Appalachian Thursday – Wooly Adelgid

A while back I wrote about the blight that eradicated the American chestnut in Appalachia. There’s a new blight happening now–the wooly adeligid. These non-native, invasive insects are doing their best to wipe out all the hemlock trees. While measures are being taken to fight back including insecticidal soap, horticultural oils, and predatory beetles, a lot of trees have already […]

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – Cracking Nuts

The apples have fallen, the pumpkins are getting carved, and the leaves are turning orange and yellow and red. Must be time for the nut harvest! Of course, if we don’t hurry, the critters will beat us to it. Growing up on the farm, we had walnuts, chestnuts, and filberts (hazelnuts). With walnuts, it was best to let nature dry the husk and expose the shell, which would still turn our hands black. Chestnuts could be removed from their prickly casing by pinching them between the soles of our boots and pushing them out. Hazelnuts we just let dry a bit and then whacked ’em but good with a hammer. Mom probably made things using nuts, but mostly the pleasure was in just eating them straight from the shell. And eat them we did! Chestnuts in particular were an easy target and the crisp texture and flavor of that buttery, yellow nut was SO good. You can score them and roast them briefly to make them easy to peel, but we just bit ’em until the shell cracked. Even here, on our little ole plot of land in NC, we have walnut trees (can’t plant tomatoes under them) and several hazelnut shrubs. But it’s a lot of work and not always worth it if the weather hasn’t been right or worms have gotten there first. So mostly Thistle and I sit inside the French doors and watch the squirrels feast. […]

Read More →

It’s Autumn Somewhere

This happened last year, too. Summer lingered so long that the fall color didn’t really show up until November. I’m hoping that’s what happens this year because right now we’re still seeing lots of green with just a few hints of color. And I LOVE autumn! So, after a hectic weekend with little to no color and a HUGE special event at work, today’s post is a simple review of autumns past from West Virginia and North Carolina. So how’s your area? Any fall color yet? Or are you in one of those states that skipped straight to snow?

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – Fairy Diddles

Fairy Diddles are alternately real woodland creatures or mythical rodents depending on who you ask. In West Virginia, they probably refer to small red squirrels but in North Carolina they’re more likely a Carolina northern flying squirrel. Regardless, they’re fast, smaller than average, and make a lot of noise. One myth suggests that they raid the nests of other squirrels and castrate their young. (Yikes!) This may have something to do with the fact that they’re omnivorous and in addition to eating acorns and other nuts will also eat smaller rodents. Although perhaps not JUST, ahem, select parts. I sense a mountaineer with a colorful sense of humor came up with that one. Mountaineers tell stories of “steer” squirrels created by this legendary castration. And some say fairy diddles themselves are of the “steer” variety. I’m pretty sure no naturalist or biologist has ever backed either assertion. When we first moved to WNC we had a pair of fairy diddles living in the woods across the creek. They were adorably small and almost pink in color. After a few years we saw them no more. I can see how they would give rise to tall tales and myths. Perhaps I need to work a mythical fairy diddle into a story of my own . . .  

Read More →

How’s Your Microbiome These Days?

I recently read an article suggesting that it’s harder to lose weight today than it was in the 1980s. Yeah. Made me do a double take, too. Here’s the sub-headline: “A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter.” What?? I read on. The gist of the article is that our microbiomes have changed over the past couple of decades. Like me, you may be wondering what a microbiome is. To oversimplify, it’s the bacteria living in your gut. The bacteria that should be living in your gut. Turns out we NEED bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses living in harmony with our innards. And, it would seem, our diets are changing our microbiomes for the worse. Chemicals and prescription drugs along with the hormones and antibiotics that have been rampant in our food for so long are changing or outright killing off our microbiomes. And scientists now hypothesize that as a result we simply can’t process food as efficiently. And it’s making us fat. I was following right along with the article, grateful to have been raised on homegrown farm food and glad I live in an area where people pay attention to such things. Then I came to this statement by Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at Toronto’s York University: “The fact that the body weights of Americans today are influenced by […]

Read More →