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Wednesday, 17 July 2013 15:19

Back in the day, many built their own

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When I was a very young boy growing up in Virginia, there was a very old man in our neighborhood…
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 14:14

The grand and showy hibiscus

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I had my first introduction to the showy and curious hibiscus flowers when I was a boy. Rose-of-Sharon was a…
Note: Every July 4th from 1973 through 1990, I used to go in Bennett’s Drug Store here in Bryson City…
Perhaps you’re looking for a new site to visit this summer?  If so, consider making a visit to Black Rock…
Wednesday, 19 June 2013 14:02

Elderberry gets me thinking with my stomach

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A plant that always gets me to thinking with my stomach is common elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), which is just now…
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 12:49

First of the Floppy Disc: Almond School

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I wrote first by hand and then with a manual typewriter. Starting about 1990, I moved “up” to a Tandy…
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 13:53

The mystical allure of moving water

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We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water. Water is the essence of our very being…
Leading a field trip isn’t complicated. But there may be more to it than you suppose. It helps if you…
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00

Plants hitch a ride to the sun

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A book I read about the Suwannee River featured numerous photographs of trees overhanging the waterway festooned with Spanish moss.…
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 14:28

Identifying birds

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Although bird identification can be perplexing — baffling at times for even the most accomplished birders — the principles of…
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 00:00

Some scarlet tanagers are orange

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Last Saturday, I led a bird identification workshop for the Smoky Mountain Field School. We started out in the morning…
Naturalist Donald Culross Peattie (1898-1964) was born in Chicago. In his autobiography The Road of a Naturalist (1941), Peattie recalled…
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 02:05

Cliff swallows return

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That’s the news. Our common breeding swallows have always been purple martins, barn swallows, and northern rough-winged swallows. To a…
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 13:48

The blue-grey gnatcatcher is a mighty mite

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Elizabeth and I were sitting on the deck Monday evening when a tiny bird made an abbreviated appearance — apparently…
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 14:45

Serviceberry is recurring harbinger of spring

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I have two options when driving back and forth from home to town. One is along a river and the…
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 20:04

Their own way of fishing

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I’m sometimes asked if the prehistoric Cherokees used any sort of poisons on their blowgun darts. These darts (slivers of…
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:51

Saved by the appearance of a tree swallow

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Earlier this morning (Tuesday, March 26) I gazed wishfully through my office window here in Bryson City. About all I…
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 13:44

My wife knows good morels when she sees them

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It’s just about morel time. By early April (if not sooner), the succulent spring-fruiting fungi that are the most sought…
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 22:40

In the land of water and rock

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Like Old Esdras in the Bible, some live in a land of milk and honey. Here in the Blue Ridge,…
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 14:37

The harbingers of spring are upon us

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As you read this it may well be freezing or even icy outside. But before long you’ll be outside working…
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 02:10

Re-learning those old, familiar (bird) songs

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I like “old time rock and roll” too. And I recently got some of my old time records, CDs, iPods,…
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 15:15

Be(ar) careful in the Smokies

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In the natural world there are certain experiences that rivet our attention and remain stored in our memory banks. Through…
About once a year or less, I work up the nerve to publish poems in this space. Head for cover.…
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 14:54

Oil lamps have long history of lighting the way

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Surprisingly, a recent column about wood-burning cookstoves attracted as much attention as anything I’ve written for years. Folks who live…
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 14:49

The hardest tree in North America

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I wrote a tribute to the black locust tree some time back. It’s time to take another look. This time…
“The opportunistic nature of the species and its partial indifference to constraints of time and space make it an intriguing…
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00

Looking out on a busy day in Bryson City

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For some, graveyards are morbid places. When I was a boy, I never liked to pass by or walk through…
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 00:00

Are the ‘possums adapting to headlight glare

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Where have all the opossums gone? People worry about cerulean warblers and frogs and honeybees and ash trees and hemlocks…
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 04:11

Indian words add color to our language

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Tuckaseigee, Oconaluftee, Heintooga, Wayah, Cullasaja, Hiwassee, Coweeta, Stecoah, Steestachee, Skeenah, Nantahala, Aquone, Katuwah, and on and on. Our place names…
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 15:01

The spirituality of mountain graveyards

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“I am developing a taste for walking in cemeteries.” – Jules Renard, “Journals” (December 1909) Like Jules Renard, a turn-of-the-century…
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:00

Winter mushrooms a welcome find

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Most people who hunt mushrooms do so in late summer and fall when an array of choice edibles are abundant…
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 15:13

Memories of the lost village of Needmore

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Is there another region in the United States that has had more flourishing towns and villages disappear than the one…
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 15:02

The appropriately named 'blue darter'

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When I was a boy my favorite sport was baseball. I was a pitcher. I didn’t have any idea where…
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:16

Birds of a feather stay warm in bad weather

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Because they seem so delicate and vulnerable, we go out of our way to feed birds that overwinter here in…
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:18

Byer’s book brings us a sense of place

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Kathryn Stripling Byer lives in Cullowhee. Poet Laureate Emeritas of North Carolina for a number of years, she was this…
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 00:00

New book celebrates diversity and Biological Station

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In regard to floral diversity, the Southern Appalachian region is unsurpassed by any other temperate region in the world. Whenever…
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:52

A short bout with Victor the Bear

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This is a bear story. Unlike many bear stories, this one is true. Tourism started in Western North Carolina during…
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 00:00

For the love of local bookstores

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When I was a child living in Boonville, N.C., a town of 600 people, my mother would load us into…
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 01:38

Beauty, form and function go hand in hand

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All too often, we tend to think of flowering plants as something beautiful put on this earth to stimulate human…
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 12:50

Waterfalls have a near mystical attraction

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We are attracted to water. Mountain paths always wind down to water ... down to springs, creeks and rivers. Water…
Migrating rose-breasted grosbeaks have been appearing at feeders throughout the Smokies region in recent weeks. Those birds that migrate hundreds…
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 13:44

First frost ushers in winter

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It’s Oct. 7 as I write this. The first hard frost hasn’t as yet arrived. But it won’t be long…
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 20:18

If you suffer from hay fever, blame the ragweed

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Allergies are a type of immune reaction. Normally, the immune system responds to foreign microorganisms, or particles, like pollen or…
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 14:24

Let the fall wildflower fruit displays begin

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Most wildflower enthusiasts quite naturally hone in on the showy flowering phase of a plant’s life cycle for observation, identification…
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 14:21

Southern mountains a peninsula of northern climes

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Geographically speaking, where are the Great Smoky Mountains in regard to the other mountain ranges in the southern Appalachians. Where…
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 13:10

Kudzu’s unstoppable march across the South

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Few people want to get close enough to observe the attractive flowers that kudzu produces. The plant probably won’t actually…
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 03:06

Dueling was a common way to right a wrong

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Let’s suppose that you intentionally or unintentionally insult someone; after all, that’s something that does happen from time to time.…
Numerous geologists have visited the Smokies region. None was more observant than Arthur Keith. The Murphy Marble Belt is an…
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 13:42

The unique habitat of mountain streams

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The creeks and streams of the Southern Highlands are one of the most exciting natural areas we have. Unlike most…