The trip to Alabama was a total success. The fishing could have been better but we did manage to catch fish two out of the three days we put in but the highlight of the trip was getting to attend a couple of Simon’s teaching sessions where he was dealing with about fifty kids, 10-12 years old. I know I’m biased but I was really surprised at how well he controlled the mob and was able to interact professionally with them. The first class was a raptor handling demonstration and tutorial on all facts raptor. He knew the material and handled some unruly birds while totally engaging with the audience for two hours. There were a couple types of owls, a bald eagle, a falcon, and a red tail hawk. Personally I learned quite a bit and it sure seemed like the kids were soaking it up. The second class was on fresh water invertebrates in which he led the kids to the lake to collect species and then marched up to the classroom to learn the hows and whys of these critters – right down to examining them under microscopes. It was remarkable to see how interactive and totally captive to the material they all were. This was about yucky, living organisms such as dragonfly nymphs. The concept he was teaching was how to perform a numerical analysis on the biology of the items they found in order to quantify the quality of the water. Not really a simple concept but it seemed to me, based on the questions and answers, that most of them got it.
We got to meet Si’s many friends and co-workers who went out of their way to tell us how much they loved him. We got to explore the small rural Alabama town of Columbiana where they spend much of their leisure time. To position you, Columbiana is about 75 miles south east of Birmingham – rolling hills and farm land. We got so into the town that Tom is now carrying a library card from there – had to join to conduct some business crisis that came up while he was away from the office. We ate at all the recommended places – such as Bernie’s where you literally have to go there to find out if they’re open and serving. Sometimes they do lunch and dinner, sometimes just lunch, and sometimes not at all. Had lunch at a drugstore soda counter which transported me back about 60 years. And Anny’s where she serves cafeteria style with no menu – decides when she comes in what she’s going to cook that day. We missed the barbecue at the Chevron station because the guy with the smoker didn’t show up while we were there.
George picked the first corn while I was in Alabama and reported it as “perfect”. Good call. So far it’s light years ahead of previous crop attempts in terms of plant quality and yield. It’s a bi-color variety called Peaches and Cream. Very tasty, especially when it’s cooked within 5 minutes of picking. Also a few plum tomatoes ripened while I was gone. They’re larger than any I’ve grown in the past and cosmetically flawless. Usually there are blemishes caused by bugs and who knows what, but these are good enough for a Publix ad. I will say that I took more care in planting these seedlings than my normal practice so that could be the difference. Alternatively and equally likely, the weather has been perfect for the garden, more or less the whole time since planting. I’ll split credit with mother nature. I put the egg beside the tomatoes to give you a size reference. The cucumbers and pole beans are the largest you’ve ever seen but the varieties are such that they remain sweet and tender even when double the size you’re used to. When Tom left for home, he had a large bag loaded with kale, green beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and a couple ears of corn – like a visit to the Farmer’s market but with better prices.