Monday, June 27, 2016

Guaranteed good time

Guaranteed good time: go to NYC with sister Julie and my twin 15-year-old nieces. That's what I did this past weekend and it was great fun. Plus, we got to be with Mary – and that is always fun. 

Loop around Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage
Food tour of Chelsea Market
Walk across Brooklyn Bridge
Mmmm....good @ MOMA
Mother & daughters @ Russ & Daughters
Worn out!

Thank you Katie and Molly. It was wonderful to be with you. Hope you have great memories of our weekend in The Big Apple. I know I do.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Capturing Farm Dover

A bit over a year ago, our good friend and talented artist Dudley Zopp spent a week at Farm Dover, gathering inspiration for a series of Kentucky landscapes that she intended to paint once she was back in her Maine studio. Last week, a large gift arrived at our front door and inside I found this beautiful oil on canvas titled: Fog at the Farm. I wasn't sure if Dudley had perfectly captured the softness of an early morning scene from our back porch, or, if seeing the painting made me teary-eyed and my vision blurred.

I can't tell you how pleased I am to hang this painting in our home; to know the artist; to know that she spent time here studying the variations of time and season on the vistas of our farm; and that she captured this scene with such beauty and emotion.

Dudley has produced a whole body of work from her residency here at Farm Dover. Each painting I love more than the next. Here are two other large oils.

In a recent interview, Dudley said this about paintings in general. I think it applies to her paintings, in particular.

"A painting gives presence to intangible things like reflections in a puddle of water on the blacktop driveway, or the movement of red maple branches and buds against an overcast sky. To look at a painting is to transcend time; to make a painting is to move differently through space."

She also created a number of smaller paintings on paper. We gave one each to Maggie, Jack and Mary for Christmas this past year.

It pleases me to think that no matter where our kids live, they will take with them a bit of our farm – and know that Ed and I are here, thinking always of them.

If you want to see more of Dudley's work, check out her website, or if you are curious about the other paintings in her Farm Dover series, email her directly at

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Let me introduce you...

I realize that I spend way too much of my time on this blog complaining about the invasive species that like to take over our woods and meadows. Just this week, I could tell you about how we continue to march over our land, determined to cut down all the multi-floral roses, bush honeysuckle, lespedeza, poison parsnip, poison hemlock, johnson grass and milk thistle that we can find. But I doubt that you come to this space to hear me rant about these crazy and unwanted plants.

I need to remember that there are just as many (if not more) really wonderful native plants that I should be telling you about. Plants that grow naturally here; plants that caterpillars and butterflies choose as host plants; plants that birds love to nest in and eat the berries from. Plants that make wonderful arrangements and edible treats.

Let me (re)introduce you to four of my favorites that are in full bloom this week.

I written about it before. It's the plant that Monarch butterflies love. Common milkweed (pictured below) is quite common around here. Hundreds dot our fields and we are always happy to find another plant popping up. It does seem like more and more Monarch butterflies are calling Farm Dover home. Let's hope so.

I've also written about this gem before. We only have a couple of areas where we find them growing, but it is always such a thrill to discover one of them. This week, the seeds are lime green and bursting from their sac. Later in the fall, the seeds turn bright red. I've tried (unsuccessfully) to plant the seeds. I think they need a box turtle to eat them and then poop them out before they will germinate. (I'm serious.)

This one grows in under a shaded forest, near the creek. There is a whole patch and I call them umbrella plants, because when they first come up in the spring, they remind me of little umbrellas – especially the paper ones that come in fancy drinks. Some of the plants have a double bloom and if you peer carefully under them, you can find a small Mayapple.

Here's a mayapple that I found this week. If a small animal doesn't discover it before it gets fully ripe, it (supposedly) makes for a delightful treat to eat. Right now, the apple is still rock hard, but I'll keep checking back to see if I can harvest it on a day when it is perfectly ripe.

If you read this blog, you know that I love our elderflower bushes. I've already harvested two basketfulls to turn into elderflower cordial.

In addition to these four plants, our fields are filling with blackberries, coreopsis, black-eyed susans, queen anne's lace, cone flowers and other wildflowers that I haven't even identified. So don't let me go on too much about the invasives; there are plenty of native plants to put a smile on my face.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Time Travel

Funny how a feeling, a smell, a sound can serve as a time machine to another time, another place.


I was walking through the woods last week – lost in my own thoughts – and came upon a tree trunk, fallen across my path. Without hesitating, I climbed over it, but missed the height that I needed to swing my leg by a fraction of a inch. I scrapped my knee (ever so slightly) but was immediately transported back 50 years in time. My brain registered the same sting from my childhood falls. I inhaled a similar sharp breath as my nine-year-old-self would have done, and pulled up my pant leg to find a slightly raw scrape on my kneecap. No major damage done, but still, I wanted my mom and her always-handy bottle of Bactine®.


Yesterday I busied myself with making elderflower cordial. I gathered a basketful of perfect blossoms, snipped the individual flowers from their pale green branches into a crock, added some organic lemons and simple syrup. As I handled each delicate blossom, I was again sent back in time. The summery smell matched perfectly that of a small bottle of fragrance that was part of a perfume kit that was given to my sisters and me by (I think) an indulgent uncle as a Christmas gift. I remember the kit was a cross between a beginner's science kit and a girly-girl rainy-day craft kit. It contained a number of small containers of fragrances: some sweet, some spicy, some woody. It must have had some small vials of a carrier oil, perhaps an eyedropper, and some small bottles to create the final product. Anyway, one of the fragrances in that kit from 50 years ago was a perfect match for elderflowers. It transported me right back to our upstairs bathroom on Buckingham Terrace where I stood with my older and younger sister concocting lovely (?) smelling bottles of perfume.


The third incidence of time travel happened as I watched a recent segment on CBS's Sunday Morning about the 50th anniversary of the Monkees, a made-for-TV band that outsold the Beatles' music in 1967. As an 10-year-old, I was smitten with Mickey Dolan and was pretty sure that if we could just meet, he would break out singing: "Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. I'm in love."  Unfortunately, I never met him, but I did watch every one of the 58 episodes of the foursome's silly show. Hey, hey we're the Monkees...


Monday, June 6, 2016


I'm always on the lookout for patterns, for multiples, for themes, for collections of things. And, I almost always have my trusty iphone with me to capture these discoveries. I was in seventh heaven on our recent trip to Portugal and Morocco.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Morocco: Mind-Reeling, World-Expanding Adventure

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. 
– St. Augustine

With every trip we take, my world expands. I see remarkable places, talk to people whose perspectives are different than mine, taste spices and foods that are foreign to my tongue, even occasionally sleep in beds strewn with rose petals. My mind reels; my world expands. 

On our most recent trip to Morocco, I woke at 5 a.m. to loudspeakers calling all Muslims to morning prayer, ate lamb hoisted up from a roasting pit in the busy marketplace, got lost in a maze of souks every single time we ventured out of our Riad, drank mint tea with a Berber toddler, and experienced a hammam (Turkish bath).

The days and nights we spent in Casablanca, Marrakech, Ourika, Fez, Chefchaouen and Rabat are etched in that part of my brain that is determined to hold on to special memories. Our trip followed directly on our 11 days in Portugal and, by the end of it, as much as I wanted to get back to Farm Dover, I was sad to leave this extraordinary country and its people who welcomed us with such warmth and respect. 


Recommendations from our time in Morocco

We travelled by train from Casablanca to Marrakech, and then again from Fes to Rabat. First-class tickets were inexpensive, the train stations were centrally located and well organized, and finding our train and getting settled was easy. We packed light, so only had to handle our small suitcases (plus a rug and a wool blanket that we bought along the way). 

Our friends Debbie and Bashar Masri got us started on our trip planning with some good advice on finding places to stay. We were pleased with all our selections. 
Casablanca: Hotel Le Doge
Marrakech: Riad Camila
High Atlas Mountains: Kasbah Bab Ourika
Fes: Algila Fes Medina Hotel 
Rabat: Riad Darzen 

Kasbah Bab Ourika

I would be remiss if I didn't call out this resort in the High Atlas Mountains where we stayed for three days. On Day 2, we took a 6-mile trek through three Berber villages and over a swinging bridge. Our guide lived in one of the small villages and seemed to know everyone we met along the path. At one of the villages, he asked a young mother of a toddler if we could come inside and see her Berber home. Next thing we knew, we were having mint tea with her toddler. That afternoon, I was treated to a hammam:  an hour-long spa bath where I was bathed, exfoliated and oiled. Cannot recommend it enough! 

While in Fes, we took a day trip to a beautiful town named Chefchaouen, known as the "blue city." Most of buildings and many of the streets in the old medina are whitewashed blue.  It's a hidden treasure, well worth the three-hour drive. So glad we went.

Tour guides/vendors
We had a great tour guide in Marrakech who walked us through some "off-the-beaten-path" places, explaining the history and culture of the city. He showed us where the women of the town bring their bread each day to be baked in a community wood-fired oven, explained how the riads (fancy houses) are hidden down non-descript alleys using "blind architecture," took us to his favorite street vendor for freshly roasted lamb and carried our lunch across the street to a tiny coffeehouse (former hangout of Jimi Hendrix) that only served mint tea, and even took us to a reputable rug dealer (La Porte d'Or) and waited while I looked at rug after rug -- finally choosing one. I think the price for the entire day was $35 plus lunch. Guide: Serrakh Adelhafid,

We also lucked into a wonderful guide in Chefchaouen (see above) who walked us all around the medina, took us to a authentic Moroccan roof-top lunch place (Bab Ssour) and then introduced us to a rug/blanket vendor: Machkour Mohamed. (We left with a wool blanket tucked under our arms).  Guide: Mouden Abdeslam, 

Flying home from Morocco required an overnight stay in Madrid. We spent the afternoon people-watching while eating a plate of Jamon Serrano (Spanish air-cured ham), took a quick tour of the Prado Museum (it closed early that evening), walked around the Royal Botanical Garden and then ate a very-late-by-our-standards dinner at Casa Lucas where we had amazingly delicious calamari with squid ink mousse. The next morning we checked out of our centrally located and very affordable Hotel Regina and headed for the airport. We were going home...