Startin’ to Get Quiet

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It’s gettin’ to be “THAT” time of year. The time of year when the sounds start to change. I know most people think immediately of the visual clues that autumn is upon us. I think of the audio differences.

Hummer Flowers

 The sounds of lawn mowers and weed-whackers have given way to chain-saws and leaf blowers. While the leaves are still on the trees and my hummingbird flowers are at their peak, that the seasons are changing is unmistakable. The acorns are pelting me every time I head into the yard. The sound of them hitting the roof and rolling down always makes me smile. From the sounds of things, the deer and squirrels are going to have plenty to keep them full this year.

 

Another sound that is changing is that of the chipmunks. Gone is the casual play chatter. Now, there’s a definite urgency in their calls and interactions with each other. Soon it will be time for hibernation. Their tunnels must get full for their long naps. The bird and corn feeders are all “fair game” for these little bandits.

 

The change that is the most notable for me is more the lack of a particular sound. It’s one of my favorite sounds and it’s rapidly diminishing. It’s the sound of hummingbirds at play. Since late April, our yard has been a battle ground of competing/playing hummingbirds.

 

Our first to arrive was an adult male who I named “Nelson.” He got that name because he would sit stoically on a particular post guarding his feeder domain from any and all would-be pilferers. He reminded me of the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square.

 

From that point until just a couple of weeks ago, the yard was something akin to the skies over England during the Battle of Britain. There were major and minor skirmishes everywhere. The adult males were always battling for superiority and to claim their territory. The females battled for the best areas in which to nest. Then came the new brood! Much like children, even though there were plenty of feeder ports to go around (we put out 16 feeders – most with 6 ports each), it was only natural that the “kids” would fight over only a few. The sounds of squealing and the whir of wings always sounds to me like the “Ty-fighters” from Star Wars. (I secretly wonder if George Lucas actually taped the sounds of hummingbirds in dives to use for his inspiration.) Now, there are only a few, very large, fat hummingbirds left. When they leave the feeder, the sound and look is much more lumbering. Think C-130 Hercules! The pitch is so much lower as they work to keep their golf-ball-shaped bodies in the air.

 

There is some solace, though, in that the sound of Goldfinches is starting to take over. The seed feeders are filled and hung in place of a few of our nectar feeders (although I always keep at least a couple of nectar feeders going until the snow flies). We’ve had the real pleasure of seeing some more unusual migrants visit these feeders this month (including a gorgeous, male, black-throated blue warbler). Soon it will be almost exclusively the birds of winter.

 

The Chipping Sparrows will give way to American Tree Sparrows. The trees will be full of jays, cardinals, Black-capped chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted nuthatches, and all varieties of woodpeckers. The ground-dwelling White-throated sparrows will come and then continue south. The adorable, Dark-eyed juncos will return for their winter stay.

 

Soon the sounds will be the crunch of leaves and the wind whistling through bare trees. Not too long after that, the almost silence of a snow-covered world. All are special and quite beautiful in their own way, but I must admit to anxiously awaiting, every year, the first true sounds of spring/ summer – the squeals of “my” hummingbirds returning home.

 

Up Next: Cider Mills! Never Knew What I was Missin’

 

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The Best Meal – EVER

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I know I keep promising to discuss the Farmers’ Market/Fall Market in Brighton. The weather just has NOT cooperated. I’m still hopeful, though.

 

In the interim, I started thinking about all the wonderful fruit and vegetables that are available at all the farmers’ markets in the area. It brought to mind my MOST favorite meal I’ve ever had. While contemplating it, I realized with shock that that meal had to be more 40 years ago. What wonderful establishment could create such a meal that I would remember it all these years later and still salivate? Must it have been a “Michelin” star winner? Absolutely, not.

 

The best meal I ever ate was in my beloved Waynesviile, North Carolina. My family were going to go up Eagles’ Nest Mountain (yes, that Eagles’ Nest Mountain of Boojum fame) to look at property for sale. One of our neighbors had joined in a group who had purchased a very large portion of the land on the mountain and were selling building lots. As Aunt Jean’s momma and daddy lived at the base of the mountain, we just stopped by to say hello on our way up.

 

We should have known that we couldn’t just stop by to say, “Hey!” Mom Hyatt always had to feed her visitors. Mom kept a huge “truck garden.” She said she was starting to cut back the size of her garden due to the fact that she was getting up in age. So, her garden was only about ¾ acre. She grew the best vegetables! So, in we had to come, set down and eat. What bounty!

 

On my plate were corn on the cob, huge slices of still-warm tomato, pole beans, cucumbers and onion (in vinegar), and a huge slab of hot, fresh cornbread with a mound of sweet butter. She tried to pour me some buttermilk, but I hadn’t gotten my taste for that yet, so sweet milk it was. Throughout the whole time, Mom Hyatt kept apologizing for not having any meat. Those were still days where barter was common in the area and the trades hadn’t taken place yet.

 

In the current vernacular…OMG!!!! Every bite tasted like a hug. There was so much love in the growing and in the cooking, that this meal would stick in my heart forever. It’s not that I’d never had any of these items before; it was that I’d never had them all straight from the garden to the table like this before – nor have I since.

 

Do you have a meal or meals that stick out in your memory? I’d love to hear about it – as would all of us, I’m sure. Please share your story with us in the “Reply” section. This blog is so much more fun when others get involved.

 

Up Next: I’m Still Hoping for “Fall Markets”

 

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Another Appalachian Tale – Boojum: The Mystery on Eagle’s Nest Mountain

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Earlier I told you about my Aunt Jean who was raised in Waynesville, NC. Waynesville is the county seat for Haywood County. I know an awful lot about Waynesville because my family also owned a house there (until it burned to the ground in 1981 – but that’s another story). It was atop Eagle’s Nest Mountain (about 50 feet below 1 mile high). Eagle’s Nest overlooks Maggie Valley and is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.

Eagle’s Nest is so beautiful that it was a destination back in the day (1880s). The more affluent from the Deep South and city folk from of the big northern cities would get on trains during the summers and head for the mountains. Vanderbilt built his mansion in nearby Asheville (not very far as the crow flies). During that time, a large hotel was built on top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain. The population in little Waynesville would soar. There was also an Inn built at the base of Eagle’s Nest that survived until the 1990s.

This is the tale of Boojum (as told to me by my Aunt Jean Hyatt Richardson).

Long before the masses found the beauty of Eagle’s Nest, a particularly strange manimal (half man/half animal) made his home on Eagle’s Nest. He was called Boojum. Boojum was an early “Bigfoot” type character who appeared to be as much bear as man. He was said to be furry and smelly. Boojum had a real fondness for the beautiful gemstones prevalent in the North Carolina mountains. As you may know, many precious and semi-precious stones are found in their raw state in the area. Among these are rubies, sapphires, garnets, aquamarines, smoky and rose quartzes, emeralds, tourmaline, and citrines. So many beautiful gemstones!

Boojum was said to wander all over the mountains to find these stones and bring them back to his home on Eagle’s Nest Mountain. No one knew exactly where he lived, but many tried to find his lair to find his stash of gems. Boojum was a clever creature, though, and hid them well out of sight.

It is also said that Boojum would occasionally frighten the female visitors to the inns by sneaking up on them as they bathed in the streams and bathing areas. It is also said that one young woman felt pity for the lonely creature and went off to join him. There are versions of the Boojum legend that has him “marrying” this girl, but the one I learned didn’t mention any alliance with any human.

To anyone’s knowledge, no one ever found Boojum or his stash of pretty rocks. They might be hidden in buckets or barrels with water in them to hide them. There are many openings, caves, crevasses, and hidden places still on Eagle’s Nest Mountain (even though it has been greatly developed since).

On a very personal note, my aunt told me once that she was told as a girl that she’d better behave or Boojum would get her. I guess he was used rather like the “boogey-man” or “bogey-man” of non-Western-Carolina upbringing. In the near future, I’ll tell y’all a true story of a night on Eagle’s Nest Mountain that I was almost certain Boojum was gonna get me.

The fancy inn on the top burned to the ground (not unlike our home) early in the 20th century. Let me just say this about the road to the top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain, it’s one of the most twisty, turny, difficult roads to travel. The grades are steep and the switchbacks are many. It was virtually impossible to get modern fire trucks to our house when it burned. I can’t imagine what it must have been like trying to get a horse-pulled water truck to the top in the olden days. The Piedmont Inn (the one near the base) has been pretty much razed for a golf community.

For those of you who enjoyed my Appalachian, folk tales, I found a book that includes these two stories and many, many more. The name of the book is “Mountain Ghost Stories – and curious tales of Western North Carolina.” It was compiled by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett. John Blair is the publisher. They seem to have delved deeply into the myths, legends and ghost stories of the area. I will probably share some of these (giving credit, naturally) in later blogs. If you enjoy these tales, though, I highly recommend this little book.

 

Up Next: Farmers’ Markets In the Fall (or maybe something else ;>)

 

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Remembering 9-11

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I’m sure there isn’t a soul reading this who doesn’t remember exactly where they were and what they were doing September 11, 2001 when the news came out about the cowardly, terrorist attacks against us all. There will be television programs, newspaper, and magazine articles (ad nauseum) to remind us all of the horrors of that day. We will be inundated, once again, with those images and harrowing stories of disaster.

However, there was a whole lot of good that day (and many succeeding days) to remember. I remember people displaying the American flag everywhere. People actually looked out for one-another. There was a sense of great community and shared compassion. I read a great article on Fox News’ website. I’d like to share it with you. I hope when you click this link you will be able to open it. If not, please cut and paste it in your browser. It’s wonderful! I couldn’t say it any better.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/09/06/blind-man-his-guide-dog-and-lessons-learned-on-11/

One vivid memory I have of the good will everyone had toward each other was how differently people drove that day. We lived in the Atlanta area, and there was great fear that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) would be a target. Most companies allowed their employees to go home to their families (and to get out of town). Instead of people driving like maniacs (which, trust me, is the norm in Atlanta) everyone was very careful and indulgent of each other. There was no general panic, just a sense that we were all in a very difficult boat and we needed to row together to accomplish anything. That spirit of cooperation seemed to last for many, many days after the initial attack.

Do you have memories to share of the spirit of togetherness and shared experience on 9/11 or thereafter? I’d love to hear about it. I’m sure we all would prefer to remember the good that came about from the attacks, rather than the fear and disgust.

Up Next: Hello Dolly

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Appalachian Hummingbird Myth

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When I was a small child, we spent most of our summers in North Carolina. My “Aunt” Jean was one of my most favorite people in the whole world. She was from Waynesville, North Carolina. She was married to my mother’s
first cousin, “Uncle” Frank. She told me many stories about the Cherokee and the early fables of her home. Uncle Frank was with the Park Service, so they lived in some of the most beautiful areas of our country. Mostly we visited them in Elkin, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. Later, Waynesville became extremely important to me and I’ll recount that tale a little later.

This is the story that I believe led to my sweet “obsession” with hummingbirds.

Way back in time, the Cherokee believed that they and the animals could communicate. Indeed they believed that the animals and they were kin to each other, just in different forms.

Back then, they believed that tobacco was great medicine. There was only one tobacco plant, so there was great reverence for it. Great care was taken to assure that the plant grew and flourished. That was until the Great White Goose stole it for his own.

The Great White Goose took the tobacco to a land beyond the Hickory Gap. In the Hickory Gap lived evil spirits who hated the Cherokee. They were known to throw stones down on the Cherokee who tried to pass.

With the tobacco gone, many of the Cherokee elders became ill. There was great fear that they would die, so a young brave volunteered to go take the tobacco back from the Great White Goose. Sadly, the evil spirits saw the young brave and threw rocks down on him in the Hickory Gap. The animals stood by helplessly as the young man died, and went back to tell the humans of his loss.

As their friends, the humans, sickened, the animals said they would try to bring the tobacco back. The evil spirits didn’t hate the animals, so most of them got through Hickory Gap. However, the Great White Goose was wise to them. One after the other tried and failed. The Goose even killed the mole who tried to burrow underneath to get to the tobacco.

The humans despaired of ever getting the tobacco back. A revered old woman was on her death-bed and there was great sadness. An old man who had been praying and praying came forward and said that he felt that he knew a way to get the tobacco. He had asked the hummingbird for the secret of his quick flight. The hummingbird told the old magician his secret and a few of his feathers.

The next morning, after much praying, the old man rubbed himself with the feathers and turned himself into a hummingbird. He flew so swiftly and was so small that the evil spirits never noticed him. He flew forward and back, up and down, and darted here and there so that the Great White Goose never saw him. He took as much of the tobacco as he could carry and rushed back to the village.

It was too late for the old woman who had died during his flight. As glad as the villagers were to have some of the tobacco back, they were heartbroken at the death of the dear, old woman. The magician took some of the precious tobacco and smoked it and blew it into the woman’s nose. Miraculously, she came back to life. She begged the magician to use his magic one more time to bring the whole plant back and the body of the brave, young man who had died trying to help his people.

Once again, the old man prayed and sang to the Great Spirit to help him accomplish his mission. This time, he was transformed into a huge hummingbird. His wings were so loud and the wind so intense that the rocks fell in the Gap and frightened the evil spirits far into the caves and creases in the mountains – never to bother the humans again.

The Great White Goose was so startled by the giant hummingbird that he didn’t argue when the magician/ hummingbird took the tobacco plant. On the way home, the old man found the body of the young brave. He
prayed and prayed and blew tobacco into the nose of the lifeless youth. Another miracle occurred. The youth came back to life and helped carry the tobacco and the old man (who had turned back into a man from exhaustion from his hard work and use of magic) back to the village.

The villagers were so happy to see the old man, thrilled to have their tobacco plant back, and grateful for the return of the brave, young man, that they promised to care for the tobacco plant and share it with the animals and spread the seeds throughout the land.

I really enjoyed sharing this story with you. It goes way back in my memory to a wonderful time and a much-loved person in my life. Do you have stories of olden times that were recounted to you? I’d love for you to share them in a reply to this blog.

Up Next: We’ll see how this injury does. (It’s taken me a LONG time to get this down with the splint on.)

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