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.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Wedding flowers: flora from the fields

Remember how I told you that Maggie and Nate wanted their wedding at Farm Dover to be simple and low-keyed? I had visions of walking out into our fields a few minutes before the ceremony and picking a handful of wildflowers for Maggie to carry and then placing some of the wildflowers into containers of some sort for the centers of each table. I knew I wanted to use flora from our fields – not anything purchased from a florist. But beyond that, I didn't think much about it.

Fortunately, I have family and friends who helped me refine my vision with a dose of reality. The first thing sister Julie reminded me of was that I would have plenty to do the day of the wedding and I might welcome some help with the flowers. She suggested her talented friend Jason Jennings and then sister Kathy offered her help as well. Jason and Kathy came to Farm Dover in June to help me think through the flowers. They listened very politely while I explained how simple and casual I wanted to keep things.

Then they made some very useful suggestions. How about using my collection of pottery vases for the tables? Did I have enough? And what if we placed each of the vases on a sheet of moss? Perhaps I could gather some acorns or other interesting finds from my daily walks that we could scatter on the moss? How would our guests know where to sit? And had I thought about using votive candles?

Next door neighbor Sandy offered to grow some sunflowers and zinnias for the wedding. And then offered cuttings from her backyard and fields. She knows more about growing flowers than anyone I know, so I gladly accepted her offers. 

Then friend Patrice stepped up and suggested I might need some help organizing my "to do" list and offered to brainstorm with me and then create the lists. I had no idea that I needed her help so badly. By the time we finished talking about flowers, she noted that we would need no less than 35 arrangements! From bouquets and boutonnieres, to entrance ways and table tops, bathrooms and bars, dining tables and mantles, even a bucketful of flowers to denote Maggie and Nate's camping tent. Oh my!

For each of these arrangements, Patrice had me write down which vase(s) I would use and what kind of flowers would go in each one. And she suggested that two days before the wedding, I organize all the vases on a table in the garage. Things were beginning to sound complicated.... 

On Thursday evening before the wedding, daughter Mary and I went into our fields with buckets of water and cut hundreds of flowers: golden rod, queen anne's lace, compass flowers, black-eyed susans, purple ironweed, boneset, joe-pye weed, coneflower, wild quinine, grasses of all sorts, sedges, willow branches – anything that looked interesting. 

On Friday, the day before the wedding, sister Kathy arrived early in the morning. She brought with her a carload of dahlias from a friend's garden and cuttings from her garden, including branches of crabapples, brambles of blackberries, hellebore greenery, as well as clippers, ribbon, wire, pins and every tool that she might need for the next 8 hours. 

Next up the drive came neighbor Jon in his pickup truck with Sandy in the back, holding upright at least 50 gorgeous sunflowers, buckets of zinnias and other flowers from her gardens, bamboo branches, and more buckets of wildflowers. 

photo by me
Ten minutes later, in walks Jason with a dozen cream roses (our only florist purchase). Shortly, friend Lynn showed up with armloads of freshly cut hydrangeas from her yard. 

Our kitchen looked (and smelled) like a florist with flowers covering every square inch. Without a moment's hesitation, Kathy, Jason and Lynn set to work, creating one magnificent arrangement after the next. Each one more beautiful than the last. I mostly just stayed out of their way. 

At mid-day, friend Jackie arrived with lunch for everyone and we put her to work as well. 

By late afternoon, I was exhausted from watching them work. But they seem energized by the process. I was in awe of their talent and so appreciative of their desire to making Maggie and Nate's wedding so special. And while the arrangements far exceeded my expectations, they also managed to convey my original vision of simple wedding flowers that looked like they came from, and belonged at, Farm Dover. 

My sister Kathy, who spearheaded the wedding flowers, and Maggie with her amazing bouquet.

I wish I had photos of each arrangement to show you. I don't; but here are some highlights.

Welcome to Farm Dover.  Sign by daughter Mary. Photo by sister Sherry.

The farm itself was like huge arrangement – lush and green; the fields ablaze with golden rod – making for the perfect backdrop.

After the wedding, we continued to enjoy each of the arrangements – a reminder of a most wonderful wedding. Thank you Kathy, Jason, Sandy, Lynn, Jackie and Mary. 


Unless noted otherwise, all the photos were taken by the amazing photographer Ashley Glass of Ashley Glass Photography. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

An Unconventional Affair

I think often of Maggie and Nate's wedding here at Farm Dover last month and keep mulling over what made it so special to me (and hopefully to Maggie and Nate and our guests as well).

When Maggie and Nate decided to get married, I asked them to tell me what kind of wedding they wanted. They said they wanted it low-key, fun, more like a back-yard barbecue than a fancy shindig.

What? No church wedding? No out-of-season flowers shipped in from the southern hemisphere? No rehearsal? No large number of attendants? No organ music? No bride or groom side of the seating? What, no seating? No bouquet or garter toss?  No showering of rice upon departure? What, no departure? Camping out with guests instead?

I wanted to hug them both. I knew then it was going to be the perfect wedding: unconventional in most every way! Maggie left the day after announcing her engagement for a three-month work stint in Los Angeles and charged me with figuring out the details. Her final instructions to me were: "No traditional wedding cake!"

Pie, I thought. That would be the perfect wedding cake. So Ed and I set about picking gallons of wild blackberries growing around the edges of our farm. And turned to Flour de Lis Bakery to bake them into tasty works of art topped with flaky lattice. (Guests could also choose between a crumbled-top peach pie or a chocolate pecan pie. And then there was the a la mode option...)

Still, I missed the idea of having a multi-tiered cake with a little bride and groom on top. My mind started churning. I was reminded that a favorite cheese shop in Madison, WI (where Maggie and Nate met) created wedding cakes, composed of wheels of cheese – and then I remembered that sister Kathy had given me two cast-iron mice. I had an idea...

Both the cheese wedding cake and the pies were a hit. We offered cheese boards to each table of guests at the end of the meal. Served on slabs of slate, they included wedges of each of the cheeses, plus figs, ground cherries, almonds, honey from Maggie's Farm Dover beehives, and homemade blackberry jam. 

Because we had extra cheese, as guests departed, they were offered a wedge of cheese, wrapped in cheese paper, fastened with gold washi tape. A small reminder of an unconventional affair. 


Our thanks to the knowledgeable cheese counter staff at Whole Foods/Louisville for suggesting the following combination of cheeses: (from bottom to top): Quicke's English Farmhouse Cheddar, Kaserei Champignon Cambozola, Cypress Grove Humbolt Fog, Garrotxa de Sant Gil d'Albio.

Thanks also to our amazing photographer: Ashley Glass of Ashley Glass Photography and to Farm to Fork Catering for cake styling and pie service. 

Next up: I'll tell you about the unconventional wedding flowers...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Plan B works out fine

Maggie's wedding was over. Mary had gone back to her life in Brooklyn. And then Jack left for graduate school in Berlin.  It had been such a joyful time hosting Maggie and Nate's wedding, and all of a sudden, Ed and I found ourselves left alone to adjust to our once-again quiet life at Farm Dover.

We decided a trip was in order. We thought about flying out to Portland to visit family and then driving down the west coast into northern California so I could see a Redwood tree or two. Just as we were about to book our flight, we checked the weather and discovered we were in for a solid week of cold rain. Suddenly, it didn't sound like such a fun trip.

Plan B: Throw our tent and sleeping bags in the car and start driving east. Stop when we want to stop. Go when we want to go. Come home when we've seen enough.

That's just what we did. Last Tuesday, we closed the gate on the farm and headed east toward Asheville, North Carolina. Once on the road, we Hotwired a hotel and ended up at the Hotel Indigo, a modern hotel located in downtown Asheville. We walked around the cooler-than-cool downtown, visiting two used bookstores and a craft brewery. For dinner, we scored two seats at the bar of the highly popular Cúrate, for some traditional Spanish tapas.  I'm still thinking about the rossejat negro: ink squid pasta garnished with aioli and salsa verde.

The next morning, the weather forecast looked dry and so we went looking for a camp site. After exploring the tiny town of Brevard, we picked out a camp site at the nearby Davidson River Campgrounds, in the Pisgah National Forest. It took us five minutes to set up our tent and then we were off for a 4-mile hike around the Daniel Ridge Loop, ending at the 150-foot Jackson Falls. Dinner that night was brats and corn on the grill. Almost as good as that ink squid dish from Cúrate!

The next day we lunched at Rezaz, a Mediterranean restaurant in the Biltmore Village recommended by Maggie and Nate, who heard about it from friend Patrice.  From there we drove north along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping just before dark to set up our tent at the Linville Falls Campground.

And since we were right by it, the next morning we hiked over to see the falls. Glad we did. It is a spectacular three-tiered waterfall plunging into the Linville Gorge, better known as the "Grand Canyon of the southern Appalachians." Because we got such an early start, we had the falls to ourselves. Very nice.

We continued to make our way east, breezing through Blowing Rock and Boone, before stopping mid-afternoon in Winston-Salem. Neither of us had ever been to Old Salem, the living history town that recreates the Moravian settlement of Salem from 1766-1840, so we picked it for our afternoon adventure. Good choice. We wandered up and down the streets, checking out the gardens, bakery, tavern, college and cemetery.

We liked it so much that we came back the next morning for the Farmers' Market and to tour the MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts).

From there, you guessed it, we headed east – as far east as we could go and still be in North Carolina. The Outer Banks, here we come. While Ed filled the gas tank, I searched online for a place for us to stay the night. I was warned that 95 percent of the rooms available on the islands were already booked. In a slight panic, I called one of the motels that looked very nice on my ipad and was assured that they had a room we could have. I couldn't believe my good luck! I told the motel owner to hold it and we would be there before dark. We pressed on.

We both started laughing when we saw the sign. It looked like something straight out of the 1960s -- a motel that had not been updated since shag carpeting made its debut.

Oh well, it was (pretty) clean and the bed was more comfy than I expected. Sunday morning we attended the Roanoke Island Presbyterian Church and then went looking for the Lost Colony (didn't find it) before heading to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, another unexpectedly great outing.

We stayed for a National Park Service Ranger presentation that had me in tears by the end. The Ranger's message was that Wilbur and Orville considered the "impossible" merely a challenge -- and we should to. I really want my four flying nieces to see this memorial and hear this message, but the Ranger reported that the visitors' center is closing for two years for renovations. Maybe some day...

We stayed our final night at the Cape Hatteras Campground. We walked on the beach until it got dark and then headed to dinner at a seafood dive just up the road. The next morning we looked at each other and agreed it was time to head home. Matthew (the storm) was headed our direction and it was time that we turn west and make our way back to Shelby County. We had two choices: backtrack all the way up the Outer Banks or take a ferry to Orcracoke Island and then another one to the mainland. We chose the ferries. Another good choice.

We spent one final night on the road, stopping in Durham and finding an old-school BBQ restaurant for dinner. Can't say much for the decor, but the BBQ, collard greens, and chess pie were mighty fine.

It was a good trip, full of surprises (good and not-so-good). I'm glad I have a partner to go along on such unplanned adventures. Not everyone would like them as much as we do.

And, as always, it was great to back to Farm Dover...