Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A trip to Monterey - in Loudon County

  • Monterey Mushrooms - one of East Tennessee's hidden gems, and a great place for the gardener.

East Tennessee is full of discoveries waiting to be discovered, and wife Sally and I found one on Tuesday -- the Monterey Mushroom Company in Loudon County.

And why go to the Monterey Mushroom Company? Not for the mushrooms. You can buy those at the local grocery story.

If not mushrooms, then what? Compost.

Monterey Mushroom has compost, mountains and mountains of compost. And the friendly folks there will sell you a truckload for $25. All you need is a truck with a good set of springs, and the ability to stand strong odors. The place wreaks.
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Our friend Jim Brown of Honey Rock Herb Farm in Louisville told us about the place a few weeks ago, and we had been meaning to drive down there ever since. Tuesday we got our chance. We made our way over to Highway 11 and then down through Lenoir City and five miles after that the town of Loudon. A couple of miles past the center of Loudon, Highway 72 intersects Highway 11, and you make a right back toward Interstate 75. Just after you cross over the Interstate, you see a big Honda plant on the right, and the next thing on the right is Monterey Mushrooms.

The guy at the gate directed us around to the back, and as we were driving back there Sally rolled up the windows and turned on the AC. Too late. We just had to live with the smell. In the back, a very friendly guy took our order for year-old compost (this stuff is ready to spread onto your garden) and told us to drive further up the hill -- which must be what compost heaven looks like.

When we got to the designated spot, we waited for a few minutes along with a couple of other folks. A guy with a front-loader made his way up the hill and proceeded to dig into one of several mountains of compost (some had to be 30 or 40 feet high) and load us up with all that we could carry.

The compost is thick, a bit moist and pretty heavy, so you have to be careful not to overload the truck. We paid at the gate, and it was somewhat slow-going back to Maryville, but we made it. We spent yesterday and today spreading the stuff throughout the garden.

Twenty-five bucks for the compost, a few bucks for the gas, a pleasant drive and a healthier garden. Not bad for a Tuesday morning in May.

And speaking of the garden . . .

We have put in some tomato and pepper plants and are growing lettuce, peas, cucumbers, and okra from seeds. The cucumber seeds I planted have been abundant in sprouting, so this evening I dug up a few and transplanted them to a different row just to see if they would make it. I will have to thin them out anyway, so it won't be a great loss.

At the top of the garden are three healthy rows of candy corn and three rows of beans.

But the pride of the garden so far is at the bottom where a row of potatoes reside. They were ordered from Colorado and include some fingerlings. Everything has come up and is big and green and leafy. A sight to behold.

Pictures soon.(see below)

Note: We did a little research on Monterey Mushrooms before we ventured into deepest Loudon County and found that it is one of the major companies in the county with more than 500 employees. Many of the workers are Mexican, and you can note the Hispanic presence in the area by the many signs in Spanish that you see along the way. If our country ever decides to get sensible about an immigration policy -- and stop cowering behind the idea of a "fence" -- it might look to Loudon County to see how our neighbors south of the border are making our lives, and theirs, a little better.

Update: Pictures from this morning (Thursday, May 8). The white blossoms are the blackberry vines. The blackberries should be ready in about six weeks.

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