Tag Archives: Nature

Violet blossom jelly

I mentioned mountain color in the last post and as much as I like green, I think purple has to be a close second. We have thousands of wild violets in our yard this time of year. They make a really nice blanket of purple in the still-alive-until-summer green grass we have. I hate cutting grass with a passion and my excuse is usually something along the lines of, “I hate to lose all of the pretty flowers that the bees need so much right now.” It has nothing to do with my being lazy of course…it’s for the bees!

Wild violet blossoms for jelly

Anyhow, I was perusing the interwebs the other day and a blogger I follow, Woodridge, posted a recipe for violet blossom jelly. Check out the original there but I am going to include the recipe here for my own reference too. Woodridge writes from East Virginia, the lesser cousin of West Virginia…

Wild violet blossoms for jelly

So, Abigail, Emily and I set about picking violet blossoms the other day. Abigail wanted to take some creative license with the recipe so she included a generous helping of green grass also. I picked it out…I have eaten both violets and grass before and only one is really suitable for my palette. Evidently I misread the recipe too as I insisted we pick twice as many blossoms as we needed. We just made a double batch. Many other recipes I found used less blossoms for a single batch but I figured if some is good, more is better which was in line with this recipe anyhow:

Making wild violet blossom jelly


  • 3 – 4 cups fresh violet blossoms
  • 3 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 package (1 3/4 ounces) powdered fruit pectin
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups granulated sugar

Violet blossom jelly


  • Rinse and drain fresh-picked Violet blossoms; place in a large heat-resistant glass bowl or Pyrex measuring cup.
  • Pour boiling water over the blossoms. Allow to steep until cool, then cover and allow to stand overnight.
  • Strain blossoms and reserve violet liquid. Discard blossoms.
  • Measure violet liquid; add enough water to measure 3 1/2 cups (liquid will be blue-green).
  • Pour liquid into a large stainless steel pot.
  • Measure 4 cups sugar (exactly 4 cups) and reserve.
  • Stir in lemon juice and pectin. Place pot on stove top and bring to full rolling boil on high heat.
  • Add 4 cups sugar all at once and stir continuously until sugar completely dissolves. The mixture will turn a reddish-violet (depending upon the color of the Violet blossoms). Continue stirring until mixture comes to a hard rolling boil. Stir exactly 1 minute (use a timer), then remove from heat.
  • Skim foam. Carefully ladle hot liquid into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
  • Wipe jar rims, add lids and screw rings. Adjust lids, place jars in canner and make sure boiling water covers jelly jar lids by 1 inch or more.
  • Cover, bring canning water to a boil.
  • Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. (Adjust timing for elevations over 1,000 feet above sea level.)
  • Remove from boiling water bath and allow to cool (and ping!).
  • When cooled, check seals and refrigerate any jars that failed to seal properly.

Yield: 5 half-pints.

Violet blossom jelly

Anyhow, the jelly is a beautiful light purple and is some of the prettiest food I have ever seen. It has a super mild flavor and is a little earthy…maybe. I am not sure if that is the right word. Wild is more like it maybe? But that sounds bad…like eating poorly cooked ‘possum or something. Anyhow, it is a light, subtle flavor and will be a really nice addition to our breakfast toast. If you have some violets, whip up a batch and let me know how you would describe the flavor!

My bumblebee

Isaac was mowing the yard at my office tonight which gave me a little time to take in the local wildlife…and a lot of pollen and chlorophyll. Mostly there were stink bugs and flying whatnots but there was one extremely huge bumblebee with which I made friends.

Weed whacking

Emily really hates dandelions but I think they are sort of nice. I mean, in the spring time, all of the colors are so bold and bright…and it doesn’t get much bolder or brighter than dandelions. My bumblebee obviously agreed as he was all over the flowers that Isaac was mercilessly slaying!

My bumblebee

It’s taken me awhile to fully appreciate the lowly bumblebee. When I was a kid, I spent every weekday at the local swimming hole. I mean 100% of days. There was a “beach” set up along one of the local creeks in Tionesta, PA where I grew up. They had a concession stand and..well, that’s about it. But still, it was the beach. Anyhow, there was a ton of clover and back then, honeybees were still common. Between the honeybees and the bumblebees, I got many stings and I hated that. Heck, I have been stung so many times since then, I guess I have made peace.

My bumblebee

Most small critters fascinate me but I think bees of all sorts are among the tops in my book! So, my bumblebee and I will check in each week as Isaac cuts the grass…as long as I can keep Emily from plowing under all of my dandelions!

How to catch a cat

We used to have a neighbor who was somewhat less than “whole”.  She had a real passion for animals…well, for collecting animals; not so much for taking care of them.  Fast forward a few years and she has moved away, and, in fact, her house was torn down.  The animals remain and we have grown somewhat attached to some of them.  Just so you get a picture of what I mean, we have had as many as 13 cats on our side porch…none of which was ours.

There are fewer now and we have captured the ones that are tame and had them fixed.  I guess we should have taken them all to the pound but there are a few that are good cats and nice to pet when we are out in the yard.  They stay outside and keep the varmints at bay.  There are a number of cats that are feral, and as it is now spring, pregnant.  We do not need a dozen more cats around here so we plan to trap the feral ones and take them to the pound.  I have a few box traps so this seemed like an easy task.  I baited two traps with canned cat food and walked away.

I checked the traps periodically through the day and only succeeded in catching one of the tame/fixed cats…three times.  I can’t tell if he is smart or dumb.  Dumb to keep getting caught or smart because he filled his belly with good food, knowing that we would just release him.  Anyhow, I set them again and forgot about it until morning.  I checked the trap Sunday and sure enough, I caught another cat…a real wild one!

'possum caught in a trap
(hint: that’s not really a cat)

I took this one out to the woods and let him go.  He didn’t stick around for pleasantries which suited me just fine!

Baby it’s cold outside

Winter is not my friend.  I generally do not like a single thing about it.  This week, we are supposed to get colder than average temperatures with the lowest on Tuesday…single digit stuff.  We have a little tradition in our house that started by accident…whenever it’s cold outside, we sing (repeatedly) that Christmas-ish song, Baby it’s cold outside.  The kids sing it.  We sing it.  It’s usually loud and bad and we rarely get past the first verse.  And it’s bad.  We love it though!

Trees at sunrise

Anyhow, my blogging and real-life friend Granny Sue put up a great poem she wrote about the cold…check it out.  My poems on cold would be a study in four letter words so I will spare you that.

Trees at sunrise

So, instead, I thought I would post a few pics I have taken as I stand with Isaac at the bus stop…in the cold…and dark.

Trees at sunrise

I do like one thing about winter and cold I guess.  I like turning the heat up, piling on a big stack of blankets (which in my case, means one blanket on especially cold days), drinking hot tea non-stop and laughing at the wind with my sweetie.  I know we need the cold to reset Mother Nature and all so I guess I will make the most of the crisp cool mornings at sunrise when I get to see the beauty around me and take a few special minutes to talk to Isaac in the dark.  His guard is down in the dark (or maybe it’s the onset of hypothermia?) and we get to talk about a little bit of everything.

Bring on the Arctic blast…I am ready and so is my hot tea!

Do you know what I lichen the moss?

Do you get that title or is it too obscure?  Do you know what I like most?  I like being outside.  Well, I like my family and bacon the very most but after those things, I like anything outdoors.

Moss and lichen! Moss and lichen!

Please click on these pics to enlarge…I think the detail is so cool!

We were up at my parents’ house the other weekend and I was struck but how many awesome mossy or lichen bearing trees they had.  I have always been fascinated by lichen.  I remember a great pair of oak trees behind the house that were covered in lichen.  Those trees are gone, but the lichen spread!

Moss and lichen! Lichen!

Lichen! Lichen!

And moss!  Holy cow!  If you look around, it’s not hard to find all sorts of moss variants.  Some look like little ferns and others look like extraterrestrial herpes (just speculating on appearance) or something.  Did you know that moss holds a tremendous amount of water and often times, that water is safe to drink?

Moss! Moss!

As I understand it, moss has an iodine-esque substance in it that makes it somewhat antibiotic.  I have drunk moss water many times and haven’t died though don’t trust me…I can barely run a hammer.

Anyhow, I love to look at these oft-overlooked flora and hope you’ll enjoy the pics too!

Large cluster of Chanterelles

We were driving up the dirt road to the cabin the other day and I spied, with my magic mushroom eye (my eye is magic, not the mushrooms) a beautiful cluster of chanterelle mushrooms.  I know you may be asking yourself how mushrooms can be beautiful, but in addition to a great taste, these mushrooms have an excellent yellow color and they just look so soft and cuddly.  Well, I guess you wouldn’t want to cuddle mushrooms, but to me, they just begged to be touched.

Chanterelle mushrooms

Do you ever find yourself looking at something and you just have to touch it?  I do it all of the time and I just had to touch these mushrooms as well.

Chanterelle mushrooms

I didn’t pick any because they were a little past prime and they were not on my property.  I know some folks don’t mind picking stuff they find along the road but I sort of feel funny about it.  I’d be mad if I had a great crop growing, just waiting for it to be perfect only to find it picked by someone else.  Anyhow, I made note of where they were and will ask whoever owns the land next year in proper mushroom hunting season.

EDIT:  Upon further investigation, it turns out that this may be a jack-o’-lantern mushroom which is mildly poisonous.  When they are back in season, I will investigate further!

Hornets' nest

I tend to dislike autumn only because it precedes winter (which I absolutely despise).  The beautiful mushrooms and a dead hornets’ nest do help to make me see autumn in a little more favorable light.  Maybe I just need to look around a little harder…

I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok (though just barely)

We had that massive mess-making derecho storm around June.  We were out of town for all of the fun but had to drive through the heart of the storm which was terrifying.  We had a good weekend away and all that, but when we came home, we found that a number of trees had not fared well.  We cleaned up the immediate messes but the remaining parts of one tree that still hung over our house bothered me.

Cutting down a tree Cutting down a tree

A few weekends ago, my folks were down for a visit.  We are always good for a project while they are here as my Dad is good at helping me think through things.  He also gets a good laugh when I press onward and do something stupid in spite of our planning.  Anyhow, we decided to cut the one tree that hangs over my dining room, power lines, AC, dog house, chain link and vinyl fences as well as Isaac’s bedroom and my patio with glass table and a nice picket fence.  Sounds like fun, eh?

Cutting down a tree Cutting down a tree

A few years ago I bought an electric chainsaw for trimming tree limbs.  Cutting this tree down is like trimming, right?  Who cares?  I used it to cut a lot of this tree down and only got the saw stuck in the tree one time where it was above my head such that I couldn’t reach it to get it down.  That part…not fun.

Cutting down a tree Cutting down a tree

We used some ropes, a ladder, my electric saw, and some foul language to bring down this ugly stupid house-hating tree…mostly anyhow.  I have one more section to cut but I just need to wait for a really windy day…or not.  I’ll wait for a day when Emily and the kids are away so I can sing that last limb a nice lullaby…a profanity-laced, meet-your-final-demise-stinking-tree lullaby.

Cutting down a tree Cutting down a tree

I came away (so far) mostly intact so I consider myself a near-professional tree trimmer now!  So where are my flip-flops again?  I have another branch to cut!

Check out this huge mushroom!

We were out at the land this weekend and Emily happened upon this huge mushroom!  I do not think I have ever seen a mushroom this big before.  I have seen shelf mushrooms on trees and hen-of-the-woods before, but of traditionally shaped mushrooms, I do not think I have ever seen one bigger!

Large white mushroom Large white mushroom Large white mushroom Large white mushroom

I looked through my mushroom books and nothing caught my eye so I do not know what sort of mushroom this is.  Does anyone else know?  It had seen better days but I loved the little triangular ridges with the yellow triangles inside.  It looked sort of pretty which I know is sort of strange to say about fungus.  I don’t know about you, but I am continually amazed at the diversity of life that I have in my little corner of the world.  Simply amazing!


Edit:  I think this is a Calvatia cyathiformis

West Virginia Wild Flowers – Part 2

Well, just like the last time, I noticed that there were a bunch more pretty flowers…and some other scenes that just really struck me about how pretty WV (and more specifically my little part of WV) really is.  I hope you enjoy them even half as much as I did!

(click on each pic to enlarge…I think they are even prettier that way!)

Goldenrod Our hay field

Hay in the field Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

A regal moth 

A WV mountain view

West Virginia wild flowers

Here are some more nature pics I took recently.  I was driving up to the property by myself the other morning and for some reason, I took a few minutes to slow down and notice what a pretty trip it is once I get off of the main road.  I stopped every hundred feet or so (it seemed) and took pics of some of the beautiful sights and scenes around me. I hope you enjoy even half as much as I did!

 (click on each pic to enlarge…I think they are even prettier that way!)

beautiful WV flowers beautiful WV flowers
beautiful WV flowers beautiful WV flowers

beautiful WV flowers beautiful WV flowers

beautiful WV flowers beautiful WV flowers

These are all growing in the ditch lines on the old dirt road on the way up to the property.  There are so many more things growing up there…I wish I could spend more time exploring…I can only imagine what grows wild.  I just never noticed how much blooms this late in the summer…I always think of spring as the time of flowers…boy was I wrong!