Archive for the ‘Lake Toxaway’ Category

One of Jack’s Flying Squirrels

About a week ago Jack came in after feeding his chickens telling me, ” I like to got scared to death. I reached into the corn barrel to dip out some corn, and something jumped and run up my arm like a streak of lightnin’. It was a gray squirrel.”

It happened to him again not long afterwards. Then one morning I went into the shed to pour a new sack of corn into the barrel. Something ran out of the barrel just like Jack said, like a streak of lightning. I saw its tail as it disappeared. It was a squirrel sure enough. Then, just as I was about to dump 50 pounds of corn down into the barrel I saw something dark down in there. I pulled the barrel to the door where the light was coming in. There they were, three little bitty squirrels.

Jack put on some gloves and got them out, one by one. We put them in a bird cage. They climbed the sides of the cage and then I saw their little gliders, the little folds of skin between their front and back legs. They were flying squirrels, just barely big enough to be weaned.  It took a while to convince Jack they were not gray squirrels, but he sees the difference now.

We put them on the stove next to Jack’s pullet and gave them cracked corn to eat. After all, that is where we found them, in the corn barrel. They didn’t want cracked corn to eat, but it made a nice bed to curl up in. They curled up in little balls and slept. I gave them squash; I gave them bananas, we shelled peanuts for them, and nothing pleased them. Finally I went down to the shed and got some of Jack’s bird seeds. They dove in. Whew! I was afraid they would starve to death.

I had a flying squirrel that frequented my back porch at night when I lived at Quebec.  I suppose it was hunting fresh vegetables that I kept out there. When I turned the light on, it was blinded and  did not run away, so I was able to get a good look at it. That’s how I recognized these little creatures.

Jack has been getting one at a time out and rubbing its head. If one ever gets loose, I will never be able to catch it. They are incredibly fast. And very sweet. However I don’t want to take one up. They will bite you!


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Jack’s Pullet

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned Jack’s love for feathered creatures, any kind of bird, large or small.  We have two egg incubators and heretofore Jack has had some luck hatching eggs. But this year he seems to have lost his touch. Maybe the incubator he is using is wearing out or something. I think he has thrown out three sets of eggs. One batch got so far along that I could hear the baby chicks “peep! peep!” but the shells never opened. It’s kind of sad.

Jack’s Pullet, Age One Day

The last time about four hatched, but only one lived. We have kept it in a box on our old wood cookstove with a lamp shining in. Jack is so enamored of the little creature. When it was only a day old he reached in the box and picked it up and held it in his hands. “Ain’t it pretty?” he said, “I believe it’s a pullet.”

Well, I nearly died laughing. Only Jack would hazard a baby chick’s sex at the age of one day. Wishful thinking I say; he needs pullets, for eggs.

However, now that it has feathered out and sprouted such a pretty little tail, (Young pullets have better tails than young roosters. )  I think it just might be a pullet.

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Built 1939

I am going to share with you some pictures of my ancestral home, a place where as a child I was privileged to come many times. I loved it with a passion, as did my brothers and some of my cousins. It was home to us, fixed, unmovable, unlike the rental houses we hopped into and out of like little frogs.

Replacement porch posts of painted locust poles

I lived there most of the time from 1984 to 1999 when I married Jack and moved to Toxaway. It was truly a lovely place, and a big place, as you will see.

After 1999 I was unable to maintain it. Soon the house  burned, and the fields grew up in weeds and saplings. For a long time a friend kept horses and a mule in the far field, but after that it became a very  expensive proposition to keep the mowing done, so every other year or so it was not done, unless someone wanted the hay, which by then was barely hay and mostly weeds. You get the picture.

Now we are working toward a division of the property. It is my hope that sooner or later my beautiful home will look better than it does today.

These pictures were taken from time to time during the years I lived there.

I will never forget the time I looked down to this field near the barn and there stood the grandest white stallion I ever saw. I said to myself, “I know my prince has come, for I see his horse.” I don’t have a picture of the white horse. He was a beauty, though.

The barn and a feed shed are the only structures remaining on the property now. The feed shed is recent, from the time of the horses. The barn was built when I was a child, and replaced an earlier barn.

There was a woodshed behind the house which grandpa built too close to the bank and which threatened to drop off into the spring branch for many years. You can see from the picture how it is leaning backwards. Finally I got my cousin to cut some stout poles and prop up the woodshed from behind. It worked.  The woodshed stayed until it was torn away after the house burned. The sweet dog in this picture was my daughter’s. I kept it for several months. At first I did not want it and tried to give it away (with her permission) but nobody wanted it. I was surprised that my heart broke when she finally took my dog back!

There is a lovely creek running through my old home place, the North Fork of Flat Creek. Flat Creek runs through some flat places, but there are at least three waterfalls on it. When we were little, Grandpa had a bridge over it. High water washed it away and it never was replaced. Today there are several trees along the creek, but back when we were growing up Grandpa kept the edges clear.

Back in those days a haircut was meant to last a long time, as you can see. My younger brothers are on the bridge fishing. The milk cow is beyond them, cooling her heels in the water.

The charming interior of the house was never modernized; this photo shows the little wood cookstove Grandma ordered from Sears and Roebuck. There was, however, an electric stove not showing in the photo. There had been an oil heater in the living room, but I thought it was unsafe and replaced it with a wood stove, which was more like I remembered, and a lot warmer than the oil heater. Nothing can beat a wood stove for coziness!

How dear to my heart was this place, in the Quebec community, a few miles from Lake Toxaway. It is on the North Carolina registry of Century Farms, under the name: The Henry McCall Family Farm.

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Black bears at Little Panthertail Mountain

We’ve had bears at Lake Toxaway from the beginning of time I guess, but I never saw one here. I saw them at Cades Cove a few times so I know their coloring, and roughly how they look. In our area as well as Cades Cove there are only black bears.

Early this morning I was out on a golf cart, traveling an old road in the woods. It is my custom to take our sooner chocolate lab Bruno for a run every morning. Sometimes Charlie Fisher, our neighbor’s black lab,  goes with us. Occasionally he meets us somewhere along the way. Bruno and I go up the hill to the campground usually, and from there sometimes I take the Lake Toxaway view trail. Today I took that trail.

Bruno (right) and Charlie Fisher

Bruno ran ahead. He was about 50 yards out front when he stopped and began barking. Suddenly a black shape emerged from the bushes to Bruno’s left. I have somewhat less than perfect vision, and right away I thought, “Charlie Fisher!”

But Charlie didn’t come bounding toward me as he usually does, nor did he begin to play with Bruno, who was barking furiously. Instead he swiftly climbed the embankment on the right, and as he did I noticed he didn’t have a tail. Uh oh! The Charlie Fisher I know has a handsome tail, with long fur on it.

Of course, it was a young bear. Last winter Tony regularly got photos of bears on his game camera. But bears travel far and wide. I thought they were gone from Little Panthertail this spring. I even said that in my last post on this site. I was wrong!

I called Bruno, who finally came to me, not because he wanted to, but because he loves me. I turned my golf cart around and soon I had emerged from the woods, very pleased to have finally seen a bear, right here at home!

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pink lady’s slippers

Since I mentioned lady’s slippers recently, I am posting a photo of some pink lady’s slippers that I took a few days ago.

Today however, we are talking about berries. When I was a girl we picked lots of berries in summer. There were two kinds that Grandma and Mama canned: blackberries and buckberries. The best blackberries were up here at Toxaway in the lake bed. We’d ride up here from Quebec on the back of Grandpa’s T-hound (an A-Model Ford truck) and pick buckets of the fattest blackberries you ever saw. I always said they were as big as hen’s eggs, and they were sure enough as big as banty eggs. For you town folks, banties are small chickens (bantams.)

buckberry flowers and tiny green berries

The other kind of berries we picked were buckberries. We had such an abundance of buckberries right there at Quebec there was no need to go anywhere else for them. Grandma’s house was right at the foot of Tom Lyman Mountain. Tom Lyman Galloway was  brother to my great grandma Parilee McCall. By that time he was dead, so I never knew him, nor did he ever have a home on the mountain that bore his name. We’d leave out after breakfast and go up on Tom Lyman’s mountain, carrying several peck buckets, which we quickly filled with buckberries. By dinnertime (somewhere between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m.) the buckets would be running over and we’d be on our way home.

buckberries a.k.a. bear huckleberries

Both berries are good eating, having a bit of a tart taste, but the buckberry is simply delicious.  Its texture is similar to that of a blueberry, but the flavor is far superior, spicy and sweet-tart. Buckberries are shiny black at maturity and about the size of cultivated blueberries. They are a little larger than wild blueberries in areas where the soil is rich. The leaves of the two plants differ somewhat, but not much. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the color of the fruit. Also, if you will notice, the ripe blueberry has a little frill on the end; the buckberry has a little circle, but no frill.

The photo of the ripe berries was taken by Graham Sexton. I have lost my source information; I think it came from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed for re-use, but I could not find it in a recent search of that site. My apologies, Mr. Sexton, if I am infringing. The other photos were taken here at our place at Toxaway.

The buckberry is also known as the bear huckleberry. Its distribution is limited to the southern Appalachians, namely North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and maybe Virginia.  Buckberries grow as understory plants in the forests of these areas. Where they get a fair amount of sunshine, they produce well. However in our area, most of the timber has been allowed to mature and the shade has discouraged the production of berries. The bushes are plentiful, but nowadays berries are few and far between.

Which is a shame. Not even a wild strawberry can compete with the buckberry for flavor!


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Late April. A lot of trees still have tiny little suggestions of leaves, but all are leafed out, at least a little, save a South Carolina mimosa in my front yard. Last year about this time a tree man came by and tried to get me to pay him to cut it down. He assumed it was dead, but I knew better.

orange "honeysuckles"

The beautiful flowers we call “honeysuckles” are blooming. Wild azaleas they are: pale pink, pink, yellow, orange, and flaming red. Not many red ones any more, but plenty of orange. We had a swamp honeysuckle in the swamp at Quebec. I wonder if it is still blooming. It finally grew to be twice my height. The swamp honeysuckle is pale pink, sticky, and it has a wonderful fragrance. The others do not have a noticeable fragrance.

The cucumber tree (Fraser magnolia) is blooming also.

I mentioned previously the gorgeous yellow lady’s slipper I found. Wow! Pink ones we have, a few, and they are beautiful. But the yellow is the queen!

But flowers would be nothing without birds. Birds are magical creatures, especially just before dusk, and at daylight. I simply love to hear them in the early mornings. I put on a sweater and go out to sit on the porch and listen. For about thirty minutes in the early morning, just as it is getting light they delight my senses with their songs. After that they seem to thin out. Maybe they go wherever birds go in the daytime. Early evening brings them back, but the evening concert is never as good at the morning’s.

When I was a child we lived for a few years down below Brevard near the French Broad River. Our house looked over cornfields and pastures and sat in the edge of the woods. A small stream ran behind it. I will never forget summer mornings there. Two of my brothers and I would be up and out very early in the morning, exploring. It was my free time. There must have been hundreds of birds in the trees above us. They made such a din and a racket with their songs we could hardly hear each other speak. What a wonderful shining memory. What a wonderful place that was.

Wild turkeys

Early this week I had a brush with a different sort of bird, a big bird, a wild turkey. We have some around here but they are pretty elusive. There are places in the woods where they scratch for bugs and worms. You can tell where they have been but you don’t see them very often. The photo here was taken up on the mountain above us with a remote game camera, the type that is motion activated. There are several turkeys in this group.

I was on an old road a few days ago when I came close to two turkeys and scared them. Immediately they flew away. I had never seen a turkey fly before. We have two tame turkeys, but they only fly to the top of the fence post.  I was amazed to see have gracefully, how swiftly, and how far a wild turkey can fly. One disappeared before I saw much of it. The other hesitated, but only a second. It got its bearings and rose high on its mighty wings, then sailed like a glider through the timbers. I never did see where it landed, but it surely was a looooong way off. Folks, a wild turkey can FLY!

wood thrush

Last but not least: I was delighted this week to hear the “spring bird” again. They come the last of April; it is always a thrill to hear the first one call. These  divine little creatures have the loveliest song I ever heard in the woods. For over twenty years I have been hoping to see one as he is singing his delightful chorus, in order to identify him. I have asked people repeatedly, “What bird is that?” or “Do you hear that bird? What is it?”  A long time ago I was at Arthur Riddle’s house when one began to sing. I asked Arthur what bird it was. He said, “It’s the spring bird. It comes in the spring.” Well, I found this evening, on the internet, it is the wood thrush. I am so delighted to put a name with a song. I read a little blurb that said Thoreau stated the wood thrush’s song was the most beautiful in nature, and I have to say that I agree. Here is a link to that beautiful music.

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Yellow lady's slipper

Yellow Lady’s Slipper

When I married Jack, I left my ancestral home and came up here to Toxaway. This place was settled by Jack’s great grandfather in the 1860’s the best I can determine. There is an oral tradition that the ruins of an Indian settlement (teepees) were found here. Since the Cherokee did not use teepees, my first impulse was to debunk the story. However, right away I found an arrowhead, whether Cherokee or not I have no idea, but maybe…after all, the Cherokee liked the cooler climates in summer and often went to the uplands to raise their corn and pumpkins.

But it was not the Cherokee who left a mark on this land. It was Jack’s grandfather, Bud Lee. Almost everywhere I go I see some evidence of the work he did to coax from it a living for his family.  Bud Lee’s father W. S. Lee purchased around 200 acres here. He deeded off some to his daughter Caroline and her husband Slick Fisher. Later on his son Bud Lee deeded off several acres to family members. Jack sold some after he got it, so now there are only fifty some acres in this tract.

Even though some of the land is fairly steep Bud Lee plowed and tended it. Back then you couldn’t go to the feed store and buy corn for cows and horses. And cows and horses were a necessity. You had to grow that corn on steep hillsides sometimes.  After the forests were cleared and the worst of the roots and stumps were grubbed up you could plant your crop in the rich soils of your “new ground.”

Small rock pile

Small rock stack

In that process you had to remove the rocks also. I was poking around in the woods yesterday, exploring a little swale  that caught my eye. Tall trees surrounded me, interspersed with large rhododendron shrubbery. Who would have thought that crops would have ever been growing here? But, to my right I spied a long row of rocks, not quite covered by leaves. I recognized Bud Lee’s trademark. Neat stacks of rocks, one on top of another in perfect order. This one was long, but very neat and so well stacked that after a hundred years very few were awry or out of place.  I could not help but smile. Here at the edge of his mountainside cornfield, Bud Lee had made this stack of stones gathered out of his field. Above is a photo of a smaller stack I found earlier. At this location I found some rough piles and two very nice ones like this. This pile of rocks probably has not been touched since he put them there.

Another thing I notice is terracing, not just down low where the fields still are, but on the steeper slopes in the woods also. Terracing did wonders to prevent erosion, and in plowed fields terracing prevented the loss of good topsoil, especially in steep places.

Another thing I have noticed: there is the faintest evidence of an old road cut through the lower end of the field west of the house, and the rotted timbers that supported a bridge over a little swampy spring run. I never have asked anyone about that. It must have been just a farm road. However, I understand the original road to Gloucester was not in its present location to start with, but came up a little to the south, and closer to the houses on this side of the road.

At the top of the page is a photo of a beautiful yellow lady’s slipper I found recently. It is the first one I ever found for myself.

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