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Mountain Living
The Pros and Cons to living in the mountains
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WEATHER

 

 

We moved into our home in June, 1997. Having never lived on a mountain before, I was not accustomed to the kinds of weather that the mountains generate.

  

Our first surprise came early one morning in spring. We were still asleep in our bed, and were enjoying the wonderful respite from street noises. Unknown to us, a “little spring thunderstorm” was building over us. With a loud: “BOOM!!” – “CRACK!!” right over our house, we jumped straight out of bed. That thunder was so close; I had never heard such a loud sound! We both stood laughing and shaking at the surprise we had just had.

 

After that first experience, we wondered what more was in store. We found out.

 

Winds in the mountains are unlike anything I have ever experienced. Some people that have moved to the mountains find that they can not tolerate the winds, and sell their homes to move away from those winds.  To say that the trees move with the winds is an understatement.  The trees really do flex and sway from the bottom up to the tips. You would be amazed to see how far a tree can sway.  Surrounded by trees that are all over eighty feet tall, the movement of the winds through those trees will make you worry if you are witnessing the “end of the world”. 

 

It takes a long time to become accustomed to the high winds, with gusts of 60mph.  The fear does calm down over about a year or two. Sleeping through the loud sound of the high winds is another matter. Many a sleepless night has been spent listening to the winds roaring through the woods. You have to convince yourself that you should just ignore the wind. It will be gone eventually.

 

Summer winds with the thunderstorms are not nearly as scary as the winds that come with the winter storms. Every pore in the house seems to seep cold air from the winds.

Thermal-paned windows and heavy quilted window coverings are the only way to keep the cold wind from radiating into your dwelling. Even then, it’s a struggle to stay warm.

 

When it rains, it comes from every direction. Since the winds like to swirl around the house, the windows can never stay washed. The first rain after cleaning the windows and all of them are wet and spotted again. It’s a loosing battle that I have relinquished.

After the rain is finished, the fog likes to build. Many times we have looked out windows but could not see past our front porch due to the fog. Of course, at 4,200 feet elevation, fog can easily be a low cloud. You just never know for sure. The “Smoke” in the SmokeyMountains is the fog! Spring and Fall are the “foggy-est” of the seasons. The natural transition from warm Summer to Fall will often cause low fog to hang over the valleys every morning. That fog creates a beautiful puff of white around the mountain ridges and has inspired many creative thoughts. 

                                                             

 

 

SNOW

 

One thing you can count on at 4,200 feet in the winter is that you will see snow at some point. Whether it’s a lot or a little, you will see snow. Some years we have had just few inches (like 10 inches), and other years we have had as much as 30 inches in one snowfall. The snowfall is beautiful, treacherous, and inspiring. Unless you make plans far in advance of the snowfall, you will be repeatedly inconvenienced by the snow storms.

If you have a steep gravel driveway, as we do, you will be snowed in several times a season. You can plow gravel, but you lose gravel with each push of the plow blade. You can try to salt, but you will find that the salt creates a soft slushy driveway in spring. The soft driveway is just as treacherous to drive on as ice!

If you can afford it, the best driveway is an asphalt driveway. You can plow asphalt. You can salt asphalt. Most of us have gravel driveways. Some of us have long, steep, gravel driveways. But before I leave the subject of weather, here are some pictures of the views from our home:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rhyme Ice on the trees

 

 

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A first-of-the-season snowfall

 

 

 

 

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Fall color

 

 

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Fall Color up close

The Most Amazing Animals

Mountain Living – The Most Amazing Animals!

 

After our visit from the bear and the rattlesnake, we couldn’t have imagined more, but….

 

Later that same week, (this time while I was in the kitchen), I caught movement in our back yard. Bearing in mind, (no pun intended), that our back yard is very shallow, bringing the action up close, we watched as a bobcat strolled from left to right past our back door. He was beautiful! He was definitely “on the hunt” as the chipmunks had already set off the alarm with their “click, click, click” (or “chip, chip, chip”, depending on your perspective). Because I had no camera ready, we watched him stalk the chipmunks from the bushes on the far right side of our yard.  What patience he had. Frozen still, with only his stubby tail visible, he waited for one of the chipmunks to make a mistake. He waited for a long time, tail twitching. We watched. He waited.

 

We hadn’t even noticed that our house cat was sunning himself on the steps along side the south side of the house – in full view of the bobcat! I don’t think that bobcat had “house cat” on the menu that day. Thankfully, after a long wait, the Bobcat sprang through the bushes and continued to walk through the woods. What a memory! We had certainly become part of the great animal highway. We look forward to seeing more wild visitors next summer.

More Wildlife

We had become rather complacent that our deer and turkey would come to visit every year. I think we began to take them for granted. While still excited to see them appear, the camera was not so "at the ready" as it had been.

No one was more surprised than I, when, this past summer, 2010, we had three new visitors. I had the ring-side seat to these events this time. As I sat at my computer, in our spare bedroom, I caught a glimmer of movement outside the window that I faced. Lo, and behold, there was a Black Bear cruising through the back yard with his nose to the ground. I'm assuming he was tracking food. But, what food?  He never looked at the house, seeming to just consider it part of the woods!! Wow! I was so surprised, that I nearly tipped over my chair trying to get to the living room to tell my husband. We both quickly moved to our back door (which, thankfully, was closed) and we watched the bear disappear back into the thicket of the woods behing our house. That bear appeared to be young, perhaps about one year old. He wasn't fat, but looked healthy. He was beautiful in his "bearness". As I said, I didn't have the camera ready, so I don't have a picture to show. But, believe me, the picture I have in my head is "forever"

Later that same day, I heard my husband holler, "Get away from there!!" and heard a door slam. Then heard him getting out his pistol.  I jumped up and ran into the living room. "What's wrong?!", I said. Our cat was outside as he normally was, but today he had wandered up on a rattlesnake behind our house!     I was terrified for him. Dumb cat was walking right up to it, as if to tempt the snake to strike at him! Dear God, NO! My husband fired off two shots from his pistol, into the air, to scare the cat. The cat ran and hid in the woods.  My husband wasn't sure if the snake had managed a strike or not, so I was very worried about how to get the cat to come back to us. I called and called. He would not come back. I had no choice but to wait for him to come back on his own, all the while praying that he hadn't been bitten by the snake.   Meantime, my husband had to find the snake (which had crawled off into the Rhododendrons) and kill it. He found it, shot it several times, then used a paint roller extension pole to fling it into the driveway below the bushes. It took two more shots, close up, to finish the snake off.  The snake was very fat and healthy, so undoubtedly had been "dining" on many of our local critters.

Whew!  Our wayward cat came back, with no evidence of any bites. Here is a look at that Rattlesnake:

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Wildlife from year to year

Every year since we moved to the mountains, we have been delighted by viewings of wildlife close to home. Each 'visit' is full of joy and wonder at God's wonderful world.

Over the years, we have become more and more invisible to the wildlife - blending into the landscape. Our sightings have become more varied and exciting with the passing of each summer.

The first year, we were honored by visits from wild turkey females and their new brood. We put out cracked corn to keep them coming back, but even when we ran out of the cracked corn, the turkey females kept coming back to graze on the grass seeds. While many times we discussed "taking one for Thanksgiving", we were just too amazed to be able to just observe them.

Later, deer started to appear, through the trees at the highest point of our yard, and we couldn't believe our luck. They didn't even seem to mind the sounds coming from the house. But DON'T MOVE, where they can see you! Staying just back from the window screens, we could watch them graze on the wild plants, like Hawkweed. Like a dandelion, Hawkweed has a sunny yellow bloom. The deer seem to like those blooms especially. And, as if to welcome the deer, the Hawkweed blooms early morning, but closes up during the high sun. The deer always seemed to know the right time to come for the Hawkweed. They also seemed to enjoy eating the Jewel Weed flowers that bloom in late summer. We could watch the deer stroll along our driveway, where the lush plants would reach out to their noses. Munching their way back down the driveway until they disappeared from sight, we would run from window to window for a better view of the parade.

Mostly, the deer would appear one at a time. One year, a doe came to graze with her twin fawns that looked to be about a year old. Another time, two spike bucks arrived to graze together. What a thrill to be able to study them right in our yard.     

Here are some of my favorite pictures of our deer:82F08-8-11(8-8).jpg

 

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Nature Abounds!

Nature abounds in the mountains of North Carolina. The Spring displays are so inspiring that I found my creative expression the first year we moved into our new home. The fact that the house was a "blank slate" as they say, was just the beginning. I found that I couldn't find enough hours in the day to complete all the experiences that I was craving.

Walks in the woods to catalog wildflowers, became my favorite activity. I would photograph each one, then rush home to look at the books I had to identify each one. Turns out, I didn't have the right books! A whole new world was outside our door. We made several excursions to town and to the Smokey Mountain Parkway, to look for more relevant books for my identifications. After adding at least three new books, I settled with my pictures and books to identify the beauty of our woods. I have been forever thankful that I took the time to get to know our woods. From that first step of identification came many creative endeavors, both for personal use, and later as a business.

Fall was glorious! Our view of the color change just couldn't be captured on film. WE TRIED! Then we took on the task of identifying the tree species in our woods. Hickory, Black Birch, Red Oak, Post Oak, Scarlet Oak, White Oak, Tulip Poplar, and more. Each one with it's own special properties, bark, leaf color, and benefit to both nature and man. Squirrels scurrying to choose the best acorns and nuts for the Winter to come.

We finished our home with a wood-buring stove to serve as our 'central heat'. We chose not to have air conditioning or central forced air heat, because we felt we just didn't need it. The wood stove is more than adequate to heat the living areas of our house. In fact, with all the excess trees in just our yard alone, we could keep wood on hand for many winters to come.

Yes, nature definitely abounds in these mountains. No doubt about it.

We had nooo idea..........

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