Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Rhododendrons in my yard

Andre Michaux was mentioned this week in Bill Leslie's blog. Since I did not know him, I found the website in this link and read up. What a fabulous man! His time in North Carolina within a decade or so of the Revolution just illustrates the value of freedom combined with peace. Time and opportunities.

His claim to fame was to roam the highlands, most famously Grandfather Mountain, searching for plants unknown to Science and with the blessings of Thomas Jefferson, to send seeds back to France to repopulate their bare forests cut during years of war with England to build ships.

This kind of Rhododendron on this link looks like the one which lines my driveway and anchors my house by the back porch. It ALWAYS is at peak bloom the last weekend in April for Merlefest. Usually the week before, it is beautiful enough to have a picnic and jam practice session before the guys take the stage.

He also found the Magnolia macrophylla and introduced it to Europe. I had one of these in my yard when I lived in Wilson. Besides the lovely scent and the gorgeous giant flowers in June, the waxy, broad leaves are GORGEOUS mantle decorations at Christmas laced with pine and cones and cedar or juniper. Just be careful, we they dry out, they still look fine, but have about as much energy as pure ethanol. They feed a fire intensely.

There are two Magnolias in the yard of my neighbor up the road. There was one huge, wild one near my bus stop in Cary when I was growing up.

Who knew? I thought these were probably Southern, but did not realize how defining they are for North Carolina. This species of Magnolia really only rarely grows outside Gaston county. If you just add in the azaleas and dogwood, you get a really good picture of what NC looks like from the mountains to the sea.

Speaking of Christmas, we only have four more months... Wow, time flies. Check out the Christmas tree farms in Ashe county. That is a sight to see. You can go there and cut your own tree. Sometimes, you can get quite a large Frazier fur tree for $25 this way. Spend that other $50 you usually spend on accommodations and you almost have an overnight away in the winter. Drive up after work. Enjoy your evening. Go Christmas tree hunting in the morning, drive home, condition your tree if it needs it and decorate Sunday afternoon. Then admire it with a cup of that wassail kind of thing we drink during the holidays.

Or if you are not Baptist, syllabub. Well, confessions. My mom said her teatotaling family always had sillabub for Christmas. The only alcohol ever seen. I think it came from the tradition of my great grandfather being known for being able to locate spirits. It must of been rare, because they saved the spirits for Christmas only.. She liked clabber. I haven't ever had this. It doesn't quite appeal to me, but I see in this video how-to do it above, that syllabub required oranges. Oranges only showed up until the 1950s once a year around Christmas. They were like THE exciting Christmas treat.

So, now we have pasturized eggnog. Hummm....

But syllabub was the colonial Christmas drink and definately an English tradition. I think the Yadkin Valley Winemakers should bring this tradition back while we still have people who remember it.

Four months to prepare.... happy holidays!

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