Monday, February 14, 2011

The Summer of 2010

While last week’s snow has been melted by a few sunshiny and slightly warmer days what better way to remember there are brighter, sunnier and much warmer days ahead than to look back at photos of the garden during 2010. This must be the snowiest winter in the last 10 years and if you consider that I missed nearly a month of it while in South Africa, I can only imagine how long this winter would have felt. And looking at bright and colorful photos of summer is so much nicer than experiencing the supposedly “sprokieswereld” of frozen car windows and slip-sliding driving on icy roads outside.


After the hard work of 2008 and 2009 of redesigning and replanting nearly the whole backyard, 2010 was a relative quiet year in the garden for me. With so many other work-related projects on my plate the 3rd year of a 3 year plan did not materialized as planned. Although I did a bit of work, as things stand now I will hopefully complete the rest of the garden plans this year. But why put a date on the completion at all? It could be n open project. In 2011 I would like to complete the stonework edging of all the beds, recreate the vegetable garden in a sunnier location and do all the transplanting that goes with than, and build a small “deck” or cozy sitting area in the shade of some big trees in the very back of the yard for picnics or just to go and sit for quiet moments in the backyard.

Visitors to the backyard

Also, because we felled a huge white pine tree, which became a real gluey pest, I now have an added section of garden available near the woodlands area that can be used for plants that like morning sun. I still need to remove the stump and then prepare the soil for something special. Probably a few specimen low shrubs because the removal of the pine will allow the Weeping Snow Fountain Cherry tree next door to expand and truly blossom (excuse the pun) into a show piece in spring with its clusters of white flowers. Up to the felling of the pine the cherry tree was rather boxed in and her spring exhibition was limited.

Lastly, in the front garden I transplanted some roses and add more, while M had some Korean boxwoods removed and replaced them with various kinds of hydrangeas. It will eventually be more colorful than the monotonous green of the boxwoods

A flowery fence
Slowly but surely all available open spaces are being filled.

Preserves from the garden.
From left: Marinara with garden vegetables, Pickled cherry tomatoes, Curried green beans, Marinara with red wine and basil

Windowbox and hydrangea

A Fiery Begonia boliviensis 'Bonfire', a tropical plant that loves full sun 

Yellow is the color...

From my favorite rocking chair on the back porch

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bales of Hay

For months now I wanted to take a few photos of bales of hay lying in a field on the edge of town. So yesterday, snuggled between two snowy days, we had a sunny, but bitterly cold day, and with frozen fingers, but a warm spirit, I was out in the country at sunset snapping away.

Sticks and balls
Like dead soldiers in a battlefield
Last rays

Monday, February 7, 2011

RIP Gary Moore

Gary Moore (born William Gary), x-Thin Lizzy guitarist and who had a string of solo hits like Parisienne Walkways, Still Got The Blues, and Empty Rooms, has died Sunday in his sleep in a Spanish hotel at age 58. Cause of dead is still unknown.

The guitarist who had the ability to express his deepest and most sensitive emotions in the strings of his guitar will be sorely missed.

It is guitar play like this on Empty Rooms that made him an axe-man legend in the blues and rock genre.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do You Want Your Own Castle?

(Photo by Donnie Shackleford)

As you turn left coming out of Blue Grass Airport, in Lexington, KY, and then left again onto US60, also called the Versailles Road, you drive in front of Keaneland, one of two of Kentucky’s famous race courses, (the other being Churchill Downs in Louisville where they run the well-known Kentucky Derby.) Continuing along the US60 leaving Fayette County and entering Woodford county you suddenly come upon an unusually site. A castle where you least expect it.

In the United States there are many castles, all of them, no doubt, inspired by and copied from European castles, but nevertheless castles of some sort. The website, Castles of the United States, list more than 300 “castles”. Of course most of them are nothing more than fancy residential houses.

It was rumored that Lexington’s Martin Castle even caught the attention of Queen Elizabeth and her entourage on her last visit to Lexington a few years ago and that her secretary made a rather unflattering remark by calling it "an Americanized Mickey Mouse castle." He is probably not too far off the mark.

Nevertheless, Martin Castle, for many years fondly known as “Woodford Castle” may not have the rich history of intrigue or scandal as say Hampton Court Castle in England or Versailles outside Paris, France, but it does have a history. A rather mysterious history. (Interestingly in Kentucky there is a town called Versailles, just 10 minutes drive from the castle and there is also a town called Paris not too far away.)

After an extensive trip to the Continent, visiting many castles, especially German castles, Rex Martin, a wealthy land developer in Lexington, KY, in 1968 bought about 50 acres along US60 to build a castle for his wife Caroline. The next year he dug foundations and started to build his castle, but by the mid 70’s it was still not completed. At this stage Martin and his wife divorced and for the next 30 years or more nothing happened. The half built shell just sat there. It seemed that just like old European castles this one would also take decades if not lifetimes to be completed. Whether he ran out of money or the split from his wife stopped any further progress in the building is unknown. In the meantime the wooded gates with gold-foiled lion heads kept visitors at bay and it created many country rumors and legends about the place. But no one really knew what was to happen with the property.

Martin Castle on fire in May 2004 (Photos by Robert Taylor) 

At several times during the three decades the place was up for sale but no one purchased it until after Mr. Martin’s death, when a lawyer from Florida, Thomas R. Post bought it in 2003 for $1.8 million. Mr. Post immediately started to rebuild the inside of the castle, but as the work neared completion in May 2004 it burned down. Arson was suspected but no one was ever charged. Post then spent millions of Dollars more and many years to rebuild and enlarge the original castle with the aim to turn it into an upscale, unique bed and breakfast inn. This was completed in 2009 and the castle, now known as The CastlePost has 50 rooms including a library, sitting room, game room and a dining room for 40 guests. Outdoors there is a 20-by-50 foot pool, tennis courts, formal garden and a large Chinese dragon fountain spouting water.

The castle after the fire.

But in November 2010 it was reported that if owner Thomas Post can get the right price, the castle will be sold again. The asking price is $30 million, negotiable.

So if you are in the market for your own castle and you want to relocate to the rolling hills and green pastures of Kentucky, make your offer. It comes with its own mysterious history. No ghosts though.

After restoration it is called The CastlePost.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Midweek Musical Muse VIII - Messrs. Cool and Slowhand

The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a music festival and benefit concert first held in 2004 and again in 2007 and 2010. The festivals benefit the Crossroads Centre founded by Eric Clapton, a drug treatment center located in Antigua. The concerts are also intended to be a showcase for a variety of guitarists. All were hand-picked by Eric Clapton himself. The 2004 concert included guitar greats like Pat Metheny, Carlos Santana, John Mayer, Robert Cray, BB King, Steve Vai, ZZ Top, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Vaughn, and Bo Diddley, and many more.

The 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival was held at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois on July 28, 2007. 28,000 tickets were sold out 22 minutes. Artists included Tab Benoit, Sonny Landreth, John McLaughlin, Vince Gill, John Mayer and many more.

The 2010 Crossroads festival was again held at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois on June 26, 2010. Artists included Clapton, ZZ Top, BB King, Jeff Beck, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy, John Mayer, and many more.

Here is the original Mr. Cool, JJ Cale with “Slow Hand” Clapton.