Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sweet Union

We recently moved to Union County, North Carolina. I always wondered why Union County was named Union County. After all, North Carolina was a Confederate state during the U.S. Civil War back in the 1860s. There's even a statue in front of the old Union County courthouse dedicated to the local Confederate soldiers. So why is the county called Union?

I didn't know, so I looked it up. Wikipedia says that Union County was formed in 1842 and that the name "Union" was a compromise between two political groups. One of the groups wanted to name the new county (which was formed from part of Mecklenburg, where Charlotte is, and Anson) Clay county after Henry Clay. The other group wanted to name it Jackson, after Andrew Jackson. (I'm not sure what the Henry Clay connection to the area is, but Andrew Jackson was born near the town of Waxhaw, North Carolina, which is in Union County.)

Regardless of how it came to be called Union, it's the fastest growing county in the state of North Carolina. Seriously, the growth here over the last decade has been phenomenal. OK, so it doesn't have all the fancy citified perks of its urban neighbor to the west. And true, it's a little inconvenient to have to drive all the way to Monroe (the county seat) to take care of certain business, instead of driving to Charlotte. But as I learned recently when I had to go there to get the water service transferred to my name, things are sweet here.

The courthouse is sweet. The little downtown is sweet. And the iced tea . . . you get the point.

So I couldn't help but smile as I walked back to my car after taking care of that business with the water company: The security guard had reminded me of Sheriff Andy Taylor (from the old TV show The Andy Griffith Show); there was no line/no wait at the counter of the water department, and James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" was playing on outdoor speakers. This, I reasoned, must be why Union County is called "Sweet Union" by the natives.

And so far, I have to agree. How sweet is is, indeed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 things I'll miss about the city apartment

As our time in the "city apartment" draws to a close and we prepare to move out to Suburbialand, I thought I'd take a few minutes to consider 10 things I'll miss about living here in the apartment. (There's also a 10 things I won't miss list -- if I can indeed narrow it down to 10 things -- but that's a future entry.)

1. Living in the city. We're just a few miles from downtown (or uptown, whatever) and on a main street, so it feels alive here.

2. Being within walking distance of so many things: three shopping centers, two grocery stores, countless restaurants, a movie theater, a great independent bookstore, my massage therapist, a fabulous cupcakery . . . even a bowling alley. Not that I've taken advantage of everything, but still. 

3. Freedom Park. We took the dogs here a lot when the weather was nice. It's such a pretty park, and the walk around the lake was just the right distance for the dogs to be exhausted afterward.

4. Being just a short drive away from SouthPark Mall, which is one of the best places to shop in the Carolinas. Seriously. I mean, that's where the Apple Store is, for goodness sakes. :-)

5. Daily trash & recycling pickup at our door. All we had to do was put the trash in the black bag and the recyclables in the clear bag, tie it up, and leave it at the door. Every night around 8PM, the "waste concierge" would come pick it up. No muss, no fuss!

6. The bamboo floors and granite countertops. OK, lame, maybe. But for the last 10 months, we've been living in a so-called luxury apartment. Although our new place is going to be very nice, it doesn't have either of those two "vanity" features.

7. The European-style toilets. Since this is a "green" apartment building, we have low-flow toilets. You know, the ones with the two buttons on top, where the little button is for pee and the big button is for poo. I really like these toilets, and I think they should be required everywhere. By law. I mean, come on, why not? It saves a ton of water AND you can barely hear it when it flushes.

8. Briar Creek. It runs behind the apartment, and on nights when the weather's good you can open up the windows, and hear the Frog & Insect Orchestra playing along to the babbling brook.

9. Stainless steel appliances. I like stainless steel appliances, even if they get fingerprints on them (because they do, even when they say they don't.) Our new appliances will be black. Well, that's not bad. At least they're not avocado green and from 1972.

10. The saltwater swimming pool. It's true that I haven't frequented it. But it's there. Maybe I should go jump in. Right now.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cross-species communication

Braveheart visits with his friend Whitney the White Rock chicken. Bravey was actin' all smooth and laid back, and Whitney was like: "What's up, little feline dude?" It was cute to watch, but I couldn't help but wonder what would happen if there wasn't a fence in between them.

Coming soon to a table near ME

Sunburst hybrid squash - ready now!
Watermelon . . . ready in a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to THIS.
What's ready now: yellow squash, zucchini, sunburst squash, peppers, beans, onions, and a little bit o' sweet corn.

What'll be ready soon: More beans & sweet corn.

And not too much longer for: cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, butternut squash, dried beans, and peanuts!!!

Hangin' out

After a long day of grueling physical farm labor in 90F/30C heat, there's nothing quite like a cold glass of lemonade, a good book, and kickin' back in a hammock. I should know. :-)

Dirty laundry

Actually, this is clean laundry. But that doesn't sound nearly as exciting as dirty laundry, does it? We've got a dryer at the farm, but when it's nice and sunny out, I like putting the clothes on the line to dry. It saves electricity, it doesn't take long, and it makes the clothes have a fresh scent. Reminds me of Grandma, too. What's not to like?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Like a coon dog basking in the sunshine

I have a confession to make: I've been listening to quite a bit of country music lately. If you'd told me a year ago that moving back to North Carolina would bring out my inner Johnny Cash, I would've laughed, or at least smirked a little. But here we are.

Unlike a lot of my Native Tar Heel friends, I don't come from a family of country music fans. My family was a unique blend of American Bandstand, Soul Train and The Lawrence Welk Show. We listened to Elvis, The Supremes, and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. OK, so there was the weekly dose of Hee Haw - but that was because we only got one channel way out there in the country back during the prehistoric (pre-cable TV) times. The only reason I can still sing most of the lines to "Gloom, Despair, and Agony On Me" is by default.

Uncool. That's exactly the word that came into my head when I thought about country music. Well, all right, there were a few exceptions from back in the day, other than The Man in Black. Jerry Reed played a mean guitar, and he was the cute little truck driver in Smokey and The Bandit, one of my favorite movies from 1977. (NOTE: I was very young then and had not yet developed much taste in cinema.) And Crystal Gayle. My sister and I thought she was pretty cool, and her hair was the longest we'd ever seen . . . on a human.

In the early 1990s, my friend Alice was into country music, and she introduced me to some of her favorites: Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd. I still think Garth's No Fences was an excellent album, and Wynonna is certainly a musical force to be reckoned with. Shania Twain arrived on my scene in the late 90s, and even now I occasionally listen to Come On Over (I prefer the international version). It seems to me that all three of these artists sort of changed country music. I guess this is what they call Contemporary Country. Fast forward to the summer of 2008, when I was living in Vienna. On a day when I was feeling a little homesick, I heard Sugarland for the very first time, and I've been a fan ever since. Last year, I discovered Lady Antebellum, and this year, The Band Perry.

We listen to the radio at the farm these days, partially because we don't have a TV in the farmhouse, but also because my Mom says that music keeps the Esses away (that's a whole 'nuther blog entry). There's not a lot of listening variety on the airwaves there. Let's see. There's the gospel channel, whose volume is mysteriously much higher than other stations. There's an old school hip-hop station that plays stuff I danced to in high school ("Ho-tel Mo-tel Holiday INN!") And there's a station that plays classic rock except from 11-12 on Sundays, when they broadcast a local church service. You can go from Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" to a choir singing "Just A Little Talk With Jesus" in a matter of nanoseconds.

But there's no shortage of country music stations. So I'm listening.
One of the things I'm starting to appreciate about country music is its ability to tell stories. Some of the stories are downright get-the-hankies-out-tear-jerking. These are the songs about breaking up, cheating, being cheated on, getting revenge, getting cancer, and your grandpa/grandma/best friend/best dog dying. I try not to cry, but sometimes I just can't help it. It's like some sort of Red State emotional release. But country music makes me laugh a lot, too. And that may be the thing I find most appealing about it. I love all the references to moonshine, grits, and coon dogs (the latter is mentioned in today's video, "You Lie" by The Band Perry -- a song that could easily be used to teach the concept of the simile in English language classes).

The truth is, I like music of all kinds. And I'm just as likely to be listening to Rachmaninoff on my iPod at work, or European disco music when I'm driving my car . . . in the city. But if I want to, I'm going to get my country groove on.

Dang it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Farm kitties

The resident farm cat had five kittens in April. They're at that cute age now where they're experimenting with climbing trees and playing games with each other. I could watch them all day long. Here are a few of my favorite photos from this weekend.

We haven't named this little girl yet. She's a shy one -- you can't get too close without her running away. Although she looks mostly like a grey tabby, she's got some yellow/orange spots as well. (The mother is a long-haired calico.)
This is Braveheart, one of two orange tabbies. He has no fear is full of personality. He's also quite talkative. It may be hard to tell from this photo, but his eyes are like jewels: they're blue, green, and yellow.
This one doesn't have a name yet, either, but she's so pretty. Her grey eyes are an exact match for her coat.