31 December 2013

Out With The Old ...

As the finial hours of the year 2013 wind down, many people are thinking "out with the old... in with the new". For Brian & Tish Hopkins it's out with the old house and in with the new house.

Photos of Brian using an excavator to remove their old house to prepare the site for construction of a new home in 2014.

17 December 2013

Ice and Snow

The temperature dropped to 2 degrees overnight followed by a light snow this morning. At our barn I found this teasel seed head covered with snow.

A close-up view of ice crystals clinging to dry grass.


Making water freeze on demand

I stopped at our cabin today to check on a couple of things and was surprised to find unopened bottles of water hadn't froze with the cold overnight temperatures. I picked up one of the bottles of water and it instantly solidified as I watched. I grabbed another bottle of liquid water and watched it freeze from top to bottom in seconds.

Here's a video of making the water freeze by just hitting the top of the bottle. This is not a time-lapse, it only takes a second or two.

08 December 2013

Fisher and Foxes

The first week of PA deer season has pasted and I haven't had any luck finding a buck but I did shoot some animals with my camera. On the fist day of hunting I caught a glimpse of a fisher (Martes pennanti) run between two brush patches. The fisher is a member of the mustelid family, commonly referred to as the weasel family. For the past several years I've only caught glimpses of this fisher but this time the fisher climbed an Autumn Olive bush and spent the next half hour eating berries as I snapped pictures.

While not as rare as a fisher, I had two red foxes stop by my deer stand to check out the hunting.

27 October 2013

Unusual Clover

Our son Matt has always had a knack for finding 4 leafed clovers but recently he found this unusual green and white clover.

17 October 2013

A Bird in the Hand ...

Back in March of this year I had a couple of postings of a "Roadside Grouse" that would wait along Joyce Road and pose for pictures. Soon after I posted the story on the grouse I stopped seeing the bird and thought it had met with an accident. Yesterday, my son Chuck and his fiancée, Nikki, returned to our house after a walk and told us of being attacked by a grouse. After showing us pictures of the grouse attack my first thought was the "Roadside Grouse".

This morning I proceeded to look for the "attack" grouse in the area where it was last seen. After about 45 minutes of searching I detected some movement in a brushy area. To my surprise, a grouse came out of the brush and started walking towards me.

At first the grouse started to circle me and stayed 10 to 15 feet away. Within a few minutes the grouse was only a couple of feet away and I had to put my camera in macro close-up mode to take pictures.

For the next hour the grouse would charge and peck at me in some sort of mock battle. I played along with the fight and the more I charged the grouse, the closer it got. A photo of the grouse standing on my leg.

At one point I was able to catch and hold the grouse. I had assumed the grouse would run away after being held, but it returned for more fighting and was caught three more times.

After an hour of "grouse fighting" I got up and started to walk back to our house. The grouse followed me for the next couple hundred feet until I started to walk faster. Several hours later I returned to the same spot with our son Matt and his girlfriend, the grouse was ready for more "fun and games".

07 October 2013

Fall Leaves

For a brief period of time each Autumn, the hardwood trees in our neighborhood put on a show of color that is gone too soon. While the color of the leaves were bright this year, the recent heavy rains have lead to an early exit of the color.

A view of Miner's Pond from Joyce Road.

A view of our barn from the cabin property.

04 October 2013

Barn Projects

Within the last week our old barn has taken on a new look as a couple of projects have been completed. At the entrance to the barn, old broken concrete was removed and a new 26 by 32 foot section of concrete poured to form our "courtyard".

With the rebuilding of the wall at our barn complete we turned our attention to landscaping the work area.

Crushed stone was added around the new concrete and drive way area.

03 October 2013

Harvest Time

Our recent summer-like weather has disguised the fact that it is now October and harvest time. The lack of a killing frost has allowed our garden to continue to produce but we decided it was time to dug our crop of sweet potatoes. We planted a few sweet potatoes last year, for the first time, and had great success. In fact, last year's sweet potatoes kept so well we had a meal of them this week and they were still perfect.

This year was another successful crop of sweet potatoes.

30 September 2013

Barn Wall Project

If you've followed this blog for the past few years, you know we take on summer projects. There have been several clean-up/fix-up projects at our barn and cabin this summer but this barn wall project required the most time and labor.

When we acquired the barn property in 2001 the stone wall at the entrance to the lower floor of the barn was in bad shape and leaning over.  This wall is over one hundred years old and as time pasted, the wall continued to slowly move more to the downhill and a gap in the wall widened. The following two photos show the wall before we started this project.

The first step in this project was to correct as much of the leaning as possible. Since the dirt behind the wall was pushing the top of the wall over, I used my backhoe to remove the dirt so the stone could be pushed back. With the dirt behind the wall removed I used a wooden block and an 8 pound hammer to pound each stone back, a fraction of an inch at a time. After a couple of weeks of hammering the two sections of the wall were reunited and upright.

To prevent the wall from pulling apart again, concrete and rebar were added on the back side of the wall.

With the old sections of the wall stabilized, new stone was added to patch/rebuild missing sections of the wall.  About 30% to 40% of the wall was replaced. The wall isn't perfectly straight/square but it does look like its been there for over a hundred year.

23 September 2013

Fall Fungus

After this weekend's rain I took a walk around the pipeline right-of-way through our woods to check on the recent reclamation reseeding. Along the edge of the right-of-way I checked on a stack of firewood logs and found several forms of fungus busy working on the logs.



21 September 2013

Autumn Olive Jam

A couple of years ago we made our first batch of Autumn Olive Jam and it's time to make some more of this tasty  jam. Since the degree of sweetness/tart will vary from bush to bush, be sure to taste test before picking. The late Summer weather was dryer this year and berries tended to be smaller so we needed 9 to 10 cups of berries to get enough seedless pulp for the recipe.

We used the following recipe from "dreams and bones" web blog to make our jam.

Autumn Olive Jam

Autumn Olive Jam ~ the Saga

8 cups of ripe autumn olive berries
1 cup of water
3 ½ cups of sugar
1 package of no-sugar-needed Sure Jell

Gather 8 cups of ripe autumn olive berries. (Be sure to taste test the berries as you pick. I've found the bright red berries to be more tart than the dull red berries.)

Add 1 cup of water to the 8 cups of berries and bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Run the mash through a sieve and you will have about 5 cups of pressed fruit.

Measure out 3 ½ cups of sugar. Take ¼ cup of the measured sugar and mix it with the contents of a package of no-sugar-needed Sure Jell. Mix it in with the pressed fruit and bring to a rolling boil. Add the remainder of the sugar to the boiling liquid and return to a rolling boil and let it boil for one minute.

Then can according to canning directions and cool.

This will make about six 8 oz. jars of well set jam. Nice and tart.

20 September 2013

Cruising With the Top Down

Gerry and Janet Miner took advantage of the beautiful last days of summer and went cruising in the Mustang with the top down.

19 September 2013

Wild Honeybees

As I've mentioned in my last couple of postings, the end of Summer is approaching as the days get shorter and the local wild honeybees are taking advantage of the fields of goldenrod in the neighborhood.

There has been a lot of news lately about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, but the wild honeybees in our neighborhood are doing quite well.

Earlier this Summer I had a swarm of wild honeybees land in a tree on the driveway to our barn. This swarn started a small colony in the tree which is only 100 feet from my garden.

During the Summer I continued to notice a constant "buzz" in the woods next to our cabin and tracked down a second bee tree in the neighborhood. This is a much larger colony with hundreds of bees coming/going through the one entrance. A view looking up the tree to the entrance. 

A more straight on shot of the small entrance to the hive. I needed a ladder to get this shot and was close enough to smell the honey.

Just a few weeks ago, I was checking some of the pipeline reclamation work through our woods and found this third bee tree. At first I thought this was a small colony  of honeybees due to the few bees at the entrance. Upon later inspection of this bee tree I discovered at least 3 different entrances to the hive, which covered a distance of 15 to 20 feet, with the main entrance at the top, 35 feet off the ground.

A view of wild honeybees at the smaller, lower entrance to the hive.

17 September 2013

Fall Wildflowers - New England Aster

I'm starting to see more signs of Fall as I walk around in the woods and fields. The New England Asters announce the end of Summer is near..

15 September 2013

Fall Fungus

As the warm days of summer cool down and the rainy days of fall return, the colorful fungus of fall start to appear. I haven't spent as much time walking through the fields and woods as I would like, but I did come across this bright colored fungus popping out of the cracks in the bark on some rotting wood.

30 August 2013

Another Porcupine

Yesterday I noticed some gnaw marks on the cabin decking and placed a "keep-alive" trap next to the deck. This morning I found (hopefully) the cause of the gnaw marks, a porcupine. We have lived in this neighborhood for over 40 years and during that time I can count my porcupine encounters on one hand. This is my second porcupine this year.

Some porcupine quills left under the trap.

This porcupine was lucky and qualified for a relocation program. Later in the day, the porcupine was released on one of our other wooded properties a few miles away.

12 August 2013


While working at our barn this weekend, I noticed what appeared to be a green leaf on some duct tape. The leaf turned out to be a large katydid that had walked onto the duct tape and got stuck.

As I tried to free the katydid from the tape it would make a loud chirp. The katydid gets its name from the chirp that sounds like “Katy did, Katy didn’t.” Usually katydids are heard, but not seen.

06 August 2013

Chokecherry Jam

The weather conditions must have been just right this year for chokecherries because a bush near our barn was loaded with the small fruits. The chokecherry fruit is bitter when eaten directly from the bush but makes a very tasty jam (when sugar is added). I've been watching this bush for the last couple of weeks to determine the "peak of ripeness" for making chokecherry jam. This past weekend was time to pick. Within a half hour, Mary and I had picked enough chokecherries from this one bush for two batches of jam.

We used the following recipe from Cooks.com to make our jam.

Chokecherry Jam


2 qts. chokecherries
2 c. water
8 c. sugar
1/2 c. liquid Certo

Clean and wash chokecherries. Add water and bring to boil. Simmer until cherries pop and flesh comes easily off from pits. Strain through sieve washing chokecherries thoroughly. Rinse leftover pits and skins with water. Add some rinsed water to strained juice to make 1 quart liquid. Combine liquid and sugar. Stir thoroughly bringing juice to boil. Add liquid Certo and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Cook at full boil for 60 seconds. Skim off foam. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Seal with melted paraffin wax or cool and freeze. Store in cool dark dry place. Yield: 7 to 8 cups.

20 July 2013

Time to make hay

After weeks of continuous daily rain storms, the weather has changed and Jason Abell was able to start making hay in the neighborhood.

With a week of very hot and dry weather Jason has put a big dent in this years hay baling.