Monday, October 22, 2012

Of Wags, Tails, and Dogs

Moliere famously said “Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.”

This blog certainly hasn't made any money, nor has there been any attempt to make money from it. I do hope it has made some friends. What it has done, for sure, is become the tail that wags the dog. And that isn't a good thing.

So I've decided to take some time off to work on some other projects.

Take care, I'll see you down the road.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Just where is Appalachia?

This question was sparked by an article that appeared recently in the Morehead News, a bi-weekly newspaper serving Morehead and Rowan County, Kentucky. The article stated that Elizabethtown, KY, had been declared eligible for funding from The Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal agency established by law in 1965 to counteract the effects of high unemployment in Appalachian counties. The terrain around Elizabethtown isn't exactly what one would think of as mountains. Nor has its economy historically been characteristic of Appalachia. But such have been political decisions, what we used to call pork barrel politics. Anything more I say will turn this into a rant, and that's not on my agenda today.

From the beginning, the area included within the jurisdiction of the Appalachian Regional Commission ranged beyond what anyone would likely consider to be mountainous to include pockets of poverty in contiguous states. Northeast Mississippi is the example that jumps out at the casual observer. Perhaps less obvious is all that was left out of the Appalachian Regional Commission mandate.

Wikicommons - Public Domain
A map of the Appalachian Mountains clearly shows that they range on up through New York and New England into Canada. Even the Appalachian Trail runs some 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. So technically, Appalachia extends all the way from north Alabama to Canada. In fact, these mountains are so old they date back to Pangea, when all of the continents were clustered together. This mountain range not only passes through Canada, but picks up again in the British Isles, passing through Ireland and Scotland and continuing into Scandinavia. A tell-tale mineral, serpentine, follows the complete chain to verify that it was once connected.

So when I think of Appalachia, I'm thinking of the second map, not the first. To me, Appalachia means mountains, or at least true hill country, not a social, economic, or political construct. And the Appalachia I know best lies in five states, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

This is my Appalachia,
and this isn't (although I love the Bluegrass, too).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

True love

She looks at him with adoring eyes. He's always by her side, her strong protector. Neither seems to worry about the fact that both have been neutered.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There's one in every crowd

There's always one. One who didn't get the memo, one who wasn't paying attention, one who is simply contrary. One who always manages to be THE one, always somehow out of step with the rest. I can relate to that bird.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Looking out my back door

Easily my favorite time of the year. And this year has been especially colorful on the plateau.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why travel to Maine?

My answer to that question was to visit friends. My wife certainly was comfortable with that reason, but always in the back of her mind was something else. I have to admit, it was nice being able to feed four lobster dinners for less than the price of one in Tennessee.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bald-faced Hornets

When visiting friends in Massachusetts recently, we discovered evidence that they rarely, if ever, used one of the entrances to their house. Next to the door was this large, hornets' nest.

photo by PicoloNamek Wikimedia
It belonged to bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespua maculata), a species found only in North America.  Hornets are very aggressive, and use of this door would undoubtedly result in being stung repeatedly. Nests rarely get this large unless they escape notice or are in out of the way places.

I discovered this one on my own house a few years ago. Since then I'm more vigilant and try to destroy them before a significant population builds up.  That's fairly easy to do. Bald-faced hornets are an annual species. Queens lay eggs late in summer that will develop into fertile insects. These new queens and drones mate after emerging and as winter approaches, the newly-fertilized queens find spots to hibernate over winter while all of the other hornets die off. The nests are abandoned, never to be used again.

Next spring the queens that were fertilized the previous year begin a new nest and lay eggs into it. Workers expand it as they emerge and the nest grows throughout the season, sometimes reaching a height of 3 feet. One wants to find them while they're still an inch or two across and destroy them then. Otherwise it can be quite hazardous.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wild and Wonderful

West Virginia. This is an impoundment on the New River just outside Hinton. The Bluestone Dam is just out of sight, around the bend to the left. The Bluestone River joins the New just behind the camera. The line on the left hillside is West Virginia Route 20, which offers great views of the river and surrounding hills, with many pull offs for taking pictures. The photo is from mid-October last year; wish I were there to see this year's colors.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Big house, little house, back house, barn

The expression in the title refers to a style of New England architecture. It's a uniquely North American expression of the connected farms found in England and Wales, adapted for New England farmers' needs. In the beginning, at least, the big house was the main living area of the farmstead and the little house was a connected kitchen. Behind these comes the back house or carriage shed and the livestock barn. I've read that these units often were built at different times, but connected to ease winter chores. Over time the units might have been given other uses, including housing cottage industries that provided income in winter.

The image at top was of a connected farm in a small village in Maine. The second is in a town in Vermont, a reminder that in the 19th century and before even city folks kept horses for transportation.

We have no such configurations in the southern mountains, although we see echoes of it in architects' rendering of modern homes using a New England style.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Somewhere in this cemetery I have ancestors buried, although there are no gravestones to mark the exact spots. William and Rebecca came to North America from North Ireland in 1736. By 1737 they had settled in the Cumberland Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, in what became Antrim Township, and are buried near where they lived. Their children moved on to the Carolinas, and the next generation fanned out from there; Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas. Counting William and Rebecca as the first generation, I'm the eighth generation. I've now been able to find and visit the burial places of each generation except the third. Ichabod (yes, I'm glad I did not inherit that name) is buried somewhere in Floyd County, KY, but so far no one has found the site. Since it's unlikely there was a headstone with his name on it, it may never be found.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Michaelmas Festival 2012

Yes, we know the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels was last Saturday, but for scheduling reasons, our annual Michaelmas Festival is this coming Saturday, October 6. And everything is ready to welcome you.

Kingstone Lisle, the founder's house, is bedecked in its fall finery.

Newbury House B&B has a freash coat of paint and new shingles on its Mansard roof. The rooms were refreshed earlier (see here).

Christ Church has been freshly repainted, as well.

And Mother Nature is working hard to welcome you.

There will be gospel and old-timey music in the church, a tea to die for with sittings at noon and 2 pm, crafts in the church yard, English country dancing on the lawn, and much more. The event is free, except for the teas, which are only $10/person. For tea reservations, call (423) 628-1282.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Breaks Interstate Park

When I was a child, my father told me about "the breaks of the Big Sandy," a spot he had traveled to as a young man. He never took me, and I never got around to going for myself. That changed a couple of months ago when, traveling through western Virginia, my wife suggested we take a side trip. I'm all about side trips.

It's called the breaks because the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River "breaks" through Pine Mountain as it flows north to the Ohio River.

The gorge it carved is 1,000 feet deep and there are sheer cliffs at its sides. There is a roadway on one side of the river and a railroad track on the other.

Where there's no room for either, tunnels have been cut through the mountains.

It's a stark, beautiful land.

While we watched, a train crawled from a tunnel far below us.

Two CSX diesel locomotives pulled a string of loaded coal cars at a snail's pace. They were heading upstream, and undoubtedly were climbing a grade that was steeper than it looked from our post. If you can see them, there are gated chutes along the bottoms of the coal cars through which the coal will be dumped. These cars are of an older design than the ones (shown here) designed to be dumped from the top.

At the end of the train were two more diesel locomotives, pushers to help the train climb the grade.

Breaks Interstate Park is operated by a joint commission between the states of Kentucky and Virginia. It's located just south of Elkhorn City, Kentucky. It's operated as a resort park with lodging, food service, camping, recreation, and a gift shop. We bought a miner's helmet with an attached lamp for our granddaughter. (Shhh! It's a surprise.)

There's a swimming pool for the kids and a small lake.

Right now should be a good time to visit. I'll bet the colors are really good.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rugby Pilgrimage 2012

This past Saturday Historic Rugby, Inc., held its biennial Pilgrimage which, with the Christmas Tour of Homes in alternate years, is the only time private homes are open to the public. Houses open represented a mix of historic houses, historic reconstructions of houses previously lost to fire, and new houses built to look like they dated from the 1880s.

Having 1884 Ingleside open was a special treat, since the owners are aged and in ill health. They graciously let a friend show the house for them.  I got my first pictures of Ingleside interiors, so I'll have a post devoted to the house sometime in the future.

Oak Lodge was built in the early 1880s as overflow space for the Tabard Inn and continues to be available for overnight lodging. Shown is the second floor sleeping porch which now is set up as a sitting area, but in the 1880s would have been filled with beds in summers without air conditioning.

Another treat was Uffington House, home of Margaret Hughes, mother of founder Thomas Hughes. Progress has been slow on restoring Uffington House, but two bedrooms have now been furnished based on historical photographs. The room above was occupied by Thomas's daughter Emily, who lived with her grandmother until Margaret's death in 1887.

Wren's Nest was built in 1887 behind Adena Cottage to house the manager of Mr. Wellman's chicken business. It has been extensively restored and modernized by Bob and Mary, formerly of Nashville and Vanderbilt University.

Visitors are greeted by Rita and Carman at Inis Fal Cottage, a newer home in Rugby's Beacon Hill development.

There is so much to see inside Inis Fal that we'll have to pay a return visit soon.

I find Amherst Cottage to be one of the architecturally most-interesting houses in Beacon Hill.

Here owner Lisa greets visitors from Crossville, Tennessee, on her wrap-around porch. Maybe we'll take an in-depth look at this one later, as well.

At Hester Knolle, Jody greeted visitors at the front door,

while Harry presided over his elaborate "man cave" in the basement.

But this is Rugby, after all, and nothing gets by without a little drama.....

The Pilgrimage was scheduled to start at 10, so promptly at 9 the water main broke leading into the village. Several event volunteers brushed their teeth with bottled water, but the cafe had to stop serving, but worse yet, there were no bathroom facilities that worked. But this is Rugby, after all, and history came to the rescue.

A quick-thinking board member just as quickly cleaned out an old "necessary" and visitors proved to be very adaptable. Fortunately water was restored early to three open houses at the northwest end of the village, and these proved to be among the most popular with our visitors. And water was restored to the whole village by 1 pm and the cafe was able to start serving late lunches.

As Shakespeare said, "All's Well that Ends Well." Our good ending included a brief scene from an original play about 1880s Rugby that will be premiered in April as part of Historic Rugby's second Quilt Show.