Saturday, January 31, 2009
The White Horse logo
Black Mountain's newest music venue, White Horse Black Mountain, has arranged a special Valentine's Day musical trio to perform on the evening of February 14 (8pm-11:30pm). Dance the night away with your sweetheart while songstress Cheri Cagle sings some sultry jazz and dance standards. Cheri will be joined by Patrick Boland on piano and Mike Holstein on bass.
And don't forget, all you chocolate lovers out there who plan to stay with us during February -- we'll have a complimentary chocolate truffle sampler from Black Mountain's own Chocolate Gems waiting for you in your room (for reservations beginning February 12)...our Valentine's gift to you!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
51 days and counting 'til bloom time...
Yes, you read that blog post title correctly. It's almost February, and here in the Black Mountains of North Carolina, we're definitely inching closer to Spring. The crocuses, daffodils (just planted this past Fall) and bearded irises at the Inn have already started to sprout their stems. We've got 600 recently-planted bulbs in the pool garden that we can't wait to see bloom.
And while it is ever-so-tempting to buy even more of the plants that are photographed so beautifully in the countless nursery catalogs we've been receiving, Brigette's willpower is holding up strong. She's planning a May trip to B.B. Barns in Arden, NC, to purchase plants for this year's garden project at the Inn on Mill Creek, the White Garden.
What's this on the desk? A 15% coupon off plants at one of the nurseries...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This year, we're continuing with our initiative to make the Inn on Mill Creek a more environmentally-friendly business while maintaining a relaxing and casual environment for our guests and friends. In December, we talked about our new bath amenities that use plastic alternative packaging, which helps us to reduce our plastic waste.
Conservative and efficient use of energy is another way that we're "Greening Up the Inn". For example, in 2008, we installed programmable thermostats in the Main House and the guest rooms of the Lake House, and we began replacing curtains with thermal drapes in guest rooms to efficiently manage room temperatures. We also installed thermal blinds in the two-story Great Room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows.
Weather-stripping and caulking is another relatively easy energy-saving maintenance project we've undertaken to help us manage ventilation, air flow and indoor air quality. Additionally, we perform regular maintenance on all our appliances, including regular replacement of air filters.
The sunny solarium, where guests eat breakfast during warm months, is not only a great dining room in spring, summer and fall, but also a tool for passive solar heating in the wintertime. Since the window-filled room faces south, and sunny days are the norm here, the heat generated in the solarium can be used to heat the Main House on almost every winter afternoon.
Thinking ahead to warmer weather -- fresh, clean mountain breezes are one big plus to living in Western North Carolina, and we bring that fresh air inside whenever possible by opening windows and using fans during warm weather months. Taking advantage of average summer temperatures in the mid to upper 70s with low humidity, we're able to conserve energy by minimizing the use of air conditioning. We do offer A/C for the comfort of our guests, but we provide fans in guest rooms as well.
Our focus on conservative energy use also includes using compact fluorescent bulbs whenever aesthetically possible, installing dimmer lights in some of our frequently used common areas, and shutting off lights and office equipment when not in use...just a few of the ways we hope to become more energy efficient.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
We love stargazing here at the Inn on Mill Creek because it's so easy to do with very little light pollution. So, we're very excited to note that 2009 -- marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope (above) to study the skies -- has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Astronomy. (Thanks to Mark and Eileen for sharing with us an article from BLDGBLOG about Galloway Forest Park in Scotland announcing its plans to become Europe's first "dark sky park." What a great idea!)
It's very easy to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy: simply look up in the evening or wee hours of the morning and enjoy the night skies! Here are a few dates to keep in mind if you're interested in the year's celestial happenings in the northern hemisphere:
- February 22-23: Just before sunrise, check out Jupiter, Mars and Mercury grouped together in the eastern sky (your binoculars are likely needed to view Mars).
- March 25: See Venus shining brightly at both dawn and dusk, an event that happens every eight years. March 25 will be the best date for viewing, although Venus will show up both night and day in the days just before and after.
- April 20-21: A waning crescent moon won't be too much of a distraction for the Lyrids Meteor Shower, which is known for producing long bright streaks across the sky, at an average of 20 per hour during the peak just after midnight.
- May 4-7: The Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower doesn't produce as many shooting stars as some of the more popular meteor showers, but we're putting it in since it will be peaking this year on May 6, Brigette's birthday. :)
- June 21: Not only is it the longest day of the year, otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, but this date will also see the moon passing in front of Antares, a bright red star in the constellation Scorpio.
- July 22: For those of us in the Americas, we'll just have to watch the news for this event, being billed as the longest total solar eclipse of the century. The eclipse will be viewable across India and China and will be the longest lasting eclipse between the years 1991 and 2132.
- August 6: Check out the lunar eclipse while the moon rises in the early evening hours.
- August 10-September 4: If you've got a telescope or a chance to visit an observatory, you'll be able to see Saturn without its rings due to its edge-on position as viewed from Earth.
- August 12-13: The Perseids Meteor Shower produces about 60 meteors per hour, peaking on August 12. The Swift-Tuttle comet is the parent of these "shooting stars", which appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus.
- September 2-3: Another telescope opportunity...see Jupiter without its moons for a couple of hours. Jupiter is rarely seen without at least 2 or 3 of its moons nearby so this is a special event for fans of our biggest planet.
- October 8: Mercury will appear 5 times brighter than Saturn in the early hours of the morning as they rise together in the east.
- November 17: Stay up late and be rewarded with the Leonids Meteor Shower. NASA forecasts that as many as 400-500 shooting stars per hour will streak across the sky.
- December 13-14: Bundle up and head outside for the Geminids Meteor Shower, often considered the most reliable and one of the best meteor showers of the year.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Appalachian Artisan Society Gallery in Old Fort
We're excited to share word about a new ongoing event organized by the owners of The Appalachian Artisan Society (TAAS) Gallery and Catawba Vale Cafe in Old Fort. Each Friday evening between 7pm and 9pm, guitarist Richard Valentine Tuttell hosts an MC Open Mic Night at Catawba Vale Cafe. There is no cover or admission cost.
Additionally, TAAS Gallery now features Pisgah Yarn as an item for sale in the Gallery, plus Pisgah Yarn is offering classes at the Gallery, too. Each Saturday, Mr. Tuttell serenades customers, as well as students of Pisgah Yarns' free Knit Picking Saturdays classes that take place from noon to 3pm.
The TAAS Gallery offers items handcrafted by over 70 local artisans. If you don't have a chance to visit the gallery in person, you can view items, learn about the artisans and shop online at www.taasg.com/. The Catawba Vale Cafe is next door to the Gallery in a beautiful building (the ceilings are our favorite feature). The Cafe offers a selection of deli-style sandwiches, paninis, wraps, soups, salads and hot and cold beverages.
The Catawba Vale Cafe also features artwork by TAAS artists. If you do have a chance to see the Gallery and Cafe, be sure to check out the original pieces by the gallery's featured artist for January and February, McDowell County resident Gina Gomez-DeGrechie.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Brigette in the far north section of the orchard
Over the past few months, we've spent time in our apple orchard assessing which trees are doing well and which ones might need replacing soon. As some of you know, our trees are getting close to 40 years old (updated, see comments), so we give them extra special care. Right now, that special care involves pruning.
Pruning apple trees is important and wintertime is the best time to prune, so we've been able to take advantage of some warm winter days over the past couple of weeks to get our trees in shape for next Spring's blossoms and next Fall's harvest. We do all pruning ourselves by hand and we have a good number of trees, so pruning takes several weeks. We took a short intermission when the temperatures dropped, but now that it will be back into the 40s this week, we'll be back out with the shears.
For anyone interested in the care that should be given to mature apple trees, we found two excellent articles that talk about older trees:
And here are a few tidbits about pruning and apple trees in general:
- Trees blossom in spring. Each flower bud opens to five flowers, and apple trees need just five percent of their flowers to develop fruit in order to produce a good crop of apples.
- Apple trees need six or more hours of direct sunlight each day in summer.
- Apples grow on wood from the previous year so it's important to prune carefully and to know which wood is old versus new.
- Sunlight and air circulation are important for quality fruit. As the first article above says, a good fruit tree should not make a good shade tree.
- Water spouts are vertical shoots growing off of mature branches or up from the ground at the base of the tree. Sometimes, water spouts are called suckers because they "suck" the energy from the tree. Any shoots growing from the ground and from the lower parts of the tree (shown below) should be removed.
- The first article linked above goes into detail on the different kinds of cuts that should be made, such as removal of rubbing/crossing branches, vertical shoots, broken branches, shaded branches, and so on. It's a good read.
- The second article linked above mentions "fine tuning" pruning, which is taking off some of the short spurs that bear apples. This encourages new growth.
In Spring, we'll post pictures of the orchard in bloom. It's quite beautiful (and fragrant, too!).
Saturday, January 17, 2009
For our nature-loving guests, the Park has an "Off the Beaten Path" guided hike scheduled for January 24, called Winter Tree Puzzling, where a guide will teach you how to identify different tree types, and you get to enjoy the scenery of Hickory Nut Gorge at the same time. The February "Off the Beaten Path" guided hike will be February 14, and is titled Nook and Cranny Crawl. This hike gives you the opportunity to tour the boulder-strewn woods in the Park with a naturalist, learning about the different geology, flora and fauna in the area.
Those of you who have put "exercise" on your list of New Year's Resolutions and don't mind bundling up a little for a beautiful hike can get your blood pumping on the Four Seasons Trail or the Outcroppings Trail at the Park. A network of stairs and boardwalks make up the Outcroppings, a half-mile roundtrip alternative to taking the elevator to the Chimney. The Four Seasons Trail is a 1.2 roundtrip, moderate-to-strenous hike leading to the Hickory Nut Falls Trail and has a 400-foot elevation gain. If you continue on the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, you'll reach the bottom of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls.
A view from the top of the falls
Finally, calling all Groundhog Day enthusiasts: Chimney Rock Park's mascot, Grady the Groundhog, will be the star of the Park on February 2. At 10am, all eyes will be on Grady as he makes his predictions for Spring...will he see his shadow?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Valentine's Day is now less than a month away and that means it's time to start planning a romantic getaway with your special someone.
Consider spending a relaxing weekend tucked away in beautiful Pisgah National Forest. The Inn on Mill Creek offers a quiet setting close to Black Mountain, Old Fort and Asheville. Hiking and bicycling trails are nearby for active guests and our Great Room has several comfy couches for our "take-it-easy" guests to put up your feet and relax. The Maple Tree Room, Reflections Room and Mountain Laurel Room in the Lake House each have their own 2-person Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces, and the Lake View Room in the Main House with its fireplace and outstanding view of the woods and our little lake, make for a great romantic getaway.
Additionally, for reservations beginning February 12, and extending throughout the remainder of February, we'll be providing complimentary chocolate truffles...more details are available on our packages page.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
AT THE WINERY: During one of Biltmore's complimentary Red Wine & Chocolate seminars, guests get to enjoy tasting the pairings of light, white and dark chocolate with Cabernet, red table wines, etc. Seminars run daily at 2pm and 4pm. Additionally at the Winery, each day at 3pm, Biltmore's chefs offer complimentary culinary seminars, where they share quick and easy recipes used at Biltmore Estate. Make your seminar reservations at the Winery Welcome Center.
OUTDOORS: Biltmore has Land Rover School, where they will teach you basic off-road driving techniques and you can then test your skills on Biltmore's two specially designed off-road courses. Call 828.225.1541 for more information. For couples who want a more tranquil outdoors experience, Biltmore offers horse-drawn carriage rides through a pine forest to a knoll that's the only place where you can see the entire back of Biltmore House, from the Carriage House all the way to the end of the South Terrace. Carriage rides are 45 minutes long and can be reserved by calling 800.411.3812.
We'd also like to mention that right now, the quiet season lends itself to a less-crowded Biltmore, and ticket prices reflect the quieter winter period. As part of our Inn Turns 10! celebration of the Inn on Mill Creek's 10th birthday in 2009, you can purchase winter Biltmore tickets right here at the Inn on Mill Creek at a 10% discount off of one-day admission (regular ticket prices are currently $35-$39), plus your tickets will be good for two consecutive days.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
This week, we did some geocaching ourselves and went in search of the Sandlin Memorial Park cache, which is on a rural road in Old Fort.
We don't know much about the Sandlin family; a Google search showed that George was born in Old Fort in 1877 and married Lula in 1913, and that Lula lived to be 100 years old. The park looks like a great spot for eating lunch by a babbling brook (which, when we were there, had turned into a very active creek after a day's rain). Sandlin Memorial Park sits in a little valley below the road and has a few picnic tables, and also a lot of green space bordered by the creek, perfect for taking dogs to play. The innpugs thoroughly enjoyed running around with Dave while Brigette searched for the cache.
The cache itself wasn't hard to get to but involved a little bit of rock climbing. Brigette, of course, was up to the challenge. This was one of our quickest finds to date, but part of the reason was that we were in a hurry to get out of the rain.
Dodging raindrops and signing the log book
Two of our geocaching guests, Jeff and Dawn, shared some very creative ideas about what kinds of caches to hide and where. Hopefully, we'll be hiding another cache very soon. They're almost as much fun to hide as they are to find.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Giving microloans to 10 small business owners in developing countries is one of the items on our list of 10s. One of the highlights of 2008 for us was being able to assist with lending funds to business owners through Kiva. We were able to help people like Ngo Thi Tinh in Vietnam, Biakamangue in Togo, and Ilhem in Azerbaijan, as well as Nilton and Meredith in Peru, Mohammad and Rohullamen in Afghanistan and Vladimir in Ukraine. These are eight small business owners who are a positive force in their villages and towns, actively changing the state of their communities for the better.
We'll be continuing to do microloans in 2009, and thought that since the Inn's 10th birthday is this year, why not set a goal to fund 10 small business owners?
We've chosen our first loan of 2009 to go to Eusebia in Puno, Peru:
Eusebia is 25 years old and has three young children. As the owner of a small retail shop that sells clothes and second-hand items, she will be using this, her second loan through Kiva, to purchase more products to sell. What we like about Eusebia is that she's an example of someone who used her entrepreneurial skills to start and build a business, which is improving her family's life and her community's economy. Impressive for a 25-year-old!
With her first loan, Eusebia was able to buy items to sell at her store and pay back her loan, plus the profits allowed her to be able to improve her store and purchase a car for her household. It sounds like Eusebia is on the right track toward a productive business that will empower her to lift herself and her family out of poverty. Our best wishes for success to Eusebia in her endeavors!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
If you'd like to listen to some great local music when you visit us at the Inn on Mill Creek, you'll be interested in knowing that Black Mountain's newest music venue, White Horse Black Mountain, has an impressive schedule of diverse musical acts lined up in January. To keep music lovers' fingers snapping and toes tapping this winter season, the following performers will be at White Horse:
- January 9: Songwriters Circle featuring Levi Douglas, Tom Leiner, Joshua Singleton and Oso Rey (7:30pm)
- January 10: World class world music from Appalachia -- Akira Satake Band with River Guerguerian, Duncan Wickel and Julia Weatherford (7:30pm)
- January 16: Great Bluegrass lined up for Free Form Fridays -- Traveller's Club (8pm)
- January 17: Mizero Children of Rwanda Benefit Concert by LEAF (2pm-4pm, tickets VIP - $25, adults - $10, kids 10 and under - $5). Hear, see and help the children of Rwanda.
- January 17: Steel drum jazz band -- Jonathan Scales Fourchestra (7:30pm)
- January 23: Lovely jazz performer Cheri Cagle returns for Free Form Fridays
- January 24: Town Mountain
- January 30: The Southern Fried Blues Society Fundraiser starring Peggy Ratusz and Daddy Longlegs
- January 31: Blues to break your heart in a good way featuring White Horse favorites Paco Shipp with Jimmy Landry, Jerry McNeeley and Gove Scrivener
And don't forget, every Friday evening from 7-11pm, you can catch Mountain Music in Old Fort (approximately 15 minutes east of the Inn). Bluegrass, traditional, old time country and gospel..."an authentic little slice of Americana", as our guests have put it.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
A walking labyrinth is different from a maze in that a labyrinth has a single path to the center and back out, and is therefore easy to navigate. It's used for meditation, clearing one's head and relaxation. Plus, with outdoor labyrinths, you get to use the labyrinth as a way to enjoy nature.
We've found that the Labyrinth Society is a great educational resource where you can learn all about the history and symbolism of labyrinths. An entire section of their website is dedicated to the many different types of labyrinths, which has been very helpful to us in determining what kind of labyrinth we want.
We were originally going to construct a medieval labyrinth like the one at Chartres, which dates to somewhere around the year 1200. However, when we were doing our research, we learned about several labyrinths in Sweden that are much older than the Chartres Labyrinth. Brigette's dad's parents are both of Swedish descent, so upon learning that Sweden has labyrinths (about 300 of them, some of which are estimated to be 2,500 years old), we thought, why not pay homage to the Dahlberg family with our own Swedish-style labyrinth.
Many Swedish labyrinths were thought to have been put in place by superstitious fishermen as a way to trap spirits that brought bad luck. Can you imagine a fisherman walking a labyrinth in the hopes that a bad spirit would follow him in and look the other way while the witty fisherman ran out of the labyrinth? Since we don't suspect we need to divert any spirits away from fisherman getting ready to head out to sea, we're hoping our labyrinth will serve to help our guests (and us) as an addition to the relaxing environment at the Inn on Mill Creek.
Our favorite labyrinth so far is the one near Visby, Sweden. Visby is a city on Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea. Here's the labyrinth:
Thanks to Erwin at http://www.mymaze.de/home_e.htm for the photo
Another website we've found to be very helpful is one where you can find the location (and photos) of labyrinths near you. It's called the World-Wide Labyrinth Locator. You can search by city, state, even by the type of place that houses the labyrinth (B&B is an option). You'll find that many labyrinths are located in churches and parks that are open to the public.
Watch the blog for updates on the construction of our very own Visby labyrinth at the Inn!
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Second, even though the the new year is just a few hours old, we're already thinking ahead to this year's Inn Projects. Last year's projects included:
- New carpeting in the Great Room and three guestrooms
- Window boxes and shutters for the Lake House
- Fabric panels for the dining solarium ceiling
- A stone path to the arbor overlooking our little mountain lake
- A variety of new plants and flowers in the Pool Garden
- Becoming a site on the North Carolina Birding Trail
- Starting our "Greening Up the Inn" initiative
We're happy to report that all our 2008 projects were completed and we are now looking at the following projects to be completed in and around the Inn in 2009...and more items will likely be added knowing how much we like to 1) write lists and 2) mark things off of lists:
- Planting a White Garden of white-blooming shrubs and flowers and silver-foliage plants
- Making concrete benches from bench molds, and decorative pavers for use around the property
- New tables and chairs for the dining solarium
- Continuing our "Greening Up the Inn" initiative of becoming an eco-friendly business
- Planning a wooded nature trail around the perimeter of our 7 1/2 acres that borders Pisgah National Forest
- Planning and possibly constructing a walking labyrinth based on labyrinths found in Sweden (paying homage to Brigette's dad's lineage)
- A new section on our website for birding, and perhaps a section for geocaching
We'll also be making some Top Ten lists, such as lists of great hikes for each season (and some for all seasons), lists of geocaches in our area, lists of bird species that you can see at the Inn, and more, as part of our Inn Turns 10! celebration of the Inn's 10th birthday in 2009.
Cheers to a happy New Year!