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December 20, 2011

On Our Way to FLA!!!

Out of CT and heading south...

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Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

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Our first stop is Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home and 5,000 acre plantation. The exceptional house, extensive gardens and surrounding landscape were all designed by Jefferson himself, and constructed and modified over a period of 40 years. He was a self-taught architect who believed that human reason and knowledge could improve the condition of mankind.

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While at Monticello Jefferson was free to follow "the tranquil pursuits of science" including astronomy, weather and horticulture to name just a few. The house is full of his inventions and creative architectural features which provided comfort and convenience for the family, guests and staff.

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Of course, my favorite display were the artifacts that have been discovered around the site during their many archeological digs. These artifacts represent the life of both the Jefferson family as well as the 135 slaves who labored and lived on the plantation.

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This small pool was a "holding tank" for fish that were caught in nearby streams and rivers.

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You see here chimneys coming through the floor of the porch! Jefferson designed the North and South Pavilion's so that they covered the "dependencies" of the house, including: a wash house, carriage bays for home and guests, an ice house, two privies, a wine cellar, a beer cellar, a kitchen, a smokehouse, a dairy, and three rooms for the slave families of higher "function". These dependencies were concealed in the hillside, and under the pavillions, to avoid obstructing the landscape around the house. They also concealed the bustling slave activity, that kept the plantation running, from the family and guests. Jefferson designed them with convenience in mind, especially when it came to the weather: one could walk from the far end of the North Pavillion to the far end of the South Pavillion without having to be exposed to the elements.

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This is the stump of one of a pair of Tulip Poplar trees, that had stood on each side of the main house. They have both since succumbed to the harsh conditions of mountaintop existence. They now live in the gift shop in the form of bowls, spoons and other souvenirs; a little piece of Monticello to take home with you, for a big price.

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The Famous 1,000 foot long Garden...continued below...

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This garden is IMMENSE!!!! To describe it properly I will quote from "Monticello: A Guidebook" by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. "Jefferson approached natural history as a scientist; as an experimenter who aspired to observe and define seemingly all the natural phenomena 'fabricated at our feet'- whether the wind direction, the blooming dates of wildflowers, or the life cycle of a destructive insect. But it was through gardening that he was able to participate in the motions of this physical world- grafting peach wood or sowing cabbages with his grand-daughters. It was through horticulture that his experiments bore fruit, that his landscape assumed shape and form and color, that the drama of the natural world began to unfold under his personal direction".

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His gardens were his "experimental laboratory", where he could conduct his horticultural husbandry, containing both useful and ornamental plants. The 330 vegetable and 170 fruit varieties attest to Jefferson's experimental approach to horticulture.

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"The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture" Thomas Jefferson

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Jefferson left the following instructions as to what he wanted inscribed on his tombstone: "The following inscription, & not a word more: 'Here was buried Thomas Jefferson. Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia.' because by these testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered".

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Posted by Heather at December 20, 2011 01:18 PM


That farm on the hill behind George was James Madison's I belive (or was it Monroe's).

Posted by: Mom at December 21, 2011 09:49 AM

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