Live Life Farm

Enjoying the simple things everyday

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

We have been making bread for over a year now! It’s an exciting venture because we no longer rely on preservatives and can add ingredients that we love. I was working with white bread and decided I needed to find a way to make a softer wheat bread that my kids would LOVE! I am sharing some top secret tips (not anymore) to making soft bread. First, I really believe the bread machine is the key ingredient. We love our Zojirushi bread maker. The 2lb maker has 2 paddles and is similar to what you get at the store. Next, I needed to design a recipe that made a 1 1/2 lb loaf because my kids need smaller portions for now.

Love these 2 paddles to make great even loaves, though I don’t like that no matter how much I soak and scrub I cannot get the pan perfectly clean. Luckily, this does not impact the bread at all.

Always be sure to list the ingredients in order when using a bread machine. I also use warm water to start, even though my bread machine does preheat.

Add water, then your flour…..then I add the other ingredients to the side, EXCEPT the yeast.

Then I make a nice well with my finger, really no need to be technical. Yes, I did wash my hands.

I buy the larger containers of yeast because we make a TON of bread! When I first open the yeast it is really fresh so I just add 2 tsp of yeast. Towards the end of the jar, I end up adding more, almost 3. Told you I was giving away all of my secrets to perfect bread every time.

Add the yeast to the well you made

 

Throw that baby in and get ready for the magic. But first, check your settings. I use whole wheat setting and take it out 30 minutes prior to end of cook time so that I get less crust and more of a soft bread. The only issue I have noticed is that the bread is not usually uniform on each end. But it tastes better than perfect in a sandwich!


Print Recipe
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
This is a nice soft loaf of bread that kids will devour! There are no preservatives, just really great bread for sandwiches.
Course Bread
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
loaf
Ingredients
Course Bread
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
loaf
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make your bread, add all ingredients in the exact order listed. For a better rise, be sure to use warm water.
  2. Program for basic wheat bread. Adjust the cook timer so that it takes off 25-30 minutes of the actual bake time. I time the bread and take it out when I see that it is not yet brown. Almost always 30 minutes prior to done. If you like a crusty bread you make let it cook the entire time.
  3. Take bread out to cool. The "keep warm" function keeps your bread warm but also continues to cook it! Set on counter. While still slightly warm I bag my bread to keep it soft.
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Operation rescue muskrat

Yesterday my kids were playing in our basement when they came running upstairs screaming “MOM, a hedgehog is getting into our home!” I rushed downstairs to find said “Hedgehog” chewing on our glass window trying to get in.

He did not appear to be very friendly so I decided NOT to jump into the window well to save him……..he also had really sharp teeth and nails. YIKES! I devised a plan to build ladder to climb out. I figured I could have him put those sharp claws to use. The kids were convinced we should just keep him as our pet in our window well.

So I ran outside and put in a ladder to see what would happen……

Sure is a cute little guy, I see why the kids wanted to keep him.

The first ladder resulted in a pretty confused rat….

 

So there we were….hmmmmm, maybe he will become our pet.

 

It was snowing and the wood was getting wet and slippery. I added a second ladder and then this happened.

 

I guess I was a little excited that my devised plan actually worked……and in less than 15 minutes.

Ah yes, life on the farm is always interesting.

Indian Valley Campground

After our Spring break adventures, we thought we would wait until a bit later in May to venture out in the Williams Wagon. Spring break proved to be cold and wet and we had hoped for a little better weather. That idea came to a screaming halt and the weather was worse than expected! COLD and it even snowed! The great news is that we ventured to a place that had an indoor pool and we could escape the cold for awhile.

Below you can see us enjoying a few hours of warmth on arrival day. After that, it was winter coats again.

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Indian Valley is a nice campground located in Middleville, Michigan. Many of the locals like to stay here for the seasonal sites. The campground sites on the Thornapple river and boasts loads of fish for those who love fishing. The river sites are really nice, but only one can accommodate a 34-foot rig. Even if you are not able to secure a river front they also rent canoes and kayaks. Additionally, they have a nice little pond by the playground to fish at.

The people that own Indian Valley are really friendly and helpful. They even escorted us to our campsite. Some of the amenities we experienced were probably because the weather scared many away. It was a particularly nasty May weekend for camping. Pouring rain Friday night, cold, rainy and snowy on Saturday and even more snow on Sunday. Not enough snow to stick but enough to make you want to bundle up by a fire or stay inside….or even better, hit the indoor pool.

Below are a bulleted list of the pros and cons. We felt a more positive experience but the campground was virtually empty. I think with more of the seasonals around there would be more negative experiences because the sites are a bit more packed together than you would find at many state campgrounds.

Pros

  • Really nice by the river with lots of nature to observe
  • Well stocked camp store and friendly, helpful owners
  • Indoor pool for those rainy (or snowy) days
  • Lots of fishing to experience
  • Laundromat available right onsite
  • Fishing and swimming pond next to the playground was a lot of fun
  • The grounds are well taken care of and firepits were emptied prior to arrival.
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Canoe, paddleboat, and kayak rental available on site. You can also rent tubes to float down the river.

Cons

  • Could be loud and busy when full. The seasonal guests seem to have campfires together and it’s not as tranquil as state campgrounds. However, everyone was really friendly and inviting. This may not be a con to anyone else. We tend to be camping introverts.
  • The changing rooms by the pool were COLD. I am not sure they were heated and it was an extremely cold weekend. Most likely, no one else will experience this.
  • Sites are close  together.

 

Below is the site we booked (site 5). It was a really nice site as it was previously a seasonal lot.

site 5

Fishing from the site was a lot of fun! We even had our own dock. The dock made me a bit nervous because the river is deep and was REALLY running fast. We put up a rope so the kids would not get too close and made sure we were really close when they were fishing.

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Mia and Lucas enjoyed the views. Across the river, we saw a beaver swimming. I thought it was a muskrat at first but the tail was very visible and it was clearly a beaver!

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Caleb loved fishing.

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Lucas perfects putting a worm on his hook.

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They even liked fishing on shore by our campsite.

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Tiller and Rhummy pouted about the lack of swimming. We really thought the current was too strong. Tiller (the black lab) was most mad and wanted to swim. He’s 13 now and can’t endure the freezing water or fast current.

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We walked to the fishing pond and playground many times! We really liked looking at how everyone landscaped and decorated their own sites.

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The overall view of the playground, swimming pond, and fishing pond. It was the perfect place for all of our kids! Some wanted to fish and some wanted to play.

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Mia and Caleb tried the teeter-totter….but Caleb is bigger and had the upper hand. It made Mia mad.

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Mia loves the horse swings there! She had fun for hours. You can see how much rain we got by the puddles in the background. Some of the areas in the playground were a bit low and rain can be a problem.

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Caleb caught the only fish this weekend. We think even the fish were scared of the cold!

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Later that night we went back and had dinner and, of course, smores! The kids love cooking marshmallows over the fire.

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And eating them!

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We all enjoy “spooky/silly” stories around the campfire before bed.

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Sunday was so cold that we fished until the pool was open at 10. Then it was off to the pool.

 

Just watch out for the “bad biker gang” on the way to the pool!

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The pool was a nice size. It was empty this weekend because the campground was empty. I’m not sure how busy it normally gets. The bonus is that it was inside and perfect for our gang. I swam some laps and played with the kids.

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And the boys loved to just jump in!

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On the way back to the RV we saw a few families of geese.

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Then it was back to the RV to pouting pooches who wanted to swim themselves!

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We really loved hanging out here and hope to come back! It was a nice place to unwind, listen to the birds, and relax at the pool.

Breakfast Hobie Pies

This is one of our family favorite camping meals. Breakfast is huge while we are camping, but even better over a hot fire on a cold weekend. It also didn’t hurt that we had leftover BACON! We are huge bacon fans over here, especially slow cooked. I will share that recipe later.  Back to the cold…..it was so cold that it SNOWED! Yes, snow in May! Even up in Michigan that is just unacceptable.

Back to the recipe…..First, start with the basics. Eggs, buttered bread, cheese, and bacon. If you need another meat, feel free…..but I cannot approve because bacon is just too good to pass up. Cheese is another story.  A sharp cheddar would be amazing but we are dealing with little picky kids over here. American is the way we roll for many of our egg recipes.

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Now comes the assembly. Pretty easy really. We just make sure to wedge the bread in so that it “holds” the egg. Basically, try to make a bit of a “bowl” out of the bread so your egg stays where you want it….oh, and have a level pie iron.

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Now, I must change topics yet again. Pie Irons are a big deal. We have 3 different types. Do not waste time in going cheap and getting an aluminum one. Aluminum irons burn food and everything sticks to them. Cast Iron is the BEST cooker and our favorite is below. For just a few dollars more you can have the best.

Onto more prep.  I like to add the cheese right on top of the egg. It seems to hold the egg in place better.

cheese

Now to the bacon……you can add a little

little bacon

or load it up! This was hubby’s hobie pie and he loved it! Would you like some egg with your bacon?

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Just be sure you put the buttered piece on the outside. I make this mistake constantly and it’s a huge tragedy.

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This is our other hobie pie maker. I do like this one for the eggs pies but the one I mentioned above does a much better job of cooking pizza and grilled cheese!

 

 

The key next is to let these pies cook slowly. We like to use our tripod to cook them and we love the below tripod. It cooks everything great for us. Steaks, burgers, etc, etc cook so well because you can move your tripod around for more or less heat.

You can see how low we have these to the fire. We just keep flipping and check to be sure they are browning well but not burning! The 1st batch takes a bit longer because the cast iron takes a bit to heat up. Once you take them off the fire we use hot pads to rest the pie irons on to make the next batch.

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Once done they are hot and delicious!

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What is your favorite Hobie Pie recipe?

It’s Chick Time!

They are finally here, our spring crop of chicks! Always an enjoyment to watch them grow but the cuteness lasts about a week. Especially, the “Franken chickens,” I swear they go thru their ugly “chickie” phase earlier. Every year we get a batch of about 25 meat chicks and 2-6 egg layers. My kids love to pick the breeds of egg layers, and they have SO many available now!

eating....again

This year we picked up our usual 25 Franken-chickens, sorry, Cornish X. I don’t love this breed but they grow fast and do taste VERY tender. I have some secrets in their care to keep them active and healthy. Last year we could not process them until 12 weeks, they were TINY and VERY mobile and healthy.

We also purchased some leghorns, brahmas, and wyandottes. Those are the gals for egg laying. We’ve had a horrible fox problem this year and my poor chickens are now confined to their run. The fox comes around the minute we let them out and is bold enough now to take them under from us. It’s no secret what our plan is for our fox as it’s because a problem for our farm.

Before arrival, Mia helped me prepare the horse stall. We stripped the horse stall, let it air out for a few days, then add in bedding. And while our cats are great with the hens, I’m afraid they would hunt the chicks…..so I had to wire the stall front to keep the cats (and any other animals) from getting in.  We “might” be a bit over zealous in this department.

little helper

We also mix in “Braggs” Apple cider vinegar like the below to their water. It’s a great product and has helped us to raise healthy and active chicks. When we get our chicks in the mail we often will add in 1 tablet of electrolytes for the first few days.

These are great eletrolytes

We do not use “medicated” feed for our chicks are we plan on consuming them once they grow big, fat, and juicy.  We also do not keep them in the stall their entire life. They will go out once they feather in and we rotate the grazing grounds yearly to avoid disease.  More on that in a few weeks.

Heat lamps are very important. Because they don’t have the protective feathering yet they either need a broody hen or a heat lamp. The first week it needs to be quite low and at 95 F. Every week it can be raised but depends on outside temps. For now, I have them low and our stall is large enough that they can move away from the heat. They DO self-regulate. You will notice the heat is not strong enough if they are huddled and piled on-top of one another. If spread out you can raise the heat a bit. I have some that are 4 days younger so I’m letting them move to and away from the heat as they would like.

Once they arrive we dip their beaks into the ACV water and put the under the lights. Mia LOVE to help with this, and she’s done a great job the past few years. Yes, she is only 3 but a natural animal handler.

chick helper

Everyone enjoys chick time! It’s so much fun watching them grow. A huge labor of love and my kids all take part in the help.

checking out the flock

I mean, really, how can you get too much of this?

golden wyandotte

Or this!

running around

 

Mother’s Day help

Our Mother’s Day was not a typical one, but it was typical for our family. We had more work to complete since we are camping next weekend and our spring projects seem to be endless right now. The kids like to participate and helped me with picking rocks in our riding arena. It doesn’t hurt that they do get some allowance since this work is considered outside of weekly chores.

The best part of my Mother’s Day was that the kids really participated and wanted to help. THAT is rare, especially with everyday chores. I took the opportunity to snap some pictures.

Tossing the rocks is probably the most fun, of course.

 

Caleb showing off his rock load

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Mia is 3 but she likes to join in with her brothers.  Naturally, she picked up about 10 and dropped half.

 

mia rocks

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The weather was so perfect all weekend to work outside. We enjoyed the day getting the garden ready and cleaning up from the rain storm the week prior. Everyone went to bed tuckered out. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day too!

A fungus among us

The morels are finally coming up and ready to pick. This is my first experience with finding morel’s as we don’t have a great mushroom growing place on our land, with the exception of ones growing on horse poop (and you couldn’t pay me to try those). I guess it’s not what you know but who you know and a friend introduced me to finding where the bounty likes to hide.  I was out a week ago to check but they were still pretty small.

a bunch

What I learned about finding morels is that they seem to thrive in areas with moss and in the woods (obviously). But they can be anywhere and once you find a spot you will probably find them again in the same area. Some morel etiquette heard is that you should cut and leave some of the stem (like asparagus). It’s also recommended to use a basket so some of the spores are released back into the ground. It will help them spread!

My friend told me it’s best to look for “brains” in the woods. I have to agree, they do look like little brains. Very pretty. Still, how did people figure out that eating something like this would be good? Trial and error with mushrooms could be a bit scary. Nevertheless, these are a hidden gem in the woods of Michigan and the fun is in finding them.

This guy was trying to hide!

trying to hide

A cute little bunch

a bunch

Can you find the morel here?

Where's Morel

Tomorrow we are heading back to check if they are ready. I have heard they are in peak season now. Looking forward to trying some fried morels. And maybe some with pork and a sauce……or in eggs….possibilities are endless!

Color abound! | Spring Colors

Probably my most favorite season is spring. Everything is new, fresh, and alive. Sitting outside today all that I heard were thousands of songbirds. Winter in Michigan isn’t unwelcome but I’m usually ready to bid my goodbyes and start our spring ventures.  I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I also do not have spring allergies that I’ve heard are awful this year.

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My love of spring is mostly because of the colors and grandiose sunsets. It’s not uncommon after a sunny day to see a brilliant sunset in the evening. Even if we are out for dinner I find myself wondering if I can catch that last sunset of the day before it slips away.

We spent much of our time this weekend outside. The last few Michigan weekends have really been inviting. Warm, low breeze and sunny. I distinctly remember the opposite last year.  I feel as though God gave us this gift and I am ready to take it all in.

 

How was your weekend weather?

Asparagus is coming | asparagus

It’s official, spring is showing its first signs in our veggie garden. If you have never tried fresh asparagus from your garden you need to now! It’s tender and meaty and so easy to grow.  I have 3 spears peeping thru and expect more once it gets a bit warmer.

Asparagus is a really easy vegetable to grow and an added bonus is that they are a perennial! The male varieties tend to produce more but we chose the “Mary Washington” variety for its meaty substance. It tends to grill a bit better. The variety is your choice but I would recommend purchasing “bare root.”  The downside of production is that you have to wait a, very painful, 3 years to enjoy! Unfortunately,  we gave in and tried a few after 2 years and they did not fail our expectations. Additionally, soil preparation is vital.  Asparagus likes a well draining and fertile soil. Lucky for us, we have lots of great compost from our chickens, horses, and veggies. I recommend tilling the soil well and adding in your compost. You need a DEEP hole so be sure to till deep into the soil. Once prepared they are fairly easy to plant but spread them out. Every year they will spread.

Our asparagus garden is now 8 years old and thriving well. We continue to achieve a great spread and have more to eat and share. In the spring, we weed and prepare the garden bed. Once weeded we add a nice layer of nutritious compost (about an inch) and then I salt my beds. SALT!?!?!?! Yep, you read it right. I little “old wives tale” proved to be the easiest way to keep weeds at bay. Asparagus does not mind salt. This is somewhat of a controversial subject, I might add. Salt isn’t great for soil but I simply despise weeds and tried numerous other methods. It won’t eliminate weeds but it will help significantly.

The stalks you see are from last years crop. I am not picky about leaving those in. They add to the soil eventually. Here is one of the first tops showing.

peeping thru

These are so close to picking! I hope I can hold off enough to let them grow. There is something about picking that first asparagus. They do grow FAST so watch the ones that are close to picking. If it reaches 60+ degrees today they will be ready tomorrow to eat. They also “fan” out fast and will be inedible.

almost ready to cut

The bed is prepared. Still a few weeds to sort thru, but most was completed last week. The salt had a chance to disperse with the rain we had a few days ago. Soon, this bed will be covered in lots of asparagus. The best part? You really don’t need a ton of space to grow this perennial plant. It does well in limited garden space.

 

 

Happy Growing!

 

Spring camping in Lexington, Kentucky | Lexington

Who doesn’t love rolling green fields, beautiful horses, and gorgeous landscapes? Lexington, Kentucky has so much to offer in its artistic displays. This is our second time visiting and I am ever in awe!

All that said, I have never been so glad to have an RV until our trip to Lexington. It was a COLD blustery trip, even by Michigan standards (nevermind everyone in Lexington was talking about the Michigan snow!) We still had a great time and love the Kentucky Horse Park campsites. We stayed in campsite 11 and had a nice field behind our motorhome. Also, we enjoyed hearing horses behind us. If you love horses, this is the venue for you! An added bonus was Keeneland Spring Meet was going on!

 

Site 11 was a nice site. Even though every site is paved you will want to be SURE to call or be prepared for an unlevel site. We saw many tires off the ground which is not great for the jack system of an RV or trailer. You always want some weight on your tires. We did call and found this to be a nice, flat site. Added bonus was a nice little field in back for the dogs and playing soccer! The campground was clean and quiet with a nice camp store.  Security was very good and people were friendly and helpful. We were there when it wasn’t busy but they did have 4 areas to pump out and we never had to wait. The downsides include that the paths to the inner ring of the campground have no cut thru’s. You need a bike or golf car to get to the store, playground, and bath houses quickly.  Also, wood was $6 for a small bundle that did not burn well. Head to the Shell station and connected liquor store to get better firewood for $1 less.

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Kentucky Horse Park site 11

We arrived on Tuesday of Spring break and the campground was empty and trees in full bloom! All of the kids loved collecting pine cones and sticks for fires that we rarely enjoyed, it was just too cold and windy…..but half of the adventure is exploring. By Friday, these sites were nearly full.

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The campground had 2 very nice playgrounds that the kids loved to play on!

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The firepits were not as nice as the concrete fire rings at the Michigan State campgrounds. In fact, don’t count on the grill working. It was rusted solid! Luckily, we like using our tripod anyways!

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Cooking Hobie pies for lunch

Tiller thought he might enjoy one of our steaks!

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Steak time!

The absolute highlight was the ability to ride bikes from the campground into the actual Horse Park! Unfortunately, the campground folks told us we could take bikes anywhere in the park which is NOT true! Do not count on the campground folks to have knowledge of the actual Park itself.  You cannot ride bikes into the park, only in the Rolex area and showgrounds. Nonetheless, the stadium was totally empty and the boys had a blast riding in the stadium. The campground is located next to (and connected to) the Rolex cross country course. We loved looking at the course while riding bikes!

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Rolex Stadium jumping (Mounted games held this weekend)

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Rolex stadium

At the Rolex Stadium we enjoyed watching the Mounted games (pony division). Such a neat event and fun group of people!

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Dropping a cup in the bucket.

Pole-bending relay

Just down the road, via bike, we enjoyed the Spring Bay Horse trials. Cross country is off site, but the dressage and show jumping was right down the road from our campsite.

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Too many events to mention for the horse-minded. Spring Meet at Keeneland was a great time. Although we missed a few races due to rain, we loved the 3 races we were able to enjoy. The weather deters many from attending outside. To me, the rail is the only place to be! It was $10 for all 5 of us to attend (outside of the “Keeneland Breeze” and sodas we enjoyed). You can spend a lot more to wine and dine, but the thrill of the rail is very impressive. It’s also amazing to view the horses in the paddock prior to the races.

 

A close finish

Closing in

 

Mia and I are excited for the races to start!

Mia and I are excited for the races to start!

The amazement continues in Lexington! No trip is complete without taking a leisurely drive on the amazing scenic byway, “Old Frankfort Pike.” The views go on for miles and I have so many pictures of amazing farms. Below are just two of my favorite!

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If you love history and arboretums , I highly recommend heading to the “Lexington National Cemetary.” We love both, but also Geocaching. So we took some hints and tried to find a cache at the Henry Clay monument.  None was found, however, it was a great place to explore….and amazing in the spring.

As far as camping trips go, there was not much camping. We did more sight-seeing. And thanks to a friend, we were also able to enjoy seeing a beautiful farm in Kentucky. The 5 barns on-site were nicer than my home! The drive inside the farm was noteworthy, they must have miles of paved roads on just one farm. I was awestruck! This is just a piece of our trip that we enjoyed. Of course, no trip with children is without some mishap. Mia managed to come down with another cold and Mom forgot her nebulizer. So we had to make a few late night trips to get her meds (and another nebulizer that now resides in our RV, never to be forgotten). Overall, weather and illness could not deter the fun and beauty that is enjoyed in Lexington. We will be back for another spring adventure!

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