23 June 2013

Visiting Washington's Mount Vernon

We didn't totally know what to expect, but after {maybe} rear-ending someone, waiting for a police officer to come and explain {to the other person} that there would be nothing to do since the {other} car was not damaged, my mom and I headed totally out into the unknown looking for George Washington's house.  {In April.  I know.  I should have told you about it months ago.}

It wasn't long into our tour of his home that we learned we were not merely among a crowd of after-the-fact, first-president enthusiasts.  George and Martha evidently welcomed hundreds of overnight guests each year, many of them random and unplanned for.  Except if you are in the routine of having hundreds of overnight guests each year, you probably plan for them whether you know they're coming or not.  It was hard to imagine such a pre-secret service kind of era, where one could simply show up to a former president's home expecting a meal and perhaps a bed.  More than one tour guide mentioned a letter in which George wrote something like the following, "If no one comes in the next fifteen minutes, something will happen that has not happened in twenty years.  My wife and I will dine alone together."

These covered pathways curved away from the house on, which was really just a box that had been extended a few times.  With fancy things put inside the box.  I thought it was a nice touch to have vines and flowers and archways, with the river in the background.  I did the unthinkable, and left without a photo of their beautiful river view.  But since the river curved around multiple sides of their land, I couldn't think how to properly capture it all in its breathtaking beauty.  I could see exactly why Washington's father put his house just right there next to the river.  It was only later that I learned how to use the panoramic function on my phone.  {Disappointed frown.}

See the greenhouse?  Lots of glass, a beautiful place.  Part of the huge gardens extended in front of it.  I tried not to think of how much work it would have taken to maintain the grounds and gardens of Mount Vernon, simply because we did not arrive for our visit with enough time and space to ponder the sad fact of slavery at our first president's home.  I merely took in the gardens, the plants, the home, the river, leaving that topic to be grappled with another day.

This fruit-growing technique is something I've seen once before, in a magazine, and have kept in the back of my mind to try someday.  Essentially, the fruit trees are pruned in such a way as to remain about shoulder height (at least, shoulder height for me).  These particular trees were pruned so that two sets of branches extended horizontally from the trunk, along the brick wall.  When it's time to harvest the fruit, there are no ladders, no climbing.  Just reaching out to pick the fruit that is ripe right in front of you.  Seems like the way to go!

Here's a view of the way the some of the gardens were set up:  like decorative flower beds, but with herbs and vegetables in the beds.  It felt so artistic and beautiful, yet practical at the same time.  One of my disappointments in the visit was that we got there with only about an hour and a half to enjoy the grounds.  Perhaps someday I'll go back for more!

Above:  the rosemary rows.  They're gigantic.  The employees told me they don't sell the produce.  It's just available for them (the employees) to take home as it ripens.  Don't you think I need a new job??

If you go:  It's not cheap.  Check out tickets, though, because it's worth every penny.  The house, the museum, the different kinds of tours, the grounds.  My mom and I also discovered that because we arrived past 4:00 p.m. (I believe it was), our tickets would have been good through the next day, and had we been close enough to it the next day, we totally would have been back for more.  We both loved it.

Also if you go:  Please go to the gift shops.  I am NOT one who normally wanders the gift shops.  However, in this case, it was again totally worth it.  With my recent fascination with heirloom seeds, I was overjoyed to learn that a person can buy heirloom seeds from George Washington's garden.  Again, I wouldn't say they're cheap.  However, with the potential of letting your plants go to seed and planting those seeds again next year, it doesn't seem like such an expenditure.  AND if you're too far away from Mount Vernon for a visit, you can still order the heirloom seeds online via the link above.

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