Posts Tagged ‘North Carolina’

Garden by the Foot

Square Foot Gardening“Square Foot Gardening” – photo from Robert Goodwin‘s Flickr photostream

Developed in the 1970s by Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening produces the same amount of vegetables and fruit as traditional single-row gardens in a fraction of the space. These small, raised beds are popular among urban dwellers with limited space, particularly since they do not require digging–they build up rather than down–and can survive well in areas with poor soil. Furthermore, Bartholomew explains in his original text (there is now a second book) that this design “conserve[s] the amount of water, soil conditioners, and labor,” making it economical in a variety of ways.

The first step in creating your own square foot garden is to obtain or create a “box,” either of wood, brick, or stone. Although wood is perhaps the most common material used in this design (they can be found in yards all around West Asheville, for instance), some gardeners are wary of rotting and prefer brick or stone for that reason (this raised bed kit made from recycled materials and sold by Sam’s club is perhaps another option). The size of your garden box is, of course, dependent on location and the amount of available space; however, the default measurements for first-time square foot gardeners is 4′ x4′. It is important to be able to reach across the garden without having to step inside the box and onto the soil, so take that into consideration as well. For those with bad backs and/or pesky pets, try a table top design.

Once the box is complete, create a grid with whatever material you prefer–string, wood, metal, etc.–of 1′ x 1′ squares. There are several factors at play in determining the plants suitable for your garden, including climate and sunlight, but once those details are squared away (punny, right?) then you are ready to plan(t)! Honestly, a large amount of planning is involved in square foot gardens, but they are worth it. Be sure to allow enough depth for crops such as potatoes, provided trellises and support for tomatoes and vertically growing runners such as cucumber, and place the appropriate number of plants in each square foot (for instance, one broccoli plant per square, but up to sixteen plants for onion).

All of this information is available on the web. There are many websites, blogs, and forums dedicated to square foot gardening, and, of course, Bartholomew’s books are invaluable. Although I grew up in a rural area of North Carolina, I’ve been an urban apartment dweller for the last five years and have been limited to container gardening. My tomato and sunflower plants grew taller than me (not a great feat, really, since I’m barely 5’1″), but it still did not feel enough like gardening to please my little rural heart. This summer, however, I move into a house in West Asheville, and my first major project involves constructing a square foot garden. I cannot contain my excitement (buh-dum-bum)!

–Britt Garrett

Old Kentucky Meets Hippy Chick, Falls in Love


Bride and Mother at Kentucky Wedding Ceremony

Pictured above are my sister, Betsy, and her mother, Deb, immediately following Betsy’s backyard wedding in Lexington, Kentucky summer before last.  Since the groom, a naval officer, was on eight-day leave from base in Virginia Beach, and since my family is not one for excess (at least the kind that costs money), the wedding was entirely put together by the hard-working hands of loved ones. This included the decorations, the smorgasbord of homemade casseroles, and the $1,000 worth of illegal fireworks clandestinely procured in Indiana by Tony’s uncles.  Friend’s from Betsy’s alma mater, Berea, constructed a lattice backdrop for the actual ceremony which was officiated by Tony’s father, a Church of God minister.

The bridal accessories—the embellished veil and elbow-length gloves—were hand crafted by Betsy’s mother, my mother-in-love, a fiber enthusiast and instructor at John C. Campbell Folk School. The Folk School, incidentally, was established in 1925 as a means to marry Appalachian craft and agricultural tradition with the opportunity for education that was so needed in the area. My mother-in-love was established much later, in 1958 and has made a career of elevating the already wonderful folk tradition of crochet to an incredibly intricate and sought after art in the craft community.

Friends and family gathered around tables appropriated resourcefully from the minister’s church and topped with skittles and daisies arranged in recycled food jars.  The wedding party, in the spirit of the mountains, was barefoot and lubed with an appropriate amount of alcohol. The counter-culture bride stood in stark contrast against the idyllic milieu of a Kentucky back garden, pink hair and tattoos exposed to God and the public.

The juxtaposition of the two families—one upholding the conventions of the Bible Belt and the other resisting them like cancer—truly epitomized the waxing and waning harmony between tradition and progression in rural America. This was most notably punctuated by what was very possibly the most epic bouquet war Kentucky has ever seen.

The real highlight of this rural matrimonial celebration came as the ceremony climaxed not with “man and wife” but with a delightfully unexpected backyard brawl between Betsy’s diminutively gay, deceptively twee college friend, Edwin, and a monolithic blonde attending on the groom’s side. Edwin’s open homosexuality did not allow him to fit comfortably into a mostly conservative landscape. Though he was denied, by the protests of the groom’s mother, the opportunity to don the stilettos and stripper pink dresses of the bridesmaids, he nabbed victory, leaping like a Jedi for the tossed bouquet, which he snatched from the air with great stealth and dexterity. This affront to traditional marriage customs ended amusingly in a rolling-around, kicking, screaming, sweaty fracas on the lawn, somewhere between the pulpit and the “dance floor” which was, by the way, quilted by Deb and Betsy.

While at least one of these communities was something new for the other, the blending was a testament to the adaptability of willing, welcoming people. Aside from the epic flower toss, there was nothing adversarial about the meeting of the two worlds and we were all very pleased to be selling giving away our sister to a loving family. Resisting the modern lean toward reservations, caterers, and general decorum, this particular nuptial achieved the especially daunting feat of meshing together two very unlikely groups of ruralite while incorporating those traditions that smack so reassuringly of home.

Disclaimer: no shotgun, overalls, or drunkles appeared at this event.

A Rural Haven in Urban Appalachia

Asheville Botanical Gardens from kingary's Flickr photostream“Asheville Botanical Gardens I” – photo from kingary’s Flickr photostream

During the years following World War II, Western North Carolina’s population boomed. According to the History of the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, “new housing developments, businesses, and roads [spread] across the countryside,” causing several area residents to fear the potential loss of native plant species. It was out of this fear that collaboration on a public garden between citizens and Asheville-Biltmore College faculty began to clean and craft the 10 acres that are now a part of the University of North Carolina at Asheville‘s campus. Although planning for the Gardens’ creation began in the 1950s, it was not until 1964 that planting began and over four years later that the annual “Day in the Gardens” festival was established.

The Gardens boast “over 600 species that are native to the Southern Appalachians,” and are available year round for visitors to enjoy and students to study. Functioning as a non-profit organization, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville are not funded by either the university owning the land on which they stand or tax dollars (“city, state, or federal”), but instead by “memberships, donations, endowments, proceeds from the Garden Path Gift Shop, and fees from special events and programs that are offered to the public.” According to a list compiled by a retired horticulturist for NC State University, nearly 60 public gardens exist across the state of North Carolina. Four of these gardens, excluding the aforementioned, can be found in Asheville and the surrounding area, including the North Carolina Arboretum that stretches over 426 acres.

As an undergraduate student at UNCA, the Botanical Gardens functioned merely as a shortcut from the student union to my dorm. However, after moving off of the campus and into a dull gray, poorly maintained apartment complex, I began to view the Gardens very differently. Although the Gardens close at sunset, I found myself walking to them (in the exact time that it takes to smoke one Camel Light, by the way) often when the stress of academia brought on late night panic attacks, and for the comfort it brought me on those nights I am eternally grateful.

–Britt Garrett

Shootin(g) Creek

Photo Courtesy of Tom Nugent

Shooting Creek is more than a body of water: it’s the community that was, and maybe still is,  considered the redheaded stepchild of Clay County. Despite the high-class shopping that one could partake in at the Shooting Creek Mall, my home community was not often the first choice for residency for move-ins when Clay County was discovered a few decades ago. Places like Warne and Tusquittee were more palatable for my home county’s newest residents, unless you take into consideration the lake lots that dot the outskirts of Shooting Creek.

“Shooting Creek is the new Tusquittee,” I thought to myself a few years ago when a doctor bought a lot on top of the mountain behind my house. Despite the time I’ve had to become acclimated to the idea of development, it still startles me and breaks my heart anew when I drive home at night and see the booger lights of summer homes perched on the ridges.  Before the housing market collapsed, Shooting Creek was one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods of Clay County, but now the sound of a nail gun or bulldozer is rare. Like the Shooting Creek Mall, construction is all but closed for business.

Oddly enough, I didn’t catch my first fish in Shooting Creek, but I wish that precious rite of passage had happened there. When I was young, its waters were all but empty, but my grandpa’s stories of freshwater trout fed my imagination and I satisfied myself with a collective memory of bounty. I spent many childhood afternoons tromping through the cow pastures with my brother until we reached our destination: a bend in the creek right next to a tree with a large hole in its trunk. I was afraid to stick my hand into its cavern, and I would fearfully imagine the terrible creatures that must have called it home.

Just the other weekend, I rode down to the creek with my dad in his Gator, and we took a few minutes to count as many fish as we could. There’s a considerable amount more now that the locals who live near my house have grown older and have given up the activity. While there, we placed bricks and other materials to help prevent erosion and keep the banks in good shape. Preservation is important to me; I like imagining that my children will spend their summer vacations using a favorite rock as a pillow as they lounge on the creek’s banks, and maybe I’ll be there when they triumphantly bring forth their first fish from the waters of the generations before them.

“Shooting Stuff” in the Rural South

North Carolina College Student Prepares to Fend off [clay] Pigeons with 12 Gauge

The image above—captured by amateur historian, celebrated photographer, and part-time gun-toter Maloree Byrd—is of a young collegiate posturing at a shooting range in Haywood County, outside of Canton.  The fellow pictured, Michael Schattschneider, was the first subject of a “gun pose” photo shoot punctuating a trip out to “shoot stuff.”  Incidentally, the three—Maloree, Michael, and their roommate Robb—had also ventured out with intentions for Barbecue, but in the spirit of Southern religiosity, “the place was closed because it was Sunday.”

The rural tradition has long held that young men learn, at the elbow of a father or grandfather, how to shoot a gun. In the hills of Western North Carolina, where I grew up, it was a rite of passage for boys entering maturity to become proficient with a firearm: the bucolic equivalent of Bar mitzvah. Among many others, hunting is a widely cited reason for upholding this convention.  Despite the deleteriously prolific state of the meat packing industry, game hunting—particularly in North Carolina—is a seasonal ritual that has been slow to exit rural culture.

While the numbers of death by gun in rural America mirror those in cities, there is generally more opposition to Gun Control in the rural South. Interestingly, women in those areas, specifically including those living with gun owners, have tended toward support of more restrictive legislation regarding firearm registration.

For some people, upholding the least amount of constraint on gun ownership is certainly a matter of constitutionality, tradition, or natural law; for others, firearms fit snugly into an already shallow pool of recreational options afforded to ruralites.  In the words of Michael Schattschneider, “with so few engaging activities around–like someone might find in a more urban area–there’s not much left to do save for drinking beer and shooting stuff.”