Archives for August 2011

Frog Level Coffee Shop

Going Back in Time

I’ve been to Waynesville, NC many times, but somehow have always missed Frog Level, the old industrial part of town located down the hill near Richland Creek. Today, I found the historic and inviting spot as I deviated from my normal route on the way back to Interstate 40.

There are only a few streets in Frog Level, but I felt a sense of nostalgia as I walked on the old sidewalks and saw the sturdy buildings from the late 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s. My favorite was an old warehouse with very high ceilings and wide, wooden floor planks. Now gently restored, the warehouse is home to the Panacea Coffee House, a popular return destination for visitors. Today, I had their fragrant, freshly-roasted coffee and one of the best brownies of my life.

Back to the Farm

Shades of Gray: Farm Cat

Once in a while, on my trips back home, I run into Annie, an old friend from our summer jobs as teacher’s aides with the Headstart program. When I see her, we reminisce about our six-year-old charges – Horace and Bobby and the others – and the endearing traits that make each child memorable after all these years.

Several times during those Headstart summers, Annie invited me to her family’s historic farm and former inn just outside Asheville. After dinner, everybody gathered in a room just off the parlor to play violins (or fiddles, depending on your point of view) or whatever instrument was at hand. Not being proficient in that area, I just listened and took in the gently-worn antique furniture and hand-painted wall murals that depicted a bygone era in the mountains.

A few Sundays ago, I went back to the farm to see Annie. Her parents are gone now and she, her husband, and a new generation oversee a herd of cattle, hundreds of chickens, thirty or forty horses, student interns, a large garden, and assorted domesticated animals. Annie’s no armchair farmer either: it’s not unusual to see her driving a big truck and trailer, grading the dozens of chicken eggs bound for local restaurants and markets each day, or doing any of the myriad tasks it takes to keep a farm going.

With so many family farms struggling now, it’s good to see one so dedicated to keeping community and agricultural traditions alive. Thanks for the visit, Annie.

Mountain Mint: Here to Stay

White Velvet

Most of the year, I wonder why I’ve kept this plant through two moves and several garden renovations. Like most members of the mint family, hoary mountain mint (Pycanthemum incanum) sends its rhizomes out farther than I would like and its foliage is usually nondescript. I think that something else might need to go in that space.

Then, summer comes and I remember why I make room for this under-appreciated U.S. native. Soft, velvety, white leaves appear just under the flowers and are magnets for all sorts of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. A bonus is the clean, minty fragrance emitted by the leaves when rubbed or slightly crushed.

There are over twenty species of mountain mint native to the U. S. It’s considered an aromatic herb or perennial and is sometimes used for a natural insecticide. It’s not nearly as prolific as most culinary mints and I’ve never seen it re-seed in other parts of my yard. So far, deer don’t seem to like it either.

So, welcome, mountain mint. Your virtues are appreciated. You will always have a place in my garden.

From the Breakfast Buffet

Pancake Day at Davy Crockett State Park

It’s somewhat strange to see a squirrel maneuvering a fully-formed pancake at five o’clock in the afternoon. Whether he’d saved it since breakfast (doubtful) or had grabbed it from someone’s campsite later in the day, he was very protective of his bounty. Each time I tried to get closer for a photograph, he walked a few steps on his hind feet, then turned his back to me as if to say, “Go do something else”, or “This thing’s dry and needs some syrup”.

Wild Frontier, Cultivated

Davy Crockett Birthplace

Growing up in western North Carolina, I heard a lot about Davy Crockett, the legendary “King of the Wild Frontier”. At school, we learned about Davy’s travels and hunting escapades. At home, my mother turned on the old victrola – if we were good – and played the well-loved theme song from Walt Disney’s movie about Davy. My dad brought home a coonskin cap once when he went out of town on business. I wasn’t impressed by the cap, but did think Davy was quite mysterious and handsome, overall.

Davy Crockett lived in this cabin when he was born in Limestone, Tennessee in 1786. Limestone was just over the mountains from where I lived, so it didn’t seem like much of a “frontier” to me. I now appreciate how hard life must have been for people in that time and place, although this well-manicured cabin by the Nolichucky River might suggest otherwise.