Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for September, 2014

Earthship at Blue Rock Station – “House of Trash”

Blue Rock Station entrance sign

Blue Rock Station entrance sign

If you recycle bottles and tires, perhaps you should try to use them to build something. Some of the possibilities are quite surprising.

Just ask Jan and Annie Warmke at Blue Rock Station south of Philo, where you can find their Earthship or “House of Trash” as some call it. They had an intense passion to use whatever they could find to build their home in the country. All of their buildings are composed of recycled materials and pieces of nature.

Annie, the Mother of Creativity, guides the tour of her dream come to fruition. She served as both creator and contractor of Blue Rock Station. With the help of a few interns, mostly college students, projects are designed and completed during the summer months.

Interns are encouraged by Annie to let their minds expand while they try new things, even if they fail. “If you haven’t screwed up at least once, you’re not thinking hard enough.”

Plastic two-liter bottle Greenhouse

Plastic two-liter bottle Greenhouse

A greenhouse built of plastic two liter bottles provides a place to start plants and grow food throughout the year. Over one thousand plastic bottles used to construct it will never need replaced since they don’t decompose.

Annie, the owner and guide, is easily spotted with her pink hat.

Annie, the owner and guide, is easily spotted wearing her pink hat.

Cottages provide housing for overnight guests and/or interns. Made of bales of straw, they’re covered with “earth plaster”. This adobe-like covering consists of mud, straw, milk, salt, flour and linseed oil – so it won’t crack. Pickle jars placed in the ceiling gather outdoor light. Bottle bottoms create beautiful window substitutes.

Outdoor Patio

Outdoor Patio

An outdoor patio makes the perfect place to relax under the shade of the trees. Nearby is one of two composting outdoor toilets, as well as the garden since both need to be in close proximity to the main house, Earthship. Needless to say, pesticides are not used.

Annie has tea prepared for the group inside Earthship. A few mint leaves dropped in the ice tea make it extra refreshing on a very hot day. In addition, salted cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, sandwiches and cookies complete the back to nature table setting. There Annie sits in a comfortable swing, while answering questions from the group.

"House of Trash"

“House of Trash”

Tires, bottles, cans, plastic two liter bottles and milk jugs form the walls of the house. Then this core material is covered with earth plaster and a coat of lime paint to brighten it. With help from old barns being torn down and pressed tin for the ceiling, the house becomes a showplace.

Oven in Kitchen Area

Herbs drying near oven in kitchen area

A unique brick oven in one corner contained guard rails, pipe and even metal rods from old campaign signs for the grill of the oven. On a cold winter day, Annie sometimes wraps in a blanket and curls up on the brick wall to relax, read, or nap.

Due to window placement for maximum use of winter sun, and wall structure which absorbs and releases heat, temperature in the house never goes below 55 degres…with no stove needed, although sometimes used! Rooms are U-shaped, which holds heat extra well. It seems very similar to living in a cave

All roofs collect water into a cistern from which they get water for basic use, but not for drinking. Over the year they collect over 150,000 gallons of water from their rooftops.

Dragon guest cottage

Dragon guest cottage

Something I know works from experience is a solar shower. Water, in a black plastic bag on the roof, gathers heat from the sun. A switch on the end of the bag opens the shower head and produces a nice warm, sometimes hot, shower. However, Annie wants to add a bathtub very soon.

As experiments continue, new ideas come to the forefront that they perhaps wish they would have known about a few years back. Their newest project is solar energy installation. A solar panel with a wind turbine gathers energy in one place, while the house has a small solar panel. More will be installed shortly.

Reservations must be made in advance so either call 740-674-4300 or visit their website at

Take a drive along the Muskingum River and visit this unusual “House of Trash” or Earthship, as they feel more correctly describes it.  Peace abounds at Blue Rock Station with only nice voices, open hearts, and inquiring minds desired. Perhaps it will inspire you to be more creative with your natural resources…and your trash.

Earthship can easily be reached traveling along the Muskingum River on Route 60. Cross over the Muskingum River to the west on Route 66, North Street. At the stop sign turn left on Old River Road.  In less than a mile you will come to a hill with a fork in the road. There is a Blue Rock Station sign pointing toward the right on Virginia Ridge Road. From then on, follow the Blue Rock Station signs until you reach the gate of the property.





Cruisin’ down the Ohio River with Mark Twain on the Valley Gem

Valley Gem heads down the Muskingum River to its confluence the Ohio River.

Valley Gem heads down the Muskingum River to its confluence with the Ohio River.

Riverboat’s a comin’!

Nothing excited Samuel Clemens more than his time on the riverboats.  The sound of the paddlewheel hitting the water thrilled him, while the changing landscape gave him opportunity to see deer and even Injuns, while sitting in the pilot house.

Some say Clemens received his pen name, Mark Twain, from this passion for the river, since Mark Twain means “mark number two”. The second mark on the water measuring stick signified  twelve feet of water – a safe depth for boats to pass easily.

Breakfast Cruise on Valley Gem

Breakfast Cruise on Valley Gem

Spending time on the Valley Gem, with the charming impersonator of Mark Twain, delighted all passengers. They also enjoyed a tasty breakfast buffet as they cruised the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. Mark Twain, portrayed by Stephen Hollen, greeted everyone with a hearty welcome as they stepped aboard the Valley Gem at Marietta, Ohio.

Immediately his sense of humor became apparent as he strolled from table to table encouaging everyone to try the marinated road possum and grits. His enjoyment in that role quickly ignited the crowd into a happy mood.

View behind the paddle wheel

View behind the paddle wheel

The cruise was a smooth two hour ride up and down the river. Many enjoyed going to the top deck to get a better view and feel the breeze. The paddle wheel created quite a spray so those standing near it received a generous sprinkling. After some fresh air, passengers returned to the main cabin to listen to Mark Twain spin his yarns.

Twain then told of his being born in 1835 at Florida, Missouri – population 99. Growing up,  he was given a big spoon of cod liver oil every day. He remarked that his tongue and body were so slippery, he could have eaten broken glass and it would have passed.

Twain visited everyone.

Twain visited everyone.

At 13, Samuel Clemens became a printer’s apprentice and soon joined his brother Orion’s newspaper, where he discovered he enjoyed writing stories.

A few years later he headed to St. Louis, Missouri for another newspaper job but got sidetracked by falling in love …with the river.

For two years he served as an apprentice receiving $500 at the end of that period. Training was not as easy as it might sound. In order to get a license, pilots had to know the 2,000 miles of the Mississippi like the back of their hand. Even at nighttime, pilots were required to remember the placement of every sandbar and the name of every twist and turn, like Eagles Fork or Johnsons Landing. But Mark Twain said during those years, “I had the time of my life.”

After becoming a full-fledged riverboat pilot, he was paid $250 a month. The only other people in the United States at that time that made $250 a month, besides river pilots, were the vice-president of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Riverboat pilot was much more profitable than writing fiction!

When riverboat travel became impossible in 1861 due to the Civil War, Mark Twain returned to the world of the newspaper. His adventures led him across the United States from coast to coast as well as to Europe and the Middle East.

After his travels, he settled in Hartford, Conneticut with his wife and family in 1873. That is where he wrote stories based on his memories of growing up in Hannibal, and enjoying the Mississippi River. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn came to life through his pen.

Mark Twain says thanks to each passenger as they leave.

Mark Twain says thanks to each passenger as they leave.

The journey was closed with Mark Twain telling his favorite story, “Golden Arm”. It was the story of a rich family from Hannibal, who always came to the landing to see the riverboats arrive and hear the calliope. Mark Twain even sang a Riverboat Song and had the audience join in on the chorus:

Down the river, Down the river, Oh down the O-hi-o.

I’ll not tell the story though, perhaps the next time he visits Marietta you will get a chance to hear more of his delightful tales.

Later in life Mark Twain uttered this comment: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ ”  And Mark Twain was not disappointed.

The Valley Gem is located next door to the Ohio River Museum at 601 Front Street, Marietta, Ohio, one block from Ohio State Route 7, and minutes from I-77.

Powhatan Point on the Ohio River

The Point on the Ohio River

The Point where the Captina Creek and the Ohio River meet

Chief Powhatan is memorialized here at the Point where the Captina Creek meets the Ohio River. The town laid out here in 1847 was named Powhatan Point in his honor. Captina Creek was the site of many Mingo, Powhatan, and Shawnee Indian camps in the late 1700’s, with exploration by famous white leaders such as Lewis Wetzel, George Washington and Ebenezer Zane.

Today the banks of the beautiful Ohio River provide a peaceful place to watch the barges float by, or relax with a fishing pole in hand in the cool of the evening.

Historical sign

Historical sign

When you enter town, an Ohio historical sign greets you. It states that George Washington camped at what is now known as Powhatan Point on October 24 and November 14, 1770. Some say that is the most important thing that ever happened in this small town, but there was more happening during the last visit.

Chief Powhatan was famous for his dealing with the Whites, but even before the Europeans came to this section of America, he had conquered 30 different Indian tribes. Later Chief Powhatan, with the chiefs from those 30 tribes, tried to recover their lands, which they felt had been stolen by the English and European immigrants.

Kandi's Chief Powhatan

Kandi’s Chief Powhatan

Since the town was named for Chief Powhatan, it seemed fitting for one West Virginia artist, Kandi Roche, to compose a modern day sculpture of the Chief for The Art Gallery at Powhatan Point Village.  The art gallery is situated at what they call “The Gateway to the Appalachias”. Kandi made an unusual Chief Powhatan statue, which was painted on plexi-glass, and left for the community to enjoy. This chief was the father of the famous Indian maiden, Pocahontas (1595-1617), who was a peacemaker to the first white settlers.

A beautiful fence covered with Native American tribal patterns greets you when you arrive at The Gallery here. Inside are paintings, pottery, glass and photography. Art classes have been available from time to time. Since this is a relaxed atmosphere, little is scheduled, but friends enjoy getting together along the river banks.

Community Center

Community Center and home to Christmas in the Village

Just down the street from the gallery is the abandoned Powhatan Point High School, which today has been turned into a community center. During the month of December, Christmas in the Village is held here. The 9th Annual celebration will be held in 2014 with crafts, food vendors, entertainment and of course, Santa. But if funds aren’t made available soon, this facility may be lost to the community.

Kammer-Mitchell Power Plang across the river from Powhatan Point.

Kammer-Mitchell Power Plant across the river from Powhatan Point.

Just south of Powhatan Point is the Kammer-Mitchell Power Plant providing electricity and employment for parts of Ohio and West Virginia. Today this American Electric Power (AEP) plant is partially shut down due to failure to meet EPA standards. They must convert their wet coal ash to a dry coal ash bed to return to full operation. This coal-fired plant has the sixth highest power plant chimney in the world.

Drive through our beautiful land and watch for pieces of history wherever you happen to visit. Every small town has its place in history, and Powhatan Point is no exception.

Drive along the beautiful Ohio River on Ohio Route 7 and you will come to the town of Powhatan Point, about fifteen miles south of  Bridgeport, Ohio.



Life on The Farm at Walnut Creek

View at The Farm at Walnut Creek

View of The Farm at Walnut Creek

Colorful Macaw watches over activities.

Colorful Macaw watches over activities.

Did you ever want something to eat out of the palm of your hand? Visit The Farm at Walnut Creek where many animals rush for the feed in your extended palm..

This beautiful Amish farm, set in the rolling hills of Holmes County, makes a great place to spend the day. Everything here moves at a much slower pace – even farm work. This is definitely a working farm where you can see various chores being done, depending on the season of the year: plowing, thrashing, canning or quilting to name a few.

Tour inside an authentic, non-electric, Amish farmhouse where you might be lucky enough to get a freshly baked cookie. Check out several barns, observe a blacksmith at work in his shop, and admire their beautiful flower gardens. A covered bridge creates a perfect setting for relaxation at a small pond surrounded by plants and flowers.

Luke and mother, Libery in the Giraffe Pen.

Luke and mother, Libery, in the Giraffe Pen.

But children and the young at heart come mainly to feed the farm’s 500 animals from six different continents. While everyone expects to see sheep, goats and cattle, a surprised look crosses their face when a Dromedary camel, giraffe or Grevy zebra appears.

Two options exist for viewing the animals: by car or on a horse-drawn wagon pulled by beautiful Percheron draft horses. Try both for the best experience. By car, feeding seems a little safer since you can gently put up the car window if they try to stick their head inside the car…and they definitely will! Speed limit for cars is 5 mph to protect animals and passengers.

Grevy Zebra and pony

Grevy Zebra and colt

The most fun of the day occurs on the hour-long wagon ride where each person is given a filled feed bucket for the animals. At least three horse-drawn wagons headed out each hour…and this visit happened on a Monday. The driver tells stories about the animals, as the horses trot slowly down the lane.

Stops to watch the zebras and giraffes top the tour. Everyone has to be careful of the zebras as they might bite, so pour their food onto the ground. Mother zebra keeps a close eye on her two-week old colt. The picture of this zebra pair was taken through my windshield on the car tour. They wouldn’t get off the road!

Even though the giraffes are inside a high fence, they easily reach over to eat out of your hand. Here a special treat was mother giraffe, Liberty, and her five-day old calf, Luke.

Big Bad John is always hungry.

Big Bad John is always hungry.

The Farm at Walnut Creek is truly where the deer and the antelope play, along with many other domestic and exotic animals. Feeding Big Bad John, a horned steer, requires caution, due to his long tongue reaching out for feed and his horns swinging from side to side. Everyone from child to adult enjoys feeding the animals and wishes the ride could last a little longer.

Noah's Ark Playground

Noah’s Ark Playground

At the end of this great family outing, spread out a picnic near the lake. A Noah’s Ark playground seems the perfect play area for a day filled with animals. Take the plank up to the top of the ark, then come down one of several slides. Nearby is a sandy volleyball court.

The Farm at Walnut Creek provides fun activities all year long. During the Fall Festival, you might try their famous pumpkin slingshot, or watch the Percherons press sorghum cane stalks into molasses. If you are lucky to have your winter trip fall on a day when the lanes are covered with a couple inches of snow, then you’ll be able to have a horse-drawn sleigh ride. The excitement continues all year long!

The road to The Farm at Walnut Creek is a pleasant drive. Take I-77 to Exit 93, which will be SR 39. Turn left on SR 39 and go approximately 14 miles to a left turn on Co Hwy. 114. Signs are posted so watch carefully.

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