Saturday, June 16, 2012

Zip Line At Red Mountain Park

After being driven away by a thunderstorm a few weeks ago we finally got to ride the Red Ore Zip Tour at Red Mountain Park. Fear Cheoil and I were joined by our friend Renee. 

We hiked up to "the can," a metal shipping container with all the equipment, and got geared up.

Fear Cheoil all strapped in.

When we got to the Tree House the lead guide introduced himself. 
"Hi, I'm Daredevil." 
Great. I was starting to get a little nervous and that ramped the butterflies up a notch. 

I didn't have to worry, though, he and the other two guides, Chelsea and Jewels, were all about safety. There wasn't a time when we weren't strapped to a steel cable of some sort.

After one short zip, just to get us used to the idea, there was a rope Burma Bridge, then a rope swing. 

Fear Cheoil follows Renee onto the Burma Bridge.

After that it was all zip line to the end. On one short section, Daredevil challenged us to go backwards. So, of course I did. It wasn't as scary as it sounds.

Renee is a small person and got stuck in the middle of one of the longer sections. Jewels had to zip out and pull her in. I was at the next "tripod" and didn't get to watch, but she told me it was like being hit head-on by a pro line backer. 

After that first scary section, it was hard not to laugh the whole way.

No, he's not screaming. Tarzan yell, maybe?

Here's Renee on one of the longer sections.


We were on the course for about an hour and a half. It cost $50 each, which is a good price as zip lines go. Most of them I've seen start at $80. Since we'd never been zip lining before it was a wonderful introduction. Definitely worth it and worth doing again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Red Mountain Park

 Fear Cheoil and I hit the trail at Red Mountain Park recently. Offically open on April 14th, it's just down the mountain from where we live. After our first visit, it may become a favorite.
 Here's a link to their digital brochure.

My great grandfather was a collier (coal miner) originally from Scotland. He moved his family to Birmingham from Ohio in the early 1900s. I'll have to check with my sister, who is the family historian, but I don't think he worked in these mines. 

The park is being developed in stages and this is just the first phase. One of the features is a zip line, which we plan on going back to try out soon. For our first visit, we just walked the trails and took some pictures. I found it interesting that the path at the start of the trail is your typical beige, sandy soil.

However, as you get closer to where the mines were it changes to ochre. Same trail, different dirt.

One of the most exciting features of the park is the Red Ore Zip Tour. I've been wanting to try zip lining for a while now. It costs $50 per person and takes about an hour and a half. There are other elements, like a rope bridge and swing. 

Red Mountain Park is dedicated to the people who worked in the mines here, from the 1860s to the 1970s. It'll be fun to explore and watch develop. I wonder what some of the old timers who worked here would think of it.


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Fiddle House

A few weeks ago, Fear Cheoil and I traveled to Nashville to visit with another family of Cunninghams, Sean and Frances. We aren't blood related that we know of, but we all love Celtic music and Frances and I both raise chickens. Go figure.

Recently, Frances, who usually plays Irish style bouzouki, has joined the Mike Snider Old-Time String Band. They have a regular gig on the weekends at The Grand Ole Opry, but the Saturday afternoon we visited, they were playing in East Nashville, at a wonderful place called The Fiddle House. Band member Brian Christianson and his wife opened the shop and listening room a year ago. It is small, but it is mighty.

 The Fiddle House, East Nashville, Tennessee

Brian also makes and repairs fiddles and bows in the workshop that takes up the front of the house. He is very neat. I wish our workbench looked like this.

 Brian's workbench.

The back part of the house is set up as a listening room. It's small enough that you can hear acoustic music without a sound system. 

 L-R Matt Combs, Brian Christianson, Todd Cook (in the back), 
Mike Snider, Frances Cunningham.

They usually play old time tunes, but Mike likes the Irish hymn, Be Thou My Vision. I have to admit it's one of my favorites, too. 

Here's a video of them playing it at The Fiddle House. 

I love to hear music like this. It invites you to listen instead of assaulting your ears. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Put a Fence Around Raised Beds

Spring is here! Of course, that means planting flowers and vegetables in my raised beds. 

Last year our dog, Daisy, kept the chipmunk population from eating 
everything in the garden. Sadly, we lost her in January. I planned to move the strawberries from the side yard to the center raised bed in the backyard. Knowing how much the little critters love to take tiny bites out of the ripe fruit, I knew there needed to be some kind of deterrence. Hence, the need for a fence.

I browsed around the fencing department at the local Lowe's home improvement store and decided on this simple but effective (so far) solution.

  Half inch PVC pipe, nylon ties, poultry fencing and rebar (not pictured)

This is the kind of PVC I used.

I hammered the rebar next to the corners and in between
the end of the two beds.

I measured and cut the PVC with a pair of PVC cutters, 
then put it over the rebar, driving it into the ground just a little 
for added stability.

 I used the nylon ties to attach the poultry netting to the PVC. For access, I added a gate by attaching the netting to a length of PVC and looping a nylon tie over one of the corner fixed posts. The netting is flexible enough for me lean over and pull weeds, etc but if I need to get to the inner section the gate lays back. 

It won't keep out a determined dog, but so far the chipmunks and squirrels have left it alone. Anyway, I planted some strawberries just for them on the outside of the fence right outside the entrance to their burrows. 

It took me about an hour to put it up by myself and cost about $25. The most expensive item was the poultry netting which cost about $18. At the end of the season, I can take the PVC off the rebar, roll it up and store it in the shed. As for the rebar, I can pull it up and store it also, or leave it in the ground, ready for next Spring.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Need A Platform?

When I started writing, I had no idea that it would take years of trial and (mostly) error to even finish one manuscript. And, that completing a novel was just the beginning. The hard work comes after that. A story has to be shaped and edited and vetted. There were times when I just gave up. It was too much work on top of being overwhelmed with job and family tasks.

To date, I’ve finished three novels, two of which will never see the light of day. The third is being commented on by a few trusted “beta” readers who, hopefully, will catch the mistakes I missed. After they are finished, it gets another round with a brilliant copy editor. Then the fork meets the grits. I’ll have to start sending out query letters to agents and publishers. 

While I’m waiting for all this to unfold, the word at conferences and critique groups is: you need to build an “author platform” on social media sites. Great, but where do I start? Which ones? What works the best? How much time does it take?

If it were built with nails and boards, no problem. The Hunter has built shooting houses, tree stands, and a chicken ark. But, the raw materials for a social media platform are things like Facebook, Twitter and blogs. That’s one of the reasons I started writing this one. That, and I wanted to show off my new chickens.

Any time you build something you need to have a blueprint or at least a plan. Building a social media platform seemed like an overwhelming task. To add to the confusion, the traditional publishing industry is in a state of flux right now because anybody can write a “book” and fling it up for sale on Amazon/Kindle.

You know that old saying, when the student is ready the teacher will appear? I can tell you it holds true in this case. I don’t even remember where I came across Kristen Lamb's blog, but reading it has taken some of the anxiety out of trying to build a social media platform. She also blogs about the craft of writing, the state of the publishing industry and other subjects writers love to read about while we are procrastinating, I mean studying.

Kristen also offers what I needed the most, a detailed plan of how to build a social media platform, an e-book called, We Are Not Alone. I’m making my way through it, step by small step. When my “work in progress” is ready to be unleashed onto unsuspecting agents and publishers, I’ll be ready!  


Thursday, January 12, 2012

When Hunting Doesn't Go As Planned

Next weekend is the end of dog hunting at Wolf Creek so we're trying to make each hunt count. The Hunter took a friend from Auburn, Alabama on Saturday and got a spike buck. He had to fight a black and tan hound named Oscar for it, but brought home the hindquarters and backstraps. I can see a little Zatarain's breading and an cast iron skillet in my future.

My dad and I went with him on Sunday. The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, but somebody forgot to tell the clouds they weren't supposed to arrive until after lunch. 

Neither The Hunter nor I had any rain gear, but, as usual, Daddy was prepared. Folded up in the pocket of his jacket was a poncho he got from some kind of US Steel promotion, almost fifty years ago! About the time they let the dogs loose it started to rain. 

I had my video camera with me and shot this little montage of my thoughts on the morning. Unfortunately, that's all I shot...


Dog hunters use walkie-talkie radios to let everybody know when the dogs are let loose and which way they're headed. That's helpful if you can't hear the dogs. The only problem is: you have to know where you are. There are spots at this club called The Refrigerator, Ax Road and Double Buck. If you don't know that a refrigerator was dumped at a certain place thirty years ago or where Sammy killed two bucks with one shot, you are just outta luck. Of course, I usually don't have a clue where I'm standing, but it is entertaining to listen to them talk sometimes.

"I heard a shot over by The Lake. Who's over there?"
"I think it's John."
"What'd 'e get?
"A tree."

Even though the hunt was shortened by rain, it was so much fun to be with my dad. He's the one who taught me to "roll with the punches" while I was growing up, and we certainly had to do that on Sunday.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hunt 'Im Up!

When Fear Cheoil morphed into The Hunter this year, he joined a new club much closer to the house. Wolf Creek Hunting Club has three tracts and a little over 3400 acres.  They also hunt deer with dogs on the weekends. I've never had that kind of a hunting experience and it's been many years since he has. It's much more social and you don't have to sit in a tree stand and freeze for hours at a time. I went once before the holiday craziness started and then again this past Saturday.

One thing I did to make hunting a little more comfortable: I went shopping at Bass Pro Shop in Leeds, Alabama, and bought some hunting gear that is actually made for women. I've always just worn whatever The Hunter wasn't using or has, um, outgrown. Anyway, I got a pair of camo fleece pants, gloves and cap. The pants are not at all slimming, but they fit better than The Hunter's old camo overalls and they kept me warm.

 My new female friendly camo gear.

One of the best aspects of this club is that they don't start until about seven am. That seems very civilized to me. While I am a morning person, between the hours of three and six am, I'm really, really cranky. It was nice that I didn't have to make my way to a tree stand and climb into it without making a sound, in the pitch blackness of the predawn hours. 

All the hunters load into the back of pickup trucks and get dropped off at 100 yard intervals along the prearranged club road. Then, they load the dogs up, take them to a couple of places close-by and turn them loose. The dogs find deer and drive them toward the hunters. At least that's the idea, anyway. The drivers and dog handlers coordinate by two way radio and the hunters can listen in. If somebody sees a deer running they tell everybody which way it's headed. Kind of like a deer hunting play by play. I could also hear the dogs baying and barking through the woods. Sometimes the dogs don't jump deer, they run rabbits. I find it fascinating that the dog's owners can tell which dog is following what. 

 A Beagle mix and a Black and Tan are ready to run a deer, 
or maybe a rabbit, or maybe just run.

There are Beagles, Black and Tan Hounds, some Walker Hounds and a Blue Tick or two, plus several dogs of uncertain mixture. The one thing that unites them all, though, is hunting. They bark and whine and howl to be let out and run. We did two runs that morning then broke for lunch. When we got back they were planning another run for the afternoon. 

As you can imagine, hunting is still a man's world kind of place. I know to just kind of hang back and watch what's going on. Sooner or later they'll get used to me. As a matter of fact, one of them nicknamed me "Double Barrel" because I use The Hunter's vintage double barreled shotgun, instead of a pump like everybody else. 

I was standing in a patch of sunlight trying to warm up a little while they planned the afternoon run, when the only other woman hunter came up and introduced herself as Evelyn. She's from Pennsylvania but has been in Alabama since 1977. She is an avid hunter and even has a trailer at the camp. We didn't get to talk long because they started loading up for the afternoon run, but it was nice of her to reach out to me. 

 Me and Evelyn. The white trailer in the background is hers.

They will only be running the dogs until the middle of January, then it's stand/stalk hunting only until the end of January. I hope my nickname sticks until next season.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Karen and Robin Get The Boot

One of the good things about  being a school bus driver is that you get two weeks off at Christmas. The week before is spent putting up decorations, shopping, and planning the family get together. Combined, all those activities take up all the available time and air in the room. However, the week after, I pay myself back. One of my favorite things to do is go to lunch with my friend, Robin. We usually try somewhere neither one of us has been. 
The Boot at Preserve Village.

On Thursday we tried a new place with the unlikely name of The Boot, which comes from this quote:
"This Boot was a lone house of public entertainment... several people drinking there, and great merriment going on."
-- Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge
It's a small, neighborhood restaurant, describing itself as "fast casual". You go to a counter to order but they bring it to the table when it's ready. They have sandwiches, burgers, salads and shrimp. Most of the food is locally grown and they serve crafted beer.

When we got there on Thursday, they were working on a large order and asked if we would wait for a few minutes while they filled it. We got soft drinks  and sat at the table in front of the cozy fire place at one end of the dining area. The owner, Mike McCowan stopped by the table and chatted for a few minutes while we waited.
Very cozy.

We had an appetizer of NOLA shrimp, which is barbecued shrimp over grits. It has a sweet/spicy sauce. It's very yummy. 
 Shrimp NOLA.
Robin ordered a Pecanwood bacon cheeseburger on ciabatta roll. I had a Smokey Pimento Cheeseburger on ciabatta roll. They came with a choice of fries and one side. The fries are a combination of white and sweet potato fries with home made chips. I got the fresh fruit with walnuts and granola. The burger was juicy and cooked medium.
Pecanwood Cheeseburger.
 Smokey Pimento Cheeseburger.

We enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. I would like to take Fear Cheoil back for dinner one evening and try some of the craft beers. They have happy hour from 4-6 on Tuesday thru Saturday. There are specials in the evening, some of them are announced on their Facebook page and you can find the daily menu and other information at The Boot at Preserve Village.

These days, chain restaurants and franchises seem to be the most common dining options around. It is very refreshing to find a place that isn't looking to be the next big thing, but is more interested in serving fresh, local food. That describes The Boot at Preserve Village.