By: Shar Porier
The Banks County News
June 5, 2002
Into the jungle
Well, maybe its not exactly a jungle per-say, but theres one part of the yard that definitely has some vines Tarzan would have loved. And theyre smothering my beautiful Butterfly Bushes that provide nectar for so many butterflies and hawk moths and Rose of Sharon trees that the hummingbirds visit so regularly.
It was a gigantic mass of vines and leaves.
The wisteria I had planted 13 years ago to give some spring color (which by the way, has only produced blooms three times) had become this mad vigorous, twining scourge.
For years I had babied it, trimmed it back to be more like a small tree - keeping it under control. And the years it did bloom it was a beautiful sight. Those gorgeous lavender cascades of sweet flowers.
A few years of leaving it alone have proved to be a bad idea. A very bad idea.
And it is not alone in its plot to overtake my bushes. No, it has enlisted help from the wild invader, the notorious muscadines.
Now, I know, some people like muscadines and make some good wine and juice from them. (The muscadine juice at the Chamber picnic was delicious.) But, I view them, like I view honeysuckle with as much affection as Kudzu.
The problem before me was where the heck do I start. The mound of growth covered around 30 feet of prime bush and tree land.
I sized up the situation. Tools in hand, I walked around the green glob.
Hmmm... Well, I cant trim back the Wisteria. The cardinals have a nest in there. I cant cut the muscadines there because the chickadees and hummingbirds are sitting on their nests.
The only place to start was at one end with one Rose of Sharon Tree.
First, I thought Id chop off the vines at the ground. But to get to the ground I have to chop through the network of vines that sought to entrap me like a bug in a spiders web.
Slowly, the work progressed. And it was, so hot.
Oww! Darn saw briars! I hate those things. Now, theres a true natural predator. Those things will rip clothes.
I traced all the vines as they curled and twisted around the branches back down to the ground. Ah, finally, I found the birthing point. A few quick nips and the vines could now be untangled. Or so I thought.
But, nooooo! They werent going to go quietly. Some more snipping; some more pulling.
Ah, it was coming easier now. Until...come on - let loose!
This one vine had wrapped around the branch so many times, the only thing to do was amputate.
Why hadnt I thought of this in the first place?
As I looked at what remained, amputation seemed the route to go. Besides, the tree needed to be pruned anyway. Maybe this wasnt the right time to do it according to the gardening books, but, hey, I was into this and the time was now like it or not.
So, Im yanking the stuff out, branches and all. Stuff was falling all around me.
One vine had extended into another tree. Giving me a hard time, I wrapped it around my arms and began the tug-of-war. This darn thing was acomin down! I yanked and pulled, and yanked and pulled.
Finally, it let loose and I landed hard, on my keester. (Seems Ive been there before.)
Leaves and vines were on top of me. I looked at them. Muscadine and... oh, no! No! Arrrrgh! Poison Ivy! No, not again! Aw, geesh! The stuff was all over me.
Stuff was oozing from vines wrapped around my arms. Nooooooo! I lay there for a minute or two contemplating the paradox of nature.
Well, I couldnt just lay here. Or could I? Naw! Ok, had to deal with the situation.
I carefully rose to my feet and just stood there draped in the stuff.
I was standing, but now what? If I move, Im just going to get more stuff on myself.
Well, I cant stand here like this wrapped up in vines that will definitely do me bodily harm. And I had complained about the saw briars! Why hadnt I seen this notorious denizen?
What to do?!?
Carefully, I began to unwrap myself. I am going to suffer for this. I know I am going to be one bumpy, rashy, itchy person in a matter of hours.
I removed the pernicious floral pest bit by bit - slowly, cautiously, prayerfully. Finally, I was free.
The pond looked like my best hope for a sort of immediate relief. If I jump in there, get off the majority of the goo, maybe it wont be so bad.
I flop in the water - extremely cold water! I worry the cold will close pores and lock in the itchy poison.
But, it felt so good, so cool, so refreshing. I floated on my back looking up at the sky. It was beautiful blue with a smattering of white puffy clouds. For a few moments, I melted into the peace of the graceful scene so high above me.
The frenzy was gone, drained away by the still cool water and the soft blue of a mid-May sky. I floated to the bank, got out and headed to the house.
Then the thought crossed my mind, if I hadnt gotten into the poison ivy I would never have jumped in the pond and dwelt in that other surreal world, no matter how briefly. Somehow, in the midst of panic, I found tranquillity and strength.
I walked to the house puzzling over the complex simplicity of life.
Whatever happened from that point on really didnt matter. What was done was done.
I filled the tub and lay soaking in the lukewarm water gently wiping my arms and legs. I looked for the telltale bumps. Didnt see a one. I checked more thoroughly. Nope, no bumps. When I checked my feet, I found one small area on one foot that had broken out in the unmistakable rash of poison ivy. But, that was the only trace. After all that, only one spot. Whew!
A bit amazed, I went back down to my jungle and looked at what I had accomplished, aside from the unfortunate encounter, and realized I had made a good start on an overwhelming project. And I knew what lay hidden in the wisteria and muscadine. It wasnt going to get me again.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.
By: Jana Adams
The Banks County News
June 5, 2002
Eating, and more eating, in Charleston
Just back from a short trip to Charleston, S.C., and Folly Beach, I found myself hesitating on Monday when a co-worker asked what all we did on vacation.
Well, we ate, I replied, and, of course, spent time on the beach and downtown, I added quickly, somewhat reluctant to cast myself as simply a glutton (but if the spoon fits snugly in your hand...).
Seriously, one of the best things about Charleston and there are many great things about that old city is the food, especially if you are a seafood lover. If you are thinking of a visit to Charleston sometime soon, here are some suggestions.
The Mistral, located right in the marketplace, is a tried and true favorite. Its a French restaurant, but not overwhelmingly fancy (and the menu is in English), especially at lunchtime, with a nice atmosphere and wonderful, wonderful she-crab soup. Add salty, buttery bread to soak it up and thats a meal in itself. Zach and I ate there our first full day, savoring the soup, and then went back for more soup and salad on our way out of town. Our waiter looked somewhat surprised to see us again, but not terribly. It probably happens pretty often.
On the kind recommendation of a co-worker, we tried Fish, also located downtown, on King Street. Its also a nice restaurant, and affords you a chance to dress up, if you want. We, however, wandered in off the street, definitely casual and somewhat disheveled after a hot and humid hike through downtown, but they were kind to us anyway. The food was delicious we had pan-seared tuna with risotto and crab-stuffed flounder, as well as crab cakes for starters.
For something completely different and completely casual, we went to Bowens on Bowens Island near Folly Beach. Bowens is a family-owned island with a seafood shanty on the marsh with screened-porch or outdoor seating. Its basically a dock with a building added to it for cooking and for graffiti. Just about every inch of wall you can find, as well as much of the tabletop space, is covered with penned-on names, pictures including sketches of the three family member founders dates, whatever. It makes for interesting reading while you wait for the food, as do the numerous newspaper and magazine articles scattered around that mark the history of the place. Once you get over the graffiti surprise, you head indoors and place your order with Mr. Bowen, who writes it down in a spiral-bound notebook and offers you something cold from the cooler. On the assumption of honesty, you dont pay until you are finished, just in case you want to come back for more. The seafood is fresh and good and there is plenty of it.
Another restaurant that has been written up and praised many times in print is Jestines Kitchen. Jestine, who was born in 1885 to former slave parents, lived to be 112. She started the restaurant, which is on a less crowded stretch of Meeting Street in downtown Charelston, and the tradition has continued despite her death in 1997. The menu lists everything from fresh seafood to homestyle meatloaf and vegetables to the Blue Collar Special, a warm peanut butter and banana sandwich. Really good. A small bowl of pickled cucumbers, along with truly sweet tea, whets your appetite as you await your meal. Jestines Kitchen is a neat place; it reminds me of The Grit in Athens, but with fresh seafood.
There are many, many other places to choose from in Charleston, but these four are some of my favorites.
Jana Adams is features editor of The Jackson Herald.