Review: The Songbird of Sovereign by Jennifer Wixson, and a Giveaway

 The Songbird of Sovereign

The Songbird of Sovereign

The Songbird of Sovereign

In The Songbird of Sovereign, book three of the Sovereign Series, Jennifer Wixson gracefully moves between 1940’s pre-World War II and the present to tell the story of Miss Hastings. Forget everything you read about “no flashbacks” because you’re going to love theses. This is Jennifer’s best work yet.

You don’t have to read Hens & Chickens and Peas, Beans & Corn to understand The Songbird of Sovereign, but you should because they’re delightful stories. I found myself nodding and thinking, “Oh, I didn’t know…” and “Well now that makes sense” many times while reading. I know why Miss Hastings loved her pet chicken so dearly, and it’s a lovely addition to the story.

Jana Hastings contracts tuberculosis and is sent to Windmere Sanatorium to recover. She’s never to sing again, a difficult sentence for a 16 year old songbird of great fame. Jennifer tells how Miss Hastings became who she is today but sharing the story of a young lady growing into womanhood with first love, loss, pain and personal growth.

We’ve all heard that “it takes a village” to raise children. In Sovereign, we learn that thanks to a village, our late years in life can be wonderful. Sad times are written within hope, love and dignity.

The family and world history that make this story are so well blended that you forget some of this is very real and other parts are purely fiction…except they’re not.

Jen Wixson has graciously donated two copies of The Songbird of Sovereign to be given away here. You can gain an entry each day. The giveaway starts today and ends July 28. Rafflecopter will draw two names on the 28th and I’ll be back to announce the winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, Maine

I’m on a technology break but I’ll be back next week.

This is Balance Rock in Bar Harbor, Maine. My note to you today is about balance. Do you have it? Work versus play? Time outdoors or face to face interaction with people rather than time on a gadget or in front of the television? Do you need a better balance between giving of yourself and making time for yourself? Or maybe it’s the other way around. Need to give a bit more?

I’m working out a balance between career and homestead. Forty plus hours of writing work plus a half acre garden plus chickens and ducks plus a house to clean plus an overwhelming to do list for the house and land equals a sometimes (too often) bitchy me.

I recently got volunteer work in balance by re-learning how to say no. “No, I won’t be doing trail work.” “No, I won’t be shoveling horse shit. If I wanted to do that we’d have horses.”  “Yes, I can guide tours.” “Yes, I can do your PR and photography.” “No, I won’t _______.”

Huh. Turns out that even though I’m on a break I have a few things to say.

Find balance; even boulders tip over.

Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, Maine

Have you found balance in your life?

Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, Maine

Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, Maine

Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, Maine

Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, Maine

{this moment} Unplugged

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see. {inspired by :: soulemama}

I’m away. I’ll be away next week for {this moment} but I’ve left something that resembles the moments I’ll be having while I’m offline to concentrate on writing, goals, priorities, and what does and doesn’t fit in my life now. I hope you’ll stop in. I’ll catch up and visit your moments when I’m back online (around July 28).



Book Review: Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat by Paula Young Lee

Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat.

Deer Hunting in Paris: A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat. The title caught my attention immediately. As an avid hunter and outdoors woman, guns and game meat are an important part of my life. The cover demonstrates how a deer is broken down into venison. If the title hadn’t intrigued me the illustration would have caught my eye. This was a memoir I knew I needed to read and hoped would be great. It wasn’t what I was expecting.

Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee

Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee

The middle child. Not the pretty one or the boy. The middle child, Paula Lee is a Korean-American in predominantly white Maine. She was a pastor’s daughter in the least religious state in the country. How does this young woman end up in Paris, France and then in Paris, Maine? And even more interesting, how does a vegetarian end up dating a hunter? Funny story.

This is an amusing story. Lee doesn’t fall into a traditional marriage, settle down and have kids the way most women do. She travels. Her views change as her world expands. The story is rich in culture. Her thoughts on God, or not God are interesting coming from the pastor’s kid. Through her boyfriend, hunting transforms a deer into cuts of meat. She represents hunters and non-hunters fairly using her personal experience.

I’m especially pleased by two aspects of the book. Lee’s strength as an independent woman comes through clearly in her story while not being full of overblown feminism. It’s refreshing. I’d be happy to have her as a role model for my daughters.

And second, having been a foodie before it became watered down, I appreciate Lee’s reverence for wild game and what they provide us. She writes extensively about using unusual cuts such as the heart of a deer after it is handed to her by her boyfriend. She conveys the butchering process so well you feel like you’re there with her, minus getting yourself bloody. Wild food, homegrown food, a box of unsexed chicks – food is huge and its meanings beyond filling your belly are shared.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. It was even better.

Review: Vargo Titanium Tent Stakes

“They’re awfully small.” That was my first thought when I opened the package. They are small. At 0.3 ounces (10 grams) and only 6.2 inches, these Vargo Titanium Tent Stakes are tiny, and that’s excellent. They take up very little space and add only ounces in a pack.

I used the stakes for the tent as they’re supposed to be used and was very pleased with them. They saved the day when Tropical Storm Arthur blew in. We needed to cover equipment quickly. Wind gusts of 70 mph and driving rain were no match for the stakes. I grabbed them from the pack and we pounded them into the gravel driveway to secure tarps over firewood and the wood splitter. The first thing in reach was twine; there wasn’t time to look for something sturdier. We placed the stakes, pulled the tarps as tight, snug and close to the firewood wood as possible, and hoped for the best. The wind pulled the stakes up about 2″. That’s impressive. The wood and equipment were dry.

Vargo Titanium Tent Stakes held the tarps in place during Tropical Storm Arthur.

Vargo Titanium Tent Stakes are holding up young trees after TS Arthur

The stakes held up well to being pounded with a regular hammer. They’re barely marred in spite of being hit hard to get into the gravel.

Clean up is easy. Pull the stakes and using another stake, push the dirt out. Tap on the ground or a rock and they’re almost clean. You can see how little wet soil is left on this stake after this quick clean up.

The stakes clean up easily. The cord is reflective, great for night time safety.

The stakes clean up easily. The cord is reflective, great for night time safety.

The red cord stands out and is easily noticed. It contains reflective strands that pick up light even from dim flashlights with dying batteries. Nobody tripped over the stakes on this camping trip.

The stakes are currently in my orchard, staking young fruit trees that were blown over during Tropical Storm Arthur. Don’t limit yourself to tenting. I’ve used these stakes for tenting once and other purposes twice. They’re handy to have around. I expect to use them this winter when we load the Jet Sled with ice fishing gear. The stakes are said to hold well in snow so we’ll tarp the gear, use the stakes and avoid having to put the gear in the barn when we get back Saturday evening and before using it again on Sunday morning.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Vargo Titanium Tent Stakes for free from Vargo Outdoors as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.

Bass Fishing Expert, they said. Me?

I’ve been kind of quiet about this new title of mine. Bass fishing expert. Me. hmmmm.

I do fish a lot. And I do catch bass. A lot of bass. I know what lures to use in specific weather and water conditions. Are the bass on beds? I got that. What top water lure is best on a windy day, through lily pads in deep water, after a tropical storm dumps six inches of rain and drops the water temperature by ten degrees? Forget that – get out of the weeds and pads and head for a rocky shore if you want a nice largemouth bass under those conditions, and don’t fish the surface. Use a floating lure that dives (floating helps you control depth in shallow water) two to three feet and cast toward shore, bringing the lure into the deeper water.

Four pound smallmouth

Four pound smallmouth

Expert? I’m floored. And flattered. I didn’t think so but the nice folks at Lifeform LED did. They asked me to share a tip for beginnings. As a Hooked On Fishing – Not On Drugs instructor who does random fishing lessons at boat landings because kids have a tendency to swarm our boat, I’m used to sharing info with beginners. I love helping and working with beginners so I hit reply and sent my tip within minutes of reading their email.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass

I appreciate their faith in me. It’s made me think seriously about what I do, how much I know, and how I use the knowledge. I do know what I’m doing. I ask a lot of questions and I listen to all of the advice anyone wants to give me. You learn a lot when you listen.

Sometimes I know the best thing I can do is pass a fish down to Steve. It’s better to have him quickly unhook the fish when my shorter fingers don’t reach far enough into a smallmouth to dislodge a hook. I can do it. I know enough to make the best choice for the fish. We catch and release all but two or three bass in spring and summer.

small mouth bass on lure

Small Mouth Bass with lure

Buzzbait, hard lure, diver, crankbait, soft lure, jig, jerkbait (love jerkbaits, fun to play), Texas and Carolina rigs…so many choices. Color, length, weight. Braided line?

I test lures like I test seeds, and I get to do this because I know what to do with the lures I’m sent. Honest feedback, even when it’s not favorable, helps the companies whose lures I’m testing.

Not a bass but a good example of how fishing is a family affair.

Kristin, taking a pickerel off the hook like a girl.

Kristin, taking a pickerel off the hook, like a girl.

Taylor with a small mouth bass

Taylor with a small mouth bass during a weekend home from college to ice fish with friends.

Steve’s largemouth, caught on a dark salamander (soft bait) on a Carolina rig. He fishes the bottom more than I do. I like to see the explosion when a bass hits a topwater lure. He has a lot more patience for grass and weeds and getting hung up on rocks, sticks and deadheads.

Largemouth bass caught on Boyden Lake

Largemouth bass caught on Boyden Lake

You can read my tip at Lifeform LED’s blog, and if you’re an angler, I hope you’ll leave a tip or three here for all of us. I love a good tip!


Screeching from the trees…

Boyden Lake today. This American Bald Eagle screeched from the tree as we pulled in our fish. Beggar! Every time we reeled in a fish he had a fit. We let our fish go, alive and well, not for his lunch.

American Bald Eagle

Gimme your fish and nobody gets taloned.


Sunset at the Swimming Hole

Sunset at the swimming hole

Sunset at the swimming hole

I love the peace and quiet of nature. If moving further into the woods, away from unnatural noises and distractions. I’m super sensitive to noise, artificial lights and a few other things.

Very early one morning, with cups of coffee in our hands, Tammy and I sat on the porch steps at a friend’s camp. We were miles behind a locked gate, completely alone in the woods, enjoying the peace and quiet of nature. Nature is seldom peaceful. Birds, frogs, insects, wind in the leaves. We realized how noisy and loud the natural world can be.

When you drown out the unnatural noise what’s left is beautiful. What do you hear?

Banding Canada Geese at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

My daughter Taylor is the Youth Conservation Corps leader at Moosehorn National Refuge. When she mentioned banding geese I was all over it.

“Can I help?”

“I think so. Call Maury or Ray.” Maury Mills manages the Woodcock Singing Ground Survey I’ve been participating in for so long, and Ray Brown allowed me to go out to band woodcock this year.

Banding geese is quite an event. Gear has to be gathered and loaded into trucks and the 15 passenger van Taylor uses for YCC, radios checked, and paddlers have to work out their plan. There were eight or nine canoes and kayaks involved in the round up.

Taylor and some of the YCC members set up netting along the edge of the dike on Charlotte Road while Ray Brown had help setting up net along the shore. Ray took one for the team when he loaned his waders to someone and walked in water up to his chest. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures. We stomped down grass and iris to smooth out a small plot along shore where the pen was set up. If all went according to plan the geese would swim in, walk up the bank and into the pen, and someone would close them in. That was the plan.


I went to the dike with YCC. We spread out the length of the dike, laying on our stomachs, not peeking up to see where the geese might be. If they spotted us they might be scared away. There were a couple of radios between ten of us but I wasn’t near one of them.

On my stomach in the tall grass, surrounded by goose shit (it’s the appropriate word), I wonder how many ticks are crawling on me. Horseflies buzzed my head, landed on my nose and managed to get into my shirt, biting me once. If the horsefly can get there are probably ticks crawling on me But there weren’t.

While waiting on the dike...

While waiting on the dike…

One sentence from an episode of North Woods Law ran through my mind many times. “Now I know what goose shit tastes like.” I didn’t want to know.

Honk honk honk honk honk. The sound I associate with autumn. Two geese flew over the dike. No bling for them today. Banding is done at this time of year because the geese are molting and most have lost flight feathers.

Someone stood at the far end of the dike. The geese and paddlers were in sight. The next person stood, then the next. Our instructions were to stand up slowly when the geese were in front of us, walk slowly toward the pen, make no sudden moves, not wave our arms, and don’t bunch up. If you bunch up you leave empty spaces for the geese to escape. One by one people stand but I can’t hear the radio and we can’t yell to each other so I don’t know when to stand. Are the geese in front of me now? If I stand too soon I might scare them.

Bands for Canada geese

Bands for Canada geese

“Mom! Mom! Stand up!” Question answered. What a sight! Men and women in canoes and kayaks were spread out over the water, carefully, slowly herding 54 Canada geese to the pen. So far so good.

One goose came to shore to make a waddle for it but Willow Cobb of YCC got a hold of it. She walked the dike with that goose in one hand, carrying it like a shopping bag. “You look like you’ve done this before,” I said. She has. With two fingers between the wings, thumb on one side, two fingers on the other side, the geese relax and hang out, feet bobbing a little with each step she took.

Canada geese are herded through this narrow point and into the pen.

Canada geese are herded through this narrow point and into the pen.

We zigged and zagged a little as two more geese tried to escape. “Run,” someone yelled from a canoe, and I ran. (Running is easy and I’m not self-conscious about doing it in front of 20something people now that I’m 62 pounds lighter. I probably wouldn’t have volunteered to do this last year.) I caught up to the goose I hadn’t seen heading for shore, ready and willing to put my “how to tackle a goose” training to work. It stayed in the water, and I was both relieved and disappointed over not having to catch it.

The actions of one goose baffled me. It kept its neck in the water, head barely on the surface, body flattened. I asked a YCC member, if it was a goose or a beaver. With the sun reflecting off the water, blocking the head from view, and the goose headed in the wrong direction, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. “It’s a goose. He’s trying to get away.”

Fifty-four Canada geese were herded into the makeshift pen. The first person in a canoe behind them jumped out and closed the pen. Success! I was surprised at how well this went. Most of the geese stayed in line on the water and on land as they filed into the pen.

smart gooseThis is the goose I thought might be a beaver. He’s between the two posts, close to the one on the left. He was the last bird in. He dove several times, coming up the last time too close to a technician who was able to pluck him from the water. Turns out this goose, a male, knew what was happening. He’d already been banded. He was taken to the biologists to have the information on his band recorded and was turned loose.

I was eager to start handling the geese. I made my way to the pen and got a quick lesson in how to carry a goose like a shopping bag. It’s not too awkward once you get the hang of it. We moved as many geese as we had crates for, them moved the crates into the shade. Let the banding begin.

Maury and Ray showed us what to do. Someone took notes. Male or female, this year’s hatch or older, and the band number were recorded. It takes a lot of effort to band and record information on 54 geese. Someone has to open bands and hand them out, in numerical order. At times there were four or five of us banding at once.

Maury Mills, wildlife biologist

Maury Mills, wildlife biologist

Adrianna Gorsky prepares a goose for banding

Adrianna Gorsky, a biology technician from Virgina, prepares a goose for banding

You pick up a goose and secure its wings snugly so it doesn’t beat you, find a place to sit, tuck the head under a wing, flip the goose upside down with its tail away from you, and hold it between your thighs. Pretty simple in words. If you do this right or the bird is relatively calm, you don’t get bitten. Or scratched. If the bird panics you get bitten or scratched, sometimes leaving you bruised or bloody. Or both. I acquired three bruises. It doesn’t hurt much but since the geese were inclined to bite and hang on they left good bruises.

I was able to do some of everything. It took three geese before I got the band on right the first time. The edges must line up perfectly and not overlap. A smooth band doesn’t irritate the goose’s leg but a rough edge can irritate and even cut skin. The bands are put on so that when the goose is stand the band is right side up, making it easy for birders to read the number.

Taylor Follette identifies the sex of a Canada goose

Taylor Follette identifies the sex of a Canada goose

I learned from Collin that geese can hatch with so much time between nests that some goslings are still fuzzy (we had three) while others are fully feathered and look almost identical to mature geese. Geese hiss a lot. There were three hissers in one crate, and I avoided them.

Collin bands a young goose that hatched this year.

Collin bands a young goose that hatched this year.

It took about two hours to do the banding. Each goose is released in the water after banding. They shake it off, literally, and swim away.  A total of 54 Canada geese were captured, 42 new birds, and 12 recaptures (previously banded birds).  Of the recaptures, 10 were banded during the 2013 roundup, and two were banded in 2011.

It was a great morning! Thanks to the staff at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge for letting me tag along again. I filled out my volunteer application and will be back to pitch in with several projects.


{this moment} Chanterelle Mushrooms

A Friday ritual. A single photo – no a few words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.  Thanks to Soule Mama!

Chanterelle Mushrooms

(I’ll tell you how to cook them soon.)

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelle Mushrooms


In the Garden on July 10

This week’s photos are from the high tunnel.

I emptied the Earth Machine and refilled it yesterday. Weeds, free range tomatillo plants that were trying to conquer the world, spent hay from the hen house, water. I’ll move the compost into a raised bed tomorrow and plant beets.

The Earth Machine has been emptied and refilled.

The Earth Machine has been emptied and refilled.

Free range lettuce. It’s going to go to seed and produce the next generation of free range lettuce. I let most of the plants grow where they land. The Johnny Jump Ups in the background are also free range.

free range lettuce

Free range lettuce

Apple Green eggplant and Superette Sweet Banana pepper

Apple Green eggplant and Superette Sweet Banana pepper

Beedy’s Camden kale. My new favorite. More about it soon.

Beedy's Camden Kale

Beedy’s Camden Kale

Free range tomatillo. I haven’t planted tomatillos in years. I always miss some when I’m cleaning up at the end of the season. I leave the plants that grow in good spots and compost the rest.

Free range tomatillo

Free range tomatillo

Early Wonder Tall Top beets…what’s left of them after the chickens got loose and feasted on tiny seedlings.

beet greens

Bibb lettuce (not free range).


Pickling cucumber.

Pickling Cucumber

Pickling Cucumber

The tunnel got off to a late start because we were still having nights in the 20*s in April and early May. I used to fret over it but not now. We’ll have plenty to eat even though it won’t be as early as it should be from a high tunnel.

This is the high tunnel, taken a few years ago. It’s an unheated greenhouse of sorts. I can harvest fresh veggies year round here in Maine thanks to the tunnel.

tomatillo jungle

Upta Camp – Photos

We went upta camp one recent evening to pick up things I’d left behind and push the dock out to deeper water. Camp is on Upper Sysladobsis lake in Lakeville Plantation. Twenty-five years ago it was the place to go to escape the masses. It’s more populated than the woods we live in now and no where near as quiet as it is here at home. Generators run from the time people wake up until they go to bed (I hate it.), drowning out the aspen leaves dancing on the breeze, silencing the song birds. Television, something we had on only to watch the weather report way back then is a constant now. The television is on only in the morning and evening here at home. Because it’s quiet I can hear the song birds, the rushing of the stream a half mile away, bull frogs, and even insects humming in the trees. When you’re sandwiched between buildings a few feet apart in the city as we were 25 years ago a place like camp seems uncrowded and private. When you live in the woods without neighbors in sight, on a dead end road in town of 65 residents, your idea of privacy changes.

Things change but it’s still camp and I love it.

Pumpkinseed sunfish

Pumpkinseed sunfish

Across the lake, upta camp

Used to be the Brooks’ camp. Across the lake, upta camp

Across the lake, upta camp

Across the lake, upta camp

Upta Camp, Trudy's Haven

Trudy’s Haven. Mum helped build our camp in 1951. She was nine years old.

upta camp steve dock

upta camp dock

I’m Disconnecting

I’m disconnecting. For a eight days. No cell phone or internet. No cooking. Seriously. No. Cooking. I’ll miss that, especially since the garden is full of fresh vegetables. Cooking takes time. What’s ready to be picked? What meat to thaw? How should the meal be prepared? It’s a distraction. The biggest choice I want to make for this adventure is which sandals to wear.

There’s a rough plan in the works; it will be polished and ready to go by July 17. I’ll be unplugged from the afternoon of July 18 until later in the day on July 26. I’ll be writing. I have the short outdoors stories to work on and if I get tired of that, I’ll switch to another non-fiction project. I’m not going to hibernate. I’ll be hiking and kayaking and spending some face time with friends. They’re disconnecting too. There won’t be more important people than those we are with. No distracting phone calls or text messages or those damned third world problems that aren’t problems.

Red pine cone

I’m disconnecting so I can reconnect.

I’m counting down the days. It can’t get here soon enough.

The Pigs are Here

The piglets are here. They’ve been here for 11 days and I’m just now writing about them. That’s unusual. I told you I was getting chickens and ducks months before they existed yet the pigs have been here a while  and I’ve said nothing. I’m not thrilled with the pigs. They’re the most unfriendly, nervous pigs I’ve ever had. We have the runt and an aggressive but cute red pig. The white piglet is considerably smaller than the red. The photo is misleading. I saw the boar, a big, long pig with lots of bacon. He let me scratch his ears and wasn’t at all pushy. Nice pig.

Meat pigs - bacon, ham, sausage, chops, ribs, roasts.

Make one move and we’re outta here!

I was able to touch the back of the white one as it ran squealing past me. I held it when I moved it from the pen to the crate the evening we brought them home. That’s it. There’s no touching these pigs, at least not now. No hand feeding, scratch or ear rubs. They stunk of urine and feces after spending the first eight weeks of their lives confined in a concrete floored pen. They smelled so horrible we couldn’t stand beside the crate after it was loaded into the truck. They’re clean now but being near them for the first two days was difficult. They don’t trust anyone or anything. It took nine days for them to eat before I left the barn. They were out of water and thirsty Saturday afternoon. The white pig (I’ll name them soon) got up when I poured the water, walked to the pan after I left the stall, and drank while I watched. Red followed. I gave them weeds and a zucchini and watched. They nibbled at the zucchini and later, when I went to check on them, the weeds were gone. On Sunday they started looking up at me when I approached the stall. They’re looking to see what I’ve brought them so I’ll bring them something to eat every time I check on them. I’m speaking to them in a soft, soothing voice. They don’t run away when I speak to them.

Progress. We’re slowly making progress.

I had no intentions of keeping them in the barn this long but that’s how it is. This is best for them even though they still haven’t touched soil or been outdoors other than in a crate. They won’t come to me if they get loose so I’m not taking any chances yet. I hope to gain their trust this week. For now they’re content to burrow into the deep hay bedding.

We made a little more progress on Saturday. They got up and took a few steps toward the food pan while I was still in their stall. I’m hoping to sit still in the pen while they eat by the end of the day Tuesday. I’m going to let them run out of food and water on Monday night so that they’re hungry and thirsty when I go out Tuesday morning. I’ll sit on a five gallon bucket in the corner, four feet from their food and water, and wait. I’m not going to try to touch them but I’ll have food in hand in case they’re willing to come to me.

They really aren’t a lot of work and I’m sure they’re going to be nice pigs with a little more time. I’ll feel better about this when they trust me. It won’t be much longer. We’ll work this out; I’ve worked with livestock that was a lot bigger and more difficult. (Steve bought two one-year old bulls once…) They’ll move to their first outdoor pen, feel the sunshine and soil, wallow in mud, and fatten up on lots of good food. I mention fattening them up because we can’t forget what they are – food.

A Good Food Day

It was a good food day. Production and harvest, I mean.

We’ve picked all of the broccoli from the first planting. We’re now enjoying Slick Pik summer squash, Rainbow carrots, Beedy’s Camden Kale, Sparkle and wild strawberries, duck and chicken eggs, Purple Top White Globe and Gold Ball turnip, Golden Acre cabbage, Peppermint Stick Swiss chard, garlic scapes and a variety of greens.

Oh what a nice surprise we found in the woods today. Steve, Taylor, Adriana and I went kayaking today. We stopped on the way back to pick Chanterelle mushrooms.

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Adriana is from Virginia. She’s a biology technician at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge this summer. She’s had a few firsts this summer, one of them being picking wild mushrooms. We picked a pound of Chanterelles today. The tiny mushroom in the photo will be ready to be picked by Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll go back to pick again and look for more. Some of the mushrooms were beaten and broken by 6.5 inches of torrential rain during Tropical Storm Arthur. Others were gone by and were left untouched to sporate. Taylor and Adriana took today’s shrooms back to the refuge along with some of most of the vegetables and a dozen eggs. They also took vegetable seedlings and seeds for the garden shared by refuge employees.

This week I’ll be pickling more garlic scapes, making strawberry and strawberry rhubarb jams, and spending time with the future pork chops, bacon and ham. I’ll tell you about them soon. The piglets have been here for 10 days.

Loon with Chicks (and fishing)

Steve and I went fishing on Pocomoonshine lake on Friday.  When the loons sent out their alarm call, the tremolo, I was ready to put down the new pole and look for the eagle. It was flying over the loons, low and threatening. It flew away after a few minutes and the loons settled down. They have two chicks.

Adult loon with two chicks

Adult loon with two chicks

Adult loon with two chicks Adult loon with two chicks

Adult loon with two chicks

Adult loon with two chicks

HintThe fishing wasn’t spectacular yesterday but it was good. I’m testing a new line of lures that had a lot of strikes. More on them later, after I’ve used them enough to write an accurate review. Steve asked if I wanted to follow the stream between the outlet of Pocomoonshine to Mud Pond. Sure! I cast a dozen times on the stream but was more interested in the scenery than fishing.  We’ve been on the stream once before but it’s been year so I wanted to pay attention. There are three old beaver lodges; one has a few new saplings but there isn’t any beaver activity in the area now. We saw three small ducks I haven’t identified yet, a muskrat and two loons on Mud Pond.

The Stream between Pocomoonshine and Mud Pond

The Stream between Pocomoonshine and Mud Pond

Steve took the boat to the far side of tiny Mud Pond, turned the motor off and let the boat drift. It’s especially peaceful when the hum of the electric trolling motor is absent. We fished, got tangled in the weeds, and lost fish because of the weeds. I like to fish above the weeds with a spoon or weedless frog and got hung up multiple times. Steve’s the weed and bottom angler (catches a lot of fish that way) and even he was getting frustrated. The dense mats of weeds just below the surface creeped me out. I don’t kayak over that stuff but I have an irrational fear of flipping the yak, being tangled in the mat and drowning. We watched largemouth bass and pickerel swimming by all day but not in that mess.

Fish are here, and weedless lures don't get tangled.

Fish are here, and weedless lures don’t get tangled.

Largemouth of all sizes were jumping along the shore and in the weeds again on Saturday. I didn’t see flying ants other other hatches so I don’t know what they’re after. None of the fish we caught spit anything out so there were no clues there. They were striking top, middle and bottom but not always biting. On a beautiful day when rain was forecast but the sun came out, it would have been a great day fishing if we hadn’t had a single bite.

{this moment} Banding Canada Geese

A Friday ritual. A single photo – no a few words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.  Thanks to Soule Mama!

Taylor is a wildlife biology major and the leader of Youth Conservation Corps at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge this summer. I spent a morning with her, YCC students, state biologists and interns to round up, sex and band Canada geese.

Taylor Follette identifies the sex of a Canada goose

Taylor Follette identifies the sex of a Canada goose