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Monday, May 29, 2017

Ancient Stone Circle at Castlerigg, Cumbria

Castlerigg Ancient Stone Circle
 During our recent visit to Cumbria, England, after walking Hadrian's Wall HERE, my favorite experience was our visit the ancient stone circle outside of the town of Keswick, in the Lake District, where we stayed for a week.
Lake Derwentwater at the edge of Keswick
Map of the stones and their surrounding mountains at the site.
Older than Stonehenge, these stones sat encircled on this hilltop for thousands of years. 

After an April shower with more rain predicted, Jay and I drove up a narrow winding lane in early evening. As we'd hoped, few visitors were present - and then they left and we were alone. 

Wherever you turn are valleys ringed by mountains, the same view the ancients had. Because I have ancestors from this Border region of England and Scotland, perhaps the old blood of my blood had gathered here for pagan ceremony.

Over the valley rain returned and with it twilight.  And then was only the earth and the stones and the hollow sky.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Walking Hadrian's Wall

For many years I'd wanted to visit Hadrian's Wall that stretches from the North Sea about 80 miles to the Irish Sea through Northumberland and Cumbria, England. The Romans began building it in 122 A.D. to demarcate the northern edge of the Roman Empire. Built in six years, it really was a sort of status symbol to show the might of the Roman Empire. 
The Roman Wall at Steel Rigg
 At age 71 I figured I'd better do it soon, and so Jay and I flew into the Glasgow, Scotland, early one April morning, checked into a hotel, and the next morning drove a rental car a couple hours south into Northumberland.  I'd  studied the wall's  route on the Internet, zooming in for close ups, and decided we should walk the three miles from Steel Rigg to the ancient fort of Halsteads. This route was supposed to have the best views.

Jay starting the first climb
This trek isn't for the faint of heart.  The wall in this section goes up  a steep crag with a stiff breeze blowing.

I climb. A part of the wall is far below.

I'm nearly to the top, grabbing a rock in one hand, my cell phone in the other., my head band protecting me from the wind.

Jay and I at the top

Looking north from the wall
 And then we descended the other side of the crag to one of the small garrison forts the Romans built every three miles.  Rock steps without hand rails, what was I thinking.

The mile fort at Crag Lough

At least I didn't have to tote a backpack. Met these kids on my way down
I wear sandals so I can loosen their straps when my feet swell with walking.  Didn't the Romans wear sandals, too, marching along the Military Road near the foot of the Wall? And mine have treads.

Originally the wall was carefully built with dressed stones reaching about 9 feet high and three feet wide.
 We climbed another crag, following the wall, and got a nice view of Sycamore Gap, where Kevin Costner met Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.
Sycamore Gap from above

Sycamore Gap from the below
 After the Romans abandoned Britain in the 5th century, through the next sixteen hundred years the wall's rocks were looted to build abbeys, churches, castles, and farm houses.

Very old farmhouse as viewed from what's left of the wall in its yard
 Jay and I were pretty tired when we finally reached Halsteads.

Foundation of a Roman building at Halsteads

Remains of Roman bath house. They always elevated the floor on pilings so its sauna could be heated with warm air from below.
We took a few photos and then waited for the bus at the road for a ride back to where our car was parked. The driver dropped us off and we slowly plodded another mile up a lane to the parking area.  We treated ourselves to a fine meal at a nearby old inn and a soft bed in one of their rooms above.  And the next day, our feet feeling fine again, we tramped about a Roman Army museum. And so began our visit to north Britain.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Winter Activity - Raney Family Genealogy

I spent the winter obsessively researching my mother's side of the family, discovering that her roots stretched back to Colonial Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina - not just colonial, but very early colonial.  So I began a blog for my extended Raney family, recounting many of these ancestral lines. My husband Jay says only my family members would find my blog interesting. And he's probably right. Other people waxing upon their ancestors barely holds my attention. However, my ever-so-great grandmother, Jane Stephenson, who was captured by the Shawnee in 1792 in Kentucky makes for an interesting story. 

You can read it HERE

Saturday, November 26, 2016

An Autumn Ramble

Find Jamie in this photo.

Autumn is ending, but a walk with the cats still reveals intriguing sights. 

The creek takes on color as leaves drift down.  I played in this creek as a child in summers when it wasn't so icy.

Claire found a warm spot at the corner of the old log barn where Dad stored hay. Now fallen in, it was built by Mr. Cable in the 1890s.

A few apples cling to branches. Sour and hard in October, this late apple is now crisp and sweet, despite frosty nights.  I shake one down to munch while I walk.

The deer will wait near an apple tree for apples to drop.  We have over one hundred wild apple trees on the place -- and lots of deer.  Bears come through every evening, too.

You never know what you'll run across if you take a different route.

A tramp over our 66 acres is enjoyable, even more so with friends along.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November Mushrooms

Edible Bolete

I have a wonderful neighbor, Theresa - a born naturalist and a mushroom enthusiast.  My mother always said to avoid all fungi.  Mushrooms, toadstools and anything similar.  "You'll die," she told me.

Well, a few years ago Jay and I discovered we had morel mushrooms and have spent each late spring hunting morels. 

Now, Theresa informs me, we have other edible mushrooms on the property, especially in November after a very wet October.  Porcini, chanterelles, truffles and others.  She took me around our pasture to show me porcinis. Today I hunted on my own.

No, not this one, though a deer or squirrel gave it a nip to test it.  In fact, this Rosy Russula has an acrid taste and shouldn't be eaten.

All over, up though the woods, deer had dug out mushrooms. The photo below indicates that one ate some, but left some deeper down.  I uncovered more pine needles and dug around.  Still a neophyte, I wasn't certain about these particular mushrooms, so left them, especially since I noticed some of the deer droppings were piles of diarrhea.

 But the bolete below, often called porcini, is edible. It's the bottom part of the one in the first photo.

You can tell by their brown shade with a pale yellow underside without gills.  So, I hunted and picked some, brought them home, and cleaned them.  Jay sliced them, coated them with flour and fried them up in butter.  They have a sort of nutty flavor.

Delicious with chicken with Bengal eggplant sauce and Mandarin orange slices.

They can be frozen, so I think I'll go hunting again tomorrow.  It's a beautiful November.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Marble Creek, Idaho: The Historic Site and the Novel

Marble Creek in spring

Historic Marble Creek lies in Shoshone County, Idaho, about 48 miles up the St. Joe River from St. Maries.

Before the Milwaukee Road RR was constructed through the St. Joe Valley in 1909, the only access to Marble Creek was up the St. Joe River.  In the previous century Jesuit missionaries christened the river the Saint Joseph, but less godly men came along to call it the St. Joe, or just the Joe.  The highest navigable river in the United States, steamboats came across Lake Coeur d'Alene to ply its gentle waters upstream to Saint Maries and to Ferrell, as far as these steamboats could go. 

The Georgie Oakes

The river's large tributary, Marble Creek, converges with the St. Joe fifteen miles above the head of navigation, where the swift water runs. At the turn of the 20th century, this creek, rapid and perilous in spring, spilled out of a mountainous drainage of eighty thousand coveted acres of virgin white pine, about to be opened for homesteading under the Timber and Stone Act.  Lumber companies, some freshly arrived from the upper Middle West, such at Rutledge in Coeur d'Alene, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser, and others home-grown, began harvesting the forests there.

 A place of conflict and danger, a timber war erupted in 1904.  Forest Guard (early forest ranger) O. O. Lansdale wrote: 

"There was no law south of Wallace, the county seat, and the place was getting wild. . . . The killing in Marble Creek climaxed the last stand of some of the large lumber mill companies to get control of the cream of the white pine before the Forest Service cracked down on stone, timber and homesteading."

Marble Creek in July

Marble Creek is peaceful now as a recreation area.  Hard to imagine the logging of the teens and twenties of the 20th century.  But above it men died felling timber and died driving logs down in its rushing waters. Here's a not very good photo (taken behind glass at the Marble Creek museum) of one of its splash dams holding back the Marble and logs until it got up a head of water.
 And here are photos of its bones today.

When logging finally slowed on Marble Creek - it's never stopped - no one bothered to remove the steam donkey.  You can see that, too, if you drive up the Forest Service access road. It's a beautiful place to visit.

  My latest novel, Marble Creek, is FREE on Amazon Kindle today (it could use some reviews on Amazon). If you don't have a Kindle you can download the application and read it on your cellphone.   

After surviving the Everett, Washington, Massacre in November 1916, veteran Pinkerton detective Robert Jamieson joins the Army's fledgling Military Intelligence Division. Instead of being sent to France in 1917, he's assigned back to the Pacific Northwest, ordered to go undercover to track down Irish radical Malachi O'Neill, suspected in a scheme to transport guns from Irish-dominated Butte, Montana, to Ireland. Find O'Neill, find the guns and forestall unrest in Ireland that would weaken America's ally, Great Britain. Locating O'Neill, he partners him in a remote logging camp on Marble Creek in north Idaho. Likeable, but deadly, O'Neill has shifted his loyalty from the disintegrating Industrial Workers of the World, the "Wobblies," to an incipient Irish rebellion. A young prostitute helps one man to the other man's detriment. And the woman who saved Jamieson's life on a dark street in Seattle? Their paths are fated to cross again.

Also, my novel   A Devil Singing Small with local color, is FREE, and The Wolf's Sun is only 99 cents this week.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October on The Old Place

 Autumn can make you dizzy.

 With color.

 Our Bartlett pear tree leaves in colors between scarlet and crimson.

 Apples still clinging to golden branches.

 Our trail camera caught a buck and a little buck.  We decided to go for a walk on the place and, of course, Jamie and Claire came along.
Pepper, who had gone off, eventually followed our tracks and caught up. . .

 . . . when we reached the upper field.

 We walked to the end of the property where I took Jay's photo with Big Rock above.
 We saw a swarm of ladybugs on a pine trunk.
And toadstools.

 Claire had to rest because she's a mite overweight.
Leaves color the creek this time of year.
And a single apple makes its own art.
About a week ago, the elk began their winter migration out of the valley.  Where do they go, anyway?