From the farm: A vacation – farmer style

  • Even though I don’t usually gamble, I did come out $100 ahead on a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. – just enough to pay my round-trip cab fare to a writers’ workshop I was there to attend. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Published: 1/29/2023 1:45:38 PM
Modified: 1/29/2023 1:45:25 PM

For the second time in six months, I made my way to Atlantic City, NJ., except on this trip, husband Bruce, a non-gambler, stayed on the farm to feed the animals. Instead, I traveled with Trish Taylor, farm friend, and head chef at Grappone Conference Center in Concord. After changing buses in Boston and New York City, we arrived at Caesars Palace.

In the lobby, a 20-foot statue of Julius Caesar, his right arm reaching toward the cathedral-like sky-blue ceiling, stood to the left. Straight ahead was a sign for “Hell’s Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay.”

“Wow, we have to eat at Hell’s Kitchen,” Chef Trish said. “Have you seen his TV show? He’s amazing.”

I’d never watched the show, but I felt I would.

We walked through the serene and quiet lobby into the casino, where I was overwhelmed by the flashing lights and constant music. After depositing our luggage in a spacious but inexpensive room, I fell into a pleasant rhythm of feeding bills into the slot machines and pressing a button that made the lights flash and spun images of roulette wheels or charging buffalo on the screen. Some devices had handles to pull, but just like a human appendix, they were unnecessary. The buttons did all the work.

Trish, who had taken her mom to Fox Woods many times, was an old hand at playing slot machines.

“Pick the penny machines and bet small. That way, your cash will last longer,” Trish said.

I found a flashy machine called “Hot Shot” and fed it a $100 bill. Every few minutes, my machine shouted, “Hotshot!” and I’d have a chance to win big, as much as $44,932, but only if I had bet the maximum. Rather than bet small (10 cents at a time) and forfeit the chance to walk away with enough cash to pay off the farm’s Mahindra tractor, I decided to bet the maximum of 45 cents each time.

My plan worked, and one time a 45-cent bet won me $209.

“Cash out and put half of your winnings in your pocket” – more good advice from Trish.

I tucked $109 into my pocket and fed the remaining $100 back into the hungry machines. Since I was a farmer, I thought the Little Piggy machines would bring me luck. At first, they did, but then, just like the others, they flashed their lights but kept my money. Ultimately, I settled on moving from one “Hot Shot” machine to another, pocketing winnings and moving to the next. Trish and I escaped the casino a few times to walk on the boardwalk, where Trish learned that the game of Monopoly was designed around Atlantic City.

Dinner at Hell’s Kitchen may not have been cheap (Trish paid, thank goodness), but it was a sure bet. Most impressive was watching the row of chefs with blue head bandannas (entree chefs) working next to those with red head bandannas (appetizer chefs) behind the curved counter while the serving staff did their magic. My grilled salmon was crisp yet tender. Trish’s Beef Wellington (she let me taste) was so tender her steak knife went unused. The farmer in me wondered what bovine breed provided a filet mignon that tender, but I didn’t ask.

Back in our room that night, I watched the latest episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” and learned that most contestants are talented chefs, but that’s not enough. Chefs with the best communication and organization were the winners.

“Are the scallops done? Where’s the soup? That appetizer isn’t ready. Be sure to wipe each plate,” are some of the commands and reminders used by the winners on the TV show. And while these are different from directives issued on the farm, communication is also critical for farmers, “Did you close the gate? Is the water turned off? That pasture needs a hay bale.” A farm is like a restaurant but with much more weather and manure.

After a day and a half, I was still $100 ahead, just enough to pay for my round-trip taxi ride to my next stop, a writers’ workshop in nearby Galloway, N.J. It included a “Story Slam” in which 20 competitors had five minutes each to tell a story.

Check back, and I’ll tell you about that, plus some sightseeing in New York City on my way back to the farm, where I’m sure Bruce was missing my helpful suggestions.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm ( in Loudon, N.H., where she raises and sells beef and other local products. She can be reached at

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