Bison is the iconic mammal that have been living in North America for thousands of years. It becomes the symbol of U.S. Department of Interior whose missions, one of them, is to protect bison from extinction with the help of its organization, the National Park Service. Bison is a majestic animal and my son completely loves them. They have given him inspirations that he expresses towards his artworks. My son goes to a high school that emphasizes arts education and he takes visual art program. Some of his works featuring bison. One of my son’s biggest wishes is to see bison in the real life and up-close. That chance came when we visited Tennessee in July. My son found out there’s a bison ranch in the city of Cookeville situated in the Upper Cumberland Region in Tennessee. And we thought,”Wow! A bison ranch in Tennessee?!” Long ago bison lived by the millions at the Great Plains and most of North America but due to overhunting during the expansion of the settlement in America by European settlers in the 19th century, they almost extinct. Merely hundreds left before the United States Government established a program to save bison through conservation. The program has helped increasing the bison population and spreading them throughout the United States in the federal, Native American and private owned lands. By the way, the European settlers called bison as “buffalo”, although they’re not the same. If you ever known a song called “Home on the Range”, it mentions ‘oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam’ which means bison.
The bison ranch we visited in Cookeville, Tennessee, is called the Lazy G. Ranch. The gate was opened when we arrived and walked into their driveway. Right away, we were astonished by the sights on either right and left sides of the driveway. Dozens of bison grazing freely under the blue sky. My son was beyond thrilled! He wanted to see the bison closer but he knew we had to keep our distance so not to startle the herd. We certainly didn’t want to cause a stampede especially with the warning that bison is unpredictable. From afar, we saw the bison wallowing or rolling on the ground and covering themselves with dust. They did that to take care of the insect bites, to mark a territory or simply to play. It was very interesting to see their behavior inside the herd. We couldn’t tell which bison was male (bull) or female (cow) just by their appearances because they all looked similar. Both bull and cow have thick coat of long dark hair on their massive heads, legs, necks and the front part of their bodies. They also have a pair of short, sharply pointed and hollow horns. What distinguished the cows from the bulls at the ranch were the babies that were always next or near their mothers.
Among the bison at Lazy G. Ranch were a couple of white bisons. They were truly unique and extraordinary. We were fascinated by them having to see white bison for the first time. Native American considers white bison as sacred and very important spiritually. When a white baby bison was born, the Native American tribes will come to the ranch or park where the baby is to pray and ask for its lock of hair to keep for ritual purposes. Bison grunts to communicate to each other. We heard plenty of grunts when we were at the ranch. The owner of the Lazy G. Ranch, Eddie Gaw, wants to conserve bison because he was thinking of the future if this iconic American animal completely wiped out. We think his effort to set aside about 150 acres land to breed bison is brilliant. Beside bison, we also saw four horses who were enjoying the day. They were beautiful and looked tame. After sometime, we needed to go to different place on our journey so we bid the bison and horses goodbye. I took pictures of my son and younger daughter posing with a statue of bison that was placed in front of the Lazy G. Ranch. Our visit to the ranch was among the highlights of our trip to Tennessee.
There’s one botanic garden that I’ve been meaning to visit for sometime. Smith College Botanic Garden is part of Smith College, a liberal arts college for women located in Northampton in Western Massachusetts. Now that spring is here, visiting this garden seems to be the perfect way to enjoy the season. The botanic garden is situated inside Smith College campus. This college was founded in 1871 through the endowment from Sophia Smith who wanted to use her inheritance to give better education for women and that of equal to what men receive. Smith College Botanic Garden was established in 1895 to provide teaching, public education, scientific research and also the beauty of the place. There are glass houses in the garden built in 1895 and they’re fascinating and I will talk about them in another post specifically. These glass houses is what attracted me to visit the garden.
On my way toward the garden, to my delight, I saw several saucer magnolia trees in bloom. The sound of trickling fountain from a nearby pond with a beautiful female bronze statue was heard mixing with the sound of the birds. On the side of the pathway toward the glass houses lay a beautiful rock garden. This first rock garden in North America was established in 1897 copying the rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in London. I stayed there for the longest time admiring the lay out of the garden that resembles the environments of high altitude area and the tundra. Some of the plants have small and succulent leaves to conserve water, rather large flowers to attract pollinators, or roots that go deeper into the underground stream. Some have short life cycle adapting to the drought season. It is a remarkable beauty to see some of the plants nestled between the rocks. It’s sort of beauty and the beast inspired.
Being in any garden, for that matter in Smith College Botanic Garden was a wonderful experience for me. Not only because I needed to take a break from the busy sometime mundane days, but also to learn about the garden. I always love learning about botany, you see. After admiring the Rock Garden, I went to the glass houses and astonished by the collections of plants being cared there. A lot of them are tropical plants and they thrive beautifully. I know some of the tropical plants having seen and planted them in my mother’s yard. She would’ve loved to come to the glass houses and probably would be amused seeing her plants are growing in a four-season country. When one of the gardener informed me that the garden would be closed at 4PM, I then headed to the garden office. I met a nice lady there who told me about another garden on the other side of campus and I’d love to visit it in June when the roses are in bloom because they have rose arches there. I ended my visit with sitting on a bench near the perennial border just relaxing even though the wind became pretty strong and chilly, waiting until the time for me to go to meet my daughter to see her orchestra concert in nextdoor city.
Old and historic places are my favorite kind of places to visit. It is one among many interesting places that I’d love to see up close. During our short visit in North Carolina in February , we stopped by a wonderful historic place called OLD SALEM. The historic town of Salem was established in 1766 by Moravians – one among the oldest Protestant denominations – who originated from the Czech Republic. Old Salem boasted a remarkable architecture and attention to details that are still exist today. Three-quarters of the buildings in the old town are the original constructions. Salem used to be the center of the administrative, professional, craft, trader and spiritual activities which in present day is immaculate and simply wonderful. Rows of old houses and shops line up the main street. Several houses are available to rent. Can you imagine living in an old and historic house like the one on the 1st photo? That house is called the Fourth House which is the oldest home that still stands in Salem. The German style house was built in 1768 using timber and bricks and has 3 rooms which is known as the “Flurküchenhaus” plan. The first tenants who lived in the Fourth House were a saddle maker and his wife who rented it from the church.
The other point of interest in Old Salem that we visited was the Winkler Bakery. It wasn’t hard to entice anyone to come to the shop where the aroma of fresh baked goods wafting in the air. Visitors were greeted by the pieces of sugar cake that were waiting on a table at the dining area. A lady who wore an 1800’s-styled clothing, served the cake while a man who also wore similar clothing style prepared another batch from the wood-fired oven that’s part of the bakery. The aroma was so heavenly! My kids and I couldn’t stop getting one more piece of the cake and there was no rule of how many you were allowed to get. So it’s all fair. There were several choices of breads and other baked goods sold at the bakery including the sugar cake. Although the flavor of the bread they sold wasn’t as good as the one they baked in the 200-year-old wooden-fired oven. The charred part of the top part of the bread was a distinct flavor and gave the uniqueness. It’s true, the modern oven can’t beat that of an antique one.
We opted to merely walked about this old town and not going on specific tour visiting each of the main historical interest. The town is a live museum where to get into several buildings you need a ticket for it. But we didn’t buy any ticket due to the time constraint and the vast area of the town that we thought it would need an all day to spend. Visitors are free to roam around the peaceful neighborhood, though would be unable to go inside the ticketed buildings. My kids and I also went to the souvenir shops there that were among the small shops that lined up the main street. The weather wasn’t the prettiest and it’s still winter. It was pretty bleak that day. We thought of coming back here again maybe during summer or fall to be able to enjoy the garden and the outdoor activities set up there for the visitors. It must be lovely when the flowers are blooming and the gardens are thriving. There are lots of places that I would love to see in Old Salem. I hope one day I get to visit this fascinating place again for longer time.