Sunday, December 21, 2008

Latest breaking news..,.,Baby-Gram

Gannon was born at 12:44 AM on the day of the Winter Solstice, just about 9 hours before the onset of winter. He weighed in at 7 lb 8 oz, and is either 19 or 21 inches long -- Maureen can't remember which yet. He has a head of dark hair (unlike me) and his eyes are either dark blue or brown, depending on the light.

Delivery was relatively easy, with only a few issues which were resolved well, and mother and baby are both doing fine. While I was on the phone with Maureen, I heard him crying -- he's got a good set of lungs on him!

When I have pics, I'll post them. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to flying up to Maine to see the little critter, and will write more about then.

Breaking News (you WON'T find on CNN)

Gannon Chandler Patrick arrived shortly before 1:00 AM on the first day of winter, 21 December 2008. Mother and son are doing fine, after a brief anxious period late Saturday afternoon. According to our source (mother), Gannon yawned, and has a tongue and apparently all the other parts he's supposed to have! More details to follow as they become available from our reporters on the scene at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Anticipation

'Tis the season for anticipation. Little kids are anxiously awaiting Santa. Nervous parents are anticipating lay-offs, plant closings and credit-card bills. GM and Chrysler are anticipating $Billions in loans.

My major anticipation right now is waiting to hear from Maureen. It appears that Gannon Chandler Patrick is going to make his appearance in Maine today, so I anticipated flying up today or Sunday. I checked, and the usual fare of $307 has jumped to over $800! OUCH! So I'll have to wait until after the new year when prices come down into my budget range. Besides the weather in Maine over the next few days would probably result in flight delays and cancellations (anticipitating a foot tonight with all sorts of cancelled flights), so it's best to wait.

In any event, I just thought I'd share a few of our anticipations...

We've been trying to find places in Kentucky that sell lobster rather than having the shipped here from Maine at $50+. Well, we were up in Lexington on Friday the 19th, and Meijer's (major local grocery chain) actually had Canadian lobsters for $9.99 a pound. ANTICIPATION - Barry getting ready to dig in. All we needed was a can of Glade "Clam Flats" room freshener to make it seem like Maine!


We've done a load of baking this year as well. I made 3 large and 2 small tourtières -- traditional French-Canadian pork pie -- and we've already eaten the small ones. Two of the large ones will be going to Paducah for Christmas -- we'll share one with the crowd there, along with some MOXIE, and Rick will take one up to Carbondale when he goes back to law school. That way he won't have to survive on Ramen noodles!



I also baked some Polish filled-cookies. They're made with cream cheese and flour, rolled and wrapped around fruit filling. We tried a can of apricots, some minced dates, strawberry jam, and (just for Barry) prunes! We both agreed the strawberry jam ones ran too much (but were delicious), and the prune ones were ok, but not our favorites. I for one could eat the date ones 'til the cows come home! The cookies themselves are quite different from "American" style cookies, in that they are not really sweet, just a hint of sweetness, and boy do they go well with a cup of hot tea!

Finally, seems we may have been adopted by another cat. We can't let her in because Ramses would have the hissy-fit from hell, but we're feeding her daily now, and she's going after the moles which have taken over the lawn. Hey, if she earns her keep by attacking and devouring moles, she's welcome! She hissed at Ramses and he backed off, so maybe he's determined that she's a strong "Kentucky Woman" -- we'll see.

I just called Maureen, and it looks like it won't be too many more hours.

ANTICIPATION!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Season's Greetings!

To ALL our friends and relatives in Maine and elsewhere...

I have SO wanted to have a holly bush for SO long. Now I have one. This photo was taken today of our holly (Foster Holly - self-fruitful, no "mate" needed) on the back porch. It's SO beautiful, I decided to make it into a Christmas (or Hanukkah, Eid, Winter Solstice, or Season's Greetings for those who aren't Christian) card.

I'm also thrilled that I can share this photo with so many friends and relatives all over the US. Please, everyone, for this season in particular but all the rest of the year, too, be kind to each other, do good works, be healthy, and stay in touch.

Not much happening now, but ...


Things will be getting busier shortly. After a great Thanksgiving weekend in Paducah with Rick, Laura and Elizabeth Rose, we got back home and started getting ready for Christmas. The outside lights went up Wednesday when the temps were in the mid-50s, so it was perfect weather for that job. We strung lights on the two tall cedar trees at the ends of the house, put up the lighted wreath on the front door, and lit candles in the five front windows. The lights on the ground are permanent -- makes the lawn look like the landing strip at the Louisville Airport...

In mid-January, we're headed to San Antonio, TX, for Barry's son's wife's brother's wedding. We'll stay a few days extra so we can explore a very small part of Texas, where I've never been before. We had planned to drive down so we could go through Arkansas on the way down and Louisiana and Mississippi on the way back, but that's not the plan this time. Anyway, we'll get to see the Alamo, Riverwalk, and other sights and sounds of San Antonio.

Either before we go to Texas, or after we return, I'll be flying back up to Maine to see my new grandson. Can't get plane tickets yet, because I don't know whether Gannon will decide to show up before Christmas or after, so I'll just have to wait and get the best tickets I can get when I go. He's due on December 23, but I don't want to be flying over Christmas, so if he's early, great; if he's late, great. On time, not great. Of course, Maureen would like him to arrive months ago -- she's more than ready now -- but she'll just have to take her clues from him as he's the one in charge of this whole thing now.

OK, got to go to the post office, mail Christmas cards and presents, and have another cup of coffee. It's COLD here - down to 16 this morning -- but if the sun comes out, the house will warm up nicely.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Official "Mainers May Now Gloat" announcement!

Well, all last winter we harangued you all up in Maine about how much warmer it was and how much less snow we had here. Well, here's your official chance to gloat now.

We're getting snow. Yup, about half an inch, the ground and the porch and the petunias and the back deck are all snow-covered.




The interesting news though, is that inside, one of our lemon trees we grew from seeds we brought back from Florida 4-1/2 years ago is blossoming. We're hoping it's self-fruitful and we will actually get some lemons one of these days.


OK, got to go see where the snow shovel is...


Nah, just kidding. It'll melt tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gloomy Fall Day...but


It's drizzling, with an occasional larger drop here and there. Much like November in Maine except it's warmer and there are still quite a few leaves left on the trees. It's the kind of day where, if the temperature were about 20 degrees lower, we'd love to sit in front of a glowing fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate.

But there IS one bright spot on the horizon...

Ayuh. Last winter we fed the birds loads of sunflower seeds. Some ended up in the garden and grew, flowered, went to seed and died. This is a SECOND generation sunflower, bravely poking it's bright face up through the clouds toward where the sun SHOULD be. I hope the little fellow can make it all the way through the seed cycle before a killing freeze takes him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Berries and Swiss Chard, etc...

It's hard to believe but I just picked some more raspberries -- they're everbearing, so they have a crop in the spring and in the fall. There's even a new blossom, but I doubt it will make it before we have the first real killing frost. Temps got down to about 32 a couple of times so far, but not a hard freeze yet.

We're still picking Swiss Chard, in fact it looks better than it has since May. It really likes the cool weather, and it looks as though we'll have that until at least Christmas!

I tried cracking open one of the first black walnuts. They weren't completely dry, so the meat came out with great difficulty. But with another couple of weeks of drying, we should have all the walnut meat we can use. It's a different taste from the traditional English or Carpathian walnut, and it takes getting used to -- sort of like Moxie does. But they should be great in brownies or cookies...and selling for over $9.00 a pound locally, we have a good investment going here.

Barry and I have been hot on the trail of Thomas H Carrier, who was lynched about a mile down the road from us in 1867. We started with only his name, no dates, no places, no background. Now we have found his two wives, a story about his hanging, three of his brothers and his parents, and we have 4 or 5 deeds with his name. Doing genealogy research is really helping Barry's stress level, and he has become a very good, diligent researcher.

Genealogy is incurable, but it is not fatal!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting.

Voted today. No lines, no waiting, just like Wal-Mart. Of course our whole precinct only has about 400 people in it and many of them will be voting this afternoon after work.

Now, we'll see what the results are. I've turned into a full CNN news junkie!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Processing walnuts...

We have a huge black walnut tree just over the back property line. This is the time of year when the nuts begin to fall, and in when we mow, we hear the blade klanking its way through the fallen orbs, shredding them and making one awful noise.

Well, I decided to get smart. Pick them up, at least the ones that are good (if they've already turned black, the nut inside will degrade), and process them. Now black walnuts have a soft yellow-green husk that must be removed. However, it contains a chemical that will stain black anything it touches, so impervious gloves are a must (latex would work fine). There are a dozen ways to process them, but I decided to take a paring knife to them.

It's like peeling peaches, but all the way down to the pit. That's the part that actually contains the nut. It's messy, but maybe the results will be worth it. Once peeled and washed, they need to set in a cool dry place away from the sun for about two weeks.

We'll see how they turn out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Summer returns?

It's 70 outside. Sunflowers that re-seeded are blossoming; Barry just picked some radishes, and we may just get another crop of lettuce before temperatures drop. We're wearing t-shirts and shorts, sitting out in the carport enjoying weather that Mainers normally have in late May or early September. For goodness' sake, it's NOVEMBER! Although it did get down to 30 a few nights ago and we had our first real frost, there's no temp below 40 predicted for the next week. The petunias are still growing, but the lawn has slowed down, though the moles haven't. Never saw anything like this -- there are hundreds of feet of tunnels all over the lawn.

Anyone got a good idea of how to get rid of the moles?

I went over to the Forkland Community Center today to check out a couple of historical - genealogical things. The man I needed to see, Monty Bryant (local history expert), just happened to be there. I asked him if he had information on one Thomas Carrier who was lynched in 1867 about a mile down the road. Well, did I get an education! Seems that "Judge Lynch" pretty much ran Boyle and 4 neighboring counties after the Civil War, and working with the "regulators" or "night riders", they tried to clean the county of any undesirables -- white, black, didn't make a difference. Men were taken out of jails and hanged from the nearest tree all over the area. The idea of hanging the accused without a trial gave rise to the term "lynch mob", named after the ne'er-do-well Judge Lynch! Apparently this whole area of Kentucky was under vigilante rule for about 20 years, and the center of the "regulators" was in Parksville, a mile and a half down the road!

While Barry was doing dishes, this is what he was looking at. When we left Maine we were sure we'd miss the fall foliage. Not so. Peak should be in another week or so, but here's what it looks like today, November 1!


Friday, October 31, 2008

Cleaning up for "winter"

The previous owners of our house had planted numerous trees out back -- several of them much too close to each other. In particular, a black walnut was planted (or planted itself, maybe) right near the Kwanza Cherry. Black walnuts emit a toxin which kills all other trees around them, so if we had let the walnut grow, the cherry would have been killed. The cherry is absolutely beautiful in the spring with its large pink double flowers -- there was only one choice -- the walnut had to go.

Barry fired up the chain saw, which hadn't been used in about 3 years, and after some time coaxing the machine to wake up, he succeeded. The walnut came down and the back yard opened up a bit.

Not being content with his successes here, he then tackled a maple tree that was shading a dogwood very badly. Not a good idea to do that when there's a man with a chain saw in his hand thinking, "TIMBERRRR!"

When the chips cleared, several major low-hanging branches bit the dust. Now that area is more open and more light can get to the dogwood.

We'll see what tree next challenges Kentucky's version of Paul Bunyan!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Understanding the problem

The Problem: Why I can't write in this blog more often.

After careful thought I think I have defined the problem. When I blog, I try to be complete with what's going on down here, I over-edit, I include pictures whenever I can, and I tend to run off at the mouth too much. End result -- I don't blog very often because it takes too much time the way I am doing it.

Solution: More frequent, shorter, less-detailed blogs.

But first, one more long one, to catch up.

October 10
- my Dad died.

He was nearly 95, and had been in a nursing home for quite a long time, and was unable to recognize me when I was in Maine in September. I didn't figure it would be long. It wasn't.

The nursing home called me at 1:00 pm on October 9, to say that he was failing, and asking me if I wanted extraordinary measures taken. Having talked with Dad when he was lucid, I know he would not have wanted that, so it was simply time to "let him go." Barry helped me pack, we checked out plane fares, but I decided that driving up was the best way. I didn't know when Dad would pass, so I couldn't really plan on a return plane flight, and one-way flights were just too expensive, so at 3:00 p.m., I was on the road driving back to Maine. I got to Morgantown, WV Thursday night, then Friday morning, my birthday, I was on the road at 6:30 a.m.

Passing through Connecticut and Massachusetts, the traffic was horrible. I figure it took me about 2.5 hours longer due to bumper-to-bumper traffic in Danbury, Waterbury, Hartford, and all the way from Sturbridge to Lowell. I was going through the Hampton tolls when Maureen called. She was crying, and I couldn't understand what she was saying, though I knew. Josh (my son-in-law) told me to come to their house, not the nursing home. Dad had died about an hour before I got there.

Now you have to understand Dad. When he got it in his mind to do something, he did it. No real planning or hesitation, he just went ahead and did it. So even in death, he did it his way. Way to go, Dad!

The funeral was simple, no visiting hours, the way he wanted it. Yet I was totally blown away at the number of people who showed up. He would have been embarrassed (yet pleased) at all the attention. I have to hope I did it the way he would have wanted it.

My grandmother (mom's mother) died on Christmas Day in 1968. For years, I couldn't really enjoy Christmas because it was always a reminder of her death. But while teaching Adult Education, I had a student -- yes, I'll name her -- Jan Gagne -- who put things in a whole new perspective. Jan told me instead of being unhappy on Christmas, I should light a candle for "Babka" and remember her. It worked. So now, using Jan's advice, I'll light a candle on December 25 for my grandmother, and on October 10 for Dad.

He had a good life, and he went out the way he wanted to. I miss him, but it was so sad seeing him the way he was -- he would not have liked it.

One real pleasure of the trip to Maine was having Maureen (and Gannon) meet Bruce and Shirley. We're sorry we missed Carol, but I wanted Maureen to meet Barry's family, and it was a very nice visit. Shirley, Maureen said it was like she had known you for years -- you're so warm and friendly -- wish everyone we know were like you... And Bruce, Barry got the doorbell fixed just fine and the house is still standing.

And yes, I stocked up on red hot dogs and Moxie again. Only wish I could have been able to bring some lobster back but no good way to keep it cold enough long enough.

THE REST OF OCTOBER:

Oct 12. The ruby-throated hummingbirds left for the season. It was a pleasure watching their behavior and learning about them. If you want to feed them, DO NOT PUT RED FOOD COLORING in the sugar-water -- it can damage their livers.


Oct 18 - UK FOOTBALL.
Rick, Barry's son, bought us two tickets to the University of Kentucky - University of Arkansas football game. First live football game I've watched since 1963, when Kennedy was President! We went up to Lexington about 1PM for tailgating, even though the game didn't start until 7. Great time, walking around the stadium and environs, people-watching, food-eating, etc. The game began at 7, and our seats were in the middle of the Arkansas section, so we were nearly the only "True Blue" fans in a large section, until the empty seats filled with other Kentucky fans. The game was a blowout by the beginning of the 4th quarter, 17-7, and with traffic concerns foremost, we decided to leave early. We could listen to the rest of the slaughter on the radio. Guess what? Didn't happen. Kentucky won 21-20 in the last 5 minutes, while we were stuck in Nicholasville Road traffic. Car horns were honking, people on the sidewalk were cheering...interesting evening.

Oct 21 - MY FIRST HOME-HANDIMAN PROJECT, THE POTTING BENCH.
Last summer I had promised Barry to build him a potting bench. He's done so much work gardening that I thought it would be nice for him to have a place to do the work in one place, have tools, pots, soil, etc. available. Anyway I planned the project in my head for months, while the weather was too hot to actually work. Finally, when it cooled down into the 70s, on Oct 21, I struck. Off to Lowe's for lumber, then in 2-1/2 hours, the finished product. It's 8' long, 2' wide, and should give him plenty of room to work. Problem was he thought it looked to nice to get it dirty. So now it's in his bedroom in front of 8 foot windows covered with plants for the winter. Makes the bedroom look like a greenhouse. Beautiful! Now if I can just convince him that it's a potting bench, not a plant stand! Well, maybe I'll just build him another potting bench in the Spring.

Next project is a railing along the back deck, but that may have to wait until Spring, too.

THREAT OF FROST.
Three times, now, we've taken in the sensitive plants due to frost or freeze warnings. Last night it did get down to 33.1 degrees, and a week or so ago, we did have a nip of frost. So I guess it's going to come one of these days. After all, it is the end of October. But our Swiss Chard is still going strong, Barry dumped all the rest of the left-over seeds in the garden to see what would happen, and some plants have re-seeded themselves; sunflowers are close to blossoming, lettuce, radishes, spinach -- all are up enough for us to have a nice salad. We even have a millet plant, obviously growing from some of last winter's birdseed that got into the garden somehow. Trees are turning color here, and those that haven't lost their leaves due to the extreme drought, are getting brighter. Another week or so and the fall colors should peak.

DOUGHNUTS and LOBSTERS:
Yesterday, we drove down to Columbia (Central Time Zone, Adair County) to get some Christmas presents. Can't say just what 'cause we don't want to give it away. Instead of coming home the same route, we took the Cumberland Parkway (4-lane, divided STATE road, soon to become Interstate-66) to Somerset, at the head of Lake Cumberland. We had seen a doughnut shop mentioned on the Kentucky Educational Television program "Kentucky Life" -- Amon's Sugar Shack. So we stopped, and filled a box of goodies for just $10! On the way home, we found Freddie's, which used to be the best Italian restaurant in Danville. It's now at the Dix River Country Club in Stanford, only about 15 miles from here. And now, Barry is on the hunt for Maine lobster in Kentucky! Actually found several places, one in Louisville which looks really good. Louisville is only about an hour's drive away, and we haven't been there since March, so maybe after payday, we'll head up for some lobster and scallops.

OK now, I need to close, and to write less quantity and do it more often. Let's see if that promise falls by the wayside as quickly as a politician's promises during an election!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wednesday 7 October 2008 - IT'S RAINING!

Yup. The back deck is damp. First time since about September 9 we've had ANY rain, and we've had less than 2 inches since July. Everything is brown and the trees are dropping their leaves not due to normal leaf-fall, but to drought. There are several major forest fires to our east, and we can actually smell the smoke.

But, any rain is welcome rain!

Last Saturday, we drove up to Harrodsburg to see a comedy, "The Foreigner." It's about an uptight Englishman in the upland hills of Georgia staying at a redneck lodge and dealing with how the Klan reacts to foreigners. Really funny, especially after we got used to the accents. It was weird though, a play dealing with the Klan -- down here in the South. Considering that organizations similar to the Klan are responsible for the fact that most Blacks around here were driven out after "The War", it was really odd watching Kentuckians, including some Blacks, react. Like, there was no visible reaction.

Of course, many Kentuckians will NOT vote for Obama because he's Black, though they were never admit it publicly. But I digress...

Next week it's back up to Harrodsburg for a variety show, and Oct 18, it's off to Lexington to see our first University of Kentucky football game, against Arkansas. It's homecoming weekend, and we've been invited to "tailgate" with one of Rick's friends in Lexington. Gonna be really cool! Of course, we need to get UK sweatshirts, or at least new UK t-shirts for the game! GO BIG BLUE!

Temps are down to 66, having been up to 82 today. It's really like a typical August day in Maine. I picked some more tomatoes today and made some salsa, and we probably have another 10 lbs of Swiss Chard to pick. We've eaten fresh greens since April!

Oh my, I just heard we MAY have a THUNDERSTORM! Nice!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday, 28 Sep 2008 - All red lights...

We were headed up to Harrodsburg for the Alpaca Festival on Saturday. Looking forward to something really different, we happened to notice that we hit every red light on the way. Barry at one point suggested that this was some sort of omen. Yeah.

Well, when we got to Shaker Village, we found out that there was a $14 admission per person. NOW we knew why all the red lights... I mean, really, we don't like alpacas THAT much, and the website for the alpaca society didn't say anything about an admission.

Anyway, we decided to go back down to Casey County to check out a cemetery we had noticed on the way back home from the Apple Festival. Come to find out, it's already been recorded and photographed, but since I didn't know the name of the cemetery, I couldn't have known that. A nice young gal told us the info on the cemetery and the neighbors who would probably know more. She was living in a run-down trailer, had a baby and apparently another on the way, was barefoot -- what one might call typical of certain classes of people, but nonetheless, she was polite, friendly, helpful, as people say here, "real naahce" -- unlike some "high class" people. Anyway, meeting her was prologue to the evening...

Back to Danville for lunch at Sutton's (used to be Woody's) for their fried clams only to find out that the ones we want are on the lunch menu Monday through Friday. Today was Saturday. Once more, our plans were tossed into oblivion! One more chance to retrieve the day...

The W T Hill Theatre in Danville opened on Friday night with Danville's own Elizabeth Orndorff''s "Hollerwood". It's about a high class English professor (UK of course) going to a writer's conference, but the conference isn't at Random House in New York, it's in Random, KY at Babe Dean's House. Hence, Random House. The cast is stereotypical eastern Kentucky (or what the rest of the country thinks is ALL of Kentucky), and the laughs are so fast and often, I left with a jaw ache. Even after the scene changes, people were still laughing.

Next, one more play and a variety show. We're going to see a lot of live theatre this year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday, 24 Sep 2008 - Catching up

Catching up...

Today, we had the heating/AC guy come today to check out the system to be sure it's working at its peak before cold weather hits in another 2 months or so. Then it was off to Lowe's to price saws (circular and table), but in the end, the gal at the checkout said they'd be able to cut the beveled edges I'll need on the 2x4s for the back deck railing, so we saved at least $50 on THAT stop! Bought a new digital thermostat which I'll install shortly though. So maybe we didn't really SAVE $50 yet. Then it was up to Lawrenceburg -- more on this later.

Now for some past historical events...back in late August, we went over to Bardstown, overnight, because we went to see Stephen Foster-The Musical, and Annie, at My Old Kentucky Home State Park. The Foster production was a third-time visit, and this time it was much better than last year. They do change it a bit each year, and we noticed that. Annie was great, and when one of the characters said, "Oh my goodness, oh my goodness," I thought Barry would crack up. I've used the phrase many times, and finally, he got to see where it came from.

While in Bardstown, we did the usual tourist thing. We visited the Kentucky Railway Museum, especially since the Lebanon Branch of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad used to run through our front yard. We actually got a fantastic private tour of one of the steam engines by one of the guys who was working on its restoration, and got to climb up into the cab, look into the firebox, and play engineer. What a great extra added attraction that was NOT included in the admission price! This engine was the one which carried Al Capone to Sing-Sing (which is just off Interstate-84 in Newburgh/Beacon, NY -- seen it many times), and carried Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well. So it's quite an historic 100 ton piece of iron!

We also ate lunch at Hawk's Place II (great local down-home type of place) and toured the Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown. Bardstown is the center of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and Heaven Hill is one of the largest distilleries in Kentucky. We learned a great deal about America's native hard liquor, bourbon, and how it is made. After that tour, and touring Maker's Mark in Loretto (near Bardstown), we can see why good Kentucky bourbon is so expensive!

Anyway, Barry's allergies were kicking up a storm in his nose, and the sneezing was beginning to worry me, but like a trooper, he went on anyway. We went into the "rick house" where the bourbon barrels are stored. The alcohol actually evaporates through the wood, or between the slats, and the rick houses are coated with black mold from all that alcohol, and need to be washed or painted on a regular basis. Anyway, to make a long story short, after a great tour, we noticed that Barry wasn't sneezing any more. Could it be that the smell of the alcohol desensitized his nose or something? Hmm, something to investigate, we thought.

A few weeks later, he was up through the night with allergies. So he took a tissue and soaked the tip of it in a bit of bourbon and went back to bed with the tissue on his upper lip. NO allergic reaction! So we have come to the conclusion that instead of taking Claritin or Allegra, nasal inhalation of Kentucky Bourbon has the same medicinal properties at a fraction of the cost with no (unpleasant) side effects; plus you can mix the remainder of the medicine with ginger ale and drink it!

Well, today, we drove up to Lawrenceburg, about 35 miles north of here. Barry wanted to take me to the Kentucky Burgoo Festival this coming Saturday. Now you have to understand that Kentucky has a festival for every imaginable thing under the sun. We're going to the Pleasant Hill (Shakertown) Alpaca Festival this weekend, and the Casey Count Apple Festival is happening all this week. Anyway, burgoo is sort of like a hot (as in chili) beef stew which I really don't like that much, but hey, a festival is a festival, ain't it? So up to Lawrenceburg today to scope out the site.

Wouldn't you know it, we saw signs for "Four Roses" distillery, and the "Wild Turkey" distillery on the way, so off the main road we went, through Lawrenceburg (about half the size of Waterville, but not very economically well-off, at least not the way Danville seems to do well). Took a right downtown, and off to Wild Turkey, for a tour -- we didn't get to see the whole operation because they don't start distilling until tomorrow -- can't do it in the summer because the "moonshine" has to be cooled at 66 degrees and they use Kentucky River water (which we found out first hand when we drove down to a boat landing in the settlement of Tyson is probably 80 degrees now) to do the cooling. But that's now three of the seven major bourbon distilleries we've visited in Kentucky. Four more to go.

Now, we're waiting for the First Monthly Kentucky Fried Clams and Scallops Festival, which we plan to start at Sutton's Restaurant (used to be Woody's, our favorite eating establishment) in Danville, because that's the ONLY place we can find so far in Kentucky to get fried clams or scallops! We hope to make it a monthly event, and to convert all these catfish-loving people into REAL seafood eaters! Then it's off to the Fifth Weekly Kentucky Waltham Buttercup Squash Cookoff Festival (really, just a day in the kitchen cooking some of the squash we grew -- there will be at least 2-3 more of these weekly events).

Other upcoming events over the next month:
1) Casey County Apple Festival, 21-27 Sep
2) Hollerwood, a play at W T Hill Community Theatre in Danville, 27 Sep
3) Alpaca Festival, Shaker Village, 28 Sep
4) Foreigner, also a play, not the 80s rock group, Ragged Edge Theatre, Harrodsburg, 5 Oct
5) Ragged Edge (Harrodsburg) Variety Show, 11 Oct, and finally,
6) Barry's Birthday Present from Rick -- tickets to football in Lexington, University of Kentucky vs University of Arkansas, UK's homecoming game, 18 Oct.

Of course, there's always politics on CNN and the weather on TWC which have both of us glued to the TV now.

There's ALWAYS SOMETHING to do here! Maybe that's why I don't write so much in my blog -- too busy DOING.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday, 18 September -- Getting caught up

Dear Readers: Please note herewith, an actual "Blog" entry. Shame on me for not writing sooner -- I'm SO pleased that SO many of you actually read the drivel I write!

Thursday, Sep 4 - Leaving for Gettysburg
We left Danville early in the morning, drove through central and eastern Kentucky, across West Virginia and almost the whole length of Maryland before turning north towards Gettysburg. Getting off I-81 at Chambersburg, we basically followed the route of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in June 1863, past the Cashtown Hotel (supposed to be VERY haunted), and on to Gettysburg.

After checking into the motel, which was just a few yards from the National Cemetery, we went out to eat. Pizza, but the thickest, most-topping-ist pizza I've ever had. It was great!

Friday, Sep 5 - In Gettysburg
We started at the new Visitor's Center, with an introductory film, "New Birth of Freedom", which basically explained the background to the battle. Then it was off on the "Auto Tour", a 16-stop car trip over about 18 miles, roughly chronological in order. We saw all the most famous sites, especially where the 20th Maine saved Western civilization as we know it. It seems about everyone we met in Gettysburg had heard of Joshua Chamberlain -- I wonder how many in Maine know of him! The kid in the souvenir shop even said that Chamberlain was his idol!

Saturday, Sep 6 - Leaving for Maine
Early morning rise, then off through the remnants of Hurricane Hanna, through Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and finally into Maine. We arrived in Oakland about 9PM, and moved in, lock, stock and barrel, to a camp on McGrath Pond which we had rented for the week, just 4 doors down from Alison and Glenn.

Sunday, Sep 7 - Maureen visits, and a swim
Got to see my daughter (and soon-to-be-grandson) for the first time since I found out I was going to be a grand-daddy. A nice visit, too short of course, but good. Went for a swim later, the first time I've been swimming in a Maine lake since summer 2004 and only the second time in 22 years!

Monday, Sep 8 - Moxie and Ming Lee
I think it was Monday we went to Hannaford's and bought Moxie. We had checked at Wal-Mart, but they didn't stock it since Moxie has changed its UPC and the Wal-Mart computer doesn't recognize the new code. Luckily, we talked to the Coke distributor who told us that Hannaford and Shaws would both have Moxie. So off we went. A 12-pack of cans, and 12 2-litre bottles are going back to Kentucky with us! The nearest place to buy it here is about 200 miles north in Indiana.

That evening saw Alison, Eisa, Pushpa, Barry and me, eating the best Chinese food this side of Beijing (or maybe even there). Mei came over and asked if we were moving back to Maine. We asked her when she was opening up a branch restaurant in Danville!

Tuesday, Sep 9 - We visit Barry's family
Lobster, lobster, lobster. It was great to see Bruce and Shirley at Carol's house. Barry had his fill of lobster (well, maybe not, but he had to stop at some point), which was one of the main points of going to Maine. Yes, Shirley, I promise to keep the blog up more regularly!

Wednesday, Sep 10 - Lincolnville Beach
Nice drive down to Belfast, then down the coast to Lincolnville and the Lobster Pound. I had the baked scallops and Barry had the fried clams -- arguably the best on the coast! Two years ago, we planned to go down in early October, but we got there and found they had closed for the season. Bummer. This time, we called first.

Then off to Camden, where we played "tourist." We stopped for some great Gifford's ice cream, bought a post card and mailed it to Melissa, our realtor here in Danville, and walked up Main Street along with all the other "out-of-staters". I guess we could be considered "flatlanders" now. Maybe you can take the boys out of Maine, but you can't take Maine out of the boys though. Bought some blueberry jam, some balsam potpourri, and a Maine lighthouse calendar -- you know, all the things that tourists buy!

Thursday, Sep 11 - Margarita's, Eisa's new condo, college discussion and pizza
Barry got a coupon in the mail for $10 off at Margarita's during his birthday month. So of course, to save $10, we drove to Maine! Well, we were going to be here anyway, so we hopped down to Augusta for some good Mexican food. We have several good Mexican restaurants here that compare well with Margaritas, but it was still a nice treat.

Then in the afternoon, we drove over to Winslow to see Eisa's new condo (she should have moved in by now). We couldn't get in as she didn't have the key, but it really looks great. Eisa, hope you'll like it as much as you seem to!

After that, Barry's granddaughter came down, and I interviewed her regarding her preferences on college -- where she would like to go to school, large city, small town, etc., so we can help her choose the right college. She's taking a monster class load at Messalonskee this year, and with the grades she gets, she should be very competitive when it comes time to apply.

We then went to Barry's daughter's house to see the whole family, and we all pigged out on Korner Store pizza. It's sometimes greasy, but this time it was great! Plus we got to see the family too.

Friday, Sep 12 - Kayaking, visiting school, digging plants
Glenn took us kayaking this morning. Barry took the canoe, and I used Alison's "sit-on" kayak. GREAT! I want one! I need one! I have to find water on which to use one!

I went to school later, and saw loads of people -- I won't try to name you all, but especially important was thanking Blair personally for all the help he was last summer. You are all such good people and I miss you all!

Brenda, I didn't get a chance to talk one-on-one with you, so please continue to email me.

In the afternoon, we went to Waterville to my house, and dug up some plants which we were unable to bring down last summer. It may seem ridiculous to some, but some of these plants have personal or sentimental value, and we wanted them down here with us. For example, my mother's Bridal Wreath, which grew in Westbrook in 1953, came to Oakland about 1987, then to Waterville in 2005. Part of it is now down here. Hope it makes it, but if not, there's more back in Waterville.

Saturday, Sep 13 - Leaving Maine
We left Maine early in the morning, going by way of Ithaca, NY. I wanted Barry to see where Maureen went to college, so we took I-90 along the Mass Pike and the NY Thruway, through Albany, Utica, and Syracuse, then down I-81 past Syracuse University, where Maureen applied and was accepted. Overland to Ithaca to see Cornell and Ithaca College, then a stop at Wegman's -- the largest grocery store in the world, or at least the largest I've ever been in! Back on the road to Binghamton, and south through rain to Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Maureen, there's a huge new Park building near the Park School of Communications -- I have no real idea what it's for -- and another under construction right at the rotary near the main campus entrance. Rowland Hall is still there, as is the Towers dining hall though.

Sunday, Sep 14 - Home
What a ride! The remnants of Hurricane Ike were passing to the west and north, but nonetheless, we got a dose of his wind. Going through central and western Pennsylvania was no problem. Stopping at McDonald's in Hermitage, PA WAS. The laziest staff, the worst service, the worst food, we've ever had at a McDonald's. SO bad, we called the "How are we doing" number on the cup and filed a complaint!

Once we got into Ohio, Youngstown and Akron were no problem. But as we approached Columbus, the wind began to come up. Before we reached Cincinnati, we saw (1) a metal roof being peeled off a barn; (2) plywood blown down onto the road from an under-construction overpass; (3) corn leaves flying through the air like in the Wizard of Oz; (4) dust obscuring visibility -- we thought it was rain; (5) power out at 2 rest areas (and too dangerous to "go" in the woods), and the wind blowing branches off trees; (6) many large trees broken and shredded; and (7) at times my truck being unable to go any faster than 40 mph in 3rd gear on a flat surface into the wind.

We didn't really notice the worst though. Driving through Cincinnati at dusk was weird because the city was dark. In fact, the power was out from about 70 miles north to about 30 miles south of Cincy. We heard that 500,000 customers were out, and another 300,000 out in Louisville (it's now Thursday and many are still out). We stopped for gas in northern Kentucky, but without power, pumps weren't working; so we continued south until we saw a station that DID have electricity. They were MOBBED! The traffic signals throughout Cincy and northern Kentucky were out, and drivers were told to treat every intersection as a 4-way stop. Surprisingly, they did as far as we could see.

When we got home, we hadn't lost the power at all! No digital clocks were blinking 00:00. The lemon trees on the back deck were tipped over, and we had a few twigs on the ground. Not bad though, considering that parts of Kentucky had 80 mph gusts, and we apparently had one close to 70 here.

It'll take us awhile to finish unpacking and to get the plants in the ground. The good news is that they still have at least another month to grow, and their root systems can continue to take hold all winter -- the ground freezes maybe 2 inches for a couple of days at a time, so people down here often plant trees in the fall.

Well, that's our trip to Maine in a nutshell. Now I need to write about what has happened here since early July -- VERY busy which is what I'll use as an excuse for not writing more often!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday, 19 July 2008 - It's been a year!

Just a quickie tonight. It's been one full year since we moved into the Butchertown house. So much has happened, I can't recall all of it, which is why this blog is nice.

We went out to one of our favorite restaurants, Guadalahara, for a mini-celebration. Our first favorite, Woody's, has closed due to the economy.

We're looking at coming back up to Maine shortly after Labor Day. We will plan to take my truck because we have some things we want to bring back from Maine -- notably cases and cases of Moxie, and pounds and pounds of red Jordan's hot dogs. It will be significantly cheaper to drive than to fly, especially when two of us can split the expenses.

Anyone know of a lakeside camp we can rent for a week at ridiculously low off-season prices?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday, 11 July 2008 - Another Great Performance

Last night, we went to Pioneer Playhouse's third production of the season, "Death By Darkness." We missed the second one, but this was one not to be missed. It's a murder thriller, with comedic interludes, set in Mammoth Cave, KY in 1842. The lead is the slave tourguide, Stephen Bishop, and the cast is a group of misfits and miscreants, said to have included the great Charles Dickens, though Dickens never wrote anything about visiting the cave.

The play was written by a local Danville playwright, and the acting was as good as the play. Unusually, the slave, Bishop, actually takes over many scenes, and ends up as he begins, the main character.

Local reviews are here...

Award-winning work by Kentucky playwright next up at Pioneer Playhouse

REVIEW: 'Death By Darkness' is deliciously devious

Next up is Stephen Sondheim's, "Into The Woods" at the Hill Theatre in Danville. We're sure getting our fill of good theater here!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Friday, 27 June 2008 - Great Smoky Mountains and Knoxville, TN

Friday, 27 June 2008.

We were picked up at home by Enterprise car rental (remember, "We'll pick you up"?), and headed south to Knoxville. Got there in about 3-1/2 hours (just about like Waterville to Boston, which we've done MANY times), would have been 3 but there was apparently a major accident ahead of us, just over the line in Tennessee. After check-in at the motel, we spent some time becoming familiar with Knoxville, the third largest city in Tennessee, and home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, as well as the site of the 1982 World’s Fair. It’s not a difficult city to get around, but the ongoing Interstate-40 construction downtown could get confusing.

Tennessee has three regions, hence the three stars on the state flag -- East Tennessee (capital at Knoxville), Central Tennessee (capital at Nashville) and West Tennessee or "The (Jackson) Purchase" (capital at Memphis). The regions are still part of Tennessee law today, in that the state supreme court must meet in each of the three cities in rotation, and no state commission or group can have a majority of its members from any one of the regions!

Dinner was at Naples restaurant, a nice, somewhat upscale Italian restaurant, only about a mile from our motel. The food was very good, and the price was quite reasonable. We'd recommend it to anyone who likes good Italian in a comfortable atmosphere.

Saturday, 28 June 2008.

Got up, went to Krispy Kreme for breakfast. These doughnuts, which President Bill Clinton made famous, were actually invented in Kentucky, but the inventor began marketing them in North Carolina, and they spread all over the South after that. When the red light outside the building is on, it means the doughnuts are fresh and hot. At this one, the light was on 24/7 apparently. We don't know where in Kentucky we can get them hot and totally fresh.

Then we headed south to a lesser-used entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We went first to a former settlement in the park called Cades Cove. There used to be several hundred people in this valley area between the mountains, but after the park was organized, they either moved away or were bought out.

One of the oldest buildings left in the park was the log cabin built by John Oliver in the early 1800’s. It’s quite typical of the cabins people lived in until the end of the 19th Century, when frame buildings became more common. It looked as if the settlement was totally cut off from the rest of the world, but we understand that was NOT the case. It was a cash economy, and people came into the mountains and left, and traded back and forth much as was done in the rest of the South at the time. Check out http://www.lib.utk.edu/refs/smokies for more info here.

At least three churches (and three cemeteries) were in the valley, and we stopped and took pictures of some of the stones at the Methodist Church. Many of the burials have been made since the park was officially created in 1940, and some families still have regular reunions there.

After leaving Cades Cove, we drove to the north, and main entrance to the park, Sugarlands Visitor’s center, for a quick break, then headed south across the park toward North Carolina. We were going to drive up to Clingman’s Dome, one of the highest elevations in the eastern US, but gas was short, and we didn’t want to run out, so we passed on the Dome and headed straight for the south entrance at Cherokee, NC.

Cherokee was a bitter-sweet place. It does try to preserve the Cherokee language, which was invented by the great chief Sequoyah, and many signs are bi-lingual. The Cherokee were one of the first tribes to try to assimilate with the westward-moving Europeans, adopting European style clothing, housing, customs, and laws. But that wasn't enough. When gold was discovered in northern Georgia (only a few miles away as the crow flies), US President Andrew Jackson, of Tennessee, ordered the removal of the Cherokee from the land. Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in a lawsuit brought by the Cherokee, that Jackson had no power to do that, to which Jackson replied, "Marshall has made his ruling; now let him enforce it." Thus the Cherokee and several other tribes were forcibly marched hundreds of miles to end up ultimately in Oklahoma. Many passed through Kentucky, and over in the western part of the state there is a memorial to the "Trail of Tears" which passed through this state.

However, a few Cherokee remained behind, sheltered by the Great Smoky Mountains, from the American government. This small core was the beginning of the "Eastern Cherokee" band.

In any event, Cherokee is a thriving tourist community today, where visitors can buy all sorts of "Indian" items like moccasins, jewelry, ice cream, and other truly native souvenirs. Unfortunately, most of the "stuff" says, "Made in China" on it. There's even one man at the entrance of the tourist shopping area who sits in a plywood tee-pee with a full headdress, with a sign outside saying, "Take a picture with me. Tips appreciated." Just what the ignorant tourist expects "Indians" to be like. Most people don't know that the Cherokee never lived in tee-pees, let alone plywood ones, and never wore full headdresses of feathers. Hollywood falsely has taught us that the Lakota Sioux apparently are typical of ALL Native Americans! How ignorant we are! I was able to control myself however, until we got gas ($4.04 a gallon for the first time) and headed back into the Park.

About halfway back to Sugarlands, we took a left, and drove seven miles across the crest of the Appalachian Mountains, along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. On the way, we noticed the pink rhododendrons which are one of the showpieces of this park. They grow wild and natural, in both pink and white, the pink mostly at higher elevations, and blossoming later in the year than the white.

Once there, we walked another half mile, uphill, toward Clingman's Dome. The view on the walk up was awesome, and at the top, there's a curved ramp up to an observation platform where one used to be able to see 100 miles. Due to air pollution nowadays, much over 25 is quite good. By the way, they are called the "smoky" mountains because of the interaction between sunlight and decaying vegetation in the deep forest; the "smoke" rises up, but usually disappears by mid-day. Clingman's Dome, at 6653 feet high, is like Mt. Katahdin with the Empire State Building on top of Baxter Peak. We were actually 2000 feet HIGHER than the top of Sugarloaf USA, and 355 feet higher than Mt Washington, NH.

On the way back to Knoxville from Clingman's Dome, we stopped at Newfound Gap, where the TN/NC border and the Appalachian Trail all come together. Incidentally, this is the spot where President Franklin D Roosevelt dedicated the park in the fall of 1940. A monument stands on the site, just to the right of where the photo of Barry was taken. Newfound Gap is at an elevation of "only" 5,000 feet, so it really is a "gap" in the mountains, though not a very big one. It's STILL high!

I took the picture of "Katahdin Maine" just to impress us with how FAR we were from the rooftop of Maine! Loads of good photos can be had right here. For those of you who haven't been this far south, I'd say a nice drive through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, would be about as close as you could get to the Great Smokies. Interestingly enough though, there is no "tree line" here, as the temperatures in the winter are still warm enough to support plant growth, unlike the tops of many New England peaks.

We drove through the rest of the park, northbound, and exited about dusk. What a total turnabout! From a wild, isolated, natural park, to Gatlinburg. This place is like a hilly Old Orchard Beach on a Saturday summer night, only without the beach! It's said there are something like 13,000 hotel rooms in a town of 3,000! And walking along the main street was worse than walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan! If you want tourist heaven, head for downtown Gatlinburg.

In fact, our destination WAS downtown, the Hard Rock Cafe at Gatlinburg. Yup, we're HRC junkies, having visited now between us, Boston MA, Montreal QC, New York NY, Washington DC, Louisville KY, St Louis MO, Cancun MX and Cozumel MX. HRC Cozumel is the world's smallest, but I'll bet Gatlinburg is the smallest city that has its own HRC! The restaurant is actually located on AND over the Little Pigeon River, which a bit downstream hosts the city of Pigeon Forge, made famous by Dolly Parton. As usual, the atmosphere alternates between casual and relaxing, and frenetic, but always fun and enjoyable. And we picked up two new t-shirts to add to our collection.

After a long but great day, we headed north through Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and back to Knoxville. Tomorrow's another day.

Sunday, 29 June 2008.

This day was Knoxville's turn to shine, even though the weather wasn't going to. We started out again at Krispy Kreme, and the rest of the day's highlights included the site of the 1982 World's Fair, the University of Tennessee Botanical Garden, and a great meal on an outdoor deck over the river.

The World's Fair has only left a few permanent reminders in Knoxville. One is the "Sunsphere," an 266 foot tall tower with an observation area about 200 feet up. From there one could see all the way to the Great Smokies, as well as all around Knoxville, the Tennessee River, and the University. The fair introduced the world to "Rubik's Cube" and the hotel at the site has the world's largest cube!

After the fair, we drove down to the riverfront, and walked along "Volunteer Landing", a riverfront park on the Tennessee River, obviously! It was great to get out and walk and sight see after yesterday's touring mostly by car. We were also killing time until the UT event, but it was nice and relaxing, as well as good exercise.

The UT Gardens were having a plant display, fair, sale, whatever you want to call it. Anyway, we browsed for several hours, looking at plants that would grow in Kentucky as well as in Tennessee, asking questions, taking pictures, and in general, enjoying the event. We did buy three antique Iris plants and a new variety of Rudbeckia (looks like black-eyed susans), so we'll have a permanent souvenir of our trip to Knoxville.

After that, we went back to the motel room to rest a bit and recharge before dinner, which was a healthy beef tenderloin salad with house cheddar dressing. It was a huge portion, and the beef was flavorful and (as we have come to expect here in the South, tender). Surprisingly, we were able to fit back into the car after dinner, which ended about 9:30 PM, just as it was getting dark.

Monday, 30 June 2008.

Back to Danville. First to Krispy Kreme for a dozen to take home, than back up I-75, US-150 and KY-300 home! We had to get the rental car back by 12:00 noon, and we actually walked into the place at 11:58 (though I think we could have brought it back by 1PM since we didn't get picked up and on the road until 1PM on Friday.

It's taken me this long to get the photos off the cameras, put them together, and write my blog -- 'cause we headed for Paducah on Thursday, 3 July, and just got back this afternoon! The cat has practically forgotten who we are, but we'll get reacquainted quickly, I'm sure. Photos of Elizabeth Rose are yet to come, but will have to wait until the next blog, which will NOT take as long to get to as this has!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday, 18 June - Ugly and beautiful

Contrasts again. Ugly v. Beautiful.

First the ugly. For weeks now, Barry has had a feeling (his intuition is flawless) that something wasn't right with our septic system. Well, finally he called a guy up in Harrodsburg to come take a look and pump out the tank. Barry dug down to the cover, which we could quite easily locate because the former owner had put some cement tiles over it. Anyway, the septic guy came yesterday morning just after 8 AM. When he took the cover off, he discovered that we were getting ready for a major back-up in the system. Luckily, we caught it in time. So for $110, we're all set with septic stuff for another 3-5 years. Barry had planted nasturtiums (Maureen, inside joke here?) and we just planted a crimson day lily over the cover so we'll know where it is next time.

The septic guy suggested that we should (1) put no fat or grease down the system; and (2) put no toilet paper in the system. OK, the fat part I can see. But we did some research -- (ain't the Internet great?) It seems that there are absolute horror stories out there about "log-jammed toilet paper" coming out of the pipe from people who use non-septic-friendly paper. Seems that Scott Tissue 1000 is the best to use. Charmin or Cottonelle and other 2-ply brands don't break down in the system the way Scott does, and they can do great damage (and expensive repairs) in a very short time.

So the good news, we dodged a $5000+ repair bill by weeks or even days; and we're already using the "correct" TP.

Oh, and what did he suggest we DO with the TP if not flushing? Put it in a bag and burn it. Yeah, likely, huh? But then again, most people around here still have the 55-gallon oil drums in which they burn much of their trash, so I guess some people DO burn their TP. Can't see residents of those $350,000 McMansions doing that though!

The garden continues to grow. We've pulled the rest of the collard greens and most of the broccoli, and thinned the beets, ready for the final harvest of those red globes. We should be able to get in another crop of most things, since we have about four more months of growing season, and some crops can even be planted to harvest after first frost, like Brussels Sprouts and parsnips.

Now for the "Beautiful." When we moved here in February, we had absolutely no idea of what was growing in the flower beds. We've since identified some planted items, and some wild items, but there are still unidentified plants, probably wildflowers with which we are not familiar. Anyway, out by where the previous owner had put an oak half-barrel, there was a trumpet lily which has just come out. Neither of us have ever seen SO many buds on this beautiful lily, and in fact the only place I have seen it other than nurseries and Wal-Mart, is in church on Easter Sunday.

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday, June 15 - Hot Brass and Hot Air

Day Two of the Great American Brass Band Festival was absolutely perfect. We went into Danville, to Centre College and the main stage, just in time to hear the Advocate Brass Band play. This is the band, started by a former editor of the local newspaper, the Advocate-Messenger, 21 years ago. Two years later, they organized the festival, which today draws between 30,000 and 40,000 people to Danville for three days. It must contribute millions to the local economy, what with people buying souvenirs, and shopping, eating, and staying locally, and buying gas to get home again.

We stayed, under nearly cloudless skies with temperatures in the upper 80s, to hear the Advocate Brass Band as well as the US Air Force Reserve Band, for two hours of great music. The entire audience got to its feet as the Advocate band played "Stars and Stripes Forever" -- a perennial favorite, and basic to the repertoire of any band which would even CALL itself a brass band.

When the Air Force band came on, they began with the National Anthem, which was done beautifully. They played some marches, overtures, show tunes, and ended with a medley of military service songs -- as each song was played, the colonel/director asked members of that service to stand and be recognized. They passed through the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and of course, the Air Force. I was surprised at how many women stood!

We left as they finished, and because we had parked only two blocks away, were able to get out of town quickly. We stopped at Arby's, then a quick trip to Wal-Mart to buy a new memory chip for my camera, as I had nearly filled the chip I had brought.

Then we headed for the Great American Brass Band Balloon Race, down in Junction City (about 3 miles from here), at the county airport. Here it was really hot because of the openness of the airport. They don't plant trees along the runway for shade. Anyway, what a thrill to see 25 multicolored hot air balloons be assembled, fired up, and rising above the crowd. The race was a "hound and hare" race, where the lead balloon lifts off, and somewhat later, touches down, painting a large "X" wherever they land. The other balloons have to try to get as close to the "X" as they can, dropping a bag of (most appropriately) Kentucky Blue Grass seed. The record a couple of years ago, was 13 INCHES from the target.

Well, 'twas not to be this year. The lead balloon headed west toward Stanford, and as the other balloons inflated and launched -- ABSOLUTELY STUNNINGLY MAGNIFICENT SIGHT -- the wind shifted. We heard about half an hour later that no one even came close to finding the touch-down point! So the prize money was simply going to be divided among all the participants.

I can't tell you some of the words I was thinking to describe this scene, but it was one of the most thrilling and beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed! The weather was absolutely summer-perfect, and it was a fantastic time.



Oh, I forgot to mention -- the memory chip from Wal-Mart -- wrong size. So back to Wally World after the race to exchange. I fill up the chip quickly when I take video, so for our upcoming trip to Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains, I'm going to bring the actual, honest to goodness video camera!

Also need to mention that we picked up 2 gallons of milk for $5.00. There's no milk commission here to keep prices artificially high, and Kroger's was selling it at that price, so Wal-Mart matched it.

We're totally exhausted now after being on the go since Friday night. Tomorrow have to get back to W-M to pick up the lawn tractor so we can mow -- haven't done that for 2 weeks and it's beginning to get ragged. What a great Father's Day weekend -- with both of us either JUST getting or anticipating a new grandchild!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday, 14 June, 2008 - Brass Bands and History

The Great American Brass Band Festival -- Danville's biggest event of the year -- should have begun for us last night with the Hot Air Balloon races. Unfortunately, we were under a severe thunderstorm warning, and smart people don't go up in hot air balloons during a thunderstorm. So it was postponed until Sunday night, same time, same place, at the Junction City "International" Airport.

Today was the day of the bands. There were easily over 20 different brass bands, brass quintets, bagpipe bands, and other combinations of brass instruments playing in 4 different venues, all within easy walking distance of the new downtown parking garage, where we smartly chose to park. The day really began with the parade, down Main Street to Centre College. The parade had the usual Shriner's mini-vehicles, firetrucks and the mayors of area cities and other political types. But many of the bands which were playing around town were also in it.


We watched the parade then wandered down to Centre College, only about 6 blocks away, where the main stage was set up, and where there were street vendors selling everything from blackened Louisiana catfish to funnel cakes, and everything in between. We got a pulled pork sandwich and a glass of "sweet tea." "Sweet tea" is common around here -- really nothing more than already-sweetened iced tea, but it saves the trouble of adding sugar. Even McDonald's advertises it here. We wandered around the campus for a bit, and got our first close-up look at "Old Centre," the original college building, built about 1820. Today it houses admissions and, I think, administrative offices. More on Centre later.

The band that was playing shortly after we got to the main stage was the Eastern Kentucky University brass quintet. They played some modern classical (if there is such a thing) music, and were very nice. Not what I was hoping to hear, but good nonetheless. Then along came the Excelsior Cornet Band. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, the Brass Band Festival is their only performance this year out of New York State. They play original arrangements of Civil War era music, on original instruments, some nearly 200 years old. THIS is what a brass band used to sound like in the 19th Century. Later I bought their CD, and we've already listened to it. It's great!

At 4 PM, in Weisiger Park in front of the Boyle County Courthouse, there was a four-person presentation dealing with Lincoln's connections with Danville, accompanied by a renewed Kentucky brass band, the Saxton Cornet Band, active from about 1840 to about 1900. After Lincoln moved to Illinois, he met John Todd Stuart, Centre graduate, 1826, who convinced him to go into the law and lent him a set of law books. The rest, as they say, is history. Stuart introduced Lincoln to his cousin, Mary Todd, whom Lincoln eventually married. After Lincoln's assassination, it was Stuart who spearheaded the group that erected the Lincoln monument in Springfield, IL.

Incidentally, Lincoln ran for president in 1860 against three others, one of whom was 1839 Centre graduate, John C Breckinridge, and of course opposed Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, also Kentucky-born. Much mention was made of Mr. Justice John Marshall Harlan, of the US Supreme Court, Centre, 1852, and native of Danville. In the great case of Plessy v Ferguson, Harlan, of a slave-owning family, dissented in an 8-1 decision upholding segregation as the law of the land. Harlan said in 1896 that the Constitution was "color-blind" and that segregation was inherently unequal. It took 60 years for the Supreme Court to realize that Harlan was right, in Brown v Board of Education in 1954, a case that was brought to the court by Mr. Chief Justice Frederick Vinson, Centre, 1912. Beginning after he died in 1953, Centre College's opening football game always reserves a seat for Vinson's portrait, known as "Dead Fred." So he's never missed an opening game since his death!

All in all, it was a great day, with lots of good music and good history, and you KNOW how I love music and history! Tomorrow, more bands and some balloons! The camera is charged and the memory stick is cleared for take-off!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday, 12 June 2008 - Outdoor theater in the Bluegrass

Tuesday evening, the 10th, we went to the first outdoor theater in Kentucky, Pioneer Playhouse, to see "Leading Ladies." It's a Shakespearian-type farce about two actors who impersonate a rich woman's nieces in order to gain her inheritance. Funny, great audience participation, good acting. Pioneer Playhouse was founded 59 years ago as a small, local theater. Over the years, it has hosted such actors as John Travolta and Lee Majors (who got their starts here), and many others as well. It was host to Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Lee Marvin and Eva Marie Saint when the movie Raintree County was filmed in Danville. The current director, Robbie Henson, son of the founder, Eben Henson, auditions talent in New York in the winter and spring, and brings the ensemble cast to Danville for the summer. If you know of anyone who would be interested in spending a summer in Danville, honing the acting craft, tell him/her about this great opportunity. Not much money, but 10 weeks of acting experience in the Bluegrass.

One of the next plays there, "Death by Darkness," is a murder mystery about Charles Dickens's supposed visit to Mammoth Cave. It was based on a local legend, and written by a Danville native. Can't wait to see that one!

On the grounds of the theater, Eben Henson has recreated his version of a pioneer village. Frankly, it's interesting, but not too accurate, except for the log cabin on site. The cabin originally came from the Forkland community (only a few miles from here), and was used in the filming of Robby Henson's Pharoah's Army, in 1995, then it was dismantled and moved piece by piece to Pioneer Playhouse. Just because it is a real log cabin, it IS an accurate version of a typical Kentucky log cabin of period from 1774 through the mid 1800's, and later in some parts of the state. Many of these were simply added onto, or covered over, and actually serve as the physical basis for many present-day houses in Kentucky.

We were told a story when we were living in Butchertown, that Kris Kristofferson, one of the stars, was jogging down Butchertown Road when one of our neighbors offered him a ride.

Inside pictures show exactly how sparse living conditions were. These people didn't have much, yet they managed to survive and build communities, cities, and a state, out of what was then wilderness. One wonders how people today would fare under these circumstances.

The log cabin in which Lincoln was born would have looked very much like this one, unlike the "replica" that is located inside the "temple" at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace memorial. That building is made up of logs from dozens of Kentucky cabins, simply assembled to "look like" the Lincoln cabin. The one at Pioneer Playhouse could well have been the cabin in which Lincoln's step-grandmother lived.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday, June 8 - Beef, Wine and Cicadas.

Yesterday we went up to Harrodsburg (the oldest city in Kentucky, 1774) for the Fort Harrod Beef Festival. This is the start of our summer event spree. It will continue tomorrow with a stern-wheeler ride on the Kentucky River, and will include at least 5 plays at Pioneer Playhouse and the West T Hill Theatre in Danville, the Great American Brass Band Festival along with the GABBF Hot Air Balloon Races, and will conclude with three productions in Bardstown at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, namely "Stephen Foster - The Musical," "Annie," and "The Civil War." That's just what we have scheduled as of now! Add to that a trip to Paducah for the 4th of July, a trip to Maine sometime later this summer, and a trip to Knoxville, TN and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we won't have much free time left!

The Beef Festival had about 30 booths which competed with each other cooking beef brisket, hamburgers and steak. We could go from booth to booth sampling, and voting on our favorites. Needless to say, we didn't need dinner when we got home. We think the two best were Camo Cooking, and the booth with the yellow t-shirts (didn't get their name).

We also tried a Kentucky wine, "Vidal Blanc Kentucky Blue, 2006" by the largest winery in the Commonwealth, Elk Creek Vineyards. It tastes like a slightly sweet bubbly champagne -- was it GOOD!

We found out that before prohibition, Kentucky was the third largest wine producing state in the US, and I have to admit, there are wineries all over the place, including Old Crow (or, "Le Chateau du Vieux Corbeau" in French) winery and bed and breakfast, right here in Danville. With its tobacco, wine and whiskey, and horse racing, former Senator and US Vice President, Alben Barkley of Kentucky once said about tax revenues in the state, "If Kentucky ever gets an attack of morals, the state will go broke."


Friday night, I snapped this shot of one of our "sky-blue-pink" sunsets. The photo was taken at 9:26 p.m., and is actually darker than it really was out. We could still have read the newspaper easily at that time of night, and we still have another 2 weeks to go before the longest day of the year. That's what comes from living in the extreme western part of the Eastern Time Zone. One county west of here, this picture would have been taken at 8:26 p.m.

It's been in the 90s for three days now, and we've been using the A/C due to both the heat and the humidity. It's warmer than normal, and I expect that within a week or so, temps will normalize in the low to mid 80s. We're feeling the need for rain. The Salt River is so small now one can walk over it, and we need to get a bird bath to help out our feathered friends.

The cicadas are out everywhere. Their noise (which we tried to capture on video with only limited success) is deafening as the temperature gets up over 80. What a life. They're born, they burrow into the ground and stay there for 17 years, they crawl out when the ground temperature gets to 64 degrees, they break out of their shell, they fly around and "chirp", they mate, and they die. By the thousands they die. All over the porch, the driveway, the roof, the carport. While they're flying they're only thinking about sex, so they bump into things like houses, cars, telephone poles, and most annoyingly, people. The gal who was selling the wine at Harrodsburg was extolling the virtue of Kentucky wine in her glass and when she looked down into it, there was a cicada in her glass!

Time to post this, so I can get on to other, non-taxing efforts this hot, humid summer day.