Monday, December 21, 2020

What's making you happy?

Many of the things that made me happy a year ago are now impossible – things such as sharing a memorable meal in a faraway place with some or all of my family. 

Today, my happy moments come in the everyday unfolding of life here at Farm Dover. They are usually triggered by a sensation – something seen, heard, smelled or tasted.  Here are some of the small joys that have revealed themselves in recent days. 

Coffee in bed/early morning light: On these dark December mornings, Ed, who usually gets up before me, makes coffee and brings me a hot mug of it along with my iPad. I wake slowly, often staying snuggled in until I see dawn breaking against a flaming horizon and eventually, the first light on our bedroom wall.

Owl hoots and starling murmurations: A Great Horned Owl has taken up residence at Farm Dover. We saw it for the first time at dusk as Ed and I drove up to the house after my Dad's funeral. He flew up from the driveway and perched on an eave, silhouetted against the darkening sky. I now listen for his evening hoots and find strange comfort in them. 

Most nights – just before dusk – huge groups of European Starlings come together to roost. Before settling in for the night, they will twist, turn, swoop and swirl across the sky in beautiful shape-shifting murmurations. 

Photo by

Snail mail: Most afternoons Ed and I walk the half-mile drive out to the mailbox, where I get great pleasure from finding a stack of holiday cards or handwritten letters of condolence. 

Cheesestraws sliding off the baking sheet: This year, granddaughter Hazel is my cheesestraw apprentice, and a worthy one at that. She helps mix the ingredients then tries her very best to turn out the squiggly dough onto the ancient baking sheets, which once belonged to my Grandmommy. The sheets are rimless on two sides allowing the baked and cooled cheesestraws to easily slide off – with a swoosh – into ever-growing mounds.  Hazel and I sample one from every batch.

FaceTime calls: Many mornings of the week we get a call from Hazel wanting to say "hi" or show us what treat she discovered in her Advent calendar box for that day. Such a great way to start the day. The highlights of our Sunday are always calls from Mary, Brian and Saltie from Brooklyn and Jack and Kasia from Berlin. Just seeing their faces and hearing their voices make me happy. 

Saltie, waiting patiently for her turn to FaceTime

Winter fires and tangerines: We keep a wood fire burning most evenings. Ed splits the wood and brings it up from the woodpile out by the garden and then feeds it to the fire all evening long. I love to peel a tangerine and toss the peel into fire which sends the citrus fragrance out into the room. 

Dressing as twins with a two-year old: When Hazel was visiting last week, we dressed as twins. It completely satisfied my happiness quotient. 

Happily wedded couples and healthy newborn babies: As hard as 2020 has been, there have been bright spots that include the marriage of Dan and Allie, and Jeananne and Justin, and the birth of baby boy Tripp to Claire and Donald.  Life does go on and I hope 2021 finds us spending time with the newlyweds and rocking newborn babies. 

Photo by Tara D Photos

So my question for you is: What makes you happy these days? I hope you can find ways to include more small joys into your everyday life. Sending love your way...

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Celebrating Hazel

Two weeks ago, Hazel turned two. She is such a funny and fun child that we all trip over ourselves to celebrate her. I want to tell you about one of her gifts...

Hazel is constantly seeing wild animals in her backyard. She often plays outside or in a sunroom overlooking her yard and the woods beyond. She has spotted a fox, raccoons, a family of deer, a groundhog,  squirrels, a box turtle and birds galore – including a red-tailed hawk, a great-horned owl, hummingbirds, and indigo buntings – not to mention all the insects and butterflies that visit her garden. At two, she has noticed more animals than some people do in a lifetime. Often, she will give them names and she always wants to tell her Bee and Deed about her latest sighting.

As you may recall, for her first birthday, I made her a board book about the "Bugs of Farm Dover." This year, I wanted to make her a book featuring all her new backyard friends. I quickly ran into problems figuring out how to illustrate the book. I mentioned to Hazel's talented Uncle Jack that I was looking for some suitable illustrations and he graciously offered to paint them. Here's a peek at some sample pages.

Needless to say, the book was a hit. She loves reading it to her friends from the Hundred-Acre Woods, who now reside at Farm Dover. And of course, I'm delighted that she is so interested in what is happening just outside her window.

Happy Birthday, Hazel. May you always be so curious. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Our Honey

My dad, aka "Honey," died yesterday from complications of the coronavirus. Sadly, he was without family by his side but he was well taken care of by front-line Hosparus caregivers and skilled nursing staff. He may have died alone, but that is not how he lived. He lived surrounded by those whom he loved and who loved him. 

It all happened so fast. Just nine days ago – on his 90th birthday – he awoke with a fever and sore throat and was immediately placed in isolation at his memory-care facility. Still, he was able to FaceTime with his four daughters as we sang (off-key as usual) and he opened a stack of birthday cards. 

The next day, a test confirmed that he had COVID-19. He was taken to a skilled nursing facility in far southwestern Louisville (owned by the same company). Three days later, he was largely unresponsive. 


My mom, his four daughters, four sons-in-law, nine granddaughters, two grandsons, six great-granddaughters, and one great-grandson all called him "Honey." That's what my mom called him and then Kathy, my oldest sister, picked up on it as a toddler. The moniker stuck.

In his last years, Honey experienced some significant memory issues. But, just before Covid made our in-person visits impossible, we spent a February morning walking around Crescent Hill. We parked on Crestmoor Drive and walked over to Eastover Court and Field Elementary School. He could tell me who lived in each of the houses in the 1940s, if his father built the house, and whether he cut their grass and what they paid him: 50 cents or a dollar, depending on if he hand-trimmed all the edges. He had an amazing memory for details, especially for events that happened 70 or more years ago.  


Honey left me his broom. Yes, his broom. It is a special one – quite dear to him. It is a push broom that he used to sweep out the hundreds of houses that he built in his 40+ year career. It has soft natural bristles and picks up every last bit of fine dust or dirt. 

He actually bequeathed it to me when he moved from our family home in 2018 into a senior-care apartment. Before my mom died in 2014, he would drop her off at Lena's Hair Salon in St. Matthews every Thursday and would come to my house until Mom was ready to be picked up. We would walk the neighborhood streets and then he would sweep my kitchen floor. He never failed to mention that my kitchen broom couldn't compare to his. 

Every time I pull the broom out of the pantry closet I smile and think of him. I remember how he loved to take care of all his girls: my mom and his four daughters. He was the one to wake us up on school mornings and fix breakfast before sending us on our way to the school bus. He was the one who cheerfully did the dinner dishes every night when we were young. He made the beds and cut the grass. He tossed wiffle balls to us in the back yard and caddied for us, teaching us to play golf (some more successfully than others).  For my older sister's 16th birthday, he bought a super-sized water heater, so that a house full of teenaged girls could take long, hot showers. It was just the kind of guy he was. 


His entire family (and many friends) will miss him and his easy-going style. I was blessed to have him as my Dad for 63 years. We all loved him dearly. Rest in peace, Honey.

Our last hug.

Our family will gather for a private graveside service on Tuesday afternoon. His granddaughter, Callie, and two of his grandsons-in-law, Ros and Stephen, will conduct his service. His obituary will appear in Sunday's Courier-Journal.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Do you think I'm bored?

Actually, I'm not. There is always something interesting happening around Farm Dover. Sometimes it just takes a weird sense of humor to see it.... 

Sweet potato bunny munching on a carrot

Cushaw squash peering into my garden.

Dancing carrot man

Dancing carrot woman

Monday, September 7, 2020

Carolina Blue Skies

Maybe because we have rarely left the farm in six months or maybe because we just needed to see new sights....whatever the reason, last week Ed and I headed to North Carolina. Lest you think we were being foolish to travel, we planned carefully and acted responsibly. 

We rented a mountain cabin for four nights and drove directly there. We wore our masks when we had to stop and kept our distance from others. We ordered take-out pizza one night and accidentally got two very large pizzas, which kept us fed for three of the four days. We did go out to dinner one evening, but requested that we be seated on the veranda. On the way home, we camped. 

Despite these Corona precautions, our escape was well worth it. It was fun to be somewhere new. It felt good to fish and hike and read. And the sky alone was worth it. My friend, Karen, a UNC graduate, likes to remind me that "If God is not a Tar Heel, then why is the sky Carolina Blue?" 

Our cabin, located between Franklin and Highlands, NC., was perched over the Cullasaja River in the Nantahala National Forest. 

From our deck, we watched the sun come up, the sun go down, and the cold mountain waters rush past.

While we can't boast about the catching, the fishing was most pleasurable, especially when Ed could just slide down the bank and I could watch from the deck to make sure that he didn't slide all the way in. 

The drive over to Highlands was both breathtaking and breathholding. The narrow curvy road was carved into the mountain on one side, dropping into the river gorge on the other side. Three waterfalls cascaded along the route, including this one: Bust Your Butt Falls.  We bravely drove over the Highlands one evening for a delighted dinner at On the Veranda. I had forgotten how lovely a dinner out could be.

We camped on the way home at Horse Cove Campgrounds in the Nantahala National Forest. We hiked in the nearby Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, named for the poet who authored Trees, and known for its impressive old-growth forest with more than 100 tree species, many over 400 years old. I think I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree...

On Saturday, we packed up our camping gear and headed home via the scenic Cherohala Skyway. 

We took our time coming home, pulling over often to take in a scenic overlook, checking out the farmers' market in Knoxville, stopping for al fresco cheeseburgers in Williamsburg, KY, strolling around the gardens of the Rockcastle Trading Company in Livingston, and lingering around Berea College for a milkshake.  

We made it home just in time for the running of the 146th Kentucky Derby; made even better with a julep with mint from our garden.  

Good to be away. Good to be home. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Making Wine with Green Walnuts

I can often be found in the kitchen brewing up an assortment of strange foraged concoctions such as milkweed or elderflower cordials, elderberry gin, blackberry syrup or various herb vinegars. Ed joined me recently, taking the lead on the latest libation: vin de noix, otherwise known as green walnut wine. 

He was inspired by the main character in a detective novel. Bruno is chief of police in a small village in the south of France. He lives in a restored shepherd's cottage, shops at the local market, and makes his own vin de noix. What? Makes his own what

Turns out vin de noix is a home decoction obtained by macerating green walnuts in wine and vodka for 40 days and then bottling it and waiting until December 1 to partake. Known since the sixteenth century for its therapeutic qualities, today it is consumed as an aperitif or digestif. Sounds like our cup of tea!

The one thing we have plenty of at Farm Dover is walnuts. We've planted a field of 100+ black walnut trees and there are hundreds (maybe thousands!) of native ones growing all over the farm. The walnuts for this recipe need to be picked while they are still green and milky with very tender kernals. In France, the green nuts are traditionally picked on the Fete de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, celebrated on June 24. 

So Ed picked the green walnuts back in late June and set to making the liqueur. For the past 40 days, the inky black infusion has been stored in a dark cabinet in our laundry room. Every couple of days, we'd give it a stir. 

Turns out versions of this drink are produced throughout Europe. Italy has a walnut liquor called nocino, made with alcohol, but no wine.  And Jack's girlfriend Kasia sent me a secret recipe from her grandfather in Poland who makes a vodka-based version, that includes caramel. Next June we will put it to the taste test.

Back to our walnut wine experiment... Last week, Ed strained the walnuts out of the liquor and bottled it. Stay tuned for the uncorking on December 1. It is recommended that it be served ice cold with a mandelbrot, biscotti or buttery cookie. Especially nice in front of a crackling fire. Sounds tasty, doesn't it?

Vin de Noix
Makes 6 liters

recipe from Cathy Barrow

40 young, green walnuts
1 liter vodka
5 bottles of red wine 
2 pounds sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Quartered lemon
4 cloves
1 vanilla bean, split

Gather the walnuts in late June when the nuts are well formed, but can still be pierced with a needle. Soak the nuts in cool water for 1  hour.  Drain, dry and quarter.

Place all of the ingredients in an non-reactive container with a lid.  Stir well to begin to dissolve the sugar. 

Store in a cool dark place for 40 days, stirring occasionally.

Strain through cheesecloth into a very large non-reactive bowl or food-safe bucket. Taste, and adjust the sugar if you want the drink to be sweeter. It will be a little harsh tasting, but will mellow as it ages.

Funnel the wine into quart jars. Store in a cool dark place until December 1st.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Growing Like a Teepee Vine

We've been sequestered at Farm Dover for more than half a year, 23 weeks to be exact. But that doesn't mean things have come to a standstill. In many ways, just the opposite. Ed's beard grows long; the ragweed and goldenrod in our fields grow tall; and granddaughter Hazel grows up. 

Back in May, we created a teepee for Hazel to play in.

Neighbor Sandy provided the 8-foot bamboo poles, which Maggie lashed together. I cut some willow branches and soaked them in the pond before weaving them horizontally through the bamboo.

We planted some beans, cucumbers, marigolds and cosmos around the base. 

And then we watched and waited...

Ed (with assistance from Hazel) faithfully watered the tiny seedlings.

And we watched and waited some more...

Slowly the vines started to grow. And so did Hazel. 

She turned from a toddler who wobbled unsteadily as she ran to her teepee into a confident explorer of the world of Farm Dover. 

She made her teepee into her own special spot, sharing books with Roo and snacking on green beans picked from the teepee's vines. 

Hazel and her teepee have been a bright spot during this strange time, a reminder that life goes on. Growth continues. We all need a special place in this crazy world –  a place where we can explore and grow. A place to which we can retreat and feel safe. A place of beauty. May you find yours....

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Seeking Marital Bliss

It's a good thing Ed and I get along, or this 130+ days of sheltering in place would get even older than it is getting. We rarely quarrel, but I must confess that there is one thing that we can't seem to agree on. And it's causing angst in our marriage.

The problem is: I love a good fruit crisp. One with lots of fruit and a fairly thick layer of crunchy oats, brown sugar, and almonds, bound together with some butter. One like the one found on page 689 of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

I love to make crisps with the gallons and gallons of wild blackberries that we pick each July. And every time I make one and bring it to the table. Ed says: "This is good, but some people prefer a cobbler." He is one of them; I am not.

What was wrong with him? I continued to make crisps. 

But then I started to wonder if perhaps he was right and that maybe I could learn to love a good cobbler. Was I just being stubborn? So I turned to page 691 of the above-mentioned cookbook and made a cobbler. Ed was thrilled; me less so. I just don't like the cakey topping.

I then conducted a survey. I asked Jack which he preferred, secretly trying to line the kids up on my side. Without hesitation, he said, "I prefer a pie."

And that got me to thinking. Perhaps the solution for our impasse was to find a solution we could both agree on. So, today I made a clafoutis, a 19th-century french dessert that traditionally uses black cherries. My version featured Farm Dover wild blackberries nestled in a thick flan-like batter. (Technically, when other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly call a flaugnarde.) It was super simple to make.

I'm planning to serve it tonight, but snuck a bite out of the skillet while it was still warm. Not as good, in my opinion as a crisp, but much better than a cobbler. I think it might work for us and allow us to get back to our normal state of marital bliss.

If not, I could always try a Brown Betty, a buckle, a grunt, hand pie, slump or pandowdy.  I'm willing to work on saving our marriage thru baking and Ed says he is willing to give it a go as well. Wish us luck.


Farm Dover Blackberry Clafoutis
(loosely based on recipe by David Lebovitz)


Enough blackberries (or other berries) to cover the bottom of a 11-inch cast iron skillet or other similar sized shallow baking dish
3 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cup whole milk
Soften butter, for preparing the baking dish


1. Preheat the oven to 375ยบF. Smear a 2-quart shallow baking dish or cast-iron skillet liberally with butter. 

2. Lay blackberries in a single layer in the baking dish.

3. Using an immersion blender, mix the eggs, flour, vanilla and almond extracts, 1/2 cup sugar and milk together until smooth.

4. Pour the batter over the blackberries and sprinkle fruit and batter with 3 tablespoons of sugar.

5. Bake the clafoutis until the custard is just set; a knife polked in the center should emerge relatively clean. It will take about 45 minutes.