Yoga South Moves Next Door to 1847 Blake House Inn B&B and Brings Hot Deals for Inn Guests

Yoga South recently opened its doors at 160 Royal Pines Drive, next door to the Inn. And they are offering discounts just for our guests!

Besides yoga, guests can enjoy massages (Thai, Deep Tissue, Prenatal, Hot Stone, and Couples), and meditation classes. Blake House guests will receive a 15% discount off all services when you mention that you were referred by the Inn. In exchange, people who are referred to the Inn through Yoga South will receive a 15% discount off the nightly room rate for stays between Sundays – Thursdays.

If you want to relax a little before a hard day of shopping, Yoga South is offering a Black Friday Hot Flow Yoga Class:

Black Friday Hot Flow Yoga: November 26th, 8 – 9:30am

Burn the calories and sweat out the bad stuff from Thanksgiving. Come to a pre-shopping/post-turkey day detox class to recover from Thanksgiving and get mentally set for the rest of the year (as well as all the upcoming holiday shopping).

I have a couple of cards for a free yoga class to the first two Inn guests who mention this post.

Blake House Inn Offers Monthly Veterans Recognition Program

As an individual innkeeper and a member of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA), I have participated in programs specifically designed to recognize military personnel and veterans. At Blake House, I offer an ongoing 5% discount to active military and ABBA offered a Valentine’s Day free night program for a few years. But as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on and as most of us have suffered through a slow economy, it has become easy to forget that the sacrifices of our service people are ongoing. Just as our support should be.

I am a big proponent of social media and believe that it is not a fad, but something that will become more prevalent as a method for the exchange of information. I recently read about the B&Bs for Veterans program that was started in 2009 by the West Virginia B&B Association as a local, grassroots program to recognize  our Veterans. Participating B&Bs are offering a free night’s stay to Veterans on the night of 11/10 (or 11/11 which is actually Veterans Day).  And it was through Facebook that I learned of the program. Someone I knew in high school was wounded in Iraq and he began a company called IraqandBack.com that offers recognition, support and information for wounded warriors and their family. He posted something on his business Facebook page and as a Fan, I saw the post and thought, how wonderful that the B&Bs for Vets program was specifically designed for someone like me, a B&B owner. When I first signed up to participate over a month ago, mine was the only B&B in Asheville participating. Now, there are several in this area and over 900 across the country and internationally. And all of this is as a result of  people getting the word out to their friends and family. What a terrific first-hand example of the power of social media.

At first, I was very excited to have signed up and within 24 hours, I had booked all of my free night rooms. Of the 4 reservations I took, 3 have canceled, so I only have one room booked for Thursday night. While the three cancellations are disappointing, I started thinking that it’s highly likely that many vets just can’t come on the 10th or 11th. How can I continue the spirit of the program, but do it in a way that makes it accessible year-round and by all veterans? So, I came up with the Monthly Veterans Recognition Program.

Through this program, I will offer a free night’s stay every month to a Veteran. Each month, the date will change, but the free night could be any day of the week, including a Friday or Saturday night.  At the beginning of the month, I will post the date for the free night for that month on the Inn’s Facebook Page, Twitter (@blakehouseinn), LinkedIn, and any other social media sites I can. Any Veteran who wants the free night just needs to be a Fan of the Inn and respond to the post. The first responder gets it. Anyone who sees this should forward it to their family, friends, and veterans so that they can possibly enjoy a free night in a bed and breakfast and enjoy a wonderful, home cooked breakfast. However, there are some conditions…

Conditions -

  1. The free night’s stay is for double occupancy. If the winning Veteran wishes to bring his/her family, there is a minimal Extra Person charge.
  2. If the room being offered has a maximum occupancy of 2 people and the winner needs a larger room, you may upgrade and pay the difference between the rate for the free room and the rate of the upgraded room.
  3. We do require a credit/debit card to hold the reservation. The card will not be charged, but is needed in case of damage or cancellation within our cancellation policy. Please only respond if you know you can make it. I would hate to give the room to someone who isn’t sure they can come and cancels at the last minute, leaving the room empty. If you aren’t sure, hold off until the next month.
  4. All other Inn policies apply.

That’s it. Not so bad, I hope. I am excited to offer this program and thank all of our service men and women for all they have done and continue to do for this great country! If anyone is still looking for a place to stay on Veteran’s Day (Thursday, November 11th), give me a call (888.353.5227). Otherwise, follow the Inn on Facebook and look for the December free night date sometime around the 1st of December.

American flag

November Starts Ski Season in Western NC

Although there is still lots of colorful leaves on the trees in WNC, the cold temperatures are finally moving into the region and that means that ski season is just around the corner.  Last night saw low temperatures close to freezing and there was a blanket of frost on the grass when I took the dogs out for their morning walk.  At the same time, we’re still getting up into the 60s during the day, but the first frost usually means that it’s time to bring the potted plants inside for the winter and the ski slopes will be opening soon!

For those who don’t know, there are 6 ski slopes in western NC, all within a 2 hour drive from Asheville.  Listed below is general information about all.

  • Cataloochee Ski Area – Located in Maggie Valley, this ski area opens in early November. It has 16 slopes and trails, five ski lifts, Tube World, and night skiing.  Cataloochee is family-oriented and good for beginners.  Contact: 800.768.0285 for rates and information.  Cataloochee Ski Area is 43 miles from the Inn (about a 1 hour drive).
  • Wolf Ridge Ski Resort - Located in Mars Hill, this ski resort opens in November with 16 slopes and trails, eight ski lifts and Mars Hill Snow Tubing. Contact: 800.817.4111. Wolf Ridge Ski Resort is 44 miles from the Inn (about a 1 hour drive).
  • Sapphire Valley Ski Resort - Located in Sapphire, just east of Cashiers off Hwy 64. This resort opens mid-December with two slopes, one trail, and Frozen Falls Tube Park. Contact: 828.743.7663 for rates and information. Sapphire Valley Ski Resort is 44 miles SW of the Inn (about 1 hour 5 minutes away).
  • Sugar Mountain Resort - Located near Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain Resort has historically opened in mid-November with 20 slopes and trails, 8 ski lifts, 10,000 square-foot ice skating rink, and tubing. Ski racing and snowshoeing are also offered. Sugar Mountain is the largest ski resort in the state and encompasses over 115 acres. Contact: 800.784.2768. Sugar Mountain Resort is 85 miles NE of the Inn (about 1 hour 45 minutes away).
  • Appalachian Ski Mountain – Located near Blowing Rock, ASM is open for the 2010-2011 season from November 19 – March 27. This ski area offers 10 slopes, five ski lifts, two terrain parks, tubing, and an outdoor ice arena.  Contact: 800.322.2373 for rates and information. ASM is 99 miles NE of the Inn (just under a 2-hour drive).
  • Beech Mountain Resort – Located just past Banner Elk, Beech Mountain Resort opens in November with 15 slopes and trails, 9 lifts, a 7,000 square foot ice skating rink, and tubing. The resort boasts the highest elevation among East Coast  ski resorts at 5,506 feet. Contact: 800.438.2093 for rates and information. Beech Mountain Resort is 92 miles from the Inn (about a 2-hour drive).

Believe it or not, I have never been skiing in my life! I grew up in Northern VA, but I tended to enjoy sports requiring a lot less clothing than skiing like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.  But this may be the year that I give it a try. If any of my guests are interested, maybe we can plan a day trip together. Just be aware that I’ll be hanging out on the Beginner slopes!

18th Annual Gingerbread House Competition

The 18th Annual Gingerbread House Competition is coming up at the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa.  There is still time to enter if you’ve ever had dreams of winning. Even children can enter and win cash prizes!

The competition date is Tuesday, November 15th. Deadline to enter is Monday, November 8th.  Full details can be found on the Grove Park Inn website.

For those who cannot make their own gingerbread house, you can admire all the work during the Display period which will run from November 17 – January 2, 2011.

And the best part is that we have a room Special going on through January 5, 2011!  Our Half Off Special gives you 50% off the nightly rate for the 3rd night of your stay (good on stays between Sundays – Wednesdays).  Check our Specials Page for full details!

Making the National Register of Historic Places

I am proud to share the news that Blake House has just been accepted to the National Register of Historic Places!  Yes, after a long 3-year process, the consulting firm, Terracon Consultants, Inc., prepared the nomination and it was accepted in August. Many thanks go to Lorraine Norwood, M.A., CRM Manager, Courtney Vuturo, M.A., Historian, and Nancy McReynolds, MHP, Architectural Historian for their tireless work and for putting up with my inquiries. It was all worth it!

I found these great ladies of Terracon when Courtney stayed at the Inn in 2007 and we got to talking about my desire to get the house on the National Register and Courtney mentioned their desire to break into the area. Based in Atlanta, doing this job in Asheville would be a great opportunity for their company and I had no idea where to start, so I took it as a sign that this relationship was meant to be. And it was!

I still have no idea of all the work that went into this nomination and the research they had to do to dig up some of the history they did, but I am excited to share some of the information from the application.  I am making a copy for the Inn’s history binder so guests are encouraged to check it out during their stay.

Here’s some of the more interesting facts:

  • There are 4 areas of qualification where an applicant to the NRHP can base their significance on – Blake House is significant based on #3 below.
    1. Event(s) – a property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
    2. Person – a property is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
    3. Architecture – a property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.
    4. Property has yielded, or is likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
  • The application includes a Summary and Setting, Exterior description, Interior description, and Integrity Statement which sums up the architectural significance of the house.
  • Under the Statement of Significance, there is a section on Historical Background (this is the good stuff on the Blakes and all other owners).  Here’s what I learned about the Blake family:
    • The opening of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1828 promoted travel between Greenville, TN & Greenville, SC and encouraged more people to come to the mountains in WNC. This Turnpike brought many wealthy landowners from SC to visit Flat Rock and Hendersonville.
    • Between 1827 and 1840, Daniel Blake acquired over 5,000 acres of land in Henderson and Buncombe Counties.
    • Daniel was descended from a prominent SC family, whose founder, Benjamin Blake, arrived in the province in 1683 and was given large land grants in Colleton County, SC where he established large plantations.
    • Benjamin’s son, Joseph, became the proprietary Governor of SC from 1694 to 1695 and 1696 through 1700. He acquired even more property, 6,000 acres, and his wife, Elizabeth, was given a plantation called Newington in 1711 from her mother (this is significant later). After her husband died, Elizabeth lived in the home with her son, Col. Joseph Blake. The Newington mansion burned down in 1845 and remained in ruins until it was sold in 1875 and leased to the US Government for an experimental tea farm.  The land now makes up the Newington Plantation Estates in Summerville, SC.
    • Joseph’s son, Daniel, was born in 1803 in England and was educated at St. Johns College in Cambridge. Daniel married Emma Rutledge and they had 6 children, Frederick Rutledge Blake, Francis Daniel Blake, Arthur Middleton Blake, Henry Middleton Blake, Frances Helen Blake, and Henrietta Louisa Blake, but Emma died in 1853. Daniel married Helen Craig of New York in 1856 and they had three more children.
    • Daniel Blake is listed in the 1860 Census as owning 527 slaves in SC. WHAT?!! This comes from The Sixteen Largest American Slaveholders from 1860 Slave Census Schedules. I must admit to being ashamed to know this information about this family that has been so romanticized in my thoughts.
    • In 1870 Blake House eventually ended up with Daniel’s son, Frederick Blake, a commissioned officer in the Confederate Army who was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor, and he named the mansion Newington, in remembrance of the Newington home that had been in his family until it burned down in 1845. Frederick married Olivia Middleton in 1865 and they had four children: Edmund Molyneux Blake, Daniel Blake, Emma Rutledge Blake, and Eliza Fisher Blake.
    • In 1891, Dr. Blake and his wife sold the property to their daughter, Eliza Fisher Blake for $3,000. Eliza was called “the spinster in Newington” and she was the last Blake to occupy the house. She lived in the house until 1925 when the estate was sold for $60,000 and the 516-acre parcel was subdivided into a planned division called Royal Pines. The Royal Pines community was advertised as a high class residential section from one of the Oldest and Finest Estates in NC. These plans may have come to fruition had not the Great Depression hit the country in the late 1920s and 1930s. By 1940, the developer that had bought the land, defaulted on its loan and the subdivision was sold to the highest bidders.
    • In July 1940, John DuBose purchased several parcels, including Blake House, for $2,500. Mr. DuBose sold Blake House to his niece, Ms. Rainsford Fairbanks DuBose MacDowell in July 1943. Ms. MacDowell, from Gaffney, SC, used Blake House as their summer home. While the house had been empty during the Great Depression, it had become quite dilapidated and the MacDowell family had to do a lot of restoration on the inside, although most of the exterior had stayed intact.
    • Ms. MacDowell lived in the house until she sold it to Mr. Jonathan Jones in 1973 for $29,000. The Jones family resided in the house until they sold it in May 1980. Between 1980 and 1990, the house was bought and sold 3 times, until it was turned into a bed and breakfast inn in the mid-1990s.  Since then, it has remained a B&B.

I have the entire application, including the full description of the property and it’s available for anyone interested in reading about this fascinating property.

I’m not exactly sure what all the benefits are to having a National Register property, other than the satisfaction and prestige in knowing that I had something to do with getting it there. I’ve been told there are certain tax benefits as they relate to renovations to the property, but I have some questions to ask to find out how this works.

For now I will bask in a little of the glory and will make some plans to celebrate this nomination with a party at the Blake House. I’m not sure when that will be, but I will post something as soon as I know!

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

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

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

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!

Goat at Round Mountain Creamery

Goat at Round Mountain Creamery

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.

The following pictures show the African-style village on the farm:

African style hut being built at Holler Ministries

African-style hut being built at Holler Ministries

African hut, Holler Ministries

African hut, Holler Ministries

 

Inside an African-style village multi-purpose building

Inside an African-style village multi-purpose building

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.

A Tribute to My Beloved Weimaraner, Hummer

As any true pet lover knows, your pets ARE your children, no matter that they do not live as long as humans. And when one passes away, it is heartbreaking, whether they have been with you for 2 years or 10 years.

My weimaraner Hummer passed away last Friday and I wanted to share some photos and stories of him so that you can enjoy just a little of the happiness that Hummer brought into my life. Even as I write these words, my eyes tear up in remembrance of him. He truly meant a lot to me and I know that he will never be replaced in my heart.

Weimaraner dog eye close up I first decided to adopt a dog when I lived in Florida. My son and I already had two cats, but I wanted a companion and running partner. In Florida, I was a runner and participated in many charity running races from 5Ks to Half Marathons and even triathlons for a few years. Florida is perfect running territory because the roads are flat and there are sidewalks everywhere (at least in Central Florida where I lived). So I wanted a partner to keep me company when running that I didn’t actually have to talk to and waste energy while running. After several months of looking and considering different breeds, I settled on the Timucuan Weimaraner Club of Florida, a breed-specific rescue organization. Among the handful of rescues available for adoption was 6 month-old Hummer. The story was that Hummer was found on the side of the road somewhere in Georgia and had been with the rescue for a couple of months. I had to pass a screening process which included a home visit and had to sign a contract stating that if I was ever unable to care for Hummer, that he would be returned to the rescue. That is one fabulous thing, among many, with rescues. They are dedicated to their animals and will take them back no matter what. Also included in our adoption were a beginning series of obedience training sessions at Best Paw Forward.

We first met Hummer at Best Paw Forward where we filled out all the paperwork, then took him for his first training session. At six months old, he weighed just under 50 lbs.

Hummer and Brian inn dogs

Hummer and Brian

At first, Brian (almost 10 years old) was bigger than Hummer, but before long, Hummer gained a lot of weight and Brian found it more difficult to handle him. Unfortunately, our female cat, Baby Girl, didn’t like Hummer and so he intentionally bothered her because he knew she didn’t like him. He’d stare at her or poke at her with his nose to get a rise out of her, just because he could. He never growled, bit, or ran after her, just intimidated her with his intense stares and lunges. He didn’t bother with our male cat, Whiskers, because Whiskers didn’t seem to care about Hummer’s size and didn’t allow him to bother him. Therefore, Hummer left him alone. It was quite funny at times to watch Hummer pestering Baby Girl and making her meow and run away. Then he’d look at me as if to say,”What? I didn’t do anything.”

Hummer and Brian's graduation

Hummer and Brian graduation

By the age of 2, Hummer was up to 93 lbs which was the average weight he carried. He turned out to be a great running companion and would run between 3-5 miles with me. For a weimaraner, he tended to be on the stocky side, even though we ran together quite a bit. At his heaviest, he weighed a little over 100 lbs, but tended to maintain an average between 90-95 lbs. He went most places with us, including a pet-friendly B&B on Amelia Island for my 34th birthday, to the beaches on the gulf coast of Florida when I visited my mother near Casey Key, and a couple of times to Va when we drove up to visit family.

Hummer was always attention- and food-hungry. He preferred to be wherever his “people” were and would only stay outside by himself long enough to do his business, then he wanted to be inside with us. We learned very quickly that Hummer was quite intelligent when it came to scoping out anything food-related. The cat food had to be kept in the furthest corner of the counter and trash cans had to be kept behind cabinets. Any slip up on our parts, no matter how old he got, and the result was a torn up trash bag or overturned trash can with trash spread around. Even after moving to NC in 2006, Hummer figured out how to open the corner carousel cabinet where we kept the dry foods so we had to start putting his food bin in front of it so he couldn’t push the cabinet open. I could never get too mad at Hummer for these hijinxs because it was more like a battle of brains to see who won.

In December 2005, a few weeks before we moved to NC and the Inn, Hummer and I were out running and were a block from our house when Hummer was viciously attacked by a K-9 police German Shepherd. The dog had escaped from its garage and, we learned, was male dog aggressive. Because we were on a public road and many people were driving to work or school, a couple of good Samaritans stopped to help us. Hummer’s back and shoulder were ripped open and he needed 17 staples to close the wounds and a drain tube for 4 days to keep the infection out and to allow the wounds to drain. The police department paid for all of his veterinary bills and Hummer never seemed to be afraid or affected by dogs afterward. I, on the other hand, became very nervous when out with Hummer. Not for my safety, but for his. I never wanted him to be attacked again so I started carrying a taser with me.  Once we moved to NC, Hummer and I ran outside for a short while, but I began to run at the YMCA on the treadmill.

For a couple of years, Hummer attended doggie day care at At Play With Sparky so that he could exercise and interact with other dogs. But as he started getting older, his tolerance of other dogs jumping all over him waned and he’d end up in timeout because he’d snap at the other dogs. I’d hold my head in shame on those occasions I had to pick him up whenever I’d receive a naughty boy report. So, I stopped taking Hummer to daycare and we officially said that he was “retired.” He seemed to enjoy spending most of his time on the couch anyway and he would get daily walks around Jake Rusher Park next to the Inn. He always loved riding in the car whenever possible and had the entire back area of the 4Runner to himself, even after we adopted Jenny in fall 2008 and Squirt in spring 2009.

Sleeping Hummer

Hummer sleeping

By the time we added the two small dogs to our menagerie, Hummer was well into retirement and pretty much ignored them, unless one annoyed him and then he’d put him/her in their place. After a good set down, the little dogs stayed out of his way.

In the last year or so of his life, Hummer definitely became somewhat cantankerous when it came to other animals and small kids. He snapped a couple of times and I knew that he would be happier staying home when we went on trips or when there was a lot of activity going on at the Inn. I smile as I remember his progression from young child, to mischievous teenager, to crotchety old man. There were definitely character changes along the way that demonstrated his aging. But through it all; every late night sprint for the outside after he’d eaten an entire package of cheese crackers, plastic wrappers and all, to expunge the plastic from his system, to his laziness in not wanting to go downstairs to bark at visitors he could see, but instead laying on the couch barking, not knowing what he’s barking at; Hummer was always happy to see me and Brian. I nicknamed him Mr. Wiggle Tail because his stump was always going, even if I just looked at him, it wiggled.

In the end, I knew it was time when I couldn’t get that tail to wag, not matter that I hugged Hummer tight and stared at it, willing it to move. He just did not have the strength to show me that he loved me, but I knew. And I was there when he took his last breath and it was a comfort to me to know that he went in peace and without pain and that he knew that I loved him, and still do.

Thank you Hummer for being like a child to me and for bringing me so much love and joy. You will never be forgotten.

Leslie and Hummer

Leslie and Hummer

Celebrating My 40th Birthday – Asheville Style


This past week, I turned the big 4-0 and Asheville turned out to be the perfect place to celebrate it in style.

A few of my Twitter friends organized a pub crawl since I love beer and Asheville is Beer City USA 2010! Gary (@AskAsheville), Amanda (@AVLCustomCloset), Maria (@SalonBlueRidge), and John (Maria’s boyfriend) met at Barley’s Tap Room (@BarleysTapPizza) where we sampled some of the 50+ craft beers on tap, along with some pizza. Barley’s has 2 floors; the first floor is the main restaurant area and the second floor is where the pool tables are (no food served upstairs). It’s a big place and stayed crowded the entire time we were there, which was a couple of hours.

On the way to our second stop, we passed Pritchard Park and enjoyed a little of the Friday night drum circle. The Park was packed and the drumming was very entertaining. By then, it was dark and we could see the police circling. I guess they allow the drum circle until a certain time, but there were many under-age kids around and want to avoid anything inappropriate. I must say that I have never spent any time downtown at night and was quite amazed at how crowded the city was. Everyone, local and tourist, was out in force, enjoying the street entertainment and balmy weather.

The second stop on our crawl was Thirsty Monk’s Pub (@monkpub). Here, we tried something called a Flight, which had 4 sample size beers from light to dark. I tried the Highland Cattail Peak Wheat (light) and the Green Man IPA (medium) with a citrusy taste. I was actually surprised that I liked the medium beer because I usually don’t. We also met up with a couple of other Asheville Tweeters, John (@SimplyWired) and his friend (no Twitter handle that I know of).

Next, we headed over to Athena’s which was a small club. Definitely not a pub, but I did drink a bottle of Highland Gaelic Ale. There was a little dancing. I got a good chuckle. While dancing with Amanda and Maria, a man came up to our group and gave me a very back-handed compliment. He said that although I was the oldest of our group, I had some good moves. Years ago, I might have been offended, but I actually laughed. I appreciated that he thought I danced the best of the three, for an old lady. :)

Our last stop on the tour was Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues Club. There was live music, but not a lot of people there. I had a beer, I can’t remember what kind. Everyone else started doing shots of Patron (tequila), but that’s not my thing. For one, I hate tequila. Second, I wouldn’t mix beer and liquor. The consequences are not good. One interesting thing about this bar was the huge jar of condoms outside the bathroom for patrons to take with them. I had never seen anything like that before, but thought, nice idea. Safety is good.

By the time we finished at Tressa’s, it was 1:30 am and I needed to get home and sleep before getting up to cook breakfast for guests at the Inn on Saturday morning. On the way home, I stopped at Ingles (@Ingles) for some strawberries and blueberries. I was home and in bed by 2:00 am, a time I haven’t seen in a long time.

This birthday celebration was fun for several reasons: 1) I haven’t been out in a couple of years or on a pub crawl in about 15 years! 2) I met some really nice people through Twitter, and 3) while I was on the crawl, we were all FourSquaring our locations which post to my Facebook Page and family and friends around the country were commenting while we were crawling.

I am solidly in favor of the social media movement. It has allowed me to connect and re-connect with family, friends, and people from my past through Facebook. And, I have been meeting new business contacts and friends locally through Twitter and FourSquare. The sharing and exchange of information via text messages, photos, videos, and blogs has opened up a whole new world to me. If not for Twitter, I would not have enjoyed such an interesting birthday celebration. If anyone is thinking about jumping on the social media bandwagon or has resisted joining, I highly recommend that you reconsider. It’s a great way to connect with the big world out there. Maybe your next celebration will be different and unexpected.

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