Seeing America: The Long Weekend Road Trip

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The summer remains a busy time around here with gardening, the farmers’ market, summer classes at the college, and the upcoming county fair. However, Chad and I recently found time to enjoy a long weekend in Tennessee.

The primary reason for the trip was to visit an old friend, Donna. Growing up, the demands of my parents’ work kept them from home for months each year. Donna worked for my parents for over 25 years. She was there to greet me most mornings, often provided rides to Fowler’s farm where I boarded Goldy, was there for many overnights when Mom and Dad were fundraising for the college, and was always a phone call away for any of us kids.

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Donna commanded respect. She was one of the few people who would tell Dad if she disapproved of his actions regarding the kids, and he would even seek her advice during our difficult teen years. Donna also never hesitated to put us kids or our friends in our place. When she used my first and middle name, I was in trouble!

We had time for several visits with her and dined at her son’s restaurant in Knoxville. We even arrived in time to watch the prep work for the smoker. Chad particularly enjoyed trading poultry smoking tips with Donna’s son, Randy. On a later visit, there was time for an impromptu concert for Donna and the other residents at the senior living center (Strumsticks are perfect for road trips!).

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We stayed in a lovely one bedroom cabin, just a stone’s throw from Marble Springs, the home of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier. We found time to hike the grounds and view the log cabins on the property. Our cabin also had a covered front porch with rocking chairs, perfect for sipping morning coffee, reading, and even playing music.

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On our last day, we headed south to the Great Smoky Mountains and hiked Middle Prong trail and drove Rich Mountain seasonal road near Cade’s Cove. The long weekend went so quickly! I look forward to returning someday for more hiking, fishing, swimming, good eats, and perhaps even some white water rafting.

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(The Sinks-A swimming hole near Townsend)

Thanks for reading!

(Traveling to Knoxville? Check out Mario’s Pizza and Grill-10943 Kingston Pike)

Nature for Every Season

I recently finished a fascinating book about Mozart, his pet starling (an influential muse for the musical genius), and the connection to nature. I was struck by what the author termed “wild summons.” Nature takes so many forms: The pull of the mountains, a wooded trail by the lake, the challenge of the rapids…perhaps even less obvious things, a cherished pet, personal journal, songs, or that place offering calm. A special place that often “summons” me is Frederick Meijer Gardens.

Frederick Meijer Gardens, located in Grand Rapids, MI, remains a crown jewel in West Michigan. Whether you want to explore outside among the peaceful Japanese Gardens, or intricate bonsai display, or take a walk back in time, viewing the 1930s farm, these grounds offer something for everyone.

In fact, FMG’s indoor garden area makes for a fun outing, too. March’s butterfly exhibit remains a traditional break from the cold weather (the tropical conservatory hovers in the 80s.) Also, the Christmas Around the World exhibit offers a festive way to get in the holiday spirit.

However, of all the activities found at this beautiful place, the Summer Concert Series remains a favorite venue! We usually pack a picnic, a few chairs, and sip a glass of wine or beer from the bar. The concerts are open seating on a grassy hillside. This year, we enjoyed Joan Baez with Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls.

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Ever consider a membership? Members have the opportunity to order pre-sale discounted tickets for the Summer Concert Series. Check it out! meijergardens.org

Thanks for reading!

Cairn Hill Farms Summer 2017

  

Hello Friends!

The 2017 Farm Market Season has finally arrived!! Hope you have time to visit this summer:

Friday’s Middleville (8-1)
Saturday’s Hastings (9-1)

This year, Cairn Hill Farms is offering the following products:

Farm fresh eggs from our happy hens who wander the farm and surrounding woods

Beeswax Lip Balm:

Paddy’s Peppermint
Just the Bees (unscented)
Tangerine Tea
Wild Irish Roses (tinted with hibiscus powder, unscented)
Lavender Nettle
Cherry Hibiscus (natural cherry flavor tinted with hibiscus powder)

Sprays (Use as facial toner, in the kitchen, or even on linens):
Now in two sizes (8ml sample size and 4 oz)!

Lavender
Citrus
Morning Mist (a blend of jasmine, orange, and lavender)
Sinus Blend (peppermint, eucalyptus, and rosemary-8ml only)

Nettle iced tea by the glass and dried nettles gathered on our farm (many products are infused with nettle as well)

Body Butters (Perfect when heavy moisturizing is needed):
Peppermint (infused with nettle and lemongrass)
Lavender

A final bit of fun…
Sparkle plenty-I made a small batch of sparkle lip balm and shimmering lotion (at this time I have VERY LIMITED quantities, so stop by the market or send a message if interested).

Can’t make it to the market? Many of these items are also available on my website.

Happy summer!! Thanks for reading!

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Civil War Sweethearts and a Character Witness for a Cannibal

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Once or twice a year, I like to share an earlier, memorable post.  This one is from my father’s unpublished memoirs regarding a bizarre family connection to America’s first convicted cannibal:

…My dad’s family roots were Irish on his father’s side and Scots-Irish and Welsh on his mother’s side. The Roche’s were Baltimore Catholics from County Cork, following the 19th Century lure to the “land of opportunity.” The next generation, my Great Grandfather Roche came to Denver as a young man, following the lure of the West. My Great Grandmother Roche was quite a character. She had been a former girlfriend of General Lew Wallace, Civil War leader, governor of the New Mexico Territory and author of Ben Hur. From all family reports, Great Grandfather Roche remained jealous of Lew Wallace for his entire married life. The colorful General Wallace was a frequent cause of controversy at the Roche dinner table.

Your colorful Great Grandmother Roche had another claim to fame as well. In the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado during the rush of silver and gold strikes in the 1870s, a party of five miners and their guide, Alferd Packer, were trapped in a crushing blizzard and were not seen again that winter. The next spring, Packer walked out of the mountains, alone.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Packer had survived the winter in a cave, where he had killed and eaten the five prospectors. At the trial, the judge, in his summary to the jury, addressed Packer, “There were only seven Democrats in Huerfano County, and damn you, Alferd Packer, you ate five of them!” That summation to the jury became the basis for an appeal and second trial some years later. Packer was already a confessed murderer and cannibal, so the second trial revolved around questions of Packer’s character.

In the famous second trial, a case watched closely across the country and especially closely in Colorado where the trial occurred, his attorney’s defense was based on finding anyone who had known Packer during his life and had a positive comment to make. Great Grandmother Roche had grown up in the same Pennsylvania town as Packer and had known him as a boy. There was nearly a divorce in the family when Great Grandfather Roche discovered that his wife was to testify as a character witness for America’s only convicted cannibal. My Grandfather Roche would seldom mention these stories and when he did, it was always said with a pronounced sigh.

Today, you can see a plaque at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s cafeteria, fondly named by the student body in the 60s, “The Alferd Packer Memorial Grill.”

Thanks for reading!

Admitting a problem is the first step…

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I recently acknowledged a serious problem: I am well on my way to becoming a book hoarder. Instead of shopping for the latest fashions, I prefer to spend my time in bookstores and libraries, adding books to a reading list beyond completion. On weekends, I’d rather relax on the back deck and read for a few hours than spend “a night out on the town.” My parents only encouraged this behavior with regular gifts of books. I even decorate with books!

We have lived at Cairn Hill Farms for almost four years now, and with the departure of kid #2 to college, I started to unpack the many, many boxes of books in the basement. However, it quickly became evident that we lacked the shelf space to utilize the vast collection. So I began the challenge of drastically reducing our family book collection.

To start, some piles were quite easy: We do not need 40 cookbooks (I kept our 10 favorites). We also didn’t need dated reference materials. Certain tomes were easier than others. One son enjoyed the Gary Paulson books, so these were set aside in the chance that he might want them later. Certain popular series were worth keeping: Anne of Green Gables, The Lord of the Rings, The Narnia Collection, Harry Potter, Little House, etc.

Sentimental books presented tougher choices. Favorite nightly readers from childhood like Goodnight Moon were saved as were books inscribed to the kids. In fact, giving books with cherished inscriptions is a family tradition in both the Roche and Murphy Families, the copy of Smoky by Will James from my parents, Horse Stories for Children signed by one of my first riding instructors, the copy of The Imitation of Christ signed by Dr. Febes Facey (a high school graduation present). There are also books that provide insight in my parents’ lives, Dad’s graduate school copy of The Hedgehog and the Fox filled with handwritten notes.

Throughout this process, I recognized sentimental attachments that didn’t really connect to books. For example, I held onto a copy of Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. While the movie was a favorite of the men in the family, I didn’t connect with Kesey’s stream of consciousness, not worth keeping for me, personally.

What should be done with all those extra books? I started by piling them on the dining room table and asking family, friends, and neighbors to take a few. Then some books were donated to local libraries, donated for fundraisers, or donated to Goodwill. In closing, purchasing books can be rather costly. Do you have some just gathering dust? Share! Donate! You never know when a book will start a memorable adventure.

Thanks for reading!

Got Naan?

Have you ever walked down the bread aisle and saw a unique collection of flat breads? Ever tried naan bread? While personal favorites include homemade pita with a lamb and beef gyro or crusty, authentic French bread with Irish butter, Naan bread is another favorite in the Murphy kitchen.
Naan is a flat bread made with a leavening agent. This bread offers many possibilities in the kitchen.

  
 While the traditional bread compares to the size of a small pizza, some stores carry a toaster size, ideal for topping with peanut butter and jelly or for dinner with a bit of butter, garlic powder and Parmesan. 

  

In addition, we make custom pizzas using naan, easing family dinner with a vegan living in the house. Only taking 4-6 minutes at 425 degrees, the bread offers a unique combination of crunch around the edges and chewy consistency in the middle. We even found garlic naan bread at a local store, adding some extra flavor. 

  

Naan bread also provides a tasty alternative to regular sandwiches, toasted for a minute or two (or microwave for 20 seconds) and then fill with ham, cheese, tomato, and mayo. We even have a list of ideas for future menus: Naan grilled cheese, panini, or even small pieces served with spinach dip or olive oil and herbs.
Any ideas? Please share!
Thanks for reading!

The Journey Home

 

It seems like a lifetime has passed since December’s post. Early December brought pneumonia for me, and then after Christmas, life proceeded to worse. Chad suffered a serious fall and the next day, Patrick’s friend was killed in a car accident. Chad’s on the mend, and we are attempting to help our son through his loss. As a parent, the challenges of bridging this horrible passage never occurred.

Most generations remember losing and mourning a friend gone too young. I remember those friends lost in high school and college, the pain, questions, and numbness. As parents we sit by helplessly, attempting to ease the grief. While we can certainly be there for support, nothing helps more than letting our young grieve together. Perhaps this is part of letting go; our children need the chance to be with their peers to truly sort things out. As a woman, I also didn’t expect how certain difficult, manual activities provide closure for our men, my father-in-law building his granddaughter’s coffin twelve year’s ago or my son and his friends actually picking up shovels and burying their friend.

When dealing with death, I often think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s glimpse through Gandalf’s words in “The Lord of the Rings”:

“…The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path…One that we all must take…The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass…and then you see it…White shores…and beyond. A far green country under a swift sunrise.”

I don’t begin to know or claim what’s to come, but I have often found solace in Tolkien’s words and prefer to follow my parents’ words of wisdom. “We all have a journey ahead, a topic worthy of reflection.” The following song, from the late 70s has often brought me peace. Also, after witnessing the visitation, bagpiper’s procession and funeral (and later, watching my husband’s stubbornness and strength to get back to work), I truly understand what Maureen O’Hara meant when she said, “We Irish are a fighting people.”

RIP  Jeremiah

wrestling Patrick and Jer