Archive for the 'Hiking & Outdoors' Category

Stink Bugs Do Have A Natural Enemy!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  ~John Muir

Stink bug close up Aunt Heather PiperI’m no expert on stink bugs, but I’m certainly no stranger to them either.  The weather in western Pennsylvania has been fluctuating lately, from snowy cold days, which is normal for January, to sunny abnormally warm days reaching the 60s.  Sometimes this temperature range happens within 24-hours.

Besides unfavorable road conditions, the up and down weather is tricking the stink bugs into an early spring.  The warmth draws them out to make their appearance in droves.

Annoyed with these stinkers, literally, I was curious about them, since I don’t remember the critters from my childhood.  Evidently, the stink bug were accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania, Allentown to be exact, in the mid-1990s.  They’re native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Presently, the stink bug can be found in most states and are now posing a real problem with the fruit and vegetable farms.  The stink bugs feed on these plants as well as weeds and tree leaves.  Okay, now we’ve gone from annoying to a true issue.  Stink bugs don’t scare me as per say, but the thought of their ultimate damage doesn’t settle well with me.

Now some fun facts.  Stink bugs can lay 20 to 30 eggs, leading to developed adults within 35 to 45 days, in optimal conditions.  In the lifespan of a female stink bug, she can lay four hundred eggs.  That explains a lot.

From what I’ve read, these pests are impervious to insecticides.  Although, I’m not a fan of toxic remedies, especially when pesticides are harming the bee population.  I’m also not a fan of distributing the ecological structure of an area to deal with a single pest.  Sure, there’s more natural solutions such as soapy water, however, I don’t think that’s a reasonable solution for large farms.  What to do with the stink bugs?  I guess that’s the ultimate question.

Stinks bugs in mason jar Aunt Heather PiperI read an article on the consideration of introducing a parasitoid wasp, which is a primary predator to the stink bug, to solve the problem.  NO!  That’s not a solution.  That’s a recipe for an even bigger problem.  Instead, I have an idea.

Chickens!  Really?  Yes.  Since you can’t squash, frighten or even disturb a stink bug without it secreting its foul-smelling order, which seriously turns my stomach, I started collecting them.  Well, not in the collectible coin fashion, but rather for a food supply for my feathery friends.

Idiotic solution?  No more than using toxic chemicals and infesting the area with wasps.

Sure, stink bugs have always been a nuisance, but when they started flying into me while I slept, disrupting my sleep and freaking me out when I felt them walk across my skin, I had enough.  Using basic common sense,  I began capturing the smelly buzzing bugs in a pint size mason jar with a lid.  Originally, I started trapping them with the intent to kill the bugs behind glass doors, so to speak.  However, I realized they served a better purpose.  The chickens LOVE the stink bugs.

They do!  The chickens are now accustomed to the jar and flock toward the little protein crunchies.  It almost makes me want to find more stink bugs to deliver.

I’ve never read about chickens as a solution to stink bugs, but why not?  Now’s the time to get creative, through natural means.  Perhaps find safe traps for the stink bugs and deliver the tasty meal to some farm animal.   There could be other stink bug predators that are native to each area to use.  I don’t know if chickens could be the ultimate solution for farmers, but it might be a nice try.  This would also ensure we no longer have an egg shortage like we did a couple years ago.  Now that’s solving two problems at once, productive.

Anyone have a better solution?

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.  ~Arnold Palmer

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.  ~Arnold Palmer

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

arnold-palmer-logo-aunt-heather-piperLatrobe lost one of our legends, golf great, Arnold Palmer.  He passed away yesterday due to heart complications at the ripe old age of 87.

arnold-palmer-painting-aunt-heather-piperBeing a Latrobean, I grew up around the legend of Arnold Palmer.  I was even honored by witnessing the man behind that legend in passing at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, and driving passing his house to find him retrieving his mail.  Not to mention, everyone knows at least one person with an Arnold Palmer story, always a benevolent encounter.  I’m not saying we were BFFs, I mean he didn’t know me, but when you’re from the same close-knit area like Latrobe, you’re automatically friends by default.

The news was blowing up all day today with stories, memories and past images of “The King”.  Rightfully so, he earned the kind words and the fame that accompanied him.  He definitely brought pride to Latrobe.  Whether you were a golfer or not, he was respected and a household name.

Why was Arnold Palmer so famous, not just locally, but around the world?  I mean, besides having a drink named after him.  Seriously?  You bet the Arnold Palmer, consisting of half ice-tea and half lemonade.  In addition, he won numerous events in golf, dating back to 1955, on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.  What really made him a household name came from being the first superstar of the sport’s television age.  A man after my own heart, a true marketer.

arnold-palmer-drink-aunt-heather-piperMr. Palmer knew how to market himself and take his talent, along with his charm and good looks, to reach the masses.  Unlike a lot of superstars today, he wasn’t a troublemaker or a bad boy.  Nope, he was a positive role model and he was very appreciative of his own success, coming from humble beginnings.  His dad was a green-keeper at the local club where he took an interest in golfing.

Mr. Palmer even served our country in the United States Coast Guard.  That alone speaks volumes about him and his character.

I was not alive during the height of Arnold Palmer’s career, nor am I a golfer, but according to Wikipedia:

Palmer’s most prolific years were 1960–1963, when he won 29 PGA Tour events, including five major tournament victories, in four seasons. In 1960, he won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” award. He built up a wide fan base, often referred to as “Arnie’s Army”, and in 1967 he became the first man to reach one million dollars in career earnings on the PGA Tour. By the late 1960s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had both acquired clear ascendancy in their rivalry, but Palmer won a PGA Tour event every year from 1955 to 1971 inclusive, and in 1971 he enjoyed a revival, winning four events.

Granted these are just some of his accomplishments, which continued throughout his entire life.

After hearing the news of The King’s passing, my heart sank a little.  He really was a staple in our community.  The next thought that came to mind?  We’re going to be bombarded with celebrities.  I remember when Arnold’s first wife, Winnie passed away.  The biggest news was George H.W. Bush was spotted in K-Mart purchasing a belt for the funeral.

Arnold Palmer wasn’t a man in everyone’s face, riding the edge of controversy and reality television, but he was friend to many far and wide, high and low.  In my opinion, that made him a true legend.

While I don’t have the fame, nor the fortune of Arnold Palmer, I’m still very proud to announce Thrill of the Hunt is a Latrobe company, and I’m looking forward to the day when I join our prestigious line up local celebrities and keep the good name of Latrobe alive.

God Speed to all of Arnold Palmer’s friends and family.  Rest in peace.

10/3/16 – Recently, I heard a fun story about Arnold Palmer from my cousin John Olczak.  He said his dad, my Uncle Frank, my Grandpap Chester’s brother, and the other brothers caddied together with Arnold Palmer at the Latrobe Country Club when they were younger.  Apparently, they always had to keep track of Mr. Palmer because he would sneak way to hang out on the putting green and practice, instead of caddying.

It just goes to show Arnold Palmer was meant to be a golfer.  He had a natural talent that I’m guessing was driven by a true desire and a love to play the game.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Fishing & Fun

Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.  ~Zadie Smith

Kyle Aunt Heather Piper Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16

Yep that’s the attitude I’ve come to know & almost tolerate from my 14 year old. My batman was trying not to smile, he had to look unfazed by his Aunt Heather…. ya right! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Yep, we survived the 27th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby, two Saturdays ago on May 7th.  Did Kyle go?  Of course.  Did he really want to go?  You know, I believe he did!  After all, he asked me about it, and dictated the time we were to get up and be there for breakfast, although he never expressed an interest in camping out Friday night.  Let me translate, that’s fourteen year old code for “I’m really excited about the fishing derby and I can’t wait!”

Kyle has always seemed to enjoy fishing, much like his dad and pappy.  Since the first day of fishing this year, Kyle’s been going with my dad nearly every weekend.  Let me tell you, that makes dad extremely happy, to spend time with Kyle, and to fish.  If I had to choose, I’d pick hunting over fishing, but I do love a fresh caught trout.

Kyle’s allowed to participate in the fishing derby until he’s sixteen.  It looks like he has another two years left.  He can always join in eating and drinking (nonalcoholic beverages), and I’m sure everyone would love to see him regardless if he fishes or not, but the rules state he can’t fish past sixteen.  However, he’d be really good at assisting the youngsters, if he’s still interested in attending the fishing derby by then.  Of course, I’ve learned with a teenager, you never know.

On Saturday, Kyle did just that, he fished, naturally, but he also helped his cousins with their bait and casting.  Kyle was surrounded by Hailey, Lila, Owen, Grant, and Olivia.  In addition to keeping the lines untangled and the hooks prepped for a catch, I gave Kyle another responsibility, a huge one at that.  What else could I possibly have expected from him?  After all, his attitude was stellar and pleasant, and he was having a great time.

I told Kyle to be on the lookout for kids falling into the pond.  It seems like every year one child manages to become submerged in pond water.  Especially since Kyle was within arms reach of the little ones, he had to keep his eyes peeled.  You know, I don’t believe I had to say anything.  Kyle acknowledged my request with an “Okay” and continued fishing, yet I sensed he knew trouble is a real possibility and he was ready for it.  Boy is that kid growing up!

Abby her boys and her dad Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Abby handing with her boys & her dad. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Was there a child to fall in?  You bet.  This year, Grant, Casey’s step-son.  He was okay and it didn’t seem to phase him.  This happened on the opposite side of the pond from us, Kyle was off the hook (pun intended).

It was at that moment, I saw Kyle’s maturity take shape.  He knew he was the older kid, not that adults weren’t all around at every two feet.  Kyle also trusts his swimming skills, as do I.  He was keeping an eye out for more than himself while fishing.  He was helping more than himself.  He was truly a little mature man.

To be honest, spending the entire day at the fishing derby from 7:00 am till about 9:00 pm was a long day, one I really didn’t want to go without getting some work done, yet, I’m glad I did.  There were times I thought about bugging out to work on my dog scavenger hunt events for Thrill of the Hunt, but then I thought, I never get to hang with Kyle and He only has a couple of years left to fish.  Plus, my parents weren’t there, again not that I didn’t have friends and family at every step, but staying was my way of showing Kyle we’re still a team, and I’m there to support him because he’s that important to me.

Boo and Bennet Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Boo with his nephew, Bennett at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

It was nice to see Kyle hang with his local friends.  They kept the tradition of dodge ball alive.  I did have to interject once.  I watched Kyle hurl the ball at a few slightly younger kids.  He certainly wasn’t trying to be malicious, Kyle was having fun and didn’t realize he’s gotten a lot taller and stronger than he used to be.  I simply asked him to not throw so hard and certainly not at anyone’s face.  He did give me a crappy little grin, like, “That’s how the game is won.” but after that, I never saw him face shot again.

We’ve had some ups and downs with these teenage years, but I’ll admit Kyle is a good kid!  He’s a nice guy, a little sassy, but his heart is still much like his dad’s and great grandpap Walter’s, good and sincere.

As Kyle was waiting around watching the seasoned gentlemen make breakfast, someone spoke up and asked who was going to do the french toast.  Kyle offered his hand and went to work.  The guys were impressed.  I wasn’t, I know what a good cook Kyle is and he knows his way around a skillet.  Unbeknownst to that crew, I’ve had Kyle cooking since he was little.  He did a great job and seemed to enjoy himself.  They all joked around, and said Kyle was now expected to help with breakfast next year.  I hope he does.

Lori Raffling off flowers Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Lori with flowers to raffle. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Now time for a funny, slightly scary story.  While I was among Kyle and the kids along the pond’s edge, I was helping Grant bait his hook.  To set the scene, Kyle had placed the earth worms on his seat directly behind him.  Just as I migrated into Kyle’s space, I bent over to retrieve a fat juicy warm.  I was met with something squishy and wet that hit me squarely in the forehead.  Just a fraction of a second beforehand, I saw and heard a few people jump and yell “Watch out!”  What was going on?  Kyle instantly turned around in confusion too.  What happened?

Kyle cast his line, without looking behind him, just as I moved in the exact location of the flying bait, causing it to hit me in the face with live, pond water covered group of warms strung on a hook!  The nearby witnesses thought I got a hook in the eye, but by the Grace of God, I was only smacked with grossness.  It took me and Kyle a minute to understand what happened, while everyone around looked upon us with freight and amazement.  Kyle laughed, as did I, even though it was a serious offense.  I know he didn’t mean it, but it’s true he could have taken out my eye.  It was a lesson for all the kids and a rather unpleasant one for me.  It was also partially my fault, I should have paid attention to Kyle, since I invaded his territory unannounced.

At the end of the night Cindy and Dave Planinsek, plus the rest of the Planinsek gang, who worked hard to organized this annually anticipated event, purchased a variety of toys and fishing gear for the kid’s raffle.  Tickets are purchased and each ticket contains the name of a child.  The booty is placed on several picnic tables for the children to see.  Names are drawn and the children, with major excitement, approach the table to select a prize.  This continues until all the items are claimed.  I wasn’t sure if I should add Kyle’s name to the list or not, so I chose to purchase tickets, better play it safe.  There were other items in addition to toys, such as fishing poles, tackles boxes and bags, hats, and such.  Why not?

Kyle Fishing Pose c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

How my little man has grown… He always did love to fish, real or plastic fish. (about 2 years old) c. 2003

While all the kids settled down under the pavilion, I looked for Kyle.  I asked around were that kid was located.  Only because everyone was in one central location under the pavilion, where he was suppose to be.  I eventually found Kyle hanging out by the volleyball / dodge ball court, talking with a few kids his age.  Boy how times have changed!

Kyle used to be the first one, up front, ready for the drawing to begin.  Now he was very blasé about it.  I told him to join the crowd, which he was hesitant, but did so.  I stood in the back, nervously waiting for his name to be called, knowing it was either a good or bad decision to purchase him tickets.

Finally, I heard, KYLE PIPER.  He didn’t seem to hear his name.  I walked over and tapped him on the shoulder letting him know he should go and get a prize.  His response?  He rolled his eyes at me and shrugged his shoulders like, “There’s nothing I want.”  To assist and keep the once exciting part of the day in momentum, I pointed to the fishing poles and such.  Without much effort, he selected a fishing pole.  Kyle’s name was drawn a few more times, which he graciously gave to his little cousins to take his spot.  At the end, I asked him where his fishing pole was?  His response?  “I gave it to Grant, he wanted it.”  Okay, buddy, that was a nice gesture!

I love that kid!  I’m already looking forward to next year, as I believe Kyle is.  It’s days like that, that I’m grateful to have taken the time to spend with Kyle and to appreciate the little man he is and mature man he’s turning into.

Did Kyle catch any fish?  He did, a very small blue gill.  Now that was a definite laugh out loud moment.  Aside from the three inch killer whale, Kyle had no other luck.

On another side note, Kyle woke up Sunday morning in a rather crabby mood.  Maybe he had too much excitement and needed more sleep.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Let the Fishing Begin!

Nothing whets the intelligence more than a passionate suspicion, nothing develops all the faculties of an immature mind more than a trail running away into the dark.  ~Stefan Zweig

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle too cool (literally) to stand, leaned against the bushes & fell… I laughed! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Youth fishing was last Saturday.  Did we take Kyle?  You bet we did.  He really does love fishing.  Hunting he could take it or leave it, and over the last couple years he left it, (I know he’ll be back) yet fishing has always remained.

I too like to fish, although if I had my choice I’d much rather hunt.  Why?  Simply because in hunting season, I like to walk around the woods, pushing deer or just roaming around.  I like being among the trees, I feel at home.  Fishing is great, but sitting for long hours isn’t my thing, not to mention, I have a serious aversion to mosquitoes, which always accompany the riverbanks and lakes and warm weather.

Ryan loved fishing, and hunting too.  It seemed he did more fishing, but perhaps that’s due to the longer season.  Usually he fished with dad, his friends, friends of the family and my uncle and cousins.  He fished!

It’s nice to see Kyle having something in common with his Dad, especially one that my Dad, Kyle’s Pappy, enjoys as much.

Every time I think of Ryan fishing, the image of him drowning comes to mind.  On one such fishing excursion to the local creeks, Uncle Sonny took Ryan and I believe my two cousins, Chad and Jeremy.  I’m sure there was a group of them, but I don’t remember.  Naturally, they were wearing waders, you know those rubber overalls.  I guess Ryan tripped or slipped or something and fell into the water.  Many times when that happens, depending on the speed of the creek and the position of the person in the water etc., the water can drag a person down and create a suction effect.  Ultimately, drowning the unfortunate fisherman.  From what I remember of the stories told, that’s what happened to Ryan, who never liked water in his face and was a panicky swimmer anyway.  Scary stuff!  Uncle Sonny had to pull him up out of the water, essentially saving his life.  I don’t know if he was really on the brink of death, or Ryan just panicked, but it happened.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Creek 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle has casting down pretty good… he’s a pretty good fisherman, now baiting his own hook! Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

I’m never worried about Kyle and water.  I know things can happen, and quickly, but Kyle doesn’t have a sense of panic in the water.  I’ve had him in swimming lessons since he was little, around five or six.  He went once a week until he was about twelve or so.  He LOVED his swimming days.  He used to draw pictures of the pool at the YMCA, and include his name on one side of this blue area on the paper, and the capital letter H on the other side, where I sat watching him.  I took him when he went from the small pool and graduated to the big pool, from the shallow end to the ultimate depths of the water.  He loved diving deep underwater.  In fact, he loved being completely submerged.  Kyle is very secure with his swimming abilities, as am I.

This past Saturday, would have been a very cold day to make contact with the water.  Dad and I took Kyle fishing, with the many other little munchkins lining the Loyalhanna Creek with their batman and barbie fishing pools.  Dad and I got a chuckle out of that, too cute!  It wasn’t that long ago Kyle was there, but now he’s graduated to the adult size reel and pole.  Come to think of it, I believe Kyle took my Dad’s fishing pole on Saturday.  He’s too much!

Dad and I were permitted to catch and release, but I didn’t want to.  I preferred watching Kyle fish.  He was only allowed to catch two trout, but hey, it was the experience I enjoyed.

Now the typical Kyle we’ve all grown to know and love, or at least accept.  While getting ready to leave, I told him it was really cold out and it would be colder down by the creek.  Kyle’s response, “I’ll be fine.”  Ignoring him and knowing better, I gave him long underwear.  He gave me a look of “Ya right” but actually dressed in the set, while only adding jeans and a t-shirt.  Although, he did take my thickest hoodie.  I asked him, do you want a pair of gloves?  Kyle’s response, “No, I’ll be fine.”  Then I stated, “Kyle I want you to wear a hat or something over your ears.”  After he rolled his eyes at me, he responded, “I’ll be fine.”  Right!  I know I’ve been mistaken for being psychic, but honestly I’ve been through this same scenario many times before.

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle 4-9-16 Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper

Yep, Pap has fallen prey to modern times… he’s on his cell. Kyle & I laughed at him. Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

We get to the creek and choose a seat on the wall, overlooking the water.  No more than twenty minutes passed, and Kyle started complaining how cold he was.  He wasn’t exaggerating either, I could tell he was really cold.  Mostly he complained about his hands being frozen, go figure.  “Kyle, do you want my gloves?”  Without hesitation and without modesty, he answerd “Okay!”.  So there went my hunting gloves.   They’re warm too!  They’re the kind of gloves with the cut out fingers for mobility, and the tops flip up into mittens for complete fleece warmth.  Awesome gloves!  I actually did prepare for Kyle asking for my gloves, and I brought a spare pair of snowboarding gloves, however they were back at the car.  No worries, I kept my hands in my hunting coat and I was toasty.

A child down the creek from us, caught a really nice sized trout, but no luck on our side.  It’s funny, Dad really enjoyed watching the boy reel in his fish and get excepted over his catch.  He was so happy for that child!  Kyle, didn’t really care.  He only kept commenting on how cold it was and was hinting around of leaving.  I wasn’t too happy about that, only because he was too stubborn to dress appropriately, and now I missed going to the gym.  I don’t mind standing there, but Kyle better be fishing and not complaining.

Soon, we left that spot for another, and to warm up in the car.  Dad drove down the opposite side of Route 30 to find another spot, one he’s never fished before.  It was great!  A nice spot where the river was running a little faster than our previous spot, assisting with the snags, and right along the water.

As we stood there, in the snow, yes, the beginning of April and it was snowing, it was quite the sight when the snow started flying.  Kyle was amazed that we were fishing among large fluffy snowflakes.  Dad’s response, “Oh, I’ve fished in worse weather than this before.”  He began to tell Kyle about some of his fishing adventures in Michigan.  The sky was completely overcast, not letting a bit of light shine through.  Kyle joined my gaze and made the same observation.  Just then Dad said, “If the sun would start shinning, I bet the fish would bite.”

Youth Fishing Loyalhanna Kyle & Dad 4-9-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Look closely, you’ll see Kyle in my hunting gloves… Loyalhanna Creek 4/9/16

Next thing you knew, the clouds parted ever so slightly and the sun shined down on us.  Not for long, but enough and soon Dad got a nibble.  He turns to Kyle to offer him the honor of reeling it in.  Without thinking twice, Kyle handed me his pole and to0k over Dad’s, like he was the professional among us.  Too funny!  Dad gave me a big smile.  It was like Kyle was five again.  He reeled in the Rainbow and was as happy as I’ve seen him in a while.  The trout was legal, and Kyle decided to keep it.

Not surprising, Kyle took over his Pappy’s spot and began casting into the water.  Dad laughed and took a seat on a rock to let Kyle have the run of the area.  I stood by in support, with net in hand.  It didn’t take long for Kyle to get another bite.  He was excited and reeled in another Rainbow, instructing me to get the net out.  Dad yelled over, “I think that’s bigger than the last one!”  Kyle’s eye got big and looked toward his catch.  It was slightly larger, a perfect size fish!  Way to go!

Kyle's picture of the YMCA pool c. 2007 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s artistic expression of swimming lessons at the YMCA with me. I think I’m the capital H c. 2007

Kyle decided to keep both fish, meaning we were done fishing for the day.  Now who gets to clean up the prizes?  Me?  YES, me!  In the freezing cold.  Dad remained on his rock, and I thought for a moment, he was going to make Kyle clean his own fish, but instead had me do it.  Kyle smiled knowing I didn’t want to pull my hands out of my pockets.  (I don’t mind cleaning the fish)  Kyle helped me by handing me the fish.  Did I mention he was still wearing my hunting gloves?  I guess now they smell like fish!

My hands were freezing!  As I was descaling the fish, Dad kept commenting, “Make sure you get all the scales off.” and “Get between the fins.”  Kyle stood there watching me snickering.  I was ready to kill them both, stinkers!  My hands were turning blue.  Then, while gutting the fish and rinsing them off in the ice cold water, my hands became numb and stinging.  I was barely able to move them.

We raced back to car and Dad cranked the heat.  We did have a very fun and successful day.  I’m glad I tagged along and helped out.

Did we eat the catch?  You bet we did.  Everyone shared in the small feast.

Tomorrow is the first day of fishing for everyone.  Dad has our spots mapped out and planned.  It looks like it’s going to be a nice day, which means a lot of fishermen.  I hope we’re blessed with a good catch and a nice time.  Dad’s already planning on smoking our plenty.

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad! – 65 Years Strong

Years fly by, but the heart stays in the same place.  ~Harlan Coben

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny 10-1956 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny, I think on a school field trip. 10/1956

I’m well aware Dad despises me talking about him online, not that he ever reads anything I write.  Why?  Because the old man’s never touched a computer in his life, let alone knows how to use a search engine. (He’s never even used an ATM machine.)  So how does he know I talk about him online?  I’m usually ratted out by people who read my blog and follow my social media sites, usually my Mom.  However, since Dad’s getting up there in years, he needs to have each and every year recognized and recorded, at the very least for Kyle to remember his dear old Pap.  My rule when reading my blog: read it to enjoy but never tell Dad where you heard the stories about him, or even those of Kyle.

Anyway, Dad added another year to his resume.  What’s been going on with my retiree?  Not much, he’s loving his simple life on the ridge.  His typical day consists of hanging with the dogs, Seven and Scooby, sneaking in a nap or two, sometimes cutting firewood or doing yard work, and visiting his ladies at least four times a day.

Ladies?  Who are the ladies?  That’s what Dad calls his chickens, which totally cracks me up!  He loves those birds.  Recently, they started laying eggs, which has now become the big excitement of each day.  No joke!

Sure, I still help Dad with our hobbies.  We have our honey bees, and up until this past fall, we were raising turkeys, who are now tucked away in the freezer.  Summer always brings a renewed interest in fishing and trapping snapping turtle, too.

Is Dad still hunting?  You bet!  In fact, he took the muzzle-loader out this year, and he participated in the senior citizen season.  Time for a true funny story.  Late October is the youth hunt or mentor hunting, coincidentally it’s also senior citizen hunting, prior to the standard deer season.  Every time I heard Dad recount this past hunting season with anyone, he talked about the youth hunt.  He always called it the youth hunt, not the senior citizen hunt.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, gave Dad a very inquisitive confused look when Dad, an old man, talked about hunting during the “youth hunt”.  In Dad’s head he knew he was legal, but most people were taken back by the term “youth hunt” in reference to Dad hunting.

Nowadays, Dad’s interested in purchasing a crossbow for archery season.  I’m okay with that!  Seriously, whatever keeps him active and happy.  He was even trying to nudge Mom (Gigi) back into hunting, to get her moving around since she too is retired as of the first of the year.  Personally, I think Dad has a better chance of shooting a 24 point, with an arrow that ricocheted off of a tree trunk, and a large rock before hitting the buck directly in the lungs, dropping it immediately.  Could happen, but highly unlikely.

What did we do today?  We butchered a 620 pound pig.  Seriously?  Yes!  Only in the Piper household.  Dad should have been a butcher for he loves harvesting his own meat.  Kyle even came over early to spend the weekend, although he passed on helping with the pig.  Instead, Kyle assisted me in making his pappy a pound cake.  We spent the day together, and had a really nice time.

Happy birthday old man!  I hope you keep going for another 60 years.

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Pets and have No Comments

Hunting Adventures – Deer Season

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!  ~Bram Stoker

Deer hunting in Cortland NY Tree stand 11-21-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Cortland, NY … 1st day of deer season 11/21/15

Let me explain my reasoning for using this quote, which was selected more for my own personal humor.  It’s a famous quote, basically showing the correlation between Dracula and wild animals.  Bram Stoker was referring to the werewolves.  Plus, let’s not forget there’s the underlying theme of Dracula being a hunter.  (I think I’m going to add this book to my list of reads.)  Everyone knows who, not what, Dracula hunted, although perhaps he too hunted deer in his off time.

Out of shear curiosity, I looked up hunting in Transylvania, and they actually have red, fallow and roebuck deer!  A little fun fact.  One day, I’d like to take dad to hunt there.  I bet it’d be fun.

Anyway, focusing on good old white tail deer, during rifle season in Western Pennsylvania, a few weeks ago, the hunting season began.  I wish I had stories to tell from fall turkey, but alas I was really busy with Thrill of the Hunt and prepping to take time off for deer season that I wasn’t able to go.  Perhaps, I’ll be able to participate in small game and spring gobbler for the remainder of my 2015 – 2016 hunting license.  We’ll see.

Dad & Larry getting ready to deer hunt Cortland NY 11-20-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Larry adding ribbons to the trees, while Dad drove behind. Larry gave us a tour of the woods we were hunting in, & helped us get ready for the 1st day of deer. 11/20/15

Looking back on this entire season, it started off the same with the Hunting Adventures – The Goose Hunt and ended much the same with Pennsylvania deer.  How so?  Let me explain.

Dad and I went to Cortland, New York, as we do every year for the first day of rifle for deer, which began on Saturday, November 21st, a little over a week before Pennsylvania’s season began.  This year, we hunted in a different area, one that clearly showed signs of populated deer.  Promising right?  You bet!  Dad was positioned one side of the woods, while I was on the other end.  Prior to hunting on Saturday, a good friend of dad’s who we stayed with, showed us our new hunting spots the day prior.  Good to go!

Dad and I each had a buck and a doe tag.  How many deer did we get total?  Zero.  How many deer did we see between the two of us?  Nada.  Seriously?  Yes!  By Saturday night, everyone in our group got a buck, but no one saw a single doe.  It was the strangest thing, usually the opposite happens.  Then, for me and dad to not see a single deer, no one could believe it.  Well, it happens.

Deer Hunting in Indiana PA Tree Stand 11-30-15 Aunt Heather Piper

View from my tree stand in Indiana, PA. Love the morning view! 11/30/15

From what I was told, that area of New York, off the finger lakes, had a really rough winter last year ,and it killed off a bunch of deer.  Oh well, I was happy to see everyone else harvested at least one deer.  Keep in mind, that was just opening day.  Dad and I were going to continue hunting until we filled our tags, or Thanksgiving came first, forcing us home.

Sunday came, and yes you’re allowed to hunt on Sunday’s in New York, but another nothing.  No deer sightings at all.  Monday.  Zip.  Tuesday.  Zilch.  Wednesday.  Nada.  How many deer did we see?  Total between the two of us?  That’s a big fat zero.  We even moved to different locations throughout the week to increase our chances, but alas no deer.  I told Dad and Larry, I suspected the deer intercepted their phone conversations and had us bugged to avoid us.  Honestly, I had a great season last year so I can’t complain.  It’s a bit disappointing and anticlimactic, but it’s apart of the hunting experience.  Sometimes you see deer, sometimes you don’t, sometimes you see a trophy buck, sometimes you don’t even see a buck.  We left Wednesday to head home, after trying our luck in the woods again, but to no avail.

On a side note, Larry gave us his doe he shot later in the week.  That wasn’t necessary, but very kind of him.  Larry felt bad for our lack of adventure, but I don’t think he realized we had fun regardless.  Hanging with Dad in the woods is always a nice time.  I told Dad, that the deer he gave us to take home felt like a consolation prize.  Dad laughed and agreed with me, but was also very appreciative over the gesture.

Deer Hunting in New York 11-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

One of my spots while hunting in New York. Waiting for Dad to pick me up to call it a day. 11/24/15

I’m glad we made it back by Wednesday night, to spend some time with Kyle.  I was also able to help mom cook and prep for Thanksgiving dinner, which Kyle joined us.

After a short hiatus, the first day of buck in Pennsylvania began on Monday, November 30th.  Dad and I were both really excited, thinking our luck was going to change.  Unlike New York, we were only allowed to shoot buck on Monday, three points or better.  The night before, I was joking with Dad saying, I forgot what a deer looks like in the woods.  Dad began to tease me and tell friends and family that I was the reason we didn’t see any deer.  We were both giggling over our New York experience, and we were ready to bring home some deer meat.

By eight or nine in the morning, I saw a few doe.  To be honest, it was nice just seeing the deer, however no horns.  At the end of the day when dad pulled the quad up to my stand to pick me up, neither of us had anything to drag out.  Dad didn’t see anything!  He was happy to hear I saw about thirteen doe, although I’m not sure if they were all different, or the same group running around.  Still, good sign.

Deer Hunting Tweet Aunt Heather Piper

Naturally, I have social fun while deer hunting. If Dad knew, I’d be the one shot, not the deer!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hunt on the first day of doe, that Saturday, but dad did.  He went into my tree stand and harvested a doe in the morning.  Yeah!  Finally something for our efforts.

I hunted sporadically with dad the rest of the season, again at different locations.  Can you believe we never saw a single deer?  Not one deer after Dad got his doe!  On the last day of deer season, Saturday, December 12th, which happened to be my birthday, and Mom and Dad’s 64th wedding anniversary, we never saw a deer.  This time we were hunting in Stahlstown.  We even had guys pushing for us, but nothing, not even an almost sighting, or a waving tail.

I didn’t realize our goose hunt started a trend we couldn’t shake the entire deer season, from New York to Pennsylvania.  The season might have been a bust with respect to harvesting deer meat, but to be honest, I had a great time with Dad.  It’s funny, when we came home on Saturday, Dad made the exact same comment about having fun even though no one took a single shot.  Like me, Dad loves being in the woods, walking around, and being removed from the hustle and bustle of life.  Sure, it’s always nice to accomplish your goal of filling the deer tags, but it’s also about the experience and spending time together.

I’m sure in years to come, we’ll talk about this adventure.  I hope so, for it’s a great memory!  The only thing missing was Kyle.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

Busy Little Bees

Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.  ~Anthony Burgess

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A little bee humor at our beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

I love our bees!  I simply find them fascinating!  What’s been going on with my newest hobby?  A lot!

At the end of July, Dad and I added the super to our bee hive.  What does that mean?  Ultimately, it means honey for us!

Our hive is two boxes high.  Those boxes contain honey strictly for the bees to keep the hive going and healthy, especially since winter is right around the corner.  Dad and I added a smaller box, called the super or sometimes the medium, to the hive, since our bottom boxes were nearly full.  Plus, let’s get real, we couldn’t wait any longer.  Before adding this addition to the hive, we placed the queen bee blocker between the boxes, so the queen can’t enter the top box and lay eggs.  She’s confined to the rest of the hive, while the worker bees, who are a lot smaller in size, can enter the top domain to make honey for our consumption.  The Piper’s honey and not the bees.  Pretty simple.

Adding the super to the bee hive 7-26-15 Aunt Heather PiperPrior to adding the super to the hive, we had to do a mite treatment.  Evidently, there are different methods for destroying the mites in the hives.  Mites, really?  Yes!  It’s a huge problem, one that is unavoidable, yet maintained.

To do this, we have a contraption that contains a metal plate and two electrical cords.  I added two scoops (one for each box) of this fine powder material to the metal plate.  This treatment is actually wood bleach, better known as oxalic acid.  Seriously?  Yep.  Then, we took the plate and hooked it up to a car battery to give it a charge.  Really?  True!  The plate heats up and creates a smoke that’s not toxic to the bees but kills the mites.  The procedure only takes about two minutes for the actual smoking process, and about fifteen minutes to allow the smoke to settle.  This process is repeated a few days later, about a week before a super is added to the hive.  Do the bees like it?  Not at all!

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Beekeepers come in all sizes, even young. Great beekeepers picnic & meeting. 8/9/15

The first time we treated the bees for mites, Kyle assisted.  We waited till nightfall, to ensure the bees were snug in their beds.  Dad and I dressed in full suit, while Kyle argued and said, he wasn’t entering the hive area, and that he’ll be fine.  We needed him to help time the process.  However, what Kyle didn’t realize, was bees don’t stay in a certain area, they’ll fly ten feet from the hive and certainly the five foot distance from were Kyle was standing.

On a side note, it’s pretty difficult moving around in the pitch black, wearing bee suits with a black mess intercepting our vision and leather gloves.  I’m just saying.

As with everything in life, we learn valuable lessons through experience, some faster lessons than others.  Dad and I didn’t smoke the bees first to calm them down, assuming the treatment wouldn’t be so negatively received.  Well it was!  As Dad and I stood there, the bees were actually hitting us, bouncing their bodies off of ours.  We didn’t get stung, but it felt like someone was throwing tiny rocks at us.  This chest bumping is a warning from the bees saying “I’m going to sting you if you don’t back off, I’m not happy.”  Next thing I heard was Kyle screaming, “Ooouch!”  and he took of running down the hill.  He even dropped his precious iPhone 6 were he once stood.  I’ve never seen that kid move so fast, not that I was able to really see him, but I can only imagine.  Dad and I thought he was being attached by a herd of bees.  Was he?  No!

Bee mite Treatment 7-17-15 Aunt Heather Piper

After things settled down and we completed our mission, we returned to the house.  I asked Kyle if he was alright and how bad was the attack.  Kyle pointed to a single spot on his arm.  I about died laughing.  Not because he was stung, I agree that hurts and that doesn’t make for a good day, but because he sounded like he was being mulled by our flying friends.  Even Dad joined in on the humor and all that fuss for a single sting.  Of course, if I was in his shoes, the fear of not being able to see and not knowing what to expect, would have been the worst part.  Then, naturally we added, “Why didn’t you wear the extra bee suit?” and “I guess you wished you were wearing the bee suit.”  Kyle simply snickered and ignored our teasing of the truth.  Originally Kyle argued and claimed he’d be fine without the suit.  I guess he was wrong.  I did tease him and mention, “Is that what it takes to get you off of your phone?”  Kyle only responded with a grunt.

Beekeeper Meeting Twitter feed 8-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

What really happened, was Kyle freaked out over a single bee that landed on his arm and he swotted at it, resulting in a sting.  I’m guessing the bees weren’t even concerned with him in the slightest.  I told Kyle, “You shouldn’t have swotted at the bee.  Leave them alone and they won’t hurt you.”  Granted, that’s a general rule, but truly one worth trying.  The honey bees are pretty docile and don’t go attacking for no reason.  Again, this isn’t a one-hundred percent guarantee.

Do we have honey yet?  Alas, no.  We just checked recently, but they’re beginning to make the honey combs!

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At the beekeepers picnic / meeting in Stahlstown. To the left with her back towards us is my cousin Pat Piper. 8/9/15

Last weekend, I was able to discuss our bee experiences with others of like interest.  I was able to attend my first bee keepers meeting. This one happened to also be a picnic on the president of our organization’s farm.  What a great day!  They taught us about all things bees, the topic of this meeting was harvesting queen bees.  A subject I have no interest in, at least not at this stage of my beekeeping experience, but information worth noting.  They also gave a few life hacks and supplied information on wild flowers.  Dad was right when he said, “They’re all above our level of understanding and experience.”  However, everyone is really great and helpful.  These group of people are a wonderful resource.  Thanks to my cousin Pete (David) Piper, who got us into bees and supplied us with our first hive, we’re able to hang with him and his wife Pat at the meetings and discuss bees alongside others.

Kyle joined us at the picnic, but I don’t think he has an interest in bees.  Maybe later in life, or when his iPhone dies.

As you might imagine, the bee community is close-knit.  Recently, we received an email stating a bee keeper from Stahlstown was getting out of the bee business and was selling all his equipment and supplies.  Naturally, every bee keeper in the area swarmed to his house and raided his stock.  Dad and I were no exception.  Why not?  It’s a way to build a back log of needed material at a low investment.  We scored an electric bee extractor and bunch of boxes and inserts and even some plastic containers to bottle the honey.  Not only is obtaining these pieces valuable because they’re at a great price, but talking to an expert helps us learn.  He was a great guy who offered us a lot of advice.

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Wild flowers that bees LOVE! It’s good know this stuff! Beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

While speaking to this gentleman, who I know will miss his bees, I made him do a double take.  We were talking about wearing our bee suits, (he only ever wore his mask) and the number of times he was stung.  I mentioned that I’m allergic to bees so I always wear my bee suit.  He almost fell over with surprise.  Relax, I have yet to go into anaphylactic shock!

I know my garden is really flourishing and our fruit trees are producing so well because of our bees.  They’re a much needed asset to our existence, and they’re a truly interesting hobby.  I can’t wait till we get our very own swarm!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Congratulations – Mikey & Mary Beth Got Hitched!

… when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about: showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can’t show up anymore.  ~Rebecca Walker

Mr. & Mrs. Olczak

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Mikey & Mary Beth got hitched! Congrats! 8/1/15

This is a celebration worth writing about, the union of my cousin Mikey and his new wife, Mary Beth.  On Saturday, August, 1st, before God, they married in a small Catholic church in New Derry, Pennsylvania.  The reception?  The best venue ever!  The Planinsek Pavilion!  Yes, the very same location of the Fishing Derby (25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby)!

It was a traditional, yet simple ceremony.  There wasn’t a lot of frills or fluff, they kept the wedding to the meat and potatoes, the important things, close family, caring friends, and the loving couple.  It was perfect!  After mass, everyone migrated to the Planinsek Pavilion for a good old-fashioned celebratory dinner and dancing.

It was a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies, low humidity, and we were even blessed with a light breeze. Like I said, perfect!

Now for some of the wedding details.  Be prepared, these little touches added to the wedding will pull on the heart strings.  A few years ago, the bride’s father passed away.  However, Mary Beth wanted to include him on her special day, in a subtle way.  He was known for wearing this red baseball cap with white polka dots.  Really?  Oh yes!  When I picture the man, that’s exactly how I see him, and that’s how he was always described by others.  The bride and bridesmaid, one of Mary Beth’s sisters, incorporated a red ribbon with white polka dots at the base of their bouquets.  The sweetness didn’t stop there.  Mikey’s dad, walked Mary Beth down the isle, and Mikey walked Mary Beth’s mom down the isle.  That’s true family unity from the beginning.  Told you, too sweet!  Again, perfect!

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Front Row: Mary Beth (now Olczak) Stacey, Marla, Elizabeth, Karen   Back row: Joel, Mikey, Casey, Jim Olczak 8/1/15

Favors were not offered, at least not in the traditional sense.  Since Mikey’s a woodworker by trait, he made cutting boards for each table.  Yes!  His hand-crafted wooden cutting boards were the vehicle to serve the fresh fruit, cheese and crackers for each table.  Then, at the end of the night, designated guests were given the custom Red Barn Woodworking pieces to take home.  What a great idea!  Mikey also made the card box and personalized it.  Now that’s a way to add details and a special touch.

Mikey and Mary Beth’s reception was very different from ones I’m accustomed to.  One big aspect of a typical Western Pennsylvanian wedding is the cookie table!  Oh, yes, this is truly a thing, and a big thing.  Weddings in this area are judged by the cookie table.  Mikey and Mary Beth did not disappoint!  However, aside from the cookie display, and their first dance, they didn’t keep with wedding tradition.  There was no polka music or polka dancing, no bridal dance, no formal cutting of the cake, no formal introduction of the bridal party.  Although, keep in mind, the bridal party consisted of our loving couple, and the bridesmaid and the best man.  Both respected siblings, and both individuals where known by all of the attendees.

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Mikey & Me … had to have a cousin picture! Congrats Mikey & Mary Beth 8/1/15

Did I miss all these standard aspects to a typical wedding?  Not at all!  I loved how the evening unfolded!  I simply loved it!  There was no pressure, no expectations, no stress, from the guests or our newlyweds.  Like I mentioned, perfect!  The love and simple attitude from Mikey and Mary Beth spilled out over onto everyone.  Now that’s a real power couple!

To be honest, the reception was more like a huge family reunion.  Everywhere I looked, I was related to someone in one way or another.  This wedding, combined the large families of the area, the Olczak’s, the Piper’s, the Planinsek’s and the Butina’s, into one big party.  I’ve always been friends with the Butina’s.  My best friend in elementary school was a Butina, and so I was an adopted Butina, like many of my cousins.  Naturally, I’m related to the Piper’s and the Olczak’s.  The Olczak’s are related to the Planinsek’s, and now were all related to the Butina’s.   One big ridger family!

On a side note, a ridger is a person who lives on the ridge.  What’s a ridge?  The top of a hill or elevated area in a rural area.  A ridger is slang around Latrobe and Ligonier.

We danced the night away to the band, Life of Brian, friends of the happy couple.  They rocked the night away, and got everyone up and moving!  That was the first time I’ve heard them, and I was impressed!  They’re really, really good and made the evening even more enjoyable

Chef Mark’s Palete catered to the party.  Talk about eating like kings!  Chef Mark was on hand to carve the smoked roast beef, as well as serve the multi-layered wedding cake, not courtesy of Chef Mark.  His staff was very attentive to the guests and kept things moving smoothly.

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Life of Brian… a great band!

It was great mingling among everyone and catching up.  Knowing Mikey and Mary Beth, I would have expected nothing less.

I had a great time and I wish them all the happiness in the world!  Mikey and Mary Beth are perfect examples of what happens when two people are raised with morally strong families, and are just all around good people.

Congratulations Mikey and Mary Beth!  I look forward to witnessing your unity over the years.  I know it will be full of happiness and fun.  You guys are a great couple!  Cheers!

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Turkey On The Run

Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.  ~Jack Kerouac

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Dad & Kyle in the fishing boat, getting ready to fish! 8/20/10

It’s no surprise, I totally get a kick out of our chickens and turkeys.  Truly!  So when a story as amazing as this one presents itself, I feel obligated to share the experience.

We need to step back about two and half weeks.  Dad just mowed the lawn, which was pretty high from the continuous rainfall for the last two months, and he asked me to rake up some of the bigger piles of grass to feed to the chickens and turkeys.  Great idea!  They love fresh grass and it’s healthier for them and us too.  I raked the chlorophyll strands into a five gallon bucket, and headed to the turkey coop first, since it’s further away.

Please note, normally our turkeys are very docile upon entering their domain.  They either huddle together opposite to the door, or they remain steadfast on their roosts.  So you can imagine, any other behavior would take me completely off guard.

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The escapee… this turkey is a survivor! 7/14/15

From the minute I opened the door, the story began.  I entered the turkey coop with my bucket of fresh cut grass and simply turned the container upside down to release the contents.  Well, the turkeys didn’t welcome such actions, and all eleven, yes there were (keyword here is were) eleven turkeys, each weighing about ten pounds or so, nearly fully grown, flapped their wings.  They flew in all directions and quite frankly freaked out!  Can you picture it?  Me standing in the middle of a feathery wind tunnel with large projectiles flying at and around me.  Just then, I saw two turkeys heading for the opened door, mid-air.  I leaned back, pretty gracefully I might add, and swatted the one bird back in the pen.  However, the second frantic bird made a break for it and succeed.  Oh crap!

My dad was still on the lawn mower doing the upper part of the yard.  I immediately, jumped out of the crazy hen house (pun intended), closed and locked the door behind me, and ran to the house to get the large fishing net.  While I was running around like a chicken myself (pun also intended)  I stopped dad to explain the situation.  Thinking he was going to be really made at me, he rolled his eyes, sighed, and got off the lawn mower to assist in rounding up the bird.

Dad and I cornered the escapee in the woods in the brush.  Yes, I was running around the woods with a long handled fishing pole while my dad was trying to work the bird in my direction.  At one point, we swopped and dad had the pole.  Did we capture the turkey?  Nope.  Of course that wouldn’t make much of a story.  The bird took cover under some very thick brush, and we couldn’t find it, even though we heard it calling.

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Gram & Kyle for Gram’s birthday at her apartment. 7/24/10

That happened about midday, so we had no choice but to return to our chores.  That night, as dad I were sitting on my parent’s deck, I looked up the hill.  Low and behold the turkey was strutting around the turkey coop.  It was too comical.  This time, I had the big guns with me, Kyle!  We each grabbed a long handled fishing pole, and we went turkey hunting.  We were doing pretty good too, keeping the chase out of the thick brush, at least for a while.  I got the turkey by its back once, but it slipped out.  Kyle did the same.  To be honest, I actually had a fun time running around the woods, chasing the turkey with Kyle.  It’s been too long since Kyle and I have been involved in a silly situation like this one.  My little man did a great job assisting me, but alas the bird eluded us and we lost it in really thick brush.  I didn’t want to keep pushing the bird in the opposite direction toward my cousin’s fields.  I wanted to keep it close, so we gave up for the night.  We came back to the house empty handed, and decided to make mountain pies and s’mores on the fire.

That night, the following day and into Sunday it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained hard!  To me that was a good thing considering most animals hunker down in storms, meaning they wouldn’t be out hunting.  Not to mention, the rain helps to wash away any turkey scent.  On Sunday, Kyle and I went back into the woods, yes with our fishing poles, to look for our runaway.  Did we see her?  Sadly, no, but I also didn’t see a crime scene either.  Good sign. (Imagine what we looked like walking through the woods with long handled fishing poles!)

Upon exiting the woods, I decided to throw some feed alongside the turkey coop in case it would come back.

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Gram & Pap. 1986

This brings us to Tuesday, of the following week!  The turkey lived for over a week in the wild.  Every once in a while we’d see it prancing around but couldn’t catch it.  It was too big, too fast and now it was flying.  Keep in mind, a couple hours earlier that day, I was informed my Gram passed away.  I happened to be at my parent’s house getting work down, since it was a really nice day.  I got a text from my cousin Mikey saying, he just saw a strange looking turkey on the road near my mom and dad’s house.  That’s our turkey!  She’s still alive!

Excited over the good news, I put Gram’s death aside, and ran out of the house to be struck down.  As I slammed the front door and walked down the porch steps, something came up from behind me, landed on my neck right behind my jaw and stung me!  Can you believe it?  I was stung in the neck!  Joking, I said that was Gram fighting one last time.

I ran back in the house holding my neck panting, “Oh crap!  Oh crap!  Oh crap!  It got me dad!  It got me in the neck!”

Dad:  “What happened?”
Me:  “I got stung in the neck!”
Dad:  Calmly.  Snickering at my drama.  “Ya, they hurt, especially there.”
Me:  “Oh crap dad!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Ya, I can imagine.  It’s not so funny now that YOU got stung.  You laughed at me when those bees chased me out of the turkey coop and stung me.”
Me:  Snickering to myself.  “No I didn’t laugh about that.  I said, I’m glad it was you and not me.  I laughed at you last summer when we were eating on the deck and the bee stung you in the lip and your lip swelled.”
Dad:  Chuckled
Me:  “Wow!  It really hurts!”
Dad:  “Maybe you still have the stinger in.  Come here and let me look.”  Dad looked, without putting on glasses and proclaimed.  “Nope, no stinger.”  Like he could see it!
Me:  “What if I have an allergic reaction?”
Dad:  Calmly.  “Well, then me and the boys (our dogs) will take you to the hospital.”
Me:   “No dad I don’t want the dogs to go along.”
Dad:  “Why?  They’d like to take a ride.  Seven (my dog) would hold your hand.”
Me:  “Dad!  I don’t want the dogs to ride along to the hospital!”
Dad:  “Oh, they’d be good.  Everyone should have a Lab doggie by their side.”  Our dogs are Labs but not my sister’s dog, even though Dad refers to her as a Lab.

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Dad & Kyle fishing on Kyle’s birthday. The entire family joined in on the fun! 7/30/05

Luckily, the only reaction I got was really bad soreness in my neck and down into my shoulder, no major swelling, and no trip to the hospital with the dogs.

Dad and I armed ourselves with our fishing poles, and continued where we left off, chasing the turkey in the woods till we gave up.  Best way to spend the day after the loss of a family member!

Two days later, that Thursday, my sister came home for the funeral.  Nicole joined in on the hunt and we gave it the old college try when we saw the turkey strutting around the coop, begging us to chase it.  This time Nicole added a new element of surprise or challenge?  You decide.  Instead of using the long handled fishing poles, she decided to grab an old sheet.  Yes, a flat sheet, like the kind that goes on a bed.  A sheet! This just keeps getting better and better.  I think, she was expecting to gracefully throw the sheet on the turkey, and have the sheet perfectly spread out and land naturally onto of our bird, and then she’d tackle the lump in the sheet.  I’m guessing that was her reasoning.  What really happened was very different.

Nicole walked around the woods holding up this sheet, while I was opposite to her with my fishing pole.  (I wish I had a video of that!  It was as funny as you can imagine.)  If anything, I think Nicole gave that turkey a good laugh, or the runaway thought a ghost was following her around.  So far Piper 0, turkey 5.  All along, I’d throw turkey feed around the coop to keep our turkey in the area.  It worked!

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Turkey’s on their roost 7/14/15

That following week, me, dad and Kyle finished building the chicken run on Tuesday, the day after Gram’s funeral.  We enclosed the area so nothing could get in or out.  That Wednesday, the chickens were running around in their playground, and who decided to join the fun?  Our turkey.  She came down to hang out by the chickens.  Dad had a great idea.  He instructed me to throw feed outside the chicken coop, prop the door open to their enclosure, and throw more feed inside, thinking we’d lure the turkey in.

That evening, when I went to set Dad’s trap, I came face to face with the turkey.  It was roosting on the post.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Thinking I could capture the bird myself, like a ninja I crabbed my trusty fishing net and threw the net up over the turkey.  Did I get it?  Nope.  It flew up in a nearby tree.

The next morning dad said he went out to check on the chickens.  Guess who was waiting for him in the chicken run, eating the feed I spread?  Our wild turkey!  Dad said, he simply stepped in the fenced in area with a net, shut the door, and caught the turkey!

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Chickens walking around their pen 7/14/15

We’re now back up to eleven turkeys, happily roosting in their coop, until this fall.  That turkey had no idea how close I came to pulling out the shotgun and taking care of this problem once and for all before another wild animal feasted on our bird.  To be honest, I’m surprised our dogs, especially my sister’s dog didn’t get the turkey.  At one point the neighbors Saint Bernard ran across the road and chased the bird, but I intercepted him before he had a turkey dinner.

I’m sure the refugee told the others about her adventures in the wild.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Getting A Handle On the Teenage Years

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.  ~J.D. Salinger

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Uncle George, Gram & (not sure) 1980s

Evey time I catch myself huffing and puffing over Kyle’s behavior, or worse his attitude, everyone tells me he’s a typical teenager.  I guess so, but does that mean I have to tolerate it?  Perhaps I expect too much from him, maybe more than I should.  I just want Kyle to be a respectful, hardworking (non-lazy) young man who’s moral compass points North.  I’m not asking a lot.  (I’m quietly laughing to myself.)

Monday was a bit of a rough day with the focus being Gram’s funeral.  It’s true, Kyle didn’t fight me on his attire.  He wore dress slacks, nice brown shoes and his navy woven top with clusters of anchors.  The very same outfit he sported on his cruise.  He looked nice and appropriate, and he didn’t argue when it was time to get ready.  He was off to a good start.

However, during the visitation, Kyle sat in a corner and wouldn’t get up to acknowledged the visitors and accept condolences.  Okay, maybe that was asking way too much from a thirteen year old, soon to be fourteen.  Personally, I found it rude, especially when others made it a point to talk to Kyle and include him in the conversation.  Kyle’s response?  He did smile occasionally but barely look up from his seat.  I addressed that immediately.  “Get your butt up when someone is talking to you and shake his or her hand.”  I guess that’s also a maturity thing, as well as learned behavior.  Everything considered, Kyle was pretty good.

On a side note, there was no casket, which I didn’t understand.  I asked Kyle to walk around and find Gram because “The guest of honor has to be here somewhere.” as I so plainly stated.  Kyle snickered at first, and then gave me a horrifying look.  Feeling a bit awkward with my request, Kyle tried to ignore me and continued starring at the floor while sitting in his seat, playing his video game periodically.  Letting Kyle off the hook for my unusual request, I went seeking the answer myself.   What I didn’t know, was Gram chose to be cremated and then buried by my Pap.  A bit of information that would have gone a long way with me before walking into the funeral home.  That took me completely off guard, and the fact that we weren’t going to the cemetery, which is very unlike Piper funerals, really threw me for a loop.

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Dad & Uncle Sonny building Gram & Pap’s house on the ridge. c. 1953

Then, while at the brunch after the funeral services, Kyle sat on his iPhone and played video games.  At one point he left the American Legion, which is where we met in Latrobe, to sit on the Legion’s front steps to either text, play video games or whatever he was doing on his iPhone.  I was so embarrassed.  Seriously?  Good friend’s of the family, and relatives wanted to talk to Kyle and try and get to know this mystery man they never get to see.  Kyle was quiet and almost distant.  What was his problem?  Again, I knew it was a rough day of funeral services, but still.

On Saturday, two days before the funeral, I stopped down to mom and dad’s house.  I pulled in the driveway to find my dad, who is in his sixties, outside in the dead of the heat, splitting and stacking wood, by himself.  Upon entering the house, I found my sister and nephew playing a board game sitting in the air-conditioning.  I think it was great Kyle was off his video games and spending time with my sister, but come on, help an old man out!  Naturally, my sister yelled at me and very tactfully stated they were playing a game and I was to “Shut Up!” as my sister so respectfully demands.  Now that doesn’t help Kyle’s attitude or his unwillingness to do actual work and get off his phone.  I was floored.  That’s no way to teach a young man to respect his family, very poor example, but moving on.

This past Tuesday, Kyle actually agreed to help me and dad build the chicken run.  Really?  He did!  He was almost enthused about it.  That is until we started working.

We needed an area for the chickens to run around outside, while being safely enclosed, so critters don’t have an opportunity to eat chicken for dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t easy digging holes to set the posts, hammering boards together for the door, and tacking the chicken wire fence in place, etc.  It was a beautiful day, but very sunny and HOT.  We worked from 9:30 am till about 7:00 pm.

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Gram, Aunt Kaye, her husband John, Uncle George, his wife Rhea. 1990s

I’ll give Kyle kudos, he was trying, but I could also tell he’s out of shape and was having a tough time.  Then, the attitude made its appearance.  What’s better is when dad or myself calls Kyle out on it.  Kyle will actually challenge us with a stare down and blatantly deny his attitude and insists, “What?  What did I do?  I didn’t do anything!” (And repeat that over and over again even after we told him what he did)  When we all know, including Kyle about his attitude.  He wasn’t terrible on Tuesday, but that snotty behavior is working my nerves big time.  He treats me like I’m his parent, which is funny because I’ve always played that role with him.  Maybe I should take it as a compliment.

About midway during the day, when we were about halfway done with the project, we decided to stop and refuel before continuing.  While eating lunch, I heard the shower running.  What?

Me:  “Kyle, why do I hear the shower?”
Kyle:  “Because I’m going to take a shower and go home.”
Me:  “What?  No you’re not.  You purposely work as slowly as you could this morning, to stretch out the work, and you think you’re going to abandon us?  Without saying a word?  Then, you think I’m going to stop what I’m doing to take you to your mom’s house?  Seriously?”
Kyle:  crickets…
Me:  “No, you said you’d help.  You need to finish what you started.”
Kyle:  Huffs as he walks away and turns off the shower.

He did help us, and as soon as we gave him an easy project, tacking the wire fence to the door, Kyle’s mood changed.  I could tell he was proud of the work he put into the chicken run and felt a sense of accomplishment.  Granted, Kyle didn’t stick around to help clean up, but I did ask him to pick up two quarts jars and a pint jar (used for drinking water) laying in the grass.  What did Kyle grab?  One quart jar and one pint jar.  Did I let him get away with that?  Nope!  This kid needs to be held accountable for his behavior and learn to follow direction, even for something as simple as collecting the jars.  Again, I addressed this with Kyle and he headed back up to the yard to retrieve the other jar, while rolling his eyes slightly and pouting along the way.

Please note, it’s not like we ask Kyle to do much.  In fact, he does very little around the house.  We’re always offering to take him fishing, and we build fires and make mountain pies and s’mores.  Supposedly, we’re going fishing this weekend, I hope Kyle doesn’t blow us off again.  It really upsets my dad, and after loosing his mother last week, dad needs a good day of fishing without an attitude.

On another side note, the quote above cracked me up, thinking about the Catcher In the Rye!  I loved that book!

Below is a screen shot from Gram’s obituary.

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

What’s All the Buzz?

Okay, I’ll admit it, I totally cracked myself up with this headline!  If you didn’t get it, read on.

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This is my first look at our bees, they’re buzzing around, even though it’s a bit chilly (high of 50’s, low 60’s) 6/1/15

On Monday, my new hobby arrived.  It’s no secret I keep myself pretty busy with my eclectic interests and hobbies.  Such as what?  I love to read and I really love to write.  In addition to my blog and my freelance work, I’ve also written a book for Kyle (I thought it’d be neat to write a book for him that includes his interests, minus the video games.  Perhaps one day I’ll give it to him) and began a few others, but that’s not the big news.  Unbeknownst to some, I’m an outdoorsy person.  I spend a great deal of my summer mornings and evenings in the garden, and tending to the fruit and nut trees, and raising our chickens and turkeys, but that’s not the big news.  I enjoy fishing and during the winter months, I snowboard and hunt.  With all this rugged activity, I do have an artsy side to me.  I enjoy photography, mostly shooting nature and documenting family traditions through imagery.  In my past life, high school and college, I used to express myself through pottery, throwing on the wheel was my favorite, but that’s not the big news.  I do try and be active, either going to the gym, running, or hiking with the dogs, but that’s nothing new.  And everyone knows all these activities are usually spent with Kyle and my family, except the exercising part.  So what else could I possibly add to my hobby portfolio?  Bees!

Yes, honey bees!  I’m a beekeeper!  How on earth did I get into bees?  Along with my dad, I’ve always had an interest in bees, being a huge fan of honey, especially honey on the comb.  I LOVE honey!  Maybe not as much as Kyle, but regardless, it’s a staple in our household.  Ironically, I wrote a blog post about these buzzing pollinating creatures in 2013 Random Fun Facts:  Bees.

How does one become a beekeeper?  Well, I’m very blessed to have my cousin Pete, who is a beekeeper, who tends to about eight hives of his own.  Not only did he give us our first hive from a swam he gathered locally, but he’s been teaching dad and myself everything he knows about bees.  He even introduced us to an organization of beekeepers that he belongs to, in this area.  They hold monthly meetings to inform and educate local beekeepers on bees and everything associated with this activity.  There’s an organization dedicated to beekeepers?  In the Latrobe area?  Oh, YES!  Unfortunately, I missed the first meeting this year, but I’ll bee (pun intended) sure to attend the next one, which is around the corner.

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The bees arrived Monday thanks to my cousin Pete. Even though the bees were slightly ticked off from the car ride there, I just had to lift the lid to the bee box and look inside… 6/1/15

How much is there to learn about bee keeping?  A lot!  First and foremost, bees are very delicate creatures.  We can’t use anything unnatural on the garden or fruit tress for fear of killing them.  Mites are also a very real danger.  Believe it or not, they can wipe out an entire hive!  Dad’s been doing a lot of reading on bees and our new hobby.  He found a natural remedy for the mite problem, dust the bees with powered sugar.  Seriously?  Yes!  Well, the bee knowledge list goes on and on.  Similar topics are addressed and discussed at the bee meetings, to learn from the experienced beekeepers.  Very exciting if you ask me!

Did you know consuming local honey actually helps the body build up an immunity to local allergens?  That’s the word on the street.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but ingesting honey over long periods of time, will decrease allergies.  At least that’s what I read in an article.  In a way, I wish our bees would hang around the poison ivy, to build up my immunity.  Regardless, how can anyone go wrong with such a natural sweet treat.  It’s great for all meals in just about anything.

On a side note, did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  Not terribly, I’ve never gone into anaphylaxis, but I guess there’s always a chance.  I do swell considerably and get huge, I mean huge, three inch diameter hives, all over my body.  I know it sounds silly for me to be a beekeeper, but bees are so very interesting, and nothing beats fresh honey.  I’ll just have to be cautious.  Who knows, I might not even have a reaction to the bee sting.  After all, bee stings are said to be good for arthritis and those suffering with multiple sclerosis.

Bee (again pun intended) prepared for more bee talk in the near future.  I have a feeling this is going to be quite the adventure!

Happy Beekeeping!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Thanks Dancing Dog Natural Market!

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.  ~Cynthia Ozick

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A happy participant from the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, VA – Sponsored by Dancing Dog Natural Market 5/30/15

As far as I’m aware, Thrill of the Hunt is the originator of the dog scavenger hunt, (Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt and the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt, spring and Halloween themed respectively).  They’re certainly very popular among our Thrill Seekers and their four-legged pals.  To be honest, I enjoy administering to these particular scavenger hunts, as much as the participants enjoy walking around with their favorite sidekick, figuring out clues, completing online challenges, and collecting dog treats and toys, while hanging out with others of like interest.  They’re a lot of fun!

This past Saturday, May 30th, Thrill of the Hunt held another such event, the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia.  Why did we choose Winchester to expand our most recent dog scavenger hunt?  It’s all thanks to Dancing Dog Natural Market! (Check out their website: dancingdognatural.com and follow them on Facebook: facebook.com/DancingDogNaturalMarket)

Last year, Adam and Leann Pask, owners of the Dancing Dog Natural Market reached out to Thrill of the Hunt suggesting we hold a dog scavenger hunt in dog friendly Winchester, Virginia.  Great idea!  After checking out the area, and speaking with Adam, we both agreed Old Town Winchester would be a perfect location for a dog scavenger hunt.

Please note, the City of Winchester was very friendly and supportive when presenting this idea.

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Checking out the goodie bag from the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, VA sponsored by Dancing Dog Natural Market 5/30/15

Now that we’ve decided to hold a dog scavenger hunt in Winchester, Virginia, some logistics needed to be outlined.

When is the best time to hold our event?  Recently, the Dancing Dog Natural Market celebrated their store opening anniversary, and so it was chosen to host the event in the spring, closest to their anniversary date. Perfect!

Eventually, after much research, planning and promoting, the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt became a reality.  Dancing Dog Natural Market was our official sponsor of the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia.

With Adam’s influence and suggestion, Kresha Hornby, publisher at Valley Homes & Style Magazine ran a double page article on the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt and Dancing Dog Natural Market, in the Valley Events section of the April issue.  That was very exciting!

In addition to the local vendors, Weruva was present to pass out samples of canned cat and dog food, and Carol from Pawtivity was on hand to socialize with the dogs and owners.

Pawtivity is a new site dedicated to staying active and involved with your dog, your local community, and the dog community in general.  They’ll be launching their website soon, so please look for it (Website: pawtivity.com).  In the meantime, please check out their Facebook page:  facebook.com/pawtivity.  Thrill of the Hunt will be partnering with Pawtivity to bring all dogs and their owners exciting adventures!

Dancing Dog Natural Market Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger HuntNow that the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt has came and left, was it a success?  You bet it was!  In addition to being blessed with perfect sunny blue skies, we also had some awesome participants from as far away as Washington D.C.  We couldn’t have asked for a better group of dogs and owners to join us for our first dog scavenger hunt in Winchester, Virginia!

One of the biggest questions I received shortly after the conclusion of the dog scavenger hunt was, “Will Thrill of the Hunt be back?”  Of course we will!  We plan on making this an annual event and Dancing Dog Natural Market is one-hundred percent on board!

Thank you again to everyone who helped make the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt a success!  Thanks to the participants for spending their Saturday morning with us and showing an interest in our dog scavenger hunt.  We loved meeting your four-legged friends and we loved being a part of your family activity.

Thank you to the local businesses who participated as part of the scavenger hunt.  Your enthusiasm and involvement helped the scavenger hunt come together, and made it a true community event.

Thank you to Carol from Pawtivity for helping out and capturing the day in pictures.  It was nice having Weruva present and of course a huge thanks to Dancing Dog Natural Market for everything they’ve done!  Working with you was seamless and refreshing!  We can’t wait for next year!

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Article in the Valley Homes & Style Magazine for the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, VA by Thrill of the Hunt, sponsored by Dancing Dog Natural Market

Now time to promote Thrill of the Hunt.  If you’re interested in a unique custom scavenger hunt or just want to discuss the possibilities, email me at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com, Heather@AuntHeather.com or fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free quote.  We’ll get back to you within 24-business hours. I promise!

Please note, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Annapolis, Maryland; Alexandria, Virginia; and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We’re still accepting local businesses to be added to the actual scavenger hunt to increase foot traffic to these locations.

Next weekend, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our Singles Scavenger Hunt in Arlington, Virginia.  Join us for a socializing good time!

Speaking of different areas, we are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event on our website, or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Please make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Who Am I?

Before I begin, I’d like to preface this blog with a few details, not to steer you in one direction or another, or prematurely give away the subject matter.  Typically, the focus of this blog is referred to in the feminine form, and it’s been portrayed as a villain in comics and movies.  Now let’s begin.

I can be found in North America and Asia but I’m not fond of the desert or arid areas, or ones of high altitude.  I’m all in favor of higher carbon dioxide levels and over the years my population has increased, doubling since the 1960’s.

I really have no boundaries.  Sometimes I can be found in the suburbs in your backyards or rural and remote areas.  I’m subtle in my appearance, no flashy colors to signify my potential wrath.  In fact, I blend in quite nicely in my surroundings and I can change colors, again to blend into my background, disguising me even more.

I don’t discriminate, my reach can effect the old and young, male or female.  All are equal in my eyes.

Normally, when playing such a game, the guesser, gets to ask if it’s a person, place, or thing.
Hint:  It’s a thing.  I hope that doesn’t spoil the fun too much.  Moving on.

I’m somewhat shade tolerant but prefer the sunlight.  I’m recognized more when I choose the company of trees, as opposed to my other forms.  I’m smooth and shiny on the surface with a woody stem, void of any thorns or indicators of what I can do.

Hint:  Yes, I am a plant!

Unbeknownst to some, I don’t have a defensive mechanism.  What is assumed as me fighting back, is really a means to help me retain water.  I don’t intentionally try to be mean, it’s simply nature.

Besides some insects, birds, deer and bear, who eat my seeds and berries, I’m very unwelcome.  Although there is a rare, and very lucky fifteen to thirty percent of the human population who doesn’t have an issue with me, nor I them.  However, that can change over time, as one ages or changes environments.

Any ideas?

I leave my invisible presence, urushiol, on everything I come in contact with and it can remain for several years, reintroducing my legacy, even in the winter.

Now one of the biggest clues …

I’m recognized by my leaves of three.  I have a couple names, one being oxicodendron radicans, but I’m commonly know by another.  And despite my widely used name, I’m not a hedera.

I think those clues are substantial enough for an educated guess.  And those who have come in contact with this subject matter might have a few more choice words for this plant.

Who am I?

Yes, poison ivy!  With my recent run-ins with this silent irritant, I’m trying to make light of it.  Although, with every exposure, my allergic reaction is getting worse.  This time, I have blisters on top of blisters, on top of blisters, between my fingers, down to the webbing.  My hands are so swollen and irritated, it’s hard to bend my fingers.  I have Mickey Mouse hands!  Naturally, that’s not the only place the reaction has appeared, although I can handle it on my arms, neck, legs and stomach, even in my belly button!  A small amount made its appearance on my left eye and eyebrow, nose, ears, and upper lip.  I can even handle the skin irritation behind my knees, but my hands actually hurt from the pressure and every time I bump my hand against a corner, pain.

Where did I get it?  No clue, at least not this time.  My first run-in with my nemeses of the season was basically intentional.  I knew fully well of my actions.  You see, I wanted to plant an asparagus garden at my parent’s house.  The best plot of land was among a group of locus trees, covered in … poison ivy.  Dad killed most of the poison ivy on the trees, but to be sure, I wanted to get this plant at its heart, or more accurately it roots.

Protecting myself in clothing from head to toe, I ripped up the poison ivy from the roots.  Yes, I made sure to prewash in cold water and shower in cold water, with harsh soap, and I scrubbed my skin till it was raw.  I washed my cloths several times.  I even began taking a liquid poison ivy to build my immune system.  You name it, I took precaution.  Did I get it?  Of course, but not terribly bad.  Manageable.

This time, I have no clue of my encounter with the poison ivy.  To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t been around the nasty plant.  I haven’t even been in my asparagus garden!  It seems like all I simply need to be, is within feet from the silent creeper to find its affects a few days later.

Hopefully, this cycle will not continue all summer long.  But I guess there’s worse things in life, and I’ve yet to go into anaphylaxis.  Although I just got word that we are in deed getting honey bees.  My cousin Pete is getting a hive ready.  Did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  I guess I’ll find out if it’s the same with honey bees.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Fishing Derby Pride

There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call ‘the breaks’.  ~Countee Cullen

Thanks to everyone for making this event happen, especially Cindy and Dave Planinsek!  I know it’s a lot of work, but one worth it.  Like everyone else, my family looks forward to the Fishing Derby every year!

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26th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby! 5/9/15

This past weekend was the twenty-sixth Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby.  As always it was great time, and we were blessed with perfect weather!  No rain, no snow, simply a lot of sun, blue skies, white fluffy clouds, good conversation and the fish were biting, giving the kids and adults another memorable experience.

Similar to last year, Kyle didn’t want to camp out from Friday night to Saturday.  I offered with all sincerity, but he had no desire to rough it.  Instead, we stopped up at the pavilion Friday night to hang out, eat, socialize, eat and eat.  That’s one constant that I participated in on Friday and continued throughout the day on Saturday, eating!  Friday night, Kyle basically disappeared, for he was running around playing with all the kids.  I love seeing him have good old-fashioned fun of playing tag, exploring and climbing on the swing set and slides.  I too enjoyed myself, catching up with those I run into maybe once a year, and touching base with others I see more frequently.

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Kyle made the leader board with his 19.25″ trout at the Fishing Derby. Not the winner of the day, but started it off right! First time making the leader board! Way to go buddy! 5/9/15

The next morning, as tradition dictates, breakfast was served at 7:00 am, or there about.  Unlike years past, Kyle didn’t want to get up early, my little man must have been running hard and needed his beauty rest.  Once he cracked his eyelids enough to let the light in, we packed the car with his fishing gear, and he was ready to join the festivities.

After the announcements were made, rules outlined, prayer said and the bugle called, all fishing lines were cast.  Who started off the leader board?  You guessed it, Kyle!  I was thrilled for him!  In all the years we’ve been coming, he’s never once made the leader board, let alone be the first kid to catch a fish.  He was so excited, he was jumping around more than the trout in the net.  I know he was even happier his Gigi and Pappy (and possibly me) was there to witness his victory, and yet disappointed his Aunt Nikki was on the road, not there yet.  His trout measured nineteen and a quarter inches.  That’s a big fish!

Did he take home the trophy for the largest trout?  Nope.  He was twice kicked out of the top spot with Jacob Singer taking home the gold with a twenty-three and a quarter inch trout.  Congrats buddy!  Was Kyle upset?  No, he really wasn’t.  In years past I could’ve seen him devastated over the loss, but he’s maturing and was truly happy for Jacob.  Now that’s sportsmanship and that made me proud.  However, that wasn’t the proudest moment of the day.  It was what happened before the fishing derby that touched me.

As tradition dictates, about a week or so before the fishing derby, everyone, mostly the Planinsek family, gets together to clean up the pavilion, split firewood, lay gravel or mulch or whatever is needed and stock the pond with fish.  Believe it or not, it might seem like a laborious day, but it’s a fun one with everyone working together.  I wasn’t able to help this year, but Kyle did, all day!  So back to my initial thought.  What made me so proud of Kyle?  His work ethic!

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Me & Kyle at the Fishing Derby after his big catch of the day. 5/9/15

Between Friday night and all day Saturday during the derby, at least a dozen people independently came up to me with complete sincerity, and informed me of how hard Kyle worked that Saturday, in preparation for the Fishing Derby.  It wasn’t simply a blanketed statement either.  I was told when one task was completed, Kyle would ask what else needed done.  According to eye witness accounts, he worked really hard and afterwords played hard with the kids.  Now that made me very proud!  I guess Kyle is a true Piper, even though he hides it when asked to do work around the house!  I’ll take it though, Kyle being well-behaved and hard working with others, yep those are qualities worth mentioning.  That’s my not-so-little man of thirteen years.  And you know what?  He never said anything, but I know he too was proud of his efforts he put into the Fishing Derby and the bond that was forged from such hard work.  I wish more kids would have such opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment and teamwork with such a great family.

A special thanks to my cousin Casey Olczak and Boo Planinsek.  They offered to clean Kyle’s trout for him.  I was going to, but they were on a roll, so who am I to stop them?  They also gave us a few extra unclaimed fish for Sunday breakfast.

See you next year!

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Casey & Owen at the Fishing Derby. 5/9/15

On a side note, Kyle made it very clear this year that he doesn’t like his picture being taken.  Can you tell, I cared?  (sarcasm)  However, Kyle barely got his fish out of the pond before he was reaching for his phone to get a picture of his trout!  I guess, we are a lot alike, whether he’ll admit it or not.

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Planinsek Fishing Derby breakfast. Fueling up for the fishing adventure! 5/9/15

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Kyle made the Fishing Derby Leader Board with his 19.25″ trout! 5/9/15

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Kyle at the Planinsek Fishing Derby. Mom, Dad and Roger Parks watch our young participants. 5/9/15

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Alert! A Turkey Escaped!

I have failed at many things, but I have never been afraid.  ~Nadine Gordimer

Kyle-&-Aunt-Nikki-on-Ducky-Tour-Washington-DC-6-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & Aunt Nikki on the Ducky Tour of Washington D.C. 6/2010

Lately, our turkeys have become the topic of conversation.  Rightfully so.  It’s not every day someone decides to purchase peeps, build a substantial turkey coop, and raise their very own Thanksgiving meal.  Well, the Piper household took on the challenge.

How are the turkeys?  They’re doing great!  They love their new home, at least that’s what I thought, but perhaps one bird wasn’t so happy.  On Sunday, Kyle checked in on our feathery friends.  I watched him from a distance feed and water the mid-sized creatures.  It happened so quickly, it took my mind a minute to comprehend.  Somehow a turkey got past Kyle and made a break for it.  Considering there’s a single door leading in and exciting the turkey coop, how did a bird get past Kyle who happened to be in the doorway?  Watching the scene with my own two eyes, I still have no clue.  Only Kyle!

So it went something like this.  A bird darted out the front door, even though it was more like a stroll, but I’ll give Kyle the benefit of the doubt since I wasn’t in the coop at the time of the incidence, and I didn’t see if the bird actually sprinted or walked.  Kyle turned around to hear us announce a bird got loose.  The feathery animal trotted around the turkey coop, not running, not flying, not hiding, but simply strutted.

I’ll give Kyle credit, the first thing he did was close the door and lock it, so our now free range turkey wouldn’t get any visitors or spark a riot.  But what Kyle did next just amazed me.  He took a couple of steps toward the wondering bird, stopped, turned around and moved in the opposite direction.  Why?  He wanted to put his gloves on.  Why?  I have no clue, it’s not like the turkey was made of barbed wire or anything.  It’s not even a fully grown turkey!

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Scooby & Seven running around my Uncle Walter’s field. 2013

Okay, now that Kyle’s hands were protected from the killer animal covered in white soft fluffy features, my thinking was that he could scoop up the bird and return him to his home, right?  Nope!  Kyle swiftly walked up behind the strutting bird, bent down in a motion to pick it up, then threw up his hands and stopped dead in his tracks.  Was there a force field protecting the bird?  Did God just speak to Kyle?  I was sitting about a hundred yards from the live action, on the swing on my parent’s deck wondering what just happened.  I couldn’t believe it!  Kyle could have very simply captured the turkey and put this to rest, but he didn’t!  He wouldn’t touch it, even with gloves on!  I was stunned!  Well, after that close encounter, the bird took off running realizing the danger in the form of a thirteen year old boy.  Now the chase was on.

After coming to terms with reality and realizing the type of turkey wrangler, or lack there of, I was dealing with, I got off my butt to do the job myself.  I get it, accidents happen, but geez all it took was Kyle to wrap his glove covered hands around the small creature, picked it up, and walked it four or five feet to the doorstep and push it back in.  No major weight lifting required, no rabbit animal, and no special tools or skills needed.  Now we had a scared bird on the loose that was trying to fly and hide.

The turkey coop sits at the edge of the woods, perfect camouflage.  By the time I ran up the hill, that’s exactly where the turkey was headed.  Perhaps he wanted to be like his ancestors and run wild and free among the trees, or he did indeed have an escape plan.  Well, to add another challenge to the scenario, our beloved and not so obedient dogs tagged along by my side.   Seven and Avery listened pretty well, but not Scooby!  He nipped at the flying features and drove the bird deeper into the woods, ending up in a serious pile of jagged brush.  What now?

Keep in mind, Kyle was wearing jeans, a tee shirt and flip flops.  I on the other hand was wearing shorts, a tee shirt, flip flops and my body (mostly my upper legs, forearms and little bits of my back and stomach) was covered in poison ivy.  Not exactly attire appropriate for trucking through the woods in a hostile environment.  Regardless, I knew I was willing to risk bodily injury to bring the bird home.  Well, that was my thinking for that brief moment.

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Kyle & Avery watching TV … cuddling. 4/2015

I tramped down my obstacles and moved my way closer to the escapee.  Although, the turkey also kept moving forward, just out of arms reach.  Finally, I trapped the bird deeper in the huge pile of brush, which was seriously entangled with pointy projectiles.  Thinking I outsmarted the turkey, I recovered a long branch to nudge it along.  The plan?  To poke the bird and keep it moving in one direction, toward Kyle and my mom who were waiting on the opposite side out in the open.  Keep in mind, my mom was armed with a long handled fishing net, also wearing flip flops.  Seriously?  Oh, YES!  What a sight!

Did it work?  NO!  The bird laid down and remained so, even with me poking at its side.  Stubborn bird!  I did what I could until my poison ivy was ripped open so much that my legs and arms felt like they were on fire.  I even asked Kyle to put on a pair of boots and come and get the bird.  He refused!  After realizing dad was sitting on the swing, not helping in any way, I gave up.  I was the only one really doing anything and I was the one cut up and bleeding.

What next?  I told Kyle to get the bird as I walked away from the action.  What did my dad have to say?  He yelled at me!  Really?  Oh YES!  He accused me of not doing anything and letting the bird get away.  Seriously?  YES!  I was beyond mad.  I was the only one doing anything.  Before the argument heated up to match the ripped open poison ivy and scratches all over my legs,  I left the scene.  What did Kyle do?  He also retreated and sat and played video games on his phone.  Not cool.  That’s a problem.  He was the cause of this situation.  Granted, it was truly an accident, but it alarmed me to see that he so very easily dismissed it, and now it became someone else’s problem.  I’m going to have to work with him on that.

Well, the bird worked its way deeper into the brush until we couldn’t see it anymore.  We waited around for it to make its appearance, but alas it remained transfixed.

Thinking the bird wouldn’t survive the night, and it would become a turkey dinner for the local coyotes or another wild creature, I accepted its fate.  Now, fast forward to this past Tuesday, two days later.  We got a call in the middle of the day from the neighbor.  They had our turkey!  Are you kidding me?  Nope!  Apparently, the bird wondered across the street, survived the local dogs and our dogs, and all wildlife to make it into their hands.  That’s impressive!

I’m happy to say the turkey was returned safe and sound, and will be until Thanksgiving.  What an adventure!

Does Kyle know?  I texted him.  His response?  Nothing.  He probably forgot all about it, or dismissed it as it wasn’t his problem, even though I know he felt bad about the escapee.  I guess there are worse things in life.  But I did make a note to give Kyle a lesson on picking up a turkey, naturally in a controlled environment, to get a feel for it and to not be afraid.

P.S. It’s ironic I used to call Kyle my turkey and sometimes turkey jerky.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

Moving Day, the Turkeys Have a New Home!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.  ~Edith Wharton

Start-of-Turkey-Coop-with-dogs-4-11-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Let the construction of the turkey coop begin! Dad was consulting with Avery, Scooby & Seven.  They were excited!   4/11/15

Since we decided to raise chickens and turkeys this year, we needed a place to house the birds.  My dad had a smoke shed, which we converted into a chicken coop, easy.  However, the turkeys needed a place to call their own, equals building of a turkey coop, and fast to accommodate the rapidly growing birds.  Needless to say, the big project of this spring was the construction of the turkey coop.

Did we go to the store to purchase wood?  Not the Piper’s!  Dad utilized the few trees that previously fell in the woods near his house, and sharpened the chainsaw blades to take down a few more trees.  We called on my cousin Mikey to drag the logs out, and Mikey and his dad cut the boards for us.

Now building time!  Dad and I didn’t start construction right away.  We waited for Kyle to assist, knowing he’d enjoy the activity and wanted to participate in the building process.  Except, every time we planned on working on the building, Kyle made other plans or the weather didn’t cooperate.  Feeling pressured from the turkeys, dad and I began the project without our number one handyman.

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The planning stage of the turkey coop. Dad was ready! 4/11/15

Personally, it broke my heart to work on the turkey coop without Kyle.  I knew he would’ve loved building it, and it would’ve been a great experience for him to spend quality time with his pap, not to mention the learning value.  But I guess Kyle’s priorities are not with us at this time.  So it was just dad and myself, the dynamic duo.

For the most part the erection of the structure went smoothly, no major incidences and no injuries, always a plus.  Dad had it in his head before starting the project that it could be completed in a single day.  Really?  That’s what he said, but dad didn’t take into consideration his age and endurance, or lack there of.  When we worked on the building, it was only for a few hours at a clip, not from morning till night like I would have preferred.  No biggie, it simply took us a few days to finish as opposed to a single day.

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The turkey coop floor. 8′ x 10′ building. 4/11/15

Kyle did help with the roof.  It took some coaxing to get him off his phone and off the couch, and let’s not discuss the argument about wearing a shirt and shoes.  Once he surrounded himself in the construction materials, with a hammer in hand, and instructions given, Kyle became genuinely enthused.  Truly!  He even got up on the ladder to nail in a few boards.  Reluctantly, I might I add, he climbed onto the roof and helped me nail a few boards in place so we had a small platform to work from.  He was a little weak at the knees being up high, only about eight feet from the ground, but he braved his environment.  Granted, it was a new experience for Kyle, for he’s never done anything like this before.  Regardless, Kyle overcame his uneasiness and helped me hammer the boards until it started raining.

Before the rain hit, I stopped production to measure the void in the roof, to know exactly how much was needed to complete the area.  I measured about forty-seven inches (nearly four feet).  I handed Kyle a pencil, hinting to write that number down and to start subtracting till we had a pile of boards to fill the gap.  I measured the boards on the ground to ensure the length was appropriate, about twelve feet long, before spouting out widths for Kyle to subtract.  At first, Kyle gave me an inquisitive look and then starred at the pencil in confusion.  If it was me, I would have used the pencil and a board to do my calculations.  I guess that method is too old fashioned for my teenager.  Once Kyle realized what I was trying to accomplish, he enthusiastically pulled out his iPhone and used the calculator function.  Brilliant!  Even though it’s good practice to maintain those basic math skills, but I wasn’t arguing.  I wanted to put this project to rest.

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Dad taking a break after we finished the floor and the corners of the turkey coop. 4/11/15

It’s a guarantee that any story involving Kyle and myself contains a comical aspect or two, especially if you add my dad to the mix.  We’re like the perfect Piper storm.  I can’t do this story justice without addressing Kyle’s working attire.  He did manage to cover his bare chest with a tee shirt.  However, the rest of his outfit wasn’t exactly conducive to construction work, especially on a roof with rough wood.  Instead of wearing his boots, he chose my mom’s winter booties.  No joke!  Why?  If I had to take a guess, it was because they were slip on boots with no laces.  Of course, why should that matter when he was wearing shiny basketball shorts.  I bet his bare knees felt good dragging across the wood boards.  Either way, Kyle helped with enthusiasm and no whining.  That’s a big plus!

Now the true funny, and slightly frustrating part of the adventure.  Once I got a few boards stabilized, I showed Kyle were to nail, to follow the seams to the opposite end.  Not paying attention while I was adding boards and nailing them into place, Kyle was hammering like a made man.  His hammering technique went something like this, a hit to the nail head, then followed by a few misses, to be proceeded by a hit.  This rhythm continued for the duration of his labors.  Although, I did appreciate his efforts, but what I mostly enjoyed was spending constructive time with my nephew.

At one point, Kyle freaked out, “Aunt Heather!  I saw a spark!”  Laughing, I responded, “What do you think happens when metal hits metal?  You must’ve been swinging hard to create sparks!”  Kyle smiled and seemed pleased with himself and continued pounding even harder, that is until dad halted production.

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That’s a wrap! turkey coop construction is completed! Turkeys have a new home. 4/2015

“Look at all the nails sticking out!”  What?  Dad was inside the turkey coop looking up at our handy work.  Before I understood what he was talking about, dad began counting, “One, two, three, FOUR!  FIVE! SIX! SEVEN!  Heather!  There’s SEVEN, EIGHT nails sticking out.  Who’s missing the two by fours?”  It took me a few minutes to realize what he was talking about.  Evidently, the nails weren’t making contact with the rafters, resulting in unsecured boards on the roof and nails sticking out of the ceiling like a torture chamber.  The light bulb suddenly came on as I looked in Kyle’s direction.  My brain was able to put two and two together.  Kyle was working hard, no doubt, however, he wasn’t accomplishing anything.  He started off good, but grew sloppy.  Instead of following the seam and making a straight line with his nails to adhere to the two by fours under the boards, he was simply hammering, sporadically.  What started out as a straight line took a hard right curve to practically end up between two, two by fours.

Almost frustrated, yet finding humor in my little man, I showed him how he strayed.  Dad yelled up to Kyle, “Buddy, if it’s not hard to drive the nail all the way in, then you’re probably not hitting the two by four and you need to move your nail over slightly.”  Kyle’s response, which almost made me fall off the roof laughing, “I thought it was all hard hammering.”  He said those words with complete sincerity.  My little gamer was experience manual labor and physically feeling it.

Did dad really care about the missed nails?  Not in the slightest, he very much enjoyed doing something with Kyle that didn’t involve electronics and his participation as a family member.

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Turkeys have a new home! 4/2015

Once I got Kyle straightened out, pun intended, I heard him comment, “Boy Aunt Heather this is hard work.  I don’t think I’d make a good construction worker.”  Yes, it is hard work but one I’m very thankful that Kyle has the opportunity to experience.  He’s right though, I don’t think construction work is his calling!  At least Kyle’s a realist, like his Aunt Heather.

Not a lot of people know how to begin to build such a structure, let alone could tackle the job.  I hope Kyle learned something from working with us.  That valuable knowledge will be forever engrained in him, like the roots he was born into.

One more funny.  While I was hammering in the floor, I hit and nail and bent it.  Naturally, I continued hamming it into the floor to get it as flush as possible.  That was the only nail I bent during the entire project.  Did you know, dad kept commenting on that one single nail?  Our of nowhere, he’d say, “These turkeys are going to have to be careful not to trip on that nail.” and “I hope our turkeys don’t get snagged on your nail” and “You already put a place for them to roost.”  It was never ending!  But pretty funny.

I’m happy to announce the turkey coop is finished and is still standing.  During construction, I kept teasing dad about his fine craftsmanship (sarcasm) and he kept reminding me that I was the one who measured everything.  To be honest, when we started out, the foundation was perfectly squared and leveled, thanks to yours truly.  But something did go awry during the building process.  It all worked out in the end.   Our eight foot, by ten foot, by eight foot height structure welcomed its new residences about two weeks ago.  To counter act the cold nights, we placed a few heat lamps and straw inside.  The turkeys seemed pretty happy.

Okay, another funny.  While I was pounding nails to build up the walls, dad was showing me how to draw the boards in tight.  He said, “Here, use my hammer, it’s better.”  You know what?  It was better!  It had a good weight and really drove those nails into the wood.  So every time dad asked for HIS hammer, I would hold onto it and point the hammer toward the sky and yell, “The Hammer!”, like I was Thor.  It cracked me up.  Dad…not so much.

While working with dad, he began to reminiscence occasionally, mostly about Ryan.  Personally, I love hearing the stories that I wasn’t aware of or I’ve forgotten.  It feels good to talk about Ryan.  We all miss him terribly.  Dad commented that he built the smoke shed in about a day or two all by himself.  He said, “Ryan wouldn’t help me build it.  He was mad at me for some reason, I don’t remember for what.”  That was so sad, but it’s called life.  It also shows how tight we really are, that dad didn’t remember the argument, only fondly remembers Ryan.  And Ryan would have been the first person in line to help dad out, for those two were buds.

Take my advice to reconnect with the family and do a major project together.  It is really worth the time and energy!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.  ~Rachel Carson

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Coloring Easter eggs with Aunt Nikki, Kyle, Pappy & me. Kyle mostly dictated what Nicole & I were to do… 3/26/05

Happy spring!  The first day of spring (vernal – Latin for spring, equinox – Latin for equal night) is one of only two days when the sun passes directly over the equator and crosses that celestial equator going from south to north.  The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two times of the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.  Pretty interesting!

Did you also know Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after spring?  I’m no astronomer, but that’s what I’ve read.  Along those fun facts, the egg is a symbol of fertility in spring, and this time of year is also called Lent or Lenten.

With Easter around the corner, everyone is posting their fun Easter ideas and traditions, mostly on Pinterest.  I’ve read about a variety of Easter basket items, and fun activities, and so on and so forth.  These innovative suggestions got me thinking of different ways to enhance our own typical Easter traditions.

Naturally, my mind turns everything into a scavenger hunt!  Yes, incorporating the standard Easter egg hunt with a scavenger hunt!  Why not?  Actually, I wish the idea crossed my mind when Kyle was younger.  Adding another layer to the typical Easter egg hunt would’ve been the perfect challenge for my little man.  He would’ve loved the extra effort on my part, and I most certainly would’ve loved to create something unique for his Easter experience !  What fun!

When I was little, our family tradition was for the “Easter Bunny” a.k.a. mom, to hide our dyed eggs around the house.  The more I think about it, that was risky in the event we missed an egg and it remained hidden, especially with the summer heat fast approaching.  That could’ve been lethal!  I’m pretty sure mom counted the eggs to ensure none were overlooked.  Although, that would’ve made for an interesting story about a rotten Easter egg, but no such luck.

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Me, Nicole & Ryan Easter morning before church. 5/1981

With Kyle, we added another level of excitement by stuffing colorful plastic eggs with quarters and candy, and sometimes Matchbox cars in the larger eggs.  He loved each of those equally.  When the weather wasn’t too shabby, we’d hide the eggs in my parent’s orchard in the backyard.  Early Easter morning, I’m talking about 4:00 am or so, Kyle would attempt to wake everyone for his Easter morning adventure.  No one would budge, except leave it to good old Aunt Heather to give in to my little bundle of enthusiasm.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t too difficult to get up early, since I was like a kid myself, excited for Kyle to find the eggs mom and I hid the night before.

Together, Kyle and I would pull on our rubber boots, still in our pajamas (Actually, I stand corrected, I was in my pjs, while I had to make Kyle dress in some sort of pant, usually sweatpants and a t-shirt.  I was lucky if I got him to wear a coat.) and venture into the early morning hours to run around the yard looking for plastic eggs with flashlights in hand.  That was always fun, watching Kyle dart from one tree to another, looking high and low.  When the weather didn’t cooperate, we’d hide the eggs in the house, not exactly ideal but it worked.

So, back to my idea.  How does an Easter egg scavenger hunt work?  Simple.  Create a map or a serious of riddles and clues to uncover the hidden Easter eggs.  It can even be as detailed or as simple as desired, as per the age range of the participants.  One idea is to give a single clue to one egg, which contains another clue to the next, and so on and so forth.  If I was developing the Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt, I’d add scholastic questions to really challenge the child and reinforce his or her school subjects.  I’d also add religious questions to reinforce the true meaning behind Easter.  And if I’m designing the scavenger hunt in the typical Thrill of the Hunt fashion, I’d add online challenges for the child to take pictures and video along the scavenger hunt adventure.  The entire family could join in on the fun for a family fun good time!  This scavenger hunt doesn’t necessarily have to be targeted to young children (I’m thinking 4+), but could be developed for pre-teens and teenagers alike.  That’s one way to include everyone on an Easter Egg Hunt Scavenger Hunt!  This can be accomplished inside or out, or both.

Thrill of the Hunt offers many different types of themed scavenger hunts.  Check them out at (www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com).

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts
Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt
WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy in a Day
Scavenger Hunt – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing

Now time to promote Thrill of the Hunt.  If you’re interested in a unique custom scavenger hunt or just want to discuss the possibilities, email me at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com, Heather@AuntHeather.com or fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free quote.  We’ll get back to you within 24-business hours. I promise!

Please note, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our first ever Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia on Saturday, May 30, 2015.  We’re also hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Annapolis, Maryland; Alexandria, Virginia; and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We’re still accepting local businesses to be added to the actual scavenger hunt to increase foot traffic to these locations.

Thrill of the Hunt is in the planning stages for our Singles Scavenger Hunt in Virginia.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Speaking of different areas, we are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event on our website, or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Please make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Simply Silence

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~Mother Teresa

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A view that no photo can capture… a perfect snowy night. 2/2015

Since it’s Friday, and my days have been filled with a lot of heavy, I wanted to step back and reflect.   Today, I awoke in the early morning hours to find another dusting of snow blanketing the world outside.  Gazing out the window, trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes, I was instantly warmed with nostalgic memories and a serene feeling.  All from watching the snow sit still among the darkness?  Absolutely!

It’s funny, just the other day, dad commented that he loved the late evenings, in the middle of winter, when everything is covered in snow and is at rest.  I’m paraphrasing for he probably said something along the lines of, “I always liked this.”  But I knew exactly what he meant.  He’s right, that time of day is the best!  Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve always held an affinity for those qualities to grace me with their presence.  That’s one of my favorites during hunting season, the dark hours, snow hiding all details of nature, and the silence that seems to accompany that exact moment.  I love it!

Last week, while I was trimming the blueberry bushes and the grape vines at mom and dad’s house, I let the dogs run around in the snow (mom and dad live in the country).  With the frigid days, our four-legged pals were suffering horribly from cabin fever, and I knew they needed to stretch their legs.  It was in the twenties, with little to no windchill, the sun was brightly shining overhead, and the yard had a healthy dose of snow.  All perfect conditions for playtime.

Well, naturally, I got involved in my work and unbeknownst to me, all three dogs made their escape, and decided to go on a walk about.  I never know if I should be insulted when they make plans without me, or happy because they’re getting exercise, but regardless, they made a break for it.  When the boys and Avery pull this stunt without adult supervision, there’s a 50/50 chance it will end well.  Although, on a good note, my cat, Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, had a blast running around the snow and climbing up on the grape arbor without the dogs chasing her around.  Luckily, we had the tracker on Avery, but it soon died and lost connection with our delinquents.

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Love the silence of the night, covered in snow! 2/2015

Anyway, after some time, I layered up and headed out to follow their tracks before it got dark.  Just as I approached the middle of the woods, a few miles out, I received a call from dad saying the hounds were back.  What?  It was now getting really dark and I knew dad had the fireplace blazing for them, yet, here I was stuck hiking through snow, in the middle of nowhere, while everyone warmed up and relaxed!  Did I mention, there were a ton of coyote tracks all around me, and in the distance I saw a fresh deer hide ripped to shreds?  Kinda scary, only because I didn’t have my pistol and my phone was ready to die, but then again I really didn’t care.

To be honest, I didn’t mind being in the woods, or even being in the woods with darkness hot on my heels.  Actually, it was a relaxing point in time, a moment of not worrying, for the dogs were safe, Kyle was accounted for, and I didn’t need to be anywhere, or do anything at that particular juncture.  My mind wasn’t racing and I wasn’t in a hurry.  In fact, I was were I needed to be at that point in time.  It was hovering in a state of simple silence and peace.  When was the last time you felt that?  God took a potentially bad situation, and blessed me with the complete opposite.

Did I care it was now dark among the trees?  No, actually I didn’t.  When I was little, Ryan, our cousins, some of our friends and myself (Nicole would sometimes make her appearance), would run through the woods all night long, mostly during the summer months and sometimes on the weekends in autumn, especially during Halloween.  We’d either play war and corn each other, explore and go on adventures, or simply scare each other.  It was our childhood, and the woods were our playground.

While walking back, the only sounds I heard was the soft crunching of snow under my feet, and the slight wind blowing past me, rustling loose branches and causing the treetops to clap.  The moonlight reflected just enough light from the snow to guide my way.  Everyone once in a while, I’d stop to take it all in, all the benevolence of nature.  I’d like to think Ryan was walking with me, for he too loved the woods and winter time.

Always try to look on the good side of any situation, for God always reveals a gem of delight found in silence among the noise and chaos.  Happy Friday!

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Fighting For What’s Right

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.  ~Oscar Wilde

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This says it all!  Kyle sporting a halo at our cousin Lee’s wedding. 2011

This is not a finger pointer, but a way to realize what needs fixed for Kyle’s well-being.

I’m not a perfect person, not even close, nor did I ever claim to be.  There are many, many people who can attest to that.  Sure, usually my methods for handling certain situations are a bit abrasive and direct, especially when it comes to Kyle.  However, at least I’m not passive aggressive, and I’m always honest, usually brutally. (If the true can’t be handled then perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and make some adjustments.)  However, it’s no secret to where I stand with Kyle, for I’m not shy about my thoughts and showing that he’s a priority.

Believe it or not, I’m actually a pretty easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  I’m well aware that these young teenage years shape and develop traits to strengthen his adult character, or they can be a detriment and hinder him in the long run.  Kyle’s early learning structure is pretty stellar, but molding a kid doesn’t stop when he wants all the freedom in the world at thirteen.  I’m talking about the big three, mental, physical and spiritual wellness.

This past Sunday, which started out as me picking up Kyle for church, turned into a big, almost silly, blowout.  (It’s silly now that it’s over, but not at the time.)  Granted, Kyle wasn’t totally to blame, I played my part, as well as others.  I won’t rehash the long drawn out scenario, but I would like to point out the good that came from this potentially lethal situation, actually a few positive key points and the solutions we agreed upon.  Kyle is a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way!

First, Kyle claims all I do is yell at him.  Probably true, but if anyone had to deal with Kyle’s attitude, and to top it off by listening to his whining and back-talking all the time, I believe even Mother Teresa would raise her voice, too.  Secondly, Kyle believes that he can never do anything right by me.  Not true, in fact I make it a point to complement him and encourage him when does good, but I won’t sugar coat his actions or behavior when the opposite is true.

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Kyle getting ready for a hike, this time minimal arguments as long as he had his iPod & his trusty walking stick. 2012

Personally, some of these issues are real, but his emphasis on the severity and number of instances aren’t.  Kyle’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.  Seriously!  He’s gotten really good at playing the martyr.  He’s so dramatic!

Example, if I tell Kyle he’s kicked off of his video games for a half an hour because he played for four hours straight, he’ll respond with the usual whine and arguing.  Then, his time-out is such a traumatic experience.  He’ll poor it on thick to anyone who’ll listen to how he’s not allowed to play his videos games for the entire day!  When in reality it’s only a half an hour.  Did I mention he claims he’s not allowed to do anything during that time, even though I suggest a game of chess or a walk.  Yes, according to Kyle, he’s in prison serving hard time.  Think I’m kidding?  Not even close.  This is what Kyle does to get his own way, and work everyone to the dark side.  Who wants to deal with this?  It’s not right, and I won’t tolerate it.  Sadly, no one sees his stunts or if they do, they continue to cater to his whims to avoid an argument.  Not me!

Let’s discuss Kyle’s grades.  They’re not terrible, but I know he can do better, and I won’t stand back and accept skimping by.  I hold him accountable.  Why?  Because I believe in him, and I know he’s smarter than what his grades reflect.  However, he’ll argue and claim other.  I have faith in my little man and praising his grades is basically saying, “You’re not that smart, and I accept your half-way attempt.”  Nope!  Did you know he told my sister he knew he was slacking a little, and he needed to buckle down?  Yes!  Those were his words after he made excuses for his grades.  I appreciate his honesty, but I knew it!  There are so many more instances, I won’t even elaborate on.

When discussing my situation with a good friend of mine, who has a nephew a few years younger than Kyle, it was discovered that she had the exact same problem, almost word for word.  While describing Kyle’s behavior, she said it was an exact replica to her own behavioral situations with her nephew, exactly, down to every drama moment.  What are the common denominators to this behavior?  Both kids eat junk, play hours upon hours of videos games, get no exercise, and basically have little to no structure.

Trying to get this under control and do right by Kyle, I don’t assume I have all the answers, but I will find an expert who does.  I  consulted another friend of mine, who’s a school psychologist!  Perfect!  She handles children’s behavioral problems on a daily basis.  I explained the entire scenario.  Her solution?  Reward with good behavior.  I agree!  If Kyle does good, then a reward is called for.  But what?  My initial friend, mentioned earlier with her nephew, and I tried to brainstorm ideas.  You know what conclusion we came to?  There’s nothing!  No, seriously.  These kids have way too much, and that takes away the opportunity to treat them, or surprise them.  Ultimately, they are rewarded all the time for bad behavior.

This is a poor example, but one that came to mind.  When I was a kid, we were never allowed fast food, only when we went to the doctors as a treat.  Not that fast food or even food should be a reward, but I can’t even use that because his off days, Kyle’s usually filled with junk. (We always cook three meals a day and most of it is raised or butchered by our own hands.  Although my parents do sneak in garbage every once in a while.)  If I gave Kyle another video game, I’m fueling the fire for spending more time on those mind sucking animations that create laziness, and that started this miserableness with the kid.  (I try to teach moderation.)  Money?  Forget it!  I tried to have Kyle work for my company, Thrill of the Hunt entering data, and I paid him.  He wanted nothing to do with it.  Why?  Because if he wants money to go to the movies or to buy something, he simply asks for it and it appears.  He’s not stupid, he’s working the system.

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For Kyle’s 9th birthday, I bought him flying lessons. It was a fun day! 7/24/10

Yes, at this point, anyone with any common sense is realizing the real problem at hand.  It may result with Kyle, but it doesn’t stem from him.  This is what’s causing friction between us.  I don’t, and I will never buckle to the kid, even if it’s not totally his fault.  Sure, I do make compromises, but I won’t tolerate all this, and he knows it.  Hence, his reason for ignoring my phone calls, pushing my buttons and then claiming I’m always yelling, and trying to avoid hanging out with me because I expect him to do chores.

Let’s get this straight.  He does chores maybe once a month, more in the spring and summer months, but I don’t ask him to break his back, or to consume his entire day.  Well, actually it usually does take the whole day, about five hours of arguing, whining and moving at a snail’s pace, and then a half an hour of actual work.  Do I give in?  NOPE!  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

Kyle’s biggest complaint about me?  You’ll love this one!  I make him take walks (less than a mile, to three miles total) with me and the dogs in the woods.  It’s good for him to get off his iPhone (yes he has an iPhone 6 loaded with video games) and stretch his legs, while recharging his battery in God’s country, and giving the dogs some exercise.  Kyle’s response nearly EVERY time, results in crying for at least an hour, taking another hour to get dressed, and complaining the entire walk, at least until he breaks a sweat and then he’s good (sometimes).  Yes, once he starts clearing his head, he’s happy and enjoys himself.  Granted, it’s getting harder and harder to get to that point, but I won’t give up.  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

How about other activities?  I’ve tried these and then some, but are denied as the ideas passed my lips.  Shooting at the gun range?  No.  Roller skating?  No.  Shopping?  No.  Playing a board games or chess?  No.  Going to the comic book story. (used to be his hang out)  No.  Walking around a park?  Hell no!  Movies?  Maybe.

So back to my original story, what good could come from our blow out on Sunday and all this tension?  A lot!  I was able to justify my true intentions, so Kyle really understood my point-of-view.  I explained that I’m willing to fight for him.  I’m willing to fight to my last breath for his well-being and his long-term happiness.  I will fight all the video games in the world, and preservative filled foods, and anyone trying to sabotage his natural goodness for their own self satisfaction and easy parenting.  I’m not doing this for myself, but for him.  I won’t give in to him or give up on him, not because I enjoy the fights or I have nothing else to do or it’s the easy way.  NO!  On the contrary, I’m taking the difficult path.  Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t easy, but I will fight for Kyle every step.  I also explained to Kyle that no matter what happens in life, I have his back and I will fight for him every time.  I will fight the devil if I have to, to make sure he’s following in the way of the Lord.  My actions won’t be halfway, or passive aggressive, I will fight for him head on.  Why?  Because Kyle’s worth it, every difficult argumentative whiny moment of his existence is worth trying to do what’s right by him.  That’s how much I love that little guy.

His response?  A few tears were shed, but nothing said.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki hiking up the hill with their trusty walking sticks. Look who’s pulling up the rear? 2012

My job as his Aunt Heather and godmother, isn’t an easy one, but one I’ve been completely dedicated to since he was born.  Ryan trusted me these responsibilities and he knew, when it came down to it, I would always fight for what’s right by this little boy.  I know if Ryan was alive, he’d have my back and agree with me, for he wouldn’t have tolerated a bratty kid either.  And he would believe in Kyle like I do, and know he’s a better kid than his actions are portraying.  Kyle’s not bad, just spoiled, and a kid who’s becoming a teenager, a difficult stage in itself without compounding it with other issues.

The solution to all this?  I agreed to never raise my voice to Kyle again (even though that’s how I was raised), as long as he promises to keep his attitude in check and listen to me when I tell him to do something, no more whining and complaining.  Begrudgingly he murmured, “Yeah.”  I did blatantly explain, to avoid confusion, that I love him wholeheartedly and I’m not trying to be a roadblock or an opposing force, but one that’s trying to guide him to being a good person and to keep him on the path of righteousness for his own sake.  We’re a team, we’ve always been a team, and we’ll always be a team.  I will never give up on him!  No matter what.  That’s family, and that’s love.

On a side note, my cat Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, and my dog, Seven hate it when I’m yelling, they really get upset and I don’t enjoy it either.  I’m kind of relieved over our new compromise.  It will force me to stop and think, in turn making me a better person.  I told you, we learn from each other!

I believe this was a good stepping stone, one long over due.  I have faith in Kyle, and don’t expect perfection from him, but only good intentions and everything for his own well-being.

It was also brought to my attention that this blog is hurting Kyle and his adolescents.  I disagree, for I never divulge everything, and I still keep Kyle’s privacy, more so than most.  This blog is the same as other “mommy” blogs and those who post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Vine etc. I don’t regularly go in that direction, instead I choose a well thought out blog post.  If I thought this blog was truly hindering Kyle, then I would delete it immediately.

Unbeknownst to some, I get a lot of private messages giving me guidance and sharing personal stories to assist me with Kyle, or others take my advice for his or her own personal dilemmas.  This blog has been a learning experience for me and my readers.  Plus, it’s a way for my family and Ryan’s friends to stay in touch.  Let me get back to the real reason I write.  It’s for Kyle, to have an account of his life stories, something to read when he’s older.  I want him to always know his dad and his family.  A minor point, but I do use this blog for my company, Thrill of the Hunt.  Perhaps, I might cut down on the Kyle stories, and focus on his dad and other activities.  Time will tell.  God speed!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Dad! – 64 Years

A party without cake is just a meeting.  ~Julia Child

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

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Dad as a baby with Uncle Sonny. 1951

Dad is still kicking it into another year, slowly but surely.  Sure his bones creek, his muscles sore, and his hearing is sporadic, yet I’m glad the old man is hanging in there and is a big part of Kyle’s life.   He may not be as fast, or as intense as he once was, but he still continues his passion for all things he loves.  Like what?

Dad LOVES hunting.  I can’t even stress that enough.  I mean everything about hunting.  He enjoys loading shells, and more importantly having Kyle and me load with him.  He enjoys shooting in the guns at the range, again having the family tag along.  He enjoys scouting out hunting areas in the spring and fall, and watching hunting shows ALL year long, day and night!  He can still make his way through the woods if there’s a chance of loosing a deer, and he can still climb into a tree stand (ladder stand), not gracefully, but he manages without incidence.  Yet, the most unbelievable, Dad can still shoot with amazing accuracy, up to about three hundred yards, outside.  Pretty impressive!  Yes, I would say that Dad is an experienced hunter, hunting since he was nine or so.

Then, there’s his love of fishing, which happens to be more of Kyle’s passion.  Dad lives for taking his rickety old fishing boat out on Loyalhanna Lake in the summer, especially when Kyle and I, and sometimes mom join the voyage.  He continues to make traps for catching snapping turtles.  A little known fact for some, but Dad can’t swim, and is very uncomfortable in a shaky boat (ask Kyle).  Dad does however, like being on the water, and reeling in the big ones.

Anyone who really knows Dad, knows his love of wood.  Yes, remember Ingrained In Wood? He loves walking among the trees, chopping down trees, and splitting firewood.  Being Dad’s right hand gal with all outdoor activities, I can attest to that hard work, yet, one Dad enjoys.  He just moves a little slower, and somehow faster than Kyle.  Seriously!  Unintentionally, dad is always checking out timber, making note of trees that should come down and ones that are worth money, or areas that were cut down in the past.  I’ve even caught Dad, several times I  might add, ogling other people’s firewood stock pile.  Yep, Dad was born a woodsman, and one he will forever be.

Lastly, I can’t leave out Dad’s favorite love of all time, Kyle and the dogs.  Believe it or not, I bet they run equal nowadays.  Sounds silly, and in truth, Kyle always ranks supreme, but Seven and Scooby, and now Avery have won over Dad’s heart many times over.  Dad would be lost without our dogs, (maybe not Storm, my cat).  Even though Dad lost one of his loves, Ryan, at least in physical form, Ryan remains in Dad’s heart, as he does all of ours.

Later today, Kyle and I plan on making Dad a pound cake, one of his favorites.  Perhaps we’ll cook down some strawberries for a little sweet sauce and call it a birthday cake.

Happy 64th Birthday Pap!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments
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