On The Edge Of The Storm

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “On The Edge Of The Storm” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

The sun hangs low in the sky and a cold damp chill sweeps through the Appalachian Mountains. In the distance I hear the frogs singing as they prepare to invade the newly formed puddles that sprawl across the old logging trails. It’s rained off and on most of day but the nightfall brings a downpour. We’re on the edge of a storm. I have been running about ten minutes ahead of front and that has kept me out of the high winds. Behind me the sky hangs in ragged tatters as the gathering clouds are ripped apart by the oncoming surge.

A quick snapshot of the oncoming storm as seen through my windshield

Yet in spite of the ominous signs of a major weather event the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains brings you sense of peace. Perhaps it’s the expectations that the mountains provide a degree of shelter. Or maybe it’s knowing that God has a way of working things out regardless of the storms.

I always feel more at ease once I pass by the old trestle bridge in Gauley Bridge. Not only does it mark the point where I’m almost home but it’s also the point where I enter the most sheltered terrain. We’ve had some bad storms in my area. In 2012 a straight line wind came through and did a lot of damage. Then there was the flooding in 2012. But through it all God took care of us. He never really promised that there wouldn’t be storms. He did promise that it would be okay.

As the big blue truck carried me deeper into the hills and mountains the storms were nipping at my heels. As I stepped into the house the rain finally caught up with me and the wind howled in the trees on the ridge line above. There will be the dead and broken branches in the yard to clean up and the odd piece of trim to replace but I thank God for the shelter of my mountains and that we’re all safe and warm.

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Forage Friday 1 Cattail

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is untitled for the moment as are all the photos in the post. However, if you’re interested in purchasing a copy please use the contact instructions at the bottom of the page.

Before I begin I feel the need to explain the concept behind Forage Friday. First and foremost, Forage Friday is not intended to teach you everything you need to know about wild foraging. Many of the plants I’ll be covering do have toxic look-alikes and for an inexperienced person could result in disaster. It’s highly recommended that you seek out further information before trying it yourself. One of the best resources will be those of the older generation from rural areas who have relied on wild foraging to get by in hard times. They’re just full of knowledge and crave interaction. As you’re reading the post please remember that the author is very human and as such is capable of errors so it’s best to double check with other sources. With that said, it’s my hope that you are entertained and inspired learn more.

One of the first wild edible plants that I learned is also one of the easiest to identify, I’m speaking of course of the common cattail. I remember that when we were kids we’d pretend that the distinctive flowerhead was a corndog. After all, it’s a hotdog shape on a stick. It even looks like it’s breaded. The “hotdog” is not really edible. It’s densely packed fluff would be like trying to eat a down jacket. This is actually the seeds. However, in its season the male flowers are loaded with bright yellow pollen. The pollen is collected by sticking the spike in a bag and shaking it gently. Soon you’ll have a protein rich powder that is generally mixed 50/50 with wheat flour. I have not actually tried it myself but I’m told that it makes awesome pancakes!

What I have tried is the cucumber flavored rhizome and stem base. They are carbohydrate rich and as a type 2 diabetic I tend to avoid carbs these days. But they are tasteful! The big thing to avoid here is contamination. Cattail is capable of absorbing both chemical and biological toxins. Because of this they are quite useful as biological filters in septic systems and in areas where the capture of chemical run off needs to be dealt with. That’s not to say that you can’t ever give them a try but be selective about where you find them. Open ditches in urban and suburban areas are most likely to be full of lawn chemicals or sewage. That pond out in country is a better choice but there’s still agricultural chemicals. Basically, if you wouldn’t eat the fish out of that water source then avoid the water plants as well. As I’ve matured and learned more about things like cryptosporidium I would no longer recommend raw cattail. Instead, scraping the starch out of the stems and leaf base to thicken soups.

Other than the food value of cattail it’s got some tool and craft uses. The fluff from the “hotdog” is a great tinder for your campfire. When I was a kid in Civil Air Patrol we learned that fluffing the down and stuffing it under your jacket makes a great insulation. The leaves are strong enough to be woven into mats or twisted into a string but it’s fairly weak and not suitable for anything that is under stress. But making a sun shelter for an extended stay in the woods is a perfect application.

Cattail is referred to as “Mother Nature’s supermarket. If I tried to list all of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned concerning cattail the post would be so long that reading it would take more time than most people are willing to invest. However, I do know that most of my fellow Appalachians probably have a trick or two to add. The majority of my readers find my posts through groups that I share with on Facebook. I want to encourage you to either comment on the post, or my Facebook page and even my blog is open to the public. I’d love to hear about your experience with cattail. How did you use it? Did you ever fall into the pond when pulling out the stems and leaves?

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The Return Of Daylight

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Wading Willows 2019” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

The return of the evening sun brings a sigh of relief to my spirit. Even though the difference is artificial, the simple act of setting a clock can make a major difference in the quality of life. It’s not just an extra hour of light but an extra hour of living. Most people who have a day job fill their morning with the obligations of maintaining their jobs. Lunches are packed, attire is selected, pets are settled for the day and children are shuffled off to schools or day care. There’s very little time left to enjoy the light before being sequestered in front of a computer screen. But today I won the race against the shadows and made it home before the darkness was able to touch my driveway. I even had time to stop and check on my wading willows at Kanawha Falls. Bearing the marks of the recent high water gave them the appearance of children who had been playing in the mud. As a bonus I was also able to enjoy another long awaited ritual that signals the end of winter for me. The first drive home with the windows down. Two Spring activities in one day! Moreover the time change will increase the opportunity for a sunrise shot or two over the next few weeks. I was able to get several shots of different things while at Kanawha Falls and I’ll be posting them separately. But for now the combination of daylight, warm weather and the peaceful sounds of the Kanawha River lapping at the shore was both soothing and reinvigorating at the same time.

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Refilling

Hello Friends!Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Ready For Refill” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

The thunder of the steel wheels and diesel engine quells to a rumble as the brakes screech. The train is approaching the tipple ready to carry another load out of the mountains. Empty cars clatter as they bump into each other when the train slows down. One by one the engine pulls them into position under the chute to be filled by the men who pull light out of the darkness.

There’s always going to be those days when we’ve given it all we’ve got and there is no more. We start of with a full load of whatever it is that we have to deliver. For the most part a trainload of coal will be delivered to a single destination but for the purpose of the illustration let’s suppose that the payload is divided up between several places. The train starts off with a mile of cars in tow. It stops and drops a few cars here and a few cars there. Sooner or later it will need to return home to refill.

We as humans start off with a load of whatever it is that we have to provide for those in need. All of it can be defined as one form of energy or the other. It could be spiritual energy in the form of prayers for those in need, or food for the hungry. Perhaps it’s simply our labor that we sell a little piece at a time to an employer. But whatever form it takes it’s a certain amount of our life’s energy infused into a token. Sooner or later it will run out and will need to refill our cargo and refuel the engine. We need to return home. For me that’s seeking God in the quiet time. It’s rest for mind and spirit as well as my body. I hope that it’s the same for you but however you get refilled it’s a necessary part of life and something that should not be ignored. If we find ourselves just going through the motions then it’s probably because we need to fill up again.

Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page. If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook

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Lastly, all of the photos are my original work unless otherwise specified and are not to be copied or reproduced without expressed written permission from the photographer.

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Some Days Are For The Birds

Recently the warm weather allowed me to get out for a few minutes and visit the bird feeder at my dad’s house. Dad goes all out for his little feathered friends. The TV is on but he has his binoculars pressed to his face looking out the window at all the activity in the chestnut trees on the edge of the yard. The term “yard” is kinda used loosely at dad’s place. In general it’s any place where you mow plus just under the trees where the woods begin. As we observe the feeding dad recounts the events at the feeder over the past few days. He hasn’t actually named these birds out loud but he knows all of the species and individuals who frequently visit his yard. He tells me that the Common Flicker in tonight’s feature image is the boss of the yard and how he even challenges and keeps at bay the murder of crows that are larger and outnumber him. He talks about the covey of mourning doves and how one always lands on the feeder and tosses food down to the ground for the rest of them. A Pileated Woodpecker swoops in as dad talks and lands on a dead limb of a hickory tree. He hits the dead wood like a jackhammer and sends wood chips flying everywhere in his search for insects living in the wood. ( I tried to get a nice shot of the Pileated Woodpecker but he’s far too camera shy and took flight as soon as I stepped outside.) Dad has one mortal enemy at his bird feeder and surprisingly it’s not the squirrels. It’s a mob of Common Grackles that have run the bluebirds out of his yard and have even overwhelmed the Flicker on occasion. The former Marine came out in dad’s eyes when he postulated on how to defend his songbirds from the Grackles. A few minutes later he softened a little and said that God had a place for the Grackles too. Most of shots from the window didn’t really turn out well and so I put my wilderness stalking skills to work and began to ease myself closer to the feeder. Most of the birds scattered at first but soon the chickadees returned. Small and agile the chickadees figure they can be gone with a mouthful of food before the human can react. I remained as motionless as a stone until they began to ignore me. As soon as the others saw that I wasn’t chasing after the chickadees they also returned. Then finally the Flicker decided that it was time to let me know that this was his feeder. The others gave way to him as he came in for a landing. He dug into the seed mix and found the one he wanted. Then he flew directly at the camera so fast that I couldn’t adjust the focus. He pulled up at the last moment and landed on the branch above me. Few a few minutes he seemed to play peekaboo by popping out from the tree with the nut in his beak. Finally he tucked it into his hiding spot on an upper branch.

Common Flicker hiding a nut in a tree branch

I watched him repeat this stunt a few times before I went back inside to visit with dad some more and share the photos with him. I’ve been told that some days are for the birds but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I want to encourage you to spend some time birding. The songbirds not only bring much needed beauty to the dull winter climate but also share their beautiful songs and impart a little peace to your morning.

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Blood,Sweat And Steel

Hello Friends! Tonight’s image is titled “Curves In Repetition” and if you want to purchase a copy please see the instructions at the bottom of the page.

When I think about workers laying down the tracks the image in my mind is of burly men with sledgehammers driving the steel. I can hear the hammer ring and feel the sweat of hard labor in the afternoon sun. The air is humid and thick with the smell of the creosote on the heavy wooden crossties. A civil engineer maintains a careful eye on the transit. Being off by a few inches now would mean missing the mark later. The crew works as single unit. Each takes his turn with the hammer in sequence with perfect timing. Somewhere along the way another team welds the sections together into a perfectly seamless pair of ribbons. Everything they do comes at price of aching muscles and stiff backs. The result is a web of steel, wood and concrete that stretches through mountains and valleys and across rivers in a way that adds romantic beauty to the landscape. They are artists and their medium is blood, sweat and steel.

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Skipping Stones

Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Skippersand is available forpurchase by using the Contact Form onmy website. Found at

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Nothing brings to mind the carefree days of childhood than skipping stones. Before cable tv, before the internet and before Fortnight we would hike down to Collison Creek where the stream was just wide enough to make a flat stone bounce and skip along the water’s surface. It wasn’t really wide enough to go for long distance. Making it to the other side of the creek was fairly easy so we got creative. In some spots the water flows around large rocks that made perfect bumpers. The object was to play the bank shot by skipping a stone into the bumper and making it land in a certain place. Sometimes we could get one to skip on the rebound after bouncing off of the bumper stone. Other skipping stone games involved landing a stone on a sand bar and a second player would try knock it off with his stone. This one lead to another incarnation that we called “soldier’s fort”. We would wade out to the sand bar and stack rocks like cairns. Usually the stack was only 2 or 3 stones high. Then twigs were gathered from the forest floor and stuck in the sand like a palisade. The object was to crash through the wall by skipping a stone into it until you could knock down a stack of rocks. We never really kept a score. It was all about finding something to do in an age where you had to create your own fun.

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