"It's JUST. FAN. TASTIC!" my mom kept saying during our visit to McEvoy Ranch yesterday. She and her husband Don, a self-described "good ol' boy from Tennessee," have been dying to see the ranch ever since I started working there. Finally, they got their chance.
Mark, who lives at the ranch, invited us up to the country kitchen where we began our visit with a slices of crusty homemade bread, crisp McEvoy olives, hearty glasses of pinot noir and some outrageously good chocolate chip cookies. As Mark fried chicken to prep for Mondays staff lunch and told us about the fried green tomatoes he made last week, my southern parents felt right at home.
I knew my mother would fall in love with the gardens, so first things, first...we took stroll. I showed them 4-foot long gourds hanging just outside the kitchen window, and then we followed the maze of herbs, flowers and fall vegetables in the kitchen garden. As I pointed out pomegranates, citrus and all the colorful fruits my mother rarely sees in Nashville stores, (and never sees on Nashville trees) I got another: "fantastic!.....just. fan. tastic!"
After winding through the fruit orchards, past the nursery and into Nan's iconic pagoda, Mark drove us up to the new windmill for a California view of rolling hills speckled with silvery olive trees that rivaled the prettiest mountain landscapes of Tennessee.
Along the way, he regaled us with stories of different wildlife at the ranch, including bobcats, jackrabbits and all those "damn deer!" Then as we passed a few rows of pinot noir planted between our olive trees, Mark filled us in on the latest issue of raccoons snacking on our newly planted grapevines.
"Coons?" Don chimed in, with his deep southern drawl. "Hell, you'll just have to get some of my boys from Tennessee out here to take of that!"
Our tour concluded with a stop by the pig pen where we met "Crazy Ears" and her cute little curly-tailed siblings, before a visit to chicken coop where mom fed the hens and Mark filled his pockets with fresh eggs for the country kitchen.
As we drove out of the gates, going over our wonderful afternoon with Mark and watching the sun set over the hillsides of Marin, I think mom finally understood why I love my life in California and my job with McEvoy so much, because I believe she fell in love, too.
"I guess if our retirement plans don't work out in Florida," she told me as we cruised down 101, "this is our next choice."