Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Wild Life at Farm Dover

I wouldn't say that Ed and I live a particularly wild life here at Farm Dover, but we certainly see it on a daily basis. In the past couple of days, we've seen:

• A red-tail hawk flying with a snake hanging out of its mouth.
• A raccoon trying to cool off in the pond down by the waterfall.
• A rafter of turkeys marching down the driveway.
• A day-old mockingbird baby.
• A snapping turtle hanging out on the bank of the pond.
• A coyote pup romping around our back yard.

Field Trip to Farm Dover

Ed's niece, Pam, and three of her best friends (all retired school principals) came to Farm Dover today as part of their Shelby County field trip.

They left Owensboro early this morning, stopped for some shopping at the new Outlet Mall in Simpsonville, made their way to Farm Dover for lunch and then headed to downtown Shelbyville to check out the antique stores. If their lunch stop was any indication, I'd say they had a pretty fun day of it. I know Ed and I had fun hosting them.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Farmer of Tiny Trees

When Ed and I built our house in the country, I took a sabbatical from running my marketing firm, and then, I never looked back – shifting seamlessly from sabbatical to retired. Now when people ask me what I do, I proudly say I'm a farmer, which may be a bit of an exaggeration. The only livestock we have are honey bees and the only cultivation we do is my garden – plus a field of tiny walnut trees.

You already know about my garden; I thought I'd tell you about our walnut field. Back in the fall of 2012, we ordered 100 walnut seedlings from the Kentucky Division of Forestry. The total cost was $53 and in January 2013, we received ten bundles of leafless, bare root seedlings, each less than a foot tall with a scrawny root of about 3 inches.

We planted them in one of our fields that was not yet planted in wildflowers and native grasses. On a cold January day, we measured out a 10x10 grid and one by one, planted the tiny trees, placing an orange flag at the base of each one so we could see them against the winter field. Then it snowed.

For the past 30 months we have babied our tiny trees – weeding around the base of each one, mulching, mowing between the rows and watering each tree when there is no rain in sight. We have lost a handful to rabbits or deer or neglect, but for the most part, they have thrived.

This past week, despite the heat, we weeded around each tree and pulled up the flags. They are now large enough to see while mowing.

You may be wondering what in the world we are planning to do with this field of walnut trees: Mostly sit back and watch them grow. In 35 to 50 years, they may be large enough to harvest for their logs. Black walnut trees are valued for their logs, which are often cut into veneer. They are in high demand because of their beautiful color, strength, and durability.

We have hundreds of walnut trees scattered about our farm, but the very idea of bringing heavy equipment in to harvest them for timber is unappealing as it would create a huge mess. By putting them in an orderly field, we (or some future generation) can chose to harvest them when their trunks get to be about 24" in diameter.

Along the way, we will prune the trees in hopes of yielding high-quality, knot-free veneer and lumber logs. In the meantime, we enjoy tending to the trees and watching them grow. In another 7 or 8 years, they will start to produce black walnuts, which we can harvest and use in jam cakes and other such goodies, or share with the squirrels, deer and woodpeckers.

So, you see, I really can claim that I'm a farmer – a farmer of tiny trees, that may someday be towering 100-foot giants. Wish me luck.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Farm Dover's First Artist in Residence: Dudley Zopp

My paintings reflect my interest in geological processes and cultural histories of place.
Earth as a material substance has always captivated me and I have learned that each location
has its particular geological significance that determines the way its inhabitants live their lives.
Dudley Zopp

Something exciting happened at Farm Dover last month and I have not yet told you about it. Ed and I hosted our first Artist in Residence. Our friend – and acclaimed artist – Dudley Zopp came for a week of study, sketching and watercolor blocking of landscape perspectives here at Farm Dover. (For those of you who are long-time readers of this blog,  you may recall that Ed, Jack and I went to New York City back in 2011 to see Dudley's exhibit at Coleman Burke Gallery.)

Dudley slept in the cottage and worked long hours on her art each day. She'd come up to the house for meals and small breaks – but most of the time, I'd see her sitting on a five-gallon plastic bucket out in the middle of a field, sketching or painting away.

Dudley currently lives in Maine, but is originally from Kentucky. Her goal for this residency was "to look at my native landscape through the lens of twenty years in New England."

She did a similar residency in Farnese, Italy, which provided inspiration for a series of paintings she calls Sight Lines. She is hoping to produce a companion body of work based on her sketches of Farm Dover.

Here are a couple of her Sight Lines paintings, inspired from her Italian residency.

I left a small stack of books in the cottage and Dudley was taken with a line from Wendell Berry's: Fidelity. Hannah is talking about Nathan (her husband) and says: "You never felt, looking at him, that he had left something somewhere beyond the cleared fields that he would be bound to go back and get." Says Dudley: "It's that feeling of something either left behind or waiting ahead for me, that defines both the paintings and a lot of the places I've chosen to dig into."

I was fascinated to hear her talk about her work. The last day that she was here, she shared pages from her sketchbooks with us and talked about her process for collecting the information that she needs to go back to her studio and create works in oil on paper or linen. She took photos, made sketches with notes, and captured scenes in small watercolors.

I can't wait to see the paintings from her time here. It pleases me to no end to think that Farm Dover provided inspiration to such a talented artist. I'm hoping she will discover that she needs to come back for more material. If so, a residency is waiting for her...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Making Traditions

For the past three summers Cousin Glenda has been bringing two of her grandchildren out to Farm Dover. This year, their little cousin Frances joined them.

Ed and I were in town for most of the day Wednesday, so when our visitors got here, the first thing we needed to do was bake a peach pie for our dessert that evening. While Frances counted out six peaches, Julia cracked the egg and Nathan peeled the peaches. In no time at all, the pie was in the oven and we headed out to the garden.

The kids sampled nasturtium blossoms, raw green beans and okra. They harvested squash and zucchini; they dug potatoes; and carefully picked a white eggplant. They checked out the pumpkins --which are getting bigger by the day.

We hiked through the woods and over the waterfall, looking carefully for a long list of items that were on their scavenger hunt list.

I showed them a catalpa worm with wasp eggs on it. We all agreed, it was kinda gross. We left it on the ground to make its way home.

We dined on BBQ on the back porch and played some ping pong. It was time to go home before we got to do all the things we wanted to do. Oh well, they will just have to come back next summer – after all: it's tradition!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sweet Land of Liberty

I found myself getting teary-eyed more than once this weekend. We were in New York City celebrating our country's Independence Day and visiting with our youngest daughter, Mary. My teariness arose from being proud of Mary making her way in a big city and from an appreciation of the heterogeneous society that makes New York – and by extension, America – the great place that it is. 
Lady Liberty from Staten Island Ferry
We chose this weekend to visit as one of Jack's best friends from China was flying to America and spending the weekend checking things off her must-do/must-see list. Shaoting was planning to stay with Mary and we wanted to see her again as she was one of Jack's friends who nursed him back to health after his appendicitis attack -- and for that, we are most grateful.

I didn't think much about it being a holiday weekend; but turns out, it was a great weekend to be in the city. The crowds were down and the weather was just about perfect. And a patriotic spirit was sweeping through the Big Apple -- or maybe it was just me that was feeling susceptible to all things red, white and blue.

Shaoting was here on a visa that was set to expire shortly and she saw it as a chance to come see people and places that are so different from her and from Shenzhen, the city in Southern China where she lives. Visas to leave China are hard to come by. Travel is restricted -- and expensive.

 at One Trade Observatory
Most of the people that I hang around with in Shelbyville are old, white, fairly well off, drive pickup trucks, go to church most Sundays, and seldom venture far from home.  New York, on the other hand, is full of people whose skin, religion, language, dress and life experiences are 180 degrees different than mine. It was just what my soul needed.

Our neighbor at our Airbnb apartment was a Hasidic Jew (complete with sidelocks); the community garden next door to our apartment was a gathering place for Puerto Rican men who played dominos every evening. Our Uber drivers were named Juan, Abu, Pablo, and Gennadly. The preacher at First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights was a black, gay woman; the people whose fireworks party Ed and I crashed on the roof of our building were all 20-somethings. As we walked around town, I heard conversations in French, German, Chinese, Spanish and a dozen other languages. We sang from an African American hymnal on Sunday morning. We ate at a Jewish deli, a German beer garden, an Italian cafe and an American Steakhouse. Talk about a melting pot of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes!

Shaoting was excited to be in America. She hadn't slept in days, but didn't want to slow down for a moment. We looked at her list and decided to divide and conquer. In addition to her list of sights, Shaoting wanted to try New York pizza, bagels, and cheesecake.

Mary greeted Shaoting on Wednesday night and they ordered pizza. Check. The next morning, Ed and I took a crack-of-dawn flight and showed up at Mary's office, just as Mary and Shaoting were getting off the morning train from Brooklyn. We headed 'round the corner to a deli for bagel and lox -- and later that day we stopped in Little Italy for cheesecake. Check. Check.

While Mary worked, we visited the 9/11 Memorial and took a ride to the 107th floor of One World Observatory. Check and check. We then took the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. Check. We rendezvoused with Mary, and she and Shaoting walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (while Ed and I sat on a park bench to people watch). Check.

Shaoting's list was getting shorter. The next morning we met Jack's college roommate, Matt, for breakfast at Russ & Daughters Cafe. While this particular cafe was not on Shaoting's list, it definitely was on mine. It did not disappoint. So, check.

Mary, Shoating and Matt at Russ & Daughters Cafe
Ed and Shaoting caught a metro up to Central Park (check), visited the Metropolitan Museum (check) and Times Square (check), while Mary, Matt and I visited the new Whitney Museum and then walked the High Line in the meatpacking district.

At "America is Hard to See" exhibit at the new Whitney Museum
Shaoting was off to Chicago on Saturday morning, with a nearly completed check list. We said our farewells and then headed back into Manhattan, meeting up with Mary at the Union Square Green Market, with a side trip to the Strand Bookstore and some other miscellaneous shopping.

Berries at Union Square Green Market

Ice cream on a summer night at Louie G's.
View from our roof top of men playing dominoes. 
Ed and I crashed a party on our rooftop to watch the fireworks over Manhattan. My iphone just didn't capture the beauty. 
Photograph by Barry Yanowitz, used under a Creative Commons license.
Sunday morning we met Mary at First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn Heights. The beautiful old church was the most diverse one I've ever attended and they made us feel welcomed. After church, we had brunch in the neighborhood before saying our goodbyes to Mary and heading to the airport.

So we are now back at Farm Dover with memories of a wonderful weekend. I miss Mary already.