Monday, December 31, 2012

Rambling Toward 2013

I figured that I would jump on the year-end post bandwagon and reflect back on my first six months as a blogger. I started this blog on June 28 with a post titled Here Goes Nothing!, and in that post I outlined my reasons for starting NC Outdoor Ramblings. Six months and 32 posts later, I'm still here rambling about my outdoor adventures. As I sit here on the last day of 2012, I'm humbled that people actually take the time to read my Internet ramblings. According to Google Analytics, this blog has had 452 unique visitors since I started it six months ago. I feel like I've made some connections in the outdoor blogging community, and have found some wonderful blogs that I enjoy reading by writers who are much more talented than I am, both through comments left on this blog and through the Outdoor Blogger Network.

For my year-end post, I thought I would write up a year-in-review of some of my favorite posts from this past year, starting with this past summer when I started the blog.
Broad River Bream
My first post of any substance when I began the blog was Warm Water Fly Fishing, a post about my new found love of warm water fly fishing, and why I enjoyed it.
Davidson River Brown
There were lots of posts about fly fishing for trout, including Summer's Last Cast.
From the garden
There were also a few about our vegetable garden and orchard, such as A Tasty Legacy.
Blue/Purple/White Triple Threat Streamer
There was a post or two on fly tying, including one about my favorite smallmouth fly the Triple Threat.
Some of my writings weren't about hunting, fishing, or gardening, but nature in general, including my Backyard Ramblings.
2012 8pt Buck
Then as hunting season went into full swing, I found out that Patience Pays Off.
NW PA Snow
Last week, my wife and I were in Pennsylvania to visit her family and celebrate Christmas. Mother Nature helped out with a white Christmas and about 12" of snow! I had thought about trying to do a little trout fishing while we were there, as Oil Creek is close by and quickly becoming one of my favorite places to fish outside of NC. However, the below freezing temperatures changed my mind. As I move into 2013 as a blogger, I plan to continue to write about my outdoor experiences. I already have some posts written, and some of those will see the light next year. Deer season is over, and fishing will probably be slow for a few more months, but there are flies to tie, and small game seasons are still open through the end of February. Hopefully there will be some squirrel and rabbit hunting in the near future for me.

As we end this year and begin a new one, I hope that everyone has a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings this past year!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Hunting For Answers

Saturday morning in some ways was like any other Saturday during deer season. I was up before the sun, and out the door early to get in the woods. I decided to hunt one of my favorite places, and I'm pretty sure I made this decision without consciously thinking about it. It's a treestand that two friends and I built on my grandparents' farm, back in the woods on a ridge overlooking a small creek and pond that my uncle built years ago. I haven't seen any deer from this stand this year, although I will say that I haven't hunted it much. However on this day, it wasn't really the deer I was hunting for, it was the peace that comes from being in the woods.
A Foggy Morning in the Stand

The news about the horrible tragedy in Newtown, CT was fresh in my mind that morning as I sat in the stand. As a teacher, I can only imagine what the students and staff must have went through, and although I'm not a parent yet myself, I can't begin to imagine how the parents of those children were affected. I went to the woods that morning in order to be alone with my thoughts, and just let nature provide some solace.

Fresh Rub on a Pine
Walking in that morning,  I flushed a flock of roosted turkeys along the path, and had to stop a minute and calm down after the initial shock. Once I made it to the stand, I spent the morning watching the squirrels running around and chasing each other, and discovered a freshly rubbed tree not far from the stand. I didn't see any deer, but that was ok. There is something about this place, whether it's the connections to my family or the memories of my childhood roaming these woods, that always seems to lift me up. I decided before I left that morning that deer or no deer I would be back there that afternoon.

Southern Flying Squirrel

Saturday afternoon, I was back in the stand, and made a discovery that added some excitement to the day. For several weeks, I had been hearing something scratching around in the roof of the stand, but I just assumed it was birds on the roof, or a little mouse in between the roof and tar paper ceiling. When I climbed into the stand, I heard something scratching around, so I tapped on the roof, and a flying squirrel sailed out and landed on the tree beside the stand. This was the first time in probably 15 years that I had seen one of these neat little creatures, the last time being not far from where I was Saturday. After it landed, the squirrel stayed stock still, doing its best tree bark impersonation. When I left at dark, it was still there. Once again, there were no deer, but I did something Saturday that I don't do nearly often enough. I just sat still, and took in everything around me.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." That's what I did on Saturday. I was still.

For everyone who was affected by the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. 

- Joseph

Monday, December 3, 2012

Patience Pays Off

First of all, I'm still here. I haven't forgotten that I (attempt) to write a blog, but the firearms deer season opened the Monday before Thanksgiving for us here in western NC, and I've spent all my spare time in a stand or ground blind the last two weeks. It's been a strange start to the season here, with some people saying they have been seeing lots of rut activity with bucks chasing does, and other people seeing little to no rut activity. I'm sure the strange temperature swings we have been having haven't helped. As I sit here writing this on December 3, it's 71 degrees outside and I'm in short sleeves. Several days ago we were having lows in the 20's, and highs in the 50's, which is closer to typical for this time of year. I'm sure the deer must be just as confused as I am right now!

Opening day of gun season had me chomping at the bit all day at work. As soon as the school day was over, I headed for the house to get ready and headed for a ground blind I had set up on a friend's farm about 5 minutes away from home. My brother-in-law Trent and I had been seeing a fair number of deer in this field during bow and muzzle loader seasons, and had several does and young bucks on our trail cameras. I was hunting the lower end of a fairly large field, not far from the tree stand where Trent had harvested his first deer last year, an 8 point buck, during bow season.

At this point, I should probably admit that I had only harvested one buck in my deer hunting career, a 3 point buck that was my first deer. I didn't start deer hunting until I was in high school, and it wasn't until I was a senior in college that I got my first deer. I think a lot of this was due to a lack of areas to hunt back then, or seeing does during buck only seasons. For whatever reason, it took me a while to finally get that first deer, but that deer ignited a passion for deer hunting. In the years since, I had passed on several young bucks, with the idea that I would take does for meat and let the little bucks grow. Here in North Carolina we are fortunate to have the opportunity to take 6 deer a year, (something that I have never done), but only two of those deer can be antlered bucks in my area of the state. I think this was another reason I passed a lot of small bucks, thinking I would "save" my tags for that big one that I was sure would come by the next minute, or hour, or day. Over the years, I have usually been lucky enough to take a deer or two each season, but that nice buck always eluded me.

My First Deer - Thanksgiving 2005

Going back to opening afternoon, I got in the ground blind around 4:00pm, and for the next hour or so I heard a few shots in the distance, but didn't see any deer. As it approached time for the sun to start going down, I noticed a deer had just stepped out of the woods into the edge of the field, about 50 yards from my blind. It had it's head down feeding, and I couldn't tell if it was a doe or buck because of the the way the field dropped off at the edge. About that time, the deer picked it's head up and I could tell it was a nice buck! I didn't give myself too much time to think about it, knowing that buck fever was sure to set in at any second. After the shot I couldn't see the deer, but I felt confident that I had made a clean shot. I got out of the blind as fast as possible and went to check. After about two steps, I could see my buck laying just over the little hill on the edge of the field. It was an 8 point buck with a symmetrical rack that was 16" wide.

My 8 point from this year

It's strange reflecting on this hunt, because this is by far my biggest deer to date, and probably the biggest buck I've seen while hunting. I know it's not a record book deer or one like you might see on a hunting show, but for me it is a definite trophy and the memories of this hunt will stick with me for a long time. Best of all, not only do I have the memories, but I have some wonderful, nutritious meat in the freezer, and a good supply of venison jerky, one of my absolute favorite foods.

After opening day and working Tuesday, I spent the rest of Thanksgiving break hunting, enjoying time with family, and freezing venison and making jerky. I can't think of a better way to spend a week than this. I've seen a few more deer since opening day, but so far this is the only tag I've filled this year. This week and next week are still buck-only, and our last week is either sex season again. I'm going to be out there as much as possible, just enjoying God's creation. The deer are a bonus, no matter how big their antlers are.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unfinished Business

After fishing a short time the other weekend at the local delayed harvest stream, and catching a few trout, I decided this past Saturday that one more trip up to the mountain was in order. Only having an hour or so last time to fish, I felt like I had some unfinished business with these trout. I also felt like I had more fishing to get out of my system before putting away the rods for a while to focus on deer hunting. I got a fairly early start, and arrived at the state park about 8:30 am. Since they don't open the gates until 8:00 am, I was a little surprised to find a few people out fishing already. It turns out they had camped the night before, so they were able to get an even earlier start on their day.

There were a bunch of trout in this pool
 My usual strategy when I'm trout fishing is to cover a fair amount of water, but this time was unusual because the pool I started fishing turned out to be where I stayed. There were people fishing both above and below me, far enough away that we all had room to fish, but it did limit the amount of stream that I could cover without getting out and hiking upstream. It turned out that this wouldn't be a problem because there was a pod of a couple dozen trout right in front of me. I started out the morning fishing a hare's ear bird's nest nymph, and my first few trout came on this.
Jacob Fork Rainbow
As the morning warmed up, I noticed some cream colored midges hatching, and lo and behold, trout started rising to them! This got me excited, and I quickly cut off the nymph and got out my fly box to tie on a dry fly. Of course, all my small midge flies were used up on my last trip to the Davidson River, and since I hadn't expected or even planned to do much trout fishing this late in the season, I hadn't tied any to replace them. I thought that since these fish were recently stocked, they might be fooled by a bigger dry fly. I tried fishing a few different patterns, but without success. Evidently these fish had already figured out that if it was twice the size of what they were eating, they needed to leave it alone.
Jacob Fork Brook Trout
Finally, after digging through my fly boxes, I found a couple of size 18 blue wing olive parachutes that I had tied. Since this was the smallest dry fly I had, I decided to give it a try. It turns out that it was close enough, at least for some of the trout. I got some refusal rises, but still managed to fool several nice rainbows and brookies. The trout seemed much more bunched up this time than they did the week before. I guess the trout had time to migrate to some of the bigger pools after the stockings the other week.
Jacob Fork Rainbow
I was glad that I had a chance to go back and give the trout another try. I would still like to get farther up in the mountains and fish for some wild trout one more time this fall, but I don't know if that's going to be in the cards. Either way, I was thankful for the opportunity to get out and do a little trout fishing and enjoy the fall weather. Willing trout rising to dry flies were just icing on the cake.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Brief Fishing Trip

I've written before about the many choices that I face as an outdoorsman in the fall, with hunting seasons and trout fishing vying for my attention. Most of the time, deer hunting trumps trout fishing for me because of the limited time that I have to hunt. However, on Saturday I decided to take a break from deer hunting, and head up to South Mountain State Park for an hour or two to do some trout fishing.
Jacob Fork
This decision was brought about due to several factors. One of the biggest was the fact that the last time I went fishing for anything was the middle of August. Another factor was the knowledge that the delayed harvest had just been stocked, so I felt sure there would be fish in the stream. I love getting way up in the mountains and fishing for wild trout, but when I have just a few hours on a Saturday afternoon it's hard to beat a 25 minute ride and willing fish. The final thing that cemented my decision to trout fish was finding out that the soybeans were being harvested on the farm where I do most of my bow hunting. I figured with this going on I would be better off fishing. All these thoughts were running through my head as if I needed a reason to go fishing, but to tell the truth it had just been too long since I had been on a stream or seen a trout.
Hooked Up on the Jacob Fork

Saturday turned out to be a great day to go fishing, as the temperature got up close to 70 degrees and the sun was shining. I talked my wife into coming along on the trip, and it's thanks to her that there are pictures to go along with this fishing report. She doesn't fish nearly as often as I do, but occasionally she accompanies me on a fishing trip. She was fishing with a spinning rod and single hook Roostertail spinner, and I was fly fishing. She did catch a nice brook trout, but unfortunately it got off before I could get to her to make a picture. She was the main photographer on the trip, and I didn't have a camera on me. Next time, I will make sure we both have a camera.
Jacob Fork Rainbow

We only fished about an hour, but I did manage two rainbows, one on a Triple Threat streamer, and the other on a two nymph rig. Being a dry fly optimist, I did try the tried and true Thunderhead a while, but no risers today. The water looked a little low, but there was still some nice deep pools and lots of trout. Our local TU chapter, Foothills TU, has helped with the delayed harvest stockings this year at South Mountain and the fish were spread out along the entire stream, rather than years past where they would be bunched up in one or two pools near the stocking points. I think this has really helped the fishing during the Delayed Harvest season at South Mountain, because almost any pool that is deep enough will have a few trout in it, and there are more places to fish along this sometimes crowded stretch of water.
Jacob Fork
It was a nice day to be enjoying the great outdoors, and I'm glad that my wife was able to come along and share the experience. I think I need to take these "breaks" from deer hunting more often, and just get out and enjoy fall in the mountains. It is a special time of year.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Rambling Thoughts on Deer Season

It's been an interesting deer season so far for me. I've been hunting some, although not as much as I would like to. (Isn't that always the case!) I have enjoyed every minute that I've spent in the woods, but so far I'm still waiting for the main ingredient for venison jerky. I thought it might be fun to share some random thoughts about deer hunting I've had this season while sitting in a stand or blind.
Squirrel in the Soybeans

1. First of all, why is it that I am almost sure to see turkeys when I'm deer hunting and deer when I'm turkey hunting?

2. How does an animal as small as a squirrel make more noise coming through the woods than a 100 lb deer?

3. If you stare at an empty soybean field long enough, you can begin to see things that aren't really there.

4. Bushes, stumps, and other objects can magically appear to be deer, especially at twilight.

5. Never borrow a muzzleloader from someone and then take it hunting without shooting it first to check the scope.

6. If you do not follow number 5, be prepared to take two shots and then watch your deer leave the country without a scratch on it.

7. It's fun to walk by your hunting buddy's trail camera and make funny faces on the way to the stand.

8. Those nice bucks that appear on your trail camera in July and August will vanish exactly one day before the opening of archery season.

9. Raccoons must like having their picture taken by trail cameras.

10. Days when you're at work are sure to be the days your hunting partner will see deer.

11. No matter what happens, watching the sun come up over a bean field, or set in the woods as the owls start talking makes every minute spent hunting worth it.

12. There is no such thing as a bad day hunting, deer or no deer.

Good luck to all you hunters out there!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Thursday, October 25, 2012

OBN Photo Prompt: Fall Colors

Editor's Note: The credit for the pictures in this post goes to my wonderful wife, I was along for the trip but she was the photographer.

Over at the Outdoor Blogger Network they posted an outdoor photo prompt asking for a post showing fall colors. I thought this sounded like a good idea, so I decided to post up some fall pictures from a little further west than my neck of the woods. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my favorite places to visit, especially in the fall when the mountains really show off before winter arrives. I haven't been up to the parkway this year for a visit, although I did make it up to Boone, NC a few weekends ago. The colors were starting to really show, but sadly I didn't get a chance to make many pictures. I hope you enjoy some of the "greatest hits" (in my opinion) from the last few seasons on the parkway.
This is actually the spot where I proposed to my wife!

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Rock

The view from Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern U.S.

Travelling down the parkway
 I hope you enjoyed these as much as I do!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Backyard Ramblings

As fall is getting into full swing here in North Carolina, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the summer and share a few photos that I've been meaning to put up here on the blog for a while. I apologize for the lack of posts on here lately, a good bit of my time has been tied up working with the FFA chapter at school. I've really enjoyed it, but most of the activities don't really fit into the "outdoor" theme of this blog so I haven't done much writing. I have done a little deer hunting, but other than a debacle that occurred the last evening of muzzeloader season, there hasn't been much to write about. That particular day deserves its own post, if I can stand to write about it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this last look at summer.

I may have mentioned this in an earlier post, but my wife and I purchased my grandparents' house after we were married. When I was young, our yard was one of my favorite places. It always seemed to have more lightning bugs (or fireflies) than almost anywhere else. In the summer there were also June bugs, and I used to love looking for the nymph shucks of cicadas on the old oak trees. I remember calling them cicada skins as a child, and I used to have a fair sized collection by the end of summer most years.

This is a collection of pictures that my wife and I made in our yard this summer, and I think it helps remind me why as a child I didn't need 1000 acres of woods to entertain myself. I loved the woods, and still do, but I always seemed to find adventure just out the back door. Nature has always been fascinating to me. I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I do. 

Cicada nymph shuck

Black snake in the garden

It seems like I spend a good bit of time in the woods or on the water, sometimes within a five minute drive from home, and sometimes several hours away. However, it always amazes me to see what I can find in my own yard. I wish I knew more about mushroom identification, if anybody recognizes any of these I would love to know what they are.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Monday, September 24, 2012


Patience - it's a word that most people who enjoy the outdoors are very familiar with, but often don't give much thought to. I had this thought as I was sitting in a ground blind on Saturday waiting for deer that never showed up, and watching soybeans blowing in the wind. I wondered why, in this age of instant gratification and on-demand entertainment, that something that required as much patience as waiting on a deer to come by or a fish to bite is my preferred form of recreation.

As I sat there Saturday afternoon, I thought about the morning's hunt on a different farm. Walking in before daylight, I was greeted by the owls calling to each other just as they have for the last several years that I have hunted here. Once the sun began to rise, the turkeys woke up and added their voice to the forest conversation. Several flocks of geese flew over and contributed their honking to the sounds around me.
Saw this on the way to the blind

Later on, I was greeted by the sight of three hens feeding their way through the woods and clucking to each other. I didn't see a deer, even though I was in an area that I know the deer have been traveling through frequently. However, I didn't mind one bit. I just sat there taking in everything around me, and thinking about how blessed I was to be able to be right there at that moment.
Cabbage in the Garden

I often think about the life lessons that hunting and fishing have taught me. Patience is one of the biggest lessons that I feel like I have learned from my outdoor experiences. If I hadn't learned the patience to just sit still, I feel like I would have missed a lot in life. It takes patience to plant a garden and watch it grow all summer, to finally reap the rewards of the harvest, or to sit on the bank of the pond watching a bobber until finally a scrappy bream bites, or to sit in the woods and just take in everything around me. I wouldn't trade any of these experiences and memories, and I'm thankful every day for the people who introduced me to hunting and fishing when I was young, and through that taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of being patient.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Time of Change

September is a month of many changes. Dove season started the month off with a bang, and before long the leaves will be changing.   Archery season has arrived here in western North Carolina, and along with it the excitement and promise of another deer season. The weather is finally starting to feel like fall, with cool mornings and warm afternoons, but nothing like the heat of July and August. School is back in full swing, and the students have made it through three weeks already. The county fair will be coming up in a couple of weeks, and the annual antique tractor pull was held last weekend.

My window to the woods - from the ground blind
I love September, but it is also a challenging month for me. It seems like it is a month that is full of outdoor opportunities but short on time. I know that some of the year's best trout fishing can happen during the fall, and I have often said that I wanted to spend more time exploring the fishing on the local smallmouth river in the fall. On the other hand, the opportunity to finally deer hunt after almost nine months of waiting draws me to the woods. By this time of the year, I have been checking trail cameras and preparing stands long enough that I can't wait to get to hunt.
My time for outdoor activities in September is also limited since school is back in session, and this is another reason I tend to hunt more than anything. Both of the farms I deer hunt on are a five minute drive from my house, and my house is a five minute drive from school so I am fortunate enough to have time to get to the stand or blind after work some evenings. Trout and smallmouth involve more of a commitment due to the distance I have to drive to get to them, so they are left to the occasional weekend trip when I can pull myself away from the woods.
The mineral site where my trail camera has been all summer
September marks a month of change for the deer I hunt as well. I have noticed that the deer that have been almost daily visitors to the mineral site I established have started to show up on the trail camera less frequently. I have heard a few people mention that they are seeing bucks that have lost their velvet or that are in the process of losing velvet. This is the time of year when bucks that have been buddies all summer begin to start fighting to establish dominance and the right to breed. Fawns will begin losing their spots, and the does will start weaning them before the rut begins in November.
Ripe Muscadines
September is also a time of change in the garden.  Most of this summer's crop has been harvested and mowed down, except for a few sweet potato vines. This past week, I set out a few cabbage seedlings, but I didn't do like some years and plant broccoli and cauliflower, or any greens like turnips or mustard. Most of the garden is lying fallow now, not to be disturbed until spring planting time comes again. The muscadines are finally ripe, and the pecans are getting close to dropping. I love being able to gather these, but it's sad knowing that the fresh fruits and vegetables of summer will soon be a tasty memory. The nights are getting longer and the days shorter, and soon darkness will come quicker than I would like.
Cabbage Seedling in the Garden
The month of September is a special time. All around, nature is going through the changes that mark the transition from summer to fall. I can't think of any other month where so many outdoor activities are available at the same time. As someone who loves everything about the outdoors, the biggest challenge that September presents is deciding how to spend the time I have to be outdoors. I must admit, that is a wonderful dilemma to have!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Shotgun Start

This past Saturday was one of my favorite outdoor events of the year - the opening day of dove season here in NC. I have lots of reasons why I enjoy dove hunting, but probably one of my favorite things about it is it marks the beginning of the hunting seasons here. The Monday after Labor Day usually marks the beginning of the archery deer season here in western North Carolina, and not too long after archery season opens, muzzleloader hunting will be open in October, along with the start of squirrel and rabbit season. As Thanksgiving approaches, gun season will begin for deer and the rut will be in full swing. After deer season, there is still time for some squirrel and rabbit hunting, and by the time these end in February, turkey season is not far away.
Sunrise in the corn field

With all that in mind, dove season is not something that only marks the beginning of hunting season for me. Some of my earliest memories of hunting revolve around doves and squirrels, long before I ever knew anything about tree stands or scrapes. It was a wonderful introduction to hunting, because as a child I didn't have to worry about being really quiet and still for long hours at a time when dove hunting. Some of us that dove hunt together every year have been hunting together since before we had our drivers licenses. We keep in touch throughout the year, but not nearly as much as we used to when we were all in school together. Dove season is one of the few times that I know I will see some of these people, and it's about catching up as much as it is about hunting doves.

This year's dove hunting was a wonderful time, just like it is every year. Everyone was excited for the opportunity to hunt, and there was a good crowd hunting on opening day. We were hunting some recently harvested corn fields, and while there weren't huge numbers of birds there were enough to keep things interesting all morning. I didn't get a limit, or even close to it, but I did manage enough birds to have a few to eat. This wasn't due to lack of opportunity, it just took me awhile to get back in the groove after neglecting to shoot my shotgun much over the last year. It's funny to me when I look back over all the years I've been hunting. When I started, my main focus was trying to get a limit of 12 doves (back then, it's 15 now). Now my focus seems to be more about the whole experience of being outdoors with good friends. I'm still there to hunt, and I love grilled dove, but my total focus is no longer on "limiting out".

After hunting on Saturday morning, we decided to meet up and hunt a different field on Labor Day. After Saturday's 90 something degree heat, Monday was a refreshing change. I did have the new experience of dove hunting in a fog, and the weather was a lot cooler on Monday. We had some birds flying in spite of the foggy conditions, and the weather was much nicer than the usual Labor Day temperatures here in the South. I managed to get a few birds again on Monday, but fell far short of a limit once again.

Monday Morning Fog
Monday afternoon's hunt was a different situation all together. There were rain storms popping up here and there, and the temperature had risen. It rained on us for a couple of hours, and the birds just didn't seem willing to fly in the wet weather. I sat out the storm under an oak tree, hoping that the doves would fly once the weather cleared. The weather cleared up around 6:30 pm, but the action was pretty much over for the day. It was off to the house to dry, clean, and oil my shotgun to prevent any rusting.
After the rain
The next day, I got to enjoy my other favorite thing about hunting doves - grilled dove breast! My brother-in-law and I grilled the doves that we had, and also some venison tenderloin that somehow managed to make it from last season without being eaten. I have to say, it was a meal fit for a king! Sometimes people ask me what I do with the doves I harvest, and my answer is always the same. They are good eating!

Doves and Venison
It was a great way to start off this year's hunting seasons, and I will always be thankful for the good times and good friends, and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. I hope every year's hunting seasons begin with a shotgun start!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Tasty Legacy

Living in my grandparents' house provides me with memories everywhere I look. On top of the memories, my grandfather also left a legacy in the form of a pear tree, a cherry tree, two apple trees, and seven pecan trees. The apple trees are the final remnant of my grandfather's apple orchard, which once had over fifty trees. This, along with his garden, used to provide my grandparents with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and I was able to reap the benefits when I was growing up.
One of the original apple trees

When my wife and I moved in, we decided to try our best to keep these old trees producing, and we also added three additional apple trees, two peach trees, six blueberry bushes, and two muscadine vines. The pear and cherry trees are still healthy and productive, but the apple trees are definitely showing their age. I'm afraid one day soon these trees may have to be removed, but I just can't bring myself to do it yet. Hopefully they can remain for several more years, but only time will tell. 
The old and the new

I can remember sitting in the old swing eating apples off these very trees as a child, and I also remember Pop (my grandfather) drying apples between two sections of window screen to help keep the bugs off. I wish I had asked more questions about caring for fruit trees back then, but as a child my main interest was eating those tasty apples. Golden Delicious were always my favorite, and we made sure to plant one of these when we added new trees to the orchard. It is the only one of our new trees that had any fruit on it this year.
Golden Delicious

I'm still in the process of learning how to keep an orchard and how and when to spray and prune the trees. The young trees we planted are just starting to produce fruit, but I hope to have peaches and apples off of them in another year or two. The muscadine vines are another new experience for me. I have eaten wild muscadines and bought them from other producers, but this is my first try at growing them myself.
Muscadines on the trellis

For anyone who is not familiar with these particular grapes, they grow in the South and produce grapes that are single or in pairs of two or three, rather than the classic bunches that you see in the grocery stores. They have a thick skin and fairly large seeds in them, but they are my absolute favorite of the grapes. They also are supposed to be the easiest grape varieties to grow in the hot and humid South. I love to eat them straight off the vine, but they also make wonderful juice and jelly. If we get enough, we may try to make some jelly this fall.
The muscadines

Sometimes when I'm working in the yard I look around at all the trees my grandparents planted years ago, and I hope that someday when I'm gone someone will still be enjoying the trees we planted. There's nothing quite like getting fresh fruit from the yard, and if I'm going to leave a legacy I would like for it to be a tasty one!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph