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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Can Women Outfish Men? (Blog Ninety-two)

The last three summers, I have gone fishing once each summer with Jay and Betty Honse, friends from Fincastle, Virginia.  Two of those times were for crappie, the other time was for bluegills.  Each time, the trip was part of a magazine article.

The most recent time was this past Tuesday evening at Smith Mountain Lake.  On that occasion, as was true on the other two outings, Betty clearly out fished both Jay and me. 

It isn't so much that she caught more crappie or bluegills than Jay and I did, it is that she also caught the biggest fish on all three of the trips.

The trend has become so clear that on the Smith Mountain excursion, I found myself, camera in hand, watching what Betty was doing fishing wise, so that I could be prepared when, not if, she caught a nice crappie.

One of the most admirable things about Jay is that he truly enjoys watching his spouse catch big fish.  Not many males would be so understanding.

Jay and Betty have invited me to go striper fishing with them sometime.  If I have that opportunity, I will be sure to keep my camera ready and trained on Betty.  I am betting she won't disappoint.  Here's a picture of me admiring a fine Smith Mountain crappie that Betty caught.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Simple Country Joys on a Summer Day (Blog Ninety-one)

My high school English teaching job finished two weeks ago, and this is the first day I have not been swamped with magazine assignments.  Today, although I have written a little, I have had time to enjoy those little simple summer joys that living out in the country bring.

First, I went out to gather eggs.  However, the chicken Elaine named Little Spotty Hen was on the nest and did not care to be disturbed from her primary duty in life.  Then I went to our garden, which is adjacent to the chicken run, and gathered some chives and a sweet white onion for lunch.  I am cooking baked potatoes and venison burgers (from a doe I killed last October with my bow) and the chives will go great with the former and the onion with the latter. For dessert, we have the option of cherry preserves (from our North Star cherry tree) or wineberry jam (from vines growing on our land).

This afternoon, Elaine and I will let the chickens roam in the yard for an hour or so and pick berries.  The raspberries are about finished for the year but the wineberries and blackberries are starting to come in.  Can I prevail upon Elaine to make a pie or a cobbler? If  no pie or cobbler is forthcoming, we will freeze the berries for next summer's desserts.

Nothing of great importance is happening today and that is a really good thing.  We love living out in the country.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wood Pile (Blog Ninety)

I now begin my second week of the summer off school, and the first week could not have been any more hectic. I wrote two magazine stories for the Izaak Walton League, worked on a story for Virginia Game & Fish, one for the Quality Deer Management Association, and Elaine and I wrote our Celebrating Venison cooking column for Whitetail Times. 

Many people say that I must be fortunate to have a second job that is all about going fishing and hunting, and I am fortunate.  But all week, I was too busy sitting in front of the computer to even think about fishing.

Meanwhile, out our kitchen window resides a wood pile that is not nearly as long and as tall as it should be.  For months, a black locust tree has been lying on the ground near the wood pile, and the locust needs to join its fellow hardwoods.  Some shagbark hickories down at the food plot also have been resting on the ground for too long, and they too need to evolve into firewood.

Also on our 38 acres, several oaks are crying out for Timber Stand Improvement around them, two black locusts, some red maples, and redbuds need to be cut along the drive way in order for the oaks and dogwoods to prosper, and the garden desperately requires mulching.  And the wild raspberries are ripe and have to be picked today. Oh, and the chicken coop needs to be cleaned.  I have to escape this computer screen today.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

New River Land Trust and the Friths (Blog Eighty-nine)

Last autumn, the New River Land Trust (NRLT), as part of a fund raiser, auctioned off a canoe trip with me on the New River.  For those unfamiliar with land trusts, they seek to preserve America's open spaces through having landowners voluntarily place their rural properties under conservation easements.

I am a member of the NRLT and the Western Virginia Land Trust and am a great admirer of what they are accomplishing.  Elaine and I have also placed 412 acres of the land we own under easement as a way of protecting wildlife habitat for the future.  The high bidders for a trip were Jackie and Earl Frith of Floyd County, Virginia, and today I met the Friths for the first time when we gathered with fellow river enthusiast Brett Moss for a float below Claytor Lake Dam.  Like Elaine and me, the Friths have placed many acres under easement and, also like my wife and me, are very glad they have done so.

Earl and I floated together while Brett and Jackie did the same, and a delightful time was had by all.  We bird watched, drifted through some mild riffles, and caught a few smallmouth bass.  The high point, for me, of the day was watching two male Eastern kingbirds fighting for dominance  out in the middle of the river.  The aerial battle was short and decisive, as one kingbird left in ignominious retreat.

Whether you live in Southwest Virginia like I do or in any state in the country, chances are that you have local, regional, or state-wide land trusts nearby.  For more information on the NRLT:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Poults Are Hatching (Blog Eighty-eight)

Last night, friend Jerry Paitsel, who operates Struttinbird Turkey Calls, called.  The main topic of conversation was the status of the turkey hatch.

For those who enjoy hunting, photographing, or viewing these majestic creatures, the main reason why we will have turkeys to do so is the success or failure of the hatch.  Across Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the general Mid-Atlantic, the poults hatch for the most part in late May and early June.

Of course, not all turkeys are born now.  Every year there are reports of birds hatching in early to mid May and even late April.  And sometimes turkey hens lose their first clutch of eggs and renest in July.  But, again, for the most part, now is the time when the young poults hatch.

And the main reason whether the hatch is successful now is the weather.  The reason Jerry brought up the topic was that a cold rain fell Friday and the air temperature dipped into the 40s in the Alleghany Mountains of the two Virginias.  Newly born turkeys are very susceptible to hypothermia, and many of them may not have survived Friday night.

It will be very interesting to observe how many poults are accompanying hens in the next few weeks.  Hopefully, more birds will have hatched out after this past Friday than before.