Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wash and wear.

Today was wash day. Not much fun when it’s near freezing and I hand wash everything. I have things hanging all over the cabin. Got me to thinking readers might want to know about my wardrobe here in the middle of nowhere. Here is a list of my complete wardrobe, summer and winter. I have three pairs of jeans. I keep two of them for everyday wear and one is put aside for special occasions.  I have five shirts. Two flannel and three cotton. All are long sleeve. I have no use for short sleeved shirts or shirts without a collar.  I have six pair of socks because socks are what I change the most frequently. I prefer heavy socks (hunting style) because they are warm in the winter and protect from blisters in the summer when I am more active. I won’t discuss underwear, but suffice to say they are changed as needed. I have two black sweat shirts for cool Spring and Fall evenings. I have two pairs of Rocky (brand name) boots, both water proof and one pair is taller than the other. I also keep on hand a pair of “cabin shoes” which have been, over the years, an old pair of loafers, some water shoes (light slip-on with a thin rubber sole), and plain old tennis shoes. Right now I have a nice pair of Russell Moccasins that I got with a gift card from Anita the dog groomer last year for my birthday. They should last me a long time. I also have three jackets; a short leather bomber style; a full-on heavy lined hunting jacket; and a fancy Helly Hanson rain jacket that I brought here from my life in the “other world”. Other misc. items include one leather belt, a pair of work gloves, a pair of skiing gloves for the winter months and two old ball caps (that I rotate with my mood) and one flannel pull-over hat, again, for the winter months. If you promise not to tell anyone I will also admit to having a pair of panty hose that I wear when I hunt or otherwise go off trail to keep the ticks out of sensitive places.

 Summer necessitates washing shirts and socks and underwear once a week. I often wear the same pair of jeans for up to two weeks if possible. If I am working on the chicken coop or goat pen I usually have to change them sooner. In the winter I wash much less frequently. I use captured rain water for washing because I use so much…especially for rinsing. The soap I use ( I think I have mentioned this before) is a mixture of Fels Naptha, washing soda and borax that I mix up three or four times a year. Firewood Kenny suggested I substitute a dilution Dawn dishwashing liquid for the Fels Naptha and I might try that next time my soap runs out. I already have a supply of Dawn in the cabin that I use for just about everything that requires soap for cleaning. In fact, my favorite general purpose cleaning solution is a combination of Dawn and bleach.

    Every other year at this time (around New Year) I travel 27 miles to a shopping area that has a K-Mart, Kroger, a CVS Drug Store and, most importantly, a Goodwill Store, to buy clothes that need replacing. The Goodwill store is a wonderful place! I don’t shop there because the prices are cheap. I shop there because I can still find clothes there that were not cheaply made by children in Asia.  American made clothes really last.   My favorite jeans are Round House and Diamond Gusset or some of the older Levis. My favorite everyday work shirts are Dickies. I don’t buy pre-worn socks (or underwear) so I usually go to K-mart for those. When they have them I prefer Wigwam socks. This year I will be looking for a new belt, a summer shirt and Dooley need a new blanket.

Well, the clothes are drying nicely. I have to go check the chicken’s light bulbs (for warmth) and give the goats some grain before dark….it’s a gunna be a cold one tonight.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Three Things.....

We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas Morning! I woke up to find this fancy Salt Cellar in my stocking. Now I have a place to keep my precious Kosher salt. It came with a certificate that said it was made by West Virginia hill people at the Poky River Artisans Colony.
Thanks Santa Dooley!

For Dooley's Christmas present I carved him a fake Swisher Sweet Outlaw Double Barrel Rum Cigar so he could join me evenings on the porch when I smoke and write. Can you tell which is the real one and which is the fake?

 The fake one is on the right. I made the ash end from some old pewter paint I had left over from another project.

For all of our readers who have asked to see pictures of the cabin and  more pictures of Dooley, here is Dooley's  Christmas present to you. This is a self portrait of Dooley on the hillside over looking the cabin. Enjoy. 



Excerpts from County Newspaper’s Review of Dooley’s Christmas Pageant:


“……promised fireworks display turned out to be chickens in trees popping glitter filled balloons….”

“….wished I had been warned that I would be sitting on the ground instead of proper theater seating….”

“….not sure why all the actors were dressed as farm animals.”

“….have never seen tap dancing goats before…..”

“…Bizarre at times….Unusual at best ….”

“..raccoons at concession stand short-changed me twice…”

...better suited for big city audiences who enjoy this sort of thing…”

“…all that being said, at the end of the night this reviewer came away with a better understanding of King (really just a Duke) Wenceslas…. and a tingle of holiday cheer.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dooley's Christmas Carol

Deep in the woods of West Virginia a dog lay sleeping in his secret cabin on a cold and exceedingly dark December night. His name was Dooley.

He awoke to the sound of a strong wind rattling the old wooden shutters on the north cabin windows.

“Humbug, what blustery winds dare wake me on this foul night?”

Another gust blew open the shutters and slammed the wooden slats hard against the sill.

“Go away you accursed wind. Let this sleeping dog lie!”

 From the window a cold blue light pushed the darkness from the room.

Dooley rolled towards the light, again, cursing the intrusion.

“If this is another raccoon prank I’ll have your grimy little raccoon paws tacked to my wall by morning….!”

Leaping from his blanket Dooley ran to the window and pressed his nose against the frosty glass. There, hovering above the ground was a nearly transparent image of his long dead master, Roger.

“A projector ….the raccoons have a stolen a projector?”

The specter spoke, “No, Dooley, it is me, Roger.”

“If it were truly you, you’d be smoking a Swisher Sweet Outlaw Double Barrel Rum cigar”, Dooley challenged, “and besides, you have been dead for years. I saw you fall into that 200 barrel oil tank myself.”

 “Alas, they don’t carry my brand here in purgatory… and you know as well as I do that I didn’t fall into that tank, I was nudged”

“Wait a minute, this isn’t one of those ghost intervention deals, is it?”  Dooley said with a sigh.

“Please don’t get ahead of me Dooley, the other ghosts and I put a lot of work into scripting this visit.”

“Oh geeze, Roger, I thought I was through listening to your cheesy stories.”

“Do you want to get back to sleep tonight Dooley or not?”

“Get on with it, then”, Dooley relented.

“You were supposed to ask me why I was here.”

“Oh mysterious ghost, why are you here?”

“I am here for your welfare, Dooley. Tonight you will be visited by three spirits….”

Dooley interrupted, “So it’s the whole Dickens thing, past present future…my tombstone, rattling chains, poor people, seeing what might have been, yada, yada, yada…I get it. Listen, why don’t you and your friends come on in the cabin and do a group haunting. It would speed things up.”

“Dooley, the first spirit will not arrive until the clock strikes one in the morning.”

“I can see the others spirits peeking from out behind the old goat pen. They are all here aren’t they, Roger?”


“And you know we don’t have a clock to strike…”

After a pause and some mumbling amongst the spirits the cabin door blew open. Three shadowy figures slithered into the room. Roger, the only one that glowed, stood in the doorway, shook his head, and then spoke.


“I can’t say I like what you’ve done to the place Dooley.”


“Really?” Dooley said incredulously. Looking to other spirits he asked, “What do you guys think?”

The spirit of Christmas Past said he thought the place could do with a shag throw rug and perhaps a little more avocado and orange in the paint scheme.

The spirit of Christmas Present said he liked the overall look but would like to see some stainless appliances.

The Spirit of Christmas Future said he thought Dooley had captured a timeless simplicity in his arrangement of the principle elements.

“Ok Dooley, my part in this is over. Before I go I just wanted say what a good friend you were to me over the years. I couldn’t have survived out here without you. I hope when the time comes you’ll find me  here in the mist and join me in my endless wanderings. Goodbye for now old friend.”

Roger’s glow faded slowly until his image was completely gone.

Dooley stood, staring at the empty doorway. A tear ran down his snout. It was true, he had missed Roger.

“Forgive me Roger!” he shouted at the empty doorway. “When I pushed you into that oil tank I was only thinking of myself, the money in your mattress, and control of the bacon supply. I was a fool.”

The three remaining spirits looked awkwardly at each other. The Spirit of Christmas Future spoke.

“It appears that we are no longer needed here. In two minutes you have grasped the gist of what we wanted to convey this cold December night. Sleep well knowing you still have time to make amends for your past regressions.”

“Since we are cutting this short and I never got the chance to look at my own tombstone may I ask how long I have left in this world?”  

“Do you want that in dog years or calendar years?”


“Calendar will be fine.”


“The length of one’s life is determined by many things, but taking into consideration living alone, excessive bacon intake and lack of exercise I give you another 24/25 months. On the other hand, if you acquire some friends, eat some leaner foods and find a purpose in your life that involves some physical activity….you may live well into your upper teens. You have a choice. Any other questions before we go?”

“I have no questions for the Spirit of Christmas Present….in fact; I don’t really understand the need for a spirit to show me what I am experiencing right now….”

“It’s a Union requirement, three Spirit minimum on holidays.” they explained.

“I see.” said Dooley, “Future and Present are free to go if you like. Thank you for your time. If Past wouldn’t mind staying a bit, I do have something I’d like to discuss.”

The Spirits whispered something between themselves. They were a bit embarrassed because they had car pooled. Future and Present agreed they would wait outside behind the goat pen and then they left cabin.

“So what is it, Dooley?” asked Past


Three hours later the Spirit of Christmas Past joined his two shivering co-workers behind the goat pen.

“For heaven’s sake, what took you so long?”

“Well”, sighed Past, “the dog asked me if it would be possible to go back to the day before Roger died  to see if he could figure out what made him snap and push Roger into the oil tank.  It seemed like a reasonable request. When we got there he suddenly pointed off to the left and shouted “Bigfoot!” I couldn’t help but look. When I turned back around he was gone. I searched for two and a half hours in the surrounding woods, but he was nowhere to be found.”

Together, the three spirits agreed to keep the loss of the dog in the past a secret. If word ever got out there might literally be hell to pay.

Deep in the woods of West Virginia, a dog lay sleeping in a secret cabin. His name was Dooley. It was an exceeding bright and warm July morning.

He awoke to the sound of Roger’s voice.

“Wake up Dooley, I have to go look at that 200 barrel oil tank this morning…thought you might want to come along.”

Dooley rolled over and said, “Not this time Roger,….not today.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ira, Day Two


Day two of my Nephew’s visit was a day of exploration and photography.

I have written so much about my favorite places on the property that I won’t bore you with too many details. Since Ira said he had read most of my past posts I made a list of landmarks along Rock Creek and challenged him to find as many as he could and there would be a cash prize for every one he found and photographed.  It was sort of a scavenger hunt.  

 On the list was: Owl Rock, Bear Cave, Dragon Tree, Hound Hole, Mill Stone, Spring, Old Cabin Site, Waterfall, Slingshot Tree, Stonehenge, Tree with Windows, Pirate’s Cave, and Balancing Rock. He would get extra points for finding and catching a crawdad, sighting a box turtle, snapping turtle and an intact Mason jar porcelain cap in the creek bed.

 Here are some pictures he took along the way:

Ira did very well!  I had to point out a few items. When we got near to the waterfall I hinted that sometimes you had to look with your ears. The waterfall is not visible from the creek bed, but he stopped, listened, and found it. He took a lot more great pictures that I will use in other posts.
Over the next two days we visited the oil producing side of the property, toured some backroads, (don't tell his mother, but I let him drive the truck for miles), let him meet some of my friends  and, yes, we went frog hunting on his last night. I'll write about those adventures another time. Right now I have some presents to wrap.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ira's First Day

Ira, my 14 year old nephew from Boston, came to visit again this summer. He was a much different kid this year. If you remember, on his last visit he spent a large portion of his time at my secret cabin playing video games on his laptop. This year he came with a digital camera and a genuine interest exploring my property and what was involved in living the “simple life”.  He even seemed to enjoy my farm food which was a far cry from the last time when I had to take him to town to get “city boy” food from Harry’s Grocery/Feed and Seed/Hardware Store.

Right away on the ride from the airport he told me he had been reading past posts of my blog and wanted to see places and things I had written about and even asked if we could do some frog hunting down at the river like I used to do with my dad. By the time he got settled in it was almost dark.  Dooley and I built one our famous campfires and we all sat around and planned some adventures.

On the first full day, we decided to let Ira pretend to be me and work through the daily chores. We woke him up at 6Am and we did a walk around of the cabin and animal areas. He fed and counted the chickens and collected a few eggs. Then we moved to the goats. Before releasing the goats to graze we had a little milking lesson. We also gave them a mini physical, checking eyelids, gums and hooves. Then we checked pens and the garden fence for any areas that may need repair later in the day. I explained that it was important to anticipate the weather for the day and since we didn’t have a TV weatherman to tell us the forecast we had use clues to gauge it for ourselves. I told him a few things about the height and shape of clouds, the direction of travel across the sky. We took a look at Dooley’s dew collector/calculator (patent pending) and showed him that, based on the temperature and amount of dew collected, we were likely in for a humid day and some fog in the evening hours. I also told him that in the mountains fast moving weather fronts were hard to spot because the hills prevent us from seeing very far down range, but if we pay attention to changes in the winds, bird and insect behavior, and a change in the color of certain tree’s leaves we usually had enough time to prepare the animals and ourselves for dangerous thunderstorms and possible high winds (something we had to deal with frequently this summer).  I included a few words about wooly worms and counting cricket chirps just to add a little mountain mystic to the lesson.

Now, it was time for Ira to prepare his own breakfast. I laid out the ingredients for some scratch goat milk pancakes and talked him through the preparation. It was Dooley’s day for bacon so we fried some up on the side in my small iron skillet. Instead of syrup for the pancakes we used my world famous blend of diluted molasses and raw sourwood honey. As an added touch I put out a dab of some of my goat milk butter (that I make without a separator, still don’t have that perfected, sigh). I just called it homemade butter until after breakfast…in fact, I didn’t mention the milk was from the goats and the “syrup” was homemade until Ira cleaned his plate.  

After breakfast we went to the garden and talked about the size, layout and the vegetables I had chosen this year and why I chose them. We checked for weeds and pests and we went over what were good bugs and what were my mortal enemies. In a quadrant I hadn’t used, I let him plant a few seeds. He had read about my decoy garden and I showed him how that worked. I mentioned that even though we had just eaten breakfast we should already be thinking ahead to lunch and dinner and perhaps he should choose some vegetables for a lunch salad and a stew for dinner. Planning and preparation is essential when living the simple life.

To round out the morning I showed him all of our time and labor saving inventions like the five way gravity fed irrigation line from the upper spring, our sound activated predator alarm (as described in an earlier post), the rainwater capture equipment and my magic self-replenishing cache of firewood (Firewood Kenny brings me firewood for free in return for me allowing him to cut wood on my property). Ira was very interested to see the ash separator box and was fascinated with how many uses ashes have. The ash box led to a question about trash disposal and I explained the goal was, not to have any trash.

After lunch (Ira made us a brined cucumber, onion, tomato and boiled egg salad) I suggested that since we had to walk down to the river to check the mail we might as well take our fishing gear. With the exception of a few meaty catfish there aren’t many good eating fish in my little river. There are, however lots of small pan fish that are suckers for some bacon on a hook. For a city boy that doesn’t get to fish much it was fun-o-plenty. After fishing he asked if he could spend some time walking in the wood around the cabin and taking some pictures so I released him from further chore duties, reminded him of a few safety rules, set a return time and let him go exploring on his “own”. It is in the nature of boys to want to explore, to go beyond the horizon and test themselves. It is in the nature of uncles to allow boys far more freedom and independence than a parent ever would in this environment. I hope Ira felt like he was on his own but the truth is Dooley and I never let him too far out of sight.

On his return we strolled out to “Cell Phone Point” so he could check in with his mother. Cell Phone Point is the only place nearby (as far as I know) where we can get a signal. Used to be the only way to make a cell call was to hike to the top of “Jeep Slide” hill which would take a good hour and a half up and back.   AT&T put in a new tower near town a couple of years ago and now we get a weak signal near the cabin. The catch is, if you hold the phone in your hand it won’t work. You have to tie the phone in a little harness, string it between two trees and use the speakerphone to talk. Ira thought this was hilarious and took a picture.


I really enjoyed listening to him describe his day to his mom. Dooley said I had a silly look on my face. I’m not sure what that could have been….fun, perhaps?

My next post will be about Day 2, a walk up Rock Creek and will include some more of Ira’s pictures.  Until then, keep it simple.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twill Be The Night.......

Dooley the dog is producing his annual Christmas Pageant Spectacular again this year. This is the third year. Actually it is the fourth year if you count his first attempt which ended abruptly when a fire broke out in the manger scene and audience members were forced to use their complimentary cups of hot chocolate to douse the flames, No one was hurt, but the pastor’s wife was understandably upset when her cat (which was playing the part of the baby Jesus) was returned to her with singed whiskers.

The Pageant is a ticketed event, the proceeds of which allegedly go to a charity called The Aging Dogs of American Indian Ancestory Rescue Fund.

  Dooley has granted me the honor of becoming a Silver Level Sponsor and in return for funding a portion of the event I get a discount on my ticket and my name is printed in the program. I don’t know why I am not a Gold or Platinum Level Sponsor because I suspect I am the only sponsor. Construction on the scenery and props for the show has been going on since October. So far I have received two bills from Harry’s Grocery/Feed and Seed/ Hardware store that include a case of spray snow, two 4x8 sheets of marine grade plywood and some Christmas themed gummy bears. I also got a bill from the town’s Community Hall for venue rental and 2 catered luncheons. Dooley claims this was for auditions and a planning session.

Originally this year’s theme was “A Merry Mayan Christmas”, loosely based on the Annual Christmas Eve celebration in the Mexican town of San Juan Chamula but, due to the whole calendar/ apocalypse thing and several negative comments from attendees at an impromptu November focus group, he has changed the theme to, “The Journey of Wenceslas, a dramatic exploration of the Good King.”  
 (KingWenceslas, of course, famous for the Christmas carol written by John Mason Neale in 1853 which tells the story of of the Good King braving the harsh winter to give alms to the poor on the Feast of St. Stephen.)

I told him I thought he was taking a risk artistically, basing the whole event on a single Christmas carol but Dooley says, from a historical standpoint, the full Wenceslas story had long been overlooked and needed to be told.
The bulk of Dooley's show is biographical but  becomes interactive when, at the end of the evening, the attendees will trek back to their cars, recreating the harsh Feast of Stephen event while singing the fabled song. Each will follow in the footsteps of the Good King (played by Dooley) as suggested in the lyrics and offer alms (dog biscuits) to poor peasants (Dooley’s friends) along the way.

It will, no doubt, be a night to remember.
      Good King Wenceslas Lyrics
  1. Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
    When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
    Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
    When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

  2. "Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
    Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
    "Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
    Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

  3. "Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
    You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
    Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
    Through the cold wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

  4. "Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
    Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
    "Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
    You shall find the winter's rage freeze your blood less coldly."

  5. In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
    Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
    Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
    You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Adam Lanza and Billy Wise

When I was 10 years old I got mad at fellow ten year old Billy Wise. It was the kind of instant and overwhelming anger that makes you want to throw something. I threw a rock. I hit his ear and drew blood. The emotion came from such a primitive place in my mind that there was no rational or analytic thought involved. I didn’t aim, with my eyes fixed on his head, I just picked the rock up and threw it with a force and accuracy I could never achieve by trying...then I looked for another rock. Thankfully, there wasn’t one. I never spoke to Billy Wise again after that.

 12/14/12 was an unimaginably sad day in America.  There are no words that can adequately explain the actions of Adam Lanza or the grief that will be with the parents, family and friends of the victims for the remainder of their lives.

 No amount of laws will ever stop human beings from killing human beings…and gun control in America is such a complex and politically charged issue that even if we all said in unison, “enough is enough”, it would take many years and many more tragedies before a radical change in gun ownership laws could be in place in this country.

 Dooley suggested, “Let humans keep their guns, but restrict how many bullets one can own. It’s not the number of guns you have, but the number bullets that are allowed to go in them. The most common legal justifications for guns are for personal protection and hunting. I think three bullets for personal protection and two for hunting would be plenty. Why would anyone need more than that? If you use your bullets, you could turn your spent cartridges in for new ones. It wouldn’t stop gun related murders but it might inhibit the ones that begin with “mass”.  There is no honest reason why anyone needs to own and fill 4- 15 shot clips for their handgun.”

Yes, I know this is too simplistic.  Here at our secret cabin simple ideas work well.   It isn’t just the guns and bullets…. although, I can say for sure it that ten year old Billy Wise was far better off because I only had one rock to throw.

 If I were still a ranter this is where I would spew about the decline of the American family unit and how its growing disfunctionality is spawning more and more socially repressed and morally devoid children who compress years of lonely rage into one explosive and deadly act of terror….one cathartic expression of “Here I am!” that is instantly echoed throughout the world on the wings of our global information technologies. Or I might say something like “the proliferation of guns in entertainment shows and video games have made them the tool of choice as an equalizer for the repressed or the would-be infamous”.  Unfortunately, that nonsense, too, is simplistic.

Somehow, together, we need to shorten the chain on whatever cosmic pendulum is swinging so tragically far away from the center of what so many of us would consider “normal”. I think I’ll start by calling Billy Wise.