Rain & Ping Pong

Sunday, January 5th
Yokna Patawpha Farm
Oxford, Mississippi

We woke to wonderful smells from downstairs – coffee, and the wood that we’d chopped the previous day burning in the fireplace.

We spent most of the morning and afternoon at the kitchen table, as rain from the arctic airmass coming south poured down  outside the windows on all sides – Kristin at my side browsing seed catalogs with Widget in her lap, my Cleo and Shivas the Scottish Terrier at our feet beneath the table, an unknown number of cats watching from motionless nooks and perches, and host/farm owner Doug adding wood to the fireplace.


I was deemed to be the Human Bellows, so when the slightly damp wood failed to burn fiercely, I’d help blow it back into a roar.

For breakfast Doug made French toast made with eggs we fetched in from the Yokna coop, which we topped with preserves we’d brought from home – apples & wonderberry syrup.

The temps outside were still relatively balmy in the 40s and 50s, but the rain was constant and there was some of the coldest weather that the region had experienced in almost a century on the way, as all of the eastern US was subjected to a huge bubble of frigid arctic air.2014-01-05 08.25.40

Of course, it was still far warmer than the weather we’d left behind!

2014-01-05 08.25.34

We spent the early part of the day  relaxing, conversatin’, crochetin’ (well, Kristin did), and eating Doug’s farm-ground venison huevos rancheros.  Toward evening, Doug got a call from some friends across the river – they were having their annual ping pong tournament, and we were invited, so Kristin and I joined Doug and Nathan and hit the road. Although the party was less than a mile away across the river as the crow flies,  we had to go up a ways to cross, and then back down again. (Town politics involving the local “Board of Supervisors” had prevented the nearby bridge from being rebuilt after it washed out several years ago.)

We arrived to discover a gorgeous home built from plaster-covered straw bales, with soaring exposed beam ceilings and soft organic edges. I was surprised to see such a structure in such a moist environment – it turned out the house was built in part with experimental grant money –  a university study was done of how well it withstood the moisture, with concrete pillars keeping it up from the ground (it’s been several years and so far it’s stayed dry and durable!)

The folks at the party were older than us, and very serious about ping pong – competitive without rancor, they played to win and they played hard, but even in the heat of the contest they remained incredibly friendly and positive.


We feasted on veggie chili, lentils, cornbread, sweet potatoes from Yokna Bottoms Farm, and other deliciousness while meeting an assortment of interesting characters, any one of which I’d have been glad to hang out with again if we ever cross paths – from the great-grandparent ping pong wizards who owned the house, to the artist who made amazing furniture from hardwood grown in twisting spirals due to restriction by climbing honeysuckle vines, to the Reiki healer who chatted as she rapidly assembled a complex puzzle that had been left out for any takers to piece together.

Every person and and every conversation was stimulating, friendly, and genuine, and although I was surrounded by strangers I was a bit sad when Doug said it was time to head back to the farm.


We’d been away for five hours or so when we got back to the Dog Party at the Animal House – it had seemed filled with critters before, but it really did now; the temps were falling rapidly into record lows, so the not-so-housebroken outdoor cats and Missi the stray were welcomed into the fireplace-warmth of the house.

let me in please yes?


We tended the fire, read, and turned in early with full bellies and happy hearts.

– Gabe

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