Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

FREE Biltmore Tickets or Annual Pass

February 22nd, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

Book a 3-night reservation at 1847 Blake House Inn Bed & Breakfast for travel dates between April 3 – May 16 (that’s Biltmore’s Festival of Flowers) and be entered into a drawing for either 2 FREE tickets or 1 FREE Annual Pass.

Reservation must be booked between February 22 – March 23 to qualify for the drawing. Winner will be notified via email and will be featured on our Facebook Fan Page. No other specials or discounts may be applied to the winning reservation.

If you have been to Biltmore before, there is exciting news this year. The Estate will be opening the new Antler Hill Village, adjacent to the Winery and River Bend Farm. The Antler Hill Village will include a new exhibition space, village green with live entertainment, dining, shopping, and a new outdoor adventure center. As part of this project, Biltmore Winery will be enhanced to offer a newly-designed tour and tasting areas.

Because of the extraordinarily cold and snowy winter this year, we are all awaiting Spring and the massive flower display at Biltmore with excitement and anticipation.  Winning free tickets/annual pass is just the perfect excuse to come to Asheville and enjoy it all with us.

(Little) Known Facts About Asheville

February 11th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

For a city with a small population of about 75,000, there is still a lot to learn about Asheville. I have lived in South Asheville for just over four years and I am always picking up interesting tidbits of information about this great city.

For example, Asheville has four nicknames. The two most commonly known are “Land of the Sky” and “Paris of the South.” But did you also know that Asheville has been called “San Francisco of the East” and “New Age Mecca?”  In addition, over the years, the city has picked up the following titles: “America’s New Freak Capital” (Rolling Stone Magazine), one of the “Best Places to Retire” (Money Magazine), “America’s Happiest City” (Self Magazine), and  “America’s Best Vegetarian-Friendly Small City” (PETA). All of these titles and nicknames demonstrate that Asheville has a lot to offer and that we are not just a city of hippies and street musicians.

Architecturally, Asheville has one of the largest collections of Art-Deco buildings in the country. Take one of the historic trolley tours around town and they do an admiral job of pointing out a good portion of these buildings and several architectural details that one might miss otherwise.

The climate around Asheville is considered moderate with normal highs in the summer in the upper 80s and normal lows in the winter in the upper 20s. Part of that is because the city is sandwiched in between the Blue Ridge Mountains (also called the Appalachian Mountains) to the north and east and the Great Smoky Mountains to the west. The 2009/2010 winter has been an anomaly with over a foot of snow and weeks of temperatures in the teens and 20s. I will be more than happy to see the end of this winter. Looking ahead to March, we should start seeing average temperatures from the mid-30s (lows) to upper 50s (highs).

March is also a great time to book a spring vacation because it is that transitional month when there are more activities and stores open, the flowers are starting to bloom, and prices at many places are still low (prime winter sale time). After Easter, you will start to see a jump in room, ticket, and activity rates. So when people ask, when is the best time to come, if you are looking for the best deals and the most bang for your buck, I suggest a March getaway.

Miscellaneous Happenings

January 7th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

2010 has already been busy and we’re only a week into the new year.

First off, the weather has been a real downer with temperatures in the teens and single digits for at least a week.  And, we’re expecting some more snow this weekend (January 8 – 9). It’s a real challenge keeping this old house warm, but it forces me to be creative. The second floor is no problem since heat rises, but the first floor (thank goodness there’s only one guestroom on the first floor) is another story.  The pipes under the original house always seem to do okay, but the pipes under and in the kitchen never fare well.  Last winter we had 3 burst pipes. So far this year, I’ve seen one tiny pinprick leak in a pipe that’s been topped off. The next couple of days will see temperatures higher than freezing so it remains to be seen if there are any issues.

While the weather outside has been truly frightful, I’ve been keeping busy, taking down holiday decorations. I pace myself so it takes a good week to get everything down and packed away.  Everything outside is finished and all but the Parlor and two guestrooms have been packed away. I hope to get that completed today and tomorrow.

At the same time, I have been making some changes to two guestrooms: the Rose Room & the Magnolia Room.  As soon as the changes have been completed, I will update the room photos and descriptions.  The main changes involve switching the beds between these two rooms.  The king/twin beds that were in the Rose Room have been moved up to the Magnolia Room and the queen bed from that room has been moved downstairs to the Rose Room.  The main reasons for the switch are 1) the Rose Room is a handicap accessible room and the king/2 twin beds were just too high for someone in a wheelchair and 2) with a queen bed in the Rose Room, there is more floor space to maneuver around if a guest is in a wheelchair.  Also, with a the king bed in the Rose Room, it had to be configured such that is blocked off half of the built-in bookcase and I simply hated that.  Now with a queen bed, the bed can be moved to a different position and the bookcase can be used fully. It looks so much better. I’ve also been installing bedside wall sconces on both sides of the bed, changing the curtains into a roller shade on the door and adding a painted window to the transom above the door. Just small adjustments that make a big difference.

I should have photos of the room changes within the next week so check the Rooms Descriptions Page (under Rooms & Rates) to see what I’ve done.

Lastly, I’m working with a previous guest, Angela McKeller, to put together a fabulous culinary weekend during the weekend after Memorial Day. Angela won a recipe contest I had a few years ago and since then, she has written her own cookbook and hosted her own cooking show, among other things.  Angela lives in Atlanta so she will be coming to the Inn and working her magic for a few days. We’re still working on the details, but this will be an all-inclusive package with demonstrations, cooking classes, accommodations (if desired), and tie-ins to the Asheville community (possibly Biltmore or Asheville Food Tours). It is shaping up to be a fun time so definitely check back often for more details.

Winter Comes Early (But Not Softly) To Asheville

January 1st, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

The week before Christmas, Asheville was buried under a foot and a half of snow.  The snowfall was nice for the first couple of hours, but it became clear very quickly that this was no ordinary snow.  Before long, the roads, cars, and my parking lot were covered in thick, unrelenting snow and no matter how many times I went out to scrape the walk and put salt down, it wasn’t enough. Of course, it had to snow on a Friday when most guests are checking in, all the more important to keep driveways and walkways clear.  I must have shoveled the walk at least 6 times in a six hour period.

121809 Snowstorm

About 3 hours into the storm, before everything was covered in deep snow.

121809 Snowstorm 2

Later, as it started to get dark outside. If you look closely, you can see the snow falling in the photo.

In South Asheville, we were lucky because we did not lose power to the Inn as some of the B&Bs in the downtown area did and all but one guest made it safely.  We even had a couple traveling from Florida to Ohio who was able to get off the interstate after sitting for several hours and they made it to the Inn for one night.

It turned out to be a fun time. Everyone snuggled in for the evening to watch movies and play games. I made some triple fudge brownies for snacks and we made the best of the situation. In the morning, those who had to Jenny in between Snowmenleave shoveled their cars out and were able to get on their way. I was able to get my car out long enough to make a grocery store run. The guests in the Sycamore Suite had their two daughters with them and they made a couple of snowmen down on the lower grass lot of the property.

After the first day, the roads were getting cleared, but the parking lot at the Inn became an ice skating rink.  The constant driving had packed down the snow and it became a thick sheet of ice.  Thank goodness I went to the grocery store on Saturday because my car became snowed in for 2 more days until I could chip enough ice out from under the wheels to get out.

As of New Years Day there are still patches of snow and ice around the property and in the parking lot.  The only casualty to the Inn was the collapse of the roof of the gazebo down on the lower patio. The weight of the snow caused the wood beams (or arms) to collapse in. A couple of the arms broke off, but after looking at the damage, I think I may be able to replace the broken arms and get the canvas back up. I remain optimistic as a New Year’s Resolution. :)

Rain, Rain Go Away…

November 4th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

Asheville (and Western NC) has seen a lot of rain in 2009.  The good news is that the drought we experienced in 2007 and 2008 is gone.  The plants and flowers at the Inn did extremely well this year because we have gotten so much rain. I saw a handful of flowers this year I didn’t even know I had because they had never bloomed in the time I’ve had the Inn.

According to the USGS, between January and September this year, our overall average amount of rainfall is approximately 36.3 inches. We have actually gotten 42.6 inches. This doesn’t count the many, many inches we received during October. Average rainfall in October should be just under 2 inches and we got more than that in one day!

All this rain, while good in many ways, has affected roads and highways around Asheville.  Road closures in no way should affect travelers’ ability to get to Asheville and its attractions, but being aware of detours will save guests from frustration and headaches.

The two main closures close to Asheville are on I-40 near mile marker 3, just inside North Carolina from Tennessee. There are a couple of detour options for travelers coming from Tennessee. Plan for an extra 30-60 minutes to get around the road closure, depending on what detour option you choose.

The second closure is a short stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just south of Asheville, near Mt. Pisgah. This closure is only about 15 miles long and the detour takes you past some great hiking and waterfall sites.

Both road closures have been blamed on rock slides or potential rock slides caused by excessive rain.  However, the bright side is that a little detour may take you through some scenic and beautiful areas.  And, there are still plenty of colorful leaves to see along the way.  Think of these closures as a small hiccup and they will have no effect on your ability to enjoy your trip to Asheville.

Gearing Up for Fall

September 27th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

As October approaches, I’m already pulling out the Fall decorations and will slowly start to decorate around the Inn. My goal is to get one box/bin done per day. At that rate, it should take me about a week to decorate everything.

With all the rain we have gotten in the past week, it looks like the trees may stay green a little longer.  However, when I’ve been able to run outside, I have seen just a few trees that have changed color early.  Also, my two gigantic Sycamore trees are starting to drop dead leaves all over the parking lot.  My lawncare guys were here on Friday and blew all the leaves into a long pile that they will bag the next time they are here. By Sunday, the parking lot is already filling up again.

Typical peak leaf season is between the 2nd and 4th weeks of October and we look to be on-target for that this year.  I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot of color until the end of the second week, or early into the third week.  But temperatures are dropping into the 40′s at night this week so I could be proven wrong. This week, I’ve been pulling out the down comforters and adding those to the guestbeds.

The middle of October is mostly booked, but we do have some rooms available so take a look at our Availability Chart if you’re looking to come to the area. It is up-to-date.

Downed Tree

September 9th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

This morning, I was awakened by the doorbell ringing and at first, thought it was my son’s friend picking him up early for school. But my son was in the bathroom so I ran downstairs to the door to see a fireman standing there. Uh oh!

The only time the fire department is here is when the fire alarm is going off in the Inn so my heart started to beat fast, thinking there was a problem in the Inn.  Fortunately that was not the case.

A Bradford Pear tree in my yard, located just behind the Inn’s sign had broken off and fallen over, taking a power line with it and landing halfway in the street.

The two good things about this downed tree are that 1) the power line it took out only goes to the street light at the end of my driveway and not the power to the house and 2) the City cleaned up and hauled away half of the tree; the half in the street.  So I only need to have the other half removed, which should cost me a lot less.

What I learned from this is that these types of trees are known to do this type of thing. They get top-heavy and topple over for no apparent reason.  This happened at night so nobody was around to be injured.

Fun stuff!

Baby Birdies

April 9th, 2009 by Skyla Grimes

On March 18th, I noticed a very nice bird’s nest had been built at the top of the wreath on my front door. I was quite impressed with the job that the unknown bird had done so I took a few photos.


By April 4th, I was excited to see 3 beautiful blue Robin’s eggs in the nest. Every time I opened the front door, I was seeing a big robin flying around and it was obvious that the nest was hers. So, whenever I had to open the door, I tried to be gentle and make sure not to upset her. Then, on April 7th-8th, the temperature dropped and we even got a little bit of snow so I was worried about the eggs. But, the momma bird was still around and had not abandoned her nest. Then, on April 9th, I came out to the front porch and I could see a little beak poking out of the top of the nest. I gingerly got up on a chair and took a photo of the baby bird, making sure not to touch anything. It looks like there are two unhatched eggs. I am hoping they will also hatch.

Of course, I will try to snap a few more photos in the coming days and will post them if there is anything new to see.

Oh, I love spring!

Update on 4/18: I have taken a few more photos of the birds. Unfortunately it looks like only one of the three eggs hatched, but the one baby appears to be doing well.

The first photo is of the momma bird sitting in her nest and the other two are close ups of the baby bird.

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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