See Alabama

Bellingrath Gardens

 While we were on the coast a few weeks ago, we took time to visit Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile.  I can't really remember if I had ever been before but it was very nice and I enjoyed touring the gardens.  They have a pretty wide selection of garden types; sunny meadows, shade, water and Japanese amongst others.

Their rose garden was maybe not quite as nice as Birmingham's but they had some real beauties nonetheless.   I love bi-colored roses like these.  And these were real roses too, not any of that "knock-out" crap that don't even have a fragrance.  In my book, it's not real unless it has that rose smell.  I'm absolutely horrible at actually growing roses but maybe one day I can devote a little more time to my efforts.

They had a very nice arboretum that was crammed with all sorts of cool flowers, trees and shrubs.   Jack's interest poops out during these kinda of things but he always brings his Kindle so he can find a quiet place to read and I can look for as long as I want.  Jack's sister-in-law was kind enough to take us to the gardens so she and I went over every square foot of the place just about.

I really loved this area with the pool.  The story of Bellingrath is fairly interesting.  Basically, a very well to do couple, with no children, bought several hundred acres (I think) as a "fish camp" for Mr. Bellingrath to use for relaxation and fun.  Well, Mrs. Bellingrath thought it needed some work, so she hired a famous architect and well, the rest is history.  You know how those architects are....After extensive development they decided they might open their gardens to the public for one day, so in 1934 they placed an ad in the Mobile paper.  Anyone who would like could come out for an afternoon stroll around the gardens, free of charge.  I think something like 4,700 people showed up and they got the idea that maybe they should allow the gardens to be open more often.

Mrs. Bellingrath was the first to pass away and in his devotion and love for her, Mr. Bellingrath established the gardens as a public establishment forever in her memory.

 Visiting places like this always makes me want to go all wild landscaping when I get home.  I, however, have to work with a severe lack of funds.  And landscaping design sense.  Mostly I just move rocks and plants, that are already growing here, around until I find something that works.  I am going to put in some kind of fountain/ water garden behind the house though and it is going to be cool beans.

Of course there was the quintessential Spanish moss hanging from the trees everywhere.  The girls in the big Gone With The Wind dresses only come out on special occasions though.

Since it was originally a fish camp it actually is situated on the shores of a river and several of the trails lead down to the water.

This was a good size estuary sponsored by, get this... Exxon.  I laughed out loud at that one.  What hypocrites.  How 'bout spending some dough up in that Alaskan town you ruined, you bastards.

Anyway.   Jack did join us long enough to see what kind of trouble he could get into and he always finds something.

The ideal time to come here would be when the azaleas are blooming because this place was eat up with them.  I can imagine that when they are blooming it is just a sea of color everywhere.  But, alas, they had all bloomed a few weeks before we were there.

Lots of mossy trees.  We took a break for a really yummy lunch in their cafeteria and I thought everything was very reasonably priced, including admission.

The Japanese gardens was the only part that was a little disappointing.  Birmingham's got them beat by a mile.  However, they did have a few plant/ flower species I had never seen before, like this ginger.  (I think)

There is a home there also that you can tour but we were not interested.  I was kinda surprised to see it was modest compared to today's rich people standards.


There wasn't a lot of art but they did have a few bronzes and things.  I want a spouty frog for my garden.





Lake Shore Drive

A couple of weeks ago Jack and I drove back up to Guntersville to deliver pottery to the museum of that same town for their gift shop.  The building above is NOT the museum!  The Guntersville Museum is actually a large, somewhat modern looking building; very nice.  Their little gift shop is kinda small but at least I can say I have my work in a museum giftshop! lol!  Anyway, while we were in town we decided to make a day of it as Guntersville is a huge tourist destination due to copious amounts of lakes, rivers and state parks.  The building above is just an old school I think that is constructed using a method that I think, you mainly see in the south.  It is built using chert rock as the exterior and due to the looks we always called them 'peanut' houses or buildings.  I think it's kinda of a neat look myself.  It does look a bit better when the rock is combined with wood siding in a somewhat Craftsman style.  I suppose that this method is prevalent here, only on older structures, because it was a way for poor people, which the south had a lot of, to have a stone house.  Nowadays you cannot buy chert rock really because nobody wants to fool with it but you can pick it up lots of places.  Most people are happy for you to come get it off their property.  I have picked up, and laid, my share of this stone.  It will tear your hands up if you don't wear gloves.

So after dropping off the pottery and having lunch we drove up to Guntersville State Park.  I think they are serious about keeping people out of this area because they had a herd of these emus in there and those things can be mean!  I thought it was a little odd myself.

We drove through the regular campgrounds and then up the mountain to where there is a large, luxurious lodge. (Say that 5 times fast!)  The view there was really nice.  The lakes to me are kinda more like rivers because they are so many and vast.  They also had a number of cabins and chateaus you could rent up here or just rent a room in the big lodge.  The rates were not too bad really.

If you look in the lower right corner you can see just a bit of the campgrounds below.  Or what is left of them really after this area got hit 4 times last year by tornadoes.  The grounds used to be quite wooded and some areas are fairly bare now as they are still cleaning up downed trees.  They had cleaned it up pretty good though and there were quite a few people camping and all.  Some areas of the grounds still had a good number of trees.

The lodge was very nice and had some spectacular views.  I can see where it would be really relaxing to lounge around up here!

There were a number of decks too, to choose where you wanted to do your lounging.  They have a nice restaurant in the lodge also.  Jack and I thought it might be nice to go up one Sunday for the brunch they offer and then hike it off later on one of the many trails through the park.

This was one area inside near the restaurant.  Some of the artwork left a bit to be desired but otherwise it's a nice place.  Lots of people come here at various times to watch the bald eagles that nest in the trees below the lodge.  I think that is one of the biggest tourist draws here.  It would be really cool to see.


This past weekend we experienced an abnormally cool spell of weather; Sunday morning dawned around 58-59 degrees here!  That is astoundingly cool for August and made for some gorgeous days where it was actually bearable to be outside!  So, Jack and I said the heck with yardwork and housework, we needed to go do something.  We called Mama and asked if she wanted to go with us because our destination wasn't too far from her house anyway.  She was game, happily, so we picked her up and headed for Noccalula Falls Park.  This is a 250 acre state park around the Gadsden area in north Alabama.
Some of you might just remember seeing a story back in November about 3 "extreme" kayakers that purposefully went over these falls.  Now, they waited until after a heavy rain so that the pool would be as deep as possible; that is a 90 foot drop and many, many people have drowned in these waters.  I saw the video the guys made and I have to say, I had never seen the waters as high as they were that day.  They were still insane.
I grew up in this general area too, so this place is very familiar to me.  We didn't come here a lot when I was small but as a teenager and young adult it was a popular spot for a lot of us.  You can view the falls and upper part of the park at no cost so we liked that.  And there is a burger joint right across the street so it was all good.  My father lived just down the road from here as a kid and this place was their swimming hole back before it became a park.  That's a heck of a swimming hole!  I had thought that the city had blocked the entrances to the bottom of the falls, due to the number of deaths associated with it but they have not.  In fact, Mama was telling me that they just completed a long hiking trail that starts here and goes southward out of town.  I would like to find out more about that.  We used to hike all around the bottom and down the creek when I was younger.  It's very pretty there but you must be careful not to fall in the creek.

The water was pretty low the day we visited, despite all the rain we've had, so the geese were enjoying the calm waters above the falls.

The back portion of the park contains a recreated pioneer village along with a large "farm" or small zoo, however you want to look at it and botanical gardens.  This is the area you must pay to enter but it's not too much.  I really liked this detail in the outriggers and verge rafter on this old cabin.  I thought that was pretty cool.

This area was quite nice and has wonderful, shaded walking trails all through it.  The upper part, near the actual falls, was rather disappointing though.  They had let the maintenance of that area just go to crap.  When I was young it was full of rose gardens and other flowers etc. but much of that was now sadly neglected.  I'm not sure why.  The majority of the park is very nice though and well kept.  The building in the background here is the new entrance to the park and just in front of that is the boarding for the train that runs through the park.  Of course, the building in the foreground is an old church and small village garden.

There are quite a number of old buildings for the Pioneer Village.  Many of them were moved down from Tennessee.  I thought that was odd.  Were there none here to be had??  I also thought our chicken house looks much better. LOL!

Jack had never been to this park before but he enjoyed it I think.  This was the blacksmith's shop.

This was the resident llama.  He was pretty friendly and thankfully, didn't spit on us.  You can see that's a very nice barn in the background!  I would love to have something like that!  They had an assortment of normal farm animals too; goats, sheep etc.  They also had several emus, one of which just ran around free! and numerous whitetail deer.

Now, ya'll can correct me on this ID but I think this is a Loblolly Pine??  They are enormous and grow very straight.  I don't have any on my property and I have always been fascinated with them.  I think I just have the average long-leaf pine.

Here is a shot of more of the animals and you can see the ol' llama would just flop down on the ground to graze!  I guess it was easier on him.

Anyway, I have a bunch more photos that contain more examples of our Southern way of life that I think ya'll will enjoy.  I figured it might be better to break it up into 2 posts so your eyes didn't start rolling back in your heads.  The South is a unique area to say the least, as are the people and the next batch of pictures show a bit more of our folklore and ingenuity.

Okay!!  I am finally back to finish this post on Noccalula Falls.  Aunty was wanting to see the video of the kayakers so I saved this one for ya'll.  There are several versions, amazingly enough, and this is one of the longer ones.  It takes a little bit to load but not horrible.  Or, just Google "Noccalula kayakers" and you will get a number of results, including several You Tube versions.  I think all of the guys were wearing the GoPro helmet cameras and it just about makes me sick to watch when they go over the falls! lol!

So, back to our originally planned broadcast.  These photos are more of the back portion of the park and they contain a few features that are unique to the South.  The house you see above is a great example of a classic "dogtrot" design and is the basis of the design for my house.  Now, I know you are saying, 'your house doesn't look anything like that Annie!'  Well, no it doesn't.  Not yet anyway.  I still hope to add the second part of my house that would allow it to develop into a true dogtrot design.  The existing deck would become the breezeway area with a master bedroom and bath, a library/ office and laundry/ crafts room on the other side.  As we stood inside the breezeway or dogtrot area, you could feel a much more noticeable breeze within than you could standing outside and that is one of the purposes of this design.  When air currents are compressed or force to turn a corner they tend to pick up speed, allowing for more ventilation.  It worked because these type houses were very common before air-conditioning.  It also allowed you to have the cooking area separated, literally, from the sleeping area thus keeping it cooler.  I have gotten a lot of crap over simply wanting this design and that kinda boggles my mind.  Anything from, "but you'll have to walk across that opening in the winter!!!!' (like we live in the Arctic and I might freeze solid in 12 feet) to "why do that when you can just run your air-conditioner?"  Explaining the green aspect of not wanting to run air-conditioning so much just doesn't work on these people so I don't bother.  To me there is also another great function of a house like this:  If Jack or I wanted or needed to stay up late or work on something the other could retire to the other side without being bothered by noise or such.  Or if he pisses me off enough I could go over there and not kill him.

Many of you might recognize this contraption as a "bottletree" but for those of you that may have never seen one I'll explain.  The South has been heavily influenced by the African culture due to the import of slaves in colonial times and later and the idea of demons or evil spirits being captured in glass is one of those ideas.  The bottletree is simply the evolution of that idea taken up by white people, I imagine partially just because they are pretty and eclectic, something southerners revel in.  Here are a few lines from a story by Eudora Welty that might explain some: 
Then coming around up the path from the deep cut of the Natchez Trace below was a line of bare crape-myrtle trees with every branch of them ending in a colored bottle, green or blue.
There was no word that fell from Solomon's lips to say what they were for, but Livvie knew that there could be a spell put in trees, and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil spirits from coming into the house - by luring them inside the colored bottles, where they cannot get out again. 
Now, traditionally, blue bottles were considered to be the best for demon capturing but nowadays you see them with all colors.  When I was a kid we didn't see bottle trees too much but they have made a comeback of sorts in the past few years as more Southerners have come to embrace, rather than be embarrassed of our eccentric culture.   The above example is not one of the most imaginative examples of a bottletree but it's not bad.  Much better than the horrible, factory churned, thousands produced in China.  Here, you can see some gorgeous examples of real bottletrees and art working off that idea.  You do have to scroll down the page just a little...

So, back to the gardens... the koi pond was great.  They had planted it well and it was very peaceful.  This shot was taken from inside the covered bridge that spans the pond.

And this was taken just outside the bridge.  I hope to have similar gardens as this one day.  Well, without the covered bridge anyway.  Just regular foot bridges for me.

This is standing at the entrance to the gorge below the falls.  If you look closely you can see the falls way int he background.  I used to love to hike around this area when I was a teenager.  Maybe I can talk Jack into going back one day and taking an all day hike.  In the fall it is really pretty.

The descent is really steep!  and once you get down there it is fairly rigorous hiking in most parts.  Lots of boulders and such to go over and around.  You certainly want to be in somewhat decent shape and not go alone on this hike but it is very scenic and enjoyable.
So, that's my tour of Noccalula Falls; I hope ya'll enjoyed it!  Oh, I don't think I told ya'll how it got it's name?  This area was heavily occupied by native Americans before the white man invasion and Noccalula was the name of the beautiful daughter of a local Cherokee chief.  According to legend she fell in love with a brave and courageous (and unfortunately poor) young man in her tribe but her father promised her in marriage to a chief of a neighboring tribe.  In despair, after her true love was banished, she threw herself off these cliffs to her death rather than marry another man.  I know this sounds like a number of other "legends" of lost loves but this one has some facts to back it up and may actually be true, at least in part.  The plaque at the falls gives a more detailed account.


Today's post is mostly a photo journey for ya'll but I'll tell you a little about what you are seeing too!  A couple of weeks ago Jack and I went on a day trip to northeastern Alabama to the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum, which is just next door.  I had been here back when I was in college and remembered it as a great place but that was a loooong time ago and wanted to see it again.  We were not disappointed.  The first photos here are at the Berman.  This is a 2-story museum that houses a collection that was originally entirely private.  You can read about it here.  Mr. and Mrs. Berman travelled the world collecting; he loved weapons and similarly related objects and she collected art.  Upon their death the entire collection was donated to the city of Anniston.  I believe their Remington collection is one of the largest collected privately.

Of course, Jack loved Mr. Berman's gun collection, which was impressive I must admit.  This is just a minor speck of what they had.  The man actually owned a Gatling gun.  Even if you don't care much for weapons it was still interesting and they had a lot of other period pieces and information.

Of course, I loved the sculpture!

I can't help but wonder about the people that actually wore this stuff once upon a time.  Was it just for show or did they actually fight in it?  Who were they?  Did they die young?

There was some beautiful pieces; not what I was expecting.

On the same floor was Mrs. Berman's Asian art collection.  I loved this display unit for small jade carvings.  Sorry that some of the pictures are blurry.  Most museums are kinda dark you know and I didn't want to use a flash..

This silver service that belonged to Adolf Hitler, and he actually used it regularly, was one of the creepier items, in my opinion.  Berman also collected a number of things from Mussolini.  There was a large collection of WWII weaponry that went along with these items.  It made me kinda sad to see how much effort we all have put into murdering each other over the centuries.

Just one piece from the Asian collection.  And yes, one of her boobs is bigger than the other.  I forget the symbolism with that.

These pictures were taken at the Museum of Natural History, naturally!   Their dinosaur exhibit was pretty darn cool.  They had a life size pterodactyl flying over head too.

It went on into exhibits about the natural world, which was interesting.  This was an actual tree section impaled with steel from the tornadoes we had a couple of years that were so bad.  If you remember, I wrote about finding a lot of debris on my land which had been blown up from Tuscaloosa.

The African area.  I thought they did a nice job of explaining how and why these animals were collected over the years and that we should respect the displays as an educational tool for the preservation of their species.  All the animals taken were either sick or injured already or of an overly abundant herd etc.  Most all of them were very old also (no animals were taken in recent history), so there was another reason to treat the displays with care.

Full size African elephant.  I remember this elephant from when I was a child actually.

They also had some wonderful botanical gardens and this blue orchid I had never seen before.  Beautiful!

I would love to have an area like this at my house.

It was very relaxing and a lovely place to sit.  Many of the ferns they had on display are native types that grow all over my land.

I liked this sculpture spitting water!  I might do a mini version of this behind the house.  Well, I mean the whole pool thing, not necessarily the sculpture.

The pool was kinda shallow but better to see the fishies!

  More ferns!

Well, hope you enjoyed your tour!  I'll be back soon!


Although I truly enjoy being able to work at a home-based studio and supply the rest of our living through gardening and animals, I can get severe cabin fever at times.  You long time readers know of my occasional wanderlust, something my old job used to satisfy to some extent but no more and since being so hard pressed these past few weeks to get those orders out I had really, really started to gnaw at the straps, so to speak.  I became so desperate one evening that it was actually liberating to go down to our local McD's (a place I fairly despise) for a salad and then a short shopping trip to CVS and the new Tractor Supply.  I know, I know.....the excitement of it is vividly tangible, no?  Of course, I had to be home within a hour or so to check the kiln but at least I did get some "fun" time.
So, what's a homesteading/ earth hippie type to do when you start clawing at the walls??  I think it's something most of us in this category deal with.  I like to think of myself as a fairly gung-ho recluse but I do like to get out on occasion.  Usually, my once a week or so trip into Birmingham is enough but I had to get Jack to make my last couple of deliveries so I would not lose working time.  Well, with the last of the major orders completed and ready to deliver, we decided a Fun Day was in order.  And it just happened to be our 2 month Anniversary, so we splurged a little.

 Now, let me emphasis, this was a splurge.  I mean, it didn't cost majorly really; but it was a bit more than our normal lunch out.  But it was very nice and we had a great time.  First, we got the delivery out of the way!  Once that was done with we made our way to the Southside of Birmingham and to one of it's more well-known restaurants; Bottega's!!  Here, is a nice article on the place and it's founding chef.  Unknown to most of the country, Birmingham has quite a few culinary treasures.  Jack and I were discussing how that we had both been to a number of very nice restaurants between us and sometimes, after the meal, you would think, hhhmmm, I'm not sure that was worth it's reputation.  Bottega's is not like that.  It was a delightful meal and experience.

I had a Bibb lettuce/ Apple salad with Gorgonzola and walnuts.  YUM.  I believe I'll make these at home now.

 This was the Chicken and Tortellini with Pine Nuts.  There was a bunch of other stuff in there too.  Very yummy also.  The waiters were also very friendly and personable.  None of this looking down their nose at you while impersonating a French maitre' d.
My only complaint is that you could have hung meat in the ladies restroom least it made you appreciate the warm sunlight in the dining area.

The Creme Brulee' was divine.  Exquisite.  I long for it now even.

So, we had a wonderful meal and some nice time together before embarking on the rest of our journey and mostly errands of grocery shopping and such.  This is a fairly crappy picture of the interior of the place but I thought Jack looked sweet.  Yes, he is growing a beard for me! 

The restaurant is located in a semi-historic, hip part of Birmingham just outside of downtown and in warm weather it's a great place to walk the short distance to a couple of parks and cool, local bars.  In my much younger days I used to live not far from here in an older, "quaint" apartment but, I was far too poor to be able to do more than peer over this fence at the world on the other side.


 So, to continue along the lines of posts that leave you at a loss for words, I give you a giant, cast iron Butt.  Oh, the possibilities for titles for this were just extensive.  Now, many of you know that all of my post title are also song titles, so I really started to go with the old hip-hop mantra, "Take Yo Big Azz Outside", I mean, how apropos!  But, I was afraid that might be a bit too much and went with the more mainstream Sir Mixalot classic, "Baby Got Back" and back he does have! I mean, look at that tush!  He could crack pecans with those buns.
Now, just in case you are not sure what you are looking at, this is the back side of Birmingham's most famous resident, VulcanAnd no, this butt is not a editorial comment from me to you!  I've been meaning to post about this little adventure Jack and I had back in February but, just had not gotten around to it until now.  The website highlighted above gives you a very extensive history of Vulcan and all about the surrounding park, which I am proud to say, my former company completely renovated in 2002-03 and in which Vulcan was restored.  I didn't get to work on that job, as I was involved in another restoration, and had never visited the park so Jack and I took a day to go see Sweet Cheeks.  Seriously though, it is a very cool site and the accompanying museum is nice.

Vulcan was cast in 1904 (I believe) as Birmingham's entry into the St.Louis World Fair to highlight the city's rich steel and iron industry.  He was designed and built by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti in 6 months! and is the largest cast iron statue in the whole world.  They have an extensive exhibit inside the museum that shows just how Vulcan was built and it is very interesting.
The concrete structure (which my company built), that sits beside Vulcan's pedestal, is an elevator that takes you up to an observation platform.  Or you can actually climb the old original stairs inside the pedestal.  It was fairly cold and windy that day so we didn't stay up there long.  It's a wonderful park in warm weather though.  Vulcan sits atop Red Mountain so that adds considerably to his height, and the cold.

Here is my handsome husband trying to figure something out on his camera.  Because of the location on Red Mountain it is also the site of 2 TV stations, which you may can see in the background.  In his younger days, after the Marines, Jack worked for one of the stations here before moving on to larger stations in Atlanta and beyond.

 This in the view from the observation platform of downtown Birmingham.  If you enlarge the photo you may be able to see much of the UAB complex, one of the leading medical institutes of the country.  Yes, i'm proud of Alabama.  We have lots of good things here.

 The view looking down, obviously.  I thought the map was cool.  If you don't like heights this may be a bit of a challenge.  The platform that you stand on here is actually a stainless steel grate, so you can see straight down beneath your feet.  I am quite used to heights from working construction for so many years but I must say, it did make me just a tad uneasy.!

 I thought this was a pretty cool Louise Nevelson inspired sculpture.  The guys told me that they uncovered a number of mining artifacts during the construction and many of these went into this and other exhibits in the museum.  See, Vulcan actually sits above a large iron ore mine and many of the old tunnels and shafts are still there.

This is a lifesize replica of Vulcan's foot.  You can tell Jack was just thrilled to be photographed with it.  So, all in all it was a very interesting trip.  We had fun and if you are even in the Magic City I would suggest a visit to Mr. Vulcan.  He'll be glad to see you.

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