Columns 2004

October 28, 2004

It’s bounced back warm for the moment, and I think this weekend will be the last good weekend for leaves. It hasn’t been a spectacular year, but it has been very pretty, especially in the late afternoon, with the sun coming through the leaves.

There’s still quite a bit of water in the lake, in case anyone is interested in a few last-minute lake activities.

This is the last weekend for the Sorghum Festival in Blairsville.

It’s also the last weekend for the Cherry Log Festival in Cherry Log.

The Halloween Safe Zone is Saturday in downtown Blue Ridge. It’s usually a fun time, because a lot of the adults wear costumes, too. Here’s the business association write up: “Thousands of costumed kids and grown-up kids gather in downtown Blue Ridge to celebrate. Businesses stay open late to pass out candy and treats. Parade and costume contest.” Blue Ridge Business Association, 706-632-0547.

If anyone out there has a cabin or a piece of land to list, now’s the time. We’re in the height of the busy season, and I expect it will roll pretty good until the end of November, barring really bad weather.

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town!

October 22, 2004

Since last week, the maples and hickories have turned yellow, and it’s been quite beautiful on the deck, especially in the late afternoon sun. The oaks haven’t really turned yet, so we’re still lacking the brilliant reds. In a normal year, we’d expect the peak this weekend or next, but it’s far from peak at this point. The trouble is, it’s hard to tell whether it’s going to get much better, because many of the oaks seem to be just turning brown and dropping their leaves. Those of you who want to be sure not to miss it might consider coming up this weekend. I recommend a drive or a hike out through the Cohuttas for folks who want to see the color.

I had an email inquiry from some folks from Goa, India that included an email name, but no address of a service provider. If you are reading this, please contact me again with your full email address at

The harvest festival is in its last weekend at the old farmer’s market in Blue Ridge. It’s a great place to buy chow-chow and preserves, along with some of the local crafts. I bought some very nice pottery last weekend from a vendor by the name of J. Alexander. The market is in the vicinity of the old drive-in theater on the old highway. From Atlanta, turn at the first light in Blue Ridge, at June Walker Chevrolet. Follow along to a right, just before the Swan Drive-in Theater.

The sorghum festival is on in Blairsville for the next two weekends. It’s worth a visit for the history and the sorghum.

Speaking of sorghum, the grist mill up in Copperhill, Smelter’s, has started offering buckwheat pancake mix along with their great cornmeal and grits. They’re on the left, just past the old copper plant as you head up Hwy 68 toward Ducktown from Copperhill.

October 15, 2004

It’s been a bit cooler this week, with some rain over the past few days. It definitely feels like fall, and we’re beginning to see some color in the woods, mostly from the dogwoods, sourwoods, and sumacs. The dominant tones are red and rusty, with some yellows here and there.

Everyone is asking me when I think the leaves will peak, and the answer is that it’s still a little too early to call. I’ve talked to a few of the old weather prophets in the county, and gotten their opinions, which tend to favor an early fall. I think that’s probably right, especially since the weather channel is calling for a frost tonight. At this point, my guess is that we probably won’t have a spectacular leaf season. We’ve had about three years in a row of less-than-peak leaf seasons, and the explanation always has to do with rain – too much, too little, too soon, too late.

Having said that, I’ll also say that I’m sure there will be a few wonderful leaf days this fall. I’ll try to keep you posted on the leaf season as things progress. I usually recommend a drive out through Watson Gap into the Cohuttas for those who want to drive and a hike or walk through the same area for those who like to see the country on foot.

This weekend and next weekend (October 16, 17, 23, and 24) will be the Harvest Festival at the old Farmer’s Market. That’s near the drive-in theater on the old highway. From Atlanta, you would turn right at the first light in Blue Ridge, at June Walker Chevrolet. When you get into the vicinity of the theater, look for the festival on the right. It’s one of my favorite events, because it’s a good place to stock up on homemade jams and preserves. There will also be some local craftspeople and miscellaneous vendors.

As I’ve said before, the real estate market is beginning to heat up for the busy season. Those of you who are looking to buy this year should come up and have a look as soon as possible, because we will sell most of the good listings by the end of November.

That’s the news. Hope to see you in town!

October 4, 2004

Last weekend was simply beautiful, and the trend is continuing this week. This morning, it was 50º on the deck, and it’s a perfect fall day.

If you’re in the market for land, it’s getting to be high time to do something. We’re starting to get busy in the office, and the good listings are going to start to sell. I’d recommend that you do some initial looking now, and be ready to move just as soon as the leaves are off the trees and you can see the lay of the land clearly. We sell the most in the fall, and we definitely sell the most view property in the fall.

Speaking of view property, we have begun lot reservations on Nature’s Courtyard, which is the new development of one of our best developers, J.W. Stephens. It’s a little too early to sell lots and put it in the MLS because we don’t have a final plat. But we’re expecting that in a few weeks. This development has some of the best views I’ve ever seen the county, and we expect the best lots to list around $125. Please contact me for details, because this one isn’t online yet.

We’re starting to get some early color from the dogwoods and sourwoods. I’m expecting a fantastic leaf season, and I’ll try to keep everyone posted on the status through this newsletter.

Speaking of fall, we’ve heard from Mr. McDaniels, a life-long resident who lives out toward the Cohuttas, that he’s expecting an early frost. According to Mr. McDaniels, the bloom of a certain flower has without fail predicted a frost in two weeks. I’m not able to identify the flower precisely, but it is one of the daisy-like white asters, very similar to the Rush Aster, the one with grass-like leaves and flower clusters about ½” to 1”.

The big news from Fannin County is that we’ve finally approved new construction inspections, and the county is advertising for qualified inspectors. We were one of only four counties in Georgia without these inspections, and we were attracting some unqualified builders simply for this reason. With these inspections, we can offer a higher quality product to our buyers, and most of us are simply delighted. Thanks are due to everyone who worked to make this important initiative a reality.

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town!

September 23, 2004

The weather has been absolutely beautiful, with mornings on the deck around 50º and highs in the middle 70s. It’s been crisp and clear, with a distinct taste of fall in the air. The dogwoods are starting to turn, and we’ve seen some of the early migrant birds passing through.

As I reported last week, the remnants of the hurricane hit Gilmer County much harder than Fannin County, both with rain and wind. There was some flooding in Fannin on Fightingtown Creek, which makes sense because it comes off Flattop Mountain, over toward Ellijay. The northwestern parts of Fannin, out toward the Cohuttas, were definitely harder hit than other parts of the county. There was some serious flooding in Ellijay, including parts of the Coosawattee.

We’re starting to get a little busy in the office, and I’d encourage anyone who is thinking of selling their property to get it on the market now, because we definitely sell more in the fall. I’m expecting this fall to be especially strong, given how strong the rest of the year has been.

The word on the street is that the golf development is on track, and we’re expecting to hear more about the TVA and the “Ritz Resort on the Lake” soon. If either or both of these projects come to fruition, I expect a considerable bounce in Fannin County property values, so those of you who have been toying with the idea of investing in property here probably need to get going soon, or be prepared to pay more later. The opening of the golf development is expected to be about two years out, so that should give some idea of the timeline. News of these developments seems to be spreading fairly fast, as I’m already hearing from investors who want to get in before it’s too late.

What else can I say? It’s time to come up and enjoy some of the fall weather. Hope to see you in town.

September 17, 2004

It’s Friday about noon, and the storm seems to have passed, although we still have some rain and wind. At least in Fannin, wind damage was much less than what I expected. There are some trees down, and I’ve heard reports of some travel problems, but it seems that most of the main roads are passable. I’ve heard reports of problems on Aska Road, south of Stanley Creek Road, and in Epworth, with a bridge closed over Patterson Creek. Both downtown Blue Ridge and Morganton have power, so it is pretty much business as usual in town.

It rained and blew all night where we are (My Mountain), but it never as hard as I expected it to, and we don’t have trees down. But the whole development is without power.

In Fannin County, power outages appear to be widespread, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountain EMC service area. I’ve heard that they hope they will have power restored by the end of today. Apparently, the Tri-State system wasn’t as hard hit.

Ellijay and Gilmer County was much harder hit, at least by rain. The Cartecay and the Coosawattee both have had some flooding, and I’ve heard that the bridge across the river at the Arby’s is closed, and that the travel trailer lot behind the concrete plant is fairly well devastated. The park strip where the Apple Festival is held is apparently flooded. Again, there don’t seem to be as many trees down as was expected.

I’m surprised to report that neither Cutcane Creek nor Hemptown Creek is flooding. I’ve been told that the Toccoa along Aska Road is raging, but still in its banks. They’re releasing from the dam, but I haven’t yet heard any reports of the river flooding in McCaysville or Copperhill. But I have heard that one of the businesses in Copperhill had to have a shipment delivered to an alternate address, so there may be some travel issues in Copperhill.

Given that Gilmer got more rain, and that there is a bridge out over Patterson Creek, I imagine that there was more rain in the western end of the county, out toward the Cohuttas.

If you have questions about travel issues in Fannin, you can call the 911 Center’s regular phone line. They don’t want you to call 911, of course, but if they aren’t busy, they usually don’t mind sharing what information they have. That’s 706.632.6022.

September 16, 2004

Just a quick update on the hurricane situation. It’s about noon on Thursday, and it looks like we’ll have rain and high winds tonight and tomorrow morning. I imagine that we’ll lose a number of trees, especially since they are mostly still in full leaf. Travel may be difficult due to downed trees. Also, there certainly will be a risk of flooding. Remember not to cross any branch that has swiftly moving water. It doesn’t take much to pick up your vehicle.

Those of you who are up here should pick up or tie down stuff that’s apt to blow around in the yard, and make sure you have water and something to eat for a couple of days. Loss of electric service is a distinct possibility, and if we get hit hard, it will take a couple of days for the electric companies to restore service to everyone.

If you aren’t at your place, you’ll probably want to come up when the storm passes and check your place for wind damage.

I’ll try to post a report after the storm passes. The latest forecast has the center of the remaining storm crossing the northern Georgia-Alabama line at about 7 AM Friday morning.

September 10, 2004

Right now, the weather is beautiful. The past two days have been crisp and clean, with a taste of fall in the air. I hope the weather continues through this weekend, because if it does, it’s going to be a great one.

The Labor Day Barbecue was cancelled, and then rescheduled at the last minute with the help of Bud Holloway at the Pink Pig, who agreed to smoke the meat as a charitable donation. Thanks, Bud. Only sandwiches were served, and only about 1,000 people attended, less than half of the normal turnout. The Good Samaritans did not make as much money as usual on the event, and are asking for donations. If you can help, the address is POB 1468, Blue Ridge, GA 30513.

The local follies continue, with Fannin County school officials blaming “flawed data” for our abysmal showing in the SAT scores. I believe at this point, of the neighboring counties, only Whitfield County (over by Chatsworth) has lower scores. They actually refused to release the test scores to the News Observer, which was rather silly, given that they were easily obtained from the state. As you will recall, they previously blamed their failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards on the people who receive free and reduced price lunches. As a former college professor, I’m wondering if it doesn’t have more to do with their hiring practices and their quality of instruction, and at this point, I’m not the only one.

We’re beginning to gear up for the busy season in the office, and I expect it to be a good one. It’s a great time to list your land or your cabin, because we definitely sell the most property between September and December each year. We have a good inventory of cabins for your consideration, so if you’re in the market, it would be a good idea to come up and have a look. The really good ones will sell fairly quickly, and we’ll probably deplete the inventory considerably by mid-October.

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town.

September 3, 2004

Just a quick update on the big weekend. It’s my understanding that the Labor Day Barbecue has been cancelled, due to concerns about the hurricane. The forecast from the National Weather Service continues to be about as it has been for the past couple of weeks, with a certain percentage of chance of rain and thunderstorms. Monday’s forecast shows 50%, but there is still some uncertainty about how much we will be affected by the path of the storm. It’s a shame to miss the big event, and apparently, it will not be rescheduled.

Speaking of barbecue, there is a new barbecue in town, Blue Ridge Mountain Barbecue. Cynthia and I were actually the second paying customers, and it’s well worth a try. It’s located on the old highway, East 1st Street, up above the old downtown, in the vicinity of Sue’s Restaurant and the Circle J. It’s nice to have a barbecue in town again.

As reported by the News Observer, the Statue of Liberty that was removed from the downtown park has found a home between the old and the new courthouses. A pedestal is in process, and the statue is being renovated.

Hope you have a great weekend. It’s always sad to see a summer go by, but it’s also great to get together with friends and family and do a little grilling. Hope to see you in town.


The weather has been beautiful for the past two weeks, with only a little of the recent rain. In fact, it’s dried out considerably, all over the county. At one point last week, I saw 49? on the porch in the morning! The temperatures are back to seasonally cool, about 60? in the morning and the lower 80s in the afternoon, but the weather has certainly been prime.

The real estate market has continued surprisingly strong for August, which is usually a fairly dead month. At least, that’s true for cabins. I believe land sales are where they usually are at this time of year, which is waiting for the leaves to come off. If you’re thinking of listing your property, this is a good point in the cycle to begin, because the fall is always our busiest season for sales.

Ron Henry, fish biologist, nature photographer, picture framer, and savior of Horseshoe Bend Park, has passed away. Many came to know Ron through his business, Woodcrafters, in McCaysville, where he operated a photo gallery and framing shop. If you stopped in for a minute, you were generally there for a while, because Ron was always full of news and enthusiasms. He was very adept with Photoshop, and was a moving force in the No Name Computer Club, which meets at the New Yorker Restaurant in Copperhill. Ron will probably be best remembered for his work on Horseshoe Bend Park, which was one of his many community service projects. The park has been renamed in his honor, and most folks feel that it is a very fitting tribute to a man who was a great force for good in our community.

If you haven’t been to the park, it’s off Hwy 60 north, just before McCaysville. If you turn sharply left off 60 just after the railroad tracks as you come into McCaysville (River Road) and go upstream a short distance, the park is on your right. It’s a good place to have a picnic or trout fish. It’s also a good place to catch a little music, with Picking in the Park taking place every Thursday evening.

The Labor Day Barbecue, an estimable and worthwhile event, is coming up. As always, volunteers are needed to continue this great local tradition.

Finally, I have heard credible reports that the lake level is down about two feet as of the 16th. In the past, the TVA has started drawing the lake down on August 15, but I believe they had agreed not to do that this year. I have not been able to personally verify that the lake level is going down, but if it is, it’s an old story. In any case, it’s probably a good idea to get your recreational activities in on the lake. For one thing, it probably won’t be long before the Forest Service decides to close the beach at Morganton point.

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town!

August 5, 2004

The temperature on the porch this morning was a beautiful 56º, and the forecast is for a wonderful weekend. The afternoon temperatures have been around 80º. I’ve had a couple of days worth of business to do in Atlanta this week, so I’ve been able to verify that it’s at least ten degrees cooler up here than in Buckhead.

I’ve also spent some time on the woods edges lately, and I can report that the baby quail are about the size of a fat sparrow, and are flying easily at that size. The turkey chicks are about size of a grouse, and have been flying for some time. For those interested in deer hunting, Coach Barnes, the News Observer’s outdoor guru, reported a few weeks ago that it looks like we will have a bumper crop of mast.

It’s been a little quiet on the local scandal scene for the past few weeks, although the school superintendent stirred things up the other day by offhandedly blaming the students who need “free and reduced price lunches” for the fact that Fannin’s schools are on the needs improvement list. The curriculum director probably didn’t help the cause by complaining that the problem was with “secret test questions.” The newspaper observed somewhat dryly that since the problem can so clearly be traced to a certain population, it should be easy to remediate.

The real estate business continues very strong for this time of year. We typically see a slump from now until the leaves come off the trees, especially on land, but we’re not seeing it this year. It’s a good time for people to list their property, especially because there are some fears that interest rates may rise sharply after the election. There’s some disagreement among the experts about how sharp the rates will rise, but there’s no doubt in my mind that higher interest rates will have some effect on our market.

Washtub John and the Mars Hill Porch Pickers are playing a free concert in the downtown city park in Blue Ridge, Saturday at 6:30.

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town.


It’s continued rainy, off and on, but it has dried out quite a bit. We’ve had the first two really warm days this summer in the past week, and I imagine that trend will continue on days when it doesn’t rain.

The real estate business has been very strong for this time of year. Here in the office, we made Coldwell Banker’s national top ten for the fourth straight month. Normally, we expect to see things slow down in the summer and speed up for fall, which we consider the busy season, but this year the summer has been stronger than I expected.

According to the trout fishing gurus, the fly fishing is still going fairly well, aided by the cooler temperatures brought by all the rain this month. You can find the fly fishing report – recommendations for fishing the Upper and Lower Toccoa and Noontoola Creek – in the window of the Unicoi Outfitters store at the end of the street that runs just south of the train tracks in downtown Blue Ridge.

The latest rumor is that the Statue of Liberty that was removed July 3 from the downtown park is being “renovated.” Apparently, it will not be placed back on the war memorial pedestal in the downtown park. Folks, to be honest, we’re still scratching our heads a little over this one. No one has yet been able to explain to me why the statue created such animosity.

As reported by the News Observer last Friday, Intertrade Corporation, the current operators of the old copper plant in Copperhill, Tennessee has received a notice of violation for dumping DPO in the river, a substance they do not have a permit to use. Because the river flows north, into the Tennessee River system, this sort of thing does not affect Blue Ridge or Fannin County. But it has added some fuel to the controversy about the plant restarting sulphuric acid production. Many folks are asking why, in the light of this latest violation, we should accept the company’s assurances that all is in order at the plant, and that sulphuric acid production can be safely restarted.

The summer Georgia Mountain Fair is still on through this weekend. That’s always a good fun time, and it’s a nice drive over to Hiawassee (about an hour or so from Blue Ridge). Visit

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town!

July 15, 2004

As those of you who have been up recently know, it’s been very wet lately. The past week or so has brought us a small drying trend, and things don’t seem quite as soggy. However, we’ve still had rain, and yesterday we had a severe storm. I was up in Knoxville at the time – about 4:30 PM – but several people have told me that there was marble-sized hail. One long-time resident told me it was the most severe storm he could remember. Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to have been much wind damage, at least in the areas of the county I’ve visited. Cabin owners might want to check for missing shingles and other minor wind damage items.

With the wet weather, the mushrooms have been going crazy. One of my dogs is a little suspect for eating them, and we’ve been trying to keep them cleaned up around the house – to the tune of about a half a peck every two days. If there’s anyone out there with any interest in mycology, I’ve seen more varieties of mushrooms this summer than ever before.

Last weekend, we had the first ripe blackberries. The 6/18/04 column in the archives has the famous blackberry margarita recipe.

The local news has tended to concern the upcoming primary election and the recent property tax reappraisals. For those of you who missed the story, there has been a fair-sized blowup over reappraisals on the lake. Basically, the tax commissioner is responsible for collecting the taxes and the Board of Assessors is responsible for valuing property. The Board, which is supposed to be an independent commission, essentially ordered the reappraisal of every piece of property on the lake. In the end, many pieces of lake property tripled in assessed value, and the county received about 300 appeals before the deadline.

To real estate professionals, the reappraisal is probably not that surprising, because the last appraisal was in 1997, and it is no secret that property on the lake has gone up in value significantly since then. For retirees on a fixed income, this kind of appraisal is fairly devastating, however firmly it may be based on the principles of area assessment. It seems to them unfair that their property tax should increase just because someone else profited from the sale of their house. A few of the more ambitious local politicians have proposed a “no increase in property tax until you sell you home, and then the next fool pays it” type of law. Whether that’s sound public policy or not, it sure sounds good to people whose assessment has just tripled.

What’s really going on? Well, the state has been on our back to raise our assessments for years, and there apparently are some penalties if we don’t. The other thing is that the same local officials who were delighted to assist certain local businessmen in keeping the Wal-Mart and the Home Depot out of the county profess to be astonished by the fact that our sales tax digest is off about 60%. Whether it’s good or bad for Fannin County to have these stores is a matter of opinion, but a few minutes walking around the parking lot of the Home Depot in Blairsville or the Super Wal-Mart in Ellijay is enough to establish the fact that there are a whole lot of Fannin people shopping in the neighboring counties. The net result is that the school board is starved for money, and there isn’t anywhere to get more money except from property taxes.

And, in the zinger local news story of the year, on July 3, the day before the big celebration, the Blue Ridge city council apparently ordered the replica of the Statue of Liberty that previously stood atop the War Memorial in the downtown park taken down. Nobody will actually admit to ordering it, and it is certain that no vote was taken. But the statue was reportedly transported in the city’s front loader. Other than that, nobody knows nothing.

That’s about the news. Hope to see you in town.


It’s been rainy all week, although it’s sunny today (Saturday) and the forecast says no rain. Temperatures have been pretty low compared to normal, but most folks are probably glad to see a little sun.

I doubt that the blackberries have ripened much this week, but if you do happen to luck into some, you can get the famous margarita recipe from last week’s column (on the archive button).

A lot of people have asked me what I think our market is doing, so here are my thoughts at this point in the year. We had a great first quarter, company record, and I think most real estate companies in the area had the same result. With the rain for the past couple of weeks, activity has slowed down some, which is also normal for this time of year. We sell the most property in the fall, and usually summer is slower than spring. With the mortgage rates edging up and rumblings from the fed about raising rates before the elections, I think there is some concern out there about where the mortgage rates may go. I think it’s helping our sales at the moment, because with the rates seemingly poised to go higher, some people are getting off the fence. Their thinking seems to be, “Well, it doesn’t look like they’re going to go any lower, and they probably will go higher, so maybe it’s time to buy.” In the longer run, if rates go up significantly, it may impact our fall selling season negatively.

The most tangible result I’ve noticed in the past few weeks is that there seem to be some good listings coming on the market that aren’t being snapped up immediately, as they would have been a month or so ago. I think I’ve also noticed a little downward pressure on prices lately, at least in terms of what’s been coming on the market.

What it all means to me is that there probably are some bargains out there at this point. I don’t know whether that will continue into the fall, but my guess is that we have a little window of opportunity at this point for bargain hunters. Normally, that disappears as our fall season gets started. In a normal year, we sell just about everything that’s any good September-October, and spend the next few months trying to build up our inventory.

There isn’t a lot in terms of hard news to report, except that we may be having some very juicy small town scandals hit in the next week or so, just in time for the big weekend. We won’t report on those – we’re too high-minded – unless they turn out to be too rich to leave alone, of course.

Hope you’re making plans to come up for the 4th!


We’ve had some pretty nice showers in the afternoons, but not much in the way of thunderstorms. It’s been a little warmer and a little wetter than typical, at least according to me. The outlook for the weekend looks pretty decent, allowing for a few showers.

I’ve seen the first few ripe blackberries, in spots that get good sun. I suspect it will be another week or so before they will be ripe in picking quantities. Just in case, here’s the famous recipe. I hear it’s great, although we’ve never tested it ourselves, of course.

2 cups berries
2 cups ice cubes
½ cup fresh lime juice
¾ cup white tequila
¼ cup sugar

Buzz the berries in the blender. Strain the seeds, if you care about these things. Add the other ingredients. Either buzz it again or serve it on the rocks. It may not be very cold, so you may want to refrigerate the mixture for a bit. Enjoy!

Our turkey broods seem to be a week or two old at this point. One of my neighbors, who was able to keep track of a particular brood on his land, reports that they were able to fly up into a tree at the age of one week. Last Monday, my dog and I were treated to a brilliant interpretation of the old “broken wing routine,” courtesy of a hen who felt my dog was a little too close to her clicks. She burst out of the undergrowth about four feet from us, clucking and putting like crazy. Then she dragged her “broken” wing in a complete circle around the poor dog, who was desperately trying to break her leash. After that, she went crashing back into the undergrowth, down the hill and far away. It was quite a performance, the first one I’ve seen in about ten years.

Back on June 5, National Trails Day, the Benton McKaye people dedicated an 85-mile extension of the trail into Tennessee. There’s about 93 miles existing in Georgia, beginning at Springer Mountain and ending on Hwy 64 in the Ocoee Gorge. Eventually, it will go from there up into the Nantahalas, cross the AT in the Great Smoky Mountains Park, and traverse the southern section of the park before completing a double loop at Davenport Gap. For those of you who are trail enthusiasts, the great thing about the Benton McKaye is that it’s still being built, and anyone who is willing to work can participate in the trail building. It isn’t often these days that you get an opportunity to cut a new hiking trail. That’s (Benton McKaye Trail Association).

That’s about the news! Hope to see you in town.


We had a pretty good rain early in the week. That was good, but it shut down the haying, which was just getting started for the year. It’s been cloudy on and off, with occasional small localized thunderstorms in the afternoon, but temperatures have been pretty high nonetheless. It feels like summer in the mountains.

Cynthia and I have been swimming several times, and the water is still cool enough to be refreshing. For my money, the best place to swim is at Morganton Point. Go into Morganton from the four-lane on Hwy 60 S, and when the road begins to curve around to the Post Office, go straight, past the famous Bradburn Grocery and Sporting Goods store. Immediately past the store, turn right, and go to the end. There are changing facilities, outdoor showers, restrooms, and a boat launch, along with the adjacent Forest Service campground and picnic area. There is a $3 per car use fee, which can be greatly reduced by buying a seasonal pass at the Forest Service, just a little east and across the four-lane from the Ingles. It’s good at most of the Forest Service parking areas hereabouts, and they’ve just moved to a calendar year system for permits, so you now get a full year for $30 or $35 (depending on whether you want one or two cars).

The seventeen-year locust/cicada phenomenon seems to be almost over. At its peak, it was quite an experience. We didn’t have them on our property, but many places in the county were awash in the little wild-eyed critters. We’ve still got the annual katydids to look forward to, but we don’t see those until later in the year, and many people have never actually seen them, because they’re arboreal. That’s entomologist for “up a tree.”

I assume that everyone needs to know that the Wal-Mart in Ellijay is having a lobster sale, and that I got some good white corn at Blue Ridge Produce, 632.6930, the new produce business on East 1st. That’s the old highway, above downtown to the south/east. If you’re coming into Blue Ridge on the four-lane from Atlanta, you turn right at the first light (June Walker Chevrolet) and just continue along until you see the shop on the left. They even got it out of the cooler for me. I continue to be impressed with the new butcher shop in Morganton, Enchanted Mountain Trout & Meats, 374.5971. I’ve gotten good farm raised trout and custom cut steaks/chops there. It’s across from the post office, Thursday-Sunday only (see the directions to the beach above, but continue another block on Hwy 60 S rather than turning at Bradburn’s). This is not paid advertising, folks.

I’ve been remiss in not mentioning Picking in the Park, which is happening in Horseshoe Bend Park every Thursday from 6 PM to dusk. It’s mostly devoted to old-time and bluegrass, with some of the atmosphere of the old bluegrass festivals. The newspaper reported that as many as 300 people have attended, with up to fifty or so musicians. It’s rain or shine. To reach Horseshoe Bend Park, go all the way on Hwy 5 north, cross the river, and turn right on Hwy 60 S. Just before you cross the tracks, turn right on River Road.

That’s the news. Hope to see you in town.


Well, I’ve been doing something a real estate agent is forbidden under any circumstances to do, which is take a few days off. I was out of town for the weekend, but I understand that we got considerable rain. According to the sheriff’s report I read, the extent of the wind damage was a few downed trees. There’s no damage in our neighborhood.

It seems the seventeen year locust phenomenon is winding down. We didn’t have them on our property, but I’ve heard a few people complain about damage to trees.

The best local news in a while is that the TVA has approved the “preferred alternative,” which will result in a later winter drawdown (starting Labor Day rather than August 1). Also, they have committed to a higher winter lake level. While this isn’t everything that we could have desired it is a very big step in the right direction from an agency not known for being willing to change the way they’ve always done things. From a real estate point of view, there should be a positive effect on property values.

Speaking of property values on the lake, the word on the street is that the county is reassessing every property on the lake. I’ve heard some ancedotal evidence of increases in assessments of over 250%. It’s no secret that our assessments have been low – the state has been on our case about it for years – but the locusts may not be entirely responsible for that screaming noise you hear out on the lake.

It was pretty well agreed that Arts in the Park was a castrophe this year. The Arts Association moved the festival from the downtown park to Tom Boyd Park, out Hwy 5 next to the landfill, because fees to the city were eating up the profits. However, there are reportedly 200 parking spaces out there, and the alternative transportation arrangements were one MATS van and one conventional van. Expected attendance was 20,000. You do the math.

If you haven’t been up for a while, it feels like summer. Time to take a swim in the lake, maybe have a cookout or two. If you’re out toward the Morganton Point, you might check out the new butcher shop in Morganton. It’s open weekends only, and they’re cutting steaks to order and selling some pretty good farm raised trout. I’ve also heard good reports on his pork. I’ve tried a sample of his applewood smoked ribs, and in all honesty, they were pretty good. In fact, they were almost as good as mine. 706.374.2934.

Hope to see you in town!


We’ve had a few drops of rain here and there, but it’s basically been dry this past week. Sunday was a beautiful day, and I think we’ll continue to have a few sprinkles this week, along with some more good days.

The 17 year locusts are back, in incredible quantities. That’s the noise you may have been hearing that sounds like a high-pitched whine, something like a rusty saw. That’s the males drumming, trying to attract females. They’re basically harmless, although they can cause some damage to ornamentals when they start to lay their eggs (from twig breakage). The county extension agent advises covering the ornamentals if they seem to be laying eggs in them to any great extent. They do not carry disease. By the way, they look a lot like a large grasshopper, with wild red eyes. We also have 12 year locusts and annual locusts, but this is the big one.

We’re continuing to be very busy in the office, and things continue to sell at a very brisk pace. I’ve had a few customers be disappointed because property they are considering buying has been sold before they made their minds up to make an offer. I’ve said this before, but what’s going on up here right now has very little resemblance to the Atlanta market. We’re basically in a seller’s market, and things are selling very well indeed. Our April broke all the company records, and it’s not just us. The numbers show that everyone in the county is selling lots of property.

I hope you have plans for the big weekend. It should be a good time to be in the mountains.


We finally got a little rain this week, so temperatures are back more toward normal (60 in the morning, middle 70s in the afternoon). The forecast calls for 20-30% rain for the weekend, but it seems we haven’t been having much rain on those kind of days this spring.

I’ve had a few inquiries about the scenic railroad. The schedule for the rest of May is Friday and Saturday, 11:00 AM departure, Sundays 1:00 departure. Call 800.934.1898 or 706.632.9833. Or visit the website at

There’s an interesting event this Saturday, May 15th, the 1st Annual Birdhouse Competition. It’s a benefit for the Whiskers Project, a non-profit spay/neuter program for ferel and stray cats in Union and Towns counties. Admission is free, entry fee for judging is $5 per birdhouse. It’s being held at the Wight Farm. Probably the easiest way to find it from Blue Ridge is to drive to Blairsville, then turn back toward the west on the old highway (76 or the Blue Ridge Highway). You pass the Ace Hardware, then turn left at Mulky Gap, left at Fairview Church, and see signs. I see that the rain date is May 22nd, so you may want to call to confirm if it is raining, 706.745.0936.

Dahlonega is hosting the Wildflower Festival of Arts on Saturday and Sunday. From Blue Ridge, go east toward Blairsville to Hwy 60 south (on the right, just past the Ford and Dodge dealers). Then follow 60 south to Dahlonega. It is a nice ride through the national forest and along the creek, but allow an hour and a half or more to get to Dahlonega on a Saturday. The schedule is on the Internet at or call 800.231.5543 or 706.864.3711.

We’ve got a new weekly event, Picking in the Park. It is being held in Horseshoe Bend Park every Thursday evening. If you play an instrument, you are invited to come and play. To reach Horseshoe Bend Park from Blue Ridge, go up to McCaysville on Hwy 5, cross the river, and turn back toward Mineral Bluff on Hwy 60 south. Just before you cross the tracks, turn right on River Road. Horseshoe Bend Park is on the right.


Last week started off with a very hard rain on Sunday, and Monday the temperature on the deck was close to the freeze. We needed the rain, and it did bring some more leaves and some more wildflowers. The blackberries are starting to bloom, and it seems the pine pollen is almost over.

We had a warming trend all week, and it was quite warm yesterday (Thursday). The prospects look good for an excellent weekend, and if you haven’t been up this spring, it’s definitely time to come. I think we’ll be into early summer before too long, at least in terms of what’s in bloom.

As I said last week, the bears are up and around. They’ve been very active, tearing things up all over the county. Remember not to feed them, and keep your dogs strictly away from them. If you don’t leave your garbage out, chances are you won’t encounter them unless you are on the porch very late at night. They’re mostly nocturnal these days, including early morning, and they are mostly attracted by garbage.
I covered most of the hard news last week. There have been some amazing developments lately, and if you’ve missed them, you may want to read up on them in the archives. Since I wrote that report, two key officials have resigned from Land Development, and we’ve had the first of two public hearings on building inspections. I’ll try to report more on these when the import of them becomes clear.

In the meantime, I hope you can come up. It’s high spring in the mountains!


We finally got some much needed rain last night (Sunday). All of a sudden, there seem to be twice as many leaves, and we’ve seen the first native lilies – trillium and lady slippers – up on the ridge tops. The native azaleas (flame azaleas) are fully in bloom. Unfortunately, they usually don’t last long. The dogwoods lost some petals from the rain, but most are in full bloom and looking very beautiful. This coming weekend will be high spring in the mountains.

The bears are up and around, and I’m hearing a lot of reports of bear activity. This is in general a time of high activity for them, after they emerge from hibernation. Remember that your dog is no match for them, that garbage attracts them, and that they are most active at night and in the early morning. Please don’t feed the bears. They usually end up having to be destroyed, because they become nuisances. Also, if you attract them, they may kill the neighbor’s dogs.

Last Thursday evening, the Fannin County Development Authority sent out a press release that contained a real bombshell. They have asked the TVA to release to them 130 acres on the lake for the purpose of building, with private partners, a resort/hotel complex complete with marina, ecotourism center, and public park. The press release is simply one paragraph, and both the TVA and local officials have refused further comment. The word on the street, however, is that it is a done deal, that the Ritz Carlton is involved, and that an exemption will be obtained to allow the resort to serve alcoholic beverages (virtually ensuring its success in a dry county). To the best of my knowledge, the only land the TVA actually owns is close to the dam, on both sides of the dam. I imagine that it was originally reserved largely for security reasons. I also understand that there is some precedent for this development on Tellico Lake, in Tennessee. I have not seen that complex, so I can’t report on it.

Obviously, this project is either the best thing that has happened to Fannin County since the dam, or another greedy land grab that will saddle us all with a crushing tax burden, after our clueless county officials finish giving away the store. I imagine that depends largely on one’s perspective and potential for profit from the endeavor. From a real estate point of view, this project is certain to increase property values in Fannin County and make the county more attractive to prospective tourists and second home buyers. Along with the recently announced golf development, it will put Fannin County in a completely new category in terms of development. On the downside, it will certainly increase pressure on the lake – more jets skis, more selfish behavior – and will probably result in considerable public debt, as local officials are likely to make significant concessions to land what they consider a bonanza for the county.

There’s a new business in the old company store, across from the copper plant on Hwy 68, called Smelter’s. They’re selling stone ground corn meal and grits, along with wheat flour. I’ve tried the grits, and they’re wonderful, although they do take a while to cook. To get to the store from Blue Ridge, you go north on Hwy 5, cross the river into Copperhill, and turn left. Just after you pass the old plant, look for the fireworks store and bar complex on the left.

If you haven’t been up recently, you need to come and enjoy a little spring in the mountains. Hope to see you in town!


Last weekend was simply beautiful, with the temperatures hitting around 80 on the deck, and the leaves seemed to come all at once. It’s rather pretty, with about a million different shades of light green in the woods. Unfortunately, the pine pollen came along with the leaves. The dogwoods are mostly all in bloom, and the native azaleas (usually orange) are just starting to come. I’ve seen some may apples up along the creeks. All in all, it’s a beautiful week in the mountains.

The Polk County Ramp Festival is this weekend, and it’s one of my favorite events. If you are curious about this rite of spring, or if you just want a chance to try and buy some ramps, it’s the place to be for a morning outing in the country. For background and directions, go to the archive below and read my column for 4/21/03. All the info there is still correct, and the ramp gathering outing is tomorrow (Thursday)!

For those who want a longer day trip, the famous Dogwood Arts Festival is this coming weekend in Knoxville. Visit for more information. The best route is through Copperhill on TN 68, continuing on 68 through Tellico Plains, and connecting with I-75 at Sweetwater. You can usually count on about three hours to Knoxville.

We had a very strong first quarter (we made top 20 Coldwell Banker offices nationwide in March) and we expect things to continue strong through the summer. If you’re in the market for a cabin, it’s a good time to come up and look. If you haven’t been up, you need to get up and enjoy a little springtime in the mountains. Hope to see you in town!


UPDATE! We’ve finally gotten some rain, and it looks like the dogwood will be fully in bloom in some, if not all, locations by this weekend. Also, don’t forget, it’s the weekend of the Adventure Race. If you aren’t racing, it’s still fun to see the finish in the downtown park. Visit the Chamber of Commerce site for more information, The festivities in the park will begin early afternoon.

(4/8/2004) The weather has been fairly warm this week, as we run up to Easter. It was almost 80 on the deck yesterday afternoon, and I’m beginning to see more in the way of butterflies and other interesting insects. The sarvis is almost done blooming, and the dogwoods are just starting to come in the more protected spots. The redbuds have been out for a week or so, and the oaks are starting to leaf out in the valleys. Actually, with the colorful buds on many of the hardwoods, the ridges look almost autumnal in direct sunlight. But the weather has continued unseasonably dry, and I have yet to see the native lilies. The pine pollen hasn’t started yet, but I suspect it will not be very much longer.

About this time of year, along with the spring cleaning things, it isn’t a bad idea to spray along the foundation with Diazinon, using a pump sprayer. If you spray the foundation, up about three feet, and the dirt, about three or four feet out from the foundation, you can significantly reduce the number of creepy-crawly things in the cabin. If you have pets, be sure to keep them inside until the spray is thoroughly dry.

In huge local news, the TVA is considering leaving the lake levels up a little higher throughout the year. This can’t fail to have a positive impact on our recreational activities on the lake, and it will definitely help the local tourist market. Also, it will help sustain increases in property values. But, naturally, there is a local element that is opposed, for reasons that are frankly unclear to me. Rumor has it that comments to the TVA have run more negative than positive. If you believe that the lake should have more water in it in August – and more in December – please take a moment to comment to the TVA by clicking on the hyperlink below. Tell them that you favor more water in the lake in the fall and winter, and a later winter drawdown:

Once there, look at the box on the right hand side and click on the button that says If you want to do it, you need to do it now, because the comment period ends on April 12.

The real estate market has continued extremely strong into the second quarter. The leaves are about to come on the trees, so people who are looking for view lots need to get up soon to have a look before that happens. We sold a good bit of inventory in the first quarter, but we still have some very good properties left. I’d especially like to mention MLS 92210. It’s a perfect little chalet, and the pictures really don’t do justice to the view. It’s panoramic, from the beginnings of the Nantahalas in the north, to the Big Frog in Tennessee, and down through the Cohutta range in Blue Ridge and Ellijay. If you’re looking for a clean view cabin with incredible rental potential, take a look at the pictures under my featured listings.

The Adventure Race is weekend after next (Saturday, April 17) and the Polk County Ramp Festival is Saturday, April 24. Turkey season continues, so remember that hunters may be in the woods.


We’ve had an incredible run of fine weather this week, and the forecast for the weekend looks wonderful. The opening day of trout is tomorrow, and – for once – there doesn’t seem to be any threat of a rainout. Opening day isn’t the crush that it was before the river opened year round, but with the season in, you can fish the mouths of the creeks. I’d try the mouth of Hemptown or Hothouse, or another of my favorite streams, the Noontoola between Aska Road and Newport Road.

I heard the first turkey gobble last week, so the turkey season should be going well. If you aren’t familiar with these rituals, the important thing to remember is that if you hear calling in the woods – gobbles, clucks, crow calls, owl calls – that they may be being made by a turkey hunter (especially if they sound real bogus). It’s a good idea not to wear purple in the woods during turkey season. For a primer on turkey hunting, you can visit the archives and look up my column for 3/16/03.

I’ve seen the first mourning cloak (butterfly), but I have not yet seen the native lilies. Our sarvis just bloomed today. It’s been a tad dry lately, so they may come with the first warm rain.

The Polk County Ramp Festival is scheduled for Saturday, April 24 this year. The digging party is scheduled for April 22, and the cleaning/prep day is April 23. Stay tuned for details.

We’re having a very good first quarter, and I’d encourage everyone who wants land to come up soon and have a last look, before the leaves are on. At this point, the pollen is just starting to get noticable, and the leaves won’t be far behind.

Of course, the Aska Adventure Race is April 17th.

If you haven’t been up lately, you’ve been missing some beautiful spring weather. Hope to see you in town!


After about a week of very unseasonably warm temperatures, we had very high winds last night (Sunday). The front came through at about 5:30 where we are, and the first gusts were really astonishing. I think, and a couple of other people said the same – that they must have been over 50 miles an hour. Some of the pines in my yard were bent over a good 20 degrees, but we didn’t lose any trees. Surprisingly, there don’t seem to be many trees down in the county, but cabin owners might want to check for missing shingles and other wind damage items next time they are up.

It’s definitely spring in the mountains. The tree peepers are going like crazy, the grass is greening up some, and the eastern bluebirds are beginning to migrate through. We’ve also seen some warblers and other migrants. As usual in the spring, the weather has been changeable, so bring enough equipment if you are planning to camp or hike.

A number of people have asked me about the calendar of events. It isn’t possible for me to revise the calendar right now, due to changes in the website, but I’ll try to keep up on local events as best I can in this newsletter. The next event that I always look forward to is the Polk County Ramp Festival in April. And, of course, trout season opens on March 27th (it’s always the last Saturday in March). That’s the traditional start of the mountain season, so it’s time to come on up and get back in the swing of things, if you haven’t been up over the winter.

In terms of real estate, we’ve been very busy in the office, and land is selling well. In the office, we’re pretty much bracing ourselves, because we’ve been pretty busy already, and we know it’s going to get a lot more busy with the good weather. If you’re interested in land, you need to get up soon, because the trees are budding out and pretty soon we’ll have leaves. It’s always much easier to evaluate property when the leaves are off the trees. There may still be a few things left for bargain hunters, but I’m expecting those to pretty much evaporate as we get further into the selling season.

To make a long story short, it’s time to come up and enjoy some spring weather in the mountains. Hope to see you in town!



We had a pretty snowfall yesterday, along with some brisk winds. Accumulation was minimal, but there might have been 1/2 inch in all. It’s sunny today, and most of the snow is gone already, except in the shady spots. In fact, it’s a beautiful day outside, if still a little cold. I wouldn’t expect any travel difficulties, except perhaps in the very high elevations.

Last weekend was beautiful, although it was rainy Monday. Over the past sixteen years, I’ve often noted real signs of spring on February 1st, with the pastures greening up and the first Mourning Cloaks and red wasps taking wing on mild breezes. It hasn’t been quite like that, but Cynthia and I did get some good porch time last weekend. The recent rains have had a spring-like feel, and I believe things are greening up a little bit. That might be a bit subjective, but on the objective end of the scale, I can tell you that the roads are beginning to get torn up by heavy trucks, and that’s a sure sign that the spring thaw is getting underway. So it’s time to remind everybody that the worst sin in the mountains is tearing up someone else’s road.

The results are in, and according to the boss, we sold more this January than last January. That’s a surprising stat for me, because it didn’t feel as busy this year as last year, when everyone was disgusted with the stock market and determined to get into land. But I have to admit that there is a lot of property moving these days, and I’m beginning to see a good deal of interest in some of the higher end lots that didn’t move last year. I think my advice to bargain hunters would be to get up and see what’s available soon, before we get into season. The opening day of trout is March 27, and turkey March 20. Those two opening days, coming close together as they generally do, traditionally signal the beginning of the mountain tourist season. But I imagine it will be another month or so before things start to really get busy.

This weekend, February 7-8, is the 12th Annual Cherokee Indian Heritage and Sandhill Crane Viewing Days event, which is held at the Tennessee Wildlife Refuge and the nearby Birchwood School (in Birchwood, between Cleveland and Dayton, Tennessee, on TN 60). On the Cherokee side, Lawrence Alexander will speak on “Ten Thousand Years of Area History,” Mike Abram of the Cherokee Heritage Museum will lecture on “The Trail of Tears and Those Who Stayed Behind,” T.J. Holland will speak on “Myths and Truths Regarding Junaluska,” and the Welch Family Singers from the Snowbird Community near Robbinsville will lead a Cherokee gospel singing. For the birders, Bruce Anderson, Wildlife Biologist, will speak on TWRA restoration projects, Joan Garland of the International Crane Foundation will speak on “The Whooping Crane Story,” and Fred Alsop will speak on landscaping for wildlife. And then, there are the cranes. There should be thousands of migrating sandhill cranes present, along with golden and bald eagles and assorted wildfowl. There is also the possibility of seeing a wild whooping crane. Several of these birds, which were reintroduced after following an ultralight plane from Wisconsin (as part of the Eastern Whooping Crane Partnership) have been spotted in the area again this year. For more info call 423.334.5850 or 423.499.3584. The program is up on the Internet at

Those of you who haven’t been yet need to know that we have a new Italian restaurant that is kicking out excellent pizza and very good red sauce. It is located in the old roller rink, now known as Hampton Square, which is just across the four-lane and down the hill from our office and the McDonald’s, past the United Community Bank, on the way to the old downtown. At the bottom of the hill, turn left on Mountain Street, then left again on Ada Street, then immediately turn left into the parking lot.


The weather’s been a little grumpy lately, but this morning (Friday) dawned as a beautiful day. I was out in the yard fairly early, and it was one of those rare, rosy sunrises where you feel you can see the dark side of the moon against the pale blue sky.

Well, it was news and bad news for the locally famous New Year’s Eve possum drop over in Brasstown, North Carolina. The good news is that the New York Times covered it a few days before the event. Actually, even though the story was datelined “Brasstown, North Carolina,” I doubt their stringer ever showed up there, because the story stated that the gas station was in “downtown Brasstown,” and anyone who has ever been to Brasstown knows it just don’t got no downtown. Also, it never mentioned the folk school. And, I guess you could also grump that it was pretty typical of up north coverage of what they think of “Appalachia,” what with it leaving the definite impression that we’re all still running around barefoot down here in the middle of the winter, driving blown away pickup trucks and doodling our sisters in between gulping moonshine and worshipping possums. But still, the possum claptrap was invented to promote Brasstown, and there’s no doubt that coverage is coverage, right? All publicity’s good. Just spell our names right.

Well, maybe. The bad news was that the story brought the full wrath of the Virginia People for the Ethical Treatment of animals down on the possum drop. They threatened a mighty lawsuit on several grounds, the main one being that lowering a possum twelve feet from the roof of a gas station in a plexiglass box constituted unspeakable cruelty to animals. While they didn’t actually compare the people of Brasstown to Saddam Hussein’s secret police, that was pretty much the general drift. As you know, while they don’t give us much credit for smarts up north, right or wrong, we generally do know when we’re beat. Remember when Earl Long pointed out that the Feds have the bomb? I wouldn’t want to push that analogy too far with MLK day coming, but it was kind of like that over in Brasstown. After a brief period of denial, it was finally recognized that while the people in the Virginia PETA chapter might be insane, they also have lawyers, while the good people of Brasstown generally don’t. The upshot of it all was that the New Year was brought in by lowering a DEAD possum twelve feet from the roof of the gas station. While that presumably has averted the threatened lawsuit – the poor possum was roadkill – it just wasn’t quite the same. Here in the south, we still regret the passing of the old country ways. As the New York Times dutifully reported in its followup story, one old boy observed after it was all over that “It was a hell of a way to bring in the new year, saluting a dead possum.”

I still don’t have a very good read on the real estate market in the first quarter, because the weather has been pretty bad, but stay tuned.

There’s been a lot of owl activity lately, as it’s mating season for the barred and horned owls. For that matter, a buyer of mine and I got good looks at a screech owl over at Goleega the other day. Apparently, it was asleep on a limb when we came up, and it let us get within a few feet and take its picture before deciding that it was well worth the effort to fly away. (They’re the ones with the eerie call that sounds like a horse whinnying or a cat screeching. They tend to call in the very early morning, after they come back to their roost after a night of hunting.)

Despite the colder weather, it’s a real good time to come up. There’s still pretty good elbow room out there, and I hope to see you in town.