Bluejays

Have you ever watched a Bluejay eat an acorn? Around my home in Texas we have Bluejays year round. Actually, we have more Bluejays in winter than in summer but that’s neither here nor there. The Bluejays in my yard tend to eat acorns they find on the ground. Watching them find an acorn to try is fun but the amusing part is the way they approach opening the shell of the acorn…After selecting the best subject for his attention the discriminating Bluejay takes his selection and flies to a comfortable tree limb out of harms way. Once settled on the chosen base of operations the Bluejay proceeds to pound the poor unsuspecting acorn into submission. Once the hard nut has cracked from the pounding, the hardworking Bluejay is able to enjoy the fruit of his labor.

Then the process is repeated…By a multitude of birds on succeeding days. I have never noticed if the supply of acorns runs out or not, but I suspect there are acorns as long as the birds wish to search for them. I would imagine some of the nuts are from the stash the squirrels hide in the yard all fall and winter long.

As I alluded above, at this time of the year, the Bluejays visit us individually. During the winter months they arrive in the yard in great flocks of upwards of half a hundred or more. They appear to rotate through the yard on a regular feeding circuit they share with the Robins that overwinter here as well. Between the two species, they add a touch of color to an otherwise drab vista out my kitchen window.

Back to the grind after a virtual vacation…

Had things gone as planned, today would be my first day back at the office after our North Carolina Mountain fix for the year. Things didn’t and I’m not (back at the office that is). Even though I’ve missed this summers trip, and I’ve seen more of Doctors and Nurses than I really wanted (even though I’m married to one…Nurse that is), the overall experience hasn’t been terrible. I’ve met some new people both in person and virtually through this site.

And I still hold out hope to get to the mountains at some point this year. Like I told the wife, we’ve never been to the mountains in the fall or the winter. Living where we do we have never really experienced either of those seasons. I hope we can manage though to make a fall trip this year…I’d just love to see the mountains change from blue to orange and red.

In the meantime, here is a shot from our first NC Mountain Vacation in August of 2003…

Waterfall Park

A lovely waterfall is the centerpiece of this park just outside Newland on Hwy. 194. The park features a hiking trail and picnic area.

The Vacation That Wasn’t Would Now Be Over…

Had the plans worked out, this morning I would have woke in my own bed for the first time in two weeks. Having left Valle Crucis on Thursday morning the plans called for a drive across Tennessee with a stay in Memphis before finishing the trip with a drive down through the piney woods of east Texas.

I didn’t spend much time categorizing the things we didn’t do on our week in North Western North Carolina. I didn’t want to set myself up for a bout of depression. I can say that at some point I would have driven up the valley named for my ancestors along the creek they called home in 1790. Since I first discovered Linville Creek out of Villas and the connection it has to my particular ancestral family of Linville’s, I try to enjoy the drive up the creek as often as possible. I would like to catch a sunset there someday as the valley faces generally westward.

Just to show that life in the mountains goes on even without us here’s this weeks news from the Farmers’ Market…Sounds like we are missing some good eats and good times at the market.

Summer and the high temperatures of earlier in the month have relented a bit to make the business of harvesting a bit more pleasant. Crops are coming on fast and there is a great selection at both the Wednesday and Saturday markets. The warmth and recent rains have been bringing on the flower power in local gardens and shoppers will be able to choose from a fine assortment of cut flower arrangements at Watauga County Farmers’ Market. Iva Lee Hayes has already started to cut her Dahlia blooms, and expects the new varieties she planted this spring to be ready for this weekend.
Sweet corn is starting to ripen, and farmers are kept busy with the early demand. Reba Green brought 32 dozen ears of Kandy Korn to the market this past weekend, and expects to have even more available for this Saturday. Reba will also have plenty of fresh beets, squash and cucumbers in the weeks to come. Kenneth Oliver is new to the market this year but is proving his skill at growing plenty of broccoli, cabbage, and Kennebec and red potatoes. Kenneth will be bringing a rainbow of pepper varieties in the coming weeks as the fruits ripen; look for peppers in red, yellow, orange, purple and green throughout the summer.
Karl Doege has created over 180 unique designs in Argentium sterling and crafted them into earrings, pendants and key fobs. His one of a kind pieces are all signed and reflect the best of fine craftsmanship. VJ and Jon Bost have expanded their furniture line to offer decorative mirrors made from local wood. It is worth stopping by to see Jon’s whimsical examples of his woodworking skill such as his working trebuchet made from local ash.
Folks at Watauga County Farmers’ Market are pleased that several local musicians have been stopping by to entertain the shoppers and vendors. You can expect the return of Michael Willis and his harp this Saturday, and also Will Barbour performing old favorites and classics on his guitar and harmonica. Get ready for The Worthless Son-In-Laws who will be helping us celebrate Garlic and Tomato Day on August 11th.
The first ever Bamboo Valley Farm Festival will be held on Friday, August 3 at Hickory Lane Gardens. Activities will include live music and a barbecue.  Proceeds will benefit the Blue Ridge Land Trust, the High Country Conservancy, and the National Committee for the New River. If you would like more information or would like to be a vendor please stop by the HLG Growers booth at Watauga County Farmers’ Market.
The 2007 High Country Farm Tour & Garden Tour will be held on August 4-5, 2007, 1-6 p.m. each day, rain or shine. You can learn a lot about our local food system by taking the tour, but for a real insider’s view you may want to consider being a volunteer.  Volunteers needed at each farm to greet visitors and check for or sell farm tour admission buttons, direct folks to parking and explain how the tour at that farm works and provide general information about Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. In exchange, volunteers will receive a FREE button ($20 value) to take the tour on the day they are not volunteering. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, contact Peggy at  919-542-2402 or peggy@carolinafarmstewards.org.
The High Country Farm and Garden Tour is a self-guided tour featuring 14 local, organic and sustainable farms in the High Country. The cost is $20 per car in advance, $25 per car the day of the tour to visit all farms or $10 per car to visit an individual farm. The goal of this farm tour is to raise awareness about where food comes from, who is growing it, and how it is being grown. All proceeds go to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association to support the development of a local and organic food system in the Carolinas.

Source: Watauga County Farmers’ Market <weeklynewsletter@wataugacountyfarmersmarket.com>

I had hoped to now have a few thousand new images to start posting here from the mountains…Looks like that will have to wait till next trip as virtual photography of a virtual vacation leave a little to be desired…Later

Planning our Saturday…Virtually on vacation.

Part 4…

You can find the earlier posts here… Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3

From the looks of the weather report at Ray’s we would probably be spending most of the day lazing around the cabin today enjoying the high temperatures that don’t even hit the lows we are used to…These low 50’s in the mornings are what makes coffee on the deck as the fog lifts out of the valleys such a great way to start the day.

The best news is Ray is predicting the weather this weekend will be gorgeous after a damp Friday. That’s great ’cause tomorrow is the Watauga County Farmer’s Market…This just in from their weekly newsletter (yes we have internet in the mountain cabin…just dial-up though):

Those of you who have been waiting for fresh corn on the cob will be happy to know that Reba Greene will be harvesting her Kandy Korn for the very next market. Reba hopes to have plenty for everyone, but it might be a good idea to come a little bit early to avoid disappointment.

Charles Church will have plenty of his trademark broccoli crop, and will also have plenty of kohlrabi, zucchini, chard, onions and garlic. Bill Moretz will be bringing lots of great smelling fresh cut basil to compliment his variety of vegetables. He will be harvesting two kinds of eggplants: Megal, a neon purple, and Charming which is a darker purple. Bill will also have Gold Rush zucchini, Sun Ray squash, and lots of lettuce including Romaine, Butterhead, and Red Fire which is a red leaf lettuce. Jerry Harvey will round off the bounty with ripe watermelons picked from the family farm.
Mary Prewett is new to the farmers’ market this year, and she has become quite popular with her hand painted and carved gourds with basket woven tops and lids, hand painted driftwood, and hand painted signs featuring bits of country wisdom. Stop by and say hello!

Mostly our time is spent killing time without killing each other…We have a few eating places we seem to end up returning to each year…like pizza on top of Beech, steak and burgers in Boone, barbecue in Linnville. I like to get out early while the family sleeps and take pictures of the mountains to act as a reminder of what I miss when I am not up there…

I am not sure how much further I can take this vv (virtual vacation) without depressing myself. Check back and see if I manage another post or two before we would be returning home…

Thursday – Virtual Mountain Vacation

Part 3…

You can find the earlier posts here… Part 1 & Part 2

Had life not intruded on the best laid plans, this is what I would have seen a whole lot of for the next 7 days…


I had already picked up a nice stack of books to take along. A Ludlum, a Baldacci, a Dillard, a Berry and a stack of guidebooks. When not reading in the hammock which, truth be told, is not as comfortable as it once was I usually spend a my time reading at the picnic table on the deck…

The only thing on our agenda ever on our first day at the cabin is to make the initial trip to the Original Mast General Store to feel like we are back and pick up that first bottle of ginger beer and a grocery run either to Boone or Banner Elk…flip a coin makes no difference. Other than that it’s a day to laze about, walk up the mountain, hit the hot tub, play pool or do absolutely nothing.

I miss the mountains already…

Virtual Vacation

Part One is Here

Had this years vacation not been canceled due to my treatment regime today’s plans called for a pleasant meander from Asheville to Valle Crucis via that bestest of all American Byways…The Blue Ridge Parkway…

Leaving out of Asheville after sleeping in, always makes that initial climb to the top of the ridges such a long anticipated change in attitude and altitude. Leaving the traffic and the modern speed limits behind and settling into the slower, more natural rhythm of the road as it swings in and out of the clouds, through the laurel thickets, windows down and the moonroof open. The cool air blowing through the car after all those hot humid southern miles across five states comes as a long awaited relief. It’s easy to see why southerners have been spending summers in these mountains for so very long…hoping to escape the long hot summer days and not much cooler nights.

So here we are on the Parkway heading north. First stop is always Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. Stretch the legs, enjoy the view, make a potty run. It’s too late to really enjoy the peak bloom in the Gardens. The guide book says there is a short trail leaving from the Visitor Center. We have never taken the time here so close to the beginning of our day to do the almost one mile hike…Maybe next trip.

Once I can gather everyone up and get back on the road, the next section of the trip is usually short. It’s just about 10 miles to the turnoff to Mount Mitchell State Park. It is almost impossible for any vehicle I’m driving to drive past that turnoff…I don’t know what it is about that road, but every time I’ve driven the Parkway I’ve had to drive up to the peak. This year I would have passed it by rather than fight the construction on top…

The next stop we generally make up the Parkway is all the way up past Little Switzerland at the Orchard at Altapass. The orchard is one of those places that managed to catch my eye even before we made our first trip.

When the Blue Ridge Parkway chose its path, it too followed the ancient buffalo track and came through the middle of the Orchard, dividing it in half. That required a condemnation process, a court fight that eventually reached the NC Supreme Court. The momentum for the Orchard was lost, and it began to decline. Neighbors despaired the loss and braced for the expected development of this beautiful place. The wild growth of the trees became a sadness for Parkway travelers who had seen it in better times.

When it was offered for sale in 1994, Kit Trubey bought the land and her brother Bill Carson with his wife Judy started the preservation of the place, including its apples and its memories. The preservation project is underway today, with hayrides, music, story telling, butterfly tagging, free mountain music on weekends, and a store to sell ice cream, fudge, country products, local crafts. The half of the Orchard that lies above the Blue Ridge Parkway has been sold to the Parkway, to assure its perpetual preservation. The remaining land will be protected by conservation easement. The history of the Orchard continues.

This is one stop that tend to last a long time as the wife and kids spend time looking through the gift shop. Me…I wander down through the orchard and check out the ancient apple trees.

From the Orchard we would drive on up the Parkway to the cut off to Linville. After jumping of in Linville it’s just a short run north on 105 past Grandfather Mountain to the turnoff to Valle Crucis. Each year we stay in Valle Crucis we rent a cabin from Valle Crucis Log Cabin Rentals. They have always been great and our experiences with their properties have always been fantastic. They treated us better than expected when we had to cancel this years reservation. I am sure we will be staying with them again. After picking up our keys at the office we’d be looking forward to that drive up Clarks Creek Road to the top of Nettles Ridge… Here’s the view I expected to be watching as the day ended today…

Can you describe the Floyd lifestyle?

One of the places that was on the list for a visit on this year’s Blue Ridge Mountain trip was (and is) Floyd, Virginia. I have made the acquaintance (virtually) of a few residents of Floyd County over the past couple of years and I feel the need to feel that little piece of the Blue Ridge Country under my moccasins. I have been intrigued ever since I first started reading Fred First’s blog, which led to Colleen’s, then I found Doug’s, then it was David’s. Between the four I almost feel like I live in the neighborhood.

Doug posted an essay that I really found quite interesting, I thought I would point a link at it during this, my virtual vacation trip…

Floyd is the young husband getting up at 4 a.m. to feed the animals before he has to drive an hour and a half to his job at the Volvo truck plant two counties away.

Floyd is the farmer up at the same hour, preparing for a long day cutting hay, mending fences, slopping hogs and worrying about the weather and the price of beef on the hoof at

Go read the rest …
Source: The Floyd lifestyle | Blue Ridge Muse

There seem to be a few things that Floyd County Virginia is famous for:

  1. Mabry Mill – The most photographed spot on what must be the most photographed road in America. Here’s my version from a rainy day in June of 2004…
  2. Fred’s Barn…the most photographed barn in the Blue Ridge Mountains (mostly by Fred).
  3. The Floyd Country Store

    The Floyd Country Store is more than a store. For generations it has been a place where people gather,conduct business, and enjoy each other’s company.

    About 25 years ago the store became known for its Friday Night Jamboree, an evening of traditional Appalachian music and dancing. Old-timers and new visitors come together to celebrate the local heritage and experience the joy of an old-fashioned family night out.

  4. Cafe del Sol – Hangout of the Floyd Bloggers. That’s Bloggers with a “B” not Cloggers with a “C”. Though I am sure a lot of Clogging goes on on the weekends…
  5. FloydFest 2007

    We are all travelers across the way; sometimes along the journey we come to a place so profound we must look more closely. Such a place is Floyd, home to magic and The Floyd World Music Festival. A crossroad for those searching and finding… perhaps themselves! Come across the way and if you listen you will hear.

Do you have a “Famous Floyd” fact or location I should add to my itinerary? Leave it in the comments…

Plans delayed…trip postphoned…

The plans for this years vacation to the mountains would have had us driving from north of Atlanta to Asheville via Cherokee today. We had planned a tour of the Cherokee Village today with lots of stops to photograph the mountains (like these from last year).


On last years trip we stopped for the night in Chattanooga, Tennessee before driving into the mountains heading for the home of the Eastern Cherokee. The heat caused us to postpone the our tour of the Village after we did a long wander through the museum. We planned this year to make up for that missed opportunity.

Our plans for the night were to stay in Asheville and spend tomorrow at the Biltmore Estate. This is one stop my wife has always wanted to make, she just did not want to drag all of our young ones through the mansion (even though our youngest is 17 this year, it’s not an attraction that appeals to the MySpace crowd). I do not know what it is about huge gilded houses that attract women so…maybe it’s knowing they don’t have to dust and clean the bathrooms.

Wondering about the wonders of this remarkable home?

Q: Where did the name “Biltmore” come from?
A: Vanderbilt created the estate name by combining two words, “Bildt,” for the region in Holland where the Vanderbilt family originated, and “more,” an old English word meaning upland rolling hills.

Q: When was Biltmore constructed?

A: Ground was broken in 1889, and construction continued through 1895. George Vanderbilt opened Biltmore House to family and friends for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1895.

Q: What did it cost to build the house?

A: As research continues, we hope to be able to find more receipts and documents which will give us at least an estimate.

more faq’s

With a second night in Asheville we planned to be well rested before heading north up the Parkway on Wednesday.

I’ll continue this Virtual Vacation on Wednesday…