Monday, July 10, 2017

Some day

Before she even gets out of the van, she whispers: Aunt Debbie, can we can go to the garden? She says she wants to eat a flower, like she did the last time she was here (when she was only four), and the time before that (when she was but three). She finds an old straw hat and a wooden bucket and announces that she is ready to go see what there is to see in the garden.

Can I eat a flower? Watch me eat it.
Are there any peas in your garden? I love peas.
I love okra! Can I just eat it now?
Look, there's a bunch of baby yellow squashes. How many can I pick?
Green beans! I love green beans. Can I eat one now?

There's one. There's one. I see it. It's a pink potato. There's another one, and another one. 
Purple? I've never heard of a purple potato. Can I get one for my brother's bucket? 
Can I wiggle out another carrot? One more? One more?

Look onions! They were almost growing right out of the ground. 
Oh look, it's a teeny, tiny pumpkin. It's so cute. 
I found a beet! I found a beet. I love beets. 

I love caterpillars. 
But I love worms more. 
Which do you love more?

I like to catch butterflies.
I don't mind the blackberry prickles; it's kind of like getting a shot. 

Guess what Aunt Debbie? she says as she slips her five-year-old hand into mine and turns toward the waterfall path, Some day when I grow up, I want to be a farmer.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Happy Bees and Butterflies; Come See What's Blooming

I've been waiting and waiting for the perfect time to show you our bee and butterfly garden. Turns out, there is no perfect time. If I waited until the plants filled in, or all bloomed, or the rain stopped, or the weeds magically disappeared, you would never see it. So, as they say, there is no time like the present...

Here's what it looks like on the 29th day of June, 2017. Enjoy.

Bumblebee seeking nectar from Purple Coneflower

Monarchs on Boneset

Common Milkweed

Rattlesnake Masters
Thimbleweed. Reminds me of Grandmommy's many thimbles.

View down the drive; Slender Mountain Mint in front of Purple Coneflowers;
St. John's Wort just beginning to bloom (yellow) next to bluebird box
Closeup of Devil's Walking Stick. I know how it got its name!
Trumpet vine against Wild Quinine.
On Maggie's wedding day, she wove the Wild Quinine into her hair. 
Bumblebee on Bee Balm. Yes, it is the bees' balm!

The garden is just steps from our front door.

Here's how the garden came to be: Daughter Maggie, who is Farm Dover's head beekeeper, Ed and I had talked about wanting a bee garden for as long as we have had beehives. We wanted to plant a wide variety of native flowers and grasses from which the bees could find a ready source of pollen. Our intent was to design a flower-rich habitat that would have a concentration of blossoms from early spring to late fall, ensuring that our bees would have a constant source of food. As it turns out, what is good for the bees is good for the butterflies – as they also flock to the garden.

We got serious about our garden planning in spring of 2016 and engaged Margaret Shea of Dropseed Native Plant Nursery to help us plan and plant the garden. Ed and I prepared the ground, adding newspaper and mulch to an area that adjoined our front field of native grasses and wildflowers. Our idea was to have it flow seamlessly into the field.

Note to my readers: No matter what size yard you have, it is big enough for a native garden. Even a few plants in a ceramic pot can attract a surprisingly large number of pollinators.

Margaret Shea helped us design the garden.
She provided all the plants from her native nursery in Goshen, KY.
Dropseed Nursery's Elizabeth planted each flower/grass according to the plan.

The tiny native plants needed some time to take hold. And they looked so pathetic, I didn't want you to see it yet.

We watered and weeded the garden last summer and slowly it began to grow, and grow. This summer, there is barely any room to move between the plants. In fact they are so big, I'm already planning to move some of them to other smaller bee gardens that we have started in and around the yard.

Sure enough, the bees and other pollinators love hanging out in the garden. From honey bees to bumblebees to sweat bees, they happily buzz around from flower to flower. I try not to bother them; and they don't seem all that interested in me.

The garden changes almost daily. The Foxglove Beardtongue and Eastern Bluestar have come and gone; the Boneset and Bee Balm are bursting with blossoms. The Ironweed and Joe-Pye Weed are reaching skyward, but not yet blooming.

I love to spend time in the garden – especially early in the morning, or just before the sun slips down – inspecting each blossom, prying out a weed or two, watching the bees and butterflies come and go. I'm working hard on identifying the plants in the garden and learning their scientific names.

Here's what we planted:

St. John's-wort, Hypericum prolificum
Devil's Walking Stick, Aralia spinosa
Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium 
Prairie Dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis
Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii
Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum
Cut-leaf Prairie Dock, Silphium pinnatifidum
Ironweed, Veronia gigantea
Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum 
Stiff Goldenrod, Solidago rigida
New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae
Eastern Bluestar, Amsonia tabernaemontana
Foxglove Beardtongue, Penstemon digitalis
Maryland Goldenaster, Chrysopsis mariana
Slender Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium 
Gray Goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis 
Thimbleweed, Anemone virginica
Rough Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa 
Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum 
Wild Quinine, Parthenium integrifolium 
Smooth Blue Aster, Aster laevis 
False Blue Indigo, Baptisia australis
Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Orange Coneflower, Rudbeckia fulgida
Bee Balm, Monarda fistulosa
Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum
Lanceleaf coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata
Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca
Swamp Milkweed, Aclepias Incarnata
Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans

Would love to show it to you in person. You know where to find me...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Traveling with Adult Children

Over the past couple of months, Ed and I have had the joy of traveling with each of our grown children. And what a delight it has been. Maggie, Jack and Mary are all highly independent, savvy travelers, who are exceedingly kind to – and patient with – their sometimes befuddled parents.

Faster than I can blink, they can book an airline ticket, make a near-impossible reservation for six at a Brooklyn restaurant, tap for an Uber, or communicate with the locals in any number of languages. Ed and I are flattered that they are willing to let us tag along.

Our latest adventure involved driving to Brooklyn, with a stop in Valley Forge, to meet up with Mary and then head up the Hudson River for the weekend.

Our children lead busy lives. The fact that they are willing to travel with us allows us to spend large blocks of time with them, catching up on their lives and watching them navigate the world. We are impressed. As an added bonus, we met Jack's friends in Berlin and Mary's friends in Brooklyn, giving us a chance to get to know those that are important to them in their faraway-from-us lives.


Highlights from our Hudson Valley Trip

Valley Forge National Historic Park
We spent our first night on the road in Valley Forge and were far more comfortable than George Washington and his Continental Army were in the winter of 1777-78. We woke early and walked along the Park's trails as the sun came up, stopping to see the reconstructed huts of Muhlenberg's Brigade and Washington's headquarters.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
While Mary was still at work on Thursday, Ed and I spent the afternoon at this century-old urban garden, wandering through its rose garden, native flora garden, herb garden, bonsai museum and cherry esplanade.

Mary made a reservation at this hip neo-bistro Brooklyn restaurant, invited friends: Alena, Matt and Brian, and ordered for the entire table. It's so nice to have someone so competent take charge! All we had to do was pay for it...

Brooklyn Walking Tour 
While Mary worked on Friday morning, we walked. We joined a two-hour tour of historic Brooklyn Heights and trendy DUMBO. Great way to see parts of the city that we didn't know.

Stone Barns Center I've long been interested in seeing this non-profit farm and since it was on our way up the Hudson, we stopped to check it out. The Farm Store alone was worth the stop!

Dia Beacon Our next stop was the museum for Dia Art Foundation's collection of art from the 1960s to the present. The museum, housed in an old packaging factory on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, is about an hour outside of NYC.

Hudson, NY We planned this trip at the last minute and were unable to find a hotel in Hudson, but managed to spend most of the day on Saturday wandering around the town – beginning with the morning farmer's market, then lunching at Little Deb's Oasis, taking in the Flag Day parade, and as the sun set, sitting on the back porch of Ca'Mea Ristorante enjoying an alfresco Italian dinner.

Saugerties Lighthouse We had an hour or two to kill before dinner on Saturday and so we took a drive, stopping for a short hike to the Saugerties Lighthouse, an 1869 landmark beacon on the Hudson River. It is also a bed and breakfast.

Hyde Park, NY On Sunday, we headed to Hyde Park to visit the home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Presidential Library/Museum. FDR planted more than 400,000 trees on his estate, so it held special interest for us. I also appreciated the FDR quote that greets visitors on the museum's entrance wall: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those that have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

On Sunday afternoon, we dropped Mary off at the train station in Poughkeepsie – she headed back to the city; we headed back to the farm.

Thanks Mary for spending the weekend with us. We loved every minute of it!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Way Down Yonder in the Pawpaw Patch

Four years ago I tasted my first (and only) common pawpaw and found it uncommonly good.  I was smitten with its custardy taste -- something silky smooth between a banana and a kiwi.

In September of 2013 we stopped at an orchard in Owen County, KY for some apples and I noticed on a blackboard at the checkout counter that they had pawpaws. We had recently planted two pawpaw trees and I was anxious to try a pawpaw fruit. The orchard owner disappeared into the back of the shed and came back and placed one brown, mushy, unappetizing fruit on the checkout table. Because I made such a big deal about purchasing pawpaws, it didn't seem right that I should reject his only fruit for sale. So Ed bought it for me. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, thinking it would surely rot on the counter. The next morning, I was ready to toss it in the compost but decided at the last minute to cut it open and taste the pulp.

I was immediately hooked on pawpaws. Without exaggeration, I can tell you it was one of the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. Over the years we have planted a dozen more small sapling pawpaws. Some in the shade, some in the sun. None ever bore fruit.

Until this year...

We had read that pawpaws require cross pollination from another unrelated pawpaw tree. Bees show no interest in pollinating the beautiful brown pawpaw flowers, but flies, on the other hand, are perfect for the task – and we were desperate for pawpaws. One source suggested placing roadkill under the trees to lure some flies to our pawpaw trees. Because we didn't have any roadkill handy, we hung rotting pork chop bones in the branches of each tree that had flowered. Sure enough, it worked!

On our rounds the other day, Ed spotted not one, but three, small pawpaw fruits on one of our trees. We celebrated our good fortune, but immediately began to worry that our raccoon population might beat us to the ripening fruit. Our plan is to put a net around the one tree with fruit and hope that the fruits hang on until September when they will be ripe enough to fall from the tree and harvest, or, as the song says, to "pick up pawpaws and put 'em in our pocket, way down yonder on the paw-paw patch."

Then we plan to have a pawpaw party!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Last month our travels serendipitously took us to Croatia. I say serendipitously because we had not been longing to go there, or even knew what we might be missing. We chose it because we wanted to visit our son Jack in Berlin and knew we wanted to travel for a week or two afterwards, preferably somewhere that Jack could join us for at least part of the time.

We considered heading north to Hamburg and then on to Denmark. But spring is slow to come to that part of the world and we were feeling in need of some Mediterranean sunshine. So with a spin of the globe, we landed on Croatia.

Here's all I knew about Croatia before our trip: It lies to the east of Italy, separated only by the Adriatic Sea. People of a certain age know it as part of Yugoslavia (until it gained its independence in 1991).

Here's what I know now: I'm so glad we went.

We spent the first weekend of our trip in Berlin – catching up with Jack, meeting his friends for dinner, checking out his apartment in East Berlin and wandering the city – taking in its deep history, beautiful parks and memorials, remaining portions of the Berlin Wall, multiple flea markets, museums and restaurants.

On Monday morning, Jack pedaled off to classes and we flew to Split, Croatia to begin 10 days of exploring the country's breathtaking natural beauty, interesting history, cream cakes and coffee, pungent truffles, incredible wine and fresh seafood.

Jack joined us two days later and travelled with us for the next five days. We rented a car (with GPS) and drove our way from Split, northward to Zadar, Plitvice, Rovinj, ending in Zagreb. (Because our time was limited, we did not make it to Dobrovnik.)

It is hard for me to pick out my favorite places because every where we went I would declare: "This is my favorite." Instead, let me give you a glimpse of three spots that I hope will entice you to put Croatia on your bucket list.

Plitvice National Park

We spent the better part of one day exploring Croatia's oldest and largest national park, comprised of a series of 16 crystalline lakes that cascade into each other via mineral-rich waterfalls. I don't even have the words to describe how magical it felt to hike the 6 miles or so (downhill) on wooden footbridges and paths, taking in the flora and fauna. Surely one of the best days of my life.

Chard Festival in Padna, Slovenia

We pride ourselves in finding local festivals and parades on our travels and hit the jackpot when we veered off course and made our way uphill to the tiny village of Padna, Slovenia – on our way to Piran. The entire town was set up to welcome neighbors and visitors to its annual Chard Festival -- yes, you heard me right -- a day of celebrating all things chard (and olive oil, and wine, and figs). We wandered through the streets sampling all that they had to offer, loading our backpack with bottles of fresh green olive oil and local wine.

Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationship in Zagreb grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their vestiges. The Museum offers the chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum's unusual collection. One of the strangest museum I've ever visited, it engaged me from the first exhibit to the last: stories of love, loss, regret, revenge and retribution. The above "doodlebug" lost a leg every time its young lovers would see each. Supposedly, when they ran out of legs to tear off, that would be the time to start a life together. The relationship broke and so the doodlebug did not become a complete invalid after all.


Of course, the best part of our trip was traveling with Jack, who lives so far from Farm Dover, but is always a happy, knowledgeable and appreciative traveler. Here's to many more serendipitous travels with our beloveds.


Details that I don't want to forget


Capital and largest city of Germany. 

Hotel Oderberger
Former East German public swimming baths restored as a boutique hotel. Located on main avenue in Prenzlauer Berg. 

Weinschenke Weinstein
Lovely bar in Prenzlauer Berg -- serving great regional wines and lucky-for-us: Spargel (white asparagus)!

Berlin's oldest and most beautiful beer garden, but too cold to sit outside this time. We met up with a table full of Jack's friends, including former Collegiate exchange student Max Freitag and his finance, Christina. 

Second-largest city of Croatia; lies on the Dalmatian coast. 

Hotel Marmont
Located in the heart of the Old Town of Split.

Diocletian Palace
One of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence. Labyrinthine streets packed with people, bars, shops and restaurants. 

Konoba Varos
Small tavern, recommended by our taxi driver. We sat outside and enjoyed their excellent fresh seafood: Black Bream for Ed and Black Cuttlefish Risotto (made with squid ink) for me.

The oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia; situated on the Adriatic Sea. 

Art Hotel Kalelarga
Boutique hotel located in the city centre.

Sea Organ
A series of broad steps leading down into the sea. The lower steps allow water and air to flow into pipes, causing an undulating, chime-like notes to be produced.

We stopped in a nunnery to purchase a bottle of cherry liquor, which has been produced in Zadar since the late 15th century. Taste a bit like "yum-yum," the cough syrup from my childhood -- but better.

Plitvice Lakes National Park (see above)
A chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon. 

Ethno Houses Plitvica Selo
Resort designed as an old traditional village, complete with farm animals.

Town located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula. 

Hotel Angelo d'Oro
Charming small hotel set in the heart of Rovinj's historic center.

Lovely restaurant with outdoor seating just above the sea.

Rio Snack Bar
Don't be fooled by the name; the food was spectacular.

We took a number of day trips from Rovinj. Our destinations included Pula (with its incredible Roman Amphitheater), Piran (Slovenia), and Montovun. We were enchanted with Groznjan, a 14th-century Venetian fortress perched on a hill high above the Mirna river valley. Known for its truffles.

The capital and largest city of Croatia, located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava River. 

Rooms Zagreb 17
Apartment located on the always-lively main cafe street: Tkalcica.

Small restaurant near the Stone Gate.

Museum of Broken Relationships (see above)
An emotional journey around the world through hundreds of break-ups.


We used JayWay Boutique Travel to book our hotels and rental car. Their selections were spot on and made planning the trip much easier.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Unexpected. Unforgettable.

Ed and I are just back from visiting Jack in Berlin and touring around Croatia. I want to tell you about the trip – and write about it so I won't forget the details – but before I do, I wanted to put in a plug for a quick field trip that we made the week before we left.

In mid-April, we headed to Columbus, IN for an overnight stay at the Inn at Irwin Gardens, a tour of the town's world-class architecture, public art and green spaces, and a separate tour of the 1950-era Miller House, commissioned by industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller and his wife Xenia Simons Miller.

You may wonder why Columbus is home to an amazing array of well-designed buildings, bridges and parks. The story goes something like this: Beginning in 1954 Cummins Engine Foundation, headquartered in Columbus, offered to pay the architect's fee for any new school -- and later expanded the program to include a variety of public buildings -- provided it was designed by an architect selected from a list supplied by the Foundation. Soon other companies and church congregations got on board and sought architects who would add to the community's quality of design.

Columbus, less than two hours from our front door, is a town of just 46,000 residents but is now recognized as one of the the nation's most architecturally important cities, boasting more than 50 projects by renowned modernists. It is very impressive.

Joining us for the tour was a college friend of Ed's: Jim Collier, and our daughter Maggie. We specifically scheduled the tour because Henry Kuehn, a mentor to Maggie and fellow Rotarian to both Maggie and Ed was leading it. Henry is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide and made the day all the more special for us.

It was an all-around delightful trip and I hope my readers will consider making a pilgrimage. You can book a tour here. Additionally, the drive, via Madison, IN, is interesting in its own right.

The Inn at Irwin Gardens, a 1910 Edwardian mansion, was our home for the night.
And we made ourselves at home with wine in the library.
And a walk around the gardens, which actually were under renovation,
but should be completed by now. 
We started our tour from the Visitors' Center,
which features a yellow neon chandelier by Dale Chihuly
We toured churches, schools, hospitals, public parks and privately owned buildings.

Henry Moore sculpture: Large Arch, 1971

The Miller House, photo from the Visitors Center 

The Miller House, photo from the Visitors Center 

We ended our visit with ice-cream from Zaharakos Old-fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, which I can also highly recommend!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What's in a name?

When traveling to non-English-speaking countries, I stick close to Ed -- or, if Jack is with us, I stay glued to him. Both my boys have amazing ears to distinctly hear foreign languages and brains that are wired to retain linguistic skills. I have neither.

But as of late, I do have an interest in learning a new language: the language of plants. More specifically, I want to learn taxonomy, the science of classification. You know, those foreign, multisyllabic, italicized, difficult-to-spell or -pronounce names in ancient languages. Developed by Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus in the mid 1700s, his binomial system of nomenclature describes the "genus" and "species" of plants. 

I've learned that the scientific name, sometimes referred to as the botanical name, can be drawn from many sources, including Latin and Greek, names of people and places, and sometimes even anagrams. (The flowering plant species Muilla is an anagram of the onion genus Allium!) I never studied Latin but evidently all educated people in the 1700s learned Latin, no matter what country they were from. All scientific papers were written in Latin so that everyone could understand them, no matter what language they spoke. Good old Carl, was simply following this practice. 

So the Latin names of plants are universal, translating across international borders, and reducing confusion. They offer precision and accuracy governed by a code of nomenclature that is rigorous and standardized. An international congress takes place every year to update the code. This is serious stuff. 

When used properly, scientific names eliminate the common problem with common names: There can be hundreds of common names for the same plant, or conversely, the same common name can be used for hundreds of different species. If I can learn the Latin name, I'll always know its correct name. Also, because Latin isn't spoken much by anyone, it doesn't change over time. You can pretty much be sure that a Latin name will mean the same thing that it did 300 years ago -- and probably the same thing 300 years from now. 

I'm getting a bit of a late start on this new skill. In fact, I hardly know the common name for most plants, but, like any new language, the best way to learn is to start using it in daily life. 

This past weekend, Ed and I went hiking in the Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve in far Eastern Kentucky, located on the south face of Pine Mountain. The preserve protects the largest old growth forest known in Kentucky. Many of the trees were not yet leafed out, but a multitude of wildflowers were popping up all along the creek trail. Here are a few of what we saw -- noted first by their scientific name, and then by their common name. It took me a while to figure these out -- and I'm not entirely sure I've got them right -- but I cross-checked them with three wildflower guides, plus a bit of googling.

Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley)

Diphasiastrum digitatum (Ground Cedar)
 Cardamine concatenata (Cutleaf Toothwart)

Stellaria pubera (Star Chickweed)
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (Cinnamon Fern)

Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple)

Viola pubescens (Yellow Woodland Violet)

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)

To get me started on my journey of learning the Latin names, here's a list of terms often used. I've been counseled not to worry about how to pronounce them as botanical names tongue-tie nearly everyone. One expert advised: "There's no proper way to pronounce these names except for clearly, loudly and with conviction!"

Colors of flowers or foliage
albus - white
argenteus - silvery
aureus - golden
azureus azure - sky blue
caeruleus - dark blue
candidus - pure white, shiny
citrinus - yellow
concolor  - one color
discolor - two colors, separate colors
glaucus - covered with gray bloom
pallidus - pale
purpureus - purple
rubens, ruber - red, ruddy

Form of leaf or plant
arboreus - treelike
contortus - twisted
depressus - pressed down
elegans - elegant, slender, willowy
grandi - large, showy
humilis - low, small, humble
imperialis - showy
impressus - sunken
laurifolius - laurel-like
prostratus - prostrate
reptans - creeping
scabrus - rough-feeling

africanus - of Africa
alpinus - of the Alps
australis - southern
borealis - northern
campestris - of the field or plains
canadensis - of Canada
canariensis - of the Canary Islands
capensis - of the Cape of Good Hope area
chilensis - of Chile
chinensis - of China
hispanicus - of Spain
hortensis - of the garden
indicus - of India
insularis - of the island
japonicus - of Japan
littoralis - of the seashore


Note: Until now, the extent of my Latin language skills has been limited to what Ed always told our kids was our family motto: Semper ubi sub ubi. If you want to know how it translates, you will have to google it.