More on broadband Internet in Stokes [updated]

In the Oct. 8 minutes of the Stokes County commissioners meeting (available online) Mike Rothstein of Sandy Ridge pleaded for the need for broadband Internet access in rural parts of Stokes where broadband is not yet available. This prompted me to email the Stokes commissioners and the county manager. Here’s my email:

Dear Commissioners,

I took note of this paragraph in the online minutes of the Oct. 8 meeting:

“Mr. Rothstein spoke to the Board regarding the need for high-speed connectivity in their community in Stokes County, which has 4-5 businesses that are starting up and need high speed internet. Mr. Rothstein presented a petition with 40 signatures that need and want high-speed internet services. Mr. Rothstein noted that only 68.07 percent of homes in Stokes County have the ability to access high speed internet, which places Stokes County in the lowest quartile of connectivity in the State. Mr. Rothstein urged Commissioners to continue to work for high speed internet for the citizens of Stokes County and to help bring in economic development into the County.”

Late last year, the board approved a new 199-foot tower for Alltel on Mission Road. I believe this tower is now in service for ordinary cell phone service. Alltel, however, is capable of providing broadband Internet access through this tower using EVDO technology. This type of access already is available from Alltel in many parts of North Carolina. It is my understanding, from informal communication with people close to Alltel, that Alltel has not yet made a decision when it will offer this service in Stokes. Perhaps the commissioners could encourage Alltel to accelerate this type of service? EVDO broadband access through existing towers is probably one of the most efficient and least expensive ways of delivering broadband access to rural areas such as my property on Wells Creek Road. I believe it would be very helpful if the commissioners would communicate with Alltel and encourage them to offer this service as soon as possible. I believe the petition submitted by Mr. Rothstein confirms that Alltel would find many customers.

Best regards,
David Dalton

Update: Below is the response to my email from Jimmy Walker, vice chairman of the board of commissioners:

Dear Mr. Dalton

Thanks for this email, too.

I just read it and found the information you provided to be both interesting and useful. High speed internet is also a component of economic development for our county.

I am following up on your email by forwarding it to the proper people in our county who can hopefully move forward with this information.

Thanks again.

Jimmy Walker

What are the ingredients of charm?

“A Perfect Summer Day,” Thomas Kinkade

Katie Hutchison, an architect, has written on the subject of what elements add up to create a charming house. The language she uses is a bit vague (I suspect she was trying to make the subject sound more complicated than it really is, as though an architect’s expertise is needed to define charm), but she makes a good start on the subject. Another way to examine the ingredients of charm is to study the paintings of Thomas Kinkade. His cottages have charm in abundance.

Let’s look at a couple more of Thomas Kinkades cottages, then apply Katie Hutchison’s criteria.

“Autumn at Ashley’s Cottage,” Thomas Kinkade

“The Good Shepherd’s Cottage,” Thomas Kinkade

Katie Hutchison gives five criteria for a charming house:

1. Grounding roof lines. What she means by this is a little vague to me, but I think she means that, even though the roof may be tall, the eaves should come close to the ground to keep the house on a human scale.

2. Legible massing. Again, her terms are vague, but I think by this she means that the shapes of the cottage should be simple and easy to understand.

3. Engaged relationship with landscape. Yes. This is easy to understand.

4. Simple color palette and harmonious materials. Yes. Also easy to understand.

5. Thoughtful details. Yes. This makes sense too.

If we apply these criteria to Kinkade’s cottages, I think it’s clear enough that Hutchison’s criteria always seem to apply.

Now here’s the gothic revival cottage I plan to build:


Keeping Hutchison’s criteria in mind, I propose some practical things to keep in mind if one is trying to build a house with storybook charm:

1. The house should be two stories tall, with a steep roof and low eaves.

2. The roof may make up half or more of the house’s façade, so it is critical that every element of the roof be as interesting as possible.

3. There must be dormers.

4. The windows must create some drama and make the interior seem intriguing.

5. The house should be set against woods, with trees behind or beside the house that are taller than the house itself. These trees should be of a variety of species.

6. There must be a profusion of blooming plants around the house, arranged in organic shapes, never in straight lines. Some climbing vines should be included. Lawns should be small and should fade back into the woods.

7. There should be meandering paths.

8. Chimneys, and chimney pots, are important.

9. Rustic fencing, either of stone or timber, is important.

I believe my house plan, and the land I’m building on, have all the basic ingredients. Landscaping will have to supply the rest.

Finally, rain


The winter weather patterns have returned, and rain is finally happening. During the summer, most of North Carolina’s rain is from thunderstorms. During the winter, moisture is pushed in from the Gulf of Mexico, and much more general rain happens. That’s what’s happening today. My neighbors-to-be in Stokes County tell me that the drought caused the little branch on my property to stop flowing completely. Now, of course, it’s flowing again, and the Dan River is running much stronger:


Photographer David Rolfe from the Winston-Salem Journal checks out the fall foliage. This photo is from Raven’s Knob:

Winston-Salem Journal

Trying to rain?


If you’re a drought watcher, as I am, here are a couple of good resources. The “haze cam” is on Sauratown Mountain looking toward Pilot Mountain. The United States Geological Survey maintains a real-time water-level gauge on the Dan River at Francisco. Francisco is up near the Virginia border, so the Francisco gauge reflects rainfall in Patrick County, Virginia, more than in Stokes County. But still it’s the only Dan River gauge in the area that I’m aware of.

Triad Haze Cam
USGS real-time water level gauge, Dan River at Francisco

United States Geological Survey

In the graph above, the little triangles represent median flow for 64 years, so you can see the Dan River is running low. The small storms on Oct. 18 and 19 weren’t enough to even bring the river up to the median.


Give bats a break


What’s Halloween without bats?

Many bat species are endangered, and bat populations are threatened worldwide. Many organizations and universities are working to save bat populations. One thing we can do, if we have a place, is to give bats a place to live.

The University of Florida has a fairly gothic bat house:


Here’s another nice bat house in Tallahassee:


Lucky me. I have plenty of room for bats on my place in Stokes County. I’ve already bought a couple of these ready-made bat houses. I’ll put them up on the hill on the other side of the branch, not too close to the house:



I’m looking forward to having bats as neighbors. They’re very useful to have around, because they eat mosquitos. Though I think the cute bat below is a fruit-eating bat.


No wireless Internet on new Alltel tower

I’ve been hanging out of a couple of Internet forums frequented by cell-phone nerds hoping to find out whether broadband Internet service is available on the new Alltel tower on Mission Road east of Danbury.

I think I have a reliable answer now from an Alltel field technician. The answer is that, at present, the new tower supports only regular cell phone service. It seems Alltel is still making decisions about where to expand its Internet broadband service in 2008.

This type of service, by the way, is called EVDO broadband, and it supports Internet connections at about the same speeds as DSL. Where available, it costs about $60 a month. To use the service, one buys a wireless PCMCIA card and inserts it into a laptop.

There also are wireless routers than can take the EVDO signal and share it onto a WiFi network.

I certainly hope Alltel provides Internet broadband in rural Stokes before much longer. It’s expensive, but it’s less expensive than satellite Internet, and, given that cell phone towers are now common in rural areas, it’s probably the best way of delivering broadband Internet to more remote rural areas.


Joan Baez, older sister to the Boomers

Joan Baez, born in 1941, is a little too old to be a Boomer. The first boomers were born in 1946. So Joan Baez was more like an older sister to us Boomers, someone we looked up to. I sometimes think that, if I’d been born for no other reason than to hear Joan Baez sing, and if the rest of my life had been nothing but a vale of tears, it would still all be worth it.

We have watched her age, and we have listened to her voice age. Her voice no longer has the agility it once had, but her musical authority is intact, and she is as beautiful as always.


Sweet Sir Galahad (Youtube recording)


Diamonds and Rust (Youtube recording)

Some Stokes photos

It’s always a good morning when the Winston-Salem Journal has a story and pictures from Stokes County. It reminds me how darned picturesque Stokes is.

The Journal has a story this morning on crews doing wildfire practice near Hanging Rock State Park.




Winston-Salem Journal

And from, a photo of the leaves starting to turn on Pilot Mountain.


Eat more garlic!

New York Times

Here in San Francisco, it’s easy to follow a Mediterranean diet. San Franciscans have far more interaction with Tuscany and Provence than we do with Kansas, so the grocery stores and restaurants reflect that. San Francisco is surrounded by amazing farmland — Sonoma to the north, and places like Gilroy and Monterey to the South. San Franciscans eat extremely well.

It is getting easier to have a Mediterranean diet in the provinces. A Mediterranean diet is all about local, fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables, going easy on refined carbohydates, olive oil, olive oil, and more olive oil, and wine. What’s not to like?

There are a couple of good stories in today’s New York Times to help us Boomers stay healthy: why garlic is good for you, and a story about new research on diabetes. Managing diabetes is about diet, exercise, and reducing inflammation. The subject of how to reduce inflammation is very interesting to me, and I’ll post more on that subject in the future.

The American market is being flooded with cheap, low quality garlic from China. This is causing big problems for California growers, who grow superior, but more expensive, garlic. I intend to experiment with growing garlic once I’m settled in Stokes. Garlic comes in many varieties, even though you’ll only find one or two choices in the grocery store — regular garlic and “elephant” garlic. I don’t like elephant garlic. It may be easier to peel, but it’s very inferior.

Check out The Garlic Store.