Why We Foster.

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When we agree to foster a rescue animal, we agree to save a life. We agree to nourish their neglected bodies with healthy food and mend their tattered souls with love. We agree to tend to their wounds both physical and emotional. We agree to assure these innocents that the life they knew before is past; that kinder hands are there to carry them forward to a better place. We agree to look past the fear in their eyes, placed there by those who came before us. We agree to help them see, instead, the compassion in our eyes and to feel the safety that we offer them. And when the time has come, and the door to their forever home has swung open, our work will be done. We agree that there will be tears of sadness as we watch them leave our nest, taking with them a bit of our heart. But there will be tears of joy mingled with the sadness because we can all agree their life, and ours, have both been made better because we agreed to foster.

“Dogs leave paw prints on our heart”

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Kitchen Memories

cranberriesThere are few things that conjure up memories of my childhood quite the way cooking does. The simplest things like the smell of bacon cooking in the morning or the perfect summer cantaloupe takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Pine Island, Louisiana where I spent some of my summer vacations as a child. This time of year, though, I wait anxiously for fresh cranberries to show up in the grocery store so I can make my mother’s cranberry bread.  It has been a seasonal tradition in my family for as long as I can remember and now, every loaf I make reminds of those times spent in the kitchen with her, watching and learning, but most of all just being with her.

When I was little, it was my job to go through the bowl of fresh cranberries and discard any that were soft or bruised. Once my mother knew I could handle a knife without severing a finger, I graduated to cutting the cranberries in half and to this day, I remember asking her to help me whenever I had to decide if a particularly large one needed to be cut in half or in thirds.  There was no way I could have know then just how important her guidance and advice would be to me in later years when there was more at stake than a couple of cranberries..

As the years went by, the smell of cranberry bread baking in my mother’s kitchen came to mean it was time to put extra leaves in the dining room table where they would stay until after Christmas because my brother would be coming home from college. In later years he’d bring with him his new wife and I would bring my husband. Eventually our numbers grew some more as the children came along and the holiday season took on a whole new meaning. But just as it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey, it wouldn’t have been Christmas morning without my mother’s cranberry bread.

So much has changed since then. Today we count calories and fuss over fat grams so the meals I grew up on like pot roast and mashed potatoes, the ones that can still bring back memories, are few and far between. And, like most families, parents pass on, children move away, and the world we live in bears little resemblance to what we knew as children. Perhaps that is the reason why certain things from our past ring with such resonance. They remind us of who we are and where we came from.

So today I made this year’s first batch of cranberry bread using the original recipe written in my mother’s handwriting on a card now yellowed with age. For me it’s the official start of the holiday season. I can’t begin to recall how many loaves of cranberry bread I’ve made over my life time, but every time I pour through a bowl of fresh cranberries, looking for the ones that won’t make the cut, I think of my mom and all the holiday seasons that have come before. And just like last year and the year before that, with every turn of my wooden spoon I will be reminded that this annual ritual is more than combining a few simple ingredients to create something delicious. It is a connection to my past that fills my kitchen with familiar smells and my heart with sweet memories.

July 2016 Market Report

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3400 East Fork Road – Home, guest apartment, and 21 acres. Click here for details.

 

We saw a significant jump in residential home sales in Transylvania County during the month of July.  A total of 63 single family homes/condos sold this month compared to 55 this same time last year.

The “sweet spot” of our market continues to be the $150,000-$250,000 price range. Last month, 24 of the total sales were found in that range, followed by 13 sales under $150,000 and 12 over $250,000.  The market continues to be on track for record breaking numbers. So far, we are already roughly 10% ahead of the sales in the prior year.

Land sales were up by only one sale, but year-to-date, sales are still lagging behind last year.

For more information about the real estate market in our area, give us a call at 828-551-6290 or 828-551-6291.

A perfect day in the mountains…for me.

I like sitting on my porch on a day like today when the the sky is that perfect North Carolina blue, the sun is warm on my face, but a spring time breeze is still cool enough to require an extra layer.  My preferred spot isn’t in on of the “directors” chairs we head to at the end of the day where we sit and enjoy the amazing view of the mountains and watch the sun set paint the sky in shades of blues and pinks. On days like today I much prefer my spot on the steps off our deck that leads to our back yard.  The wood has absorbed the heat of the sun and it shares it with me as I lean against the railing for support. I put my head back, close my eyes, and let my other senses take over.  We are blessed to live in a place where, on most days, the only sounds we hear are the rustling trees and the birds. On occasion there may be the sound of tires on a gravel road somewhere near by or of a plane passing overhead, but otherwise, this is the quietest most peaceful spot I have ever lived in my 60-some years. 

Here on my perch, I stretch out my legs as much as I can and use my bent knees to support a book or a favorite magazine. On this particular day, my choice is the latest edition of Garden & Gun, a magazine I never would have chosen on my own, based on the name alone. But I received it as a gift subscription last year and can now no longer do without it. The magazine is based in Charleston, South Carolina and its pages are filled with articles, recipes, stories, and all things southern.  I look forward to its arrival like an old family friend.

The sun glares off the white pages and since reading glasses are a necessity, sunglasses are not an option. I don’t mind really. For reasons unknown to me, I enjoy getting familiar with the contents of a magazine before I delve into reading it page by page.  It’s a lot like reading a restaurant menu.  I look at each offering deciding if it sounds like something I might like, how it is prepared, how many calories might be hiding in the dish, and what it costs. I do all this before considering the next item on the menu. Eventually I narrow down my options and make a choice. 

So it is with me and magazines. I love a good book and welcome those times when I can lose myself in a good story. But books pretty much force the reader to start on page one and follow each page in succession lest they lose the story line. Not magazines.  I can start on the back cover and work my way to the front without missing a thing. On this first pass I notice ads but I might be compelled to read an article if it is a short one or holds some immediate interest for me. More than likely I scan it quickly, making a mental note about the subject matter and file until I have the time an opportunity to read it. It isn’t until I have flipped backwards through all the pages that I decide what I want to read first, and not necessarily in any particular order.

One of the many things that I appreciate about Garden & Gun is the writing. The articles are more like short stories that waste no time grabbing my attention and holding it until the last word. Most issues have some story involving a dog so naturally I go there first. Today, though, my attention lingered in the recipe section where a fresh blackberry and peach cobbler recipe caught my eye. Peaches, juicy ripe berries, and luscious tomatoes are the only reason I tolerate summer and this particular recipe recalled me to my mother’s kitchen and summers growing up in the south. Peach cobbler was a staple in our house when peaches were in season. I can still remember the soft bite of a fresh peach swimming in sweet cinnamon laced juice, perfectly thickened and topped with flaky pie dough. A spot of butter or a scoop of vanilla ice cream made it all the better. My mom is passed now but seeing that recipe and remembering the days when the smell of peach cobbler filled her kitchen fills my heart with sweet memories.

I don’t know when I will have another chance to sit on my steps again like this and do nothing but enjoy the sun and while away my time reading.  Our life is pretty busy these days trying to balance work, projects around the house, and carving out some time for friends. But when I find the opportunity I will spend it on that familiar step looking backwards at a favorite magazine, and maybe a memory or two.

Vanished. Lost without a trace.

Tuesday May 10, 2016 – 4:45 pm.  

It started like any other afternoon with a game of ball in the side yard.  Our two little dogs, Sunny and Boo chased the tennis balls, Ace ran big circles around us barking at something or nothing at all. We had played this game hundreds of times with Ace eventually loping into the woods to chase a squirrel. Some times he would go deep into the woods to the creek and you could hear his bark echo back. Other times, he would pop out up along the gravel road.  Whatever route he took, rarely was he gone more than an hour and usually it was only a few minutes before he came back to catch his share of the tennis balls. This time, and for reasons no one will ever know, he disappeared into the woods and vanished without a trace.

When an hour had passed and the sun was getting low, we started to look for him. We drove up and down our gravel road knowing the sound of the car usually brings him running for a ride. When that didn’t work we hiked to the creek until it was too dark to see.

Around midnight we drove to a neighboring community on the chance that he had gotten off track and ended up there. Nothing. Concern, fear, and a host of other emotions took over.

IMG_0196 SM We rescued Ace from the old Transylvania County animal shelter 7 years ago because he was on the list to be put down. They were out of room and big black dogs are not a popular choice when it comes to adoption so his prospects were slim. He became part of our family and anyone who knows us, and many who don’t, recognize Ace from his appearances in our real estate videos and around the racquet club where my husband and I play tennis. He was even featured in a video about the relationship people have with their pets that aired on the Dr. Oz show.

We went to bed that night with heavy hearts. His absence left a giant hole in our home and our other two dogs were already showing signs of missing him as much as we were. He is a healthy 95 pounds but because of where we live our heads were spinning with scenarios to explain why he hadn’t come home and none of them were good.

The following morning we did what we knew to do. We contacted the shelter and filed a lost dog report, contacted the local vets in case someone found him, printed “lost dog” flyers and posted them everywhere we could, we placed a “lost dog” ad in the newspaper and with the local radio station. We also contacted the homeowners association for the neighboring community and they agreed to send an email blast to the homeowners with a copy of our flyer. That decision proved to be critical.

We had a basic idea of where Ace might go, but knowing that large dogs can travel as many as 5 miles in a day, and with nearly 300 wooded acres in our immediate area it was like the proverbial needle in a haystack. Where do we start? 

For two days we hiked the woods around us.  There was no clear cut path and the thick Rhododendrons slowed our progress as the briars tugged at our jeans. A friend joined us on the second day but mostly we hiked separately to cover more ground, hoping for some sign of Ace, paying special attention to ravines, holes, or caves that he might have either fallen into or escaped to. We saw plenty of bear scat and other signs of recent bear activity including one cave where the sound of cubs could be heard coming from inside.

 Friday, May 13 – 6:30 am

Robert was standing on the driveway when he heard Ace’s bark coming from deep in the woods below us.  We hadn’t seen or heard from Ace since Tuesday, but like parents, dog owners know the sound of their own dog and we had no doubt that it was Ace. But where was he? 

Robert started off on his way down an old logging road and into the dense woods, following the sound of Ace’s barking and I drove to the road below us as we talked by cell phone. We believed Ace was somewhere between us. I didn’t hear anything from where I was parked then Robert confessed that he wasn’t sure of his own location. I blew the car horn. He couldn’t hear it. Now Robert AND Ace were both lost in the woods.  I needed help. 

I started making calls and soon three friends arrived and two more were on the way. We met up at our house to form a plan, but about that time, Robert found his way through the woods and out to a road he recognized so the search team shifted gears to go look for Ace.  They took the logging road again with a plan to spread out and canvas the area where we believed we had last heard Ace and I went to pick up Robert. It was now coming up on 9:30 am.

Our friends worked their way through the woods and down to the community below. We knew a good portion of their hike was rugged and tough going and we were very grateful for their efforts. Ace was no closer to being found though.

Around noon, we began a new search with two other friends. For the third time, we headed down the logging road, this time, with the plan to hike in a more westerly direction toward where we believed Ace might be. But echoes in the mountains can play cruel tricks on your senses and we got off course. Armed with only our cell phones, efforts to determine our location proved difficult. Google Maps wasn’t enough and a GIS map helped only to a degree. We relied on our iPhone compass and made our way deeper into the woods, facing a steep, densely wooded climb up, stopping two more times to get our bearings. It had been hours since we had last heard anything from Ace and I wondered if now we were lost.  Then, as if on cue, we heard his distinctive howl from below.  We were exhausted and had no more energy to go back down, especially knowing that although we heard him, it was impossible to determine the exact location. There was a collective sigh of relief knowing that Ace was alive, but we had no choice but to find our way out of the woods and come up with a new plan.

Late afternoon, we ventured out for our third search of the day. This time, we would follow the creek that runs below our property. Before setting out, we learned that a friend of ours had consulted a psychic in another state who she has known for years. With no other information, except that we had lost our dog, we were told that Ace wasn’t hurt, that he was in the woods near water, but was disoriented and couldn’t find his way home. It wasn’t much to go on and maybe it was grasping at straws, but we clung to the idea that he was close by as we made our way into the woods once again.

The hike was difficult, through dense vegetation and spring time laurels, with pollen so thick in the air we could see it floating in the sunlight and feel it in our throats.  We pressed on for about three hours with no sign of Ace until we stumbled out of the woods into the backyard of a home, exhausted and profoundly discouraged. 

As luck would have it, the homeowners, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, had received the email about Ace being lost and they told us that they had heard him up in the woods earlier in the day. Physically, we were spent, but our hope was buoyed with this news.

A friend who had stayed at our house to be with our other dogs was called so we could get a ride home and regroup once more. We were back at our house but a few minutes when Mr. Williams called, telling us that he believed Ace was behind their house again. We rushed back and waited. Sure enough, we heard Ace up in the woods. The sound of his mournful howl broke our hearts but now we had a better fix on his location. By car, we were about 2-3 miles from home, but only half of that as the crow flies.

There were times during the day’s search when it seemed Ace was so close but no amount of calling and coaxing could get him to come to us, something we didn’t understand. The bond we have with Ace is strong and there was no reason, or so we thought, for him not to come to us.

At dusk, Robert and I held what could best be described as a vigil alongside the creek on the Williams’ property. We hung some of our clothing on nearby trees to try and give Ace our scent. Mr. Williams gave us hot dogs to set out. Nothing was working. We could hear Ace and were confident he could hear us calling to him but as darkness fell, we knew there was nothing more we could do and returned home. That night, standing on our deck, we could hear our boy Ace crying in the distance. There are no words to describe the helplessness and the heartache we felt knowing he was out there hungry, cold, and scared, and we couldn’t get to him.

 Saturday, May 14 – 6:15 am

Just before dawn, we returned to the creek and the hot dogs left out the night before were untouched. We brought Ace’s metal bowl with some kibble, rattled it and called him to breakfast. That was a sound we knew he’d recognize. It didn’t take long before a conversation with Ace began. We would call to him and he would answer in a sorrow-filled howl. He wasn’t coming to us, but judging from the sound he appeared to be staying in one place, somewhere above us. Robert had hiked the mountain top above us earlier in the week so the decision was made for me to stay where I was and Robert would try to go in from that point. I kept talking to Ace and Robert tracked our voices.

I could faintly hear Robert in the woods above me, but then I got a text saying “I see him and he sees me”.  My heart stopped. I quit calling out to Ace and waited. It was just past dawn and I was alone in the woods with a bowl of dog food in my hand. My knowledge about the area’s bear population was not lost on me as I considered the situation I found myself in,  but it didn’t matter. Ace was now in our sights. 

It seemed like an eternity before I got another text, this time with a blurry image of Ace and Robert together but then came the phone call.

IMG_1862 (1)Robert confirmed that they were indeed together, but they were stuck on a ledge only about 30” wide. There was rock to their right and a 40′ drop off to their left. One wrong move and both of their lives were in danger. There was no way they could get off the ledge safely.

I called 911 as I wrestled with limbs and branches while trying to keep my footing, and scrambled back down the hill, across the creek, and to the Williams’ driveway. Robert had taken our car so when I found my way out there was a moment of panic….how was I going to get to them! Luckily, Mr. Williams was home and was able to take me to the gravel road I knew Robert had taken to get into the woods.

Mr. Williams waited with me until the first responder from my 911 call arrived. The three of us walked the gravel road until we were able to locate Robert by the sound of his voice and then found our way through the woods to him so we could assess the situation. It wasn’t long before a team from Connestee Falls Fire Department and EMS arrived. The team of about six, strapped with gear you’d see on a mountain climber, devised a plan to create a harness for Ace and get him out first, then do the same for Robert.  After insuring that both were attached to safety lines, they hoisted Ace up and brought him up to me, following right behind him was Robert. 

The tears, the relief, and the gratitude we felt for the rescue effort was overwhelming. Even now, when we think back to days leading up to the rescue, when we were living on not much more than hope and peanut butter…fearing the worst but hoping for the best…and then facing a truly life threatening situation, the emotions come flooding back.

IMG_0323We will be forever grateful for the tremendous support we received through social media networks, our tested and true friends and neighbors, and the Connestee Falls Fire and Rescue team.

 Epilogue

Aside from being thin, dirty, and somewhat dehydrated, Ace was in remarkably good shape. Sunny, our middle dog who had barely touched her food and stayed mostly in her bed the entire time Ace was gone is back to normal. Boo, the littlest, is happy to have her big brother back to keep her warm.  The giant void we all had felt the days that he was gone was now filled with peace.

The Sunday following the rescue we were in church when our pastor shared this passage with the congregation. It pertained to an entirely unrelated story he was telling but for us, it spoke right to our hearts.

Psalm 94:17-19

Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy. 

Resuce

$10.00 Holes and Other Thoughts on Gardening

My dad used to say you could grow anything. All you needed was a $1.00 plant and a $10.00 hole.  Translated, that means you don’t need to spend a lot of money on the plant; you just need to make sure the hole you dig for it is filled with quality soil. Both of my parents just knew how to grow things – there were always flowers in our yard and we always had a vegetable garden.
FamersMarketApparently the instincts and knowledge of how to grow things wasn’t passed down in my DNA.  Just this week I bought a basil plant, put it in a pretty pot with good soil and began dreaming about all the ways I’d cook with it. In only two days, my basil plant is wilted along with my optimism.

Thankfully, our area is chock full of people who DO know how to grow things and I can reap the benefit every Saturday morning at the Transylvania Farmers Market.  It opened for the season a couple of weeks ago and is open every Saturday from 8:00 am – noon.  A wide range of local farms are represented, including Pitch Pine Farm pictured here.  You’ll find all sorts of vegetables and herbs; dairy farmers with artisan goat cheese; and several booths sell farm fresh eggs. Then there are the artisan bakers, crafts people, and of course gardeners selling all kinds of plants that call out to me.  This year there are a couple of caterers with great food and most weekends there is music courtesy of local musicians.  Aside from the envy I feel as I go from table to table marveling at the gorgeous plants and vegetables, I know that what I’m buying is locally sourced, supports small farming businesses in our community, and that I can find a wonderful assortment of organic food that our local grocery stores don’t have (and probably never heard of!)

If you are in the Brevard, North Carolina area some Saturday, I encourage you to head down to the corner of Johnson Street and Jordan Street.  Be sure to bring your appetite and a big basket so you can carry home all the amazing goodies you’ll find.

Maybe I’ll see you there. It’s very likely I’ll be looking for a new victim basil plant.

 

March Market Report

2006 was, by any standard, a booming year for real estate here in the Brevard, NC area. Based on the first quarter sales this year, the market could meet or even surpass those 2006 figures.

Residential sales continue to be the strongest in the under $300,000 price range, but specifically, in the $150,000-$200,000 range. In this first quarter we have seen homes sell for asking the day the go on the market, multiple offers, and bidding wars that result in homes selling above asking. We have moved past the dark days of 2009 when our market bottomed out, so it’s exciting to see things moving from a buyers market to a sellers market.

What does this mean for buyers in that price range? Be ready! Be ready to go see a home the day it hits the market. Get pre-approved ahead of time. And be ready to pay closer to the asking price.

For sellers, it doesn’t mean you can relax and wait for buyers to come streaming through the door.