Thursday, December 28, 2006

Slopes welcome cold, snow

After some unseasonably warm days (some might say "Spring-like"), the North Carolina ski slopes are finally getting what they need: cold weather and snow.

"The warm spell that came over the last two weeks wasn't very kind," Kristin Hull, a customer service agent at Hawksnest ski resort in Seven Devils near Banner Elk, told the Associated Press. "It really looks like our luck is changing. It should be getting pretty crazy around here."

The National Weather Service reported one to three inches of snowfall around Banner Elk on Tuesday night. The resorts said there was even more up on the mountains.

And it could just be the start of "good" (read: ski) weather. According to the AP, forecasts call for daytime temperatures around 45 to 50 degrees for the rest of the week, with nighttime lows near-freezing levels. There's another chance of snow and rain in the area on Sunday.

"People want to get pumped up," Eric Huston, manager of Alpine Ski Center in Charlotte, told the AP. "The cold, Christmas, has snapped everyone's fingers to say, 'It's time. Let's go.'"

Here's to the Old North State ... in 2007!

Well, 2006 is coming to a close, and the Society wishes you all a healthy, productive and enjoyable 2007. And here's just a little "ditty" (also known as the State Toast) to remind us that we've been fortunate enough to spend 2006 in such a wonderful state.

Here's to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and strong grow great,
Here's to "Down Home," the Old North State!

Here's to the land of the cotton bloom white,
Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night,
Where the soft southern moss and jessamine mate,
'Neath the murmuring pines of the Old North State!

Here's to the land where the galax grows,
Where the rhododendron's rosette glows,
Where soars Mount Mitchell's summit great,
In the "Land of the Sky," the Old North State!

Here's to the land where maidens are fair,
Where friends are true and cold hearts rare,
The near land, the dear land, whatever fate,
The blest land, the best land, the Old North State!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Make good use of those Christmas trees

Discarded and forgotten Christmas trees can have better afterlives than just curbside decorations while awaiting the trash man.

According to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, trees can have a myriad of uses after that most important one of filling your home with joy. Among them:

-Turn your tree into mulch
-Use it for landscaping. "Officials with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources recommend throwing leaves over the tree to provide cover for birds and small mammals," says the Hendersonville News. "You also can prop the tree in the yard and hang suet or other birdfeeders from the branches. Remember to remove tinsel, plastic and anything else that is not recyclable."
-Turn your tree into a beach erosiong protector
-And offer your tree to a farm pond owner. "By sinking and anchoring a Christmas tree in a pond, it makes habitat and nesting ground for fish," says the paper.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Take that, 'Joizy'

"We're No. 10! We're No. 10! We're No. 10!"

According to the U.S. Census Board, North Carolina is now the 10th most populated state in the Union, passing New Jersey to vault into the top 10.

According to the News & Observer, last year, "North Carolina grew by 184,000 people, roughly the size of Winston-Salem."

"Everybody in my neighborhood is from somewhere else," former New Jersey resident Mary Johnson, now of Wake Forest, told the paper.

Of course, between 1994 and 2003, some 32,000 folks from New Jersey have moved to N.C., thus helping the population boom.

The Census burea expects North Carolina to pass Georgia, Michigan and Ohio by 2030 in population rankings with nearly 12.3 million people.

The Charlotte Observer does a better job with analysis on this subject, including a section on "Why They're Moving."

The reasons?
-Retirement. "In the 1990s, many retirees who moved to the Carolinas started in the Northeast, moved to Florida and then came halfway back -- to the Carolinas, earning the nickname 'halfbacks,' said the paper. "While that's still a factor in recent growth, many of the newer retirees never made it to the Sunshine State."

-Growth breeds growth. "Recent arrivals are coming here to join friends or relatives who moved here in earlier waves."

-And, finall, the economy. "Research Triangle Park near Raleigh-Durham and the financial sector in Charlotte drive job growth. New companies continue to start up in the Carolinas because of their location halfway along the Eastern Seaboard."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gift ideas for those 'outdoorsy' types

Today's the first day of winter, and the Asheville Citizen-Times has an article on gift ideas for those people who take advantage of North Carolina's High Country outdoor amenities.

"When it comes to fashion on the ski slopes this winter, it’s more about what you hear than what you see.

"Don’t worry, your Burton snowboarding pants and Columbia ski jacket from last season won’t get you laughed off the slopes.

"But if you’re trying to get a leg up on the winter fashion scene or find a last-minute gift for the snow sports aficionado in your life, tune in to high-tech snow sports gear.

" 'It’s all about the audio,' said Craig Friedrich, owner of Ski Country Sports in Asheville."

Having access to your iPod is important, the article notes.

"There are a lot of items that can make your time on the slopes more enjoyable — from rubber-soled ski boots to snowboard-accessible backpacks. ..."

Also noted in the article are walking accessories from WalkEZ called Revolutions, "which clip to the bottom of ski boots. They also come with a lock.

" 'It allows for a more natural gait,' Friedrich said. ..."

Click here for more innovative ideas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

T'is the season for Old North State-related gifts

Ok, Ok, I know: Hannukah has already begun, and Christmas is just days away. But if you're still in need of gift ideas, look no further than our own state.

North Carolina magazine tauts some great N.C.-related items that would make nice gifts this holiday season.

Among them are a few things the Society has noted in the not-too-distant past, such as Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier and Hugh Morton, North Carolina Photographer.

Also noted are:

-Blueprint of a Lady: Sketches of Billie Holliday by Durham's Nnenna Freelong
-Fudge from the Orchard at Altapass
-Aunt Ruby's Peanuts
-a 100-stem bouquet of lavender from Sunshine Lavender Farm
-A Carolina Hurricanes "sweater"
-An ultimate flyer sled by Raleigh's Great Outdoor Provision Co.
-and much more.

Click here (and then go to page 48) for the rest of the holiday ideas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Schools get creative when teaching non-English-speaking students

Michael Abernethy with the Kinston Free Press has written a fantastic piece on how teachers statewide are dealing with a growing non-English-speaking population. The article focuses on teachers who appear to be just fine with the challenges.

"Like many teachers, Ramon Jones has adapted to teaching students who speak multiple languages," says the article.

"The La Grange Elementary second-grade teacher routinely uses hands-on activities and pictures to help students with vocabulary and concepts. He also pairs native English speakers and students who speak English as a Second Language (ESL) together for class work, play and other activities.

" 'Teaching ESL students isn’t a huge challenge. Sure, it’s something: It’s a barrier if they don’t know any English,' Jones said. 'But I’m up to the challenge.'

"State and federal law requires public schools to educate all students, regardless of language barriers. In recent years, No Child Left Behind has placed significant importance on educating students identified through testing as Limited English Proficient (LEP) by measuring schools on LEP students’ performance on state tests.

"This year, North Carolina added 14,000 LEP students, bringing the state total to 97,000 students. Most of that growth can be attributed to the growing Hispanic population. Between 1990 and 2004, 57 percent of public schools’ enrollment growth came from Hispanics. ..."

Read on for the rest of this fascinating piece.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

N.C.'s Yellow Poplars: The Redwoods of the East

Typically, each fall, I have the chance to venture to the western part of our state for work. It gives me a great opportunity to see the mountains in their autumnal glory.

Not this year. So, alas, I must rekindle memories of trips past.

One trip, several years ago, led me to Robbinsville, and to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, named for the "Trees" poet. (You know the one: "I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree...")

Within the Joyce Kilmer forest are Yellow Poplars that rise up to 115 feet, making them the largest trees east of the Mississippi and the third largest trees in the United States (behind the Redwoods and Sequoias).

Natural Adventures in the Mountains of Western North Carolina by Mary Ellen Hammond and Jim Parham is a book that every North Carolinian should own. It it, it features a chapter on Joyce Kilmer forest.

"A two-mile loop trail winds its way through a virgin forest where trees reach over 20 feet in circumference," says the book. "If you have enough people, see how many it takes to link hands and stretch around the largest of the trees. You'll be amazed as you find yourself dwarfed by one after another of these monsters."

Although, "monster" is probably not the right choice of word. These trees are magnificently beautiful giants.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Quick hits: Chimney Rock and the State of the Military

Still negotiating on Chimney Rock
"At this point in the game, the cards are played close to the vest," said the Asheville Citizen-Times.

" 'The negotiations are still going on — and they’re very active,' said Charlie Peek, spokesman for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, which is negotiating with the owners of Chimney Rock Park to buy the 1,000-acre property in Rutherford County.

"Chimney Rock Park Co. President Todd Morse declined to comment on negotiations but did say he has set no deadline for the state.

" 'Our desire is to keep this moving forward and take the time to make sure we’re satisfied with the decision,' said Morse, whose family has owned the park for a century. The public has access to about 550 acres of Chimney Rock Park, including the 315-foot-high chimney, a 404-foot-high waterfall and miles of hiking trails. ..."

New group is ready to fight for more military contracts
"North Carolina, which touts itself as the most military friendly state in the nation, is going after more military bucks," says the New Bern Sun-Journal.

"The state, which puts more boots on the ground than all but two other states as a result of its military bases, isn’t willing to settle for being 38th in the nation when it comes to military contracts. So Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue on Monday announced the formation of the N.C. Military Foundation, a group made up of high-ranking military retirees and business executives whose goal is to grow the state’s military economy.

" 'Thirty-eighth is simply not acceptable,' Perdue said.

"North Carolina ranks No. 38 in terms of military contracts as a percentage of the state’s economy, said Tim Crowley, Perdue’s spokesman. In actual military contract dollars spent, North Carolina ranks 25th, he said. ..."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Effort aimed at saving the reefs

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries wants your leftover oyster shells.


"Shuck them, add a spritz of lemon juice or hot sauce if desired and slurp them up, but don't forget to recycle what's left," writes the Greenville Daily Reflector. "That's the message to local oyster lovers from the state Division of Marine Fisheries, which is pushing an oyster shell recycling program."

The program began in 2003 and continues to grow. More than 10,000 bushels have been collected so far this year, and those involved with the program hope increased public awareness will increase that number. ...

To encourage people and restaurants to drop off their shells, a tax credit of $1 for every bushel of shells will go to those who recycle.

The article goes on to give terrific information about how to get involved.

New tax credit: Starting this year, a $1 tax credit will be offered for every bushel of shells dropped off for recycling at the county's transfer station.

If you are planning a large oyster roast: Contact Sabrina Varnam at (252) 726-7021, 1-800-682-2632 or to arrange for a trailer to collect the shells.

Help wanted: Volunteers are needed to maintain collection sites and pick up shells. Contact Varnam for more information.