Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Waiting Wall

Waiting for the ground to thaw.

Waiting for the ground to release the stones.

Waiting for the layer of mud on top of ice to drain.

Waiting for piled stones to be stacked into a companion.

Waiting to spread more soil to new locations.

Winter waiting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Still COLD Ground

I thought I might be shovelin' some dirt today. It was fifty degrees and it rained last night. The rest of the snow across the street on the north facing slope melted away, but like a thief in the night the cold returned. Thank goodness things had time to dry before the cold settled in.

The bare ground however was froze once more in that upward position creating delicate lines in the soil.

Something has been down by the cabin recently.

That would be my shoe print. What do you think dog people out there? Have the hounds gotten loose or are the coyotes wandering about?

Could it be a big giant raccoon attracted to the pile of corn husks left by the side of the damn road. Now what type of good farmer would waste such a thing?

Really the ground was frozen and full of ice crystals. I couldn't shovel dirt today in the cold.

This water was headed towards the ground

And didn't quite make it. Got stuck in the firm grip of cold jaws.

The weather diagnosis for next week looks warmer. I'll get to shovelin' soon.

Mountain Magnolia Inn

I do not have to look very hard for the history that lives all around me. It seems in many ways Western North Carolina is the land that time forgot, until now. There is no shortage of historic down towns and old buildings, abandoned, restored or still in use as is.

On occasion an element of a landscape can shout out its place as part of history without the need for a plaque. Today I saw two such trees on the grounds of a restored Victorian house. One was an incredible Magnolia grandiflora with branches held clear to the ground and a diameter spread of about 40 feet.

The other was an Oak. My winter twig and bud ID skills have atrophied a bit, but I was not fooled by this oak trying to pretend it was a Live Oak, Quercus virginiana. If the few leaves I saw on the ground belonged to it, this oak is in the Red Oak group.

Trees do not get this way without a great deal of time and care.

These trees can be found on the grounds of what is now the Mountain Magnolia Inn. Built in 1868 and in the same family until 1988 it has a long history before its present incarnation.

Magnolia grandiflora is native to the south east and will grow well in the lower valleys of Appalachia, but it is not native or indigenous to the mountains of North Carolina. The two very large Magnolias on this property were brought up here and planted by someone a long time ago.

So which came first, the trees or the wallpaper?

Originally the estate was called Rutland by the Rumbough family who built the house as a safe haven during the Civil War. I have a feeling the current owners may have been inspired by the magnificent Magnolia trees on the property they bought in 1997 and a new name and a theme was born.

Major amounts of magnolia wallpaper.

Mrs. Carrie Rumbough still graces the parlor of her home today.

On the way back home I pass through a tiny hamlet with a brand new sign. When it was finished I was pleased to see that it was not a sign for a new gated subdivision. Still it is a sign that things are changing. And I can't help myself, I like this new sign, stone and metal.

After I pass through Trust and rise higher up the valley, the next place before home is Luck.

I live near Trust and Luck.

It takes flowing water to have even a small stream. It takes flowing time for history to form. Like the first European settlers who left their old lives to come here and begin anew, I need a fair amount of trust and luck. They displaced the Cherokee way of life that was here before them and now their old way is being swept aside in the flow of time.

I gave up my old life to come here and build a safe haven. The path to that end has not been as direct or as quick as one could wish. At the moment it feels frozen in place. That feeling I think shows a disrespect for the ebb and flow of time.

A part of my history will eventually grow here, given time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Scenes From Upper Crabtree

Your ISP can punish you if you have used more bandwidth than allowed in the TOS I have discovered. Yesterday the computer slowed to a crawl, slower than dial-up. I wondered if the rains in California had knocked out power to the distribution center or if something more sinister was happening to the internet.

No, an incredibly slow search turned up that Hughes Network, a satellite internet provider to which I and many rural customers are attached to, can individually target my computer and slow me down to a dead snail's pace if I have gone over some limit that I have no idea what it is at the moment since I am still a slacker residing in the luxury basement accommodations.

It seems that the 69 updates for Microsoft and Windows that were needed to get the crashed computer back up to speed from a couple of years old, factory condition operating system re-installation sucked up a lot of bandwidth and my satellite dish was punished for 24 hours.

ISPs have the ability now to target individual computers. They can certainly target individual sites. This makes the need for Net Neutrality all the more necessary. Given the power and the ability to charge for preferred access we can easily imagine the results won't be in the consumer's best interest.

I needed to get out of the house anyway. The ground's still froze and a bit sticky, not the best conditions for shovelin' dirt in the cabin's basement patio and I kinda tweaked my back cutting up the rest of the fallen trees by the big blue pot.

I decided to go for a drive down a road not yet taken, to see more of the neighborhood.

Tucked into the folds and coves of the mountains is an older way of life that is coming into more and more contact with a burgeoning world. Sprinkled into this rural farm land were quite a few luxurious mountain style homes. I do not think farming in these mountains has all of a sudden become such a lucrative enterprise that these big houses are beginning to pop up. I didn't take a picture of one. You know what they look like.

Up at the top of Crabtree Gap there is a view down into the town of Canton. Mt. Pisgah and Cold Mountain are in the distance.

Looking back in the other direction is another view of Mt. Sterling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that I can see from my place too. Tennessee is just over that mountain, down the valley and at the top of the next mountain ridge.

The old still lingers.

And on a clear sunny day I was fortunate to be able to see it.

Driving through the neighborhood, once again I realized how wise the resident gardeners were when they picked this spot I now call home some thirty years ago.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Sister Is A Genius

She reads my blog..Often enough to know I was having major troubles getting my pictures off the crashed computer. She e-mailed me and told me to get a USB key/drive. What is that I asked?

A USB key is a portable storage device no bigger than a lighter or lip stick tube that plugs right into the computer's USB port and lets you move data files on to it for storage. I bought one and the crashed computer was kind enough to let me do a simple file transfer of all my pictures while in safe mode. Hooray, my pictures are saved.

And because of that we get to go on a little trip.

I thought at the beginning of the summer when I arrived here that during blizzards and other such winter like weather I would be able to back track a bit and show more of my drive cross country.

What better place to go in the cruel cold of winter than Vail Colorado in the middle of June. I did live there for three winters some time ago. I have done cold before, with a different set of cells than I have now.

When I was last there the Betty Ford Alpine Garden was a big berm and a dream. Today it is a stunning garden in an incredible setting. I was fortunate to be driving through at the height of summer blooming season.

Vail, you can't see from the gardens, is booming with construction. The entire high country of Colorado is growing like crazy. One of the buildings I worked in when I lived there had been razed to the ground for a new building. They are already at the demolition stage of development and the town was only founded in 1966.

This is what the Delosperma nubigenum that I planted at the top of my drive will hopefully look like some day. Maybe this summer.

Plenty of Iris dotted the gardens. The resident gardener here has gotten tired of the Iris. She says they need too much weeding to be happy in her wildflower garden which means there will be plenty for me to borrow.

A nice combination. I wasn't writing names down.

The beautiful alpine rock garden filled with all kinds of petite, low spreading, flowering perennials.

Lupine. I have always wanted to have me some Lupine. I think I can now.

I think this is a Gentian, a Gentiana sp.

Bitterroot, Lewisia sp.

The small berm and a dream has grown to encompass about two acres of land in the larger park the gardens are located in.

A Pulsatilla sp.

Time to leave Vail and dreams of high summer in the high country.

Next stop Denver.

They have a botanical garden there too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is It A Blizzard Yet?

What constitutes a blizzard? Wind speed? Angle of snow fall? Visibility when facing/not facing into the wind?

Actual temperature? Wind Chill? Layers of clothes needed for survival? Depth of snow accumulation? Rate of snow accumulation? Snow quality, wet versus dry?

A dropping temperature as the day goes by? Snow piling up in strange places, not where it should? Eating more of the delicious home grown grapefruit brought back from Daytona remembering the scurvy doomed expedition of Shackleton in Antarctica?

The sheer stupidity involved in setting foot outside?

A Light Rime

Was on the trees when I woke up this morning and it is returning to a bitter cold with the help of strong winds that are expected to increase during the day. Usually the rime is on the higher ridges above me.

It descended today to encase the world around me.

Another attempt will be made to save my pictures from the other crashed computer using the "favorites" option of the Kodak camera program that loads pictures labeled as favorites onto my camera.

Kodak software however is the cause of the crashed computer. Do not attempt to upgrade their software. It messes with your registry.