Winter and The Media


 Winter And The Media     (2/19/2014)



It’s been a long, long winter. I’ve moved all the furniture, cleaned everything twice and run thru every show on Netflix. It’s been the same kind of winter I remember as a kid, I just don’t feel like building snowmen and sledding down the slopes anymore. The snowfall has been about what I expect as are  the cold the wind and the ice. But to listen to the media, it’s been the one we won’t forget. The winter of ’14. The talking weatherpixie for our local affiliate likes to remind us of the calamity traveling across the Rockies towards us. We’re three days from the apocalypse. The artic blast  is rocketing down from Canada  and about to smother our pilot light at any moment. All weather news all day sets up a remote at the local Piggly Wiggly, grabbing the poor unfortunate slobs as they exit the store with the most important questions they’ll ever ask someone- “Do you have enough food on hand to outlast the storm?”  Schools and churches are being warned to prepare for the homeless and the unfortunate. The lost souls who will be turned away once the hospitals overflow. The StormTeam parks their tv truck along the freeway overpass and puts the 20 something reporterette in a snowsuit with a microphone, daubing her makeup in 20 degree temperatures between the sports and lottery segments. After 3 hours and about a dozen 90 second updates, there is barely a visible flake falling from the sky, and the poor girl is left to pump up the drama with the presumption that impending doom may or may not have missed us, but irregardless, stay tuned. By now, she is unable to pronounce the letter b or p. Her male counterpart has been roaming the streets looking for salt truck drivers, police and emergency management personell who will help build the anticipation of impending and never before seen disaster that awaits. He’ll arrive at some local bank parking lot that hasn’t been plowed of the 1 1/2″ of snow or yet salted, announces his remote as “ground zero” and continues to give alternating reports with the girl on the overpass, all the while managing to slip on the ice while on camera and bruise his tailbone. It’s the Revelation, the four horseman, the end of the world as we know it. Nature’s fury has come down upon us and we are powerless to fight back. Hopefully you are prepared. Hopefully, before the chaos and civil unrest that will undoubtedly erupt, you have been to the store for bread and milk. But, whatever you do, do not remove your hands from the sides of your tv set. Do not leave your living room. We will return right after these important messages from our sponsor.


Cabin Fever   Girl Staring Out of a Window


Cabin fever , first recorded in 1918,for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. 

I’m outside, warming up the 4 wheeler. It’s about 6 a.m., maybe 5 degrees above zero and dark. Everything is still, no movement other than my breath as it hovers in front of my face. Sounds ok I suppose, but it’s been 8 weeks straight of the same cold, wind, run to the truck, run back to the house, run to the mailbox, back to the house. Every few days, after a little more snow has fallen, I clear the drive and the walk down to the 2” sheet of ice that has been there since early December. Rock salt at these temperatures is worthless. I let the dogs out of the garage, and they gallop merrily down a trail to the pile of wood I split and carry back to the house for our stove. They don’t know any better, and I doubt they care; they just get to run, and sniff and do the morning rituals that dogs do. I don’t drive to an office or a timeclock somewhere, and for that I am thankful. I make my living from my home and the land around it. But I don’t think it matters what you do with your time by the middle of February; the sun is still low, the days are short, and the amount of time you spend inside of a house, a car, an office just seems to compact the world into the size of a closet. By now I’m counting the days until March. Surely by March we’ll be in the 50’s right? Daylight savings times must be about to end, I’m sure of it. I just need to hang on until March.

My mother told me once that cabin fever is about the same thing as living with my father after he retired. The kids were gone, yet the house had become smaller, inhabited by an all knowing, all seeing, omniscient presence known as Bill, who had nothing to do but stand next to, or behind my mother, and lend his years of wisdom to everything she did or needed to do. She took a part time job and saved the marriage, but I digress.

Now I don’t live in Alaska, or North Dakota or someplace where they have to drill a hole to fish in May. I’m in the lower 48, and I’ll admit, even in the depths of winter, I do watch the tv shows about Alaska. It is the hot state these days; there are so many variations to tune in-the wilderness shows, the reality shows, police, logging, gold, redneck programs. The upside is the absolute undiluted magnificents of a place like Alaska; the downside, which is usually never explained, and should be, is that the summer seasons are maybe three months, and you spend every waking minute of it preparing for the 9 months of winter. I can use a little optimism that spring is coming soon to pass the time, but even being positive can get old.

So now I’m back in the garage, unloading a cart full of wood, the dogs trailing behind me sounding as if they are in heels. They both lay down in short order and gnaw at the snow frozen around their paws, waiting for breakfast and some melted water in their dish. Life for them is about the now. I doubt they get too hung up in the notion of what is around the corner. Life is still good, God is great. I do need a little more than tea and sympathy to get by now and then. I’m thinking right about now, the sight of a few crocuses or tulips would do the trick.



Five Quick and Easy Ways to Start Your Campfire       campfire
Add a few of these items in your backpack or starter kit and you’ll never have to worry about crouching over a cold, smoldering pile of sticks again.

1. Lint.                                                                                                                                                       Start packing your dryer lint into a tupperware or shoebox. This stuff is a quick starter guranteed to light up dry kindling in a pinch. It’s free and, as long as you own a dryer, plentiful. Push this stuff inside of a cardboard toilet paper or gift wrap tube and you are good to go.

2. Cotton Balls & Vaseline.                                                                                                                      There are two simple methods to make this a 100% success. You can either melt the petroleum jelly in a pan over low heat, then soaking up the cotton with the liquid, and storing inside sandwich baggies, or simply daub the cotton into the greasy stuff and you are done. The cotton will burn for several minutes, long enough to light up your firewood.

3. Steel Wool.                                                                                                                                             Might be a little suprising, but this stuff is really good for firestarter, and it will ignite without even using a match. If you have two 9 volt batteries, simply place each battery on opposite sides of the wool and make contact. Voila.

4. Potato Chips.                                                                                                                                         Yes, the Fritos spread all over the picnic table from yesterdays cookout will do the trick. Actually, most any chip will do. Doritoes, Lays, Pringlesetc. Eat a couple to confirm they aren’t worth keeping and toss the rest onto your burn site and add some kindling.

5. Tape.                                                                                                                                                          Good old fashioned grey sticky duct tape. The same stuff you used to keep your wiper blade and side marker light attached to your truck. Roll it or wad it with a couple dabs of hand sanitizer to prime it. Avoid the non alcoholic sanitizer, that stuff won’t do a thing.


Eggs and Coffee and Big Fat Tomatoes



Early in our marriage, my wife and I started gardening. We lived in town on a small lot but it gave us an excuse to get outside. During each spring we made the pilgrimage to the local hardware store or greenhouse to pick up seeds, starter plants, fertilizer and soil. Now, eons later in our lives, we live on land with room to grow about whatever we want. My wife still makes out the list of items to pick up but as the years have passed, the list has shrunk. The more time I spent driving into town and  loading dozens of 40 lbs bags of powdery dirt into my truck, the more I realized there are better ways to prep a garden. People, even 50 years ago, didn’t spend three times the cost of the produce in peripherals before they even put a seed in the ground. My wife believed if it came from the greenhouse then it must be good dirt. Yes, that is likely true. It is also true that the black mulchy dirt just inside our timber line is just as good, and without a doubt 100% organic. She had her epiphany and ran with it, but I digress. While you sit in your house staring out the the window into winter pergatory and marking the days with a knife on the table, there are things you can do to prep for the growing season without even putting on a coat. 

Eggs shells and coffee grounds are in most every cupboard and icebox in America as well as every kitchen trash can. But it has become fairly common knowledge among those with the alleged green thumbs, that coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and a fantastic supplement to garden soil. They hold a ph somewhere around 6.5. Whether you add it to a compost pile or use it as a separate application to the topsoil, it is a very beneficial and organic, and didn’t I mention it was free? When adding to our compost collection, we simply try to mix it in with the dead grass, vegetation, leaves and whatever else you rake up. You can actually throw most paper coffee filters in there as well for good measure, but keep the pot in your hand. Flip that mess over a couple times each month to keep it cooking properly. 

Eggs as well, can provide a cheap and healthy boost to your flowers and produce and has nature’s seal of approval. Eggs contain a great resource of calcium and can be used in a variety of ways. They do not break down quickly; a shell simply broken in your hand can remain in that condition for several years. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will become one with the soil. 20150131_072024The method we use is to just place them in a clear plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Doesn’t take very long and justifies why you keep that thing in the drawer and never use it. I’ve read online articles where folks will grind eggshells up in a blender, food processor, etc. It works, but I would advise that if you go that way, buy a second hand blender at a flea market. My experience is that the really small bits of the shell can be difficult to clean out of a blender, and I prefer not to find them later in my smoothie. There is no perfect science to the application. Some gardeners will sprinkle the bits of shell over the topsoil; others may blend it into the dirt. It continues to fertilize your garden long after you apply it. You can think of the eggshell bits as a sort of time release bouillon cube. 

Egg shells have also been used successfully as plant start containers. A half shell with a little soil, placed into the original egg carton is free, natural and disposable. Set them on a window sill or table next to the glass just as you would with store bought containers. When it is time to transplant, just move the shell holding the plant directly into the ground. Egg shells do not spoil or “go bad”. They won’t start to stink up the house, but you might want to wash them beforehand if you have any concern over bacteria from the contents.

“Egg juice” and “egg milk” are a few names we call the potion we created for spraying plants. We take crushed shells and put them inside a milk jug and fill it with water. After letting them sit for a couple of days we end up with a nice milky mixture of calcium and water that we will transfer into a watering can. We do a lot of container and raised bed type gardening and usually mixing about a cup of the solution to a gallon of water per treatment is about all we need to use for a small area of plants. The shells by the way, are reusable. 

While there are plenty of tips and tricks on line regarding how to keep insects and pests off of your plants, and we use several, one method we have found to be very successful is simply laying out broken egg shell pieces around plants such as tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, broccoli.  Snails, slugs and other assorted vile beasts bent on dining locally and after hours at your place find the sharp edges of the shell to be cutting and dangerous to their health. A snail may think it is rude, but it works and it is easy.

garden 3

In my mind I am a master gardener bar none. In reality, I’m a hobbyist slash amateur who is cheap as hell and always on the lookout for ways to save money and repurpose my trash. Our gardens don’t tower over the land like a cluster of giant green redwoods and I don’t expect I’ll be posting 200 lb Beef Steak tomatoes anytime soon. I have noticed though, that we used to have small, average looking vegetables that were slightly inferior to what you could find at walmart, using the best chemical enhancing sprays, granules, powders and solutions I could buy. Using organic methods, and tips such as these, have really paid off and now I’m only washing bug poop and dust from my beets and lettuce instead of agent pink or some third eye producing chemical from the sci fi channel. Here’s hoping you have a bountiful harvest.



US Stove 2000 Woodburner

“Go to sleep in your fireplace and you will sleep like a log.” Ellen DeGeneres


After running thru a 500 gallon tank of propane in about 45 days, I decided several years ago that I ought to be taking better advantage of the oak trees on my property. I clean up their droppings, stand beneath them and keep them company from time to time; they can return the favor. Year one I drug an old rusty Franklin wood stove out from under a pile of debris in the chicken coop. I had picked it up years earlier while cleaning out a house I had bought to remodel and rent out. Long, and heavy, I figured it would pay for itself in a shop or barn at some future point and help keep my wallet in my back pocket where it belonged. So after some course mutterings, I get the old iron widow maker into the house and over to the corner in our family room where I had already built the platform, fire and heat resistant walls,  piping etc. It looked pretty good hooked up and sitting on the pedestal, sort of like my old black lab. Well, maybe more like a gargoyle. Anyway, that moment was the high point for that old iron maiden. For the next two weeks it was a smoky, leaky, creaky, drafty, cranky and very inefficient (and somewhat unsafe) example of how not to heat your house. In order to prevent any further threats and ultimatums from my wife, that antique woodburning treasure took a short ride down to the auction house and is now someone else’s blessing.

That brings me to the United States Stove Company. I saw one of their products in the local farm store, did my due diligence online and decided their model 2000 would suit me just fine. Our house is a ranch style with 1500′ on the main level and another 1400′ of livable space in the finished, walkout basement. It is a rather long house with a stairway open on one side and located in the center of the house. The stove is heavy at 275 lbs but not as awkward as old smokey that it replaced. I unpacked it from the box, hooked up the blower and the flu (about 10 minutes) and  I was good to go. The 2000 model will put out almost 90000 btus with a 100 cfm blower to help push the heat around the house. US Stove considers this plate steel unit to be their mid sized model. The specs say it will accept up to a 21′ log; I’m pretty sure I’ve found a way to get something longer than that in the firebox a time or two. This is the third winter that I’ve used the US Stove 2000. Yes, the picture posted above shows ash and dust on the unit. It isn’t a showroom dealer photo; it is of my woodburner as it is being used.  I figured now was a better time to write a review since 3 years after the fact, I can say with certainty what I like and don’t like about this stove. First off, if you let it, it will run you out of your house. Screaming.  On a typical 35 degree day, with a slight breeze, we can keep the house at 70 on the main level. Downstairs may be 7-8 degrees warmer. In zero/sub zero temps, 65-67 is about the norm upstairs. Mind you, that is from a stove located in the corner of one end of the house in the lower level. Personally, there is something to being able to walk around your house in January in your underwear and a t shirt. I’m home several days during the week working out of my office, and my wife is home as well. As a result, I haven’t flipped the furnace on in 3 years. Of course what works for us probably isn’t ideal for the family in Minnesota that works 9-5 and is gone all the time. The stove drafts well, and the burn times can easily be controlled by the flu. The fan speed is adjustable and controlled by a knob. We usually have a cast iron kettle on top of the stove and filled with water to help with the dry winter air. Oak is the main dish on the menu, although hickory and walnut are served up on occasion. The air washed glass in front is clear and is cleaned occasionally and very easily using fine steel wool. I typically will put the last log in sometime around 9, close the flu and head to bed. I’m up by 5 and can most times simply reignite the coals in short order. What doesn’t work about the stove, for me, are mostly minor issues and likely just preference. There is an ash tray below the fire box for cleaning out the stove. I have found it to be cumbersome and tedious. It is much quicker for me to simply use a small metal scoop to empty the ash directly from the stove into a pail. The location of the blower fan is at the back and lower half of the stove. If you are intending to use the stove as a fireplace insert, you will find it very difficult to access. Likewise, while I have the specified distance between the stove and the wall, it is awkward to reach around the back of the unit and adjust the blower speed while so close to a very hot stove. I have an oven glove that I use on one hand to support myself against the stove while I reach in back.

I’m not a professional product reviewer. I am a consumer who knows what they like, or not, and why. There may be better stoves out there for similar money. I paid $599. The stove paid for it self in 60 days. The remaining winter I saved enough to pay for the cost of the install, the mantel, etc. I happy with US Stove and would buy another if I need one. But I don’t.

T Pharris

The White Hammer

Walk back from shop

“For many years I was a self-appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms and did my duty faithfully, though I never received payment for it.” Henry David Thoreau

Thankfully the snowstorm that massed over the northeastern coast isn’t as bad as the media played it up to be. What was predicted to be 3′ or more of snowfall over a 12 hour period, has for the most part, been much less. The 80 mph winds never came to be. As of this morning, primary roads are clear enough for travel and mass transit in the city of New York has resumed. I suppose there is a benefit to the sensationalized reporting in that when people expect the worst, they tend to prepare for the worst.  I recall an Uncle that told me as a kid that if you do, you will always be disappointed. There is great fear in the unknown and storms are no exception. Myself, since sometime around y2k I have found myself to be somewhat cynical about the world around me. The media seemingly becomes a field of whackamoles, popping up in perpetual news cycles, trying to wring the last drops of juice from the turnip of a news story, adding a little water if needed to make more, until the next scoop comes along. Egg heads on one channel debating whether the next decade will be submerged in global warming, global cooling or climate repurposing while on the next channel they consider that aliens may have had something to do with the missing Malaysian airliner. Last night I sat in a dark living room and listened to minute by minute reports of the coming “Snowpocalypse”; a different news reporter every segment saying basically the same thing in a different octave. “The approaching white hammer” “The jackpot of snow” made me smile as I pictured some producer huddled with a writer scraping the barrels of newspeak between commercials for Liptor and Allstate. Thank God that the storm was only what it was. Thank God people were spared what was predicted. I hope the television media will survive. I’m sorry if the weatherman looked a little foolish. I know I’ll still try and tune in as much as I can. I’d just like to save a little of the drama for Hollywood.

Smoky Mountains

 The stellar beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is no secret. This 521,000-acre park straddling North Carolina and Tennessee attracts 9 to 10 million visitors a year—more than the Grand Canyon and Yosemite combined. It’s the largest chunk of wilderness in the Southern Appalachians and one of the most biologically diverse forests in the country. The best news? Most visitors cluster at the same few spots. Cades Cove Loop Road alone sees 1.5 million a year—and that doesn’t include the campgrounds. Do just a little exploring and you’ll leave the throngs behind. This drive hits some of the best-kept secrets in the Smokies, from hidden picnic spots to fireside dining.

In & Around the Smoky Mountains   smoky-mountain-wildlife

1. Best Fall Fun

The Watershed Cabins resort (from $99), outside Bryson City, has on-site bocce, hiking trails, a waterfall, and a fire pit.

2. Best Picnic Spot

At 5,310 feet in elevation with giant stone tables, Heintooga Picnic Area off Balsam Mountain Road near Cherokee makes a beautiful, out-of-the-way rest stop.

3. Best Local Color

Witness the “rut,” when male elk bugle and spar for a partner, with master naturalist Esther Blakely (four-hour tour; $40). or 828/450-7985

4. Best Souvenir

Trout caviar ($22/oz.) from local, stream-fed Sunburst Trout Co. farm, sold at the new Sunburst Market on Montgomery. 828/452-3848

5. Best Campfire

Cataloochee Ranch (from $205) has down-home dinners and entertainment—think steaks and pickin’ around a campfire.

6. Best Cheap Bite

Pick up a box lunch ($5) at Hillbilly Grocery in Maggie Valley before driving Newfound Gap Road through the heart of the park.

7. Best Photo Op DSC00625

Find the 30-foot Spruce Flats Falls at the end of a 1-mile hike behind the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. This secret waterfall is not on most park maps.

8. Best Reader Deal

Dancing Bear Lodge & Restaurant is offering SL readers 25% off room rates December 2012 through March 2013. (Use code SLDEAL) or 865/448-6000

9. Best Fancy Grub

Sweet tea-brined pork tenderloin ($24) with a cornbread-and-tomato salad topped with pickled ramps and goat cheese ($6) at Dancing Bear Restaurant.

10. Best Detour

Drive the Foothills Parkway for 11 miles south of Townsend for an unobstructed view of the Smokies from the Look Rock observation tower.20140722_091432

From the October 2012 Magazine Issue|Article: Graham Averill Print Email

via Smoky Mountains Top 10 Stops – Southern Living.



Hiking and Backpacking in Yellowstone

Hiking in Yellowstoneyellowstone-National-Park-Travel-Destination-USA11


Yellowstone National Park, encompassing 2.2 million acres, is one of America’s premier wilderness areas. Most of the park is backcountry and managed as wilderness. Over 1,100 miles (1770 km) of trails are available for hiking. However, there are dangers inherent in wilderness: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, remote thermal areas, cold water lakes, turbulent streams, and rugged mountains with loose, “rotten” rock. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. If you choose to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone, there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation. Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations.

Spring Hiking in Yellowstone is a great way to both see and enjoy the park. This time period allows the unique opportunity for non-motorized use of certain park roads. Hiking, bicycling, jogging, roller blades, roller skis, and similar means of non-motorized travel are permitted between the West Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs ONLY from about mid March through the third Thursday in April. The opening day in March is weather dependant. The East and South Entrances and roads are Not Open for these early spring activities. The road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful will Not Open for spring activities during this time.  Please Note, there will be some administrative vehicles traveling the roads at this time. You may verify what specific roads are open to such activities by calling:  307-344-2109.

There are numerous trails suitable for day hiking. Begin your hike by stopping at a ranger station or visitor center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or snow storms, high water, and fires may temporarily close trails. At a minimum, carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for day hiking.

Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil or use a water filter to reduce the chance of infection.

Yellowstone’s weather is unpredictable. A sunny warm day may become fiercely stormy with wind, rain, sleet, and sometimes snow. Lightning storms are common; get off water or beaches and stay away from ridges, exposed places, and isolated trees.

via Hiking in Yellowstone | Hiking and Backpacking in Yellowstone.

Road Trips


 Turkey Run State Park

8121 Park Rd, Marshall, In  Phone 765-597-2635       

turkey run (3)

  Positives-                                                                                                 Beautiful area                                                                                         Secluded Camp Sites                                                                             Lots of hiking trails                                                                                 Updated lodge with swimming pool  and a restaurant     

turkey run (2)

  Negatives-     Busy on weekends       


  My family and I have camped in Turkey Run numerous times over the years. Our boys, the typical preteen lot, would invariably whine and complain during the week before we would leaving for the park. Didn’t want to miss out on tv, their friends, the PS3, etc. “Why do we have to go? It’ll be so boring”.  The reality quickly sinks in once you arrive, that if you set up on a Friday afternoon with plans to stay thru Sunday, you really have to pack your schedule tight in order to experience everything. Put the most introverted kid on one of the many hiking trails, passing over suspension bridges, waterfalls, streams and climbable rock formations, and their natural desire to explore opens right up.  Canoing is available just up the road from the park, and offers folks a great view from the middle of Sugar Creek. There is also an onsite nature center. It isn’t that big really, but the exhibits are quite interesting, and my kids spent a long time browsing and learning some really neat stuff.  If your not into RVs or tents, there are cabins available, or you can stay at the Turkey Run Inn. They have a restaurant, olympic sized swimming pool, game room and a gift shop. RV sites are equipped with electrical hookups; water faucets are scattered thruout the park and there is usually one nearby. Dumpstations are near the exit. Checkout time for the campground is about 5 p.m. so you’ll have plenty of time on your last day to pack and go. 

turkey run

I have always found the park to be clean and well maintained. That said, don’t plan on a weekend getaway there without reservations. I have found that unless I planned ahead at least 60 days in advance, my chances of getting a decent spot were slim to none. And by “decent spot”, I mean anything not alongside the dumpstation. Go during the week and you’ll have a much easier time of it. There is always plenty of wildlife in and around the park, just don’t feed them. The Rangers will also from time to time host activities for the kids. For the price of dinner out and a movie, which will be forgotten soon after, you can enjoy a weekend getaway with your family with memories you’ll always have. Now get to it! 

TMP  January 2014

Huntington Beach State Park

16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina 29576

(843) 237-4440 overview-huntington

Thanks to my dawdling, we almost didn’t make the trip last summer. I like to plan vacations over the winter, work out the best routes, the best layovers, and the best dates for our destination. Little did I realize that if you want a decent spot along the ocean near Myrtle Beach during the tourist swarm, you had better book a spot early. By the end of January I thought I had everything in order and began my reservations. That came to a screeching halt in about 5 clicks of the mouse. Very few camping sites were available.  I had wanted to stay specifically at Huntington Beach. It is a state park, south of the inner city chaos yet close enough to make it to the sites in short order. Fortunately, instead of settling for a last chance, back 40 spot, I hit the website every morning holding out for a cancellation. Sure enough, after about two weeks I had what I wanted. A site just off the beach, water and electric and a couple trees to lay some shade to the camper. We are from the midwest, so I am familiar with the humidity of summer. Arriving in late July, I expected it to be hot and hazy. Yes……it was.

If you aren’t familiar, South Carolina is considered a sub tropical climate, meaning the air is thick, hot and heavy. Think walking on the moon while on fire. Even the rain was hot. Actually I prefer stifling heat over the midwest winters. I have a cousin in Minnesota who invites me to ice fish with him on their lake. Drag a shack across the ice the size of a porta potty, drill thru 28′ of ice, drop your line and sit on a stool with a frozen beer for 6 hours. I’m still trying to understand that one…

We arrived on a Monday afternoon. The office that we checked in also contains a small store/gift shop. There is a large parking lot for the public access beach. Now this is where I get to the bonus feature of the campground. There is a large section of beach, partitioned off for campground guests only, meaning that regardless if the campground was completely booked, on any given day for the week that we stayed, there never were more than a couple dozen people on the beach. No elbow to elbow dog underfoot hairy guy with the sun block type scenario. Plenty of room to roam. The same can be said for the sites themselves. The neighboring sites on either side were a good 40′ away. This isn’t a park that jams campers on top of each other to maximize the almighty dollar. Nor were the sites laid out in a cookie cutter fashion. Sites inside the loop generally had little shade an were open; sites on the outside of the loops usually had some trees and shrubbery, while another loop was designed so that you backed your camper into a dense canopy of hedge that completely enveloped your site.

Bike trails are plenty, and there is a causeway with tours and lookout posts for sighting the local gators. The latter isn’t hard; they seemed intent on observing the tourists as much as we were watching them. For different purposes I am sure.

There is a main gate with a guardpost that closes and locks at 10 p.m. If you choose to hit the nightspots just make sure you have the password to open it up when you return. Walmart, seafood, bars, entertainment, are all within 20 minutes, but we ventured out only twice during the entire week. The only negative we experienced were the ants. Bring some boric acid and sprinkle it around the perimeter of your RV. Make sure you treat the ends of your clothesline and anything else that comes in contact with your camper. Ants are smart buggers and not easy to dissuade, and it was difficult to convince my wife that was pepper in the flour box.

Campsite prices are reasonable, up to $40 per night, wi fi is available if needed, and even without cable, we picked up a dozen local stations on the television.          01/2014     TMP 



Critters & Such

“The Four Feet”

I have done mostly what most men do

And I have pushed it out of my mind

But I can’t forget, if I wanted to

Four feet trotting behind

Day after day, the whole day through

Wherever my road inclined

Four Feet said “I am coming with you”

And trotted along behind

Now I must go by some other round

Which I shall never find

Somewhere that does not carry the sound

Of four feet trotting behind




  “What A Nice Dog”  20131217_071428

                                                                                 I’m a dog lover. That said and out of the way, I do not love all dogs.  Not the ankle biters, not the droolers, not the natural born killers.  I guess I’ll rephrase that first sentence with I love my dogs.  One is a Collie; a lean, thick coated sable/orange and white specimen with eyes that will reach into your very soul.  Now that I think of it, I suppose Dracula had the same power.  He goes by the name of “Gunner” and he is about 2 years old.  He’ll also come to you by the name of “Hey”, “Come’re”, “Doofus”, a whistle, a click of the tongue, etc.  In short, he doesn’t know who he is.  He is a great dog, good with kids, loves everyone and loyal.

My wife has a Sheltie.  She goes by the name of Snickers (the dog of course). I can honestly say that this dog is the smartest animal that has ever lived with me.  Responds to every command on cue.  Very loving and beautiful dog.  It is quite clear, however,  that she  rules the roost outside.  She is the alpha dog here and everyone knows it.  So one dog is 75 lbs, almost 2′ taller with a  baratone woof and a gallop that sounds like an stampeding horse, while the Sheltie is known to average 15 lbs with short, stubby legs and a piercing high pitched bark.  Doesn’t seem like there is a lot of similarity between the two; kind of like a Mutt and Jeff type of partnership if you ask me.

So in the beginning, it was a little suprising to me, when we would take our dogs on camping trips, vacations, etc, of the response we would receive when someone would see our dogs.  It was sort of a ritual at campgrounds to go for a morning and evening stroll with Gunner and Snickers, to get their exercise, let them sniff/read, and do their business (and yes, we carried those little poop bags around with us to clean up).  On those mornings that Snickers was at the head of the leash was usually when we received the most attention. Invariably, I’d run across some other poor soul who, like me, wasn’t smart enough to stay in bed, and after the obligatory smile and greeting,  I’d hear “What a cute little Collie you have”.

Folks, a Sheltie isn’t a Collie. They aren’t related. Never was and never will be.  One barks, one chirps. One sprints, the other shuffles.  One you pick up and carry, the other you restrain. Countless times I’ve heard the uninformed call Snickers “Lassie”.  Really?  I’m an old man now, but even thru my dementia I don’t recall a possum sized canine jumping on Timmy’s neighbor and dragging him from the burning barn.  Ok, they may have Scottish descent and they may or may not have sable coats, and that is about where it ends.  I’m Korean but no, I’ve never been to Hong Kong.  Am I being a little sensitive?  Maybe too thin skinned or over reactionary?  Of course I am.  It’s a “me problem” that won’t take the place of my paying the bills or saving the world.  Before I can make my point before congress, I still have to figure out how to keep my wife from tripping over my shoes everytime she comes thru the door. But I won’t call your Labrador an Irish Setter or your Stafordshire Terrier a Pitbull.  Like you, I may not know the difference or I may not even care.  If it’s all the same,  I think I’ll just smile as I pass and say ” What a nice dog”.

        GT 2014

My  wife and I owned two dogs that we had owned before we met and brought  into the marriage.  Her dog was a pit bull/labrador cross named Zack,  and he hated me.  When our daughter was born, I said to the wife,”If he  so much as nips at the baby, he’s gone.”

We brought our  daughter home in a car seat, and both dogs sniffed and licked her, tails  wagging.  I had to pull Zack away from her because he wouldn’t stop  licking her.  Zack immediately became my daughter’s protector, and when  she was lying on a blanket on the floor, he always had to have one foot  on the blanket.

Zack loved my daughter immensely, and when she  became a little older always walked her to bed, and then slept on the  bed with her. He somehow knew whenever it was time to go upstairs, and  he would wait at the foot of the stairs for her, and then follow her up  to bed.

Zack was poisoned by some dirtbag neighbor kids, and we  had one of the worst days of our lives.  Watching my daughter say  goodbye to him as he laid still on the kitchen floor, my wife and I were  both sobbing.

At 8:00 that night, my daughter walked to the  stairs to go to bed.  At that moment, all three of us realized what was  about to happen.  After 5 years, she didn’t have Zack to accompany her  upstairs.  She looked at her mother and me with a look of horror and  panic.

It was at that moment that my dog, who loved my daughter  dearly, but was not in Zack’s league, stood up, walked over to her, and  nudged her with his head.  He put his foot on the stairs, and looked up  at her.  They walked up to bed, with my daughter holding tightly to his  neck.

For the next 6 years, until he died, Sam waited for her by the stairs each night.

Greg Heynen

Why Do Coyotes Howl?    Coyote

Coyotes have a very social life with each other, each howl means something. The long drawn out howl is an interrogation howl, asking is there any other members of my pack around and where are you. There are many other howls I don’t have the space to explain them all. The lonesome howl, the female invitation howl, pup yips and howls, challenge howls, and many more. These are some of the ones you will here. Coyotes are very territorial most of the year and do not tolerate other coyotes in their territory, this is why sometimes when you howl to call to them they answer back with a quicker more excited howl this is the challenge howl, you can sometimes give it right back to them and they get real excited, it’s kinda like two people talking crap in an argument or before a fight, sometimes the coyote will come to whip butt. They yip in packs sometimes at night when they have killed something or found something to eat. They howl for many reasons. 

Sara Corbus









Husky 22T Log Splitter

I live out in the sticks. Actually on some property with some very large sticks. We live on  land populated with hundreds of mature oak and hickory trees. Beautiful, magnificent 60+’ specimens scattered around our house providing shade and windbreaks. It wasn’t long after moving in that I began to notice, however, that quite a few of them were dying, or dead. Long past their prime, they still stood tall and mighty, and while I may have been grateful for their efforts, the falling limbs and rotting trunks betrayed their condition. With each passing ice storm, gust of strong winds, and sighting of carpenter ants, it became obvious that the dead ones around our house would have to go.

log splitter (2)

Downing trees isn’t a problem for me. Been there and done that. We heat our house with a woodstove, so it’s a renewable source of free heat . I just had to get the wood split and stacked. Did my homework and narrowed down a few logsplitters in my price range. I settled on the Husky 22Ton model from Tractor Supply. Picked it up for about a grand, completely assembled and ready to go. Mine has the Briggs 675 190cc motor. Some may believe that a Honda engine is the only way to go; I don’t dispute Honda’s reputation. I have Honda motors in my riding mower, my home backup generator and my trash pump. Can’t say a thing against them. Briggs is a meat and potatoes type unit. For me, take care of them and they’ll do just as they are advertised.

So, towed the splitter home, parked it in the back near a stack of logs and starting browsing thru the english version of the owner’s manual. Pretty straightforward stuff, when to change the oil, etc. Made sure the fluids were good, filled the tank with gas, flipped the choke on and voila, it started on the 2nd pull. If you are at all familar with logsplitters, you won’t have any trouble getting the Huskee up and running right away. The splitter uses a two stage pump to bust thru the bad boys. I haven’t used a stop watch, but it seems like somewhere between 12-15 seconds to cycle back for the next log. The unit will also swing down and lock vertically so you can split the large diameter stuff that is too heavy to lift. The Huskee weighs in somewhere around 500lbs.  I towed it home at road speed, and pull it around our property using a 4 wheeler or our golf cart; either do the job just fine.log splitter

Follow Up

So, I’ve had this Huskee 22T log splitter for a little over a year. I would say that I probably haven’t used it as much as I would if I was running a tree service, but I would consider myself a heavy user for home. I’ve split a large number of oak and hickory trees, with diameters up to 28″.  It will break thru the knots and twisted wood as good as I’ve seen. I’ve used larger units up to 30 Tons. For what I have, and I have some pretty big trees, I don’t see the need for anything more powerful.The Briggs & Stratton 675 runs strong, it is still easy to start and hasn’t missed a beat.   There have been no leaks or malfunctions. If there were any negatives, I’d say they should include the log cradle with the splitter. It is listed as a $40 option, and it only took about three cramps in my lower back to go buy one. They make all the difference in the world.  Had a tire go flat over the winter.  I don’t suppose I can blame TSC for that. Are there better splitters? Yes. For less money? Haven’t found one. Would I buy this model again? Sure would. And FWIW, I do not or have every worked for TSC or Husky. Just like people to know when I find something that works as advertised.