Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Arrives With Wind & Rain

Raymond's Gut, whitecaps of the White Oak River in the distance

It seems like fall just arrived and my friend Scott in his post, We Was Robbed, is hoping for his Carolina friends or actually me to "get plastered by the big storm" that just passed us.  Perhaps I upset his midwestern soul by offering to send him some tomato plants as this November was drawing to a close.

I guess that I can publicly break the news to Scott that while the storm huffed and puffed and threw some rain at us, our little piece of paradise along North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks survived.  Morehead City and Atlantic Beach which are both about twenty miles east of us did get visited by a confirmed tornado.  The general area damaged is close to the big bridge across Bogue Sound just over the word City in this map of directions to Harkers Island.

Eastern North Carolina is no stranger to tornadoes but they rarely reach the intensity of ones seen further inland. Our subdivision, Bluewater Cove, just off the White Oak River only got some soggy ground from the storm which visited just as Thanksgiving guests were arriving.  Our wet ground from the storm's 1.7 inches of rain will be gone by tomorrow.

We did not even have to empty our rain gauges for that storm unlike the one which visited us in September, 2010. That localized rainstorm which still defies description gave us 20.25 inches of rain in less than 24 hours.  After that storm I decided it was far better to live in area where the drains are big like the White Oak River's nearly two mile width than it is to live in the mountains where three or four inches of rain can cause flooding.

In the seven years that we have lived on the Crystal Coast, one waterspout coming off the river turned into a tornado that brushed our subdivision.  Tornadoes are scary events and almost no seems out of the reach of them these days.  Our friends in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, near Pulaski can testify to that.

If you live on the coast, you are no stranger to serious weather.  Hurricane Irene was an impressive weather event and I am happy that Irene is the only serious storm to visit our area since we have been here.  Irene taught us to be prepared for dangerous weather, but it certainly did not shake our love of living along the coast.  It turns out that few places are immune from bad weather.

We were months away from finally selling our longtime home in Southwest, Virginia in the summer of 2012 when the area was hit with a Derecho.  The power in our mountain home was out for over a week since the storm took down some of the power transmission towers from West Virginia that provide electricity to Roanoke.  Until that summer when we moved, Roanoke seemed one of the safest places on earth.

Coastal weather sometimes appears to be a riddle that few can decipher.  We have the dry spells that inland areas often endure but we can also get some serious wet spells.  Like most places we take whatever the weather brings us and try to go about our lives with minimal disruption.

However, we can count on the North Carolina sun to give us a long growing season.  My Northern friends are likely upset that I will be ordering my tomato seed this weekend.  The plants will go into the ground around the middle of March when we often get wonderful weather.  We usually have plenty of tasty homegrown tomatoes by the end of May or early June.  I had so many tomatoes in 2011 that we loaded them in boxes and took them inland to some relatives that who were still waiting for their first tomatoes as July rolled around.  We even had enough that year to supply the tomatoes for our church's Fourth of July cookout.

The last few years we have enjoyed wonderful crops of winter lettuce.  I am hoping we get a regular winter instead of one of those old fashioned winters which could put a damper on our middle of the winter lettuce.  We are just getting ready to cut our first heads of fall Romaine.  We have already enjoyed some arugula and our butter crunch lettuce is not far behind.  We still have high hopes for our peas and of course we are still cutting broccoli from our fall plantings.  Our cabbage have just formed their heads so we will likely have one of those soon.

All of that sounds like we have a huge garden, but that is not the case.  We just use all the space that we have available including planting lettuce between our ornamental bushes.  We have a small lettuce patch in an area we call the solarium.  We grow tomatoes in the same spot during the summer.  Along our driveway we have another lettuce patch.  The same area is used for tomatoes in the summer.  Our English garden peas are in an area along our bulkhead where we grow green beans and cucumbers in the summer.  We also have a few spots where we grow herbs.  While some of our winter vegetables get a little frosty they usually recover without any problems.

Our biggest challenge is that some of our ground gets very little rest.  We are trying to get ahead of that problem with composting and perhaps even expanding our garden area with some additional raised beds next year.  I am hoping to have some cherry tomatoes in January of this year.  I have one plant that is in the ground near the water where our ground stays frost free the longest.  I have resorted to covering it during this colder than normal November, but so far it has not only survived but is blooming.  I have another couple of cherry tomatoes that are in pots.  They go out in the solarium most of the time and come into the garage on cold nights.  One of them actually has tiny tomatoes on it.

I wish my friend, Scott, lived closer to us than Chicago.  We have some beautiful Romaine lettuce and nearly perfect broccoli that I would love to share.  He could join us for a peaceful Thanksgiving along Raymond's Gut and leave the holiday madness of the city far behind.

However, he is going to miss this year's turkey so hopefully he will not be upset if I send him pictures of my cherry tomatoes when they get ripe in January.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Fall On The Coast Hits Its Stride

Fall Sunset Near Raymond's Gut

One of the best things about fall on the North Carolina coast is the great weather. While a visit to the Southern Outer Banks does not come with a guarantee that the fall weather will be fantastic, we have enjoyed some spectacular fall weather since we moved here in 2006.  Each summer we eagerly await fall.  Our August humidity usually disappears as fall comes and any lingering crowds from summer quickly disperse and best of all we hardly ever have an early cold snap that actually produces serious frost or below freezing temperatures.

There are exceptions like the October 28, fishing trip that I took the year before we moved here. I nearly froze while fishing a few hundred yards from Beaufort's Front Street.   Fortunately I caught enough fish that the weather did not really matter.  In 2013, we got a touch of frost in a few spots on October 26, but I had some uncovered tomato plants that the light frost did not harm.

A good part of the reason that we have such temperate weather in the fall is that there is water all around us.  From our big coastal river, the White Oak,  to the waters of Bogue Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean,  the warm water surrounding us helps keep early fall cold spells inland.  In spring as the water is slowly warming it keeps us cool in the early part of summer.  Often it takes so long for our water to cool down that we stay relatively warm through early winter.

In addition to temperatures that please almost everyone, our fall skies are often a gorgeous blue like the ones in this picture taken while I was kayaking on the White Oak River.

While it might be hard to believe, I wore a bathing suit and waded in the surf with bare legs when I went surf fishing on the Point at Emerald Isle this past first weekend of November 2013.  With a surf temperature of 60F, the water was a little chilly but not bad for a few minutes at a time.

As one of the rare places which consistently amazes me, the Point was spectacularly beautiful this weekend.  I posted several pictures of my Sunday, November 3, hike on the Point.  While the fall scenery, weather, and quiet waters make the Crystal Coast really special during the fall, one of my favorite things about living on the coast is that as the holiday season approaches things get more peaceful here on the coast.

There is a little bit of a reverse migration as December arrives here on the coast.  Even the most hardy visiting fishermen generally take leave of the area.  On top of that many residents who have welcomed visitors all summer take the opportunity to go visit inland relatives during the holiday season.  Some restaurants close for a month or two and we actually seem to miss the holiday rush here on the coast.  It is fine with me.

If you have never had the opportunity to enjoy a vacation on the coast in the fall, do not miss the chance if you get it.  It you need help planning your fall vacation or Thanksgiving at the beach, check out our Emerald Isle Travel Guide.