So this happened to our little farm as soon as we left.  We did not appreciate how cold it would get (9 degrees Fahrenheit) or how deep the snow would get (~18 inches) before we left.  If we had known we could have prepared better.  But our farm sitter and Tom’s son did an admirable job limiting the damage and keeping most of the animals alive.

The water pump froze.  So they brought in extra heat to thaw it.  The pipe to the barn also froze, and this gradually thawed after the pump starting functioning again.  In the meantime for several days our farm sitter had to bucket water from our rain catchment containers in the afternoons after the sun thawed them enough.  Bucketing that much water to cows is a big deal.  Of course the pipe to the barn finally unthawed after she had finished bucketing that day.  Plus there is just simply difficult trying to walk through that much snow.

Thomas put down our dying old sheep Logan which I am so thankful for.  With so much snow he could not bury him.  Thankfully Tom dealt with that grim task when we got home.

Thomas also knocked the heavy snow off of our flatter roofs so they would not collapse.  It had started to rain on the snow before it could melt so it was getting quite heavy.

We did lose power one day but thankfully not long enough for our pump or pipe to refreeze.  When we got home there were no burst pipes and our pump is working.  The only issue is that the pressure gauge is not working well.  My aquarium pumps stopped too, and three fish died.

I tossed some squash to the chickens, geese and sheep as a treat after their ordeal when we got home.  It is still quite icy.

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It was interesting that the sheep’s field is pristine.  Usually they do not mind the snow and even sleep in it.  Something about this snow has made them hang out by the barn and not go into the field at all.  Maybe because it was so cold.  I was told the snow was initially quite powdery and maybe they did not like it.  Maybe it was just too deep.  Or maybe they were just sick of it and wanted nothing to do with it.

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The cows equally did not walk in their field.  These are almost all Highland cross cows so snow is usually not an issue for them.  They had a couple of paths in their field but otherwise spent likely 1.5 weeks in a small patch of trampled snow.  We moved them to a different area with a shelter after we returned, and they do seem happier now (although the snow is also slowly melting).

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We had left our drinking water on the back porch, having no idea it was going to get that cold.  So all but two of them froze solid and broke.  Two we are thawing out and hoping did not split.  Two of the split ones we are trying to thaw into other intact containers.

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So this was a big mess we left for our farm sitter and ultimately son too.  Again, I am thinking we cannot take vacations in the winter again as it is just too unpredictable, and we have too many vulnerable animals depending on us.

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Our Key West Trip

We went to Key West for a few days after the Blues Cruise.  I have been curious about it for a while so this was a good opportunity for a visit.  Here is one of our first views after getting there and starting to walk around.  It is an old theater which is now a Walgreen’s.

The first order of business was to go to Sloppy Joe’s, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar when he was in town.

I had a Papa Doble, one of his cocktails.  I just asked them to hold the sweet and sour, and it was very similar to his original recipe.

There were a lot of photos and artifacts from the past.  Here is a bat that the bartender Skinner used to keep the peace.

We went to Mallory Square and saw this nice view.

The next morning, laundry was the order of business. We found this bar across the street from the laundromat.

We went to Half Shell Raw Bar for lunch.  There were large fish in the water there.  Pam is in the face cut out.

We thought the weather was going to be nice so we headed to Zachary Taylor State Park for snorkeling and sun bathing.  The weather did not cooperate though.

We then headed to Captain Tony’s, which was the original site for Sloppy Joe’s and Hemingway spent a lot of time here too, before Sloppy Joe’s moved.  There was a Mike Lynch signed WSU Cougar helmet there.

We then headed to Hog’s Breath Bar.  We enjoyed this bar much better.  There were chickens in the trees, a good musician and a friendly bartender.

The next morning we headed to the Blue Macaw.  They have a do-it-youtself Bloody Mary Bar with a wide assortment of pepper sauces.  I was the only one who made one though in our group but lots of other tourists were at the bar choosing the right juice, vegetables and sauces.

We then headed to the Key West Lighthouse.  Tommy and I headed up the stairs while Pam and Tom stayed on the safer ground.  The views were amazing.  There was a lighthouse keepers museum that was fascinating as well.

Hemingway’s home

The block where our rental was.  There is a dilapidated house on the corner that needs some love.

An iguana on the lighthouse grounds.

1893 survey of the lighthouse grounds


Tom and I went to the post office while Pam and Tommy waited for us at The Green Parrot.  There was a well signed guitar on the wall there.

By this time in the afternoon, the Hemingway home and museum was less crowded so we went in.

Photos of his 4 wives

His writing studio

The urinal he took from Sloppy Joe’s to become a cat watering station

These are photos from the inside of his writing studios.  Many of his best works were created at least in part here.  I wanted to see what books he had but not sure if there were really his books or not.


We then headed to the Schooner Wharf Bar.  This was a fun and friendly bar on the marina.  Tom’s childhood name was inscribed in the spot that Tom sat.  There were several dogs there too.

We went to Garbo’s Grill for dinner but everyone else filled up on appetizers at the previous bar so I was the only one who had great fish tacos.  They had a great juke box which unfortunately was not working.

This was a mansion getting ready for Valentine’s Day.

The next day, there were thunder storms for hours.  We ate lunch at Kermit’s Key Lime Pie, bought Scotch Bonnet Pepper sauce at the Pepper Store and then ran to the Sand Bar Sports Bar to get out of the downpour.  There were many tourists with the same plan.

When the rains subsided somewhat we headed to the Key West Cemetery.  They had a memorial to the USS Maine and Joe Russell’s (Sloppy Joe’s) grave.

We headed back to Sloppy’s Joes one more time so Pam could have the dish Sloppy Joe.

This is the spooky vase that was in our rental..  It freaked most of us out.

On the way to the airport we stopped at the Bass Pro Shop which has a sister ship to Hemingway’s Pilar.

It also had presentations of the local fish, many of which I had eaten during our trip.  There were also pelicans and a hen with chicks there.

En route there is a Hard Rock Casino Hotel being built in the shape of a guitar.

After a 6.5 hour flight, dealing with lost luggage and a 2 hour drive home we arrived at 1 AM.  Our farm had been dealing with lots of snow and cold temperatures which resulted in a frozen pump and water lines.  Our farm sitter did admirably well, and Tom’s son came down to help out too.  We saw this car in the ditch as we arrived home but did not get a photo of it until this morning.  It was quite a trip but a challenging home-coming.


I am not sure that we will be taking another vacation in the wintertime because it always seems to go awry.  But we did have a great trip with memories that will last our lifetimes.

Posted in Trips | 4 Comments

Our Blues Cruise

Here we are leaving home. Tom is wearing his blues cruise sweatshirt.

Here we are on a layover in Salt Lake City.

Here is our view from our Fort Lauderdale hotel room when we arrived after midnight. I had a gin and tonic in celebration after a very long day.

This is the view the next afternoon from our ship’s cabin. It was the maiden voyage for the Holland America Nieuw Statendam.

Then we finally got to listen to the amazing music. This is Eden Brent, her husband and Leon Blue.

This is Popa Chubby.

This is Janiva Magness.

This is Victor Wainwright and The Train.

This is The Train’s trumpeter in the crowd at the aft pool.

This is Taj Mahal.

This is the beautiful blue Caribbean waters the next morning.

And here is Half Moon Cay. We snorkeled there, walked the beach, relaxed, and ate BBQ.

Then we returned to the ship for more music. We started with Monster Mike Welch. Sadly his music partner Mike Ledbetter had died suddenly just before the cruise. So Curtis Salgado stepped up to join him.

Then we watched Tab Benoit. He was a great musician and quite funny.

Here is our Monday Sunset.

And the best door decoration on the trip. When you walked by the skeleton played.

One really nice thing about this cruise is that you get to see new artists that you have never heard of before and be blown away by them. This happened with Vanessa Collier.

We were on this cruise with our friends Pam and Tommy. Pam bought me a Pain Killer cocktail during Vanessa’s show. And it was tasty.

Then we headed to the mid-ship pool to watch the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. We sat at the edge of the pool with our bare feet in the water. We enjoyed the music and watched the alligator floating around. Kenny is loud so we used ear plugs.

Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers started off our Tuesday. A favorite young artist of our Kingfish joined them.

There was amazing art on this ship. The only item I took a photo of was this needlepoint display.

Here is our Tuesday sunset.

Then we got to enjoy Christone Kingfish Ingram in his own performance. He walked and played in the crowd around the mid-ship pool and came right by us. We have seen him before at Winthrop and will again. Plus his first album is coming out in May.

Then we got to see Tab Benoit again, this time with better seats.

Wednesday morning we arrived at St. Thomas. Tom and I took an open air taxi to Coki Beach. It was a memorable and somewhat scary ride. But Coki Beach was magical. The snorkeling was amazing. Our server Mama brought me Funky Monkey drinks and Tom got rum and Cokes. The people watching was fun. And I had the most amazing fried snapper meal and Tom had very spicy Jerk chicken.

We returned to the ship and started our evening with the amazing the Keeshea Pratt Band.

The Monster Mike Welch returned with special guests Curtis Salgado, Danielle Nicole and Victor Wainwright.

We are enjoying ourselves.

Then came The Lowrider Band with Lee Oskar on harmonica.

We ended our incredible Wednesday with Popa Chubby.

On Thursday morning we arrived at St. Maarten. Tom and I walked into Phillipsburg and had coffees. We then walked through town and waited a long time for a bus to Marigot on the French side of the island. The bus was crowded with well dressed and Spanish speaking locals. We walked around what is left of Marigot after Hurricane Irma and finally found Enoch’s. There I had a lovely Caribbean meal. We walked around more failing to find French cider at 95 degrees. Finally we gave up and took a taxi back to our cruise ship. But the driver told us more about the hurricane and the recovery which was fascinating and gave us more understanding of their struggles.

We returned to the ship. There we finally got seats to see the young phenom Jontavious Willis. He was later joined by his uncle Oscar Wilson.

Then we saw Irma Thomas.

And Tommy Castro.

On Friday morning we started out with a panel of older blues musicians moderated by Rev. Billy Wirtz. There was Bobby Rush, Benny Turner, Leon Blue, Scrape Iron and Latimore. Their descriptions of their early touring challenges was fascinating and hilarious.


Then I went to the Harold Brown cooking class. He is a member of the Lowrider Band and showed us how to make his grilled lamb chops and greens. He had some amazing stories to tell as well.

Then we listened to Eric Johanson with Tab Benoit on drums.

Then it was to the piano bar with Leon Blue and Rev. Billy Wirtz.

Next was the autograph signing. Tom bought a blue cruise poster and had most of them sign it.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Noah Wallace:

Eden Brent:

Vanessa Collier:

Eric Johanson:

Rev. Billy Wirtz:

Popa Chubby:

Scrap Iron:

Janiva Magness:

Victor Wainwright Band:

Jontavious Willis:


Keeshea Pratt Band:

Taj Mahall:

Monster Mike Welch and Curtis Salgado:

Then I went back to the piano bar and watched Carl “Sonny” Leyland. Jontavious joined him for two sings, one regarding the Cannonball train and another regarding tuberculosis.

Then I watched Barry Cuda and Billy Wirtz.

On this cruise we tended to stay on west coast time so we were often up late. We started having a midnight snacks. On this Friday night a couple of dinosaurs joined us.

Here are some photos of our cabin after six days.

On Saturday we attended a discussion and music moderated by Dick Sherman regarding Chicago blues.

There was Oscar Wilson,

Mark Hummel,

Deitra Farr,

Lil’ Ed,

Benny Turner,

And Bobby Rush.

Next came The Victor Wainwright Band. The horn section came out around the pool to play.

I was sitting and talking with a nurse. She was one of the dinosaurs and won best costume. Here is her tattoo.

Pam got her T-shirt snipped.

We got to see Mike and Curtis again with Pam and Tommy.


Kingfish and Vanessa joined them.


Tommy Castro also joined in.


Then I went to see Kelley Hunt at the piano bar.

Then I stayed for Billy Wirtz. I love his comedic music.


Then we saw Gracie Curran.


And that was the end of our blues cruise. We disembarked Sunday morning. It was an amazing experience of great music and companionship.

Posted in Trips | 4 Comments