Friday, April 24, 2015

Pruning Peach Orchards: A Lifetime Skill and Dedication

[Note: This post, prepared originally for the NC Folklife Institute's NCFood blog, is hosted on the institute’s website, with excerpts and a link to the website posted here.]

Nothing says spring like the arrival of flower blossoms, particularly in the Sandhills and eastern North Carolina with blooms on acres and acres of peach trees.

Trees in the Sandhills awaken at
springtime and stand ready for their
early pruning.
Many in North Carolina believe that our state’s peaches are the best (they’re right) and that peaches are native to the South (they’re wrong). Cultivated in China for more than 3,000 years, peaches arrived in the Americas in 1571 when Spanish missionaries introduced them along the Atlantic coast in an area known now as St. Simons Island, Georgia. More than 50 years later, George Minifie of England brought the first peach trees to the British colonies in North America and cultivated them at his estate near Jamestown, Virginia.

Peaches thrive in the rain, heat, and soil conditions of our state and other southern states. They are a vital fruit crop in the agricultural economy of several N.C. counties. However, as much as Mother Nature nurtures, a peach orchard is not self-sufficient. It requires constant monitoring and care, particularly pruning.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Taking a Historic Walk

John Lawson explores the
Carolina wilderness.
Interested in taking a good long walk? Sure. Want to trace the path of an English explorer taken through the Carolinas in the early 1700s? It all depends, right? What’s the temperature? How much rain and how many snakes? What and when do we get to eat?
Most of us remember history lessons about Lewis and Clark whose expedition in the early 1800s explored and mapped territory from Missouri westward to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, a major part of their task was to study and sketch plants, animals and geography.

Lawson's journey began in Charleston, SC, in 1700.
Equally important in this area was a similarly significant journey, more than 100 years even before Lewis and Clark took their first steps. This one began in 1700, only a few years after the Carolina Colony had been chartered by King Charles II of England. Little was known about the territory that now comprises both North and South Carolina and Georgia of today.

Enter John Lawson, who was commissioned by colonial authorities to learn more about the interior of the colony. Although the coastal areas were being explored in depth, the Europeans knew little about the region farther inland.

Describing animals, plants and natives
was the mission of Lawson and his party.
With several companions and native guides, Lawson tromped through the Carolina wilderness nearly 600 miles over several weeks to describe animals, plants, crops and natives. He dutifully recorded detailed descriptions in his journal and later returned to London in 1709 to publish “A New Voyage to Carolina.” The book attracted many new immigrant settlers to the colony because it was also translated into German and French.

Perhaps Lawson is the first person we can credit with recording the enjoyable outdoor life of North Carolina. The climate is “healthful,” and the “Land is very fruitful,” he writes. Because the soil is rich, the inhabitants “live an easy and pleasant Life.” Lawson also describes more than 70 varieties of seafood in the Carolina waters and pronounces catfish as being “very plentiful.” He identifies more than 25 “beasts” that can be hunted, proclaims that bear meat is “very good” and enjoys a “curious ragoo” made with venison and possum.

Lawson's book, published in 1709,
attracted many in immigrants.
Proving that history needs to be lived and outdoor life enjoyed, a modern-day explorer is undertaking Lawson’s journey. Scott Huler, an award-winning author who lives in Raleigh, has begun a modern walking exploration through the Carolinas to retrace Lawson’s footsteps.

Unlike Lawson, Huler is not waiting nine years to publish his account. To share his observations, he is documenting his journey online. His blog The Lawson Trek is updated with posts, images, sound, and video. On Twitter (@LawsonTrek), Huler is also tweeting images and thoughts – routine and unusual – about his adventures and has observed that he often is “walking along a sand road that has probably been trodden by human feet for a thousand years or more.”

Check out Huler’s posts and images, and follow him as he shares a historical perspective of the Carolina outdoor life.

Note: This post appeared originally in the April 2015 issue of OutreachNC, a monthly magazine distributed in 10 counties of central North Carolina. Click here to see the article as it appeared in print.