Sunday, August 30, 2009


My third summer on the mountain is ending and this is what a big chunk of my garden looks like. Obviously I have not spent a lot of time in there. If I don't cut a path through it, by the end of the summer my garden is impenetrable particularly because the Clematis virginiana literally ties it all together. I have been planting things and pulling a few weeds now and again. It just needs more input.

If you could have seen me slowly, methodically and with measured precision climbing the ladder on the back wall of the cabin, no doubt a certain South American forest creature would come to mind. As I attached myself to the wall and hung there, gingerly reaching in to the tool belt for the next implement needed to place trim around the window and add another row of siding you might wonder if I was taking a nap up there.

No I was very precisely lining my nest.

The new decking and stoop roof have made working on this side so much more pleasant. It has not sped things up however. I work slower suspended in mid air. I wonder if I can finish this side without the scaffolding?

If only I could float like a butterfly or fly like a bee.

Then my garden could look more like these. Just a bit more organized.

There might even be time to do something with all the apples that fall from the trees.

No worries. The siding is very close to being done.

A few more days, another week maybe. I do need that scaffolding. How little I will need it is the question as I reach slowly for everything within reach.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Plant That Dare Not Speak Its Name

You can still hear it whispered in these hills ... sang.

On more than one occasion I have seen hikers pass by dressed in garb made for wading through dense undergrowth. They wear heavy vests with many pockets over thick shirts and chaps over long pants. They carry thick walking sticks. Oddly they often carry a small plastic grocery bag filled with something. They are gathering. If they are on someone else's land, they are poaching.

Last year, the story goes, two or three men were found trespassing and held at gunpoint until the feds arrived. Next time I saw my neighbor from over the hill I asked him about what I had heard. Yes he had found poachers on his land looking for sang. He was ready for them and the bear hunters too. His family's name haunts the entire valley below. I would not want to cross him.

Trespassing was not the only violation. The sale and export of sang is highly regulated by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. That makes it the feds business.

I have searched high and low for Panax quinquefolius, Ginseng, the most valuable medicinal herb that might be found in these woods. Centuries of harvesting that began with Ginseng as one of the first major exports of colonial America have made it a very rare plant.

Photo - NC Museum of Botanical History

Wild Ginseng is more highly valued than a field cultivated crop and can be sold for as much as $500 per dry pound compared to field grown sang selling at $30 per pound. There is a marked difference in the appearance of the harvested root between the two. That price still sends diggers into the forest hunting for wild sang.

Photo - NC Museum of Botanical History

I purchased the book, Growing and Marketing Ginseng, Goldenseal and Other Woodland Medicinals by W. Scott Persons and Jeanine M. Davis shortly after I arrived thinking that if I start planting now there might be enough of value in the future to supplement the meager gov'mint check I might be getting in my doddering years.

So far I have begun collecting and sowing seeds of Allium triccocum, Ramps, to start new patches of them on the mountain.

Photo - NC Museum of Botanical History

Last year I received two Ginseng seeds. They might germinate on their second spring, needing sixteen to twenty two months before dormancy is broken. If all goes well they may come up this spring. In another nine to eleven years the roots would be large enough to harvest, having been grown in their natural wild setting.

It's one sang at a time, until I find a better seed source or buy them in bulk sometime.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So Sad

The roadside vegetable garden is winding down for the year a bit early I think. The tomatoes were blighted. The cucumbers wilted. The potatoes were dug and the squashes are slowing down.

The beans and peas are long gone and the sweet corn is all et up, yummy, minus what was shared with the raccoon.

There is still food in there. I have yet to harvest the butternut squash and there are still peppers, leeks, beets and carrots from the first sowing. A second sowing of the beets and carrots was done in early August and I may get a fall crop from them.

It just looks so empty like I should plant something to fill all that space and I can't. It's too late. It's so sad. Maybe a little lettuce? Some sweet peas perhaps?

As I get more settled and have more time to focus on it, I am bound to learn more season extending vegetable tricks. The first trick I need to accomplish are row covers to protect tiny seedlings. Then maybe I can grow me some spinach.

Now I just watch it slowly fade away.

Meanwhile the sunny utility meadow is launching into its final spectacular crescendo.

And the goldenrods and blue asters are just now thinking about joining in.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Up And Down And Roundabout

There are a lot of small pieces of siding needed to go around the window in the loft wall. Every piece requires going up and down the ladder for measuring and cutting. Then perching precariously on the temporary roof steps for nailing. Thankfully the odd pieces are all on a 45 degree angle. The angle gets normal after a few boards.

I keep hitting stopping points. I need the trim for the half circle window above the porch roof. I can't go higher on the loft wall with the eyeball windows until the left side is complete. I have reached the board that will cross the living room roof peak on the right. And that left side is scary high off the ground. I really need to go get the scaffolding. Today though I did get the corner trim boards and the first two siding boards put on the left wall of the loft using the ladder.

I'm not sure how scaffolding will even work on the back kitchen door wall now with all the stairs in. The new decks will let me use the ladder to go a bit higher, but the back peak is scary high off the ground.

Whether using a ladder or scaffolding I have to climb up and down for every single board to cut it to the right shape. It is almost like I am some zoo exhibit on the monkey bars.

In a roundabout way my little cabin building gardening blog was exhibited in the NY Times this week. Lou Ureneck writes a blog there about building a cabin in the woods called From The Ground Up. A commenter on his blog left a link to me and a very kind compliment. Thank you Lois.

This morning I noticed the Verbena bonariensis is the exact same color as the Vernonia noveboracensis, the Ironweed. There even seems to be a similarity to their names. Remember this is the verbena on a stick. The Ironweed is that much taller with the longer name.

The gifted verbena seedlings from Frances have done so much better than the store bought one in the same bed that was planted weeks before at an already substantial size. Now why is it that when I pay good money for the exact same plant and plant it in the exact same place it sits there and sulks?

Whatever. I just hope the verbena self sows. I am looking forward to the up and down spacing of the same color on different plants.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Just A Bit More

From the earliest of spring before the world has even turned green to several weeks past the first frosts of autumn, something is blooming in the sunny utility meadow. It is in constant motion. The natural processes of nature have been enhanced by the hand of woman.

Seed flinging season has begun.

How many kinds of aster are in there?

This one I think is Symphyotrichum pilosum, the Frost Aster. Maybe. You never can be sure. They can be a pain in the aster to identify. It is a native, most likely to have arrived on its own.

Other inhabitants of the sunny utility meadow have been introduced by the relentless scattering of seeds.

I have assisted this year by spreading the seed laden flower stalks of Chicory, Cichorium intybus into the meadow and gathering the seeds of Lupine to be flung. Baptisia grown from collected seed was also gifted and planted into the meadow. We need more blue.

The Lobelia cardinalis is one of the former introductions as far as I know.

I finished doing the you know what the way the inspector man wanted and filled the system with water. There were no leaks so we should be good to go. I can't wait for that first real flush.

When it rains I do insulation inside. When it is nice, now that you know what is finally finished for good, I have turned my attention back to the siding.

A few more planks of the Hardie Board have made their way onto the cozy cabin. I will be so happy when the house of Lowes is no more. There isn't that much siding left to do. It is just all of the stuff furthest from the ground and the walls with all the angles. That makes for slow going.

Four more stepping stones were added to the transition landing back to the dirt ground at the rear service entrance. I am not liking it. I think I need two more to make the stepping stone landing more uniform in size to the deck platforms. The gravel slope down will just have to be made smaller. Once the driveway and parking area is regraded and filled with gravel, that gravel slope leading to the stepping stones won't seem so out of place.

Then I can plant me some evergreen shrubberies to hide the ugly.

Some of the darker Joe Pye has managed to keep its head in the meadow. Perhaps it will seed some dark offspring while my deep dark patches grow to the point of division.

The lone Miscanthus in its end of season majesty reminds me of walking through a wet river side jungle. It towers over my head and you can just imagine an elephant hiding behind there. More likely a deer like the one I saw in the forest this evening or even the invisible cow that still wanders through on occasion.

The Spots follow through the meadow and back, enjoying the sights in their own particular way.

And we are back in time for just another sunset as it inches closer and closer to Mount Sterling on the left and the borders of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Tomorrow a few more planks of siding should get attached to the side of the cabin and doubtless a few more sacks of gathered seeds will get flung.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Beneath A Rain Cloud

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Is this a momentous occasion or evidence of compulsive house bound behavior? 1000 posts have been posted with this one. I count my previous life because it counts.

It all began back in January of 2006 on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean because I needed a place to put some stories I had written. Because there was no defined purpose to this exercise in blogging, a completely new concept for a man on his first computer, the social network of the internet and garden bloggers in particular lead to what is Outside Clyde today. There is still a lack of a defined purpose. That may be the story of my life.

Next I got a digital camera and well a picture is worth a thousand words. Telling stories slipped by the wayside. Then my life completely changed.

I decided to build a whole new life from scratch, one piece at a time.

Seven hundred and nineteen posts have chronicled a thousand stones, a thousand nails, a thousand screws and a thousand boards. Ten thousand daffodils and ten thousand wildflowers colored a new life and filled the time between ten million raindrops and ten million snowflakes.

A whole new life is still a work in progress.

I blog on.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Scattered Clouds

The monsoon ebbs and flows.

The ground beneath is awash in abundance by those inhabitants that don't mind the wet.

Clouds form close to the ground

And expand.

Organized and corralled, towering monsoon fed weeds are tamed into a garden.

Some remain wild and carefully watched.

Their inclusion into an expanding garden will come.

Will they ever really be tamed?

An oasis of order surrounded by floral chaos is in sharp contrast to the sterile order across the road. Which one is a garden?

I grow wild by acclimation.

Among the scattered clouds.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Dying Crop

I just assumed the heirloom tomato Cherokee Purple was naturally prone to being hideous and did not think much of it. As they began to ripen they were full of rotten spots. The whole crop was hideously formed and rotting on the vine. Well I won't be growing those again. I still did not think much of it because the plants looked perfectly fine while they were growing. Yes the lower leaves were browning, but not unusually so.

It's Late Blight. The tell tale symptoms have now shown up on the Better Boy tomatoes. Brown lesions on the leaves with a white fuzz on the underside of the spot's margins. This season of monsoon and infected big box tomato starts have combined to blight this year's tomato crop.

Tomorrow the Cherokee Purple will be bagged and tossed. I will salvage what we can from the Better Boy over the next week and then toss those. They never did grow as prolifically as last year and once these fruit ripen that is all there will be. We did have plenty tomatoes and the Juliet grape tomatoes are still doing fine.

This was not the year of the tomato.

This was the year of the corn. Until two days ago when Mr. Raccoon found something he liked. Varmint! If he doesn't steal it all tonight I will do a major harvest in the morning and more fresh corn will be frozen for later eating, at least what we don't eat for lunch. We've had plenty corn.

The cucumbers got the Wilt again and did not produce at their maximum potential, but there is no more room on the top shelf of the refrigerator because of all the jars of pickles. We got plenty cucumbers.

Oh the traumas of this year's roadside vegetable garden. Plagued by grasshoppers. Drooped by Wilt. Blighted by blights and ransacked by coons. Varmint!

And there is no more room in the freezer or refrigerator and we have been eating fresh produce since mid May. There have been sugar snap peas, pole beans, lettuce, turnips, beets, carrots, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, Magda squash, peppers, potatoes, acorn squash to come, maybe even cantaloupe and leeks we haven't tried yet.

My roadside vegetable garden is not as uniformly lush as this one closer to town, but it has fed us well.

It sure is pretty when it blooms, but they usually cut the flowers off. It is a dying crop in these parts.

The roadside vegetable garden will probably close down a bit earlier in this year of the monsoon. There will be some late season carrots and beets from a second sowing I hope. I could even seed some more lettuce, damn grasshoppers, but the main players are already winding down.

There is a learning curve that I am on for growing things at this altitude in the wilderness. The more successful I get the more likely we will be needing a big chest freezer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Trotting In The Back

I was busy working on you know what when the turkeys wandered by. This time I was ready and just quietly walked out to the front porch, zoomed in and took a few pictures. I have no idea why they seem to be favoring such a small territory of late. They just wander around in circles.

Even though at times I feel like I am doing the same thing, there is progress. With the semi-approval of the plumbing, I was finally able to bury the darn sewer line. I wasted no time this morning in starting the process of eliminating the last obstacle in the path to the back kitchen door.

It still looks a little scary, but the big hole to the right of the store bought block wall is now filled in. There is more to come.

Four more stepping stones will create a six stone landing at the base of the decking. A post and railing on the left, starting at the edge of the block wall will force entry over to the right. A post on the right will connect to the post and railing for the steps as they head down to the basement patio. A landing and defined restricted entry up onto the deck will help guide you up to the back kitchen door.

That leaves the big gap on the left between the house and the store bought block wall with the decorative stove pipe accoutrement. It is possible for some fool to fall in to that space. What to do? What to do? I want to avoid more posts and railing, though it would not surprise me if the inspector man requires it. That could just be temporary until I think of something with visual and physical substance to fill that space. Something fun.

I'll have plenty of time to think about it while I am working on the you know what and the turkeys wander around in circles.