Thursday, June 26, 2008

Back from the NOC

The NOC: Nantahala Outdoor Center. Fun times, I tell ya. Susan and Corinne beat me to the blogging game. Somehow I left my camera's USB in Oxford, and I just now found the backup. But I am back at home in Clinton, and I'm ready to tell it all! Just kidding. I can't tell everything, silly. Here is a breakdown of what we did.

Wednesday: Drove from Oxford to Lost Mine Campground in the Nantahala Gorge. For dinner: beer and hotdogs by the campfire. Nalgene bottles filled with whiskey sours. Yum-o. I hadn't had a hotdog in lord knows how long. Group pic right before hotdogs were consumed. From left to right: Anna, Jenny, Susan, Corinne, Laura, Catherine, and me.

Thursday: Up early for breakfast at River's End. Then rafting down the Nantahala. I took a waterproof disposable camera on the river, so hopefully we'll have some awesome action shots. We spent the afternoon chillaxing and sunning on the pier at Queen's Lake. This is what we looked at from the pier. It was a gorgeous day. Getting up to Queen's Lake was not gorgeous, chill, or relaxing, however. Somehow we ended up in Corinne's huge SUV on a freaking mountain bike trail. We should have known this road was bad news when we noticed the wooden bridge was painted silver to make it *look* metal, therefore more stable. I've gotta re-quote the description I found about this road, because it is just too good:

This 5.5 miles of gravel road is a favorite of the avid mountain bicycle riders in the area. These people are real sadists tackling such a steep road with only pedal power. With 3.5 miles of initial climb, Winding Stairs lives up to its name and rises from 1,954 feet to 3,024 feet in that short distance.
This route offers some of the steepest drop-offs we have ever seen; so steep we wonder how trees are able to grow here. Don’t daydream on this rugged route or you’ll be off the road. If you want to take in the views, pull over and STOP.

Yep. And we tackled it in an oversized SUV with no way down but to reverse. At one point, I started laughing hysterically because I was pretty scared for my life. After that fiasco, we treated ourselves to dinner at Relia's Garden at the NOC. I had the trout and a yummy glass of Pinot Grigio. It was fantastic.

Friday: We started the day a bit late. Our intention was to hike the Appalachian Trail from Tellico Gap to Wesser Bald where there is a fire tower and fabulous views of the Smokies and the Nantahala Gorge. BUT... our directions person (a friend of Anna's) gave us directions to the overlook tower on Wayah Bald. Simple mistake, but we ended up driving about an hour out of our way up Wayah Road. Only about 20 miles, really, but the roads were extremely steep and curvy, and we were averaging about 25 mph. At the top of Wayah Bald we found the overlook tower and a cell phone tower (um, yeah). It was pretty on Wayah Bald at the overlook, but not what we were looking for. We wanted to hike to the top of a mountain, not drive.We came back down the mountain and stopped for a picnic lunch on the pier at Nantahala Lake.
As we were packing up our picnic to leave, we saw the "For Boat Use Only. No Picnicing or Swimming" sign. The boaters didn't seem to mind our picnic, though.

When we finally found the Tellico Gap hike, it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. We set out on the trail we'd driven 3 hours to find. We'd been hiking about 30 minutes with Anna in the leader postition when she stopped dead in her tracks. Corinne, who was next in the line, turned around and tried to run like holy hell back down the mountain. Was it a bear? A bobcat? Nope, a rattlesnake. And it wasn't moving. Jenny threw a few rocks at it to see if it would get out of the way. Nope. It just rattled harder. A few of us were OK with walking around it. And a few others saw it as a visual representation of the cursed day we'd had and weren't walking an inch further. We walked back down the mountain without getting to the top. By then it was time for pizza and local brews at the River's End, and boy, were they good!

Saturday: We got a really late start. We wanted to do another day on the river in two-man duckies (inflatable kayak-like boats), but we needed three of them at about the same time. The NOC was super busy and all sold out. We went down in a raft again, and we ROCKED it! Jenny, Corinne, and I got in a short afternoon hike, and then made it back to the campground for a super campfire supper. 1) Summer squash. See previous blog post. I brought a bunch of summer squash to the Gorge. 2) Red Beans and Rice. 3) Cajun Sausage. 4) S'mores. Heck yeah.

We made it back on Sunday with all our limbs and lots of awesome memories. It was a rockin' trip, ladies!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tomato and Squash Season Has Begun

That's right, folks. I got a lot of squash, green beans, and tomatoes. Also jalapeno, banana, and bell peppers, a couple cucumbers, and some basil. My in-laws started a big garden this summer. Much bigger than mine. And they started it a lot earlier than mine. Chip and I went out there on Sunday morning and harvested snap beans, tomatoes, and squash. A few of the squash we picked were huge (i.e. too ripe), and the beans are a bit too ripe for my liking. The flavor of the beans is not the best (we had some for dinner Monday night), and the pods are a bit tough. I wish we had known that the veggies were ready, and I would have been out there picking a week ago. I gotta try to can some of these beans tomorrow night because I'm going to Oxford Friday morning, and I know Chip won't cook them while I'm gone. I have never canned anything before, so here goes nothing. I think step 1 is going to be "Call Grandma for advice on canning beans."

Is there anything I can do with these huge squash? Maybe bake with them or something?

Tonight is the finale of Top Chef! On our menu is Southwest Turkey Burgers (topped with homegrown tomatoes) and a salad with grated squash, more tomatoes, and cucumber. Yum, yum!

A Compost Harvest

God bless my composter. I am truly impressed by the amount of compost I was able to harvest this week. I started the harvesting project on Saturday. With pitchfork in hand, I took all the top layers off the pile. The bottom of the pile was brown and nicely composted. Just what I hoped for. I didn't have a sifter yet, so on Sunday Chip made me one out of some left over wood and wire. Chip has been building a lattice fence around the pool pump (photos to follow soon), and we have lots of left over wood for little projects like my sifter. The sifter fit perfectly over the garden cart.
Then, I lifted and sifted: lifted the compost out of the pile with my pitchfork and sifted the finished pieces through with my gloved hands. After I had gotten all the usable compost sifted, the uncomposted layers went back on top. Let me tell you, this was hard work. Not only was it hot as balls outside, my back and shoulders got quite the workout. Awesome. I have plenty of spots in my garden that could use some of this beautiful, brown compost. I might even have enough leftover to share the love with my mom... Aww...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My First Upholstery Project

Chip and I are recovering a chair today. I wish I had a "before" photo of the terrible fabric that was on this thing before we started ripping it away. Think orange, brown, and white tweed circa 1977. The fabric would have looked right at home at Graceland. My mom bought the chair for me at an estate sale years ago. We always planned to recover it, but just never got around to it. I was browsing the stacks at the library a few weeks ago and came upon the upholstery section. I checked out a few books, and the next thing I knew I was picking out new fabric.

I took a few photos after we stripped the tweed nightmare fabric off. You can just barely make out the back of the tweed in a pile on the right side of this photo. Under the tweed was another layer. A floral. As we were stripping off the fabric, stuffing was flying everywhere. It looked like shredded paper to me. The upholstery book I checked out said it might be moss.
And bottom layer of fabric was this old brocade, tissue paper thin after all these years.

Today, we're off to Michael's to buy some recovering material. I really hope we don't suck at this.

Towering Glads on a Summer Day

It got hot this weekend. Saturday it topped out in the low 90s, and by Thursday it is supposed to hit the mid-90s. Yowzer! I guess that's what June means here in Mississippi. Summer arrives in full force.

I planted a few Seeds of Change "Sweet Cal Wonder Orange Bell Pepper" seeds that I got at the local grocery co-op. I don't like the taste of green bell peppers, but I can deal with red and orange ones. I think the red bell peppers are better for you anyway. At least that's what Ellie Krieger on the Food Network says. The zucchini, and squash plants are coming along. The carrots should be ready to pick very soon. The rosemary in my herb garden is getting big, big and looks really yummy. I can't wait to make roasted sweet potatoes (from Vardaman, Mississippi of course) with all that fresh rosemary.

My flower garden is really coming together. I've spent some time improving some of the ugly areas, and I can't wait to show them off! Just a few more improvements to make and I'll be showing all of you before and after photos of some of my ugliest garden beds.

One thing in my garden that is not ugly? Take a look at the gladioli. These pretty yellow glads are passalongs from my Grandma.

These plants are BIG. Some of them are topping out at over four feet. I called my Grandma to let her know how gorgeous these flowers were looking. She said she was going to give me some cucumber seeds, and I am elated about that. My Granny's cucumbers are THE BEST. Tasty. Crunchy. In summer she always has a bowl of freshly sliced cucumber on the table. I like to give them a tiny sprinkling of salt. Mmmm. She just picked her first cucumber yesterday... My brother was there for dinner Saturday evening to taste its summery goodness. I'm a bit jealous.