Category Archives: vegetation

Fig Fest

This time of year local figs are ripening. They have long been a staple on the Outer Banks. Nearly all the old family homesteads have a fig tree or two growing in the yard. When the  US Lifesaving Stations were active, they almost always had a fig tree nearby. Sandy well-drained soil helps and they seem to thrive come hell or even high water. Originating in the middle eastern countries and Asia, figs must have been introduced here from early sailing ships.

The tree I planted in my yard 30 years ago is having a productive season.

A big ripe one is ready to pick, while new ones form.

I picked a bowl 2 days ago.

They’re best eaten soon after harvest. I love them raw or cooked stuffed in a baked chicken.

In August of 2015 I attended Ocracoke’s celebration of the Second Annual Fig Festival. Ocracoke is gifted with a wide variety of fig trees and islanders have nurtured them for generations. The festival ran for 2 days and featured presentations, entertainment and most of all, figs and fig related goodies.

A main event took place in the Community Square

Vendors were there with homemade preserves and potted plants.

Locally made fig cake was a delectable favorite, not to mention samples of freshly picked figs.

In 2015 I met Della Gaskill and bought some of her homemade preserves and a signed copy of her book, A Blessed Life, Growing Up on Ocracoke. To her right, son Monroe shared fig stories with Phillip Howard.

Ocracoker, Chester Lynn is the local go-to person on fig culture and lore. He’s spent a lifetime studying and propagating figs.

Go if you can!


For a long time, I’ve had a love affair with local wild flowers. In a variety of colors and sizes, they need to be hearty to survive in this sometimes harsh place. I can’t pick a favorite one, but enjoy them all.

In Summer, a bright yellow flower that keeps coming back is coreopsis. Self-sowing, it drops seeds for the following year, and exists mostly on higher ground and ridges.

Here in the town of Waves, I don’t see them as much as I used to. Where there are now subdivisions of beach houses, there were once open fields blanketed with bright flowers, .

Subdivisions at Sea Isle Hills and Bold Dune would eventually be built where this old wooden boat died.

In 1977, the land behind Miss Alethia’s house was thick with gold.

Photographed in 1975, an island homestead in Waves is gone now, but thankfully the coreopsis still comes back.





Nature never ceases to amaze me as it provides for the proliferation of life.

When birds migrate, their food supply is crucial. So it happens that this time of year as the female red cedar trees are draped with succulent berries, the cedar waxwings are moving through in large flocks. They can be seen resting on power lines or collectively swirling through the villages. Then they disappear into the trees. Eastern red cedars keep their foliage and are the prevalent green in our winter landscape. They are easy to spot.

My property has lots of indigenous vegetation, including cedars. The male cedar develops tiny cones and pollenates the females. Sometimes the trees are so laden with pollen, the branches practically smoke as the wind whips through them.

flock Flocks feed voraciously in the cedars around my house.


Cedar Waxwings are handsome birds with colorful plumage, a rakish black mask and crest.

tail The tail is striking and looks as if it was dipped in yellow paint.

trailers The name of the bird comes from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of the secondary feathers.

down  Down the hatch. Cheers!



This is a time of renewal. Rather than celebrating Spring as a turn of the calendar page, I see Spring coming about in the natural world around me. I spend a lot of time in the wetland behind my house.  Specific plants and animals exist there, highly adapted to this aquatic and terrestrial environment. They are fascinating to watch, living in completely flooded conditions one day, and nearly dry the next.

This time of year, the marsh turns from brown to a rich green color. New growth sprouts from the muddy ground, giving way to new life.

Salicornia, commonly called glasswort is a fleshy, salt-tolerant plant that stores water and salt in its tissues. It springs up from the ground this time of year, growing throughout the Summer. As a young plant it is edible and tasty. I have had it in salads, no salt needed. By the time Fall arrives, it becomes a brilliant red.

Another sure sign of Spring is when the fiddler crabs emerge from their winter burrows.

On another front, this is a unique Spring in that our community is rebounding after a hurricane. Things are getting some state of normalcy. Some old things taken out, to be replaced by something new. Edward and William Hooper’s house was torn down 2 weeks ago. Now that was a tough one.

Things continue to change.


The post storm recovery has been a unique experience. In many ways, it’s much more stressful than the storm itself. Hurricane Irene feels like it was just last week, pummeling the villages of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo. The time of day and the day of the week are remote concepts. It is not business as usual. For me personally, I have experienced emotional highs and lows. One moment I see the devastation of my neighbors’ flooded homes, and then next, I’m witnessing people coming together with incredible support.

Right after the storm, I D Midgett was reunited with his grand-daughter, Bryanna. Both of their homes were inundated with sound tide, and are unlivable. Neighbors have opened up their homes to accommodate them, while they rebuild.

The Volunteer Fire Departments have been instrumental in maintaining everyone’s safety. Hours after the storm’s exit, they were out doing things like checking leaking gas tanks, and later, righting headstones in family cemeteries. Here, Tom Murphy and Jim Shimpach discuss recovery with a rescue squad worker.

Tombstones lay flat on the ground at the ravaged cemetery in the Salvo Day Use Area.

Then there are the volunteers from communities to our south. They came in droves offering a tremendous amount of manpower, stripping houses of water damaged materials, furniture, appliances and cleaning up tons of debris. Russell, Mole and Wolfie (above) drove up from Buxton to lend a hand. They were at my house tearing down plywood underpinning and wet insulation. Then they went on helping many others in need, for several days.

The Salvation Army was here almost immediately, bringing in food and supplies so desperately needed. Not only that but they always greeted us with smiles and uplifting spirits.

The North Carolina Baptist Men brought in portable laundromats and hot showers. And with the Salvation Army scaling back, the Baptist Men are preparing our hot meals every day. Yesterday two of them drove up to my neighbor’s house and offered to spray the underside of her floor to kill any mold that had started. Then they came over to treat the underside of my house, and after that to my other neighbor’s house.

All these selfless people are heros in my book. I could go on and on. From the Dare County Health Department giving out tetanus shots, to Tilghman Gray bringing up a load of fresh bluefish and putting on the best fish fry ever.

The vegetation that would normally be green this time of year, has turned a golden brown from harsh salt spray.

The rack line in the marsh behind my house is deep in washed-up debris.

The landfill at the day use area is enormous, and many of the rental homes have not even been dealt with yet.

A pile of lost hopes and dreams continues to grow.

And the battle for the S-Curve continues to be waged.

Building a line of large sand bags is a first line of defense.

Will man ever be able to tame Hatteras Island?

Weather permitting, the sand dike gets higher and higher.

One load gets dumped, and another empty truck runs to Avon for more sand. They must have trucked over 3,000 loads by now.

Meanwhile at Mirlo Beach, the future looks mighty grim.