Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas' past bring back memories

In recalling Christmas pasts, there are many fond memories. Most aren’t about gifts, but there are a couple of presents that helped spark this old writers interest in the outdoors.
One Christmas there was a shinny red bike, and another year Santa left a Red Ryder BB gun. There were many other thoughtful gifts over the years, but these two top the list and expedited outdoor exploration.
Money was scarce when I was growing up. We always had plenty to eat and a warm house, but not a lot more. I didn’t know we were poor.
Somewhere, my dad found a used Western Flyer bike. He cleaned, painted and polished the old bike, It also had new tires, It looked brand new, beautiful. And to me, it was my ticket to the world. It was my transportation to frog ponds, fishin'’ holes, woods, and other neighborhood kid’s homes  and outdoor games.
I was blessed, electronic games had not been invented. There was no Twitter, Facebook, or other computer stuff I don’t understand. What we had was capture the flag, kick the can, hide and seek, and when we could find a new kid, we let him participate in a snipe hunt.
Besides the bike, another year’s special gift was a Red Ryder BB gun. It came with a package of BB’s.
I spent many hours shooting targets and cans down by the old railroad tracks. It was where I learned some of the early fundamentals of target shooting and hunting. It also helped teach me the value of saving money so I could make trips to Goodwin’s store to purchase more BB’s.
For many old-timers like me, Christmas is a special time -- a time for nostalgia about bikes, BB guns, Christmas Eve church services and trips to Grandma’s house.
Growing up, Christmas Eve started with a trip to a little German country church in rural Clark County, Illinois. The kids of the church practiced  for weeks in advice on a special Christmas program.
The programs were short, probably no more than an hour. But, they seemed an eternity as we had fun things to do afterwards at grandma’s house.
There was a big valley and hill near the church, and it always seemed like it was slick with snow and ice. One farmer kept his tractor at ready to help pull stranded cars up the hill after leaving the church
After the service, our family all gathered at Grandma and Grandpa Junker’s house. It was small, but we all managed to pack inside.
There was oyster soup and chili, plus sandwiches and homemade Christmas cookies. As a youngster, I disliked (mild words) the oyster stew, but would love to have a bowl today.
Kids were later told to be quiet and listen for Santa’s sleigh bells. Hearing the bells, we were told that Santa had made an early visit to the closed off living room. There we found gifts under the tree One for each youngster. There also were gifts for adults, who following Thanksgiving dinner had drawn names. Later, we kids received the remainder of our Christmas gifts at our homes.
My Christmas memories still fill my head at this time of year, and I have a special recollection of that red bike. It was my access to the wonderful outdoors.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Florida's Polk County sets aside land for rehab, future generations

Guide Steve King explains about swamp land and the important role it plays in the ecosystem.
Historically, in the early part of the last century, people choose to drain swamps and marshes. It made better land for growing crops and raising livestock.
While the drained land was better for some crops and livestock, it also had a negative impact on water quality and much wildlife. It happened in many places like the Kankakee Marsh innorth-central Indiana, other places in the Midwest, and significant parts of Florida.
While all of the original marsh and swamp land will never be returned to its undisturbed status, there are places where people of have seen the benefits of returning the land to its original status. There are some good examples in the area of central Florida where I spend cold weather months.
Polk County is a large county in central Florida. It roughly is the size of Rhode Island, and currently has 544 lakes. Many were sink holes that filled with water, and about one-third are natural lakes, including those in the Kissimmee chain of lakes which lead to Lake Okeechobee and eventually through marsh and swamp land to the Gulf of Mexico.
Polk County Environmental Lands Program oversees the management of Polk’s Nature Discovery Center and 16 natural areas in the county. The program exists to protect the water, wildlife and wilderness, and when appropriate, provide nature-based recreation.
A number of years ago, voters in Polk County approved a property tax levy that created the Lands Program. Since that time, many environmentally sensitive areas are being protected.
One of the areas being protected and rehabilitated is the Circle B Bar Reserve, The 1,267-acre wilderness area between Winter Haven and Lakeland, boasts large numbers of wildlife, and attracts visitors from throughout the United States and numerous foreign countries.
One of the earliest property maps showing the Circle B dates back to 1927 and shows it as a wet area., connected to Lake Hancock. Over the next 70 years, actions were taken to drain the area and make the land more suitable for cattle ranching.
In 2000, the land was purchased by the Polk County Commissioners and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, to restore the main wetland now known as Banana Creek Marsh.
Since the purchase, the restoration of the marsh and upland has been ongoing. The changes are creating habitat and providing new food source for thousands of resident and migrating birds and other wildlife, including wild turkey, eagles, bobcat, grey fox, otter, coyotes, and gopher tortoises. 
And, there are plenty of alligators. Lake Hammond and the surrounding are are estimated to house abut 4,000 gators.
Circle B has a dozen well maintained trails for hiking and biking. It seems to be a paradise for photographers, and despite the sizable alligator population, there doesn’t seem to be any significant disagreeable encounters between visitors and gators.
Circle B also offers guided leisurely tram tours through the Banana Creek Marsh with narrative provided by volunteer guides. However, the tram tours are popular and reservations are required. There is no charge. Reservations may be made at the Discovery Center reception desk or by calling 1-863-668-4673, ext 205. Reservations usually need to be made several days in advance.
The Circle B is well worth a visit on any trip to Florida. It is located about 50 miles southwest of Orlando. The facilities are open daily, and there is no charge, although there is a donation jar at the registration/information desk.
One word of caution, pets are not allowed on the property.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thoughts on gun carry law, safety

Recent terrorism attacks in this country and abroad have ramped up emotions, questions, and interest in guns.
Not all of the attacks have been with guns, but those are the ones that seem to garner most of the attention. There are those who hope, want, believe or wish passing legislation would end the violence. Don’t we all, but that isn’t the reality.
Yes, there may be laws and regulations that can be tweaked and make a bit tougher for bad guys to get guns, but for the most part such legislation just make some folks feel better, feel like they are doing something positive.
Up front, I am a supporter of the “right to bear arms”. I have been a hunter all my life and am retired military. But when I sat down at my old laptop, the purpose wasn’t to start a debate of guns vs. no guns. My goal was to offer some information about carrying a gun.
There is no question that recent events have prompted much interest from people who are or think they are interested in carrying a weapon. The interest has been particularly strong among females.
I myself have had thoughts about carrying a weapon. I own guns, but have chosen not to carry one. My personal choice.
A number of people have raised the question about whether or not to obtain a weapon and carry it.
Some words written by fellow outdoor writer Glenn Wheeler provide a much better response than my old mind has produced.
Glenn is an EMT, and owner of Wheeler Photography and Media Group, Harrison, Arkansas. He has been putting words about the outdoors, including hunting and shooting, for many years.
Glenn graciously consented for me to pass along his words of the subject of handgun carry.
“Lately. I have been getting quite a few texts, calls and Facebook messages asking about what handgun a person should get, what ammo is best, how to best carry a firearm, etc.
“I appreciate the questions and try to answer each as best I can. But, I'll put this out here, too.
“Carrying a firearm is a right as long as you qualify. It is also a responsibility. Don't just get a gun and start carrying it. Have a knowledgeable person (or more than one, independent of one another) help you choose the right gun and learn how to safely handle it.
“Get good training. I don't mean Uncle Joe in the back yard with a box of ammo, I mean a good, qualified instructor. 
“Go beyond getting a Concealed Carry permit, get additional training. Set aside some money for that purpose in addition to what you spend on your gun, ammo, holster, etc.
“Also, if you make the decision to carry...Carry. Don't think "well, I'm just running to town, I won't need it." If you are going to carry, carry any time you can.
“It is our responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones. If you feel you want to live up to that responsibility, then do so. But, do so in the right way so you don't put yourselves and others in additional jeopardy and give the anti gunners more "ammo" to use against us. Carry responsibly, carry safely and carry always.”
To own a gun or not own a gun is your right. To carry a gun or not carry a gun also is your right. But if you choose to carry, do it right. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Trash can turkey cooking finishes a bird golden brown in about two hours

Jeff DeRitter (top) lifts trash can from turkey. Kathy (Jeff's wife)
and Jeff prepare to cut up the turkey.
Thanksgiving brought together a number of friends and neighbors, and a part of the get-together is turkey. The same happens for Christmas and turkey is a part.
These are the plump domestic variety, not the lean dark meat wild variety taken during spring or fall hunting seasons.
My friend Jeff DeRitter utilizes a special method of preparing a turkey for our gathering. It is not only turkey cooking, it is fun and socialization. 
In Jeff’s case, it is a way to cook a big bird and pass time, while the ladies are preparing the rest of the meal inside.
Jeff calls it trash can cooking. It requires a clean large metal trash can. -- the type most people used before plastic versions began to take over the world.
On a level site where you can make a bit of a mess, drive a large metal stake vertically into the ground. The stake must be able to hold a turkey, and the portion above the ground can be no longer than the trash can is tall when the can is turned upside down.
At the base of the stake place a couple of bricks wrapped in aluminum foil. When the turkey is placed on the stake it may slide down to the aluminum foil, but will be protected from touching the ground. 
Another option Jeff used this year was to place the turkey on a bundt cake pan and a deep fryer pan with holes to drain any liquid. A can of beer (just the beer, not the can) goes into the bundt pan.
Jeff does very little seasoning of the turkey, but it can be seasoned to taste.
The trash can is placed upside down over the turkey, fitting evenly to the ground.
A sizable amount of charcoal is started burning in advance. Coals are placed on top of the trash can much like they are placed on the top of a dutch oven. Coals also are placed surrounding the base and touching against the can.
Surprisingly, it takes only a couple hours to completely cook a 20-pound turkey. It will be delicious.
Once the charcoal is placed on the can, another important function takes places. With lawn chairs in place, it is like sitting around a campfire.
Tales are told, coffee sipped, and maybe even a touch of adult beverage consumed.
The weather may be nippy, but the wait for turkey is fun while enjoying the outdoor experience.
Jeff cooks his holiday turkeys at the Harbor RV Resort on Lake Rosalie in Florida where a number of us winter, but he also has done the same at deer camps in Michigan during cold weather.
Eating a turkey from a trash can initially  sound unappetizing, but meat is mighty tasty.