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.


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.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday, June 6 - Gardens and heat

Gardens and heat. That's the theme this week. As I write this, the temperature is 91, but inside it's a cool, comfortable 81. We keep the A/C turned up (as we kept the heat turned down last winter) trying to conserve electricity. We're frankly just as comfortable at 81 as we would be with the thermostat set any colder, so why waste energy? Out on the side porch, the one facing east, the temps get really hot when the sun is out. The photo of the thermometer was taken at about 10 AM, and as you can see, it reads 120 degrees. Yup, we could cook eggs on the siding if we could figure a way to keep them up there.

The heat is good for most of the garden, as long as it gets enough water. I've installed a 2-hose adapter, so we can run one hose out back to the back garden, and the other out front. We've also bought a "soaker hose" which lets small amounts of water drip through the porous material, slowly into the ground, thus doing several things -- doesn't get water on the leaves and thus burn them in the sun; waters deeply so the roots will go down deeper; saves water 'cause we're not watering everything and watching the nearly unceasing west wind carry the water off to the east. We'll see how it works. Right now, the swiss chard and the beet greens look mighty pitiful, but by morning with a cooler night (70-75 overnight), they should perk up.

I don't mean to say that things grow big down here, but have a look at what Barry harvested from five -- yes, 5 -- broccoli plants! About 6 lbs of fresh, home-grown, no-preservatives or-e-coli broccoli! Once these heads have been cut, the side-stems will develop, and we'll get another few pounds out of the plants. We understand (at least Wikipedia says...) that the leaves are edible. Not sure I want to try those just yet, but the floret heads are OH so good!

Didn't get a picture of the collard greens for this post, but we need to get those picked too. Anticipating that they would grow, Barry planted the greens about 6 inches apart. Right now the plants are about 18 inches across -- we will plant them a foot apart next year!

Back in Maine, our Swiss Chard would grow to maybe 6 inches in length. Here, this leaf is 10 inches and was still growing! I think that when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, they may well have worn Kentucky chard leaves for clothing! Barry has now picked enough to go us at least into mid-winter, and there is still SO much more growing. In addition, after mid-August, we can plant another crop for harvesting before first frost (which should be about Oct 15-30), and we can probably plant more spinach too -- it grew well, but the hot weather got to it.

Just to get away from the greens for awhile, the pink and white stargazer lily is very fragrant, but unfortunately planted by the previous owner too far away from the house to smell. The daylilies are beginning to bloom, especially the Stella d'Oro variety (the name is Spanish for Star of Gold, I think).

I got this shot of a potato blossom (note the similarity to the tomato blossom -- same family biologically) and it's a real treat to the eye. These are growing in a large plant pot, having begun the growing life as a sprouted potato in the pantry. Barry put some dirt in the plant pot, then the potato, and as it grew up, he filled the pot with soil. When we harvest, all we have to do is tip it over, pull out the potatoes, and recycle the soil!

Oops, news is on, and I want to keep up with what's going on in politics. Catch y'all later.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monday, 2 June - Catching up -- again.

Maureen got the ultrasound pics of "Tadpole", and I have emailed the more clear one to everyone in the Western Hemisphere. Thinking of having it printed out billboard size too!

We had to go up to Lexington today for an appointment, and stopped at a place called Regatta, which claims to have the best seafood in Kentucky. The clam chowdah was different but very good; the scallops were sort of orange, unlike the white Maine ones, but again, were very good. The price was reasonable as well.

We then stopped in at Lexington Green (one of the 500 shopping centers here) and went to Whole Foods. Barry had never been in a Whole Foods store, and I don't think I have either. Guess what? They had "Backyard Beauty" tomatoes. From Maine, already! So today with clam chowdah and Madison-grown tomatoes, we're a bit homesick.

Got home, let the cat out. He's been going out for about an hour every day for the past 4-5 or so, with us. Today, it was 85 in the shade, and the dumbie was in the sun. It only took about 3 minutes before he chose to come back in and plop himself in front of the A/C register under the fan!

Yesterday, we had a bit of a scare -- he found the catnip bed and began to roll in it and eat it! Can't let that happen quite yet -- the 7 or 8 plants aren't big enough for him to eat. The garden continues to grow -- we're nearly done picking strawberries for this season, but look at the beauties Barry grew!

For our friends in Maine who may not realize that we're as far west as we are south, the Central Time zone is only one county away. I shot this pic last night at 9:08 pm! And we still have 3 weeks to go before the longest day. On June 22, we'll be able to read the paper outside at 9:30 or later! We had a round of thunderstorms yesterday, and this photo was at the end. After it got dark, we were treated to an hour-long lightning show right over the knob in the picture.

Tomorrow we need to rent a trailer and get the lawn tractor in to Wal-Mart. I have to put a new hitch on my truck to tow the thing, and we will have to rent the trailer again when the tractor is back. It wasn't mowing evenly (scalping on the left side, high on the right), and it made a gawdawful noise when Barry accidentally mowed over a tree stump. So tomorrow, in 90 degree weather, we'll be running around town and moving lawn equipment. Thank goodness for A/C in the truck!

This coming weekend is the Casey County Fair, next weekend is the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, and the GABBF Hot Air Balloon race in Junction City, only about 3 miles away, the next weekend and week following is the Boyle County Fair (I think). Looks like we're going to be busy the next two weekends. THEN, we can plan a getaway to the Knoxville, TN, area, including Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge (think Dolly Parton) and the Great Smokies, plus a long-anticipated return trip to Maine. Details to come.

'Night, y'all.