Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Good Thing About All the Rain

Just in case you have not been following the saga of our lake, I'll fill you in.

Our lake was dug this time last year and slowly filled up. It looked beautiful in the early spring, but by early summer the water was inching its way down, flowing out on the far side of the dam into the creek. We had heard stories from almost everyone who had a lake about problems they encountered: some solvable, some not.

We worried about the catfish, bass, sunfish and bullfrogs that we had stocked in the pond. The water got down to just a foot or two before help arrived in the form of a bulldozer and a knowledgeable lake guy. He worked on repairing the dam, which he believed was the source of our sorrows. As he tucked our check for the work into his front shirt pocket and backed his bulldozer-loaded truck rig out of the field, he leaned out the window and said he "thought he had fixed it." We wouldn't know until the lake had filled back up and the water stayed where it was supposed to stay (inside the lake). So we waited, and waited and waited. With each rain, the lake rose by an inch or two.

But with all the rain we have had in the last week or so, it started filling up faster and faster. Every morning I'd look out and see that it was fuller and fuller.

It's back to being beautiful again. Keep your fingers crossed that it stays filled in.

And now, you are filled in.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking Grandmommy's China Out for a Spin

In some ways every generation balances the pleasure of traditions, legacies, roots,
with the equally American appeal of a fresh start.
I wonder how much stuff, and stories, our children can carry with them to their own table
and still have room for the new.
- Ellen Goodman

Like (retired) columnist Ellen Goodman, this Thanksgiving we are taking my grandmother's china out for a spin. Yesterday as I held the stepstool steady, Mary pulled Grandmommy's "M" china down from the top shelf of our pantry where it was carefully stacked last March when we moved to the country.

For the past eight months, I've only used our simple Fiesta-ware and my plain stainless cutlery. Our wedding china, Grandmommy's "M" china, Ed's mother's white-with-gold-rim china, all seem too froufrou for our country lifestyle. But not today. Thanksgiving is a day for bowing to tradition – for being grateful for those around us and for remembering those whose lives have shaped us. So out comes Grandmommy's china and Ed's mother's silver goblets.

We'll sit down to a very traditional dinner of turkey, three kinds of dressing, cranberries, mashed turnips and potatoes, chipotle whipped sweet potatoes, green beans and two kinds of pies. We'll thank God for our many blessings. We'll raise a toast to those around the table, to Jack in Germany, and to those who have gone before.  And then we'll dig in!


If she were still alive, my grandmother, Mary B. Rinehart, would be 104 tomorrow.
She was born on November 25, 1907 and died shortly after her 91st birthday in 1998.
I still miss her – every day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It felt like Christmas morning as I opened a heavy box that was delivered to our front door yesterday. Inside were 13 packages of Rancho Gordon beans. Now, these are not your average dried beans, they are glorious, old-fashioned and heirloom beans and they hail from Napa, California. They are to beans what Bentleys are to cars and I treat myself to an order once a year.

Not only are they amazingly delicious, they have names to match their colors or shapes.
Names like: Christmas Limas, Eye of the Goat, Snowcap, Jacob's Cattle, Black Calypso, Yellow Eye, and Cranberry.

I'll head to the Bardstown Road Farmers' Market and pick up some ham hocks for our freezer. Then when the weather outside turns frightful, Ed will build us a fire that is so delightful. And since we've no place to go, I'll whip up some amazing cassoulet, bean soup, homemade hummus, and baked beans. So let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Keeping the Vampires Away

You can never have enough garlic. With enough garlic, you can eat The New York Times.
– Morley Safer

I'm very serious about wanting to have a more productive garden in 2012 and realized that if that is to happen, I need to do some work on it in 2011. I just figured out that if I want garlic next year, I needed to get it in the ground, lickety-split.

I broke apart two garlic heads and selected the best looking cloves.

I tucked the cloves in the raised garden bed, pointy side up and covered them with about an inch of soil.
Tomorrow I'll add a layer of straw to keep them nice and warm
In the spring (if all goes as planned), I'll harvest the garlic scapes. Then, come summer, I'll harvest my own Farm Dover-grown garlic heads. Vampires beware! You are not welcome here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Right Tool Makes the Job Much Easier

I never knew that planting daffodil bulbs could be so easy!
(Okay, last year was easier, but that's because Jack did it for me.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Winging It Through Germany and France, Part II

Here's a look at the highlights and lowlights of our trip...
Note: Ed's comments are in italic.

Best moment(s) of the entire trip
Okay, this is where my "mom" persona takes over. It was really great to see Jack and see where he teaches, where he lives, meet his roommates, see him play basketball, meet up with him in Cologne, Trier, and Dusseldorf. Now, even though I have no idea what he is up to, I can imagine him walking to his school, catching the train, spending time with Felix and Melanie, or with the Wolff family. It helps alot.

It was great fun to be with Jack even if he did accuse me of messing with his German with my terrible accent.

Jack spent a couple of days with us
as we made our way up from Trier to the Moselle River Valley.

Best food
The German breakfasts are hard to beat. I couldn't much longer keep up the pace of starting the day with such a large offering, but it sure was enticing while it lasted.

The breakfast at Hotel Haus Lipmann in the tiny town of Beilstein was so fantastic, we extended our stay for one more day.
We enjoyed a little sekt in the morning.
The bubbly German wine came with breakfast.

Most memorable dining experience
Our Fodor's France book listed Chez Yvonne in Strasbourg as a one $ (inexpensive) recommended place to eat.

What they call inexpensive is a little confusing to me, given what it cost in euros. The trip taught me a lot about what it is to be an addict.  I became addicted to ATM's.  Like any addict, I kept needing more and more and more to get the rush (all those wonderful colorful euro just for knowing a four digit code).  Now I'm cold turkey with only my credit card bills to remind of those highs.

We found this classic winstub after wandering down a picturesque little street in the Old Town and popped in to see about a reservation. We made one for one hour later and then headed out for a beer in the church square. When we returned, the staff seated us in an intimate alcove surrounded on three sides with red-checked curtains. It could have been a bit kitschy, but instead it was quite charming. We split a smoked salmon appetizer and I ordered choucroute while Ed chose a white fish -- both dishes were served with a pile of sauerkraut, which we were not yet tired of. The website describes Chez Yvonne as "a magical and very charming house in which each 'stub' (room) exhales its own intimacy, bringing out a feeling of warmth and well-being." We concur.

The meal ended with a glass of schnapps with coffee.  I even remember part of the walk back to the hotel -- the getting lost part. Try reading a small print city map in the dark after a long haul at dinner with Alsatian wine. 

Being charmed at the charming Chez Yvonne.
Worst food
Without a doubt: Delta Airlines. Don't get me started.

Nicest hotel experience
We treated ourselves to a 4-star hotel in Cologne located just next to the Cathedral. In return, the Excelsior Hotel Ernst treated us royally from the moment we pulled up and the valet greeted us.

The staff was professional; the room huge; the bathrobe fluffy
and the slippers a nice touch.
Worst hotel experience 
For 16 days, Ed and I were inseparable. We did everything together, side by side, never more than an arm's length from each other. Until one morning, he  awoke early and decided to go down to the hotel lobby to read and catch up on the news on my ipad. "Take your time," he said as the hotel door closed behind him. Into the tiny shower cubicle I popped, pulling the glass door tightly shut. Once showered, I pushed on the door, but it wouldn't budge. I pushed harder. No luck. I lowered myself down to the tile floor and tried opening the door by pushing on it with both feet. I was sure that if I pushed any harder, the glass would shatter. So, I just sat there, in a yoga pose, and tried to breathe deeply, knowing that eventually Ed would come back to the room to check on my whereabouts. And, eventually, he did, and freed me from my captivity.

I couldn't figure out what was keeping her.  I was thinking that maybe I misunderstood our plan.  When I got back to the room, she was so pathetic sitting in the shower cubicle I completely forgot about getting the camera and thereby missed the best picture of the trip.

Most scenic town
Every village along the Route du Vin (the Alsace Wine Road) is strikingly charming: the vineyards that run right up to the village edge, the half-timbered medieval houses, the belltowers, the chateau ruins, the degustations (offering free wine tastings). Because we spent several days driving along the route and detouring up into the Vosges mountains and back down, all the villages began to look the same and all had names impossible to pronounce: Ribeauville, Riquewirh, Blienschwiller, Gueberschwihr... We decided our favorite village was the slightly-less-touristy: Kaysersberg. It was there that we found a winery tucked back into a steep vineyard, run by a young man, a  third-generation vintner, who sold us a couple of bottles of Alsacian wine, both white and red, as well as a sparkling bottle of Crement.
A stork's nest sits atop a bell tower in one of the many villages we visited along the Wine Route.
Window boxes of flowers were on every house in every village.

Best exercise
It's a tossup. We rented bikes one afternoon and rode many, many kilometers through the Mosel Valley. I hadn't been on a bike in many, many years and I wasn't sure I was going to make it back to the ferry.

They say you never forget how, but that's not exactly right.  I wish I hadn't run into that sideview mirror trying to get going. Anyway, it didn't fall all the way off. 

Getting off our bikes for the ferry ride home
was a very welcomed idea.

On our way back to Dusseldorf, we stopped at the 12th century Burg Eltz Castle, nestled in the hills above the Moselle River, but built down in a deep valley. We parked our car and started on the route down. Shortly, we saw a man breathing very heavily walking back toward the parking lot. Wimp, we thought. Wrong, we found out. The way down is long and steep. The way back seemed even longer and steeper. But it was worth it, the castle (along with the armoury and treasury) are really something to see.

Berg Eltz was built in the 12c way down in a valley.

Getting around
We rented an Audi A6 with a GPS. So another woman got to tell Ed how to get from town A to town B. In a nice English accent, she would politely say, "Recalculating. Please make a U-turn."

Simply put: GPS saved our marriage.
Craziest sight
The naked cowboy serenaded us as we sat at a cafe in Cologne.
The Naked Cowboy: No further explanation needed.

Best shopping
For high-end shopping, there is no finer place than the Konigsallee in Dusseldorf. This glamorous boulevard is home to shops of all the top designers, and to exclusive jewellers, perfume, porcelain and antiques shops that offer the most luxuriously goods imaginable. Needless to say, other than a bit of window shopping, this didn't really do it for me.

I had more fun in the markets of Trier where I spied woven market baskets with long leather handles. I bought two -- one for each of my girls. Our other "find" was a topferie (pottery shop) along the roadside that follows the Moselle River. We saw the simple rustic sign and pulled in. The old man who answered the bell spoke zero English but nevertheless managed to sell us a beautiful vase that his wife had made.  And then there was the Mustard Museum in Cochem....I managed to limit my purchases to three heavy jars.

Real heavy.

Nice to bring back such a beautiful souvenir.

Toughest language challenge
Ed's French is very good.
Just good enough to dig myself a grand trou.
He took French in high school and college. He reads (tries to) French novels if they're real simple. He listens to French language tapes driving back and forth from home to work. His French language skills served him (us) very well the whole time we were in France -- except when we stopped at a laundromat (laverie automatique) to do a load of wash. Figuring out how to load the machine and select the proper temperature, acquire laundry detergent, and pay correctly was just beyond his grasp. Fortunately two French woman took over, loudly arguing between themselves about what needed to be done to help this poor American man get his clothes washed properly. I just stood by and watched.

4 euros to run a load of wash? 

Benefit of getting old -- you don't care if you wear the same pair of pants all week.  It doesn't compensate for ear hair but still ...

Final Thoughts
We were gone for 16 days, our longest vacation to date. It was great to be gone and great to come back home to Farm Dover.

 A look out of our hotel window
in Obernai, France

There's no place like home...

Monday, November 7, 2011


Maggie harvested one frame full of honey from one of her hives.
The bees will feast on the remaining honey over the winter. Lucky bees!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Winging It Through Germany and France, Part I

Planning our recent trip to Germany and France was a bit of a challenge. With limited internet access from the farm and limited knowledge of the region we were targeting, we finally decided that we would just book our flights into Dusseldorf, reserve hotels for only a couple of nights along the way and then wing it. That's right, wing it. Our plan was to stop at the tourist information bureau at whatever town we arrived in and figure out what comes next, based on our rather loose itinerary. I must say our non-planning added an element of intrigue to the trip.

Our general plan was to rent a car at the Dusseldorf airport, drive over to see Jack, spend a couple of days in Cologne and then head down the Alsace region of France to Strasbourg and points south. The second half of the trip had us crossing the Rhine to Trier, Germany and then following the Moselle River Valley back up to Kolbenz before angling back to Dusseldorf for a last visit with Jack. The actual trip turned out better than I had expected. The weather, the food, the wine, the landscapes, the company – all delightful.

And I don't want to forget any of it, not the pumpkin soup in Trier, the soaring cathedral in Cologne, the geranium-filled flower boxes on every medieval house along the Alsatian Wine Road, the thrill of again watching Jack play basketball, our bike ride through the Moselle Valley, our dinner with Laura Wolff's family (see photo below). None of it. Not one single moment. One of the best things about traveling is the fun of reliving the experience. But sometimes I can't even remember what day it is, much less what how delightful a mid-afternoon coffee and kuchen can be.

So...not so much for your pleasure, but more as an aid to my memory, I'm putting down the highlights (and lowlights) and asking Ed to chime in (see italics). Then on a cold February day, I can remember back to the afternoon spent at the chocolate museum in Cologne or the Paffgen beer garden where waiters in long blue aprons brought glasses of slightly hoppy Kolsch beer, keeping track of the number of glasses we consumed with tick marks in pencil on our round coaster.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Posing in Trier, Germany. Jack came down for the weekend to meet us.
High Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Mary in Cologne, Germany.
An afternoon bike ride along the Moselle River
Grapes. Everywhere.
Down to the edge of towns, up the steepest banks.
Laura Wolffe (far right) spent last year in Louisville, as an au pair.
Her family lives less than an hour away from Jack and has shown him great hospitality.