one else around for support is brutal. I can’t count how many times I’ve felt like a failure after trying desperately to save an animal. People don’t see that part.” But learning how to take care of the animals and the land on her own is part of the big take away from Keiser’s experience.

22 TODAY | MAY 2022

“This whole thing is about empowerment through self-reliance. It’s about making something yourself. Figure out what you can learn. For me, it’s about not just sitting there stuck in your anxiety,” she said. Keiser’s journey to self-reliance didn’t begin at the farm. Before she left Tampa, she started writing a blog, “Gucci to Goats.” Keiser said she wrote the blog to start learning self-reliance skills from a city girl perspective. “I had no idea I’d actually be moving to a farm so soon. Back then, I made videos and blogs about learning to do simple things in your kitchen — like make your own almond milk (I make pecan milk now since I have the trees) or my own, healthy, lotions and lip balms.” The blog and her eventual move to Mississippi brought her national attention after Cosmopolitan and People wrote stories about Keiser’s life. “My blog was never about me, it was about communicating what I was learning, hoping to save others from the heart breaks my lack of experience had caused me. I committed to writing one blog a day about anything I could think of — recipes, animal health, general farm happenings,” she said. The blog and press attention led to agents reaching out to her about a memoir.


The book is filled with Keiser’s adventures of finding her farm legs — shooting a gun for the first time, hauling wood, tangling with a possum trying to kill her cat, and fixing a water well. Keiser said she loves her farm life in Mississippi, and she’s learned that the people of the state are what makes it special. “Moving back, I’ve certainly paid more attention to our state and its people. We have incredibly kind, helpful people here. And that really stood out from any city I’d ever been to. City people can overlook homeless people as if they’re not even there. Here, if someone is stranded on the side of the road it only takes a few minutes before someone pulls over to see if you need help, and we wave at strangers on back country roads. I love that,” Keiser said. “What mattered to me changed over time and I’m grateful for the sense of community. Here, even two people who can’t stand each other will drop everything in a time of need to help. I’ve seen many examples of this since moving here, and that’s powerful to me.” Working on the book was enjoyable, Keiser said, but she’s looking to the future with plans to open a rescue for senior animals. “I love my rural community. I still don’t exactly fit in, but no one cares now that I have a little farm credibility. They help me; I help them.”

Visit GuccitoGoats.com for more information about Keiser, Daffodil Hill, and her book. MAY 2022 | TODAY 23


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From his hometown of Bay Springs to his induction into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Hill Denson followed his baseball dreams. In fact, Denson has been inducted into seven halls of fame. His dreams have spanned a five-decade career in the game, beginning in 1966 at Chamberlain-Hunt Academy and concluding in 2019 at Belhaven University as head coach. During his 33 years of coaching college baseball, he won over 1,000 games, including 468 games at The University of Southern Mississippi and 613 games at Belhaven. He also had 216 wins in his high school coaching career at Callaway, Manhattan, and Chamberlain-Hunt. More than official stats, Denson valued relationships forged with his players over the years. “I enjoyed everything about my baseball experience. I liked being around the kids — I even enjoyed the bus trips — but teaching those kids not only about baseball, but also about things such as how to have good manners was important to me,” Denson said. Among his notable accomplishments was establishing USM as a nationally recognized baseball power. His 14-year leadership of the Golden Eagles included a dozen straight winning seasons and two NCAA tournament appearances. “My thoughts were to build a program that our fans could take pride in. I wanted to produce good teams, year in and year out, to the point that our people cared if we won or lost,” Denson said. Building a baseball program from scratch involved more than coaching, however. Denson sold advertising and season tickets while doing plumbing, painting, and janitorial work. The result was an increase in fan attendance that led to the addition of the Right Field Roost and the renovation of Pete Taylor Park. One former player who is particularly thankful for Denson’s impact on his life as well as his dedication to USM’s baseball program is Fred Cooley.

“He really sold USM baseball to the community and helped lead USM to being competitive with other major college programs. Much of what you see at the stadium now is a product of his leadership and vision. It was an honor playing for him,” Cooley said. In 1997 Denson left Southern Mississippi a changed culture. The program that had once relied mostly on family members of players to attend games grew under Denson into one that was ranked in the Top 20 nationally in attendance with an average of over 2,000 fans per game. During his tenure, Denson was a two-time Metro Conference Coach of the Year while producing eight All-Americans and having 35 players sign professional contracts. Two years after his retirement, Denson was honored by having USM’s baseball field named My thoughts were to build a after him. After a stint in the program that our fans could athletic department take pride in. I wanted to at USM, Denson deproduce good teams, year cided the coat and tie position was not for in and year out, to the point him. So, he decided that our people cared if to return to his roots in Jackson to coach we won or lost. baseball at Belhaven. He was again successful as the Blazers’ program grew, and he led the school to their only NAIA World Series in 2010. He led the program to six conference championships. “Mississippi is one of the best baseball playing states in the country, from high school to junior college to senior college, and I am glad I have had a small part in the growth of the sport,” Denson said. Denson is still involved in baseball as a site rep for the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals. He and his wife, Judy, play jam sessions on a regular basis in the Jackson area and have ventured recently into Hattiesburg. Denson plays the drums while Judy sings. Judy and Denson were married in 1968. Judy was a longtime TV personality in Jackson, Nashville, and Hattiesburg. The couple has two daughters and two grandchildren.

by Dale McKee Dale McKee is a Waynesboro native who has been writing sports in Mississippi since 1973. He is a member of Dixie Electric. Contact him at ddmckee18@yahoo.com.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 27


Fettuccini, cheesecake bars easy fixes May brings late sunsets and impromptu get-togethers. These two recipes come together with little fuss.

Spinach fettuccini with shrimp and spring vegetables INGREDIENTS “You have to pay to play,” they say. For convenience’s sake I’ll splurge on the peeled, deveined shrimp from time to time. Generally, I buy head-on, fresh shrimp. But, really, a bag ready to go in the freezer is hard to beat when you look up and it’s already 7 p.m. This basic method works with a world of substitutions for the vegetables. Have fun with making it your own special mix of spring’s first finds.

28 TODAY | MAY 2022

1 pound spinach fettuccini (cooked according to package directions) 1 pound large, peeled, deveined shrimp Salt and pepper 4 tablespoons butter, divided 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (plus more for drizzling) 1 yellow squash cut in matchsticks 1 cup fresh or frozen English peas ½ cup fresh or frozen corn 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion 2 cloves garlic, minced Pinch red pepper flakes Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ cup dry white wine Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley leaves 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano leaves ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the shrimp. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash, peas, corn, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook stirring often until the vegetables are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. When the butter has melted, add the shrimp to the pan and cook until they just begin to turn pink. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil, along with the parsley, oregano, and cooked pasta. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.


Blueberry toaster-oven cheesecake bars

Serves 8

The fact that these luscious blueberry bars bake up in the toaster oven and don’t heat up the whole kitchen makes them tops for summer treats around my place. A double crust makes them an easy choice for picnics and ball field snacks. Beating the eggs just until combined with the cheese mixture yields the smoothest texture with no tunnels or cracking. This is also wonderful made with crushed gingersnaps and diced peaches or plums. Makes 16 small bars.

INGREDIENTS 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, divided 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup granulated sugar, divided 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel, divided ¼ cup butter, melted 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened ½ cup granulated sugar ¼ cup fresh lemon juice 1⁄8 teaspoon almond extract 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel 2 eggs 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar ½ cup all-purpose flour 1⁄3 cup butter, softened

Spray or butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, toss together ¾ cup of the crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the lemon peel. Stir in ¼ cup melted butter. Press onto the bottom of the baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes or until beginning to brown. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and ½ cup of the sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until fluffy. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons lemon peel. Beat until well combined. Add eggs one at a time

beating after each addition just until well combined. Spread over warm crust. Sprinkle with blueberries. In small bowl stir together the brown sugar, flour and remaining ¼ cup crumbs. Add the 1⁄3 cup softened butter and mix with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until topping is browned and filling is puffed and the edges and almost set. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Carefully cut into squares.

Martha Hall Foose, the author of “Screen Doors & Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales of a Southern Cook,” won the James Beard Award for American Cooking. Her latest collaboration is “A Good Meal is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from the Deep South” with Amy C. Evans. Martha makes her home in the Mississippi Delta with her husband and son. She is a member of Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 29


mississippi seen

mississippi is...

events

mississippi marketplace onopenthe menu outdoors today Events to the public will be published free of charge as space allows. Submit details at least two months prior to the event date. Submissions must include a phone number with area code for publication. Email to news@ecm.coop. Events are subject to change. scene around the ‘sip picture this Harrison County Gem & Mineral Society Show. Mississippi Makers Fest. May 7. Jackson. New music, Community Market. May 4 and June 1. Biloxi. Indoor May 21 and 22. Biloxi. The show will be at the food, and art festival. Featuring the North Mississippi market at The St. Martin Community Center, 15008 my Joppa Shriners Center, 13280 Shriners Blvd., co-op Allstars, Mr. Sipp, Framing the Red, Chapel opinion Heart, Lemoyne Blvd. The firstinvolvement Wednesday of every month. Arts, crafts, food, produce, and quality resell item vendors will be on hand. Details: 228-217-8033.

Chad Wesley Band, 5th Child, Action Jimbo Mathus, and Carey Hudson. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Two Mississippi Museums downtown. Free. Details: 601-576-6934.

southern gardening

Barn sale. May 6 and 7. Oak Grove. Eighty collectors with trailer loads of antiques and collectibles. Both days - 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Auction May 6 at 5:30 p.m. Parking per car - $2. Good for both days. 4799 Old Highway 11, Purvis. (Oak Grove) Details: 601-818-5886 or 601-794-7462.

The World of Marty Stuart. May 7. Jackson. The exhibit will debut at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, coinciding with the inaugural Mississippi Makers Fest, a music, food, and arts festival on the museum grounds. The World of Marty Stuart explores Stuart’s life and his legacy of collecting country music’s stories. The exhibit includes hundreds of items never shown before in Mississippi, including Marty’s first guitar, original handwritten Hank Williams manuscripts, guitars from Merle Haggard and Pops Staples, costumes from Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, personal items from Johnny Cash, including his first black performance suit, and much more. 222 North St. No. 1206. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Details: 601-576-6934.

grin ‘n’ bareMemorial it Day Daylily Garden Tour. May 30. Hatties-

A rummage and bake sale. May 7. Brandon. The event will be held at Nativity Lutheran Church, at the corner of Crossgates Boulevard and Old Brandon Road. The event will be held indoors - rain or shine - offering clothing, furniture, household goods, and baked goods. Admission is free. Details: 601-825-5125. Snappy Sync Soiree and Firefly Tours. May 19-22. Ridgeland. The tours offer a rare opportunity to experience the magic of the South’s most impressive population of synchronous “snappy sync” fireflies along Mississippi’s historic Natchez Trace Parkway. The Mississippi Craft Center, 950 Rice Road. Details: https://msfireflyevent.eventbrite.com. The 54th Annual Gospel Singing Jubilee. May 21. Magee. Featuring The Singing Echoes of Cleveland, Tennessee, Tim Frith & The Gospel Echoes, Revelations, and Big Blessin Trio. 6:30 p.m. Magee High School Auditorium, 501 Choctaw St. Details: 601-906-0677.

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burg. The Hattiesburg Area Daylily Society will host garden tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For a list of gardens and directions go to hattiesburgdaylily.com Details: 601-466-3826 The Hoppers. June 3. Petal. The Hoppers will perform in a concert at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Runnelstown. A love offering will be received. The church is located at 9211 Highway 42, Petal, 39465. Details: 601-583-3733. The 26th Annual Daylilly Show. June 4. Hattiesburg. The show is hosted by the Hattiesburg Area Daylily Society at the Lake Terrace Convention Center The show opens to the public at 1 p.m. Plant sale opens at 11 a.m. Admission is free. Details: hattiesburgdaylily.com or 601-466-3826.


Pineville Day: Where everybody knows everybody

I have a brother-in-law who grew up on Long Island, New York. As we were journeying across the state to grandma’s years ago, he told us the towns where he lived were so close together, people considered a 10 or 15-mile trip a long way to travel. A couple of years ago, we flew over Long Island on our way into New York. As we passed over, all I saw down below were endless houses. I can see what he meant about towns being close together there. Your next-door neighbor might live in a different city from you. I was thinking about his sardine-can landscape the other day on my way to Pineville Day in Smith County. Mississippi’s countryside is anything but cram-packed unless you’re talking about cows or timber. Pineville Day is an annual celebration that started out as the grand opening of the newly enlarged Pineville Store six years ago. There’s been a store where Highway 501 intersects with Smith County Road 504 for decades. Elzie Nelson built the first one. Terry Hammons owns the Pineville Store now. He and his wife expanded it to become a community asset six years ago. The site features gas pumps, a cafe, a bait shop, a convenience store, and a feed store. Their grand opening was so popular, they continue it as an annual event today. A couple of things impressed me at Pineville Day. The antique car show for one. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of pickup trucks in the show. But this is rural Mississippi after all. As we were looking over a red ’67 Chevelle, a fellow said to me he’d love to have a dime for every dollar put into these cars. Having weened myself off of old pickups several years ago myself, I wish I had a dime back on every dollar I put into my trucks. But you have to have some reason to get out of bed on a weekend besides cutting the grass. I asked Terry how he managed to get such an impressive collection of cars for Pineville Day. He chuckled and said he knew most of the people who owned them. That’s the thing about rural Mississippi. Even though your neighbors may live miles away, odds are, you know them. You probably know them well enough to ask a favor now and again. The other thing that impressed me about Pineville Day was the entertainment. The band, David and the Giants performed. They had some rock hits back in the day. Now they play Christian rock music. Although I guess they are as old as I am, they are still good! So, I asked Terry how me managed to get a known-name band for his Pineville Day. He said, “Oh, they are my second cousins.” So, I guess it is true. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And in Pineville, it seems like everybody knows everybody.

That’s the thing about rural Mississippi. Even though your neighbors may live miles away, odds are, you know them.

by Walt Grayson Walt Grayson is the host of “Mississippi Roads” on Mississippi Public Broadcasting television and the author of two “Looking Around Mississippi” books and “Oh! That Reminds Me: More Mississippi Homegrown Stories.” Walt is also a reporter and 4 p.m. news anchor at WJTV in Jackson. He lives in Brandon and is a Central Electric member. Contact him at walt@waltgrayson.com.

MAY 2022 | TODAY 31


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