IN PURSUIT OF THE WATERFALL

DryFalls10.JPGWe’re in our second summer of living in the Smoky Mountains, and we still have so much to learn and explore. Yesterday, we took a day away from canning and cooking to chase waterfalls. And we ended with a short kayak paddle on Nantahala Lake.

First, we headed east on Highway 64 toward Highlands, North Carolina. This road becomes curvy narrow, and extremely busy once past Franklin. But it’s worth it. Three waterfalls are within ten miles of one another and can be seen from the highway.

Bridal Veil Falls

A road goes under this fall, but it is currently closed. However, there are pull off spots and we were still able to walk under the falls.

Dry Falls

A paved path leads down to the falls as well as a great observation deck to see the falls in its entirety. Once down at the bottom, visitors can walk right under the seventy-five-foot foot falls.

Cullasaja Falls

We couldn’t figure out how to get to the bottom of these falls which are supposedly 250-feet. We could only pull off and view a portion of them, but still a beautiful sight.

Rufus Morgan Falls

We headed back toward our cabin via Wayah Bald Road and hiked almost a mile to the Rufus Morgan Falls. The path becomes wet and rocky after about a half a mile so I sat on a rock and meditated while Robert climbed to the top of the sixty-foot falls. Here are my meditative photos.

Nantahala Lake

Our day ended with a refreshing swim in Nantahala Lake. Then we hopped in our kayaks and paddled around a bit before heading home. The next day trip will include a trip up to one of the highest peaks in the area, Wayah Bald at 5,300+ feet.

CONFESSION TIME – HOPPY TALES

img_0829All right. I have a confession to make. I love beer.

Now that it’s out in the open, I can confess that not only do my husband Robert and I share a love of the suds, but we’re also homebrewers and seekers of other homebrewers turned into craft brew entreprenuers.

Let me clarify our love of beer. For us to love, truly love, a beer it must be robust and ‘hopping’ with flavor. India Pale Ale (IPA) that is strong in hops and in bitterness tops our list. But there’s nothing like a true Belgian with its high sugary notes in its finish. And then, finally, for my choice for dessert? A chocolatey, coffee-infused imperial stout. Yummy.

Craft breweries have become popular in recent years. One of the first, Sierra Nevada, began in Chico, California. I visited their restaurant and brewery in 1998–my first venture into the world of craft brewing. It was a nice site with the copper brew pots within view of our table. A tour followed lunch. I fell in love with their beers–always a good choice. Until the past ten years or so when other craft breweries began popping up all over the country.

Our home state of Michigan is becoming famous for their breweries in Marshall, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Holland. A few began popping up around the Pittsburgh area while I lived there. We even have a few recent start-ups in our small area in North Carolina.

 

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Andrews Brewing Company and Calaboose Wine Cellars

Hoppy Trout and Andrews Brewing Company are our favorites. Hoppy Trout was opened by a homebrewer, and everything we’ve sampled there is outstanding. Andrews Brewing Company – same thing. Plus they also make their own wine at Calaboose Wine Cellars. The setting is spectacular for listening to music and watching the sun set over the mountains and small vineyard on site.

 

It was only natural for us to seek out some other craft brewers on a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia. When we learned Sierra Nevada had opened a brewery two hours from us, we had to visit. We stopped at three breweries on our journey. First, near Hendersonville, North Carolina, in Mills River, we went to the recently opened Sierra Nevada brewery.

We drove up a long windy road, loving the scenery and the rural setting. At the top of the hill we looked down at the largest brewery–I’m not counting Anheuser Busch here–I’ve ever seen. Rows of buildings with smoke stacks spewed forth white clouds of steam and gleaming copper pots dominated the glass fronts.

At the end of the ‘mall,’ sat a restaurant and gift shop. A separate entrace swarmed with visitors lining up for the tours which required reservations. We searched for a parking space and finally found one in the furtherest parking lot from the restaurant entrance. I desperately tried to put this Disney-esque place in the same category as the restaurant/brewery I visited eighteen years earlier. The bustling restaurant with two bars, outside terraces, and a cavernous room with tables provided good food and outstanding beer, but it sure didn’t feel like a craft brewery any longer.

Then we visited the other craft brewer in town–Mills River Brewery. This place sat in a strip mall and was a simple tap room serving a few of their own brews, but also the brews of other craft brewers in North Carolina. They are small and new–opened ten months ago–and made a decent IPA, but they have a ways to go to compete with the more established places. We wish them good fortune.

The next day we landed in Boone, North Carolina, at Appalachain Mountain Brewery. There are several breweries in this college town, but we chose this one because their porter, served to us at Parsons Pub in Murphy, North Carolina, really impressed us. When I read about them on their website, my admiration grew.

Here’s their motto:

Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s mission is to sustainably brew high quality beer, support local non-profits and help our community prosper. Our mission is simple: sustainability, community and philanthropy.

The tap room is unpretentious and simple, but that’s not how I would describe the beer brewed there. I did a sampler and can attest to the high quality of product. The pub doesn’t serve food, but a food truck sits outside waiting to serve up a delicious snack. We ordered black bean tacos and cheese bread–perfect accompaniments to all that we tasted.

And best of all, we met the folks who work there and discovered they work there because of the values set forth by the owners. We chatted with Danny Wilcox, the director of retail operations, and he told us that the publicly traded company stands by their mission statement of sustainability, community, and philanthropy. In our troubled times, it is refreshing, and hopeful, to find a small business doing their part to help their community.

Appalachain Mountain Brewery sets a tone and a mood that inspires others to do more and reach higher. We raise our mugs and say, “Salud.” And also, filler up.

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We’ve taken a break from our homebrewing adventure while we moved and settled into our new routine. All of our brewing equipment is now in one place and very soon we’ll start up the boiling pots and fermenting pails. I’ll be sure to report on our first batch from Florida very soon. We need to get our holiday brews a’ bubblin’.

SUMMER LINGERS WHILE FALL BECKONS

 

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Wild turkeys outside my office window in the winter.

The wild turkeys gather together as summer wanes forming their “gangs” to wander the mountains surrounding our cabin. Last night we heard a rustling outside our front door. When we went to look, a large turkey flapped its wings and flew into a tree in front of our porch, settling on a branch precariously. We watched as it moved around on the bouncing branch. Finally, it quieted and went to sleep for the night. The turkeys have come home to roost.

 

As always, the summer flew by and our days are numbered in the mountains, although we hope to see much of the color burst forth on the still-green trees. Yet, signs are everywhere as berries form on the holly tree and the sumac leaves begin to turn red.

dsc03660Our first full summer in North Carolina satisfied us. The garden grew and grew, providing the pantry and freezer with plenty of vegetables and sauces for the winter. We froze peas, beans, cole slaw, soup starter vegetable sauce, and zucchini bread. I pickled dills, chips, and relish. We put up pasta sauce and salsa. And if that wasn’t enough, my husband went out and bought local corn from a roadside pick-up truck because that’s one thing he doesn’t grow. He froze twenty bags of corn kernels. When his lima beans only produced enough for the table, he bought a bushel from a local farmer of “butter beans” and froze seventeen bags of those. If you’ve never tasted fresh lima or butter (same thing) beans, then you have no idea of the soft buttery vegetable’s virtue. Try it sometime.

 

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Tomatoes waiting to become pasta sauce or salsa.

Our kayaks provided transportation on local rivers and lakes and gave us moments of serenity and inspiration. We’ve only begun to explore all the places of watery beauty in our area. We are the beneficiaries of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s damming of the rivers. The lakes that are formed as a result–Chatuge, Nottley, and Hiwassee–are deep and long. Plenty of boat ramps make them easy to access and give us a multitude of landscapes to explore.

 

Drives brought us to waterfalls with plenty more to explore and enjoy.

The only complaint I have is the weather. It’s been an unusual summer here in the mountains. We came here to escape the heat and humidity of Florida’s summer, but it followed us here but without the rain. Temperatures near ninety, humidity as high without even the relief of afternoon showers. The storms I love to watch moving across the mountains have been few and always bring us running to the front porch to catch a rare glimpse of darkening clouds and rain hitting the metal roof. Who knows what is normal anymore as far as weather goes? Maybe the winter will be sunny and warm in Florida all winter.

How did your summer shape up?

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER

IMG_0729Here in the western Smoky Mountains, the rain has often skipped us this summer. No wonder when it started raining yesterday, we danced on the porch to the sound of drops on the metal roof. The garden turned its thirsty heads heavenward and drank in the beauty of a late afternoon shower. Our excitement was tempered by the thought of the folks in West Virginia who received too much too fast of the wet stuff.

Water is a stunning force and never doubt its ability to wield its power over anything in its path. It follows the road of least resistance, which sometimes means manmade things will never stand a chance. I respect its eminence and magnitude in our lives.

Early this morning found us in our kayaks on the Hiwassee River–yes, I’ve spelled that correctly. Here in western North Carolina the “a” is missing, but go ten miles into Georgia, and it is spelled “Hiawassee.” (From Chenocetah’s Weblog on Cherokee names: Both are from the Cherokee “a-yu-wa-si,” which means a meadow-like place, or a place with mostly low plants and few trees.) It’s anyone’s guess why. However you spell it or pronounce it, it shimmers in the morning sun and provides a peaceful cruise for two kayakers seeking beauty.

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Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow U.S. citizens and Merry Summer to all the rest of you. I hope you are enjoying blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and tranquil company.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

IMG_0677We moved to the mountains of southwest North Carolina to heal and live in a peaceful and clean environment. Since December, we’ve lived here full time. But our neighbors, with whom we share a driveway, spent the winter in Florida. They came back last week, and with their arrival, a bit of our peace vanished.

What happened shows us the problem in our world today when people become so focused on their own agenda that they forget some simple courtesies.

Communication before accusation and love instead of hatred are the main ones that come to mind. If two families with a shared driveway are unable to discuss calmly and with respect then what hope do we have as a country to find a way to solve our problems?

We initially bought this cabin with the intention of healing and restoring our balance. For the past three years, either my husband or I have been at dis-ease with our bodies. First, I was hit with a nasty virus that killed nerves in my legs and left arm that resulted in months of chemo-like treatments to rid myself of the unwelcome invaders. Three weeks after I received the green light from my doctors that I was cured, my husband’s dis-ease began. We’re still on the journey to his well-being. And the one thing that has helped him the most has been building, creating, planting, and now harvesting a bountiful garden. Along with the mountain air, I see him regaining his strength and will to live. The growth of the green produce has been inspiring and fulfilling for both of us.IMG_0668

Then the neighbors returned from their winter sojourn.

All through the winter, I kept her informed of the progress of our garden building which came within a couple of feet of their property line on the driveway.  When dirt was delivered and accidently dumped over the property line in March, I sent her an email with photos explaining that Robert would remove the dirt as the gardens were built, and that we’d be keeping them in produce all summer. She replied that there was no problem, and they looked forward to sharing in the bounty.IMG_0627

Within an hour of their return, she visited with Robert as he worked on the garden. She talked about the property line, about the eventual paving of a portion of the driveway, and about gravel on the rest. We would share in the cost of all the work. Robert chatted with her several times over the next three days, believing neighborly relations were fine.

Then the email to me came informing me, in case my husband hadn’t, that Robert didn’t realize the importance of property lines and that they must have control over their property. She accused him twice in the email of “clearing” their property, and then gave me all sorts of legal descriptions of the property line. Then they stopped talking to us but daily walked the property line, pushing back weeds and climbing the hills.

The other day, they came down to the edge of the garden, once again looking at the property lines while Robert worked in the garden just feet away. He forced them to speak to him.

“We’re getting a surveyor out here because this has to be legal,” she informed him.

“Fine,” he responded, thinking that it didn’t have to be this way but if they wanted to spend the money to determine if we’ve done something so horrendous that they had to accuse us in an email and then stop speaking to us, then fine. Go ahead.

Based on the information provided to us by both the developer of our little subdivision and by the neighbors, we kept within our property lines. Dirt was spilled across the line, which has been removed. And to get at the dirt, Robert did remove some suckers on a stump from a tree removed before we moved here, which is one foot into their property.

I might add that this property line in question is at the back of their cabin and down a slight hill. They can’t even see it from their home.

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The back of their cabin

 

I understand wanting to establish legal property lines. And if they’d approached us first without accusations, we might have been able to work it out, and even shared the cost of the surveyor. We’d feel better, and they would be blessed with produce throughout the summer.

We have decided that our peace shall not be broken by the lack of good manners. We are praying for a satisfactory outcome, and we’re sending them all our loving energy via prayer. We’ve come too far in this process of restoring our well-being to let anyone else take it away.

My husband and I are in our sixties and have lived in various places separately and together during our lifetimes. This is the first time either of us has encountered a problem with a neighbor, so it has been disturbing.

Please keep us all in your thoughts that we can solve this little problem because I need the hope that we can solve the bigger issues in the world today. And it all starts with the little seeds in our own backyards.

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January in the Smoky Mountains.

DSC03464After five days of staying in our cabin as the wind, snow, and ice played outside, we ventured out this afternoon when the sun came out and blessed us with fifty-degree temperatures. We headed over to Fires Creek Recreation Area where Fires Creek meets up with Leatherwood Branch and Falls. It’s a lovely spot very close to our house with falls that are easily seen from the parking area. Paths lead up to the top of the falls.

 

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GARDENING BY DEFAULT – TOMATOES, PEPPERS, AND PRAYING MANTIS

June 8, 2013 - Raccoon Township, PA

June 8, 2013 – Raccoon Township, PA

I’ve written several tons about my husband’s gardening abilities and prowess. But this year, we’ve had to readjust because of the major transition in our lives. We’re still one foot in Pittsburgh and heart and soul in the Smoky Mountains. He knew this year’s gardening would be non-existent, but still he refused to give up completely.

Before he left our cabin in early July, he threw two pepper plants and two tomato plants in the ground where he hopes to build terraced beds next year. He bought the plants at Lowe’s, unlike in past years when he started all plants from his own seeds. Yet, he persisted. When I came back to the cabin in August, the plants had survived and banana peppers and one tomato hung on the vine ready for me to eat.

August 2015 - Neglected Peppers

August 2015 – Neglected Peppers

I left the mountains and came back to Pittsburgh for a few weeks. We returned to the cabin last week. To our surprise, our neglected, but not forgotten plants thrived in our absence. My husband feels certain the soil and the sun will provide us with a two-season garden in the years to come.

Garden Bounty

Here’s another little treasure from our trip to the mountains. We picked up a hitchhiker and he clung to our windshield until we drove to the river where he finally flew off. Hopefully, not to get his head eaten by his female partner as some rare species of praying mantis are wont to do. Autumn is mating season so perhaps he decided to get away from that dreaded fate.

praying mantis

Tomorrow Robert undergoes surgery for his GERD, which we hope will help alleviate many of the symptoms he’s suffered through the past two years. It’s been tough for him, and we would appreciate prayers and positive thoughts for his recovery back to his old self. the leaves