Friday, January 28, 2022

Winter + Covid-19 = Are We Having Fun Yet?

Laurie and I absolutely do not like cold weather and especially snow and ice.  We move from Chicago to East Tennessee to escape the worst of it while avoiding the heat and humidity of the most southerly states that comprise the USA.

Add in shorter spans of daylight and then compound the weather and longer nights by adding in Covid-19 with its various iterations, and our ‘fun times’ are much too limited.  Winter is not our friend and I’m sure that everyone agrees the Covid-19 and the limitations and/or risks it presents have robbed us all of many of our positive life experiences.  Much less socializing, road trips are far and few between and even dining out has been negatively impacted.

However, as the saying goes, “It is what it is”, and live goes on, albeit with fewer high points.

Despite moving south, we do get a bit of snow from time to time.  Our most recent snowfall came to about 3 inches in total…and we have already achieved our normal average snowfall of about 4.6 inches for our County.  The snow does create some interesting vistas and photo ops, which we do enjoy as long as the snow melts within a day or two after its arrival.

Moving on to a constant…food!  Even food seems a bit less exciting this winter but nevertheless, I do look forward to each and every meal.

Dietary restrictions limit or controls my intake of lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, Brussel sprouts and other green vegetables.  Partially to offset this restriction, I almost always keep a bowl of cherry or grape tomatoes on hand for a healthy and tasty snack.  They do have more flavor than the hot house tomatoes that are generally available this time of the year.

After one of our several medically related appointments in January, we did decide to go out for breakfast.  We stopped by Mama’s Grits aka Little Italy in Loudon Tennessee at about 10:15 AM well after the breakfast rush.  The few customers in the restaurant were well spaced out. 

We both ordered “our usual” breakfast out.  Laurie had 2 eggs over easy with hash brown potatoes, bacon and an English muffin.  My eggs and potatoes were sided with 2 sausage patties and some nice dark ‘swirled’ rye toast.  It was just nice to have someone else cook and serve us!

Back to our kitchen… One of our favorites is oatmeal, not the instant type.  Laurie is the oatmeal guru for our home but we both prepare our bowls of hot comfort food the same way.  First, lots of nice Amish butter on top of the cereal, then dried cranberries and brown sugar (actually Splenda) and then add the half and half milk!  A great way to start our day…

On another recent occasion we thawed out a small (less than 2 pound) rolled pork roast that we’d bought at Fresh Market.  Laurie seasoned it nicely and she also inserted garlic cloves for an additional pop of flavor.  We do love garlic!  She baked the roast, which was resting on a bed of celery, until the temperature hit 140F…and then we let it stand for a few minutes before I carved it.

As you can see from my dinner plate, we accompanied the roast pork with rice, pork gravy, a little roasted celery and cinnamon apples.  The meat was nice and moist…with the best part being that there were leftovers…which made great sandwiches for yours truly!

Most recently, Laurie decided to use up some egg noodles that we had in the cupboard.  She put together a homemade Alfredo sauce, adding garlic, spicy paprika and Italian seasonings.  To this we added a quantity of fresh chicken and a can of baby peas. 

We agreed that the result was decent but if we reprised this dish again, there would be several changes.  More garlic, more spicy paprika and more Italian seasonings.  I think that bacon would be a plus as well and perhaps a few pieces of asparagus wouldn’t hurt me. 


A flock of cedar waxwings visited our yard yesterday.  There must have been 20 to 30 of them!  Laurie managed to catch this one holding still for a minute.  They made great use of our deck mounted bird bath.  We hadn’t seen any of these birds in quite a while.  I love their 'mask'.

Cedar waxwings are fairly common breeders in East Tennessee, but they are uncommon breeders in the western part of the state.  They are not usually winter residents in Tennessee but they do go where the food is…sometimes in flocks of more than 100 birds.  Their preferred habitat is trees along the edge of wooded areas, places that provide access to berry sources as well as water. 

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Kentucky (3)

…continuing with our road trip and exploration of the area around Lexington Kentucky.  We were accompanied by Laurie’s sister Bonnie and her husband Bill. 

This is part 3 of our visit to The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill…

This is the Ministry’s Workshop.  It was built in 1821 and it was both the home and offices for the 2 men and 2 women who were the spiritual and administrative leaders of the Village. 

I didn’t try to take photos of all the primary buildings at Pleasant Hill.  The village had several ‘family’ groupings.  Each of them had a substantial ‘family’ dwelling as well as a Wash House, Privy, Bath House, a Brethren’s Shop and a Sister’s Workshop.   Photos of these buildings would be a bit redundant as they are similar and served the same purposes for each ‘family’.

For example, the East Family Brethren’s Shop, built in 1845, was used as a woodworking shop where they built furniture and other wooden items.  The East Family Sister’s Shop, built in 1855, was used for sewing, spinning, and weaving with wool, cotton, silk and flax fibers.  Even today, the mulberry trees outside the Sister’s Shop are remnants from the silkworms that were housed on the second floor of the structure.  The sisters tended to hundreds of worms and cocoons from which they harvested silk thread.

Not only were the Shakers at Pleasant Hill hard working, they were also resourceful and creative.  The larger of the 2 buildings above is the Pleasant Hill Water House.  In 1832, the Shakers dug out a spring and installed a force pump for the village waterworks.  Water was pumped by the use of horsepower for 5 – 6 hours each day through 1.5 miles of iron pipes to a water tank in the Water House. 

The Water House, with brick insulation, was built around the 4,500 gallon staved water tank in 1933.  Water flowed from the tank by gravity from the second floor of the Water House to every kitchen, washhouse and cellar in the village.  Pleasant Hill was the first western Shaker Village to have a public water system…

The smaller structure at the right side of the Water House is the only remaining example of a Brethren's (Men's) Bath House.  Many bathhouses had been built to accommodate each gender.  This one was built in 1860.   


         ·         So just how many Shakers were there at the movement’s peak?  Estimates are that there may have been up to 9,000 Shaker adherents.  Wikipedia lists 26 former Shaker settlements or villages plus a number of related short-lived attempts as well.  The last Shaker village was located in New Hampshire and it ceased operations in 1992…after 200 years!

Shakers were not only as self-sufficient as possible, they were also in business, buying necessities and selling their products.  Hence, communication with the rest of the country was important.  A post office operated at several locations at Pleasant Hill from 1818 until 1904.  This was the second building used as a post office.  It was built in 1848 and it was used by both Shakers and other local area residents.

The second object is a 19th Century mailbox.  This particular mailbox may have been in use in another building, the Old Stone Shop, which dates back to 1811.  

FYI, the old post office has been repurposed and now serves as a Gift Shop.  Open daily from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM.

I do appreciate before and after photos… The first photo shows Pleasant Hill’s Cooper’s Shop before restoration.  The building was moved to this location by the Shakers in 1846.  It was a single story building when it was moved but in 1847 the Shakers added a second floor.  What a great job of restoration!

FYI...traditionally, a cooper is someone who makes wooden, staved vessels with flat ends that are held together with wooden or metal hoops.  Shakers made as many as 2,000 coopered items every year.  These included cedar pails, buckets, churns and barrels.

I took this photo of an old sewing machine that was on display in one of the Sister’s Workshop buildings.  This sewing machine dates back to 1856.  In order to expedite the process of sewing and speed up production, Shakers readily adopted the use of machines like this.   Similar displays of furnishings and tools are scattered throughout the public areas of all the buildings...

As I mentioned before, the society of Shakers at Pleasant Hill was divided into 5 communal families, with membership typically numbering from 50 to 100 people.  Every family had its own dwelling house, shops, barns, gardens and orchard.  This handsome and solid looking brick structure was the East Family Dwelling and it was built in 1817.

If a horse is anywhere near Laurie, she will find it and talk to it!  She and her sister Bonnie had an up close and personal encounter with what I believe is a Shire, one of the several breeds of draft horse in the USA.  You can’t see Laurie as she’s on the other side of her sister in the photo… 

Laurie took the close up of this friendly horse.

The center of activity at Pleasant Hill back in the day was farming or agriculture.  No surprise, farm critters were very important to the community.  Pleasant Hill maintains a variety of animals for visitor’s to view, including pigs, sheep, goats, turkey, chickens, ducks, draft horses, a donkey, working steers, cattle and sheep.

Agricultural experimentation and resiliency made the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village a model of innovation and efficiency.  Today this tradition is continued via the use of sustainable farming practices while tending the garden, orchard, livestock and apiary. 

Coming from the northern USA, I had never seen okra as a plant, only as a grocery store item or on a dinner plate...interesting shape don't you think?  Okra is also known as gumbo or ladies’ fingers.  This is a flowering plant belonging to the mallow family and it is the most important vegetable crop of the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.  

Not only is it a good source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, it has a number of other important uses.  Its juice is used to thicken sauces.  The fiber from the stem of the plant can be used as the reinforcement of polymer composites.  The mucilage produced by the plant can be used for removing cloudiness from wastewater and it is under development as a biodegradable food packaging.  The plant’s oil has also been found to be suitable for use as a biofuel.

I would have liked to have seen this garden plot at its prime rather than late in the season.  Color everywhere!  I have since learned that there are roughly 4,000 varieties of chili peppers in the world with more being developed all the time.  Bell or sweet peppers and chili peppers are from the same family of plants that also includes tomatoes.  They were first discovered by the Western world when Columbus traveled to the New World.

This was one more revelation for me.  These are blueberry cherry tomatoes.  They are reputed to be very fruity and sweet, similar to a plum.  These tomatoes have an amethyst purple color that turns almost black when exposed to a lot of sun.  Over 100 varieties of cherry tomatoes have been recorded with more being developed each year…

And so our tour ends… The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is very nicely maintained and it is very large.  Not only can visitors tour the buildings and gardens, but they can follow hiking paths through the 3,000 acre property and there is even a riverboat ride on the Kentucky River that is located 1.3 miles from the Visitor’s Center.

Many visitors go ‘all in’ at Pleasant Hill.  The Inn at Pleasant Hill is not just a traditional hotel.  Seventy-two (72) guest rooms, suites and private cottages are located in 13 of the restored Shaker buildings!  They all have their own distinct character and are appointed with Shaker reproduction furniture, original hardwood floors and great views of the countryside.

To learn more about the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and its accommodations, just go to  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Kentucky (2)

After driving to Berea and coming up empty as regard shopping, driving back roads to Pleasant Hill, and wandering through some of the 34 Shaker buildings that have survived over the years…it was time for lunch!

So, we headed over to the “Trustees’ Office, a substantial brick structure that was built in 1839.  Back in the day, it housed the legal and financial leaders of the Shaker community and it also provided overnight accommodations for visitors. 

One of the most notable features of the Trustees’ Office building are the twin spiral staircases designed by Micajah Burnett, the youth who settled here with his parents when he was only 17.  He obviously had some serious skills when it came to construction!

Like all of the surviving structures in the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, this one was impressive… But the most important feature for us at the time was that the Trustees’ Office is home the Village’s Restaurant, ‘The Trustee’s Table’.  This is one of the dining areas.

Laurie took this photo of her brother-in-law Bill, his wife/Laurie’s sister, Bonnie, as well as yours truly.  FYI, The Trustees’ Table serves lunch from 11:30 AM until 3 PM.  The menu changes seasonally...

The soup of the day was split pea with ham.  I don’t remember who had what, but we ordered a cup and a bowl…and I was able to taste the soup.  We all agreed that it was very good and it so satisfying that it was a meal all by itself!

This was the Apple Salad with added chicken.  The salad was very fresh as the restaurant uses local produce and other ingredients in their offerings.

This was Bill’s Catfish Dinner.  It looked good and it was… Bill really enjoyed his meal!

As for myself, I had the Fried Chicken with gravy over a stack of mashed potatoes.  It was very nice indeed…and Laurie had my Tabasco in her purse too so I was happy!  

We’d never heard of Lemon Pie…at least not like this old time version.  We all tasted it and liked it.  It was a very interesting dessert and it was something unusual from our perspective.

I have never been able to pass up Bread Pudding and this was no exception!  However, this version was too hard and too dry for my taste.  Laurie agreed with me…

The Trustees’ Table also serves dinner from 5 PM until 8:30 PM.  All of the menus, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, change with the seasons and which locally sources items are available.  Looking at the current dinner menu, offerings include Fried Banana Peppers at an appetizer, Roasted Pork Loin for Lunch and Beef Short Rib, Quail and a Hot Brown for dinner.

To learn more about the Trustees’ Table Seasonal Menu, you can click on

My next post will conclude our tour of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Kentucky (1)

After our disappointment regarding the lack of Sunday shopping in Berea Kentucky, we headed toward our next Lexington area attraction.  We drove along a number of scenic back roads west from Berea through Lancaster and Danville and then up KY Hwy 33 to Pleasant Hill and its historic Shaker Village…

The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was the location of a Shaker religious settlement that was active for over 100 years.  Formally known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, the Shakers originated in Great Britain ca. 1750, with the first Shakers immigrating to North America in 1774.  The sect was originally known as the “Shaking Quakers” because of the intensity of their behavior during their services.

The Shakers believed in communal ownership of property and the equality of race and sex.  They also opposed marriage and practiced celibacy.  Of course the latter practice made the recruitment of new community members a necessity or eventually any Shaker settlement would disappear. 

In 1805, a group of Shakers moved west to central Kentucky and they established Pleasant Hill on a hill along the Kentucky River. 

Today the former Pleasant Hill Shaker settlement is a major tourist attraction.  Visitors enter the village through the former Carpenter’s Shop which was built in 1815.  This building was first used as a blacksmith and wagon makers’ shop, becoming a carpenters’ workshop in 1843.  By 1885, this was a broom shop.

Today this is where visitors purchase tickets, peruse a number of displays and do some shopping.  Laurie and her sister Bonnie finally had a chance to shop and they bought a few items.  I took them back to our car before we began our self-guided tour. 

We loved this rock wall as well as the overall pastoral feeling of the village.  The wall reminded Laurie and I of the short time when we lived in Massachusetts and of our many back road adventures in New England. 

Pleasant Hill reached its zenith in the 1820s.  There were about 600 residents, 2,800 acres of farmland and 250 structures.  By the 1860s the Shaker community began to decline.  There were several causes for this problem…the advent of the American Civil War, changing social attitudes and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution…all making it difficult to attract new members for the community.  The fact that they considered sex to be a sin was probably the key factor though…

This large and handsome structure is the Centre Family Dwelling.  It was built between 1824 and 1834.  Up to 100 Shakers, who lived as brothers and sisters, lived here on opposite sides of the building.  There are 14 bedrooms, kitchens, a dining room, a cellar for food storage, an infirmary and a large meeting room.

One individual, Micajah Burnett, had a major influence on the architecture at Pleasant Hill.  Burnett arrived here with his parents in 1809 when he was 17 years old.  By 1815 he was helping create the layout of the village.  Using local rock, clay and wood, and following the architectural guidance prescribed by the Shaker ministry, he designed the village’s buildings in the Federal Style.  The interior concept focused on maximizing space, minimizing the need for supports and allowing for large open interior rooms.

Both the women’s and men’s sleeping quarters were definitely minimalist.  Personal possessions were few in this communal society.  All dwellings were segregated by sex, as were women and men’s work areas.

When it was time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the village residents would enter this room at the sound of 2 bells.  Brothers came in from the east door and Sisters through the west door.  Everyone ate in silence.  Sisters always set the tables in such a manner that diners could avoid having to pass food thereby eliminating excess noise.  Meals were a time of reflection…

By the 1790s, Shakers had developed written covenants for their members.  If you signed the covenant, you had to confess your sins, pledge your property and labor to the society, and live as celibates.  If you were married before joining the society, those marriages ended when the couple joined.

This pine cupboard is one of the many pieces of Shaker furniture on display at Pleasant Hill.  It was built ca. 1850.  The cupboard probably came from the Mount Lebanon Shaker community that was located a few miles southeast of Albany New York.

Shaker furniture is known for is austere, clean lines.  Shaker craftsmanship was based on design principles of truth to material and form follows function.  This aesthetic has endured with Shaker style furniture available and popular nation-wide. 

Antique Shaker furniture is in high demand even today.  Chairs were the most common items but now even a chair can cost somewhere from $500 to $1000…depending on condition.  A Shaker dresser can cost as much as $45,000.

This bonnet was made by Mary Settle, the last living Shaker from “Shakertown”, the Pleasant Hill Community.  It was given to a local resident’s mother and loaned to the Pleasant Hill museum.  The card in front of the bonnet points out that it not only won a blue ribbon in the county fair, but also at the State Fair!  Mary Settle died in 1923.

This is Pleasant Hill’s “Meeting House”.  It was built in 1820 and it was the spiritual center of the Shaker community.  Worship services were held on the first floor and apartments for the Ministry were on the second floor.  Note the two entrances.  Sisters entered through one door and Brothers entered through the other.   

Of course, once the worshippers entered the area for their religious services, they sat on opposite sides of the room.

This picture is a 1870s depiction of a Shaker service in the Lebanon New York Shaker community.  It was published by Currier and Ives.

Shaker were so-called because of their practices of shaking, dancing and whirling in addition to speaking, shouting and singing “in tongues”.  However, later services were more orderly and included choreographed dances, songs, marches and gestures.

After the Shakers were gone, the buildings and property passed into private hands.  The Shakers were nearly forgotten.  One building became a restaurant, one was used as a gas station and another became a general store.  The Meeting House was originally converted for use as an automotive garage.  Its floor, built to withstand several hundred brethren and sisters, was strong enough to support vehicles entering the structure.  As you can see from the sign shown above, after the Meeting House’s use as a garage, it was converted again, this time for use as the “Shakertown” Baptist Church. 

Our visit to the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village will be continued in my next post… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave