Monday, October 13, 2008

t is for tennessee

We've just returned from a long weekend at Tims Ford State Park in Tennessee. It was the absolute perfect time to go -- the leaves were beginning to change and there were folks playing bluegrass all Saturday long. It was a lovely and, thankfully, short road trip: red barns, blue sky, and white clouds, reflected on a smaller scale in the cotton growing along the roadside.

I can't complain about not being in any of the pictures -- here is my arm in the side view mirror of an otherwise lovely scene.

I used to ride for miles and miles at Oak Mountain and all over Southside, but it had been so long since I'd ridden my bike that Lee had to put olive oil on the chain. And I can attest to the fact that you use your muscles differently when you ride versus when you run. While I can run ten miles without feeling any soreness in my calves, I am still feeling the bike rides.

Between riding and fishing, we ventured to the Swiss Pantry, a Mennonite bakery in nearby Belvidere, Tenn. It's stocked with bread, cookies, candies, preserves, and cheese, to name but a few of the yummilicious things we found there.

We noticed there are also quite a few Amish establishments in this area. My understanding is that Mennonite and Amish are two branches of the same Protestant Anabaptist church. The main difference is not so much what they believe as how they practice their beliefs. The separatist Amish shun the world, while Mennonites live simply but without separation. Whatever -- they can bake, is what I'm saying.

On Sunday, again between bike riding and fishing, we found Falls Mill, a water-powered grain mill in Belvidere. The water wheel is huge, and powers many smaller, belted gears inside. Leah has an Eric Carle book called Pancakes Pancakes, about a boy named Jack who wants pancakes for breakfast. His mother instructs him to gather the wheat, take it to the miller, gather the firewood, put it in the stove, fetch the jam, and so on, until the pancakes are finally ready to eat. It was nice to see her connect the mill to the book, and both she and Neal were so excited to watch the water spin the wheel that spins the gear that spins another and another, and so on.

In addition to gears and grains, the mill also has several old spinning wheels, looms, broom presses, and a working nickelodeon. And, they sell their flours, meals, and grits, so of course we came home with a bag full of stone ground grits!

This tree man lives beside the mill.

We returned today, stopping at Ave Maria Grotto on the way, where Brother Joseph Zoettl created miniature reproductions of many of the world's most famous buildings. He incorporated marble, glass, beads, jewelry, and shells into his work.

I especially like the dragon (above) peeking out from under the Castle of the Fairies (below).

A good example of the Brother's fondness for shells. He was well suited for this kind of craftmanship: maimed in an accident, he was a hunchback whose miniatures required an attention to detail perhaps best acheived by hunching over his work.

The kids loved the Lizard Condo, complete with toy lizards.

The Tower of Babel.

More to come. Right now I'm gonna go snack on some Mennonite cheese.


Julia said...

I recognized your arm straight away! Sounds like a really fun weekend. I've heard about the grotto but never been, how far from Bham is it?

countrypeapie said...

It's in Cullman, which is about an hour outside of downtown Bham. But it's only around 20 minutes from our house -- maybe when you're stateside for J's christening we can take a road trip.