Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday, November 28 - Christmas lights and mowing

Holy smokes, I haven't writtein in SO long. Today, Barry and I put up the outside lights for Christmas decorations. Most of our Christmas stuff is still in Maine, so we're going easy this year. It got down below freezing this morning, but this afternoon with full sunshine, it's near 60. Seems SO weird -- putting up Christmas decorations, then mowing the lawn -- yes, we need to do that again! The fellow on the radio the other day said, "IF we have snow this winter".

A couple of years ago I had bought a kerosene heater but never took it out of the box. Even though electric prices are 1/3 of Maine's, we're supplementing the electric heat (we found out we do NOT have a heat pump -- we have an electric furnace) with kerosene and wood. Even at $3.39 a gallon, all we need is an hour of kerosene a day to keep the house nice and toasty warm. We haven't had much sun over the past week so today was wonderful -- the cat seems to find all the warm spots. And if he can't find one, he crawls under the comforter on MY bed, right up next to the pillow!

We spent Thanksgiving in Paducah with Rick and Laura, and Laura's family. Barry made a sweet potato pie, Laura made pumpkin soup, Nancy did a corn casserole, and Buel did turkey and beef tenderloin with cognac sauce. To top it all off, Nancy made a Bavarian chocolate cake! Barry went online and bought a treadmill the day after...looks like we can use it. Nice time, lots of good food -- Paducah's almost a second home now, having spent more time there since July than we have in Maine! I'm absolutely not sure when we will return to Maine -- we thought we'd have to come back up in December, but that doesn't have to happen now - some of you know why... ;) -- it has to do with $600 (that's a hint).

OK, time to get back to work. I'd like to promise it won't be this long again before I write, but ...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday, November 15 - The "S" word

No, not THAT one -- get your mind out of the gutter!

We actually had cold enough temperatures for SNOW today. Just a few flurries, not lasting long enough for me to even get a picture of it, but it surely was SNOW.

I thought we left that stuff behind in Maine along with the snowblower!

It's not expected to amount to anything, though there may be some accumulation in West Virginia. But it IS cold by KY standards -- 36, going down to 26 overnight, then back up to 58 by Saturday. We still have loads of leaves on the trees, though we can actually see the topography of several of the neighboring knobs, now that some of the trees are bare.

You may have heard of the tornado that hit in Lauren County last night -- that was only about 50 miles away -- we were in Renfro Valley last Friday, and that's only a few miles north of Pittsburg, where the EF-1 tornado hit. Quite a surprise, and VERY unusual for any tornadic activity in KY this time of year. Spring may be different, though Casey County hasn't had a direct hit since 1971 (except for April 2007).

OK, dinner is on, and the fireplace needs tending. Later.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday, November 12 - Going Grocery Shopping

Hey, nothing to write home about, huh? Well this was a treat.

Casey County has a large Amish/Mennonite community. It's new, begun about 1975 when Amish and Mennonites from Pennsylvania were looking for inexpensive farmland. They found it in the Green River Valley. Aside -- the Green River IS green. The water flows over all kinds of limestone deposits, and west of here, it forms the "Cave Region" of Kentucky as it flows underground for dozens of miles through Mammoth Cave and dozens of others. Anyway, it's green because the limestone promotes algae growth -- you put lime on your lawn to green it up -- same idea.

Back to the main story.

The IGA store in Liberty has great prices on, and quality of, meat, so we headed there first. Looking for the "Reduced for quick sale" we picked up loads of hamburg and pork and a couple of roasts. We need to do this at least once a month on a Monday morning -- the regular prices are comparable to Wal-Mart and Krogers (lots like Shaw's back home in Maine), but the quality of the meat is SO much better.

The pork we bought is destined to become home-made sausage. We bought a meat grinder for the Kitchen Aid mixer, and we're anxious to try it out. One of the roasts we cut up for stew beef or possibly hamburging -- we'll decide later.

Anyway, leaving Liberty, we drove south on US-127 to the Amish-Mennonite area of the county. We turned east on KY-501 in the settlement of "Phil" -- the settlement of "Teddy" is just down the road apiece. Not too far from Chicken Bristle! Gotta love the place names here.

Our first destination was Burkholder Seeds. Unfortunately, it wasn't open, but we'll go back -- calling first to be sure.

Then we drove up Chestnut Level Rd and South Fork Ridge Road past the Galilean Children's Home and Christian Academy. Sandy Tucker and her husband had hosted thousands of children from all over the world, whose mothers were in prison, or otherwise unable to care for the children. Sandy was a legend around here until she died last fall. They also operate the Bread of Life Cafe -- which is where we get our whole-wheat bread ($1.75 for a huge loaf). If we had turned on the cell phone and gotten ANY reception, we would have noticed the time was an hour earlier -- the nearest cell towers to southern Casey County are in the Central Time Zone!

Anyway, our next stop was Nolt's Bulk Foods -- what a gold mine this place is! We'll NEVER get cheese anywhere else again! Butter Havarti, $3.50 a pound (Kroger has it for $7); onion cheese, also $3.50 a pound, along with probably 15-18 other varieties ranging from Swiss and mozarella to cheddars. Barry also bought a bag of Empire apples -- good for pies, we understand! And I splurged and got a nutmeg grater. Life is good! They had cooking items, heavy aluminum cooking sheets, steel teapots, other utensils, spices in bulk, just wonderful stuff, and at reasonable prices to boot! The place is two miles off a side road off a side road off the main road. Yet we had a hard time getting through the place because of all the people shopping there!

We then backtracked to Lavern's, where we bought two squashes, a Waltham butternut, and a blue hubbard. Not much else of interest there, but the squash prices were VERY reasonable. If we had a root cellar here, we might have bought another 20 pounds -- I LOVE squash!

We did pass two horse-drawn buggies. I don't know if the drivers were Amish or Mennonite -- the men did NOT have beards, which is the rule for Old Order Amish -- but are our Amish Old or New Order? It's quite a treat though, seeing the buggies holding up the Fords and Chevies on the road!

We were looking for "Mike's Smoke House", a place I had come across back in October when I was out photographing gravestones with Rochelle and Linda, but we didn't find it. We MUST at some point though -- smoked sausages and other meats, locally produced! Sounds great.

There are other Amish-Mennonite stores we need to find. Need a buggy repaired? Harnesses for your horse? Kerosene lamps? QUILTS and QUILTING SUPPLIES (are you reading, Shirley?) Running low on sorghum, or want to learn how to make your own cheese? It's all here!

We got home, and decided to process the squash, so we took the meat cleaver, some newspapers, and went out on the back deck. It was 67 degrees, and we were wearing T-shirts while hacking and slashing at the squash. Today it feels like a nice early September day in Maine. Of course, the other day, we were 5 degrees COLDER than Waterville, and temps here commonly will vary 40 degrees from 7AM to 5PM. Later this afternoon, we'll probably take some time out to just sit and vegetate on the front porch, watching the Butchertown rush-hour traffic (approx. 5 vehicles per hour).

OK, gotta go, the squash should be done -- at least the first bowl -- two more to go!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday, November 11 - Loretta Lynn and Firewood

Friday, Nov 9, Loretta Lynn -- We drove down to Renfro Valley, Kentucky's "Official" Country Music site. There's a whole entertainment complex there -- restaurant, motel, tourist shops, RV park, etc. People come from all over the country.

Loretta Lynn had with her her son Ernest, daughters Peggy and Paula (I can't tell who is whom though), and grand-daughter, Kayla Lynn. All had a set of songs, and Peggy and Paula opened the show.

Then came what we were all waiting for. The "New Barn" at Renfro Valley seats maybe 1,000 or so people, and you could tell this wasn't a rock concert -- 99% of the audience was made up of us "older" folks. Loretta came out on stage, and the show really began. She asked people to call out songs for her to sing, saying "We're here for you-all." The photos aren't that great, but they're real, not from a website.
Several times, there were false starts -- the band was playing a key too high, Loretta wasn't sure what song they were beginning to play -- and once or twice, her voice failed. But she is still an elegant performer, in a "country" sort of way. In the photo below, that's Loretta's son, Ernest, to her left.The performance was very good, even though Loretta had a few glitches -- she's 75 now (her birth certificate says she was born in 1932 though most sources say it was 1935. That means she married her husband, "Doo" Lynn when she was nearly 16, not 13 as the legend has it. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed the performance, and I'm really not a fan of "country." Then, like "groupies" (yes, Alison, we were like Michael fans), dozens of people crowded around the back door of the stage near Loretta's bus (picture below). We were all hoping she'd come out, but she didn't. However, her grand-daughter, Kayla, did, and Barry got Kayla to autograph the autographed Loretta Lynn cookbook we bought earlier. It has lots of great recipes, and biographical info on Loretta's life, so it's an interesting book to read.
If you haven't yet seen "Coal Miner's Daughter", rent it. It's a great story, well-written and acted, winner of many awards including several Oscars, and one gets a real feeling for the hardships Loretta lived through growing up in eastern Kentucky, then building up her music career.

OK, back to reality now.

Friday and Saturday, Nov 9-10, Wood.
We bought some great firewood for $25 a truckload -- works out to about $100 a cord. The first load was delivered Friday before we went to Renfro Valley, and the second came Saturday morning. We actually had a good time stacking it -- probably wouldn't though, if we had 8-10 cord to stack!

Most of the wood around here is hardwood -- oak, maple, hickory, VERY few evergreens -- so the price is even more remarkable. The fellow who sold it to us basically does it for fun and exercise, not huge profits. We WILL get all our wood from him in the future.
We'll use it to supplement the electric heat until we can do something more permanent -- gas logs, airtight stove, whatever works. Anyway, we got it stacked just fine, and have already had our first fire. The smell of a wood fire is warming in and of itself. Bruce and Shirley, a little stove like yours would be perfect!Nov 10, sitting outside.
Saturday, after the firewood was stacked, the temperature got up to the low 60's, and the sun was SO warm, Barry just had to enjoy the outdoors while he could. Temps get down below freezing quite often now overnight, but by late week, it'll get up to 68 and down to 45, so it'll feel more like a Maine September.By the way, can you see what Barry's reading? Yup, it's our personally autographed by two members of the Lynn family cook book! You can bet he's going to come up with some great food from THAT!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Saturday, November 3 - Haying and Hurricane Noel

As we sit here in nearly 60 degree sunshine, we understand our friends and family in Maine are feeling the effects of Hurricane Noel. We're sure wishing and praying that all will go well wit y'all up in the Pine Tree State -- stay indoors, stay dry, stay warm.

We HAVE had 3-4 mornings with frost here, but the guy on the radio yesterday said, "IF we get snow..." which makes me believe that we won't see much of the white stuff. It really looked like it has snowed just a dusting this morning tough. Temps got down to 27 -- about the lowest we've seen here yet.

Here, the front pasture has been hayed and is getting ready to be baled. We're not sure when, but will be taking pictures of it when it happens. Barry went out and weed-whacked around the driveway, but the front "yard" will look like a golf course by the time haying is done.

STAND BY -- They're baling now -- be right back with pictures...Shirley and Bruce -- Barry says, "Can you believe this, it's November 3rd?"

We're still trying to figure out where the garden should go in the spring, and where to plant the peach trees. Being on the west side of the Knob, we don't get much sunshine here until 10AM (9 EST), and the temps are the coldest about 7:30 AM. We'll get it figured out though.

One more mowing maybe, and we'll use the grass clippings and leaves on the eroded parts of the banking, to try to prevent future erosion.

OH, I baked my first Bourbon Pumpkin Pie -- a recipe from the folks at Maker's Mark. We'll see how it comes out after dinner tonight!! If y'all want it, I can send the recipe to y'all.

It's a learning curve here -- and we're discovering that we have more questions than answers.