Three sisters

This was the second time we’ve experimented with a traditional three sisters companion plant garden. It was more substantial (60′ x 100′) than the first, and suffered less predation from deer and raccoons and skunks. Its productivity has kept me fed up to the present and beyond. The varieties planted: Ohio blue clarage dent corn, Seminole pumpkin, and Cherokee cornfield pole snap bean. I didn’t realize the blue clarage corn was blue and white instead of pure blue. I may switch to a bluer version, but I was highly impressed with the productivity of this variety.

07242018 3 sisters APPROACH
July 24, 2018. Approaching the cornfield.
07242018 3 sisters CORN BEANS
The beans growing up the corn.
07242018 3 sisters CORN SQUASH
The squash creeping beyond the corn patch.
07242018 3 sisters INITIAL HARVEST
One of the first harvests – July 24, 2018. There are other squash besides the Seminole. The Seminole was by far the most prolific.


07242018 3 sisters chickens husks
The chickens don’t necessarily eat the corn husks, but it gives novelty to their routine.
09302018 3 sisters FINAL HARVEST
This was THE final harvest. September 30. All green squashes (with the exception of the flat bluish one in the center) are Seminole pumpkins. I could have easily harvested three times the amount of beans in that container.
10072018 3 sisters final
October 7, 2018. Cornfield no more.

Flint knapping with Pete Adkins

The term “knapping” originates from the German verb knopp, referring to the act of striking, shaping, or working. Knapping is specifically done on lithic materials (flint, chert, obsidian, etc.).

In December 2017, Mr. Pete Adkins of Rockingham County demonstrated to the folks of the Rock. Co. Naturalist Club how flint knapping most likely was carried out by the early aboriginal inhabitants of the Upper Piedmont.

12022017 Pete

In the photo above (taken using the zoom feature on my phone), the flint knapper is a section of a broomstick with a copper nail inserted so that the pointy part is sticking out. He referred to it as an “Ishi stick.” Pete explained that Ishi was the last member of the Yahi tribe (on the West coast of North America) known to be alive at the time (nineteenth century), and he was taken in by anthropologists, who elicited his knowledge of knapping. Ishi improvised the tool out of these materials (he likely used an antler or bone to do so in his own environs). Here, Pete is removing small flakes from the stone, in the process known as pressure flaking.

12022017 Pete 3

Pete shows us the point created on the arrowhead/spearhead. The ridges created from the pressure flaking are somewhat visible, at least on the top part of the point.

It is not uncommon to find arrowheads in any given section of woods or fields here in the county. Pete explained that the Natives that carried out this practice in our region did so during what is known as the Woodland Period, by the Guilford Culture. The Woodland Period began 12,000 years ago, and lasted until the year 500. This is a topic that bears further exploration and investigation. Pete also mentioned that the Native peoples in our regions were nomadic until about 2,000 years ago.

Left, above, are other tools that that Peta has fashioned. Right, the deer and/or elk antlers used for the pressure flaking, as well as a stone with ridges used for smoothing out the edges of the arrowheads.

I would love to hear stories about finding arrowheads, or any history folks may know about the original inhabitants of the place they call home.

Life in the Piedmont

This will be my first attempt at commentary. I hope folks will bear with me as I express my developing perspective.

First, some observations of interest: a mostly clear night, the waning moon brilliant above (we will not see another full moon until January 1); the third night I’ve heard the honking of Canadian geese above as I gathered eggs in the darkness. Only these beautiful creatures can sound forlorn and yet joyous at the same time.

Now, on to the topic at hand…

 A fistful of Dollar Trees

From time to time, I talk about life in rural NC, not being defensive by any measure, but also being honest and forthright.

This is going to be one of those posts.

I was recently struck by an article: “How Dollar General Became Rural America’s Store of Choice (WSJ)” This hit close to home – in a very literal sense. There is a Dollar General on the way to the community college where I work, and right across the street from it, a Family Dollar.

The article notes that Dollar General targets the “lower-end market,” for instance, by marking items in 5-cent increments (easier to add for tight budgets). The household income of targeted shoppers is on the lower end of $40,000¹. The article also notes that the stores sell no fresh meat or produce, and that, by selling snacks and sundries in smaller, more economical packages, they appeal to thrifty shoppers more than Wal-Mart.

Having grown up in a cash-strapped household, I understand the need to pinch pennies. But, there are deeper issues here.

Whenever I pass these sentinels of American thrift, I feel that I’m driving through a food desert².

The smaller package-size is also notable. I have a suspicion, ostensibly confirmed elsewhere, that a cheaper price tag does not make it more economical for the unit price. And it’s hard to comparison shop due to the different sizes when compared to grocery stores.

The proliferation of dollar stores may be a symptom of a larger economic malaise that is besetting rural America. It may also provide rural residents with vital affordable resources that they would otherwise have to drive significant distances to obtain.

My take-away is, as with most aspects of 21st-century living (or is it just being human), one of ambivalence. I feel bad shopping at chains. I feel bad buying imported plastic things. I feel bad not supporting a more local economy. I feel bad spending money period. I also feel fortunate to have access to these products. And to be in a position to purchase them as I need them.

In the end, I know that I can count on Dollar General. However, the supermarkets are preferable because they have celery and whole-milk plain yogurt. The ultimate would be to grow my own celery (I’ve tried) and making my own yogurt (one day?).

What do you think? Do you have a dollar store anecdote to share? Has this path already been trod upon by too many feet? (Any comments, questions, or complaints about my diction and writing style will be warmly received as well)

¹Median household income of our county: $38,000 ($8,000) below state average. Portion of persons living in poverty: 18% (three points above state average).

²According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the definition of a food desert is “both a low-income community with limited food access and a rural area 10 miles from the nearest supermarket;” while the area being described is about 10 miles from a supermarket, most people have gardens.


High Rock Ford

Today’s main activity marked the confluence of three things that I am most passionate about: nature, history, and teaching/learning (well, scifi is a passion of mine too, but aren’t we all multifaceted?). The Rockingham County Naturalist Club visited the High Rock Ford. This site occupies an important place in North Carolina’s and our nation’s history.

111917 federal historical registry

But, this site’s history neither begins nor ends with the noble General Nathanael Greene. First, though, a quick bio of Natty Greene: he led his rag-tag Revolutionary troops against the British Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse. And was defeated, but dealt a devastating blow to Cornwallis. After a couple more skirmishes, Cornwallis lost at Yorktown and the rest is history.

What is this place anyway?

111917 high rock sluice

First, this is the rock which gives High Rock its name. While not impressive compared to parts west, it is nevertheless a preponderance in the locality. The gap to the left is the sluice – this is where water was engineered to pass through when the mill was constructed in 1753. The mill occupied the site immediately to the left of that…

111917 high rock mill

The doggo accompanied me, so I was unable to get closer for detailed shots, but there you have it. What was it that gave the mill its juice? That would be the Haw River:

111917 haw river from south

This is a view from the south (where the mill and High Rock are located). As can be seen, the northern bank is considerably lower. And the south bank’s incline is quite steep, making approach from the north that much more difficult.

The mill has a precedent prior to being a rallying point for Greene’s fighters. This is also where the Eastern Militia gathered/passed through before the Revolution. By 1771, North Carolina was already experiencing a bit of domestic unrest, even before Revolutionary stirrings led to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Here’s the set-up:  royal Gov. Tryon, seated on the east coast, lived a life of splendor, while those in the western part of the state lived in squalor. Taking their situation into their own hands, the westerners formed a group called the Regulators, and the governor responded in kind, by forming the eastern militia.

The governor later crushed the Regulator rebellion at the Battle of Alamance.

So, how could this have been a rallying point anyway? How did people come and go, transporting their grain? What about the ford? That’s where the colonial road comes in:

111917 colonial road

To the untrained eye (such as mine), this is another ravine in the woods. But, a little imagination and examination, and the floor of this gap is much flatter than a typical ravine. The sides, too, are steeper – they are the result of decades of traffic – people, horses, maybe even carriages. Indeed, this is likely part of the road that connected D.C. to Atlanta.  And it leads to the former site of the ford, straight as an arrow.

We’re not done yet – where’s the nature?

111917 cranefly orchid

111917 unknown with purple venation
Unsure what this is. A delightful little forb, consisting for the most part of two opposite leaves, three inches above the ground. Seems to form colonies.