Tuesday, November 28, 2017

French Broad River views: Biltmore Estate

I really don’t care about the house, but the estate is wonderful. A walk yesterday late afternoon was lovely. We’re so lucky to be close by, and to be passholders.


Thursday, November 23, 2017


In a difficult time in our country, I’ve found comfort in sharing - sharing fresh vegetables, sharing encouraging advice, and connecting with folks that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

I’m a secular person, but admire the way that faith communities make this part of their lives.

Launching a paper lantern:  on a Full Moon celebration, Hoi An, Vietnam
A community Thanksgiving meal this week was a wonderful way to connect with others and share delicious food, donated through the generosity of our local providers - grocery stores, farms, food distributors, and our umbrella foodbank organization (Manna Food Bank), not to mention the small contributions from community gardens like Southside.

Helping distribute fresh produce yesterday afternoon in an adjacent county, I was so glad to be able to help — we had such wonderful vegetables and fruit to share, including some greens from the Southside Community Garden — it’s a good thing to be able to do that, thanks to the various networks that help reallocate great food (and away from landfills). I was volunteering with the YMCA Healthy Living Mobile Pantry again. Love it.

In our loop through downtown Asheville in late afternoon, it was a beautiful late fall day. It was remarkably empty of visitors ( it was Thanksgiving, after all), but there were also more “travelers” and homeless folks evident. They’d gotten a pass, I think, for Thanksgiving, and we’re tolerant in Asheville.

Woody made a number of folks happy, including a homeless couple who seemed to be channeling long ago happy experiences with dogs.

Another young fellow had petted him and said Happy Thanksgiving. We came upon him later, staying in an alcove on a quiet downtown street, having found an outdoor outlet to plug into, so he was watching a movie on his phone. He said he was going to stay there overnight, since he’d traveled to Asheville to visit his mother, and was headed back to Florida.

So my gardening companion asked if he’d like some dinner, he said yes, and since there were few places open to buy him something, we thought the best thing was to take him some of our simple turkey dinner after we’d returned home. Nothing fancy, just some turkey breast slices with gravy, dressing, roasted yams and brussels sprouts, and a couple of cookies. But it was all home-cooked.

Tim said he enjoyed it.

I’m grateful tonight for what we have. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, to me, and giving thanks for our many blessings.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Brilliant Japanese maples

Our neighbors all have Japanese maples. They’re the same cultivar, apparently, even though planted on 3 different landscape. They’re a deep scarlet now, still with all of their leaves.

Our ginkgo in front finally lost all of its leaves after the first real frost of the fall.

Click on the image to see the entire view -- it's a much nicer and complete image.  (Blogo is letting me post and include images, but they're not necessarily sized as instructed!)  At least I can post on my iPad. (Note: now on my desktop, the image looked squished, but I was able to resize it via the standard Blogger platform. Go figure.) 

Obviously this wasn't a great photo (from my iPad) to start with....but, it looks a lot better full size.

It makes a wonderful view out the front door, as we leave, or enjoy the morning through evening light.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Antler Hill Village

We’re passholders at the Biltmore Estate, so we go frequently, to walk along the French Broad River, in the gardens, and around Bass Pond. 

Every once in a while, we visit the House, usually during Christmas display times during the day. 

Deerpark Restaurant does a really nice holiday lunch buffet, so sometimes we do that, too. Their ham was amazingly good last year, and I normally would say “I don’t like ham.”

This is the first year for Antler Hill Village to be lit up for the holidays, and they’re doing it right. This grove of pines towards the stable yard was lovely.

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Friday, November 17, 2017


A wonderful online (and global) class had a webinar today — with just 8 of us. Amazing to talk to folks around the world and see their faces.

Our facilitator, in Ireland, asked us, what sustains us, today.

I came back to nature and community. I celebrate what I see everyday out in my walks, hikes, or even driving around and enjoying the view in our mountain town.

But I also reflected on the community that my various online groups have meant, as have our experiences around exchanging our house with others from near and far.

It’s all about trust, building community, and reaching out.

I’ve been spending more time volunteering recently with YMCA Healthy Living Pantry distributions in my mountain town. We’re a huge tourist destination, but also an area, in Western North Carolina, that has significant food insecurity issues. It’s a good thing to help.

I had no real understanding about these issues before we bought our house in Asheville.

In the Upstate of SC, where we lived before, there were community pantries, which we gave to; here in Asheville, we have food insecurity, as well as a much more obvious homeless population. It’s impossible not to notice.

I volunteer in a community garden in a historical African-American part of Asheville. Our harvests go to a by-donation kitchen that’s in a community center next door.

Is this a good thing?  Well, of course, I feel good, although I’m a better teacher than market gardener. The connection of sharing food, grown and harvested in community, is truly a sustaining activity.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Moving towards winter

We’re fortunate in the Southeastern U.S. to have a relatively short winter.  Fall, with its colors, has been extended with climate change, it seems.  Mild winters have been punctuated by polar vortex blasts.  A blast is predicted over Thanksgiving.  Really?

But, I’ve swapped my warm season clothes for cool season ones in my closet, so I’m ready.

Beaver Lake
A recent early morning walk at Beaver Lake reminded me of how nice fall can be.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

The last of fall colors

The ravine woodland forest continues to be luminous, with yellows and spots of red.  But the freeze last night, and the cold temperatures to come, will be the final push.  The ginkgo in front, again, is slowly losing its leaves (quite unusual) -- the abscission layers haven't been triggered for the leaves to drop all at once, as is normal.

I need to check again on the venerable old ginkgo in the neighborhood.  Last year, just after Thanksgiving, it was amazing. Leaves drifting down, instead of dropping all at once, is a difference with weaker abscission layers, I guess.

The view from my studio (on the ground floor) has been lovely, as has been the view out the kitchen windows.

Studio view
Early morning kitchen view

Same forest, just from below and above.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017


We’ve loved our sassafras trees, so transplanted many saplings from our Clemson house to our house in the mountains.  Thankfully, we’d had both males and females, so HAD saplings to transplant.

The two planted next to our neighbor’s house (a rental) some years ago are so interesting right now (I see them out the upstairs window) — their fall color is so different.  The tree on the left is yellow; the one to the right is dark red.  How interesting!

I found no mention on previous years’ blog posts about this, only happy comments about their flowering in spring, so this must be a curious weather anomaly.  Here’s what they look like now.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fall color

It’s been a great fall color year for two of the pignut hickories in the ravine forest. They’re a beautiful clear yellow, with almost all of the leaves still on the trees.  A neighboring hickory, in contrast, has almost lost of its leaves.

The ginkgo in front is a glorious mix of yellow and green, quirky in color as it is in shape.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

A luminous Japanese maple

I'm not normally a fan of Japanese maples, as they don't really "work for a living" in my normal screen of gardening for nature or growing edibles.  (Our native maples do a better job of feeding insects that feed birds, etc.)  And, I haven't been entranced by Japanese maple stories, although I know they must be interesting.  A recent garden group trip to an iconic local Japanese maple nursery (Mr. Maple) left me impressed with the number of cultivars!

An unusually yellow Japanese maple
Ginkgos have been a feature in all of our gardens because they're living fossils and have a good story, not because of their wildlife attributes (minimal), as have tulips, so maybe we do have exceptions.

However, this beautiful Japanese maple, an unusual yellow color (the iPhone and Photoshop want to see the reddish tinges), caught my attention this morning.   It was luminous in a home garden along one of my favorite neighborhood walking routes.