Monday, December 20, 2021

Return of the Light

May you find peace in the promise of the solstice night,
that each day forward is blessed with more light.

12.19.21 @ 7:49 in the morning

That the cycle of nature, unbroken and true
Brings faith to your soul and well-being to you.

12.12.21 @ 5:33 in the evening

Rejoice in the darkness, in the silence find rest,
And may the days that follow be abundantly blessed.

12.20.21 @ 7:59 in the morning

(author unknown)

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Tornado Destruction Becomes Intensely Personal

"That snapshot looks like it could have come from one of our Christmases," was Jack's first reaction when I showed our kids the photo that Ed found in our fields yesterday. It was of two young girls, with hair that looks red -- much like Maggie's and Mary's. The younger child is holding a bell -- much like the one that hung on the Bailey's tree in "It's a Wonderful Life."  

When Ed picked up the photo, it was wet, but perfectly intact. We wondered where it came from. Then, I remembered that friend Ellen had found an old photo of a young woman this past weekend while on her daily photo excursions in The Parklands of Floyds Fork.

That evening, she posted the photo to a Facebook page created to reunite found items from the tornado with the owner (or family): Quad State Tornado Found Items. Within half an hour, she had a response from Haley Burton: "My Nana." 

Haley's Nana, Judy Miller, and grandfather, Billy Miller, both died in the tornado. Seven others have found photos that belonged to the Millers. There was a story about it in yesterday's Washington Post. Ellen is quoted, "I hated the universe and loved the universe with such intensity. I hated what had happened. I just loved that we could get something back to these families." 

Taking a page from Ellen's book, I posted our found photo to the same Facebook site. And within minutes, I got a message from Rachel in Madisonville. "That picture is of me and my sister. I'm on the right." She continued: "My parents lost their house (in Princeton, KY) and my dad lost his life. I would be grateful if you can send the photo to me." 

I had no words. It floored me to realize that a paper photo could survive -- and turn up 160 miles away -- but a house and a dad were lost forever.  When asked what I could do for Rachel and her family, she simply said: "Just pray for my mom." I am, and I hope you, my readers, will too. 

I've come to find out that Rachel's mom is in critical condition at Vanderbilt Hospital. There is a Go Fund Me page set up to help Rachel's family. I've made a contribution and hope you will consider making one as well. 

I can't help but think about Clarence from "It's a Wonderful Life" who comforts a deeply depressed George Bailey with a little secret: "Every time you hear a bell ring, it means that some angel just got his wings." My wish for all who have lost so much: may you find peace and comfort in the days ahead.


Update to post: A news station in Nashville broadcast this story about Rachel's family. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Making a Better Bitters

Last December, Friend Alisa gave me a small book that she suspected I would like. I do, very much. Called Blotto Botany, written and illustrated by Spencre L.R. McGowan, it offers lessons in making cordials and other plant magic. Between its covers, there are dozens of recipes for cordials, and chapters on producing shrubs, bitters, and herbal medicinal remedies. 

Taking a page out of this book, I recently bottled up my latest foraging experiment: bitters. (And no, for the record, I did not get blotto.)

After researching bitters and how to use them – both in cocktails and as a digestive aid – I set out to create my own version using burdock root from our fields, berries from our spice berry bushes and fennel seed from my herb garden. Loosely based on this recipe from David Lebowitz, I added orange peel, a cinnamon stick and gentian root. I covered the ingredients in Everclear alcohol and waited three weeks, shaking the jar daily. Then, I transferred the finished tincture to small eyedropper bottles. 

Sunday evening, Ed and I did a taste test between our homemade bitters and two others that we just happen to have in our liquor cabinet: Fee Brothers Orange Bitters and the classic Angostura Aromatic Bitters. Not to brag, but we were both impressed by how well the Farm Dover version stood up to these industry standards. Ours tasted like tropical oranges with spicy overtones. The Fee Brothers was much more floral; the Angostura, more herbal. 

According to this article in Wine Magazine, you can think of bitters as the salt and pepper of a cocktail. One or two dashes can drastically change the flavor profile of a drink. Something magical happens when you add bitters to a Manhattan, Martini, Old Fashioned, Negroni (or any number of other cocktails): the nuances of flavor bloom and the cocktail tastes slightly drier, more balanced, and complex. 

You can also use bitters as a digestive aid, letting a few drops sit on your tongue before or immediately after a meal to improve gallbladder and liver functions. Alternatively, a dropper full can be added to sparkling water for a barely alcoholic beverage.

Whether we end up using our bitters to augment the flavor of our favorite cocktails or simply for their health benefits, it was easy to make our own version. Cheers to a delicious cocktail and to good health! 

Monday, November 29, 2021

One pumpkin goes a long way...

It all started earlier this month when my three sisters came to lunch at Farm Dover. The four of us had not been together in far too long. We had a lot of catching up to do and did so over bowls of Pumpkin Black-Bean Soup that Sister Kathy had made. It was delicious: rich and hearty, earthy and warm. 

Fast forward three weeks and I was still thinking about that soup. I was also getting tired of looking at a giant pumpkin that grew in my garden and had taken up residence on my kitchen counter.  It was time to take action (and the timing was perfect as Son-in-law Nate had sharpened all of my knives while we waited for the turkey to cook on Thanksgiving.)

Last night, I sliced the pumpkin in half and scooped out the seeds. The pumpkin was so large that I had to roast half of it at a time. It produced A LOT of pumpkin flesh. 

With the first half, I made a large pot of Kathy's soup and froze three jars of pumpkin purée, each containing enough to make a future pot of soup. 

The roasted second half was designated for pumpkin butter which I use in my pumpkin pie recipe. The pureed pumpkin was added to my slow cooker, along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. I now have enough frozen to make a half dozen or more pies. All I need to do is add eggs, milk and cream and bake it in a pie shell. 

Too bad I only think of making this pie once a year at Thanksgiving....

And, the seeds were roasted as a thank you to Nate for his knife-sharpening session. 

My basement freezer is now full of pumpkin purée and spiced pumpkin butter. I'm all set until next year. 

I can't quite give up planting lots of pumpkins. They are easy to grow, fun to let little ones pick, and interesting to cook...but just one for me, thank you; it goes a long way.


Pumpkin Black-Bean Soup

Serves: An army (well maybe more like 12 people). Great to freeze for a later date.


3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 cups vegetable or beef broth
2 cups pumpkin purée (canned is fine, just make sure it is plain purée -- not pie filling)
1-1/2 cups red wine


In a food processor or with an emersion blender, coarsely puée beans and tomatoes. 

In a 6-quart heavy pot cook onion, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring until onion is softened. 

Stir in bean purée. 

Stir in broth, pumpkin and wine until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. 

Serve topped with roasted pumpkin seeds.


Pumpkin Pie


1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust
2 cups of pumpkin butter (see recipe below)
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Blind bake the crust by lining it with parchment paper and filling with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges just start to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the weights and lining and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. 

Whisk the pumpkin butter into the milk, cream and eggs and then add vanilla. 

Fill the pie crust. If it looks like there is too much filling for the curst, stop when you come close to the edge of the crust.

Transfer the pie to the hot oven and immediately turn down the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes -- until the pie is puffed in the middle, but still jiggles when you gently shake the pan. Let the pie cool before serving -- it will continue to set as it cools. 


Slow Cooker Pumpkin Butter


7 cups of pumpkin purée (or three 15 oz. cans of 100% pumpkin purée)
2.5 cups of brown sugar packed
1.5 cups of apple juice (or cider)
1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dash of salt


Add the pumpkin purée, brown sugar, apple juice, spices and salt to slow cooker. Stir until combined. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours or HIGH for 2 hours. 

Stir once the pumpkin butter is cooked. Cool before spooning into jars. Refrigerate for up to two weeks or freeze for up to 12 months. If freezing, leave an inch of room at the top of the jars. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Lovefest in the Azores

"Let's all go to the Azores," Maggie suggested way back in 2018. I'd never heard of this Portuguese archipelago of nine islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, but, if it meant that our family could all be together, I was all over it. 

Turns out, the Azores are almost exactly half way between the east coast of the U.S., where Mary and Brian live, and Berlin, where Jack and Kasia live – only a 4.5 hour flight from both directions. Everyone raised their hands when we proposed a family vacation. And so the planning began. We were all going to the Azores for a week in mid-April 2020.  

We found a large modern house on São Miguel, the chief Azorean island. We booked airline flights and Hazel got her first passport. 

And then the month before our trip, Covid shut all travel down. We were not going to the Azores after all. 

For the next 18 months, we felt like we were in a perpetual state of quarantine. No travel to foreign destinations; no family reunions; and a great longing to be together. 

Toward the end of this past summer, with Covid rates down, we again imagined this trip. The original house was no longer being rented, a new person (Norbert) had joined our family and would need a passport, and schedules would need to be coordinated. Somehow we worked it out and booked our trip for October, 2021. 

I held my breath; trying hard not to get too excited about a trip that might not happen. But happen it did. 

On October 7, eight of the Galloway clan flew to Boston and then on to São Miguel, and two flew from Berlin -- meeting up at the small island airport early the next morning. After piling our luggage and ten  tall people into two small cars, we drove on narrow roads lined with thousands of hydrangeas to Sete Cidades, a charming village located on the west end of the island in the center of a massive volcanic crater.  Our house for the week was Casa Grande and it lived up to its name. Built in 1853, it has six bedrooms and is situated at the end of the slender strip of land that separates two colorful lakes, a 10-minute walk from a playground and the village. The house was surrounded by beautiful gardens.

The week flew by. It was filled with do-able hikes with two small children, swimming in thermal pools set among botanical gardens or salt-water seas protected by rock barriers, biking the mountainous countryside, eating platters of fresh seafood, touring pineapple and tea plantations, and exploring caves on the property of the house. But the best parts, at least for me, were seeing Hazel's enthusiasm over her first bus, train and airplane rides, a home-cooked birthday dinner for Brian, late-night card games, playing foxes in a blanket-covered den, sock puppet shows, morning snuggles, cocktails in the garden and some quality grandparenting afternoons back at the house. 

Being together as a family, after a hiatus of almost three years, was like one big lovefest. Hazel and Norbert had eight adults vying for the chance to play with them; our kids and their partners enjoyed some great outdoor adventures while Ed and I happily manned the fort back at the house with Norbert and Hazel. Our meals were full of delicious food and great conversation. Laughter abounded. It was an amazing week and I'm still pinching myself that we were able to pull it off.  

Logistics and highlights

SATA/Azores Airline: We flew out of Boston on the only airline that flies from the U.S. to the Azores. It leaves late in the evening, arriving early the next morning. Pretty low frills. On the way home, we didn't leave São Miguel until 6 p.m, arriving in Boston about 8 p.m., too late for a connecting flight. We stayed at a Marriott Hotel at the airport to make a 7 a.m. flight back to Cincinnati. 

Restaurants in Sete Cidades: The tiny town features four restaurants; one is a tea house and two are versions of a snack bar: Sao Nicolau and The Green Love Restaurant. Only one is a full restaurant:  Lagoa Azul. We liked them all. From the tea house, O Poejo, we purchased a very delicious carrot cake that served as Brian's birthday cake. 

Restaurants in Ponta Delgada: We had two very good seafood lunches in the capital city of Ponta Delgada, only about 30 minutes from our village. Restaurant TiXico and Cais 20


São Miguel is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and I hope to go back someday soon. I leave you with some photos of our week together.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Feeling garden-giddy

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate.  But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass 

Our efforts to appreciate and enhance nature at Farm Dover go all the way back to our first season here when Ed had the vison to take all the cropped fields out of production and return them to native grasses and wildflowers. No more corn; no more soybeans. Instead we planted native seeds in the open meadows and began to intentionally tend to field and forest, making them healthier for all who make their home here. This work of tending to our land – so satisfying – gives structure and purpose to our days and fills us with joy. 

Over the years we added walking paths around the meadows and through the woods. Year round we work to keep the invasive plants at bay and native ones thriving. Shortly after we moved to the country, we became landlords to Maggie's beehives and got interested in creating native gardens so her honey bees could find a ready source of pollen.

In 2016, with help from Margaret Shea of  Dropseed Native Plant Nursery, we planted our first bee garden, which really was just a flower-rich extension of the front meadow.

As the garden grew, we divided plants from it and moved them to the periphery of the meadows surrounding the house, adding color, structure and texture to the edges. 

Once we got going, it was hard to stop. Recently,  I've been feeling garden-giddy and compelled to create another garden. This time, I didn't choose the spot; it was chosen for me... 

Last year, we ordered a dump truck full of natural hardwood mulch from Natural Products, located in nearby LaGrange. The driver did not want to get off our gravel drive and would need to dump the eight cubic yards (small mountain) somewhere near the driveway's edge. We picked a spot in the tall meadow grasses between the original bee garden and orchard and hastily pinned down a tarp. With amazing accuracy, he dumped the entire load in the center of the tarp. 

It took us nearly a year to whittle down the pile, using it on all our gardens and around the planted bushes and trees. Once the pile was nearly gone, I peeked under the tarp to find a perfectly bare 12'x16' plot. It was like striking gold. We don't like to spray with herbicides, and to dig up an area this size in meadow grasses is no easy task. Our good luck: no need to spray or dig! We simply slid the tarp over to the next section of meadow and called for another load of mulch. I then put layers of newspaper down on the bare earth and spread three inches of mulch over it all. It was ready for planting.

I love dividing and moving perennials in the fall; it feels like shopping in my own backyard for free plants. Between our meadows and bee gardens, we have lots to chose from. We began by digging up some very tall ironweed from our fields and planting them in the back of the new space, adding some tall joe pye weed right next to the ironweed. Then I realized that I needed to give some thought to what to plant next. Seems I needed some inspiration...

Two weeks ago, my friend Pat Greer opened up her amazing gardens as part of Shelby County Co-op Extension's Good Neighbors Farm Tour. The day before the tour, I stopped by to drop off a large arrangement of compass flowers to welcome the visitors. Pat insisted on giving me a private tour of her nearly six acres of gardens. Regarding native plants, Pat has more passion, knowledge and energy than anyone I know. I came away with a wheelbarrow load of ideas that I wanted to try. 

The second source of inspiration came from our recent weekend in Chicago, where we roamed the Lurie Garden, a three-acre botanical garden at Millennium Park designed by renowned Dutch garden and landscape designer, Piet Oudolf. (He also designed NYC's High Line.) The naturalistic plantings were stunning.

Not only are Oudolf's landscapes amazing works of art, but his painterly design sketches I'd gladly frame and hang on our walls. I find his shapes and circles "groovy."

So taking page from Piet Oudolf, I pulled out Uncle Eddie's 50-year-old box of Prismacolor pencils and set to work, creating my own groovy garden plan. 

The new garden is now fully planted. It looks a bit sparse, only because we cut off most of the foliage so the transplants can concentrate on putting down good roots. The plants will spread, hopefully covering every square inch of the garden, blocking out weeds. 

The privilege of working in this new garden this week is not lost on me. I find gratification in the process and peace and pleasure in every step along the way. 

It will be next spring before I can discover if the garden design is pleasing. If not, I'll simply move the plants on to another spot and fill in with plants from elsewhere on Farm Dover. It's a never-ending cycle; one that transforms the bounties of this place and, along the way, transforms this gardener too.