Jim Murphy & Sons

Green Acres: the place to be in the suburbs

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By GEORGE FREEMAN
Editor of GREENE Magazine

If he’s not making loans to help others make their dreams of owning a home come true, Drexel Swanson would rather be home tending his crops and chickens south of Springfield on 1.5 acres.

He has plenty of help from his wife, Esther, who sells real estate when she’s not in nursing school at Ozarks Technical College.


D.J. and Royce

D. J. enjoys the evening backyard view with Royce, who occasionally retrieves a chicken to play with.

D.J., Ella and Cheyenne (who also works at an area horse stable) are right there as well, tending a flock of chickens, nurturing a garden that includes broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage (all late-season crops). There’s also a small neighborhood pond.

All told, there are 40-plus grape vines, 50 blackberry, blueberry and raspberry bushes, 20 fruit trees , three garden spots, and a green house, all of it irrigated. Plus, 17 chickens. Bees and rabbits are planned for 2013.

The Swansons and Royce

The Swansons and Royce at home. Missing is Cheyenne, who was working when this was taken.

"I think it is good to have a variety of new and old ways, keep life interesting and balanced," says Esther, who grew up on 120 acres near Marshfield.

"She is an amazing Mom and always puts the kids first," adds Drexel. "If it invades on the kid’s time, she won’t do it. She also helps with the planting, picking canning and freezing of the vegetables."

"I guess the main thing I want to teach my kids is to do what you enjoy," says Esther. "If you start a career path you do not like, you are never too old to try something new."

The Swansons think basic life skills are as important as ever.

"I hope I teach them well enough for them to teach their kids and them each their kids," says Drexel, who grew up in West Plains. His father died in an auto accident when he was 6. "My Mom, who never remarried raised four kids aged 4, 6, 8, 11 with the help of my Grandfather – with zero public assistance."

As a Boy Scout, he has memories of camping and floating Ozarks streams. Today, he’s a Cub Scout leader for D.J.

"I learned a lot of lessons and skills at age 10 and 11 that I didn’t realize I had learned until I was much older, thanks to my Mother and my Grandfather. The sad part is America will soon become dependent on other countries for their food just like we are dependent on them for oil."    

Shorty Small and Ella

That’s Shorty Small, a Bantum rooster, on the shoulder of Ella. The hens and another rooster each have names, and produce eggs in abundance.

 "The U.S. is losing one million acres of prime farm land every year to development and we are already 13 million acres short to produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet America’s demands. Fast forward 20 years and its going to be very scary. The last time I checked they are not making any more land."

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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