Thursday, August 31, 2006

Down The Mountain In Cana

Cana, according to my Bible dictionary means "place of reeds". It is the site of Jesus first miracle, the changing of water to wine at the wedding feast. That, to me, says God wants us to be happy and enjoy life. It would have been something else if the first miracle would have been where He cursed the fig tree.

Around here Cana is the small town on the Virginia-N. Carolina border. What I am about to tell you is only what I have heard. I seems Cana has a reputation for "white lightening" or moonshine. The mountainous terrain with numerous branches (that's southern for "creek") and hollers (southern for "hollow") as well as the border location made it a natural. I can attest that today strangers are not welcome on the back roads surrounding the town. When we were there doing the unbearable insurance job we were warned it was best to be back on the main roads before dark. A Cana welcome involves gun shots.

I was told several days ago that Cana has another claim to fame (or maybe infamy). That seemingly quiet town hosts high stakes card games. I had posted a while back the tragic tale of a local husband murdering his wife and then turning the gun on himself. A footnote to that is the husband, loosing bigtime at the Cana gambling tables, ended it all. The other theory is that someone was sending a message about large unpaid gambling debts.

In the daytime traveling down the mountain from Fancy Gap on highway 52 Cana is a great place to buy produce, antiques and those cement statues for the lawn. There are several places where produce from the many surrounding orchards and farms can be had at very reasonable prices. The antique stores are pretty much what one would expect in a mountain community, not much glitz and fairly reasonable prices. Bears and Confederate soldiers dominate the lawn art stuff.

For the most part the folks around Cana are pretty nice (they did warn us) even though things haven't changed much in the past several hundred years. We found more of the "old mountain" environment around this area then any other we have visited.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grandmothers Green Beans

My mothers side of the family is Pennsylvania Dutch. Amish Mennonites, to be exact, who bought their land from Wm. Penn. Mom has always been proud of the fact that her blood is pure Swiss. I however am a mixed breed. Anyway, I got this recipe from her Mother, my Grandmother, and it's a hit whenever I do it.

About 2 pounds of green beans
four or five slices of bacon cut into pieces
one large onion diced
half a cup or so of vinegar

Put ingredients in a pot and simmer for six or seven hours until the beans are limp.

That's it.

If They're Good Enough for Hobbits....

The oak logs at the end of my driveway, which at one time I considered removing, have over the summer produced several crops of Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). Several days after a good rain these well named fungi appear in abundance. Yesterday I harvested over a pound from my "mushroom farm". Since they are full of moisture when cooked the liquid evaporates and they take on the flavor of the particular dish. Cooked alone they have a mild taste reminiscent of a oyster. These are very similar to Angel Wings (Pleurocybella porrigens) which grow on conifer wood while the former prefers deciduous logs. Both are quite edible.Posted by Picasa

One of the most prolific mushrooms this year has been the Voluminous Milky (Lactaruus volemus). This is one of the best varieties I have found and in spite of it's fishy odor and latex that stains the fingers brown it is quite tasty. We made a meal of them one evening. They freeze quite well and I have laid up a supply for the coming months. I have found them singularly and in bunches mostly along the bank next to the road. The largest was a respectable six inches across. Well named for the prodigious amount of white latex they produce this mushroom is easily identifiable.

Identification of mushrooms can be kind of tricky and a mistake can, at best, cause illness and at worst death. Fortunately most of the deadly ones are easily identified and if there is any question it is prudent to leave them uneaten. One of the most spectacular and also poisonous I've found growing in the yard is the Jack-O-Lantern (Omphalolus dearius). These grow in a large clump and in the extreme dark have an eerie green glow. As they say, there are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters but there are no old bold mushroom hunters. I'm sure I have left many a tasty "shroom" in the field because I could not positivly tell what it was. Gill arrangement, color (which can vary within the same species), where found, odor, stem shape and composition as well as the color of the spores produced all figure into the identification.

Last year I found the Corrugated Milky (Lactarius corrigus) all over the place. this year not so many. It's a cousin to the Milky shown above and good but not as good with more of a rough texture. These are not so easy to find because their somewhat purple brown color blends well with the ground cover of brown leaves and such.

This time of year the Boletes seem to be thriving. I is thought that none are poisonous but some of them sure don't taste good. One of the prized is the King Bolite (Boletus edulis) known by various names in various countries. These don't grow much around here but the thing is that minor variations in this species are found everywhere. The other thing about Bolites is that numerous critters find them as desirable as we. Gnats lay eggs in them which in turn become maggots. Squirrels and other forrest creatures nibble at their meaty tops and as a result its difficult to find one unpolluted. But they do get big. One recently in the yard measured a full ten inches across.

Our neighbors yard is full of Cinnabar-red Chanterelles. these are edible but I don't have the patience right now to harvest enough of the very small fungi to make a meal. Besides I'd have to explain to the nice lady next door why I'm crawling around her yard. Maybe when she goes back to her N. Carolina home in a few days....

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Marion, Virginia

For the past month or so we've been working in the town of
Marion, Virginia in Smyth County. That charming little town was the site of one of the few American Civil War battles to be fought in southwest Virginia. The Battle of Marion was the result of a raid into that area known a Stonemans Raid and was a successful attempt to destroy the lead mines around Marion and the salt works at the town of Saltville. Our area of Virginia saw little action in the war as can be seen from the map. That was probably due to the mountainous terrain and the few strategic locations.

Our home is in Partick County indicated by "Pat." on the map. We are on that little hump that extends into "Car." or Carroll county and right on the line. I can throw a rock from my back yard into the latter. As you can see, Marion is a bit of a drive of about 80 miles.

One of the numerous atrocities of, as we in the south have termed, "the late unpleasantness" was the massacre at Saltville of members of the 5th Regiment Cavalry during this campaign. This unit was composed of freed black men from Kentucky.

Our time in Marion has been much less adventurous. It is a picturesque town which is among other things, the final resting place of author Sherwood Anderson. Sitting at about 4000 ft. elevation it boasts some of the most beautiful country in the Blue Ridge region. More important there is a good Japanese restaurant with a reasonable sushi lunch special.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Beagle Sisters

The beagle sisters, Stella and Isabel, have been enjoying their home on Groundhog Mountain for over five months now. This is when we first got them as six week old puppies. Over the months puppy personalities have developed. They have discovered the joys of having a whole neighborhood in which to have adventures. Nicknamed "double trouble" by the neighbors they join them on their walks, romp in their yards, and chase the various critters through their woods. Stella, who sleeps with one eye open will attempt to lick one to death while Isabel is happy giving little affectionate nips. Isabel has the true beagle markings and the black is now turning to tan. Stella, is also showing more tan but has the black spots revealing their blue tick hound heritage.

This morning they are lounging on their doggie mat. They have grown, thanks to the many treats and an endless supply of puppy chow. Now just because both pictures are at nap time, which comes immediately after play time, which comes immediately after poop time, which shortly follows chow time don't even think for a moment they are inactive. Their favorite time is chow time and they will, from a sound sleep, snap at any morsel within several feet of their now adult teeth. If the food fights were not so in earnest they would be funny. But we all know that at times, over certain issues, even the closest of siblings will bare teeth and go for the jugular. And to a Beagle, all food is sacred. There has been more then one terrified raccoon, after making the mistake of attempting to eat at their table, hotly pursued by two raucous dogs.

Isabel, on the left, is the protector and guardian of Villa MacBean. First to be up and barking at any sound or scent she will race down the driveway or up throughout he woods. She is also the more sensitive and will when confronted with a rolled up newspaper cower most pitifully while Stella, on the right, only sits with the most innocent eyes.

I have just been called away from this writing by Wanda. The two subjects of this post have been out and barking for a few minutes. When called, Isabel has returned but Stella has not and is continuing to carry on with a constant barking. They usually turn up in tandem, one shortly behind the other. Fearing the latter is in some sort of peril, I am sent to investigate. Down the drive, across the neighbors yard, through the rhododendrons and down the side of Groundhog Mountain I go following the incessant barks. Stella is on point and has cornered a turtle which now sits unconcerned inside its protective shell. I have carried the wayward pup back up the mountain and after recovering my breath returned to this occupation. The culprit has returned to the turtle.

As shown by the above, Stella is the fearless one. Although I think she may be slightly brain damaged. Twice she jumped from the neighbors five foot high retaining wall both times incurring a limp. The last manifested over several days. Then there was the swollen eyelid, we think from a bee sting. When playing, she goes after her sister with an uncommon vigor. She would make a great defensive tackle, running full bore and crashing into her victim. On the other hand, she is the more affectionate and will come looking for attention, falling quickly on her back for a tummy rub.

Our attack cat, Fisel, still runs the show. Her presence will stop them both in their tracks as they have felt the sharpness of her claws. She will walk by with a imperious cat look and give a warning "psssfft". That, however, does not stop the beagle sisters from sneaking in and enjoying a little cat food treat.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I'm Back

Several months ago a large black cloud engulfed Villa MacBeane. It took the form of a job which drained all energy and positive thoughts. Long hours, constant driving and engaging in activities which offended our sensibilities became unbearable and caused a lethargy leading to a mental shutdown. All which was not of absolute necessity ceased. Communication became a unwelcome occupation as it connected us to the door to door interruption of other peoples routine. E-mails, the phone and last but not least the blog were ignored.

I am touched by the concern shown at my absence. Little did I realize that other bloggers would show such caring about my well being. I apologize for my sudden disappearance.

Although the cloud still lingers, sunlight is breaking through as a new job is in the offing which we start on the 5th of September. We have given our notice and that has lifted the spirits.

As those of you who have been following our adventures know both Wanda and I are practicing Christians and as such have had many discussions about why our Lord gave us such a difficult and alien job which paid little for the hours involved. A great portion of our income was spent on gas. But somehow we were provided for. Our cash flow was negative but we were eating steak which was given us. Some time ago I had prayed for an increase in faith. That was the lesson being taught. Throughout this difficult time we lacked nothing.

Even more, the seven months on the job allowed us to refinance our home at a lower interest rate which we were planning on doing since we moved here and pay off our cars in the bargain. It also gave us the necessary credentials for the new job which was offered the day after the refinance was completed.

So there you have it. I'll be around to say hello and promise not to leave without letting one and all know.