A few weeks ago Dave and I flew down to northern Georgia to visit my dad's side of the family, specifically, to see Great Uncle Walter, my late grandpa's closest brother.
My cousin, Annette, picked us up from the teeny Chattanooga, TN airport with Uncle Walter. The moment we got to the farm Uncle Walter started talking about the corn fields across the street at his son's house. Once his clothes were changed we hopped into his golf cart and off we went to see the tall, tall corn. At 89 years young he doesn't drive a car anymore but he drives his cart around the farm and across the road to check on the crops. Annette tried to convince him to let Dave drive the cart (lest he inadvertently land us in a ditch or run us into a fence like he did with his caretaker) but he wouldn't have it. Finally he agreed to let Dave operate the pedals--from the the middle seat--while he did the steering. You can imagine how well that went. But we survived crossing Highway 151 and into the corn. Some of that corn really is tall, close to 12 feet high with foot-long ears. He directed us through the rolling fields until we came to the original house on the property. It is a rickety old thing with a foundation of stacked-up stones holding it up. The story goes that the couple who built the house were killed by defiant Cherokee Indians back in the early 1800's during the forced relocation of Native American tribes out of the Deep South. None of my family members ever lived there: Uncle Walter says he just used it for storing hay and his son, Chip, now uses it to store fish feed for the pond he built in front of it.
Out in the garden with Uncle Walter and my cousin Ty:
After we got back to the house, we helped finish canning tomatoes. They had set up an outdoor kitchen in the carport since it is just too hot to do the canning inside. It is a great way to do it: you just hose everything off when you're done each night. When we were done with the tomatoes I told Annette, "I looooooooooove canning. I wish I'd gotten here sooner so I could have helped you more." She laughed and assured me that we'd be doing a lot more canning that week. I beamed at Dave, who rolled his eyes at me. More canning! Now that's my kind of vacation!
And can, we did. On Sunday morning after a breakfast of sausage patties, eggs, sliced tomato (yum...tomatoes at breakfast? I was in Heaven!), biscuits, and homemade muscadine jelly we started in on more tomatoes and green beans. By 4pm we were still at it when Allison, Edward, and Emmy finally drove up. It took them 2 days to drive down from their house in NY. Allison looked a little shell-shocked by the humidity, the accents, and the canning but she jumped right in and helped. That is, until Uncle Walter whisked her and Edward off to see the corn across the road.
The rest of the week flew by. We ate a lot, took naps, spent a lot of time talking with Annette and Uncle Walter, picked veggies in the garden, played with all the dogs, hung out with my cousins Chip and Kathy (we stayed at their very grand, very Southern home across the road), and showed Dave and Allison the grand ol' town of LaFayette, Georgia. On Monday we went down to the teeny tiny farmer's market to buy the boys some blueberries and cinnamon rolls from the Amish ladies. Then we looked around the library. Annette called us to ask us to buy some milk at the store. We didn't answer since we were in the library so I sent her a text telling her where we were. When we got home she asked us why in the world Edward and I took our significant others there. Edward and I exchanged glances--"because we're Harold's kids and that's what we do." Dave isn't big on reading but he enjoyed flipping through the Civil War books in the regional room while Allison rummaged through the used book sales carts.
On Tuesday Dave and Uncle Walter set to work fixing the handle of the pressure canner. The canner itself was fine but the plastic handle had cracked off. With some epoxy and a few new bolts Dave had it back together. Uncle Walter wasn't so sure: he kept flipping the lid over and over to make sure that there were no holes in the lid. It wasn't that he didn't trust Dave, but at 89 it is hard for him to connect two-and-two. Dave's level of patience impressed me. Finally I just told Uncle Walter that Dave was going to take it back to the house and "test" it on the canner to make sure there were no holes. While Dave toted the heavy lid back to the house and enjoyed a cold Coke on the porch, Uncle Walter took us on a tour of the shop. We sat him down on an old wheely office chair and just rolled him around the grungy floor. He showed us the lathe, the giant drill press, the gallons-upon-gallons of used motor oil from his various tractors, and this monstrous engine lift contraption. It was great.
To give Uncle Walter some time to rest--he was over-tiring himself by interacting with us constantly--we spent Wednesday afternoon at the Chickamauga Battle Field museum. It was too hot/humid outside to wander around the actual battle field...but it turned out to be too cold in the museum to stay too long. While the boys got their fill of Civil War guns Allison and I perused the bookstore. Then it was off to the Dairy Dip for lunch. Edward and I were deliriously excited about this culinary experience: I had country fried steak with pickled beets and greens; Edward and Dave had pulled pork. I can't remember what Allison had, but I'm sure it was good. I meant to take a picture of my food when I got it, but it was so good (and I was so hungry) that I forgot. So here's a picture of the empty plate:
That night for dinner Chip and Kathy made the most wonderful fried fish I've ever had. They marinated sea trout in mustard, hot sauce, and horseradish all day then breaded it in corn meal and fried it up. As a rule I don't like mustard but this was darn tasty...so were the homemade pickles I ate that night, too. (I also avoid pickles at all costs. There's just something about the humidity and family that makes me do silly things like eat pickles and mustard all on the same night.)
Thursday after breakfast we went to the Tennessee Aquarium up in Chattanooga. There are two buildings here: the Tennessee River building and the ocean building. We opted to see the 3-D movie about dolphins and whales and go on the "behind the scenes" tour. We got to feed the fish!
Check out our very stylish 3D glasses:
I found a fish named Julie! I think it should be renamed Princess Julie because it sounds nicer than Convict Julie:
For lunch we walked half a mile into downtown Chattanooga to eat at this bizarre diner adjacent to the hotel we stayed at a few years ago while my grandpa was in the hospital there. This place has pretty much everything you can think of on the menu. Right when we sat down at our booth it started POURING down rain. The streets instantly flooded and the wind blew really hard. To avoid having to walk back through the rain, we forced ourselves to eat balaclava for dessert, just to kill time. Ha!
Friday night we all went out to the Dairy Dip for dinner. By this time Nancy, Susanna, and Jenny (more cousins) had come into town for the weekend. Susanna was helping me walk Uncle Walter into the restaurant. She jokingly pointed at the Dairy Dip t-shirts for sale and suggested that if I love the place so much, maybe I should just buy a shirt. I told her I already bought a shirt the last time I was here, thankyouverymuch. She had to look at me to tell if I was serious or not. (I was. I have one in green and Dave has one in yellow. So there.)
After loading 3 dozen jars of tomatoes and green beans into Allison's car, along with Emmy's dog crate and all our luggage, we departed the farm for the airport on Saturday morning. As we pulled out of the driveway we honked the horn as Annette had instructed us. The whole family was gathered on the front lawn and they all waved for us. It was great!
My rule is that you can never leave an older relative without telling them when you'll next see them. And you have to mean it. So Allison went online and figured out which week she has off for spring break, March 8-14. We're already planning that trip to Georgia: we promised Uncle Walter that we'd be there to help him start his summer garden. And we'll keep that promise.
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