Blue-Tailed Skink May 17, 2012

Today I saw a lizard with a blue tail.  They are small and live between the slats of wood around the cabin.  Its tail was a shockingly iridescent blue.  Evidently, they can shed the tail at will, and their predators will watch the tail and the skink can escape.  They regrow the tail.  And as I was pulling down the driveway I saw the spread black and white wings of a pileated woodpecker.  The edges of the wings are black, when they are open, with cream centers, very like a butterfly marking.  And of course they sport their red cockade.  I have to say, it's all quite thrilling!

Taming the Landscape May 16, 2012

Some days I really love to just stay on the mountain. Because it is so shady, I can even stay out of the sun most of the time. This morning I lopped off much of the azalea bushes at the edge of the driveway, which form a barrier between the side of the cabin and the view of the grapevine and peach tree which is along the road very close to the cabin. I'm anticipating the bears coming when the peach tree is ripe, so I want to be able to see the bears and not surprise them. Definitely don't want to come up on them and corner them on my way in or out.  I used my weed rake, the blade that is held parallel to the ground and swung like a golf club, and I took down the bank of weeds under and around the peach tree, and the weeds in the center of the logging track. The grape vine, which is quite large and strung along wires between 2 heavy posts, with two vines, one beside each post, is naturally reaching up towards the light and had infused itself into the peach tree. So I pulled down the vines that I could and intertwined them with along the coated wires. There are tiny little seeds, the size of a mustard grain, pale green, which are future grapes. I did sprinkle some fertilizer under them about a month ago; this is my laissez faire attitude towards gardening. I really believe if the plants know you love them, they will grow for you. I had to cut some of the vine down, and toss it over the hillside, along with bushels of azaleas brush. The peaches are small, hard, just fit inside my fist, and wear fuzzy green coats. Then I went along the driveway, pulling vines out of the nandina bushes. I've learned to wear gloves here, and my bear bells as a bracelet. I was also collecting any big stones I found, so I could finish lining the garden beds along the front of the house and the split rail fence. Those two flower beds are finished, heavily mulched and packed with lilies, echinacea, iris, sedum, tickseed, marigold, basil, chives, mint, creeping thyme, phlox. Then I trotted around the side of the deck, where there is a bank that looked like the only other potential area I would try to tame, since the previous owners had evidently put in some daylilies and a bit of phlox and their vestiges remain. But the whole bank needed weeding and it needs heavy mulch to keep down the weeds. It's a major project, but when I see it I imagine what I can get it to look like and start weeding and clearing. I like the challenge, and I like to make my visions come into being. I also hacked away at making a set of steps out of the rocks running up beside the deck to the top of the bank. It looked as if, 25 years ago or so, someone had tried to make some steps up, but it was basically fallen. So I cut away at the side of the clay bank with my shovel, heaving into it, pulling up a lot of small rocks and pulling over large ones to make a series of steps. They work for me, and I've tried to make them stable enough for my big moose of a husband. It's not quite done, but almost. It was so satisfying. I really love physical labor, and hope to put more of it into my life, as well as much heavier walking and hiking. But first I have to get my homestead into shape.

Medieval World May 14, 2012

This last Saturday morning I stopped at the tail end of the tailgate market behind the Baptist Church in Black Mountain, which is about 10 minutes from where we live.  It was like being at a Medieval Fair.  I talked with a beekeeper husband and wife team from Swannanoa, who had me taste their spun cinnamon honey.  They made beeswax candles by pouring the wax into molds, including these tiny little yellow labs.  I love beeswax candles because they smell of honey.  There was a woman who made her own cosmetics, signs for rabbit and eggs for sale, a huge pot of leeks.  From another stand I bought a head of lettuce and some white small turnips, assured by the farmer that they were sweet and I could put them raw into salad.  I tasted homemade cow cheese, redolent with really strong flavor.  There was a woman dutifully putting away a lot of cookies, and I bought some yeasty whole wheat bread from her, which I tore apart and had with soup for dinner.  A young man wheels his whole array of goods down the street from where he lives in a little red wagon. His name is Windfox, and he is an herbalist.  I bought some dark colored bug repellant spray, which contains some herbal tintures poisonous to ticks.  It did keep off mosquitoes when I walked down through the woods along our gravel road.  I also talked to another man named Joe, in overalls, with a strong North Carolina accent, who grew up around here and can supply Windfox with various roots and herbs.

Midafternoon I went downtown for the 27 Views of Asheville writers reading, including Sharyn McCrumb, Ron Rash, Tommy Hayes, and Holly Iglesias, which was fantastic.  About 15 writers managed to read within 60 minutes, most very good.  And this is just an ordinary Saturday in the land of Adventure. 


Wonderful Black Mountain Day May 14, 2012

I went out last Thursday to do errands and had one of those wonderful Black Mountain days.  I stopped by the gardening shop along 70, very old-fashioned and charming with a hand painted sign.  I bought mulch, but also a group of perennials, and the women there ---both of them very strong and brown, helped me when I told them I needed plants that could handle sun and clay soil with cinders in it.  I came home with crocosmia, long iris-like fronds with a row of red flowers along a stem later in summer, and yellow tickseed and cinnamon basil.

Then I had lunch at the new sandwich and soup shop on Cherry Street, under a row of wonderful shade trees at an outside black iron table.  I walked up to the Kitchen store and bought a mandolin for shaving vegetables. Then I crossed over to the hardware store, which occupies three huge rooms, with old wood floors.  I wanted something to cut long grass and weeds.  I bought a metal blade on a handle.  The blade sits flat at the end of the long handle and you swing it like a golf club. A real scythe is much more expensive and too big for me.  Dennis, who is very hale, with strong blue eyes, and wears a store apron and blue jeans, helped me.  I bought a file to sharpen the blade, which has a row of teeth on either side.  Dennis showed me how to use the file, tucking it against his hip.  We then moved on to small pocket knives and he gave me a tour of the pocket knife cases.  I bought a nifty thing for my pocket, and a sharpener.  First one sharpens with steel and then ceramic. You draw the blade towards you through the v shape of the sharpener's two ends, first one and then finishing the process with the other.  I am chattering away, asking about knives, and I learn the purpose of a knife with a hook on the back of the blade, which you use to rip along the belly of a deer, so you don't pry down into the intestines when you gut it.  Dennis used to live in Northern Indiana and he and his wife would grow all their own vegetables, and eat venison, which he hunted with a bow and arrow, and he fished.  They would only buy grains and dairy from the market.  As it turns out, he is a Lutheran Minister, but now working in the old hardware store, and he is married to Gail, who runs the Black Mountain Arts Center. I  told him I had met his wife and explained that my husband and I would be offering "poems on jazz" brown bag lunches for 4 Fridays this summer.  I was playing with my pocket knife explaining that my husband's hands are reserved for the piano, because he is a jazz composer.  I am the one who negotiates the outdoor world.  Dennis mentioned he had built a carpenter bee trap, and sold it to me for $7.00.  The bees are drawn to a hole, just the right size, on a piece of 2 by 4, and then enter into it, turn right angles and come out into a plastic bottle.  I suggested that I could collect them and make chocolate bees.  Where else could I spend an hour at a hardware store, the kind of place that bored me as a child, when I followed my father into the den of screws, nail, and plumbing supplies.  Life seems whole again here, come full circle, a realm in which I have returned to living on a human, rather than corporate, scale.


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