Fish Hawk Acres

West by God Virginia is full of all sorts of interesting delights that often go overlooked.  While we are not technically a “fly-over” state as they are traditionally defined, we really are pretty much overlooked for everything except as the butt of jokes.

Fish Hawk Acres

There are so many things in WV that I would consider gems that most people passing by just miss.  A few weeks ago, we discovered one – Fish Hawk Acres.  Fish Hawk Acres is a combination catering service, organic farm and outdoor restaurant…at least 4 days a year.  We had the pleasure of driving to Rock Cave, WV a small town near Buckhannon…another small town in central WV.  Emily and I met in Buckhannon 25 years ago so I reference Buckhannon whenever I can.  Anyhow, we drove into Rock Cave and through a few fields to an un-assuming pavilion where Dale Hawkins, the chef and owner of FHA was preparing a gourmet meal with items that were all grown in one of 14 farms nearby.

Vegetables
These vegetables were for sale…fresh from the field

Dale talked some about his theory on sustainability and farming, food and cooking, and his pleasure in returning to the family farm in WV to do what he loves.  He found that he was more a chef than a farmer so he partnered with Patti and Lupe Espinosa who took the endeavor from a 3 acre row-crop farm to a 30 acre farm to supply his cooking.  Before we ate, Dale and Pati took us on a walking farm through a few fields to describe how they manage and conserve water and soil as well as how they plant vegetables and manage weeds.  It was an incredible operation and one that made me wish I could undertake such an adventure.

Fish Hawk Acres outdoor dining
Fish Hawk Acres outdoor dining

We returned from the field, ready to eat.  I guess there were 100 or so people that dined on beef tips and pork loin, asparagus and fresh roasted potatoes.  We had cucumber-basil mojitos (not bad) and salad made from fresh greens.

Vegetables
This struck me as beautiful…simple foods

After dinner, Sarah Loudin Thomas,  a WV-native who has authored two books read a few segments from each novel for us.  In her blend of WV and now-NC accents, she told us a story of life in WV in the early 1900s.  After she read, a number of people asked for her to sign their books including her 5th grade teacher who was in the audience!  It was one of the coolest things of the night!

Junk food!

On our way back, we had to stop for gas.  For some reason, I felt the need to pollute my palette with ultra-processed ice cream.  Still, we had a wonderful time as a family, enjoying one of the many gems that WV has to offer!

 

Growing time

It’s that time of year again…stuff is growing…including my aching back and sunburned neck…but that’s a good thing too I guess. It’s great to be outside and doing stuff. We put the main garden in on Mother’s Day weekend when our chance of frost is gone. What may be more exciting though, I think, is that I got sorghum in the ground again and that it should grow. We planted it at Emily’s grand’s house where we used to do the bulk of our gardening. It’s too big a plot for us to garden in right now but will be perfect for a good sorghum crop.

Planting sorghum
Planting sorghum

I tilled a bunch of the land and we planted every sorghum seed I had. We first did sorghum a few years ago. Year 1 was great. Year 2 was a total flop…so bad we didn’t harvest a single cane. I expect that this year we will do well. We planted in good soil with appropriate spacing, etc. It’s a good bit of work processing sorghum and the end result yields not a lot of sorghum syrup but it is so cool to be a part of this old-timey process…kinda the same way I feel about beekeeping. It’s a great family time and, in both cases, the end result is literally finger-licking-good!

I didn’t get many pics of our work but Emily, Abigail and Emily’s Dad planted at the end of a long day’s work tilling and mowing and weeding.

Raspberries are coming!
Raspberries are coming!

The other big thing that is growing now is our raspberry patches! There are tons of berries on the plants and, after we got fencing in place, they are remaining there not being eaten by the chickens. I think raspberries are my favorite berry and possibly my favorite fruit. It’s hard to beat being able to eat out of your own yard!

All-County Band

I know I have been posting a lot of band stuff lately but it has been our lives lately.  School is winding down so band is slowing too although lessons and playing are definitely not!  Anyhow, I have been remiss in posting about our kids’ participation in All-County Band for Kanawha County!

All-County Band
All-County Band…They can get along!

Abigail started lessons a few years ago as a younger-than-normal flute student.  She had her ups and downs with it initially, but has developed into quite a flutist.  Jump ahead to this year, the first year she is actually old enough to play in band.  She was ahead of the curve some from experience which set her up well to try out for All-County Band.  As I understand it, she was the only 6th grader in the county to make the band and to boot, she made 9th chair out of 22!  I am so proud of her and she really stepped up her game.  She rose well to the challenge and plays all the time now around the house.

Music Of John Williams
Pride Of Wv
Rage
Tempest
America The Beautiful
Lullaby

Isaac also made the high school All-County Band for tenor sax. He’s such a funny kid…he did his audition but felt like he didn’t play as well as he had hoped. He was disappointed and never bothered to even look at the list of students who made the band when it was released. By dumb-luck, one of his friends made a comment along the lines of “See you at practice tonight.” He had to query what the friend meant who of course, let him know that he was in the band…the day of the first rehearsal!  Isaac had no idea that he had made the band as second chair!  Anyhow, he also played very well and I am so proud of his playing as well.  Band truly does mean a lot in our house and we enjoy watching the kids develop into really great musicians!

Give Us Peace
A Slavic Farewell
American Riversongs
Americans We
Fiddler On The Roof

Outdoor band concert

It’s the season of band!  Well. it seems like it anyhow.  Last night, Isaac played in 2 separate concerts.  First, the George Washington High School band played their final concert together as the 2015 band last night.  Seniors are hitting the road so this was a nice opportunity for them to get together one last time as a group and play a killer concert.

GWHS Band
GWHS Band

I think what made it especially nice was that it was outside and that the weather was perfect!  We enjoyed their music as always and especially liked the opportunity for a little vitamin D!

Don't look...it's Dad
Don’t look…it’s Dad

Like any good kid, Isaac refused to look up at his parents so I sort of had to sneak a few pics.  Meh. I’m good with that.  More excellent were the selections they played…of course, it was outside with my cell phone sitting on metal bleachers where kids played and adults shifted about so please excuse the extraneous noises:

Visions Of Flight
America The Beautiful
American Folk Rhapsody
Desert Patrol
Rough Riders
Loch Lomond

After that concert, a number of the high school band members ran over to the middle school which was performing their annual arts showcase. The middle school jazz band director had arranged with a few former-middle-school-jazz-band-now-high-school-band members to return to perform in an alumni jazz band as part of the larger concert…and of course, they were great!

Sesame Street
In The mood
Hey Jude
Lean On Me

Tonight we celebrate the end of high school band season with a banquet. After that, we have one middle school band concert, a banquet and an end of the year trip. It’s been a little wild around our neck of the woods lately, but I am so proud of my kids in particular and the entire bands in which they both play as well!

George Washington Band Concert

I have mentioned many times that the kids are both very involved with band in their schools.  Band means many things to different people but I never ceased to be amazed at how incredible these kids play and how truly kind and awesome the majority of our band kinds are.

Isaac at the GW Band concert
Isaac at the GW Band concert

Isaac’s high school band played their spring concert this week at the Clay Center in Charleston.  Truly, Charleston is fortunate to have such an amazing performance hall.  And even more fortunate is that our high school has the opportunity to play in the same hall as the WV Symphony.  It’s a high-class, beautiful location!

The GW Band
The GW Band

Synergies
Shepherds Hey
Belgian Paratroopers
Stella Maris
Korean Folk song
Chanson de l’adieu
Trieste
(click above to listen)

Isaac was principle chair for his instrument, the tenor sax.  I am very proud as you might imagine.  His band-mates all seem to be very driven and really respect their band director.  He’s a serious man, and demands excellence from these kids and absolutely gets it.  I think the kids very much respect him for helping them to see how great they can be.  I am very pleased with his ability to inspire the band to play as he does.  It’s clear he loves the music and the kids and that’s just perfect in my mind!

Cool pic outside the Clay Center
Cool pic outside the Clay Center…Venus (I think) in the night sky also

So friends, I know that these may take a bit to download, but if you find the time or the inclination, please enjoy the music from the George Washington High School Spring Concert – 2015!

Laying workers

Quite a title, I know, but that’s what it’s called in the beekeeping world.  This weekend, I looked into my colonies and added honey supers as necessary in preparation for the honey flow which starts soon in WV.  I mostly found good colonies with healthy queens, good worker build-up, plenty of eggs and larvae, etc.  In one hive, I found a problem though.

Healthy honeybees on comb
Healthy honeybees on comb

Sometimes, when a hive loses its queen, the infertile female worker bees sort of change into queen-wannabees.  Every hive needs a queen to survive as she is the one which controls the mood of the hive, ensures future bees and generally runs the show.  When a colony goes queen-less, all of that falls apart.  Something in a number of worker bees triggers and they begin to sort of convert into queen bees.  These infertile bees are called laying workers.  Their bodies begin producing eggs.  Since the aren’t really queens though, they cannot fertilize the eggs and something is just not right about how they roll…they don’t know how to properly lay eggs like a real queen would.

A healthy brood pattern
A healthy brood pattern…can you find the queen in this pic?  She’s there!

Instead of laying a single fertile egg in the center of each honeycomb, laying workers lay multiple eggs in the honeycomb, on the honeycomb walls, heck, sort of everywhere.  If the eggs develop into anything, they would turn into male drone bees but in most cases, they are just junk and signal the end of a hive.

Multiple eggs in the honeycomb cells from laying workers
Multiple eggs in the honeycomb cells from laying workers..there should be single little white eggs in each cell

Some beekeepers used to say that they could save the non-laying workers by shaking all of the bees out of the hive at some distance, say 500 yards, from the original location.  The idea was that, like a typical real laying queen, laying workers would not really fly and so would die where they were shaken out (queens can fly…when they breed in their first week or so after emerging from a queen cell and when they swarm…in both ).  Non-laying bees would return to the hive where the beekeeper could install a new fertile queen.

A healthy queen
A healthy queen…look for the longer body…this queen is darker than the surrounding workers

Research has shown that it doesn’t really work that way though…or not consistently.  I prefer to shake the bees out and remove the actual hive from the location where it once stood.  Any bees that return have to either transition into a nearby hive that will not tolerate laying workers or die where their old hive stood.  It’s a harsh reality I suppose but the only viable solution in my yard.  Sometimes it happens which is a drag, but I am pleased that I have a good number of healthy hives that will hopefully produce  a lot of good honey…if the predicted frost tomorrow doesn’t kill all of the nectar-producing blooms!

More bee stuff

Run for it!

My, my, it’s been awhile since we last talked!  Lots of things have been going down around here lately and it’s time for us to catch up!

About 10 days ago, Abigail and I ran in our first 5k race.  She’s run a good bit before as a member of her middle school’s cross-country team.  For middle school, cross-country races are a little less than 3k so 5k was a bit of a stretch from her previous experience, but we were excited to run.  Well, we were excited to run until the morning of the race.  This race was on a Saturday and we had to be there a bit before 9am…her enthusiasm waned with my “wake up holler” at 7am.

Ready to run!

Anyhow, we got to the track.  Being an old hand at running races, Abigail sort of played it cool waiting for the race to start.  I was pretty wound up as I haven’t ever run in a race of any sort before!  I wasn’t sure if I would embarrass my self or, in my excitement, expend all of my energy up front…would my nerves get to me?  Gosh, am I an adult or not?  I should be able to be calm about this but it just wasn’t happening on race day.

We walked a quick lap around the track to warm up our legs a little before the race.  We have been training together and I have typically run faster and farther than Abigail so we decided that if I was feeling it, we would not  try to run together…I could go ahead of her if I could.

So we lined up, jittery and excited and waited for the gun.  I was surprised but they actually used a starter gun rather than a whistle or horn or something.  That was really cool!  My first race and I got a starter gun!  With the shot, we took off and I was feeling good.  I ditched Abigail after a quarter mile or so (don’t judge me) and kept on plowing.  Abigail and I talked about how she runs cross-country.  She sees a person ahead of her…decides to catch and pass them and then looks for the next person.  It’s run one pass at a time.  I decided to do the same.  It was a good strategy as I found plenty of people around me that I could pass.

Pre-race selfie!
Pre-race selfie!

I won’t recount every step but I had a good race and finished in 27:30 which was pretty cool.  Overall, I finished in 17th place out of 115 or so racers.  That was really cool for my ego (which typically needs no encouragement).  I started walking back through the course and found Abigail and finished the rest of the race with her trying to encourage her to keep pushing.  It was a great time as far as I am concerned.

After the race, I am pretty well hooked.  We had been training for a few weeks before the race and now are running a 5k three times per week around the local track.  After some discussion, we have identified a few problems with Abigail’s breathing strategy.  By fixing that, she is running much stronger now so we are getting ready for our next race in a few weeks!  It’s a really cool opportunity to be able to run with Abigail and to have a really awesome thing about which we can talk and plan.  We have just decided to run for it!

The best of Spring

I have long disliked winter, but without winter, I guess I wouldn’t have perspective to properly enjoy the best of all seasons, spring.  It’s hard to beat that special color of purpley-red that hints on the trees before any other colors show.  And the fresh green of newly forming buds and leaves is like none other.  And probably my favorite of all natural spring things is the look and especially the smell of new daffodils.  I wish I could find a way to bottle the clean smell that is daffodil.  If someone made daffodil perfume, I would wear it myself!

Daffodils

Well, maybe not…

Anyhow, I also love to hear the spring peepers, tiny frogs that call all night in the spring looking for love I suppose.  Winter gets awful lonely after all!  I happened to be out in early March and was able to hear the first peep-frogs of the season.  That sound is almost as special as the smell of daffodils.  Both generate sort of emotional responses in me.

Well, maybe not…

Spring Peep-frogs in March (click)

But still, I really like both.  Among unnatural things, I also find a few favorites in spring!  From December 26th until Easter, there is a chance that one will find Cadbury cream eggs.  I love Cadbury eggs…almost as much as bacon and Hank Williams, Sr.  The problem, of course, is that they don’t really last long enough.  Their growing season, so to speak, is only 3 months at best.  A depraved Cadbury egg lover like me has to resort to ridiculous measures in order to survive from Easter until December 26…I stock up like a mad man!  The other day, I took a picture of my stash at the office…I have a similar stash at home as well.  While this probably won’t last until next season, it will set me well on my way!

My Stash of Cadbury Eggs!!!

And finally, and I know there are haters…I present my other spring-time favorite, black licorice jelly beans.  I know we are a rare breed, but I love black jelly beans.  I got some mediocre ones at the store this year, but truly good ones are hard to find but so worth the hunt!

Black jelly beans!

With all of these wonderful spring things, I don’t even mind my allergies when they flare up a little…and I don’t mind watching my son mow the yard.  Spring is so worth it!

Last non-teen year

Last week Abigail turned 12.  That makes this the last year without a teen in the house.  I guess some people have bad teen-years experiences but we have had a great time with Isaac and Abigail at every age.  It is shaping up to look like the teenage years will be great for Abigail as well.

Birthday dinner!
Birthday dinner!

She has all sorts of  things that interest her.  She is a budding flutist and made the all-county band as a 6th grader.  She thinks she is the only 6th grader in the entire band.  And to boot, she is 9th chair out of 22…as a sixth grader!  I couldn’t be more proud!

Abigail's Birthday...with her great grandmother!
Abigail’s Birthday…with her great grandmother!

She loves to read and challenges my paychecks to keep up with her appetite for books.  Of course, I know it is money well spent and the library always seems to be behind her so we just go for it and buy both printed and kindle books.  I figure if nothing else, I could insulate our house with all of the books we have laying around.

As bad as legos are in some people’s houses, markers seem to be that bad in our house.  It seems like I am always stepping or sitting on a marker or colored pencil.  Abigail loves to draw and creates all sorts of scenes and drawings.  She labors and fusses over her work and tweaks it until she feels like it is done.  She has a cool perspective on the world and it’s fun to see it unfold through her work.

Abigail and her brother
Abigail and her brother

Abigail is also a budding runner.  It’s fun to run with her…sometimes…she complains about getting started but has a period during our runs where she seems to enjoy it.  Warming up is ok and the first mile or so is ok.  It’s pretty hard to call what comes next “ok” but I like to run with her anyhow.  She ran cross-country last year and enjoyed it mostly.  Over the winter she got out of shape so she and I are running every week now in an attempt to get her ready for the season in the fall.  We get a little father-daughter bonding time at the least so I like that!

Anyhow, please help me wish Abigail a happy birthday even if it is a little late!  She’s a great kid and is on her way to being a decent adult!

Mellencamp

Last weekend, Emily and I had the opportunity to see John Mellencamp in concert.  Like about everyone who grew up in the 80s, we really enjoy his music and had great memories of the “glory days” in school when his music meant so much to us.

We stopped and actually had good BBQ...a rarity outside the South
We stopped and actually had good BBQ…a rarity outside the South

We did a ricochet trip to Charlotte, NC…we basically drove in, heard the concert, spent the night and returned the next morning.  Maybe it was a bit like our care-free time of growing up…or more likely my cheapskate kicking in so we didn’t have to pay for another night at a hotel.

A pig...eating pig
A pig…eating pig

Anyhow, the concert was in a mid-sized arena…maybe 5-6k people attended.  At first, we were the youngest people there which sort of surprised me.   Soon enough though we were in a sea of people of all ages.  Mellencamp is 63 and has been playing for a long time so I guess his music has appeal across many years though I am sure his most famous period was when I was a teenager.

Ready for the concert
Ready for the concert

John puts on a good old-fashioned rock-and-roll show.  It’s not full of flames and lights and dancing all over stage, but it’s loud enough and his songs are just plain awesome!  He mostly played his famous songs, Jack and Diane, Hurts So Good, Small Town, and Authority Song.  Emily, not being a true fan apparently, had never heard of his absolute best song, Rain on the Scarecrow.  I know it is probably not as well known as many of his others so I was surprised (and nearly brought to tears…except I don’t cry), when he fired up that song during the concert!  It was fantastic!

With my sweetie...
With my sweetie…

On stage with him, he had a fantastic violinist and another musician who played “everything else” including piano, accordion and harmonica.  It was sort of classic Mellencamp sounds but I guess I never really thought about what went into his music.  I loved it!

Mellencamp stage
Mellencamp stage

Unlike many current musicians, John Mellencamp sounded great live and pretty much exactly like he does on his produced versions (geez…I struggled with what to say there…cassettes, LPs, mp3s…he’s been around for it all!)  I was a little surprised when he lit up a cigarette on stage, but I guess that’s an 80s throwback thing too maybe.

I almost forgot…the concert  was opened by Carlene Carter which seemed like a huge surprise as she is most definitely in the  style of her mother and grandmother…i.e. older style country.  I really enjoyed her songs and singing as well, but it was a surprise.  We later found out that she and John and working together on a project so it did make sense…her opening was a nice bonus!

Friends, if you are a child of the 80s and get the opportunity to hear John Mellencamp, buy some tickets and enjoy an fun evening!  Sing as loud as you can and take your kids so they can be thoroughly embarrassed…but show them how rock and roll was meant to be done!