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Archive for the ‘Lake Toxaway’ Category

Western North Carolina is apple country. Henderson County, which is next door to us, produces more than the rest of us, and many varieties. Some of the newer ones are honeycrisp and ginger gold. These have their appeal. Honeycrisp was almost impossible to get year before last due to the demand for it. These newer apples are crossbreeds.

rome appleBut who wants a crossbreed when you can have a real thoroughbred apple. Not me.

One of my favorites is the Rome beauty. This apple, which hails from Ohio, is of unknown origin, one plant having been shipped from a nursery in the early 1800’s in a group of some other variety. The tree survived and from it we have these beautiful deep red apples, flecked with tiny white spots, that often are just as beautiful inside as they are outside, their white flesh streaked and mottled with a deep pink color. Gorgeous! And when you bake them, they retain a lot of that beautiful color. Not all Rome apples have these pretty pink streaky insides, but a fair number of them do.

White and pink interior

White and pink interior

I open the top and dig out the seeds with a little knife, being careful not to cut all the way through the apple if I can help it. In it I put first about a teaspoon of butter and on top of that somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of sugar, and then another teaspoon of butter, topped off with a little shake of cinnamon. Put the apple(s) in a dish or pan just large enough to hold it(them); add a little water in the bottom; and bake in a preheated oven at about 350 degrees until as done as you like. I use a toaster oven for one or two, and it doesn’t take long. The water will make a nice juice that you can pour on top of the apples when they are done.

baked apples

baked apples

Rome apples will remain firm longer than most varieties. Just keep them a a cool place. They don’t have a really distinctive flavor, nor are they especially crunchy or juicy. They are just good utilitarian apples, but they’ve got a lot of class. Baking brings out the best in them.

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Seems that I saw the Magnificent Seven in a movie many years ago. Don’t even remember what it was all about, but the title was obviously unforgettable. So are these pet turkeys.

Here they are: all seven of them.

Here they are: all seven of them.

With the state of our Union being what it is, and with the things happening everywhere, my attention has been on things important, such as being ready to die at any time. We see that it can happen, and without warning. I don’t want to leave this world unprepared for eternity.

But, Jesus said for us to “occupy” until he comes. And that means to be about the business of living. Sometimes I get so caught up in living that I forget him and that I am his, and just loose my composure, not to mention my temper. Then, Oh Lord, I am sorry. But after the words are said, or yelled, as is sometimes the case, they are loose to do their damage. Shame, shame.

I didn’t want to get involved with turkeys. No one does. But I had to. Jack doesn’t have a lot to get interested in or to take joy in these days, but he does love his birds. Last fall, he insisted Tony take him way over beyond Asheville to buy three female turkeys. These young females did nothing all winter but eat, no eggs, no nothing. But come spring they began to lay.

Jack said I had to save all the turkey eggs. I sneaked and ate a few (they are very good, better than chicken’s eggs) but there were still plenty.  We got one of the incubators out and set it up in the living room on a table where Jack could see it and piddle with it. I think there were eighteen or twenty eggs in it but only six hatched. I put the little turkeys in an open plastic box on the little table where the incubator had been. I couldn’t resist reaching in and grabbing one up as I passed by. They squealed, but I just held and rubbed their beautiful fur. In a few days they began to feather out. Four were yellow with brown markings when they hatched; later they began to be spotted; one was all yellow and one almost black. The yellow one turned out to be gray colored and the black one has a little white on his tailfeathers now. His name is Big Peep.

Here are five little turkeys.

Here are five little turkeys.

Well I petted my baby turkeys until I had to move them to a diddle cage in a room at the end of the chicken house. Jack made the diddle cage several years ago of wood framing with rat wire for the floor and poultry netting for the sides. The top is plywood, hinged to open and shut. By the time the little turkeys moved to the diddle cage Jack had hatched another setting of eggs, but unfortunately, only one little turkey made it. I called him Little Peep. He was black all over. I spoiled him of course, since he was the only one in the house.

The little ones in the diddle cage were growing and so beautiful. Turkeys ARE beautiful, IF you don’t look them in the face. Just notice their marvelous shape and their pretty feathers. All spring my therapy consisted of going down to the chicken house and spending time petting my little turkeys. In a few weeks I let them out of the diddle cage to run free in the little room where the cage was, and I moved Little Peep from the living room to the diddle cage. I let him stay there a week or two while he and the older little turkeys got acquainted.

This is Little Peep. Well, I did tell you about looking them in the face!

This is Little Peep. Well, I did tell you about looking them in the face!

They would look in at him as if to say “What are you doing in there?” I was afraid that when I took him out of the diddle cage the others, being a few weeks older and bigger than him, would terrorize him, but they did not, probably because they already knew him.

By late July or August I turned all seven of them out to the chicken yard. They had no sooner hit the ground than the males began to fight each other. As far as I know there had been no feuding in the chicken house, but they really had it out that day. And then they settled down.

Chickens will go back into their house at night without any encouragement. Turkeys, not necessarily. Our big turkeys always go back in at night. But these – for some reason they wanted to roost outside. They still do. Mostly they roost in a cedar tree at the back of the house, but sometimes they choose a limb of a walnut, or a fence post. When daylight comes they fly down and the whole bunch goes rambling, sometimes far away. One morning I thought a coyote had gotten them, but about 9:00 o’clock all seven of them came traipsing out of the woods.

Even though they are nearly grown now, they are very tame and friendly. If I (or anyone else for that matter) sit at the picnic table they will come up to talk; the dominant males strut around so I can see how lovely they are, even consenting to let me pet them if I rub their feathers in the right direction. Little Peep comes and sits at my side. He is a male also, but he is not letting anyone but me know. He was strutting when he was little, but now he has quit. He is biding his time.

You think I’m kidding?  No. Some males do not develop as early as others. Our black and white male was sold to us as a female, and it was a long time before we found that he was a tom. Also, I think some turkeys, such as Little Peep, have sense enough not to let their testosterone get out of control. They don’t want to pick a fight until they are sure they can win.

That surely applies to the gray one.  He was always more aloof than the other six. I had to run him down to stroke his feathers and it never seemed to please him very much that I did. I noticed he didn’t join in the fight that occurred the first day I turned them out.  I thought he was a duplicate of Madam Gray, an older female we have. I named him Miss Gray.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking on the road behind the shed all by myself when I came upon Miss Gray, who happened to be there alone, digging up bugs. What a show that turkey put on for me! It was as if Miss Gray knew I thought he was a girl and he was glad for this private audience with me so he could set the record straight. I watched in amazement at the transformation. When he saw me he tucked his head up against his neck, and fanned his tailfeathers in a perfect arc. He fluffed all the small feathers on his back and sides straight out. He spread his wing feathers apart and dropped them to the ground, scraping the dust with them as he thumped and puffed at me, strutting up and down as if he were the king of the hill. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it. I had no idea. I had to apologize.

When he was satisfied that I had gotten the message he went back to being a shy and mild mannered fowl, just picking bugs. I have seen no further evidence from him that he is a male. But he is! I would not have known it but for that private encounter.

We have five younger turkeys that have just been turned out. They did not get the petting and attention that I gave these seven and they are wild and no fun at all.

But these seven have been friends. And not just my friends. They cull no one. Give them a little attention and they’ll follow you to the jumping off place. They are a nuisance sometimes, especially when they get on the porch and look through the windows. They wouldn’t do it if they were not crazy about me and they know I’m in there somewhere. The other turkeys never notice the porch.

Earlier this evening I brought Little Peep in for Jack to see how he had grown.  Jack grinned, not at Little Peep, but at me, and he said “You love them turkeys, don’t you?”

I have to admit that I do.

Update: Feb. 2017.  Well, I am going to have to eat crow (turkey). You can not always tell a turkey’s sex by whether they strut or not. I will spare you the details, but to make a long story a little longer you need to know that a more accurate way to determine whether a turkey is male or female is by the wattles (the flap of skin under the beak)  and the bumps or caruncles in the throat region. These are far more predominant in the male at maturity. Before then I guess you just have to wait and see.  Sorry. I learn something new about every day.

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I did not intend to say anything on this subject, but I must put a pin in the hysterical hot air balloon that is inflating up at Toxaway Falls. You notice I did not say “historical,”

If you’ve ever watched Waters World on television you have seen how poorly educated Americans are about their history and culture. It is the exception and not the rule when Waters encounters an informed citizen, one that can answer a simple question about U.S. government or history. I thought that was a phenomenon confined to New York and Coney Island, but alas, it is here also. But, to be fair, we all come up a little short in some areas. And sometimes the remedy for that is what my mother in law used to call a dose of Re ali Tea.

Toxaway Falls Stand

Toxaway Falls Stand

When construction began recently on the road improvements in the vicinity of Toxaway Falls someone looked at the Highway Department’s map and noted that Jack’s little store, Toxaway Falls Stand, had been labeled a historic structure by the highway folks. In almost no time Toxaway Falls Stand’s status became elevated well beyond that of a little slapped together antique building, not even as old or historically significant as some local barns, to a place on the National Register. So now there are a lot of folks around here who actually believe that….

Highway Department Official Looks At Possible Native American Burial Site. (copy of newspaper photo)

Further, the Abandoned Cemeteries people called the Highway Department’s attention to a possible Native American burial site up on the ridge near the proposed new road in order that the site would be protected during the construction. The pile of rocks was identified right away and with certainty as the gravesite of a Cherokee Indian – “Chief Toxaway.” And then the fun began. It seems that another rock pile on another mountain off Blue Ridge Road also bears the distinction of being said chieftan’s resting place. Ohhhhh……

Somehow I find it appalling that our own Native American, the mixed blood William Jack Fisher, who a hundred years ago saved a number of lives in the Toxaway Gorge, was so soon forgotten, while the illusory bones of an Indian chief, about whom nothing is known, and whose historical existence is speculative, were deemed important enough to be claimed interred in at least two places in this community. Whatever happened to the separation of fact and fiction?

Does anyone know how long the rock pile has been there on the ridge above the falls? The Cherokee were not the first Indians to inhabit our area. Some artifacts found in the vicinity are centuries old. Examination of the site might prove that it is very old and made by a previous culture. Further, the Cherokee did not have a town here. The Cherokee town of Toxaway was situated near the confluence of the Keowee River and Eastatoe Creek, now under the waters of Lake Keowee.

It is a fact that the Cherokee once had dominion over the whole of what is now Transylvania County. They occupied a large section of Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina. They did not “own” land as we do but roamed at will. Their trails crisscrossed the mountains, connecting their various settlements. There were yearly hunting expeditions through our area. An annual stopover was on Indian Camp Mountain near Rosman. Highway 178 out of Rosman was built on their trail –  the Eastatoe Path. Occasionally there might have been numbers of Cherokees encamped here or passing through.

But by the time the first permanent white settlers began coming here there were very few Indians left, the reason being the Cherokee Removal of 1838-39. Most of the Cherokee were rounded up and herded off to the West along the Trail of Tears. But there were some who managed to escape capture by fleeing their valley settlements and hiding out in the mountains, including our area. Eventually the government abandoned their search for these fugitives and they were allowed to stay wherever they were. The early settlers of this area found abandoned huts and other evidence of Cherokee occupation. They also found a few Indians, some of whom assimilated into the white culture. There was one Indian family who owned property in the vicinity of Golden Road and were members of a local church.

So is it not possible that Chief Toxaway might have been one of the local Indians back in the mid-1800’s when white people began settling here? Possible, yes, but not likely. For one thing there seems to be no mention of him in any historical records from that era, and there certainly was no cohesive Cherokee settlement here for him to be head of.

Part of the Eastatoe Valley

Part of the Eastatoe Valley

But, if it makes anyone feel better, there is some mention of Chief Toxaway by a romantic and adventurous nineteenth century writer – William Gilmore Simms. Simms loved nothing better than to mingle with the locals and gather tidbits for his stories, most of which were fiction. Jim Bob Tinsley in his book Land of Waterfalls mentioned Simms and his visit with the Long Hunters here in the 1840’s. Well, Simms published a collection of stories including The Legend of Jocassee, a tale set in the Keowee River area, and pertaining to a conflict between two rival bands of Cherokees, the Eastatoe band, and the Oconees. It seems the leader of the Eastatoes was none other than – Chief Toxaway.

Perhaps Mr. Simms’ story is where some of this smoke came from…..Anyway, the evidence that there ever was a Chief Toxaway up here in the high country is pretty flimsy, especially when one considers that except for the river, the name Toxaway did not come up here until the early 1900’s, and incidentally, was brought by the land developers. Before that our impressive monolith was dubbed Hogback Mountain, due to its similarity in appearance to that beast, and the surrounding low ground was Hogback Valley. At that time Toxaway Falls was known as the Bagwell Shoals, after the name of its owner.

But, back to the rock pile, we know that Native Americans sometimes buried their dead in this manner. And it doesn’t seem likely this spot would have been a cultivated field, cleared of rocks by a farmer who piled them at the edge. So it is entirely possible we have a genuine Native American burial site overlooking Toxaway Falls. And that’s important.

But beyond that, if an Indian chief is buried under those rocks, I rather doubt it is Chief Toxaway……

…..But there’s an outside chance it could be Chief Hogback……

Hogback Mountain

Hogback Mountain

 

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IMG_1231I had a few little crocus blossoms earlier, mostly purple, but one bright yellow. It was so cold I couldn’t enjoy them then except in passing, on my way to the mailbox. But now, Ahh, it’s a lot warmer and the forsythia and daffodils are blooming. Their bright golden color is just dazzling against the browns and grays of the lingering winter.

When I was a girl, the only daffodils I knew were the double ones. They were usually scrawny and lots of times they didn’t open fully, and consequently they just were not very attractive. My grandma had doubles, my aunts had them, Mama’s friends had them, everyone, first to last had double daffodils. Nobody had the single trumpet kind. I have often wondered if double was the only vairiety they sent up here to McNeely’s General Store, where I suspect the local folks got their bulbs way back then. But I remember down at Boyleston we had doubles at the place where we lived. And also at the house near Brevard.

I have trumpet daffodils that I planted, but, would you believe there were only double daffodils here when I came. Jack had dug up some from his great grandparents’ place at Waddle Mountain and they planted them here. I didn’t know until recently how old those daffodils were. And that’s what I am getting to with this article.

Daffodils are self sufficient and tenacious. I guarantee you that after they were planted nobody ever did one more thing for those double daffodils Jack brought up the mountain to here so many years ago. And I will also guarantee you that they had been growing at that old homeplace on Waddle Mountain untold years with no attention whatever. Nobody petted them, or fertilized them, or encouraged them.

Unless their habitat is destroyed daffodils will go on and on and on. I remember finding a patch of daffodils in a row in the Pisgah National Forest. At first I was baffled at finding this sure evidence of civilization in such an out of the way place, but then I realized that wooded place had once been a farm. Daffodils are not native to the U.S. and had to be introduced. If you find them in the woods, look around for an old chimney or a other evidence of an old homestead.

Jack's double daffodils

Jack’s double daffodils

Daffodils then, as now, were universally loved and easy to grow. They were passed around so that any woman who wanted some could start with a handful of bulbs and in a few years have a nice flower patch of the bright golden beauties.

And years later when that woman’s cabin has crumbled into dust, and nothing remains of her old place but the gnarled dead stump of an apple tree, the daffodils that she planted will fling open their petals every spring, for no other reason except that she put them there.

Maybe you need to put some, somewhere.

 

 

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Tadpoles and eggs

Tadpoles and eggs

We have a little seep at a low place in the field where a little water runs all the time, a place ideal for small frogs. I love to hear them sing. They are mostly tenor and mezzo soprano, and proud of it. This time of year they are in celebration mode. The sound of their music carries a long, long way.

My love for tadpoles had its origin in my childhood. Mama found some frog eggs somewhere and brought them home. She put them in a deep dish on the back porch and forbade little hands to touch. That spring we watched with wonder as the eggs hatched and the little tadpoles put on their front legs, then their back legs, and their tails went away. Mama put a rock in the dish so the little frogs could climb out of the water when they were old enough. By that time she had placed a scrap of screen wire over her miniature pond to keep the little critters from jumping out. They were little bitty fellas, about an inch long, more or less, roughly the same size as these that are hatching right now.

The adults are small, about four inches long until they jump and then they spread out quite a ways. I see them sometimes as I walk by their little home, jumping from the bank into the water. They are afraid of me.

Tiny tadpole pond, with algae

Tiny pond with tadpoles

Before long the algae will thicken along the edges of their pond and you won’t see them very much. Tadpoles eat algae as they grow. Perhaps big frogs do also. I am not sure.

It looks like hundreds of tadpoles hatch, but we don’t end up with very many frogs (which might be a good thing, when one thinks of the plague of frogs in Egypt; they were even in the bread dough.) (Exodus 8:3) Snakes and other predators perhaps eat them.

March is concert time, and we are enjoying the music. Grandma always said the opera music Grandpa listened to sounded like frogs. Could be true; their song is really lovely.

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Quebec Home

Quebec Home

This time of year I can not help remembering Christmas Past. There was a time when I was younger when I felt that life began after Christmas. The hard part of the year was the end, and once I got past that I could manage. I am not the only one for whom Christmas was (is) a wincing pain, to be endured until friends or family have had their little deal. Untold numbers of people today are only too glad for Christmas to be over.

I thank God that the pain of those years is now only a memory. And it’s not because I’m married now, and life is good.  It is because the Lord led me step by step, by little and by little, away from pain into peace, until finally the pain was gone. Today I can remember that pain, but I can not feel it any more.

It happened during the years I lived at Quebec, fifteen in all. I am brimful of stories from that time. So many astounding things took place. One of them was a real White Christmas.

In North Carolina, unless you live at the crest of the Smokies, it is rare to consistently experience snow at Christmastime. Here in the mountains we have snow fairly often, but not necessarily when we want it, such as December 24th after we have finished our shopping.

I don’t remember what year it was — some time in the late 90’s. Nor do I remember the exact day the snow began falling — maybe Christmas Eve, maybe the day before. I was off from my job for a few days, which was good, for I was never one to drive in new snow. It was beautiful, and I didn’t have to go anywhere so I sat beside the stove and watched it from the living room. It snowed and snowed and snowed until there were ten or twelve inches I guess.

Not enough to keep the four wheel drive trucks from rolling. My house was somewhat hidden, but near the road. I could always hear the traffic going by, and Christmas Eve was no exception, snow or not. But gradually their rumblings became farther and farther apart, and as night drew near an unusual stillness began to settle over the valley.  What was it?  Why had the vehicles stopped passing? And then I realized: It was Christmas Eve — the one night when all self respecting coon hunters, road runners, good old boys and girls, and their kids, stayed home and waited for Santa.

I eventually had to go out to get some firewood to feed my stove. The snow had stopped falling. A pale moon lit up the whole valley. There was no noise, no sound at all except the far away rushing of the creek. The stillness was almost tangible.

I took my wood back inside, chunked it into the stove, and went for my coat and cap. I stood in the snow for a long time that night, under the bare limbs of the big dogwood tree, looking at the white fields below me, and listening to the silence of Christmas Eve, savoring what I knew was a once in a lifetime experience.

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witch hazel

witch hazel

I first saw them in the cold of winter, shivering on the banks of the West Fork of the French Broad River, their golden petals nevertheless unfurled, glowing in the thin rays of the December sun. I was amazed at their audacity. Nor were there merely one or two little flowers, struggling to put forth one last show before finally giving up the ghost. Oh,no! The whole bush was bursting with bloom. I didn’t know what they were, but I had heard of the winter flowering shrub, the witch hazel. And that is what it was – a native witch hazel.

After I married Jack and came up here I discovered we had a witch hazel above the spring, a small tree, really. I didn’t notice it until winter, when it bloomed. In the summer I was able to see the fruit and the leaf of this curious bush and I am now able to identify it by the fruit.

Yesterday I noticed a small one in full bloom in the campground and was able to get a good photo of the blossom.

Witch hazel is used as an astringent. It is a treatment for swellings and wounds, as well as  skin problems such as acne and psoriasis. The use of its twigs for divining rods led to its reputation as a witch.

Witch hazel is a plant of encouragement. When summer has passed, the sap has gone down and the world’s turned gray  the brave witch hazel puts forth its frostproof tentacles and toughs it out until spring.

I reckon we can do the same. 

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