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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Virginia River Smallmouth Bass Fishing: Rain and More Rain (Blog 148)

For over 10 years year, fellow school teachers Doak Harbison, Tim Wimer, and I have gone on an annual summertime river smallmouth float on a waterway in Virginia or West Virginia.  This year we tried to go on the Rappahannock River, but high water and rain constantly thwarted our plans for the Rap.

Finally, we decided to go close to home on the James in Botetourt County.  The weather looked perfect: only a 20% chance of rain on Friday afternoon and a rainless Saturday morning, but an afternoon replete with thunderstorms.  That forecast was acceptable because we planned to complete our trip before noon. Friday's fishing was fine (and the weather was beautiful as the picture below of Doak and Tim shows).
And we even experienced a pleasant evening around a campfire.

But such was not the case on Saturday morning.  As a light sleeper, I was awoken early by the patter of rain.  And soon afterwards the rain began to fall heavier and we had to end our outing.  There is nothing like breaking camp and becoming miserably wet - the mosquitoes seem to flourish around wet humans.  But such is life sometimes, it has been a summer of tomatoes afflicted with fungus and river fishing trips that never were or ended prematurely.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Making Wild Berry Jam (Blog 147)

Bruce has been picking berries every day….. starting with raspberries, a rare and precious fruit, then wineberries, and now on to blackberries.  I rarely pick, leaving the plowing through brush and brambles to him, but once the berries come inside the house I am on deck.

This week I made a batch of blackberry jam.  Boiling the jars to sterilize them, boiling the mashed berries with sugar and pectin to make the jam, boiling the water in the canner to process the jars……at times I was boiling as well. 

Canning brings to mind the memory of my mother working in the relative cool of the basement over an old gas stove, the best spot to do a hot job in the days before air conditioning.  Like she did, I wear an apron to protect my clothes and keep a tea towel to wipe the sweat from my face .
 But the final result is worth the effort.  Little jars of summer, jewel-colored, giving a happy “pop” as they cool from the water bath.  Little jars of joy

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Of an Imperfect Daisy, Rabbits, and Coyotes (Blog 146)

I have been working on a magazine article on coyotes, which will be out sometime next year.  As part of the assignment, I have been trying to take pictures of some of the creatures that coyotes consume, which includes rabbits.  After all, what prey animal that exists doesn't eat Eastern cottontails.

Every morning I walk three miles after breakfast and often see bunnies along the rural road near our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  Finally, the thought dawned on me that I ought to take  my camera with a telephoto lens along on my morning jaunts.  Many, many mornings, the rabbits allow me to come quite close to them.

Predictably on the first morning that I toted my Nikon camera, all rabbits seen were at least 20 yards away and all bolted when I tried to move closer.  It was as if the D5100 pointed at them were some kind of doomsday weapon.

After several failed stalks, I gave up on the idea of capturing a cottontail on film - at least for that morning - and decided to see what else was about.  At last, I came across a common daisy, growing out of a thin layer of dirt intermixed with roadside gravel.

The daisy was rather shriveled in appearance, maybe because of its hardscrabble circumstances and its form was not typical as its petals were droopy.  But in this common plant's ability to eke out a precarious existence there on the roadside made it a noble photo opportunity.  There is often beauty in the smallest things.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Memorable July 4th at Home (Blog 145)

Yesterday, Elaine and I awoke to find that our basement had flooded and that our chicken run was on the verge of collapse - the torrential rains from the past few days playing a part.  Elaine spent much of the day vacuuming water from the downstairs while I had a friend come over to study about what to do with the run.

After I worked on two magazine articles, I went gathering wineberries for two hours and ended up picking a quart, which we froze for the winter.  If I can average gathering a quart of wineberries a day for the next fortnight, then do the same with blackberries for the following two weeks, we should have enough in the freezer for future pies and cobblers.  Of course, some of the berries will be made into jam.

The highlight of the day was going to our daughter Sarah's and her husband David's house for dinner. Our one-year-old grandson Sam is now walking.  It is fascinating to watch him follow our conversations now and to see him laugh when we laugh.  It is all part of learning how to be a social human.

Our chickens, despite their coup problems, even enjoyed the Independence Day celebration, as they were rewarded with a slab of watermelon.