A Sparkling Alternative

How carbonated water can bring your “mocktail” to the next level

By Tony Cross

At the beginning of the year, some folks embark on the journey known as “Dry January.” Maybe some of you reading this participated in — or should I say, endured? — a few weeks respite from consuming alcoholic beverages, giving your liver a much-needed holiday from the holidays. For those who did: You sure did miss a couple of great snow parties. Not that I was at any of them; I was taking a break from drinking, too. I’ve had a few this year, but that’s it. Just a few.

My business had its first full year in 2017, and we made a lot of strides. Even though I’m excited that we grew, the year was bittersweet. I lost my only brother at the end of 2016, and I spent a lot of last year looking through hazy eyes and going through the motions while trying to make sense of everything. I am a firm believer that sometimes it takes life knocking us down into the dirt before we can grasp what we’re capable of, allowing us to fight back. In a nutshell, that’s what happened with me. This year, I’ve started drinking less and working more. I even started teaching an Inferno Hot Pilates class in my spare time. Switching things up has allowed me to enjoy a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. I used to have a few on my menu way back when, and it’s always smart to have something — other than Diet Coke — available for guests when you’re hosting a party. I’ve gained a new appreciation for engineering (pretentious?) creative mocktails. Here are some simple and fun drinks when you’re taking a night (or a month) off.

There is one thing I have begun drinking more of: La Croix sparkling water. I can’t even tell you how excited I am to get home and have one these days. I hope that sentence doesn’t get me banned from the bartender’s union. These zero calorie, canned beverages have become a staple in my refrigerator. If I was going to throw a party, or someone asked me to be in charge of the bar at theirs, I would go the extra mile. Adding sparkling water into the mix with any drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) is never a bad idea. I mean, have you tried our carbonated draft cocktails? What you want to do is create your own base, whether it’s a syrup or juice combo. Now that spring is upon us, here’s a quick drink that you can whip up and serve made to order, or batch them like a punch. Using fresh cucumber juice this time of the year is perfect for creating light and refreshing elixirs. Add to that a touch of sugar, Pooter bitters from the folks over at Crude Bitters in Raleigh, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

The Pooter Cuke

Sliced lime

2 ounces fresh organic cucumber juice

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup (2:1)

5 drops Crude “Pooter” Smoke & Salt bitters*

4 ounces sparkling water

Add cubed ice to a Collins glass. Thinly slice lime wheels and put 3-4 of them in the glass. Combine ingredients (except sparkling water) in a shaker, add ice, and shake like hell for 5 seconds. Strain into Collins glass and top with sparkling water.

*If bitters is out of the question, just add a small pinch of Celtic salt. No substitutes on this one. Have you tried Celtic salt? No? Go pick up a bag and see what I mean. It’s amazing.

The gin and tonic is the essential summertime drink. But there are two things wrong with writing about this cocktail right now: 1) I’m trying to pass on great non-alcoholic recipes and; 2) It’s not summertime. Well, we can still have the tonic, minus the gin, and sometimes springtime in the South can be just as hot as other states’ summers. So, without further ado, the Blackberry Tonyc. Believe it or not, my tonic syrup holds its own without any booze, and the notes of orange-citrus complements quite a few types of fruit. Not only does the color turn out gorgeous in this one, but you might convert some tonic haters (speaking from experience here).

Blackberry Tonyc

3/4 ounce TONYC syrup

1/2 ounce blackberry syrup**

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

4 ounces sparkling water

Orange peel

Combine all ingredients (except sparkling water) into a shaker with ice and shake hard for 5 seconds. Pour sparkling water in shaker, and then strain into a glass with ice. Express the oils from an orange peel over the top of the drink. Place orange peel into drink afterward. Santé!

**Blackberry syrup: Wash and rinse 6 ounces fresh blackberries. Put them to the side. In a pot, combine 12 ounces baker’s sugar with 8 ounces water over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Place sugar syrup in a blender with blackberries. Blend for 10-15 seconds. Pour into a container, and seal. Place in refrigerator overnight. The next morning, strain the syrup through a cheesecloth. Bottle, seal and refrigerate. If you want this syrup to last more than a few weeks, add an ounce of 100-proof vodka to it.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.

Okra Strut

An ode to the South’s quintessential veggie

By Nan Graham

Ladies Fingers, gumbo or okra . . . the plant has many names and even more uses. Our okra, like many things Southern, is regarded by some as inferior, an essentially unworthy vegetable. We Southerners never remark, as some do, that it is “slimy.” It’s the same as saying that Aunt Tillie’s nose twitches after her fourth bourbon and branch water. In these parts, we tend to ignore such aberrations and avert the eyes.

Okra is a cousin to our emblematic cotton as well as the hibiscus and hollyhock. After the boll weevil decimated King Cotton, the pesky bug turned to okra for breakfast, lunch and supper. Travelers noted okra cultivation in Egypt as far back as 1216, so like most Southerners, okra likes to trace its lineage back a bit. Even today, okra grows wild in West Africa and in parts of India.

It has been popular in our neck of the woods since the 18th century . . . reported by Thomas Jefferson. Aside from its veggie status, whether fried, pickled or paired with onions and tomatoes or used to thicken stews, okra is extraordinarily versatile. During the Civil War, the benighted plant was used by Confederates as plasma and a blood extender. Unable to get coffee, they also made do with a hot drink made from okra seeds, which they pretended was a macchiato from Starbucks.

Possible future uses for okra include a particle board material that is better than material we use now, even chopped into feed for livestock and using roots and stems as fuel. It has been used “for making rope and producing paper.”

But wait until you hear the medicinal benefits. It’s a great low-calorie, zero-fat (unless fried) food. Also a super fiber additive, diuretic, and even contains a male contraceptive, gossypol. Wait, there’s more. Its laxative constituent feeds you good bacteria and slows the rate of sugar in the intestinal tract, stabilizing your blood sugar. Scientists claim that okra helps with acid reflux, and aids in controlling asthma.

It all sounds a bit like the snake-oil salesman in the Wizard of Oz, but studies are recognizing okra’s value. And your mental health is not ignored. Okra is said to be excellent for those feeling exhausted and experiencing depression. Okra seems to have something for everyone.

My husband, wearing his beloved pith helmet, planted a Victory Garden in our side yard. He especially prized his lush okra plants with its star-shaped leaves and spectacular white flowers. But in the sizzling July sun, the plants were prone to fainting . . . a case of the real Victorian vapors. Extra watering revived them for a while, but soon the heat exhaustion set in again, and the okra plants bent back on their stems in a full-out swoon.

Their gardener in his pith helmet devised a rescue plan — ingenious but bizarre. He gathered every umbrella in the house, tied each umbrella to a stake next to each distressed okra plant, and opened every umbrella. Yellows, green checks, fuchsia stripes and firehouse reds (even one red, black and white Mickey Mouse vinyl number) bloomed over the garden. Dazzling!

Passersby stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of the umbrella bouquet. All onlookers agreed it was a novel horticultural solution. Despite my Rube Goldberg’s heroic and theatrical efforts, the okra succumbed. The plants were taken off life support. The umbrellas were returned to their respective closets and automobiles. The day of the whimsical flowers was over . . . the riot of color . . . gone.

Okra, prone to be the object of jokes, seems to lend itself to the theater of the absurd. In Mississippi, Delta State University even has a Fighting Okra mascot . . . no fooling. The official mascot is the Statesman, which is slightly overcome with its own gravitas, especially in contrast to the overwhelming popularity of the zany Fighting Okra.

I think our Carolina cousins to the South may be on to something. The Okra Strut in Irmo, South Carolina, began in 1974 and every September offers a parade, crafts, fried okra, of course, and a highlight event called the Shoot-out at the Okra Corral . . . an eating contest featuring what else?

So if you have been sneering at this fuzzy vegetable, please give it a second chance. We all deserve one. And that old Southern standby might even become the new kale! PS

Nan Graham is a frequent contributor with unparalleled knowledge of the South.

Bold Is Beautiful

Surprises await inside a timeless exterior

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

If ever a house made beautiful music that house must be Stone Oaks Farm:

— The lilting remnants of an Irish brogue, from flame-haired Mary Dunlop, who chose crystal chandeliers for her kitchen.

— The Canadian inflection of crack golfer, hockey fan and guitarist Craig Dunlop.

— A duet of aboriginal art collectors.

— The echoes of grandchildren on summer vacation.

— The patriotic anthems of Craig and Mary’s mother countries.

— The purr of a foundling kitten who transitioned from barn to master bedroom.

— Everywhere, any time, music of many sorts from an indoor-outdoor sound system. Right now, country tunes top the playlist. “They make me feel like dancing,” Mary says. So Mary and Craig hopped over to Nashville — and danced.

— Should the house itself find a voice, only a bold, booming baritone would permeate 6,000 square feet on six acres, with terrace, pasture and barn. Because only bold folks would purchase a modest cottage and attach a 4,000-square-foot, three-story addition walled with 350,000 pounds of Tennessee fieldstone laid by a family of masons from Troy. That endeavor alone, crowned by a Celtic knot, took a year. The result deserves a  historic places marker. As for time and expense, Craig has no regrets. “There’s nothing as timeless and classic as stone.”

The Dunlop’s ballad rings familiar.

“We’ve been coming to Pinehurst for years,” Mary begins. Both are serious golfers. They kept a small house, sufficient for getaways. Then, out for a drive one fine day in 2004 they came upon the cottage, built in 1929, tucked behind massive pin oaks on Midland Road. They bought it immediately with the intention of creating a family homestead that looked the part. Never mind they were living in Milan, with an apartment in Paris. Previous addresses have included Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton. After cruel Alberta winters, Pinehurst was paradise.

“Until now, I’ve never lived in one place for more than six years,” Mary says.

Another two years passed before they occupied Stone Oaks. By then, a cottage of unknown provenance had become the core from which a new residence radiated.

First-timers on a walkthrough had better leave a trail of breadcrumbs or arm their GPS. The floor plan is complicated.

Mary starts in the kitchen, accessed by a long outdoor gallery (don’t trip over the rocking chairs) leading to the three-car garage over which hang American, Canadian and Irish flags beneath a Celtic knot. According to a commemorative pillow, the couple became American citizens on Oct. 28, 2016. “I love kitchens but I hate to cook,” says Mary. She pored over magazines until finding the right design: two islands, one granite-topped for the sink and breakfast bar, the other with a chopping surface of polished African Iroko wood.  Above the range, a backsplash of Irish Connemara marble. Dark beams match the cabinets, some stained black. A double-wide stainless fridge, a desk and combination pantry-coat closet, bar and butler’s pantry, two dishwashers and numerous ovens facilitate entertaining.

Mary couldn’t decide on lighting fixtures until the crystal chandeliers caught her eye at Pottery Barn. She likes “quirky,” best illustrated by original wooden street signs from Pinehurst, which she found at the dump. Now, they border the ceiling in kitchen and sunroom.

“This was the living room,” Mary says of her dining room long enough to accommodate a 12-foot table of stained wood planks on a central support, “so nobody gets their legs tangled up underneath.” On the walls, Canadian paintings of startling form and color; some appear lifted from Stravinsky’s The Firebird ballet, others from an anthropology textbook. Across from the dining room what had been a tiny bedroom now serves as a petite parlor with white damask-upholstered pieces, pale avocado walls and rug plus a second quirk: artsy photos of cigar smokers’ heads, old and wizened. “We saw them in a Paris restaurant . . . the owner told us where to find (the photographer),” Mary recalls. On the mantel facing the smokers stands a delicate antique clock belonging to Mary’s mother — or a French king.

Photographs, hundreds, hang everywhere. Besides chronicling family history on all four walls of a powder room, they commemorate athletic and professional achievements. One corner is devoted to musicians — Elvis, The Beatles and, as a joke, Justin Bieber. The sunroom features a Tiger Woods retrospective and more hockey.

If the parlor looks seldom-used, not so Mary’s “place,” a clubby den with wood paneling, bookshelves, oversized leather chairs, fishing trophies and assorted golf memorabilia. Yes, that’s Craig with Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, also Canadian parliamentarians and golf notables. Mary feels comfortable here, especially when Craig is away:  “I walk in, put my feet up, turn on the fire, pour a glass of wine . . .” and relax.

Upstairs dormer guest bedrooms on the cottage side are a nice size, decorated traditionally. Cross over into the addition and everything gets bigger. Much bigger. The Big Room (usually described as “great” or “family”) with more built-in bookcases, a three-story vaulted ceiling with skylights, exposed rafters and beams, a circular candle fixture suspended from the apex, stone fireplace with raised hearth, maroon brocade on sofas and chairs set a Tudor tone contradicted only by an enormous folk-art painting leaning on the mantel.  Side walls are entirely paned windows and doors, providing light to offset the dark woods. On either side stand dining room tables, one from Mary’s family, the other from Craig’s.

“We like stairs,” is Mary’s explanation for the open staircase with balcony over the Big Room, leading to the master suite: a bed-sitting room with fireplace, a quirky three-legged coffee table made from a tree trunk cross section, an unusual tiled shower room (no messy glass enclosures). Finally, Craig’s man cave extraordaire, with fitness equipment, steam and sauna, guitar display, office nook and bear skin with head, taken down by Craig himself, in Ontario.

Mary’s confluence of décor styles is her own, unassisted by professionals. Furnishings in storage during their European sojourn have traveled from High Point to Canada and now back to Southern Pines. Enhancing these are two stunning family heirloom sideboards, various tables and an antique rocking chair belonging to Mary’s mother, reupholstered in a leopard print — delightfully quirky.

“We live outside in the summer,” Mary says, when their two daughters and four grandchildren arrive for six weeks. The terrace garden with pathways, raised beds and fire pit once hosted a Rooster’s Wife-style concert. This postcard needs horses leaning over the paddock fence. For a while, the Dunlops boarded a few but no more. Instead, Mary has installed a vegetable garden that supplies the kitchen when she — or someone else — cooks. “I’ve forgotten how,” she says.

Stone Oaks is a home not only of voices but layers representing well-traveled lives. Along with eclectic art and furnishings Mary is not above levity, as in a ceramic figurine on the hall table, titled “Happily Dying of Chocolate.” The wood in the sunroom may have been rescued from a local barn but posters along the porch tease “Asylum for the Insane, Evaluation Center.” Giant glass and papier mâché pears adorn side tables in the Great Room. Mary boldly hangs Picasso’s familiar Girl Before a Mirror over a king-sized sleigh bed.

Even the land speaks for itself. Longleaf pines are absent, replaced by mature banks of rhododendron. The gnarled trunk of an ancient pin oak dominating the circular driveway resembles an elephant hide. Ivy entwines other trees. “What I wanted was a comfortable, friendly, warm home, nothing antiseptic or pretentious,” Craig maintains. He likes that every room can be a separate living space, with its own personality. “I needed a home able to absorb my junk. Walls covered with things and pictures add comfort.”

Mary concurs: “I didn’t want perfection, just a place where if you spill some wine, it’s OK.”

Not to worry — there’s plenty more in the 600-bottle temperature-controlled wine cabinet. There’s probably a song for that, too, although more likely Frank Sinatra than Garth Brooks.  PS


If the flowering cherry tree could speak, she wouldn’t tell of her own beauty.

Words could never capture it.

But with her powder soft voice, she might sing of the garden: banksia rose spilling over with fragrant yellow blooms; copper mobile, whirling beneath the redbud; foxglove, swooning from the tender kiss of the nectar-drunk hummingbird.

She might sing of bluebirds or violets or kissing in the rain.

Or maybe she does.

Yes, can’t you hear her? Voice like a siren. Sultry as a whisper at the nape of your neck.


She serenades the squirrel babes, blind and naked, whose mother built their nest with stuffing from the neighbor’s patio cushions.

At twilight, she hums low while the pregnant doe clears a row of tulips sweet as candy. 

Sunny jonquils harmonize with whippoorwill — Look-at-me! Look-at-me! — but the deer moseys onward.

As cherry maiden stifles laughter, all the world sings back.

Carrot Bloody Mary (Serves 4)


32 ounces carrot juice

8 ounces vodka

6 ounces pickle juice

juice from one-half lemon

5 dashes Worcestershire sauce

3 teaspoons crab seasoning (more for rimming)

3 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons dill

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons horseradish

2 teaspoons hot sauce (modify by your heat preference)


Add all ingredients into a pitcher, then stir until combined.

Slide the flesh of a lemon around the rim of each pint glass, then place the rims onto a plate of crab seasoning to lace them.

Fill pint glasses with ice, then pour the carrot juice mixture over top. — garnish with pickled vegetables, celery, or tomatoes. Enjoy!

While the Azalea’s Still Blooming . . .

Plant the eggplants, beets and melons! Pumpkins, squash, green beans and peppers! And if you’re looking for a down-home summer — the white bread and black pepper type — sew the cukes and maters in the soft, cool earth.

Asparagus Season

Greek myth tells that spring is when Demeter, mother-goddess of harvest and fertility, celebrates the six-month return of her beautiful daughter, Persephone (goddess of the Underworld), by making the earth lush and fruitful once again.

But what on earth did she do with all those tender green shoots of asparagus? Quiche. Soup. Risotto. Frittata. Asparagus custard tart . . .

In the spirit of Easter (Sunday, April 1),
how about a festive beverage to serve up with that asparagus-studded brunch?

And don’t forget all those garden parties
this month.

The ancient Celts looked to the trees for knowledge and wisdom. According to Celtic tree astrology, those born from April 15 to May 12 associate with willow, an enchanted tree that symbolizes love, fertility, beauty and grace. Creative, patient and highly intuitive, willow people are mystical by nature. They are most compatible with birch (December 24 to January 20) and ivy (September 30 to October 27) signs.


Live After 5

Live After 5 returns to Tufts Memorial Park Friday, April 13, with music, dancing, food, beer, wine and fun activities for the kids. The event is free, and you are invited to bring picnic baskets if you want but, please, no outside alcoholic beverages. Beer, wine and other beverages will be available at the park for purchase, in addition to food from Jason’s Mini Donuts and What’s Fore Lunch food trucks. The band will be Night Years. Don’t forget your lawn chairs, blankets and dancing shoes. The fun begins at 5:30 p.m., and continues until 9 p.m. Tufts Memorial Park is located at 1 Village Green Road W., in Pinehurst. For more information, call (910) 295-1900.

Meet the Author

In Frances Mayes’ new book, Women in Sunlight, three middle-aged, American women, Camille, Julia, and Susan, meet at an orientation for an active lifestyle community and decide to lease a villa in Italy. When they make friends with their American neighbor, Kit, the women begin to see new potential for themselves, rediscovering their sense of adventure over the course of a year in the land of la dolce vita. Mayes will be at The Country Bookshop on Thursday, April 12, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the book, answer questions, and sign copies. Stop by, meet and get inspired by “the Bard of Tuscany,” author of Under the Tuscan Sun and much more. The Country Bookshop is located at 140 N.W. Broad St., in Southern Pines. Call (910) 692-3211 for more information.

Blues & Brews: A Festival at the Farm

Malcolm Blue Farm is a living history farm dating back to the early 19th century when the Sandhills area was known as the Pine Barrens. A visit to the farmstead and museum will give you a rare glimpse into the life of early settlers and on Saturday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., you’ll get to enjoy a day of bluegrass performances by Tommy Edwards Bluegrass Experience, Unspoken Tradition, Time Sawyer, and Songs From The Road Band. You can stroll around the beautiful grounds, shaded by 100-year-old Darlington oaks as you enjoy the music and festival. Beer, cider and food will be available for purchase. Admission is $5. The Malcolm Blue Farm is located at 1177 Bethesda Road, Aberdeen. For more information, call (910) 944-7275.

Annual Home & Garden Tour

The Southern Pines Garden Club celebrates its 70th anniversary by inviting you into six gracious homes, enhanced by inspiring floral arrangements, and lovely gardens. The tour, on Saturday, April 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., includes “Loblolly” (the Lancaster Home), designed for Helen Boyd Dull, a Garden Club founder; the Saulnier Home, designed by Alfred B. Yeomans, a nationally renowned landscape architect who helped shape the Weymouth neighborhood in the late 1800s; and Liscombe Lodge in Pinehurst, once the home of Gen. George Marshall. Tickets are available at The Country Bookshop, The Sandhills Woman’s Exchange or www.southernpinesgardenclub.com, and are $20 in advance or $25 the day of, and include an orchid sale, a Pinehurst Resort greenhouse tour and restaurant discounts. All proceeds go toward community beautification and horticultural education projects. The tour begins at the Campbell House, 482 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines. For more information, call (910) 690-1440.

The Miracle Worker

As a baby, Helen Keller was stricken with an illness that left her blind and deaf. As a young child, she was nearly feral. Yet she grew up to graduate cum laude from Radcliffe College and become an influential social and political activist and inspirational role model. The story of that transformation, made possible by her teacher, Annie Sullivan, is told in William Gibson’s play The Miracle Worker.

Judson Theatre Company brings The Miracle Worker to the stage at Owens Auditorium from Thursday through Sunday, April 12 to 15. The production stars John James, from TV’s Dynasty series, and New York actors Lea DiMarchi as Annie Sullivan and Allison Podlogar as Helen Keller. Owens Auditorium is located on the Sandhills Community College campus, at 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. Tickets are $38 in advance and $43 at the door. Student, military and SCC discounts are available at the door. For show times and tickets, visit www.judsontheatre.com.

Southern Pines Springfest

On Saturday, April 28, more than 160 vendors from North Carolina and beyond will entice you with their beautiful paintings, jewelry, metal art, photography, woodwork, designs from nature, and more. For your entertainment, there will be games, rides, food and live music. Activities for kids abound on the Kid’s Block; and the Youth Bike Races for children 10 and under will have kids competing on their bikes, tricycles and Big Wheels. Sponsored by the Southern Pines Business Association and the Town of Southern Pines, the day of spring festivities happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. along both sides of Broad Street in historic downtown Southern Pines. For more information, call (910) 315-6508. And don’t forget Springfest at Shaw House, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the corner of Morganton and Broad St., where tours and activities will be free for the day.

The Carolina Cabaret

Enjoy the Carolina Philharmonic’s “Broadway Cabaret” starring Jeff Kready, a suave song and dance man who appeared in A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder and Billy Elliott the Musical and Megan McGinnis, who debuted on Broadway in The Diary of Anne Frank and played Beth in the musical Little Women. With David Michael Wolff hosting from the keyboard, Jeff and Megan will take you on a journey through some of your favorite melodies, interlaced with riveting backstories. You can catch this intimate performance at either 3 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, at Owens Auditorium, Sandhills Community College, 3395 Airport Road, Pinehurst. Tickets range from $30 to $60, with discounts for students and active military. For more information, call  (910) 687-0287 or visit www.carolinaphil.org.

A Spirited Evening of Music

On Wednesday, April 4, the Southern Pines Sister Cities, under the musical direction of Baxter Clement, will present a community concert with local and Irish teen musicians. As part of the Sister Cities International Music Exchange Program, students from the Southern Pines area traveled to Ireland to study Irish music and perform, and the music students from Newry, Mourne and Down District of Northern Ireland are coming here to do the same. Come to the Sunrise Theater, enjoy the music and offer some warm Southern hospitality to these young visitors. The performance is free and starts at 7 p.m. The Sunrise Theater is located at 250 N.W. Broad St., Southern Pines. Call (910) 315-4323 for more information.

Greenus Envious

Tips from the tried and failed

By Susan S. Kelly

So it’s finally a warm weekend in spring, and you long to have something to pick, prune, pluck or even deadhead in your yard, garden, or the scorched-earth, weed-whacked plot that passes for it.  But you’re too busy or lazy to learn Latin names, and it’s embarrassing to go to the garden center and say, “I want those, you know, pink flowers that are tall,” or “ . . . that tree that looks pretty in the spring.”

Herewith, therefore, your tried-and-true primer, from someone whose personal dirt’s worth is incalculable due to all the tried-and-failed specimens I purchased, trucked in, planted, tended, and either rejoiced or mourned over. Or, alternatively, ripped out, chopped down, and consigned to the mulch pile. Because, in my yard, like professors seeking tenure, you either produce or perish.

Magnolia — Best climbing tree ever. But as a flower, forget it. The blooms are never low enough to cut, and besides, they only last a day. Leave it alone and just sniff the blooms big as plates. Come fall, your children can play army with the seedpods.

Gardenia — Only reliable if you live east of Raleigh. As for picked longevity, ditto the one-day warning above. Touch the vanilla petals and your invisible skin oils will brown them not invisibly. Heavenly aroma, though I rejected them in my wedding bouquet because the overpowering sweetness tends to provoke a gag reflex.  Still, nice in a teacup or that silver scallop shell your grandmother used as an ashtray.

Camellia —  Cannot be picked or arranged satisfactorily. For viewing only. Bonus: unlike azaleas, stay glossy green all year.

Orange daylilies — My neighbor calls them “privy lilies,” presumably because folks once planted them to beautify the outhouse. But they beat the heck out of the stubby gold hybrids planted in interstate medians. Go for it.

Queen Anne’s lace — Field and roadside freebies, but bring them inside and they proceed to shed fine white dust all over everything.

Marigolds — Often dumped upon as plebeian blooms, but for this commoner, nothing smells as good as one of their stems, broken.

Cleome — Pink, pretty, proliferous, and self-seeding. What else could you ask for in an airy weed that loves neglect, red clay, and 1,000-degree days? In late summer, take the seeds to the office, to a friend, or, for that matter, to another place in the yard. Strew with abandon.

Black-eyed Susans — As the Chatham Blanket tagline once boasted, they cover a multitude of sins. Require little effort and even less skill to stuff in a glass, metal or pottery container. Do not disparage that which can withstand full sun when you can’t. You call them invasive, I call them indispensable.

Knockout roses —  The Johnny-come-lately “it” flowering shrub. Utterly unpickable, but compensates for this shortcoming in sheer size and volume.

Peonies — The ultimate bloomer. Often disqualified for, as the farmers like to say, seasonality, but worth the wait, the space and the ants. Go ahead, gird your loins, and bring yourself to cut and enjoy them before a 20-minute thunderstorm causes irreparable loss and gnashing of teeth.

Hydrangeas — Bingo! Once upon a time, my mother referred to hydrangeas as “trash shrubs.” I love this. Or rather, I love reminding her of this now that no one can live without them.

Ivy — Just, no. You’ll be sorry. Plus, snakes like it. Use pachysandra instead.

There you have it. No more feeling humiliated by Biltmore with its perfect planters and borders and gardens featuring every floral texture and contrast and interest which nevertheless are superior to previously-envied Disney World’s planters and borders and gardens. Because Biltmore’s flowers actually grow, rather than simply get replaced by Snow White’s 426 dwarves every night.

Or, how not to waste your time or money on What Won’t Work Because We’re Not England.  PS

Susan Kelly is a blithe spirit, author of several novels, and proud new grandmother.

Bone Broth

Hot, healthful and nutritious

By Karen Frye

There is a strong resurgence of foods that were consumed many years ago by our ancestors. Our grandmothers made use of every part of the chicken, cow or pig in their recipes. They grew the vegetables, had fruit growing seasonally, and picked wild berries. They milked their own cows, and made their own butter. They were extremely resourceful, and creative, and worked tirelessly with love to prepare meals for the family.

Making soup is one of the best ways to utilize ingredients to make a delicious, healthful meal. Nourishing broths go back to the Stone Age. Soup is a true universal food, and the variations are endless and easy to prepare. Bone broth is one of the oldest and has resurfaced as a food highly beneficial to our health. It contains valuable amino acids, collagen, gelatin and minerals. Many of the nutrients in bone broth are not found in other foods.

Protein in the broth helps build muscles, strong bones and new cells in the body. It is one of the very best sources of natural collagen, which helps support healthy cartilage and connective tissue. Collagen helps form elastin within the skin to maintain youthful appearance, slowing the formation of wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Gelatin heals the gut and increases the growth of beneficial bacteria. The amino acid glutamine is a wonderful healer for the intestines and many digestive issues. It also aids in detoxification while helping the liver function better as it removes toxins. Bone broth is highly beneficial in boosting the immune system and increasing metabolism. In fact, if consumed on a regular basis, it can help all systems and functions throughout the body.

Bone broth can be made at home using grass-fed chicken or beef bones, organic carrots, celery, onions and leeks. Adding some seaweed boosts the trace minerals in the broth. Chef Sueson Vess is our local expert in preparing healthy foods. She regularly teaches classes on broth making and gluten-free foods. Check out her website, specialeats.com. She will walk you through the steps of making a delicious bone broth.

You can drink the bone broth as a hot beverage, and you can use it as a base for other soups. You can also find bone broth powders to add to smoothies. Increasingly, research bolsters the case for its amazing health benefits. It’s a tasty and delicious health food that could improve the quality of your life, too.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

Mysteries of the Swamp

A supernatural risk for John Hart

By D.G. Martin

John Hart, who grew up in Salisbury, is the author of five New York Times best-sellers, The King of Lies (2006), Down River (2007), The Last Child (2009), Iron House (2011) and Redemption Road (2016).

Both The King of Lies and Down River won Edgar Awards, making Hart the only author to win this prestigious award for consecutive novels. He has a bag full of other honors, including the Barry Award, the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Award for Fiction, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, the Southern Book Prize, and the North Carolina Award for Literature.

Hart declares his favorite of all these successes is the The Last Child. So it should come as no surprise that his latest, The Hush, is a sequel to that book.

Readers of The Last Child met Johnny Merriman as a 13-year-old, followed his search for his missing sister and his traumatic childhood, and came to know his troubled friend Jack. In The Hush, as Hart explained to me recently, Johnny “is living alone in the wilds of this swampy area called the Hush, which is an abbreviation for Hush Arbor, an area of 6,000 acres of rough, mostly swampland. Johnny is the owner. It is the remnant of a 40,000-acre tract that his family owned in the 1800s.

“He is withdrawn from society and lives in the swamp, by himself. His only connection to humanity really is his buddy Jack, from The Last Child. Jack is now a young attorney in town in his first week in practice when the book opens. It’s what he’s always wanted to do, to take control of his tumultuous life and get that kind of logic and reason, wrap his hands around that and live by those standards.

“But it becomes very difficult for him because the more time he spends with Johnny in the Hush, the more he begins to fear that things are not as they should be. There are mysterious things afoot in the swamp, terrifying things, dangerous things that Johnny is unwilling to talk about.

“Jack pushes, Johnny is recalcitrant, so part of the tension in the story is what grows between these two best friends as Johnny clearly is guarding some sort of secret that terrifies his best friend, and he flat out refuses to discuss it. That’s a big part of the book, what’s going on in the Hush.”

Hart introduces existence of the supernatural powers in the Hush gently. After a terrible fall from a rocky cliff on the property, Johnny is cut, bruised and bloody. Back in town for a quick visit, Johnny allows his stepfather, Clyde, to bind up these serious wounds, and then hurries to leave and go back to the Hush.

Clyde says, “You want to go, I know. I can see that, too. It’s always Hush Arbor, always the land. Just tell me one thing before you leave. Help me understand. Why do you love it so much?”

Hart writes, “He meant the silence and the swamp, the lonely hills and endless trees. On the surface it was a simple question, but Johnny’s past had branded him in a way few could ignore: the things he’d believed and leaned upon, the way he’d searched so long for his sister. If Johnny spoke now, of magic, they’d think him confused or insane or trapped, somehow, in the delusions of a difficult past. Without living it, no one could grasp the truth of Hush Arbor. Johnny wouldn’t want them to if they could.”

But some part of that magic is revealed to Jack when he visits Johnny in the Hush a few days later. Although Clyde had described Johnny’s horrible wounds, they were not apparent to Jack. Johnny “was shirtless and still and flawless. There wasn’t a mark on him.”

The reader who might have expected the usual John Hart thriller is on alert. Magic and the supernatural are going to play a big role in this saga.

Unraveling and understanding the source and the reasons for this magical power on the land provide the spine on which Hart builds this book.

But as the book begins, Johnny faces another serious challenge, a non-magical one. His title to his land is being challenged by a member of an African-American family who lived on the land for many years and whose claim is based on a deed from 1853. Johnny’s legal claim is sound, but he used all his money to pay prior legal fees. Now, although he owns thousands of acres of land, cash-wise he is broke. So he wants his friend, the brand-new attorney Jack, to represent him.

He tries to persuade Jack to fight his legal battles. But Jack’s law firm forbids him from taking on Johnny as a client. Instead, the firm hopes to represent a wealthy out-of-town money manager and hunter who wants to force Johnny to sell his land, or failing that, find another way to acquire it. Why? The hunting in and near the Hush is dangerous, exciting, and promises the possibility of extraordinary game. When that man is mysteriously killed while hunting in the Hush, Johnny becomes a prime murder suspect. Meanwhile, some members of the African-American family that lived on the land show magical powers, especially while they are in the Hush. Traumatic events in 1853 involving Johnny’s slave-owning ancestors and those of the African-American enslaved family still cause trouble on the land.

Hart’s imaginative resolution of these troubles brings the book to a powerful and violent conclusion.

But there is a risk here for Hart. His prior books have, with only one minor exception, held to the standard rules for thriller writers. Those rules call for the mysteries to be solved without the aid of magic or the supernatural.

Hart is betting that the richness of his characters, his compelling storytelling, and the story’s supernatural landscape will hold his thriller fans despite breaking his old rules. Taking this risk, he hopes, will expand his appeal and share his storytelling talent with an even wider audience.

Taking risks, even those with high stakes, is not a new activity for Hart.

In fact, he seems to thrive on risk. For instance, he gave up his job as a stockbroker about 15 years ago to complete his first novel. That risk-taking paid off when The King of Lies became a best-seller in 2006.

Then Hart, after a string of three more successful books, risked upsetting his working routine by moving with his wife and two young children from Greensboro to Charlottesville, Virginia. Although the move disrupted his writing program for several years, it finally led to Redemption Road, which became a critical and commercial success. His completion of  The Hush shows that Hart is fully back on his game.

Now, will the risk of making the supernatural an integral part of his work pay off for him?

Nothing is for sure.

However, the complex and rich stories in The Hush and the book’s supernatural but satisfying conclusion suggest that he is again on the right track. PS

D.G. Martin hosts North Carolina Bookwatch, which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

The Raynor Touch

Remembering Donald Ross’ greatest rival

By Lee Pace

Golfers in these parts speak of Donald Ross as if he’s a next-door neighbor or first cousin. And why not? Just a few generations ago, he was building seven golf courses in Moore County, running the Pine Crest Inn and hopping the nearest train to head south to Palm Beach or north to Rochester to lay out another showpiece. In North Carolina alone, you can’t sling a 7-iron without landing on a Ross design.

That said and his immense talents acknowledged, how fun might it have been for the golf world if Ross, who designed an estimated 385 courses over nearly half a century, had had to compete mano a mano with another architect with a similar background in agronomy and construction?

Someone like Seth Raynor, for example?

In 1923, officers at the Country Club of Charleston were moving their course from a site north of the city to a new location on James Island, just across the Ashley River from the Battery. They retained Olmsted Brothers landscape designers, the second-generation offshoot from the esteemed Frederick Law Olmsted, to develop a master plan, and one letter from Olmsted staff to club leadership read as follows:

“Suggestions.  (1) Golf Architect: Ross best known so his name probably has best advertising value. Raynor or some other good architect (Strong) probably easier to get when you want him and fees perhaps a little less.”

Raynor got the job there and another concurrent assignment at a new course being planned a dozen miles inland, Yeamans Hall Club. He designed both concurrently, and the Country Club course opened in May 1925 and Yeamans Hall in November.

Ross was prolific designing courses in the mid-to-late 1920s during stout economic times. But so was Raynor. His schedule in early 1926 was reflective of his popularity and the innate desire of any industrious businessman to take on as much work as reasonable.

Raynor’s first trip in early 1926 took him from his home on Long Island west to California by train. From there he took a boat to and from the island of Hawaii, then journeyed back across the nation by train to Florida. Under construction amid the palm trees of Oahu was Waialae Country Club, and within the dense forests of the California coast was the Dunes Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. There was a new venture at Monterey to plan for as well — an elite club to be known as Cypress Point. Raynor had been approached for the job through his Eastern connections with Marion Hollins, the 1921 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion who was tapped by Cypress  Point founder Samuel Morse to help plan and develop the club. In Florida, Raynor had already designed and built nine holes at the Everglades Club for Paris Singer, the heir to the sewing machine fortune, and his visit in early 1926 would be to fine-tune a new 18-hole layout for Singer to be known as North Palm Beach Country Club (it now exists as a Jack Nicklaus-signature course with no remnants of Raynor’s work).

The intense physical toll manifested itself on the train trip east when Raynor developed fever, coughing and chills — he had contracted pneumonia. He checked into the Helen Wilkes Resident Hotel in Palm Beach and died on Jan. 22, 1926. He was 51 years old.

“It was too much travel, too much work, too little relaxation,” one of his relatives later lamented.

One obituary notice in his hometown paper in Suffolk County, N.Y., was brief but lauded Raynor for his place in golf. “Mr. Raynor was internationally known for his genius in laying out golf courses and overcoming engineering obstacles in his work.”

And this from a tribute in the Metropolitan Golfer written by Gould Martin:

“It is the irony of life that every once in a while one who has risen to the very top of his chosen profession passes away from this existence with almost no contemporary notice. Seth J. Raynor was not only at the top of his profession but he was an artist, indeed a genius as well.”

And to think: Raynor developed these skills and nuances in a sport he didn’t play as a child and never even remotely mastered as an adult. He claimed that if he played too much golf, his courses would become too easy. He felt the ideal links should not come down to the playing level of a poor golfer.

Raynor actually worked less than two full decades in golf course design and construction, roughly half that time as an associate of Charles Blair Macdonald and the rest under his own shingle. He’s credited with nearly 50 designs by Ron Whitten and Geoffrey Cornish in their book The Golf Course, and four of his courses are listed in the Golf Digest Top 100 rankings for 2017-18 — Fishers Island, Camargo, Shore Acres and Yeamans Hall, as is one he was intimately involved in building for Macdonald, National Golf Links, and another he remodeled years later, Chicago Golf Club.

Macdonald in 1906 decried the lack of sophisticated golf venues in the States, saying, “As yet we have no first-class golf course comparable with the classic golf courses in Great Britain and Ireland.” He proposed to solve the problem himself by buying land on the eastern extreme of Long Island and building a links-style course that would become the National Golf Links of America. Macdonald knew golf and he knew great holes. But he didn’t know construction, drainage, agronomy or greenkeeping.

“It was imperative I secure an associate, one well-educated with wide engineering capabilities, including surveying, companionable, with a fine sense of humor, but above all, earnest and ideally honorable. Such a man I found in Seth J. Raynor,” Macdonald said of retaining Raynor in 1907 to survey the site for his new course.

Raynor was born in Manorville, N.Y., and studied engineering at Princeton. He worked for himself as a land surveyor and landscaper in Southampton when Macdonald brought him into the National project — first to survey the land and then with an invitation to supervise construction once Macdonald learned of Raynor’s skills and meticulous work ethic.

“He scarcely knew a golf ball from a tennis ball when we first met,” Macdonald said, “and although he never became much of an expert in playing golf, the facility with which he absorbed the feeling which animates old and enthusiastic golfers to the manner born was truly amazing, eventually qualifying him to discriminate between a really fine hole and an indifferent one.”

Macdonald’s goal with the National was to help expose Americans to a quality golf experience like they would find overseas, and one of his ideas was to take the concepts for the well-known holes in Britain and adapt and tweak them for particular sites in the States. They became known as “template holes,” and Raynor would carry on the philosophy when he hung his own shingle in 1915 after Macdonald retired. Among them were the Short, Eden, Redan, Bottle, Sahara, Cape, Alps and many others.

Architect Tom Doak in his foreword to George Bahto’s book The Evangelist of Golf, the Story of Charles Blair McDonald, observed that “playing a course by Raynor or Macdonald is like visiting an old best friend — the familiarity returns almost instantly, even if you have never seen it before!”

Doak wondered if he was a hypocrite for finding it distasteful when modern architects repeat their own work while acknowledging a fondness when Macdonald and Raynor did the same thing. But he noted a distinct difference.

“Macdonald and Raynor were paying homage to a classic form, and at the same time, trying to devise improvements to it based on the local situation,” Doak wrote.

Raynor met with fortuitous timing in spreading his design wings after leaving Macdonald, as the United States was reaping the financial rewards of the Industrial Revolution and enjoying the heady economic times of the Roaring ’20s. Golf was growing in popularity, and Ross was handling a myriad of jobs, including the Pine Needles and Mid Pines projects in Southern Pines. There was plenty of work to go around.

Imagine what Seth Raynor might have accomplished had he not died so young.

“Sad to say he died ere his prime,” Macdonald wrote. “Raynor was a great loss to the community, but a still greater loss to me. I admired him from every point of view.”  PS

Chapel Hill-based writer Lee Pace is currently working on a history book for the Country Club of Charleston, set to be released prior to the club hosting the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

Fine Feathers

The unmistakable yellow-rumped warbler arrives with spring

By Susan Campbell

The days are getting longer, the temperatures are rising and the birds are definitely paying attention! More specifically, their hormones are reacting to increased daylight and the males are beginning to advertise their wares in preparation for the breeding season. Even some of our lingering winter visitors are becoming more noticeable as they sport brighter colors and begin to sing. The yellow-rumped warbler happens to be a shining example.

Yellow-rumpeds are a bird of the pine forests in summertime, but in winter they can be found all along the East Coast and throughout the Southern U.S. From mid-November until late April, they are quite common everywhere in North Carolina. As spring approaches, the birds acquire distinctive bright black and white plumage with splashes of yellow. The rump is indeed brightly colored as are the “shoulders” and the crown. These little birds, that previously may have gone undetected in your neighborhood, will turn into flashy little songsters with a beautiful warble that is now hard to ignore.

Yellow-rumped warblers, who are mainly insectivorous during the summer months, find plenty of small insects here in the central part of the state even in the colder months. Yellow-rumpeds will grab flies and midges in mid-air, beetles and spiders in thick vegetation. But they are also known for their adaptability when it comes to feeding. In addition to a variety of invertebrates that may be active in wet habitat, berries are a staple of the birds’ diet. In fact, their digestive system is such that they can consume wax myrtle and bayberry fruits. This is why you may hear these little birds referred to as “myrtle” warblers. Such adaptable foraging behavior allows these birds to winter considerably farther north than other warbler species in the United States. Furthermore, they will also visit feeding stations where suet or dried fruit or jelly are offered. And if they happen upon a hummingbird or oriole feeder, they’ll even drink sugar water.

If you visit the coast in the winter, you will likely come across huge flocks of these little birds. Their incessant “check” calls and flitting from branch to branch will give them away. As seasoned birdwatchers know, other unexpected species like blue-headed and white-eyed vireos and warblers such as black-and-white or palm may be occasionally mixed in these congregations. Careful sorting of these energetic small songbirds can be rewarding! Although it may take scrutinizing dozens and dozens of yellow-rumpeds before something different comes into view, it can be worth the effort. Regardless, enjoy these colorful little critters — soon they’ll take wing and head to the North.  PS

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos at susan@ncaves.com.