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May 28, 2019

Tennessee Wildflowers Come to Buckhorn Inn

Wildflowers are a tremendous asset to pollinators, in addition to looking beautiful.  In fact, we have planted a mini-meadow of wildflowers near our bee hives.  Our seed mix includes perennials, self-seeding annuals, and biennials.  We sowed:  butterfly weed, partridge pea, lance-leaf coreopsis, plains coreopsis, purple coneflower, rattlesnake master, Indian blanket, standing cypress, blazing star, wild lupine, lemon mint, drummond phlox, Mexican hat, clasping coneflower, black-eyed susan, scarlet sage, and spiderwort.

How to Grow Wildflowers

Wildflowers have survived floods and drought, sandy soil and clay, scorching sun and freezing wind, all on their own.  They can be as tenacious as, well, weeds.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”  So how difficult are they to grow?  As it turns out, they are very adaptable.

Wildflowers attract pollinators.

Honeybees love black-eyed susans.

We ordered a seed mix specifically designed for our geographic area from http://www.americanmeadows.com.  We selected a sunny site and removed the grass from the soil.  We loosened the dirt and scattered the seeds.  We worked the seeds into the soil by walking on top of them.  The seedlings have emerged.  We will continue to water them until they are about 6″ tall.  After that, Mother Nature will handle the watering!  We hope the first blooms will appear in early summer.  

In late fall, after the flowers have dropped their seeds, we will mow the whole area.  The clippings will stay in place to break down and feed the soil.  

Our meadow should not require chemical fertilizers or herbicides, so they are an eco-friendly option.  If this small experiment works, we may expand our meadow.  There are many advantages to growing wildflowers.  They enrich the soil and require very little mowing–usually only once a year.  Different bloom times guarantee a spectacular show throughout the warm months.  The plants are good for steep slopes where they can stabilize the land and prevent erosion.  

We will be sure to post pictures as our new addition grows and blooms!

May 13, 2019

Reflections of an Apprentice Innkeeper

“What is it like being an apprentice innkeeper?”  “How do you and Jack like Tennessee?”  “What do you do at Buckhorn Inn?”  “What do you do when not at the Inn?”  So many of our guests have asked me these questions.  Now that Jack and I have lived here for two years this week, I feel that I can finally answer them!  

Life in Chicago

Jack and I both moved to Chicago in 1981 after completing our undergraduate degrees.  I went to Purdue University and he went to the University of Kentucky.    We met on the commuter train from the western suburbs to downtown Chicago.  We both loved reading, college sports, and exploring our new city and quickly became best friends before we became sweeties and then husband and wife.  By 2011 we both had completed our MBA degrees and I had my PhD under my belt.  I was serving as CEO of the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) and Jack was a founder and CFO of Business IT Source (BITS).  

Moving to Eastern Tennessee

Jack and I built the Greenbrier House  three years ago with the idea that we would offer it up as part of the Buckhorn Inn for “5 or 6 years” until we were ready to retire.  

Life as an apprentice innkeeper includes spending more time with my wonderful husband.

Our plan was to offer the Greenbrier House as part of the Buckhorn Inn until we retired here.

 

But once the house was built, retirement became an incredibly alluring thought!  I had just finished leading OREF through a complete refocusing of our business model and was deciding if I wanted to simply maintain our new organization or go on to a new challenge.  Jack had a 90-minute commute each way to and from work and was finding that to be really wearing.  So, we clasped our hands together and jumped into the unknown of moving to Eastern Tennessee!

Life as an Apprentice Innkeeper

Jack and I serve breakfast at Buckhorn Inn on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  I began as a new face, but guests immediately recognized Jack as John’s son.  In fact, I often tell my pop-in-law that looking at him lets me know how my husband will look 30 or so years from now–and the prospect pleases me!  Jack works with Lee on the payroll and accounting.  I work in the office checking out guests and taking reservations on Saturdays.  We get to participate in regular management meetings and have spearheaded some projects, like the new landscaping around the pond.  Lee has entrusted me with Buckhorn Inn social media and many of you read my blog posts and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.  I admire Lee greatly and enjoy spending time with, and learning from, her.  

Cooking, Gardening, Beekeeping

I grew up on a farm in Indiana and greatly enjoyed 4-H.    So our work at the Buckhorn Inn gives me a great opportunity to further explore some of the activities I have always enjoyed–namely cooking and gardening.  I am somewhat a “chef groupie” and feel so fortunate to get to observe Chef Frank in the kitchen.  His knife skills are astounding and everything he plates looks beautiful and tastes delicious. 

I love to cook, so sometimes I get to provide salads and desserts for special luncheons and bake desserts for dinner https://www.buckhorninn.com/dining.  I got to consult with Frank on revamping the Buckhorn Inn wine list.  A wine aficianado, I am taking a wine expert certification course so that I can help more in this regard.  Our friends Brian and Dana at The Rampant Lion have a very nice wine list and have really helped me when my “homework” involved tasting different wines.  A new cookbook is in the works–I am hoping to finish the draft in the next month or so. 

Jack and I created some raised bed vegetable gardens to grow fresh produce for the Inn.  Jack has installed two bee hives and I am his “bee girl”, helping with their care.

The Buckhorn Inn guests have been so welcoming and so kind to me.  Well, for the most part.  When Purdue played Tennessee in the NCAA tournament this year I served breakfast in my Purdue shirt.  Who knew that cultured, well-mannered people could boo me so soundly?!!

Other Activities

How marvelous to be so close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!  Jack and I enjoy taking early morning hikes before work.  Jack is still working remotely for BITS, so we have to get back before his day begins.  I am still a flatlander, so am working to conquer the uphill portions of the trails! 

This past year I finished my time on the board of CreatiVets, a national nonprofit that serves veterans with post-traumatic stress gain healing tools through the arts.  We have programs at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Southern California as well as writing opportunities with professional songwriters in Nashville.  We are a new foundation, but have accomplished much in five years.  Feel free to check us out at http://www.creativets.org.

I also have been elected to the Board of the Anna Porter Public Library and enjoy helping guide our programs.  I belong to two books clubs, and have gotten to meet many new friends through our book discussions.  We met some local friends through frequenting the same restaurants and love being part of this community.

Family is Important

We enjoy spending time with my brother-in-law Bill and his wife Louise.  Bill, Jack and I are trivia fiends and have spent some delightful afternoons matching wits with trivia contestants nationwide.  We get to spend off time with John and Lee.  Currently we gather together at Buckhorn House on Sunday evenings for supper and to watch Game of  Thrones.

I very much miss my mother and my brother Herb and his family in Indiana.  But now I have the flexibility to take a week every few months to spend with them.  One of my nieces and I went to New Orleans for the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival and another joined me for a trip to Boston.  Next spring I am hoping to travel with my third niece.  Being an auntie brings me great joy.  

Thank you to all the Buckhorn Inn guests who have expressed an interest in how we are finding Tennessee.  It is beautiful here and we love it.  

Your apprentice innkeeper,

Sharon