Thursday, August 23, 2012


The fruit of the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) are as distinctive in flavor and aroma as they are in appearance.  Photo by Jenna Crovo, used with permission.
      A little over a week ago, I was doing some fish collecting on the Paint Rock River (North of Huntsville, AL).  Fortunately, we found some rare blotchside log perch, but that is not the topic of this post.  Instead I would like to focus on the not-so-rare, but very useful, spicebush (Lindera benzoin).  I didn't notice it on my previous trips to the area, but now that the bush is fruiting it is very easy to spot.  Before you go out searching riverbanks and creek edges, you probably want to know what you can use spicebush for*.  Well, read on, because it has multiple uses.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Barn Bash

      One of my professors at Florida State University (Mark Ziegler) always says the best way to improve at something is by upward social comparison; that is, associating with people better than yourself so you will be challenged and eventually improve.  That is a theory I have been embracing over the summer with my banjo playing.  I have been trying to play with as many people as possible, whenever possible.  Fortunately, the local musicians are very talented and pretty accommodating.  The other night I had the opportunity to jam with Phil Mc, Ross Wall, and Lindsey Lester, all of whom are very talented on multiple musical instruments.  It was an awesome night.  The jam took place near a barn in a farm field, the perfect setting for grassroots music.  The deafening sound of competing katydids and cicadas was drowned out by the soft twang of banjos, the rhythmic chords of guitars, and the lilting melodies of fiddles.  Most of the songs that were played early on were easy enough for me to play.  Later we moved on two songs that I could just follow along with.  Eventually the songs reached a point were I couldn't keep up, but I still enjoyed listening, and that's part of learning too.  I'll have to learn the song above.  It combines two of my favorite things, cast iron cooking and old time music  It's called "Keep my Skillet Good and Greasy,"and Ross and Lindsey have a great rendition.  Anyway, I know I have posted a lot of banjo stuff lately, but I promise I'll get some biology, hiking, paddling and herb posts up soon.  Until then, check out the rest of this post and listen to some great music.