"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nashville, TN: Agricultural Life Then and Now

The fall harvest is still going strong here in Nashville, as we discovered at the Farmers Market downtown with Nick and Cindy, our friends who we met last winter at The Great Outdoors, in Florida. Cindy and I enjoyed looking at the turnip greens, four kinds of kale, summer squash, tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and winter squash. The market here has a section that is just for the real farmers, and it was full of fruits, veggies, smoked hams and canned goods at unbeatable prices.  I picked up some tomatoes and kale.

I think they were also selling some produce from way out of town in some cases, but most was local. It gave us a sense of what the local farming scene is like. We haven't been out in the county too much around here, and haven't seen what's being raised. Some horses, some cattle, no crops to speak of.

There was another section with a well stocked international grocery store and a few restaurants and vendors selling baked goods. We couldn't resist the cinnamon buns ... so, next morning, after the cinnamon buns, the four of us loaded up in our GMC truck (usually reserved for towing the DRV) and drove to The Hermitage, home and plantation of Andrew Jackson, aka "Old Hickory."

After the basic admission price of $19 ($16 for seniors) an outstanding audio self-guided tour is provided at no extra cost.  The combination of the audio tour and the informative displays throughout the museum, grounds and mansion (above) taught us a great deal about Jackson, our seventh president. Rick and I had forgotten most of what we might have ever known about him. We even had Old Hickory confused with Stonewall Jackson, the great Civil War confederate general. Ignorant northerners. 

The audio tour also had optional tracks to learn about The Hermitage and Andrew Jackson through the life of his wife, Rachel. Cindy and I found that especially interesting. Andrew and Rachel Jackson are buried in the tomb next to the house (below). Their last living slave, Albert, in buried right next to the tomb.

The Hermitage website is also very informative about Jackson and The Hermitage. Jackson was a general, politician, president and a farmer. The Hermitage was primarily a cotton plantation, although they raised animals and produce for their own consumption. The Hermitage maintains a small patch of cotton on the grounds so that visitors can see what cotton looks like. There were still a few bolls on the plants that were mostly dead from a recent frost. 

 Jackson owned hundreds of slaves, and the Hermitage does an excellent job of relating the circumstances of their lives and their significance to the plantation. It was strange to hear the tape talking about Jackson buying and selling people. One track of the audio tape was especially moving. It was nothing but the recitation of the names of Jackson's slaves and it went on and on and on...

 These are two reconstructed slave cabins. 

On the grounds is a small herd of Belted Galloway cattle. The herd was completed unfazed by my approach to their two tiny calves. I guess they're pretty used to company. Galloways are a shaggy kind of cattle, as you can see on this little guy.

Live tour guides are ready in the mansion to lead you through the rooms and answer any questions.  I'd say the home fell somewhere between Jefferson's Monticello and Washington's Mount Vernon in terms of style and grandeur. There were no photos allowed inside, but the kitchen was actually out back. You can see how modest it is by modern standards.

There was also a horse and wagon tour available, but we passed on that. 
It was a beautiful day and we were happy to walk around on our own steam.

We were all pretty impressed with the quality of the Hermitage and the depth of information about Jackson and his plantation that was easily accessible in one visit.  Ours lasted about three hours and we were ready for a late lunch. We stopped at McNamara's, the "world's best Irish pub outside of Ireland." 
We had a nice pot of tea and some corned beef reuben sandwiches.

Well, we're leaving Nashville tomorrow and I hope to squeeze in one more post before we got. 
Then on the Memphis and Graceland! 

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