Posts Tagged With: spring

Castwell’s Curse is Lifted

In the short story “Mr. Theodore Castwell”, by G.E.M. Skues, the aforementioned and deceased Mr. Castwell approaches the Pearly Gates and presents himself as a fly fisher. Escorted to a perfectly lovely cottage next to a perfectly lovely piece of water, he catches fish after fish from the same spot, over and over again. When he decides to move along to another spot, he is told he may not, and it slowly dawns on him that he won’t, after all, be spending eternity in the place he thought he’d be spending it.

Halcyon Days

After eleven years fishing the same small watershed and lake in Vermont, Quill Gordon could relate. Same water, same fish, same “fellow” anglers — not all of whom treated him well — year after year. It was a classic case of Castwell’s Curse, exacerbated by the fact that there is some stuff up with which he will not put, and so it came to pass that Quill Gordon broke down his rods, packed up his gear and, unlike Castwell, got the hell out of there, making his way to a cozy hibernaculum at the top of the hill in which to pass the winter while waiting for the sap runs of spring.

“F*ck trout, those dainty, speckled beauties, always delicately sipping in their cold, limpid pools,” he thought to himself. “And f*ck those who are obsessed with them, too.”

Quill Gordon was in a serious f*nk.

Then a mid-winter message arrived, an invitation to fish somewhere other than what had become his home water. Suddenly it made sense again to have all those books about bass on his shelves. Henshaw and Whitlock and Murray displaced Proper and Brooks and Wulff on the table; skinny hackle and tiny hooks gave way to buck tail and an old box of #6 Stingers at the bench; lines designed for delicate presentations were stripped from their reels, replaced by heavy-headed rigs meant for slinging big flies into places where a little commotion can be a good thing.

Places like western Virginia.

The morning plane to Boston flew 150 mph at 5,000 ft. Fortunately, the afternoon plane from Boston to Richmond did 600 mph at 34,000 ft and Quill Gordon soon found himself drinking bourbon, listening to whippoorwills in the Appalachian twilight. Having shipped a gallon of syrup ahead, the bourbon tasted of maple.

Appalachian Twilight

It was Thursday night, and plans were made to fish for bass on Saturday and Monday, which makes this a good place in the story to inform readers that Quill Gordon didn’t really mean it when he thought to himself, “F*ck trout,” although the jury is still out on the anglers.

On Friday morning, Quill rigged up his 6′ 2-wt while the morning mist rose from the folds of the hills and, after a healthy breakfast, he was off to wade small streams in pursuit of Virginia’s famed brook trout. Having shipped a gallon of syrup ahead, the bacon and grits tasted of maple.

Morning Mist

Brook trout may not be trout (they are char) but they are enthusiastic, and it was almost anticlimactic to hook the first “away” fish in a decade on the first cast.

Almost.

Standing knee deep in an unfamiliar stream on the side of an unfamiliar mountain, there was still something familiar about the whole thing. The glint of sunlight on the riffle and the spray of diamonds at its tail when the little fish struck the #14 Adams felt remembered, not as anything in particular that had happened before, but in a vague, vestigial way. Kind of like deja-vu. Kind of like finding home in a place you’ve never been before.

Regular readers know not to expect pictures of fish (unless it’s an old picture of someone else holding them) but that small brook trout was significant. Castwell’s Curse had been lifted.

A Very Heavy Fish

It was a heavy little fish.

Some more photos of small streams fished last week in the George Washington National Forest in western Virginia:

To Mark, Gary, Todd, Mike, and Doc, I say thank you for inviting me down and accepting me into the group. Our times in Vermont were always special and I am fortunate to have been included in your spring ritual.

To all seven of my loyal readers, I say thanks for hanging in there with me while I worked on removing the curse that had been placed upon my head. This little jaunt gave me plenty to write about and I look forward to sitting down to share more.

Tight lines, wubbas.

~QG

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: Fly Fishing, nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Stepping Out in Style (plus a little music)

Regular readers of these pages know how dedicated I am to style, as well as the dignity and respect with which I treat the subject. In fact, in 2013, an entire Flashback Friday post was dedicated to style — the appropriately titled Style Issue. Since then, we’ve covered style from head to toe, with posts about hats, men’s outfits, and even shoes, all with the seriousness such subjects deserve and the gravitas readers have come to expect from me.

The inspiration for today’s post comes from the pages of The New Yorker‘s recent Spring Style Issue — specifically, the third page in.

Occasionally bumps into things.

I have grown used to not being in a target demographic when it comes to such ad campaigns, and it’s probably just as well. The handsome young man in that Armani ad is wearing lovely shoes but I am struck by several things when I look at it. First, there is a smudge on the right side of the page. It’s barbecue sauce and, for that, I apologize. Second, that man’s britches seem a little short to me and, around here, anyone with pants that short and not wearing socks is bound to pick up ticks. Third, those shoes look expensive and I shudder to think what even a mild case of plantar hyperhidrosis might do to the silk linings. Talk about smelly dogs!

Things might be different if I lived in Rome, but those are definitely not the shoes for me or, for that matter, anyone else I know. I live in Vermont and, curious to see what kinds of fashionistas I’ve been consorting with, I set out with my camera last Saturday to record some of the fancy footwear I came across. Okay, I didn’t set out anywhere; I spent half the day and all damn night in a sugarhouse and took pictures of people’s shoes as they came through.

Shoes, but only because someone made them wear something.

Boots make sense this time of year but I know those children. Their feet are covered only under protest. I also have a feeling socks weren’t part of the deal, either.

Easy on, easy off.

A gently worn Carhartt barn coat is the pinnacle of style around here, especially with something you can kick off and slip on easily. For some, laces are superfluous.

Sturdy and handsome, just like their wearer!

When an angry mom tells you to stop taking pictures of her child’s feet, do so immediately and take a picture of your own. Those boots are laced tight precisely so they don’t slip off, especially as a hot iron door swings open.

Basic black is always in style.

If the shoes worn by the model in that Armani ad were to get dirty or, heaven forbid, scuffed, there would surely be a very expensive leather emergency and perhaps even some crying. As long as they aren’t too deeply gashed, most of the shoes I came across last Saturday can simply be hosed off if the dirt is bothersome.

Ready for working, dancing, or just standing around.

Even late at night, when the Beautiful People flit about, the footwear didn’t change much, proving that day-time classics work just as well in the evening.

Speaking of smelly dogs…

I’m not the only person I know in Vermont with a subscription to The New Yorker but, when it comes to fashion and style, we are a very underserved demographic. I hope magazine editors and “influencers” will see this and make some effort to include some maple chic in their next campaign. The real kind, just like our syrup; not that corny catalog stuff.

Meanwhile, we’re working on a food issue for those with especially refined palates.

Cover spread for the Food Issue

«——————–»

Now for some music.

It’s not every day that an old shuttle van with Kansas plates slogs through the mud and up the hill to the sugarhouse, but just such a thing happened last weekend. The occupants of that van were not a bunch of senior citizens out for a joy ride or a church group on a lark, no sir. Instead, it was Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy, a band from Wichita, Kansas, on their way to do a show down the road at Magic Mountain.

Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy

With an eclectic sound that has been described as “a stagecoach in overdrive”, they blend bluegrass and brass with ska, punk and dixieland, at times even sounding like Tom Waits doing klezmer. After a few maple dogs and distilled beverages, they played a couple of songs as the syrup boiled, turning a good Saturday afternoon into a great one. It was enough to make us wish the sap wasn’t running so we could take the night off to go see their show. Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy is on tour through June; clicking the link to their website will take you to their schedule.

I’ve shared a video of them at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar on my Quill Gordon Facebook Page and here’s a video from the show they did that night. Enjoy. I’m pretty sure they weren’t wearing Armani, either.

 

Categories: +Uncategorized, Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Say It With Me

Go ahead.

Say it.

You know you want to.

Tufted Titmouse

Titmouse.

Some people can’t help but titter when they hear it or say it themselves, expressing child-like delight at making something so cute and delicate sound so nasty. A single Titmouse shows up at the feeders once or twice a season, events so few and far between as to be worth noting on the calendar. The other day they appeared in droves.

Well, maybe not droves. Probably not even a full drove, if you get right down to it, but the definition of drove is decidedly ambiguous so who’s to know? The point is, there was a dozen of them, which may not seem like many, but they were menacing.

It had only been an hour since I published my post about beard balm, where I wrote that the birds would have to wait if they wanted my winter whiskers for nesting material. The Titmouses came closer and closer and I began to think that maybe they didn’t want to wait, but how could they have known?

After a few photos (for identification purposes later, if needed) I struck what seemed, to me, a reasonable bargain with the Titmouses: In exchange for two cups of sunflower seeds a day in the meantime, I am allowed to keep my beard until the ice is off the lake. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Balmy Days

Last week’s cold snap was forecast to end on Monday, maybe, but it didn’t happen. Tuesday, maybe, was a possibility but became a definite not. On Wednesday, however, the temperature climbed enough for the sap to run again, the tank filled, and the arch was fired up one more time at Bobo’s (boil #8).

Steam and Snowflakes

The stuff in the front pan, left behind from the last batch to “sweeten” the next, had frozen to slush due to its high sugar content, but the weaker stuff in the back pan was decidedly more solid and, according to the forecast, it’s going to happen again.

Not Exactly Sugaring Weather

Despite the snow and sleet, sap ran into the night and, in order to leave behind as little as possible to freeze, the fire in the arch was stoked until almost midnight. The shed has a lot of wood left in it, but prodigious quantities have already been burned. Opening the doors to feed the fire, especially when they are pulsating like angry cuttlefish, can be like flying into the sun, and closing them quickly — before one’s clothes burst into flames — can become a matter of some importance. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Big Hot Metal Box

Snowshoes were appropriate footwear on Bobo’s Mountain last Tuesday as the last taps went in, racing against a warm-up that promised a run of sap (see “Something is Running and It’s not Me“). The race was won, the sap was caught, and by Friday children were seen running barefoot.

Three feet of snow disappeared. Some simply sublimated but most of it melted, running noisily down the hill as runnels met rivulets and rills became brooks, braiding their way toward the river.

Melt-Down

Melt-Down

It turns out that this year’s first boil took place on the same date as last year’s but whether or not that means anything is still open to conjecture. By the time this first run was over, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 gallons of sap had been processed. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Black-out

For a while there in April it felt like we were on the verge of May. Then, March-like conditions swept in and we were on the verge of tears. It doesn’t seem fair, having one’s chain yanked like that, but that’s the way it is around here.

“… You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March…”

~From “Two Tramps at Mud Time” by Robert Frost

Of course, if you’re anything like me, you just sort of black out in mid-April and, before you know it, it really is the middle of May and swallows are chasing down mayflies among snowflakes. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Frog Water

Phrenology is the study of bumps on a person’s skull to determine certain aspects of the individual’s personality and character.

Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.

The end of sugaring tends to come at about the same time amphibians thaw out and get active, so some sugar-makers call their final batches of syrup “frog water.” Appropriately, a small chorus of wood frogs was sounding off in the puddles as the fire was lit for an April Fools’ Day boil at Bobo’s last Friday afternoon.

April Showers

April Showers

Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The First Day of April

The first shave of the season can be a traumatic event. Removing a full winter’s luxurious growth is no easy task, but sometimes my good friend Eugene‘s body hair grows through the weave of his long-johns and it’s the only way to get them off. Don’t worry, he’s fine; most of the trauma is suffered by those who have to hold him down.

Taking off the winter beard used to be a fine April Fool’s Day joke but I don’t always make it to town for anyone to see. At home, it just seems to scare the cats (and me, every time I walk by a mirror for the first day or two) but it’s become a rite of spring around here and it’s best not to mess with tradition.

I am naturally intrigued by new possibilities in drastic hair removal. Men have used clam shells, Bowie knives and multi-bladed monstrosities over the years to scrape their faces clean but the other night I came across a show featuring two handsome young men who struck me as the type to be completely hairless below the neckline. Admiring themselves in a mirror, they gave grooming tips that a man like me could certainly use.

It Took Forever and Hurt Like Hell

It Took Forever and Hurt Like Hell

I couldn’t hear everything they said about the importance of tweezing but I’d like to watch that show again because it might be possible they were talking about their eyebrows.

Fish in a Barrel Pond, April 1

Fish in a Barrel Pond, April Fool’s Day, 2016

 

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Duck Ice

Duck Ice (n): Ice that will hold a duck, but not much more.

While caretaking on an island on Lake Champlain, I heard stories about the caretaker on another island who strapped giant plywood duck feet to his shoes in order to walk on thin ice, just for fun. He was also known for “jumping chunks” to shore when his boat became mired in the pack ice each spring and he liked to drive back and forth on his ATV, stopping by with predictions of how much longer it would be “safe” to make a run to shore.

“You’ve got another six hours, easy,” he once told me, two days after I’d nearly scared myself to death making one last trip for supplies.

A Long Walk

A Long Walk

Those, of course, are geese, not ducks, making their way across the last of the ice on Fish in a Barrel Pond. Their wide feet distribute their weight somewhat, but even they run into problems from time to time. Continue reading

Categories: nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugarhouse Saturday Night

Because the photo in the header of this post is severely cropped, the buffet table in Bobo’s sugarhouse can not be seen. The al fresco dining was featured two weeks ago in “Pickles, Cough Drops and a Bottle of Scotch” but they’ve been boiling like mad over there ever since and it should go without saying that the buffet table is stocked with an array of items that can be eaten by hand, on the fly. Pretty much everything available is made even more delicious by a drizzling (or dunking) of warm syrup but one wonders sometimes what else could be done with all that amber, sugary goodness.

New York City found out this week when Bobo’s Mountain Sugar was featured in the menu of the Maple Run, a dinner at the James Beard House, on West 12th Street. Not only do I expect to find Maple-Brined Pork Loin with Grits, Carrots, Almonds, and Maple–Mustard Jus  followed by Waffle Baba with Maple–Bourbon Syrup, Vanilla–Bourbon Ice Cream, Brown Butter, and Maple Meringue served up on the old wire spool next year, I expect to see Hot Dogs Boiled in a Sap Pan and Virginia Peach Moonshine with Vermont Maple Cocktails on the menus of fine restaurants everywhere. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.