What is the Answer to School Shootings?

“Arm the teachers!”

“Hire armed guards!”

“Backpack checks!”

“Locked entries!”

Are we talking about schools or prisons here? Because, in all honesty, it sounds like the first instinct to combat school murders is to turn those same schools into fortresses.

I had the good fortune to grow up in a different time–when it was inconceivable that someone might come into our school and literally blow us away. Unfortunately, those were the good old days. Children today live with the fear–no, make that HORROR–that such a thing can happen. And it does. Again and again. It’s unconscionable that we allow these shootings to continue in America. What will it take? Does 51% of America have to lose a son or daughter before enough votes are cast to force a change?

Like all complex problems, this one will take a complex solution. And some of the suggestions so far are rather simplistic, not to mention ineffective. Let’s look at them.

1–Full background checks and longer waiting periods. This will be an important and needed first step, but it isn’t enough. (It wouldn’t have prevented the Las Vegas shooting.)

2–Raising the legal age requirement for purchasing automatic rifles. Another important step, though there are already millions of these weapons floating around.  It might not prevent a determined shooter from simply taking their parents’ weapons.

3–Better mental health assessments, and flagging those with issues. Won’t stop the idiots who carefully avoid the appearance of their craziness, or those who slip under the radar in other ways, but another important step.

4–Better reporting of aggressive and threatening language on social media. A slippery slope, if you ask me, for there have even been times I’ve been known to lose my cool on social media. But on the other hand, I haven’t directly threatened to shoot up a school, which actually happened with the Florida case. All in all, probably needed as well.

5–An improved approach to bullying. Though not always the case, too many of these shooters were victims of bullying. Did we have bullying in our day? Hell, yes, we did. But we (fortunately) didn’t have the idea to shoot kids in retribution. Or, if we did we didn’t act on it.

6–Arm the teachers. There might be some instances it would prove effective, if the teacher is in the right place at the right time, has their weapon locked and loaded, and is mentally and physically prepared to shoot a student. Think about that for a second. I’m sure there are thousands of educators who will balk at this idea.Continue reading

My Many Wonderful Aunts & Uncles

In honor of National Aunt and Uncle’s Day  (Wednesday, July 26),  some memories of my many aunts and uncles.

(L to R) J.B., Russell, Johnny, Margie, Eddy, Lena, Tony, Holly, Kinny, Edna, Billy, Ginny
(L to R) J.B., Russell, Johnny, Margie, Eddy, Lena, Tony, Holly, Kinny, Edna, Billy, Ginny

First up, the Kingstons. Grandpa and Grandma Kingston had 12 children. One of them was my dad, of course.  I was fortunate to interact with all his brothers and sisters when I was growing up, some more than others. They were spread out from Kuttawa and Eddyville, to Louisville and Indianapolis. In later years some “came home” to Kuttawa, where I was fortunate enough to get to know them better, even though by then I was living in Virginia and only saw them during visits home. Beginning with the oldest, here are some memories. Pardon me if I get the birth order wrong, and forgive me also for including only the “blood” relatives. If I included all the aunts and uncles by marriage I would still be writing this.

Edna–The first of the 12 Kingston children, Edna was for me a beacon for what was possible. When I was just a child she showed an interest in me, always asking about my grades and complimenting me every chance she got. Edna is a person who likes to see all of her family and friends do well. Always attractively dressed, makeup and hair intact, she would chew gum and crack jokes. Edna loves to laugh. She had one of the first Ford Mustangs, which we kids gawked at in awe.  When I was still a teen, Edna invited me to come to Louisville for a visit. I made the drive up and right away Edna wanted to take me to the mall and buy me some clothes. We went in one shop, but we couldn’t find a shirt with sleeves to fit my gangly long arms. Apparently Edna didn’t like the snooty look of the salesperson, for she looked at her and said, “We usually have all his clothes tailor-made.” And putting her arm around me she steered me away with a wink.  She had my back and it felt good. The next summer Edna and I piled into my VW bug and drove to Clearwater, Florida, to visit some wealthy friends she had made during her successful real estate career. We spent days out on the Gulf of Mexico in their cruiser. What a fantastic time it was. We never had a harsh word or argument. On the way back through Georgia we stopped near Macon at a fruit stand.  A little old black man wearing a straw hat was selling peaches. Edna asked him if the peaches were grown in Georgia, and I’ll never forget the way he looked at her and answered, “Yassum, these here peaches wuz raised in Gawja, they wuz picked in Gawja, and iffen you buy ’em they’s gonna be sold in Gawja.” We still laugh about that today. Edna began calling me “Wadie” when I was very young, and still does so today. Always cheerful, always fun, her arms and fingers covered in jewelry, Edna is one in a million.

J.B.–J.B. Kingston, whom Grandma often referred to as “Jake,” lived on a small farm down the road from us on Panther Creek. It was J.B. who hung a goat from a branch one 4th of July weekend, slitting its throat, which drained into a bucket below. That memory, plus another one of Grandpa Kingston and I herding a cow down to meet J.B.’s bull are two of my earliest (and pervasive) memories. From my youngest years I recall J.B. driving by our house on the way to church, which they seldom missed. Later that afternoon we would sometimes join him and his family for lunch at Grandma’s. Always shaved and smartly dressed, his hair slicked back and combed, he and Grandpa would talk farm as they ate. I remember J.B. as a good father and a decent man. He is missed.

Tony–Tony was a big guy with a thick head of dark hair and a beautiful smile. I saw him only at holidays during my younger years, then when I was a teen he moved back to Kuttawa, settling onto a small farm. Tony seemed to me to be an authoritative type of person–decisive, direct and business-minded. He bought and sold property all over and enjoyed doing it. He was living in the Orlando area when Edna and I visited him during our Clearwater vacation. I was impressed with his house and especially that he had a pool. In his later years I saw Tony far too seldom. I lived here and there, as did he, and our paths just didn’t cross. I’m sorry for that.

Ginny–I cannot recall my Aunt Ginny without immediately remembering her laugh. She was perhaps the most joyful of them all. She loved telling jokes almost as much as hearing one. Ginny was one of those “life of the party” types. You couldn’t help but enjoy yourself around her, but a more down-to-earth person never existed. She never put on airs, didn’t give a hoot about being fashionable, and in general believed in letting her hair down. Ginny was the type of person who, when you saw her pull in your driveway, immediately made your day better. Once she came down to our house and we got up a game of baseball. She got so excited when she got a hit and ran “the bases,” which were pieces of cardboard that slid dangerously underfoot on the grass. Another time we all piled in the car and went to Opryland and had a glorious time. I think it’s telling that I don’t have a single picture of Ginny when she didn’t have the biggest grin on her face. What a wonderful legacy to leave.

Holly Jane–Holly was perhaps the most glamorous woman I knew the entire time I was growing up. It is impossible to describe her appearance without using terms like “blue eye shadow,” “gold and silver lame,” “platinum bouffant hairdo,” “clanging bracelets, high heels and sunglasses.” When she breezed in, Hollywood was in the house. (Think Jayne Mansfield.) Like Ginny, Holly liked to cut up and have a good time, but was a bit more reserved. I always liked when the aunts and uncles visited from Indiana, especially Holly. The way she interacted with her brothers and sisters showed the love and closeness the family had growing up. It was always there with her. To her, family was so important.

Billy–Billy was to handsome what Holly was to glamorous. It’s just my opinion, but either one of them could have been in movies. Billy was blessed with the hair, skin, eyes, teeth, bone structure–you name it. I was envious as hell of his looks (still am). Billy also has lived here, there and everywhere. I can’t keep up with all his moves. Like Tony, he has bought and sold properties all over. In the early years Billy lived behind us on Panther Creek. Then he took the family and left. The cousins became acclimated to far-off places, so that I don’t see them anymore. But Billy is back in west Kentucky and loving it. He’s active. He and I like to talk gardening whenever we see each other. (He’s still handsome, too. Some guys have all the luck.)

Lena–Lena lived close enough to us that we saw a lot of her when I was growing up. Before we moved to Panther Creek we lived in “Old” Kuttawa. I remember when I was five and Lena visited at Christmas. I have this vivid mental image of her standing in our kitchen, with a Pepsi bottle in one hand, cigarette in another, laughing uproariously. My next memory is on Panther Creek, me sitting on the edge of a plant bed near her home. Lena showed me how to gently pull the tobacco seedlings out, so as not to break them. Then she put me on a setter and sat beside me, patiently showing me how to put the plants into the machine. Another jokester who liked to cut up, Lena loved being social. I wish I had a dollar for every game she has bowled in her life. When I was staying at Mom and Dad’s in the 90’s, she loved to visit on cold winter nights and play games. During the summer she always stopped to admire my landscaping efforts, on the way up the road to see her “grandbabies.” Mom has told me when she and Dad were struggling to make ends meet in Indianapolis, in the early years, of the times Lena was there to be with her and comfort her. I was just a baby then, and don’t remember, but my own memories of Lena are enough. One in a million? More like one in a billion.

Eddy–Eddy was another handsome Kingston boy. He was a young 20-something when he stayed with our family for a spell. Then he joined the army and we didn’t see much of him for years, though we did visit him in North Carolina. I recall how he sat for hours at a time on furlough, spit-shining those black boots until you could see yourself in them. With a buzz cut and perfect grooming, he could have been a G.I. poster boy. Eddie was a steady man, not given to extremes. I remember how he would help me with my homework in high school. Once we had an argument about the meaning of “bum steer.” (He was right, I was wrong.)  Eddie bought a brand spanking new GTO, the reddest of reds with white leather interior, bucket seats, stick shift, just a dream car. The day he bought it he told me to get in and we flew around “the loop.” What a thrill. Eddy moved away to North Carolina and I visited him once on my way through the state. Other than that I didn’t seem him much before he passed. I hope I thanked him for helping me with my homework, and for that ride in the GTO.

Johnny–When I think of Johnny (Margie’s twin), my first thought is how much he loves kids. Even today it’s practically all he talks about. Whenever I see him he wants to tell me how well his are doing. When I was little Johnny was always eager to take me along wherever he went. I remember he had an old car with push-button gears. He and dad were going out with a flashlight, hunting possums or something. It was pitch black outside, but he said, “Come go with us, Wade.” So I got in the back and we hit some back roads and it was storming to beat all get out. We got on one old back road and was soon stuck in the mud. Johnny pushed the “reverse” button, then the “drive” button, then reverse, then drive, and rocked back and forth trying to get us out of the mud. In the end Dad had to get out and push until we got out of that hole. Johnny is one of those people who always knows you when he sees you and wants to catch up. When I picture him, to this day I see him in a blue uniform shirt with the white patch with his name on it, from the time he worked at the bread company in Paducah. I think of all her children, Johnny looked the most like Grandma.

Margie–When I was five I started first grade. Mom was pregnant and about to give birth to my sister, and Margie came to stay with us. She was still a teenager. She dressed me and fed me when Mom wasn’t up to it, and on that first day of school she did something else. I left school because it was hot and I couldn’t reach the water fountain. (Or so I said.) I came home and went directly into the kitchen, where we always kept a pitcher of cold water. I was standing in the door of the fridge when I heard Margie behind me. “What are you doing home! Don’t you know the whole school is calling here looking for you! Your momma can’t be upset right now!” And she picked up a stick and switched the back of my legs all the way back to school. We laughed about that for years. When we moved to Panther Creek Margie was staying at Grandma’s. Sometimes when I visited she would be sitting at her dressing table, makeup and perfume spread out. She had beautiful light brown hair and a petite figure. Sort of a young Jodie Foster. And fortunately for many of us, she inherited Grandma’s baking skills. Man, oh man. Most of my aunts (and uncles) are good cooks, but Margie never met a cake or pie she couldn’t master. Invariably, at holidays, if someone asked, “Who made this wonderful dessert?”, the answer would be “Margie.” Sweet, gentle Margie. I miss her.

Kinny–Kinny was the youngest of Grandma’s brood, and still living at home when we moved in near them on Panther Creek. Skinny, with blonde hair, my earliest memories are of him riding past our house on the tractor. He helped Grandpa with the tobacco, hay, corn or whatever else was growing.   I moved away to Virginia in 1978. A couple of years later I got a phone call from Kinny. He had become a truck driver and was in Roanoke. Would I meet him for breakfast? He was sitting in a Waffle House less than a mile from me. I met him and we had breakfast together. He may have been lonely and missing home. I know it certainly meant a lot to me that he took the time to call and visit, the only aunt or uncle to ever do so. Kinny is another of the kids with a good sense of humor, which he is still blessed with.

And now, for Mom’s brothers and sisters, my Hammons aunts and uncles:

Maggie Hammons Ausenbaugh with little sister, Mary Lou
Maggie Hammons Ausenbaugh with little sister, Mary Lou

Maggie–Maggie was the eldest of Grandma Hammons’ children (Mom was the youngest). A deeply spiritual woman, Maggie was pastor of her own church for years. It was Maggie who drew us along with her to visit churches all over west Kentucky and southern Illinois. I remember visiting Maggie before she left Between the Rivers. She kept such a neat house, with shiny pine walls and little nick-knacks that would never survive our rowdy household. After she was forced to leave BTR she settled near “old” Eddyville, making a lovely home in a hollow that was like a little Eden to me. On the one side of a creek was her home, then you could walk across a wooden bridge to a small frame house under big shade trees. It was like something out of a fairy tale. She always had some kind of wild animal she had rescued, and there were ducks, chickens, or a goose or two, as well as other farm animals. She would sit for hours and help her husband string his trout lines, and could quote the gospel like no other. She had a Bible passage ready for any situation. Gentle, sweet, but fiery in her spiritual rhetoric, she had a tendency to make short, clipped, emphatic pronouncements when speaking. Maggie also had a vitality about her. When she had heart bypass surgery we visited her in a Nashville hospital. It was the day after surgery. Maggie was sitting up in the hospital bed asking when she could go home. Hearty stock. An amazing woman.

Louie–For all the years I knew him Louie lived with his family in Alton, Illinois. They visited us, we visited them. Louie was another of that generation who believed in good grooming. The man’s reddish-blonde hair was always in place; he was neatly shaved and smelling of cologne. His clothes were clean, pressed, and his shoes held an added surprise. He almost always carried a large amount of cash in them. Once he was visiting us and sent someone to the store to get something. I laughed when he took off a shoe and extracted a wad of 100-dollar bills. (Louie hid money in other places. After he died his family found several thousand dollars in an old, inoperable riding mower, in a shed back of their house.) It was always a pleasure when Louie visited because he would be driving the latest model of car. We would each get to take a ride in it and check it out. He was always asking us kids to come and stay the summer with them in St. Louis. One year I took him up on it, though I only spent a week. He was a kind and generous host. I was in the hospital room with Louie when he died, and that was a hard thing.

Louie Hammons
Louie Hammons

Dewie–I don’t remember Dewie, though Mom has a few photos of him. He drowned in Alabama while working on a barge in 1956. Some say he fell off, others insist he was pushed. We will never know. I tell the story in my book about my grandmothers, so I won’t retell it here. I know that his untimely passing grieved my grandparents for the rest of their lives.

Willie–Willie, with his thinning reddish hair, blue eyes and rakish sense of humor, was perhaps the most likable of all Mom’s brothers. Willie was lean, with whipcord muscles from chopping firewood. And I cannot to this day picture him without rolled up sleeves into which cigarettes had been tucked. He, like me, was a voracious reader. Whenever I visited him he would have stacks and stacks of paperback books (some of them risqué) and he would let me borrow them. It was through Willie (don’t tell Mom) that I first read about actual sex, though it was probably tame by today’s standards. He had a guitar, which he would strum and play, and he was pretty good at it, too. I could listen for hours. And when he wasn’t singing you could hear him whistling somewhere.

George–George was perhaps the most sensitive of Mom’s brothers.  Though mostly upbeat, he could be moody at times. Like Willie, he also sang and played guitar, but he was a self-taught artist as well. He could sit and draw a deer or bunny for us kids, or anything else we asked for. He was the best gardener–with gigantic tomatoes. How he got anything to grow in those rocks of Pea Ridge I’ll never understand, but he drew forth squash, melons, and many other vegetables. He tended the chickens and always had a dog or two around. I always felt that had George gotten a better education he would have been very successful. He had that type of inquisitive mind and varied interests.

Willie Hammons holding Wade
Willie Hammons holding Wade Kingston

Bedford–Bedford always went by his nickname, “Rabbit.” Rabbit was the brother nearest to Mom in age, so they grew up as the closest. In his later years he visited her often, driving some old jalopy with his little white terrier in the seat beside him. He was a small man who probably never weighed more than 120 pounds his entire life. Rabbit liked people but preferred living alone with his dog. He had a terrific sense of humor, and could be very funny. I still imitate the way he said “shit” when irritated, which came out like “shee-yut”.  I can hear him say it as I write this. He loved us kids. I almost never called home what Mom didn’t say “Rabbit was asking about you.” He would even get angry and rail at any perceived slight or hardship we kids had endured. But in his heart, Rabbit was a gentle soul, much-loved by us all and sorely missed.

George Hammons in uniform
George Hammons in uniform

What a blessing to have had so many wonderful aunts and uncles. I love them all.

"Rabbit," Mary Lou and George with kittens
“Rabbit,” Mary Lou and George with kittens

© Wade Kingston

Tame Thrones

SPOILER ALERT: My thoughts on Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 1 “Dragonstone” follow:

Though season seven began pretty much where season six left off, it was curiously bereft of the drama and excitement that had been building all of last year.

I didn’t necessarily expect dragons to burn armies or White Walkers to tear down the wall, but for a series that has promised “everything is building to a crescendo,” and with only seven episodes in this season, I did expect things to begin ramping up a bit.

Anyone who followed season six’s events would have immediately figured out what was going on at the Freys’ place during the cold open–and who was behind it. There are far-reaching implications after this “Red Wine-Tasting,” but the scene was a bit restrained for my taste. Arya’s previous “unveiling” there was more satisfying.

Jon and Sansa bickered at Winterfell, with a skulking Little Finger watching. Did we learn anything new? I don’t think so.

Bran finally arrives at the wall

Bran arrived at the wall with visions of an approaching “white” army, complete with giants. (Are there dead dragons as well? If so, that might be a game changer.)

The Hound is becoming a bit of a softie. Who knew a conscience was even possible with him?

Arya broke bread, er, a rabbit, with Ed Sheeran, and that took me completely out of the story. (Big mistake, I thought.)

Cercei and Jaime literally stood on fresh paint as it dried, which is somehow a good euphemism for the entire episode.

Euron Greyjoy stopped by the Red Keep long enough to make a half-hearted proposal to now-motherless Cercei. After insulting Jaime, he made Cercei the vague promise of a “gift,” then swaggered quietly away (taking his “two good hands” with him). Euron is something of a wild card this season.

Sam had perhaps the series’s most disgusting job (so far) cleaning slop and latrines–a scene which, though funny and brilliantly edited, went on for far too long. (I hope no one was eating while watching.)

And FINALLY, Daenerys arrived at Dragonstone. The dragons circled the castle while Dany dusted the map table. You know, the one where Stannis was ravaged by the Red Woman in another life.

That’s it. End of story. (Oh, and Jorah Mormont is alive but not well, the Greyscale having bloomed to cover his entire left arm. Pity.)

An interesting episode, if not exactly inspiring. As Dany said to Tyrion, “Shall we begin?”

© Wade Kingston

Travelling Shoulders

Knoth’s Amazing Barbecue Followed Me Around the South

It was always there. On the 4th of July, Memorial Day, family reunions—even Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had other food on those occasions, but a genuine hickory-smoked shoulder from Knoth’s was the prized chunk of goodness on the table. The one that made us go “ah.”

Pork Barbecue Sandwich
Pork Barbecue Sandwich

We eagerly gathered around when it was brought in—still wrapped in the white butcher’s paper—hot from the pit. We stood smiling with buns open on our plates. It’s no exaggeration to say we salivated as the paper was unwrapped, finally revealing the crusty brown skin and that Heavenly aroma.

Some wanted a fatty part, some wanted crispy crust, and some only lean. I wanted some of it all. I would grab the tongs and tear off a tender piece of moist pink, then stick some crispy skin and hot fatty parts on top. Drench it all over with half mild sauce and half hot. Mmm, unbeatable.

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Russell Kingston–From Farm Boy To Prisoner of War

The following was taken from a tape my father, Russell Kingston, made for me several years ago. He shares some of his experiences growing up, as well as his time as a prisoner of war in North Korea. I would like to point out a couple of things up front: One, these are not all of his P.O.W. stories.  Some are just too disturbing to include here. There are times I wish I hadn’t heard them myself. Two, Dad jumps around a lot in his telling. I could tell when listening to the tapes that he became emotional and had to switch back to the farm years, or something else more comforting. The words are his, just as he spoke them, with no changes.

I’m happy to add that, as of this writing, Dad is very much alive and doing well. –Wade Kingston


Young Russell Kingston with catfish

This is Russell Kingston.  I’m gonna tell a few things of my life history.  I was born 12/21/31 to John and Gola McKinney Kingston.  I have lived on a farm all of my life, my childhood, and when I became a teenager I decided I would go in the army, which I did.  I joined the army May 11, 1950, went to Ft. Knox, taken seven or eight or ten weeks training and I was sent home for 18 days delay in route.  I went to Chicago, transferred from that train to another and went to Seattle, Washington and stayed there for a day or a day and a half, caught a plane and went to Tokyo, Japan. I spent one afternoon, one night and part of one morning in Tokyo.  Caught a train and went to Sasebo (Nagasaki), Japan.  From Sasebo I caught a ship which they said was Japan’s second-best ship and when I woke up the next morning I was in Pusan, South Korea and when we got off the ship, they told us to take a look at our enemy, which there were prisoners lined up on the railroad as far as you could see—North Koreans, so they issued us more ammunition and told us to go to our outfits.  I asked them where was I going and they said “You are going to the First Cavalry, Eight Regiment, K Company,” and I said, “Where is it?” and they said “Somewhere between here and the 38th Parallel.” I said, “How will I get there?”  And this officer said, “Well, soldier you have two feet don’t you?”  I said, “Yes, sir.”  And he said, “Well, use them.”Continue reading

Kentucky Wonders

Two years ago I published a short eBook about my grandmothers. I am now making it available for free here.


Kentucky Wonders

Recollections and Recipes of My Rural Grandmothers

By Wade Kingston

Copyright © 2015 Wade Kingston

All Rights Reserved



For Gola and Esther


Thank You

I would like to thank Helen Roulston. She has been a teacher, a mentor and an inspiration.

She has also been a terrific editor and a loyal friend.



I grew up in rural western Kentucky of the 1950’s and 60’s. We didn’t have much money, but we had a lot of family. As a child I loved every member of our family, none more than my grandmothers.

I learned from my grandfathers by working beside them. From Grandpa Kingston I learned how to farm everything from corn to tobacco. And though I’m no Abe Lincoln, Grandpa Hammons taught me to swing an ax like I meant it. My grandfathers worked hard to provide for their families, and they had difficult years.  We tried to be understanding when they were short-tempered. In truth, they could sometimes be grumpy old men.

My grandmothers were different. In many ways their lives were more difficult than their husbands.’ They shared all the hard work with the added burden of childbirth. But they still managed to be warm and loving women. Grandchildren were greeted with a smile and a hug; their persistent questions were patiently answered. Most of what I know of our family history and country life I learned from my grandmothers.Continue reading

Recalling 14,610 Days Ago

I remember 40 years ago today, though it began like any other.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Murray, Kentucky, on May 27, 1977.  I lived on Main Street, above Owen Food Market, one block from Murray State University. Just before noon I began a walk across campus. I had gotten as far as 15th and Olive when a new (and loud) Mustang Cobra pulled up alongside me. My good friend, Tilford Gaines, called out to me from behind the wheel. “Hey!”

I leaned down and saw Tilford’s excited face. “What’s up, Tilford?”

“I’ve been looking for you. Man, you have got to come with me right now!” he said, eyes gleaming.

“What for?”  (I had learned to be wary of those Delta Sigs.)

“You’ll see. I promise, you will love it. You will thank me. Just get in the car.” I had rarely seen Tilford this worked up. And he wasn’t given to hyperbole, so I figured it must be something special. Plus, it wasn’t like my walk across an empty campus was all that exciting.  With the college students gone MSU was a lonely spot. So, I agreed and folded my skinny, 6’4″ inch frame into the passenger side. Tilford took off down Olive Street like they were giving away free food somewhere.

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Growing Up on Pea Ridge and Old Eddyville

What follows is an account of growing up on “Pea Ridge,” near “Old” Eddyville, Kentucky, by my mother, Mary Lou (Hammons) Kingston. The original town of Eddyville is gone now–a victim of the Army Corps of Engineers and the newly formed Lake Barkley in the 1960’s. Many refer to it now as “Old” Eddyville, though it is no longer there. The new town of Eddyville was created a few miles away, and natives still refer to it as “New” Eddyville.

How this story came about: In the 1970’s my grandmother (Mary Lou’s mother), Esther Hammons, asked me to record her life story. I got busy with this and that and didn’t do it, and I’ve always regretted it. But I was determined that I would get my own mother and father’s stories down while they were still willing to do so. And that I have done. I gave them a tape recorder and cassettes and let them record their memories at their leisure.

So, for Mother’s Day 2017 here is an account from a tape my mother (Mary Lou Hammons Kingston) made for me some years back. It recounts her early years on Pea Ridge. She was born in the heart of the Great Depression, and life was difficult.  I did the best I could with spelling people’s names, but you can pretty much bet there are mistakes.  The words and phrases are Mom’s. I edited only for clarity.  –Wade

Mary Lou Hammons on Pea Ridge, about 1944


Growing Up on Pea Ridge and Old Eddyville

–by Mary Lou Hammons Kingston

“I was born on Pea Ridge, Kentucky, outside of Old Eddyville on the tenth month, the 26th day of 1935.  My sister told me that it was a cold afternoon and daddy told her to take the five boys and go around to a uncle’s house and stay there until he come and got them.  My sister said that she knew  what was going on and she said that my mother really had a hard time and that the doctor got on to my dad and told him that there was to not be any more children, because I think momma almost died and she did have a sister that lived around the road that died from childbirth. And from there I can remember uhh…I remember one day some women coming to our house.  I was real little. And they said …they told momma that they wanted to put me in the cradle row at church and momma said “okay” and I remember they fixed up some kind of paper.  I think it’s some kind of certificate and it stayed over at the house for ever so long.

Then I remembered, uh, going to school…starting my first day of school and I remember  uh…we’d always had outside toilets everywhere I went and the kinfolks and all and I remember going to school and I told the teacher I wanted to go to the bathroom and somebody told me where the bathroom was and there was all them porcelain potties and I didn’t know what they was for.  So I came back out of the bathroom and when another girl went in about my size and I seen her scoot up on one and use it, well then I scooted up on one and used it.  I knew what it was for then.  (laughs)Continue reading

Loving My Griswold Cast Iron Cookware

Typical Griswold Logo
Typical Griswold Logo

My love for Griswold cast iron cookware began about 30 years ago. For the longest time I had only the one 6″ skillet. Gradually, it dawned on me that of all my cookware, the Griswold skillet was the one I would grab again and again to cook with.

That first Griswold skillet was seasoned perfectly, so nothing stuck to it. And of course, no other cookware conducts heat as evenly as good cast iron. Whether cooking with gas or electric, I soon learned that all types of Griswold cast iron could be depended on for even cooking. And whether a batch of spaghetti sauce or a large Dutch oven of chili, sticking was never a problem.

Alas, the Griswold Manufacturing Company–an American manufacturer of cast iron home products founded in Erie, Pennsylvania–is no more. It began in 1865 and finally closed in 1957. The company had a world-wide reputation for its high-quality cast iron cookware, which today are collector’s items. A quick search on eBay shows that Griswold items, particular the more desirable or rare ones, can sell for hundreds of dollars each.

Searches at yard sales, flea markets, and such netted me a couple of nice Griswold pieces. But even at estate auctions, people know the value of it and will bid it up. (Unlike many formerly-owned cooking items, the well-seasoned cast iron that has been previously used is prized). It may be difficult to find additional pieces for a reasonable cost. Some say Wagner cast iron is just as good, but I have to disagree.Continue reading

P.O.W. Stories – The One with the Nurse and the Two Needles

needle 2 partially blurredMy dad–Russell Kingston–was one of the longest-held prisoners of war during the Korean Conflict, which lasted from 1950 until 1953. The conflict (it was never a declared war) lasted for only three years, yet dad was a P.O.W. for 33 months. Dad has shared many stories of his time in the camp with me. As you can imagine, most of them were harrowing. Here is one of his many memories of that time in the North Korean camp.

“…In the meantime, while I was there (in the camp), I had malaria fever twice. I had my tonsils removed by the Chinese in a little makeshift hospital they had. I had one tooth pulled with no Novocain, and I won’t even say how many times I was forced labor, this, that, and the other, because I don’t even know whether people would believe that I done forced labor or not.

When I had malaria for the second time, they carried me up to this little ole Chinese building. They left me in there three or four days. Then they gave me a little shot in the arm, which was–I don’t know–probably sugar water or something like that, I don’t know.

To show you some of the hardships, uh, it was early spring and it was still kinda cool. Well, I got to feeling better and I got up and I walked outside and the sun was shining on the side of this building. So, I walked over to the side where the sun was shining, and when I walked over to the side of the building there was a G.I. standing there with no clothes on whatsoever. And I said, “Buddy, what’s wrong with you?”Continue reading

Salad with Overwhelming Flavor

Flavorful summer salad
Salad that bursts with flavor

No more humdrum salads.

Are you tired of the lettuce/tomato/salad dressing routine? You know you should eat healthy salads, but you are sick to death of the boring monotony of most concoctions?

Prepare to be amazed–to have your taste buds rocked. This simple summer salad will virtually explode with flavor in your mouth. I guarantee it.

Take advantage of summer’s bounty–and the awesomeness of fresh tomatoes. Not only delicious, salads of course have the added benefit of being good for you.

Give it a try. I know you’ll love it.

Below are the ingredients for one serving.



10 or 12 fresh cherry tomatoes. (or chunks of regular tomatoes)

1 thin slice of onion–broken into bite size pieces

2 tablespoons of aromatic cheese crumbles–(I prefer Maytag blue or Roquefort, but any blue cheese will suffice. DO NOT skip this ingredient).

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

3 green olives, sliced

4 walnut halves, broken into small pieces

2 tablespoons of good, high quality olive oil (you can get by with 1 tablespoon)

salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt as blue cheese and olives are salty)


Simply mix everything in a bowl and eat! Too delicious to describe. Honest.

© Wade Kingston

Flora from the Tampa Area

I just returned from spending several weeks in Tampa, Florida. The weather was hot, of course. July and August are hot everywhere.

It was also extremely humid and stormy. Of the 48 days I was there, it stormed on 44 of them, sometimes several times in one day. With all that heat and humidity, of course you get some rather splendid tropical vegetation. Here are some of the photos I took.

© Wade Kingston

Key Lime Pie – One of the best pies of summer

Delicious and cool Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie

I just returned from a long stay in Florida, where of course I had to try several versions of delightfully cool Key Lime Pie. Key limes are also known as Mexican or West Indian limes. If you can’t find them in your area, substitute bottled Key lime juice. This recipe is modified from the classic one found on many condensed milk and Key lime juice labels. There’s more lime juice in it!

Key Lime Pie Recipe

Makes 8 servings



For crust

  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice


For topping

  • 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream


Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:
Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping:
Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.

© Wade Kingston


How I Let The Weather Ruin My Diet

How I let the weather ruin my diet.
Cookies were a big part of my downfall.

How I let the weather ruin my diet is a cautionary tale. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did.

I began my new eating plan last July. And I worked hard all summer and fall to achieve my goals. I changed my diet, exercised strenuously, and I saw results. Huge results. By December of 2013 I had lost 55 pounds.

I slimmed down, got healthier, and felt better than I had felt in years. Then winter hit.Continue reading

The Miracle of You

The miracle of you is that you exist at all.The miracle of you is that you shouldn’t even be here. Not if you consider the odds.

I had an excellent statistics teacher at Murray State University. A couple of them, in fact. One of the first things he did was show us the folly of playing the lottery. He patiently explained the basics of statistical mathematics so that we understood completely how small our chances of winning the big prize is. And how casinos use long odds to build massive amounts of wealth. As he put it, and as we all inherently know, “The house always wins.” And that’s true. The house always wins, even when it loses. (Because a huge payout inevitably garners publicity, which draws even more poor schmucks in to play the wheels of fortune.)

The odds of winning the lottery, or in Vegas, are usually calculated to be somewhere in the millions. Often it’s compared to the odds of getting struck by lightning. But consider this: the odds that you are alive here on this planet are so large as to be almost incalculable.

Let’s go back 250 years in our example. (The further back you go, the higher the odds that you would never have been born).

First, you have to consider the odds that one of your ancestors would survive, much less procreate. Then you have to figure out the odds that they would conceive of a child. (It’s one in several million for each try). Then the odds that their child would survive. Then you have to figure out the odds that their child would survive and procreate and the offspring live, etc. and on and on. All the way down to you, continuously, in an unbroken or uninterrupted line.

If you go back 10 generations (250 years) the chance of you being born at all is  at most 1 divided by 6 x 10100 or 1 in 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

I don’t even know what you call that number. Maybe bazinga-trillion? Whatever it is, the odds put your chance of being here at essentially ZERO. (Even lower as you go further back in time.)

I’m sure you have read all your life about how we are miracles of creation. This proves it.

Are you feeling lucky now?


© Wade Kingston


Nuts over Basketball in the Bluegrass State

Nuts over basketball in the Bluegrass State
                 UK–Louisville-Murray State

Yes, we are nuts over basketball in the Bluegrass State. But it can’t be helped.

I’ve enjoyed reading all the tweets during the NCAA tournament. One in particular last night read, “I am SICK, SICK, SICK of always watching Kentucky and Michigan teams in the NCAA.”

Sorry about your luck, buddy.Continue reading

Kentucky vs. Louisville – Why the Data Doesn’t Matter

You can’t predict with any degree of certainty who will win when Kentucky meets Louisville on March 28.

And the reason you can’t has to do with something called unknown variables.

Statisticians love to work with numbers. Batting averages, free-throw percentages, average yards thrown–they all mean the same thing. Someone, somewhere sat down with a long list of numbers and came up with a statistical average, sometimes weighted, sometimes not.

Before last Sunday’s game featuring Kentucky vs. Wichita, I read seven “expert” opinions about who was going to win. ALL OF THEM chose Wichita. What they were looking at were statistics. But pouring over a long column of numbers and coming to a conclusion often ignores the rather unpredictable nature of sports. There are a number of factors which, by their nature, do not show up in the numbers.

1–An injury during the game. They can’t be predicted, and they can be serious. Not only for the player, but for the morale of the team.

2–Illness. It could be something as innocuous as a bad meal the night before, or something serious like food poisoning. It could mean a cold or the beginnings of a flu, both of which could seriously undermine a key player’s ability.

3–Disruptions. Weather is unlikely to be a factor, but it’s not impossible that a game could be interrupted due to inclement weather. A disruption in the crowd, a technical foul, faulty equipment (a broken backboard perhaps), may all seem unlikely, but are not impossible. They’ve happened before. It’s their likelihood that can’t be accounted for, therefore they can’t be calculated in the statistics.

4–Attitude or outlook, by either team. Attitudes can be caught. Sometimes teams get “fired up,” and conversely they can be discouraged. It could even be something catastrophic to do with a key player’s family, causing them to worry or lose focus. Those types of things simply can’t be forecast with any certainty.

My point? There are probably dozens of unlikely but possible scenarios that could genuinely affect the outcome of any game. Just because a player has shot 65% from the free-throw line all year doesn’t mean they won’t go suddenly cold in a championship game. We’ve all seen it.

It’s the unpredictability that makes for the excitement of watching two well-matched and determined teams.

At this point, however much I may want one team to win over the other, it could honestly come down to one point.

That’s when my grandpa would have said, “It might as well have been a million.”


© Wade Kingston


If I Had a Time Machine

If I had a time machine there are many places in the past I would like to visit.

According to scientists, time travel is theoretically possible, but only if we move forward in time, and only for very small increments.

Still, it’s fun to think about the places one could visit if traveling backwards was an option. Let’s play a game. Let’s assume we had a time machine and that we could travel backwards in time to any location and at any point in history.

I can think of five times/places right off.Continue reading

Time to Mow the Wild Onions

Time to Mow the Wild Onions
Oh merciful Heaven! Wild onions! Get the mower, quick!

It’s time to mow the wild onions, I suppose.

Last week, on our first warm day after the latest round of sleet, snow, and freezing rain, I was out for a long walk. I passed a house where an older gentleman had apparently decided he would be the first in the neighborhood to mow his lawn. Never mind that there were piles of snow still melting against his house. There were wild onions out there, and they had to go! I could smell them before I even heard the riding mower.Continue reading

Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie (So far)

Best homemade chocolate chip cookie

Best homemade chocolate chip cookie
The bottoms gets a nice, even brown crunch to them
Best homemade chocolate chip cookie
Best homemade chocolate chip cookie
Best homemade chocolate chip cookie from the inside
The insides are moist and chewy

I have finally made what I think is the best homemade chocolate chip cookie. At least for me.

If you follow this recipe, just be sure to read it all the way through first. It’s not all that complicated, but it isn’t the same as the one on the chocolate chip packages.

What I like most about them is that they aren’t fat and cake-like. They lie flat and stay kind of gooey inside–like the ones you can get in a roll.

Note the addition of Cream of Tartar. That will help give the cookies that wrinkled appearance on the top.

Also, nuts are optional, but I STRONGLY suggest you include them, particularly English walnuts.

Oven times vary. Check your cookies after 10 minutes.Continue reading



Grandpa’s mule was sick.

Sam watched as the pitiful old animal walked around in a never-ending circle. “Toby” had been walking for days, plodding steadily through the hot sun and humid nights.

When Grandpa first discovered Toby making his circle, he called to the animal. But Toby’s ears did not turn toward Grandpa as they always had, nor did he falter in his gait. The big animal did not alter his steadfast plodding, even when Grandpa laid a strap across his broad back. Grandpa had not the heart to continue beating the faithful animal, so he let him be after that. The veterinarian told Grandpa to just shoot Toby. Grandpa told him thanks, that he would do that. But when it got right down to it he couldn’t. Grandpa told Sam, “Toby will come to his senses. You just wait and see.”Continue reading

Why I am a Proud Kentuckian

The reasons I am a proud Kentuckian are many and varied. They have nothing to do with the ridiculous stereotypes outsiders often assign the Bluegrass State.

I have been fortunate enough to travel far and wide in these United States. I’ve visited all of the “lower 48” states, some of them many times. All of those states had many things to commend them beyond their stereotypes.Continue reading

Ten Things that Cheer Me Up

Here are ten things that cheer me up – all the better when they are unexpected.

Ever notice how you can be having a “down” day, or just a ho-hum day, and all of a sudden have it brightened by something unexpected?

  1. Finding unexpected money. It could be when you run your hand into a pocket on a jacket you haven’t worn since last winter, or a pair of jeans with a couple of laundered bills. Either way, any unexpected money at all brings a smile to my face. And that includes finding coins on the pavement!
  2. When my cat does something ridiculous. Callie can do some rather silly-looking things, particularly when she’s grooming herself. At other times she can be startled into making what I call the “manic cat jump.” You know the one, where a cat is startled into jumping straight up in the air. It’s always hilarious and makes me wish I had been filming her.

    Ten Things that Cheer Me Up - Callie's favorite grooming position
    Callie’s favorite grooming position
  3. When the weather is better than expected. You know the day. Forecasters called for mostly cloudy and cool, but the sun has other ideas, shining brightly and warming everything. Always a treat.
  4. When you hear a song you forgot all about. Sometimes when I’m flipping through the radio I’ll hear a song I hadn’t thought of in decades (yes, I’m that old). One of those oldies that you love to sing to, and I do.
  5. Chocolate. ‘Nuff said.
  6. A ride/walk/drive in the country. You can’t beat getting out in rural Kentucky, especially in the spring.
  7. Getting a Facebook “like.” It may be shallow, but I’ll take what I can get. Everyone wants to be liked.
  8. Getting on the bathroom scales and seeing a lower number. Oh yeah. Nothing like it. Talk about a boost!
  9. Arriving at a matinee to discover you are the only one in the theater. I love having the auditorium to myself. I can sit wherever I want, prop up my feet. It’s like having your own personal movie theater. It doesn’t happen often, which makes it even more special.
  10. When mom calls out of the blue. She’s always saying things like “I don’t want to run up your minutes,” and I’m always explaining that I have plenty of minutes. Nothing cheers me up more than seeing her number flash on my phone as an incoming call.

What cheers you up?


© Wade Kingston


Butter Pecan Cookie is the Bomb

My new favorite cookie has to be this Butter Pecan version. This “egg-less” cookie is light, crunchy, and oh-so-tasty. But a warning: Incredibly addictive!

butter pecan cookie
butter pecan cookie

Here’s a safe bet: These won’t lie around your kitchen for long. I suspect that because of their light and dry crunchiness they would probably keep well for several days or even weeks if properly sealed. Problem is, these didn’t make it past the first 24 hours around here.Continue reading

Navy Bean Soup

navy bean soup
navy bean soup


Delicious navy bean soup is both nourishing and healthy. Though some people add a bit of carrot, I find that makes navy bean soup too sweet-tasting. Each to his own, but here’s my simple recipe.



  • 2 cups navy beans
  • 1 meaty ham bone (or 1/2 to 1 cup of ham bits)
  • 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes (instant will also work)
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley



  1. Soak beans overnight in three quarts of water. (Alternately, cook beans for one hour, then proceed with the following).
  2. Add ham bone to beans and cook on medium for one hour.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and cook for one hour, or until beans are tender. Remove bone, serve warm.

Delicious as a side dish or a light lunch. Goes well with corn bread.

Note: Don’t leave out the ham bone. It imparts a great deal of flavor, and the small amount of added fat will have a minimum impact on calories.

Also, do NOT salt this soup until it has cooked completely and you have removed the ham bone. There is often enough salt in the ham bone to season it sufficiently.

© Wade Kingston

A Valentine for Poodle

A Valentine for Poodle, my sister.

I was almost six when Wilma Jean was born. She was the first baby I can remember. She didn’t cry much at first–just lay quietly between two pillows in the middle of the bed. Despite warnings from relatives not to bother her, I couldn’t stop sneaking into the bedroom. She was pink and pudgy, with a full head of red hair.  She stared upwards out of blue eyes and gurgled.  It was still very warm that September, so her legs and arms were bare. She waved her limbs about as a warm breeze rustled plastic patterned curtains. I was mesmerized.Continue reading

Seven Temporary Garden Hedges You Can Plan for Now

There are at least seven temporary garden hedges that are fairly easy to grow. Even though it’s cold and snowy now, in just a few weeks it will be time to begin gardening in earnest. A little planning now will make things go much more smoothly come warm weather.

Temporary garden hedges perform a variety of functions:

  • Define a property line
  • Separate different portions of a garden
  • Accentuate a driveway or walkway
  • Provide shade where there is none
  • Provide height in a sea of low grass
  • Provide a display of vivid color where there was none
  • Hide an unsightly heating/cooling unit or gas tank
  • Attract a flock of butterflies or hummingbirds


There are seven annuals that I have used effectively to create these types of borders. With a little bit of pre-planning this year you can easily get results just like these photos. Sit down anytime (now is good) and create a rough sketch of your property. Where might one of these seven temporary garden hedges fit in perfectly?


seven temporary garden hedges - hollyhocks make a superb border
seven temporary garden hedges – hollyhocks make a superb border

1–Hollyhocks have a number of reasons to commend them as borders. They are tall, so they create an effective screen along a driveway or against an old weathered wall. They grow thickly and crowd out other weeds. But one of their best attributes is that they self-sow. Hollyhocks are biennials, meaning they usually grow in one year and bloom in the next. But it is oh-so-easy to get them started, let them self-sow, and enjoy them each year for as long as you want. The colorful blooms on tall stalks can bloom for several months during spring and summer.

Continue reading

Chili Mac When Freezes Attack

Chili mac when freezes attack, and it looks like frozen days will be with us for a while. I must have tried about a dozen recipes for chili mac, and I have even made it with whatever ingredients I had on hand.

chili mac when freezes attack 1
chili mac when freezes attack 1

I have substituted fresh tomatoes for the tomato sauce. It gives it an entirely different, but not unwelcome flavor. I have substituted spaghetti noodles when I didn’t have macaroni and the same thing. Still good but a different taste. However you have chili mac, it’s hot, easy, and nourishing.

You can’t ask for much more than a bowl of hot chili mac during these nights of single digits.Continue reading

My Own Little Garden of Eden

My own little Garden of Eden would not look like the painting of the same name by Breughel and Rubens. My garden would be a relatively small affair, easily weeded and maintained. I want a compact garden where every inch is utilized and nothing is overgrown.

When I was a very small child, and could not yet read, I would sit with my Grandma Hammons. Together we leafed through her huge old family Bible. I was particularly fascinated with Grandma’s Bible because, in addition to all the wonderful stories, it was filled with full-color illustrations. Some of the illustrations depicting famous Bible events were painted by old masters. One in particular, “The Garden of Eden” by Jan Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens, both fascinated and perplexed me.Continue reading

LBL in Spring – Land Between the Lakes is Green

LBL in Spring – Land Between the Lakes is Green. Trust me when I say that no one is sicker of the polar vortex than me. There’s just something about gray skies, bare limbs, and frozen ground that repels me. I like to think of Land Between the Lakes–LBL–as Nature’s own green garden.

I know there are people who love winter. At least, they tell me they do. I’d like them to look me in the face–preferably after they open their utility bills–and tell when what a blast they are having. Because I am not. Yes, there’s a time for every season under the sun. And I’m glad that the abnormal cold weather is ridding us of some bugs. But let’s face it, it’s probably killing some of the beneficial insects as well.

As for doing anything outside, forget it. I feel for the guys (and gals) who must work outdoors. I struggle just to get in a decent walk, and I’m swaddled head to toe like a mummy. Dogs freak out when they see me striding past their homes. I must look like some kind of quilt creature.

I long for green and all I have are photos. But I think you’ll agree these pics of our own Land Between the Lakes are good and green. I took them on breaks from my hiking and biking in LBL.

Here are 20 photos – 20 reasons more to long for spring.  Let’s get out there when it arrives!

Continue reading

Andrew Marvell Knew a Thing or Two about Gardens

A lovely poem by Andrew Marvell, submitted by my good friend, Helen Roulston.

The poem extols the beauty and grace of a garden. How the cares and stresses of the modern world–and evil society–can be left behind within a garden’s walls. The writer felt as if his soul was free in nature–and how comforting the growing spaces are. That’s exactly what all of us gardeners already know!Continue reading

Cherry Delight with Three Twists

Cherry Delight with ThreeTwists. Most cooks know how to make this cold, creamy, rich dessert. But of course I have to tinker around with recipes until I make them a bit better.  (In my humble opinion, that is).

cherry delight with two twists
cherry delight with three twists


Let me say right off the bat that I’m posting the easy version. But by all means, if you have the time and energy, please make the pie crust yourself. The difference between bought and homemade is night and day. (I’m including the recipe, just in case).

This no-bake pie is a breeze to make. There are three things I do differently from most recipes.Continue reading

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Homemade Hot Chocolate. Mmm, is there anything better during a polar vortex?

homemade hot chocolate mix
homemade hot chocolate mix

Easy to make homemade hot chocolate hits the spot on cold winter’s nights like we are having. Curl up with this delicious and easy hot drink. Blow the steam away, melt a marshmallow or two. Heck, spring will be here soon and it will be time for iced tea.

homemade hot chocolate mix - oh yeah
homemade hot chocolate mix – oh yeah


  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup cocoa powder






  1. In a food processor (or blender) combine all ingredients.
  2. Mix well (just takes seconds).
  3. Seal and store at room temperature in an airtight container.

To make (one mug):

Add 3 tablespoons of mix and one mug of hot water, stir. Microwave if it needs to be hotter. Marshmallows optional.

Try adding a dash of cinnamon to your hot chocolate for an extra kick. Cinnamon is good for you!

© Wade Kingston


Feed the Birds in Winter

Feed the Birds in Winter. Remember the song from “Mary Poppins?” Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…

I always liked that song. And I’ve always enjoyed watching birds gather on a cold day and get their craws fulls of nutritious seeds. Please feed the birds in winter.

No self-respecting gardener worth his manure would neglect the birds in winter. After all, they chase down and rid you of all those leaf-eating bugs all summer long. Time to reward them, huh?

You don’t have to be a birdwatcher to enjoy feeding the birds. Heck, just provide the food and go about your way. Replenish it often. Let’s keep our flying friends happy and healthy.

feed the birds in winter - make your own
feed the birds in winter – make your own

Birds are remarkable creatures. In winter, when bugs aren’t available, those that need them switch to nuts and berries. But with energy-rich nuts, birds can get the nutrition they need to stave off these arctic vortex things.Continue reading

Wade’s Wild Turkey Pecan Pie

Wade’s Wild Turkey Pecan Pie is (of course) one of my favorite pies. It’s a variation on an old southern favorite–the Bourbon Pecan Pie. It’s just that I prefer baking with Wild Turkey bourbon. It’s all-Kentucky, all the time. (Don’t worry–the alcohol burns off in the cooking. You won’t get tipsy if you eat a piece. It does retain the amazing Wild Turkey flavor, though).Continue reading

Favorite Garden Poems

Favorite Garden Poems, those verses we sometimes were required to memorize and recite at school. Or we stumbled upon them at one time or another, and they made an impression. On cold winter days I sometimes find these lines running through my mind. I guess it’s just wishful thinking on my part. Do you recognize any of them?

First up is my all-time favorite. Like all good poems, it conjures up powerful images, and captures Wordsworth’s mood as his mind wanders to sunny days.

Favorite Garden Poems - Daffodils
Favorite Garden Poems – Daffodils


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.Continue reading

Chicken Piccata is Smooth, Rich, Tender, and Terrific

Chicken Piccata is smooth, rich, tender, and terrific. It’s also a little bit tart, a little bit salty, and completely satisfying. Chicken Piccata takes comfort food to a whole new level of deliciousness. I got this recipe from a chef I know. After tasting this chicken I just had to know how to make it. I think you’ll agree. See my warning, though.*Continue reading

Wade’s Kentucky Bourbon Fudge

Wade’s Kentucky Bourbon Fudge is modified from a recipe that I got from someone a long time ago. You know the kind, scrawled on a 3 x 5 card and stuck in between the pages of my Better Homes and Gardens “New Cook Book.” Only it didn’t have pecans, and fudge just ain’t fudge–in my book–unless it’s loaded with pecans. (Unless you can get hickory nuts, and man, that’s a whole ‘nuther story right there.)Continue reading

Wade’s Spaghetti Cheat

Wade’s spaghetti cheat is just one of the ways I get around not having my cake and eating it too. I love a good plate of spaghetti, but even though I take steps to make the sauce as healthy as possible, there’s little getting around the fact that the flour noodles are not healthy. Even the whole wheat spaghetti noodles are less than desirable. My solution? Pour the sauce over steamed broccoli. YUM.Continue reading

Buttermilk Chess Pie

I ran across my recipe for buttermilk chess pie, and looking at the yellowed paper and faded blue ink, my mind traveled back to when I got it. Nearly 40 years ago when I worked for a factory some of the women would take pity on a hungry kid working his way through college. More than once there would be a pie or sandwich with my name on it waiting in the break room. This chess pie was my favorite, and the little old lady who made it gave me the recipe so I would always have it.Continue reading

What a Load of Crap, er Manure

What non-gardeners might call a load of crap, we growers refer to as manure, and it’s the life-blood of a healthy garden.

Nutrients in different types of manures can vary wildly, depending of course on the animal itself and its diet, whether it is a caged animal or roams freely, and even the age of the animal and its overall health.  The manure itself, if left for too long, will lose a large portion of its nutrients to insects or rainwater. On the other hand, aged manure stinks less and is less likely to “burn” your plants. So, six of one and a half-dozen of the other. To be perfectly safe and avoid the smell, I usually just mix it in with my compost and call it a day.

Here is what you need to know about the various types of manures:

Cattle: Cow manure actually has the lowest concentrations of nutrients, primarily because the cow’s diet consists mostly of grass. But low concentrations actually make it one of the safest manures to use in abundance. Another thing to consider is availability (a lot of it around here) and the ease with which you can simply gather up hardened piles of it. (Am I grossing you out?) But seriously, a quick trip around the pasture with a pickup and a hay-fork and you can gather quite a pile of cow manure.

Horse: Horse manure is a bit more powerful than cow manure, but boy does it contain the weed seeds. Prepare to weed yourself silly if you use it. I have a friend who gives me all the horse manure I want, but it’s a mixed blessing. He piles it up and all I have to do is shovel it into my truck, but months later, when I’m pulling weeds out of everything, I sometimes wish I had gone another route. Be warned.

Poultry: Very high in nitrogen, with a significant amount of potash and some phosphorus. Consider the source on this one, as caged birds are often given antibiotics. Free-range birds are the optimum, but keep in mind that very fresh chicken manure will burn your plants. Let this manure age a few weeks, or mix it in well with your compost before applying.

Sheep: I have not used sheep manure, but I know it is very similar to chicken manure. Same rules apply pertaining to caged or free-range.

Rabbit: Rabbit manure is actually a very prized manure and hard to come by. We just don’t have a lot of rabbit farmers in our area, and they tend to keep their manure. So there.

Bat guano: I would love to get my hands on some of this, but you have to buy it and it’s pricey. I’ve read such terrific things about it. Some say it’s like supercharged chicken manure. (OK, it sounds weird to get excited over manure. Guilty as charged.)

Got any tips you want to share about manure? I’m serious. Do you?

© Wade Kingston

Freezing Flavorful Herbs

Not as good as fresh, but better than dried, freezing those flavorful herbs will give you several months of nearly full flavor before you resort to using the dried forms.

If you have an abundance of herbs and are trying to keep them as fresh as possible, consider freezing them. The flavor will be better than the dried form, and you can keep them for four or five months in your freezer. But freezing them won’t help you if you go to all that trouble only to forget they are in the back of the freezer. Mark them well, putting the type and date on a piece of masking tape and affixing to the bags–or better yet use a permanent marker and write on the bags themselves. It also helps to keep a written record on a piece of paper and affix it to the outside of the refrigerator/freezer. That way you won’t forget to use the herbs.

Freezing flavorful herbs
Frozen flavorful herbs

First method–Use whole leaves of verbena, mint, marjoram, parsley, sage, oregano, and tarragon. For dill, fennel, and thyme use sprigs. Whichever herbs you choose, make sure the leaves are dry, spread them out on a cookie sheet, and freeze for two hours.  Once they freeze, double bag them in freezer bags–and don’t forget to mark the bags.

Freezing herbs in cubes
Freezing herbs in cubes

Second method–Process the herbs (one at a time) in a blender with water until finely chopped. Add two tablespoons of each herb (be consistent so you’ll know how much a cube holds) to each cell in an ice cube tray and add water to cover. Freeze until solid. Remove and follow the directions above for bagging, and don’t forget to mark the bags.

You can just plop a cube or two in your soup or stew and away we go!

Have you had success with either of these methods?


© Wade Kingston


Tips for Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus

Paperwhite narcissus bulbs can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season, and this fragrant beauty couldn’t be easier to grow.

Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus) can be purchased in many forms. You can buy the bare bulbs (the most economical), or in a box with a cheap plastic pot and some potting medium (a bit more expensive), or already potted and growing (the most expensive). It doesn’t take a green thumb to grow them, so opt for the bare bulbs.Continue reading

About Live Christmas Trees

Some things you need to know about which live tree to buy, how to light your live Christmas tree, how to recycle your live tree, or how to keep a live Christmas tree for planting.

What is the best live Christmas tree?

My honest opinion is that the best live Christmas tree is one that is planted firmly in your yard already. If it’s a tree that’s already established and well-watered, it stands a much better chance at survival than one brought indoors and subjected to heat and dry air. I say this because I have killed more than one live tree over the years, and I also killed a nice holly bush outdoors with too many hot lights. Now, having said that, if you persist in your desire to purchase a live Christmas tree and keep it for replanting, here are some things you should consider:

Keep your live Christmas tree alive until planting.

Put the live Christmas tree in a shaded spot out of the wind. You might consider buying an anti-dessicant (available at home supply or garden stores) to protect the needles and branches from drying out. Water the root ball well, and cover it with something heavy, like an old blanket or burlap, to further protect the tree from drying out. Drying is the biggest danger your live tree faces. When you bring it indoors, decorate it with cool lights (LED work well) and plan to only use the tree for a few days–preferably less than a week. Keep it in a large waterproof tub and keep the root ball wet. DO NOT place your tree near a heat vent or other source of warmth.

When you move your live Christmas tree back outdoors–and if the ground is frozen so that you cannot plant it right away–reverse the procedure and keep the tree in a protected area for a few days. As soon as the ground is workable, plant the tree so that the soil is even with the top of the root ball and water well. It may also be necessary to water the tree periodically throughout the winter if there isn’t enough precipitation. If the tree is planted in a windy spot, consider providing stakes as an anchor for the live Christmas tree until it takes root.

Live Christmas Tree with LED Lighting
Live Christmas Tree with LED Lighting



Lights on a live Christmas tree.

First, stay away from those large old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs–you know, the ones that get really hot. Heat is the enemy of your tree. The tiny mini-lights are probably OK, especially for a few hours a day.  But the new LED lights are not only very economical, they practically give off no heat at all.  For that reason, I give them a hearty green thumb up. (Now, for Heaven’s sake, keep your electrical cords away from the wet root ball and away from children and pets!)



recycle your live Christmas tree
recycle your live Christmas tree

Recycle your live Christmas tree.

Whether you bought a live Christmas tree with a root ball, or just a live tree that was chopped off, it’s still useful. We’ve talked about replanting the live Christmas tree that came with its roots tucked in the root ball. Now let’s look at ways of recycling that chopped off live Christmas tree:

  • Cut the branches and lay them in window boxes or planters outdoors. The branches will provide color and interest for weeks.
  • Use branches to protect your dormant plants, or to cover those spots where you planted spring bulbs. It’s important to protect the soil from that constant freeze/thaw cycle if possible.
  • Tie some branches around a bird feeder. Birds love natural foliage, which all too often is missing entirely in the winter.
  • Do you have a trellis that’s looking really bare this winter? Weave some of the branches in and out of the trellis for a splash of natural green that lasts for weeks. Don’t be surprised if you see redbirds playing among the needles.

© Wade Kingston

Mad about Mulch – Ten Ways to Mulch

It’s never too early to start thinking mulch. In fact, fall and winter are good times to begin saving those newspapers, shredding those leaves and grass clippings, continuing your composting, or setting aside a bale or two of straw. One less thing to do next spring, and your garden will thank you for it. The type of mulch you choose will depend on the plants, location, and your preference for how a particular mulch looks and behaves.

Here are ten types of mulch and their advantages and disadvantages:

Black plastic mulch
Black plastic mulch


Advantages: Very good for controlling weeds, plus it heats up the soil quickly in spring. It is good about retaining moisture and it’s relatively cheap.

Disadvantages: It doesn’t have a long life. You’ll be lucky to get more than one growing season out of it. It tends to repel water, which plants need. It can kill beneficial worms and insects. It’s ugly, and it does nothing to replenish the soil. On top of that, it’s environmentally unfriendly (made from petroleum).


Compost mulch
Compost mulch


Advantages: Helps with weeds and holds some moisture. Provides a home for healthy organisms, which in turn help prevent diseases. A good source of plant food for the entire growing season.

Disadvantages: It feeds the weeds also! It not only won’t kill weeds, but they thrive in it. Compost is also expensive if you don’t “grow your own.”

Grass clippings mulch
Grass clippings mulch


Advantages: Some weed control. Like plastic, it will also warm the soil and help retain moisture. Also, if you till it into your soil it will actually help feed your plantings.

Disadvantages: It can get very hot! Grass, as it decomposes, naturally creates heat and may be more than you need. Don’t put it up against the plant stems. It may also be full of weed seeds, so there’s that. Also, remember than any herbicides you spread on your lawn will be in your grass clippings, so if you’ve poisoned your lawn, don’t poison your garden with clippings.

Hay used as mulch
Hay used as mulch


Advantages: Cheap and good about keeping down weeds. It also helps retain moisture.

Disadvantages: May contain weed seeds and will not add nutrients to the soil. Also, do not add thick layers of hay around peppers or tomatoes until after the soil has warmed up. Hay can actually keep the soil too cool if piled thickly around plants in early spring.

Newspaper as mulch
Newspaper as mulch


Advantages: Whether whole or shredded, newspaper is excellent at controlling weeds. It’s generally free and available, and it helps moderate soil temperatures (treat it like hay and don’t apply too early). If you use more than one layer it will last all season, and you can dress it up with a top layer of bark or chips. (or if you don’t care about the appearance, just wet it down good so it doesn’t blow away).

Disadvantages: It won’t feed your plants. In fact, it may even leach nitrogen from the soil if you uses shredded newspaper and till it into the soil.


Porous landscape fabric
Porous landscape fabric


Advantages:  It’s cheap and is very good at weed control. It will hold in water but let the air circulate as it warms the soil. You can dress it up with top mulch or just weigh it down with stones or bricks.

Disadvantages: Like black plastic, it is not earth-friendly. It’s made from petroleum and it may end up in the landfill. Provides absolutely no nutrients to the soil.

Shredded bark mulch
Shredded bark mulch


Advantages: It looks great, plus it lasts a long time. Holds moisture, moderates soil temperature (don’t apply too early).

Disadvantages: It can be expensive, and sometimes it has chemicals in it (you can smell them). It also won’t do much to fertilize your soil.



Shredded leaf mulch
Shredded leaf mulch


Advantages: Cheap, or even free, plus you are helping the earth by recycling. (burning your leaves just adds more carbon to the atmosphere). Moderates the soil temperature and does a good job at holding moisture. It improves the soil and earthworms love it. (earthworms are good)

Disadvantages: It doesn’t do the best job of controlling weeds.



Advantages: Good at controlling weeds and moderating the soil temperature (don’t apply too early). Holds moisture and will improve the soil if you till it in. It looks good and feels good (especially to bare feet).

Disadvantages: Just like hay, it may contain weed seeds. It also won’t fertilize your plants.

Wood chip mulch
Wood chip mulch


Advantages: It won’t go anywhere when the thunderstorms begin to blow. It keeps the soil moist and keeps weeds at bay.

Disadvantages: Nutrient poor and slow to decompose. Also, if it has a strong smell it likely contains a lot of acid. Don’t use it if it does, or use sparingly.

There you have it. Most gardens and flower beds benefit from a good mulch.  I’ve used all of these, sometimes all at once. Any mulch is better than no mulch.

What successes have you had with mulch, or which ones do you prefer? Let me know.

© Wade Kingston


Autumn Allergies

Kentucky’s Official State Flower is not your problem!

It’s a crying (pun intended) shame that Goldenrod–Kentucky’s Official State Flower–gets blamed for so many autumn allergies. Part of the issue is that Goldenrod flowers burst forth in their full yellow glory right about the time as the real culprits do. And Goldenrod’s beautiful flowers outshine those of the pale green ragweed blooms.

Kentucky State Flower - Goldenrod
Goldenrod–Kentucky’s State Flower

But make no mistake, ragweed is the real villain. Whereas Goldenrod pollen is relatively large and heavy–spread by bees and other insects–ragweed pollen is small and light, and easily spread on the wind. Ragweed–all 15 species–grows throughout the continental United States. It will live on dusty back roads or city side streets. There is no escape.  And though its botanical name is Ambrosia, don’t be fooled. It ain’t so sweet.

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)

Ragweed does have its upside, though. Farm animals, such as cows and pigs, thrive on it. And it’s very good about providing new ground cover after a flood or fire.

Does ragweed give you fits in the fall?

© Wade Kingston

Urgent Message from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet RE: Eclipse in August

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet l District 2   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Keith Todd 270-824-7080 (office) 270-210-8009 (cell) keith.todd@ky.gov   Transportation Cabinet urges businesses to prepare for August 21 influx of visitors Total solar eclipse expected to impact food and fuel deliveries HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (June 19, 2017) – It’s an event …