BY CLAIRE PAGE & SHELLY ROBERTSON BIRDSONG
Our exploration resumes as we continue our partnership with Nashville’s Big Back Yard (NBBY), the region in-between Nashville and Muscle Shoals. Nashville’s Big Back Yard has been treating our entire staff to day trips to the various towns and communities located in this VERY big backyard! My co-worker Allie and I, headed to explore Collinwood, Loretto and Summertown. From eating the best barbecue to taking a tour of a luxury resort, this trip allowed us to experience the beautiful sights and people that make these places great.
NBBY Part II
BY CLAIRE PAGE
Our full-day road trip consisted of four towns and five stops. Collinwood, Tennessee, our first stop, was only a two-hour drive from Nashville, here we visited the Dragonfly Emporium. The Dragonfly Emporium is a one-of-a-kind experience, with coffee, smoothies, gifts and baked goods under one roof; it is a one-stop shop. We had a warm welcome from David Harrison, the owner who opened the Dragonfly in 2008. When asked what his favorite thing about owning the Dragonfly was, David said, “our guests are amazing and feel like family.” When Allie and I walked in, we were amazed by the eclectic merchandise and variety of food and drinks. I had the strawberry lemonade, and it was delicious and refreshing! If you are stopping through Collinwood, break here and grab David’s favorite drink – Mounds Bar Latte. You may stop for a break while on your road trip, but you are sure to come back for the people.
After leaving the cozy Dragonfly Emporium, we traveled up the scenic route to Keestone at Village Point in Loretto, only a short twenty-three-mile drive from Collinwood. Keestone is a luxury resort and 55+ active adult community with upscale amenities, high-end accommodations and chef-prepared cuisine. Modeled after the Peabody Hotel, you are greeted with vaulted ceilings, charming music, an elegant foyer with the front desk, a sitting area and a small bar and eating area. What makes Keestone unique is the ability to stay a few nights, as if you were at a hotel, or you can rent one-to-two-bedroom apartments, both in the same gorgeous resort building. On our tour, Allie and I were amazed at all the amenities Keestone had to offer, including a movie and performance theater, bowling alley, golf simulator, conference rooms and a spa. This slice of heaven has everything you need for an event, wedding, weekend getaway or your next home.
Next, we drove to Summertown to eat a delicious barbecue lunch at Shaffer Farms Texas BBQ. This little stop in the road, a Texas barbecue joint, had the best food that Allie and I have ever eaten! It’s that good! When you first walk in, you are greeted by the owner wearing a cowboy hat and the meat market – where you can find any meat to cook. The small and rustic restaurant truly feels like you just stepped into a slice of Texas. The guest book signatures reveal the diverse group of visitors flocking from all over, confirming how good their brisket and barbecue are. The restaurant is cafeteria-style, where you will be served by two of the sweetest ladies, Jodi and Joyce. Allie had the brisket sandwich with ranch potatoes, while I had the pulled pork, ranch potatoes and green beans. They may be known for their brisket, but those ranch potatoes are over the top!
After lunch, we made our way to The Farm. The Farm is an intentional community of families and friends living on three square miles in southern middle Tennessee, founded on the principles of nonviolence and respect for the earth. The Farm started in 1971, intending to establish a strongly cohesive, outwardly directed community. Phil Schweitzer, an original member of The Farm community, met us and took us on a tour of this modern-day eco-village and physical example of sustainable living. The Farm is 1750 acres and is preserved in trust. While on tour with Phil, we asked what he wanted people to know about The Farm. He says: “The Farm is a peaceful community made up of people that try to take care of each other. The concept, in the beginning, was to create a lifestyle that could be replicated. Using the land, diet, and what we have to offer in living together harmoniously. It is not like any other town; when you are all on the land together, you are all in it together.” Allie and I experienced that firsthand while touring. The Farm consists of beautiful land, unique houses, an on-site school, a publishing house where multiple books have been published and even horses! It was refreshing to see an intentional lifestyle, leaving behind the hustle and bustle many cities have conformed to.
Once our tour was over, we proceeded to the last stop of our road trip before heading back to Nashville. We took a nice hike at Stillhouse Hollow Falls in Mt Pleasant. This trail is conveniently located off the highway for easy access. This 1.20-mile loop trail is considered an easy hike that takes an average of thirty-four minutes to complete. This hike is a trendy area for birding, hiking and walking. As we hiked down to the falls, the sound of nature and water surrounded us, allowing Allie and me to unplug and appreciate our surroundings. Our hike at Stillhouse Hollow Falls was the perfect ending to our day.
NBBY Part III
BY SHELLY ROBERTSON BIRDSONG
Shelly here! Not to be left out of the fun – Johnny and I headed out on our own Nashville’s Big Back Yard jaunt one gorgeous Friday morning. The perfect day to spend some time just up the road a bit from downtown Franklin, in bucolic Sante Fe. I was, of course, dressed incorrectly for our visit to start the day at The Farm & Fiddle. But who cares! Once we arrived, I was enthralled. Greeted by ducks and geese and fluffy dogs, along with farm proprietress Samantha Lamb, I only cared about seeing this incredible place.
Samantha and her fiddle playing husband, Daniel Lamb, decided to move their farming lives to Santa Fe/Fly, Tennessee, from Arizona, both to allow Daniel to pursue his music career and because of the great need for good whole-hearted food products and the willingness of the chefs and community to support local farmers. If you were to visit The Farm & Fiddle, you would see a happy farm with a thriving, sustainable garden and well-respected animals. Samantha’s gift for farming shines through, from flowers to even homemade pasta. After seeing all she grows there and sells weekly at the Columbia Farmer’s Market, even Johnny was inspired to take some plants and herbs to start our own raised garden at home. Now that’s what I call a win! You can find The Farm & Fiddle at thefarmandfiddle.com.
From one homegrown goodness to another, we drove further to Hampshire. Now, all I heard was, we are going to the wineries in Hampshire, and I was sold! Amber Falls Winery and Natchez Hills Vineyard rolled out the red carpet and the tastings for our arrival. Who would have imagined that these completely enchanting locales would be found in the VERY hilly landscape of quaint Hampshire, Tennessee?! But here we were, traversing by car, quite a steep hill (I felt sure, mountain) to reach our first destination at the Amber Falls Winery. Judy and Tim Zaunbrecher purchased the Lewis County property in 2003 to build and open a Christian retreat center. The retreat center did not happen as things worked out, but a beautiful vineyard and winery developed. The first vines, Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc were planted in 2005. For the next three years, several thousand more vines were planted as the vineyard expanded. The winery tasting room opened in March of 2008, and the community has never been the same. Travelers and wine lovers from every state and many international countries have discovered Hampshire and Amber Falls Winery & Cellars. In addition to some incredible wines, they also have live entertainment and events often throughout the year. Well worth the hike up the “mountain,” joking aside, this is a definite must-do when making your way through the Big Back Yard. For more information, go to amberfallswinery.com.
Back down the hill to visit Natchez Hills Vineyard, with a wholly different vibe and feel, yet still unique and fabulous! Having grown up in coastal Mississippi and California, owners Jim and Karen Odom brought together their histories and passions to establish Natchez Hills Winery and Vineyard – a small, family-owned and operated boutique winery. Jim and Karen were inspired to create a unique and local experience combining their passions of old-world style wine, music, and bringing people together. Again, I had an opportunity to taste several offerings, including their truly one-of-a-kind “Naughty Tea,” a southern sweet tea wine. Yes, that’s right—a sweet tea wine! I have died and gone to southern bell nirvana. It was that good! Their newly launched product Hard South Selzer, a take on the tea wine, but in a seltzer format, with a cool new logo and branding, was refreshing and interesting. Visit them at the vineyard when open and at The Hermitage in Nashville at their on-site tasting room. Learn more about Natchez Hills and where to purchase their wine at natchezhills.com.
At about this time, two wine tastings later… it was time for lunch, and this was what I had been waiting for. Our guide for the day, Donna Morency, with Visit Mount Pleasant, led us to Mount Pleasant and the Mount Pleasant Grille for a late but wonderful lunch. What an eclectic and cool place this is, right on Main Street in this Mayberry of a place full of history. Donna was excited to point out all the amazing restoration of buildings and revitalization of this town just down the road a bit from Columbia. Then she led us down the street to show us the shops. I was openly candid when I told her I was coming back without my husband and bringing a carload of girlfriends…and a trailer because the shopping is that good, my friends. I could have stayed all afternoon in places like Bellissima, Pinch of the Past, The Blue Hydrangea, Too Much Stuff Emporium and Breckenridge Baby! Oh my! The damage I could have done here! I’ll be back for sure, and I will make certain to take time to enjoy coffee at Towne Coffee or a beer at the new Twisted Copper Brewing Company, where we interrupted their finishing up construction in time for a grand opening that next day!
I think my biggest takeaway from Mount Pleasant was in the words of Donna herself, “You know that place that you see in your head when you think about the good old days? That’s Mount Pleasant. Not perfect, but just a sweet, small town that’s a great place to visit and an even better place to live. It’s a town that people just fall in love with.” Yes! She is exactly right. A world away from the insanity of life and yet, in reality, so very close to everything. Gorgeous antebellum homes off Main Street beckon visitors to come and sit awhile and enjoy one of their many outdoor concerts on the lawn or maybe a Third Thursday downtown event with shopping and dining on Main Street. For more information on Mount Pleasant, go to visitmountpleasanttn.com.
There is just so much to tell, but we will stop here and promise to share even more news about Nashville’s Big Back Yard and the communities within very soon! So stay tuned to our social media, and of course, look for Part four of our special series in the Summer issue of YOUR Williamson.
Nashville’s Big Back Yard