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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Wild Raspberries Ripe in the Blue Ridge Mountains (Blog 345)

Elaine and I took off in the pick-up early this morning to our Potts Mountain land on the Virginia/West Virginia line. Our main mission was to gather wild black raspberries, which we did with a satisfying tally of seven quarts.

But just as enriching was our time in the mountains together, talking about life, grandchildren, interesting songbirds, and, of course, raspberries. We're having raspberry pie on Sunday, the rest we froze for the winter. Earlier this week, two quarts of raspberries were made into jam. It was a very good day together and a very good week picking raspberries with a total of  3 1/4 gallons.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chicks Day Out (Blog 344)

Today, Elaine's and my heritage Rhode Island Red chicks are 12 days old, so we thought it was time to let them and their mother, Mary, outside from their basement enclosure for the first time.  Predictably, Mary was very agitated when I picked her up - and thus caused her to be away from her chicks for the first time - while Elaine gathered the chicks and put them into a brown box.

Soon, though, everyone was outside in the front yard, and the chicks were exposed to clover and other vegetation for the first time. Mary diligently showed them that clover is something good to eat and that fescue is not.

After about 20 minutes outside, it was time to return to the basement. After Elaine put the three chicks into the box, I noted that the chick I think is a cockerel, I've named him Don, Jr., after his father, was standing while the two chicks I believe are pullets had already settled down for the ride indoors.  As the weeks go by, it will be interesting to see if my guesses are right.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Rhode Island Red Chicks Arrive (Blog 343)

Elaine and I thrilled to announce that one of our heritage Rhode Island Red hens, Mary, has hatched out three chicks, doing so on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Mother and offspring are doing well, and are living in our basement in a pen.

We learned from talking with other chicken rearers that Mary's fellow hens would likely kill her chicks, so we moved the hen and eggs into our basement on Sunday.  That proved to be a no time to spare relocation, as the eggs started hatching on Tuesday morning.

Unfortunately, Mary abandoned her six other eggs as she seemed consumed with rearing the three that had hatched.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Locavore Presentation This Weekend (Blog 342)

At our Botetourt County, Virginia home this Saturday, June 3 from 9 to noon, Elaine and I will give a presentation on how to be locavores.  We, as well, will talk about our solar panels, garden, chickens, wildlife habitat management, serve lunch, give a tour, and have copies of our  book Living the Locavore Lifestyle given out as part of the $20.00 cost to attend.  Here is the link to our event, which is a fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.
http://www.blueridgelandconservancy.org/outdoor-adventures.html

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Milk Snake, Not a Copperhead (Blog 341)

Last week, I wrote about seeing a copperhead near the stoop of our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  But as I told Elaine, I was not quite sure that my identification was correct.  Today, as soon as I came home from the last day of school for Botetourt County, I saw the snake once again near our stoop.

Elaine earlier in the week had bought me "snake tongs" so that I could pick up any snake for examination or photos.  So I quickly retrieved the tongs and used them to hoist up the snake. Immediately, I was able to see that the creature had a rounded head and round eyes, not at all like the head and eyes of a venomous snake like a copperhead.

Nevertheless, Elaine wanted the milk snake far away from her stoop, so I took the milk snake some 75 yards away from the house and released it unharmed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Birds, Snakes, and Skinks in and around Our Virginia Home (Blog 340)

There are things that seem to happen during the late spring every year at our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  A few days ago, the first copperhead of the season lay sunning next to our front stoop.  A few days later, a black rat snake visited our sundeck, perhaps lured by phoebes that had been nesting under our eaves.

When I went outside to take pictures of the rat snake, the young phoebes exploded from the nest. Had they randomly picked that moment to leave forever their first home, or had I, or the black rat snake, accelerated their desire to depart? It is one of the mysteries of nature, no doubt.

A few days later, the skinks started sunning themselves on the front stoop, and Elaine began warning me that they were not to come into the house - as is their habit several times each spring and summer. I am not quite sure how to keep a skink out of a house, as these lizards invariable make their way inside every year.

The natural world is often just outside our front and back doors if we will take the time to look.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Virginia Gobblers Remain Silent (Blog 339)

Although I have tagged out on Virginia turkeys for the season, I still am going to listen for birds behind our house every morning.  I have not heard any toms all week whereas previous weeks I heard as many as four.

Of course, some of those toms may have been killed on the adjacent farms and the rainy, cold weather probably has something to do with the lack of gobbling.  More rain is forecast for the next three days, and I would not be optimistic about hearing any gobblers during that type of weather.

Here's my prediction. I believe the weather will change next week, and there will be intense gobbling from multiple toms next week in many places including our woodlot and around Virginia and West Virginia.  Of course, the seasons will be over in both states, but such is life and the vagaries of the spring some years.