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Southern Harvest Party

December 22, 2012

Well, clearly I am red-faced with embarrassment at how long it took me to post about this, since it is Christmas and I am sharing a Harvest Party with you, but I hope you’ll look past the timing to the charm of the event.

We get our weekly CSA box from a little organic farm outside of Tuscaloosa called Snow’s Bend. (They also supply produce to Epiphany Cafe, our favorite restaurant.) In October, they hosted us for our first Harvest Party. I’m not sure if this is a national autumn happening or a regional one? Southerners love the fall (probably because it signals an end to the awful humidity and a beginning to football season) and frequently put up all kinds of decorations, from hay bales to pumpkins. You see signs for Harvest Parties at churches, schools, and parks.

I think the best part of this one was seeing the group of people that came together: a wide range of ages, and somehow types of people that I never realized lived anywhere in Tuscaloosa. Now obviously this is judgmental because I only met these people for a couple of hours, but they were the kinds of folks who carried their babies in those earthy fabric wraps, knew what hummus was and served it, included a thoughtful label next to the potato salad they brought alerting vegetarians that it contained bacon, and cooked their greens without oil or meat scraps. In short, they were not your average Tuscaloosans. I don’t know where they live, work, or hang out because I haven’t seen them before or since, but it was great fun to be surrounded by them for a while. It felt a little bit like home.

So, along with an adorable hand-drawn invitation in which the letters were created from pictures of different vegetables, the lovely Snow’s Bend owners emailed us the kind of directions so often given in small-to-medium-sized Southern cities: pass through Tuscaloosa and Northport on the way to Mississippi… go two lights past the Wal-Mart and turn left…. look for the dirt road and turn right… cross the railroad tracks, then a bridge over the Cypress swamp… pass an old pecan grove on the left… the road will cross through a field with crepe myrtles lining both sides… you will come to a natural gas well on your right, turn there. So quaint, right?

When I first moved here, the lack of street names and google-able directions absolutely drove me nuts. People would say things like, “Oh, the dog park is where the old UA golf course used to be…” (Yeah, imagine how successful I was googling “old UA golf course.”) Or, “Make a left out of the church parking lot toward the former middle school,” when the church parking lot had four different driveways onto four different roads. Now though, I find these directions endearing, and finally figured out that oftentimes it makes more sense to guide people this way, because street signs may not be easily visible or there at all. For example, the main road I take home from work everyday is identified from a very major thoroughfare as simply “Exit.”

Anyway, to get to Snow’s Bend, we drove on dirt and gravel roads, past cotton fields, in sight of a few natural gas wells that looked like miniature oil riggs set off by themselves in the middle of fields, and through quiet, still woods. A lot of woods. They were the kinds of woods you could easily imagine being haunted, with spooky metal gates and tall trees. We briefly considered the possibility that there was no Harvest Party at all, that instead we were being lured 30 minutes away from civilization into the middle of nowhere so that we could be murdered and thrown into a Cypress swamp along with the roasted sweet potatoes I carried on my lap.

The farm’s address was on Commerce Road, which was amusing considering that it was absolutely silent and in the thick of trees, with no business to be seen anywhere besides cotton, natural gas, and vegetable harvests. Several older adults played banjos and fiddles, there were tractor-pulled hay rides, and big wooden tables were full of potluck-style dishes, house wine alongside juices, and gigantic pots of pork stew and rice. Of particular note was a huge, layered sweet potato cake with pretty white frosting! Our sweet hostess impressively manned the buffet table with a quiet baby on her hip the entire time.

We eagerly loaded our plates, not remembering the last time a buffet had excited us with this many vegetables and relatively healthy offerings. We sat by the river to eat, watching the musicians play and small children entertain themselves with dirt, open space, and a football they tossed randomly and without much arm strength. Actually, they were small enough to be just as interested in the dirt as in the football.

Later we walked through the farm fields, admiring all kinds of vegetables and tall flowers.

Then back out on the dirt and gravel roads, past the cotton fields. I have to admit, it was a little sad to go back to civilization.

Tomorrow I fly to California for Christmas. I’m packing both my Kindle and a library book, hoping to be prepared for the long flights, layovers, and crowded airports. (Who does that? The whole point of a Kindle is not to have to carry hardcover books!) I’m also bringing baby carrots, almonds, tea bags, an Element bar, a Bearded Brothers chocolate maca bar, and a bag of this gingerbread granola (version II) as a homemade Christmas gift for my family.

Y’all travel safely wherever you may be heading, and enjoy the holiday season!

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