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Saturday, August 25, 2012

My 100th Blog (Blog One Hundred)

When I started writing a weekly blog nearly two years ago, I began numbering the entries, a habit I have  maintained.  Although I don't have anything earth shatteringly profound to comment on today as part of blog one hundred, I would like to return to a common theme on this site - my passion for the outdoors.

This morning when I took my daily walk of three miles, which is both great exercise and a source of daily renewal, I found, like most mornings, sublime pleasure in observing nature.  This morning, I let out the chickens before I left home, so dawn had already broken.  Still, I heard two screech owls taking the opportunity to utter their piercing screams at each other before going to roost for the day.

Next, I came across two wide-eyed fawns, which couldn't quite decide whether to stare at me, stomp one of their front feet at me, or flee.  Finally, their mother arrived and they followed her lead - they fled.

Another 80 yards or so of walking brought me to a field where 19 turkeys were searching for various insects and the odd wild seed or plant.  I noted two adult turkeys and 17 young, although it is becoming harder and harder to determine which flock member is a young bird and which is the flock hen.  Soon there will be no telling apart  by size.

I then flushed a dove off the road, reminding me that dove season will be here in a week and then heard several gray squirrels barking at each other.  In squirrel language, each was probably proclaiming that this particular stand of mockernut hickories was off limits to the other - a warning unlikely to be heeded.

When I arrived back home, it was time to work on a magazine article.  I would have loved to have lingered outside longer, this being a Saturday, but the Lyme disease that I am currently battling has stolen a lot of my energy.  Hopefully, I will be back to normal in a month or so.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dealing with Lyme Disease (Blog Ninety-nine)

Thirty days ago I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and would not wish this affliction on anyone.  My symptom was a tingling sensation in my left toes.  Three weeks later when my right toes started tingling, too, I decided it was time to visit my family physician.  A blood test was given and a week later the results were in that  I had tested positive.

The medicine I am on is doxycycline.  It is potent stuff and it makes me nauseous almost every time I take it.  To counter the nausea, I try to wake up in the middle of the night and take a pill, hopefully falling asleep before the nausea kicks in.  During the summer, I would take the pill around 1:00 P.M., then take a nap - again hoping to avoid the queasiness.

Another effect of being on this medication is that my doctor told me I should avoid sunlight.  This, of course, has ruined my summertime river smallmouth fishing.  But such is the nature of things and I just have to deal with the no fishing edict.

The tick bite that I believe gave me the disease took place in mid April while I was doing a magazine story in Augusta County, Virginia.  The day was a blustery, cold one, but I arrived home with two ticks on me, one of which was attached.  Of course, it is difficult to know for sure if that was the tick that was the cause for my ailment.

The only good thing to come from my illness is that I have been able to do a great deal of writing.  I finished my fifth book, which is on the South Branch of the Potomac and the upper Potomac, and it should hopefully be out early in 2013.  Since I couldn't go outside, I decided to make good use of my time.

Elaine and I always thoroughly check each other every time, truly every time, we come in from the outdoors.  Yet, doing so was not good enough to avoid my coming down with Lyme Disease.  As I have always thought and said, ticks are the creatures I fear most in the outdoors.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Chickens Love Whole Wheat Bagels (Blog Ninety-eight)

It's not good to keep secrets from your wife, but I must confess that I have not told Elaine why our five hens have enthusiastically followed me everywhere for the past week when I have let them out for their daily hour of free ranging about our yard.  Our 38-acre parcel is mostly wooded, and I have counted 13 different predators that frequent our land, so we only let out our hens when they can be supervised by us.

Our chickens are rarely ready go back to their run when their hour has passed - until I hit upon the idea of while they are out, periodically dropping whole wheat bagel bits on the ground.  There are certain foods that our quartet's members have a frenzied passion to consume.  Corn on the cob would be number one beyond a doubt, but one can not carry corn cobs in his pocket.

Whole wheat bagels rank second to corn, though (and fit much better in pockets) and whenever I give the food call, "lookie-lookie" and toss bagel bits on the ground, they all come running.

The other day (I know this is devious) I gave the food call, dropped the tidbits, the chickens came running, and then we all paraded by Elaine.  I bragged that the chickens were so obedient to me and why oh why could they not be so dutiful to her.

Elaine is puzzled by my suddenly being in such command of our birds.  However, I have a feeling that this will soon change.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Night Sounds (Blog Ninety-seven)

During the heat of the summer, and we've had a hot one here in Botetourt County, Virginia, I have taken to walking before sunrise, specifically the last hour before the sun starts to rise and I have to unlock the hen house to let the chickens into their run.  One of the enjoyable things about walking in the dark is listening to the night sounds.

For example, the 30 minutes before first light is a time when the last sounds of the night birds merge with the first ones of the diurnal ones.  Great-horned owls (shown below) are still making their haunting hoots and one morning, I heard two screech owls emitting their piercing whistles at each other.

Soon the cardinals chime in, as the redbird is an early riser if there ever was one.  Carolina wrens are often the next to make music, but the sound the male most often seems to make is the call note to his mate.  Soon she answers back with her "whirring" response.

Perhaps the most vocal bird, even with the advent of August, is the indigo bunting.  The male indigo belts out his explosion of notes as if he himself were about to explode.  How and why does he sing so loud and so often even during the heat of August?

But August is also a time when the dawn period is one of the quietest of the year.  Most birds have stopped singing now, mating and the rearing of young are both just about over.  And all too soon some species will even be starting to migrate, the barn and rough-winged swallows will be among the first to depart.  Meanwhile, I will enjoy the night sounds on my early, early ramblings.