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Friday, March 29, 2013

Chickens and the Last Snow of Winter (Blog 131)

This past Sunday, Elaine and I spent much of the afternoon, trying to keep the netting covering our chicken run from collapsing.  For the third time this winter, a heavy snow fell, collecting on the netting and weighing it down.

The first two times this happened, the netting collapsed and consequently caused the post holding our solar power unit to fall as well.  It was a miserable experience for Elaine and me to slog about in the snow, trying to right the fence, repair the netting, and replace the netting in a number of places. The whole process was upsetting to our four-hen-flock as well, as egg production was negatively impacted.

So on Sunday, once every hour either Elaine or I would go to the chicken run and gently shake the snow off the netting.  Although some holes in this defense web did occur, when Monday morning arrived the netting was still in place and the chickens had been protected from airborne predators.

In about a month hopefully, our heritage Rhode Island Red chicks will arrive.  We can hardly wait to begin the process of raising them.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Building a Turkey Blind, Planting Onions, Watching the Tarheels (Blog 130)

This Saturday morning, I mapped out my weekend.  The first thing on my agenda (which I have already accomplished, was to set up the framework for a turkey blind.  Behind Elaine's and my Botetourt County home, a path intersects with our seeded logging road - and that is where I positioned several evergreens this morning.  Later, I will lay some other limbs and boughs there to finish the subterfuge.

After I finish writing this blog, I will plant 80 white onion sets in the garden.  I plan on letting our chickens out in the garden, so that they can swarm off the earthworms that no doubt will be displaced.  Interestingly, of our four hens, Ruby is the only one that is a fanatic worm eater.  The other ladies will take a worm if they have the chance, but Ruby will specifically target worms as she is sifting through litter.

When the onions have been planted and Elaine's and my lunch of venison burgers has been consumed, I will work on some magazine assignments that I have, then watch some games in the NCAA tournament.  But what I am really waiting for is the start of North Carolina's basketball game against Kansas on Sunday.  As a Tarheel fan of now 46 years, I am fearful of the Jayhawks, but we will see how things develop.

Not an overly exciting weekend, but a nice one out in the country.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Waiting for the First Gobble of the Spring (Blog 129)

Every morning when I go out to let our Rhode Island Reds out of their hen house, I pause to listen for that first gobble of the spring.  Surprisingly, I have not yet heard a gobbler sound off behind our Botetourt County, Virginia home.

I am not at all concerned, though.  There is a rhythm to the natural world and its creatures, and if there is anything I have learned from a lifetime spent outdoors, it is that wild animals are on their own time and not ours.

In the nearly 25 years that Elaine and I have lived here, we have heard turkey gobblers sound off on cold January days, hot July 4 afternoons, during springtime thunderstorms, and early fall mornings.  Why do turkeys - and other creatures - do what they do? Who knows... such is the mystery of life.

Interestingly, the hens behind our house have been quite boisterous at times, as well as being quite numerous.  Perhaps the toms have not been talking because there is no need to.  Again, I don't know.

But I do know that I will be hunting in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia this spring, and this spring will be like every other spring season - unique unto itself.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Going Fishing for River Smallmouths (Blog 128)

Tomorrow, Sunday, will be my first river smallmouth fishing trip of the year.  With fishing shows to attend, school to teach, wood cutting to accomplish, small game animals to pursue, and magazine articles to write, I have not been able to seek out my favorite game fish until tomorrow.

Today, I have spent a great deal of time looking over my various tackle boxes and placing lures in my small hard plastic boxes - my go fishing boxes as opposed to my storage boxes. I also have put fresh line on the two spinning rods and one baitcaster that I plan on bringing tomorrow.

I will be going fishing with Britt Stoudenmire of the New River Outdoor Company.  Britt and I usually go river fishing early every March, and we usually, thanks to Britt's uncanny ability to locate quality smallmouths, do quite well.  I hope this March's outing will be similarly successful.

Mentally as I write, I am going over in my mind what my game plan will be for tomorrow.  I am hoping, given the warm weather, that I will primarily be able to toss hard plastic jerkbaits, which I am very comfortable doing this time of year or perhaps even crankbaits, which is another comfort bait for me.

Hopefully, the smallies will not be tight to the bottom, where I will be forced to inch jig and soft plastic chunks along - not one of my strong points.  Can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Timber Stand Improvement (Blog 127)

This Saturday morning friend Bob Boeren came over to help me with some Timber Stand Improvement projects.  Bob, who has recently started a business, Ranger Bob's Forestry Services, ( has long been a big help to me with habitat improvement projects.

This year, since I am recovering from Lyme Disease, I want to finish all my habitat projects before the end of March, since it was last April when I was bitten by a tick that caused me to come down with the affliction.  Of course, I will be spring gobbler hunting in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, but I do want to limit my time afield as much as possible when the ticks become active.

Anyway, the best project that Bob and I completed was daylighting a white oak that was surrounded by red cedars.  Bob said the oak would likely flourish now and might even produce acorns within a decade.  That sounds like a long time, but in the long lifespan of a white oak, that is no time at all.

Bob also showed me how to better cut through downed logs and even helped with a magazine article I am doing on bowhunting for deer.  All in all, it was a very productive day.