The Summer Retreat(s)

SW Wall Before

SW Wall Before

My summer retreat is a 30-year-old mobile home in the hills of Franklin, North Carolina.  Retreat is a very good word.  When I finally manage to get up here in the summer months the rest of the world melts away.

This year has been a joy. My sister has visited more often and during August she and her husband Wes were here for more than a week.  I’ve been writing almost non-stop and, in the last week, I finally saw the path for this book idea that has been clanging around in my head for months.  I’ve had numerous articles published at Cannabis Now and Huffington Post.

The solitude of my home on Fawn Hill has been a treat but summer is gone and obligations call. Soon I will be traveling to medical cannabis seminars and giving speeches which are being prepared in this quiet place.  Back to work. Back to Florida.

But before I leave behind these hills for another year I wanted to share my  Zen.

Each summer I have spent time working on “the wall,” an old stone wall that runs the length of the house. It was in horrible disrepair when we first took possession in 2013. The first year I could barely get near it for all the poison ivy. But I have rebuilt two significant sections over the years. This year I didn’t think I had it in me. My back ached, my knees ached, the bone spur on my left ankle was cranky and a big part of me said, “Let it go.”  And I did for the first four weeks.  But I kept looking at that section (above) and eventually, like the wall, I crumbled and began tearing it apart. Once you do that you’ve made a commitment.

It has been a six week project.  Two sections that I thought were done got torn out and re-done.  The process of building with stone is, I’ll grant you, laborious. But there is something about the process that I find so soothing and, if you’ll indulge me, a bit genetic. The Irish are well known for their proclivity towards stone work. I swear I can feel that sometimes.

My neighbor and dear friend Bonnie calls this work “my Zen.”  And I think she is correct. One day she heard the stones clacking around and thought about coming down to offer help but she decided against it. “This is your Zen time,” she said.  She’s right.

I finished today.  I’ll drop some fill dirt on it and let the rain and snow of winter drive the dirt down into the new structure.  I needed to buy some rocks to finish the job and it was odd to work the “newcomers” into the mix.  But here it is, the finished project.  Farewell to Fawn Hill for 2016. It has been grand.

SW Wall After

SW Wall After

My Three Bro’s: Great Customer Service in the 21st Century

Frequent readers will remember my previous post about my Squirrel Buster bird feeder’s unfortunate encounter with a hungry bear.  It was fun to write and share.  I never expected much to come from it except some cute comments and sympathy.  So, imagine my surprise when I received a comment on my website from the Customer Service Department of Brome Bird Care, the manufacturer of the Squirrel Busters, asking if I needed a replacement tube.

Replacement tube on the left. Bear-mauled tube on the right.

Replacement tube on the left. Bear-mauled tube on the right.

It had been my plan to order a replacement tube but I had not yet gotten around to it.  I was still in shock that something could come along and so efficiently maul something so innocuous.

I replied that I had not yet done so and fully expected to receive an email with a direct link to their parts department. Instead I received this reply:

Alice,

Normally bear damage is not covered by your warranty. However, as a goodwill gesture, we will send a seed tube free of shipping/replacement charges.  Please provide us with your address. Thank you for your interest in  our product.

Well, hot dang, that is just a nice thing to do, don’t you think? In an age that seems to be spinning out of control with companies doing every last thing they possibly can to extract yet another few pennies from the consumer, here is a company that has a true Customer Care Department.

A few days later the tube arrived and it was a simple matter of swapping out the damaged tube for the new one.  Brome also sent a new top, which I would not of thought to order.  The old one looked fine but I discovered it would not attach properly because of a slight bend in the hanging rod.  Brome obviously has more experience with this than I.

The repaired Super Squirrel Buster on the left, Classic, and Standard.

The repaired Super Squirrel Buster on the left, Classic, and Standard.

So a heartfelt “Thank You” to Brome Bird Care.  I love your products.  I have had the Classic Squirrel Buster for at least five years, maybe more.  Here is a picture of My Three Bro’s, all filled and ready to go.  It is particularly nice to have the Super model back in business.  It is fledging season here and the feeders are packed with nervous young birds learning to make their way in the world.  They are eating like all children do…incessantly.  Having the Super Brome back in service means a little less work for me in terms of keeping up.

And also “Thank You” to Maureen McKinnon, Customer Care Manager at Brome, for reaching out to me with a little help from Google Alerts.  The 21st Century has given us so many new tools that can be used in so many ways — some good and some bad.  For those unfamiliar with Google Alerts, they allow an individual to set a specific phrase or topic of interest and receive notifications of any new activity on the Web that relate to the topic.  It is a great tool that I often use.

The birds of the air may never sow or reap but manufacturers do and I think Brome will continue to reap goodwill and loyal customers because they 1) make great products, and 2) they care.  The only one who loses is the squirrel.  ❧

 

Squirrel Buster, Yes! Bear Buster, No!

 

 

IMG_0727Back in North Carolina, getting a late start on the summer season but better late than never.

This return to our summer place was made extra easy because my sister arrived the day before I did and had the house open, the refrigerator stocked, and my bed made.  How cool is that!

As I got settled into things I realized that the large Squirrel Buster bird feeder I had bought last summer was missing.  I also had a very bent hanging rod.  These two things were a mystery because I knew I had put away all my feeders.  And the I remembered getting a text from my neighbor who thought I was arriving in late April and told me she had checked the house and filled the bird feeder for me.

It occurred to me that something took the feeder…something big!

IMG_0726I found the feeder down the hill in the woods and if a squirrel did this to my feeder it may be time to head south again!  🙂

No, the answer is clearly a bear.  One that saw an opportunity and, literally, grabbed it.  With no people, lights or dogs the feeder was easy pickings, just pull it off that pesky hook and away he went.

The feeder is repairable and, yes, I will continue to feed my fine feathered friends.  But feeders will be locked up tight as long as the house is empty.  Sorry bears.  ❧

Apres le deluge – Images #308-310

Most people are aware of the horrific rains that we have endured here in the Carolinas.  I am in Western North Carolina at about 2,ooo feet elevation so most of what falls here heads downhill…towards South Carolina.  Poor South Carolina.  Anyone who has watched the news in recent days knows the heartache that is being endured in the Palmetto State after a flood of Biblical proportions.  But here in North Carolina things are drying out and the sun has shown for two days. It has been wonderful.

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Little Helmets

The return of the sun has encouraged my mushroom friends to emerge.  The first were these helmet-style little guys who popped up at the base of my hickory maple.

I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the photos and saw another little one emerging under the bark.

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Peek-a-boo!

 

Later in the day I climbed the ridge behind the house and found this soldier pushing its way up through the pine straw and perfectly lit in the setting light of the day. Things are drying out, life goes on. ❧

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At the end of a sunny day.

 

Image #307 – Blue Velvet Fungi

Blue Velvet Fungi

Blue Velvet Fungi

Still in the Carolina mountains but the days are slipping away. Summer officially ends tomorrow. The leaves are starting to change color and litter my yard.  Soon I will join the birds in heading south.

My pictures this season, like my posts, have been sketchy at best. Today’s offering is a photo that was taken a month ago and sat in the camera, patiently waiting. It is Blue Velvet Fungi that I unearthed while moving some branches. It was in full bloom, an absolutely delicious shade of blue that this photo barely captures.  The next shot gives you a close-up.

Blue Velvet Fungi - Closeup

Blue Velvet Fungi – Closeup

Amazing nature…it doesn’t care about pictures, blog posts, newsletters, speeches or meetings.  It simply does what it does best…astound. ❧

Image #306 – Color of the Day – Banana Caterpillar

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A Banana Caterpillar

My friend Joe Bruneau likes to post “Today’s Color” on his Facebook account.  Today’s color is banana and I thought that was interesting since I found this almost banana-colored caterpillar on my deck rail this morning.  I think this is his face but for all I know he could be mooning all of us.  😀    ❦