I'm very fortunate to still have both sets of my grandparents living and in relative good health; my great-grandmother on my mother's side is also still living- at home, in fact. More than that, she, while not in good health, continues to maintain two vegetable gardens and quite extensive flower beds around her house: very extensive for someone in her eighties. I don't know what she would do if she couldn't garden. I suppose I get my deep appreciation for green things from her. While I was up there, she showed me about, and I took some pictures with my little digital camera, which granny thought quite wonderful. We had a good time, talking about everything from gardens and plants to what she thought of The Passion (she thought it was very moving and well done).
On Wednesday I went with my paternal grandparents to Starkville and ate lunch with two of my great aunts. It's always interesting to be around my grandmother and her sisters, as they are remarkably different from each other- sometimes we're not sure whether they're really related. My grandmother is calm and quiet; Aunt Mary hardly stops talking and joking, and speaks rather, er, loudly. She's a mess, as we say, and I'll leave it at that.
I also spent some time bushwhacking with my little brother (actually he's gotten taller than me) in Tombigee National Forest, which lies between Lousville and Starkville in a range of very nice hills. The terrain is as close to mountanous as one will get in Mississippi- don't laugh- with some very deeply incised ravines and little valleys. The streams are excellent in the Forest, with good gravel and sand bottoms and the occasional waterfall (though I must use the term rather loosely). The forests are lovely, with a good mix of pine and hardwood and a very open understory that the Forest Service maintains with controlled burning. There is also a good turkey population, which my brother (who eats and drinks turkey hunting) excitedly discovered. I was treated to a lengthy discussion of the size of the gobblers whose tracks we crossed, until I was quite ready to never hear another word about turkeys again. We didn't see any birds in person there; however, on the way home Thursday I passed a rather foolish-looking turkey standing in a driveway not five feet from the highway. If he keeps that sort of behaviour up he won't last long come next spring...
To round off my little trip, I swung by Noxubee County, which lies just east of Winston. The Black Belt Prairie drops down through Noxubee, and with it come a number of otherwise uncommon plant species. There are numerous chalk and limestone outcroppings scattered about, and I know a fine spot on the east side of the county where a limestone-bottomed creek passes along some beautiful hardwood-cedar forests, filled with nice plants (in case you haven't picked up by the way, I'm a botany enthusiast). The woods would be delightful anyway; particularly the smell: limestone woods always have a particular, rich smell, unlike any other sort of forest. I collected several interesting plants. This one, Penstemon tenuiflorus, I was particularly pleased to find, as I had never seen it before and is rather rare- it's limited to only four Southeastern states. Yeah, plant-hunting doesn't exactly sound as exciting as, say, alligator wrestling (can you imagine "The Quillwort Hunter"?) and snake-collecting, but for those so wired, finding that rare plant is as exciting as finding gold. And there are always healthy challenges: for example, "Will I get shot if I go wandering off into these woods?" "Perhaps I'm close enough to the cliff edge as is..." "I'm sure I can get the car off of this shoulder..." "I'm sure it's not poisonous!"