Great raspberry year!

Probably my all-time favorite fruit is raspberries.  As a kid, we had a patch in the yard where we could stroll by and get berries any time we wanted.  Raspberries tend to get a little wild and spread like crazy.  Of course, that makes them wonderful but they can be a bit much for a smaller yard.

Red raspberries!
Red raspberries!

Red raspberries!

Of course,w e have a smaller yard in Charleston so we were unsure whether we could have raspberries.  At some point, I stopped caring whether a patch looked good or not so we planted a dozen or so starter canes and our patch was born.  Actually, we started a patch of red raspberries and a patch of black raspberries and then we added another red patch.  All of them have thrived and produce probably 25 pounds of berries per year.

Black raspberries!
Black raspberries!  (some were frozen)

We have made jellies and jams and syrups with them for several years, but Emily found recipes for black raspberry pie and for red raspberry muffins, both of which are to die for (yes, I said that).

Raspberry muffins
Raspberry muffins

We freeze a lot of the berries and use them as we need them.  My word they are just like fresh and so much better than the flavorless ones that cost too much in the stores!  Thank goodness for backyard raspberries!!!

By the way, here are the recipes for the pie and muffins…Emily found these somewhere on the Internet so these are not our own…

Raspberry muffin recipe

Raspberry muffin recipeRaspberry muffin recipe

Raspberry pie recipe

Black Raspberry pie


A Hugh Jass Truck

So, our anniversary was last week and it is bound to be one of the more memorable ones we’ve ever had.  We didn’t tour an exotic foreign country or watch the sunset from a hot air balloon while eating wine and cheese.  We didn’t even go fishing with a 6-pack of beer.  Let me back up and tell you the whole story…

Preparing for departure
Preparing for departure

My parents have lived in Tionesta, PA for 42 years, 41 of which were in the same house where my brother and I were raised.  In the last year, they decided it was time to move to WV to be nearer to us so they bought a house here and listed their house there.  About 6 weeks ago, their house there went into contract and they were given a closing date range of July 23-August 3.  Mom checked around for moving companies and settled on one based in FL.  They took her deposit and scheduled their move for July 23…our anniversary.  That’s perfect…we could enjoy our anniversary and help them after as the movers unloaded the truck the next day.

On July 20th, the closing date was set…July 23rd.  That date was tight for the move but the lawyer was leaving the next day for vacation…it was pretty much set in stone.  Mom called the movers and confirmed that they would be there on July 23rd.  They promised they would but did not have a time set.  She called daily in the week leading up asking for the time.  As late as the evening of the 22nd, they promised they were coming on the 23rd but didn’t know when.

Hugh Jass Truck
It was a big truck…compare it to my Honda Pilot which is not a small suv

As you might have guessed, the 23rd rolled around and the movers didn’t show.  They did call at 8:30 am telling my parents they weren’t coming after all.  To be clear, the night before, they confirmed they were coming; the day of the move, they told her they didn’t service their area.  This is after taking their deposit and promising repeatedly that they were on track to move them.

So, I get a call around 9:30 am on the 23rd with the bad news.  Of course, the closing still needed to happen but they had no movers.  I said I could drive up and return in a rented truck and let my Mom drive my car back.  It was certainly not ideal, but was workable.  My parents called around local rental truck places and even called the state-wide dispatcher in Pittsburgh for one company.  Basically, all companies reported that there were no trucks available in the state (or at least the western part of the state) until August.

So, I called around Charleston and found a 26′ Ryder truck here.  My father-in-law, a real trooper volunteered to ride with me.  So, I rented a Hugh Jass truck (say it out loud) and headed 350 miles north to PA….at noon…on my wedding anniversary.  My wife is a real trooper also of course as she is the one who suggested renting a truck here and driving it up empty.  This truck rode like…well, a truck.  It had air brakes so made all of the cool big truck sounds and I bounced around the captain’s chair that was on air shocks itself.  It was not a comfortable ride.

Unloaded...and worn out
Unloaded…and worn out

Anyhow, I got within probably 6 miles of my parents’ (former) house when I saw a sign for the upcoming bridge…clearance was 13’3″.  I remembered that my truck had a clearance of 13’6″.  I stopped 20 feet from the entrance to the bridge and it was clear I couldn’t make it through.  This bridge has a blind curve leading up to it and is on a narrow state road so there was very little space to turn around.  (Check out the first pic at this site. I was coming in through the forest at the left.)  Luckily, another driver went and blocked traffic while I performed a 27 point turn to head back the other direction.  All told, I probably had to add 45 or so miles to my trip to back track to a route I could successfully navigate.

Finally, we made it to my parents’ house where they had a small crew of dedicated and awesome people to load up their stuff (which fortunately they had already boxed up).  We finished up the next day with the help of some young men from a local group and were on our way back to their new home in Charleston.  Fortunately, the new owners were very understanding and even came to help move boxes and stuff.

Emily’s family came to help us unload on the WV side and we had the truck unloaded in no time!  We were exhausted but everyone was safe and my parents are now in their new home in WV.  I drove 735 miles round-trip and loaded and unloaded that truck (with others of course) in a 36 hour period.  I am not sure I want to name the company but if you get ready to move, holler at me and I will tell you one company to avoid!

Happy Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe, but 21 years ago today, I married my best friend!  We were young and foolish but the best decision I ever made was marrying Emily.  We met during the first week of college and started hanging out regularly over hot chocolate around Christmas of freshman year.


I struggled and worried and acted all weird trying to work up the nerve to kiss her on the last week of freshman year and that sort of started it all.  What a goofball I was…it was easy!

07_20_2015 205

Fast forward a few years and I struggled and worried and acted all weird trying to work up the nerve to ask her Dad’s permission to marry her.  What a goofball I was…it was easy!  We were watching Spartacus which was intense enough, but he simply asked for a number of goats and sheep and it was a done deal!  I’m still trying to collect enough to pay off that debt, but some day…

07_20_2015 003

So, here we are 21 years later with 2 wonderful kids and a life I never would have dreamed of!  I couldn’t be happier!

Backyard garden

A couple of years ago, we decided to convert a crummy section of our backyard into garden space.  We used to have a gigantic garden but with all of our running around, we found that we could not adequately manage such a large plot.  Still, we really liked having fresh vegetables to eat.  And honestly, I really enjoy seeing stuff spout and grow regardless of whether it feeds me.

Our garden in the backyard
Our garden in the backyard

Anyhow, with chickens this year, we found that we had to fence off the garden area.  I would love to have a really polished fenced in garden, but when it came down to it, I just needed my seedlings protected so we drove T-posts into the ground and hung welded-wire fence on that…done!

Garden bounty

So, without chickens interrupting growth, you can see that our garden has gone nuts!  We planted a few varieties of peppers, tomatoes, yellow squash, zukes, potatoes, green beans, onions and a few herbs.  WV has had lots of rain this year so we haven’t watered a thing and it’s really doing great…in some ways, maybe too great.  Stuff has grown together more than we expected so that’s not ideal but it it generating food!

Patent leather beetle
Patent leather beetle (I think)

I found this guy roaming around also.  He has enjoyed the garden as well and somehow, has avoided the chickens.  As it turns out, we discovered that the chickens like Japanese beetles that have taken up residence on the raspberry plants by the house more than any other thing I have ever tried to feed them.  I hate those beetles so am happy to pick them off by the dozens to feed them as a treat!

A few finishes on the cabin

I was just looking over the progress we made on the cabin over the LAST 4 YEARS…geez…it has been that long.  It seems like we progressed by leaps and bounds at first but now we are crawling along.  Of course, I also cannot tell you the last time we were out there so it’s hard to expect progress from afar.  Anyhow, a month or so ago, we made it out for a few hours and got a few things done.  Pictures aren’t great but we added a few finishes to the place.

Ceiling fan!

If we need cooling, we will use window units but so far, the white roof and thick insulated walls have kept the place pretty pleasant on all but the very hottest of days.  Each room has a few fans now and that makes a huge difference in moving air and keeping us comfortable.  It should help with heat int he winter as well.

Ceiling fans in the sleeping area!
Ceiling fans in the sleeping area!

Speaking of heat in the winter, we are nearly finished with the rock behind the wood stove.  Of course, the wood stove puts off a lot of heat so the rock will act as a heat sink and also shield the wood in the walls behind it.  I love the way the rock looks and it is easy to install.  We have a bunch of wood from a tree we recently cut down so in a sick way, I am sort of ready for a cool day when we can light up a fire to test our new chimney and rock.  Hopefully that will all go well!

Rock behind the wood stove
Rock behind the wood stove

Most of the drywall and ceilings are up and ready for finishing now as well.  There is a lot of stuff that is almost done but just not quite.  I hope that this fall will, if nothing else, result in a more predictable if not less busy schedule so we can get out to finish our work.  I’d like to be able to really enjoy this place some day!

Our field in Spring!
Our field in Spring!

The field in which we built this place is just beautiful!  I cannot wait to sit on a porch swing on the front deck and just look at the beautiful scenery!

It’s been awhile, but let me explain

I don’t really have a good explanation. This Summer has been busy and wild and rainy and I feel like we just cannot get ahead of stuff going on! Band camp has started for Isaac and will continue this week at the school and next week away at their “away camp”.  Abigail starts next week as well with camp at the school and then we are back in school…or so it seems.

Strawberry pie!

We haven’t been to our executive deer stand, I haven’t harvested the honey yet and I am not sure you could call what was a yard a yard any more…more like a jungle.  And so, here lies my blog, lonely and abandoned.  I had trouble with it being attacked and just in general sucking from a hardware and infrastructure stand-point.  It was hosted on an aging server in my office.  As it grew in size, the server balked more and more often and then knuckle heads from places unknown slammed it hard (though it didn’t have to be hit too hard to bring it to its knees).  Finally, I decided to migrate it to a paid service where I get better machines, better storage, better maintenance, etc.  I hate paying but it should just flat out work better now.

Strawberry pie!
Strawberry pie!

So, hopefully things are settling down some and I can get back to posting.  It’s been a fun Summer in spite of rushing around.  I’ll have to tell some of the stories we accrued.  In the meantime, please enjoy this pic of the strawberry pie Emily made me…she made me about 4-5 this summer and they were incredible!

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.

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.

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
America The Beautiful

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.


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'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!