Friday, December 30, 2011

10 for '11

In the spirit of David Letterman, we decided that we would look back over the last year and share with you what we consider to be the ten most notable events and accomplishments at Andalusia for 2011. The following are listed in neither chronological order nor in order of importance:
1. Grants - in 2011 we received two significant grants to help us restore some of the buildings on the property. In February we were awarded a $120,000 grant from "Save America's Treasures" program of the National Park Service to restore the Hill house. This past fall we received a $10,000 matching grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Council for the Arts to stabilize the cow barn.
2. Cartoon Book - In January Georgia College released The Cartoons of Flannery O'Connor at Georgia College. This was the first time an original O'Connor work has appeared in print since 1979. Later in the year, the ever-popular Sanford House Cookbook was re-published. Both books are available at the Andalusia gift shop.
3. 10th Anniversary - 2011 marked the tenth anniversary of the Flannery O'Connor- Andalusia Foundation. The event passed without cake, balloons, or a whole lot of hoopla. Yet it is a big milestone for us and a tribute to everyone who has generously supported Andalusia for the last decade.
4. Re-opening of upstairs - Just in time for Flannery's 86th birthday, the upstairs was thoroughly cleaned and straightened up so we could re-open it to the public on March 25th. Thanks to our volunteers for their hard work.
5. Flannery O'Connor Conference and reception - On April 13th, the symposium sponsored by Georgia College, Startling Figures: A Celebration of the Legacy of Flannery O'Connor, kicked off with a reception at Andalusia. During the three days of the conference our gift shop did a robust business.
6. Restoration of Hill House - Much of the year was spent prepping the Hill house for the restoration work that will commence in early 2012. There were numerous meetings with the architects at Lord, Aeck and Sargent. Additionally, all the furniture and belongings in the house had to be cataloged, removed, and put in temporary storage PODS in the barnyard.
7. Ann Napolitano reading - On July 13th, surely the hottest day of a long hot summer, Ann Napolitano visited Andalusia to read from her just-published novel, A Good Hard Look. Though the book and reading sparked some controversy (especially among locals), it has been highly acclaimed in the national media and Ms. Napolitano couldn't have been more gracious.
8. Guineas - On Sept. 29th we acquired five guinea fowl from a generous donor. In preparation for their arrival we built a temporary holding pen behind the aviary. Sadly, after we released them from the pen, they were preyed upon and by mid-December they were all gone.
9. Loyola Conference - In October there was another O'Connor conference. This one at Loyola University in Chicago focused on the theological and philosophical influences in O'Connor's fiction. Craig and I were privileged to represent Andalusia. Besides enjoying all that Chicago has to offer, we heard some fascinating presentations. Who ever thought Flannery could be read from a Zen Buddhist perspective?
10. Attendance record - Last, but certainly not least, as we closed out our fiscal year on Sept. 30th we set a record for number of visitors in a year. For the first time since Andalusia has been open to the public, we surpassed the 5,000 mark. We thank all of you who visited the farm and made 2011 the most successful in our history!
- Mark

Friday, December 23, 2011

All is calm? All is bright?

Despite the serenity of the picture on the right (taken after a rare snowstorm in 2010), Christmas at Andalusia was not always the peaceful affair the O'Connors might have wished it would be. In this excerpt from a letter written on Christmas day, 1958, Flannery tells her friend, Betty Hester, about a major dust-up between resident farmhands, Jack and Louise Hill:
"Big doings here the other night in preparation for the Yuletide. Louise came over after supper and said she was afraid to go back home because Jack had the gun loaded and said he was going to kill her. He was eventually persuaded by my mother to bring the gun over and leave it in the back hall. After the liquor wore off them, they all calmed down and yesterday she gave him back his gun; but today, we had to stay home to make sure hostilities didn't redevelop. So far nothing. My mother gave them a snappy sermon on: 'thou shalt not kill during the Christmas season' when she she gave them their presents last night and I guess it paid off..." (Habit of Being, p. 310)

Since we will be closed for Christmas (Dec. 25-26), Craig and I want to take this opportunity now to wish you and those you love a peaceful holiday. Oh yes, our pea chickens - Manley Pointer, Mary Grace, and Joy/Hulga - want to add their greeting, too. Eee-ooo-ii! Eee-ooo-ii! (which in their language means "We wish you a merry Christmas!")
- Mark

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yule Blues

A slight pall was cast over our holiday cheer at Andalusia last week when two of our three guineas were killed by foxes or coyotes. The sole survivor of this attack got along the best he could, but he was clearly missing his comrades. He showed little interest in eating and just hung around the aviary for companionship. No longer did he come running up to me when I went out to feed the peafowl, as he and the others once did. It was as if he had given up on life. On Friday of last week I spotted him wandering around in the pasture on the east side of the house. The last time I saw him was when I was leaving work that day. Since then there hasn't been a sign of him anywhere. Craig and I think that he went off in search of another flock. All the same, I've been holding on to the irrational hope that he might return. I finally gave up today and took in his water container. While I can't claim that the guineas had become pets, I had become kind of attached to them and now miss them running up to the car to greet me when I drive in in the morning. The fate of the guineas did not come as a big surprise, however. As I've mentioned on this blog before, there is far more wildlife out here now than when the O'Connors were living at the farm fifty years ago. This was brought home to us this morning when we discovered the trash can in which we keep the peacock feed had been pried open by some critter. There was cracked corn scattered all over the place. We think the perpetrator might have been a raccoon, but the mystery remains. How could a raccoon open a garbage can, take out the bags of cracked corn without toppling over the can? To ward off a future intrusion we have secured the can with a bungee cord and hope that will discourage vermin.
- Mark

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just in time for holiday gift giving

I can't tell you how many times during the past year I've been asked if we had any copies left of the immensely popular Sanford House Cookbook. Regrettably, I had to tell these folks that we were all sold out and didn't know if we would ever have it in stock again. Happily, I learned this week that the book has been republished, and we now have plenty of copies for sale at the Andalusia gift shop. The reissue features a plastic cover, which will be much more durable and stain resistant than the previous edition. Everything else is the same - all those recipes for the dishes the O'Connors loved at their favorite restaurant. If, after reading Brad Gooch's biography of Flannery, you have a hankering to try the Sanford House's famous fried shrimp (one of Flannery's favorites) or their signature peppermint chiffon pie, pick up a copy of the Sanford House Cookbook for yourself or give one to someone you love for Christmas. It makes a wonderful present for anyone who may remember the Milledgeville eatery and misses its tasty vittles.
- Mark

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Beginning to Smell a lot like Christmas

The day is bright, the air is crisp, and the Andalusia farm house is redolent with apples and cinnamon. In keeping with a holiday tradition, master muller Craig has brewed up a pot of his famous mulled cider. As delectable as it smells, his secret concoction is not for human consumption. It is brewing in a crock pot in the kitchen simply to delight the olfactory senses of our visitors and put everybody in the Christmas spirit. If you've never visited Andalusia now would be a perfect time to do so. Not only is the house decked out for the holidays (if you consider a wreath on the door as being decked out), but without quite so many visitors as we get in the summer, we are able to spend more time with our guests. Christmas is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year on the farm.
- Mark