Monday, May 30, 2016

Honeysuckle Time

Honeysuckle time.

What more can I say? 

Only that the smell of honeysuckle brings back sweet memories that only come to me once a year... the anticipation of sucking a drop of honey from a blossom just like I did ages ago when I was a carefree kid playing in the neighborhood's vacant lots that just happened to be covered with honeysuckle vines.

Each bloom gives one drop only and a certain dexterity is needed to accomplish successful drop sucking. The stamen (if my biology lessons serve me right) collects a drop of the sweetest tasting nectar ever created as it's pulled through the long tube of the bloom. The robber (that would be me...or a bee...or a hummingbird) waits until the exact moment to nozzle in, to suck that drop and discard the bloom quickly because there was always one more, and then one more, and then one more again. What a delight for the senses.

I read a trick from an old mountaineer who was looking for a bee nest, okay, beehive, only he called it a bee nest. Easy to do. Gather a strand or two of honeysuckle in full bloom and twine it around a long stick. Hold the stick in the air to attract a bee. When the bee has had its fill, it will make a bee line home. Simply follow the bee. When it gets too far ahead and you lose track, wait. The bee will return, or will send his buddies. Repeat until the nest is in sight or in hearing distance of the excited buzzing from all that wonderful honeysuckle. My mouth is watering right now.

Some childhood memories are priceless. This is one.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Blackberry Winter

We went through a cold snap last week, the days when the wind snaps at your nose and reminds you that winter is not quite through. Even though it was late spring. Even though the calendar date said May.

There was a snow covering on the higher peaks of the Appalachians. I know this because friends posted pictures on facebook and facebook never lies. Meanwhile I was shivering on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean with sand filled wind snapping my legs...a cold snap for sure.

In these parts of the universe, this cold snap is referred to as a blackberry winter. The wild fields this spring are bursting with more blackberry blooms than I remember seeing the last few years. A spring event like this is defined locally by what is blooming at the time of the downturn in the normal hints of summer. Hence, blackberry winter.

This blackberry patch photo I snapped from the street near my home, Calico Road, so named generations ago for the dresses worn by the girls who lived at the end of the street. It will be a great spot to pick blackberries, reachable, near civilization enough to keep back a few snakes...a few.

Unlike this blackberry patch on the hiking trail at Tuttle Educational State Forest near my home. This patch calls for a dog companion for protection, deep into the woods, not near any civilization, and wide open to snakes...and ticks I might add. I found one crawling on my neck when I returned home after the hike.

This summer I will have a booth at the annual Blackberry Festival in Lenoir. By the time it rolls around in July, these blooms will have turned into huge black lumps oozing with flavor ripe for the picking. At noon on festival day there is a ceremonious parade from the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Church to the town square and featuring men carrying flats laden with blackberry cobblers. Once the ceremony is complete, everyone gets a free scoop of the cobbler. Tasty! Fun!

Until then, these white blooms will finish their business and wither away while the berries begin their business and fill with rainwater and sunshine and deliciousness.

I can't wait. It will be a blackberry summer for sure.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Rhododendrons and Blue Grass

My husband and I spent a delightful four days last weekend at a blue grass festival here in western North Carolina. Merlefest. Named in memory of Doc Watson's son Merle who was killed in a tractor accident not all that far from where I live, the festival has grown by the thousands each year. My favorite venue of the twelve is the traditional tent where the poets of the Appalachian sing old ballads and tell old stories.

I snapped this photograph during the tribute session on Doc's favorite songs. He died two years ago, but I was fortunate to have attended his last public appearance, singing gospel on the creekbank a mere two weeks before his death. I sang along, as did the rest of us thousands sitting in the audience, just like this year under the massive tent.

The Wilkes Community College campus where Merlefest is held each year was at its finest. The grass was green, not blue at all. Blue Grass is music. Green grass is nature's carpet where the tens of thousands (plus me and mine) set lawn chairs and picnic baskets. The elegant gardens bloomed in nature's time that this year coincided with Merlefest time. Star of the garden, the rhododendrons.

Rhododendron. What a word to spell check! An answer on the television game show Jeopardy a couple weeks ago was "the Greek translation for Rose Tree." The question the contestant had to come up with, "What is Rhododendron?" Look at the picture. Do you see a rose tree or two? Okay, so more like a bush, but here in the southern Appalachians, we revere it equally with the rose.

The blooms endured extra hot sunshine on Thursday and Friday, overcast skies on Saturday, and torrential downpours on Sunday. So did we. But like the flowers, we endured. We smiled at the familiar songs and cheered at the new styles of music creeping into Blue Grass. We will return next year and so will the blooms, because the cycle of life and music surely continues.

Catch of the day,