Monthly Archives: June 2013

She’s still hangin’ in there

Today is a very important day.  It’s Emily’s birthday!  She’s hangin’ in there pretty well too!  She wouldn’t want to make a big deal about her birthday but I am so pleased to let you, dear friends, know about this special day!  I do not think we have any important plans for the day.  We may go out to eat or something along those lines but birthdays are pretty funny when you are an adult.  I think we may go see the fireworks at the Capitol tonight.  They are only partially for the sesquicentennial celebration for the state…no, they are mostly for celebrating the birth of Emily two score and one years ago!

Emily2ndGrade EmilyAge11 EmilyBeautifulTeen

I got her a few special gifts but those are still a secret.  She always accuses me of getting practical rather than thoughtful gifts.  This year is only partially different.  I got her one of each.  It’s hard for me to think of things that aren’t practical.  It’s just not in my nature so she sort of has to suffer a little of that.  Of course, I get to suffer the result of her suffering so I guess it works out.  Anyhow, I am pretty pleased with one present.  She accused me of waiting until the last minute to get the thoughtful gift but I have been working on it for over a month.  That’s planning in my book!  I hope it reminds her that I am pleased to be celebrating with her and that frying pans aren’t the only gifts I can buy!

So, here’s to another trip around the Sun and to another celebration I get to share with Emily.  Happy birthday to my favorite wife!

It’s West Virginia Day!

Today is the sesquicentennial of the creation of the great state of West Virginia!  You see, there was a disagreement on how things ought to go, known as the Civil War.  Due to the mountainous terrain, slavery was not really profitable so it was more common in eastern Va than in western VA.  When the VA legislature decided to count 3/5 of the slaves when setting up representation, western VA residents were not happy.  The people of the region that is now WV did not feel properly represented and saw an opportunity for independence from VA by seceding and joining the Union.  Residents of western and northern counties set up a separate government under Francis Pierpont in 1861, which they called the “restored” government. Most voted to separate from Virginia, and the new state was admitted to the Union in 1863. In 1864 a state constitutional convention drafted a constitution, which was ratified by the legislature without putting it to popular vote.  West Virginia was the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state and was one of two states formed during the American Civil War (the other being Nevada, which separated from Utah Territory).  Personally, I think they should have called Virginia, East Virginia to clarify that we are indeed separate entities.  Many people outside the region still think we are one state, united with East Virginia.  As a small protest, I always call “Virginia” “East Virginia”…so take that!

WV SealWV Counties

Although I am not a native, I have been a part of WV since 1990 when I first came to the state to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College.  That happens to be the same place I met my lovely wife when she accosted me from the library and made me drink hot chocolate with her back at her dorm room.  She’s a native.  We spent a few years away doing schooling and stuff but we were delighted to move back to WV in 2005.  All of her people are here and this is where I will live the rest of my days if it is up to me.

Simple gifts

Simple things…


WV Sesquicentennial license plate The WV Capitol At the Greenbrier

The new license plate, the capitol and a view from the Greenbrier 


WV mountain flowers WV Mountain Flowers

Flowers in the WV mountains

West Virginia is the only state that is entirely within the area commonly defined as Appalachia.  To some people, Appalachia is a negative term, but to me, it means something special.  Typical stereotypes paint Appalachia with ugly traditions such as moonshining and clan feuding, and often portray the region’s inhabitants as uneducated and prone to impulsive acts of violence.  Some of that is true, but there are ugly things everywhere.  Rather, I prefer to think of West Virginians as quiet and kind folks who value simple living and the land and family.  The music and mountains and old traditions of WV run deep and make WV naturally a different culture than much of Virginia.  The state motto, “Montani Semper Liberi” means “Mountaineers are always free” and absolutely represents the mindset that outsiders perceive incorrectly as backwardness or mistrust of outsiders rather than as fierce independence and pride in one’s home.

View from a WV ridgetop

Panorama from a WV ridgetop

To me, West Virginia is a lot about a way of life.  There is rugged beauty here and an abundance of natural, awe-inspiring landscape.  It’s about front porch sitting and gardening and being surrounded closely by the mountains that help feed me both physically and spiritually.  WV is about people and history and simplicity and freedom.  WV is home to me and my family and will always be where I return.  It’s home and I am so glad to help celebrate it’s 150 anniversary!

Glad to be a Dad!

We were on the road for Father’s Day this year so Emily and the kids helped me celebrate Monday.  I didn’t really expect much in the way of a gift so I figured the menu Abigail provided was just perfect.  They asked me what my perfect meal was and they hit it pretty close.  I guess I am a pretty simple palate, but I couldn’t really think of a better meal!

Tonight's menu

We have a bunch of raspberry bushes in our yard so Abigail was able to pick a great assortment of red and black raspberries for me.  I think they were supposed to be an appetizer…at least I ate them before the meal so they surely worked that way!  When I got home, the smell was awesome and the table was already cleared and set!  It was starting off great!

My new fire pit! S'mores girls Marshmallows are fuel

After we ate, the kids took me back outside to light a fire in the new burn pit they bought me!   I have always enjoyed sitting around a nice fire but in the city and with our yard, a regular campfire in the yard didn’t really make sense. We had to have a fire pit for me to feel good about it.  They picked out a really nice metal pit and even bought some pre-dried wood so we could have a fire right away!  I have been taking wood we cut around the house to the country so there isn’t a lot laying around the yard to burn…I’ll have to remedy that problem!  Anyhow, we started a fire and had a great time roasting marshmallows for s’mores, the perfect dessert!  Even after we were done eating and the fire started to die, Abigail sat around the pit a bit longer and talked about my childhood and all sorts of things.  Only the mosquitoes drove us inside.  I see many more nights around the old fire pit…I am glad to be a Dad and couldn’t be happier with how my family honored me!

Love - Happy Father's Day

Decorated by Abigail


Gordon the girl turtle

I caught a swarm of bees a few weeks ago.  A swarm is usually a lot smaller in number than a full sized hive and they are often a little weaker and disoriented so I usually try to keep them separate from the bee yard for awhile until they get themselves together.  By consulting the bee gods, I determined that this weekend was the weekend to move the swarm to the bee yard in the country.  I usually catch swarms in a smaller “nuc box” which is easier to manage and seems to be better for the smaller swarm too.  As I transferred the swarm to a full sized hive, I found the queen and did a general “once over” of the colony.  They looked great so I called the move a success and started on some other clean-up tasks in the apiary.

Eastern Box Turtle Eastern Box Turtle

Turtles are master hiders

We have had some serious winds lately so a pile of junk had toppled over.  While I was suited up, I decided to work on that a little too.  As I started to gather things up, I noticed a small turtle hiding out under some stuff.  Friends, I have always wanted a pet turtle.  I don’t know why but I am fascinated by them and they are just cool to watch.  I stop on the road to get them to safety, almost every time I see one.  They are fascinating and I am curious so it’s a good match.  I had to check out this turtle that was right before me…he was in my bee yard after all!  This turtle had a crack in its shell but did not seem to be bothered by it.  Still, being a turtle sympathizer and seeing an opportunity for a pet turtle, I picked him up.

Eastern Box Turtle

Like all kids, I heard the story of the tortoise and the hare.  Of course, I know this was a box turtle and not a tortoise but my turtle was more hare-like than I expected.  He paddled and squirmed and when I set him down, he moved quite well.  I wanted to call him Flash, like the speedy super-hero.  Of course, we already have a cat named Flash, like the super-hero, so I knew that wouldn’t work.  I decided, instead, to name him Gordon, like the super-hero’s last name.

Eastern Box Turtle

That crack in his shell worried me…

I got permission from Emily and I was all prepared to have a new pet turtle.  I did a little reading on pet turtles and found out that it’s probably not cool to grab turtles from the wild as the breeding range is fairly limited and though momma turtles lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetimes, only 2-3 survive to adulthood.  Taking potential breeders out of the area can really mess with turtle populations and I want lots of turtles at the cabin.  Turtles in captivity also are very susceptible to dry-eyes and other ailments including nutritional issues and pneumonia.  I didn’t know it but turtles need calcium and all sorts of other minerals and they need light but not too much heat, but not too little heat either.  They need to roam some and dig some and…well, it seemed like more than I expected to keep a pet turtle.  With enough work (translate: money and time), some folks are able to manage keeping turtles in captivity but I don’t want to hurt the local turtle population and I certainly don’t want to have to work at it.

Eastern Box Turtle eating a raspberry

Turtle eating a raspberry

Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is that, in my reading, I determined Gordon is a girl.  Sexing a turtle is an interesting process.  They don’t like for people to peek inside their shells so…aw shucks, just kidding…it is easy.  Boy box turtles have red eyes, girl turtles have orange eyes.  Gordon definitely has orange eyes.  So, next weekend, I will return Gordon the girl turtle to where I found her so she can breed (if she is so inclined.  I like to think I raised her as  liberated turtle who doesn’t cave to societal norms) and keep moist eyes and eat all the slugs she wants.  If anyone asks, I once had a pet turtle though and her name was Gordon and she made me very happy!

My grass is blue

My brother and sister-in-law love travelling around to music festivals, especially bluegrass shows. They have made lots of friends and met many of the bands and finally decided to have a show themselves. Last weekend, we traveled to their place in MD where they had gathered 6-8 bands to come play in their barn over the course of 2 days. They don’t have a typical nasty old barn but rather a large, modern facility that happens to have a stage area built in! It was perfect for the bands to play upon! Between musician friends and their own collection, they put together a first-class sound system and had an all-around great party.

Ready for some Bluegrass My Grass is Blue My Grass is Blue

I took some pics and videos of some of the bands so  you should definitely check out their websites to hear what they are all about.  I wish I had gotten info on everyone.  Oh well, next year you will have to come to hear for yourself!

The David Mayfield Parade was there.


Ernie Bradley and the Grassy Ridge Band
Ernie Bradley and the Grassy Ridge Band
The Polka Dots
The Polka Dots
David Melchior and the Sympathetic Vibrations
David Melchior and the Sympathetic Vibrations

In between bands, there was much time for frivolity. Of course, even when they played, there was much opportunity for dancing and acting up. Many people were fueled by a common liquid wheat-based fuel source which added to their courage levels and self-determined dancing skills! It was a ton of fun.

The barn

The barn…story about the firetruck in another post

The view from the barn

The view from the barn

Playing the flute

Abigail played on stage some and out in the yard some and collected a few tips

All told, there were 150-200 people that came. Some folks camped on his property, others “fell asleep” in the beds of the pickup trucks and some never slept at all. We opted for the hotel a few miles away. I think that worked well for us.  Anyhow, we had a really great time and heard some really great music…some was bluegrass, some was folk, some was hard to describe but that’s what makes music so much fun, isn’t it?

A good lesson from a tree

I have a tree that shades my driveway and makes me smile every day. No matter where I stand or how I look at it, it just looks amazing and beautiful to me. Regardless of the season, it has something to offer visually. I am not sure if Emily or the kids even notice it, but I hope they do. Anyhow, here are a few pics I took of this beauty back in April.

Beautiful tree in early leaf Beautiful tree in early leaf Beautiful tree in early leaf

Click on the pics to enlarge…I just love the tree in detail

This same tree, however, is the one that sheds hickory nuts every fall. Our house is at the top of our long and somewhat winding driveway. We have become pretty proficient at backing up and down it. When we first moved in, however, I did not recognize the importance of keeping the nuts from the tree off of the driveway. One rainy day while backing down, we happened upon a sea of hickory nuts. As I turned the wheel to follow the driveway, the car continued straight. I applied the brakes but the car kept on rolling. There were so many nuts that we just kept sliding until we slid into another tree in the yard which stopped our movement…luckily because we were at the edge of a small drop that would have been very bad to roll over. We literally (yes, I am using that correctly there) would have rolled over. As it was, the car stayed greasy side down. We spent a few hundred on a wrecker and a grand or so on body work. I did learn a lesson…keep your pathway clear of nuts. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good motto, tree or not!

A quick yard-garden broccoli update

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we converted a bit of yard-space into raised beds for growing food.  We got everything in the ground and it has pretty much all “taken”.  If you have never tried, stuff grown in your own garden  is far superior to food you buy in a store.  I don’t know if it is due to the extra talking-to gardeners give their plants or if it is the extra-special compost we add, but homegrown veggies are just the best!

Backyard garden Backyard garden

Broccoli and tomatoes and Brussels sprouts and peppers growing!

Perhaps my favorite garden veggie and the one that is most distinct in taste from what you buy in the store is that magnificent little delicacy most people call broccoli.  Raw broccoli is better, cooked broccoli is better, and deep-fried broccoli is better!  It is sort of magical as it grows.  The plant first sets really nice leaves that are a little hard to distinguish from cabbage or Brussels sprouts (my second favorite veggie!) or cauliflower.  So, if you garden like I do, sometimes it is a bit of a mystery which plant is which as they become jumbled in the frenzy to get stuff planted.  But one day as you check your garden, you notice a little green bush growing in the center of the stalk of leaves.  It quickly grows into a little broccoli head and then that grows and grows and before you know it, you have a magical head of broccoli!

Growing broccoli!

A baby broccoli growing!

I was so pleased to see the first few heads present themselves and now they are growing like mad.  In a few weeks I will take the first heads from the garden and we will make entire meals of broccoli!  The coolest thing is that when you cut one head, two more come to replace it.  Broccoli keeps making heads to replace the ones that were removed.  The plants looks  a little Frankensteinish after a cutting or two so, to preserve my children’s sanity, I don’t cut too many heads before we retire the plant to the compost pile in the sky.  Until then, however, we delight in the glories of home-grown broccoli!

Now that’s a chain!

They say any lock or chain is really only designed to keep an honest man honest.  I definitely think that is true, but some men need a little more help than others.  As we work on our small cabin, we carry a generator to run power tools as we need them.  I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but generators are very tempting for people to snatch.

D-link security chain D-link security chain

I have cut chain with bolt cutters before.  I was surprised how easy it was to get through a typical chain with bolt cutters.  It’s all about the leverage.  That concerned me as I considered leaving the generator on my trailer, somewhere at my house or at the cabin.  I looked around at options and discovered square-link security chain.  For bolt cutters to truly work properly, they must bite on a typical round chain.  Security chain is shaped differently which makes it very difficult to cut with typical bolt cutters.

D-link security chain Padlock with square shackle

Of course, specialty chain is pretty expensive and any chain is only as strong as its weakest link so I bought a serious lock to go with it.  I am not sure if any thievery has been thwarted, but I still have both my chain and my generator!