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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Strawberry and Cherry Season (Blog Thirty-five)

For the past week, Elaine and I have spent much of our time, it seems, picking strawberries and cherries.  For a fortnight every year in late May and early June, first the strawberries and a few days later, the cherries ripen.  Our garden usually produces a little over a gallon of strawberries, but our North Star cherry tree is a prolific producer, last year accounting for seven gallons of fruit and this year after the first week, the tree has already produced nearly four gallons.Picking the strawberries is a simple and leisurely affair and quickly accomplished.  Elaine has made a pie from one quart, jam from another, and the rest have gone to top off oatmeal and cereal.
The cherries, however, are an ordeal.  Although our tree is a dwarf, I still have to climb a ladder to reach the uppermost branches, a balancing act that I don't particularly enjoy, given my fear of heights. But picking cherries is simple, compared to pitting them.   The juice squirts all over us, and the task is tedious.
Still, we gain a sense of accomplishment in the cherries that we freeze and that Elaine turns into preserves will provide us with wonderful desserts over the course of the next year and make us more self-sufficient. Our goal is not to buy desserts or jelly and jams from a store.  Indeed, we ate the last of the 2010 cherry preserves just today.  And tomorrow, Elaine is going to bake a cherry pie for Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dining and Hunting with Turkey Mentors (Blog Thirty-four)

Friday evening, Elaine and I invited Jim and Sherry Crumley of Trebark fame and Jim Clay of Perfection Turkey Calls over for dinner.  Jim Crumley has long been one of my deer and turkey hunting mentors, Sherry took my son Mark on his first turkey hunt, and in the fall of 1986, Clay (picture above) took me on my initial fall turkey hunting excursion.Over Elaine's dinner of wild turkey leg soup, roasted sweet potatoes, and blueberry cobbler, we discussed our respective spring gobbler seasons and shared our successes and snafus from this and other seasons.  It is always a bittersweet experience when another turkey season comes to a close.  Sleep deprived, I am always glad not to have to arise extremely early anymore.  For example Saturday morning,  Jim Clay and I arose at 3:25 to pursue turkeys on the last day of the West Virginia season.  Despite our diligence at being up two hours before sunrise, we never heard or saw a turkey.Yet, I am always a little melancholy at knowing that I will not be able to chase after turkeys until the Virginia and West Virginia fall seasons begin in October.  As I was putting away my shotgun in the gun case, setting aside my turkey calls in their respective drawers, and washing my camo one last time, I kept wishing that I had just one more day to climb high into the mountains and listen for gobbling.But then I thought that next weekend perhaps I could go float fishing for river smallmouths or visit a native brook trout stream.  And life seemed very good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Turkey Season Almost Over (Blog Thirty-three)

Among the many game animals that I enjoy pursuing, turkeys are by far my favorite.  I revel in both the fall and spring seasons, and this year I have been fortunate enough to have assignments to hunt toms in Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, and my home state of Virginia.
The seasons are now closed in all of the above quartet except West Virginia (where the season ends this Saturday), and I have been able to tag out in Carolina and Virginia, take two toms in the Volunteer State, and one so far in West Virginia.  I have been afield 20 times and never before since I began turkey hunting in 1986 have I heard so few gobbles - maybe there is an article idea somewhere in that topic?
The late season Mountain State bird that I killed Saturday brought special joy because I had to hike far into the mountains to be successful.  After I checked in and cleaned the bird, I saved the wing feathers for friend Duane Means who runs Arrow Forestry (  Duane only hunts with a primitive bow, and he uses turkey feathers to fletch his arrows.  My wife Elaine will employ some feathers to tie her flies for fishing.
Elaine and I will dine on the breast, legs, and neck meat of the West Virginia tom, and even the feathers will be put to good use.  Once again, all this proves what a joy it is to kill a wild turkey.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chicks, Part V (Blog Thirty-two)

Well, the chicks came Thursday.  I went to Southern States to pick them up,
and realized when I arrived that I had not brought anything to transport them
in – a realization I made when I saw another woman with a towel-lined cardboard
box.  Not to worry – the chicks went into Happy-Meal type boxes holding five each. 

The store personnel referred to the balls of fluff as “Chicken Nuggets.”  Tiny cheeps came from the boxes on the ride home. I was so excited I stopped by Lord Botetourt High School where Bruce
teaches to show him, too, during his planning period.
The chicks have acclimated well to the 30-gallon storage box.  I had already tested the heat lamp
and knew it was right at 90 degrees.  The chicks have spent the past four days wandering from one box end to the other, sleeping mainly under the light and eating and drinking at the other end.  They will dip their beaks in the water, then lift their beaks skyward, “shaking” the liquid down their throats. 
Sleeping has been a comic sight.  As chicks tire and collapse to the floor,
they often manage a 20-second nap before a peer walks over them, awakening
They recently discovered the newspaper lining underneath their wood shavings and have pecked their way to it.  The first to discover a shred of paper was chased by all the others who also wanted to have this delightful object.  They are also beginning to have very definite
feathers on their wing tips, and spend more and more time daily grooming
themselves.  Which are the roosters?  Still impossible to tell. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chickens, Part IV (Blog Thirty-one)

This has been a busy week, and I am a little behind in my blogging.  Elaine and I went to North Carolina on a turkey hunting and trout fishing expedition, and I also spent three days in West Virginia turkey hunting.  I was fortunate enough to kill two toms in Carolina and experience some highland trout angling, too.

When I returned, seven magazine assignments were waiting for me, and I have been able to write four of the stories and part of the fifth.  The big news, though, is that tonight Elaine and I, after laboring off and on for several months and with help from friend Ken Rago, have finally finished the chicken coop.  And all we have to do to complete the chicken run is anchor one more post, string some wire, position the door, and predator proof the run.

It is good that we have finished the coop and most of the run because - even bigger news - the baby chicks arrive on Thursday.  Elaine is going to pick up the day-old creatures while I am at school.  We can hardly wait!