Narrow Leaf Sunflowers of Autumn

This was six years ago, and these Mountain Sunflowers are still going strong. They peak on the first day of Autumn every year. Well worth the wait every year.

Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog

Sunflowers Window
Although autumn doesn’t officially arrive until tomorrow, you can set your clock to that event by watching for the peak display of the Narrow Leaf Sunflowers. a showy member of the Astor family.

Narrow Leaf Sunflower
Three years ago I planted seeds from flowers that I found in a pasture north of here. Since then, the number of plants has doubled every year. Each plant, below, stands about six feet tall and has over a hundred blossoms.

Narrow Leaf Sunflower Stalk

The blossoms seem to mutate into different color patterns, and always are searching for the sun. The plants become so top-heavy with flowers that they need to be tied together with twine to keep them upright.

Narrow leaf sunflower meadow

The thousands of bright yellow flowers are the most dramatic of any flowers that I have found along the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

Sunflowers at Hemlock House

Wolf Pen Mountain to the northwest towers above this area at over 3,000 feet.

Sunflower Mountain

Sunflower Meadow

Another variety that grows…

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Slummin’ at George’s Place in September

Not that Mr. Vanderbilt actually invited me, but I’m sure had he known me, he would have been more than happy to have me visit. As Summer winds to a close on this Friday the 13th with a full Moon, I had the place all to myself….

vann lawn

vann rear

No one was in his Gardens or his Conservatory…green house

Frederick Law Olmsted’s Brick Bridge at Bass Lake had no traffic…bridge


No Rowboats were disturbing the surface of the reflecting Lagoon …mirror

…and I could even park on this narrow stone bridge and no one made me move…caddy

George passed a hundred years too soon, but I could feel his presence around every turn.


Clear-cut Logging has its Advantages

As much as I despise clear cutting, I must admit that it sometimes can have unexpected benefits, and that was never more evident than along a stretch of Bill’s Creek Road just northwest of Lake Lure. This byway connects Interstate 40 to the north with the Lake and Chimney Rock.  There are no National Forests or Preserves in this area, and no State Park lands, so logging, especially over the past five years, has produced needed income to families who have owned these ridges for generations. Unfortunately, large swaths of thick forests have just disappeared in a matter of weeks, leaving giant scars across the mountains that will take years to heal.  Replanting is not in the equation, and the erosion of topsoil with heavy rains makes the problem even worse.

Such is the case with hundreds of acres just west of Bill’s Creek Road, and three miles northeast of the Lake. I’ve lived here for over ten years, and I never knew what had been hidden by the thick forest until the trees were gone. Suddenly, there was a ridge and a series of gullies and hills that had never been visible before.  In spite of the scars, it was actually quite breathtaking.

clear cut 3Luckily, some of the trees were not cut down…


A gravel road runs along the top of the ridge, above, so I drove there to see what I could find. I was amazed by the spectacular vistas that greeted me.

blue ridges 1View toward the northeast mountains…

east ridgesView toward the east of South Mountains State Park…


blue ridges 4The higher I climbed, the better the view…

blue ridges 6To the north was 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain…

mapleMaples were already beginning to turn…

blue ridges 9This is Tom’s Mountain, now called New Forest Mountain….

blue ridges 7This view didn’t exist three months ago…

Just south of this ridge is an area called Laurel Lakes…laurel lake

laurel lake 1That’s 2,600 foot Young’s Mountain on the western horizon…

sugarloaf mtnTo the South is 4,000 foot Sugarloaf Mountain, with Lake Lure down in the valley…

shumont 1Most impressive are 3,200 foot Rumbling Bald Mountain to the left, and 4,100 foot Mount Shumont, with their rocky outcroppings so beloved by rock climbers. These rugged peaks remind me of the Swiss Alps, with the clear Lake 3,000 feet below.

One more impression of the vista opened up by clear-cut logging….blu e ridges 8Usually these views are reserved for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Thank you loggers…




Heirloom “Jimmy Red” Corn Lives Again

In July, I posted about a field of tall corn growing in the bottom land along Otter Creek.

corn vann 2

corn 4

At that time, I didn’t know what variety those tall stalks held, but after picking an ear, and peeling back the husks, here is what I found…cornStudying the red kernels, I noticed that they were “dented”, which told me that this corn was very different from the Sweet Corn that makes great Corn-on-the-Cob. Searching the web, I found this photo…pfe_7708_wide-4f8a00db852451917c69413fe6d28b8102560ee9-s1600-c85

Turns out that what is growing in this field was a rare heirloom corn known as “Jimmy Red”, named for corn once grown on James Island near Charleston, South Carolina. This is the corn that historically made the best Moonshine, or bourbon whiskey. It is also sought after by the best Southern chefs for making Red Flake Grits. At one time, only two ears had survived, and a farmer planted the kernels from one of those ears, and the rest is history. I found the following article that will tell you everything you need to know about this resurrected variety.

corn 3



The Carnegie Mansions of Cumberland Island, Georgia

With Hurricane Dorian threatening the Southeast Coast, I wanted to remind you of the treasures that reside on the barrier islands found along those shores.

Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog

In the 1880’s, Pittsburgh steel magnate Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy bought the majority of Cumberland Island, the largest barrier island along Georgia’s ragged coastline, from descendants of Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene. Within five years they constructed a magnificent palatial mansion on the spot where the Greene family had built their own grand residence, and called it “Dungeness”, after the original Greene house. Thomas was born in Scotland, so the name was appropriate. In 1886, the house welcomed its first occupants, which included the nine children of Thomas and Lucy, and the many servants that were required to run a property that large. Sadly, Thomas Carnegie died just two years after completing Dungeness.

Carnegie Dungeness Mansion

(If you are one of my regular followers and are reading this as part of your e-mail, click on the headline at the top to go directly to the full blog site for best viewing.)

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Japanese Maples of August

A full month before the first color of Fall arrives, these Japanese Maples do what they have always done best, remind us of the beauty that can be found in the Dog Days of Summer. These trees are part of the landscaping at an mansion in Marion, North Carolina. As spectacular as these trees always are, an afternoon sun brings out their best reds, oranges, and yellows.

maple 1

maple 3

maple 4

maple 5


Mid-Summer along The Blue Ridge Escarpment

From a place five miles northeast of  Lake Lure, in the westernmost Foothills, the Blue Ridge Escarpment dominates the horizon, from the South Carolina border, running northeast to Interstate 40 near Marion, North Carolina. Along that almost impenetrable wall, only three Gaps allow passage to the west. The southernmost is Hickory Nut Gorge, with Chimney Rock guarding the steep passage, Stone Mountain-Round Mountain Gap, along the Old Fort-Bat Cave Road, and Sugar Hill-Old Fort Road north of 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain.

PanoramaTryon Mountain is behind the tree to the far left, with 3,900 foot Sugarloaf Mountain next on the far horizon. Chimney Rock and the Hickory Nut Gorge are behind the big tree, then 4,000 foot Mount Shumont is behind 2,800 foot Young’s Mountain, with the tallest of all, 4,250 foot Little Pisgah Mountain on the far horizon to the right. This lookout is just three miles east of my home in Otter Creek Valley.

SugarloafSugarloaf in Polk County…

YoungsShumont and Young’s in Rutherford County…

Cedar Creek GorgeCedar Creek Gorge between Stone and Round Mountains in Buncombe County. That’s Little Pisgah on the far horizon, the tallest mountain east of Asheville and South of Black Mountain. Look carefully, and you can spot a home near the summit of Round Mountain. The view east must be spectacular, with Charlotte visible on the horizon.

On this last day of July, the special haze that gives the Blue Ridge its name, was out in full force. Just three hours later, thunder roared over these giants, and a deluge dropped the temperature from a high of 87 degrees, to a chilly 69 degrees. So it is along the Eastern Escarpment.