Sunday, April 29, 2012

Building a Mountain Banjo: The Pot

      In an earlier post I wrote that the true essence of the banjo is taking what one has, and making music out of it.  That is what the earliest banjo players did with their instruments consisting of a gourd covered in skin, a stick for a neck and some strings.  In time the banjo evolved into the modern banjo, which is probably what most people think of when a banjo is mentioned.  However, the were many intermediate styles and designs that developed after the gourd banjo and before the modern banjo.  One that has always interested me is the "mountain banjo."  It is a unique banjo design that was intended to be easily constructed with limited tools.  Unlike some other designs, it does not require laminating ply to form a circular pot nor does it utilize a gourd or grain measure for the pot.  Instead, circular shops are cut our of solid wood stock.  It is probably not the strongest method, but it works.  I have wanted to build a banjo for some time and this type of banjo seems like one of the easiest to build.  In addition, I also like the old fashioned look and sound of this banjo style.  Today I had a little time off, so I just decided to start building one, but I have very limited experience building instruments.  I once built a cigar box guitar, but that is it.  I have documented what I have done below.  As I build more I'll be sure to post updates.  Anyway before I get any farther, I figured I should add a video so you can hear a "mountain banjo."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mutant Daylily

This daylily has an extra petal and an extra sepal.  It doesn't always bloom this way. I'm anxious to see if it will occur again this year.
      Yesterday, I noticed that my daylily (Hemerocallis sp.) is about to bloom.  Last year, it surprised me because instead of having 6 tepals it had 8 (a tepal is just a petal or sepal.  Most non-botany people refer to both the petals and sepals on a daylily as "petals" but, the outer "petals" are actual sepals.  See photo below for clarification).  I think this is just a simple mutation, similar to the mutation that causes 4 leaf clovers but, I am not sure.  It will be interesting to see if this occurs again.  I'll update if it does.  I won't be able to post for the next few days but, hopefully I'll have some material to write about when I get back online again.  By the way, daylily flowers are also edible.

Foraging and Fishing - Early April

A keeper speck caught just before sunset.  The fishing and the foraging are both good right now.
      I have not posted in a while.  Partly because I have been working a lot, and partly because the little time that I have when I am not working I have been out getting free food from nature!  The foraging* is excellent now, and so is the fishing!  I love spring.  This post is just a summary of what I have been finding and catching over the past week and a half.  Some of the fruit showed up a little early, but winter never really came, and spring was very warm.  Most of these species are pretty common, so you should be able to find them too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mushroom Mystery Solved!

Welcome to the world of mycophylia!
-Adam Giek 

John was curious about seeing my harvest.  I think his expression reveals that he was impressed.
       A few days ago I posted that I was trying to positively identify a mushroom.  It turns out, the mushroom was not the king bolete (Boletus edulis) but, it was a very similar species, the pinewood king bolete (Boletus pinophilus).  The pinewood king bolete is also edible, so I returned to my patches and collected a few more. My original hypothesis was wrong, but not too far off.  In fact, the pinewood king bolete was formerly labeled as a subspecies of the king bolete.  It has since been raised to the level of species.  However, it is always best to be sure with mushrooms.  This identification was only my second experience identifying wild, edible mushrooms.  Fortunately, the boletes are one of the safer groups to learn on.  I still recommend that anybody who is not familiar with wild mushrooms consult a local expert when trying to identify a species for the first time.  I did, and the responses I received were both abundant and helpful.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Shady Grove

Cut a banjo from a gourd
Strung it up with twine
And every tune that I play
Will help to make her mine 

      I had a great time recording "Fall on My Knees" and a lot of people seemed to like it.  During that session, Daune and I also recorded another awesome old time song called "Shady Grove."  Unlike "Fall on My Knees," which is about lost love, this song is about finding love.  It is usually done as a modal tune.  I don't know too much music theory, but I think it means that it is not in a major key, or a minor key.  Duane did a great job managing the recording equipment and also provided some more percussive guitar.  This particular version uses some traditional verses and some that I made up.  A few were made up on the fly, and a few were messed up on the fly.  By the time we recorded this song, we had been up for hours doing some serious recording and a little drinking.  We decided to have fun rather than reach perfection.  Mistakes were inevitable, but I personally prefer this song in its raw, unrehearsed form.  If you are interested in the song, check out my ever growing list of verses.  I am going to try to add a new verse every month.  In fact, after leaving Charm City (Baltimore) I was reminiscing about the good times I had up there and I came up with this verse.

It's a long, long way to Baltimore
The place they call Charm City
But I hear up there the good beer flows
And all the girls are pretty