Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Kayaking Scenic Waterways

For much of the year we have very lovely weather here in central North Carolina. July and August are often hot, but the rest of the year is usually beautiful, with an abundance of sun. 

One of our favorite sports on cool days is kayaking. There are four kayaks in the community, and one is a tandem. It’s especially fun to take five people on outings (or people can borrow a kayak and go on their own). 

River kayaking is my favorite. The choices are paddling the serene Eno River along dense woodlands, or paddling a short section of the beautifully-rocky Flat River, gliding along lovely rock formations and tall banks covered in the springtime with Wild azaleas, mountain laurel and rhododendron. 

We are fortunate to have a variety of kayaking options near Elderberry. For a longish paddle in bigger waters, we can explore the coves of Mayo Lake, Kerr Lake, Falls Lake and Jordan Lake. 

Recently, coming into the fall, the smaller lakes wow us with stunning color, and the sun is tempered by the cool air. Two medium-sized lakes are very close-by, Holt Lake and Lake Michie. Both are surrounded by banks of wooded, undeveloped land. 

Marjorie and Mary getting ready to launch the kayaks. Holt lake actually has a convenient launching pad for kayaks!

Holt Lake is within fifteen minutes and also sports a small, low-key cafe with a deck overlooking the lake. Occasionally we’ll have lunch together after our paddle. Even though it’s simply a burgers and fries kind of place, the setting is peaceful and the local folks are friendly. 

Enjoy some of the images from our recent trips!

Marjorie paddled the smaller blue kayak. All of us stayed closer to the bank to see the wildlife and hear the birds. 

Mary and Judy paddled the yellow tandem Kayak. I enjoyed the colors and reflections as the three of them glided slowly along the wooded banks.

I never get tired of watching the ripples cross and intersect!

We paddled closer to the bank to see the wildlife and hear the birds. 

This trip was taken along the rocky banks following a creek upstream at Lake Michie. Mary, Riley her sweet dog are in the red kayak. The Duke University crew teams can often be seen slicing mightily through the lake as we meander lazily along the banks.

This is one of my favorite shots of Mary and Riley. If you look carefully, you’ll recognize Riley is in the kayak too, looking up at the big rocks, but she is very well camouflaged!!

The closest I got to a selfie was this shot of my bare toes on the foot rests!

In May of this year, our county approved a new park, only a few miles from us on the Flat River. They are planning for lots of trails, and have said that kayakers will be able to paddle the Flat River from the park to Lake Michie.  

I don’t think the County Commissioners have actually paddled the Flat, because unless the water level is high, it’s too rocky to paddle. When the water is high, the river is fast. But the park will be a nice addition, and maybe we will brave running the river when the water (and our adrenaline) is high ­— that might be our new nearby whitewater adventure!


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Two Grand Openings

The Grand Opening of Ugly Plant

I have a very unusual plant, affectionately called “Ugly Plant” but in truth, a Night Blooming Cereus.

This plant has limited qualities, shall we say, as plants go. It’s loaded with prickers, gets spindly and takes over window space.  

And a little more background here.

This clipping originally came from my parents. Once a year, for one night only in the middle of summer, Ugly Plant would put on a spectacular show! On this occasion, my parents would invite family and friends to join in and watch the Grand Opening. 

So when I moved to Elderberry, I decided to continue this tradition!

Towards the end of June, my plant started to produce fuzzy nobs. Over the course of ten days, these nobs began to lengthen and develop.

Finally, one evening around 7:30 pm, the ends begin to “ripen”. 

Tonight will be the Grand Opening!

I sent out an email to the community inviting everyone to come by and watch. The late-night dog-walkers arrived with flashlights (though some people forgot and only saw the sad remains the next morning). 

My photographer friend Scottee has shot this plant for three years and has won awards with her images. On the other hand, I simply use my dependable Ipad!

At 8 pm, the interior of the blossoms start to show.

By 9 pm, the blossoms are fully open.

The Grand Opening!

The blossoms stay open throughout the night. However, by morning, they have closed and wilted. Party definitely over!

Maybe you might join us next year for our bloom-viewing event?

The Grand Opening! Introducing Sambuco,
a Fine Dining Experience in the Elderberry Hive


Last year our Culture Team, comprised of Mary, Vonda, Linda and Joyce, organized a community retreat and check-in to gauge how well members of our community were relating with each other. 

One of the comments received was that people wanted more opportunity to socialize around smaller and more intimate dinners. 

Also during this check-in, we presented an exercise called a spectrum, where everyone stands along an imaginary line to indicate how they might answer a particular question. We discovered most of us like to be invited to events, but are less inclined to initiate social interactions. Yes, we have a fair number of introverts!

With this feedback the Culture Team created Sambuco, Elderberry’s own version of an elegant, sit-down restaurant with limited seating, and reservation only. 

The catch? Members need to invite each other!

The Culture Team transformed the meeting area within our Common House into an elegant dining room with white table clothes, fresh flowers, soft jazz and beautifully printed menus.

Four volunteers who are fabulous cooks prepared and served a four-course dinner for three tables, with all the finishing touches you’d expect from elegant dining.

Lemon Cloud was the finishing touch for dessert, garnished with raspberries, and powdered sugar. And the final detail? Sambuco-inscribed doggie bags for the delicious leftovers!

Opening night was a huge success, with many requests for another evening at “our restaurant". Sambuco is scheduled again for October.

The Dream Team, our gourmet chefs and servers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Summertime Holidays!

 Memorial Day, the Big Kick-off! 

Classic Elderberry events combine family and friends, spectacular potluck dishes, lots of grilling, musical soundtracks, and outdoor games! 

So far this summer, skilled teams competed for fame and fortune with corn hole, Jenga, and our newest addition, miniature golf — entertainment for participants and peanut gallery alike!

With several tables of food, we mingled and overate, another honored Elderberry tradition.

Mary and Karolyn are a formidible team. We think they go into training off-season.

Marjorie and Mike made up for skill with lots of good-natured ribbing — always a crowd favorite.

The spectator gallery never broke a sweat.

My personal favorite was an impromptu duet with Mary Kay and Stewart singing "Oh Lord It's Hard to Be Humble", Mary Kay's personal theme song!

Fourth of July Trifecta!

This year’s Fourth of July involved three great events: Our traditional Independence Day potluck; celebration of one members’ 87th birthday; and a new lawn game addition, the inauguration of Elderberry’s first ever Miniature Golf Course!

Besides knowing how to have fun, Elderberry obviously has some outside-the-box thinkers that come up with some pretty amazing ideas! It’s not every community that has its own mini-golf course. 

Mike had been working on the details for several months — what material to use for the greens, the holes, the bumpers? And most of all, for the obstacles!

In the end, he used turf fabric for the greens, PVC pipe caps as holes, and landscape edging as bumpers.  

And for the obstacles? Mike asked for volunteers to “adopt” each hole. And members definitely stepped up to the challenge!  

The first hole had a moving pendulum painted by Mary’s 5 and 6-year-old grandkids. Karen and Stewart created a dramatic Scottish scene complete with a homemade castle.

 Joyce and Mary Kay assembled the “animal hole” with every manner of creative creature obstacle. Next, there was a deceptively difficult hole on Mike’s front porch.

 A big crew at the moose hole (you’d have to see it!), contributed by Diane.  

And the final hole, courtesy of Karolyn — three 5 gallon buckets and no easy bank shots! 

After several rounds of play, there ended up being three hole-in-ones and lots of groaning and cheering from players and spectators alike.

 Mary and Joyce surpassed last year's Jenga record, although we lost exact count when it unexpectedly toppled! We had to rely on a photo finish to count the final number of rows. How many? I'm still not sure!

Diane was the organizing powerhouse for fabulous food. Richard set up the grill so folks could prepare anything from vegan hot dogs to delicious, spicy, local sausage burgers. 

There was one entire table of potluck side dishes and another table of desserts, a particularily popular spot. Karolyn prepared her famous gingerbread cookies with personalized limericks, all with a 4th of July theme. Desserts ranged from ice cream, peach pie, chocolate brownies, blackberry cobbler (using our own blackberry’s from our garden) and blueberry crisp.  

July 4th is Nancy’s birthday. Upon request, Karolyn made Nancy’s favorite dessert, an amazing carrot cake (a community favorite with a great background story).

As the evening finale, Stewart, with his amazing tenor voice, sang I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen. Nancy requested this song because it was her mother’s favorite, and the reason that Nancy’s middle name is Kathleen.

Story and photos by Joyce Hopkins

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Wildflowers of our Woods

Woodland Blueberry

by Mary Bennett, April 2021

Over the past month, I started taking photos of wildflowers along our trails. Here is a record of some of the spring flowers I found during these hikes! 

At Elderberry we are so fortunate to share, with our sister community Potluck Community Farm, 130+ acres of gorgeous woods, fields and streams. I love our woods in the winter­ — there is still so much green through the cold months, including lush mosses, carpets of creeping cedar, several varieties of ferns and prickly holly.

Winter view from Little Creek Top Trail 

But as spring approaches the woods are transformed to that short-lived spring green that literally shines in the sunlight. And following on the heels of that, the spring wildflowers. Our woods have an amazing abundance and variety of wildflowers.

This year several people in the community were on the lookout for the first flower that appears, the trout lily. It bows its little yellow head and spreads its lovely green wings and proclaims spring to be here. Often within days of the trout lilies making an appearance, the spring beauties begin popping out, and then the bluets, which soon are blanketing the banks of our streams. It’s difficult to get a photo that shows the beauty of that perfusion of these tiny blue flowers. 

Then, within a few short weeks, we have trillium, violets, ginger, green-and-gold, irises, star chickweed, and toothwort.


Toadshade Trillium

Bashful Wakerobin Trillium

Wild Ginger

Green and Gold

Wild Iris

We are lucky to have a few rare wildflowers in our woods, and one is bloodroot. It is lovely and fleeting, generally sharing its white bloom in April, only in the relative warmth of mid-day, and only for a few short weeks. Hepatica’s delicate purple flower is not really rare, but it can be hard to find in our woods. We know where it likes to live, so we search it out to admire it.

I almost wrote this blog a few weeks ago when my favorite spring flower arrived­ — the wild azalea. There are few flowers as intricately beautiful as this spidery pink bloom. They thrive on our stream banks, and stand out boldly against the backdrop of the dark water.

But today, I was glad I waited a while to write the blog, because I was surprised by another of our rare wildflowers — the pink lady-slipper orchid. We know of a few patches of them in our woods, and some years there are only a very few. Last year I was a bit worried that we were losing them, but today I found them in abundance. I must admit that the flower always looks more like a scrotum than a slipper to me (just being honest), but it’s pretty awesome just the same. 


Wild Azalea

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

Lady Slipper Orchid

Also recently, I saw my first lyre-leaf sage, jack-in-the-pulpit and southern blueberry. Along one of our trails near a wetland, we get many dozens of atamasco lilies. Today there were about fifteen to twenty, but in the next week or two the wetland will be teaming with them. 

And lastly, I went looking for the mountain laurel, having seen some in bud in a nearby park this week. Our buds were still just tiny, but in another week they will look like little sugar confections before they pop wide open.

Atamasco Lily


Mountain Laurel

There really is no perfect time to write a wildflower blog, because we continue to get amazing flowers here throughout the spring and fall. Some of my favorites are the foam flower, May apple, wood sorrel, rue anemone, skullcap, cardinal flower, blue-eyed grass and pickerel weed.

Foam Flower

May Apple

To help our community members learn the wildflowers of our woods, a few of us worked together to enlarge our trail map and create a wall poster in our common house. 

The trail map is surrounded by photos of most of our wildflowers, along with references to where they can be found on our trails. We don’t have photos of all of the wildflowers, but we have captured 68 of them on this poster!

Each wildflower close-up is identified with the common name, the scientific name, preferred soil conditions, location on the Potluck Trail and time of year it blooms. A convenient source of information for our trail hikers!

Readers, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the beauty of spring, and the surprise and awe of coming across wildflowers, wherever they may be!

Written by Mary Bennett; Posted by Joyce Hopkins