Start planning the gardens now

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in a January 2006 edition of The Smoky Mountain News. | Have you started making your gardening plans yet? It’s time. The garden catalogs started arriving in the mail several weeks ago: Johnny’s, Burpee’s, Pine Tree, Park’s, Shumway’s, Seeds of Change, etc. Folks have been studying these sorts of publications with pleasure for decades.

Horse Cove is worth a visit

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in a November 2003 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

Horse Cove is one of the prettiest settings here in the southern mountains. It’s a highland valley surrounded by the Black Rock, Fodderstack, and Chestnut and Rich mountains, and drained by Big Creek, one of the numerous headwater streams of the Chattooga River system situated on the eastern flank of the Eastern Continental Divide. 

It’s time for hog jowls and greens

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in a November 2003 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

When I was a boy, mother had to force me to eat cooked greens. But the older I get the more I have looked forward to eating them. 

Kephart Prong Trail has a unique story

I like visiting those sites here in the Smokies region where there is what I think of as an “overlay.” That is, places where both natural and human history commingle. At such places, one encounters the confluence of all or several of the major strands in the region’s natural and cultural fabric: wild areas, plants, and animals; early Cherokee and pioneer settlement influences; and the impacts of the modern era, initiated here primarily with the coming of the railroad in the late 19th century. At such places the alert observer can experience what the French have defined as “frisson” — a moment of excitement and insight that arises when various forces coalesce.

Cherokee had high regard for owls

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in September 2002 in The Smoky Mountain News

The ancient Cherokees were astute observers of the natural world within which they existed.  The mountain landscape and all of its plants and animals were a part of their spiritual cosmos. 

Ancient Cherokees found protection from the cold

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in a September 2002 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

It’s only late summer but I’m already thinking about winter. We have heated and cooked with wood for quarter of a century now, so having a supply of kindling and firewood on hand has always been a priority. 

Buzzards have a beauty and power all their own

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in August 2003.

The recent heavy rains here in the Smokies region have been a blessing, especially to those of us who like to observe vultures up close and personal. That’s because the big birds have to remain in their roost trees well into late morning in order to dry out before they can take flight. In my opinion, there’s no prettier sight in the world than a bare tree full of buzzards. 

Horsemint is a fascinating, useful plant

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in a July 2010 edition of The Smoky Mountain News

Each July since 1991, I’ve led field trips along the Blue Ridge Parkway offered as part of the Native Plants Conference sponsored by Western Carolina University. This year’s outings (July 25) will have taken place by the time you read this.

Jackson County cabin built from one poplar tree

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Smoky Mountain News in July 2004.

I recently read about a log cabin built in Jackson County approximately 140 years ago. I’m interested in this particular cabin because it was reputedly constructed from a single huge tulip poplar tree. I’m devoting this installment of Back Then to that cabin in the hopes that a reader will know if it still exists. 

Why are the mountains so alluring?

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in a July 2004 edition of The Smoky Mountain News.

“To myself, mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery; in them, and in the forms of inferior landscape that lead to them, my affections are wholly bound up; and though I can look with happy admiration at the lowland flowers, and woods, and open skies, the happiness is tranquil and cold, like that of examining detached wildflowers in a conservatory, or reading a pleasant book; and if the scenery be resolutely level, insisting upon the declaration of its own flatness in all the detail of it … it appears to me a prison, and I can not long endure it.”

— John Ruskin, Modern Painters (1850)

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