Our original interest in Oaxaca stemmed from a mushroom cultivation operation that we planned to tour outside of Oaxaca City. This didn’t work out but we continued to be interested in visiting Oaxaca because friends recommended spending time there. And we knew that Maria Sabina lived in Oaxaca. Gordon Wasson, a US banker with interest in ethnomycology discovered Maria Sabina, and shared her life with the world. Ethnomycology is the study of fungi used by people to survive. Elder Maria Sabina was a Mazatec Indian shaman. She ingested the sacred mushroom hallucinates as a part of her healing ceremonies called agape. We wanted to visit the state where Maria Sabina came from. This sparked our interest in visiting Oaxaca in 2015 and being exposed to the culture of the area so influenced by plants and fungi used by Indigenous people.
December 8—on deplaning the heat hit us—80-90 degrees—which stayed with us the whole time in Huatulco, Mexico. We’d go out and then return to our cool tiled room at the Balcon Guella, a Spanish style hotel with 14 rooms opening into an outdoor courtyard with lots of flowers—hollyhock, bourgevilla and a light pink feathery blossom bush. Our hotel clerks took good care of us picking us up at the airport, giving us directions, asking us what we wanted to do and helping us do it. Language was a challenge but we managed to communicate. “Habla Ingles?” “Poco” but many knew more English than they said. So with our little bit of Spanish and their bit of English, we got by.
We began our first day in Huatulco with breakfast at Café Juanita about ½ hour from our room. We first lingered at a city park called a plaza with water fountains and greenery.
Sitting on the porch of the café near a marina, a breeze blew off the ocean to cool us off. After some talk in bits of Spanish and English, we ordered food looked fit for royalty. A big bowl of frutas– bananas, cantelope and papaya. I ate scrambled eggs and spinach, tiny fried potatoes and black bean mole. As we waited for food, a small black and orange bird flew in and out of our sight.
Back to the hotel where we talked to Biannka at the desk who helped us plan our day. We walked ½ hour to the bus station in Crucecita trekking down a walkway with trees that offered much needed shade. After we purchased our tickets for our bus trip in two days, we walked around Crucecita. Many tiny closet sized shops with places to eat, flea markets and “mercados.”
Afternoon we headed to the beach near the hotel. The aquamarine water and white fine sand greeted us at Chacue Playa. We walked into water with a strong current. The beach was low for 4 or 5 feet and then dipped down enough to swim laps back and forth in warm water. We couldn’t stop swimming it felt so luxurious. Finally we came in and walked on sand to a cool spot near the rocks, rested and looked out at the turquoise water and island rock formations in the bay.
After a quick stop in the room we headed back down to Crucecita to eat at Tosado Grill. Pete ate enchiladas with a choice of numerous sauces that sparked his interest in finding what peppers used in Mexican cooking. He now cooks with these peppers at home. I ate fresh shrimp in a salad with avocados. Darkness brought some coolness as we walked back to our room.
December 9—on waking we ate our yogurt and fruit breakfast from nearby grocery we purchased the day before and spent time in the room relaxing and making plans for the day.
At 10:30 we left in a van to go to the Excursion Office in Crucecita with Sigalfredo, our naturalist guide. From here a taxi dropped us at Huatulco Nacional Parque on the Zicara Trail to began our ethnobotanical tour of the Parque. We learned Huatulco means “Bowing to the Trees.” Sigalfredo knew all about the vegetation in the park and what it was used for. He called the area a jungle which was dry as a bone, usual for the season. The intense heat was not.
We learned from Sigalfredo as we walked through the parque
****Tiny snails covered a low open sandy area. Wild pigs grubbed the sand to eat the snails. We could see scratch marks.
**** Gringo tree or Indio desnudo— flaking bright red bark, used for dying cloth
****Agave– succulent plants common in Oaxaca were woven into material for clothes many years ago
****Kopok tree with big roots above ground. Seeds used for incense by royality in pre-Spanish days. Pleasant pungent smell
****Large cautus plants with tufts of cotton growing from limbs. Cotton used to make pillows. Trees grew cotton there, too. I thought cotton grew only on tiny bushes like in Southern USA
****Palo Santo or holy wood(bursera gravelens)—used for incense and essential oils for the calming effect
****Pipe tree—fruit in the shapes of little pipes
As we trampled through the dry jungle we saw a cuckoo in the trees and on leaving the jungle we saw a small cat running away. In the soil we found a tiny piece of terra cotta from an old plate or bowl. Many tree roots set above ground to make use of the moisture in the air.
Shade brought relief when inside tree spaces. After walking 1½ hours, we came to an opening in the dry jungle and saw the sparkling Manguey Bay. More island rock formations setting in the aquamarine water. One formation looked like a turtle. Pete swam in the bay. After water and fruit snack, Sigalfredo showed me a turtle nest burrowed in the sand. We could see turtle footprints rolling over in the fine white sand.
Back through the parque we saw old friends on our way as we passed the vegetation that we learned about. A taxi took us back to Crucecita. We were glad to learn lots about the jungle which we couldn’t have done going to the parque by ourselves. Most outings to Huatulco Nacional Parque are with guides. We questioned whether to go alone or with a guide but were glad we made decision to go with Sigalfredo.
After a rest in the room we headed back to beach one more time before leaving Huatulco. I swam once more in this warm turquoise water. On way to room we stopped at the grocery to get food for supper, breakfast and lunch and packed for bus trip to Oaxaca City next day
Travel Log to Oaxaca, Mexico Part II—Oaxaca City to be published next
I will always treasure my time with Connie Moore as a gift. It felt so easy to be with this woman as we laughed and cried together. Our views on religion and politics were far apart but we found a place for friendship.
In 2004 Pete and I were thinking about buying a house in Alexander on Curtis Parker Road so we looked up online who owned property near the house. I found the number, called Connie Moore and asked her about the neighborhood. “People leave you alone, but if you need help they help you. It’s a good neighborhood,” she responded. On moving day Connie dropped in for a quick welcome as boxes and furniture crowded up our living room.
Over the years we saw each other off and on in the yard or on walks. Both she and her husband Andrew and my husband and I gardened so we occasionally gave each other surplus food from our gardens—yellow squash, lettuce, blueberries, strawberries, potatoes. Once they gave us potatoes baked on an open fire.
Three or four years ago I became aware of Connie’s health issues—on going diabetes and fibromyalgia for sure. But then they diagnosed progressive supranuclear palsy. It became harder and harder for Connie to balance as she walked. If I saw Connie in the yard on walks with my dog, I’d stop in to see her.
Connie and Andrew grew up in Haywood County and moved to Buncombe County for Andrew to work at Baldor, a machine shop near Weaverville. As Connie’s condition worsened, Andrew continued to work but called Connie every hour. Then he retired to take care of Connie full time. He did an amazing job at a difficult calling and one that he learned as he went. He told me God showed him how to take care of Connie. He said years before Connie was sick he never would have believed that he could do it. But with God’s guidance he managed to care for his wife with help. She was in good hands with assistance from Connie’s and Andrew’s sisters, Care Partners/Hospice and neighbors.
About a year and half ago I began sporadically visiting Connie who became homebound. I’d see her sitting in the garage while Andrew tended a fire in the yard. They asked me to come pick blueberries from their bush when it became too much to keep up with. I’d visit Connie then. I took my dog Casar to see Connie inside because she loved dogs. She and Andrew had taken care of a Casar once when we were on vacation. Connie had three dogs over the years that she loved talking about—Muffin, Sugar and Snappy. Connie took care of dogs overnight in her home when she was able.
Over a year ago I saw Andrew while walking my dog and asked if I could help. “Not yet, but maybe later.” He replied. Last April Andrew talked to Pete when he ran into Andrew walking one day. He said they could use some help—someone to read to Connie while Andrew ran errands. Some of the regular help were unable to come due to surgery and sickness in their families. So in April I began my Tuesday morning visits for an hour or so.
At some point the need was gone but I loved going so much, I kept it up unless I had a conflict. Pete encouraged me to go and helped me with my chores so I could go. Why? I got as much from Connie as I gave her. Her presence created a comfortable atmosphere. We read stories from Gross Creek in Kentucky, Christian Romances, Wendell Berry’s “A Place in Time” suggested by a writer friend and I shared my published article “Summers with Mamaw in Circleville.” Also, I read one of my favorites, “The Velveteen Rabbit” from my church work with the young children. Lastly we read a wonderful Reader’s Digest collection of stories about animals from therapy dogs to pet raccoons to elephants in Africa to connecting with deer to stray dogs finding a home.
What impressed me most about Connie was her calm acceptance of her situation. Here she possessed a life threatening illness and she persevered like a trooper. Being with Connie I felt free to cry if sadness hit me. Good release. We’d laugh at stories, too. But this could cause Connie to choke so I had mixed feelings about laughing but I could see the sparkle in her eyes.
Connie could not walk as the disease progressed and gradually she had trouble speaking. Mentally sharp but physically debilitated, her speech became less understandable. Some visits she’d turn bright red from not enough air and I’d hook up the oxygen to help her breath better. At times she used hand signals to let us know what she meant.
One of my last visits was a story about two dogs that died. I cried because I’d just put my 13 year old Casar to sleep. Connie clearly said, “Maybe it will get better.” I laughed. She laughed. What a good laugh we had. She said it to comfort me but it struck me as funny.
Every time I saw Connie when I read to her, I’d give her a hug and told her I loved her. She’d always managed to say I love you back.
A few days before she died Andrew called to let me know it was near the end. No more hour readings. So I went to thank Connie for all she gave me and give her one last hug and I love you.
Carol Ruth Dreiling
Photos Provided by Andrew Moore
It is the season of slowly disappearing. Heading up the path, the woods thin out with decaying red and yellow leaves crunching beneath my feet. The lavender, neighbored by goldenrods and purple asters, looks healthy. I grab some lavender leaves and sniff calmness. Taking a right I walk through the threadbare canopy of deciduous trees and evergreens. The sky is a dark blue and leaves blow around making me feel light.
I see red Russula mushrooms in the grass on either side of the trail. The red cap and white stem stick out. The web of white ropey matter lays beneath the soil producing the fruit. Looking up on the right side of the path sadly I see my blueberry bushes that were attacked this summer by a gauzy-spider web mass. I fear the end of the bushes, but spring will tell. The branches still show green inside but no leaves.
Crunch, crunch as I walk on the path. Openings in the dark cover of the huge forsythia bushes and popular trees now let in lots of sun. It is no longer a rain forest but a light filled cathedral. Walking on I can see the range of mountains in Madison County peeping through the emptied trees.
Under my feet I observe oyster mushrooms fruiting from our old straw bags that we laid on the path to build the ground up. The flat white mushrooms take off in the outside air and grow hardy.
On down the trail stand newly planted pines that we put in the ground to give us more privacy. Our neighbor clears her property right up to the line. Some of the pines made it and others didn’t. I look forward to seeing the surviving pines grow.
It seems Mother Nature is in stages of dying—the blueberries, leaves dropping from trees and some of the pines gone. After taking a left to my strawberry patch, I see a handful of fresh strawberries to pick. They are everbearing and will fruit till frost. Finally I weeded the strawberries last week. The weeds took over until I got busy. Now it looks neat with straw laid on the paths. Next to the strawberries, echinacea dry up for another year. The goldenrod and purple iron weed bloom in the wild grass area near the front of the garden, close to the paved road.
Walking on up the driveway to the upper garden, spaghetti squash lay, re-planted after the rain wiped out our crop this summer. It looks like we may get two or three squash before frost hits whenever this is. On up red and green peppers finally fruit since it is drier now. We’ve collected and froze them filling our freezer with red and green.
Next rhubarb fruits. There is very little left so I picked enough for a couple servings lately cooked with apple cider and raisins. It tasted sour and sweet and gave me much comfort. Eating rhubard reminds of childhood gardens. I froze four quarts this year and put in freezer to eat later. The fresh rhubarb wans. I see a few green leaves pushing up but they grow very slowly.
Zinnas brighten our garden still reminding me of summer days. The Dahlia yellow/orange/ red ones are leaving us but the miniature ones continue to grow and give us flowers to enjoy and share. How energizing it is to see shades of pink and red zinnas on the shelf above the sink as I wash dishes.
I spy the greens patch continuing on up the driveway. Every evening we decide what greens to eat for supper. Chard, spinach mustard, baby kale, Romaine lettuce and spinach grow. It’s the best crop we’ve ever had. It has a lot to do with rot tilling the red clay. The spading gives air to the soil. Plus we add chicken compost and fish emulsion. It feels like a real success story to have an abundance of greens—what a treasure. A dream come true.
A big patty pan squash plant stands out on the right of the garden. We lost these vines to an abundance of summer rain but replanted. We now eat fresh patty pan in soups, stir fries and casseroles. Butternut squash grows, too but I doubt they will grow big enough before frost.
Soon it will be time for my husband to plant next year’s garlic. We are still using this year’s crop and he saved cloves to plant for next year. I wish we could grow enough for all year but we usually end up buying some.
As I work in the garden I sense the presence of my Dad who was an avid gardener. It feels like he is behind me guiding me what to do. We even conversed about the strawberry patch. One day it came to me like he was talking to me. I planted solid strawberry plants with no place to walk. I long to talk to Dad and started the conversation in my head. I listened as he suggested making a row in between strawberry plants enough to weed and pick. My gardening is a memorial to my father.
Walking above the garden near the house is my husband’s herb garden with oregano, tarragon and parsley. Last year the parsley grew all winter long. This fall’s bush looks healthy and may make it another winter. In the back behind the house basil is drying in our little starter greenhouse. I see wild asters—purple and white blowing in the wind. The light goes earlier at night. I walk 10 minutes with my dog at sunset and darkness comes sooner and sooner. Morning I find the dark on waking.
I am thankful we’ve filled our freezer with vegetables and fruits and canned tomatoes on our shelves to get us through the cold season. Friends gave us apples and I was in heaven. I used their hand operated peeler and froze seven quarts of apple sauce and four quarts of sliced apples for apple crisp. I love using my Mother’s recipe called
Tempting Apple Crisp
4 c. sliced apples ½ c. brown sugar
1 T. lemon juice ½ t. salt
1/3 c. flour 1 t. cinnamon
1c. oats uncooked 1/3 c. butter melted
Place apples in shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix dry
ingredients, add butter and mix until crumbly. Bake at 375 degrees for ½ hour.
It is the season of the Apple and Mother Nature’s glory slowly fading to take rest from another year of growth. How I long to rest and savor the slowing down of the growing season from chop/chop/chop to rest/chop/rest.
From spring’s new energy to summer’s abundance to fall’s fading away. The mood is enjoying the present but no new growth. It is the season of slowly disappearing.
written October 2013
edited November 2015
Stars in broad daylight I spot heading up our path in the back. I see summer clematis vining on the ground. Passing the foot size lavender plant I press leaves between my fingers. Calmness. Continuing on I take a sharp right along the ridge lush with leaves and pine needles. This summer it’s unusually wet from a recent rain. I take caution to walk safely in my sandles. The sweet smelling mystery bush from spring sits quietly by the side of the path. I view sassafras off and on and dip down the path and past our shiitake logs sometimes fruiting.
As the trees clear out and my way opens up, I look up on the right to see my blueberry bushes. I harvested a pint this year which is better than last year’s one blueberry. This year I’d find a handful every two days or so. They were tasty mixed with our strawberries. Beyond the blueberries I see the small fig tree in the side yard. My husband’s Philadelphia family fig tree is a new addition to our yard. My sister-in-law carted this tree down in her van last summer. We ate fresh figs already last year and Figgy just landed on our property. I never ate fresh figs before we had fig trees. I only knew dried ones. I always loved fig newtons. Fresh figs explode in my mouth from the pink fleshy sweet sacks.
As I move down the path, trees and huge forsythia bushes cover me like a woods’ womb. The coolness and dampness on hot days feels like a rain forest. On further I pass my friend Mountain Laurel happy in her new home. Last spring I transplanted her to save her from being mowed down for a new road. She’s a little windblown but growing new shoots on her top branches.
The path opens to a dogwood beginning to turn a rust red—signs of months to come. I veer right and head to our lower garden. I just dug potatoes and we are using them to cook with now. One recipe is
strong fresh garlic
mayonnaise or yogurt
all churned up in a food processor and chilled
This dip enjoys a spot in our summer suppers with raw vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots or celery.
Next to the potatoes is my strawberry patch and I remember June and the berries we picked every other day for cereal and snacks. There are two year, one year and this year plants. I’ve mulched the rows with mushroom straw and it looks very tidy at least for the moment. We plan to add strawberry plants each year. They do well in the red clay not particular about the soil they are grown in. We’ve finally found food that grows well in this spot. Next to the strawberries are echinacea or cone flowers in bloom with their simple pink blossoms. I transplanted 8 or 9 clumps last year and they survived the move. They choked out my rhubarb and had to go. It’s a good place for cone flowers, too.
Moving on up the driveway to the end of the upper garden, I see newly sprouted spaghetti squash plants. We lost ALL our butternut which I love and patty pane squash because too much rain. We did have a week of zucchini everyday but it finally succumbed to the moisture. too. We fretted how to use lots of squash. Ha. It didn’t give us a chance to follow through with our plans for preservation. I planted Chinese okra in the old zucchini bed. Sadly it was too wet the day I laid seed and it didn’t germinate. Last year we enjoyed the Chinese okra which is a spiked zucchini like vegetable and I saved seeds.
On the side below the old zucchini bed set two rhubarb plants that I baby because I love rhubarb and it’s comforting taste. I plan to cut it today and cook with apple cider and raisins. It is one less fruit serving I have to buy at the grocery. The sweet/sour taste of rhubarb reminds me of gardens growing up. I cherish the two healthy plants fertilizing with manure and ringing with sand so slugs don’t devastate the leaves.
I pass the bed where our first crop of green beans grew. We ate and froze them. Green beans also give me comfort because of past childhood gardens. Yellow larvae covered the leaves so we pulled the plants. I see green beans blooming soon to eat from our second crop.
Surrounding me now are tomatoes and they look sad. Too much rain created blight. Lots of the vines are dark but tomatoes are still growing so some nourishment is going on. We canned 50 quarts and froze another 10 quarts of tomatoes. Our pepper crop proved to be a mixed bag. We grew and planted 70 pepper plants from our greenhouse and many did not fruit due to the heavy moisture. The rain washed the blooms away. But the chili peppers survived the rain and we are using them to flavor our food.
Next I observe butterflies floating above the zinnias—huge Dahlia size in yellow/red/orange. Sweet miniature zinnias grow in front of the newly planted lettuce for our fall garden. There are memories of peas come and gone from the fenced in area. I see the place where kale feed us in spring. We now have cucumbers planted there in three mounds. The area where my husband grew garlic from October–July is dug up and chard is planted. Earlier we picked an abundance of chard enough to freeze and give away. We miss it but hope to grow a new crop for fall. It is wonderful simply sautéed with olive oil and garlic until tender.
How different my musings are from spring. Expectations bounced around in spring and abundance and plenty grace us now.
written Summer 2013
edited Summer 2014
Each day I walk the path that goes around our acre property.
Now with spring I observe changes every day.
I start out back and walk up a small hill to the path above the mushroom growhouse. I pass my little lavender bush and hold a leaf rubbing it to get the calming scent. I proceed passing an oak tree in pink and light pastel green just beginning to push forward to make leaves. Finally winter’s dried brown leaves disappeared.
Down the path I go by our dear Manx cat’s grave from 2 years ago. I imagine him sleeping in peace. Continuing on, honeysuckle turns dark green and wild rose leaves are poking out. I look forward to the smell of honeysuckle and roses when they bloom. The forsythia bush’s yellow bells are almost gone turning the whole bush an egg yellow green.
On further I pass my friend Mountain Laurel who I just transplanted from a place where a right of way may come through and destroy her. She prospers in her new home, maybe even better because now she can stand up.
Coming out of the pines I head down to the lower garden passing the red buds. The strawberries bloom with white blossoms. I imagine crimson succulent berries ripe and ready to chomp down on. Today I put beer in cups to trap the slugs. In the next potato row, pieces sit in dirt covered with mushroom compost straw. Next to the two rows of potatoes are echinanea plants from last year. They’ve not pushed up their green oval leaves yet. I keep looking.
As I walk up to the upper garden I spy my 2 rhubard plants. I remember seeing them early spring as a tiny green/ pink bulbs pushing up. Eating rhubard brings me comfort because it reminds me of childhood gardens. Last year one of my rhubard plants died due to being choked out by echinacea. I was in mourning to a friend who had rhubard crowding her garden. She gave me three plants. Two survived. I can taste the sweet/sour flavor on my tongue already. Next I view a small clump of kale that is the sole survivor of a row of seeds planted in late summer. I’ve been eating tender strong flavored greens already.
In the fenced in area, chard grows from my fall planting soon ready to eat. Its firm thick forest green leaves get taller and taller. A couple red Romaine lettuce heads made it through the winter. I covered them with a plastic tent for most of the winter but got slack once at the end and lost other heads. We did eat lettuce in winter salads. I am learning.
Tall curly stems meet me in the next section as the garlic grows bigger and bigger in the ground. Hardneck garlic takes the prize with us. We used to buy garlic to plant but now we save cloves from year to year. We use a lot of garlic and sadly have to buy it when our garden supply runs out. My husband plants bulbs in the fall, then harvests and dries them in July. I smell the pungent garlic preparing for a meal such as humus or spaghetti.
As I continue my walk around the property I come to our tiny greenhouse where we now grow tomato and pepper seedlings for the garden. Walking into the greenhouse on a sunny day I soak up the rays and it warms my bones. Tending to the tiny plants, I see them grow from struggling thin little strings to thicker full plants. We also have lettuce and chard in egg cartons which are ¼” now. We hope to get a head start by beginning them inside.
Around the corner is our year old fig tree that came from Philadelphia and my husband’s family fig trees. Never had I tasted a fresh fig until he grew them. I’d only eaten dried ones. The soft sweet sack is hard to believe it’s the same fruit.
Further around the corner passing the dogwood in full bloom I come to my blueberry bushes. For three years I cared for these plants and it looks like they will bear this year. What a wait! Today I fertilized them with bone meal after weeding earlier in the week. I long for the sweet sometimes tangy taste of my own blueberries. They are shaded somewhat so I worry about sun but I’ve heard other people grown them with some shade. Time will tell.
In front of the blueberries sits a small peach tree. Once a big peach tree grew here but it produced too much fruit one year and a major limb broke off. We had to cut it down. But a pit dropped and grew into a tree so we have baby peach tree now. To taste a sweet juicy peach is a dream. I knew good quality peaches well because my Dad was an apple and peach specialist for Virginia growers. Eating the best peaches was a perk. We’d eat them on cereal and ice cream and freeze them for later. To get frozen peaches from the ice box in winter is a memory of warm sunny days.
Compost bins are further down in the yard close to the upper garden where we dump our table scraps on mushroom straw and cover with more mushrooms straw. After awhile the mixture becomes very dark and full of nitrogen. We add this to the soil when we transplant the tomato/ pepper plants and other plants and seeds creating a bed. Also, we use cow manure and fish emulsion for fertilizer.
So as I walk around the path getting my exercise I look at Mother Nature’s growing. This time of year charges me up. The red buds and dogwood grace the yard with beauty. One bush whose name I don’t know along the path near the woods smells like sweet lilac. All these treats rejuvenate me every spring.
Monday December 2—after flying overnight we landed in Brusseles at 8:30 and slipped through Customs heading downstairs to the train station to buy our tickets for the next day. We rushed around and found our shuttle to hotel(it only ran until 9:30). Taking a shower and a nap under a thick European comforter refreshed us. Bundling up for overcast and 40s weather we walked 4 km and shopped at a supermarket(say grocery store and they don’t know what you mean). Appearing on the right where we walked stood construction of a huge NATO building shaped like a coliseum with windows. We had arrived in Europe.
Tuesday December 3—took train to Ghent/Sint Pietes and onto to Hansbeke/ Nevele area north of Brussels. It surprised me to see the integration of farms with residential areas as the train moved through the rolling hills. We knew it was the country as we stepped off the train and the smell of manure smacked us in the nose. As we waited for a ride to bed and breakfast we saw a farmers’ market attended by people about our age or older on heavy bikes with baskets.
Arriving at the bed and breakfast room we both sat in two stuffed chairs and snoozed and saying, “Isn’t it nice to do nothing.” Afternoon we walked an hour around the farming area finding old brick barns and two story brick houses with greenhouse structures behind them. One plant grew peppers hydroponically. We saw horses, cows, chickens, rabbits and dark sheep that ran from us. Water stood in fields where corn stalks lay from this year’s harvest. We observed rich black soil.
The bed and breakfast used to be a mushroom operation for 50 years until cheap Eastern European immigrant labor closed the business. Jon Paul and his partner Isabelle spent 5 years transforming the warehouse into a bed and breakfast. Fine woodworking, beautiful tile work, handmade tables and a brick ceiling in the dining area impressed us.
After a trip to the supermarket and a home cooked meal of local chicken and vegetable soup, we talked a long time with a man about our age from the area. He was a metal expert by profession who worked in plants in the States and in Europe. This day we found our way from Brussels to Nevele and Steehoven, the bed and breakfast.
Wednesday, December 4—-walking 15 minutes from bed and breakfast in a sprinkling rain we visited Mycelia—the company where Pete has bought mushroom cultures for 15 years. Magda Verfaillie, a botany major started the business in her basement in l985 and now is in her fourth location with plans for expansion. Her facility primarily creates spawn. Spawn is the medium that mushrooms grow on. The spawn blocks are about the size of a basketball. The company sells spawn blocks to mushrooms growers all over Europe. Pete only had email and phone contact with Mycelia. It was good to meet face to face. Magda gave us a tour of the facility.
We wiled away the rest of the day walking the country roads and writing, reading and resting in our room. I could see cows out the window as I wrote. It was such good respite. On our walk with another day of overcast and 40s we saw winter gardens of humongous cabbage, kale and onions and one long road made of granite cobblestone. Meeting Magda Verfaillie and touring her Mycelia facility furfilled Pete’s dream.
Thursday December 5—this was our big travel day taking 4 trains from Hansbeke/Nevele area to Ghent/Sint Pietes to Brussels Midi to Frankfurt to Stuttgart. On train to Frankfurt in our reserved seats within a glass cubicle, we shared space with a public radio journalist on her way to interview a fellow from Zimbabwe who immigrated to Europe. There were 5 of us who had an intense discussion on immigration. Pete talked about his grandparents coming from Italy. I talked about why I wanted to visit Germany and how my great grandparents immigrated in 1889. One young German Polish fellow talked about his grandmother and father losing their farm to Poland when parts of Germany were given to Poland after the war. His family evidently immigrated to Germany. It struck me a number of times how WWII still effects many German lives so strongly today.
Afternoon we made it to our tiny room on the hill above the city in Stuttgart. It felt good to get inside and get warmed up for a bit. Stuttgart reminded me of San Francisco with low mountains covered with houses. A large section of the downtown is off limit to cars. We saw grassy areas, a manmade lake, statues, government buildings and museums and lots of stores and eateries with a mall in between but no cars. We headed down to Rewe supermarket for food and ran into the Christmas Market. How enchanting with carol singing, anise smell, bright colored lights, fresh brockwurst and hot beer, wine and fruit drinks for sale. Hearing the police sirens in Stuttgart felt iery because it sounded like the SS from World War II. We had made the train trip from Belgium to Germany.
Friday December 6—took the train to Oberndorf south of Stuttgart. This train we almost missed because it changed gates at last minute and they announced it in German which we didn’t catch. One young Oriental German speaking lady I had asked about train alerted us and we all ran and made it just in time as the train pulled out. Seeing the countryside was a treat—rolling hills similar to SW Virginia and WNC. Many big old simply made brick houses without overhangs on roof. Once in Oberndorf we found a taxi to Roetenberg. On the way over the mountain it was snowing heavy but luckily not freezing. Roetenberg is the town where my Grandma Dreiling’s father, Jacob Woessner came from. The taxi dropped us off at the only church, Evangelical Kirche. Since there was a funeral the church was open. I got to talk with a lady who spoke a bit of English and with my bit of German we communicated. She knew the family Woessner and showed me the board at the back of the church with men from church who died in WWI and WWII. There were three Woessners.
Walking around the village a young German lady saw us and asked in perfect English if we were tourists. She told us about a pottery gallery with a Christmas room. “Go and ask for Christmas room.” This pottery couple work in clay right in the gallery that is open 3 days a week. We experienced the Christmas room and it was magical. Big and little pottery balls with cut outs and candles inside illuminating them in a dark room. There were clay elephants, mice and Indian men with serapes. Also fresh oranges covered with cloves. I bought a mug for my daily tea to remember this little village in the mountains of Germany.
We finished our visit eating at the Gashof, where they also spoke very little English. But we managed to communicate and ate tasty salads with everything pickled—carrots, red and green cabbage, cauliflower—except the lettuce and meat. I had shrimp with mine. Pete had pasta and pork with his. Today I satisfied my dream to visit my ancestor’s village in Germany.
Saturday December 7—our last day in Stuttgart. I went to visit the State Library to meet lady who I’d been in email contact for family research. She had some hand-outs for me. She didn’t find a lot but referred me to further sources. I planned to go to Archive Center but it was closed. I have a contact to be in touch with later.
Since I had more free time that I thought we went to Staatsgallerie, a museum full of European artists and sculptors. As we walked in I spotted Blue Horses of Franco Marc and a Feningher Kirche. We saw Klee, Miro, Rubens, Rodin, Dali, Piscarro, Gauguin, Picasso, Modigliana, Matisse, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Chagall and more all under one roof. Taking in Stuggart enriched our day.
So our week was packed full of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and encounters opening a life not in touch with us before. Once a friend told me her Dad who took his family out West a lot said, You take a trip 3 times—once in the planning, second in the actual trip and third remembering your trip. I carry a movie to play of our time in Belgium and German that keeps popping up to entertain me.
photos taken by Pete Whelihan and Carol Dreiling