Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Spring INN Asheville Tour of B&Bs – April 16 & 17

February 15th, 2011 by Skyla Grimes

If you’re trying to figure out what to do this spring, come to Asheville and take a tour of some of the area’s finest inns, while sampling food from local, independent restaurants.

On the weekend of April 16th & 17th, the member inns of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association will be opening their doors for tours from 12-4 pm.  Fourteen inns total will be on tour over the weekend with 8 inns open on Saturday and 6 inns open on Sunday.Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association

Blake House will be open on Saturday and we have partnered with Frankie Bones in South Asheville to offer a sampling of their extensive menu for tour goers.  Each B&B on the tour is partnering with a restaurant so tour goers will have the opportunity to taste food from 14 different restaurants as part of their ticket price.

I advise purchasing your ticket online. Tickets can be purchased online through the Asheville B&B Association website for $25 for a single ticket or $40 for a couples ticket (credit card required) and your ticket is good for both days of the tour. The food alone is worth the cost of the ticket!  Tickets can only be purchased online through April 8th. After the 8th, you will have to purchase your ticket at the Asheville Shop in the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center. Walk-in ticket prices are $30 for a single ticket or $50 for a couples ticket (cash or check only).  Each B&B on the tour will have a very limited number of tickets for purchase the day of the tour so purchase early and save!

This is a fundraiser, with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting MANNA FoodBank. We’re also going to raffle off a $250 Asheville B&B Association Gift Certificate. Only select B&Bs will carry raffle tickets so you should visit all the inns on the tour since you won’t know which ones will be selling the raffle tickets.

Some of the inns will also feature donations or products for sale from local businesses and artists.  This tour is not just a tour of historic homes; it’s a chance to enjoy the local culture of Asheville through its neighborhoods, houses, gardens, restaurants, and artist community.

We hope to see you on the tour!

It’s the End of Summer and I Can’t Think!

August 31st, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

I’m not a writer, so I can’t have writer’s block. I’m not a blogger, so I can’t have blogger’s block.  But I’ve definitely been having trouble coming up with the topics and the energy to write anything. I think it all started in June when my dog, Hummer, passed away. Since then, I began working at Eagle’s Nest Foundation and July and August have been pretty busy months at the Inn. Between being depressed about losing my baby and dealing with the summer crush as well as a new job, I feel like I haven’t had the energy or inspiration. You’d think that with all the summer action around here, I’d have no problem coming up with interesting topics.

But I can’t think of ANYTHING that I want to/feel like write about!

I’m sure I could blog about the new piece of flooring in the kitchen I had done last week ($1600 later and it’s only 1/4 of the entire kitchen floor space). Or, I could talk about the Family Reunion Cruise I just returned from (I probably will share that soon). There’s also all the fun summer activities that took place in Asheville or the cool fall lineup, including the Flower Carpet at Biltmore and Octoberfest (another beer festival). There’s a wedding at the Inn this weekend that could inspire me to write and another one the first weekend in October that I’m preparing for. Lastly, I could always talk about my super sister, Jessica, and her admirable battle with breast cancer these past six months (another probably will blog).

There are definitely lots of topics to write about. I just need to find my mojo and get back into the groove.  I’d really love to hear from anyone (professional writer, blogger, or novice) what tips they might like to share with me and the general public about how they deal with the infamous “block” that invariably happens.  What can/do you do to get past it?

Three Reasons to Send Your Kid(s) to Summer Camp

July 17th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

As a youngster growing up in Virginia, I was extremely fortunate to have gone to summer camp for five years at Camp Rim Rock for Girls in West Virginia. My experiences have stayed with me to this day and because of the joy I had, I was able to send my son Brian to Camp Woodmont in Georgia for a few years while we lived in Florida.

Recently, I began working part-time at the Eagle’s Nest Foundation in Pisgah Forest, and it has brought back so many positive memories of my camp experiences from the 1980′s.  The Eagle’s Nest Foundation operates Hante Adventures, The Outdoor Academy, and Eagle’s Nest Camp.

Hante Adventures run during the summer for 13-18 year olds. These adventure trips last anywhere from two weeks to a month and provide many of the skills experienced at camp, but in different ways. This year, there are four Hante trips: Outer Banks, Appalachian Trail (AT) Trek, Australia, and Southwestern US Canyons. Small groups trek through the wilderness while rock climbing, biking, and whitewater paddling while learning invaluable skills and making lifelong friends.  In the past, trips have gone all over the US and the world.

The Outdoor Academy of the Southern Appalachians is an academic semester-long program for 10th graders, set on the campus of the Eagle’s Nest Camp. There is a fall semester and a spring semester and students live on campus while enjoying and experiential education. The curriculum of the Outdoor Academy is considered a college prep program with small classes in English, Natural Science, World History, Math, Languages, and Arts.

Eagle’s Nest is set on 180 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. That alone is enough incentive to send your kid(s) to get them off the couch or in front of the TV/video game console. The Eagle’s Nest Camp offers one-week, two-week, and three-week sessions to kids, ages 6-17. Camp is so much more than a babysitting service for parents. In fact, that’s not it at all.  I have learned that at this camp, kids come back year after year, many become Junior Counselors and Counselors. Parents also become counselors while their children attend camp and get to enjoy the “camp” experience as well.

Here are three more reasons to consider sending your kid(s) to Eagle’s Nest:

  1. Adventure – Being in the mountains, Eagle’s Nest offers campers a nature setting to explore their environment and try new things. They will climb mountains, paddle down the French Broad River on a homemade raft, go rock climbing, and backpack on overnight camping trips.
  2. Leadership – The purpose of this camp is to help young people discover their true selves through activities that promote community awareness and establish a connection with nature. Leadership skills are enhanced and developed when kids work towards common goals like building their own raft, building sets for their session play, and putting together an overnight camp during a hiking trip.
  3. Education – The mission of Eagle’s Nest is “Experiential education for young people, promoting the natural world and the betterment of human character.” Activities are not mindless time fillers; they all serve an educational purpose while encouraging campers to live naturally, responsibly, and respectfully.

I ended this post with the Summer Camp, but in reality, it is just the beginning of Eagle’s Nest. The amount of loyalty towards Eagle’s Nest is impressive and kids go from summer camp to Hante Adventures to The Outdoor Academy, to possibly camp counselors/Academy Instructors, and on. Being a non-profit, Eagle’s Nest Foundation is overseen by a Board of Trustees, many of whom have sent their children to camp or had some association with the Foundation prior to becoming a Board member. There is a strong sense of family within this Foundation and if you are looking for something different in your kid’s summer camp, I encourage you to check out Eagle’s Nest. This is not just another summer camp; it rises above and offers so much more than the average camp experience. Your kid(s) will never forget their experiences here and the value of what they take away is worth so much more than money.

Touring WNC’s Family Farms – How To Do It Without Leaving the City

June 28th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

This past weekend (June 26th and 27th), my mother and I participated in the 2010 Family Farm Tour organized through the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). The annual tour presented 37 farms (actually only 36 because one we went to had a sign out saying they could not participate) all over Western NC, in 6 counties. Tour times were between 1-6 pm Saturday and Sunday.

It was sunny and HOT both days, but the people at every farm were gracious and friendly. When we thought to ask how they thought the numbers compared to 2009, everyone indicated that more people were coming in 2010 so that is a positive sign that this event is growing. YAY!

On Saturday, we started off at Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain. I wanted to go to a goat farm since I fell in love with goat cheese after trying it and loving it on a trip to Ireland with my mom in 2009. We received a comprehensive and fun tour of the machinery and processes of this Grade A operation, including visiting with the goats. There are over 300 goats on the farm and there is a complex system of separating the goats based on age, health, milking output, gender, etc. We were allowed to get up close and personal with the baby goats and I decided that one day, I’d love to have a couple as pets (maybe pygmy goats – not the kind at this farm – since they are miniature goats). I was quite impressed with the cleanliness of this place, given the amount of barnyard animals, but I guess that’s why they are certified as Grade A and must be inspected regularly and maintain mountains of paperwork. At the end of the tour, we sampled at least 6 different flavors of goat cheese and I had my first taste of goat’s milk. I loved it all! Goat’s milk is not heavy like whole cow’s milk which I think is too thick (I drink 2%, 1% or skim). The goat’s milk is close to 2% and just right. At this point, we found out that Round Mountain has just started selling their cheeses in EarthFare which was very exciting for us since there is an EarthFare just a couple of miles from the Inn. I believe they also sell as one or more of the Asheville-area tailgate markets which is great for anyone not wanting to travel far to purchase some of their products.

The second stop of our journey was the Wake Robin Farm all the way up in Marshall (I probably picked one of the farms furthest from where we were coming from). But, I wanted to visit this farm since they make brick oven-baked breads, cinnamon rolls, granola, and gluten-free products. Plus, we thought that this would be a good place to eat since we had purchased goat cheese and milk and, other than crackers, what better companion to cheese, than bread? After driving through rural countryside and winding roads, we started down the gravel driveway towards the farm, but quickly realized that the driveway was long, winding and not conducive to a parade of cars driving in both directions. There was literally no place for cars to move over for oncoming traffic (the driveway was a good 1/2 mile long) so going in and coming out, we (or other cars) were forced to back up all the way out of the driveway to allow cars to get through. This difficulty made the getting in and out frustrating and somewhat ruined the experience.  My mother felt that this farm with its access issue should not be on the tour for the simple reason that it was quite difficult to get in and out and once in, there was very little parking room for cars and people could easily get blocked in.  However, the bread was delicious and they also sell their products at some of the Asheville-area tailgate markets.

After leaving Wake Robin Farm, we stayed in Marshall and headed to the Bee Tree Farm and Vineyard. By the time we got there, it was almost 5:30 (tours ended at 6:00) so we didn’t want to stay too long. There was no real tour of anything and my mother thinks the farm is more of a commune with a yurt and tipis. The farm does make fruit-flavored wines, tomato and pesto sauces (good on some of the bread we bought), and fruit preserves. Since I don’t drink wine, I wasn’t interested in buying any, but I did try some strawberry wine (too winey for me and I didn’t taste any fruit at all). We did buy some tomato sauce and saw berry bushes and the small vineyard on the way down the driveway toward the parking area.

So, on day one, we were able to visit only 3 farms. It probably could have been more had I planned better, but I had no idea how long it would take at each place. I definitely planned better for day two.

On Sunday, we chose farms that were closer in proximity to each other, and thus, we were able to see 3 farms in half the time it took on day one. We started out at Holler Ministries in Fletcher. I wanted to visit this farm because they offer egg/chicken shares for purchase. The farm is close to the Inn and I was excited to see that I could purchase a share of organic, grass-fed chicken eggs. A share is a dozen eggs a week and it’s possible to purchase chickens from the farm in the future if I decide to keep egg-laying chickens at the Inn. The Ministry also runs a summer Christian youth mission camp and they have an African-style village set up for the camp. This camp is training for service in Third World countries. Our tour provided us with a better understanding of how an African Village is set up. It really puts things into perspective for those of us in modernized countries. Holler Ministries also operates a community garden and they donate extras to local people in need. This particular farm was started in the 1930s by the current owner’s grandfather and we got to see a couple of buildings that his grandfather built by hand 80 years ago. It was nice to see this property still operating by the same family.

After leaving Holler Ministries, we traveled to McConnell Farms in Hendersonville. This farm has just about everything you can think of from fruits and vegetables to nursery plants. It’s a huge operation and they sell to various Asheville-area tailgate markets as well as onsite at their own retail place. The memorable part of this farm is the fresh-made ice cream! Of course we had some and it was so delicious and creamy. I ate some blackberry chip ice cream and Mom had old-fashioned strawberry ice cream. Here, my mother was talking to the owner about fig trees since they grow them, but he actually referred her to another grower whose trees (Celeste) would probably do better where we live. At about this time, we could see a storm coming so we jumped in the car and headed to Stepp’s Plants.

Stepp’s Plants is located in Flat Rock and along with plants and flowers, they also grow fruits. There were no nursery plants available because they sell 80% annuals and their season is in the spring time. We went on a short tour of their crop fields where we could see raspberries just about ready to harvest and blueberry bushes. While here, it did start raining so it turned into a short visit. We did find out that they participate in Hendersonville’s Garden Jubilee in the spring which we have attended so we’ll be sure to check them out next year.

After leaving Stepp’s we headed over to Fields of Gold Farm in west Hendersonville, but they were closed. So, we decided to end our tour at this point and headed back home, stopping at my favorite sushi restaurant, Umi, in Hendersonville for a late lunch.

The one farm I did not get to visit was the Maple Creek Farm in Burnsville (about an hour from the Inn).  Maple Creek Farm is the only commercial maple syrup producer in NC. Hopefully, I can find some of their products at a tailgate market. There are several tailgate markets around Asheville, in addition to the WNC Farmers Market. The closest to the Inn is the Asheville City Market – South which is approximately 3 miles away. Some of the farmers on the Farm Tour probably sell their goods at this or any of the other dozen tailgate markets around the city and Buncombe county.

So, for $25, my mother and I spent some fun bonding time while exploring the mountains and farms of Western NC, learning about the bountiful foods, plants, and animals that contribute to the surrounding communities. I am thrilled to have been a part of the tour because I got so much more out of the experience than just the tour itself. To see what is going on around this part of the state makes me proud to live here and I plan to continue doing my part to help sustain the way of life provided by WNC farmers. So for anyone who wants to support the local farmers without driving all over the place, just visit one of the local farmers markets and “take the tour” there. You’ll be glad you did.

To learn more about WNC’s ASAP initiative, visit: www.asapconnections.org. Or, to find farms and take your own tours or for a listing of tailgate markets and hours, go to www.BuyAppalachian.org.

My Goals for Spring

February 28th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

Once this dratted winter is finally gone, there will be some projects that I plan to work on around the Inn. Until the days stay warmer (40s and above), I can’t assess the entire property, but there are some things that I know will need to be done. Over the Winter, my major project was repainting the downstairs and upstairs common hall areas and stairway. The previous color is what I call salmon. I changed it to a light vanilla on the first floor and one shade darker on the second floor. With the exception of a patch of wall going up the stairs which I cannot reach, this has been accomplished. The unpainted patch will have to be done by a professional who has the proper scaffolding. I am quite pleased with the results. You can see the salmon pink color still on the wall in the first photo as a reference.

Now, I’m compiling a list of goals to accomplish during the Spring season. So far, here is what I’ve got:

  • repair the “roof” of the gazebo which collapsed under the weight of the first snow we had in December.  After assessing the damage, I’m confident that with some new wood arms, I can repair the ones that broke.
  • replace any dead plants and bushes around the patio areas and in containers. Plant new plants in the pergola area to continue filling it in as a garden area.
  • replace some rotting wood around the front porch roof and outside the bay window of the dining room.
  • build a small 4X6 vegetable/fruit garden outside the kitchen on the edge of the pergola/garden area. I would like to start small with a few vegetables and fruits and expand from there.
  • research the feasibility of building and stocking a small chicken coop enclosure to provide eggs for cooking. This may not end up being a goal, it’s just an idea right now and I want to look into whether this is even something the city of Asheville will allow me to do.

Spring is a short 3 months so I think this list is a good start and should keep me busy.  I will post updates and photos as I go along. I would love comments and advice from anyone with experience in any of these areas or things you experienced when working on a similar project yourself.

The Anything But Lazy Days of Summer

July 7th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

Our typical “busy” season runs from Memorial Day through New Years, with a few gaps in between where things slow down. By busy, I mean that most weekends are full and mid-week is 40%-60% occupied.

This year, I have been holding my breath with the slower economy, but can actually report that May and June were good months. Still, there is a little way to go before we get back to where we were last year since the first quarter of 2009 was very slow.

If I can report any trends in travel as I have seen it this year, there have been two major differences. One, people are not traveling for as long as they had in past years. Average stays during the summer were 4-5 nights and this year, the average is closer to 2.5-3 nights. Secondly, I am not seeing as much advance reservations. It used to be that people would make their summer plans 3-6 months in advance. This year, that advance planning is about 1-2 weeks before they come. That makes me a little nervous since I am not getting booked on weekends, in some cases, until the week of.

Other trends are that people are not traveling from as far away and most of my guests are visiting from the east coast. People are also looking for bigger bargains and cheaper rates. While my rates are slightly lower from 2008 for several rooms, I am looking for ways to increase the guest experience while here rather than simply offering the cheapest room. Most people who stay at B&Bs are looking for a different experience anyway and recognize the added value that they get when staying at a B&B versus a standard hotel.

As with any old house, the work is never done, so I am staying busy this summer maintaining the gardens and updating/renovating throughout the property. I just bought a new fountain for under the pergola and as soon as I get a pump and install it, guests will have another water feature to enjoy as they walk up to the house. I recently had a dead pine tree removed from the corner of the front porch and just planted 3 purple crape myrtle bushes in its place.

Summer is also the time of year for the majority of our weddings and receptions. We had a wedding/reception in June, July 4th weekend had a reception and we have 2 weddings coming up at the end of July and mid-August. I try to keep the number of events to a small number each year since every event causes wear and tear on the house and property. I average 6-10 events a year with the majority being between May – October. We also have elopements here and other small gatherings and events so that keeps things exciting.

Since I try to do as much work around here as possible, I love to barter with other local service providers for their work. I’ve gotten landscaping done through barter and am open to anyone who has a service they’d like to trade.

Gardening Like Mad – Part II

May 5th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

I’ve been trying to do as much gardening as possible before I leave for Ireland this Saturday. I have just about gotten the majority of projects started or completed. It is a great relief the see the fruits of my labors over the past couple of months as a lot of stuff has bloomed, is in bloom, or is getting ready to bloom.

I have been planting a lot of oranges and purples, my two favorite colors. I have found some vibrant orange azalea bushes at two of the local Ingles Grocery stores and I love them! I have paired them with purple azaleas and two lilac bushes in front of the house and down the side of the slope in between the arborvitae trees. I still need to get another 6 bushes to complete that project, but it seems that only Ingles has the orange ones and I snagged all that I could (only $17 each).

I also broke my back finishing the stone path on the opposite side of the gazebo, but I think it looks great! I planted some lemon thyme and lime thyme on the edge and in between some of the stones and so as they spread, they will fill in some of the space between the stones. With the extra stones that I didn’t use, I stacked them up in the corner of the fence and created a stacked sculpture.

I’ve also been doing a lot of container planting, on the patio and the front porch. Other than buying plants and potting soil, I’ve been able to use and re-use pots and containers I’ve had taking up space around the Inn. Here are some miscellaneous photos of my container plants. See if you can guess what the plants are (there are some that came back this year and I honestly don’t know what they are).


Gardening Like Mad

April 18th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

This is turning out to be the perfect spring so far. Rain for a few days; sunny for a few days; more rain for a day or two. The temperature has been a little up and down, but I think it has finally taken a turn. I still see a few nights in the upper 30s, but the days are in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

This has all been great for the gardens aroun
d the property and I have spent as much time as possible planting new gardens and cleaning out all the trees and bushes that didn’t survive the winter. Thanks to my dad, the waterfall has been cleaned out and is up and running. I have to refill it every few days, but I always enjoy watching it when I’m walking by.

Down in the lower patio area and around the gazebo, I have been planting all new gardens. I even found a giant pile of slate buried in the back, back yard. It was obviously left over slate that had been used to build the upper and lower patios and it’s been buried under debris and mulch for many years. I have been pulling it out little by little and am building a new path on the opposite side of the gazebo. This is also an area where I just planted a brand new garden where none had ever been (up until last year, it was all overgrown and neglected). Today I put in spiraea bushes, purple pin cushion flowers, orange geum flowers, silver mound, and yellow Carolina jasmine to run along the fence. In addition, I had transplanted a Filburt tree and there were already some hostas and day lillies in the area. It is supposed to rain tomorrow so I wanted to get everything in the ground before the rain and so will take some photos in a few days to post.

Another garden I just planted runs along the lower patio walkway and in that area I planted some spiraea bushes, hydrangea, sedum, violas, catmint, golden oregano to go along with the tulips and lantana already in the section. If I was smart, I would have taken some “before” photos, but if you can envision empty space, you’ll get the picture.


Throughout the property, I’ve been busy filling my hanging baskets with petunias, ivy, ferns, and various other hanging plants. In pots, I just planted some succulents, boxwood, peonies, elephant ears, coleus, ferns, spiderwort, and many other perrenials. I prefer perrenials over annuals since they tend to come back each year, but some annuals are so beautiful that I can’t help myself.

I get a 20% landscape contractors discount at the local BB Barns so I shop there most of the time. They are more pricey than Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, but they have an immense selection and a beautifully enticing set up. While I’ve never been very good at gardening and remembering the names of plants, I am starting to enjoy building several garden spaces around the property. The exercise alone makes it worth it.


Spring is in the air

March 7th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

Today saw temperatures in the 70′s. Pretty amazing when less than a week ago, we got about 6″ of snow, a rare sight where we are in the valley of Asheville. The next several days are looking to be in the 60′s which makes me very happy. I am definitely a warm weather kind of person.

The daffodils and hyacinth are starting to come up and this year, I am happy to report that they are EVERYWHERE on the property. Last year, whether because of the drought or a late cold spell, I did not get many spring bulbs.

I’m leery of putting my indoor plants outside yet and will wait another couple of weeks, but I can just tell that they are ready to be back outside. The photo on the left looking inside one of the dining room windows is of one of my Amaryllis bulbs. I planted it just after New Year’s and the flower finally bloomed last week. It’s gorgeous with about 8 flowers in bright red. I planted 5 other bulbs, but other than growing long green leaves, none had blooming flowers. I’ll store them and hope that they bloom next winter.

It’s also about time to go clean out the waterfall which has been turned off and neglected all winter and rake up the leaves from the fall that ended up in the bushes and all those not-so-easy-to-reach areas.

I am getting psyched up to start doing some hefty yard work and to begin planting new bushes, plants, and flowers. I just bought a rain barrel and hope that using rain water will help save on my watering bill this year. I’ll have to remember to compare my bi-monthly water bills to see if there is a difference. More rain this year will help so I’m not sure how accurate a comparison will be. But capturing rainwater is a good way to keep going green and I’m happy to do it.

Now, if I can get myself to start growing fruits and vegetables, I will be accomplishing A LOT!

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