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Monday, April 30, 2012

Mother Nature Is In A Rush!

8:21 AM 3 Comments
Venturing out and about to wander some last week, I was astounded at how quickly the woods and fields were changing. In barely a weeks time the woods and fields had gone from looking a tiny bit ahead of usual growth and bloom times to bursting at the seams with blooms, blossoms, and bees.

Blooms and blossoms that we normally don't see in Southern Illinois until late May to mid June.  Mother Nature is in quite the rush this year!

The prairie hills and roadsides are lighting up and bursting at the seams with blossoms and blooms.

Drifts of daisies cover the prairie hillsides

Masses of red clover abound along the roadways and fields

Wild False Indigo towers over the other prairie plants

More Wild False Indigo - one of my favorite blooming plants on the prairie
The woodland flowers are in a rush as well-  what should be a gently shaded creek bank, with shin high grasses and the lull between the early spring wildflowers and the summer jungle,   is now sporting early summer blooms and is thick, green and hard going. It should not be mosquito and machete time in the river bottoms until at least mid June!

An owl feather on the narrow deer path I followed to water's edge yesterday.

All along the creek bank the False Solomon's Seal was sending out it's plumes of tiny star -like blossoms.
Spiderwort, in all it's various shades from pink- to purple dotted the forest floor - looking as if someone had taken a violet hued paintbrush and splattered it across the landscape. 

The taller lighter hued spiderwort at the edges of woods and along the roadways, fence lines, and fence rows.

Everything is overdrive - this spiderwort shows an unusual number of blossoms and buds

The pink shorter woodland variety of spiderwort

The blackberry berry briars and patches are heavy with blossoms and the dew berries have already started making berries. MAKING BERRIES. Mother Nature - Please slow down! At  this rate it's going to be like August in June!

The berry patches look to be making a promise of buckets of berries for the picking this year

From berries to bee balm; the woods and thickets just don't seem to be grasping that it isn't even May yet!

Bradbury's Bee Balm - noted for the tiny purple spots on the blossoms

Large masses of bee balm are lighting up the less jungle like areas of the forests

The only plant  even halfway close to being "on schedule" that I encountered was the Tulip Poplar, that normally blooms in May, albeit a little later in May than the first week. Upon closer inspection, some of the blossoms on this tree were already past prime and beginning to fade.

Again - Please slow it down Mother Nature!

The yellow or tulip poplar - locally known as the "tulip tree"  because of it's tulip like blossoms.

I'm planning on doing some creek bottom, rock hopping , exploration tomorrow in some counties a bit to the north. I'll be anxious to see if Mother Nature is kicking into fast forward there too! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom - Splat!

6:37 AM 2 Comments
I knew I was getting behind - but didn't realize it had been a two full weeks since I'd posted anything.  My how time flies when you are having fun and zooming around like that Mazda commercial. Course you know by now how works with me;  Zoom, zoom, zoom,  - splat.
I have that tendency to zoom until I fall over and go splat. I went splat. Had to spend a few days lying around, rebuilding the energy stores again.

So just where has the Wild Woman been zooming around to?

For starters was the NRA Annual Meeting in St. Louis ; - one word - OVERWHELMING! So many folks and products to see and test. So many issues to discuss, so many and so much;  it was nearly disconcerting! I have folders full of photos, and some really great new gear to test and to tell you about in the coming days. 

Heading into the NRA Annual Meeting

I so wanted to take this Taurus home with me.. so wanted to!

Straight from the NRA Annual Meeting and all if it's whirlwind fun,  I headed of to New Athens, IL for the Retriever's Unlimited Spring Hunt Test; lots of zooming there! From flight to flight, dog to dog and  for heavens sake - my first lesson in being a marshall. Thankfully the judges were kind and understanding and realized they were working with a very disorganized  brain and person. By the end of the second days hunt test, I was pretty much toast.

"Kissa" - my pal's  beautiful Chocolate running the Started Water Division

My best buds Madison and Hershey; Madison got a kiss, a bath and duck all at once from Hershey in their first Started  Test together.

Finally after 4 days of back to back fun and excitement I was home..and completely wrung out. I had to just lay out for a few days. That whole balance rest and activity thing... energy out.. rest in.. I hadn't been putting much rest in the account for a week, and I was at  the "Warning your account is about  to be closed!" stage of he game; so despite my best efforts to plow through photos, write gear reviews, catch up blogs, meet print deadlines, . I sort of umm... well..... took to my bed for a day or two. It's an MS thing- we just have to do that. No matter how  fast our brains think we can go, our bodies just don't cooperate. When MS Fatigue hits, it hit's like a ton of bricks, and there's nothing one can do but ride it out. So that's what I did.. I rode  it out...grumbling all the way.

Just as soon as  I was able to slay the fatigue dragon it was time to repack things, switch gears from running dogs to shooting fish. ; yep more windshield time and more zooming. I zoomed over to Rend Lake , near Whittington IL for the 7th Annual Billy Davis Bowfishing Tournament. The best little bowfishing tournament in the midwest. The Billy Davis is one of my favorites; it's bit like old home week as  bowfishers from across the midwest come together to honor  the memory of  the phenomenal young bowfisher Billy Davis, who tragically lost his life in 2005.

My good friends from Team Back-N-Black heading out  for a long chilly night of rough fish clean up.

Ken Sharp - one of my favorite bowfishers, and one I can count on seeing every year at the Billy Davis

Kendall Carrigan and "The Phantoon" - he and his partner Christine Appleberg are responsible for lighting that bowfishing  fire I have!

The "boatels"  at the beautiful Rend Lake Resort - a great place for any outdoor getaway from fishing to hunting to just wandering the trails.

The kind folks at Rend Lake Resort must have seen the road weariness on my face and they  ever so thoughtfully provided me with a room with huge jacuzzi tub.. ahhhh a little slice of heaven when wimpy pants here elected not to spend the whole night on the water trying to slay carp.

As the tournament wrapped up on Sunday, the words of advice from one of my readers at Heartland Outdoors rang in my head.. " G, You need to slow down a little, do a little fishing, wander a little. You'll feel better and we miss your wandering around pictures." 

Good Heavens! - the bucks are already starting on this years' antlers!

Sometimes you just have to wander down the first path you see.

So despite the mound of things  fast over taking my office, the deadlines looming, I took the long way home and wandered through deer, turkey, and even a fish or two. Slowly.. in a non zoomy fashion.  My zoominess was zooming right on out of my system once again.

Home for two more days of playing "Deposit the Rest Dollars" in the rest and activity account. Finally, I think I'm starting get the account back to viable working stage. At least I'm not getting the Insufficient Funds notices this morning!

Hmm now where should I zoom off to today?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Slinging Brass With 2 Vets Arms!

8:07 PM 3 Comments

Recently I reentered the world of the shooting sports. I’d been away from the firearm industry and from the shooting sports for a number of years, for a variety of reasons; but thanks to some modern miracles of medicine, a good surgeon, and a great occupational therapist I found myself ready to head back to the range. 

During my quest to restock my gun safe and immerse myself in the shooting sports again, I met Tom Younce, Owner of Second Amendment Guns in Jackson, MO.
Tom and I hit it off instantly – what impressed me was not only his strong commitment to customer service, but his willingness to work with a female customer. 

Unfortunately, I can’t say that many of the other gun dealers I contacted and talked with were as willing to help a female shooter. When I recently purchased a varmint rifle for my husband’s 60th birthday, Younce made the almost 150 mile round trip drive to hand deliver it to my door with a birthday note attached. Insuring that it arrived exactly on my husband’s birthday, with no delays.  Now, that’s the kind of customer service that made our nation a prosperous one, and the kind of customer service we see far too little of in today’s big box store, get the cheapest deal, world.

When Tom reached out to me about a new company he was working with - 2Vets ArmsCompany – and asked if I would be willing to field test its flagship 2VA68 AR15 6.8 SPC II Rifle I jumped at the chance. A quick flurry of phone calls and email introductions and I was on pin and needles waiting for 2 Vets Arms flagship 2VA68 6.8 SPC II Rifle to arrive. In turn, I reached out to one of my friends and strong supporters of women in the shooting sports, our community’s Chief of Police, Jason Schlesinger. While   I was on a quest for a modern hunting rifle, “The Chief” was on a quest for a platform that could easily be adapted to a more tactical law enforcement environment.  

There were several factors that encouraged me to work with 2 Vets Arms on this project; as an advocate for women in the hunting, shooting and outdoor sports, I was especially pleased to learn that 2 Vets Arms is female owned company. A female veteran owned company. A disabled female veteran owned company.  I am disabled shooter myself, due to Multiple Sclerosis. There were too many commonalities between this company and myself to let this opportunity pass by. This was a company that I knew after the first introduction I wanted to work alongside.   

2 Vets Arms Company, LLC is a Female Service-Connected Disabled Veteran Owned Business (SDVOB) that specializes in developing and building high performance custom rifles for American patriots with an emphasis on serving the US Military Veteran and those actively serving in the US Armed Forces.

While there are a lot of weapons manufactures in this industry 2 Vets Arms Company is committed to offering their customers premium, custom made firearms at highly competitive prices while at the same time supporting our honored military veterans by contributing a portion of the proceeds from every sale to veteran support organizations like GallantFew and American Women Veterans.

Amber Brandly; Co Founder and Chief Executive Officer for 2 Vets Arms    is a US Army combat veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom as an Army Intelligence Analyst. She has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Oklahoma. Amber is an avid hunter and lives in Oklahoma with her husband Dean and their two boys.

Partnered with Amber is Dean Brandly- Co founder and Chief Operating Officer; Dean is a US Army combat veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Dean is a combat Infantryman who served as a Sniper/Sniper Team Leader and Joint Fires Observer. As the Chief Operating Officer, you’ll find Dean “in the trenches” overseeing the day to day operations of the company, weapons manufacturing and assembly as well as leading our Research and Development efforts.

My family is filled with both veterans and active duty military. A female veteran owned company, with a strong commitment to our service members seemed the perfect fit. 

Amber Brandly, CEO of 2 Vets Arms shared a bit of the background on the test model that I would be receiving.
“After a tremendous amount of research and testing by the 2 Vets Arms Co team we are excited to announce the availability of our custom AR platform rifles chambered in 6.8 SPC II calibers. The 6.8 SPC (6.8x43mm) was initially developed by the United States Army Marksmanship Unit’s MSG Steve Holland and Chris Murray who were tasked by JSOC and the 5th Special Forces Group in 2001 to make a caliber that offers superior downrange lethality over the 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington in an AR pattern service rifle with minimal loss of magazine capacity and a negligible increase in recoil. When built to the level of precision 2 Vets Arms Co requires the 6.8 SPC is also capable of outstanding accuracy and reliability.
The match-grade, Spec II chambered 16", 18", and 20" barrels. The 6.8 SPC is capable of pushing a .277 caliber, 85gr bullet to over 2900 FPS. 110gr bullets easily achieve 2500 FPS with factory loaded ammunition. Appropriate hand loading can achieve even higher velocities and enable the use of heavier projectiles up to 130 grains, which dramatically improves terminal ballistics over a 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington at long range.
This added ballistic performance makes the 6.8 SPC perfect for home protection and SRT/SWAT teams. The 6.8 is a truly ideal hunting round for medium to heavy game and turns the AR into a serious hunting rifle. “ 

 Turns the AR into a serious hunting rifle.  

That’s exactly what I was looking for. A platform that could take  me from the coyote filled strip mine hills to the herds of invasive and destructive feral hogs, and beyond. 

 Soon the much anticipated delivery day arrived.  Once again Younce showed his commitment to not only outstanding customer service, but his wholehearted belief in the 2 Vets Arms Company by making the drive across the river from gun friendly Missouri to not so gun friendly Illinois. 

The Chief's first look
“The Chief” and I were literally waiting at the end of my driveway for Younce when he arrived. After introductions all around, we unpacked and began the initial once over of the 2VA68 6.8 SPC II Rifle. 
The specs on the model we received:
  • ·       20" free floated 416 stainless steel barrel
  • ·        Proprietary gas system with low pro gas block
  • ·       Rifle length free float quad rail on a Side charged upper receiver
  • ·       Magpul CTR mil-spec 6-position butt stock
  • ·       Magpul grip and trigger guard,
  • ·       National match two stage trigger
  • ·       Wrapped  with A-TACS cammo that was done by Southern Draw Hydroprinting.
  • ·       Nikon Prostaff Scope 

As anxious I was to just grab it and start shooting; always safety first. I had not shot an AR15 before; and both Younce and the Chief insisted on a full on familiarization and mini safety course before allowing me to begin using the rifle.  

Once satisfied that I had received the proper instruction, the Chief and I couldn’t stand it any longer. Luckily I live in rural enough area that we could set up a mini target range at the edge of the field behind my house. 

The Chief Couldn't wait to get started!

Schlesinger took his turn first; running the 2VA68 6.8 SPC II Rifle through his typical more tactically oriented routine. He quickly was listing all the positives about the 6.8 SPC II Rifle to Younce. “This is an extremely well built, balanced, and easy handling weapon. I can see how this could be a great addition to any law enforcement agency’s line up. ”
Schlesinger was hosting the monthly meeting of area Police Chiefs later that week and was anxious to introduce to the other law enforcement agencies during the upcoming meeting. 

“I think there will be some very interested officers looking at this” said Schlesinger. 

With a teasing grin, the Chief handed me the weapon to start the official testing.  “There ya go girl – I think you’re going to love this.”  And love it I did. 

Oh Yeah!.. this  was just right for me!

Immediately I noted how light and easy to carry the 2VA68 6.8 SPC II Rifle was. I’m pretty sure I’ve carried handbags heavier than this model.  First high mark – this would not be a cumbersome, heavy, nor tiring model to carry in the field. As I got into position next to a tree in an effort to simulate a hunting situation, second high mark – the adjustable butt stock made it easily fit my smaller frame and shorter arms. The Chief and I are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum in size, height, and strength, but the 2VA68 6.8 SPC II Rifle easily adapted to fit both of us. This ability to adjust is a big plus for a family that might want to share this model, or for a law enforcement agency with a variety of staff that would be using the 6.8 SPC II Rifle.

Let the shooting begin! 

Based on the laughing and finger pointing by my cohorts that morning – it would seem that I had a look of utter amazement on my face – it would also seem I might have shouted “HOLY CRAP – there is no recoil whatsoever!” 

The battle was on – I did not want to let the Chief have another turn. I must admit, my first magazine full was not the most accurate; that problem was quickly solved with some minor adjustments to the Nikon Prostaff scope for my ridiculously poor vision and trifocal eyeglasses. Once the proper adjustments were made; I was consistently grouping shots in a spot the size of silver dollar or as the Chief joked “She’s pretty good at giving the zombie a frontal lobotomy isn’t she? We may have to start calling her Melon Popper.” 

Second Amendment Guns thoughtfully provided us with an ample supply of Sellier and Bellot 6.8mm Rem Spc PTS ammo. Because I was most interested in the hunting aspect; this seemed the ideal ammo to use in a test. The PTS bullet is the result of efforts of hunting cartridge designers to develop bullet with high wounding effects preserving concurrently excellent ballistic values. The bullet with lead core is covered with strengthening casing and furnished with polymer tip. Optimum shape enables the bullet to achieve higher speed and trajectory stability. These characteristics ensure excellent accuracy and wounding capability of the bullet that remains compact even at the moment of the strike, it does not shatter and it does not impair game.  PTS bullets extend the range of rifle cartridges used for hunting and they extend possibilities of optimum choice for various kinds of use.

The2VA68  6.8 SPC II Rifle was easily maneuverable to a variety of shooting positions that I would encounter in the field; from prone, sitting, standing, and concealed by brush and woodlands.   The trigger pull was smooth, and the light weight enabled me to easily hold it with one hand while quickly swapping the magazine. Shooting from distances increasing from 50 – 150 yards I noticed little to no decline in accuracy. Straight out of the case, I was sold. This was an AR15 I knew wanted in my safe. I could quickly tell that it’s superior build, lightweight, and accuracy would make this perfect modern hunting rifle for a variety of situations I would encounter. 

Sadly, we experienced terrible wet and stormy weather during the entire testing period so I wasn’t able to actually get out the field and try my hand at reducing the coyote population using this modern hunting rifle. 

We were however able to perform a more detailed bench testing at Schlesinger’s home range, including an additional shooter.  Again, high marks all the way around. 

Ladies first! 

A local veteran and firearm enthusiast gives it good once over

And of course the Chief  took his turn !

Here’s why you will be wanting to contact Mr. Younce at Second Amendment Guns to place your order for this well built, light weight, easily maneuverable, versatile modern 2VA68 6.8 SPC II hunting rifle.
  • Lightweight and fully adjustable for a variety of user sizes, strength, and endurance levels            
  • Outstanding accuracy at tested distances of 50 – 200 yards
  • Versatility in use and application from a serious hunting rifle, home defense, and tactical SRT/SWAT team use.  
  • Superior build quality and durability in harsh conditions.
  • Availability of customization option to make this truly a gun built just for you.
  • Manufactured in the United States by a Veteran owned and operated business withhigh attention to customer service, dedication to our service members, and detail. 

To learn more about the 2 Vets Arms Company’s meteoric rise on the AR platform scene or to place an order for this superb modern hunting rifle; contact Tom Younce at SecondAmendment Guns and ask for the scoop on the flagship 2VA68 6.8 SPC II Rifle! 

Special Thanks to Tom Younce, Second Amendment Guns, and 2Vets Arms for giving me this great opportunity! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Prediction of the Life Ahead

8:42 AM 12 Comments
Today is my 20th anniversary. No small feat in today's world I figure, and no small feat when I take the time to pause and look back at the twenty years The Hippie and I have been married. We've weathered many a storm, some easily, and some not so easily. We took in and raised a high risk child or two, just to   keep us on our toes, we survived  a host of difficult health issues -his cancer, that necessitated a total rebuild of of lower jaw, mouth and face, his multiple heart attacks including "the big one Ethel" that left him lifeless next to a grain bin, only to be saved by his quick thinking partner that day. On my end all that darned breast business, on - off- on - off - gone- back - a thousand trips back and forth to the city for hospital stays, surgeries and treatments and let's not forget, he's had to come to terms with living  a wife with MS.

But what do we remember the most and talk about the most? Our honeymoon. Our first date was mushroom hunting (obviously he knew exactly how to woo this gal!)

So, since we got married right smack dab in the middle of mushroom season, it only seemed right that we head off to the Shawnee National Forest for a few days to hunt mushrooms, hike, fish, spend our time outdoors.

It was  April - peak mushroom season, peak bluegill and crappie season. What could possibly go awry?


Plenty could go awry and did.

We headed out before daylight the morning after a rather raucous redneck/biker/hippie wedding reception. Half of our wedding present money was tucked securely in the hippies wallet, and we decided to pick up supplies on our way south. I'd been a little tied up with all the wedding foolishness to lay in the proper supplies for 4 days of camping in  the Shawnee. All he'd had to do for the wedding was show up, clean and in the clothes I'd laid out for him.

We stopped in Harrisburg, -gateway to the great Shawnee - and hmm when it came to pay the nice lady at the cash register, the hippie's wallet was no where to be found.. he raced out the parking lot, nope, tossed the car, nope.

Seems when we made the trip through a drive through window earlier he'd laid his wallet in his lap. Seems when he got out of the car at the first stop it fell out. Seems it was GONE. Along with all the wedding money, along with all of his id's , along with his hunting and fishing licenses. GONE.

Alrighty - we can recover from that. I had stashed some of the wedding money in my wallet, so we paid for our supplies and motored on. It was a gorgeous morning when we set up camp. Until I asked where the cooler with  all of our food was.

OH - the big green one? Yes dear, the big green one.

OH - the one sitting on the corner of the back porch? Yes dear, the one sitting on the corner of the back porch.

OH - It's still there.

So off we went to closest town.. gathered up a few basic items and trusted in our fishing and gathering skills to keep us fed over  the next few days.

Things went swimmingly that first day - We gathered up plants and mushrooms, caught plenty of fish and had wonderful wild supper cooked over the camp fire.

Cooked over the fire because;
The Coleman stove dear, where might it be? Oh yeah, on the porch with with the big green cooler.

We were content with the campfire and between us had two lifetimes of managing fine in the woods without  many extras.

"Wind sure is picking up" the hippie noted.. "sure is getting chilly" .  Next thing the sky opened up in typical southern Illinois spring storm, full of wind, rain, hail and fury.

Where the hell is my rain suit? Oh let me guess.... on the porch, with the big green cooler, and the Coleman stove.

At this juncture, I was beginning to see the first order of business in this new marriage was to work out a better set of communication skills. Evidently we had gotten our wires crossed about who was in charge of packing and who wasn't.

Wasn't me.. I was "The Bride" - I'd had my fill of details, planning, and packing with all that wedding nonsense.

Ah well..we laughed.. as we crawled in the tent to ride out the storm.. the rain will l bring on more mushrooms. What the rain and hail brought was a leaky tent.. no real drips or holes, just a fine mist most of the night. A bit like a COLD sauna.

Upon awakening the next morning,  we discovered that front that produced the storm had brought in much colder temperatures. There was frost for heavens sake.. in April!

And our warmer clothes,  yep you guessed it  - on the porch, with the big green cooler, the coleman stove, and the rain gear.

To his credit; despite the fact all the wood was soaked, the hippie is fire starting fool and soon he had a small fire going, enough to make coffee and cook a little oatmeal to warm us up. Until, when he picked up the pot, the handle broke, turned over and dumped the all the coffee on fire.

For the record, that's a very effective way to put out the fire.

You'd think this would have been enough to send us scurrying home. Not us oh no.. the sun was out, the day was going to warm up, and we would manage.

After the rough start, we enjoyed three more days of camping, hiking, fishing, feeding ourselves mostly from what we foraged and caught.

Seems that honeymoon was predictive of how our lives would be. Lot's of forgetting, lots of forgiving, lots of adventures and mishaps. But the sun always comes back out the next morning and life goes on, filled with richness and goodness.

No  big celebrations today - it's time  in our world to be " working dirt"

Here's to you Hippie - A lifetime with your hands in the dirt, making things grow and feeding  all of us.....

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sharing Shroom Stories

8:18 AM 0 Comments
Earlier this week at my Heartland Outdoors blog Through The Lens; I hosted a giveaway for one of the best mushroom guides I've run across;

As part of that giveaway I encouraged readers to share their favorite mushroom stories so that I cold in turn share them with you here. There was no scientific basis for picking the top five mushroom tales from the Heartland community; I simply picked the ones that appealed to me most. 

So, without further ado - please enjoy some shroomy stories from the Heartland community!

From reader ADOWNS99 - A few years back I had my good friend come up to Peoria county to hunt mushrooms in the black dirt. He lives down in Mason county where the sand content is very high, and their season usually is very short. I took him to one of my favorite local public spots, and it didn't take long to start filling our sacks. One patch that day in particular we still talk about tho. We were climbing this huge hillside in the middle of the timber. When we got to the top there was a small indention in the top of the ridge, then down the other side it went. In this indention in the ridge were 3 large (approx 20” diameter) elms that had just died the previous year. what we found under those 3 trees was amazing. the ground cover was about 6-8” tall and all we could see were hundreds of very large grey morels sticking above it. These were by far the biggest greys I've ever found. I don't recall the total haul that day, but it was noteworthy to say the least. I returned to this spot for the following 3 seasons and picked what it gave as it diminished into nothing. The sight we saw when we crested that hill tho wow, I wish I had a nice camera with me that day!

From reader and lucky winner of the book CAMOGIRL  -  Every since I was a little girl, mushroom season has been something to look forward to. My Grandma would load us grand kids up in the station wagon, bags and bug spray in hand and off we would go. Times were different back then, I can’t remember where the actual places we went anymore, and my Grandma has been gone for many years now but those are some of my fondest memories.  I was never too keen on the spiders and the snakes , but once I would come across that first mushroom, that was my focus, and not much else mattered.  My cousins and I would then argue over who found the most, who found the biggest and who was going to get to have the first tasty bite.  We walked for what seemed like hours at the time, and as we headed back to the good ole wagon, we were all exhausted, but could not wait to get home to survey our find.  Before we made it into the kitchen, the official tick check was held on the back porch, that was the least favorite to us all, but we knew to get to those little grey and yellow goodies it had to be done.  Once we were given the all clear, we took our bags, counted and sized them all up to determine the true winner of the outing and then handed them over to Grandma to slice them and soak. This was a tradition every year for us and a tradition I have continued with my kids.  I laugh each time I hear mine bickering over the exact same things we did as kids, who has the most , who found the biggest and so on.  I have friends from Chicago and bigger cities that just don’t quite understand the hype, or why in the world we would want to be out there looking for a FUNGI.  I just smile and say its not just a fungi, and it’s not just about finding them, its about making memories with your family and carrying out a tradition, and those little FUNGI are pretty darn good too !  I hope my kids will be telling their kids these same stories one day.

From reader FISH62 -  My most endearing memory of squirrel hunting actually became my most endearing memory of finding mushrooms. I was about 10 years old, and hunting in Calhoun County with my father, uncle, brother, and cousin. I was with my father that morning, and we were in a bottom between two ridges. All of a sudden, my father said “don’t move”. At first I thought we had a squirrel close enough to shoot. That was not case. He told me to look down. I did, and noticed that the ground was covered with these yellow mushrooms. He told me that we just found the “Mother Load”. That was the first time I was introduced to the wonderful Chanterelle mushroom. Needless to say, the squirrel hunt came to an official end right there. We cut Chanterelle’s over the next hour or so, and having no bags to carry them in, we stuffed our game vests full of some of the best fungi available. We were kings of camp when we returned and showed off our haul. I learned two important lessons that day. The first was to keep an eye on the ground while squirrel hunting, and the second, was one of the best days hunting might be the one where you get skunked on the wild game, but end up with the biggest prize in the woods!

From Reader MOHICAN -  Just finished a lunch of fresh morels with my mom before checking this site,before that we checked the weather forecast to formulate our plan for this week. We found 37 total,tall grey’s,small yellow’s,and some beautiful whites. I had 15, the “eagle eyed mushroom queen” had 22,not bad for 68 yrs. old!The number count doeskin really hold water though cause were always saying “there,see that right behind you? That 's yours I wanna give it to you” or “didn't you just walk through here? here put this in your bag,you missed it” and so on and so forth. I don't have one story that sticks out at this time,I just have lots of fond memories mushroom hunting as a kid with my parents, and now I most enjoy shroomin’ with my 13 yr. old daughter,16 yr. old son,and my 68 yr. old “eagle eye” Mom. My only wish is that my kids take the time to enjoy nature and it’s bounty as they grow into adulthood,as I have,as my Mom and Dad did. Thanks Mom and Dad!

From reader MOSSYOAK  - I mushroom hunt every year when the time comes but I have never come close to matching my best memory back when I was in high school.  It was a cool spring that year and it rained all the time.  I had looked at all of my typical spots and had found the typical amounts.  A few of my friends and I decided to venture along what we will call “the creek”.  I remember walking for a couple hours and we had found nothing.  Finally, looking ahead, the creek banks were lined with maple trees, a good sign.  To my amazement, the banks were loaded with medium sized yellow mushrooms.  It is the only time I can ever remember my back getting sore from picking mushrooms from being bent over for so long.  We each picked around 7 to 8 lbs, and went back 3 to 4 times that year. The best was when we went back, it was raining, it was cold, and we had to cross the creek, which is no small creek, that was raging full of water.  Luckily we found a log jam that allowed us to cross! Lets just say that year the freezer was full of mushrooms to snack on later and my wallet was a little thicker that year!

I hope you've enjoyed hearing others tales of mushroom mania and are headed out this weekend in search of your own fantastic fungi!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Greening Up Fast!

11:15 AM 2 Comments
One of the things that I especially enjoy about being a member of the Outdoor Blogger Network are the occasional and very helpful writing or photography prompts that are shared there. Even the most creative minds need a little assistance now and then. The most recent photo prompt from OBN  is " Spring Has Sprung". 

Be sure to have look at all the great and gorgeous blog posts from fellow OBN  members there. You will definitely feel "springy after perusing them!

Spring has most definitely sprung in my neighborhood, and with a vengeance! We've been experiencing some odd weather patterns,  unseasonably warm and wet patterns have kicked the spring woodland into overdrive.

Each day it seems things have grown, greened up, and progressed at twice the normal speed and twice as early as usual.

Come walk along with me on my trip afield yesterday to the spring woods to do a little gathering and foraging. At these current rapid greening and growing rates, I'm soon going to need a machete in the creek bottoms!

Green, green, green, as far the eye can see....

A nest of baby cotton tails hiding in the thicket 
A box turtle with what appears to be a need for a tissue!
Sweet William - just ready to burst into bloom
The ever so sweetly scented honeysuckle
Record numbers of tiny insects and creepy crawlers fill this year's spring woodlands
Virginia Bluebells
A sampling of the spring woodland foraging bounty

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bless That Broken, Twisted, Road

12:44 AM 7 Comments
Nothing but grace, gratitude, and blue skies these days
There are moments, days, weeks and if you are truly lucky whole chunks of  time when life just rains down blessings, goodness,  and grace.

Times when people enter your life that make a difference and bring you far more than you ever thought was possible. Times when Mother Nature offers up her bounties and beauty in heart stopping wonder. Times when you know that outdoors, the woods, the water , the forests and the fields are exactly where you belong and you are home .

Even in fury there is comfort in nature

There are also moments, days, weeks, and periods when life rains down sadness and hurt, fear and frustration. But like the blessed and bountiful times - returning to the woods and water, the forest and the fields to face the fury filled fates will remind you that outdoors, outside, is home and there will be comfort there.

It seems that I am the lucky one  these days - my life is filled with beauty, bounty, and the best things keep happening. I feel like I am home. Finally.

Growing, ever learning, evolving into "The Wild Woman" over this last half century has been a long journey down  many a broken and twisted road, but it's been journey worth every step and has finally led me to where I fit in, where I feel right, where I belong.

I never used to think about being a "woman in the outdoors", an outdoor sister. It was just what I did. I learned from role models such as my strong , brilliant, tough as a bison hide, mother; and my gravelly voiced, cancer surviving, rattlesnake hunting friend  Velma; - "The Old Lady in the Woods" ; the plants, the mushrooms, the skills needed to fashion a life from the outdoors. I learned to fish, hunt, snare and skin. My uncles and their friends taught me tricks and guided me along my journey to be self sufficient. All we needed could be found there - food, medicine, shelter, healing of hearts and heads. It was the way people lived in our neighborhood. It wasn't trendy, it wasn't a need to connect more closely with our food , or go green - it was simply how we lived.  Some may have erroneously thought it was how we subsisted. But it was far more than subsistence, it was satisfaction with being self sufficient.

Harvesting early fall oyster mushrooms to put up for winter

I learned that Mother Nature could feed, clothe, and heal me. It brought me comfort in times of sorrow, it enhanced my joy and happiness during the good periods. It was my home.

But sadly, it was often a lonely journey becoming the a wild woman. The true outdoors women, women hunters, anglers, trappers,  were few and far between. There wasn't the ever growing outdoor sisterhood  30 years ago that there is today. It was still very much an old boys club, a male dominated world where a woman who could out shoot, out  hunt and out fish them was too often a rarity and not always tolerated or accepted well.

While I was blessed with  some very fine male companions afield; I longed for female companionship while slinging turtle lines, gathering plants, and skinning squirrels. I longed for equipment that would work with my smaller hands and frame, for good hunting clothes  that fit, I wanted what the men had, what made their days afield easier and better. I wanted  a level playing field dammit.

Then somehow miraculously a few short years ago I met a woman called Barbara Baird,  Publisher of Women's Outdoor News  and instantly something clicked. I'd been spending so much time out there.. away from the real world in the woods that I had completely missed the revolution. There were women invading the outdoors in thundering herds! There was this thing called the Outdoor Sisterhood, there were women like me!

A fun afternoon chasing carp with the Bad Ass Slingbow with fellow Prois Staffers Barb Baird and Stacey Huston

When  Barb  opened that door, invited me in to the sisterhood,  the broken twisted road to being a wild  woman suddenly become a smooth sailing straight county blacktop.  Through that door came wonderful, smart, funny, skilled, strong, women that build each other up, teach each other well, and spend countless hours afield together,  - to quote my favorite Prois Hunting and Field Apparel saying "Taking Pride in Not Being One of The Guys."

Just a small sample of my "Prois Gear Pile"

It was Barb that also introduced me to Prois, to the finest  outdoor and field clothing made for women in the industry. I was in heaven. Finally I had clothing that worked, was tough and durable, made my days afield easier, better, more productive. But most importantly, Prois is not just about gear;   Prois is not just a faceless corporation spitting out glossy ads with pretty models. It's about the Outdoor Sisterhood, it's a community, it's a family. It's a company that supports women in the outdoors, and all that  goes along with being a confident, strong and successful outdoors woman.

The more women from the "Prois Posse" that I met, the more I felt that I had found my home. My circle. My tribe.

This new tribe - they understood how fun catching crawdads is!

Just a few short days ago I learned I had been selected as part of the fabulous Field Staff for Prois. I cried. I must be honest - I'm still a little confused, because in my eyes, I'm just some batty old lady roaming around the wilderness with a goofy dog in tow, nothing like the other extremely accomplished, classy, talented women who's fill the ranks of Prois' Pro, Field , and Event staff. But make no mistake, I am honored and humbled, and grateful.

And of course Willie is excited - he thinks he's famous now!

As heartfelt welcomes to the staff and messages of congratulations poured in, I realized just what a force  the women of Prois truly are, and what a  caring, compassionate, and cohesive sisterhood they have formed.

Of all the messages, notes, and texts, it was the one from Barb that made the most sense.

She simply said, "Welcome Home".

Please have a little listen to this song ( The Wildest Heart by The Elms)  - for me, it's about all the Prois women, all the outdoor sisters, all  the girls  afield in camo, boots, and waders, toting shotguns, bows, and running dogs. All the wonderful women who have fallen into my life the last few years - they truly have "The Wildest Hearts" .

I sleep well these recent nights, feeling I am home and knowing that those little girls out there now- wide eyed with wonder will not struggle alone  finding their way, that the Outdoor Sisterhood is thriving, mentoring, and giving them the level playing field I longed for so long ago.

Madison King , young Retrievers Unlimited  Handler/Owner;   part  of our  Outdoor Sisterhood future

Prois -  "Proof positive that it's no longer a man's world!"  -  Kelly Heard, Prois Field Staff