Saturday, February 28, 2009
One of our initiatives in 2009 involves "greening up the Inn" where we look for ways to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency and become better stewards of the beautiful environment that surrounds us here inside Pisgah National Forest.
In this month's installment of Greening Up the Inn, we will discuss two of our favorite things -- gardening and eating -- combined into one yummy subject: edible gardens.
At the Inn on Mill Creek, not only do we have blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes, and apple and peach trees, but we also have a nice little herb garden containing delicious herbs, including chives, sage, lavender, rosemary, a few different types of thyme, yarrow, coriander (cilantro), spearmint, apple mint and Brigette's favorite -- chocolate mint (pictured below):
One of our chocolate mint plants, planted in 2008
In the past, we've planted some additions to the herb garden, such as large leaf basil, red leaf basil and dill. This year, we'll be planting more basil as well as lovage, chamomile, and Dave's favorite -- fennell, all for use at the Inn.
In 2009, we also hope to add lingonberry bushes near our blueberry bushes. Lingonberries grow on small evergreen shrubs; the fruit is similar to a cranberry. They're popular in Scandanavian countries, like Sweden where Brigette's grandparents trace their lineage. [Maybe we'll have lingonberry bushes at the start of our labyrinth...]
Finally, within the next few years, we have plans for a raised vegetable garden on one of the large lawns on the north end of the property. Looking at garden plans, we've come across two that we really like. One is in the shape of a circle, with six grass path divisions radiating out from the center, similar to an asterisk with a circle border, where the vegetable plots are triangular. The other is a traditional vegetable garden grid pattern, with stones dividing the different grids. We have lots of ideas on what to put in the vegetable garden. If you have any ideas, please share them with us by e-mail!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Planning to celebrate springtime in the mountains? As the weather gets warmer and plants and flowers start popping up through the soil (and in some cases, are already blooming...crocuses, we're talking about you), one excellent place to spend an afternoon is the North Carolina Arboretum. Here are a few March events to usher in Spring at the Arboretum:
- On March 10, the Arboretum will offer Gardening in the Mountains: Vegetable Gardening, a program held in cooperation with the Buncombe County Cooperative Extension and regional Master Gardeners. The program starts at 10am in the Education Center.
- The monthly Collections Walk is a great way to see and learn about specific features of the Arboretum's cultivated and wild plant collections. The March Collections Walk is titled "Early Bloomers" and starts off at 1pm at the Arboretum's Baker Exhibit Center Lobby on March 11.
- The Arboretum will showcase the botanical paintings of Peruvian-American botanical artist Miriam Sagasti beginning March 14. This special exhibit, called Blooming Out Loud, runs through May 7, at the second floor gallery of the Arboretum's Education Center.
- The Western North Carolina Orchid Society will host its annual show March 28-29. You'll have the opportunity to see orchids from award-winning growers and browse rare and unusual plants for sale.
Additionally, each Tuesday and Saturday, guided Forest Trail Walks start from the Baker Exhibit Center Lobby at 1pm. Topics can include plants, trees, flowers, birds, insects and local history.
Looking for inexpensive activities? All events and exhibits listed above are free (the Arboretum's usual $6 parking fee does apply, with the exception of free parking on Tuesdays).
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Two rose varieties have caught Brigette's eye, and it's likely we'll have both in the garden when Spring arrives. First, the Iceberg Floribunda is a double flowered hybrid tea that averages three feet tall:
Second, the citrus-fragranced Pope John Paul II rose is a hybrid tea that can get up to five feet tall:
A white flowering shrub we've really liked learning about is the Dogwood 'Silver and Gold' which is a yellowtwig dogwood cultivar with variegated silver and white leaves:
The 'Silver and Gold' has tiny white flowers in late spring and its white summer fruit is a bird favorite, perfect for us as we work to maintain our Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat status.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Comet Lulin, discovered by a Chinese teenager at the Lulin Observatory in Taiwan, is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it is essentially traveling backwards through the solar system. Most of the objects in the night sky, including planets and other comets, travel clockwise around the sun. Not the case with Comet Lulin, which is traveling counterclockwise.The second reason that Comet Lulin will be interesting to see is that it can appear green due to chemicals in the comet.
For the past month, news reports have mentioned people taking photos of the comet as it gets closer and closer to Earth, becoming visible to the naked eye. We like this quote from space.com:
"NASA has imaged the comet, too, finding that it is shedding into space enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every 15 minutes, as the sun boils the comet's surface material away. "
The comet will appear to observers without telescopes as just a fuzzy ball in the sky. It also appears to have formed and lost its tail at least twice due to solar wind gusts. That won't stop us from checking it out, since we're located in a rural area that sees nice dark skies at night and no city lights, making for good viewing conditions.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
White Horse Black Mountain will host Speedsquare, a group described as a "crazy eclectic sense of drama, jazz sophistication, and funk plus splashes of rock" on February 28. This is a family friendly night at White Horse Black Mountain. The performance starts at 9:30pm ($8). For details on all of White Horse Black Mountain's upcoming live acts, check out www.whitehorseblackmountain.com.
And now on to the marathon...On February 28, the Black Mountain Marathon and Mt. Mitchell Challenge takes place, starting at 7am. Runners in the 40+ mile Mt. Mitchell Challenge start in Black Mountain (known as the "front porch" of North Carolina) and head to the "rooftop of North Carolina", Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River (4,324-foot elevation gain). That's the halfway point. The runners then turn around and head back to Black Mountain. The marathoners will start with the Challenge runners, taking the course to the Black Mountain Gap overlook on the famed Blue Ridge Parkway (5,340'), where they turn around and retrace the course to the Start/Finish area in Black Mountain. Although the race registrations are full, you can still check out www.blackmountainmarathon.com for the history of the races and more.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Since 2009 has been designated the International Year of Astronomy, we, along with our guests, have been spending more than one evening this month checking out the night skies. We've had some awesome opportunities for viewing starry objects the past few nights, with crystal clear skies (and, as always, an extremely low amount of light pollution here inside Pisgah National Forest). This place is just great for stargazing.
Our favorite item in the winter sky is the constellation known as Orion. According to one story in Greek mythology, the hunter Orion died after being stung by a scorpion. The gods put Orion in the sky so that he sets in the west while his slayer, the constellation Scorpio, rises in the east. Orion has two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, who accompany him as he fights Taurus, another nearby constellation.
Three bright stars make Orion's belt an easily distinguishable feature in the constellation. However, did you know that there are some really beautiful objects in Orion as well? Two recent entries from one of Brigette's favorite websites, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day, have two great shots of Orion, at least one of which was taken by a digital camera attached to a small telescope.
Three cool things to look for are the Horsehead Nebula, the Flame Nebula and the Orion Nebula.
February 10: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap090210.html
February 11: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap090211.html
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Spring fever has hit us hard (yes, Brigette is counting down the days until Spring...36), and so we've added some cute blooming pansies to the Lake House windowboxes, along with some greenery, as the dusty millers and vinca from the previous year work on waking up.
We've also been working hard on our "Almost Spring" project of redecorating the solarium with new tables and chairs, light fixtures and additional plants. We've got some really creative ideas for the new tables, which we can't wait to share with you when Springtime gets here. The chairs are set to arrive next week, so we're excited about that. (For our past guests who really like the tile tables, no worries, we'll be placing them in a new spot). To round out the solarium "Almost Spring" project, Dave picked up a super comfy bench just today, perfect for lounging in the solarium and watching the buds appear on the trees, the birds at the feeders and the Spring plants popping up.
Can you tell that we're bound and determined to bid adieu to Winter and to welcome Spring to the mountains?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
[Since we skipped our Saturday blog entry, we're doing a double header today.] As mentioned in a previous post, we were in Ohio last week, which afforded us the opportunity to do a bit of geocaching (hunting for items hidden by other geocachers, using a GPS receiver). Being in Western North Carolina in an area that is known for great geocaching, we had some experience under our belts and looked forward to broadening our search area to see what we could find.
Armed with a rather long list of geocaches in Cincinnati, Wilmington, Westerville and Newark, we and the innpugs set out on a few choice hunts for caches. Unfortunately, we didn't anticipate all the snow (how soon we forget Ohio winters!) and that made it much more of a challenge.
We were able to find four caches, one each in Cincinnati and Wilmington, and two in Newark. Plus, we retrieved two travel bugs (trackable items that cachers place with the intent that other cachers will pick up the bugs to keep them moving). One travel bug that has traveled more than 3,800 miles from cache to cache has a mission to visit historical sites, so we have a few ideas of where to place that one. The other travel bug is attached to a little wrench -- a very functional travel bug! It has traveled almost 3,850 miles.
Out of our four caches, our favorite was an Earthcache called Geometric Mounds, located in Newark. The mounds are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures ever built. They're part of the Newark Earthworks complex of prehistoric Indian earthworks, constructed by a group of people who lived in the area from 200BC to 500AD. The people are sometimes called the Hopewell Indians, but only because some of their artifacts were discovered on the land of a farmer named Hopewell. They are also called the Moundbuilders. Since it was an Earthcache, there was no container or log to sign, but rather a requirement to take one's picture at the visitor's sign/map.
Another one of our favorites was in Wilmington, called Sophie's Stupendous Cache. It was located off a bike path and the path had a really neat covered bridge (pictured above). We were fortunate that this cache wasn't hidden under a foot of snow!
Now that we're back in North Carolina, we've logged in another find along Point Lookout Trail. What a great place for a cache.
Almost missed this little guy peeking out from under a rock
Thanks to Mother Nature for giving us a break from winter with a few early crocus blooms, and reminding us that Spring is getting closer every day!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
We send our congrats to small business entrepreneur Ilhem Memmedov (pictured on the left). Last year, we assisted with getting Ilhem a loan for his business through Kiva, which is dedicated to fighting global poverty by bringing microloans to the working poor in developing countries.
For 10 years, Ilhem has sold fruits and vegetables at the outdoor market in the northeastern town of Devechi in Azerbaijan. This loan, which he just paid off, will help him to build a store where he can continue to sell produce and be successful. We're excited and humbled that we were able to be a small part of Ilhem making his dream a reality.
As we mentioned last month, one of the ways we're celebrating the Inn on Mill Creek's 10th birthday this year is to assist with microloans to 10 entrepreneurs. Our first loan of 2009 went to Eusebia in Peru. Now that Ilhem Memmedov has paid us back, we are using that money to lend to Mavjuda, a 31-year-old woman who started her own clothing shop in Tajikistan three years ago. This loan will help Mavjuda (pictured below) to grow her business.
One thing we really like about Kiva is that they'll send updates periodically with a few words from the small business owners themselves. We received an update recently from Rohullamen, a recipient of one of our microloans last November. Rohullamen owns a general store in Jalalabad, Afghanistan and he is the sole provider for his immediate family, which includes two brothers and a sister whom he would like to help obtain a higher education. Rohullamen wanted all of his lenders to know that he was able to use the loan to buy additional merchandise and expand his business, and that he hopes to open up a second store. His story is one reason why we participate with Kiva. The fact that Rohullamen is able to overcome the obvious obstacle of living in what is currently an extremely dangerous part of the world, and be able to build a better life for himself and his family is inspiring.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Biltmore continues its red wine and chocolate seminars at the Winery, daily at 2:30pm and 4pm. Cooking demonstrations are also offered at the Winery, at 3pm daily, and feature chocolate truffles. Plus, the Winery Theatre will offer storytelling talks at 2pm and 3:30pm daily, focusing on a slideshow presentation of Biltmore romance and courtships.
Consider taking your loved one to Biltmore in February and check our packages page for details on discounted Biltmore winter tickets, which are also good for two consecutive days.