Fall Color in the Appalachians

The leaves were slow to change this year.  Where we live in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, October is usually the month to enjoy the fall foliage; but this year, color is peaking in November.  Well worth the wait, the mountains are now a colorful kaleidoscope.

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Pictures just don’t do the scenes justice, but I always try!

Other plants have taken on autumn hues as well.  The blush of the hydrangea blooms against the sunny yellow leaves is stunning.

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While on a hike, I spotted these ferns which have turned golden.

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As a family, we are blessed to enjoy this beautiful place while we work and while we play.

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Spreading wood chips over the vegetable gardens.  In the background are two maples trees: one red, one yellow.
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Hiking to an overlook on Pine Mountain.  
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Our view from the rock above.
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Bounty, Blossoms, and Butterflies

After traveling much of August, we returned to a bountiful harvest from the vegetable gardens: Roma beans, wax beans, spaghetti squash, greens, cucumbers, and yellow squash.

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Bountiful Harvest

While we were gone, the wildflowers burst into bloom: purple iron weed, pink queen of the meadow, yellow goldenrod, and a variety of asters.  The hydrangea bush also began to show its late summer hues.

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Hydrangea Blooms

One of our neighbors on the trail shared some of his chicken of the woods with us.  After dipping the fungi in a milk and egg mixture, followed by cornmeal, and frying in a bit of olive oil, they were so delicious that I ate until my belly was tight.

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Chicken of the Woods

The harvest has started to wind down.  The children dug the potatoes.  We pulled the corn stalks and bundled them to take to the farmer’s market.  The onions were harvested.  After a number of days of very hot weather, the bean plants were dried up and ready to be pulled.

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Farmer’s Market

What remains in the gardens is carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and several varieties of squash and pumpkins.

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Pumpkin Beginning to Ripen

School has begun for the children and me.  It is a new year, and I am excited to be trying some new methods and ideas.  Nature study is a once-a-week practice we are beginning.  For fifteen minutes, we observe something in nature and make an entry in our journals either by sketching or writing.  The discipline is a good one.  This past week’s journals included sketches of a cluster of grass, a golden rod blossom, a hosta leaf, and a sassafras leaf.  My observations this past week were of a butterfly (I think it may be a fritillary.) on a queen of the meadow bloom.  When I first spotted the butterfly, and as I walked closer, it began to flit around the area.  After I was settled in the grass, the creature lighted on the blossoms, and for nearly ten minutes, it stayed in one place and opened and closed its wings.  The photos were as close as I could get, because it flew off as soon as I approached.  Actually if you look closely, you will see two butterflies!

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Butterflies on a Bloom

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being”- Revelation 4:11 NIV

Rattlesnake, It’s What’s for Dinner!

Snakes have been prevalent this summer.  Sightings include three copperheads, multiple ring necks, one water snake, and two rattle snakes.  On one particular afternoon, the children spotted a rattlesnake close to staff lodging.  After being called in for snake killing duty, the men came across another one on the trail; so that made two in one day.

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Our oldest was thrilled with the opportunity to skin and clean the rattlesnakes.  Who knew all those biology dissections we did the past school year would come in handy?!

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After removing the innards and peeling off the skin, the meat was washed and cut into pieces.

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After soaking overnight in salt water, the meat was dipped in an egg and milk mixture, then in cornmeal, and then fried in olive oil.

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The finished product was similar texture to chicken, a bit chewy, with a very mild flavor.

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Our supper included rattlesnake, Kentucky green beans, potatoes, and ham.   Yum!

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Our son made a necklace with the buttons which still make a rattling noise.

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After soaking the skins in a glycerin and alcohol solution, he removed any remaining pieces of flesh.  After coating the skins with a layer of glycerin and hanging them to dry, the skins are preserved.  He plans to make a wallet out of the leather.

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Summer Beauty

The beauty of God’s Creation shows up in various forms in the summer.

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Morning Sunbeams
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Summer Foliage
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Squash on the Vine, Corn on the Stalk

 

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Corn at Dusk

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Sunsets: No Two Alike

“This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!”

-Maltie D. Babcock

Maple Syrup Story

2018 was our second year of collecting maple sap.  (You can read about last year’s experience here.)  In late December, we tapped three maple trees on the hill beside our house.  For most of January and February, we collected sap each time there was a flow.  Checking the buckets involved hiking around the hill, which was easy for the kids; but when the buckets needed to be emptied, I required a walking stick to manage the climb.

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Finding a bucket half full of sap was exciting!

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After emptying the metal bucket into a plastic bucket to bring to the house, the sap was poured through cheesecloth to remove bits of dirt and insects.

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Because we were only getting sap from two trees (The third tree never did flow.), we decided to freeze all the sap and boil it down at the end of the season.  Over the two months, we collected approximately eleven gallons of liquid.

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A little over a week ago, when I had a full day to be close to the stove, the boiling process began.  Around 8:30 AM, I started two stock pots on medium-high heat.

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Throughout the day, when there was more room in the pot, more sap was added.  At around 9:00 PM, the sap had boiled down to one smaller pot remaining.  By a little after 10:00 PM, the sap was thickening; and when it dripped off a spoon in a sheet (similar to making jam), we had syrup!

From approximately eleven gallons of sap, we ended up with one cup of syrup.

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A few days later, we ate our own maple syrup on homemade pancakes and waffles.  While my husband and boys enjoyed the taste, our daughter and I felt like the syrup had an “off” flavor.  I’m not sure if I cooked it a bit too long, or if we could have collected some sap on a warmer day, or if the taste varies from tree to tree.

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The experience of processing maple sap to syrup was fun and educational.  I have new respect for the time and effort that goes into processing large quantities, and I now understand why the cost of real maple syrup is high.  Every season is a learning process, and we look forward to trying again next year!

Skating on the Pond

Growing up in south-central Pennsylvania, usually once or twice a winter the farm ponds would freeze hard enough to ice skate.  Although I never was great at skating, it was fun to glide around on a cold winter’s day or evening.  My husband, having grown up in Ontario, is a good skater and was used to playing ice hockey every winter.  Our children, who have spent most of their childhoods in southeastern Kentucky, had never experienced ice skating.  So after a week of freezing temperatures, when my husband announced that the camp pond was frozen, we were excited to slide around on the ice.

At our home in town, the dusting of snow was gone; but as we drove up the mountain, there was still enough snow to make the trail and hillsides look pretty.

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While my husband has skates, the rest of us slid in our boots which wasn’t the easiest since the pond was snow-covered.  Then we got the idea to push each other around on a chair.

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Even I took a turn!

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After their dad was finished skating, the older three kids took a turn with the skates.  While the skates were a bit big, they got the idea.  They all enjoyed hitting the puck around for a quick game of hockey.

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Our oldest declared that we all need to get skates for next year.  This is only the second time in the ten years we have lived in this region that we have had enough days of freezing weather for the ponds to be safe, but I’m glad we got to enjoy one day of skating this year.

Driving down the mountain, the icicles hanging from the rocks were a beautiful sight to behold.

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Even though the cold has been bitter, there has been beauty and fun to be had.

Autumn Color

Here in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, fall has arrived later than usual.  This past weekend, we experienced our first cold snap of the season with a bit of snow in the higher elevations.  I had been remarking that the colors of the leaves were not as intense as some years; but today as we went about, I realized autumn splendor has arrived.

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The view from our home in town.
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Downtown

There are some beautiful trees around town; but as I drove up the mountain this afternoon, the sight was magnificent.  Driving up and down the trail, I felt like I was in a colorful kaleidoscope.  Even though it was cloudy and a bit foggy, the foliage was glorious!

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There is just nothing like Autumn in the mountains!  All praise to the Artist, our Creator God!

A Beautiful Day on the Mountain

The weather has begun to feel like fall the last few days, and I love it!  I have always had a fondness for autumn.  I find the cooler temperatures invigorating.  There is a different kind of beauty to the season.

Driving up the mountain today, I noticed the great variety of wildflowers blooming: the intense purple of the iron weed, the brilliant yellow of the goldenrod, and the pale pink of the queen of the meadow.  There were other kinds I couldn’t identify: two different varieties of delicate violet blossoms, some tiny white ones, and one that looked like a miniature black-eyed Susan.

At camp, the hydrangea bush is blushing pink as its blossoms dry.

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While harvesting tomatoes, beans, and carrots, I noticed the sky has begun to look like autumn as well: baby blue with puffy white clouds lying low over the tops of the mountains.

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What a beautiful day on the mountain!

Kudzu Blossoms

The last week or so when we take our dog Daisy for a walk, I have noticed a sweet scent in the air at several spots along the way.  I have determined that it is the kudzu blossoms which are in full bloom right now.  The blossoms smell just like Pez candies, the powdery rectangular candies that come in interesting dispensers.  In my opinion, there is not much that can be praised about kudzu.  We constantly fight to keep it from taking over our yard and house.   But I have to say, the blossoms are lovely and smell delectable.

 

 

Gabe’s Branch Falls

This morning we went on an outing with some of the summer staff to Gabe’s Branch Falls.  The falls are one of those hidden spots that only the locals know exists.  To get there, you drive four miles on a gravel road.  The stopping spot is unmarked.  Then you walk down a bit of a path until you spot the falls.  I had been there in my 20’s but had forgotten the beauty of the place.  From the top, the pool of water looks quite deep.

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After gazing at the water for a bit, we hiked down to the bottom.  Someone has built wooden handrails and steps, for which I was grateful because of the steepness of the incline.  Even so, the descent was a bit slick due to the night’s rainfall.  Upon arriving at the bottom, the water did not look as deep.  Although if it had been hot, swimming in it would have been refreshing.  Coming from the mountains, I’m sure the water is quite cold.

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The children soon found amusement in trying to skip rocks or just plain throwing rocks in the water.

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Choosing sticks, collecting unique rocks, and adding to a small rock damn were also interesting activities.

The rush of the falls, the coolness of the air, and just being out in nature was refreshing.