Watauga County Farmers' Market News

One of the things I miss now that I've returned from my virtual Valle Crucis vacation was spending time at the Watauga County Farmers' Market. The virtual meals I ate on this summer's trip were delightful if only because of the ingredients supplied at the Market (OK, in all honesty, every meal eaten with a view from the mountain is pretty dang good...Even hot dogs) . Yes folks my tongue is sticking so far into my cheek it's a good thing I'm typing and not speaking 'cause nobody could figure out what I was saying otherwise...The point I'm trying to make is, from my past visits it looks like ya'll have a great resource going here, you really should use it and get to know the folks raising the food you eat. Not every community has the option.

Third Week of August, 2007

One of the advantages of shopping at the Watauga County Farmers' Market is not only the number of varieties available, but that specific information is available about each variety directly from the grower. Tomatoes and peppers in particular have a wide range of tastes. You can select either sweet or hot banana peppers grown by Don and Roger Owens, or perhaps you would prefer their jalapeno or bell peppers. Roger and Don also offer grape tomatoes, Mountain Gold, Mr Stripey, and pink heirloom tomatoes, along with White Half-runner beans. Kenneth Oliver will have Early Girl, Better Boy and Mortgage Lifter tomatoes, green and purple bell peppers, and both red and white potatoes this weekend. Reba Green will not only have plenty of Pink Girl and Better Boy tomatoes for the market, but she should also have enough Silver Queen corn for everyone to get a taste of the homegrown goodness.

Richard Boylan will have lots of garlic in diverse types that are sure to include your favorites. Iva Lee Hayes will certainly have fresh kraut by the Saturday after this coming one, but in this warm weather it is possible it will be ready even sooner.

Landscape plants and shrubs are also available and blooming in variety, such as Alicia Breton's selection of Hydrangeas including Tardiva and Limelight. While you are comparing types you are invited to relax in one of Sheila Sherman's custom Adirondack chairs and see the matching accessories all in western red cedar.

The Woodlands Barbecue Restaurant will be on hand this Saturday offering up plates for your lunchtime enjoyment. Meals will be on sale starting at about 11:00, and they are expected to go quickly!

Watauga County Farmers' Market is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. We are at the Horn in the West, turn next to First Citizens Bank on Highway 105 Extension and go to the top of the hill. We will be there rain or shine!

Source: Watauga County Farmers' Market News

From just down the valley (virtually speaking) Tom Philpott has this to say at Grist about the new criticism being tossed at the local food proponents...

Attention farmers' market shoppers: Put that heirloom tomato down and rush to the nearest supermarket.
By seeking local food, you're wantonly spewing carbon into the atmosphere.
That's the message of a budding backlash against the eat-local movement. The Economist fired a shotgun-style opening salvo last December, peppering what it called the "ethical foods movement" with a broad-spectrum critique.
Among the claims: organic agriculture consumes more energy than conventional, and food bought from nearby sources often creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than food hauled in from long distances.

I really like his reasoning behind the criticism...
The sustainable-food movement's achievements have thus far been largely cultural. In other words, despite all the attention from celebrity chefs, best-selling authors, and, ahem, environmental webzine columnists, the vast bulk of food consumed in this country still travels gargantuan distances, consumes unspeakable amounts of fossil fuel in its production and distribution, and leans heavily on poisons and water-polluting artificial fertilizers.

Followed by...
And while the sustainable-food movement's power may be causing vapors within the pages of the Economist and the New York Times op-ed page, Wall Street hasn't gotten the memo. In the stock exchanges, shares in agribiz powerhouses Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere, Smithfield, and Tyson are all trading at or near all-time highs. That means that the "smart money" isn't quite as impressed by the rise of buy-local campaigns as commentators on either side of the food-miles debate are. For unsentimental investors, the profit prospects for industrialized agriculture, geared for long-haul distribution, are rosier than ever.

If you haven't discovered Tom's thought provoking pieces at Grist yet, click on over and read some of what this Valle Crucis farmer has to say. I think you'll be glad you did.

Source: If buying locally isn't the answer, then what is? | By Tom Philpott | Grist | Victual Reality | 16 Aug 2007

Land for Tomorrow: A coalition to guard North Carolina's natural and cultural resources

I ran into a link to this site over at Hillbilly Savants...Go check them out. Maybe they can keep the North Carolina Mountain Dream alive until I get there.

Land for Tomorrow is a statewide partnership of conservationists, farmers, business leaders, local governments, health professionals, and community groups urging the General Assembly to provide $1 billion over five years to protect the state's land, water, and special places before they are irreversibly lost.

Protecting North Carolina’s critical land will provide:

  • Clean drinking water
  • Clean air
  • Thriving farms and forests
  • Places to hunt, fish and watch wildlife
  • Places to exercise and enjoy the beauty of North Carolina
  • Less damage from flooding
  • Places of historic significance and ecological value
  • Preservation of North Carolina’s natural and cultural heritage
  • Strengthened communities
  • Jobs and a sustainable economy

Source: Land for Tomorrow: A coalition to guard North Carolina's natural and cultural resources

America's Roadside Bloomery

It's been a while since Fred First came up with this idea...contest? So I thought I'd throw out another mention just to see if I could push it about a bit...
It would be neat for contributors from all over the country to offer their images to an aggregate gallery called Unplanted Gardens: America's Roadside Bloomery, I thought. And here it is!

All images should include in their composition a road of some kind, just to place it, and then the wildflowers that grow there unplanted. Highway department wildflower beds don't count.

Each image should be 72 dpi, max size of 800 pixels on the largest side. Information should minimally include the location, if possible some ID on the flowers, and any other pertinent or interesting information. Please give your image files descriptive names, e.g., BlackEyesSusan.jpg. or Virginia_Backroads.jpg

Go check out the rest of the requirements and check out the submissions at America's Roadside Bloomery - powered by SmugMug. When you send in a shot, tell him Gary sent ya...

Here's the shot of mine he chose to highlight...

Todd, North Carolina

Todd, North Carolina is one of the few places I haven't managed to trek through in my western North Carolina mountain stomping grounds to be. I read about Todd before our first trip and it's been on the short list of places to visit ever since. But for some reason, we just haven't made the trip yet. A link on Fred's Fragments From Floyd about a chance conversation with the author Lee Smith at Hindman Settlement School led to her Op-Ed at the NY Times.

WHEN we bought our mountain cabin here two decades ago, Todd was almost a ghost town. Only the General Store (established 1914) had stayed open since Todd’s heyday back in the early 1900s.

But this summer evening, I find a traffic jam when I head into town (population only 50, but 900-plus in the area) to hear some old-time music at the store’s Friday jam, and check out the dance at the old Mercantile building.

Source: Fiddling for Dollars - New York Times

A while back, Marie Freeman did a series of photos in Todd on her BlueRidge blog. You can find them here...Todd, North Carolina. I see Marie caught the latest news from New York also...

If you hurry down to Todd today, they are having their "Storytelling" at 6pm every Tuesday. This week (today, Aug 7) it's Charlotte Ross; next week, Aug 14th has Orville Hicks on the schedule. You can check their calendar at the website Todd General Store.

On the second Saturday in October Todd hosts the New River Festival on the banks of the New River‚ which flows beside the town. Once a bustling railroad center‚ the town of Todd is now a quiet hamlet. This festival offers an old-fashioned gospel sing‚ a checkers playoff‚ a horseshoe toss‚ craft displays‚ storytelling‚ and bluegrass music all day.

Local Food - Mountain Style

Yesterday I began reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. It is seldom that I am captured on the preface by the writing style of an author the way this book captured me...

We wanted to live in a place that could feed us: where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up from the ground.

That is the way my thinking started when my North Carolina Mountain Dream first began to manifest itself. I had just returned from a Colorado trip and decided that I wanted mountains round me when I settled into "retirement". But the one thing my trip brought home was the relative dryness of the West. As my dream began to form, I realized the Blue Ridge Mountains I had visited for the first time a couple of years earlier were calling. Research on the internet led to the discovery of Valle Crucis and the surrounding area. Once found, it was the story of the place that kept me returning and exploring until initial dram was realized and I brought the family into the mountains to try and share my dream, my vision of a future.

In line with my reading of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", here's the Watauga County Farmers' Market announcement for this week. If you are actually living my dream, head on over and support your local farmer. It'll help you, too.

Watauga County Farmers' Market is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. We are at the Horn in the West, turn next to First Citizens Bank on Highway 105 Extension and go to the top of the hill. We will be there rain or shine!

All the good things of summer are becoming available. Farmers will have fresh sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, and there will plenty of fresh cut flowers to decorate the table. Bill Moretz will be harvesting the first of the cantaloupes from his garden, and there will be watermelons as well to help with the summer heat.

Joan Knox of sourdough bread fame is announcing her new bread mixes. She will have 6 varieties available. The mixes come with complete instructions. They are so easy any "sweetheart" can bake fresh bread. Joan will also have no sugar added fried apple pies for customers who have to watch their sugar intake.

The first ever Bamboo Valley Farm Festival will be held this Friday, August 3 at Hickory Lane Gardens. Activities will include live music and a barbecue. Proceeds will benefit the Blue Ridge Land Trust, the High Country Conservancy, and the National Committee for the New River. Call 964-5189 for more information.

The 2007 High Country Farm Tour & Garden Tour is also this weekend, and you can save on admission by buying your button in advance at the Watauga County Farmers' Market this Saturday. Volunteers are still needed, and volunteers will receive a free button to take the tour on the day they are not volunteering. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, contact Peggy at 919-542-2402. Volunteer training will take place at this Saturday's market.

Source: Watauga County Farmers' Market Message


Have you ever watched a Bluejay eat an acorn? Around my home in Texas we have Bluejays year round. Actually, we have more Bluejays in winter than in summer but that's neither here nor there. The Bluejays in my yard tend to eat acorns they find on the ground. Watching them find an acorn to try is fun but the amusing part is the way they approach opening the shell of the acorn...After selecting the best subject for his attention the discriminating Bluejay takes his selection and flies to a comfortable tree limb out of harms way. Once settled on the chosen base of operations the Bluejay proceeds to pound the poor unsuspecting acorn into submission. Once the hard nut has cracked from the pounding, the hardworking Bluejay is able to enjoy the fruit of his labor.

Then the process is repeated...By a multitude of birds on succeeding days. I have never noticed if the supply of acorns runs out or not, but I suspect there are acorns as long as the birds wish to search for them. I would imagine some of the nuts are from the stash the squirrels hide in the yard all fall and winter long.

As I alluded above, at this time of the year, the Bluejays visit us individually. During the winter months they arrive in the yard in great flocks of upwards of half a hundred or more. They appear to rotate through the yard on a regular feeding circuit they share with the Robins that overwinter here as well. Between the two species, they add a touch of color to an otherwise drab vista out my kitchen window.

Back to the grind after a virtual vacation...

Had things gone as planned, today would be my first day back at the office after our North Carolina Mountain fix for the year. Things didn't and I'm not (back at the office that is). Even though I've missed this summers trip, and I've seen more of Doctors and Nurses than I really wanted (even though I'm married to one...Nurse that is), the overall experience hasn't been terrible. I've met some new people both in person and virtually through this site.

And I still hold out hope to get to the mountains at some point this year. Like I told the wife, we've never been to the mountains in the fall or the winter. Living where we do we have never really experienced either of those seasons. I hope we can manage though to make a fall trip this year...I'd just love to see the mountains change from blue to orange and red.

In the meantime, here is a shot from our first NC Mountain Vacation in August of 2003...

Waterfall Park

A lovely waterfall is the centerpiece of this park just outside Newland on Hwy. 194. The park features a hiking trail and picnic area.

The Vacation That Wasn't Would Now Be Over...

Had the plans worked out, this morning I would have woke in my own bed for the first time in two weeks. Having left Valle Crucis on Thursday morning the plans called for a drive across Tennessee with a stay in Memphis before finishing the trip with a drive down through the piney woods of east Texas.

I didn't spend much time categorizing the things we didn't do on our week in North Western North Carolina. I didn't want to set myself up for a bout of depression. I can say that at some point I would have driven up the valley named for my ancestors along the creek they called home in 1790. Since I first discovered Linville Creek out of Villas and the connection it has to my particular ancestral family of Linville's, I try to enjoy the drive up the creek as often as possible. I would like to catch a sunset there someday as the valley faces generally westward.

Just to show that life in the mountains goes on even without us here's this weeks news from the Farmers' Market...Sounds like we are missing some good eats and good times at the market.

Summer and the high temperatures of earlier in the month have relented a bit to make the business of harvesting a bit more pleasant. Crops are coming on fast and there is a great selection at both the Wednesday and Saturday markets. The warmth and recent rains have been bringing on the flower power in local gardens and shoppers will be able to choose from a fine assortment of cut flower arrangements at Watauga County Farmers' Market. Iva Lee Hayes has already started to cut her Dahlia blooms, and expects the new varieties she planted this spring to be ready for this weekend.
Sweet corn is starting to ripen, and farmers are kept busy with the early demand. Reba Green brought 32 dozen ears of Kandy Korn to the market this past weekend, and expects to have even more available for this Saturday. Reba will also have plenty of fresh beets, squash and cucumbers in the weeks to come. Kenneth Oliver is new to the market this year but is proving his skill at growing plenty of broccoli, cabbage, and Kennebec and red potatoes. Kenneth will be bringing a rainbow of pepper varieties in the coming weeks as the fruits ripen; look for peppers in red, yellow, orange, purple and green throughout the summer.
Karl Doege has created over 180 unique designs in Argentium sterling and crafted them into earrings, pendants and key fobs. His one of a kind pieces are all signed and reflect the best of fine craftsmanship. VJ and Jon Bost have expanded their furniture line to offer decorative mirrors made from local wood. It is worth stopping by to see Jon's whimsical examples of his woodworking skill such as his working trebuchet made from local ash.
Folks at Watauga County Farmers' Market are pleased that several local musicians have been stopping by to entertain the shoppers and vendors. You can expect the return of Michael Willis and his harp this Saturday, and also Will Barbour performing old favorites and classics on his guitar and harmonica. Get ready for The Worthless Son-In-Laws who will be helping us celebrate Garlic and Tomato Day on August 11th.
The first ever Bamboo Valley Farm Festival will be held on Friday, August 3 at Hickory Lane Gardens. Activities will include live music and a barbecue.  Proceeds will benefit the Blue Ridge Land Trust, the High Country Conservancy, and the National Committee for the New River. If you would like more information or would like to be a vendor please stop by the HLG Growers booth at Watauga County Farmers' Market.
The 2007 High Country Farm Tour & Garden Tour will be held on August 4-5, 2007, 1-6 p.m. each day, rain or shine. You can learn a lot about our local food system by taking the tour, but for a real insider's view you may want to consider being a volunteer.  Volunteers needed at each farm to greet visitors and check for or sell farm tour admission buttons, direct folks to parking and explain how the tour at that farm works and provide general information about Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. In exchange, volunteers will receive a FREE button ($20 value) to take the tour on the day they are not volunteering. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, contact Peggy at  919-542-2402 or peggy@carolinafarmstewards.org.
The High Country Farm and Garden Tour is a self-guided tour featuring 14 local, organic and sustainable farms in the High Country. The cost is $20 per car in advance, $25 per car the day of the tour to visit all farms or $10 per car to visit an individual farm. The goal of this farm tour is to raise awareness about where food comes from, who is growing it, and how it is being grown. All proceeds go to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to support the development of a local and organic food system in the Carolinas.

Source: Watauga County Farmers' Market <weeklynewsletter@wataugacountyfarmersmarket.com>

I had hoped to now have a few thousand new images to start posting here from the mountains...Looks like that will have to wait till next trip as virtual photography of a virtual vacation leave a little to be desired...Later

A Drive Up Rich Mountain

Two photographers, two cameras...One View...

Planning our Saturday...Virtually on vacation.

Part 4...

You can find the earlier posts here... Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3

From the looks of the weather report at Ray's we would probably be spending most of the day lazing around the cabin today enjoying the high temperatures that don't even hit the lows we are used to...These low 50's in the mornings are what makes coffee on the deck as the fog lifts out of the valleys such a great way to start the day.

The best news is Ray is predicting the weather this weekend will be gorgeous after a damp Friday. That's great 'cause tomorrow is the Watauga County Farmer's Market...This just in from their weekly newsletter (yes we have internet in the mountain cabin...just dial-up though):

Those of you who have been waiting for fresh corn on the cob will be happy to know that Reba Greene will be harvesting her Kandy Korn for the very next market. Reba hopes to have plenty for everyone, but it might be a good idea to come a little bit early to avoid disappointment.

Charles Church will have plenty of his trademark broccoli crop, and will also have plenty of kohlrabi, zucchini, chard, onions and garlic. Bill Moretz will be bringing lots of great smelling fresh cut basil to compliment his variety of vegetables. He will be harvesting two kinds of eggplants: Megal, a neon purple, and Charming which is a darker purple. Bill will also have Gold Rush zucchini, Sun Ray squash, and lots of lettuce including Romaine, Butterhead, and Red Fire which is a red leaf lettuce. Jerry Harvey will round off the bounty with ripe watermelons picked from the family farm.
Mary Prewett is new to the farmers' market this year, and she has become quite popular with her hand painted and carved gourds with basket woven tops and lids, hand painted driftwood, and hand painted signs featuring bits of country wisdom. Stop by and say hello!

Mostly our time is spent killing time without killing each other...We have a few eating places we seem to end up returning to each year...like pizza on top of Beech, steak and burgers in Boone, barbecue in Linnville. I like to get out early while the family sleeps and take pictures of the mountains to act as a reminder of what I miss when I am not up there...

I am not sure how much further I can take this vv (virtual vacation) without depressing myself. Check back and see if I manage another post or two before we would be returning home...

Thursday - Virtual Mountain Vacation

Part 3...

You can find the earlier posts here... Part 1 & Part 2

Had life not intruded on the best laid plans, this is what I would have seen a whole lot of for the next 7 days...

I had already picked up a nice stack of books to take along. A Ludlum, a Baldacci, a Dillard, a Berry and a stack of guidebooks. When not reading in the hammock which, truth be told, is not as comfortable as it once was I usually spend a my time reading at the picnic table on the deck...

The only thing on our agenda ever on our first day at the cabin is to make the initial trip to the Original Mast General Store to feel like we are back and pick up that first bottle of ginger beer and a grocery run either to Boone or Banner Elk...flip a coin makes no difference. Other than that it's a day to laze about, walk up the mountain, hit the hot tub, play pool or do absolutely nothing.

I miss the mountains already...

Virtual Vacation

Part One is Here

Had this years vacation not been canceled due to my treatment regime today's plans called for a pleasant meander from Asheville to Valle Crucis via that bestest of all American Byways...The Blue Ridge Parkway...

Leaving out of Asheville after sleeping in, always makes that initial climb to the top of the ridges such a long anticipated change in attitude and altitude. Leaving the traffic and the modern speed limits behind and settling into the slower, more natural rhythm of the road as it swings in and out of the clouds, through the laurel thickets, windows down and the moonroof open. The cool air blowing through the car after all those hot humid southern miles across five states comes as a long awaited relief. It's easy to see why southerners have been spending summers in these mountains for so very long...hoping to escape the long hot summer days and not much cooler nights.

So here we are on the Parkway heading north. First stop is always Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Stretch the legs, enjoy the view, make a potty run. It's too late to really enjoy the peak bloom in the Gardens. The guide book says there is a short trail leaving from the Visitor Center. We have never taken the time here so close to the beginning of our day to do the almost one mile hike...Maybe next trip.

Once I can gather everyone up and get back on the road, the next section of the trip is usually short. It's just about 10 miles to the turnoff to Mount Mitchell State Park. It is almost impossible for any vehicle I'm driving to drive past that turnoff...I don't know what it is about that road, but every time I've driven the Parkway I've had to drive up to the peak. This year I would have passed it by rather than fight the construction on top...

The next stop we generally make up the Parkway is all the way up past Little Switzerland at the Orchard at Altapass. The orchard is one of those places that managed to catch my eye even before we made our first trip.
When the Blue Ridge Parkway chose its path, it too followed the ancient buffalo track and came through the middle of the Orchard, dividing it in half. That required a condemnation process, a court fight that eventually reached the NC Supreme Court. The momentum for the Orchard was lost, and it began to decline. Neighbors despaired the loss and braced for the expected development of this beautiful place. The wild growth of the trees became a sadness for Parkway travelers who had seen it in better times.

When it was offered for sale in 1994, Kit Trubey bought the land and her brother Bill Carson with his wife Judy started the preservation of the place, including its apples and its memories. The preservation project is underway today, with hayrides, music, story telling, butterfly tagging, free mountain music on weekends, and a store to sell ice cream, fudge, country products, local crafts. The half of the Orchard that lies above the Blue Ridge Parkway has been sold to the Parkway, to assure its perpetual preservation. The remaining land will be protected by conservation easement. The history of the Orchard continues.
This is one stop that tend to last a long time as the wife and kids spend time looking through the gift shop. Me...I wander down through the orchard and check out the ancient apple trees.

From the Orchard we would drive on up the Parkway to the cut off to Linville. After jumping of in Linville it's just a short run north on 105 past Grandfather Mountain to the turnoff to Valle Crucis. Each year we stay in Valle Crucis we rent a cabin from Valle Crucis Log Cabin Rentals. They have always been great and our experiences with their properties have always been fantastic. They treated us better than expected when we had to cancel this years reservation. I am sure we will be staying with them again. After picking up our keys at the office we'd be looking forward to that drive up Clarks Creek Road to the top of Nettles Ridge... Here's the view I expected to be watching as the day ended today...

Can you describe the Floyd lifestyle?

One of the places that was on the list for a visit on this year's Blue Ridge Mountain trip was (and is) Floyd, Virginia. I have made the acquaintance (virtually) of a few residents of Floyd County over the past couple of years and I feel the need to feel that little piece of the Blue Ridge Country under my moccasins. I have been intrigued ever since I first started reading Fred First's blog, which led to Colleen's, then I found Doug's, then it was David's. Between the four I almost feel like I live in the neighborhood.

Doug posted an essay that I really found quite interesting, I thought I would point a link at it during this, my virtual vacation trip...
Floyd is the young husband getting up at 4 a.m. to feed the animals before he has to drive an hour and a half to his job at the Volvo truck plant two counties away.

Floyd is the farmer up at the same hour, preparing for a long day cutting hay, mending fences, slopping hogs and worrying about the weather and the price of beef on the hoof at

Go read the rest ...
Source: The Floyd lifestyle | Blue Ridge Muse

There seem to be a few things that Floyd County Virginia is famous for:
  1. Mabry Mill - The most photographed spot on what must be the most photographed road in America. Here's my version from a rainy day in June of 2004...
  2. Fred's Barn...the most photographed barn in the Blue Ridge Mountains (mostly by Fred).

  3. The Floyd Country Store

    The Floyd Country Store is more than a store. For generations it has been a place where people gather,conduct business, and enjoy each other's company.

    About 25 years ago the store became known for its Friday Night Jamboree, an evening of traditional Appalachian music and dancing. Old-timers and new visitors come together to celebrate the local heritage and experience the joy of an old-fashioned family night out.

  4. Cafe del Sol - Hangout of the Floyd Bloggers. That's Bloggers with a "B" not Cloggers with a "C". Though I am sure a lot of Clogging goes on on the weekends...

  5. FloydFest 2007
    We are all travelers across the way; sometimes along the journey we come to a place so profound we must look more closely. Such a place is Floyd, home to magic and The Floyd World Music Festival. A crossroad for those searching and finding... perhaps themselves! Come across the way and if you listen you will hear.

Do you have a "Famous Floyd" fact or location I should add to my itinerary? Leave it in the comments...

Plans delayed...trip postphoned...

The plans for this years vacation to the mountains would have had us driving from north of Atlanta to Asheville via Cherokee today. We had planned a tour of the Cherokee Village today with lots of stops to photograph the mountains (like these from last year).

On last years trip we stopped for the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee before driving into the mountains heading for the home of the Eastern Cherokee. The heat caused us to postpone the our tour of the Village after we did a long wander through the museum. We planned this year to make up for that missed opportunity.

Our plans for the night were to stay in Asheville and spend tomorrow at the Biltmore Estate. This is one stop my wife has always wanted to make, she just did not want to drag all of our young ones through the mansion (even though our youngest is 17 this year, it's not an attraction that appeals to the MySpace crowd). I do not know what it is about huge gilded houses that attract women so...maybe it's knowing they don't have to dust and clean the bathrooms.

Wondering about the wonders of this remarkable home?

Q: Where did the name "Biltmore" come from?
A: Vanderbilt created the estate name by combining two words, "Bildt," for the region in Holland where the Vanderbilt family originated, and "more," an old English word meaning upland rolling hills.

Q: When was Biltmore constructed?

A: Ground was broken in 1889, and construction continued through 1895. George Vanderbilt opened Biltmore House to family and friends for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1895.

Q: What did it cost to build the house?

A: As research continues, we hope to be able to find more receipts and documents which will give us at least an estimate.

more faq's
With a second night in Asheville we planned to be well rested before heading north up the Parkway on Wednesday.

I'll continue this Virtual Vacation on Wednesday...

It's Friday the 13th of July and I am NOT in the mountains...

But if you are, check out the Watauga Farmers' Market. This weeks email newsletter has my mouth watering...
Summer's heat has arrived in Boone and the surrounding farms, and with it comes the payoff of traditional warm season crops. Brenda Powers has added a nice harvest of yellow squash and cucumbers to her selection of jams and jellies including red raspberry, peach and grape, and she is also watching her cantaloupe patch for the first signs of ripeness. Jeff Thomas will have sugar snap peas, English peas, summer squash, parsley, basil, kale, and 3 kinds of beets, all grown using organic methods. The folks at Maverick Farms are keeping the tasty spring greens going and will have salad mix, collards and kale and also lots of fresh cut herbs including oregano, garlic chives, sage, cilantro and spearmint. The crowd pleasing pesto foccacia will also be available from the Maverick Farms stand.
Speaking of the mountains this weekend...I wish I was there to be torn by what to do...I wrote about the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in my previous post, but you also have the opportunity to enjoy some great mountain music at the 10th Annual MusicFest 'n Sugar Grove
with Doc Watson. Marie over on her Blue Ridge blog has a great post with photo of Doc...What a day job that lady has...While you're at it check out her dragonfly photos then add her to your blogroll 'cause she always has some great photos for those of us who need that "Mountain Fix".

As my buddy Fred First would say...Y'all get out and introduce a child to nature this weekend, it'll do you both a world of good.

In the Mountains

A year ago, My family was preparing for our first trip to the Highland Games. To say we all enjoyed them would be an understatement. From the moment we stepped through the gates until we made our way back down the mountain at the end of the day, we had a ball. From the athletics to the people watching to the music, we wandered MacRae Meadows over and over. I even picked up the one thing I have always wanted...My very own Claymore.

The two-handed claymore was a large sword used in the Medieval period. It was used in the constant clan warfare and border fights with the English from circa 1300 to 1700.[citation needed] The last known battle in which it is considered to have been used in a significant number was the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. It was somewhat smaller than other two-handed swords of the era. The two-handed claymore seems to be an offshoot of Early Scottish medieval swords which had developed a distinctive style of a cross-hilt with downsloping arms that ended in spatulate swellings. The spatulate swellings were frequently made in a quatrefoil design.

The average claymore ran about 140 cm (55") in overall length, with a 33 cm (13") grip, 107 cm (42") blade, and a weight of approximately 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), the blades are most similar to the type XIIIa, using the Oakeshott typology. Fairly uniform in style, the sword was set with a wheel pommel often capped by a crescent-shaped nut and a guard with straight, down-sloping arms ending in quatrefoils and langets running down the center of the blade from the guard. Another common style of two-handed claymore (though lesser known today) was the "clamshell hilted" claymore. It had a crossguard that consisted of two downward-curving arms and two large, round, concave plates that protected the foregrip. It was so named because the round guards resembled an open clam.

Source: Wikipedia

As we made our way around I discovered a great Celtic Tribal Band. If you are in the area this weekend you have to check out Albannach.
Albannach from Glasgow, Scotland will deliver the same foot stomping, heart pounding, dance inspiring, tribal sounds that have gained so much attention for the last three years at Grandfather. With the sound of drums and pipes you will be TRIBALIZED.
I was so taken with their sound I ended up with a CD, which gets played often enough to drive my wife to distraction...

The 52th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will be held July 12-15, 2007 at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC.

Source: Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Homepage

Missing the Mountains

Last year at this time we were on Nettles Knob south of Valle Crucis making our preparations for the Summer Games on Grandfather Mountain. The one thing that we missed because of the games was the Watauga County Farmers Market. It looks like we'll be missing it again this years simply because we'll be missing the mountains themselves this summer.

I do subscribe to Watauga County Farmers' Market Message so at least I can keep up with what is happening in the mountains I dream of. This weeks message contains this news...
The Boone area has long been known for it's unpredictable weather, and so far 2007 has done it's part to keep the tradition. Our farmers have once again proven themselves to be up to the challenge, and a wider variety of fresh food shows up every week. One thing you can count on, the market will be open Wednesday and Saturday mornings - Rain or Shine!

We will be celebrating Independance Day at the market this Saturday, helped along with the music of a certain local jug band. You won't want to miss it!

Bill Moretz is planning to harvest the first of his eggplants this week. He expects to offer two varieties to start: Charming with purple stripes and Megal which is a dark purple French variety. Bill will also have fresh raspberries and blueberries at the market. Roger and Don Owens will have more of their homegrown Mountain Spring tomatoes to offer along with plenty of cucumbers and other garden offerings. James Wilkes expects to have fresh cut sunflowers ready for Saturday. James will begin to harvest his yellow squash and maybe some zucchini.

Local cooks are using the bounty in their recipes as well, and Rebecca Kaenzig will be preparing individual blueberry and pecan pies for you to enjoy along with her fresh brewed coffee.

Daylilies are popular with collectors, and many vendors at Watauga County Farmers' Market have a collection of their own. The coming weeks will bring flowers of different shapes and sizes in reds, purples, yellows in every combination. These hardy plants thrive in our climate in every situation but full shade. If shade is what you have, stop by and talk to Erik Selvey about holly ferns, Japanese painted ferns, and many other plants suitable for less sunny spots. Erik will also have blooming butterfly bushes and blue pincushion plants this Saturday.

The interior of your house can reflect the colors of the season as well, and Megan Long can help with hand crafted soy based scented candles decorated with geometric shapes or North Carolina landscapes from the mountains to the beach.

Buttons for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 2007 High Country Farm & Garden Tour will be sold at Watauga County Farmers' Market up until August 4th, the first day of the tour. This year's tour features 3 new farms, and 6 of the farms are vendors at the market! The online map of farms is still being updated, but you can test it at http://cfsa.highcountryorganicfarms.org/node/4. Buttons are also available for sale online at http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/.
You can visit their website at Watauga County Farmers' Market for directions and updated info.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

I have been tagged...You have probably seen this logo floating around, I know I have.

Eric Drummond Smith over at Hillbilly Savants tagged me. It makes my day to think someone else out there enjoys the meanders of my mind. Thanks Eric your tag means a lot.

I have been seeing these awards pop up on a number of my daily reads. I didn't really think I would be getting one. I would say I probably have one of the least read blogs of those I have seen receiving the tag. I really appreciate that someone thinks my musings rate a mention. Looks like I have something to live up to now...

I have spent the days since I caught the tag trying to figure out who on my regular reading list I should tag. It is not a question I approached lightly. Most of the blogs I read I read just because they make me think. Without further ado, and 'cause I don't need another procrastination around this blog, here are my five.
  1. Fragments From Floyd - Yes, I know, Fred has already been tagged. But it was reading Fred's daily posts (and his book) that started me on this crazy journey of publishing on the web. So, if ya don't care for my muses...Blame 'em on Fred.
  2. Beyond The Fields We Know - Daily writings from the little blue house on the edge of the Lanark Highlands. KerrdeLune (Cate) posts her observations, verse, and photographs of life in the far North (to me anyway).
  3. EarthSky Blogs - Beverly Spicer - This is a new discovery for me. I have listened to the podcasts and radio spots forever it seems but I just discovered the blogs.
  4. Appalachian Voice Front Porch Blog - News from Appalachian Voices.
  5. Cider Press Hill - One woman's try at being ecologically responsible. Kate's writings have had me thinking since I first stumbled upon her blog quite a while back...
So there you have my five. This post has taken longer than practically any other I have done to date.

Here's the official rules to keep it rolling...

The participation rules are simple:
  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

That was that! Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking! It is the first time I am starting something with my blog so I hope it doesn't come back to haunt me.

Friends in the Mountains

I think it was Marie at Blue Ridge Blog that first pointed me to the Hillbilly Savants Blog. Since her tag line is..."All I need is an outhouse and a dream...." I thought this link back would be appropriate.

The shack out back

Tennesseans called it the “la-la.” Elsewhere known as the john, the shanty, the shack, the throne, the shed, the relief office—it was the humble outhouse. The little buildings "out back" were as important as any building built before indoor plumbing. This was the building you located as soon as possible when you came to visit, and if your guest was the preacher, you invited him outside on some pretext so he could spot "the necessary room" without asking.

Take a minute and wander over and sit a spell...They serve up some interesting storytelling.

Source: Hillbilly Savants: The shack out back

I want to apologize for the fact I seem to be letting this blog slide a little as I post my daily muses at Coffee Muses these mornings. I'll try and figure out a better method of keeping track of where I need to be spending some time soonest...

Valle Crucis, NC

Part of the serendipity that carried us into the mountains of North Carolina can be found in the following description I discovered so long ago.

Nestled high in the mountains of North Carolina is a little known corner of the world called Valle Crucis (pronounced valley crew' sis). First settled over 200 years ago, the Vale of the Cross is a place that historians and visitors alike have called "uncommon."
At the time I first read those words I wasn't aware of the personal ancestral tie I had to those early settlers. It was only a couple of years ago that I became aware that the Linville's of Linville Creek out of Villas just down the road from Valle Crucis were the very same Linville's I descended from. If I am correct in my map skills, one of the open green areas I can see from the top of Nettle's Knob above Clarks Creek is the Linville Creek watershed to the north.

Visit what Charles Kuralt called "a destination," the original Mast General Store.
Sit and play a game of checkers by the pot bellied stove or treat yourself to a bottle of the spicy ginger beer. Don't forget to pick up a calendar for the wall back home...

Located in Watauga County near Boone, only hours from the hustle and bustle of the big city, day and weekend getaways are possible, but we are sure you'll return eventually for a much longer stay.

And so the "Dream" began. And grows here on the web until the day it grows in the Mountains that gave it birth.

Source: Valle Crucis, North Carolina's First Rural Historic District

First White Settlers of Watauga.-- A letter from Lafayette Tucker, of Ashland, Ashe County, states that the descendants of the original Lewis who settled in that neighborhood claim that he came as early as 1730. Thomas Hodged, the first, came during the Revolutionary War and settled in what is now called Hodges Gap, two miles west of Boone, and Samuel Hix and James D. Holtsclaw, his son-in-law, settled at or near Valle Crucis at that time or before.

It is a matter of record that a family by the name of Linvil---probably an economic way of spelling Linville---were members of Three Forks Baptist Church and lived on what is now known as Dog Skin Creek, or branch, but which stream used to be called Linville Creek. The membership of that church shows that Abraham, Catharine and Margaret Linvil were members between 1790 and 1800, while the minutes show that on the second Saturday in June, 1799, when the Three Forks Church were holding a meeting at Cove Creek, just prior to giving that community a church o its own, Abraham Linvil was received by experience, and in July following, at the same place, Catharine and Margaret Linvil also were so received. Several of the older residents of Dog Skin, Brushy Fork and cove Creeks confirm the reality of the residence of the Linville family in that community. In September, 1799, Brother Vanderpool's petition for a constitution at Cove Creek was granted, Catherine Linvil having been granted her letter of dismission the previous August.
Source: Watauga County, NC by J P Arthur

More to follow...

Story of Place - Mountain Dreams

I find that most of the places I have come to love in my search for my "North Carolina Mountain Dream" revolve around stories. Not just stories of the past, either. Many of the stories are being written by others who love these places. Each of the stories that have touched my life and heart are by special people who have a dream, a vision they wish to share, a myth they wish to live.

What originally brought me to Valle Crucis was just such a story. It was the story of the renewed life of an old time staple of this mountain village, The Mast General Store. I was intrigued by the history and the revival following the purchase of this once vital center village life by the Coopers. I no longer remember exactly how I serendipitously stumbled upon their website back then because I had no knowledge of the area what so ever.

My one and only trip into these eastern mountains had occurred a few years earlier during a business trip to Charlotte. I had only driven a couple of hours down the Blue Ridge Parkway on a day off during that stay. I had started my drive in Little Switzerland and headed south until the road was closed (this was early March) then turned around and drove north to Blowing Rock. So as I planned that first family trip for August of 2003 I surfed the internet for anything I could find out about North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There were three websites that I stumbled upon then and have been bookmarked ever since that first virtual exploration. They are (in the order I discovered them, I think):
  1. The Mast General Store
  2. Grandfather Mountain
  3. The Orchard at Altapass
Each of those places have a story to tell...A story of the past and the people who lived there...A story full of people who love the place and are willing to fight for it...A story that will carry on into the future as new people discover and love these places. It was the story of Valle Crucis that led me to book a cabin up on the side of a mountain that first year. It was all of these stories and more that keep me coming back. Sitting out on the porch each morning with that first cup of coffee is where my mountain dream was born.

And it was the "News from Valle Crucis" newsletter published by the Mast General Store I subscribed to back in 2002 that made me feel like I could learn to love this mountain village and the daily life they lead there.

In the coming weeks I will try to tell some of the stories I have learned about these places, and others, that have come to be encompassed by my "North Carolina Mountain Dreams". I am going to start a new category for these posts, they will all be tagged as "story of place". I hope to build something here that will be usable as a reference and inspiration for others so..."bear" with me as I map out the path I will follow.

For anyone looking for the meandering muses I posted here in the past...I am now serving them up over at Coffee Muses. Stop on by and sit a spell...

Random Mountain Muse - Mt. Mitchell

From the top of the highest mountain in the eastern United States the view can be breathtaking.

Already venerable when the Rockies were yet unformed, Mount Mitchell reigns as the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet.

In 1916, at a time when extensive logging threatened the region's virgin, old- growth forests, Governor Locke Craig led an effort that resulted in the establishment of Mount Mitchell as North Carolina's first state park. The 1,700-acre protected area that extends approximately 5 miles along the summit of the Black Mountains preserved a piece of a unique ecosystem, where alpine forests exist in the South.

Mount Mitchell's peak is well known as a biological island, an isolated environment that the retreating glaciers of the Pleistocene left behind. At its higher elevations, the mountain receives 60 inches of annual snowfall and records average daily temperatures of 51 degrees. Certain subspecies of flora and fauna are found nowhere else, and some migrating birds, including wrens, Carolina chickadees (Parus carolinensis), and slate-colored juncos (Junco hyemalis), have only to travel up and down the mountain with the changing seasons.

Source: Sherpa Guides | North Carolina | Mountains | Mount Mitchell/Mount Mitchell State Park

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the observation deck on top of Mt Mitchell is being rebuilt this summer, so visits to the summit are probably not in the picture. But you can still hike some of the trails with detours around the construction site.

June in the mountains - Twenty O'Four

It's been three years now since this picture was taken up on the top of Roan Mountain. We were a bit early for the full bloom but even what we were in time for was impressive. Every time we go back to North Carolina I try to take the time to run up to the AT and the Garden's. Even an old fart like me can walk a bit of the AT on the Roan. And the views go on and on and on, even when the ceiling is hanging low and the mists are brushing your hair as you walk.

Roan Mountain is actually a massif, or mountain mass, with two summits. It is part of a ridge known as the Roan Highlands, and is the highest peak in the Unaka Mountain Range. At its lower elevations, vegetation as southern as subtropical orchids can be found. But at the mountain's height, vestiges from the ice age remain, including wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), witch hobble (Viburnum alnifolium), and green alder (Alnus crispa), a species usually found in New England.

In June, Roan's open balds burst with the magenta-colored blooms of Catawba rhododendron, which John Fraser designated Rhododendron catawbiense on this mountain during his 1799 expedition. Each plant in the 600-acre spread of natural rhododendron "gardens" might produce as many as 100 flowers.

The combination of heath balds, Canadian-zone spruce-fir forests, and, at lower elevations, hardwood coves, supports more than 1,500 species of native plants, flowers, herbs, trees, shrubs, ferns, club mosses, lichens, and mushrooms. Bird scholar Fred W. Behrend named the snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) when he discovered it wintering on the balds. The area is also home to one of southern Appalachia's greatest concentrations of threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and wildlife species, with nearly 30 identified, including Gray's lily, saxifrages, sedges, the saw-whet owl, and the northern flying squirrel. In 1941, 7,000 acres of this naturally significant area were incorporated into the Pisgah National Forest and Cherokee National Forest.

We have spent a number of hours walking through the Gardens on the Roan. Considering the actual number of hours we have spent exploring North Carolina, there are just a few places that have monopolized our time more. I look forward to eventually sitting on top of the Roan in the winter with the balds covered in snow...Probably wont happen this year, but soon, my friends, soon I'll be North Carolina Mountain Dreaming for good.

Sherpa Guides are one of my favorite websites when it comes to checking out the natural world of the Appalachians. I spent so much time reading them on-line I finally chased down my own copies through Amazon. Check out the website, they have the full text of the books online. Then go pick up your own copy through the links below...The copies I have were all bought used through Amazon. I saved a few bucks and added some great guides to my bookshelf.

Source: Sherpa Guides | North Carolina | Mountains | Roan Mountain and Roan Mountain State Park

Don't forget to check out my new blog at Coffee Muses

Serendipity in the Mountains

When I first started blogging I posted some photos from my North Carolina trips over my Photo Blog. One of the photos has consistently pulled in search engine hits. This is that photo..

Brinegar Cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Built circa 1875 by Martin Brinegar. He and his wife, Caroline, raised 3 children, hogs and cows and chickens, bees for honey, corn and flax, and a vegetable garden for 50 years. Caroline sold out to the government in 1935, ten years after Martin died of pneumonia.

Martin and I share kin with some kin. Martin's grandfather was Jacob Brinegar. Jacob's brother, John Brinegar, married Lucretia Linville. Lucretia was the daughter of William Linville and Eleanor Bryan. William, for whom the Linville River was named, was the brother of my 5th great-grandfather Thomas Linville...Small world isn't it.

The serendipity of another connection to the Blue Ridge Mountains...

This time of year, beauty is in mountains

I can see that I am not the only person in America looking for a "mountain fix" this summer. Some people though, have the good luck of being within driving distance for a day trip.

This time of year, beauty is in mountains - by Linda Durrett
Carolina rhododendron peaks in June, among other spectacular sights

"Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days; "Sometimes it feels like "This world's gone crazy "Grandpa, take me back to yesterday "When the line between right and wrong Didn't seem so hazy."

So goes a wistful song sung by Wynonna Judd yearning for the sweet times lingering only in a country memory.

My Grandpa Ralph could have been the inspiration for this song. Missing him and feeling an urge to get my "mountain fix," I headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville recently. My son and my grandson joined me. It was a journey that made new memories and conjured up long-lost ones.

One of the first places Linda speaks of is Craggy Gardens between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Each of my trips through the "Gardens" have missed the peak bloom. Either we were to early or too late, maybe one day we will hit the spot just at the right time for the bloom. The one thing that always seems the same though is the fireplace in the visitors center almost always has a fire burning. So stop a while and enjoy the view before you head on down the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Source: Charlotte Observer | 06/03/2007 | This time of year, beauty is in mountains

I always enjoy the trip up to the top of Mt. Mitchell. The winds and the cooler temperatures make the coffee from the snack bar a real treat. For some reason we never dress for the summit. As we leave Asheville each year heading north we are always dressed for the heat of the valley.


This shot was taken from the top of Mt. Mitchell in early June of 2004...It has always been one of my favorite shots showing the rolling mountains into the haze. If the image looks familiar it's because I used a portion of it as my header for a long while and it now resides at the bottom of the page.

I see from the Park's website that the summit is closed this summer for construction of a new observation tower. If you plan on making a trip in tht direction, check out the website for up to date construction info.

A word of warning...Since I wont be getting into the mountains this summer, I'll be pulling out my old photos and doing a virtual visit. I hope some of you will tag along.

See ya down the Parkway...

It's Sunday Morning - June 10, 20 O'Seven

I hope Charles Osgood doesn't get upset with me for borrowing his date format. I have liked the way it sounds ever since he started using in, I think it was Twenty O'One...Sorry for the sparsity of posts. I have been playing with WordPress for a few days now, first on WordPress.Com and then with setting up a hosted site.

Just as a test blog I set up Coffee Muses on WordPress.Com with a play on the way so many of my posts here are titled. I liked the way the interface worked and the program seemed quite robust so I was posting mirror posts from North Carolina Mountain Dreams to try out WP. In the process I got to thinking about all of the posts I was doing at NCMD that had absolutely nothing to do with the NC mountains and everything to do with world news and Texas in general. It kinda made me think this might be a good time to rethink my blogs directions. I already had a hosting contract with GoDaddy from when I bought the name for NCMD, so I started thinking about setting up a WP blog on the hosted account. Which led me to running a search on the coffeemuses.com domain name. Since nobody was setting on it I decided to buy it and setup shop under that name for my daily "Coffee Muses" and go back to posting just "Mountain Dreams" at NCMD.

Needless to say, Saturday was taken up with installs and tweaks and more tweaks and edits till my wife was wondering what the hell I was doing here. She doesn't understand the hold computers have on some people, especially me even though I have been buying and working and playing on them since the early 80's. As a mater of fact, her biggest threat around here is to pull the plug on the internet 'cause she doesn't see any benefit from using it. Anywho, I think I have the new site up and going well enough to start using it. I will be rolling over to it for my morning posts this next week. I'll probably mirror both sites for a week or so till my brain can handle the new work process. NC Mountain Dreams will continue to be used, just more focused, and I'll try to get in the habit of posting here (there) in the evenings. So if you have stuck with me this far, hang around through the transition, I hope to make it better...

On another note, my health is going to be intruding on my life more in the short term...Last week I had a lesion cut out and biopsied off my vocal cords. Turned out it was cancerous...It looks like we caught it early ( just not early enough for the person in my life that kept telling me for the past few months to go to the Dr.). I will be starting radiation treatments this coming week. Every weekday for six or seven weeks I'll get to trek across town and put on a (looks kinda like a hockey) mask while they strap me down and zap my throat with atomic rays...The SciFi fan in me just had to say that...At some point there may come some days where I wont feel like putting my thoughts out here, and when I end up on leave, I may be posting a lot, so there could be days you want to tell me to shut up...Feel free. Everyone is very optimistic at this time that this will come out well, so I'm just going to continue to muddle through my life in the same fashion I have been and pray for the best...

Needless to say, our two weeks in the mountains above Valle Crucis just got canceled. I will miss the summer trek to the high altitudes and the cool nights. If you are looking for a great place to stay, we just released our cabin reservation. Go talk to the folks at Valle Crucis Log Cabin Rentals, they have been taking good care of us each year and I'm gonna miss 'em. If everything works out well this summer...We plan on trying to get out that way this fall. Neither Sherry nor I have ever really seen fall color. You just don't get that down here in SE Texas...

Later all.

Muses from the middle of the day

My email brought me the latest "News From Vermont" a regular newsletter put out by Burr Morse from the Morse Farm Sugarworks. I stumbled upon a copy of one of his email missives a while back and I enjoyed it so much I was moved to subscribe. I have been glad I did ever since.

Burr has a particular way of seeing the world and then writing about it...
Hello again Maple People,
We have two spring seasons here in Vermont. The first is, of course, our sweet and famous maple sugarin'. Sugarin's part of my genetic makeup so, you see, it's not income or livelihood that leads me to the woods every spring but something instinctive and unforgiving. Just as a squirrel gathers nuts or a dog waters hydrants, when spring comes I've gotta sugar rain or shine, feast or famine, or more appropriately, snow or snow. Speaking of snow, this year Saint Valentine greeted us with 36 inches of the stuff, three dozen ways to say "I love you"! The day after that
holiday dumping, I would rather have skipped sugarin' altogether but I proceeded with deep, snowshoe-trudging steps toward the season ahead. This may come as a surprise, since on the outside I look like a happy-go-lucky sugarmaker, but the rigidness of "having to do it" sometimes creates negatives in my sugarmaking life; no drop in the bucket for a "happy-go-lucky sugarmaker".
Do yourself a favor and go sign up for your own subscription. Or if you just want a copy of this issue send me an email and I'll forward a copy of this issue...

Friday Coffee Muse - June 8, 20 O'Seven

This mornings muse was interrupted by intermittent outages of my wireless connection to my dsl. I ended up having to leave the house without posting or finishing my daily email read. I'll try to post an evening wine muse instead this evening.

Until then wander over to The Ladybug Letter and enjoy Andy's latest post. If you enjoy that go try The Cutting Edge from Seeds of Change.

Catch you this evening...

Thursday Morning - June 7, 20 O'Seven

What a difference a day makes...Yesterday morning I was in Medical Mode and not hurrying out the door, so I drew my first cup and glanced up at the "Weather Station". The outside temperature was 68 and the humidity was lower than normal, just in the 80% vicinity, so I took my cup and myself out into the backyard to sit and enjoy (which is part of the reason for no post yesterday, I enjoyed it immensely). Today, I grabbed so garbage bags for the trip to the curb while the laptop loaded up. The minute I stepped out the door for the trek to the curb, I felt like I should be paying for a spa treatment. 6:00 am and the heat and the humidity were in your face. Once I was back in the kitchen for that first cup I read the truth...79 degrees and 89%. What a change.

Yesterday was still with a light layer of dew on the world. But the air was clean and clear, the mockingbird was singing loud and cheerful above my head, and the sun was bright on the trees in the yard and woods. The dew on the sunlit cypress tree gave it a kind of green jewel quality, but softened in a way.

I was reading US News this week and I see the secret is out as Boone makes the top 10 in budget retirement locations...I would say congratulation but I was hoping the secret would stay hidden (at least until we moved to the mountains). I was happy to see that one of our earlier retirement hopes was on the list also...Fredericksburg, Tx is where we go many years for our anniversary runaway from the kids weekend. It is also about as close to the Houston area as you can go and find what passes for mountains.

Garrison Keillor takes a long look at the state of the world in Salon and brings back this look of the future for thee...
You look at the Amish and you see the past but you might also be looking at the future. Our great-grandchildren, faced with facts their ancestors were able to ignore, might have to do without the internal-combustion engine and figure out how to live the subsistence life. Maybe someone will invent a car that runs on hydrogen, or horse manure, or maybe people will travel on beams of light like in old radio serials, but the realist in you thinks otherwise.
Source: Amish like me | Salon.com

Mr. Bush must have done Harvard Business School about like he has done everything else in his life...

The White House said it would hold firm against concrete long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a major priority for Merkel, the host of the Group of 8 meeting.
At some point in his college career they must have mentioned that in oder to set goals they have to be achievable and measurable. Setting goals without actual...well, you know...goals is like...cheating. Oh (slap my forehead) that's right...We are talking about George W Bush aren't we...
Source: U.S. rejects greenhouse gas initiative at G8 summit | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Time to run...catch you later.

Tuesday Coffee Muses

Looks like the same old game for the Bush administration. Give a big speech taking the oppositions side away from them, do some back office finagling to ensure what you just promised doesn't happen, and then just assume no one will notice.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases.
Not only are they scaling back the numbers of satellites but they are pulling out the instrument packages that would have been used to study long range climate data. That'll pretty much put an end to the inconvenience of having your own data used against you in the court of public opinion...or not.

Source: U.S. slashes global warming monitoring | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

Tomorrows weather will be brought to you courtesy of the EU and our good buddies in the Bureau of French Climate Studies...Have a great day George, and all the rest of you also.

Monday Morning in Paradise

The humidity is down this morning, 83% with a temperature of 70 degrees out this morning. Not bad after some we have had. I glanced at the thermometer last evening after sundown and the temperature was still above 81 degrees. Evening cooling sure doesn't kick in very early. The bits and dabs of rain we have had have been enough to allow the mosquito crop to start harvesting our blood this year. They aren't bad enough yet to drive you in or even keep you beating yourself in masochistic pleasure from offering yourself up as a living bait.

I am not rushing today as I get to have the pleasure of meeting another group of our medical professionals today. A mid morning appointment of unknown duration. Life is interesting.

Everybody take a few minutes today and smell the flowers...Later

It's Sunday Morning

Rolling out of bed late on a Sunday morning always seems a bit decadent. I tend to get up and catch "Sunday Morning" on the TV. Then roll through a couple of the Sunday liars clubs before moving on to something useful for the rest of the day. Sometime today the grass needs mowing before it outstrips the mower.

When I stumbled into the kitchen this morning to start the coffee maker the temperature was at 73 and the humidity was at 98%...Now the television is flashing a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the counties to the NE of here...Texas weather, wait around 15 minutes, they say, and it'll change.

I am supposed to be heading out for this years Boyd~Cox reunion. With my voice acting up right now, I don't want to add any additional strain to it, so I'll be missing the family get together. We are down to two of the original family group left. My dad's twin sister, Helen, who lives out of state and only makes it once a decade or so is 85. My Aunt Gertrude, who married into the family in 1929, is 97. Aunt Gertrude hasn't missed a reunion in decades, that I know of. My dad was the youngest of 12, even Aunt Helen beat him into the world. He didn't miss many of the family get togethers over the years, they were one of the highlights of the year for him. I'm sorry to miss the fun this year.

It's not often that the Washington Post publishes a life celebration that grabs my interest in the morning and pulls me in to read the whole story...The following paragraph in the morning email did.

A couple of decades ago, a man driving from South Carolina to Pennsylvania broke down on the Beltway and managed to nurse his car to the Westbard Citgo service station in Bethesda. Carlos Bonds, the station owner, looked under the hood, then tossed the man a set of keys.

"Here's my wife's car," he said. "Just bring it back in a week."

Take a moment today and go celebrate a life well lived...

Source: He Repaired Cars and Restored Trust - washingtonpost.com

In twelve paragraphs of column Robert Kagen makes one statement that I can actually agree with. Sadly, he didn't mean it the way I take it...
When people want to justify the unjustifiable and accept the unacceptable, they try all kinds of ways to make themselves feel better about their decision.
Most of what follows seems to me to be another neocon version of reality, and a realists version of Bush inspired acid dream. Highly appropriate I suppose for the 40th anniversary for the "Summer of Love"...The blurb at the end says Kagen is an adviser to the McCain Campaign. Could this explain part of the failure of the McCain run for the Presidency to actually take off this time around?

Source: Robert Kagan - The 'Blame The Iraqis' Gambit - washingtonpost.com

Y'all have a great Sunday...Catch you tomorrow...

Friday Morning Muse

For all who came by looking for these musings yesterday, I am sorry for the lack of focus. I find myself in a position of having other things on my mind at the moment. Right now I am still processing. I am sure I will figure this out shortly, until then I'll try to at least put something out here so you will know I haven't dropped completely of the edge of the earth.

I did notice yesterday that Kate over at Cider Press Hill is thinking of taking on a new challenge. I do not envy her if she does. Living in Texas we seem to have big commutes, not so much because we try but more because they just happen. The 50 gallons of gas per person per year part of the challenge...Not gonna happen here unless I give up the job and go to hanging around and growing all of my own food. I am going to mull this challenge over a while and try to formulate a plan(?) of attack...

Back to my regularly schedule weather muse...The temperature this morning is a rather mild 69 degrees and the humidity is in the soupy 95% range. Texas mornings are great for showers...oops, there goes my daily water allotment. Speaking of water I see this weeks US News has their cover story on the subject. I have to say the headline is grim but probably true..."Why You Should Worry About Water...How this diminishing resource will determine the future of where and how we live." I haven't read the article yet, and they are speaking to the choir here, but I'll be checking it out this weekend.

It's getting late so I better go check the morning's emails...I'll let you know if anything is interesting...

I always find Eugene Robinson's columns interesting but the following paragraph from today's just sings...
When I look at what the next president will have to deal with, I don't see much that can be solved with just a winning smile, a firm handshake and a ton of resolve. I see conundrums, dilemmas, quandaries, impasses, gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out. Iraq is the obvious place he or she will have to start; I want a president smart enough to figure out how to minimize the damage. - Eugene Robinson
"Gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out." Now isn't that one of the most descriptive sentences of world conditions you have ever read? If you have a moment, go read the rest...But, after 8 years of dumbed down expectations I don't hold out much hope for Eugene's ideal President.

Happy Birthday Norma Jean...

Well, it's time to head to work...Catch ya later...

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