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mtnvoicesIt’s Oct. 6 as I write this. The first frost hasn’t as yet arrived. But it won’t be long coming. Most gardening resources for Western North Carolina cite on or about Oct. 10 as the average date for a killing frost.

In the June 14, 2004, issue of The New Yorker magazine, there is an essay titled “Blocked! Why Do Writers Stop Writing?” (I can’t find the author’s name in the online edition). Therein one of the Romantic poets, Coleridge, is cited as a prime example of a writer who suffered from that peculiar malady known as “writer’s block”:

I don’t like to talk or write about writing — but when forced to do so by, say, an approaching deadline, I will. I am, in fact, doing so right now. But I’ll be concise: have a beginning, have an ending, and don’t worry about the middle.

art blueberries“It’s football time in Tennessee!” is what John Ward, the long-time announcer for the University of Tennessee, used to declare when the opening kickoff of the season was airborne.

mtnvoicesWhen it rains it pours. Within the past week or so, I received two emails about plant galls. That’s two more than I’ve received in the past 15 years of writing this column. Here goes.

backthenWhen my son, now grown, was about 9 or 10, he queried me one summer day about the foamy bubbles in the tall grass of a meadow above the house.

mtn voicesHog Holler, Hog Branch, Hog Camp Branch, Hog Cane Branch, Hog-eye Branch, Hogback Gap, Hogback Holler, Hogback Knob, Hogback Ridge, Hogback Township, and Hogback Valley in addition to six sites in Western North Carolina named Hogback Mountain. Proof enough, if anyone required it, that hogs have been an essential part of the mountain landscape.

ellison trumpetvineIt’s mid-June again … the time of the year when certain plants can be relied upon to do their thing in our yard and on the decks that enclose the house on three sides. Yuccas, oak-leaf hydrangeas, spiderworts, coral vines, various ornamental lilies and roses, and others are in full bloom. But none of these can hold a candle to the trumpet vine.

mtn voicesCertain questions inevitably pop up during plant identification outings. One has to do with whether or not eastern hemlock trees are poisonous.

mtnvoicesA friend of mine who is a veteran backcountry explorer in the Smokies sent a recent email to me and others in which he noted that various lodges and hotels associated with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park “would make a good topic for a book … including such locations as the Wonderland in Elkmont, the original Cataloochee Ranch, the Swag, the ones at Tremont, below the Chimneys Picnic Area, and on the Tuckaseegee at Canebrake, as well as the one up on the Thomas Divide and the old Mountain View in Gatlinburg. I am sure there are many others but those are just the ones I can think of.”

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