Garden Update: Mid-September

That's all she wrote...
That’s all she wrote…

Now that September is nearly over, the garden’s pretty much done for the year.  This past week, the highs were still in the low 90s and the sun stayed out, so we ended up turning a few more tomatoes red than I expected to, but overall, we’re in a “down year” for our tomato crop.  The corn has dried out pretty effectively, though we haven’t tested the kernels to see if they “pop” as they’re supposed to.


The peppers have mostly died out, though the coyame peppers keep on producing. Brooke’s been spending most of her garden time dehydrating peppers, then dicing them up to make pepper flakes (for some unknown, future purpose…). The margaret peppers never really did much, though we did get some peppers off them.  The peppers definitely produced, but I just don’t remember getting all that many off the plants.  This is probably because margaret peppers are intended as “red” peppers, so I wasn’t picking them in their “green” state.  As such, sometimes they’d shrivel up before we’d get to them.

A few 'maters in there...soooooo many peppers...
A few ‘maters in there…soooooo many peppers…

The coyames, alternatively, turn red and then stay red for awhile, giving us the time to pick them.  Of course, they’re hot peppers, so not exactly the kind of thing I’m going to slice up and slap onto the grill.  Oh well.


The pumpkin story is yet to be completed. The plants died out pretty rapidly, leaving behind at least 15 little orange pumpkins. Beetles got to them, but I think we’ve still got a few viable ones out there. Brooke tried spreading some Sevin on them, as that was a pesticide that she could carefully avoid contaminating bees with, but we aren’t sure how much it helped.  We’ll see, I guess…


The basil took over the herb garden.  Lavender, oregano and lemon balm are still doing quite well, but weeds have invaded this area of the garden.  The sunflowers aren’t looking great anymore, but I think Brooke is planning on using them for something.

Overall, I think the “herb garden” was pretty successful this year, though processing everything else has detracted from our use of it.  Which is to say, there’s a lot of fresh stuff in there, but Brooke needs to spend more time dehydrating oregano and basil for later use, and less time dehydrating peppers.  Still, a good problem to have!


I wanted to include another picture of the trees, as they’ve done remarkably well.  The pear trees are still lagging behind the others, as they got hit by Japanese beetles, but the trunks have grown quite a bit in recent weeks, so I think they’ll make it through the winter and come through stronger than ever for next year.  I can’t remember if we should see fruit yet next summer, but I can at least plan for the trees to survive

Meat! ...wait...what?
Meat! …wait…what?

We ended up getting access to some “pork ends” from a co-worker of mine.  $20 for 60 lbs of leftover cuts.  Some of it was definitely better than others, but Brooke ended up grinding 20 lbs of it by hand (then vacuum sealing it and freezing it), followed by some additional portions she saved for cutting up (i.e. various purposes), and lastly the leftover “fatty” portions for rendering.  If I recall, she ended up getting maybe 4 lbs of fat off what she saved.

...quite a bit of processing went down...
…quite a bit of processing went down…

It brought back some memories for Brooke, who used to work behind a meat counter.  I’m not sure she’d like to do this all the time, but for the money, we ended up getting quite a bit of usable pork to use this winter.

That’s probably it with regards to “garden updates” for 2016!  The highs this next week are in the 70s, so while we’ll get a few more tomatoes to ripen, it certainly won’t reach the heights of tomato juice production we’ve had in past years.  Brooke has a few buckets frozen downstairs, but again, I don’t anticipate she’ll get more than a few quarts.  Perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised…

State Park #2: St. Francois State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

A brisk morning…

We visited St. Francois State Park way back in April of 2013.  Meg had recently turned 3-years-old and this was among her first camping trips (though not her first, because we went to Minnesota about 7 months before this), and probably our second time using our massive “new” Coleman tent.

We took this trip with the Montgomerys, from church, and another couple they knew from work.  It’s been awhile, so I’m thinking back on this particular camping trip and I remember it being quite cold!  Meg, Brooke and I were there alone for Friday night and it dropped to near freezing.  I remember reaching into the second room to make sure Meg was breathing and warm multiple times during the night, so we didn’t sleep all that well.  The second night was markedly warmer, though the other folks who joined us for the trip complained about being cold.  We’d already seen the worst of it, so Saturday night was relatively balmy for us!

With regards to the park itself, they had a healthy number of nice hiking trails that suited our abilities well.  We had Meg strapped to our backs, but thankfully, the trail we went on was mostly level, so it wasn’t all that strenuous.  It also went along a creek for a good portion, so that provided Meg with something interesting to look at while we were moving about the park.

One of my all-time favorite shots...
One of my all-time favorite shots…

The park also had a pretty good playground close to where we were camping, at least within walking distance.  Most of the facilities were close to our camping site too, and everything was clean and accessible.  Meg was potty trained by this point, but we were still having to work with her a bit on sitting on an actual toilet, rather than sitting in an outhouse.

We didn’t really take advantage of any nature talks, at least not that I remember.  I’m sure they were offered, but we were likely busy enough trying to wrangle Meg that we didn’t pay much attention to them.  Firewood was easily accessible, so we’d have to go on some field trips to either buy or find some.

That Saturday morning was cooooooooold!

Another nice thing about this park was the open areas near the camp site.  With some other places we’ve stayed, the camp sites were deeper into the forest, leaving little “play areas” for young kids to run around without tripping over tree roots or rocks.  The location for the camp site had a nice, open, grassy area across from the tents, so it was easy for the kids to kick a ball or run around the tents.  The adults could also see the kids from a substantial distance, so they couldn’t go hiding behind a tree or anything without us noticing.

One of the other things Brooke and I remember about this park was that Meg, Latham and Ellis played in our tent for hours on Saturday afternoon.  The sun was out, the weather was nice, and the tent had a door that the kids could open on their own.  They’d run around it, move toys in and out of the screened-in area, and they’d be yelling and screaming with delight.  Sure, it got kinda annoying for us (and dirt on our sleeping bags…), but they entertained themselves for a lot of this trip, giving us a nice reprieve from our normal weekend activities.

Meg and Latham playing in the tent.
Meg and Latham playing in the tent.

Overall, we have fond memories of this park.  Compared with some others we’ve attended, this one seemed particularly well-suited to young kids, something we probably didn’t appreciate until we went to some other state parks that weren’t as well organized for such things.

Garden Update: Mid-August


I realized I hadn’t posted an update since late-June, so I figured I ought to add some more pictures.  Overall, the garden’s finally starting to yield some produce.  It sure looks healthy, for the most part, though we’re still in waiting mode for many parts.  The pumpkins took over this section of the garden, and have continue into the rest of the yard.  There is a single watermelon plant somewhere in there, but considering how voracious the pumpkins have been, I don’t expect them to make much.  We’re having to keep the pumpkins out of the tomatoes, so keeping an eye on their growth has almost become a full-time job…


The corn has tasseled and has some ears on it, finally.  Brooke pulled up the carrots weeks ago, so she planted some peas on the other side of the corn in hopes they’ll do something for the Fall.  There are some little plants growing slowly, but it’s still too soon to tell if we’ll get anything out of them.

Peppers, tomatoes, etc.
Peppers, tomatoes, etc.

The coyame pepper plants have gone insane.  These were some free seed packs from Monsanto that we inherited and, believe you me, those geneticists know what they’re doing.  They’re similar in hotness to jalapeños, so Brooke will probably end up drying them and grinding them into chili powder.  The margaret peppers we planted aren’t doing quite as well, though we’ve still harvested a few.  They’re closer to regular ol’ bell peppers.  That sad little wilty plant in the middle of the picture is a margaret pepper plant and we’re trying to keep ‘er going.  It’s got some peppers on it still that we’d like to continue with.

The bean plants in the background are also moving alone.  The green beans are mostly done at this point.  We ended up with around 2 gal of fresh green beans that we ate on as we picked them.  We’ve still got cans of beans downstairs from previous summers, so Brooke wasn’t quite as ambitious this time around.  The soup beans are coming along nicely, and the edamame (read: soybeans) are producing a metric ton, so we expect to do pretty well on that front.

Some beans and such from last week.
Some beans and such from last week.

Otherwise, the tomatoes are still coming along, albeit slowly.  They really got hammered by the hail a few months ago and it seems like that hampered their growth on the north side.  There’s also something eating them that we haven’t been able to identify.  It isn’t squirrels or rabbits, but likely some kind of caterpillar or other insect, as we’ll find random holes through all the good ones.  Still, it seems like that’s slowing down and we’re starting to get them now.  If they continue, we should end up with a healthy number of roma tomatoes and other “slicer”-varieties.


Lastly, the basil, lemon balm and oregano really took off since the end of June, let alone the sunflowers.  The lavender has slowed down quite a bit, and the lettuce is done.  The comparable picture from June of this section of the garden sure looks sparse!

That’s good for now.  Weeds are slowing down and we’re having to supplement our watering now, which isn’t too surprising.  We ended up with 4 in of rain last week when we got back from our vacation, but the ground drank it all up and we had to water again shortly thereafter.

I should also note that Brooke’s been using Sevin dust on various leaves to kill off the Japanese Beetles that are still going after our plants, especially one of our peach trees.  We’re finding them on some other leaves too, but Brooke’s trying to keep it away from the flowers so she doesn’t influence the bees.  For now, the trees are fine, but we’re having to keep an eye on them.

Rocky Mountain Vacation: Part II

Bear Lake was looking particularly nice!
Bear Lake was looking particularly nice!

After hitting up Fort Collins on Wednesday, we began Thursday at the Alluvial Fan. We got going pretty early that day to avoid the crowds, but still had to contend with a lack of parking.  Still, Meg and I made the trip all the way up the fan and she did shockingly well.  I had to help lift her up and hold her hand as she placed her feet carefully on wet rocks.  There was definitely some slippage, but overall, I was pretty proud of her!  Calvin wanted to go too, of course, but there’s no way he could have made the trip except on one of our backs (and that wouldn’t have been the smartest choice…).  Ultimately, he hung out at the bottom of the waterfall throwing rocks in the water, while the rest of the Baumann Clan tossed rocks and enjoyed the nice weather.

Meg did a great job climbing the waterfall!
Meg did a great job climbing the waterfall!

We then took a drive around Rocky Mountain National Park via Old Fall River Road.  We’d driven past its entrance a few days before.  It’s a dirt road with countless switchbacks that ultimately makes its way up to the Alpine Visitor Center.  It was a fun drive, though a dusty and somewhat slow one.  Calvin actually fell asleep halfway up, though at the top, the kids got to play in a little snow.  We also ran across a late-model Nissan Altima whose transmission belt apparently gave out, yielding no forward motion on its part (Mark tried to help to no avail).

Most of Thursday involved driving around RMNP, seeing some marmots, elk, mule deer, and chipmunks.  The kids enjoyed getting to see the variety of environments, and a few waterfalls, though we could tell that the incessant driving had worn on them a bit.  It was good to take a break from the hiking, but all the driving didn’t really help their demeanor.  Still, at least the adults had fun. 🙂

The next day, we tried keeping things a bit light, as the 5K was scheduled for that evening and, well, we wanted to keep our ankles in shape.  Obviously, the best thing to do is to get up early and go to Bear Lake, right?

Heavy lifting...
Heavy lifting…

As the picture all the way at the top shows, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  We ended up hiking 2.5 miles or so between Bear Lake and Nymph Lake, and ended up dealing with some cranky kids who either a). didn’t want to hike, or b). wanted to climb every rock they saw.  I can’t say that Friday morning was all that “fun” for us, but at least the weather was good, and we could keep things a bit light.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of napping and watching TV.  Calvin slept for 3 hours that day, if I remember correctly, as he was catching up for not substantially napping the previous 4 days.

That evening, everyone except Mallory, Meg and Calvin ran a 5K around the lake in Estes Park.  The weather stayed pretty good, though a few rain drops fell around the time Brooke was finishing up.  The race itself went pretty well for everyone, though I had some qualms with how it started with a hill on a narrow path, where a lot of people slowed down at the beginning and forced us to try and fit around them by jogging on the side of the adjacent road.  Ultimately, I did about as well as I did in Hannibal a few weeks earlier, and Brooke did about as well as she wanted to for her first 5K.  The elevation affected everyone, to a degree, but being there for a few days (and jogging and hiking…) beforehand made a difference in our performance, I’m sure.

IMG_20160729_204647_01 (1)

The next morning, Mallory ran the Half Marathon and placed fourth in her age group, so we were all very proud of her.  After the marathon, the rest of the Baumann Brigade headed out to do some last minute hiking, while the Linsenbardt side headed to the Moraine Park Discovery Center in RMNP to go on a “discovery hike” with the kids so they could complete their Junior Ranger certifications.  This took an hour and a half and, overall, was pretty fun for the kids, as other kids were also along and they finally had someone else to interact with aside from adults.

As you can see, they were pretty pleased with themselves. 🙂

Junior Rangers!
Junior Rangers!

After that, we returned to the house so Calvin could take a nap.  Again, everyone mostly hung around the house (though Meg and I briefly headed out to see a friend of mine from high school who happened to be in Estes Park that day with his family) until dinner, our one night out around the area.  We ended up at Tavern 1929, a place just outside of town that was a part of a lodge.  I’m not sure if it was the fact that we really hadn’t eaten out much that week, or whether we had all done a lot of running recently, or whether it was our last night in Estes Park, but that food was really good.  We all left positively stuffed.  No complaints, except that the restaurant couldn’t install larger stomachs in our bodies.

That night, we packed things up and prepared to leave.  We left the next morning by 8:30 am MST or so (the Baumanns left a little earlier than we did) and made it back to Marshall by 9:00 pm CST.  The kids were both shockingly well-behaved for this portion of the trip, likely because they were watching shows on their Kindles again, and because they were tired from the week behind them.

It was a great trip!  We look forward to returning to Colorado, though next time, we’ll probably try and hit the southern area of the state.  Lots of other national parks to hit up in the coming years, though!

Rocky Mountain Vacation: Part I

Up at the Alpine Visitor Center, at 11,798 ft above sea level.

Months ago, Mallory decided to run in the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon, to be held in late July in Estes Park, CO.  One thing led to another in various discussions and the Baumann clan decided we’d all go.  It had been years since some of the girls had been to Colorado and Meg and Calvin had never seen “the mountains” before, so plans were set in motion.

We left Marshall last Monday and stayed overnight in Nebraska via Airbnb.  It was an 8 hour drive that took more like 10 hours, but we’re glad we split up the trip to Colorado into two days, giving the kids a bit more “decompression time” after being in the car for so long.  Also, we could be a bit more leisurely in our plans, allowing for longer stops and possible diversions along the way.  The kids did pretty well, really, as Brooke loaded up some thin plastic bins with activities, and I grabbed a season of a TV show for each of them to load onto their Kindle Fires.  They were very ready to be done with driving once we got there, and getting to run around the front yard of a house (as opposed to around the beds in a hotel room) was great.

We drove toward Estes Park the next day, taking a trip through Big Thompson Canyon, which contains the Big Thompson River.  It’s a pretty drive and the kids enjoyed looking up as high as they could along the rocky walls of the canyon.  Again, nothing that Brooke and I hadn’t seen before, but to them, where rocks don’t normally get that tall in Missouri, it was pretty neat.  Eastern Colorado and the drive through the canyon took more than a few hours (it always takes longer than you think…), but we ultimately reached our destination early-afternoon on Tuesday, July 23rd.

The house we stayed in was pretty cool, though it was located in a more suburban neighborhood a few miles from downtown Estes Park.  It was pretty close to everywhere we wanted to be, though, and we could get to Rocky Mountain National Park within 20 min or less, depending on traffic.  The house had 3 bedrooms and a loft on the third floor, so plenty of space for people to get away from things, as well as a large living room and a “living space” on the second floor with couches.  There were two full baths, though the hot water pressure could have been better.  Overall, it was a beautiful place to stay for a few days!

The interior of and view from the house we stayed in.
The interior of and view from the house we stayed in.

That first day, we killed some time in RMNP with a picnic, letting Meg and Calvin run around a bit and get their feet wet (literally).  We also stocked up at Safeway, though being the only grocery store in town meant that everyone in town was there (also literally).  The rest of the Baumann clan had driven in overnight from St. Louis, so they were on the tired side of things and opted to take it easy for the rest of the day: fine by us!

The next day, Mark, Brooke, the kids and me traveled to Fort Collins to go hiking with Brooke’s cousin, Jared, and his daughter, Elle.  We went hiking on a dirt trail out in Larimer County, not within RMNP.  It was a pretty easy hike, really, though Elle and Calvin wanted to walk for part of the trip, slowing us down considerably.  This was our first real “hiking experience” in Colorado, and though the weather was actually pretty good, there wasn’t much shade, so the kids got tired, too.  We only went a few miles, but found a trickle of a waterfall at the end, so that made the trip worth it for the kids.

Meg, Jared, Elle, Brooke, Calvin and Mark.
Meg, Jared, Elle, Brooke, Calvin and Mark.

After the hike, we all went to Coopersmith’s Pub & Brewing for lunch (also joined by Jared’s wife, Andrea) in downtown Fort Collins.  The food was great, especially after a morning outside.  The flight of beer I got was also very good, though I wished I could have stayed longer to sample some more.  However, we had reservations for a tour at New Belgium Brewing Company and couldn’t stay long.

The New Belgium tour was great and, shockingly, the kids also were very well-behaved!  Maybe they were just worn out from the morning (heavy sun can do that to you…), but they actually listened pretty well when we told them what to do, and also stayed pretty quiet while the tour guide was speaking to us.  The tour itself was also good, though not necessarily informative (once you’ve been on a beer tour, you’ve seen most of what you can possibly see…).  We didn’t learn all that much over the course of the 1.5 hour tour, but we did get to taste four 6 oz volumes of different brews, including Fat Tire, Sunshine, Heavy Melon and La Folie (which is a sour beer that apparently starts out as Brooke’s favorite, 1554, but is instead aged in red wine barrels).  We filled up a growler with De Konink from their bar after the tour and took it back to the house with us.  If you’re ever visiting Fort Collins, take that growler along because they’ll fill it with their regular, all-season beers for $6.  A steal!

After that, we stopped for ice cream on the way home because the kids were so good and headed back to the house.  I think Brooke and I agree that this was probably our favorite day of the trip.  Not that the other days weren’t good, but everyone seemed to be in a good mood, it was great to see Jared, Andrea and Elle, and it was our first real day of “vacation,” so everyone was excited to see some cool new stuff.

And beer.  There’s nothing wrong with beer. 🙂

The next day, we spent a lot of time in RMNP…but that’s best saved for another post!

Review: Star Trek Beyond


Let’s just start here: Star Trek Beyond is a good movie.  It may even be a great movie, though I probably should see it again before I make that assessment.

In some ways, it’s better than it has a right to be.  J.J. Abrams directed the first two movies in the “reboot universe,” Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness (both of which I was a fan of), but as he was busy with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he wasn’t available to take on another Star Trek sequel.  Though, Abrams remained as a Producer, Justin Lin stepped in to direct, along with a new writing staff that includes Montgomery Scott himself, Simon Pegg.  Lin directed four movies in the Fast and the Furious franchise, and that influence showed quite a bit in this film.  The action is fast and frenetic, the one-liners are quick and intelligent, and overall, the movie is just fun.  Pegg, an unabashed Star Trek fan, co-wrote a solid story.  It isn’t anything Oscar-worthy or anything, but it evoked a classic Original Series episode.

To back up a bit, the crew of the Enterprise is midway through their “five year mission” and you can tell the crew has settled into their routine.  Kirk runs through his Captain’s Log toward the beginning, giving the viewer a feel for how life on the ship has progressed since we last saw them.  They stop off at Space Station Yorktown when a mysterious alien arrives, asking for help in a nearby nebula.  After the Enterprise heads off to investigate, the crew ends up stranded on a planet run by Krall, played by Idris Elba.  The crew members are separated, putting Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) together; Kirk (Chris Pine) with Chekov (Anton Yelchin); Sulu (John Cho) with Uhura (Zoe Saldana); and Scotty (Simon Pegg) with another alien, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

This arrangement kinda makes the whole movie.  In the first two reboot films, everything centered on the fact that this was a new timeline.  The first movie brought the crew together, while the second still very much depended on the fact that a separate timeline was created.  Star Trek Beyond, on the other hand, is the first one that really feels like it’s own, separate story, one that isn’t dependent on what came before.  When you see Spock and Bones alone together, they act as you’d expect them to, not based on the previous two movies, but based on 50 years of those characters’ histories.  We get to see them working together to solve problems, where it isn’t just Kirk that saves the day, but each character really gets their moment to shine this time around.

I have mixed feelings about the villain, Krall.  He had legitimate motivation for going after the Federation, information that comes out toward the end that ties back into the series, Star Trek Enterprise.  There’s nothing critical about that information, but it was a nice touch that the writers tied it back in for fans who are familiar with the franchise.  Idris Elba is a gifted actor, and while he did pretty well (and improved as the movie progressed), it was obvious he found it difficult to get his performance past the prosthetics he wore to play the role.

I also thought the CG effects were good, but maybe not as good as the previous films.  There were a few scenes that were pretty obviously on green screen.  Perhaps that’s because so much of the film was outdoors instead of on the bridge of the Enterprise, but still, it was noticeable.

That said, there’s a badass scene toward the end that deserves all the Oscars.  You’ll know it when you see it.  And it involves the Beastie Boys.

The last thing I wanted to mention was that they did a good job writing the death of Leonard Nimoy into the movie.  That’s really the only connection to the previous two films that may require explanation to a newcomer, but they handled it nicely and added some depth to Zachary Quinto’s version at the same time.  Justin Lin also re-edited a scene toward the end of the movie as a nod to Anton Yelchin, who died recently after filming had completed.  The word is that, in the next movie, Yelchin won’t be replaced and they will somehow write out Chekov.  While it’s difficult to imagine the bridge without that character, I appreciate that this family sticks together and can’t simply exchange one actor for another.

Ultimately, that’s this movie: it’s a family, working together as a team, to solve an apocalyptic problem.

Just like Star Trek has always been.

Traveling the Bourbon Trail

Me, Ryan (right) and Mike (front)
Me, Ryan (right) and Mike (front)

I met Ryan 8 years ago at a wedding and we soon started getting together “virtually” for playing video games. At the wedding, we found that we had some similar interests in various kinds of games and have been playing together ever since. In many ways, it’s odd that one of my best friends is one that I’d only physically met a single time, but there are even more people that I’d met through Ryan that, until recently, I also knew very well yet had never actually met.

Last year, our little gaming group (which consists of around 8-10 people) had discussed trying to meet up somewhere.  We’ve got some people up in Minnesota, one in Alabama, one in Ohio, three closer to the East coast, and me here in Missouri.  At the time, the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky seemed like the logical place to try and meet up, though some other options had been tossed around.  We couldn’t pull it off for last year, but we made a bigger push to get something together this time.  We couldn’t get all of those people together, but 5 of us met up in Frankfort, KY last weekend to visit some distilleries.

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve

I’ve been brewing beer for quite awhile, so I had a handle on what the basic process of distilling entails.  There were some interesting differences between the different distilleries we visited however, including their history, architecture, barrel placement, and so on.

One thing they’ll tell you at these distilleries is that “bourbon” is distinct from “whiskey” in that it must only be aged in new, charred oak barrels (there are a few other requirements, but it’s one of the things that sets “bourbon” apart from “Tennessee Whiskey” like Jack Daniels).

We stayed at an airbnb apartment in Frankfort very close to Buffalo Trace Distillery, which is one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries in the country.  Unlike many others, they still produced bourbon during Prohibition because they had a Federal license to produce spirits for “medicinal purposes.”  We took the regular tour and then a “ghost tour” that evening, learning a bit about various potential “spirits” that live amongst the other “spirits.”

The sour mash at Woodford Reserve
The sour mash at Woodford Reserve

Unfortunately, while we got to see all the barrel houses at Buffalo Trace, they shut down their distilling operation in July and August due to the heat.  We got to see a working distillery at Woodford Reserve, our next destination.  This place was quite a bit more “corporate” in feel, and though distilleries have been present on the property for quite awhile, the current product, Woodford Reserve, has only existed since the 1990s.  Still, bourbon is made in the traditional way and it’s a large operation that you can see in action.  This distillery was one of two locations where we saw the sour mash bubbling about, where yeast began the fermentation process.  This part of bourbon-making only takes a few days, after which it’s distilled down (read: boiled to the point where the water is separated from the alcohol) and then loaded into barrels.

So many barrels...
So many barrels…

Those barrels will hang out for a period of years.  At Buffalo Trace, some barrels are kept up in the top of their barrel houses, but they can only be kept there for up to 6 years because the heat ages the bourbon faster.  The 10-12 year (or older) product is kept within the first few floors, where aging takes longer and the flavor profile changes over that period.  Ultimately, this means that some bourbons are aged at the top, some are aged in the middle, and some are aged at the bottom.  Woodford Reserve, on the other hand, rotates their barrels from the top to the bottom so the flavor remains consistent between each bottle they make.

That first day, we also hit up Wild Turkey, but we couldn’t catch a tour in the time we had.  We did participate in a tasting, however.  I can’t say the portions were great, and it was probably my least favorite of the locations, but I’m still glad we stopped by.

From left to right: Paul, Ryan and Mike.

The next day, we went to Maker’s Mark and found them to be pretty similar to Woodford Reserve in terms of their history vs corporate balance.  They’re also a large operation and the tour was pretty cool, especially the part where they explain their trademark wax topping that they pull off for each bottle.  Apparently, a worker can dip something like 100 of those bottles a minute before they pass through a cooling box that solidifies the wax prior to packaging.

Maker’s Mark was a really nice facility, though their buildings are all mostly black and sheet metal instead of brick.  You can tell it’s a newer facility, and they’ve got a more “corporate” feel.  Incidentally, they only had one or two barrel aging buildings on that portion of the property and, as we left, a few miles away, we saw 10s of more buildings where they were aging bourbon.

From left to right: Ryan, Josh, Mike and Paul.
From left to right: Ryan, Josh, Mike and Paul.

The last place we went was Heaven Hill, a company I wasn’t really familiar with, but apparently they own Evan Williams (a bourbon I am familiar with).  By the time we got there, they weren’t holding tours, but they were having a Bourbon Connoisseur’s Tasting of sorts.  It was the most expensive of the tastings ($20…), but you got 4 healthy doses of different bourbons and you got more information about the barrels, the aging, the differences in how bourbons are produced (like, what grains you add to them), and so on.  For example, we tasted a “25-year-whiskey” that, normally, I’d assume would taste really good…but this was apparently an accidental batch that was forgotten for 10 years in the wrong part of the barrel aging house.  The distiller aged it a bit longer in a different barrel (one that wasn’t oak, so it didn’t count as “bourbon” anymore), but it was salvageable as a teaching tool.  It didn’t taste nearly as good as it should after that much aging, which just goes to show that “25 years” isn’t necessarily great.

Heaven Hill Distillery
Heaven Hill Distillery

Of the places we went, I think we were universal in our love for Buffalo Trace and for the tasting we had at Heaven Hill.  It isn’t that the other places were bad, but the corporate feel of Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve really showed.  As I told the guys, it reminded me of the Anheuser-Busch tour in St. Louis: the beer isn’t that great, but the tour is still fascinating just to see it all at scale.  It’s still valuable information, but perhaps didn’t have the “character” we were looking for.

We also heard great things about Jim Beam Distillery and their tour options, but unfortunately, we just couldn’t fit it in.  Next year!

Ultimately, we had a great time.  We fit some video games in at night and hit up some of the restaurants in the Frankfort area (Bourbon on Main was pretty good…great bourbon list, too…  Buddy’s Pizza was also quite good.)  Hopefully we can get together like this next year or the following year and get more folks to join us.

Hannibal Cannibal

See? I run!
See? I run!

A few weeks ago, I ran my first 5K! My first “official” one, at least (I ran more than 5 km per day for 5 days in a row before actually running this race…).  Brooke’s family has run in the Hannibal Cannibal for the past few years, a fundraiser for the local hospital that always takes place on the Saturday morning of Tom Sawyer Days, which is held around July 4th.  This particular 5K is notable because of it’s “Lover’s Leap” climb, which is a steep 100 ft elevation that kinda sneaks up on you.  I’d never tried this course before (obviously), so though I knew how difficult the HW-79 portion would be (another hill, but a bit slower in grade), yet I wasn’t sure how Lover’s Leap would go.  I didn’t quite make it up to the top without stopping, but I made it further than I would have had I not been training.  Jogging around our neighborhood here gave me a little practice with hills, but for next year, I’ll have a better idea of what to prep for.

Baumann Brigade!
Baumann Brigade!

Again, the Baumanns (Baumenn?) run this 5K frequently and Mallory and Diana both placed in their divisions (yay!).  We’re all running a 5K in Colorado (Mallory’s doing a half marathon), so in some ways, this was a good trial run for us, or at least for those of us that have never actually run a 5K before…

S Health's display.
S Health’s display.

Also, a brief  aside, but I got a new fitness tracker in late June.  The Samsung Gear Fit 2 has a built-in GPS function and barometer that I find particularly useful, as it’s able to keep track changes in elevation, as well as running times.  For that race, my official time was 26:51 with an average pace of 8:39/mi.  My Gear Fit 2 recorded 8:39/mi as well, though the distance was off because I started it before actually crossing the starting line.  For the most part, I’ve been pleased with the performance of the tracker, though its battery life leaves something to be desired.

Overall, I placed 7th out of 18 in my age group, so I felt pretty good about that.  A 27 min 5K is respectable, though I’d have to work quite a bit to beat the 19:48 winning time in my group…  To get to the top 3 and win a medal, I need to shoot for 23:27, though, I’ll move up in age bracket next year where they actually ran a bit faster than those numbers this time around (ranging from 20:13 to 22:02 for the top 3).  There probably won’t be a medal in my future for awhile, but I suppose that isn’t the point of running a 5K, eh?

Lastly, I should note that Brooke’s also planning on doing the 5K in Colorado, though she thinks she may have hurt her ankle and may not be able to actually run for it.  The ankle’s on the mend, but while it’s been swollen, she hasn’t been able to go jogging all that much.  Perhaps we’ll get her in the Cannibal in time for next year!

Review: Independence Day – Resurgence


Independence Day was a phenomenon in 1996.  The marketing blitz was astounding.  That movie was everywhere, and as a newly minted 14-year-old, I was the perfect age to eat it up.  It had impossible stakes, fun and interesting characters, and mind-boggling special effects that were unmatched for the time.

Twenty years later, now we have Independence Day: Resurgence, a movie that has, in all likelihood, been bouncing around Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin‘s minds for 2 decades.  In so many ways, Emmerich tries to re-capture the magic of the original, with old and new characters and even more effects.  While I don’t think the movie is a failure, I also don’t think it lives up to its past.

ID4 took out the White House, the Empire State Building, and some random building in Los Angeles.  These are epic, iconic moments in film-making that nearly everyone has seen (or, at least images of those scenes).  The closest Resurgence gets to that is the picture above (spoiler alert?…it was on posters and in trailers…deal with it…).  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool scene, but it isn’t iconic.  In 20 years, no one will remember that scene.  In this effects-driven era of movie making, something like that just isn’t as impressive anymore.

Speaking of “impressive,” I remember watching the special features on the ID4 DVD set, fascinated by how they used practical effects to make fire travel sideways down city streets (they ended up building a model set, turning it on its side, and using the small buildings as a chimney for fire to pass upwards through).  Resurgence just relies on CGI.  A lot of CGI.  Granted, these effects don’t look bad in the least, but there’s so much of them, it just isn’t as impressive anymore.  It’s almost lifeless.

With regards to the characters, we’ve got many old faces returning, including Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner, Vivica Fox and Judd Hirsch.  For the most part, these characters are given the right amount of stuff to do, while still providing ample time for The New Class (Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher and Maika Monroe) to do their thing.  Overall, they do okay, but they aren’t Will Smith (painfully absent), and they don’t have the chemistry that Smith and Harry Connick, Jr. had.  Again, it just feels somewhat lifeless, that they’re trying too hard and not hard enough all at the same time.  Sela Ward is a perfect example of this, playing the President…though not nearly as well as Pullman did 20 years ago.

That all said, Resurgence still had a decent story.  It’s as simple as “more of the aliens return to Earth,” but also introduces a few new ideas that make it more than a re-hash of the first one.  It honors the mythology of the original while also “expanding the universe” beyond its current borders, making it very obvious they want to franchise it out into more movies.  Based on its current box office performance, that dream may be in doubt.

Ultimately, we enjoyed it.  It wasn’t offensively bad, which compared with some of Emmerich’s other movies, it could have easily gone that way.  Resurgence does its best to raise the stakes beyond what the original did 20 years ago and makes some obvious stumbles along the way, but it was still worth seeing.

Garden Update: Late-June


The garden’s looking pretty good since Brooke and I spent hours last weekend weeding it, so I figured I should post something before it’s hideous again.  Here in the forefront, the pumpkins are starting to look pretty good, but the squirrels dug out one of the hills, so one series of watermelon plants is down.  Hopefully we get something out of the three plants that are still there, but again, they won’t be ready until September anyway.  The tomatoes, on the other hand, are doing remarkably well.  We’ve found three or four “volunteer” tomato plants that we’ve plugged in where we lost some to hail and, thus far, they’re doing pretty well.  We’ve even got some tomato plants flowering!

Beans and peppers
Tomatoes and pumpkins

The bean plants are looking really good (the main reason I wanted to take pictures, really…), though some of the soybeans are smaller than I’d prefer.  The green beans and soup beans, as usual, are going gangbusters, so we’ll end up with a good crop of them.  I’ve staked two of the pepper plants, as they were starting to grow more “sideways” than “up-ways”, though two of the plants are still looking pretty small, so I dunno how they’ll ultimately turn out.


The herbs are looking a lot better now, after supplementing with some larger plants a few weeks ago.  A few of Brooke’s original seed starts are still with us (cosmos, aster, basil), but I added oregano, lavender and lemon balm.  The lettuce is looking awesome and we’ve eaten some of it already.  The sunflowers, seen in the background, are also starting to really take off.


Lastly, the trees seem to be doing alright, though their growth has slowed down.  We got 2.5 in. of rain a few days ago (finally), so I don’t feel the need to water them this week, but I had to run a hose out there to each tree the last two weeks due to lack of rainfall.  I trimmed a few of their low hanging branches the other day too, as I’d rather them grow “up” rather than “out” at this point.

Everything’s still growing!  I didn’t bother taking a picture of the popcorn, as there isn’t much to see yet.  We’ve got some plants growing, but they look pretty sparse.  It remains to be seen whether anything will come of them, but we’re treating them as more of a “test” than anything else.

Onward into July!