Category Archives: Outdoors

Boykin Fun Day

Last weekend we had the awesome opportunity to truck it down to Gainesville, Florida to visit my brother-in-law and his wonderful girlfriend as well as combine the trip with a Boykin Fun Day being sponsored at the wonderful Watermelon Pond Plantation in Archer, Florida—about 20 minutes west of Gainesville.

While Boykins are South Carolina’s state dog, they’re growing in popularity out of state with their ability to hunt both waterfowl (Samson’s job) and upland. So it was pleasantly odd to be outnumbered by Floridian Boykin owners! Kate Boulos, owner of Watermelon Pond Planatation and lifelong English Setter breeder/trainer, offered such a wonderful day and use of her land. Over 400 acres set aside just for hunting—it was the most beautiful quail hunting land I’ve seen. Being the granddaughter of a pointer/setter trainer and avid upland bird hunter, it was a wonderful place to draw on memories and scenes of my granddad growing up.

Samson hit so many milestones this day! We started the day’s events on his check cord because my little guy will NOT leave a body of water once he has entered. As witnessed when he ran straight for the pond and delayed the clay shoot/bumber retrieve event until we finally had to set out in a row boat to retreive my dog! However, the beauty of the day was it was for fun. So once we completed the clay shoot/bumber retrieve times, you could spend the rest of the day at that pond if desired—or continue on to time the other events. We opted to spend some decent time at the pond.

If I can backtrack a minute, Samson’s recent stubborness in training, mostly from  boredom because the breed is so smart, led me to regroup with clicker training and goldfish. However, we’d only just charged him on a clicker the day before we left. So intermittently we’d been using it as it made sense but we were also traveling and out of his routine so not too worried if he wasn’t responding.

Back to our pond training. He fell in love on his check cord with his water retreives. He’d get a slight tug at point of retrieval to prompt his turn back on the whistle blow and by 4 retreives in, no more tugs were needed. He’d spin around and start coming back, holding his bumper all the way in. Remembering I had extra goldfish in my pocket just incase, the next two retreives in—still on cord—I’d lure in his return and hold with a goldfish. Much interest gained. The next mark and retreive thereafter was succesfully completed with no check cord. Completely responded on whistle (and some goldfish).

And he stayed so hungry for more. All the light bulbs went off for my little Samson in Florida on Saturday. He finally understood what all those yard drills were about and how much fun the end product can be. I can’t wait to see his excitement when he’s pulling ducks in instead of bumpers.

With us both working dogs, very few pictures if any were taken Saturday by us—but we should be getting some soon from a photographer that was on hand that day to capture some great moments. I’ll post anymore if I get these. But here is Samson flat worn out after his big retreives.


End of Season

With this past weekend, our waterfowl season comes to a close. While we didn’t go out with a bang, literally, we did have some awesome hunts in some brand new spots that we will be sure to work on next year. From the open waters of Lake Moultrie to the flooded timber of the old Santee and back to cypress swamps, we definitely covered some ground. Here are some of my favorite pictures I was able to take throughout this season either from the boat or the blind.

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And with the end of that season comes the start of the next for our us—home renovations! We will be refinishing and painting our kitchen cabinets, freshly painting all our baseboards and all in preparation for our brand new, beautiful hardwood floors that will be installed toward the end of this month. Talk about spring cleaning fever! Stay tuned for update pictures on these projects.

Book: Slaves in the Family

If you’re at all a history buff, generally of the southern kind, specifically of the antebellum South Carolina kind, then I have a great read for you.

Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball.

I first discovered this book after getting involved in researching my family’s genealogical histories, which also led me to be more interested in the history of where I now reside—in a neighborhood like any other but that was developed on what used to be the land of a very prominent lowcountry rice plantation.

Edward Ball, the author, grew up primarily in New York, distanced from his southern relatives he really never knew and distanced from really knowing about his family’s past as being one of the largest plantation families owning—by my count of the map presented in the front of his book—24 plantations along the upper Cooper River in South Carolina’s lowcountry. For over 150 years of enslaved times, the Ball family as a whole owned more than 4,000 slaves.

After being prompted to attend a Ball Family Reunion, to be held on the origin of their family’s plantation owning days, Comingtee Plantation, and after much hesitation to do so, Edward Ball attended and came to the conclusions there was more to this story. How could his family live alongside this many slaves for so many years and only know a first name (and not their true first name).

Slaves in the Family explains Edward’s move to Charleston. He locates one of his ancestors Charleston proper homes and resides in it will researching and writing. He explores the papers and books that had been handed down to him that he’d never really explored or understood. Actual ledgers and listings of slave purchases, plantation transactions, memoirs of his ancestors lead him on his plight of finding present day living descendants of slaves that lived on his family’s plantations.

What’s truly fascinating to me is his ability to connect with these living descendants in ways which really bring them connection and fellowship. As we all know, education and slavery did not walk hand in hand. And slaves had little option but to rely on oral history and verbal passing of their memories and lives to future generations. Meanwhile, plantation owners were free to record whatever they desired and were privy to documenting and storing the pages of their lives. Edward Ball is able on many circumstances to find documentation about the enslaved ancestors and research their history, and not only just provide this for the living descendants, but find connections through the same stories. Truly proving the strength and power of the slave’s oral histories that often times match the documented slave owner’s accounts or were even stronger. What great irony.

Spending my whole life on some stretch of the Cooper River but currently residing upon one of the previous Ball Plantations, my husband and I spend many of our days out in the old rice fields of these plantations. It’s where we fish and boat all summer, it’s where we duck hunt all winter. It’s not just that we enjoy the river as thousands of Lowcountry residents do—it’s that we’re immersed in the very fields Edward Ball writes about. The very fields that slaves were responsible for transporting their byproduct down stream navigating the very dikes they built and the ones we still navigate today.

It’s one thing to go out on a boat in the summer with your friends and be on the Cooper. But to really know the bends and curves; to feel the creeks and wade in the tides of these old rice fields. ­For me, it’s a much richer experience to enter in the pure darkness of 4:00 in the morning knowing you’re standing on the dikes that purely exist because some 200–300 years ago, slaves dug this river this way. To await shooting time during duck season while watching, hearing, and feeling the land awake around you in these fields honestly amazes me every time.

To be able to connect with history—good or bad—in this way, is why I love living here. Why our children and grandchildren will know this land and her stories the we have been taught and continue to learn about every day.

The Yoga of Cooking and Eating…in the South

If I had to pick one thing that defines and affects the southern day, it would be food.

Food in the traditional origin of sowing and reaping the harvest and the daily tasks that come with it, the ebb and flow of tides throughout the day that affect when you fish, the sunrise and sunset that affects when the ducks fly and the deer run. So it’s no surprise that these origins are reflected in the southerner’s love and affinity for good food, fresh food, and preparing food for the love and entertainment of others. Why do you think we’ve always heard the old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” As trite as it may be conceived in today’s standards, it truly means well in its reflection for the love shown by mothers and fathers in preparing time-tested meals for their families.

And what I love about this article, is the merging of my love and understanding of the yoga heart with my southern love and understanding of the kitchen. How awesome when two distant worlds merge.

Mark Zuckerburg, Outdoorsman

So, read in the news today about Mark Zuckerburg, bajillionaire owner of Facebook, has taken a stance on meat this year. That’s right, just a we all do understand this a time sensitive publicity stunt and not truly a life changing experience. The stunt being, he’s pledged to not eat any meat this year unless he kills it himself. Now my first thought was, ok, the computer nerd for life who is probably too smart for his own good to be socially functionable—hence the entire part of him being the brains that was more inclined to build the number one social network instead of enjoying the outdoors as a kid? I may not have built Facebook, but I know how to kill my own food.

But he’s not even doing that. Oh no. He’s simply paying (I presume) to visit farms and fields so that he can “kill” his meat. As in literally be the hands behind the slaughterhouse’s humane slaughtering practice. Mark Zuckerburg stated, ““I think many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat, so my goal revolves around not letting myself forget that and being thankful for what I have. This year I’ve basically become a vegetarian since the only meat I’m eating is from animals I’ve killed myself. So far, this has been a good experience. I’m eating a lot healthier foods and I’ve learned a lot about sustainable farming and raising of animals.”
So because he’s stepped up the sustainability plate how many hipsters now are we going to have burdening area farmers about wanting to slit throats of goats while all of them—Mark included—overstep and miss the most basic of all points of hunting. I mean did anyone feel like he missed the mark on sustainability and learning where our food comes from? Here’s a hint, our main stream of commercially bought meat may come from “raised animals,” but that’s not where food originated. Visiting sustainable, healthy, clean, organic, grass fed beef facilities so that you can kill and pack up your meat is so far from the point, that you may as well go ahead with that vegetarian route. 

In other words Mark, please re-think your publicity stunt for the better good of real hunting so that your social status could actually do some good and empower and educate other computer nerds like you to learn proper hunting practices…not visiting the nearest farm and asking for a sharp blade. I’m all about people wanting to learn and educate themselves but you’re skipping that big step. And on top of it, your publicizing it as if you were the originator of some novel idea. I mean you were for Facebook, but you’re not for this. It happened long before you graced this earth. So would it be so hard to demonstrate you learning from true outdoorsmen and hunters who truly get it and use your status to inform others? Don’t worry I made you a starting point.

Here are some real outdoorsman and life-long devotees of your petty year long pledge—you know, if you need a role model:
Received his first rifle at 12 and eventually provided for his entire family as a market hunter and outdoorsman

Learned taxidermy before the age of 10 and responsible for collections in the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History, you know, to benefit others so they could learn

Can’t say enough good things about his journey, education of others, and interaction with present day hunters and gatherers around the world
Last Frontiersman that lives secluded in the Artic Refuge of Alaska year round, 500 miles from his nearest neighbor and completely provides for himself. If you haven’t seen this brief documentary (1 hour glimpse is brief in a life lived as he does) I highly suggest you watch and read the book his nephew wrote about him, The Final Frontiersman

Fun Friday Part II—Edisto Treehouses

I mean there’s really not much more to say than Edisto and Treehouse. But I will….We’ve been wanting to book a trip to one of these treehouses since we first started dating back some three years ago. However, first note to future visitors—book early. Limited availability + your own crazy schedules in spring and fall (really the best weather to go)  make for a small selection of weekends each year. But it’s so worth it. Call in Jan or Feb for a late March to June booking and same for the fall, about 2-4 months beforehand for pick of the litter weekends.

Scott and Anne Kennedy own and run all operations of Carolina Heritage Outfitters. They are super lovely and welcoming and really ensure a fantastic trip for all levels of canoers, campers, whatever. Side note, they also provide just day trip canoe excursions on the Edisto.

And for those of you out of staters not familiar with our Edisto River, here’s the wikipedia link to it. And please, pronounce it EH-dis-to, and never uh-DIS-to, like The Weather Channel people so annoyingly do during hurricane season.

So we met at the outfitters Friday morning. There were 2 more groups headed down river that day as well so we waited one everyone to arrive. After loading our gear—pack in and pack out kinda trip (anything you need or use as far as clothing and food)— we all loaded in the van and took about a 30 minute trip up river to put in. Scott gives a brief but thorough review on basic paddling strategies, bumping into fallen trees, keeping an eye for wildlife, etc…And after that we were off (and really never saw the other groups again)!

And not 5 minutes after pushing off, our first snake and seriously a water moccasin cuts across river in front of us. About 10 minutes later, our second snake—just a little green snake swimming through—and then nothing but turtles, wood ducks, and kingfishers the rest of our trip. Not one alligator which was kinda nice but still surprising.

This stretch of river is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a 12-13 mile paddle down river to the treehouse island. With the Edisto moving around 2 miles and hour naturally, and the aid of paddling, we officially departed by 11:00 am and arrived at our treehouse by 3:00 pm. We were ahead of all other groups by a solid hour and a half. However, lots of people like to stop on sandbars and eat lunch and hang out. We were much more exited to find our tree house and roam the island all Swiss Family Robinson style before everyone else got there! The island itself is owned and protected and covers around 150 acres. So there’s plenty to roam and see.

Scott—who has lovingly built all of the treehouses by hand, along with everything else on the island—shared with us before leaving that we had the best treehouse. Number One. Numero Uno. The Original. It was the first treehouse he built several years ago. And while the others are larger, “this one has the most heart.”

Complete with hammock, split level tree house with a full picnic table and grill on the second platform and then our tree house above.

Once inside, it’s absolute charming. Tablecloth covered table for two, lamp oil filled votives all throughout the ledges of the interior wall, a two burner camp stove top, 3 huge jugs of fresh water, biodegradable dish soap, set of 4 plates, mugs, bowls, and a multitude of silverware and steak knives, percolator, dish pans, cards, games, visitor journal, and a full size propane fueled fireplace! Very awesome for the evening chill (only one or two windows can be closed, the rest is all screens when it comes to doors and windows).

There’s a full size futon downstairs with a laddered loft above (which you see the window for over the porch) with a full size cloth mattress. Add sheets and you’re set! Here are some interior pics.

As the smallest of the three treehouses, our slept a maximum of 4 people and for comparison, the largest one sleeps a of 5–8. It has a loft and two futons that pull out. As I’m sure many of you are wondering, our tree house and the large house share a set of outhouses. The middle sized treehouse is tucked away on it’s own at the tip of the island and you can’t really walk to and from it. Therefore it has its own outhouse. But they truly weren’t that bad. Very nicely built, they were cleaner than most portolet’s I’ve seen—and I don’t use many of those at all just by my own rule! And for those of you that have read my composting blogs—it appears  that yes, Scott basically breaks down everything first through an in-barrel composting system by adding leaves from the island and then we’re guessing (from self assessment only) that it’s then burned in the strategically placed metal barrel behind. Maybe that’s more than you wanted to know, but now you know!

After the whole adventure of arriving at our island (and my guilty pleasure of waking up at 5 am beforehand to watch the big royal wedding) throw a red meat dinner in the mix and when nature turned the lights out—it was bed time! We were probably asleep by 9:00 pm at the latest falling asleep to the river trickling, the crickets chirping and the owls hooting. And we slept a solid 10-11 hours of the most amazing sleep! People think they need double stuffed luxury mattress and the finest of linens following a spa day to get good sleep and feel rejuvenated anymore, but no…you really just need some nature kids! Spend a day canoeing and sleeping in fresh spring air to the sound of nature and save your hard earned money.

We cooked some fantastic sausage patties the next morning with some cereal and bananas, fresh OJ and milk. We repacked and cleaned up and hit the river by 10 or 10:30 the next morning for the next 10 miles of our trip. Before leaving though, here are some more pictures of the island itself and spans of the river as we were paddling.

Fun Friday Part I—Awendaw Passage and Birds of Prey

When last Friday came around, Good Friday to be exact, I figured it was time I owed  my husband a fun day. You can only garden, do yard work, build projects, help keep a house clean with two dogs, and general errands for so long before you gotta just get out! So I emailed him our itinerary a few days before and it was booked.

If anyone still remembers Good Friday, it poured rain! Poured cats and dogs kinda rain! Not that it changed our plans one bit. We piled up our bikes into the car with a change of clothes and headed down to Awendaw for a morning trail ride. A few diversions here and there that morning set us back a little on time, but we got there within an hour of our scheduled arrival. We pulled into the Buck Hall Recreation Area off of Hwy 17 N and directly on the Intracoastal,which allows ample parking and restrooms at the trail head for a small $5/car fee.

This is basically the sea portion of the Palmetto Trail’s Mountains to the Sea tagline. This is where it begins or ends based on your direction. Here’s an overview of the entire Trail of which we will now be completing leg by leg:
We left in a slight drizzle planning on an 1.5—2 hr out and back loop on the Awendaw Passage (minus the crossing Hwy 17 in the rain for .5 mile leg of this part). Not 20 minutes in the skies let loose and it poured. And it was awesome! It brought back all the pleasant memories of the mud run the weekend before—minus the yelling and the mud and more the playing like a kid outside in any element part. We made it to the last of 5 bridges which was just over 4 miles and were running out of time to do the last mile or so. But here are some great shots I could get on my iPhone as the rain gave us a few breaks.

Soaking wet and thankful we packed a dry change of clothes, we changed at Buck Hall and headed to a nice hot lunch at Sewee while the monsoon continued. Next on our list—Awendaw Birds of Prey.

Let me just say now, if you’ve never been, get yourself some tickets now. Absolutely amazing place. I’ve always heard about it and knew all about their operation but just had no idea how awesome a tour and demonstration would be.

Again, because of the weather and the holiday, we were the only people to arrive for the 2:00 pm tour. About halfway through our tour a family of four joined in late. And because of the rain, the birds won’t fly for the flight demonstration—but we gladly traded that for our upclose and personal encounters with some owls behind the scenes.

The tour started going from barn to barn (the most beautiful bird barns I’ve ever seen) all with unique custom habitats catered to each birds’ needs. Just about every bird that’s in captivity there and available to meet on the tour was injured in some capacity to where it can’t re-enter the wild. Whether shot accidentally, hit by a car while eating on the side of the road, you name it. So some only have one wing, some were “cared for” by “caring people” when found as a baby instead of being put right back in their nest and are now imprinted by people. The sweet little imprinted owl doesn’t even have his hoot right just yet because he’s been with people all his life instead of other owls in the wild to nail it. But he’s learning:)

The most beautiful birds are there and all so close and observable—numerous species of owls, falcons of all types, vultures, crows, hawks, bald eagles. It’s just awesome. And because we couldn’t see them fly in the rain, we got to meet this gorgeous guy behind the scenes. If I have my name correct, he’s an Asian Barred Owl—looks like a little monkey! And this precious 6 week old owl. Hope you all make it to to Birds of Prey—phenomenal facility and service! And I’m working on adding some live video of the birds to my vodpod player but it’s being funky right now. Later today hopefully. Now we’re off for a day of salt-water fishing with a blog to come on this past Friday’s Fun—Edisto Treehouses!