Thursday, April 30, 2009

ART IN BLACK MOUNTAIN: EAST OF ASHEVILLE STUDIO TOUR


The work of Lisa Walraven, E.A.S.T. artist whose work hangs at the Inn

This weekend is a great one for seeing local art during the East of Asheville Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.). The E.A.S.T. spring event is a free, self-guided tour of artisits' studios and features 19 stops in Black Mountain, Swannanoa and East Asheville. You can stop at any or all of the studios, where you'll see and have a chance to purchase local artists' work in mediums such as ceramics, pottery, clay, photography, wood, cut paper, painting, fused glass...the list goes on. The area is home to so many diverse and talented artists and it really shows with the studio tour.

The tour runs May 2 and May 3, from 10am to 6pm. You can find out all the details at www.eaststudiotour.com or pick up a brochure with the tour map at the Inn on Mill Creek; we serve as a proud sponsor of the tour. If you miss the tour this time around, no worries, you can catch E.A.S.T.'s fall tour, which takes place October 9-10.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CHIMNEY ROCK PARK IN MAY AND JUNE

Chimney Rock Park in the beautiful Hickory Nut Gorge area is a great spot to enjoy the outdoors, plus it's very closeby -- located just a half hour south of the Inn on Mill Creek. It's time to check in with our friends at Chimney Rock Park to see what's going on at the Park in May and June. Here are a few special events we discovered at www.chimneyrockpark.com that we'd like to share:

2nd Annual Lure of the Dragons Festival

Dragons descend on Lake Lure...in the form of boats, that is. Watch as teams compete to raise money for area children’s charities. The festival, which will be held May 16, has entertainment, food and kids’ activities all day long.

"Off the Beaten Path" Guided Hikes

Old Growth Forest (May 16): Learn what's special about a forest with canopy members over a century old, some likely 200 to 300 years of age. See the largest known Chestnut Oak in the Park among other prime specimens of their kinds on this moderately strenuous 2-hour hike.

Rocky Broad Jump (June 27): This hike heads along the Rocky Broad River, so keeping dry feet is not a guarantee. Riverside rock-hopping as much as possible, participants will have a glimpse into gorge life along the shady side of the river. Aquatic life will be sought under a few rocks as well. Participants must wear shoes that offer traction and comfort, wet or dry for this moderately strenuous 2-hour program.

Birding Opportunities: "Simon Says" Birding Walks

"Warblers!" (May 17): Dozens of species of warblers live and breed in the Park. Join birding expert Simon Thompson to see or hear all these species, including Worm-eating, Swainson’s, Black-and-white, Hooded and Yellow-throated. (Occasionally, a substitute guide may lead walks.)

"Summer Birding" (June 28): Summer is a time of frenzied activity for many resident birds. Park OrnithologistSimon Thompson will point out Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers who will be noisily feeding their young. Both the summer resident Scarlet Tanagers and Wood Thrushes should be singing and establishing their territories as well.

Rock Climbing

"Climb Time Weekends at the Park" (May 30-31 and June 27-28): Chimney Rock Park has partnered with Fox Mountain Guides to offer rock climbing at the Park on the last full weekend of each month. Climb time weekends feature demonstrations, walk-up clinics and tasters - a 15-minute give-it-a-go. No experience or equipment necessary, just a little bit of moxie!

National Trails and Land Trust Day

Head to Chimney Rock Park on June 6, for guided hikes with Park specialists, rock climbing demonstrations (and the opportunity to try it for yourself). Area land trust organizations, hiking associations and other outdoor vendors will also be on hand to share their dedication to preserving and protecting green spaces. Additionally, author Danny Bernstein will give a presentation and sign copies of her new book, Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage.

There's plenty more to do and see at Chimney Rock Park. Check their website for details: www.chimneyrockpark.com.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

SOMETHING THAT MADE US SMILE

Sometimes, a thoughtful gesture is all it takes to remind us how fortunate we are to be in our "neighborhood" of western North Carolina, where there are so many kind people. Since kindness is contagious, we thought we'd share a brief story about one of our kind neighbors.

One afternoon this past week, by chance Dave saw a listing for free concrete pavers on Craigslist. Currently working with concrete molds to make decorative pavers and benches himself, Dave immediately expressed his interest (within 10 minutes of the listing being posted). The person listing the pavers, Mike, called back, and figuring that there were a couple dozen or so, Mike and Dave arranged for Dave to pick them up, to be used around our property... perhaps around our almost shovel-ready fire pit... But what nobody realized at the time (neither Mike nor Dave) was just how many pavers he had under his porch. Instead of dozens, there were hundreds, most of them in fine shape.

Even though Mike had listed them for free, Dave offered to pay at least something for the substantial quantity of pavers he was taking (ultimately two pickup truck loads), especially since Mike's wife mentioned that five other people expressed interest after Dave. However, Mike suggested that instead of taking something for himself, that Dave could instead make a donation to a charity that Mike and his wife feel strongly about: Smile Train.

The mission of Smile Train is to provide free surgery to correct and repair cleft lip and palate deformities in children in 75 of the world's poorest countries, and to also provide free training for doctors and medical professionals. Every donation matters because each surgery costs just $250.


One of the children helped by Smile Train

So, Mike, consider it done, and thanks for making us smile. It's good to know we have such caring and thoughtful neighbors around us.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SPRING BLOOMING FLOWERS AT THE INN


Bleeding Heart near the Lake House

We've really been enjoying watching the Spring flowers bloom at the Inn. They seem to be doing better this year than the prior two Springs. Really, the entire area of Asheville and Black Mountain are full of flowering shrubs and trees. Many of the flowers, like our lilacs and apple blossoms, are fragrant, and make it a joy just to step outside.

We took a few afternoons to document some of the flowers at the Inn this time of year for Brigette's garden journal and for your enjoyment:


Beautiful "begonia tulips"...we're getting more of these


Apple blossoms are almost done blooming in the orchard


One of our monster yellow tulips


Fragrant lilacs near the Mountain Laurel room


Scotch Broom shrub with pretty yellow flowers


Pink tulips with creeping phlox in the Pool Garden


Pink tulip closeup

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

APRIL GEOGACHING


Csaba, looking for the cache...it's around here somewhere...

This month, we got to go on a great geocaching adventure with two of our returning guests and friends, Travis and Nicole. [Geocaching is the search for items hidden by other geocachers and your main tool for searching is a GPS device, which gives you the latitude and longitude coordinates. You can learn all about this addictive hobby at http://www.geocaching.com/. ]

We headed out with Travis, Nicole and the innpugs to the old dirt stagecoach road off of Point Lookout Trail, a paved greenway trail near the Inn. The weather was absolutely perfect for hiking and geocaching, with plenty of Carolina blue sky mixed with enough cloud cover to keep the pugs from overheating. We were in search of two caches, one of which we had been unsuccessful in finding on a previous geocaching search in December.

This time, with Travis and Nicole's help, we (meaning Brigette, as Dave stayed down near the Swannanoa Creek with the innpugs) were able to widen the search area for the first cache, called the Cross Creek Climbing Cache, and we located it after about a half hour of scrambling up, up, up and all around the ridge and looking under every nook and cranny.


Dave relaxes with the pugs as the search begins


Brigette and Nicole after a successful search

We then headed back down to Dave and the pugs and proceeded on to Spyder's Cache, hidden further down the trail.

The walk to Spyder's Cache was a beautiful hike in the forest and we were surrounded by the vibrant green of Spring. It almost felt like we were on a movie set...it just looked too good to be real.



We came upon an old stone fireplace out in the middle of nowhere which added to the surreal scene:



Then, this was the scene when we crossed Swannanoa Creek a second time to get to the cache (this actually happened each time we crossed the creek, with different humans making cameo appearances):


Csaba thinks about crossing with Brigette...


...and gets across with a little help

Spyder's cache proved easier to find than the Cross Creek Climbing Cache, and we were able to rest a little before heading back.


Innkeepers and innpugs take a break before the return hike

If you have the chance to hike this trail off Point Lookout Trail, we highly recommend it. You'll pass by large groupings of native evergreen laurel and other plants under the old forest canopy, with the sounds of Swannanoa Creek guiding you almost the entire way along the path. You'll even see a couple of fields of kudzu (an invasive vine) that give the look of a primeval forest. Plus, if you're a geocaching enthusiast, you'll be rewarded with a couple of caches if you can find them!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

UPCOMING EVENTS IN OLD FORT


Catawba Vale Cafe -- art and food every day, plus music on Fridays and Saturdays

The historic town of Old Fort is gearing up for several upcoming and ongoing events. If you're in our neck of the woods over the next couple of weeks, you might want to check out this little gem of a town. Here's what's coming up in Old Fort:

Pioneer Day (April 25) -- Pioneer Day is Old Fort's annual celebration of its rich mountain heritage. The one-day festival features toe-tapping mountain music in the Mountain Gateway Museum's outdoor amphitheater, craft demonstrations such as weaving, blacksmithing, and pottery turning, “Hit or Miss” engine displays and vendors displaying and selling their wares. For more information, please call 828.668.9259.

Railroad Day (May 2) -- Historic downtown Old Fort will host the second annual railroad festival at the Old Fort Depot Railroad Museum and Visitor Center, from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, May 2. Features of this free, family friendly event include model train exhibits, entertainment by the Flying Rock Band, face painting and more.

Mountain Music (every Friday) -- If you can't make it to Pioneer Day on April 25, no worries, there is plenty of mountain music playing live each Friday night starting at 7pm, in Old Fort at the Rockett Building on Main Street. This is a free weekly event that has been going on for decades, featuring local musicians, and can be described -- as one of our guests says -- as a "perfect little slice of Americana."

Live Performances and Storytelling (every Friday) -- Local musician and storyteller Dave Foraker performs each Friday, from 6pm to 8pm, at Catawba Vale Cafe in Old Fort. Catawba Vale Cafe, located inside The Appalachian Artisan Society (TAAS) fine art gallery, is a great little spot to get a bite to eat and it's also one of the best places to check out the art and handmade items of local and regional artisans (and be sure to see The Appalachian Artisan Society handcrafts gallery next door). Download the Cafe's menu and see more information at www.catawbavale.com.

Knit-Pickin' Saturdays and Live Music (every Saturday) -- The Appalachian Artisan Society (TAAS) hosts the Knit-Pickin' knitting group each week at the gallery, where you can learn knitting skills and join our area's talented local knitters as they work on their handmade crafts, plus acoustic folk artist Richard Valentine Tuttell performs from noon to 3pm at Catawba Vale Cafe next door. More information is available at www.taasg.com.

Davidson's Fort building (every Saturday) -- Local residents are rebuilding Davidson's Fort, the Revolutionary War-era fort from which the town of Old Fort gets its name. This is a fantastic undertaking and the work being done to replicate this fort is amazing. If you are so inclined, you can even lend a hand and be part of the rebuilding process! Workers are there each Saturday from 10am to 4pm, and volunteers are welcome to contribute to the project. More information is available at www.davidsonsfort.com.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

AMENITY ADDED TO LAKE VIEW



Today, Dave put on his DIY hat and broke out the 18-inch drill bit, headed up to the Lake View Room, drilled a hole through the 12-inch-thick wall to the outdoors, ran co-axial cable from the DirecTV dish, hooked up the DVR that has been on standby, and voila! The Lake View Room is the fourth room at the Inn to have satellite television.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WHITE GARDEN UPDATE


Future home of the White Garden!

As we head into Spring, the White Garden project is moving along quite nicely. Dave and our friend, Hershel, recently cleared out the grass and mulched the area where the garden will be located, leaving Brigette with a blank slate (allowing her to do her favorite kind of garden planning -- from scratch!).


The back curved section of the garden


The mulch layer goes on!

As we finalize the list of flowers, plants and shrubs that are going in the White Garden, there are a few that have already been given the thumbs up and have been ordered for planting in the Fall, including "Joan Senior" daylilies, and peonies with creative names like "Bowl of Cream" and "Festiva Maxima". Other Fall plantings will include white daffodils, snow crocuses, hyacinths and snowdrops.

This week and next week, we'll be watching for the delivery of white yarrow, white bellflowers, a white butterfly bush and a neat columbine we found called "Tower White" (pictured below). Those are all coming from one of our favorite nurseries, Bluestone Perennials, located in Ohio.



Then, during the first week of May, we hope to visit some of our local nurseries and greenhouses to pick up several other plants that make it on to our final list. Stay tuned for photos over the next few weeks as we begin to plant the garden!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

WALKING LABYRINTH SPRING UPDATE

Last week while on a mission to find replacement solar path lights (found them) and ideas for a retaining wall for a fire pit (...yes, fire pit perhaps to be added to the 2009 project list, perhaps going on the 2010 list), Dave came across granite pavers that looked like a great match for our walking labyrinth.

After going back and forth on what materials to use for the labyrinth, we settled on a simple 2-foot-wide grass path (for now). Our delivery of 888 granite pavers arrived in good time, much to Brigette's glee, and we set about constructing the labyrinth using Dave's excellent math and geometry skills and Brigette's enthusiasm. We chose to modify the original 11-circuit classical style Visby labyrinth in Sweden that we liked into a 7-circuit labyrinth near our blueberry bushes on the south lawn, using the granite pavers as path dividers.

[Read about the Visby labyrinth and more about our research at our walking labyrinth blog post from January.]

Here are a couple of photos of the installation process:


Using rope to keep an accurate radius


Assessing the paths at about the halfway point

A few days after we had finished setting the paths for the labyrinth, we took the innpugs, Csaba and Bugsy, on a hike up along Bernard Ridge, one of the laurel and rhododendron-covered ridges that runs above the Inn. Much to our amazement, we looked down at one point and saw our labyrinth! It was peeking out from beyond the trees that hadn't leafed out yet. (Largely unobstructed views are one reason that early Spring is a great time to go hiking in the mountains):



Our next step is to look at landscaping options for the outer perimeter of the labyrinth. Some of our initial thoughts for a privacy hedge are Nandina Domestica, also known as heavenly bamboo (although it can be invasive in our area if not kept under control), viburnum (so many choices of viburnum to choose from, but we're looking at a semi-evergreen group), forsythia and the mountain laurel and azaleas that are native to our area.

Stay tuned for more photos as we continue our work on the labyrinth. Several guests have already walked the labyrinth in the past week -- we hope our future guests enjoy it, too. As the saying goes, "the best way to maintain a labyrinth is to walk it."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

OUR THIRD KIVA LOAN FOR 2009


Ali, 27, owns a metal shop

As mentioned earlier this year, one of the ways we're celebrating the Inn on Mill Creek's 10th birthday in 2009 is to assist with microloans to 10 entrepreneurs through Kiva. Helping small business owners in developing countries is something we've been doing since we became small business owners ourselves in 2007. It's a way for us to connect with other individuals who run their own businesses, and to help with the fight against global poverty -- a cause that's important to us personally.

Our first loan in 2009 was used by 25-year-old Eusebia to improve her store in Peru. Our second loan is currently helping Mavjuda to expand her clothing store business in Tajikistan. Both businesswomen are currently paying back their loans.

As a business owner pays back his or her loan through Kiva, one of the options that lenders have is to re-loan their money to a new entrepreneur, which is what we are doing. For example, Nilton, a small business owner and farmer in Peru who needed a loan to open an agricultural consultant's office to help other farmers in his hometown, has paid back his entire loan to us and his other lenders. We have now put the money we lent to Nilton toward a microloan for Ali, a 27-year-old married father of two in Lebanon who wants to expand his metal shop. Ali has been installing aluminum for 10 years (his entire adult life) and we're excited to help him grow his business and his local economy, and become a positive force in his community.

You can find out more about our efforts with Kiva on our Inn Turns 10! web page: www.innonmillcreek.com/innturns10.htm#kiva. Next month, we'll talk about our fourth entreprenuer who hails from a town in Honduras.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

EASTER WEEKEND EVENTS



Planning a visit to our area this Easter weekend? Check out a few really nice activities going on in our neck of the woods, including:
  • Live music at White Horse Black Mountain (April 10-11): Black Mountain's newest venue, White Horse Black Mountain, is getting rave reviews from our guests! They've got great performers lined up for the weekend: Local bluesy folk singer and songwriter Josh Singleton's CD release party will start at 8pm on Friday, April 10. The incredible Cyril Neville of the Neville Brothers, and White Horse favorite Kellin Watson, will be performing live on Saturday, April 11, starting at 8pm.

  • Live music at Catawba Vale Cafe in Old Fort (every Saturday afternoon): While browsing the fabulous selection of handmade arts and crafts at The Appalachian Artisan Society Handcraft Gallery, you can also enjoy art, lunch and live music from noon to 3pm at the TAAS Fine Art Gallery and Catawba Vale Cafe, located right next door. Acoustic folk musician Richard Valentine Tuttell adds a musical layer to the local art scene in Old Fort, which is thriving with the tradition of southern Appalachian art.

  • Annual Herb Festival at Painter's Greenhouse (April 11-12): Craftsmen, vendors and musicians will be entertaining visitors to this fabulous local greenhouse and nursery. Learn more at www.paintersgreenhouse.com or see our blog entry on the Painter's Greenhouse Herb Festival.

  • Easter at Biltmore (April 12): Little kids will love the Biltmore Easter Egg Hunt on the Estate's front lawn, storytelling, magic shows and getting their picture with the Easter Rabbit. Big kids will choirs inside the House's Winter Garden and the ongoing Festival of Flowers, which is currently taking place through May 17. More info on Easter at Biltmore: www.biltmore.com/visit/calendar/easter.asp

  • The 54th Annual Easter Sunrise Service at Chimney Rock Park (April 12): Gates open from 5am to6am for this non-denomination community worship service, which takes place at 6:30am as the sun rises over Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge. More details available at www.chimneyrockpark.com (and as an aside, they have a beautiful website that is very easy to navigate).

  • Blooming Out Loud exhibit at the North Carolina Arboretum (ongoing): This special art exhibit in the Arboretum's Education Center features botanical artist Miriam Sagasti. Ms. Sagasti's art is influenced by her love of gardening and nature, so this is a perfect exhibit for Spring! More info at www.ncarboretum.org.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

LUNCH WITH THE PINE SISKINS



As a North Carolina Birding Trail site, we see several different species of birds on a daily basis here at the Inn on Mill Creek. Last week, eight Pine Siskins decided to eat lunch at the same time as us. We were treated to quite a show as they all tried to gather on one thistle feeder on the deck off the dining solarium.



Although our Pine Siskins visited us at the beginning of Spring, the Pine Siskin is considered a winter finch. It is a small brown, heavily streaked bird with two wingbars and some yellow in its wings (and the males have more yellow than the females). Winter finches are associated with irruptions, which is the sudden upsurge in numbers of certain birds that don't normally winter in an area. More about Pine Siskins is available at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website:

www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Pine_Siskin_dtl.html

Learn more about the North Carolina Birding Trail at www.ncbirdingtrail.org.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

TEN HIKES FOR SPRING IN THE NORTH CAROLINA MOUNTAINS


Upper portion of Catawba Falls
Photo by Melissa Dowland

As part of our Inn Turns 10! celebration of the Inn on Mill Creek's 10th birthday in 2009, we're rolling out various lists of 10s. One of our lists contains 10 springtime hikes in our area. We've included several waterfall hikes -- not only do April showers bring May flowers (and we've got some spectacular wildflowers in the mountains), but they also bring an abundance of water for our area's hundreds of waterfalls, making Spring a nice time to do a waterfall hike.

Visit our Inn Turns 10 page for details on 10 great Spring hiking/walking trails, which include:
  1. Catawba Falls in McDowell County (pictured above, upper falls photo taken by Melissa, one of our guests)
  2. Parris Creek Forest Service road/trail off our road (photo below is the springtime view of the Black Mountains from Horse Ridge along the Parris Creek road, taken by our guests, Perry and Heather)


  3. Tom's Creek Falls north of Marion
  4. Four Seasons Trail at Chimney Rock Park
  5. Asheville Botanical Gardens walking trail
  6. Looking Glass Rock north of Brevard
  7. Triple Falls at Dupont State Forest
  8. Hickory Branch waterfall trail north of Old Fort
  9. The Woods Walk at Grandfather Mountain
  10. Mountains-to-Sea Trail (near the Folk Art Center)

Happy hiking!