Thursday, December 31, 2015

On the lookout for the unexpected

On my wanderings around Farm Dover, I am constantly on the lookout for the unexpected. On these short and gray days of December, it might be a white-tailed buck leaping with amazing grace across the barbed-wire boundary fence, or multiple pairs of stylish cardinals whistling with gusto from bare black branches. Maybe it's the green garlic poking through the straw mulch in the big garden, or a few honey bees squeezing in and out of the small winter entrance to their hive. 
Today, on the last day of 2015, I found some Lenten roses, blooming at least two months early. They come from plants growing under the hydrangeas that line the sides of the cottage. Even without leaves on the hydrangea bushes, these hellibore blooms can be hard to see as they tend to hang their heads downward, rather that seeking the light above. 

I picked a few blossoms to share with you. 

Here's to 2016. Be on the lookout. May you be charmed by the unexpected.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Pantry

I read cookbooks the way others read novels. Nothing I like better than to curl up with a new cookbook and begin reading on page 1 and keep at it until the last page.

My friend Jane sent me Alice Water's new book, My Pantry, and yesterday as it poured down rain all day, I poured through the pages. The book was written with the help of Alice's daughter, Fanny Singer, and includes dozens of Fanny's lovely ink illustrations. The book is organized by category, beginning with spice mixtures and condiments and ending with sweet preserves. It includes essays and recipes for pantry staples that many people would not think to make – but ones that can turn a simple meal into something special.

Many of the items in Ms. Walters' pantry can also be found in mine. And, after reading this book, I plan to add a number of new ingredients, so I can cook like Alice! I'm so inspired I might even make Alice's apple peel cider vinegar, or almond milk, or homemade corn tortillas. She also makes a convincing argument for making your own ricotta, chevre, and yogurt. Gives me something to shoot for in 2016...


My pantry and spice drawer are much more robust than they were when I lived in the city. In my prior life, it was all to easy to just swing by Burger's, Doll's Market or Lotsa Pasta and pick up the odd ingredient or two that I was missing. Not so these days. It is at least 10 miles to the nearest Kroger and I find that if I stock my pantry well, harvest a big garden, and fill our basement freezer with frozen soups and meats, I can go a long time between grocery runs.


Apple Peel Cider Vinegar
Reprinted from "My Pantry," by Alice Waters with Fanny Singer. 

Rather than throwing away the scraps after you make a pie or tart, freeze them, and when you have enough, make this mellow, fruity vinegar.

2 quarts apple cores and peels
2 quarts water
1/3 cup sugar

Put the apple cores and peels in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Dissolve the sugar in the water and pour over the cores and peels. Cover with a plate and weight down with something heavy to keep the solids submerged. Cover the entire bowl with cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and leave on the counter out of direct sunlight for 7 days.

Strain the cores and peels from the liquid and discard the solids. Put the liquid in jars or bottles and secure a piece of cheesecloth over the opening with a rubber band to allow airflow. Allow to age at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 6 to 8 weeks, until the desired flavor is achieved. A "mother" will begin to develop after about 2 weeks.

I'm assuming that after the aging period, you can cork the jars and place them in your pantry. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Knowing the dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
– Wendell Berry
from “To Know the Dark”

At nearly midnight tomorrow the winter solstice will occur at Farm Dover. By the time it arrives, it will have been dark for nearly six and a half hours. And it will be nearly eight more hours before the sun rises above our little cottage. It is the longest night.

In his poem, I suspect Wendell Berry may have been referring to the darkness that lurks within our souls, but I challenge you to embrace the physical dark, to know the dark – as it too blooms and sings. Bundle up. Go willingly into the dark. Surrender to it. Look up. The stars are brightly shining. A full moon will rise on Christmas Day. Listen. Around here, coyotes yelp. Turkeys gobble from their tree-top roosts. And an owl will let its presence be known by the soft flap of its wings.

There is a beauty in the darkness that we never imagined.


Yuletide blessings to you and your clan. May there be light in your life and much joy on your journey in the coming year. Rest assured that warmth, sunlight and longer days are somewhere up the trail.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say

For the past week or so, it has seemed more appropriate to wish you a Mele Kalikimaka than a Merry Christmas. While palm trees are not swaying at Farm Dover, the temperatures do feel more like Hawaii than Kentucky. Rather than hunkering down for bowls of warm soup and mugs of hot chocolate, Ed and I have been out in the fields in our shirt sleeves planting seven new paw paw trees, two buckeyes, a wild plum, two persimmon trees, a blue spruce, and dozens and dozens of daffodil bulbs.

We took advantage of the warm weather yesterday to buy not one, but two, balled Christmas trees. We planted one in the side field and the other, we'll haul up to our front porch and decorate with some simple white lights. It will stay there until Christmas Eve when we will move it inside for a day or two. Mary and I will decorate it (or not) on Christmas Eve. Last year, we decided that it looked just fine with the white lights and no ornaments.

Those who know me know that I don't like to decorate the house for Christmas. Don't ask me why, but it seems to me that red and green bows and garlands just look junky. I like them in other people's homes. Just not mine.

But in an effort to be more festive and try harder with my decorations, I moved the big wooden bear down from the mantle and replaced him with a wooden swan and a stoneware crock sprouting some bare branches. I cut some cedar branches with berries and tucked them under the goose. I stood back and looked at my creation and it made me slightly claustrophobic. I tossed the branches into the compost. To my way of thinking, the mantle looked better without them. Maybe I'm turning into a minimalist.

This morning, I unpacked our 1940's-era manger, with its chipped chalkware figurines. Despite its imperfections, I find it perfect.

I'm still looking for the perfect spot for my other favorite nativity. This one I inherited from my mother. She loved Christmas and always went all out with her decor. I don't know where she got this little piece of pottery. Growing up I don't remember seeing it. It appears to have been fashioned by a child. There is Joseph, leading the way. Mary on a donkey, holding Baby Jesus in her arms. After their child was born in a lowly stable in Bethelehem, the family returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. "And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him."

"...That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."


    Mele Kalikimaka
    Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
    On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
    That's the island greeting that we send to you
    From the land where palm trees sway
    Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
    The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
    Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way
    To say Merry Christmas to you
    Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say
    On a bright Hawaiian Christmas day
    That's the island greeting that we send to you
    From the land where palm trees sway
    Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright
    The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night
    Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way
    To say Merry Christmas to you...

                                                      – Bing Crosby

Monday, December 7, 2015


I've been doing a lot of wandering around the farm this past week. The mornings have been frosty, foggy, and sometimes a bit damp. I may procrastinate a bit getting going. My fuzzy robe is, well, fuzzy. And Ed is good about bringing me my latest morning concoction: ginger and mint tea.

But as soon as I pull on my boots and walk out the door, I'm glad. There is always something interesting to see as I make my way down the beehive trail, take the woods' path, circle around the pond, cross the creek at the waterfall, move down the line between our farm and our neighbor's, cut across the drive to the hackberry trailhead, leap across the creek to the upper field, circle back to turkey nest trail, cut through the walnut grove, follow Christmas Tree Lane back to the drive, and head to our front gate, where I always touch the red flag on the mail box before turning around and heading back home.

Not much color to be found. The fields are a hundred shades of muted browns; the early morning skies painted in a palette of soft grays.

But rounding the corner of the front field, something bright caught my eye: a lone December dandelion. Made me smile.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Attaching memories

My cousin Merty died last February. A few months before she died, she asked me to take home one of her beloved Christmas cacti. I wanted to warn her that I wasn't trustworthy. I didn't have a green thumb. I couldn't guarantee that her plant would outlive her.

But instead, I thanked her and placed the green plant in my bathroom in the hopes that it would get good light and moisture, and that if I saw it every day, I might remember to water it.

Much to my delight, it bloomed last December and, as if on cue, has bloomed again this week. Every time I look at it, I think fondly of Merty.


This morning, I trimmed the spent blossoms off the sedum plant out by our birdbath. One by one, I cut the long pale stems topped with brown dried blossoms. And with each cut, I thought about my beloved Grandmommy. You see, my start for this plant came from Mary Rinehart's garden on Cannons Lane. It has followed me from Natchez Lane to Rainbow Drive, to Calumet, to Dover Road.

I remember sitting in Grandmommy's driveway a half century ago with my sisters carefully smashing the top layer of a leaf from this succulent. If I rubbed it just right with my thumb and index finger, the top cellophane-like layer would separate from the fleshy center. I could then blow it up like a little balloon. Great fun for an 8-year-old (or even a 58-year-old!). I taught Maggie, Jack and Mary how to do it as well.

But back to this morning...once I cut all the stems to near ground level, I discovered the most beautiful baby sedums. I got such a kick out of seeing them huddled into the very center of the plant, tightly packed, just waiting for spring.


Not all my plant gifts are attached to memories of those departed. I've got spice bushes in the backyard from Paul and Jackie, a magnolia tree from Sherry, irises from Lynn and Vivian, peonies from Gay, tulip trees from Sandy, ramps from Maggie, an orchard of fruit trees given to us by friends, lily of the valley and wood poppies from Holly, and a monster fern from Kathleen.

But perhaps my favorite is the houseplant that Mary left in my care when she moved to Brooklyn. It's a big floppy-leafed Fiddleleaf Fig tree. It seems to like its home in our study and is growing by leaps and bounds. It's a little bit like having a puppy around. Every time it sprouts a new set of leaves, I text Mary a picture. Every time I see it, or give it a drink of water, I think of Mary, off on her big adventure in NYC. I can't guarantee I won't kill it, but I'm trying very hard not to.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Only in Louisville...

I was born and grew up in Louisville, Ky. I (wrongfully) assumed that everyone knew of – and loved – pimento cheese, benedictine cheese, The-Pie-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named, and Henry Bain sauce. I've written about the first three of these Louisville originals before, so it seemed only fair to introduce you to Henry Bain.

Mr. Bain (1863-1928), the creator of this piquant, tangy, brown condiment, was a head waiter at the private Pendennis Club in downtown Louisville. He developed the sauce for steaks and locally killed game. Legend has it that the all-male club members would routinely bring their kills to the club to be cooked and sauced with the magical Henry Bain sauce.

My grandfather was a member (and long-ago President) of the Pendennis Club so I have lots of memories of dining at this club. (For many years, membership was only open to males. All female guests had to enter the club via the side door. At some point, that rule was dropped; my grandfather however, insisted that my sisters and I continue to observe the old tradition. Out of respect for him, I did – rather begrudgedly. I'm pleased to report that today, the membership is far more diverse than in my grandfather's day and, when invited, I proudly enter by the front door.)

I've seen some jars of Henry Bain sauce for sale at local grocers and specialty food stores; but here's the thing: it is simple to make. You just dump 6 ingredients from the condiment aisle of Kroger into a bowl, mix it up, and funnel it into jars. That's what I did in about 10 minutes last night. I used recycled maple syrup jars and here's the result of my efforts:

I need to figure out how to print a Farm Dover label and then I'm all set to give four lucky people a bottle of this Louisville tradition.

In addition to being delicious on a steak or chop, you can simple pour some over a block of cream cheese and serve with crackers. 

Here's the recipe that I used...

Henry Bain Sauce

1 (17 ounce) jar Major Grey chutney
1 (14 ounce) bottle of ketcup
1 (10 ounce) bottle of Worcestershire sauce
1 (12 ounce) bottle chili sauce
1 (10 ounce) bottle of A1 Steak Sauce
A couple of dashes of Tabasco Sauce

Mix all together and pour into sterile jars.

Note: the original recipe also calls for 4.5 ounces of pickled walnuts. In all the recipes I found, it was considered an optional ingredient. I suspect that is because this ingredient is hard to find nowadays. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I'm lucky

I can count my very best friends on one hand, and I know I can count on each of them whenever I need them, and vice versa.

One of my best and oldest friends is Jane. I met her just out of college. She interviewed me for a job at a local bank, made sure I got a job offer, introduced me to Ed, and to a whole new world of art and books. She changed my life – all for the better.

A few years into our friendship, she moved to England, but we stayed in touch – mostly via long handwritten letters on airmail stationery. A decade later, she moved back to her hometown: Berea, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where she opened a small gift/antique shop. Since then, she has worked a number of jobs, most in bookstores. She's a genius about remembering not only my birthday, but those of my whole family. We talk by phone once a month or so: fill each other in on our lives; trade favorite book recommendations; and promise to get together soon.

On Sunday, she drove down from Tiffin, Ohio, where she currently lives with her cat, Pippin. We spent the next 48 hours walking, and talking, and eating, and catching up. Yesterday, we drove into Louisville to go to the KMAC (Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft) but found it closed for renovation. So we crossed Main Street to have a look around the 21c Museum Hotel. After doing a bit of shopping, we went to my Louisville book club meeting. In preparation for her visit, Jane had read the Raymond Chandler book that we were discussing and fell right in with my other book-loving friends.

at 21c
This morning, we took one final walk around Farm Dover in the misty rain, enjoyed an early lunch of bean soup, and then posed on the front step for a photo to prove that we really were together – and not just talking over the phone.

I watched as she drove down our drive and thought about how lucky I am to have Jane as my friend.

Come back soon, Jane.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My hearts-a-bustin'

Since we've been home from our travels, Ed and I have been busy working the woods, fields, and gardens of Farm Dover.

In our woods, we are playing catch up with controlling the invasive species that like to reappear every time we turn our back (or go out of town for three weeks). Specifically, we been tackling the bush honeysuckle, osage orange and multiflora wild roses. Don't all those plants have lovely names? Don't be fooled by them. They are crazy, and meddlesome, and nearly impossible to get rid of.

Most days, we head out shortly after breakfast with our shovel, clippers, chainsaw and loppers. If we can dig the plant out, Ed digs – and I pull. If it is too big or too stubborn, Ed clips or chainsaws it down to the ground – and I apply the smallest amount of stump killer. Hate to use the herbicide, but if we just clip the target plant, it comes back with a vengeance.

Our work has several upsides. It improves not only the health of our forests, but also of us: it's great exercise. It's satisfying: there is something about getting rid of pesky plants so native plants can thrive. And, perhaps best of all, we get to know our woods intimately as we slowly work our way over every square inch of our farm. Almost every time we go out, we discover something of interest. This week, we came upon a bush aptly called Hearts-a-Bustin'. On its now bare limbs hang the most beautiful pink and red fruit/seed. In an otherwise neutral forest, the color pops – making my heart almost bust with joy.

Turns out there is a song about this bush by country music singer and songwriter Billy Joe Shaver. Here's a link to the song, sung by one of our all-time favorites: Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Like most country songs, it's all about being lonesome.

Hearts-a-Bustin' is a beautiful flower
That looks like its heart burst inside
I miss you so much, your sweet gentle touch
I'll love you till the day that I die. 


We spent this afternoon walking our fields with Margaret Shea, owner of Dropseed Native Plant Nursery, located in Goshen, KY. The mission of the nursery is to provide high-quality, local-genetic plant material for restoration and landscape projects. We met Margaret this past weekend when we stopped by Dropseed and bought two persimmon trees, one yellowwood tree and one wild plum tree. She agreed to come out to Farm Dover and give us some recommendations for how we might continue to improve our fields of native grasses and wildflowers. Today, she mostly just walked around our fields and talked with us about our vision for them. She has promised to follow up with her recommendations. Can't wait to see what she comes up with.


Progress has been happening in the garden as well. Although if you looked at it, you couldn't tell. I finally got my garlic planted over the weekend. I placed nearly 80 cloves in neat rows in the back corner and covered them with a couple of inches of soil. I'm waiting for them to sprout before covering them with straw to protect them from the winter cold.

And I began digging up my old strawberry bed. After five productive seasons, the plants had grown too dense and the bed needed to be rejuvenated. But the old plants looked so healthy once I had dug them up and separated them that I didn't have the heart to just dump them onto the compost pile. So, as an experiment, I planted 45 of them in a corner of my big garden. Won't know until spring if this was a good idea or not.

I've got three bales of straw to put down in my garden in the continued hope that it helps keep the summer weeds at bay. Ideally I'd like to put down plain cardboard before the straw, but I've yet to find a supply of brown corrugated boxes that need recycling. Let me know if you have some you could provide for this project.


The days are getting shorter and colder, but our list of outdoor projects is still long. I'm grateful for every day that we can get outside and work our woods, fields and gardens. It makes my heart want to bust!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Oh, Lard!

I had quite the homesteading experience this week. I rendered three pounds of pork fat into eight jars of white, odorless lard. You heard me right. Lard.

There has been a bag of hunks of pig fat sitting in the bottom of our freezer since last December when we purchased half of a heritage hog. It had been weighing on my mind. I've been trying to eat through our freezer so I can defrost and then refill it. Pork chops, gone. Sausage, gone. Ham, gone. Pork shoulder, gone. All that was left were a couple of packages of pork skin, some liver, and a bag of leaf lard: the highest quality fat deposits that surround the pig's kidneys. I've been told that it has little pork flavor, making it ideal for producing flaky, moist pie crusts.

Mind you, I've never made a homemade pie crust and I certainly have never rendered lard. But there is always a first time...

Before I tell you how I did it, I want to back up and admit that cooking with pork fat has long been a tradition in the Galloway family. When I first met Ed, I had no idea how to cook anything other than plain pasta, but he knew his way around the kitchen. On his stove top was a tin can into which he would pour his bacon drippings. A similar tin can also sat on his mother's stovetop and, in years past, both his grandmothers'. Ed would use a spoonful of the room-temperature bacon fat to cook a pork chop, brown some onions for chili, or fry an egg. I was baffled by this practice -- and a little concerned that I might die from it, which I didn't!

Fast forward 35 years and turns out that pork fat (lard) is back in fashion among chefs, especially southern chefs. We dined at Husk in Charleston, S.C., last winter and had the most delicious cornbread, made with – you guessed it – lard. I bought a can at Kroger and made a skillet of cornbread using Chef Sean Brock's recipe.  It was good, but not as good as at Husk. I suspected it was the quality of lard, as most that is sold at a supermarket is rendered from a mixture of high and low quality pork fat sources. It is also hydrogenated and treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents. Yuck.

By rendering my own lard, I could get high quality fat that I could feel good about using. In fact, the lard I produced (unhydrogenated) has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight. And unlike many margarines and vegetable shortenings, it contains no trans fat. Almost sounds healthy, right?

Rendering the lard required dicing it into small pieces and cooking it in my crockpot over low heat for hours and hours. As the fat melted, I ladled it into canning jars, which I later froze. At the end of the process, I was left with a cup or two of cracklins (which I'm still trying to figure out what to do with).

Once I was done, I couldn't wait to cook with it. Using the Husk restaurant recipe, I cooked up a cast-iron skillet full of cornbread. Thanks to the lard, it was crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. 

Now, I just need to tackle a pie crust. Wish me luck.

And then there is the question about what to do with the pig skin and liver, still in the freezer. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More than skin deep

Beauty is more than skin deep.
– often quoted by my mother to her four girls

Yesterday, while the sun was shining, I was picking the last of the apples off my neighbor's ancient apple tree. They were a far cry from the perfectly polished, unblemished apples that you find at the grocery. Misformed and splotchy they might be; but once I peeled and cored the apples, and cut out the bad spots, they filled my crockpot to the brim. Now the aroma of bubbling applesauce is filling my kitchen.

Tomorrow morning, Ed will get up early and patiently cook a pot of steel-cut oats, stirring every five minutes for what seems like a very long time. I'll get up late and enjoy a bowl of homemade oatmeal with warm applesauce on top. Can't wait.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Currying Favor with Curry Flavor

It's Meatless Monday and I'm back to working out what to cook. Ed would be totally happy with a plate of vegetables (especially in the summertime – so long as it included sliced tomatoes). But I like to curry favor with him, so I've settled on cooking a pumpkin curry.

The basis for my creation is this recipe I found on Love & Lemons, but of course, I changed it around a bit as I am incapable of following directions.

I started with one of the buff colored Long Island Cheese pumpkins that I grew in my patch.

I sliced it in half and roasted it for about 45 minutes. Look at that color of its insides.

I also roasted the seeds and have been snacking on them all day.

Until a year or two ago, I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I had eaten curries. That was before our trip to Thailand, where I was enthralled with the multitude of delicious curries we were served.

I'm sure there is much for me to learn to make an authentic Thai curry, but, in the meantime, I've found a short cut: red curry paste that I find at the Shelbyville Kroger store in the Asian aisle. A couple of teaspoons is all it takes to warm up a dish with Thai flavors. It's made from a mash of red chilies, coriander roots and leaves, lemon grass, garlic shallots and galangal. (If you read the fine print, it also contains a bit of shrimp paste, which technically puts my Meatless Mondays in jeopardy. Yikes!)

To the curry paste, I added a can of coconut milk, a squeeze of lime and a teaspoon of the fancy salt/pepper blend that my friend Steve brought me from his recent travels to Spain. I cooked some brown rice, baked some tofu, and steamed some broccoli and green beans. 

I layered the rice, curry sauce, tofu and vegetables into our lunch bowls. It was both beautiful and tasty. The perfect lunch for cold fall day. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last Monday marked our 30th anniversary. For us, it was a bit like Mary's childhood birthday celebrations: we celebrated and celebrated, beginning with our Italy trip and continuing last week with a fly fishing trip to Arkansas. We had planned our Ozark trip at least a year ago, before Italy, before the Czech Republic, before NYC. Had we known about those trips, we may have opted to stay home and enjoy our time at Farm Dover. Instead, we packed the car and headed west for a week. I'm glad we did.

While we were traveling, sister Sherry forwarded me an article from The Wall Street Journal about how to enhance cognitive function. (These are the kind of articles we circulate among the sisters in the hopes that we can somehow ward off ending up like our mom who suffered so from Alzheimer's.) The gist of the article was that by getting out of your comfort zone and learning new skills, one might show improvements in memory and processing speed. Something about tapping more diffuse brain circuits and pathways to compensate for age-related deficits.

It seems our travels afford lots of opportunities for Ed and me to get out of our comfort zone and learn new skills – or at least see new sights and experience different cultures. This trip was no exception. Once we crossed the Mississippi near Wickliffe, KY, I felt a bit like Dorothy: "I've a feeling we're not in Kentucky anymore." Stretched before us in all directions were cotton fields. I thought they were spectacularly beautiful; I made Ed pull over so I could make a photo, or two, or ten.

Our first destination was Norfolk, Arkansas where we hiked and fished the White River for two days. Because we only fly fish a couple of times a year, it seems I need to relearn the basis skills every time. Chalk one up for my brain development.

From there, we drove to Bentonville, corporate headquarters for Walmart. Don't get me started, but just know that I am not a fan of Walmart stores and believe they have done much to destroy small-town USA. Having said that, the Walton family has given much back to the small town of Bentonville. We stayed the night at the very hip and very fun 21c Museum Hotel and toured the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Alice Walton. We had two excellent meals in the downtown square: a late lunch at Oven & Tap and dinner at Tusk & Trotter.

The last part of our trip we spent at Petit Jean State Park, where we rented a cabin. We made some good hikes; cooked some simple meals; read some good books and enjoyed the fall colors and beautiful sunsets (as well as the antics of a funny armadillo that lives in the back yard of our cabin).

On our way home, we stopped in Nashville to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame; checked out the independent bookstore, Parnassus (co-owned by bestselling author Ann Patchett); and met up with long-time friends, Wade and Lacy, for dinner.

At noon today, we turned into our drive.

We were back in our comfort zone.