Tag Archives: White Squirrel Festival

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


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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.

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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.

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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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Spring has arrived – finally – in the North Carolina mountains … and there’s music in them thar hills


Spring has sprung in Brevard. High time, too. The raised bed garden has gone begging longer than I’d hoped for. But the recent warmth has pushed the envelope and it’s time to get in gear garden-wise.

But Brevard is more than just jamming seeds into black dirt. There’s music in them thar hills and with tourist season just around the corner the little town has begun to stir from its cold season slumber.

Alas, Ellen, Tim and the girls will get a visit from me in short order. Tending to the garden will be left to the caring hands of neighbors and Robbie. 


April 23, 2018

Ellen/Reid: It’s raining this morning but for once I won’t be cranking about it since the lawn and the garden could both use the moisture. The peas, romaine and spinach are all up, the blueberries are booming and the raspberries seem to be making a tepid recovery from whatever ailed them. There’s a chance for a trip to the nursery later today for some herbs to grow in pots on the back deck. Space in the raised bed garden is too precious for herbs, what with tomatoes and peppers on tap in the near future. Ellen, tell Tim the two of us will need to sit down while I’m up there to plot the plans for the the deck extension which should be started in late May or June. Hopefully I should be able to do most of the labor.

Kitty and Tom Bohr were here for the weekend and it was really great to host them. They are salt of the earth people and it also gave Tom and me a chance to kibbutz about our upcoming 30 day trek through the French Alps. fullsizeoutput_3014It really hasn’t been on my radar at all, but as you both know Tom is a planner extraordinaire and so that has me jizzed up and anxious for the trip. Ordered two trail guides from Amazon a few minutes ago. About the only major purchases left to make are some new ankle-height Salewa boots and some light-as-air hiking poles from Z Pack. Tom highly recommended the poles. The downer is you can’t stow them in a pack but will need to put in checked baggage at the airport. We spent Friday night bar hopping – if you can do such a thing in Brevard – and we polished it off with live music at the Phoenix and the Fox. The band was just crazy.

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You pay your money and take your musical chances at the Phoenix and the Fox. Usually, you come out a winner.

Three good musicians and a woman (the girlfriend of one of the guys) who dressed in a pink princess gown and tooted every so often on a kazoo. It seemed her real job was to waltz through the crowd with the tip jar as the band played on. It was so fun. We walked downtown and back on a lovely evening. 

They went on to Black Mountain on Saturday to visit some other friends from our former church at Caldwell. Robbie and I spent all of Saturday grooving to 10 bands at the Songfest at the Brevard Music Center and it was incredible. $4 Oskar Blues beer, too. Such talent there is here, and from Nashville, too, where many of the musicians are anchored. The raucous finale was two hours with the Wood Brothers, and they were just flat-out unbelievable.

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Oliver Wood had fans reaching for more, more, more music.

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For a trio, the Wood Brothers can really bring the music. Man, I hope they return next year.

They had the crowd jumpin’ and hollerin’, so much so that the sparse security finally gave up trying to keep dancers and revelers from the front of the stage. The crowd just overwhelmed the two person music police. It was the first-ever such fest and it’ll be a sell out next year. I will seek out the Wood Bros. to see them again. Their lead singer, Oliver Wood, has one of the most distinctive voices heard in a long, long while. What a high-energy show.

Sondra and Jody and our Irish buddy Luke will visit this weekend for golf and no doubt music, beer and fun somewhere in town. This is what the mountain home was intended for; to have people visit and spend some time. I’ve offered it to them and Andrea and Kurt while I’m traipsing through Europe and they are welcome to commit at the last minute if that suits their schedules. From the look at the social/music schedule in Brevard there will be a whole lot going on. That’s why I’m excited for the spring/summer season to really be here. The next big thing is the White Squirrel Festival over Memorial Day weekend. They shut down the two main drags, Main and Broad Streets, for live music and vendors and stuff like that. If you guys want to visit, let me know and the arrangements will be made.

I legitimately slept until 9:15 this morning, far and away the longest I’ve legitimately slept in bed for more than a decade. Felt good for a change. Must’ve been the dark, rainy skies that kept the sun at bay. Now’s time, though, to head to the gym to work off the beer/food pounds added this weekend.

Love, Dad

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