Random (but not really)

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Finally! We found pawpaw!

The Arboretum is having pawpaw parties, where you can come and taste the fruit and–if you want–take seeds home to propagate.

Here are the fruits, plucked from trees in the Arboretum:


And here is what the insides look like. The pawpaw on the left is less ripe, the fruit on the right is more ripe.

Pawpaw innards (less ripe and more ripe)

The fruit really doesn’t taste like anything else grown in WV, and certainly not something growing wild.

If you have seeds, here is how to propagate pawpaw.

Written by Michelle at 6:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Food,Photos,West Virginia  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hiking WV: Cranesville Swamp

Less of a hike and more of a wander, but it was well-worth the drive (despite our forgetting on the way home that the GPS is trying to kill us, and taking a road that was just barely passable for cars (the people on 4-wheelers and jeeps kinda gave us a funny look as we passed in our Corolla).

This area belongs to the Nature Conservancy, and is open year-round, during day-light hours. The brochure recommended wearing boots, but it hasn’t rained in awhile, so we kept our feet dry. But we still wore gaiters, because: ticks.

The flora is similar to Cranberry Glades, for similar reasons.

Location: Cranesville Swamp
Trails: Blue, Orange, Yellow, White
Distance: 1.8 miles
Elevation: 2358-2678 feet



And lots of berries, including some out-of-season ones.





Perhaps Viburnum:






I found a handful of blueberries and a single ripe blackberry. They were delicious.

Spiranthes cernua (Nodding ladies’ tresses orchid) (?)



The view of the swamp from the edge of the woods:


Written by Michelle at 8:39 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,West Virginia  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Small Rocks

At the playground the other evening, I made a small pile of flat pebbles. (I just had to look up the definition of pebble: “a rock fragment larger than a sand grain or granule and smaller than a cobble, which has been rounded by the action of water wind or glacial ice. It is therefore between 4 mm (~0.15 in) and 64 mm (~2.5 in)”. Pettijohn, F. J., 1949, Sedimentary rocks: New York, Harper and Brothers, 526 p)

I then became fascinated by how the small pile looked in the evening light.

Rocks at the playground

Rocks at the playground

Rocks at the playground

There is something pleasant about these pebbles–most small people I take to the playground want to take some home with them. I made an arbitrary determination of 2 pebbles per visit, lest we depebble the playground.

But they really are nice pebbles–and I love how they look different in different light.

Written by Michelle at 6:49 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Photos  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hiking WV: New River Gorge

We had a visitor!

So since it fit into other things we wanted to do, we took her to New River Gorge and hiked out to Longpoint for the view!

Location: New River Gorge
Trail: Longpoint Trail
Distance: 3.0 miles
Elevation: 1776-2049 feet


This is a nice hike because it’s not long, it’s not especially steep, and it has a gorgeous view for minimal effort.

Written by Michelle at 8:03 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hiking WV: Panther State Forest / WMA

Panther State Forest / WMA is kind of in the middle of nowhere (though not quite the middle of nowhere as Cabwaylingo which had multiple one-lane bridges on the route in and out), and the drive was all on windy rural roads (which made for a pleasant drive), but there were a surprising number of people there–mostly family reunion groups, but there were some teenagers playing in the creek.

Location: Panther State Forest / Wildlife Management Area
Trail: Buzzards Roost Overlook Trail
Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation: 1227-1631 feet

Yes, we did hike three “overlook” trails this weekend. And none of the three overlooks were very impressive, but that’s okay. (I had to climb up on a cement piling that was the remainder of a wooden overlook for this picture.)

Panther WMA

Like most parks, there were lots of playgrounds, but I can’t remember seeing swings like this in recent memory.


And the creek running through the park.


It was a lovely place to visit, despite the ridiculous heat. I think I’d like to visit again.

Written by Michelle at 5:39 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Beech Fork State Park

Beech Fork State Park is for boaters and fishermen, which is one of the reasons we weren’t in a rush to visit. It’s primarily a lake (like Bluestone and Moncove Lake) so there was little hiking, which is perfectly fine, because our state park system should be for all West Virginians–hunters, fishermen, kayakers, and hikers alike.

But it wasn’t any place I’m eager to revisit, since there wasn’t much hiking.

Location: Beech Fork State Park
Trail: Overlook Trail
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation: 601-920 feet

Here’s the view from the Overlook Trail.


It’s easy to overlook. (HA!)

There is a cemetery within Beech Fork, so as is my wont, we wandered around, considering the impermanence of life and memory.


There were a lot of WWI vets buried there–more WWI than WWII from a cursory wander. At some point, I’ll put all these cemetery photos up on Flickr.

Here’s the lake itself.


Written by Michelle at 5:22 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Kanawha State Forest

This weekend we finished up visiting all the major state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas in WV! HOORAH!

Location: Kanawha State Forest
Trail: Overlook Rock Trail
Distance: 1.7 miles
Elevation: 800-1360 feet

The view from overlook rock.


If you don’t want to zoom in, the view is power lines on the far mountain ridge.


Written by Michelle at 5:00 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day

Textile Mills









Triangle Shirtwaist Factory



Chimney Sweeps



Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how the good old union
Has come in here to dwell.


My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son,
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won.

Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker Mine in South Pittston, Pennsylvania, 10 January 1911, from a 1908-1912 series on...

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.


Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?




Upper Big Branch

child labor today 1

child labor today 2

child labor today 3


child labor today 4




Just a reminder what we’re celebrating today.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Holidays,Politics  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Books of August

This was a month for reading historical mysteries, with a dash of urban fantasy.

I re-read Salsa Nocturna: Stories by Daniel José Older and still love it. You should really read Daniel José Older.

Otherwise, nothing awesome stood out last month.

Historical Mystery

Owen Archer
The Apothecary Rose (1993) Candace Robb (7/10)
The Lady Chapel (1994) Candace Robb (8/10)
The Nun’s Tale (1995) Candace Robb (7.5/10)

Black Arrow (2006) I.J. Parker (7.5/10)
Island of Exiles (2007) I.J. Parker (6/10)
The Hell Screen (2003) I.J. Parker (8/10)
The Masuda Affair (2011) I.J. Parker (7/10)
The Fires of the Gods (2011) I.J. Parker (7/10)
Death on an Autumn River (2011) I.J. Parker (7/10)
The Emperor’s Woman (2012) I.J. Parker (7/10)
The Crane Pavilion (2014) I.J. Parker (6.5/10)

Urban Fantasy

Salsa Nocturna: Stories (2012) Daniel José Older (8.5/10)
Jack the Giant-Killer (1987) Charles de Lint (7.5/10)

I read all eBooks this month. Except for cookbooks, which I REALLY need to review Any Time Now.

Genre breakdown is mostly mystery. As I said.

Fantasy : 2
Mystery : 11
Anthology : 1

Gender breakdown is overwhelmingly female, as the initials belong to a female author.

Male : 2
Female : 3
Initials : 8

That makes only 18% of the books I read this year by male authors, but I will note that the Akitada books had a male protaganist, while the Owen Archer series series splits the story between multiple characters, but primarily the male and female leads.

And that’s it for the books of August. As temperatures FINALLY drop, I’m hoping for more hiking and less reading in the coming months.

We’ll see.

Written by Michelle at 2:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Traveling WV: Jackson’s Mill

My favorite part of Jackson’s Mill is Bleaker’s Mill. If you go during the Jubilee, you’ll get to see corn being ground, and if you’re lucky, hear an explanation both of how the mill works, and how Bleaker’s Mill was moved to Jackson’s Mill–as well as random tidbits, such as that the mill stones were brought over from France as ballast, and after being dumped, ended up becoming mill stones, because the quartz was so tough.


Also, because the light was good and it wasn’t a zillion degrees, I spent some time looking at the lower fireplace, where you can see precisely how the mill was taken down and rebuilt.


Here is a closer look (you might even want t go to Flickr and zoom in to see all the detail):


Every stone was labeled, and marked with the stones around it, the building was carefully dismantled, moved to Jackson’s Mill, and then using notes and the labels, carefully rebuilt.

This took as long as you’d imagine, if not longer.

And here’s a pioneer home:


Written by Michelle at 2:12 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: West Virginia  

Traveling WV: Mill Falls

We were meant to be hiking Saturday, and had planned on either Stonewall Lake State Park or Holly River State Park.

Once we were driving south, we remembered that this is the weekend of the Jackson’s Mill Jubilee, so we thought we’d do a hike a Stonewall Lake and then head back towards Jackson’s Mill. However, there was an entrance fee at Stonewall Lake, so we decided to pass, and take a drive instead.

We finally visited Burnsville Dam and Recreation Area, which was… fine.

But we discovered a small park, Mill Falls, which was beautiful.




No hiking, but we had a gorgeous wander.

Written by Michelle at 2:04 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,West Virginia  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

On Swimwear and Modesty

I’ve been super confused by the recent news stories about bans in France on a certain kind of swimwear.

France’s highest administrative court is being asked to overturn beach bans imposed by 26 towns on women in full-body swimsuits known as “burkinis”.

Women are being fined for wearing modest swimwear.

Think about that for a few moments.

If you have any passing knowledge of history, you’ll be vaguely aware that less than 100 years ago, women were arrested or fined or removed from the beach for their swimsuits.

Because those suits didn’t cover enough of their skin.

Now we’re being arrested for covering too much of our skin?

Of course not. Not ALL women are being arrested, fined, or shamed for their swimwear!

Here’s a company that seems to be doing a good business selling modest swimwear to WASP women.

HydroChic’s core mission is to provide a stylish line of modest women’s swimsuits that at once combines the desire for chic expression on the beach and the consumer’s wish for modest swimwear coverage.

Here’s an article in the Wall Street Journal on the business of modest swimwear.

For years, Ms. Bolin, who is in her early 50s, searched for adequate bathing suits. Finally, she ventured out to her favorite Texas water park in a HydroChic outfit: Bermuda-length swim shorts and a three-quarter sleeve top.

Ms. Bolin said she still remembers admiring comments from lifeguards who loved her surfer look: “They thought I was the coolest.” She has never looked back

And that’s how it should be–a woman should be allowed to dress in a manner in which she is comfortable.

But yet women in France are being told that their manner of dress is not acceptable. That they don’t know their own minds and therefore cannot possibly have chosen to dress in such a manner, so therefore, they should not be allowed to dress in such a manner.

It’s 2016; how have we not reached the point where women can wear whatever the hell they want without some government stepping in to tell us they know what is best for us? That what we wear affects people OTHER than ourselves therefore we must toe the government line for how we clothe ourselves?

Why are more women around the world not ENRAGED by this?

Of course, some women are unhappy with these laws. Here’s a lovely image from France, of women who are standing up for their rights of their sisters to dress as they please:


Note that none of the women are the least bit upset by how the other women around them are dressed. In fact, they seem to be enjoying the company.

Because that’s the point. We should support the rights of others to dress as they please.

Mind you, I don’t particularly want to see half-nekkid people, and the thought of sitting in a chair after someone wearing short-shorts squicks me out a bit but that’s my problem to deal with (which is why all my shorts come down almost to my knees). It doesn’t give me the right to order other people to dress in a manner that makes me happy and comfortable.

To close, here is a picture of my in MY swimsuit (no one mocked me or tried to fine or arrest me for my clothes).


I don’t dress modestly because of some government or religious edict (in fact, I’m close to agnostic). I dress modestly because that is how I am comfortable dressing.

And that is and should remain MY choice and MY decision.


For the curious or interested, my top is a rash guard from Coolibar, which makes UPF 50 clothing and swimwear.

This does not mean I won’t mock creepy men who wear speedos and act like god’s gift to women. Because there’s dressing as you like, and then there’s being an asshole. The latter is always deserving of mockery.

Written by Michelle at 8:42 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs,Politics,Religion & Philosophy  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Female Protagonists and the Lack Thereof (or Not)

So I was pointed to this article on the lack of female protaginists (more specifically in childrens and YA lit) by NeuronDoc.

I was name-checked in the discussion by Shawn, because I read and recommend a lot of books with female protagonists (especially YA).

So I decided to put my own reading habits to the test. I went through the books I’ve read since Jan 2015 (6) and looked at whether the protagonist of the story was male or female.

However, I’ve been reading a not insignificant amount of historical romance, so to be fair, I did not count romance books in this tally. (5)

I divided the books into three categories: books with male protagonists, books with female protagonists, and books where the narrative is split between male and female characters (this also concludes short story anthologies).

In the year and a half, I read 199 books that were not romances and here’s how the main characters fell out.

Male: 43% (86)
Female: 46% (91)
Split: 11% (22)

Now here is where it gets interesting. As you may well know, I track the gender of the authors of the books. So here’s the gender of the authors I’ve read since Jan 2015. (4)

Male: 23% (57)
Female: 70% (173)

But you excluded romance! That must account for it!


Fantasy 34% (114)
Mystery 33% (112)
Romance 18% (59)
YA 7% (25)
Comic 4% (15)
Anthology 3% (9)

Do I purposely choose authors because they are female? Not really. In fact, 6% of those female authors are writing under a male pseudonym or initials. (To be honest, that’s the real reason I started tracking author sex, because I was curious as to the number of women writing under male pseudonyms.)

It just happens that I tend to prefer female characters and the writing of female authors. Not heavily, after all, some years I read more male authors than female (like when I re-read the Spenser mysteries) (3). But in general, I prefer strong female characters, and the male authors I love tend to write strong female characters (See: Charles de Lint)

What does this mean? Not a whole lot, unless you’ve been listening to people who claim there aren’t any good female authors out there. (2)

I suppose my point is that I could–theoretically–subsist solely upon female authors of I so chose and not feel deprived of quality writing.

But why would I want to? I like reading about male AND female protagonists AND books where the narrative is split between the male and female characters. Because I like reading a variety of viewpoints. (1) But a variety is not a 30/70 split in favor of one gender or the other.

(6) I could have gone back further, but I got bored.
(5) Solely because I wanted to head of claims that my numbers are biased, since romance is dominated by female authors.
(4) For those curious, since 2004 (when I started keeping track) I’ve read 42% male to 50% female authors.
(3) I’m a sucker for private detective mysteries, unless the detective is a sexist pig. Then not so much.
(2) This may be a genre issue–at least that’s where I’ve read the complaints.
(1) See also my current love of Daniel Jose Older

Written by Michelle at 9:19 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Books of July

It’s barely August and I’m posting about the books of July! Shocking!

Only nine books read this month, but that’s because I spent a week on vacation with many wonderful small people, and by the time I went to bed every night, I fell right to sleep. On the other hand, I’m still dealing with stress and anxiety, so I did a fair amount of re-reading and reaching for favorite authors. But despite “slacking off” this month, I’ve already read more than 100 books this year.

My favorite books of the month were two re-reads: A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and Charles de Lint I had not previously read: Someplace to Be Flying. I really love Charles de Lint–he is possibly the best short story author I’ve read, and he does a fantastic job writing female chracters.

Historical Fantasy (YA)
A Matter of Magic (2010): Mairelon the Magician (1991) and The Magician’s Ward (1997) Patricia C. Wrede (10/10)

Urban Fantasy
American Gods (2001) Neil Gaiman (10/10)
Someplace to Be Flying (1998) Charles de Lint (9/10)
Newford Stories: Crow Girls (2015) Charles de Lint
Moonlight & Vines (1999) Charles de Lint

Supernatural Fantasy
Chaos Choreography (2016) Seanan McGuire (6/10)

Historical Mystery
As Death Draws Near (2016) Anna Lee Huber (8.5/10)

Historical Romance
A Gift for Guile (2016) Alissa Johnson (8/10)
To Charm a Naughty Countess (2014) Theresa Romain (6/10)

I read all ebooks–aside from cookbooks, which I haven’t gotten around to reviewing, I haven’t read a single paper book this year.

Here’s the genre break-down:
Fantasy : 6
Mystery : 2
Romance : 3
YA : 1
Anthology : 2

And the gender break-down:
Male : 4
Female : 5

But male authors are still really far behind this year, at only 18% of the books I’ve read so far.

And those are the books of July.

Written by Michelle at 5:51 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cover for the Coming Mercy Thompson Book

I’m a huge fan of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, and although I don’t love how much skin the covers have Mercy showing, I otherwise very much like the covers, since Mercy is typically shown being a mechanic or doing some other activity.


Orbit just released the cover of the next Mercy Thompson book.


I. Hate. This. Cover.

If I were coming across this series for the first time, I would most likely not give this book a second glance.

This cover tells me nothing about the book, and the model doesn’t look at all like Mercy. Mercy doesn’t have fancy hair. Mercy is usually covered in either grease or blood.

I have no idea why they shifted from an artist’s rendition to this photograph thing, but I do not like it.

No sir, don’t like it at all.

I also despite BOTH the title font and the author font. They’re fussy and unappealing and also do not suit Mercy.

To whom it may concern at Orbit: Please go back to the original style of the covers. This is simply not appealing.

Written by Michelle at 8:37 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls

We went with my aunt and uncle on a “hike” to view Pendleton Run Falls.

I use the term hike very loosely, because as the book I have on waterfalls puts it “cuss, fall, root grab, and butt slide your way down to the creek” and they are totally serious. The park actually removed the warning sign from the top of the trail, perhaps realizing that its existence pointed out this “path” to people who were badly prepared for the risks.

Here’s the path of 0.45 mile hike we took with three kids 6 and under, so there was a fair amount of wandering back and forth.


Here is the path going down to Pendelton Run Falls #4


I’m pretty sure the GPS lost signal more than once.

The average grade was 23% and there were a couple places that were very exciting. On the way back up I folded up my hiking stick, stuck it in my bag, and scrambled grabbing rocks and roots since that felt a whole lot more secure.

Seriously, don’t attempt this unless you are in good shape and unafraid of doing foolish things.

Location: Blackwater Falls
Trail: Pendleton Run Falls #4
Distance: 0.8 miles (down and back up)
Elevation: 2763-3132 feet

Here’s what you get for all that work.


Pretty, but to be honest, Elakala Falls is prettier with less danger.



Written by Michelle at 11:43 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Canaan Mountain Backcountry

Since we spent so much time with small people, we ended up driving out Canaan Loop Road to hike Table Rock Trail (we’d looked into hiking it from Lindy Point, but didn’t have enough time for a long hike).

Table Rock is very muddy, but the view is gorgeous.

Location: Canaan Mountain Backcountry
Trail: Table Rock Trail
Distance: 2.3 miles (out and back)
Elevation: 3391-3497 feet

Note, it hadn’t rained in awhile; when it’s been wet, these are generally giant muddy puddles.



Here’s a panorama for you!


And a look at one part of the view.


Written by Michelle at 7:41 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

We hiked three places in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge: The Freeland Boardwalk, The Beall Trail South, and what I think was the Camp 70 loop

The Freeland Boardwalk is highly recommend for kids–there is a brochure that tells you about different areas on the boardwalk. A pretty good diversity of habitats, including and attempt to regrow Balsam Fir.

Location: Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Trails: Freeland Boardwalk, Beall Trail South, Camp 70 Trail (?)
Distance: 0.45, 2.2, ?
Elevation: 3243-3262, 3217-3421, ?

Freeland Boardwalk




Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge





Written by Michelle at 6:16 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hiking with Kids

So this year’s birthday gifts to the small people in my life were hiking backpacks.

So what do you need for a hiking backpack?

First a foremost, a good backpack: 4-6, 7-9 (Smaller is better, since it will keep them from making it too heavy to carry comfortably.)
At least one water bottle
Naturalist notebook with pencil and a sharpie (use a sharpie to mark a ruler on the inside cover so Things Can Be Measured)
Emergency whistle
Lip balm
Magnifying glass (simple, more complex)
Compass (simpler, nicer)
A bandana or a pack towel
Trail mix or dried fruit (and chocolate milk and a pepperoni roll for a longer hike)
A first aid kit
Used ziploc bags for your trash (or trash you find on the trail)
Perhaps a pair of binoculars, or a pocket knife or matches, or a shovel, or a thermometer
Maps of your trails (Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley)

And of course, nature books:
Trees, Leaves & Bark
Wildflowers, Blooms & Blossoms
Berries, Nuts, And Seeds
Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies
Birds, Nests & Eggs
Tracks, Scats and Signs

Then you go have adventures!

Blackwater Falls



Written by Michelle at 7:07 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Family,Hiking  

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls

We hiked / walked a lot around Blackwater Falls, and there were lots of areas that were great for kids–rocks to climb and leap off and lots of water to play in.

The best places to play in the water were Elekala Falls (the water was low–higher water with a faster flow might not be recommended for smaller kids), and a stream just past Lindy Point–park at the Lindy Point trail head, and continue down the road that says it’s for 4×4 vehicles only. You’ll soon come to a stream.

Stop and play.

Location: Blackwater Falls State Park
Trails: Elekala Falls, Cannan Loop “Road”, Balanced Rock Trail







Written by Michelle at 6:18 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Family,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  
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