Jonathan and I have been married for seven years. SEVEN.
For our anniversary, he got me a basket full of goodies from our local health food shop, Journey Wellness (the best place in town!). The basket included all kinds of dried herbs, almond oil, rose water, bees wax, and Moon Juice! It was a great gift and so thoughtful. I was having a hard time figuring out what to get him, though. I searched Etsy for a unique gift but couldn't find anything that he would really be interested in. But I remembered...
One day he texted me from school and said his new "idol" was a man named Joe Hollis. So, I looked him up. Turns out, Joe is the owner of Mountain Gardens, a botanical garden that specializes in native and Chinese medicinal herbs. It is located in Burnsville, NC. Only a few hours away! I decided to plan a trip to see Mountain Gardens as Jonathan's gift. Since we are in the process of beginning our own herbal apothecary, I thought this would be the perfect place to get some inspiration.
So, we planned the trip and decided we would go to Burnsville first, drive to Asheville (where we spent a lot of time and have a lot of good memories), then spend the night at my aunt's lake house on Wolf Lake in Tuckasegee, NC.
Driving up the mountain to Mountain Gardens was quite the experience. Sparta is located at a pretty high elevation, but the curves going up that mountain were unreal. The snow on the mountaintop was getting closer and closer as we drove. Not the best day, I admit, to go to a botanical garden. Nevertheless...we finally made it. The pavement ended and gravel started and there it was. Not much of anything at first glance. Everything was nestled into the mountain side. The signs for the entrance were scrap wood with handwritten lettering. It looked like it had been abandoned and there was nobody in sight. We started up the path and started to see small little cabins, mud yurts, solar panels, greenhouses, seedlings, ducks, small ponds, and a garden that was waiting for warmer weather to bring it to life. At the end of the path, a man came out of a cabin and introduced himself. He invited us in. This cabin was the home to their "store" and "pharmacy". On the wall was hundreds of books, bottles full of Chinese medicinal herbs, salves, and tinctures (see pictures). I had emailed him prior to our trip because I was interested in buying some seeds. He opened the seed cabinet and there were tons of plastic bottles full of seeds they had harvested from their plants.
We ended up buying St. John's Wort, motherwort, ashwagandha, and tulsi seeds. We spoke to the man for a few minutes and learned that he and Joe were the only ones who lived there year-round, but during peak months they have as many as 6 apprentices that live there with them. It was like a little community living and learning with the land. Unfortunately, we did not meet Joe. The group was planning a trip into town so we walked around a little longer and decided to leave.
But the short amount of time we were there showed us that a simple life can be rewarding. It showed us that we have a lot to learn but it gave us inspiration and ideas about how we need to proceed in our own lives. I have been feeling lately that nature is choosing me and that I need to stop and listen to what she has to say.
Anyway...on we went to Asheville. We stopped for lunch, got doughnuts, had a beer and started walking back to our car. On the way we passed a seed store I had been wanting to go to--Sow True Seed. They package organic, non-GMO, and heirloom seeds. We ended up buying some bee balm, wildflowers for bees, wildflowers to attract beneficial insects, pole beans, and lavender. Also, Jonathan has been wanting to start cultivating mushrooms. Turns out, they sell mushroom spores at Sow True Seed as well. So, of course, we got some--Shittake and Oyster. Oh, and let's not forget the t-shirt I bought :)
The trip, unintentionally, ended up being a seed buying trip. But we both had a great time and we were excited to get back home and start planting. Stay tuned to see the fruits of our labor. The seeds are currently snuggled up in their raised beds waiting until the time is right. Let's hope our chickens stay out long enough! Ha!