Our trip to Alabama was really fun. We had programmed the GPS to his office in downtown Centreville and it guided us there unerringly. I’m fairly sure we never would have found it otherwise. This is RURAL, RURAL Alabama – about 20 miles from Tuscaloosa – lots of two lane, mostly unmarked roads so we were totally reliant on the voice in the box. We went by Si’s trailer and reintroduced ourselves to his dog, River and turtle, Tony. He’s on a small lake that’s loaded with bass and catfish and is about 100’ from his door to the water. What more could you ask for? We had a family style barbecue at Big Daddy’s and then got to our hotel in nearby Vance. The big surprise was that this place is in the middle of nowhere, and I do mean nowhere, except that it’s sitting behind a new Mercedes manufacturing plant. Incredibly large and must employ thousands. Until we saw the plant, I had my doubts as to what kind of a place would be this far out in the woods. I’m sure 99% of the guests are visiting Mercedes. Very nice accommodations. I think we were both asleep before it got dark.
The small town and county where Simon presides as the Extension Agent has an annual lily festival to honor a particular variety that only lives locally in the Cahaba River. The river runs through a National Wildlife Refuge and we got to experience it all. There was a formal program which included several Alabama political figures, a Botany professor from Samford University who is the worlds foremost (and perhaps only) expert on this particular lily, and a presentation by Simon describing current and future 4-H programs. There was a luncheon which consisted of 3 long tables full of home made dishes – a pot luck kind of meal. There were probably over 100 people, maybe double that, but trust me, they had way more than enough food. You wanted to take a spoonful of everything just to try new things. We met his co-workers and others in the community who know Simon and listened to nothing but accolades of his work and how much they appreciate him being there. Many of the folks are close to our age and treated him like their own grandson. It was amazing to me how easily he fit into such a different environment.
We hit another of his favorite restaurants for dinner Saturday night and then breakfast on Sunday with Amy, his lady. Funny story on the Sunday breakfast – we made arrangements to meet them at a restaurant called the Sawmill – at least we thought it was the Sawmill – and programmed the GPS to guide us there. When you say “sawmill” in Alabamese it sounds like Saw-meal so you can imagine our surprise when before we got to the place, we passed a restaurant with a big sign that read SawMeal. What made it most confusing was that the GPS still had it two miles away. Should I stop at the Saw Meal or drive on looking for the Sawmill? Let’s just stop here and call Simon. Oops, no phone service. We are in RURAL Alabama. So we decided to just hang there at the Meal and hope we spot Simon either at the SawMeal or driving past to get to the Sawmill. We were early but they pulled in exactly on time.
Highlight of the return trip was breakfast/lunch at a place in Gainesville, the Flying Biscuit. I’m a bit of a biscuit Nazi so I couldn’t resist. Unquestionably the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten – and that’s a big deal for me. We bought a dozen to bring home and freeze. They’re still good albeit not quite as good as right out of the oven.
Quick garden highlights – Nematodes got the cucumbers; acorn squash made it for the first time in 10 years of trying; more green beans than we can possibly handle ourselves; picking cherry and plum tomatoes; cut down most of the collards and all the Tuscan Kale-bolted – sprayed the corn with Neem after finding some critters lunching and munching on it.