Archive for May, 2010

Tar balls in N.C.

Friday, May 21st, 2010

A least some of BP’s massive oil leak in the Gulf is expected to enter the Gulf Loop and head up the East Coast, but officials investigating a clump of tar balls that washed up on Caswell Beach this week are saying they do not suspect its from the BP leak.

Brunswick Today: Coast Guard Checking the Beach for Tar Balls

Our Natural Gardens

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The 1967 edition of Naural Gardens

The North Carolina Botanical Garden has a wonderful exhibit up about B.W. Wells. It’s a great introduction to the man and his work.
Wells’ contribution to the preservation and scholarship of North Carolina’s natural world is a unique achievement for one person in one lifetime.
I’ll not dwell too much on the man’s biography as there have been many more able than myself who have more greatly described Wells and his impact.
Among them is Ken Moore, who has written extensively on his mentor. In taking up Ken’s advice to visit Wells’ homesite on the day of the annual celebration, I got at least a good grounding in what he was about. [You can see a slideshow of the site on the Almanac's flickr site here.]
The modest home and workspace are not the star attractions. The beauty of the place, now part of a state park, is in the lands that surround these structures. The Neuse River bends gracefully there and on the walk along the river, rock outcroppings jut out in places inviting one to pause, have a seat and watch the current flow and the birds work their way up and down the waterway.
We are much indebted to Wells for many years of service. Perhaps the most lasting of his accomplishments was helping us understand the variety of environments within our state’s borders. His book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina, first published in 1932, put the ecosystems and plant communities of the state in context.
Starting with the seaside plant communities, the book takes you on a tour west through the marshes, swamp forests, bogs, sandhills, grasslands, uplands, great forests and the high mountains. All along the way, Wells lays out in meticulous detail the formation and dynamics of the natural gardens within these regions. The work is scholarly, but not dry. He clearly has favorites among the species surveyed.

So let me suggest to my reader in the Piedmont that the next time you pass a broom-sedge field, pause a moment and in imagination picture the valueless areas of bare, red clay ridges running helter-skelter in all direction which would surely be there were it not for the early capture and preservation of the land by this grass, which holds it well and, in turn, eventually passes it over to the even better safekeeping of the forest. — Chapter VIII, Old Fields

You can pick up an updated version of Natural Gardens at the Garden or online through UNC Press. If you look hard enough and long enough in the used bookstores around town you can also find one of the precious old copies of the previous versions of Natural Gardens.

The origins of Cackalacky

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Here’s a wonderful story from last spring’s Carrboro Commons on the origins of the word Cackalacky. It’s one of those slang words that has spanned at least a couple of generations, maybe more.
Kudos to UNC journalism student Elizabeth Jensen for gathering the lore.

He said a lot of people have asked him where the name comes from, so he’s done his own research. He’s found a few foods and terms that sound remarkably similar to Cackalacky.

These include “kalacky,” an Eastern European sweet pastry filled with nuts, jam and fruit; “cock-a-leekie,” a traditional Scottish soup; and “chakalaka,” a spicy African relish.

White brackted sedge

Sunday, May 9th, 2010