There's a lot about this world today that makes no sense to me. There's a lot that makes me worry for my child's future. But the one thing I don't have doubts about is that I love being surrounded by trees and land. Long fence line views, rolling pastures, moss covered trees, sun dappled ponds.... just give me a breeze, a hammock, and a book and leave me to be lazy!
Growing up in North Central Florida means a few things. It means HOT! Like no breeze, don't even bother with your hair, steam fogged glasses, and all day AC hot. It means "winter" is from January to February and everything else falls into the three phases of Summer: warm, actual summer, and Satan's back yard. It means that about 3/4 of the time the hurricane's don't reach this far, but we still throw some of the most epic hurricane parties you've ever seen!
Our family is more spread out now, but growing up we used to have family reunions out at what we call "the Farm". Thomas Honey sits nestled in the woods just north of of Lake City and for years was the gathering place for our insanely large family get-togethers. Today, our extended family boasts almost 400 members, but even back then to a 10 year old girl, it was a lot of people.
Let me take a minute to set the scene. Mike and Kitsy's house is set back from the road surrounded by pine trees. Pulling into the drive, the "Little House" (a home that my Aunt Kelly and her family lived in during this time period) sits on the left side of the driveway and the Thomas home on the right. There's a covered two-car carport at the back of the Thomas home, and just a few yards behind both homes sits the Honey House. There were blueberry bushes along one fence line, with a huge magnolia tree on the same side. The back yard had a rope swing hanging from a tree and a beautiful play house with a pretend stove and a mini couch. Further back down the fence line was the pasture gate, it opened to a short trail that wound thru the woods and ended at the fish pond. The air always smelled like honey and beeswax (as did the house), and you could run around and get so dirty even your own mother wouldn't recognize you! It was kid paradise.
I grew up there: spending summers with cousins, taking beach trips with my awesome aunts, eating cinnamon toast and cheese toast for breakfast, and helping Grammy (Kitsy) clean her bathrooms and vacuum the floors. I loved to snoop around the house, peeking into drawers and cupboards. There wasn't a single one that wasn't full of wonderful surprises. Once I even found my Aunt Kristi's old leg cast tucked away in a back corner. There was a built-in book shelf at the back entry that was always full of books for both big and small readers. There was a dining room that housed a big farm style table (still in use today) that we did everything at. On one side of that dining room was a bookshelf that held nick-knacks, framed photos, and family photo albums...on another side, a piano. The living room was long and narrow with a fireplace at one end. Right in the middle of that long room was a couch topped with a bear skin - complete with full head, open mouth, and real claws!!
When we would have family reunions, the adults would set up saw horses topped with plywood or folding tables. Those tables would eventually get loaded down with fried catfish, hush puppies, banana pudding, bar-b-que, fresh vegetables, mac and cheese and all the sweet tea and lemonade you could drink. The family would bring their lawn chairs and sit around and talk for hours. The kids would run around like wild heathens, free as birds. One time, out of the blue, someones car caught on fire. No one even near it, everything was quiet, then woosh. Now that was awesome!
Four generations of family still live either on or near that farm. Some of my cousins, who I used to climb trees and feed fish with, are now raising their babies right down the road. And the place where we process, bottle, and manage your honey, is the same Honey House from my memories almost 30 years ago (although its actually been there even longer than that). Some things are different. For example, Kitsy and Mike live down the road in a new house now, some of that pine forest is gone, and no one lives in the Little House at the moment. But lots of my family are still there, lots of us visit frequently. We still get together for epic weekends - kids roasting marshmallows over little fires at night, sitting around family tables cooking, crafting, and talking. Now... a new generation of little cousins are finding their adventures amongst the bees - just living that sweet southern life.
Until next time y'all...