Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rambling with Jack

Most days I go for a ramble around Farm Dover. Ed normally chooses to hold down the fort (i.e., read or work crossword puzzles) while I take my hike.

I pull on a jacket, bright orange sock hat and boots, grab my camera, and take off in search of who knows what. I know it when I see it, and will make an excited and full report back to Ed upon my return.

For the past two weeks I've had a partner to go with me most days. Jack was home for the holidays from his studies in Berlin and, except for a couple of cold and windy days, was a willing participant in my ramblings. Jack brings fresh eyes to my walks; he points out trees that I've failed to notice, abandoned bird nests, a tangle of poison ivy vines that are reminiscent of Medusa's hair, a bald eagle! gliding over our neighbor's barn, a flock of sand hill cranes circling our other neighbor's pond.

He lends me his hand as we jump across the creek, or make our way along the slippery bank. He is happy to pause while I take a photo or stop to tie my boot lace. He offers to carry the mail back in the string bag.

Along the way, we make our inspections: looking for deer rubbings on tender trees, mole hills that crisscross our paths, animal tracks in the path edges, cloud formations, invasive multi flora roses, woodpeckers high in the trees, nuthatches pecking their way up trunks, cardinals and sparrows hopping among the tall grasses and dead flower heads, galls and fungus on trees. He is a good observer, a knowledgeable outdoor enthusiast, and a pleasant conversationalist.

He leaves tomorrow morning. I'm going to miss walking with him.

Godspeed, Jack. Hope 2017 is good to you. Come back soon.

Your mama loves you.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Potato-Pumpkin Patch Planning

One of my favorite Christmas gifts wasn't even an official gift. It was a Tupperwave packed full of roasted pumpkin and a Baggie full of seeds from said pumpkin, given to me on Christmas Day by sister Kathy. She had roasted the last of her pumpkins and shared the innards with me.

This wasn't any regular pumpkin. It was grown in her side garden from one of two seeds that she was given at a Garden Club of America meeting. The two seeds were direct descendants from a squash, introduced from Jamaica, that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello in the late 1700s: the Cucurbita moschata, commonly known as an Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash. The word pumpkin doesn't even appear in its name, which comes from the fact that the taste of the flesh closely resembles that of a sweet potato. This suits me fine as I'm not overly fond of the taste of pumpkin, but love sweet potatoes. (Jefferson simply referred to it as a Potato Pumpkin.)

I'm saving the seed from this pumpkin in hopes of growing some Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash in my pumpkin patch at Farm Dover in 2017, and sharing the seeds with any friends who have a large enough space in which to grow them. The vines are known to go crazy, spreading far and wide over the garden. The plant produces an abundance of medium-to-large bell shaped, tan-skinned fruit with moist orange flesh. Each fruit can weigh up to 20 pounds when ripe.

The Potato Pumpkin. Photo from

Every seed holds a connection to the past and to the future. I love the thought of growing a replica of the fruit that was grown in the gardens of the third President of the United States and I equally like the thought that if I'm careful about growing and saving seeds, I can help ensure the survival of this heirloom squash.

So while the seeds are on my counter drying for a week or two before being stored, I portioned out most of the roasted squash into my crockpot, added a bit of brown sugar and some pumpkin-pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves) and turned the knob to low and let the mixture simmer away for most of the day.  Like magic, it turned itself into pumpkin butter that I'll use for spreading on my morning toast, adding to steel-cut oatmeal or for making pumpkin pies.

The remaining cups of roasted squash got turned into a creamy, dreamy pumpkin soup for lunch today.

I'm intrigued by the thought of saving seeds from my garden this coming year. I don't think it is all that hard and there are lots of reasons to try it. Here's 40 of them. My only other effort on this front has been to save some seeds from my nasturtiums, which I recently wrote about.

Nasturtiums seeds saved from my 2016 garden.
I'll let you know how my experiments in seed saving go and happily share the saved seeds. After all, Kathy only planted two and ended up with a yard full of pumpkins. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Light Victorious

This morning at 5:44 here at Farm Dover, the sun momentarily stood still. For it was at this predawn instant that the sun was directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. One moment later, it amazingly reversed its direction. The Winter Solstice, that time when the sun reaches its southern-most position, had come and gone for another year. Once again, the light is victorious; the time of increasing darkness has passed.

This phenomenon happened while I was fast asleep. It would be another two hours before the sun peeked above the horizon and dimly shone through the fog and into our bedroom window, waking me from my long winter's nap. The sun rose just to the east of the cottage at 7:56 this morning and will set tonight over the driveway's end at 5:27, marking the day a full 5 hours and 20 minutes shorter than on the Summer Solstice.

I shouldn't complain. Our day will be 15 minutes longer than Mary's in Brooklyn and nearly 2 hours longer than in Jack's Berlin. If we lived in Reykjavik, Iceland, our hours of sunlight would measure only a bit more than 4.

It's funny. I never paid much attention to the hours and minutes of sunlight or darkness when we lived in town. But out here, it is such a part of our lives. To a large extent, it governs when we wake up and when we sleep, when we do our chores and take our walks, when I wipe the dust from the bookshelves and when Ed builds the fire.

The darkness commands a hunkering down: a braising of warming stews, a cracking of whole nuts, another log on the fire, a good book to sink into. Conversely, the gaining light signals a time of rebirth: concocting spring tonics, perusing seed catalogs, planning the spring garden, ordering tree seedlings, cleaning and sharpening tools, and seeking out the first hyacinths, daffodils, and ramps.

I wouldn't want a world where there were always long days and short nights. I treasure my hibernation time, but eagerly look forward to the return of the light. Bring it on!

Yesterday's late sunrise
Yesterday's early sunset

Wishing you and your beloveds the light and warmth of a brightly burning hearth, on this, the longest night of the year. May you welcome the returning light in your life with joy and anticipation.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Comfort & Joy

Last night I made a new recipe that took me by surprise. Not only was it stunning on the plate, it featured an amazing complement of flavors. I offer it up here to remind me to try it again and to encourage you to tackle it on a day that you have some time to spend in the kitchen. It is not hard, but has lots of steps.

While it did take the better part of an afternoon, it was a joyful time in the kitchen. Outside was chilling, but a fire was crackling away in the fireplace; Ed and Jack were sort of keeping me company as they watched NFL football and I wasn't feeling compelled to do anything but putter around the kitchen and dirty up an assortment of pots and pans.

The recipe is called "Four Cheese Vertical Roll Lasagna + Butternut Squash, Sausage and Kale." I call it: "Comfort on a Plate." I found the recipe here. And you really should click on it just to see the beautiful photos. Of course, I wasn't planning to blog about the recipe, so I only took one photo, midway through the process.

The fun part was spreading the ricotta/mozzarella cheese mixture on cooked noodles, adding the colorful squash, kale and sausage and then rolling them up into ruffly-looking spirals. The recipe calls for making the cheese sauce in a Vitamix blender, but I don't have one. Instead, I just melted the cheeses into cream in a heavy pan on my stove top.

I need to warn you. This is an over-the-top rich dish. Perfect for a winter birthday celebration, holiday dinner, or other special occasion. I had planned to serve two or three of the spirals on each plate, but I actually think one (or maybe two) is plenty for all but the biggest eaters (i.e. Jack). A green salad with pomegranate arils and avocado helped balance the richness. We uncorked a bottle of pinot noir, completing our Sunday dinner.

Joy in the kitchen; comfort on the plate.

from: The Kitchen McCabe


Makes: 12 Lasagna Rolls (serves six)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
¼ cup+ Water
1 small Butternut Squash, cut into small cubes
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ bunch Kale (I used Tuscan, but curly would be great too), cut into bite sized pieces
1 pound Italian Sausage, cooked and crumbled
16 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
16 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
12 Lasagna Noodles, cooked (I cook them 75% of the way so that they are still firm but can continue cooking the rest of the way once they are stuffed and baking in the sauce).

4 ounces Butter(salted)
¼ cup Fresh Sage Leaves (20 leaves or so)
1 cup Heavy Cream, room temperature
1 cup Half & Half, room temperature
4 ounces Fontina Cheese, shredded
1¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
¼ teaspoon Ground Pepper
¼ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Sea Salt


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking dish (I used 2 round dishes, but a 9x13 should work).
2. Place the olive oil and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Add the cubed butternut squash to the pan and cover. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally and re-covering. Add more water, if it all evaporated before squash is tender. When Squash is tender, remove the lid and add the garlic and kale. Saute for minutes, or until kale is wilted.
3. Remove from heat and toss in the cooked sausage. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. Place the shredded mozzarella and ricotta in a mixing bowl and mix together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Lay the cooked lasagna noodles out on a clean work surface. Divide the cheese mixture evenly between the noodles and press the filling evenly down each noodle.
6. Divide the sausage/squash mixture between the noodles and spread the filling out amongst each noodle.
7. Roll each noodle up into a pinwheel and place, spiral side up, in the prepared baking pan.
9. Place the butter in a saute pan and heat over medium/high heat. Butter will melt - once the butter begins to foam, add the sage leaves. Continue to cook the butter and sage, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter gives off a nutty aroma and turns golden brown. Remove from heat. Scoop the sage leaves and 2 tablespoons of the butter into a little bowl and set aside.
10. Pour the remaining butter into a Vitamix blender container.
11. Add the cream, half and half, fontina, 1 cup of parmesan(reserve the other ¼ cup), pepper, nutmeg and salt to the blender and fit the lid on top.
12. Place the blender on it's base and turn it on to variable 1. Slowly turn the dial up to variable 10 and let run for 5 minutes, or until steam escapes the vent. Turn off the blender and carefully remove the lid.
13. Pour the sauce over the top of the lasagna rolls.
14. Sprinkle the reserved parmesan over the top of the sauce.
15. Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted.
16. Remove from the oven and drizzle the top of the pasta with the reserved sage leaves and brown butter.
17. Enjoy!


My notes: The next time I make this, I am going to add one egg to the mozzarella/ricotta mixture, making it a bit easier to spread. I'm also planning to use whole milk for the half-and-half portion, and am going to use only 2 oz of butter (rather than 4) for the sage/brown butter.

But I am definitely going to make it again. It's a keeper!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Beware of the Honey Imposters!

This year was not a good honey year here at Farm Dover. We harvested a few bottles, but left the rest in the hives for the bees to consume this winter.  They will need more than 100 pounds of it to survive the cold months.

I noticed that the two remaining bottles from this summer's harvest had crystallized a bit, which is perfectly natural. To return them to their clear state, I simply placed them in a pan of hot water and left them there until the water cooled.

I'm not sure what we will do once we go through these two bottles. Buying honey at a supermarket is just not an option for us. Food Safety News reports that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn't exactly what the bees produce. It's fake, impure or adulterated. It has added glucose, dextrose, molasses, sugar syrup, flour, corn syrup or other similar products. It may also be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. Yuck!

It is almost impossible to tell if the honey you are buying is the real thing. Here's a link to a chart that shows ways you can try to distinguish real from fake honey -- but all require you to open the bottle for testing which is probably not a good idea while you are standing in the baking aisle. Your best solution is to purchase it from a trusted local beekeeper. Don't be fooled by honey imposters.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Living with a blank canvas

After Thanksgiving, I cleared everything off the mantle, dining table, the shelf behind the table, and the coffee table. I moved my pottery collection temporarily to a corner of the kitchen. I'm living with a blank canvas (by default, Ed is too). Not forever – in fact, just for 10 days or so. I needed a break from "stuff," the chance to move around in a clean, uncluttered environment.

It looks terribly bare. But that's okay. There is something calming about it. It affords me a sense of clarity, quietness, and peace.

I can stand back and think about what I want to place back in the space. I can be selective. I can choose belongings that I haven't tried putting together before. My old stuff can look new.

In my previous life as a graphic designer, I would often subtract elements one by one from a crowded page. The elements that were left, surrounded by lots of white space, were somehow stronger. I think the same is true for interior design. Instead of white space, it is called negative space – and in those spaces I often find positive energy.

I read somewhere that introverts thrive in negative spaces – in fact they need them. I know that is true for me. In rooms with too much fullness – too much going on – I get overwhelmed. The same is true for overly stimulating stores or restaurants.

If you think my experiment sounds weird, I challenge you to try it on a small scale. Clear a table, or a shelf. Live with it for an afternoon. Embrace the negative space. Then, when you are ready, be mindful about what you put back. See if you don't feel the positive energy from the exercise. Let me know.

Wishing you clarity. quietness. peace.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Not my thing

I love to make a good mess; I hate to clean one up. Worse, for me, than cleaning up one mess is cleaning our entire house. Not only do I not like it, I'm terrible at it. It's just not my thing.

When the kids were little and our days were jam-packed, we had a wonderful housekeeper who would come every other week and make the house sparkle. When we moved to the country, our housekeeper moved on to a full-time job. I've never been able to find a suitable replacement for her, and so I struggle to keep the dust bunnies at bay and the house looking respectable.

In October, after an especially frustrating day of cleaning, I sent daughter Mary a string of texts with "Tips for Housecleaning." They said things like:
1. Try not to break things.
2. Do not trip over the vacuum cord.
3. Don't get blood on the couch pillows from the cut you got from tripping over the vacuum cord.

You get the idea. Cleaning is just not high on my skill set. So I wasn't really surprised when, on Tuesday, I was cleaning the upstairs bath and knocked over a top-heavy aloe plant. Dirt went flying and, much to my dismay, three large leaves split from the central stalk. I swept up the soil and headed downstairs to compost the leaves. But then I didn't. Instead, I put them in our shower.

Next time I was showering, I ran my fingers down both sides of one of the leaves and extracted a mound of pure aloe vera which I then slathered on my legs before shaving them. The next leaf, I slit open and rubbed on my freshly shampooed hair, left it there for a few minutes, and then rinsed. Next, I added a bit of the gel to some baking soda and scrubbed my face. And the last dab I used to smooth down my wild eyebrows.

So, I'm sorry I knocked over the plant but I'm pleased with my recycling efforts to reuse the leaves. Turns out, there are many more uses for aloe vera. Here's how beauty experts use the gooey stuff to get gorgeous.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bluebirds of Happiness

Among my earliest memories is of counting babies and bluebirds. This print hung in my bedroom when I was a child (and my mother's before mine!), and I studied it for hours – so much going on. Just looking at it made me happy, still does.

When Maggie was born, I had it reframed and hung it in her bedroom, then Jack's, then Mary's. Today, it hangs in the upstairs guest bedroom. I thought of these eight babies and eight bluebirds today as I watched Ed clean out one of the eight bluebird boxes that are scattered up and down our drive and around the house and garden.

Just as the bluebirds bring us much happiness when we see breeding pairs begin to build their nests, we want to make sure that they will be equally happy raising their fledglings at Farm Dover. It all starts with a clean and safe place to nest. So every winter, Ed goes around and cleans out each box, leaving it move-in-ready for the next brood.

Even though we had a number of pairs of bluebirds last spring, we also had some tree swallows that liked to take up residence in our bluebird boxes. Not sure if this used nest is a bluebird one or a swallow's. We are happy to welcome both species -- which is why we have eight boxes. Room for all at Farm Dover. 

Note: print by Charles Twelvetree, "Out on a Limb," circa 1920.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Monday Fun Day

“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses,
for you only get to play one round.” 
- Ben Hogan

For the past six weeks, Ed and I have played a Monday round of golf. This may not seem remarkable – especially to regular golfers – but for us, it is a bit of a big deal. You see, we haven't played golf but a handful of times since moving out to Farm Dover.

We have designated Mondays as our fun days. We either walk nine holes at Clear Creek Golf Course in Shelbyville or we ride 18-holes at Eagle Creek down the road in LaGrange.

Pine Mountain State Park

We don't take ourselves too seriously. I'm always asking for a mulligan, or pitching my ball out from under a bush, or asking for a putt give. I pretty sure I could never play in an organized event as I don't remember the official rules.

I grew up in a golfing family. My dad was a scratch golfer and sister Sherry played college golf. At age 86, Dad continues to hit golf balls most every day, and Sherry continues, seemingly without much practice, to win tournaments around town. Back in the 1970's, the three older Carpenter girls made up 3/4 of the Eastern High Girls' Golf Team. But even then, I was the weak link: I'm just not competitive.

Even on our recent outings, I spend most of my time looking at the trees, trying to identify them by their bark or by the few clinging leaves. I wear my hiking shoes instead of golf shoes. My golf bag flaunts a few holes chewed by mice. My golf balls are so old they don't seem to fly right. But none of that matters.

On a good day, we each have a few nice shots; the ones in between leave plenty of room for improvement. How well or how poorly we play isn't really important. What matters is that we are out there trying; getting a bit of exercise and fresh air; laughing as we chase a white ball around. Having a fun day.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

My favorite veteran

Had lunch today with my favorite veteran: Army Private First Class John R. Carpenter, Jr. (aka Honey). He served his country from August 1952 – August 1954, stationed at Fort Knox, KY.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Seeking perspective

Four years ago this month I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It knocked me for a loop – in a single moment my world was turned upside down. Unless you are in my closest circle of trust, you probably didn't know this about me. I couldn't talk about it. Every time I tried, I cried. My tears went on for weeks, and then one morning I woke up and decided that I could face this blip. It was hard, and it was painful, but I survived. From it, I gained a new perspective – a new appreciation for life.

This morning, I woke up with the same sucker-punched feeling. My perception of the world was again knocked for a loop, upended.

Just yesterday I was so confident; so happy to be heading off to cast my vote for the first woman to be president of the United State. I put on my pantsuit and had Ed take a photo to text to my girls. I wanted them to know what a milestone this was for me, for them, for all the women in this country.

It concerns me greatly that I was so mistaken about the will of the people. I know that we live a semi-secluded life here on Farm Dover, but I consider myself fairly well informed about current affairs. I listen to NPR and watch the nightly news. I read from fairly diverse news sources. I had no idea that this would actually happen. Even though I now consider myself "a rural person," I was caught unaware of how profoundly disconnected people were feeling. I feel bad about that.

This morning I was in shock (still am). All I could do was shake my head in disbelief and wipe away my tears.

I then put on my overalls and headed out with Ed to unload a truck-bed full of compost, plant two smoke trees, clean up the ceramic planters out by the cottage and check on the hearts-a-bustin' trees down in the deep woods. As Anne Lamott reminded me: "if birdsong were the only proof that there is another, deeper, wider reality, it would be proof enough for me."

We came in for lunch and I checked my email and found a note from Hillary. It read it part:

Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.


Our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. And I know you will. 

I am so grateful to stand with all of you.


To all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks -– sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too. 

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives. 

To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. 

I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will -– hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world....

As my young friend Sydney observed: Today is painful and scary and disorienting. I'm sad today, but tomorrow I will pledge my allegiance to this nation, rise up and fight for what I believe in. Hillary wasn't going to fix all our problems. We are going to fix them. We are going to make the change. Today I am sad, but tomorrow I will do more, I will work harder, I will fight for us. 

I sense that it will take me some time to come to terms with this outcome. I will need to keep an open mind,  listen carefully, be thoughtful, and continue to seek perspective. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I stand with her

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
– Margaret Mead

Yes, of course, I stand with her, and you will find me on Tuesday morning proudly casting my vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But what I want to tell you about is how I stand with another her, who in this case, refers to Pat, a new friend that I met through the Shelby County extension service. Pat has a huge passion for native plants, especially those that are butterfly (and caterpillar) friendly. She says that during the summer she wakes and rushes out to her garden to see if there are any swallowtail caterpillars on her spice bush. It's what gets her out of bed and going. I understand.

Pat is a master gardener and is certified by the Kentucky Native Plant Society. Her yard is a showcase of incredible gardens, mostly comprised of native plants.

Milkweed seeds, critical to the survival of Monarchs.

Pat is known throughout the Shelby County community for her work in the schools educating children on the need to establish way station gardens for Monarch butterflies. She often dons adult-sized Monarch wings as she goes about educating and recruiting enthusiasts. She can be found visiting schools, bringing along with her mesh cages containing caterpillars, chrysalises and hatched butterflies.  She is known for her enthusiasm to work with teachers and students to plant native gardens and she has helped get native gardens established at many Shelby Counties parks.

A single common milkweed seed. It floats on wind and water. 

My favorite story is one she tells of collecting milkweed seeds and then releasing them out the car window as her husband drove down I-64. She says it looked like smoke coming out of her car and she is sure that other drivers thought her car was on fire. But no, it was only Pat, on fire with her desire to spread the one plant that Monarchs need to survive. (They lay their eggs exclusively on the milkweed plant and their caterpillars only eat milkweed leaves.)

I've been collecting milkweed seeds. I have a plan...

So in Pat's honor, and as a way of saying that I stand with her, I too have been collecting milkweed seeds and plan on driving down Dover Road to release them to the wind. There are plenty of milkweed plants on Farm Dover, but I am hoping that my release of milkweed seeds will help establish a corridor of Monarch-friendly habitat.

So Pat, I appreciate all you do to change the world – and I stand with you.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The plant that keeps on giving

My raised beds runneth over. While the calendar says November, my nasturtiums are rioting like it is mid-summer.  I've come to a whole new appreciation for this feisty flower.

For the past several years, I've ordered seeds from Johnny's Select Seeds and planted them in the front of both my raised beds. Without much coaxing, they grow, and grow, and by July are spilling out of the cedar boxes.

This year, I watched them especially closely as I wanted to the raised beds to look nice for Maggie and Nate's wedding. Mid-summer, they were looking a bit spent, but then perked up as August and September came along. They were glorious on the wedding day.

They are fun to have in my garden and young children's eyes get huge when I show them they can pick and eat the blossoms. They usually go home and tell their parents that they "ate flowers" at Farm Dover.

Yes, the flowers (and leaves) are edible and I tend to put them in most every salad I make in the summer time. They look beautiful and add a bit of peppery flavor.

But it is only this season that I've come to fully appreciate their many uses.

From tiny arrangements
to peppery pesto
to pickled seeds (a.k.a. poor man's capers)

to compound butters. they would be beautiful mixed in a soft goat cheese.
And I've just come to understand that the seeds can easily be harvested, dried and planted next spring.

It's the plant that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fuzzy Wuzzy

Before I ever lived on a farm -- make that, before I even dreamed of living on a farm -- I enjoyed reading about the natural world. Thirty years ago I read Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which won her the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. (Note: She was only 29.)

In the book, Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see over the course of a year as she explores the meadows and creek near her home outside Roanoke in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. What she sees are astonishing incidents of mystery, death, beauty and violence, described in exquisite detail. The narrator (whom I always assumed was Annie herself), records her thoughts on solitude, writing, religion, as well as her scientific observations on the flora and fauna she comes across.

It was one of those books that stuck with me and I think of it often as I'm out exploring the flora and fauna of Farm Dover. A couple of weeks ago, I pulled my tattered hardback copy down from the bookshelf and began a rereading. It was as good as I remembered.

Last night, I began the chapter on her observations in September and was delighted when I came across a passage about woolly bear caterpillars – for on Monday, I observed, and photographed one as it made its way across our stone path out to the cottage.

Here's what Ms. Dillard has to say about them:

"The woods were a rustle of affairs. Woolly bears, those orange-and-black-banded furry caterpillars of the Isabella moth, were on the move. They crossed my path in every direction; they would climb over my foot, my finger, urgently seeing shelter. If a skunk finds one, he rolls it over and over on the ground, very delicately, brushing off the long hairs before he eats it." 

I love the thought of a skunk playing with its food before gobbling it down. And I was delighted to find out the kind of moth a woolly bear becomes once it emerges from its cocoon.

Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella tiger moth

Whenever I encounter a woolly bear, I peer closely to see if it is mostly black, or mostly brown. For, as legend tells it, the wider the rusty brown sections, the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.

So far, most I've seen have been mostly rusty brown, which may explain why it is in the record-breaking 80s in November!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A quick getaway

A year ago we made a reservation for mid-October 2016 for a two-night stay in a rustic cabin at Pine Mountain State Park. And then we (mostly) forgot about it.

But then we remembered, and also remembered the reason we had planned the trip: to celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary. So, celebrate we did.

Since Sunday morning, we made a tour of eastern Kentucky that included Harrodsburg (for church and lunch at Beaumont Inn), Berea (for a stroll around town and the college campus, dinner and a stay at the historic Boone Tavern) and Pine Mountain State Park (for a round of golf, hiking, reading and cooking) and then back home today, via the eastern Kentucky towns of Harlan, Hazard, Hyden and Winchester (with a pleasant lunch stop at the Engine House Deli and Pub).

Sunday service at United Presbyterian Church in Harrodsburg

Lunch at Beaumont Inn, famous for its yellow-legged fried chicken
and two-year-old Kentucky cured country ham.  We had both.
Shuffleboard anyone?

The scenery on the Wasioto Golf Course more than made up for any bad shots. 
Our hideaway in the woods.
Hiked to the top of chain rock,
a huge bolder held in place
to keep it from crashing into the town of Pineville directly below. 
Found nothing to buy,
but filled our pockets with acorns, buckeyes and ginko seeds
to scatter around Farm Dover.