Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pick a peck

Recipe for fall, apparently: many soggy days, followed by cold gusty winds, sunny crispy days and crunchy frosty mornings, add in another soggy day for good measure, and presto -- fall perfected. The naysayers (Kirk included) describe the colors as muted and burnt. I say they are lovely.

The rain moved through Friday night and left us (and all the tourist leaf peepers in town) with an unexpected lovely Saturday. Morning soccer followed by the exploration of a local park and it's mountain bike play track and basketball evaluations and finally, off to Sky Top Orchards for apple and pumpkin picking.

The orchard is on the other side of Flat Rock, a postcard of a town in fine autumn glory right now. You climb up a hill, past a few trailers side by side with million+ mini estates, and roll up to this fantasy of an apple orchard spreading across the mountaintop. A little twinge in the back of your mind says enjoy this now - for soon it could be mowed over, paved and portioned out.

For now, it's lovely. We were a little late in the season, and the wind and rain from Friday night stripped the trees of all remaining apples. Undeterred, the kids collected about 20 pounds of perfect apples off the ground. Current favorites -- Arkansas Blacks, followed closely by the Mutsus and old favorite Fujis. Somehow, 30 minutes in line for the homemade apple cider donuts -- dropping one by one from the donut machine into the vat of oil below and taking a quick turn through the cinnamon sugar -- wasn't too long to wait.

Pumpkins? Oh yeah. Forgotten. Been there, done that. This year we're making applesauce. Who says you can't have an Apple-Jack (no'lantern...)?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

Officially I'm tired of the rain.

I can put my "it's better here than anywhere" spin on it. I can remember that the rain is what makes everything so lush. I can thrill to the fleeting moments of sunlight -- magical really -- when the clouds are quickly lifting from the mountains, the blue sky appears and the sunlight bathes all in an unbelievable golden light. I can sprint out the door to take advantage of the intermittent clear spells.

But I'd rather it would just stop for awhile. I want to enjoy the fall. I want that luxurious feeling that day after day will spread leisurely before you, waiting to be filled with perfect photographable fall fantasies. Apple picking. Pumpkin patches. Slow simmered stews filled with the last of summer vegetables. Hot chocolate and cookies after a long hike through the woods, crunchy leaves underfoot and that undescribably musty but good smell of decay seeping into your pores.

My fantasy fall is not filled with rain. But this is life, real life, and it moves on. The house progresses slowly. All the siding is up, waiting for dry days to be stained. The electric and plumbing are all set in place. The heat/solar guys were there yesterday preparing the house for the solar hot water system. The panels will go smack on the front of the roof for easy admiring (and of course optimal theoretical sun, facing due south as they do). I oggled the copper piping and brand new electrical wiring -- a giant step forward from the mishmash of plumbing and the fraying knob and tube wiring in our Pasadena house. The rain basins and fire pit are bricked in and about 1/3 of the stucco went up yesterday. The back yard looks like a giant mud puddle. Maybe we'll give up on the yard and just have a big back pond.

Moments of fantasy sustain us. The photos above are from last Sunday's hike -- 3+ miles uphill to this vista, not captured on camera, that makes you giggle at the leaf peepers oohing and ahhing over to the Parkway views (not too shabby themselves, but nothing like the 180 degrees of trees heightened by the little thrill of walking along rock face that falls off to the unknown). And Thursday night the clouds lifted just long enough to take in the time trial for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (check this link for some great video of the trails we face out here! Dexter "won" the kids' race (though as Bella says, everyone was a winner) and they both got their t-shirts signed by Jeremiah Bishop and other big names, all unknown to me, of the mountain biking world.

But still, I want the rain to stop. And no, turning to snow is not good enough!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A perfect day

What can words add to this little bloggette? Dexter didn't have school today. It was supposed to be rainy. It wasn't. We took him mountain biking - Kirk and me on foot, Dex on his bike. Whooping and hollering on the downhills, complaining on the ups. I cannot imagine a better way to spend an hour or so. Beats the gym any day and twice on Sundays.

This evening we hit the parkway for a little fall foliage touring. Yes. We're tourists here still. And yes, we missed fall. We're only beginning to realize how much we missed fall. In fact, a deep seated desire for fall may really be what led us to embark on this whole adventure after all.

All completed by the "best $5 burgers a man can eat" to quote GQ. I'm not a big burger fan, but these were good. And the fries....oh yes, a long run is needed tomorrow.

A great excuse to get back out there. Won't you join me?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


photos: New bikes! The back patio (aka party pad). Meranti plywood panels, pre-stain.

At last.

After a week of swine (or pseudo-swine) flu, the kids were both in school for a one-day reprieve (a teacher workday sets us back again tomorrow). While not as lovely as last week, the weather held up enough for a chance to break in our long-awaited mountain bikes. My stellar (or at least good enough to win) performance in a trail race, on foot, had me feeling pretty sporty all weekend, so I was good to go.



Very very humble.

The bikes are great. Fully decked out with shocks front and back, hydraulic brakes, plenty of gears (which I am learning how to use but frequently forget right at the point when I need them most), and big fat tires with loads of tread. They really will roll right over the rocks if you let them. But, turns out just being willing to peddle hard and long is not enough to get up these rocky, rutted, rooty trails. You actually need some skill. And Kirk has more than me.

But I'm not quitting. You see, I've read all the trendy studies on how talent is developed, not born - so all I need is drive and practice. Something like 10,000 hours of practice, but who's counting? Some day I too will power up and down these trails like all the crazy fit old people out there. Want to know what's more humbling than being beaten on the trail by an 8-year old with pigtails? Try an 80-year old with attitude. They come tough around here.

So - that's us, at the end of our inaugural ride (look close - can you can see the mud splatters? They're there). And there's the house. The roof is on,the patio is poured, and the siding is going up. I'm very pleased with the patios. The front will be gravel, the back continues the polished cement from the house. Together, they form a central organizing theme - JD's interpretation of my request to design the house around a courtyard, blurring the distinction between inside and out. They extend the feel of the house - maximizing our square feet in so many ways. The front, facing south, will be a lovely spot to soak up sun and enjoy a cappuccino. The back, due north and leading into the yard, is more private, laid-back, a spot to chill, gather friends, and just hang.

But before you hang, you have to face the hills! Humble.