Georgia on My Mind

Fond flashbacks from Augusta

By Jim Moriarty

In April, every golfer’s fancy turns to the Masters. In 1979 Fuzzy Zoeller and I were both rookies. Fuzzy won the Masters. I got to meet Dan Jenkins. The late, legendary Jenkins, hisownself, spent well over a year of his 90, in Augusta, Georgia, one week at a time, writing about everyone from Ben Hogan to Jordan Spieth.

Dan’s Mount Everest of attendance is well beyond anything I could contemplate but I was there for some big moments: Jack Nicklaus in ’86; Ben Crenshaw in ’95; all of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Toss in a Ballesteros, a Spieth and a Faldo or two and it was a good run. As precious as those memories are, there is something equally satisfying about the little moments, away from the fist pumping and Mickelson jumping.

There was no microphone to record Justin Leonard on the par 5 second hole — the exact year escapes me — when he went for the back left pin placement in two, landed on the green and watched as his ball finished up on the embankment among the patrons, Augusta’s oh so civilized word for badge-wielding spectator. When a ball skitters in amongst the punters at the Masters everyone knows exactly what to do. They stand, fold their chairs ever so politely and back away to form a perfect semi-circle around the player, ball and caddie.

When the pin is in the back left on the second green at Augusta National, being on the bank behind and above it is about as appetizing a spot as being in the starting gate at the top of an Olympic ski jump. If Leonard’s chip didn’t hit the pin and go in the hole it was destined to race all the way down the green, maybe off it entirely. He might as well have been Galileo trying to get his head around the effect of gravity on a free falling object.

The couple nearest Justin was an elderly man and, presumably, his wife. The gentleman had the mien of a British colonel of the 1st Bombay Grenadiers recently returned from the Second Opium War, who just happened to be married to Scarlett O’Hara. They stood at attention, more or less directly behind Leonard’s ball, clutching their folding metal and canvas chairs to their chests like gladiator shields.

As Justin and his caddie were discussing his dismal prospects, the elderly gent turned to his wife and whispered in a voice — as elderly gents are sometimes wont to do — that was a notch or two or three above your garden-variety whisper. “This is a very difficult shot,” he cautioned Scarlett.

Justin turned his head ever so slightly in their direction and, in a pitch perfect whisper of his own, said to the colonel and his wife, “I know.”

Then, there was 1987. That was the year Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Larry Mize went into sudden death as a threesome. Ballesteros dropped out on the 10th hole, the first in the playoff, when he three-putted from the back fringe and trudged up the steep hill to the clubhouse, an inconsolable figure. Norman and Mize advanced to the 11th where Mize missed the green miles right with a hopelessly awful second while Norman safely found the right edge of the green, being careful not to flirt with the pond. It looked as though Greg was about to slay the white whale of his green jacket. But, as Norman later said of Mize’s position, “I didn’t think Larry would get down in two . . . and I was right.”

Having a penchant during my photography career for finding myself consistently in the wrong place at the right time, I was positioned not down with my compatriots in the photo stand but further up the hill on the side of the 11th fairway. Folks aren’t supposed to get inside the ropes at the Masters but, with a wary eye for Pinkertons and green jacketed members, I inched my way underneath, trying to be as inconspicuous as someone who’d been running around all day and no doubt smelled like a musk ox could be. Who should I pop out next to but Larry Mize’s wife, Bonnie, and their one-year-old son, David.

With Norman standing next to the green looking on, Mize — the hometown boy — prepared to play his nearly impossible pitch. All of Amen Corner went as quiet as a mausoleum. CBS even hushed up the fake bird noises. Well, it seemed that quiet. Mize, of course, pitched the ball into the hole from a spot that looked to be about halfway to the Bojangles on Washington Road and commenced to leaping and running about, all of which I missed.

When the ball went in, the valley exploded.  Shocked and scared by the sudden noise, David began to wail. Bonnie, held him close, rocked him back and forth and said, “It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s just daddy.”

I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone for all the pictures in the world.  PS

The Omnivorous Reader

Exploring the Carolinas

Early settlers and the Tuscarora War

By D.G. Martin

“In the middle of a dark September night in 1711 in Carolina, John Lawson found himself captive, tied up and flung in the center of the council ring of the Tuscarora Indian town of Catechna,” writes Scott Huler on the opening page of his book, A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas along the Route of John Lawson’s 1700 Expedition, recently published by the University of North Carolina Press. 

Lawson did not survive. Tradition says he was tortured to death, with wooden splinters pushed into his skin and set afire. On earlier visits to American Indian villages, Lawson had witnessed and described this type of torture.

Who was this Lawson, and why did the Tuscarora put him to death?

In 1700, English-born John Lawson was a newcomer to North America. Almost immediately upon arriving, he set out on foot from Charleston to explore the endless forests of the backcountry Carolinas. The notes he took became the basis of a book, A New Voyage to Carolina, first published in 1709 and still a classic for its rich descriptions of flora and fauna and the conditions of the native peoples.

Huler wanted to follow in Lawson’s footsteps. He looked for a modern book that explained where Lawson went and described what is there today. When he found that no such book had been written and that no one had even retraced Lawson’s journey, he thought, “That’s for me!”

Huler could have made the trip of several hundred miles in a day or two in a car. But he wanted to go slow, seeing today’s landscapes and peoples at the pace Lawson traveled.

He shares his travels in his new book. Like most other readers of Lawson, Huler is impressed with his descriptions and attitudes about the native populations. Lawson visited Sewee, Santee, Sugeree, Wateree, Catawba, Waxhaw, Occaneechi and Tuscarora Indians. Huler writes, “He stayed in their wigwams, ate their food, trusted their guides. And he emerged with their stories, for some of which he is the only source in the world.”

Lawson, Huler continues, “documented native communities, buildings, agriculture, hunting, dance, trade, and culture through eyes clear, thorough, and respectful. Lawson depicts the natives as fully human — not some subspecies perceived only in comparison to European settlers.”

Lawson’s words were, “They are really better to us than we are to them.”

But Lawson found the native populations to be in a precarious situation. “The Small-Pox and Rum have made such a Destruction amongst them, that, on good grounds, I do believe, there is not the sixth Savage living within two hundred Miles of all our Settlements, as there were fifty Years ago.”

Traveling Lawson’s route through the rural Carolinas, Huler found a discouraging similarity. Contemporary rural and small town landscapes are littered with empty manufacturing plants, corporate farms and forests, empty main streets and deserted houses. Three centuries after Lawson, Huler found that “our world would teeter: a way of life dying in the countryside, implacable new forces once again balancing an entire civilization on a knife edge.”

Setting aside this discouraging report, Huler’s adventures and misadventures on the road entertain and inform. He is the best type of tour guide, one who is well-informed but not at all pompous. His wry, self-deprecating sense of humor helps his serious medicine go down smoothly.

For Lawson, his explorations and the reports about them opened the door to prominence and high positions in the young colony. That success came to a sudden end in 1711 when he was captured and executed by the Tuscarora Indians he had so greatly admired and praised.

Why did they kill him?

To find out, I turned to University of North Carolina-Wilmington professor David La Vere’s The Tuscarora War: Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies. Lawson is one of the main characters of La Vere’s book. La Vere sets out in detail the background for the Tuscarora War that began in 1711 with Lawson’s execution and a series of attacks by the Tuscarora on the thinly populated and, for the most part, recently arrived settlers in the New Bern area.

Earlier, in the late 1600s and early 1700s, North Carolina was only sparsely settled, mainly by Virginians moving south into the lands around the Albemarle Sound. They encountered small groups of Indians and were generally able to subdue them.

However, to the south and west, the mighty Tuscarora Indian strongholds stood as a barrier.

Meanwhile, Lawson’s glowing descriptions about his travels in the colony sparked the interest of the Lords Proprietors, who were looking for ways to encourage settlement. Lawson met a minor Swiss noble, Christoph de Graffenried, who worked out a plan with the Lords Proprietors to transport groups of German refugees and Swiss paupers to lands along the Neuse River near today’s New Bern.

These lands overlapped with the territories of the Tuscarora, who became increasingly threatened by the growing European presence.

La Vere writes that after overcoming odds, “de Graffenried’s colony of Swiss and German Palatines at the mouth of the Neuse River was thriving.” Therefore, he continues, “expansion up the Neuse seemed a real possibility.”

Lawson and de Graffenried made a trip up the Neuse, through Tuscarora lands, to scout sites for future settlements.

“All the while, the Indians grew more worried and angry as the abuses against them escalated and their complaints fell on deaf ears. That spark came in mid-September 1711,” according to La Vere, with this trip up the Neuse.

The local Tuscarora king, or chief, offended and threatened that his territory had been invaded, captured Lawson and de Graffenried and put them on trial for their lives. When one of the more radical Indian leaders berated him, Lawson lost his temper. “He argued back, his anger and sarcasm apparent to all.”

Lawson, of course, was doomed and shortly executed. His companion, de Graffenried, remained in custody while the Indians planned and carried out their first attacks on September 22, 1711, appearing at first as friendly visitors to the settlers’ farms and then striking suddenly from ambush when the defenses were down.

North Carolina’s efforts to beat back the Tuscarora were unsuccessful. The colony didn’t have enough manpower, firepower, or money. Help finally came from the wealthy sister colony to the south. South Carolina sent two expeditions to relieve its northern neighbor.

The first expedition, led by John Barnwell, set out with a force of about 700 men. Only 35 were regular militia. The rest were Indian allies. The results were mixed, and the Tuscarora remained a threat. The second expedition, led by James Moore and made up of 113 militia and 760 Indians, wiped out the Tuscarora at their stronghold at Neoheroka, near present day Snow Hill in Greene County, and opened the door to settlement in the interior of North Carolina.

What explains why South Carolina so enthusiastically aided its neighbor and how the South Carolina Indians were persuaded to provide the critical manpower? “Above all,” La Vere writes,“it was a chance to enrich oneself by looting the Tuscarora towns and taking slaves, which they could sell to waiting South Carolina traders for guns and merchandise.”

This sad footnote to North Carolina’s early history shows that the colonists secured their victory in the Tuscarora War only by facilitating and participating in the enslavement and sale of captured Tuscarora.

Scott Huler’s route through today’s Carolinas following Lawson’s path

In South Carolina: Charleston, Intracoastal Waterway, Buck Hall Recreation Area, Mouth of the Santee River, Hampton Plantation, McClellanville, Jamestown, Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, Congaree National Park, Pack’s Landing Rimini, Mill Creek County Park, Poinsett State Park, Horatio, Boykin, Camden, Hanging Rock Battleground, and Lancaster.

In North Carolina: Pineville, Charlotte, Concord, Kannapolis, Salisbury-East Spencer, High Rock Lake, Denton, Asheboro, Burlington, Saxapahaw, Hillsborough, Durham, Morrisville, Raleigh, Garner, Clayton, Flowers Crossroads, Wilson, Greenville, Washington, and Bath. PS

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


The Heaven of Lost Umbrellas

They have to be somewhere;

those ribbed and fabric

servants who have held

off storms so grandly, quietly,

and with such solemn

unassuming elegance.

They come to us

in colors but mostly

that ubiquitous black.

Plaid, polka dots, birds,

butterflies, Monet’s

water lilies . . . he must

be laughing at the irony.

Van Gogh’s sunflowers,

one grand, glorious sun

of yellow.  We have

monograms, advertisements,

golf ones big enough

to cover a room

of golfers . . . except

it never rains on a golf

course. Nor in this

way out of the way

heaven of lost things.

Here umbrellas lie

folded in resting pose.

They hold their own

handles, their work

for the moment

completed. Yet

they wait to be


and walked


they need to go.

— Ruth Moose

Sporting Life

Easy Floatin’

A new canoe takes an old trip

By Tom Bryant

My new canoe slid into the blackwater river easily. I was pleased with the boat. She was quick but stable and promised to be a pleasure to paddle. It was early morning, and a soft mist drifted out of the ancient cypresses that lined the bank like river ghosts from days gone by. I tried to be extra quiet and not disturb wildlife that might be close. Downstream just around the bend, I could hear the raucous call of a wood duck; and in just a few seconds, a pair flew upriver, gaining altitude as they saw me and all my gear. They screamed indignantly at the interloper, headed toward the swamp and were gone. I’ve always had a hard time identifying a wood duck call from a hawk. They sound a lot alike.

It was a beautiful morning, not unlike the many mornings I had spent on the river long ago with my granddad. This was to be a kind of déjà vu adventure. Here I was with a new canoe on an old low country river that I hoped had not changed that much from the early times my grandfather and I paddled the same fast flowing water.

He had taught me how to paddle when I was a youngster. He had a fish camp located several miles from Galavants Ferry right on the banks of the Little Pee Dee; and during the summer when work on the farm slowed, we would get our gear together, or my granddad would, mostly. I’d be dispatched to the old catawba trees to pick fishing worms and to the tobacco fields to hustle up a bait can of tobacco worms. They were messy creatures. They had a habit of spitting tobacco juices when I plucked them off the leaves. This was way before pesticides became so prevalent, and usually I could fill up a can of worms, no pun intended, from three or four tobacco stalks. The catalpa worms were a different story. They were valued as much by fishermen farmers as their crops were, and in many cases, harvested just like their garden vegetables. The worms were superb fish bait.

Linda, my bride, had dropped me off at a boat landing I found on a map of the river and was to pick me up at Galavants Ferry later in the day. I had packed a lunch, typical of what Granddad and I would share back in those long-ago days. Sardines, Beanie Weenies, a slab of rat cheese, a loaf of crusty bread, a can of Vienna sausages, hot mustard, and for dessert, a pack of Moon Pies. Linda had given me a Yeti cooler for my birthday, and I had it filled with bottles of water, a couple of Pepsis, and a few cold beers. That was the only deviation I took from Granddad’s menu. He was a teetotaler, but I knew he would forgive my one indiscretion. I also put my small tackle box, a spinning outfit, and a bait-casting rod and reel in the bow of the canoe. I was ready for a great day on the water.

I was pleased with my new canoe, an Old Town Penobscot. She cut through the water and was really sensitive to the paddle. I could turn her on a dime, and I practiced several strokes as we floated down the fast flowing river. It’s just like riding a bicycle; once you learn, you don’t forget. I settled down and began enjoying the scenery.

The Little Pee Dee River actually starts in North Carolina. Drowning Creek is part of its headwaters and flows into the Lumber River. The Lumber flows into the Little Pee Dee, which merges with the Big Pee Dee, then next stop, the Atlantic Ocean at Georgetown, South Carolina. One time in my young carefree days, a couple of friends and I tried to paddle the entire stretch, but unfortunately, we had to pull up short due to lack of time and supplies. It was quite an adventure, though.

The river eventually moved slow but steady, and with a few strokes of the paddle, I could keep the boat in the middle and fish the banks with my spinning outfit. I caught a few bream, none big enough to keep; and after a short time, I put the rod down and just watched the wild river and the cypress trees back in the swamps as I floated south. It was just as I remembered, with the exception of maybe more trash floating in the sloughs. I was surprised at the numbers of waterfowl. I saw many wood ducks. Great blue herons were numerous, and every now and then, I could hear the plaintive cry of a pileated woodpecker.

Many years ago while floating this same stretch of water, Granddad pointed out a huge bird flying in a slow, loping style that many big woodpeckers have. It was heading across the swamp but lit on a decaying branch of a giant cypress and started pecking on the limb. Pieces of dead wood flew as if he were swinging an ax. Granddad said, “Son, that’s an ivory bill woodpecker. Wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t declare that particular bird extinct in a few years. That’s the first one I’ve seen in a long time on this river.”

I had just been letting the canoe go where it wanted with only a stroke of the paddle every now and then, but just ahead I could see the water pick up speed as it approached a tight bend to the right. I grabbed the paddle and eased the boat to the right bank to keep away from a tree that had fallen and was partially submerged, blocking the left bank route.

I don’t know who was more surprised, the old gentleman fishing off the sandbar that pushed way out in the river, or me as I silently came around the bend and was on him in an instant. The old guy had several cane poles anchored in the sand and was fishing in the lee of the bar. I moved the canoe out in the river to get out of his way and did a backstroke to slow the boat. “How they biting?” I asked.

“Well sir, they been kinda slow this morning.” I eased the boat closer to the downriver side of the bar.

“Mind if I join you for a minute?”

“Naw sir. Make yoself at home.” I dragged the canoe up on the sand and went back to talk to the ancient fisherman.

“You’ve got a nice setup here.”

“Yassir, I’ve been doing it for a lotta years. It’s restful and sometimes I catch myself some supper.” He grinned and looked up at me from the little stool he was sitting on. “You floating down the river?”

“Yep, going to Galavants Ferry. Three or four more hours, I reckon.”

“That’s about right. Watch out for blown-down timber. We suffered a might in the last big storm.”

We chatted for a little while and I found out the fisherman was a local. As a matter of fact, he had lived on the river all his life, or as he put it, “Not quite, but that’s the plan, with what I got left.” He was a happy soul.

The rest of the paddle was uneventful. I didn’t even try to fish the remainder of the trip. I had to portage around a couple of downed trees, saw a humongous cottonmouth snake that I gave plenty of room, and arrived at the ferry about 4 o’clock. Linda was waiting, and in no time, I had the canoe lashed on top of the Cruiser, and we headed down to Huntington Beach, where we were camped with the little Airstream.

Later that evening, while kicked back in a rocker under the awning of the Airstream, I thought back to the day’s adventure on the river and to the aged philosopher I met fishing. Right before I left him and paddled downstream, the old fellow and I were talking about changes in the area, good and bad. He said something that brought everything into perspective.

“Mister, this river was flowing to the ocean long befo I came along and will be flowing to the ocean long after I’s gone. The important things don’t change, I reckon.” PS

Tom Bryant, a Southern Pines resident, is a lifelong outdoorsman and PineStraw’s Sporting Life columnist.


Carolina Bird Club

Come join the flock

By Susan Campbell

So, are there any bird nerds (like me!) out there wondering where you just might find others of a like mind? Then check out the Carolina Bird Club (CBC). This 82-year-old organization is a very active club with members of all ages from all walks of life who have one thing in common: They love birds. Although some in the club may be termed “birdwatchers,” those who passively enjoy the birds they see at their feeders or around their neighborhoods, are, in fact, full-fledged “birders.” The term has only been in use since about the early 1980s, just about the time I myself became a bird-crazy teenager. “Birders” have a real passion for their fine-feathered friends — some might say an addiction.

Our club (yes, I have been an active member since I moved to the Sandhills 30 years ago) has more than 1,200 members, many of whom spend hours in the field not just satisfying their own curiosity about things bird-related but gathering details that further our knowledge collectively of the region’s avifauna. Started in 1937 as the North Carolina Bird Club, it has been the one and only ornithological organizations of both North and South Carolina for well over 50 years. The results of countless hours of birding by literally thousands of Carolinabirders (not surprisingly, that’s what we call ourselves) can be found in The Chat, the club’s journal, published quarterly. There is also a quarterly newsletter that keeps members up to speed on the group’s activities, and documents interesting bird sightings and other assorted news items. Although academics and other professionals doing scientific work in the Carolinas do share their findings through the club’s publications, much of what we know has been documented by the large cadre of very serious but amateur birders. They always seem to be out there, looking for any and all birds they can find from dawn to dusk (and some even at night, for we do have a number of nocturnal species regardless of the time of year).

Three weekends a year, one in September (fall), January (winter) and late April or early May (spring), a meeting is planned somewhere particularly birdy. More than a hundred members descend to eat, drink, socialize and — wait for it! — go birding. And, as I type this, ambitious plans are well underway for the spring meeting which will be headquartered in Southern Pines. It has been 10 years since the last CBC gathering in the Sandhills — so the excitement is building among the local volunteers involved.

By meeting time in early May, dozens of species will have just arrived. Spring migration will have just peaked. All of the singing and displaying will be hard to miss. And many of our year-round avian residents will be scurrying around as they care for newly hatched nestlings. There will be more than enough activity for us birders to take in one short weekend. So, should you spot a group of us on the trails at Weymouth Woods, along Nick’s Creek Greenway or poking around at Reservoir Park with binoculars in hand and eyes to the sky, feel free to join us. You, too, can become a CBC birder. PS

For more information on the Carolina Bird Club, visit our website:

Susan would love to receive your wildlife sightings and photos. She can be contacted by email at

Return of the Birds

John James Audubon on exhibit again

By Jim Moriarty

It is such a small space to hold the passion of a lifetime.

In a corner on Level B of the North Carolina Museum of Art, John James Audubon’s four bound volumes of The Birds of America are back on exhibit, joined by instructive videos and an immersive wilderness experience. There are roughly 200 extant copies of the so-called double-elephant folio version, comprised of 435 hand-colored, life-size prints. North Carolina’s copy — minus two pages that were added later — was acquired in 1846 from Joseph Green Cogswell, a book dealer in New York, as part of a larger purchase by North Carolina’s then-governor, William Alexander Graham, who was intent on expanding the state’s library. It was transferred from the N.C. State Library to the museum in 1974. The last time the four volumes, each enclosed in its own specially constructed case, were on exhibit was July of 2016.

The engravings will be shown one page per volume — so, naturally, four at a time — for three months before changing them in the open-ended exhibit. The four on exhibit now include a wild turkey looking back as it crosses a Louisiana canebrake — the first plate produced in the project that consumed near the entirety of Audubon’s life. “The hand-coloring is light sensitive so we don’t want to expose it too long,” says John W. Coffey, the museum’s deputy director for Collections and Research. “People approach any art exhibit with different expectations. You have people that just stumble into the exhibition and, hopefully, they’re engaged by the story of Audubon. And then there are people who are bird lovers. There are lots of those who venerate Audubon as a naturalist. There are people who just like fine art. What Audubon created were not just accurate renditions of the birds of America but also quite beautiful compositions. They held their own as works of art in their own right.”

John James Audubon was born Jean Rabin, the “backstairs” child of the sea captain Jean Audubon and a French chambermaid, Jeanne Rabin, on Audubon’s sugar plantation in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue. The child’s mother passed away from an infection mere months after the boy’s birth. The sea captain had his son and the boy’s half-sister (the daughter of a second mistress) transported to his home in Nantes, France, in advance of the revolution that engulfed Saint-Domingue, eventually establishing the Republic of Haiti. His lineage a closely held secret to preserve his inheritance, the boy grew up in Nantes as Jacques Fougère Audubon during the Vendéan counterrevolution and the terror that accompanied it.

“Losing his mother in infancy, separated from whoever mothered him afterward on Saint-Domingue when he was shipped off to France at six, just months ahead of a bloody revolution, enduring dreadful days as a young boy in Nantes when Carrier [Jean-Baptiste Carrier] was emptying the prisons with slaughter and his family feared for its life, was a full burden of trauma for a child,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning Audubon biographer Richard Rhodes. “In maturity Audubon would expunge the stigma and the trauma from his family story by relocating his birth to Louisiana and to ‘a lady of Spanish extraction . . . as beautiful as she was wealthy’ when he knew full well that he was the bastard son of the chambermaid Jeanne Rabin.” And, if in the fullness of time, he found his résumé in need of further padding, Audubon would sometimes claim to have studied under Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite neoclassicist painter.

Sent to America by his father to avoid conscription into Napoleon’s army, Jacques Fougère Audubon became John James Audubon on his transatlantic journey, settling on his father’s Pennsylvania farm, Mill Grove. “He had begun drawing birds in France,” writes Rhodes. “Now, ‘prompted by an innate desire to acquire a thorough knowledge of the birds of this happy country, I formed the resolution, immediately on my landing, to spend, if not all my time in that study, at least all that portion generally called leisure, and to draw each individual of its natural size and coloring.’ This is retrospect, of course, but it catches the eighteen-year-old’s excitement and bravado.”

Audubon cut a dashing figure. The wife of a physician friend would describe the 30-something ornithologist and painter this way: “Audubon was one of the handsomest men I ever saw. In person he was tall and slender, his blue eyes were an eagle’s in brightness, his teeth were white and even, his hair a beautiful chestnut brown, very glossy and curly. His bearing was courteous and refined, simple and unassuming. Added to these personal advantages he was a natural sportsman and natural artist.”

While at Mill Grove, Audubon met his wife, Lucy Bakewell. He would begin a career as a merchant, floating down the Ohio River to Louisville and Henderson, Kentucky, and eventual bankruptcy. It was in Louisville that Audubon met Alexander Wilson, who was selling subscriptions (the method of the day to finance costly reproductions) to his own book, American Ornithology, but Audubon’s work was already vastly superior to Wilson’s.

Like any artist, Audubon’s style matured. One of the earliest innovations was the creation of his “board,” allowing him to pose the birds he killed — alas, it wasn’t as though he could hire them as models; besides, some made excellent eating — in the positions he observed in life. By May of 1812, he was drawing birds in flight. “Unlike birds posed on branches or standing on the ground, birds in flight required foreshortening to create the illusion of depth across the span of their wings or down the length of their bodies,” writes Rhodes. “Since Audubon’s limited formal art training had not progressed to foreshortening, he had to learn that complicated technique on his own by trial and error.”

Another breakthrough came when he added color chalk. “I resorted to a piece that matched the tint intended for the part, applied the pigment, rubbed the place with a cork stump and at once produced the desired effect!” he wrote. Then, in 1821 and ’22, he revamped his style again. “He already knew the traditional French medium of pastel very well; he had been perfecting it since he was a young man. Now he added to his repertoire a crystal-clear watercolor technique, the ability to use gouache effectively, and an extraordinary varied use of the pencil, together with the talent for combining all of these graphic means to render a single bird,” writes art critic Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. “No one in America equaled him for graphic inventiveness until Winslow Homer some sixty years later; as for European parallels, one can only think of the great English watercolorists, both contemporaries of Audubon: J.M.W. Turner and Samuel Palmer.” The original watercolors for The Birds of America are in the collection of the New-York Historical Society and rarely seen because of their sensitivity to light.

Having run financially aground in the Panic of 1819, Audubon journeyed to New Orleans to collect a debt from Samuel Bowen that involved the ownership of a steamboat. Things didn’t go well. Bowen had already given the boat over to settle debts of his own. One thing led to another and Bowen attacked Audubon. As it turned out, he brought a cudgel to a knife fight, and Audubon stabbed him with his dagger. Later, appearing in front of Judge Henry P. Broadnax, Audubon defended himself before the court and was acquitted by reason of self-defense. “Mr. Audubon,” the judge added, “you committed a serious offense — an exceedingly serious offense, sir — in failing to kill the damned rascal.”

Having lost everything in Henderson, Audubon turned to portrait painting to make a living. Then, envisioning himself as “a one-man ornithological expeditionary force,” as Rhodes put it, he went back down the Mississippi, returning to New Orleans in 1821 with his assistant, Joseph Mason (one of several assistants who painted the backgrounds in Audubon’s works). His commercial portraits included the nude of a woman, Mrs. André, a mysterious client requiring his absolute discretion and to whom he referred as “The Fair Incognito” in his diaries. Eventually, he was joined in New Orleans by his wife, Lucy, living at what is now 505 Dauphine Street. Audubon was producing his ornithological paintings at a dizzying pace. After New Orleans it was up to Natchez, Mississippi, then Louisville and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and on and on. His sources of income weren’t confined to portraits. He taught dancing, drawing, even fencing.

Knowing that obtaining engravings of the number and quality necessary to produce The Birds of America could only be done in Europe, Audubon sailed from New Orleans on the Delos on May 18th, 1826. The ship was carrying 924 bales of cotton and a seasick John James Audubon with more than 300 drawings in tin-lined wooden portfolios.

An American backwoodsman with crates full of art proved a topic of considerable novelty in an Old World keen for knowledge of the new one. Audubon was well received. The first engraver to take on his project was William Lizars in Edinburgh. Lizars did approximately 10 engravings before a strike by his colorists forced Audubon to turn to Robert Havell Sr. and his son in London.

“Robert Havell Jr. was a more painstaking engraver than William Lizars and his father supervised the London colorers perhaps more carefully but there was a qualitative difference between the technologies Lizars and the Havells used to make Audubon’s colored plates,” writes Rhodes. “The Havells used a process known as aquatint, which allowed them to print shadows and shadings in a range from light gray to black, leaving the colorists only the more limited task of applying a uniform wash of color over the aquatinted area: the shading made the color appear darker.” Havell retouched the early Lizars plates, something that’s noted in the lower right-hand corner of the wild turkey engraving currently on view. While even the Havells had their ups and downs satisfying Audubon’s very specific instructions and expectations, it proved a match made in artistic heaven.

The last plate of The Birds of America was completed in June of 1838. Audubon was 53. His estimate of the project’s cost, monies he raised himself, was “$115,640 — in today’s dollars, about $2,141,000,” reckons Rhodes. He began work on the octavo edition (a smaller and, hence, more profitable version) two years later. Audubon would suffer a stroke in 1848, and begin slipping into dementia. “His vivid personality faded into vacancy,” says Rhodes. He passed away in January of 1851.

“What’s beautiful about Audubon is that these birds are so dynamic and alive, it feels like they’re almost jumping out of the page,” says Silvia Fantoni, the director of Audience Engagement and Public Programs who put together the immersive exhibit comprised of 19 of Audubon’s birds in varied habitats over a 24 hour period. “That’s what we wanted to do. I find his work fascinating, how driven he was by this project. It’s always interesting to see when an artist has this kind of obsession and vision and dedicated his life to do that. That’s why we still celebrate him almost 200 years later.”  PS

Good Natured

Return of the Dandelion

More than just a common weed

By Karen Frye

Our ancestors used their herb gardens as a medicine cabinet. There was an herb for most common maladies: catnip for the colicky baby; comfrey for healing skin and bones; mullein for coughs and colds; and many more. One of the most revered herbs in the garden was the dandelion, a perennial that comes back every spring and flourishes until the first frost.

Fast forward and the dandelion has become the enemy in the yards of modern society. Somehow, it is now a pesky “weed” that must be destroyed! But the dandelion’s usefulness hasn’t changed. The little yellow flowers that appear in spring are used to make dandelion wine. The young, tender leaves can be eaten raw in salads or juiced. You can also sauté the greens for a mixture that improves digestion. When roasted, the roots make a delicious, healthy coffee substitute, without the caffeine. It’s even available in teabag form so you don’t have to roast it yourself.

Each particular part of the plant has different medicinal value, but the root is perhaps the most helpful for many ailments. Dandelion root is revered as a tonic for the kidneys (it is a very effective diuretic). The root helps to stabilize blood sugar and prevent gallstones, cleanses the blood, lowers cholesterol, improves the functions of the spleen, stomach and pancreas. There are many reasons to keep this plant alive and thriving in our landscapes and gardens. Dandelion root is wonderful medicine for the liver, the organ that filters out toxins and manufactures several important hormones. In ancient times, doctors used dandelion to treat colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, ulcers, itching and hepatitis. Want to get rid of those age spots? Dandelion to the rescue!

This spring, if you have some growing around your yard or garden — and the area hasn’t been treated with herbicides — consider using some of the leaves in salads or juice. You can always purchase the capsules, tincture and tea if that is more convenient.

Here are two recipes to entice your taste buds.  PS

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

Dandelion Dip

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/4 cup yogurt

1 cup dandelion greens

garlic powder


Mix cottage cheese and yogurt. Mince the greens well, and add the mixture. (Or you can use a blender). Season with garlic powder and salt to taste. Serve with veggies or crackers.

Sautéed Dandelion Greens

1 cup of washed dandelion greens per person, chopped coarsely. Sauté briefly (until wilted) in a little olive oil. You can add onions, peppers, garlic and a little ginger if you like. Sauté until slightly wilted. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

The Pleasures of Life Dept.

Foraging for Fabergé

An Easter egg hunt worth a czar’s ransom

By Michael Smith

Here comes Peter Cottontail,

Hoppin’ down the bunny trail,

Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way.

Five will get you 10 that you remember that little composition by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins, the same guys who gave us “Frosty the Snowman.” It was popularized by cowboy crooner Gene Autry, who hippity hopped all the way into the ownership of Major League Baseball’s California Angels.

Many symbols attach to Easter — the holy holiday observed by Christians the world over on a spring Sunday between March 21 and April 25 — and “Peter Cottontail” mentions plenty of them, including but not limited to, jelly beans, rabbits and eggs. Sixteen billion (not a typo) jelly beans are made in this country for Easter. President Reagan ate ’em all year long. He got hooked on the things when he gave up smoking. He had jelly bean canisters on his desk and on Air Force One. He even sent jelly beans on the first successful Challenger space shuttle flight, to treat the crew. Raise your hand if you’d rather wash a cat than eat those things.

How did rabbits and eggs get into what is otherwise a deeply religious picture? Many historians think the Easter bunny might have more to do with paganism than Christianity. It may have been adopted from the pagan celebration of the festival of Eostre, goddess of fertility, who was symbolized by a bunny. Rabbits, notoriously fecund, are all about bringing new life. Legend, mainly from ancient Germany, is that the Easter bunny lays and hides colored eggs, which are, as much as rabbits, redolent of new life.

From there, it’s a short hop (please forgive that) to chocolate bunnies (of which the National Confectioners Association says 90 million pounds were sold in 2017); to Easter egg rolls (like those at the White House, started in 1878 by POTUS Rutherford B. Hayes and conducted almost continuously since); and to Easter egg hunts (like the largest ever in 2007 in Florida, where 501,000 eggs were searched for by 9,753 kids).

But forget jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and your everyday Easter eggs. Instead, let’s delve into an egg hunt that’s anything but everyday — a multi-million-dollar hunt for six (perhaps seven) Russian imperial Fabergé Easter eggs. The Las Vegas of Easter egg hunts.

This hunt can be said to have started the very moment the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, ended. It was July 17, 1918, when the Russian Bolshevik revolutionaries executed the entire family — all those rumors of Anastasia’s survival now discredited. Comrade Lenin had the family’s Fabergé eggs transported to Moscow. When Comrade Stalin appeared on the scene, he saw dollar signs, not eggs, and began selling the things to the West, particularly in America, probably through Lenin’s old acquaintance, Armand Hammer.

Fifty eggs had been presented to the royals. The whereabouts of 43 (and possibly 44) of the eggs are known. So the hunt is all about the ones that have gone missing.

The world’s largest collection of Peter Carl Fabergé’s jewelry artworks — including nine of the 50 imperial Fabergé Easter eggs — is in the Fabergé Museum, in the Shuvalov Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The museum, privately owned by Russian Viktor Vekselberg, was established to restore to Russia as many of its lost cultural artifacts as possible.

Vekselberg, a Ukrainian-born, Russian-reared billionaire, bought the palace in 2004, restored it, furnished it with thousands of items, and opened it to the public in 2013. He purchased the museum’s nine imperial Fabergé eggs from heirs of American financial magazine magnate and news publisher Malcolm Forbes for something just north of $100 million. Vekselberg’s Fabergé museum, the Shuvalov Palace, presents a brief but interesting side trip.

The palace was built in the late 1700s, then in 1799 was purchased from its original owners by Maria Naryshkin. Maria lived there with her husband, Dmitry Naryshkin. She was a princess of Polish nobility, described in her day as impossibly beautiful. Maria and Dmitry unabashedly flaunted her status as mistress of Alexander I, who was, simultaneously, czar of Russia and king of Poland. Some say her affair with the czar lasted 13 years, some say 15, but none say why it abruptly ended. Nobody seems to know.

At any rate, Maria’s husband countenanced the affair, beginning-to-end. Whether the czar’s wife, Elizabeth, also agreed to the liaison is academic, as she, herself, is reported to have engaged in affairs with both women and men. All of these goings-on may appear a bit unseemly, but the truth is, Czar Alexander’s court was a hotbed of adulterous affairs, so no one ever raised an eyebrow.

But, back to the hunt — the whereabouts of both extant and lost multi-million-dollar Fabergé imperial Easter eggs.

Of the missing eggs, with no dispute, one was found in a scrap metal-type flea market in America, narrowly escaping a meltdown to retrieve its gold. That egg was sold and is now in a private collection, though there is no public record of its owner or where the egg is located. With considerable dispute, another of the missing eggs was found in 2015 and is located in a private collection in New York.

Russians have long been big on Easter, and exchanging gifts at that time of year is a long-standing tradition. So, a couple of Alexanders down the road we find Peter Carl Fabergé, the most renowned jewelry artist of his time (and perhaps of all time) crafting the first of the imperial Easter eggs for Czar Alexander III. The czar desired a unique gift for his wife, Empress Feodorovna, for Easter, 1885.

Fabergé’s creation was called “The Hen.” It was presented as a 2.5-inch high solid-white enamel egg shell, with a gold yolk inside the shell and a gold hen with ruby eyes inside the yolk, with a miniature gold and diamond royal crown plus a ruby pendant inside the hen. The czar’s own creation was the beginning of the tradition of turning Fabergé loose on a new egg for the empress each Easter.

It was a tradition that lasted through 10 eggs during Alexander III’s reign and through 40 more during the reign of his son, Nicholas II. Nicholas ordered two eggs annually, one for his wife and one for his mother. The eggs were increasingly ornate, opulent, intricate, and increasingly shrouded in secrecy. Most contained a surprise like The Hen’s treasures, which was known only to Fabergé. Not even the czar himself knew of an imperial egg’s surprise till Easter.

Following the Russian revolution, The Hen, together with the other eggs, was sent to Moscow. There, The Hen was sold and sold again, and though its surprise was lost (or is privately hoarded), the egg is now in the Fabergé Museum in the Shuvalov Palace in Saint Petersburg.

Not surprisingly, many of the surprises were lost or sold separately, as were many of the eggs. The times were a-changing, tumultuous and chaotic during the Russian Revolution and later during the Stalin years. As to the hungry revolutionaries, sadly, their tastes were pedestrian. So really, the surprise is that any of the imperial eggs and/or their surprises survived at all. But they did.

Here is where the 44 or 43 (depending on who’s counting) extant eggs are: Fabergé Museum, Shuvalov Palace — nine with one surprise; Kremlin Armoury, Moscow — 10; private collections in the U.S. with known owners — 15; private collection in the U.S. with anonymous owner(s) — 1; Royal Collection, London — 3; Monte Carlo, Monaco — 1; Switzerland — 2; Qatar — 1; anonymous collection where the country is also unknown — 2 (where one of these two, presented in 1902, has since 2015 been in a private collection in New York). Some experts dispute this egg’s provenance and regard it as still lost.

Now we come to the hunt for the seven (or six) still missing Russian imperial Easter eggs. Until 2014 Fabergé aficionados feared that eight of the eggs were lost. While it’s never too late to hunt for a Fabergé Easter egg, it actually is too late to hunt for egg No. 3. Some dude in America found it, his discovery underlining the utility of hunting for them.

When Fabergé presented the third imperial egg to the czar in 1887, he had aptly named it “Third Imperial.” Five years after Russian revolutionaries killed the Romanovs, the egg was sold to a dealer in London to help finance Russia’s “Treasures into Tractors” program. (How mundane does it get?)

No one knows how the egg arrived in America, but in 2011, Fabergé researchers dug up a 1964 catalog that showed the third egg and noted that it had been sold to a lady from the southern United States for $2,450. When the lady died her estate sold the egg for peanuts and it languished in roadside market venues till an anonymous American Midwest scrap metal dealer purchased it for $14,000.

The buyer’s thinking was that he could melt the thing down for its gold, then sell the gold for a small profit. Thankfully, nobody wanted to give him more for the gold than he had paid for the egg. Resigned to his “bad deal,” he sat the egg on a shelf in his kitchen. And there it sat till 2013 when, out of frustration, he Googled “egg” and the name inscribed on a timepiece inside the egg.

This bit of bird-dogging led him to an article in a British publication titled: “Is this £20 million nest-egg on your mantelpiece?” There it was! Our guy hotfooted to London, pictures of his egg in hand, to show the expert, Kieran McCarthy, mentioned in the article he found on Google.

McCarthy, a Wartski jewelry dealer, says, “He brought pictures of the egg and I knew instantaneously that was it. I was flabbergasted.”  McCarthy and the still anonymous buyer made the trip across the Atlantic to the buyer’s home, modest digs across the street from a Dunkin’ Donuts. Says McCarthy, “There was the egg, next to some cupcakes on the kitchen counter.”

McCarthy described the guy like this: “He’s from another world entirely. It’s a world of diners and pickup trucks, real blue-collar America.” Blue-collar no more.

There is no public record of the amount Wartski paid the Midwesterner on behalf of an anonymous buyer, but it easily could have been the $33 million mentioned in the 2011 article.

If you’re a bird dog, you need not be dissuaded by discovery of the “Third Imperial” egg; rather, take heart, as the following six and/or seven are still missing: second egg (1886 — “Egg with Hen in Basket”); fourth egg (1888 — “Cherub with Chariot”); fifth egg (1889 — “Necessaire Egg”); 16th egg (1897 — “Mauve Egg”); 26th egg (1902 — “Empire Nephrite Egg,” potentially already in a private collection in New York); 28th egg (1903 — “Royal Danish Egg”); and 36th egg (1909 — “Alexander Commemorative”).

Of those missing, the two that experts think are most likely to be found are the fourth and fifth, in that they have been seen more recently than the others. So get hopping. Who knows, old “Peter Cottontail” may just have something for your Easter basket.  PS

Michael Smith lives in Talamore, Southern Pines, with his wife, Judee. They moved here in 2017 and wish they had moved here years earlier.

The Kitchen Garden

Sandhills CBD

The hemp landscape is moving fast

By Jan Leitschuh

The times they are a’changing. And swiftly.

You still can’t grow cannabis — that is, hemp, marijuana — in your kitchen garden, but thanks to a new December 2018 Farm Bill, it is now legal, with some tight restrictions, for farmers in the United States to grow hemp for food, clothing, products and fiber, as well as to transport their hemp-derived products across state lines, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

A press release from Cannetics, a South Carolina organic, industrial hemp seed and genetics company, says, “With the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill and burgeoning national hemp market, industrial hemp is primed to be an economic opportunity for new and existing farmers in the Carolinas.”

North Carolina has been ahead of the game with its special pilot program. The past several years, the state has licensed select producers to grow hemp, including at least two in Moore County last year — the McLeod Brothers Farm of Carthage and Carter Farms of Eagle Springs. This special program allowed small-scale hemp cultivation for limited purposes. Perhaps, ran the speculation, hemp could replace tobacco as a cash crop.

Thanks to North Carolina’s foresight and early start, our farmers now have a jump on the potentially lucrative and fast-moving hemp-growing train. Could hemp actually give N.C. tobacco a run for its money this year? 

“We are predicted to have the smallest tobacco crop here since the Civil War,” says Ben Priest, of Carthage, whose Priest Family Farm planted 30 acres of hemp this year under contract, with the company supplying the expensive plants. The Priests will be harvesting the buds for the company’s CBD oil products. “Five years ago we had about 135 acres of tobacco. This year we’ll have 25.”

And what of products like the medicinal CBD oil? 

“It’s all about CBD here,” says Billy Carter of Carter Farms. “Hemp here is not being grown for fiber or feed. Hemp for fiber and feed is lower value, like a grain crop. CBD is where it’s at in terms of being able to add to the farm income. And the general farm economy has been so depressed lately, if you say you’re going to have a hemp meeting, 200 guys show up.” 

One of hemp’s products, CBD oil, is currently all the rage as a non-addictive panacea for everything from arthritic aches and pains, insomnia, anxiety and migraines to epileptic seizures. CBD oil is said to give pain relief benefit without the high of marijuana. Manufacturers hope to profit from the intense public interest by adding the non-psychoactive CBD to salves, oils and edible products.

While a number of area growers are raising hemp acreage under contract for sale to outside extraction companies, one farmer, Martin McLeod, is making a value-added leap with his test crops — making extracts from high-CBD hemp grown right on his Carthage farm. 

“From seed to shelf,” says McLeod. He now produces “Farm Life Hemp,” branded CBD-infused products like salves and oils, right on the farm. “The ultimate value-added product.” 

CBD oil is a cannabis compound, but it does not contain the infamous THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana that gives users the “buzz,” or euphoric feeling. In fact, hemp grown for oil, food, fiber and feed must not exceed a trace (defined by law) of more than 0.3 percent of THC, the compound in the plant that gets a person stoned. In short, hemp products can’t get you high. Though legal in a number of states, high-THC products are illegal in North Carolina. 

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD oil is now legal in all 50 states. Proponents use it to treat glaucoma, epileptic seizures, arthritis, neurological disorders, PTSD, depression, pain and other ailments. The oil is reported to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-nausea properties. CBD oil is sold in a number of locations locally, including McLeod Brothers’ farm store in Carthage.

The Farm Life Hemp products come in both tinctures and salves of various volumes. McLeod says his father uses it regularly: “My dad was at the point he could hardly walk due to rheumatoid arthritis, and he was on one of the strongest drugs for his condition. Now, since he’s been taking our CBD regularly, he’s off that medicine, 100 percent. He’s also got a lot more energy, more relaxed.”

Derived from industrial hemp, medicinal CBD oil is extracted from the flower bud of a high-CBD strain. McLeod’s process uses an alcohol extraction. The resulting oil is designed to be dropped under the tongue or, in some cases, rubbed directly on sore joints.  

Since ingesting CBD oil is a common way to administer it, the “edibles” industry has exploded, too — CBD-infused soft drinks, candies, gummies and chocolates are wildly popular, and growing in number — proving once again that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

For decades, federal law didn’t distinguish hemp from other cannabis plants. All were made illegal in 1937 under the Marihuana Tax Act (with a few wartime exceptions to grow hemp for rope) and formally made illegal in 1970 under the Controlled Substances Act. That changed last December, unleashing a rush of hemp activity.

So, could hemp replace tobacco in the Sandhills? Some think it has a shot. Others believe once the dust settles, it will be just another high-value, high-input crop — like tobacco.

Public awareness of the health-damaging properties of tobacco — a major cash crop for North Carolina for generations — has led to a decline in sales and prices. This is of deep concern for farmers trying to hang on to family farms.

“My main worry was how bad the tobacco industry is getting around here,” says McLeod. “Every year the contracts get cut more, and it gets harder to sell it, and then after all that expense and work, they maybe turn down a whole truckload because its a shade different color than they want it.”

McLeod began looking for other viable cash crops, and hemp snagged his interest. “I noticed that Canada had been growing hemp since the 1990s for grain, protein and fiber,” he says. “Researching more, I started reading about the CDB side of things, and how it helped people with pain, inflammation and other ailments. The medicinal part really caught my eye.”

In early 2017, McLeod was talking with his cousin, Dr. Sandy Stewart, a former N.C. Cooperative Extension crop specialist in tobacco, who now serves as assistant commissioner for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. He’s also a member of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission responsible for implementing the state’s tightly regulated pilot program for hemp. McLeod decided to jump on the hemp bandwagon and grew several of the first test plots on the family’s Carthage farm.

“We got in on the ground floor,” he says.  “A lot of people talked about it like a joke, but I knew they were growing it in other countries throughout the world. Now every farmer is trying to get in on it.”

It was a good fit. The expensive infrastructure that farmers, like the McLeods, need to grow tobacco is very similar to what’s needed for hemp. “You need greenhouses, planters and forced-air dryers . . . both crops use the same. That’s why all these investors are coming here to speak to farmers about growing hemp. We have the forced air-drying barns for the harvest. That’s probably why North Carolina has five times the acreage planted this year as last year.”

Since that infrastructure is the lure to out-of-state and Canadian contractors, the atmosphere is giddy on both sides right now. “Everything is moving so fast in this industry, or rather, endeavor,” says Carter. “It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane. It’s hard to see the big picture for the debris.”

The switch to hemp is not without its problems. Last year McLeod had some vandalism when his hemp crop was mistaken for illegal marijuana.

And then there is the steep learning curve for a new, high-value crop. “Most of last year’s crop was harvested way too early because we were trying to get it in before the hurricanes,” says Carter. “It was a difficult year. Everyone was told hemp was pest free; that it requires very little fertilizer; and to not worry about foliar (leaf) diseases — and none of that was true.”

Next hurdle is acquiring plants. “The genetics of hemp are really fascinating,” says Carter. “The genetics aren’t stable yet. You want females for the flower bud, and they have to be under that 0.3 percent THC. That’s why last year’s crop was grown mostly from clones or cuttings, and that makes it a costly production system. Clones get around the (unproductive) male problem, and unstable genetics. But for the endeavor to progress, we have to get where we can grow it for seed.” 

The giddy “gold rush” mentality on both sides — grower and contractor — could lead to overproduction. “It is a new and exciting opportunity,” says Carter, “and North Carolina is well positioned. Nevertheless, all 50 states can grow hemp now. The scarcity can’t last. Economics will not allow a void like that for long. I see it as another crop that will eventually fit into the mix. There is real upside right now, but also real risk.” 

Though the gold rush is on, the result is not necessarily pure bank. “We have all the infrastructure and equipment in hand, but hemp is still a high risk crop,” agrees McLeod. “There is no federal crop insurance for it right now, so the risk is all on you. And it’s the highest cost per acre crop in North Carolina, except maybe strawberries, and nobody grows 100 acres of strawberries.”

And then there are other unknowns: contractors from out of the area seeking hemp growers. Will they keep their commitments?

“Unlike tobacco, where we knew the reputations of buyers, we’re dealing with new players who we don’t know,” says Carter. “We’re starting to know them, but we really don’t know yet who has money to pay for product. It’s a little bit of a Wild West situation right now. And, unlike tobacco, you’re not going to get your money immediately. There is all this testing for THC content, for heavy metals, for pesticides and more, since it’s a product that’s going to be consumed orally. It’s not fast money.” And sometimes, as with a hemp cooperative startup Carter is involved with, the processing companies will work on shares of the biomass produced, so besides the testing lag, there is also a marketing lag before the money comes through.

Carter spent $15-16,000 per acre last year to grow hemp. “The crop went in the ground last May, and we don’t expect to see a return until this April,” he says. “Farmers aren’t used to waiting a year for a check. When someone enters the game who can test more quickly, and get you paid more quickly, they are really going to get the attention.”

Priest also has concerns about hemp flooding the market.  And while 2020 will bring federal crop insurance for hemp, “the government can still come onto your farm and destroy the crop if it goes hot,” he says of the potential of it reverting to a higher THC content because of wind cross-pollination due to rogue plants. “How much do you trust your neighbors?” Besides the fall hurricane risk, Priest wonders if hemp is as susceptible to the heartbreak of damaging fall freezes as tobacco has been.

“High risk,” says McLeod, “but also the possibility of high reward.”

Part of that high reward is converting the bud crop to a value-added product: CBD oil. Last year, Martin and his brother Chris went out to Oregon to learn from a hemp farmer with an on-farm extraction process. They learned to harvest the high-CBD buds in September — by hand. The buds are then set out to dry in the family’s tobacco barns. Finally, the CBD and other cannabinoids are extracted from the dried buds with ethanol (alcohol) and infused into oils.

While CBD oil is now legal to sell, some states are cracking down on the edibles made from it.  CBD edibles are seen as great alternatives to THC-based edibles, because they can offer relaxation, anti-nausea effects and pain relief without the intense high that is often felt with smoking marijuana or eating THC-based food. 

The hemp shift was so swift, laws are still being ironed out in some states. In early February, two stores in Cincinnati, Ohio, were forced to remove CBD-infused edibles from their shelves after they received visits from the Cincinnati Health Department. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy says the state’s new medical marijuana program only allows dispensaries to sell CBD products, but storeowners argue CBD and marijuana are not the same. Maine and New York have had similar crackdowns, and other states may follow suit.

“The FDA is trying to regulate more when someone is trying to make a food,” says McLeod.

In addition, CBD-infused products vary widely in quality and strength. Of course, one could simply go basic and put a dropper-full under the tongue, swishing around the mouth before swallowing. The taste is slightly grassy and mild. 

But if the regulation of retail CBD products is still being sorted out and one wanted to try to see a benefit from CBD itself, an individual could make their own edibles, for personal consumption. It’s perfectly legal, devoid of psychoactive experience and one can “dial their own dose.” The internet abounds with recipes for CBD-infused chocolates, butters and ganaches. For example, melt your favorite chocolate, remove from heat and fill individual silicone molds halfway. Add a dropper-full of your favorite CBD oil, stir with a toothpick and fill the remainder of the mold. Chill. 

“I’ve tried a few drops but I can’t say it cured all that ailed me,” says Priest. “But my mom used some hemp oil lotion on her knees and her feet when a tick-related illness made her joints ache, and thought it helped.”  PS

Jan Leitschuh is a local gardener, avid eater of fresh produce and co-founder of the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative.

The Accidental Astrologer

C’mon Baby, Light My Fire!

For Aries, the astrological arsonists, this month brings magic and stardust

By Astrid Stellanova

April brings us showers, sunshine and duckies, Star Children.

Some famous Aries creatives and legends like Maya Angelou, Booker T. Washington and Charlie Chaplin have transitioned to the great beyond. Others are still with us: Emma Watson, Alec Baldwin, Pharrell Williams, Francis Ford Coppola, Robin Wright.

Arians are like astrological arsonists, knowing how to make fire and stir it in others. Antagonists and protagonists. Blazing a trail, always leaving a fiery glow — even if you didn’t make it to the 1979 clogging championships with the Smoking Hot Feet of Lizard Lick — you sure know how to make a memorable exit.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

The sages all say this is a big year for you, starting now. You feel like you’ve been in a drought and are parched for a drink of water. Sugarbritches, get ready to guzzle. As much as the beginning of the year was not exactly epic in your opinion, this month is made of stardust and magic. Plain old well water will taste like sweet tea and a Saltine, like a mouthful of happiness.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

You came out swinging, like somebody stole your buggy at the Piggly Wiggly. The wheels were wonky anyway, and sometimes karma takes over. Forget the little stuff and try and concentrate on the fact that the daisies are popping up and good things are coming.

Gemini (May 21–June 20)

Kindness is demanding that you learn to share, bless your heart, if it’s nothing more than the remote control with dead batteries, or a dried-up, day-old biscuit. You love your toys, but by your age, Darlin’, it’s time to share.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

Measure twice and cut once. Shine your shoes. Don’t leave the house wearing ripped pantyhose or old sweat pants. You are going to have to figure and refigure to get ahead of a wily competitor. But it can happen.

Leo (July 23–August 22)

It is touching how much small things count with you. Nobody knows that. They think you are difficult to impress, but you love a dive as much as a gourmet bistro. Reveal who you really are, and take a pal to Waffle House.

Virgo (August 23–September 22)

How come you can’t make anyone who enters your door feel at home? Maybe because you really wish they were at their home instead. Expand your heart and open your arms to some very big happiness, Sugar.

Libra (September 23–October 22)

If you faked any more enthusiasm, you’d get sugar diabetes. It’s a good thing to be enthused, but your charm is turned one degree too high. A smile is your best accessory, Darling, but so is keeping it real.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

No selfies. No cries for attention, Honey. I don’t care how bored you get, the best thing for you right now is to focus on finishing something you started a long time ago and refuse to tie up. Finish. It.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

You got caught talking with your mouth full of bull, Sugar. Sometimes, the best cure for lying is quiet contemplation. Stick to your knitting, bowling or fishing. Thank your friends for calling you out.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

It was mainly a symbolic dogfight, but there you were, right in the middle of it. They headed home looking like they got chewed up by the lawnmower. You walked away with a smile. Throw your shoulders back and show some humility in victory.

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

You put all your business out there on the showroom floor. We see it. Everybody gets it. You are open for business, Sugar. There will surely be plenty who want what you are selling, but don’t give it away for free.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

Honey, there is raw ambition, and then, sometimes, it is just a teensy bit undercooked. The cornbread ain’t quite done in the center. You are on the right track but your ideas need a little time and effort to succeed.  PS

For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.