I REALLY THINK I will eventually get an opportunity to go back into some of the past travel experiences that I’ve written about and go into more detail. I have more stories about places I’ve been in the past that I haven’t even gotten to yet. I have a good problem lately in that Mimi and I have had some really great trips in the last couple months due to business trips made fun and a few that have not been about work at all. It seems wherever we go we tend to lock in on the horticultural end of things. That’s easy enough. Everywhere you look no matter where you are there is something horticultural going on, even indoors.
Last weekend we decided we couldn’t go another minute without a visit to Greenville, S.C. where our daughter, Mia is creating a wonderful life for herself. She has surrounded herself with some great friends, has a Jack Russel named Willow we are absolutely in love with and a very cool boyfriend, Matthew. This is the same gang that got together at Mimi’s mom’s house and created the stone walkway I wrote about a few weeks back. I felt like taking everybody out for a great meal, which is very easy to find in Greenville, to show our gratitude for their help and to catch up with what’s been happening in their busy world of survival in these crazy times.
We ended up at a restaurant they’ve been meaning to go to and they knew we’d love. In the area around Greenville there are lots of vegetable growers who are connected to the farm to table concept, which always excites me because I know the vegetables on the menu are fresh as can be and in season. I have this weird concept that I only eat vegetables that are grown in the season. It just tastes so much better and I read somewhere it’s supposed to be healthier to eat that way. This restaurant didn’t disappoint, the leafy greens, the tomatoes and corn along with the local grown beef were sensational. One of Mia’s friends grows most of the vegetables on the menu at a hydroponic greenhouse nearby. I had spent a week about a month ago working with and getting to know her friend so getting to eat some of the fruits of her labors made it all the better.
I’m sure most people in the Northside are aware that just a little drive from here, in Flora, we have one of the best hydroponic vegetable producers I know of. Chances are if you’ve eaten out at some Jackson and New Orleans restaurants you’ve probably had some of their gorgeous produce. I think their lettuces and tomatoes are available at some of the grocery stores around here, too. You know it when you see and taste the produce coming out of Flora. Its colors and flavor are just incredible. Right next door to the hydroponic producer is one of the most amazing outdoor vegetable producers I’ve ever seen. The wonderful couple who runs this farm is growing huge amounts of picture-perfect vegetables, eggs and cut flowers. I don’t know where all of their produce winds up but I know a good portion of it is winding up on your plates when you eat out in Jackson and New Orleans. If you aren’t familiar with these places you should check them out on Facebook.
Salad Days is the hydroponic one and Two Dogs is the outdoor veggie producer. They have made their produce available to you by creating a program where you pick up a box of whatever is in season at the time every week or so. You won’t be sorry and it’s so much fun to drive out there to see the actual produce growing that will be headed to your kitchen.
BACK TO OUR visit in South Carolina. When we finished dinner Matt challenged us all to a bowling match or two. The bowling alley was just around the corner and he did it just right because he knows that normally the first thing I think about once the bill is paid at the restaurant is going back to Mia’s place and getting some rest. If he would have asked prior to dinner I would have found some excuse not to go. I knew she had a big hike planned for us the next morning and keeping up with her is not easy. He caught me by surprise and the next thing I know I’m having a blast bowling. In fact, it was me who asked for a second round after he beat us all. Can’t let that happen.
The next morning Mimi, Mia, Willow and I were on the one hour road trip to a hike Mia had been meaning to try out. This hike would take us up to around 2,500 feet on a 10 mile out and back with a short loop up top. I like loop hikes as much as I enjoy an up and back trip, even though it’s the same trail back it looks totally different on the way back down and I’m so busy trying not to bust it coming down my eyes are mostly on the trail.
These mountains reminded us all of some Appalachian trail hikes we’ve been on. Lots of rhododendrons, ferns and mosses growing on the rocks. Everything was flourishing since they’ve been getting the same amount of rain we’ve been getting here in Jackson. The creeks had water flowing and the waterfalls were pouring over pretty good for August. The scenery could not have been any more lush. Like I had suspected my only issue was going to be keeping up with Mia and Mimi and Willow. I had to act like I was very interested in getting some photos of the native plants just to keep them in my sights.
On the path I saw the native pawpaw tree bearing young fruit. I saw sassafras, tulip poplars that were too big to get my arms around (yes, I hugged a tree) and stands of native ferns that were gorgeous. There were lots of crazy mushrooms — some were bright gold, red ones that stuck out like sore thumbs and some that were pure white. I know some people forage for edible mushrooms but I don’t know my mushrooms well enough to risk eating one and winding up on another planet or worse at a hospital. Someday I would love to learn which ones can be safely eaten but I’ve heard some awful stories about people who have incorrectly identified some as edible and wished they hadn’t.
JUST AS WE WERE finishing our hike it was beginning to get too hot to enjoy and my legs were totally beat and beginning to cramp up. I didn’t let on as to how beat I was until they fessed up that they gotten pooped out, too. Even Willow didn’t mind being carried part of the way down. I knew then it would be acceptable to admit being whooped, that dog never tires out. Mia knew this kind of day is exactly how Mimi and I like to spend our time off. She had planned it out perfectly.
We stopped at a cool brewery/restaurant on the way back to her place to refuel ourselves with some fresh and local vegetables, just perfect. We cooked an easy meal for dinner and hit the hay kind of early because Matt had planned our next morning out on his brand new ski boat on a huge lake with crystal clear water. I was most excited about this because he and Mia had been learning to ski since he got the boat. They had both gotten really good at it really fast, I love watching people ski and cutting up in the wake of the boat.
It had been at least 10 years since I’ve had the pleasure of watching Mimi ski. Mia had never seen her ski. I saw her and Matt’s jaw drop when she slipped on her solemn ski like a pro and then again when she popped out of the water and put on a rooster tail show that was truly a beautiful sight. Mimi grew up in the Delta where she and her family would spend most weekends skiing and picnicking. She looked like a pro going back and forth, jumping the wake and raising a little Cain.
We had enough time to catch a shower and head to the airport for our flight home. We both conked out pretty quickly once we got settled on the airplane. What a perfect weekend. We got to help Mia move into her new office right on main street downtown with Mia and Mimi on decorating, and me on the heavy stuff, a vigorous hike and time on a boat. Couldn’t have been more perfectly planned out. A trip to remember.