Friday, April 30, 2010

The Rewards of Rural Life

Mountaintop Mary and I had a most marvelous adventure in her big blue truck on a perfect spring day in the southeast Tennessee mountains. She picked me up at eleven, so we could start our day of dawdling with dining. This entailed a leisurely lunch on the Tellico River at my favorite Panini place, Kat’s Deli. Of course, because I’m doing Atkins, I had to forego my own Panini; in its place having a chef salad. But Mary’s Reuben made my mouth water just looking at it.

We met a bunch of Coker Creekers hanging out there, and had a grand old time making their acquaintance and inviting them to our First Friday supper. Mary never met a stranger, so it was easy getting involved in conversation with this bevy of “boys.”
One of the guys with whom Mary struck up conversation was telling her how to catch trout on the Tellico. Mary was very interested in this subject, as she wants to learn to fly fish. She says her favorite part of fishing is casting, so fly fishing would seem to be perfect for her.

Since Mary and I are planning on joining forces for Granny Camp this summer, I was interested in the fly fishing subject as an activity to add to our “keeping kids busy” repertoire. Our informative friend, Joe, suggested that we buy worms from the service station across the road. Mary and I found this funny, as we both know that we could keep the kids busy all morning with unearthing earthworms, with which her manure piles are quite literally crawling.

When I asked Joe whether he lived nearby, he allowed as he lived in the house with the dragon. The dragon he referred to is a huge topiary that faces the Cherohala Skyway. I connected his name and the dragon and almost jumped out of my skin with excitement. I was talking to Topiary Joe, the world-famous topiary artist. I’d been wanting to make his acquaintance ever since I got to these parts. Who knew he was so approachable?

We then wandered over to McMinn County to purchase plants from the Future Farmers of America program at a local high school. What a find that was! These kids start seeds in their school greenhouse, and raise them until someone adopts them. Mary and I scored all kinds of well-on-their-way-to-fruition vegetable plants for a fraction of what they would have cost at a nursery. Mary is just a wealth of win-win information.

While we were focused on farming, and we were so close to the Mennonite community farm in Delano, I asked if Mary had ever been there. I was amazed that she hadn’t been, so we took a little detour. Even though it was still early in the season for their farm stand to have much in the way of garden goods, I was able to purchase some of their outstanding baked bounty.

The sights that we saw were worth the trip all by themselves. There is probably not a more pastoral picture than that of the Mennonites and their beasts of burden plowing and planting in the spring. We were even rewarded with a parting pleasure of finding some of the children playing near their parents in the newly plowed and planted fields. The rewards of rural life…

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