Photo of the Day

A random photo of my mules, friends, travels and the life my wife Julia and I live in the mountains of western North Carolina – posted every few days.

Ronald Hudson is the mule man of North Carolina. I bought my mule Polly from him almost twenty years ago. When he says, “What you need to do,” and tells you a story, you need to listen.
Click the player to begin your mule wagon voyage

A while back, I built a little yellow wagon and my mule Polly pulled it from Canada to Mexico. I filmed the whole voyage, from tumbleweed storms to snow storms, and interviewed folks I met along the way, from ranchers, Lakota elders and a lady bronc rider, to a Texas creationist. When I got home, I turned that footage into the award-winning “Lost Sea Expedition” documentary that premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS.

If you ever wondered what it’s like to spend a year traveling across the Great Plains in a mule wagon, this series is for you! Enjoy the trailer, and then check out the 4-part series on Amazon.

Our neighbor had this sign nailed up on her old barn and I wondered if the horse was still alive – that is, if Secret’s Bad Bullet was a horse.
Mules Brick and Cracker tussling in the pasture. Sometimes, they get so wound up, they have to be separated. Everyone should be as lucky to have one such good friendship in life.
It was just Julia and Pie that morning under the blue sky, looking over the Brushy Mountains.
Happy Sunday. I’ve been beelining this weekend and thought you’d enjoy a photo. Beelining is where you catch some wild bees and follow them back to their hive. Here’s a photo of what the start looks like. I dab a spot of paint on a group of wild bees I hope to follow (it’s waterbased, so it doesn’t harms them). Then I note the time and direction they fly off in on the sheet of paper. Then, in theory, I follow them to their nest. That’s the theory, anyway. So far, I haven’t found any nests but Lucky and Diggity, our border collies, have. Too bad it was a yellow jackets! That sorta killed their appetite for beelining. Have a great rest of the weekend. PS: No, I won’t cut down the bee tree when I find it. It would be enough of a thrill just to know where it grows.
Eight years ago, I planted some baby pawpaws. They’re finally rewarding us with what’s become my new favorite fruit. They’re North America’s largest native fruit and taste like a cross between a banana and a pineapple which is why people call them custard apples. Too bad their skins are so thin they’d never survive the trip to the grocery store. That’s why, if you want pawpaws, you have to grow them yourself or be good buddies with someone that does.
Our old dog Snookie slogging up the logging road the day our mountain burned.
big timber rattlesnake
I was pushing up brush piles with the tractor when this timber rattler crawled out from under a downed oak. She crawled right by the tractor, and I knew it was a she because her belly was yellow. From there, she slithered over to the camp site and I figured maybe I’d wait a few days before I pitched the tent there.

A while back, Julia and I borrowed a mule named Dusty from our buddy Ronald Hudson, saddled my mules Brick and Polly, and rode from our farm to the Happy Valley Fiddler’s Convention. We pitched camp, strolled along the South Yadkin River and listened to all sorts of amazing mountain music drifting from the campers, tents and circles of pickers sitting around campfires. Here’s a video Julia filmed of Guinea “aka Donnie” showing off his toe-to-heel technique. For more on that magical gathering, and photos of Guineas “real” tap shoes, click here.

It’s mid-fall and the wild bees I caught and installed in a hive that I built in my shop are settling in for the winter. I visited them on a recent sunny day and saw them buzzing in and out the front of the hive. Some had balls of pollen on their hind legs and others had swollen bellies where they’d been sipping nectar. They’re busy like the know they don’t have many warm days left before the first frost coats the valley and all the flowers they love. I’ll miss seeing them this winter.
mule eyes biscuits
Julia said she wanted biscuits last Saturday morning. I made them and mule Polly invited herself to breakfast.
I was talking on the phone with a guy, explaining how to tie a rope that doesn’t have a brass snap on it to a lead rope. The easiest thing was to film it so I walked over to the barn and filmed a short video of how to do it. This is the video I sent the man. The knot I used actually isn’t a knot. It’s a bend.
bees drinking sugar water
My new passion is beeling, where you catch wild bees in a small box called a bee box, feed them sugar water, and follow them to their nests. Here, a yellow jacket joins three bees for a sip of sugar water in front of the beebox I built in my shed. I’m hoping the bees don’t lead me to a wasp nest (or “wasper” nest as Cooter, the guy who used to live on our property, called them).
border collies licking skillets
Never use harsh abrasives on your cast iron skillets. Here, our border collies Diggity and Lucky show how it’s done at our house
horny head
One of the advantages of working from home means you get to play in the creek during work hours. Of course, this horny head would disagree. I caught it a while back and released it, unharmed, back into the brook that runs behind our cabin.
mottled leaf
Some leaves will never blend in. An oak leaf I found on a recent walk out behind our cabin. The leaves surrounding it are maple leaves.
border collies licking skillets
Never use harsh abrasives on your cast iron skillets. Here, our border collies Diggity and Lucky show how it’s done at our house.
fall leaves
Happy Thanksgiving from my wife Julia, the mules, ponies, border collies and me. I made you a leaf arrangement I think you’ll enjoy. The big yellow leaf is a tulip poplar, the reddish leaves are sassafras and the orange one is sour wood. I found these leaves while walking through the forest last week.
red couch on barn
This is the couch on our hay barn. It used to live in our cabin but Julia and I still sleep on it from time to time. It’s right next to where the mules and horses spend the night and they come over and stare at us while we sleep. That’s a nice feeling, like they’re watching over us. Or maybe they just want us to get them a flake of hay.
sleeping bat
While looking for locust logs, I pried a piece of bark off an old locust tree and found this bat hunkered down underneath. I felt bad and hope it finds cozy home before winter weather sets in.
Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson letter

I recently came across a letter I wrote many years ago (2009) to my friends Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson. At the time, they were sailing through the Southern Ocean on their sailboat Laurent Giles-designed sailboat Wanderer III. What a fun throwback to the era of pen and paper letters. Thies and Kicki are currently living on Westpoint Island in the Falkland Islands. I visited them a few years ago. Click here to read about what life on a sheep station way down in the Southern Ocean looks like.
border colllies on couch
Covered in dogs. Julia hangs with Lucky and Diggity, our rescue border collies. This has been a rare quiet week for the two of them. The week before, Diggity got bit in the face by copperhead and it swelled up big as pit bull’s.
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