Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland – Calvert City, KY

Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden

Down in southwestern Kentucky, Calvert City (near Paducah) there’s a little back road (actually US Highway 68) that takes you to a place called Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland. It is not necessarily what you would think of as a “garden,” but it is certainly hillbilly fun. And the toyland is amazing!

I visited there in early February 2018 and had a real good time with the proprietor Keith Holt who, ironically, looks like a hillbilly!

Hanging with the fascinating Keith Holt
Signs at Hillbilly Garden

I will tell you upfront, this place is not for everyone. Some people may look at it is a big junkyard. Others, like myself, look at it as a large folk art gallery. And, along with that is a fabulous toy collection and some smaller collections of things such as soda cans and beer cans, among other things.

When I arrived, I was met by Keith. In his late 50s or early 60s, Keith has shoulder length hair and a penchant for puns! Right down my alley!

A bottle tree (he has a better name — I forgot…)

But Keith is also a folk artist. He has taken all those bottles, old tires, old furniture in computer monitors and wires and cords and any other items it some people might consider trash and then turn those into a fun “garden.“ And he is built it at one level more for creativity by making sure that each story about each piece is some sort of a pun or play on words.

Keith has created at least 40 or 50 different “pieces“ that are stretched over what is probably a good acre of land. He is more than willing to take you on the grand tour and walk you around and tell you the stories behind each of the pieces of art did he is created.

Thronehenge in the Hillbilly Garden
He has a “Bumper Crop” in the garden
Love the “Sorry, We’re Open” sign!!
Flamingos are really tired.
Keith Holt giving his PUNishiing tour of the garden

I got my biggest chuckle out of a large circle of old toilets which I adoringly called “thronehenge. (see above photo)” He has another place with a couple of old mattresses and box springs and, of course, calls them his hillbilly springs or something like that. He has a Christmas tree that has a number of cans hanging from it. The tree is adorned with “Bud lights.“ How Christmas trees have to have lights, right?

I also got a kick out of a display right near the front that had four or five computer monitors including one on a snowboard. This display was called “surfing the web.“ Ha ha Ha ha ha!

Folk Art at Hillbilly Garden
Lawnmower Ranch (an homage to Cadillac Ranch in Texas)
Peace love and Jesus made out of bottles and things
These parishioners are pinned to their seats and bowled over by the preacher apparently
Ooh la la

Keith was throwing out stories to me left and right and puns front and backward. But, as a good blogger and a promoter of sites like this, I don’t want to ruin everything for you, the possible visitor, so you can make your own  visit and enjoy the PUNishment directly from Keith’s mouth! That is definitely the best way to go!

Back Side of Grandpa Oral Wallace’s original building

Keith’s Grandpa Oral Wallace bought an apple orchard and a two room house on 6 acres in November 6, 1928. According to Keith’s website:

“He started making apple cider and selling it at his new produce stand called “Shady Nock”. Then he built an under-ground still hidden in the barn and open up an auto camp with small zoo. He was a musician, so he performed for the guest. In 1931 after hearing HWY 68 was going to be paved the house was added onto so there would be a room to rent. The wood that was left over from the house was used to build a small country store (14’x14′) called Apple Valley. In this small space they had a small barbers chair where Oral would cut hair and a four seat diner where they served chicken dinners.  March 24, 1939 Gulf gas was added. Store/gas station closed down when Oral died February 28, 1964. Grandma Myrtle Wallace went back to selling stuff on the produce stand until 1988. Then in 2005, a change blew in !”

Inside the small original building
Grandpa Wallace’s original geetars and fiddle
Vintage Sign
Kitschy knick knacks and stuff
Old newspaper articles about the place
Fun stuff – even a Frog-a-lope
More knick knacks
Some of the can collections

That particular room is now filled with a lot of memorabilia about the early beginnings of Apple Valley. There is the old violin and guitar that belonged to Grandpa Oral.

There are hundreds of old soda and beer cans throughout the little building.  As a collector (when I was in junior high school), I was thrilled to see the old things, many of which are not around any more.

Can Collection
Old collector editions of RC Cans with baseball players
Old collector Falstaff Beer cans and a few others
And here is an oldie!
One of Keith’s many hand made puppets

Before moving from California to Kentucky, Keith was a puppeteer, actor and artist. He made and performed with puppets. Many of his puppets are also on display in this little building.

But, it’s a good proprietor and guide, Keith with sharp enough to leave the best for last. He walked me back to the yard and into a larger building in the backyard area and I was overwhelmed by the thousands of small toys and characters that he is a mast and put on display in this little place.

Keith with one of his creations
Puppets and other kitsch
Keith Holt is proud of his over 3000 piece Toyland, housed in a separate building on the property
A wide view of the Toyland room

In the Toyland there’s everything from Star Wars to the old little green soldiers that I used to collect as a young child. And anything in between that you can think of. Cars, trains and thousands of participants in the form of little creatures.

This is one of those places where you would need a few hours to actually see and identify all of the pieces.  So much!

A Panorama of the Toyland
Bobble heads galore (yes, that’s Ozzie!)


What can you see?
Hi Donald
A gathering of lost toy souls
There are hundreds of “action figures” protecting the Toyland

Keith told me that the collection in that room was only a portion of what he had and that he still has many others in boxes in a big semi truck to the side because he has no place to put them at this particular point.

The toy collection was not only amazing but lots of fun. Many of the toys I had seen do some part of my life and most thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing back about them. There were others that I had not seen. He made a point to show me numerous places where he had taken certain characters, dogs are action figures and put them together in scenarios, some of which you can see in the photos below. I honestly could not keep up with everything because my eyes were so full of eye candy.

Following are a few more scenes:

Hillbilly Garden Car
Who knows?
Scary (the one on the left of course)
Even found an old Roadside America book (no longer in print!!)


#TBT – Yard Art, Swans and Mennonites in Southern Ontario

(Note: I was working at the Toyota Plant in Woodstock, Ontario as a Japanese interpreter at the time I wrote this post in 2008)

March 26, 2008: It was a beautiful day and I got off work at 4:00 and decided to head out on a small road trip around the region.  A couple of days ago I met with Cathy Bingham, Director of the Oxford County, Ontario Tourism Office in Woodstock. She had contacted  me about my Jakeman’s Syrup page and wanted to meet with me to give me more ideas.  We had a wonderful visit and she gave me some unique ideas, told me about the history of the area and focused me in on some different places to see, both in Oxford County as well as the surrounding counties.  One of the DEFINITE MUST VISITS was to see the Tundra Swans near Aylmer,  Ontario.  So, I decided to do that along with a couple of other side  trips.  Following is an overview map of the route I took…about 78 miles all together.

The first place I visited was just outside of Woodstock.  I left Toyota and headed down Highway 2 (Dundas St.) into town all the way to the Highway 59 turnoff heading north (Vansitart Rd.).  I crossed over the Thames River and up a couple of hills to see  another place that Cathy had recommended to me, based on my  yard art interests.  This particular place is the home of Cliff Bruce and his wife.  Cliff Bruce has an eclectic collection of Windmills, whirly-gigs and other oddities scattered throughout his yard. Following are just a few shots of the place:

Cliff Bruce Windmill Hill
Welcome sign over the main driveway tells you where you are.
Push button
Push button to Open Gate – Do I dare?
Bruce Windmill Hill
Fun entry sign. I am still alive, so I must have missed the double shot gun day!

He calls it Windmill Hill.  There is a gate that keeps visitors out and  the dogs in, but the sign in the driveway says to “Push the Button” to open the gate.  I did that, but the gate did not open.  Since I did not know if today was the two double shot gun day, I decided to just walk around the outside and get a few shots of his yard decorum.

The first thing I noticed from the driveway was the working walk/don’t walk lights and the railroad crossing lights…which came complete with the bell ringing.  I wondered if the neighbors got tired of hearing the railroad bell go off every two minutes…for yes, there  are neighbors.

Walk/Don’t Walk Lights inside Windmill Hill
Railroad lights
Functioning Railroad Crossing lights go off occasionally
I would have walked had I been able to get inside the gate.

Then came the front yard.  He not only has windmills, but lots of unusual statues, etc.  Fun fun fun.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone waves at a whirly-gig from Cliff Bruce’s front porch
Bruce Windmill doll
Rent a birthday mannequin complete with the lingerie!
This cowpoke guards the place from American photographers…I had to be sneaky

From there I had to trudge through the foot deep snow around the south side of his house.  I was walking through some kind of field.  As I walked along the fence, the Bruce’s dogs paid me a visit (from the other side of the fence).  But I kept shooting away.  So many things…in so little space.

Windmill Hill
Numerous whirly-gigs and an old Texaco sign adorn the south side of the Bruce Windmill Hill landscape.
Tired snowman
A homemade Michelin man? Or is it a “tired” snowman??
Fascinating whirly-gig contraption.

One could really spend a couple of hours looking around this place. So many little things everywhere.

A red metal butterfly adorns the snow covered yard
A Clydesdale whirly-gig atop a pole
Fred Flintstone in flight

Cliff seems to have a fascination with flying things and moving things. He had a few small amusement airplanes and helicopters in the yard, like Fred Flintstone (above) and the plane and helicopter below.

A large toy plane floats above the yard at Bruce Windmill Farm
Planes, helicopters and other flying things.
A large amusement park style helicopter flies around. Even has a live-in pilot!

The menagerie in his yard  goes on and on.

A LIVE dog protects the whirly-gigs
A colorful tire adorns the yard
A wide shot of a part of the Cliff Bruce Windmill Farm.

From Windmill Hill I headed back into Woodstock and then on to the 401 freeway to head west towards London.  I got off at exit 203 to head south on Highway 73 (Elgin Rd.) towards Aylmer, Ontario (which the locals pronounce as “Elmer,” so I was initially confused in trying to find the place).  Along the way I went through the small village of  Harrietsville.  I was surprised to run across more yard art…in fact, a  place that fabricates yard art out of sheet metal and scrap metal.  I just had to stop!!

TCM Metal Art in Harrietsville, Ontario
A metal flamingo…but not too pink
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!! An iron butterfly!!
A steel heron…or is it an egret?

On my stop at TCM I met an older man who said that he was one of four who owned and worked the place.  He makes the items with the stones while others do some of the metal work.  He told me about how he had a heart attack and the doctor said he could only be saved if he stopped smoking.  I asked if I could get his photo, but he declined.  Nonetheless, he was quite the talker.

Metal and stone flock of birds at TCM Metal Works in Harrietsville, Ontario
Lovely metallic flowers
Look at that snapper!
Metallic sunflower

i got a kick out of the guitar playing metallic dragon below:

Guitar playing dragon looks like he’s singing his heart out.
Opposite view of the singing dragon
A metallo-raptor?
Front view of metallo-raptor
Metallo-raptor head

Time was flying and the sun was beginning to get lower in the sky, so I shuffled off to Aylmer to go see the swans…the main goal of this  little excursion.  In speaking to Cathy, she told me that from her experience, the best time to see the swans is in the afternoon as they are the most active.  So, I took her word for it and hoped that my afternoon visit would pay off.

I drove down 73 until I got to Glencolin Line and at that corner was a nice blue sign with a swan on it and an arrow pointing left.  I followed Glencolin about 5 km to Hacienda Dr., where there was another sign pointing to the left.  Just shortly up the road was another sign pointing to the right.  This was the place – the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area:

Aylmer Wildlife Management Area – Aylmer, Ontario
The Blue Swan sign pointing to the Aylmer Wildlife Management area

A small jaunt down the road led to some viewing stands.  One was open and a couple more were enclosed with open windows. As I got out of the car I could hear an assortment of honks, hums, whistles and various other noises emanating from the small pond (named  Tundra Pond) where there were literally thousands of Tundra Swans (in fact, there is a group of volunteers that feeds them and counts them daily — today’s count was 4268).  In fact, the Aylmer Museum sponsors a Tundra Swan Line which allows people to call in and get a daily migration report and count of the visiting swans.  I had never seen more than one or two swans at a time, so this pretty amazing to me to see thousands of them.  And mingled in with them were a number of Canadian Geese.

First view of swans at Aylmer
Swans mingle with geese
Lots of swans in the Tundra Pond
Another view of swans and geese at Aylmer

I learned that the swans are in different groups.  Since they mate for life, the “married couples” are in one place, the singles are in another and then the young ‘uns are just out playing in the water.  Watching them fly was also cool as these birds are so graceful and their huge size really adds emphasis.  It was really an amazing visit!!

My return trip took me through the booming town of Aylmer.  I went through Aylmer and then ventured back along the back roads of Elgin County, Norfolk County and Oxford County, before returning to Brant County and Paris. Along the road I encountered Mennonites in their horse-drawn buggies.  Aylmer actually has a Mennonite Furniture Store.  I think the photos speak for themselves.  All told, it was a wonderfully adventurous afternoon and a beautiful one at that with partly cloudy skies and 45 degree temperatures.

A lonely Mennonite buggy on a road in Elgin County, Ontario
Look carefully and you can see a head through the window
Doesn’t look like a Canada Goose to me!!
Another Mennonite scene

The back roads of southern Ontario always offer some wonderful scenes.  So glad to have visited in 2008 and to be able to look back at these great memories.


A Grizzly Experience: Grizz Works in Maple, WI

Grizz Works in Maple, WI
Grizz Works in Maple, WI

During my trip on US Route 2 across Wisconsin, I came across a unique place called Grizz Works in the small town of Maple, Wisconsin. It amounted to a roadside stop with a whole bunch of big, realistic looking chainsaw carved wooden animals and other statues. I have seen many of these along the roads in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario, Arkansas and Kentucky, but the work that they had there was absolutely astounding!

Grizz Works Art
Grizz Works Art

What caught my eye from the road was a 10 foot tall giant wooden grizzly that looked alive!

Giant Grizzly
Giant Grizzly

Since I passed it, I found the next place to turn around and I went back and stop by for a visit. This is one of those classic reasons why I take back road adventures because you never know what you will see along the way.

American Indian
American Indian

When I first got out, I went up to a man (Jared Nelson) who was busily painting dark paint onto one of the sculptures. I spoke with him a bit and found out that he has been working with the owner (Justin Howland) for a number of years and that they do this together.

Jared Nelson of Grizz Works painting one of the pieces
Jared Nelson of Grizz Works painting one of the pieces

I watched him work for a while and took a couple of photos of him working on the project he was on. I then went over and spoke to Justin Howland.

Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI.  Giant Grizzly is amazing!
Sumoflam and Justin Howland at Grizz Works in Maple, WI. Giant Grizzly is amazing!

I learned that he has been doing this for over 20 years and that it started out by accident after he done a little bit of work but now they do large projects for a number of clients in many of these pieces run into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. Before Justin became an accomplished chainsaw carver, he was an award-winning pencil artist. His works were displayed in Wisconsin’s State Capital and in 1991 he received the W.T. Rogers Art Award. Over the years, Justin has developed a distinctive style in both his drawings and chainsaw art.

Unique Deer
Unique Deer

Justin opened Grizz Works in 1999, and since then, he’s won numerous awards and was even featured on ABC’s Extreme Makeover. There is a nice video of his work HERE.

Right there off of the road you could see nearly 20 to 25 pieces that were out there on display. But after talking to the owner, I found out that they also have two enclosed display areas on the site and are working on the third one. These will actually be like showrooms for their work.

Grizz Works in Maple, WI
Grizz Works in Maple, WI

He was gracious enough to get in the photo with me under the giant grizzly. This is truly the symbol of their work in this monstrous piece of work would be wonderful in anyone’s yard… If they could find a semi to get it there.

Eagle from Grizz Works
Eagle from Grizz Works

Glad I had the opportunity to meet these people and learn about their business. It was truly one of the more unique opportunities I had during my road trip across the country.

Raccoons and Bear
Raccoons and Bear