Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


December 22, 2013

TIM PRESTON: Notes from the Black Barn; a good burger

ASHLAND — Of all the places I like to visit, Black Barn Produce is near the top of the list. I enjoyed a visit with owners Steve and Marla Carter recently, and not all of my notes ended up in the story last Sunday.

If you’ve never been there, the Black Barn is not hard to find. It is, however, easy to pass up if you don’t know where to turn off the main road. Located just across the Lawrence/Johnson County line off of U.S. 23, the key is looking for the little blue tourism sign, or a green sign pointing you toward Jenny Wiley’s grave. The barn is only a few yards off the highway, but you can’t see it until you are practically in the parking lot.

The “magic” of the business is the inventory of time-tested things, from old-fashioned “penny” candy and swing-away can openers to cast iron cookware and penetrating salves. On this visit, I asked Steve to point out a few of the more interesting old-timey items in the inventory, and he immediately grabbed a small container from a shelf and held it out for my inspection.

“This is what replaced the old-time black salve,” he said, offering a glimpse at a package of Amish Origins Penetrating Salve.

“This is the gout buster right here,” he said at another stop, holding out a jar of tart cherry juice.

“We used to carry snake oil, but we quit that,” he said at another point.

Other stops in the store included a look at soaps, shampoos, cleansers and scrubs for pets (including an after-bath spritz), as well as a green bean “frencher” (I had to have that one explained to me), gourmet mustards, Ale8 sauces and dip mixes. “This bacon and onion dip mix makes THE best cheese balls,” he said.

We spent a few moments looking at the bulk spices as Carter explained the quality factor involved, noting their tubs of cinnamon (priced about the same as a small shaker of the commercial stuff) have the highest-available level of essential oils — “4.5 percent, very, very strong,” he said.

Popcorn is also a passion at Black Barn Produce. “The microwave popcorn just doesn’t do the trick anymore,” Carter observed.   

And, if you want a genuine testimonial about the miracle works of a product, just ask him about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. While he likes to mix his with raspberry tea, Carter advises mixing one to two teaspoons into eight ounces of purified water, with a splash or organic honey, syrup or molasses.

While the bakery part of the business isn’t actually located inside the Black Barn, the Cupee-Cakes made by Marla Carter are undoubtedly one of the most popular things they sell.

I brought a small box of Cupee-Cakes back to Ashland and shared them around the newsroom as Christmas gifts (once again, however, Lee Ward wasn’t in and missed out on the filled and frosted pastries).

My favorite story of the day had to be the tale of the dandelion jelly, which the Craters said they are having a hard time keeping in stock these days.

They said they had sold a few jars of dandelion jelly through the year, but it was never a big seller. Dandelions are often a component of old-time formulas for everything from a cough to the croup, and a local church singer decided to try the

jelly after becoming so hoarse she could not sing in church.

Apparently the dandelion jelly worked so well, everyone in the church had to get a jar of their own and the stuff has been nearly impossible to keep on the shelves since.

Black Barn Produce is closed on Wednesday, but otherwise open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (606) 297-2600.

Burger of the week

Also from my traveling notebook, the gang at Black Barn was just sitting down for some lunch when I arrived and Steve said he had an extra cheeseburger if I wanted one.

Since I arrived hungry, I couldn’t refuse and grabbed a seat at the checkerboard table.

I took one bite of that burger and knew I had a winner. I asked Carter where the burger came from and he simply said, “Across the road.” I always get in trouble when I assume anything, but I’m assuming he meant the burger came from the gas station/store across the road on U.S. 23.

The burger was loaded with fresh ingredients and I washed it down with a big bottle of peach Nehi. It was also a case of good conversation enhancing the experience, as we talked about everything from “The Knockout Game” to Ted Nugent and the girls of Brazil before getting into our interview time.

I got worried about my assumption and called back to find out more about the burger.

Mrs. Carter answered the phone and told me the place is now called Cardinal Country Store (formerly Ramco Fuels), with a new owner but the same longtime employees.

Carter said they have a nice deli at the store, with “excellent spaghetti” and good meatloaf often featured as the special of the day.

“Friday is the big day. Friday is catfish day. Very good,” Marla said.

Good guys

For several weeks, I’ve been trying to work in a little note about the people at Wagner Rental & Supply at 905 Greenup Ave. in Ashland, although it seems I’ve run out of room every time before now.

I was super impressed with Tom Lawson, who just happened to be behind the counter when Matt Potter and myself were out seeking support for the recent Veterans Appreciation Weekend.

Lawson explained his own family history and dedication to our nation’s veterans, and he also told one of the best local “war stories” I’ve ever heard.

We barely explained what we were up to and Lawson soon had us set up with a big tent, golf carts including a limousine model, and even a couple of heaters to ward off the cold breeze from the Ohio River.

I admit to being fascinated looking around the shop at Wagner Rental & Supply, and quite impressed by the array of things they have available.

If you need an aerial lift, air tool, augers, compaction or compression equipment, forklifts, fasteners, hoists, heaters, jacks, ladders, levels, sandblasters, saws, scaffolding, or even a welder, they’ve got it.

For more information about Wagner Rentals & Supply (also with three locations in Ohio), hit their website at wagnerrental.com or call (606) 326-9911.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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