Columns 2010

November 30, 2010

It’s one of those rainy days in the mountains that is a whole lot of fun if you don’t have to go to work. A beautiful day to sit in front of the fire or bundled up on the porch and watch the shifting patterns of rain, fog, and mist as they hang and glide between the ridges and rills.

Crowd estimates for Light Up Blue Ridge were up to 10,000 souls, which makes it clear that this has become a major event, not just locally, but regionally.

The Georgia Forest Service has their sign out that says it is time to order tree seedlings. If you aren’t familiar with this program, they provide bare root seedlings of both hardwoods and softwoods for a very reasonable price. They usually have redbuds, and they also have a very popular “Wildlife Pack” with some of the species that appeal most to local wildlife. You go to the office and pick up the form, which you can either bring back to the office or mail in with your check. You specify when you would like the seedlings delivered. When they come, you pick them up at the office you specify. Orders are on an “as available” basis. They can provide a dibble to help in planting with a deposit. We generally recommend planting the hardwoods in either January or February. I can say from personal experience that unless we have an unusually wet spring, that you will have to water them through the first summer. I can also tell you that you will have very limited success if you plant them under the existing canopy. The redbuds, especially, seem to need some real sun. The state forest service office in Fannin County is on the old highway, just east of Lakewood. From Blue Ridge, you would go east/north on 515, turn right (south) on Hwy 60, and then turn left on the old highway, toward Morganton. The forest service office is immediately on the right.

The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association is having a “Mining History Retrospective” exhibition through December 23. The Arts Association is housed in the old courthouse on Main Street, next to the new courthouse. This would be a good opportunity to learn more about the mining history of the area for those of you who are always intending to visit the Ducktown Basin Museum, but who have never found the time.

November 22, 2010

We’ve had about an inch of rain at our place over the past ten days, and a little more is expected later this week. Most of the color is gone from most areas, and the leaves are starting to fall heavily. The weather has continued nicely warm, and the weekend after Thanksgiving is forecast to be nice.

Friday, November 26, is the Light Up the Basin event. Festivities start at 6:00 PM, with a tree lighting ceremony at the McCaysville UCB. A procession of carolers will then parade by candlelight to the Copperhill BB&T for another tree lighting ceremony. The Yule Tree will then be lighted at the Miners Park, then the wreath will be lighted at the Steel Bridge. Santa will be at the “Christmas is Here” store.

Saturday, November 27, is Light up Blue Ridge. Tuba Christmas is on the main stage at 11:00 PM followed by Mr. & Mrs. Claus arriving on the train at 12:30. (I understand that the Abominable Band was vetoed by some on the committee as inappropriate for the occasion.) You can visit Santa and have photos taken in the downtown gazebo for free. There will be live reindeer, children’s trackless train rides, and a live nativity. The lighting of the “Great Tree” takes place at dusk. The downtown shops will be open late.

The Natti Love Joys are playing Blue Jeans Pizza on November 27. See below for details.

November 11, 2010

The weather has been beautiful lately, still very cool in the mornings but warming up very nicely in the afternoon. There is still some color in the woods, more in certain areas. I noticed the other day that the Aska Road area was much more colorful than my area, which is southeast of Mineral Bluff.

The Rivers Alive event was hampered by very cold morning temperatures, but I did see some Boy Scouts heroically wading in Weaver Creek and cleaning up the trash that blows over there from the Ingles shopping center.

There is not much wild excitement in town this weekend, so I’d suggest considering a walk in the woods or something similar outdoors.

The DNR has surveyed the tailrace, and the news is just as bad as I expected it to be. There are 83% fewer fish in the tailrace. While they caution that this doesn’t necessarily mean 83% mortality, there is no doubt that the trout fishery has taken a huge hit. The estimates are that it will take up to five years to rebuild the fishery, and there are a lot of unknowns. Needless to say, this is bad news for Blue Ridge and our tourism industry. Although it is true that there is a lot of great trout fishing in our area, there’s no doubt that the tailrace is our best known resource.

Finally, the Natti Love Joys are playing Blue Jeans Pasta and Pizza Factory in downtown Blue Ridge on November 27th. Show time is 9:00 PM. The Nattis are known internationally as a top reggae band, and are well worth hearing.

November 5, 2010

We had a bit of slushy snow this morning around 10:00, which was kind of fun. It is supposed to clear, and the rest of the weekend is forecast as clear and somewhat cold. We are forecast to have our first hard freeze this weekend, with a low around 27°, so it is time to do your winterizing chores. Remember to check your outside storage areas for things that shouldn’t freeze, check your hose bibs, and do whatever else is on your winterizing list. At this time of year, I make sure to have some ice melt up on the porch, because wood steps with snow or ice on them are treacherously slick.

See below for information on the Hemlock Fest, which is this weekend.

Also this weekend:

The Rivers Alive cleanup event is scheduled for Saturday, November 6, starting at 9:00 AM. There are three starting points. The #13 Fire Station on Aska Road, Ron Henry Horseshoe Bend Park near McCaysville, and Tammen Park, just of Hwy. 515 east of Blue Ridge (where 515 crosses the river). Supplies will be provided and lunch will be served to volunteers. For more information, 706.632.5680. Dress warmly and wear your waders if you have them.

The John C. Campbell Folk School is having their Blacksmith and Fine Craft Auction Saturday, November 6, starting at 1:00 PM. The silent auction will run until 2:00, followed by the live auction preview and the live auction from 2:00 – 4:00. As you probably know, the folk school has an outstanding blacksmith program, and the pieces their instructors make and sell are amazing. The crafts include fiber, wood, pottery, and other categories. The Folk School is in Brasstown, North Carolina, south of Murphy, just off Old Hwy 64 West on Brasstown Road. If you visit the auction, be sure to also drop into the gift shop and pick up a catalog. The auction is being held in Keith House.

November 2, 2010

Last weekend, the weather was wonderful, and I think the leaves peaked in most areas. There is still a lot of color in the woods, but I think with the rain that we’re expecting later this week, that more leaves will fall. At least in our area, most of the oaks never really turned, but I don’t expect that to happen at this point. The weather for the coming weekend is supposed to be good again, but cooler.

This coming weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 5 – 7, is the Hemlock Fest. Here is the information:

HemlockFest, Starbridge Farm

Starbridge is located off Hwy 52E between Dahlonega and Cleveland.
Sixth annual Hemlockfest. Lots of musical entertainment, including fire dancing and after-hours acoustic jam. Knife throwing and archery. Canoeing, fishing, and pond discovery on Lake Merlin. Arts and crafts demonstrations. Interactive presentations and exhibits, including live birds of prey. Medicine wheel walks, morning bird walks, plant walks, and interpretive nature walks Birds of prey demo and live snake and furs & skulls demo. Silver smith demo. Three days of music, Story-telling, face painting, rock painting, and lots of other kid-friendly activities HemlockFest is an annual benefit music festival, held the first full weekend of November, to increase public awareness and generate funds to help save the Eastern and Carolina Hemlock trees. Funds raised each year are used to help us to continue to raise public awareness of the Hemlock problem and promote action; provide ongoing support for the efforts of all three labs in Georgia that raise predatory beetles to combat the HWA on public land; assist private land owners and public agencies in managing the health of their Hemlock trees; and facilitate other projects that benefit north Georgia, Lumpkin County, its residents and visitors. Three labs in Georgia currently in need of support are: one at the University of Georgia, another at Young Harris College, and the newest one at North Georgia College and State University. NEW THIS YEAR — an entertaining and educational Kids’ Nature Village; great for kids of all ages!
The Lumpkin Coalition, 706-864-9003

October 26, 2010

We had a pretty strong front move through early Monday morning with thunderstorms and high winds. There are a few trees down, but they were almost all ones that were rotted at the base and ready to come down. We almost always lose some trees when we have high winds while the leaves are still on the trees. In my neighborhood, the EMC actually did a whole lot more damage to the trees, trimming around their sacred easements.

There are still a lot of yellows and golds in the woods, and I think that this weekend may be the peak, if we don’t get more high wind and heavy rain. It is always difficult to tell, but I’m not sure that we will get much of the bright reds from the oaks this year. If they do turn, it will be very pretty, but at this point, most of them are still either green or on the ground.

It is “prime time” in the mountains, my favorite season. It is beginning to get cool enough to get out and do some hiking and exploring, and I hope I can do some of that as soon as the real estate business quiets down after the fall rush.

In weekend events, the Southern Appalachian Artist Guild/Third Annual National Juried Art Show continues until November 13 at the Arts Center in the old courthouse in downtown Blue Ridge.

In what I think is the final concert of the year, the Union County Historical Society is hosting Highway 76 (bluegrass) October 29th, in their free Friday night concert series at the courthouse on the old town square. Music begins at 7:00 PM.

The Copperhill Halloween Parade and Safe Zone is Friday night, October 29th. The costume parade begins at 4:15 with judging beginning about 4:30. The parade starts at 5:00, and the safe zone trick or treating is from 5:30 – 6:30. There is a scream contest at 6:00.

The Blue Ridge Halloween Safe Zone is on Saturday night, October 30, from 6:00 – 8:30. This is usually pretty much fun for kids and adults alike. The costume judging starts at 6:15 and the pet judging at 7:30. There will be movies in the downtown park at dusk.

October 19, 2010

The weather was just beautiful last weekend, with very cool mornings and warm afternoons. There is good color in the woods, but not in all locations. Out our way, the dominant colors are yellow and gold, with some dark reds from the sourwoods. Most of the oaks seem to have not yet turned. It is rather odd, because some areas seem not to have started turning yet, while others seem almost done. It is always impossible to predict, but I’m expecting the next two weekends to be very pretty.

The builder’s expo last weekend was a big success. By some estimates, there were some 4,000 visitors for the two day event. There was an impressive diversity of trades represented, and I learned a lot in the few brief minutes I had to visit the booths.

There was an interesting meeting between the TVA and Trout Unlimited reported in the News Observer. True to form, the TVA disclaimed all responsibility for the fish kill in the tailrace, which they caused by draining the lake when it was clearly too hot to do it without creating a massive fish kill. Their spokesman stated that the TVA would not contribute financially to any restoration efforts because the TVA “can’t take responsibility” for one of the hottest summers on record. That’s typical TVA evasion and double talk. I can’t grasp why the Tea Party doesn’t focus their rage on them, because the TVA is the ultimate abusive government bureaucracy that serves only itself. The politicians in Washington are pikers compared to them.

October 12, 2010

The great weather has continued. Although there is some threat of rain over the next couple of days, it seems that the weekend will bring more great weather, with cool mornings and warm afternoons.

There is some real color in the woods right now, especially in some locations. It seems that the past two days have made a big difference. Predicting what the leaves are going to do is really impossible, but I think that this coming weekend will be good. I’m expecting the peak sometime between now and the end of the month. Of course, heavy rain and high winds can change things overnight, because many leaves may fall before they reach their personal peak of color. But in the absence of that, I expect the next few weeks to be the best. I was up in Tennessee briefly last week, and the colors up there are further along. Also, in general, the higher the elevation, the earlier the color.

I’ve noticed a lot more bird activity than usual in our woods, and while I haven’t had time to go out and really scope out the situation, I’m confident that means that the fall migrants are coming through in some numbers.

This weekend is the Builder’s Expo in the downtown city park in Blue Ridge. We are expecting almost 100 vendors, so it should be a very informative weekend.

Finally, we are starting to get into high season, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone who wants to go out and look at cabins or land with me. Other people have other policies, but I think the fairest policy is “first come, first served” when it comes to appointments. So to avoid disappointment, please let me know you are coming so I can save some time for you. I’ll do everything I can to accommodate folks, but when I’m booked, I’m booked! Thanks in advance for everyone’s understanding. In general, if you can come of a weekday, that’s better, because now that we are in season most of the rentals are rented and “unshowable” on the weekends (and sometimes, in the middle of the week).

October 7, 2010

We’ve been having some really wonderful fall weather. It has been cool in the morning, between 40° and 46°, and the afternoons have warmed up nicely. There has been a strong wind blowing up on the ridgetops, but I think that is mostly over for a while. Today it is in the seventies, with a gentle wind. Some of the sourwoods are beginning to turn, but there is no real color in the woods yet, except in the higher elevations. The weekend is supposed to be beautiful.

The Cherry Log Festival is going on this Saturday and Sunday, the 9th and 10th, as is the Apple Festival in Ellijay. Fall Festival is still on at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

Friday night at 7:00 PM, John Nix and Country Cousins is the featured act at the Friday Night Concert at the Old Courthouse on the Square in Blairsville. This is a free event sponsored by the Union County Historical Society every Friday night in season.

September 30, 2010

The weather has been just beautiful lately, in between a few days of rain. We had about 1-8/10″ on Sunday, and so far today we’ve had about 2-1/2″. Today’s rain was a little unexpected. Otherwise, it has been beautiful early fall weather with mornings around 52°. The weekend is supposed to be beautiful. There are still some katydids singing, but you can tell that the season is turning. Here and there, there are some trees that are starting to turn, and the air feels like fall.

I just put out my email newsletter with a feature on a fall leaf tour through the Cohuttas. If you don’t already receive it and would like to, just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the list.

I was over to the Mennonite farmer’s market in Delano, Tennessee (just north of the Hiwassee River on 411) yesterday, and the market is in its fall glory. They plan to continue Monday through Saturday hours through October, and then switch to Friday and Saturday only for the first part of November. They had Batavian lettuce, collards, turnip greens, half runners, eggplant, crooknecks, green peanuts, butternuts, okra, tomatos, potatos, sweet potatos, white and red radish, cucumbers, red bell peppers, hot peppers, spinach, shell beans, and probably a few other things that I’ve forgotten. They have also put up a new batch of sorghum at $7.50 per quart.

It’s the fall festival season in the mountains. This weekend, October 2-3, there are the following festivals: Indian Summer Festival in Suches, Fall Festival at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC, and the Cherry Log Festival. The Georgia Mountain Fair Fall Festival runs from October 8-16. The Apple Festival in Ellijay is October 9-10 and 16-17. The Sorghum Festival in Blairsville is October 15-16.

September 15, 2010

We’ve been having some beautiful fall weather. We had a wonderful thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon that dropped about 1-1/10 inches of rain, which was much needed. September is usually dry, but this one have been very dry so far. The morning temperatures have been wonderful – we’ve had about 56 on the porch – and everyone is really reveling in it after the very hot summer we’ve all endured. The katydids are still singing, even though there aren’t nearly as many of them as there were, and some of the leaves are starting to drop. Here and there at the higher elevations, there are some trees starting to turn.

Regular readers will recall that I was all excited because of a Chattanooga Times-Free Press report about a bridge over Dills Creek on Old CCC Camp Road on the west side of the Cohuttas. I got even more excited when I heard that there was a good swimming hole there. It turned out to be easy to find. You just turn off 411 at the traffic light in Eton, and follow CCC Camp Road east, back into the Cohuttas. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment when we got there, because the adjoining property owner has plastered the area with “No Trespassing” signs. The day turned out OK, because we found a very nice swimming hole a bit further up the road at the Holly Creek Picnic Area and found some other interesting things. I’m going to write it up for my “Day Trips” feature of my email newsletter, which will go out toward the end of the month. If anyone who doesn’t regularly receive that newsletter would like to be put on the list, just drop me an email.

The market continues to be somewhat improved, and we’re seeing some very good deals on both out-of-town foreclosures and conventional resales. What is happening is basically that people are beginning to cherry pick the good listings, and that’s what is accounting for the sales that we’re seeing. Local bank foreclosures are still – for the most part – not priced competitively. As I’ve said before, the most rational strategy is to shop both the foreclosures and the conventional resales to make sure you are getting the best possible deal. You have also to weigh the fact that you will not get a seller’s disclosure with a foreclosure and will have to agree to mandated addendums to the sales contract that do not – to put it mildly – favor the buyer. You have also to factor in the fact that may of the conventional resales are sold furnished. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider the foreclosures, just that you should shop them all and look before you leap. Especially with the foreclosures, it’s definitely “buyer beware.”

September 1, 2010

It has been a little warmer, but still strongly suggestive of early fall. We had 62 on the porch this morning, and the high yesterday on the porch was 82. The katydids are starting to come down from the trees to lay their eggs, and I’m seeing the occasional leaf fall. I especially hate to see the katydids begin to live out their lifecycle, but I suppose that there aren’t too many people who aren’t at least a little glad that it looks like fall is coming, as hot as it has been all summer.

Labor Day is the 30th Annual Labor Day Bar-B-Q in the downtown Blue Ridge park. This is a benefit for the Good Samaritans of Fannin County, and it begins with a Sunday worship service with Ice Cream Social afterwards, starting at 6:00 PM. This is what we call here locally an “ecumenical event,” meaning that more than one Christian Church has involved. (It’s worked pretty well over the last thirty years, except for the time when someone lost their mind and let a woman preach, offending not only the sacred memory of Samuel Johnson but some of the local churches, who promptly pulled out and left everybody else in the lurch, proving that – at least in Fannin County – interdenominational tolerance only goes so far.)

The barbecue itself is from 11:30 to 6:00 (or when the food runs out) on Monday, September 6th. This is a very well attended event, so it is wise to buy your tickets early as there are separate lines for tickets and food. I believe the Chamber of Commerce is selling them (up behind the CVS) and also the other sponsors. The menu is Ribs ($10), Half Chicken ($9), or BBQ sandwich ($8) with baked beans, bell pepper slaw (no mayo), iced tea, and homemade brownie, pound cake, or apple. There will also be Gospel, Bluegrass, and Old Time music, so it is not a bad idea to bring a lawn chair.

Volunteers are still needed. To volunteer or for more information, 706.455.3818.

In tragic local news, John Daly has sold his food cart and moved from his spot next to the BP station. He plans to do special events, and will be at the Flea Market on 515 that’s south of June Walker Chevy this weekend. He mentioned that he is cooking 45 pounds of beef brisket for the weekend, along with a lot of other things. A fond farewell to a favorite breakfast venue.

Finally, here’s a longish press release from the DNR about special events next week.


SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (Sept. 1, 2010) – From monitoring swallow-tailed
kites along the coast to surveying rare fishes in highland rivers, the
federal State Wildlife Grants Program has funded wildlife conservation
across Georgia since 2000. Yet most Georgians never knew it.

Next week, the state Department of Natural Resources will celebrate the
10-year anniversary of State Wildlife Grants with events highlighting
wildlife stories and successes the grants helped make possible.

Public events Sept. 10-11 will offer close-ups of rare creatures and
special habitats, like bog turtles at Chattahoochee Nature Center in
Roswell and pitcherplants at Doerun Pitcherplant Bog Natural Area near

It’s all part of Teaming with Wildlife Week. Teaming with Wildlife is
a national coalition and the leading advocate of State Wildlife Grants.

Linda May, environmental outreach coordinator for DNR’s Nongame
Conservation Section, said the goal is raising awareness. The State
Wildlife Grants Program is very crucial to the work we do,” May

The grants fund work benefiting wildlife and their habitats,
specifically the 90 percent of our nation’s species not hunted, fished
for or on the Endangered Species List. The focus: Keep common species
common and prevent wildlife from becoming endangered, protecting them
and their habitats before they become too rare and more costly to

The stable funding for state fish and wildlife agencies has been
critical to the recovery and conservation of many species, fulfilling a
responsibility to save them for future generations.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that in the current economic
climate, “the program ensures that states will have the necessary
resources to help conserve their highest priority wildlife, plants and
habitats – an investment that will pay dividends for years to come.”

State Wildlife Grants have been used for land conservation such as the
acquisition of Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Bainbridge;
habitat restoration, including more prescribed burning to benefit
longleaf pine ecosystems; and research, such as sandhills surveys and
habitat assessments that could help keep the gopher tortoise –
Georgia’s state reptile – off the endangered species list.

Nongame Conservation Section Chief Mike Harris said the work is done
strategically, guided by the State Wildlife Action Plan. This
comprehensive plan required for State Wildlife Grants and developed by
Georgia scientists, sportsmen and the public guides DNR efforts to
conserve biological diversity.

State Wildlife Grants also draw matching money and work from
conservation partners. The overall impact is at least double the roughly
$1.5 million Georgia receives each year.

Jerry McCollum, president of the Georgia Wildlife Federation, which
helped found the state Teaming with Wildlife coalition, noted that the
grants program is not guaranteed. Congress decides funding annually.
“For sportsmen and conservationists in Georgia … a constant vigil
is required,” McCollum said.

Find a State Wildlife Grants event in your region:

August 26, 2010

I’m happy to report that the very hot and humid weather has finally broken. It was 64 on the porch this morning, and the high on the porch yesterday evening was 77. In honor of that, this will be a longer than usual column.

This morning, I attended an interesting session on Bee Keeping, hosted by Feed Fannin, a volunteer organization devoted to providing food for the hungry through community gardens, education, and donations to the Americorps Food Bank. One of the goals of the organization is to help people become more self-sufficient, which is where the educational program fits in. These free classes are held, usually at 10:00 AM on a Thursday morning at the Family Connections Center in the Industrial Park on Ada Street, not far from downtown Blue Ridge. “3 Meals from One Chicken” is scheduled for September 2nd, “Health & Nutrition” for September 9, and “Improving Soil” for September 16. Upcoming courses are “Preserving Food,” “Raising Chickens,” Nutrition & Health,” “Cabbage Dishes,” “Closing Your Garden,” “Raising Berries,” “Seed Preservation,” and “Growing Grapes.” Call Pat at 706.838.4374 for more information.

Rob O’Halloran passed on the information that 100 more applications are needed to meet the requirement of 1,000 for the production of a specialty Appalachian Trail license plate for Georgia. The deadline is October 31 and the cost is $25. You can download an application at

Speaking of trails, the Benton MacKaye Trail Association newsletter just arrived. President Ralph Heller’s column focuses on a great idea, the development of parks in downtown Blue Ridge and Ellijay that would connect with the trail. This apparently has worked well in Sedona, Arizona and Schliersee (near Munich, Germany). In the case of Blue Ridge, this would only involve about three miles of trail, and would connect day hikers with the trail from a downtown parking spot, as well as connecting with Springer Mountain and the Cohutta Wilderness Area for longer hikes. This is a very active organization that is still building and maintaining trails. Trail maintainers are needed at this time for several sections of the trail. The newsletter also reports that a new Bartram Trail Map is available from the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society. The map should be available at Forest Service offices in North Carolina, or can be ordered online at You can reach the Benton MacKaye Trail Association through their website at

The Chattanooga Times Free Press carried an interesting article on August 24th headlined “Bridge for Fish.” The article reported that the Dills Creek Bridge has been rebuilt on CCC Camp Road, near Eton on 411, west of the Cohutta Wilderness Area. This project was undertaken to allow fish to travel once again up the creek, which is part of the Holly Creek watershed. Holly Creek flows into the Conasauga River, which is known for its biodiversity. Holly Creek’s watershed is considered one of the most pristine in Georgia. With the rebuilding of the bridge and the elimination of a “perching” pool below the former bridge, aquatic species and endangered fish will have access to eight more miles of the pristine Dills Creek. Funding was provided by the Fish America Foundation through the Georgia Conservancy, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Murray County. Among the species at risk are the Coosa moccasinshell, the Southern pigtoe, the Alabama moccasinshell, the Fine-lined pocketbook, the Conasauga blue burrowing crayfish, and six species of sport fish.

Since the demise of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s commitment to covering north Georgia, the Times Free Press has stepped up their coverage of the area. But they really don’t tell you how to find Dills Creek, and it doesn’t appear that their reporter has ever been there (the photos that accompany this story, which appeared on the front page of the North Georgia Edition, were contributed). I haven’t been there either, but in looking at the map, it appears that CCC Camp Road is Forest Service 18, north of Hassler’s Mill, which appears on the Forest Service’s map of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. If you travel southeast from Crandall or southeast from Eton and then north, you can probably navigate to FS 18. FS 18 also goes north from Hwy 52, in the vicinity of Nine Mile. (That would be nine miles out of Ellijay, I reckon, and would probably be easier to find.) If I can find time to get over that way, I’ll file a better report. This is also a good time to mention that there is a pool just below the confluence of the Jacks and the Conasauga that is a favorite spot for people to snorkel and see some of these rare fish. It is on FS 221, south of the Sylco Campground and east of 411 and Willis Springs.

August 19, 2010

We’ve had 2/10″ of rain at our place every day for the past three days. Other than that, the weather has continued much as it has been, unseasonably hot and humid.

The rodeo will be this Friday night, the 20th, at the Kiwanis Fairgrounds, near St Luke’s Anglican Church (Jones Street is off East Second, which is southeast of the old downtown and southeast of the old highway). Gates open at 6:00 PM with things getting started at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $10 advance, $12 at the gate. Advance tickets can be purchased at the BB&T, the UCB, and Kevin Painter Insurance (behind Zaxby’s).

Steel String Session is playing the Union County Courthouse this Friday, August 20, at 7:00 PM. This is a free concert at the old courthouse on the square, sponsored by the Union County Historical Society.

This Saturday the 21st, the Natti Love Joys, an internationally recognized reggae band that is based locally, will play the downtown Blue Ridge park from 6:00 – 9:00 PM. The art galleries will also be open for Art Walk and the downtown shops will be open until 9:00 PM.

“I Hate Hamlet” is playing at the Blue Ridge Community Theater for the next three weekends. Friday and Saturday curtain time is 7:30 PM, with a matinee at 2:00 PM on Sunday. Event dates are August 20 – 22, August 27 – 29, and September 3 – 5.

See the column below for details on our two farmer’s markets.

August 11, 2010

We’ve had almost two inches of rain since my last column. Last night around 6:00 PM, we had a wonderful thunderstorm that seemed to be centered over the lake. It dropped 8/10″ of rain very quickly, and probably did some damage to some of our roads. Other than that, it has been the same weather we’ve had all summer, unseasonably hot and humid. I still haven’t seen 90° on our porch, but it has been all of that and more in town.

In one of the more bizarre local developments, ASCAP, one of the music publishing companies, has demanded payment from the Lilly Pad, a modest venue for local music located on Aska Road. The Lilly Pad has been charging a cover charge, and that – and their presence on the web – was apparently enough to bring the wrath of ASCAP down on them. While they are looking for a solution, the folks at the Lilly Pad have had to suspend presenting live music. I’m familiar with ASCAP, because my grandfather, Carey Morgan, was a Broadway songwriter, and we still get some royalties from his songs. But this doesn’t seem to be a reasonable use of copyright law. I’m reminded of something my mother – who grew up around the music business – said when I announced that I was going to skip the opening act at an Atlanta venue: “The headliner that you are going to see was an opening act once, you know.” Just where does ASCAP think tomorrow’s superstars are going to come from if they strangle live music at the local level?

In honor of short-sighted corporate greed, here are some local music events that are still going on this weekend, all free events.

Pickin’ at Horseshoe Bend is scheduled for Thursday, August 12, from 6:00 PM to dusk.

The Dismembered Tennesseans are playing the Festival Barn at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC at 7:30 PM on Friday, August 13th, 828.837.8637.

Ed Shipman and Friends are playing at the Old Courthouse on the Square in Blairsville, Friday August 13, at 7:00 PM. Steel String Session, Lisa Jacobi’s group, is scheduled for August 20th. These are free concerts sponsored by the Union County Historical Society.

We now have two farmer’s markets operating in Blue Ridge. The Blue Ridge Farmer’s Market is open Saturday in front of the courthouse in the downtown park from 8:00 AM until noon on Saturday, 706.258.4552.

The Appalachian Fresh Market is open at the old State Farmer’s Market site, next to the Swan Drive-in on the Old Highway (East First Street) Friday 1:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Saturday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Sunday 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

August 5, 2010

There was a brief rain at our place on Saturday the 28th, right after I finished a little deck staining. Other than that, it has been dry. I still haven’t seen 90° on our porch – the highest I’ve actually seen in 87° – but with the high humidity, it certainly has felt very hot.

The deep drawdown of the lake continues. See the column for July 19 for more information.

Pickin’ at Horseshoe Bend Park is on for tonight, from about 6:00 PM to dusk.

This weekend, Smokey Bear’s Birthday Party is scheduled for the Whitewater Center. This might be a good choice for the kids, and you can always dip in the “Blue Hole” to cool off. (One of my friends saw an otter in there not long ago.) Here’s the official announcement:

“Smokey Bear’s Birthday Party, Ocoee Whitewater Center in Ducktown, TN, Highway 64 West, Copperhill. Smokey Bear will be 66 years old this year. In his honor, the USDA Forest Service is throwing a birthday party at the Ocoee Whitewater Center on August 7th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Come help Smokey celebrate his birthday and enjoy a fun-filled day in the Cherokee National Forest. It promises to be a fun family day with games, goody bags, fire prevention programs, prizes, and plenty of cake and ice cream. Bring a camera and have your picture taken with Smokey. While you’re at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, you may want to hike or bike the Old Copper Road Trail, watch rafting on the Ocoee River, visit the gift shop, grab a bite at the café, or just take in the scenery from the rocking chairs on the deck. There is no charge to attend other than the usual $3.00 per vehicle day use fee. The Ocoee Whitewater Center is located in the heart of the Cherokee National Forest on U.S. Hwy 64, 6 miles west of Ducktown, TN and 30 miles east of Cleveland, TN. Ocoee Whitewater Center, 423-496-0104.

Finally, the Georgia Forest Watch folks have an interesting hike planned on August 15. See the (longish) press release below.

ELLIJAY, GA (August 5, 2010) Georgia ForestWatch joins conservation
leaders from across the country to support America’s first annual
Roadless Recreation Week August 7-15, which will include more than 50
recreation activities in national forest roadless areas in Georgia and
12 other states. The week-long celebration highlights the importance
of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, issued to protect nearly 60
million acres of pristine national forests across the country, and
encourages the public to go “all out” to enjoy the unique outdoor
opportunities these areas provide.

Georgia ForestWatch’s August 15 “Poetry on the Mountaintop” hike is
the local highlight of this nationwide campaign to recognize the
recreational, environmental and economic values that roadless areas
provide. ForestWatch hike leaders Brooks Franklin, Maureen Keating,
and Brenda Smith and poet Laurence Holden will lead an 8.4- and a
3.4-mile hike that will meet at the top of Rabun Bald within the
Sarah’s Creek Inventoried Roadless Area. After lunch on the summit,
Holden will inspire hikers with new poems about the mountain
wilderness. Georgia ForestWatch Outreach Director Jill Gottesman will
provide maps of Georgia’s inventoried roadless areas and give a brief
overview of the roadless issue and opportunities in Georgia. Georgia residents can go to for information about the Poetry on the Mountaintop hike (RSVP required) and to learn how to support roadless area protection. Please join Georgia ForestWatch for this very special visit to a very special place.

The USDA estimates there were 173.5 million recreation visits to U.S.
Forest System lands in 2009, with more than 57 percent of those visits
for activities such as hiking, camping, hunting and fishing.
Inventoried roadless areas within the national forest system,
specially designated areas of land that have few or no roads, “are
basically the last shot at what we can designate as fully protected
wilderness,” Georgia ForestWatch Executive Director Wayne Jenkins
said. “As you can imagine, there are precious few places like these
left in densely-roaded Georgia. ForestWatch and many other Georgians
have been working for years on permanent protection for the
Mountaintown area, Georgia’s largest roadless area, and it’s high time
we get the job done,” he added.

“National forest roadless areas serve as a natural landscape for
anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the outdoors. They also serve as
essential sources of clear water and habitat for fish and wildlife…We
must ensure that they are protected now and for generations to come
and the roadless rule is the best way to do that.”

Roadless areas are a source of drinking water for 60 million
Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as
recreation-associated jobs in rural communities across the northern
portion of Georgia and throughout the country.

The first annual Roadless Recreation Week occurs as a federal court
prepares to issue an important decision about the Roadless Area
Conservation Rule. The rule was issued in 2001 by the Clinton
administration to protect roughly one-third of undeveloped U.S. Forest
Service lands. It was the result of the largest public lands review
process in U.S. history, with more than 1.2 million citizen comments
and 600 public hearings.

The rule has been the subject of conflicting court decisions over the
past decade. In August 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld
a lower court ruling to reinstate the roadless rule for most roadless
areas, but a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is still pending.
The Obama administration has expressed strong support for the national
policy, and has asked the Tenth Circuit to uphold the rule.

The mission of Georgia ForestWatch is to promote national forest
management that leads to naturally self-sustaining forests and
watersheds within the more than 865,000 acres of national forest lands
in Georgia, to engage and educate the public to join in this effort,
and to promote preservation of this legacy for future generations.

July 27, 2010

We had almost an inch of rain in a beautiful thunderstorm Sunday, around supper time. It has continued unseasonably hot and humid by our standards.

The deep draw down of the Lake Blue Ridge is underway. See the column for July 19 for more details.

Union County had an alcohol referendum along with the primary election last Tuesday. Beer, wine, and liquor by the drink were approved, along with beer and wine package sales. This is quite a change for Union County, which has been completely dry, but I imagine they are happy at the new Wal-Mart about the package sales. There is also a referendum for liquor by the drink for the City of Blue Ridge on the November ballot.

Pickin’ at Horseshoe Bend Park continues every Thursday from 6:00 PM until dusk.

This Friday night, July 30, Cedar Grove Grass is playing at the old Union County Courthouse (on the square in Blairsville) at 7:00 PM. This is part of a free concert series sponsored by the Union County Historical Society. It takes place every Friday night, May through November. The Green Bean Festival is also taking place on the square this Friday and Saturday.

July 19, 2010

It has threatened rain almost every day this week, but it hasn’t rained much, at least at our place. I think we are in one of the driest areas in the county, though. It has rained more in Blue Ridge and in nearby North Carolina than where we are, just southeast of Mineral Bluff. It has remained unseasonably hot and humid.

It appears that the TVA has started the deep draw down of Lake Blue Ridge on schedule. This is to repair the penstock, which carries water to the generating turbines. It was damaged on installation or shortly thereafter (the dam was completed in 1931), and the TVA has been required to do a deep draw down every five years to make sure it is still safe to operate. This time, they are going to repair or replace it, and there will be no more need for periodic draw downs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the lake will be drawn down very far, and it is not expected to fully refill until at least late summer 2011. Unfortunately, the TVA does not have a very good record of completing their projects on time. They have stated that the rumors that the lake will be drawn down to the river channel are false. But they have also warned everyone against looting the archeological sites that will be exposed, which they haven’t done during the periodic draw downs. So it remains a matter of speculation just how deep the draw down will really be, in practical terms. Their stated information is that they will draw the lake down to an elevation of 1,620 – 1,630, or about 67 feet below summer pool or 47 feet below winter pool. As the lake continues to go down, the only usable boat ramp will be the one at the marina. In the end, it is also expected to be unusable.

The Georgia Mountain Fair starts this week, Wednesday, July 21, in Hiawassee. If you haven’t been before, it is well worth visiting. There are a lot of good food and craft vendors, and the exhibit halls are worth visiting. Among other things, there is a complete, authentic one-room school. There are also music shows every day, which are included in the cost of admission. Parking is $2, and admission is $9 per person. Musical attractions this year include Roy Clark, T. Graham Brown, Bellamy Brothers, Ray Price, Gene Watson, Jim Ed Brown, Mountain Heart, Billy Joe Royal, and Earl Thomas Conley. There are also two new attractions, a petting zoo and a chainsaw artist, Mal McEwen. 706.896.4191.

July 10, 2010

After over a week of very dry weather, we’ve finally had a little rain. We had about 2/10″ at our place last night (Friday). The temperatures had been very unseasonably hot and humid during the dry spell, so we have some hopes that the rain that is in the forecast for next week will bring us back to a more normal temperature pattern.

I think that the rain may have helped the katydids, because they were incredibly loud last night, starting a little before 10:00 PM. There seem to be more this year than there have been for the past few years. I think the rain we had earlier in the spring was good for them. I love these little fellows, and I like to start out the night’s sleep on the porch so I can hear them in full song, which usually lasts until 4:00 AM, or a little afterwards. (They also sing some during the day, and some of the old boys calculate the date of the first snow from the day they first hear them singing during the daytime.)

I get a lot of questions about katydids. A lot of people ask me whether they are the same as cicadas. The answer is that they are not. We have cicadas, but not very many. We also have locusts, but we don’t tend to see or hear them except when they are at their peak of their cycle. The katydids come every year in similar numbers, and they look like little green grasshoppers. We also have a number of different tree frogs that sing at night, but the katydids are much louder. They are by far the dominant sound in our mountains at night. They make their song by rubbing their hind legs together, and only the males sing. That should go a long way toward answering the most frequently asked question, which is “why do they sing?”

June 26, 2010

Here’s a rundown of events for the big weekend, including three days in a row of fireworks.

The fireworks in McCaysville/Copperhill will be on July 2, at about 9:30.

The occasional “Movies in the Park” event, which is co-sponsored by the library and the Downtown Business Association, will be July 2 at 9:00 PM, in the downtown Blue Ridge Park, across from the courthouse. Admission is free, with free popcorn and water. “Night at the Museum” is showing, a “wild fantasy comedy” based on the experiences of a night watchman at the New York Museum of Natural History. In case of rain, the event will be held at the Senior Center at 440 West First Street. For more information, call the library, 706.632.5263.

This weekend is also the Miner’s Homecoming event in Ducktown. On July 3, there is a pancake breakfast at 7 AM at the Hoist House at the Ducktown Basin Museum ($5 adults, $3 children under 12), a parade on Main Street in Ducktown at 10 AM, and the Rubber Duck Race at 12:00 PM. Admission to the museum is free on Saturday, so if you haven’t been, it is a good opportunity to stop by. There are many other things happening in Ducktown on Saturday, including 80s rock with Wings of Icarus at 3:00 PM, bluegrass by Ray Deaton and Grastic Measures at 6:00 PM, and rock by the C.C. Morgan Band at 8:00 (bring your own lawn chair). Fireworks will be at 10:00 PM.

In Blue Ridge, the Old Timer’s Day Parade will be held in downtown Blue Ridge on July 3 at 10:00 AM.

Also on July 3, there will be barbecue and live music at the Blue Ridge Marina from 4:00 – 6:00 PM in preparation for fireworks at dusk. Morganton Point is also a good location to view the fireworks, as it is directly across the lake from the marina.

The Georgia Mountain Fair is presenting Ray Stevens at 7:00 PM on July 3.

June 24, 2010

It has continued unseasonably hot and humid, although it has dried out a little bit in the past few days.

Pickin’ at Horseshoe Bend Park is on for tonight, 6 PM to dusk, and the Kiwanis Fair continues (see below for directions). The Farmer’s Market will be held as usual on Saturday morning, across from the courthouse.

Other than that, it is a pretty quiet week in town. There will be lots of festivities around the 4th, and I’ll try to get them posted as soon as possible.

June 17, 2010

It has been unseasonably hot and humid this week, and some parts of the county have had a good amount of rain. We haven’t had very much where we are (just southeast of Mineral Bluff) but I’ve seen it rain quite a bit in downtown Blue Ridge.

This weekend, the Blue Ridge Farmer’s Market will be across from the courthouse in downtown Blue Ridge, from 8:00 – 12:00 on Saturday morning.

This is also the weekend of the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association’s biggest fundraiser. The event is Saturday night, starting at 5:30 PM. Here’s the announcement: Spend some quality time in Night Court. Silent and Live Auction, games, Plein Aire painting, entertainment & libations. Ticket prices are $30.00 pre-sale and $35.00 at the door. At the Arts Association in downtown Blue Ridge, 706-632-2144.

Next week is the Kiwanis Fair at the Kiwanis Fair Grounds in downtown Blue Ridge. This is a little hard to find if you haven’t been there before, so here are the directions and a description of the event. From Depot Street downtown (between City Park and the train depot) head up the hill to East 1st Street, turn right, then turn left on Church Street and an immediate left on East 2nd. Go one block and turn right on Jones. The event features: Rides, Fairway, Carnival goodies, fine local entertainers performing each day. Hours: Wednesday through Saturday hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday will be 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. You may purchase advance tickets from all the local banks for $12.00 for Family Nights which is on Wednesday & Thursday, with advance tickets only for the discount. At the door prices and prices for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are $18.00. Some great new programs this year such as “Rowdy Rooster” for small children and a “Farmer for a Day” program. Come on down for a wonderful family event! Gate admission is $4.00 this is not included in the ticket price. For more information, call 706-258-3247 or 706-455-0998

June 10, 2010

We’ve had rain on and off this week, but we’ve also had some beautiful weather in between.

In a hot news flash, I can report that the Delano Farmer’s Market (just north of the Hiwassee River on 411) has corn already. Please don’t ask me how they do it. I asked one of the guys a while ago when they would have corn, and he said the middle of June. He added that they used to be happy if they had it by the 4th of July, but that they had found some ways to “hurry it along.” Back home, we used to say, “Knee high by the 4th of July,” so the middle of June seems almost unreal to me.

It appears that they are repairing the flume that takes river water to Ocoee #2 in the gorge. It was damaged by a rock slide earlier in the spring. Until they get it fixed, they can’t generate electricity.

I stopped in the Habitat for Humanity “Restore” the other day, in the Valley Village Shopping Center. That’s behind the KFC, for those of you who “aren’t from around here.”There isn’t a whole lot of building going on, so leftover building supplies are a bit hard to come by, but they had some very nice cabin furniture in there, along with some nice cabin furnishings.

Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Tennessee’s Senators, have introduced a bill to add almost 20,000 acres of wilderness in Tennessee, including adding 348 acres to the Big Frog and 966 acres to the Little Frog Wilderness. It’s called the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010, but there is no number assigned to the bill as yet.

June 4, 2010

We’ve had rain on and off all week. We haven’t had the sustained, heavy rains that the weather forecast has called for all week, but there’s no doubt that the ground is pretty saturated. Yesterday, we went over to Morganton Point and had a nice swim at noon. I thought the water would be a little chilly from the rain, but it was just perfect. The lake is at full pool, which is nice, because the TVA plans to pull the plug on July 15th for the deep draw down required for penstock repairs. So … we need to get our lake recreation in early this year.

Last night, we went to Pickin’ at Horseshoe Bend Park. Despite the threat of rain, there was a pretty good turnout, with two groups performing under the picnic shelters. We took a little dinner and just enjoyed sitting in the park and watching it get dark. On toward dusk, a sandhill crane flew by with a Canada goose. The geese are a regular sight on the river, but the crane was a little unusual.

This is a relatively quiet weekend in town. On Saturday, The Chattahoochee National Fish Hatchery is holding a Family Fishing Festival from 9 AM to noon at the fish hatchery. Children under 16 fish free (bring your own rods and bait). The fish hatchery is located on Rock Creek Road, south of Morganton on Hwy 60. Look for the sign at Rock Creek Road.

Also on Saturday, the Tri-State Model Railroaders are holding an open house at the Mineral Bluff Historic Depot from noon to 3 PM. Their model railroad will be running, and it is a good place to meet and talk to rail enthusiasts. From Blue Ridge, take 515 east to Hwy 60 and turn left (north). Go straight through the four-way stop and turn left just before crossing Hemptown Creek. This is the line that used to run up to Murphy, NC, but the tracks have now been taken up past the depot. The old railroad bridge remains over the Toccoa, and is said to be fully safe and functional.

May 25, 2010

We had about 6/10″ rain last Friday, and we had a terrific thunderstorm yesterday (Monday) that knocked out all the power in downtown Blue Ridge. That one brought us 7/10″ at home. Other than the rain, which we need, it’s been very beautiful. The weather has been nice for sleeping with the windows open and listening to the Whip-poor-wills and owls. There is still a lot of laurel in bloom, and it looks like the rhodendron is getting ready to bloom in some locations.

This weekend is Arts in the Park, Saturday, May 29 and Sunday, May 30. This is the 34th Annual Festival, and it’s one of the premier events in our area. In fact, it has been recognized as one of the Top 20 Events by the Southeastern Tourism Society. There will be over 200 booths with art, crafts, and food. It is back in the downtown Blue Ridge Park this year. Admission is $3, with children under 12 free. It is sponsored by the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, 706.632.2144.

Saturday evening, there will also be a Classic Cars Cruise In on East Main Street in Blue Ridge, adjacent to the downtown park. It starts at 6:00 PM and runs until dusk. This is scheduled every fourth Saturday until September 25th. For more information Fairley Stanley, 706.492.5184.

Many of you lamented the passing of Pickin’ in the Park, so I wanted to be sure that everyone heard that it has been continued. It is now called Pickin’ in Horseshoe Bend Park (the promoter had copyrighted the old name). It is now sponsored by the Fannin County Parks and Recreation Department, 706.632.7696. It is good that they have picked it up, because I’ve heard some very good bluegrass at this event. It is perfect for taking a picnic dinner and a lawn chair, and there is plenty of room for the kids to stretch out. Trout people can also fish in the river at the park. It begins about 6:00 PM and runs until dusk. The easiest way to get there is to go north on Hwy 5 from Blue Ridge, cross the river, turn right on Hwy 60, and then turn right just before the tracks onto River Road. The park is a mile or two upstream, on the right.

May 10, 2010

We’re having what the locals call “blackberry winter.” That’s when we have a cold snap when the blackberries are in bloom. It was 85° on Friday afternoon, and on Saturday morning, it was 44 on the deck, with a snappy wind. Sunday was a little warmer, and today (Monday) we had a little rain, which lowered the afternoon temperatures to about 53.

Some of the laurel (not the rhodendron or “mountain laurel”) bloomed over the weekend as is making a very pretty show around the county. I’m guessing that it will be a pretty good year for the blackberries, because they seem to like a lot of rain over the winter and then sun in the early spring.

May 5, 2010

We were away for a few days last week, and when we got back on Sunday afternoon, there was a heavy rain. We got about 2-1/2″ at our place, and it washed most of the pollen down the creek. There is still a little on the windshield in the morning, but I’m hopeful that this will be the last week.

There were high winds last week while we were away. Most of the damage seems to have been out Old Highway 2, but I did hear a report of some trees down on the Toccoa off Douthit Road.

In terms of the progress of spring, the trees are now in full leaf. There are still some native azaleas in shady spots. The rain washed the remaining dogwood blossoms off most of the trees. The blackberries are just starting to grow and flower. I’ve heard the first Whip-Poor-Will and the first Yellow Cuckoo. There are still a few Mallards and other migrants coming through.

All in all, spring is over. We’ve got “blackberry winter” to look forward to, but in my mind, it’s prime time in the mountains. For my money, it just doesn’t get any better.

We had a report that the Mennonite Farmer’s Market in Delano is open six days a week. As of a few days ago, they didn’t have corn yet, but they did have greens, lettuce, and the other early spring vegetables. The turnoff to the market is just north of the Hiwassee River on Hwy 411, north of Benton, Tennessee. They only accept cash, and they ask that women dress modestly. In my mind, that’s a small price to pay for the best produce I’ve had in a very long time.

April 22, 2010

We had a little rain at our place on Tuesday, but not as much as I hoped. In all, I think we had about 3/10″. That probably helped some, but the woods still seem awfully dry. It seems odd, after all the precipitation we had this winter. Some of the native azaleas – the flame azaleas – are in bloom on the ridges that face south, and some of the crabapples are blooming very nicely. The lady slippers have poked out of the ground, but I think they will need more rain to flower. I’m going to have to give up predicting what the dogwoods are going to do. Some are in bloom, and have been for a week or more, but there aren’t nearly as many as there usually are. I’m not sure at this point whether there will be more to come if we get some more rain, or whether it just isn’t a very good year for them.

The Polk County Ramp Festival is this Saturday. (Ramps are technically a lily, but they are usually referred to as wild onions or leeks, and they are a traditional sign of spring in the old mountain culture.) The menu is usually scrambled eggs with ramps, streaky meat (bacon from Benton’s in Madisonville), white beans, fried potatoes, and cornbread. It’s a fund raiser for the Polk County 4-H. They also serve sassafras root tea and boiled peanuts. There’s always bluegrass and usually a couple of booths of craft vendors. This is an event that brings all the old people out, along with most of the local Tennessee politicians. You can usually buy bunches of ramps, and the spring wildflowers are usually blooming in the vicinity of the camp grounds.

The road through the gorge is now open, so you can reach the festival the usual way from Blue Ridge. Camp McCroy is on TN Hwy 30/315, between Hwy 64/74 and Reliance, Tennessee. From Blue Ridge, you would take Hwy 5 to McCaysville, cross the river, turn left, and continue on Hwy 68 through Copperhill to Ducktown. Turn left on Hwy 64/74 (toward Cleveland and Chattanooga). After you go through the Ocoee Gorge, you will see the beginning of Parksville Lake. Hwy 30/315 turns off to the right, toward Reliance. Camp McCroy is on the right, a few miles further along. (If you come to the forest service office on Hwy 64, you’ve missed the turn and gone too far.) The festival starts hopping about 10:00 AM, but it is best to get there early.

April 16, 2010

We had a little rain at our place yesterday, but I think that was a local event. It’s been terribly dry, and I think it has affected the dogwoods. We have some in bloom, especially on the slopes that face south and get some sun, but they aren’t out as much as I expected them to be at this point. It’s always hard to predict what they are going to do, but if we don’t get some significant rain this weekend, it might not be a peak year for them. I’m expecting a few more to be in bloom this weekend, and perhaps a lot more next weekend, depending on the weather.Other than it being dry, the weather has been wonderful.

You probably remember that some time ago, Fannin County bought a piece of property with a pretty good lake on it, to use as a reservoir. This was the first step toward a countywide water system. With Speaker Ralston’s help, the county now has a water authority. It’s turning out to be a great advantage for the county to have David Ralston as Speaker of the House. All of a sudden, these things are happening, instead of going into legislative limbo. Morganton is in the final stages of installing a spiffy new water system, so we are definitely making great strides in upgrading the infrastructure of the county.

I wanted to mention that the intersection in front of our office – Depot Street and West Main – is now a four way stop. (It used to be that traffic on Depot Street did not stop.) We had a pretty bad accident there the other day because someone hadn’t noticed the change, so it would probably be good to be cautious there for the next little while, until everyone gets used to it.

The market is definitely looking up, and we’re all encouraged by the activity we’ve seen the the past couple of weeks. Closings in Fannin County were up significantly last month, and while the number isn’t as high as we would like it to be (42) the percentage increase is gratifying (30%). There was also a significant increase in lot and land closings across the MLS, which have been very slow lately. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as we move into the late spring and summer. (Land sales traditionally go to sleep when the leaves are on the trees. We sell the most in the late fall, winter, and early spring.) All in all, the news is very encouraging.

As a reminder: There will be a Hemlock Help for Homeowners session held on Tuesday, April 20 at 6 pm at the former Appalachian Bank, now the Citizens & Southern Bank (above the CVS, just off 515 across from the Ingles Shopping Center). It is being sponsored by the Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Fannin County Extension Service. The good news is that the trees can be saved, and much more economically than the cost of cutting them down. There are options both for do-it-yourself and professional treatment. There is also a help line at 706.429.8010. You can also visit

April 13, 2010

The weather has been absolutely beautiful. I had to go our Aska Road this morning, and it was amazing how green everything was and how much is blooming. The redbuds are still out, and the dogwoods are starting to bloom. The sarvis is mostly done, although I saw a few here and there. I even saw a little wisteria. The oaks are starting to leaf out, and the maples aren’t very far behind.

We don’t really have any more information on the military plane crash in the county than has been on the news, other than a lot of unconfirmed reports. It was a Navy T39N trainer, and it reportedly hit a tree after practicing a low level bombing run. We see these planes nearly every day in the county, and they are usually flying very low. The location has variously been reported as John’s Mountain or Pickelsimer Mountain, which is south of Morganton off Hwy 60. Reports are that there are three dead and one missing at this point. Apparently, it also started a pretty good brush fire. One of our friends said she saw helicopters scooping huge buckets of water out of Lake Blue Ridge to drop on it

April 8, 2010

We’ve had temperatures as high as 84° on the porch, which is very unusual for this time of year. The dogwoods are starting to bloom, and today’s rain will probably help. It has been dry for over a week, and I think they need a little moisture. It’s always a bit hard to predict what the dogwoods will do, but at this point, I’m guessing that there will be some in bloom this coming weekend. The weekend of the 17th will probably be the peak, and there may still be some the following weekend.

The first sarvis bloomed on Saturday, and they will continue to be in bloom for a few days. (A lot of folks confuse them with dogwoods, but they come earlier, and have narrower petals, usually five, in a cluster.) Another of my classic signs of spring also came at my place on Saturday, when I saw the first Mourning Cloak. I’ve been hearing some turkey talk at dusk, but not as much as I expect at this time of year. (I don’t know why I’m not hearing more. When I first wrote this yesterday, I was thinking that the coyote probably don’t affect them much, because they are probably the smartest thing in the woods, and they roost in trees. But I was thinking of the adults. The young are very vulnerable, and the coyote may well be having a considerable effect on them. Before they can fly, about their only defence is the hen turkey’s broken wing routine. I’ve seen that fool a pretty smart bird dog, but I don’t know if it would fool a coyote, or a small pack of coyote. They might just eat all the chicks in one sitting.) I’ve also been hearing the male screech owl every night, a little bit later than dusk.

The Adventure Race is on for this Saturday, April 10. We’re expecting about 80 teams to compete, and for the first time, the finish line will not be in the downtown Blue Ridge Park. The route is secret, of course, but they’re calling it the “Three State Challenge,” and it will include sections in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. The finish line will be at the Ron Henry Horseshoe Bend Park on the Toccoa River. The easiest way to find it from Blue Ridge is to take Highway 5 north through McCaysville, cross the river, and turn right on Hwy 60 south. You drive a short distance along the river and turn right just before the railroad tracks, onto River Road. The park is a mile or so upstream. (You could also take Highway 60 north, and turn left on River Road at the Four Mile Grocery.)

The finish is expected to be around 1:00 PM. It’s usually pretty much fun at the finish line. There’s usually some last, somewhat silly task for the racers to perform just before the finish line, and there will be food vendors, activities for kids, and sponsor booths. The Natti Love Joys, our great local reggae band, will also be playing.

April 1, 2010

I wasn’t going to post anything today, but I wanted to report that we saw some Eastern Screech Owl mating behavior from our porch after sundown last night. It was a beautiful, soft night, and it seemed appropriate for owl mating. We didn’t get to see the whole dance, because our dogs made the owls nervous, but we saw both birds and heard them calling together. I still haven’t heard any turkey talk, which seems unusual for this time of year.

March 31, 2010

I’m going to post my column early, because I know no one would take it seriously if I posted it tomorrow.

The weather is simply beautiful. Last night, the full moon shone like a searchlight in the woods, and today is an absolutely perfect day. The pollen has not gotten bad yet, so I’d have to say that this is about as good as it gets in terms of mountain spring.

There will be lots of Easter Egg Hunts this weekend. If that’s your cup of tea, I’d suggest that you pick up a copy of the News Observer, which should have a full rundown of activities and locations.

There will be a Hemlock Help for Homeowners session held on Tuesday, April 20 at 6 pm at the former Appalachian Bank, now the Citizens & Southern Bank (above the CVS, just off 515 across from the Ingles Shopping Center). It is being sponsored by the Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Fannin County Extension Service. The good news is that the trees can be saved, and much more economically than the cost of cutting them down. There are options both for do-it-yourself and professional treatment. There is also a help line at 706.429.8010. You can also visit

In a bit of spectacular legislative log rolling, the local chapter of Trout Unlimited has prevailed on Speaker Ralston to move a proclamation through the legislature proclaiming Fannin County the Trout Fishing Capital of Georgia. We all knew that already, of course, but it is nice to get the recognition.

March 25, 2010

Yesterday was the nicest day of the year, with beautiful blue skies and a porch temperature of 70°. There’s some chance of thunderstorms today. We’re in a pattern where the weather will likely bounce around a bit from warm to chilly, before it settles in for deep spring.

We’ve got forsythia and daffodils in our neighborhood, and most of the trees are starting to bud out very well. There are no leaves on the sarvis yet, but I expect them to start fairly soon.

Dahlonega is hosting their Third Annual Celtic Music Festival this weekend, starting at 11:00 AM on Saturday and 1:00 PM on Sunday. It may also be happening Friday afternoon, but the information I have isn’t clear on that point. 706.864.3711.

March 17, 2010

It has continued to rain off and on, but most everybody is fine with it, because it definitely feels like spring. I still haven’t heard any turkey talk, but Clark Spratlin told me that he saw a gobbler doing the strut last week just off 515, a mile or so north of the “Zell Miller” scenic overlook between Jasper and Ellijay.

I’m continuing to see the migrants coming through. The other day, I saw five Great Blue Heron flying up Cutcane Creek. I’ve seen more than one heron fishing in the same place, of course, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more than one flying anywhere. So they may have been coming back through on their way further north. (One of my weirder birding experiences was years ago, when I saw hundreds of vultures flying in a line directory over Piney Mountain and then right over my cabin.) I haven’t seen any woodcock, but I haven’t been able to get out to look for them, either, so they may well be around and preparing to mate.

John Daly says he sold sixty-five pounds of corned beef today, so I guess word is getting around that he does a pretty good corned beef and cabbage.

The traditional mountain season is starting, with the opening day of turkey season this Saturday, March 20. The season is in until May 15. Remember that when you are out in the woods, if you hear owl calls, crow calls, or turkey calls, that they may be being made by a turkey hunter. Especially if they sound real bogus.

The opening day of trout is March 27. (It’s always the last Saturday in March.) This isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, now that we have the river and other good streams open year round, but a lot of people still have a traditional gathering of the tribes on this date.

In the old days, pretty much everyone closed up their cabin and went home after Thanksgiving, and didn’t come back until the opening day of trout. That’s all changed now, and it is probably the biggest change I’ve seen in the county over the past twenty-five years. These days, it really doesn’t feel much different in town in December than it does in July, but back in the good old days, if you came up to your cabin in the winter, you pretty much had the place to yourself.

March 11, 2010

It has been a little drizzily lately, but we haven’t had any heavy rain. The temperatures have warmed up quite a bit, and we actually saw 72° on the porch this week. On Tuesday evening, I heard the first tree frogs. There were a lot more last night. I haven’t heard the peepers from the pond down in the meadow yet, but I imagine it won’t be long. So far, I haven’t heard any turkey talk, but I have continued to see the wildfowl coming through on their way north. What it all tells me is that the earth is waking up, and spring is finally coming.

I’ll have to get out the record I have of toad and frog calls – kind of like the bird call recordings – and see if I can identify what I’m hearing this spring. I got the record last fall as part of a field guide, and I went through and marked which ones were in our range. One thing I discovered from doing that is that it is a lot easier to tell a Fowler’s toad from an American toad by its call than by its markings. It turns out we have mostly American toads around our place. Unfortunately, these little guys drive my young dog nuts, and she occasionally goes crazy enough to grab one. That results in foaming at the mouth, and a quick trip to the hose bib to rinse her mouth out. That seems to discourage her from chasing them for … about fifteen minutes. Fortunately, these guys aren’t as poisonous as the Colorado River toad, which can actually kill a big dog. (Apparently, the frat boys out in their territory like to get their kicks by licking them. It’s supposed to be a wild ride, but I confess I’ve never tried it.)

My email newsletter went out the other day. I featured the Swinging Bridge over the Toccoa this time, along with detailed directions and some nice photos taken by my friend – and wilderness advocate – Bruce Walters. If you aren’t on that list and want to be, let me know and I’ll sign you up. I usually discuss market conditions, give a few pointers on mountain life and cabin maintenance, and feature at least one cool place to go in the area. It would be nice if I had the time to post all that stuff on this website, too. But things being as they are, there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, so I’m always behind, if not quite giving up on the idea.

If you want to see some wonderful photographs Bruce has taken of Goforth Creek, a pristine mountain creek in the Cherokee National Forest, go to the WaysSouth page on Facebook. Bruce has posted some gallery quality photos of the creek. There’s also a very cool video of kayakers running the creek in the spring, when the water is high. They put in at the head of the creek, not far from the Kimsey Highway, and ride it all the way down to the Ocoee. It looks like a crazy thing to do, but if you are up to it, it looks like a wonderful ride. (By the way, for a long time I thought that “Goforth” was probably a reference to the mountain practice of baptizing in small creeks, but it turns out the creek was probably named for Dan Goforth, legendary Polk County hunter, or for his family.)

Unfortunately, Goforth Creek is endangered – along with about a dozen other pristine mountain creeks that supply the Ocoee with fresh water and living fish – by the ridiculous boondoggle known as Corridor K. That’s right, a base price of $320 million, not counting the considerable cost of dealing with the acid rock, all to save exactly no minutes of travel time over making spot improvements to the existing road. Construction of this highway will benefit no one but the road builders, and it will destroy these wonderful, scenic creeks forever. It’s a travesty, but it is going to be very hard work to get it stopped.

If you want to see this creek personally, you’ll have to get around to the west side of Hwy 64, the Parksville/Ocoee Lake side, as it is on the far side of the rockslide in the gorge that is currently being removed. There is a small parking area where the creek crosses Hwy 64, and a good trail part of the way up the creek. There is actually a bigger waterfall a little further up, but you have to bushwack to get there. The road through the gorge is supposed to reopen at the end of March, but there is some skepticism here locally that it will be done by that time, so if you are planning a trip, it would be good to check.

March 3, 2010

We had about four inches of snow at our place on Tuesday. It came pretty fast between 8 AM and noon. It was a pretty wet snow, and some of the flakes must have been two inches across. It started to melt almost immediately, but there’s still an inch or so left on the ground, and it is refreezing at night. While most of the main roads are perfectly clear, there are some difficulties getting around in some areas.

I wanted to get this column up early, because there is a lot happening this weekend.

First and foremost, on Saturday March 6, from 5:00 – 7:30 at the Appalachian Bank Community Room (up behind the CVS), is a Spaghetti Dinner. It is a benefit for Tuse Mallernee, the husband of Dianne Mallernee. Tuse is a woodworker and carver who was diagnosed with lymphoma last year. Dianne is very well known in our town, both as a business owner and as a volunteer. Most recently, she has done a lot of good work for Open Arms, the children’s shelter. Dianne has recently had to resign her position at the News Observer, where she sold advertising, in order to look after Tuse while he was in treatment in Atlanta. This is a most worthy cause for very good people, and I hope that you can attend if you are able. Adults are $7, children 4-12 are $5, and under 4 are free. Take-out will be available. There will also be a silent auction and raffle and some other amusements. For more information 706.455.9586 or

Second, the annual Helen Lewis Lecture, which is sponsored by the Craddock Foundation, is bringing prize winning novelist and mountaintop removal activist Silas House to Epworth for a lecture on Friday, March 5. His band, the Public Outcry, is scheduled to play at 7 PM and the lecture is slated for 7:30 PM. (I was horrified to learn the other day that mountaintop removal mining for coal is being done as close as Tennessee. If you are not familiar with this process, you can get information at As someone who was raised in Pennsylvania some years ago, it looks like strip mining to me, only much worse.) The lecture is being held at the Bonnie Higdon Reeves Campus, the college in Epworth. To reach Epworth from Blue Ridge, go north on Hwy 5 six to eight miles. After you pass the hospital, watch for Abernathy’s Furniture on the left. Just past Abernathy’s, turn left. Take the second right, which comes up in a few hundred yards. Go about a mile and turn left at the four-way stop. Helen Lewis is a sociologist who has retired to our area. We don’t often get an author of House’s caliber here – especially not this year, because the Writer’s Conference has been cancelled due to lack of sponsorship – and it should be a good event.

John Daly, owner of Daly’s Grill, the food cart located next to the BP station, is having his annual St. Patrick’s Day feast March 17. It’s corn beef and cabbage with carrots and potatos done by someone who knows how to do it right. Daly’s Grill is open for breakfast and lunch, and is my favorite place for breakfast. It is mostly takeout, although there are a few seats inside. The corn beef dinner usually goes pretty fast, so if you want some, don’t wait until the last minute. Daly’s closes at 2 PM. Daly’s is located next to the BP station that’s down the hill from the McDonald’s intersection, on West 1st Street. 706.455.0552.

“Leading Ladies” the comedy now playing at the Blue Ridge Community Theater has been extended until Sunday, March 14th. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2 PM. Call 706.632.9223 for tickets and information.


February 25, 2010

We had a light dusting of snow last night, but most of it seems to have evaporated in the wind, which was high during the night. It’s a beautiful day today, but very cold.

I have a correction to make. Last week, I quoted the News Observer as saying that we’ve had nine school closings this year. I just read a letter from the superintendent on the school website about make-up days, and he states that there have been six days missed. Perhaps the News Observer was counting some days where students were sent home early. As I said last week, the average number of school closings due to weather is six per year, but there’s no doubt this has been a harder than average winter, with two substantial snow falls and a number of lighter snows.

The Blue Ridge Golf & River Club has partnered with AgSouth to offer a loan package for lot sales. According to their flyer, AgSouth is offering 80% financing and fixed rates for up to fifteen years. In addition, AgSouth is a cooperative and has returned “on average, 25% of the interest earned back to our borrowers.” People seem to have the idea that it’s hard to get a lot loan today, so it’s nice to know that this financing is available. Let me know if you want to explore this option, and I’ll get you the information.

Some of my longtime readers may remember that Rob Strangia shared some local weather information with us back in the fall. I heard from Rob again this week, and he’s become a founding board member of Save Georgia’s Hemlocks. They are planning to do some clinics for homeowners in the area, and he asked if I knew of any list of local property owner’s associations so he could contact them. If anyone knows of such a list, please let me know. Also, if any of you are involved in a community association and would like to email the contact information to me, I’ll forward it to Rob. It would be great if we had a list of homeowner’s associations in the area, so we could all share information that might be of value to us all.

The road building interests have put on a big push to gain approval for the completion of the road project through the Ocoee Gorge known as Corridor K. I thought this was a ridiculous boondoggle from the start. But now it seems a route has been decided on by the Citizen Resourse Team, which is known as Option 8A. Option 8A is a new road through the gorge, at a higher elevation. It is projected to cost $320 million not including the cost of dealing with acid (pyric) rock. It will destroy hundreds of acres of the Cherokee National Forest, including a few pristine streams like Goforth Creek that provide the Ocoee River with unpolluted water and living fish. And, it will save a grand total of two minutes over the existing road. That’s two minutes. Fixing the existing road would save the same two minutes, and the most important fix – widening the “trucker’s curve” – is already being done. (These are TDOT’s own numbers from February 17, 2010, and if you email me, I will be glad to email you the report in which they are found.) The boosters argue that we need it anyway, so we have an alternate route in the case of another rockslide. But that’s only true if the existing road continues to be maintained by the state, which is highly unlikely. More likely, it will be abandoned to its fate, and we will have spent considerably more than $320 million and torn up all that national forest for … the same two minutes we could have saved by fixing the existing road.

February 19, 2010

The snow is almost completely gone from Blue Ridge. Most of the other areas of the county are fairly free of snow. I still see snow on the mountains, so I’m not sure about access to the national forest, but I think most other locations – unless they just don’t get any sun at all – should be reachable, at least during the day.

We probably had 2-3 inches at our place, starting Friday about 1 pm. Then it snowed a bit more off and on for the next couple of days and temperatures stayed below the freeze. It was a frustrating situation for me. We don’t get any sun on our side of the mountain because it faces north, and I couldn’t get safely out until Wednesday afternoon. That’s the longest I recall being stuck at home over the years. We left Cynthia’s car at the bottom of the mountain because we couldn’t get it up the hill on Friday, and we couldn’t even get it out of where we had left it until Wednesday morning.

Usually, the situation when it snows here is that it melts in the afternoon. If you live on top of the ridge as we do, you can go out, but the trick is to get back home before it refreezes, which is usually pretty close to sundown. The average winter snowfall is six inches, but it mostly comes in dribs and drabs. Maybe once every two or three years we have an inch or more at a time, and the kids grab their sleds and the parents grab their cameras. This year has been unusual because we’ve had a couple of pretty heavy snows.

According to the News Observer, the schools have been closed nine days this winter. That’s in contrast to the average number of school closings per year, which is six. That usually isn’t even as bad as it sounds, because the schools have to be extremely cautious. The school buses run far out into the outlying areas, and lots of times when school is out, most of the roads in the county are actually fine. This winter, it feels as if there were actually more days when the roads were difficult, because some of the snow came on the weekends.

Today, it feels like it is trying to be spring again, and I’m cautiously optimistic that the snow is over for the year and it really is going to turn into spring.

February 11, 2010

Well, it keeps acting like it wants to be spring, but winter just doesn’t seem to want to let go. We had some more flurries this week and a light dusting of snow on Wednesday, but no serious travel difficulties. It has been a hard, cold winter by local standards. Most folks are ready for it to be over, and a lot of people are a still little crabby about the higher heating bills that came from that week of very cold weather.

The Chamber of Commerce held a press briefing on Tuesday, announcing progress on the development at the corner of 515 and Industrial, on the river just east of the Ingles center. According to our broker, who attended the meeting, they have apparently negotiated a contract with a well capitalized commercial developer for the construction of 110,000 square feet of retail space. June thinks they also have a contract with an anchor for the space. The project will reportedly create 150 jobs for Fannin County. They hope to break ground in six months. This is the “Gateway to Blue Ridge” project that we’ve heard about before, and just as before, there are some missing details. No word on whether Travis Tritt is involved, as was rumored, and no word on whether a hotel is still involved. Also, no word on who the anchor will be. While the jobs estimate is almost certainly inflated, there’s no doubt that this will be a good project for Blue Ridge, and I hope it happens as scheduled.

February 5, 1010

It’s raining again today, and it certainly feels as if we have made the turn into spring. I heard geese this morning flying up Cutcane Creek, so I imagine they are on their way back north already. While it isn’t quite spring, it does feel as though it is on the way.

In real estate news, we continue to see better activity than we expected at this point in the year. I’m beginning to see some foreclosures that are really very aggressively priced. I had a sale a couple of weeks ago in Ellijay that I thought was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, and I was very pleased for my buyers. They were able to buy a 3/2 with a two car garage for around $105,000, and I thought that it was probably worth at least $150,000 – $160,000. Some of the foreclosures continue to be optimistically priced, to say the least – especially if they are held by local banks – but the good news is that we are seeing more aggressive pricing from the out-of-town banks and from Fannie Mae.

This is a quiet weekend in town, so my best suggestion is probably to get out in the woods and enjoy some of the last quiet weeks of mountain winter. That’s what I’m planning to do, anyway.

January 29, 2010

We have a forecast for up to five inches of snow today, starting at 1 PM. I know a lot of you like to come up and see the snow, but this time I might advise against it, because we’re also supposed to get up to a half inch of freezing rain. As people who have been around Atlanta much know, that can lead to widespread power outages and long waits to restore power. Depending on how remote the location is, or how steep the road in, it might be a while before power is restored if there are widespread outages.

My list for this sort of thing goes something like this:

Make sure there’s enough firewood up on the porch. Draw water into pots or into the tub for washing and make sure you have enough bottled water. Make sure there’s propane for the grill. Make sure the flashlights are working. Make sure there’s ice melt on the porch (wooden steps are very slick in the snow). Check the dog food. Make sure there’s enough to eat for a few days. Make sure you have some hand sanitizer in case the water is off. Relax. Enjoy.

The Mustang Sally Band is scheduled to play Tin Loong in Blue Ridge (in the Ingles shopping center) on Saturday, January 30. According to the flyer, the party starts at 8:00 and the cover charge is $15. I imagine this will take place in the bar area. I can’t remember the last time a national act played Blue Ridge, so this is a pretty big deal. In thinking back, the last time I remember a big act playing here was back in the late eighties, maybe 1988, when Travis Tritt played the BYOB club that was shortly afterwards shut down in the location that was later Cabin Fervor, just east of Dry Branch Road on the old highway.

January 22, 2010

The ice has finally all melted, and we’re having some springlike weather, with rain and temperatures in the fifties. It feels like spring, but it probably won’t last. I have seen a few years over the past twenty-five or so when spring has seemed to come as early as February 1st, but there aren’t very many people who expect that to happen this year.

The real estate business seems to be picking up a little. I actually had three properties under contract in the first few weeks of the year. One has been taken off the board due to changes in the buyers’ employment and personal situation, one has closed, and one is on the way to close next week. That’s more activity in one month than I’ve had in quite some time, so it seems to be a favorable sign.

The one that has aready closed was a foreclosure in Ellijay. This is one of the ones that actually was a very good deal, and we’re happy every time we can take a foreclosure off the market and get it back into private hands. That’s the first thing we need in order to return to a normal market. We continue to think that 2010 will be a year of normalization in the real estate business, with a return to a modestly appreciating market in 2011. I’m continuing to see both resales and foreclosure sales at very good prices, and I continue to think that now is the time to buy for people who feel comfortable making a commitment. I don’t think we’ll see a better combination of price and interest rate in the foreseeable future.

We also have some very good incentives on lots and cottages at the Blue Ridge Golf & River Club, and I don’t expect these pre-opening incentives to last forever. There are presently seven holes completely done, with two that are almost done (seeded to rye because it was too late in the year to sod). We expect to be playing golf sometime in the spring, and that will be a great thing to see.

In local news, John Foster has started a chain letter fund raising appeal for the library, taking out ads in the newspaper calling on people to make a $1 donation and pass the letter on to five other people. It’s a creative – if unofficial – approach. John should be commended for standing up and saying that the library is important and trying to do something about it. It’s been a tough period for charities and causes of all kinds, and the library and the Arts Association have been the targets of cost-cutting on the part of the county government. They need all the help they can get to keep providing the benefits to the county that they do.

Local attorney David Ralston has been chosen Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, the culmination of a long career as a state representative. Fannin County has historically been an outcast in Georgia politics because it has always been a staunchly Republican county in a traditionally Democratic state. Ten years ago, no one could have predicted that a politician from Fannin would achieve this position, long considered the most powerful in Georgia politics, so it really is a wonderful thing for Fannin County.

January 13, 2010

Well … we’re finally getting back to normal at our place after last Thursday’s snow. We only got about an inch at our place, but the ground was already frozen, and every bit of it stuck. It started about 1:00 pm, and in a half hour, the roads were a mess.

Most of the main roads are fine, although school is still closed today (Wednesday). At our place, the back way in – which we use in the snow – was closed because the culvert froze and water ran over the road at a bad spot. And the road over the top of the mountain was also icy.

So today is really the first day that it’s been at all normal. The temperature in town today is about 36 at 2:00 pm.

This was an unusual event. It has often gotten this cold or colder, but this is the first spell I can recall where it has been so cold for so long. Most mornings started out at 11 at our place, and it’s been that way for almost ten days.

There have been many reports of frozen water pipes, so if you left your cabin without turning off the water at the curb box, you probably should check to make sure your pipes didn’t freeze. As you probably know, they don’t burst when they are frozen, but when they thaw out. If the pipe cracks or bursts and the water is on, you’re in for a mess. An expensive mess, usually.

January 4, 2010

I wanted to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.

We’re experiencing some really cold weather. We had 11 degrees on the porch the last two mornings, and the wind chill has been a thrill. Worse, it’s supposed to stay cold for a while.

We had a nice situation this morning. It turned out that our neighbor’s hot tub drain was left open after cleaning, and it ran down my driveway and froze. So now we can’t get out or in the driveway, and it looks like that might be the way it is for a while.

In any case, hope you all had a great holiday, and best wishes for the coming year. Many of our local folks are saying that it can’t possibly be worse than last year, and I certainly hope that’s true.