Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Field Trip: Wandering Kentucky's Back Roads

Because today was International Women's Day/Women's Strike and because it was a spectacular day outside, I chose not to work – and Ed's backed me 100% and suggested that we take a field trip. Nothing we like better than driving around the back roads of Kentucky, taking in the beautiful countryside, and laughing at the all-too-true stereotypes of our fair state.

We left mid-morning with the vague idea of driving to Owenton for lunch, stopping on the way to explore the Wildlife Management Area along the Kentucky River. We headed north to Eminence and then on to Port Royal, home to our favorite writer: Wendall Berry. We whizzed past the Port Royal Baptist Church catching sight of an old cemetery behind the church. We looked at each other and said at the same time: "Let's go back."

So back, we did go.

On our way out of the cemetery I glanced next door at an old abandoned house. A tattered curtain blowing in the breeze caught my eye – and broke my heart.

We followed the old road along the Kentucky River stopping at the Boone Wildlife Management Area, where we hiked a muddy trail up to the dam that created a 15-acre lake. Looked like some good fishing -- and so we promised to come back another day with our gear.

From there, we headed to downtown, Gratz, a mostly forgotten town that in the mid-1800s was one of the most prosperous ones in the area due to the business of portaging goods around an unnavigable part of the river. Today, it is a sad place, even Charlie's Old Time Shoe Repair was closed.

We were getting hungry, so we pressed on toward Owenton, but not without stopping every few minutes for me to jump out of the car and take photos of whatever caught my fancy, mostly structures that had gone to rack and ruin or were on their way there. Ed was an exceedingly good sport.

Downtown Owenton, population 1327, sits atop a ridge about a half hour north of Frankfort. Owenton was founded in 1822 but its growth in the late 19th century was limited because a railroad was never built to it. Today, it supports one downtown coffee/sandwich shop: Bird Dogs Coffee. So that is where we stopped for lunch. Soup and sandwich were fine; the brownie was excellent!

After lunch, we continued our travels, with more stops for photos along the way.

We ended up in Carrollton, an old town on the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers. We crossed the Kentucky River bridge and headed home, with one more stop at Starview Nursery in Henry County to pick up some extra strawberry plants to fill in some bare spots in my raised bed. 

Seven hours after we left home, we pulled back into the drive. We had basically made a 125-mile circle through Shelby, Henry, Owen and Carroll counties. Glad we spend our day wandering roads we knew and ones we had never travelled before. It was a good day.

Monday, March 6, 2017

On Little Joys

I just got in from a long and slow walk around the place. The drizzle from earlier in the day had let up so I set out to see if any of the double daffodils tucked into edges of the trails had bloomed – and also to see if I could spot a woodcock. Both Ed and I have recently seen this funny, well-camouflaged bird with a long pointy bill on separate occasions down by the creek near the ramp bank. I was hoping to find her nesting spot.

I saw neither blooming daffodils nor any sign of the woodcock, but I did come upon other little joys.

Bowled heads of Lenten Roses growing under the hydrangea bushes at the side of the cottage.
Peonies unfurling
Red-bellied woodpecker scrounging for suet seed

It's easy to miss these joys. I have to be on the lookout and recognize them for the sparks of delight that they bring to my life. Often they are inconspicuous or fleeting. They require that I be quiet, intentional, aware; when I am, the payback comes. Pure joy.


Sometimes a little joy comes to me in my kitchen. One came on Sunday. It may not seem to be any big deal to you, but for me, it was a source of great happiness: I learned how to successful boil an egg. Yep, you heard me right. Let me explain.

We get the most amazing eggs from our neighbor Vivian (and sometimes from friend Jackie). These eggs make the standard grocery store ones pale in comparison -- literally. The shells are beautiful shades of blue, green, brown and white; the yokes are as orange as last night's sunset. And I know they are fresh -- which is part of the problem. Every time I try to peel one of these super fresh eggs, I end up with a mangled mess. I won't even attempt deviled eggs (or as Ed calls them: dressed eggs).

A couple of weeks ago on NPR's Sunday morning cooking show, Christopher Kimmel explained how to steam eggs and end up with easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs. I decided to give it a try.

I figured out how many eggs I wanted to hard-boil. 
I added 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of my vegetable steamer pot
 and brought it to boil. 
I placed the eggs in the bottom of the steamer pan and put the lid on,
setting my timer for 11 minutes, as I like them medium firm.
Once the timer went off, I moved the eggs into a bowl of ice-cold water.
A few minutes later, I perfectly peeled them. 
I had one for breakfast, sprinkled with homemade sumac. 
I can't tell you how much joy this brought me. I'm headed down to my neighbor's house tomorrow to get another dozen (or two) eggs and I'm planning all sorts of recipes that will show off my new found skill of how to hard-boil and peel a perfect egg. Pure joy!