Monthly Archives: June 2018

Shock and ‘awwww’ … and time to take stock of a rejiggered life

I’ve been a Brevardian/Brevardite a shade over six months now, and it’s probably time to take stock of how life has gotten on in my newly adopted home town, what with giving up a comfortable situation of a nice home and great friends and familiar routine in Charlotte.

A fair amount of introspective thought has been given in the past couple of days to the sudden twists and turns as related to the whirlwind weeks – not months – that landed me here. Ellen and Reid will read an update in the letter to be written and mailed today. Suffice to say it’s some mix of shock and ‘awwww’ – as in how did the uprooting come to be?

For now, however, it’s back to BAU.

June 19, 2018

Ellen/Reid: When your mom sent that photo of you two with Emma and Georgia it just made me smile ear to ear. What a picture. (Dave’s note: that photo is now atop this blog’s home page.) Reid, it’s so good that you got to spend time with them, and this time next week I’ll get my turn. No need for you to come to the airport. I’ll take BART to some station in Oakland. 

A couple of days ago I took a flier on HULU and am watching Japan vs. Columbia in the World Cup. This is about all the TV I need and will ditch cable in pretty short order. I already had downgraded from the whiz-bang package to something more basic but even that is more than is worth watching. I’ll keep the high speed internet but won’t miss the rest.

After extending the red raspberry box by six feet last week, I’m done with building raised beds for a while. Things got out of hand there for a few weeks. Another box for flowers would be sort of nice but like cable, the overall garden can get by without it.


Little Addie, my five-year-old neighbor, helps herself to my bounty of sugar snap peas. This is a partial clue to the answers of why Brevard, why now and why the mountains of western North Carolina.

What will likely be done (probably when I’m back from Europe) is to fashion a walkway to connect the beds from what they call rock dust which is essentially finely crushed granite from a quarry just outside of town. Essentially a mountain is being ground down to nothingness. Ellen, send me a pic sometime of how your new bed is progressing. 

Already the raspberries are starting to pop. The bed has been kept mulched and moist so hopefully there will be a good early crop. What might be done today is take up an offer from Susan, a friend of Robbie’s, to transplant some raspberry plants from her century-old plot. Susan is a native Brevardian and a real gardener. Her yard and garden is expansive and gorgeous. She kind of shamed me into expanding the berry patch. She was right. Four by four feet was too small. I’m not entirely sure what variety her plants are but with any luck they might grow enough to bear fruit in the fall.

We’ve been out hiking more and more, partially to prep me for the Alps, and this afternoon Robbie and me will head up toward the Blue Ridge Parkway for a route she uncovered last night. We typically Continue reading


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Hello, Mr. Hand Sledge: a painful reminder to measure twice (thrice?), cut once …

A still throbbing index finger left black and blue by the errant (read ‘careless’) swing of a hand sledge ought to be reminder enough that knowledgeable construction of any relatively complex project isn’t child’s play.

So it is Ellen and Reid have learned their father is about to embark on a self-constructed deck. The job will stretch whatever skills I profess to own. I can just hear the kids now: ‘One step at a time, dad, one step at a time.’ One can only hope so.

June 11, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Well, the wheels are turning toward a small deck behind the house. A city planner sent me the permit forms and – for a $50 fee and a sketch of the proposed plan – they’ll grant permission to start construction. Building the raised beds gave me a little bit of confidence to do the job myself since it will be a free standing deck without a lot of bells and whistles. There will be some storage space to accommodate Miss Emma. Tim is right that the whole project should be kept simple, although it would be nice to have his engineering and project skills. I’m gearing up for the task at a website he recommended, I just have to remember, over and over and over, to measure twice (thrice maybe?) and cut once. No doubt some additional tools will be purchased, such as a reciprocal saw and jigsaw, longer level, et al to help with the job. There are some details I’ll sweat profusely over. How to cut angled boards and sink footings, etc. But the footings here only have to be sunk 12” so it’s not the four feet or whatever depth you need to dig in the Midwest. We’ll have to see how it goes but I’m kind of excited about it.


I won’t repeat the string of ‘words’ that spewed out of my mouth at the moment sledge impacted finger. “Ouch” was as genteel as I got.

Hopefully there won’t be any more finger bashing with a hand sledge as was done Saturday on the newest raised bed. What an oaf. I just wasn’t paying attention. The thought passed briefly through my mind “You should move your finger” and then – wham! It hurt like hell but nothing split open or broke so I’m lucky in that regard.

Fishing sure was a bust in Charleston. The only game fish landed over two days was a small speckled trout. The rest were junk fish and small sharks. It was so hot that my prediction of water that would be too hot proved true. Cap’n Joe at Charleston Outdoor Adventures and I chatted briefly and he said as much; the bigger reds and trout have gone toward the cooler open ocean waters although some are staying relatively close at the lighthouse on the west end of Folly Island where the big salt creek meets the Atlantic. I might traipse there later this summer but for now there likely won’t be another trip to Bowens Island until the waters have cooled in the 70F range. But it was still fun to be on the water for a change. There’s so much to see.

The local community college nixed any writing classes I might have taught. That’s really okay. It just frees up my weeknights. 

My friends Ray and Dave from Charlotte will come up this weekend for golf and seeing the local Brevard sights. We’ll probably be pretty low key with things; hit a couple of the breweries and hit a couple of diners/food trucks for local food. It’ll be fun to have those guys here. I miss seeing my Charlotte friends but my home gives them a chance to navigate up this way since mountain golf is different from the courses they’ve been playing.

Reid, it won’t be too many more days before I’ll be in California. Excited to see your new place and hear all about the work you’re doing. Haven’t been to the Bay area in years and years. Is is possible to take BART from the SFO airport to Oakland? The assumption is it has to be fairly accessible. Can’t wait to get out there. 

Mid July’s trek to the Alps will be here before I know it. Been stepping up the tempo and intensity of the pre-hike workouts. Robbie is a dedicated hiker and she’s putting me though my paces. Hopefully the weight can be shaved a few more pounds. It’s coming off slower than I might like but even a couple more pounds is better than no pounds cut at all. Starting to go through the guidebooks but my friends Tom and Vince have carried all of the pre-walk planning. I’m chagrined about that.

Alright, enough for today. Gotta tend to the garden (there are now five raised beds) and the weeds don’t listen when I ask them to stop growing. So now it’s hand-to-hand combat.

Love, Dad

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You call this fishing? Perhaps I’d best stay put in the mountains …


This juvenile black tip shark that chomped on a cut finger mullet was about all I could muster over two days of fishing in the heat and humidity.

For the better part of six months, Miss Emma languished high and dry below Robbie’s deck; my sturdy little kayak probably thought her seafaring days were over.

And after last week’s sorry excursion to Bowens Island, it may well be that she and I will be land lubbers for another few months. If you like small sharks and junk fish, well, I’m your guy. Ellen and Reid will see the details of this sorrowful tale later this week.

June 4, 2018

Ellen/Reid: Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’ just popped up on Pandora and perhaps that means I’ve ingratiated myself that much more to what passes for mountains. Ellen, Tim knows this kind of ‘neck music. 

It’s unspeakably gorgeous today. A very clear blue sky – free of rain for once – and the 80F sun is drying us out after a sodden several week stretch of unrelenting rain. But the raised bed has drained quite well and more than once my lucky stars have been thanked that there’s no basement to worry about as a collection place for water. We absorbed better than 24 inches in the span of not quite three weeks. Once the French Broad pushed up and out of its banks the water began a slow march toward the house. The fields out back resembled a lake but it would’ve taken a helluva lot more water to ultimately reach my back door. Trout fisherman have to be shaking their heads since the fish have got to be swimming way downstream if they’re alive at all. That’s too bad since the summer tourist season is upon Brevard. Already there’s been an uptick in traffic, largely from the out of towners. But since I’m a recent alien myself, there’s no sense bitching about it. It’s good for the town.

Alas, my transplanted butterfly bush bid the garden a farewell as it succumbed to something. It just didn’t take to the dirt although it might have had a severe case of wet feet after all the rain. The spinach and arugula have already gone to bolt (seed) and there wasn’t enough picked. The heat surely isn’t good for cool weather crops and next year the seeds will be in the ground at the end of February at the latest. A friend suggested a tent of gauze might save the tender plants from sunburn and that’s another potential remedy. I’ve been infected with another case of raised garden bed-itis since another 5×5 foot box will be built next week. I can’t help myself.

Also, and Ellen you can thank Tim for his help with steering me to construction resources, the wheels are turning rapidly toward a self-made deck. The neighbors are beating me to the punch with very nice designs but I’m bound and determined to give it a try. It won’t be overly ornate but it will also serve as a hiding place for Miss Emma. Pinterest is a wealth of wonderful design inspiration.

There was some tragedy during and after the White Squirrel Festival. The festival hosts something of a Soapbox Derby down the hill on East Broad Street in downtown, and one of the cars went out of control and careened at full speed into the crowd, sending several onlookers to the hospital, one of them a gentleman with a severe head injury. He passed away over the weekend. As I walked on my daily constitutional past the spot of the accident, there were markings where the sorry event occurred. The whole thing has cast a cloud over the festival. More than likely this is the final time racers will zoom down the hill.

At long last, Miss Emma has rightly assumed her perch atop the Camry and as early as I wake up tomorrow morning she and I will make a beeline to Bowens Island for the first time in more than six months.


Yeah, I whine and moan about poor fishing skills but there’s really few places I’d rather be than afloat on the tidal creeks and flats.

I’ve itched to get down there and have missed the saltwater terribly. Stopped a bit ago for a load of frozen shrimp at the store and once this letter is done the rest of the gear will be tossed into the car. The one downer about living in Brevard is it adds another 65-70 miles to the jaunt. For the first time ever we’ll overnight in Charleston at some fleabag motel and make a two day fishing venture out of it. Better than 500 miles down and back in one day. It’s just too much to endure. The salt creeks are no doubt heating up and the reds are likely to have vamoosed to cooler waters offshore but that’s no concern to me. It will just be nice to be on the water. Yeah, but best time to fish in the Spring has come and gone but that’s no biggie. I’ll be up and on the road before first light.

Love, Dad

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The gentleman gardener …

There are Master Gardeners and then there are gardeners. I fall into more of the latter. If that. By now Ellen and Reid know their old man is a little foggy on the nuances and fine points of gentleman agriculture; soil testing, plant diseases, pest control, etc. That stuff is green and growing and provides a meal or two of something to eat is close enough for me.

Wherever it was my move took me, it was a big deal for their dad to have a plot of soil, however large or small, to get his hands dirty. It’s not so much a retiree thing; their grandfather kept a large garden his entire life. I built a raised bed for Ellen a few weeks back and perhaps at some point both will find tilling the good earth firmly rooted in their genes. Just as it is in mine.

May 28, 2018

Ellen/Reid: I’m out on the back deck, a few feet from the raindrops that are forecast to become a deluge later today when we get smacked by the tropical storm churning in the Gulf. At least the grass is mowed and all the garden work is done for the time being. The mama wood swallow is poking her head out of the cedar bird house about 25 feet from where I sit. It’s been fun to watch the brood pair build the nest and conduct their aerial acrobatics. 

I’ve enjoyed the garden plots as much as I thought I would. I just like to get my hands dirty and this is likely a holdover from the influence of your grandfather as a gardener. Both sets of berries, red and blue, seem to be holding their own and are setting fruit as we speak. It’s good they are in raised beds because it’s quite boggy in the flat area. At least there’s some drainage owning to the raised beds so the peas, tomatoes, et al won’t get quite the wet feet that my other plants are experiencing.


I can spend – and have – hours poking around in the garden. I love everything about it, even if my efforts end up an abysmal failure. I can always turn the soil over and try again.

Already the lettuce (arugula and spinach) are harvestable and the sugar snap peas aren’t far behind. The day lillies are about to bloom. I pirated a new butterfly bush from a mountain trail the other day since my prior bush didn’t make it. The herbs, basil, rosemary, oregano and chive, are getting along nicely in pots on both ends of the back porch. A simple compost pile was made of some heavy wire mesh yesterday. Once the butterfly bush is of some size it should hide the two foot high mesh contraption. At least that’s the theory. For the first time, I took a leap of faith to plant a dozen or so dahlias, courtesy of Robbie, in one of the 5×5 beds. They say the blooms will be enormous and bountiful. I’m not much of a flower guy but perhaps those will turn the tide.

For mulch I walk literally 10 feet away to rip out swaths of foot-tall clover that’s allowed to grow unchecked in the enormous field out back. Clover is high in nitrogen and it makes for good – and cheap – bedding for the plants. Plus, it attracts swarms of honey bees. A bunch of it was tossed in the new compost thing to give the rotting process a head start. Coffee grinds, egg shells and other kitchen debris will be added for good measure. A plastic jug is kept by the sink to hold the residue from food prep. With all that lucious clover, in the back of my mind is the construct of bee boxes although I know nothing about how to raise bees. 

To the east of the largest bed is a new squirrel-proof feeder and some surgery fluid for the hummingbirds although none have showed up. And they might not since the nearest trees are about 75 yards away and that’s a long way for them to flit since it takes enormous energy for them to get from one spot to another. 

My Alps hike is coming up, and up too is my weight. Too much food here in Brevard and the doc noticed this week my weight had crept up 11-12 pounds since my last visit. I’ve got to get serious about losing it since each retained pound effectively adds one pound to my pack. I don’t like being this heavy, and needless to say it has expansively impacted my wardrobe. 

Reid, I hope you like the outdoor gear. I tried to notice what 30-year-olds were wearing and buy things accordingly since you know my sense of style isn’t to be trusted. Ellen, can’t wait to see photos of your new raised bed garden in action. It’s good for the girls to dig around and get a feel for the dirt. It’s in their genes to poke around and have fun and watch things grow. Maybe it’ll stick with them as they get older.

The White Squirrel Festival was great fun but heavy rain killed a lot of the late Saturday music and revelry. Sunday wasn’t quite so bad. We’ll just have to look for some of our own white squirrels in November when you’re all here. We’ll find ‘em.

Love, Dad

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