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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fall Hunting and Berry Season Begins (Blog 257)

As much as I enjoy participating in Virginia's Urban Archery Season, which begins next Saturday in Roanoke County -one county over from Elaine's and my Botetourt County, Virginia home, I also enjoy another form of outdoor recreation that is just starting... wild fruit gathering.

Several days ago, Elaine and I picked some hackberries and wild cherries from trees growing along our rural road.  No such thing exists as hackberry cobbler or wild cherry pie (at least from our experience) because both fruits are smaller than peas and gathering many is time consuming.

But both cherries and hackberries are a nice snack, and good sprinkled over oatmeal, and are precursors to fall fruits that can provide substantial meals.  Summer grapes ripen in September and make outstanding jelly. Paw paws fall in late September and can be made into bread and cookies.

Then last to ripen, usually sometime in early November, are persimmons.  Persimmon/wild black walnut bread is, hands down, one of the best things I have ever eaten.  I killed several deer with my bow last fall that had come to feast on persimmons - it is understandable that whitetails relish persimmons as well.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rome Apples and Dolgo Crabapples (Blog 256)

This week, Elaine and I are harvesting our backyard apples.  In our backyard, we have two North Star cherry trees, young Black Twig and Grimes Golden apple trees and bearing Dolgo crabapple and Rome apple trees. In the past week, Elaine has made two loaves of Rome Apple Bread, the last one with black walnuts, which is, by far, the best tasting one.  Black walnuts make just about everything taste better. I have some in my oatmeal every morning.

This evening we hope to pick some crabapples.  Some people ignore the fruit from their crabapple trees, leaving the berries to the birds and other creatures.  That is fine to do so, of course, but crabapple/walnut bread is a taste sensation, even better than the bread that Elaine makes from the Rome apples.

I hope we can have some for Sunday lunch.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cutting Our Ash Trees (Blog 255)

For the past several weeks, my son-in-law David Reynolds and I have been cutting timber on our Botetourt County land.  The standing trees that we have targetted are all ashes.

The reason we are doing so is the emerald ash borer which showed up in Michigan in 2002 and has spread relentlessly since then.  As far as I know, this Asian invasive has not yet been found in Botetourt County, Virginia where we live, but sightings have been documented several counties away.

The adult beetles eat the ash's foliage, but that is not the major problem.  It is the insidious larva that ravage the inner bark which eventually causes the deaths of larger trees.

I wish that David and I did not have to do this timbering, but at least we are both laying in a supply of firewood.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rhode Island Reds Hard at Work in Garden (Blog 254)

Our garden was, at best, mediocre this growing season.  I thought I did a good job of mulching the tomaoto, squash, and zuke plants, but when the inevitable dry spell of July took place, the plants suffered no matter how much Elaine and I watered them.  Next year, I am resigned to have a deeper layer of mulch.

So, it's time to let the chickens into the garden and begin their process of fertilizing and scratching up weeds, insect larva, and the insects themselves.  Elaine and I had thought we might let our Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds take turns at the garden; however, the truth is that the Reds are much better at their "job" than the Buffs.

This is the first time we have raised Buffs, and they are a delightful heritage breed: friendly, calm, and from what we understand great egg layers.  Our Buffs and Reds are only 18 weeks old, so it is not time for them to lay yet.

But I doubt that few chicken breeds can beat Reds for sheer diligence and joy at "working" a garden.  So what we have been doing is turning the Reds out into the garden and the Buffs into the tractor.  Both flocks have time out of their respective runs, but they spend time at different jobs.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cardinal Eggs Hatch (Blog 253)

For several weeks, Elaine and I have been watching a female cardinal sitting on her nest that is just a yard away from our chicken run.  This is a high traffic area for us, as it is not only next to our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington enclosures, but also next to the garden.

Yet, the mother cardinal never seems to mind, and this week the eggs finally hatched.  The most fascinating aspect, to date, of this entire affair is how big the baby cardinals have grown in less than a week (picture below).  Also of note is that this active nest is in our Rome apple tree, and an apple is growing just a few inches away from the nest.

Of course, we won't pick any apples until the young birds have flown away.  We also hope that no wild creature will disrupt the nest in its quest for apples.  A metal enclosure encircles the tree so that hopefully will keep any apple eaters away.