Ruth Ann Grissom

Writer, conservationist

Biography

Ruth Ann Grissom grew up on a farm in Montgomery County and earned degrees in journalism and social work at UNC Chapel Hill. She divides her time between Charlotte and the Uwharries.

 

Articles

  • ui.uncc.edu
    Jul 21, 2020
    With fewer cars on the road and airplanes in the sky, I’ve enjoyed the sounds of summer even more, namely the chorus of cicadas in my leafy neighborhood. The male’s love song is loud and urgent – more Def Leppard than James Taylor – but to my ears, it is the soundtrack of lazy summer days. They lift up their song, but it quickly trails off, as if it is simply too much effort in the face of unrelenting heat and humidity. But the cicadas themselves lead lives that are far from relaxed and carefree. They’re frantic to attract a mate and reproduce in a matter of weeks. And their brief life span is threatened by a wide range of predators, such as mammals, birds and reptiles. Even humans sometimes snack on them. But there’s one insect so accomplished at its gruesome task, it has earned the name “cicada killer.”
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Jun 22, 2020
    A bobwhite quail calling from the edge of a stubbled hayfield. Honeybees buzzing in every patch of clover.  Fireflies hovering just beyond reach as dusk gives way to night. These are the images that come to mind when I think back to summers outdoors in the Uwharries when I was young. Little did I know that over the course of my lifetime, each of those species would experience precipitous population declines. Or that I’d be so devoted to saving them.  
  • ui.uncc.edu
    May 26, 2020
    The English peas are finished. Given the long spell of mild weather we’ve enjoyed this year, I’d hoped this cool-weather crop might last a bit longer. Alas, they still flamed out in a matter of weeks. English peas (Pisum sativum) are the very essence of a Piedmont spring – sweet and tender and all too fleeting.
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Apr 27, 2020
    For a lay naturalist, springtime in the Uwharries can be exhausting. There’s a sense of urgency this time of year – the migrating birds and spring ephemerals come and go in a matter of weeks.  I’ve resorted to multi-tasking.  I’ve given up binoculars in favor of birding by ear. This allows me to identify the black and white warbler by its squeaky-wheel song as I search for wildflowers along a path through the bottomland forest. 
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Mar 30, 2020
    After weighing the pros and cons of taking groceries to elderly parents; after assessing the risk of exposing them to coronavirus while driving them to the doctor; after worrying about friends who are sick in New York City, those who are considered essential workers and those who are now unemployed; after obsessively wiping surfaces with bleach solution and slathering hands with sanitizer; after years of developing virtual networks only to be unnerved by social distancing, I find moments of respite while pulling winter weeds. 
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Mar 02, 2020
    Nothing speaks of the winter sky quite like a flock of blackbirds flying in unison above a sprawling pasture, field or marsh.  They spiral and bank and funnel, breathing life into a void of leaden gray. It’s a spectacle you won’t observe in any other season.  In the Piedmont, these flocks are often composed of an assortment of common species, not all of which are native or even considered true blackbirds: starlings, robins, brown-headed cowbirds, common grackles and red-winged blackbirds. Sometimes the rusty blackbird, an erratic winter visitor in our region, joins them. In other times of the year – when these very same birds are establishing territory, breeding and raising their young – they tend to be more solitary and competitive, and nest in pairs or loose groups. When winter comes along, they become more cooperative and sociable. 
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Jan 31, 2020
    Mama has a knack for finding four-leaf clovers. We’ll be strolling along, chatting, and she’ll stoop down and pluck one. She doesn’t break stride to stop and search – they just jump out at her.  She doesn’t focus on finding the oddity. Instead, she takes in the sameness of the masses until something different catches her eye. I’ve tried her approach, but I still fail miserably with four-leaf clovers. I guess I didn’t inherit the luck of the Irish. But I have trained my eye to pick out goldenrod galls among the millions of stems in our early successional habitat in the Uwharries. 
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Dec 05, 2019
    In December, the familiar Fraser fir population reaches its fleeting peak in the Piedmont as Christmas trees are harvested from farms in the North Carolina mountains and brought to market.  But two other species of conifers largely restricted to the mountains have found surprising refuge in our region — at least for the time being.
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Nov 20, 2019
    In the years after World War II, my dad could roam the Uwharries with his .22 and his trusty squirrel dog, a feist named Spot. A boy didn’t have to worry about trespassing on a neighbor’s property; he only had to avoid the occasional moonshine still. Despite changes in land use — and an influx of outdoor enthusiasts from across the Piedmont and beyond — boys (and girls) in the Uwharries can still enjoy a reasonable facsimile of my dad’s experience, assuming they can tear themselves away from their screens. The area’s steadily growing range of recreational opportunities provides an opportunity to draw in more visitors from across the region — but also poses challenges for locals used to long-standing traditions like hunting.
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Oct 14, 2019
    This story is one of seven vignettes in the series Rural by Choice: Navigating Identity in the Uwharries.  Hard-earned paychecks in the Uwharries are all too often spent at chain stores with headquarters in far-flung locations, or at restaurants and shops in large cities, sending cash from rural to urban areas instead of keeping it in the local economy.   The Eldorado Outpost has helped reverse that flow.