Friday, July 5, 2013

Summer 2013 update

We want to check in with everyone since it has been so long since our last update. As you can tell we aren't blog hounds so we will be trying to update you on just about everything that has happened since September, 2012. Warning - it might not be in chronological order because a lot has happened and it is a bit hard to remember.
Prior to Hurricane Sandy we went to see my sister Sandy before going to Sacred Living Project workshop in NY. As you can tell, Sandy and Stan are fun to hang around with.
We also caught up with their kids (no longer kids), Abby and Tyler (sorry no photo).

Sandy is a very talented artist. I was helping her with a perspective drawing project she had in mind...How's that project coming Sandy? 
She and Stan just finished a home renovation in Alexandria, VA - just outside DC.

When we returned home and Hurricane Sandy had passed through we also had our first snow. Then Fall quickly arrived.

Next to visit were Luc and Cathy, good friends from Florida. Their fun too. We took them to Asheville, the Blue Ridge Parkway and for a hike on our property.

Then Thanksgiving arrived. Katie, Edrianna's cousin came for a visit along with her sister Jane...
my brother Tom and his wife Kathy, and my sister Cindy and her husband Ernie. It was great to have everyone here and it is great living so close that they can visit. Except Jane who had to make the long haul from Florida.
We still had time for a few canoe trips before winter set in and saw this eagle on Lake James.
Then my brother Pete and his wife Norma came by for the day. It was great having them visit.

We went for a hike on the second highest peak which is next to the highest in on the east coast - Mt. Mitchel. It's called "Ted." No just kidding. But if you have ever seen the movie Captain Ron you will get my joke. It is actually called Mt. Craig.

We don't acknowledge Ground Hog Day here - we have Chipmunk Day. This little guy popped out of the snow, grabbed a dbl cheek full of bird seed and disappeared. It means winter isn't over yet!


During winter our neighbor's cows had 3 calves. This little guy was born during a snow storm and to an a first time mother. Jerry, the cows owners was very concerned so we volunteered to go up and check on the calf for him. It was a good thing we did. He was trapped outside the barn by a blocked doorway when we found him and lying in a puddle of cold water. I moved the door and he quickly joined his mom. This spring another calf was missing and I went on a rescue mission to find him. It is exciting being a volunteer rancher!
Our friend,s Ragan and Chris from Hero's Journey and Sacred Living project visited several times while looking for a place to live. We were on the western side of our property for this photo. They both have spent a minimum of a year in the wilderness living in man made shelters. They are very outdoor savvy and taught us how to make build a proper fire, sharpen a knife, and information about some outdoor plants. Chris has shared some of his home brewed nettle beer with us and Ragan made a delicious pesto from eatable plants. They were Edrianna's inspiration for making home made Kombucha - which is brewing right now under the sink. They're fun people too!

We went to visit our nephew, Brad, and his wife, Katie, for Ava's baptism.

Edrianna's brother, Jay, checked out a Boeing 757 from Delta and let us take turns as co-pilot as we flew several hundred passengers in circles over Atlanta - NOT! 
This is actually a multi-million dollar flight simulator. And we learned that it is a good thing that Jay is the pilot and not us. It was fun. Taking off was ok but we didn't master landing (a slightly important part of flying). Jay's father-in-law was also with us - he had a great time as well. 

Our next adventure was a Steward retreat for Hero's Journey. We did a ropes course. The photo on the left is Edrianna with our friend Chris on one of the tougher parts of the course. They took turns being blind folded. It was a challenge of letting another help you and being able to rely on another person.
I spent several hours making this high end bird house for Chickadees. I even wood burned an image of a Chickadee on the front. They checked it out several times but decided to use the stupid hole in the tree - only 15' from the bird house. I think he was interested because it was a "turn key" project, but she opted for the old fashioned, run of the mill, hole in the tree. I've never been dissed by a bird before.

The above photo was Edrianna's idea so she'll tell you about it.
We had a few field mice nests in our cars and motor home over the winter and ended up with a bunch of soft nest material. Most likely tissue and seat upholstery. I saw a suggestion in Birds and Blooms magazine about putting out a suet cage during Spring stuffed with dryer lint (to recycle the lint and provide the birds with nest material) . We used the mouse nests and the birds loved it!

As the days started getting nice we decided to take the canoe out again - but couldn't. Both ends had a bird's nest and one ended up with babies in it. I watched Carolina Wren parents tend to the chicks and tried to get photos but they moved too fast. Eventually the chicks flew the coop!

We found this little wild iris on the trail behind our house when Stan was visiting on his way to a photo workshop in the Smoky Mountains. It didn't have a flower when we found it but soon it bloomed.

I decided I wanted a small raised bed for vegetables so Jim helped me build one.
My step father, Bob, who lives in Florida has had huge success with his so he gave me lots of tips.
Make it only 3' wide so you can reach the center and dig at least 18" below the bottom and add good soil. I used organic top soil and manure.

Jim suggested we have a seat around the top edge so I can sit comfortably while tending the plants. Everything was going great and things were starting to grow. And then....

The bear visited. He/she walked down the middle of my plants. Fortunately he/she only stepped on a few plants and I was able to save them. I had only planted on the outer edge of the bed.

These are Lady's Slippers. They are pretty rare and only bloom for a short period of time. We have a huge patch - partly because we moved some before construction began - as we mentioned in an earlier blog. I spend a few hours photographing them one day and so did Jim. Soon after they withered. We will see them again next spring.

This is a Fire Pink and we found lots of these on our property.
This is a Flame Azalea. It is bright orange and is usually found in the woods where the sun can break through. It is really impressive and fun to find.
See the color in between the green. This group is on the edge of our property.

This is a Pipsissewa. Lots of this on our property. I picked up a few plant books to try to identify some of the stuff we are finding. This is said to be used for treating kidney stones.
This is Solomon's Seal. There is another plant that looks a bit similar but easy to distinguish when you know the differences, which are the way they flower and how the leaves are organized on the stem. This plant is said to be an anti-inflammatory and astringent.
Jim took this photo of the stream on our property while we were on our eatable/medicinal plant hike.
On the way to our property one day I spotted this turkey and several chicks. I heard someone recently call them "turklets." We like the name so it has stuck. See the tiny gray blog in front of the turkey? They move pretty quick and are hard to capture.
The Mountain Laurel come out in June as the bright yellow returns to the American Goldfinch. We have a great view of this outside our living/dining windows.

I have no idea what this plant is and I've been trying to identify it. On the right is what it looked like last spring. This year the plant grew lots of side branches and these beautiful flowers appeared. The plant is about 30+ inches tall and there are more sprouting up in my herb garden.
Any guesses?
While I was typing this Jim grabbed our North American Wildlife book and found Common Evening Primrose. It seems to match up. Awesome!
It seems like 90% of the things we find in the woods are eatable and/or medicinal. Evening Primrose is approved in Britain for eczema, premenstrual syndrome, and prostatitis. Jim says...Isn't it interesting that our doctors and the American drug companies don't let us know about these plants. 
He's just sayin'.

Here is another I hope someone can identify. This one has fuzzy leaves and eventually gets really tall.

My herbs went to seed this year - the sage on the left and thyme on the right. The flowers are really pretty. The herb gets bitter when the plant goes to seed. I hope they will self seed for next year. My oregano plant eventually went to seed as well and then the parsley. Those along with rosemary and creeping thyme all survived the winter. Basil, lemon grass and lemon verbena didn't make it through the cold. I wish I had dried more leaves from the lemon verbena - it makes a great tea.

Tom turkey on the hunt for more females.
The bear came back and this time did slightly more damage. 
Things have been growing really slow and my tomatoes seemed "stalled" so I decided to implement another of Bob's ideas for growing plants - FISH OIL. I re-potted the tomatoes to bigger pots and added fish oil; they took off. I also added fish oil to the plant bed and things really began to grow. Yes, I know what you are thinking - fish oil...bear...Images of grizzlies catching salmon in streams come to mind. And now I've just sprinkled stinky fish all over my plants - maybe not such a good idea. Jim looked up ways to keep bear out of your garden and implemented a plan. He discovered that deer and bear will avoid areas that smell like male urine. Jim started peeing around the plant bed. We think it worked. The bear came back recently but didn't touch the garden. By the way, he wants you to know he is not peeing "on" the plants.

The bear seemed a lot bigger when Jim was taking the photos and standing up beside the front door.

We've named him BooBoo. Looks huggable but NO!

After the stair way was build last year I spread some Shasta Daisy seeds and they grew the same year but didn't flower. Another plant also popped up. It was pretty and green and didn't have prickers (my criteria for survival) so I didn't pull it. This year the daisies bloomed and the green thing doubled in size. Two people have said it is a Burdock. I am waiting for it to flower which should be any day now. Of course I thought it would flower last month. The flowers and leaves are good for antibacterial use. The plant is a digestive stimulant and the branches and root are good for vertigo and rheumatism. Mixed with brown sugar it is good for measles. It is also good for skin problems and the seeds can be used for abscesses, sore throats, insect bits, snake bites, flue, and constipation. It was once used to treat scarlet fever. Glad it is growing on our stairway. Jim says, in our less green days we would have pulled it out or hit it with Round-up. Glad those days are gone.

The daisies are much taller than I thought they would be - but beautiful. I think the only thing they are "good for" is for looking at, but that should not be underestimated. Of course they add oxygen to the air and the butterflies and bees like them. That is important as well.
In addition to my raised bed I decided to abandon my labyrinth and create a 3 sisters garden. My sister, Jane, suggested this to me. It involves planting corn in mounds and in 3 rows along with squash and beans. The whole garden requires a 10' x 10' space and we certainly have the space over our drain field. RED FLAG! Over the drain field? Well, I looked it up on the internet (which is always trustworthy!!!) and I only found that the biggest problem was that you can't till the soil because it would damage the drains. There isn't any hard core evidence that it is a bad idea and since most of the garden was NOT going to be over the drain field - I went ahead ahead and started planting. 
So, after the corn is 4 inches tall you plant the beans and they use the corn to climb. The squash becomes a protector to keep the weeds at bay.
I always liked the Jack and the bean stalk story when I was little and how fast the bean grew. Well the story isn't as far fetched as you would think. Now I know why the corn has to be at least 4 inches tall before you plant the beans. The beans shoot up like rockets out of the ground - you can almost see them grow - it is wild.

As I said you plant corn in mounds, 4 per mound and then plant the beans. The squash goes between the corn mounds with two plants per mound (I planted one winter squash [butternut] and one summer [yellow]). I couldn't find anything specific as to which type of squash to plant, and since I was thinking of this "little" project as an experiment I went with two different types. There are 3 rows of alternating plant mounds. The outer rows alternate: squash, corn/beans, squash, corn/beans, squash. The middle row alternates: corn/beans, squash, corn/beans, squash, corn/beans. Similar plants need to be 5 feet apart. You can find this online and it is a lot clearer than I'm explaining. I'll keep you posted as to how it all plays out. We have had 2 weeks of rain lately and I'm a little worried the rain might rot the roots, but so far things look pretty good.

June/July is blueberry season! Last Saturday, at 7:30 Jim and I arrived at our first "you pick." We were given gallon buckets with a string attached so we could tie it around our waist. After about 10 - 15 bushes we had a gallon. It took about an hour.

By by noon my kitchen was a disaster and by 12:30 we had 9 jars of homemade blueberry jam and about 5 extra cups of blueberries for pancakes, putting on ice cream, a small pie, smoothies, on top of granola - what ever we could dream up. They didn't last long. We also opened one of the blueberry jams, OMG good! I used less sugar in this batch than when we did the blackberries last year - only 4 1/2 cups vs. 7 cups. So, mathematicians see if you can figure out how much sugar that is if a tablespoon is a serving. The 9 jars above are 8 oz each (1/2 pint jars).

My other project has been composting. Good grief, you would think this would be easy but you almost need a science degree to get this right. I'm not even going to attempt to explain the decomposing process except to add a quick story. I thought fallen leaves would be great to compost - well they are if they aren't oak leaves which is just about all we have. I heaped on a pile of leaves and then read how they are the worst leaf choice. Another experiment! A compost pile needs a mix of green debris - we don't have a lawn and you don't compost the weeds with prickers so no green stuff here. Plus the piles need to be turned because exposure to air helps the decomposing process. We are using peat moss and saw dust to avoid a soggy, stinky mess - which is what we had in the beginning. Now things seem to be working really well.
I also planted Black-Eyed Susans last year and this year they bloomed. It is amazing how little you have to pay for flower seeds, but you have to be willing to wait a year for them to bloom.
We added another rain barrel. With all the rain we have had we could use several more.
The Rhododendron bloom just as the Mountain Laurel disappear. It's beautiful.


Behind the house, where I put my 3 sisters garden, the land has a pretty good slope - not easy to maneuver if it is slippery from rain. We have a lot of pine logs that were left over from having the property cleared for the house and Jim was thinking of using them for a stair way down to our garden and fire pit. I've seen a lot of tires lately being used as planters and wondered if they would make a good stairway.
I was a bit concerned that my idea may pose health and environmental risks.
Here is one resource I found - if you trust the EPA. Although more tires are being recycled than ever before, it still is a concern that many end up in landfills. Some people have used tires as foundations and walls for eco homes so I thought a few in our back yard shouldn't be an issue.  

When Edrianna told me about her idea I was concerned about where we would get tires and if it would actually work - using round tires for a stairway.
We were fortunate to find a huge pile at a local tire shop. Keith, the owner of the tire shop, said we could have as many as we wanted for our "experiment" but we couldn't bring them back. The land fill allows individuals to bring 10 a year. They were going to be picked up the next week so I got my truck and took 14 home.


It took me one day, working from the bottom up, to get them laid. Edrianna started packing them with dirt and we will finish it off with mulch. I used some brown spray paint on them so they blend in a little bit better. I believe they are going to work out great.

My first attempt at Kombucha (a fermented tea that is really good for you and yummy). 

In addition to all our projects we wanted to let you know about all the other things we are doing. 
A note from Jim:
I've been busy this year doing architectural work for the clients I've kept in my semi-retirement. The exciting news is that I've been working on illustrations with a spiritual theme, which were inspired by my experience at Hero's Journey. I've been accepted in a down town gallery in Asheville called ZaPow. My illustration are displayed along with my cartoons. People seem to like them and they are selling. One day a week I volunteer for Wild For Life rehabilitation center. Since last fall I've been doing handy man jobs: repairing and rebuilding the bird enclosures. Recently I received a promotion from building structures to cleaning and feeding the birds of prey. Some people wouldn't think that handling dead mice and picking up bird poop isn't much of a promotion; however, for me it is very rewarding. Eventually I will be helping with wildlife education outreach. 

A note from Edrianna:
Since starting my healing practice in our home I thought it might be good to be down the mountain in one of the local offices. I was thinking massage or acupuncture, but at the Fairview Business Association Christmas Party I met a Chiropractor who Jim and I both really resonated with. Dr. Ed Reilly of Fairview Chiropractic shares some of our interests and believes in healing the body naturally first. I soon joined his office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I started off just working on my own marketing while waiting for new clients. I'd show up early in the morning and not leave till late in the afternoon even if I didn't see a client that day, just because it was a great time to stay focused on internet marketing stuff, and I enjoyed being in the office. As the days went on I started getting a little bored and notice a stack of patient files next to me. When I had the opportunity I started filing them. Needless to say I now work there on Tuesdays and Thursdays and take a break from my schedule when I see clients. I also fill in when someone is sick or on vacation. I really love it. 
In addition, I decided last year that I wanted to learn an instrument. I picked on the hammered dulcimer after seeing a concert on Old Time music. After a week at Swannanoa Gathering last July I decided to learn the guitar as well. It has been so much fun. Jim is helping me with guitar and I'm teaching myself the hammered dulcimer.

We join a Bluegrass jam group every Tuesday evening at our community center. As a result we do lots of free gigs which include weddings, square dances and fund raisers. We are on the left. The rest of the back row is Will, Walter and Mike. In the front is Brian, Rick Jana and Frazier. Cat, another band member took this photo. There are others who come and go. This was during a fund raiser for Lord's Acre which provides food for the needy.

Me trying to sing and play my hammered dulcimer at the same time. Not an easy task.

Here we are at a wedding on New Years Day.
Jim and I wrote a song for Sacred Living Project and we are sharing it with the group. This time I have my guitar - a Taylor Mini (great guitar for smaller hands).

That's it for now!