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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Casting for Recovery Story (Blog Eighty-seven)

Although I have not seen the story yet, I have been told that my latest magazine article on Casting for Recovery (CFR) is out now in the June issue of Virginia Wildlife, the official publication of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  I have done, I think, five magazine articles now on CFR.

Although I had heard of the organization, I had never considered doing a story on it until friend Anthony Hipps of North Carolina suggested that I do so in 2008.  I received an assignment shortly afterwards from Wildlife in North Carolina to do a story, and, ironically, shortly after that Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer.

For those unfamiliar with CFR, it offers 2 ½ day retreats in venues around the country where women recovering from breast cancer can receive the latest information on breast cancer, healthy living, networking, making new friends, gaining self-esteem, and to be part of a forum to broaden understanding about breast cancer treatment and enable sharing among participants.  Of course, a big part of the getaways is the participants learning how to fly fish.

Elaine attended the 2010 May retreat in Virginia and last May we both went to the May Old Dominion retreat as part of my doing the story for Virginia Wildlife.  In short, Elaine's and my experiences with CFR have been overwhelmingly positive and I hope in the years to come I can do many more stories on this marvelous organization. I know CFR aided greatly in my sweet wife's recovery.

For more information:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cherry Picking -and Pitting - Time (Blog Eighty-six)

In our nearly 34 years of marriage, Elaine's and my marriage has evolved to a certain way of doing things.  She handles most of the inside-related decisions, most of the outside ones fall to me and so on to a variety of other tasks.

And so it is with our annual May task of picking and pitting cherries.  Elaine holds the step ladder while I pick the cherries from our North Star tree while later she pits the berries.

Today for a magazine article we went fly fishing on the Smith River with two local anglers: Al Kittredge and Lisa Hall. Upon arriving home, Elaine told me that she would not be able to pit today because of a sore wrist incurred while fishing.  Thus, the cherry picking and pitting fell to me.

It did not take long into the pitting process before I discovered what a rotten job this is.  Juice frequently went into my eyes, shirt, and pants as well as into the wall.  Some 20 minutes transpired while I was picking a quart of cherries, another 30 went by while I was pitting them.

After a particularly juicy sour cherry sprayed me, Elaine quipped: "Welcome to my world."

Despite the time and effort that goes into picking and pitting cherries, the effort is worth it.  Last year our tree produced 5 3/4 gallons of sour cherries, enough for lots of pies, cobblers, and preserves.  This year we have picked one gallon so far and it is a little hard to estimate how many more gallons will be picked - though obviously because of environmental factors (a high wind event earlier this month) we will have far fewer quarts than last year.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chickens in Clothes? (Blog Eighty-five)

If someone had told us one year ago that our “girls” would be wearing clothes, I would have laughed.  Today as they roam about the yard, one has on camo, one is in denim, and two are in bright pink.  They have begun wearing chicken aprons, or saddles, to protect them from the clawing of the rooster Jerry who has been the cause of their feather loss….. his repeated mountings each day have taken a toll on the girls.  We did not buy an apron yet for Little Spotty, for she alone is still in full feather – Bruce thinks it is because she runs from Jerry and spends large parts of each day inside the hen house.

In the matters of chicken health, we also have had some illnesses.  Dot began sneezing and coughing one Friday, something I would have thought chickens incapable of.  We watched her over the weekend, and aside from that she seemed fine.  Over a matter of about ten days she became “cured,” just like humans having to wait the seven to ten days for a cold to leave. 

More concerning was Violet’s 24-hour bug.  Her first symptom was the poop covering her rear feathers.  Then she spent the afternoon and evening quite listless, not walking to food as the others did, even barely pecking at the special treat of berry-covered pie crust. We had decided that if she did not put herself in the hen house that evening, there was a reason and we would leave her be.  However, at the last moment she went inside.   She seemed so lethargic that we were sure she would be a cold, dead body when we opened the hen house in the morning.

Morning?  Surprise – the same old Violet, running, frolicking, eating just as well as everyone else.   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where Are the Whip-poor-wills? (Blog Eighty-four)

When Elaine and I first moved into our Botetourt County, Virginia home in August of 1989, we regularly heard whip-poor-wills on late spring and summer evenings.  As someone who has a passion for spring gobbler hunting, I often enjoyed hearing these birds, which along with chuck-wills-widows are members of the nightjar family, during trips as I waited for the first gobble of the morning.

This spring, I have hunted in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee and have only heard whip-poor-wills once and chuck-wills-widows only at two places.  It's true, of course, that one rarely hears both species of nightjars in the same place, as chucks, at 12 inches in length, are two inches longer than whips - and size does matter in the wild world.

Thus chucks often out compete their smaller relatives and when chucks move in, whips move out.  For example, one of the two places that I have heard chucks is behind our house as when that species showed up in the late 1990s, it was not long until the whip-poor-wills disappeared.  Yet, we only have heard one singing chuck-wills-widow behind our house, as that species' numbers are likewise in decline.

A variety of reasons have been offered for the decline in whip-poor-wills as their numbers have dropped throughout the Eastern United States. Pesticides, habitat change, and lack of logging in many places have been a few of the reasons listed.  Whip-poor-wills require early successional habitat to thrive and a lack of timber cutting has become the norm in the East's national forests.

Whip-poor-wills winter from the Gulf States south to Honduras, so wintering habitat loss could also be an issue.  Whatever the reason for the population decline, the whips and chucks are integral parts of the East's ecosystem as they do yeoman's work at keeping down insect populations, and if we lose these species nature and humans will be much the poorer.