Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Fri
30
Sep '11

Sam Knob

Today’s Friday hike was to the top of Sam Knob, elevation 6050′. It was 46° when we arrived at the trailhead at 9:30am. Good thing I brought my jacket (oops, I forgot). Luckily Valerie brought hers and we had an extra windbreaker and gloves in our emergency kit in the back of the Jeep (that Red Cross training comes in handy). This was a moderate 2.2mi round-trip hike with 570′ of elevation gain. The trail was a little steep and rocky but otherwise not too difficult. Despite the early morning low tempurature it was a glorious day for a hike.  The asters and goldenrods are in full bloom and some of the tree leaves have started to change. Fall is in the air.

To give you a perspective of the hike, the picture on the left has Sam Knob in the background. Note the spot where Valerie is standing on the trail. The picture on the right is from the top of Sam Knob looking back to that spot in the distance, just beyond the green meadow.

 

  

 

 

 

 

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Wed
28
Sep '11

Asheville Trash Pick Up – Old School

How long has it been since you’ve seen trash picked up this way? By hand, dumped into the back of a pickup truck? Don’t worry, this isn’t normal, even for us WNC Hillbillies. We usually have a regular garbage truck (only smaller because we live on a narrow street) that lifts and dumps the can with a hydraulic arm. However, the last few weeks I’ve noticed large oil spots in the street where the truck has stopped to load our garbage. Something mechanical was leaking pretty bad. Unfortunately, for this guy, that truck must now be out of service and he gets to load garbage the old fashioned way. Something tells me these guys aren’t union…

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Mon
26
Sep '11

Tamalada Y’all

Yesterday we hosted a neighborhood tamale making party – otherwise known as a Tamalada. Traditionally, Tamaladas are held during the Christmas season when large Mexican families get together with everyone chipping in to make dozens and dozens of tamales. Although it’s not the holidays, yet, we decided with winter coming that this would be a great way for all of us to stock up our freezers with something easy to heat-and-serve when we’re snowed in up here on Town Mountain.

We discovered that not everyone knows what a tamale is even though most everyone has heard or used the term “hot tamale” before. If you don’t know, here’s the wikipedia definition: “a tamale is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a starchy dough, usually corn-based), which is steamed or boiled in a leaf corn wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can themselves be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.”

Valerie spent the last couple days preparing all the ingredients, making the masa and several fillings and sauces. Everyone who came brought something, too. Marco Garcia, Shelle’s friend and neighbor, and owner of the recently closed upscale Mexican restaurant, Curras, showed us Gringos exactly how to assemble the tamales. By the end of the night, after much beer, margaritas, and tequila shots were consumed, we had the process down. We all ate very well and everyone took home bags of leftover tamales to freeze. Next up, Pizza night!

 

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Sat
24
Sep '11

Twenty Year Bloom Cycle

We like our plants. We have plants that we’ve moved across the country—TWICE—but don’t tell the moving companies or the agriculture departments. One of them is a hoya plant. If you’re unfamiliar with a hoya, the blooms are very unique; they’re clumps of waxy, oily blooms that give off a very sweet fragrance. In our Johnson City, TN, house we kept our hoya in the sunroom and it loved it there, blooming several times. 

But, after we moved to Seattle in 1992 our hoya went dormant. It has never bloomed since. We tried different rooms, different windows, by a furnace register, away from a register, nothing worked. It was unhappy. When we moved it to Asheville in January 2010 it took a beating and Valerie spent a year nursing it back to health. Last March we moved it, again, to our new house and put it near a big east-facing window in the dining room—a spot very similar to where it was in our Johnson City house when it last bloomed twenty years ago. Guess what?

September 24                                                       October 7

 

 

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Thu
22
Sep '11

Dog Bites Bear v2.0

Serena did it again. She gets a piece of a bear’s backside at the very end of the chase. She doesn’t continue chasing him so I think she just doesn’t want bear in her yard — which runs from light-pole to light-pole. Check out her “happy dance” on the walk back.

 

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Thu
15
Sep '11

Ssssssssssssssssssssssssss

We decided to hike today because Friday is supposed to be rainy. That means we were on our own with no ranger to guide us….ooohhh. I decided to head north to the Laurel River trail near Hot Springs, NC, about 45 minutes from Asheville. It’s a relatively flat seven mile out-and-back hike along the Laurel River. Two great things about hiking along a river — since Serena LOVES to swim she has a blast and we don’t have to carry water for her!

Lots of late summer/fall flowers were in bloom. Check out the gorgeous pictures, below. The river was low but there were still several white-water areas. Supposedly in the spring this can be a class IV river and there are several outfitters that will take you rafting and kayaking. Hmmm.

The highlight of the day was that we saw our first, in-the-wild, rattlesnake. On our way in we passed a couple hikers who told us where it was sitting. Good thing, because I’m not sure I would have seen it and we had Serena off leash! About three miles in the trail goes through the old logging ghost town of Runion. As the trail passes through the ruins there’s a large tree that has been cut through to make way for the trail. Just after that tree the trail narrows to an overgrown footpath. On the left, at shoulder height about 3′ into the brush, was a timber rattler. There were berries on the bushes and we assume it was waiting for a bird to fly in for lunch — lunch for the bird and then for the snake!

He didn’t seem to care about us and never shook his rattle, even when Valerie leaned in to get pictures. He did occasionally stick out his tongue to smell us.  We continued on to the end of the trail but didn’t see any more snakes. The rattler was still there when we passed by an hour later on our way back. I took a couple pictures and, again, only got a little tongue and no tail…

We were a little worried for Serena and I had visions of me carrying a snake-bit 60lb dog on my shoulders for three miles but she’s pretty good about staying with us and coming back when called. She knows the command “LEAVE IT!” but there’s always that risk when hiking in the woods. Come to think of it, in this case, with the snake being at shoulder height in a bush we were the ones who needed to be careful! Yikes.

  

 

 

 

 

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Fri
9
Sep '11

Buck Springs Gap – Tunnel Overlook

Today was yet another perfect day for a hike. This Friday’s guided ranger hike started at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook parking lot and made several loops with a stop over one of the tunnels on the Parkway. There’s starting to be a hint of fall in the air. The mornings are brisk and the sumac and sour-wood leaves are starting to get a little bit of red coloring.

 

  

 

  

 

 

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Wed
7
Sep '11

Shop Construction Update

Below are a few pictures showing the progress on our shop. The first was taken outside the shop on the lower deck. Steve set up his temporary shop here. We’ve been having occasional showers (and the occasional hurricane remnants AKA Lee) so Steve covers everything up at night with plastic and tarps. Notice the Parker Treadwell Grubstake Supplies sign. That’s the Northern Exposure TV show sign that used to hang in our basement next to the pool table. It’s a whopping 14′ long and in our new house there’s only one possible place for it to go — the only open wall that’s over 14′ — and that’s the concrete foundation wall under the breezeway. We think it works there. We like it. 

The second picture is of our kiln area. That big kiln in the corner is shiny for a reason…it’s brand new. Well, it’s new, even though it will be two years old in December. We bought it at Seattle Pottery’s year-end sale in 2009, had them crate it and load it on our pickup, parked the pickup in the Woodinville house’s garage while we packed, moved the kiln cross-country, stored it in Camp Bell’s garage for over a year, and moved it again to our new home’s future shop. This morning, after its long (dare I say, “arduous”) trip, I uncrated it and Steve and I placed it in its forever home. I can’t wait to fire it…I’ve got a lot of liquor bottles saved up ready to be slumped. Hey, don’t judge. It’s been a looooong couple of years and I needed medicating to get through it!

The final two pictures are of the his and hers workbench wall that divides the shop. Steve’s going to build a 10′ long wrap-around workbench around the 7′ long wall. The last 3′ will be open with no divider wall so Valerie can set up her glass bead torch and not burn down the garage. Hot!

 

 

Sun
4
Sep '11

Sunday Morning Breakfast…with da Bear

This morning I was sitting at my desk (as usual) when a big black bear ambled past the house (as usual). But, this time, he decided to park in our front yard and have a Sunday morning breakfast of our Schip (Skip) Laurel berries. I shot this video out the pantry window. Eventually he started destroying the bushes so I went out the front door, armed with a large Carolina peach, and shooed him away. He left as soon as I yelled and headed down the hill behind our garage. Valerie and Serena watched from the safety of the stairwell window.
 

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Sat
3
Sep '11

Drug Drop – Not

If you’ve been following our blog you know that we occasionally have “issues” down at the end of our street – vandalism, prostitution, drugs, etc. Lately, after a year of zero-tolerance enforcement, things have been pretty quiet. We seldom have cars pass our house and, if they do, they turn around at the dead-end and head back out. The last two days, though, we’ve seen an uptick in traffic.

One of our enforcement means is a surveillance camera that views the cul-de-sac. I ran about 400′ of cable through the woods under the brush from our house to the camera. From where it’s mounted we can see everything going on down there (and trust me, we’ve seen “everything” going on down there) from the comfort of any TV in the house or any computer on the Internet. Pretty cool.

Today, several cars went by and stayed longer than it takes for a quick turn-around, so I decided to review the video to see what was going on. Around 3:45pm a silver SUV parked at the end of the street and a guy got out and wandered around. He then walked up Dave and Cindy’s driveway, walked through their back yard and over to a large tree stump. Unfortunately, a small bushy maple tree blocked my view as to what he did there, but after a couple minutes he left the stump, got back in the car and drove away.Perhaps he had to pee.

Then around 5:30pm a blue SUV parked at the end. A guy and a girl got out and the guy climbed the bank up to the same stump while the girl watched from the street below. He traipsed around then disappeared from view. A few minutes later he emerged from behind the maple, slid down the bank, jumped in the car with the girl and they left.

My first thought — Drug Drop! Some drug dealer must be using that tree stump on a dead-end to make drug transactions. Valerie, Serena, and I went down there and I looked around the stump but didn’t find anything. I assumed whatever it was must have gotten picked up, but maybe they’d use the location again. On the walk, though, we discussed another possibility; maybe someone established a geocache there. Now, the rules for a geocache state that the location must be on public property and that when a new cache is established a geocaching “reviewer” has to approve the location. For those reasons we dismissed the idea that it was a cache.

Valerie, though, as a final check, logged into her geocache account to see if there was a cache logged nearby. Sure enough, someone established a cache at that tree stump, just yesterday, and five people had already searched for and found it. The cache was named “How the Better Half Lives” (the cache’s description suggest people go further up the hill to take in the view of Asheville and see “how the better half lives.”) This morning Valerie walked with Cindy and Dave and explained the whole geocaching thing to them. They then went down to look for the cache and Dave, a complete rookie, found the duct tape covered tupperware container next to the stump.

Valerie has since notified the person who placed the cache and the reviewer that the cache was placed on private property and needs to be removed. Sorry, we’re grinches and party-poopers. Even if they did place the cache on public right-of-way at the end of our street we wouldn’t want it there because it just means more people becoming aware of a great place to hang out. Then, someone might really establish a true drug drop and there goes the neighborhood that we’ve worked so hard to clean up.

P.S. For those of you who geocache, here’s a link to the cache’s page…

P.S.S. And if you have never heard of geocache (pronounced geo-cash) and are wondering what the heck we are talking about, here’s a link to a description…

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