Apple a Day

My recent blog post for Deep South Magazine regarding my trip to Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, GA.  This a more personal perspective on the trip than the previous post.

http://deepsouthmag.com/2011/10/apple-a-day/

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Rice Hope Plantation: Welcome Home

Rice Hope Plantation Est. 1696

If you’re from the South, no doubt you have an “eccentric” in your family. Maybe it’s your crazy old Granddaddy telling tall tales on the front porch or your favorite great Aunt with her funny hats and odd antiquities collection. Whoever it is, every Southern family seems to have one and it turns out if you don’t, you can adopt one for the weekend at Rice Hope Plantation in Moncks Corners, SC.

Located 45 minutes outside of Charleston, Rice Hope Plantation and the surrounding area offer visitors a glimpse into plantation society when rice was king and the birth of South Carolina pride took root in the land. When you stay at Rice Hope you’re treated like family entering a world firmly rooted in the past. Cell phones and internet barely exist here, the Southern accent is slow and meandering like the Cooper River and storytelling is an art form much less a Southern tradition.

Ms. Lou Edens and her family run this little piece of history and will make sure you feel right at home during your stay. She is salt-of-the-earth, gracious, cooks your breakfast Southern style, and will tell you stories of when Berkley County was the crown jewel of South Carolina high society. Like most who live in Moncks Corner, she is related to or knows (knew) most of the plantation descendants in the area. It’s all about family here including the grandchildren who scamper about the property and Ms. Lou’s own children who help tend the grounds and manage the 40 room mansion. Just as it was in the days of old, plantation living is still a family affair.

The home reveals itself as you drive in

When you arrive, Ms. Lou greets you at the door with a hardy, “Welcome! How y’all doin’?” in her delightful low-country drawl. Instantly you are put at ease and know that this BnB is just a bit different than those you’ve visited in the past. She then takes you into the house for a short tour and brief history of the plantation before she whisks you upstairs to your room. The 5 guest rooms are homey and comfortable reminiscent of that favorite old Aunt’s house complete with antiques, 4 poster beds, portraits of the long gone, a doily or two, and a resident ghost, Mistress Chicken (listed as an amenity). But the real treasure of this plantation is Ms. Lou, her stories and the history behind the house she lovingly hosts her guests in nightly. Many guests have said they simply spent time visiting with Ms. Lou in the parlor listening to her stories and asking questions. For those guests seeking an experience rather than a place to lay their head at night, Rice Hope and it’s colorful proprietor offer more than just a warm bed and a hot meal. For “well-behaved” and dare say imaginative children, Rice Hope is giant natural playground with trees to climb, wide open spaces to run, and lizards and other critters to chase. And of course, there is Ms. Lou with all her eccentricities talking about the birds she loves including the peacocks she once raised and the ostrich eggs she paints as ornaments that absolutely charms children.

Rice Hope may not be the 5 star hotel in Charleston but it offers so much more in charm, history, and that feeling of coming home to family. Fresh air, a rambling river, tales of days gone by and even the ghost of little Mistress Chicken can all be found here wrapped up in low country living and southern hospitality. The house is old and in need of some repair but if you can look past the water stains on the ceiling and creaking staircase and floors, you will be captivated by a world that has been nearly lost to time. This truly is a place to step away from the modern world, slow down and take it all in.

Live Oaks and Spanish Moss

Established in 1696 by Daniel Huger, Rice Hope (or Luckins as it was known) is one of the oldest plantation homes in the county. While the original home burned in 1840, most of 1795 formal gardens were restored and the property is filled with live oaks and 200 year old camellias. The present structure was renovated in 1929 by Senator John S. Frelinghugsen of New Jersey and was used as his hunting lodge as were so many abandoned plantations at the time.

Rice Hope Plantation

206 Rice Hope Drive

Moncks Corner, SC 29461

http://www.ricehope.com/  

For reservations or information call 843-849-9000

Day Trippin’ Farm-to-Table Style

Pink Lady Apples

“Organic”, “locally grown”, “farm-to-table”, buzz words familiar to both city dwellers and suburbanites a like. People are flocking to their local farmers market to scoop up the freshest fruits and veggies. Restaurants and food trucks are touting the farm-to-table label using only the freshest ingredients while boosting the local farming community. The farm-to-table, locally grown movement has taken hold, and you can’t get any fresher than picking your own apples right off the trees.

Located 1.5 hours north of Atlanta in Blue Ridge, Georgia sits beautiful Mercier Orchards nestled in the North Georgia mountains. This is the largest apple orchard in the state of Georgia with over 50 varieties of apples grown on the farm. Mercier hosts U-Pick weekends from August to October where you can enjoy a day on the orchard picking wide varieties of apples and taste testing right off the trees, which is not only allowed but encouraged! For $10/bag you take a tractor ride out into the orchard, fill your bag(s) with fresh-picked apples, snack on the merchandise all while enjoying the outdoors with family and friends. For children, this experience is not only fun but educational as they learn that the apples and other foods they eat come from farms just like Mercier (not to mention a terrific childhood memory organically formed in the process).

Original Orchard Building

Mercier’s U-Pick operation runs quite smoothly. Cars line up to get into the orchard but are quickly directed to a parking spot. Once parked, simply walk to the orchard store, buy your bag(s) and head out to the tractors waiting to transport passengers to pick apples. The tractors run continuously so you are not left standing in line for more than 5 minutes.

A Row of Pink Ladies

When your tractor departs, a volunteer details the history of Mercier along with the apples in season at the moment. Upon arrival in the orchard, another guide explains how to pick the apples off of the trees and where each variety can be found. The rows are also clearly marked with the various varieties. After the quick apple-picking tutorial, peruse the selections, snack on freshly picked apples and breathe in the crisp mountain air. Make sure to bring your camera as there are plenty of beautiful photo opportunities to be had.

A Bag Full of Apples

When you are finished picking your apples and walking about the orchard, hop back on the next tractor to the parking lot. Before heading home, be sure to pop in the orchard store. Sample the wide selection of Mercier apple ciders from the Cider Bar, buy some tasty treats in the bake shop, or check out the jellies, jams, and salsas in the back. In one day you’ve picked fresh apples to use in your kitchen, spent very little money to create wonderful memories with your family, supported the local farming community and enjoyed a day in the mountains. Now that’s farm-to-table!

Beni Shogun Apples

A great Fall family day trip just under 2 hours away from Atlanta and totally affordable. Simply take 75 N to 575 N and follow it until it becomes HWY 515. Follow all the way to Blue Ridge and make a left onto Hwy 5. Mercier Orchards is 1.5 miles up the road on your left.  While you’re up there, take some time to check out historic downtown Blue Ridge with its quaint shops, rail depot, arts center and yummy cuisine such as Harvest on Main which features locally grown food.

Mercier Orchards                                                      8660 Blue Ridge Drive                                                   Blue Ridge, GA 30513

www.mercier-orchards.com

U-Pick Saturdays & Sunday 10am – 4pm

What I Learned Today

A piece I wrote for an educational project called edu180Atlanta.  180 people will write 180 points of view in 250 words or less on learning.  This is my experience…

Biggin Church Ruins-Moncks Corner, SC

The conversation started with, “Mommy, I can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I love SO many things.”

I simply replied, “You don’t have to settle on just one thing. Do whatever makes you happy.” But then I realized, am I taking my own advice?  Up until recently, yes and no.

I love being a writer but do not always love the content I am asked to produce. I had always written for corporations, and while I was doing what I loved, I wasn’t enjoying it to the fullest.  The content was very dry and full of staunch parameters.  It was time for a change. So I began to freelance again.  And although it’s been tough, I am slowly crawling my way back into this world and learning from each experience along the way, from rejection, critique, or joyful acceptance.

Life is full of risks.  Sometimes you have to dabble before you dive in. I too love many things. You don’t have to settle on one career path.  Sometimes your passions converge into a powerful force in your life.  This is what I learned today from my 10 year old daughter’s question and simple realization; do what it is you love, never settle, and this will make you truly successful. My goal: to get my Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation and share my passion for design, old buildings and history with my readers. I might stumble, but I am on my way.

http://edu180atl.org/