On the Arrival of Fall…

Fall has officially arrived in Ohio. Well, technically, it is still summer, but Ohio weather doesn’t follow the calendar. On the heels of a soaking rainstorm and heavy cold front, summer was ushered out and fall quickly and decisively took its place. Gone are the long, muggy days (not that we had many of those this past summer) of summer. In their place are the shorter days and crisp air of a Midwest autumn.

I always have mixed feelings around this time of year. Summer is by far my favorite season and it is definitely always a little sad to see it go. Late night bass fishing, sleeping with the windows open, and firing up the grill nearly every day, some of my favorite parts of summer, are no longer really possible. Baseball season is winding to a close, especially for those teams that won’t make the playoffs, like my Cleveland Indians unless their late push for the postseason pans out.

However, there are also a lot of things that I love about the fall in Ohio. In fact, the changing of the seasons is one of my favorite parts about living in the Midwest altogether. I don’t think I could ever live in a place that was warm all year round. There is just something I love about going through all four season and watching each one take over from the last. There is always something to look forward to in each new season and that sense of possibility is something I really appreciate being able to have.

Fall brings football season (Go Buckeyes and Browns!), beautiful fall foliage, ripening apples, as well as interesting and fun fall-themed festivals. It also brings deer hunting season here in Ohio which is a tried and true tradition among many folks around the state.

There is still the chance to have a few more relatively warm days before the cold really starts to take a grip on the state once again. I’m planning to hit my favorite farm pond for largemouth bass at least a couple more times this year and firing up the grill as much as possible before it gets buried in snow on my back deck once again.

Even when the pond is iced over and the grill is just a giant snowball in the backyard, I’ll enjoy the new fall activities that take their place and be content with the knowledge that it won’t be long before spring arrives to push winter out and makes it possible to enjoy those things once again.

 

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Outdoor Goals 2013 Recap…

Last year, I wrote a blog post listing my outdoor goals for the year of 2013. You can check out the list here. My list included five goals and I am proud to say that I achieved two of them. However, that obviously leaves me a lot of room for improvement in 2014.

I will be posting my outdoor goals for 2014 in the coming days, but wanted to take a few minutes and recap my goals for last year and how they went.

My first goal was also the goal I most wanted to achieve and that was to fill a spring turkey tag for the very first time. On opening day of the 2013 spring turkey in season, I managed to take a tom turkey from the Ohio woods and I couldn’t be more proud of that accomplishment. You can read the entire story of my spring turkey hunt here.

The second goal on my list was to catch and weigh a largemouth bass of over three pounds which would beat my personal best bass of all time. This goal was the one I suspected would be the most difficult as I have been bass fishing since I was young and had never topped the three pound mark. Well, at least not officially that is. There were several times that I believe I caught fish bigger than that, but I either failed to land those fish or didn’t have a scale with me at the time. Unfortunately, that makes those occasions nothing more than fish stories.

Anyways, as these things usually go, the goal I thought would be most difficult proved to be one of the easiest. It was also completely unexpected. I had just finished scouting my turkey hunting location and happened to have my fishing gear with me. It was an unusually warm spring day for Northern Ohio and I couldn’t resist wetting a line. Long story short (and you can read the full story here) I wound up hooking, landing, and weighing a 3+ pound bass on my first cast of the year.

The last three goals that I set for 2013 were much less successful. Unfortunately, I never even got a chance to really pursue them. Busy schedules and the unpredictable spring weather that is commonplace in Northern Ohio made a flathead fishing trip impossible to get planned and executed and a lack of equipment and the decision to not figuratively pull the trigger on an expensive purchase made a 2013 whitetail deer hunt out of the question.

The last goal that I set was to take a great outdoor picture. Although I had my camera with me just about every time I was out in the field in 2013, that great picture just never happened. However, I did still get a lot of great shots of fish I caught as well as those caught by friends and family. The more I think about it, maybe those pictures are even better than the great landscape shot that I was hoping to get.

Although I did not achieve all of my outdoor goals that I set for 2013, they still pushed me to be a better outdoorsman and to just appreciate having the freedom and opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors in all of their abundance and beauty with good friends and family along the way.

Here’s to another great year in the outdoors in 2014!

 

My 500 Words Challenge…

We have finally arrived to 2014 and I have managed to neglect this blog for far too long. My last post was in May of last year and I’m not happy about that at all. I call myself a writer and I want to be a writer, yet I fail to write often enough far too frequently. I need to be writing daily and that has become a New Year’s resolution for me heading into the clean slate that the annual turning of the calendar offers to every single one of us.

I recently came across a writing challenge designed to push anyone with a passion for writing or a desire to write to do just that. Write. Everyday. For the entire month of January. Everyone who participates in the challenge is tasked with writing 500 words per day. It can be on any subject and in any format, but 500 words must be produced every day. And no, emails do not count. This blog post is to announce that I have accepted the challenge.

(If you want to be a part of the My 500 Words challenge, you can find a link to the instructions in the top right corner of my blog.)

As I challenge myself to find the dedication necessary to successfully participate, I also see this as an opportunity to really get back into the swing of things with this blog. I hope to post much more frequently. Even more frequently than I was when I was updating my blog regularly last year.

It is my hope that completing this challenge will turn into me having the habit of writing every single day. Ask any successful writer or author for advice on how to improve your craft and you will likely hear that you must write every single day. No matter what. Not that you should write every day, but that you must.

I have always heard that it takes approximately three weeks to form a habit, so I really hope that holds true in this situation. It’s something that I want to do and I really have no excuse as to why I haven’t been. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to how easy it is to become distracted. It’s so easy to make excuses or plan on getting to something the next day or later. It’s hard to hold yourself accountable. This challenge and my blog should help me avoid those situations. At least that’s my hope.

Hope. I’ve said that a lot in this post so far. I think that hope is renewed in a lot of people when a year is as young as 2014 still is. It could be hope in countless different things. For me this year, it is hope to become a better, more dedicated writer. It is hope to push myself to improve instead of settling for the status quo and above everything else, it is hope to be able to focus on the positive things in my life instead of putting too much focus into the things I don’t have or the things I cannot change. Luckily, my writing frequency is something that I can easily change and I am going to push myself to do just that.

I Bought a Farm…

Well, not really. However, I did recently buy a share of a local farm in my area. Let me explain.

Through a program known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), local farms offer shares in their farm for purchase. The amount of shares offered usually depends on the size of the farm and the amount of produce that they produce.

People who purchase a share then receive a basket of fresh fruits and vegetables once a week during the growing season. The basket is filled at the farmer’s discretion depending on what is in season that week and what is growing particularly well that year.

Now some people might balk at that and say, “Oh, well I would want to choose my own vegetables.” However, that is one of the reasons that I decided to purchase a CSA share this year. I relish the opportunity to be exposed to new fruits and vegetables that I would not otherwise purchase for myself.

There are many benefits to a CSA program for both the farmer and the consumer. One of the main benefits for the farmer is that the risk of farming becomes shared with a large group of people. When a person buys a share in a farm, they do so with the understanding that there is risk involved. If there was a drought, or a bad storm, or maybe a really wet growing season, then the consumer would obviously receive less produce every week.

The main benefit for the consumer is having the opportunity to get to know the farmer growing their food and obviously to enjoy fresh produce that is oftentimes organically grown.

So starting on May 9th and continuing until the last week in October, I will be making the short drive to Beriswell Farms in beautiful Valley City, Ohio to pick up my basket of produce. I believe that supporting our local farms is of incredible importance and having been raised in a family with several farming relatives, I truly understand the struggle that an agricultural life can sometimes be.

I have a couple goals with my participation in this program. I hope to create a healthier diet for myself, taste some new fruits and vegetables, and learn more about cooking and preserving a wider range of foods. I will also be blogging about my first year in this program as it progresses. It should definitely be a fun and interesting experience.

If you want to find out more information on Community Supported Agriculture or find a farm near you that offers a CSA, visit http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.

Perspective…

If you have turned your TV to any news channel or sports channel or logged onto the internet in the past week or so, then you have undoubtedly heard about Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware. Ware suffered a broken leg while attempting to block the shot of an opposing player. The injury was horrific and gruesome. Some are even calling it the worst broken bone an athlete has ever suffered.

The entire incident was caught on camera as the game was being aired on national TV. However, I strongly advise you against seeking out the video which is undoubtedly still hosted somewhere online. That recommendation is very strong especially if you have a weak stomach or are negatively affected by seeing other people getting injured. I can tell you that it was a horrible injury and was very shocking to watch.

In the hours and days following the injury, there was non-stop news coverage by many different media outlets about Ware and his injured leg. This is where I start to have a problem. Now, I don’t mind that the story was covered. I mean it was a major event from an important basketball game in the insanely popular March Madness tournament. However, as I followed the story, it started to become very clear to me that this injury was being majorly over-hyped. There are stories about how he is such a tough young man, how he inspired his team to play their best and try to win the tournament for him, and how well he handled the situation.

I’m not trying to say that his injury is something to be scoffed at or downplayed. However, there is no excuse for the way the media has turned this story into something it’s not. They have contorted this story into making it seem like this basketball player is some sort of hero. In my opinion he is nothing of the sort. He is just an athlete that suffered a freak accident during a basketball game. That’s it. He didn’t risk his own life to save that of another. He didn’t sacrifice himself for the greater good. He hasn’t suffered through challenges his entire life with little hope for change. He simply broke his leg.

He had surgery to repair the injury and was allowed to leave the hospital two days later. He will be traveling to the Final Four portion of March Madness to watch his teammates play. He is a healthy young athlete who should have no problems working through rehab and recovering fully. I don’t see how he deserves to be heralded as some sort of great inspiration.

There are people in this world who struggle everyday of their lives in some way. Some of those people struggle with health issues that they cannot control. Some suffer with finding work or supporting their families. Some risk their lives every day to protect complete strangers from danger or persecution. Those people are the ones we should be thinking about and offering our prayers towards. Not Kevin Ware and his broken leg.

I realize that this post will probably be controversial. I should point this out though. I am not trying to disrespect this young man in any way. This post is more a criticism of the national media (I’m looking at you ESPN) and how they took a story and blew it completely beyond anything that it ever should have become. When I see Kevin Ware crying during an interview because his team won a game that he got injured during, I just think of all those people who would give anything to only have to deal with a broken leg and the recovery from that instead of the much worse situations that they find themselves in.

So what I ask of anyone who reads this blog post is to maintain perspective when reacting to news stories like this. Yes, he suffered a gruesome injury, but a wider perspective tells us that in the grand schemes of things what happened to Kevin Ware is really not that bad.

First Day of Spring…

Well, according to the calendar, today is the first day of spring. It just doesn’t really feel like it. It’s currently 30 degrees here in Ohio with flurries filling the air. So although spring has officially started, it may be a few more weeks before we really begin to notice the change.

However, I thought I would take this opportunity to outline my outdoor goals for the upcoming warm weather. I like to set a few goals every year just to give myself something to work towards as I enjoy some of my favorite hobbies. Here are this year’s goals:

  1. Fill a turkey tag– I have been addicted to turkey hunting ever since my first hunt for them three years ago. However, I have yet to fill a tag. I hope to change that this upcoming season. I plan to be in the woods more than I ever have been before in an attempt to finally get an elusive longbeard in my sights.
  2. Catch and weigh a largemouth bass over 3 pounds– This is a goal I have been chasing for several summers now. A three pound bass may not sound like much, but I have yet to catch one tipping the scales at that weight. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t caught some big bass in the past. I caught one a couple years ago that had to be pushing 4 pounds, but I did not have a scale with me on that trip. Last year, I had what had to be at least a 5 pounder on the line before losing it near the bank of the pond I was fishing. So this year, I want to get a bass on the scale that cracks that 3 pound barrier this year.
  3. Catch a flathead catfish– A good buddy of mine is a very accomplished outdoorsman. We do a lot of fishing and hunting together and his level of skill far surpasses mine. He has a lot of experience fishing for and landing huge flathead catfish out of different reservoirs in Northern Ohio. He has invited me along to come out with him a few times this spring and it is my hope to hook into one of these monster fish. My buddy has some 40+ pound catches on his resume, but I’d be happy with just about anything. It will be a new species to add to my list of fish caught, not to mention a great fight with a giant fish.
  4. Take a great outdoor photo– Photography usually becomes a big part of every angler’s and hunter’s outdoor experiences. While capturing a photo of a big catch or a successful hunt are usually preferred, outdoorsman have the unique opportunity to witness some spectacular events simply due to the amount of time they spend outside. I have take several photos over the past couple of years that I’m really proud of (the one in my blog’s header being one of them) and I hope to accomplish that again this year.
  5. Fill a deer tag– Not being a huge fan of sitting out in the cold, I haven’t done much deer hunting in the past despite having access to a large amount of rural Ohio farmland filled with game. However, this year, a couple of changes to hunting seasons in Ohio and the gear I have access to will allow me to finally go after a whitetail deer. Archery season in Ohio starts in late September, which is usually still warm, and I have a friend who is going to let me borrow a crossbow. That will give me a chance to both try out a new weapon system and give deer hunting a shot, so to speak. There is also talk in Ohio of a short season in October for hunting with a muzzleloading rifle. I have been slowly rebuilding an old blackpowder rifle and this new season will be the last push I need to finally finish the project.

I don’t really expect to meet all of these goals this year and would be very surprised if I manage to accomplish all of them. However, that is not going to stop me from trying. I’ll be posting updates on my quest towards meeting these goals as they happen. Whether or not I achieve these goals, I will still have a great time trying.

Happy first day of spring.

The Tribe Does the Harlem Shake…

I’m sure that most of you have seen at least one Harlem Shake video over the past several months. Whether you wanted to see one or not. It was pretty hard to avoid them due to their insane popularity. It seemed like every group, business, company, and organization was doing their own version. There were a lot of bad ones, but also a couple great ones.

The surge in the popularity of the Harlem Shake videos is finally beginning to die down. However, that didn’t stop the Cleveland Indians from jumping on the train…even if they were jumping on the caboose. Nick Swisher, the Indians biggest free agency acquisition during this past off-season, came up with the idea and ran it by manager Terry Francona before going any further. Once he had the blessing of his manager, Swisher got many of his teammates to come to spring training one Monday morning dressed in a crazy costume.

Almost everybody got on board and was part of the video, including Francona who started the video off and then dressed up like a giant baby, including bonnet, to be in the video with his new players. Swisher was dressed as an Ohio State football player in the video which was fitting considering he was a Buckeye in college.

Even though their version of the Harlem Shake was a little late to the party, it was an amazing show of camaraderie between the old and new teammates alike. As a huge fan of the team, it gave me even more hope as we get ready for the 2013 seasons to start. Having a team full of players that all generally like each other and can do crazy stuff together is a great sign of that team being capable of great things. When the going gets tough during the grueling regular season, the players will have each other to lean on.

That is one reason that teams with extremely high payrolls often do not live up to expectations. There are too many big egos in the locker room for the team to ever really mesh.

So as the countdown to Opening Day continues, check out the Cleveland Indians version of the Harlem Shake.