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Beachcombing on Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands


Beachcombing on Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands

by Pat Garber
(June 2013)
Legend has it that Black¬beard the Pirate buried his treasure on the island of Ocracoke, and every once in a while some enthusiastic believer goes treasure hunting for a stash of gold. He’s not likely to find buried gold, but there is most definitely treasure to be found on these barrier islands. The beaches of Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands are often littered with interesting shells and other sea life, driftwood, and odd flotsam-all gifts to the person who may find them.
The objects that litter the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound are usu¬ally washed up by the tide and waves. They may come from a few feet out from the shore or from hundreds of miles away. They may be relatively new or thousands of years old. They may be naturally occurring, or include such man-made items as sea glass, pieces of old shipwrecks, or even a note in a bottle, washed up on the beach from far away.
The best time to go beach¬combing is at low tide, when the water has receded and the broadest stretch of beach is accessible. Use a tide chart, of¬ten found in local newspapers, to learn when low tide is. The tides are lowest when there is a full or new moon. Early morning is also a good time to go, before other folks get out and pick up the prize shells. Shelling is especially good after a storm or hurricane, especially if the wind was blowing from the east.
Among the many kinds of shells, or mollusks, seen on the ocean beaches of Ocracoke and Portsmouth are calico scal¬lops, lightening and channeled whelks, American cockles, Atlantic surf clams, and common jingle shells. Some of the favor¬ite finds include moonshells, olive shells, American augers, and several species of wentletraps. Sawtooth pens, their shells so thin and fragile that you can almost see through them, can occasionally be found whole, and sometimes a stretch of beach will reveal dozens of tiny, colorful coquina shells. Scotch bonnets, the state shell of North Carolina, can often be found, and a lucky beachcomber might come across a prized emperor or queen helmet. Not too long ago one fortunate beachcomber found the paper-thin shell of a paper nautilus, a relative of the octopus, pushed by storm waves from its home in the deep sea.
Make sure that the shell you pick up is unoccupied be¬fore you take it home. Hermit crabs often use moonshells and whelk shells as mobile homes. They are not the kind that can be purchased in gift shops, and if you take them home they will soon die.
Most people search for perfect shells, but some of the most interesting ones are of¬ten battered and broken. Oyster shells come in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colors that may appeal to an artistic eye for use in jewelry-making or wind chimes.
Also of interest are the re¬mains of other sea creatures; the carapace, for example, of blue, calico, or horseshoe crabs, or the egg cases of whelks or skates. Several kinds of sea stars (often called starfish), sometimes wash up on the beaches in multitudes after storms and can be dried for dis-play. The southern end of Ocracoke, known as “South Point” is a good place to find sand dollars, a kind of echinoid with a lovely five-petal design which bleaches white when dry. The lucky beachcomber might happen upon that rare find, a perfectly coiled and dried sea horse, carried ashore from the Gulf Stream.
Occasionally the remains of a sea turtle or a great whale will wash ashore. As fascinating as it is to see them, do not take them with you. It is against the law to possess parts from endangered species, and there is a stiff fine for having them in your possession.
The beaches at Portsmouth Island, part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, provides especially good opportunities for shelling, as they are less often visited by beachcombers. To get to Portsmouth you have to take a boat ride from Ocracoke and walk to the beach, or you can take your 4-wheel-drive vehicle on a ferry from Atlantic and drive north along the ocean shore. It is worth the trip, as people often return with bucketfuls of whelks and other desirable shells.
Jane Chestnut is one of Ocracoke’s most ardent shell collectors. A resident of the island for fifteen years now, she began coming to Ocracoke when just a child, picking up shells and other items she found. She learned to love beachcombing with her grandmother and her mother, who often left their home in Rocky Mount to vacation at Atlantic Beach.
Jane and her husband often go shelling on the Ocracoke beach, and when possible take a boat to Portsmouth Island. Jane makes jewelry using her shell treasures and sells it at Ride the Wind, her and husband’s surf shop. Not only does she use the shells themselves, she uses molding compounds to make molds of the shells and fashions silver casts of the originals. She also uses the shells in other designs, including a spectacular glass covered coffee table that contains intricate designs, all fashioned out of shells she has found. She makes mirrors bordered with scallop shells and Christmas ornaments from sand dollars and white scallop shells.
Some of Jane’s favorites include helmet shells, tulip shells, wentletraps, and bittersweets. Once she found a real treasure, a dried sea horse, at the beach near the Pony Pens, and after one storm her husband found a 14” horse conch. Atlantic carrier shells, whose middles contain a gooey substance to which other bits of shell cling, are also some of her favorites.
The treasures that can be discovered walking the beach¬es of North Carolina’s Outer Banks are endless, but if you really want to enjoy them, take the time to learn the natural history of the creatures who left them behind. The Ocracoke Preservation Museum has on display an extensive shell collection, donated by Ruth Cochran’s family, with interesting bits of information about each mollusk. Or you can read more about them in any of a number of books on Atlantic seashores. Behind each shell, each piece of flotsam, each skeletal remain, is a story, and these stories are the real treasures to be found on the beaches of Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands.

Foreign dignitaries humbled by Annual British Cemetery Ceremony

At the British Cemetery grave site, Ocracoke. From left, Commander Billy Mitchell, USCG; Lt. Jason Rochester, USCG Chaplin; Commander Ian Atkins, British Royal Naval assistant attache; Commander Karrie Trebbe, USCG; Commander David Trudeau, Canadian Naval attache; and Richard Eagles of Florida.

June 2013
by Connie Leinbach

Canadian Naval At­taché Commander David Trudeau was humbled by the an­nual British Cemetery Me­morial Service May 10 on Ocracoke. The ceremony honors the four seamen whose bodies were washed ashore here in 1942 and in­terred on land that is now property of Great Britain’s War Graves Commission and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. A ceremony to honor those interred in Buxton was held the day before.

Trudeau explained that the Battle of the Atlantic is remembered every first Sunday in May in Cana­da, and that the convoy in which the HMT Bedfor­shire was torpedoed off Cape Lookout on May 11, 1942, was crucial to the war effort.

“I’ve been in Washing­ton, D.C., for a year now and I’m in awe of how the American population hon­ors and pays tribute to your military,” he said. “It’s not like that all over the world. I’m humbled at your pay­ing tribute to these foreign soldiers.”

Trudeau’s remarks were echoed by Commander Ian Atkins, British Royal Naval Assistant Attaché, also in Washington, D.C. “You were our allies then as you are now continuing our fight against tyranny,” Atkins told the assembly of about 100 people. “We will never forget you. Our friends died out there (in the sea) and now rest here among friends.”

Early in 1942, the ocean off the eastern seaboard was a vital shipping lane ferrying supplies to the British Navy. German U-boats parked themselves off shore and took aim and sank nearly 400 largely unarmed and unescorted merchant vessels. Unpre­pared for war, the United States accepted the services of the British Royal Navy to patrol against German submarines. The British had conscripted a number of their country’s commer­cial fishing trawlers and pressed them into patrol service during the war. The HMT Bedfordshire was one of these vessels assigned to patrol the North Carolina coast.

Staging for the British Royal Navy took place in Canada, and the six years of action off the coast here is called the Battle of the Atlantic. Without those WWII convoys—bringing food and materiel to the troops all over the globe— the Allies would not have prevailed, both Atkins and Trudeau said.

These patrol groups took more casualties than the regular Navy, added Richard Eagles of South Florida, after the ceremony. He traveled to Ocracoke and Buxton especially to witness the ceremonies in honor of his 90-year-old uncle Jeffery Palmer, who had been part of the patrol service.

These convoy men called themselves “Harry Tate’s Navy,” Eagles said, in honor of a British comedian at the time. “They also were called ‘Churchill’s Pirates,’“ he continued, as he displayed a lapel badge only awarded to men in the Royal Navy Patrol Service. “It’s impor­tant to them that someone be here,” he said about his visit.

Of the four bodies washed ashore following the submarine attack, two are known: Ordinary Teleg­raphist Second Class Stan­ley Craig and Sub-Lieuten­ant Thomas Cunningham are two of the known bur­ied in the plot donated by the Williams and Teeter families. The other two are unknown.

“I’m always in awe of what took place here and up along the coast,” said Commander James “Billy” Mitchell, head of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Carolina Response Depart­ment. “Today we remem­ber the acts of those put in harm’s way.”

Atkins noted that this and the one in Buxton are the only WWII British cem­eteries in the United States. The ceremony takes place under the auspices of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, who organizes a special committee com­posed of members of the U.S. Coast Guard and com­munity volunteers.

“The first service was held when the men were buried and it has been held every year since,” noted Janey Jacoby, who is the Ocracoke volunteer for the event.

Among those partici­pating were the U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band, Oc­racoke’s Boy Scout Troup #290; Ocracoke School students Casey Tolson, Di­ana Perez, Miguel Monter and Jordy Jenkins; Kalmon Gancsos of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary; the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard ; Daniel Couch, president of the Friends of the Grave­yard of the Atlantic Mu­seum; and Johnnie Baum, of Hatteras, who recited an original poem about the fallen.

Health and Wellness: Angie’s Gym

Angie Todd in front of Angie's Gym Health and wellness photo June 2013
Angie Todd in front of Angie’s Gym.

 June 2013
By TL Grace West

Do you have a fitness story? Why not be­gin or continue one while on Ocracoke? Many people I talked with who are enjoying the new gym on Ocracoke were motivated to­ward fitness for weight loss. And also for the pure joy of being active, and healthy: It’s the best preventive medicine I know. One woman said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I actually enjoy exercising now!”

Angie loves to tell her fitness story which began about nine years ago. When looking at some old pictures she couldn’t believe that overweight person real­ly was her. Now, a moth­er of a 6-year-old, she is not only fit, but also has a beautiful state-of-the-art gym in her backyard to share with her com­munity and Ocracoke guests. How did she do it?

Angie was inspired by Chalene Johnson, the creator of a pro­gram called “turbo jam” and decided to order her workout video. “Cha­lene changed my life,” she said. Angie started working out on her own, then asked a friend to join her, and after awhile a small group emerged and the momentum was in full swing.

Angie pursued her in­structor’s certification four years ago and began classes in different community spac­es: the fire hall, the school gym, the community center. Slowly the dream of having a fitness center grew into what you will find now on 141 Sand Dollar Rd. ready for its first full summer sea­son. Angie came to the is­land unaware of this mission. She worked at restaurants, as many of us do who first fall in love with the island, and de­cided to stay. Next, she worked in social services for the county until it was time for a change. Her practice, discipline and belief in the value of fitness guided her as she built her dream. Angie has numerous fitness Instructor certifica­tions and stays current with regular continuing education classes.

I enjoyed talking with high school students, elders and all ages in between who frequent Angie’s Gym to work out with the machines, weights and/or take classes. After a PiYo (Pilates yoga fusion) class, I talked with a man from Virginia Beach who said the class was “very challenging. I encourage ev­eryone, especially men to give it a try, it’s a great way to build both strength and flexibility.” Two very happy young women, a bit red-faced, came out of class saying, “The whole rest of the day will be better because of getting such a complete workout.” Ingeborg Frye, resident of the island, loves to come and workout with her daughters.   “It’s a great and healthy way to share time with family,” she said.

Angie makes it easy to come for a day, week, month, three months, six months or year with reasonable membership rates. Two of my new Spanish friends who I’ve gotten to know through the community 1:1 teaching Eng­lish/Spanish program were talking as they jogged on the treadmills side by side. They work out together several times a week.

Melissa Garrish Sharber, who re­cently ran the 5/10k race on the island, said, “I love the turbo kick class.” Leslie Lanier owner of Books to be Red said, “The name of the magic pill to lose weight is ex­ercise. If I can do it, you can too.” An older cou­ple dedicated to fitness used to travel to Frisco to work out in the gym there, and are delighted with Angie’s Gym right here on our island.

Amy Hilton owner of Deep Blue Day Spa and “Yoga with Amy” yoga said,  “Angie’s Gym is a dream come true. I love teaching yoga there: The class room has mirrors, is always spot­lessly clean, full of light and spacious.”

I teach tai chi/ chi gong classes and second Amy’s words. Henry Schliff teaches a gentle yoga class and says, “The quiet peaceful­ness of the space is conducive to deep relaxation.”

Angie is available to guide your per­sonal workout programs, and is a friendly presence to help you begin where ever you are and celebrate with you while you travel your road of fitness.  One of her favorite quotes from Louise Hay is: “There is enough for everybody and we bless and prosper each other.”

She shared some of her future plans for the gym including a sauna open­ing soon; group weight-lift­ing classes, rowing class, Insanity, and TRX: suspen­sion training. Group classes that Angie teaches (Pilates/ yoga, aerobics, hip-hop and strength) are included in your membership.

There are additional small fees for other classes (Amy’s yoga, Grace’s tai chi, and Henry’s gentle yoga). See the whole schedule on the gym bulle­tin board or on line: http:// angies-gym.com; or call 252-928-2496; 252-928-2496. The gym is open Monday to Friday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m; Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m. to noon. See you at Angie’s Gym for your health and wellness.

TL Grace West loves to both ex­ercise and relax. After a good workout you can experience her warm water massage therapy. http://www.floatwithgrace.com  Health and Wellness: Angie’s Gym



From Henry’s Kitchen: Shrimp and shrimp tacos


June 2013
By Henry Schliff

Since people in the United States con­sume more shrimp than any other kind of sea­food and be­cause Ocracoke is blessed with some of the best tast­ing wild shrimp to be found anywhere in the world, I thought some basic information about shrimp would be helpful for our readers along with a deli­cious informal way to pre­pare them.

Farm raised vs. wild shrimp
Ninety percent of the shrimp consumed in the United States is imported and farm-raised. Farming technology has improved dramatically in recent years, and though carefully controlled farm-raised shrimp can be very good and healthful there is very little regulation of overseas pro­ducers.   In addition, very lit­tle inspection of imports is done by the FDA (about 2 percent) and with so little oversight a great deal of contamina­tion has been discovered (numerous cancer-causing agents and salmonella bac­teria).

Many foreign shrimp farms rely on antibiotics and pesticides to deal with parasites and diseases in their overcrowded shrimp pools and the resulting tox­icity can be so high that the state of Alabama, which does its own inspection, re­jects 50 percent of imported shrimp due to contamina­tion.   So much toxicity has been found in Vietnamese shrimp that Japan and the European Union inspect all of it.  Clearly something has to been done, but in the mean­time, it is a good idea buy farm-raised shrimp from a seafood market that you can trust and knows how it was raised. The remaining 10 percent of shrimp that is con­sumed in the U.S. is wild caught. Unlike overseas there is a good deal of in­spection in this country, but even so, it is a good idea to always buy from a seafood purveyor that you know you can trust. Wild shrimp are much sweeter and more flavorful than farm-raised due to their feeding on seaweed and crustaceans. They also have thicker shells and firmer meat due to their ability to swim.

How to buy and store
Because shrimp is highly perishable, most shrimp at the market has been previ­ously frozen. A good mar­ket will defrost it slowly under refrigeration and turn it over quickly before it has time to spoil. Only purchase shrimp that has a salty aroma and never any hint of ammonia, which in­dicates spoilage. Always cook the shrimp you buy within 24 hours of pur­chase, and keep it wrapped in thick plastic buried in ice in a covered container in the refrigerator until cook­ing. If you buy fresh shrimp for later use, freeze it as soon as possible immersed in water in a covered con­tainer (heads off with shells intact). Never refreeze pre­viously frozen shrimp. It’s best to use frozen shrimp within one month of freez­ing and always defrost it under refrigeration or in ice water.

How to boil, shell, and devein
Boil only shrimp that has its shell intact. Use one quart of water and 2 Tbs. of salt for each pound of shrimp. In a large pot bring the salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cover the pot. Return the water to the boil over high heat. When it reaches the boil uncover the pot and cook the shrimp until they curl and turn pink. I have found that medium shrimp, af­ter returning to the boil, cook in about 2 minutes and larger shrimp 3  to 4 minutes. Drain the shrimp immediately in a colander and rinse with cold water. Let the shrimp cool in ice water. Peel each shrimp by grasping the shrimp on the underside with both hands near the head and push the shell out on both sides with your thumbs un­til it loosens. Continue the process down to the tail. Turn the shrimp over and lift off the shell starting at the head and work down to the tail. Keep the shelled shrimp in ice water as you continue the process with the remaining shrimp. To devein a shrimp make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimp starting at the head and working down to the tail with a sharp paring knife. Rinse the vein away under cold running water.

Shrimp Tacos (serves 4)
1¼ lbs. cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, cut into bite size pieces
Eight  8-inch flour tortillas
½ of a small cabbage, cored and coarsely shredded with a sharp knife
Sour cream
Mango salsa (see recipe below)
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (can be purchased at Tai Moon) or your favorite bottled hot sauce

Mango Salsa
4 medium- size ripe man­gos, peeled, pitted, and cut into small pieces (about 3 ½ cups)
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. finely chopped cilan­tro leaves
1 jalapeno, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped
Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl

How to serve
Place all ingredients on a side table for each person to make his or her own tacos. To make one shrimp taco start by wrapping a tortilla in a clean towel and warming it in a microwave for 10 sec­onds. Place the warm tortilla on a plate and place some shrimp in the middle. Spoon some mango salsa over the shrimp. Sprinkle on some shredded cabbage and then spoon on some sour cream. Add Sriracha sauce to taste. Wrap the tortilla around the filling and enjoy.

Henry Schliff has been the chef of a French, Italian and Mexican restaurant, and was most recently the owner of the Orange Blossom Bakery in Buxton. He is the author of two cookbooks.

Spotted on Ocracoke: Whose burrow this is I think I know

Ghost Crab Burrow Photo by P. Vankevich

June 213
Text and Photo by Peter Vankevich

If you spend any amount of time walking on the beach of Ocracoke, you will have no doubt noticed holes of various dimen­sions. You may also well observe that there may be piles of sand around them and distinct animal tracks. The strong likeli­hood is that you are looking at a burrow of an Atlan­tic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata).

Ghost crabs are fascinating creatures. The name derives from their pale color and crepuscular and nocturnal activity as well as their stealthy abil­ity to disappear from the beach in a flash – their Lat­in name Ocypode means “swift-footed.” These crabs are primarily terrestrial and they need just a bit of water to keep hydrated. As the sun sets, you may see them scurry to the water and wait for a wave to cover them and then rush back to the dunes. They also lay their eggs in the water.

So about those holes. Ghost crabs dig burrows in the sand and use them for many useful functions. If you walk the beach in the evening and start to ap­proach one or more, you may see them warily start to observe you. At this point, in their eyes you are a predator and once you violate their comfort dis­tance, they will quickly seek safety by disappearing into a burrow.

Natural preda­tors that may drive them underground include gulls, shorebirds, mink, and rac­coons; and yes, we are see­ing raccoons on Ocracoke these days. The burrows also provide shelter from the sun and the crabs will sometimes plug the top with sand to keep out the heat or the cold. They also use them to hibernate dur­ing the winter. There seems to be a general trend that smaller ghost crabs tend to burrow closer to the water and the larger one up in the dunes. Observe the holes and see if the larger ones are more likely to be farther away from the water.

If you are considering digging up a burrow to see a ghost crab, you might want to think about the classic Louis Sachar novel “Holes” that was made into a pretty good movie. The story line is kids who have been in trouble are sent to a reform school misnamed as Camp Green Lake where they are handed shovels to dig holes all day long and to report anything unusual they may find. I don’t be­lieve in spoilers so I would encourage you to read the book or check out the mov­ie if you haven’t already done so to see why they do this.

I mention these literary diggings because ghost crab burrows can be up to 4 feet long and contain extra shafts. You are far better off to take a post dinner or pre­dawn visit to the beach if you want to see ghost crabs. In preparation, scout out a location on the beach or in the dunes where you see lots of holes. You will find it’s worth the effort.

Comments or suggestions for a future Spotted on Ocracoke article , feel free to contact me: petevankevich@gmail.com.

GhostCrab_PS IMG_6958[1]
Ghost Crab Photo by P. Vankevich

A Blessed Life, Growing up on Ocracoke Island by Della Gaskill


June 2013

A Blessed life book cover
Della Gaskill


Della Gaskill, one of Ocracoke’s wise and wonderful older residents has written and just released her first book, ”A Blessed Life, Growing Up on Ocracoke Island”. She will be at Books to be Red on Thursday after­noon, June 20th at 2:30 to tell stories and sign copies of her book. Below is her introduction to her book of memories. It will be on sale starting in June at Books to be Red and many other island shops. It is fasci­nating reading, as she re­counts among many events, her life as a child during WWII and living through the devastating Hurricane of ’44. This book is a great journey through a time be­fore all the modern conve­niences were available on the island. The photos will tell their own stories of the hardships and the joys of island people, recapturing a time often lost.

Ocracoke, just fifteen miles long, is the Pearl in the Atlantic Ocean, given to us by God to enjoy. It is such a peaceful place. The peo­ple are friendly, kind and caring. My name is Della Gaskill, and I was born right here on Ocracoke, in the old home place near the Lighthouse. My daddy and his mama and daddy and their grandparents and great-grandparents too were all born here. And so was my husband and his parents and grandparents and further back too.

I have a craft shop and many people come in, and we have the best times talk­ing. God has given me such love of people, people I don’t even know. I correspond with some of the people I have met. Some will bring me a gift. I have met some very nice people. They like to hear me talk about what it was like growing up on Oc­racoke and what I think of how Ocracoke has changed. It has changed. It were much different when I grew up. Sometimes, when I tell them stories, my custom­ers tell me I should write a book a b o u t growing up here. So that’s what I am doing.

We have been a blessed  people here on this island. It is just wonderful to live on O c r a c o ke with these people. We love the peo­ple that we meet and the things that we enjoy, going to church with other people and time together in their homes and enjoying their fellowship.

We didn’t have much when I was growing up. What we didn’t have we didn’t know about. But to­day’s different. We have too much. Our houses are full of everything that peo­ple gives us and that we collect that we don’t need because one day we are not going to be here anyway to enjoy any of it and someone will be fighting over it.

There is so much history on Ocracoke that people wouldn’t believe the things that have taken place on this Island. For just such a small village, it is unbeliev­able. But Ocracoke is still Ocracoke with all its chang­es. It is my home and I love it dearly. I am proud to be an Ocracoker. I would not trade this place for all the rest of the world. I am glad I was born on this island in 1937. What a great gift from God.

From Henry’s Kitchen: Fish cakes

Henry Schliff
Henry Schliff

May 2013
By Henry Schliff

It was love at first bite when I tasted my first fish cake at a small breakfast restaurant on the island of Nantucket where I worked as a cook at the Harbor House Hotel in the mid 70s.

They were made from cod fish and mashed potatoes and were served with two fried eggs. To this day, fish cakes and eggs are still my favorite morning fare. Now, however, I love them any time of day and over the years I have exper­imented with lots of recipes until I settled on one of the simplest of all.

I have found that the key to a good fish cake starts with pristinely fresh fish (no other odor other that a faint salt-wa­ter aroma) and adherence to a simple and precise preparation technique. Fish cakes are good made with practically any fresh fish so it’s not necessary to buy the most expensive. In addition, leftover fish from another occasion works equally as well, so the fish you buy at the market for dinner can also provide a morning-after treat.

Fish cakes are very popular with Ocracoke residents and you can find tasty varia­tions at some of our best restaurants. While visiting our beautiful island, I en­courage you to seek them out and visit Ocracoke Sea­food Company where you will find the freshest of fish to start you on your own culinary adventure. Below is my lat­est version which I hope you will enjoy.

Makes 10 to 12 fish cakes
Olive oil and butter
1 lb. boneless fish fillets (or 1 ½ cups previously cooked fish)
1 cup chopped onion
1½ tsp. Baltimore Season­ing (available at Ocracoke Seafood) or Old Bay sea­soning
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes, cooked until ten­der, and drained
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Place a large heavy-bot­tomed skillet over high heat. Lightly season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.

Af­ter the skillet becomes hot (2-3 minutes) add enough olive oil to coat the surface and add the fish fillets skin side down. Cook over mod­erately high heat until the skin blisters and the bottom quarter of the fillets turn opaque. Turn the fillets over, adding a little additional ol­ive oil if necessary to keep them moist, and continue cooking until the rest of the flesh turns opaque and it flakes easily when prodded with the point of a small knife.

Remove the fillets to a plate and set aside. Add the chopped onion to the skillet, along with a little additional olive oil if necessary and cook over low heat until they soften and become translucent (about 10 minutes). Stir in the Baltimore Seasoning, salt, and pepper. Remove the skin from the fish fillets and add them to the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, break the fish into small pieces. Stir in the flour, lower the heat to medium, and continue stirring and cooking the mixture for a few minutes. Stir in the potatoes and stir everything together well. Place the mixture in a large bowl. Let the mixture cool slightly and then stir in the eggs.

Using a potato maser, reduce the mixture to a coarse puree. Using your hands scoop out about one half cup of filling, form it into a round cake about one inch thick, and place it on a separate clean plate. Continue the process until all the filling is used.

Clean the skillet and place it back over high heat. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and place one Tbs. butter into the oil. When the butter melts and re­duces to small bubbles tilt the skillet back and forth to evenly coat the bottom. One at a time, place one half of the cakes into the pan leaving room enough between them for turning. Cook over medium heat until the cakes become firm and lightly browned under­neath (about 5 minutes).

Turn the cakes over and repeat on the other side. Re­move the cooked cakes to a serving dish. Continue the same process with the re­maining cakes.

Henry Schliff has been the chef of a French, Italian and Mexican restaurant and most recently the owner of the Orange Blossom Bakery in Bux­ton. He is the author of two cookbooks.


T-Ball on Ocracoke Island with Future Baseball Hall of Fame Candidates


May 2013
by Ruth Fordon

In the last couple of years, baseball has joyously ar­rived on the island, each spring incorporating more of the island youth of all ages. The Ocracoke Youth Center has organized the T-Ball pro­gram to teach the basics of baseball to these 32 boys and girls, ages 4 to 8 during the course of playing 7 games. Coaches Vince O’Neal, Matt Devan, Roger Meacham, John Giagu, Jen Monagen and John Kattenberg work with the children individu­ally at bat and in the field.

The Ocracoke Day Care Center has adopted the phrase “Peace Begins on the Playground”. Living in a world that is struggling with violent actions, it is very moving to watch these young children receive coaching about t-ball while also learn­ing about the bigger les­sons of life – sportsmanship, fair play, cooperation, team work, focus, following direc­tions, thinking ahead, paying attention, gaining self confi­dence and self worth. While having just plain fun with no scores kept, they are learn­ing to feel great about them­selves – what could be more important?

Ocracoke Island also has teams with older children. The Blue Claws and the Raptors are the next two groups by age and par­ticipate in the Hattersas Is­land Cal Ripkin League. There is also a middle school team that has just won their first two games. In two years they hope to have a school varsity baseball team as well. Next year a girls’ softball team will also be fielded.

Invasive Phragmites; the Now Common, “Un-Common” Common Reed


Invasive Phragmites; the Now Common, “Un-Common” Common Reed
by Pat Garber

Driving along the winding lanes that border marshlands in eastern North Carolina, one might notice a tall, lovely grass, its feather-like tassels rustling gently as it sways in the breeze. It looks natural in its wetland setting, as if it has always been there; and in fact it has lived here for thousands of years. Something, however, is different. A century ago the reed would have been part of a complex ecosystem comprised of many plant species, supporting a wide variety of animal life. Today it most likely dominates its habitat, forming a mono-culture that is unnatural and uninviting for many of the animals that live in the marsh. The reed now acts as an invasive rather than a native species, destroying other natives and creating a vista that is nearly barren of other life forms.

Phragmites australis, otherwise known as common reed, is a species of wetland grass usually found in low-lying areas where there is a large amount of water in the soil and ample sunlight. It can grow from three to thirteen feet high, reaching its maximum height between the ages of five and eight years. It has cane-like stems, large feathery plumes, and an extensive root system of thick, white, leathery rhizomes which may be close to the surface or buried deep in the substrate. Its flowers are arranged along the canes in spikelets with tufts of silky hairlike fibers. A perennial, it spreads through seed dispersal and by branching rhizomes, which can break off and re-root. According to Clemson University professor Jack M. Whelston, the rhizomes produce monotypic stands of clones which are genetically identical, and which can exist for over a thousand years. The common reed is one of the most widely distributed flowering plants in the world, growing naturally on most of the continents and now throughout the continental United States, barring Alaska, and in Canada. Why and how it changed its behavior in the United States from that of an uncommon native marsh resident to that of a non-native, monopolistic invasive has puzzled scientists for years.

Some fifty thousand species of non-native plants and animals have been documented living in the United States, some introduced on purpose, others by accident. Some, such as dandelions and Queen Anne’s-lace, often referred to as exotics, can co-exist with native species without doing any real harm. Others, labeled as invasives, can wipe out native species and destroy whole ecosystems. Examples are the Japanese vine kudzu, found in the south-east; zebra mussels, which are devastating the Great Lakes; and Burmese pythons, now proliferating in the Everglades of Florida. Invasive species have been responsible for massive die-offs of elm, chestnut, and other native trees. It is estimated that the economic cost of invasive species in this country is 120 billion dollars a year, and Phragmites australis is now included.

Recent research has come up with some answers to the mystery of the “un-common” common reed in America. According to the North Carolina Forest Service and a report put out by the NC Department of Transportation, “Invasive Exotic Plants of North Carolina,” genetic testing shows that there are native and non-native haplotypes (family lineages) of Phragmites australis growing in our coastal marshes. It is the non-native plants that are overtaking wetland ecosystems. They probably arrived accidentally in the late 18th or early 19th centuries, perhaps in the ballast of ships coming from Europe. Once here, they began spreading out across the continent, displacing the native Phragmites australis and other native grasses, and forming mono-cultures where there had been healthy ecosystems. They are presently moving into the Great Plains, where they threaten to alter important habitat for several endangered species of birds.

Through genetic research scientists have identified as many as eleven haplotypes or strains of Phragmites australis—including communis, americanis and austalis, which may help to explain the deviant behavior. The invasive, European variety of Phragmites australis is far more common now in North Carolina than the native plants. They can be found growing in tidal and non-tidal brackish and saltwater marshes, along river edges, on the shores of lakes and ponds, in disturbed areas and pristine sites. They are especially common in roadside ditches. Described by Dr. Whelston as “ecosystem engineers,” they can altar entire aquatic ecosystems as they spread, reducing the productivity of fish, shellfish, birds, and other wildlife. They do provide shade, some food and nesting sites for a limited number of species.

The European strain of these plants is grown commercially in Europe and used for thatching, livestock feed, and cellulose production. Ironically, European Phragmites australis are in decline in their original territory, causing concern because of their economic value.

It is difficult to distinguish the non-native from the native reeds without genetic testing, but generally, large stands of Phragmites, such as one often sees growing along roadsides, can be assumed to be European invasives. Phragmites may also be confused with the native “giant cordgrass” (Spartina cynosuroides.)

Eliminating or controlling non-native phragmites is now a priority with North Carolina’s wetland management organizations and many environmental groups, but the job is difficult and labor intensive. Attempts to eradicate it have included burning, cutting, draining, flooding, disking, mowing, and the use of insect pests and herbicides. Some of these methods have worked in the short term, but were ineffective over the long run. J.L. Boone, PhD in Ecology, wrote in 1987 that he had had some success in using a three-prong method which included manual cutting, burning, and the covering the area with sheets of clear plastic for 70 to 120 days.

The use of the herbicide Glyphosate, labeled for use in aquatic sites, has been found to be somewhat effective. Using herbicides in wetlands, however, presents an environmental risk, so must be done with great care. The North Carolina Forest Service has had success treating the reeds with Glyphosate in late summer and early fall, followed by prescribed burns and successive treatments for several more years. It is imperative, they stress, to follow up with monitoring to prevent the reeds from re-invading.

As always, the first step in addressing an environmental concern is identifying the problem and preventing its spreading. The invasive haplotype of Phragmites australis already had a head start before it was identified as what it was, but now, as scientists learn more about it and how to remove it, perhaps North Carolina’s wetlands can be spared the worst of its effects.

Health & Wellness: Assembly of God Church


May 2013
By Terrilynn Grace West

This is the second in a series addressing spiritual wellness, fea­turing churches on Ocracoke. Last month I wrote about the United Methodist Church. If you visit the Ocracoke Light­house, and continue on that road, you will see on the left the new (as of 2004) Assem­bly of God Church. Interest­ingly, you may have noticed the old church which was bought and moved to High­way 12 becoming a rental cottage through Ocracoke Island Realty. This older church was the first sanctu­ary built in 1941 by Stanford Jackson and other men from the church.

Even before there was a church building, worship services were held in yards, porches and homes of the congregation recounts Joyce Spencer, a native Ocracoker, “back in the early 30s, the first revivals were held in my Grandmother Mary Midg­ett’s front yard and led by Darcus Gray, Eva Dixon and Pearl Midgett who came to Ocracoke from Buxton.”

Chester Lynn, whose fam­ily grew up on Ocracoke dat­ing back to the 1600s, recalls “my family would catch fish in the front yard” which is now the Back Road! Since Chester is an historian, he re­members clearly many of the details “Sis Liz” told him about the early days of the revival meetings. “The music and joy expressed (called “getting happy”) during those ser­vices resulted in attracting many people who filled the yard to overflowing,” he said.  Chester remembers “Sis Liz was a great cook: Southern, twice as good as corn bread.”

If you visit the church you will see a wall leading into the sanctuary dedicated to the history of the church which Chester has helped create. Among the many pic­tures and documents, is an article by John T. O’Neal (Pastor Ivey’s grandfather): “How and when the As­sembly of God Church was started on Ocracoke.”

John O’Neal says that in 1938 ser­vices were held in his grand­mother Elizabeth Styron’s (known as Aunt Bett) front porch, and later as more room was needed her back porch was closed in. Lumber was hauled from the beach from the ship “Nomis” that went ashore in 1935 to build benches. It was Elizabeth Styron’s daughter Elizabeth Styron Meyers, known as ‘Aunt or Sis Liz’, who gave the land for the church where it stands today.

The new parsonage, says the pastor’s wife, Laura Belch with a smile on her face, is sometimes referred to as “Belch’s Inn” because of its open door friendliness for guidance and support. It is housed on the second floor of the present church. The lumber for the first parson­age, built in the late 40s, came from the old Pamlico Inn Ho­tel which came down in the 1944 hurricane. This parson­age burnt down in 1954. The second parsonage built in 1955 was bought, preserved and now stands behind the Pizza Company on Irvin Garrish Highway.

Pastor Ivey speaks of the Assembly of God Church as his “home church.” He grew up on Ocracoke, graduating with the high school class of 1994 and has fond memo­ries of playing music with his grandfather in church. Ivey Belch then went to the University of North Caro­lina Charlotte and East Coast Bible College where he re­ceived a minister’s degree. His first appointment was in his grandmother’s home town of Askewville, NC, as a youth pastor. The minister of this church married his parents and then the min­ister’s son married Ivey and Laura in 1998 just before they moved back to Ocracoke. Ivey and Laura were ac­tive in the church, especially working with the youth, until in 2010, he was appointed the interim pastor, becoming the full time pastor January 2011.

He says he appreciates the tight knit closeness of the community and church. “For a smaller congregation, we support 10 missionar­ies overseas,” Ivey explained. Laura Belch is the “kids pas­tor,” and is active with the Sunday school classes, wom­en’s Bible study class and generally serves as needed. Gail Allen, a relative newcomer, moved to Ocracoke four years ago and is on the “wor­ship team,” she chooses both old and new hymns for the Sunday Service. Gail said, “Pastor Ivey is a wonderful pastor who has a strong re­lationship with the Lord and a good handle on scripture.” Gail quoted the Gospel of John 8:12 where Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” and said she thinks of the church as being a “spiritual lighthouse” on Ocracoke.

Judy Garrish, native of Ocracoke, has served as a church board member in the past for 10 years. She says, “the Holy Spirit draws a per­son to church and changes your life; we welcome new­comers.”  She and everyone I talked with stressed the importance of the Assembly of God church being Bible based. Joyce Spencer says, “I enjoy singing the songs in church; they are food for the soul.”  When I attended a church service the beauty of the sanctuary, spirit of the music, the zealous preaching all helped me understand why folks I talked with said, “the presence of the Lord can be felt here.” 

Terrilynn Grace West lives and works on Ocracoke providing warm water massage therapy. http://www.floatwithgrace.com.

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