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Wrapping Up 2014

And Looking Forward To 2015

We have enjoyed a quiet holiday season here on the Crystal Coast.  Our biggest excitement in the last month of the year was the Christmas Eve rainstorm which produced over four inches of rain in around six hours.  Beyond weather, Swansboro has seen a number of their top administrative people jump ship.  When it comes to Swansboro politics, I cannot tell you if the departures have anything to do with the Walmart issue or the ongoing Town Dock brouhaha. This far up the White Oak River, it is just a tempest in a teapot and has little to do with life in the salt marsh.

Our holiday season has been marked by some festive events like the Crystal Coast Festival of Lights, the Emerald Isle Christmas Parade, a number of flotillas, plenty of local holiday parties and several church events that have provided our area with just the right mix of holiday spirit and cheer. We had a wonderful caroling event in our subdivision. Several of the children took the time to bring some holiday songs and smiles to our homes.

I did an extensive look back at the weather for the year at my Coast Paradise site.  It is safe to say it was a wet year with seventy or more inches of rain,  Still I thought the weather was fantastic for much of the year with the exception of last January and February when things got so cold that Raymond's Gut froze over.  Fortunately all my tomato seedlings were growing happily in my office at that time.

That severe cold weather set the stage for cool weather as spring started. We still got our first radishes by March 15, and I put in a succession of tomato plants between March 17 and early April.  It was worth it because we got our first ripe tomato on May 25.  We are still eating some of the ones which ripened off the vine after we picked them during the mid-November cold snap this fall.  We have a enough lettuce in the fridge for one more salad from our fall lettuce.  As the new year begins, we have a big crop of January lettuce growing, a little broccoli, some Swiss chard, and three huge rutabagas.  We have to hope that what we learned last winter might help us protect our crops from the upcoming intrusions of cold Canadian air.

Aside from the failure of our summer bean crop which was tempered by a very nice bean harvest in November, we had a very good gardening year.  We can only hope for a similar one in 2015.

I spent all my fishing time this year in the White Oak River.  I would class 2014 as a very good fishing year with a number of nice keeper flounder, a similar number of slot-sized drum over twenty inches, and a couple of keeper trout.  My fall fishing season was cut a little short by my leaky kayak and motor problems on my skiff.

I managed to find a great deal on a new 12 foot Old Town Dirigo kayak at Neuse Sporting goods.  Then a very good marine mechanic, Steven Dixon, of Dixon Marine got my Yamaha motor back into shape just before Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately by the time I got the new kayak and the skiff back at the dock most of the fall fish had vacated the area. However, I will be ready for the spring season as soon as it arrives.

Dr. Bogus, my fishing buddy from Emerald Isle, told me that the surf fishing season was not as good as what I experienced in the river. Fishing is always unpredictable. My experience has usually been that I am in the wrong place to catch fish.  However, this year I seem to have fished with some flounder magic until one that I was cleaning escaped the dock.  Another friend who fishes the same area that I do in the White Oak also had a great year with drum so at least this year, the fish were with us on the river.  Next year they might be in the surf.

We had a surprise visit on December 7, from the great egret Frank 29X. This is the third December in a row that Frank, a bird from Canada, has dropped by to check out Raymond's Gut.  There have been a lot of visits to our marsh in the last year by other feathered friends and creatures.  I managed to get some great photo shots of everything from a jumping mullet to a falcon.  Even my nemesis, the local kingfisher, who places hide and seek with me managed to give me a few good photos.  My older daughter happened to snap a picture of an eagle behind our dock in April.  It was the first eagle that we have seen in our neighborhood. However, we can usually count the local osprey to provide some great pictures.

I have not gotten into the selfie trend though I will admit to posing for a few pictures while holding fish.  Perhaps the fish picture I enjoyed the most was this 22" red drum which I caught last May.  It was a great way to start the season.  It was almost as rewarding as the first tomato of the season that came at the same time or that first batch of strawberries that we picked last April.

There are always some changes here on the Crystal Coast.  Some are insignificant like the new free-standing Taco Bell being built in Swansboro or the name change for Swanboro Food and Beverage Company (formerly Swans Burro).  Other happenings will change lives like the construction that has started on the new bridge over Gallant's Channel in Beaufort, the hospital addition in Morehead City,  and perhaps the pier construction that is just over the horizon at Eastern Regional Access in Emerald Isle.

One of the reasons that I like living along the Crystal Coast is that some things do not change. The White Oak River is its same pristine self and the zig-zag path down it to Swansboro Harbor is exactly the same as it was when we moved here in 2006. It is an especially beautiful ride during the summer months.

There are a few things which change all the time down here, one of my favorites is the beach at the Point at Emerald Isle. The sand at the Point always keeps moving.  I saw two or three features at the Point come and go during this season.

Even this map of a July 17 hike is no longer completely accurate.  The water feature shown in the picture at the top of this post disappeared by fall.  There was not even a trace of it when I went hiking there just after Thanksgiving.  I fully expect to find some more changes when I make my annual January survey of the Point.

It has been a good year here on the coast.  Arthur, the early season hurricane, which did so much damage in Canada, barely brushed us.  It is a little early to know what kind of gardening, fishing, boating, or hiking season that we can expect this year.  However, it will likely be different in some way that will keep us on our toes. That is the way of life along the cost.  I can hope that fall stays the same no matter what. It is my favorite season.

The North Carolina coast is, however, a great place to live even in winter.  A big part of the reason for me is that living on the edge of the salt marsh makes it easy for nature's peace will flow into me. All I have to do is slow down enough that it has a chance to engulf me.  If the modern world has battered you like it did me, this place can help you recover.

Come visit us on the Crystal Coast and enjoy our wonderful natural world.  Our free online Emerald Isle Travel Guide is a good place to start.

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