Tap, Tap-Tap, Tap

This is a true experience I had recently while sitting in a tree stand while hunting deer.

Before I relate my experience, let me take you back 150 plus years. The country was split much like what is happening in the United States this fall. People believe in a cause or happening and are willing to fight for what they believe is just and right. Back then, states chose sides and before long brother fought brother, sons fought fathers and no one came out a winner. Skirmishes, engagements and battles were fought on many fronts across the eastern states. Virginia was ‘host’ to many of these. Today, the small community of Overall consists of homes and farms. One hundred fifty plus years ago Overall, then called Milford, was a thriving town known for its commerce as it was located on the Shenandoah River as well as the railroad and was located about half way between Luray to its south and Front Royal to the north, both growing and prospering communities located in the Page Valley, part of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Milford was also a strategic location for engagements between the Federal and Confederate troops. It was located at the narrowest point of land between the Massanutten Mountains to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains to its east, both big hindrances to troop movements. From 1862 through 1864 thousands of troops moved through Milford to engagements being fought up and down the Shenandoah Valley. To put a stop to Federal troop movement, the Confederacy established a battle line (front) between the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah river. They didn’t continue the line to the Massanutten as the river was a force in itself and was almost impossible to cross. Camp Skymont, a Federal encampment, was located on the eastern bank of the river between the river and the railroad tracks just north of the town.  Most of the action that Milford saw was in both 1862 and 1864. Calvary skirmishes as well as unmounted conflicts accounted for troops, as well as their mounts being killed, wounded, drown or captured. Some Federal troops did move across the Massanutten trying to circumvent the blockade, only to be stopped by the river. I have not found any mention of battles being fought on our side of the river but have been told by a neighbor that he knows the location of a grave of a Federal trooper who perhaps drown trying to escape the harassment of Confederate troops. I found no mention of the total deaths from engagements fought in and around Milford, but found mention of 2 killed in this skirmish, 4 killed in that engagement, etc. These deaths evidently didn’t amount to any great number, but were deaths none the less.

The battle line, as well as Camp Skymont, was located just across the river from where we live. My tree stand is located just across the river, probably a couple hundred yards, from the location of the camp and battlefront. Keep the above in mind as you read about my experience.

Before I begin, a couple of days before the incident I’m going to tell you about, I had this picture on my trail camera. The camera is facing south. I want to direct your attention to the bottom left hand corner of this photo where an apparition seems to appear behind a tree.


I try to get into my tree stand or blind around 3:30 in the afternoons I’m hunting. This day was no exception. My camera on this trail is almost directly below my stand. I clipped my crossbow onto the rope I use to raise and lower it and climbed the steps to the platform. I raised my crossbow and nocked a bolt and settled back. As I was sitting 18 feet in the air, looking down at where the apparition appeared, I was still trying to figure out what we were seeing on the photo. Then I remembered an episode that happened shortly after we moved in to our home. One of us, I won’t say who, was looking out our bedroom window one evening as we were getting ready for bed. What appeared to be a swinging lantern was moving from left to right between the house and the tree line 5 yards away. Nothing was said as it wasn’t known for sure if this was actually happening. Sometime later this was brought to the attention of the other one of us who jokingly said it was probably the ghost of some civil war sentry walking guard duty. The ‘seer’ disagreed and said it was probably lightning bugs. Nothing else was said on this subject since then. Like the apparition, we have no explanation for this episode either.

As I sat there, watching the trail intently, I closed the top button of my hunting jacket as the sun would soon be setting behind the Massanutten and the temperature would soon be dropping. All of a sudden I felt a tap, tap-tap, tap on my left shoulder. Knowing that there was no one else in the tree with me, as it is a one-man stand, I discounted the tapping and thought it was my imagination. A few minutes went by and once again on my left shoulder I felt a tap, tap-tap, tap. My thoughts once again turned to the swinging lantern and apparition but again I dismissed the tapping as I don’t put much stock in the super natural. After the third episode of tapping, sitting very still, I slowly turned my head looking to the right, not the left where the tapping was coming from. My mama didn’t raise no dummy. So many times someone taps you on one shoulder and they’re standing on the other side of you. Guess what. No one was there. I did check for deer that may be coming from that direction while my head was turned, but the trail was clear.

By this time, sunset was about to happen and legal shooting hours would end 30 minutes after that. I was thinking about getting out of my stand as the last cup of coffee before leaving the house was starting to take effect and the night breeze was picking up. Then, all of a sudden, the tap, tap-tap, tap on my left shoulder happened a fourth time. Throwing caution to the wind, I inched my head to the left. There, sitting on my shoulder was a tiny woodpecker pecking at a branch on my camo jacket. It looked up about the same time and our eyes met. Its eyes grew to the size of dimes as it stood there wondering what the heck was sitting in its tree looking back at it. I could only imagine how big my eyes must have been. I thought for sure some Confederate sentry was in that tree with me. As the little woodpecker shot off my shoulder, I decided then and there it was time to climb down and head to the house before darkness set in.

You see and hear many strange sights and sounds in the woods while hunting, but I’ll remember this experience for a long time.

Keep your fork


Is the Food Safe or Unsafe?

Living out in the country has its disadvantages as well as many advantages. Being on an REA can fall into either category. Even living in town and being on a municipal energy grid could have its disadvantages. Electricity has been known to go out when major storms hit an area, a transformer blows, or for many other reasons. With the holidays coming up and lots of us traveling, this could be a major problem. Not only could pipes freeze and break, but the food in your freezer(s) could thaw out and spoil. True, the little blinking PF on kitchen appliances would tell you the electricity was off, but not for how long. If it was off for a long length of time, the food may have thawn, spoiled and then refroze. This could be very hazardous to your health and life. What to do?

Freeze a cup or glass of water in your freezer. Place a coin, such as a quarter, on top of the ice and return it to the freezer. When you get back home, check the location of the coin. If it is on the bottom of the cup and the ice has refrozen, you will know that the food was unrefrigerated while you were away and is not safe to eat. It can go either way if the coin is found in the middle of the refrozen glass or cup. You choose as to keep or toss the food. What you want is to find the coin on top of the ice as you left it.

No cost for the peace of mind this trick provides.

Keep your fork

Venison Meat Cakes (Ringalls)

Here’s a recipe for a thawed roast or scraps of meat left over from the processing of your deer.

2 to 3 lbs venison
1/4 lb salt pork
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c chopped onion

Chop meat, pork and onion into small pieces. Add salt and pepper. To the above mixture add enough flour to make a batter to the consistency of thick pancakes, and drop by tablespoon in deep fat. Brown well on both sides. This mixture can be made thick enough to form into patties, or it can be put in a loaf pan and baked as a meat loaf. Other big game meat can be substituted for the venison. This can be served with and vegetable you desire.

Keep your fork

Recipe Substitutions – Meat/poultry/fish/eggs

This is number 2 of 5 in a series of guidelines/hints for recipe substitutions.

Meat/poultry/fish/eggs – when the recipe calls for:

  • 3 ounces of 80% cooked ground beef, try this – 3 ounces cooked 95% ground beef or 3 ounces 93% ground turkey or 3 ounces 99% cooked turkey breast or 3 ounces cooked ground chicken or 3 ounces cooked chicken breast
  • 2 slices regular bacon, try this – 2 slices turkey bacon or 2 ounces ham or 2 ounces Canadian bacon
  • 3 ounces roasted chicken, try this – 3 ounces roasted chicken breast without the skin
  • 5.5 ounces oil-packed tuna, try this – 5.5 ounces water-packed tuna
  • 1 whole egg, try this – 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute (for baking, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil) or 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons water (for baking)

Keep your fork

A Fishtale

A fisherman and his wife were blessed with two healthy twin boys. They thought long and hard about what to name the two, but try as hard as they might they could not come to a decision. Finally, more than a week after their births, the fisherman told his wife, “Let’s just wait. The right names for them both will come to us when they’re meant to.”

After a month or so the parents began to notice something peculiar about the brothers. When left to themselves one boy would always turn toward the open ocean; the other, toward the mainland. No matter how the parents twisted and turned the boys, they always resumed facing their opposing directions in the end.

Feeling that the names had indeed presented themselves, the parents named the boys Toward and Away, depending on their orientation to their beloved sea.

Years passed and both the twins proved themselves to be able fishermen. Their father felt it was time they learned to fish on the open water out of sight of land, so he kissed his wife goodbye and set out with his sons for a three-month voyage to distant fishing grounds. The wife waited patiently for three months, and then another three without hearing from or seeing her husband and sons return.

Finally, a year to the day when they had first set sail, the wife saw the fisherman walking along the beach, worn and weathered by his time upon the sea. She ran to him and the two embraced, but she quickly asked where her two sons were.

The fisherman explained that as soon as they were out of sight of land the first day, a monster fish had taken Toward’s bait and proceeded to drag the boat farther and farther away from shore. Toward fought the fish for days, with his father and brother bringing him water and food as needed. Having not slept for some time, the twin was understandably weakened. When the fish made one last run, it pulled Toward over the side of the ship and into the water, never to be seen again.

“My poor boy! That terrible monster of a fish!” the woman cried.

“That’s nothing,” the husband philosophized, “You should have seen the one that got Away.”

Keep your fork

Recipe Substiturions – Fats and Oils

I’ve heard it said many times that to make a recipe your own, you take an existing recipe and change an ingredient or two. Use these guideline/hints to recreate a family member’s favorite recipe and have all the relatives oohing and aahing over your dish to pass at the next family doings. If you are like myself and don’t care what people think of your cooking/baking, change ingredients to reduce the calories, fat or sodium in a recipe without sacrificing flavor and enjoy the fruits of your experimentation. If all goes to plan, I’ll also have guidelines/hints for meat/poultry/fish/eggs; dairy;basic ingredients and alcohol substitutes.

Fats and oils – when the recipe calls for:

  •  1/2 cup oil (for baking), try this instead – 1/2 cup applesauce or 1/4 cup applesauce and 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter (not for baking), try this instead – 1/2 cup defatted chicken broth or 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter (for baking), try this instead – 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup mashed avocado
  • 2 tablespoons oil (for sautéing), try this instead – 2 tablespoons defatted chicken broth or 2 tablespoons unsweetened pineapple juice or 2 tablespoons dry wine
  • 1/2 cup shortening, try this instead – 1/3 cup oil  or 1/4 cup “lighter bake”
  • mayonnaise (in a recipe), try this instead – light mayonnaise or plain nonfat yogurt or light sour cream or fat-free mayonnaise and lemon juice for flavor or mashed avocado
  • 1/2 cup oil, margarine or shortening (for baking) try this instead – 1-1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • oil based marinades, try this instead – wine, balsamic vinegar or pineapple juice or yogurt

Keep your fork


Venison Tidbits

Have some small pieces of venison left over from the processing of steaks and chops or a frozen roast you want to use some oyher way? Try this recipe for venison tidbits.

2 c water
Black pepper
1/2 c Worcestershire sauce

Cut pieces of venison into 1 inch squares. take a thin slice of bacon and cut it just long enough to wrap around the meat. Secure with a toothpick. Make about 2 dozen. Put in a cast-iron skillet. Add 2 cups water, salt, lots of black pepper and 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce. Boil rapidly until water is nearly gone. Reduce heat and cover skillet. Continue cooking at lower temperature until meat is brown. The meat will be very rich tasting.

Keep your fork