Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More adventures in KY--Gladie Historic Site

We decided to take advantage of a beautiful, sunny day to go explore the Red River Gorge. So it was back onto the twisty, curvy roads running along the Red River. As it turns out, the "Gateway to the Red River Gorge" is this...
Nada Tunnel!

A 13' X 12' X 900' unlit, hole in the side of a mountain! This is one of those tunnels that would make a skittish driver such as myself have a bit of a panic attack! Luckily my mom was driving. I don't know what happens if a car in the opposite direction wants to come through... maybe play Chicken?!? To make this particular section of our drive even weirder, there was someone WALKING through it! We damn near ran over him! I mean what the hell? Walking threw an unlit tunnel wearing dark clothing? He obviously had a death wish! Or who knows? Maybe it was really just the ghost of the guy who blew himself up trying to thaw frozen dynamite when the tunnel was being built in 1910! Either way, I can just say, my claustrophobic ass was really glad to finally drive out the other side!

We made our way over to the Gladie Historic Site and Museum. The museum had loads of info about the Red River Gorge, its history, geology and archaeology. Very cool stuff! But my favorite part was the restored 1880's cabin.
Can you imagine living someplace so gorgeous? All I wanted to do was lay in the soft grass with my kids and watch the clouds pass by! This place was perfect, mostly flat and grassy around the cabin, with mountains and rock overhangs behind and a little creek! This very easily could be my fairytale homestead! It had a big barn,

some beautiful dogwoods,

and what Kentucky homestead would be complete without a still?

After touring the homestead, my little bunch was hungry. So we found a nice sunny spot to enjoy a picnic! This little guy decided to climb onto my fork...

So I ate him! ;)

We really enjoyed our time here! It was beautiful! I took one last photo, a view out toward the creek and was just stunned at how amazingly green this part of the country is! None of the photos in this particular entry have been enhanced, this is just what Kentucky looks like!

Monday, May 24, 2010

How do I know summer is right around the corner?

-It's getting freakin' hot and humid!

-FIRE ANTS! Blech!
-Beautiful moths in my garden!
-My first eggplant of the year! It's still tiny but isn't it gorgeous?
-And the number one reason I know it's almost summer... tomatoes, people, it's all about the tomatoes! And yes, I will be eating these little beauties tonight!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Parlsey surprise!

I went out this morning to check on the garden. Making sure the pole beans are grabbing onto their wire, making sure I don't have any major infestations, seeing how the new seedlings are doing. On the way in, I leaned over to check on my parsley and lemon balm and lo and behold, look what I found...

Isn't it gorgeous? Upon further inspection 3 of these were found...

The kids adore them which of course means that within 30 minutes from finding them I was constructing this...
A dog food dish filled with soil and 2 parsley transplants neatly tucked into a butterfly habitat! So here we go again! My best guess is they are what is commonly referred to as a "parsley worm" which turns into some sub-species of Black Swallowtail butterfly. We'll be interested to see what they become! So, one yellow woolly bear in the pupal stage in a jar on the counter and one butterfly habitat with 4 various stages of Swallowtail caterpillars! How do I get myself roped into this stuff?!? ;)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Summer Garden 2010--Off to a great start!

I planted my garden about a week before or so before I left for Kentucky. Needless to say, I was a bit worried about how my wee, little garden would fair while I was gone. Big Daddy will water it, but he doesn't check for bugs or tuck the limbs of the tomato vines back into their cages or tell them how lovely they are and how happy we'll be for their bounty! I was elated to come back to find that everything was doing great (thanks to Big Daddy AND some much needed spring rain!) I've moved things around a bit this year and rotated crops, I'm also trying out some new crops! So what have I planted this year, you ask?

First and foremost... TOMATOES!

We have 4 different varieties, one being a cherry tomato that's already full of fruit! Hee Hee!

And with the tomatoes, I have planted, 2 varieties of basil and some cilantro!

Bed #2 consists of Fairytale Eggplant, garlic (leftover from winter), pole beans which I planted all along the back of the bed and hung wire fencing for them to climb
AND... can you stand it? CORN!

Yep, those little sprouts are corn! I am SO excited! And of course a whole bed dedicated to my summer favorites, OKRA and BLACK-EYED PEAS!

Like I said, I'm trying squash again this year, but it's been pretty bleak so far. All of my yellow squash transplants keeled over and I've got 3 zucchini, one that's looking great
and two, well not so much! I replanted some yellow squash by seed, I'm going to give things about a month and if stuff isn't producing, I'll throw in a late crop of okra and black-eyed peas, cause really one can never have enough of those!

Things are thriving and I couldn't be happier! I'm hoping for high yields, NO pests, less heat and MORE good rain this year! You can be sure I'll be posting a pic of our first summer tomato as soon as it's ripe!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Impromptu botany lesson on a Kentucky mountainside

Much to my great relief, the initial deluge of rain cleared up and gave us several sunny days to explore the area. Our first outing was a nice little hike around my aunt's property with kids and dogs where Nigel quickly learned from the resident hound how to be a proper Mountain Dog! Isn't he rugged and studly?

It became quite apparent that the flora of Kentucky was just a little different from what we've encountered in Texas and New Mexico! So our hike became an impromptu botany lesson for the kids and myself! There were moss and ferns everywhere!

And strange little plants with flowers in weird places like wild ginger and mayapple.

Wild Ginger. We found the flower at the base of the plant under the leaf litter!
Mayapple with a beautiful white flower that hangs underneath it's single leaf!
And what about the strange and beautiful Jack-in-the-pulpit which reminds me of one of those carnivorous pitcher plants? My aunt assures me though that this particular flower does not have meat-eating tendencies!
Stunning wildflowers were everywhere!

Wild Iris
Wild Orchid
And wild columbine
Most of the trees had already bloomed, but I was lucky enough to see a few amazingly gorgeous dogwood trees that were still hanging on.
And then there was the mystery shrub. I never found out what it was, but it was so spectacularly beautiful! So, if you are familiar with this plant, I would love for you to comment and tell me what it is!
We found plants that we hate...
Poison Ivy
And dreaded kudzu, which I found to be pretty but it's so destructive to the forest around it.
And a plant that we ate!
Poke plant
And honestly, I am just hitting the tip of the iceberg here! There were so many amazing plants and fungi to see and I didn't even have to leave the property! So incredibly cool! More adventures to come!

Friday, May 14, 2010

That old crooked highway... Kentucky bound!

Little Miss Piglet woke up 45 minutes before the alarm went off, so we figured we'd take advantage of it and get going! After the kids were fed and the dog was walked we were off. It was still raining though. Grrrrr. But it didn't matter, Tennessee was breathtaking! Because of the rain and the fact that I was driving 75 mph down the freeway, I didn't get a lot of pictures, but I did snap one quick shot of the Tennessee River as crossed over it.

Honestly, Arkansas and Tennessee both reminded me a lot of Oregon, except there were more deciduous trees and less evergreens. I was truly amazed at scenery. It's strange, you go about your life having a preconceived notion, something that you heard or that you thought you knew about someplace and then you actually go there and are completely blown away at how different it is compared to what you thought it would be! I guess it shows you can't judge something until you experience it!

We boogied through Nashville, stopping only for a potty break and then it was onward to Kentucky... FINALLY!

And what a sight, Kentucky is beautiful! Green and lush and full of life. Happy fat, black cows on green, green grass! My mom says there is nothing prettier than black cows on green grass and she may be right! I could just kick myself for not taking a picture of some! :( And not only is the countryside wonderful, but the people were warm and friendly and always happy to stop and chat a moment. I would like to give a great big shout out to Rhonda at the Subway in Bowling Green, KY for finding my purse, that held my debit cards, my driver's license and almost $400 in cash and calling my YMCA of all places (it was the only number she could find) and having them call me on my cell phone to inform me I had left it behind! They were so relieved when I arrived and every single thing in my purse, including the cash, was present and accounted for. It was heartening to know that there are still really good people in the world today!

After our little purse snafu, we we headed up to Elizabethtown and veered onto the Bluegrass Parkway heading to Lexington. We stopped to pick up groceries and wine and headed on to Stanton. By this time it had started to rain again, it was getting late and the kids were beyond whining. It was more like whimpering and crying! But we finally made it! We greeted my aunt and unpacked as much as we could in the deluge, had a LARGE glass of wine, headed off to our various sleeping locations and called it a night!

Thankfully the next day started to clear up and by early afternoon I was able to take a tour of the homestead and get myself familiar with the lay of the land! This is the main house...

It is on the side of a hill and is therefore very vertical, 4 stories total, I think. There is no public water, all water for this property comes from a cistern that collects rainwater. In the dry months she can have a water company come out and fill the cistern, but at this time it was strictly rainwater. You don't drink cistern water, but you bathe, flush toilets, and wash clothes and dishes with it. She gets her drinking water from a spring located in the next "holler"! Mom stayed with my aunt and the 7 cats and a beagle in the main house, the kids, the dog and I stayed in the workshop which was lovingly referred to as "The Chalet"!

The main house is still under some serious construction, but the workshop is fully finished (at least internally). Well, except for a bathroom. So, for the first time in my life, I FINALLY had a pot to piss in... literally!

The Monkey Man didn't really dig the chamber pot, so he took to pissing on trees (every 8 y.o. boy's dream!)

Here is a view from the main level deck in the main house (meaning main level on one side of the house 3rd level on the deckside).

This was a deck for cats and grown-ups only as there was NO railing! But it was, without a doubt, the perfect place to have your tea in the company of songbirds, butterflies and pileated woodpeckers!

The kids, and the dog, didn't know what to do with themselves. So much to see, so much to explore, and as far as Nigel was concerned, so many cats to chase! There is a big circle drive that goes around the house and next to the workshop and that was the boundary.

The kids raced around the drive with dogs frolicking behind them, rocks were thrown, moss was petted, bugs were investigated, sticks were found and used as swords and my kids quickly became dirty, and very happy, little wild things and my dog became a bonafide mountain hound!

Stay tuned for more adventures in Kentucky!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Muzzy was kind of fuzzy wuzzy!

Introducing Muzzy!

The Monkey Man spotted this fuzzy wuzzy little thing on our front window. We of course had to go out and investigate. It looks just like the woolly bears we see all the time except it's obviously tan and not black or black and orange. So we came inside, got on the internet and after a few minutes came across something called a Yellow Bear Caterpillar. As usual, my son has decided to raise it and watch it go through its transformation. So research commenced and we discovered that they like warm, humid environments with the safety of leaf litter and they eat clover, dandelions and other types of groundcover. Next thing you know, I'm fashioning a makeshift home for "MUZZY"!

We'll keep you updated on its progress!

That old crooked highway... the road to Memphis

I got up early, like crack-of-dawn, should-be-outlawed kind of early, to get the picnic packed and the last of the luggage in the car. Made sure that Nigelito Poquito Burrito had his breakfast and ample opportunity to relieve himself! The kids didn't seem to care about waking up early, they were just excited to go. Little did they realize that when I said we'd spend two days in a car, I wasn't kidding!

First stop, The Donut Palace on Wells Branch! What can I say, it's a road trip tradition. We HAVE to have donuts, and not the crappy Krispy Kreme nastiness--the honest-to-goodness, fresh, Sunday morning donuts that diligent, hard-working and very funny Californian Korean ladies make! Maples for me, Mom and the boy, chocolate for the Piggy! Then we were off... "Move 'em on, head 'em up, head 'em up, move 'em on, move 'em on, head 'em up RAWHIDE! (And yes, as soon as I put the car into drive I sing this and my kids think I'm awesome!)

Life was good, kids listened to music and took the opportunity to catch up on their lost sleep. So did Nigel.

We drove hard up through Texas, only stopping for potty breaks until we reached Sulphur Springs. At which time we pulled off and asked for directions to a local park to picnic and let the kids and dog run wild for a bit. I have to say, not a park I'd visit again. No bathrooms (seriously?), part of the playscape had to have been built in the 1950's and there was a suspicious older guy who spent his time meandering through the playscape admiring the lovely little children. So if you're traveling through Sulphur Springs, don't bother stopping there!

Then it was off to Texarkana and my first visit to Arkansas!

Can I just say that Arkansas is gorgeous? We stopped at this great rest area/tourist info center and I was just blown away at the amount of stuff that Arkansas has to offer! Seriously, the thought of an RV and two weeks exploring that state gets me all giddy! Sadly, I only managed one picture of Arkansas as I drove most of the way through it. :(
Things were going great though, the kids were only whining minimally, the sun was shining the temps were nice, I was getting decent gas mileage and Memphis was in our sights! Then it happened. About 30 minutes outside of Memphis I was thrown into my worst driving nightmare! (Just for a little background info, I am NOT fond of driving in the first place, I am especially not fond of driving at night, or with a lot of semis, or in heavy rain, or through construction that has concrete barriers--claustrophobia, what can I say?) So just like that, things went from pleasant evening drive through the country to heavy construction with concrete barricades and orange barrels EVERYWHERE, it was getting dark, the only thing on the road besides me was freakin' semis AND it was pissing down rain! What the hell?!? Instead of taking a leisurely, light-hearted drive on over to Memphis, I was white-knuckled and straining to see the lane markers, amidst a convoy of semis spraying mist and mud all over my windshield through construction hell! So much for getting my photo of the Tennessee sign OR seeing the Mississippi River for the first time in my life! And I don't know if it was the rain, the stress or the fact that we were 2 hours behind schedule, but Memphis did not win any brownie points with me in regards to their infrastructure. You should not have to take 8 different exits to stay on ONE freeway! Jeesh!

We finally made it through Memphis and found our exit. The plan was to pick up dinner to-go and hurry to the hotel to check in before they gave our room away! We had predetermined that we would try Corky's a well-known BBQ joint. It was slow as it was well past dinner and I was greeted by the sweetest little guy who spent the entire 20 minutes I was there saying, "Yes, Ma'am, No Ma'am, Oh that meal comes with fries Ma'am." It was cute at first, then I wanted to poke him in the neck! But with one last smile and a "Thank ya, Ma'am!" I was on my way out the door with a bag of really good smelling food! We raced to the hotel, stomachs growling, kids whining, and me really needing to pee! We got checked in, ran upstairs with the barest necessities (kids, dog, food) and quickly found out that I wasn't the only one who really needed to pee. Nigel whizzed like a Russian racehorse all over the floor! So for any of you traveling through Memphis and staying at the Northeast Drury Inn, try to avoid Rm 205!