and the Purple Asters ↓
BRING IT ON, JACK FROST!
and the Purple Asters ↓
BRING IT ON, JACK FROST!
As spring is winding down and summer approaches, the tangles of prickly Blackberry bushes get so thick along our road and any meadow that was not earlier bush-hogged, that I would be tempted to curse the gosh-awful stuff if not for the promise of the berries. Then somewhere near the 4th of July, just when you think it would be nice to just torch the whole thicket before it can scratch one more bare leg, or the side of a passing car; we arrive for our weekend at the cabin and our world is covered with juicy, sweet, bumpy, Blackberries.
The nice thing is they don’t all get ripe at once. There will be ripening berries for several weeks to come. And just about the time the berries in the hollow begin winding down, the berries in the higher elevation up on the ridges are in full swing. This year, we have had ripe berries to pick for over a month and still picking.
Blackberries make wonderful pies and I have enough in the freezer to make pies all winter long.
Because we lost our entire in-town bee yard this past winter to the Colony Collapse Disorder, we moved all the mountain yard hives to town so they could take advantage of the earlier spring there. That meant we had to make new hives for the mountain apiary. Mike ordered twelve packages of live bees from a breeder.
Our son, Matt, and his friend joined us for the installation day. It was a cool crisp spring morning, perfect for playing with the bees. The bees were happy to finally be moved from their cramped quarters in the little Nuc (breeding box) to their new home in full hives. The air was so full of bees that we need to wear veils to keep them out of our faces. They were not angry or anxious to sting ….. just happy to be home.
We located the queens to make sure that each of the hives had a queen, and gave each hive a jar of sugar-water to tide them over until they begin foraging to store some nectar and pollen.
Hopefully they will be rockin’ and rollin’ by the time the Sourwood trees bloom towards the end of June - first of July.
Speaking our son, Matt …. he has followed in his dad’s footsteps and keeps bees at his home in Brevard, NC. Check out his honey website at www.purepisgahhoney.com
Every fall the ladybugs that have spent the warm months in the forest are looking for a warm shelter to spend the coming winter. It seems they love the little nooks and crannies between the logs of our cabin. Our first year here, swarms of the little critters found their way in and took up residence. At first glance, this seemed like a workable arrangement. After all, what harm could the tiny ladies be, and they are so cute.
As the weather grew colder, they hid away, and we had no idea how bad the infestation was to become. Perhaps if they had stayed out of sight in their nooks and crannies, all would have been well. But, fooled by any sudden warmth, they poked their selves out to have a look. This meant, when we visited the cabin on a weekend and turned the heat on; they would crawl out of hiding and congregate on the windows looking for a way to the outside. If the sun warmed up a window, dozens would appear, crawling over the glass panes. The warmth of lit light bulbs would attract them. If we turned on the light that hangs over the dining table, we would have ladybugs falling into our plates. Have you ever tasted a ladybug? Yeaaaaach, they taste so disgustingly bitter that even birds and other bugs won’t eat them. So we swept them up from the floor in heaps, raked them from the window sills by the handful. Then when spring came, all the remaining ladybugs emerged from hiding and we had them everywhere!
And though I had always had a particular affection for this little bug, I was now thinking horrid and ghastly thoughts of extermination.
The answer turned out to be not quite that nasty. Mike found a spray that he coated the outside of the cabin with this fall that repelled them. We still have a few that sneak in, and that’s okay. I can once again look at these spotted ladies with affection. There is now a little cast-iron ladybug sitting on their favorite sunniest windowsill in memory of the great infestation, which thankfully, we can now laugh about.
This was a popular way of preserving (drying) green beans for use in the winter. They would use a large darning needle and thread it with strong thread (I used quilting thread). They would tie the thread around the first bean to keep it from slipping through, I just used an old button tied to the thread. Then they began stringing the beans, one at a time, pushing the needle and thread through the center of each bean and drawing the bean down towards the knotted button, leaving a bit of thread on the other end to use for hanging in a dry place.
The beans become shriveled and wrinkled as they dry. They can be removed from hanging as needed and dropped into a pot of water with perhaps a ham bone or some bacon for flavor. I have been told that we have all but lost the variety of bean that our ancestors used. It had a hull that remained tender during the drying process. When we get moved up here full time, and I can make a garden, I will have to try some heirloom bean varieties and find one suitable to eat after drying. I hear the “Barnes Mountain Cornfield Bean” is a good one.
Until then, I guess mine will only be “decoration”. a great conversation grabber about an older time.
On the back porch there is a swing ……
…….. and sitting in it transforms me back into the past. I am once again a child spending a summer month at my grandparent’s farm in Alabama.
There was a swing on Mema’s porch too, and I spent many hours there. The memories of which are much too precious and personal to write in great detail here. Sometimes the porch swing was a retreat to contemplate a childish transgression. Sometimes I was there to just soak in the simple pleasure of a warm lazy summer day and watch the huge spider in the corner of the eaves (thankfully on the outside of the screen) catch flies in his web.
The swing was sometimes a rocket to the moon, sometimes a boat on the Nile, sometimes a train to Paris, or a hot-air balloon soaring through the clouds. Once it was a basket that left me for the garden fairies to find and rescue me from the hairy goblin that lived under the porch. Often it was a cradle to rock the dolls I played with and hummed lullabies to. And sometimes the swing was a flower-covered prop in a ballet in which my cousin Cindy and I were the stars.
Sometimes it was the place to swing with wild abandon and sing Zippidy Doo Da loudly and off-key I admit, out of sheer happiness. The song would always end with me jumping out of the swing as if it was the grand finale and I was taking a bow while hundreds of adoring fans applauded.
I planned my whole future from that old swing, I cried, I laughed, I sang, I pondered, I imagined and I dreamed.
Now sitting here in the reality of those childhood dreams, I know how wonderfully a loving God has brought my life full circle. Now my own porch swing is a place to remember and reflect on how it has all turned out. I don’t think there is a goblin under this porch; I think he has moved out to live under the ugly fake plastic rock that covers the well pump.
On the way up to the cabin this week, we stopped at the Ingles to get groceries. A guy had Lab puppies for sale and I fell in love with one, and we brought him home with us as a companion for our other Lab, Millie.
We named him Morgan and he made himself right at home at the cabin …….
exploring the woods …….
checking out the creek ……
and now he is digging a hole-to-China under the porch……
Though our Lab Millie spends most of her day at the cabin outside, she loves to warm up at the hearth. In the evenings, we bring her big fluffy bed out from its hiding place under our bed, and put it by the fire.
The hearth is the central feature of a log cabin. In the old days, life would pretty much have revolved around the hearth, and it still does for us in the winter. Even the sound of a crackling fire is somehow comforting.
It is the place where we gather, not only to warm our bodies, but also to warm our hearts.
Yesterday it snowed! Here in the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains it does not snow very often, and when it does snow, it is an exciting occasion as it transforms our world into a fantasy vision.
Looking off the front porch, up the driveway towards the road, all was shades of white and grey with green pine boughs peeking through adding the only color.
Millie was not sure what to think of it all …..
One of the great features of a log cabin is the natural insulation the huge thick logs provide, and that along with the thermo-paned windows, insures that it’s always cozy inside even on the coldest days. We keep a fire going in the hearth and supplement that with a little heat from the central-heating (we have never had to turn the thermostat up over 65°).
Today the sun came out casting beautiful shadows across the white blanket and making the ice crystals glisten..
High up on the ridge where the ice was thicker on the trees looked as though sparkling clouds were laid across the hills, and that contrasted with the vivid blue of the clear sky was magical.
Millie was, of course, ready to play Frisbee.
It all started with a crazy Red Neck thing I bought in Bell Buckle, Tennessee while there on a trip last summer. They call it a a CanJo.
It is just a one-string fret board attached to a tin can with the string running through the can. You tune it to something close to A, then strum with one hand while pressing the frets with your other hand.
That’s wild, huh? Well, I played around with it all summer, which sparked an idea in Mike’s head. He remembered reading in the Foxfire books about building Dulcimers. So he decided to build one.
It has an amazingly beautiful sound and I am so anxious to learn to play it. I can envision many happy hours of strummin’ and (as they say here in the mountains) sangin’ on the cabin porch.
Dang, if we aren’t gettin’ the hang of this mountain life …… and it fits us!