Oh, hi, oh!

17 Nov

Some trips are better than others.  And, unrelated, some trips are farther away than others.  Sometimes you go to Malaysia, or France, or Jordan. Sometimes you visit a good friend in Ohio.  This post is about the latter. My fabulous trip to places near Cleveland, Ohio with my good friend, Andy.

First a little background.  Andy and I met in the Peace Corps; we became really, close but, like all good friendship, we lost touch over the years.  Luckily, we reconnected about a year ago — read a little bit about it here and here.  This blog post is all about HER and US and FRIENDSHIP!!!!

 

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Reunited #AndItFeelsSoGood

 

These days, Andy is managing a farm called Spice Acres.  Going to see her this trip felt a bit like when I would go to see her in Jamaica — hanging out with Andy on a site visit 🙂  

I arrived just as it was getting dark but of course I wanted to get the full farm tour!  And, I almost got to ride in a tractor….but, unfortunately, it wouldn’t start (Andy texted another farmer to make arrangements to have it fixed the following day).  Walking around was just fine though!  We stopped to say hi (taste) to some microgreens, broccoli, and arugula — it was a teeny bit awkward because they were still in their beds (ha!), There had been a frost recently so the produce was super sweet, just like Andy.  We saw everything we could and I heard lots of descriptions (’cause, actually, hearing was the primary sense we were using now that it was dark.)

Next, we went to the section of the farm that was really hoppin’ (aka, we got to smell the hops) while Andy taught me about Indian pale ale and how they added extra hops to it when they transported it by boat so that it wouldn’t get skunked.  “Hoppy, hoppy, Like they say in India!” And we laughed ’cause we were ‘hoppy hoppy’ ourselves.

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Here’s a picture of Andy sharing some extra CSA produce with me; leeks, onions, rutabaga, potatoes, and carrots.

 

After my trip, Andy send me her favorite rosemary rutabaga recipe to make (see the results below).  Even got the leeks (which Helen and I found out are really hard to clean) made it onto my plate.

 

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Farm fresh and so so good.

 

Also, while you’re salivating over that picture (no worries, I am too), keep in mind that the eggs on that (cute) plate also came from Spice Acres Farm.  They raise healthy, happy chickens!  During my stay, Andy had to go and collect their eggs and I got to take part in feeding the chickens delicious (read: stale) cornmeal bread.  Since it was already dark outside, we had to turn on the lights. Andy told me that this would wake up the roosting chickens and they were going to be very confused.  But really, who could be upset at waking up in the middle of the night when a baked good is involved?

 

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Birds of a feather, roosting together.

 

While Andy collected the chicken eggs, I scattered the cornmeal for the hens.  You can see the results below, along with Andy and her headlamp diligently working.

 

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Cluck, cluck, FOOD!

 

Fun fact about chickens:  If a wolf comes into the coop and kills one of them, the others will continue to sit there nonchalantly, without trying to run away.  Guess chickens really need to be EGGED ON with cornmeal in order to make a move #farmpun but also #truth

Another farm fact: Buying the egg carton with your eggs costs about $0.30 – $0.50 per carton.  So, next time, if you’re at the store and you can fit all of the eggs into your shirt, you’ll save a few cents.  But you might also get arrested because, you know. stealing.

After we were finished on the farm, we drove to the house where Andy was house sitting and met a mopey, sweet dog and a fluffy black cat, and got ready to go out for the night.  Andy had lots of fun options/activities such as pinball or shuffle board, but my preference was just a quiet space with her where we could soak up every moment together with talking, laughing, sharing and, of course, eating.

Patrick had just written the Kazakh blogs (check them outcheck them out, check them out — Note: the repetition isn’t for emphasis, there really are three.).  Andy and I sat on the couch where she patiently let me read all of the posts aloud while she sat and listened.  It was really fun and we built up quite an appetite.

We headed to a restaurant called Spice, owned be the same person who owns Spice Acres Farm (reminder: where Andy farm manages).  The restaurant specializes in quality farm-to-table dining and everyone who works there, of course, knows Andy.  She’s the best!!  I was honored to see that part of her world.

To eat, we ordered one of everything (!) from the vegetarian menu and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate (Thank you to Lou, a Spice Acres farm volunteer, for treating us to the champagne.)  Pop pop pop pop!

 

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I recognize that broccoli and arugula… 🙂

 

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Farm to *our* table, specifically.

 

I was really impressed with the variety of tastes and overall amazing quality of the food we ate.  The dish on the left (see above) was interactive (beyond, you know, just eating it) — every 1 out of 10 peppers is really spicy, so it was kind of like a roulette to see if one of us would get the spicy one.  Neither of us did.

The food at Spice was absolutely fantastic, sans one dish.  Andy let the restaurant manager know how we felt about it when she came over to check on us, socialize, and to ask me, “What do you do for a living?”  Without missing a beat, Andy told the restaurant manager that I was a food critic. Of course I played along.  Yes and(y). I channeled my inner Victoria Bradley (thank you very much) and said I worked for Table Magazine.

For the rest of the night, unbeknownst to me, Andy played up my new title.  One dish we ordered had been made with frangipani, a flower that I knew and loved from Fiji.  Andy encouraged me to recount stories from my 2014 trip visiting the island.  And when her boyfriend, Steven, arrived (Hi, Steven!) she entertained him with anecdotes from the Kazakh blogs that we had read aloud earlier, specifically that time I drank fermented camel’s milk.  Da tree a wi took our time, relaxed in the moment, made new memories, and even got dessert.  When the bill came, we saw that our entire meal had been comped.  *Gasp*  Thank you Spice and Andy!!  I guess that’s a perk of being such a great farm manager (or, in my case, going out to dinner with one).  On the whole, speaking as a food critic from Pittsburgh, it was a wonderful night.  And, speaking as regular me, ‘I totally agree with food critic me’.

Stuffed and happy, Andy and I went home to play with a mopey dog and a fluffy cat before heading off to bed.

The next day, we planned to go for a hike in Cuyahoga National Park.  On the way we passed through a small town with no running water but the town still had houses and several restaurants.  Andy told me that at those restaurants they served food on disposable plates and that they weren’t very tasty.   #Noted

In the park, we stopped her truck and looked at the map.  Which trail to choose?!  We picked a hike that was new to both of us, a 2.5 mile cross country loop.  It was mostly flat, except for when it wasn’t, and we concluded that it would be way too steep to do any actual cross-country skiing on this trail.  Good thing we were on foot!

 

 

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The spot where Andy pointed out a beautiful owl. Who? Who?

 

About five minutes into our hike, we started hearing music…an acapella rendition of Silent Night.  It was gorgeous! Where was that coming from?! Heaven?! Seattle, is that you?! Turns out no. It was a group of people standing under a cement tunnel.  Apparently, cement tunnels make perfect acoustic sounds.  Andy and I stood quietly and enjoyed these wholesome Saturday morning melodies.

Where did that cement tunnel come from, we asked later.  We found a plaque telling us that a bobsled track had run directly over this tunnel sometime in the 1950’s. (Or was it the 1980’s?)  Either way, the tunnel had been built so that that people could walk underneath the bobsled’s path without putting themselves in danger.  It was unclear to us where, exactly the bobsled path had originally led, but at this point it looked like it ran directly into the lake.  No wonder they had to shut ‘er down.

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A path diverges in the woods. #metaphor #InstagramThat

 

It was a great morning, walking and talking.   Andy gave me some tips about buying boots and insoles — she’s an expert, working outside all the time.  Toward the end of our happy hike though, I was convinced I smelled poop.  Andy, on the other hand, was completely convinced that she smelled wet dog.
“This is just what Ohio smells like.” Andy explained, “I don’t know what you want me to tell you.”
“Haha, no! I smell poop!” I laughed, wiping my feet in the grass.  It didn’t work.  The smell followed me.  More wiping, more grass, more walking.  Repeat.
Andy looked at me laughing.  “That’s just mud.”
“It’s poop!”  I countered.
We were bent over, cracking up, but the smell was still there.  We kept walking and it followed.  Eventually, we passed a small creek and I bathed my shoe in the water.  Finally, relief!  I knew I had smelled poo.  Now I could finally smell what Andy was smelling…
“It does also smell like wet dog….” I said, “Why?” I asked.
Andy was glad that I was rid of the mystery poop that she could never smell and explained to me that, basically, we were just in a compost pile of forest.  And compost piles of forest smell like wet dog.  Woof.

 

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Standing below a pond.

 

After the hike, no surprise here, we were hungry.  Andy had another farm-to-table restaurant in mind (one with actual plates, not the disposable kind) called 24-carrot.  Ha! What a cute name!  Alas, they were closed, but Andy had a backup plan… Heinen’s, a delicious high-end grocery store where saw another one of Andy’s farm volunteers.   This one was pushing a grocery cart full of milk.  “Makin’ cheese?”, Andy playful asked.  “Yup!” said the volunteer.  What a life.

Anyway, Andy and I thoroughly scouted all of the prepared food and, after careful deliberations, chose sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts (regular and pickled), tofu meatloaf with cranberry sauce, and seitan chicken bites (which was best thing).  It was a pre-Thanksgiving feast!  We commandeered the grocery store microwave as we heated up our food, talked about how much fun we were having, ate the food as it was ready, ranked our favorite items, and contemplated what to do next.  Did I have to go home?  Not just yet…  

I was so inspired by farm life, I was like… well, what’s a cow’s favorite place to hang out?

So we went to the … yes, I’m going to say it.  We went to the moooovies. Andy booked us the most luxurious, loungey seats I’ve ever sat in (thank you, Andy!) and we settled down to watch the previews (fun) and then the main event…. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald!!  THIS WAS SO WONDERFUL!!!  I loved the whole experience!  We happily watched the movie, munched on our smuggled-in popcorn and chocolate (thank you to Heinen’s for supplying it and thank you to our large winter jackets for hiding it on the way inside).  On the drive back home, we read reviews for the mooooooovie and hated on anyone who didn’t like it.

Sadly, it was time for me to head off.  Andy and I hugged goodbye ❤  I reflected on the farm tour, the amazing food, the bonus movie, and the great company.  Andy’s wonderful, it had been an awesome trip!

Like I said, sometimes you don’t need to go to the edge of the world to find fantastic beasts OR fantastic friends.  Sometimes you just need to go to Ohio.

Until next time! One love,
‘mi

One Response to “Oh, hi, oh!”

  1. Jerry Pitts January 5, 2019 at 4:02 am #

    Yes she is sweet and I miss her also ! I did e-mail her 6 or 8 months age and asked if she still plays the Oldies music I gave her in the PC and she said yes and gave me a update on what she has been up to and what she is doing,it was great to hearing from her. Great Post Thanks!

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