Thursday, June 29, 2006

He's Here For the Cherries

Black bear next to my truck

The bear was back again yesterday, and this time we saw him eating fallen cherries under our fruit trees. We like these cherries, too. They're flavorful, sour, and too small to pit with a cherry pitter, but they make the best pie I've ever tasted.

Sour pie cherries in our yard

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bear In the Tater Patch

American black bear, in my potato patch

It stopped raining yesterday afternoon, and this fellow came up out of the brush to see what he could see. This always gets me pretty excited, and for the next week or so, every dark shadow and tree trunk is going to look like a bear to me. He left a few tracks in the potato patch, but nothing photograph-worthy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Black Walnut

Black walnut inflorescences from my yard, earlier this spring.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Two Trilliums (Trillia?)

The top photograph is Painted Trillium, photographed in mid-May on Droop Mountain. This is the first time I've found it in bloom. For comparison, I give you Red Trillium from the headwaters of Williams River at the end of April.

Painted Trillium Red Trillium, or Wakerobin

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In the Money, and Out Again

Maury River Fiddler's Convention prize ribbon

I entered the autoharp contest at the Maury River Fiddler's Convention last Thursday, as planned. I played "Chinkypin," it went pretty well, and I was tickled to get my camping fee refunded, in cash, immediately after I played. There were quite a few autoharp contestants, so I didn't harbor any illusions about winning. Imagine my surprise to find I'd finished in the money--third, to be precise. This was my first contest, and I have the feeling that it will be like that first free taste of an addictive drug.

On another exciting note, the phone company called me last week to let me know DSL is available in our area. They installed it Monday, and within an hour, the power went out and stayed out for eight hours. I couldn't help thinking this was the Universe reminding me that I still live in a remote, rural area, DSL notwithstanding. Since then, I've been busy working on my home network. I've been backing up data, updating my Debian installations, and tightening up security on the Mac. I'm just beginning to appreciate the many things I never investigated before due to lack of bandwidth. Yesterday, I downloaded Flashplayer, and was able to watch someone else's kitty take a drink of water from the tap on YouTube. The Internet is truly a miraculous tool!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Dryad's Saddle

Bookcover: Roody's Mushrooms of West Virginia

We collected these "specimens" (also known as "dinner")of pheasant's backs just before Memorial Day. According to W.C. Roody's excellent field guide, Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians, they are also known as "Dryad's Saddle" or Polyporus squamosus. It "appears fairly early in the spring and can be a consolation prize for the hapless morel hunter." Unfortunately, these were a little too old to be tasty, although they were still quite pretty. Pocahontas County mushroom hunters call them pheasant's backs because the scale pattern resembles the markings of a grouse. (To me, and to most Iowans my age, "pheasant" will always mean "ring-necked pheasant.")

Pheasant's back mushroom Pheasant's back mushroom, habitat shot

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I Auto Practice My Autoharp

a little polypore from Swago, May 12, 2006

I hadn't intended to keep a photo blog, although recent trends contradict this. I have nothing against photo blogs, mind you. If I had broadband access, I'd probably follow lots of them. As it is, several of the weblogs in my "Blogroll" load so slowly that I often read the text and skip the photos.

Lately my self-allotted computer time has been taken up with photography and music matters. I've copied some vinyl and some audio tape to mp3's, and I've acquired a much-longed-for digital camera. These new projects have led to back-up and storage issues, which led to Linux updates, which led to hardware updates, which led to reorganizing my computer work area.... I'm almost done with this, I hope.

The computer audio projects were spurred by the start of the festival and picking season. This coming weekend, we are going to The 13th Annual Maury River Fiddlers' Convention in Buena Vista, Virginia. Our camping buddies, Mud Hole Control, won the Old-Time Band contest last year, and this year are the featured house band. We are always honored to be their hangers-on, and are particularly pleased that they are being honored.

Attendees who participate in the music contests get a discount on camping fees, so I signed up. Obviously, there is no concertina contest, but there is an autoharp contest, and that is an instrument I can play. (My banjo skills are not ready for prime time--more like early Sunday mornings when the infomercials come on.) That's what I've been spending my indoor hours on since the Vandalia Gathering--practicing two fiddle tunes on the autoharp. I'm going to play "Chinquapin" and/or "The Red-Haired Boy." They're not sounding too bad, but since I spent a couple of days working in the garden, my hands are getting very sore from practicing. Ironically, I took up the autoharp twelve years ago because it was the only instrument I could play wearing the carpal tunnel wrist braces necessitated by my bioinformatics job. Today I wish I still had the braces, but I think my ferret buried them not long after I moved to Pocahontas County.

If you're interested in the ins and outs of autoharps, I recommend these resources.

  • Cyberpluckers' Autoharp Page. I participated in the Cyberpluckers mailing list in the mid 1990's, and discovered that autoharp players are a particularly friendly, helpful group of people.
  • Orthey Autoharps. These are really really good instruments. By strange chance, I'm lucky enough to have one (It was a custom-made left-handed instrument ordered by someone who subsequently decided she didn't like the autoharp after all, and....)
  • The Autoharp Web Ring will lead you to most Internet resources.
  • Autoharp Quarterly is an excellent publication, and has lots of good stuff on the Web as well.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Chickadees Prefer Cat Fur

He's not "feathering his nest." He's not "woolgathering," because I left some carded sheep's fleece out in the yard, and it's never been touched. This black capped chickadee comes to our doormat every morning, and gathers up the fur thoughtfully shed there by my fuzzy yellow cat, Princess.

Chickadee woolgathering Bearded chickadee

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hummingbird In Reverse

We continue to play with the new camera. What better way to test the stop-motion modes than a hummingbird? The lower photo shows the little guy flying backwards away from the feeder. We've noticed them doing this--they back away a couple of feet and take off in a different direction, and we're particularly pleased to catch this.

male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird at Feeder Hummingbird flying backward

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Flame Azaleas

Flame azalea blossoms

More photos, less text seems to be my rule these days. I try to limit my computer time each day, and lately, I have been doing a number of maintenance tasks. Hence the brief comments. These flame azaleas in the Droop Mountain Battlefield Park have bloomed profusely this year. People tell me the whole mountain was once covered with these (locally known as "honeysuckle"), but horticulturalists in the fifties and sixties paid a premium for them, so everybody dug them up and sold them.

Flame azalea shrub in bloom

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wild Sarsaparilla

I've been walking by these for several years with scarcely a glance, assuming that the pinnately compound leaves belonged to some sort of hickory seedlings. This year, I caught them in bloom, and discovered that Droop Mountain is covered up with Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis). This seems to be my year for finding plants in the ginseng family.

wild sarsaparilla, habit shot wild sarsaparilla inflorescences

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Showy Orchis Near Swago

Showy Orchis

This spring has been spectacular for flowers. Where I usually see one or two blooms, or notice a plant without flowers, this year, everything seems to be taking its chance to bloom. I've seen these orchids before, but I've never caught them blooming. It's Showy Orchis, and there were dozens of plants in flower when I took this photo.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Camping in Charleston for the Vandalia Gathering

Camping at Vandalia, view of the DMV

Last weekend, we took our pop-up camper to Charleston to the Vandalia Gathering, the premier West Virginia traditional music festival. Other festivals in West Virginia are bigger, but are often dominated by out-of-state musicians. If you place in a Vandalia music contest, (and many of our friends and neighbors did just that this year), you're one of the bright lights of West Virginia music for sure.

Our annual trip to the State Capitol Complex is a strange one. We live on beautiful Droop Mountain, and as we drive to Charleston on Friday, we meet the Charleston/Huntington traffic on its way to Pocahontas County to camp for the Memorial Day weekend. When we arrive, we put up our camper in this scenic location. In the top photo, you see the back of the Department of Motor Vehicles building. In the next photo you see how conveniently we are located to the railroad tracks and the interstate. It's a testimonial to the festival's fine music that we who live in "God's Country" camp on asphalt in the heat of the low country to participate.

Vandalia Camping: Railroad tracks and interstate

I had a particularly good time in the picking sessions this year. I got to play quite a bit with musicians I admire. Because I play concertina (not an integral part of Appalachian string band music), I don't jump in unless invited, and I was tickled pink to be included. I've been much more interested in learning more tunes and practicing since I've been home.

This year we also picked up a guitar and string bass from the repair shop. My bass has been out of commission for so long I've forgotten what little I knew about playing, so I've been trying to get back in the groove with that as well.