What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

Entries in Silver Bay (3)


Oh, Deer!

Readers take note: if the story Bambi gives you nightmares, you might want to skip this post, but if Silence of the Lambs is one of your favorite movies then the following should be your cup of venison tea (or chianti).


The carnivorous side of me was getting cranky after sampling nothing but green leafy vegetables in the Essential Edibles class at Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) on Friday afternoon. So I figured the Field Dressing Game class on Saturday morning would balance things out.

Word on the street (or trail, in this case) was that the Silver Bay staffers were snickering because they thought Field Dressing Game was an actual game where one person was “It” and the rest of us raced to come up with the best combination of L.L. Bean boots and Smartwool socks or Patagonia hiking shorts and Northface vests. But I knew we’d be dealing with deer in this class so I prepared by bringing the proper clothing. I just wondered how I’d get a deer to stand still while I put the clothes on him.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the deer would be offering no resistance during class because they were dead. You read that right: dead. Which got me to wondering exactly what the rules of this game were. But I figured that either the stakes were a lot higher than I realized or else someone was a really bad loser.

The instructors, Lou and Angie Berchielli, both outdoors people extraordinaire, batted nary an eyelash as they hauled out what we affectionately referred to as “the bucket o’ deer.”


Bucket o' Deer: It comes with an order of fries and a small drink.


Come to think of it, the deer weren’t batting any eyelashes either. What the deer were doing was giving off an odor that was very attractive to flies. I was able to take my mind off both the odor and the fact that the flies landing on the deer were the same ones I was swatting away from my face with this one overwhelming thought: “what the hell did I get myself into?”

Okay, so I've never gone hunting and have no plans to do so in the future. So taking this particular class was a little like putting the cart before the horse. Or, in this case, the knife before the deer carcass.

The BOW brochure had described the class as “hands on” – I just didn’t think they meant my hands. But it wasn’t long before I was handed a knife and began reenacting a scene from Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.


That's Dr. Quinn, I mean me, making the first cut. Despite my best

efforts, the patient remained dead.


I’ve got news for you. The smell of the deer on the outside was nothing compared to the smell of the deer on the inside. Lou gave us a mini anatomy lesson as we removed various organs and discussed whether you leave them for the animals in the woods or take them to either eat yourself or give to other people (presumably to friends who don’t rate high enough on your gift list for fruitcake).

Once we’d divvied up the innards, we hung the deer by its hind leg, skinned it, and learned how to butcher and store various cuts of meat – now given a deceptively quaint name that sounds like something you might actually order off a restaurant menu: venison.



AFTER: Yes, the maniacal grin on my face is a little disturbing, but if there's any justice, this is the deer that just ate my hosta.

Lou and Angie also showed us how to dress goose, fish and rabbit (none of them offered any resistance, either). By then it was time to get out of the pouring rain and head to the dining hall for lunch. I had no idea what was on the menu, but I was pretty sure I’d stick with a salad.


Angie shows us how to cut and wrap a venison roast. That's me on the left, deep in thought. Remembering what I learned in the Essential Edibles class the day before, I ponder whether to serve the roast with a wood sorrel reduction or just go with my old standby - burdock root concasse.



Leaf: It's What's For Dinner

I’ve written before about Becoming an Outdoors Woman – the program offered through the New York State DEC that teaches women outdoor skills (see: Fish Tales). As someone who can’t find my way out of a paper bag even when I’m holding a compass that reads “This way out of the paper bag,” I look for any available opportunity to fill the considerable gaps in my knowledge of all things outdoors. So when the program affectionately known as BOW rolled around again, I eagerly jumped in my car and headed off to beautiful Silver Bay on Lake George.

First up on Friday afternoon: a class called Essential Edibles, which promised to teach me about the five essential edibles I’d need to know if I ever became lost in the woods. The five categories are root, stem, bark, flower/berry, and leaf, so you can imagine how my mouth was watering before the class even got started.

This class seemed tailor-made for me because if there’s one thing I hate, it’s being hungry. And since fending off bear can work up quite an appetite, I was anxious to know what I could eat in the woods once my supply of Luna bars ran out. Following a brief introduction, during which we were assured there was enough food outdoors feed us forever, the instructor asked us to go around the room and share with our classmates all the things we already knew we could eat in the wild. Women began rattling off long lists of twiggy and leafy-sounding things that would make only Euell Gibbons drool. When it was my turn, I didn’t have much to share (apparently Hershey Kisses aren’t considered “wild,” even if you find one in the bag that doesn’t have foil on it) so it got pretty quiet in the classroom. Well, there was the sound of crickets chirping (I’m not sure if they’re edible).


Then we went outside to rustle up some grub (Mmmm, grubs – are they edible?). After about 30 minutes of being shown various leaves, grasses, flowers and roots, I came to the realization that “edible” doesn’t necessarily mean things you’d want to eat. It simply means anything that won’t actually kill you. I decided to go out on a limb (get it?) and sample many of these verdant delicacies while I was under the supervision of an expert in the field (get it?).




 What do these things taste like, you ask? Well, you know how when people describe what different meats taste like they always say it tastes like chicken? (rabbit tastes like chicken, frog legs taste like chicken, roadkill tastes like chicken, you get the idea). It’s the same way with green stuff – only instead of tasting like chicken, they all taste like leaves. A maple leaf tastes remarkably like a leaf, plantain tastes like an incredibly bitter leaf. Milkweed – you guessed it – just like a leaf. Ditto for a yellow birch leaf. Some people claimed they had a wintergreen taste, but I swear they were eating TicTacs. Since I hadn’t keeled over yet, all these leaves, while not exactly tasty, did fit the class’s definition of “edible.”



By now I’d worked up a real craving for something that was not green. Since this was a class called Essential Edibles, I knew we’d eventually come around to talking about the most essential edible of all and began searching for a chocolate tree. I didn’t find a tree with chocolate but I did find a lovely pile of Raisinets on the ground.  Someone stopped me before I could see if they were edible, saying they’d been left there by a deer. (I wonder if he knows he has a hole in his backpack?)



Although I learned a lot in this class (I have a new-found respect for weeds) the most important thing I learned is that if you’re planning on hiking into the woods remember to bring along plenty of actual food and be sure to stay within walking distance of a grocery store. When the class ended, it was time to head to the dining hall. I didn’t care what was for dinner, as long as it tasted like chicken.




Don't think of this as a gardening eyesore, think of it as a salad bar.








That's me, on the far right, wondering if I'm standing on my dinner.



Fish Tales

Wow. April zoomed by without me writing a single blog post. But wait, I have an excuse. I’ve been very busy this past month killing people. At least on paper. As much as I would love to spend all my time braving the great outdoors (okay – not really), I am supposed to be writing mysteries. So the blog was put on hold while I happily worked on several short stories; all of which involved murdering people (who had it coming) in a variety of ways. And I was able to do it while sitting indoors in a climate-controlled, bear-free environment with plenty of access to restrooms, electricity and running water.

But best of all, I was busy with the publication of my first short story, “Amazing Grace,” which appears in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology. All of the contributors, myself included, are members of The Guppies – an online chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC). It was a long process from the call for entries, through the judging process, and the search for a publisher until I finally held a copy of the anthology in my hands. That was an exciting moment – especially when I saw that the cover said “22 tales of murder and mayhem from the rising stars of mystery” (I swear my mother didn’t write that).

So what is “Amazing Grace” about? Fly fishing – and how deadly it can be. Not that I would know from personal experience – although I did go fly fishing once and lived to tell the tale (so did the fish).

Becoming an Outdoors Woman – a national program that teaches outdoors skills to women – offered a class on fly fishing at Silver Bay on Lake George in September 2009. Other offerings that weekend included hiking, kayaking, camping, and shooting at things with various types of firearms as well as with a bow and arrow. I chose to go with fly fishing because it is something people find relaxing and are able to enjoy well into old age. So it seemed like that class would be my best bet for success. I was wrong.

The first day started out promising. We were inside, for one thing. And most of the class was spent tying fishing line to flies and to other pieces of fishing line. I’d been sewing for years, so that part was a piece of cake. Eventually we ventured outside to try casting our lines into a big open field. It would have been very surprising if one of us actually landed a fish – given the fact that we weren’t anywhere near the water – so I was still feeling pretty confident at this point.

The next day, however, we cast our lines into an actual body of water, which apparently is your best bet for catching fish. I tried not to be intimidated by the women who’d brought their own gear. I told myself I was interested in finding sincere, down-to-earth fish who aren’t swayed by material things like fancy rods and waders. As those women waded into Lake George until the water reached their armpits, I consoled myself with the fact that there was no way I wanted to catch a fish that badly.  It was at this point that the McDonald’s commercial (Give me back that filet o fish, Give me that fish) kept running through my head and I figured if I didn’t have any luck here I could just hit the drive-thru on the way home.

So I cast my line and was able to catch something on my very first try: the shrubs behind me. Untangling my line from the branches, I laughed as if I meant to do that. And people probably believed me, considering, no matter where I stood, I continued to get my line caught in some form of vegetation with each cast. All. Morning. Long. Then at one point I realized that those knots I thought I was so good at the day before really weren’t all that great because every one of them came untied and I even managed to lose the fly.

The teacher gave me another fly and tied it on for me. Finally I was able to cast the line so it didn’t snag on something behind me, but it hit the water only about a foot from shore. Unless there was a fish who had a sudden urge to take a walk on the beach, I wasn’t going to have much luck. The women who had waded in with all their gear did end up catching some fish. Don’t ask me what kind though; my eyes were too filled with tears from the hook stuck in the palm of my hand to see clearly (and yeah, I meant to do that, too). But given the fishes’ preference for the fancy fishing paraphernalia, I’m guessing they were of a shallow variety.

I’ve decided to chalk the day up to another Adirondack experience. And although it gave me an idea for a short story, I doubt I’ll go fishing again anytime soon. Unless it’s for compliments.



Want to order a copy of Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology? You can order it from Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Wildside Press. In the immortal words of Bartle and James, "thank you for your support."