Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A beautiful sunrise

The morning light was extraordinary in the way winter light can be - clear and reflective at the same time, without the mistiness of summer humidity.
This morning's red tints illuminated clouds above the ravine.

When I left later to walk, reflected light on the mountains in the distance was an unusual amber color. Beautiful.


A beautiful sunrise

The morning light was extraordinary in the way winter light can be - clear and reflective at the same time, without the mistiness of summer humidity.
This morning's red tints illuminated clouds above the ravine.

When I left later to walk, reflected light on the mountains in the distance was an unusual amber color. Beautiful.


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Galway, Ireland

I'm putzing around with photos taken on my iPhone yesterday, with no luck getting the edited versions (on Apple's Photo) to post on my iPad, via an old blog interface app (Blogsy).
Apple and Google (the host of this blog's platform) are wary cooperators, it seems.

I totally get the appeal of FB, although not my natural medium. I'd really like to post a gallery of today's photo's from Connemara, however!


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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The importance of green spaces

Leaving our green and ancient mountains yesterday, heading to a place with a culture much older than ours (Ireland), which is even greener, has me thinking about our relationship with place.

A friend in an online circle had recently posted about how she'd decided to move back to the mountains, after almost a year of being at the the beach; it had taken that time for the understanding to unfold that she'd realized that she'd moved from the place where she felt best and at home. 

Her reflections touched me- there are many places that I don't feel "at home" from natural to human created, but coming "home" to the mountains of Western North Carolina, with its green and worn slopes, has always felt good. Mountains, rivers, streams, and green forests mean home to me.

I was thinking as I traveled, that the experience of being in airports and on planes, creates a weird and disorienting sense of disconnection with the natural world. 

The loudness of the traveling hub-bub, 3 flights in a long journey, traveling all day, and overnight to Ireland had me a bit discombobulated and feeling quite unlike myself, but travel on planes always does that. Trying to "escape" via reading, noise-canceling headphones, etc. just reinforces the oddness of how these big machines take us so far, in non-human time frames, so quickly.

I've traveled to many different places, but I've found that the necessary air travel is just something to endure, on the one hand, while being grateful for the ability to do so, to experience the wonder of exploring new and different places.

I'm thankful that arriving, and being back in fresh air and, at least, semi-natural surroundings, can help me re-balance and "re-root" to where I really like to be, surrounded by (at least) some semblance of the natural world.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015


Heading off tomorrow is a familar dance -- of preparation, both for travels and at home. House sitter and plants - check; last vegetables harvested and cooked - check. Refrigerator empty of things that could moulder away - check.

But the more interesting reflection is around the journeying.  Heading to a developed country (Ireland), where they speak English, is hardly as challenging as traveling in the developing world, but perhaps that's a good thing.  We'll be able to enjoy the fellowship as well as the spectacular scenery!

Ireland will be a lovely country to visit, I'm totally sure.  It'll be free-wheeling, with a rental car, anchored by a 5-day retreat in the Beara Peninsula. 

It's reminding me of previous (solo) trips to England and Germany, for some reason.

I'm taking much the same gear, but not my old digital camera -- it'll be the iPhone this time along with our small Panasonic.

This was my gear in England, on a self-guided garden study tour several years ago.  It's the same for this trip, minus the acquired Kew Gardens tote and the BGCI bag, which I still use for all sorts of things, but including a small backpack (for the laptop, ugh, which I'm bringing because of the retreat, and its voice to text capabilities).  Only when there's a car in the plan does a laptop make sense anymore.
In recent travels, I've just taken an iPad with a camera connector.  But it's time to upgrade all of these devices.  Hhrmph.  This will be the first trip, however, with a smart phone -- I'll swap out the SIM card in Ireland for a local one, for data access on the road.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Observing the natural world

A FB post reminded me of this;  there's tremendous joy and appreciation in observing the natural world. That's why I've been blogging for so many years, recording my observations and appreciations, really just for me, but glad to share thoughts with whomever passes by.

My FB presence is almost only my blog feed, but I also love my FB friends -- most are fellow gardeners and natural lovers, so their thoughts and posts are also interesting.

Getting ready to travel into a different part of the world has me aware of the differences - I expect misty rain in late September and October in Ireland, where I'm going, but also expect a landscape that is very different than where I live in the Southern Appalachians, even though we share ancient hills, rocks, and vegetation.

Cajas National Park, Ecuador
This has been my screensaver for some years now - a touchstone place.  I'm reminded of it when I see photos of Ireland.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chopped apples, hand issues, and other conundrums

I think it was the harvesting apples, chopping apples for cider, and making too much apple butter (more chopping) that (finally) had my right hand in revolt.

chopped apples for cider
My index finger had DEFINITELY had enough, as of a couple of weeks ago.  Harvesting veggies, trimming green beans for freezing, switching cutting techniques to avoid aggravating an arthritic thumb --- hrrmph, it said, and it protested, BIG TIME.

It's slowly settling down, but is still quite painful on and off, but is apparently overuse, with thinning cartilage in the main joint.  The nice hand doctor said my final finger issue (on my ring finger) was a mallet finger, so needs a splint for 6 weeks (24/7), after confirming my arthritic thumb.  Ha!  That's a challenge to have a splint on, and still do much of anything normal with my right hand.

Resting my index finger on my dominant hand - that's a huge challenge. Not doing much with my main hand, ditto. I'm doing my best.

Thank goodness for good voice to text apps, and Apple's dictation system (part of the latest operating system upgrade), even if I'm still typing this out on my wireless keyboard....

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Fall colors emerge

Fall colors are peeking out - dogwoods here and there, sourwoods on forest edges, and a few early maples.

This oak leaf hydrangea had an edge of brilliant leaves, with more to come.

oakleaf hydrangea and Blue Ridge view (at NC Arboretum)

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Potting sheds, benches, and other thoughts

I have a wonderful potting bench that's lasted for many years (it's made of cedar, I think, so it's been very durable). 

potting bench with seedlings, shed in the back
I swapped it out for the one I had had initially in the mountains, which wasn't at all the quality of the first. 

I'm sure the buyers of our old house in the Piedmont didn't mind (or notice) - they weren't gardeners, and had my lovely garden shed there, too,  if they wanted to use it.

So I loved to see an excellent homemade garden shed (I just wish I was handy with tools, like that) on the garden tour last Saturday.

Perfect, and inexpensive, too,

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Neighborhood gardens and old houses

Asheville is full of interesting neighborhoods, historic and now upscale, eclectic and gentrifying, mid-century and interesting, etc.

(There are lots of boring nouveau neighborhoods, too, with folks with way too much money who create way too much space for anyone to live in, not to mention, more importantly, the disappearing places for anyone of limited income to live.)  It's the conundrum of life in a tourist town, now a destination for many folks bringing $$ from elsewhere.

We've done that, although we're hardly in the high $$ amount.  But, we're in a great neighborhood, within walking distance of downtown, so we're totally happy in our small eco-infill house.

Yesterday, I went on a garden tour of eclectic gardens in West Asheville, a gentrifying neighborhood, filled with a variety of houses and gardens.

An artist's vignette in a West Asheville Garden
A favorite garden was an artist's -- she'd lived there 26 years, WAY predating when West Asheville became "hip."  (Our street at that time was crack houses and "Sunday" houses).

Today, we went on a tour of the Grove Park/Sunset District Tour of Homes.  It's a venerable neighborhood, too.

Most of the houses were 80-100 yrs old, so reflected the updates of recent owners, which were considerable, in most cases.  As former stewards of an old house (built in 1929), I appreciate what these new owners have done, whether I like their improvements, or not.

There were lovely examples of positive care.  I'm glad for that.

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Harvesting peppers and tomatillos, monitoring greens

I'll be away for a while in the first half of October, prime time for the final harvest of peppers, as well as the full-on onslaught of mustards, lettuces, and arugula.

I planted beets, carrots, leeks, and shallots, too, and will be putting in garlic before leaving. It's an awkward time to be gone in the vegetable garden, and a wonderful time to be here in the mountains, but...

I'll be harvesting all of the peppers (poblano 'Magnifico' and the pizza peppers), tomatillos, and whatever beans (hrrmph) I still have, before I go.

Thankfully, I still have a small bit of room in the miniature chest freezer for roasted peppers and salsa verde.  It's almost filled up, with tomatoes, summer fruits, squash, and green beans, which is fine -- my mid-size chest freezer that was left down in the Piedmont never filled up.

We'll eat as much of the fresh greens as we can before I leave -- the first frost may arrive before I come back, or not!  We'll see.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hmm, more green beans

I've been harvesting green beans for weeks and weeks now, in spite of just having two reasonably modest-sized trellises of pole beans.

I check them twice a day.  This was the harvest this evening.

this evening's harvest
How did that large Romano bean escape my notice this morning? 

And, it's hard to tell in this photo, but this is a good-sized fistful of beans.  Hmmrph.  The harvest adds up quickly.  I have a large bag already in the fridge, in spite of cooking up a lot for company a couple of days ago.

Not to mention the final tromboncino squash and fresh fall greens (mustard spinach and kale) coming in!

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Making apple cider

Cleaned apples ready to be chopped

Chopped apples ready to grind

Ground apples ready to press
Fresh-pressed cider

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Urban foraging (apples)

Just a small part of the harvest
Walking towards an old apple tree that we knew was there (dripping with apples that no one harvests), a friend and I spotted first a pear tree, and then two old apple trees in a suburban landscape.

The house was for sale, and we thought the house might be empty.  My friend went up to check, but found a nice young woman at home, who, when asked about her apples, said "take all you want!"

These trees were dripping with apples -- one a Cortland/Rome like apple - the other a tart small apple.

They were in great shape, for not having had any formal care, and the Asian pears were perfect.  We happily harvested, and I've made apple sauce and an apple crisp, and my friend will be making cider tomorrow. The pears will be eaten fresh.

We didn't get up to the tree that was on up the hill (it's on one of our regular walking routes).  But we were happy with our harvest, none the less!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Basilica sunset

We're lucky to have a beautiful Basilica in downtown Asheville -- I don't remember all of the particulars at the moment, but it was built following a gifted architect's plans, and is a gem.

Looping through downtown this evening, Woody and I saw the sunset beyond the Eastern white pines, with the basilica to the left.  

My iPhone didn't get anything close to the image I saw, but imagine this in focus and in technicolor.

A Basilica sunset

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wild plant foraging, phytonutrients, weeds, and other thoughts

I started my botanical career early on. 

I was fascinated about the plants that grew in the city: in sidewalk cracks, in vacant lots, and along roadsides. A summer spent outside NYC when I was 12 found me peering at these survivors.  How did they grow in these inhospitable places?

I was equally fascinated by the wild, native plants that I saw in the national parks that my family visited (we were tent campers, visiting most of the western national parks, as I grew up).  And, I spent a summer on Mt. Hood as a high-school student interested in science, too, many years ago. Amazing. I visited there again after 40 years, a couple of years ago.
So, when I went off to graduate school, it wasn't surprising that I gravitated towards plants, and weedy ones, at that.  I spent a decade and half studying weedy species and their population biology -- they're incredibly interesting in terms of their germination strategies, vegetative spread, etc. 

At the same time, growing up, I was also interested in nutrition, health, and the welfare of the planet.  My mom was an Adelle Davis fan, and my interests tended towards that, as well.  

"Which carrot, grown where?" Davis wrote.   I'm reminded of this as I'm coming across, increasingly, suggestions that foraging wild foods is incredibly healthful (these wild plants are supposedly extra-rich in phytonutrients -- a very broad category, to be sure). 

But what's really got me musing about this is when my familiar weed favorites pop up as "superfoods" or appear in lists as the top 12 of "the wisdom of weeds" in a upcoming book.

This has been happening over the last decade or so with increasing frequency as "wild foraging" in urban neighborhoods has become more popular.

I've eaten many "wild" foods and some are better than others.  I've scratched henbit, chickweed and dandelion off my list already.  Nettles are probably good -- I haven't tried them yet.  Blueberries, wineberries, serviceberries, etc. -- sign me up.

More thoughts to come.  
kale, mustards, and other leafy greens

I already grow so many leafy greens and nutrient-rich vegetables that we eat all year round, along with additional veggies from the local markets, I find it hard to think that eating curly dock after several changes of leaching water before cooking can truly be more nutritious than my leafy dark kales, mustards, and other greens, grown in good soil! 

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