Sarah E. Kucharski photo
I spent the first weekend in March rooting out knowledge at the Organic Growers School Conference held on the University of North Carolina-Asheville campus. Despite its granola-sounding name, the conference is a welcoming place for even the most new and tender of gardeners to fertilize his or her first seeds of interest in the hobby so that those seeds may grow into a burgeoning crop of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
This year was the second that I have attended the conference. Last year I discovered the joys of attracting beneficial insects to the garden. Beneficial insects include those that are pollinators and predators on insects that are considered crop pests. Certain plants like dill and fennel, when allowed to go into bloom, attract parasitic wasps that prey on pesky aphids and larvae. For this reason I grow these herbs and a slew of other insect favorites in close proximity to my vegetables—lavender, sage, roses, butterfly bush, sedum. These plants bring me joy for their roles as edibles and ornamentals and keep the garden abuzz with movement and life. The relationships amongst the animal, vegetable, and mineral entities are complex and beautiful and best observed slowly over the course of the seasons.
Loyal readers of Smoky Mountain Living have watched the magazine change and grow over the course of the past 10 years, and it is only fitting that we have chosen to celebrate the theme of growth as we mark our tenth anniversary. A true hallmark of growth—and a testament to our hardiness and our readers’ perennial interest—is that Smoky Mountain Living is now published six times a year. After harvesting the bounty of stories and images from the Appalachians, readers now have less time to wait until the next flush arrives, and each issue, like the prolific zucchini, is made for sharing.
In this issue of Smoky Mountain Living, we explore growth in its various forms including heirloom varieties and heritage seed saving, the creation of underground caverns, the impacts of increased visitorship on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hunting wild mushrooms, and why the mountains are a great place to grow spiritually. Each of these stories is rooted in the mystical, magical living world around us.
“If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature; and the greatest of these, at least the most constant and always at hand, is nature,” said John Burroughs in The Art of Seeing Things. “Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination—healthy to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and joy to the soul.”