My poor old garden

I’d blame the weather but the truth is that I’m a terrible urban farmer.

Like so many vegetable gardens, I started this spring with such high hopes for the backyard plots. We had a resurgence of cold weather and covered the tomatoes but it didn’t help. Then we got some heat and dry weather. Same deal. Wilted plants, brown leaves, dashed hopes. Oh, and I’ve been working on other things. My lawn is tip-top, but my tomatoes and green beans have suffered.

Recently I went out to Kelmont Farms and came away with a bag of fresh Simpson lettuce, a story, and a better understanding of my agricultural fralities. The contrast between good farming (Kellers) and bad farming (me) was never clearer, not that I needed it.

At least I came away with a fresh, crisp sack of lettuce. I also learned the difference between straw and hay. Don’t laugh. A lot of city folks don’t know the answer that without trudging around on the World Wide Web.


Three things to do in Tellico Plains, Tenn.

Get out a map and put your finger Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It’s off the beaten path, an hour south of Knoxville. If you look closely, you’ll notice it’s on the door step of the Cherohala Skyway, one of the most scenic highways in the southeast.

Motorcyclists flock here, but food brought me to Tellico Plains, though. Here are three great things to do in this tiny East Tennessee mountain town.

1.) Visit Tellico Grains Bakery.

This is an image of the Tellico Grains Bakery sign.

The Tellico Grains Bakery sign is weather beaten but not old. The bakery opened in 2003 in the old Tellico Bank and Trust building.

We went Saturday morning when they cook their scrumptious pizza. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven, so it came out with crispy crust and golden-brown cheese. The place was packed.

We sat next to a retired Marine and his wife who were touring the Skyway on their motorcycles. The Marine had salt-and-pepper hair and an ease with strangers. He knew the history of the building, and he chatted up my wife.

“Did you see those guns?” she said, a reference to his big, tan arms.

We splurged and got a chocolate cupcake with butter-cream filling. That was the appetizer. It was too much. But it was the kind of bad you love in the moment.

2.) Browse The Bookshelf, Used Books. Great little store with a broad selection. Some used bookstores smell like garages and attics. This one was funk free and set up so that you could actually find the books.

The owner looked like a retired TV actor and had the manner of a book lover. He knew his stock and pointed us toward some great deals on children’s books.

This is a picture of the lovely chocolate cupcake.

Delicious. Irresistible. The chocolate cupcake at Tellico Grains Bakery.

3.) Drive the Cherohala Skyway. You knew I was going to get around to this, right? Sorry to tip my hand.

It’s great on a motorcycle. But you can love it from a car, too. The Skyway is a National Scenic Highway that passes through the Cherokee National Forest and Nantahala Forest. There are no gas stations up here. No billboards or buildings to block your view. Pick a pull off. Breathe the air. Put the cell phone away. (Not sure you’ll get service anyway).

You’ll forget for a moment about work and stress and whatever else clouds your mind.