Friday, October 11, 2013

Hunting for Root

Ok, so you think I have been drinking the local's the mystery...

We met this man on the other side of our ridge who maintains his "bosses" vast acreage as beautiful hiking trails. First, you got to understand, quite a few people in this area of North Carolina roll their own cigarettes. Unless you catch the wind the right way, you assume it is the local tobacco they are smoking. He is a very smart man, just seems a little out there. We talk about bears, snakes and all other wildlife in between. We talk about the storm that came through the day before where the thunder rolls and rolls and doesn't crackle. Weird! We start discussing flora and he mentions truffles and a few other treasures. Then he says, when not maintaining the property, he is Root Hunting. Ok, I look at George and think....ok. We exchange e-mail addresses and move on.

Pisgah Mountain View from our Ridge
Side note - you know when you are taught in Girls Scout or survival training...never get off the trail. Well, we did...we kept going in the basic direction, but not quite getting over the ridge. Thank goodness for GPS and thank goodness that my phone and service provider did not let me down. We cut through an apple orchard....damn worst apples I ever ate. Not worth getting scratched up by the blackberry bushes. However, those were tasty.

Ok, back the the Root Hunting mystery...a day or so later, Mr. Wheeler drives up to check on things on the mountain. You have to understand that this man has been in these parts for a long time and he must be like the 5th generation. I love his dog...and his dog is tickled to sit in my arms! They ride everywhere together and I don't think his truck goes faster the 5mph. No kidding.

Anyways, we were having some small talk and discussing bear hunting season as it was getting close to the opening date. He says...well, the only hunting I like to do is Root. No way, I think...I'm just too dang embarrassed to ask. You all need to remember that I moved to this part of the country when I was 13 and I remember a lot of what the locals did, but this simply wasn't ringing a bell.

Oh, my....I had a 10 hour drive coming up and a charger to keep that phone going. I do most of my research like this. Google ~ I love Google! There, I said it!

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium L) is a fleshy root perennial. It is a shade requiring plant, native to north facing slops in hardwood forests and best adapted to cool temperature climates. It grows naturally in the western mountains of North Carolina. WNC is one the largest exporters of wild ginseng to China!!! Seriously?? It is big business. Current prices are about $300 per pound, but during a shortage less than 10 years ago, it was fetching $900-1,000 per pound. There is plenty of research out there and also quite a few requirements....and by the can go to prison for stealing ginseng from private property. Root Hunting season begins September 1 and lasts until the first frost. Now mind you, it's not that easy to find and it takes about 5 years before you are able to harvest a plant. The roots must have all the prongs together. So you can't steal from another to get to your pound. This plant was listed a threatened back in 1975.

I carry my camera everywhere...and I was taking pictures of the local wildflowers trying to build and educate myself and the kids of what's around us.

 While researching, various extensions and websites list trees and wildflowers that normally can be found around a clue. This beautiful red flower is Cardinal (lobelia cardinalis) and we are passing them left and right. Yes, I know behind each one you will not find ginseng. But, almost every flower listed in the various websites were one's I had photographed. I think this will replace my geocashing. People guard their stashes very carefully! And it is illegal to destroy it!

Once you find a plant and you have established that it is old enough and will have the required roots,  you take the red seeds off, crush them in your hand and plant. Then you proceed to dig your roots.

I'm still miffed and excited to go on my next hike. I will look at wildflowers in a whole different way. My sister-in -law Heidi is brilliant with this kind of info and fun to go on walks with. She knows so much; but never shared Root Hunting. Mystery!

Rock with moss growing on it

Well, I am glad this work week is over and George is headed home. I'm happy to be in the store and studio tomorrow putting out all the new alpaca clothing that has arrived. And finishing various projects started that customers have been eyeing to buy. I especially enjoy my non-traditional pumpkins. Today's color was Plymouth Rock with a Pewter Mica Top Coat from the American Paint Company.

Enjoy ~ Alicia

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Arrival of the Chicks

This has been some week...we finished the weekend with my Zoe eating pecan/walnut encrusted chicken. We were at a party and she happily served herself several pieces and enjoyed them. Several minutes later, she says Mama, did the chicken have nuts? I asked the caterer and he confirms our suspicion. Benadryl did not work so off to the emergency room we go. In route, we had to use the Epi-pen. We hate to, but this now means a visit to the emergency room. We arrive and are immediately checked in and given a room. Because of the quantity consumed, they are concerned because it is now in her system and will be until it comes out the other end. They give her some steroids and hooked up for monitoring. Three hours later, we get to go home. Needless to say, it was very busy at Morton Plant, therefore, sadly, quite entertaining. It was quite the experience for a 12 year old.

I did learn one thing, next time we use Benadryl first to possibly avoid the Epi-pen, is to combine it with Pepcid AC. Unfortunately, due to the amount of tree nuts she consumed, this was not an option. But glad I had her Epi-pens!

 So, here is Monday, and I still have not heard from the Post Office...usually our chicks arrive over the weekend. Not this time. Get the call first thing Tuesday..."I'm on my way!" After awhile, you feel sorry for the Postal workers...the chirping does not stop. Get to the farm, gates closed, strange. Well, I knew something was up, because a friend needed our farm hand to help out, and calls and texts were not being answered. Holly crap...the animals water bowls were empty. Now, I get into "pissed off" mode. George is in North Carolina and I have the store to open. I'm in a dress and sandals. Not quite farm attire and not very lady like. I go into the first paddock and the girls just crowd me - even the one's that usually keep her distance. They were goosing me and one nibbled my glasses off the top of my head. Get them fresh water with Gatorade. Feed them and proceed to all the paddocks. I am covered in mud...but I am still more angry at the lack of responsibility. Coco, our chocolate lab, is now happy. I proceed to tend to the chickens and move some around to accommodate the new arrivals. By the way, there should be 38 in the box, not 27. So another phone call to make. These girls will not lay eggs for at least 4 months. So, I am now calmer then I was...everyone looks fine so now, to find out where my farm hand "Jesus" is. Well, they got a little intoxicated over the weekend and was, well, put in jail. Great kid....but still a kid and needs to mature. So, at least he is not hurt, maybe in jail he might have time to think of consequences. Meanwhile, muddy toes and all, visit one of our neighboring farms to ask one of their farm hands to help until George gets back and we can find someone else. Thank goodness, Tina was able to open the store. I was a mess! We are blessed in the farming community - we don't ask too many questions, we just help. We know one day, we will need help, too. Thank you Urban Acres, LLC.

On a fun note, one of the chicks had snuck out of the little coup before I had all of them in...she ran into one of the hens and both were a little shocked. I guess she thought "you are not my mother!". It was cute and brought a smile to my face!

Just like the temperature gauge on my dashboard this morning! Wow, 64 degrees, and to think that George up the cabin is 20 degrees cooler. Oh, my! I'm so jealous as are the kids.

 But, good news...we have a range and no longer have to use the Coleman camping burner. And when the kids are done playing in the mud and the spring, we have running hot water and a washer and dryer. So, not yet perfect, but what an upgrade. We continue our investment into a battery bank for our solar power. Our house is still holding steady 64 degrees which is what you would expect since we have not turned on the fire place. Once the grout cures, we will heat the house with this amazing design. It brings the cold air from the basement and filters through the channels in the fireplace. It expels it through the top which circulates through the inside of the house and back out through the shell - a house within a house. Pretty cool...if you want to take a look visit (Enertia Homes).

Well, I'm sad to say, I will be missing Monktoberfest in Asheville this weekend. If you are headed that way, it's tomorrow night. Amazing micro beers!

Here's to cooler temps and less air conditioning! Cheers ~ Alicia

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

North Carolina Adventures

Ok, I shared this story a couple of times and everyone said; you have to blog that. Our last adventure to our Off the Grid Cabin was...well adventurous! So, hope you don't fall asleep...Just before we left I was looking to see what festivals or beer fests were scheduled for our week there. Cool, Waynesville was having it's first beer fest.  Bought our tickets and we were all excited. Western North Carolina has some amazing micro breweries. Got packed up - frozen foods we had already prepared, clean sheets and towels and other supplies we have thought we needed to add to our new getaway. Drop the kids off at school on Friday and head northbound.

We have had way too much rain this year up in the mountains and it has wrecked havoc on our road. Unfortunately, the road is shared so we never quite know what to expect when we arrive. So we do try and get up there before dark. We had a few issues during our prior visits, so George has decided to relocate his "Old Mule" Dodge Dakota 4x4 to the mountains. We won't even discuss the issues with the transporter, but we finally found one and he would arrive right behind us. if we have issues with the road, we will park my Tahoe Hybrid (not 4x4) at the bottom and use his truck to get to the top. Please note that my Tahoe has been doing a pretty good job in the previous visits. So, we are now headed North and we hear from the transporter that he is having issues with his truck and will be delayed a day. Thinking positively, we continue and see what the road would be like once we got there. The weather has cleared over the past few weeks so the road should be dry.  So the road has cleared and nothing like it was in the picture. Our neighbors had just dug a well and have heavy equipment on the road. Wow, we think, they cleaned up nicely and we were all excited about all the work done on our driveway. The Tahoe makes it up the hill one more time!
George stopping the spring from running down the road

 We arrive....home sweet home...we look around and the mouse traps we left out caught a few. They smelt....spent! Hurry get them in a bag and outside. All looks good...still no running water, electricity, gas...we still have the buckets, the generators and the camping stove top. But, it's all good. Love time up there. So, we get settled in, prepare dinner and hike to our sunset spot! We have so many old logging trails that need clearing. Beautiful...back home, take a 5 gallon bucket shower, share a glass of wine and go over our plans for the next day.

Saturday we wake up to this beautiful sunrise coming over our ridge. During all of our time visiting I have yet to catch this shot. So, in a couple of hours, the original designer/engineer for our Inertia Home is coming to walk us through the house. Mind you, this house was one of his first designs and done back in 2000 or so. Mike and his wife were so excited to walk the property and see how it had held up. This was a fun morning. We learned so much about our house inside our house. So, visit over, we decide we should head down to the first Waynesville Beer Fest! We arrive and I have never seen or heard the thunder like this. Even here in Florida! The thunder doesn't just crackle, it rolls and rolls and rolls. It even startled George. Well, here we are in an open field, with metal kegs and tents. Yummy beers, but now it becomes a drunk fest. I'm leaving with water in my glass and one of the guys at the exit says "Mam; you'll have to dump your glass". I asked since when was beer brewed clear? The cop just looks at me and says...good point. Time to go to town and eat some dinner! Downtown has one of their street closure parties that evening. So roads are blocked...grab dinner and head out to do a little shopping and people watch. Gotta go to the Chocolate Bear for their dark chocolate covered peanuts. The best! Then head to Pheasant Hill to grab some of their fudge! I see a butcher block I must have. Mind you, it was built in the early 1900's and weighs a ton. So, the "boys" load it onto a little cart and I jokingly proceed to ride it waving like a queen. They roll me right passed the cop from the beer fest.

Sunset is coming so we decide we need to proceed up the hill. Yes, we got rain on our road...well, the Tahoe made it earlier....let's go again. Once, twice, three's a charm. George, ummm, the rear tire on my side is making a funny sound. Just the tire spinning he said...apparently, on go two, the muffler got unhitched from the car rubbing on a rock that the well diggers had surfaced and covered, but the rain polished it and brought it right out for us. On go three, up, up, up...nope, started spinning so back down. Now, the muffler pipe had turned and nicely did a can opener job on the tire. I'm mad...I get out of the car ready to hike. Back in's Labor Day weekend and tomorrow is the OnStar button and get a tow ready for tomorrow. Grab only the essentials and hike in the dark (with the exception of our flashlights) the two miles up the ridge. Thank you, Mr. Wheeler for letting me know two days later that he had seen a Rattlesnake earlier that day on the road. I'm only worried about the bears because we have seen fresh bear prints on our property. We've also  seen coyote and their prints.

It takes us a couple of hours to catch our breath, but neither waited to long for a rum and coke. Did I mention had the carrier arrived on Friday, my poor Tahoe would not be in this situation. Oh, yeah, carrier had more truck problems. Really, so he missed his Saturday drop off as well. Cell reception where we are is crap. So we keep them fully charged and near the one spot that we know we get signal. Not to bore you, but we finally get a tow guy. We walk back down the 2 miles and pull out that damn chopping block I had to buy. Cover it in plastic and meet our tower. Amazing tower, backs up and starts to inform us that he does not need to go more then 50 yards/feet from a maintained road. Oops...George backs up the Tahoe..I won't get it because the sound of the flat is too much for me to handle. I walk the 1/2 mile. Loads her up and then George proceeds to ask the tow guys for a ride. This is why they call us Floridiats up there. He looks at me and says ok - get in. Well, he has a seatbelt, George has a seatbelt...I don't. I grab the guys notepad and dirty gloves and hold on to. We have some small talk and he learns that I grew up on the other side of them there that hills. Yes, Asheville. He's originally from South Carolina. Ok, he's not annoyed with us anymore. We get to the Asheville Chevy dealership to drop off the Tahoe. He was to meet up at the Waynesville dealership, but said Asheville would be better. We are now to the point...whatever. We get a call from the transporter....something, something...oh, it's his water hose...can he pull the Tahoe off the rig and come get us...I'm just a couple of exits down from you. We sit and sit and sit...George, you think you should call the guy? He arrives....we left the keys in the drop box and load up the Dakota and give the transporter guy a ride. George said, so we exit at (I can't remember) 38 and he said no, it's 49 I was one exit off! Hmm, I'm not good at math unless it has a dollar sign in front of it, but 38 from 49 is not one exit! Drop him off and head to the Home Depot...we buy a few essentials and a grill!!! Stop off at the grocery store and head to our road. First time ever, but once on our drive...I was ready for a beer. We get up the hill, eat dinner and relax.

Monday, Labor Day....not going down the mountain. We decide we are going to clear the one logging trail we think will offer us western exposures (sunsets).

Here we are, prepared to tackle this logging trail. We start and we are moving at a good speed. We also want to clear this area so we can bring the wind mill down as we think it is locked. Oh....did you know yellow jackets have their nests in the ground? We are looking forward not under for snakes. George gets tackled by this swarm. I freak, not because I am allergic, but they are toxic to me. I hate people who scream like girls, but I did. It's not the fear of the beast, it's now I know what this beast can do to me. Then it hits me, I can't leave George up there swarmed. So I run back and I don't want to touch him. I find a branch and sweep these menace off of him. He gets stung three times, me one. No issues, but I have in the past. He says use the, we avoid their area and continue up the logging trail. Amazing, we reach the top...another hornets nest. We steer clear...beautiful spot. our new happy hour. 

We are happy and satisfied and head home for lunch. My wriest starts to swell and based on last time, 24 hours is worse. George says he wants to go work on our's a mini dam..and by the way, we have craw dad's in it!

 Bad day, ended well. Oh my, did you know that your pillow can be a great scratching post while you sleep. I woke George up just rubbing by bite....I woke up in pain and not able to move my hand because of swelling....well, we now have a new day. Get confirmation from the dealership that the part we need has to come in from Detroit...and won't arrive until Thursday. It's not happening...I need to be back in town to collect my kids Friday morning...they sub it out! Thank you! Car will be ready tomorrow and for about half the price. Yeah!

I came to these mountains to do some hiking and I was damn tired of the road, the truck, the, we head south east to one of our logging cuts in to someones private property, but there are no signs to tell you otherwise. We finally run into this guy on an ATV - he "manages" this property for the owners. Really neat guy...and he introduces me to Root Hunting! Without Googling many of you know about root hunting?

Had I told this story when it actually happened you would have enjoyed my anger and sarcasm...I've calmed down since!
View of Pisgah Mountain from our Ridge
Beautiful ferns/moss on a rock

 It amazes me that I was so ready to leave the mountains at a younger age. I listen to my kids tell me how much they enjoy it. And I realize, how much more time I spend with them interacting, and you know what? That is fun! Enjoy the trails.

Life has blessed me with two wonderful girls. It has also brought a partner that enriches our lives and makes these adventures annoyingly fun!

Enjoy life - somewhere I read it is a one time offer; use it wisely.