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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bear Fence Mountain: An Easy SNP Day Hike

It being Thanksgiving weekend and all, Mary thought it might be fun to take a little walk in the Park.  Since she had never been before, I suggested we might go over to Bear Fence Mountain and explore it a bit. 

This relatively short trail - the Easy Day Hikes book (Amazon link at the end of the post) has it as a 1.2 mile loop with less than 400 feet of elevation gain, showcases the essential geologic history of the Blue Ridge.  The central portion of the hike, and its highlight, is a rock scramble along the ridge pictured here that is about a third of a mile in length. The mountain's summit is about 3,470 feet above sea level.

The trail to the scramble passes through the Park's signature greenstone and sandstone formations, and transitions to Catoctin basalt at the scramble itself. I prefer to take the loop trail for the opportunity it provides to have a good look at the stony layer from below, and then from being up close and personal during the scramble.

Funny thing along the way - after the initial photo above, my iPhone told me it was out of memory and it wouldn't allow any more photos.  I'll get that checked out, but in the meantime we fell back on Mary's good old fashioned RAZR, which is what I used to use for the blog.  These small format photos are taken with that camera.

This absolutely stunning view looking north towards Tanners Ridge and New Market gap was taken from a view point on the AT a couple of hundred yards south of the scramble. 

Full disclosure:  Mary and I didn't do the full rock scramble.  This trail is one of the better visited ones in the Park - there is even a Ranger Program that comes here (one I'd like to join sometime), so there is a lot of traffic on the mountain.  While the challenges of this scramble don't compare to Old Rag due to its length and the lack of significant elevation change, it does give a good preview of the experience you can expect on that landmark, and the transitions through the geologic layers are the same as what you'll see there.

Here are a couple of mountain portraits of your faithful blogger and his loving wife.





 And here is the Amazon link to the Easy Day Hikes book, if you are interested (hey!  Fourth Edition!)



Monday, November 28, 2011

She Brakes for Wisconsin Chickens

Our neighbors own a Christmas Tree farm in Wisconsin, and every year they travel to it for final chores and marketing right about Thanksgiving.  They are there right now, as a matter of fact.

Now, I spent a lot of time hatching some thoughts with these neighbors about the prospect of getting a Page County Grown CSA going here in Alexandria.  There seems to be a consensus (among some of the neighbors, as well as my "farmer friend" in Luray, that a chicken CSA is very feasible.  Still work to do on this account, but that is the set up for the photo.

Saturday afternoon, sitting out on the brick porch for a short while, the iPhone buzzed that I had received a text message from my neighbor.  She sent this iPhone photo, very nice image (she is a professional photographer after all!). 

The message said that they were making good progress on the farm chores, and were wrapping up early for the day since the weather was getting worse.  On the way home, they'd stopped by the neighbor's, who took them in for a look at the henhouse.

The Winter Flock and Other Visitors

Raccoon prints on the brick terrace.
With the change of seasons, I went out and bought a new set up of bird feeders and ten pounds of bird seed.  The old ones had facded and worn out so much I thought it would be a good idea to just replace them, and I've let the old hummingbird feeders hang out for too long.

Our winter flock at Hawksbill Cabin includes a mix of titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, and downy woodpeckers - they are the regulars.  On some mornings, I'll see a bunch of junkos mixing in, and there is a crowd of sparrows off someplace in the woods that will get word of the feeders being refilled, so they'll show up.  Less regularly featured are some cardinals, blue jays, and flickers.

Red berries popular with the cardinals.
As I was taking care of the chore with the feeders, I noticed some paw prints on the deck railing that surrounds our brick terrace.  On closer inspection, these are raccoon prints - we have had a few over on that side of the house closest to the stream; I've seen one once or twice scampering off into the woods as I approached.

But that's not the worst of it...at least these critters were outside.

When we arrived at the cabin Friday, as I was unloading the car and making the last haul into the house, I met Mary out on the brick terrace.  She said, "There is a snake skin on the sink in the kitchen.  Of course, the next step for me was to go in to investigate, and then figure out how to get the reptile back outside.

The first thing I noticed was that this skin was just a piece of a whole shed, and it was brittle and yellowed.  So, not fresh - I've seen them keep a grayish tint for a whole season.  Still I carefully opened every cabinet door and every drawer in the kitchen - no sign of a snake.  What I did find was a mouse nest in one of the lower drawers near the stove.

We pulled that out - it was sitting in a little box that we used to store candles - and proceeded to clean and disinfect everything that the mouse might have scampered over.  We replaced all of the D-con.  And while we did this, we analyzed the construction of the mouse nest we'd found.

Included with the usual materials, such as paper towels and other scrap materials gathered from around the house, were more pieces of snake skin.  I found this very interesting, as the snakes usually hunt the mice...asking around, people gave me varying opinions about this, including the very creative "it's a kind of mojo to keep other snakes away" explanation.

Here's what I figure.  Hawksbill Cabin had been infested with snakes for several years before we bought it.  The elderly fellow who lived there at first wasn't able to keep up with things, and so the termites got out of hand and then the other "pests" moved in.  The folks who bought it from his estate were in over their heads on basic maintenance chores, and so the snakes and termites continued to live amongst them.

It wasn't until we moved there that the wildlife was given notice to move along (for a hint at the extent of our repairs, take a look at the "Big Projects" label).  There was some big time clean up to do along with the repairs. 

Still, there are a couple of nooks and crannies in the house where an old snake skin or two might lay hidden, and that is what I figured happened here.  In the mouse-frenzy associated with building winter quarters, the snake skin was just another material going into the creation of a cozy den. 

We didn't see any other traces over the weekend.  Hopefully Mary is all settled down by now, too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From the Archives...another "Marilyn Mix"

I was messing around in the basement and found a box of mixed tapes. Included were about a dozen Maxell UD and UR 90 cassettes, still in cellophane wrap.  The great surprise was the discovery of the box for another "Marilyn Mix" - this one dated 2/93...unfortunately, the tape is missing.  Here's the playlist.

Playlist Name:  Marilyn Mix 2/93
Tape:  Maxell UR 90
Noise Reduction: Not Indicated

Side A
Townes Blues - Cowboy Junkies
This is the Sea - Waterboys
Rags - Waterboys
Zimbabwe - Toni Childs
Catch My Fall - Billy Idol
Live for Today - Lords of the New Church
South of the Border - Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Church of the Poison Mind - Culture Club
Safety Dance - Men Without Hats
Memphis - Joe Jackson
The Stand - The Alarm

Side B
Kill Joy - Mary's Danish
Hippy Shakes - Swingin Blue Jeans
Medicine Bow - Waterboys
Waitin' for the Man - VU
Black Money - The Fall
Promise - Violent Femmes
Message of Love - The Pretenders
Night Boat to Cairo - Madness
Alex Chilton - The Replacements
Happy Boy - The Beat Farmers
Me and the Farmer - House Martins
U Mass - The Pixies
Crazy - Pylon
Bus Stop - The Hollies

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Urban Trout Stream

About mid-October, during the walks that Tessie and I take, I started to notice more and more folks along the banks of Hawksbill Creek, some doing traditional flyfishing and others simply casting along with rod and reel. Then I realized that we'd entered the season where that stream is stocked - from about October 15 through June 15.  The water is not really cold enough for trout for the rest of the year and so it's not stocked then.

(A schedule of stream stocking dates is maintained by the state of Virginia here:  http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/fishing/stock/)

Small fish are nearly always visible in the stream along the Hawksbill Greenway, and some of the murals illustrate the species you can find there, namely sunfish, bass and trout.  On the day I took these photos, apparently the stream had just been stocked, and obviously the leaves were still up - it was early in the fall.  But I saw a number of keepers in the creels.

On a walk a few weeks back Mary and I ran into our friends from Appalachian Outdoors Adventures working over the creek on a Sunday morning.  They weren't having any luck this morning, but Howard broke out his phone to show us a couple of recent catches - big ones, each one easily filling the pan for two people!

I guess it's time to break out my copy of A River Runs Through It again to have a look.  And maybe to be on the lookout for a trout dinner somewhere soon!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tech-Watch Geek: Casio Protrek and Pathfinder

Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite - highest altimeter
reading on my Pathfinder was here: 2,315 meters...
(give or take)
As I was departing Japan last January, I saw a display of Casio “Tech-watches” in Narita Airport. Since they were branded “Protrek” – as opposed to the Pathfinder I wear – I was interested in learning more about them, with the idea of eventually getting a post up here on the blog about my new discovery…unfortunately, I did not save the photo I took in the airport (but I’ll liberally sprinkle in some archived action shots of my Pathfinder!).


What I’ve learned, and I’ll stand corrected if anyone comments with more information, is that the differences between the watches is essentially a marketing issue; namely, there was a copyright in the US on the brand name Protrek so this label was reserved for other markets. The brand for markets where the Protrek copyright was in place became Pathfinder.

Taking a Pathfinder reading in Death Valley -
later that day I recorded the lowest reading
on the Casio of -110 meters.
Now, although my discovery of this brand was recently, in January 2011, apparently the marketing extends back as early as 2008. My experience in Japan had been that the technical features, such as the triple sensor altimeter/barometer/thermometer feature, time and tide info, and even solar charging, were similar, but there was a distinct fashion emphasis on the Protrek line that I don’t associate with the Pathfinder – and that led to a bit of a price point difference, with the Protrek being a little more expensive. Again, this is my impression, glad to post differing views on this one. 

I did a little further research on the differences, and found a YouTube video that demonstrated one of the Protreks – embedded below; there was also a post on the “Poor Man’s Watch Forum” that compared the experience of using the two brands on hunting expeditions (black bear and white tail deer, for the record!) The link to this review is here, and the YouTube embed follows.
http://www.pmwf.com/Phorum/read.php?26,23482




Okay, here's another:




Now, I got my Pathfinder (similar to the ad over there in the right column ) as a holiday gift from Mary a few years back. I am delighted with it and use it all the time, especially for altitude readings and a quick check of bearings with the compass. Click the Tech-watch Geek label at the end of the post for reviews of it and other watches with these features.

But the thing that sold me on the Pathfinder was a soldier’s review…the link to the post where I discussed that review is here:
http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/12/tech-watch-geek-maybe-winner.html


I’m not going to pull punches. I love this watch. Still, I thought with the holidays nearly upon us (“Respect the bird!”) that I might break into a quick survey of the popular Tech-watch brands to see what’s happening with the lines this year. There’ll be a few more posts on the topic…!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bon Appetit!

When Mom and Jeff visited a few weeks ago, besides the quick visit I made over to #OccupyDC, we visited the American History museum downtown. There were two big highlights for me there: the restored American flag exhibit, which I remember from grade school trips to the Smithsonian, but also the exhibit of Julia Child’s kitchen.


I’ve got a couple of photos of it here. Like many people my age, when I think of Julia, the first cultural reference that comes to mind is the classic Dan Ackroyd skit on Saturday Night Live, where he impersonates her and has a bloody accident with a kitchen knife. Then there is the movie from a few years back, Julia and Me, which offered a range of inspirational topics for a blogger and a person who just wants to learn how to cook better.

I do remember two of Julia’s PBS series from late in her career – there was the one with Jacques Pepin, where he practically orbited her in the kitchen preparing French cuisine, then another where she invited celebrities in to cook their own specialties. That’s the one I kept thinking of while I checked out the kitchen exhibit.

Getting to the point, I still have one of my “red birds” from the summer, courtesy of Public House Produce – I just took it out of the freezer in fact, and plan to do Julia Child’s Roast Chicken for dinner tomorrow. Here’s a link:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-live/roast-chicken-recipe/index.html

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Pumpkin Ritual at Valley Star Farm

I can't believe pumpkin season got by without my annual post about our visit to Page County Grown member Valley Star Farm. 

Soon as farmers market season begins to taper off, the folks at Valley Star open their pumpkin patch - it's a fall highlight in the Valley, as far as I'm concerned.

Among the activities are a corn maze, some old fashioned games (duck races, corn hole - bean bag toss, etc.) and hay rides into the pumpkin patch.  Then of course, the pumpkins and other farm products, including honey, for sale, and the display of some goats and a young Holstein calf.

Moving on into the holiday season, one of this farm's main crops is Christmas trees, where you can go out and choose your own. 

Mary and I are still enjoying the honey and other treats we picked up at Valley Star.  Here's a link, by the way, to the "pumpkin tableau" Mary created last year.

http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2010/10/are-you-gonna-eat-that.html

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beaver Run in the Fall

As a follow-up to the Fall Romp post earlier today, I wanted to put up some additional images of Beaver Run.  These are part of the stream that passes through our property at the bottom of the hill - the image on the right below is ours, on the left, where the stream flows out into one of the neighbor's lots.

I mentioned in the earlier post that the deer follow the course of the stream from some nearby pastures into the woods to the south of us.  The namesake beavers also generally build their dams over there, although when Mary and I were walking around yesterday we found freshly gnawed stumps.

Having the little stream around is a nice feature of the Hawksbill Cabin.  Especially during the fall, after the leaves have come down, you can hear the water flowing over the cascade here and there in the hollow.

Fall Romp

When the underbrush finally dies off down the hill at Beaver Run, we take the opportunity to go and explore the little stream as soon as we can.  We got to do that this weekend.

Early in the morning I took Tessie down there with me.  Beside the general stimulation of being outside in the woods, she caught wind of many of her favorite critters.  The hollow that surrounds the stream is a deer migration route through the area.

In fact, the environment was such an inspiration for her that she took off on one of those puppy runs - here's a photo of the third pass.  She kept up the full gallop for three passes, maybe 200 yards all totaled; there were three or four new fallen trees, and she vaulted all of those.

We had a good time!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Faces of the Fallen

There are many who'll find better ways of expressing their gratitude to our veterans today than I will, but I wanted to take a moment to honor those who serve, and those who have served, and especially, those who have died while serving.

Appropriately today, the Washington Post included its regularly published Faces of the Fallen feature, the photographs of service members who've made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Today there are only 99 photographs, at times over the past ten years, there have been many more.  Most news of the war moved off the front page as early as 2002, now it's usually in the back half of the A section, which is where this feature can be found today.

Today the section is dominated by 30 people who died when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.  There are no women on the list today, although there often were in the past, but the faces of America are here, Latin American, African American, Asian American, Native American, and those whose ancestors came here from Europe.  The youngest was a teenager, and the oldest was 50.  They hailed from all regions of the United States.

Causes of death - most were combat related; there is at least one heart attack; and there is one that portends another great tragedy of this conflict: found dead in his room...suicide has plagued this generation of veterans, as it has those of previous conflicts.

I cannot pass over this section without pausing to read about each of these veterans and to think of their families. These will not have the opportunity to come home to the quiet and peaceful life we all desire.

And to the others who have served and continue to serve, thank you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Civil War History Moment

It is hard to get away from the topic of the US Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley:  there is a weekly column in our own Page News and Courier newspaper that features some aspect of the action; along the Hawksbill Greeway in Luray there are two markers commemorating nearby battles; and nearby at New Port there is the Catherine Furnace, a supplier of Confederate pig iron during the war.  Those are just a few reminders - they are truly all over, up and down the Valley.

A few months ago a colleague at work told me he'd had a project a few years ago to do market analysis for a museum on the Civil War located in the Valley - I don't recall which one or even where the museum was to be located.  Among the items he referred to during the research stage was a book by Michael G. Mahon, entitled The Shenandoah Valley 1861-1865:  The Destruction of the Granary of the Confederacy. (Amazon link below).

There is plenty of lore about the agricultural wealth of this region - and I was fortunate enough to see the modern status of this reputation during my agribusiness internship this summer.  That experience, coupled with the Civil War anecdote that I heard at Skyline Premium Meats during the Page County Grown farm tour only made me more interested in the topic.

In the anecdote, Mr. Burner shared the story of how the current barn was saved after Sheridan's calvary marched through the Valley in 1864, with the mission to destroy every element of agricultural production that could be useful to the Confederate war effort.  He told us that the men had fled in advance of the cavalry's march and went into hiding in the mountains, with the women and other family members left behind.  In this case, the family offered a "Sunday dinner" to the raiders, who spared the barn in gratitude.

Mahon's book is well researched, drawing from anecdotes like this that he was able to discover in letters and other documentation in various Virginia libraries.  His version of the story contradicts the traditional view of the Valley as the Conferderate breadbasket, based on the argument that while there was a strong agricultural tradition as the war began, by 1864, the years of conflict had taken their toll on the Valley so that there was barely enough food to support the local population.  There are plenty of tables and charts with data that help make the point.

Having read a few books on the impact of World War II on Eastern Europe, I'm not surprised by these findings and find them easy enough to accept.  Still there seems to be some discussion about Mahon's findings, they are disputed in the literature and anecdotally.

I'll close with a short passage from the book, which is actually part of the back cover material:

"Sheridan has been credited with burning out the Valley and denying the Conferderates the use of its resources, and his statements of what he destroyed have been readily accepted as fact and have never truly been challenged.  But on closer examination, it is clear that he grossly magnified - and in numerous instances invented - the figures of what his forces captured or destroyed during the campaign....The prevailing vie of the campaign has been that...Sheridan dispersed his three divisions of cavalry across the width of the Valley with orders to destroy anything that could support the enemy....But the reports of his officers disclose that Sheridan's three divisions of horsement actually spent very little of their time savaging the countryside."

Here's the Amazon link to the book if you would like to check it out:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Revisiting Mary's Rock: An Easy SNP Day Hike

"It's a right nice walk!" - Jesse, our contractor

With my mother and brother in town, we decided to head out to Hawksbill Cabin for part of the weekend.  I'd wanted to get a hike in with my brother, to share with him some of my favorites from Shenandoah National Park. 

Our logistics made it a late start, so choices like Blackrock down in the South District, or Hawksbill and Stonyman, here in the Central, were out.  Those destinations would have taken a painfully long time to get to - still a ton of leaf peepers up in the Park. 

Mary's Rock, with it's proximity to the Thornton Gap entry, seemed perfect, especially since there were two lines of more than 10 cars waiting to get in when we arrived.  An added benefit is my familiarity with the trail, having done it a half dozen times or so - minimal outfitting.

I've reviewed Mary's Rock here a number of times - it's a great hike to an excellent vista.  Depending on the source you are using, it is listed as a 3.7 mile round trip with more than 1,200 feet of elevation; another attraction is that most of the route follows the Appalachian Trail.  A portion of this route hugs the mountain side through two coves, and the trail has been built over masonry shoring walls - it is probably my favorite feature of the AT in the Park so far...I'm still discovering though, so don't hold me to this.

For Jeff, I think this was the highest altitude he'd ever self-propelled himself to.  He told me he was enjoying the views and the fall colors.  And there was still snow up there at altitude along the trail on the north face of the mountain - added bonus!

Check the "easy day hikes" label at the end of this post to find other reviews of Mary's Rock, as well as other easy day hikes in the Park.

A great outing for us.  Mary's Rock is now officially a go-to option for visitors who want to put in a hike while they are staying with us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Visiting #OccupyDC - part 2

Today, the second part of my visit to the #occupyDC locations last Friday.  There are actually three sites, I'm told - but I only made it to two of them.

In the post yesterday I mentioned that I'd found the message by these protesters to be fairly consistent. Hearkening back to the 1992 election for a good way to sum it up: "It's about the economy, stupid!"  The protests and demonstrations are focused on industries and policies that the occupiers believe are part of the reason we're in the sluggish economic state we're in.

When I came back from McPherson Square, the location featured in today's post, I walked back by Freedom Plaza, the site I posted on yesterday.  My breath was taken away by the sight of the Capitol Building rising from the Hill down Pennsylvania Avenue, so I stopped to compose another photo.

As I did, another person made a stop for a photograph also.  After he said, "That's quite a view, isn't it?"  We struck up a conversation. 

The first topic for me was one of irony - at McPherson Square, I'd seen the signs below, which lay in the grass.  One hit home in particular, which said, "over educated, under employed."  I'd just been informed I would be laid off last week, effective this week, and that sign was positioned approximately 20 feet from a park bench where I negotiated my first post-MBA job after returning to Washington from Los Angeles. 





My next remark to my fellow traveler there was to discuss the fact that at least with this group, I'd found a consistent message.  He was skeptical, and even gave me the stink eye. 

The message here is definitely consistent when you compare it to the Tea Party message of a couple of years back (you pick the one you think they stood for):

  • Don't socialize my Medicare
  • No need to pay taxes to upkeep the institutions we all rely on
  • God hates fags
  • Oh no, our president is a black man
Although I didn't start on this bit of politics with my colleague, these were part of my thoughts for the day.  There are so many criticisms of this movement...one of which concerns a perceived lack of focus, again, something I didn't see during my visit.  As we parted ways, he said, "Good luck."




Another observation I had - the number of Vietnam references I found among the "artifacts" in the two encampments.  In fact, there were quite a few Vietnam-era veterans amongst the crowd. 

There is one thing that does bother me about the OWS movement - and that's only because so far I don't understand why it's happening -  and that is the violence that is being reported at some of the demonstrations, especially in Oakland. 

I hope to take another look at that in a future post.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Visiting #OccupyDC

We had relatives in town over the weekend.  On Friday, they wanted to head downtown to check out museums, so I decided that I would accompany them, and figure out how to break away for an hour or so to take a look at the OccupyDC sites that are set up in the area.

The first one I visited was at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania avenue - a couple of blocks from the White House and maybe 15 from the Capitol Building.

As you can see from the photos, this location is pretty tidy.  There were even six rental toilets off to one side of the demonstration area.  Nothing like the squalor I'd been lead to believe I might encounter there.

There was even a schedule posted for events, an ampitheatre area for speeches and such, and a "soap box" meant to invite people to speak their minds.

Another impression I get from some media coverage is that these groups don't have a focused message.  I came away with the distinct impression that at least here, in DC, the focus was on economic issues.  At Freedom Plaza, there was a big display related to the wars of the last ten years...the "War Economy" to be specific.

I do have some comparisons to draw about the Tea Party movement and this one, but those thoughts aren't ready for posting just yet.

At Freedom Plaza, they had a collection of shoes and boots; I supposed this was a reference to some of the American lives lost overseas these last ten years.  I didn't encounter anyone to explain this display to me, or to tell me how some of the soldiers' names became attached to the boots I was seeing there - so I'll hold off on publishing those photos for now.



As I understand it, the city is not reacting as aggressively as has been done elsewhere.  This appears to be a recognition of the fact that Washington, DC is place where people come to make statements, in a long tradition.  And to some extent, maybe there is the thought that, if the demonstrations are ignored here, they'll just go away.

I found some irony in the encounter with the demonstration.  One thought that comes to mind this morning - Congress also occupies this city.  Residents of DC are not represented in Congress as the rest of the country is - yet they pay the same income taxes.  They don't have a direct say in how those taxes are spent either - Congress frequently interferes with the local government in a way that you'd witness no where else.

So Eric Cantor, think twice before you use the word "thug" to describe these American citizens.  Seriously, they could say the same thing about you.  Perhaps a better path would be to begin to listen to these voices rather than those deep pocketed donors of yours in the financial industry.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Finding Inner Peace as an Agribusiness Intern

Among the topics this month is to revisit my internship over at Public House Produce during August.  Now, as I begin to describe the activities, I am going to periodically refer to them as "work."  There are those who may have other opinions about this, and they are welcome to them.  But as Herman Cain says, "hear me out"...

After discussing the possibility of working with him during August, David finally acquiesced to my queries and offered that I could join him on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  I can only begin to imagine the decision making paradigm he used, to first say yes, and second, to settle on these times, since as a prosperous local farmer getting by without intern help, he was bound to be taking on a lot of risk to the operation.

And then, what about the future?  He knows I am a blogger.  What if, through my posts, the word gets out that unpaid agribusiness internships are available there and he is flooded with requests from other laid-off, city-dwelling baby-boomers next year?  It was quite challenging enough for him to manage one intern - the logistics are exponentially more difficult with two or more.

Nevertheless, so it was that we settled on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the internship.  The work schedule roughly followed this schedule:

Tuesdays: 

Confirmed Activities - Meet at the farm at 7am for the drive to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction.  Arrive at the auction 8:30am.  Unload the produce (after pee break* - yes, I washed my hands after).  Walk around and visit the other farmers, and check out the offerings.  At 9:20am, head over for some pie.  9:30am, more farmer visits and auction action.  10:00am, head back to Luray, arriving by 11:00am.  11:30am, discuss optional Tuesday activities and potential Wednesday schedule. 1:00pm, arrive back at Hawksbill Cabin for lunch and nap.

Optional Activities - Since Wednesdays were a major activity day for the pasture-based poultry business, there was work to be done on Tuesday evening.  And in this case, I mean actual work of a different type than heading over to the auction house for some pie.  The chickens needed to be collected from the pasture and readied for transport on Wednesday - I helped with this twice during the internship; it was an activity that might take place anytime Tuesday afternoon from about 4:00pm to 6:00pm.  There was the opportunity for authentic farm-style refreshment afterwords, but I will write more about that later.

Wednesdays:

Confirmed Activities - 5:00am, meet at the farm.  There was the potential for getting very uptight about this schedule, but when I arrived, David would have already loaded the chickens on the pickup for transport, and we would promptly head over to George's in New Market.  So my work for this first activity consisted of getting safely into the truck without injury due to darkness.  5:30am, arrive at George's, coordinate the work to be done there.  5:30 to 5:59am, more coordination**, along with certain poultry processing related activities taking place.  6:05am, back to Luray, arrive 6:30am.  Head to the pasture to move chicken tractors and feed and water the birds.  Complete by 7:15am.  Perform chores at the farm until approximately 8:45am.  Head to New Market to pick up the processed birds, arrive at 9:10am, and deliver to customers in Luray by 9:30am.  The back to the farm for work and chores, which continued until noon or 1pm.

There is more to follow, but for now I wanted to lay out the basic schedule for my dedicated readers.

* Over the years, I've developed a core set of rules for keeping my life simple in these increasingly complex times.  There are good reference materials available if you should decide to set out on a similar quest for your own rules to live by and achieving the resulting inner peace.  My only advice in this case is to keep the list of rules small, and keep them simple as you can.  Here are my basic rules, which I was able to refine only through the enforced rigor of my life as an intern this summer:

Rule 1:  If there is free food, eat some.
Rule 2:  If you find you have a spare 5 minutes, take a nap.
Rule 3:  If there is a place to take a leak, you should.  You never know when the next chance will be. 

** Some readers will be more familiar with the alternative, technical nomenclature for this second round of coordination.  They call it "bullshitting" -

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Agribusiness Intern - Revisited

I was doing some fall tidying up at Hawksbill Cabin last weekend.  Between the wistful glances at the picture window, where the October Nor'easter was blanketing us with about four inches of snow back in the hollow, I kept thinking about the little internship I did at Public House Produce in August.  There was the weather, there was being outside, there was getting the chance to be "hands on" in the local food movement...all great experiences.

Then, yesterday, there were also all the observations about the fact that the world's population is estimated to have passed 7 billion yesterday - this is a topic David and I revisited a couple of times while I was there on the farm, especially in light of the forecast that the population will surpass 9 billion by 2045, which might just be in my lifetime, albeit the tail end of it.

David made a note on Facebook about the news of the day:  "Food for thought. 7 billion pepole in the world today and an estimated 9 billion by 2045, just a small reminder that you should know your farmer!"  That's really what it is all about, I guess.

What I found as I was tidying up was a small collection of notes I had made about the internship, materials about the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton, and of course, materials about the Page County Grown farmers who participated in that excellent first farm tour. 

Over the course of November, I'll put these resources together in a couple of posts that summarize what I learned working as the agribusiness intern at Public House Produce.  My previous posts on this topic can be found by clicking on the "Agribusiness" label at the end of this one.