Monday, May 17, 2010

Chasing our roots in Oldham County.

Katy and Nile at Bernheim

This weekend my parents came to visit, and did we ever have a good ol' time! We did tons of hiking around and exploring in the arboretum, ate delicious meals over in sweet little Bardstown, and had some grand adventures.

Saturday was Bloomfest, during which I premiered my new work in the huge horticulture shed. Claude helped me rig up a totally funky and awesome screening setup with a big piece of vinyl lashed to the huge shed door and weighed down at the bottom with some big sacks of soil. Surrounded by all of the weird equipment and objects in the shed, it was the perfect setting for Possumhaw Plant Electrics.

Radio Prairie being screened in the Head House

I talked to a number of folks about my work, although the beautiful, hot sun was calling people out into the arboretum to buy plants, learn about animals, and purchase wares from local artisans, so there wasn't a huge crowd in the shed. Near the end of the day, Louisville bluegrass trio Maiden Radio played a beautiful and stirring set of old and new songs. I admit that I abandoned my post by my videos and went out to listen. My parents and I were glued to our haystacks as we sat and took in their gorgeous harmonies and various instrument combinations (at one point they all three had banjos, and at another they used only their hands as accompaniment). They don't have an album out yet, but I'm going to keep an eye out for when they do.

Maiden Radio, Louisville bluegrass trio

Sunday was rainy, rainy. We spent a leisurely morning recuperating from our big Bloomfest day, drinking coffee on the glassed in porch of the Lodge and laughing, and watching wet bunny rabbits nibble clover outside. When the rain began to let up, we decided to venture out into the world. We first toured the Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown (recommended by Amy), which was fascinating and full of local history, and ended with a delightful tasting. We bought a bottle of Bernheim Original wheat whiskey there. I can't quite figure out whether the Bernheim Distillery in which it is made is Isaac Bernheim's original distillery where he produced his I. W. Harper bourbon. (Update: Crow tells me that it is indeed NOT the original distillery, which was in Louisville.) We left the bottle unopened--to be tasted back at home in order to bring back memories of beautiful Kentucky.

18 year Elijah Craig

After our lovely tour, we decided to spend the afternoon driving through Oldham County, KY. We never meet other Oldhams, and I was delighted to discover that there's a whole RACK o' Oldhams 'round these parts, including an entire county that bears the name. We had a glorious time exploring and seeing our name everywhere. I figure that Colonel William Oldham who fought in the Revolutionary War (and for whom the county is named) is certainly my great X 10 grandpappy. At very least, I bet the Oldham side was originally settled in this area, and our particular people ventured northwest from here to do marvelous things like invent roll-screen blinds. See great grandpappy Nile Oldham's 1930 patent here.

Katy and Nile drove off today to wind their way back to Maryland. They left me with wonderful memories, a heavy heart, and half of a perfectly awful bottle o' rotgut.


  1. Julia, What a nice story! I'll bet exploring Oldham County was an adventure that had you and your family imagining you owned the place!

  2. That wasn't Isaac's distillery. Bernheim Original only bears his name. His whiskey was I W Harper and his distillery was in Louisville.

  3. Thanks Crow, I updated my post with that info.