That was one long, hot summer! 

Seems like everyone, even the die-hard hot-weather-loving people, have had enough of it! I do hope we are able to enjoy a few nice weeks of autumn, before we plunge into winter, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m whining about being cold.  

If I could place my order with Mother Nature for the perfect weather, I’d ask for highs in the low 80s and lows in the high 60s. Maybe one or two weekends in January or February with a couple feet of snow — but no ice! No power outages and no hazardous roads. Maybe a high of 85 on the Fourth of July, but with very low humidity. 

Unfortunately, Mother Nature offers me no clout, so I don’t get to pick and choose. Therefore, I wait (not so patiently through the dog days of summer) for the delightful crisp air and cooler temperatures of autumn. My favorite time of the year! 

I mean, what’s not to love about autumn? Friday Night Lights at the stadium watching the Marching Doggs, (and of course the football Doggs, too), Saturday games between the hedges, bonfires at night, the smell of leaves burning and leaving my windows open all night while I sleep. Then there’s pumpkin-spice everything, soft hoodies, hot apple cider and shopping for new flannel jammies. And sweatpants. Has there ever been a more fabulous invention? 

Another of my favorite autumn events is my brother’s annual shindig at his mountain farm, better known as Hillbilly Hippiefest. This past weekend was the 10th anniversary of the event, and we spent a lovely afternoon and evening at Star Valley. There weren’t many stars to see this year, as the cloud cover was quite low, but the temperature was perfect, and there was no rain. Clear skies and low humidity would have been even more perfect, but we were delighted for the reprieve from the seventh level of hell temperatures of the prior week, and also happy there was no rain.  

My brother and his wife have been working on the farm for about 12 years, turning it from a lovely little valley in a range of small mountains between Westminster, S.C. and Clayton into an almost retreat-like homestead.  

The property is beautiful all on its own with a beautiful stream that winds through the valley. They have worked the land, planting multiple fruit and nut trees, a small grape vineyard and landscaping that enhances the natural beauty of the valley. They have added a large pavilion for gatherings, and there’s a small log cabin on the property that overlooks the valley. This serves as their weekend home while they are building their farmhouse up on the knoll, further up the mountain.  

During Hillbilly Hippiefest, friends bring campers and tents, set up in the meadow on the other side of the stream. Tent City, if you will. Everyone brings food to share, musical instruments and lots of camaraderie, which makes for a magical weekend off the grid, under the stars, (or clouds). Their dream is to one day be totally off the grid, with a self-sustaining lifestyle. They would love to someday host retreats or seminars that teach others about sustainable living, including canning and preserving organically home-grown food, etc. And perhaps offer the property as a venue for special events, like weddings. The possibilities are endless, and the fun is in the planning!

Hillbilly Hippiefest represents the official beginning of autumn for me. And while Mother Nature doesn’t pander to my wishes, she was right on time with the cooler temperatures this year!

I hope you are enjoying the cooler weather as well. Maybe we’ll have several weeks before cold weather sets in. Better get in those closets and pull out the flannel sheets, hoodies and sweat pants, though. I have a feeling we’ll be needing them before long!

Cathy Watkins Bennett is a Barrow County native and a graduate of Winder-Barrow High School. Send comments about this column to

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