Chris’ 30th Birthday @ Coldwater Gardens

Pushing to make it to Navarre, FL forced us to bike for several hours in the dark. Finding a place to camp was also a challenge, we scoped out parks, schools, and fields finally settling on our standby…a church. We debated setting up the tent, but opted instead to try to squeeze into the tight quarters of the play-set house. Although not the most comfortable, it was one of the funnier locations we have laid our head.

Camping in a playhouse.

Up early we had to make a stop at Winn-Dixie where Amanda left me outside and played “scavenger hunt” in the store. My bags were loaded in secrecy but their weight was not as I went into full bike-sherpa mode carrying the 30-lbs of groceries for what seemed like forever.

Riding on an original brick highway.
Riding on an original brick highway.

After some time and a bunch of miles we pulled into Coldwater Gardens and met Nick the inn keeper. Amanda and Nick confirmed reservations and got directions to our accommodations. The tree house!!

Our “treehouse” suite!

I unpacked and relaxed while Amanda surprised me with my favorite: chocolate chip cookies.  We snacked on nachos and homemade guacamole before walking back to the gardens for a self guided tour of the various projects and food production areas.  Military tents for glamping, Greenhouses, mushroom cultures, aquaponics, hydroponics, chickens, terraced soil gardens and more! From experiments to supplying both CSA and farmers markets this place has everything!!!

Birthday snack
Birthday snack
Our tour of Coldwater Gardens:  Glamping Tents, Mushroom production, terraced gardens, greenhouses, and aquaponics!

As the sun danced lower and lower in the horizon we headed back to our private tree level suite and braved the cold windy air to relax in the 104° hot tub.  Eventually the crisp air started to overpower the hot tubs heater and we moved inside sheltered from the intense winds.  Coffee and wine with salad and curry?  Sure, it’s my party…

Relaxing in the hot tub.  Watching the sun set. A birthday dinner.

Not wanting to leave the tranquility of Coldwater Gardens we procrastinated packing until noon, eventually coming up with a scheme to stay.  Hoping they would need a hand in the farming operation we could exchange labor for lodging!

Down at the Terrace, Nick deferred our offer to the Ashleigh, the agriculutral manager.  Within a few minutes we were planting a rain garden and mulching.  After finishing the rain garden Ashleigh sent us on our way free to explore the grounds.  We ran into Rusty, the owner, who told us to stay in the Treehouse.  Sweet!

Farm work.

Armed with a map of the grounds we wandered aimlessly following whatever sandy trail inspired us eventually reaching the sandbar.  This is definitely a side of Florida we had never expected, much different from the beaches and stereotypical scenery.

A small hike to the sandbar.

Feeling a bit guilty about staying in the luxurious treehouse for a few hours of labor we packed our things and moved to the jumbo tent in  the Volunteer Village.  We missed the hot tub and nearly unlimited supply of Kuerig coffee, but enjoyed the company of Lucas and the other volunteers.  Over the next two days we mulched several beds, started seeds, weeded, and helped Ashleigh knock off as much of her to-do list as possible.  Showering was an adventure in the dark and cold, but thanks to Nick we had a sense of normalcy using his oven to bake bread.  We can be very odd.

Work = free lodging & food!
Our sweet accomodations at the Volunteer Village.

WWOOFing or some other variant of farm work in something we a keenly interested in in the future but for now the tug of moving on was growing stronger and after 4 days of relaxing, making new friends, and ‘playing’ gardeners we said our goodbyes.

Goodbye new friends!
Goodbye new friends!

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