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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Vacation Time (Blog Forty-four)

I am one of those truly fortunate people who  enjoys his two jobs, as a high school English teacher in Botetourt County, Virginia and as a freelance outdoor writer/photographer.  However, I am constantly amazed at how many people don't understand what goes into being a travel writer.

For example, this past Thursday I went fishing for pleasure for the first time all summer.  When I am off doing a fishing story, the pressure to catch a big photo-worthy fish, conduct interviews, and take pictures is enormous.  I don't feel like I am fishing, I am working.

Now please don't misunderstand what I am saying.  Fishing is a marvelous pastime and a sport for a lifetime.  But when I am doing a story on a particular excursion, the act of fishing is just plain, hard work. 

Another aspect of being a travel writer that the public does not understand is that some writers, particularly myself, do not like to travel when they are not doing a story.  I don't plan on leaving Botetourt County the next few weeks.  I am on vacation and not traveling anywhere.  I am going to enjoy not driving hours and hours for a working, fishing trip.

Elaine and I are going to putter around in the backyard, go walking together, and, yes, go fishing behind the house and on Craigs Creek.  And that will be really fun and relaxing.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

First Rooster is Crowing! (Blog Forty-three)

It's Bruce's job to let out the chickens from their coop in the morning and mine to lock them in for the night.  But Saturday, Bruce was away doing a fishing story, so I let out the chickens just  before 6. One chicken paused on its way down the ramp, seemed to steady himself, then let loose with what can only be described as a very feeble attempt at crowing.  Our first chicken to crow!

Sunday morning Bruce was back home and having had Elaine regale him with stories of the momentous event on Saturday, he waited at the ramp as the chickens filed down it on their way to the feeder.  The last bird out paused at the top of the ramp, shook himself slightly, seemed to clear his throat, then emitted a series of five crows.

We have named five of our eight chickens.  Two we are sure are females (Little Spotty Hen and Ruby below) and three we are fairly confident are roosters (Little Jerry, Russell, and Third Man, so named because he was the third to manifest male aggressiveness).

But we are shocked that one of the "Amorphous Three" as we call them (chickens that we don't know yet whether they are male or female) was the first to crow.  The first crower, after his greeting the dawn was finished, marched down the ramp where Little Jerry met him and "smacked" him on the head.  And "First Crower," as he temporarily is being named, submitted, to the smacking.

What do we do now? We are very worried that we may have six roosters in our flock, which would, obviously, tend to defeat the purpose or at least make it difficult to accomplish our main goal of raising chickens for eggs.  If only Ruby and Little Spotty Hen are females, they will have quite a production goal.  And why wouldn't First Crower (below) stand up to Little Jerry who seems to be third on the pecking order behind Third Man and Russell?

Advice from anyone?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fishing for Goldfish? (Blog Forty-two)

Yesterday I was at Chief Logan State Park and Conference Center in West Virginia doing a river smallmouth fishing seminar as part of an outdoors' expo.  Since the event did not begin Sunday morning until 10:30, I decided to visit the state park's pond (picture below), which is a very good fishing hole and hosts largemouth bass, bluegills, and catfish among other species.

Upon arrival, I encountered a local angler who told me that he had already caught and released a "half dozen cats" that morning and that the largemouths were feeding along the shoreline.  Looking in that direction, I did see a number of fish feeding on top, so I hurried over there.

For the next half hour, I cast to every rise I saw and failed to gain even one strike.  Then I saw, as one fish wallowed on the surface, what I had been fishing for...huge goldfish.  I asked my fellow angler about the pond's goldfish and he confirmed that he had caught them before and, in fact, had even eaten one, stating that it "tasted like a carp but had purple flesh."

A few minutes later, I saw huge pods of golden colored fish finning the shallows and decided that I had better return to the expo to prepare for book signings and a seminar.

I am in a fishing slump right now.  Counting the ill-fated excursion for goldfish, I have gone four straight trips without catching a good size fish.  What's more the guides and friends who have been fishing with me have also been doing very poorly.  Perhaps the slump will end this least the destinations I am heading for won't have goldfish - I hope.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wineberry Time (Blog Forty-one)

This past Friday, I spent much of the morning picking wild berries behind our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  The first two weeks of July means that the wineberries especially are ripening and for that fortnight every day I try to pick a quart or so.

Friday alone I easily could have gathered two gallons of these bright, red berries, but I stopped after having accumulating three quarts.  The first two quarts went into Elaine making jam and the third one went for my wife baking a cobbler.  I ended up by picking a quart of wild blackberries and freezing them for the winter.

Out of all the wild berries that we gather and of all the sweet treats that Elaine turns them into, I would have to rate wineberry pie as my favorite.  Wineberries are so much sweeter than other wild fruits that they don't need much sugar, particularly when compared to tart blackberries.

But the wineberry cobbler was a taste sensation, too, even though the berries do not hold us as well as they do when part of a pie.  And the wineberry jam goes great on any kind of whole wheat bread.

Although the ratio of wineberries to blackberries picked was three to one in favor of the former, soon the wineberries will cease to be so plentiful and it will be the blackberry that reigns supreme.  Which reminds me that I need to pick several quarts of each after Sunday's lunch of grilled tenderloin, corn on the cob, and wineberry cobbler.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fishing with Family (Blog Forty)

This past week I went fishing twice, once with my son Mark and the other with Elaine.  Although as an outdoor writer I am fortunate to be able to fish and hunt with some of the most gifted sportsmen in America, my favorite people to go afield with are family members.

Mark and I floated the James River near our Botetourt County, Virginia homes, and the fishing, frankly, was terrible as we caught nothing over eight inches.  But during our afternoon afloat, Mark and I discoursed on politics, sports, books, movies, teaching high school English, and a host of other topics.  The phrase quality time is often overused, but our time together this past Sunday was truly of high quality.

Several evenings later, Elaine and I went fly fishing behind our house in Catawba Creek.  One of the great  joys of my life is that I can walk out my backdoor and go fishing and hunting on my own land.  But the biggest joy of my life is being married to Elaine for now 33 years. 

We had only fished for about 15 minutes when Elaine slipped and fell, landing hard on her ribs.  For a while, we feared that she had broken something, but later it turned out that she had only suffered some bruises.  As I was comforting her, she gave me a hug and said how much she loved me as well as how stupid and clumsy she felt at that moment and that she wanted me to continue fishing.

It was such a warm moment between the two of us and typical of what a great person she is and how happy she makes me everyday.  I decided that we both should cease to fish and return to the house to examine her bruises more carefully.

On the way back to the house via our logging road, we stopped to examine some bear scat, only to look up and espy four mature gobblers just 40 yards away. After watching the toms slip away, we had only walked another 60 or so yards when we came across a gang of turkey poults with their flock hen.

Although the fishing was poor this week, the companionship and experiences were memorable.