Posted by: SoccerGirl | July 11, 2011

Christmas in July

Before you get too excited, there are no presents involved in the latest mountain adventure.  The title actually describes one of the reasons we headed up to the mountains over the 4th of July weekend.  Every year there is a festival called Christmas in July in West Jefferson, which celebrates the Christmas tree growers in the area and is held on the weekend around the 4th.  Since I’m still on summer vacation for a bit longer we were able to leave Friday morning and avoid the holiday weekend traffic later in the day.  We ended up arriving at the house around noon, so we had practically the whole day to relax.  Not long after we got there Dad started working outside mowing the grass near the house so we could pull out the chairs and umbrellas to enjoy the beautiful weather.  After dinner, we decided to go in to town to listen to the music that was the beginning of the Christmas in July festivities.  They set up the music stage right on Main St and people bring their folding chairs and set them up right there to listen to the music.  We found ourselves a good spot and settled in for the performances.  They also had the food vendors set up and open, it was like a miniature state fair, with the typical funnel cakes, polish sausage and assortment of fried foods.  One booth advertised fried brownies, so I felt I had to try them and see what they were all about.  I must say they were quite good, like brownies fresh from the oven surrounded by a deep fried shell.

A view of the Friday night concert crowd (click to enlarge)

Saturday morning rolled around and it was time once again to go in to town for the weekend festivities.  We started out at the farmer’s market area and mom quickly found one of the items she was looking for: tart cherries.  Normally she has to rely on the canned version for pie making, but recently discovered that one of the market vendors had fresh ones, so she jumped on the chance to buy some.  We continued our festival exploration by wandering through the various craft vendor booths, making a few purchases along the way.  Before going back home though we decided to make a stop at a local store that was having a sale (and that I hadn’t been to yet) called Libby’s.  After browsing through the sale items and the rest of the store I ended up finding a really cute dress and mom found some jewelry.  Since Dad isn’t much of a shopper he left us there and went to Lowes for some stuff.  We were finished before he came back so we decided to wander over to a nearby place called the Dairy House, which I had not been to either and as you might guess has ice cream as its main focus.  We treated ourselves to some ice cream while we waited for dad to return.

We returned home to have some lunch and then dad and I drove to Mt. Jefferson for a ranger led hike that focused on medicinal plants.  It was a really informative talk and we learned that most plants are used for treating upset stomachs.  I took some notes and pictures of plants I wanted to remember and to see if we had any of them on our property.  One that we knew for sure that we have is a birch tree, whose branches can be used as toothbrushes and also can be made in to a tea that’s supposed to help with arthritis.  The hike took a little longer than we anticipated since we stopped a lot to talk about the various plants, but we learned a lot of information and were glad to have gone.  After the hike we went back home and mom made some dinner.  It was such a nice night that we decided to make a fire in the fire pit, especially since we have plenty of wood laying around waiting to be burned.  After a little bit of work we got the fire going and enjoyed sitting outside watching the fireflies in the meadow and were even surprised to see some fireworks across the mountain.

St. John's Wort-one of the medicinal plants we learned about (click to enlarge)

Sunday morning arrived which meant it was time for church and breakfast somewhere.  We had read a little while back that the original owner of one of our favorite places to eat the Blue Ridge Bakery and Cafe had returned so we wanted to go check it out.  The food was very good and we left very happy with our choices.  The rest of the day we spent relaxing around the house and completing our various projects.  My project for the weekend was to finish painting the wooden bench we keep outside.  The last time we were up there I scraped, sanded and primed it and my dad sprayed on the first coat of paint.  I had to put the second coat on and touch up some spots that got messed up when a tarp had to be put over it rather quickly because of a rainstorm.  Of course I also did some more of the required mowing, as did my dad.  When I was mowing I noticed that some of our Rhododendrons along the creek had bloomed, which we hadn’t seen before this year.   We ended up going out to dinner that night at one of the few places that’s actually open on Sundays, Mountain Aire Steak & Seafood, which has the added benefit of being close to the house and has really good sweet potato fries.  Later we were watching a movie when dad saw more fireworks over the mountains.  He went outside to see them and noticed that not only were there fireworks over the mountains in one direction, there was lightning over the mountains in the opposite direction.  It was pretty neat to watch, especially not knowing exactly where the fireworks were coming from.

The finished bench (click to enlarge)

Close up of one of the "rhodies" in bloom + an insect (click to enlarge)

The 4th rolled around and we had a pretty quiet day.  We started the morning finishing up some work on the property.  The apple orchard needed some pruning, weeding and fertilizing so we all helped out with that.  I put a third (and final) coat of paint on the bench.  In the afternoon the rain and storms rolled in and we spent some time driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway before going over to some friends’ house to celebrate the holiday.  We also spent part of our afternoon cleaning up the house because we were planning on leaving pretty early Tuesday morning since mom had to be back for a meeting at work in the early afternoon.  We were treated to a wildlife sighting when we returned from our drive: 16 baby wild turkeys and two mamas were hanging out by the house.  They walked away when we pulled up, but a little while later they reappeared in the front of the house and I tried to sneak up close to them but they spotted me too soon and all flew away.

Turkey mamas and babies (click to enlarge)

One of the mama turkeys, looks yummy to me! (click to enlarge)

And so another fun weekend in the mountains came to a close, and we returned reluctantly to the heat and humidity of Raleigh.

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