garden club of america

Tally Ho to Tuckahoe!

I love the opportunities that come my way for speaking engagements and book signings. Travelling to fun places, meeting new folks and eating – especially eating! Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to speak to a fantastic group of ladies in Richmond, Virginia. Virginia’s history is so wonderfully preserved and truly old by American standards. For those of us in the Deep South who lost much of their antebellum history to Sherman’s fires and “the war” itself, getting to visit places throughout Virginia is such a treat!

Having been a Thomas Jefferson buff for as long as I can remember, I was thrilled when some dear friends invited me to their home for a luncheon. Their home, mind you, just happens to be Tuckahoe Plantation – Thomas Jefferson’s boyhood home!

For ol’ Jimmy T here, the chance to visit Tommy J’s childhood home was a true treat; but, to be in the home with friends, having a farm to table lunch and learning more about this real American idol of a man was simply amazing! A lifetime chance for yours truly!

Tuckahoe is perhaps the oldest frame residence west of Richmond proper and has seen its share of noteworthy houseguests. When Jefferson moved their as a young boy, he began his studies in a schoolhouse near the main house – complete with domed ceiling. I couldn’t help but make the correlation between this epicenter and genesis of learning for Thomas Jefferson and his touches on American architecture. From the dome of the US Capitol to UVA’s library and his personal residence, Monticello, the young Thomas Jefferson kept with his elementary inspirations and saw them through into adulthood.

A working farm then and now, Tuckahoe proper was a community in and of itself. My friends are still growing greens, raising hens for poultry and eggs, free ranging pork and keeping a kitchen garden that could feed the thirteen colonies! For my luncheon, we feasted on a salad of winter greens, quiches of leeks and country ham (we were in Virginia of course!) and almond cake – all with a tie somehow to Tuckahoe!  Seeing the footprint of the landscape and gardens was akin to a 20/20 view into history and agrarian heritage.

The James River runs across the “rear” side of Tuckahoe, but during the heyday of river travel rather than road travel, the James would have been like an interstate of sorts, thus Tuckahoe’s, like so many river homes, front façade is now their rear elevation and vice versa. I adore outbuildings and garden follies, and Tuckahoe has it plethora of them. From kitchens to the schoolhouse to old slave cabins and garden ornaments, this plantation is truly a harkening reminder of antebellum life – all lined up and orientated with the river.

JT and TJ I feel would have been buddies. We love gardening, architecture, food, flora and fauna of our homeland and, well, land itself. This bond I feel with Thomas Jefferson inspired me to create a space in his liking for the St. Philip’s Antique Show this year. Their “Inspiration Avenue” gave this Farmer the opportunity to fashion a dining room I feel Mr. Jefferson would feel right as rain being a guest. Stay tuned for that post!

As I drove down the long cedar lined drive away from Tuckahoe and back to Richmond – back to the twenty-first century for that matter – I couldn’t help but feel the tugging of history, heritage, tradition and even the spirit of our American forefathers. I turned off my engine and silenced my iPhone, and I could almost hear the ballyhoo of a fox hunt whispering through the trees. Tallyho to Tuckahoe, y’all!