ANS: Day 4

Howdy from Scranton, PA!  It was a long and awesome day!  We woke up early this morning, since the hotel alarm thought we needed to have a dance party at 6:30am.  I definitely wasn't ready to wake up since Corbin kept attacking my neck last night (RANDOM!?  I don't know what his deal was) but all good, because we were able to get the car loaded and down to breakfast as soon as the dining room opened.  We had an awesome waiter and while I thought that the people in the swanky hotel would be anti-kids, they were all actually very kind and even happy to talk to the kids.  I sense another trip to Staunton, Virginia in our future, truly!  Maybe we will find a place to stay there for a month or so if daddy deploys.

We left the hotel in very overcast weather.  We all said a quick prayer that the weather would be clear enough for us to explore the farm and take a million and two pictures.   Even though it poured on the way there, by the time we pulled up it was only sprinkling.
The drive out was spectacular, the Shenandoah Valley is as stunning as the mountains surrounding it!  The farm is nestled in these rolling green patchwork hills.  The kids were completely stoked when we pulled up. 

I have read a few of Joel Salatin's books and we've listened to/watched lots of his speaking engagements.  I had a vision in my head of what Polyface would look like and this was not it.  It was even better!  Pulling up and walking around while busy people waved and smiled was like coming home.  The first thing to greet us as we followed the "Parking" signs was the smell of a smoke house (intoxicating) and a couple cages full of bunnies.  

After we parked, the kids ran after the bunnies (and fed them weeds they picked) and I checked out the greenhouses.  The setup is really quite simple and remarkable.  There are wood planks at the bottom to keep out pests and to add some weight, with chicken wire and then the material over the top of the hoop house to keep the warm air in.  The doors were very sturdy and on casters.  Clearly the plants were started early in the season, as they were big and happy and healthy.
 They had drip irrigation installed, but everything was planted right in the ground.  I like this idea a lot.  It's not new, but I always think of shelves in greenhouses, so it was inspiring to see in action.

 The tomato plants were tied up with string and this greenhouse had basil, too (sounds like delicious summer salads and sauces!) There were also rabbit cages on the side on the wall, so the rabbits drop the manure and the manure can be used as fertilizer.  Ingenious!
We explored the rest of the farm and the country store over the course of the next 90 minutes before the storm rolled in.
A very large chicken and rabbit party.  I believe these are just some of the egg laying chickens and all the meat chickens are up in the pasture in the rolling coops

The colors are so stunning against the stormy backdrop

 We didn't notice the brooder, but a nice worker (farm boy?  I'm not sure what to call him...) pointed it out to us and even got some chicks and poults for the kids to hold. 

Violet was so at-home

babies in the brooder

check out the clouds rolling in!

This was in the country store.  That chicken puzzle next to Violet is all jig-sawed from wood.  Someone has some serious skills!
The store was so spacious and cute and well-organized.  We picked up Joel's new DVD- Pigs n Glens and a coloring book as well as some yummies.  they have a shirt I want, but not in my size, so I'm going to have to stalk the website

Pasture-raised beef, pork, chicken, eggs OH MY!
  I can't link the meat sales because Joel and family only sell locally.  They are big into the local food movement and believe in knowing your food producers.  I bought some meat because we happened to be local to Polyface for today ;) It's in the freezer in our room right now and we plan to surprise Allan with some amazing steaks to grill on our first weekend together in months. (the packing weekend doesn't count!)
 While we were putzing around the store, we had to ask where the piggies were, because the kids were begging.  The lady there was super sweet and directed us to the large map and showed us where we could go to see the pigs.  She also showed me where we could walk to to see the pigs and cows on pasture if we wanted to brave it.  We had a long drive ahead, so I was willing to tucker these little people out, dragging them all over God's green earth!
Note the good little piggies inside the coop on the right?  Note the naughty little pig on the left that my children chased all over that barn.  "Why is that pig not wif hims mommy!?  I will put him wif hims mommy!" 
On the way up the hill to see the animals at pasture, Corbin was not listening and walking places I told him not to walk.  He found a drainage area and sunk in to his shins.  I made him walk up the hill to clean his shoes just a bit.  He was not the least bit happy, but he didn't walk off the path I told him to keep again!

GraceAnne has been on the "I want to be a farmer in these mountains!" kick since Day 2, when we started driving into some mountain terrain.  Today she said, "Is farming hard work?" and we talked about how much hard work it takes to raise animals and plants and make your living off the land.  Then she said, "Do farmers ever get a break?"  I reminded her that when we had our hens it was hard to leave town, because even when we're tired or it's cold, the animals still needed us.  But we also remembered fun things about our hens.  A little further into the walk, we found these farmers' break behind the chicken shed:
A little b-ball between chores is nice

We couldn't make it all the way out to pasture, because once we got to the top of the hill, a boy about GraceAnne's age told us he'd go back down the hill if he were us, since there was a nasty storm coming in.  We thanked him for his advice and turned back.  GraceAnne and Violet were so nervous about the "tornado" he mentioned that they ran down the hill and Violet lost her shoe.  We couldn't find it.  We had great luck with shoes today!
The girls are halfway to New York by now...haha

That busy, fidgety, independent spirited little boy found out WHY momma told him to stay away from the fences today...

 The honeysuckle was in full bloom and the place smelled like heaven anywhere you couldn't smell the smoker. (Which, incidentally, smelled like the feasting table of heaven)  Too bad we don't have that Smell-O-Vision yet...

When we came back down the hill the kids "needed" to see the bunnies again

Our car, loaded down on the farm.  Rolling hills, dark skies, simply breathtaking!
And then, reluctantly, because the skies were growing darker and the time was slipping away and we needed to get to Scranton, we loaded up and drove away.  I have dreamed a long time of visiting this place and I hope I get to come back one day.  It would be so wonderful to do an internship here.  Allan and I have even discussed him doing one when he was unemployed so that we could learn how to do all these things and replicate them.  Like I said in the Day 3 post, our lives look different than we imagined them right now, as we are basically transient for however long he keeps this job, but we know that the earth calls us to itself too strongly to let this go on forever.  Maybe in a few years our "vacation time" will be a basketball hoop behind the chicken house and a pool in the yard (sorry, didn't get a picture...) but until them I'm grateful for places like Polyface that provide us with the awesome food, knowledge and hospitality. 

Tonight we are in another amazing hotel (WHY did I not ever know about the government rates before!?) in Scranton, PA and we ate pastured chicken, heirloom tomatoes, sprouted whole wheat pasta and other local, fresh food for dinner off the hotel menu.  The taste difference truly is remarkable (and the fact that none of our bellies hurt for the first time all week is pretty remarkable, too!) and without places like Polyface Farm, we couldn't have such authentic food experiences.  So-take the time to find your local farmers and encourage them by supporting their business and getting to know them.  Sometimes the food they have is a little more expensive than what you would pick up from your local big-box store, but I guarantee you it is far tastier and if that's not enough motivation, it probably won't give you cancer.  This daughter of a celiac figures that is more than reason enough!  
Thanks for stopping by today! 

ANS: Day 3

Soooooo, while I was sitting on the computer, loving the wi-fi at the Holiday Inn in Morehead, KY on Day 2, someone posted on facebook about Joel Salatin.  Joel happens to be one of our family heroes.  He owns Polyface Farm in Virginia.  Our Day 3 stop was supposed to be on the border of West Virginia and Maryland, but I decided to look up what kind of a jaunt it would be to get to Polyface instead.  Strangely enough, it only added a few minutes to our trip!  I was starting to get excited, but decided to see how far it was from Scranton, PA (our Day 4 stop) as I didn't want to get to Allan any later than we had planned.  Again, it added only a few minutes.  So at the very last minute, we changed our plans and tonight we are in Staunton, VA-which is an amazing little town!  Tomorrow morning we will have a hotel breakfast and head on out to Polyface to spend the first part of our day.  I am SO.STOKED. to show the kids this method of farming.  We would absolutely love to own a farm like Joel's one day!

Second massive score of the night was looking for hotels.  When I searched, I came across the usual contenders; Days Inn, Holiday Inn, etc.  Further down the Google list was a swanky-looking hotel called the Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center.  I knew there was no way we could afford it (well...at least not in good conscience) but I decided to look around the site anyway.  Absolutely amazing looking place!  I looked up rates and scoffed at 185/night+.  Not when the kids like to watch Spongebob on the TV and jump on the beds...maybe with Allan, but I was not paying that for them!  That's when I noticed the government rate.  The last 2 hotels we stayed at were much pricier at the government rate than the regular internet rate, but THIS hotel is only $77/night with the government discount.  SCORE!!  Sometimes it really pays to be married to a disabled vet ;) haha. 

So here we sit at the Stonewall Jackson.  We've absolutely loved it and can't wait to eat breakfast in the morning.  The hotel itself is gorgeous, the staff is super sweet, the people of Staunton seem so genuine and warm (we walked all over downtown to find dinner/window shop) the room is amazing and I wish we could stay here a few more days.  Turns out the rate is for a single person, extra people are supposed to up the price to $115, but I suspect the internet form only logs adults as actual people, haha.  They gave us the room at the price we were quoted on the internet :)

This so doesn't even capture a fraction of the beauty

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Today's drive has been absolutely stunning.  The kids were off of the electronics most of the day as the sights were to live for!  The Appalachian mountains are so beautiful.  I have been through these states before, but the last time I was pregnant with GraceAnne and I think I slept 22 hours of that 26 hour trip.  The time before that I was 13 and my eyeglass prescription wasn't quite right (I called some round hay bales buffalo) so this has been an amazing gift.  I only wish Allan were driving so I could really enjoy it ;)

GraceAnne decided (multiple times today) that she wants to live on a farm in the Appalachian mountains.  I concur.  It certainly is gorgeous here.  We got a close up look when we stopped on the side of the road because Corbin had to go potty RIGHT.NOW.  Let it never be said that the Virginia State Patrol aren't the most helpful cops in the U.S.  We have peed on many a roadside and we've been broken down on a few of those roadsides, as well, but we've never had a trooper stop.  Until we stopped on a mountain pass in Virginia.

For the boy's potty viewing pleasure
I got Corbin out of the car and shielded him from the oncoming traffic by opening Violet's car door.  Then he peed and proceeded to tell me the emergency was a bit more dire than previously anticipated.  As I tried to reposition him, I noticed a cop car behind us.  I smiled sheepishly and tried to wave him off, but he stayed.  I was scared we were going to get a ticket for letting the little man urinate on the native grasses or something, but Corbin was squealing, so I had to help.  That's when a big gust of wind shut Violet's door and the officer got a good view of my 3-year-old son's full moon.  He looked a bit surprised, waved and drove off.  At least he would have been there had I needed help!  Apparently Virginia is the place to get stranded if it's going to happen!  There was a little more trauma there on that roadside, but I'll spare the details.

The kids were antsy today, but we had some really good moments, too.  They are absolutely in love with everything we see and they have so much excitement for life, I can't help but share it.  I will say they are arguing more and acting exhausted (though they had 11 hours of sleep last night) and I've had to correct them a lot more frequently.  I know this is hard for them, and it can be difficult to process sadness and happiness all rolled into one.  They haven't gained that sweet coping skill I've learned of completely blocking things out for survival.  I am trying to make the trip as fun for them as possible and I know they appreciate it, but they are definitely ready to be with daddy.  Even so, we have sweet times like these:
As if they sensed the joy they brought their mother, they immediately began squabbling after I snapped this

For lunch we stopped at a really neat travel center with loads of local artisans' shops and I had a vegetable platter.  The chef talked me into fried green tomatoes (when in Virginia, right?)  and they were really good!
The kidlets are always happy to get out of the car

I don't know why this is all stretched out...but that's a lot of veggies!
 All that's really left to be said can be said in pictures now, so here you go!  Enjoy, we sure are!!
a little bridge over a creek in downtown Staunton.  We saw wild strawberries growing out of the wall

The kids with the car and the hotel in the background

we chose the Clocktower Restaurant for dinner.  EXCELLENT food and better service.  We were all very happy, which is saying something, considering we were all over-tired and under-exercised

cute downtown Staunton

view from our room on the top (fifth) floor

Could they BE any cuter?!
 I am impressed with these children of mine.  I certainly don't deserve such amazing little people.  I'm not a fabulous mother, I have very little patience, but somehow I have been blessed with these intelligent, caring, kind, hilarious kids.  At every stop they've had a fresh attitude and are ready to smile and talk to people, even if they were just getting disciplined in the car (by a loud, boorish momma) and they say "Thank You" about a hundred times a day.  This life isn't what I imagined...I thought for sure we would have adopted another child by now...but I am so grateful for this time to soak up these blessings.  Corbin is 3.5 and *sometimes* it's not such a huge pain in the butt to take them places anymore.  I don't have to change diapers or pack a thousand pounds of baby accoutrement.  If we want to pick up and leave, we finally can.  I'm not saying I won't be happy when the time comes (if...) to adopt another little one, but for now, I will eat these big kids up.  I love taking them fun places.  They completely deserve it and so much more. 


ANS: Day 2

Day 2 of the rest of our lives went more smoothly than Day 1, I think.  To begin with, I woke early and dragged the kids out of bed.  We had some breakfast (if you could call donuts and white toast breakfast?) and then were on our way by 8am. 

 I let the kids play with the electronics the first part of the day because I knew that while Illinois and Indiana would be boring (sight-wise) Kentucky would be (as Corbin says) "the bomb-diggity."  We have GraceAnne's Nintendo DS, my old iPhone loaded with kids' games and my new Nook.  I am stingy, though, so they switch hit between the two electronics and the new Crayola dry erase thingy.

We finally needed gas around 550 miles into our trip, so we pulled over to get some at a gas station in Indiana.  I may or may not have flipped out a little when I saw the price of gas (3.99/gallon) wondering if this would be the case for the rest of the trip.  I pre-paid and the kids used the bathroom.  When we walked back out, I noticed the car was leaking fluid in the front.  Since we have been careful not to turn on the a/c much, It seemed out-of-place.  As we got closer, I noticed the greenish tinge.  I figured I should check the coolant and went to pop the hood.  Except the pull is broken...and it's a newer (hahahahahaha...1996) vehicle, so I can't open it otherwise.  I turned, buckled the kids back in and did what I normally do lately: walked away and ignored it...I can't do anything about it for now.

When the gas pump finally stopped and I went to get the change, the leaking had stopped too.  I figured maybe the coolant was too full and when the heat of the engine made the liquid expand, it over-flowed.  Either way, I've been keeping a close eye on the temperature gauge and even when we are working the car hard on the mountains, it stays below half, so I think we're good.  Thank God, we don't need any car issues for this trip!!

 We ended up averaging 15mpg, which considering the age of the vehicle and the weight of our cargo, it's alright.  That was, however, all on flat land, so we'll see how crawling mountain roads affects that.

When we came to the border of Indiana/Kentucky, there was a long bridge.  As we came across, we were met by the amazing sight that is Louisville.  

These pictures suck, but I was driving...It *really* is a beautiful city!

As we got closer to 1, the kids started crying about "starving."  I don't know why they insist on calling me back to parenting when I'm so focused on getting somewhere, but whatever.  Insert food, receive further quiet for driving, so I started scouring signs.  I decided since we were in Kentucky, we should have some fried chicken, but not anything chain-y.  We found Zaxby's.  For anyone in-the-know, cue laughter now.  Oh well, it was tasty.
While there, I searched hotels in Morehead, KY and decided on a different spot.  I called ahead and figured it'd be $30 more than I was planning, but it ended up being the exact same price!  I was feeling proud about the find and that we'd be to the hotel by 2:30, when I checked my phone and noticed it was 2:28.  I guess I missed the time change.  We ended up landing at the hotel at 3:30, which is still decent time.  I managed to get the laundry done and take the kids swimming, which they had been begging to do since they found out our trip would be so long. 
Totally stoked
While I was messing around on the computer, I made some REALLY exciting changes to our itinerary and I cannot wait to share them.  Onward, Day 3!