Traveling Hopefully

So I had this notion a month or so back that my experience as teacher, speaker, field trip leader and engaged citizen would mesh nicely before small groups of folks who come to Floyd County lacking any depth to our natural or human communities here.

Well, you know about plans. Mr Murphy is always ready to give us a ground in The Way Things Are.

If you plan something so well that nothing can go wrong, something will. Before you can do what it is you want to do, you have to do something else first. Everything you want to do takes longer than you think, and costs more than you have. And finally, if you do something so carefully and thoughtfully that nobody could object, somebody will.

So here’s how things are.

First, the unintended has become the only actual boots on the ground from my original intention. I had not even considered being a guide for tour buses.

Floyd has until this summer lacked adequate lodging in town for busloads of out-of-town guests. Hotel Floyd now offers 40 rooms, in addition to other nearby lodging. And the Jacksonville Center is now a bus destination since its parking lot is paved for the first time ever.

So having gained a bit of visibility for my touring intentions, I was contacted by USTours, and as things turn out, this Friday I will have the opportunity to tell the story of Floyd and Carroll County landforms from Saddle Gap to the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 south of Galax.

We’ll talk about the history of the Blue Ridge Mountains and of the Parkway. There will be things in bloom and the Eastern Deciduous Forest in general to explore through the windows. The Bluemont rock church, Buffalo Mountain, Bob Childress and Olean Puckett will offer interesting characters and features to explore.

Pilot Mountain, Mt Airy and the Andy Griffith era also fair game at about milepost 189–the mountain barely visible at the overlook due to the “sequester” that has choked off funding for parkway maintenance.

Stops at Mabry Mill, Nancy’s Candies, Poor Farmer’s Market (for lunch at the deli there), for music at the Blue Ridge Music Center, and at the Jacksonville Center on the return trip will make for a full day. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, with regard to the MAIN service I hoped to provide and closest to my heart: the nature walks along the Parkway are off the ticket. I learned at the last possible moment before press releases went out last Thursday that the fees and other expenses ($600 or more the first year) and other restrictions and burdens were more red tape and bureaucratic crap than I cared to wade through.

There may be private forest and ridge that will serve, but it seems a crying shame to me that the fantastic resource of the parkway should be so difficult to use for education for those like me whose returns from any commercial use would be so small. Fishing guides in western National Parks could pay in one day what it would take me a season to bring in.

And so it goes.

Black and White: Mt Laurel

If you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in late May and early June, you’ll be missing the forest for the trees if you don’t stop your car, get out, and walk along the forest edge.

You’ll see, hear, smell or otherwise learn something just about anywhere you do this. Walking speed allows our senses to work for us. Even the parkway’s slower-than-usual 45 mph is nowhere near slow enough for full comprehension of the full nature of any place along its 450 mile length.

But especially stop if you see Mountain Laurel in bloom. What looks like featureless pink-white masses from your car windshield will reveal intricate details when you stop and look closely.

This webpage gives some of the details of laurel’s intricately-crafted pollination trickery: ten spring-loaded pollen triggers in each flower are designed to catapult sperm-packets (the content of a pollen grain) onto a bee back on one flower and then transfer to the female sticky parts (stigma) of another. And a seed is born!

Showing Your Cards

No, not that kind. I’m not one for those kind of games.

This is just a quick Saturday morning note to let you know that the Photo Note Cards are on the shelves at…

 ▶ The Floyd Country Store in downtown Floyd.
▶ Chateau Morrisette Winery Tasting Room Store 


With regard to the latter, I was to provide five packs of each of the five sets to the Winery store yesterday.  I could have taken them jumbled in an empty cardboard box. Instead, I packaged them in the only perfect carrier I had. It is a simple wooden box for which I cannot remember its source. I left it with them. Now I need a few more.

They were delighted to already have display built in with the product, and will put this on the main checkout counter by the cast register. This means folks doing general browsing will not see them; but it also means that impulse purchases at check-out go way up. We’ll see.

If anybody has a notion about where to buy these roughly 5″ x 10″ boxes, please let me know. Failing that, I’ll be begging a friend with woodworking tools to rip me some pieces that I can nail and glue and stain. I need another four of these.

If you’d rather shop from home, you can order directly through Etsy online, by browsing  here at Fragments or directly at Goose Creek Goods Etsy storefront

Green, Green, Green They Say

The wave of green has reached the higher peaks of the southern mountains now, the canyons and corridors of leafery having become the only view from all but a few open vistas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Yesterday’s  performance by cooperative clouds at least offer a bit of sky character to this view from Tuggles Gap, adding white to blue and green–the color pallette of the next four months in southwest Virginia.

The source for the title of this post? Anyone?

Lyrics often come to mind when conjuring a post title because they still, for some reason, have a permanent apartment in some of my limited memory modules.

Musical memories persist, even after other long-term memory might have faded–hence the success at times of bringing a dementia patient back to themselves by playing “their music” to them.

Today’s post title is, of course for you age-enhanced fellow travelers, from the name of a song by the New Christy Minstrels–a song that peaked the charts in 1963.

The other green green song that comes to mind is less upbeat–one I used to sing and play on the guitar–the Green Green Grass of Home. I think Tom Jones brought this one on up into the top 40 in 1967.

All of this lyrical dalliance notwithstanding, it is the green green grass out the back door that will be the subject of my attention as soon as it dries of last night’s dew to attack with machinery. And I guess I know what I’ll be humming.

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Frozen Peas: Thousands Die Young

I have been feeling the pain these past few well-below-freezing April mornings knowing what our local vegetable farmers are suffering at the hand of winter that won’t give it up.

Thousands of tender sets and sprouts in long rows, the results of hours of back-bending work and tedium, lay limp and lifeless in the cold soil this morning–AGAIN.

Native plants have evolved in place and are more-or-less adapted to late frosts and freezes. Our food crops, OTOH, are bred for color or firmness of fruit or shipping tolerance or shelf life and their genes are more likely tropical by history. They don’t do winter.

IMG_1236troutLily300So this just to say that the native trout lilies are abundant and holding up well this very cool spring, and will be just fine as a species, even if a few get zapped. Their emergence and bloom range is wide. Riverstone’s peas all emerge at once, at get zapped by a freak freeze all on the same dark still morning.

Our farming practices are in many ways “un-natural” forcing upon the soil and seed a human mandate not programmed into the ordered being of the wild thing; we are resentful of events that are inconvenient truths and facts of life on and in the ground. Fortunes are lost in the gamble, yet we must eat and farmers must take those risks–for us, and for their livelihood. It is not an easy life.

The other reason to add this post this morning (even though I told myself I’d have too much to do otherwise and would go post-less) is that WordPress 3.9 is fresh out this morning, and I just had to try the drag and drop feature that will so streamline the workflow. So I give you a bonus image of our early blooming lily–from years past.

We have yet to see the first bloom. The margins of the Blue Ridge Parkway are thick with Trout Lily (or Yellow Dog Tooth Violet or Adder’s Tongue) in places where the Skunk Cabbage is well up and going strong. Images of that soon to come.

BTW, just learned Trout Lily LEAVES are edible, will have to explore that menu item! The edible bulbs are way too hard to dig up, and harm the population; a few leaves, not so much.

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