5 years later…


It’s amazing how much can happen in 5 years. 
I decided I wanted to start blogging again, and when I installed the software it opened this old blog. I had intended to start a new one, but after reading the old posts, I decided to keep this one.

Since that last post in 2012 so much has happened in our lives. Trips, tragedy, death, births, happiness, sadness… It’s crazy to think about it.

Well since the last post, we now have a young son, and a dog, to add to our adventures. This should definitely provide some depth to my post material. I am excited to do this now. 

I will probably be focusing on more outdoor and photography type material going forward, but I guess we will see where this takes me.

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Trapping: Different than I expected


I have long been interested in the art of trapping. There is something about the fur trade and the rough mountain men that collect pelts each winter that astonishes me. I began my research years ago when I was just a boy. I would see trappers walking out of the woods when I was hunting and fishing, carrying the daily kills over the shoulders or on the racks of an ATV. I began my research, but with the wrong information.

A lot of people dislike trapping very much; so much in fact, that there are specific laws that protect trappers and their sets from the heckling and menacing of anti trappers. When you began reading the anti articles the first thing that comes at you are the bloody stories of domestic pets being killed or maimed. Then came the stories about the poor animals stuck for hours on end with the broken leg caught in a trap and trying to chew their own leg off to get away. False.

It turns out that most of the traps used today are actually very humane. They do not harm or hurt the animal in any way. It turns out, if you have an animal that you are not targeting get in your trap, you simply let it go, perfectly unharmed. This is not even the live traps, but the actual foot hold traps everyone shivers at the sight of. This information came as a very large shock to me, and Youtube (www.youtube.com) has several videos depicting this very act.

Another fact that always pawed at my heart was the though of a stray dog accidentally finding itself into a trap. It turns out that the companies that make traps, such as Duke Traps, actually make a “dog proof” trap that is used for targeting raccoon. These traps require the coon to reach in a tube for the bait, and skill dogs simply cannot perform. The trap closes and holds the coon by the hand.

Trapping has a very long and rich heritage with many of our states, with Kentucky being a prime example. It turns out that most of the towns that were first settles in Kentucky were originally trading posts for the fur trade as well as others. Today, most trappers are not in the sport for financial gain. Though you o get paid for pelts, it is often not enough to cover expenses. Trapping today is a labor of love and passion. It is done by men and women who are truly passionate about the art, and love to be in the woods. Trapping helps control populations by both removing the animals and preventing overpopulation, and by removing predators allowing other populations, such as quail and turkey, to thrive. Trapping helps to control density related diseases, and depredation of crops and livestock, and controls nuisance animals.

With all this new information my wife and I have decided that we are going to begin trapping some late this year. We will be starting with the “dog proof” coon traps and targeting raccoon. I am sure we will not break and records with our few traps, but it will be yet another adventure into the outdoors.

The fur will be preserved and sold to a fur trader for use in the manufacture of clothing and such items. The raccoons we will be targeting will be nuisance coons that would normally be killed and discarded. This way, I can insure something useful can come from their hides, and that they were killed humanely. Hopefully it will be a positive experience and lead into a lifelong tradition for my family. Regardless, it will be an exciting adventure, and I am sure more articles will come of it!

Natural Desire


Something about not being able to do a particular thing really makes you just want to do that one thing.

Over the past several years I have been experiencing worsening problems with my health that could not really be explained. The bottom fell through this year and I have been very ill since about the middle of February.  I was finally diagnosed in June, and my team of doctors has since developed a treatment system that is keeping the symptoms at bay. The illness is for a lack of better terms “in remission”. However, this experience has left me a shadow of my original self. The weakness and pain alone have been enough to keep me close to home, and closer to the couch. The medication takes its toll on the body, and having to eat a special diet comes with its difficulties. But the desire is still ever present, to experience nature like I have in the past.

Since I began life I loved to be outside. The joys of camping, hunting, fishing and the like has been the best reward I had incurred until I married my lovely wife. Her matched enthusiasm for nature truly turned us into very active outdoorsmen. Very rarely could you ever catch us home, unless the weather was exceptionally brutal. The trails, waters, and woods were our playground, and we played hard, often not coming home till very late, if at all. Every free moment of time we had, we were outside.

It is hard to explain really, but when I came to college and left the magic hills and rivers I was raised with, it made my time in the woods much more significant to me. When I started hiking my freshman year, it seemed every waking minute spent in nature was more valuable than the last. For a time I felt like that would be gone forever, until the doctors finally reach an agreed diagnosis. Now I am in limbo of sorts. I have been released by the doctor to return to the woods I love so much, but the weakness and pain that I am still recovering from is not agreeing with his decision.

Like my grandmother always told me, you never really know what you’ve got, until it’s gone. I want so bad to get back out there and experience the thrill of a good hike, or the excitement of a good hunt, but I am just not physically able as of yet. It’s like standing beside a river and dying of thirst. The hardest part for me personally, is that not only has my illness grounded me, but my wife as well. She simply doesn’t want to leave my side, knowing that I could not go with her. As frustrating as that may be for me, I know if the roles were reversed, I would rather never see another trail, and remain by her side. It takes a current review of your life I suppose to be able to accurately say what the most important thing in your life is. However, as I stated before, the desire to return to my woods is still there.

It has now become my current mission to get back in shape and finally put this illness behind me. I will never get away from it for good, but if it wants to continue holding me back it’s got one hell of a fight on its hands. I will prevail, regardless of how long it takes. This desire to return to the woods will not be in vain, and this time, I will cherish every moment I get to spend outside, and quit putting of hikes and trips that we want to do. No more hiding from the heat, or running from a light rain shower. I consider the opportunity a privilege, and not something to be wasted on a meager attempt to avoid discomfort.

So the next time you crawl into a deer-stand, or slide on a pack, keep in mind that many people across this country of ours would love to be in your position, but can not. Worse still, is that fact that there are people in the country that doesn’t even know that world exists. I feel that if more people had this desire, it would keep them from their vice of choice and encourage better overall behavior and participation in outdoor recreation. With that being said, take a kid fishing, invite a buddy camping, or take someone along for a hike. Not only should we cherish every moment that we get in nature, but we should also strive to share it with others.

Storm Chasing


 
Disclaimer:
We accept no responsibility for your actions after reading this article. Mother nature is a very dangerous thing, and should be treated as such. Storm chasers in real life are very highly trained personnel that take extreme risks for the protection of others from the most dangerous weather on earth. The decision to place yourself intentionally in front of or close to any storm of any caliber should be a very educated decision. Death or serious injury could result from your ignorance of the specifics of a storm. We make our decisions based on training that both of us have received from different entities, and are in no way encouraging others to participate in this way. This article is strictly for entertainment purposes only. DO NOT TRY THIS ON YOUR OWN!

Over the years we have grown extremely fascinated with severe weather. This lead us to seek out training as well as personal research, and resulted in us enjoying a mild form of storm chasing. From time to time when possible, we will chase a severe storm both for personal entertainment, and to document the storm for research purposes. We also work with local entities to assist with warning people in the path of the storm.

Today was one of those days. While relaxing at home, we got word of some storms moving into the area. After some cloud watching, it was obvious that we would soon be dealing with a possible severe storm. Grabbing our gear we headed out to see what we could get on camera.

After some radar work, we got in position for some photography. Nothing was going right, as the storm seemed to be splitting around us, leaving me chasing the tail flashes of every lightning bolt in the sky. We made the decision to head south and get in front of the storm in hopes of getting some good shots, but with dark quickly approaching, we didn’t have much time. Diving smoothly into the rain belt we were soon in torrential rain. We found a nice location and set up for the storm . It was one of the most impressive electrical storms I have seen in a long time. If the storm would have passed a few days later (July 4th) it would have been as fitting and any fireworks display in the country.

The lightning flashed in every inch of the sky, with huge blue and white cloud to ground bolts dropping all around us. Mind you were were in the safety of our vehicle. The storm continued for several minutes with wind and rain blasting the entire time. From the dark parking lot atop a hill in the middle of the country we had the perfect vantage point. The rain was so heavy that the photography and videography was not possible. Without many other options, we simply sat back and enjoyed the show mother nature had for us.

Its important to remember, especially for hikers and other outdoorsmen, that for all the beauty mother nature has, there always remains an extreme possibility for danger. The power released during a severe thunderstorm is immense. Its humbling to see in general, but from such a vantage point, and experience that neither of us will soon forget.

Storm chasing in general is a somber event. You feel the rush and love the excitement of what is occurring, but at the same time, everyone somewhere in the back of their minds, feels compassion for the people hurt during the storms. We are not excited for the damage that is caused, and would prefer that all storms occur over open fields, but we realize that this is not possible, and that people are hurt in many ways by such activity. We feel very much for these people, and one of the main reasons we do what we do is to assist in providing information for the weather services to provide better warnings, as well as video and pictures to use in the research of severe weather. In a perfect world these storms would simply be grand shows on huge stages, but they are not. They are in fact, very dangerous to our society, and to anyone in their paths.

To all the other chasers out there, I hope you are doing this for the right reasons. It takes people like you, like us, to improve the safety for everyone. God bless, and stay safe. To everyone else, the next time a storm rolls through your area, watch it carefully, and remember that its very possible that someone is chasing it as it passes.

Buying Local


It has been a long time since I last posted an article. It is amazing how busy you can get in your everyday life. As time has passed, we have continued cooking ever so delicious meals, and have learned some new things.

However, the most important time in many cooks life is soon to be upon us. With the spring harvests beginning and producing wonderful ingredients to produce any dish you can imagine, soon we will be barreling into summer and fall harvest and canning and drying our hearts out, with the hope of preserving some of the fresh taste that makes spring and summer cooking so enjoyable.

With that being said, it is important to source your ingredients locally when possible. To me it makes perfect sense. Why buy corn that has been imported from another country, when most likely there is a farmer growing the best corn money can buy in your area.

As far as I am concerned, farmer’s markets are one of the best resources a good cook has. Few people can tell you more about a vegetable than the person who planted the seed, cared for it, and harvest it. Farmers are as passionate about the vegetables, as you should be about your food.

I have a hierarchy of sorts that determines where I spend my money. First and foremost is the farmer themselves. Anytime I can pay cash directly to a farmer, I’ll jump at the chance. Secondly, I will purchase things from a market that is supplied by local farmers, and only sell local, seasonal items. Last if necessary I will by from a retail grocery store, but still, will try to only buy seasonal when possible. I applaud the store Meijer for attempting to sell local when possible, so that is usually my choice. A lot of people ask me why I care, and if I really believe my ten dollars is going to save that farmers farm. This is out of context to me. See when you pay a farmer directly for produce; you are paying him for his time, labor, and skill. When you pay a grocery store, you are paying for salaries, transport, time, fuel, and overhead. The farmers sees very little of your money.

If you get a chance, talk to farmers in your area. Tracy and I have been able to tour one farm that we by from, and have petted the chickens that lay our eggs, seen the fields where out produce comes from. Another farmer recently told us where his farm is located and also told us how we can get produce from him outside of the posted times of the farmers market. We will later on this month, be touring yet another farm. The personal connection makes cooking much more pleasurable to me, and nothing beats the taste homegrown vegetables!

If you are looking for farmers markets in your area, you can check out this website http://www.local-farmers-markets.com. They have markets for large portions of the country.

So buy local, talk to farmers, preserve food for the winter, and most importantly, cook seasonal. You will not be disappointed.

Bread….The reason God loves Bakers


Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread

Loaves of Fresh Baked Bread

     Bread can make or break a meal. It adds texture, flavor, color, and contrast. It can be used as a vehicle, to cool down a dish, as a  filler, a dessert or an entree. It has been around for hundreds of years, and the techniques may have changed, but the concepts have not.

     With that being said, if you have never tried to make bread at home, you can’t truly respect this formidable foe to the home cook. Bread can be extremely difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. A loaf of simple white sandwich bread can be knocked out with ingredients probably already in your your kitchen, and take just about 3 hours. Then again, I have seen recipes that require multiple days and tons of special equipment. It all depends on your recipe, and your technique. However, once you find a recipe that works for you, simple changes can turn your bread into the loaf of your dreams.

      Until today I have avoided bread, and really, any baking for that matter. I, like a lot of cooks, hit up a local bakery for my bread. When I met Tracy, she knew a little about baking bread, and often made rolls and loafs of wonderful fruit and nut bread. She avoided seriously any mention of making homemade sandwich bread, and I had to beg to get her to even consider a loaf.

      I recently read Guy Fieri’s book “Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It”. His section on Sandwiches will literally starve you to death as you read. And after reading all about this great sandwiches and seeing the mouth watering pictures, I asked Tracy if she would help me bake a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches. Of course my loving wife giggled and said sure.

      Well today, I baked my first loaf of bread (left). Tomorrow, and every day after, I will be baking my own bread. Yes I was up to my elbows in flour, and their were stacks of dishes everywhere, but it is so worth it. The first piece, smothered in melted butter, is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever created. The flavor and texture profile are unmatched by any bread you can buy, and it was better than most bread I have purchased in bakeries.

     We also made a loaf of beer bread (right), which is an entirely different type of bread and process. I will be doing a write up on beer bread in the future, so be sure to check back for that update.

      We don’t have a bread recipe of our own, but here is the recipe that we used, which was given to us by a friend. Give it a try, I am sure you will be very happy with your results. If the first loaf doesn’t come out right, clean up your board and try again. Once your comfortable with sandwich bread, explore other kinds. Who knows, maybe I’ll be posting lots of bread related articles in the future!

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Preparation:

  1. In large bowl, add the warm water. Slowly stir in dry yeast. Continue to stir until yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to bowl. Stir.
  3. Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.
  4. If needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl.
  5. You do not need to use up all the flour called for in this recipe, or you may need more flour than called for. The amounts vary depending on many factors, including weather, which is why most bread recipes only give an approximate amount of flour needed.
  6. Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.
  7. Put dough in buttered bowl, turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.
  8. Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured board and knead.
  9. Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
  10. Form dough into loaf place in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
  11. Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

 

A Simple Dessert To Not Feel Guilty About


Every once in a while you get the craving for something sweet. However, if you trying to stay on the healthy highway, that can be a task. One of our favorites is fruit pizza. Now, the pizza does have some things that you dietician will not endorse, but it does has a lot of healthy fruit, and that is better than a piece of German Chocolate Cake. So we are simply minimizing the evils.

 

Tracy is the dessert master, and the one who will be cooking this recipe for the article. She starts with a simple sugar cookie recipe, and forms a nice crust. She baked this is a spring form pan, so that she could use the bottom to build the pizza. This can also be done on a regular cookie sheet or cake round, you will just have to plate the pizza after its finished.

Sugar Cookie Crust

The filling or “sauce” is made from cream cheese and sugar. 4 oz of cream cheese 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of sugar works for us. However, you can use pineapple juice, crushed pineapple, flavored cream cheese, ect. You can really make this part you own. Spread the filling over the cooled crust and smooth it out to get ready for the fruit.

Spread the filling

 

The fruit can really be anything you can imagine. Today we used strawberries and blueberries with a little bit of dark chocolate. The dark chocolate adds calories, but are rich in antioxidants, and really go a long way with the flavor of the dish. Layer the fruit on and makes some pretty swirling patterns, or simply just make rings of fruit, It all tastes the same, the fancy stacking is just for looks. Some drizzles of the left over chocolate makes a nice effect.

Putting on the fruit

 

The entire pizza needs to hit the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Slice and enjoy. Remember its not completely free on any diet, but it is a dessert to not feel guilty about!

Finished Fruit Pizza