Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nice Profile

Traffic continues to be heavy on the scenic byway. The closure of I-40 from the massive rock slide in the Pigeon River gorge is sending folks in to the back country on alternate routes. Tennessee is just over that mountain on the left, Mount Sterling. You can get to Tennessee and then on to Knoxville from here through Hot Springs with only the slightest bit of a detour to the east for a spell. Now the road is two lane and major twisty turny so it will take a while longer.

There are lots more rubber neckers and litterbugs passing by who catch a view of the cozy cabin in its winter state of exposure. If folks are going to be gawking I certainly could make an effort to put the best face forward.

In profile this is the cabin's good side and the side that faces west towards the road. It is painted now. It actually looks like a person could be living in there.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

This Will Be Good

It was a nice warm day for a little of this and a little of that. The red columns got painted all the way to the bottom. Gravel was spread to reduce the splashing of dirt onto the columns. Lumber was sorted and tidied. A bit more trim was applied to the sewer insulation box. The beginning of the end of the mices in the floor was tended to with spray foam insulation in the larger gaps. Once that dries and is trimmed a silicone caulk will be applied in the smaller gaps.

All the stuff that had accumulated on the basement patio was removed. It was looking so very nice I wanted to eliminate the clutter. It is rather striking when seen from the road particularly when the sun is shining on the dry stack stone walls.

Tomorrow I just might finish painting this side of the cabin.

The basement patio is looking mighty fine. I like how it is turning out.

There is more work to do to reach completion. The upper wall needs to be topped off. The landing stones in the foreground may need to be lowered a touch. There is a planned step up as you exit the patio on this end. I just need to measure and be sure it will end up as a standard rise for a step. More gravel needs to be added for the base of a future stone floor.

A little over two years ago an idea popped into my head while standing under the cabin in the rain. A patio was born. I have moved a lot of rocks, a lot of gravel and a lot of dirt.

It is looking mighty fine.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Snow Moon

Forget the rain. The first flurries started at 2:30 this afternoon while it was still 38 degrees. The wind quickly followed, steadily growing more wicked.

I wanted to finish a few things before the rains and/or snow came. Rigid insulation had been added on the outside of the main girder to add more R-value to the sewer insulation box. This was covered with wood and primed for painting before it could get wet from splashing water off the roof.

While I contemplated the idea of the day getting a bit warmer before the priming work, the small gas line protective box had all of its fine detail trim completed. Warm it did not get. At least the wind wasn't blowing just yet.

I imagine looking at all these little details can get tiresome for some blog readers. What is the big picture like?

On this Thanksgiving day I am grateful for a cozy cabin that is sealed off to the elements. The exterior work for all intents is done. A bit more trim work on the ceiling of the basement patio and a cover on the outside of the girders to hide the straps and bolts can be done anytime.

There are four major mouse welcoming points that need to be closed off soon. I am afraid that the mices inside there now will just have to be sealed up inside. I just bet they are all nice and cozy in there. I wonder how much food they have managed to pack away with them? Varmints!!!

The view of the cozy cabin from the road gets lots of lookers. On the next sunny and warmish day I just may need to clean and paint the bottom of the columns now that the soil level has been lowered.

I am grateful that the house of Lowes is no more and that the regular commuters can notice the progress made during the hidden months of green and fall. I am grateful that my parents have made this mountain home possible for me.

I watched the snow massing at the border during a dinner with fresh beets, carrots and leeks from the roadside vegetable garden. With minimal effort there was home grown food to be had from the bounty of the land on a Thanksgiving day.

The snow moon rose as the passing flurries grew thicker. The wind began to howl.

Two grown kitties decided they would stay inside. Will tomorrow be a White Friday for me?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Road Into Winter

There is a 60% possibility that on Friday morning I will wake up to a world transformed. The current conditions of a barren twiggy brown could turn to black and white.

That is why the road into winter must be planted with conifers. The requirement for the color green is encoded in the DNA of a gardener. I will be needing green in my garden to be to take me through the winter.

The wild cultivated garden looks mostly like this. Much of the structure comes from memory. Pockets of conifers and expanding drifts of evergreen rhododendrons can not begin to fill a garden well over an acre in size. The resident gardeners preference for floral displays, dominant habitat of shade and fleeing the scene of the garden in winter has resulted in sparse winter interest or structure. They're not here. They don't care.

My garden will have to be different. It will need to proudly claim its gardeness throughout the year. Conifers, structured paths, stone work, sculpture, evergreen screens and walls, whatever it takes to draw me outside into the garden all year long will be done.

One day I might even be able to afford some funky and fun specimen conifers for focal points.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I dreamed I was in an apple orchard at the peak of harvest season.

Actually there are dreams of getting some decent sized apples from the best tasting tree in the ridge top garden. After two years of suggesting by certain someones I finally climbed into the top of that apple tree and cut out upwards of two dozen, small to large, fifteen foot tall water sprouts from the top of the tree.

It is hard to tell the difference when the background is all bare branches. Trust me there is significantly less of the apple tree. The next step will be to trim out upwards of 70% of the remaining smaller stems and branches. Less fruit set means bigger and better apples next fall.

If we actually harvest and eat them, then the deer are far less likely to come in there and stomp all over everything while they are eating all the small fallen apples on the ground. Or at least we can hope.

The last piece of beadboard is on the bottom of the sewer insulation box and the other trim job is well under way.

A narrower corner trim piece will go along the edges of the boxes. Hopefully I can just reverse the corner trim and put it in the recessed corners on the sides and bottom up against the girder.

So if southern tradition says I need to paint my patio ceiling light blue like the sky to keep the haints away,

Why not dream about painting a real the sky up there?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Up There

The sun was trying to come out. Would it be sunny up there when I got back home? The forever undulating fog between top and bottom always leaves you guessing.

Yes the sun was out up there for a spell. Long enough to finish the banister and railings on the stairs headed down to the basement patio and the gardens to be.

The ridge line of Sandy Mush Bald to Crabtree Bald is a bit higher than me. I am in one of the folds on the side of the mountain off to the left and out of this picture.

It is a little late for a dumbwaiter. The thought entered my mind more than once of course. It would be an extravagance at the expense of exercise. I will just have to use the rear service entrance stairs to fetch light snacks and refreshments.

Now that there are handrails

When the fog descends to engulf my world

It will be safer to appear like an apparition floating down the grand staircase.

Or to disappear into the mists in ascension.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

All The Little Details

The cold returned. The rain returned. It looks suspiciously like it wants to snow. It is only fair considering it is now heading into the last week of November.

The physically easier detail work that needs doing to complete the ambiance of the basement patio proceeds with cold fingers. It is easier in the sense that the parts are smaller. You must discount the crawling on your hands and knees and lying on your back in the dirt to screw in screws and hammer in nails upside down. Soon it will all be done.

I like the way the lattice between the posts of the back stoop turned out.

A similar treatment will be considered for the front porch posts, though the steep elevation change along that run of posts will necessitate a slightly different approach.

This whole corridor is turning into a marvel of engineering. Thank goodness for the building contractor. He can see things I have trouble visualizing. Once the concept is worked out I can concentrate on some of the smaller details.

Both banisters and railings for the long steps are built and one of them was actually fastened into place today during a break in the rains. Be good to have those when the steps are covered in snow and/or ice. I have this determination to check things off the list as finished before I head inside for the winter. I can certainly try.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

And The Winner Is

The entry for Gardening Gone Wild's November photo contest is

Into The Wilderness - Back Home

Thank you so much to everyone who voted. The final tally was:
Into The Wilderness - 10
The Edge Of Winter - 7 and
No crossing - 3.
As best as I could tell with some votes just as indecisive as I was.

The funny thing is the chosen winner was only added to the choices at the last minute. It was good, but not the most striking image to me.

I'd have to go back and count but I think The Edge Of Winter would have won as everyone's favorite photo. I need to win me an Amaryllis though so many of you voted for the most likely to win, not necessarily your favorite. That is so good of you.

Thanks again for the help in picking an entry. There is some strong competition and you never know what will strike the judges interest. It is fun trying, more so with a little help.

You would not believe how long it took to make this post with the heinous Hughes satellite internet punishing me with mega slow speed that drops the connection half the time. I keep mentioning this so it will come up in searches when people are looking at this service. Bad publicity. Take that Hughes, you lousy ISP that charges the same price as reliable high speed internet.

The Punishment - Phase Two

Adobe patiently waited its turn. It has now contacted its Mother Brain and is downloading updates. Hughes satellite internet service detected a breach in its stingy access to the internet and BAM! My computer is now back to slower than dial-up speeds.

Time to step away again. I will put on some long underwear to go plant mums before it really is too late and do some more work on the cozy cabin's sewer insulation box.

One of the good things about my own computer is that it has the photo files from a former life.

A garden on Maui in the third week of November toys with the idea of snow in the form of a Philippine Poinsettia, Euphorbia leucocephala.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nobody's Home

Another day of paid work - I am grateful for massive quantities of fallen leaves - so I stopped to get a closer look at the house at the end of the holler. Nobody is home.

It is a tidy abandonment. A few boarded up windows, screen door frames on the porch and a rock by one door to keep it from blowing in the wind no doubt gave its emptiness away. It looks like it should be a home and I can picture my own grandparents living here though their home was quite a bit different.

Kind of like how my Hughes satellite internet service was the other day. Nobody was home.

I switched computers and hooked my own back up. It immediately began to talk to the Mother Brain to find out what it had missed while it was dormant. Massive uploads of updates and repairs ensued and that stinking Hughes network punished me by slowing the speed to a crawl. I thought it best to step away during my punishment so the monitor didn't end up smashed.

There were no animals in the barns and no cows in the pasture.

And when I got home late this afternoon there was no Crawford and no Collar waiting to be let in and fed. I called and called and didn't hear even the faintest stirring. Yesterday they were sitting on the front deck waiting when I arrived. Today they were no where to be seen.

When I left this morning the hunters and the surveyors were parked at the turnout. This afternoon, no kitties were home. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. Where oh where are my sweet kitties now?

Normal fluctuating Hughes internet speeds have returned. My punishment is over. The computer is still updating itself from all the data supplied by the Mother Brain and has to be restarted several times a day.

One reason to switch computers is that the other one has issues with the graphics card and some sites can cause it to freeze up. When that happens I won't visit those sites anymore. Kylee's Our Little Acre was one of the places that froze up the computer. I will have to visit her now and see what happens.

An hour after dark Crawford and Collar decided to come home. Were they hiding some where afraid to come out? Had they gone for a really long afternoon stroll? Oh why oh why don't my sweet kitties come the moment I call?

A Very Late Fall

Dense fog usually follows the rains.

You just never know if it will be down there or up here and if it is down there it could be anywhere. Go over a hill and you can be entering or exiting the fog. Go up or down and you could be entering or exiting the fog. Fog has a mind of its own.

I drove through it and found it was fog free in town. A sunny and cool day that was quite pleasant for garden tidying and leaf raking.

There will be more leaf raking to come because the Liquidambar styraciflua 'Rotundifolia' is just now deciding that it is fall. This Sweetgum has rounded leaf margins and is fruitless, so it does not have the spiny balls which is nice. It is also putting on a much better fall showing than last year.

There was even a bit of actual fall color on some of the Japanese Maples. Just above the top of this picture the leaves were all a crispy brown in a rather distinct line.

Seeing this and another Japanese Maple in a different garden in a blaze of color has me convinced that the marginal hardiness of these maples here often means the fall color is lost to early freezes. It seems these maples need a longer time to turn. The blast of snow and patchy frost we have had so far froze the leaves of entire trees, parts of some and missed others all together. Then it turned warmer and has stayed that way for the most part. The ones that were not frozen are now putting on a color show that I have not seen before.

Even this camellia was zapped last year in its prime. The plant is quite hardy. The flowers are not. It might even manage to finish blooming before the next blast of winter arrives. Good thing it sets flower buds at the end of the summer growing season.

Quite the nice camellia at the edge of its hardiness zone. It does have a good south facing exposure, half day full sun actually, not a camellia preference, in a planter bed in the parking area. Definitely not a planting situation I would recommend for a camellia further south.

It was nice to come down from the naked mountain top and see bits of fall left over and very late in the season.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Misty rains have returned on brisk winds. Despite their southern origins, these winds are anything but warm. I add another long quilted layer beneath my jeans before heading over to the cozy cabin to keep plugging away at having my own home.

I bundle up as the earth gets naked. The stark bareness reveals a hidden layer of the forest. In the lush greenery of summer, the lichen covered tree trunks just don't catch your attention.

The grey skies and wet bark accentuate the chiffon lime green of the lichens. Most of the larger tree trunks are mottled to greater and lesser degrees with this living apparel. There is always something to see when you look, even in the solemn hues of winter.

The sky rises and falls and the resting forest beyond the grassy knoll changes mood with it. Small changes become more evident within the larger seasonal changes over watchful time.

The winter undergarments of the front roadside bed have been revealed. The tall Iron Weed, New England Aster and some of the Goldenrod were cut down to show off the golden hue and dried plumes of the Miscanthus. Next year I will try not to divide them just to see how much bigger they will get. At least I will not divide all of them.

This bare earth reveals just how much ground a new garden really needs to cover.

Monday, November 16, 2009


At the top of this first rise, about eighty feet past St. Francis is the property line and the Haywood County line. From there you descend into the Kingdom of Madison. Sometimes I think the water over there must be a bit off. It is a land filled with characters.

Through the trees, the mountain on the far horizon is Sandy Mush Bald. It is another 1000 feet higher in elevation than this low spot on a North Carolina mountain top. I am fairly certain that ridge forms the Buncombe County line. I guess I live in the tri-county region.

After Saturday's hubbub of activity, Sunday was a very quiet and peaceful day. Sundays are nice. It is illegal to hunt on Sunday.

Just over that line is an old road that runs parallel to the county line and for a mile or two into the woods. It is no longer drivable, but it is used by hunters who actually get out of their trucks and walk into the woods. These hunters don't have hounds.

The activity resumed today. Something else with orange highlighting was going on over there again today as well.

Good progress has been made on covering the sewer line insulation box. One end piece and the bottoms will complete the job. Then I will be left with all kinds of intricate borders needing trim. I could be lazy and leave all the box edges and corners untrimmed. They have fit together nicely with next to no gaps. But I will not have mices in my house. Every conceivable entry point no matter how tiny the sliver will be sealed. There is still a mouse up in there now.

The piece that went around the sewer line as it exits the cozy cabin fit in nice and snug. I even primed it before screwing it in place. It looks good, but there is a very generous, mousezilla sized hole on the left side of the sewer pipe where it rests on top of the cement foundation column. Some thinking will be needed to come up with the best solution for this hard to reach grand entry for mice.

This is one very busy intersection beneath the cozy cabin. With everything going on in this space you wouldn't think one thing would have stood out and been bugging me for months.

Well I couldn't stand it anymore and removed the offending element. Back in the post Hurricanes and Beadboard is a shot of the diagonal brace between the two posts of the kitchen stoop that had been making me crazy. Instead, the space between the posts will now have horizontal boards forming a lattice of sorts. I started with one 2 x 6 at the top and bottom. Next will be two each 2 x 4's at top and bottom and the center will be five 2 x 2's. I hope that turns out nice. If not I'll just rearrange the pattern.

The railings and banister for the long stairs still have to be put up and that will be the end of the busy intersection.

Speaking of busy. Bulbarella complained that something was digging around in her newly planted stoloniferous tulips and all along the fence and property line. Someone needed to go up there and figure out what was going on up there. That is when I noticed the bright orange ribbons of plastic tape tied to the fence about every forty feet. Someone has been up there surveying and good lord it looks like a huge herd of deer has been camped out in the ridge top garden for a couple of days.

We do not normally have deer issues. There certainly isn't much left for them to eat, but in the hurricane wet ground their sharp pointy hooves were churning up the ground big time. I even found places where it looked like they had laid down to sleep and left body imprints in what is left of the garden.

Poor deer. On one side are hunters. On the other side is a house full of people. I wonder is this the perfect spot for them? They are too close to a house to be shot at and just out of sight of the house. No wonder Crawford has been so freaked out and jumpy the last few days. I've had to push him outside with my foot. There has been a major commotion going on at the border.

This afternoon I heard a clanging and pounding sound. I had seen two trucks parked at the roadside pullout when I pulled in. I went to investigate and found the surveyors next door. Hi there, we really want to know why this land is being surveyed. Is it going to be sold?

I have walked back there often enough to know the only good place to park a house is right at the top of the hill just on the other side of the fence. Below the old road it gets mega steep.

The surveyor man said no it was not going to be sold. The owners had passed away and the children would be keeping it. They just needed it to be surveyed to know what they had, all 200 acres of it.

Bulbarella and the Building Contractor will be happy to hear that their only new neighbor is still going to be just me when I finally move out of the luxury basement accommodations of the resident gardeners house.