Saturday, November 11, 2017

THE SEASON OF THANKS

THE SEASON OF THANKS
Wow, it’s November already. Where did the year go? We have all been busy preparing for winter since April when the ramps popped up haven’t we? It seems to me that all we get done during the year is prepare for winter and try to make it through winter. Yes, the year flies by when you are busy. The freezers and cellars should all be brimming by now. I know the only room I have left is for meat and I need meat. That is what November is for. It’s time to head to the big grocery store on the mountain; before winter sets in.
I have always felt that the greatest time to be in the outdoors is November and May. The other months are just fillers with not much to offer. I am thankful that there are still a few places left that we can find solitude in. These places dwindle every year; but I’m glad a few still exist. I sure am thankful that we got that week of turkey season back that leads into deer firearms season. I was kind of lost without that one. It just didn’t feel right doing serious deer scouting without carrying my shotgun. It just felt weird. I put my requests in for time off this month. I sure am thankful that I can do that after all of the years of hunting and pecking for time in the woods. I got the usual “Oh, you really like to deer hunt “while I am thinking I hate to deer hunt because it is boring. I like to eat venison and that’s how you get it.
I am thankful that I am still physically able to venture off into some pretty rough country and get the meat back to my truck. I’m very thankful for that and a big plus this year is that I’m going into the season a lot lighter than over the last twenty years or so; about forty pounds is missing. That alone should make everything a bit easier and more enjoyable. I know that if I ever get to the point where I would have to sit in a box and stare at a corn pile; I would never go again. I’m also thankful that I own wool and not that fancy hi-tech stuff that you can hear a branch slap from a hundred yards away. I’m also thankful that I remembered to load some ammo two months before season and not at the last minute. I was down to 3 bullets.
Yes, I am thankful for many things but one of the biggest things is my ability to hunt, gather, catch and grow things to meet my needs. I think that is something to be proud of. The Thanksgiving season is a time to think and be thankful for what we have and what we have the ability to do. We need to be thankful for all of the veterans who have served and are serving this nation. We need to be thankful for all we have and all we have the freedom to do. If nothing else; just be thankful that it isn’t January yet. But be thankful for something. I know I am thankful that I will not be eating a butterball.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

 (c) 2017 High Virginia Outdoors Photo (c)2016 High Virginia Images All Rights reserved


CONSUMPTION

CONSUMPTION
Do you remember back when people actually sat down and read books? How about way back in the days when there was something fit to watch on TV? If you can remember those days of the past; you will remember that a common cause of death for the pioneers of our country was listed as consumption. Yeah, that dreadful disease is now known by another name now. We all know what that is.
It has been a bountiful year and a pleasant summer; other than a couple of hot weeks early on. I look at the cellar and smile. Plenty is stored away for the upcoming months. The freezer soon will be filled with venison and we will not have to think about procuring any food until the ramps pop up in the spring. Yep, it will be good eating all winter long and we all know that winter is long. Too long.
I really enjoy the month of October. It is wind-down time and the crowds are gone. One can actually enjoy the streams and woods without tripping over others. It is just a nice period of time to be in the mountains as the colors dwindle and the leaves fall. The chores are done and it is time to relax and recharge. Yes, when the rye is sown and the garlic is in the ground it’s time to head to the woods and see what you can find. I tend to spend a lot more time looking at potential new deer hunting spots than I do actually hunting. It seems as if every time I find a productive spot; they either cut down all of the trees or decide to build a road in that spot. Therefore; I normally spend a good amount of October walking and thinking. Searching may be a better definition. I like to search. It is a good activity for a wandering mind.
Wandering, wondering and thinking just seem like the right things to do. I wonder why I see fewer gardens every year. I think back and try to remember the last time I actually saw anyone squirrel hunting. I guess it easier to drive through and get some chicken nuggets from something that once resembled a chicken. Just yesterday, I saw someone with tomatoes bought from Biggy Mart. I wonder why when I’m positive that person drove by a half dozen real produce stands. It’s just easier, I guess. Never better but less trouble.
Producers dwindle and consumers grow. We have become a nation of consumers obsessed with the easiest way to get something while expending the least amount of effort. Quality no longer seems to take priority. I do not understand the reasoning but that is the way it seems to be. I would take a quart of canned whole tomatoes over a bushel of rock hard flavorless ones any day. I just like to know where my food came from and know what it looked like. The same thing goes with meat. I like to cut up my own meat. I hear so many that say it is too much to trouble butcher their own deer. I would rather cut up deer than sit on a deer stand and wait on one to show up.
I’m afraid that consumption will eventually consume a nation.

(c)2017 High Virginia Outdoors Photos (c) High Virginia Images All Rights Reserved



Sunday, September 10, 2017

WHEN ASTERS BLOOM

WHEN ASTERS BLOOM
I really enjoy the period starting, now. The waning days of summer are some of the best days. Not too hot and not too cold; days and nights feel about right. The hints of fall are more frequent. Summers’ bounty is put away and cover crops are sown. It just feels good when leaves on the mountain begin to glow. I know what is in store; but that is two and a half months away. I don’t look forward to that. We will most likely pay for the previous mild winter. We will not get lucky two years in a row.
New England Asters are one of my favorite wildflowers; they tend to brighten your day when not much else is going on. These late bloomers are a sure sign that autumn is near. Flowers of purple or pink blowing in the breeze; often side by side. Pick a favorite color, it’s a hard choice; but both are prettier than goldenrods. Yes, they brighten the roadsides and fields as most other flowers fade away. We used to have a beautiful stand about a half of a mile away from my house. They were always a stunning sight against a cut stone wall. Purple and pink flowering plants were nicely intermixed. The state road cut them down a few years ago; just as they were beginning to bloom. They never came back, nothing there now but the cut stone wall. Yep, like I always say; can’t have nothing good around here. Oh, well; there are more out there. Just like everything else; you just have to go find them. Nothing stays the same; especially in these parts.
I have been getting that sick, deep in the gut feeling more and more. Every day I see more open space where trees once stood and critters actually lived. I am referring to the beginnings of the construction of Route 48 in Tucker County. Yes, it makes me nauseous to see the destruction in one of the few undeveloped regions we have left. I really don’t like to think about where I believe it may go once it crosses Rte. 72. Yep, every time I find an area to my liking; something happens to it. That something is never good. I’m really glad that I’m getting old enough to not let this stuff really bother me. I am also glad that I was able to enjoy the things the mountains had to offer; decades ago. I guess I’ve been there and done it. I’m grateful I did. I really do not see good things ahead. I only see a wind-swept road that will never be able to be maintained. That is it.
Truthfully, in the grand scheme of things ahead I do not worry much about what is going to happen. I just hate the destruction of reasonably pristine areas in the name of progress. I just ask who the progress will benefit. I still cannot see who benefitted from all of the windmill projects. I imagine if someone actually did; they live far, far away. They sure do not have to stare at the cluttered skyline every day.
Oh well, enough is enough. The way I figure it now; no matter if you are looking at a season in the year or a place in your life: When The Asters Bloom; is not a bad place to be.


This is my September 2017 article for Two-lane Livin (c)2017 High Virginia Outdoors All Rights Reserved Photo (c) High Virginia Images All Rights reserved

Friday, April 7, 2017

What Critter Are You?

What Critter Are You?
Have you ever messed around with one of those silly sites on Facebook? You know; the ones that tell you who your soulmate is and what your friends will do when you die, stuff like that. Yes you have. Don’t lie. You know you can find out all kinds of important stuff on those sites. I fiddled around one not long ago. It was something like what animal are you. I got a tiger or a grizzly bear or something; I don’t really remember. It doesn’t make any difference; but it got me thinking. I do that one occasion actually I’ve been doing it quite often. I started contemplating what organism out there in the real world is closest to my feelings.
I came up with a Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). Now I want you to know right now that we aren’t talking about those flabby, mushy, yellow fleshed things that come off the fish trucks. You know the ones that regurgitate corn or spit out a gob of play dough when you catch them. Nope, definitely not those. I hate those slimy things. I’m talking about real brook trout; the ones that were here before the forests were first ravaged, before numerous streams could no longer support any aquatic life. Yes, the real natives of Appalachia. The hardy survivors. Sadly, not the thrivers. Sometimes all we can do is just hold on.
The species has weathered a lot of turmoil. Just think back to what they have endured over a very short time in the grand scheme of things. Let’s just go back 200 years. Just think about it thousands and thousands of acres devoid of trees so humans could build cities. The trees were all gone; so what shaded the cold waters that they needed to survive? Nothing. But, they managed to hold on. Can you imagine what they thought (if fish can think) when dams full of logs were sent downstream to the mills? Imagine the impact to the streambed with millions of board feet of timber crashing downstream. Just think after they made it through that and things calmed down for a little while; the rains came. Yes, nothing on the mountain to hold anything back. Imagine the sediment clogging your gills for days and days. But, still some survived. Many did not.
They had to leave the larger waters and head into smaller, cooler tributaries when the larger, now scoured streams became too warm for survival. They could no longer grow to their normal size since they were now isolated in smaller, less fertile waters. The food was no longer available in these nearly sterile environments. It was now just a struggle to be lucky enough for a morsel of food to drift by. But, they managed to hold on. Then the orange water comes isolating them even more. They move farther and farther up the tributaries just to survive; often confined to just several hundred yards of stream. They have no choice and there is no way out. There’s nowhere for them to go.

Yes, I can definitely relate to the poor old Brook Trout.; except for the lack of food situation. I can always produce food unlike them. But, here we both are; making the best out of a bad situation and holding on. For how long? Who knows?

This is my April 2017 article for Two-Lane Livin (c)2017 High Virginia Outdoors ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, March 10, 2017

SOON

It will not be long; not as long as it has been. Yes, the famous spring equinox that everyone talks about and anticipates. Everyone but me; I guess. March 20 would be a good starting point if we were in Georgia or another similar environment. It just doesn’t seem to amount to much in these parts. Spring will make it sooner or later but not quite yet. I don’t tend to think much about it until I see a hummingbird or eat some new asparagus. Then, it will be spring. Not quite yet; but soon.
Yes, there are some early signs of life. Wood Frogs quack, coltsfoot and pussy willows bloom and the poor old crocus gets smashed down by snow. It happens every time. Hey, it’s March. No need to get too excited. I never could figure out it out. I’ve never heard anyone say that they couldn’t wait for March to get here. Once it gets over with we still have to endure a few teaser days during the first half of April. We may be blessed with some good days; maybe even a week. But, it will not last. It never does.
Wood Ducks will trickle in giving us a glimpse of color and make us forget about brown, white and grey. Mourning Doves are already incubating in their rickety fragile nests. I never could figure out why they are so numerous. I guess it is because they start nesting early and finish late with numerous attempts. They can’t seem to wait for spring; either. But, it will come; soon.
The fish trucks will begin racking up some major miles and the rivers will once again be full of people and trout. Campgrounds will fill with hardy campers and everyone will be happy once again. Elbow to elbow fishing for fish that weren’t there yesterday. It’s fun for some but not for all. The only good thing I see from this is that the few remaining country stores get busy if they are near one of the stocked areas. The trout stocking program is good for the local economy for a short period of time. Personally, I don’t get any pleasure out of attempting to fish in a crowd. I usually manage to make myself go a few times during the peak stocking period. More often than not I get there; turn around and go home. Life is too good and too short to get irritated at things like that.
Sometime; about mid-month I will plant some radish and lettuce seed in an old bathtub add some onion sets and cover it with glass. The cycle will begin. Digging around in the dirt makes me start thinking of the good things to come. Yes, it will get cold again. I will start worrying and cover the glass over the bathtub with straw and worry about it some more until it warms up. I will carefully uncover it and peer inside. There they are, all of the pretty green sprouts. They are fine. They always are.

Yes, spring will come. It always does. Wood Thrushes will sing Robins will be running around pulling up worms and my Catbird will show up; telling me it is time to plant the potatoes. Not yet; but soon.

This is my March 2017 article for Two-lane Livin (c) 2017 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable Applauds Confirmation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke  

Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable Applauds Confirmation of
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

 
Washington, D.C. – March 1, 2017 – The United States Senate today confirmed U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the nation’s 52nd Secretary of the Interior by a 68-31 vote of bipartisan support. His confirmation drew praise from the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), which strongly backed his nomination.

Rep. Zinke called himself “an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt” during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 17.  He said that the former president “had it right” when he placed millions of acres of federal lands under federal protection. And he directly linked the availability of those federal lands to the enjoyment of outdoor recreation. “Today, much of those lands provide Americans the opportunity to hike, fish, camp, recreate and enjoy the great outdoors,” he said. The committee approved Rep. Zinke’s nomination January 31 with bipartisan support by a vote of 16-6.

Secretary Zinke, as a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, hunter and angler, understands the importance of access to and funding for America’s public lands and waters, and the outdoor industry’s critical economic impact. He was a co-sponsor of the recently enacted Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC) Act of 2016, which requires measurement of the economic impact of outdoor recreation and its role in the U.S. economy.

Secretary Zinke takes over a department that is responsible for 25 percent of the country’s surface area and exercises great influence on outdoor activities throughout the nation.  The parks, refuges, trails, rivers and more that the Department manages attract hundreds of millions of visits each year.

The Department of the Interior has an annual budget of $13 billion and administers the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Sport Fish and Boating Trust Fund, Pittman-Robertson Program and other key programs providing more than $1 billion annually in grants to assist outdoor recreation experiences. The land and water it manages provide the foundation for much of the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry that directly supports some 6.1 million jobs.

ORIR voiced its support for Secretary-designate Zinke January 13 in letters to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) explaining the importance of Zinke’s confirmation and urging swift action on his nomination.  Those letters can be read at www.funoutdoors.com/ORIRUrgesAction.

ORIR leaders expressed immediate and enthusiastic support for the Senate’s confirmation vote.

“The sportfishing industry is pleased that Secretary Ryan Zinke will be leading the Department of the Interior,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO, American Sportfishing Association. “As a Montanan and a sportsman, Zinke understands firsthand the importance of the outdoor recreation economy and the jobs and economic growth is provides for the nation. We applaud this new member of the President’s Cabinet.”

“The RV industry congratulates Secretary Zinke on his confirmation as Secretary of Interior,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Secretary Zinke understands the significance of the outdoor recreation economy and RVIA is committed to working in partnership with him to expand recreational access, address infrastructure needs, embrace public private partnerships, modernize federal campgrounds and create more jobs for American workers.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count



News Release


Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 17-20 
For release:  February 2, 2017

Bird watchers from around the world enjoy counting their birds and entering the GBBC photo contest. Photo by Ann Foster, Florida, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON—A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held in 1998. Each year brings unwavering enthusiasm from the growing number of participants in this now-global event. The 20th annual GBBC is taking place February 17-20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches—anywhere you find birds.
Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years.
“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!” eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.
That first year, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2016. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5,689 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.
“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” says Audubon vice president and chief scientist Gary Langham. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”
Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward.

Bohemian Waxwing by A. Blomquist, 2016 GBBC. Download larger image.
Also noted are higher than usual numbers of Bohemian Waxwings in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. And while some winter finches have been spotted in the East, such as Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and a few Pine Grosbeaks, there seem to be no big irruptions so far. A few eye-catching Snowy Owls have been reported in the northern half of the United States.
Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director, reminds participants in Canada and the U.S. to keep watch for snowies. He says, “The GBBC has done a terrific job of tracking irruptions of Snowy Owls southward over the past several years. We can’t predict what winter 2017 will bring, because Snowy Owl populations are so closely tied to unpredictable ‘cycles’ of lemmings in the Arctic. These cycles occur at intervals between two and six years.  Nevertheless, there are already reports of Snowy Owls as far south as Virginia.”
In addition to counting birds, the GBBC photo contest has also been a hit with participants since it was introduced in 2006. Since then, tens of thousands of stunning images have been submitted. For the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, the public is invited to vote for their favorite top photo from each of the past 11 years in a special album they will find on the GBBC website home page. Voting takes place during the four days of the GBBC.
Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org where downloadable instructions and an explanatory PowerPoint are available. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.
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