Visiting an apple orchard then prepping for Hurricane Irma.

Dad is visiting again, this time for his birthday. We have been trying to focus on experiences versus gifts, so this year we went up to Blue Ridge, Georgia to visit Mercier Orchards.  There isn’t much agriculture where we are from in West Virginia, so it was my first time at an orchard. Surprisingly, it was dad’s first time as well! He really seemed to enjoy himself. We bought a few fried pies, which you definitely need to do this if you visit. I’m not working at the moment, and dad has access to lots of apples so we went the cheap route and skipped the “pick your own” option and just rode the tractor out into the fields to check out the trees. The trees were much smaller than expected, and completely loaded with apples. The amount of apples per tree was shocking. Check out the images below.

Next stop: Ace Hardware. Cool store, short trip.

After being chased away from Ace Hardware by wasps,  we stopped off at Uncle B’s Feed Store in Ellijay, GA to look at some chickens. We have a lot of trouble passing up a feed store, even though I have no farm animals and only a small garden. Kim gave us some good info, and I got a good vibe from the place, so when I get my stuff together I’ll go there for chickens.

Today we have been focusing on getting ready for Hurricane Irma. We are in North Georgia, and will not get the full force of the storm like Florida. Forecasters are saying that we can expect 5-7″ of rain and winds of 50 mph, so it’s still prep-worthy. We ripped down an old canopy covering the patio and used it to wrap up my new (used) riding lawn mower. Lots of plants were given extra support. Everything that was hanging, such as bird feeders and flowers were taken down. Living under huge old pecan trees makes me nervous. Falling limbs have been an issue in the past, so I pray that they stay up and off the little house. The backyard wild birds got lots of seed and suet today, and because of the storm I didn’t even yell at the young rat for eating suet. The stray cats we feed are getting lots of food also.

Time to grab some BBQ and get ready for tomorrow. Take care, everyone!

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Southern California, Coachella, and being *less* stubborn.

 

Sometimes it can take a while to think about a trip and fully understand your thoughts about it. What you returned home liking could be very different from what you expected to like, and this was the case with my recent trip to Southern California.

To start with, this was my first trip to California, which most people find shocking. The truth is that I never really cared to go. Well, of course I want to visit EVERYWHERE, but it was never at the top of my list.  Places like The Badlands of South Dakota, Bar Harbor, Maine and St. Joseph, Missouri top my list, so it’s clear that Los Angeles would be the outlier if included.

The entire trip was beyond my comfort zone. We were attending Coachella (the huge music festival) in the desert, with lots of people. Heat, sun and crowds are normally my kriptonite, but I knew I would appreciate the experience, especially since we would hopefully get to see wind farms and some neat 50’s architecture in Palm Springs.

There are so many things to post about this trip, so I’ll touch on a few of the high points for me – the unexpected things that made the trip memorable.

#1. Los Angeles.  Really I didn’t get to experience LA, so these are a few brief and superficial thoughts until I get to visit again.  Los Angeles really is very smoggy. Yes, I’ve heard this before, and expected it, but seeing it was another thing all together.   The  iconic Theme Building at LAX has been on my architecture bucket list for a while, so thankfully I was able to get some glimpses of it.  Overall, LAX chaos made me appreciate Atlanta’s Hartsfield orderly chaos a bit more.

#2. Chino Hills.  While we didn’t get to stop and spend any time here, I made note of how pretty the hills were in this area.  In the same way that marshy coastal Georgia fascinates me as the murky transition from ocean to land, this area seemed to reflect the transition from the greener coast to the east and the desert in the west. Literally one hill would be green and the next desert.  I would imagine there are some good hiking spots around there.

#3. Palm Springs.  My expectation for Palm Springs was completely off. I expected a late 50’s version of lifestyles of the rich and famous, but found some beautiful houses and “normal” people. Most of the people we met seemed to be from somewhere else and had moved there to pursue happiness. At the grocery store I came across a guy wearing a West Virginia tee-shirt! I excitedly asked him if he was from West Virginia (who else would be wearing a WV shirt?) and he excitedly asked “Is this West Virginia?!?” as he pointed to his shirt.  I quickly retreated from the situation as Vacation Day 1 was too early to give someone the stink eye.  Our rental in Palm Springs was one of the most beautiful homes I’ve stayed in.  It’s recent renovation that calls on the areas mid-century designs. Small, but open and well designed. We stayed in the casita by the pool, which was a welcome change from the craziness at Coachella.  Staying at this house and lounging by the pool warrants its own vacation.

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#4. Wind Farms. I love wind farms. Seriously, I love wind farms. The design most turbines is sculptural and beautiful. Green energy is wonderful. The uniform movement does something for me that I find hard to explain. Obsessed? Maybe. Then when you put them in formation with others it’s an even greater experience. The play on size and space and perspective as they stretch across the valley reminds me alot of the art of Christo and Jean-Claude (another obsession).  Did I mention that I love wind farms?

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#4. Coachella. Wow.  Just wow. Basically Coachella is about cramming as much art and music as possible into two weekends, and then braving the heat, sun and partying to see your favorite acts.  If you knew me better, you would be surprised to see me going to this event. It’s the opposite of everything I usually like, but it was awesome!  I’ll even go so far as to say that its one of the best times I’ve had in years. I loved it, and am so glad that I didn’t try to wiggle my way out of the trip, which did cross my mind.  Yes, I was exhausted, tired, and a good bit older than the others attending, but it seemed well-organized and the people were friendly. Everyone was mellow and were just happy to be there.

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In hindsight, this trip was about comfort zones and trying new things, but also open-mindedness and being able to admit being wrong and then embracing it. I could have  (and in the past have) made an excuse not to go, or could have (and in the past have) been too stubborn to enjoy myself since I didn’t expect to. But I didn’t do those things, and had a wonderful time.

Lesson learned.

Could this be a Native American trail tree?

Have you ever seen a Native American trail tree?  Native Americans would alter trees in order to mark trails to important locations. It’s fascinating that they still exist in the forest and can be found today.  According to this Mother News Network article, “these markers were used to designate trails, crossing points on streams, medicinal sites to find plants, and areas of significance like council circles.”

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A few weeks ago, dad and I went down to Lake Horton, Georgia to do some fishing. Just off the main road to the lake, at a prominent intersection, there was a tree that looks exactly like a trail tree! 

It’s not a large tree, so I wonder if it’s even old enough to be altered by Native Americans.  A few searches on the internet yielded no information, so if anyone knows how to further research this please let me know. Though I would love for this to be a trail tree, it’s not likely. Still, its fun to think that it could be.

West Virginia Paw Paws

My grandparents lived in a little house that the family moved to a plot of land that sits in the corner where Clear Creek runs straight to the mountain, then makes a 90 degree turn to the right, where it continues past the plots where their daughters set up their households. They used the corner as a cornfield, my cousin used it hunt arrowheads. There isn’t much flat land around there, so it must have been useful to Native Americans also.  The grandparents house, barns, and chicken coops – all gone but the house-  sit in the middle of the plot.

At the back of one of the sheds grandpa had a Paw Paw tree, which has shockingly outlasted the buildings and is bearing fruit, three of which dad sent me this morning.  They were a little beat up, and were brown from the travel, but the yellow fruit looked fine so I ate it. Many people say it reminds them of banana, but it mostly reminds me of a squishy yellow mango. They don’t sound or really look that good, but they are pretty tasty and are more tropical than you’d expect.

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If you are curious, this site has more info on the fruit.  Growing the fruit seems to be a long process, needing 5 years+ for fruit, but I’ll plant them anyway and see what happens.  This is the planting guide I’m going to reference.  When I was a kid, my grandfather gave me a maple seedling – essentially a crooked stick with a single leaf – and told me to plant it next to the garden and maybe someday I can sit under it and rest in the shade. Now that I’m older we appreciate that tree for its shade and its story. Maybe I can keep these Paw Paws alive long enough to have their own stories too.

 

 

 

 

 

A quick and meaningful trip to Vermont.

People that call Vermont home are called Vermonters. People who live in Georgia are Georgians. While I appreciate my time in Georgia, I don’t recall ever calling myself a Georgian, or an Atlantan. Often when people ask me where I’m from, I tell them West Virginia, which is odd since I’ve lived in Georgia for roughly 21 years now, longer than the 19 lived in West Virginia. It’s because I feel that West Virginia embodies more of what I am on the inside, and as I get older, what I want out of my future.
This week I am writing from Burlington, Vermont. Lake Champlain and New York’s mountains are outside my window. Several things have been written today and then delated that try to explain how i feel here. Comfortable? Home? I’m not sure I would say it feels like “home”, but I can’t help but think that this is what a “square peg in a square hole” must feel like. It just fits.
In some ways, Vermont has learned to embrace many of the things that West Virginia gets criticized for. There is an interest in the old ways of life, in sustainability, pride in the people and products of the area, and an appreciation of individuality while still working as a community. It makes me wonder if West Virginia has a similar future.
The mountains and valleys are beautiful and filled with orchards. The people have been very
friendly and helpful. The food is organic and local, but most importantly they are delicious.
While having a cider at an eatery by the water, the bartender told me she moved here because she liked what Vermont was doing socially and environmentally and that she wanted to be a part of it and after this week I completely understand what she means. 
Photo is The Shelburne Museum’s round barn. Shelburne, VT. 

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